December 2022 - БРУСНИЧКА

ARCHIVES December 2022

Americans Weigh Pros and Cons as Musk Alters Twitter

Marie Rodriguez of Bountiful, Utah, began using social media when she enlisted in the U.S. Navy. At first, she saw it as a positive thing.

“It helped me to really keep in touch with people at home while I was deployed and living overseas,” she told VOA.

However, in the two months since Tesla CEO Elon Musk acquired Twitter, Rodriguez and many of its hundreds of millions of users have been forced to reevaluate their feelings about the platform and about social media in general.

“I don’t think he’s been positive at all,” Rodriguez said. “He’s allowing all of these previously banned accounts back on the platform, and I’m seeing more offensive Tweets — more anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ hate speech.”

“Some social media platforms over-patrol,” she added, “but Twitter isn’t patrolling enough. The result is more trolling, more bots and more hate. I’ve definitely been using the platform less because of it.”

Musk is a polarizing figure among Americans. In his own self-created poll on the platform, 57.5% of respondents said he should resign as Twitter chief, compared to 42.5% who said he should stay. (Musk has said he will abide by the poll’s results and resign his post as soon as a replacement is hired.)

Independent surveys, however, have shown Musk’s actions to be less unpopular than his Twitter poll indicated. A Quinnipiac University survey from earlier this month, for example, found that Americans’ opinions are more evenly split, with 37% saying they approved of the way he’s operating Twitter, 37% disapproving and 25% offering no opinion.

“I’m generally critical of billionaires,” said Avi Gupta, a neurobiologist in the nation’s capital, “but I’m so far supportive of what Musk has done for Twitter. As far as free speech is concerned, definitely, but also the platform’s just a lot more exciting to follow.”

A new Twitter

Gupta said he became disenchanted with rival social media platform Instagram when he posted a photo of Ukrainian soldiers who appeared to be wearing patches containing Nazi symbols. The post was promptly removed by administrators.

“To me, in that example, what Instagram is saying is that reporting on Nazism is no different than glorifying it,” Gupta explained. “It’s a form of censorship, but it was happening in pre-Musk Twitter, too. They were too quick to suspend accounts when they challenged mainstream thinking — whether it be about the Ukraine war, U.S. military interventions or COVID.”

“Since Musk,” he added, “I don’t have to censor myself as much, and you’re seeing previously banned accounts from politicians and scientists welcomed back. You have to balance that with stopping dangerous hate speech, of course — which I think they’re doing OK with — but overall, I think it’s been a good thing.”

According to University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication Professor Damian Radcliffe, Musk arrived at Twitter with an entrepreneurial reputation and a desire to grow the platform that appealed to many users.

Others, however, expressed concerns about what Musk’s commitment to freedom of speech and a scaling back of platform moderation might mean, as well as the implications of users now being able to purchase a verified “blue check” account.

“Those worries seem to have been justified,” Radcliffe told VOA. “I personally have seen a lot of people I follow leave the platform. They’re pointing to a less civil discourse, as well as a greater prevalence of misinformation, hate speech and conspiracy theories in their feed as the main reasons they’re departing.”

In the two months since he took over, Musk has reinstated several previously banned Twitter accounts — most notably that of former U.S. President Donald Trump, though Trump eschewed the platform after his reinstatement. Musk has also banned (and sometimes reinstated) the accounts of several journalists.

“It’s been wild to watch as he came in talking about free speech,” said Ron Gubitz, executive director of a New Orleans nonprofit organization. “But then, all of a sudden, he’s suspending journalists’ accounts, banning an account tracking his jet, and — albeit temporarily — saying we couldn’t post links to other social media.”

Gubitz is a self-described “Twitter head,” having been on the platform for more than 14 years. He said he’s been disappointed in how it has operated since Musk’s purchase.

“Initially it was annoying because the discourse was all about Musk,” he said to VOA. “What is Musk saying? What is he going to do? It felt middle-school gossipy.”

“But the user interface has also actually gotten worse since he took over,” Gubitz added. “The platform isn’t updating well for me, it’s not adding enough new tweets, there are ads at the top of the screen every time I refresh and the whole thing just feels less secure. I’m cool with change, but this is going in the wrong direction.”

America’s relationship with social media

“I use Twitter less and less every day and I’ve actually removed the app from my phone,” said Kimm Rogers, a musician from San Diego, California. “I used to see tweets from the people I follow, but now my feed shows me [acquitted Wisconsin shooter] Kyle Rittenhouse, Elon Musk and [Texas Republican Senator] Ted Cruz. There’s a lot more hate especially towards black people, LGBTQ and Jewish people. There’s also more porn showing up in my feed as well as lots of disinformation over vaccines and the war in Ukraine.”

“It’s just hard on my psyche to see the lack of common decency and the cruelty often inflicted on others on this site,” Rogers added, “It diminishes my view of humanity.”

Polls show opinions on the direction of Twitter are often connected to political leanings. Quinnipiac’s December poll showed that 63% of Republican respondents said they viewed Musk favorably, while only 9% of Democrats said the same.

Many left-leaning users have threatened to leave the platform entirely. According to information from the Twitter analytics firm Bot Sentinel, approximately 877,000 accounts were deactivated in the week after Musk purchased Twitter. Nearly 500,000 were temporarily suspended. In total, that’s more than double the usual number and has included prominent celebrities who cited a rise in hate speech and the banning of journalists as their reason for leaving.

More recently, some users have organized “Twitter Walk-out Days” in which they log off for a period of time in protest. Others have threatened to move to other social media platforms that better align with their values.

If those users do move on, Nicole Dahmen, professor at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, says it won’t be the first time users shifted away from a form of technology.

“Leaving Twitter is the latest iteration of unfriending Facebook a decade ago or killing your television in the 1980s,” Dahmen told VOA. “There are valid reasons to consume and participate with these mediums and there are even more valid reasons to leave them. They’ve ultimately trivialized American discourse, and our political, social and emotional health has suffered.”

But it’s not just Twitter that appears to be experiencing a plateauing of popularity around the world. From 2018 to 2022, average daily social media use increased by only five minutes — from 142 minutes to 147 minutes — according to During the previous four years, average social media use increased by a whopping 38 minutes per day.

Sense of community

“Social media can be a great thing in how it creates a sense of community and allows us to find commonalities,” said Ivory Burnett of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Burnett said she prefers Twitter over other platforms because it encourages what she sees as more authentic, “less cosmetic” interactions.

“When used for good, it’s the megaphone for an entire generation,” she told VOA. “But it also results in bullying, misunderstanding and crowd-thinking that makes it easier to spread hate and harm.”

But, like so many who, despite their frustrations with the platform, say they don’t want to start over elsewhere after dedicating so many years to building a following on Twitter, Burnett said she has no intention of leaving.

“Leave? I’ve never considered leaving,” she said and laughed. “I’ll be here until my login stops working.”

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US House Bans TikTok on Official Devices

The popular Chinese video app TikTok has been banned from all U.S. House of Representatives-managed devices, according to the House’s administration arm, mimicking a law soon to go into effect banning the app from all U.S. government devices.

The app is considered “high risk due to a number of security issues,” the House’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) said in a message sent on Tuesday to all lawmakers and staff and must be deleted from all devices managed by the House.

The new rule follows a series of moves by U.S. state governments to ban TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance Ltd, from government devices. As of last week, 19 states have at least partially blocked the app from state-managed devices over concerns that the Chinese government could use the app to track Americans and censor content.

The $1.66 trillion omnibus spending bill, passed last week to fund the U.S. government through September 30, 2023, includes a provision to ban the app on federally managed devices and will take effect once President Joe Biden signs the legislation into law.

“With the passage of the Omnibus that banned TikTok on executive branch devices, the CAO worked with the Committee on House Administration to implement a similar policy for the House,” a spokesperson for the Chief Administrative Officer told Reuters on Tuesday.

The message to staff said anyone with TikTok on their device would be contacted about removing it, and future downloads of the app were prohibited.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new rule.

U.S. lawmakers have put forward a proposal to implement a nationwide ban on the app.

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За даними Нацбанку, на сьогодні мережа Power Banking об’єднує «всі 14 системно важливих банків», відділення яких стали основою цієї мережі, та залучає інших учасників банківського ринку

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Whistleblower Files Complaint to Congress Over Twitter Suspending Journalists

Nearly a week after Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk said that the accounts of suspended journalists would be reinstated, at least six remain blocked.

Voice of America’s chief national correspondent, Steve Herman, is among them. Twitter suspended the accounts Dec. 15 over posts about another removed account — @Elonjet — which uses public data to track Musk’s private jet and other aircraft.

On Thursday, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a Washington-based whistleblower protection and advocacy organization, filed a complaint to Congress over the suspension of Herman and other journalists.

“All of this is disturbing,” GAP’s Senior Counsel David Seide wrote in a letter addressed to the House and Senate commerce committees. “For no rational reason, Twitter and Mr. Musk wrongly muzzled and continue to muzzle Voice of America’s reporter and at least five other journalists. We ask you to continue to review this mistreatment and, if you believe warranted, investigate further.”

The letter, shared with VOA, said that Musk “abused his authority by acting arbitrarily and capriciously” in suspending and continuing to block several prominent journalists from the social media platform.

Twitter did not immediately respond to VOA’s request for comment, sent in a direct message via the platform.

Twitter appeals

Early Saturday morning, Musk announced on Twitter that the “accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now.”

To other Twitter users, Herman’s account looked as if it were back to normal.

But when Herman opened the app later that day, he was met with a notification saying he could regain access only if he deleted three tweets that referenced the @Elonjet account — or he could file an appeal.

Herman chose the latter option, he told VOA, “not realizing that put me in an even deeper level of purgatory.”

Making it seem as if his account was reactivated was “disingenuous at best,” Herman said.

Other journalists had similar experiences, including Matt Binder of Mashable, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post, Micah Lee of The Intercept, Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN and freelance reporters Aaron Rupar and Tony Webster.

VOA spoke with several of these reporters, who all said they were not surprised at being suspended.

Rupar and Webster told VOA they opted to delete the tweets in question to regain full access to their accounts, but the other six refused, so remain locked out.

Twitter told them they will be barred until specified posts are deleted.

“I will not delete the tweets because I feel there was nothing wrong with those tweets, and deleting them would be an admission that I did something wrong,” Herman said. “The only way I will tweet again is if my account is reinstated unconditionally.”

Mashable’s Binder was briefly unsuspended Saturday, but he says he was locked out again after asking a Twitter official which company policy he had broken.

He appealed the ruling instead of deleting the offending tweet but said that Twitter denied the request.

Now journalists are “going to have to be cautious about how they disseminate their reporting on Twitter because Elon Musk can just choose on a whim to change policy,” Binder told VOA in an interview. “We’ve seen it already.”

GAP’s Seide said suspensions over @Elonjet tweets do not bode well for press freedom on Twitter.

“It’s especially concerning because it’s so arbitrary and innocuous,” he told VOA. “If they can force journalists to censor themselves on innocuous issues, they plainly do that on other issues, too.”

Webster, a freelance reporter based in Minneapolis, said Twitter has played a big role in building an audience for his work. Because of that, he deleted the requested tweets to regain access.

Still, getting suspended has changed how he engages with the platform, he told VOA.

“It’s really chilling to have to be so careful about what to say,” he said. “You just worry about what might happen in the future if you say something that might be upsetting to Elon Musk.”

Even though Webster is back on Twitter, he said he no longer trusts the platform and plans to use the social media platform Mastodon more.

The Intercept’s Lee told VOA he will not delete the tweet that got him suspended.

That journalists now risk facing arbitrary censorship “basically just proves that Twitter is no longer a viable platform,” he said, adding that he believes it is important to “diversify what social media you use.”

VOA’s public relations team on Thursday confirmed Herman’s account had not been reinstated.

In an emailed statement when Herman was first suspended, VOA spokesperson Nigel Gibbs said, “As Chief National Correspondent, Mr. Herman covers international and national news stories, and this suspension impedes his ability to perform his duties as a journalist.”

Musk had said on Twitter that the @Elonjet account and any accounts that linked to it were suspended because they violated Twitter’s anti-doxxing policy.

Doxxing is when someone maliciously publishes private or identifying information about someone — like their phone number or address — on the internet, according to Clayton Weimers, executive director of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) U.S. office.

The @Elonjet Twitter account, however, used publicly available data. Additionally, none of the journalists who had tweeted about Musk and his shutdown of the account had tweeted location information for his plane.

Doxxing is an increasingly common intimidation tactic to target journalists over their coverage, Weimers said.

“The risk here is that [Musk is] really lowering the barrier for what we’re considering doxxing and weaponizing it against journalists in a way that doesn’t make journalists or other public officials any safer on the platform,” Weimers said.

Twitter has historically been slow to respond to genuine doxxing attacks, Weimers said.

Musk also dissolved Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, of which RSF was a longtime member. Made up of human and civil rights groups, the 100-member advisory group advised on policies to respond to hate speech and other issues on Twitter.

Since Twitter is Musk’s private company, “there’s an argument to be made that it’s his $44 billion plaything, and he can make the rules as he sees fit,” Herman acknowledged. “And if he wants to turn it into the online equivalent of a private country club, then he probably legally can.”

Herman said he has not spoken with any of the other journalists in the suspended-from-Twitter club.

“I’ve been pretty busy,” he said. “But I think some of us are following each other on Mastodon now.”

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France Planning AI-Assisted Crowd Control for Paris Olympics

French authorities plan to use an AI-assisted crowd control system to monitor people during the 2024 Paris Olympics, according to a draft law seen by AFP on Thursday.

The system is intended to allow the security services to detect disturbances and potential problems more easily, but will not use facial recognition technology, the bill says.

The technology could be particularly useful during the highly ambitious open-air opening ceremony  with Olympians sailing down the river Seine in front of a crowd of 600,000 people.

French police and sports authorities faced severe criticism in May after shambolic scenes during the Champions League final in Paris when football fans were caught in a crowd crush and teargassed.

The draft law, which was presented to the cabinet on Thursday, proposes other security measures including the use of full-body scanners and increases the sentences for hooliganism.

Organizers and Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin have both argued in favor of using so-called “intelligent” security camera software that scans images for suspect or dangerous behavior.

The use of such a system during the Olympics is an “experimentation”, the draft law says, but could be applied for future public events which face terrorism-related or crowd control risks.

“No biometric data is used, nor facial recognition technology and it does not enable any link or interconnection or automatic flagging with any other personal data system,” the bill states.

The games’ organizing committee said on November 21 that it needed to lift its budget estimate by 10 per cent from 3.98 billion euros to 4.48bn euros, partly as a result of inflation.

Rather than opening the games in an athletics stadium as is customary, organizers have planned a ceremony on July 26, 2024 with a flotilla of some 200 boats sailing down the river Seine.

The banks of the river can accommodate 100,000 people who will have to buy tickets, while another 500,000 are set to watch for free from the street level, according to government estimates.

The draft law is expected to be debated in parliament in January where the minority government of President Emmanuel Macron will need support from opposition groups to pass it.

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