Facebook corruption

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Posted by: | Posted on: May 2, 2018

Facebook ‘likely’ to face order to hand over information on Hun Sen

Op-Ed: The Phnom Penh Post

Former deputy opposition leader Mu Sochua said the decision shows “justice always prevails”, and claimed Hun Sen spent thousands of dollars a day on likes.

“How many schools and hospitals can be built” with that money, she asked in a message.

Facebook ‘likely’ to face order to hand over information on Hun Sen

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy pose for a selfie together during a rare political truce in 2015. Supplied

Prime Minister Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy pose for a selfie together during a rare political truce in 2015. Supplied

A California court intends to order Facebook to disclose information on the origins of Hun Sen’s Facebook “likes” to opposition figure Sam Rainsy, following a San Francisco court hearing on Monday in a case with potential global implications for the social media giant, which is facing allegations that its platform aids authoritarian regimes.

“I’m likely going to give Mr Sam the ability to get some information from Facebook,” Judge Sallie Kim told the courtroom, according to American news outlet Bloomberg.

Rainsy first filed the request for information in February, claiming Hun Sen has “systematically misused” Facebook by buying likes and using the platform to make death threats. He contends that the information will aid his legal defence in Cambodia, where he has been convicted of defamation for accusing the premier of buying Facebook likes. In a statement after the original filing, Rainsy also called on the courts and Facebook to “shed light” on the government’s “manipulation of technology”.

Rainsy requested an array of information, leading Facebook to reject the request in March, characterising it as an overly broad “fishing expedition”.

While Judge Kim agreed that Rainsy’s initial request was too broad, she said she will order Facebook to turn over information that directly relates to his politically tinged convictions.

Facebook has come under fire recently for allegedly allowing authoritarian regimes to use it as a tool to violate human rights. While death threats are banned on the platform, no action was taken when Hun Sen posted a video in February warning that he would attack opposition members with rocket launchers, as Rainsy has pointed out.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Cambodians have been arrested for posting videos or statements critical of the government.

While the social media behemoth balked at Rainsy’s request, it has often voluntarily supplied information to various governments.

A spokesperson for Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Rainsy has lived abroad since 2015 to avoid a slew of charges and convictions.

The Post first revealed that a surprising number of the premier’s Facebook fans seemed to be located abroad, with many coming from countries known to harbour so-called click farms, like India and the Philippines.

A hacker recently leaked a screenshot of a purported email from Duong Dara, a member of Hun Sen’s social media team, quoting the cost of buying Facebook likes to the premier.

On Tuesday, Dara said he was “sick and tired” of hearing about Rainsy’s petition for information.

“It is between Sam Rainsy and Facebook,” he said, adding that Rainsy can do “whatever he wants”.

Dara appeared to dismiss the importance of a potential order from the judge to hand over the evidence.

“Cambodia has its own laws,” he said, calling Hun Sen a “great leader” and adding that the premier is focusing on more important matters like economic development and “protecting Cambodia from war”.

On Tuesday, Rainsy referred questions to his legal team, which did not respond to requests for comment. Former deputy opposition leader Mu Sochua said the decision shows “justice always prevails”, and claimed Hun Sen spent thousands of dollars a day on likes.

“How many schools and hospitals can be built” with that money, she asked in a message.

Posted by: | Posted on: January 24, 2018

Facebook Corruption

Quotes & Op-Ed from BuzzFeed


facebook-fake-news Facebook has styled itself as a neutral platform for information. But its role in spreading propaganda and fake news, as well as its relationship with the Cambodian government, shows how easily that neutrality can be exploited by autocrats.

Weeks after Kem’s arrest, Cambodia’s top court dissolved the main opposition party at the request of the government. It marked a fundamental shift in Cambodian politics, which had long incorporated a vibrant media and civil society, as well as flawed but fiercely fought elections. Democracy in the country had collapsed, and it was broadcast to millions on Facebook.

Lim Cheavutha, who is in his thirties and speaks with an easy confidence, brags about the pageviews on Fresh News with the passion of a football coach obsessing about stats. The site combines the fast-breaking headlines of a newswire with a decidedly pro-government slant, and Lim says he’s so close to Hun Sen that they sometimes message about stories well past midnight. Asked about the growth of his site, he claims extraordinary numbers that are impossible to verify because the company is privately held — more than 10 million pageviews per month and 1,400 downloads of the app a day. (Cambodia has about 4.8 million Facebook users, according to a 2017 assessment.)

Lim says he built Fresh News from scratch with just $10,000. His critics say this is untrue and that Hun Sen is simply bankrolling the site. (A spokesperson for the prime minister did not respond to requests for comment on the site’s ownership.) Lim insisted his site was independent — but then expressed pride in his cozy relationship with the prime minister and other ruling party officials. The opposition won’t return his messages, he said, though opposition officials told me they’d never heard from Lim.

In a place like Cambodia, Lim’s site couldn’t be successful without Facebook, which is where almost everyone gets their news. “Facebook is an absolute necessity for my site,” he said.

Lim said his most popular stories are about the mundane, like traffic accidents and celebrity gossip. But when it comes to politics, he’s quick to note that he alone has the ear of the prime minister.

“They trust me because if they give me the whole thing, I publish the whole thing,” Lim said. “If he [the prime minister] wants to spread news, he comes to me … that’s why I get scoops.” Despite claiming to be independent, Lim said he does not edit Hun Sen’s statements, and says he puts out quick stories himself, tapping them out on his phone, based on what message the prime minister wants to get out.

It’s clear that Hun Sen, who has spent 33 years in power, understands how important Facebook is in his country. With more than 9 million followers, he is the third most engaged world leader on Facebook, after Donald Trump and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, according to a study by the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. The report called his presence “unusual” in its candidness — browsing through shows plenty of selfies as well as shots of him with his family and working behind the scenes. For Cambodians, it was a change from the strongman-like figure he presented for years before.

“He’s been a zealous convert to Facebook,” said Sebastian Strangio, the author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia. “He’s using Facebook to sand down the rough edges and present a more avuncular and beneficent public image.”

“Facebook is the most important part of work as well as life,” said Duong Dara, an aide to Hun Sen and the head of his Facebook team, in a rare interview. “The new generation doesn’t have time to watch television anymore, even I don’t buy newspapers. The News Feed, I can see quickly.”

Duong, who is in his early forties, first started using Facebook, he said, because he saw posts about Cambodia being a dangerous place to visit and wanted to clap back out of patriotism. Later, he created a fan page for Hun Sen, who he had long supported. He attracted millions of followers with his straightforward voice. After the election in 2013, Hun Sen himself saw it, Duong said, and got in touch.

Duong came on board and began building a team to manage Hun Sen’s Facebook presence. He declined to specify its size, but said the team was made up of technical people as well as those who understand politics, government policy, and public opinion.

Duong, who speaks English with a perfect American-style accent, has traveled throughout his country and abroad at Hun Sen’s side. He carries five mobile phones in a black vinyl case specifically so he can monitor different Facebook accounts. The phones use different cell service providers so that there’s always a guarantee of signal when the prime minister needs to post — even during a recent visit to China, where Facebook is blocked, and in less developed parts of the countryside.

Duong’s team obsessively monitors comments and likes on the prime minister’s posts with the fervor of day traders playing the stock market, trying to replicate successes and interrogate failures. They’ve learned photos that show Hun Sen’s personal side — like selfies or casual snaps — do a lot better than messages about policy.

Duong’s team also monitors Facebook for people posting comments critical of Hun Sen that they feel cross the line.

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