PeaceTech News Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


PeaceTech Roundup
Weekly News Highlights, June 19 - 25, 2014


Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

How Police Are Scanning All Of Twitter To Detect Terrorist Threats
When Boston officials decided to monitor Twitter during this year's marathon, they didn't scan the site's 500 million daily posts for signs of trouble. Dataminr did that for them. Dataminr has been quietly working with public safety officials in Boston and three other cities with the aim of detecting potential criminal or terrorist activity bubbling up on Twitter before it happens.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Gerry Smith, 6/25/14)
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Facebook Looks to Block ISIS Clothing Sales
T-shirts, hoodies and even toy figurines bearing the ISIS logo are being sold on online and marketed across social media. For around $10 you can buy an ISIS shirt with the militant group's logo and phrases printed on it like "We are all ISIS" and "Fight for Freedom, Until the Last Drop of Blood." The websites are marketing the ISIS paraphernalia across social media. Facebook has been removing the pages once the media alerts them to their existence.
See the full article (CNN, Samuel Burke, 6/25/14)
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Middle East Media Outlets Use Iraq Crisis to Shape Opinion
The crisis in Iraq is reshaping the regional landscape of public opinion, just as it threatens to redraw long-established political borders. Middle Eastern newspapers and broadcasters, many of which are state-linked or state-owned, are using their coverage of the confrontation between Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq both to report on official narratives of the conflict and to enhance the political standing of leaders domestically.
See the full article (Wall Street Journal, Asa Fitch, 6/24/14)
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Web Preaches Jihad to China's Muslim Uighurs
Chinese officials are pointing to an upsurge in Uighur language videos like this and other religious-extremist material online as a key factor behind the recent attacks. China's censors block most such material, but Chinese officials and some Uighurs say some locals find ways to access it. China's government launched a crackdown on terrorist material online on Friday and took the unusual step Tuesday of broadcasting a documentary on state television including jihadist video clips it said were from Xinjiang militants.
See the full article (Wall Street Journal, Jeremy Page, 6/24/14)
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Terrorists on Twitter: Attempts to Silence ISIS Online Could Backfire
Iraq's attempts at curbing speech are also likely to have unintended consequences. Although the country's Internet users are still few, their use of social media covers a number of areas, including citizen reporting. In shuttering social media, Iraq's leadership isn't just silencing ISIS. It's also silencing those voices that would use social sites to report on or protest against the group's advancements.
See the full article (Slate, Jillian C. York, 6/23/14)
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Afghan Election: Antisocial Networking Prompts Calls For Twitter, Facebook Ban
As the political stalemate deepens in Afghanistan, social media has become a stage for hate speech and provocative remarks between supporters of rival candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani. The inflammatory language traded between rival supporters on Facebook and Twitter -- many of them with religious and ethnic undertones -- risks rekindling the type of interethnic violence seen in the country in the 1990s, according to UN officials.
See the full article (RFE/RL, Frud Bezhan, 6/23/14)
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Who is Behind Isis's Terrifying Online Propaganda Operation?
Thousands of ISIS Twitter followers installed an app - called the Dawn of Glad Tidings - that allows Isis to use their accounts to send out centrally written updates. Released simultaneously, the messages swamp social media, giving Isis a far larger online reach than their own accounts would otherwise allow. The Dawn app pumps out news of Isis advances, gory images, or frightening videos like Swords IV - creating the impression of a rampant and unstoppable force.
See the full article (Guardian, Patrick Kingsley, 6/23/14)
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Egypt sentences Al Jazeera Journalists to Prison, Drawing International Condemnation
A Cairo court sentenced three journalists from Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite news channel to prison Monday on charges of collaborating with "terrorists," a move that Secretary of State John F. Kerry called "chilling and draconian." In a statement denouncing the sentences, Kerry called on Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to declare a "commitment to the essential role of civil society, a free press and the rule of law."
See the full article (Washington Post, Erin Cunningham, 6/23/14)
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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

Through Syria, Darkly by Kristin Lord and David Rothkopf
Peace will come to Syria slowly and only after much greater violence, participants predicted grimly at the second-ever PeaceGame, co-sponsored by Foreign Policy and the United States Institute of Peace in Abu Dhabi on June 18-19. In the meantime, given the protracted conflict's disastrous spread into Iraq, the most realistic positive developments may be limited to international cooperation to provide humanitarian relief and counter extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
See the full article

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Technology and Science

Amid a Coup, Thailand's Online Crackdown Gains Momentum
Sweeping online surveillance and internet censorship are fast becoming vital means for Thailand's junta to consolidate political control since seizing power in a coup on May 22. Thailand's military, since renamed the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has blocked hundreds of websites, issued orders that constrain critical reporting, and threatened those who produce or disseminate anti-coup content with military detention. Junta officials have since admitted that greater surveillance efforts are now under way.
See the full article (PBS, Lisa Gardner, 6/25/14)
Click to read "Studying Civil Resistance Online: A Case Study on Cambodia and Vietnam" an Olive Branch Post by Daryn Cambridge.
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Amnesty International Panic Button App Boon for The Vulnerable
Amnesty International launches a Panic Button smartphone app that aims to provide activists or human rights defenders the ability to get immediate help from their networks in the midst of an attack, kidnap or torture. The Panic Button mobile app converts the smartphone into a secret-alarm device that the user-activist can activate immediately in case of emergency.
See the full article (Tech Times, Lori Sandoval, 6/24/14)
Click to read "South Sudanese, Rwandans Share Stories of Resilience in Search of Hope" an Olive Branch Post by Nicoletta Barbera and Danielle Robertson.
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Breaking the Law to Go Online in Iran
According to "The Iran Primer," a website and publication of the United States Institute of Peace, "Iran is one of the most tech-savvy societies in the developing world, with an estimated 28 million Internet users, led by youth," the site says. "Iran boasts between 60,000 and 110,000 active blogs, one of the highest numbers in the Middle East, led by youth." Yet any attempt to bypass [government] Internet blocks by using a virtual private network (VPN) connection or other software solutions is illegal.
See the full article (New York Times, Setareh Derakhshesh, 6/24/14)*NYT subscription may be required to access full story
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Toward a Positive Cyber Peace
Defining and fostering cyber peace is no easy feat; in fact, it has been said that "achieving and maintaining cyber-peace can be as demanding as starting a cyberwar." What seems clear, though, is that cyber peace is not the absence of attacks or exploitation, an idea that could be called negative cyber peace. Rather, it is the creation of a network of multilevel regimes working together to promote a global, just, and sustainable cyber peace by clarifying the rules of the road for companies and countries alike to help reduce the risk of conflict, crime, and espionage in cyberspace to levels comparable to other business and national security risks.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Scott J. Shackelford, 6/23/14)
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Tracking Syria Fighters Now Main Task for MI5
Tracking British jihadists fighting in Syria is now the top priority for MI5, the BBC has learned. It comes after a video appeared to show UK jihadis in Syria trying to recruit people to join them there and in Iraq. The video cannot be verified, but BBC correspondent Paul Adams said it came from social media accounts with known links to Isis and had probably been filmed in Syria. The video footage features six armed men, sitting in front of the black flag of Isis.
See the full article (BBC, 6/20/14)
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