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Mark Zuckerberg admits Facebook censored Hunter Biden laptop story during 2020 U. S. elections

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•Zuckerberg appeared on the hugely popular Joe Rogan podcast in a rare unscripted media appearance

Accuses FBI of misinformation

Mark Zuckerberg says Facebook restricting a story about Joe Biden’s son during the 2020 election was based on FBI misinformation warnings.

The New York Post alleged leaked emails from Hunter Biden’s laptop showed the then vice-president was helping his son’s business dealings in Ukraine.

Facebook and Twitter restricted sharing of the article, before reversing course amid allegations of censorship.

Zuckerberg said that getting the decision wrong “sucks”.

“When we take down something that we’re not supposed to, that’s the worst,” Zuckerberg said in a rare extended media interview on the Joe Rogan podcast.

The New York Post story was released just weeks before the presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, which Mr Biden won.

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It claimed that a laptop, abandoned in a repair shop by Hunter Biden, contained emails which included details of Hunter introducing a Ukrainian energy tycoon to his father and arranging a meeting. There is no record on Mr Biden’s schedule that such a meeting ever took place.

Critically, it fed into long-running unproven allegations about corruption on Joe Biden’s part to ensure his son’s business success in Ukraine.

In that context, the New York Post story, based on exclusive data no other news agency had access to, was met with scepticism – and censored by social media outlets.

Zuckerberg told Rogan: “The background here is that the FBI came to us – some folks on our team – and was like ‘hey, just so you know, you should be on high alert. We thought there was a lot of Russian propaganda in the 2016 election, we have it on notice that basically there’s about to be some kind of dump that’s similar to that’.”

SEE ALSO:  UK court jails man for removing condom without lady’s consent

He said the FBI did not warn Facebook about the Biden story in particular – only that Facebook thought it “fit that pattern”.

The article remains controversial. The hard drive at its centre was provided to the Post by Donald Trump’s own lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

More than a year after the story appeared, the Washington Post conducted its own analysis and concluded the laptop and some emails were likely to be authentic – but the majority of data could not be verified due to “sloppy handling of the data”.

Other once-sceptical news organisations such as the New York Times have agreed at least some of the emails are genuine.

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Rogan, one of the most popular podcasters in the world with an audience of millions for each episode, has himself been accused of spreading misinformation in the past.

Asking Zuckerberg if he regretted suppressing the factual story, the Facebook founder replied: “It sucks… I think in the same way that having to go though a criminal trial but being proven innocent in the end sucks… in the end you’re free.”

But Zuckerberg acknowledged that there remained disagreement about the story, which he said was a “hyper-political issue”.

“Depending on what side of the political spectrum [you’re on], you either think we didn’t censor it enough or we censored it way too much.”

Facebook did not completely ban sharing of the article, but instead limited how much its algorithm automatically shared it to other people for a week, while third-party fact-checkers tried to verify the reporting.

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So while people could post the article and discuss it, it was less likely to spread organically to new users.

By contrast, Twitter banned sharing of the article at all. Both social media companies found themselves blasted by US Republicans and Donald Trump supporters, and had to explain their actions before a US Senate hearing in the following days.

In a wide-ranging interview that covered Meta’s virtual reality ambitions and Zuckerberg’s personal life, the creator of Facebook also talked about his dislike for dealing with such thorny issues.

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“I didn’t get into this to basically judge these things. I got into this to design technology that helps people connect,” he told Rogan.

“This whole thing that is arbitrating what is OK and what is not – I obviously have to be involved in that because, at some level, I run the company and I can’t just abdicate that.

“But I also don’t think that as a matter of governance you want all of that decision making vested in one individual.” (BBC, excluding headline)

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International

UK Foreign Workers, Students decline by 30%

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The number of foreign workers and students moving to the United Kingdom has plummeted by nearly 30 per cent this year, according to new figures released by the Home Office.

The drop, from 121,000 to 85,200 in the first five months of 2024, aligns with both the Conservative and Labour Parties’ promises to reduce net migration.

This is the most significant decrease since the pandemic, with skilled workers, students, and health and care visa holders constituting the majority of migration to the UK. Last year, the three categories, along with their dependants, collectively received 1.13 million visas.

The figures indicated a significant drop in visa applications across various categories, including a 25.4 per cent overall decrease in visas for foreign workers, students, and their dependants.

The number of dependants brought in by students fell by nearly 80 per cent, while health and care worker visa applications decreased by 75.6 per cent.

The Telegraph of UK reports that the decline was largely attributed to measures implemented by the government, including restrictions on foreign workers and students bringing dependants, increased salary thresholds for skilled workers, and curbs on the shortage of occupation visa schemes.

According to the data, net migration stands at 685,000 for the year ending December 2023, down from a record high of 764,000 in the previous year.

The Conservative government’s objective was to decrease immigration by 300,000, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledging to “halve” migration and continue decreasing it annually if his party is re-elected.

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Labour’s manifesto also pledged to reduce net migration, although the party has not specified a target or timeline. The party proposed to link training to immigration, requiring sectors applying for foreign worker visas to first train British citizens.

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Home Secretary James Cleverly took to his X handle to attribute the decline to his actions, stating, “I took action to drive down legal migration.

“Data released this week show visa applications have dropped 30 percent amongst key routes. Labour opposed these actions at every opportunity. If you want to reduce migration, vote Conservative on 4th July.”

The Migration Advisory Committee chairman, Prof Brian Bell, said the Prime Minister has a “fighting chance” of reducing net migration to pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year.

This development comes ahead of the July 4 election, with immigration policy playing a crucial role in the campaigns of both major political parties.

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UK court jails man for removing condom without lady’s consent

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The convict, Guy Mukendi

A United Kingdom, UK court on Thursday jailed a man for removing without consent a condom that he was wearing during sex, in what London’s Metropolitan Police called a “milestone” legal case.

Guy Mukendi, 39, of South London, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison after being convicted in April, the London force said.

He had been arrested in May last year following a report of sexual assault made by a young woman in Brixton, south London.

The Met, as the capital’s police force is known, said the woman had consented to have sex with Mukendi on condition that a condom was used.

But during sex, he removed the condom without the victim’s knowledge.

Non-consensual condom removal — sometimes referred to as “stealthing” — is classified as rape in England and Wales.

The Met said such prosecutions are “very rare” due to under-reporting but that they are dedicated to pursuing “justice” for victims.

“This milestone case comes as the Met continues its pledge to be more suspect-focused in their approach to crimes that disproportionately affect women and girls,” the force said in a statement detailing the prosecution.

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Mukendi was found guilty on April 2 at Inner London Crown Court and was sentenced at the same court on Thursday.

“Throughout this investigation, Mukendi denied any wrongdoing — but our officers built a compelling case against him to leave no doubt in the jury’s mind,” said Detective Constable Jack Earl, who led the investigation.

“We were dedicated to securing justice for the victim and will continue to raise awareness that this crime is a form of rape.”

SEE ALSO:  Mother, daughter shot dead in their home by man looking for his ex-wife, gunman kills self 

AFP

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Wreckage of missing Malawi VP’s plane found with no survivor ⁠- Military

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Malawi's Vice President, Saulos Chilima,

Malawian searchers have found the wreckage of a plane that was carrying Vice President Saulos Chilima, a military source said Tuesday, a day after the aircraft went missing in bad weather.

The military plane carrying Chilima, 51, and nine others disappeared on Monday after it failed to land in the northern city of Mzuzu due to poor visibility and was told to return to the capital, Lilongwe and there was no survivor in the wreckage.

Photographs shared with AFP by a member of the military rescue team showed army personnel standing on a foggy slope near debris bearing the registration number of the Malawi Army Air Wing Dornier 228-202K aircraft.

President Lazarus Chakwera was due to address the nation. It was not immediately clear if there were any survivors.

Rescuers had been combing a fog-cloaked forest south of Mzuzu on Tuesday, after authorities located the last tower it transmitted to before the plane disappeared.

Earlier, army commander General Paul Valentino Phiri said other countries, including Malawi’s neighbours, had been aiding the search effort, with support including helicopters and drones.

The group departed just after 9:00 am (0700 GMT) from Lilongwe on Monday to attend the funeral of a former cabinet minister some 370 kilometres (230 miles) away in Mzuzu.

Malawi’s former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri was also on board.

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First elected vice president in 2014, the charismatic yet stern-talking Chilima is a widely loved figure in Malawi, particularly among young people.

But in 2022, during his second stint in the job, Chilima was stripped of his powers after being arrested and charged with graft over a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman.

SEE ALSO:  UK Foreign Workers, Students decline by 30%

Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges and he resumed his official duties.

AFP

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