Social Media Promote Tribalism in Pakistan

Social media newsfeeds are driven by users' profiles to reinforce their preferences and prejudices.  Newsfeeds are customized for each user. Any posts that don't fit these profiles don't get displayed. The result is increasing tribalism in the world. American and British intelligence agencies claim that Russian intelligence has used social media to promote divisions and manipulate public opinion in the West.  Like the US and the UK, Pakistan also has ethnic, sectarian and regional fault-lines that make it vulnerable to similar social media manipulation.  It is very likely that intelligence agencies of countries hostile to Pakistan are exploiting these divisions for their own ends. Various pronouncements by India's current and former intelligence and security officials reinforce this suspicion.

Tribalism:

All human are born with tribal instincts. People embrace group identities based on birthplace, language, region, sect, religion, nation, school, sports team, etc to define themselves.

Such group affiliations can give people a sense of belonging but they are sometimes also used to exclude others with the purpose of promoting hostility and violence. Social media platforms are being used both ways: To unite and to divide people.

Powerful new media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp lend themselves for use as extensions of covert warfares carried out by intelligence agencies against nations they see as hostile.

Social Media Platforms:

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are powerful magnets for marketers,  extremist groups and intelligence agencies. They spend a lot of time and money on such platforms to reach and manipulate their targets.

Trolls and bots proliferate and societies become more deeply divided along political, ethnic, racial, religious, ideological and regional lines.  It is a problem that all nations in the world have to respond to.

Developed nations in Europe and North America with stronger institutions are generally more capable of dealing with the consequences of such divisions.  But the increasing social media penetration in less capable developing nations with weak institutions cause them to sometimes descend into violent riots. In a recent piece titled "Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook is a Match",  the New York Times has mentioned recent examples of riots and lynchings caused by social media posts in India, Indonesia, Mexico, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Brexit and Trump:

The unexpected result of Brexit, the British vote to leave the European Union, shocked many in the UK and Europe. It was soon followed by an even bigger shock with the unexpected election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States. Western intelligence agencies have now concluded that Russian intelligence agency sponsored trolls played a major role in manipulating the public opinion in the United Kingdom and the United States.

In February 2018, the US justice department indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities in an alleged conspiracy to defraud the United States, including by tampering in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton, according to media reports.

The US DOJ indictment identified the Internet Research Agency, a St Petersburg-based group to which millions of impostor social media accounts have been traced, as a primary offender. The indictment also charged Russian individuals who funded the alleged election tampering conspiracy or who otherwise participated in it.

Some of the Russian social media posts were used to organize protests and counter protests in the United States on issues relating to race and religion.

US Senator Richard Burr confirmed that two groups converged outside the Islamic Da’wah Center of Houston in 2016, the Texas Tribune reported. One had gathered at the behest of the “Heart of Texas” Facebook group for a “Stop Islamification of Texas” rally, while the other, spurred on by the “United Muslims of America” Facebook page, had organized a counter-protest to “Save Islamic Knowledge.”

A Russian-sponsored Facebook ad appeared in late 2015 or early 2016, sources told CNN, and though it was meant to appear supportive of Black Lives Matter movement, it may also have conveyed the group as threatening to some white residents of those cities.

Indian Trolls:

It can be safely assumed that Russians are not alone in using social media against nations they see as hostile to them. It is also a safe bet that Indian intelligence agencies are most likely deploying their troll farms and bots to divide Pakistanis.

India's ruling BJP party has extensively used social media apps to spread rumors, innuendo,  fake news, outright lies and various forms of disinformation against anyone seen to be even mildly critical of their leader Narendra Modi. Their harshest abuse has been targeted at the Opposition Congress party leaders, various liberal individuals and groups, Muslims and Pakistanis.

Swati Chaturvedi, author of I Am a Troll, has cited many instances of hateful tweets from Modi-loving Hindu trolls, including Singer Abhijeet's lies to generate hatred against Muslims and Pakistan and BJP MP Hukum Singh's false claim of "Hindu exodus" from Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh blaming it on Muslims.

Vikram Sood, a former top spy in India, has elaborated on India's covert warfare options to target Pakistan in the following words: "The media is a favorite instrument, provided it is not left to the bureaucrats because then we will end up with some clumsy and implausible propaganda effort. More than the electronic and print media, it is now the internet and YouTube that can be the next-generation weapons of psychological war. Terrorists use these liberally and so should those required to counter terrorism."

In a 2013 speech at Sastra University, Indian Prime Minister Modi's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval revealed his covert war strategy against Pakistan as follows:  "How do you tackle Pakistan?.....We start working on Pakistan's vulnerabilities-- economic, internal security, political, isolating them internationally, it can be anything..... it can be defeating Pakistan's policies in Afghanistan...... You stop the terrorists by denying them weapons, funds and manpower. Deny them funds by countering with one-and-a-half times more funding. If they have 1200 crores give them 1800 crores and they are on our side...who are the Taliban fighting for? It's because they haven't got jobs or someone has misled them. The Taliban are mercenaries. So go for more of the covert thing (against Pakistan)..."

Summary: 

Social media newsfeeds are driven by users' profiles to reinforce their preferences and prejudices.  Newsfeeds are customized for each user. Any posts that don't fit these profiles don't get displayed. The result is increasing tribalism in the world. American and British intelligence agencies claim that Russian intelligence has used social media to manipulate public opinion in the West.  Like the US and the UK, Pakistan also has ethnic, sectarian and regional fault-lines that make it vulnerable to similar social media manipulation.  It is very likely that intelligence agencies of countries hostile to Pakistan are exploiting these divisions for their own ends. Various pronouncements by India's current and former intelligence and security officials reinforce this suspicion.

Here's a discussion on the subject in Urdu:

https://youtu.be/zuPMy65O6-s




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?

Planted Stories in Media

Indian BJP Troll Farm

Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-Japan-US

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Could Facebook Data Leaks Impact Pakistan’s Elections?
In Pakistan the spread of misinformation is a much graver problem than the impact it might have on polling.

https://thediplomat.com/2018/05/could-facebook-data-leaks-impact-pakistans-elections/

While testifying before a joint hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Commerce and Judiciary committees, Zuckerberg said his company was introducing the latest new artificial intelligence tools to target fake accounts.

However, digital analysts and rights activists warn that while these actions would help protect data henceforth, Facebook can’t do much to undo the damage that might’ve already been done owing to the data leaks from the past.

“There is no way of undoing a particular case of data theft. Short of deleting or destroying the database, no other action would be useful, and it’s nearly impossible since as they say ‘the data has left the building’,” says Asad Baig, the founder and executive director of Media Matters for Democracy, while speaking with The Diplomat.

“The fact of the matter is, [Cambridge Analytica] has Facebook user data, including the users from Pakistan and if someone wants to exploit it for profiling, and use it for political gains to fine-tune their messages for a local public nothing much can be done about it, and the parties who exploit this data will have an undue advantage in their political campaigns.”

CEO and founder of Digital Rights Foundation, Nighat Dad, agrees that previous damage can’t be undone, but adds that Facebook needs to completely rethink its model to serve users.

“What Facebook can certainly do is to ensure that it takes strict measures to protect the data of its users in the future. This can only be done by strong privacy policies and their implementation that serve the users instead of the corporation itself,” she told The Diplomat.

While fake news has impacted voting patterns the world over, it has become especially problematic in Pakistan with all leading political parties asking their social media teams to create fake profiles as part of their social media strategy.

Talking to The Diplomat off the record, social media managers from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), and the two main opposition parties Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), confirmed that creation of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to propagate their narratives was the official policy of each party.

“Everyone’s running fake Facebook accounts and Twitter bots, so we’re just keeping pace with what others are doing,” a social media executive of the PML-N who requested anonymity told The Diplomat. “It was the PTI that started this trend. So we’re just countering propaganda with propaganda,” they added, citing the fact that one of the rumours that the PML-N social media team has had to counter in recent weeks was the false report that the party has hired Cambridge Analytica’s services for the upcoming elections.

Kaleem Hafeez, a member of the PTI social media team, told The Diplomat that his party isn’t ruling out the possibility of the PML-N purchasing data to manipulate elections, considering the party’s control over the IT ministry.

“Our data analysts are monitoring what other parties are doing, and the undemocratic tools and methods being used to rig elections digitally,” Hafeez said. “Considering that the PML-N was involved in heavy on-field rigging in the 2013 balloting, it won’t be a surprise if they do the same digitally as well.”
Riaz Haq said…
Pashteen calls soldiers "terrorists in uniforms"

Demands end to check posts which will lead to power vacuum filled by Taliban will attack Pashtuns and Non-Pashtuns alike.

Demands international guarantors.

Western media promoting it as "Pashtun Spring". Remember what happened to "Arab Spring"?


https://thesydney.news/2018/04/22/voa-exposed/


Recently I came across the twitter profile of the leader of the newly formed ethnic movement in Pakistan and was shocked to see that many of the posts on his profile were either fake or photoshopped, I was already shilly-shallying about this movement but seeing fake photos and blunt propaganda made it easy for me to understand the motives and intentions behind it.

I am sharing some of the tweets from that specific profile been convincingly refuted by different Pakistani social media users.

List of tweets using fake pictures by Manzoor Pashteen for propaganda purposes. He rebrands all voilent acts by TTP & terrorists as acts by Army including APS incident. Typical TTP sympathiser mindset. Now TTP apologists & sympathizers are talking about human rights & peace. https://t.co/wp6vpRleNW


Saad
@Saad__tweets
List of tweets using fake pictures by Manzoor Pashteen for propaganda purposes. He rebrands all voilent acts by TTP & terrorists as acts by Army including APS incident. Typical TTP sympathiser mindset. Now TTP apologists & sympathizers are talking about human rights & peace. https://twitter.com/BhittaniKhannnn/status/976104265990189056 …

7:44 AM - Mar 20, witter Ads info and privacy

Asfandyar Bhittani🇵🇰

@BhittaniKhannnn
Fake/Propaganda by Manzoor Pahteen https://twitter.com/manzoorpashteen/status/678491388237975552 …
Link to Original http://tucson.com/entertainment/readers-share-woodstock-stories/article_5fc8382f-d176-5f90-8b65-e3342423c766.html …

Fake by MP https://twitter.com/manzoorpashteen/status/678491105051156481 …
Link to Original http://niemanreports.org/articles/the-sights-sounds-and-smells-of-afghanistan/ …

Fake by MP https://twitter.com/manzoorpashteen/status/737924840972275712 …
Link to Original https://www.rferl.org/a/taliban_militants_burn_villages_in_northwestern_pakistan/24290667.html …

😎🎤🔻 #MICDrop https://twitter.com/RaghKhan93/status/976044860473008128 …

7:32 AM - Mar 20, 2018

Taliban 'Razes' Pakistan Villages
Local residents say Taliban militants have burned three villages in northwestern Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan.

rferl.org
117
86 people are talking about this
Twitter Ads info and privacyThese Fake photos & propaganda from @manzoorpashteen’s personal account tells a lot about the credibility, honesty & intentions of the #PashtunTahafuzMovement.
View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Abid Atozai
@AbidAtozai
These Fake photos & propaganda from @manzoorpashteen’s personal account tells a lot about the credibility, honesty & intentions of the #PashtunTahafuzMovement.

No wonder #TTPisPTM is trending in Pakistan.

7:57 AM - Mar 31, 2018
160
152 people are talking about this
Twitter Ads info and privacy
Riaz Haq said…
https://www.geo.tv/latest/197971-dg-ispr-briefs-media-on-ceasefire-violations-by-india



Social media being used against Pakistan, institutions: DG ISPR



Speaking of Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) for the first time, the DG ISPR referred to several questions pertaining to the sudden emergence of the movement.

"How did Manzoor Ahmed Masood was renamed as Manzoor Pashteen; how did this campaign start on social media; how were 5000 social media accounts made in Afghanistan in a single day; how was a 'topi' (cap) started manufacturing outside the country and coming into Pakistan; how did small group of individuals started staging anti-Pakistan protests outside the country," he questioned.

In this regard, the DG ISPR also noted publishing of articles by foreign newspapers and live telecast of Pashteen by foreign media outlets on Facebook and Twitter.

Major General Ghafoor told the media that he met with Manzoor Pashteen and Mohsin Dawar, who shared their concerns. "They came to our office, we had a discussion for an hour or two about Naqeeb Mehsud, missing persons, unexploded ordnance [in tribal areas] and check-posts issues."

He said that he separated Mohsin Dawar and Manzoor Pashteen from other people and took them to his office, adding, "Then I got them to speak to all GOCs and IG FC, got them time, [told them] all your issues should be resolved, go meet the GOCs.

"They returned and also held a meeting, and I received a text from Mohsin Dawar thanking me for facilitating and getting their issues resolved," the DG ISPR said.

He, however, said that "those who are enemies of Pakistan and still want to see the country unstable, if they join you and start praising you then one needs to look inward what is this happening."

Major General Ghafoor further said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa gave strict instructions not to deal with PTM gatherings through force anywhere.

No action has been taken against them so far, the army spokesperson pointed out, adding that "we have many proofs of how they are being used".

On the incident in Wana, South Waziristan, the DG ISPR said the Mehsud tribe has fought against terrorism for years. The [tribe] then fought among itself, and the casualties were rescued by Army helicopters.

A propaganda was instigated that a girl was killed by Army firing, he said.

"Pakistan has achieved peace by rendering sacrifices in the past 20 years. What we achieved, nobody was able to achieve. Now, it's time to be united and progress."

"We are not [affected] by false slogans on social media. The nation's love for the army has only increased in the [past] 10 years."

“We cannot respond to [everyone]. We are focused on our work,” he added.

The army spokesperson further said that a lot of accusations were made but time proved all the accusations to be false.

“No army [in the world] has been as successful as Pakistan army in the war against terrorism,” he said.

Riaz Haq said…
Facebook Says It Removed Pages Involved In Deceptive Political Influence Campaign
Tim MakJuly 31, 20181:06 PM ET

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/31/634319520/facebook-says-it-removed-pages-involved-in-deceptive-political-influence-campaig?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=politics&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20180731


Facebook announced Tuesday afternoon that it has removed 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

The company says the campaign included efforts to organize counterprotests on Aug. 10 to 12 for the white nationalist Unite The Right 2 rally planned in Washington that weekend.

Counterfeit administrators from a fake page called "Resisters" connected with five legitimate Facebook pages to build interest and share logistical information for counterprotests, Facebook said. The imminence of that event was what prompted Facebook to go public with this information.

In a blog post from the head of Facebook's cybersecurity policy, the company says that those accounts were "involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior" but that their investigation had not yielded definitive information about who was behind the effort.

However, Facebook's top security officials said the campaign involved similar "tools, techniques and procedures" employed by the Russian Internet Research Agency during the 2016 campaign.

There are not many details presented about the origin of these pages, but there is a link established between a page involved in organizing Unite The Right counterprotests and an IRA account.

Facebook noticed that a known Internet Research Agency account had been made a co-administrator on a fake page for a period of seven minutes — something a top Facebook official called "interesting but not determinative."

The actors behind the accounts were more careful to conceal their true identities than the Internet Research Agency had been in the past, Facebook said.

While Internet Research Agency accounts had occasionally used Russian IP addresses in the past, the actors behind this effort never did.

"These bad actors have been more careful to cover their tracks, in part due to the actions we've taken to prevent abuse over the past year," wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook. "For example, they used VPNs and internet phone services, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf."

Both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate intelligence committee were less reserved about placing the blame for this campaign on the Russian government.

"The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust, and division in an attempt to undermine public faith in our institutions and our political system. The Russians want a weak America," said Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of that committee.

Added Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, "Today's disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation."

This most recent political influence campaign consisted of pages with names like "Aztlan Warriors," "Black Elevation," "Mindful Being" and "Resisters."

The pages were created between March 2017 and May 2018 and had a total of 290,000 followers. Over this time period, they generated 9,500 posts and ran 150 ads for about $11,000. They also organized about 30 events, only two of which were slated for the future.
Riaz Haq said…
Now openly admitted, governments and militaries around the world employ armies of keyboard warriors to spread propaganda and disrupt their online opposition. Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favourable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives. Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media. This is The Corbett Report.

https://youtu.be/0dL8vt1n-f8

Fighting digital disinformation is hard

Analyzing, let alone countering, this type of provocative behavior can be difficult. Russia isn’t alone, either: The U.S. tries to influence foreign audiences and global opinions, including through Voice of America online and radio services and intelligence services’ activities. And it’s not just governments that get involved. Companies, advocacy groups and others also can conduct disinformation campaigns.

Unfortunately, laws and regulations are ineffective remedies. Further, social media companies have been fairly slow to respond to this phenomenon. Twitter reportedly suspended more than 70 million fake accounts earlier this summer. That included nearly 50 social media accounts like the fake Chicago Daily News one.

Facebook, too, says it is working to reduce the spread of “fake news” on its platform. Yet both companies make their money from users’ activity on their sites – so they are conflicted, trying to stifle misleading content while also boosting users’ involvement.

Real defense happens in the brain

The best protection against threats to the cognitive dimension of cyberspace depends on users’ own actions and knowledge. Objectively educated, rational citizens should serve as the foundation of a strong democratic society. But that defense fails if people don’t have the skills – or worse, don’t use them – to think critically about what they’re seeing and examine claims of fact before accepting them as true.

American voters expect ongoing Russian interference in U.S. elections. In fact, it appears to havealready begun. To help combat that influence, the U.S. Justice Department plans to alert the public when its investigations discover foreign espionage, hacking and disinformation relating to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. And the National Security Agency has created a task force to counter Russian hacking of election systems and major political parties’ computer networks.

https://wtop.com/social-media/2018/07/weaponized-information-seeks-a-new-target-in-cyberspace-users-minds/
Riaz Haq said…
Why AI Is the Next Frontier in Weaponized Social Media
'LikeWar' author explains how digital platforms have become war zones

https://www.adweek.com/digital/why-ai-is-the-next-frontier-in-weaponized-social-media/

Singer argues that brands, ISIS recruiters, reality stars and Russian bots are all playing in the same arena online.
When P.W. Singer set out to write a book about military use of social media in 2013, he couldn’t have known exactly what kind of rabbit hole he was entering.

---

In their conception of weaponized social media, everyone from brand marketers and reality stars to terrorist recruiters and military personnel are now competing with one another in a viral attention battleground where troll armies, misinformation and bot networks are weapons of choice.

Singer spoke with Adweek about how this social media atmosphere evolved, why brands need to pay attention to Russian bots and how artificial intelligence personas could be the future of online propaganda.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

How did this book originally take shape?

Initially it was looking at social media use in war, but very quickly, war becomes melded with terrorism—so you think about the rise of ISIS in 2014. And then we start to see its use by criminal groups—cartels, gangs—and then it morphs into politics, where all the things that we were seeing in, for example, Russia and Ukraine start moving over into Brexit and American politics and the like. It was a pretty extensive journey, and along the way, the project got bigger and bigger.

The challenge of this topic and I think why we all weren’t handling it well is how big it is. So people were looking at just one slice of it, one geographic region or just one target and missing out on the larger trend.

For example, the people interested in terrorism were looking at ISIS’ use of social media but they weren’t aware of, say, how Russia was using it.

The people who were in these political worlds didn’t understand digital marketing or pop culture so they were missing things that anyone with an ad background or who knew what Taylor Swift does would go, ‘Of course.’ The approach was to bring all this together—to bring together all the classic research in history and psychology studies and sociology and digital marketing.

But the second thing about this space is that you can both research it and jump into it. So we joined online armies, both actual ones—you can download apps to join Israeli Defense Forces operations—to competing online tribes.

We set traps, we trolled Russian trolls.

And then the third thing that hadn’t been done that was really striking was talking to key players. So we went out and interviewed an incredibly diverse set of people to learn from them—everyone from the recruiters for extremist groups to tech company executives to the pioneers of online marketing to reality stars to generals.

How do the concepts and tactics you talk about in your book go beyond ordinary digital marketing?

“LikeWar” is a concept that brings together all these different worlds. If cyberwar is the hacking of the networks, LikeWar is the hacking of the people on the networks by driving ideas viral through a mix of likes, lies and the network’s own algorithms. It’s this strange space that brings together Russian military units using digital marketing to influence the outcome of elections to teenagers taking selfies and live-feeding but influencing the outcome of actual battles. You’re seeing some of these techniques from ad companies, marketing and the like. They’re being used for different purposes, but they’re playing out all in the exact same space.
Riaz Haq said…
How Israel’s Army Revolutionized Wartime Social Media
Read more: https://forward.com/scribe/407826/how-israels-army-revolutionized-wartime-social-media/

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The question isn’t, What do we want to know about people?, It’s, ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?’” When it comes to the state of Israel and its representatives, there is a lot they want to tell about themselves. From PR crises like multiple wars with Gaza, waves of stabbing attacks and never-ending global political tensions, I’ve seen firsthand over the last seven years how Israel utilizes social media as a tool for combatting international media bias. Yet in Israel and in the global Jewish community, there is fierce criticism of Israel’s so-called “PR failures.” I believe this criticism is unwarranted. Having been a critical observer of both the Israeli government and the Israel Defense Forces from the perspective of an outsider, I believe the state of Israel, and more specifically the IDF, have completely changed the game when it comes to nation branding and public relations.

Despite unrelenting bias in the international media, the Israel Defense Forces has revolutionized modern warfare in the public sphere. In 2012, Israel was the first state to declare the beginning of an operation, before even holding a press conference, by launching the operation using Twitter — explaining why, how, when and where in under 140 characters. In 2014, the IDF provided data and evidence (photos and videos) within minutes of carrying out activities in order to stop the rocket-fire from Gaza. What other army in the world does this? Last I checked, the United States was not sending out photographic evidence of the terrorist weapons facilities they hit in real time on social media or on any other platform.

Since then, the IDF has only become more effective at distributing facts in real time. Whereas Palestinian terrorist organizations like Hamas have repeatedly distributed false and misleading information and even falsified photos and videos, the IDF is prompt, professional and highly effective at distributing photographic and video evidence, including detailed explanations. In the recent riots at the border of Gaza, the IDF released video footage within minutes of terrorists firing guns across the border in a riot which the Palestinians had claimed to the international press was “non-violent” (an incident that unfortunately occurred repeatedly).

That is not to say every action of the IDF is justifiable and morally correct — that would not be true of any army in the world. But there is no question that the IDF goes above and beyond to distribute factual information in a way that no other army in the world would do, could do or has to do to comply with international law. Indeed, even when mistakes are made, the IDF is clear and professional about the aftermath — investigating incidents of civilian casualties quickly and releasing the findings of the investigations to the public.

Few in the Western world are aware, but the IDF has a massive following in Arabic — and their Arabic spokesman, Avichay Adraee, is an extremely well-known public figure in the Arab world. Whether they love him or hate him, Adraee is getting the message out loudly and clearly on networks like Al Jazeera Arabic, and through his massive social media following of over one million on Facebook.

As the digital director of one of the few pro-Israel organizations that operates on social media in Arabic, I can testify to the fact that the impact of having an Israeli voice from the IDF, who is ”reachable” on Twitter and Facebook, is tremendous. What other army in the world has that advantage? The average citizens that Adraee is reaching on a day-to-day basis are being faced with the reality that what they have been taught about the alleged inhumanity of the IDF is simply not the case.

Read more: https://forward.com/scribe/407826/how-israels-army-revolutionized-wartime-social-media/

Riaz Haq said…
Fake #Iranian news site tweet provoked #Pakistan's nuclear threat against #Israel in 2016. https://thinkprogress.org/source-of-pakistani-nuclear-threat-against-israel-revealed-as-fake-iranian-news-site-75831c3c1880/ via @thinkprogress

In late 2016, then-Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif took to Twitter to threaten Israel with nuclear war. The threat, which was later deleted, was prompted by something Asif had apparently come across earlier while online: A post originally published on the “AWD News” site, claiming that the Israeli defense minister had himself threatened nuclear war against Pakistan.

For nearly two years, the sourcing behind “AWD News” remained unclear.

But thanks to today’s massive revelations from Twitter about fake Russian and Iranian accounts, ThinkProgress has learned that “AWD News” was part of a social media and fake news campaign out of Iran. As Lee Foster, an analyst with FireEye — the cyber-security company tasked with unearthing fake Iranian social media operations — told ThinkProgress, “AWD News” is “part of the same operation” that FireEye uncovered on Facebook a few months ago.

That is to say: A fake Iranian news site aimed at English-speakers convinced the Pakistani Defense Minister to issue a nuclear warning against Israel in late 2016.

Tracked to Iran
ThinkProgress’s confirmation of the links in Iran to “AWD News” came via Wednesday’s substantial revelations from Twitter, which published approximately one million tweets “potentially originating in Iran.” This disclosure followed Facebook’s August announcement that it had removed hundreds of fake accounts that originated in Iran.

While Facebook has still not released the names of those accounts, one of the pages identified was “Free Scotland 2014,” a popular pro-Scottish Independence account. As it is, a number of the Iranian tweets released on Wednesday also advocated for Scottish secession.
Riaz Haq said…
#Twitter’s #Russian #troll problem: There’s good news and bad news. The #Iranian trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited engagement. #Iran #Russia
https://www.fastcompany.com/90253028/twitters-russian-troll-problem-theres-good-news-and-bad-news

On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda outfit, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran.

The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab took an advance look at the data and released a four-part report on its analysis. Among the lab’s findings:

Targeting both sides: Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left, including African American activists, and the right, including a white conservative male character using the name “Marlboro Man.” Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States. In some cases, they even posted anti-Russian content.
The Russian trolls were often effective, drawing tens of thousands of retweets on certain posts including from celebrity commentators like conservative Ann Coulter. When Twitter suspended many accounts linked to the group, they continued with other fake activist accounts.
Twitter’s efforts to take down accounts did help. The second wave of Russian troll accounts, now since taken down, posted much less than the original group. “Twitter’s suspension of over 2,500 Russian troll accounts in late 2017 disrupted the troll operation very significantly by suspending hundreds of its assets at the same time,” according to the report.
Self-interested: Iran’s trolling was mostly focused on promoting its own interests, including attacking regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia. Some posts also attacked Trump and tried to woo supporters of Bernie Sanders.
Trolling isn’t easy: The Iranian trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited engagement. This was partially due to posting styles less suited to the medium, according to the report. “Few of the accounts showed distinctive personalities: They largely shared online articles,” according to the report. “As such, they were a poor fit for Twitter, where personal comment tends to resonate more strongly than website shares.” Generally, many troll posts were ineffective, and “their operations were washed away in the firehose of Twitter.”
For now, there’s no reason to think political trolls are going away.

“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” according to the report.
Riaz Haq said…
Foreign information ops: #Twitter data on suspect accounts shows #Pakistan mentioned in 5,652 tweets in documents related to suspect accounts originating from #Iran. #SocialMedia #trolls #weapons #India #disinformation #FakeNews https://tribune.com.pk/story/1828588/3-foreign-twitter-accounts-behind-information-operations-involving-pakistan/

Social networking website Twitter on Wednesday released a vast cache of data related to accounts deemed involved in ‘information operations’ on their servers since 2016.

The released data is part of an internal investigation by the social media giant into allegations of foreign meddling on their website, according to a statement released by the company in a blog post.

In September, Twitter chief Jack Dorsey had appeared before a US Senate Intelligence Committee in Washington to brief lawmakers regarding efforts the company was making to combat coordinated misinformation campaigns.

The Express Tribune has performed an analysis on parts of the dataset shared by the social media website.

Pakistan is mentioned in 5,652 tweets in some documents related to suspect accounts originating from Iran.

According to Twitter, the locations with which the tweets were identified had been the ‘self-reported locations’ that the users had posted.

Interestingly, most of the content flagged as suspicious was apparently coming from Brazil. France, Turkey, Iran and the US were also featured on the list.

The archive showed websites that suspected users had tweeted about most frequently. According to figures, AWD News was on top of this list, with whatsupic and libertyfrontpress following close behind.

A number of these websites, including AWD News, have been already identified as platforms used to generate fake news.

Twitter released an accompanying list of web addresses that were shared widely by users with intent to spread misinformation.

These links are mostly from AWD News and libertyfrontpress, and can help the public understand why certain stories are shared more than others by suspect groups.

The Express Tribune went through some of these links in order to separate fake stories from real stories.

http://www.awdnews.com/political/10404-cia-predict-third-terrorist-attack-after-sidney-and-pakiistan-in-usa-in-3-days.html

Headline: CIA predict third terrorist attack after Sidney and Pakistan in USA in 3 days

The link shared above is no longer available. British newspaper The Guardian has already identified AWD as a fake news site. Wayback Machine screenshot shows that the article is full of spelling mistakes and the story has not been credibly sourced. The URL reproduced above was published on December 16, 2014, and tweeted 3,619 times.

http://www.7sabah.com.tr/haber/6876/pakistan-genelkurmay-baskani-israili-12-dakikada-yok-ederiz/

Google translation of headline: Pakistan Chief of Staff: We are not in Israel in 12 Minutes!

The article linked above shows pictures of former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif, and most sites quoting this also claim Joint Chiefs of Staff General Zubair Mahmood Hayat spoke to AWD News. This URL was published on October 31, 2016, and tweeted 72 times.

http://whatsupic.com/news-politics-world/1476905223.html

Headline: We can destroy Israel in ‘less than 12 minutes’: Pakistani commander

This story was tweeted out 67 times and originally published on October 19, 2016.

http://www.awdnews.com/index/saudi-arabia-bought-depleted-uranium-weapons-pakistan-delivered-syrian-rebel-groups/

Headline: Saudi Arabia has bought depleted uranium weapons from Pakistan and delivered it to Syrian rebel groups”
Riaz Haq said…
#Facebook Admits It Was Used to Incite #Violence Against #Rohingya in #Myanmar. It faces scrutiny from lawmakers who say it is not doing enough. Facebook’s experiments have helped to amplify fake stories and violence inother countries, including #SriLanka. https://nyti.ms/2yVAO5X

Facebook has long promoted itself as a tool for bringing people together to make the world a better place. Now the social media giant has acknowledged that in Myanmar it did the opposite, and human rights groups say it has a lot of work to do to fix that.

Facebook failed to prevent its platform from being used to “foment division and incite offline violence” in the country, one of its executives said in a post on Monday, citing a human rights report commissioned by the company.

“We agree that we can and should do more,” the executive, Alex Warofka, a Facebook product policy manager, wrote. He also said Facebook would invest resources in addressing the abuse of its platform in Myanmar that the report outlines.

The report, by Business for Social Responsibility, or BSR, which is based in San Francisco, paints a picture of a company that was unaware of its own potential for doing harm and did little to figure out the facts on the ground.

The report details how Facebook unwittingly entered a country new to the digital era and still emerging from decades of censorship, all the while plagued by political and social divisions.

But the report fails to look closely at how Facebook employees missed a crescendo of posts and misinformation that helped to fuel modern ethnic cleansing in Myanmar.

The report recommends that Facebook increase enforcement of policies for content posted on its platform; exercise greater transparency with data that shows its progress; and engage with civil society and officials in Myanmar.

Some Facebook detractors criticized the company on Tuesday for releasing the report on the eve of the midterm elections in the United States, when the attention of the news media and many of Facebook’s most vocal critics was elsewhere. Human rights groups said Facebook’s pledge needed to be followed up with more concrete actions.

“There are a lot of people at Facebook who have known for a long time that the company should have done more to prevent the gross misuse of its platform in Myanmar,” said Matthew Smith of Fortify Rights, a nonprofit human rights organization that focuses on Southeast Asia.
Riaz Haq said…
#Hindu #Nationalism is driving force behind fake news in #India. There's an overlap of #FakeNews sources on #Twitter and support networks of PM #Modi. Findings part of extensive research in India, #Kenya, and #Nigeria in how citizens spread fake news. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-46146877

Widespread sharing of false rumours on WhatsApp has led to a wave of violence in India, with people forwarding on fake messages about child abductors to friends and family out of a sense of duty to protect loved ones and communities.

According to a separate BBC analysis, at least 32 people have been killed in the past year in incidents involving rumours spread on social media or messaging apps.

Riaz Haq said…
#India Leads The World In The Number Of #Internet Shutdowns: Report via @forbes
#censorship #Kashmir #socialmedia #freedom https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghabahree/2018/11/12/india-leads-the-world-in-the-number-of-internet-shutdowns-report/#494aec4d3cdb



India leads the world in the number of internet shutdowns, with over 100 reported incidents in 2018 alone, according to a report by Freedom House, a U.S.-based non-profit that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

Freedom on the Net, an annual study by Freedom House on internet and digital media freedom in 65 countries around the globe, which covers 87% of the world’s internet users, scores countries from zero (most free) to 100 (least free). This serves as the basis for an internet freedom status designation of "free" for countries that score between 0 and 30, "partly free" for countries between 31 and 60, or "not free" for those with scores of 61 or higher. The newly released report is the eighth in this series and covers developments that occurred between June 2017 and May 2018.

Of the 65 countries assessed, 26 have been on an overall decline since June 2017, while 19 saw net improvements. In almost half of the countries where internet freedom declined, the reductions were related to elections, the report said.




India scored 43, two points lower than last year. The biggest score declines took place in Egypt and Sri Lanka, followed by Cambodia, Kenya, Nigeria, the Philippines and Venezuela. China remained the worst abuser of internet freedom in 2018, and over the past year, its government hosted media officials from dozens of countries for seminars on its sprawling system of censorship and surveillance, the report said. Its score: 88.

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