Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Indonesians’ angry backlash at Australia’s PM Tony Abbott

February 21, 2015

By Tom Allard in Bali

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesia President Joko Widodo: Indonesians have taken to Twitter to express outrage at Mr Abbott. Photo: William West

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing an Indonesian social media backlash over his linking of $1 billion in tsunami aid to the mercy campaign for Bali Nine death-row inmates Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, with a campaign urging people to collect coins to return to Australia.

On the streets of Indonesian cities people were asking motorists and passersby for spare change. Meanwhile, social media users were posting pictures of the money they had gathered and hurling insults at Mr Abbott and Australia.

Many also expressed their support for death by firing squad for Chan and Sukumaran.

The twitter campaign, using the hashtags #KoinuntukAustralia, #coinforAustralia and #coinforAbbott and growing rapidly in popularity, highlights how Mr Abbott’s remarks have backfired badly in the country.


Social media is huge in Indonesia, with its citizens among the biggest adopters of the technology in the world

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said: “Let’s not forget that a few years ago when Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia sent a billion dollars worth of assistance.

“I would say to the Indonesian people and the Indonesian government: we in Australia are always there to help you and we hope that you might reciprocate in this way at this time.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop was forced to call Indonesia’s vice president Jusuf Kalla the next day to clarify the comments.

Her diplomacy seemed to soothe the concerns of Indonesia’s leaders. Its president Joko Widodo said he was satisfied by the explanation on Friday, while also revealing that his government had been preparing a formal rebuke to Mr Abbott.

But many ordinary Indonesians remain enraged.

The campaign originated in Aceh, the Indonesian province that was hit hardest  by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 that killed more than 100,000 people there.

Among those behind the campaign are victims of the tsunami.

Muhammad Riza, a victim of the tsunami, said Mr Abbott’s comments were “childish”

“It’s not making any sense. How can aid be mentioned again?,” he said. “If they weren’t sincere, the community will give it back” he told Tempo, an Indonesian media outlet.

On Twitter, Mr Riza said the Australian prime minister was “seungke”, referring to an Acehnese saying that those who take back a gift will suffer a skin condition on their elbow.

Meanwhile, supporters of Chan and Sukumaran brought more than 100 bunches of flowers to Kerobokan prison to thank the governor and guards – as well as the Australians – for their efforts to introduce rehabilitation programs in the penitentiary.

The flowers were organised by the Mothers for Mercy organisation, a Bali-based group.

While there is sympathy for the duo in Bali, especially among expatriates, it does not extend much beyond the confines of the holiday island.

Unlike the rest of Indonesia, many Balinese are aware of the extraordinary reforms at Kerobokan instigated by the Chan, Sukumaran and the prison staff.

with Amilia Rosa

Islamic extremism: How Europe is pushing back — “We are against terrorism and radicalism”

February 18, 2015


By Peter Ford and Sara Miller Llana

From mosques to TV studios to family kitchens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are trying to stem the tide of young Europeans signing up to fight for the self-declared Islamic State.


Protesters in Madrid, organized by the Arab Culture Foundation with the support of more than 50 mosques, rallied last month against the terrorist attacks in Paris under the slogan ‘against terrorism and radicalism.’
Amsterdam, Paris, and London — On the ground floor of a redbrick walk-up overlooking Amsterdam’s Amstel River, in his inconspicuous mosque, Muslim cleric Said Akhrif delivers a sermon on tolerance. It is the third in a series of talks that the youthful imam has given to the group of faithful, sitting on a red carpet in front of him, since Islamic extremists slaughtered 12 people at the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.Mr. Akhrif’s message on this Friday afternoon – delivered in Arabic and then translated into Dutch – is that the prophet Muhammad was a man with a cool head. His purpose, the Moroccan-born cleric explains, is to encourage Muslims “to remain calm” in the face of adversity “and not get frustrated.”That message lies at the heart of a swelling effort across Europe, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, to stop more young Muslims from waging jihad, or holy war. Through sermons and online advertising, from TV studios to family kitchens to psychiatrists’ couches, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are scrambling to stem the tide of young Europeans volunteering to fight with Islamic State (known as both IS and ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, or to wreak havoc at home.

Recommended: Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference? Take our quiz.

“Our task is to make Islamic extremism as unappealing to young Muslims today as communism is now to Western teens,” says Maajid Nawaz, who runs the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based group seeking to counter radicalization.

That is a hydra-headed job. Young European Muslims can be tempted by or trapped into violent extremism in many ways, say those trying to steer them in a different direction. Some are teen rebels. Some feel motivated by what they believe to be a just cause. Some are excited by the promised thrills of “gangster Islam.” Others get carried away by fanatical utopianism.

Most European governments have decided that “prevention is better than cure,” but only after disasters. The Dutch government launched a slew of counterradicalization programs after an Islamist militant shot and stabbed Theo van Gogh to death as the filmmaker rode his bicycle to work in 2004.

The British authorities set up their own preventive scheme in the wake of suicide bombings in July 2005 that killed 52 people. The French government launched an anti-jihad website at the end of January.

Though Europe’s security services clearly have a key role to play in preventing Islamic-inspired terrorism, they are often overwhelmed by the challenge: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says nearly 3,000 potential French jihadis need constant surveillance but the General Directorate for Internal Security has only 3,800 agents. The government has promised to bolster the security services, adding 1,100 positions over the next three years.

Even that may not be enough. The housing projects where extremist recruiters work “are almost hermetically sealed ghettos for the secret service,” worries Louis Caprioli, a former head of antiterrorism at the French equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We cannot do discreet surveillance there.”

Across the Channel, Britain’s MI5 is also realistic about the limits to the security services’ reach. “We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time,” MI5 chief Andrew Parker said in January. “We know we cannot hope to stop everything.”

In the end, security experts acknowledge, identifying potential terrorists, tracking them, waiting until they do something for which they can be convicted, and locking them up is not enough.

“There is a pool of thousands” of potential jihadis in Europe, says Mr. Caprioli.

The key is to reach them before they become radicalized.

•     •     •

Stemming that spread is Akhrif’s top priority, in and out of his pulpit, at Al Kabir mosque. The mosque’s leaders are seeking municipal funding for Internet outreach, planning a Web forum where moderate imams would weigh in and visitors could post their thoughts whenever an explosive event – such as a US drone strike killing civilians – stirs local emotions.

“Let’s teach the Islam of peace, against the so-called Islamic State,” says Al Kabir chairman Mohamed Echarrouti, who speaks in a soft, raspy voice and seems to wear an almost constant smile.

This is not the first time he has done this kind of work. After Mr. Van Gogh’s murder in 2004, Al Kabir worked with 18 mosques, teaching leaders how to spot radicalization and urging them to welcome young men and women at risk into their houses of worship. That was daring: Many mosques shun such people for fear of their influence and the risk they pose to the mosque’s reputation.

“Let’s get them into the mosque instead of on the streets, on the Internet, or with hate imams,” Mr. Echarrouti says.

Such clear engagement is uncommon in Europe, where moderate Muslim leaders are often uncomfortable dealing with the terrorist fringe acting in the name of their religion. They complain that they are unfairly blamed for the outrages committed by people over whom they have no control.

British Muslim leaders, for example, reacted with prickly defensiveness when Eric Pickles, the minister for Communities and Local Government, suggested recently that they had “a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility, in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.”

“We can’t put an imam behind every believer,” says Lhaj Thami Breze, former president of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, which promotes moderate “French Islam.” “And, anyway, these young radicals don’t listen to us. They say we have sold out” to the authorities.

Nonetheless, argues Rashad Ali, a former Islamic radical who now mentors potential jihadis under a British government counterradicalization program, community leaders “should be making the arguments. Extremists might not listen to them but they might engage with people who are not so hardcore.”

Not that mosques appear to be where it’s at anymore when it comes to radicalization. Today a new generation of disaffected Muslims across Europe are finding their religion on the Web, at the feet of “Sheikh Google,” as some Muslims put it.

“They are not being radicalized by real people, but on the Internet,” says Margaret Gilmore, a specialist in security at the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank.

It is not hard, if you know where to look, to follow jihadis in Syria and Iraq on Twitter or Facebook and read of their exploits. YouTube is a ready source of fiery sermons by pro-jihadi self-appointed imams. Social media offer like-minded young people a chance to join groups and forums that reinforce any tendency toward violent extremism.

The Internet provides “a virtual substitute community … and the primary means of communication” for radical Islamists, says a report issued recently by the Center for the Prevention of Islamic Sectarianism, which works with parents in France worried that their children might be slipping into jihadism.

Governments have had limited success in persuading Google, Facebook, and Twitter to take down pro-jihadi posts and videos, and as quickly as the authorities block a site it comes back up. So counterradicalization activists are taking the fight to the enemy.

“We need to be better Web marketers than ISIS,” says Ross Frenett, who runs the London-based Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network of former Islamic extremists now trying to deter young people from following in their footsteps.

Mr. Frenett’s group uses Web analytics to identify people at risk by the search terms they have used and their browsing history, and then buys ad space to ensure that they receive a message and a link to a website designed to make them think about their religion and their intentions. On Twitter, Frenett pays to target such ads at all the followers of well-known jihadis.

In an even more direct effort to engage people at risk, AVE is organizing former extremists to contact them personally online.

“If you ‘like’ ISIS on Facebook, two people are watching at the moment,” says Frenett. “Someone from the security services and an ISIS recruiter. We want to reach out to them, too.”

Thousands of people are at risk, Frenett says. His pilot program has so far dealt only with a few dozen, and only about one-third of them have engaged in online discussion. “More needs to be done like this,” he suggests.

•     •     •

If cyberspace is one front line in the battle against jihadism, it’s in real-life communities like Slotervaart, in Amsterdam, where people face the daily challenge of bridging Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

Slotervaart, where bearded men and veiled women are as much a part of the well-planned cityscape as traditional Dutch men and women riding their bikes, is one of the most diverse places in Amsterdam. It sits in the New West district, which counts both the largest Muslim and largest youth populations in the city, according to its district chairman, Achmed Baadoud, who was born in Morocco. There are 17 mosques, serving 48,000 people of Turkish and Moroccan descent – a third of the local population.

Those demographics could have proved a potent brew amid the passions stirred by the terrorist attack in Paris. Instead, Mr. Baadoud says, he witnessed a more “emancipated” response from his community compared with the mood a decade ago when Slotervaart was at the center of the maelstrom: The Muslim extremist who nearly decapitated Van Gogh in broad daylight hailed from here.

That calm is no accident. “It has to do with knowledge, with investments in contact and networks,” Baadoud says.

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ISIS Publishes Propaganda Piece ‘Explaining’ Recent Antigay Atrocities’ — U.S. Moves to Blunt the ISIS Message

February 17, 2015

The The self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group has published a grisly series of photos depicting the executions of allegedly gay men who died after being thrown from rooftops and stoned by waiting mobs on the ground.

By Thom Senzee
February 16 2015

The brutal murders of allegedly gay men by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which claims the killings were lawful executions for the “crime” of homosexuality under its unprecedented interpretation of Sharia Law, have been documented in what amounts to a perverse “explainer” article published by ISIS in its propaganda magazine last Thursday, reports NBC News.

The ISIS article and photos were published in its magazine, Dabiq. In addition to displaying images of the men’s horrific slayings, the propaganda piece also spelled out the militants’ rationale for committing the atrocities.

By “clamping down on sexual deviance,” ISIS says it will save the Muslim world from the “downward spiral” of morality that the West has allegedly suffered since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Some LGBT and human rights activists and journalists have complained that mainstream have given the militant occupiers along the Iraq-Syria border only meager coverage in terms of the growing number of antigay atrocities, such as the tragic death of a middle-aged man last month.

That victim may have survived being pushed while seated in a plastic chair from a seven-story building, as was reported by numerous news outlets. News reports, video, and photos from that execution seemed to indicate that the man may not only have been alive after hitting the ground, but may have been conscious before he was finally put to death by a stone-hurling crowd.

NBC News’ coverage Sunday of the recent executions of allegedly gay young men in ISIS-controlled regions of the Iraq-Syria border area put heavy emphasis on apparently newfound veracity of reports about the executions, based on the confirmation of the facts by a private security firm.

However, London’s Daily Mail newspaper, several LGBT news organizations, as well as human rights groups (not least among them, London-headquartered Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) had previously reported many of the same details of the executions now being reported by mainstream news outlets.

Flashpoint Partners is the security firm that “verified” news of the executions for NBC News. As it disclosed in its report Sunday about the ISIS propaganda piece, NBC News retains Flashpoint as a consultant.

Reports of the atrocities ISIS has committed against people because they were perceived to be gay have now been published and broadcast by news organizations worldwide, ranging from interest-focused media outlets and now by major American network news organizations. Although it’s not likely that will dissuade ISIS militants to change their ways, greater coverage of atrocities committed against LGBT people may send a message that much of society values human lives equally–regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

NBC News cited an expert in the history of Shariah Law, who noted that the practice of throwing men accused of homosexuality to their deaths from the tallest building available is a “very obscure” reading of hardline Islam.

“What ISIS is doing in displaying this kind of thing is twofold,” researcher, Charlie Winterof the London-based anti-extremism think tank, Quilliam told NBC News. “It’s trying to shock and horrify the rest of the world but it’s also trying to give the impression that the Shariah that it practices is the purest form of Shariah.”


U.S. Intensifies Effort to Blunt ISIS’ Message

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is revamping its effort to counter the Islamic State’s propaganda machine, acknowledging that the terrorist group has been far more effective in attracting new recruits, financing and global notoriety than the United States and its allies have been in thwarting it.

At the heart of the plan is expanding a tiny State Department agency, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, to harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.

The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and who may have more credibility with ISIS’ target audience of young men and women than the American government.

With the Islamic State and its supporters producing as many as 90,000 tweets and other social media responses every day, American officials acknowledge they have a tough job ahead to blunt the group’s digital momentum in the same way a United States-led air campaign has slowed ISIS’ advances on the battlefield in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Syria.

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Malaysia arrests cartoonist for criticizing judges

February 11, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:17am EST

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media ahead of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur February 4, 2015.  Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

(Reuters) – Malaysia has arrested a cartoonist for sedition over a Twitter post that criticized the judiciary for upholding a five-year jail term for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who accused the courts of “bowing to the dictates of the political masters”.

The country’s highest court on Tuesday rejected Anwar’s appeal against a conviction for sodomy, illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, so sending back to prison the politician who poses the greatest threat to the long-ruling coalition.

Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was arrested on Tuesday night after Malaysia’s police chief ordered an investigation into his Malay-language tweet that suggested the judges had been paid off by politicians.

“Profits from the lords of politics must be lucrative,” read the tweet, in part.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has rejected any suggestion of interference in the case, saying that Malaysia had an independent judiciary, and there had been many rulings against senior government figures.

Zunar, 52, is to be detained until Friday to allow the police to investigate, official news agency Bernama said on Wednesday.

Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s inspector-general of police, himself made use of Twitter to order the investigation of Zunar’s tweet, as well as messages by two opposition politicians, also on sedition grounds.

Malaysian authorities seem to be turning peaceful criticism into a criminal act that threatens the state, Phil Robertson, of rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“All these authorities are accomplishing is to further erode freedom of expression in Malaysia and inspire fear in those who wish to speak up for their rights,” he added.

In a cartoon on Zunar’s Twitter feed, a black-robed figure labeled “PM Najib” brings down an outsize gavel on a bespectacled, and startled-looking, Anwar. Nearby a wastepaper basket holds a large book prominently inscribed “Law”.

(Reporting by Trinna Leong; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Twitter transparency report: US among biggest offenders requesting user data

February 10, 2015

According to latest report from July to December 2014, government requests for specific users’ information rose 40% on the previous six months to about 2,871

By Dominic Rushe
The Guardian

Twitter feed

 Twitter said it was getting more requests from countries around the world but three countries stood out: Russia, Turkey and the US. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter has reported a massive spike in government requests for users’ information and requests to remove tweets from its service.

According to the microblogging company’s latest transparency report, from July to December 2014 government requests for specific users’ data rose by 40% on the previous six months to about 2,871.

The requests came from more than 50 countries. Twitter said it was getting more requests from countries around the world but three countries stood out: Russia, Turkey and the US.

In the same period Twitter received an 84% increase in government and government-sanctioned demands to remove content from its service. Turkey asked for the most removals, making 477 requests. Twitter has repeatedly clashed with the Turkish government and was briefly banned in the country last year, after people used the service to implicate the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and others in corruption allegations ahead of local elections.

The US made 1,622 requests for users’ information – Twitter gave some information in 80% of cases. The company is suing the US government to loosen restrictions over what it can say publicly about national security-related requests for user data.

Twitter received 356 requests for information in Turkey and complied with none of them. In Russia there were 108 requests – up from zero in the last report. Again, Twitter did not comply.

“Providing this level of transparency is not without its complications and sometimes means we get tough questions and criticism about our decisions,” wrote Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s senior manager for global legal policy, in a blogpost.

“However, this candid feedback helps us to be evermore thoughtful about our policies and decisions regarding content and compliance as we navigate complex, diverse legal regimes around the world.”


Mounting concerns over press freedom in Hong Kong

January 31, 2015


By Christoph Ricking

Unlike mainland China, the city of Hong Kong enjoys a free press. But journalists in the financial hub are feeling increasingly pressurized by Beijing, especially when it comes to their coverage of the “Occupy” movement.

While journalists in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou fear the reaction of the government for critical reporting, their colleagues in Hong Kong can conduct their work with a relatively high degree of press freedom. But these freedoms now seem to be under attack, according to new reports from Chinese journalists and international organizations alike.

A ‘watershed year’

The state of press freedom in Hong Kong is in real danger, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Three journalists, who wished to remain anonymous in the report due to fears of reprisals, said 2014 was a “watershed year” for press freedom in the city. The report states that a lack of editorial independence prevails in the firmer British colony, adding that the influence from Beijing “renders one speechless, as it is simply raw and undisguised.”

“Some Hong Kong journalists have received direct and indirect threats from mainland Chinese,” said Seranade Woo, a program director at IFJ. Especially since the pro-democracy “Occupy” movement gained momentum last fall, the situation of the media in the city has become “deeply concerning.”

‘Tea’ with state security

Journalists have received threatening phone calls, says Woo. Some reporters were even invited to have tea and snacks with mainland Chinese security authorities. Woo also said that during these “tea” meetings,” journalists were either asked to write very little or nothing at all about the “Occupy” movement or were questioned about how they were planning to cover the issue. Many were also asked to report more often and in-depth about the rival movement, widely regarded to be pro-Beijing.

In addition, the IJF observed that media companies were placed under extreme economic pressure from Beijing during this time. Small newspapers and media companies were particularly affected. According to Woo, “important advertisers suddenly jumped ship. This could be linked to the fact that these independent media outlets did not want to follow the ‘directive’ from Beijing.”

Acts of intimidation

Hong Kong journalist Annie Cheung was also invited to ‘tea.’ Security officials from the mainland made a special trip to Hong Kong just to meet with her, says Cheung. “As a rule, they threaten you with everything that is important to you as a journalist, such as not receiving entry permits, or telling media enterprises that they should no longer expect to receive business partners from the mainland.”

These intimidation practices seem to pay off for Chinese authorities. “Last year’s coverage of the ‘Occupy’ movement is the best example for how un-critical and un-free the Hong Kong Press has become,” says Cheung. “This one-sided reporting, specifically of the rival movement, is clearly linked to Beijing’s influence.” Only a few media sources remain who dare to support the “Occupy” movement, Cheung added.

Attacked with meat cleaver

On the Reporter’s Without Border’s Press Freedom Index, the former British colony was still in 18th place in 2002 – only one position behind the United States. In 2014, Hong Kong ranked 61 in the index – this time, next to Mauritania and Senegal. Even before the start of the Occupy protests, journalists were already being attacked.

Reporter Kevin Lau was seriously injured after being attacked with a meat cleaver in February of last year, sparking an outcry and demonstrations throughout Hong Kong. As the former chief editor of the liberal newspaper, “Ming Pao,” the assault on Lau is seen by many as an attack on the freedom of the press as well. “Among the journalists of Hong Kong, he is someone who doesn’t mince words and doesn’t bend to the pressure of media censorship,” says Woo. “This (attack) could not have been a coincidence.”

A ‘deplorable’ status

In mainland China, the press has also fallen under more pressure in recent years. “Since Xi Jinping became the President of China in 2013, the situation has consistently deteriorated,” writes the IJF in its report, adding that freedom of speech and of the press were in “deplorable” conditions as of 2014.

Moreover, Chinese authorities also tried to influence local editorial bases of international media outlets. German journalist, Angela Köckritz, witnessed this first hand. After reporting on the Hong Kong protests as a China correspondent for the German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit,” Köckritz’s Chinese assistant, Zhang Miao, was arrested. Then Köckritz herself was threatened so severely that she left China as quickly as she could. Her assistant Zhang Miao is behind bars.

China’s censors recently launched a new campaign which led to a massive disruption of Virtual Private Network connections (VPN). Many people in China use these services to bypass the so-called “Great Firewall” to access blocked websites. Due to these VPN disruptions, it is nearly impossible for Internet users in the country to access Facebook, Twitter, and other blocked websites.

Facebook and Instagram back up after suspected hacking

January 27, 2015

The world’s most popular social networking website and the photo-sharing website had been down for 40 minutes – Facebook’s longest outage in more than four years

Facebook and Instagram saw their websites and apps go down for 40 minutes on Tuesday morning

Facebook and Instagram saw their websites and apps go down for 40 minutes on Tuesday morning
By , andJosieEnsor in San Francisco

 Yhe Daily Telegraph

Facebook and Instagram, the social networking websites popular with users across the world, are now working again after experiencing technical difficulties.

Facebook said on its website it was working to resolve the issues which left many forced to use Twitter to share opinions, selfies and more. Users found they could not use the social networking websites or apps.

Hacking group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for what looked to be an attack on Facebook’s server on Tuesday. It also warned that they would soon release a tranche of emails from the offices of Malaysia Airlines.

When attempting to access Facebook, users were told: “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

AP reported earlier in the morning that Facebook, which owns the Instagram service, was “aware of outage and is working on a fix”.

According to the news agency, the outage lasted for 40 minutes and users in United States, Asia and Australia were affected. This is the longest period the company’s website has been down since September 2010.

At that time, the outage lasted more than two hours and Facebook described it on their website as “the worst outage we’ve had in over four years”.

Experts suggest Tinder may not been hacked, but was taken out as side effect of a potential attack on Facebook as the dating site connects to Facebook profiles to operate.

Facebook had 1.25 billion monthly active users at the end of September and 864 million daily active users on average. Based on their average activity data from 2013, the outage could have meant 98 million posts weren’t made.

Even the prime minister of Finland found himself using Twitter after discovering Instagram and Facebook were down among other users – within a short period, #facebookdown was trending on Twitter worldwide.

Some companies used the outage to promote their own products including Red Bull in India.

Turkish Court Orders Facebook Pages Blocked

January 26, 2015

The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s state-run news agency says a court has ordered authorities to block access in the country to Facebook pages that “insult” the Prophet Muhammad, in the latest move to censor the Internet.

The Anadolu Agency says a court in Ankara issued the order late Sunday. The court also threatened to block access to Facebook as a whole, if its order isn’t implemented.

The decision comes days after another court ruling to ban access in Turkey to web pages featuring the controversial cover of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo depicting the prophet.

Last year, Turkey closed down access to YouTube and Twitter after a series of leaked recordings suggested corruption by people close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s highest court later overturned the ban.

France, Germany Seek Help From Tech Firms in Policing Terrorism Online

January 21, 2015

Officials Expect Companies Like Twitter, Facebook, Google to Pre-Emptively Remove Content

By Sam Schechner The Wall Street Journal

LILLE, France—France and Germany demanded that U.S. tech companies help them police terrorism on the Internet, escalating European efforts to wrangle more law-enforcement help from Silicon Valley.

Top law-enforcement officials from the two countries said on Tuesday they expect U.S. Internet and social-networking companies like Twitter Inc., Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. to pre-emptively remove terror content from their services—or face new laws aimed at forcing them to do so.

They join the U.K., which has for months been pressing Internet firms to take a more proactive role in removing extremist content, including material that isn’t necessarily illegal, such as videos of sermons by radical preachers or posts by extremists encouraging Westerners to join the fight in Syria.

“Just because the vast majority of this content is found on American services doesn’t reduce their impact on French people,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said at a cybersecurity conference. “We won’t succeed in our fight against terrorism unless Internet actors start taking responsibility.”

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière echoed that call at the same conference. “The less people take responsibility, the more legislators will be forced to take the initiative,” he said.

The European demands for pre-emptive filtering escalate tensions between U.S. tech firms and governments around the world. At stake is where these global firms draw the line of acceptable discussion, and how far they must go to enforce local laws limiting online speech.

In some ways, the request marks a reversal for European politicians who previously criticized technology firms for being too close to police forces and spy agencies—especially in the U.S.—following leaks from National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Following the attacks in Paris, those politics appear to have shifted, U.S. technology executives point out.

It isn’t clear how far European governments will go to push the firms. One person at a U.S. tech firm suggested the U.K., France and Germany are pushing for faster responses “just to appear tough on terrorism.”

France says the menace of online calls for terrorism—both to intimidate foes and recruit adherents—has grown significantly. Mr. Cazeneuve last year pushed for a new law to allow the French government to block websites that don’t remove certain content that expresses sympathy with terrorism.

French prosecutors on Tuesday recommended preliminary charges against four men they suspect of assisting Amedy Coulibaly, one of the gunmen who rampaged through Paris earlier this month.

In the two weeks since the terror attacks killed 17 people in France, police working in round-the-clock shifts at a center outside Paris have flagged and requested the deletion of more than 25,000 pieces of content that expressed support for terrorist groups. “It’s a major issue,” Mr. Cazeneuve said.

Hacker groups linked with Islamist organizations in Syria and elsewhere have claimed nearly 1,300 cyberattacks in recent weeks, aimed at knocking French websites offline or defacing them with messages supporting terror groups or the attacks in France, French officials say.

On Tuesday, French newspaper Le Monde said it had been the subject of an unsuccessful attempt by the militant group Islamic State to take control of its publishing tools.

“This is something we’ve never seen before,” Vice Adm. Arnaud Coustillière, head of cyberdefense for the French army, said of the Le Monde attack, which he described as sophisticated.

U.S. technology executives don’t want to discuss the issue of pre-emptive filtering publicly because of the regulatory fights it could prompt in certain countries. Privately, they say their main objection is that such a system would be unworkable, especially when trying to control for sarcasm and hyperbole.

But they also note they fear legal ramifications if suddenly the likes of Twitter and Facebook were to become digital police forces. “They then become liable for everything on their platform,” one technology executive said.

Tech firms also say they already cooperate closely with authorities outside the U.S., particularly in emergency situations related to terrorism, moving quickly to remove illegal content when they get valid requests. But while some acknowledge that certain laws could be refined, they generally argue against a broad legal overhaul.

Following the attacks at the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, Microsoft Corp. turned around a French police request for email content from two customer accounts in 45 minutes—handing over the emails to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation at France’s request. “There are times, especially in emergency situations, when existing international legal processes work well,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, in a speech in Brussels.

David Marcus, vice president for messaging products at Facebook, said at a conference in Munich this week that the company is constantly removing content that incites terrorism or recruits people to join terrorist organizations—including from Facebook’s own messaging app.

“Anything remotely connected to that is generally gone from the platform the minute we see it,” Mr. Marcus said.

But cooperation from U.S. tech companies goes only so far. In general, companies will turn over only limited personal information about users to a restricted set of U.S.-allied countries; more detailed requests are directed to the U.S. government. Companies are also reluctant to remove content that doesn’t violate their own terms or U.S. laws, law-enforcement and tech officials said.

“If there are requests from law enforcement we make sure they are real requests; if not, we fight back,” Mr. Marcus said. An executive at another U.S. technology firm said a request from France might more likely be met than one from, say, Saudi Arabia.

Pre-emptive filtering is a particularly difficult question for U.S. firms, which have long resisted calls to screen illegal content, such as copyright violations, rather than take it down piece by piece. But in certain areas, such as child pornography or links to viruses and other malware, they already do sometimes pre-emptively screen out content.

“On hate speech it’s been difficult to find a common ground,” said Eric Freyssinet, head of the Digital Crime Center of France’s Gendarmerie Nationale. “We ask these companies: Is this the kind of content you want to see on your platform?”

But demanding a policing role for companies poses its own set of problems.

“One of the obvious concerns is that if we effectively invite or expect technological firms to do the work of monitoring rather than doing it ourselves directly, they are working to fundamentally a different imperative—a commercial imperative—which is not necessarily always the same as those that we have in the police community, for example,” Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, the European Union’s policing agency, told U.K. lawmakers last week.

The Franco-German initiative comes amid a broader effort to pressure U.S. tech firms for more help in obtaining intelligence on alleged terrorists. A proposed new surveillance law in France would give the government more leeway to demand data on targets from U.S. firms. British Prime Minister David Cameron has also lobbied for stronger laws, and won U.S. President Barack Obama ’s support in pressuring tech firms to open up encryption to law enforcement.

The French push for new rules has unnerved civil liberties advocates and tech firms, particularly after the attack on Charlie Hebdo became a rallying point to support freedom of expression. They also worry that complying with the orders could set a bad precedent in countries like Turkey and Russia, where tech firms have clashed with authorities over orders to remove material.

“Recent legislative additions — some not yet in effect — give France one of the biggest legal arsenals in the world,” said ASIC, an association of tech firms that operate in France, including Facebook and Google. “Any new law or measure should respect all freedoms, both public and personal.”

Some French magistrates involved in anti-terrorism investigations also say rushing to close down websites with terrorism content could be counterproductive because tracking down people who connect to those sites can help authorities home in on suspects.

French authorities respond that free speech shouldn’t extend to inciting violence or denigrating classes of people, which Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last week were crimes.

Mr Cazeneuve on Tuesday said that his efforts are not intended to restrict online freedoms, adding that no one should endanger France’s “irrepressible love of liberty.”

—Danny Yadron and Cassell Bryan-Low and Amir Mizroch contributed to this article.

Write to Sam Schechner at

U.S. military social media accounts apparently hacked by Islamic State sympathizers

January 13, 2015

By Dan Lamothe
The Washington Post

Hackers claiming allegiance to the Islamic State took control of the social media accounts of the U.S. military’s Central Command on Monday, posting threatening messages and propaganda videos, along with some military documents.

The command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were eventually taken offline, but not before a string of tweets and the release of military documents, some of which listed contact information for senior military personnel. A Centcom spokesman confirmed their accounts were “compromised,” and said later that the accounts have been taken offline while the incident is investigated more.



“CENTCOM’s operation military networks were not compromised and there was no operational impact to U.S. Central Command,” a military statement said. “CENTCOM will restore service to its Twitter and YouTube accounts as quickly as possible. We are viewing this purely as a case of cybervandalism.”

Military officials added in the statement that their initial assessment is that no classified information was posted, and that none of what was released came from Centcom’s server or social media sites. The command will notify Defense Department and law enforcement authorities about the release of personally identifiable information and make sure that those affected are notified as quickly as possible, Centcom said.

Virtually all of the documents posted appear to already have been publicly available online, but the incident is nevertheless embarrassing to the U.S. military. Centcom oversees the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and frequently posts videos of airstrikes on the same accounts attacked Monday.

The United States and the Islamic State have waged a propaganda battle online for the better part of a year, after the militants rose to prominence and seized broad swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. Twitter accounts sympathetic to the militants have distributed graphic images of beheadings and other violence along with threats, while the Defense Department and State Department have sought to expose the Islamic State as an oppressive group willing to slaughter innocent men, women and children.

The first rogue tweet Monday was posted about 12:30 p.m. and the account was not suspended for about another 40 minutes. The background and profile photo of the Twitter account were both changed to show an apparent militant and the phrases “CyberCaliphate” and “i love you isis,” using one of the acronyms for the militant group.


White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the Obama administration is “examining and investigating the extent of the incident.”

“This is something we are obviously looking into and something we take seriously,” he told reporters Monday, adding he didn’t have a lot of information. He said that there is a “pretty significant difference” between “a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account.”

The Centcom YouTube page also appeared to have been hacked, with two Islamic State propaganda videos added to the page and the same “CyberCaliphate” banner posted. The YouTube account was eventually “terminated due to repeated or severe violations” of YouTube’s guidelines, the website said.

Central Command also maintains Facebook accounts, but it appears they were not affected.

It is not clear whether the hackers are actually with the Islamic State, sympathizers with the militants, or simply pulling a prank on the Pentagon. But J.M. Berger, an analyst and non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, said there is reason to believe it could be someone affiliated directly with the Islamic State.

“ISIS has a team of hackers who are very deeply involved in ISIS the organization,” said Berger, author of the forthcoming book “ISIS: The State of Terror.”

“They have been practicing and recruiting for a while, and this has been going on for months and months,” Berger said.

But analysts added that just because the Islamic State hacked two social media accounts, it does not mean they threatened classified computer networks. Other hacker organizations, like the Syrian Electronic Army, have seized control of websites, and a group using the same “CyberCaliphate” name and photo seen in the hack against Centcom on Monday hacked the Twitter accounts of the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico and the WBOC TV station in Salisbury, Md., last week.

“Let’s remember this is a social media account,” said Peter Singer, a strategist and analyst with the New American Foundation in Washington, of the attacks on Monday. “This is not a military command and control network. This is not a network that moves classified or even non-classified internal information back and forth. Essentially what they did is for several minutes take control of the megaphone.”

But Singer said the incident does amount to a public relations victory for the Islamic State, even if they were not directly involved. Embarrassing the U.S. government “is a feather in their cap in terms of pulling off something that other groups have not been able to do, no matter how silly it is at the end of the day.”

[Related: The Centcom ‘hack’ that wasn’t]

It is not clear what level of security any of the organizations affected have on their social media accounts. Twitter offers a two-step verification process to sign into an account that makes it secure, but it is not required. Without it, a Twitter account typically requires only an email address and a password.

Katie Zezima and Craig Whitlock contributed to this report.

This post was originally published at 12:53 p.m., and updated last at 3:53 p.m.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.



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