Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

China Frees 5 Women’s Rights Activists After Month Detention

April 14, 2015



China’s jailed women’s rights activists: Clockwise from top left: Li Tingting, Wu Rongrong, Zheng Churan, Wei Tingting, Wang Man. They have been detained by Chinese authorities.

The Associated Press

BEIJING — Chinese authorities have released five women’s rights campaigners whose detentions for more than a month sparked an international outcry and underscored the government’s tight restrictions on independent social activism.

The women were freed Monday under a form of conditional release that keeps the investigation open for another year and allows formal charges to be brought later, said Liang Xiaojun, a lawyer for one of them.

The activists, aged from 25 to 32, were known for colorful protests that included “potty parity” sit-ins and street theater to denounce spousal abuse, and their detentions brought international calls for their release, including from the United States, Britain and the European Union.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said China should “support them, not silence them” in their fight against sexual harassment and other injustices toward women, and #FreeTheFive became a popular Twitter hashtag.

Human rights activists said the release was driven by Beijing’s desire to avoid marring its reputation on women’s rights and creating a public relations disaster, especially ahead of a September commemoration of a key women’s rights summit held in Beijing in 1995.

Amnesty International Regional Director for East Asia Nicholas Bequelin said he had no doubt the release resulted from a political and diplomatic decision at a senior level.

“It shows that China does have a bottom line when it comes to embarrassment on the world stage,” Bequelin told The Associated Press. “There’s a price that China is not ready to pay to enforce its prohibition on independent organizing.”

As of late Monday night, all five had either returned or were on their way to their homes in Beijing and elsewhere in China, including the southern metropolis of Guangzhou and the eastern resort city of Hangzhou. Calls to the Haidian District Detention Center in western Beijing, where they had been held, rang unanswered.

Other lawyers could not be reached by phone, but posted messages on social media saying their clients had been freed.

An anti-discrimination group working with the activists, the Beijing Yirenping Center, said in a statement that continuing to treat the women as criminal suspects was “neither legal nor reasonable.” Late last month, Beijing police raided the center’s office and confiscated computers and financial documents.

“They deserve public recognition and rewards,” center co-founder Lu Jun wrote of their activism. “The arrest and detention of them is a glaring injustice.”

In a statement, Amnesty International called the women’s release an “encouraging breakthrough” but “an incomplete step.” It said China must end the investigation and exonerate the five.

The European Union also urged authorities to drop the investigation of the women.

Hong Lei, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirmed Tuesday that the activists were released on bail. He said the matter was dealt with in accordance with Chinese law.

“It is part of China’s sovereignty for the Chinese judicial authority to observe and enforce the law and to fight crime,” Hong said. “That is a principle a country under the rule of law must stick to.”

Under the conditions of their release, the five remain formally under investigation for the next year and must report their movements to police and be available for interrogation at any time. They are also barred from discussing the case among themselves or gathering as a group, lawyer Wang Qiushi said.

The women — Wang Man, Zheng Churan, Wu Rongrong, Wei Tingting and Li Tingting — were detained last month as they prepared to distribute posters and stickers against domestic violence on International Women’s Day on March 8. They were accused of creating a disturbance and, if convicted, could have been sentenced to up to three years in prison. Five others detained at the same time were released earlier.

China’s Communist Party-led government maintains tight restrictions on all forms of public protest, and campaigners say conditions for independent activists have grown increasingly harsh under President Xi Jinping.

While the government has commented little on the case, it appeared that the women’s detentions were linked more to their penchant for media-friendly street actions than their advocacy of women’s rights.

In 2012, the activists briefly took over public men’s restrooms in Beijing and other cities to demand more women’s facilities. That year, Li and two other women strolled down a busy Beijing shopping street wearing bloody wedding dresses to denounce domestic violence.

Amnesty’s Bequelin said that, given the case’s high profile, he expects police to keep a close eye on the five. The legal restrictions on them will likely be sufficient to “if not silence, then considerably mute their voice,” he said.

Along with the international outcry, Bequelin said the fact that the women made no political demands helped their cause, along with the weakness of the accusations against them.

“It helped that they hadn’t actually committed any wrongdoing,” he said.


Associated Press writers Jack Chang and Didi Tang contributed to this report.


‘#WhyI’mnotvotingforHillary’ hashtag tops Twitter

April 13, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announcement was not met with the positive response her team would have been hoping for

By , US Correspondent

The Telegraph

A social media backlash began against Hillary Clinton on Sunday night after the former secretary of state announced her run for the White House.

“#Why Im not voting for Hillary” quickly became the most talked about subject on Twitter in the US in the hours after Mrs Clinton released a video asking for the public’s backing for her 2016 bid to become the America’s first-ever female president.

While many declared their support for the wife of former US president Bill Clinton, a wave of users began using the hashtag giving their reasons for why they would not be voting for the Democratic candidate.

Many criticised her response to the deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including the ambassador, Christopher Stevens.

Includes video

Hillary Clinton during a hearing on the September attacks on US diplomatic sites in Benghazi (Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Sara Teague wrote: #WhyImNotVotingForHillary #Benghazi proved her incompetence and disregard for American lives. Email scandal shows she’s “above the law”

Others cited her apparent lack of transparency, particularly over her use of a private email server during her time in office. It emerged last month Mrs Clinton deleted 30,000 of the emails, which she described as private correspondence.

No true American should need anymore reasons than this one.

Four solid reasons

The hashtag was started by 19-year-old Markeece Young from North Carolina, who describes himself on his Twitter account as a former Democrat-turned-Conservative.

“Well when I heard Hillary was announcing her campaign on Twitter I came up with the Idea to create ‪#‎WhyImNotVotingForHillary‬ it’s simple but very powerful,” he wrote. “It was the #1 trending hashtag in America for about 3 hours.”

Anti-Hillary graffiti also popped up in the New York borough of Brooklyn, where Mrs Clinton’s campaign headquarters will be based.

A poster placed in front of Hillary Clinton’s HQ in Brooklyn, New York (AP)

The street art features portraits of the presidential hopeful alongside phrases including “Don’t Say Secretive”,”Don’t Say Entitled”.

Mrs Clinton made waves before she had even taken up residence.

A group of Haitian protesters – who have accused the Clinton Foundation of stealing money intended for rebuilding their country after the 2010 earthquake – last week gathered outside her building, chanting: “Do we want Clinton for president? Hell no.”

Because of her global profile and the lack of other prominent Democrats in the field, Mrs Clinton enters the race in a position that is perhaps unmatched in modern US presidential politics.

Her tweet announcing her candidacy notched almost 90,000 retweets by the end of the day on Sunday, her campaign video more than 1 million views on YouTube, and her Facebook campaign page almost 500,000 likes.

Impressive, marketing strategists say, although she did create one or two chinks for Republicans to chisel at.

Her 138-second campaign video featured everyday Americans discussing milestones such as starting a business or having a baby, with Mrs Clinton first appearing a full 90 seconds in. It broke a million views on Facebook by Sunday evening.

“It’s less ‘me’ and more ‘us’, which I think is very smart,” said Marissa Gluck, a director at marketing firm Huge.

That’s a really “big difference in tone, ego and professionalism compared to rollout videos from Rand Paul and (Ted) Cruz,” said Josh Cook, a former Obama digital director and vice president of digital engagement for the political consulting firm, BerlinRosen, referring to Republican presidential hopefuls.

But Republicans pushed back hard and fast.

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz of Texas responded to the “ready for Hillary” message in a crudely cut video asking if Americans wanted “a third Obama term.”

A Google search for “Hillary Clinton for President” resulted in an ad for Hillary’s campaign page, but just below it was an ad for “Pledge to Stop Hillary,” a Republican-created petition.


FILE PHOTO NYC PAPERS OUT; Social media use restricted to low res file, max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi


Pictured: Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, discusses with then China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at a news conference in Beijing Sept. 5, 2012. Hillary Clinton never made any strong statements of U.S. concern over China’s moves in the South China Sea. Today, China controls several islands in the South China Sea that were uninhabited before the Obama Administration. Today some of the best U.S. allies in Asia like the Philippines and Japan are greatly concerned by China’s rapid rise during the Clinton-Obama years. Photo: AP/Feng Li, Pool

Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin. After this photo was taken, Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and “invaded” eastern Ukraine.

Those were fun times, weren’t they?  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left her post as U.S. Secretary of State with a Russia in military resurgence. The butten meant “reset to the Cold war” wor Putin’s Moscow government. (AP Photo)

‘Huge gaps’ in Clinton emails: Chairman of House Benghazi Committee

Islamic State militants pose threat to all Southeast Asian Nations

April 7, 2015

Radical group is enticing Muslim youngsters to join, and a Thai student may be among them.


The threats posed by the group are not just limited to brutal killings, but also the recruitment of new members, specifically through social media.

“It is not too much to say a radical movement operating in the Middle East is one of the products of the US invasion and it is unpredictable how the crisis will end,” the expert on Islam, Jaran Maluleem, said, referring to the IS.

Citizens from many countries, including nations in Southeast Asia, have travelled to Syria via Turkey to join the IS.

Some were stopped by authorities as they made their way to Syria but many have succeeded in joining the militant group.

Mr Jaran said a key tool the IS uses to recruit youngsters is the idea of a caliphate, which is a form of Islamic government.

The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has declared himself to be the spiritual successor to Mohammed, also known as a caliph.

The caliph is empowered to run the territory’s administrative and religious affairs.

The idea of a caliphate was abolished after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

According to Mr Jaran, the influence of the militant group among young people also poses a threat to the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean).

The regional grouping’s members need to address the recruitment of youngsters, he said.

Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla speaks at the opening of a conference on terrorism and Islamic State in Jakarta, March 23. (Reuters photo)
Mr Jaran said there are unconfirmed reports that a Thai student who studied in the Middle East recently joined the IS.

Even though the student is from southern Thailand, the possibility of the IS getting involved in the fighting in the deep South or other countries in Asean is still low, Mr Jaran said.
However, due to the large Muslim population in the region, authorities should look out for IS propaganda used to attract young Muslims to the group.

“We cannot rule out the prospect that the IS has its eyes on Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia which has the highest number of Muslims in the world,” he said.

“But the overall situation in the Asean area is a long way off from descending into violence,” Mr Jaran said.

He admitted the number of people joining the radical group is on the rise, particularly youngsters.

He said militant groups in Asean, such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI), have offered moral support to IS in their fight against the US, but there is no proof to suggest any JI members have joined the IS.

“Most of the people who join IS are likely to be anxious, depressed and lonely.
“They are more likely to be socially isolated and many are fond of the IS ideology but hesitate to express their feelings in public,” Mr Jaran said.

A senior Asean diplomat told the Bangkok Post that dozens of people from her country were stopped from joining the IS in the Middle East last year but she could not estimate how many had successfully joined…

The IS threatens security in the region and Asean members should discuss ways to stop the possibility of conflict, she said, adding the actions of the group are unacceptable under Islamic practice.

“Talking about IS, it is about terrorism, it is about people who claim they are Muslims but they are not.

“They might be Muslims, we don’t know, but we do not recognise them,” the diplomat said.

“What religion do they belong to? They cannot do such cruel things. The word Islam means peace and what they do is against the fundamentals of Islam,” she said.

The group’s propaganda machine involves releasing videos of hostages being brutally murdered which forces the international community to react with outrage.

Taking into account the group’s oil trading and other money-making schemes means IS could be the wealthiest and most powerful militant group in the Middle East.

After splitting from al-Qaeda, the IS has been active mainly in parts of Iraq and Syria, with an estimated 30,000 members.

The IS militants recruit new members by using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to show the successes they have enjoyed as they took over large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The ideology of the group attracts Muslims from across the world.

The group also uses social media to strike fear into the hearts of its enemies by uploading gruesome murders of its hostages.

The IS claims the brutal killings of its hostages were acts of revenge against the US and its allies.

After the IS executed two foreign hostages earlier this year, the US-led coalition launched a series of air strikes against the group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

However, Mr Jaran said coalition air strikes are not the way to defeat the militant group.

“Defeating IS will not end the militant movement because many Muslim groups are still loyal to the group and share the same ideology.

“Even if the IS disappears, another group will lead the movement in its place,” he said.

The IS and other militant groups are the consequence of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

Asean members should not get involved in the conflict.

They should continue to promote regional peace, Mr Jaran said.



Turkey’s latest social media ban smacks of electoral censorship, critics say

April 6, 2015


Turkish authorities have blocked social media websites over images of a prosecutor who was killed during a hostage standoff last week. Critics say it’s yet another censorship move in the run-up to elections in June.
Turkey blocked access to social media services such as Twitter and YouTube on Monday.
Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said a prosecutor had sought to block the sites because media organizations had acted “as if they were spreading terrorist propaganda” in sharing images of prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was held at gunpoint and later killed by militants on March 31.Users had shared these images on social media platforms like Twitter.
In addition to blocking these networks, Turkey has also blocked 166 URLs – specific websites – most of which link to news articles.It’s not the first time Turkish authorities have cracked down social media sites – Erdogan blocked Twitter before holding local elections in March 2014.

“The demand from the prosecutor’s office is that this image not be used anywhere in electronic platforms,” spokesperson Kalin said at a news conference in Ankara.

“A request has been made to both Twitter and YouTube for the removal of the images and posts but they have not accepted it and no response has been given. That’s why this decision has been taken through a court in Istanbul,” the spokesperson added.

An Egyptian-British blogger, however, had already complained on Saturday that Twitter blocked her tweet about Kiraz – Nervana Mahmoud had shared the picture of the prosecutor held hostage, but made a point condemning any form of violence.

Militants took Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage at the end of March

Latest move to tighten controls

The social media ban is the latest move to tighten controls in Turkey – right after the prosecutor was taken hostage, the prime minister’s office had issued a gag order on media organizations.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had criticized “the quickly-imposed ban on media coverage” on Thursday.

“This is nothing less than censorship and the fact it has become commonplace is especially disturbing when it is the government that increasingly assumes the responsibility for imposing it. By so doing, it is trampling on the public’s right to be informed about a subject of general interest,” Johann Bihr, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement.

“In Turkey, every sensitive affair is now the subject of a publishing ban,” he added.

“There’s too much power given to the prosecutors and courts at the moment to censor any content,” said Efe Kerem Sozeri, a Turkish researcher and opposition activist based in Amsterdam.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently pushed the “image of the very powerful, ruthless man,” Sozeri said. The ban on distributing photos of the prosecutor held hostage was a move to uphold this tough stance, according to Sozeri.

Turkey speeds up the process

Sozeri told DW he has collected more than 300 court orders that ban multiple tweets or Twitter accounts in Turkey. “Turkish courts have even increased the speed to ban more Twitter accounts and statuses,” he said. According to his notes, in 2014, more than 70 Twitter accounts and more than 2000 tweets were blocked.

Laptop with YouTube screen (photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s not the first time Turkish authorities have blocked Internet sites

Turkey’s controversial Internet law makes it possible to block entire social media sites, Sozeri said. “If a court says that blocking one URL address is not enough, if that doesn’t prevent the crime itself, then a court can give reasoning – seeing that blocking one URL is not enough, we need to block the whole domain – then the court can block the whole domain.”

It’s just the latest censorship move by Turkish authorities – over the weekend, Cumhuriyet daily reported 58 well-known figures in Turkey were probed for criticizing government-run press Anadolu Agency on Twitter. And according to Hurriyet Daily News, a journalist from a local daily in southeastern Turkey received a suspended prison sentence for liking a Facebook post criticizing Erdogan.

“What these remarks are about Anadolu agency is that (it) is basically turning into a government mouthpiece instead of being an independent news agency,” Sozeri said.

“This is where the freedom of speech in Turkey is. Any critical remark, even if it’s based on real facts, you are not able to say that, because the interpretation of the law is given to those courts who are under the strong influence of the justice ministry.”

New bill to fast-track crackdowns

Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have put measures in place to fast-track Internet crackdowns. Turkey’s parliament approved a security bill that also includes greater powers to police the Internet “which will allow any minister to block any website,” Sozeri said. “And the homeland security bill is also already ratified, which basically criminalizes any demonstration in the public space. So these are the pressures that we will face in the next two months.”

This view is echoed by the International Press Institute that states in its recently published report: “As Turkey approaches June 2015 parliamentary elections, it does so amid an overall erosion in respect for human rights, including free expression and media freedom. Unfortunately, absent a fundamental change in attitude and behavior by those in power, the corresponding weakening of democracy, a cycle which appears to both sustain and increase itself daily, has no immediate end in sight.”

“I am rather pessimistic about this,” Sozeri said. “But if we leave this to Erdogan – what we can say and what we cannot say – then we can’t really say anything other than ‘Erdogan is the best’ or ‘Erdogan is doing the best thing for Turkey’ which is not exactly true. But this is what Erdogan and the party wants us to do, by trying to silence us. This is what they aim for, the public opinion.”


Turkish Court Restricts Access to Internet Sites Over Hostage-Crisis Content

April 6, 2015


Blackout comes after Twitter and Google among others failed to takedown material

 A man attempts to access YouTube after an Istanbul court's ban decision in Istanbul, Turkey Monday.   
A man attempts to access YouTube after an Istanbul court’s ban decision in Istanbul, Turkey Monday. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency
By Emre Peker and Sam Schechner
The Wall Street Journal

ISTANBUL—A Turkish court banned access to Twitter Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube for failing to remove content related to a deadly hostage crisis last week, marking the second time in a year that the social-media platforms have been blocked after getting mired in Turkey’s political turmoil.

The blackout comes after an Istanbul court ordered the two U.S. companies, as well as Facebook Inc. and dozens of other local and foreign websites, to take down images, voice and videos recordings linked to the hostage crisis, threatening a blanket ban for noncompliance.

The Ankara-based Internet Service Providers’ Association, which represents all operators in Turkey, distributed the court order to its members Monday, said a company representative, who declined to be identified because the person wasn’t authorized to speak about legal matters.

Turkish Internet users were reporting blackouts and skirting the ban by using virtual-private networks, or VPNs, that obscure the country of access to allow the use of the social-media platforms. A blanket ban on Facebook has been lifted, Turkey’s top regulator told Hurriyet newspaper.

“We are aware of reports of interruption of our service in Turkey, and we are working to restore access for our users as soon as possible,” Twitter’s global public policy team said in a tweet Monday.

A Facebook spokesman said Monday that the company had received a “valid court order” in Turkey to “restrict access to certain content or our service would be blocked.” The spokesman said Facebook has complied with the order, but is appealing it.

“We are seeing reports that YouTube is blocked in Turkey and we’re working to restore the service for users as soon as possible,” a spokesman for Google said.

Aside from social-media platforms, the decision also covers websites of leading Turkish outlets Hurriyet and NTV news channel, local opposition newspapers Cumhuriyet and Sozcu, as well as U.K. newspaper the Independent and Australia’s top-ranking news website, the person familiar with the court order said.

The Istanbul court’s decision comes after the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, killed a prosecutor overseeing a high-profile, politically charged case last Tuesday.

During the half-day standoff between two members of the terrorist-listed organization and security forces, the DHKP-C published photos on social-media of Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun to his head and the Marxist-Leninist outfit’s yellow-starred red flags in the background. The pictures were widely distributed and some newspapers printed them on their cover, prompting a strong backlash from the government and prosecutors.

“It is not acceptable for certain media organizations that must act with the responsibilities of being the press to publish these photos, as if they were engaged in terrorism propaganda,” Turkish presidency Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Monday, shortly after the bans came into effect. He said “any blocking of access is out of the question” despite the start of blackouts on Twitter and YouTube, adding that he had heard of the developments shortly before his news conference.

The court ordered the removal of Mr. Kiraz’s photos and videos, and blocking of related links where content removal wasn’t possible. Barring both options, the websites should be banned entirely, the court said.

“These broadcasts have been shared as propaganda for the armed terrorist organization DHKP-C,” the decision said, adding that their publication also endangered public safety. Last year’s Twitter and YouTube bans were based on national security.

—Yeliz Candemir contributed to this article.

Write to Emre Peker at

Chinese have no need for websites blocked by Great Firewall — “Beijing will tell you everything you need to know”

March 26, 2015


If Beijing is successful in its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics then foreigners who attend will get uncensored internet access, but this isn’t an issue for Chinese who “don’t like” sites like Facebook and Twitter, an official said on Wednesday.

China keeps a tight rein on its internet. The government has warned that social media, particularly foreign services, could be a destabilising force for Chinese society or even affect the country’s security.

Popular foreign social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as well as Google’s main search engine and Gmail service are all inaccessible in China without specialised software to vault what is known as the “Great Firewall”.

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics as they enjoyed at previous Games.

But when the main press centre opened, journalists complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to China’s communist leadership blocked. A senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official later admitted that some IOC officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites.

Wang Hui, spokeswoman for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, told a news briefing that China was an open country committed to having an open internet.

“Everyone always brings up Facebook and Twitter, but people around me don’t like to use it,” Wang said, when asked whether foreign visitors would access uncensored Internet access if the city won the 2022 Games.

“With our Weibo and WeChat, China’s 650 million [web users] can freely use these tools to exchange and receive information,” she said, referring to wildly popular Chinese social media tools which are subject to often quite strict government censorship.

“If you gave these [Facebook and Twitter] to me, I would not use them. I like using Weibo and WeChat.”

Foreign visitors, including the press, spectators or athletes, would get open internet access in 2022, Wang added, without explaining how exactly this would work.

“Without a doubt, 2022 will be even more open than 2008.”

Despite being blocked in China, Beijing 2022 organisers have set up official Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, aimed at a foreign audience, though to little apparent effect.

The Beijing 2022 Twitter account, which sent its first tweet in early November, is only followed by some 550 people. Its official Facebook page has attracted just over 400 likes since it was sent up at about the same time.

An IOC evaluation team is in China this week, and the final decision on who gets the Games will be made in July. The only other city bidding is Kazakhstan’s Almaty.

China’s Great Firewall — And Poisoning Internet Attacks From China

March 1, 2015

By Adam Pasick

Software designer Craig Hockenberry noticed something very strange was happening to his small corporate website The Iconfactory one morning last month: traffic had suddenly spiked to extremely high levels—equivalent to more than double the amount of data transmitted when Kim Kardashian’s naked photos were published last year.

The reason, he quickly discovered, was that China’s Great Firewall—the elaborate machinery that China’s government uses to censor the internet—was redirecting enormous amounts of bogus traffic to his site, which designs online icons, quickly swamping his servers.

“When I looked at the server traffic, there was only one thing I could say,” he wrote on his blog. “Holy shit.”

Hockenberry was only the latest unfortunate site administrator to experience an ugly side effect of the Great Firewall, known as DNS poisoning. A brief explainer: When you type a URL into your web browser, it is converted into a numeric IP address by a domain name server (DNS). Often these are run by internet service providers or companies like Google, but in China they are run by the government—specifically the Ministry of State Security, which is responsible for operating the Great Firewall (often referred to as the GFW).

When a Chinese internet user attempts to visit a banned site such as Facebook, Google, or Twitter, the GFW reroutes the request. For a long time it sent users to non-existent IP addresses, but lately, for reasons unknown, it has been sending them to seemingly random sites like Iconfactory, which are quickly debilitated by the massive inflow of data.

The surge to Hockenberry’s site on Jan. 20 preceded a major internet disruption in China on Jan. 21 that was conclusively caused by GWF DNS poisoning, according to, a group that fights Chinese internet censorship. Much of the internet was inaccessible to Chinese users for several hours as most of the country’s web requests—equivalent to hundreds of thousands per second—were redirected to a single IP address, used by Dynamic Internet Technology, a small US company that helps users circumvent the GFW. The company’s president speculated that DNS rerouting was not an intentional attack on his company, but rather the result of human error.

Other website administrators have reported similar incidents in the past. According to Greatfire, Chinese users attempting to access banned sites have been redirected to foreign porn sites, random sites in Russia, and to a site owned by the South Korean government. “In essence, GFW is sending Chinese users to DDOS the Korea government’s website,” the group wrote. DDOS stands for distributed denial of service, and is a common type of attack by hackers trying to take down a website by flooding it with traffic from virus-infested computers under their control.

Hockenberry concluded: “Every machine in China has the potential be a part of a massive DDOS attack on innocent sites. As my colleague Sean quipped, ‘They have weaponized their entire population.’”

Art by Nemu Asakura

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.

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“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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