Archive for March, 2018

Corbyn deletes personal Facebook account

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader Corbyn deletes personal Facebook account Corbyn deletes personal Facebook account 2487f619eeImage copyrightPA

Labour has sought to distance itself from a series of pro-Jeremy Corbyn Facebook groups that feature anti-Semitic, racist and abusive comments.

A report published in the Sunday Times claims to have uncovered more than 2,000 such messages.

A Labour spokesman said the groups are not connected to the party in any way.

Newly appointed member of Labour’s ruling body, comedian Eddie Izzard, said the party must “stamp out completely the stain of anti-Semitism”.

The report is the result of a two-month investigation by the Sunday Times into the 20 biggest pro-Corbyn Facebook groups.

Among the messages was praise for Adolf Hitler and threats to kill Prime Minister Theresa May, the paper said.

Meanwhile, one of Labour’s biggest private donors has told the Observer he has left the party over its failure to deal with “the most blatant acts of anti-Semitism”.

Sir David Garrard, who has donated £1.5 million to Labour since 2003, told the paper: “I have watched with dismay and foreboding the manner in which the leadership has, in my view, over the last two years, conducted itself.”

No let-up for Labour

Jonathan Blake, BBC political correspondent

With negative stories on the front pages of at least four newspapers, this is not a happy Easter Sunday for Labour.

The online abuse highlighted by the Sunday Times investigation shows a problem the party has with a relatively small number of people willing to use racism, misogyny and threats of violence in support of Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour has denounced the behaviour and distanced itself from the groups.

Mr Corbyn has condemned, criticised and apologised time and time again.

But after a bad week for the party, things have not improved.

The leader has admitted that Labour must “do better” in tackling anti-Semitism, but with no apparent quick fix at hand and no let-up in accusations, he has some way to go to convince everyone in his party that he has a grip on the problem.

The Sunday Times says the Facebook groups covered in its report have a membership of around 400,000 people including 12 senior staff working for Mr Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

Comments in the groups show members advocating violence, reports the paper.

It also said it found messages comparing the Conservatives to Nazis and suggesting a journalist should be killed.

Writing in the newspaper, Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger said she had received an email from someone who claimed to be a party member telling her she should kill herself.

She had also been called “Judas”, “a venal piece of detritus”, a “Zionazi” and an “absolute parasite.”

Image copyrightPA
Image caption Luciana Berger spoke at a protest against anti-Semitism in the party on Monday

A spokesman for the Labour Party said: “These groups are not run by the Labour Party or officially connected to the party in any way.”

Labour also told the Sunday Times that no-one in Mr Corbyn or Mr McDonnell’s offices has seen, posted or endorsed anti-Semitic or abusive messages.

The BBC understands that Mr Corbyn has since deleted his personal Facebook account, although his Facebook Page, a separate type of account for public figures and organisations, remains active.

The latest allegations mark a deepening in the row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party which has dogged Mr Corbyn for the past week.

It erupted when Mr Corbyn himself was criticised for opposing the removal of an anti-Semitic mural in east London in 2012.

On Saturday, senior Labour official Christine Shawcroft resigned from the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, and was replaced by comedian Eddie Izzard.

It had emerged that she had opposed the suspension of a council candidate accused of denying the Holocaust.

In a statement Mr Izzard said: “Although this isn’t the manner in which I had hoped to join the NEC I’m honoured to step up and represent Labour members at the heart of our party.”

Concerning the anti-Semitism row he said Labour “must make amends and repair the damage with the Jewish community as Jeremy Corbyn has promised to do.”

On Friday Mr Corbyn admitted Labour must “do better” over its handling of anti-Semitism.

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Donald Trump steps up attacks on Amazon

President Trump (right) and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos Donald Trump steps up attacks on Amazon Donald Trump steps up attacks on Amazon bb393e959bImage copyrightAFP
Image caption President Trump (right) accuses Amazon, owned by Jeff Bezos, of not paying enough for deliveries

President Donald Trump has stepped up his attacks on Amazon, suggesting the online retail giant is ripping off the US Postal Service.

The US Post Office would lose $1.50 (£1.07) “on average for each package it delivers for Amazon”, he tweeted, but supporters of Amazon dispute this.

Mr Trump also said the Washington Post newspaper was a “lobbyist” for Amazon.

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post, which publishes stories unpalatable to the president.

Like most mainstream media, the Post has reported on stories including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s continuing investigation into links between the Trump election campaign and Russia, as well has his alleged relationship with porn star Stormy Daniels.

Saturday’s edition details how three different legal teams are scrutinising the Trump Organization’s accounts.

Mr Trump’s attacks on Amazon have seen its share price fall in recent days, amid concern that he might push for its power to be curbed by anti-trust laws.

The president tweeted that the US Post Office was losing “billions of dollars” in its contract with Amazon.

“If the P.O. ‘increased its parcel rates, Amazon’s shipping costs would rise by $2.6 Billion.’ This Post Office scam must stop. Amazon must pay real costs (and taxes) now!” he continued, quoting the New York Times.

Image copyrightReuters

Amazon has not commented.

But supporters of Amazon point out that the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees the industry, has found that the US Postal Service makes a profit from its contract with the company.

This in turn helps subsidise the costs of letter delivery, which avoids the need for price rises.

It is unprecedented for a sitting president to single out one company for such vicious attacks, says the BBC’s Business Correspondent, Joe Lynam.

Friends of Mr Trump in the commercial property sector have also been urging him to protect them from digital retail giants as they see shopping malls closing and rents falling, our correspondent adds.

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Tesla in fatal California crash was on Autopilot

Rescue workers attend the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, California, 25 March. Tesla in fatal California crash was on Autopilot Tesla in fatal California crash was on Autopilot 0cfef299a5Image copyrightReuters
Image caption The driver of the Tesla Model X died shortly after the crash

Electric carmaker Tesla says a vehicle involved in a fatal crash in California was in Autopilot mode, raising further questions about the safety of self-driving technology.

One of the company’s Model X cars crashed into a roadside barrier and caught fire on 23 March.

Tesla says the 38-year-old driver, who died shortly afterwards, had activated Autopilot moments before the accident.

But they did not say whether the system had detected the concrete barrier.

“The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive,” a statement on the company’s website said.

“The driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.”

“The driver had about five seconds and 150m (490ft) of unobstructed view of the concrete divider… but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken,” the statement added.

Tesla’s Autopilot system does many of the things a fully autonomous machine can do. It can brake, accelerate and steer by itself under certain conditions.

In 2016, a Tesla driver was killed in Florida when his car failed to spot a lorry crossing its path.

It led the company to introduce new safety measures, including turning off Autopilot and bringing the car to a halt if the driver lets go of the wheel for too long.

Federal investigators said last year that Tesla “lacked understanding” of the semi-autonomous Autopilot’s limitations.

Tesla in fatal California crash was on Autopilot Tesla in fatal California crash was on Autopilot 762414ee22
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUber dashcam footage shows moment before fatal impact

The accident in California comes at a difficult time for self-driving technology.

Earlier this month, Uber was forbidden from resuming self-driving tests in the US state of Arizona.

It followed a fatal crash in the state in which an autonomous vehicle hit a woman who was walking her bike across the road.

It was thought to be the first time an autonomous car had been involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian.

The company suspended all self-driving tests in North America after the accident.

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US may tie social media to visa applications

Two women are pictured silhouetted while using their mobile phones US may tie social media to visa applications US may tie social media to visa applications 55b95f3e3eImage copyrightReuters
Image caption If approved, the US state department proposal could affect around 14.7 million people a year

The Trump administration has said it wants to start collecting the social media history of nearly everyone seeking a visa to enter the US.

The proposal, which comes from the state department, would require most visa applicants to give details of their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

They would have to disclose all social media identities used in the past five years.

About 14.7 million people a year would be affected by the proposals.

The information would be used to identify and vet those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Applicants would also be asked for five years of their telephone numbers, email addresses and travel history. They would be required to say if they had ever been deported from a country, or if any relatives had been involved in terrorist activity.

Image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
Image caption The proposals would place an additional burden on travellers whose countries do not have a visa exemption deal with the US

The proposal would not affect citizens from countries which the US grants visa-free travel status – among them the UK, Canada, France and Germany. However, citizens from non-exempt countries like India, China and Mexico could be embroiled if they visit the US for work or a holiday.

What’s the current stance on requesting social media?

Under rules brought in last May, officials were told to seek people’s social media handles only if they felt “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”, a state department official said at the time.

The tougher proposal comes after President Trump promised to implement “extreme vetting” for foreigners entering the US, which he said was to combat terrorism.

“Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats,” the state department said in a statement, quoted by the New York Times.

“We already request limited contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants. Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”

Who decides if it happens?

The idea is subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget.

The public will have two months to comment on the proposal before it makes a decision.

How does this affect free speech?

Civil liberties groups have condemned the policy as an invasion of privacy that could damage free speech.

“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” said Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” she said.

The social media platforms covered in the proposal include US-based entities such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube. However, the New York Times reports that overseas platforms such as China’s Sina Weibo and Russia’s VK social network would also be included.

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Met Police chief: Social media leads children to violence

Met Police chief Cressida Dick Met Police chief: Social media leads children to violence Met Police chief: Social media leads children to violence 96f7a145feImage copyrightPA
Image caption Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick said stop and search will likely increase

The UK’s top police officer has blamed social media for normalising violence and leading more children to commit stabbings and murders.

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick told The Times social media sites “rev people up” and “make violence faster”.

Fatal stabbings in England and Wales are at their highest levels since 2011.

Ms Dick announced a new task force of about 100 officers to tackle violent crime in London.

Ms Dick says she believes social media “makes it harder for people to cool down”, adding: “I’m sure it does rev people up.”

“There’s definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to ‘fight’ very quickly,” she said.

A trivial disagreement could escalate into violence “within minutes”, Ms Dick added, with disputes on sites such as YouTube identified by detectives as partly to blame.

Ms Dick also told the paper that gangs who post on social media or share videos provoking rivals can glamorise violence.

She said stop and search is “likely to go on going up”, adding: “We will be out on the streets more.”

Knife crime offences in England and Wales rose by 21% in the year ending September 2017, compared to the previous 12 months, figures show.

Police in London – which sees more knife crime than anywhere else in the UK – have launched 10 murder investigations since 17 March.

On Friday, a woman, 36, became the 10th victim after being stabbed to death in Haringey, north London.

In September last year, the MP for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones, said social media was “fuelling an escalation in the cycle of violence among young people”.

She called for ministers to crack down on online material promoting knife crime, naming YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram as problem sites.

Meanwhile, the government has launched a £1.35m series of adverts to run across social media in a bid to deter 10 to 21-year-olds from knife crime.

The adverts feature true stories of teenagers who have been stabbed.

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Quantum computing: The 20 second challenge

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What is quantum computing?

Quantum computing could be part of the answer to some of the biggest problems in science and engineering.

Microsoft says its researchers are close to a breakthrough, which could see its quantum computers begin work in five years.

So how would they work?

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Lindsay Lohan loses GTA V privacy case appeal

Lacey Jones Lindsay Lohan loses GTA V privacy case appeal Lindsay Lohan loses GTA V privacy case appeal e754674d11Image copyrightRockstar Games
Image caption The character Lacey Jones appeared on GTA V’s box art, but plays a relatively minor role in the game

The actress Lindsay Lohan has failed in her latest attempt to sue the maker of the video game Grand Theft Auto V.

Six judges at New York state’s Court of Appeals unanimously rejected her privacy case after dismissing a claim that one of the title’s characters was based on her.

Instead, the judges said, the in-game “actress slash singer” merely resembled a generic young woman.

The case dates back to 2014 when Ms Lohan first sued Rockstar Games.

She claimed at the time that the character of Lacey Jones not only looked like her, but also had a similar sounding voice and wore clothes that resembled her own clothing line.

Neither Ms Lohan nor Rockstar’s owner, Take-Two Interactive, has commented following the latest ruling.

‘Invasion of privacy’

More than 275 million copies of the Grand Theft Auto video game have been sold since its launch in September 2013.

Despite being more than four years old, the title topped the UK games sales charts for the 15th time earlier this month, thanks to its enduring appeal and the continued release of new content.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption Lindsay Lohan recently appeared in a Sky TV comedy series

By contrast, over the same period, Ms Lohan’s own career has waned. A recurring role in the British TV series Sick Note was one of her highest profile recent jobs, and earlier this month she announced she had become a spokeswoman for a law website.

The appeal judges had accepted her claim that a computer game character could constitute a “portrait”, which supported her invasion of privacy claim.

However, they decided that in this case the likeness was not strong enough.

“[The] artistic renderings are indistinct, satirical representations of the style, look and persona of a modern, beach-going young woman… that is not recognisable as plaintiff,” Judge Eugene Fahey wrote in his ruling.

The court also rejected a claim that another GTA V character was based on the reality TV star Karen Gravano on similar grounds.

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Facebook ‘ugly truth’ growth memo haunts firm

Andrew Bosworth Facebook 'ugly truth' growth memo haunts firm Facebook 'ugly truth' growth memo haunts firm f61fd7eca3Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Andrew Bosworth says his memo was intended to be provocative

A Facebook executive’s memo that claimed the “ugly truth” was that anything it did to grow was justified has been made public, embarrassing the company.

The 2016 post said that this applied even if it meant people might die as a result of bullying or terrorism.

Both the author and the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, have denied they actually believe the sentiment.

But it risks overshadowing the firm’s efforts to tackle an earlier scandal.

Facebook has been under intense scrutiny since it acknowledged that it had received reports that a political consultancy – Cambridge Analytica – had not destroyed data harvested from about 50 million of its users years earlier.

The memo was first made public by the Buzzfeed news site, and was written by Andrew Bosworth.

The 18 June 2016 memo:

Image copyrightGetty Images

So we connect more people.

That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack co-ordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned.


That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in. The work we will likely have to do in China some day. All of it.

Read the post in full

Mr Bosworth – who co-invented Facebook’s News Feed – has held high-level posts at the social network since 2006, and is currently in charge of its virtual reality efforts.

Mr Bosworth has since tweeted that he “didn’t agree” with the post at the time he had posted it, but he had shared it with staff to be “provocative.”

“Having a debate around hard topics like these is a critical part of our process and to do that effectively we have to be able to consider even bad ideas,” he added.

Image copyrightGetty Images
Image caption Facebook’s chief says that Facebook does not believe connecting people is “enough by itself”

Mark Zuckerberg has issued his own statement.

“Boz is a talented leader who says many provocative things,” it said.

“This was one that most people at Facebook including myself disagreed with strongly. We’ve never believed the ends justify the means.”

A follow-up report by the Verge revealed that dozens of Facebook’s employees have subsequently used its internal chat tools to discuss concerns that such material had been leaked to the media.


Image copyrightReuters

By Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent

What immediately struck me about this leaked memo was the line about “all the questionable contact importing practices”.

When I downloaded my Facebook data recently, it was the presence of thousands of my phone contacts that startled me. But the company’s attitude seemed to be that this was normal and it was up to users to switch off the function if they didn’t like it.

What we now know is that in 2016 a very senior executive thought this kind of data gathering was questionable.

So, why is it only now that the company is having a debate about this and other dubious practices?

Until now, Facebook has not been leaky. Perhaps we will soon get more insights from insiders as this adolescent business tries to grow up and come to terms with its true nature.

Fact checking

The disclosure coincided with Facebook’s latest efforts to address the public and investors’ concerns with its management.

Its shares are trading about 14% lower than they were before the Cambridge Analytica scandal began, and several high profile figures have advocated deleting Facebook accounts.

The company hosted a press conference on Thursday, at which it said it had:

  • begun fact-checking photos and videos posted in France, and would expand this to other countries soon
  • developed a new fake account investigative tool to prevent harmful election-related activities
  • started work on a public archive that will make it possible for journalists and others to investigate political-labelled ads posted to its platform

In previous days it had also announced a revamp of its privacy settings, and said it would restrict the amount of data exchanged with businesses that collect information on behalf of advertisers.

The latest controversy is likely, however, to provide added ammunition for critics.

CNN reported earlier this week that Mr Zuckerberg had decided to testify before Congress “within a matter of weeks” after refusing a request to do so before UK MPs. However, the BBC has been unable to independently verify whether he answer questions in Washington.

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iQiyi: ‘China’s Netflix’ shares dip in US stock debut

iQiyi screensho iQiyi: 'China's Netflix' shares dip in US stock debut iQiyi: 'China's Netflix' shares dip in US stock debut b4f27b5e72Image copyrightIqiyi

Chinese video streaming service iQiyi – often called China’s Netflix – made a rocky US stock market debut as it launched on the Nasdaq.

Shares opened slightly ahead of the $18 listing price, before quickly falling back and closing down 14%.

But iQiyi chief executive Gong Yu said he was not concerned about the “short term volatility”.

The firm, controlled by Chinese internet giant Baidu, raised more than $2.2bn (£1.6bn) in the listing.

The initial public offering (IPO) gave the streaming service a valuation of about $12.7bn.

Despite the initial stock price fall, Mr Gong was confident about the firm’s future prospects.

“Long term, you’ll see how much value the IPO creates,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Not profitable

iQiYi had more than 50 million subscribers by the end of 2017 and an average of more than 420 million mobile users per month, according to Reuters.

But while revenues have risen in recent years, iQiyi has never posted a profit since it launched in 2010.

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In China, it competes with fellow streaming platforms Youku Tudou, which is owned by Alibaba, and Tencent Video.

In April 2017, iQiyi signed a licensing agreement with Netflix to stream some of the US provider’s original content including Stranger Things and Black Mirror.

Last year, iQiyi posted a net loss of 3.7bn yuan (£425m; $592m) compared with 3.1bn yuan in 2016, though revenue jumped by 55% to 17.4bn yuan.

Baidu, which founded the business as Qiyi before later changing its name to iQiyi, is itself listed in the US.

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