Naira Marley soaring amidst controversies

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Naira Marley
Naira Marley

…Why he’s dominating Nigeria’s music scene

By BENJAMIN NJOKU

The Nigerian music scene in recent times has been saturated with lots of talented music stars, who are redefining the space and creating their own buzz. One of such wave-making stars is Azeez Adeshina Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley.

Marley burst onto the country’s music space like ‘a colossus’ and suddenly stole the hearts and minds of many lovers of music in this part of the world. It still seems like the pop sensation dropped out of nowhere unto our collective music ears.

Before last year, not much was heard of the Agege-born rapper. Even after the release of his 2017 hit “Issa Goal”, which featured Olamide and Lil Kesh, Naira Marley was still not a name to be reckoned with in the Nigerian music scene. But it was after releasing his hit song, “Am I a Yahoo Boy” featuring popular musician Zlatan Ibile, where he alleged to have declared public support for internet fraud. Naira Marley became the name on everyone’s lips.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC had arrested him alongside Zlatan and three other persons. They slammed an 11- count charge bordering on credit card fraud, car theft and Cybercrime against Naira Marley. Thus started a legal battle that culminated in his detention for 35 days. Many believe the EFCC arrested him because of his alleged support for internet fraud and his claim that cybercrime is a form of reparation of the wealth stolen from Africa. That was the beginning of his journey to stardom.

While the trial lasted, the controversial singer was busy creating buzz on social media. His fans were not deterred from protesting against his arrest outside the EFCC headquarters in Lagos.

READ ALSO: Davido is the king of African music – Miraboi

Marley was quoted to have said in an interview that their rage was understandable. “Because they know the system. They knew what [the EFCC was] trying to do and they followed what happened. They knew I shouldn’t be getting arrested for what I’m saying. Freedom of speech! I should be allowed to be saying what I’m saying. But the EFCC said I was supporting fraud, because I said I have no problem with these people.”

Today, Marley remains one of the hottest artistes that have dominated the mainstream music chart in Nigeria and diaspora. His fan base has continued to increase on daily basis, just as he’s not free from troubles. Recall that in November, Marley set social media agog when he tweeted that a lady with a big butt was better than one with a Master’s degree. Few days later, the lewd singer alongside his siblings and cousins landed into another trouble after they were accused of stealing a car. But unfortunately, the court early this year dismissed the theft case and the singer walked away a free man.

Marley is a phenomenal singer who has a lot going for him. His journey from prince of Peckham to cult figure in Lagos, represents his evolution into a bonafide intercontinental rock star: selling out shows across Africa, and trailed intently both online and off by his mass of obsessive followers, called the ‘Marlians’.

Named after the Nigerian currency and known for his anti-establishment spirit and viral dance crazes, Marley’s wave connects the West African diaspora to their roots as he delivers his lines in a syrupy mixture of Yoruba and English.

Like Eedris Abdulkareem, Terry G and Bobrisky before him, Marley has been able to traverse between public hatred and adoration. On social media, he’s the most talked about Nigerian singer at the moment. While he’s yet to break into the international scene, Marley is currently enjoying the buzz he’s creating with his music back home. He’s in a lane of his own that politely ignores the commercialism of Afro-pop. To many, Marley is using his music to promote immorality and a generation of valueless youths, while to others, his music is awesome.

RnB singer, Asa described Marley’s music as “awesome.” Just as some twitter users once called out the ‘Puta’ hit maker after he declared that his songs can cure depression. They complained that his songs are noisy and senseless and “the only thing his songs can do is that it can cause depression rather than cure it.”

Since he burst onto the UK music scene in 2014, with Marry Juana, a song he wrote with his friend Ma Twigz, the Agege-born, Marley has been banging out hit after hit. In November 2019, the controversial singer sold out the almost 5000 capacity 02 Arena for Marlian Fest in three minutes. Tickets for the Marlian Fest which held on 30 December 2019 at the Eko Convention Centre, Eko Hotels, Lagos also sold out. There was chaos at the venue as fans tried to gain entrance into the concert.

But believe it or not, Marley is a singer you will hate to love. At present, the rapper is not just the rave of the moment, he is arguably the most popular artiste in Nigeria today. But the negative influence of Marley’s songs on the youths is unimaginable. This Marlian fever, like the era of Makossa has taken over the streets of Lagos and everywhere you go, men, women, the young and the old, the affluent and the poor are quick to claim they are Marlians with glee; and the buzz word “I am a Marlian” hits you like an unforgettable dream.

The lewd singer currently has a huge fan base. They call themselves Marlians. His songs and dance steps are inspiring a new generation of morally debased youths, who follow him around. It seems the youth would be his followers for a long time, except something serious is done. They revel in being “outsiders’, and as a trademark, they are disrespectful of rules and agents of law enforcement.

From the dance step, ‘Soapy,’ that has popularised the habit of masturbation to his off and on life inside prison to his recent dance step called ‘Tesumole,’ Naira Marley has continuously been a source of controversy and confusion in the Nigerian music scene.

It’s not for nothing that a clergyman, Chris Omashola, early this year took to his Twitter page, where he shared a series of prophecies concerning Nigeria. He warned that Marley is a demon and his music is inspired by demons, to destroy the youths in Nigeria.

“In 2020, God told me, Naira Marley is A Demon, He is Satanic and should repent before it’s too late. His songs are demonically inspired to destroy the Destiny of The Youths of this generation, Nigerian youths should desist from calling themselves Marlians. #ACOProphecies2020,” he tweeted.

Marley’s fans have since dismissed the clergyman’s warning, as they sent him threat messages; while he himself reacted by sharing screenshots of the pastor’s leaked sex tapes with an interesting caption. “To all Naira Marley’s fans aka Marlian. Please what’s your final judgment on this #NairaMarley and Apostle Chris Omashola case.” . Then on another occasion he tweeted: “Jesus never went to church.”

That’s not all, a certain mother reportedly cried out on social media after her teenage daughter was suspended from school for being part of a Marlian cult. According to the woman, the school caught over 25 girls who were members of the cult, including her daughter.

The teacher had found underwear in one of the girls’ bags and when she was questioned, she revealed that she was part of a cult whose members do not wear underwear to school on certain days.

It was, however, ascertained that the girls don’t wear pants, while the Marlian boys don’t wear belts.

However, it’s said that being a marlian has its ups and downs, from the rumoured beltless trousers for boys and underwear free girls who all believe in the marlian philosophy. You suddenly behold a boy next door who identifies himself as a Marlian, and ready to dance his Marley’s latest dance steps , ‘ Shaku shaku and Soapy (a demonstration of someone pleasuring him or herself through dance) and you are taken aback.

Despite the legal battle and the backlash against him, Marley’s fan base continues to rise., just as the singer is not relenting on his resolve to rule his world. On December 30, 2019, Marlians thronged the Eko hotel venue of the maiden edition of his headlining show, ‘Marlian Fest’ to keep a date with their music idol. While performing at the show, the singer announced his new record label, Marlian Records and resident presented the four artistes who are signed to his music imprint. He equally won his first major award at the 2020 Soundcity MVP Awards, held at the Eko Convention Center, Lagos Nigeria.

The Marlian President beat Tiwa Savage (49-99), Chinko Ekun (Able God), Prince Kaybee (Banomoya), Shatta Wale (My Level), Burna Boy (On The Low), Rayvanny (Tetema), Zlatan (Zanku – Legwork) to clinch the award for Viewers’ Choice for his viral song Soapy. And it was a major boost to his music career. But one wonders how far Naira Marley can go in this journey?

The post Naira Marley soaring amidst controversies appeared first on Vanguard News.

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Persecution of Muslims in China and India Reveals Important Facts About Religion and Geopolitics

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India, China and Myanmar are three Asian countries currently engrossed in carrying out physical and cultural genocides on their Muslim populations. While the plight of Rohingya Muslims and Uighur Muslims is well known, the recent introduction of a new law expressly aimed at dispossessing Muslims of Indian citizenship has alerted many to the reality that India’s ruling BJP government sees itself as Hindu first and foremost.

Questions such as “Why aren’t the rich Arab countries saying anything?” have come up, with the implicit inference that Muslim-dominated countries are supposed to stick up for Muslims everywhere in the world. Others have pointed out that despite suffering oppression in some parts of the world, Muslims are also responsible for brutal acts of oppression against other minority groups elsewhere, which allegedly negates the sufferings of the prior group.

In this article, I will pick through these questions and viewpoints with a goal of isolating some useful truths about how religion, geopolitics and human nature constantly interplay and produce much of the world around us.

Oppression is a Matter of Perspective

Which religion is the most oppressed? I like to troll my Christian friends with the image below whenever the topic comes up about some religion or the other allegedly imposing its will at their expense.

The truth is however, that this image could apply to just about every religion on earth. As a general rule of thumb, the only limiting factor on whether or not a religion functions as an oppressive tyranny in a particular jurisdiction is the proportion of the population that practises it there. Similarly, the only thing stopping any religion from being an oppressed and downtrodden identity is whether it is a small enough minority for that to be possible.

While Muslims in India, Myanmar and China are going through untold degrees of horror because of their religious identities, Muslims in places like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Malaysia and Northern Nigeria are simultaneously visiting very similar horrors on Bah’ai, Shia Muslims, Christians, Budhists and other minorities in those areas. It turns out that the mere fact of belonging to a religious identity does not in fact, confer unrestricted global victimhood.

This point is important because it disproves the notion held by every major religion that its adherents follow a single set of standards and do things in the manner of a global “brotherhood.” In reality, Islam according to a Rohingya Muslim hiding from the Burmese military, and the same religion according to an itinerant herder in Kogi State bear almost no similarity to each other save for the most basic tenets. Environmental factors in fact have a bigger influence on how religions are practised than their own holy books. 

The current antics of India’s ruling BJP and its Hindu fundamentalist support base provide an important case in point as to how this works. Looking at the evolution of Hinduism from a passive philosophy into an openly militant ideology gives an important insight into how religion is in fact, a thoroughly contrived and amorphous set of ideas that can be changed, adjusted, aligned and revised at a moment’s notice in justification of anything at all. 

Hinduism traditionally sees itself as a religion of thoughtful, considered spirituality as against the angry dogmas of its Abrahamic neighbours, but something interesting is happening. Some argue that it started in the days of Gandhi, and some ascribe it to current Prime Minister Nanendra Modi, but whoever started it is a side note. The key point to note is that based on political factors, i.e anticolonial senitment against the British and anti-Muslim sentiment fueled by India’s national rivalry with Pakistan, Hinduism has somehow been coopted into the narrative of a jingoistic, monotheistic, mono-ethnic state which is  historical nonsense.

India has always been a pointedly pluralistic society, and in fact the geographical area now known as “India” does not even cover the geographical area of the India of antiquity. That India was a place of Hindus, Budhists, Muslims, Zoroastrians and everything in between. Hinduism never saw a problem with pluralism because Hinduism itself is a very plural religion – it has at least 13 major deities. The conversion of the Hindu identity into a political identity movement is a recent and contrived phenomenon first exploited by Gandhi as a means of opposing British colonialism, and now by Modi to oppose the Pakistanis/Muslims – it is a historical falsity.

The creation of Hindu fundamentalist movements like the RSS (which PM Modi belongs to) is something done in response to environmental factors. Spectacles like the RSS march below are evidence of yet another religion undergoing constant and ongoing evolution into whatever suits its purposes.

Something similar happened when medieval Europe turned into colonial Europe and European Christianity transitioned into a peaceful and pacifist ideology after centuries of being a bloodthirsty doctrine. The environmental factors that created the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, book burnings and witch hunts went away with the introduction of an industrial society, and thus the religion too transitioned.

In plain English, what all this means is that nobody actually practises a religion in the pure sense they imagine they do. Everyone who subscribes to a religion merely practises a version of it that is subject to the culture and circumstances of their environment and era. This is directly connected to the next major insight raised by these events.

Geopolitics is all About Self-Interest…Everyone Gets it Except Africa

While anti-Muslim violence has continued apace for years in China, Mynammar and India, the question has often been asked: “Why are the wealthy Arab nations not saying anything?” There is a perception that since the Arabian peninsula is the birthplace of Islam and Arabs – particularly Saudis – are viewed as the global gatekeepers of the faith, they must be at the forefront of promoting the interests of Muslims worldwide.

To many, the fabulous wealth and international influence that Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE enjoy, in addition to the presence of two of Islam’s holiest cities – Mecca and Meddinah – in Saudi Arabia, means that they have a responsibility to speak for the global Muslim Ummah and stand up for them when they are unfairly targeted and mistreated. Unfortunately for such people, the wealthy nations of the Arab Gulf region tend to respond to such questions with little more than an irritated silence – and with good reason.

To begin with, these countries are not democracies led by the wishes of their almost uniformly Muslim populations. They are autocracies led by royal families who came to power in the colonially-influenced 20th century scramble for power and influence. Saudi Arabia, which houses Islam’s holiest sites, is named after the House of Saud, its royal family which came into power in its current form at the turn of the 19th century. The priority of the regimes in these countries first and foremost is self-preservation.

Self-preservation means that before throwing their significant diplomatic and economic weight behind any attempt to help out fellow Muslims, the first consideration is how doing so will benefit them. India for example, is a country that has close diplomatic ties with the UAE, and supplies most of their cheap labour for construction and low-skilled functions. India has even coordinated with UAE special forces to repatriate the dissident Princess Latika when she made an audacious escape attempt in 2018.

What does the UAE stand to gain if it napalms its diplomatic relationship with India by criticising Modi’s blatantly anti-Muslim policy direction? It might win a few brownie points with Islamic hardliners and possibly buy some goodwill among poor Muslims in South Asia, but how much is that worth? The regime and nation’s self-interest is best served by looking the other way, so that is exactly what they will do.

The Saudis make a similar calculation. At a time when they are investing heavily in military hardware to keep up with their eternal rivals Turkey and Iran, and simultaneously preparing for the end of oil by liberalising their society and economy, does it pay them to jump into an issue in India that does not particularly affect them? As the status of their diplomatic relationship with the U.S. remains unclear following the Jamal Khasshoggi incident, are they going to risk pissing off the Chinese because of Uighur Muslims?

In fact self-interest like that mentioned here is the basis of the considerations that underpin all international relations. Well I say “all,” but what I really meant to say was “all except African countries.” It is only African countries that take diplomatic decisions based on little more than flimsy emotions and feelings of religious affinity. Gambia for example, has dragged Myanmar before the UN and filed a genocide case against it on behalf of the Rohingya Muslims.

This would be commendable and great were it not that Gambia itself is hardly a human rights luminary, and generally has little business fighting an Asian battle when its own worse African battles lie unfought. The only thing Gambia stands to gain from fighting a diplomatic war that the rest of the world seems unwilling to touch is the temporary goodwill of a few Muslims in Asia and around the world – goodwill that cannot translate into something tangible for it.

To coin an aphorism from social media lingo, you could call it ”diplomatic clout chasing.’

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Dave Weckl @ All About Jazz

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1979 saw a move to the East coast and the University of Bridgeport. While playing the New York club scene with a band called Nite Sprite, Weckl started receiving accolades from established studio musicians such as Steve Kahn, Michael Brecker, and Peter Erskine. It was Erskine who recommended Weckl for his first ‘big gig’ with a group called French Toast, forerunner to the Michel Camilo band. That band featured iconic electric bass player Anthony Jackson.

From this group, Jackson recommended Weckl for the prestigious 1983 Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour. This got Weckl noticed by a much larger industry audience and lead to many session opportunities, including radio and TV jingles, sound track sessions, and top recording dates with George Benson, Peabo Bryson, Diana Ross, Robert Plant, and many more.

In 1985, Michael Brecker recommended Weckl to Chick Corea for his new Elektric Band. That was the beginning of a seven-year relationship with both the Elektric and Akoustic bands where nine recordings and three videos were produced. The Akoustic Band release earned Weckl a Grammy.

The Elektric Band showcased Weckl’s cutting-edge drumming and innovative use of electronic and acoustic drums, bringing him worldwide recognition. Though the Elektric Band went on a 10-year hiatus in the early ’90s, the band still tours from time-to-time. They released a 17-part conceptual album entitled To The Stars in mid-2004, and have reunited for tours in 2011 and 2016/17.

Weckl’s solo career began in 1990 with the release of Master Plan. Co-written/produced with longtime St. Louis friend/colleague Jay Oliver, the album was a watershed moment in Weckl’s career. Some would say it ushered in a new generation of contemporary drumming.

Master Plan featured a dynamic and diverse collection of tracks featuring top jazz artists of the time. The album created a palette for Weckl’s wide-ranging abilities in jazz, fusion, and Latin-inspired music, solidifying him as an emerging leader in the drumming world.

The album’s title track, written and performed by Chick Corea, featured Weckl and Steve Gadd on drums. Weckl had been seen as a protege to Gadd and their styles meshed perfectly on the track. But in many ways, the tune marked a “passing of the torch” in terms of next-generation artistry on the drums.

Weckl has recorded and produced nine other solo/leader recordings to date. In addition to Master Plan, Heads Up and Hard-Wired earned him great notoriety in the early ’90s.

In 1998, Weckl realized his long-time goal of forming a world-touring band. The Dave Weckl Band released five studio records, including: Rhythm Of The Soul, Synergy, Transition, Perpetual Motion, and Multiplicity. The band also released a hot live album, LIVE (And Very Plugged In) plus a compilation of DWB and instructional videos entitled The Zone.

Instructional videos have always played a big role in Weckl’s career. His original product, entitled Contemporary Drummer + 1, was one of the first play-along products ever published for drums. His Back To Basics and The Next Step releases were best-sellers in the ’90s and also continue to sell today.

Weckl updated his technical approach in the ’90s after studying with Freddie Gruber. He then released a three-part series of videos called A Natural Evolution, which included an appearance by Gruber. These products redefined earlier concepts to help drummers understand how to play in a relaxed, efficient, and musical way. They also helped solidified Weckl’s stature as an articulate and respected teacher. His clinics and master classes continue to attract capacity crowds worldwide.

After many years of sideman work with guitar legend Mike Stern, Chris Minh Doky’s Nomads, Oz Noy, and more, Weckl spent 2013 reuniting with Jay Oliver. They launched a crowd funding campaign that attracted more than 2,000 pre-orders of a project that would eventually be called Convergence.

The album featured 10 tunes, including piano and drum solo pieces and a remake of Stevie Wonder’s legendary tune “Higher Ground.” The video of “Higher Ground” has been viewed millions of times on YouTube and Facebook. Drummer Chris Coleman, bassist Jimmie Johnson, guitarist Dean Brown, singer Chrissi Poland, and several amazing horn players and vocalists took part.

The project also saw collaborations with Canadian singer Emilie-Claire Barlow and Riverdance creator Bill Whelan. Oliver recorded several native Irish instruments at Whelan’s personal studio in Ireland.

Convergence was released with three companion products: a play-along package for drums, a play-along package for all other instruments on the album, and a full-length documentary entitled Flies On The Studio Wall.

In 2015, Weckl formed an acoustic jazz group with longtime friend/collaborator Tom Kennedy (bass), Gary Meek (sax), and Makoto Ozone (piano/B3). The group was called The Dave Weckl Acoustic Band. To date, the band has released a CD entitled Of The Same Mind and a live DVD filmed at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood.

More recently, Weckl has returned to touring with the Elektric Band, Mike Stern, and Oz Noy, while completing sessions in his Los Angeles-area home studio. He has also formed an online school with comprehensive lessons, new play along products, and live footage from current tours.

He says “it is my goal to inspire as many young (and not-so-young) people as possible to want to play music, whether it be on drums or another instrument. With all the negatives in the world today, I feel this is my way of contributing a positive action toward spiritual happiness, which music can be a big part of, if you let it. So parents, if your child has a talent for music, please allow them the opportunity to develop that talent!”

Outside of music, Weckl has a passion for automobiles and racing. He and his Corvette ZO6 regularly post competitive times at race tracks around Southern California. Check out his YouTube racing channel!

Beyond music and four-wheel indulgences, Dave’s biggest passions and sources of inspiration come from his daughter, Claire, and his wife, Clivia.

A future college graduate (psychology), Claire definitely has the music gene. She sang an amazing version of “Cups (You’re Gonna Miss Me)” for the Convergence album. Her talent, passion, and work ethic make her father proud every day.

Dave’s wife, Clivia (also formerly a singer) has a love and passion for music – and an amazing energy for everything life has to offer. She and Dave share time both in Italy and Los Angeles. Show less

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Best Facebook Games List 2020 – Facebook Instant Games

Games are a great way for us to relax our mind and ease stress. However, playing the right game when you are bored can go a long way to relief your mind and give you fun. Therefore, I understand that apart from chatting with friends and loved ones some Facebook users do seek interesting games to play. Furthermore, this is why I have crafted the entire best Facebook games list 2020 to help Facebook account holders to enjoy instant games online.

Best Facebook Games List 2020 – Facebook Instant Games

Therefore, if you have not tried playing Facebook instant games before, this is a good chance to do so. However, some Facebook users do not even know where they can find these games. Also, some Facebook account users do not know they can play games on the Facebook platform. Basically, apart from chatting on Facebook, uploading your pictures and videos you can as well look for interesting games to play.

Play Facebook Games with FriendsFacebook Gameroom

Playing games on Facebook is very fun as you can play Facebook games with friends. This really sounds interesting as apart from chatting with friends and making Facebook live videos you can as well play games with your Facebook friends. However, these make it more fun filling as you have the chance to your game scoreline with your friends.

How to Access Facebook Instant Games

Therefore, if you want to access the Facebook instant games platform just go through these steps below.

  1. Another list of features will then dropdown. Here you will see the Games Feature after Friends list. Click on it, it will then take you straight to the game room

All Best Facebook Games List 2020

Here are all the best Facebook Instant games you can play to keep you stress-free and will make you enjoy your day.

  • Soccer Football League
  • Kiss Sweety
  • Fifa 2019 Football
  • Soccer Penalty 2019
  • Playing Soccer
  • Fifa 2020 Football
  • Boxing Star
  • Penalty Shootout
  • Fatal Sniper
  • Golden Boot
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2020
  • Cristiano Ronaldo Kick n Run.io
  • Foot Soccer
  • Bullet Fury
  • PUBG Mobile
  • Bb-tin-shooter
  • Toon Cup
  • Car Racing
  • First Kiss
  • Hill Climb Racing
  • Free Fire Battle Royal
  • Racing Moto Fast Speed
  • Spiderman ultimate
  • GTA City Theft GD
  • Car Racing Top Free Ride
  • Extreme Moto Winter
  • Archer Master
  • Field of Battle
  • Beso-kissing Game
  • Spiderman Stickman Jump
  • Moto Extreme Team
  • Mad Shark
  • Batman vs Superman
  • Stickman Warrior
  • Elite Sniper for Pubg 3D
  • Car Driving Simulator
  • Puppet Soccer Challenge
  • My Dream Wedding
  • Call of Duty Battleground
  • Pubg Kill enemies 3D
  • Shooter Zombies
  • Barbie’s & Ellie’s Doctor Game
  • Surgery Simulator
  • Hot Lip Kiss
  • My New Born Pet Baby
  • Disney Barbie’s Beach Swimsuit
  • Disney Barbie’s Crazy weekend
  • Adriana Hairstyle
  • Anna Theme Room Design
  • Nail Salon
  • Baby in Kitchen
  • Barbie Fashionista Dress up
  • Frozen Christmas Hairstyle
  • Ice Cream
  • Granny SpongeBob Evil
  • Rope Cut
  • Happy Glass
  • Chess
  • Spin the Bottle
  • Candy Crush
  • Train Snake
  • Push Block
  • Castle Defense
  • Trivia Crack
  • Snow Racing.io
  • Billiards Club Las Vegas
  • Garden Tales
  • Five in a Row
  • Trivia Quiz
  • Subway Surfers

The post Best Facebook Games List 2020 – Facebook Instant Games appeared first on Bingdroid.

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Afrobeat can never die like reggae or makossa – Godfrey Eguakun

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By Ayo Onikoyi

The big boss at Monkey Media House Records, popularly known as MMH Records and TRONIQ Incorporation, Godfrey Eguakun has given an insight on the future of Afrobeat genre of music, stating emphatically that the genre cannot suffer the same fate as reggae or Makossa which had a long spell of reign then died out.All

“Reggae music was from the 60s, got really big in the 70s and 80s, which was before me or when I was a toddler. What I do know about it is the fact that it was a sound widely perceived as the voice of the oppressed, addressing social and economic injustice. At the time, there’s some sort of musicianship needed as a reggae artist/musician.

They can actually hold keys and sing, maybe play instruments… today, all that has been replaced with technology. Makossa on the other hand was a great feel good music but was arguably one dimensional. Afrobeat, Afropop, Afrofusion, Afro-soul or whatever we want to call it is relatively new and we don’t quite know it in its entirety, so I think it is too early to ask if afrobeats will die or not, but one thing we have learnt about afrobeats so far is its ability to adapt to other genres of music and create something novel, create genres that in fact don’t exist as far as our prior knowledge of music goes.

We have seen this play out in several cross continental collaborations of some of the biggest afrobeat artists. So, the question I think should be if afrobeat will evolve into unknown and novel genre, and how soon this transition, or this evolution will take. But in the sense of “dying”, that is not happening anytime soon,” he said when asked about the future of Afrobeat in a chat with Potpourri.

Eguakun who has two notable artistes, Akaycentric and Kreatunez signed to his MMH and Oxlade to the TRONIQ label also took a look at the music industry, identifying the legal framework of the country as the major impediment to its growth.

Geofrey Eduakun is an Edo State indigene, born in Osogbo and currently lives in the United States. He’s a Mechanical Engineer by day working on jet engine designs and manufacturing and a businessman by night, managing and running multiple businesses.

His Monkey Media House Records is an indie Record Label founded in 2017. Outside making and selling records, he does Talent Development, Talent Management, Artiste Promotions/Media Management and digital music distribution. His TRONIQ Inc on the other hand was founded in mid 2019, it’s a digital indie recording company, shaped around traditional models.

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New Species Of Moroccan Stegosaur Is The Oldest Confirmed Find

A few vertebrae and an upper arm bone are all it has taken for palaeontologists at London’s Natural History Museum to announce a new species of stegosaur. Moreover, the discovery from the Middle Atlas Mountains in Morocco is the oldest example we’ve found of the dinosaurs famous for their spiny backs, replacing the Chinese Huayangosaurus taibaii.

Dr Susannah Maidment determined the bones are consistent enough with other stegosaurs to be placed in the same suborder, but sufficiently different to require a new genus, leading her to name the find Adratiklit boulahfa. The genus name means “mountain lizard” in Berber, while the species refers to the location where the find was made.

“The discovery of Adratiklit boulahfa is particularly exciting as we have dated it to the middle Jurassic. Most known stegosaurs date from far later in the Jurassic period, making this the oldest definite stegosaur described and helping to increase our understanding of the evolution of this group of dinosaurs,” Maidment said in a statement

Besides its age, A. boulahfa is notable for being the first stegosaur found from North Africa. Stegosaurs have been found both in Southern Africa and across North America, Europe, and Asia (which made up the supercontinent Laurasia in the Jurassic), so it is not surprising to discover one in Morocco. On the other hand, the place the bones put A. boulahfa in the stegosaur family tree was less expected.

“Despite being from the African continent our phylogenetic analysis indicated that, surprisingly, Adratiklit is more closely related to European stegosaurs than it is to the two genera known from southern Africa,” said University of Brighton PhD student Tom Raven, co-author with Maidment of the Gondwana Research paper describing the find. The paper names Dacentrurus and Miragaia as the European stegosaurs that most closely resemble Adratiklit.

Fay Grant
From this limited collection of vertebrae and an arm bone, palaeontologists have identified a new species and placed it in the stegosaur family tree. Fay Grant, © Trustees of the Natural History Museum

Stegosaurs were one of the main groups of thyreophorans, or armored dinosaurs. They thrived throughout Laurasia in the late Jurassic and early Cretaceous, but few have been found in Gondwana. The paper proposes the relative absence of stegosaurs from the Gondwanan record does not reflect true scarcity, but a combination of limited sites suited to preserving them, and less excavation of those that exist. The fact A. boulahfa predates any known Laurasian stegosaur is evidence for this.

“What is exciting about this is that there could be many more thyreophoran dinosaurs to find in places that until now have not been excavated,” Maidment added.

As interesting and scientifically significant as this all is, the discovery sheds no light on the question that has puzzled dinosaur experts and the public alike: How did stegosaurs have sex without one getting impaled on the other’s sharp bits?

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