PeaceTech News Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


PeaceTech Roundup
Weekly News Highlights, June 12- 18, 2014


Peace Channel

Featured Story:
Could Colombia's Election Kill its Peace Process

by Virginia Bouvier

Media and Social Media

Crisis in Iraq

Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

Online Vigilantes to Police Facebook for Offensive Posts
A group of self-appointed censors [in India] are patrolling Facebook FB -1.83%, hoping to erase any content that might spark an outburst of religious violence. The group aims not to restrict free speech, but to stop online outrage turning into physical violence, said the group's founder Ravi Ghate. India has a long history of religious violence, often between Hindus and Muslims.
See the full article (Wall Street Journal, Shanoor Seervai, 6/18/14)
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Afghanistan's Journalists Betrayed
Afghanistan's journalists, whose professional risks already include kidnapping, insurgent attacks and violent reprisals from Afghan officials' bodyguards, face a brand new peril: snooping by the U.S. National Security Agency. On May 23, WikiLeaks revealed that Afghanistan was the previously unnamed country where the NSA conducted mass phone surveillance. According to WikiLeaks, since 2013 the NSA has been recording and storing almost all phone calls - including those made by Afghan journalists - in the country and to other countries.
See the full article (Al Jazeera America, Ahmad Shuja, 6/18/14)
Click to read "Afghanistan: How to Oversee Aid in Uncertain Times" an Olive Branch Post by Colin Cookman.
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Mexican Journalists Speak Out on Reporter Murders
Seven years ago, back before the drug war became so widespread and lethal, a Network of Journalists On Foot was formed by six women and one man [in Mexico]. They started to talk about how they had been beaten, tortured, in some cases kidnapped, how they were being watched, how death threats were slid under their front doors. The group began organizing workshops on safety protocols for journalists reporting in conflict zones, and inviting journalists who specialized in the coverage of violence to address their meetings.
See the full article (Daily Beast, Jason McGahan, 6/17/14)
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Festival Cancels Film on Anti-Muslim Violence After Social Media Criticism
The Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival taking place in Rangoon this week has cancelled the screening of a documentary dealing with anti-Muslim violence after social media users criticized the film for being too sympathetic to the plight of Burma's Muslims. The documentary, titled "The Open Sky," follows a woman who visits her Muslim aunt whose house gets burned down during the outburst of anti-Muslim violence in the town of Meikthila in March 2013.
See the full article (Irrawaddy, San Yamin Aung, 6/17/14)
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Egypt to Release Al Jazeera's Elshamy
Egypt's prosecutor general has ordered the release of Al Jazeera journalist Abdullah Elshamy on medical grounds, ending almost a year of imprisonment without charge. Elshamy has been on hunger strike for 147 days in protest of his prolonged imprisonment without charge. He was arrested on August 14 while covering the violent dispersal of a sit-in by supporters of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown by the army in July.
See the full article (Al Jazeera, 6/17/14)
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Russian Journalist Killed In Eastern Ukraine
Russian journalist for a Russian state-owned TV channel died Tuesday in eastern Ukraine after being wounded by mortar fire, the Rossiya 24 network said. Viktor Denisov, a cameraman working with Kornelyuk, said in a television broadcast that they were filming Ukrainian refugees fleeing the area north of the regional capital when mortar fire began.
See the full article (AP, Nataliya Vasilyeva, 6/17/14)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "ACCORD 25: Pursuing Peace through Legitimacy" on June, 23, 2014 at 2:00pm.
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Citizen Journalism Key to Covering Conflict in Syria
Online crisis mapping system Syria Tracker has revealed that citizen journalism is the most prominent source of news coming out of the ongoing conflict. The humanitarian tool, which has been crowdsourcing words, photos and videos to deliver a real time map of the crisis since 2011, scoured some 160,000 new reports and social media updates and used complex data mining to come to this conclusion for Index on Censorship, a global organisation that fights for freedom of expressions.
See the full article (Wired, Liat Clark, 6/16/14)
Click to read "Twitter Chat: How Will Iraq Confront Militant Group Sweeping in from Syria?" an Olive Branch Post by Steven Ruder.
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Crisis in Iraq

Twitter Account Associated with Iran Leader Warns of 'War in Muslim World'
A Twitter account Iran experts believe is run by the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in comments apparently inspired by Iraq's turmoil, accused Sunni militants on Thursday of wanting to bring about a war in the Muslim world. Shi'ite Iran has been alarmed by rapid territorial gains made in Iraq by the militants of the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant' (ISIL), which seeks a caliphate ruled on mediaeval Sunni Muslim precepts in Iraq and Syria.
See the full article (Reuters, 6/18/14)
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Social Media Battle Augments Iraq Bloodshed
It's a truth of warfare in the digital era: Bullets and bombs often are augmented by status updates and tweets. The bloody conflict taking place in Iraq is no different. And Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a terror group so extreme that al Qaeda has denounced it, is taking the lead with a social media propaganda war the likes of which has never been seen.
See the full article (CNN, Doug Gross, 6/18/14)
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Iraq Crisis: Media Coverage Split Along Sectarian Lines
The turmoil in Iraq, as heavy fighting continues between government forces and Sunni militants, is reflected in its media with coverage by TV stations aligned with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Shia-led government and those that are pro-Sunni taking sides along sectarian lines. The pro-government TV stations in early bulletins on 17 June highlight the recruitment of volunteers in various Shia-dominated towns. Meanwhile, Sunni channels are reporting extensively on attacks on the Iraqi army by the Sunni fighters, whom Rafidayn TV describes as "tribal revolutionaries."
See the full article (BBC, 6/17/14)
Click to read "Iraq Crisis: Will Politics Deliver More After Military Response This Time?" an Olive Branch Post by Elie Abouaoun.
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Iraqis Post to Whisper After Social Media Crackdown
Iraqis who have been banned from using social media amid the country's descent into sectarian fighting have taken to a relatively new anonymous app called "Whisper" to discuss the conflict. Whisper allows users to post anything they want anonymously and share it with others.
See the full article (ABC, Colleen Curry, 6/17/14)
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Eat The Press: The Iraq Media Complex
If you've been watching cable news to learn about the situation in Iraq you might feel an odd sense of deja vu. The talking points may be a bit different, but the march to war is still the same. Watch Jason Linkins unravel the curious case of Iraq.
See the full article (Huffington Post, 6/17/14)
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Iraq Orders Complete Internet Shutdown in 5 Provinces
As Iraq's government struggles to contain the al-Qaeda-inspired militants sweeping the north of the country, it is taking the fight to cyberspace. Iraq's Ministry of Communications has ordered the country's Internet service providers to shut down Internet access completely in five different regions, according to a letter sent to the ISPs on Sunday and later leaked online. This the government's latest attempt to contain the militant group's use of the Internet and social media for propaganda and recruitment purposes.
See the full article (Mashable, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, 6/16/14)
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How ISIS Games Twitter
The advance of an army used to be marked by war drums. Now it's marked by volleys of tweets. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni militant group that seized Iraq's second-largest city last week and is now pledging to take Baghdad, has honed this new technique-most recently posting photos on Twitter of an alleged mass killing of Iraqi soldiers. But what's often overlooked in press coverage is that ISIS doesn't just have strong, organic support online.
See the full article (Atlantic, J.M. Berger, 6/16/14)
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Militants Post Photos of Mass Killing in Iraq
The Islamic militants who overran cities and towns in Iraq last week posted graphic photos that appeared to show their gunmen massacring scores of captured Iraqi soldiers, while the prime minister vowed Sunday to "liberate every inch" of captured territory. The pictures on a militant website appear to show masked fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, loading the captives onto flatbed trucks before forcing them to lie face-down in a shallow ditch with their arms tied behind their backs.
See the full article (AP, 6/15/14)
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Iraq Tries to Censor Social Media to Disrupt ISIS Communication, But Its Success is Limited
The Iraqi government moved Friday to block access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in a bid to disrupt the social media tools deployed by insurgents as they have swept through the country in a bold drive toward Baghdad. But the initiative ran into a hard reality of warfare in the 21st century. Losing physical ground means losing control of cyberspace as well.
See the full article (Washington Post, Craig Timberg, 6/13/14)
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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

Could Colombia's Election Kill its Peace Process by Virginia Bouvier
Colombia's presidential campaign is in its final days before run-off elections on Sunday, June 15, and as the contest winds down, it has become clear that the fate of the two peace processes that have been spearheaded by President Juan Manuel Santos hang in the balance.
See the full article

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Technology and Science

Google Play Is Accessible Again in Iran (But Don't Get Too Excited)
Users in Iran can now freely access the Google Play store inside the country after a block was mysteriously lifted on Tuesday. In August 2013, after the United States eased sanctions on computer technologies against Iran, Google announced that it would make apps available through its store in Iran. But the government blocked access to the Google Play store shortly after. Google Play store is now suddenly available in Iran.
See the full article (Mashable, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, 6/18/14)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Iran Sanctions: What the U.S. Cedes in a Nuclear Deal" on July, 8, 2014 at 9:30am.
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Nation-Building: How Kosovo's Prime Minister Hopes to Develop a 21st Century Economy
On June 8th, voters in Kosovo went to the polls. It was the third general election in the world's 2nd youngest nation, and incumbent Prime Minister Hashim Thaci's Democratic Party of Kosovo won a narrow victory over its rival, the Democratic League of Kosovo. In his first post-election interview with the international press, Thaci discusses his view of science and technology in the context of governing Kosovo.
See the full article (Wired, Jeffrey Marlow, 6/18/14)
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The Digital Arms Race - and What is Being Done to Fight It
In March, the world's biggest surveillance-technology providers gathered in the pristine corridors of the JW Marriot Hotel in Dubai. The occasion was the three-day ISS World conference, the middle east's largest "lawful interception" event. These firms believe they are supplying tools to the defenders of the free world. Yet the Guardian has been handed evidence their technology and vast numbers of other espionage tools are increasingly being used in countries with questionable human rights records, where activists and media organisations, among others, are under attack.
See the full article (Guardian, Tom Brewster, 6/17/14)
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