GLOBAL PULSE: Fraying tolerance in London, facetime with Trump and how propaganda is spread on social media

Is London’s tolerance fraying? 

It may be perceived as a city with great tolerance for communities from across the world, but after multiple terror attacks in the past few months, is London’s tolerance for followers of Islam fraying? There was little sympathy from the extremist Right wing for Muslims who died in the Grenfell tower blaze and little praise for those who aided in rescue efforts. There was criticism of Right-wing publications like the Daily Mail for not referring to the driver of a van that drove into a group of people outside a mosque in London on Monday as a terrorist. And Muslims living in London feel that the tolerance for the community is on the wane. They say Islamophobic incidents are rising and Right-wing extremists are not accountable for provocative statements. “In London, people feel they must tolerate you, so they won’t say anything but you get the dirty looks, people avoiding eye contact,” said Suzanne Stone, 42, a convert to Islam and a writer of children’s books. “My friend outside of London gets real abuse.” And the outlook isn’t positive for the future either as extremists on both sides attempt to stoke fears.

Influencing social media 

The evidence has perhaps has always been staring us in the face, but there are now studies that confirm that propaganda on social media is being used to manipulate public opinion. The reports that were part of the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Research Project looked at social media behaviour in the United States, China, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Ukraine, and Taiwan. How is it done? One of the ways is to have automated accounts to share across multiple social networks that in turn convince algorithms to push content to curated social feeds. This in turn could be used to create an illusion of popularity, potentially influencing actual popularity. And more importantly, smashing dissent before it gains traction. The studies also found a major reason for this being possible is the lack of interest from social media firms in policing what their users are doing. So Facebook doesn’t actively target propaganda, while Twitter’s automated anti-bots are more focussed on taking down those pushing products without advertising than those pushing political propaganda. The reports say Germany is leading the charge by holding social media firms accountable, but then there’s one problem, some of the curbs act as deterrents against free speech as well.

Facetime with Donald Trump

The CIA director has a three-hour window set aside daily and has a temporary workspace in the White House now.  Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “practically lives” at the White House, jokes one White House staffer. Secretary of state Rex Tillerson is a pretty regular visitor too. US president Donald Trump apparently respects the opinion of his top appointees so much that they are constantly around him, an analysis by Politico has revealed. Some aides claim the US president doesn’t trust his bureaucrats because he thinks they’re leaking unflattering news about him and the government. Others say it’s a result of the new political appointees finding their feet at their job and getting their men in their ministries. But most of them agree that it gives these men more influence in policy-making and politics, and takes them away from doing actual work in their respective departments.

Madrid Against Manspreading

Madrid’s joined the long list of cities that is actively targeting men who can’t keep their knees together in public transport. Madrid’s bus operator EMT has put up signs telling commuters (mostly the male ones) to keep their knees together while using public transport. The signs are a result of an online campaign by a women’s group that got over 12,000 signatures asking for an end to manspreading. Madrid now is part of a list of global cities that have discouraged men from splaying their legs while travelling in public transport. But the success of such campaigns remains unclear, given most of the disputes over space are often settled by commuters.

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