Twitter axes pro-government propaganda accounts in Turkey

Twitter axes pro-government propaganda accounts in Turkey
Fake Turkish accounts were being used to promote political narratives favorable to the ruling AKP. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 June 2020

Twitter axes pro-government propaganda accounts in Turkey

Twitter axes pro-government propaganda accounts in Turkey
  • ‘Network of echo chambers’ attacked critics
  • Turkish presidency blasts Twitter move

ANKARA: Twitter has removed more than 7,000 “fake and compromised” accounts associated with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP).

The operation was carried out on Thursday night and the axed accounts were linked to the AKP’s youth branch.
“Based on our analysis of the network’s technical indicators and account behaviors, the collection of fake and compromised accounts was being used to amplify political narratives favorable to the AKP, and demonstrated strong support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Twitter said.
It revealed that the main tools used by the Turkish accounts were “a network of echo chambers used to push propaganda, spread misinformation or attack critics of the government.”
The Turkish presidency released a strongly worded statement condemning Twitter’s move, saying that the allegations were baseless and politically motivated.
“It is a historical scandal that a US-based company tried to market ideological approaches under the guise of scientific data in order to legitimize them,” the presidency said, adding that such moves were aimed at shaping Turkish domestic politics from abroad.
Coordinated activities of Turkish accounts – bots and compromised accounts with fake personalities, similar usernames and pro-government retweet rings – have been a hot topic in the country’s polarized political climate.
The coordinated accounts sometimes carried out large-scale hacking activities toward dissident voices and organizations, while also trying to consolidate domestic support for the country’s cross-border interventions, especially in Syria and Libya.
The Twitter operation also covered 1,152 Russian accounts and 23,750 Chinese accounts. According to Twitter rules, every account and piece of content associated with these accounts has been permanently removed.
Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, from Istanbul’s Kadir Has University and editor in chief of NewsLabTurkey.org, said the Twitter operation was one of the boldest moves from a social network platform against government-linked or government-sponsored disinformation networks.
Based on the information shared by Twitter with the Stanford Internet Observatory, the network comprising about 37 million tweets promoted the AKP and criticized opposition parties, especially the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
“The takedown included centrally managed compromised accounts that were used for AKP cheerleading,” the Twitter report said.
Uzunoglu said the decision to remove the accounts must have been a challenging one for Twitter because its activities in these countries may not be easy in the future.

NUMBER

7,340 Turkish accounts closed by Twitter for making government propaganda.

“As will be remembered, Turkey’s government tried to pass a law that aimed to force social networks to open branches in Turkey or assign local representatives recently,” he told Arab News. “The government stepped back. However, things can get complicated after this move by Twitter as well.”
Uzunoglu added that Turkish municipality resources had been used to finance pro-government astroturfing activities, organized attempts to create a positive but false impression of support for a policy, an organization or a person. There had been a drop in astroturfing after opposition wins in local elections, he said.
“However the ruling party is still known to have their media operations running their astroturfing operations under different organizations linked to the government or the ruling party itself.”
But he did not expect there to be serious damage to the ruling party’s operation in the digital media landscape because Turkish state propaganda continued to be carried out, especially on WhatsApp or Telegram. Nor did the Twitter operation take into account pro-government supporters, who used the social media platform to push AKP propaganda.
“During the Gezi Park protests of 2013 some Turkish academics revealed pro-government networks via simple network analysis. They even named the pioneers of this network and explained how this activity worked. But, this latest operation has not touched the accounts of these people, many of whom are still actively leading pro-government propaganda because this contradicts Twitter’s free expression agenda. At the same time, however, it makes the fight against disinformation and state-sponsored propaganda, the main purpose of Twitter, less functional than it should be.”
Uzunoglu said that Twitter’s operation against Turkish accounts confirmed what Turkish citizens already knew.
“There is a network that uses state resources to make propaganda in the new media in Turkey. So, actually, we had an opportunity to talk about the secret that everyone knows. No judicial institution will be able to investigate this issue. State authorities will also not be transparent in this regard.”
Erkan Saka, a communications professor at Istanbul Bilgi University, said troll discourse was mostly produced by AKP-related columnists and the country’s politicians and bureaucrats.
“Bots help in disseminating the discourse but they are not particularly efficient,” he told Arab News. “In that sense, I find this move better than nothing, but too late and not very effective.”


Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse

Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse
According to a new report by mobile data and analytics firm App Annie, the Clubhouse app has grown from having more than 3.5 million global downloads in February 2020 to reaching 8.1 million by Feb. 16 this year. (Getty Images)
Updated 03 March 2021

Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse

Volunteers help Saudi job seekers find work via popular app Clubhouse
  • The Clubhouse app has grown from having more than 3.5 million global downloads in February 2020 to reaching 8.1 million by Feb. 16 this year

JEDDAH: A group of recruitment experts in Saudi Arabia have joined forces to launch a jobs initiative via a popular new audio-only app.
The six volunteers have been giving up three hours a day to speak with job seekers on the Clubhouse social networking platform which is rapidly becoming a go-to staging post for connecting users with the country’s employers.
The team’s Employment Forum Initiative chat room aims to help link people with recruitment specialists and businesses throughout the Kingdom.
The forum is among a number of rooms set up on Clubhouse — that in recent weeks has been among the top three most popular social media apps in Saudi Arabia and worldwide — to discuss labor market needs, job interview techniques, freelancing opportunities, and other employment-related issues.
One of the forum’s founders, Saleh Al-Sodmi, told Arab News: “We are a group of volunteers representing ourselves in this initiative where we united our love of giving and compassion to help people. We are providing assistance to our fellow citizens, which we consider a duty, not a favor.”
Al-Sodmi and his colleagues all work in the human resources and recruitment sector but have been sacrificing their time on a daily basis to help Clubhouse users in their hunt for jobs.


During the first five days of the initiative, the group helped more than 20 people to find employment and numerous others to get job interviews, and Al-Sodmi expected more success stories as the app’s network of HR and recruitment specialists grew.
“It began with two young sisters who were looking for a job and started a room in Clubhouse for that purpose. Gradually many people within the recruitment field joined, and we agreed to carry on such meetings on a daily basis,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Employment Forum Initiative chat room aims to help link people with recruitment specialists and businesses throughout the Kingdom.

• The forum is among a number of rooms set up on Clubhouse — that in recent weeks has been among the top three most popular social media apps in Saudi Arabia and worldwide.

Between 700 and 1,000 users have been attending the group’s forums in recent days, and numbers are increasing.
According to a new report by mobile data and analytics firm App Annie, the Clubhouse app has grown from having more than 3.5 million global downloads in February 2020 to reaching 8.1 million by Feb. 16 this year.
Al-Sodmi added: “This initiative has shown how people love good and giving. Personally, all I want in return is an honest prayer. We can always help. Even when we do not have the proper job for the job seeker, we can still offer advice on how to improve their chances or overcome concerns.”
Maryam Saleh, a Clubhouse user, told Arab News: “I am truly fascinated with the idea, and I appreciate the moderators’ commitment to giving three hours of their time or sometimes more to help others.

We are providing assistance to our fellow citizens, which we consider a duty, not a favor.

Saleh Al-Sodmi, Co-founder

“I found out about it from my friend; I hope it grows further and helps young people to get the opportunities they deserve, especially those, like me, who graduated in these difficult times amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”
Al-Sodmi said Clubhouse had helped users reach out to a wider audience and connect with people that were not as easily accessible via social media platforms.
“For instance, Clubhouse allowed the influencers’ privilege to dissolve and helped the different groups of societies to truly mingle amongst themselves and talk to each other.


“We have seen artists, economists, and CEOs connecting and interacting with the public easily and comfortably,” he added.
Hanan bin Fantokh, another volunteer recruitment specialist within the employment initiative, told Arab News that the platform has helped save recruiters’ time finding candidates and conducting initial interviews.
“It has also helped people break through their fear barrier by allowing them to introduce and market themselves publicly. It also helped many enhance their dialogue and persuasion skills.
“On the jobs front, many have started getting interviews, and some have signed contracts. However, the availability of jobs is less than the number of job seekers,” she added.


Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor
Updated 02 March 2021

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor

Kayleigh McEnany signs on as Fox News contributor
  • McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role
  • While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews

NEW YORK: As widely anticipated, Fox News said Tuesday that it had signed former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany as a contributor to offer commentary on various network programs.
McEnany, former President Donald Trump’s final press secretary, didn’t speak about her new role during an interview with Fox’s Harris Faulkner that aired Tuesday.
It was reported in January that McEnany had disclosed to the US Office of Government Ethics while still in office that she would work for Fox after leaving the White House. Fox said at the time that it had been in discussions with McEnany but had paused them.
Before working for Trump, McEnany was a commentator at CNN.
While at the White House, McEnany frequently appeared on Fox News programs for interviews.
She said Tuesday that her biggest regret at the White House was not being able to hold a briefing outlining all the accomplishments of the Trump administration.
“But after Jan. 6, it just was not tenable,” she said.
She said that “everyone in the administration was horrified” by the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, led by a mob of Trump supporters, but she insisted that it did not represent the former president’s backers.
Asked if she believed Trump bore any responsibility for the riot, she said, “No, I don’t.”
Trump was impeached by the House on a charge of incitement of insurrection over the insurrection but acquitted by the House. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell voted to acquit Trump, citing the fact that the former president was out of office by the time the Senate trial began, but McConnell said Trump was “practically and morally responsible for provoking” the riot.


OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up

OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up
Updated 02 March 2021

OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up

OSN celebrates International Women’s Day with all-female line-up
  • New channel offers tailored content ‘to engage with women of the region’

DUBAI: In celebration of International Women’s Day, entertainment network OSN is planning to launch its first-ever content lineup dedicated to women in the region.

The OSN Woman content will be launched on March 8 and will be available as a standalone channel through any OSN box, as we well as on-demand and on the OSN streaming app.

“OSN Woman was born from the desire to provide women of the region with a tailored content offering. This is the start of a new chapter for OSN, as we launch new content offering that caters to the needs of women of the region and engages with them in a truly relevant way,” Rolla Karam, interim chief content officer at OSN, told Arab News.

Rolla Karam, interim chief content officer at OSN

Fashion, health, parenting, relationships and reality topics will feature in the new channel.

The content, which has been chosen by female programming specialists at OSN, includes “Framing Britney Spears,” “A Perfect 14,” which explores the world of plus size modeling; and “Public Figure,” which looks at the psychological effect of social media use on influencers.

The campaign to promote OSN Woman is also created by an all-women team led by director Danielle Arden and Nayla Chacra, regional executive content producer at production company Prodigious.

“This is the outcome of serious efforts led by talented women at OSN, who invested all their knowledge and understanding of the region in coming up with this unique line-up,” said Karam.


Twitter labels to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Twitter labels to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
Updated 02 March 2021

Twitter labels to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Twitter labels to combat COVID-19 vaccine misinformation
  • 2,400 accounts suspended, 11.5m challenged since platform launched new measures

DUBAI: Social networking giant Twitter is ramping up efforts to remove harmful and misleading information circulating online about coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.

As the vaccine roll out gains speed, conversations about inoculation have been increasing on social media platforms.

And to help combat false claims and scaremongering about vaccines, Twitter has been applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about the COVID-19 jabs.

Labels will appear next to suspect content and may link to either the curated content tab, the official public health information, or the Twitter rules page.

Initially, Twitter’s team will apply labels to misleading content. Those assessments will be used to then inform the platform’s automated tools to identify and label similar content.

In addition to labels, Twitter will be introducing a strike system that will determine when further enforcement is necessary.

Repeated violations of the COVID-19 policy will be enforced on the basis of the number of strikes an account has accrued for infringing Twitter’s policies. Two and three strikes will result in a 12-hour account lock, four strikes a seven-day lock, and permanent suspension for five or more.

Twitter’s help center said that content could be labeled or removed if it advanced a claim of fact expressed in definitive terms, was demonstrably false or misleading based on widely available authoritative sources, or was likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm.

In December, Twitter shared updates on its work to protect the public conversation surrounding the virus outbreak. Since introducing its COVID-19 guidance, the platform has permanently suspended 2,400 accounts and challenged 11.5 million accounts worldwide.

The company has also launched a dedicated COVID-19 search prompt feature. When the term COVID-19 is searched on the platform, credible and authoritative content appears at the top of the search results. This has now been expanded to more than 80 countries and is currently available in 29 languages.

In some countries, the prompts also include an additional button that links to information specific to the COVID-19 vaccine.


Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist
Updated 03 March 2021

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist

Myanmar authorities charge Associated Press journalist
  • Six members of the press charged by Myanmarese authorities with violating a public order law and could face imprisonment up to three years
  • AP vice president for international news says 'independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution'

YANGON, Myanmar: Six members of the media, including Associated Press [AP] journalist Thein Zaw were charged on Tuesday of violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned up to three years, said a lawyer.
Myanmarese authorities charged AP’s Zaw and five media persons following their arrest while covering protests against the February 1 military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The group includes journalists for Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet online news and a freelancer.
Zaw’s lawyer Tin Zar Oo said the six have been charged under a law that punishes anyone who causes fear among the public, knowingly spreads false news, or agitates directly or indirectly for a criminal offense against a government employee.
The law was amended by the junta last month to broaden its scope and increase the maximum prison term from two years.
Detained on Saturday morning in the country’s largest city, Yangon, Zaw, 32, was reported to be held in Insein Prison that’s notorious for housing political prisoners under previous military regimes.
According to the lawyer, Thein Zaw was remanded into custody by a court and can be held until March 12 without another hearing or further action, meanwhile AP has called for Zaw’s immediate release.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, said after the arrest. “AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists joined that call.
“Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting.”
Zaw was arrested as police charged toward protesters gathered at an intersection in Yangon, the demonstrators’ meeting point.
This past weekend the authorities escalated their crackdown carrying out mass arrests and using lethal force. The UN Human Rights offices said it believes at least 18 people were shot dead Sunday in several cities when security forces opened fire on demonstrators.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule.
In December 2017, two Reuters’ journalists were arrested while working on a story about Myanmar’s Rohingya minority. They were accused of illegally possessing official documents, although they argued that they were framed because of official opposition to their reporting.
Although their case attracted international attention, they were convicted the following year and were sentenced to seven years behind bars. They were freed in 2019 in a mass presidential pardon.