Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Freedom of information: Chinese man sues China firm over Google block

September 8, 2014

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Paramilitary policemen stand guard on a city square in Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang region on May 24, 2014 (AFP Photo/Goh Chai Hin)

AgenceFrance-Presse

BEIJING — A Chinese man threw a rare official spotlight on the country’s Internet controls when he sued a state-owned telecom operator for denying him access to US search engine Google, documents and reports showed Friday.

Authorities in China impose strict limits on the Internet, censoring domestic content and blocking foreign websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube using a system known as the “Great Firewall”.

Google partially withdrew from mainland China in 2010 and moved its servers to Hong Kong after a fallout with Chinese officialdom. Access to its services has been blocked or disrupted since shortly before June’s 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Wang Long, who describes himself as a “law worker”, sued China Unicom over his lack of access to Google at the Futian People’s Court in the southern boom town of Shenzhen, which neighbours Hong Kong.

The hearing took place on Thursday, a document on the city’s official litigation service website showed.

On his account on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo, Wang said that China Unicom’s lawyer hesitated to answer when the judge asked whether Google’s websites can normally be accessed.

Eventually, the advocate said that he was “not sure whether he can tell (the court) or not”, sparking laughter from the gallery, Wang said.

He added that the judge ordered the clerk to record that the websites were not accessible, but it had nothing to do with China Unicom.

Court officials were not available to comment when contacted by Agence France-Presse on Friday.

A ruling is expected to be made before October, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported.

It quoted Wang, 25, as saying that he had a contractual relationship with China Unicom. “They should offer me telecom services, yet they still failed to provide access. They should be held responsible for this failure,” he said.

Wang has also sued China Mobile, another state-owned telecom carrier, and the court agreed last week to hear the case, another document on the Shenzhen website showed, without giving details.

The Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, quoted what it described as a “Beijing-based expert in cyber security, who requested anonymity” as saying Wang had sued the wrong opponent.

“It is Google that should be blamed, since it does not operate its business in China,” the “expert” was cited as saying. “I call on companies like Google or Twitter or Facebook to offer services in China and accept [proper supervision].”

Read more: http://technology.inquirer.net/38503/man-sues-china-firm-over-google-block#ixzz3ChxAZFsc
Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

U.S. In Propaganda War With ISIL

September 8, 2014

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Islamic State Page on Facebook and Twitter

By Anne Gearan
The Washington Post

The stunning rise of the ­Islamic State militant group as both a battlefield force and an Internet juggernaut over the summer has given new urgency to a State Department effort to counter online militant propaganda with a U.S. messaging campaign.

A U.S.-government-made video that recently made the rounds on social media — with graphic images of Islamic State executions and a beheaded body — is the best-known example of the attempt to expose the brutality of the Islamist group and undermine its ­online recruitment appeals.

The Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS, has supplanted al-Qaeda as the main object of U.S. efforts to understand and counter militant activity online, U.S. officials said. Intelligence agencies covertly monitor and sometimes try to disrupt militant Web sites, but the smaller, $6 million State Department effort is intended for public consumption. Videos, tweets and other online content in Arabic, Urdu, English and other languages are identified as coming from the U.S. government.

The short video titled “Welcome to ISIL-Land” and others like it aim to counter militant propaganda by producing eye-catching online material that uses the militants’ own words or images against them.

That’s a tricky line to walk, since by repurposing provocative or grisly images to discredit the groups behind them, the State Department also gives them wider distribution.

“The point, obviously, of this is to target potential recruits, potential sympathizers, to show the brutality” of the organization, said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. “To point out the fallacies, point out the inconsistencies.”

“Welcome to ISIL-Land” generated news stories and negative comments on Twitter about its extremely violent content and mocking tone. YouTube requires viewers to be 21 to watch it.

The Islamic State “is the gold standard of terrorist propaganda in terms of quality and quantity,” said a senior State Department official involved in the countermessage effort. “They put into practice what al-Qaeda has ­always said and could never do,” in promoting themselves effectively in the news media and online. The official, like others, spoke on the condition of ­anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the U.S. campaign on the record.

Sharpening and broadening a political-style message campaign against the Islamic State is a feature of the emerging Obama administration strategy to line up Arab and other partners to counter Islamic State on the ground and online. The group has seized territory in Syria and Iraq and become a magnet for aspiring jihadists across the globe.

President Obama began outlining a counteroffensive at the NATO summit last week in Wales. In an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Obama said it was time for the United States to “start going on some offense” against the Islamic State, and he plans to meet with lawmakers this week before delivering a speech to the public Wednesday on the U.S. strategy. Secretary of State John F. Kerry and others will be in the Mideast this week to ask for Sunni Arab help in support of the new Shiite Iraqi government as it fights the Sunni militants.

“They can provide physical space and locations for training, and they can agree to work with us on training and equipping and advising” Iraqi and moderate Syrian rebel forces fighting Islamic State, a senior administration official said. “They can be a voice and galvanize the moderate Sunni voices in their communities to — on the countermessaging point — to push back against . . . what’s a very empty narrative” from the militants.

Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met Friday with officials from several nations likely to join the new coalition. “There is no time to waste in building a broad international coalition to degrade and, ultimately, to destroy the threat posed by ISIL,” Kerry and Hagel said in a statement issued in Wales.

The campaign would provide military support to Iraq, stem the flow of foreign fighters coming to join the Islamic State and go after the organization’s financing, while also “delegitimizing” the group’s ideology, the statement said.

In a speech last week at the Brookings Institution, Matt ­Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the Islamic State operates “the most significant global propaganda machine of any Islamist extremist group. . . . No group is as successful and effective as ISIL is at using propaganda, particularly social media.”

Islamic State routinely releases scenes of carnage designed to intimidate adversaries and bolster its ruthless reputation. But it also seeks to appeal to recruits with images of its fighters cradling kittens and its religious enforcers patrolling neighborhoods and smiling affably as they warn residents to wear proper Islamic attire.

The video that became prominent last week is one of several on a new State Department YouTube channel in English aimed at disaffected young Western Muslims who may be wowed by the Islamic State’s battlefield momentum. The countermessage is simple: These guys are lying to you, and if you go to Syria to fight Western oppression you’ll just end up killing innocent Muslims.

The 50-employee Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications is the State Department office behind the video. The organization was launched in 2011 to analyze and answer militant activity on social media and does most of its work in languages other than English.

The English-language YouTube channel was created in a rush in July as part of an expanded online message campaign following the fall of the strategic Iraqi city of Mosul to Islamic State militants, the senior State Department official said.

The same video was first posted in Arabic in July, and that version has more than 42,000 views on YouTube. The English-language version was also posted in July. It is part of a campaign called “Think Again, Turn Away,” that also tweets with the motto “some truths about terrorism.”

By contrast, the Islamic State video showing the killing of American journalist James Foley has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, if not more, despite attempts to remove it from mainstream video sites.

U.S. government-branded efforts to interject online often go awry, either because the message falls flat or the Americans fail to reach real militants or their ­sympathizers, said Evan F. Kohlmann, chief information officer of Flashpoint Global Partners, a New York security consulting firm that tracks militant Web sites.

“The problem with this video is the same problem that seems to happen over and over again with these type of initiatives,” he said. “They don’t seem to have a clear picture of what audience they are trying to reach, or how to influence them.”

He added that “someone at the State Department has failed to recognize that most of the Westerners trying to join ISIS are actually enthused by videos of executions and suicide bombings, not deterred by them.”

State Department officials said they recognize the limits of the program.

The United States understands that the lure of the Islamic State’s jihadist message is strong, and fueled by grievance and history that no quick online American answer can fully address, the senior State Department official said.

“So we poke holes in their narrative, try to turn the tables,” the official continued. “You’re not going to get a knockout blow.”

Greg Miller, Karen DeYoung and David Nakamura contributed to this report.

 

Democratic Candidate Calls Republican “Worse than ISIS”

September 3, 2014

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ISIS
A man holds up a knife as he rides on the back of a motorcycle touring the streets of Tabqa city with others in celebration after Islamic State militants took over Tabqa air base, in nearby Raqqa city August 24, 2014. Reuters

Congressional candidate J.T. Smith of Phenix City is upset with the Republicans in Congress — so much that he compared Republicans to the terrorist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the the Levant, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Smith, the Democratic nominee in Alabama’s District 3, made the comparison on Labor Day, taking to Twitter to vent.

JT Smith

JT Smith, Democratic candidate for Congress in Alabama’s Third District

And Smith’s timing will likely get his tweet more attention than it has already garnered on social media, as ISIL-ISIS reportedly beheaded a second American journalist on Tuesday. ISIS militants previously beheaded American journalist James Foley, on Aug. 19.

Smith wrote: “The greatest country on earth is being bullied from within. Actions of Republicans in congress are worse than .” (The tweet is below.)

It wasn’t the first potentially incendiary tweet from Smith, who faces U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, in November.

On Sunday, Smith, an Iraq War veteran, tweeted that the fact that the GOP wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, proves that the Republicans see “seniors, women and children as prey.”

Smith later took to Facebook to explain his Tweet.

“Twitter does not allow for context, but this does,” Smith wrote on Facebook. “I am not saying that the republican party is beheading people in the streets, obviously. Here in America, because we are a civilized democracy, we do not use violence against each other as a means of control. The republicans have used the economy as a means to terrorize the people of this country.”

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/alabama_democratic_congression.html

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– The Washington Times – Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Democratic candidate running against Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers shocked Twitter users Monday when he compared Republicans in Congress to Islamic State militants.

J.T. Smith, of Phenix City, is the Democratic nominee to represent Alabama’s District 3, The Birmingham News reported.

“The greatest country on earth is being bullied from within. Actions of Republicans in congress are worse than #ISIL,” he tweeted on Labor Day to more than 3,000 followers.

The tweet was still active as of Tuesday afternoon.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/sep/2/democratic-congressional-candidate-compares-gop-is/#ixzz3CFPAmcHG
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

Experts Expect Employers To Increasing Monitoring of Workers’ Social Media

August 19, 2014
PwC study suggests third of young people would be happy for employer to see social media profiles in return for job security

The Guardian, Sunday 17 August 2014

Worker using a laptop

A worker using a laptop. Photograph: PhotoAlto/Alamy

A third of young people would be happy for their employer to have access to their social media profiles in return for job security, according to a report that claims such personal data monitoring will become more commonplace.

The report, written by consultants from PwC using a survey of 10,000 workers worldwide and 500 human resources (HR) professionals, suggests personal data from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites could be used by employers to understand what motivates their workforce, reasons why people might move jobs and to improve employee wellbeing.

PwC predicts that online monitoring by employers will rise over the next decade. By 2020, people currently aged 18-32 will form half of the global workforce, bringing with them different attitudes to technology and personal data.

The research claims that younger people are more open to sharing their personal data with their employers, with 36% of Generation Y workers saying they would be happy to do so.

John Harding, human resource services partner at PwC in Manchester, said: “Just as advertisers and retailers are using data from customers’ online and social media activity to tailor their shopping experience, organisations could soon start using workers’ personal data (with their permission) to measure and anticipate performance and retention issues.

“This sort of data profiling could also extend to real-time monitoring of employees’ health, with proactive health guidance to help reduce sick leave. Key to the success of organisations being able to use employee data will be developing measurable benefits for those who hand over their data and building trust through clear rules about how data is acquired, used and shared.”

Cary Cooper, distinguished professor of organisational psychology and health at Lancaster University, said there were obvious pitfalls. “First of all, it is naive to think that if you trade off your privacy rights (eg access to one’s social media) that an employer can ever guarantee job security,” he said.

“Second, I can’t see, if an employer had access to an employee’s social media, how this could possibly lead to greater employee motivation or wellbeing. This seems a plain case of trying to find out what employees are doing and thinking – clearly an intrusion into their private life. I see no HR justification for it whatsoever.”

China continues to tighten control and monitoring of the Internet, social-networking, messaging apps

July 5, 2014

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By Jonathan Cheng and Paul Mozur
The Wall Street Journal

Updated July 4, 2014
A number of popular social-networking applications reported Thursday their services were impaired in mainland China, two days after a massive pro-democracy demonstration in neighboring Hong Kong.
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Users of mobile messaging applications Line and KakaoTalk in mainland China have been unable to access many of the features on the popular services since Tuesday, in the first major service disruption in the country for the companies.
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Yahoo Inc. ‘s Flickr was also inaccessible on Thursday.
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Line Corp. and Kakao Corp. said they didn’t know what caused several services available on their platforms to be unavailable to users in China. In an emailed statement, a Yahoo spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reports that Flickr is blocked for users in China and our team is investigating this now.”
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The timing of the outage, which began on the evening of July 1 during the pro-democracy march in Hong Kong, could indicate that the Chinese government took steps to limit usage. China’s government often blocks foreign websites and smartphone services during sensitive times, like the recent 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

WSJD is the Journal’s home for tech news, analysis and product reviews.

Officials at China’s State Council Information Office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A Line spokeswoman said she didn’t know when the app would become available again in China. Last month, a Line executive said the Japanese company is planning to expand its presence in China because of the hundreds of millions of potential users in the market.

Sonia Im, a spokeswoman for Kakao Corp., based in Pangyo, South Korea, said that while some features of the messaging platform still worked in China, users there couldn’t add new friends, use certain emoticons or check notices. Ms. Im said the company began receiving user complaints Tuesday evening, but that the stoppage affected the bulk of its Chinese users on Wednesday.

She said the company hoped to restore full functionality to its users as soon as possible, adding that she didn’t know what caused the disruption in service. Kakao has about 140 million registered users, but doesn’t break out its user base by country.

In China, users of Line could see that they had received a message, but couldn’t access the message itself. Mobile-phone users also could download the KakaoTalk app, but couldn’t register.

An application icon for Line’s Internet messaging and calling service. Bloomberg News

While Line isn’t widely used in China, it has proved popular with younger users, many of whom were attracted to the app because of its emoticons, which are called stickers. In Hong Kong, the app is very popular and could have easily been used to share news of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong across the border to China. Line said it has more than 400 million registered users, but doesn’t give a breakdown for China.

On local social media, censorship of references to the Hong Kong protests has been severe, even eclipsing blockages carried out during the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to WeiboScope, a service provided by the University of Hong Kong that tracks censorship.

Many of Google Inc.’s services remain completely inaccessible in China since they were fully blocked last month in what analysts have described as an escalation of China’s attempts to control the flow of information over the Internet and put restrictions on foreign companies.

Since rising to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken steps to tighten government control over the Internet. Under his leadership, the government has created a new high-profile committee to increase cybersecurity, has warned Internet celebrities with large numbers of followers about spreading rumors online, and has instituted a particularly strong antipornography campaign.

Other popular messaging services, such as WhatsApp, which Facebook Inc. recently agreed to buy, and WeChat, the popular service created by Shenzhen, China-based Tencent Holdings Ltd.  , were working. Viber, which Japan’s Rakuten Inc. agreed to acquire earlier this year, is working as usual in China, with no reports of connection problems, said a Rakuten spokeswoman.

—Juro Osawa
contributed to this article.

Write to Jonathan Cheng at jonathan.cheng@wsj.com and Paul Mozur at paul.mozur@wsj.com

Related:

  (From the BBC)

See also The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/world/asia/an-online-shift-in-china-muffles-an-open-forum.html?_r=0

An Online Shift in China Muffles an Open Forum

In May, though, the government announced that WeChat would be more heavily monitored. Saying that instant messaging services were being used to spread “violence, terrorism and pornography,” the agency charged with policing the Internet said it would “firmly fight infiltration from hostile forces at home and abroad,” according to a government statement.

In its heyday, Weibo promised much more. It came to prominence in 2011 after a high-speed rail crash killed 40 people. Weibo users detailed the mayhem and government shortcomings that led to the accident, part of a surge of criticism that prompted the resignation of the railway minister. It was a signal moment in the Internet’s coming of age in China, a reminder of how the medium could challenge even a formidable authoritarian government and one of its most powerful leaders.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/05/world/asia/an-online-shift-in-china-muffles-an-open-forum.html?_r=0

China’s Internet, Social Media Services Disrupted — “More Like a Black Out”

July 4, 2014

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China

Screenshot of Line's Weibo account on 4 July at 3pm.
Thousands of Chinese users of messaging app Line have taken to the app’s Weibo account to complain
July 4, 2014

From the BBC

Thousands of Chinese users of messaging app Line have taken to the app’s Weibo account to complain

Related Stories

Several popular messaging applications and file-sharing services appear to have been blocked in mainland China this week.

These include mobile messaging apps Line, which is widely used in Asia, and Kakaotalk.

Yahoo’s photo-sharing service Flickr and Microsoft’s file storage service OneDrive have also been affected.

The move appears to have taken place ahead of a major pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

China already blocks popular social media services Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

Yahoo told agencies that it was investigating the situation, while Line said on its Weibo account that it was working to fix the problem.

The disruption has affected users of Line in particular. The service has more than 400 million users, mostly in Asia. Thousands of Chinese users have flooded Line’s Weibo account with complaints.

People march on a street during the annual pro-democracy protest on 1 July 2014 in Hong Kong.
Organisers estimate 510,000 protesters took part in Hong Kong’s rally; police put the number much lower

A Line spokesman told Bloomberg that its users in China had not been able to access all services since 1 July, which was the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to the mainland.

Tens of thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong that day in a major pro-democracy protest.

A representative of anti-censorship site GreatFire.org told Reuters news agency this was not a technical malfunction, suggesting the services were blocked because they allowed users to share photos.

Checks by BBC Chinese found that Hong Kong and Taiwan Line users appeared to have been unaffected.

In May, some Line users in China complained that the app had started to censor sensitive terms related to the 4 June anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, according to BBC Chinese.

At that time, Line’s spokesman said the China version of the app was being “optimised”.

 

 

Thailand’s coup, martial law not planned as conspiracy with protest leaders, General says

June 28, 2014

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Thailand’s General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Thailand’s junta-leading Army Chief has dismissed allegations he plotted to seize power for years before May’s coup, issuing an apparent rebuke to the leader of the protests that crippled the former government.

“It is not true” General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said, addressing accusations that he had discussed uprooting the divisive Shinawatra clan from politics with firebrand protest chief Suthep Thaugsuban.

2014

Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban speaks to supporters in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014.  (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

“I did not join any process or take part with any side,” Prayut said late Friday in a weekly television address to the nation.

While Prayut did not directly reference Suthep, he was prodded into the denial after reports that the protest figurehead told a charity dinner that he had been in talks with the army chief since 2010.

Shortly after Prayut’s comments, Suthep took to Facebook to say he would cancel all future fundraisers — starting on Saturday.

Supporters of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra have blamed a coalition of establishment-linked forces — including the army and judiciary — for colluding to overthrow the government, the second such army putsch in eight years.

But Prayut has been at pains to package his power grab as a necessary evil to restore peace and order after several months of protests by Suthep’s supporters paralysed the government.

Twenty-eight people died and hundreds more were wounded in political violence linked to the protests, which also deflated the kingdom’s once-buoyant economy.

The stern-faced general toppled the government on May 22, a fortnight after Yingluck was booted out off office by a controversial court ruling.

He has imposed martial law on the kingdom, suspended the constitution, muzzled dissent and detained or arrested hundreds of people — mainly supporters of the former government.

“Political talks, fund-raising (activities) are forbidden…. it is a violation of martial law,” Prayut warned in his regular Friday television speech.

Two senior members of the anti-government protests contacted by AFP refused to comment.

Yingluck’s billionaire brother — also a former premier — Thaksin Shinawatra sits at the heart of Thailand’s trenchant political divide.

He was toppled in a 2006 army coup and now lives in self-exile to avoid a corruption conviction he contends was politically motivated.

The Shinawatras draw loyalty from the populous and poor northern part of the country, but are loathed by a Bangkok-based elite, their affiliates in the army and royalist allies in the kingdom’s south.

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Army commander Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok. 13 June 2014
Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha says democracy will only return after reforms are put in place

Fleshing out his roadmap for Thailand’s political future, Prayut also confirmed that an interim constitution had been drafted and will likely take effect next month.

A national assembly will be appointed in September to select a new premier, while a reform council stacked with hand-picked ‘wise men’ from across the country will be established to craft a new, binding constitution to come into effect in July, 2015.

New elections “will come after the permanent constitution” around three months later, Prayut added.

From the start of his street rallies Suthep, a former deputy prime minister, called for widespread reforms to “root out the Thaksin regime” before elections.

Observers say the reforms are likely to take aim at the electoral dominance of the Shinawatra clan, who have won every Thai poll since 2001.

Related:

China cyber crime cooperation stalls after U.S. hacking charges

June 26, 2014

WASHINGTON Thu Jun 26, 2014 4:52pm EDT

(Reuters) – Fledging cooperation between the United States and China on fighting cyber crime has ground to a halt since the recent U.S. indictment of Chinese military officials on hacking charges, a senior U.S. security official said on Thursday.

At the same time, there has been no decline in Chinese hackers’ efforts to break into U.S. networks, the official said.

In May, the Justice Department charged five Chinese military members with hacking the systems of U.S. companies to steal trade secrets, prompting Beijing to suspend a Sino-U.S. working group on cyber issues. China denies the charges and has in turn accused Washington of massive cyber spying.

U.S. and Chinese officials had started working together to combat certain types of online crime, including money laundering, child pornography and drug trafficking, the U.S. official said. But that cooperation has stopped.

“We are in time out,” the official told Reuters. “They don’t want to talk to us. Everything is really cold.”

Asked whether attempts to hack into U.S. networks that originate in China had slowed, the official said: “They have been very active and this hasn’t changed a bit.”

The new chill underscores the fragility of the efforts to ease tensions and mutual accusations of hacking and Internet theft between China and the United States, at the expense of the security areas where the nations had reached some understanding.

The indictments, the first criminal hacking charge the United States has filed against specific foreign officials, put more strain on a complex commercial relationship between the two economic powers and created new troubles for some U.S. technology companies doing business in China.

Beijing has responded with a promise to investigate all U.S. providers of important IT products and services, though it has not specified the move was a direct retaliation.

Chinese state media has also lashed out, without indicating a connection, at U.S. firms including Google, Apple, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Facebook with allegations of spying and stealing secrets.

The charges added to the existing tensions stemming from revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of vast U.S. Internet surveillance.

Some technology executives have privately complained about the lack of warning from the U.S. Justice Department. The U.S. official said only “a small group” was informed about the indictments ahead of time.

Though unlikely to result in arrests, U.S. observers saw the charges as an aggressive move to thwart the theft of trade secrets. Max Baucus, the new U.S. ambassador to China, called Chinese cyber espionage a threat to U.S. national security in his first major public address on Wednesday.

“We will continue to use diplomatic and legal means to make clear that this type of behavior must stop,” Baucus said.

 

(Reporting by Alina Selyukh and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Ros Krasny and Leslie Adler)

Call to jihad: ISIS Recruiting is Way Up — “Join us in forming a Sunni-led religious state spanning from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf”

June 26, 2014

An Image from an ISIS recruitment video that purports to show militant fighters from the West. Reuters

BAGHDAD—A Sunni jihadist group that has seized vast territories in Iraq and Syria is parlaying its battlefield successes into a recruitment drive that is attracting more foreign fighters, say Western and Arab officials.

The message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS: Join us in forming a Sunni-led religious state spanning from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

One recruitment video, released on Friday, shows gun-toting militants, speaking with British and Australian accents, extolling the virtues of jihad and inviting viewers to join their battle in Syria and Iraq.

It isn’t the first time ISIS has tried to recruit Islamists while carefully crafting its image on social media to raise its appeal among jihadists.

Related

But the video, disseminated last week on ISIS’s first non-Arabic Twitter accounts in English, German and Russian, is the group’s first English-language drive for foot soldiers, and reflects its attempt to burnish its jihadist credentials farther afield.

Western and Arab officials say the effort is resonating among recruits due to the group’s success in quickly extending its control over Iraqi territory in the north and west and along the country’s border with Syria.

“The recent developments have raised hopes of jihadists all over the world to establish the state they’ve aspired to create for a long time,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “We worry that more Egyptians are going to Syria and Iraq now, particularly from Sinai.”

Logistically, the fighters are able to join the fight by flying to the south of Turkey, which is one of the region’s few countries not to require a visa from other Muslim countries. From there, they typically slip across the border into Raqqa, in northern Syria, and then can traverse hundreds of miles of ISIS-held territory along western Iraq down to the border with Jordan.

“It’s an open border between Syria and Iraq,” said a senior Obama administration official. “There’s nothing stopping them moving into both fights.”

A doctor in Iraq’s second-biggest city of Mosul, which ISIS fighters overtook earlier in June, said the group’s Islamist ranks now include Europeans and people across the Middle East. He said he sees them shopping in its stores, recalling a blue-eyed, sunburned German militant he met who spoke in broken Arabic.

ISIS has also recruited members through its raids of prisons, releasing hundreds of inmates who it has integrated into its ranks, Iraqi officials say.

The insurgent group’s seizure of $450 million from Mosul’s central bank and caches of weapons seized from Iraqi troops who fled upon their arrival are also drawing rival jihadist groups in Syria to ISIS, Western and Arab officials say. Last week, four commanders from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army joined ISIS, Syrian activists said.

And this week, ISIS touted on ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts a pledge by a senior al Qaeda operatives, Anas Ali al-Nashwan, to join the insurgents in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia issued international arrest warrant in 2011 and sought help from Interpol to arrest the Saudi national, who Riyadh says fought jihad in Afghanistan.

 

An image from the recruitment video. Reuters

“The third most wanted man [in Saudi Arabia] has arrived on the ground to the Levant and pledged allegiance to the Islamic state,” read a tweet, linking to an image showing Mr. Nashwan with the black ISIS flag in the background.

ISIS split from al Qaeda this year and has battled its arm in Syria, al Nusra Front. ISIS leaders contend that al Qaeda has grown too soft in its approach to religious minorities and too lax on socially taboo behavior such as smoking or listening to music.

For many rival Islamists, ISIS’s draw is its sheer military might—displays of power such as a military parade in Mosul this week—that it displays on YouTube or Twitter. Those social-media tools are essential for ISIS to draw new recruits and funding, and it diligently documents its war gains online to rally supporters, the Western and Arab officials say.

ISIS asks followers on Twitter and Facebook for private donations, but has received the bulk of its funding from extortion rackets and kidnapping, Western officials say.

“For all of those who aren’t joining jihad yet, you can perform jihad with your money. We want to buy 100 grad missiles to shell Qardaha,” a Syrian town held by the government, read a recent tweet by an ISIS supporter Abdullah Mohisine that was retweeted over 900 times, attaching a Turkish phone number to call.

The group’s success in Iraq and Syria has given it newfound confidence, Syrians living in ISIS-held territory say.

In Raqqa city, which officials believe is ISIS’s operational nerve center, foreign fighters from Asia and North Africa are arriving, residents say. The new arrivals are confident ISIS will successfully resurrect an Islamic caliphate, or religious state.

“New foreign fighters are coming in and some of them are bringing their families with them. They occupied all the hotels in Raqqa and they inhabit al-Thukna, the most beautiful neighborhood in the city,” said a Raqqa resident. “ISIS is calling on Raqqa’s people to open their empty houses for the immigrants.”

European governments estimate that at least 1,400 of their citizens are fighting in Syria, most with ISIS, and pose a threat upon their return, more radicalized and with combat and explosives training.

But the true numbers may be higher—one British parliamentarian said this week that as many as 1,500 Britons have fought in Syria, compared to an official estimate of 500.

The recruitment has continued despite new legislation since late last year in places like the U.K., which has stripped at least 20 Britons of their citizenship for fighting in Syria.

One European diplomat said the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are drawing an unprecedented number of jihadists from his country.

“There were a noticeable number of school seats empty after the winter break, kids going off to war. Social workers have not seen this before” with any other Middle Eastern conflict, said a European diplomat. “We’ve also seen an increasing number of European suicide bombers.”

—Mohammed Nour Alakraa in Beirut, Jay Solomon in Washington and Laith al-Haydair in Baghdad contributed to this article.

Write to Maria Abi-Habib at maria.habib@wsj.com

How ISIS is spreading its message online

June 19, 2014

From the BBC

"Baghdad's big battle" - an image posted on a pro-ISIS Twitter account
“Baghdad’s big battle” – an image posted on a pro-ISIS Twitter account

Alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIS) battlefield successes in northern Iraq, the group has deployed a sophisticated social media strategy that is redefining its propaganda.

Since the offensive began on 9 June, a string of Twitter accounts claiming to represent ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been active in providing live updates on the group’s operations and images illustrating their advances.

Although the accounts have not been officially endorsed by ISIS, they have been widely promoted as official regional ISIS accounts by the group’s many online supporters.

ISIS has launched a social media campaign and is posting (mainly on Twitter) photos and statements to highlight its military strength and territorial advances in Iraq.

On 15 June, it posted images of what appears to be dozens of captured Iraqi security personnel along with threats and messages to surrounding towns warning residents of the group’s approach. The photos included the apparent capture, transport, and ultimate killing of the soldiers.

The material went viral on the internet and was widely shared by ISIS supporters.

Global campaign

According to a web-based data mining software, a large number of pro-ISIS tweets originated in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries.

In its Twitter feed, ISIS gives extensive details of its operations, including the number of bombings, suicide missions and assassinations it has carried out, and of checkpoints and towns it controls.

The top Twitter hashtags used by the group include: “#Baghdad_is_liberated” and “#Iraq_is_ liberated”.

Screenshot from an ISIS video posted on YouTube on 17 June, calling for support for the group
Screenshot from an ISIS video posted on YouTube on 17 June, calling for support for the group

In addition to the hashtags, the group produces professional promotional videos and urges support for its “one billion campaign”, which calls on Muslims to post messages, photos and videos on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube in support of ISIS.

One video, posted on 17 June, shows an ISIS member speaking in French and asking Muslims to support ISIS’s cause online. Many videos are also posted with English subtitles or translation.

ISIS is launching a global online campaign on 20 June to support the group’s operations in Iraq and Syria. The group is initiating a Twitter hashtag in Arabic which translates to #theFridayofsupportingISIS, asking supporters around the world to wave the ISIS flag in public, film themselves and upload the clips on social media platforms.

In April 2014, the group developed a free internet application called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, which automatically posts tweets – approved by ISIS media managers – to the accounts of the application’s subscribed users.

The posts include hashtags, links, images, videos and other content. Almost 40,000 tweets were posted in a single day during the recent clashes in Iraq.

One post which went viral was of an image of an armed jihadist gazing at the ISIS flag flying over Mosul with the inscription in Arabic: “We are coming, Baghdad”

The application is promoted by some of the organisation’s leading figures.

Spreading fear

ISIS is following a well-planned strategy and the group is selective with what is posted.

This cartoon was posted on the @ISIS_Media_Hub Twitter account
This cartoon was posted on the @ISIS_Media_Hub Twitter account

It chooses photos that have the potential of having a strong impact, presumably to create fear among its enemies and win the admiration of other radical groups.

Unlike other jihadist groups, such as the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria the Nusra Front, ISIS gives little consideration to the way it is perceived by the general public.

It rarely posts photos about its charity work or the services it provides in the towns it controls.

The Nusra Front, on the other hand, regularly posts statements and videos, showing the group’s social services, including the distribution of food to the poor and traffic management.

The Nusra Front’s approach has helped the group gain support at the grassroots level in Syria.

Blocked

In an attempt to limit the impact of ISIS’s social media campaign, the Iraqi government has blocked Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.

Users in the country attempting to visit these sites are greeted by a message saying that the Ministry of Communications has barred access.

ISIS supporters strongly protested against the closure of social media platforms, blaming Twitter’s administrators for the unprecedented attack on the group’s presence on the micro-blogging site.

This is not the first time that Twitter has taken such a step. In February 2014, Twitter suspended the account of an ISIS member who tweeted images of an amputation.

However, blocking ISIS’s access to social media sites may not have a significant impact on the group’s publicity activities.

This is because it attracts followers from across the Arab and Muslim worlds, so countermeasures taken in Iraq may not have only a limited effect.

It is important to highlight that the group’s online presence does not necessarily equate to its popularity.

The fact that ISIS is using internet and social media applications to promote its message may indicate that it does not have strong organic support.

Regardless of this, the way ISIS is running its social media campaign could be a sign of a shift in approach from being an insular group to actively reaching out to the world.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.


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