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Facebook says 10 million US users saw Russia-linked ads

Some 10 million people in the United States saw politically divisive ads on Facebook that the company said were purchased in Russia in the months before and after last year’s US presidential election, Facebook said on Monday.

Facebook, which had not previously given such an estimate, said in a statement that it used modelling to estimate how many people saw at least one of the 3,000 ads. It also said that 44 percent of the ads were seen before the November 2016 election and 56 percent were seen afterward.

The ads have sparked anger towards Facebook and, within the United States, towards Russia since the world’s largest social network disclosed their existence last month. Moscow has denied involvement with the ads. Facebook has faced calls for increased US regulation from US authorities. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has outlined steps that the company plans to take to deter governments from abusing the social media network.


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US suspends premium H1B visas from April

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The US government has temporarily suspended issuing premium H1B visas with effect from April 3, 2017. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notification, however, said the pending applications for premium H1B visas and the ones filed before April 3 will be processed. This suspension may last up to 6 months.

“The temporary suspension applies to all H1B petitions filed on or after April 3, 2017. Since FY18 cap-subject H1B petitions cannot be filed before April 3, 2017, this suspension will apply to all petitions filed for the FY18 H-1B regular cap and master’s advanced degree cap exemption,” noted in the USCIS ruling.

 

Indian IT services firms send loads of their employees to work on projects on-site with H1B visa and a large chunk of those applications are applied in the premium category because of shortage of time for certain works.

While US President Trump had called for tougher immigration laws for technology companies, and had threatened to impose taxes on companies that moved work offshore, in his first State of the Union address to a joint session of the US Congress last week, he proposed for having a merit-based immigration system like Canada, Australia and other nations.

Even though all non-immigrant (H1B) premium visa applications, the US government will allow expedition of regular application on condition of emergency situations, humanitarian reasons or severe financial loss to a company or person.

“While premium processing is suspended, petitioners may submit a request to expedite an H-1B petition if they meet the criteria on the Expedite Criteria webpage. It is the petitioner’s responsibility to demonstrate that they meet at least one of the expedite criteria, and we encourage petitioners to submit documentary evidence to support their expedite request,” noted USCIS.