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Increasing hate crimes against Indian diaspora a serious cause of concern for government: MEA

MEA spokesperson says that Government is taking up the issue of safety of Indian diaspora very seriously

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A memorial for a hate crime victim; (representational Image) Source: Wikimedia
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New Delhi, Mar 14, 2017: Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian engineer was killed in a hate attack in Kansas on February 22. India raised this with the US authorities on very strong terms, as reported by a top official to Zee News. The MEA official further said that the safety of Indian diaspora and Indians is a matter of serious concern for the Indian government.

The issue was majorly raised in the Parliament, following which Rajnath Singh, Union Home Minister assured the House of the People that the Government is taking this issue very seriously. Gopal Baglay, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs said that Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was conveyed by US officials during his talks in Washington that the attack on Kuchibhotla and another Indian in the February 22 incident was an “individual case”.

The number of graves increases as hate crimes rise; Source: VOA

The Indian Consulate reached out to the families of Alok Madasani and Kuchibhotla, who were injured in the shooting in a Kansan pub on 22nd February, also offering support to the family of Deep Rai, a sikh and an American Citizen, injured in a hate attack in Kent last week, said Baglay.

“You would have also seen the response of the US authorities, beginning with President Trump who referred to the Kansas incident in his address to the Congress. The US Embassy had put out a press release condemning the Kansas killing. Speaker of the House has also condemned it,” said the spokesperson, pointing out the wide ranging condemnation of such crimes within the US.

“This point has also been highlighted by various prominent US dignitaries that such crimes do not represent the views of the vast majority in that country. In fact, several senior US dignitaries have explicitly mentioned in the recent days that Indians are welcome in the United States,” he added.

“Given the high priority the Government attaches to the security and wellbeing of Indians and persons of Indian origin abroad, we will continue to remain strongly engaged with the concerned authorities wherever required.”

A memorial for a hate crime victim; Source: Wikimedia

Baglay also said that the Kansas Government has offered to provide support the Kuchibhotla’s family and has welcomed Indians to the State.

Referring to Governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback’s letter, he said, “there is a sense of regret at the unfortunate shooting, commitment to prosecute the matter, support to the family of the deceased, and recognition of the qualities and contribution of Srinivas to Kansas.”

Sam Brownback wrote a letter to Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India expressing regret over the violence against Indians.

Harnish Patel, another Indian was killed 10 days ago in South Carolina. However, the killing was not identified as a hate crime.

-Prepared by Nikita Saraf, Twitter: @niki_saraf

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Russia Declines Allegation Reports Alleging Its Meddling in The U.S. Elections

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow. VOA

The size and scope of Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election was far more extensive and thorough than previously understood, according to two newly released reports.

The reports that emerged this week support conclusions by the U.S. intelligence community — and published in an unclassified January 2017 report — that the goal of all of Russia’s meddling in the months leading up to the 2016 elections was to get their preferred candidate elected president of the United States.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party and specifically Donald Trump,” according to the report by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika.

Russia on Tuesday rejected the allegations in the two reports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations baseless.

The findings, as first reported by The Washington Post, said Russians working for a group called the Internet Research Agency (IRA) began experimenting with social media to influence local elections in 2009 and expanded its operations to U.S. elections in 2013 using Twitter.

 

Russia
A view of a business center Internet Research Agency, known as the so-called troll factory’s new office, in St. Petersburg, Russia. VOA

It gradually added other popular social media sites to its campaign, including YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, using race and social issues such as gun rights, immigration and police brutality, to sow division and discontent.

 

“Conservative and right-wing voters were actively encouraged to get behind Trump’s campaign,” according to the report by Oxford and Graphika. “Other voters were encouraged to boycott the election, abstain from voting for Clinton, or to spread cynicism about participating in the election in general.”

Russia’s IRA activity also sought out African-American voters in particular with advertising on Facebook and Instagram and with video content on YouTube.

“Most of the interest-based targeting focused on African-American communities and interests,” the second report by the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge showed.

“Messaging to African-Americans sought to divert their political energy away from established political institutions by preying on anger with structural inequalities faced by African-Americans, including police violence, poverty and disproportionate levels of incarceration,” the Oxford University-Graphika report added. “These campaigns pushed a message that the best way to advance the cause of the African-American community was to boycott the election and focus on other issues instead.”

USA, trump, russia
Former Donald Trump presidential campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, center, who triggered the Russia investigation, leaves federal court with wife Simona Mangiante, on Sept. 7, 2018, in Washington. VOA

 

Other groups such as liberals, women, Muslims, Latinos and veterans were also targeted with similar messages either appealing to their politics or trying to discourage them from voting.

This newly released data demonstrates how aggressively Russia sought to divide Americans by race, religion and ideology, and how the IRA actively worked to erode trust in our democratic institutions,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said in a statement Monday. “Most troublingly, it shows that these activities have not stopped.”

“This should stand as a wake-up call,” added Senate Intelligence Committee vice chair, Democrat Mark Warner, who has been critical of social media companies and the way they have handled Russia’s online influence campaigns.

“It is time to get serious in addressing this challenge,” Warner said. “That is going to require some much-needed and long-overdue guardrails when it comes to social media.”

The Oxford-Graphika report said it is clear the response by social media companies has been lacking.

Michael Cohen, Trump, Russia
Michael Cohen walks out of federal court, Nov. 29, 2018, in New York, after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia. VOA

“We clearly observe a belated and uncoordinated response from the platforms that provided the data,” the report said. “In some cases, activity on one platform was detected and suspended months before similar action was taken against related activity on another platform.”

In a statement Monday, Facebook said it continues to “fully cooperate with officials investigating the IRA’s activity on Facebook and Instagram around the 2016 election.”

“We’ve made progress in helping prevent interference on our platforms during elections, strengthened our policies against voter suppression ahead of the 2018 midterms, and funded independent research on the impact of social media on democracy,” the statement said, adding the company believes Congress and intelligence officials “are best placed to use the information we and others provide.”

“Our singular focus is to improve the health of the public conversation on our platform,” Twitter said in a statement of its own. “We’ve made significant strides since 2016 to counter manipulation of our service, including our release of additional data in October related to previously disclosed activities to enable further independent academic research and investigation.”

U.S.A. Trump, Russia
Former FBI Director James Comey, with his attorney, David Kelley, right, speaks to reporters after a day of testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

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The reports, though, indicate the measures that have been taken may not be enough, as Russia and others continue to make use of social media platforms.

The Oxford-Graphika report said Russia’s use of social media did not peak until after the election, with the IRA buying the most ad volume on Facebook in April 2017, shortly after the U.S. airstrikes against chemical weapon sites in Syria.

And U.S. intelligence and military officials have told VOA that Russia continued to target segments of U.S. society, including ongoing efforts to influence U.S. military personnel and their families in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

The United States has already leveled criminal charges against IRA for interfering in the 2016 campaign.

Current and former intelligence officials also warn that it would be a mistake to focus only on Russia’s use of social media, pointing to last week’s guilty plea by Russian spy Maria Butina, who admitted to using the National Rifle Association to get close to key conservative politicians.

U.S.A., Trump, Russia
In these 2018 photos, Paul Manafort leaves federal court in Washington, left and attorney Michael Cohen leaves federal court in New York. VOA

“It illustrates … the astute understanding the Russians have of our political ecosystem,” James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence, told VOA.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election and whether the president has tried to obstruct justice by trying to undermine the probe.

Also Read: Russians Helped Trump To Win On Every Social Media Platform: Senate Report

Trump denies there was any collusion and calls the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.” (VOA)