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Musings From Abroad

Putin’s Russia takes war to social media, bans Facebook, Instagram, for being ‘extremist’

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Russia has taken its clampdown on the traditional media to the social media, after a court on Monday, placed a ban on Facebook and Instagram, claiming that the two platforms are “extremist.”

The ban on the new media platforms are part of sweeping efforts by Moscow to crack down on social media during the conflict in Ukraine.

Before the ban, the Russian authorities had accused the U.S. tech giant, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, of tolerating what it termed as “Russophobia” since President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine on February 24.

The Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court acceded to a request from prosecutors for the two social media platforms to be banned for “carrying out extremist activities” just as the two platforms have been inaccessible in Russia since early March and Instagram was blocked in the country.

In the judgement, the court ruled that Meta’s WhatsApp messenger service would not be prohibited because it is not used to post public statements.

During Monday’s court hearing, Russia’s FSB security service accused Meta of working against the interests of Moscow and its army during the conflict.

“The activities of the Meta organization are directed against Russia and its armed forces,” FSB representative Igor Kovalevsky told the court.

“We ask the court to ban Meta’s activities and oblige it to implement this ruling immediately,” he said.

Meta had announced on March 10 that the platforms would allow statements like “death to Russian invaders” but not credible threats against civilians, but in what appeared to be damage control, Meta’s global affairs president, Nick Clegg, later said the laxer rules would only apply to people posting from inside Ukraine.

In a statement before the ruling, a Meta representative has said that “following public debate” the company had now changed its policy and deemed that “Russophobia and calls for violence against Russian citizens are unacceptable.”

Since the invasion of Ukraine, Russia has come down hard on the media with its regulator, Roskomnadzor, earlier blocking access to euronews.com, the website of the French channel Euronews, and its Russian version, ru.euronews.com, at the request of the prosecutor’s office.

Earlier this month Roskomnadzor also blocked access to the BBC’s main news website, with Moscow’s Foreign Ministry warning of more retaliatory measures against the media.

Before the ban, Facebook and Instagram were widely used in Russia and the latter was the most popular social media platform among young Russians.

Instagram was also a key platform for advertising, processing sales and communicating with clients for small businesses in the country.

Musings From Abroad

US Supreme Court abolishes abortion right after almost 50-year precedence

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The US Supreme Court on Friday reversed a nearly half century old constitutional right to abortion.

Justice Samuel Alito who wrote for the Majority argued that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which had favoured abortion right “must be overruled” because they were “egregiously wrong,” the arguments “exceptionally weak” and so “damaging” that they amounted to “an abuse of judicial authority.”

The ruling comes after leaked draft of Roe vs Wade ruling which guaranteed abortion rights across the country has caused outrage last month.

The Roe vs Wade, ruling was a landmark decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in which the Court ruled that the Constitution of the United States protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

Although the supreme court declined comment at the time of the leak in May, the Friday ruling perhaps confirmed the fears of many.

Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, in a series of tweets while reacting to the leak stressed that “an extremist Supreme Court is poised to overturn #RoeVWade and impose its far-right, unpopular views on the entire country. It’s time for the millions who support the Constitution and abortion rights to stand up and make their voices heard. We’re not going back—not ever

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has drawn reactions from top politicians in the US. One of such is veteran congressman and Democrat, Benie Sanders who tweeted that “overturning Roe v. Wade and denying women the right to control their own bodies is an outrage and in defiance of what the American people want. Democrats must now end the filibuster in the Senate, codify Roe v. Wade, and once again make abortion legal and safe.”

American singer, Taylor Swift, also reacted against the overturning of Roe v. Wade. “I’m absolutely terrified that this is where we are – that after so many decades of people fighting for women’s rights to their own bodies, today’s decision has stripped us of that.” The singer said on twitter.

Also reacting to the ruling is US former president, Barrack Obama, who said “today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues—attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.”

Meanwhile, there have also been reactions in support of the abolishing of the nearly 50 years of precedent, notably Americans with ideological sentiment with Republicans.

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Musings From Abroad

Elon Musk’s transgender child sever ties with father, seeks name change

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The 18-year-old transgender daughter of billionaire owner of electric car manufacturing company, Tesla, Elon Musk, has severed ties with her rich father and has filed a request to change her name in accordance with her new gender identity.

The petition for both a name change and a new birth certificate reflecting her new gender identity was filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court in Santa Monica in April.

Christened Xavier Alexander Musk at birth, the billionaire’s child who recently turned 18 which is the age of consent in California, has asked the court to legal authority to change her gender recognition from male to female and to register her new name.

While filing the petition, Xavier said he took the decision because “I no longer live with or wish to be related to my biological father in any way, shape or form.”

Xavier’s name, according to media reports, was redacted in documents to reflect his mother’s name which is Justine Wilson, who divorced Musk in 2008.

However, there was no further explanation of the rift between Musk’s daughter and her father, as lawyers for both parties refused to make further comments.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO has been a vocal opponent of sex change and had spoken about the practice in the past.

In 2020, Musk weighed in on the issue of transgender people choosing their preferred pronouns in a tweet by saying, “I absolutely support trans, but all these pronouns are an esthetic (sic) nightmare.”

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