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Instagram live streamed a brutal murder-suicide in Bosnia. A war-weary nation wonders how that could happen.



Instagram live streamed a brutal murder-suicide in Bosnia. A war-weary nation wonders how that could happen.

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The sadistic nightmare was beamed across the Balkans and the world. Thousands of viewers on social media were reduced to horrified spectators as a Bosnian man live streamed the murders of his ex-wife and two other innocents before eventually turning the gun on himself.

The episode shocked a society already scarred by conflict and lingering trauma, prompting desperate calls for greater protections for women like Nizama Hecimovic, the young mother killed point-blank in the northeastern city of Gradacac, who had previously alleged abuse by the father of her baby daughter.

But it also rekindled frustrations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere over the failure of social networks like Instagram, which along with WhatsApp is owned by Facebook parent company Meta, to prevent such live content appearing or to at least get it quickly taken down.

Experts warn that algorithms like Instagram’s are “notoriously ineffective” at sniffing out danger and say the Gradacac episode underscores how Meta and other leading social network operators are failing miserably at moderation, particularly when it comes to videos and non-English content.

Maida Muminovic, executive director of Mediacenter Sarajevo, which is part of an EU- and UNESCO-backed alliance to curb harmful online content, said Meta’s response should have been faster.

“The circulation of such a video for hours on Instagram showed all the weakness of the mechanisms for reporting and removing disturbing content on social networks, the irresponsibility of Meta,” Muminovic said.

She said the Coalition for Freedom of Expression and Content Moderation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was officially launched in June, would request details of the case from Meta to aid in a detailed analysis of what went wrong.

“I have no words to describe what happened today in Gradacac,” said Nermin Niksic, the prime minister of the Bosniak-Croat Federation, one of the two entities that makes up Bosnia. Exactly a month earlier, Niksic was sharing a photo from the 1995 genocide that took place during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War and assuring the country that the tragedy would “never be forgotten and never repeated against anyone.”

Algorithms Are ‘Notoriously Ineffective’

The video of 35-year-old bodybuilder Nermin Sulejmanovic announcing his intentions and then shooting his wife at close range began at 10:20 a.m. As the grisly live stream continued into its third hour on Instagram, its viewership rose along with the death toll. It was only taken down at around 2:30 p.m., by which time Sulejmanovic had also killed a father and son and wounded three others as he was being pursued by police.

Nearly 12,000 people watched the killing live, and viewership peaked at around 15,000 at one point. The alleged killer’s Instagram profile, which has since been taken down, gained 300 or so new followers.

Sasa Petrovic, a cybercrime inspector for the federal police, told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service that he contacted Meta after being alerted to the live stream by Tuzla-area prosecutors at around 12:20 p.m. “I received the approval of the police from Tuzla…and I contacted the Meta administrator,” Petrovic said. “In about 20 minutes, the video was removed, as was the account.”

Petrovic said he and Bosnian police agencies have contact details for Meta and some other social networks that allow for freezing data and banning users but said he was personally unaware of any connection to, say, TikTok, where he estimated that dozens of accounts share graphic murder videos.

When contacted by RFE/RL on the day of the killings, Meta did not respond to say how much time passed between the application and the video’s removal. But in a statement obtained by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, the social media titan said that it was “deeply saddened” by the “horrific” Gradacac attack and was “in contact with Bosnian authorities to help support their investigations.”

Asked to clarify its policies and practices by RFE/RL, the company said through a spokesperson that “when it comes to Live content, we use [artificial intelligence] classifiers to proactively identify potentially violating content in Live — as we do elsewhere across Facebook and Instagram — and we respond to reports from our community.”

Meta said it had “made several updates to help limit our services from being used in this way” after the notorious live streamed killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Caitlin Chin, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) who researches technology regulation, said the Gradacac broadcast shows the pitfalls of algorithmic solutions.

“Social media algorithms are notoriously ineffective, especially for images or non-written content,” she told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service. She described a complicated process of conversion from photo or video to text that is scanned for telltales and concluded, simply, that “the software itself is just not adequate.”

She also referred to Meta’s recent staff reductions and its focus, as well as the effectiveness of its internal content moderation policy, which she suggested is “fuzzy.”

“Unfortunately, one of our biggest lessons [from shared graphic videos and images] is just how challenging and consequential online content moderation can be,” Chin said.

And the chances of a miscue are likely higher for people in countries like Bosnia.

‘Completely Opaque’ Processes

Meta dedicates a massive amount of its attention to English-language content moderation, Chin said, “but this terrible tragedy reveals how problematic it is to neglect Bosnian and other non-English languages.”

James Waldo, a professor of the practice of computer science at Harvard University, said moderating content is “not a simple thing,” particularly on a scale like that of Meta, originally known as Facebook after its founding in 2004.

He thinks Meta “is still coming to grips with the fact that they are a worldwide company…and have to deal with having representatives in all sorts of places that they may think of as niche but they are vital to those areas.”

“I don’t know what their staffing levels are like in Bosnia or Romania or any of the Eastern European countries,” Waldo said. “I know that they’re fairly lightly staffed in South Asia in various spots…yet they are present in all of these places where there are lots and lots of different languages and cultures that they need to deal with.”

But he called Facebook/Meta’s internal process on video removal “completely opaque” in a way that “means it’s very hard to trust Facebook to be doing the right thing.”

He said multiple jurisdictions further complicate the issue around, say, a video viewed in the United States through a server in France but originally posted in Bosnia.

Milos Jovanovic, from the Belgrade-based OpenLink Group, an IT agency that provides development and education services, expressed sympathy for Meta’s dilemma. He said real-time events like the Gradacac live stream are particularly challenging and it will probably take years to adequately police what happens after someone turns on a live video transmission.

“I’m convinced that it wasn’t possible to react and remove that content in a quick period of time,” Jovanovic said.

Claudio Agosti, founder of the Tracking Exposed platform and software for analyzing social network algorithms, said that the moderation process is resource-intensive and “optimizations mean that certain content is scanned more superficially or later.”

Sand dunes, he noted, are frequently mistaken for naked bodies, and food preparation can appear as violent patterns if a detection mechanism is “loose.”

“The content that will be uploaded tomorrow is by definition new, and artificial intelligence is trained on what has been shown before,” Agosti said, although he said that, as opposed to disinformation or hate speech, graphic violence or behavior “should be language-independent.”

Darko Obradovic, from the Center for Strategic Analysis in Belgrade, suggested that after the brutal internecine wars of the 1990s many people in the region have a particularly high tolerance for violence.

He said algorithms aimed at compliance with social media company’s terms of use cannot exclude a human dimension.

“It tells us that we have all become numb and lost the basic values of a culture of security, in which it is far more valuable for everyone to share the video, to watch the video, instead of, for instance, calling the police,” Obradovic said. “And when these two dimensions intersect, then we get something called the execution of a criminal plan to which no one reacted.”

The grisly crime’s viewers could also come under the scrutiny of Bosnian authorities.

The Federal Ministry said Interior Minister Ramo Isak would ask federal police and the Interior Ministry of the Tuzla Canton, where Gradacac is located, to investigate anyone on social media who might have encouraged the killer or glorified the crime.

On August 14, thousands of Bosnians demonstrated in multiple cities, including the capital, Sarajevo, to demand greater protections for women like Hecimovic, who just days before her murder had sought police protection from her ex-husband.

The local UN mission expressed its shock and urged authorities to commit to stopping femicide and said it was particularly “horrified by the fact that the murder of a female victim was live streamed via a social network.”

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again




Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy



Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves



CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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