Your Monday Briefing
Good morning. We’re covering Facebook’s problems in India, New Zealand’s vaccination outreach and the Taliban’s suicide bomber propaganda.
Credit…Illustration by Mel Haasch; Photographs by Rebecca Conway for The New York Times, Manjunath Kiran/AFP — Getty Images
India’s Facebook problem
Facebook’s struggle with misinformation, hate speech and celebrations of violence is at a fever pitch in India, its biggest market, according to internal documents.
Misinformation bloomed during the pandemic. Bots and fake accounts tied to the country’s ruling party and opposition figures wreaked havoc on national elections. Anti-Muslim posts also proliferated.
In one instance, a Facebook researcher created a new account to test the experience of a user in the state of Kerala, and then directed the account to follow all the recommendations generated by Facebook’s algorithms. “Following this test user’s News Feed, I’ve seen more images of dead people in the past three weeks than I’ve seen in my entire life total,” the researcher wrote in an internal report.
Resources: Only 10 percent of Facebook’s daily active users are in North America. But the company earmarked 87 percent of its global budget for classifying misinformation for the U.S., according to one document.
Data: In a report produced after the elections, Facebook found that over 40 percent of top impressions in the Indian state of West Bengal were “fake/inauthentic.”
Response: Human rights activists and politicians have long accused Facebook of moving into countries without fully understanding its potential impact. In India, a lack of expertise in the nation’s 22 officially recognized languages hampered the company.
New Zealand’s vaccination strategy
The country is trying to vaccinate 90 percent of its eligible population before reopening, and so far, 86 percent of people 12 and older have received at least one dose.
But the final few percent are the most difficult to reach. One group of concern is the gang community. Many of their members are Maori or Pacific Islanders, who make up about a quarter of the overall population. Just over 47 percent of eligible Maori are fully vaccinated, compared with nearly 70 percent of the wider population.
In the past two months, after multiple outbreaks spread among gangs, officials and gang leaders began working together. Now, health professionals are working alongside gang members to help with vaccination outreach and contact tracing.
Context: New Zealand has one of the highest rates of gang membership in the world: At least 8,000 people are members. Although some are part of the drug trade, gangs have a long history and often provide critical social structures for Maori in urban centers.
Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.
In other developments:
The U.S. has authorized booster shots for its three vaccines, while people in poor nations wait for their first doses.
Bali reopened to foreign tourists, but Indonesia’s quarantine rules have kept tourists at bay. Thailand will let in vaccinated travelers from more countries starting in November.
Singapore will require vaccination or daily tests for workplace access next year.
Hospitalizations are rising again in Britain, testing the country’s plan to remain open with virtually no restrictions.
The Taliban’s propaganda push
The Taliban brought together families of suicide bombers at a publicized event at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul last week. Officials praised their actions in the fight against the U.S.-backed coalition and Afghan government. In an effort to appease the aggrieved families, the officials also gave them condolence payments and a promise of land.
The decision seemed to be an effort to rewrite the history of the war and professionalize the role of suicide bomber. It also raised questions of how the Taliban will remember soldiers killed and wounded in the previous government’s military, and how — or if — their family members will be compensated.
Background: Experts believe the Taliban started using suicide attacks in 2001. By the end of the war, the attacks had evolved into an integral military tactic. Those who carried them out wore slick uniforms and were championed as elite in certain units.
Displacement: Dozens of Afghan refugees, red-flagged by the U.S. as potentially dangerous, remain in limbo on a military base in Kosovo. And thousands of Afghans, who were in India to receive medical treatment when the Taliban took power, are struggling to return home.
THE LATEST NEWS
Cambodia said the Metropolitan Museum of Art had dozens of its looted artifacts.
Farmer protests against Indian agricultural laws are growing increasingly confrontational.
Japan’s royal women are held to ruthless standards by the press, the public and court officials.
China Evergrande, the debt-riddled property giant, paid bondholders on Friday before a default deadline, an official newspaper reported.
State media reported on Thursday that Li Yundi, a famous pianist, was detained on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute, a charge officials often use against political enemies.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association is fighting to stay afloat, even as unions and other organizations have dissolved under a new security law.
The Middle East
Israel accused six Palestinian rights groups of terrorism, a move critics say was designed to deflect scrutiny.
Turkish opposition parties are organizing to replace President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, end the powerful presidency and return the country to a parliamentary system.
Erdogan also threatened to expel 10 ambassadors from Western countries after they demanded the release of a jailed philanthropist.
Pakistan defeated India yesterday in a World Cup cricket match, a test of deep national enmity.
The World Series matchup is settled: The Houston Astros will play the Atlanta Braves. Game 1 is tomorrow.
Barcelona is finding its footing after Lionel Messi’s departure.
What Else Is Happening
Last week, the actor Alec Baldwin discharged a prop firearm on the set of a Western, killing the film’s cinematographer and wounding its director. Here’s everything we know about the shooting.
Despite a decade of American covert action, the African terrorist group Al Shabab are at their strongest in years.
Russia has begun censoring the internet, using secretive boxes installed at telecommunications services that allow the authorities to block or slow websites.
Men are injecting women with syringes at crowded clubs in Britain, a horrifying variation of dropping pills into drinks.
A Morning Read
The chance to swim with whale sharks led to a tourism boom in a small fishing town in the Philippines. But conservation groups say hand feeding, which keeps the gentle (and endangered) giants around, is interrupting their migratory patterns.
ARTS AND IDEAS
China’s interstellar gender barriers
In the coming weeks, Col. Wang Yaping will be the first Chinese woman to walk in space. But she faces an undercurrent of sexism on the ground.
As the 41-year-old space veteran began her six-month mission last week, the media questioned her about the daughter she left behind. Officials, who have treated her mission as a novelty, made it known that they had supplied the space station with sanitary napkins and makeup.
The discourse is the latest example of the sexism that courses through Chinese society. Women trying to enter male-dominated occupations like civil aviation are struggling to get into the necessary academic programs. When they do break barriers, their accomplishments are often viewed through the prism of gender.
“A major power like China gives women the chance to go to space,” said the activist Lu Pin. “On the other hand, it still tells everyone that, even if you are a woman who has become an astronaut, you still have to play a traditional female role.”
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
These stir-fried brussels sprouts mimic the smoky taste of wok hei.
What to Watch
Our critic called “Dune,” the sci-fi epic based on the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert, “a serious, stately opus.”
What to Read
The Times Book Review celebrated its 125th anniversary. Check out this recent review of “The Woman Warrior,” a 1976 memoir from Maxine Hong Kingston that evokes her Chinese immigrant family and summons the ghosts who haunt it.
Now Time to Play
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
And here is today’s Spelling Bee.
You can find all our puzzles here.
That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia
P.S. Christine Chung, Amanda Holpuch and Vimal Patel are joining The Times’s Express desk as reporters.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Muammar el-Qaddafi’s son.
You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].