Nigeria’s Twitter ban: Government orders prosecution of violators

The government announced on Friday it was suspending Twitter’s operations in the country.

Mobile phone networks blocked access after being ordered to do so, but some users are getting around the ban.

The move comes after Twitter deleted a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari for breaching the site’s rules.

Some users saw his post, which referred to Nigeria’s civil war four decades ago, as a veiled threat towards a secessionist movement in the south-east of the country

His government said on Saturday the tweet’s removal was “disappointing”, but not the only reason for the “temporary” suspension.

“There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real-world violent consequences,” the government said.

Twitter said the announcement of a ban on Friday by Information Minister Lai Mohammed was “deeply concerning”.

The move also brought widespread condemnation from human rights groups and international powers, who say it will limit free speech in Nigeria.

In a statement, Justice Minister Abubakar Malami said he had “directed for the immediate prosecution of offenders of the Federal Government ban on Twitter operations in Nigeria”, telling the public prosecutor to “swing into action”.

The message was targeted at both corporations and individuals, the minister’s spokesperson Umar Gwandu told the BBC.

The government of Nigeria alleges that Twitter was being used to undermine “Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

The platform was allowing “the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages” that “could tear some countries apart”, a spokesperson said.

The national broadcasting regulator, NBC, had been told to begin “licensing all internet streaming services and social media operations in Nigeria”, a government statement said.

Earlier, the professional body of Nigerian mobile phone operators – known as Alton – confirmed they had been told to stop people from getting on to Twitter. The group said its members had complied with the government order due to “national interest provisions” in Nigerian telecoms law and licensing terms.

But Alton also said that it backed the UN’s position that the right to communicate both offline and online should be protected.

Microsoft Teams is down worldwide for many users

Microsoft Teams is down and experiencing an outage worldwide for many users and are blocking connectivity for lots of Microsoft Teams users across Europe and Asia. Microsoft is aware of the issues and is currently investigating the route cause.

“We’ve confirmed that this issue affects users globally,” says Microsoft’s 365 status account on Twitter. “We’re reviewing monitoring telemetry and recent changes to isolate the source of the issue.”

Some Microsoft Teams users are reporting 401 error codes when attempting to access the service via the web, while others appear to see Teams and channels but are unable to send messages. Others may still be logged into the service, but Microsoft warns they “may experience degraded performance with multiple features” and that “any user could be affected by this issue.”

This is the second Microsoft Teams outage this month, following issues with the service at the beginning of April. Microsoft also experienced Teams problems for more than four hours last month, after an authentication change knocked out access to the communications app. Azure Active Directory also experienced issues as part of last month’s outage, alongside Office web apps, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and other Microsoft services.

It appears Microsoft’s service issues are limited to Teams this morning, with no other signs of Azure, Xbox Live, Office, or other services experiencing issues.

Microsoft lunches voice command in word

Harness the power of your voice
Now more than ever, we’re all very busy—juggling family, work, friends, and whatever else life throws our way. New enhancements in Office leverage the Azure Cognitive Services AI platform so you can harness the power of your voice to spend less time and energy creating your best work and focus on what matters most.

Save time and create great content using Transcribe in Word for the web
Whether you’re a reporter conducting interviews, a researcher recording focus group sessions, or an online entrepreneur recording informal discussions, you want to be able to focus on the people you’re talking to without worrying about taking notes and without having to spend hours transcribing your conversations after-the-fact. If that sounds like you, Transcribe in Word is here to help.

Now you can record your conversations directly in Word for the web and transcribe them automatically. Transcribe detects different speakers so after you finish recording, you can easily follow the flow of the transcript. After your conversation, you can revisit parts of the recording by playing back the time-stamped audio and you can even edit the transcript if you see something amiss.

Your transcript will appear alongside the Word document, along with the recording, which enables you to leverage your transcript to create great content in the way that is best for you. Say you want to pull the perfect quote from an interview to support the main point of your story—just click the plus icon on any line of the transcript and voila, the exact quote is inserted. Want to send the entire transcript to your colleague? Simply click “add all to document” and your full transcript will be laid out in Word.

Like many people, you might use a variety of tools to get the job done – that’s why Transcribe enables you to upload audio or videos you recorded outside of Word. Whether you record on your phone or via one of the many calling and video conferencing apps, you can simply select the file to upload and transcribe. Transcribe supports .mp3, .wav, .m4a, or .mp4 files.

Transcribe in Word is available today in Word for the web for all Microsoft 365 subscribers and is supported in the new Microsoft Edge or Chrome browsers. With Transcribe you are completely unlimited in how much you can record and transcribe within Word for the Web. Currently, there is a five hour limit per month for uploaded recordings and each uploaded recording is limited to 200mb. Transcribe in Office mobile will be coming by the end of the year! Currently, transcribing audio into English (EN-US) is the only language supported, but we are working on support for more languages.

Transcribe in Word enables you to stay focused on your conversation in the moment, saves you valuable time and energy by transcribing it for you, and is integrated into Word so you can focus on the message of your document and not fuss around with different windows or applications.

YouTube video removals doubled during lockdown

YouTube removed more videos than ever during the lockdown period, the company says.

The second quarter of the year saw more than 11 million videos taken down, up from six million at the start of the year.

YouTube said that it had opted for “over-enforcement” in its automatic systems when it was short-staffed during lockdown.

But that also meant that more videos were taken down in error.

Normally, “harmful content” would be sent to human reviewers, it said, but due to Covid-19 there were fewer reviewers working.

“One option was to dial back our technology and limit our enforcement to only what could be handled with our diminished review capacity,” the company said in a blog post.

The other option was “to cast a wider net so that the most content that could potentially harm the community would be quickly removed” – and it chose to go down that path.

The downside, however, was that some videos that did not violate policies were mistakenly removed by the system.

YouTube said it has seen a jump in appeals being made by video creators – from 165,941 to 325,439.

The result was not unexpected – YouTube had said in March that creators “may see increased video removals”.

Normally, it only reinstates about 25% of videos that were taken down automatically following a human review. That had now jumped to 50% of videos being reinstated on appeal, it said.

YouTube also put in place stricter automatic rules in areas such as “violent extremism” and “child safety” – leading to a three-fold increase in video removals.

Child safety overtook spam as the top reason for removal as a result.

YouTube video takedowns

Reason for removal, April – June 2020

Reason Amount
Child safety 33.5%
Spam or misleading 28.3%
Nudity or sexual 14.6%
Violent or graphic 10.6%
Promoting violence 8.1%
Harmful or dangerous 1.8%
Other 1.5%
Harrassment / bullying 0.9%
Hateful or abusive 0.7%

YouTube relies on its automated features to do almost all of its initial takedowns. Between April and June, 10,849,634 videos were first detected by the automated system – compared with 382,499 by ordinary users.

The rest came from a mix of “trusted flaggers”, NGOs and government agencies. Human users actually flagged many more videos – more than 15.5 million in the relevant period – but only a small percentage of those were eventually taken down.

And three-quarters of the videos taken down had 10 views or less.

The company also removed nearly two million entire channels in the three-month period – not a significant increase on the previous quarter. More than 90% of those were for spam, scams or being misleading.

Warning over ‘dangerous’ DIY beauty trends on TikTok

DIY beauty trends popular on TikTok could be dangerous and harmful, healthcare groups have warned.

Examples include applying bleach to whiten teeth, removing moles at home, and using eyelash glue to make lips appear larger, BBC News has discovered.

When these videos went viral, they encouraged others to copy the so-called “beauty hacks”, which could cause permanent harm, the groups warned.

TikTok told BBC News the videos did not violate its community guidelines.

However, the British Association of Dermatologists, the British Dental Association and the British Skin Foundation – who viewed the videos – have today issued warnings about copying these treatments on social media.

“It is important to remind people that social media should not be used as a primary source for dermatology issues,” the British Association of Dermatologists said.

“When it comes to skin, it can lead to unnecessary fear or panic where it is not needed, wasting of resources such as money on products unable to treat medical problems, potential delay in treatment, as well as potentially worsening one’s psychological health.

A government spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said it was “concerned by reports of dangerous and misleading cosmetic beauty ‘hacks’ circulating on social media.”

“Scraping off”
Some videos the BBC saw promote using chemical or physical ways to remove moles. Experts advise all moles be checked by a professional before removal.

“There is no ‘safe’ way to remove a mole at home,” Dr Ross Perry, NHS GP and medical director of Cosmedics skin clinics, said.

“This needs to be done by a qualified doctor or dermatologist who is trained and knows what they are doing.

“Using chemicals or attempting to ‘scrape’ off a mole could lead to infections, bleeding, scarring and deformity of the area.”