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Facebook made exceptions to its Taliban ban: report

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Facebook made exceptions to its Taliban ban: report
  • Facebook bans accounts of the Taliban, who took power in Afghanistan in August.
  • Internal memos seen by The Intercept show that Facebook has made niche exceptions to this ban.
  • Facebook confirmed that it had made occasional exceptions, including for two posts about COVID-19.

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Facebook has occasionally made exceptions to the ban on Taliban content since the group took power in Afghanistan in August, internal documents reviewed by The Interception to reveal.

The Taliban, who announced they had formed an interim government in Afghanistan in early September, are on Facebook’s list of “Dangerous Persons and Organizations,” and a company spokesperson told Insider in August, “We are removing accounts created by or on behalf of the Taliban are maintained and forbid praise, support and representation from them.”

The Intercept reviewed internal Facebook memos reporting times when the company allowed Afghan government departments to post. A late September memo included an exception for the Department of the Interior so it could post about traffic regulations.

“We are assessing the public value of this content to outweigh the potential harm,” the memo said, according to The Intercept.

In another memo from the same period, Facebook allowed the Department of Health to publish two messages containing information about COVID-19.

Facebook also appears to have made time-limited exceptions. An internal memo reviewed by The Intercept said government figures could recognize the Taliban as the “official government of Afghanistan” for 12 days in August without risking Facebook suspension.

From late August to early September, users were allowed to post Taliban public statements without “discussing, reporting on or condemning them neutrally,” The Intercept reported, citing an internal memo.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to The Intercept that the company had made some exceptions to its Taliban ban.

“We continue to review content and pages against our policies and last month removed several pages, including those of the Department of the Interior, the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Works. However, we have some content about the delivery of essential public services allowed in Afghanistan, including, for example, two posts in August on the Afghan Health Page,” the spokesperson said.

Ashley Jackson, co-director of the Center for the Study of Armed Groups, told The Intercept that Facebook’s approach to deciding what Taliban content is allowed seemed arbitrary. “The Islamic emirate of Afghanistan has absolute power over the government. It makes little sense to pick and choose,” she said.

Jackson criticized the company in August when it shut down a Taliban-run WhatsApp hotline for reporting looting and lawlessness. “If the Taliban can’t use WhatsApp all of a sudden, you’re just isolating Afghans, making it harder for them to communicate in an already panicked situation,” Jackson said. The Financial Times at the time.

Facebook is not the only social media platform banned by the Taliban. YouTube said in August it had a long-standing policy of terminating accounts owned or controlled by the Taliban. However, Twitter allows Taliban figures to use its platform.

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100 passengers entered Ireland with no negative Covid-19 test result since new rules were introduced on Sunday

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100 passengers entered Ireland with no negative Covid-19 test result since new rules were introduced on Sunday

One hundred passengers have entered Ireland without a negative Covid-19 test since new rules were introduced on Sunday, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

Ears about the Omicron variant led to the introduction of new travel restrictions requiring all travelers to Ireland from abroad to undergo a negative PCR or antigen test.

The Oireachtas Commission on Transport heard today that 100 passengers arriving at Dublin Airport have been referred to Gardaí for non-compliance since the rules came into force.

Those who arrived without testing had to undergo Covid-19 testing and self-isolate.

Despite the arrival of passengers without negative tests, the committee heard that there were no sanctions for airlines that failed to ensure that their passengers had valid tests.

“The obligation is initially with the traveling passenger, but the airline checks upon boarding that each passenger has a receipt indicating that the passenger locator form has been completed and that there is a negative test,” said Fintan Towey, deputy secretary at the United Nations. Ministry of Transport.

“There is a legal obligation for carriers to carry out the checks, but it is not a criminal provision.

“So carriers don’t commit an offense if they accidentally let a person board without the required test.”

Mr Towey said it is likely legal problems would arise if it became a criminal offense for airlines that failed to comply with passengers.

“What we’re trying to ensure is that we have a system that works and provides appropriate safeguards,” he said.

“I think if we wanted to make a provision in the legislation about the infringement, with regard to the role of carriers, I think that would put us in legal trouble, trying to establish exactly what the requirements would be, and what a violation could be for carriers.

“It would also raise the question of what kind of data retention carriers might need to engage to defend their conviction, in terms of checks that can be made in relation to a person or passenger.”

Oonagh Buckley, deputy secretary at the Justice Department, said there was generally a “very high level of compliance” among passengers and airlines.

She added: “The new requirements or controls have only been in place since the early hours of Sunday morning.

“However, at the time, to provide some reassurance to the committee, some 80,000 passengers had emigrated via Dublin Airport.

“In that mix, we always checked more than 10 pc. But in fact we checked 100 pc of the passengers on many flights.

“We referred only 100 people to An Garda Síochána in those three days because they did not meet the testing requirements.”

Of the 100, 95 had no documentation, while another five had tests that were invalid.

She said about three quarters of that number arrived in Ireland from Britain, in small numbers and spread over numerous flights.

“The majority would have been with Irish airlines,” she said.

She added: “I can’t really say how they got through it. We don’t dwell on the boarding procedures at other airports, in other countries.”

She said that during the pandemic “often there will have been one or two, people manage to get through it”.

“It’s not that that’s intentional, it’s just that people are rushing or people are busy,” she added.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say there’s anything particularly evil about it in that regard.”

Committee chair and Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell called on officials to engage with airlines about the need for substantive controls.

“I would like to ask you to contact the airlines that fly on these routes, to reinforce the need for proper testing and checks before boarding,” he said.

“The fact that it’s the UK, our closest neighbour, means they’re regular flights.”

He added: “We are putting a huge burden on people returning to Ireland, in terms of testing now.

“If there’s that burden when it comes to getting pre-departure PCR and antigen testing, then it’s only fair that the system works.

“You don’t want anyone slipping through the Omicron variant undetected while there’s a huge burden on the rest of the population.”

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Visa lottery winners lose their unique opportunity to come to the US

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Visa lottery winners lose their unique opportunity to come to the US

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Visa lottery winners lose their unique opportunity to come to the US

Born in war-torn Yemen, pictured with his child, Mohammed Alarefi has faced barricades coming to the United States despite him and his wife winning the US Diversity Visa Lottery three times. Photo courtesy of Mohammed Alarefi

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) — When Mohammed Alarefi, born in war-torn Yemen, won the US visa lottery in May 2018, it was the realization of his childhood dream: a chance to move to America.

“I registered every year until the miracle happened and I was chosen” for a diversity visa for fiscal 2019,” said Alarefi.

The Diversity Visa Lottery program allows people to be randomly selected from countries with low immigration rates to the United States to obtain visas.

Up to 55,000 diversity visas are available each year, and the selected ones can bring spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, which are called derivatives.

But the timing of Alarefi’s miracle couldn’t have been worse.

Winners and their derivatives must complete the visa application process within the fiscal year for which they were selected. Fiscal years run from October 1 to September 30.

Anyone who does not obtain their diversity visa before the end of the fiscal year will lose their place. With less than a 1% chance of being selected in the visa lottery, failing to get the visa on time means they have most likely lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

In January 2017, President Donald Trump had signed an executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Yemen. That was just the beginning of an assortment of barriers that prevented those who won diversity visas from coming to the United States.

National security cited

The justification for Trump’s ban was national security, but critics attacked the rule as targeting Muslims. Although the courts initially blocked it and changed the banned countries list several times, the Supreme Court eventually allowed the ban to take effect.

And while it was only an entry ban, the State Department refused to issue diversity visas to lottery winners from countries covered by the ban. When that was in place, Alarefi and his family were unable to obtain visas until the fiscal year ended.

“This is where my dream was shattered for the first time,” Alarefi said.

But he refused to give up and applied for the visa lottery again the following year. Despite the odds, he won again in the fiscal diversity lottery for 2020. And again, he and his family couldn’t get visas.

“They destroyed us and destroyed our dreams without the slightest responsibility,” Alarefi said.

Solmaz Vosog, 2019 visa lottery winner from Iran, said she feels that her family has been discriminated against.

When they found out they couldn’t get visas because of the travel ban, “my astonished son asked, ‘Is there still religious and racial discrimination in America?'” Vosog said. “The constitution says that all people are equal.”

Biden ends ban

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden issued a presidential proclamation ending Trump’s travel ban, calling it “a blot on our national conscience.”

However, Biden’s administration later announced that diversity visa winners whose status had expired during the ban would have to re-enter the lottery, citing federal law limiting their eligibility to one fiscal year.

Incredibly, Alarefi’s wife won the visa lottery in the Diversity Visa Program for fiscal 2021.

“My wife and my child and I celebrated days and nights,” he said.

But even though the travel ban expired in January, Alarefi’s family still couldn’t get a visa. More and more barriers blocked immigrants who had won lotteries.

They were not alone. A series of bans, policies and delays related to COVID-19 caused many 2020 and 2021 winners to forfeit their chance to come to the United States.

That’s because on April 20, 2020, Trump issued Presidential Proclamation 10014, which suspended entry of most immigrants, including visa lottery winners and their derivatives, into the United States to protect the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

The State Department interpreted this as a freeze on not only immigrant entry, but also the issuance of immigrant visas.

COVID-19 causes ban

Also, between January 2020 and April 2021, Trump and then Biden issued presidential proclamations suspending entry by non-Americans from numerous countries to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In March 2020, the State Department began to interpret these regional entry bans as a ban on issuing visas to persons subject to the ban.

Biden ended the regional bans on October 25.

Different COVID-19 policies impacted visa processing.

In March 2020, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ordered all diplomatic and consular posts “to immediately suspend all routine non-immigrant and immigrant visa services” due to the pandemic.

Consular posts were limited to providing “mission-critical and emergency visa services,” which did not include processing diversity visas.

After consular posts were allowed to resume their services, the State Department implemented a tiered prioritization system in November 2020 that put diversity visas in the bottom lane.

This arrangement remained in effect even after Biden reversed Proclamation 10014 and the State Department ended it only in November.

Differentiated prioritization significantly limited the number of diversity visas issued. By the end of fiscal 2021, the State Department had issued only about 15,000 of the nearly 55,000 visas allocated for the year.

Worse than before

Many visa lottery winners who were unable to obtain a visa say they were in worse shape than before, as many had given up their education and work or even sold their homes in anticipation of moving to the United States.

A State Department official said the phased priority scheme was implemented because the department had reduced capacity to process visa applications due to the pandemic and chose to prioritize family reunification.

Curtis Morrison, a lawyer who represents visa lottery winners who are suing the government for not being able to get visas because of COVID-19 policies, criticized the Biden administration for continuing some of Trump’s policies and fighting in court to sue. prevent them from issuing expired diversity visas.

“They want to keep these immigrants on diversity visas out,” Morrison said. “Why that is, I have no idea, because Biden was walking on a platform that said he would increase diversity visa grants, but he’s fighting those who have been assigned. It makes no sense.”

A State Department official said it is the Department’s policy to try and issue as many of the approximately 55,000 diversity visas available each fiscal year, but “there is currently no legal authority or mechanism to control the Department. of Foreign Affairs on its own initiative to provide for [diversity visa] applicants from previous years with an opportunity to request a reconsideration of their eligibility for a diversity visa.”

some hope

There is hope for some visa lottery winners, thanks to a series of lawsuits in which judges have ordered the State Department to either issue a number of diversity visas or set aside a certain amount pending the outcome of a lawsuit.

But for the vast majority of winners, their only hope is the language in the current version of the Build Back Better law.

It would make 2017 through 2021 diversity visas available to winners and derivatives who were denied visas or entry due to Trump’s travel ban or who were unable to obtain visa interviews or enter the country due to COVID-19 or due to bans, policies, and delays in processing related to the pandemic.

However, Morrison said he is concerned the language won’t make it into the final draft of the bill, as diversity visa winners don’t have as much support as other categories of immigrants, such as universities looking to bring in international students or Big Tech seeking to bring in people on work visas. .

“I don’t want any of my clients to have false hopes,” Morrison said. “I would hate it if they were left in the dark, wondering whether or not they will get relief from Congress when I know our Congress just isn’t known for that.”

However, Alarefi is not giving up hope.

“Our dream is simple: just emigrate to America,” he said.

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Meta: parent company Facebook and Instagram applaud new AI system to detect malicious content | Science and tech news

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Meta: parent company Facebook and Instagram applaud new AI system to detect malicious content |  Science and tech news

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has announced a new AI system called a “Few-Shot Learner” that can be used to detect malicious content without months of training.

Months followed in which the company has been criticized for putting its own profits ahead of the well-being of its users – something that it has denied.

among the many criticism from whistleblower Frances Haugen were that Meta’s automated tools for flagging malicious content on Facebook and Instagram to human moderators were not effective enough.

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Whistleblower Claims Facebook ‘Makes’ Genocide Possible’

Now Meta says it has developed a new type of AI technology called a Few-Shot Learner (FSL), which can adapt to recognize evolving types of malicious content “within weeks instead of months.”

Training algorithms to recognize certain types of content is a major barrier to moderation on platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

The volume of user-generated content on these platforms — which amounts to many millions of posts per day — is beyond what less than an army of human moderators could analyze.

According to Meta, the value of the FSL is that it will allow the company to implement new moderation policies without having to train the algorithm on thousands, if not millions, of examples of content that people have already reviewed and labeled as types of posts that should be blocked. .

“We tested FSL for some relatively new, real integrity issues,” the company said.

“For example, a recent task was to identify content that shares misleading or sensational information that is likely to discourage COVID-19 vaccinations.”

As an example, it showed a message with the headline “Vaccine or DNA Changer?” which it suggested would not be detected as sensational by traditional AI systems that analyze the meaning of sentences.

“In another separate task, the new AI system improved an existing classification that flags content that comes close to inciting violence,” it added, with the sample post featuring an image asking, “Does that man need all his teeth?”

Meta said the traditional systems might miss these kinds of ignition points because they were unusual — the reference to DNA alteration or teeth to imply violence wasn’t something the systems had seen before.

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Sky News investigates abuse in custody in Myanmar

Meta says the FSL can work in more than 100 languages ​​- something that was also a challenge for the content moderators.

The company before admitted not to tackle incendiary messages from Myanmar’s military targeting the country’s minority Rohingya Muslim population.

In March 2018, a UN investigator accused Facebook of having been used to incite violence and racial hatred against the Rohingya — violence the UN called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

On Wednesday, the social media platform banned an additional set of accounts, groups and pages associated with companies linked to Myanmar’s military, which now controls the country.

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