Scammers target Kiwis: Annabel Langbein the latest focus for Facebook fakers | Stuff.co.nz

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Chef Annabel Langbein is the latest target of an online scam, which has used the names and faces of at least half a dozen famous Kiwis.

Foreign scam artists have been exploiting Facebook’s lax policy on adverts for some time, in a bid to rip off New Zealanders.

Langbein said scammers had made fake news articles, which said she was quitting her job because of a new skincare company. 

“It’s all fake. The very worst thing is that my followers and supporters are being conned and losing money and I am powerless to stop it,” she said on Instagram.

Facebook does not fact check the adverts it promotes, which has meant peddlers of fake news, conspiracies and scams have been able to reach users on the platform.

But a spokesman said it had removed and blocked pages that featured fake celebrity endorsements from New Zealanders.

“We do not allow these scams on our services and we take swift action to remove them as soon as we become aware. These scammers are well resourced and use sophisticated cloaking technology to mask content,” he said.

Tech companies such as Facebook and Google collect data about their users, including where they live and what their interests are. Companies, scam artists, governments and lobbyists can then pay the tech giants to target anyone in the world.

For more than a year, a group of scammers have been targeting New Zealand celebrities and forging endorsements for adverts such as skincare and bitcoin.

A Facebook spokesman said these scammers worked across the internet, but the company was investing in automated technology to better detect false news and endorsements. He said the company employed more than 35,000 people to work in its security team, which dealt with these issues.

” The damage and cost to our business far outweighs any ad spend or benefit as this kind of misleading content,” he said.

CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF
Annabel Langbein is warning her followers that scam artists are faking stories about her.

These scammers often create fake news websites, made to look like legitimate news sites such as the BBC, Stuff and NZ Herald, to publish fake stories about how one of the celebrities is “quitting their job” after discovering the wonders of a get rich quick scheme.

 it was launching a reporting tool in New Zealand to combat these “celebrtiy-bait ads”.

The tool was first rolled out in the UK, after television presenter Martin Lewis launched legal action against Facebook when his name was used in a similar scam. He dropped the lawsuit when Facebook promised to dedicate resource to anti-scam initiatives. 

Facebook’s director of product management, Rob Leathern, told Stuff last month that the company did take legal action to stop scam artists when their posts were reported.

“It’s kind of a cat and mouse game we’re constantly playing,” he said.

Facebook is asking Kiwis to report click bait advertisements on the platform.

The company has faced mounting pressure to stop the spread of fake news, scams and conspiracies.

Actor Sacha Baron Cohen made headlines last month, calling social media companies “a sewer of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories”.

“Zuckerberg said that social media companies should live up to their responsibilities,” he said.

“But he’s totally silent about what should happen when they don’t. By now, it’s pretty clear they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves.”

Facebook, however, has been clear that it would delete scam accounts and block their accounts once it was notified.

 “Often, we’ll go beyond rejecting the ad; we’ll remove the ability of the accounts and people behind them to advertise with us in the future,” Leathern said.

Chef Nadia Lim, journalist John Campbell, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, broadcasters Mike Hosking and Hayley Holt have also been featured in similar scams.

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‘We’re not fooling around’: Pelosi and Schiff stand firm as Trump fumes

Were not fooling around: Democratic pair say inquiry will not be slowed and condemn president over blatant effort to intimidate witnesses

Democrats

Donald Trump has been accused of incitement to violence and threatened with obstruction charges in the fast-escalating battle over impeachment, as the president maintained his aggressive counter-attack against Democratic leaders and the whistleblower who precipitated the inquiry.

Were not fooling around here, Adam Schiff, the chair of the powerful House intelligence committee, said in Washington on Wednesday.

Elijah Cummings, the chair of the House oversight committee, revealed that it would issue a subpoena to the White House if it failed to hand over documents on contacts with Ukraine by Friday.

I do not take this step lightly, Cummings said, saying the White House had stonewalled on demands for cooperation for several weeks.

The Democrats investigative steps have infuriated Trump, who was live-tweeting their press conference on Capitol Hill. He denounced the impeachment process, in block capitals, as BULLSHIT and later repeated an extreme claim that Schiff should be investigated for treason.

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, announced the start of the impeachment inquiry eight days ago, focusing on a whistleblower complaint that emerged the week before about a July phone call between Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

The complaint and a memo of the call issued by the White House have since been released, indicating that Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Joe Biden, a leading rival for the White House in the 2020 election, while the US was withholding vital aid from Ukraine.

Schiff insisted on Wednesday that the inquiry would not be slowed down by presidential stonewalling or threatening language against potential witnesses.

Were very busy, Schiff said. We are proceeding deliberately but at the same time we feel a real sense of urgency here.

Democratic-run House committees heard from the state departments inspector general, an independent watchdog, on Wednesday, followed by the former special envoy on Ukraine on Thursday and the former ambassador to Kyiv next week. But they are battling with the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, about other depositions by state department officials and the handover of relevant documents.

Schiff and Pelosi condemned Trump for rhetoric directed at an intelligence agency whistleblower who revealed details of the phone call at the core of the impeachment proceedings.

Trump has referred to the whistleblower and the officials who provided information included in the complaint as spies and implied they should face the death penalty. Senior officials and some leading Republicans have confirmed the whistleblower used recommended legal channels but Trump repeated the spy allegation on Wednesday.

Donald
Donald Trump at the White House with the Finnish PM on Wednesday. Pelosi and Schiffs press conference infuriated the president. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Schiff said the president was engaging in a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses.

Its an incitement of violence, he said.

The president probably doesnt realize how dangerous his statement is, Pelosi added.

Trump, who was clearly watching the press conference live, unleashed an expletive-laced Twitter tirade.

The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyones time and energy on BULLSHIT, which is what they have been doing ever since I got overwhelmingly elected in 2016, he said.

The president continued to tweet every few minutes, lashing out at Schiff, who he called a lowlife, until it was time to greet the visiting Finnish president Sauli Niinist. The fury of Trumps commentary reflected how impeachment has come to consume his focus and attention.

At a press conference at the end of his meeting with Niinist, Trump, who repeated one of his favourite self-descriptions as a very stable genius, repeatedly refused to answer a question about what he had been asking Zelenskiy to do in relation to the Bidens, and lost his temper at the Reuters journalist asking it.

Are you talking to me? Trump shouted. Did you hear me? he demanded, telling the journalist to ask the Finnish president a question instead.

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‘Are you talking to me?’: furious Trump takes aim at journalist over Ukraine question video

In his own struggle with Congress, Pompeo was forced to admit on Wednesday he took part in the July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

Pompeo made the admission while on a trip to Rome, after his participation in the call had been reported in the US press. When asked in a television interview 10 days ago about the Trump conversation with Zelenskiy, Pompeo had looked quizzical and implied he was hearing about it for the first time.

On Wednesday, Pompeo said: As for was I on the phone call? I was on the phone call. But he presented the conversation as part of normal state department business, trying to bolster a new Ukrainian government against the threat of Russia.

He referred dismissively to the growing scandal engulfing the Trump administration as all this noise.

It has become clear Pompeo has only limited power to stop committees from gathering evidence for an impeachment inquiry.

One of the five witnesses deposed, Kurt Volker, former special envoy for Ukraine who resigned last week, confirmed he would speak to the committees in closed session on Thursday. The Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that Volker resigned as Pompeo was attempting to push him out of his post, in the hope of reducing the pressure on the state department.

Schiff said Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Kyiv, would appear next week. Press reports said she was due to give a deposition on 11 October.

The state departments inspector general, Steve Linick, went to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to brief Congress on documents related to relations with Ukraine. After the briefing, the Maryland Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin described the material as a collection of unfounded allegations involving the Bidens and Yovanovitch.

Its essentially a packet of propaganda and disinformation spreading conspiracy theories, Raskin said.

The presidents personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has played a central role in the Ukraine scandal, later told CNN that he had sent at least some of the material to Pompeos office earlier this year and that it included information he had been given by previous Ukrainian prosecutors.

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Giuliani: I Provided Documents State Department Watchdog Gave To Congress

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told CNN on Wednesday night that some of the documents in a packet the State Department inspector general handed to Congress just hours earlier had come from him. The revelation was the latest twist in the ongoing turmoil over Trump’s call with the leader of Ukraine in July. 

CNN’s report came the same day the State Department’s watchdog, Steve Linick, sent an urgent message to Congress saying he needed to meet and give them copies of documents related to the Ukraine call. Democrats were reportedly prepared for some kind of a bombshell but instead were handed a 40-page packet of documents that included conspiracy theories and news clippings. The pages also referenced a slew of names related to the scandal: Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, Hunter Biden and George Soros.

The packet had a return address that matched that of the Manhattan office of Giuliani, who later confirmed that he was responsible for their production, telling The New York Times they came from a “professional investigator who works for my company.”

The documents prompted consternation from top Democrats, who issued public calls that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explain how such misinformation made it to the top levels of government. Lawmakers also said the packet only provided more evidence that the White House had “sought to use the machinery of the State Department to further the President’s personal political interests.”

“We are now in possession of this packet of propaganda and disinformation,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told Reuters on Wednesday. “The real question is where did it come from and how did it end up in our lap?”

The chairs of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees released a joint statement earlier Wednesday expressing concerns about the “urgent” briefing. 

The statement said the meeting with Linick raised “troubling questions” about alleged efforts by the Trump administration to target former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and Yovanovitch, who was removed from her ambassadorship in May after Trump allies accused her of participating in an alleged Ukrainian attempt to support Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“The documents provided by the Inspector General included a package of disinformation, debunked conspiracy theories, and baseless allegations in an envelope marked ‘White House’ and containing folders labeled ‘Trump Hotel,‘” the chairs’ statement read. 

Giuliani told CNN that he had “routed” what he said was an “outline” of allegations against Biden and Yovanovitch to Pompeo’s office in March. He also reportedly sent details about his talks from earlier this year with top Ukrainian prosecutors who helped give him information for his outline.

“They told me they were going to investigate it,” Giuliani told CNN.

The attorney and former New York mayor has become one of the central figures in the political whirlwind over Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 25. During the conversation, Trump repeatedly pressed his counterpart to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company for five years. Before the call, the Trump administration had been withholding military aid from Ukraine.

A whistleblower complaint about the call mentioned Giuliani multiple times, and Trump’s lawyer has said in television interviews that he met with Ukrainian operatives. But in recent days he’s moved to minimize his role in the scandal, saying he got involved only at the behest of the State Department.

House Democrats have been moving quickly to investigate the Ukraine call as part of their impeachment inquiry while Trump has raged about the effort. This week the president called the inquiry a “coup” and has been refusing to answer some reporters’ questions about the information that’s come out of transcripts of the call.

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Whistleblower says White House tried to cover up Trump’s abuse of power

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Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump abused his official powers “to solicit interference” from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election, and the White House took steps to cover it up, according to a stunning whistleblower complaint released Thursday.

The complaint has been at the center of a controversy that has spurred Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. The White House on Wednesday also released a rough transcript of the call that shows Trump repeatedly pressed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Caving to Democratic demands, the Trump administration let Congress release a declassified version of the complaint, one day after releasing a rough transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call. The developments triggered a flood of Democratic lawmakers to publicly support impeachment.
    Trump has maintained that he didn’t do anything wrong, while simultaneously promoting unfounded conspiracy theories about the Bidens, Ukraine, and Russian meddling in 2016.
    There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

    White House lawyers asked to remove transcript

    politics
    The complaint notes White House lawyers were “already in discussion” about “how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain.”
    White House lawyers also directed officials to remove the transcript of the call from a computer system that stores them for Cabinet-level officials and instead put the transcript in a system for especially sensitive information, the whistleblower alleges.
    This move concerned some officials, who shared their worries internally that this was an “abuse of the system.”
    The whistleblower said they heard from other White House officials that this was “not the first time” that the Trump administration used this storage system to hold politically sensitive documents. The codeword-level system is meant to hold files of national security importance.
    There weren’t additional details in the complaint, and some of the details came from secondhand sources. Republicans on Capitol Hill have used that point to question the veracity of the complaint, though the intelligence community inspector general already deemed it credible.

    Rudy Giuliani’s role worried State Dept officials

    US officials were concerned, the whistleblower said, with Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his contacts with Ukrainian officials. The whistleblower alleges the US officials believed Giuliani was a conduit for messages between the President and officials in Kyiv and that he was at the helm of a problematic “circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes.”
    For most of the past two years, Giuliani has played a peculiar role as Trump’s personal attorney, a pro-Trump surrogate on television, and as an informal diplomat of sorts. This year, he has used his position to promote conspiracy theories about Ukraine, Biden, and the 2016 election.
    Whistleblower says White House tried to cover up Trump's abuse of power - CNNPolitics
    The whistleblower said they heard that two State Department officials intervened with Giuliani in an effort to “contain the damage” he was doing to national security. The complaint also said US diplomats worked with the new Ukrainian leaders to help them navigate the strange situation, where they juggled outreach from Giuliani with US diplomacy coming through official channels.
    State Department officials met with Ukrainian political figures and provided advice “about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of” Zelensky, the whistleblower wrote.
    Little is known about the identity of the whistleblower, which is even still hidden from some of the most senior US intelligence officials. The Justice Department has said there are some indications that the whistleblower opposes Trump’s reelection, but the complaint was indeed credible. They used lawful channels to file the complaint and get the message to Congress.

    Trump potentially exposed to blackmail

    In a letter accompanying the whistleblower’s complaint, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson wrote that the alleged conduct by Trump “would also potentially expose” the President “to serious national security and counterintelligence risks with respect to foreign intelligence services aware of such alleged conduct.”
    The implication is that US adversaries are always spying on the US and trying to intercept sensitive phone calls by US officials. If a hostile government possesses a recording or is aware of the details of Trump’s phone call, they could use it to blackmail Trump. The gravest risk is from Russia, which is essentially at war with Ukraine and has strong intelligence capabilities.
    news
    Atkinson also wrote in his letter that that the whistleblower’s complaint amounts to a “serious or flagrant problem [or] abuse” under US laws regarding the inspector general’s office.
    The comments were made in an August 26 letter sent to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Atkinson explains the reasoning behind his determination that the information amounted to an “urgent concern,” which triggered its eventual transmission to Congress.

    Whistleblower confused by Trump’s CrowdStrike interest

    The whistleblower expresses confusion about Trump’s references to CrowdStrike during his calls with Zelensky. The Democratic National Committee hired CrowdStrike in 2016 to investigate hacks to its computers, which were later blamed on the Russian government.
    In the call, Trump mentioned the US cybersecurity firm and said, “the server, they say Ukraine has it.” Trump also encouraged Zelensky to “find out what happened” with the server.
    “I do not know why the President associates these servers with Ukraine,” the whistleblower wrote in a footnote. The whistleblower added that Trump had previously connected the DNC server to Ukraine in television interviews.
    Trump’s interest in CrowdStrike and the DNC server, more than three years after the hacks, is part of a larger effort to undermine the notion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help him win. He has repeatedly rejected the assessment from CrowdStrike, which was later confirmed by US intelligence agencies, that Russia was behind the DNC hacks and leaks.
    politics
    The complaint demonstrates in stark terms how people who work inside the US government, with access to highly sensitive materials, have struggled to figure out what was going on in an unconventional White House administration with a president who goes around official channels.
      The complaint contains a blend of information that was observed firsthand, details that were provided secondhand from other officials, and information that comes from public sources, like Giuliani’s appearances on television and news articles about his activities surrounding Ukraine.
      This story is breaking and will be updated.

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      Greta Thunberg Responds Perfectly To The Internet Trolls

      In August 2018, then 15-year-old Greta Thunberg staged her first strike outside the Swedish parliament. By November, the movement had caught on. Kids across Europe went on strike walking out of schools, sparking what would become the largest climate protest ever held around the world. Earlier this year, less than a year after she started campaigning, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for starting what is now truly a global movement.

      Over the last month, she’s captured even more media attention to her cause – the current climate crisis – by sailing (rather than flying) across the Atlantic to attend the United Nations climate action summit in New York, where she gave a powerful speech that got seen by the world.

      Despite her message being relatively non-controversial – Earth’s climate is demonstrably changing and we need to do more to prevent catastrophe – and backed up entirely by science, she has drawn the attention and abuse of prominent Internet trolls and actively controversial media figures. 

      You’d hope that people would temper their language when talking about someone who is still only a 16-year-old child, but that has not been the case.

      It’s not just the accurate scientific information she is sharing that has been questioned by detractors. She has been attacked on the grounds that she, a young person with Asperger’s syndrome talking on national television fluently in a second language, delivered this information in too much of a monotone, with critics calling her “chilling” and “creepy”. When she chose a boat not a plane to travel to the US to give a talk on how we should be limiting our carbon emissions, grown adults made jokes about her drowning

      She’s even been likened to Nazi propaganda because she braids her hair.

      When she’s not being attacked by prominent members of the media, she is regularly asked by the general public things like “if you’re so scared of climate change, how come you eat food?” because she was pictured eating lunch. (Yeah, they’ve totally got her there.)

      Throughout all this, she has kept relatively quiet about on her thoughts on trolls. Even when the President of the United States mocked her on Twitter, she merely updated her bio to show how little it bothered her.

      Now she has responded to the abuse and conspiracy theories, in a thread that’s gone viral.

      She got succinctly to the point.

      “It seems they will cross every possible line to avert the focus, since they are so desperate not to talk about the climate and ecological crisis. Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions – it’s facts,” she wrote on Twitter, from the boat she is currently sailing on back home.

      “I honestly don’t understand why adults would choose to spend their time mocking and threatening teenagers and children for promoting science, when they could do something good instead. I guess they must simply feel so threatened by us.”

      “But don’t waste your time giving them any more attention. The world is waking up. Change is coming wether they like it or not. See you in the streets this Friday!”

      Perfect.

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