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Frances Haugen to testify to MPs about Facebook and online harm

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Frances Haugen to testify to MPs about Facebook and online harm

The Facebook whistleblower is to give evidence to MPs and peers scrutinising the online safety bill, amid calls for a toughening up of the landmark legislation.

Frances Haugen has triggered a deep crisis at Mark Zuckerberg’s social media empire after she released tens of thousands of internal documents detailing the company’s failure to keep its users safe from harmful content. On Monday Haugen, 37, will testify in person at the joint committee scrutinising the draft online safety bill, a piece of legislation that places a duty of care on social media companies to protect users – with the threat of substantial fines if they fail to do so.

Speaking to the Observer before the hearing, Haugen said Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, chief executive and controlling shareholder, had not shown any readiness to protect the public from the harm his company is causing.

“Right now, Mark [Zuckerberg] is unaccountable. He has all the control. He has no oversight, and he has not demonstrated that he is willing to govern the company at the level that is necessary for public safety.”

The online safety bill came into focus last week after the murder of Conservative MP David Amess. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, demanded criminal sanctions for bosses of digital platforms that fail to crack down on extremism, prompting Boris Johnson to pledge “tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this foul content to permeate the internet”.

However, government sources later rowed back on this. The government is holding in reserve the option of introducing criminal sanctions for executives who do not cooperate adequately with Ofcom, the communications regulator implementing the bill. Johnson has also pledged to fast-track the bill.

Earlier this month Haugen told US senators in Washington that Facebook put “astronomical profits before people” as she was questioned about a trove of documents that showed Facebook knew its Instagram photo-sharing app was damaging teen mental health and that its eponymous platform was being used to incite ethnic violence in Ethiopia.

Damian Collins, the Conservative MP and chair of the joint committee, said: “Frances Haugen’s testimony so far has made it even clearer that regulatory oversight of social media platforms, from democratically elected government, is urgently needed. She will bring valuable expertise to the scrutiny process, especially as the bill should empower Ofcom to access and act on the internal research and concerns.”

A new wave of revelations at the weekend from a group of US news publications showed Facebook struggled to contain rightwing misinformation on its platform in the run-up to the insurrection in Washington on 6 January and had been used to spread religious hatred in India. Further stories based on the documents are expected from a wider consortium on Monday.

The joint committee has also heard calls from witnesses for elements of the bill to be toughened. The information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, has said Ofcom should be given auditing powers to check the inner working of tech companies, including the algorithms that help tailor the content that a user consumes. Haugen is due to speak at 2pm.

Child protection campaigners have also called for the bill to have stronger safeguards for children and criminal sanctions for executives who know that their platforms are putting young people at risk and are failing to act.

On Sunday the BBC broadcast a meeting between Haugen and the father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old British schoolgirl who killed herself in 2017 and viewed content on social media – including on her Instagram account – linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide before her death. Ian Russell told Haugen: “I look at a huge corporation with massive resources and say, ‘there must be more you can be doing’.”

The online safety bill covers tech firms that allow users to post their own content or to interact with each other, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube. Search engines such as Google will also be included as well as commercial pornography sites such as OnlyFans and video games that allow users to talk to each other.

Facebook’s vice-president of content policy, Monika Bickert, said on Sunday the tech industry “needs regulation” because it should not be left to make the rules on issues including harmful online content on its own.

“The UK is one of the countries leading the way with wide-ranging proposals on everything from hate speech to child safety and, while we won’t agree with all the details, we’re pleased the online safety bill is moving forward,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

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Reps To Investigate Subsidy Regime From 2017 To 2021

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Reps To Investigate Subsidy Regime From 2017 To 2021

The House of Representatives on Wednesday resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the petroleum products subsidy regime from 2017 to 2021.

The resolution followed a motion by Honourable Sergius Ogun who stated that component costs in the petroleum products subsidy value chain claimed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is highly over-bloated while the transfer pump price per litre, used by the NNPC in relation to Petroleum Pipeline Marketing Company (PPMC), is underquoted.

The lawmaker described this as fraudulent while also expressing worry that the subsidy regime has been used by the NNPC and other critical stakeholders to subvert the nation’s crude oil revenue to the tune of over $10 billion.

The committee is to report back to the House within eight weeks for further legislative action.

Wednesday’s move by the lawmaker came on the same day that the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mele Kyari ruled out the possibility of a subsidy for diesel.

He made the comments while appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Downstream, alongside the CEO of Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), Farouk Ahmed, among others.

“In our country today, we do not produce AGO and we regret that our refineries are not working,” he said. “Are we doing anything about it? Yes. I have heard the honourable members lamenting; yes, they (the refineries) are not working.

“This is the truth. I don’t want to bore you with why they are not working, but they are not working; I admit they are not working but we regret it. I will invite this committee at your convenience to join us to see how much work we have done to get them back to work, but they will not come back tomorrow.

“They will not! You cannot start it tomorrow. We regret this; we regret this situation, and we are doing everything possible. As a matter of fact, we have decided to do a quick fix for the Warri refinery. The reason is very simple: we don’t even want to go the long route of doing comprehensive turnaround maintenance because we are concerned.”

 

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2023: Presidency Must Return To Southern Nigeria, Fayose Insists

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2023: Presidency Must Return To Southern Nigeria, Fayose Insists

A former governor of Ekiti State Ayodele Fayose has insisted that the southern part of Nigeria must produce the country’s president in 2023.

Fayose, a two-time governor under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said this in a series of tweets on his official handle on Wednesday, pinning his argument on the party’s constitution.

“The PDP Constitution provides for a rotational Presidency. Section 3(c) provides that the Party shall pursue its aims & objectives by “adhering to the policy of the rotation & zoning of Party & Public elective offices in pursuance of the principle of equity, justice, and fairness’,” Fayose maintained.

“The current President of Nigeria is a 2-term Northern Presidency, thus implying that it MUST be a Southern Presidency in 2023 or NOTHING. Awa ‘South’ lo kan’. Nigerians should await details soon.”

Fayose, who contested the PDP presidential primary, lost out to former Vice President Atiku Abukar in the exercise held earlier this month.

He has been one of the strong advocates for a power shift to southern Nigeria despite the party Atiku from the northern region, as the party’s flagbearer.

Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who also lost in the exercise, had campaigned, among others, based on a power shift to the south.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), however, is fielding a southerner – Bola Tinubu – as its presidential candidate to honour the power-sharing deal called zoning between the north and south.

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Senate confirms Buhari’s ministerial nominees

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Senate confirms Buhari’s ministerial nominees

The senate has confirmed seven persons nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari for ministerial positions.

The upper legislative chamber confirmed the nominees on Wednesday after they were screened by the “committee of the whole” chaired by Senate President Ahmad Lawan.

The ministers-designate will replace those who resigned to pursue political bids.

Rotimi Amaechi, Ogbonnaya Onu, Godswill Akpabio and Emeka Nwajiuba are some of the ministers who resigned to pursue presidential bids.

The ministers confirmed on Wednesday are Henry Ikoh (Abia), Umana Okon Umana (Akwa Ibom), Ekuma Joseph (Ebonyi), Goodluck Nana Obia (Imo), Umar Ibrahim Yakub (Kano), Ademola Adewole Adegorioye (Ondo), and Odo Udi (Rivers).

During screening, Ikoh said as a way of tackling employment in the country, “technical” graduates can be job creators.

“On the unemployment situation, we need more technical graduates to do most of the things we are doing right now. If you are a technical graduate, you can employ yourself and employ others,” he said.

On his part, Umana said the country could boost its foreign exchange earnings with its free trade zones.

“On the issue of how to boost foreign exchange, I want to say that even the free zones platform is a veritable platform for this,” he said.

“The free zone is a platform that can drive production because when you produce for export, you earn foreign exchange.”

Nakama said the federal government must be ready to make some compromise to end the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

“On tackling the issue of ASUU, my answer is that there will be leave of compromise. Government and ASUU will have to come to a compromise and through this, we will able to solve these incessant strikes once and for all,” he said.

The remaining four nominees were asked to “take a bow and go” on the grounds of their experience.

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