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Lawmakers In US Will Review Social Media Executives In September

“It would be a mistake to think this is just about elections,” added Republican Sen. John Cornyn, noting similar techniques could be used to destroy reputations or tank stock prices.

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Top executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google will face lawmakers on Capitol Hill next month to explain what the social media giants are doing to combat foreign information operations.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Republican Sen. Richard Burr, and ranking Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner, made the announcement Wednesday, at the start of a hearing on how Russia and other countries and actors have been manipulating social media.

The goal of the September 5 hearing will be “to hear the plans they have in place, to press them to do more, and to work together to address this challenge,” Warner said.

“They can do better to protect our democracy,” he added. “I’m concerned that even after 18 months of study we are still only scratching the surface when it comes to Russia’s information warfare.”

Burr called the foreign information operations, like those being carried out by Russia, “an intolerable assault on the democratic foundation this republic was built on.”

Google Along with Other SSocial Media Giants will Face The Lawmakers, Wikimedia Commons
Google Along with Other Social Media Giants will Face The Lawmakers, Wikimedia Commons

“It’s also important that the American people know that these activities neither began nor ended with the 2016 elections” Burr said. He warned that activities like those identified recently by Facebook have been going beyond just social media, “creating events on our streets with real Americans unknowingly participating.”

Facebook Tuesday announced it had shut down 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts because they were “involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior,” much of it targeting left-wing American political groups.

Facebook said it was too early to say whether the accounts were being run by Russia, but an analysis by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab found signs pointing to “the Russian-speaking world.”

In a blog post, the lab noted similarities to activity by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), including “language patterns that indicate non-native English and consistent mistranslation, as well as an overwhelming focus on polarizing issues at the top of any given news cycle with content that remained emotive rather than fact-based.”

Facebook’s announcement followed a warning issued by Microsoft less than two weeks ago, which said hackers had targeted the campaigns of at least Congressional candidates in the upcoming election.

Microsoft said the phishing attacks, similar to ones employed by Russian-linked operatives to target the Republican and Democratic campaigns during the 2016 election, were thwarted.

Late last week, The Daily Beast reported one of the targets of those attacks was Missouri’s Democratic senator, Claire McCaskill, who has been highly critical of Russia.

Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, May 23, 2018. VOA
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, May 23, 2018. VOA

During Wednesday’s senate hearing, a number of senators cautioned the issue is much bigger than the 2016 or 2018 elections.

“It is about the integrity of our society,” said Sen. Burr. “This is about national security.”

“It would be a mistake to think this is just about elections,” added Republican Sen. John Cornyn, noting similar techniques could be used to destroy reputations or tank stock prices.

Experts say some of that already is happening.

“On the state actor front we have seen evidence of campaigns targeting energy and agriculture,” said Renee DiResta, director of Research at New Knowledge.

“In agriculture, that’s taken the form of spreading fear about GMOs [genetically modified organisms],” she said.

“There’s a commercial dimension to this that’s underreported. There’s a lot more going on in the commercial space,” Graphika Founder and CEO John Kelly told lawmakers.

Also Read: Social Media A Medium For Evil? No Remedy To Escape

“Sometimes they’re tied, these political attacks and attack on corporations where corporations will be basically punished with falsely amplified boycott campaigns, and similar measures for doing something, which is politically not what Russia wants to see.” (VOA)

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India Continues Engaging With USA Over H-1B Passport Issue

India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

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As Trump proposes changes in H1-B visa, India continues to engage with US

India is continuing to engage with the US over the H-1B visa, largely availed of by Indian IT companies, after the Trump administration proposed changes to the programme, a senior official said on Thursday.

“It is a very important topic for us and that is the reason why we have time and again at various levels, we have taken up this matter with the US side,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to queries by journalists here.

Kumar said that most recently, the issue was raised during the first ever India-US 2+2 Ministerial Meeting held here last month that was attended by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.

On Wednesday, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to come out with its new proposal by January 2019.

India n Passport
It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages Flickr

The DHS said it was also proposing to remove from its regulations certain H-4 spouses of H-1B non-immigrants as a class of aliens eligible for employment authorisation.

The move to end the rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visa holders, who have work permits.

The H-4 visas are issued by the USCIS to immediate family members (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the holders of H-1B visa.

The DHS said it will propose to revise the definition of speciality occupation to increase focus on obtaining the best and the brightest foreign nationals via the H-1B programme.

It will also “revise the definition” of employment and employer-employee relationship to “better protect” US workers and wages, the DHS said.

Donald Trump, India
President Donald Trump speaks about immigration alongside family members affected by crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, at the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex, June 22, 2018, in Washington, VOA

In his remarks on Thursday, Kumar said that India is closely engaged with the US administration as well as the US Congress on this matter.

Stating that there are certain bills which have been introduced, he, however, said that “it is important to note that none of these bills have been passed so far”.

“When we have engaged with the US, we have emphasised that our partnership which we have in the digital sphere have been mutually beneficial,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read: USA And Other Countries Pledge To Eradicate Illegal Wildlife Trade

“We have highlighted the role which has been played by the highly skilled Indian professionals who have actually contributed to the growth and development of the US economy,” he stated.

“And also they have helped the US to maintain a competitive edge in the world towards innovation and science and technology.” (IANS)