Eye on Extremism: July 26

Reuters: U.N. Says Syria Air Strikes Killed At Least 100 Civilians In Past 10 Days

“Air strikes by the Syrian government and its allies on schools, hospitals, markets and bakeries have killed at least 103 civilians in the past 10 days, including 26 children, U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Friday. “These are civilian objects, and it seems highly unlikely, given the persistent pattern of such attacks, that they are all being hit by accident,” Bachelet said, adding that the rising toll had been met with “apparent international indifference”. The government began its offensive against the rebel enclave in northwest Syria, the last area of active insurgent opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, at the end of April, saying it was responding to violations of a truce. Idlib and surrounding areas of the northwest were included in a “de-escalation” deal last year between Assad’s main ally Russia and Turkey, which backs some rebel groups, to reduce warfare and bombardment.”

Foreign Policy: Syria’s Assad Is Deliberately Starving Thousands Of Refugees

“Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is deliberately starving thousands of displaced citizens taking refuge in the Rukban camp in the southern part of the country, hoping to force them to flee with no guarantees for their safety, according to U.S. officials and a new report by a Syrian-led research organization. As of July 23, roughly 11,000 internally displaced persons remained at Rukban, which lies in a no-man’s land off the border between Syria and Jordan, according to Etana, a research group based in Amman under the umbrella of former Syrian National Council spokesperson Bassma Kodmani’s Arab Reform Initiative. Etana gathered information from multiple civil and military sources on the ground in and near the camp.”

The Independent: ISIS Suspects In Syrian Camp Raise Thousands Through Online Crowdfunding Campaign

“Women detained in a camp for Isis families in Syria have raised thousands of pounds through an online crowdfunding campaign.  The fundraising effort, named “Justice for Sisters”, was launched last month with the help of an intermediary in Germany, and appears to be aimed at soliciting donations from sympathisers in Europe. The campaign comes amid growing concerns over radicalisation at al-Hol camp, which is holding thousands of suspected female Isis members and their children, many of whom are still loyal to the terror group. Security services in the UK and around the world are concerned that citizens detained in Syria who still hold extremist views will eventually find their way back home. The British government believes that women can pose as significant a risk to national security as returning male fighters. The Justice for Sisters campaign is one of two known fundraising efforts for women in al-Hol, the other of which is a campaign explicitly aimed at raising funds to pay smugglers to help them escape. Analysts have warned that deteriorating conditions at the camp could potentially lead to more women seeking to smuggle themselves out, and potentially more fundraising campaigns to help them."

The New York Times: In Escalation, Iran Tests Medium-Range Missile, U.S. Official Says

“Iran fired a Shahab-3 medium-range missile on Wednesday, a United States military official said, playing it down by saying that it did not pose a threat to American or other Western shipping or military bases in the region. The missile was launched from the southern coast of Iran and landed east of Tehran, the official said on Thursday, adding that it flew about 1,100 kilometers, or about 680 miles, and stayed inside Iran for the entire flight. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence analyses, said that American officials had been closely monitoring the test site as Iran prepared the missile for launch. Despite the Pentagon’s effort to minimize the strategic importance of the launch on Wednesday, it appears to be a political statement by Iran, acting both as a carefully calibrated effort at escalation — and as a message to Europe. Missile launches are not forbidden under the 2015 nuclear accord reached between Washington and Tehran, which is one of President Trump’s complaints about the agreement he abandoned last year. But a United Nations Security Council resolution, passed just as the agreement was reached, says that “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Al Jazeera: Death Toll From Mogadishu Mayor Office Suicide Attack Rises To 11

“The death toll from a suicide attack inside the mayor's office of Somalia's capital has risen to 11, authorities said, adding that the injured mayor has been sent abroad for treatment. At least six people were originally reported to have been killed in Wednesday's attack that took place just hours after a visit by the newly appointed United Nations envoy.  Three local district commissioners were among the dead, police officer Ahmed Bashane told the dpa news agency on Thursday. Local media reported that Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman and four other local government officials had been airlifted to Qatar for treatment.  Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attack, telling local media that UN envoy to Somalia James Swan, who had left the building when the attack happened, was their target. Captain Mohamed Hussein, a senior police officer, said a female bomber walked into a security meeting and blew herself up a few yards away from the mayor in what was the fourth known time al-Shabab has used a woman in a suicide attack. In a statement following the attack, Swan condemned the “heinous attack which not only demonstrates a violent disregard for the sanctity of human life, but also targets Somalis working to improve the lives of their fellow Somalis.”

Gizmodo: YouTube Said It Was Getting Serious About Hate Speech. Why Is It Still Full Of Extremists?

“Last month, YouTube announced a site-wide change to its hate speech policy, saying it would no longer tolerate videos promoting Nazism, white supremacy, or any other content “alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion” of others due to qualities like race, gender, or sexual orientation. At the time, the New York Times reported that the company pledged to remove thousands of videos falling under this expanded definition. More than six weeks later, however, it remains disturbingly easy to find channels associated with hate groups on the platform. Strangely, this isn’t a simple oversight by YouTube’s parent company, Google. In fact, it’s the policy working as planned. YouTube hosts more than 23 million channels, making it impossible to identify each and every one that is involved with the hate movement—especially since one person’s unacceptable hate speech is another person’s reasonable argument. With that in mind, we used lists of organizations promoting hate from the Southern Poverty Law Center, Hope Not Hate, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and the Counter Extremism Project, in addition to channels recommended on the white supremacist forum Stormfront, to create a compendium of 226 extremist YouTube channels earlier this year.”

United States

The Washington Examiner: DOJ Vows To Step Up Fight Against Hezbollah Amid Iran Tensions

“A top Justice Department official made it clear Thursday that combating Hezbollah is a top priority for the department, a move that puts pressure on the terrorist organization's sponsor, Iran.  Principal Deputy Attorney General John Cronan, who leads the department's team that investigates Hezbollah financing and narcoterrorism, laid out the government’s efforts and plans for dismantling and neutralizing the Iranian-backed terrorist group during a conference commemorating the victims of the Hezbollah bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Argentina 25 years ago.  The deadly bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina Jewish cultural center on July 18, 1994 killed 85 people and injured hundreds more, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history. Argentina designated Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist group to coincide with last week's anniversary, something that the State Department did back in 1997.  “Destroying Hezbollah’s support networks and neutralizing the Hezbollah threat is a top priority for this Department of Justice and will continue to be,” Cronan said, though full details of the operations can't be shared.  “Investigations may be covert, charges may be sealed, defendants may be cooperating, and Hezbollah supporters may be facing non-terrorism crimes as we work to build terrorism charges,” he said.”

Iran

Reuters: Flags Of Inconvenience: Noose Tightens Around Iranian Shipping

“Somewhere on its journey from the waters off Iran, around Africa’s southern tip and into the Mediterranean, the Grace 1 oil tanker lost the flag under which it sailed and ceased to be registered to Panama. Iran later claimed it as its own. The ship carrying 2 million barrels of Iranian crude was seized by British Royal Marines off Gibraltar, raising tensions in the Gulf where Iran detained a UK-flagged ship in retaliation. Grace 1 remains impounded, not because of its flag but because it was suspected of taking oil to Syria in breach of EU sanctions, an allegation that Iran denies. Yet Panama’s move on May 29 to strike it from its register mid-voyage was part of a global squeeze on Iranian shipping. Nations that register vessels under so-called “flags of convenience” allowing them to sail legally have de-listed dozens of tankers owned by Iran in recent months, tightening the economic noose around it. In the biggest cull, Panama, the world’s most important flag state, removed 59 tankers linked to Iran and Syria earlier this year, a decision welcomed by the United States which wants to cut off Tehran’s vital oil exports.”

The Washington Post: Iran Could Make Or Break Boris Johnson

“Like any incoming world leader, Boris Johnson has received plenty of congratulatory messages from fellow politicians around the world since becoming British prime minister this week. But the one he got from Iran’s top diplomat — at a moment of unparalleled tension between Tehran and London — must have been unexpected. Following news of Johnson’s victory, the Islamic republic’s opportunistic foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted: “The May govt’s seizure of Iranian oil at behest of US is piracy, pure & simple. I congratulate my former counterpart, @BorisJohnson on becoming UK PM.” Zarif’s message suggests that Tehran sees Britain as its next best chance for relaunching its deteriorating relationship with the West. But why? Strangely enough, Johnson’s own back story with Iran, and the political baggage it created for him, could provide the best shot at decreasing tensions and averting another war in the Middle East. How Johnson handles Iran in his opening days at No. 10 Downing Street could also determine his subsequent term in office — not to mention the fate of one British family. Johnson inherits a tense standoff with Tehran, since both countries have seized vessels belonging to the other over the past month. On July 4, the British Royal Marines took custody in Gibraltar of an Iranian tanker that was believed to be delivering oil to Syria. It did so, Iran says, at the behest of the United States.”

Iraq

Kurdistan 24: Iraq Arrests ISIS Member It Says Helped Plan 2017 Bombing That Killed Over 80

“An Iraqi provincial police department on Thursday announced the arrest of an alleged terrorist it said had taken part in six deadly bombings across multiple provinces. The most severe of these resulted in the deaths of over 80 people in an attack claimed by the Islamic State. Najaf Province's police directorate said in a statement that a tactical unit that under the authority of the Interior Ministry had managed to “capture the terrorist Badr Fares Mutlak al-Zakroutti.” The statement charged that Zakroutti had played a role in the planning of six bombing attacks that had occurred the southern provinces of Karbala, Babil, and a particularly deadly one in Dhi Qar that killed 84 and injured 93 others. The incident occurred in September of 2017 at a restaurant in the city of Nasiriyah that was popular with groups of Shia Muslim pilgrims on their way to visit holy shrines.  The police added that Zakroutti had also aided in the logistics of transporting suicide bombers to Najaf in the past few years and that he had been operating within the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed “South Wilayat” and “Anbar Wilayat” regions, in southern and western Iraq. The statement did not say precisely where Zarkouti was arrested.”

The Wall Street Journal: Iraq Struggles To Bring Paramilitary Forces Into The Fold

“Tensions between the U.S. and Iran are complicating the Iraqi prime minister’s efforts to bring the country’s paramilitary forces under government control, including several militias with close links to Tehran. The militias helped shift the tide against Islamic State after militants overran a third of the country, but they are now considered potential threats to American and other regional interests. U.S. officials believe drones that targeted Saudi oil infrastructure this year were launched from Iraq rather than Yemen—an accusation that implicates Iran-backed militias. In trying to bring them to heel, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi has been forced to navigate the clashing interests of Iraq’s two chief allies. Mr. Abdul-Mahdi, who has been in office for nine months, has given the several dozen militias, which officially have around 120,000 fighters, until the end of July to shut their offices and begin moving into designated bases outside the cities—part of a process of partial integration into the security forces. His decree states that any armed faction operating outside that framework will be considered as outlaws “and dealt with accordingly.”

Turkey

Reuters: Erdogan Says Turkey Will Destroy Militants In North Syria Regardless Of U.S. Talks

“Turkey is determined to destroy the “terror corridor” east of the Euphrates river in Syria regardless of how talks conclude with the United States on a planned safe zone in the country’s north, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.  Turkey has ramped up its warnings of a possible incursion into northern Syria in recent days, saying it had run “out of patience” with Washington over the safe zone talks and adding that it would launch its operation if an agreement was not reached.  “Those who put their trust in foreign powers in the region will be put under ground,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AK Party. “We will find a lasting solution to terror.” 

Afghanistan

The Wall Street Journal: U.S., Afghanistan Agree On Need To Accelerate Peace Talks

“The U.S. and Afghanistan agreed this week to accelerate a peace process to end the 18-year war and continue existing U.S. policies aimed at reducing the American troop presence as conditions permit, the two countries said in a joint statement. The statement followed a phone call on Wednesday between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and stressed that “there has been no change to President Trump’s South Asia strategy.” The assurance followed an appearance on Monday by Mr. Trump in which he said, “If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth.” He added he wouldn’t take such a step because he didn’t want to kill 10 million people. Mr. Trump’s comments came during a July 22 appearance with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who pledged to help in U.S. efforts to strike a peace deal with Taliban insurgents. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters on Thursday that the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment to Afghanistan over nearly two decades of military intervention. She alluded to the thousands of American and allied lives lost and billions of taxpayer dollars spent on the fight in Afghanistan. There are around 14,000 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.”

Bloomberg: Taliban Says Deal On U.S. Troop Pullout From Afghanistan Is Near

“The Taliban said it’s nearing a peace deal with the U.S. to bring an end to the foreign military presence in Afghanistan, though it ruled out a halt to hostilities for now. “We are getting close,” Mohammad Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Doha-based political office, said by phone on Thursday. If the U.S. makes “a reasonable and convincing proposal, the peace agreement will be concluded soon.” The fundamentalist Islamic movement and the U.S. are due to resume negotiations soon in the Qatari capital after adjourning their seventh round of meetings earlier this month. U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani agreed Wednesday in a phone call that “now is the time to accelerate efforts to reach a negotiated end to the war,” according to a State Department statement. Pompeo said in a Fox News interview late Thursday that he expects “real progress” in reaching agreement by September on “a complete reduction in the scope of the conflict,” allowing for inter-Afghan peace talks to begin followed by the start of a withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces. The Taliban controls or contests about half of territory in Afghanistan. That’s more than at any time since it was ousted from power in 2001 by an American-led invasion after the al-Qaeda group based in the country carried out the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.”

The National: Afghan Talks Require Security Guarantees Against ISIS

“One would hope that schools and universities would be sanctuaries of knowledge, where students learn to develop a critical mind. But in Afghanistan, some universities have become a breeding ground for those looking to radicalise the young. Earlier this month, an investigation revealed that two teachers and a lecturer at Kabul University had been pushing their students to join ISIS. One of the suspects exhorted his students to wage jihad against the “infidel government”, while another deduced marks for students dressed in western-styled clothes. All detained suspects are believed to have been involved in deadly attacks in Kabul. And this is not the first time professors have made use of their status to radicalise students. In February, authorities arrested a university lecturer and imam in Kabul, who had pushed hundreds of youngsters to join ISIS – including his own nephew. The influence of these extremists poses a serious challenge to a younger generation of Afghans who simply seek higher education. A recent report by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies found that half of the students surveyed at three major universities supported establishing an Islamic state or a caliphate in the country. This is especially concerning given the nation’s long history of harbouring extremist groups.”

Voice Of America: Taliban Storm Security Posts As Blasts Rock Kabul, Elsewhere

“A series of attacks rocked Afghanistan Thursday, killing at least 58 people, including 38 members of Afghan security forces, as the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff met with Afghan officials.  Three of those bombings targeted the capital, Kabul.  A ministry of interior spokesman, Nasrat Rahimi, said a suicide bomber on a motorcycle targeted a mini bus in Kabul carrying the staff of the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum as they were on their way to work Thursday morning. The blast killed at least 11 people. A secondary explosion rocked the site of the first attack. Secondary explosions are common in Kabul and have in the past killed first responders and journalists covering the attack. A separate car bomb hit Jalalabad road in Kabul a few hours later. Local TV channels showed footage of relatives wailing outside local hospitals as they searched for their loved ones. The local branch of the Islamic State terror group took responsibility for the two attacks on the minibus. Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the third attack in Kabul in which they claim they targeted “foreign invaders.”

Xinhua: 7 Police, 15 Militants Killed In Clashes In Afghanistan

“Seven police officers and 15 militants were killed in clashes in two Afghan provinces overnight, officials confirmed Friday. In one incident, three policemen and four militants were killed after Taliban attacked Khogyani district's police station in eastern Ghazni province, provincial government spokesman Harif Noori told Xinhua. Five police personnel were also wounded during the clashes which lasted for hours in the remote district. In southern Kandahar province, four police officers and 11 Taliban militants were killed after police repelled Taliban gunmen who stormed a security checkpoint in Yazdan village, Maiwand district, a provincial police official, told Xinhua. The official added that four militants were also wounded in the fighting. The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since early April when the militant group launched its annual rebel offensive in different places of the country, which had claimed hundreds of lives including militants, security personnel and civilians.”

Middle East

The Jerusalem Post: Things Are Heating Up Between Israel And Hezbollah In The Golan - Analysis

“Israel has remained mum on the attacks, but the Jewish State has made it clear that it won’t accept Hezbollah’s growing presence in the Syrian Golan. According to David Daoud, a research analyst on Hezbollah and Lebanon at United Against Nuclear Iran, the uptick in Israeli strikes in the area is because “there has been increased Hezbollah presence. Recognition of the Golan creates common ground for different factions to agree upon - the same applies to the embassy move, and the ‘deal of the century,” Daoud said, adding that “Different regional groups or axes that might not otherwise agree now have something in common.”

Libya

Yahoo News: Libya Militia Says Arrests Al-Qaeda Leaders

“A Libyan militia has arrested a number of Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist leaders in a raid near the capital Tripoli, the group said. The Misrata Joint Security Force carried out the raid against “wanted terrorists, classified as Al-Qaeda leaders”, the group linked to the UN-recognised Government of National Accord's interior ministry said on Facebook late Wednesday. The dawn operation “in a suburb of Tripoli” on Wednesday led to the arrest of individuals “linked to attacks launched in the capital”, it said. The main target, an Algerian national fighting under the name “Al-Chaoui”, was rounded up along with several wanted Libyans, it added, without giving names or the total number arrested. The force published a video of the raid, including footage of three people wearing blue uniforms with their hands bound. It said it had also seized weapons, grenades, ammunition, documents and material used to produce explosives. Libya has been gripped by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. Jihadists and people-traffickers have taken advantage of the unrest to gain a foothold in the North African country. Rival administrations and multiple militias are now vying for power, with the Tripoli-based GNA that holds Libya's west at odds with a parallel administration based in the country's east and backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar.”

Nigeria

The Washington Post: After 10 Years Of Boko Haram Violence, Nigerians Crave Peace

“Suicide bombings, mass kidnappings, tens of thousands of people killed. A ghastly insurgency by the homegrown Islamic extremist group Boko Haram marks 10 years this week in northeastern Nigeria, where many residents say life has been set back by decades. “It feels like 100 years, because everything seems to be moving slowly and not getting any better for me and my family,” said Hassan Mamman, who fled to Maiduguri, the region’s main city, after Boko Haram attacks on his rural home. He is among millions of people displaced. “I miss my community and always crave it but the merchants of death just won’t let us have that much-needed peace.” Friday marks a decade since Nigerian forces clashed with the extremists at Maiduguri’s central mosque. More than 700 people were killed, including leader Mohammed Yusuf, according to officials and rights groups. From that violence sprang the insurgency of Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language means “Western education is taboo.” The extremists have sought to establish a strict Islamic caliphate in Nigeria, carrying out attacks as far away as the capital, Abuja. The violence has also spilled into neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. In recent years some fighters have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, creating a new threat.”

Voice Of America: Islamic State Claims Aid Workers' Kidnap In Northeast Nigeria

“Islamic State's West Africa branch on Thursday claimed responsibility for kidnapping six aid workers in northeast Nigeria. International aid agency Action Against Hunger said that a staff member and five others kidnapped in Nigeria last week had appeared in a video released on Wednesday evening and that they were “apparently in a good condition of health.” Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in 2016, claimed responsibility for the kidnap in a tweet published by the SITE monitoring group. The group has carried out a number of attacks in the northeast over the last few months, including on military bases. It killed a kidnapped aid worker nine months ago. Action Against Hunger said in a statement that the people were abducted last week near the town of Damasak in northeast Nigeria, where the insurgents were active. “Action Against Hunger strongly requests that our staff member and her companions are released,” said the agency. The video was published by The Cable, a Nigerian news organisation, and showed a woman sitting on the floor who identifies herself as “Grace”. Five men sit around her, some with their heads bowed. Behind them is a sheet with the logo of the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.”

North Korea

The New York Times: North Korea Tested New Ballistic Missile, South Says, Flouting U.N. Ban

“The two projectiles North Korea launched off its east coast on Thursday were a new type of short-range ballistic missile, the South Korean government said, acknowledging that the North was expanding its ability to deliver nuclear warheads as President Trump’s efforts to bring the country to the negotiating table remain stalled. The assessment — the South’s first formal declaration that North Korea is testing a new missile — accused the North of violating United Nations resolutions that ban it from developing and testing ballistic missile technologies. If validated, it also appears to undercut what President Trump has repeatedly touted as his biggest diplomatic achievement in dealing with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. On Friday, the United States military command in South Korea also called the North Korean projectiles a new type of ballistic missile, but said they “have no impact on our defense posture.”

Southeast Asia

The Defense Post: Islamic State Says Bengal Affiliate Planted Dhaka Bombs

“In the third incident in three months after two years of apparent inactivity, Islamic State claimed its fighters were responsible for two bombs targeting police in the Bangladeshi capital this week, although the devices were identified and dealt with before they could do any harm. Police recovered two bombs – both with seven small butane gas canisters taped to them – in Dhaka on Tuesday, The Star reported officials from the Bomb Disposal Unit of the Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime unit as saying. A traffic police officer told The Star that a carton was found outside the traffic police box at Khamar Bari intersection at around 1700 and, thinking it may belong to a colleague, a police officer brought it inside. The Star published an image of the Khamar Bari device. “When no one claimed it, we thought it was a container of biscuits. We opened it around 7 p.m. and saw the cans tied with tapes,” the officer said. The device was destroyed at around 0300 in a controlled explosion by the bomb disposal team. The second bomb was discovered hidden inside a thick polythene packet near the traffic police box at Paltan intersection around 22:45, The Star reported. It was destroyed in a controlled explosion two hours later.”

Eurasia Review: Foreign Militants Working With New Islamic State Leader In Philippines

“Government forces are tracking down at least seven foreigners who are working with the new Islamic State militant leader in the volatile southern Philippines, the country’s defense chief said Thursday. The seven are believed to be under the protection of Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, a little-known commander of the Abu Sayyaf Group, officials said. He took the reins of the local Islamic State (IS) chapter after leader Isnilon Hapilon was killed in the 2017 battle of Marawi, according to Filipino and American officials. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told reporters in Manila that the government was looking at raw information that at least a hundred foreign militants had entered the country and were operating in the south. But of that total, he said, “we only confirmed seven foreign fighters” that were being tracked by the military’sWestern Mindanao Command (WesMinCom), which is based in southern Zamboanga city. “We cannot find them so we consider those as just information and it cannot be confirmed,” Lorenzana said of the 100 militants. “We do not know if they are really there or not.” “According to the WesMinCom there are seven foreigners. I think the nationalities are Egyptian, Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean.”

Technology

The Wall Street Journal: Facebook And Google Algorithms Are Secret—But Australia Plans To Change That

“Tech giants Facebook Inc. FB -1.93% and Alphabet Inc. GOOG -0.50% ’s Google could have their secretive algorithms policed by a beefed-up watchdog, under what Australia describes as world-first limits to the power that they wield over news and advertising markets. The recommended changes—which include strengthening privacy safeguards with steep penalties of up to 10% of annual domestic turnover for the misuse of data—are listed in a report by the national competition regulator. It conducted a year-and-a-half investigation into the impact such companies have had on the country. It comes after Facebook was hit with a $5 billion fine in the U.S. this week. A Federal Trade Commission investigation found the company had repeatedly used deceptive disclosures and account settings to lure users into sharing personal information, undermining their actual privacy preferences.”

The Wall Street Journal: Tech Backlash Frays Cozy Ties To Washington

“Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested in January when releasing 2018 earnings that the social-media giant was at a turning point, ending a year of answering critics and starting a new era of growth and innovation. “We now have a clear sense of the path ahead,” he said. Mr. Zuckerberg may have spoken too soon. In the half year since, the political attacks on Facebook and the other tech giants have only intensified. That is complicating the expansion strategies of big online platforms whose dominance was made possible in part by a quarter-century, bipartisan Washington consensus backing rules and regulations designed mainly to foster their development. The erosion of that supportive environment has been on full view over the past week. Facebook’s $5 billion privacy settlement Wednesday with the Federal Trade Commission only inflamed critics—including some within the agency—who said the deal underscored the need for tighter government restraints on the company.”

The New York Times: Chris Hughes Worked To Create Facebook. Now, He Is Working To Break It Up

“Chris Hughes used to huddle with Mark Zuckerberg in a Harvard dorm room building Facebook from scratch. Now, he’s huddling with regulators to explain why Facebook needs to be broken up. In recent weeks, Mr. Hughes has joined two leading antitrust academics, Scott Hemphill of New York University and Tim Wu of Columbia University, in meetings with the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and state attorneys general. In those meetings, the three have laid out a potential antitrust case against Facebook, Mr. Wu and Mr. Hemphill said. For nearly a decade, they argue, Facebook has made “serial defensive acquisitions” to protect its dominant position in the market for social networks, according to slides they have shown government officials. Scooping up nascent rivals, they assert, can allow Facebook to charge advertisers higher prices and can give users worse experience.”

Time: Google And Facebook Are Facing A Crackdown In Australia After A Sweeping Probe

“Google and Facebook Inc. are facing a regulatory crackdown in Australia after an inquiry highlighted concerns about their market power and impact on the media industry, adding to a barrage of global action against the technology giants. A final report from Australia’s competition watchdog released on Friday called for greater anti-trust scrutiny of the dominant U.S. tech companies, recommending penalties and deterrents be imposed for inappropriate storage and use of personal data and breaches of consumer and competition laws. “The world has never before seen so much commercially sensitive and personal data collected and aggregated in just two companies,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told reporters in Sydney. The government will announce what recommendations in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report that it will support through new regulation by the end of the year, he said.”