WASHINGTON, January 28, 2022 – A lack of cultural understanding by Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms is a prevailing reason for inaccurate content moderation in Iran, Middle East experts said.
Moreover, and they said, Iran’s proposed international internet replacement, the National Information Network, is dangerously close to coming into effect.
Speaking at a Thursday event of the Atlantic Council designed to draw attention to the current status of social media in Iran, a human rights expert said that Big Tech’s chronic misunderstanding of the Persian language leads to censorship of content that is either entertainment-based or posted by Iranian activists.
Panelists at the event also highlighted a new report “Iranians on #SocialMedia,” as the inspiration for the discussion.
Facebook “needs someone who actually understands what is going on on the ground,” claimed Simin Kargar, a human rights and technology research fellow at Digital Forensic Research Lab. Because the company don’t employ or contract with such people, said Kargar, the platform and its sister Instagram are inappropriately censoring posts in the country.
Because of the platforms’ negligence in understanding and adapting to local concerns, the Iranian people are not benefiting from the internet.
And – because Iran also heavily monitoring and censoring the internet within its borders, the Iranian people end up being hindered by the double-whammy of Iranian and Facebook censorship, Kargar said.
Iranian censorship and Facebook censorship
Mahsa Alimardani, a researcher with the human rights organization Article19, agreed that misconceptions due to language are a dangerous foe. She made this comment when asked what America can do to help and whether American sanctions have played play a part in the rise in content moderation.
All panelists at the event said that while American sanctions against Iran impact the internet in the country, they are not responsible for what is currently happening in Iran.
However, Alimardani also blamed Meta, the new corporate name for the company that runs Facebook and Instagram, for improper and excessive content moderation.
She said Facebook currently flag anything related to the Iranian guard after the Trump Administration created a list of dangerous people that should be restricted on social media. She disagreed that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps should be listed as a foreign terrorist organization.
Is the National Information Network a new model for authoritarian regimes?
The National Information Network, the new censored internet that Iran is currently working to implement, had been planned to launch in March. Alimardani said she believes that the release will be postponed because of disagreements about who within the government will control content moderation, and the impact the firewall could have on Iranian tech companies.
Alimardani highlighted the unique nature of the Iranian law that created the national internet. Instead of being voted on by the Iranian Parliament, the legislative body deferred action on the creation of a permanent national internet only until after an experimental period with the firewall, she said.
Yet the government has been pushing its own online streaming and video platforms. These platforms are part of the government’s attempt to incentivize an Iranian national “internet.”
Throwing cheap broadband into a censored internet to sweeten the pot?
Essentially, said Kargar, the government is promising more bandwidth at a lower cost through the National Information Network. The new network is also appealing to Iranian consumers because the NIN will primarily be in the country’s major dialect.
Holly Dagres, a nonresident fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Programs and the author of the “Iranians on #SocialMedia”, also spoke on the NIN. She said it would take Iran back to the Middle Ages, and also limit communication with other Iranians and with the outside world.
Big Tech Must Unite Against Russian Invasion of Ukraine, Just as America and EU
The head of the Center for European Policy Analysis said America and EU need to agree on Big Tech.
WASHINGTON, March 4, 2022 — In the wake of Russia’s invasion on Ukraine on February 24, big tech companies are grappling with how to respond. And on Monday, many leading thinkers on the role of internet in society urged them to do more.
Technology companies in the Western world need to agree on an approach to handling misinformation regarding the invasion, said Alina Polyakova, CEO of the Center for European Politics Analysis, speaking at the State of the Net conference here on Monday.
Polyakova’s plea came during a panel regarding the U.S. and EU relations at the annual Washington policy event that takes place during the week of the State of the Union address. She said that international tech giants were being forced to grapple with what role the might be able to play in response to the Russian invasion.
Platforms including Facebook, Google and Twitter have all significantly reduced Russian-backed ads. Meanwhile, YouTube, Meta’s Facebook and TikTok are blocking Russian media organizations, like RT and Sputnik, from using their platforms within the European Union.
But Polyakova said that tech giants shouldn’t be making these decisions without government help.
“If the United States and Europe are divided on the tech agenda front, then we’ll be divided on the values front. I think we need to start really pushing our governments to not leave companies fighting the large authoritarian states on their own,” she said.
Collective action by U.S. and EU, collective action by big tech
The implementation of aggressive sanctions, including banning many Russian banks from using the international payments system SWIFT on Saturday, demonstrated a united front, at least as Ukrainians began mounting their strong defense of their capital city Kyiv as Russian forces began attacks on the city on February 25 and Saturday.
Speaking on Monday, Polyakova said she was optimistic about the cooperation between the American and Europe, stating, “Hopefully the unity we’re seeing right now between Europe and the United States in response to Russia will be channeled into greater cooperation on this agenda as well.”
Still, the lack of a united front by the big tech companies does create a disconnect, she said.
Twitter may flag a propaganda post from the Russian government, yet Facebook may not. That adds fuel to the fire of misinformation, Polyakova said: It hinders “our ability to counter disinformation across narratives on the online space.”
She urged general regulations of big tech. “We still don’t have just a basic, regulatory framework that will give companies some guidance on what they should or should not be doing,” she said.
Biden On Lookout for Cyberattacks with Russia Massing on Border of Ukraine
The president says that, in the past, Russia has taken covert military actions.
WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – President Joe Biden said Thursday that the administration will be on the lookout for Russian cyberattacks in Ukraine as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin may be edging closer to invading Ukrainian territory.
Biden warned that, in the past, Russia has launched aggressive computer attacks that, while perhaps falling short of overt military action, have been daunting cyber-offensives of “military” officials not wearing Russian uniforms.
The comments came at the beginning of Thursday’s meeting of Biden’s Infrastructure Implementation Task Force. Biden briefly addressed rising tensions surrounding Ukraine.
Many critics of Russia, including Biden, have said that they Putin will pounce.
During his remarks, Biden said Moscow would “pay a heavy price” should it move any Russian troops across the Ukrainian border.
Following his foreign policy comments, Biden turned his attention to the planned task force talks on implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed on November 15, 2022.
He turned to former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the administration’s unofficial “infrastructure czar,” to offer comments on the administration’s progress to press.
Biden specifically addressed the law’s implications for ongoing supply chain issues.
Since the back half of 2021, the world has faced historic shipping delays on a variety of commercial goods as global manufacturing systems continue struggling to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and workforce shortages exacerbated by it.
Specifically, the tech industry has faced chronic shortages of semiconductor chips, perhaps worse than most other commodities. The shortages have crippled many digital industry supply chains. products.
Biden said that with the infrastructure law investment in physical infrastructure, including additional highways to alleviate traffic on the nation’s roads, will allow goods to be transported faster through existing supply chains.
Global Collaboration Important for Long-term Resolution on Supply Chain Concerns
America and Europe are working together to address supply chain concerns.
WASHINGTON, January 13, 2022 – American and European leaders discussed Wednesday how they were working to build closer partnerships with global players to reduce the impact of supply chain issues that have constricted supply of consumer and business items and have contributed to inflation scares.
A mix of federal aid, low interest rates and coronavirus-induced supply chain problems have led to a reported seven percent increase in the price of goods in December compared to the previous December.
Jonathan Spalter, CEO of broadband association USTelecom, the White House National Security Council’s Director for Digital Technology Policy and International Economics Ruth Berry, and the European Commission’s Thibaut Kleiner noted Wednesday that they were working together on a long-term resolution to supply chain concerns, including increasing funding and coordination between their governments and coordinating with non-government stakeholders to exchange ideas.
Berry, Spalter, and Kleiner agreed that there is a major issue with the supply chain with respect to things including chips, fiber optic cable and circuit boards. According to Berry, this issue is key to the Biden administration and they are making investments, expanding domestic production, and partnering with other entities to resolve this issue.
Berry focused on the idea that the views of stakeholders should be prioritized. She said there is value in the exchange of ideas and in considering the views of people across the industry, with Spalter and Kleiner agreeing.
Kleiner said the European Commission is speaking with America, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea to find like-minded ways to address this issue. One of the contributing problems is that chips and other materials are designed in the European Union and in the United States, but are produced in Asia, making the industry dependent on Asian production, said Kleiner.
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