German “Facebook Law“ creates risk of over-blocking

first_img June 2, 2021 Find out more GermanyEurope – Central Asia Online freedoms Freedom of expressionInternet July 10, 2017 German “Facebook Law“ creates risk of over-blocking Justin TALLIS / AFP German BND Act: A missed opportunity for press freedom Organisation RSF asks Germany to let Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu apply for asylum Follow the news on Germany Reporters Without Borders is concerned that the “Facebook Law” about to be finally passed by Germany’s second chamber of parliament will have negative repercussions for press freedom. Even though during parliamentary deliberations the governing coalition took up some of the criticism against the bill and changed a number of problematic provisions at the last minute, the core problem of the bill against hate-speech in social media – or Network Enforcement Act, as it is officially named – remains unresolved: Backed by a threat of heavy monetary fines, the law will oblige providers of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter to remove “clearly unlawful” content within 24 hours of notification. “The short deadline for removal, coupled with the threat of heavy fines, will very likely drive social networks to remove more content than is legally justified. Even journalistic publications will face a real danger of being affected by this kind over-blocking without due process”, said RSF Germany’s executive director Christian Mihr. “This hastily-drafted bill should be adjourned and only decided upon after national elections this coming fall and after thorough consultations with civil society. This applies especially true for the crucial question under which conditions content will have to be removed.” The obligation to remove content within 24 hours will apply to posts “clearly” punishable under German criminal law, such as obvious cases of sedition, threats, insult, libel and slander. For illegal, but not clearly defamatory or inciting content, the deadline for removal is set at seven days and can be extended if the respective network delegates the binding decision to a yet to be created body of self-regulation. Consistent non-compliance with the law may be punished with fines between five and 50 million Euros. THE BILL RISKS AGGRAVATING THE PROBLEM OF NON TRANSPARENT CONTENT REMOVAL PRACTICES Given social networks’ essential role not only as a tool of journalistic investigation and for news distribution, but also for bypassing censorship in repressive countries such as China, Turkey or Vietnam, RSF has warned Germany’s government and lawmakers against setting a dangerous precedent that may easily be used as an excuse for new censorship by authoritarian governments eager to repress independent voices. At the same time, regulation of social media is sorely needed because networks like Facebook have a history of removing journalistic content and backing down only after public protest. For instance, last fall Facebook deleted a post by Norway’s Aftenposten newspaper showing the iconic photo of the “Vietnam girl” fleeing naked from Napalm bombs. Last year in June, the network blocked the account of French journalist and Radio France International terrorism expert David Thomson because of an old post showing a photo depicting the “Islamic State” militia’s flag. In Myanmar, Facebook recently provoked a storm by suddenly blocking posts containing the word “kalar”, which is often employed by nationalists as a derisive term for the country’s Muslim minority but may equally be used in innocuous expressions or in media articles criticizing nationalists’ agitation. Examples like these show how problematic it is to let social networks decide in a completely non transparent manner which content to delete or block. RSF has therefore called for years on social network companies to engage in a serious dialogue about this practice. However, the new German law risks aggravating the problem rather than encouraging procedures tied more closely to the rule of law. It remains thus unclear how the private companies that social media providers are should be able to decide within a very short timeframe about complex legal questions that often take months to be ruled on when taken to court. NO EMPIRICAL BASIS EXISTS FOR THE NEED OF SUCH A LAW Among the questions left open by the bill is why some criminal offenses are to be covered by the new law while others are not. It also remains unclear why the government deems necessary a new law for some offenses in the first place, considering that empirical data about social networks’ performance dealing with hate speech is virtually non-existent. Reporters Without Borders and almost all other experts had lambasted the bill in a public hearing by parliament’s legal committee. After that, the governing coalition reduced the range of offenses covered by the bill and excluded in particular state-related offenses such as insult of the president. The coalition also dropped a clause requiring social networks to use content filters that would have automatically analyzed any existing content and deleted it if deemed illegal, which would effectively have made impossible to publish some content even though no judge would ever have ruled on its legal status. Among its few positive aspects, the bill obliges social networks to name representatives who will have to respond to prosecutors’ requests within 48 hours, aiming to speed up judicial investigations and to strengthen legal recourse. The bill also requires the companies to publish transparency reports about their deletion practice, even though it is incomprehensible why such reports will now have to be produced every half year only rather than every three months, as was initially intended. Germany is ranked 16th among 180 countries on RSF’s annual World Press Freedom Index. Help by sharing this information News Use the Digital Services Act to make democracy prevail over platform interests, RSF tells EU to go further Receive email alerts May 31, 2021 Find out more GermanyEurope – Central Asia Online freedoms Freedom of expressionInternet News RSF_en News News March 30, 2021 Find out morelast_img read more

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Junior named Truman Scholar

first_imgKatherine Warren ’13 has been named a Truman Scholar for the state of Washington. The award, which provides up to $30,000 for graduate school, is given annually to students from approximately 50 U.S. colleges and universities.An anthropology concentrator, Warren is a founding director of a Boston young women’s mentoring program and of the Akili Initiative, an online student think tank for global health. Her interests in women’s rights and health policy have led her to work on gender and disability in Bangladesh, mental health among American Indians, and research on violence against women for the United Nations. In her free time, she loves hiking and violin music.For more information on the scholars.last_img

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The Islamic State of play

first_imgWhether it’s called ISIS or ISIL, few people a year ago had even heard of the radical Sunni Islamist group that had splintered from al-Qaida. But as the Iraq-based terrorist organization rapidly swarmed and took control of cities and towns in Iraq and Syria, it suddenly became a front-burner issue in American foreign policy.After the group beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and conquered territory all the way to the outskirts of Baghdad, the United States last month began a bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria. President Obama said the objective of the airstrikes was to “degrade, and ultimately destroy” ISIS. Thus far, the U.S.-led coalition does not appear to have made significant headway in thwarting the group’s ambitions.So who are the members of ISIS, what do they want, and how have they taken center stage so quickly? The organization has grown so rapidly and claimed large swaths of territory with such alarming speed that even the name of the group is contested. It is called interchangeably “ISIS” or “ISIL,” which are geographic-based names, or simply “Islamic State.”“I think that the name is instructive; it tells you what their goals are: They aim to create an Islamic state,” said Deborah Amos, an award-winning Middle East reporter for National Public Radio (NPR). “They tax, they police, they run the education system, they have a minister of oil, they have a minister of telecommunications, they are self-financed, they are wealthy, they are working on an ideological revolution in the places that they control.”Amos joined Noah Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School (HLS), and Professor Kristen Stilt, co-director of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at HLS, for a wide-ranging discussion about ISIS before a standing-room crowd at Austin Hall Thursday afternoon.“Where they come from is Iraq. They come out of Sunni disenchantment with the government in Baghdad. They crossed the border into Syria because they are picking up on the same disenchantment of a Sunni population who … feel that they have been dealt out of the regional game and feel that they have no other alternative to get their message across, which is, ‘We do not like the deal that we have,’” said Amos, a 1992 Nieman Fellow and a 2010 fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS).“The most distinctive thing about the Islamic State thus far is how successful they’ve been in holding territory. The United States has been bombing now for more than 50 days … there hasn’t really been very substantial change on that map since the president went on television,” said Feldman. “It tells you that the strategy of holding territory has been fairly effective thus far.”Feldman has written several books on Iraq and Islamic democracy and served as a senior constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq in 2003. He said that while many of the group’s actions and public statements thus far indicate it is “on the far end of radicalism,” it differs from other groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida and therefore, it’s “too soon” to say definitively what the ISIS ideology is.“I think in some ways their ideology is evolving as we watch them,” said Amos. “It’s not necessarily ideological, but it is really about power. So I do think in some ways you can’t say that they have a fixed ideology because I don’t even think they understand all the parameters. They are, in some ways, making it up as they go along.”So how has the organization been able to pick up so much support? In Syria, ISIS has grown in part because it is seen as a better alternative to the many brigand-like groups operating in towns under the misnomer umbrella term of the Free Syrian Army, Amos and Feldman said.“What ISIS offered was order, and people were craving order in Syria. The second thing ISIS offered was a respite from the bombing,” said Amos, noting that the Syrian government largely refrained from bombing ISIS-held territories. “If you were a Syrian and you’d been through two years of complete chaos in northern Syria, ISIS looked pretty good.”In Iraq, “By and large, the Iraqi Army had behaved so badly in Mosul that they [ISIS fighters] were welcomed when they first arrived,” said Amos. “So that is how they do it: They find places where there is chaos — people don’t know how to survive, they have no way to make a living — and ISIS brings order.”The group is surprisingly modern in its communications and has been very good at recruiting through social media, reaching “angry, young Muslims” who see a future in an Islamic state, said Amos. The group also uses conscription.“In Mosul, we heard stories that ISIS would come house to house and ask for a son. And if the answer was no, then they said, ‘Well, we’ll take the daughter.’ And so a lot of families felt that it was wiser to give a son. In some towns that wasn’t a hard bargain to strike,” she said.For many recruits, ISIS offers a way to feel powerful and provides a reliable income. Foot soldiers can earn $600 a month or more if they advance, and they sometimes get free housing or even a wife, a typically expensive undertaking. “If you stay on their side of the law, life is not that bad,” said Amos.The public beheadings of kidnapped Western journalists and aid workers, which were loaded onto the Internet, accelerated the U.S. confrontation with ISIS. They also served a longer-term strategic purpose for the group.“Here, it has a dual effect: On the one hand, it signals to anybody who might be a potential recruit that this is a serious organization that isn’t afraid of anybody,” said Feldman. “The fact that they didn’t care about those inevitable consequences” of inciting Western retaliation “is itself an extremely powerful signal that they are acting as though they were a sovereign state.”The Oct. 3 beheading of British aid worker Alan Henning, who had strong and active support from Muslims in England, including close affiliates of al-Qaida who vouched for him, also indicates ISIS’s growing confidence, said Amos.“They killed him on a Muslim holiday and I think that the message was, ‘Too bad. I don’t care what you people in Britain think. We are not of you; we are a completely different organization, and we will show you what we will do.’”The violence against outsiders and anyone deemed insufficiently loyal to ISIS has already had a desensitizing effect on many inhabitants under their control. “I think the most interesting thing is, over time, how [well] people adjust to the brutalities,” said Amos, who recalled a woman telling her of a scene in Raqqa where people sat outside eating lunch in view of decapitated heads that had been put on display in the center square. Also, ISIS is funneling teenage recruits into ideological camps for training.“I think both of those things tell us it’s going to be very hard to unravel a generation that’s lived under ISIS, even if it’s just for a couple of years. They are really seeping into the heads [of people] in the places where they control,” she said.While both Feldman and Amos said ISIS ultimately will be defeated, given the wide range of opposition the group faces and the unsustainability of an economic plan that relies on theft, smuggling, and extortion, it remains an open question whether the current airstrike campaign by U.S.-led forces can push ISIS back.Feldman said some alternative efforts could include stepping up the bombings “very substantially” and working to motivate Iraqi forces on the ground, which would likely require the commitment of some U.S. ground forces, probably Special Forces acting in an advisory capacity.It’s a conundrum the Obama administration is struggling with internally, he said.“On the one hand, if they’re seen not to have had any impact” on pushing back ISIS during the rest of Obama’s presidency, “it will be very costly to the administration, the Democratic Party, and the president’s legacy. So there is reason to think he will act. On the other hand, there’s the understandable deep opposition domestically to putting in any ground forces. So this is a real puzzle.“If I had to bet, I would bet that we would see a significant stepping up of air attacks, coupled with this very limited commitment of a very small number of Special Forces, to see if that makes a difference experimentally. It may, but my guess is it probably wouldn’t make a very significant difference, in which case there’s going to be a real crisis point in the policymaking process.”last_img read more

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John O’Hurley Returns to Chicago on Broadway

first_img Related Shows O’Hurley first appeared on Broadway as Billy Flynn in 2006 and has reprised that role with both the Great White Way and National Touring companies of Chicago several times since then. His other stage credits include Pirates of Penzance, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Brigadoon and Spamalot. O’Hurley is probably best known as J. Peterman on Seinfeld; other TV credits include Dancing with the Stars, Family Feud, Sponge Bob Squarepants and Father of the Pride. Chicago also currently stars Amy Spanger as Roxie Hart, Amra-Faye Wright as Velma Kelly, Raymond Bokhour as Amos Hart, NaTasha Yvette Williams as Matron “Mama” Morton and R. Lowe as Mary Sunshine. View Comments John O’Hurley will return to razzle-dazzle Broadway in Chicago on December 8. He will play a limited six-week holiday engagement as Billy Flynn at the Ambassador Theatre through January 18, 2015, after which he’ll re-join the National Touring company of the Kander & Ebb tuner, beginning January 20. O’Hurley takes over from Pasquale Aleardi, who concludes his Great White Way debut engagement on December 7. Chicago from $49.50last_img read more

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