Accessibility links

Breaking News

Business and Technology

Russian Droner Gets Norwegian Jail

FILE: Representative Illustration of UAV ("drone")
FILE: Representative Illustration of UAV ("drone")

A Russian man was Wednesday sentenced to 90 days in jail in Norway for flying a drone over Norwegian territory in violation of a ban adopted in response to the war in Ukraine.

The 34-year-old Russian citizen, who said he left Russia to escape President Vladimir Putin's partial mobilization order, was found guilty of flying a drone "on several occasions" in southern Norway between October 13 and 20, a district court in Bergen said in its verdict.

While he only photographed and filmed the landscape, this violated a flight ban that Norway, like several other Western countries, imposed on Russians following the invasion of Ukraine.

The man, who runs a small travel agency, defended himself by arguing that he was not aware of the ban.

Norway has been on high alert since mysterious unmanned aircraft were spotted near strategic sites, including oil and gas platforms far offshore over the past few weeks.

Wednesday's verdict is the first known prison sentence for violating the ban in Norway.

Nearly a dozen Russians have been arrested in Norway in recent weeks for violating the flight ban or the ban on photographing sites deemed sensitive, as the country has heightened security around strategic infrastructure.

Last month, the Russian embassy in Oslo criticized what it said was a "psychosis" in Norway, a NATO member with which Russia shares a 198-kilometer border in the far north.

See all News Updates of the Day

Africa News Tonight: Ruto talks business on US visit, South Africa’s DA not likely to unseat ANC, young Nigerians aim to enter politics

Africa News Tonight: Ruto talks business on US visit, South Africa’s DA not likely to unseat ANC, young Nigerians aim to enter politics
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:55 0:00
Direct link

Africa News Tonight: Upbeat outlook for African economies, Russian forces seen in Libya, South African whistleblowers penalized

Africa News Tonight: Upbeat outlook for African economies, Russian forces seen in Libya, South African whistleblowers penalized
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:55 0:00
Direct link

Africa News Tonight: ANC loses suit against Zuma’s MK party, Cameroon opposition launches voter campaign, IMF urges fiscal resilience

Africa News Tonight: ANC loses suit against Zuma’s MK party, Cameroon opposition launches voter campaign, IMF urges fiscal resilience
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:56 0:00
Direct link

Africa News Tonight: Food Aid Reaches Darfur, Botswana Calls for Change in Diamond Certification, DRC Has First Female Prime Minister

Africa News Tonight: Food Aid Reaches Darfur, Botswana Calls for Change in Diamond Certification, DRC Has First Female Prime Minister
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:24:55 0:00
Direct link

Meta Closes Monitoring Tool for Disinformation, Fact-Checking

FILE—People walk behind a Meta Platforms logo during a conference in Mumbai, India, September 20, 2023.
FILE—People walk behind a Meta Platforms logo during a conference in Mumbai, India, September 20, 2023.

WASHINGTON—A digital tool considered vital in tracking viral falsehoods, CrowdTangle will be decommissioned by Facebook owner Meta in a major election year, a move researchers fear will disrupt efforts to detect an expected firehose of political misinformation.

The tech giant says CrowdTangle will be unavailable after August 14, less than three months before the US election. The Palo Alto company plans to replace it with a new tool that researchers say lacks the same functionality, and which news organizations will largely not have access to.

For years, CrowdTangle has been a game-changer, offering researchers and journalists crucial real-time transparency into the spread of conspiracy theories and hate speech on influential Meta-owned platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

Killing off the monitoring tool, a move experts say is in line with a tech industry trend of rolling back transparency and security measures, is a major blow as dozens of countries hold elections this year -- a period when bad actors typically spread false narratives more than ever.

"In a year where almost half of the global population is expected to vote in elections, cutting off access to CrowdTangle will severely limit independent oversight of harms," Melanie Smith, director of research at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told AFP.

"It represents a grave step backwards for social media platform transparency."

Meta is set to replace CrowdTangle with a new Content Library, a technology still under development.

It's a tool that some in the tech industry, including former CrowdTangle chief executive Brandon Silverman, said is currently not an effective replacement, especially in elections likely to see a proliferation of AI-enabled falsehoods.

"It's an entire new muscle" that Meta is yet to build to protect the integrity of elections, Silverman told AFP, calling for "openness and transparency."

'Direct threat'

In recent election cycles, researchers say CrowdTangle alerted them to harmful activities including foreign interference, online harassment and incitements to violence.

By its own admission, Meta — which bought CrowdTangle in 2016 — said that in 2019 elections in Louisiana, the tool helped state officials identify misinformation, such as inaccurate poll hours that had been posted online.

In the 2020 presidential vote, the company offered the tool to US election officials across all states to help them "quickly identify misinformation, voter interference and suppression."

The tool also made dashboards available to the public to track what major candidates were posting on their official and campaign pages.

Lamenting the risk of losing these functions forever, global nonprofit Mozilla Foundation demanded in an open letter to Meta that CrowdTangle be retained at least until January 2025.

"Abandoning CrowdTangle while the Content Library lacks so much of CrowdTangle's core functionality undermines the fundamental principle of transparency," said the letter signed by dozens of tech watchdogs and researchers.

The new tool lacks CrowdTangle features including robust search flexibility and decommissioning it would be a "direct threat" to the integrity of elections, it added.

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone said the letter's claims are "just wrong," insisting the Content Library will contain "more comprehensive data than CrowdTangle" and be made available to academics and non-profit election integrity experts.

'Lot of concerns'

Meta, which has been moving away from news across its platforms, will not make the new tool accessible to for-profit media.

Journalists have used CrowdTangle in the past to investigate public health crises as well as human rights abuses and natural disasters.

Meta's decision to cut off journalists comes after many used CrowdTangle to report unflattering stories, including its flailing moderation efforts and how its gaming app was overrun with pirated content.

CrowdTangle has been a crucial source of data that helped "hold Meta accountable for enforcing its policies," Tim Harper, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Democracy & Technology, told AFP.

Organizations that debunk misinformation as part of Meta's third-party fact-checking program, including AFP, will have access to the Content Library.

But other researchers and nonprofits will have to apply for access or look for expensive alternatives. Two researchers told AFP under condition of anonymity that in one-on-one meetings with Meta officials, they demanded firm commitments from company officials.

"While most fact-checkers already working with Meta will have access to the new tool, it's not super clear if many independent researchers — already worried about losing CrowdTangle's functionality — will," Carlos Hernandez-Echevarria, head of the Spanish nonprofit Maldita, told AFP.

"It has generated a lot of concerns."

Load more

XS
SM
MD
LG