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Social media giants step up joint fight against extremist content

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

A Saudi man explores social media on his mobile device as he sits at a cafe in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia May 24, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Social media giants Facebook, Google’s YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms.

Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism “will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN,” the companies said in a statement.

The move comes on the heels of last week’s call from European heads of state for tech firms to establish an industry forum and develop new technology and tools to improve the automatic detection and removal of extremist content.

The political pressure on the companies has raised the prospect of new legislation at EU level, but so far only Germany has proposed a law fining social media networks up to 50 million euros ($56 million) if they fail to remove hateful postings quickly. The lower house of the German parliament is expected to vote on the law this week.

The companies will seek to improve technical work such as a database created in December to share unique digital fingerprints they automatically assign to videos or photos of extremist content.

They will also exchange best practices on content detection techniques using machine learning as well as define “standard transparency reporting methods for terrorist content removals.”

Earlier this month Facebook opened up about its efforts to remove terrorism content in response to criticism from politicians that tech giants are not doing enough to stop militant groups using their platforms for propaganda and recruiting.

Google announced additional measures to identify and remove terrorist or violent extremist content on its video-sharing platform YouTube shortly thereafter.

Twitter suspended 376,890 accounts for violations related to the promotion of terrorism in the second half of 2016 and will share further updates on its efforts to combat violent extremism on its platform in its next Transparency Report.

The social media firms said they would work with smaller companies to help them tackle extremist content and organizations such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies to work on ways to counter online extremism and hate.

All four companies have initiatives to counter online hate speech and will use the forum to improve their efforts and train civil society organizations engaged in similar work. — By Julia Fioretti | BRUSSELS

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti, editing by David Evans and Jane Merriman)

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Facebook says big breach exposed 50 million accounts to full takeover

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Man poses in front of on a display showing a Facebook logo and the word ‘cyber’ in binary code, in this picture illustration taken in Zenica December 27, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Files

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Friday that hackers stole digital login codes allowing them to take over nearly 50 million user accounts in its worst security breach ever given the unprecedented level of potential access, adding to what has been a difficult year for the company’s reputation.

Facebook, which has more than 2.2 billion monthly users, said it has yet to determine whether the attacker misused any accounts or stole private information. It also has not identified the attacker’s location or whether specific victims were targeted. Its initial review suggests the attack was broad in nature.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg described the incident as “really serious” in a conference call with reporters. His account was affected along with that of Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a spokeswoman said.

Shares in Facebook fell 2.6 percent on Friday, weighing on major Wall Street stock indexes.

Facebook made headlines earlier this year after profile details from 87 million users was improperly accessed by political data firm Cambridge Analytica. The disclosure has prompted government inquiries into the company’s privacy practices across the world, and fueled a “#deleteFacebook” social movement among consumers.

U.S. lawmakers said on Friday that the hack may boost calls for data privacy legislation.

“This is another sobering indicator that Congress needs to step up and take action to protect the privacy and security of social media users,” Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Warner said in a statement.

Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Rohit Chopra on Twitter said “I want answers” with a link to a Reuters story on the breach.

‘COMPLEX’ FLAW
Facebook’s latest vulnerability had existed since July 2017, but the company first identified it on Tuesday after spotting a “fairly large” increase in use of its “view as” privacy feature on Sept. 16, executives said.

“View as” allows users to verify their privacy settings by seeing what their own profile looks like to someone else. The flaw inadvertently gave the devices of “view as” users the wrong digital code, which, like a browser cookie, keeps users signed in to a service across multiple visits.

That code could allow the person using “view as” to post and browse from someone else’s Facebook account, potentially exposing private messages, photos and posts. The attacker also could have gained full access to victims’ accounts on any third-party app or website where they had logged in with Facebook credentials.

“The implications of this are huge,” Justin Fier, director of cyber intelligence at security company Darktrace, told Reuters.

Guy Rosen, the Facebook vice president overseeing security, said the flaw was “complex” in that it resulted from three failings.

A video upload feature should not have displayed on a user’s profile page when accessed through “view as,” Rosen told reporters on a conference call. That alone would not have been problematic except that the video feature wrongly triggered the placement of the powerful login code. And it placed the code not for the “view as” user, but for who they were pretending to be.

Facebook fixed the issue on Thursday. It also notified the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Congressional aides and the Data Protection Commission in Ireland, where the company has European headquarters.

The Irish authority expressed concern in a statement that Facebook has been “unable to clarify the nature of the breach and risk to users” and said it was pressing Facebook for answers.

Facebook reset the digital keys of the 50 million affected accounts, and as a precaution temporarily disabled “view as” and reset those keys for another 40 million that have been looked up through “view as” over the last year.

About 90 million people will have to log back into Facebook or any of their apps that use a Facebook login, the company said.

Two Facebook users sued the company over the breach in federal court in California on Friday.

More than 6,000 users complained about the breach on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page.

“I’m so scared now. All my activities are on Facebook,” Mohammad ZR Zia, a 25-year-old college student in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, who has been using the social media platform since 2009, told Reuters. His account was logged out earlier on Friday.

The level of concern expressed on Facebook was enough that the company’s automated system temporarily blocked sharing of some articles about the breach.

“Our security systems have detected that a lot of people are posting the same content, which could mean that it’s spam,” a message told users. Facebook later apologized for the misfire.

Facebook has suffered narrower breaches before.

In 2013, Facebook disclosed a software flaw that exposed 6 million users’ phone numbers and email addresses to unauthorized viewers for a year, while a technical glitch in 2008 revealed confidential birth-dates on 80 million Facebook users’ profiles.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Christopher Bing, Jim Finkle and David Shepardson in Washington, D.C., Joseph Menn in San Francisco and Angela Moon in New York; Editing by Clive McKeef

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U.S. Congress grills Facebook, Twitter over foreign bids to tilt politics

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Top executives from Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. defended their companies in the U.S. Congress on Wednesday (September 5) over what lawmakers see as a failure to combat continuing foreign efforts to influence U.S. politics.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, who testified alongside Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, acknowledged to the Senate Intelligence Committee that the company was too slow to respond to Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election and general American political discourse, but insisted it is doing better.

Dorsey also described Twitter’s tighter monitoring of malicious use of its platform, including notifying law enforcement last month of accounts that appeared to be located in Iran. He said it suspended 770 accounts for violating Twitter policies.

Facebook, Twitter, and other technology firms have been on the defensive for many months over political influence activity on their sites as well as concerns over user privacy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into Russian efforts to influence U.S. public opinion throughout Donald Trump’s presidency after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that entities backed by the Kremlin had sought to boost his chances of winning the White House in 2016.

In the Senate, both Burr and the committee’s Democratic vice chairman, Senator Mark Warner, said they called Wednesday’s hearing to press the social media companies to do more. — Reuters

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Trump warns Google, Facebook, Twitter to be careful

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Google, Facebook, and Twitter to tread carefully on Tuesday (August 28) after recently accusing internet and social media firms of political bias and censorship, without providing evidence.

“I think what Google and what others are doing if you look at what’s going on with Twitter if you look at what’s going on with Facebook, they better be careful because you can’t do that to people,” Trump said in remarks at the White House.

“So I think that Google, and Twitter and Facebook, they are really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.” — Reuters

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