Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Suddenly Vanished

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Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Suddenly Vanished

As we reported late Thursday evening, the death toll from the viral outbreak on mainland China has surpassed 600. With global markets once again in the red, Bloomberg reports that Beijing has silenced two of the citizen journalists responsible for much of the horrifying footage seeping onto western social media.

As BBG’s reporter explains, Chinese citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin have effectively been “the world’s eyes and ears” inside Wuhan (much of the film produced by American news organizations has consisted of drone footage). In recent days, SCMP and other news organizations reporting on the ground and publishing in English have warned that Beijing has stepped up efforts to censor Chinese social media after allowing citizens to vent their frustrations and share news without the usual scrutiny.

On Wednesday, China said its censors would conduct “targeted supervision” on the largest social media platforms including Weibo, Tencent’s WeChat and ByteDance’s Douyin. All in an effort to mask the dystopian nightmare that life in cities like Wuhan has become.

But that brief period of informational amnesty is now over, apparently. Fang posted a dramatic video on Friday showing him being forcibly detained and dragged off to a ‘quarantine’. He was detained over a video showing corpses piled up in a Wuhan hospital. However, he has already been released.

Chen, meanwhile, seems to have vanished without a trace, and is believed to still be in government detention. We shared one of Chen’s more alarming videos documenting the severe medical supply shortages and outnumbered medical personnel fighting a ‘losing battle’ against the outbreak.

The crackdown on these journalists comes amid an outpouring of public anger over the death of a doctor who was wrongly victimized by police after attempting to warn the public about the outbreak. Beijing tried to cover up the death, denying it to the western press before the local hospital confirmed.

The videos supplied by the two citizen journos have circulated most freely on twitter, which is where most in-the-know Chinese go for their latest information about the outbreak. Many “hop” the “great firewall” via a VPN.

“There’s a lot more activity happening on Twitter compared with Weibo and WeChat,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. There has been a Chinese community on Jack Dorsey’s short-message platform since before President Xi Jinping rose to power, she added, but the recent crackdown has weakened that social circle.

Chen has now been missing for more than 24 hours, according to several friends in contact with BBG News.

Chen has been out of contact for a prolonged period of time. His friends posted a message on his Twitter account saying he has been unreachable since 7 p.m. local time on Thursday. In a texted interview, Bloomberg News’s last question to Chen was whether he was concerned about his safety as he’s among the few people reporting the situation on the front lines.

It’s all part of the great crackdown that Beijing is enforcing, even as the WHO continues to praise the Communist Party for its ‘transparency’.

“After lifting the lid briefly to give the press and social media some freedom,” said Wang about China’s ruling Communist Party, the regime “is now reinstating its control over social media, fearing it could lead to a wider-spread panic.”

With a little luck, the world might soon learn Chen’s whereabouts. Then again, there’s always the chance that he’s never heard from again.


Tyler Durden

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Facebook keeps policy protecting political ads | ABS-CBN News

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Facebook logos are seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019. Johanna Geron, Reuters/file

SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.

The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.

“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”

Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.

The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Donald Trump’s campaign that attacked Joe Biden’s record on Ukraine.

“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”

But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.

On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit micro-targeting, but still thought the policy fell short.

“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Other groups, however, said Facebook had been more thoughtful about political ads than its industry peers.

“Facebook opted against limiting ad targeting, because doing so would have unnecessarily restricted a valuable tool that campaigns of all sizes rely on for fundraising, registering voters, building crowds and organizing volunteers,” said Tara McGowan, chief executive of Acronym, a non-profit group that works on voter organization and progressive causes.

Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the reelection of Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump.

But Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Trump’s reelection, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”

2020 The New York Times Company

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Profiles: 4 Twitter executives that visited Nigeria with CEO, Jack Dorsey

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On Thursday, 7th of November 2019, co-founder and CEO of social media service, Twitter, and mobile payments company, Square, Jack Dorsey, came to Lagos, Nigeria on the first leg of an African tour that will span Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa.

The next day in Lagos, Jack met with entrepreneurs at the the Bosun Tijan-led Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) and afterwards headed to the University of Lagos (Unilag).

He also visited Andela and ended the day with a well-attended town hall meeting at the Techpoint Africa headquarters in Lagos.

The 14-man Twitter entourage included four executive members asides Jack Dorsey.

Kayvon Beykpour

Kayvon Beykpour is the co-founder and CEO of Twitter’s video streaming application, Periscope.

Beykpour started Periscope with Joe Bernstein in early 2014. Less than a year later, in January 2015, and before it publicly launched, the app was acquired by Twitter.

In 2017, Beykpour started overseeing all the video initiatives at Twitter as a product lead.

During the town hall meeting, Techpoint invited a Nigerian engineer, Dara Oladosu, to present the solution to Jack Dorsey. Oladosu had built a Twitter bot, called Quoted Replies, that allows users see quoted replies on their tweets.

Suggested Read: Quoted Replies: The viral Twitter bot built by a Nigerian

After the presentation, Beykpour called Oladosu back and offered him a job on the spot.

“I would love for you to maybe consider come joining the company [Twitter],” Beykpour said.

“Things went way better than I expected”. @dara_tobi, creator of @QuotedReplies, reacts to getting a job offer from Twitter. He also discusses the fate of his viral Twitter bot in this interview https://t.co/ZVQKwH6mc3 pic.twitter.com/1wgYOxjHv5

— Techpoint Africa (@Techpointdotng) November 9, 2019

Parag Agrawal

Parag Agrawal is the chief technical officer (CTO) at Twitter.

As an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, as well as having a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University, Parag was chosen in 2018 to lead the technology team of the micro-blogging site after working for Twitter as a distinguished software engineer for over six years.

According to Parag’s LinkedIn profile, he assumed the CTO position in October 2017, after six years of being in his previous role.

Before that, he focused on research in Microsoft, Yahoo!, and AT&T labs up until October 2011 when he joined Twitter.

According to Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC), Parag’s contributions included “leading efforts to increase the relevance of tweets on Twitter users’ timelines using artificial intelligence.”

Parag is one of the people responsible for Twitter’s foray into the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) space, and may have played a major part in utilising the technology to automate campaigns on the platform. Something that Jack Dorsey has cited as perhaps the single biggest improvement around elections since he became CEO of the company he co-founded.

During their visit to Techpoint Africa’s HQ, Parag made it clear that Twitter is looking outside the Bay Area for engineering talent.

“We’re looking to have half of our engineers out of San Francisco,” said the CTO.

TJ Adeshola

TJ Adeshola is the head of US Sports Partnerships at Twitter. He assumed the role after three years as the head of Sports League Partnerships.

In 2012, Adeshola left sports channel ESPN to join Twitter as a senior account officer. Before his current role, Adeshola managed Twitter’s partnerships with major US sports leagues, including the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA), and Major League Baseball (MLB).

He is also the executive sponsor of Blackbirds, Twitter’s business resource group that celebrates and encourages diverse perspectives.

Adeshola is Nigerian by origin, but he is not the only Nigerian working at Twitter.

Michael Montano studied electrical engineering at The University of Toronto, graduating in 2008.

After his first startup, IPartee, which he co-founded with a roommate back in high school, Mike went on to participate in the 2008 Y Combinator (YC) summer programme to start BackType, a service that lets people find, follow, and share comments from across the web.

At YC, Mike learned how important it is to build something that people want and that building something that’s useful right away is a huge advantage.

He joined Twitter in 2011 as an engineer, and after a major reorganisation by Jack on June 28, 2018, Mike was tasked with leading the company’s engineering team.

Even as Twitter’s lead engineer, Mike admits to working from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He claims he is more productive on those days and able to spend more time on deeper, more strategic work. Tweeting under the hashtag #WhyIWorkFromHome last month, Mike explained that his journey into remote work was initially restricted to afternoons before he made it an all-day affair.

Before IPartee, Mike started a design and development company called, UrbanTwelve, but he doesn’t consider that to be a startup.

New Report: Nigerian startups raised a combined $38.01m in Q3 2019, just 7% higher than Q3 2018. Download the report.

Attend Techpoint Startup School, a 5-day intensive training for budding African tech founders and CEOs. Classes start 2nd of December. Enrol now.

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Highlights from the town hall meeting with Jack Dorsey and the Twitter team at Techpoint Africa

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A couple of days ago, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, made his presence in Nigeria known through a tweet.

One of the arranged engagements for Jack — who is also the co-founder and CEO of Square — was a town hall meeting at Techpoint’s headquarters in Lagos.

Jack with Twitter’s CTO, Parag Agrawal; lead engineering team, Micheal Montano; and Twitter product lead and Periscope co-founder, Kayvon Beykpour took turns responding to questions from people at the meeting.

“I want to understand the challenges of starting a company here and figure out a way I can support,” Jack claimed.

He also revealed that there are plans to hire Nigerians to work remotely for Twitter as well as Square.

“Speaking specifically about Nigeria, in the future, many of our customers will be from here [more] than there are today. There is [a] massive opportunity here for Twitter because Nigeria has many technical talents and impactful public conversations happen here too,” Parag added.

Here are highlights of the town hall meeting.

Twitter’s product lead offered Dara Oladosu a job at Twitter

After listening to Dara Oladosu talk about his Twitter bot — @QuotedReplies — Twitter’s product lead, Kayvon Beykpour offered him a job on the spot.

Kayvon went as far as offering Dara his seat on the panel.

And in what seemed like a confirmation of Kayvon’s job offer, Jack asked Dara to wait behind when Adewale Yusuf — Techpoint’s CEO — asked Techpointers to join the Twitter team for a group picture.

Parag had earlier pointed out that the company is working on decentralising its workforce.

Interestingly, Kayvon joined Twitter, along with Micheal after it acquired his startup, Periscope.

There are not enough Nigerians on Twitter

Jack, reacting to a question of Nigerian representation on Twitter, simply quipped, “not enough.”

Corroborating this, Kayvon added, “I’ll just say not enough, and that’s one of the reasons we’re here. We sense the impact that can be made is relative to the number of people.”

These responses pointed to the fact that the micro-blogging platform only has a small fraction of the 98.39 million active Internet users in Nigeria.

Jack to spend six months in Nigeria

Responding to a question from the moderator, Jack revealed that he would be spending six months in Nigeria in 2020.

“I want to live here for three to six months next year, full time, no travelling.”

However, Jack didn’t mention what he would be doing in the country during this period.

Practical tips on how CEOs can manage their startups

Sharing his experience as CEO of two companies, Jack touched on how setting priorities and creating team dynamics can be key to a company’s success.

He further stated that CEOs should ensure decisions are made with rich context that can properly address solutions.

He went on to say entrepreneurs shouldn’t set mediocre goals.

“We often raise bars on what we think is possible. We do things that scare us.”

“Remote work helps me connect well with my team.”

Jack mentioned how working from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays helps him bond properly with his team.

He added that this gives him ample time to have elaborate discussions regarding the company’s growth.

“Working remotely twice a week gives me so much time to focus. When I invite these three over, we set apart three hours to have deeper conversations and make tactical plans we may not have in the office environment.”

New Report: Nigerian startups raised a combined $38.01m in Q3 2019, just 7% higher than Q3 2018. Download the report.

Attend Techpoint Startup School, a 5-day intensive training for budding African tech founders and CEOs. Classes start 2nd of December. Enrol now.

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“Things went way better than I expected,” creator of Quoted Replies reacts to getting a job offer from Twitter

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Yesterday, Techpoint hosted Twitter CEO and co-founder, Jack Dorsey and his team at a town hall meeting with local entrepreneurs.

Alongside Jack, other Twitter executives, including Kayvon Beykpour, Product Lead and co-founder of Periscope; Parag Agrawal, Chief Technology Officer (CTO); and Mike Montano, Engineering Team Lead, all took turns to answer questions regarding Twitter’s plans for Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

At the event, the Twitter executives were introduced to Quoted Replies, the viral Twitter-based bot that helps you find quoted replies of tweets without having to go through the hassle of copying, pasting, and searching.

While telling the story of how he built the Quoted Replies bot, Dara Oladosu revealed that it garnered over 40 million impressions in October alone.

Kayvon Beykpour was so impressed by Dara’s work that he offered him a job on the spot to help build a native “quoted tweet” feature for Twitter.

When @kayvz asked @QuotedReplies to come work at Twitter. #TechpointMeetsJack #JackInNigeria pic.twitter.com/8nhCAly4r6

— Techpoint Africa (@Techpointdotng) November 8, 2019

Earlier on, CTO Parag Agrawal had mentioned Twitter’s plans to decentralise its workforce into six countries across Africa. It appears the spontaneous job offer was a part of said plans.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” an ecstatic Dara said later during a chat with Techpoint. “I attended the event with the hopes of figuring out solutions to important questions other attendees might have. I also wanted to have a feel of what it’s like to be around the CEO of Twitter. Things went way better than expected.”

Interestingly, as soon as Dara got offered the job, Kayvon invited him to join the Twitter executives on stage.

Dara sat with them throughout the rest of the evening and was encouraged to answer a question from the audience.

The fate of Quoted Replies

Granted that the Quoted Replies bot has become a very useful Twitter tool used daily by thousands of people all over the world, it was only a matter of time before Twitter built its own native feature. And no one knows this more than Dara.

“The bot will most likely die off. Slowly I guess, depending on how quickly the native option for Quoted Replies can be available on Twitter. But I believe the Quoted Replies spin-off apps (built by Hamza Fetuga and Abdulhafeez Sagaya) will continue to be used. They can choose to monetise it how they see fit.”

Regardless, Dara is excited about the idea of integrating Quoted Replies as a native feature on Twitter because according to him, while the bot is quite helpful to users, it has some limitations right now.

While he’s not exactly clear on the exact role he’d be playing at Twitter, Dara says he’s looking forward to “contributing towards making sure that Twitter users, and developers who create software using Twitter’s APIs, get easy access to all the useful information that they might need.”

We congratulate Dara and wish him all the best.

New Report: Nigerian startups raised a combined $38.01m in Q3 2019, just 7% higher than Q3 2018. Download the report.

Attend Techpoint Startup School, a 5-day intensive training for budding African tech founders and CEOs. Classes start 2nd of December. Enrol now.

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Twitter announces ban on all political ads – TheCable Lifestyle

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Twitter will be banning all political ads globally, starting November 22nd, according to tweets by Jack Dorsey, the microblogging platform’s CEO, on Wednesday.

The ban, according to Dorsey, comes on the back of the growing criticism over misinformation from politicians on social media.

He also explained reasons for the ban, saying that internet advertising portends “risks to politics” — though it is effective for commercial advertisers.

“We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons,” he wrote in a flurry of tweets.

“While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics.”

We’ve made the decision to stop all political advertising on Twitter globally. We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought. Why? A few reasons…🧵

— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019

A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.

— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019

While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.

— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019

Dorsey said a full policy will be unveiled to the public on November 15.

“We’re well aware we‘re a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem. Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow,” he wrote.

We’re well aware we‘re a small part of a much larger political advertising ecosystem. Some might argue our actions today could favor incumbents. But we have witnessed many social movements reach massive scale without any political advertising. I trust this will only grow.

— jack 🌍🌏🌎 (@jack) October 30, 2019

According to the CEO of the microblogging platform, the decision was taken to head off potential problems from “machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes.”

The company’s decision comes at about the same time when Facebook, its social media rival, ruled out a ban on political ads.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, had premised his decision on the fact that a ban on political advertising would hand incumbent politicians control of the media.

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