A Musk Retweet: Tesla CEO Says He’ll Pay $44 Billion to Buy Twitter

The tumultuous saga of Elon Musk’s on-again, off-again purchase of Twitter took a turn toward a conclusion Tuesday after the mercurial Tesla CEO proposed to buy the company at the originally agreed-on price of $44 billion.  Musk made the proposal in a letter to Twitter that the company disclosed in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. It came less than two weeks before a trial between the two parties was scheduled to start in Delaware.  In a statement, Twitter said it intends to close the transaction at $54.20 per share after receiving the letter from Musk.  Trading in Twitter’s stock, which had been halted for much of the day pending release of the news, resumed late Tuesday and soared 22% to close at $52.  Musk’s proposal is the latest twist in a high-profile saga involving the world’s richest man and one of the most influential social media platforms. Much of the drama has played out on Twitter itself, with Musk — who has more than 100 million followers — lamenting that the company was failing to live up to its potential as a platform for free speech.  A letter from Musk’s lawyer dated Monday and disclosed by Twitter in a securities filing said Musk would close the merger signed in April, provided that the Delaware Chancery Court “enter an immediate stay” of Twitter’s lawsuit against him and adjourn the trial scheduled to start October 17.  By completing the deal, Musk essentially gave Twitter what it was …

Google Discontinues Translate Service in Mainland China

Google has ended its Google Translate service in mainland China, citing “low usage” of one of its flagship products by mainland China users. The move surprised users, who said they first noticed not being able to access the function over the weekend. “The Google Translate mobile app was also discontinued a year ago in 2021,” a Google spokesperson told VOA on Monday in response to a request for further details on the company’s decision. The translation service had been available to mainland Chinese users since 2017. While The Associated Press reported Monday that “it is not clear how many users were using Google Translate in China,” the South China Morning Post cited an international data tracking company’s figure of 53.5 million visits to the platform in the month of August alone. AP noted that “the translation feature built into the Google Chrome browser also no longer functions for users in China.” Wei Jingsheng, a leading Chinese dissident living in exile in the United States, told VOA in a phone interview Monday that in his view, Google has been trying to put on a “balancing act” — maintaining its reputation and credibility as a global internet giant operating around the world while finding a space to operate in the highly restrictive environment in China. “It is safe to anticipate that the company is constantly under pressure from the Chinese government to meet its demands,” Wei told VOA. “We don’t know what exactly lay behind Google’s decision to pull its translation service …

US Supreme Court Will Hear Social Media Terrorism Lawsuits

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will hear two cases seeking to hold social media companies financially responsible for terrorist attacks.  Relatives of people killed in terrorist attacks in France and Turkey had sued Google, Twitter and Facebook. They accused the companies of helping terrorists spread their message and radicalize new recruits.  The court will hear the cases this term, which began Monday, with a decision expected before the court recesses for the summer, usually in late June. The court did not say when it would hear arguments, but the court has already filled its argument calendar for October and November.  One of the cases the justices will hear involves Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old U.S. citizen studying in Paris. The Cal State Long Beach student was one of 130 people killed in Islamic State group attacks in November 2015. The attackers struck cafes, outside the French national stadium and inside the Bataclan theater. Gonzalez died in an attack at La Belle Equipe bistro.  Gonzalez’s relatives sued Google, which owns YouTube, saying the platform had helped the Islamic State group by allowing it to post hundreds of videos that helped incite violence and recruit potential supporters. Gonzalez’s relatives said that the company’s computer algorithms recommended those videos to viewers most likely to be interested in them.  But a judge dismissed the case and a federal appeals court upheld the ruling. Under U.S. law — specifically Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — internet companies are generally exempt from liability …

FBI Joins Australian Hunt for Data Hackers

Australia has asked the American FBI to help catch computer hackers responsible for one of Australia’s biggest data breaches. Personal details, including home addresses, driver license and passport numbers, of more than 10 million customers of the Singapore-owned telecom giant Optus were stolen. A massive amount of personal information about Optus customers in Australia was stolen and an extortion threat made to the company. But then there was an apparent twist. An apology was issued on an online forum by an account that investigators believe belonged to the alleged hacker, who had been unnerved by the attention the case had generated. “Too many eyes,” it read. “We will not sale (sic) data to anyone. Sorry to 10.2m Australians whose data was leaked. Ransom not paid but we don’t care anymore.” The Australian government has blamed Optus, one of the biggest telecommunications companies in the country, for the breach. Australia’s cybersecurity minister, Clare O’Neil, said the company had made it easy for hackers to get in. “What is of concern for us is how what is quite a basic hack was undertaken on Optus,” she said. “We should not have a telecommunications provider in this country which has effectively left the window open for data of this nature to be stolen.” But Optus Chief Executive Officer Kelly Bayer Rosmarin denied the company’s cyber defenses were inadequate. She said the data was encrypted and there were multiple layers of protection. But for many Optus customers, there is deep anxiety that their personal …

Nations Must Work Together to Fight Online Fraud, UN Official Says

A top U.N. official last week said the syndicates running Asia’s massive online fraud industry will rotate operations among lawless areas of Southeast Asia unless governments cooperate to bring them down, after Cambodia said it was cracking down on cybercrime compounds. The networks have swindled hundreds of millions of dollars, regional police have told VOA, setting up fake profiles offering romance, moonshot investment schemes with huge returns or posing as police officers to solicit payoffs. They target residents of countries from China to Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, the United States and Australia. “The response needs to be strategic and regional, because today it might be a location in Cambodia but tomorrow a group uproots under pressure and shifts to Myanmar, Laos or the Philippines,” Jeremy Douglas, the Bangkok-based regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime told VOA. “Until governments across the region address, disrupt and police the places organized crime groups are using to run online casinos, scams and other illicit businesses, and in particular special economic zones and autonomous regions, the situation won’t fundamentally change,” he said. Compounds for industrial-scale scamming in are operated in converted casinos in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, as well as special economic zones in Myanmar and Laos by Chinese gangsters who dominate regional gambling but lost their main income source during the pandemic, according to Douglas and victims who spoke to VOA. The foot soldiers of the operations are young Chinese and Southeast Asians. Some joined willingly, many others thought they had obtained high-paying …

Rohingya Seek Reparations from Facebook for Role in Massacre

With roosters crowing in the background as he speaks from the crowded refugee camp in Bangladesh that’s been his home since 2017, Maung Sawyeddollah, 21, describes what happened when violent hate speech and disinformation targeting the Rohingya minority in Myanmar began to spread on Facebook. “We were good with most of the people there. But some very narrow minded and very nationalist types escalated hate against Rohingya on Facebook,” he said. “And the people who were good, in close communication with Rohingya. changed their mind against Rohingya and it turned to hate.” For years, Facebook, now called Meta Platforms Inc., pushed the narrative that it was a neutral platform in Myanmar that was misused by malicious people, and that despite its efforts to remove violent and hateful material, it unfortunately fell short. That narrative echoes its response to the role it has played in other conflicts around the world, whether the 2020 election in the U.S. or hate speech in India. But a new and comprehensive report by Amnesty International states that Facebook’s preferred narrative is false. The platform, Amnesty says, wasn’t merely a passive site with insufficient content moderation. Instead, Meta’s algorithms “proactively amplified and promoted content” on Facebook, which incited violent hatred against the Rohingya beginning as early as 2012. Despite years of warnings, Amnesty found, the company not only failed to remove violent hate speech and disinformation against the Rohingya, it actively spread and amplified it until it culminated in the 2017 massacre. The timing coincided with …

Counter-drone Technology Stopping Malicious Drones from Doing Harm

As military and civilian drones become increasingly popular, there are growing concerns about the threats some of them may pose over places like airports, prisons, and electrical grids. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports on a company that has developed counter-drone technology that can identify and mitigate threats from malicious drones. VIdeographer: Adam Greenbaum Produced by: Julie Taboh, Adam Greenbaum …

Meta Disables Russian Propaganda Network Targeting Europe

A sprawling disinformation network originating in Russia sought to use hundreds of fake social media accounts and dozens of sham news websites to spread Kremlin talking points about the invasion of Ukraine, Meta revealed Tuesday. The company, which owns Facebook and Instagram, said it identified and disabled the operation before it was able to gain a large audience. Nonetheless, Facebook said it was the largest and most complex Russian propaganda effort that it has found since the invasion began. The operation involved more than 60 websites created to mimic legitimate news sites including The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom and Germany’s Der Spiegel. Instead of the actual news reported by those outlets, however, the fake sites contained links to Russian propaganda and disinformation about Ukraine. More than 1,600 fake Facebook accounts were used to spread the propaganda to audiences in Germany, Italy, France, the U.K. and Ukraine. The findings highlighted both the promise of social media companies to police their sites and the peril that disinformation continues to pose. “Video: False Staging in Bucha Revealed!” claimed one of the fake news stories, which blamed Ukraine for the slaughter of hundreds of Ukrainians in a town occupied by the Russians. The fake social media accounts were then used to spread links to the fake news stories and other pro-Russian posts and videos on Facebook and Instagram, as well as platforms including Telegram and Twitter. The network was active throughout the summer. “On a few occasions, the operation’s content was amplified …

Musk Faces Deposition With Twitter Ahead of October Trial

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is scheduled to spend the next few days with lawyers for Twitter, answering questions ahead of an October trial that will determine whether he must carry through with his $44 billion agreement to acquire the social platform after attempting to back out of the deal. The deposition, planned for Monday, Tuesday and a possible extension on Wednesday, will not be public. As of Sunday evening, it was not clear whether Musk will appear in person or by video. The trial is set to begin October 17 in Delaware Chancery Court, where it’s scheduled to last just five days. Musk, the world’s richest man, agreed in April to buy Twitter and take it private, offering $54.20 a share and vowing to loosen the company’s policing of content and to root out fake accounts. Twitter shares closed Friday at $41.58. Musk indicated in July that he wanted to back away from the deal, prompting Twitter to file a lawsuit to force him to carry through with the acquisition. …

VOA Interview: Anne Neuberger

With Russian President Vladimir Putin accelerating war efforts and threatening to use nuclear weapons, White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara spoke with Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology at the Biden administration’s National Security Council, on the possibility of increased cyber warfare on Ukraine and her allies. Neuberger also spoke of the recent Iranian cyberattacks on Albania, and the administration’s view of NATO’s collective defense principle in cyber warfare. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. VOA: Anne Nueberger, thank you so much for joining me all today. I’m going to start with Russia. President Vladimir Putin has significantly increased his war efforts. He’s announced mobilization, referendums, threatening nuclear attacks. Are we also expecting an increase in cyberattacks? DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR CYBER AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY ANNE NEUBERGER: So first, thank you so much for having me here. It’s really great to be here. Throughout the conflict, beginning when Russia first did its further invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen Russia use destructive cyberattacks as well as intelligence collection to advance its war mission. We saw the initial destructive attacks on satellite systems, then later on Ukrainian government systems and additional critical infrastructures systems. So one would expect that as Russia further redouble its efforts, that will include cyberattacks as well. VOA: Have you actually seen indications of it starting? NEUBERGER: Of additional cyberattacks? VOA: Of cyberattacks, yes. NEUBERGER: It’s been a consistent part of Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. So it’s something …