Stories from Quick Reads and Digital Activism
The winners of the “#HackAgainstEbola” competition at the 2014 Editors Lab organised by the Global Editors Network (GEN) and Penplusbytes in Accra, Citi FM are in Barcelona participating in the 5th annual GEN Summit:
Citi FM, last year, competed with other major new rooms in Ghana at Penplusbytes New Media Hub in a two-day #hackathon to develop digital tools for newsrooms to effectively report on challenges posed by the Ebola outbreak. Their product, Citi Ebola Updates – a Mobile Platform that enables people, both educated and uneducated to receive information and updates on the status of Ebola in the country in their preferred local language, was adjudged the best to win the 2014 Editors.
Some pro-Russian videos appear to have gone viral, and not in a good sense. Motherboard reports that a group of unknown hackers has been infecting Internet users’ computers with viruses and using them to inflate views on news videos with a pro-Russian slant, as well as some other content.
New research by security firm Trustwave shows that victims got infected by visiting a compromised website that installed an exploit kit (an off-the-shelf software package allowing for easy attacks) on their computer, along with a trojan virus. The infected computers would then stealthily rack up views on the videos.
The videos identified by the researchers all appear to be pro-Russian, such as a one from the Iranian English-language broadcaster PressTV that quotes a Russian Parliament member justifying the annexation of Crimea. The goal of the operation, according to Trustwave researchers Rami Kogan and Arseny Levin, was to artificially increase the popularity of a video and make it more visible to users of the site Dailymotion.
Trustwave experts say the suspicious videos all share the same traits: they all have a fairly high number of views (around 320K, most of them within minutes of each other) but no social media shares or comments. By artificially inflating the clip's popularity, the fraudsters also make the video more visible to other users of the video site.
Using bots to generate fake traffic to video clips is nothing new. It is a technique to raise a clip's popularity score and achieve higher visibility. However, this is the first time we've observed the tactic used to promote video clips with a seemingly political agenda.
Both Trustwave analysts and independent security researchers told Motherboard that using malware for political aims was new, but that such ‘invisible propaganda’ could be very effective, as only its results were visible,but not the fraudulent mechanisms behind them.
“We have seen hacks that are motivated by money and other ‘hacktivist’ attacks that are motivated by politics,” Karl Sigler, the threat intelligence manager at Trustwave, told Motherboard. “This current campaign shows that those two motivations are starting to evolve and blend together.”
While it is unclear who is behind the campaign, Trustware experts speculate that those who spread the exploit kit and the malware simply aimed to make money, and that someone else paid them to add fake views to pro-Russian propaganda videos.
That I am funded, paid for full-time work, I have intelligence software, I'm part of the conservative restoration, and all my other “secrets” … listen to them here :)
After sending a threatening gift of flowers and exposing the individuals behind Crudo Ecuador, however, the Internet satirists surrendered, using the hashtag #UstedGanó (#YouWon).
Well, gentlemen, everything's come to this. Thanks to everyone who supported me morally in this project, but I can not …
On February 25, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights posted a statement urging the Ecuadorian government to protect the rights of the individuals behind Crudo Ecuador, as well as their families’ rights.
Además, la Relatoría Especial recuerda que “[t]anto el derecho a la libertad de pensamiento y expresión como el derecho a la vida privada protegen al discurso anónimo frente a restricciones estatales. La participación del debate público sin revelar la identidad del emisor es una práctica usual en las democracias modernas. La protección del discurso anónimo favorece la participación de la personas en el debate público ya que –al no revelar su identidad— pueden evitar ser objeto de represalias injustas por el ejercicio de un derecho fundamental”.
Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur highlights “the right to freedom of thought and expression, as well as the right to privacy and anonymity against state restrictions. Participating in public debates without revealing one's identity is a common practice in modern democracies. The protection of anonymous speech cultivates individuals’ participation in public debates, as concealing their identity can protect them against unfair retaliations for exercising their fundamental rights.”
Nationally, few civil-society organizations have joined the Manifesto for the Freedom of Expression, Anonymity, and Online Privacy in Ecuador, though several international organizations have signed.
The local council of the Municipality of Centar, part of the Skopje downtown area, approved a proposal to hold a referendum to preserve the authentic look of the iconic Skopje Shopping Center. As Meta.mk reports, the referendum will take place on April 26. For the referendum to be successful, it needs a turnout of 50 percent plus one of the registered voters in the Municipality of Centar to vote in favor of preserving the original edifice.
The decision is the result of a two-year-long campaign to save the landmark from a faux-baroque reconstruction plan. The Skopje City Shopping Center is known by the local acronym GTC.
“GTC requires nurturing, renovation, reconstruction, while not losing the concept and function. Project for changing the look of GTC means distorting the essence of the object. The investor who will reconstruct the facility has to know the essence and what does GTC means to the citizens. We have nothing against the reconstruction of the GTC, its authenticity as a heritage must be kept,” said Danica Pavlovska from the Association of Architects.
She added that the referendum is the most democratic way to solve the problems of citizens and is something that allows the citizens to be aware of their power.
— Го сакам ГТЦ (@GoSakamGTC) March 30, 2015
Centar decided! On April 26, we go to referendum to save GTC.
The voice of the citizens will be heard. Municipality of Centar voted to allow a referendum on GTC.
From jail, Pedro Canché wrote a letter to fellow journalist Carmen Aristegui after her recent and controversial exit from media group MVS. This letter was published on his Tumblr blog “Diary of a prisoner of conscience“.
15 de marzo de 2015 Carta a Carmen AristeguiA propósito del consumado golpe al equipo de investigación de MVS, en específico a tu equipo de noticias, Carmen Aristegui, ¿cuándo tendremos en México un canal de televisión o cadena de radio nacional exclusivo de periodistas?
Si don Julio Scherer demostró con la revista Proceso la independencia del poder plutocrático y oligárquico del periodismo auténtico ahora le toca a una mujer aterrizar un proyecto nacional al estilo Aristegui. Todo nuestro apoyo. Es hora y tiempo de que los nuevos vientos soplen en favor del viejo arte del periodismo honesto.
Toda mi solidaridad con Daniel Lizarraga e Irving Huerta. Pero no basta con ser solidarios y pronunciarse cómodos desde el celular o la computadora ¿Qué necesitas Carmen Aristegui?
Basta con apelar a la buena voluntad de todos los mexicanos, esa minoría. Pero de férrea voluntad que lee y a la que Televisa y Tv Azteca no le han logrado chupar el cerebro y convertirlos en zombies, todo un manjar para la clase política, en especial al PRI. El PRI maldito.Todos le entramos a la cooperación Carmen Aristegui. Es muy incómodo hacer periodismo desde la palestra de la oligarquía. Bastante incómodo. Como mexicana, y sobretodo como periodista, considéralo.
Aterriza el proyecto ¿dinero? todos le entramos. Todos. Todos los que no queremos ver arder a nuestro México.
March 15, 2015. Letter to Carmen Aristegui. On behalf of the coup done to the MVS research team, specifically to your news team, Carmen Aristegui, when will we have a TV or radio channel just for journalists in Mexico?
What do you need?
If Mr. Julio Scherer while at Proceso magazine showed independence from plutocratic and oligarchic power for authentic journalism, now is the time for a woman to land a national project, Aristegui style. You have all our support. It is time for new winds to blow in favor of the old, honest art of journalism.
All my support to Daniel Lizarraga and Irving Huerta. But supporting is not enough, nor is taking a stance comfortably from your cell phone or your computer. What do you need, Carmen Aristegui?
It should be enough appealing to the good will of all Mexicans, that minority with iron will who reads and to whom Televisa and Tv Azteca have not yet brain washed and turned into zombies, into a nice feast for the political class, PRI especially. That dreadful PRI. We all cooperate, Carmen Aristegui. It is very uncomfortable to make journalism from the arena of oligarchy. Quite uncomfortable. As a Mexican woman, and above all a journalist, think about it.
Start the project, money? We all will help out. Everybody. Everybody who doesn't want to see our Mexico burn.
Pedro Canché was detained on August 30, 2014, accused of sabotage, after covering a protest against the rise in water service fees at Felipe Carrillo Puerto city hall in Quintana Roo, Mexico. As he awaits sentencing, he regularly publishes on his blog images, videos, phrases and thoughts about freedom of expression with the help of organizacion Article19.
As the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada started kicked off on June 6, a number of organizations joined forces in launching the #GirlsCan advocacy campaign. Women Deliver, UNICEF, Right to Play, GAIN and One Goal are using the FIFA as a backdrop to raise awareness of how sports can positively influence girls’ lives and call for more research and funding for girls’ sports.
Lauren Himiak, Women Deliver's Communications Manager, explained it to Global Voices:
The #GirlsCan hashtag and campaign kicked off encouraging the public to share photos of themselves playing sport and talking about why it was important in their development. We have seen everything from female racecar drivers in training to boxers in Africa participate, and we cannot wait keep the buzz growing. The great thing about #GirlsCan is to see the messages coming out of Twitter…”#GirlsCan change the world; #GirlsCan do everything boys can do; #GirlsCan be the next president”!
The campaign is calling on people worldwide to take action, either by participating in the #GirlsCan campaign and advocating on girls’ involvement in sports in their communities, or by spreading the word on social networks. Those interested in the on-going campaigns can follow hashtags #GirlsCan, #PowerInPlay or #InvestInGirls.
Sports programs represent a highly effective, low-cost means of addressing some of the most pressing global development challenges. Involvement in sports improves the overall health of adolescents and young women, including sexual and reproductive health, and it gives children and youth opportunities to be more successful and achieve gender equality in their communities.
Part of the campaign is the Girl Power in Play Symposium which will be held June 18-19, 2015, in Ottawa, Canada. The symposium's agenda this year focuses on the most pressing global gender issues, including girls’ right to play sports and related topics within the fields of health, education, nutrition, life-skills, and gender norms. The pinnacle of the #GirlsCan campaign is expected on October 11, 2015, when the organizations will share collected stories, research, blogs, and ideas on how can sports empower girls on and off the field.
On April 17, the French government unveiled a national campaign to combat racism and anti-Semitism in France. The objective of the campaign is to fight all prejudices, raise awareness and get citizens engaged in the conversation.
One hundred euros will be allocated over three years to educate and promote cultural diversity. The hashtag #planantiracisme (the plan against racism) was the number one trending topic on Twitter on the day of the announcement.
According to the Report on Racism and Antisemitism by the Commission Nationale Consultative des Droits de l’Homme CNCDH (National Comission on Human Rights), there was a 30% increase in racist acts in 2014 (from 1,274 in 2013 to 1,662 in 2014). Anti-Semitic acts went from 423 in 2013 to 851 in 2014, including the attack on the kosher store after the Charlie Hebdo shooting.
The Mexican groups #YoSoyRed and #loQueSigue have organized a crowdfunding campaign to develop an open-source software that monitors and identify bots used by the Mexican government to influence public opinion and trends in Twitter.
The presentation included some harsh criticism of the groups responsible for the bot nets:
A quien usa esos bots no le gusta la libre información y el libre intercambio de ideas. Tampoco le gusta que el mundo sepa lo que ocurre en México. […] ¿Qué pasaría si aparte de actuar en masa contra los bots pudiéramos difundir masivamente y en segundos todo aquello que pretenden censurar través de un super medio que conecte a todos los medios libres existentes y blogs?
Whoever uses these bots does not like free information and the free exchange of ideas. Nor would they like the world to know what happens in Mexico. […] What if there were a way (other than using bots) to spread widely and instantly everything the authorities wish to censor through a super medium that connects all existing free media and blogs?
The following video explains how the hashtag #YaSeQueNoAplauden, a criticism of the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, disappeared among the trends on Twitter despite its 133,462 tweets. By comparison, the visible topic trends #MeDesmoronoComoElPAN and #MePasóEnElMetro, according to Topsy, had only 13,411 and 3,046 tweets, respectively. The video suggests that attacks employing bots caused the disappearance of the #YaSeQueNoAplauden hashtag from Twitter trending topics in Mexico and worldwide.
People from LadoB talked to Alberto Escorcia, the developer behind the crowdfunding project, who says the proposed software “would have the ability to analyze millions of messages and could also measure various parameters such as speed trends and its geographical origin.”
Así, en lugar de actuar cuando ya está el el HT creado podemos actuar antes de que surja con una algoritmo de respuesta inmediata que leyendo en tiempo real todos los tweets de México detecte cuando un grupo de bots se está formando.
So, instead of acting when the HT is already created, we can act before it emerges with an immediate response algorithm that reads in real time all the tweets from Mexico and detects when a group of bots is being formed.
Scholars, writers, journalists and researchers write an open letter to 60 Minutes producer about the misrepresentation of Africa by the Tv program:
Dear Jeff Fager, Executive Producer of CBS 60 Minutes,
We, the undersigned, are writing to express our grave concern about the frequent and recurring misrepresentation of the African continent by 60 Minutes.
In a series of recent segments from the continent, 60 Minutes has managed, quite extraordinarily, to render people of black African ancestry voiceless and all but invisible.
Two of these segments were remarkably similar in their basic subject matter, featuring white people who have made it their mission to rescue African wildlife. In one case these were lions, and in another, apes. People of black African descent make no substantial appearance in either of these reports, and no sense whatsoever is given of the countries visited, South Africa and Gabon.
The third notable recent segment was a visit by your correspondent Lara Logan to Liberia to cover the Ebola epidemic in that country. In that broadcast, Africans were reduced to the role of silent victims. They constituted what might be called a scenery of misery: people whose thoughts, experiences and actions were treated as if totally without interest. Liberians were shown within easy speaking range of Logan, including some Liberians whom she spoke about, and yet not a single Liberian was quoted in any capacity.
Although southeast European countries are progressive in many other ways, the decline of women's reproductive rights in some Western Balkan countries has been a worrying trend. In Macedonia, several small protests have been held in recent years to demonstrate people's opposition to government involvement in determining public sentiment on issues like abortion and family planning, after the government implemented a national anti-abortion campaign that began in 2011.
In recent years Macedonia has undergone a very subtle, yet dreadfully pervasive deterioration of the situation with women's rights. Mainly unnoticed or overlooked, the government latched on the popular, deeply misogynist sentiment of the suffering mother (a metaphor often used for the country itself) and after the initial surge of promise with the introduction of the gender quotas in 2006 and the adoption of the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, which paired with the history of equal treatment from the previous system led to even higher percentages in female representation in certain areas compared to the EU average, things started moving downwards steadily, without sufficient public resistance.
It can arguably be claimed that the ploy began with the anti-abortion posters and newspaper ads which started littering the public space out of nowhere circa 2006-2007 without anyone claiming responsibility for them…