Daily News Roundup

August 1, 2018

Image: ABC News

THURSDAY, August 1

Facebook says it has uncovered “sophisticated” efforts, possibly linked to Russia, to influence US politics on its platforms.

The company said it removed 32 accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in “coordinated” behaviour and appeared to be fake, reports the ABC.

Facebook stopped short of saying the effort was aimed at influencing the US midterm elections in November, although the timing of the suspicious activity would be consistent with such an attempt.

“About two weeks ago we identified the first of eight pages and 17 profiles on Facebook, as well as seven Instagram accounts, that violate our ban on coordinated inauthentic behaviour,” said in a statement published by Facebook Tuesday afternoon.

The statement said all accounts had been removed and information was passed to US government and law enforcement agencies.

“This kind of behaviour is not allowed on Facebook because we don’t want people or organisations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing,” the company said in a post.

According to a Facebook official, the company held briefings in the House and Senate this week. The official declined to be named because the briefings were private.

Facebook said it doesn’t know who was behind the efforts, but they have connections to Russia.

The company said it found some connections between the accounts it removed and the accounts connected to Russia’s Internet Research Agency that it removed before and after the 2016 US presidential elections.

Facebook says more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of he fake pages. The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” ”Black Elevation,” ”Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.”

“We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts including who may be behind this,” the company post said.

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British sailor Tony Bullimore, whose story of survival made international headlines has died at the age of 79.

The BBC and ITV News reported that the veteran yachtsman died after being diagnosed with cancer.

In 1997, he was miraculously saved by the Australian Navy after being stranded in the Southern Ocean for four days when his yacht capsized.

Mr Bullimore had been taking part in the Vendée Globe single-handed race and used an emergency beacon to attract attention 2,500-kilometre away from the Australian coast.

Images of Mr Bullimore being rescued were big news across the world, and in the vision he was seen kissing his rescuers on the cheek.

The sailor, who survived winds of up to 160 kilometres-an-hour, was feared to have drowned, after his boat, the Exide Challenger, capsized.

But he was found crouched in the upturned hull of his yacht, after famously living on chocolate and water.

According to the BBC, the Queen had praised Mr Bullimore’s “extraordinary feat of survival” and he was later introduced to Her Majesty.

Despite his near-death experience, Mr Bullimore was still racing on the water at the age of 78 last year.

Last year marked 20 years since the rescue, which was estimated to have cost $6 million.

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Soldiers could soon be deployed to help drought-stricken farmers, as the crisis worsens across New South Wales, Queensland and parts of Victoria.

Defence Minister Marise Payne has confirmed state governments are able to request the military assistance, similar to help provided for other natural disasters, reports the ABC.

“One of the things that we do have the capability to do is certainly to assist with the movement, for example, of bulk stores by air or by road,” Senator Payne told Macquarie radio.

“We can airdrop stores to remote areas where there’s no airstrip available and I think that’s something which the states would not have a capability to do.”

Farmers are facing mounting costs as they hand-feed their animals and wait for rain and the Federal Government says it will review a key assistance measure for drought-ravaged property owners, acknowledging many who are eligible have not applied.

Large swathes of New South Wales and Queensland have been in drought for periods ranging from one to seven years.

The ABC understands the Defence Department has begun preliminary planning for the Army to help drop livestock fodder to farms, if affected states request it.

“We can certainly look at assisting with the movement of the bulk stores by air or by road and whether it’s trucks or aeroplanes, as long as it’s delivering fodder, if that’s what the states need, then that is a good outcome,” Senator Payne said.

But Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has rejected the idea.

“In the 21st century, our Australian Defence Force are highly skilled, trained and not so badly paid professionals,” he told Canberra radio station 2CC.

“We don’t want to, having invested the money in them, turn them to farm labouring.

“They need to be focused on their first job at hand and that is defending the nation and our interests.”

This daily news roundup is curated with stories from ABC News.

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