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Russian parliament given draft law enabling Moscow to block U.S. social media giants – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – Lawmakers in Russia’s parliament presented draft legislation on Thursday that, if passed, would enable the government to restrict internet access to U.S. social media giants deemed to have discriminated against Russian media outlets.

The authors of the bill, most of whom were from the ruling United Russia party, said they had received complaints from home-grown outlets like Russia Today, RIA Novosti and Crimea 24 about accounts being suspended or labelled by Twitter , Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube.

Twitter began labelling the accounts of several Russian media outlets with the description “state-affiliated media”, along with those of their senior staff and some key government officials in August, a move decried by Russia at the time.

“The urgency in adopting the draft law is due to numerous cases of unjustified restriction of Russian citizens’ access to information in the Russian media by certain internet resources, including those registered outside Russia,” a note attached to the document said.

To come into force, the bill would first need to be approved by lawmakers in the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, before being approved in the upper house of parliament and signed by President Vladimir Putin.

Asked about the legislation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said measures needed to be carefully considered, but that a mechanism to counter the problem was necessary.

“There are definitely discriminatory actions against Russian clients of these services,” he said. “These giants have problems with their clients, they even discriminate against them. Let them deal with their clients, for us the main thing is defending ours from such discrimination.”

According to the draft, Russia’s prosecutor general and the foreign ministry would define which internet resources restrict access to “socially important information based on nationality, language or in connection with the introduction of sanctions against Russia or its citizens.”

Communications watchdog Roskomnadzor would then have the authority to fully or partially block them, the draft said.

Russia has long sought to gain more control over internet usage on its territory. The Federal Security Service (FSB) ordered some of the country’s major internet companies to give it continuous access to their systems, The Bell, an online news outlet, reported in February.

Microsoft’s LinkedIn is blocked in Russia after a court found it breached a data storage rule, passed in 2015, which required all data about Russian citizens to be stored in the country.

(Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova, additional reporting by Dmitry Antonov; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Anti-mask fringe movement getting more media coverage than warranted: expert – Nipawin Journal

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The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated the ability of both social media and mainstream news coverage to amplify and exaggerate the influence of extremist groups that reject science-based policies, says Aengus Bridgman.

It only took 30 people dancing without masks last week in a Rosemère shopping centre for the anti-mask movement to make headlines across Quebec.

On Saturday, anti-maskers were in the news again when Quebec City police handed out 34 tickets to demonstrators protesting against anti-COVID-19 measures in front of the National Assembly.

And on Sunday, a small group of maskless protesters gathered outside a house in Westmount they believed was the home of Premier François Legault. Legault does not live in Westmount.

Now, a two-week-old anti-mask group is planning another flash mob in Laval on Dec. 6 or 12, and is asking people to shop without masks at a grocery store in Ste-Thérèse on Dec. 5, according to information posted on YouTube Friday. The group Sans Masque boasts 517 members in different regions of the province, according to another video.

But while news reports might give the impression the group is gaining momentum, it remains a fringe movement, said Aengus Bridgman, a PhD candidate at McGill University who studies online political participation.

“It’s really important to note that from 85 to 90 per cent of Canadians are wearing masks regularly,” Bridgman said.

The coronavirus pandemic has illustrated the ability of both social media and mainstream news coverage to amplify and exaggerate the influence of extremist groups that reject science-based policies, he said.

For example, the flash mob in Rosemère on Nov. 21 received widespread media exposure despite the small number of participants, he noted.

“I think it has received too much coverage,” he said.

Bridgman was among the authors of a McGill study released in July showing that Canadians who get their information from social media instead of traditional news sources are more likely to believe misconceptions about COVID-19.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Reddit have enabled once-marginal movements to reach audiences numbering in the millions, he said.

The study surveyed 27,615 Canadians on where they got their news and on their attitudes toward COVID-19.

It also looked at how anti-intellectualism — the generalized distrust of experts and intellectuals — influences attitudes on the risk of contracting COVID-19 and prevention measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing .

Mainstream media are also contributing to the increased visibility of anti-mask groups, Bridgman said. One reason is that media constantly seek another side of every story as a means of advancing the news, he said.

For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, when health authorities around the world were counselling against the general public wearing masks, mainstream media outlets did reports suggesting masks could help prevent the spread of the virus. When governments switched course and called on citizens to don masks, the media raised questions about how effective mask-wearing was, Bridgman said.

There are no easy answers when it comes to combating misinformation on social media, he said. While Twitter flagged many tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump before and after the Nov. 3 election, rooting out false statements is not always feasible, he said.

mscott@postmedia.com

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Law professor endured racist taunts in wake of social media clash with UCP staffers – Edmonton Journal

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Article content continued

But Duane Bratt, political scientist at Mount Royal University, said the UCP government is using its own “hyper-partisan” press secretaries and issues managers to silence critics by focusing on party identity, labelling them as biased or affiliated with the NDP or prime minister.

“That allows the more unsavoury people to then go off with racist, homophobic, misogynist comments. Those are not coming from the premier’s office … but by coming out with partisan critiques, it opens the door and targets people that the more crazy ones will then go after you.”

Duane Bratt, political scientist and professor at Mount Royal University. Submitted image.

Bratt doesn’t agree with comments Ogbogu made about the leak in Dr. Deena Hinshaw’s office, but criticizing his arguments is different than attacking him personally, he said.

In the 1980s in federal politics, the Liberals used some backbenchers as “attack dogs,” and Pierre Poilievre is used by Conservatives in a similar way. Now the UCP is putting its issues managers and press secretaries forward to fulfil a similar role, Bratt said.

“I think it is a deliberate strategy in distancing yourself in those sorts of attacks and using people like Matt Wolf as your pitbull, as your attack dog,” he said. “It’s a way of saying it’s not the leader, it’s these other people. This has always been a strategy, but instead of using … MLAs or backbenchers, you’re using political appointees.”

Bratt has been doing public commentary for decades, and he’s no stranger to people disagreeing with him. But he’s seeing more antagonism, in general, because of a divide in public opinion on pandemic and from COVID-19 deniers. He also sees more women and people of colour facing more pushback online.

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Australia demands apology from China after fake image posted on social media – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday Canberra is seeking an apology from Beijing about a Tweet containing a false image of an Australian soldier holding the knife to the throat of an Afghan child.

Morrison said Australia was seeking the removal of the “truly repugnant” image posted on Monday by Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“It is utterly outrageous and cannot be justified on any basis… The Chinese government should be utterly ashamed of this post. It diminishes them in the world’s eyes,” Morrison told media at a press briefing.

He said countries around the world were watching how Beijing responded to tensions in Australia’s relationship with China.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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