Google blocks access to YouTube accounts of Iran’s Press TV, Hispan TV

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Google renews attacks on accounts of Iranian media outlets. (Illustrative image)

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 3:03 PM

Google has targeted Iranian broadcasters Press TV and Hispan TV once again, blocking access to their official YouTube accounts without any prior notice.

Over the past years, the US tech giant has recurrently been opting for such measures against Iranian media outlets. It has taken on Press TV more than any other Iranian outlet given the expanse of its viewership and readership.

The most recent move came on Tuesday. Users shortly flooded both the networks with messages asking why the international networks’ YouTube channels had been put out of service.

The two networks were last targeted in April, when Google similarly shut their YouTube and Gmail accounts.

The previous attack also denied the networks any advance notification, sufficing to cite a nebulous “violation of policies.”

Previously, Press TV’s YouTube channel was closed in September and November 2013 and April 2014.

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting — which runs Press TV and Hispan TV as part of its World Service — has called such attacks clear examples of censorship.

‘Paying price for giving voice to the voiceless’

Reacting to Tuesday’s move, Press TV’s Website and Social Media Director Habib Abdolhossein said, “We have been adhering to Google policies, including those concerning user content and conduct policy. Even if we had violated any rules, they could have let us know.”

“Social media outlets were supposed to be a platform for the alternative views, but unfortunately they are rather politicized than socialized!” he said. “I think we are paying the price for being the voice of the voiceless.”

Following Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president in 2016, Washington ramped up its efforts to target the Islamic Republic.

The campaign even assumed the self-styled title of “maximum pressure” under the current US president. The drive has seen the US leaving a multi-party nuclear agreement with Iran last year, and returning the nuclear-related sanctions that the deal had lifted.

As part of the campaign, the US State Department has called on social media companies Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to block the accounts of Iranian government leaders, and iOS — a mobile operating system created by US company Apple Inc. — disabling Iranian applications.

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Sharmine Narwani

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Reuters/WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee

Data from two foreign polls tell a very different story about protests in Iran. The economy is tough, but a majority of Iranians back their government’s security initiatives and reject domestic upheaval.

On November 15, angry Iranians began pouring onto the streets to protest sudden news of a 50% fuel price hike. A day later, peaceful demonstrations had largely dissipatd, replaced instead by much smaller crowds of rioters who burned banks, gas stations, buses and other public and private property. Within no time, security forces hit the streets to snuff out the violence and arrest rioters, during which an unconfirmed number of people on both sides died.

Western commentators tried in vain to squeeze some juice out of the short-lived protests. “Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime’s legitimacy,” declared Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution. France 24 asked the question, is this “a new Iranian revolution?” And the LA Times slammed Iran’s “brutal crackdown” against its people.

They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

ALSO ON RT.COMIran has quashed ‘extensive & very dangerous conspiracy’ perpetrated by foreign enemies, Khamenei saysAnd despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.

To try and understand Iranian reactions in the past twelve days, let’s look at two opinion polls conducted jointly by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and Toronto-based IranPolls in the immediate aftermath of the 2017/2018 protests/riots – and in May, August and October 2019, when the US “maximum pressure” campaign was in full gear.

What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.

The same Suzanne Maloney quoted above on this month’s protests, insisted in a 2018 Washington Post article:“The people aren’t just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself.”

In fact, in the 2018 poll, only 16% of Iranians agreed with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change,” with a whopping 77% disagreeing.

ALSO ON RT.COMIranian protesters should be angry at the regime in Washington, not Tehran

 

Like protests this month in Iran, the 2017-18 demonstrations also morphed into small but violent riots, and Iranian security forces hit the streets to stop the chaos. But in the aftermath of those events – and despite endless foreign headlines about the “brutality” of the security reaction – Iranians overwhelmingly sided with their government’s treatment of rioters.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in 2018 said the police used an appropriate amount of force, and another 11% said they used “too little force.” Overall, 85% of Iranians agreed that “the government should be more forceful to stop rioters who use violence or damage property.”

This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.

The western media themes of corruption, violent repression, popular rejection of the Islamic Republic and its regional alliances have been consistent since the 2009 protests that followed contentious elections in Iran. They flared up briefly in early 2011, when western states were eager for an “Iranian Spring” to join the Arab Spring, and became popular narratives during 2017-18 protests when social media platforms adopted them widely.

This November, those narratives sprung to the surface again. So let’s examine what Iranians thought about these claims in October when CISSM/IranPolls published their latest, extremely timely survey.

Iran’s regional military activities

Sixty-one percent of Iranians support retaining military personnel in Syria to contain extremist militants that could threaten Iran’s security and interests. Polls taken since March 2016 confirm the consistency of this view inside Iran, with a steady two-thirds (66%) of respondents supporting an increase in Iran’s regional role.

Asked what would happen if Iran conceded to US demands and ended the US-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activities in Syria and Iraq, 60% of Iranians thought it would make Washington demand more concessions – only 11% thought it would make the US more accommodating.

Moreover, the October 2019 report says negative attitudes toward the United States have never been higher in CISSM/IranPoll’s 13 years of conducting these surveys in Iran. A hefty 86% of Iranians do not favor the US, and those who say their view of the US is very unfavorable has skyrocketed from 52% in 2015 to 73% today.

They could care less that Washington has sanctioned the IRGC and its elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is the most popular national figure of those polled, with eight in ten Iranians viewing him favorably. If anything, a hefty 81% of Iranians said the IRGC’s Mideast activities has made Iran “more secure.

As for the IRGC’s role in Iran’s domestic economy – a favorite subject of western foes who cast the military group as a malign and corrupt instrument of the state – today 63% of Iranians believe the IRGC should be involved “in construction projects and other economic matters,” as well as continuing their security role. In times of crisis, they’re viewed as a vital institution: the IRGC and Iranian military scored top points with the public (89% and 90% respectively) for assisting the population during crippling floods last Spring, which displaced half a million Iranians.

Economy and corruption

Seventy percent of Iranians view their economy as “bad” today, a figure that has stayed surprisingly consistent over the past 18 months, despite the imposition of US sanctions last year. The majority blame domestic mismanagement and corruption for their economic woes, but a rising number also blame US sanctions, which is possibly why 70% of Iranians prefer aiming for national self-sufficiency over increasing foreign trade.

Asked about the “impact (of sanctions) on the lives of ordinary people,” 83% of Iranians agreed there was a negative impact on their lives. Oddly, since the US exited the JCPOA, economic pessimism has dropped from 64% in 2018 to 54% last month-mainly, the poll argues, because Iranians feel the US can’t realistically pressure Iran much further with sanctions. Accordingly, 55% of Iranians blame domestic economic mismanagement and corruption for Iran’s poor economy versus 38% who blame foreign sanctions and pressure.

The blame for much of this mismanagement and corruption is pinned on the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose favorability numbers dropped under 50% for the first time, to reach 42% this August. Fifty-four percent of Iranians think his government isn’t trying much to fight corruption.

In contrast, 73% believe the Iranian judiciary is much more engaged in fighting economic corruption, up 12% since May.

On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.

In light of these numbers, it is fair to say that there is no “second revolution” on Iran’s horizon, nor any kind of significant rupture between government and populace on a whole host of key political, economic and security issues. Foreign commentators can spin events in Iran all they want, but so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.

*Poll numbers in this article have been rounded up or down to the nearest unit.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

قاطع الطريق وداعمه ومساعده مجرمو حرب

ابراهيم الأمين

الثلاثاء 26 تشرين الثاني 2019

متلازمة السوشال ميديا صارت مرضاً يسيطر على غالبية الجمهور. لكنها أصابت مقتلاً حتى من فئات تعتبر نفسها في موقع متقدم عن الناس ثقافياً ومعرفياً. المشكلة، هنا، ليست في أن تقول كلاماً صحيحاً، وليست في أن تقول الحقيقة، ولا في أن تكذب أو تخفي وقائع قاسية. المشكلة هنا متوقفة فقط عند عنوان واحد اسمه: الانطباع!

يعني، لا يهمّ أي نوع من التدقيق في طبيعة المواجهات التي تحصل بين وقت وآخر في الشارع بين جمهور المتنازعين سياسياً. ولا ينفع التدقيق في إقناع هذا أو ذاك بتعديل موقفه. المهم، هنا، هو الانطباع الذي سيزرع في عقول الناس وقلوبهم. لذلك، يسيطر الانطباع على العقل. وحتى من يريد وضع خطة عمل لفريق أو جهة، أو من يريد القيام بعمل له حساباته الواقعية، لا يقف الا عند الانطباع. الجملة السحرية التي تسيطر على ألسنة الجميع هي: ماذا سيقول الناس عنا؟ والناس، هنا، ليسوا سوى لاعبين افتراضيين على منصّات التواصل الاجتماعي الذين باتوا قادرين على إطلاق الأحكام على الجميع ومنع محاكمتهم في الوقت نفسه.

ولأن الانطباع هو المسيطر، تجد نفسك في موقع غير الراغب في الشرح والتدقيق. بل في موقع اللامبالي إزاء ردود فعل مهما كبرت أو تحولت الى وقائع، لأن النقاش يصبح من دون فعالية إذا كان من يقف على الضفة الاخرى غير مهتم إلا بالانطباع. وهذا مصدر نجاح كبير لمن يقود ما يسمى في عالمنا اليوم «الحرب الناعمة». هذه الحرب التي لا تستهدف خلق وعي معرفي عند الاصدقاء أو الخصوم، بل هدفها الوحيد هو تطويق هؤلاء بفكرة الانطباع: أنت جميل، هو قبيح، أنت واضح، هو متذبذب، أنت طائفي هو علماني، أنت آدمي هو حرامي… وهكذا الى نهاية السلسلة من لعبة زرع الجزئيات التي تنتهي عادة على شكل صورة لشيء وحيد هو: الانطباع!

والانطباع سرعان ما يصبح أسير قوانين اللعبة الافتراضية، أي أسير أدوات العمل على مواقع التواصل. والمهم، هنا، كيفية تحويل الانطباع الى «ترند»، أي رفع قيمته من لحظة انفعال عاطفي الى لحظة نمط تعامل. أي إن الـ«ترند» هو المرحلة التالية في تحويل الانطباع الى حقيقة. وهذا وحده كفيل بجعل الكذاب في حالة زهو غير مسبوقة إذا حصد المرتبة الاولى. كما من شأنه أن يدفع صادقاً الى الانتحار، لأنه فشل في الدفاع عن نفسه أو وجهة نظره. ومن يرد التجاهل والتجاوز ما عليه سوى اختبار نفسه ضمن مسابقة النقاط، التي تحصر في هذا العالم بلعبة «لايكات»، تتحول الى علامات نجاح أو رسوب، وهي ما تجعل من الانطباع قوة رئيسية في التفكير بالقول، كما تجعل من الـ«ترند» قوة رئيسية في الفعل… وهكذا!

في لبنان اليوم، وعلى هامش الأزمة القائمة، ثمة حشد مقبول، من أشخاص وجمعيات وجهات وقوى ومؤسسات، يديرون يومياتهم السياسية على أساس الانطباع القائل بأن جمهور المقاومة في لبنان صار عدواً لكل من يطالب بالإصلاح. وهؤلاء يتصرفون على أساس ان غالبية لبنانية تقف الى جانبهم، وأن أقلية تقف في جانب جمهور المقاومة الذي يتعرض لعملية عزل متواصلة. والبعض من هذه الفئة يتصرف على أساس أنه قادر على تحديد وجهة التفاعل على الارض، ولا يهم بقية الناس، لان الانطباع هو الأقوى. لكن هذه الفئة لا نعرف كيف تتصرف عندما تصدم بحقيقة الوقائع، التي تنسف الانطباع، وتفرض صورة معاكسة تماماً، حتى ولو حصل ما حصل من إشكالات وخسائر!

بناءً على لعبة الانطباع، التي يمكن تحويلها الى حقيقة، لا الى «ترند»، وجب اليوم قول الآتي:
كل مشارك في الحراك لا يخرج الى العلن، ويدين صراحة قاطعي الطرق، هو شريك فعلي في جريمة اغتيال المواطنين حسين شلهوب وسناء الجندي على طريق الجية.
كل ناشط في الحراك لا يخرج الى العلن، ويذيع بياناً يدين بالاسم مرتكبي هذه الجريمة، هو شريك في سفك دماء الأبرياء.

كل إعلامي، مؤيّد للحراك، لا يكتب أو يذيع موقفاً واضحاً، جهاراً نهاراً، يشتم فيه قاطعي الطرق هو شريك مساهم في الجريمة.
كل سياسي مؤيّد للحراك بكل صنوفه، طوعاً أو غصباً، وعن حق أو عن دجل، لا يسارع الى إيجاد وسيلة إعلامية لإذاعة بيان يدين بالأسماء المسؤولين عن قطع الطرقات هو شريك في هذه الجريمة.

كل جمعية مدنية، أو منظمة غير حكومية، تشارك في الحراك، لا تصدر بياناً واضحاً، فيه إشارة واضحة الى المسؤولين عن قطع الطرقات، وتحميلهم مسؤولية الجريمة، شريكة في الجريمة وتتحمل مسؤولية الدماء التي سفكت.

كل قوة سياسية أو حزب أو حركة تشارك في الحراك، وتملك الجرأة على المطالبة بإسقاط النظام، ولا تخرج وتعلن على لسان قيادييها أنها تدين قطع الطرقات وتهاجم المرتكبين بالأسماء، هي قوة وحركة وحزب شريك في الجريمة.

من يتوهّم نقل البلاد الى جبهة الغرب هو أسير انطباع لن يكون حقيقة، ولو تحول الى تراند عالمي!

ولمن لا يعرف، أو يتذرع بعدم المعرفة، فإن زعران سعد الحريري وسمير جعجع وسامي الجميّل ووليد جنبلاط هم من يتولى قطع الطرقات، ومن يتولى مهاجمة المارة وشتمهم، ومعهم كل المجموعات التي تعمل طوعاً أو غصباً مع مخابرات الجيش اللبناني، ومع فرع المعلومات في قوى الأمن الداخلي،

أما من يعتقد بأن هناك طبقات اجتماعية عند ضحايا فوضى الحراك، ويعتقد أن إعلاماً حقيراً ومشوّهاً منذ نشوئه، يمكنه التمييز بين هذا أو ذاك، ويمكنه تجهيل الفاعل وتحييد الناس، وتركهم ضحايا الانطباع إياه، وأسرى الـ«ترند» إياه، فمن المفيد تذكير هؤلاء بأننا سوف نلاحقهم، اسماً اسماً، وناشطاً ناشطاً، وجمعية جمعية، ومنظمة منظمة، وجهة جهة، وحزباً حزباً، وحركة حركة، وإعلامياً إعلامياً، وإعلامية وإعلامية، ولن نترك منهم أحداً من دون مساءلته يومياً عن مصدر أمواله ومرجعيته، وسنلزمه، الآن وكل يوم، بأن يقدم لنا جردة يومية بكل ما قام ويقوم به، وسنروي للناس ما حرصنا على كتمه من أجل الصالحين في الحراك..

أما من يهربون من مسؤوليتهم في تنظيف الحراك من هذا الوسخ، فهم اليوم أمام استحقاق أساسي، لأن من يريد التلطّي خلف شعارات عامة ومطالب مفتوحة، عليه أن يعرف أن نتائج الأفعال تقع على عاتق من بيده الأمر من بين هؤلاء، ومن لا يزال يتوهم أن بإمكانه نقل البلاد الى جبهة الغرب، فقط لأنه قرر ذلك، إنما هو أسير انطباع لن يكون حقيقة، ولو تحول الى «ترند» عالمي!

يجب أن يعرف هؤلاء أن دموع الصبية الناجية من محرقة الجية أمس، وحرقتها على من فقدته أمام عينيها، هي أهم من كل شعار يرفع في أي ساحة من ساحات لبنان.

Related

Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent

Mnar Muhawesh speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.

Most recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.

In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.

The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.

The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York TimesCNNCNBCMSNBC or Fox News, who appear to have found the news unremarkable.

But for those paying attention and for those who have been following ’MintPress News’ extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.

Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.

Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.

In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote:

What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.”

Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”

The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.

39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.

After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”

Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the U.S. and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.

In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation.

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote, 

This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.”

 

Alternative voices not welcome

The vast online purge of alternative voices has also been directed at internal “enemies.”

Publishers like Julian Assange and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are still being held in solitary confinement in conditions that international bodies and human rights groups call torture, for their crime of revealing the extent of the global surveillance network and the control over the media that Western governments have built.

As attempts to re-tighten the state and corporate grip over our means of communication increases, high-quality alternative media are being hit the hardest, as algorithm changes from the media monoliths have deranked, demoted, deleted and disincentivized outlets that question official narratives, leading to huge falls in traffic and revenue.

The message from social media giants is clear: independent and alternative voices are not welcome.

One causality in this propaganda war is Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a public advocacy group that argues that a non-interventionist foreign policy is crucial to securing a prosperous society at home. McAdams served as Senator Paul’s foreign affairs advisor between 2001 and 2012. Before that, he was a journalist and editor for the Budapest Sun and a human rights monitor across Eastern Europe.

McAdams, who spent much of his time on Twitter calling out the war machine supported by both parties, was recently permanently banned from the platform for so-called “hateful conduct.” His crime? Challenging Fox News anchor Sean Hannity over his hour-long segment claiming to be against the “deep state,” while simultaneously wearing a CIA lapel pin. In the exchange, McAdams called Hannity “retarded,” claiming he was becoming stupider every time he watched him.

Yes, despite that word and its derivatives having been used on Twitter over ten times in the previous minute, and often much more aggressively than McAdams used it – only McAdams fell victim to Twitter’s ban hammer. Something didn’t make sense about this ban. One only needs to read the replies under any of President Trump’s tweets to see far more hateful speech than what McAdams displayed to suspect foul play.

I spoke with McAdams about the ban and began by asking him if he accepts the premise of the ban, or if he believes something else was afoot.

Feature photo | Spirit Boom Cat | Shutterstock

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

Saudi Arabia Recruits Twitter Employees Charged For Spying

By Staff, Agencies

The Saudi government, frustrated by growing criticism of its leaders and policies on social media, recruited two Twitter employees to gather confidential personal information on thousands of accounts that included prominent opponents, prosecutors announced on Wednesday.

Twitter

The complaint unsealed in US District Court in San Francisco detailed a coordinated effort by Saudi government officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of Twitter accounts, including email addresses linked to the accounts and internet protocol addresses that can give up a user’s location.

The accounts included those of a popular critic of the government with more than one million followers and a news personality. Neither was named.

Two Saudi citizens and one US citizen worked together to unmask the ownership details behind dissident Twitter accounts on behalf of the government in Riyadh and the royal family, the US justice department said.

According to a court filing, they were guided by an unnamed Saudi official who worked for someone prosecutors designated “Royal Family Member-1,” which The Washington Post reported was Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is commonly known.

Those charged were Twitter employees Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo, along with Ahmed Almutairi, a marketing official with ties to the royal family.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” said US lawyer David Anderson.

“US law protects US companies from such an unlawful foreign intrusion. We will not allow US companies or US technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of US law,” he said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes as US-Saudi relations continue to suffer strains over the brutal, Riyadh-sanctioned murder one year ago of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote for, among others, The Washington Post newspaper

A critic of MBS, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

According to the Post, US intelligence has concluded that the prince himself was closely linked to the murder.

The criminal allegations reveal the extent the Saudi government went to control the flow of information on Twitter, said Adam Coogle, a Middle East researcher with Human Rights Watch.

Two Former Twitter Employees Accused of Spying for Saudi Arabia

Next? After Iraq, Saudi Social Media Bots Deployed to Influence Lebanon Protests

Next? After Iraq, Saudi Social Media Bots Deployed to Influence Lebanon Protests

By Staff

Less than a month after exposing the involvement of Saudi Arabian social media bots in the protests that engulfed Iraq, today’s analyses revealed the same electronic hands behind provoking hatred during Lebanon protests.

A study published by Tansikeyah News on Tuesday revealed that 78% of the accounts using hashtags to incite hatred in the Lebanese society were Saudi.

Additionally, Assistant Professor in Middle East Studies and Digital Humanities Marc Owen Jones studied the suspicious hashtags that were used during the still ongoing protests in Lebanon.

In a thread of tweets he published on his Twitter account, Owen said I looked at suspected influence campaigns criticizing Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

“I analyzed around 6,500 tweets from around 4,494 unique accounts. There were a few things I found quite striking. Firstly, the spike in accounts created in September 2019, which was obviously before the escalation of protests in Lebanon. Again this might not be unusual for suspicious accounts, which will become active when required and high suspension rates means usually they are ‘newer’,” Owen noted.

“The 180 accounts created in September 2019 compares to around the 31 per month average – a large difference. Although I assume it goes without saying (perhaps I shouldn’t) it is also common for dramatic events to drive people to creating Twitter events. Although I am not sure why September 2019 outstrips October 2019,” he added.

He went on to explain that “many of the new accounts have tell-tale signs of spam accounts – such as usernames that look like random strings. Much of the content on the hashtags are the type of crude cartoons you’d expect on influence campaigns.”

A brief locational analysis of the tweets also suggested that most of the accounts are based in Saudi Arabia, Owen stated.

“Around 35% of the 2,297 accounts with location data were from Saudi.”

While Saudi has the highest Twitter population in the world, Owen said he usually sees this kind of turnout on hashtags criticizing Iran and Hezbollah. Some of the almost brand-new accounts created in Sept/Oct 2019 are ‘very spammy.’

A couple of them, which RT a lot of Saudi loyalist accounts have as many as 10,000 + tweets, despite only being a month and a half old.

Owen concluded that there is certainly some sort of Twitter campaign afoot to demonize Nasrallah. 

“So yes, as has become the custom on Twitter, different forces are trying to inflame tensions in other countries, polluting organic discussions with inorganic content.”

Earlier in the month, analytics revealed that the trending hashtag that was most used regarding rallies in Iraq was used by only 6% users in the country, while 79% were from Saudi Arabia.

The hashtag was precisely used by 58000 Twitter users based in Saudi Arabia, who definitely caused more escalation in the already tense situation.

Relatively, 200 robots retweeted 13000 related tweets at the time.

Now the question is which country will be the next target of Saudi Arabia’s continued hatred-spreading propaganda? And the repeated question is why Saudi Arabia is deploying its social bots to do this dirty job?

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Other Side (Part 2): This Is How He Followed Social Networking Sites & Prepared His Speeches

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Other Side (Part 2): This Is How He Followed Social Networking Sites & Prepared His Speeches

Sayyed Nasrallah’s Other Side (Part 2): This Is How He Followed Social Networking Sites & Prepared His Speeches

Fatima Salami

Beirut – When we read about the personality of Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, we find ourselves immersed in the finer details. We may read the text a second time and not get bored.

One reader commented on the first segment of this article series noting that the more we read about this extraordinary figure, the more attached we become.

Meanwhile, a politician who stands in stark contrast to Sayyed’s political views expressed in private correspondence his admiration for Sayyed’s charisma and personality, describing him an extraordinary leader. This is the opinion of an opponent.

There is no doubt that many like him think the same way, even if they do not declare it. For you cannot dive into Sayyed’s distinctive personality and not find yourself captivated by those exemplary qualities.

Behind the character of a strong and capable leader, a leader who knew how to twist the arm of the Zionist enemy, a leader who terrified the enemy into keeping up with each and every single appearance he makes, Sayyed Nasrallah hides a great deal of humanity, kindness, compassion and love for his people.

In the last part of the interview with the Al-Ahed news website, Sayyed Jawad, the son of Hezbollah’s secretary general, talks about the love His Eminence has for the people. He has infinite compassion for his supporters in his heart. He asks about their situation and matters that concern them, follows up on their issues and grieves over their pain.

Jawad also points out that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah who is today Hezbollah’s secretary general is the same person he was before he took up this post. He has great adoration for the Grand Ayatollah Imam Sayyid Ali Khamenei and has a strong relationship with the Mujahideen.

He makes sure to read most of the reports and articles, and he follows with distinction what is published on social media. He underscores the need for civilized communication, calling on everyone to disagree with respect.

His Eminence regards money and legitimate rights as a red line that should never be abused. Jawad talks about an incident that he experienced personally in this regard.

As for Sayyed’s speeches, he has them in his head as they are on paper. Let us assume that he went somewhere to deliver a speech and forgot the papers, nothing changes at all.

Sayyed the human being

Jawad elaborates on Sayyed the man, who has not been changed by the world and has not been taken by the glamor of the podiums. He talks about Sayyed, who was only made more modest by the pride and people’s cheers.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah today, is the same person he was before he assumed the post. Not only that, but with time he become more modest.

“My father takes pride in the people’s love and trust. He loves them so much. Of course, he does not love them for love’s sake only, but he is also concerned about their interests. He fears for their life in the afterlife [Akhira] more than in this world,” Jawad says.

The first trait that comes to mind when Jawad talks about his father is humanity. He elaborates on this bright side in Sayyed’s personality. In his view, the term “human being” applies to his father in every sense of the word.

This characteristic is further exemplified by the relationship between His Eminence and the most honorable people. We see him carry passion, love and understanding in his heart. He always advises that one should conform with people.

“He calls on us to restore (things). If someone makes a mistake, we have to right it and try to understand it. When two people disagree, we must look for a way to reform it, not to fuel sedition between them.”

“Sayyed Hassan has a high and elegant morality. He has many of the attributes of Amir al-Mu’minin [Commander of the Faithful] (PBUH),” says Jawad. “He has a great ability to control himself. This ability always makes him look into God’s eyes, speak his tongue and act with his hand.”

According to Jawad, “all his dwellings and movements revolve around the pleasure of Allah.

There are red lines in life as there are in politics. His Eminence regards the rights of the people as a red line, without which everything else falls by the waist side. He has endless generosity, and at the same time he does not make anyone feel they owe him gratitude. We, his children, do not know what his exchanges are with the people closest to us. It is forbidden.

The dignity of the people as well as their comfort are a top priority. He is eager to insure the comfort of those around him to an extent that no one expects. For example, he does not stay too late so as not to exhaust the young men [resistance fighters] or embarrass them, even though sitting with him is extremely dear to them. According to his convictions, anything that causes others’ exhaustion is unacceptable.

Sayyed’s concern and fear for the people is not limited to their dunya [temporal world] but rather for their afterlife.” Jawad says. “One time, I asked him, ‘If you were an intercessor, would you intercede for me?’ He replied, ‘I would not only intercede for you, but I would intercede for all the believers.’”

“If we look at these positions and sayings over the years, we see in Sayyed the trait of a human being who has compassion, mercy, self-esteem and the understanding of his people,” Jawad adds.

In Jawad’s opinion, the commandments of Ahl al-Bayt are imbedded in Sayyed’s actions. He treats people in their absence as if they were in front of him. On numerous occasions, his heart aches for the people and he is saddened by their stories. He is very eager to further their piety. He follows up on people’s attendance in mosques. His concern is people’s piety on the grounds that the world has no value if our relationship with God is not sound. This matter will cost the loss of the dunya and the Hereafter. My relationship with God being good means to preserve the rights of people and not fall into sin. This brings good in dunya and in the Hereafter. In Sayyed’s opinion, what is the benefit of doing Jihad while I deprive the people of their rights, or pray while I attack people?

A mountain of patience

“Among other qualities that Sayyed possesses is his mountain of patience. He is insightful and far-sighted, as if he can see things for years to come,” Jawad explains.

“He is a strong administrator, a meticulous person with exceptional memory and a light touch when it comes to management. He is sincere with his feelings and shows them without excuses.

He is a father figure and merciful. At the same time, his love for the people and the Mujahideen does not prevent him from making any remarks to anyone on any subject. He is firm but does insult anyone and lenient but not a pushover.

He convinces you of what he is dictating with love and satisfaction, by clarifying and explaining things to you. He possesses the art of listening. When you sit down with him, he seems to be listening to you par excellence.

In short, his flesh and blood have been affected by the infallible household [Prophet’s family],” Jawad adds.

He also points out that His Eminence seems to be closely following up on the conditions of his family despite the strategic matters he is handling. “He keeps a close eye on the family without violating the privacy and freedoms of its members. We also see this quality during work, even with things we don’t expect. He considers this organization [Hezbollah] a part of his soul and follows it very carefully.”

The humble Sayyed

Jawad discloses some details that highlight Sayyed’s humility, and the fact that he is not embarrassed by serving the people.

“I remember before the 2006 war His Eminence invited his siblings and their families for Iftar at our house. He sat in the middle and prevented anyone from pouring food. He told them, ‘throughout the holy month, people have been serving me [food]. Now it’s my turn to serve you and pour food for you myself.’”

Jawad says that those gathered at the table refused but Sayyed insisted on doing it himself. Here he points out that His Eminence often does things himself in everyday life. He helps in setting the table. Sometimes he heats his food himself. He repeatedly prepares his papers.

He is not demanding or bossy. Because of their great love for him, everyone around him waits for him to ask them to do something.

Sayyed and Imam Khamenei

Jawad points out that His Eminence has a great deal of adoration for Grand Ayatollah Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei. He follows his recorded lessons, listens to his sermons, and sheds light on anything posted on his behalf. He was so touched when the story of the Leader marrying off one of his sons was circulated. He was affected by the asceticism and humility that accompanied that event. Sayyed always repeats the phrase: look at where we are and where the Leader is!

Sayyed and the Mujahideen

His grave responsibilities did not hinder his ability to closely follow-up on matters concerning the families of the martyrs. With regard to the Mujahideen, Sayyed has a particular sensitivity and passion towards them.

“I remember during the Joroud [battle] and the snow. His Eminence remembered them during ablution and would say, ‘God help them while they perform ablution in this cold.’ Or when he wants to eat, he remembers them and says, ‘I wonder what they are eating now,’” Jawad says.

Jawad pauses and points out that Sayyed is not a show-off. He did not say this to a group of people. Only one person knows these things.

Sayyed puts a great deal of importance on the blood of the martyrs. For him, all the pride that we enjoy comes from those who sacrificed themselves so that the nation can live in dignity.

This is how His Eminence follows social media

His Eminence reads most of the articles and reports. He follows and looks at everything on social media, according to Jawad. Of course, he does not have an account. He, however, receives detailed and lengthy reports on everything every day, including Twitter and Facebook posts. He sees the profiles and pictures of the people on social media. We see them on the screen while he sees them printed on paper. Sayyed even reads most of the letters sent to him. Sometimes, if he does not have time to read everything, his assistants choose funny things of a political nature.

“I ask him what he thinks about some tweets regarding a certain topic. He tells me, ‘I saw the tweets of several people. Aren’t those your friends, Jawad?’”

Sayyed hates foul language and obscenity on social media no matter what party issued it. His Eminence does not permit offending opponents. Of course, the “Israelis” are another topic, says Jawad. There should be manners and decency in political rivalries. He considers that the fraught atmosphere among activists is very bad. People can politely disagree and raise the level of communication, attention and thinking. When Sayyed comes across such types of offensive tweets, he describes them with one word: “wretched”. To him this is the most profound description.

The majalis e-aza are for all Muslims

Sayyed does not only keep a close eye on social media sites while advocating more civilized forms of communication, he also follows a lot of other things. For example, he makes sure that the central majlis e-aza can be attended by all Muslims. Imam al-Husayn is the son of the Prophet (PBUH). In this sense, it is our duty to convey his grievance to everyone. Moreover, when he has time, he looks into the content of the majlis.

Furthermore, His Eminence rejoices greatly with the scientific achievements of the people. He is also delighted with any humanitarian initiative.

Being careful with public rights and money

Jawad stresses that Sayyed is the same person whether he is under the spotlight or alone. To him, the criterion is the satisfaction of Allah.

In this context, he talks about His Eminence’s care for legitimate rights and money in a manner that other people may not notice. “For example, once His Eminence received a present that I liked. He told me, ‘you can take it, but you have to pay for it.’ I wondered and asked him why. He said, ‘I did not receive this present as Hassan the son of Abdul Karim Nasrallah but as the secretary general of Hezbollah. Therefore, you have to pay for it with a certain Hajj. The price of the gifts that are sold are transferred to a [bank] account to help Mujahideen get married.’ He told me confidently, ‘what makes you more special than the other young men?’”

Here, Jawad points out that Sayyed is always concerned with the worries of his people, and he fears for their rights. After 2006, he was ready to take from Hezbollah’s funds to aid people and pay for their health, education, etc.

“Conforming with people” is the permanent commandment at every situation

Sayyed always underscores the need to conform to people in many of the things that we wants to do.

“Following the July 2006 war, I was able to borrow money and buy an ordinary house, and the prices were still acceptable,” says Jawad.

“My father told me at the time, ‘you’re not allowed to. After reconstruction, you return to your home. You have to live the way people are living. You have to rent like them, even if this drives you to move from one house to another. We are not better than people. We have to console them and be equal to them.’ According to His Eminence, it is possible not to share one’s joy. However, consolation during hardship and pain alleviates the heart and spirit. As long as you are my son, you have to accept and live this life with its sweetness and bitterness. If we cannot console them, the least we can do is be equal to them. This is stated in our religion and the morals of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his family (PBUT). It is not our business what others do within what God allows. We are accountable to the people who give and love expecting no return. Those are the people of loyalty. The relationship with them is beyond leadership. And the least we can do is to conform with people, leave behind what we can and live in asceticism to be closer to Allah Almighty. Then he reminds me of the holy verse {Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it.} (Surah Ali-Imran – Verse 92).”

What is the secret behind Sayyed’s confidence in victory?

“About two years after the 2006 war, I said, ‘Father, I know you are someone who cares a lot about the speeches you give. Honesty is a red line for you, so you are careful not to shake the trust between you and the public. In the beginning of the July war, tell me how were you able to say your famous sentence ‘as I always promised you victory, I promise you victory again’? What did you base this certainty on at the beginning of the war and the whole world was against us? He told, ‘aren’t you a reader of the Quran?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He gave me two verse: {O you who have believed, if you support Allah, He will support you and plant firmly your feet.} (Surah Muhammad – Verse 7) and {Indeed, Allah defends those who have believed. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone treacherous and ungrateful.} (Surah Al-Hajj – Verse 38). ‘This is Allah’s promise,’ he said.”

“This is certainty,” says Jawad. “The whole world is against us and is conspiring against us. A cruel war is launched against us, yet someone comes with all this confidence and certainty to say this famous sentence. In my opinion, this is the foundation of the great popular trust that Sayyed enjoys today. This has turned him into a symbol of truth and everyone began to see him as a person who is certain.”

No favoritism in employment

For Sayyed, there is no place for favoritism when it comes to jobs.

Jawad says, “once, I waited for three months to get a direct job appointment with him. Sayyed had me disapproved. Although I tried more than once to bring the date forward, but I did not succeed. He even put me at the end of the day. Then, I felt something. I contacted his assistant and told him, ‘I will cancel the appointment but on one condition do not schedule any appointment instead of mine. Let my father rest.’ He said, ‘I accept.’ I said, ‘Cancel my appointment.’ When I met my father later, he told me, ‘you know, my son, when X told me that Jawad canceled the appointment on the condition that you rested, I was very happy because I was very tired. Then I said thank God and I was grateful to you from my heart.’”

The speech is in the mind as it is on paper

There is no doubt that His Eminence’s distinguished speeches have always been admired because of the methodology, strength and eloquence. Every speech is unlike the previous one. Every time you listen to him, it feels like it is the first time. Many wonder how His Eminence prepares his speeches.

In this regard, Jawad tells us that when an idea comes to His Eminence’s mind in any particular subject, he thinks about it before putting it down on paper. “You see him put the points he will include in the speech in his mind. He has mental and intellectual abilities and other unnatural gifts. Let us assume, for example, that he went to deliver a speech and forgot the papers somewhere, nothing changes at all. What is written on the papers is imprinted in his mind – the same sequence and order.

He has a strong memory. This is sometimes evident, for example, when we talk to him about something that might not be a needle in the haystack. 15 days later, on the allotted time he replies to us even though the date is not written down.

How does Sayyed approach politics?

Sayyed has a realistic view on how we should approach politics. In his view there must be flexibility. Nobody takes everything in politics. We have to coexist with people. Politics, in the end, is give and take. Nothing can just be because you say so.

Sometimes His eminence regrets when the public opinion does not wait in a particular case to see what is behind Hezbollah’s decision regarding a certain matter. According to his convictions, it is very wrong to make judgments arbitrarily, especially regarding sensitive subjects.

Jawad concludes his heartfelt talk about his father by pointing out that despite all this compassion and affluent passion, Sayyed is a wise manager, a brilliant and intelligent person, resolute, decisive and deadly in war.

Finally, writing about His Eminence’s other side carries us to another world where there is a lot of beauty. There is no doubt

that Sayyed Nasrallah’s personal and human traits constitute some of the many in an exceptional leader that brought pride to the nation. And even so, everything written and said about him remains too little.

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