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Facebook Auto-Created Pages for ISIS and Al-Qaeda: Study

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Facebook Auto-Created Pages for ISIS and Al-Qaeda: Study

Facebook has auto-created the pages of designated terrorist organizations including ISIS and al-Qaeda for years, according to a new report.

The Tech Transparency Project (TTP) investigation comes less than a week before the Supreme Court hears a landmark case, which examines the responsibility of tech companies for policing terrorism online, and shows how the presence of terror groups continues to linger on Facebook despite years of pressure to remove that content. 

In the years since the rise of ISIS, the company has taken measures to try and stem the problem of extremism on its platform. But TTP, a tech industry watchdog group, found that a tech “quirk” on Facebook unknowingly auto-generated landing pages for terror organizations when users list them under things like their work, education, local businesses, interests, or even locations—and no page already exists for it. 

The outcome was a host of pages (mostly in Arabic, but several in English) featuring posts with images of the jihadist black standard, some with masked men in terrorist garb holding weapons, an al-Qaeda landing spot with an “About” section, and even listing ISIS pages as a “country/region… state”—something the terror group claimed it was after declaring itself as a pseudo-state when it controlled a swath of land between Iraq and Syria. 

According to the report, some of the auto-generated pages enabled users to network, tag friends and message each other, with some accruing thousands of likes. (Facebook did provide small directions on the pages labeling them as an “unofficial Page.”)

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TTP provided a list of active Facebook links to several of the pages referenced in the report for verification. While TTP finds that the majority of the ISIS pages were generated in the period of 2014 and 2015, four of the pages were created as late as October 2022 and the capability to create more still exists. 

VICE News put the page generation to the test and was also able to review a screen-capture video of a user creating a profile from this month where they listed their job as an ISIS terrorist and were still given several options under the banner of the terrorist organization. An additional video that was reviewed, shows the same Facebook user changing their employer to “دوله السلامية” (ISIS in Arabic), located it in Raqqa, Syria (once a stronghold of the terror group where atrocities were carried out), and Facebook then automatically generating a page for the “Company.”

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Facebook has maintained for years that it scours for and openly bans content from these sorts of groups. It came under fire in 2014, as ISIS exploded in numbers and the app was considered key to the terror group’s recruitment and propaganda strategy. Although Facebook was initially an important vector for ISIS, it drew on a vast online operation targeting any digital spaces millennials inhabited, including widely used platforms like Instagram and Twitter. 

“What’s the benefit of using social media if I’m not using it to recruit?” a top ISIS recruiter told VICE News in 2014.

  • Do you have any tips about ISIS? We’d love to hear from you. Contact Ben Makuch on email at [email protected] or on the Wire app @benmakuch.

But at present, Facebook is no longer the major social media for terrorist organizations with encrypted platforms like Telegram and others taking that mantle.

Meta, the company that owns Facebook (and Instagram) said it didn’t have a detailed comment because TTP has not provided them with the report thus far. TTP says the watchdog hasn’t been asked by Facebook for the report.

“When these kinds of shell pages are auto-generated there is no owner or admin, and limited activity,” said a spokesperson. “As we said at the end of last year, we addressed an issue that auto-generated shell pages and we’re continuing to review.”

But TTP claims Facebook hasn’t taken the issue seriously after being notified several times. 

“Despite repeated warnings and questioning from multiple lawmakers, Facebook has continued to create business pages for designated terrorist groups that thrive on digital propaganda—and it’s been knowingly doing so since 2019,” said Katie Paul, the researcher and author of the investigation. 

“Facebook has instead touted its technology for fighting terrorist content in statements before Congress and responses to media,” she said. 

The Pentagon and CIA still consider ISIS as a major national security threat, though the extremist organization was knocked down considerably from its heights of running what it called its own “caliphate” late last decade. U.S. forces regularly carry out drone strikes and combat operations in the Middle East and Africa against its dwindling leadership. 

Next week the Supreme Court will hear Gonzalez vs. Google and look at whether or not the Silicon Valley giant should be held liable for promoting ISIS videos on YouTube. The case is being billed as a dispute that could shape the course of how American online life will be regulated in the coming years.

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Social media blocks are “a suppression of an essential avenue for transparency”

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In this photo illustration the word censored is seen displayed on a smartphone with the logos of social networks Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube in the background.

Once praised as the defining feature of the internet, the ability to connect with physically distant people is something that governments have recently been seemingly intent on restricting. Authorities have been increasingly pulling the plug, putting over 4 billion people in the shadows in the first half of 2023 alone

Social media platforms are often the first means of communication to be restricted. Surfshark, one of the most popular VPN services, counted at least 50 countries guilty of having curbed these websites and apps during periods of political turmoil such as protests, elections, or military activity.

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Former Myanmar colonel who once served as information minister gets 10-year prison term for sedition

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Former Myanmar colonel who once served as information minister gets 10-year prison term for sedition

BANGKOK (AP) — A former high-profile Myanmar army officer who had served as information minister and presidential spokesperson in a previous military-backed government has been convicted of sedition and incitement, a legal official said Thursday. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Ye Htut, a 64-year old retired lieutenant colonel, is the latest in a series of people arrested and jailed for writing Facebook posts that allegedly spreading false or inflammatory news. Once infrequently prosecuted, there has been a deluge of such legal actions since the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

He was arrested in late October after a military officer from the Yangon Regional Military Command reportedly filed a change against him, around the time when some senior military officers were purged on other charges, including corruption. He was convicted on Wednesday, according to the official familiar with the legal proceedings who insisted on anonymity for fear of being punished by the authorities.

Ye Htut had been the spokesperson from 2013 to 2016 for President Thein Sein in a military-backed government and also information minister from 2014 to 2016.

After leaving the government in 2016, Ye Htut took on the role of a political commentator and wrote books and posted articles on Facebook. For a time, he was a visiting senior research fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a center for Southeast Asia studies in Singapore.

After the army’s 2021 takeover, he often posted short personal vignettes and travel essays on Facebook in which he made allusions that were generally recognized to be critical of Myanmar’s current military rulers.

The army’s takeover triggered mass public protests that the military and police responded to with lethal force, triggering armed resistance and violence that has escalated into a civil war.

The official familiar with the court proceedings against Ye Htut told The Associated Press that he was sentenced by a court in Yangon’s Insein prison to seven years for sedition and three years for incitement. Ye Htut was accused on the basis of his posts on his Facebook account, and did not hire a lawyer to represent him at his trial, the official said.

The sedition charge makes disrupting or hindering the work of defense services personnel or government employees punishable by up to seven years in prison. The incitement charge makes it a crime to publish or circulate comments that cause fear, spread false news, agitate directly or indirectly for criminal offences against a government employee — an offense punishable by up to three years in prison.

However, a statement from the Ministry of Legal Affairs said he had been charged under a different sedition statute. There was no explanation for the discrepancy.

According to detailed lists compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group based in Thailand, 4,204 civilians have died in Myanmar in the military government’s crackdown on opponents and at least 25,474 people have been arrested.



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Top CIA agent shared pro-Palestinian to Facebook after Hamas attack: report

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Top CIA agent shared pro-Palestinian to Facebook after Hamas attack: report

A high-ranking CIA official boldly shared multiple pro-Palestinian images on her Facebook page just two weeks after Hamas launched its bloody surprise attack on Israel — while President Biden was touring the Jewish state to pledge the US’s allegiance to the nation.

The CIA’s associate deputy director for analysis changed her cover photo on Oct. 21 to a shot of a man wearing a Palestinian flag around his neck and waving a larger flag, the Financial Times reported.

The image — taken in 2015 during a surge in the long-stemming conflict — has been used in various news stories and pieces criticizing Israel’s role in the violence.

The CIA agent also shared a selfie with a superimposed “Free Palestine” sticker, similar to those being plastered on businesses and public spaces across the nation by protesters calling for a cease-fire.

The Financial Times did not name the official after the intelligence agency expressed concern for her safety.

“The officer is a career analyst with extensive background in all aspects of the Middle East and this post [of the Palestinian flag] was not intended to express a position on the conflict,” a person familiar with the situation told the outlet.

The individual added that the sticker image was initially posted years before the most recent crisis between the two nations and emphasized that the CIA official’s Facebook account was also peppered with posts taking a stand against antisemitism.

The image the top-ranking CIA official shared on Facebook.

The latest post of the man waving the flag, however, was shared as Biden shook hands with Israeli leaders on their own soil in a show of support for the Jewish state in its conflict with the terrorist group.

Biden has staunchly voiced support for the US ally since the Oct. 7 surprise attack that killed more than 1,300 people, making the CIA agent’s posts in dissent an unusual move.

A protester walks near burning tires in the occupied West Bank on Nov. 27, 2023, ahead of an expected release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages. AFP via Getty Images

In her role, the associate deputy director is one of three people, including the deputy CIA director, responsible for approving all analyses disseminated inside the agency.

She had also previously overseen the production of the President’s Daily Brief, the highly classified compilation of intelligence that is presented to the president most days, the Financial Times said.

“CIA officers are committed to analytic objectivity, which is at the core of what we do as an agency. CIA officers may have personal views, but this does not lessen their — or CIA’s — commitment to unbiased analysis,” the CIA said in a statement to the outlet.

The top CIA official has since deleted the pro-Palestinian images from her social media page. Hamas Press Service/UPI/Shutterstock

Follow along with The Post’s live blog for the latest on Hamas’ attack on Israel


Neither the Office of the Director of National Intelligence nor the White House responded to The Post’s request for comment.

All of the official’s pro-Palestinian images and other, unrelated posts have since been deleted, the outlet reported.

Palestinian children sit by the fire next to the rubble of a house hit in an Israeli strike. REUTERS

The report comes as CIA Director William Burns arrived in Qatar, where he was due to meet with his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts and the Gulf state’s prime minister to discuss the possibility of extending the pause in fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip for a second time.

Israel and Hamas agreed Monday to an additional two-day pause in fighting, meaning combat would likely resume Thursday morning Israel time if no additional halt is brokered.

Both sides agreed to release a portion of its hostages under the arrangement.

More than 14,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including many women and children, have been killed in the conflict, according to data from the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health.



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