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Frances Haugen to testify to MPs about Facebook and online harm


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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I Will Soon Start Signing Death Warrants- Bala Mohammed

Bauchi state governor, Bala Mohammed has disclosed that he will soon start to sign death warrants.

Mohammed made this known on Friday in Bauchi while signing the Violence against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) bill and a bill for the establishment of the Bauchi state penal code, into law.

In Nigeria, state governors are legally backed to sign the death warrants.

Since 2012, no governor has been reported to have signed death warrants.

“We will soon be signing some death sentences because there are many and because of justice which has to be taken to a logical conclusion

“I know some governors are running away from signing the death sentences because they exercise restraints on the basis that there may be some element of error.

“But to me, I will leave it to my lord (the chief judge) who will prosecute. It’s not my fault. If it is brought to my attention, I will do it.”

“As for the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act, we know that we are the first in the northern part of the country to enact the law, which is a member’s bill incidentally from the honourable speaker, and it has earned us a lot of respect in the country.

“But because of some noticed gaps, it was taken back and it was corrected. We thank the house for making the corrections.”

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Court Sacks 13 Ebonyi LG Bosses, 171 Councilors

A Federal High Court sitting in Abakaliki has again nullified the Ebonyi Local Government Elections and sacked all the 13 Council chairmen in the state.

The court also sacked all the councilors and 171 ward chairmen of the state.

The court had on Aug. 25, nullified the council polls of May 31.

Ruling on the matter with suit NO: FHC/AI/CS/224/2022 on Friday, Justice Fatun Riman ordered the seizure of the monthly federal allocation of the chairmen pending when rightful Chief Executives were elected into office.

Fatun restated that the councils election by the State Independent Electoral Commission (EBSIEC) on May 31 was illegal and unconstitutional.

Mr Mudi Erenede, Counsel to the plaintiff said he was happy over the judgment and commended the court.

“In the judgement today, the court has agreed that the Ebonyi State High court has no powers to override or set aside the judgment of the Federal High Court because it is not an Appeal Court.

“Those people, who are parading themselves as chairmen are not there legally.

“They were appointed by whoever that appointed them. CBN, Attorney General of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance are all defendants in this suits,” he stated.

The counsel to Ebonyi State Government, Mr Roy Nweze, said there was no need responding to a judgment that had already been delivered by the court.

Nweze said that the matter would be appealed without delay.


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Naval College Graduates 245 Officers, Personnel

The newly graduated personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 of the Nigerian Naval Engineering College (NNEC), Sapele in Delta, have been urged to remain committed to the service of the nation.

Rear Adm. Monday Unurhiere, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Naval Training Command, made the plea at the graduation ceremony of the 245 Under Training Personnel of the Officers’ Application Course 20 in Sapele.

Unurhiere, represented by Rear Adm. Baratuaipri Iyalla, said that the call became necessary in view of the security, economic and social challenges currently facing the country.

The naval chief urged the graduands to make deliberate efforts to improve themselves on the job by way of taking advantage of modern technology and also tapping into the wealth of experience of their superiors.

“Let me remind you that as officers of the Nigerian Navy, you are charged with enormous responsibility and your unswerving allegiance is to the Nation.

“The confidence reposed in you must not be taking for granted, especially at this time that our national aspirations are being threatened by numerous security, economic and social challenges.

“As such, you may find yourself being called upon to serve beyond your technical capability due to the prevailing situation in the country,” he said.

Unurhiere acknowledged the efforts of the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, for creating the enabling environment for training and continued financial support to NNEC.

According to him, this has helped the College to contribute more to the technological advancement of Nigerian Navy and the nation at large.

He urged the graduands, especially the under training personnel, to maintain the current tempo in sustaining training and other naval activities.

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