Dutch journalist held in Greece for sheltering asylum seeker

After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon. (File/Twitter)
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Updated 24 June 2021

Dutch journalist held in Greece for sheltering asylum seeker

  • Dutch journalist, Ingeborg Beugel, faces a year in prison and a hefty fine in Greece for sheltering an Afghan asylum seeker.
  • Beugel had been trying to help her 23-year-old Afghan guest Fridoon, who had been picked up by Greek police earlier in the day.

ATHENS: A Dutch journalist faces a year in prison and a 5000-euro ($6,000) fine in Greece after police arrested her for sheltering a young Afghan asylum seeker, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Ingeborg Beugel, 61, says she spent the night in a police cell earlier this month on the island of Hydra and was taken handcuffed to court under a 30-year-old law designed to discourage assistance to Albanians who came to Greece illegally at the time.
Since coming to power in 2019, the conservative Greek government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has toughened migration and asylum laws.
Beugel’s lawyer Vassilis Papadopoulos told AFP that being convicted for sheltering a migrant would be “very unusual in Greece.”
A correspondent for Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, Beugel was arrested on June 13 in Hydra where she has lived on and off with her children for the past 40 years.
She had been trying to help her 23-year-old Afghan guest Fridoon, who had been picked up by police earlier in the day.
After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon.
Having alerted the Dutch embassy in Athens, she was soon released and her court case was postponed to October.
“The clause in the law is about hiding undocumented migrants. I have never hidden that Fridoon lives with me,” Beugel told De Groene Amsterdammer, which reported on her story.
In an interview with AFP, Beugel said a police officer told her that “angry islanders had called the police, anonymously.”
She added that Fridoon only became “’illegal’ involuntarily” as the Greek Asylum Service was closed for months due to the pandemic and he was unable to meet specific deadlines.
He fled Kabul because his father and uncle were killed by the Taliban, and arrived in Lesbos in 2015, Beugel said.
“He has had two asylum applications rejected because in July 2017 when he had to tell his story to the Greek Asylum Service, he got a translator who wrote his story wrong in Greek. It took years to correct that wrongdoing, and he is now entitled to another attempt,” she told AFP.
In 2017 in a similar case, Cedric Herrou, a French national, was sentenced to four months in prison and a fine of 3,000 euros for sheltering migrants. He was acquitted on appeal in 2020.


Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

Updated 07 February 2023

Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

  • A former Facebook moderator in Kenya is suing Meta over harmful work environment
  • The lawsuit claims Meta content moderation teams were understaffed and no mental health support provided

NAIROBI: A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country.
Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday.
A former Facebook moderator in Kenya, Daniel Motaung, is suing the company claiming poor working conditions.
Motaung said that while working as a moderator he was exposed to gruesome content such as rape, torture, and beheadings that risked his and his colleagues’ mental health.
He said Meta did not offer mental health support to employees, required unreasonably long working hours, and offered minimal pay. Motaung worked in Facebook’s African hub in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource Ltd.
Following the judge's decision that Meta can be sued in Kenya, the next step in the case will be considered by the court on Mar. 8.
Amnesty International Kenya Executive Director Irungu Houghton termed the ruling as “historic.”
“This is a significant step that ensures the authority of Kenyan courts to protect and enforce fundamental human rights… The social media platforms have serious impacts on people’s lives and societies. They must be more accountable,” he said in a statement.
Meta is facing a separate court case in which two Ethiopians say hate speech was allowed and even promoted on Facebook amid heated rhetoric over their country’s deadly Tigray conflict.
That lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators to adequately monitor posts, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it responds more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.
The Associated Press and more than a dozen other media outlets last year reported that Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in several places around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal Facebook documents leaked by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.


Big Tech not doing enough to remove fake news, activist NGO Avaaz says

Updated 07 February 2023

Big Tech not doing enough to remove fake news, activist NGO Avaaz says

  • Findings raise doubts over companies's ability to comply with new EU online content rules

BRUSSELS: Twitter, Google’s YouTube, Meta Platform’s Facebook, Microsoft’s LinkedIn and TikTok are not doing enough to remove fake news from their platforms, raising doubts about their ability to comply with new EU online content rules, activist NGO Avaaz said on Tuesday.
The companies are due to present reports this week on the measures they have taken to comply with the updated EU code of practice on disinformation which is linked to the online content rules known as the Digital Services Act (DSA) that came into force last November.
Avaaz said it analyzed a sample pool of 108 fact-checked pieces of content related to a 2022 American anti-vaccine film and found efforts by the social media platforms including Meta’s Instagram to remove disinformation fell short.
“Overall, just 22 percent of disinformation content we analyzed was either labelled or removed by the six major platforms,” Avaaz said.
It said the companies did not do enough to tackle disinformation in languages other than English.
“Despite explicit platform commitments in the code to improve their services in all EU languages, our research found that in certain EU languages — Italian, German, Hungarian, Danish, Spanish and Estonian — no platform took any action against violating posts,” Avaaz said.
“This study suggests that most of the major platforms are failing to comply with their Code of Practice commitments and might infringe upcoming DSA obligations,” the group said.
Meta, Alphabet, Twitter and Microsoft last year vowed to take a tougher line against disinformation after committing to the updated EU code.
Companies face fines up to 6 percent of their global turnover for DSA violations.


Turkiye detains four over quake social media posts

Updated 07 February 2023

Turkiye detains four over quake social media posts

  • The four individuals detained for sharing “provocative posts aiming to create fear and panic”

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Tuesday said they had detained four people over “provocative” social media posts following a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake in southern Turkiye.
The quake struck the region early on Monday, killing more than 4,800 people in Turkiye and Syria, injuring thousands and leaving many more without shelter in the bitter cold.
The four individuals were detained after officers found accounts that shared “provocative posts aiming to create fear and panic,” the police said.
It added that a wider investigation into social media accounts was ongoing but offered no information on the content of the posts.
Turkish social media have been filled with posts by people who complain about a lack of search and rescue efforts in their area, particularly in Hatay.
The police appeared to address such claims on Tuesday.
“The address and location information of citizens who seek help is immediately ascertained and coordination is established,” they said.
Turkish authorities have in the last few years cracked down on social media posts, especially those considered to support “terror,” but this has led to accusations that freedom of expression has been curtailed.


Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

Updated 07 February 2023

Disney+ in Hong Kong drops ‘Simpsons’ episode with ‘forced labor’ mention

HONG KONG: An episode of “The Simpsons” that refers to “forced labor camps” in China is nowhere to be found on the Disney+ streaming service in Hong Kong amid growing censorship concerns in the city.
Hong Kong once boasted significant artistic and cultural freedoms compared to mainland China, but authorities have clamped down on dissent following democracy protests in 2019, including stepping up film censorship.
Episode 2 of the US animated hit’s 34th season included the line: “Behold the wonders of China. Bitcoin mines, forced labor camps where children make smartphones and romance.”
“One Angry Lisa,” which first aired last October, could not be accessed on Disney+ using a Hong Kong connection but is available elsewhere, AFP confirmed.
It is the second time in three years that the streaming service’s Hong Kong version has dropped a Simpsons episode that satirised China.
The previously affected episode showed the Simpsons visiting Beijing’s Tiananmen Square — the site of a deadly 1989 crackdown on democracy protesters — finding a sign there that read: “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”
The Hong Kong government and Disney did not immediately provide comment.
In 2021, Hong Kong passed censorship laws forbidding broadcasts that might breach a broad national security law that China imposed on the city.
Censors have since ordered directors to make cuts to their films and refused permission for others to be shown.
While those rules do not cover streaming services, authorities have warned that online platforms are still subject to the national security law, which criminalizes the broadly defined crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
In recent years, Hollywood has been accused of bending to China’s censorship regime to tap into its vast consumer base and billion-dollar box office.
A recent United Nations report found allegations of torture and forced labor in the far-western Xinjiang region were credible, accusations Beijing denies.
Rights groups say more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities are detained in what the US State Department and others have said amounts to genocide.
In 2020, Disney came under fire for filming the live-action Mulan remake in Xinjiang, with local government agencies thanked in the credits.


Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims

Updated 07 February 2023

Twitter saved from bankruptcy, Musk claims

  • Responding to a Wall Street Journal report, Musk said the business is ‘trending to breakeven’ but admitted that it still faces challenges
  • The platform expanded its Twitter Blue paid-for verification service to Saudi Arabia and 5 other territories last week, as it looks for ways to boost revenues

LONDON: Twitter has been saved from bankruptcy and the business is on track to break even, according to CEO Elon Musk.

In a message posted on the social media platform on Sunday, he said recent months had been difficult but the company is now in a stronger financial position, though there are further hurdles to overcome.

“Last three months were extremely tough, as had to save Twitter from bankruptcy, while fulfilling essential Tesla (and) SpaceX duties,” he wrote.

“Wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. Twitter still has challenges, but is now trending to break even if we keep at it. Public support is much appreciated!

“To be extra clear, Twitter is definitely not financially healthy yet but is trending to be so. Lots of work still needed to get there.”

Musk posted his comment in response to a news report in The Wall Street Journal that examined his personal struggles while running several companies simultaneously, and questioned his physical well-being.

Following Musk’s takeover of Twitter in October, the company reported a massive drop in revenues from advertisers. This prompted the South African-born billionaire to say Twitter was like a “plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire, and the controls don’t work,” and was at risk of going bust. He blamed the revenue decline on activists putting pressure on advertisers not to do business with the company after his takeover.

In his efforts to tackle the financial challenges Twitter faces, Musk has implemented a number of changes to the business and the platform. Shortly after completing his acquisition, he restructured the company and laid off about half of its 7,500 staff.

In an effort to enhance monetization of the platform, in December he revamped its Twitter Blue verification service in some territories and introduced a subscription-based tier that allows any user to obtain a “blue check” badge next to their name for $12 a month. The service expanded to six additional countries last week, including Saudi Arabia, increasing to 12 the total number in which it is available.

Also last week, Twitter announced it would end free access to its application programming interface, or API, which is used by third-party developers, and offer a basic paid tier instead. To further expand its revenue pool, the company was also reportedly considering offering popular usernames for sale at auction. In January, Twitter auctioned memorabilia from the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

Though the business appears to still be in a precarious financial state, the platform announced on Friday it will start sharing advertising revenue with some content creators.