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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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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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