PeaceTech News Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


PeaceTech Roundup
Weekly News Highlights, September 11 - September 17, 2014


Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

Azerbaijan Tightens Screws On Civil Society, Independent Media
There is good news coming out of Azerbaijan these days. If you dig a little deeper for your news about Azerbaijan, the picture is much bleaker. The European Stability Initiative, a Berlin-based think tank, recently issued a report detailing what it calls "the most serious and brutal crackdown on civil society in Azerbaijan ever" since Baku assumed the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in May. It is a depressing litany of arrests, detentions, searches, and court hearings of bloggers, journalists, and prominent activists.
See the full article (Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, 9/17/14, Robert Coalson)
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China's Social Media Underground
Fake terrorism threats, online dissidents, and smear campaigns by bogus accounts -- it's all part of Twitter's Chinatown. Hundreds of nearly identical accounts have attempted to influence Twitter's Chinese community in a direction that represents party interests. Twitter has long fought for freedom of expression, but that doesn't mean its Chinese-language users can let down their collective guard. As activists pushed out of Chinese social media seek other venues, their opponents are following -- even if that means fighting it out on the same platform Chinese authorities have banished.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, 9/16/14, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian)
Click to read "How Technology Can Help Activists Navigate Under Pressure" an Olive Branch Post by Noel Dickover.
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How the Western media's Middle East coverage has changed
In conflicts like that in Gaza this year, television news showed the effects of Israeli attacks, especially on children: it was a common view that Israel was the Goliath in this conflict and had been bested in the public relations stakes by the David of Gaza's Hamas regime. At its best, coverage does no harm to either side's position: that demands a rigour of analysis and objectivity hard to achieve and maintain. The Israeli-Palestinian issue is not just the crucible of conflicts ancient and modern: it is the testing ground of a journalism that takes seriously what is the trade's noblest claim - that it succeeds in giving a sketch of events which those of open mind can recognise as the truth.
See the full article (BBC, 9/15/14, John Lloyd)
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Why the public reaction to one man's brutal murder could push Britain to become a stronger ally in the fight against the Islamic State. As the news of Haines's death reverberates around the country, many are using social media to criticize Prime Minister David Cameron for failing to take swifter and stronger action. "Just what does it take for @David_Cameron to join the fight against #ISIS?" wrote one commenter.
See the full article (Foreign Policy, 9/15/14, Nabeelah Jaffer)
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Islamic State's Twitter silence raises questions
Islamic State's Twitter users, which have trumpeted the group's violent acts and world view on the social media service, have gone abruptly quiet in past days. Several accounts affiliated with the militant group appear to have gone dormant, according to U.S. government sources, raising questions about whether the government has pressured Twitter to clamp down more aggressively or whether the group has moved to other social media channels.
See the full article (Reuters, 9/12/14, Alexei Oreskovic and Lesley Wroughton)
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Why Terrorists Love Twitter
Terrorists love Twitter. That includes the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Sunni Muslim extremists whom the U.S. is targeting in an expanded military campaign. ISIS has emerged as the most sophisticated group yet at using the service to spread its bloodthirsty message. And when ISIS jihadists and tens of thousands of acolytes swarmed Twitter in recent months, it raised the question of how social media sites should respond when unsavory groups colonize their platform.
See the full article (Time, 9/11/14, Alex Altman)
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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

You Can't Go Home Again by Paul Brian
Georgians from the would-be state of Abkhazia have spent decades trying to rebuild their lives after conflict forced them from their homes. But today, the wounds of war still feel fresh. It's hard to be caught between two worlds, especially when those worlds are Abkhazia and Georgia. Refugees still consider the disputed state of Abkhazia their real home and part of Georgia. That position is shared by many other countries, including the United States and many NATO nations, and is offset by only four -- most seminally Russia.
See the full article

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Technology and Science

Frontline Ukraine: How Activists Are Using Social Media to Hold Poroshenko to Account
An uprising has started in social media, with the express intention of encouraging dialogue between the citizens of Ukraine and the country's President, Petro Poroshenko. The uprising has seen people from all over Ukraine post pictures of themselves on Facebook, holding placards with the legend 'PoroshenkoPohovoryZNarodom' ('Poroshenko, talk to people'). Activists are also tweeting #PoroshenkoPohovoryZNarodom to show their support.
See the full article (Yahoo, 9/17/14, Valeriia Ketrysh)
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An Israeli drone conference is featuring a product recently used on Gaza
A few weeks after Israel and Hamas signed an open-ended truce to end their nearly two-month-long war in Gaza, Israeli defense contractors are parading weapons used in the conflict at a conference in Tel Aviv. The conference's sponsors include Haifa-based Elbit Systems. Elbit's Hermes 450, a battle drone-operated this summer in the Gaza Strip, may have carried out attacks. Photos taken by an Agence France-Presse photographer that appeared in a July post on The Aviationist, a blog, showed the aircraft flying over the skies of Gaza.
See the full article (Quartz, 9/16/14, Daniel A. Medina)
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ISIS' Use of Social Media Is Not Surprising; Its Sophisticated Digital Strategy Is
What makes ISIS stand out from the crowd of tech-savvy radicals is the scope of their engagement online. Analysts believe ISIS is using social media far more effectively than any other terrorist group operating on the Web. According to terrorism expert JM Berger, ISIS' digital efforts stem from a carefully planned and coordinated strategy, deliberately aimed at magnifying the group's message and making it look stronger than it really is. A study showed that despite having roughly the same number of online supporters, ISIS' hashtags consistently fare better compared to those launched by Jabhat al-Nusra, a branch of al-Qaeda also active in Syria.
See the full article (Huffington Post, 9/15/14, Alessandro Bonzio)
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The war on ISIS already has a winner: The defense industry
It's far too soon to tell how the American escalation in the sprawling, complex mess unfolding in Iraq and Syria will play out. But this much is clear: As our military machine hums into a higher gear, it will produce some winners in the defense industry. The widening conflict could even reverse the trend of tapering investments in the technology. Makers of munitions and unmanned aircraft top the list of private-sector beneficiaries.
See the full article (Fortune, 9/13/14, Tory Newmyer)
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Russia's 'Facebook' Cracking Down on ISIS Accounts
The Islamic State may soon be running out of social networks. When Twitter ramped up its crackdown on several accounts in the wake of the brutal beheading of James Foley, the militants were forced to move on to different social networks like Diaspora and VKontakte, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, looking for more permissive digital pastures. But VKontakte, which boasts of 260 million users, has also started to crack down on accounts related to the Islamic State.
See the full article (Mashable, 9/12/14, Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai)
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Did we miss anything?



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