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A trader speaks to a floor official on the floor at the NYSE in New York
FILE PHOTO: A trader speaks to a floor official on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

April 24, 2019

By Sruthi Shankar and Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – Wall Street was set to open flat on Wednesday after a record-setting rally in the previous session, as investors assessed quarterly reports from industrial bellwethers Boeing and Caterpillar.

Boeing Co shares gained 1.5% in premarket trading even as the planemaker suspended its 2019 outlook and reported quarterly revenue below Wall Street estimates due to grounding of its 737 MAX jets. Its stock has lost 11.5% since the deadly Ethiopian crash in early March.

Caterpillar Inc fell 2.6%. The company topped analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit but posted a 4% decline in construction revenue in Asia-Pacific, one of its key markets dominated by China.

“Thus far you’ve had pretty strong reactions to earnings and investor sentiment is nervously positive,” said Michael James, managing director of equity trading at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles.

“The nervousness has to do with valuations and the concern being, ‘Am I going to get good enough results and guidance to justify the markets going higher?’”

The main indexes are holding within a hair’s breadth of all-time highs after a rally this year, sparked by a dovish Federal Reserve, hopes of a U.S.-China trade resolution and an upbeat earnings season.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is just 0.25% away from its intra-day record high of 2,940.91 hit on Sept. 21.

About a third of the S&P 500 companies are expected to report this week, determining if investors should be concerned about the start of an earnings recession or whether back-to-back quarters of negative growth can be avoided.

Profits of S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 1.1% for the quarter, according to Refinitv data. However, 77.5% of the 129 companies that have reported so far have surpassed earnings estimates.

At 8:39 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 15 points, or 0.06%. S&P 500 e-minis were down 1 points, or 0.03% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 1.25 points, or 0.02%.

Microsoft Corp and Facebook Inc, set to report after the closing bell on Wednesday, were up more than 0.5%.

EBay Inc shares jumped 3.6% after the company raised its full-year sales and profit forecasts.

AT&T Inc shares declined 2.5% after the second-largest U.S. wireless carrier reported quarterly revenue below Wall Street estimates.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp shares jumped 11.4% after Occidental Petroleum Corp sought to scuttle Chevron Corp’s takeover of the company with a $57 billion bid. Occidental’s shares fell 5.2%.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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FILE PHOTO: Candidate Zelenskiy waves to supporters following the announcement of an exit poll in Ukraine's presidential election in Kiev
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy waves to supporters following the announcement of the first exit poll in a presidential election at his campaign headquarters in Kiev, Ukraine April 21, 2019. REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi

April 24, 2019

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President-elect Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday called on the government and state energy company Naftogaz to hold talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on lowering household gas prices from May 1.

The IMF, which is helping Ukraine with a multi-billion dollar loan program, has said it wants to see gas prices set at their market level.

Zelenskiy, who has yet to take office but won a landslide election victory on Sunday, said in a statement on his team’s Facebook page he wanted prices to be lower.

“Let’s not just in words, but in deeds show that we can take decisions in people’s interests,” the statement said.

“For the past four months, gas prices in Europe have been decreasing and now the price of gas for the population in Ukraine is higher than the price of gas on the European market.”

The same statement warned that neighboring Russia might limit energy supplies to Ukraine from June 1, and that, from Jan. 1, Moscow might move to halt gas transit through Ukraine altogether, a move it said would result in significant financial losses and gas supply risks.

“These challenges require us to take effective and fast action,” the statement said.

An IMF spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman in March said he would urge the finance ministry and Naftogaz to start talks with the IMF to try to prevent any future rise in gas tariffs.

The government raised gas prices by nearly a quarter in October, allowing it to secure a new $3.9 billion stand-by aid agreement with the IMF.

According to a previously adopted government resolution, gas prices were due to rise by 15 percent from May 1. But earlier this week the government and Naftogaz agreed a slight decrease in tariffs.

Naftogaz said prices would fall by around 3.5 percent to 8,247 hryvnias ($310.56) per 1,000 cubic meters from May 1.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Matthias Williams)

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The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London
FILE PHOTO: The Google logo is pictured at the entrance to the Google offices in London, Britain January 18, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

April 24, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Top U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday wrote to Google’s chief executive raising concerns about reports of a massive database known as Sensorvault that allegedly contains precise consumer location information from hundreds of millions of devices.

The letter from Democrats and Republicans on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee to CEO Sundar Pichai seeks a briefing and answers on how this information is used and shared, citing a New York Times report that the database includes nearly every consumer with an Android mobile device, in some cases storing information dating back to 2009.

A representative for Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc, said in a statement: “The data in question is used for Location History, which is off by default. If a user chooses to turn it on, we can provide helpful information, like real-time data to help them beat traffic on their way home from work. They can delete their Location History data, or turn off the product entirely, at any time.”

The letter is one of several sent by members of Congress in recent months that raise concerns about how Google and other big Internet companies use information they have gathered about consumers.

The letter, which was signed by Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky and Republicans Greg Walden and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, asked Google who has access to the Sensorvault database and which Google services or apps collect the information.

The lawmakers asked for answers to their questions as well as a briefing on the issue by May 10.

They also asked Google if information is collected from consumers who requested that their data not be shared and asked to be briefed on any third parties, other than law enforcement, given access to location data.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other free online services rely on advertising for revenue and use data collected on users to more effectively target those ads.

Congress has long been expected to take up privacy legislation after California passed a strict privacy law that goes into effect next year.

Two U.S. senators introduced a bill in early April that would ban online social media companies like Facebook and Google from misleading consumers in order to convince them to give up personal data.

The bill from Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Deb Fischer, a Republican, would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addicting games or other websites for children under age 13.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Diane Bartz; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Rosalba O’Brien)

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FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of a binary code in this illustration picture
FILE PHOTO: Small toy figures are seen in front of a binary code in this illustration picture, April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic//File Photo

April 24, 2019

By Joseph Menn

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Technology firms should do more to connect people in positive ways and steer away from trends that have tended to exploit human weaknesses, ethicists told a meeting of Silicon Valley leaders on Tuesday.

Tristan Harris and Aza Raskin are the co-founders of the nonprofit Center for Humane Technology and the ones who prompted Apple and Google to nudge phone users toward reducing their screen time.

Now they want companies and regulators to focus on reversing what they called “human downgrading,” which they see as at the root of a dozen worsening problems, by reconsidering the design and financial incentives of their systems.

Before a hand-picked crowd of about 300 technologists, philanthropists and others concerned with issues such as internet addiction, political polarization, and the spread of misinformation on the web, Harris said Silicon Valley was too focused on making computers surpass human strengths, rather than worrying about how they already exploit human weaknesses.

If that is not reversed, he said, “that could be the end of human agency,” or free will.

Problems include the spread of hate speech and conspiracy theories, propelled by financial incentives to keep users engaged alongside the use of powerful artificial intelligence on platforms like Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Harris said.

YouTube and other companies have said they are cracking down on extremist speech and have removed advertising revenue-sharing from some categories of content.

Active Facebook communities can be a force for good but they also aid the dissemination of false information, the campaigners said. For example, a vocal fringe that oppose vaccines, believing contrary to scientific evidence that they cause autism, has led to an uptick in diseases that were nearly eradicated.

Facebook said in March it would reduce the distribution of content from groups promoting vaccine hoaxes.

In an interview after his speech, Harris said that what he has called a race to the bottom of the brainstem – manipulation of human instincts and emotions – could be reversed.

For example, he said that Apple and Google could reward app developers who help users, or Facebook could suggest that someone showing signs of depression call a friend who had previously been supportive.

Tech personalities attending included Apple Inc co-founder Steve Wozniak, early Facebook funder turned critic Roger McNamee and MoveOn founders Joan Blades and Wes Boyd. Tech money is also backing the Center, including charitable funds started by founders of Hewlett Packard, EBay, and Craigslist.

The big companies, Harris said, “can change the incentives.”

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Greg Mitchell and Rosalba O’Brien)

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FILE PHOTO: A woman stands in front of the logo of Snap Inc. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while waiting for Snap Inc. to post their IPO, in New York City
FILE PHOTO: A woman stands in front of the logo of Snap Inc. on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while waiting for Snap Inc. to post their IPO, in New York City, NY, U.S. March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

April 23, 2019

By Vibhuti Sharma and Sheila Dang

(Reuters) – Snap Inc’s original shows and rebuilt Android app helped it add Snapchat users for the first time in three quarters and beat analyst revenue expectations, but that was not enough to push its shares higher after a sharp run up this year.

Snap said the number of daily active Snapchat users rose to 190 million in the first quarter from 186 million in the prior period, but remained below the 191 million it had a year earlier.

The figure, widely watched by investors and advertisers, beat analysts’ average estimate of 187.2 million daily users, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Overall revenue jumped nearly 40 percent in the quarter from a year earlier as Snap was able to wring more ad revenue out of each user.

Executives left the company in droves late last year after a widely panned redesign of Snapchat, and any uptick is a welcome sign Snap has stemmed user losses.

Chief Executive Evan Spiegel has worked to turn Snap’s business around while the company largely avoid privacy and other scandals plaguing bigger rivals like Facebook Inc.

Snap did not give specific guidance on future user growth, but cautioned that growth rates tend to be higher in the first quarter versus the second quarter.

Shares of the company, which rose 12 percent immediately after the results, gave up most of their gains to trade up marginally at $12.08. They have more than doubled in value so far this year.

“Things are improving at Snap, and that could be putting it mildly – although with the shares up 100% so far this year, that’s pretty priced in,” said Nicholas Hyett, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, in a note.

In an effort to increase how much time users spend on the app, Snap, which faces stiff competition from Facebook’s Instagram, launched more than 50 shows and publisher stories in international markets alone during the reported quarter.

It also rebuilt its Android app, which had more bugs and a worse user experience than its iOS app. Snap had prioritized development on the Apple ecosystem through its stock market debut in 2017.

Snap’s revenue, which it earns from selling advertising on the app, jumped 39 percent to $320.4 million and beat Wall Street’s average estimate of $306.6 million.

Revenue growth was helped by new ad formats like unskippable commercials on its original shows, which are housed on the Discover page, a panel on the app that contains publisher content along with influencer content.

“Snap is maintaining, which is a good place for them considering they still lack any clear direction on how to expand or pivot its app beyond the under 34-year-old demographic,” said Jessica Liu, a marketing analyst at Forrester.

Snap’s focus on privacy and communication between friends has helped it avoid problems with misinformation and the spread of abusive content, which have been an issue for Facebook and Google’s YouTube, two of Snap’s main rivals for digital ad dollars.

Average revenue per user jumped 39 percent to $1.68 during the quarter from a year earlier.

The company’s net loss narrowed to $310.4 million, or 23 cents per share, from $385.8 million, or 30 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company lost 10 cents per share in the quarter, beating analyst estimates of losses of 12 cents per share.

For the second quarter, Snap said it expects revenue of $335 million to $360 million. That compares with the average analyst estimate for revenue of $348.5 million, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Earlier this month, Snap launched a gaming platform within its Snapchat app featuring original and third-party games such as Zynga Inc’s Tiny Royale.

(This story corrects tenth paragraph to show Snap launched 50 shows and publisher stories in international markets, not that Snap launched 50 original shows).

(Reporting by Vibhuti Sharma in Bengaluru and Sheila Dang in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Meredith Mazzilli)

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FILE PHOTO: A combination photo from files of Facebook Google and Twitter logos
FILE PHOTO: Facebook, Google and Twitter logos are seen in this combination photo from Reuters files. REUTERS//File Photo

April 23, 2019

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Google, Facebook and Twitter have to do more to tackle fake news ahead of key European Parliament elections next month, the European Commission said on Tuesday, as its latest report showed a lack of progress in some areas.

The monthly reports follow a pledge made by the tech giants and advertising trade bodies in October last year to combat the spread of fake news and avoid more heavy-handed regulations.

The EU has warned of foreign interference during campaigning for the European Parliament elections and national elections in Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Poland, Portugal and Ukraine in recent and coming months.

“Further technical improvements as well as sharing of methodology and data sets for fake accounts are necessary to allow third-party experts, fact-checkers and researchers to carry out independent evaluation,” the EU executive said.

The Commission said Google had made insufficient progress in defining issue-based advertising. The report covered actions taken by the companies in March.

It said Facebook, which took down eight coordinated inauthentic behavior networks originating in North Macedonia, Kosovo and Russia, failed to disclose whether these affected EU users.

Twitter also fell short because it did not provide details on its measures against spam and fake accounts and also did not report on any action to improve the scrutiny of ad placements.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Philip Blenkinsop)

Source: OANN

The German share price index DAX graph at the stock exchange in Frankfurt
FILE PHOTO: The German share price index DAX graph is pictured at the stock exchange in Frankfurt, Germany, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Staff

April 23, 2019

By Agamoni Ghosh and Medha Singh

(Reuters) – European shares fell on Tuesday as battery maker Umicore kicked off a busy week of earnings with a grim outlook and investors grew concerned about China cutting additional support to its economy, but a rally in oil and gas stocks helped temper losses.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index fell 0.3 percent by 0930 GMT after seven straight sessions of gains, with all major indices in the red except oil major-heavy London’s FTSE 100 which rose 0.4 percent.

Earnings started to roll in on a not-so-positive note with Umicore tumbling 16 percent, after the Belgian group warned revenue and earnings growth in 2020 will be lower than previous indications due to delays in the electric vehicle and energy storage markets.

Umicore’s slide weighed heavily on Belgium’s blue chip Bel 20 Index, pulling it 1.5 percent lower.

Car part suppliers Plastic Omnium and Faurecia also reported first quarter results. Plastic Omnium slid after warning of a decline in worldwide auto production, but Faurecia rose 1.5 percent after the company met its full-year target.

Belgium’s Melexis, which supplies semiconductor solutions for cars, slipped 6 percent after first quarter net income tumbled.

“We’re pausing for breadth ahead of a fairly busy week of earnings after a decent winning streak,” said Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group in London.

The banking index eased from six-month highs with major European banks as UBS, Credit Suisse and Barclays slated to report earnings late this week after last week’s mixed bag of results from big Wall Street banks.

“We’ve seen the likes of record profits from J.P. Morgan but nothing close in Europe. The numbers aren’t going to be great,” said Lawler.

Earnings numbers from some of the biggest S&P 500 companies, including Boeing Co, Amazon.com Inc and Facebook Inc, are also due this week.

Payments company Wirecard was among the biggest decliners after Germany’s markets regulator Bafin’s two-month ban on short-selling ended on Friday.

Ahold Delhaize slid after the Dutch supermarket warned that a strike at its Stop & Shop chain in U.S. would hurt its underlying 2019 profit margin, as it missed out on around $200 million on Easter week sales.

Renault fell 1.4 percent after Nissan Motor Co Ltd said it would reject a management integration proposal from its French partner and called for an equal capital relationship, according to a Nikkei report.

Also weighing on sentiment was Beijing’s indication to tone down its stimulus measures following unexpected signs of recovery from first-quarter economic data last week.

CRUDE LIFT

The oil and gas sector was among the lone bright spots with Royal Dutch Shell, British Petroleum and Total, up between 1.7 percent and 2 percent.

Oil prices were at 2019 highs on Tuesday after Washington announced all Iran sanction waivers would end by May, pressuring importers, mostly Asian, to stop buying from Tehran.

Surging oil prices, however, took a toll on airline stocks. Air France, EasyJet plc, Lufthansa and Ryanair , all shed between 2 percent and 4 percent.

Getinge was the top performer on the STOXX 600 after the Swedish medical technology company beat first quarter sales estimates and said restructuring measures will boost profit in the second half of the year.

Thomas Cook jumped 14 percent after a Sky News report that the world’s oldest tour operator was tentatively approached by several parties regarding a takeover of its tour operating division or the entire company.

(Reporting by Agamoni Ghosh and Medha Singh, Editing by William Maclean and Ed Osmond)

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FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen in this picture illustration
FILE PHOTO: The logo of TikTok application is seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/Illustration

April 23, 2019

By Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s ban on popular Chinese video app TikTok is resulting in “financial losses” of up to $500,000 a day for its developer, Beijing Bytedance Technology Co, and has put more than 250 jobs at risk, the company said in a court filing seen by Reuters.

TikTok allows users to create and share short videos with special effects and is one of the world’s most popular apps. It has been downloaded by nearly 300 million users so far in India, out of more than 1 billion downloads globally, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.

Earlier this month, an Indian state court ordered the federal government to prohibit its downloads, saying the app was encouraging pornography. Acting upon instructions from the federal IT ministry, Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google last week removed TikTok from their India app stores.

The developments have dealt a blow to the India growth plans of Bytedance, which is backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp and by private equity. Bytedance, one of the world’s most valuable startups potentially worth around $75 billion, was considering a public listing in Hong Kong this year, sources told Reuters in August.

The ban has also worried the social media industry in India as it sees legal worries mounting if courts increasingly regulate content on their platforms.

In the filing made to India’s Supreme Court on Saturday, Bytedance urged the court to quash the ban and direct the federal IT ministry to tell companies such as Google and Apple to make the app available again on their platforms.

The court filing is not publicly available and its contents have not been previously reported.

Bytedance pegged financial losses at $500,000 each day, which it said includes destruction in the value of its investments and loss of commercial revenue. It added the ban would result in its reputation and goodwill taking a hit with both advertisers and investors.

“Banning has had adverse impact on the user base of this app, losing close to 1 million new users per day … It is estimated that approximately six million requests for downloads could not be effected since the ban came into effect,” the company said in the filing.

A spokesman for TikTok and the federal IT ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

COURT BATTLE, CONTENT WOES

The Supreme Court has so far not provided any interim relief on repeated pleas by Bytedance and referred the case back to the court in southern Tamil Nadu state, where the case will next be heard on Wednesday.

Memes and music videos thrive on TikTok, although some clips show youngsters, some scantily clad, lip-syncing and dancing to popular tunes.

Its growing popularity has drawn criticism from some Indian politicians and parents who say its content is inappropriate. The Tamil Nadu court, which ruled against TikTok after an individual filed a public interest litigation, has said the app could also expose children to sexual predators.

The Supreme Court filing included a table in which Bytedance compared TikTok to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter by listing 13 of its implemented safety features, including parental controls.

A “very minuscule” proportion of TikTok’s videos were considered inappropriate or obscene, the company has said.

“The constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of free speech and expression … of numerous Indian citizens have been severely impacted,” the company said in its latest filing.

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Martin Howell and Muralikumar Anantharaman)

Source: OANN

An illustration photo shows the Facebook page displayed on a mobile phone internet browser held in front of a computer screen at a cyber-cafe in downtown Nairobi
An illustration photo shows the Facebook page displayed on a mobile phone internet browser held in front of a computer screen at a cyber-cafe in downtown Nairobi, Kenya April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

April 23, 2019

By Maggie Fick and Paresh Dave

NAIROBI/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s struggles with hate speech and other types of problematic content are being hampered by the company’s inability to keep up with a flood of new languages as mobile phones bring social media to every corner of the globe.

The company offers its 2.3 billion users features such as menus and prompts in 111 different languages, deemed to be officially supported. Reuters has found another 31 widely spoken languages on Facebook that do not have official support.

Detailed rules known as “community standards,” which bar users from posting offensive material including hate speech and celebrations of violence, were translated in only 41 languages out of the 111 supported as of early March, Reuters found.

Facebook’s 15,000-strong content moderation workforce speaks about 50 tongues, though the company said it hires professional translators when needed. Automated tools for identifying hate speech work in about 30.

The language deficit complicates Facebook’s battle to rein in harmful content and the damage it can cause, including to the company itself. Countries including Australia, Singapore and the UK are now threatening harsh new regulations, punishable by steep fines or jail time for executives, if it fails to promptly remove objectionable posts.

The community standards are updated monthly and run to about 9,400 words in English.

Monika Bickert, the Facebook vice president in charge of the standards, has previously told Reuters that they were “a heavy lift to translate into all those different languages.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said this week the rules are translated case by case depending on whether a language has a critical mass of usage and whether Facebook is a primary information source for speakers. The spokeswoman said there was no specific number for critical mass.

She said among priorities for translations are Khmer, the official language in Cambodia, and Sinhala, the dominant language in Sri Lanka, where the government blocked Facebook this week to stem rumors about devastating Easter Sunday bombings.

A Reuters report found last year that hate speech on Facebook that helped foster ethnic cleansing in Myanmar went unchecked in part because the company was slow to add moderation tools and staff for the local language.

Facebook says it now offers the rules in Burmese and has more than 100 speakers of the language among its workforce.

The spokeswoman said Facebook’s efforts to protect people from harmful content had “a level of language investment that surpasses most any technology company.”

But human rights officials say Facebook is in jeopardy of a repeat of the Myanmar problems in other strife-torn nations where its language capabilities have not kept up with the impact of social media.

“These are supposed to be the rules of the road and both customers and regulators should insist social media platforms make the rules known and effectively police them,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “Failure to do so opens the door to serious abuses.”

ABUSE IN FIJIAN

Mohammed Saneem, the supervisor of elections in Fiji, said he felt the impact of the language gap during elections in the South Pacific nation in November last year. Racist comments proliferated on Facebook in Fijian, which the social network does not support. Saneem said he dedicated a staffer to emailing posts and translations to a Facebook employee in Singapore to seek removals.

Facebook said it did not request translations, and it gave Reuters a post-election letter from Saneem praising its “timely and effective assistance.”

Saneem told Reuters that he valued the help but had expected pro-active measures from Facebook.

“If they are allowing users to post in their language, there should be guidelines available in the same language,” he said.

Similar issues abound in African nations such as Ethiopia, where deadly ethnic clashes among a population of 107 million have been accompanied by ugly Facebook content. Much of it is in Amharic, a language supported by Facebook. But Amharic users looking up rules get them in English.

At least 652 million people worldwide speak languages supported by Facebook but where rules are not translated, according to data from language encyclopedia Ethnologue. Another 230 million or more speak one of the 31 languages that do not have official support.

Facebook uses automated software as a key defense against prohibited content. Developed using a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, these tools identify hate speech in about 30 languages and “terrorist propaganda” in 19, the company said.

Machine learning requires massive volumes of data to train computers, and a scarcity of text in other languages presents a challenge in rapidly growing the tools, Guy Rosen, the Facebook vice president who oversees automated policy enforcement, has told Reuters.

GROWTH REGIONS

Beyond the automation and a few official fact-checkers, Facebook relies on users to report problematic content. That creates a major issue where community standards are not understood or even known to exist.

Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s director of public policy for Africa, told Reuters in March that the continent had the world’s lowest rates of user reporting.

“A lot of people don’t even know that there are community standards,” Okobi said.

Facebook has bought radio advertisements in Nigeria and worked with local organizations to change that, she said. It also has held talks with African education officials to introduce social media etiquette into the curriculum, she said.

Simultaneously, Facebook is partnering with wireless carriers and other groups to expand internet access in countries including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where it has yet to officially support widely-used languages such as Luganda and Kituba. Asked this week about the expansions without language support, Facebook declined to comment.

The company announced in February it would soon have its first 100 sub-Saharan Africa-based content moderators at an outsourcing facility in Nairobi. They will join existing teams in reviewing content in Somali, Oromo and other languages.

But the community standards are not translated into Somali or Oromo. Posts in Somali from last year celebrating the al-Shabaab militant group remained on Facebook for months despite a ban on glorifying organizations or acts that Facebook designates as terrorist.

“Disbelievers and apostates, die with your anger,” read one post seen by Reuters this month that praised the killing of a Sufi cleric.

After Reuters inquired about the post, Facebook said it took down the author’s account because it violated policies.

ABILITY TO DERAIL

Posts in Amharic reviewed by Reuters this month attacked the Oromo and Tigray ethnic populations in vicious terms that clearly violated Facebook’s ban on discussing ethnic groups using “violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion.”

Facebook removed the two posts Reuters inquired about. The company added that it had erred in allowing one of them, from December 2017, to remain online following an earlier user report.

For officials such as Saneem in Fiji, Facebook’s efforts to improve content moderation and language support are painfully slow. Saneem said he warned Facebook months in advance of the election in the archipelago of 900,000 people. Most of them use Facebook, with half writing in English and half in Fijian, he estimated.

“Social media has the ability to completely derail an election,” Saneem said.

Other social media companies face the same problem to varying degrees.

(GRAPHIC: Social media and the language gap – https://tmsnrt.rs/2VHjwTu)

Facebook-owned Instagram said its 1,179-word community guidelines are in 30 out of 51 languages offered to users. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook as well, has terms in nine of 58 supported languages, Reuters found.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube presents community guidelines in 40 of 80 available languages, Reuters found. Twitter Inc’s rules are in 37 of 47 supported languages, and Snap Inc’s in 13 out of 21.

“A lot of misinformation gets spread around and the problem with the content publishers is the reluctance to deal with it,” Saneem said. “They do owe a duty of care. “

(Reporting by Maggie Fick in Nairobi and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Alister Doyle in Fiji and Omar Mohammed in Nairobi; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: OANN

Hearings alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Iran vs the U.S. in The Hague
FILE PHOTO: Jennifer Newstead, Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State, attends a hearing for alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity between Iran and the U.S., at the International Court in The Hague, Netherlands August 27, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw

April 22, 2019

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc on Monday named the legal adviser to the U.S. State Department as its general counsel, as the social media giant faces growing regulatory hurdles and privacy concerns.

Jennifer Newstead, who brings government and private sector experience to the role, will succeed Colin Stretch, who decided to quit the company in July 2018, Facebook said in a blog post.

Facebook has come under increasing pressure around the world to stop the spread of misinformation on its platform, while its ad practises have been in the spotlight for two years amid growing discontent over its approach to privacy and user data.

The social media company also named John Pinette as vice president of global communications, succeeding Caryn Marooney, who decided to leave the company in February.

(Reporting by Sayanti Chakraborty in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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