Prime Minister’s party only just approves him in confidence vote
Conservative Party rebellion means he has much work to do
Johnson looking vulnerable to further threats
LONDON, June 6 (Reuters) – For a man who long set his sights on becoming Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson came dangerously close on Monday to being ousted by lawmakers tired of defending him and faces a battle to win back the confidence of his party and country.
He survives, just, for now. But he is deeply wounded and even loyal lawmakers who backed him in a confidence vote say he must now change – return to the traditional ideals of the governing Conservative Party, foster unity and lead.
His inbox is daunting. British households face the biggest cost-of-living squeeze since the 1950s, with food and fuel prices rising while wages lag, and travellers are experiencing transport chaos at airports caused by staffing shortages.
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The master of political comebacks might struggle this time.
Ed Costelloe, chair of the group Conservative Grassroots who backed Johnson in 2019, said he had got many things right, but had been brought down by the so-called “partygate” scandal over his breaches of COVID-19 lockdown rules. read more
“Once you face a vote of confidence somehow you are doomed. After that, the vultures start gathering. I think he is in real, real trouble,” he told Reuters.
Johnson won the vote 211 to 148, a worse showing than when lawmakers tried to oust his predecessor Theresa May, who won her vote but then resigned six months later. read more
The confidence vote was a brutal wake up call for a leader whose mandate once seemed unassailable after his promise to “get Brexit done” in 2019 won over voters in parts of the country the Conservatives had never been able to capture and the party’s biggest majority in over three decades.
Since then, the list of reasons lawmakers gave for wanting Johnson gone were as varied as they are many, cutting across usual factional lines and making the rebels somewhat uneasy bedfellows.
As reasons why the 57-year-old leader should resign, lawmakers cite anything from “partygate”, threats to breaking international law, the defence of rule-breakers at the heart of power, multiple policy U-turns, an initial slow response to COVID-19 to a general lack of respect for his office.
It was perhaps the lack of cohesion in Monday’s rebellion that helped save him. But it has left him weakened.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits St Mary Cray Primary Academy School to see how they are delivering tutoring to help children catch up following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Orpington, Britain May 23, 2022. Stefan Rousseau/Pool via REUTERS
Political survival is something Johnson, known widely as Boris, has made a career of, with former prime minister David Cameron likening him to a “greased piglet” who is hard to catch.
“My friends, as I have discovered myself, there are no disasters, only opportunities. And indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters,” Johnson wrote in a newspaper column in 2004.
In a speech to the party lawmakers just hours before the vote, Johnson remained adamant he could win again.
“If you don’t believe that we can come back from our current position and win again then you haven’t looked at my own record or the record of this party,” he said, according to a senior party source in the meeting.
Some have warned of underestimating Johnson, or Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, saying his ruffled appearance and distinctive mop of blond hair masks the discipline and ruthlessness he needed to get to this point.
But after years of weathering sex scandals, gaffes and missteps as London mayor, foreign secretary and now prime minister, Johnson, a relative loner in the Conservative party, might be running out of road.
For some in the party the rot set in when he defended his former adviser Dominic Cummings when he broke COVID-19 rules early in the pandemic, enraging the country.
The following year he initially defended a Conservative lawmaker who had been found guilty of breaching lobbying rules and a U-turn on extending free school meals to children from low-income families did little to improve the picture.
The final straw was months of a steady drip of stories about lockdown-breaking parties in Johnson’s Downing Street culminating in a report last month detailing fights and alcohol-induced vomit in the early house at times when the rest of the country was obeying strict COVID-19 rules.
One former Conservative lawmaker was so incensed even before the report, they “crossed the floor” or went to join the main opposition Labour Party.
“Prior to leaving … it was just embarrassing being asked to defend the indefensible for a PM who clearly has no morals,” Christian Wakeford, who joined Labour in January, told Reuters.
Conservative Grassroots chair Costelloe said the decision could be fatal in the long-term: “I am firmly of the view if he is still there in two years then we will lose the next election.”
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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Grant McCool
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Prince Andrew, Duke of York, stands outside the Westminster Abbey after a service of thanksgiving for late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in London, Britain, March 29, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Nicholson/File Photo
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LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) – The northern English city of York on Wednesday stripped Britain’s Prince Andrew, who is the Duke of York, of the freedom of the city.
Local councillors voted en masse to rescind the honour bestowed on Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s second son, in 1987.
Andrew, who has fallen from grace as a member of Britain’s royal family, in February settled a U.S. lawsuit by Virginia Giuffre accusing him of sexually abusing her when she was a teenager, potentially sparing him further embarrassment.
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“The honorary freedom of our great city is bestowed on those who represent the very best of York. It’s inappropriate for Prince Andrew to retain any connection to our city,” said Darryl Smalley, a York city councillor.
Andrew, 62, did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle the civil lawsuit. He has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.
Giuffre’s case had focused on Andrew’s friendship with the late Jeffrey Epstein, a financier and sex offender who Giuffre said had also sexually abused her. Epstein killed himself in a Manhattan jail in 2019 while awaiting trial.
Andrew has denied accusations that he forced Giuffre, who now lives in Australia, to have sex when aged 17 more than two decades ago at the London home of Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell, at Epstein’s mansion in Manhattan and Epstein’s private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The royal family in January removed Andrew’s military titles and royal patronages and said he would no longer be known as “His Royal Highness”.
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Reporting by Andy Bruce
Editing by Gareth Jones
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
In the tense weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian officials denied that it planned anything of the sort, denouncing the United States and its NATO allies for stoking panic and anti-Russian hatred. When it did invade, the officials denied it was at war.
Since then, the Kremlin has cycled through a torrent of lies to explain why it had to wage a “special military operation” against a sovereign neighbor. Drug-addled neo-Nazis. Genocide. American biological weapons factories. Birds and reptiles trained to carry pathogens into Russia. Ukrainian forces bombing their own cities, including theaters sheltering children.
Disinformation in wartime is as old as war itself, but today war unfolds in the age of social media and digital diplomacy. That has given Russia — and its allies in China and elsewhere — powerful means to prop up the claim that the invasion is justified, exploiting disinformation to rally its citizens at home and to discredit its enemies abroad. Truth has simply become another front in Russia’s war.
Using a barrage of increasingly outlandish falsehoods, President Vladimir V. Putin has created an alternative reality, one in which Russia is at war not with Ukraine but with a larger, more pernicious enemy in the West. Even since the war began, the lies have gotten more and more bizarre, transforming from claims that “true sovereignty” for Ukraine was possible only under Russia, made before the attacks, to those about migratory birds carrying bioweapons.
reaching audiences that were once harder to reach.
“Previously, if you were sitting in Moscow and you wanted to reach audiences sitting in, say, Idaho, you would have to work really hard doing that,” said Elise Thomas, a researcher in Australia for the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, referring to disinformation campaigns dating to the Soviet Union. “It would take you time to set up the systems, whereas now you can do it with the press of a button.”
The power of Russia’s claim that the invasion is justified comes not from the veracity of any individual falsehood meant to support it but from the broader argument. Individual lies about bioweapons labs or crisis actors are advanced by Russia as swiftly as they are debunked, with little consistency or logic between them. But supporters stubbornly cling to the overarching belief that something is wrong in Ukraine and Russia will fix it. Those connections prove harder to shake, even as new evidence is introduced.
That mythology, and its resilience in the face of fact-checking and criticism, reflects “the ability of autocrats and malign actors to completely brainwash us to the point where we don’t see what’s in front of us,” said Laura Thornton, the director and senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.
The Kremlin’s narratives today feed on pre-existing views of the war’s root causes, which Mr. Putin has nurtured for years — and restated in increasingly strident language last week.
President Volodymyr Zelensky himself, whose video messages to Ukrainians and the world have combined bravery with the stage presence of the television performer he once was.
Russia, though, has more tools and reach, and it has the upper hand with weaponry. The strategy has been to overwhelm the information space, especially at home, which “is really where their focus is,” said Peter Pomerantsev, a scholar at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University who has written extensively about Russian propaganda.
Russia’s propaganda machine plays into suspicion of the West and NATO, which have been vilified on state television for years, deeply embedding distrust in Russian society. State media has also more recently echoed beliefs advanced by the QAnon movement, which ascribes the world’s problems largely to global elites and sex traffickers.
Those beliefs make people feel “scared and uncertain and alienated,” said Sophia Moskalenko, a social psychologist at Georgia State University. “As a result of manipulating their emotions, they will be more likely to embrace conspiracy theories.”
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Things to Know
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Signs of a stalemate take shape. With Russia’s advance on Ukraine’s major cities stalled and satellite imagery showing soldiers digging into defensive positions around Kyiv, a consensus is emerging in the West that the war has reached a bloody stalemate.
A Ukrainian base is hit. A missile attack on barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv killed more than 40 marines, a Ukrainian official said. That would make it one of the single deadliest attacks on Ukrainian forces since the start of the war, and the death toll could be much higher than reported.
Chernobyl workers are relieved. After more than three weeks without being able to leave the nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine, 64 workers were able to be rotated out, officials said. Staff at the plant have been trapped since Feb. 23, a day before Russian forces took control of the site.
Mr. Putin’s public remarks, which dominate state media, have become increasingly strident. He has warned that nationalist sentiment in Ukraine is a threat to Russia itself, as is NATO expansion.
swiftly to silence dissenting points of view that could cut through the fog of war and discourage the Russian population.
For now, the campaign appears to have rallied public opinion behind Mr. Putin, according to most surveys in Russia, though not as high as might be expected for a country at war.
“My impression is that many people in Russia are buying the government’s narrative,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “They have doctored images on state-controlled media. Private media don’t cover the war, fearing 15 years in prison. Same goes for people on the social media. Russia has lost information warfare globally, but the regime is quite successful at home.”
appeared in the information fortress the Kremlin is building.
A week after the invasion began, when it was already clear the war was going badly for Russian troops, Mr. Putin rushed to enact a law that punishes “fake news” with up to 15 years in prison. Media regulators warned broadcasters not to refer to the war as a war. They also forced off the air two flagships of independent media — Ekho Moskvy, a liberal radio station, and Dozhd, a television station — that gave voice to the Kremlin’s opponents.
Access to Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and most recently Instagram has also been severed inside Russia — all platforms the country’s diplomats have continued to use outside to misinform. Once spread, disinformation can be tenacious, even in places with a free press and open debate, like the United States, where polls suggest that more than 40 percent of the population believes the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald J. Trump.
“Why are people so surprised that this kind of widespread disinformation can be so effective in Russia when it was so effective here?” Ms. Thornton of the German Marshall Fund said.
As the war in Ukraine drags on, however, casualties are mounting, confronting families in Russia with the loss of fathers and sons. That could test how persuasive the Kremlin’s information campaign truly is.
The Soviet Union sought to keep a similar veil of silence around its decade-long quagmire in Afghanistan in the 1980s, but the truth seeped into public consciousness anyway, eroding the foundation of the entire system. Two years after the last troops pulled out in 1989, the Soviet Union itself collapsed.
NEW YORK, Jan 26 (Reuters) – Britain’s Prince Andrew on Wednesday asked for a U.S. jury trial as he again denied Virginia Giuffre’s accusations that he sexually abused her more than two decades ago when she was 17.
Giuffre, 38, sued the Duke of York last August, alleging he battered her while the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was trafficking her.
In a filing with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Andrew, 61, admitted to meeting Epstein in or around 1999, but denied Giuffre’s claim that he “committed sexual assault and battery” upon her.
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David Boies, a lawyer for Giuffre, said in a statement that Andrew was trying to “blame the victim.”
“We look forward to confronting Prince Andrew with his denials and attempts to blame Ms. Giuffre for her own abuse,” Boies said.
Andrew’s ties to Epstein, who killed himself in a Manhattan jail cell in 2019 while awaiting trial on sex abuse charges, have undermined his reputation with the public and standing in Britain’s Royal Family.
Earlier this month, the family removed Andrew’s military links and military patronages, and said the second son of Queen Elizabeth would no longer be known as “His Royal Highness.” read more
Lawyer David Boies arrives with his client Virginia Giuffre for hearing in the criminal case against Jeffrey Epstein, who died in what a New York City medical examiner ruled a suicide, at federal court in New York, U.S., August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo
Andrew’s filing was an “answer,” a common document in U.S. litigation in which defendants deny or say they lack enough information to comment on plaintiffs’ substantive accusations.
The prince’s lawyers had previously called Giuffre’s lawsuit “baseless” and accused her of seeking another payday.
Giuffre received $500,000 in a 2009 civil settlement with Epstein.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan has said a trial could begin between September and December 2022.
If Giuffre won at trial, Andrew could owe her damages. She has asked for an unspecified amount.
Andrew has not been criminally charged, and no criminal charges can be brought in Giuffre’s civil lawsuit. read more
Kaplan this month denied Andrew’s earlier request to dismiss Giuffre’s lawsuit, which the prince said he was shielded from under the 2009 Epstein settlement. read more
Andrew renewed that argument in Wednesday’s filing, and also said Giuffre lacks legal standing to sue because she lives in Australia.
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Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Howard Goller
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
CAIRO — The song starts out like standard fare for Egyptian pop music: A secret infatuation between two young neighbors who, unable to marry, sneak flirtatious glances at each other and commit their hearts in a bittersweet dance of longing and waiting.
But then the lyrics take a radical turn.
“If you leave me,” blasts/explodes/shouts the singer, Hassan Shakosh, “I’ll be lost and gone, drinking alcohol and smoking hash.”
The song, “The Neighbors’ Daughter,” has become a giant hit, garnering more than a half- billion views of its video on YouTube alone and catapulting Mr. Shakosh to stardom. But the explicit reference to drugs and booze, culturally prohibited substances in Egypt, has made the song, released in 2019, a lightning rod in a culture war over what is an acceptable face and subject matter for popular music and who gets to decide.
The battle, which pits Egypt’s cultural establishment against a renegade musical genre embraced by millions of young Egyptians, has heated up recently after the organization that licenses musicians barred at least 19 young artists from singing and performing in Egypt.
arrested teenage girls who posted videos of themselves dancing, which is a crime there. And in 2020, Northwestern University in Qatar called off a concert by a Lebanese indie rock band whose lead singer is openly gay.
But online streaming and social media platforms have poked giant holes in that effort, allowing artists to bypass state-sanctioned media, like television and record companies, and reach a generation of new fans hungry for what they see as more authentic and relevant content.
Iran’s draconian restrictions on unacceptable music have produced a flourishing underground rock and hip-hop scene. The question facing Egypt is who now has the power to regulate matters of taste — the 12 men and one woman who run the syndicate, or the millions of fans who have been streaming and downloading mahraganat.
Mahraganat first rose out of the dense, rowdy working-class neighborhoods of Cairo more than a decade ago and is still generally made in low-tech home studios, often with no more equipment than a cheap microphone and pirated software.
DJ Saso, the 27-year-old producer of Mr. Shakosh’s blockbuster hit.
Many lawyers and experts say the syndicate has no legal right to ban artists, insisting that Egypt’s Constitution explicitly protects creative liberty. But these arguments seem academic in the authoritarian state of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, which has stifled freedom of speech, tightened control on the media and passed laws to help monitor and criminalize immoral behavior on the internet.
The syndicate’s executive members have adamantly defended their move, arguing that a key part of their job is to safeguard the profession against inferior work that they say is made by uncultured impostors who tarnish the image of the country.
He is one of the Arab world’s leading performers. Since he was barred, he has performed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iraq, and “The Neighbors’ Daughter” has become one of the biggest Arabic hits to date.
“It’s not the same old love songs,” said Yasmine el-Assal, a 41-year-old bank executive, after attending one of Mr. Shakosh’s concerts before the ban. “His stage presence, the music, the vibe, it’s fresh and it’s all about having fun.”
Mr. Shakosh would not agree to be interviewed, preferring to keep a low profile, his manager said, rather than to appear to publicly challenge the authorities. The ban has been harder on other artists, many of whom do not have the wherewithal or the international profile to tour abroad.
They have mostly kept quiet, refusing to make statements that they fear could ruffle more feathers.
Despite the squeeze, however, many are confident that their music falls beyond the grip of any single authority or government.
Kareem Gaber, a 23-year-old experimental music producer known by the stage name El Waili, is still burning tracks, sitting in his bedroom with a twin mattress on the floor, bare walls and his instrument, a personal computer with $100 MIDI keyboard.
“Mahraganat taught us that you can do something new,” he said, “and it will be heard.”
SEOUL — They have shown up whenever women rallied against sexual violence and gender biases in South Korea. Dozens of young men, mostly dressed in black, taunted the protesters, squealing and chanting, “Thud! Thud!” to imitate the noise they said the “ugly feminist pigs” made when they walked.
“Out with man haters!” they shouted. “Feminism is a mental illness!”
On the streets, such rallies would be easy to dismiss as the extreme rhetoric of a fringe group. But the anti-feminist sentiments are being amplified online, finding a vast audience that is increasingly imposing its agenda on South Korean society and politics.
These male activists have targeted anything that smacks of feminism, forcing a university to cancel a lecture by a woman they accused of spreading misandry. They have vilified prominent women, criticizing An San, a three-time gold medalist in the Tokyo Olympics, for her short haircut.
They have threatened businesses with boycotts, prompting companies to pull advertisements with the image of pinching fingers they said ridiculed the size of male genitalia. And they have taken aim at the government for promoting a feminist agenda, eliciting promises from rival presidential candidates to reform the country’s 20-year-old Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
runaway housing prices, a lack of jobs and a widening income gap.
YouTube channel with 450,000 subscribers. To its members, feminists equal man haters.
Its motto once read, “Till the day all feminists are exterminated!”
The backlash against feminism in South Korea may seem bewildering.
the highest gender wage gap among the wealthy countries. Less than one-fifth of its national lawmakers are women. Women make up only 5.2 percent of the board members of publicly listed businesses, compared with 28 percent in the United States.
And yet, most young men in the country argue that it is men, not women, in South Korea who feel threatened and marginalized. Among South Korean men in their 20s, nearly 79 percent said they were victims of serious gender discrimination, according to a poll in May.
“There is a culture of misogyny in male-dominant online communities, depicting feminists as radical misandrists and spreading fear of feminists,” said Kim Ju-hee, 26, a nurse who has organized protests denouncing anti-feminists.
The wave of anti-feminism in South Korea shares many of the incendiary taglines with right-wing populist movements in the West that peddle such messages. Women who argue for abortion rights are labeled “destroyers of family.” Feminists are not champions of gender equality, but “female supremacists.”
In South Korea, “women” and “feminists” are two of the most common targets of online hate speech, according to the country’s National Human Rights Commission.
abortions were common.
mandatory military service. But many women drop out of the work force after giving birth, and much of the domestic duties fall to them.
“What more do you want? We gave you your own space in the subway, bus, parking lot,” the male rapper San E writes in his 2018 song “Feminist,” which has a cult following among young anti-feminists. “Oh girls don’t need a prince! Then pay half for the house when we marry.”
The gender wars have infused the South Korean presidential race, largely seen as a contest for young voters. With the virulent anti-feminist voice surging, no major candidate is speaking out for women’s rights, once such a popular cause that President Moon Jae-in called himself a “feminist” when he campaigned about five years ago.
It is hard to tell how many young men support the kind of extremely provocative and often theatrical activism championed by groups like Man on Solidarity. Its firebrand leader, Mr. Bae, showed up at a recent feminist rally dressed as the Joker from “Batman” comics and toting a toy water gun. He followed female protesters around, pretending to, as he put it, “kill flies.”
Tens of thousands of fans have watched his stunts livestreamed online, sending in cash donations. During one online talk-fest in August, Mr. Bae raised nine million won ($7,580) in three minutes.
legalize abortion and started one of the most powerful #MeToo campaigns in Asia.
Lee Hyo-lin, 29, said that “feminist” has become such a dirty word that women who wear their hair short or carry a novel by a feminist writer risk ostracism. When she was a member of a K-pop group, she said that male colleagues routinely commented on her body, jeering that she “gave up being a woman” when she gained weight.
“The #MeToo problem is part of being a woman in South Korea,” she said. “Now we want to speak out, but they want us to shut up. It’s so frustrating.”
On the other side of the culture war are young men with a litany of grievances — concerns that are endlessly regurgitated by male-dominated forums. They have fixated, in particular, on limited cases of false accusations, as a way to give credence to a broader anti-feminist agenda.
Son Sol-bin, a used-furniture seller, was 29 when his former girlfriend accused him of rape and kidnapping in 2018. Online trolls called for his castration, he said. His mother found closed-circuit TV footage proving the accusations never took place.
“The feminist influence has left the system so biased against men that the police took a woman’s testimony and a mere drop of her tears as enough evidence to land an innocent man in jail,” said Mr. Son, who spent eight months in jail before he was cleared. “I think the country has gone crazy.”
As Mr. Son fought back tears during a recent anti-feminist rally, other young men chanted: “Be strong! We are with you!”
Before Zhang Gaoli was engulfed in accusations that he had sexually assaulted a tennis champion, he seemed to embody the qualities that the Chinese Communist Party prizes in officials: austere, disciplined, and impeccably loyal to the leader of the day.
He had climbed steadily from running an oil refinery to a succession of leadership posts along China’s fast-growing coast, avoiding the scandals and controversy that felled other, flashily ambitious politicians. He became known, if for anything, for his monotone impersonality. On entering China’s top leadership, he invited people to search for anything amiss in his behavior.
“Stern, low-key, taciturn,” summed up one of the few profiles of him in the Chinese media. His interests, Xinhua news agency said, included books, chess and tennis.
Now the allegation from Peng Shuai, the professional tennis player, has cast Mr. Zhang’s private life under a blaze of international attention, making him a symbol of a political system that prizes secrecy and control over open accountability. The allegation raises questions about how far Chinese officials carry their declared ideals of clean-living integrity into their heavily guarded homes.
entrusted with overseeing China’s initial preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which is now being overshadowed by the furor.
About three years ago, after stepping down, Mr. Zhang called the head of a tennis academy to summon Ms. Peng to play tennis with him at a party-owned hotel in Beijing, called the Kangming, that plays host to retired officials, according to her post.
Later that day, she said, he forced her to have sex in his home. They resumed a relationship, but he insisted it remain furtive. She had to switch cars to be able to enter the government compound where he lives in Beijing, she wrote. He warned her to tell no one, not even her mother.
With rarely a word or hair out of place, Mr. Zhang has seemed an unlikely protagonist for a scandal that has rippled around the world. He belongs to a generation of officials who rose after the upheavals of the Cultural Revolution, taking on the self-effacing ethos of collective leadership under Hu Jintao, who preceded the country’s current leader, Xi Jinping.
faltered under debt and inflated expectations, but Mr. Zhang moved upward into the central leadership in 2012. He became executive vice premier: in effect, China’s deputy prime minister.
“I hope that all the party members, officials and members of the public in this city will continue to exercise strict oversight over me,” Mr. Zhang said in 2012 as he left Tianjin for Beijing.
negotiated oil deals with Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, and promoted Mr. Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative.
met with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, as Mr. Bach was visiting the city.
It was Mr. Bach who on Sunday held a video call with Ms. Peng intended to reassure athletes and others worried about her disappearance in the days after her post appeared.
Earlier in Mr. Xi’s term, lurid reports about officials’ sexual misdeeds at times surfaced in state media, disclosures intended to signal that he was serious about purifying the party.
Mr. Xi’s priority now appears to be fending off any odor of scandal tainting the party’s top echelons. References to Ms. Peng’s account were nearly wiped off the internet inside China. A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, suggested that the attention around Ms. Peng had become “malicious hype.” Official media have not shown or reported on Mr. Zhang since Ms. Peng went public; nor have they directly challenged her account.
“Even to deny her allegations would be to give them a level of credence that you couldn’t then roll back,” said Louisa Lim, a former journalist who long worked in China and the author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia.”
When Mr. Zhang retired in 2018, he dropped from public view, as is the norm in Chinese politics. Retirement often comes with perks like high quality health care, housing and travel within China, but also some monitoring.
“Once you retire, your movements are reported to the party’s department of organization,” said Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California who studies the party.
In her post, Ms. Peng seemed to indicate that she and Mr. Zhang had recently had a disagreement, and that he had once again “disappeared” as he did before. She wrote, though, that she expected that her account would have little effect on Mr. Zhang’s eminence.
“With your intelligence and wits,” she wrote, “I am sure you will either deny it, or blame it on me, or you could simply play it cool.”
Richard Errington clicked to stream a science-fiction film from his home in Britain last month when YouTube carded him.
The site said Mr. Errington, who is over 50, needed to prove he was old enough to watch “Space Is the Place,” a 1974 movie starring the jazz musician Sun Ra. He had three options: Enter his credit card information, upload a photo identification like a passport or skip the video.
“I decided that it wasn’t worth the stress,” he said.
In response to mounting pressure from activists, parents and regulators who believe tech companies haven’t done enough to protect children online, businesses and governments around the globe are placing major parts of the internet behind stricter digital age checks.
People in Japan must provide a document proving their age to use the dating app Tinder. The popular game Roblox requires players to upload a form of government identification — and a selfie to prove the ID belongs to them — if they want access to a voice chat feature. Laws in Germany and France require pornography websites to check visitors’ ages.
called for new rules to protect young people after a former Facebook employee said the company knew its products harmed some teenagers. They repeated those calls on Tuesday in a hearing with executives from YouTube, TikTok and the parent company of Snapchat.
Critics of the age checks say that in the name of keeping people safe, they could endanger user privacy, dampen free expression and hurt communities that benefit from anonymity online. Authoritarian governments have used protecting children as an argument for limiting online speech: China barred websites this summer from ranking celebrities by popularity as part of a larger crackdown on what it says are the pernicious effects of celebrity culture on young people.
“Are we going to start seeing more age verification? Of course,” said Hany Farid, a professor of engineering and computer scienceat the University of California, Berkeley, who has called for more child safety measures. “Because there is more pressure, there’s more awareness now, on how these technologies are harming kids.”
But, Mr. Farid said, regulators and companies need to proceed with caution. “We don’t want the solution to be more harmful than the problem,” he said.
say some websites need to take additional steps to verify their users’ ages when the services collect sensitive user data.
An update to the European Union’s rules for video and audio services requires sites to protect minors, which may include checkingusers’ ages. In response to the change, Google said last year that it would ask some users of YouTube, which it owns, for their identification documents or credit card details before they could watch adults-only videos. A spokeswoman for Google pointed to an August blog post where the company said it was “looking at ways to develop consistent product experiences and user controls for kids and teens globally” as regulators applied new rules in different countries.
in a July blog post that it was developing programs to look for signs that users were lying about their age, like spotting when someone who claims to be 21 gets messages about her quinceañera. But when “we do feel we need more information, we’re developing a menu of options for someone to prove their age,” Pavni Diwanji, the company’s vice president of youth products, said in the post. Facebook later said one of the options would involve providing identification documents.
Many of the new age verification efforts require users to submit government-issued identification or credit cards information. But other companies are using, or considering, other options, like software that scans a user’s face to approximate the person’s age.
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Critics of the checks worry that the requirement will force users to give sensitive information to websites with limited resources to prevent hacks. Outside companies that offer age checks would be vulnerable, too.
Roblox, the game company, showed prototypes to 10 teenage players, said Chris Aston Chen, a senior product manager at the company.
One possible method required players to get on a video call, while another checked government databases. Mr. Chen said the players gravitated toward using government IDs, an option they trusted and thought was convenient. (Roblox’s chief product officer is a board member of The New York Times Company.)
The technology will also make it easier for Roblox to keep out players it has barred because of inappropriate conduct in the voice chat feature. If those players log back in using a new account but try to verify their age using the same government document, they’ll be locked out.
one user said. The user noted that he had first bought the track on cassette “when I was about 12, almost 30 years ago.”
“This is a rule applied to video sharing platforms in certain countries,” YouTube’s customer support account responded.
Mr. Errington in Britain said YouTube had asked him for a credit card when he tried to watch “Space Is the Place.” He doesn’t have one. And he said he felt uncomfortable uploading a photo ID.
“I wasn’t prepared to give out this information,” he said. “So the Sun Ra video remains a mystery.”
Germany’s most powerful newspaper removed its top editor Monday after months of defending his sexual relationships with women in the workplace as the scandal began to envelop the paper’s globally ambitious parent company, Axel Springer.
Bild, a center-right tabloid that has fed popular anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Covid-19 restrictions, dismissed the editor in chief, Julian Reichelt, after The New York Times reported on details of Mr. Reichelt’s relationship with a trainee, who testified during an independent legal investigation that in 2018 he had summoned her to a hotel near the office for sex and asked her to keep a payment secret. Hours after Mr. Reichelt was ousted, the newsmagazine Der Spiegel published allegations that Mr. Reichelt had abused his position to pursue relationships with several women on his staff.
The dismissal marked the belated arrival of the global #MeToo movement at Axel Springer — and it came as the German company is making significant investments in the American market, including its acquisition this summer of Politico for $1 billion. Axel Springer faced pressure in the United States and Germany to explain two recent revelations: What the investigation into Mr. Reichelt’s conduct found, and how the chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, responded to the investigation. In a text message to a friend obtained by The Times, Mr. Döpfner seemed to link the scrutiny of Mr. Reichelt’s behavior to the editor’s divisive politics, casting him as a bulwark against a return of Communist-style oppression in the guise of Covid rules.
The company said in a statement that Mr. Reichelt had “not clearly separated private and professional matters,” and had misled the board. Mr. Döpfner, in a statement, also praised Mr. Reichelt for his journalistic leadership and for launching Bild-Tv, a new television station in the combative style of American cable news. He said Mr. Reichelt’s replacement, Johannes Boie, would combine “journalistic excellence with modern leadership.” Mr. Reichelt has denied abusing his authority, and didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
surge in right-wing European media while capturing a new global online generation. Its acquisition of publications like Politico and Business Insider, which it bought for $442 million in 2015, is a major part of that strategy.
The move to dismiss Mr. Reichelt was a significant reversal for a company that prides itself on standing up to Germany’s more liberal media establishment. Axel Springer had been bracing for reaction from its new American employees to the reports of Mr. Reichelt’s conduct, but two people familiar with the company’s decision Monday said that a furious storm in German media added pressure on Mr. Döpfner to act. German critics blasted the company, in particular, for its role in killing a story by a rival publisher, Ippen, whose journalists said in a letter that they were set to reveal details of Mr. Reichelt’s alleged abuse of power.
“That made the whole story bigger than it was before,” said Moritz Tschermak, the co-author of a recent book about Bild. “Somehow it became not a story about Reichelt and Springer but a story about freedom of the press.”
In an inquiry this spring, the company said it had cleared Mr. Reichelt, who apologized at the time for unspecified “mistakes” and remained in his role. Axel Springer appeared to blame the opaque German legal process in part for its reversal, releasing a statement noting that it learned some details of its own lawyers’ inquiry from the media. The company also said it had learned unspecified new information about Mr. Reichelt’s conduct, and that the editor had misled the company’s board.
Axel Springer also said in its statement that it would take legal action against third parties who it claimed tried to illegally influence the company’s compliance investigation, “apparently with the aim of removing Julian Reichelt from office and damaging Bild and Axel Springer.”
Mr. Döpfner, the chief executive, said in a statement in March. “However, having assessed everything that was revealed as part of the investigation process, we consider a parting of the ways to be inappropriate.”
Mr. Reichelt was reinstated with a co-editor in chief, Alexandra Würzbach, the editor of Bild’s Sunday edition, who had taken over his duties in his absence.
In explaining its decision on Monday to remove Mr. Reichelt as editor, the publisher cited “revelations” about his behavior that had “come to light in recent days, following media reports.”
Pressure built in Germany after Ippen Media, which publishes a group of websites as well as a print competitor to Bild in Munich, decided on Friday to pull its own in-depth investigation into Mr. Reichelt. That revelation, in The Times and then in a letter from Ippen’s own investigative team, outraged reporters in Berlin, leading one to ask Chancellor Merkel’s spokesman at a news conference on Monday whether that decision had raised concerns in the German government that freedom of the press could be in danger. Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, declined to comment.
article published Monday in the magazine Der Spiegel, which first broke the news this spring of the investigation into Mr. Reichelt. The article described Mr. Reichelt as a man “obsessed with power” who had a “pattern” of both promoting and seducing young women at Bild.
His sexual relationships with women on his staff were known in Bild’s office, Der Spiegel reported.
The magazine also raised further questions about Axel Springer’s internal investigation, which had promised anonymity to women who testified. Nonetheless, one of the women received a message from a “confidant” of Mr. Reichelt, urging her not to speak to investigators, Der Spiegel reported.
Germany’s publishing world is dominated by large companies, largely run by men, where reluctance to be seen as criticizing one another runs deep. Ippen cited such a motivation behind its last-minute decision to withhold the report.
The Frankfurter Rundschau, based in Frankfurt am Main, one of the regional newspapers owned by the Ippen Media company that had planned to publish the investigation, ran an editorial on Monday calling the decision damaging to their relationship of trust with their readers.
The German Journalists’ Association criticized Ippen’s decision not to publish the investigation. But journalists discussing the reporting also raised questions about why the world of German publishing had struggled to have its own MeToo reckoning, and why it took attention from American media to prompt this action.
As the German media world focused on the turmoil at Axel Springer, the staff of Politico, whose acquisition by Springer is expected to close as soon as this week, was largely focused elsewhere. Journalists there are considering forming a union, and organizers have set a deadline of this month to gather support.
He also said the Bild workplace culture would not be replicated in the United States. “We will not tolerate any behavior in our organizations worldwide that does not follow our very clear compliance policies. We aspire to be the best digital media company in the democratic world with the highest ethical standards and an inclusive, open culture,” he said.
Axel Springer forwarded a letter from lawyers stating that Bild was not legally obliged to fire Mr. Reichelt.
But a March 1 message from Mr. Döpfner to a friend with whom he later had a falling out over the way the company handled the allegations against Mr. Reichelt, Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, suggests that, while Mr. Döpfner was central to deciding how to act on the investigation’s findings as chief executive, he may not have been impartial. In the message, sent after Axel Springer had become aware of the allegations, but before the investigation was underway, Mr. Döpfner referred to an opinion column by Mr. Reichelt complaining about Covid restrictions.
Mr. Döpfner wrote that “we have to be especially careful” in the investigation, because Mr. Reichelt “is really the last and only journalist in Germany who is still courageously rebelling against the new GDR authoritarian state,” according to a copy of the message that I obtained. (The reference to GDR, or Communist East Germany, in this context, is a bit like “woke mob.”) Mr. Döpfner also wrote that Mr. Reichelt had “powerful enemies.”
Mr. Döpfner’s political statement in that message may seem at odds with his stated plans for his new American properties, which The Wall Street Journal reported last week, will “embody his vision of unbiased, nonpartisan reporting, versus activist journalism, which, he said, is enhancing societal polarization in the U.S. and elsewhere.”
As Axel Springer was struggling to contain the fallout from the Bild investigation, Mr. Döpfner’s focus was on Washington. This spring and summer, he conducted secret, parallel conversations with executives at two rival news organizations based in Washington, Politico and Axios, the site started in 2016 by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz, all formerly of Politico.
Mr. Döpfner’s goal was to buy both and combine them into a mighty competitor to the nation’s largest news outlets. The Politico acquisition, announced in August, was a triumph for his company. But behind the scenes, Axel Springer’s courting style had alienated its other target.