How ISIL is gaming the world’s journalists | GlobalPost

Tweets from Islamist fighters.

Tweets from Islamist fighters.

[Published here June 25, 2014]

BEIRUT, Lebanon — “Just don’t make us out as if we’re beasts and terrorists, you know? We’ve got families like you, we’ve got sisters like you, and you’ve probably got brothers like me.”

Despite his earnest tone, there aren’t many who have a brother like Abu Sumayyah.

An ethnic Kashmiri raised in the UK, Sumayyah has been living in Syria for about a year and recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS), the powerful Al Qaeda-inspired group making gains in Syria and Iraq.

After discussing his reasons for waging jihad in Syria, Abu Sumayyah was keen to make sure I left the interview with a positive impression of ISIL. “Be a good journalist and portray the truth, not what [others] want you to portray,” he said.

Like Sumayyah, ISIL members — from the leadership down to supporters abroad — are using social media to propagate a carefully-crafted narrative about ISIL. In the process, they’ve made themselves increasingly accessible online by tweeting, following, direct-messaging — and even in some cases successfully manipulating — foreign journalists.

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Meet 140journos, the Twitter group trying to prove election fraud in Turkey | GlobalPost

140journos send out requests for ballot report photos and review them in an Istanbul flat on March 31. Image via Ogulcan Ekiz

140journos send out requests for ballot report photos and review them in an Istanbul flat on March 31. Image via Ogulcan Ekiz

[Published here April 8, 2014]

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Spread around a tiny living room in an Istanbul flat are laptops, cell phones, projectors, and almost three dozen social media activists. This group, which spent all day monitoring Turkey’s contested local elections on March 30, re-assembled in a matter of hours after the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) declared its victory in the early morning of March 31. Their mission: to carry out a citizen-run investigation into election fraud.

Named after the 140-character limit on micro-blogging site Twitter, 140journos gained prominence after Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests last year. It has since grown to a network of over 300 citizen journalists, all volunteers, based throughout Turkey. The group uses Twitter, as well as Facebook and micro-video sites like Vine, to gather and verify local news. According to Ogulcan Ekiz, one of the group’s founding members, 140journos’ verification process has earned it the trust of much of Turkey’s youth, who see biases in traditional Turkish media.

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