Kenyan worker’s arrest shows power, and peril, of online advocacy

[Published here June 3, 2021]

BEIRUT, June 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – With perfect prose, sizzling sarcasm and a host of anonymous accounts, Malcolm Bidali has waged a one-man social media campaign to improve working conditions for migrant labourers in Qatar for nearly a year.

“It kind of makes me feel like Batman or Superman. You can say the things you want to say, with your own voice and your own style,” said Bidali, 28, speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation from Doha.

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Content moderation in conflict zones: What role for big tech?

[Published here May 21, 2021]

May 21 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Conflict broke out this month between Israel and the southern Gaza Strip – and big tech has not been spared.

Instagram and Twitter have blamed technical errors for deleting posts mentioning the possible eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, but data rights groups fear “discriminatory” algorithms are at work and want greater transparency.

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Lebanon’s Most Outspoken Politician Wants to Talk to You on Twitter | BuzzFeed


[Interviewed Walid Jumblatt and contributed reporting to this article, published here on November 20, 2014. Just a note, the story is a lot more fun if you read it with the embedded tweets, so check it out on the link!]

BEIRUT — Walid Joumblatt pulled out his reading glasses before opening his iPad. Oscar, his dog, had just curled himself close to Joumblatt’s feet. “He’s 10 years old now, getting old, like me,” the ex-warlord turned mainstream Lebanese politician joked.

He scrolled gingerly through a queue of Twitter notifications. “I’m trying to answer almost everybody individually,” he said. Joumblatt joined Twitter just three weeks ago and already has more than 25,000 followers, many of whom he answers directly with the same candor and wit that has helped make the 65-year-old an unlikely giant in Lebanese politics.

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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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