Facebook is under renewed scrutiny this weekend, accused of continuing to allow activists to incite ethnic massacres in Ethiopia’s escalating war.
Analysis by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and the Observer found Facebook is still letting users post content inciting violence through hate and misinformation. This is despite being aware it helps directly fuel tensions, prompting claims of inaction and indifference against the social media giant.
The investigation tracked down relatives who have linked Facebook posts to the killings of loved ones. One senior member of Ethiopia’s media accused the firm of “standing by and watching the country fall apart”.
The accusations arrive amid intensifying focus on Facebook’s content moderation decisions, with it previously being accused of playing a role in the ethnic persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
On Wednesday, Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg revealed that former UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, would be president of global affairs, a move designed to help the rebranded company repair its reputation following the testimony of whistleblower Frances Haugen, who said it was “literally fanning ethnic violence” in Ethiopia.
It also comes as Facebook considers launching an independent inquiry into its work in Ethiopia after its oversight board urged it to investigate how the platform had been used to spread hate speech.
TBIJ and Observer investigators also interviewed a number of fact-checkers, civil society organisations and human rights activists in the country. They described Facebook’s support as far less than it should be.
Others said they felt requests for assistance had been ignored and meetings failed to materialise.
These failures, they said, helped to fuel a conflict in which thousands have died and millions been displaced since fighting broke out between government forces and armed opposition groups from the Tigray region in November 2020. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.
Rehobot Ayalew, of the Ethiopian factchecking initiative HaqCheck, said: “Most of the people have low media literacy, so Facebook is considered to be credible.
We come across [Facebook] images that are horrifying and hateful content. You’re not getting the support from the platform itself, that is allowing this kind of content.
They can do more [but] they’re not doing anything.”
Meta rejected the claims, saying it had “invested in safety and security measures” to tackle hate and inflammatory language along with “aggressive steps to stop the spread of misinformation” in Ethiopia.
Among the cases where families believe Facebook’s continued promotion of hate makes it responsible for killings include Gebremichael Teweldmedhin, a Tigrayan jeweller abducted three months ago in Gonder, a city in the Amhara region.
A relative, who said Teweldmedhin was not political, claimed online hate campaigns and calls for violence – particularly on Facebook – played a key role in his suspected killing and many others.
“The worst thing that contributed to their killing are the so-called activists who have been spreading hate on social media,” he said, requesting anonymity.
Some posts, he claimed, would name individuals or even post photos helping create an atmosphere “inciting attacks, killings and displacements”.
He added that the family have been told that Teweldmedhin – who disappeared after trying to stop a mob looting a nephew’s workshop – had been killed and buried in a mass grave.
Teweldmedhin’s family cited one Facebook user in particular: Solomon Bogale, an online activist with more than 86,000 Facebook followers.
Although listed on Facebook as residing in London, Bogale’s social media indicates he has been in Ethiopia since August 2021, with posts of him carrying an assault rifle often accompanied by statements praising the Fano, an Amharan nationalist vigilante group.
One of Teweldmedhin’s family members believed Bogale’s “inciteful posts” had resulted in many attacks on Tigrayans in Gonder. In the weeks before Teweldmedhin’s killing, Bogale called for people to “cleanse” the Amhara territories of the “junta”, a term used by government supporters to refer to Tigrayan forces and Tigrayans more generally.
The post continued: “We need to cleanse the region of the junta lineage present prior to the war!!”
According to TBIJ, the post could be found on Facebook almost four months later, although Meta said it had since “removed any content which violated our policies”.
When contacted over Facebook, Bogale denied that any Tigrayans were killed in Gonder in early November, saying all Tigrayans in the city were safe. Bogale added that he would delete the posts cited by TBIJ.
Less than a month after Teweldmedhin’s disappearance Hadush Gebrekirstos, a 45-year-old who lived in Addis Ababa, was arbitrarily detained by police who heard him speaking Tigrinya.
His body was found two days later, 26 November, close to the police station.
A relative said Gebrekirstos had no political affiliation, but believes that disinformation posted on Facebook played a key role in causing the killing.
“People do not have the ability to verify what was posted on Facebook. Like calling people to kill Tigrinya speaking residents,” they said.
Compounding the concern is that, according to disclosures provided to the US Congress by Haugen, Meta has known about the risks of such problems for years.
In January 2019 an internal report into “On-FB Badness” – a measure of harmful content on the platform – rated the situation in Ethiopia as “severe”, its second-highest category.
Almost a year later Ethiopia had risen to the top of Facebook’s list of countries where it needed to take action.
A presentation dated 10 December 2020 evaluated the risk of societal violence in Ethiopia as “dire” – Meta’s highest threat warning and the only country to receive that ranking.
More than a year on, it is alleged the firm has frequently ignored requests for support from fact-checkers based in the country. Some civil society organisations say they have not met with the company in 18 months.
Multiple sources told the Bureau that Facebook only appointed its first senior policy executive from Ethiopia to work on East Africa in September, a claim contested by Facebook who said it had an “experienced public policy team” dedicated to the region for three years.
Meta does run a third-party fact-checking programme, providing partners with access to internal tools and payment for fact checks. Yet it has not partnered with a single organisation based in Ethiopia to tackle the misinformation surrounding the country’s conflict.
Abel Wabella, founder of HaqCheck, said Meta had failed to support his organisation despite first approaching executives more than a year ago.
The other major independent fact-checking organisation based in Ethiopia, Ethiopia Check, is also not part of Facebook’s partner programme.
Instead, Facebook works with two fact-checking organisations on content from Ethiopia – PesaCheck, which runs a small team in Nairobi, and Agence France-Presse (AFP) – but TBIJ said that both appeared to be based outside the country.
However Facebook challenged the claim, stating that “PesaCheck and AFP have teams based in Ethiopia for fact-checking.”
Although misinformation flagged by PesaCheck and AFP has often been labelled as false or removed by Facebook, content debunked by HaqCheck has largely remained unaltered and free to spread.
This has included false declarations of military victories on both sides, false allegations of attacks on civilians and false claims of captured infiltrators.
“As far as I know, support for fact checkers in Ethiopia by Facebook is almost non-existent,” said the senior person working in Ethiopian media, requesting anonymity.
“Facebook doesn’t pay the attention Ethiopia needs at this crucial moment, and that’s contributing to the ongoing crisis by inflaming hatred and spreading hate speech.”
A number of civil society groups have similar complaints of feeling ignored and sidelined. Facebook organised a meeting with several groups in June 2020, to discuss how the platform could best regulate content before scheduled elections. As of November, two of the organisations involved said they had heard nothing about any subsequent meetings.
Haben Fecadu, a human rights activist who has worked in Ethiopia, said: “There’s really no excuse. I’ve doubted they have invested enough in their Africa content moderation.”
Wabella added: “The problem is not specific to Tigray. Ethiopian citizens from every corner across ethnic groups are severely affected by hateful content circulating online.”
Mercy Ndegwa, Meta’s public policy director for East & Horn of Africa, said: “For more than two years, we’ve invested in safety and security measures in Ethiopia, adding more staff with local expertise and building our capacity to catch hateful and inflammatory content in the most widely spoken languages, including Amharic, Oromo, Somali and Tigrinya.
“As the situation has escalated, we’ve put additional measures in place and are continuing to monitor activity on our platform, identify issues as they emerge, and quickly remove content that breaks our rules.”
The company added that it worked with 80 fact-checking partners in more than 60 languages to review content on Facebook, including Pesa Check and AFP.
Additional reporting by Kat Hall and Zecharias Zelalem
“The Creator”: A Glimpse Into A Future Defined By Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare
By Cindy Porter
In “The Creator” visionary director Gareth Edwards thrusts us into the heart of a dystopian future, where the battle lines are drawn between artificial intelligence and the free Western world.
Set against the backdrop of a post-rebellion Los Angeles, the film grapples with pressing questions about the role of AI in our society.
A Glimpse into a Future Defined by Artificial Intelligence (AI) Warfare
While the narrative treads familiar ground, it is timely, given the rising prominence of artificial intelligence in our daily lives.
A Fusion of Genres
Edwards embarks on an ambitious endeavor, blending elements of science fiction classics with contemporary themes.
The result is a cinematic stew reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Aliens” tinged with shades of “Blade Runner” a dash of “Children of Men,” and a sprinkle of “Akira” This concoction, while intriguing, occasionally veers toward familiarity rather than forging its own distinct identity.
Edwards’ Cinematic Journey
The British filmmaker, known for his foray into doomsday scenarios with the BBC docudrama “End Day” in 2005, has traversed a path from indie gem “Monsters” (2010) to the expansive Star Wars universe with “Rogue One” (2016).
“The Creator” marks another bold step in his repertoire. The film introduces compelling concepts like the posthumous donation of personality traits, punctuated by impactful visuals, and raises pertinent ethical dilemmas. It stands as a commendable endeavor, even if it occasionally falters in execution.
In his pursuit of depth, Edwards at times stumbles into the realm of convolution, leaving the audience grappling with intricacies rather than immersing in the narrative.
While adept at crafting visual spectacles and orchestrating soundscapes, the film occasionally falters in the art of storytelling.
In an era where classic storytelling is seemingly on the wane, some may argue that this approach is emblematic of the times.
AI: Savior or Peril?
“The Creator” leaves us with a question that resonates long after the credits roll: Will artificial intelligence be humanity’s salvation or its undoing? The film’s take on machine ethics leans toward simplicity, attributing AI emotions to programmed responses.
This portrayal encapsulates the film’s stance on the subject – a theme as enigmatic as the AI it grapples with.
Director: Gareth Edwards. Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Madeleine Yuna Boyles, Ken Watanabe. Genre: Science fiction. Release Year: 2023. Duration: 133 minutes. Premiere Date: September 29.
– A breakout hit, “Monsters” showcases Edwards’ talent for blending intimate human drama with towering sci-fi spectacles. Set in a world recovering from an alien invasion, it’s a poignant tale of love amidst chaos.
2. “Rogue One” (2016)
– Edwards helms this epic Star Wars installment, seamlessly integrating new characters with the beloved original trilogy. It’s a testament to his ability to navigate complex narratives on a grand scale.
3. “End Day” (2005)
– This BBC docudrama marked Edwards’ entry into the world of speculative storytelling. Presenting five doomsday scenarios, it set the stage for his later exploration of dystopian futures.
4. “The Creator” (2023)
– Edwards’ latest venture, “The Creator,” immerses audiences in a future fraught with AI warfare. While not without its challenges, it boldly tackles pertinent questions about the role of artificial intelligence in our lives.
5. Potential Future Project
– As Edwards continues to push the boundaries of speculative cinema, audiences eagerly anticipate his next cinematic endeavor, poised to be another thought-provoking addition to his illustrious filmography.
“The Creator” stands as a testament to Gareth Edwards’ unyielding vision and his penchant for exploring the frontiers of speculative cinema.
While it doesn’t shy away from the complexities of AI, it occasionally falters in navigating its intricate narrative.
As we peer into this cinematic crystal ball, we’re left with a stark question: Will artificial intelligence be our beacon of hope, or will it cast a shadow over humanity’s future? Only time will unveil the answer.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Cindy Porter
— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com
Energize Your Property Value: The Surge In Demand For Home EV Charging Points
By Raza H. Qadri (ALI)
In a rapidly evolving real estate landscape, home electric vehicle (EV) charging points have emerged as a coveted feature. Here, we will explore the surge in demand for these charging stations and their potential to transform property value desirability.
Surge in Demand:
Estate agents are witnessing an unprecedented uptick in requests for properties equipped with EV charging points. Rightmove reports a staggering 592% increase in listings mentioning EV chargers since 2019. This summer, Jackson-Stops even incorporated EV charging points into their top-ten must-have property features for the first time.
Adding Value To Property:
Integrating electric vehicle (EV) charging points into residential properties has become a key factor in boosting their market value. According to insights from the National Association of Property Buyers, homes equipped with EV charging facilities can see an uptick in value ranging from £3,000 to £5,000. This trend aligns with the increasing demand for sustainable features in real estate. Rightmove’s Greener Homes report highlights a remarkable 40% surge in listings mentioning EV chargers in comparison to the previous year. Such statistics underscore the significance of these installations as a sought-after feature among buyers.
Beyond the potential increase in property value, homeowners can reap substantial benefits from dedicated EV charging points. These specialized units offer significantly faster charging speeds compared to standard three-pin plugs. With an output of 32 amps/7kw, a dedicated charger can provide up to 28 miles per hour of charging, a substantial improvement over the 9 miles offered by a standard plug.
Moreover, safety considerations play a pivotal role. Standard domestic sockets may not be designed for prolonged high-output usage, potentially leading to overheating and related wiring issues.
Therefore, the integration of a dedicated EV charging point not only adds tangible value to a property but also ensures a safer and more efficient charging experience for homeowners and their electric vehicles.
Benefits Beyond Convenience:
Dedicated charge points offer benefits beyond convenience. According to James McKemey from Pod Point, these units deliver significantly faster charging speeds compared to standard three-pin plugs. Safety considerations also come into play, as standard domestic sockets may not be built for prolonged high-output usage.
Charging an EV at home proves more cost-effective than relying on public charging stations. Smart charging capabilities enable homeowners to take advantage of lower rates, typically offered during off-peak hours, such as at night.
Charger prices vary, ranging from approximately £300 to over £1,000, with installation costs potentially adding another £400 to £600.
Solar integration presents a game-changing opportunity for homeowners seeking both environmental sustainability and financial benefits. The global solar energy capacity reached an astounding 793 gigawatts (GW), illuminating the rapid adoption of this renewable energy source.
For homeowners, integrating solar panels with an electric vehicle (EV) charging point can lead to substantial savings. On average, a standard solar panel system costs around £6,000 to £7,000 per kWp (kilowatt peak), with the typical installation size being 4kWp. This equates to an initial investment of approximately £24,000 to £28,000.
However, the return on investment is impressive. Solar panels can generate roughly 3,200 kWh (kilowatt-hours) per year for a 4kWp system in the UK. With the average cost of electricity sitting at 16.1p per kWh, homeowners can save approximately £515 annually on energy bills.
Moreover, the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) schemeallows homeowners to earn money by exporting excess electricity back to the grid. As of September 2021, the SEG offers rates ranging from 1.79p to 5.24p per kWh. Over the course of 20 years, a solar panel system can generate savings of over £10,000, demonstrating the substantial financial benefits of solar integration. This trend is expected to surge further as advancements in solar technology continue to drive down installation costs and boost energy production.
Regulations and Grants:
Regulations surrounding EV charging point installations vary, particularly for listed buildings, which require planning permission for wall-mounted units. However, for flat owners, renters, and landlords with off-street parking, there’s an opportunity to benefit from government grants.
These grants provide a substantial subsidy, offering £350 or covering 75% of the total installation cost, whichever is lower. This incentive has spurred a surge in installations, with a notable uptick in applications over the past year.
In fact, according to recent data, the number of approved grant applications for EV charging points has risen by an impressive 68% compared to the previous year. This demonstrates a growing recognition of the value and importance of these installations in both residential and rental properties.
Renting Out Your Charging Point:
Renting out your EV charging point also presents a compelling opportunity for homeowners to capitalize on the growing demand for electric vehicle infrastructure.
According to recent market trends, the number of registered electric vehicles worldwide surpassed 14 million in 2023, marking a significant milestone. With projections indicating an annual growth rate of 29% – 34% for the global electric vehicle market, the need for accessible charging solutions is set to skyrocket. In the UK alone, the number of electric vehicles on the road has tripled over the last three years, reaching over 857,000 at the end of 2023.
This surge in EV ownership underscores the potential market for homeowners looking to rent out their charging points. Platforms like JustPark and Co Charger facilitate this process by connecting drivers in need of charging with available charging stations.
By participating in this shared economy, homeowners not only contribute to the expansion of EV infrastructure but also stand to generate a supplementary income stream. This symbiotic relationship between EV owners and charging point hosts aligns with the broader shift towards sustainable transportation solutions.
Finally, we can conclude that the surge in demand for properties with EV charging points signals a shifting paradigm in real estate. With added convenience, cost-efficiency, and potential for monetization, these installations are poised to become a cornerstone of future property value and desirability.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Raza H. Qadri | Science, Technology & Business Contributor “THE VOICE OF EU”
— For more information & news submissions: info@VoiceOfEU.com
Business Transformation Expert Talks About Mass Layoffs
By Clint Bailey – ‘The Voice of EU’
By Clint Bailey – ‘The Voice of EU’
Raza H. Qadri (Ali), a Business Transformation expert and the Founder of Vibertron Technologies, a BizTech company, possesses extensive experience in the tech industry. Throughout his career, he has provided consulting services to both large corporations and SMEs undergoing significant restructuring initiatives.
In a recent interview with Voice of EU, Qadri highlighted the detrimental impact of mass layoffs on mid-career tech professionals and the businesses that implement such measures. He expressed his concern regarding the prevailing trend of widespread workforce reductions, suggesting that it represents a logical misstep.
“Considering the reputation of the tech industry for innovation, I had anticipated greater progress in recent developments. However, it appears that tech companies are regressing, particularly in their dismantling of established departments and structures that were intended to drive future growth.”
[Mass redundancies are] an outdated and traditional practice that most companies turn to as a first resort to create liquidity
Qadri says that most of the employees impacted by layoffs have “approximately 10-11 years of experience” and so are “not really junior staff that are easily replaced,” noting there would be “a loss of skills and knowledge in these companies.”
Additionally, he expresses concern regarding the potential loss of diversity at the technical and software engineering layer. Executives are increasingly focused on building and developing technology utilizing AI systems, which are known to possess biases due to limited training data.
Throughout his extensive experience working across various industries and regions, Qadri has observed that more than 70% of digital transformation initiatives either fall short or fail to achieve their intended outcomes. He emphasizes that one critical component, often overlooked, that can make or break digital transformation is the “people element.”
Emulating Technology & The Copycat Phenomenon
“In my view, the companies seem to be copying each other’s operations strategies” says Qadri. According to Qadri, these companies view the situation as an opportunity to streamline their workforce by letting go of the additional employees they had hired during the pandemic-induced surge. Many believed that the future would be dominated by virtual meetings and peripheral manufacturers would continue to experience significant profits.
However, in contrast to the significant revenue growth experienced by many companies during the global lockdowns, a notable trend has emerged. Numerous organizations have initiated large-scale job cuts.
According to data compiled by Layoffs.fyi, 693 technology businesses have already laid off 197,945 employees this year, with the year not even reaching its midpoint. This figure surpasses the 164,591 individuals laid off by 1,056 companies throughout the entirety of 2022.
Qadri quoted Henry Ford’s aphorism – “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it” – saying that mass redundancies were “an outdated and traditional practice that most companies turn to as a first resort to create liquidity.”
Shareholders, Profitability & Financial Performance Driving the Bottom Line
Qadri said: “The impact of layoffs on profitability may not be immediately evident, as increased expenses and significant severance packages (usually spanning 3-6 months) need to be accounted for in the short term. However, the dismantling of established departments and structures by tech companies is perceived as a regressive step. This approach reflects short-term thinking, lacking a focus on sustainable strategies for the digital future.”
Business Transformation Exec. Raza Qadri Talks About Mass Layoffs.
Qadri, who recently introduced a new remote work tech transformation algorithm MCiHT™ (Multi-Channel Integrated Hybrid Technologies) for Vibertron Consulting Solutions, notes that while companies are laying off people, they are investing billions in AI, IoT, and automation, citing the billions Microsoft has put into OpenAI so far.
In recent months, Microsoft announced its intention to reduce its workforce by 10,000 employees, which constitutes approximately 4% of the company’s total staff. This decision was prompted by Satya Nadella’s remarks highlighting the necessity for productivity enhancements. Microsoft is not the only company taking such measures; other prominent organizations like Salesforce, Amazon, Google, Meta, and several others are also trimming their workforce to align with the excess hiring made during the growth spurred by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
On the company’s most recent earnings call last month, Nadella noted: “During the pandemic, it was all about new workloads and scaling workloads. But pre-pandemic, there was a balance between optimizations and new workloads. So what we’re seeing now is the new workloads start in addition to highly intense optimization drive that we have.”
CFO Amy Hood then quickly responded to this, stating the company had “been through almost a year where that pivot that Satya talked about, from [here] we’re starting tons of new workloads, and we’ll call that the pandemic time, to this transition post, and we’re coming to really the anniversary of that starting. And so to talk to your point, we’re continuing to set optimization. But at some point, workloads just can’t be optimized much further.”
Not singling Microsoft out specifically, but speaking to the point of moves made by tech companies in a ‘maturity phase’. Qadri said, “Layoffs significantly impact this key performance indicator (KPI), despite the fact that these companies may possess substantial reserves. Such measures serve as a swift means to align with investor expectations and share prices, enabling them to quickly optimize their size and structure.”
Is It A Sustainable Approach?
During our conversation, we inquired with Qadri about the notable and unprecedented cuts that occurred at Twitter following Elon Musk’s involvement with the company.
He said: “I find it difficult to believe that only 30 percent of the organization was responsible for managing the entire structure. Even if that were the case, it would require considerable time to evaluate the existing structure, realign roles and responsibilities, and implement transformative measures to enhance efficiency.
The sudden loss of a significant portion of the workforce within a few weeks raises concerns, and I anticipate witnessing a restructuring of the top leadership with the arrival of the new CEO. Considering the online statements made by individuals like him, I am apprehensive about the values and direction that tech leaders of this nature promote.”
“Conversely, individuals whose skills are no longer retained by the tech industry now have opportunities to pursue financial independence and may choose not to revert to traditional roles within companies. Some are exploring avenues as independent contractors, leveraging their technical expertise to manage multiple full-time jobs enabled by remote work.”
Ultimately, the tech industry is “not really in a dire situation financially,” he says. While it “might have some loss of revenue [it is] not in the red yet. Layoffs should be last resort in truly bad financial situations, rather than first resort in slightly uncertain conditions.”
According to Qadri, one of the proposed solutions is for companies to resist the urge to follow the crowd and instead prioritize addressing the people element. By gaining support from investors and other stakeholders, companies can shift their focus towards long-term objectives rather than short-term gains. This entails establishing a robust ecosystem of internal and external stakeholders.
Photo credits: Vibertron.
Clint Bailey — Senior Business & Technology News Editor at ‘The Voice of EU’ & Co-Editor of EU-20 magazine.