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Wednesday, January 20

Strange report about Facebook from Al-Masdar News

Facebook censors Syrian, Lebanese media pages in mass shutdown
By Lulu Mikhail
January 20, 2015 -  1:00 am local time
Al-Masdar News
In a mass crackdown on Syrian and Lebanese journalism today, Facebook has closed down several news media pages, leaving their hundreds of thousands of followers confused and perturbed.
Among the pages shut down are the Syrian television stations SAMA TV, its sister channel Addounia TV, Syrian News Channel, Alikhabaria, as well as the Lebanese Al Mayadeen, based in Beirut and known as the ‘Al Jazeera of the Arab world’. Most of the pages were non-government organisations, privately owned and funded.
The sudden shutdown has been attributed by followers to ‘mass reports’ in which large groups of Facebook users with opposing views target the pages they want censored. Often these movements are run by ‘paid trolls’ who have been known to be funded by entities associated with governments or corporations.
In these cases, the reports are usually not related to violations of Facebook’s community standards. Instead their purpose is to suppress free speech as well as damage the organisations financially, as they rely on social media outlets for revenue.
Hundreds of thousands of people around the world who rely on these pages for breaking news have now been left in the dark.
Maybe it's just strange to me because I'm not familiar with the way things work at Facebook; I don't belong to it and have only visited it a handful of times. What I don't understand is why the authors of the Facebook pages can't control trolls. Isn't there a way to filter comments before they're published at Facebook? Block undesirable ones, as can be done on other types of websites? Even the large news sites reserve the right to block comments.     

Granted, if the trolls are descending on the Facebook pages by the thousands daily, maybe the authors just don't have the capacity to review every comment, and so allow completely unrestricted access. 

Technical questions aside, from my glance at Google it seems that all the Facebook pages under attack named by Mikhail's report are either fair-minded about the Syrian government's prosecution of the war, or connected with the government. 

So there are plenty of suspects for the trolling attacks. If Mikhail's source(s) on this story are saying there is coordination between some paid-for trolls ("movements," as she termed it), the modus operandi reminds me of George Soros. He deployed a range of media campaigns during the "color"revolutions in Eastern Europe, and his work in those situations has always been rumored to have been overseen by the U.S. Department of State. 

Of course others can imitate the Soros media campaigns. And while he has overtly intervened in Syria (via one his foundations supporting the White Helmet organization, which gives medical attention to wounded opposition fighters), it doesn't mean he's bankrolling the trolling against the Syrian Facebook pages, or that he would be the only one doing this. Al Saud or Qatar would be top suspects. And the United States.

In the previous post I noted:
Now that the tide of battle in Syria has turned in favor of the Syrian government's coalition, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are doing everything within their power to stop the Geneva III peace negotiations from going forward on January 25.
Because the trolling of the Syrian and Lebanese Facebook pages also hits at donations to the pages, this isn't only about flummoxing negotiations. But it does underscore that any and all means are being deployed to attack the Syrian government and its supporters. It also comes very close to cyber warfare, unless the cyber tecchies would say it's just that.

While on the topic of strange stories associated with the Syrian war, there is one directly connected to Al-Masdar News, a site that's obviously sympathetic to the Syrian government's prosecution of the war or at least fair-minded about it:
Al-Masdar journalist detained by German police
January 18, 2016 - 12:50 PM [local time]
Al-Masdar News
Moments ago, an Al-Masdar reporter who was set to fly to the Middle East was detained by German police and heavily interrogated during the process. However, he has since been released.
Remarkably, he was detained for more than two hours while the German police attempted to frame him for various criminal charges.
The reporter, who did not wish to be named for security reasons, was also accused of having fought for militant groups on his previous trips to Arab countries. The German interrogators said they believed his final destination was Baghdad.
The Al-Masdar reporter was only released from the locked interrogation room due to his connecting flight to Istanbul being ready for departure.
With the journalist set to arrive in the Middle East over the coming hours, given no further disruptions on his journey, ground reports from the region will continue to break on Al-Masdar News.
Well if they were trying to frame him, I doubt they would've let him go just because he wanted to catch a connecting flight. But it does seem the German authorities were bent on intimidating him.  


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