PeaceTech Roundup Weekly News Highlights, October 23-29, 2014

Featured Story:

Cluster Bombs In Potato Fields And Tripwires On The Cow Path
by Alec Luhn

Media and Social Media

Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

ISIS Attempting To Show 'Softer, Gentler' Side In New Video: Media Scholar
A propaganda video released this week showing a U.K. hostage acting as a news reporter for ISIS is a sign that the extremist group may be shifting its media strategy. With its aerial shots, graphics and animations, the video marks a visual departure from previously released ISIS propaganda. The old tactics of beheadings really horrified a lot of people, and there may be a sense that the violence that ISIS is proclaiming may not be the best recruiting tactic, so they may be switching to another way to attract people.
See the full article (CTV News, 10/29/14, Marlene Leung)
Click to read "The Parochial Web" an Olive Branch Post by Anand Varghese.
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Vast Majority of Russians Think Foreign Media Criticize Putin to Weaken Russia
The role of foreign media has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months amid the ongoing Ukraine crisis, a conflict that analysts say has relied more heavily on information warfare than previous conflicts. Western media outlets have repeatedly accused their Russian counterparts of unethical, inaccurate reporting, and at times flat-out propaganda. Russia has hit back and accused foreign journalists of the same. At the same time, however, more Russians were found to rely on foreign media today than was the case five years ago.
See the full article (The Moscow Times, 10/29/14, Allison Quinn)
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Echoes Of Patty Hearst In Kobani
A propaganda video released on Monday by Islamic State militants in Syria, recorded in the besieged city of Kobani and narrated by a hostage, has forced news organizations to grapple once again with the ethical question of whether to broadcast material produced by kidnappers. What made that decision particularly difficult was that the militants' video was produced in the form of a news report, narrated by a British hostage, John Cantlie, who speaks directly to the camera in the familiar style of a war correspondent.
See the full article (New York Times, 10/28/14, Robert Mackey) *New York Times subscription may be required to read this article
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Silenced By Airstrikes, Radicals Return To Blitz Social Media
Australian fighters and supporters of Islamic State are slowly returning to social media, with at least one who appears to have been in a town targeted by US ­airstrikes making several posts. Many social media accounts of Australian fighters and Islamic State supporters have been dormant in the wake of coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, and following anti-terror raids in three Australian states in recent weeks.
See the full article (The Australian, 10/27/14, Mark Schliebs) *The Australian subscription is required to read this article
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A Congolese Mother Of Six Is Honored For Her Death-Defying Journalism
Journalism is my calling, the print media is my struggle and independence is my motto," says 42-year-old Solange Lusiku Nsimire, a Congolese editor and mother of six. And it's hard to imagine a more difficult place to be a journalist than the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At least a dozen journalists have been killed since 1992 and there were 90 attacks on journalists in 2012 alone. She won a Courage in Journalism award from the International Women's Media Foundation last week.
See the full article (NPR, 10/27/14, Eleanor Klibanoff)
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Inside The Online World Of Three Teens Who Allegedly Wanted To Join ISIS
The three Colorado teenagers who were detained earlier this month as they were reportedly headed to Syria interacted with ISIS members online. Officials believe that the teenage girls were recruited online to join ISIS. An examination of the three girls' (now-deleted) social media accounts point to this possibility.
See the full article (Buzzfeed, 10/27/14, Ellie Hall)
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Egyptian Media To Limit Criticism Of Government
A group of Egyptian newspaper editors pledged Sunday to limit their criticism of state institutions, a day after Egypt's president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, warned of a "conspiracy" behind a militant attack last week that killed at least 31 soldiers. The statement raised the likelihood of growing limits on dissent, and appeared to be an attempt to please Mr. Sisi, who drastically sharpened his own tone on Saturday in dealing with the simmering Islamist insurgency centered in the Sinai Peninsula that escalated after the military takeover in July 2013.
See the full article (New York Times, 10/26/14, David D. Kirkpatrick and Merna Thomas) *New York Times subscription may be required to read this article
Click to read "The Crackdown on Media in Syria, Egypt and Turkey" an Olive Branch Post by Christine Mosher.
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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

Cluster Bombs In Potato Fields And Tripwires On The Cow Path by Alec Luhn
After five months of war in eastern Ukraine, both sides have taken advantage of a rocky cease-fire declared on Sept. 5 to begin destroying unexploded ordnance. Unexploded ordnance and land mines are a common problem in post-conflict zones around the world, where they become ticking time bombs waiting for an unlucky farmer or inquisitive child. The U.K.-based mine-clearing charity Mines Advisory Group (MAG) estimates that these weapons kill or severely injure 10 people every day.
See the full article

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Technology and Science

A Disagreement Over Climate-Conflict Link Heats Up
At issue is the question of whether the hotter temperatures and chaotic weather produced by climate change are causing higher rates of violence. A new analysis refutes earlier research that found a link, and the two lead researchers are exchanging some pointed remarks. Last year, a team of U.S. researchers reported a robust connection between climate and violence in Science. But in a critique published online yesterday in Climatic Change, a team of mostly European researchers dismissed the connection as "inconclusive."
See the full article (Science Mag, 10/28/14, John Bohannon)
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Protesters In Hong Kong On Edge As Police Track Their Online Footprints
People are worried that the police are watching closely and they would get in trouble posting messages. It is a crime in Hong Kong to post messages calling on people to attend the protests. The warning, along with a refusal to disclose more information about the case, has heightened fear that the authorities in this former British colony have begun to police the Internet using methods more often associated with the security forces in mainland China, where web censorship is routine and a crackdown on online dissent has been underway for more than a year.
See the full article (New York Times, 10/28/14, Michael Forsythe and Alan Wong) *New York Times subscription may be required to read this article
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ISIS Drones Show Us the Future Of War
In recent years, U.S. military planners have been considering an uncomfortable scenario: What happens as more countries acquire drones? How will warfare change when the skies are filled with vehicles controlled remotely by enemies? We're getting a preview right now in the Middle East.
See the full article (i09, 10/28/14, Mark Strauss)
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U.S. Unveils 'Information Coalition' Against Islamic State Militants
The United States on October 27 unveiled what it called an information coalition with Muslim and Western nations to counter online efforts by Islamic State militants to recruit fighters and stoke sectarian hatred. U.S. officials told delegates from European and Arab countries at a meeting in Kuwait that the effort should complement parallel campaigns against the militant group on the battlefield and in the world of finance.
See the full article (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 10/27/14)
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Google's New Skybox For Good Program Gives Real-Time Satellite Imagery To Nonprofits
Google and Skybox have announced the Skybox for Good program, which will provide real-time satellite imagery to organizations and programs that save lives, protect the environment, promote education and positively impact humanity, according to the official blog post. This will allow organizations like HALO to help them verify images of a Northern Sri Lanka village called Nagarkovil so they could that the area was safe, after previously removing land mines.
See the full article (TechCrunch, 10/25/14, Jordan Crook)
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Can This Drone Bring Peace to Ukraine?
A special drone is about to take flight over Ukraine - a peace drone. The unmanned aircraft will monitor movements of pro-Russian separatists and Russian forces, working to ensure that they are living up to commitments made in the Sept. 5 Minsk ceasefire agreement. If the drone's operators like what they see through their eyes in the sky, the situation in Ukraine could begin to look a lot brighter in the months and years ahead.
See the full article (Defense One, 10/24/14, Patrick Tucker)
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PeaceTech News Roundup

United States Institute of Peace

PeaceTech Roundup

Weekly News Highlights, October 9-15, 2014

Peace Channel

Featured Story:

Wanted: A Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State and Assad

by Manal Omar

Media and Social Media

Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

Russia Threatens Foreign Media Ownership With New Rules

President Vladimir Putin signed a law today curbing foreign ownership in Russian media, shrugging off criticism that the Kremlin is undermining the independent press in a swipe at global publishers and broadcasters. This year, as geopolitical tensions flared over the conflict in Ukraine, Putin has tightened control over the World Wide Web and media.

See the full article (Bloomberg, 10/15/14, Ilya Khrennikov)

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Social Media: Curse and Cure of Terror

A constant problem for intelligence services is detecting a terrorist before he acts. Now we have one good marker: The would-be terrorist is a 'friend' or a 'follower' of militants.

See the full article (Gulf News, 10/14/14, Daniel Byman and Jeremy Shapiro)

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Western Media: Stop Ignoring the Central African Republic Crisis

With gunfire and mob attacks in the streets of the capital, the Central African Republic is teetering again on the edge of mass violence. Nine people killed were killed in two days, including a UN peacekeeper from Pakistan and a Muslim civilian whose dead body was decapitated and burned by an angry mob in the capital, Bangui. But world's media are all but absent from the country.

See the full article (Columbia Journalism Review, 10/13/14, Jared Malsin)

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How the Media's Focus on Kobani Obscures the War in Syria

As the world's attention is gripped by the Islamic State's advance on the small Kurdish town of Kobani in northeastern Syria, other towns in Syria are being overrun by forces loyal to the dictator Bashar al-Assad largely without notice. Though local journalists and activists have tried to draw attention to a mounting crisis in the key city of Aleppo, they have not managed to raise the sort of interest now fixed on Kobani.

See the full article (Mashable, 10/13/14, Emily Feldman)

Click to read "Meet Syria's Rescue Workers: When War Becomes 'Daily Life'" a USIP Olive Branch Post by Aparna Ramanan. [Return to top]

Social Media & Global Conflicts: #BinaryBattles

War and conflict is no longer limited to battlefields. Every battle on the ground now has an equally strong and effective virtual dimension. Social media has turned everyone into a stakeholder in events that are taking place thousands of miles away.

See the full article(The Express Tribune, 10/12/14, Vasiq Eqbal)

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Bahrain Human Rights Defender Faces Charges for Tweet

Within two weeks of releasing leading human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja from jail the Bahrain authorities detained another. On September 30 Nabeel Rajab was taken into custody for allegedly insulting the Bahrain regime on Twitter. Rajab has been exposing human rights violations by the U.S. ally for many years and spent from mid-2012 to mid-2014 in prison on trumped-up charges.

See the full article(Huffington Post, 10/12/14, Brian Dooley)

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Twitter CEO Reveals ISIS has Threatened to Kill Him After Site Shut Down Jihadist Accounts

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has revealed that he and his staff have received death threats from ISIS after the site shut down accounts being used by the terrorist organization. Mr Costolo said: 'After we started suspending their accounts, some folks affiliated with the organization used Twitter to declare that employees of Twitter and their management should be assassinated.

See the full article (Daily Mail, 10/10/14, Annabel Grossman)

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Al-Qaida and ISIS Use Twitter Differently. Here's How and Why.

Al-Qaida has an Internet presence nearly two decades old, using various platforms and-more recently-social media to push its message. But it is ISIS, the relative newcomer, that has escalated its Internet efforts to the point that governments are beginning to see winning the Internet as central to the fight against terrorism. Much of ISIS's online strategy stems from lessons learned while its members were still in al-Qaida's fold. But when the groups split apart, their online strategies diverged as well-especially in how they use social media.

See the full article (National Journal, 10/9/14, Laura Ryan)

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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

Wanted: A Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State and Assad by Manal Omar

As the United States and its allies launch airstrikes against Sunni militants in Syria to stop the progress of the Islamic State, the central question of what role America's Arab and Islamic allies will play has lingered without any clear answer. The specific terms of a partnership have remained frustratingly vague, indicating a disconnect between the United States and regional powers. Understanding and addressing this disconnect is crucial, because banding together to quash a vicious, well-funded new threat that has swept across Iraq and Syria with impressive speed has obvious advantages for all involved.

See the full article

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Technology and Science

Pentagon Report: U.S. Military Considers Climate Change a 'Threat Multiplier' That Could Exacerbate Terrorism

A report released Monday indicates the Department of Defense has dramatically shifted its views towards climate change, and has already begun to treat the phenomenon as a significant threat to national security. Climate change, the Pentagon writes, requires immediate action on the part of the U.S. Military. The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries. These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently-stable governments.

See the full article(Newsweek, 10/14/14, Zoe Schlanger)

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The Jihadi Are Winning Their Online War on the West

The most sinister change in the way war is perceived through the media springs from what just a few years ago seemed to be a wholly positive development. Satellite television and the use of information supplied by YouTube, bloggers and social media were portrayed as liberating innovations at the beginning of the Arab Spring. The monopoly on information imposed by police states from Tunisia to Egypt and Bahrain had been broken. But as the course of the uprising in Syria has shown, satellite television and the Internet can also be used to spread propaganda and hate.

See the full article(Newsweek, 10/13/14, Patrick Cockburn)

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Robert Fisk on Isis: Propaganda War of Islamic extremists is Being Waged on Facebook and Internet Message Boards, Not Mosques

Over and over, we have the evidence that it is not Isis that "radicalises" Muslims before they head off to Syria but the internet. The belief, the absolute conviction that the screen contains truth - that the "message" really is the ultimate verity - has still not been fully recognised for what it is; an extraordinary lapse in our critical consciousness that exposes us to the rawest of emotions - both total love and total hatred - without the means to correct this imbalance. The "virtual" has dropped out of "virtual reality".

See the full article(The Independent, 10/12/14, Robert Fisk)

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State official: ISIS a 'Dark, Nasty' Online Presence

A top State Department official said the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a "dark, nasty" online presence and that the U.S. needed to be more aggressive to counter the group on social media. ISIS has used its presence online as a recruitment tool, including multiple videos showing beheadings of U.S. and British citizens. The U.S. faces a challenge trying to reach out to disaffected young men from the Middle East who may be drawn to support ISIS.

See the full article(The Hill, 10/10/14, Mario Trujillo)

Click to read "Iraqi Youth in TV Reality Show Support Each Other Amid Crisis" a USIP Olive Branch Post by Viola Gienger. [Return to top]

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