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‘Letter to America’: TikTok breaks silence on viral Osama bin Laden videos

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  • TikTok to prohibit videos promoting OBL’s ‘Letter to America’.
  • US lawmakers demand ban on Chinese app.
  • The Guardian removes article from website.

TikTok will prohibit content that promotes Osama bin Laden’s 2002 letter detailing the former al Qaeda leader’s justifications for attacks against Americans, the short-form video app said on Thursday.

Discussions of the 20-year-old letter have spread on the platform this week in the context of debate over the Israel-Hamas war, with some users in the West praising its contents.

The letter, which was written after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people, criticised US support for Israel, accused Americans of financing “oppression” of Palestinians, and contained antisemitic comments.

Bin Laden was killed in 2011 in Pakistan by a US military special operations unit.

“Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” TikTok said in a statement, adding that reports that it was “trending” on the platform were inaccurate.

A search for “Letter to America” on TikTok surfaced no results on Thursday, with a notice that said the phrase may be associated with “content that violates our guidelines.”

Some US lawmakers have called for a ban of the Chinese-owned app and had renewed their criticisms before Thursday’s announcement.

Democratic Representative Josh Gottheimer said on Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter, that TikTok was “pushing pro-terrorist propaganda to influence Americans.”

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement on Thursday: “There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in American history.”

On Wednesday, The Guardian removed the full text of bin Laden’s letter, which it had published in 2002. The news outlet said on its website that the letter was being shared on social media without full context, and that it would instead direct readers to the news article that originally reported on the letter.

TikTok said previously its recommendation algorithm does not push certain content to users, and that the company has removed hundreds of thousands of videos since Oct. 7 for violating policies against misinformation and promotion of violence.

It is difficult to gain a full understanding of how prevalent certain content is on TikTok, partly because external researchers have limited access to its data, said Renee DiResta, a research manager at Stanford Internet Observatory. 

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Users of WhatsApp will soon be able to lock chats on connected devices.

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Additionally, linked devices will now have access to the conversation lock feature. Users of WhatsApp will also soon have the option to tag their contacts in status updates.

Notably, WhatsApp users can link their devices to log in to the same account on different devices. However, several functions, such as conversation locks and status updates, are not accessible on the secondary devices.

Even if they are locked on the main conversations, anybody can still access your private chats on a connected device. WhatsApp is currently working on adding Chat Lock capability to connected devices in order to address this.

The chat lock feature on WhatsApp will soon be available on connected devices.

Prior to this, it was claimed that WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta, was developing new personalisation options for an iOS beta.

According to WABetaInfo, an update tracker portal for the instant messaging network, WhatsApp for iOS users will soon get the option to modify both the conversation bubble’s colour and the app’s primary colour scheme.

A feature that let beta testers choose the primary colour scheme of the WhatsApp iOS app from a selection of five colours was first tested back in January.

The instant messaging app is testing a feature that lets users change the colour of chat bubbles within conversations, though, in a new beta edition.

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Moon train operations are planned by NASA.

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The goal is to construct the first lunar train system, which will enable safe, independent, and effective cargo transportation on the moon, according to robotics specialist Ethan Schaler of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

He went on, “The day-to-day functioning of a sustainable lunar base in the 2030s will depend heavily on a robust, long-lasting robotic transport system.”

The Flexible Levitation on a Track, or FLOAT, is the name of the proposed lunar rail system. According to NASA, the establishment of a railway system on the moon is “critical to the daily operations.”

According to the space agency, the primary objective of FLOAT is to offer transportation services in regions of the moon where astronauts are engaged in activities. To do this, cargoes of lunar soil and other materials will need to be transported to various regions of the moon.

Each robot will be able to transport cargo of various sizes and shapes at a pace of roughly 1 mph (1.61 km/h), according to Dr. Schaler.

Notably, NASA also declared new initiatives last month to create and test new vehicle models intended for moon exploration.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission ‘ICUBE-Q’ reaches the moon orbit.

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Pakistan’s lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) entered orbit around the moon on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s historic lunar mission (ICUBE-Q) launched from Hainan, China, on Friday aboard China’s Chang’E6 spacecraft.

According to the IST, the satellite ICUBE-Q was planned and developed in partnership with China’s Shanghai University SJTU and Pakistan’s national space agency SUPARCO.

The ICUBE-Q orbiter is equipped with two optical cameras to image the lunar surface. ICUBE-Q has now been integrated into the Chang’e6 mission after successfully qualifying and testing it.

Chang’e6 is the sixth lunar exploration mission launched by China.

The launch event was streamed live on the IST website and social media platforms. Chang’6, China’s Lunar Mission, will land on the Moon’s far side to collect surface samples before returning to Earth for further research.

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