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Facebook has a coronavirus problem. It’s WhatsApp.

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Governments and medical officials are scrambling to provide the public with accurate and timely information about the novel coronavirus. But those efforts are being undermined by the spread of medical misinformation and fake cures on one of the world’s most popular messaging platforms.

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook (FB), is coming under renewed scrutiny over how it handles misinformation as the coronavirus pandemic rampages across the globe, infecting more than 200,000 people and killing over 8,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The platform is being used to spread messages that often contain a mixture of accurate and misleading claims that have been debunked by medical experts. The problem is now so acute that world leaders are urging people to stop sharing unverified information using the app.

The misinformation often arrives on smartphones in messages that have been forwarded by a friend or relative, and includes information purportedly from a prominent doctor or a friend of a friend who works in government.

Because WhatsApp messages are encrypted in a way that allows them to be seen only by the sender and recipient, public health officials and watchdog groups are struggling to track the spread of coronavirus misinformation. WhatsApp itself does not monitor the flow of messages on the platform.

WhatsApp says it has taken steps to curb misinformation, it is donating to fact checking groups and users can forward messages to special accounts that can verify information.

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Twitter confirms Trump’s ban will remain forever even if he runs again in 2024

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Twitter confirms Trump’s ban will remain forever even if he runs again in 2024

Former US President Donald Trump’s Twitter ban will remain forever, even if he runs for president again in 2024, a top company official said on Wednesday February 10.

During an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Twitter’s chief financial officer, Ned Segal, was asked if the platform would restore Trump’s account if he ran again and was elected president.

In his reply, Segal said the ban is permanent, even if he ever becomes president again.

“The way our policies work, when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform whether you’re a commentator, you’re a CFO or you are a former or current public official,” Segal said.

“Our policies are designed to make sure that people are not inciting violence, and if anybody does that, we would have to remove them from the service and our policies don’t allow people to come back.”

“So, no?,” Squawk Box host Rebecca Quick pressed.

“He was removed when he was president, and there’d be no difference for anybody who [was] a public official once they’ve been removed from the service,” Segal responded.

Mr. Segal also confirmed that the rules would apply to any public official that was banned from the service for similar reasons to Mr. Trump.

The republican politician was banned from Twitter last month following the deadly Jan. 6 riots that interrupted Congress’ certification of President Biden’s electoral college win.

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International police takes down ‘world’s most dangerous’ malware network

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Law enforcement authorities across several countries have taken down a network of what they describe as the “world’s most dangerous malware.”

The malware, Emotet, gained access to users’ computers through infected email attachments, including documents purporting to be “invoices, shipping notices and information about Covid-19,” European police agency Europol, which coordinated the effort, said in a statement Wednesday.

“The Emotet infrastructure essentially acted as a primary door opener for computer systems on a global scale,” Europol said. “Once this unauthorised access was established, these were sold to other top-level criminal groups to deploy further illicit activities such as data theft and extortion.”

The global effort to disrupt and take control of the compromised network, known as a botnet, was carried out jointly between eight countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands. The network consisted of several hundred servers across the world, Europol said.

An investigation by Dutch police yielded a database of email addresses, passwords and usernames that were compromised by Emotet. Users can check whether their email addresses were breached through this link.

The malware saw a resurgence last year, according to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which described “a significant increase in malicious cyber actors targeting state and local governments” with Emotet phishing emails. “This increase has rendered Emotet one of the most prevalent ongoing threats,” CISA added.

Europol urged internet users to update their device’s antivirus tools and exercise greater caution to avoid falling prey to malware attacks.

Users should carefully check their email and avoid opening messages and especially attachments from unknown senders,” it said. “If a message seems too good to be true, it likely is and emails that implore a sense of urgency should be avoided at all costs.”

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Facebook to stop recommending civic and political groups

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Facebook will stop recommending users join “civic and political” groups, as it tries to reduce the number of political posts in people’s feeds.

It follows weeks of suppressing such content around the US election but will now become permanent policy around the world.

Mark Zuckerberg announced the change in a phone call with investors.

“People don’t want politics and fighting to take over,” the Facebook boss told those on the call.

It remains unclear what “civic groups” covers, and how the change could affect grassroots campaigning.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company was “still fine tuning” the policy and how it would work in the UK.

The decision follows months of pressure over the spread of misinformation on Facebook.

And Mr Zuckerberg said it wanted “to make sure the communities people connect with are healthy and positive”.

“There are also a lot of groups that we may not want to encourage people to join, even if they don’t violate our policies,” he said.

“Now, we plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term.”

This was “a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities”, Mr Zuckerberg said.

Facebook groups are often used for legitimate community organising and grassroots campaigns, however, something Mr Zuckerberg “want[s] to be able to keep happening”.

“But one of the top pieces of feedback we’re hearing from our community right now is that people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services,” he added.

Facebook banned more than one million groups in 2020.

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