Future

France Summons Facebook Over Privacy, Stock Price Tanks Again

LES ECHOS, METRO, 20 MINUTES (France), BBC, THE TELEGRAPH (UK)

Worldcrunch

Facebook has been forced to deny reports that private messages have been appearing publicly on the social networking site, as millions of users panic and company share prices plummet.

France's leading business daily Les Echos reports that the French government has summoned Facebook managers Tuesday to appear before the data watchdog CNIL.

"Clear and transparent explanations must be given without delay," a statement read, issued by French government ministers Arnaud Montebourg and Fleur Pellerin.

Whether fact or fiction, word started to spread when the website of French free daily Metro supposedly broke the story Monday afternoon that private messages dated from 2007 to 2009 were publicly appearing on users' timelines. The daily alleged that users' inbox messages were appearing on timelines "mixed in with comments on users' walls," and the story was subsequently picked up by European newspapers, with word traveling via Twitter, and guides appearing on how to rectify the problem.

Trying to calm the flurry of panicked messages, Facebook announced to the BBC on Monday evening that the rumors were "false," insisting that the "messages were older wall posts that had always been visible on the users' profile pages."

An unnamed source working at Facebook said that "no mechanism" had ever been created to allow private messages to appear publicly.

Andrew Bosworth, Facebook's director of engineering said, ""In case there was any concern, these are just wall posts and not personal messages… people just forget how we used to use the wall!," reports the Telegraph.

Can't tell from Facebook whether my private message have been leaked or if I simply had no concept of what was appropriate in public in 2008

— Duncan Robinson (@duncanrobinson) September 24, 2012

This Twitter user best demonstrates the possible explanation that society has perhaps become better adapted to self-censoring what appears publicly on Facebook than they were in 2007, as naïve newcomers to social networking.

However, many remain extremely skeptical of Facebook's intentions and the company's share prices were under intense pressure Monday, down 9.1% to $20.79.

The slump on Wall Street was mainly attributed to the American financial publication Barron's, which said the stock was only worth around $15 a share. Shares have plummeted 45% since they were first floated in May at $38 a share.

Facebook's real problem, of course, is how ready everyone was to believe the absolute worst.

— Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) September 24, 2012

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Society

Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

"Xi Jinping Thought" ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.


Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books about Xi-Jinping on a shelf at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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