Category Archives: Technology

silicon valley & technology news

Solomon Islands Plans to Ban Facebook to Preserve ‘National Unity’

The government of the Solomon Islands has defended its plans to ban Facebook, insisting the move would preserve “national unity.” Ministers say the world’s largest social media platform has been “grossly abused.” But critics insist a ban is an attempt to shut down criticism of the government’s economic policies.Facebook helps connect the people of a tropical archipelago that stretches over more than 1,400 kilometers of the South Pacific.  
 
But the government believes the social media platform is being “grossly abused.” Officials in the capital, Honiara, are to discuss blocking Facebook with internet companies because of concerns about defamation and cyber bullying.
 
Authorities want to regulate users’ behavior to protect the community from “vile abusive language” online. Until new laws can be passed, there would be a temporary ban on Facebook.  
 
Minister of Communications Peter Shanel Agovaka told Radio New Zealand Pacific that tough regulations are needed.
 
“Coming with freedom of expression and freedom of the media is a lot of responsibility. You don’t just go out and say things out of the ordinary to your neighbors. It’s about using it wisely, communicate, share information and so on, and not to abuse people,” Agovaka said.
 
It is unclear, however, how a ban on Facebook would work.
 
Critics say the move would breach the constitutional rights of Solomon Islanders and attempt to shut down dissent. Opposition politicians call the proposals “pathetic,” while Amnesty International says any such ban would be a ‘brazen attack on human rights.”  
 
Facebook has said it was contacting authorities to discuss the plans.
 
Any ban would put the Pacific island nation alongside just four other countries where the social media platform is outlawed: China, Iran, North Korea and Syria.
 
The Solomon Islands is home to about 685,000 people. While the archipelago stretches across a vast area of ocean, its land mass is comparable to that of Albania.  
 
About 20% of the population has access to the internet.
 

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China Launches Lunar Probe  

China successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the moon Monday to land, gather soil and rock samples, and return them to Earth.  If successful, it will be the first mission by any nation to retrieve samples from the lunar surface since the 1970s, and the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to retrieve such samples. The Chang’e 5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation.  U.S. space agency NASA says the mission’s goal is to land in a previously unvisited area of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum and operate for one lunar day, which lasts 14 earth days, and return a 2-kilogram sample of lunar soil, possibly from as deep as 2 meters.  Matt Siegler, a research scientist at the Arizona-based Planetary Science Institute who is not part of the Chang’e 5 mission, told Reuters the area where the spacecraft is to land is 1 to 2 billion years old. “That is very young for the moon — most of our samples are 3.5 billion years old or more,” Siegler said in an email. “We want to find out what is special about these regions and why they remained warm longer than the rest of the moon,” Siegler added. The sample will travel to Earth in the return capsule and land in the Siziwang Banner grassland of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China. During a brief government-organized visit to the launch center, reporters were taken to a place where they could see in the distance the Long March 5 rocket that carries the Chang’e 5 probe. The launch took place between 4:30 a.m. Beijing time Tuesday (2030 GMT Monday). The Reuters news service reports that China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January 2019, the Chang’e 4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first by any space probe. Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region. 

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China Set to Launch Lunar Probe

China is scheduled to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon Monday to land, gather soil and rock samples, and return them to Earth.  
 
If successful, it will be the first mission by any nation to retrieve samples from the lunar surface since the 1970s, and the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to retrieve such samples.
 
The Chang’e 5 probe, named after the ancient Chinese goddess of the moon, will seek to collect material that can help scientists understand more about the moon’s origins and formation.  
 
 U.S. space agency NASA, says the mission’s goal is to land in a previously unvisited area of the moon known as Oceanus Procellarum and operate for one lunar day, which lasts 14 earth days, and return a 2-kilogram sample of lunar soil, possibly from as deep as 2 meters.  
 
The sample will travel to Earth in the return capsule and land in the Siziwang Banner grassland of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China.
 
During a brief government-organized visit to the launch center, reporters were taken to a place where they could see, in the distance, the Long March 5 rocket that carries the Chang’e 5 probe. The launch is expected to take place between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. (2000-2100 GMT) on November 24.
 
The Reuters news service reports China made its first lunar landing in 2013. In January 2019, the Chang’e 4 probe touched down on the far side of the moon, the first by any space probe. Within the next decade, China plans to establish a robotic base station to conduct unmanned exploration in the south polar region.
 

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Vietnam Tells Facebook: Yield to Censors or We’ll Shut You Down, Source Says

Vietnam has threatened to shut down Facebook in the country if it does not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content on its platform, a senior official at the U.S. social media giant told Reuters.Facebook complied with a government request in April to significantly increase its censorship of “anti-state” posts for local users, but Vietnam asked the company again in August to step up its restrictions of critical posts, the official said.”We made an agreement in April. Facebook has upheld our end of the agreement, and we expected the government of Vietnam to do the same,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing the sensitivity of the subject.”They have come back to us and sought to get us to increase the volume of content that we’re restricting in Vietnam. We’ve told them no. That request came with some threats about what might happen if we didn’t.”The official said the threats included shutting down Facebook altogether in Vietnam, a major market for the social media company where it earns revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to two sources familiar with the numbers.Facebook has faced mounting pressure from governments over its content policies, including threats of new regulations and fines. But it has avoided a ban in all but the few places where it has never been allowed to operate, such as China.In Vietnam, despite sweeping economic reform and increasing openness to social change, the ruling Communist Party retains tight control of media and tolerates little opposition. The country ranks fifth from bottom in a global ranking of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders.Vietnam’s foreign ministry said in response to questions from Reuters that Facebook should abide by local laws and cease “spreading information that violates traditional Vietnamese customs and infringes upon state interests.”A spokeswoman for Facebook said it had faced additional pressure from Vietnam to censor more content in recent months.In its biannual transparency report released on Friday, Facebook said it had restricted access to 834 items in Vietnam in the first six months of this year, following requests from the government of Vietnam to remove anti-state content.‘Clear responsibility’Facebook, which serves about 60 million users in Vietnam as the main platform for both e-commerce and expressions of political dissent is under constant government scrutiny.Reuters exclusively reported in April that Facebook’s local servers in Vietnam were taken offline early this year until it complied with the government’s demands.Facebook has long faced criticism from rights group for being too compliant with government censorship requests.”However, we will do everything we can to ensure that our services remain available so people can continue to express themselves,” the spokesperson said.Vietnam has tried to launch home-grown social media networks to compete with Facebook, but none has reached any meaningful level of popularity. The Facebook official said the company had not seen an exodus of Vietnamese users to the local platforms.The official said Facebook had been subject to a “14-month-long negative media campaign” in state-controlled Vietnamese press before arriving at the current impasse.Asked about Vietnam’s threat to shut down Facebook, rights group Amnesty International said the fact it had not yet been banned after defying the Vietnamese government’s threats showed that the company could do more to resist Hanoi’s demands.”Facebook has a clear responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate in the world and Vietnam is no exception,” Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for campaigns, said. “Facebook are prioritizing profits in Vietnam, and failing to respect human rights.”  

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What’s Your Risk of Catching COVID? There’s an App for That

As the deadly coronavirus continues to rage across the U.S. and around the world, people are turning to COVID-19-related apps to figure out their day-to-day risks. VOA’s Julie Taboh has more.
Producers: Julie Taboh, Adam Greenbaum

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Millennial Life: Eat, Sleep, Work, Screens

Would you give up nearly a decade of your life looking at your cellphone?Calculated by today’s usage, the average person spends a little over 76,500 hours – or 8.74 years – on a smartphone over a lifetime, according to a FILE – Marilu Rodriguez checks a news website on her smartphone before boarding a train home at the end of her workweek in Chicago, March 13, 2015.This widespread usage of smartphones has sparked worries among teens themselves, with 54% of U.S. teens saying they spend too much time on their phones. And 52% have also reported trying to take steps to reduce mobile phone use. A JAMA Network study found that only 5% of 59,397 U.S. high school students surveyed spent a balanced time sleeping and staying physically active while limiting screen time.Too much time on a phone has been linked to a number of physical and mental health risks.In a study of 3,826 adolescents, researchers found an association between social media and television use with symptoms of depression, according to JAMA Pediatrics.Increased screen time has also been linked with a higher risk of obesity and diabetes.

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Facebook, Twitter Signal They Are Open to Reform

Facing charges of censorship, the CEOs of Twitter and Facebook appeared before a hearing of U.S. lawmakers Tuesday to defend actions taken during the recent U.S. elections. Tina Trinh reports.Produced by: Matt Dibble   

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Twitter Launches Disappearing Tweets That Vanish in a Day

Twitter is launching tweets that disappear in 24 hours called “Fleets” globally, echoing social media sites like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram that already have disappearing posts.The company says the ephemeral tweets, which it calls “fleets” because of their fleeting nature, are designed to allay the concerns of new users who might be turned off by the public and permanent nature of normal tweets.Fleets can’t be retweeted and they won’t have “likes.” People can respond to them, but the replies show up as direct messages to the original tweeter, not as a public response, turning any back-and-forth into a private conversation instead of a public discussion.Twitter tested the feature in Brazil, Italy, India, and South Korea, before rolling it out globally.Fleets are a “lower pressure” way to communicate “fleeting thoughts” as opposed to permanent tweets, Twitter executives Joshua Harris, design director, and Sam Haveson, product manager, said in a blog post.The news comes the same day Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg  faced questions from a Senate Judiciary Committee about how they handled disinformation surrounding the presidential election. Both sites have stepped up action taken against disinformation. Zuckerberg and Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively guard their platforms from being manipulated by foreign governments or used to incite violence around the election results — and they followed through with high-profile steps that angered Trump and his supporters.The new “Fleets” feature is reminiscent of Instagram and Facebook “stories” and Snapchat’s snaps, which let users post short-lived photos and messages. Such features are increasingly popular with social media users looking for smaller groups and and more private chats.

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