Нині в Україні внутрішньо переміщеними особами офіційно є понад 1,4 мільйона осіб
The State Department is creating a new Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy to focus on tackling cybersecurity challenges at a time of growing threats from opponents. There will also be a new special envoy for critical and emerging technology, who will lead the technology diplomacy agenda with U.S. allies.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the organizational changes underscore the need for a robust approach for dealing with cyber threats.
“We want to make sure technology works for democracy, fighting back against disinformation, standing up for internet freedom, and reducing the misuse of surveillance technology,” Blinken said in a speech on modernizing American diplomacy.
Blinken said the new bureau will be led by an ambassador-at-large. The chief U.S. diplomat is also seeking a 50% increase in State Department’s information technology budget.
The announcement comes as hackers backed by foreign governments, such as Russia and China, continue to attack U.S. infrastructures and global technology systems to steal sensitive information.
Earlier this year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that more countries are relying on cyber operations to steal information, influence populations and damage industry, but the U.S. is most concerned about Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.
The U.S. technology giant Microsoft said on Monday that the same Russia-backed hackers responsible for the 2020 SolarWinds breach of corporate computer systems are continuing to attack global technology systems, this time targeting cloud service resellers.
A senior State Department official told reporters on Wednesday that Washington has been clear with Moscow that cyber criminals targeting the U.S. is “not acceptable.” The United States has asked the Russian government to “take action against that type of criminal behavior.”
Confronting cyberattacks continues to be “a high priority” in U.S. relations with Russia, the senior official said.
China is also considered to be one of the United States’ main cyber adversaries, having coordinated teams both inside and outside of the government conducting cyberespionage campaigns that were large-scale and indiscriminate, according to analysts.
Over the past year, experts have attributed notable hacks in the U.S., Europe and Asia to China’s Ministry of State Security, the nation’s civilian intelligence agency, which has taken the lead in Beijing’s cyberespionage, consolidating efforts by the People’s Liberation Army.
In addition to expanding the State Department’s capacity on cybersecurity, Blinken also unveiled other steps to modernize American diplomacy, including the launch of a new “policy ideas channel” that allows American diplomats to share their policy ideas directly with senior leadership, building and retaining a diverse workforce, as well as a plan to “reinvigorate the in-person diplomacy and public engagement.”
The organization changes to beef up resources and staffers to tackle international cybersecurity challenges came after the State Department completed an extensive review of cyberspace and emerging technology.
The past several weeks have been difficult for the social media behemoth Facebook, with a series of whistleblower revelations demonstrating that the company knew its signature platform was exacerbating all manner of social ills around the globe, from human trafficking to sectarian violence.
The tide shows no sign of receding. New revelations this week have demonstrated that the company’s supposed commitment to freedom of expression takes a back seat to its bottom line when repressive governments, like Vietnam’s, demand that dissent be silenced. They showed that Facebook knew its algorithms were steering users toward extreme content, such as QAnon conspiracy theories and phony anti-vaccine claims, but took few steps to remedy the problem.
In statements to various media outlets, the company has defended itself, saying it dedicates enormous resources to assuring safety on its platform and asserting that much of the information provided to journalists and government officials has been taken out of context.
In a conference call to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings on Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg claimed that recent media coverage is painting a misleading picture of his company.
“Good faith criticism helps us get better,” Zuckerberg said. “But my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company. The reality is that we have an open culture, where we encourage discussion and research about our work so we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us.”
The revelations, as well as unrelated business challenges, mean that Facebook, which also owns Instagram and the messaging service WhatsApp, has a lot of things to worry about in the coming weeks and months. Here are five of the biggest.
A potential SEC investigation
Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former product manager with the company, delivered thousands of pages of documents to lawmakers and journalists last month, prompting the wave of stories about the company’s practices. But the documents also went to the Securities and Exchange Commission, raising the possibility of a federal investigation of the company.
Haugen claims the documents provide evidence that the company withheld information that might have affected investors’ decisions about purchasing Facebook’s stock. Among other things, she says that the documents show that Facebook knew that its number of actual users — a key measurement of its ability to deliver the advertising it depends on for its profits — was lower than it was reporting.
The SEC has not indicated whether or not it will pursue an investigation into the company, and a securities fraud charge would be difficult to prove, requiring evidence that executives actively and knowingly misled investors. But even an investigation could be harmful to the company’s already bruised corporate image.
In a statement provided to various media, a company spokesperson said, “We make extensive disclosures in our S.E.C. filings about the challenges we face, including user engagement, estimating duplicate and false accounts, and keeping our platform safe from people who want to use it to harm others . . . All of these issues are known and debated extensively in the industry, among academics and in the media. We are confident that our disclosures give investors the information they need to make informed decisions.”
Facebook is already being sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which claims that between the company’s main site, Instagram, and WhatsApp, Facebook exercises monopoly power in the social media market. The agency is demanding that the three platforms be split up.
Facebook has publicly claimed it does not have monopoly power, but internal documents made available by Haugen demonstrate that the company knows it is overwhelmingly dominant in some areas, potentially handing the FTC additional ammunition as it attempts to persuade a federal judge to break up the company.
Congress doesn’t agree on much these days, but Haugen’s testimony in a hearing last month sparked bipartisan anger at Facebook and Instagram, especially over revelations that the latter has long been aware that its platform is harmful to the mental health of many teenage users, particularly young girls.
Several pieces of legislation have since been introduced, including a proposal to create an “app ratings board” that would set age and content ratings for applications on internet-enabled devices.
Others seek to make social media companies like Facebook liable for harm done by false information circulating on the platform, or to force the company to offer stronger privacy protections and to give users the right to control the spread of content about themselves.
Ramya Krishnan, a staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute and a lecturer in law at Columbia Law School, is one of many academics who have been pushing for lawmakers to require Facebook and other social media platforms to allow researchers and journalists better access to data about their audiences and their engagement.
“We’ve seen increased interest among lawmakers and regulators in expanding the space for research and journalism focused on the platform, reflecting the understanding that in order to effectively regulate the platforms we need to better understand the effect that they are having on society and democracy,” she told VOA.
One of the most striking things about the documents released this week is the amount of anger inside Facebook over the company’s public image. The disclosures include reams of internal messages and other communications in which Facebook employees complain about the company’s unwillingness to police content on the site.
“I’m struggling to match my values to my employment here,” one employee wrote in response to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, which was partly organized on Facebook. “I came here hoping to effect change and improve society, but all I’ve seen is atrophy and abdication of responsibility.”
The documents show that the company is losing employees — particularly those charged with combating hate speech and misinformation — because they don’t believe their efforts have the support of management.
Last year the Anti-Defamation League organized a campaign to pressure companies to “pause” their advertising on Facebook in protest over its failure to eliminate hateful rhetoric on the platform. In a statement given to VOA, Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the group’s CEO, said it is preparing to do so again.
“Mark Zuckerberg would have you believe that Facebook is doing all it can to address the amplification of hate and disinformation,” Greenblatt said. “Now we know the truth: He was aware it was happening and chose to ignore internal researchers’ recommendations and did nothing about it. So we will do something about it, because literally, lives have been lost and people are being silenced and killed as a direct result of Facebook’s negligence.”
He continued, “We are in talks to decide what the best course of action is to bring about real change at Facebook, whether it’s with policymakers, responsible shareholders, or advertisers,” he said. “But make no mistake: We’ve successfully taken on Facebook’s hate and misinformation machine before, and we aren’t afraid to do it again. It’s time to rein in this rogue company and its harmful products.”
U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol announced dozens of arrests to break up a global operation that sold illegal drugs using a shadowy realm of the internet.
At a Department of Justice news conference Tuesday in Washington, officials said they arrested 150 people for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including fake prescription opioids and cocaine, over the so-called darknet. Those charged are alleged to have carried out tens of thousands of illegal sales using a part of the internet that is accessible only by using specialized anonymity tools.
The 10-month dragnet called “Operation HunTor” — named after encrypted internet tools — resulted in the seizure of 234 kilograms of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and opioids worth more than $31 million. Officials said many of the confiscated drugs were fake prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The counterfeit tablets are linked to a wave of drug overdoses.
“This international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and sends one clear message to those hiding on the darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
Investigators rounded up and arrested 65 people in the United States. Other arrests occurred in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In addition to counterfeit medicine, authorities also confiscated more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills.
“We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances.”
The international police agency Europol worked alongside the U.S. Justice Department’s Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team.
“No one is beyond the reach of the law, even on the dark web,” said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol’s deputy executive director.
The dark web is preferred by criminal networks who want to keep their internet activities private and anonymous. In this case, it served as a platform for illegal cyber sales of counterfeit medication and other drugs that were delivered by private shipping companies.
Investigators said the fake drugs are primarily made in laboratories in Mexico using chemicals imported from China. Prosecutors also targeted drug dealers who operated home labs to manufacture fake prescription pain pills.
“Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don’t know what they’re getting,” Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate said. The joint investigation followed enforcement efforts in January in which authorities shut down “DarkMarket,” the world’s largest illegal international marketplace on the dark web.
Last month, the DEA warned Americans that international and domestic drug dealers were flooding the country with fake pills, driving the U.S. overdose crisis. The agency confiscated more the 9.5 million potentially lethal pills in the last year.
More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. U.S. health officials attribute the rise to the use of fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine.
U.S. officials said investigations are continuing and more arrests are expected.your ad here
Car rental company Hertz says it will buy 100,000 electric cars from Tesla.
Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields said the Model 3 cars could be ready for renters as early as November, The Associated Press reported.
Fields said the reason for the move was that electric cars are becoming mainstream, and consumer interest in them is growing.
“More are willing to try and buy,” he told AP. “It’s pretty stunning.”
All of the cars should be available by the end of 2022, the company said. When all are delivered, they will make up 20% of the company’s fleet.
Hertz, which emerged from bankruptcy in June, did not disclose the cost of the order, but it could be valued at as much as $4 billion, according to some news reports.
The company said it plans to build its own charging station network, with 3,000 in 65 locations by the end of 2022 and 4,000 by the end of 2023. Renters will also have access to Tesla’s charging network for a fee.
Tesla stock jumped as much as 12% on the news
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.
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Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told British lawmakers Monday that the social media giant “unquestionably” amplifies online hate.
In testimony to a parliamentary committee in London, the former Facebook employee echoed what she told U.S. senators earlier this month.
Haugen said the media giant fuels online hate and extremism and does not have any incentive to change its algorithm to promote less divisive content.
She argued that as a result, Facebook may end up sparking more violent unrest around the world.
Haugen said the algorithm Facebook has designed to promote more engagement among users “prioritizes and amplifies divisive and polarizing extreme content” as well as concentrates it.
Facebook did not respond to Haugen’s testimony Monday. Earlier this month, Haugen addressed a Senate committee and said the company is harmful. Facebook rejected her accusations.
“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Haugen’s testimony comes as a coalition of new organizations Monday began publishing stories on Facebook’s practices based on internal company documents that Haugen secretly copied and made public.
Haugen is a former Facebook product manager who has turned whistleblower.
Earlier this month when Haugen addressed U.S. lawmakers, she argued that a federal regulator was needed to oversee large internet companies like Facebook.
British lawmakers are considering creating such a national regulator as part of a proposed online safety bill. The legislation also proposes fining companies like Facebook up to 10% of their global revenue for any violations of government policies.
Representatives from Facebook and other social media companies are set to address British lawmakers on Thursday.
Haugen is scheduled to meet with European Union policymakers in Brussels next month.
Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.your ad here
The U.S. State Department plans to establish a bureau of cyberspace and digital policy in the face of a growing hacking problem, specifically a surge of ransomware attacks on U.S. infrastructure.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said a Senate-confirmed ambassador at large will lead the bureau.
Hackers have struck numerous U.S. companies this year.
One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline led to temporary fuel supply shortages on the U.S. East Coast. Hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agricultural company, sparking fears of disruptions to Midwest grain harvesting.
Two weeks ago, the Treasury Department said suspected ransomware payments totaling $590 million were made in the first six months of this year. It put the cryptocurrency industry on alert about its role fighting ransomware attacks.your ad here
In Gaza and Syria, journalists and activists feel Facebook censors their speech, flagging inoffensive Arabic posts as terrorist content. In India and Myanmar, political groups use Facebook to incite violence. All of it frequently slips through the company’s efforts to police its social media platforms because of a shortage of moderators who speak local languages and understand cultural contexts.
Internal company documents from the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen show the problems plaguing the company’s content moderation are systemic, and that Facebook has understood the depth of these failings for years while doing little about it.
Its platforms have failed to develop artificial-intelligence solutions that can catch harmful content in different languages. As a result, terrorist content and hate speech proliferate in some of the world’s most volatile regions. Elsewhere, the company’s language gaps lead to overzealous policing of everyday expression.
This story, along with others published Monday, is based on former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which were also provided to Congress in redacted form by her legal team. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.
In a statement to the AP, a Facebook spokesperson said that over the last two years the company has invested in recruiting more staff with local dialect and topic expertise to bolster its review capacity globally.
When it comes to Arabic content moderation, in particular, the company said, “We still have more work to do.”
But the documents show the problems are not limited to Arabic. In Myanmar, where Facebook-based misinformation has been linked repeatedly to ethnic violence, the company’s internal reports show it failed to stop the spread of hate speech targeting the minority Rohingya Muslim population.
In India, the documents show moderators never flagged anti-Muslim hate speech broadcast by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s far-right Hindu nationalist group because Facebook lacked moderators and automated filters with knowledge of Hindi and Bengali.
Arabic, Facebook’s third-most common language, does pose particular challenges to the company’s automated systems and human moderators, each of which struggles to understand spoken dialects unique to each country and region, their vocabularies salted with different historical influences and cultural contexts. The platform won a vast following across the region amid the 2011 Arab Spring, but its reputation as a forum for free expression in a region full of autocratic governments has since changed.
Scores of Palestinian journalists have had their accounts deleted. Archives of the Syrian civil war have disappeared. During the 11-day Gaza war last May, Facebook’s Instagram app briefly banned the hashtag #AlAqsa, a reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, a flashpoint of the conflict. The company later apologized, saying it confused Islam’s third-holiest site for a terrorist group.
Criticism, satire and even simple mentions of groups on the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list — a docket modeled on the U.S. government equivalent — are grounds for a takedown.
“We were incorrectly enforcing counterterrorism content in Arabic,” one document reads, noting the system “limits users from participating in political speech, impeding their right to freedom of expression.”
The Facebook blacklist includes Gaza’s ruling Hamas party, as well as Hezbollah, the militant group that holds seats in Lebanon’s Parliament, along with many other groups representing wide swaths of people and territory across the Middle East.
The company’s language gaps and biases have led to the widespread perception that its reviewers skew in favor of governments and against minority groups.
Israeli security agencies and watchdogs also monitor Facebook and bombard it with thousands of orders to take down Palestinian accounts and posts as they try to crack down on incitement.
“They flood our system, completely overpowering it,” said Ashraf Zeitoon, Facebook’s former head of policy for the Middle East and North Africa region, who left in 2017.
Syrian journalists and activists reporting on the country’s opposition also have complained of censorship, with electronic armies supporting embattled President Bashar Assad aggressively flagging dissident posts for removal.
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Facebook does not translate the site’s hate speech and misinformation pages into Dari and Pashto, the country’s two main languages. The site also doesn’t have a bank of hate speech terms and slurs in Afghanistan, so it can’t build automated filters that catch the worst violations.
In the Philippines, homeland of many domestic workers in the Middle East, Facebook documents show that engineers struggled to detect reports of abuse by employers because the company couldn’t flag words in Tagalog, the major Philippine language.
In the Middle East, the company over-relies on artificial-intelligence filters that make mistakes, leading to “a lot of false positives and a media backlash,” one document reads. Largely unskilled moderators, in over their heads and at times relying on Google Translate, tend to passively field takedown requests instead of screening proactively. Most are Moroccans and get lost in the translation of Arabic’s 30-odd dialects.
The moderators flag inoffensive Arabic posts as terrorist content 77% of the time, one report said.
Although the documents from Haugen predate this year’s Gaza war, episodes from that bloody conflict show how little has been done to address the problems flagged in Facebook’s own internal reports.
Activists in Gaza and the West Bank lost their ability to livestream. Whole archives of the conflict vanished from newsfeeds, a primary portal of information. Influencers accustomed to tens of thousands of likes on their posts saw their outreach plummet when they posted about Palestinians.
“This has restrained me and prevented me from feeling free to publish what I want,” said Soliman Hijjy, a Gaza-based journalist.
Palestinian advocates submitted hundreds of complaints to Facebook during the war, often leading the company to concede error. In the internal documents, Facebook reported it had erred in nearly half of all Arabic language takedown requests submitted for appeal.
Facebook’s internal documents also stressed the need to enlist more Arab moderators from less-represented countries and restrict them to where they have appropriate dialect expertise.
“It is surely of the highest importance to put more resources to the task to improving Arabic systems,” said the report.
Meanwhile, many across the Middle East worry the stakes of Facebook’s failings are exceptionally high, with potential to widen long-standing inequality, chill civic activism and stoke violence in the region.
“We told Facebook: Do you want people to convey their experiences on social platforms, or do you want to shut them down?” said Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the United Kingdom. “If you take away people’s voices, the alternatives will be uglier.”
The U.S. technology giant Microsoft says that the same Russia-backed hackers responsible for the 2020 SolarWinds breach of corporate computer systems is continuing to attack global technology systems, this time targeting cloud service resellers.
Microsoft said the group, which it calls Nobelium, is employing a new strategy to take advantage of the direct access resellers have to their customers’ IT systems, hoping to “more easily impersonate an organization’s trusted technology partner to gain access to their downstream customers.”
Resellers are intermediaries between software and hardware producers and the eventual technology product users.
In a statement Sunday, Microsoft said it has been monitoring Nobelium’s attacks since May and has notified more than 140 companies targeted by the group, with as many as 14 of the companies’ systems believed to have been compromised.
“This recent activity is another indicator that Russia is trying to gain long-term, systematic access to a variety of points in the technology supply chain and establish a mechanism for surveilling — now or in the future — targets of interest to the Russian government,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post.
“Fortunately, we have discovered this campaign during its early stages, and we are sharing these developments to help cloud service resellers, technology providers, and their customers take timely steps to help ensure Nobelium is not more successful,” the company said.
Microsoft said Nobelium had made 22,868 attacks since July but had only been successful a handful of times. Most of the attacks have targeted U.S. government agencies and think tanks in the United States, followed by attacks in Ukraine, the United Kingdom and in other NATO countries.
A U.S. government official downplayed the attacks in a statement to The Associated Press, saying, “The activities described were unsophisticated password spray and phishing, run-of-the mill operations for the purpose of surveillance that we already know are attempted every day by Russia and other foreign governments.”
Washington blamed Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency for the 2020 SolarWinds hack, which compromised several federal agencies and went undetected for much of last year. Russia has denied any wrongdoing.
Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.