Is India the frontline in big techs assault on democracy? | John Harris

Encrypted messaging polarises voters and prevents public scrutiny, says Guardian columnist John Harris In 10 days time, two political dramas will reach their denouement, thanks to the votes of a combined total of about 1.3 billion people. At the heart of both will be a mess of questions about democracy in the online age, and how or even if we can act to preserve it. Elections to the European parliament will begin on 23 May, and offer an illuminating test of the rightwing populism that has swept across the continent. In the UK, they will mark the decisive arrival of Nigel Farages Brexit party, whose serving notice of a politics brimming with bile and rage, masterminded by people with plenty …

Nick Clegg rejects Facebook break-up calls backed by Kamala Harris

California Democrat favours action against social media giant but former deputy PM says new employer a great American success Facebook head of global affairs Nick Clegg has rejected calls for the social media giant to be broken up, an idea gaining currency among contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, with Kamala Harris seemingly its latest convert. Earlier this week, Facebook has led such calls on the campaign trail. Clegg, 52, was deputy prime minister to David Cameron between 2010 and 2015. He spoke to CNNs Reliable Sources on Sunday. Hughes, he said, had quite rightly highlighted complex issues affecting Facebook, such as data use, privacy and election interference. But, he said, chopping a great American success story into bits is …

Russias great firewall: is it meant to keep information in or out?

Vladimir Putin will soon sign the sovereign internet bill to allow greater monitoring of traffic Earlier this year, US officials briefed reporters on an extraordinary operation: they claimed to have launched an offensive cyber-attack against Russiapassing a bill codifying the countrys most ambitious attempt yet to wrangle control over Russias segment of the internet and its connection to the rest of the world. The block [the messenger app] Telegram, how are they going to make a sovereign internet? Nearly half of Russias internet traffic travels through an exchange point in Moscow called MSK-IX. In their book The Red Web, journalists blocked by the government in 2018, but the service had managed largely to overcome the ban by moving between IP …

Facebook to use AI to stop telling users to say hi to dead friends

Algorithmic features have sent suggestions to wish happy birthday to those whove died Facebook has promised to use artificial intelligence to stop suggesting users invite their dead friends to parties. The sites freshly emotionally intelligent AI is part of a rash of changes to how Facebook handles memorialised accounts pages whose owner has been reported deceased, but that are kept on the social network in their memory. Memorialisation of accounts allows for treasured images, videos and posts to be kept online, as well as providing a focal point for grieving friends and relatives to share memories. But the feature has caused its fair share of pain: since the account is kept on the social network and treated similarly to any …

‘Horror, fear, despair’: Venezuela’s oil capital shattered by ‘tsunami’ of violent looting

In the second city of Maracaibo, the crippling blackout sparked a terrifying rampage that police seemed unable to control Some liken the damage wrought on Venezuelas second city to a natural disaster. Others suspect satanic intervention. El demonio, says Betty Mndez, a local shopkeeper, by way of explanation for the wave of looting and unrest that convulsed Maracaibo earlier this month. Most, however, describe the mayhem in psychiatric terms: a collective breakdown that shocked this lakeside city to its core and offered a terrifying glimpse of Venezuelas possible future as it sinks deeper into economic, political and social decline. Horror, fear, despair, said Mara Villalobos, a 35-year-old journalist, weeping as she relived three days of violence that many here call …

Queer today, gone tomorrow: the fight to save LGBT nightlife

They survived homophobia and Thatcher. But is gentrification now sounding the death knell for gay clubs and pubs? We meet the artists battling to save them On a summers day in 2017, in gardens near the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in London, an unusual drag show took place. A lot of work had gone into the costumes, but these were not of the kind youd expect: there were no rhinestones or wigs. Each performer was wearing an architectural model on their head, and instead of lip-syncing, they were reading out snippets of planning and licensing documents. The models didnt represent buildings of any great distinction, but to members of the audience they were a familiar lineup: the Black Cap, the Joiners …

Mark Zuckerbergs Facebook mission statement hides his real aim | Emily Bell

Social media founders proclaim their idealism, like modern day messiahs. Yet all they want is global market domination It is hard to remember that there was a blissful time, not so long ago, when company chief executives were anonymous creatures who rarely communicated with the outside world and, when they did, it was through the unengaging medium of a corporate press release. As with many other perfectly good practices, such as working an eight-hour day and going outside for lunch, Silicon Valley has put an end to this. Company statements are often personal homilies and meditations on themselves, their businesses and the world they are imperceptibly improving. Every public statement must contain an epiphany; every earnings announcement, a TED talk. …

Venezuela: opposition leader promises final push against Maduro amid new blackout

Announcement comes as Juan Guaids wife met with Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in Washington The opposition figurehead battling to topple Nicols Maduro has told supporters to prepare for a final nationwide push against Venezuelas authoritarian leader after the country suffered its Juan Guaid said it was time for Venezuelans of all social classes to increase pressure through what he called Operacin Libertad (Operation Freedom) a mobilization across the country that would culminate in a massive march through the capital. Although he did not say when the march would take place, Operation Freedom means [exerting] maximum popular political pressure of the kind never before seen in Venezuela, said Guaid, who most western governments now recognize as Venezuelas legitimate interim …

‘Saved by luck’: the passenger who just missed flight ET302

Antonis Mavropoulos says he feels a moral obligation to the 157 killed to find out why the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed Antonis Mavropoulos knows he is lucky. Alone among passengers booked on to alluding to design faults had especially unsettled him. I have been reading a lot of reports about potential problematic designs, that the pilot asked soon after takeoff to go back, and to be honest it has freaked me out. I fly between 100 and 120 times a year. I very much hope this is not a case of criminal ignorance or of design issues being intentionally hidden, he says during a phone interview from Beirut where he works much of the time as the head of an …

Feminism with no human warmth leaves me cold | Zoe Williams

Im a fan of the acclaimed young writer known as the Slumflower. But her sexual creed of exploitation appals me, says Guardian columnist Zoe Williams A couple of years ago, the feminist society of Deptford Green secondary school convened a conference. It was there that I met Chidera Eggerue: aka the Slumflower, author of #saggyboobsmatter movement. She was a remarkable woman. I dont want to call her a remarkable young woman, even though she was 23 at the time: young is such a modifier and she would have been remarkable at any age. Her broad message was one of body positivity: if you love yourself and your shape, nobody can shame you. She built what I thought was a brisk, …

Gaza’s generation blockade: young lives in the worlds largest prison

Anger and frustration for generation of Palestinians who have spent their entire lives in the fenced-off territory Cruising south along Israels coastal highway, there are almost no signs that you are approaching Gaza. Two million people live trapped on a thin slice of land along the Mediterranean, but someone could easily drive right past and miss it altogether. For visitors to the strip, restricted mainly to diplomats, aid workers and journalists, the last stop in Israel is a service station, where Red Sea-bound tourists and commuters sip lattes and eat chocolate croissants at an American-style coffeehouse. Walking back to their cars, they may glimpse the only hint of Gazas existence a white orb high in the southern sky, a tethered …

New Zealand gun laws face scrutiny after Christchurch attack

Unlike UK and Australia there is no ban on semi-automatic military-style weapons The toll of 49 dead and more injured 1.2m GunPolicy.org, which tracks gun laws worldwide. Unlike the UK and Australia, New Zealand does not ban the ownership of semi-automatic military-style assault weapons. Most guns can be legally sold on the internet or through newspaper ads. Any person aged 16 or over with an entry-level firearm licence can keep any number of common rifles and shotguns without having to register them. New Zealands decision not to register 96% of civilian firearms makes it a standout exception, alone with the United States and Canada, Alpers said. Over the past year, New Zealand has seen a recommended that MSSA rifles be …

Khlo Kardashian says we should show love to racists but why coddle them? | Yomi Adegoke

In the minds of many, being colourblind is seen as a type of kindness, that racism cannot exist if we are all just humans Over the weekend, Khlo Kardashian pic.twitter.com/KnVqFCmH6a colour-blindness is a type of kindness. Such people believe that acknowledging racism does more harm than racism itself which is only true if you consider that white fragility is being harmed. Coddling the complicit is hardly new, of course. Colour-blindness allows liberals to lay claim to wokeness without doing the work required to undermine white supremacy: how can it even exist if were all just humans, man? The Kardashians babies, besties and boyfriends continue to be human shields against accusations of racism laid at the door of this ever-ignorant family. …

Come back, experts. Without you public debate is just a shouting match | Owl Fisher

It is time to stop pretending that all opinions are equal, says the writer, film-maker and campaigner Owl Fisher Waking up to the news is becoming ever more painful. Not just because a lot of whats happening in the world is depressing and anxiety inducing Brexit, climate change, the far right, measles outbreaks, homelessness but also because of the way debates are often framed: two competing sides, fighting for the win, any evidence merely an afterthought. Contributors are presented as experts when, more often than not, theyre just another person with an opinion. We absorb their hot take on the days events often without questioning what lies behind them. Anyone with an opinion is invited on to TV or radio, …

Russia passes law to jail people for 15 days for ‘disrespecting’ government

Law allowing courts to fine or jail offenders is reminiscent of Soviet-era laws used to target dissidents, say critics Russias parliament has approved a controversial law that allows courts to jail people for online disrespect of government or state officials, including the president, Vladimir Putin. The law, which critics say is reminiscent of Soviet-era legislation used to target political dissidents, stipulates fines of up to 100,000 roubles (1,155) for indecent online posts that demonstrate a blatant disrespect for society, the country, Russias official state symbols, the constitution, or the authorities. Repeat offenders can be hit with fines of up to twice this sum, or 15 days behind bars. Alexander Verkhovsky, the head of the Moscow-based Sova Centre, which monitors abuse …

Facebook criticised after women complain of inaction over abuse

Amnesty says social media firm must do more to support users who report harassment Human rights campaigners have called for action after a survey revealed that more than half of the reports that women lodge about harassment on Facebook are met with no action from the social media company. The Survation poll, commissioned by the feminist campaign group Level Up, found that 29% of the 1,000 women who took part had been harassed on Facebook. A spokesperson for Amnesty International UK said the extremely worrying findings were indicative of a new frontier of human rights abuses which are often unaddressed: Time and time again we hear social media companies making pledges that they will do better, but their efforts have …