Call for UK to act over Al Jazeera’s ‘platform’ for terror group

The British government has been urged to launch an investigation into allegations Al Jazeera has given a platform to support a terrorist group. (File photo AFP)
Updated 15 July 2018

Call for UK to act over Al Jazeera’s ‘platform’ for terror group

LONDON: The British government has been urged to launch an investigation into allegations Al Jazeera has given a “platform” to an extremist group linked to some of the UK’s bloodiest terror attacks.
The Qatar-owned broadcaster has featured members of the outlawed Al-Muhajiroun group on its Arabic channel on numerous occassions, prompting calls for action by the UK authorities.
While the clips are historic, the fact that they are still available online makes Al Jazeera “a vehicle for inciting terrorism,” said Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global, a management consultancy focused on the Middle East.
Al-Muhajiroun was formed in 1983 by hate preacher Omar Bakri, who is currently in prison in Lebanon for terror offenses. It was banned in the UK in 2010 but has carried on under a number of guises.
The perpetrators of the 2013 murder of British soldier Lee Rigby were linked to Al-Muhajiroun, as was at least one of the extremists involved in the June 2017 terror attack at London Bridge, in which eight people were killed and 48 injured.
Bakri had been a guest on historic Al Jazeera programs, and in one clip dismissed Britain’s non-Islamic laws, claiming they “do not concern us,” and defended his group.
Nuseibeh said that, because such clips are still accessible on Al Jazeera’s website, the broadcaster should be held to account.
“Anyone looking for material about Al-Muhajiroun can find this now,” he told Arab News.
“This is a clear breach of British laws and the fact that Al Jazeera continues to host those (clips) on its website, which is accessible in Britain, makes Al Jazeera a vehicle for inciting terrorism.
“The UK government is strongly encouraged to investigate why Al Jazeera continues to host interviews with this group and impose appropriate penalties.”
Nuseibeh said that Al Jazeera had featured members of the Al-Muhajiroun terror group on “many occasions,” allowing members to defend the terror group and openly criticizing the UK’s move to proscribe it. The Qatari broadcaster should be investigated by authorities, he added.
“It cannot be ruled out that Al Jazeera has contributed to recruiting members for the group in Britain, particularly among Arabic speakers, and therefore (has a) role in inciting terrorists.”
“Why hasn’t the UK banned Al Jazeera yet?” Nuseibeh tweeted earlier on Saturday. “Clearly (the UK government) should do more and take those pages down.”
Al Jazeera did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by Arab News.


Google says misinformation campaign used YouTube to target Hong Kong protests

Updated 23 August 2019

Google says misinformation campaign used YouTube to target Hong Kong protests

SAN FRANCISCO, US: Google on Thursday said it disabled a series of YouTube channels that appeared to be part of a coordinated influence campaign against pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The announcement by YouTube’s parent company came after Twitter and Facebook accused the Chinese government of backing a social media campaign to discredit Hong Kong’s protest movement and sow political discord in the city.
Google disabled 210 YouTube channels that it found behaved in a coordinated manner while uploading videos related to the Hong Kong protests, according to Shane Huntley of the company’s security threat analysis group.
“This discovery was consistent with recent observations and actions related to China announced by Facebook and Twitter,” Huntley said in an online post.
Twitter and Facebook announced this week that they suspended nearly 1,000 active accounts linked to a coordinated influence campaign. Twitter said it had shut down about 200,000 more before they could inflict any damage.
“These accounts were deliberately and specifically attempting to sow political discord in Hong Kong, including undermining the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement on the ground,” Twitter said, referring to the active accounts it shut down.
Facebook said some of the posts from accounts it banned compared the protesters in Hong Kong with Daesh group militants, branded them “cockroaches” and alleged they planned to kill people using slingshots.
China has “taken a page from Russia’s playbook” as it uses social media platforms outside the country to wage a disinformation campaign against the protests, according to the non-profit Soufan Center for research, analysis, and strategic dialogue related to global security issues.
“Beijing has deployed a relentless disinformation campaign on Twitter and Facebook powered by unknown numbers of bots, trolls, and so-called ‘sock puppets,’” the center said on its website, referring to fake online identities created for deception.
“China’s behavior will likely grow more aggressive in both the physical and virtual realms, using on-the-ground actions to complement an intensifying cyber campaign characterized by disinformation, deflection, and obfuscation.”

Misused by autocratic regimes
While social media platforms have been tools for people to advocate for rights, justice or freedom in their countries, the services are being turned on them by oppressive governments, according to the Soufan Center.
“Autocratic governments are now using these same platforms to disparage demonstrators, divide protest movements, and confuse sympathetic onlookers,” the center said.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous southern Chinese city and one of the world’s most important financial hubs, is in the grip of an unprecedented political crisis that has seen millions of people take to the streets demanding greater freedoms.
China’s government has publicly largely left the city’s leaders and police force to try and resolve the crisis, but behind the scenes online, Beijing is seeking to sway public opinion about Hong Kong, according to Twitter and Facebook.
“We are disclosing a significant state-backed information operation focused on the situation in Hong Kong, specifically the protest movement and their calls for political change,” Twitter said.
It said it had pulled 936 accounts originating in China that were spreading disinformation.
Twitter and Facebook are banned in China, part of the government’s so-called “Great Firewall” of censorship.
Because of the bans, many of the fake accounts were accessed using “virtual private networks” that give a deceptive picture of the user’s location, Twitter said.
Facebook said it had acted on a tip from Twitter, removing seven pages, three groups and five Facebook accounts that had about 15,500 followers.
“Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government,” Facebook said.