Facebook parent Meta Platforms removed a network of fake accounts that originated in Iran and targeted Instagram users in Scotland with content supporting Scottish independence, the company’s investigators said on Thursday.
The network used fake accounts to pose as locals in England and Scotland, posting photos and memes about current events and criticism of the United Kingdom’s government, Meta said.
The accounts posted commentary about Scottish independence and organized their content around common hashtags promoting the cause, though they at times misspelled them, the company said. The accounts also posted about football and UK cities, likely to make the fictitious personas seem more authentic.
The network used photos of media personalities and celebrities from the UK and Iran as well as profile pictures likely created through AI techniques, Meta said.
In a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014, Scots voted 55 percent-45 percent to remain in the United Kingdom, but both Brexit and the British government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis have bolstered support for independence among Scots and demands for a second vote.
Meta said its investigation found links to individuals in Iraq, including people with a background in teaching English as a foreign language.
It said the operation had some connections with a small Iran-based network it previously removed in December 2020, which mostly targeted Arabic, French and English-speaking audiences using fake accounts, but did not provide further details on who might be behind the activity.
“We’ve seen a range of operations coming from Iran over the last few years,” said Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead for influence operations, in a press briefing. “It’s not a monolithic environment.”
The social media company said it had removed eight Facebook accounts and 126 Instagram accounts as part of this network in December for violating its rules against coordinated inauthentic behavior.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg targeted in US privacy lawsuit
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was named personally in a Washington lawsuit Monday alleging he played a direct role in decisions that set the stage for the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.
The US capital’s attorney general argues that Zuckerberg was closely involved in conceiving the framework that allowed the Britain-based consulting firm to harvest over 70 million US Facebook users data.
A whistleblower revealed in 2018 that Cambridge Analytica went on to use that data for political purposes, including trying to rally support for Donald Trump.
“Zuckerberg is not just a figurehead at Facebook; he is personally involved in nearly every decision the company makes,” Washington Attorney General Karl Racine wrote in the suit.
He added that Zuckerberg’s control is baked into the structure of the company, where the founder and CEO holds a majority of voting shares.
Racine’s office sued Facebook over its data privacy practices in 2018 as part of a case that is ongoing.
Facebook’s parent company Meta did not immediately respond to the new lawsuit’s allegations, but spokesman Andy Stone noted on Twitter that a judge had previously rejected Racine’s bid to add Zuckerberg as a defendant in the privacy case.
US authorities imposed what they described as a “historic” $5 billion fine on Facebook in the wake of the scandal, and also required Facebook to ramp up privacy protections, provide detailed quarterly reports on compliance with the deal, and have an independent oversight board.
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, Facebook has removed access to its data from thousands of apps suspected of abusing it, restricted the amount of information available to developers in general, and made it easier for users to calibrate restrictions on personal data sharing.
’End of an era’ as New York removes last of its iconic payphone booths
Marking the end of an era, New York City on Monday removed the last of its storied payphone booths, which have fallen victim to the ubiquity of free Wi-fi and cell phones in recent years.
But Superman fans can take comfort in the fact that Manhattan will keep four of the defunct booths, made famous as the impromptu changing rooms for journalist Clark Kent as he transformed into the Man of Steel.
Over the decades, the phone booths have featured widely in pop culture, from comic books to Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows.
That ended Monday morning, when, in front of assembled media, Manhattan borough president — the equivalent of the mayor — Mark Levine had the last booth housing two Bell System payphones at the corner of 7th Avenue and 50th Street dismantled and lifted on to a flatbed truck.
Levine said on Twitter he was “on hand today to say ‘Bye Bye’ one last time to the famed (infamous?) NYC pay phone.”
“I won’t miss all the dead dial tones but gotta say I felt a twinge of nostalgia seeing it go,” he added.
Fixed-line payphones began disappearing from the streets of New York in the early 2000s as cell phone use spread, and then vanished even faster in the 2010s with the explosion of smartphones.
The final blow came when, in 2015, Manhattan went ahead with the installation of thousands of LinkNYC hotspots offering WiFi and free local calls.
Those new kiosks are to be gradually connected to the emerging 5G network.
“Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access,” said Levine, referring to neighborhoods in northern Manhattan, such as Harlem, that are less well covered by telephone and Internet networks.
According to local media, Manhattan will keep four of the old-fashioned phone booths on the Upper West Side, on West End Avenue at 66th, 90th, 100th and 101st streets.
“Amazon” plants surveillance cameras for its drivers
It was reported that the American company “Amazon” is putting artificial intelligence-powered cameras in its delivery trucks in Britain
The move comes after the cameras were first introduced in America last year, according to a report from the British newspaper, The Telegraph.
The cameras monitor the performance of drivers on the road, and sound alerts if they are going fast or brake sharply, and the company will put assessments for them based on that, according to the British newspaper, “The Telegraph”.
Secret documents obtained by The Telegraph showed that Amazon created a points-based system to detect if drivers’ eyes were off the road, swaying or even sneezing.
Two cameras are installed in Amazon trucks in Britain, one facing the driver and the other facing the road.
Privacy activists considered the new “Amazon” cameras as “scary” and “intrusive”.
Silky Carlo, director of the UK-based Privacy Campaigns group, said: “Amazon has a track record of extensively monitoring low-paid people using often highly imprecise spying techniques, and then using that data to their disadvantage.”
“This kind of targeted surveillance can actually distract drivers, let alone demoralize them,” Carlo added. “It’s harmful to workers’ rights and intimidating privacy.”
And the report of the newspaper “The Telegraph” indicated that “Amazon” used the cameras in America to determine the salaries of drivers, and whether they would keep them or not.
An Amazon spokesperson told The Telegraph: “The purpose of introducing this technology is to keep drivers and communities safe, and there is no other reason behind that.”
He stressed that the company has conducted a comprehensive assessment of data privacy, in line with applicable laws.
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