As a mob stormed the US Capitol last week, far-right extremists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis around the world spread hate and cheered on the violence. Now, experts are warning that attacks like last week’s on the US Congress or the attempted storming of Germany’s parliament in August could be carried out in the days ahead.
On Wednesday, as the House voted to impeach him an unprecedented second time, Trump released a statement that urged calm. “In light of reports of more demonstrations, I urge that there must be NO violence, NO lawbreaking and NO vandalism of any kind. … I call on ALL Americans to help ease tensions and calm tempers,” he wrote.
But for extremists watching the chaos in the United States unfold, that message may be too late. Samantha Kutner, a fellow at the Khalifa Ihler Institute, told BuzzFeed News that far-right groups around the world view the insurrection as “a mass recruitment effort” and “a fight to protect white supremacy.”
Since the insurrection, BuzzFeed News has monitored the social media accounts of nearly three dozen far-right extremist groups and leaders outside the US. Members of extremist groups including the Scandinavian Nordic Resistance Movement, CasaPound Italy, the Ukrainian Azov movement, and the Australian and British Proud Boys, as well those in lesser-known but no less dangerous entities, have called for more blood to be shed.
One neo-Nazi channel on the messenger app Telegram called on its hundreds of subscribers to take up arms and “enjoy the coming deadly carnival.”
Another such channel on the platform shared a post telling its thousands of followers to start believing in their “accelerationist fantasies” because “you’re in one.”
Other extremists on Telegram and Gab, another social network popular with the far right, promoted a “Million Militia March” on Jan. 20 and urged supporters to join armed marches in state capitals beginning Saturday.
Although mainstream social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have started to remove accounts associated with Trump supporters and far-right extremists, and Apple and Google dropped the fringe far-right-friendly platform Parler entirely, countless violent and ominous messages remain.
“I do expect foreign far-right groups will feel emboldened by Jan. 6,” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, an extremism researcher and author of Hate in the Homeland, told BuzzFeed News. “After the failed far-right attack on the German parliament four months ago, this is, for the global far right, an example of ‘success’ and will be celebrated as a victory by many groups.”
In August, during a demonstration in Berlin against the German government’s coronavirus-related restrictions, hundreds of right-wing protesters broke through a barrier and tried to storm the country’s legislature. While shocking, police managed to repel the crowd within minutes.
Since Jan. 6, most of the extremist channels have grown by dozens if not hundreds of members, many of whom have begun to share each other’s messages for the first time.
Jason Blazakis, a senior Research Fellow at the Soufan Center, told BuzzFeed News that some coordination between overseas far-right extremists and US-based extremists has long existed. But after last week’s insurrection, “those connections may harden because of what is perceived to be a success for the far right,” he said.
Sergei Korotkikh, a Belarusian-born neo-Nazi and leader of Ukraine’s Azov movement, which the State Department has labeled a nationalist hate group, cheered on the attack in racist terms on his Telegram channel. “The whites, finally, have decided to act and are taking over the Capitol building,” he wrote to his nearly 23,000 followers. “This is good, although this time it might not lead to anything. But I think that this gives us a chance. The whites are still here and we know what to do.”
In another post, Korotkikh shared an image in red, white, and blue text that read, “Make America Hate Again.”
Azov has worked hard in the past five years to grow ties to European and American white supremacists. One of them is American white supremacist Robert Rundo of the violent Rise Above Movement. Rundo and other RAM members were involved in the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. At least one of Rundo’s RAM cohorts, Vincent James Foxx, was reportedly seen at the Capitol riot.
Rundo, however, wasn’t there. Currently living in Serbia to avoid prosecution in the US for alleged crimes in Charlottesville and California, he cheered the violence from his Telegram channel, saying the unrest could advance white supremacy.
“Many of us have talked endlessly for opportunities like what we are seeing today. For those that ever wanted to take a stand … today could be that day,” he wrote to his more than 4,000 subscribers.
That was a sentiment echoed by one of his close comrades, the Russian mixed martial arts fighter and neo-Nazi Denis Nikitin, who lives in Ukraine. Nikitin, whose White Rex clothing company is popular among US white nationalists, compared the riot to a 1925 Ku Klux Klan March down Pennsylvania Avenue.
While it seems as though international extremists are for now merely providing moral support to those in the United States, Blazakis said that soon they could provide more than that.
“I can see overseas actors providing material support to US-based far-right actors in the future — if that is not already happening,” he said. “Because there are no far-right terrorist groups sanctioned by the US government, there is nothing to stop that flow of finance from happening. This is a big vulnerability.”
Kutner found US-based extremist groups raising money to help participants involved in the insurrection. BuzzFeed News saw at least four foreign far-right accounts on Telegram share links to those crowdfunding campaigns.
Miller-Idriss said that unless authorities in the United States held the Capitol rioters and those who incited them, including Trump, to account, more bloodshed was possible — in the US and abroad.
“It’s absolutely essential to send a strong message that this kind of violence is treasonous and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says platform will halt political suggestions | Facebook
Facebook will halt algorithm-driven recommendations of political Facebook groups around the world and is looking into reducing political content in its News Feed, according to chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg.
“People don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on the platform,” Zuckerberg told investors. “We’re going to focus even more on being a force for bringing people closer together,” he added.
Zuckerberg’s remarks came on the quarterly earnings call for the platform. Facebook on Wednesday beat analyst predictions in the October-December quarter, with a revenue of $28bn, or $3.88 a share
The earnings announced Wednesday cover only the end of 2020 and thus do not reflect the market’s reaction to revelations about the role of social media in the 6 January insurrection and Facebook’s decision to ban Donald Trump in the subsequent days.
Facebook had announced ahead of the 2020 elections it would stop recommendations of partisan groups to users in the US, but a report from the Markup showed users were still regularly funneled into political groups through the platform’s algorithms as recently as early January.
Following the report, Democratic senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts sent a letter to Facebook demanding answers as to why it did not fulfill its promises. “Facebook’s system of recommending political groups poses grave threats to American democracy and public safety,” Markey said.
The 33% year-over-year growth announced on Facebook’s earnings report came despite a difficult year marked by an advertiser boycott, rumblings of antitrust actions, and content moderation concerns surrounding the 2020 presidential election.
“For now, Facebook seems untouchable,” said Tamara Littleton, analyst and chief executive officer at social media agency The Social Element. “But the fact remains: Facebook has damaged its reputation through consistently putting profit before anything else.”
In a statement accompanying the report, Facebook’s chief financial officer said the company benefited from the ongoing shift amid the pandemic to online commerce, as well as the shift in consumer demand “towards products and away from services”.
He also stated Facebook continues to face difficulties, including the ongoing economic impact of the pandemic as well as “the evolving regulatory landscape”.
Facebook and other tech giants have been subject to antitrust probes and other regulation in 2020, a trend that is expected continue or accelerate in 2021. “We continue to face significant uncertainty as we manage through a number of cross currents in 2021,” the statement said.
Authorities filed a flurry of lawsuits against big tech firms in 2020, including long-anticipated suits filed against Facebook by the Federal Trade Commission and 48 states accusing the social media giant of abusing its power in social networking to squash smaller competitors, and sought remedies that could include a forced spinoff of Instagram and WhatsApp.
This, and actions against Google, have been declared the biggest antitrust action since the 1970s. Enforcement from the Biden administration is likely to differ from the government’s approach under Trump, who appeared to have a personal vendetta against the platforms over perceived censorship. Still, Biden has promised to take action to restrain big tech.
In the call with investors on Wednesday, Zuckerberg also took shots at competitor Apple, arguing Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp is “superior” to Apple’s iMessage in terms of privacy.
Zuckerberg also criticized iOS14, a new Apple system update that will require apps to get permission to track user behavior, saying it will impact Facebook’s advertising business – by far the bulk of its revenue – as users will be able to opt out of data collection.
“Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own impact,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook’s stocks fell as much as 6% in after-hours trading as the market on the whole experienced its worst day since October 2020.
Apple records most profitable quarter ever as sales soar amid pandemic | Apple
Apple finished 2020 with its most profitable quarter ever as sales of its high end iPhones, tablets and laptops soared amid the pandemic.
The company announced that sales for the three months ending on 26 December 2020 totalled $111.4bn and it had made a profit of $28.7bn, 29% higher than the same period last year.
The holiday period is a crucial time for Apple, accounting for 30% of its sales, and 2020’s bumper quarter was boosted by strong sales of its latest iPhone.
The blowout results, stronger than Wall Street had expected, were fueled in large part by sales of the company’s latest iPhones. iPhone revenues were $65.6bn for the quarter, up 17% year-over-year.
“We’re gratified by the enthusiastic customer response to the unmatched line of cutting-edge products that we delivered across a historic holiday season,” Apple chief executive Tim Cook said in a statement.
The quarterly report was Apple’s first following the launch of its iPhone 12 mini, the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
But the company performed strongly across the board with its services division, which includes its App Store and licensing deals, delivering revenues of $15.76bn, up 24% year-over-year. Other products’ revenues, including the Apple Watch and home products, were up 29% at $12.97bn and Mac sales were up 21% at $8.68bn.
Cook said that the results could have been even better if not for the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced Apple to temporarily close some of its stores around the world.
“Taking the stores out of the equation, particularly for iPhones and wearables, there’s a drag on sales,” Cook told CNBC.
Apple’s record results followed record results from Microsoft on Monday, which recorded $40bn in sales for the last quarter. Facebook, too, announced better than expected results on Tuesday, with revenues of $28bn for the last quarter.
“Our December quarter business performance was fueled by double-digit growth in each product category, which drove all-time revenue records in each of our geographic segments and an all-time high for our installed base of active devices,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer.
Apple’s shares fell 2% in after-hours trading but have risen 84% over the past 12 months.
Huawei Q4 smartphone shipments plunge 41% as U.S. sanctions bite
Customers at a Huawei licensed experience store shop for devices on October 30, 2020 in Suzhou, China.
Fred Lee | Getty Images News | Getty Images
GUANGZHOU, China — Huawei’s smartphone shipments have continued to plunge as a result of U.S. sanctions, sending the once No. 1 vendor in the world tumbling below rivals like Apple.
The Chinese technology giant shipped 33 million smartphones globally in the fourth quarter of 2020, a 41% year-on-year decline, putting its market share at 8%, according to data released by Counterpoint Research on Thursday.
Data released Thursday by Canalys showed Huawei shipped 32 million smartphones in the fourth quarter, down nearly 43% from last year. It’s the first time Huawei has slipped out of the top five in six years, Canalys said.
“Huawei dramatically receded in most markets as the result of the US sanctions,” Amber Liu, analyst at Canalys Research, said in a report.
The latest figures mark a sharp fall for Huawei versus the second quarter of 2020 when it was No. 1 in the world by shipments.
For the entire 2020 year, Huawei was the third-largest by smartphone shipments, according to the research firms. Huawei responded to the latest numbers noting its third place position.
“Huawei has always been committed to innovation and devoted to creating more value for consumers with better products. Over the last year, our smartphone business has developed robustly, and tablet, PC and wearable have seen a significant growth. We remain confident about the future,” the company said in a statement.
Huawei’s woes come as Apple shipped 90.1 million phones during the fourth quarter, the largest number ever shipped by any vendor in the history of the smartphones, according to IDC. Apple also posted a record quarter of revenues in China.
Indeed, U.S. sanctions are taking their toll on Huawei’s smartphone business. In 2019, Huawei was put on a U.S. blacklist called the Entity List which restricted American firms from exporting key components and software to the company.
The biggest effect of that was cutting Huawei off from Google’s Android operating system. That’s not a big deal in China where Google services such a Gmail and search are blocked. But in international markets, it has been key to Huawei’s growth as consumers are used to these services.
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