Malnutrition in Yemen – Update

Malnutrition in Yemen is threatening the lives of millions of war-displaced people. According to Aljazeera, 14 million Yemeni are at risk of starvation, with no end to the crisis in sight.

Malnutrition in Yemen – Aljazeera Reports

Malnutrition in Yemen

UN Response to Humanitarian Disaster In Yemen

The UN has published its review of the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan. According to the report, over 22 million people were in need of humanitarian aid in January 2018, over half of them in dire need.

To date, the UN response staff are reaching just short of 8 million people each month, delivering food and medical supplies. The collapse of everyday life along with health, business, and educational structures have made the delivery of aid more difficult.

Hodeidah Withdrawal Plan Agreed

Hodeidah is a strategic port for the delivery of aid. According to a UN spokesperson, agreement on “Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” was reached on Sunday without the disclosure of details.

However, observers believe that the Houthi rebels have not yet signed the official documents and may withdraw from this agreement. The rebel-controlled city is vital when it comes to the distribution of aid to millions of suffering civilians.

12-Year Old Girl Weighs 10kg – Donate Now

The girl seen on the Aljazeera video is 12 years old and weighs 10kg. If you would like to make a donation, please check out this list of aid agencies, working on the ground in Yemen. If your agency is missing from the list, please get in touch, and I will publish your details.

Women Yellow Vests – #femmes #giletsjaunes

In the wake of sometimes violent protests and clashes with police during the yellow vest demonstrations in Paris and beyond, French women have created a separate movement. The women yellow vests or #femmes #giletsjaunes are pursuing the same issues but distancing themselves from the use of violence that has cast shadows over the #giletsjaunes movement.

Women Yellow Vests

Apart from taking to the Streets of Paris, Toulouse, Caen, Lyon, and beyond, French women have come together on social media to campaign for a variety of issues. What is different about the #femmes #giletsjaunes is that the movement is strictly non-violent. The power of the women’s conviction is impressive.

In the run-up to the first march, the women didn’t fear getting caught up in riots and clashes with the police. To date, the #femmes #giletsjaunes demonstrations took place without any major incidents.

The issues at the heart of this movement are the same: lower taxes and the resignation of the government. In a show of strength and determination, the protestors wanted to emphasize the weight of their conviction and object to the French government’s denunciation of the #giletsjaunes protestors as troublemakers.
Holding up placards stating “Je suis ta mère”, “Je suis ta collègue”, “Je suis ta sœur” the #femmes #giletsjaunes sought to steer clear off any violent confrontations while also re-emphasizing the original #giletsjaunes demands.  

On Twitter, LaPlumeLibre explained:

LaPlumeLibre on Twitter

How Did the Women Yellow Vest Protest Come About?

According to a Le Média report, the Paris gathering had been organised through the #femmes #giletsjaunes Facebook page with the venue and time only publicised one hour prior to assembly. The objective was simple: to freely express their demands while avoiding violent clashes at all cost.

At the Place de la Bastille, women of all ages, some with their children, sang the Marseillaise before marching toward la Place de la Republique. A group of men formed a security line in support. One woman explained her attendance to a reporter:

“We are no longer free, there’s no freedom left.”

Another woman described how police and security forces appeared to want to hit the #giletsjaunes. However, she emphasized that the #femmes #giletsjaunes were not afraid but hoped no violence would taint their peaceful protest.

At lunchtime, police officers arrived to prevent the women from making their way through Paris. Having chosen to form the frontline of the demonstration to dissuade police from the use of violence, a handful of women suffered the ill-effects of teargas. One woman picked up a batton lost in battle by a security service officer but decided to return it to him. She even asked if she had accidentally hurt him when handing it back.

Despite some tensions caused by a heavy police presence, the atmosphere throughout the march was one of strength and calm. The women sang songs, among them children and women with disabilities. Drivers trying to make their way through the protests, blew their horns in support.

Speaking to a reporter from Le Média, one woman wearing a yellow hard hat and holding a yellow balloon out of the window of her car explained her reason for supporting the #femmes #giletsjaunes.

(We would like) ”Macron to do whatever is necessary to give less money to those who don’t need it and give it back to the people with middle incomes who want to spend it themselves.”

The women’s claim for lower taxes is entirely justified as they make up more than half of the French workforce. Thus, they bear the brunt of the injustice.

Attending the women yellow vests march, one woman walking alongside her grandparents explained how the movement spans across age, religion, and social background.

The middle income earners have been struggling to make ends meet for quite some time now. Exempt from receiving any state aid, they carry a heavy tax burden while also having to spend on basics like rent, utilities, healthcare, food, and education. Even couples and families with two incomes are struggling to put a roof over their head.

In that sense, the fuel tax that sparked the creation of the #giletsjaunes movement was the straw that broke the camels back.

Not Just Yellow Vests – Liberty Caps Too

Apart from yellow vests, some women also wore a bonnet Phrygian, a liberty cap, associated with the French revolution and a well-known symbol of the French resistance. The cap originates in Roman times when it became associated with the liberation of slaves.

Back in 1798, it was French women who marched, holding up the Cahiers de doléances (notebook of grievances). For the first time, French people felt they had a voice. Historians today believe that the Cahiers played a significant role in the lead up to the French revolution.

This revolutionary spirit of French women has now re-manifested in the #femmes #giletsjaunes movement.

Monsieur le Président take note, the women yellow vests – #femmes #giletsjaunes – are here to stay and may spark another groundbreaking revolution.

The Yellow Vest Movement Is Spreading

Not just French people have worn #giletsjaunes. Anti-austerity and anti-inequality protestors have adopted the yellow vests as a symbol, demanding lower taxes for the working poor and a narrowing of the stark wealth gap.

Yellow vest protests have taken place across Europe and in Canada.

The women yellow vest have inspired a clearer and non-violent approach, thus adding conviction and strength. No doubt, the anti-austerity movement will take courage and find fresh resolve in the fight for equality.

anti-austerity cartoon

Consensus Politics v Political Squabbles

Unlike their British counterparts, Irish politicians have – by and large – chosen consensus politics to deal with Brexit.

As we face into another week of certain turmoil at Westminster, the pro May-deal wing of the Tory party has been urging MPs to put the interests and greater good of the nation before personal ambition. In the wake of a rake of point-scoring and mud-slinging matches within both the Tory and Labour Parties, few expect Teresa May to achieve the results she’s been pushing for.

As for the DUP, well, Arlene Foster and co have chosen to ignore the voices of business leaders along with the population’s pro-remain result. Instead, the party remains firmly rooted in Unionism,  continuing to condemn the backstop as the ultimate red flag. The party’s unique position of power – gifted by the Prime Minister by way of an unnecessary election – has allowed the DUP to play a greater, than appropriate, role in the Brexit negotiations.

No Sign of Consensus Politics in the UK

Throughout the history of politics, parties have often formed cross-party alliances to formulate an approach to major issues. Perhaps, if Labour and the Conservatives had agreed to deal with Brexit by means of consensus politics, the current mess could have been prevented. But consensus politics is hard to come by in Westminster. Although murmurings of cross-party initiatives in the House of Commons emerge rather frequently, no significant consensus grouping has come forth. On the contrary, both the Tory and Labour party are at loggerheads – hence the turmoil.

Time for consensus politics
Perhaps it’s time for consensus politics in the UK

The Main Political Parties in Ireland have opted for Consensus Politics

Politicians in Ireland have taken an entirely different approach. The minority government lead by Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael party is propped up by a deal done with Fianna Fail. Historically, the two parties may not be politically very different, however, a coalition between them remains unthinkable.

After the election in 2016, Fine Gael was unable to form a government. After lengthy discussions, the party entered a confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fail, the main opposition party. Having agreed on major policy issues, the two parties undertook to collaborate especially in view of upcoming Brexit negotiations.

This confidence and supply arrangement was renewed late last year. In essence, Fianna Fail promised not to topple the government to strengthen Ireland’s stance in the Brexit negotiations.

Even Sinn Fein, a party politically a million miles apart from Leo Varadkar’s government, has sought to strengthen and encourage the government in the Brexit negotiations rather than drilling holes in its approach to it. The remaining representatives, a mix of independents and small parties, have also played a supportive rather than destructive role where Brexit issues were concerned.

Healing Divisions by Means of Census Politics

The divisions in Britain are stark and ubiquitous. This is a society in dire need of healing. But if the government and opposition continue squabbling to score points, it is hard to see how British society could leave its own fragmentation behind.

Manufacturing Consent Summary

Manufacturing Consent – The Political Economy of The Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky was first published in 1988 and remains one of the most significant books on the collaboration between politics and the media. Although today’s media landscape boasts a whole host of additional platforms, the principles remain the same. This is a Manufacturing Consent Summary.

Despite the commonly-held perception of journalistic independence, freedom of the press, and journalistic integrity, Herman and Chomsky shed light on the collaboration between the corporate media and governments. Stories are selected to manufacture consent, produce advertising revenue, drive political agendas, and enrich powerful media corporations.

30-Year Publication Anniversary

To mark the 30th anniversary of its publication, Aljazeera recently broadcast a documentary about this must-read book. To understand the basic concept and learn about the principles at work, take a look at this short Manufacturing Consent summary.

Manufacturing Consent summary – The five principles

But the Aljazeera documentary doesn’t simply celebrate the brilliance of this book. Instead, its makers interviewed three renowned “non-mainstream” journalists to discuss its value, longevity, and premise.

One of them, Amira Haas, a journalist working in Gaza for the past 30 years, cast doubt on the public’s willingness to seek out information. Although the internet has made it possible for people in many countries to access facts, she believes that many people choose not to. In that sense, she considers Manufacturing Consent – although scathing – to deliver too optimistic a view.

During the documentary, Noam Chomsky himself stressed the new-found accessibility of information through the internet. For seekers of factual information, the internet has proven invaluable despite the emergence of fake news and ever-expanding media corporations.

From Manufacturing Consent to Manufacturing Dissent

Looking at today’s world politics and media, one would have to wonder whether today’s powers are manufacturing dissent instead. The rise of right-wing politics and the obvious polarisation between opposing factions suggests as much. Is today’s aim to divide and conquer, to drive a sharper wedge between the poor and the poor, so that cannot unite and rise up against greedy cash powers?

Manufacturing Consent or Manufacturing Dissent?

The Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen Worsens

In recent days, Saudi Arabia has been in the headlines because of its government’s suspected killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. This is a welcome development as the spotlight reaches further, highlighting the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Perhaps Kashoggi’s violent death will make Saudi Arabia’s Western allies rethink their support for its brutal role in the civil war. 

Although the UN along with aid agencies working on the ground in Yemen have been drawing attention to the horrific plight of Yemeni civilians, the international community has been slow to react. Both the US and UK have continued trading with Saudi Arabia despite the countries brutal response to the uprising. 

Yemeni Children, photo via Flickr

In April 2018, the UN Secretary-General made the following remark to a donor conference in Geneva: 

“Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. As the conflict enters its fourth year, more than 22 million people – three-quarters of the population – need humanitarian aid and protection.”

Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres 

Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen – The Statistics

The civilian population has been bearing the brunt of the bloody civil war. At this point, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has escalated, leaving millions of people at risk of starvation and death. 

This is the video that the UN released in March 2018:

Alongside, the UN published some stark statistics:

  • 79 per cent of the population live in poverty
  • 22 million (75 per cent) are in need of humanitarian aid
  • 60 per cent are lacking food
  • Less than half of all healthcare facilities are operating
  • 56 per cent of people do not have regular access to medical help
  • Nearly three-quarters of the population lacks clean drinking water
  • Nearly three million women and children are malnourished
  • Food prices have increased by 98 per cent

These statistics were published in March 2018. Since then, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has worsened considerably. 

Yemen May Face Worst Famine in 100 years – UN Spokesperson warns

Irish journalist, Orla Guerin, who is based in Cairo, compiled a news report for the BBC. Returning to sites she visited two years ago, she says the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has got a lot worse.

In the course of the report, the BBC reporter also spoke to UN spokesperson, Lise Grande. 

International Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Civilians in Yemen have asked the international community to act, yet so far, this has, indeed, been an ignored humanitarian crisis. Many countries across the globe continue to export arms to Saudi Arabia. Imposing an arms embargo appears to be out of the question despite Saudi Arabia’s brutal response to the uprising. 

In the wake of the death of Jamal Khashoggi, politicians across the globe have suggested imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia. However, little political will seems to exist, and the Saudis have warned of rising oil prices should the international community impose such sanctions. 

Donald Trump made it clear that he wouldn’t like to stop trading with Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia Appears to Admit to “Interrogation Gone Wrong”

We await the international community’s response to breaking news suggesting that Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit that the journalist died as a result of an “interrogation gone wrong”. (source CNN).

It remains to be seen whether the brutal death of Jamal Khashoggi will provoke an international response – one that the death and suffering of millions of Yemeni civilians failed to produce. 

Thai Cave Rescue – What About the Child Mortality Stats?

Like millions of others, I was delighted to follow the Thai cave rescue of the boys’ football team and coach. Obviously, people do care, but what about the 21 children who die every minute of every day according to Unicef stats? #ChildrenDeserveBetter. The child mortality stats worldwide are appaling.

Appalling Unicef Child Mortality Statistics

Unicef’s report on child mortality makes for grim reading. 29’000 children under five die each day, that’s 21 per minute. What’s worse, these children die from predominantly preventable causes like pneumonia, malaria, lack of oxygen during birth, and other treatable causes. 6 out of the 11 million children who die each year could be saved using simple, easily available means like antibiotics, vaccines, nutritional supplements, bed nets treated with insecticides, and improved breastfeeding and family healthcare facilities.

Two-thirds of these child deaths occur in just 10 countries. Sub-Saharan children are most at risk, while neonatal deaths are most common in South Asia. Unicef, in collaboration with other NGOs and the World Health Organisation, has targeted the following areas to lower the child mortality rates:

  • Health and Nutrition Interventions: Increase in vaccination rates, the supply of micronutrient supplements, providing insecticide-treated bed nets for the prevention of malaria, promoting breastfeeding
  • Health Access and Education: 80 per cent of children die at home, having never been seen by a medical professional. The provision of basic medical care, supplies, and education could reduce child mortality by as much as 40 per cent.
  • Clean Water and Sanitation: Water-borne diseases like cholera and Guinea worm remain a major killer. Unicef is working with charities and governments across the globe to provide clean water supplies and adequate sanitation.
  • Crisis Responses: Global children’s charities like Save the Children provide emergency aid in war zones and natural disaster areas to cut child mortality rates.

 

 

Deaths Among Migrant Children

The UN Migration Agency estimates the number of child deaths since 2014 to be 1’200, although many believe that the real number to be considerably higher, seeing as 12.5 per cent of migrants are aged below 18. Fleeing from war zones like Syria or Yemen, children face considerable risks on their way.

The Most Dangerous Countries for Children

An article published in the New York Times in December 2017 reveals the most dangerous countries for children:

  • Afghanistan: According to Unicef, the use of “indiscriminate improvised explosive devices” is seen as the major cause of child deaths in war-torn Afghanistan. Children are caught in the crossfire. During the first month of 2017, an estimated 700 children were killed.
  • Uganda: Troops fighting against the Lord’s Resistance Army have been accused of subjecting young girls to sexual exploitation and rape.
  • Central African Republic: Unicef has reported that 150’000 people were forced to flee their homes, with children becoming victims of abduction or rape. Some children are also forcefully recruited by armed groups.
  • Congo: An estimated 850’000 children have been forced from their homes, Unicef reports.
  • Nigeria and Cameron: 135 children were used as suicide bombers by Boko Haram.
  • Iraq: According to the New York Times, children are being used as human shields by ISIS.
  • Syria: Unicef has reported that 2017 was the deadliest year for children in Syria. Over 900 lost their lives, while survivors witness horrendous violence and suffer unspeakable trauma.
  • Rohingya Kids: 60 per cent of Rohingya refugees are believed to be children, many of them unaccompanied. Witnesses describe how babies were snatched from mothers and many children forced to flee on their own to escape violence.
  • South Sudan: According to Unicef, 19’000 children were recruited as child soldiers, with 2’300 losing their lives.
  • Somalia: Children are forced to join armed groups.
  • Yemen: Unicef figures reveal that an estimated 5’000 children were killed or injured, while 11 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Desperate families often choose to sell children into marriage or to serve as child soldiers.
  • Ukraine: After four years of intense conflict, 220’000 children are at risk from explosives and mines.
  • Middle East: According to Aljazeera, over 350 children are in Israeli prisons, where many believe they suffer maltreatment. This year, Israeli forces have already arrested 353 while placing more than 100 under house arrest.

Children At Risk All Across the Globe

Apart from the stark realities of child mortality, children face risks in all societies across the globe. Child abuse, violence against children, child marriage, family separation, child abduction, and child poverty are only some of the dangers kids are exposed to. Every child has the right to grow up in safety and it is our responsibility to uphold the rights of children around the world.

 

Life in a Refugee Camp – You have No Idea

Occasionally, we ought to take a few minutes and try to imagine what the plight of refugees is like. It is easy to be anti-immigration if you choose not to empathise. But after all, we are all members of the human race. Take a look at this Aljazeera clip and put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a while. This is what life in a refugee camp is like.

Every once in a while, we need to empathize with those who don’t enjoy the everyday freedoms we take for granted. Life in a refugee camp is anything but comfortable, so we shouldn’t be surprised when brave individuals come to our shores seeking a better life. 

Who profits from war?

In the wake of recent ally-airstrikes against Syria and the prospect of a new cold war, we look at the role the arms industries play in a variety of economies across the globe. Everyone knows, war is big business. So, who profits from war?

Where are the most successful arms manufacturers based? Whom do they supply their arms to? Can governments turn a blind eye when it comes to the supply of arms to oppressive regimes?

Have affluent countries contributed to an increase in wars because of their arms supplies? Is the arms industry so important and economically essential that war becomes a plus for the economies in their country of origin? Is it in the interest of some governments to covertly promote war for profit?

How do western-manufactured arms end up in the hands of terrorists? Is there a duty on the general public to highlight these issues and demand change? Do we need to regulate the arms industry more stringently to prevent unnecessary wars?

In this article, we aim to shed some light on these issues and answer the question, who profits from war. This is a contentious issue that requires far more debate than it has seen up until now.

Arms manufacturers have seen a significant rise in demand in recent years

New figures released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in February 2017, show that the global arms industry has experienced significant growth, most notably, since 2003. An increased demand from Asia and the Middle East has allowed weapons manufacturers to grow their businesses significantly.

The increase shown on the above chart represents an 8.4 percent growth between 2007 and 2011 and between 2012 and 2016. The five-year period from 2012 to 2016 saw the biggest increase in weapons transfer in a five-year period since the end of the Cold War. This surge is down to an increase in demand from Asia and the Middle East.

What economies rely on the arms industry?

According to Sipri, 74 per cent of the total arms volume originates in the United States, China, France, Germany, and Russia, but a number of other countries also boast billion-dollar arms industries.

What nations buy the arms?

Asian countries and states in the Middle East are the biggest arms importers. India, in particular, has increased its arms import volume significantly in the past few years. In fact, between 2012 and 2016 India increased its imports by 43 per cent.

China has begun replacing imports with home-produced weapons. As a result, India now imports a far greater arms volume than China and Pakistan. During the same period, Vietnam also markedly boosted its arms imports. In 2017, Vietnam was the 10th biggest arms importer in the world.

Middle East states have also grown their weapons import volumes. Between 2007 and 2011 and 2012 and 2016 respectively, states in the region added 86 per cent to their previous arms import volumes. Imports to the Middle East now make up 29 per cent of the global volume.

Saudi Arabia also bolstered its imports during that period. In fact, it saw an increase of 212 per cent. Qatar boosted its arms imports, even more, adding 245 per cent to its previous arms imports volume. States in the Middle East have been sourcing most of their imports in Europe and in the US.

46 per cent of all arms imports to Africa were destined for Algeria during the same period.

Only Europe and the Americas saw a significant decrease in arms imports, so Sipri statistics show. However, imports to Mexico increased by 184 per cent.

Government revenue and the ethics of arms manufacturing and supply

The multi-billion global arms industry provides governments across the globe with multiple sources of income. For starters, national purses are filled with sales tax. In addition, arms producers provide plenty of employment, paying out significant amounts of money on income tax and secondary wage costs. Supporting industries such as shipping companies also benefit, adding further financial gains for governments. So, what are governments doing to regulate arms manufacturers and exports?

The UK example

Let’s take the UK. Here like in many arms-exporting countries, arms manufacturers and exporters require an operating license. However, it appears that the controls in place may not be adequate.

According to an article in the Independent published in 2015, the UK sold more than £5 billion of arms to countries on the UK government’s blacklist for human rights abuses. The parliamentary Committees on Arms Export Controls questioned whether government ministers were doing enough to prevent arms ending up in authoritarian regimes.

Two types of licenses are available. SIELs (Standard Individual Export Licences) and OIELs (Open Individual Export Licences). SIELs are specific to a limited shipment, whereas OIELS allow an unlimited supply to one destination in a set five-year period.

Holders of an OIELS do not have to disclose the ‘end recipient’ immediately. According to the same article in the Independent, an increase in the issuing of OIELS has been observed, leading to fears of a lack of transparency when it comes to arms exports and the end recipients in particular.

The UK government also has an embargo and restrictions in place on some countries including North Korea, Armenia, and on a significant number of other countries.

Still, the British arms industry was estimated to be contributing 0.27 per cent to the GDP in 2015, even though some experts have pointed out that the British taxpayer may, in fact, be subsidising the arms industry mainly by paying for relevant research and development projects, so the Guardian reports.

In recent months, one organisation continuously highlighting the issues and campaigning against the global arms trade, the UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has been especially vocal in its opposition to the supply of weaponry to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabia question

Last year, the Guardian reported that during the first half of 2017, the UK sold £1.1 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in the first half of the year alone. Saudi Arabia reportedly purchased ballistic shields, body armour, sniper rifles, aircraft components, air-to-air missiles, and anti-riot gear.

In March 2018, Theresa May and Mohammed bin Salman unveiled a partnership plan which has been condemned as a ‘national disgrace’ by many. Since Brexit, the UK government has been looking at new export expansion options and considers deals such as this as providing significant export opportunities post-Brexit. However, human rights activists have been outraged because of Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen.

According to Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s opinion piece published in the Guardian late last year, the UK arms export control regime outlines that the government must not licence arms to oppressive, human rights-violating regime. In addition, Russell-Moyle explained that the UN has said that the Arab nation is targeting Yemeni civilians.

According to the Yemen Data Project, thousands of raid have hit civilians sites. This has led many to believe that British-manufactured arms could be used to target schools, hotels, hospitals and many other non-military sites. This, of course, would be contrary to British law, the Guardian reports.

After the unveiling of the partnership deal, numerous MPs voiced their vehement opposition, including Labour MP Kate Osamor, the shadow international development secretary.

“Over 22 million Yemeni lives depend on permanent, full access for aid, food and fuel in Yemen. Instead, she (Theresa May) has won no concessions and simply handed on a plate to Saudi Arabia a new humanitarian partnership and an endorsement from DfID [the Department for International Development], the world’s best aid agency. It will whitewash Saudi Arabia’s reputation and role in the war, and it is a national disgrace.”

Head of policy and government affairs at Amnesty International UK, Allan Hogarth, also expressed his concerns:”It is not good enough for the UK to provide humanitarian aid on the one hand and supply the weapons that fuel a humanitarian crisis on the other.”
Since 2014, Yemen has been embroiled in civil war between government forces and Houthi rebels. Saudi Arabia has been supporting the Yemeni government. The humanitarian disaster in Yemen continues.

How do terrorist organisations get arms?

Conflict Armament Research is an organisation who visits war zones to investigate where groups like IS get their weapons from.

Final Thoughts

So, there you have some answers to the question, who profits from war. The manufacture, sale, and supply of arms appears profitable indeed, however, not at an affordable humanitarian cost.

What Is Section 230?

Tech companies are well aware of section 230, after all, it is the one piece of legislation underpinning the entire internet. As Facebook has come under scrutiny for its failure to protect user data, some politicians have been calling for widespread internet regulation. So what is section 230? In essence, it’s a section of US law that removes the responsibility for content away from internet platforms.

This means that platform providers cannot be sued for published content. Without section 230, companies like Facebook could be held liable for each publication on their platform. The importance of section 230 cannot be underestimated as it allows tech companies to operate freely and without fear.

Is section 230 at risk?

At the dawn of the internet in the 1990s, no one could have anticipated its far-reaching impact. Governments were eager to facilitate its growth and were happy to allow tech companies to operate freely. However, the internet has also been proven to provide many downsides. Recent data user scandals involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have once again highlighted the need for user protection. So, will legislators get rid of section 230 like many tech companies fear?

In the short-term, that is highly unlikely, although some exceptions to section 230 are due to be signed into law shortly. In March 2018, the Senate passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017 and this exception is now awaiting the president’s signature. Although this is only one restriction on section 230, many people fear that it may spell the end of an unregulated internet.

What’s more, if tech companies were to be considered as publishers, it would change the landscape of the space tech companies operate in completely. These companies would then have to operate like publishers and scrutinize each piece of content published on their platform. Any untrue of libellous content would then be open to lawsuits.

Tech companies and human rights activists fear that far-reaching internet regulation would curtail the freedom of speech. Governments and lawmakers would then control the information and its publication, thus potentially silencing dissenting voices.

As Mark Zuckerberg faces a grilling during congressional hearings, many people fear that user data protection is the least of his worries.

Chemical attack in Syria, aid workers report more than 70 deaths

According to a report on the Aljazeera website, rescue workers have reported that more than 70 people have died in a chemical attack in Syria. Hundreds are injured. Douma is the last rebel stronghold and “has been subject to intense air strikes and much of the city is destroyed,” according to what Moayed al-Dayrani, a resident of Douma and medical volunteer told an Al Jazeera reporter.

Images showing women and children, some of them lifeless, have emerged online. The rescue group White Helmets operating in opposition-held regions of the city told Al Jazeera that the majority of victims were women and children. Aid workers believe that government forces used chlorine bombs and an unknown potent gas in the attacks. Head of the White Helmets, Raed al-Saleh, explained to an Aljazeera reporter that they were attempting to evacuate people by foot because their vehicles were no longer functional.

In response, the US government has warned of a stern global response to this chemical attack. However, the Syrian government dismissed claimed that its forces had used chemical weapons as “farcical.” Instead, it claims that a rebel-held weapons storage facility was the source. Russia has also denied that the Syrian government was responsible.

100’000 civilians believed to be trapped in Douma

Speaking to Aljazeera, former Douma resident Hanan Halimah said that over 100’000 people remained trapped in Douma with little chance of accessing help or supplies. The medical teams on the ground do not have the resources to deal with the high number of casualties. Aid workers are reported to have described that families were taking shelter in basements when the chemical attack occurred. According to the president of the Syrian American Medical Association, Ahmad Tarakji, the “gas goes down to the basement and those people … are getting intoxicated with those chemical weapons and that’s why the casualties are high,”

International condemnation

At a conference on the future of Syria in Brussels, world leaders held a minute’s silence in remembrance of the victims. Many of them believe the Syrian government to be responsible among them France, the United States, and Britain. However, Russia has continually countered these accusations and supported the Syrian government’s position. Meanwhile, the UN is seeking to fully investigate the events surrounding this latest as well as previous suspected chemical attacks.

In a draft resolution seen by Reuters last week, the UN expressed its outrage at the use of chemical weapons, while emphasizing its determination to identify the source of all chemical attacks.

In February, Russia and China blocked a Western power-led resolution to impose sanctions on the Syrian government.

Chemical attacks in Syria

Chemical attacks have visited unimaginable suffering upon the civilian population. Since 2013, hundreds of people have been killed in chemical attacks right across Syria.