EU Leaders Urge Internet Giants to Fight Online Extremism

 

HIGHLIGHTS
EU leaders on Thursday urged Internet firms to combat online extremism
EU said that social networks have improved in removing hate content
But Jourova called for further progress – particularly from Twitter
EU leaders on Thursday urged Internet firms to do their utmost to combat online extremism promoting attacks or face the possibility of legislation if the industry self-regulation fails.

European Union leaders meeting at a summit in Brussels increased the pressure on US giants like Facebook and Twitter to rein in online propaganda amid a recent spate of terror attacks in Britain, France and Belgium.

“We are calling on social media companies to do whatever is necessary to prevent the spread of terrorist material on the Internet,” European Council President Donald Tusk told a press conference during the EU summit in Brussels.

“In practice, this means developing new tools to detect and remove such material automatically,” Tusk said. “And if need be we are ready to adopt relevant legislation.”EU Leaders Urge Internet Giants to Fight Online Extremism

The EU joined forces with US-based Internet firms more than a year ago to combat online extremism, responding to growing alarm in Europe over the use of social media as a recruiting tool, especially by the Islamic State group.

Until now, it has pushed for the industry to regulate itself, but EU officials earlier this month gave mixed reviews to firms like Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Google’s YouTube.
In its first annual report, the bloc said the four companies are now removing twice as many cases of illegal hate speech and at a faster rate when compared to six months ago.

But EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova called for further progress – particularly from Twitter.

French President Emmanuel Macron said leaders of the 28 EU countries had discussed at length increasing the efforts to remove online extremist content.

“Opening up the possibility of legislating at the European level is an advance that satisfies me,” Macron told journalists.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told her counterparts the onus must be put on the firms to remove extremist material and said law enforcement should access encrypted communications between suspected terrorists in defined circumstances, a British government official said.

In the last few months, armed jihadists have carried out attacks in London, the northern English city of Manchester, Paris and Brussels.

 

Twitter for Android Gets Automatic Night Mode

 

HIGHLIGHTS
Twitter for Android bumps to version 7.2
It introduces the new automatic night mode feature
This comes a week after Twitter’s overhauled interface
Twitter has updated its Android app to introduce automatic night mode for all its users. First, the app featured a manual toggle that allowed it to switch to night mode, but with version 7.2, it can now be turned on and off automatically as well. This feature went into beta last week, and has now been rolled out to all users on Android.

With version 7.2, Twitter for Android introduces automatic night mode feature that switches to night mode at sunset, and comes back to normal mode at sunrise – on its own. This version also disables the dark theme for good. After updating the Android app, the first time you toggle the night mode switch in the navigation drawer, the app will prompt you with “want night mode to work automatically?”Twitter for Android Gets Automatic Night Mode
Tapping on ‘yes’ will replace the toggle with the words ‘Automatic’. However, you can disable it whenever you want by pressing the night mode option again. It will prompt you with the option to disable it and return to manual controls. You can also access this through Settings and Privacy > Display and Sound. A new dropdown appears giving you several options for night mode.

This comes just a week after Twitter overhauled its interface for Web, Apps, TweetDeck, and Twitter Lite. Twitter claims that the new design emphasises simplicity, making it faster and easier to use, with bolder headlines and more intuitive icons. It also changed users’ profile images from square-shaped to round. On its apps and TweetDeck, tweets “now update instantly with reply, Retweet, and like counts so you can see conversations as they’re happening.”

 

WhatsApp for Android Beta Gets Photo Bundling, Refreshed Call Screen

Last week, WhatsApp slowly started rolling out the ability to share files of any type, and now, users of the Android beta report that one new feature (media bundling) has been added alongside one aesthetic change (a new call screen). The WhatsApp update may not seem much, but it does give you the option to send photos to your contacts as an album. This WhatsApp feature was rolled out to iPhone users earlier this month, and refines the sharing of multiple photos on the platform.WhatsApp for Android Beta Gets Photo Bundling, Refreshed Call Screen

As per a report by Android Police, WhatsApp beta for Android users are reporting seeing a change in the way photo bundles will be shown to the sender and recipient. WhatsApp users can now send a bunch of photos to their friends, who will receive them bundled as an album and not as before, one after another. One the album is opened, all images are shown on a single page. The feature also indicates that WhatsApp will give more room for shared photos.

whatsapp photo bundling any file transfer gadgets 360 273917 143907 8296 whatsapp

The new update also brings minor change to the WhatsApp call screen where users will now have to swipe up (seen below) instead of sideways to pick up a call.
Running the latest WhatsApp for Android beta, we see the above two features. Android Police reports that the ability to share any file type is slowly rolling out to stable users of the app, and notably, we have also received the feature.

whatsapp new cal screen gadgets 360 273917 143910 6375 whatsapp

To recall, last week, WhatsApp was reported to be rolling support for sharing of all types of files (including archives) on Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone with a limited number of users, removing any hindrance of file sharing on WhatsApp.

 

How social media saved socialism

 

Supporters of Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a campaign event. Labour pulled off a spectacular election turnaround largely thanks to social media. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Socialism is stubborn. After decades of dormancy verging on death, it is rising again in the west. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn just led the Labour Party to its largest increase in vote share since 1945 on the strength of its most radical manifesto in decades. In France, the leftist Jean-Luc Melenchon recently came within two percentage points of breaking into the second round of the presidential election. And in the United States, the country’s most famous socialist – Bernie Sanders – is now its most popular politician.

The reasons for socialism’s revival are obvious enough. Workers in the west have seen their living standards collapse over the past few decades. Young people in particular are being proletarianized in droves. They struggle to find decent work, or an affordable place to live, or a minimum degree of material security. Meanwhile, elites gobble up a growing share of society’s wealth.

But grievances alone don’t produce political movements. A pile of dry wood isn’t enough to start a fire. It needs a spark – or several.

For the resurgent left, an essential spark is social media. In fact, it’s one of the most crucial and least understood catalysts of contemporary socialism. Since the networked uprisings of 2011 – the year of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the Spanish indignados – we’ve seen how social media can rapidly bring masses of people into the streets. But social media isn’t just a tool for mobilizing people. It’s also a tool for politicizing them.

Social media has supplied socialists with an invaluable asset: the building blocks of an alternative public sphere. The mainstream media tends to be hostile to the left: proximity to power often leads journalists to internalize the perspectives of society’s most powerful people. The result is a public sphere that sets narrow parameters for permissible political discourse, and ignores or vilifies those who step outside of them. That’s why social media is indispensable: it provides a space for incubating new kinds of political thinking, and new forms of political identity, that would be inadmissible in more established channels.

Every movement needs a petri dish for developing the specific contagion with which it hopes to infect the body politic. The Reformation had the printing press. The French Revolution had the coffeehouse. Today’s new new left has Twitter and Facebook.

Labour supporters at a campaign visit in Colwyn Bay, north Wales, on the eve of the general election.
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 Labour supporters at a campaign visit in Colwyn Bay, north Wales, on the eve of the general election. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Last month’s election in the UK offered a stark illustration of this dynamic. Much of the British media attacked Corbyn relentlessly in the weeks leading up to the election. An analysis from Loughborough University found that Labour received the vast majority of the negative coverage, while a study from the London School of Economics concluded that Corbyn had been the victim of “a process of vilification”.

In another era, such an assault might’ve proven fatal. Fortunately, social media gave Corbyn’s supporters a powerful weapon. Banished from the public sphere, they built one of their own. They didn’t merely use social media – judging by the number of tweets and Facebook engagements, they dominated it. Pro-Labour memes, slogans, videos, and articles saturated online networks. Some were funny, like a viral video of Corbyn extemporaneously eating a pringle. Others were serious, drawing on independent left-wing outlets like Novara Media to advance an analysis of austerity’s corrosive effects on British society. Together, they made millions of people feel connected to a common project. They made Corbynism feel like a community.

Crucially, this community didn’t just exist online. Contrary to the old refrain about the internet not being “real life”, the digital ferment paid analog dividends. Young people – the heaviest users of social media – turned out in greater numbersthan usual, and they voted overwhelmingly for Labour.

What’s so bracing about the British election is how many elite assumptions it overturned. These include the belief that social media is bad for democracy. The notion that Twitter and Facebook play a toxic role in our political life has become a pillar of elite opinion in the era of Brexit and Trump. It’s a familiar argument: online platforms deepen polarization by enclosing us in echo chambers where we’re only exposed to views we already agree with. Partisanship flourishes. Compromise becomes impossible.

This analysis has some truth to it, but largely misses the mark. There’s no doubt that social media can be a cesspool. It can spread misinformation, abuse, and all manner of extremist hatred. After all, social media’s defining trait is its capacity to connect like-minded people. It follows that the communities it creates vary widely by the kind of people being connected.

But this aspect of social media is also what makes it useful for today’s socialists. Bubbles can be beneficial. They can provide an emerging movement with a degree of unity, a sense of collective identity, that helps it cohere and consolidate itself in its fragile early phases.

Of course, movements can’t stay bubbles if they want to win. They have to move from the margins to the mainstream. But social media is the soil where they can begin to take root, where they can cultivate a circle of allies and agitators who will carry their ideas out into the wider world. And this is good for democracy, because it enables genuinely popular political alternatives to emerge. It weakens the power of elites to police the limits of political possibility, and amplifies voices that could not otherwise make themselves heard.

Instead of sealing people off into echo chambers, social media can serve as a stepping stone for movements that aspire to achieve mass appeal. Just because social media helps midwife a movement doesn’t mean that movement is fated to insularity. Labour began its campaign trailing the Tories by more than 20 points. In seven short weeks, the party’s activists pulled off the most dramatic turnaround in modern British history. Powered in large part by social media, they closed the gap quickly enough to wipe out the Conservative majority. Labour now enjoys an eight-point lead in the polls – a stunning reversal from a few months ago.

‘A pile of dry wood isn’t enough to start a fire. It needs a spark’ ... Bernie Sanders supporters at a campaign rally.
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 ‘A pile of dry wood isn’t enough to start a fire. It needs a spark’ … Bernie Sanders supporters at a campaign rally. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

If polarization were as absolute as many mainstream observers believe, such an upset would be impossible. But political preferences are far more fluid than is often assumed. Many people are up for grabs, especially at a time when anti-establishment feeling is running high. As a result, social media doesn’t necessarily strengthen existing partisan divisions. It can also scramble them, by surfacing new political possibilities. This is especially helpful in luring the large numbers of non-voters to the polls. It’s no coincidence that the British election saw the highest turnout in 25 years.

The prospects for turnout-driven victories are even greater in the United States, where political alienation is particularly pronounced. Only 55.7% of the voting-age population cast ballots in the last presidential election. Given these numbers, the model of an electorate split down the middle, locked into their irreconcilable Facebook feeds, is misleading. You can’t have a country divided in half when half of the country doesn’t vote.

These are the people that the rising American left must win if it wants to replicate the success of its British comrades. Non-voters already form a natural constituency for progressive politics: they tend to be younger and poorer, and broadly support redistributive policies. But organizing this silent social-democratic majority will require more partisanship, not less.

Tepid centrism will not politicize people who believe that politics has nothing to offer them. Only a strongly defined alternative can. Social media offers a way to articulate that alternative, and to push it into public view. Tweets alone won’t put socialists in power. But given the scale of the left’s ambition, and the obstacles arrayed against it, they’re not a bad place to start.

 

Twitter Hires Ned Segal, Former Goldman Sachs Managing Director, as CFO

 

Twitter Inc on Tuesday hired Ned Segal, senior vice president of finance at Intuit Inc and a former managing director at Goldman Sachs Group Inc, as its chief financial officer beginning in late August.

Anthony Noto, who has been serving as Twitter’s CFO and chief operating officer since November, will remain at the company as COO, Twitter said in a statement.

The appointment of Segal, 43, comes as investors are demonstrating renewed optimism in Twitter, which still lags rival social network Facebook Inc in terms of size and profitability.

Twitter shares rose 3 percent on Tuesday, before the announcement of Segal’s hiring after the market’s close. The stock is up 32 percent since April 17, when it hit the low of the year at $14.12.

In April, Twitter reported better-than-expected user growth in the first quarter of the year, partly related to heightened user interest in political news and comment.

 Twitter Hires Ned Segal, Former Goldman Sachs Managing Director, as CFO

Before joining Intuit, Segal was the CFO of RPX Corp , which helps companies manage patent risk, and earlier spent some 17 years at Goldman, according to a biography provided by Twitter.

From 2009 to 2013, Segal was a Goldman managing director and head of its global software investment banking unit, advising tech companies on mergers, acquisitions and initial public offerings, Twitter said.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said Segal was an ideal fit because of the range of his experience.

“He brings a principled, engaging and rigorous approach to the CFO role, with a track record of driving profitable growth,” Dorsey said in a statement.

Segal said in a statement he was committed to helping Twitter “continue toward its goal of GAAP profitability.”

Segal is entitled to receive a signing bonus of $300,000 (roughly Rs. 1.9 crores) and his annual salary will be $500,000 (roughly Rs. 3.2 crores), Twitter said in a securities filing. He will also be eligible to receive 1.2 million shares in the company, subject to conditions and vesting, according to the filing.

Twitter is scheduled to report earnings for the second quarter on July 27.

 

Uber Expands in Belgium Despite Bitter Opposition

US-based taxi app Uber expanded its service in Brussels on Thursday despite growing opposition by traditional cab drivers who plan a major protest in Europe’s capital later this month.

The controversial smartphone service officially launched its premium UberX option but announced it at a press conference whose location was only revealed at the last minute for fear of disruption by bitter opponents.

“There’s a growing demand in Brussels. Users want a professional option with extra comfort and luxury,” said Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of public policy in Europe.

Crucially, UberX drivers need to meet more stringent standards than those on the cheaper Uberpopversion, including newer vehicles and better insurance.

Across the globe, Uber has angered traditional taxi operators who say it represents unfair competition because Uber drivers can flout the rules and restrictions that regulate the professionals.

Unions representing taxis in Brussels have called a strike for September 16, with drivers from other European capitals also expected to participate.

Their anger has often boiled over, notably in Paris where rioting by taxi drivers and the arrest of two Uber executives in June led the company to suspend its lower cost Uberpop service.

Uber awaits a French court decision it hopes will strike down a law passed by the French government that sharply restricts its activities.

“There are growing doubts this law is constitutional in France and also there is huge doubt at the European level that it is in fact compatible with EU treaties,” said MacGann.

The European Commission, the EU’s top regulator, is currently reviewing separate complaints in which Uber argues that France, Spain and Germany are breaking the bloc’s rules in their efforts to restrict Uber.

“The Commission has decided, and this is quite rare, to move forward on all these three complaints which may or may not lead to infringement proceedings,” MacGann said.

Meanwhile, a Spanish court has asked the EU’s top court to decide whether Uber is a technology application or an old-fashioned transport company that would require far stricter regulation.

That decision is expected in the next 12 months, MacGann said.

Uber is also underfire in its home state of California where a federal judge on Tuesday granted class-action status to a suit filed by Uber drivers who argue they are treated like employees but receive none of the employment benefits laid down by law.

How to stop auto-play videos on Facebook and Twitter

Your social media feed is under assault by moving pictures.

In recent months, both Facebook and Twitter have enabled auto-play videos; whenever a video enters your feed or timeline, it automatically starts playing. At best, it’s an annoyance that chews through your data cap. At worst, the “feature” forces you to see videos of things you’d normally shy away from—a nastiness highlighted this morning after somebody murdered a pair of journalists on-camera in Virginia, then posted videos of the action to his social feeds, which were then re-shared widely.

Fortunately, you can disable auto-play videos in both Twitter and Facebook. Here’s how.

How to disable Twitter’s auto-play videos

To disable Twitter’s auto-play videos, sign into the Twitter web client, then click on your profile photo and select Settings from the drop-down menu.

twitter settings

You’ll be dumped on the Account section of your settings. Simply scroll down to the “Video Tweets” option under Content, then uncheck the box that says “Video autoplay.”

twitter video tweets
The option you’ll want to disable.

Click the Save Changes button at the bottom of the screen, re-enter your password to confirm the change, and you’re done.

twitter screenshot

To disable auto-play videos in Twitter’s Android app, tap the Options button (which looks like three stacked dots) and select Settings. Next, tap General, thenVideo autoplay. Here, select “Never play videos automatically.”

If you’re using an iPhone, tap Me in the lower-right corner, then navigate to Gear icon > Settings > Video autoplay and select “Never play videos automatically.”

How to disable Facebook’s auto-play videos

Disabling Facebook’s auto-play video is just as easy.

facebook video settings

On the web, click the downward-facing arrow at the right of the blue menu bar at the top of the screen, then select Settings.

facebook video off

On the next page, select Video from the list of options on the left-hand side, then set the “Auto-Play Videos” drop-down menu to Off.

fb screenshot

To disable auto-play videos on Facebook’s mobile apps, you’ll want to first open the Option “hamburger” menu at the top of the screen, which likes like three stacked horizontal lines. On Android, head to App Settings > Videos play automatically > Off; iPhone users should navigate to Settings > Videos > Autoplay > Off.

‘Spam King’ Pleads Guilty to Sending 27 Million Facebook Messages

Often dubbed the ‘Spam King’, Sandford Wallace from Las Vegas has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing half a million Facebook accounts and sending over 27 million spam messages on its servers in 2008 and 2009.

Wallace had already been ordered by the United States District Court Northern District of California in San Jose not to access Facebook’s network when he committed the crime.

He also pleaded guilty to violating that order at his trial on August 24. He faces a possible three-year jail sentence and a $250,000 (roughly Rs. 1.7 crores) fine when he is sentenced in December.

He started a company called SmartBot, which infected people’s computers with viruses and then pushed a pop-up to suggest using its own software to remove it, Engadget reported.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a suit against him in 2004 and in 2006 he was ordered to pay $4 million (roughly Rs. 26 crores) as penalty.

He tried his controversial spamming methods again on Facebook until the social network filed a suit against him in 2009.

The judge ruled that Wallace owed Facebook $711 million (roughly Rs. 4,706 crores). But Wallace didn’t pay the Facebook any fine.

Eventually, a judge in California requested that Wallace be investigated by the FBI for criminal contempt to finally put an end to his activities.

The FBI investigation unearthed that Wallace had sent 27 million pieces of spam from 500,000 compromised Facebook accounts from 143 proxied IP addresses.