Death Threats On Our Director Satanic, Can Plunge Nigeria Into Religious War, MURIC Warns

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*insists Muslims in South West sidelined on Amotekun

By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja

South West States Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) chairmen have called for the immediate arrest of some persons for allegedly issuing out death threats to it’s Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, saying it Satanic and could engulf Nigeria in a religious crisis.

They expressed this in a statement jointly signed by the six chairmen Ekiti (Murician Qasim Salahudeen), Ogun (Murician Tajudeen Jimoh), Oyo (Murician Salahudeen Abdul Wasiu), Osun (Murician Marufdeen Odedeji), Ondo (Murician Abdul Ganiyu Maroof) and Lagos (Murician Shefiu Ayorinde) and made available to AUTHENTIC News Daily on Tuesday January 28, 2020.

“A twitter handler directed a death threat to the director and founder of our Islamic human rights organization, Professor Ishaq Akintola, about a week ago. 

“He wrote a chilling comment on Professor Akintola’s picture and posted it. 

“The post was, in turn, screenshot from the Whatshap status of a contact who identified herself as Tosin Elizabeth a.k.a ‘Hidee’ with telephone number 08163964812.

“The death threat was issued under the caption, ‘THIS COBRA NEEDS TO BE KILLED’ and the exact words used were:

“There is one big COBRA we must kill, before it kills all of us with its venom. This MURIC man, Professor Ishaq Akintola, must be tamed, else he will succeed in destroying Yorubaland with venom from his religious stupidity. He sees, he talks and behaves like a big radical Taliban. He’s an agent of disunity, and must be called to order before it is too late.”

“We, the chairmen of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) branches from the South West, specifically from Ekiti (Murician Qasim Salahudeen), Ogun (Murician Tajudeen Jimoh), Oyo (Murician Salahudeen Abdul Wasiu), Osun (Murician Marufdeen Odedeji), Ondo (Murician Abdul Ganiyu Maroof) and Lagos (Murician Shefiu Ayorinde) hereby totally and categorically condemn the death threat issued against Professor Ishaq Akintola, the director of our organization,” it said.

They said that the death threat is Satanic and provocative. 

“It is capable of causing religious crisis not only in the South West but in Nigeria as a whole. Apart from revealing a desire to assassinate our director, it is also an incitement of the Yoruba people against the founder and director of our organisation. We insist that no harm must come to Professor Ishaq Lakin Akintola.

“It is clear from the words used in the death threat that the brain behind the satanic message is a Yoruba person who feels aggrieved by MURIC’s stand on the Amotekun security outfit which the governors of the South West have proposed. 

“For the avoidance of doubt, MURIC did not oppose the establishment of a security unit in Yorubaland so long as it is for better security. MURIC only opposed the way Muslims in the region have been sidelined in the arrangement. We reject the idea of collecting birth certificate from churches or letters of recommendation from pastors.

“Is that why our leader must be killed? Is that why Akintola became your first target? Is there no freedom of speech in this country? Are we not in a democracy? Is this how you want to treat Muslims after establishing Amotekun? We are certain that your intention is to turn Amotekun to a terror machine. You want to train assassins for eliminating Muslim leaders one by one.

“Yoruba Muslims have the right to speak freely. We are in the land of our ancestors. We are not foreigners. Nobody can expel us from the land of Oduduwa. We will continue to exercise our fundamental human rights without fear while we remain peaceful and law abiding. We are willing to live peacefully with our neighbours whether they are Christians, traditionalists or atheists. 

“The Nigerian Constitution accommodates all faiths. We are even ready to join the new security outfits in our different states once the religious bias is removed and the legal technicalities are resolved. But no true Muslim will give his or her blessing to a security organization which begins by showing anti-Muslim bias and targeting our Muslim brothers in the North.

“For the sake of clarity, we affirm that MURIC is a peace-loving organization and our motto is ‘Dialogue, Not Violence’. Incidentally, our leader, Professor Akintola, is also a peace-loving man.

“He has never engaged in violence or supported any violent group. He has always condemned Boko Haram and promoted peaceful coexistence among the adherents of different faiths. Akintola is also an anti-corruption jihadist.

“The implications of attacking the director of MURIC will have far-reaching effect because MURIC is not about one man. Its membership spreads beyond the South West to the North. Those who have been used to persecuting the Muslims while the same oppressors shout to high heaven without anybody challenging them now see him as a threat because he has challenged the status quo and changed the narrative.

“Already, there is tension among the Muslims over the threat to Akintola and the Nigerian Council for Shariah (South West zone) issued a statement on the threat on Sunday, 27th January, 2020. Therefore, anybody planning to attack such a man is planning to plunge Nigeria into another crisis.

“We wish to warn those behind the death threat against Akintola to know what they are up against. Think well before you act. Akintola is the voice of the voiceless Muslims in Nigeria and he is recognized as such throughout the length and breadth of the country. You cannot attack such a person and get away with it so easily. Don’t cause trouble in Nigeria.

“This January 2020 alone, Akintola emerged as Number 4 Most Important Muslim in Nigeria for year 2019. This was the outcome of a public ranking conducted by a Nigerian newspaper. Also in 2019, our director and founder was turbaned the ‘Lion of Islam’ (Kinniun Adinni) by the League of Imams, Ikotun, Lagos State. We all know what it means for hundreds of Imams to unanimously agree to give such a title to an Islamic scholar. We do not need to remind those threatening to kill our director that the lion is the king of all animals, including the leopard (amotekun). What do you think will happen if the leopard attempts to launch an attack on the lion?

“In conclusion, we hereby call upon the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the Department of State Security (DSS) to unmask, apprehend and prosecute those who threatened Professor Ishaq Akintola and to provide adequate protection for him. Professor Akintola is a tax payer and deserves to be well protected. 

“We believe that the security agencies will understand the enormity of the issue and realise that it is a matter of national interest. We affirm that Allah is the best protector and the Most Merciful (Glorious Qur’an 12:64). We also restate our full confidence in the ability of the Nigerian security agencies to get to the bottom of the matter, particularly with the lead provided above as the person on whose status the threat was screenshot (Tosin Elizabeth a.k.a ‘Hidee’, telephone number 08163964812).”

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Ihedioha: Imo church leaders urge S/Court to review judgement

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* Removal an assault on democracy, rule of law– ADF

Dozens of church leaders in Imo State have called on the Supreme Court of Nigeria to review its judgement that voided the election of Emeka Ihedioha of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the governor of the state while declaring Senator Hope Uzodinma as the new governor.

This is just as the Working Committee of the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) has described the removal of Ihedioha as the Imo state governor by the Supreme Court as a mindless assault on Democracy and Rule of Law which is its foundation.

Addressing a press conference at the headquarters of the Charismatic Renewal Ministries (CRM) in Owerri, the state capital on Wednesday, Rt. Rev. Chidi Oparaojiaku who spoke on behalf of the church leaders under the auspices of the Concerned Church Leaders Forum, said the judgment ran “counter to the facts on ground and raises a lot of questions.”

Bishop Oparaojiaku, who doubles as the Anglican Bishop of Ohaji-Egbema, questioned the rationale upon which the Apex Court arrived at its judgment, warning that the judgment, ‘if not justified’, would set a bad precedent for the judiciary and democracy in the country.

The church leaders, therefore, urged the Supreme Court to review the judgment to ensure that justice was served in the overall interest of peace, unity, development and continued survival of democracy in the state and Nigeria in general.

Oparajiaku said, “it is not that Christian leaders hate the newly sworn-in Governor of Imo State who is undoubtedly an Imolite, but the judgment has raised a lot of unanswered questions.

“Where there is therefore any perceived act of injustice, we are morally authorized to speak out and question the modalities for the injustice.

“We are deeply worried about what will be the fate of future elections in Nigeria if the courts are allowed to use technicalities to subvert the will of the electorate.

“The general public, and especially Imolites will like to know how the Supreme Court arrived at the decision which plants injustice.

“In view of the above, we join millions of Nigerians to call on the Supreme Court of Nigeria to review that judgment; urge Imolites and all interest groups to ensure that only the way of peace, maturity and godliness is employed in handling this sensitive matter.”

In another development, the Alaigbo Development Foundation (ADF) has said that it was not only rejecting the Supreme Court judgement that removed Ihedioha as governor but condemned the ruling of the judgement as a mindless assault on democracy and rule of law which is its foundation.

In a document issued by Prof. Uzodinma Nwala and Prof. Nath Aniekwu, president and secretary of ADF respectively, the group said, “It (the judgement) is, above all, an arrogant assault on the fundamental right of Imo people to decide those to whom they give their mandate to preside over their political affairs for the next four years”.

The statement said the ADF position was based on a number of factors surrounding the judgement, among which was “the technical and substantive impossibility of a candidate who came fourth in the election with just only 96,45 votes and came 4th in the Governorship Election would overtake every other candidate to defeat the number one candidate who scored 273, 404 votes.

“And this is a candidate whose Party, the All Progressive Congress (APC), did not win any seat in the State House of Assembly Election held simultaneously with the Presidential in the 2019 General Election.

“What is more, the manner in which the Justice Tanko-led Supreme Court judges did their on-the-spot calculations and came to their conclusion is so bizarre that one wonders whether this is happening in a normal human society or in Alice’s Wonderland.

“The Justice Tanko-led Supreme Court appears to be desperately keeping faith with the grand design for which Justice Tanko was brazenly fostered on the Nigerian Judiciary after Justice Onnoghen was hounded out of office.

“Our people in Imo State and the entre Igbo nation should regard the removal of the legitimately elected Governor of Imo State as a great assault on the Regional solidarity of Alaigbo, especially now that Regional cohesion is vital to the defense and security of Alaigbo from the invaders”.

The post Ihedioha: Imo church leaders urge S/Court to review judgement appeared first on TheNigerialawyer.

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Deepika Padukone at JNU: With far more to lose, Bollywood’s women have shown far more spine than its ‘heroes’ | Entertainment News,The Indian Express

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Written by Yashee
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Updated: January 8, 2020 6:01:47 pm

In Bollywood as in the world, it’s the women who are smashing the status quo, at great personal risk. The actors, with far greater appeal and access, remember political causes before their movies, but then retreat to asking questions about mangoes.

The pictures of Deepika Padukone at JNU have by now launched more than a thousand tweets, many in support of her, many condemning her for aligning herself with the ‘tukde tukde gang’ , yet others claiming she was only trying to promote her movie while in the same breath adding they will boycott that movie.

Taking an obvious risk days before the release of Chhapaak, which she is also producing, Padukone has made an unmissable statement, and raised yet again a getting-harder-to-ignore question — where are Bollywood’s men?

The A-listers who have for decades ruled the roost and millions of hearts, whose hairstyles, dialogues, gestures and clothes the country has been united in copying, why do we not know what they think about the issues polarising the country today?

The recent protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the proposed National Register of Citizens, and the police crackdown against agitating students have seen unprecedented Bollywood involvement. Actors and directors like Swara Bhasker, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Richa Chadha, Anurag Kashyap, Anubhav Sinha, Dia Mirza and many others have not just spoken up on social media, but actively turned up for rallies and protests.

Yet, till very recently, the A-listers were missing. The merchants of fairytales, who have built their careers and their millions on “feel-good” cinema, stayed away from the grimy hurly-burly of politics.

However, in the past few days, actresses, one by one, have broken this unwritten rule. Sonam Kapoor and Alia Bhatt have condemned the recent incidents in no uncertain words. And now, Deepika Padukone has physically turned up at a protest venue.

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Padukone wasn’t at JNU as a star. She did not take centrestage, she did not make a speech. She was there, as a member of her team said, because she wanted to “express her anguish” at the violence in the campus, just like many other concerned citizens have been doing in city after city, at protest after protest.

Deepika Padukone knows better than most stars what this could unleash — as recently as in 2017, a BJP leader had announced a Rs 10 crore bounty on her head for starring in Padmaavat, while the Karni Sena wanted to chop off her nose.

Even without personal experience, Bollywood heroines know what’s at risk in triggering the troll brigade. Just reading Bhasker’s timeline for an hour can turn your stomach, make you want to go off social media forever.

Yet, Sonam Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Deepika Padukone chose to take the risk. What prevents the men? The Kapoors, the Khans, the Bachchans, who wield enormously more power, and run far fewer risks?

It is no one’s case that the “heroes” don’t stand to lose by taking a political stand. Just a few years ago, both Shah Rukh Khan and Amir Khan had people — including BJP leaders — sending them to Pakistan when they spoke up about the growing intolerance in the country. Then Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had to personally broker a peace deal between Karan Johar and MNS goons during the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

It can also be argued that in a democracy, a public figure does have the right to remain totally apolitical, however questionable that choice.

Yet, in an industry where the scales are anyway tilted against them, it’s the women of Bollywood who have stood up to be counted.

Women are paid less, have a shorter shelf life in Bollywood, are more dispensible. As we have heard for ages, few heroines can “carry a movie on their shoulders”, which is also because they rarely get parts written for them — a beautiful face and charismatic screen presence are all that is required of the leading lady in most “mainstream” movies.

In a notoriously risk-averse industry dominated by risk-averse men, women can easily be dropped from projects and endorsements for showing “political adventurism”. Bhasker, indeed, has spoken about losing work because of her political stands.

For the audience too, a woman with an opinion can be more difficult to stomach than a man. Men can obviously be interested in “serious matters”, but how inconvenient to enjoy a beautiful woman dancing to a beautiful song when you know her sympathies lie with the tukde tukde gang!

Also, the attacks against the women are far more vicious, and far crasser, than against men. People see a woman with an opinion as a greater transgression, and the more her mind infuriates them, the more they target her body — sexually explicit threats and “jokes” are generally the weapons of choice against women.

Anurag Kashyap has been faced with relentless trolling for long now, so has Javed Akhtar. But they haven’t had people from within their own fraternity calling them “sasti” (cheap), as happened with Bhasker and film-writer Raaj Shaandilyaa recently.

Even during the Padmavat fracas, it was Deepika Padukone’s head and nose on the line, not her male co-stars Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh’s.

And it is not like the men of Bollywood eschew politics altogether. Akshay Kumar’s recent movies have — co-incidentally? — been themed around the projects the government wants to promote: building toilets, vanquishing foreign Muslim invaders. In this Kumar is not alone, though he is the only one to have interviewed the PM about his mango-eating preferences (again, an opportunity given only to a man).

Many A-listers had happily posed for a grinning selfie with the PM at a time when it was impossible to not know its significance.

Amitabh Bachchan, who has had perhaps the longest successful run at Bollywood, stars in the government’s advertisements, but is resolutely silent when that government seems to be turning against its own people.

The appeal these stars wield is unparalleled — any cause that Salman Bhai raises his hands for, maybe with that blue bracelet, that Bachchan lends his baritone and gravitas or Shah Rukh his dimples and his charm to, will instantly get the kind of resonance a hundred erudite editorials and speeches by JNU alumni can’t garner.

These stars are well-aware of their great power. They choose not to see the great responsibility it comes with.

Even outside Bollywood, the CAA-NRC protests have been dominated by women — the brave ladies of Shaheen Bagh are a shining, heartening example. Perhaps it is time we rewrite our definition of “heroes”, change whom we look at for inspiration and solidarity. For now, the women of Bollywood have proven to be far more heroic than the stars who rule it.

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Will there be a draft? Young people worry after military strike | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

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For decades, American men over the age of 18 have gone through the ritual of registering with the government in case of a military draft. In recent years, this action has felt more like going through the motions, simply checking a box.

But today, after a U.S. drone strike in Iraq killed Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, prompting concerns about the possibility of a new war in the Middle East, that oft-forgotten paperwork became a reason for spiking anxiety among many Americans.

“World War III” started trending on social media. Young men suddenly recalled registering after their 18th birthdays, many having done so while applying for college financial aid. One Twitter user posted that he had blocked the account of the U.S. Army, with the (faulty) reasoning that: “They can’t draft you if they can’t see you.”

Interest was so high that it apparently crashed the website for the Selective Service System, the independent government agency that maintains a database of Americans eligible for a potential draft. “Due to the spread of misinformation, our website is experiencing high traffic volumes at this time,” the agency said on Twitter, adding, “We appreciate your patience.”

Here is an explanation of the current military system and what it would take to enact a draft in modern times.

Is there going to be a military draft?

The United States first conscripted soldiers during the Civil War and continued to use the draft in some form on and off through the Vietnam War, said Jennifer Mittelstadt, a professor of history at Rutgers University who has studied the military.

But there has been no conscription since 1973, when the draft was abolished after opposition to fighting in Vietnam. “There was huge support for ending the draft across the political spectrum,” Mittelstadt said.

The modern-day military is now an all-volunteer force, with about 1.2 million active-duty troops.

To change that, Congress would have to pass a law reinstating the draft, and the president would have to sign it, actions that would likely require broad political support.

What is the draft age?

All men from 18 to 25 years old are required to register with the Selective Service System. Many young men check a box to register when getting a driver’s license. Others sign up when applying for federal student aid to attend college.

But just because you have registered does not mean you will be drafted. “Right now, registering for selective service really means nothing about the likelihood of you serving in the current military,” Mittelstadt said.

Joe Heck, chairman of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, a committee created by Congress to evaluate the Selective Service System, put it this way: “Registration is ongoing. A draft would require an act of Congress.”

What are the consequences if you don’t register?

If you do not register for Selective Service as a young man, you can be subject to lifetime penalties. For example, men who did not register cannot receive federal financial aid, and they cannot work for the federal government, Heck said.

To check if you have registered, visit the Selective Service System’s website (once it is up and running again).

Can women be drafted?

No.

Historically, only men have been eligible for the draft. But the question of whether to register women has gained traction in recent years, as women have taken on broader roles within the military.

In 2015, the Pentagon opened up all combat jobs to women. Last year, a federal judge in Houston ruled that excluding women from the draft was unconstitutional.

As part of its work, the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is considering whether to expand the registration requirement to include women. The group’s final report, on that and other issues, is expected to be released in March.

Are there arguments for reinstating the draft?

In the 1860s, mobs of mostly foreign-born white workers took to the streets in New York City to protest conscription during the Civil War, burning down buildings and inciting violent attacks against black residents.

A century later, burning draft cards became a symbol of protest against the war in Vietnam.

“I think it’s fair to say that the draft has never been wildly popular,” Mittelstadt said.

But she said there were arguments in favor of a modern-day draft, including the potential to make the military more representative of society. The current all-volunteer force is more likely to recruit people from the working class, she said, with higher percentages of nonwhite Americans serving in uniform.

“I don’t know what it means in a democracy that you let some people fight your wars and everybody is not responsible,” she said. “American citizens are not implicated in the consequences — bodily human life, economically — of war, and they should be.”

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Sir Nigel Farage? Prospect of knighthood for Brexit Party leader provokes joy & horror on Twitter

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The prospect of Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage receiving a knighthood in the UK’s New Year Honours list has been met with a mixture of delight and dismay in equal measure on social media.

According to the UK government’s website, the annual list “recognises the achievements and service of extraordinary people” across the country. One lucky recipient of such an honor could be Farage, who is rumored to be in line for a knighthood, primarily for his long-running campaign to see Britain leave the European Union.

Also on rt.com

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage campaigns in Hartlepool, December 11, 2019.
Victory for Brexit, but not Brexit Party: Farage says he’s ‘comfortable’ with winning no seats in UK election

The thought of such a prestigious accolade for the 55-year-old politician has, perhaps quite predictably, caused ructions on social media. An avalanche of comical memes and gifs have been tweeted by his allies and detractors.

Many of Farage’s supporters have come out to praise his contribution to the Brexit debate with some suggesting that the UK would “still be waiting for a [EU] referendum” without him.

Yes Yes Yes, Marvelous.
Arise Sir Nigel.😉🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧👍 pic.twitter.com/ADp3K1BUam

— dave (@NorthBankDave1) December 23, 2019

Stand Up Sir Nigel Farage #NigelFarage . He has selflessly fought for British Democracy for over 25 years. #SirNigelFarage pic.twitter.com/pqeLuIwOLh

— Ken Shakesby (@ken_shakesby) December 23, 2019

A number of his critics appeared dumbfounded that such a title for the arch Brexiteer could even be contemplated. One person tweeted that if he is knighted then she’ll be having her “own Brexit and leaving the UK!!!”

pic.twitter.com/bHbqHhJpFp

— Tracy O’Shea (@TracymOshea) December 23, 2019

How is that even a question? He has achieved nothing! pic.twitter.com/cSVm54LDj9

— Lauren Rose 🌹 (@RedLeftie) December 23, 2019

The New Year Honours list consists of knights and dames, appointments to the Order of the British Empire, and gallantry awards to servicemen and women, and civilians. Individuals are nominated by UK government departments and members of the public with the Queen informally approving the list.

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IYC Attacks Nyesom Wike over the Violent Death of 42 Ijaw Youths ⋆

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The Ijaw Youths Council (IYC) have  condemned the Rivers state Governor for keeping mum after 42 Ijaw youths lost their lives in the 2019 elections.

The IYC made this condemnation in a statement which was signed by Alfred Kemepado, the Secretary-General

“The harmless youths were murdered by federal forces while they stood to defend the democracy that made Governor Wike the Governor of Rivers State.

“Up till date, a befitting burial has not been given to any of the Ijaw sons or even compensation to their families. Wike visited Late Dr Ferry Gberegbe, a victim of such violence in Khana and donated about N200m, which is commendable, but not even a condolence letter has been sent to any of the victims in Abonnema, Buguma and our Sister Ibisiki who was also murdered in same manner in Degema.

“This act of disregard alone, demonstrates Wike’s disrespect and disregard for the lives of our people. Instead, Governor Wike is spitting on their graves by threatening to remove an Ijaw Monarch because of the Visit of Governor Dickson to the monarch over the death of his children.

“We want Governor Wike to note and abundantly so, that the traditional stools in Ijaw land are older than Rivers State where he is Governor and they should not be considered as subjects he can intimidate

“Governor Wike should remember his own Ikwere tradition that prescribes respect for the elderly and traditional institutions, and should resist the temptation to overreach himself, but tame himself from being disrespectful and vulgar when addressing elders and traditional stools.

“Governor Wike should compensate the Ijaws with projects in Ijaw land because the Ijaws are the highest casualties in his bid to become Governor of Rivers State the second time.

“We call on Governor Wike to erect a memorial in honor of the Ijaw youths massacred for his sake and not insult Ijaw Monarchs. That until Wike apologises to the Ijaw Monarch he threatened and to all Ijaws, no Ijaw community and her people should take him and anything that comes from him serious.”

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Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

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Women hold IGP accountable for PDP Woman leader’s death

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Women groups have re-stated their call for justice for the death of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Woman Leader, Mrs Salome Abuh, who was burnt to death in her house during the Nov. 16, Kogi governorship election.

National President, Women in Politics Forum (WIPF), Ebere Ifendu, made the demand while briefing newsmen at the end of a panel session on women in politics during the national women’s dialogue titled “Womanifesto”.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that various groups of women, NGOs, female religious groups and others embarked on a match from the National Centre for Women Development to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs after a three-day conference in Abuja on Friday.

Ifendu at the briefing decried the poor participation of women in politics, which she attributed to violence and intimidation.

She said the situation would discourage more women from participating in politics, thereby stalling their contribution to national development.

“There must be justice for Salome because this is a huge crime against women; we are still struggling to find our feet with all the challenges women face and now this.

“We are afraid and going down on a daily basis but there must be justice to give us reasons to continue.

“We hold Inspector-General of Police accountable, we will follow the prosecution because somebody must pay for that gruesome murder.

“If we fail Salome we fail ourselves, but if there is justice we know that she didn’t die in vain.

“Women should not run away from politics because of this because if we do we are helping them to achieve their aim,” she added.
Ifendu, therefore, stressed the need for a violence-free society which would herald a bright future for women in politics and all sectors.

She also called for an amended Electoral Act adding that political parties should also ensure internal party democracy where people have equal fields to contest for any position.

“In fact what women are demanding now is twinning. That is a situation whereby when we have male president a woman should be vice president and so at all levels of governance,” she said.

Also, the National Coordinator, 100 Women Lobby Group, Mrs Felicia Onibon, blamed the challenges women faced on patriarchy, urging women and all stakeholders to hold the ace and unbundle it so that women could move forward.

A female politician from Cross River state, Ms Eucharia Bisong, expressed sadness over the death of Salome Abuh and other persons during electioneering processes and encouraged women not to give up their struggle.

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Akinrinade on civil war: “Day my dancing partner was shot and my other escapes from death” | P.M. News

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From left: Alabi Isama, Akinrinade, Adekunle, Godwin Alli, and Col Alimi Ogunkanmi during the civil war

Ademola Adegbamigbe 

General Alani Akinrinade, a Nigerian Army General, civil war hero and pro democracy fighter who, like many other kindred spirits, spent times at the barricades, has a lot to thank God for at 80. He still stands on his feet, breathing. In other words he, on many occasions, would have died but for luck or Providence or a combination of both.

One of such occasions was when, at the war front, the rank and file liked to let off tension when live bands were brought to play and soldiers were free to dance and make merry. That day, his dancing partner was hit by gun bullets and she died. Perhaps, Akinrinade was in the enemy’s cross hairs. He revealed this to TheNEWS in an interview in his Yakoyo country home recently.

TheNEWS cover interview with General Akinrinade

Dancing and merry making at the war front are are a global practice. Many soldiers like to enjoy every minute of their days, for who knows the next set that will end up in body bags? US Navy permits such on their aircraft carriers- those aquatic juggernauts that roam the oceans of the world, telling anyone who cares to listen that America has the capability to balance terror with terror. Russia and France know this happens on their war frigates, so also is the British Admiralty.

Akinrinade narrated what happened: “I was sitting on a sofa with one lady, there was music and I just told the woman, Let’s go and dance, but she wouldn’t answer me. At first, I thought, These civilians are so petrified. Unknown to me, a bullet came into the sitting room, hit her in the head and she died.”

Before then, he sat down with people when he and his men of the 3rd Marine Commando were going to capture Aba, talking about what next to do, because Biafran land mines were, as he put it, very pervasive, going off at every 100 meters. “We were just sitting down when a young soldier who was on the same parapet that we were sitting got shot and he went down. The bullet went to his helmet, but it was the concussion that knocked him down. The bullet did not really hit his head.”

General Akinrinade was also in the same room with another military brass hat, Ayo Ariyo, who had a rocking chair. “He was sitting in the chair. He was our classmate, but he was already a Sergeant in the Army by the time they recruited us. He sat in the chair and we were all sitting together. He just got up and wanted to go to the bathroom. As soon as he got up, he couldn’t have taken two steps away when a bullet hit where his head was on the chair. When he came back, we jokingly said, That bullet was meant for you, bloody idiot! We all laughed about it. That’s the nature of the work.” It could also have been aimed at Akinrinade.

Another anecdote he shared with the magazine is laughable and also shows the vulnerability of African mesmerism in the face of bullets. He narrated: “The only time I ever got hit was on my finger. People could get killed so easily. Felix Onifade was my senior, but over the time the war started, he lost seniority because we had exams and I overtook him. When they now posted him to work under me, he came, we spent the night in my house. We later joined a Navy ship to Bonny. We went out in the morning to show him his new command and then we sat in one trench and I was pointing out something to him. But a bullet hit him there and he died. 

“That was his first day. When we got the medics to take off his shirts, we found a small tortoise that was still alive under his chest. That diminished my belief in the potency of charms.”

Even after the war, when he returned to civvy street, fighting for democracy, he was a target. TheNEWS asked him:

Q: In January 1984, you were shot by some assassins at Opebi. Why did they want to kill you?
He replied: “I don’t know. I really don’t know. The hoodlums were trying to order me out of my car, but I refused. I said, What the hell is that? So they jumped into my car, took away my brief case and shot me. I don’t think they were assassins—they were hoodlums.”

Read more in the Preface and the marathon interview here.

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