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Suspend Facebook’s Ankhi Das Pending An Audit, Demand Human Rights Groups Around The World

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NEW DELHI, India — More than 40 human rights groups and internet watchdog organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Muslim Advocates are calling on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to suspend Ankhi Das, the company’s public policy director for India, South, and Central Asia, after the Wall Street Journal revealed that she decided not to apply the social network’s hate speech policies to politicians from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata party who posted anti-Muslim hate speech.

In an open letter, the US- UK-, and New Zealand–based groups demanded that Das be put on leave pending an audit of Facebook India, and “should be removed from her role” if the audit substantiated the Journal’s reporting. They also asked for Facebook to work with civil society groups and human rights activists in India.

“It’s high time Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook take anti-Muslim hatred seriously and change how its policies are applied in Asia and across the world,” Heidi Beirich, executive vice president for strategy at the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, one of the signatories of the letter, said in a statement. “The scandal in the Indian office, where anti-Muslim and other forms of hatred were allowed to stay online due to religious and political bias, is appalling and the leadership in that office complicit.”

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment.

One of Facebook’s most powerful executives, Das came under scrutiny after the Wall Street Journal showed that she had intervened to protect T. Raja Singh, a state-level BJP politician, and at least three other Hindu nationalists, from Facebook’s hate speech rules, saying that doing so would be bad for business. She also claimed that the company “lit a fire” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s social media campaign before he won elections in 2014.

Last month, Das apologized to Facebook employees for sharing a post on her personal Facebook page that called India’s Muslims a “degenerate community” for whom “nothing except purity of religion and implementation of Shariah matter.”

The reports have sparked a political controversy in India, Facebook’s largest market, which has more than 300 million users. Last week, more than a dozen members of a parliamentary committee grilled Ajit Mohan, Facebook’s top executive in India, about its content moderation policies. A separate government panel is also investigating whether hate speech on Facebook sparked riots in New Delhi earlier this year, where more than 50 people — mostly Muslims — were killed.

This isn’t the first time that Facebook has come under scrutiny for not taking down content that instigates violence. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed News reported that Facebook failed to take down an event created by the Kenosha Guard, a self-proclaimed militia, where members discussed plans to “kill looters and rioters” despite being flagged 455 times. The page asked followers to bring weapons to an event meant to counterprotests against the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. A 17-year-old at the protest allegedly shot and killed two protesters.

In Myanmar, Facebook was used to spread anti-Muslim hate speech, including calls for violence against the minority Rohingya community. In 2018, Facebook acknowledged that it was used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in Myanmar after soldiers in the country massacred thousands of Rohingya people and forced more than 800,000 people to flee into Bangladesh. The United Nations described it as genocide.

“Moderation bias in Facebook’s Delhi office affects many South Asian markets, including hundreds of millions of users across India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bangladesh,” said Dia Kayyali, program manager for tech and advocacy at Witness, a Brooklyn-based human right nonprofit organization and one of the letter’s signatories, told BuzzFeed News.

Kayyali said that although human rights organizations from India and South Asia have weighed in on the letter, concerns about backlash from India’s increasingly authoritarian government kept them from signing it. “Given the declining rights situations across the region, many organizations felt unsafe in engaging in any public advocacy at this time, especially given the existence of warning signs of genocide,” they said.

“I don’t know what the damn problem is at Facebook with anti-Muslim hate,” said Beirich, who said she had repeatedly brought the topic up with Facebook executives, including the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg. “But I would just say at this point that they don’t seem to care. The needle doesn’t move.”

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Spotify Defends Alex Jones On The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast

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In a leaked email, an executive said, “we are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows.”

Posted on October 28, 2020, at 1:07 p.m. ET


Sergio Flores / Getty Images

AUSTIN, TX – APRIL 18: Infowars founder Alex Jones at the Texas State Capitol building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)

In public, Spotify is staying quiet about an appearance by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones yesterday on its flagship podcast, the Joe Rogan Experience, despite banning Jones’s own podcast last year. But in an internal email sent from a top executive, the company is defending the booking.

Horacio Gutierrez, the company’s chief legal officer and head of global affairs, wrote to team managers on Oct. 28 about the episode of the Joe Rogan podcast which featured an interview with Jones and podcast host Tim Dillon.

“If a team member has concerns about any piece of content on our platform, you should encourage them to report it to Trust & Safety because they are the experts on our team charged with reviewing content,” Gutierrez wrote in an email obtained by BuzzFeed News. “However, it’s important that they aren’t simply flagging a piece of content just because of something they’ve read online. It’s all too common that things are taken out of context.”

Jones has been a guest on the Joe Rogan Experience before, but this was his first since the host struck a $100 million dollar deal with the music and podcast company.

The email, which did not name Jones directly, also outlined “talking points” that top management should recite if asked about the interview.

“We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies.”

“Spotify has always been a place for creative expressions,” the top bullet point said. “It’s important to have diverse voices and points of view on our platform.”

“We are not going to ban specific individuals from being guests on other people’s shows, as the episode/show complies with our content policies,” the talking points said.

“In closing, we appreciate that not all of you will agree with every piece of content on our platform,” Gutierrez wrote. “However, we do expect you to help your teams understand our role as a platform and the care we take in making decisions.”

In Aug, 2018, Spotify was one of four companies that kicked Alex Jones off their platforms, citing policies against hate content.

During his three-hour appearance on Oct. 27, Jones railed against censorship, repeated falsehoods about the Bidens, and denied climate science. Jones also spread conspiracies the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines, falsely saying a polio vaccine caused many recipients to get sick. Rogan occasionally attempted to challenge Jones, but without much success.

Joe Rogan says kids are “getting polio from taking vaccines” after Alex Jones spreads conspiracy that Bill Gates is trafficking vaccines that get 100% of people sick.

Great work hosting this, @spotify.

Since his rise to fame, Jones has spread numerous falsehoods that have led to harassment, including against families whose children died in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.

“We all know that you’ve fucked some things up, right? Your biggest fuck-up is Sandy Hook,” Rogan said during the episode. “But you’ve gotten so many things right. This is why I keep talking to you about these things and that’s why I defend you and why I think it’s fucking dangerous to censor you.”

According to the Verge, Joe Rogan boasted 190 million monthly downloads as of 2019. In last year’s announcement of the exclusive licensing deal, Spotify said, “Bringing the JRE to Spotify will mean that the platform’s more than 286 million active users will have access to one of culture’s leading voices.”

Outside of the leaked email, Spotify spokespeople have remained silent in the face of the public outcry about Jones’s appearance.



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Alice Fraser: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Culture

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When I was told to write one of these 10 funniest things on the internet columns my first thought was, “Oh no, the internet isn’t for remembering things.” My second thought was, “Oh no, I don’t know what’s funny.” And my third thought was, “They’re really letting anyone do one of these.” Does it count if it’s on the internet but was originally on something else? Because that’s a lot of things. So it’s always good to start with an existential lack of confidence in the fundamental structures of the game.

Most of my memories of laughing at the internet come from when I was about 15 – a period when the internet was on a big clumpy desktop in our living room, when I was cackling with my twin brother over things that almost certainly don’t hold up today, and which I can’t bear to go back to in case they don’t. One was a website that had little animations of a dinosaur that was critical of capitalism, which I’ve found impossible to google. There was also a deeply worried existential bat character that I screenshot to use as my avatar on my teenage LiveJournal.

Anyway, this list is as much “10 things I can remember from the internet” as anything else.

1. “How is prangent formed?”

This is just a man reading different questions from people about pregnancy where they’ve misspelled the word “pregnant”. For a list of queries, a high proportion of which were probably written amid deep human emotion, and that might be characterised as punching down, this builds a level of absurdity that I find irresistible.

How IS prangent formed?

“PREGANANANT” just hits the sweet spot for me.

2. Robert Pattinson’s hand-held pasta invention

Zach Baron’s GQ interview with Robert Pattinson is beautifully written, and the description about three-quarters of the way through of Pattinson’s attempt to cook his own recipe is gorgeous. It escalates into absurdity and, as Baron acknowledges, he’s not sure if Pattinson is doing a bit, being earnestly incompetent, completely unhinging from reality, or a bit of each. The best way to enjoy this is to read it out loud to a friend.

3. Laura Davis: Gobby or Shark

It’s no secret that I love Laura Davis. She’s glorious, and her deeply under-appreciated comedy chops are undeniable. Gobby or Shark is a clip of standup that’s a great example of her combination of brutality and wistfulness.

What would you choose?

I’d recommend getting onboard with all her work, including her latest album, The Bus Show, which was recorded in a cupboard during lockdown and is one of the most successful versions of comedy-without-an-audience I’ve experienced.

4. Fresh Avocado

Why do I find people finding things funny so funny?

Free – what?

One of the things I can’t resist is other people laughing at stuff. It brings me joy and may well be one of the reasons I love doing comedy.

5. The Toast’s Two Mediaeval Monks Inventing Things series

The Toast was consistently brilliant and I’m sad it’s shut down, but I regularly go back to the Two Monks series when I’m miserable and it always makes me laugh. It’s hard to choose just one but here you go.

Daniel Lavery is one of my favourite internet writers, sliding effortlessly between the beauty of linguistic stylings that can be understood as a sort of stylistic historical fanfiction and an extremely modern internet sensibility. His book, Something That May Shock and Discredit You, is surreal and incisive.

6. Isaac by Jonny and the Baptists

A little song about Bible stories. It’s sweet, heartbreaking, gorgeously musical, political, deeply human and very funny, which is a lot to fit into 3:07.

‘I’m sitting on the top of a mountain…’

In fact, the whole album is beautiful, and my favourite song on it isn’t comedy at all. I saw the show Love you, Hate Bastards in Edinburgh last year and it made me laugh and then cry hysterically, which is maybe not comedy, but is my favourite kind of comedy. I thought it was quite funny in retrospect that it had made me cry so much, so made a friend play the album in the car on a long drive, and was telling her when the sad song came up that it was the one that made me cry, and then I cried hysterically again in her car, to everyone’s great embarrassment.

7. Baby trashes bar in Las Palmas

This is a gorgeous short film, beautifully shot by the puppeteer Johannes Nyholm, predicated on the old premise that toddlers are tiny drunks or destructive Vikings. It’s way too much effort for a very simple joke; it’s weirdly melancholy, surprisingly provocative, existentially dumb and it makes me laugh.

How many beers is that?

There are a million videos of my two year old niece on our family WhatsApp finding normal things hilarious that are funnier than anything and I would include them here were it not a breach of her tiny dignity. That said, other people’s families are way less worried about baby privacy and this is a good example of the genre.

8. Chappelle’s Show: True Hollywood Stories – Rick James part two

These stories from Charlie Murphy of his Hollywood experiences are related hilariously by Murphy, re-enacted hilariously by Dave Chappelle, but the actual commentary from Rick James makes this a top-notch piece of comedy.

It
was a nice couch.

9. Kate McKinnon as Cecilia Gimenez

Kate McKinnon is always funny and these sketches are funny, sad and funny.

Fixed it.

10. This tweet from Rebecca Shaw

I love Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, I love Bec Shaw, I have mixed feelings about puns. This is a rollercoaster for me, every time, and Bec’s commitment to enjoying it gives me hope.

Bec Shaw
(@Brocklesnitch)

here’s a picture of me scaling a rock face pic.twitter.com/lxd2LSBGeC


April 16, 2015

Follow Alice Fraser on Twitter and catch her, along with the comedian Fady Kassab, for Humour Us as part of the Sydney Opera House’s digital season on Friday 30 October at 8pm



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Amazon launches first Nordic online store in Sweden

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Alex Wong | Getty Images

LONDON — Amazon announced Wednesday that it has launched its first Nordic online store in Sweden as the e-commerce giant looks to expand further across the European continent. 

Citizens in Sweden will now be able to order products through Amazon.se instead of having to make purchases via Amazon stores in other European countries including the British store (Amazon.co.uk) or the German store (Amazon.de), where they were shown a limited selection of products and incurred high delivery fees.

Amazon Vice President for European Expansion, Alex Ootes, said in a statement that Amazon.se will feature over 150 million products including tens of thousands from Swedish businesses.

“We will continue to work hard to earn the trust of Swedish customers by growing our product range, ensuring low prices, and providing a convenient and trusted shopping experience,” said Ootes.

In a bid to get as many of Sweden’s 10 million sparsely populated inhabitants as possible using Amazon.se, which was confirmed in August, Amazon is offering free delivery on orders over 229 Swedish krona ($25).

The launch got off to a bit of a bad start. Amazon used the Argentinian flag instead of the Swedish flag in the “choose your location” section and a frying pan was listed as a woman’s item.

Amazon was also criticized for wrongly translating some product descriptions. A children’s puzzle containing yellow rapeseed flowers, for example, was described as having a “sexual assault flower motif,” while a cat-themed hairbrush was described with the Swedish slang word for “vagina.”

“Many products on Amazon Sweden came from auto-translated listings on other Amazon marketplaces, which enabled it to have a deep catalog on day one, but has unfortunately resulted in many wrong, sometimes comical, and even offensive Swedish translations,” wrote Juozas Kaziukenas, founder of e-commerece intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse.

In response, Amazon issued a statement saying: “We want to thank everyone for highlighting these issues and helping us make the changes and improve Amazon.se. Whilst we are really excited to have launched Amazon.se today with more than 150 million products, it is only day one for us here in Sweden and we are committed to constantly improving the customer experience.”

The statement continued: “Therefore, if anyone spots any issues with product pages, please do use the link on the page to provide feedback and we will make the necessary changes.”

While Amazon.se provides local retailers with a new platform through which to sell their goods and a convenient shopping platform for customers, some Swedes are concerned that Amazon doesn’t treat employees fairly and that it could threaten other local firms.

One Twitter user wrote: “So Amazon opened in Sweden today. All I say is, why? I see no reason why I would order anything from Amazon when we already have Scandinavian companies that provide better services, better prices and faster shipping.”

Sweden is the 17th country where Amazon has set up an online store. In Europe, Amazon has set up online stores in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands, where it launched just six months ago.


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