(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 559 pages and 251 accounts that were coordinating the spread of misinformation and spam in the U.S. — and most originated from within the country.
The social network, which has been under fire for facilitating foreign interference in U.S. politics, has found that domestic actors have also been creating fake pages and accounts to attract people with shocking political news, the way they have in the past with celebrity news or health news. Their motivation is mostly financial, the company said.
“The people behind the activity also post the same clickbait posts in dozens of Facebook Groups, often hundreds of times in a short period, to drum up traffic for their websites,” the company said Thursday in a blog post. “And they often use their fake accounts to generate fake likes and shares. This artificially inflates engagement for their inauthentic pages and the posts they share, misleading people about their popularity and improving their ranking in news feed.”
In the past, Facebook has pulled hundreds of fake pages spreading political misinformation from countries including Russia and Iran. Those types of posts had the aim of sowing discord in the U.S., setting up protest events and moments of outrage. The domestic actors, in contrast, are trying to generate revenue by getting more people to click on their accounts, pages or advertisements, according to Facebook. One thing in common, though, is the use of fake identities and accounts to artificially increase the popularity of certain news, gaming the company’s algorithm in the process.
Facebook’s rules don’t stop people from saying things that are false and incendiary. But the company tries to take down accounts and pages that are not from real people.
Some pages Facebook removed had large followings of real and fake accounts. Nation in Distress, a conservative meme page, was followed by more than 3 million people, according to the Internet Archive, which stores historical versions of websites and other online content. Reverb Press, which most recently was posting information opposed to then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, was liked by more than 800,000 people and had been verified by Facebook.
On the day a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Sydney Aiello escaped with her life. However, the grief of losing 17 of her classmates and teachers, as well as the long-lasting effects of enduring such a traumatic event, weighed heavily on her. And this weekend, at the age of 19, Aiello took her own life.
Now, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas community is mourning yet another loss.
Sydney’s mother, Cara Aiello, told CBS Miami that her daughter struggled with survivor’s guilt and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in the year following the tragedy. And while she reportedly never asked for help, she struggled to attend college classes because she was scared of being in a classroom.
Sydney was also a close friend of Meadow Pollack, one of the students who was shot and killed in the Parkland shooting. Meadow’s father, Andrew, became one of the most visible of the Parkland victims’ parents when he delivered a searing and emotional speech at the White House just a few days after the shooting, arguing for an increase in school safety rather than changes to America’s gun laws.
CBS News journalists embedded with Andrew Pollack as part of the documentary “39 Days“, which showcased the birth of a movement as many Parkland students turned their grief into action.
While the nation’s attention turned to budding young activists like David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, however, other Parkland survivors were suffering in silence. And the Aiello family’s tragedy is an all too painful reminder that trauma effects teens deeply, often quietly, and for years.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina died in the shooting, told CBS Miami he worries that more traumatized Parkland teens will take their own lives. So, he has focused his grief and his efforts into suicide prevention.
“It breaks my heart that we’ve lost yet another student from Stoneman Douglas,” Petty said. “My advice to parents is to ask questions, don’t wait.”
A little more than a year after this photo was taken, both are gone.
In February, Meadow was killed in the Parkland shooting. This week, Sydney took her own life.
Please consider donating to her family to help cover some of the funeral costs. https://t.co/qxeUeFLhx1 pic.twitter.com/xSnMPAU0bD
— Kenneth Preston (@kennethrpreston)
Beautiful Sydney with such a bright future was taken from us way too soon. My friend’s sister and someone dear to Meadow.
Any help for the family to cover funeral expenses would be appreciated.
Please RT and donate! https://t.co/3eg2Su4Jbv
— Hunter Pollack (@PollackHunter)
There is now a GoFundMe page to help Sydney Aiello’s parents and brother pay for her memorial services.
“Sydney spent 19 years writing her story as a beloved daughter, sister and friend to many,” the page reads. “She lit up every room she entered. She filled her days cheerleading, doing yoga, and brightening up the days of others. Sydney aspired to work in the medical field helping others in need. On March 17th, 2019 Sydney became the guardian angel to many. It was a privilege to have you in our lives. Sydney, we will miss you and always love you. May you find peace in His arms.”
Washington — Thousands of migrant children allegedly suffered sexual abuse while in U.S. government custody over the past four years, according to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) documents released Tuesday by Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch.
According to the documents, over a thousand allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors in HHS custody were reported to federal authorities each fiscal year since 2015. In total, between October 2014 and July 2018, 4,556 sexual abuse complaints were reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — an agency within HHS in charge of caring for unaccompanied migrant minors.
An additional 1,303 complaints were received by the Justice Department, but it’s unclear whether the complaints to ORR overlap with those reported to the Justice Department.
The documents offer a fragmented portrayal of the allegations of sexual abuse. The overall numbers of the allegations reported to ORR do not reveal specific information about the perpetrator, who may be someone unknown to the child, another unaccompanied minor or a caregiver in a U.S. facility. On the other hand, the data of allegations reported to the Justice Department does provide specific information about who the alleged perpetrator was.
The documents reveal that over the past four fiscal years, in 178 cases reported to the Justice Department, adult caregivers at U.S. facilities were reported to have sexually abused migrant minors. More specifically, there were 49 allegations of sexual abuse involving adult caregivers in U.S. facilities reported to the Justice Department in both fiscal years 2017 and 2018.
“The gravity here is a systematic concealment of children being sexually abused, children being exposed to those kinds of acts,” Democratic California Rep. Lou Correa told CBS News Tuesday afternoon, as he left a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Trump administration’s family separation policy near the southwestern border.
Correa said the government has the legal responsibility to prevent children under its custody from being abused or harmed and accused the Trump administration of a “systematic cover up.” The California Democrat said the government documented these allegations but failed to elevate them to the highest levels of the administration. It was only when House Democrats requested the documents in January that the government revealed the statistics, he added.
“We’re supposed to have transparency, we’re supposed to work and make things better. If you make mistakes, you fess up to that and you move on,” Correa said. “But to cover up something like this — child abuse — is just beyond my imagination.”
One of the documents, which details the allegations of sexual abuse by adult facility staff during fiscal years 2015 and 2016, describes incidents in which unaccompanied minors reported they had been shown pornographic material, forcibly kissed, or inappropriately touched or fondled. Most of the accused facility members were immediately removed from duty and some cases were referred to law enforcement, according to the document. Some facility staff members were terminated, but others were reinstated.
According to an ORR memorandum, the agency began collecting sexual abuse data on unaccompanied minors in its custody in October 2014. Per ORR policy, care providers have to report allegations of sexual abuse, sexual harassment and retaliation against allegations no later than four hours after learning of the alleged incidents.
An HHS official told CBS News that, under agency policy, providers have have to report all allegations of sexual abuse to ORR, state and child protective services, the Office of Inspector General for HHS and the FBI. Additionally, the official said, providers must suspend employees accused of sexual abuse from duties that allow them access to minors.
In a statement to CBS News, HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley said background checks for all facility employees are mandatory and that the safety of migrant youth is the agency’s “top concern.”
“These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and ORR fully understands its responsibility to ensure that each child is treated with the utmost care,” Oakley added. “When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond.”
Correa, the California Democrat, said his party will continue to hold the administration accountable on these allegations. He said the House Judiciary Committee, which he is a member of, is actively “looking” at several questions left unanswered by the documents, including the disparity between the number of sexual abuse allegations reported to ORR and the number reported to the Justice Department.
“It is my hope that they understand that there’s a new sheriff in town — and oversight is not a joke,” Correa added.
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Media caption There were gasps from the crowd at the moment Notre-Dame’s spire fell
A major fire has engulfed the medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, one of France’s most famous landmarks.
The 850-year-old Gothic building’s spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure, including the two bell towers, has been saved, officials say.
Firefighters are still working to contain the blaze as teams try to salvage the artwork stored inside.
President Emmanuel Macron called it a “terrible tragedy”. The cause of the fire is not yet clear.
Officials say it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.
Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened an inquiry into “accidental destruction by fire”. A firefighter was seriously injured while tackling the blaze. Follow our live updates In pictures: Blaze at Notre-Dame
Visibly emotional, Mr Macron said the “worst had been avoided” and vowed to launch an international fundraising scheme to rebuild the cathedral.
How did the fire spread?
The fire began at around 18:30 (16:30 GMT) and quickly reached the roof of the cathedral, destroying its stained-glass windows and the wooden interior before toppling the spire.
Some 500 firefighters worked to prevent one of the bell towers from collapsing. More than four hours later, fire chief Jean-Claude Gallet said the main structure had been “saved and preserved” from total destruction. The massive cost of restoring Notre-Dame
Sections of the cathedral were under scaffolding as part of the extensive renovations and 16 copper statues had been removed last week.
Deputy Paris Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said the building had suffered “colossal damages”, and teams were working to save the cathedral’s remaining artwork.
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Media caption The fire department said a major operation was under way
Historian Camille Pascal told French broadcaster BFMTV that “invaluable heritage” had been destroyed, adding: “Happy and unfortunate events for centuries have been marked by the bells of Notre-Dame. We can be only horrified by what we see”.
How have people reacted?
Thousands of people gathered in the streets around the cathedral, observing the flames in silence. Some could be seen openly weeping, while others sang hymns or said prayers.
Several churches around Paris rang their bells in response to the blaze, which happened as Catholics celebrate Holy Week.
Interactive Notre-Dame cathedral fire
Because of the fire, Mr Macron cancelled a speech on TV in which he was due to address the street protests that have rocked France for months.
Visiting the scene, the president said the cathedral was a building “for all French people”, including those who had never been there.
“We’ll rebuild Notre-Dame together”, he said as he praised the “extreme courage” and “professionalism” of the firefighters.
A symbol of a country
Analysis by Henri Astier , BBC World Online
No other site represents France quite like Notre-Dame. Its main rival as a national symbol, the Eiffel Tower, is little more than a century old. Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris since the 1200s.
It has given its name to one of the country’s literary masterpieces. Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is known to the French simply as Notre-Dame de Paris.
The last time the cathedral suffered major damage was during the French Revolution. It survived two world wars largely unscathed.
Watching such an embodiment of the permanence of a nation burn and its spire collapse is profoundly shocking to any French person. Read more from Henri
Facts about Notre-Dame The church receives almost 13 million visitors each year, more than the Eiffel Tower A Unesco World Heritage site, it was built in the 12th and 13th centuries Several statues of the facade of the Catholic cathedral were removed for renovation The roof, which has been destroyed by the blaze, was made mostly of wood Read more about the treasures of the cathedral
What has been the international reaction?
The Vatican expressed “shock and sadness,” adding that it was praying for the French fire services.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered her support to the people of France, calling Notre-Dame a “symbol of French and European culture”.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a tweet : “My thoughts are with the people of France tonight and with the emergency services who are fighting the terrible blaze at Notre-Dame cathedral”.
Also on Twitter, US President Donald Trump said it was “horrible to watch” the fire and suggested that “flying water tankers” could be used to extinguish the blaze.
In an apparent response, the French Civil Security service said that was not an option as it might result in the collapse of the entire building.
Forty-nine people have been killed and at least 20 wounded in shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison described the gunman, who had Australian citizenship, as an “extremist, right-wing” terrorist.
A man in his late twenties was charged with murder and will appear in court on Saturday morning, police said.
Two other men and one woman were detained in the area. Police have established that one was not involved.
The gunman appeared to have live-streamed footage of his rampage to Facebook, filmed with a head-mounted camera. The footage appeared to show him firing indiscriminately at men, women, and children from close range inside the Al-Noor mosque.
Police called on the public not to share the “extremely distressing” footage online. Facebook said it had removed the gunman’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and was working to remove any copies of the footage.
The suspect was also believed to have published a manifesto outlining his intentions, in which he espoused far right and anti-immigrant ideology.
Police Commissioner Bush confirmed that the suspect who was charged was not known in advance to either New Zealand or Australian security services.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it one of New Zealand’s “darkest days”. “It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” she said.
What do we know at this point?
The first report of an attack came from the Al Noor mosque, located in central Christchurch. Witnesses told local media they ran for their lives, and saw people bleeding on the ground outside the building.
A second mosque in the suburb of Linwood was evacuated, but there were fewer details from that site. Police also defused “a number of IEDs (explosive devices) attached to vehicles”, Mr Bush said.
Authorities advised all mosques in the city to shut down until further notice. Armed police were also seen at Papanui High School in Christchurch, which was cordoned off.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr Bush said police were working to determine whether the other suspects detained were involved in the incident.
He said a number of firearms had been recovered from both shooting sites.
What happened at the mosques?
The sequence of events remains unclear and has mostly come via eyewitness reports to local media.
One unnamed survivor told TV New Zealand he was at the Al Noor mosque, and saw a gunman shoot a man directly in the chest. The attacker reportedly targeted the men’s prayer room in the mosque, then moved to the women’s room.
“What I did was basically just waiting and praying, God please, let this guy run out of bullets,” the witness said. “He came to this side, he shot this side, he went to another room and went to the ladies’ section and shot them. I just heard one of the ladies has died.”
A Palestinian man who asked not to be named told the AFP news agency he heard rapid gunfire and saw a man shot in the head.
“I heard three quick shots, then after about 10 seconds it started again – it must have been an automatic, no one could pull a trigger that quick,” he said. “Then people started running out. Some were covered in blood.”
A second mosque in the suburb of Linwood was also evacuated. The police commissioner said “multiple fatalities” were recorded at two locations.
How have authorities responded?
Multiple casualties were brought to Christchurch Hospital where there was a heavy police presence. A spokeswoman said Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) had activated its mass casualty plan, the New Zealand news site Stuff.co.nz reported.
Police earlier cleared Cathedral Square, where thousands of children had been holding a rally for action on climate change.
Police Commissioner Bush said: “Police are responding with its full capability to manage the situation, but the risk environment remains extremely high. Police recommend that residents across Christchurch remain off the streets and indoors until further notice.”
A lockdown on all schools in Christchurch was lifted, and parents told could collect their children.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted: “I’m horrified by the reports I’m following of the serious shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand. The situation is still unfolding but our thoughts and prayers are with our Kiwi cousins.”
Cricket team escape attack
The Bangladesh national cricket team appeared to have narrowly escaped the shooting. A reporter following the team, which was due to play New Zealand in a now-cancelled test match on Saturday, tweeted that the team had “escaped from a mosque near Hagley Park where there were active shooters”.
Player Tamim Iqbal tweeted that the “entire team got saved from active shooters”.
Bangladesh Cricket Board spokesman Jalal Yunus said most of the team had gone to mosque by bus and were about to go inside when the incident took place.
“They are safe. But they are mentally shocked. We have asked the team to stay confined in the hotel,” he told the AFP news agency.
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Former first lady Michelle Obama has been named America’s most admired woman of 2018, according to a Gallup poll. This is the first time in 17 years that someone other than Hillary Clinton was at the top of the list, according to Gallup. As for the most admired man, former President Barack Obama won for the 11th year in a row.
The annual survey asks Americans to name the man and woman they admire most, living anywhere in the world. Mrs. Obama placed first, with 15 percent of people naming her, followed by Oprah Winfrey, who was mentioned 5 percent of the time. Hillary Clinton and Melania Trump followed with 4 percent mentioning each.
Gallup attributes the switch at the top of the women’s list to the fact that Clinton “more fully retreated to private life after a long career as first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of state and two-time presidential candidate.” Michelle Obama is currently touring the U.S. to promote her best-selling autobiography, “Becoming,” putting her back in the spotlight despite the fact that her role as first lady is over.
Queen Elizabeth also made the top 10 for a record 50th time. Other world leaders, activists, entertainers and one Supreme Court justice rounded out the list.
As for the most admired man, former President Barack Obama’s 11-year winning streak leaves him one first-place finish short of tying former WWII commander and President Dwight Eisenhower for the most times being most admired man, Gallup writes.
This year marks the 13th time since the poll began in 1946 that the incumbent president did not win. However, President Trump did make the list, coming in second, with 13 percent of people surveyed mentioning him.
Other former presidents, former presidential candidates, religious leaders and two American billionaires rounded out the list of the top 10 most admired men.
Gallup Poll: Most Admired Man, 2018
Barack Obama 19% mentioned Donald Trump 13% George W. Bush 2% Pope Francis 2% Bill Gates 1% Bernie Sanders 1% Bill Clinton 1% Dalai Lama 1% Joe Biden 1% Elon Musk 1% Mike Pence 1%