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International Police Operation Cracks Down on Illegal Internet Drug Vendors

U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol announced dozens of arrests to break up a global operation that sold illegal drugs using a shadowy realm of the internet. 

At a Department of Justice news conference Tuesday in Washington, officials said they arrested 150 people for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including fake prescription opioids and cocaine, over the so-called darknet. Those charged are alleged to have carried out tens of thousands of illegal sales using a part of the internet that is accessible only by using specialized anonymity tools. 

The 10-month dragnet called “Operation HunTor” — named after encrypted internet tools — resulted in the seizure of 234 kilograms of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and opioids worth more than $31 million. Officials said many of the confiscated drugs were fake prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The counterfeit tablets are linked to a wave of drug overdoses.

“This international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and sends one clear message to those hiding on the darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet,” said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. 

Investigators rounded up and arrested 65 people in the United States. Other arrests occurred in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In addition to counterfeit medicine, authorities also confiscated more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills. 

“We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine,” said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). “We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances.” 

The international police agency Europol worked alongside the U.S. Justice Department’s Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team.

 

“No one is beyond the reach of the law, even on the dark web,” said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol’s deputy executive director.

 

The dark web is preferred by criminal networks who want to keep their internet activities private and anonymous. In this case, it served as a platform for illegal cyber sales of counterfeit medication and other drugs that were delivered by private shipping companies. 

Investigators said the fake drugs are primarily made in laboratories in Mexico using chemicals imported from China. Prosecutors also targeted drug dealers who operated home labs to manufacture fake prescription pain pills. 

“Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don’t know what they’re getting,” Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate said. The joint investigation followed enforcement efforts in January in which authorities shut down “DarkMarket,” the world’s largest illegal international marketplace on the dark web. 

Last month, the DEA warned Americans that international and domestic drug dealers were flooding the country with fake pills, driving the U.S. overdose crisis. The agency confiscated more the 9.5 million potentially lethal pills in the last year.

More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. U.S. health officials attribute the rise to the use of fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine. 

U.S. officials said investigations are continuing and more arrests are expected.

 

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У зоні ООС вперше застосували безпілотний комплекс «Байрактар» – Генштаб ЗСУ

За допомогою високоточних бомб Bayraktar може вражати цілі у радіусі 8 кілометрів

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У США та Європі заарештували 150 людей через причетність до «темної мережі»

Згідно із заявою США, серед вилученого – підроблені ліки, опіоїдні таблетки, понад 152 кілограми амфетаміну, 21 кілограм кокаїну та 32,5 кілограми екстазі

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Німеччина: повноваження Меркель офіційно завершені, тепер вона в.о. канцлера до формування нового уряду

26 жовтня відбулося перше організаційне засідання нового німецького парламенту

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Artificial Intelligence-Powered App Helps Musicians Learn to Play

A popular new music app uses artificial intelligence to “democratize” how musicians of all skill levels learn and play music. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.

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НАЗК провело повну перевірку декларації Зеленського – порушень не виявили

У своїх висновках щодо перевірки декларації президента НАЗК, серед іншого, вказує: конфлікту інтересів не виявлено, ознак незаконного збагачення не встановлено

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Українська омбудсмен завтра відвідає Саакашвілі

Міхеїл Саакашвілі називає себе політичним в’язнем, а висунуті йому обвинувачення – сфабрикованими

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Зеленський про рішення суду в Амстердамі: «Спочатку повернемо «скіфське золото», а потім і Крим»

Зеленський назвав «довгоочікуваною» перемогу України у Апеляційному суді Амстердама

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У Судані триває протест проти військового перевороту

У столиці Хартумі 26 жовтня люди залишаються на вулиці, скандуючи «Повернення до минулого – не вихід»

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У Росії ще чотирьох свідків Єгови засудили до багаторічного ув’язнення

У правозахисній організації Amnesty International заявили, що вражені звісткою про черговий суворий вирок за звинуваченням в екстремізмі щодо чотирьох свідків Єгови в Астрахані

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«Міжнародне право не швидке, але невідворотне»: у МЗС привітали рішення щодо «скіфського золота»

«Ми повернемо собі не просто музейні експонати, а частину нашого національного коду, реліквії, які свідчать про тисячі років нашої історії»

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Окупований Крим: затриманих біля будівлі суду у Сімферополі відправили у слідчі ізолятори

Серед затриманих, окрім кримськотатарских активістів, журналісти російського видання «Грани.Ру»

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У Представництві президента в АРК прокоментували нові затримання у Криму

Представництво президента в АРК засудило незаконні дії окупаційних органів Криму з обмеження свободи слова, зокрема затримання українських громадян та перешкоджання журналістській та професійній адвокатській діяльності

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Регулятор ЄС схвалив бустерне щеплення вакциною Moderna

Комітет, який ухвалював рішення, керувався даними, які свідчать, що третя доза вакцини Moderna, введена через 6-8 місяців після другої, призвела до підвищення рівня антитіл

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Президент Туреччини скасував рішення про висилку послів 10 країн

Ердоган хотів вислати дипломатів, які виступили із закликом звільнити підозрюваного у спробі державного перевороту турецького правозахисника та філантропа Османа Кавалу

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Rental Car Company Hertz Announces Purchase of 100,000 Teslas 

Car rental company Hertz says it will buy 100,000 electric cars from Tesla. 

Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields said the Model 3 cars could be ready for renters as early as November, The Associated Press reported. 

Fields said the reason for the move was that electric cars are becoming mainstream, and consumer interest in them is growing.

“More are willing to try and buy,” he told AP. “It’s pretty stunning.” 

All of the cars should be available by the end of 2022, the company said. When all are delivered, they will make up 20% of the company’s fleet.

Hertz, which emerged from bankruptcy in June, did not disclose the cost of the order, but it could be valued at as much as $4 billion, according to some news reports. 

The company said it plans to build its own charging station network, with 3,000 in 65 locations by the end of 2022 and 4,000 by the end of 2023. Renters will also have access to Tesla’s charging network for a fee. 

Tesla stock jumped as much as 12% on the news 

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press. 

 

 

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In Face of Hack Attacks, US State Department to Set Up Cyber Bureau

The U.S. State Department plans to establish a bureau of cyberspace and digital policy in the face of a growing hacking problem, specifically a surge of ransomware attacks on U.S. infrastructure. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said a Senate-confirmed ambassador at large will lead the bureau. 

Hackers have struck numerous U.S. companies this year. 

One such attack on pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline led to temporary fuel supply shortages on the U.S. East Coast. Hackers also targeted an Iowa-based agricultural company, sparking fears of disruptions to Midwest grain harvesting. 

Two weeks ago, the Treasury Department said suspected ransomware payments totaling $590 million were made in the first six months of this year. It put the cryptocurrency industry on alert about its role fighting ransomware attacks. 

 

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Facebook Whistleblower Presses Case with British Lawmakers 

Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told British lawmakers Monday that the social media giant “unquestionably” amplifies online hate. 

In testimony to a parliamentary committee in London, the former Facebook employee echoed what she told U.S. senators earlier this month.

Haugen said the media giant fuels online hate and extremism and does not have any incentive to change its algorithm to promote less divisive content.

She argued that as a result, Facebook may end up sparking more violent unrest around the world.

Haugen said the algorithm Facebook has designed to promote more engagement among users “prioritizes and amplifies divisive and polarizing extreme content” as well as concentrates it. 

Facebook did not respond to Haugen’s testimony Monday. Earlier this month, Haugen addressed a Senate committee and said the company is harmful. Facebook rejected her accusations. 

“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Haugen’s testimony comes as a coalition of new organizations Monday began publishing stories on Facebook’s practices based on internal company documents that Haugen secretly copied and made public. 

Haugen is a former Facebook product manager who has turned whistleblower. 

Earlier this month when Haugen addressed U.S. lawmakers, she argued that a federal regulator was needed to oversee large internet companies like Facebook. 

British lawmakers are considering creating such a national regulator as part of a proposed online safety bill. The legislation also proposes fining companies like Facebook up to 10% of their global revenue for any violations of government policies. 

Representatives from Facebook and other social media companies are set to address British lawmakers on Thursday. 

Haugen is scheduled to meet with European Union policymakers in Brussels next month.

Some information in this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters. 

 

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Джонсон у розмові з Путіним підкреслив важливість суверенітету України

Джонсон і Путін провели телефонну бесіду перед проведенням 26-ї конференції країн-учасниць Рамкової конвенції ООН про зміну клімату, що відбудеться в Глазго 1-2 листопада

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Байден підписав наказ про нові правила в’їзду до США, пов’язані з COVID-19

Білий дім 25 жовтня підтвердив, що діти до 18 років звільняються від нових вимог щодо вакцинації, як і люди з деякими медичними проблемами

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Після погрози Ердогана вислати дипломатів 10 країн суперечка Туреччини і Заходу дещо послабла

США і кілька інших країн зробили заяви, в яких йдеться, що вони дотримуються конвенції ООН, яка вимагає від дипломатів не втручатися у внутрішні справи країни перебування

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Microsoft Discloses New Russian Hacking Effort

The U.S. technology giant Microsoft says that the same Russia-backed hackers responsible for the 2020 SolarWinds breach of corporate computer systems is continuing to attack global technology systems, this time targeting cloud service resellers.

Microsoft said the group, which it calls Nobelium, is employing a new strategy to take advantage of the direct access resellers have to their customers’ IT systems, hoping to “more easily impersonate an organization’s trusted technology partner to gain access to their downstream customers.”

Resellers are intermediaries between software and hardware producers and the eventual technology product users.

In a statement Sunday, Microsoft said it has been monitoring Nobelium’s attacks since May and has notified more than 140 companies targeted by the group, with as many as 14 of the companies’ systems believed to have been compromised.

“This recent activity is another indicator that Russia is trying to gain long-term, systematic access to a variety of points in the technology supply chain and establish a mechanism for surveilling — now or in the future — targets of interest to the Russian government,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post.

“Fortunately, we have discovered this campaign during its early stages, and we are sharing these developments to help cloud service resellers, technology providers, and their customers take timely steps to help ensure Nobelium is not more successful,” the company said.

Charles Carmakal, senior vice president and chief technology officer at cybersecurity firm Mandiant, said this attack was different from the SolarWinds attack that used malicious code inserted into legitimate software, saying this involves “leveraging stolen identities” to access systems.

“This attack path makes it very difficult for victim organizations to discover they were compromised and investigate the actions taken by the threat actor,” he said. “This is particularly effective for the threat actor for two reasons: First, it shifts the initial intrusion away from the ultimate targets, which in some situations are organizations with more mature cyber defenses, to smaller technology partners with less mature cyber defenses.

“And second, investigating these intrusions requires collaboration and information-sharing across multiple victim organizations, which is challenging due to privacy concerns and organizational sensitivities,” Carmakal said.

When asked about the attack, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday companies “can prevent these attempts if the cloud service providers implement baseline cybersecurity practices, including multifactor authentication.”

“Broadly speaking, the federal government is aggressively using our authorities to protect the nation from cyber threats, including helping the private sector defend itself through increased intelligence sharing, innovative partnership to deploy cybersecurity technologies, bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, and measures we do not speak about publicly for national security reasons,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One on route to New Jersey.

Microsoft said Nobelium had made 22,868 attacks since July but had only been successful a handful of times. Most of the attacks have targeted U.S. government agencies and think tanks in the United States, followed by attacks in Ukraine, the United Kingdom and in other NATO countries.

A U.S. government official downplayed the attacks in a statement to The Associated Press, saying, “The activities described were unsophisticated password spray and phishing, run-of-the mill operations for the purpose of surveillance that we already know are attempted every day by Russia and other foreign governments.”

Washington blamed Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency for the 2020 SolarWinds hack, which compromised several federal agencies and went undetected for much of last year. Russia has denied any wrongdoing.​

Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.

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Гонтарева прокоментувала можливу причетність НБУ до «справи Медведчука» за її керівництва установою

На думку Гонтаревої, вона заслуговує «нагороди», а не звинувачень у котексті подій 2014 року

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У Судані після ймовірного перевороту оголосили надзвичайний стан

Продемократична Асоціація суданських професіоналів закликала громадян вийти на вулиці, щоб «протистояти» військовому перевороту

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Україна залишається у «зеленому» списку ЄС щодо подорожей поточного тижня – журналіст Радіо Свобода

21 жовтня Мальта заборонила в’їзд подорожувальникам із України через високий сплеск захворюваності на COVID-19

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Whistleblower Haugen to Testify as UK Scrutinizes Facebook

Former Facebook data scientist turned whistleblower Frances Haugen plans to answer questions Monday from lawmakers in the United Kingdom who are working on legislation to rein in the power of social media companies. 

Haugen is set to appear before a parliamentary committee scrutinizing the British government’s draft legislation to crack down on harmful online content, and her comments could help lawmakers beef up the new rules. She’s testifying the same day that Facebook is set to release its latest earnings and that The Associated Press and other news organizations started publishing stories based on thousands of pages of internal company documents she obtained. 

It will be her second appearance before lawmakers after she testified in the U.S. Senate earlier this month about the danger she says the company poses, from harming children to inciting political violence and fueling misinformation. Haugen cited internal research documents she secretly copied before leaving her job in Facebook’s civic integrity unit. 

The documents, which Haugen provided to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, allege Facebook prioritized profits over safety and hid its own research from investors and the public. Some stories based on the files have already been published, exposing internal turmoil after Facebook was blindsided by the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot and how it dithered over curbing divisive content in India, and more is to come. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has disputed Haugen’s portrayal of the company as one that puts profit over the well-being of its users or that pushes divisive content, saying a false picture is being painted. But he does agree on the need for updated internet regulations, saying lawmakers are best able to assess the tradeoffs.

Haugen told U.S. lawmakers that she thinks a federal regulator is needed to oversee digital giants like Facebook, something that officials in Britain and the European Union are already working on. 

The U.K. government’s online safety bill calls for setting up a regulator that would hold companies to account when it comes to removing harmful or illegal content from their platforms, such as terrorist material or child sex abuse images. 

“This is quite a big moment,” Damian Collins, the lawmaker who chairs the committee, said ahead of the hearing. “This is a moment, sort of like Cambridge Analytica, but possibly bigger in that I think it provides a real window into the soul of these companies.” 

Collins was referring to the 2018 debacle involving data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica, which gathered details on as many as 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

Representatives from Facebook and other social media companies plan to speak to the committee Thursday. 

Ahead of the hearing, Haugen met the father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who killed herself in 2017 after viewing disturbing content on Facebook-owned Instagram. In a chat filmed by the BBC, Ian Russell told Haugen that after Molly’s death, her family found notes she wrote about being addicted to Instagram.

Haugen also is scheduled to meet next month with European Union officials in Brussels, where the bloc’s executive commission is updating its digital rulebook to better protect internet users by holding online companies more responsible for illegal or dangerous content. 

Under the U.K. rules, expected to take effect next year, Silicon Valley giants face an ultimate penalty of up to 10% of their global revenue for any violations. The EU is proposing a similar penalty. 

The U.K. committee will be hoping to hear more from Haugen about the data that tech companies have gathered. Collins said the internal files that Haugen has turned over to U.S. authorities are important because it shows the kind of information that Facebook holds — and what regulators should be asking when they investigate these companies.  

The committee has already heard from another Facebook whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, who raised the alarm after finding evidence of online political manipulation in countries such as Honduras and Azerbaijan before she was fired.

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Facebook’s Language Gaps Weaken Screening of Hate, Terrorism

In Gaza and Syria, journalists and activists feel Facebook censors their speech, flagging inoffensive Arabic posts as terrorist content. In India and Myanmar, political groups use Facebook to incite violence. All of it frequently slips through the company’s efforts to police its social media platforms because of a shortage of moderators who speak local languages and understand cultural contexts.

Internal company documents from the former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen show the problems plaguing the company’s content moderation are systemic, and that Facebook has understood the depth of these failings for years while doing little about it.

Its platforms have failed to develop artificial-intelligence solutions that can catch harmful content in different languages. As a result, terrorist content and hate speech proliferate in some of the world’s most volatile regions. Elsewhere, the company’s language gaps lead to overzealous policing of everyday expression.

This story, along with others published Monday, is based on former Facebook product manager-turned-whistleblower Frances Haugen’s disclosures to the Securities and Exchange Commission, which were also provided to Congress in redacted form by her legal team. The redacted versions received by Congress were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Associated Press.

In a statement to the AP, a Facebook spokesperson said that over the last two years the company has invested in recruiting more staff with local dialect and topic expertise to bolster its review capacity globally.

When it comes to Arabic content moderation, in particular, the company said, “We still have more work to do.”

But the documents show the problems are not limited to Arabic. In Myanmar, where Facebook-based misinformation has been linked repeatedly to ethnic violence, the company’s internal reports show it failed to stop the spread of hate speech targeting the minority Rohingya Muslim population.

In India, the documents show moderators never flagged anti-Muslim hate speech broadcast by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s far-right Hindu nationalist group because Facebook lacked moderators and automated filters with knowledge of Hindi and Bengali.

Arabic, Facebook’s third-most common language, does pose particular challenges to the company’s automated systems and human moderators, each of which struggles to understand spoken dialects unique to each country and region, their vocabularies salted with different historical influences and cultural contexts. The platform won a vast following across the region amid the 2011 Arab Spring, but its reputation as a forum for free expression in a region full of autocratic governments has since changed.

Scores of Palestinian journalists have had their accounts deleted. Archives of the Syrian civil war have disappeared. During the 11-day Gaza war last May, Facebook’s Instagram app briefly banned the hashtag #AlAqsa, a reference to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City, a flashpoint of the conflict. The company later apologized, saying it confused Islam’s third-holiest site for a terrorist group.

Criticism, satire and even simple mentions of groups on the company’s Dangerous Individuals and Organizations list — a docket modeled on the U.S. government equivalent — are grounds for a takedown.

“We were incorrectly enforcing counterterrorism content in Arabic,” one document reads, noting the system “limits users from participating in political speech, impeding their right to freedom of expression.”

The Facebook blacklist includes Gaza’s ruling Hamas party, as well as Hezbollah, the militant group that holds seats in Lebanon’s Parliament, along with many other groups representing wide swaths of people and territory across the Middle East.

The company’s language gaps and biases have led to the widespread perception that its reviewers skew in favor of governments and against minority groups. 

Israeli security agencies and watchdogs also monitor Facebook and bombard it with thousands of orders to take down Palestinian accounts and posts as they try to crack down on incitement.

“They flood our system, completely overpowering it,” said Ashraf Zeitoon, Facebook’s former head of policy for the Middle East and North Africa region, who left in 2017.

Syrian journalists and activists reporting on the country’s opposition also have complained of censorship, with electronic armies supporting embattled President Bashar Assad aggressively flagging dissident posts for removal. 

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Facebook does not translate the site’s hate speech and misinformation pages into Dari and Pashto, the country’s two main languages. The site also doesn’t have a bank of hate speech terms and slurs in Afghanistan, so it can’t build automated filters that catch the worst violations.

In the Philippines, homeland of many domestic workers in the Middle East, Facebook documents show that engineers struggled to detect reports of abuse by employers because the company couldn’t flag words in Tagalog, the major Philippine language.

In the Middle East, the company over-relies on artificial-intelligence filters that make mistakes, leading to “a lot of false positives and a media backlash,” one document reads. Largely unskilled moderators, in over their heads and at times relying on Google Translate, tend to passively field takedown requests instead of screening proactively. Most are Moroccans and get lost in the translation of Arabic’s 30-odd dialects.

The moderators flag inoffensive Arabic posts as terrorist content 77% of the time, one report said.

Although the documents from Haugen predate this year’s Gaza war, episodes from that bloody conflict show how little has been done to address the problems flagged in Facebook’s own internal reports.

Activists in Gaza and the West Bank lost their ability to livestream. Whole archives of the conflict vanished from newsfeeds, a primary portal of information. Influencers accustomed to tens of thousands of likes on their posts saw their outreach plummet when they posted about Palestinians.

“This has restrained me and prevented me from feeling free to publish what I want,” said Soliman Hijjy, a Gaza-based journalist.

Palestinian advocates submitted hundreds of complaints to Facebook during the war, often leading the company to concede error. In the internal documents, Facebook reported it had erred in nearly half of all Arabic language takedown requests submitted for appeal.

Facebook’s internal documents also stressed the need to enlist more Arab moderators from less-represented countries and restrict them to where they have appropriate dialect expertise.

“It is surely of the highest importance to put more resources to the task to improving Arabic systems,” said the report.

Meanwhile, many across the Middle East worry the stakes of Facebook’s failings are exceptionally high, with potential to widen long-standing inequality, chill civic activism and stoke violence in the region.

“We told Facebook: Do you want people to convey their experiences on social platforms, or do you want to shut them down?” said Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the United Kingdom. “If you take away people’s voices, the alternatives will be uglier.” 

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Окупований Крим: під будівлею суду у Сімферополі затримали 21 людину

За інформацією об’єднання «Кримська солідарність» , затриманих відвезли до відділку поліції Центрального району міста. Інших подробиць наразі немає

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