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Facebook ‘lets vigilantes in Ethiopia incite ethnic killing’ | Facebook

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.”

Former UK deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg has been appointed president of global affairs at the rebranded Meta.
Former UK deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has been appointed president of global affairs at the rebranded Meta. Photograph: Alamy

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

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Congratulations, Privacy Just Took A Great Leap Out the Window!

Your Data Is Being Used Without Your Permission And Knowledge

The Voice Of EU | In the heart of technological innovation, the collision between intellectual property rights and the development of cutting-edge AI technologies has sparked a significant legal battle. The New York Times has taken legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft, filing a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court. This legal maneuver aims to address concerns surrounding the unauthorized use of the Times’ content for the training of AI models, alleging copyright infringements that could potentially result in billions of dollars in damages.


This legal tussle underlines the escalating tension between technological advancements and the protection of intellectual property. The crux of the lawsuit revolves around OpenAI and Microsoft allegedly utilizing the Times’ proprietary content to advance their own AI technology, directly competing with the publication’s services. The lawsuit suggests that this unauthorized utilization threatens the Times’ ability to offer its distinctive service and impacts its AI innovation, creating a competitive landscape that challenges the publication’s proprietary content.

Amidst the growing digital landscape, media organizations like the Times are confronting a myriad of challenges. The migration of readers to online platforms has significantly impacted traditional media, and the advent of artificial intelligence technology has added another layer of complexity. The legal dispute brings to the forefront the contentious practice of AI companies scraping copyrighted information from online sources, including articles from media organizations, to train their generative AI chatbots. This strategy has attracted substantial investments, rapidly transforming the AI landscape.

Exhibit presented by the New York Times’ legal team of ChatGPT replicating a article after being prompted

The lawsuit highlights instances where OpenAI’s technology, specifically GPT-4, replicated significant portions of Times articles, including in-depth investigative reports. These outputs, alleged by the Times to contain verbatim excerpts from their content, raise concerns about the ethical and legal boundaries of using copyrighted material for AI model training without proper authorization or compensation.

The legal action taken by the Times follows attempts to engage in discussions with Microsoft and OpenAI, aiming to address concerns about the use of its intellectual property. Despite these efforts, negotiations failed to reach a resolution that would ensure fair compensation for the use of the Times’ content while promoting responsible AI development that benefits society.

In the midst of this legal battle, the broader questions surrounding the responsible and ethical utilization of copyrighted material in advancing technological innovations come to the forefront.

The dispute between the Times, OpenAI, and Microsoft serves as a significant case study in navigating the intricate intersection of technological progress and safeguarding intellectual property rights in the digital age.

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Conflicted History: ‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

‘Oppenheimer’ And Its Impact On Los Alamos And New Mexico Downwinders

The Voice Of EU | In the highly anticipated blockbuster movie, “Oppenheimer,” the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man behind the first atomic bomb, is portrayed as a riveting tale of triumph and tragedy.

As the film takes center stage, it also brings to light the often-overlooked impacts on a community living downwind from the top-secret Manhattan Project testing site in southern New Mexico.

A Forgotten Legacy

While the film industry and critics praise “Oppenheimer,” a sense of frustration prevails among the residents of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, who continue to grapple with the consequences of the Manhattan Project. Tina Cordova, a cancer survivor and founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, expresses their feelings, stating, “They invaded our lives and our lands and then they left,” referring to the scientists and military personnel who conducted secret experiments over 200 miles away from their community.

The Consortium, alongside organizations like the Union of Concerned Scientists, has been striving to raise awareness about the impact of the Manhattan Project on New Mexico’s population. Advocates emphasize the necessity of acknowledging the human cost of the Trinity Test, the first atomic blast, and other nuclear weapons activities that have affected countless lives in the state.

The Ongoing Struggle for Recognition

As film enthusiasts celebrate the drama and brilliance of “Oppenheimer,” New Mexico downwinders feel overlooked by both the U.S. government and movie producers. The federal government’s compensation program for radiation exposure still does not include these affected individuals. The government’s selection of the remote and flat Trinity Test Site, without warning residents in the surrounding areas, further added to the controversy.

Living off the land, the rural population in the Tularosa Basin had no idea that the fine ash settling on their homes and fields was a result of the world’s first atomic explosion.

The government initially attempted to cover up the incident, attributing the bright light and rumble to an explosion at a munitions dump. It was only after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan weeks later that New Mexico residents realized the magnitude of what they had witnessed.

Tracing the Fallout

According to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, large amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere during the Trinity Test, with fallout descending over a vast area. Some of the fallout reached as far as the Atlantic Ocean, but the greatest concentration settled approximately 30 miles from the test site.

Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

The consequences of this catastrophic event have affected generations of New Mexicans, who still await recognition and justice for the harm caused by nuclear weapons.

A Tale of Contrasts: Los Alamos and the Legacy of Oppenheimer

As the film’s spotlight shines on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a contrasting narrative unfolds in Los Alamos, more than 200 miles north of the Tularosa Basin. Los Alamos stands as a symbol of Oppenheimer’s legacy, housing one of the nation’s premier national laboratories and boasting the highest percentage of people with doctorate degrees in the U.S.

Oppenheimer’s influence is evident throughout Los Alamos, with a street bearing his name and an IPA named in his honor at a local brewery. The city embraces its scientific legacy, showcasing his handwritten notes and ID card in a museum exhibit. Los Alamos National Laboratory employees played a significant role in the film, contributing as extras and engaging in enlightening discussions during breaks.

The “Oppenheimer” Movie

Director Christopher Nolan’s perspective on the Trinity Test and its profound impact is evident in his approach to “Oppenheimer.” He has described the event as an extraordinary moment in human history and expressed his desire to immerse the audience in the pivotal moment when the button was pushed. Nolan’s dedication to bringing historical accuracy and emotional depth to the screen is evident as he draws inspiration from Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

For Nolan, Oppenheimer’s story is a potent blend of dreams and nightmares, capturing the complexity and consequences of the Manhattan Project. As the film reaches global audiences, it also offers a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the downwinders in New Mexico, whose lives were forever altered by the legacy of nuclear weapons testing.

The Oppenheimer Festival and Beyond

Los Alamos is determined to use the Oppenheimer Festival as an opportunity to educate visitors about the true stories behind the film’s events. The county’s “Project Oppenheimer” initiative, launched in early 2023, encompasses forums, documentaries, art installations, and exhibits that delve into the scientific contributions of the laboratory and the social implications of the Manhattan Project.

A special area during the festival will facilitate discussions about the movie, fostering a deeper understanding of the community’s history. The county aims to continue revisiting and discussing the legacy of the Manhattan Project, ensuring that the impact of this pivotal moment in history is never forgotten.

As “Oppenheimer” takes audiences on an emotional journey, it serves as a reminder that every historical event carries with it complex and multifaceted implications. The movie may celebrate the scientific achievements of the past, but it also illuminates the urgent need to recognize and address the human cost that persists to this day.

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GSK’s Mosquirix Is Revolutionizing The Fight Against Malaria

GSK’s Mosquirix And The Fight Against Malaria

Over the past three years, the global focus has primarily been on the Covid-19 pandemic, diverting attention and resources away from other infectious diseases that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations in the Global South. Among these diseases, malaria continues to be a pressing public health concern, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of people each year, especially children in Sub-Saharan Africa. While significant progress has been made in preventing and treating malaria, innovative solutions are needed to combat this deadly disease.

Advancements in Malaria Prevention:

Researchers have made remarkable progress in both prevention and treatment strategies for malaria. The World Health Organization’s recommendation of dual-ingredient insecticide-treated bed nets in March 2023 marks a significant milestone in preventing malaria transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes. These nets, including those with more lethal insecticide combinations and those disrupting mosquito growth, are key tools in malaria prevention efforts.


The Importance of Cost-Effective Antimalarial Medicines:

Cost-effective antimalarial medicines play a crucial role in combating malaria. In 2021, approximately 45 million children between the ages of three months and five years received seasonal malaria chemoprevention, which involved monthly doses of therapeutic drugs at a cost of less than $4 per person. While this approach has shown promising results, the development of a groundbreaking vaccine brings renewed hope.

GSK’s Mosquirix (RTS,S) Vaccine:

GSK’s Mosquirix, also known as RTS,S, is an innovative vaccine that has the potential to transform the fight against malaria. This vaccine offers hope in preventing the disease, particularly among children in malaria-endemic regions. Although the current cost is relatively high, around $40 per child for the first year, it presents an essential step forward in malaria prevention efforts.

The Persistent Threat of Malaria:

Despite substantial investments of $26 billion to combat malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of cases has seen a slight increase between 2000 and 2019, although the number of deaths has decreased. This highlights the need for new prevention measures tailored to vulnerable populations, especially children. Taking inspiration from the Covid-19 pandemic, where monoclonal antibodies have demonstrated their potential, similar approaches could be explored in the fight against malaria.

The Potential of Monoclonal Antibodies:

Monoclonal antibodies, laboratory-made copies of immune system proteins, have shown immense potential in combating various diseases, including cancer and autoimmune disorders. Their remarkable selectivity and ability to target specific molecular markers make them an attractive option for preventive interventions. Researchers at the United States National Institutes of Health, led by Robert Seder, have identified two antibodies that target CSP-1, a protein used by the malaria parasite to invade liver cells. Clinical trials are currently underway in Mali and Kenya to assess their safety and efficacy, focusing on seasonal and year-round malaria transmission settings.

Game-Changing Potential:

Monoclonal antibodies have the potential to be a game-changer in malaria prevention, advancing the long-sought goal of eradication. The latest generation of antimalarial antibodies offers extended protection, with a single dose potentially safeguarding a child for at least three months, if not longer. Clinical trials will determine the extent and duration of this protection and guide future improvements to achieve a once-a-year injection.

Making Monoclonal Antibodies Accessible:

While monoclonal antibodies are often associated with high costs, efforts to increase their potency could significantly reduce expenses. It is estimated that an injection as small as one milliliter of the antibody drug being trialed in Mali and Kenya could protect children at a cost of only $5-10 per person. To ensure accessibility, it is crucial to engage national regulatory agencies and involve affected countries in the production of these biologics. While manufacturing antibodies is a complex and regulated process, investing in the necessary technology now would greatly benefit developing economies burdened by endemic malaria.

Addressing Disparities and Raising Awareness:

Currently, demand for monoclonal antibodies primarily comes from high-income countries, with Africa accounting for only 1% of global sales. This disparity underscores the importance of working with national regulatory agencies to address public health concerns and involve affected countries in the production and distribution of these life-saving biologics. Collaboration among government, academia, and industry is crucial to coordinate advocacy efforts and raise awareness about the potential of monoclonal antibodies in malaria prevention.

Preparing for Success:

While the deployment of the first generation of antimalarial antibodies is expected to occur no earlier than 2027, it is essential to start preparing for their potential success now. These antibodies hold tremendous promise as a powerful weapon in the fight against malaria, alongside bed nets, medicines, and emerging vaccines. Clinical trials will provide vital information on the extent of their efficacy, duration of protection, and dosage requirements. It is imperative to remain proactive and ensure that the necessary infrastructure and policies are in place to facilitate the widespread adoption of these breakthrough treatments.

Combining Science & Research:

As the world continues to battle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it is crucial not to overlook the persistent threat of malaria, especially in regions heavily impacted by poverty. While significant progress has been made in malaria prevention and treatment, the development of innovative solutions like GSK’s Mosquirix vaccine and the potential of monoclonal antibodies offer renewed hope in the fight against this deadly disease. By harnessing the lessons learned from Covid-19 research and engaging in collaborative efforts, we can work towards a future where malaria is no longer a major public health concern. Together, we can strive for the eradication of malaria and ensure a healthier future for vulnerable populations worldwide.

By Laura Richardson | Independent Contributor “The Voice Of EU

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