PeaceTech News Roundup


United States Institute of Peace


PeaceTech Roundup
Weekly News Highlights, May 29 - June 4, 2014


Peace Channel

Featured Story:
Assad's Hollow Mandate

by Steven Heydemann

Media and Social Media

Technology and Science

Media and Social Media

Syrian Conflict Leads to PDK Reprisals Against Pro-PKK Media
Journalists, news media and freedom of information in Iraqi Kurdistan have been hit by a recent increase in the traditional tension between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (PDK), whose leader, Masoud Barzani, is Iraqi Kurdistan's president, and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the Turkish armed separatist group that has many fighters based in Iraqi Kurdistan. The targeted entities included two media outlets: DIHA, a Turkish news agency, and the monthly Rojava Welat.
See the full article (Thomas Reuters Foundation, 6/4/14)
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Young Iranians 'Claustrophobic' as Culture is Forced Online but Accessed in Private
In different ways, [youth] struggle to cope with simultaneous feelings of social isolation and claustrophobia, predominant among the current generation of Iranian youth. Spending hours a day in front of their computers or satellite TV, the Ahmadinejad generation's cultural tastes have moved far outside the confines of the Islamic republic. By the time they reach high-school age, many teenagers spend hours a day on Instagram and Facebook.
See the full article (Guardian, 6/3/14)
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Blogging for Freedom in Vietnam
A few years before his arrest, in 2012, I exchanged e-mails with the Vietnamese blogger Le Quoc Quan, a Hanoi-based lawyer who first started blogging in 2005. He told me that his first post, just a sentence long, read: "Oh my fatherland of Vietnam, I want to say something to you!" While working on my book about Internet dissent in the Communist and post-Communist world, I interviewed bloggers in China, Cuba, and Russia who, like Quan, wanted to tell stories that did not appear in the state-controlled media.
See the full article (New Yorker, Emily Parker, 6/3/14)
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#BringBackOurGirls: The Verdict
Social media campaigns (such as Kony2012) are frequently dismissed as superficial and a displacement for real engagement - labelled "slacktivism". Yet, despite some difficulties, #BringBackOurGirls does appear to be a case where the worldwide outcry voiced through Twitter has had a genuine impact and promoted meaningful action [in Nigeria].
See the full article (Guardian, Suzanne Franks, 6/3/14)
Click to read "Nigeria: Remedies for a Police-Community Disconnect?" an Olive Branch Post by Nadia Gerspacher.
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Radio Drama Encounters Real-Life Trauma in South Sudan
A new radio drama in South Sudan called Sawa Shabab coaches young listeners on life skills and getting along with others. But just as production was set to begin, violence erupted in the country - the same violence the show's creators were hoping to prevent. The radio drama aims to address tribal differences by having actors overcome obstacles to work together for their country, to show young listeners that good can come from respecting diversity and countering stereotypes.
See the full article (PBS, Larisa Epatko, 6/2/14)
Click to read about USIP's upcoming event "Rhythms at the Intersection of Peace and Conflict" on June, 10, 2014 at 9:30am.
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Egypt's Police Seek Ability to Monitor Social Media for Signs of Dissent
Egypt's police force is seeking to build a surveillance system to monitor social media for expressions of dissent - including profanity, immorality, insults and calls for strikes and protests. According to a leaked document in which technology companies are invited to offer their services, Egypt's interior ministry says it wants the ability to scan Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and Viber in real-time for usage that might "harm public security or incite terrorism".
See the full article (Guardian, Patrick Kingsley, 6/2/14)
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Journalists Protest Against Curbing of Press Freedom
A group of Sudanese journalists on Sunday organised a sit-in in front of the National Press and Publications' Council in Khartoum in protest against the government's media policies. The protesters submitted a strong worded memorandum to the Press Council calling for its immediate intervention to protect the media against the "vicious and systematic attacks" by the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), and to cancel the suspension of several journalists.
See the full article (AllAfrica, 6/2/14)
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Activists on Social Media Keep Thai Junta on Edge
A handful of users of Facebook and other social-media sites Sunday achieved mostly with online messages what it previously took tens of thousands of actual street protesters to do: Shut down the center of Thailand's capital. Thailand's military rulers, who seized power in a coup last month, have imposed wide-ranging censorship, and have ordered more than 250 people to report to army camps since the coup was announced, though most have since been released. Cable television networks still don't run international news channels such as CNN and BBC.
See the full article (Wall Street Journal, James Hookway and Newley Purnell, 6/1/14)
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Chinese Journalists are Beginning to Fight Their Government's Censorship
If President Xi Jinping and his colleagues want to keep a lid on that bottle, they may face resistance from a surprising source: the nation's budding journalists. By substantial numbers, students in some of China's leading journalism schools oppose censorship, doubt the credibility of their domestic media, and don't believe journalists should be members of the Communist Party.
See the full article (Washington Post, Joseph Weber, 6/1/14)
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Iran Link to Social Media Spying on Military Leaders
Fake social media accounts have been used by Iranian hackers to spy on senior military and political staff worldwide, a report suggests. The accounts aided a four-year campaign that aimed to befriend targets, said computer security firm iSight Partners. Accounts were used to make it appear that bogus identities set up by the spies were real people.
See the full article (BBC, 5/29/14)
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Featured Story from the USIP Foreign Policy Peace Channel

Assad's Hollow Mandate by Steven Heydemann
On June 3, in a parody of democracy, Bashar al-Assad will be reelected as president of Syria for his third seven-year term. If he serves out this term, Assad will be eligible to run for a fourth term in 2021 that would extend his presidency to 28 years -- two years short of his father's tenure. Tuesday's election is easy to ridicule, but it would be a mistake to dismiss it as a meaningless charade.
See the full article

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Technology and Science

The Cyber Cold War: What Issuing Arrest Warrants Means and What Can Still be Done
We are in a second cold war. The recent indictments of Chinese military officers have definitively shown this to be a fact, yet it is just one of many silent blows back and forth in this bloodless war behind closed doors in which both governments claim they are not involved. Just like the original cold war, the only way to keep our heads above water is to keep improving the technology that is keeping us safe.
See the full article (Huffington Post, Andrew Edwards, 6/4/14)
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China Escalates Its War on American Tech Firms
U.S. technology firms have often found China a tough market. Now, in the wake of Washington's charges against five Chinese military officials for cyberspying, a riled Beijing has intensified its criticism of U.S. tech businesses. Chinese media this week attacked numerous U.S. tech firms for, in effect, acting as agents of American espionage.
See the full article (Time, Michael Schuman, 6/4/14)
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China Boosts Security, Internet Restrictions Ahead of Tiananmen Square Anniversary
Police and paramilitary troops patrolled the streets and manned checkpoints in Beijing on Tuesday. The move comes as authorities mount a major campaign against dissidents, detaining several dozen activists and heightening restrictions on other artists, lawyers and government critics. A censorship watchdog, meanwhile, said that a number of Google-related websites had been blocked. China prevents access to websites including YouTube and Twitter using a system known as the "Great Firewall," and restrictions are tightened ahead of dates the government considers sensitive.
See the full article (Deutsche Welle, 6/3/14)
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'Conflict Minerals' Deadline Looms for Technology Firms
Companies manufacturing products that use "conflict minerals" must submit a plan to deal with the problem to US regulators by Monday. The term applies to raw materials, such as gold, tungsten, tantalum and tin, gathered by miners controlled by violent militia groups. All of the materials are used widely in electronics products and the deadline applies to firms listed in the US.
See the full article (BBC, Dave Lee, 5/30/14)
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Edward Snowden: 'I'd Like To Go Home'
Edward J. Snowden, in an hour-long television interview broadcast Wednesday night, portrayed himself as a "patriot" who broke the law in an act of "civil disobedience" directed at "massive" constitutional violations by the U.S. government. While Snowden said he would love to return to the United States from Russia, where he sought and obtained asylum last summer after leaking thousands of documents detailing the extent of the National Security Agency's sprawling surveillance program, he said he did not want to "walk into a jail cell."
See the full article (Washington Post, Terrence McCoy, 5/29/14)
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