Monday, 19 December 2016

Cracking down on free speech

German Minister Seeks Jail Time, Fines In Criminal Crackdown Against Facebook "Fake News"

18 December, 2016

With Facebook having announced last week the launch of measure to flag and eliminate fake news from appearing on its website, Germany does not think the process is fast enough, and according to Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas, German judges and state prosecutors need to crack down straight away on fake news disseminated through social media platforms such as Facebook. 

Interviewed by Bild am Sontag, Maas, a Social Democrat in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition, has repeatedly warned the U.S. technology company to respect laws against defamation in Germany that are more rigid than in the United States and added that the newspaper the principle of free speech does not protect against slander.

Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas

"Defamation and malicious gossip are not covered under freedom of speech," Maas said cited by Reuters, just days after other top government officials called for legislation to tackle "hate speech" and fake news on Facebook and other social media platforms. He added that the government is keeping close tabs on how efficiently Facebook removes illegal content.  If removal rates fail to grow, “urgent legal consequences” could follow.

Urging a criminal crackdown, the Justice Minister said "authorities must prosecute [hate speech], even on the internet," noting that offenders could face up to five years in jail. "Anyone who tries to manipulate the political discussion with lies needs to be aware (of the consequences)."

We expect significant improvements in Facebook’s removal practice. The
standard for removals must be German law
,” Maas told Sueddeutsche
Zeitung on Friday.

Under German law, which states that spreading information that encourages violence against people due to their ethnic or religious background, hate speech - including online comments - is punishable by up to three years in jail. Yet while more than 218,000 cases involving insults were filed with prosecutors in 2015 under Germany's strict libel and slander laws, few internet cases were prosecuted.
Maas said he wants to change that: "We need to fully utilize all the legal authority at our disposal," he said.
Earlier in the week, the parliamentary chairman of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD), Thomas Oppermann, asserted that social media giants like Facebook should be required to remove fake news and illegal posts within 24 hours or face fines up to €500,000 ($522,000). “Facebook has not used the opportunity to effectively regulate the issue of complaint management itself,” Oppermann said in an interview with Der Spiegel on Friday. Therefore, “market dominating platforms like Facebook will be legally required to build a legal protection office in Germany, available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he dded.

As reported previously, Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) party has acknowledged in a statement that, while social media platforms offer “completely new possibilities of political communication,” they also harbor some dangers. The CDU claimed on Friday that Facebook and other social media sites have increasingly become platforms for spreading ‘fake news’ and hate messages, citing manipulation of political discussions on the web as one of the greatest dangers. “Companies are responsible for what happens on their platforms. That is why they have to react,” Volker Kauder, a senior CDU member, noted.
Proposed legislation would oblige social media platforms to set up offices to respond to complaints from people affected by hateful messages. “High penalties” would await companies that fail to meet their responsibilities, he warned. On Thursday, Facebook said in a statement that, although it believes in “giving people a voice,” it is currently working on measures to prevent fake news from spreading on the platform, including “several ways to make it easier to report a hoax if you see one on Facebook.”
Escalating the crackdown against the social network, last week the International Auschwitz Committee accused Facebook of “poisoning the societal climate” in Germany and overseas, warning that the social media giant’s soft treatment and arrogance towards online hate speech is “increasingly intolerable and dangerous.” Facebook “continues to massively participate in the poisoning of the social climate, not only in Germany,” said Christoph Heubner, executive vice president of the International Auschwitz Committee (IAC), as quoted by German news agencies.“

"Obviously, the responsible persons at Facebook neither take the [German] justice minister nor the German legislator seriously,” he added.
* * *
Ultimately, the reason behind the German urgency to crack down on Facebook likely stems from the German politicians' fear that hate speech and ‘fake news’ could influence public opinion ahead of the federal elections next year, with far-right parties gaining momentum on growing discontent with Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy.
Fears of "fake news" ahead of the election have increased after the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maassen, reported a rise in Russian propaganda and disinformation campaigns aimed at destabilizing German society.  As reported last week, "German Politicians Are Worried About "Striking Increase" In Russian Propaganda And Fake News," and now that Russians have become the global scapegoat (and even Britain has joined in) for any potential political upheavals, it is reasonable that Germany will use US concerns about Russian interference to starwman potential Russian interference ahead of the 2017 elections, especially if the result is an "unexpected" one.
"Facebook is earning an awful lot of money with fake news," Maas told Bild am Sonntag. "A company that earns billions from the internet also has a social responsibility. Prosecutable defamation must be deleted immediately, once reported. It needs to be made easier for users to report fake news."
Which, "under pressure" from politicians, is precisely what Facebook has started, in a move that while some applaud, others see a major threat to freedom of speech around the globe as Facebook, and its "fact checkers", are gradually becoming the de facto arbiters of what is and isn't news in a process that, as presented, provides no checks and balances to "check the fact checkers."
My question would be, why would the CHINESE be at all interested in InfoWars?

Facebook’s 'anti-fake news' plan looks like effort to curb alternative media

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish journalist, who is based in Russia

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
© Dado Ruvic / Reuters

18 December, 2016

There are serious concerns over a social media giant's plans to debunk spurious news stories. And many are puzzled about the real agenda at play.

You don’t need to worship at the altar of George Orwell to see where this is going.

Under tremendous assault from the American establishment media over the proliferation of what they define as ’fake news’ on the platform, internet behemoth Facebook has finally caved in and agreed to regulate content. While, in principle, the concept sounds relatively noble, the manner in which it's proposed to implement it merits many questions.

Among them are the continuing dangers of American domination of the world wide web and the liberal bias of that country’s popular press. But most worrying is the uncharted territory we are entering. Because there has never been a media portal as dominant as Facebook. In the past, big broadcasters or newsagent chains might have enjoyed outsized influence, but Mark Zuckerbeg’s firm is an effective monopoly.

CIA meddled in ‘hundreds’ of elections: Ron Paul talks Russia-blaming, fake news and more on RT

Whereas papers have always been curated by editors, their power was limited by the sheer number of competitors in every national market. And the more different they were, the better for society in general. However, there is only one Facebook, and its power, in this regard, is extraordinary.

Of course, another big problem here is that one person’s “fake news” could be another’s truth. And that’s before we mention how some of the outlets pressuring Facebook are often guilty of making up stories themselves.

Strange Bedfellows

To filter content, Facebook has joined up with Poynter, an self-proclaimed “international fact-checking network,” which presents itself as a neutral body with great integrity. Yet, a cursory glance at its funding sources is enough to set alarm bells ringing. They include Pierre Omidyar, George Soros and Washington’s National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA soft-power cutout. As it happens, regular RT readers will remember these three as the primary foreign backers of Ukraine’s Maidan coup in 2014.

Facebook up to the facts: Social network, third party fact-checkers to sort out ‘fake news’
Thus, it’s clear that this project could easily wind up as some sort of “ministry of truth” with only organizations who adhere to liberal Washington’s official line permitted unfettered access to Facebook’s primary news feeds. And this is very dangerous.

Additionally, the fact that Poynter’s sponsors, which also include Bill Gates and Google, almost uniformly supported Hillary Clinton in the recent US election is very troubling. Because it’s another indication of how, having endured a series of electoral setbacks this year, the globalist elite is now effectively trying to block out dissenting voices.

That said, nobody is disputing whether “fake news” is a problem. It’s just hard to find agreement on its definition. For instance, very few in the west would define the Washington Post, Guardian, Daily Telegraph or New York Times as providers of fictional reportage, but viewed from Moscow it's often a different story.

Mainstream Muck

last month, WaPo accused 200 non-mainstream sites of acting on behalf of the Kremlin, in a story which has been definitively debunked by numerous credible sources. And, just last week, the NYT carried a front page story alleging thatVladimir Putin was using “kompromat” to destroy the reputations of his political opponents. For 'proof' they used the case of Vladimir Bukovsky, who was being investigated by British police over possession of child pornography.

German politicians want €500k fines if Facebook fails to remove fake news within 24hrs

The paper's readers were greeted with this soft-soap intro from correspondent Andrew Higgins: “His indomitable will steeled by a dozen years in the Soviet gulag, decades of sparring with the K.G.B. and a bout of near fatal heart disease, Vladimir K. Bukovsky, a tireless opponent of Soviet leaders and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, is not a man easily put off his stride.” And to back up his yarn, Higgins made a series of unsubstantiated claims linking Russian state meddling to other similar schemes.

Yet, sadly for Higgins - and Bukovsky, of course - his hero admitted a few days later that he actually collected the child porn images himself, as "research."

Then there’s the Guardian, where its former Moscow correspondent Luke Harding has been alleging for years that Putin is the richest man in Europe, if not on earth. 
A statement that is frequently repeated in similar outlets, where his fortune - without any explanation - suddenly leaped from $40 billion to $200 billion recently, according to the same Washington Post.

These journals of renown base their figures on a single, very shaky, source. And we can’t forget the Daily Telegraph, which appears to have given up on using professional journalists to cover Russia, and has produced some right porkies in recent times. Including outrageous stuff like Putin jetting to Switzerland, incognito, to oversee the birth of a love child and Moscow developing a Star Trek-esque teleportation device

Are all these not examples of “fake news?” But given that they are establishment names in the western press, don’t expect Poynter to subject them to the same treatment as newer alternative outlets. And this is the problem with the entire exercise.

Credible or fake? Journalists clash in fiery RT debate on news sources in (VIDEO)

Fragile Foundations

The list of signatories to the International Fact-Checking Network also sets alarm bells ringing. For they include some fairly dubious organizations. Take Politifact, for example. This group has been accused of having a left-wing bias and openly favoring Clinton during the US election campaign. As Breitbart observed: “When 

Trump said Clinton wants “open borders,” PolitiFact deemed his statement “mostly false” — despite the fact that Clinton admitted as much in a private, paid speech to a Brazilian bank on May 16, 2013. “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,” she said at the time.”

‘Intolerable & dangerous’: Committee accuses of turning blind eye to hate speech
There is no doubt that blatantly made up, let alone poorly fact-checked, stories are poisoning political discourse. And Facebook is right to tackle the type of companies who produce twaddle such as “Hillary invented the Aids virus” or 
“Trump wants to distribute Mein Kampf to school kids" or whatever nonsense is being pushed today.

However, will it also censure “respected” mainstream outlets who allege that Putin has stolen $200 billion for himself or is planting child porn on dissidents?
Because unless they are also labelled with the “fake news” badge, this looks more like an exercise in the US liberal establishment trying to gain control of the distribution of news on social media, as they once did with newspapers and broadcaster.

Orwell might have called it a sort of “Minitrue.”

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