A Texas man who, according to court documents, recently stated that he is definitely “not a dumbass,” is now potentiallyfacing decades in prison for plotting an alleged terrorist attack to “blow up” the internet.
Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, was taken into custody by the FBI on Thursday, after attempting to procure what he thought were explosives from an undercover agent in Fort Worth, Texas, a federal affidavit shows (the bombs were, in fact, fake). According to authorities, Pendley wanted to use C-4, a powerful plastic explosive, to target an Amazon Web Services (AWS) data center in Ashburn, Virginia.
Pendley’s target, Ashburn, is home to over 100 data centers and is the site where a majority of the so-called “Cloud” exists. The arrestee allegedly stated in online chats that he wanted to “kill off about 70% of the internet” and, thereby, annoy “the oligarchy” and, naturally, the deep state.
An apparent Trump supporter who claims he was in Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 during the Capitol insurrection, Pendley recently implied in online chats that the ugly riot that killed five people hadn’t gone quite far enough. On MyMilitia.com, a rightwing website that ostensibly helps connect people to regional and local militias, Pendley used the screen name “Dionysus” to write a number of increasingly disturbing posts, the feds allege. In one, he wrote:
I feel like we all went into this with the intentions of getting very little done. How much did you expect to do when we all willingly go in unarmed. Let me tell you what I think (knowing going to touch some nerves.) For weeks I had prepared to show up at the capital [sic] as strapped as possible. The whole time I had high hopes that SOMEONE would understand.
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In another post, he let it be known that he was not your run-of-the-mill terrorist:
I’m not a dumbass suicide bomber but even if I only have a handful of fellow patriots standing beside me I will happily die a young man knowing that I didn’t allow the evils in this world to continue unjustly treating my fellow Americans so disrespectfully.
The posts aroused the suspicions of a “concerned citizen,” who later gave screenshots of his comments to the FBI.
Afterward, the feds ascertained Pendley’s email address and issued a search warrant for his Facebook while also subpoenaing the subscriber records connected to his Gmail account. From there, the government appears to have conducted surveillance of Pendley’s home in Wichita Falls, Texas, and also infiltrated his communications with an informant and, later, an undercover agent.
During a conversation with both the informant and agent, Pendley laid out his masterful plans and nuanced political philosophy like so:
The main objective is to f*** up the Amazon servers. There’s 24 buildings that all this data runs through in America. Three of them are right next to each other, and those 24 run 70 percent of the Internet. And the government, especially the higher ups, CIA, FBI, special sh**, they have like an 8 billion dollar a year contract with Amazon to run through their servers. So we f*** those servers, and it’s gonna piss all the oligarchy off.
In his apparent crusade to end the world wide web and thereby piss off the powers that be, Pendley has accrued a federal charge of maliciously attempting to destroy a building with an explosive. If convicted, he faces 20 years in prison.
Joe Biden’s administration made its first move on gun control on Thursday, issuing executive actions for the Department of Justice to develop rules regarding so-called “ghost guns” and attachments that turn high-powered pistols into rifles, as well as write model legislation to keep volatile individuals away from firearms.
Ghost guns, as they’ve become known, are firearms that buyers can assemble from kits containing individual gun components. Some companies have taken to selling packages containing every part of a firearm including an unfinished receiver, the federally regulated component of a gun, by mail order. Sometimes they don’t stamp the receivers with serial numbers or carry out background checks on buyers, operating under the theory that they aren’t subject to federal commercial firearm sale or distribution laws because the end user is technically the one who does the final work to assemble the gun. (This is questionable, as though the ATF has been tepid about regulating unfinished receivers sold by themselves, it raided a company named Polymer80 that packaged them with all the other parts of a gun.)
The end result is that criminals can quickly acquire kits that allow them to build untraceable firearms they might not have otherwise been able to obtain. When they’re used in crimes, it can be much harder for investigators to establish where the gun came from or determine who owned it.
The mishmash of gun laws across the 50 states means that in some, ghost gun kits are almost totally unregulated, while in others, certain parts such as unfinished receivers are subject to greater scrutiny. One of the actions signed by Biden on Thursday orders the DOJ to come up with “a proposed rule” to cut down on the “proliferation of these firearms,” though it leaves it open as to what that would actually entail. Per a White House fact sheet:
We are experiencing a growing problem: criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes and using these firearms to commit crimes. When these firearms turn up at crime scenes, they often cannot be traced by law enforcement due to the lack of a serial number. The Justice Department will issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of these firearms.
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Another of the actions orders the DOJ to come up with a sample “red flag” law which allows police or family members to petition for an emotionally disturbed individual to be temporarily separated from any firearms in their possession. The intent is to prevent firearms from being used in domestic violence or suicides, as well as to stop mass shooters from having the means to carry out an attack.
Developing model legislation “will make it easier for states that want to adopt red flag laws to do so,” according to the White House, though it doesn’t actually obligate states to do so. Biden also called for Congress to pass a federal red flag law that would apply nationwide.
Finally, a third action in the order will have the DOJ develop rules around when devices marketed as stabilizing braces effectively qualify a pistol as a short-barreled rifle (SBR). Stabilizing braces are devices resembling rifle stocks that can be attached to pistols or “AR pistols” (guns built on an AR-15 action or receiver that sometimes fire rifle rounds like 5.56 NATO, and which are supposedly designed to be fired with one hand, but usually not comfortably).
As the Trace explains, using this type of brace allows gun owners to convert an AR pistol into a device almost identical to an SBR, which is one of the most tightly regulated classes of firearms across the U.S. under the 1934 National Firearms Act because they are more compact and concealable than other full-length rifles. A mass shooter in Boulder, Colo. who killed 10 people on March 22, including a police officer, used such a device.
According to CNN, while Biden’s actions were hailed by West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin—a conservative Democrat who has postured himself as a sort of bipartisan power broker in a split Senate—Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said they were “not a substitute for meaningful legislation to address the gun violence epidemic.” In March, the House passed legislation that would expand background checks for all sales or transfers of firearms in the country, as well as close a loophole that allows some sales to go through and the buyer to pick up their gun before a background check is completed. Schumer is currently trying to usher the legislation through the Senate, but Democrats barely hold the chamber and getting 60 votes for it is an uphill struggle.
Congressional Republicans and the gun lobby have gone the other direction, opposing virtually all new federal gun control efforts and moving to slash what remains of gun laws in red states.
“There’s much more that Congress can do to help that effort, and they can do it right,” Biden told reporters. “They’ve offered plenty of thoughts and prayers, members of Congress. But they’ve passed not a single new federal law to reduce gun violence. Enough prayers; time for some action.”
Twitter launched a new emoji early Thursday that will appear anytime a user tweets the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance. The so-called Milk Tea Alliance refers to the pro-democracy movement in Asia that has been organized, at least in part, through actions online.
“To celebrate the first anniversary of the #MilkTeaAlliance we designed an emoji featuring 3 different types of milk tea colors from regions where the Alliance first formed online,” the social media company tweeted from its account dedicated to public policy.
The Milk Tea Alliance includes Hong Kong, where activists are fighting for the preservation of some autonomy from the Chinese Communist Party; Myanmar, where a military coup in February ousted the democratically elected government; Taiwan, a country whose sovereignty comes under constant threat from Beijing; and Thailand, where the monarchy is further restricting civil rights.
“We have seen more than 11 million Tweets featuring the #MilkTeaAlliance hashtag over the past year. Conversations peaked when it first appeared in April 2020, and again in February 2021 when the coup took place in Myanmar,” Twitter continued.
Security forces in Myanmar have killed over 600 civilians since the military coup earlier this year, including 11 people on Wednesday alone, according to the latest reports. At least 40 children have been killed by the junta, based on reporting by the New York Times, with one child as young as 10 slain by the brutal regime.
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In its announcement, Twitter also pointed to other emojis developed to support social change, including emojis for the hashtags #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. Halfway through its tweet thread about the new emoji, Twitter more explicitly called for internet access to be maintained in places experiencing civil unrest and brutal government crackdowns.
“During times of civil unrests or violent crackdowns, it is more important than ever for the public to have access to the #OpenInternet for real-time updates, credible information, and essential services. #KeepitOn,” Twitter tweeted.
One of the first things the military regime did after taking control of Myanmar in February was shut off Facebook in the country. And social media access has been highly disrupted ever since.
“Twitter recognizes that the #OpenInternet is increasingly under threat around the world. We strongly believe that having access to the free and #OpenInternet is an essential right and remain a staunch defender and advocate of free expression and condemn #InternetShutdowns,” Twitter continued.
Boston Robotic’s Spot quadruped robot seems to be hitting the battlefield with a group of French Army trainees in a series of drills and simulations that explore how these currently unarmed robots could work side-by-side with humans.
The soldiers-in-training used Spot for various reconnaissance tasks during a two-day trial of the technology.
As reported by news outlet Ouest-France, Spot and some robot friends are supplying intelligence and support for ground troops. The other robots included the French-made pack robot called the Nexter ULTRO and Shark Robotics Barakuda, a wheeled drone that carries a heavy blast shield to protect the students.
The tests, which took place in late March, were part of a project by the École Militaire Interarmes school at a French army camp Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan.
“Four students carried this applied research exercise project to three scenarios: an offensive action with the capture of a crossroads, a defensive action by day and then at night, and urban combat,” said Coëtquidan engineer Gérard du Boisboissel. Spot apparently ran out of battery during one of the exercises and had to be carried home.
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This is neither the first nor likely the last time soldiers use robots in battlefield training. Google acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013 and although there hasn’t been much information on the robots’ military usage, the company allegedly took military funding over the years. Further, robotic quadrupeds from China-based Unitree Robotics appear to be readying for battle, according to a recent report. The test in France, however, seems to be the first time Spot has been seen in a true military setting. Luckily, the French haven’t armed this little fellow yet although it’s not like people haven’t tried.
The main section of the USS Johnston—sunk 77 years ago during the Battle of Leyte Gulf—has been discovered off the Philippine coast. Resting over 4 miles beneath the surface, it’s now the deepest shipwreck to ever be investigated.
With its gun turrets and torpedo racks still intact, the USS Johnston (DD-557)—a 376-foot-long (115-meter) Fletcher-class destroyer—was discovered in the Philippine Trench near Samar Island at a depth of 21,180 feet (6,456 meters). The ship sank on October 25, 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Of the crew of 327, only 141 managed to survive.
The main section of the wreck, still resting upright, was discovered by Texas-based Caladan Oceanic, a private marine tech company. Caladan Oceanic surveyed the USS Johnston using the research vessel DSV Limiting Factor, according to its statement.
Fought from October 23 to 26, 1944, the Battle of Leyte Gulf was the largest naval battle of World War II and possibly of all time. The engagement, involving tens of thousands of naval personnel from the U.S., Australia, and Imperial Japan, was a last-ditch attempt by the Japanese to destroy the Allied presence in the central Philippines and inflict major damage to their naval forces. The pivotal battle—the first to feature organized kamikaze attacks—ended in an Allied victory, and the Japanese Imperial Navy was never able to recover and amass such a large fleet again during the war.
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The USS Johnston sank during an engagement off Samar Island while coming to the rescue of escort carrier Gambier Bay. The ship was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation (the highest award for a ship), and its commanding officer, Commander Ernest E. Evans, was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor, making him “the first Native American in the U.S. Navy and only one of two destroyer skippers in World War II to be so honored,” said Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, Director of Naval History and Curator for the Navy, in the Caladan Oceanic statement.
Two years ago, Vulcan Inc., led by the late Paul Allen, found evidence of the wreck nearby, including two destroyed turrets, parts of the propeller, a mast, machinery debris, and twisted sections of the hull. A track in the mud along the seafloor suggested the main part of the ship lay deeper still, but the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) used during this expedition was unable to go farther.
DSV Limiting Factor, with no tether to the surface and no operating depth limitation, was able to dive down to where the Vulcan ROV could not, resulting in the discovery of the main section. Victor Vescovo, a retired U.S. Navy Commander and a funder of the expedition, piloted two dives to the wreck, each lasting eight hours. The two missions “constituted the deepest wreck dives, manned or unmanned, in history,” according to the Caladan Oceanic statement.
The crew was able to spot number 557 on the hull, confirming the identity of the vessel. The ship’s bow, bridge, gun mounts, and torpedo launchers were also identified.
“We could see the extent of the wreckage and the severe damage inflicted during the intense battle on the surface. It took fire from the largest warship ever constructed—the Imperial Japanese Navy battleship Yamato, and ferociously fought back,” Parks Stephenson, a naval historian, said in the Caladan Oceanic press release.
The team was also able to create a map of the site and gather high-definition photographs without disturbing the shipwreck. Caladan Oceanic has been in contact with Navy Heritage and History Command about the wreck and is providing sonar data, imagery, and field notes to the U.S. Navy at no cost.
“The wreck of Johnston is a hallowed site,” said Cox. “I deeply appreciate that Commander Vescovo and his team exhibited such great care and respect during the survey of the ship, the last resting place of her valiant crew.”
The NHHC, working under the Sunken Military Craft Act, is authorized to protect and preserve American military shipwrecks, regardless of their location in the world. It’s important to remember that these sites, in addition to their historical importance, are solemn war graves.
Parler, the online safe haven for bigots and far-right extremists, claims it repeatedly alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about “specific threats of violence being planned at the Capitol” ahead of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection, the company’s lawyers said in a letter to lawmakers dated Thursday.
After seeing record growth in the latter half of 2020, Parler says it developed “formal lines of communication” with the FBI to facilitate cooperation and forward instances of “unlawful incitement and violent threats.” Parler claims that it referred violent content that had been posted on its platform to the FBI more than 50 times in the weeks leading up to the attack. Some of these flagged posts included specific threats to the Capitol, where five people later died during an attack by pro-Trump insurgents trying to prevent Congress from verifying President Joe Biden’s electoral college win.
“Far from being the far-right instigator and rogue company that Big Tech has portrayed Parler to be, the facts conclusively demonstrate that Parler has been a responsible and law-abiding company focused on ensuring that only free and lawful speech exists on its platform,” Parler’s lawyers wrote in a letter to New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
The posts Parler cites are crystal clear about their violent intentions, no two ways about it. One post Parler said it forwarded to the FBI called for an armed mob of 150,000 to head to D.C. to “react to the congressional events of January 6th.” Another post sought recruits for “lighting up Antifa in Wa[shington, D.C.] on the 6th” because the user wanted to “start eliminating people.” Another post claimed then-President Donald Trump “needs us to cause chaos to enact the #insurrectionact.” One user said the D.C. event planned for Jan. 6 “is not a rally and it’s no longer a protest.”
“This is the final stand where we are drawing the red line at Capitol Hill,” that user wrote, according to the letter. “I trust the American people will take back the USA with force and many are ready to die to take back #USA so remember this is not a party until they announce #Trump2020 a winner… And don’t be surprised if we take the #capital [sic] building.”
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The letter also includes redacted screenshots of emails Parler claims it sent to the FBI detailing these threats. While this news would be met with a positive response from any sane userbase, Parler was reportedly flooded with furious posts on Friday from users pissed off that Parler had ratted them out to federal authorities. Several vowed to jump ship and delete their accounts as soon as Trump rolls out his new social media platform.
Parler bills itself as a less censored alternative to mainstream social media sites and the last bastion of “free speech” on the internet. Shortly following the insurrection, Parler briefly went offline after Apple and Google kicked it off their respective app stores and Amazon Web Services severed ties with the platform. All three companies cited Parler’s lax content moderation in their decisions.
In an effort led by Maloney, the House Oversight Committee has requested the FBI investigate the company’s role in the attack as well as look into claims that Parler tried to bribe Trump into creating an account on the platform.
On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing with expert testimony on extremism in the U.S. military after dozens of veterans and at least two active duty troops were involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. Republicans on the panel seemed more interested in debunking the need for such a hearing at all, with one apparently hoodwinked by a military satire site.
The George Washington Program on Extremism has identified at least 33 of the Capitol insurrectionists as having a military background, including 31 veterans, one current member of the National Guard, and one Army reservist. The GOP has a long tradition of downplaying the terror threatposed by violent far-right extremists—perhaps out of wariness that the ideological trail could lead back to the party’s positions or rhetoric, or just as a reflexive response to any criticism of conservatives whatsoever. Per Politico, Republicans on the committee, including ranking member Mike Rogers, shot down the idea the armed forces aren’t doing enough to root out white supremacists, fascists, neo-Nazis, and other extremists.
“We lack any concrete evidence that violent extremism is as ripe in the military as some commentators claim,” Rogers said during the hearing, according to Politico. “While I agree with my colleagues that these numbers should be zero, this is far from the largest military justice issue facing our armed services.”
Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher said there was an “absence of data” and the subject of the hearing was “wild suppositions based on our ideological priors.” Georgia Rep. Austin Scott digressed toward the GOP obsession with so-called “cancel culture,” fretting that some may “lose their jobs and other things simply because of a Facebook post or some other post that was made when somebody was mad.” And Texas Rep. Pat Fallon challenged witness Lecia Brooks, the chief of staff for the Southern Poverty Law Center, with a completely falsified claim that the anti-racist organization had classified the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion as hate groups.
“Yes or no question, has your organization named the American Legion as a hate group?” Fallon asked Brooks.
“I don’t believe so,” she replied.
“I found it, and it did,” Fallon replied. “Were you aware they named the VFW as a hate group?”
“Not in our current census, no,” Brooks answered.
The SPLC maintains a database of racist and bigoted hate groups, which has sparked ire among Republicans who consider some of those groups to merely be cultural conservatives (uh huh). However, the SPLC has never classified the VFW or American Legion, nationwide groups of former service members that organize veterans’ support and other charitable work, as hate groups or anything else. Fallon instead appears to have gotten that idea from a site called Duffel Blog that runs military-themed joke articles, such as one claiming Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is rooting out “weak-ass posers who lack the extreme ideologies of Iran’s ‘totally radical’ warfighters” and another titled “Retired general on Pepsi board vows to win War on Thirst.”
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In 2017, Duffel Blog ran an obviously made-up article alleging that SPLC President J. Richard Cohen had declared the two veterans’ organizations to be hate groups because they hold “radical, extreme-right-wing ideals such as freedom, safety, and family values.” Said article also mentioned that Cohen wrote the declaration from a “corporate think-tank steam room, where Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Moscow) was seen relaxing in the nude.”
The byline on the article was “Dick Scuttlebutt,” who can be safely assumed is not a real person.
The post, which was re-upped on the Duffel Blog site on Wednesday, wasn’t exactly cutting-edge satire. But it was at least fairly obvious satire, particularly if one read past the headline. Duffel Blog is also well-known in the military community as sort of heavily armed counterpart to The Onion, so mistaking it for reality is an especially embarrassing blunder for a Republican on the Armed Services Committee. (Previous feathers in Duffel Blog’s hat have included punking Politifact into reporting the military had offered seven Guantanamo Bay detainees to anyone with information on the location of captive troop Bowe Bergdahl and Gizmodo into believing the Army was replacing bayonets with tomahawks.)
Extremism in the military, despite Republicans’ protestations to the contrary, is a very real and well-evidenced threat. Polling by the Military Times in 2020 of 1,630 active-duty subscribers found more than 36% of respondents, and more than half of minority service members, reported witnessing examples of white nationalism/supremacy or ideologically-motivated racism in the military. Those numbers had increased significantly in recent years. Internal Pentagon surveys from 2017 released earlier this year found nearly a third of Black service members had experienced racial discrimination, harassment, or both in the preceding 12 months. These issues appear to be exacerbated by a command structure disproportionately composed of white males.
In 2018, a Coast Guard officer with prior Marine Corps service was arrested for allegedly stockpiling weapons in a plot to kill Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats. In 2020, three veterans in Nevada were charged with felony conspiracy and terrorism over an alleged plot to attack Black Lives Matter protesters in Las Vegas, while a U.S. Army private was charged for providing information on his unit and its defenses to neo-Nazis he believed would coordinate an attack with al-Qaeda. The same year, Gizmodo reported on a former recruiter for terroristic neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen that had joined the Navy, resulting in his administrative separation.
The Pentagon has acknowledged far-right extremists with military experience are a “threat” due to their “proven ability to execute high-impact events,” and it’s begun implementing programs to screen recruits for any involvement. The Defense Department has also begun assembling databases of domestic extremist groups it believes are trying to recruit current or former troops. According to the Military Times, some troops haven’t been impressed by efforts so far, reporting recent stand-downs with officers on the topic of extremism weren’t being taken seriously by trainers or were cursory at best—though others said their commanders held substantive sessions.
“DoD officials repeatedly claim that the number is small, [yet] no one truly knows,” Audrey Kurth Cronin, director of American University’s Center for Security, Innovation, and New Technology, said during the hearing, according to Politico. “No serious plan can be built without defining the scope of the problem.”
Fallon’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment by Gizmodo on this story, but we’ll update this post if we hear back.
In a brand synergy no one saw coming, PopSockets is embracing the “tacticool” trend (military-themed gear the armed forces would never actually use) with a new SOG multi-tool PopGrip that finally adds some legitimate functionality to your mostly useless smartphone.
PopSockets’ new PopGrip SOG Multi-Tool Black turns your phone into an actually useful tool. Besides preventing your smartphone from succumbing to the effects of sweaty hands and the relentless pull of gravity, there’s a detachable multi-tool on there too that promises to help you MacGyver your way out of any emergency.
The tiny stainless steel pop-out tool, which could be easily mistaken for a military-grade bread bag clip, can be used as a miniature pry bar with little to no leverage, as a bottle opener, or as a screwdriver when paired with a 4mm or quarter-inch hex bit driver which, like all of us, your pockets are probably perpetually filled with.
You can grab the PopGrip SOG Multi-Tool Black on the PopSockets website for $25, but it’s probably a good idea to just stay in bed under the covers until it arrives and you’re finally properly equipped to deal with any emergency life could possibly throw at you.
Facebook finally banned the military in Myanmar, known as Tatmadaw, from the social media platform several weeks after the military staged a coup that toppled the democratically elected government. The ban on the country’s military includes Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.
“Events since the February 1 coup, including deadly violence, have precipitated a need for this ban. We believe the risks of allowing the Tatmadaw on Facebook and Instagram are too great,” Rafael Frankel, director of policy for the Asia-Pacific region, said in a statement posted online late Wednesday.
“We’re also prohibiting Tatmadaw-linked commercial entities from advertising on the platform,” Frankel continued. “We are using the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s 2019 report, on the economic interests of the Tatmadaw, as the basis to guide these efforts, along with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. These bans will remain in effect indefinitely.”
Facebook has already taken down military-connected pages like Tatmadaw True News Information Team, MRTV, and MRTV Live since the coup earlier this month.
Facebook’s statement doesn’t mention the 20-year-old protester, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who was shot in the head during an anti-coup protest in Myanmar and later died in the hospital, but that event has attracted condemnation from around the world.
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The Myanmar government is currently being run by the military, but Facebook made sure to stress that certain parts of government that are vital to public health and wellbeing, such as the Ministry of Health and Sport and the Ministry of Education, will not be affected by the new ban.
Facebook is tremendously popular in Myanmar and one of the first things the military government did after taking power was to ban the social media platform. Service has been highly restricted ever since, with Netblocks reporting that Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are all currently down.
Facebook came under heavy criticism after the platform was used to incite genocide in Myanmar in 2018 but the company insisted on Wednesday that it held the military to the same standards as everyone else. The new statement lists four factors that caused Facebook to make this decision:
The Tatmadaw’s history of exceptionally severe human rights abuses and the clear risk of future military-initiated violence in Myanmar, where the military is operating unchecked and with wide-ranging powers.
The Tatmadaw’s history of on-platform content and behavior violations that led to us repeatedly enforcing our policies to protect our community.
Ongoing violations by the military and military-linked accounts and Pages since the February 1 coup, including efforts to reconstitute networks of Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior that we previously removed, and content that violates our violence and incitement and coordinating harm policies, which we removed.
The coup greatly increases the danger posed by the behaviors above, and the likelihood that online threats could lead to offline harm.
The difficult part to understand, of course, is why points one, two, and four in the list weren’t enough for a ban on February 1 or earlier. The word “history” is used in points one and two, an implicit acknowledgement that none of this is new.
Optimists are fond of saying “better late than never,” but that’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re talking about things like genocide and military coups. But, better late than never, Facebook.
The city of Los Angeles has filed a lawsuit in California state court against Polymer80, a company it says has flooded the country with untraceable firearms by shipping customers all the components necessary to build a gun in minutes.
In a 29-page complaint, LA officials alleged that Polymer80 sold kits and components used to assemble untraceable firearms lacking serial numbers or other identification called “ghost guns,” a practice they said was “in violation of federal and state law.” The suit names Polymer80 as “by far” the largest seller of ghost guns, with its components used in 1,278 of 1,475 untraceable firearms seized by the Bureau of Tobacco, Alcohol, and Firearms in 2019.
Polymer80 shipping records referred to in court documents show that the company sent 51,800 packages in the U.S. between July 2019 and October 10, 2020, including 1,490 “Buy Build Shoot” kits. City officials alleged that at least 202 of those were shipped to California and that such kits had arrived at the addresses of known felons either via Polymer80 or its resellers, and that the company lies to customers that their kits do not qualify as firearms and thus aren’t subject to federal gun laws.
According to the Los Angeles Times , LAPD chief Michel Moore said at a press conference on Wednesday that the city had seized over 700 guns made with Polymer80 parts last year alone, including 300 in South LA, which is currently experiencing a surge in homicides and shootings.
“These are the weapons being used on other Angelenos,” Moore told reporters, adding the LAPD believed ghost guns were involved in at least 17 attempted or actual homicides in the city in 2020. “They are being used by individuals with no right or ability to legally possess a firearm.”
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The ATF had previously allowed Polymer80 to sell unfinished receivers, but according to the Wall Street Journal, says it never approved the Buy Build Shoot kits, which contain all the parts necessary to build a pistol. The agency raided the firm’s facilities in Nevada in December 2020, writing in a search warrant that its investigators had determined kits met the federal legal definition of a firearm. The warrant said the company illegally manufactured and distributed guns, dodged taxes, shipped guns across state lines, and failed to carry out mandatory steps such as background checks on customers.
According to the LA lawsuit, in lieu of carrying out background checks, Polymer80 allowed customers to simply click a box affirming they weren’t a felon.
“Untraceable ghost guns are now the emerging guns of choice across the nation,” LA City Attorney Mike Feuer told reporters at the conference, the Times reported. “Nobody who could buy a serialized gun and pass a background check would ever need a ghost gun. Yet we allege Polymer80 has made it easy for anyone, including felons, to buy and build weapons that pose a major public safety threat.”
Police across the country in Baltimore, Maryland have also said untraceable firearms assembled from gun kits are becoming a problem, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Baltimore Police Lieutenant Colonel John Herzog told legislators on Wednesday that Baltimore officers had seized 126 guns lacking traceable serial numbers in 2020, up from 29 the prior year. The Maryland General Assembly is debating a bill that would prohibit owners and manufacturers from selling, lending, or leasing untraceable firearms or the kits to build them without verifying the seller has a valid state police handgun license, as well as ban ownership of guns or frames unless they are stamped with serial numbers and other information.