Digital Incitement

Digital Incitement

On Monday, a United Nations panel recommended that Myanmar’s top army commander and other senior military officials be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or a special tribunal to face charges of genocide. It’s not the first time Myanmar’s leaders have been accused of orchestrating a brutal campaign of murder, rape, and ethnic cleansing against the country’s Muslim Rohingya minority (careful, that link is not for the faint-hearted). But the UN finding is significant, because it’s the first step in seeking formal prosecution of those responsible for displacing an estimated 700,000 people and killing at least 10,000 more over the past year.


The UN used similar tribunals to seek justice after war crimes that took place during the civil war in the former Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s. In this case, though, even delayed justice may be difficult. China, which doesn’t like outside powers meddling in Asia, is likely to block any attempt by the UN to begin formal proceedings.

Perhaps more significant than naming the generals, the UN report also singled out Facebook. It said that the social network, which has become an important source of news in a country where eight years ago just 1 percent of the population had phones, had also been a “useful instrument for those seeking to spread hate” during the campaign against the Rohingya. It’s also not the first time such accusations have been leveled against the social network. But the fact that they’re being made in a UN report that accuses a government of mass atrocities is significant. It shows Facebook’s problems go way beyond online bullying or letting Russian trolls mess with the democratic process. We are now talking about genocide.

Twentieth century genocides were centrally directed affairs, where hate spread from the top down, through government propaganda, TV, and radio. Today, anyone can post hateful comments that incite violence, and watch them go viral over social media. Until recently, the tech industry has been reluctant to play policeman. In 2015, Facebook only had two Burmese-speaking content monitors. As of June, long after its problems in Myanmar became public, it was only using a few dozen contractors to monitor posts made by 18 million-odd users in the country, according to Reuters.

On Monday, Facebook admitted it had been too slow to respond to the crisis. It also banned the country’s top general and dozens of other military-linked accounts, effectively depriving them of their most important megaphone for reaching the public. It’s a small step, and much more will be required to make social media safe for the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities around the world that aren’t protected by their governments. Even if the UN report fails to bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice, by turning up the moral pressure on social media companies, it may spur the industry to work even harder on the changes needed to avoid the next one.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

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16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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