Fears mount over WhatsApp’s role in spreading fake news

App blamed for circulating false information in India, Brazil, Kenya and now the UK

Abijeet Nath and Nilotpal Das were driving back from a visit to a waterfall in the Indian province of Assam earlier this month when they stopped in a village to ask for directions. The two men were pulled out of their car and beaten to death by a mob who accused them of stealing children.

“The villagers got suspicious of the strangers as for the last three or four days messages were going around on WhatsApp, as well as through word of mouth, about child lifters roaming the area,” Mukesh Agrawal, a local police officer said.

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How Peppa Pig became a video nightmare for children

James Bridle’s essay on disturbing YouTube content aimed at children went viral last year. Has the problem gone away – or is it getting worse?

In November of last year, I read an article in the New York Times about disturbing videos targeted at children that were being distributed via YouTube. Parents reported that their children were encountering knock-off editions of their favourite cartoon characters in situations of violence and death: Peppa Pig drinking bleach, or Mickey Mouse being run over by a car. A brief Google of some of the terms mentioned in the article brought up not only many more accounts of inappropriate content, in Facebook posts, newsgroup threads, and other newspapers, but also disturbing accounts of their effects. Previously happy and well-adjusted children became frightened of the dark, prone to fits of crying, or displayed violent behaviour and talked about self-harm – all classic symptoms of abuse. But despite these reports, YouTube and its parent company, Google, had done little to address them. Moreover, there seemed to be little understanding of where these videos were coming from, how they were produced – or even why they existed in the first place.

I’m a writer and artist, with a focus on the broad cultural and societal effects of new technologies, and this is how most of my obsessions start: getting increasingly curious about something and digging deeper, with an eye for concealed infrastructures and hidden processes. It’s an approach that has previously led me to investigate Britain’s system of deportation flights or its sophisticated road surveillance network, and this time it took me into the weird, surreal, and often disturbing hinterland of YouTube’s children’s videos. And these videos are worrying on several levels. As I spent more and more time with them, I became perturbed not just by their content, but by the way the system itself seemed to reproduce and exacerbate their most unsavoury excesses, preying on children’s worst fears and bundling them up into nightmare playlists, while blindly rewarding their creators for increasing their view counts even as the videos themselves descended into meaningless parodies and nonsensical stories.

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Why does Trump hate on Jeff Bezos: is it about power or money?

The owner of Amazon and the Washington Post keeps his counsel, spurring the president to ever-greater rage

Nestled between the embassy of Myanmar and the historic home of President Woodrow Wilson, the biggest house in Washington DC is taking shape. A yellow digger is parked outside, construction workers throw sandbags over their backs, and thick black tubes stretch from high windows to the ground like the legs of a giant octopus. Inside, a foreman in a baseball cap sits behind a desk at a laptop. “Going good,” he says.

This will be the luxury home of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, owner of the Washington Post and would-be first man on Mars. A sign on the corner of S Street in the swish Kalorama neighbourhood still points to the textile museum that occupied the 27,000 sq ft property before Bezos bought it for $23m. Along the row there are flags and signs supporting immigrants and gay rights; there are diplomatic outposts including the Irish ambassador’s residence. On one doorstep, the inevitable: a package from Amazon.

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Amazon supplier in China ‘will tackle illegal work practices’

Foxconn commits to provide workers with basic rights after report by the Observer

Amazon and its Chinese supplier Foxconn have moved swiftly to tackle illegal working conditions exposed in an investigation by the Observer and rights group China Labor Watch.

Temporary workers hired without basic rights such as sick pay and holiday pay have been offered staff contracts, and managers have been told to hire more workers to reduce levels of overtime. The company says it is also taking action to tackle “confusing” overtime payments.

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