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The Rising Fight Against ISIS on Social Media

BY Onnik James Krikorian | Thursday, March 12 2015

Typical Twitter profile pictures used by ISIS supporters (Photo courtesy J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan)

In 2013, Humera Khan, Executive Director of D.C.-based think tank Muflehun, watched as a teenager was radicalised and recruited on Twitter. “Over the course of two years,” she recently recounted for Foreign Affairs, “that individual went from an activist championing minority rights to supporting Jabhat al Nusra (al Qaeda in Syria), and in a final shift of allegiance, to one of the the largest distributors of ISIS propaganda. He is now in Syria.” Despite reporting the case to the law enforcement agencies in the United States, Khan says her warnings fell on deaf ears. But in the wake of a sophisticated online media campaign that includes a number of gruesome videos of beheadings, governments are starting to take the use of social media by groups such as ISIS more seriously.

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WeGov

92% of Pakistanis Encounter Online Hate Speech, Survey Finds

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, June 9 2014

Malala Yousafzai meets with President Obama (Photo: Pete Souza/White House)

In 2012, just after then 14-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by masked Taliban gunmen, the Pakistani cyberspace was briefly united—as pro-women and pro-education—but not for long. Soon a counter-narrative emerged, depicting Yousafzai as a pawn of the United States, or even a willing operative, and obscured the facts of her attack. Even a journalist who claims to support Yousafzai's cause, the universal right to education, has dismissed her as a “good native” that the West is using to act out their “savior complex,” which one could argue illustrates the “warped mindset” that the pro-Taliban narrative has spread amongst Pakistanis, and the potential real-world effects of hate speech.

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WeGov

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, April 16 2014

2006 story in the Toronto Star (Hossein Derakhshan)

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

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WeGov

Surveillance in Ethiopia Is Bad Now, But Human Rights Watch Report Warns It Could Get Worse

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, April 1 2014

A grassroots surveillance network stretches even to remote rural areas (Adam Jones / Flickr)

Last week Human Rights Watch published a 100+ page report on government surveillance in Ethiopia that explains how the authorities use technology from countries like China, Germany and Italy to spy on opposition members, dissidents and journalists, even after they flee the country.

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WeGov

Who Wants an Uncensored Net in Emerging and Developing Countries?

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 19 2014

Turns out, lots of people in emerging and developing countries support a free, uncensored Internet—the majority in 22 of 24 countries in this Pew Research survey, in fact—but support is especially strong among young, well-educated, high-income people who use the Internet.

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WeGov

More Evidence That MOOCs Are Not Great Equalizers

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 17 2014

A survey by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reveals that the majority of students enrolled in Coursera's massive open online courses or MOOCs are employed, degree-holding men.

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WeGov

Analyzing Social Network Metadata to Uncover Censorship

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 12 2014

Screenshot of email metadata (MIT Immersion)

If you've entered your email into the MIT Media Lab Immersion platform, you might have some idea of the information that can be gleaned from metadata. The same is true of social networks like Twitter and Facebook. One researcher has found that analysis of social network metadata can reveal wide scale censorship with 85 percent accuracy, without needing to track sensitive keywords.

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WeGov

More Fodder For Social Media Activism Pessimists

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, March 10 2014

A recent study of the Save Darfur Facebook campaign found that the massive participation online gave the “illusion of activism rather than facilitating the real thing.” More evidence, if it was needed, that the “revolution will not be tweeted.”

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WeGov

Reports Show The Dark Side of the Sochi Winter Olympics

BY Jessica McKenzie | Thursday, January 30 2014

Screen shot of The Anti-Corruption Foundation's Encyclopedia of Spending

There is a side to the Winter Olympics that won't be shown on NBC, but corruption watchdogs like Alexei Navalny are on it. Both Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and Human Rights Watch have released interactive reports on the corruption, human rights abuse and environmental harm behind the scenes of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

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WeGov

"Burying" Data Until Convenient Undermines The UK's Open Data Efforts

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, January 27 2014

They don't have to bury it forever, just long enough (Marshall Astor - Food Fetishist/Flickr)

Revelations that the UK government held back crucial information about the effects of alcohol pricing on health, until a policy decision about it had gone by, have left some questioning the United Kingdom's open data program.

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