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October 21, 2018

Delhi Minorities Commission team in Palwal to probe foreign funding of local mosque

Delhi/India/Politics by

The team will also meet the family members of the persons arrested by the National Intelligence Agency in connection with the foreign funding of the mosque,  DMC chairman said.

No respite for Delhi as air quality remains poor

Delhi/India/Politics by

According to the latest Air Quality Index (AQI) data, the air quality of Delhi’s Lodhi Road area showed levels of prominent pollutants PM (particulate matter) 2.5 and PM 10 at 226 and 267 respectively

New ‘Dark Ads’ pro-Brexit Facebook campaign may have reached over 10M people, say researchers

A major new campaign of disinformation around Brexit, designed to stir up UK ‘Leave’ voters, and distributed via Facebook, may have reached over 10 million people in the UK, according to new research. The source of the campaign is so far unknown, and will be embarrassing to Facebook which only this week claimed it was clamping down on ‘dark’ political advertising on its platform.

Researchers for the UK-based digital agency 89up, allege that “Mainstream Network” — which looks and reads like a ‘mainstream’ news site but which has no contact details or reporter bylines — is serving hyper-targeted Facebook advertisements aimed at exhorting people in Leave-voting UK constituencies to tell their MP to “chuck Chequers”. Chequers is the name given to the UK Prime Ministers’s proposed deal with the EU regarding the UK’s departure from the EU next year.

89up says it estimates that Mainstream Network, which routinely puts out pro-Brexit “news”, could have spent over £250,000 on pro-Brexit or anti-Chequers advertising on Facebook in less than a year. The agency calculates that with that level of advertising, the messaging would have been seen by 11 million people. TechCrunch has independently confirmed that Mainstream Network’s domain name was registered in November last year, and began publishing in February of this year.

In evidence given to Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee today, 89up says the website was running dozens of adverts targetted at Facebook users in specific constituencies, suggesting users “Click to tell your local MP to bin Chequers”, along with an image from the constituency, and an email function to drive people to send their MP an anti-Chequers message. This email function carbon-copied an info@mainstreamnetwork.co.uk email address. This would be a breach of the UK’s data protection rules, since the website is not listed as a data controller, says 89up.

The news comes a day after Facebook announced a new clampdown on political advertisement on its platform, and will put further pressure on the social media giant to look again at how it deals with the so-called ‘dark advertising’ its Custom Audiences campaign tools are often accused of spreading.

89up claims Mainstream Network website could be in breach of new GDPR rules since, while collecting users’ data, it does not have a published privacy policy, or contain any contact information whatsoever on the site or the campaigns it runs on Facebook.

The agency says that once users are taken to the respective localized landing pages from ads, they are asked to email their MP. When a user does this, its default email client opens up an email and puts its own email in the BCC field (see above). It is possible, therefore, that the user’s email address is being stored and later used for marketing purposes by Mainstream Network.

TechCrunch has reached out to Mainstream Network for comment on Twitter and email. A WhoIs look-up revealed no information about the owner of the site.

TechCrunch’s own research into the domain reveals that the domain owner has made every possible attempt to remain anonymous. Even before GDPR came in, the domain owners had paid to hide its ownership on Godaddy, where it is registered. The site is using standard Godaddy shared hosting to blend in with 400+ websites using the same IP address.

Commenting, Damian Collins MP, the Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK Houde of Commons, said: “We do not know who is funding the Mainstream Network, or who is behind its operations, but we can see that they are directing a large scale advertising campaign on Facebook designed to get people to lobby their MP to oppose the Prime Ministers’s Brexit strategy. I have been sent a series of emails from constituents as a result of these adverts, in a deliberate attempt to alter the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

“The issue for parliamentarians is we have no idea who is targeting whom via political advertising on Facebook, who is paying for it, and what the purpose of that communication is. Facebook claimed this week that it was working to make political advertising on their platform more transparent, but once again we see potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds being spent to influence the political process and no one knows who is behind this.”

Mike Harris, CEO of 89up said: “A day after Facebook announced it will no longer be taking ‘dark ads’, we see once again evidence of the huge problem the platform is yet to face up to. Facebook has known since the EU referendum that highly targeted political advertising was being placed on its platform by anonymous groups, yet has failed to do anything about it. We have found evidence of yet another anonymous pro-Brexit campaign placing potentially a quarter of a million pounds worth of advertising, without anyone knowing or being able to find out who they are.”

Josh Feldberg, 89up researcher, said: “We have no idea who is funding this campaign. Only Facebook do. For all we know this could be funded by thousands of pounds of foreign money. This case just goes to show that despite Facebook’s claims they’re fighting fake news, anonymous groups are still out there trying to manipulate MPs and public opinion using the platform. It is possible there has been unlawful data collection. Facebook must tell the public who is behind this group.”

TechCrunch has reached out to both Facebook and Mainstream Network for comment prior to publication and will update this post if either respond to the allegations.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Watch BepiColombo’s twin spacecraft launch tonight on a mission to Mercury

Humanity is about to return to the hottest planet in the solar system. BepiColombo is a mission to Mercury conducted jointly by the European and Japanese space agencies, due to launch from French Guiana at 6:45 PM Pacific time tonight aboard an Ariane 5 rocket. But while there’s just the one launch, there are two spacecraft.

The broadcast starts at 6:15; you can watch the launch at this link or the bottom of this post.

The last time we visited Mercury wasn’t actually that long ago. NASA’s Messenger mission arrived there in 2011 and spent four years orbiting the planet and collecting data before impacting the surface at nearly 9,000 MPH (don’t worry, they planned that).

BepiColombo is a follow-up to Messenger in a way, but it’s very much it’s own thing. To start with, there’s the fact that it’s two spacecraft, not one. They’ll launch together and travel to the planet attached to each other and the Mercury Transfer Module, after which point they’ll separate into ESA’s Mercury Planetary Orbiter and JAXA’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (called MIO).

Having two spacecraft opens up a lot of possibilities. One can emit a signal that bounces off the planet as is picked up by the other, for instance. Or one can watch the shady side of the planet while the other monitors the sunny (and extremely hot) side.

Speaking of heat, Mercury is of course the closest planet to the sun, so these spacecraft are going to be exposed to some serious radiation. The MPO will use a sun shield to keep the worst of the heat off, using a big radiator for the rest, and the MIO will spin as it travels along, doing a complete revolution every 4 seconds so that no one side is exposed to the sun for too long. Both craft also have highly heat-resistant materials and electronics, many of which are flying for the first time.

MIO and MPO are equipped with a host of scientific instruments, and will be able to look more closely at features of phenomena identified by Messenger. The latter checked out the magnetosphere in the northern hemisphere of the planet, for instance, and BepiColombo will fill that in with readings from the southern one. Messenger also identified some interesting features around the poles, and MPO will have an orbit that takes it right over them — not to mention a better camera.

In order to achieve a stable orbit around Mercury the craft will have to perform a few loops and gravity assists, including two of Venus. The team is taking the opportunity to point their instruments at our neighboring planet; we haven’t visited there in a long time.

The mission isn’t expected to be a very long one — BepiColombo’s spacecraft will not only be exposed to serious radiation and temperature swings, but the proximity to the sun means they’ll constantly be fighting against its gravity, meaning fuel will run out fast.

Still, MIO and MPO are expected to stay in orbit for about one Earth year, which would be four Mercurial years. If they’re still in good shape and there’s still budget for it, the mission could be extended for another year — but by that point it seems likely that fuel reserves will be running low.

BepiColombo has been a long time in the making — it was approved 18 years ago! But it’s launching at last and when it arrives (in seven more years) we should expect to learn a lot more about this weird, boiling hot planet. You can watch the launch live here; broadcast should start at 6:15 Pacific time.

News Source = techcrunch.com

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