Assange tried to call White House, Hillary Clinton over data dump, his lawyer says

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) – Julian Assange tried to contact Hillary Clinton and the White House when he realized that unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables given to WikiLeaks were about to be dumped on the internet, his lawyer told his London extradition hearing on Tuesday.

Assange is being sought by the United States on 18 counts of hacking U.S. government computers and an espionage offense, having allegedly conspired with Chelsea Manning, then a U.S. soldier known as Bradley Manning, to leak hundreds of thousands of secret documents by WikiLeaks almost a decade ago.

On Monday, the lawyer representing the United States told the hearing that Assange, 48, was wanted for crimes that had endangered people in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan who had helped the West, some of whom later disappeared.

U.S. authorities say his actions in recklessly publishing unredacted classified diplomatic cables put informants, dissidents, journalists and human rights activists at risk of torture, abuse or death.

Outlining part of his defense, Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers said allegations that he had helped Manning to break a government password, had encouraged the theft of secret data and knowingly put lives in danger were “lies, lies and more lies”.

He told London’s Woolwich Crown Court that WikiLeaks had received documents from Manning in April 2010. He then made a deal with a number of newspapers, including the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian and Germany’s Der Spiegel, to begin releasing redacted parts of the 250,000 cables in November that year.

A witness from Der Spiegel said the U.S. State Department had been involved in suggesting redactions in conference calls, Summers said.

However, a password that allowed access to the full unredacted material was published in a book by a Guardian reporter about WikiLeaks in February 2011. In August, another German newspaper reported it had discovered the password and it had access to the archive.

PEOPLE’S LIVES “AT RISK”

Summers said Assange attempted to warn the U.S. government, calling the White House and attempting to speak to then- Secretary of State Clinton, saying “unless we do something, people’s lives are put at risk”.

Summers said the State Department had responded by suggesting that Assange call back “in a couple of hours”.

The United States asked Britain to extradite Assange last year after he was pulled from the Ecuador embassy in London, where he had spent seven years holed up avoiding extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations which have since been dropped.

Assange has served a prison sentence in Britain for skipping bail and remains jailed pending the U.S. extradition request

Supporters hail Assange as an anti-establishment hero who revealed governments’ abuses of power, and argue the action against him is a dangerous infringement of journalists’ rights. Critics cast him as a dangerous enemy of the state who has undermined Western security.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Strip searches and ads: 10 tech and privacy hot spots for 2020

By Umberto Bacchi

TBILISI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From whether governments should use facial recognition for surveillance to what data internet giants should be allowed to collect, 2019 was marked by a heated global debate around privacy and technology.

The Thomson Reuters Foundation asked 10 privacy experts what issues will shape the conversation in 2020:

1. CALIFORNIA DIGITAL PRIVACY LAW – Cindy Cohn, executive director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

“A California law giving consumers more control over their personal information, like the right to know what data businesses have collected about them, to delete it and to opt-out of its sale comes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The legislation could have a ripple effect across the United States, or lead to the passage of a federal law.

This could be good news, if a federal law was to mandate some basic privacy guarantees that states could improve on – or bad news, if it was to instead block stronger state laws.”

2. DIGITAL STRIP SEARCHES – Silkie Carlo, director, Big Brother Watch

“From where we have been to who we have spoken to, our phones contain mountains of data that is increasingly sought after by police during investigations. So-called “digital strip searches”, where crime victims are asked to hand over their phones, are becoming common place all around the world.

In Britain, victims of rape are now routinely required to give police full downloads of their phones, and police can keep the data for 100 years. It’s no coincidence that almost 50% of victims are dropping their cases.

There’s no law in the UK around this and it’s likely we’ll see a showdown between police, data regulators and privacy advocates in 2020.”

3. FACIAL RECOGNITION – Jameson Spivack, policy associate, centre on privacy & technology, Georgetown Law Centre

“In 2019, face recognition technology became an integral part of the public debate about privacy, as people realized just how much of a risk this technology poses to civil rights and liberties.

Public officials have responded, with bans and proposed regulation at all levels of government. These conversations will come to a head in 2020.

In the U.S. this could mean new federal, state, or local policies around how law enforcement is allowed to use (or not use) face recognition; rules for companies developing the technology; and/or increased enforcement action from entities like the Federal Trade Commission or state attorneys general.”

4. BEHAVIOURAL ADVERTISING – Karolina Iwanska, lawyer, Panoptykon Foundation

“A wave of complaints against the use of personal information to target advertising online have been filed with data authorities across the European Union over the past two years.

The Irish data protection authority – which is a lead authority for Google – started an investigation into the company’s advertising business and the British ICO has published a damning report on the ad-tech industry.

2020 should bring much needed decisions in these cases, potentially leading to fines and further restrictions on companies’ use of people’s data.”

5. EU BUDGET – Edin Omanovic, advocacy director, Privacy International

“Next year, the EU will decide its budget for the years 2021-2028. How it will spend what is likely to be in excess of 1 trillion euro ($1.10 trillion) will have a transformative impact not just on its residents, but around the world.

For the first time, it will spend more on migration control than on developing Africa, often involving some sort of surveillance, which could pose huge threats to privacy and other human rights.”

6. AI TECHNOLOGIES – Diego Naranjo, head of policy, European Digital Rights

“A 2019 report on facial recognition by the EU’s rights agency represented a crucial step in the debate that we as societies need to have prior to deploying such technologies, which affect privacy, data protection, and other rights.

We could end up implementing practices in Europe which horrify us when they are implemented elsewhere, for example in China.

This conversation, as well as examining the impact of other technologies, like the potential discriminatory impact of “AI-based lie detectors” on vulnerable groups, such as migrants, will be an important part of the debate in 2020.”

7. ALGORITHMS’ DECISION MAKING – Sandra Wachter, professor, Oxford Internet Institute

“The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) currently focus on things like transparency, consent and notification of data collection, but not on how we are evaluated after data is collected.

This means users have few rights to challenge or contest how they are assessed by algorithms processing their information, which is worrisome since our digital identity steers our paths in lives and impacts our opportunities.

In 2020, the EU’s data watchdog will publish several recommendations on how to improve data rights. This is a great opportunity to give guidance to transform the GDPR, introducing more controls over how algorithms evaluate us.”

8. TARGETED POLITICAL ADS – Matthew Rice, Scotland director, Open Rights Group

“Personal data is becoming ever more central in the operations of political campaigns, as parties buy up commercial data sets in an attempt to derive the voters’ opinions and decide whether to target them online and how.

This practice stretches the limits of data protection laws and strains trust in democratic systems.

With the U.S. Presidential elections taking place in 2020 expect to see a huge amount of attention paid on what personal data parties are using and how they are using it.”

9. BIOMETRICS TECHNOLOGIES – Carly Kind, director, Ada Lovelace Institute

“In 2020 biometrics technologies are likely to come under the serious scrutiny of regulators in Europe (and possibly beyond).

We’re approaching a tipping point in public concern about the increasing ubiquity of facial recognition. In China 84% of people surveyed want the opportunity to review or delete facial data collected about them.

EU authorities have promised facial recognition regulation will be forthcoming in 2020. It is critical that it looks beyond facial recognition to the entire gambit of AI-enabled biometric technologies that will be rolled out in the years to come.”

10. IRELAND’S DATA AUTHORITY – Paul-Olivier Dehaye, co-founder, Personaldata.io

“In 2020, Ireland is likely to come under increased pressure from other European countries to take a stronger stance on data protection after years of lax enforcement.

Thanks to the EU’s harmonization mechanisms, the Irish data authority could be compelled to adjust to the stricter parameters used by its EU counterparts when deciding on the growing number of privacy complaints filed by EU citizens.

As Ireland hosts the European headquarters of U.S. technology firms like Facebook and Google, this would have far-reaching consequences across the bloc.”

($1 = 0.9073 euros)

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Thailand unveils ‘anti-fake news’ center to police the internet

Thailand unveils ‘anti-fake news’ center to police the internet
By Patpicha Tanakasempipat

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand unveiled an “anti-fake news” center on Friday, the Southeast Asian country’s latest effort to exert government control over a sweeping range of online content.

The move came as Thailand is counting on the digital economy to drive growth amid domestic political tensions, following a March election that installed its junta leader since 2014 as a civilian prime minister.

Thailand has recently pressed more cybercrime charges for what it says is misinformation affecting national security. Such content is mostly opinion critical of the government, the military or the royal family.

Minister of Digital Economy and Society Puttipong Punnakanta broadly defined “fake news” as any viral online content that misleads people or damages the country’s image. He made no distinction between non-malicious false information and deliberate disinformation.

“The center is not intended to be a tool to support the government or any individual,” Puttipong said on Friday before giving reporters a tour.

The center is set up like a war room, with monitors in the middle of the room showing charts tracking the latest “fake news” and trending Twitter hashtags.

It is staffed by around 30 officers at a time, who will review online content – gathered through “social listening” tools – on a sweeping range of topics from natural disasters, the economy, health products and illicit goods.

The officers will also target news about government policies and content that broadly affects “peace and order, good morals, and national security,” according to Puttipong.

If they suspect something is false, they will flag it to relevant authorities to issue corrections through the center’s social media platforms and website and through the press.

Rights groups and media freedom advocates were concerned the government could use the center as a tool for censorship and propaganda.

“In the Thai context, the term ‘fake news’ is being weaponized to censor dissidents and restrict our online freedom,” said Emilie Pradichit, director of the Thailand-based Manushya Foundation, which advocates for online rights.

Pradichit said the move could be used to codify censorship, adding the center would allow the government to be the “sole arbiter of truth”.

Transparency reports from internet companies such as Facebook and Google show Thai government requests to take down content or turn over information have ramped up since the military seized power in 2014.

A law prohibiting criticism of the monarchy has often been the basis for such requests for Facebook. In Google’s cases, government criticism was the main reason cited for removal of content.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Kay Johnson and Frances Kerry)

Cloudflare terminates 8chan as customer on ‘hate-filled’ content: CEO

A man takes part in a rally against hate a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store, in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. Graffiti reads "El Paso Is Not Alone" REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

(Reuters) – U.S. cybersecurity firm Cloudflare on Monday said it would terminate online message board 8chan as a customer after a gunman used the messaging forum prior to killing 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas on Saturday.

The gunman is believed to have posted a four-page statement on 8chan, and called the Walmart attack “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas”.

Police in the Philippines, where 8chan is hosted, told Reuters they were investigating the messaging board but were unable to give details, such as when the inquiry began and what prompted it.

The suspect was officially identified as a 21-year-old white male from Allen, Texas, a Dallas suburb about 650 miles (1,046 km) east of El Paso, which lies along the Rio Grande, across the U.S.-Mexico border from Ciudad Juarez. Citing law enforcement officials, media named the suspect as Patrick Crusius.

The suspect’s post on 8chan expressed support for the gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March.

“We just sent a notice that we are terminating 8chan as a customer effective at midnight tonight Pacific Time,” Cloudflare Chief Executive Matthew Prince said in a blog post.

“Based on evidence we’ve seen, it appears that he (gunman)posted a screed to the site immediately before beginning his terrifying attack.”

Prince’s blog added that while 8chan did not violate the law by not moderating the “hate-filled” content posted by users, it had “created an environment that revels in violating its spirit”.

(Reporting by Sathvik N in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Karen Lema in MANILA; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Clarence Fernandez)

Let’s take the fake out of our news!

The Fake News Highway - Image by John Iglar

By Kami Klein

There was a time when the news wasn’t so confusing.  Before the internet, most families had their morning newspaper delivered conveniently to their door. In order to keep your business or be competitive, newspapers battled over the facts and dug deeper to reach the truth per investigative journalism.  The stories would be presented without opinions but based on legitimate proof. Of course, just as internet news does today, a powerful headline didn’t hurt.  

Once the workday was winding down, the evening news of the day was given through well-respected television journalists such as Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw, who presented the unbiased facts, trusting in the abilities of their listeners to ponder and come to their own conclusions.  The news itself was taken quite seriously. The worst thing to happen to a reporter was to be proven or accused of dishonorable reporting. To be respected in the journalism field was the goal and not how many facebook followers or tweet responses happened in a day or whether they have stayed true to their personal beliefs. Becoming a journalist was a calling… not the way to fame.

Suddenly we have the internet highway where everyone can have an opinion, Competition requires all journalism to be the fastest news source which yields little time for investigation or vetting and by presenting a portion of the facts which in many cases is served to the public with a generous amount of opinion gravy poured on top. Conservative or Liberal, it is rare to find an unbiased news source. Add to this confusing issue the hot topic of “Fake News” and it is a wonder any of us really knows what is going on. 

Every day, in social media across the world, fake news is often more prevalent in our feed than those stories that are actually the truth or at least close to it.  These (articles) are spread by the misconception that if it is on the internet, it must be true, or because the story sits right in line with the personal beliefs of the reader, it must be correct.  The share button gets a hit, and the lie continues on its journey. Where we used to be able to hold the reporter or journalist accountable for their information, the responsibility is now ours. In an age where anyone can post a news story, how do we take the fake out of our news? 

There are several kinds of fake news on the internet.  The following information comes from a story written by MastersinCommunication.org.. Called “The Truth about Fake News”. It is important for us to be able to identify and beware of the following:    

 

  • Propaganda – News stories designed to disparage a candidate, promote a political cause, and mislead voters
  • Sloppy Journalism – Stories containing inaccurate information produced by writers and editors who have not properly vetted a story. Retractions do little to fix the problem, even if there is one since the story has spread and the damage done.
  • Sensationalized Headlines – Often a story may be accurate but comes with a misleading or outrageous headline. Readers may not read past it, but take everything they need to know from this skewed title.
  • Clickbait – These stories are deliberately created to create traffic on a website. Advertising dollars are at stake, and gullible readers fall for it by the millions.
  • Satire – Parody websites like The Onion and The Daily Mash produce satirical stories that are believed by uninformed readers. The stories are written as satire and not meant to be taken literally, but unless you check their website, not everyone will know. 
  • Average Joe Reporting – Sometimes a person will post an eyewitness report that goes viral, but it may or may not be true. The classic example of this was a tweet by Eric Tucker in Austin, Texas in 2015. Posting a picture of a row of charter busses, Tucker surmised and tweeted that Trump protesters were being bussed in to rally against the President-elect. The tweet was picked up by multiple media outlets, and Mr. Trump himself, going viral in a matter of hours. The only problem is, it wasn’t true.

 The 2020 elections are upon us and fake news will be used as a weapon.  False news can destroy lives and ultimately do great harm to our country. 

How do we beat these fakes and stop them?  Here are some tools available to anyone who does not want to be duped by those that are attempting to manipulate for power, creating greater discourse or for money. If we can all take responsibility for what we share, we are one step closer to legitimate news.   

HERE ARE QUICK TIPS FOR CHECKING LEGITIMACY OF A NEWS STORY

 

  1.  Pay attention to the domain and URL – many times these sites will make something very close to a trusted news source.  Sites with such endings like .com.co should make you raise your eyebrows and tip you off that you need to dig around more to see if they can be trusted. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos. For example, abcnews.com is a legitimate news source, but abcnews.com.co is not, despite its similar appearance.
  2. Read the “About Us” section- Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, members of leadership, and the mission and ethics statement behind an organization. The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and seems overblown, you should be skeptical.  This is where satire sites will let you know that what you are reading is only meant for entertainment. The laugh is then on us when we take what they say as the truth. they are counting on you NOT to check. 
  3. HEADLINES CAN BE MISLEADING!! -Headlines are meant to get the reader’s attention, but they’re also supposed to accurately reflect what the story is about. In fake stories, headlines often will be written in an exaggerated language with the intention of being misleading.  These will then be attached to stories that give half-truth or the story proves that the headline would never or has not actually happened.  
  4. Fact-Checking can be your friend –  Not only is fact-checking smart, looking to see if your particular news story leans to conservative or liberal points of view is just as important. Mediabiasfactcheck.com is one of my go-to places.  They also provide a great list of fact-checking sites that are highly recommended. You will also find a wonderful list of news web sites that have been deemed as non-biased. 

  While Facebook and Twitter are being held accountable for much of what is on our social media today, they will only succeed with our help. Together, we can take the fake out of the news and make responsible choices for our future!  

 

U.S. Democrats unveil legislation to reinstate net neutrality rules

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in Congress unveiled a bill on Wednesday to reinstate net neutrality rules repealed by the Federal Communications Commission under U.S. President Donald Trump, the latest salvo in a more than decade-long battle over how to regulate internet traffic.

The bill mirrors an effort last year to reverse the FCC’s December 2017 order repealing landmark rules approved in 2015 that barred internet providers from blocking or slowing content or offering paid “fast lanes.”

“It is a fight that we can win,” said Senator Ed Markey, a bill sponsor, at a Capitol Hill news conference. “We are on the right side of history. We will not give up.”

He said the bill, dubbed the “Save the Internet Act,” will protect consumers from higher prices, blocked websites or slower internet speeds.

The reversal of net neutrality rules was a win for internet providers like Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc, but opposed by content and social media companies like Facebook Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Alphabet Inc.

The bill would repeal the order introduced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, bar the FCC from reinstating it or a substantially similar order and reinstate the 2015 net neutrality order, a fact sheet said.

Pai said in a statement that the 2017 rule “has proven wrong the many hysterical predictions of doom … most notably the fantasy that market-based regulation would bring about ‘the end of the Internet as we know it.’”

He suggested that the main thing the internet needs to be saved from is “heavy-handed regulation from the 1930s” that would treat it as a public utility.

Markey said the bill has the support of nearly all Democrats, and a companion bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives on Friday. Democrats say they expect the House will vote on the bill in the next few months.

Republicans oppose reinstating the 2015 rules that grant the FCC sweeping authority to oversee the conduct of internet providers.

House Republicans Greg Walden, Bob Latta and Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in a statement that both parties believe “a free and open internet is fundamental to our society.”

“All sides want a permanent solution,” they said.

Representative Frank Pallone, a Democrat who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee, said the FCC ignored the will of the American people in repealing the rules.

The Senate, which is controlled by Republicans, voted in May 2018 to reinstate the rules, but the House did not take up the issue before Congress adjourned last year.

A U.S. federal appeals court last month held lengthy oral arguments in a legal challenge to the FCC’s decision. That court upheld the Obama internet rules in 2016.

In its 2017 decision, the Republican-led FCC voted 3-2 along party lines. The agency gave providers sweeping power to recast how users access the internet but said they must disclose changes in internet access.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Meredith Mazzilli)

Russia moves to mask its soldiers’ digital trail

FILE PHOTO: A Russian Army member, dressed in a historical uniform, takes a selfie as he attends a rehearsal for a military parade to mark the anniversary of a historical parade in 1941, when Soviet soldiers marched towards the front lines at the Red Square in Moscow, Russia November 5, 2017. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is moving to ban its soldiers from sharing information on the internet, a step that follows the use of social media posts by investigative journalists to shine a light on Moscow’s clandestine role in foreign conflicts.

Draft legislation proposes banning servicemen and reserve troops from posting anything online that would allow outsiders to glean their whereabouts or role in the military.

The bill, which was approved by lawmakers in its second of three readings in parliament on Tuesday, says the ban would cover photographs, video, geolocation data or other information.

It would also prohibit soldiers sharing information about other servicemen or the relatives of servicemen, while those who break the ban would be subject to disciplinary measures.

“Information shared by soldiers on the internet or mass media is used…in certain cases to form a biased assessment of Russia’s state policy,” the bill’s explanatory note said.

The move comes with online investigative journalism sites drawing on open source data to probe Russia’s alleged role in clandestine operations abroad.

Investigative site Bellingcat used social network posts extensively in reports concluding that Russian soldiers were involved in the downing of passenger flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014.

A Dutch criminal investigation concluded last year that the plane was shot down with a surface-to-air missile belonging to the 53rd brigade of the Russian army. Moscow denies involvement.

“Social networks were used in many other investigations about the war in Ukraine and the war in Syria, for instance when fellow servicemen or relatives spoke about deceased soldiers,” said Roman Dobrokhotov, chief editor of investigative site The Insider.

Reuters has used social network posts to identify Russians fighting in eastern Ukraine at a time when Moscow denied its soldiers were fighting there.

If passed, the legislation will formally institute defense ministry recommendations that pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia says were issued to soldiers in 2017.

The lower house still has to vote on the bill once more before it is sent to the upper house for a vote and is then signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

U.S. seeks input on privacy rules to protect consumer data

People look at data on their mobiles as background with internet wire cables on switch hub is projected in this picture illustration taken May 30, 2018. Picture taken May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Illustration

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday said it was seeking comments on how to set nationwide data privacy rules in the wake of tough new requirements adopted by the European Union and California this year.

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a privacy hearing on Wednesday with major companies including Alphabet Inc, AT&T Inc, Apple Inc. This summer, the Trump administration held more than 50 meetings with tech companies, internet providers, privacy advocates and others.

Data privacy has become an increasingly important issue since massive breaches compromised the personal information of millions of U.S. internet and social media users, as well as breaches involving large retailers and credit reporting agency Equifax Inc.

Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued the request for comment after noting “a growing number of foreign countries, and some U.S. states, have articulated distinct visions for how to address privacy concerns, leading to a nationally and globally fragmented regulatory landscape.”

The administration said companies and other organizations that use consumer data should be transparent about how they use personal information, individuals should be able to exercise control over personal information and data use “should be reasonably minimized.”

David Redl, who heads NTIA, said “the Trump administration is beginning this conversation to solicit ideas on a path for adapting privacy to today’s data-driven world.”

The Internet Association, which represents more than 40 major internet and technology companies, said this month it backed modernizing data privacy rules but wants a national approach that would pre-empt new regulations in California that take effect in 2020.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed data privacy legislation in June aimed at giving consumers more control over how companies collect and manage their personal information, although it was not as stringent as new rules in Europe.

The European Union General Data Protection Regulation took effect in May, replacing the bloc’s patchwork of rules dating back to 1995.

Breaking privacy laws can now result in fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue or 20 million euros ($23.2 million), whichever is higher, as opposed to a few hundred thousand euros.

Also testifying Wednesday will be Twitter Inc, Amazon.com Inc and Charter Communications Inc to give them “an opportunity to explain their approaches to privacy,” said U.S. Senator John Thune.

Google on Monday said it backed “responsible, interoperable and adaptable data protection regulations” as it offered a list of principles.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by David Gregorio)

Exclusive: Iran-based political influence operation – bigger, persistent, global

FILE PHOTO: Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

By Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An apparent Iranian influence operation targeting internet users worldwide is significantly bigger than previously identified, Reuters has found, encompassing a sprawling network of anonymous websites and social media accounts in 11 different languages.

Facebook and other companies said last week that multiple social media accounts and websites were part of an Iranian project to covertly influence public opinion in other countries. A Reuters analysis has identified 10 more sites and dozens of social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

U.S.-based cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc and Israeli firm ClearSky reviewed Reuters’ findings and said technical indicators showed the web of newly-identified sites and social media accounts – called the International Union of Virtual Media, or IUVM – was a piece of the same campaign, parts of which were taken down last week by Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc.

IUVM pushes content from Iranian state media and other outlets aligned with the government in Tehran across the internet, often obscuring the original source of the information such as Iran’s PressTV, FARS news agency and al-Manar TV run by the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group Hezbollah.

PressTV, FARS, al-Manar TV and representatives for the Iranian government did not respond to requests for comment. The Iranian mission to the United Nations last week dismissed accusations of an Iranian influence campaign as “ridiculous.”

The extended network of disinformation highlights how multiple state-affiliated groups are exploiting social media to manipulate users and further their geopolitical agendas, and how difficult it is for tech companies to guard against political interference on their platforms.

In July, a U.S. grand jury indicted 12 Russians whom prosecutors said were intelligence officers, on charges of hacking political groups in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. U.S. officials have said Russia, which has denied the allegations, could also attempt to disrupt congressional elections in November.

Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab who has previously analyzed disinformation campaigns for Facebook, said the IUVM network displayed the extent and scale of the Iranian operation.

“It’s a large-scale amplifier for Iranian state messaging,” Nimmo said. “This shows how easy it is to run an influence operation online, even when the level of skill is low. The Iranian operation relied on quantity, not quality, but it stayed undetected for years.”

FURTHER INVESTIGATIONS

Facebook spokesman Jay Nancarrow said the company is still investigating accounts and pages linked to Iran and had taken more down on Tuesday.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we will continue to find out more,” he said. “We’re also glad to see that the information we and others shared last week has prompted additional attention on this kind of inauthentic behavior.”

Twitter referred to a statement it tweeted on Monday shortly after receiving a request for comment from Reuters. The statement said the company had removed a further 486 accounts for violating its terms of use since last week, bringing the total number of suspended accounts to 770.

“Fewer than 100 of the 770 suspended accounts claimed to be located in the U.S. and many of these were sharing divisive social commentary,” Twitter said.

Google declined to comment but took down the IUVM TV YouTube account after Reuters contacted the company with questions about it. A message on the page on Tuesday said the account had been “terminated for a violation of YouTube’s Terms of Service.”

IUVM did not respond to multiple emails or social media messages requesting comment.

The organization does not conceal its aims, however. Documents on the main IUVM website  said its headquarters are in Tehran and its objectives include “confronting with remarkable arrogance, western governments, and Zionism front activities.”

APP STORE AND SATIRICAL CARTOONS

IUVM uses its network of websites – including a YouTube channel, breaking news service, mobile phone app store, and a hub for satirical cartoons mocking Israel and Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia – to distribute content taken from Iranian state media and other outlets which support Tehran’s position on geopolitical issues.

Reuters recorded the IUVM network operating in English, French, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, Russian, Hindi, Azerbaijani, Turkish and Spanish.

Much of the content is then reproduced by a range of alternative media sites, including some of those identified by FireEye last week as being run by Iran while purporting to be domestic American or British news outlets.

For example, an article run by in January by Liberty Front Press – one of the pseudo-U.S. news sites exposed by FireEye – reported on the battlefield gains made by the army of Iranian ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. That article was sourced to IUVM but actually lifted from two FARS news agency stories.

FireEye analyst Lee Foster said iuvmpress.com, one of the biggest IUVM websites, was registered in January 2015 with the same email address used to register two sites already identified as being run by Iran. ClearSky said multiple IUVM sites were hosted on the same server as another website used in the Iranian operation.

(Reporting by Jack Stubbs in LONDON, Christopher Bing in WASHINGTON; Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin in LONDON; Editing by Damon Darlin and Grant McCool)

U.S. judge extends ban of online 3-D printed gun blueprints

By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Monday extended a ban on the online distribution of 3-D printed gun blueprints, a win for a group of mainly Democratic-led states that said such a publication would violate their right to regulate firearms and endanger their citizens.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik in Seattle issued the extension of a nationwide injunction, blocking a Texas-based group from disseminating files for printing plastic weapons on the internet.

Lasnik’s prior order issued on July 31 blocked the release of the blueprints hours before they were set to hit the internet. That temporary ban was set to expire on Tuesday and the new ban will remain in place until the case is resolved.

Monday’s decision blocks a settlement President Donald Trump’s administration had reached with Defense Distributed, a group arguing that access to the online blueprints is guaranteed under First and Second Amendment rights, respectively to free speech and to bear arms.

A group of 19 U.S. states and the District of Columbia in July sued the U.S. government, arguing that publishing blueprints would allow criminals easy access to weapons. They also said the Trump administration had failed to explain why it settled the case.

Lasnik said the states have submitted sufficient evidence that they are likely to suffer “irreparable harm” if the blueprints are published. The judge also said Defense Distributed’s First Amendment concerns were “dwarfed” by the states’ safety considerations.

Defense Distributed had put the files on the internet a few days before Lasnik issued the initial temporary ban and the blueprints continue to be available on several other online websites.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Marguerita Choy)