Facebook now owns WhatsApp – it’s time to look at alternatives


Update: Totally ahead of the curve on this one.  WhatsApp had an outage yesterday triggering a massive number of new users for Telegram Messenger.  They’re claiming to have 100 new users signing up every second. Here’s one news story about this.  And now, my original post:

If you’re concerned about your privacy online, and you should be, the announcement this week that Facebook has purchased WhatsApp for US$19,000,000,000 will be a cause for concern.

By coincidence, I was searching earlier this week for something like WhatsApp that would work on my iPod Touch.  WhatsApp, incredibly, will only work on phones and not all mobile devices.  It won’t work on an iPad, for example.

telegramI came across Telegram Messenger and have just started to use it.  It’s not just a WhatsApp replacement — it’s my SMS replacement too.  (For most, but not all, SMS messages.)

Telegram is the free brainchild of brothers Pavel and Nikolai Durov, the founders of VK, the largest social network in Russia.

Its unique selling point is that it offers end-to-end encryption.  Here’s what they write about it:

Secret chats are meant for people who really want secure messaging. All messages in secret chats use end-to-end encryption. This means only you and the recipient can read those messages — nobody can decipher or intercept them, including us here at Telegram. Messages cannot be forwarded from secret chats. You can also order your messages to self-destruct in a set amount of time after they have been read by the recipient. The message will then disappear from both your and your friend’s devices.  One last difference between secret and ordinary chats in Telegram is that secret chats are not stored in our cloud. This means you can only access messages in a secret chat on their device of origin.

To prove their point, Pavel and Nikolai have offered a huge prize to anyone who can crack their encryption — read what the BBC has to say about this.

I’ve signed up to use Telegram — which is available for Android and iOS (including Internet-connected iOS devices like the iPod Touch and iPad) — and look forward to trying it out.

Fighting anti-semitism the old fashioned way: I send an actual letter to Facebook

stampAs I reported a couple of days ago, Facebook is hosting a page that promotes the “blood libel” against Jews in breach of its own Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and, probably, British and European law.

My attempts to complain using their online system failed.

So today I’m trying something new: I’ve sent them a letter.

By post.

With a stamp on it.

I promise to report back if they respond …

Facebook promotes the oldest anti-Jewish libel

I learned this morning that Facebook has a page devoted to “Jewish ritual murder” which I found hard to believe — so I checked and found it’s true.

So, as one does, I used Facebook’s complaint procedure to formally report harassment.  After all, I do feel harassed — as a Jew and a human being — by people promoting vile anti-Jewish propaganda.

It took Facebook 32 minutes to respond, which is great.

Good to see that they care about racism and antisemitism and are as keen as I am to … wait a minute … here’s a screenshot of their response:

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 10




Just in case you can’t read that, here’s the essence of it:

You reported Jewish ritual murder for harassment.
Status    This page wasn’t removed
Thank you for taking the time to report something that you feel may violate our Community Standards. Reports like yours are an important part of making Facebook a safe and welcoming environment. We reviewed the page you reported for harassment and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards.

When I went to look at the Facebook “Community Standards” here’s what I found under “Hate Speech”:

Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, we do not permit individuals or groups to attack others based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”

So, Facebook, how is a page promoting the oldest anti-Semitic slur, the infamous “blood libel”, not hate speech?


Turkish trade unionists on trial

KESK leaders standing outside the main courthouse in Istanbul last week.

I was in Istanbul for three days last week to attend the opening of the trial of Turkish trade union leaders.

My articles on what I saw have begun appearing in a number of places:





French language:

  • Andy Funnell has translated one of the articles for LabourStart’s French language blog, here.

South Korea: rail workers, repression and resistance

My first article for openDemocracy.net – click here to read and feel free to post comments there.

The mainstream media struggle to understand Korea. Throughout December, global news coverage focussed on the latest purge in North Korea, a former basketball star’s visit to the Communist state, and rising tensions between both Koreas and Japan, following the visit of the Japanese prime minister to a controversial war memorial. But CNN, the BBC, Sky News, Al Jazeera and others had absolutely nothing to say about a strike in South Korea that has shaken the society profoundly—culminating in mass actions involving hundreds of thousands of people on the last weekend of 2013. Continue reading

North Korea’s Great Terror

Andrey Vyshinsky - prosecutor of the Stalinist show trials.
Andrey Vyshinsky – prosecutor of the Stalinist show trials.

The downfall of Chang Song-thaek, once considered the second most powerful person in North Korea, is a lesson in history for a new generation – and not only in Korea.

The parallels to Soviet history are so striking that one almost wonders if Kim Jong-un read Robert Conquest’s “The Great Terror” – the classic history of the Stalinist purges of the late 1930s.

That’s not an entirely rhetorical question either, as Kim was educated abroad and may well have had access to history books denied to ordinary North Koreans.

In any event, the regime he now heads openly reveres Stalin and is perhaps the only one in the world that does so.

Fidel Castro has criticized Stalin, but also says “He established unity in the Soviet Union. He consolidated what Lenin had begun: party unity.”

People with only a passing acquaintance with Soviet history may be surprised to discover that nearly all the victims of Stalin’s massive purge which peaked in 1937 were not, in fact, oppositionists. Continue reading

ახალბედა პროფკავშირული მოძრაობა საქართველოში

My first article to appear in Georgian — on the website of the Georgian Trade Union Confederation (GTUC).

ავტორი: ერიკ ლი

ნოემბერში, ორი დღის მანძილზე, საქართველოს რკინიგზაში დრამა გათამაშდა, რამაც მშრომელთა მოძრაობა საუკეთესო მხრიდან წარმოგვიდგინა.ეს მოხდა იმ პატარა ქვეყანაში, რომელიც შავ ზღვისა და კავკასიის მთებში მდებარეობს.

Continue reading

Проблема сталинизма и движение трудящихся сегодня

The Russian language version of my presentation on Stalinism and the Labour Movement to a conference in Kiev in November.

Эрик Ли (главный редактор веб-сайта международного профсоюзного движения LabourStart, Лондон)

В своем выступлении я не буду рассматривать происходящее на постсоветском пространстве – например, в России или Грузии, – а сосредоточу внимание на проблеме сталинизма и сталинистского наследия в движении трудящихся за пределами данного региона. Я буду опираться на опыт Великобритании, где живу.

Ключевое слово здесь – наследие.

Сталинизм, в определенном смысле доминировавший в международном движении трудящихся на протяжении десятилетий, оставил после себя ряд идей, которые сохраняют свое влияние на это движение и левых даже сегодня, через шестьдесят лет после смерти Сталина.

Continue reading

Per SMS zum Arbeitskampf

Der israelische Gewerkschaftsbund Histadrut feiert große Erfolge, während Gewerkschaften anderswo gegen sinkende Mitgliederzahlen kämpfen.

Anfang November kündigte Ofer Eini nach acht Jahren seinen Abschied von der Spitze des israelischen Gewerkschaftsdachverbands Histadrut an. Das Ende der »Ära Eini« ist ein guter Anlass, um an einige der außergewöhnlichen Erfolge zu erinnern, die die Histadrut in den vergangenen Jahren erzielt hat, vor allem darin, einst für »unorganisierbar« gehaltene Beschäftigte zu organisieren. Dass diese Erfolge außerhalb Israels so gut wie unbekannt sind, ist auf die Feindschaft einiger Gewerkschaften gegenüber dem jüdischen Staat zurückzuführen, die auch die israelische Gewerkschaftsbewegung trifft. Continue reading

Israel’s Histadrut wins big victories as unions elsewhere struggle to grow

This article appears in German in Jungle World with the headline “Per SMS zum Arbeitskampf” and also on Talking Union, the blog of the Democratic Socialists of America Labor Network.

In early November, Ofer Eini announced the end of his 8-year stint as the head of Israel’s national trade union center, the Histadrut.

The end of the “Eini era” is a good moment to reflect upon some of the extraordinary successes the Histadrut has had in the last couple of years, particularly in organizing workers previously thought of as “unorganizable”.

That these successes are largely unknown outside of Israel is due to the blind hostility shown by some trade unionists to the Jewish state – a hostility that extends to the Israeli trade union movement. Continue reading