Eight killed as flames engulf 35 boats in Alabama marina fire

(Reuters) – Fire swept through a lakefront marina in Alabama early on Monday, killing at least eight people and sending seven others to hospital after flames engulfed 35 vessels from house boats to pontoons, the local fire chief said.

All the people known to have been staying at the dock have been accounted for, but emergency responders will continue searching for victims in case anyone was missed, Scottsboro Fire Chief Gene Necklaus told reporters.

Seven people who leapt into the water after the fire started around 12:40 a.m. were rescued and taken to hospital, where they were treated and released, Necklaus said.

Social media images showed a row of boats at the marina engulfed in flames in the predawn darkness at Lake Guntersville in northern Alabama. Several of the boats sank, Necklaus said.

Officials at first reported eight people missing, and upon further search all eight were found dead, the fire chief said.

“Our primary objective remains to check every boat, every vessel, everything we can check, to ensure that we have accounted for all the victims,” Necklaus said.

Authorities will continue search and rescue efforts in addition to environmental cleanup before concentrating on determining the cause of the fire, he said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Tom Brown and Grant McCool)

Harvey Weinstein jury selection: bias, big data and ‘likes’

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – When lawyers in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial question potential jurors on Thursday, they may already know who has used the #MeToo hashtag on Twitter or criticized victims of sexual harassment in a Facebook discussion.

The intersection of big data capabilities and prevalence of social media has transformed the business of jury research in the United States, which once meant gleaning information about potential jurors from car bumper stickers or the appearance of a home.

Now, consultants scour Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and other social media platforms for hard-to-find comments or “likes” in discussion groups or even selfies of a juror wearing a potentially biased t-shirt.

“This is a whole new generation of information than we had in the past,” said Jeffrey Frederick, the director of Jury Research Services at the National Legal Research Group Inc.

The techniques seem tailor-made for the Weinstein trial, which has become a focal point for #MeToo, the social media movement that has exposed sexual misconduct by powerful men in business, politics and entertainment.

Weinstein, 67, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assaulting two women. The once-powerful movie producer faces life in prison if convicted on the most serious charge, predatory sexual assault.

On Thursday, the legal teams will begin questioning potential jurors, a process known as voir dire. More than 100 people passed an initial screening and the identities of many of those people have been known publicly for days, allowing for extensive background research.

Mark Geragos, a defense lawyer, said it is almost malpractice to ignore jurors’ online activity, particularly in high-profile cases.

When Geragos was representing Scott Peterson, who was later found guilty of the 2002 murder of his pregnant wife Laci, it came to light that a woman told an internet chatroom she had duped both legal teams to get on the California jury.

“You just never know if someone is telling the truth,” said Geragos.

Weinstein’s lawyer, Donna Rotunno, told Reuters recently that her team was considering hiring a firm to investigate jurors’ social media use to weed out bias.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office does not use jury consultants and office spokesman Danny Frost declined to comment if prosecutors were reviewing potential jurors’ social media.

Frederick’s firm, which has not been involved in the Weinstein case, creates huge databases of online activity relevant to a case, drilling down into interactions that do not appear in a user’s social media timeline. His firm combs through Facebook news articles about a particular case or topic, cataloging every comment, reply, share as well as emojis or “likes,” in the hopes some were posted by a potential juror.

“The social media aspect can be enormously helpful in looking at people’s political motives,” said defense attorney Michael Bachner. He said Weinstein’s team will probably want to know about a potential juror’s ties to women’s causes, with “#MeToo being the obvious one.”

Consultants only use public information and focus on those with extremist views, said Roy Futterman of consulting firm DOAR.

“You’re looking for the worst juror,” he said.

Julieanne Himelstein, a former federal prosecutor, said the best vetting tool remains a lawyer’s questioning of a potential juror in the courtroom.

“That trumps all the sophisticated intelligence gathering anyone can do,” said Himelstein.

But trial veterans said that potential jurors are reluctant to admit unpopular viewpoints during voir dire, such as skepticism about workplace sexual harassment.

During questioning in a trial involving a drug company, consultant Christina Marinakis recalled a potential juror who said he did not have negative feelings toward pharmaceutical companies.

“We found he had a blog where he was just going off on capitalism and Corporate America and pharmaceutical companies especially,” said Marinakis, the director of jury research for Litigation Insights. The juror was dismissed.

Marinakis said the blog was written under a username, and only came to light by digging through the juror’s social media for references to pseudonyms.

Lawyers can reject an unlimited number of potential jurors if they show bias. Each side can typically use “peremptory” challenges to eliminate up to three potential jurors they believe will be unsympathetic, without providing a reason.

In a Canadian civil trial, jury consulting firm Vijilent discovered that a potential juror who appeared to be a stay-at-home mom with no history of social activism, in fact had been arrested three times for civil disobedience while promoting the causes of indigenous people.

“Unless you got into her social media, you wouldn’t have known that information,” said Vijilent founder Rosanna Garcia.

(Reporting by Tom Hals; additional reporting by Brendan Pierson and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Rosalba O’Brien)

Iran social media posts call for more protests after plane disaster

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranians called on social media on Wednesday for fresh demonstrations a week after the shooting down of a passenger plane, seeking to turn the aftermath of the crash into a sustained campaign against Iran’s leadership.

Protesters, with students at the forefront, have staged daily rallies in Tehran and other cities since Saturday, when after days of denials the authorities admitted bringing down a Ukrainian plane last week, killing all 176 aboard.

“We’re coming to the streets,” one posting circulating on social media said on Wednesday, urging people to join nationwide demonstrations against a “thieving and corrupt government”.

Most of those killed on the plane were Iranians or dual citizens, many of them students returning to studies abroad from holiday visits with their families.

It remains to be seen whether the protests will lead to sustained violence. After several days of unrest, when images posted to the internet showed demonstrators being beaten by the police and shocked with electric batons, protests on Tuesday appear to have been quieter. Two months ago, authorities killed hundreds of demonstrators to put down protests sparked by fuel price hikes.

The plane was downed by air defenses on Jan. 8 when the armed forces were on high alert for U.S. reprisals following tit-for-tat military strikes, the latest escalation in a crisis that has rumbled on for years over Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran has dismissed the idea of a new deal to resolve the nuclear row, as proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump and described by Britain’s prime minister as a “Trump deal.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Trump, who quit an existing nuclear pact in 2018, broke his promises.

The military and top officials apologized profusely for the “unforgivable error” that brought the plane down and said it would prosecute those to blame, in a bid to quell the outrage.

Thousands of protesters have been shown in videos gathering in the past four days in cities across Iran. Many have been outside universities. Tehran’s central Azadi Square has also been a focus. But the scale of protests and unrest is difficult to determine due to restrictions on independent reporting.

State-affiliated media has offered few details on rallies.

OUTRAGE

Police have denied shooting at protesters and say officers were told to show restraint. The judiciary said it had arrested 30 people but would show tolerance to “legal protests”.

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said a person who had posted a video online last week of a missile striking the plane has been taken into custody by the Revolutionary Guards, the elite force that said one of its operators shot down the plane.

Iranians were outraged the military took days to admit it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight 752. They asked why the plane had been allowed to take off at a time of high tension.

Iran had launched missile strikes against U.S. targets in Iraq hours earlier in retaliation for a U.S. drone strike that killed a top Iranian commander in Iraq on Jan. 3.

Security camera footage showed two missiles, fired 30 seconds apart, hitting the plane after takeoff, the New York Times reported. U.S. intelligence officials said on Jan. 9 heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected.

The disaster and unrest have piled pressure on the Iran’s rulers, who are already struggling to keep the economy running under stringent U.S. sanctions imposed after Washington withdrew from the nuclear pact Tehran had with world powers.

Britain’s ambassador to Tehran was detained, accused of attending a protest. He said he was paying respects at a vigil for victims.

Judicial officials urged the authorities to expel the envoy and social media posts said he had left. The foreign ministry in Britain, which has long had strained ties with Iran, said he was on a previously planned trip and was not leaving permanently.

On Thursday, London hosts a meeting of Canada, Ukraine, Britain and other nations who had citizens on the downed plane to discuss legal action against Iran, Ukraine said.

Canada, which had 57 citizens on the flight, has sent investigators to Iran, where they toured the crash site on Tuesday, Iranian media reported.

(Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh and Parisa Hafezi and the London bureau; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Peter Graff)

Ahead of U.S. election, Facebook gives users some control over how they see political ads

By Katie Paul

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Thursday it was making some changes to its approach to political ads, including allowing users to turn off certain ad-targeting tools, but the updates stop far short of critics’ demands and what rival companies have pledged to do.

The world’s biggest social network has vowed to curb political manipulation of its platform, after failing to counter alleged Russian interference and the misuse of user data by defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in 2016.

But ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November 2020, Facebook is struggling to quell criticism of its relatively hands-off ads policies. In particular it has come under fire after it exempted politicians’ ads from fact-checking standards applied to other content on its network.

Facebook said that in addition to rolling out a tool enabling individual users to choose to see fewer political and social issue ads on Facebook and its photo-sharing app Instagram, it will also make more ad audience data publicly available.

In contrast, Twitter Inc banned political ads in October, while Alphabet Inc’s Google said it would stop letting advertisers target election ads using data such as public voter records and general political affiliations.

Other online platforms like Spotify, Pinterest and TikTok have also issued bans.

In a blog post, Facebook’s director of product management Rob Leathern said the company considered imposing limits like Google’s, but decided against them as internal data indicated most ads run by U.S. presidential candidates are broadly targeted, at audiences larger than 250,000 people.

“We have based (our policies) on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all,” Leathern wrote.

The expanded ad audience data features will be rolled out in the first quarter of this year and Facebook plans to deploy the political ads control starting in the United States early this summer, eventually expanding this preference to more locations.

CUSTOM AUDIENCES

Another change will be to allow users to choose to stop seeing ads based on an advertiser’s “Custom Audience” and that will apply to all types of advertising, not only political ads.

The “Custom Audiences” feature lets advertisers upload lists of personal data they maintain, like email addresses and phone numbers. Facebook then matches that information to user accounts and shows the advertiser’s content to those people.

However, Facebook will not give users a blanket option to turn off the feature, meaning they will have to opt out of seeing ads for each advertiser one by one, a spokesman told Reuters.

The change will also not affect ad targeting via Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences tool, which uses the same uploads of personal data to direct ads at people with similar characteristics to those on the lists, the spokesman said.

Leathern said in the post the company would make new information publicly available about the audience size of political ads in the company’s Ad Library, showing approximately how many people the advertisers aimed to reach.

The changes follow a New York Times report this week of an internal memo by senior Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth, who told employees the company had a duty not to tilt the scales against U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.

Bosworth, a close confidant of Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg who subsequently made his post public, wrote that he believed Facebook was responsible for Trump’s election in 2016, but not because of misinformation or Trump’s work with Cambridge Analytica.

Rather, he said, the Trump campaign used Facebook’s advertising tools most effectively.

(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Facebook to pilot new fact-checking program with community reviewers

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it would ask community reviewers to fact check content in a pilot program in the United States, as the social media platform looks to detect misinformation faster.

The company will work with data services provider Appen to source community reviewers.

The social media giant said data company YouGov conducted an independent study of community reviewers and Facebook users, who will be hired as contractors to review content flagged as potentially false through machine learning, before it is sent to Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners.

Facebook is under pressure to police misinformation on its platform in the United States ahead of the November 2020 presidential election.

The company recently came under fire for its policy of exempting ads run by politicians from fact checking, drawing ire from Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

(Reporting by Neha Malara in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Facebook, Instagram experience outage on Thanksgiving Day

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc’s family of apps including Instagram experienced a major outage on Thanksgivings Day, prompting a flurry of tweets on the social media platform.

“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing Facebook’s family of apps, including Instagram. We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible. #InstagramDown,” Instagram said in a tweet.

According to outage monitoring website DownDetector, about 8,000 Facebook users were affected in various parts of the world including the United States and Britain.

Several users reported issues like not being able to post pictures and videos on their main feeds and an error message saying “Facebook Will Be Back Soon” appeared on log in attempts.

Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment.

(Reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft)

Facial recognition at Indian cafe chain sparks calls for data protection law

A visitor drinks coffee at the 'International Coffee Festival 2007' in the southern Indian city of Bangalore February 25, 2007. REUTERS/Jagadeesh Nv (INDIA) - GM1DURPKFSAA

By Rina Chandran

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The use of facial recognition technology at a popular Indian cafe chain that triggered a backlash among customers, led to calls from human rights advocates on Monday for the government to speed up the introduction of laws to protect privacy.

Customers at Chaayos took to social media during the last week to complain about the camera technology they said captured images of them without their consent, with no information on what the data would be used for, and no option to opt out.

While the technology is marketed as a convenience, the lack of legislative safeguards to protect against the misuse of data can lead to “breaches of privacy, misidentification and even profiling of individuals”, said Joanne D’Cunha, associate counsel at Internet Freedom Foundation, a digital rights group.

“Until India introduces a comprehensive data protection law that provides such guarantees, there needs to be a moratorium on any technology that would infringe upon an individual’s right to privacy and other rights that stem from it,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation from New Delhi.

A statement from Chaayos said the technology was being tested in select cafes and was aimed at reducing purchase times for customers.

The data was encrypted, would not be shared, and customers could choose to opt out, it added.

“We are extremely conscious about our customers’ data security and privacy and are committed to protecting it,” the statement said.

A Personal Data Protection Bill is scheduled to be introduced by lawmakers in the current parliamentary session to Dec. 13.

The draft of the bill proposed strict conditions for requiring and storing personal data, and hefty penalties for misuse of such data.

But digital rights activists had criticised a recent consultation on the bill they said was “secret and selective”.

The ministry for information technology did not respond to a request for comment.

Worldwide, the rise of cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies have popularised the use of facial recognition for a range of applications from tracking criminals to catching truant students.

In India, facial recognition technology was installed in several airports this year, and the government plans to roll out a nationwide system to stop criminals and find missing children.

But digital rights experts say it could breach privacy and lead to increased surveillance.

India’s Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling in 2017 on the national biometric identity card programme Aadhaar, said individual privacy is a fundamental right.

There is a growing backlash elsewhere: San Francisco and Oakland have banned the use of facial recognition technology, and “anti-surveillance fashion” is becoming popular.

(Reporting by Rina Chandran @rinachandran; Editing by Michael Taylor. 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)

Factbox: How social media sites handle political ads

By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Online platforms including Facebook and Alphabet Inc.’s Google face growing pressure to stop carrying political ads that contain false or misleading claims ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

In the United States, the Communications Act prevents broadcast stations from rejecting or censoring ads from candidates for federal office once they have accepted advertising for that political race, although this does not apply to cable networks like CNN, or to social media sites, where leading presidential candidates are spending millions to target voters in the run-up to the November 2020 election.

The following is how social media platforms have decided to handle false or misleading claims in political ads:

FACEBOOK

Facebook exempts politicians from its third-party fact-checking program, allowing them to run ads with false claims.

The policy  has been attacked by regulators and lawmakers who say it could spread misinformation and cause voter suppression. Critics including Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren have also run intentionally false Facebook ads to highlight the issue.

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has defended the company’s stance, arguing that it does not want to stifle political speech, but he also said the company was considering ways to refine the policy.

Facebook does fact-check content from political groups. The company also says it fact-checks politicians if they share previously debunked content and does not allow this content in ads.

TWITTER

Twitter Inc  has banned political ads. On Friday it said this will include ads that reference a political candidate, party, election or legislation, among other limits.

The company also said it will not allow ads that advocate for a specific outcome on political or social causes.

“We believe political message reach should be earned, not bought,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a statement last month.

Some lawmakers praised the ban but critics said Twitter’s decision would benefit incumbent and hurt less well-known candidates.

Officials from the Trump campaign, which is out-spending its Democratic rivals on Facebook and Google ads, called the ban “dumb” but also said it would have little effect on the president’s strategy.

The overall political ad spend for the 2018 U.S. midterm elections on Twitter was less than $3 million, Twitter’s Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal said.

“Twitter from an advertising perspective is not a player at all. Facebook and Google are the giants in political ads,” said Steve Passwaiter, vice president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media.

GOOGLE

Google and its video-streaming service YouTube prohibit certain kinds of misrepresentation  in ads, such as misinformation about public voting procedures or incorrect claims that a public figure has died.

However, Google does not have a wholesale ban on politicians running false or misleading ads.

In October, when former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign asked the company to take down a Trump campaign ad that it said contained false claims, a Google spokeswoman told Reuters it did not violate the site’s policies.

YouTube has started adding links and information from Wikipedia to give users more information around sensitive content such as conspiracy theory videos, but a spokeswoman said this program does not relate to ads.

SNAP

Snap Inc allows political advertising unless the ads are misleading, deceptive or violate the terms of service on its disappearing message app Snapchat.

The company, which recently joined Facebook, Twitter and Google in launching a public database of its political ads, defines political ads as including election-related, advocacy and issue ads.

Snap does not ban “attack” ads in general, but its policy  does prohibit attacks relating to a candidate’s personal life.

TIKTOK

The Chinese-owned video app popular with U.S. teenagers does not permit political advertising on the platform.

In an October blog pos, TikTok said that the company wants to make sure the platform continues to feel “light-hearted and irreverent.”

“The nature of paid political ads is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience,” wrote Blake Chandlee, TikTok’s vice president of global business solutions.

The app, which is owned by Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, has recently come under scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers over concerns the company may be censoring politically sensitive content, and raising questions about how it stores personal data.

REDDIT

Social network Reddit allows ads related to political issues and it allows ads from political candidates at the federal level, but not for state or local elections.

It also does not allow ads about political issues, elections or candidates outside of the United States.

The company says all political ads must abide by its policies that forbid “deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising” and that prohibit “content that depicts intolerant or overly contentious political or cultural topics or views.”

LINKEDIN

LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft Corp, banned political ads last year. It defines political ads as including “ads advocating for or against a particular candidate or ballot proposition or otherwise intended to influence an election outcome.”

Search engine Bing, which is also owned by Microsoft, does not allow ads with political or election-related content.

PINTEREST

Photo-sharing site Pinterest Inc also banned political campaign ads last year.

This includes advertising for political candidates, political action committees (PACs), legislation, or political issues with the intent to influence an election, according to the site’s ads policy.

“We want to create a positive, welcoming environment for our Pinners and political campaign ads are divisive by nature,” said Pinterest spokeswoman Jamie Favazza, who told Reuters the decision was also part of the company’s strategy to address misinformation.

TWITCH

A spokeswoman for Twitch told Reuters the live-streaming gaming network does not allow political advertising.

The site does not strictly ban all issue-based advertising but the company considers whether an ad could be seen as “political” when it is reviewed, the spokeswoman said.

Twitch, which is owned by Amazon.com Inc, is primarily a video gaming platform but also has channels focused on sports, music and politics. In recent months, political candidates such as U.S. President Donald Trump and Senator Bernie Sanders have joined the platform ahead of the 2020 election.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; additional reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Robert Birsel and Bill Berkrot)

Russian operatives sacrifice followers to stay under cover on Facebook

Russian operatives sacrifice followers to stay under cover on Facebook
By Jack Stubbs

LONDON (Reuters) – Efforts by Russian influence campaigns to stay undetected on social media ahead of next year’s U.S. elections are undermining their ability to gain followers and spread divisive political messages, a senior Facebook <FB.O> executive told Reuters.

Social media users need to stand out from the crowd to gain traction online, but that type of behavior also helps Facebook and other platforms identify suspicious activity to then analyze for signs of foreign involvement, said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy.

“If you are very, very loud, if you go viral very, very fast that’s exactly the sort of thing that our automated systems will detect and flag,” he said. “So when actors have really diligent, deliberate and effective operational security it weakens their ability to build an audience.”`

Facebook on Monday suspended a network of Instagram accounts it said targeted U.S. users ahead of next year’s presidential poll and were linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), an organization Washington says Moscow used to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election.

The latest Russian campaign posted on both sides of sensitive topics such as the environment and sexual equality but struggled to attract followers due to the operators’ attempts to stop the accounts being caught and disabled, said Gleicher.

Those efforts included sharing memes and screenshots of other users’ social media posts instead of producing original content in English, likely to avoid making language errors typical of non-native speakers, according to a report https://graphika.com/uploads/Graphika%20Report%20-%20CopyPasta.pdf by social media analytics firm Graphika.

This technique “gave each asset less of a discernible personality and therefore may have reduced the (campaign’s) ability to build audiences,” Graphika said.

The IRA-linked network of 50 Instagram accounts had around 246,000 followers, about 60 percent of which were in the United States, Facebook said, without providing a breakdown for each account.

That compares with charges by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller that the IRA has previously run social media accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers each. Facebook says up to 126 million Americans may have seen Russian-linked posts aimed at the 2016 election.

Russian catering tycoon Evgeny Prigozhin, accused by U.S. prosecutors of orchestrating the IRA’s activities through Concord Management and Consulting LLC, did not respond to questions sent by Reuters.

Attorneys for Concord Management and Consulting LLC did not respond to a request for comment but have previously denied any wrongdoing.

PAYING IN ROUBLES

Facebook, Twitter <TWTR.N> and Google <GOOGL.O> have vowed to step up the fight against political manipulation of their platforms after facing fierce criticism for failing to counter alleged Russian interference in 2016.

Despite the increased scrutiny, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of the threat posed by Russia and other countries such as Iran, who they say may still attempt to sway the result of next year’s vote.

Addressing U.S. lawmakers this week, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Nikki Floris said the bureau’s foreign influence task force was briefing candidates and running a series of public information videos to help safeguard the election.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Moscow and Tehran have repeatedly denied allegations of election interference. The Kremlin and Russia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Russian efforts to avoid detection by the platforms’ security teams have been increasing since the IRA’s alleged efforts in 2016 were first exposed, said Ben Nimmo, who has helped Facebook analyze influence operations and currently runs investigations at Graphika.

A campaign exposed by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab in June, which attempted to seed false narratives online such as a bogus plot to assassinate British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, created a new account for almost every single post.

This made it harder to track connections between the accounts, Nimmo said, but also meant the posts only reached a small number of people.

Announcing the takedown of a network in July last year, which it said showed “some connections” to previously-identified IRA accounts, Facebook noted that “bad actors have been more careful to cover their tracks.”

The company said operators were using virtual private networks and internet phone services to obscure an account user’s location, and paying for advertising via third parties.

In contrast, previous campaigns linked to the IRA used Russian phone numbers and IP addresses to register their accounts, as well as paying for Facebook adverts in Russian roubles, raising suspicions about Russian involvement.

“The original IRA activity threw operational security to the wind,” Nimmo said.

(Additional reporting by Christopher Bing and Raphael Satter in Washington; Editing by Carmel Crimmins)

Martin Luther King’s daughter tells Facebook disinformation helped kill civil rights leader

Martin Luther King’s daughter tells Facebook disinformation helped kill civil rights leader
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Disinformation campaigns helped lead to the assassination of Martin Luther King, the daughter of the U.S. civil rights champion said on Thursday after the head of Facebook said social media should not factcheck political advertisements.

The comments come as Facebook Inc  is under fire for its approach to political advertisements and speech, which Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg defended on Thursday in a major speech that twice referenced King, known by his initials MLK.

King’s daughter, Bernice, tweeted that she had heard the speech. “I’d like to help Facebook better understand the challenges #MLK faced from disinformation campaigns launched by politicians. These campaigns created an atmosphere for his assassination,” she wrote from the handle @BerniceKing.

King died of an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

Zuckerberg argued that his company should give voice to minority views and said that court protection for free speech stemmed in part from a case involving a partially inaccurate advertisement by King supporters. The U.S. Supreme Court protected the supporters from a lawsuit.

“People should decide what is credible, not tech companies,” Zuckerberg said.

“We very much appreciate Ms. King’s offer to meet with us. Her perspective is invaluable and one we deeply respect. We look forward to continuing this important dialogue with her in Menlo Park next week,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

(Reporting by Peter Henderson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)