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Kazakhstan government given direct access to Facebook content reporting system

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Facebook parent company Meta has granted the Kazakhstan government direct access to its content reporting system, as part of a joint agreement to work on removing content that is deemed harmful on social network platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

In a joint statement, the Ministry of Information and Social Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the social media giant said the agreement, which is the first of its kind in Central Asia, would help increase the efficiency and effectiveness to counter the spread of illegal content. 

Giving the Kazakhstan government access to its content reporting system will allow the government to report content that may violate Facebook's global content policy and local content laws in Kazakhstan, Facebook said.

Under the agreement, both parties will also set up regular communication, including having an authorised representative from Facebook's regional office work with the Ministry on various policy issues.

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"Facebook is delighted to work with the government of Kazakhstan together, particularly in the aspect of online safety for children," Facebook regional public policy director George Chen said in a statement.

"To make the first step for our long-term cooperation with the government, we are delighted to provide the 'content reporting system' to the government of Kazakhstan, which we hope can help the government to deal with harmful content in a more efficient and effective manner. The Facebook team will also continue to provide training to Kazakhstan to keep its cyberspace safe."

According to the pair, in preparation for giving the ministry access to its content reporting system, Facebook provided training for the ministry's specialists last month on how to use the content reporting system, as well as Facebook's content policy and community standards.

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Aidos Sarym, one of the deputies who introduced a Bill into the Kazakhstan parliament in September to protect children from cyberbullying, described the agreement as a "win-win" situation.

"During these negotiations, everyone came to consensus. It's basically a classic win-win situation where our citizens will get more effective opportunities to protect their rights, and companies to grow their business," he wrote on his Facebook page.

"At the same time, we were and will be consistent. We are ready to remove the toughest wording and together with the government to develop and introduce formulas that will work will not infringe on user interests or the interests of tech companies themselves."

Just last week, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen warned the UK Parliament about social media platforms that use opaque algorithms to spread harmful content should be reined in. She said these algorithms could trigger a growing number of violent events, such as the attacks on the US Capitol Building that occurred last January.

Haugen was speaking in London as part of an investigation into the draft Online Safety Bill that was put forward by the UK government earlier this year. This Bill proposes to force companies to protect their users from harmful content ranging from revenge porn to disinformation, through hate speech and racist abuse.   

Parliamentarians were taking evidence from Haugen because it was recently revealed that she was the whistleblower behind bombshell leaked internal documents from Facebook. 

Now known as the Facebook Files, the leaks were published by The Wall Street Journal and explored a variety of topics, including the use of different content moderation policies for high-profile users, the spread of misinformation, and the impact of Instagram on teenagers' mental health. The disclosures became a catalyst for a US Senate inquiry into Facebook's operations.

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Artificial intelligence

AI: 'We need to act fast to realise the EU's potential'

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The EU could set global standards on Artificial Intelligence (AI), but to reap its benefits the rules must come fast and be flexible, said Axel Voss (pictured), the MEP responsible for a report on AI, Society.

"We have to be aware that AI is of extremely strategic relevance," said Axel Voss (EPP, Germany) in this Facebook live interview. The MEP is guiding the report from the special committee on artificial intelligence in a digital age through the European Parliament.

Acknowledging the technology's importance, the Parliament set up the committee to focus on AI, learn how it might influence the EU economy, find out   about different countries' approaches and come up with suggestions for future legislation.

The draft report, presented to the committee on 9 November 2021, says the EU should focus on AI's enormous potential. Report author Voss said this  technology could play a key role in areas such as climate change, the health sector and EU competitiveness.

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Learn more about what AI is and how it is used.

Can the EU become a bigger AI player?

The EU is falling behind in the global tech race and if it wants to remain an economic and global power, the report says, it should become a global power in AI. If the EU does not act swiftly and courageously, it will end up becoming a "digital colony" of China, the US and other states and risk losing its political stability, social security and individual liberties, the report says. In addition, emerging technologies could lead to a global power shift away from the Western world.

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The EU's failure to commercialise technological innovations means "our best ideas, talent and companies" are going elsewhere, according to the report. Voss warned that the window of opportunity is closing, saying the EU needs to “concentrate, prioritise, invest”.

Europe should concentrate more on business models that would enable the transformation of research into products, ensure a competitive environment for companies and prevent a brain drain. Only 8 of top 200 digital companies are based in the EU.

The importance of data

Data is crucial for the development of AI. "If we think that we can compete in the world without providing data, then we are out," Voss said. "We should be focusing more on how we can provide data, including personal data."

"Too many people think that we can't open GDPR right now," which means a lack of data for EU industry, he said. GDPR sets a global standard, Voss said, "but not with the mind-set that if we have reached a golden standard we can’t change it any longer: you only stay in the first place if you are always improving."

"The big collectors of data are in China or the US. If we do want to do something about this, we have to do something very fast because speed is a question of competition in this area."

Democracy and human rights concerns

The EU is "used to setting standards and combining them with fundamental rights, with core European values. This is what we can deliver and I would also say this is something the world also needs," he said.

Voss believes the EU can mitigate the risks AI can pose to human rights and democracy when misused, as in some authoritarian states, "if we do this pragmatically”.

He warns against an ideological approach. “If we concentrate on combining this technology with our core European values and don’t overburden our industry and our companies, we have a good chance of succeeding."

Learn more about what the Parliament wants regarding AI rules.

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coronavirus

Combating cybercrime in the postpandemic era: Taiwan can help

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In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged much of the globe. In mid-May 2021, the Republic of China (Taiwan) saw a sudden rise in case numbers. When Taiwan needed help the most, partners such as the United States, Japan, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland, as well as the COVAX Facility, global allocation mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines, immediately pledged to donate or provided vaccines to Taiwan, allowing Taiwan to gradually bring the pandemic back under control, writes Huang Chia-lu, commissioner, Criminal Investigation Bureau Republic of China (Taiwan).

This is a testament to the international joint efforts to tackle the serious challenges brought about by the pandemic. The same joint efforts will be needed to address growing international cybercrimes in the postpandemic era, and Taiwan is willing to be part of that effort. Throughout the pandemic, Taiwan government agencies and private companies have closely followed antipandemic policies to prevent cluster infections. People began working from home and schools adopted virtual learning. Consumers turned to e-commerce, and online food ordering and delivery service platforms flourished. The pandemic has led to these changes in our lives, and while it is sure to abate in the foreseeable future, the spread of cybertechnology will not.

It has fundamentally altered the way we work, live, learn, and relax—resulting in an entirely new lifestyle. However, our increased reliance on cybertechnology has also made it easier than ever for criminals to exploit security vulnerabilities to commit crimes. Thus, cybersecurity will be one of the most important issues in the postpandemic era as it is essential to maintaining public safety worldwide. Cybercrime transcends borders; transnational co-operation is the key. As cybercrime transcends borders, victims, perpetrators, and crime scenes may be located in different countries.

The most common cybercrime is telecom fraud, which utilizes the internet and other telecommunications technologies. Transnational cooperation is necessary to bring international crime rings to justice. In 2020, Taiwan police used big data analytics to identify multiple Taiwan nationals who were suspected of establishing telecom fraud operations in Montenegro. Taiwan contacted Montenegro and proposed mutual legal assistance, enabling the Montenegrin Special State Prosecutor’s Office to move forward with the case.

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Through joint efforts, Taiwan and the Montenegrin police forces uncovered three telecom fraud operations and arrested 92 suspects accused of impersonating Chinese government officials, police, and prosecutors. It is believed that the suspects scammed more than 2,000 people in China, causing up to US$22.6 million in financial losses. This case highlights the features of transnational crime. The suspects were Taiwan nationals, while the victims were Chinese nationals. The alleged crime occurred in Montenegro and was perpetrated with telecommunications technologies.

Thanks to bilateral police co-operation, the suspects were apprehended, preventing other innocent people from falling victim to the scam. Caption: Montenegrin Special State Prosecutor’s Office transfers proceedings to Taiwan police. Child and youth sexual exploitation is another internationally condemned crime, with countries worldwide making every effort to prevent it and bring perpetrators to justice. In 2019, Taiwan police received information from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s virtual private network CyberTipline indicating that a South African citizen in Taiwan was suspected of having uploaded large quantities of child pornography to the internet. Following the lead, Taiwan police quickly located the suspect and searched his residence, seizing evidence of child pornography. Police also found photographs and videos of him sexually assaulting Taiwanese children. The illicit images were stored on servers located in the United States, and the alleged crimes were committed in Taiwan.

As the victims in this case were underage, they were too young to adequately explain the situation or seek assistance. If Taiwan police had not received the leads, the suspect would likely have continued to assault more children. This case owes its success to transnational cooperation and criminal intelligence sharing, which can effectively curb crime. Caption: International joint co-operation to combat child pornography Cybercrime involves cross-border investigations. However, jurisdictions and definitions of crimes vary among law enforcement agencies worldwide. Criminal rings understand this all too well and exploit the resulting information barriers, fleeing to other countries to decrease the likelihood of being caught.

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Like COVID-19, cybercrime can strike individuals in any country. Therefore, just as the world has joined forces to combat the pandemic, countering cybercrime requires the cooperation of international police forces assisting and sharing information with one another. Only then can more crimes be prevented and more cases be solved efficiently, allowing people worldwide to enjoy a safer life. Taiwan police authorities have long strived to promote international cooperation in combating cross-border crime. In 2020, there were three prominent cases. Through the joint efforts of Taiwan, Vietnam, and the United States, transnational telecom fraud call centers were raided in January; the following month, a US currency counterfeiting ring was discovered; and 12 individuals suspected of involvement in human trafficking and violation of the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act were arrested in July. Taiwan police authorities have a specialized High Technology Crime Investigation Unit and professional cybercrime investigators.

The Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) under the National Police Agency of the Ministry of the Interior, also established a Digital Forensics Lab that meets international standards. The laboratory was issued the world’s first ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for Windows Program Analysis by the Taiwan Accreditation Foundation. In 2021, the CIB standardized its 4 malware analysis procedures, in addition to establishing file analysis and network analysis mechanisms. Taiwan’s expertise in combatting cybercrime will benefit global efforts to build a safer cyberspace. Taiwan can help create a safer world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the fact that diseases transcend national borders and it can affect anyone—regardless of skin color, ethnicity, language, or gender. Distrust, disagreements, and a lack of transparency between nations accelerated the spread of the virus. Only when international partners provide mutual assistance and share antipandemic information, expertise, and vaccines can the world overcome the pandemic faster and successfully. The Global Policing Goals were endorsed by INTERPOL member countries in 2017, with the stated purpose of creating a safer and more sustainable world. With this mission in mind, we must work together to combat crime—just as we have joined forces to combat the pandemic. No police agency or country should be excluded.

To fight cybercrime and bolster global cybersecurity effectively, the world needs to co-operate. Taiwan needs the world’s support and Taiwan is willing and able to help the world by sharing its experience. As the entire world teams up to combat the pandemic this year, we urge the international community, in the same spirit, to support Taiwan’s bid to attend the INTERPOL’s General Assembly as an observer this year and participate in INTERPOL meetings, mechanisms, and training activities. Taiwan’s pragmatic and meaningful participation would help make the world a safer place for all.

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Cyber Security

How the Parliament wants to boost cybersecurity in the EU (interview)

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Parliament want to better protect Europeans and businesses against growing cyber threats. Learn more in this interview with MEP Bart Groothuis (pictured), Society.

As network and information systems become a central feature of everyday life, cybersecurity threats have expanded. They can cause financial damage and go as far as disrupting water and power supplies or hospital operations. Strong cybersecurity is crucial to protect people, to embrace the digital transformation and to fully grasp the economic, social and sustainable benefits of digitalisation.

Learn more about why cybersecurity in the EU should matter to you.

On 11 November Parliament adopted its negotiating position on the revision of the directive on the security of network and information systems. We asked Groothuis (Renew, the Netherlands), the MEP in charge of the file, to explain what the Parliament wants.

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What are the most prominent cybersecurity threats?

Ransomware is by far the most significant threat. It tripled worldwide in 2020 and we see another peak coming this year. Ten years ago, ransomware targeted individuals. Someone had to pay €100 or €200 to the hacker. Nowadays, the average payment is €140,000. Not only large companies, but also small enterprises are being attacked and they have to pay because they cannot operate otherwise.

It is also the most significant threat because it is an instrument of foreign policy for rogue states. Ransomware  

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  • A type of malware that infects computer systems, preventing the victim from using the system and data stored on it. The victim usually receives a blackmail note by pop-up, asking for the payment of a ransom to regain access. 

How does this ransomware pandemic affect the life of a citizen or company?

We see ransomware targeting nearly everything that offers services to citizens. It might be a local municipality, a hospital, a local manufacturer.

The Parliament and Council are working on cybersecurity legislation. The goal is to better protect these entities against these hackers. EU companies that provide essential or important services will have to take cybersecurity measures and governments need to have the capabilities to help these companies and share information with them and other governments.

What does Parliament want?

Parliament wants the legislation to be ambitious. The scope should be wide, we should cover and help entities that are vital to our way of living. Europe should be a safe place to live and do business. And we should not wait: we need this new legislation fast.

Why is speed important?

In cybersecurity, you need to make sure that you are not the weakest. EU businesses are already investing 41% less than companies in the US. And the US is moving fast; Biden is creating emergency legislation and you do not want to be in a situation where Europe becomes more attractive to ransomware hackers in comparison to other parts of the world. Investments in cybersecurity need to be made now.

The second reason is that there are problems in the cybersecurity community that need to be fixed as soon as possible. Cybersecurity professionals often have GDPR concerns: can they or can they not share cybersecurity data? There should be a solid legal basis to share cybersecurity data to help prevent cyberattacks.

What challenges could the Parliament face in the negotiations?

There will be debate on the scope, on which entities should be included, and we will have to discuss the administrative impact on companies. Parliament believes that the legislation should protect companies, but it should also be practical and doable; what can we reasonably ask? Another issue is the core of the internet, the root level domain name service. The European Commission and the Council want to bring this into the scope of the rules and regulate it. I very much oppose that, because Russia and China will want to do the same and we should keep the core free and open and retain our multi stakeholder model.

Why is it important to have common cybersecurity rules in all EU countries?

The basis of this legislation is the functioning of the internal market. It shouldn’t matter if you do business in Slovakia, Germany or the Netherlands. You want to make sure that there is a common level of cybersecurity requirements and that the country that you are in has cybersecurity infrastructure.

A high common level of cybersecurity in the EU 

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