Muslim Brotherhood suspected to be behind campaign of fake news on child ‘kidnappings’ in Sweden

Swedish authorities are fighting back against claims its social services are “kidnapping” Muslim children. (Adam IHSE / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
Swedish authorities are fighting back against claims its social services are “kidnapping” Muslim children. (Adam IHSE / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
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Updated 23 February 2022

Muslim Brotherhood suspected to be behind campaign of fake news on child ‘kidnappings’ in Sweden

Swedish authorities are fighting back against claims its social services are “kidnapping” Muslim children. (Adam IHSE / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
  • Videos began appearing on Arabic-language social media sites in late 2021 of real interventions by child welfare services
  • After Mideastern media outlets reported on the claims, Swedish government officials and social services have come out in force to deny the allegations

LONDON: A politically motivated campaign accusing child-protection authorities in Sweden of “kidnapping” children has exposed the activities of an extremist Islamist website suspectedly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is circulating fake news designed to whip up anger in minority Muslim communities around the world.

The Shuoun Islamiya (Islamic Affairs) website was set up in 2016, claiming to be “an awareness channel to spread Muslim issues and their news around the world and to confront campaigns that aim to distort the image of Islam.”

In fact, the channel has consistently distorted the reality of treatment of immigrant Muslim communities around the world, in an apparent bid to promote sectarian strife in their adoptive countries.

In Sweden, Shuoun Islamiya has found itself an ally in a fringe political party called Nyans (Nuisance), which ahead of elections in September is claiming the state is unjustifiably taking children away from their parents.

According to research by the Washington Institute’s Fikra Forum, set up to provide “on-the-ground perspectives and insight on the most pressing current events facing the Middle East,” Nyans was founded in 2019 by Mikail Yüksel, a Swedish politician of Turkish origin and is “focused on issues that its founders view as affecting Muslims in Sweden.”

Through its website and Twitter and Telegram channels, Shuoun Islamiya has kept up a steady stream of extreme content, including videos, accusing Sweden of being a fascist state where social services place Muslim children in Christian homes with paedophiles, or force them to drink alcohol and eat pork.

Unsurprisingly, Swedish government officials and social services have denied the allegations.

“We absolutely do not do that,” Migration and Integration Minister Anders Ygeman told AFP.

The only goal was to support families, he added, and the campaign was being fueled in part by “frustrated parents who have failed in their parenting” and were projecting their anger at authorities.

But “there are also malevolent forces that want to exploit these parents’ frustration to spread mistrust and division.”

Shuoun Islamiya is one of those forces and, if its objective is to stir up unwarranted outrage among the Muslim community in Sweden and around the world, it is working. Radical imams in Sweden and abroad and Muslim online influencers with millions of followers have spread the stories, sparking street protests across Sweden.

The website’s Twitter and Instagram accounts also push and promote Muslim Brotherhood salafists and loyalists, including detained Saudi extremist salafist Abdul Aziz Al-Turaife, among others.

It is unclear where Shuoun Islamiya is based. It may even be a one-man show. Its founder is listed as Mustafa Al-Sharqawi, who on his Telegram account (@MoustafaJournalist) describes himself as an “independent Muslim journalist.” He is also associated with a Telegram channel called Arab Affairs TV, which has over 17,000 subscribers.

Arab Affairs TV’s Twitter account (@Arabaffairstv) has been suspended for violating the platform’s rules, which state that users may not “threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism”, “promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity (or) religious affiliation,” and “may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm.”

However, Shuoun Islamiya’s Twitter account (@Shuounislamiya) — which has 178,000 followers — remains active, despite a series of recent Tweets perpetuating the myth that Muslim children are being kidnapped by authorities in countries including Sweden, Japan and Germany.

It is clear that its activities are creating division between Swedish communities. One response earlier this month, apparently from a Swedish citizen and aimed at Muslims in the country, read: “Swedish social services do not act without good reason and more often than not it requires some quite extreme behavioral dysfunction before they do …  try to raise your children to respect others, get an education and become a productive member of society who understands and is invested in the social contract.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates are using well-meaning liberals across Europe to cover for and further their own anti-democratic agenda, experts have warned.

At an event attended by Arab News and hosted by UAE think tank Trends Research and Advisory late last year, experts also cautioned that despite its relative decline in the past decade, the Brotherhood is adaptive and must be continually countered.

Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told participants that the Brotherhood was using “woke” language to “camouflage their true nature” as it takes hold in Europe.

“People experienced the ineffectiveness of the rule of the Brotherhood in 2012 and 2013,” he said. “People have become disenchanted with the Brotherhood.” But in the West, and particularly in Europe, the group’s status was “a more complicated question,” he added.

There, it is a “different Brotherhood, with different goals and priorities compared with Muslim countries."

There was a “coming-of-age of a second generation of activists who are European-born and are extremely well-versed in the European, Western political discourse,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, they have taken to peddling fake news about children in danger to garner support. On Feb. 20, the Shuoun Islamiya Twitter account posted four photographs, taken on the same day, of what purported to be a group of children in Syria, captioned “Solidarity of Syrian children with children in Sweden, We ask Allah to grant relief to all Muslims around the world.”

In the photographs the children are holding posters, written in Arabic, that read “Social kidnaps the children from their mothers”, “Stop kidnapping our children, whoever has humanity save the Syrian children in Sweden,” and “No happiness for the children except with their mothers.”

In a video posted on Feb. 18, Shuoun Islamiya claimed that the two daughters of Swedish-based Muslim writer Seyed Issa Musavi “were kidnapped in Sweden” and that the judge in the family court hearing the case “ruled that his daughters should not return because of the books he writes about Sweden, and this is another proof of the lie of freedom of expression in Sweden.” One of Musavi’s books is called “Forced conversion of Muslim children in Sweden.”

In one post in his own Twitter account, Musavi alleges that “Sweden Kidnapps Children (girls) move to remote areas, raped by Swedish OFFICIELS. This one, 8-years Child- girl.”

Julia Agha, head of the Arabic-language news outlet Alkompis, based in Stockholm, told AFP that the campaign had its roots in protests by Muslim families whose children had been taken into care by social services.

“What’s happened is that this campaign has ended up in the hands of forces abroad that have put a religious filter over it and are spreading disinformation, which now looks more like a hate campaign against Sweden and Swedish society.”

The disinformation campaign is exploiting the sense of isolation felt among many immigrant Muslims in Sweden, a generous country that has struggled for years to integrate new arrivals.

Sweden, a wealthy country of 10.4 million people, granted asylum and family reunification to more than 400,000 people from 2010 to 2019 — more per capita than any other European country.

“Sweden still has many integration challenges, not least when it comes to segregation,” Agha told AFP.

She said many immigrants struggled to learn Swedish, lived in areas where they interacted only with other immigrants, and didn’t feel a part of Swedish society.

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future
Updated 05 December 2022

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future

Sky News chief to step down as channel adapts to post-TV future
  • John Ryley departing operation after 17 years

LONDON: Sky News chief John Ryley announced on Sunday that he will step down after 17 years in charge as the channel faces the challenges of a post-television future.

Ryley, 60, assumed his role as head of the news outlet in 2006, when Sky News was almost fully dedicated to producing its flagship live television channel. He led the channel’s transformation into a multimedia operation with a large online audience.

Sky News, however, continues to spend a substantial part of its budget on traditional broadcasting.

Sources at the channel told the Guardian that Ryley’s departure will be announced to staff in a call on Dec. 5. Details are yet to be confirmed, but the call is also expected to reveal new hires for Sky News’ data, podcasts and original journalism teams.

The sources added that investment in several new studios would be paused.

Across almost two decades, Ryley won many journalism awards as he faced the challenge of running a news outlet in an era of media decline.

He said in recent years that he believed television news, instead of relying on patrician presenters, should increasingly feature reporters offering expert analysis and context. “The age of the all-powerful anchor is gone — instead they share the stage with journalists in the field, providing the audience with the high-fiber news they demand,” he wrote.

The announcements, according to The Guardian, suggest that Sky News’ leadership is preparing for a future where the channel’s focus shifts away from its live news operation.

While figures show that some 10.2 million people across Britain watched Sky News in November, audience figures for individual shows came in below 100,000 viewers in some cases. The channel is increasingly turning to platforms such as TikTok to reach the younger generations.

Sky News’ financial backing is wrapped up in corporate politics. When founder Rupert Murdoch sold Sky in 2018 to US media giant Comcast, the new owners pledged to maintain Sky News’ funding for a decade.

However, that agreement has yet to be honored, and decisions will be made soon about the outlet’s long-term future and funding model. Comcast is thought to be exploring ways to integrate Sky News into its US-based NBC News operation.

The wider Sky business has faced many challenges in recent years, with revenues slumping as consumers and advertisers cut back on spending in the face of tough economic conditions. The company is already looking beyond its satellite dish model toward a future where its subscription service is delivered over the internet.

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news
Updated 59 min 28 sec ago

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news

New Zealand plans law to require Facebook, Google to pay for news
  • The new legislation will go to a vote in parliament and is expected to be passed

WELLINGTON: The New Zealand government said it will introduce a law that will require big online digital companies such as Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Google and Meta Platforms Inc (META.O) to pay New Zealand media companies for the local news content that appears on their feeds.

Minister of Broadcasting Willie Jackson said in a statement on Sunday that the legislation will be modeled on similar laws in Australia and Canada and he hoped it would act as an incentive for the digital platforms to reach deals with local news outlets.

"New Zealand news media, particularly small regional and community newspapers, are struggling to remain financially viable as more advertising moves online," Jackson said. "It is critical that those benefiting from their news content actually pay for it."

The new legislation will go to a vote in parliament where the governing Labour Party's majority is expected to pass it.

Australia introduced a law in 2021 that gave the government power to make internet companies negotiate content supply deals with media outlets. A review released by the Australian government last week found it largely worked.

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports
Updated 05 December 2022

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports Inc. and Apple Inc. are planning to resume advertising on Twitter, according to media reports on Saturday.
The developments follow an email sent by Twitter on Thursday to advertising agencies offering advertisers incentives to increase their spending on the platform, an effort to jump-start its business after Elon Musk’s takeover prompted many companies to pull back.
Twitter billed the offer as the “biggest advertiser incentive ever on Twitter,” according to the email reviewed by Reuters. US advertisers who book $500,000 in incremental spending will qualify to have their spending matched with a “100 percent value add,” up to a $1 million cap, the email said.
On Saturday, a Platformer News reporter tweeted that Amazon is planning to resume advertising on Twitter at about $100 million a year, pending some security tweaks to the company’s ads platform.
However, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Amazon had never stopped advertising on Twitter.
Separately, during a Twitter Spaces conversation, Musk announced that Apple is the largest advertiser on Twitter and has “fully resumed” advertising on the platform, according to a Bloomberg report.
Musk’s first month as Twitter’s owner has included a slashing of staff including employees who work on content moderation and incidents of spammers impersonating major public companies, which has spooked the advertising industry.
Many companies from General Mills Inc. to luxury automaker Audi of America stopped or paused advertising on Twitter since the acquisition, and Musk said in November that the company had seen a “massive” drop in revenue.
Apple and Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment on the matter.

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations
Updated 03 December 2022

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations

Twitter Files: All you need to know about Elon Musk’s latest revelations
  • The thread included snippets related to the 2020 Hunter Biden story

A tweet on Friday by journalist Matt Taibbi released the “Twitter Files” Elon Musk has been teasing since Monday, claiming they unmasked the suppression of free speech by the social media platform.

Taibbi, who typed “The Twitter Files” in all caps, wrote, in his rather dramatic opening tweets, that the thread will “tell an incredible story from inside one of the world’s largest and most influential social media platforms.”

Twitter CEO Musk said in a tweet on Monday: “The public deserves to know what really happened,” and promoting the lengthy thread on Friday, he wrote, “Here we go!!” with two popcorn emojis.

The thread, peppered with snippets and screenshots described by Taibbi as “internal documents,” detailed the company’s call to block a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden shortly before the presidential election.

Several of the snippets showed Twitter executives rushing to make a difficult moderation decision, which Taibbi described as “extraordinary steps to suppress the story,” about the New York Post article.

On Oct. 14, 2020, the New York Post alleged that it had obtained emails providing evidence that Hunter Biden had introduced his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, to “a Ukrainian energy firm less than a year before the elder Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company.”

Twitter’s policies prohibit the distribution of “hacked materials,” according to NBC News, and it cited the relevant policy as one of the reasons it had blocked the article, confirming that the content was not the concern.

Among the screenshots were also emails from unnamed individuals in the Biden administration, requesting that Twitter act against specific tweets.

NBC News reported that “many, if not all, of the tweets in question violated Twitter rules,” and “at least three of those tweets involved photographs of Hunter Biden.”

On Friday, Musk faced the pressure of having to make a tough moderation decision of his own, when rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, posted an image of a swastika inside the Star of David, violating the platform’s policy against incitement of violence and prompting Twitter to suspend Ye’s account.

While most comments supported Taibbi’s thread, one Twitter user wrote: “Really, Mr. Musk? This is an old, very stale story.” Another user, Collin Rugg, whose profile description says he was “banned from Twitter at 75k followers for supporting Trump,” wrote: “Elon Musk is going up against some of the most powerful people in America. Pray for him.”

US Senator for Kentucky Rand Paul retweeted the thread, saying: “This is better than a Friday night movie. Everyone should read this and everyone should thank Elon Musk for bringing this public.”

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations
Updated 03 December 2022

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations

Daily Mail delays public release of privacy breach court allegations
  • Lawyers acting for Prince Harry, Elton John and others claim clients were victims of ‘abhorrent criminal activity’

The Daily Mail is seeking to delay the publication of court allegations made by high-profile claimants surrounding the newspaper’s journalism practices.

The potentially damaging allegations, made by lawyers acting for Prince Harry, Doreen Lawrence, Elton John and other high-profile individuals, should have been formally acknowledged by the Daily Mail within 14 days from when they were served, automatically making their details available for public and media scrutiny, according to The Guardian.

, which also includes Sadie Frost, David Furnish and Liz Hurley, filed court cases against Associated Newspapers, the Mail’s parent company, in early October.

Lawyers representing the group said they had “compelling and highly distressing evidence” that their clients had been the “victims of abhorrent criminal activity and gross breaches of privacy” by Associated Newspapers over many years.

The lawyers claimed that the Daily Mail’s parent company misused private information, alleging that listening devices may have been placed in the homes of the celebrities.

Paul Dacre, now editor-in-chief of Associated Newspapers, told the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 while editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail that his newspaper had never engaged in illegal behavior such as phone hacking.

Dacre is speculated to be on Boris Johnson’s resignation honors list, but Labour MPs have demanded that the honor be delayed pending the outcome of the legal case.

Sources with knowledge of the case said that the paperwork setting out the allegations against the Daily Mail and its sister title is still private due to legal intervention by Associated Newspapers, which has delayed formal acknowledgment — and therefore publication — of the claims.

The allegations come despite the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday’s long record of campaigning against “secret justice” and promoting transparency in the court system. A spokespeople for the Daily Mail’s parent company did not respond to multiple requests for comment on why the company had yet to acknowledge the claims.

Associated Newspapers has been accused of hiring private investigators to secretly place listening devices inside cars and homes, commissioning individuals to surreptitiously listen in to, and record, private telephone calls, paying police officials for sensitive inside information, impersonating individuals to obtain medical information by deception, and accessing bank accounts, credit histories and financial transactions through illicit means and manipulation.

The Daily Mail previously dismissed the claims as “preposterous smears,” alleging that the legal cases consisted of “unsubstantiated and highly defamatory claims based on no credible evidence.” The paper said that the proceedings “appear to be nothing more than a pre-planned and orchestrated attempt to drag the Mail titles into the phone-hacking scandal.”

Former Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes is also filing proceedings against Associated Newspapers. His claims are believed to center around allegations of voicemail interception by the newspaper.

The major allegations are the first to be leveled against the Daily Mail by high-profile individuals in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal and 2011 closure of the News of the World.