Trolls Against Terror

Via Spencer Ackerman, the US government has an exciting new counterterrorism strategy:

“The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage.”

Given that we now live in a world where it seems totally normal for a national army’s spokesman and a major terrorist group to get in a 140-character slap fight on Twitter, this initiative seems timely.

However, as Ackerman reports, the project is still very much in its infancy, and has hit some snags in its efforts to develop a trolling strategy (or strategies) through meetings with young social media users in Muslim countries. Apparently, young, politically-engaged Muslims are more interested in talking about how to remedy societal inequalities and injustices than in plotting how to pwn terrorists on the interwebs. It’s like they don’t even understand how awesome it is to post “FIRST!!1!” to a comment thread.

WTF Friday, 2/18/2012

Biggest merger since peanut butter and jelly? I think we all saw both these coming.

I’ve thought about this a lot so I’m glad someone decided to write about it.

I’ll leave you all with a (rare) happy ending this week. We got a tip from Kim Yi Dionne earlier today about Ralph Kasambara, a political prisoner in Malawi who was being held in what are terrifyingly called “condemned cells.” Deets are here. But, in the time from when we got the tip to now, “a Judge has issued a High Court Order for the immediate release of Ralph.” Now, let’s not forget to knock on wood, but this actually sounds like good news. Don’t get used to it…

WTF Friday 12/9/11

“Columns of black smoke from burning tires rose over parts of this capital on Friday as Joseph Kabila, the incumbent president, was declared the official winner of Congo’s troubled election.” Apparently Charles Dickens weighed in over at the New York Times.

Forget all these bogus December holidays, this is my new favorite.

Twitter war between al-Shabab and the Kenyan military? Smh…

WTF Friday, 10/28/11

This is just all sorts of fucked up. Depressing that al-Shabab dressing up its own dead soldiers in AU uniforms, decapatating some of them, and displaying their bodies is the best case scenario here. Wow.
From Eric Margolis: “If Gaddafi was indeed behind the aircraft bombings, as most of the world believes, then he deserves not one bit of sympathy from us. If not, then we should at least acknowledge him for building modern Libya.” Right. So if he didn’t do these two bad things, we should forget all the other bad things, and, logically, give him credit for “building modern Libya.” Guess that’s the only available option. I wish I had met the guy like you so I could have figured all that out sooner. There are some other gems in here like “I still can’t figure out whether Gaddafi was really hearing voices that guided him, or just having adolescent fun scandalizing and frightening the world.” Again, I don’t really think those have to be the only options I get to pick from. You guys at home can parse through this drivel for some of the other astounding inconsistencies, but really, the point I would like to make is that you can oppose the foreign military intervention in Libya, criticize the NTC, and even recognize the good things Gaddafi did without resorting to a complete character revision of a fairly shitty dictator. Criminalizing homosexuality, executing political opponents, and suppressing freedom of speech are not actions of a man who was simply “eccentric,” “odd,” or least of all naive. They are actions of someone who was probably psychotic and definitely strategic in his efforts to remain in power and enrich himself and his family. I’m not gonna accuse you of forgetting that, Eric, just of pretending to. Also, for someone who knew him so well, you spelled his name wrong.

WTF Friday, 7/29/11

Props to Hugo Chavez for his Yul Brynner reference. No props for saying he’s gonna rule for another 20 years. Give it a rest, dude.

Medvedev planning to rap about the budget.

Somalis can apparently now thank members of the Kenyan government for putting al-Shabaab between them and their samosas (perhaps inadvertently).

First They Came for the Samosas…

According to Foreign Policy’s blog Passport, al-Shabab militants in Somalia recently added samosas (known locally, and at New York Ethiopian restaurants, as sambusas) to the long list of things they can’t stand.

Already famous for hating bras and fun, the terrorist group, which controls a significant chunk of territory in Somalia, has not released a reason for the latest prohibition. However, news coverage of the edict surmises that it was samosas’ shape that got them into trouble. Apparently, they’re a smidge too reminiscent of the Christian symbol for the Holy Trinity for al-Shabab’s comfort.  Accordingly, we must proceed as if all of our triangular foods are under threat.  Today it’s sambusas, but tomorrow it could be slices of pizza, ice cream cones, or wedges of gouda.

All I’m saying is, be careful how you cut your grilled cheese sammiches…

WTF Friday, 1/7/11

With the South Sudan referendum fast-approaching, George Clooney’s “Not On Our Watch” is funding commercial sattelites to monitor possible conflict in the country. Clooney has described it as “the best use of his celebrity.” Kinda just seems like he’s trying to recruit a mercenary for Ocean’s Fourteen.

The Dominican Republic has again begun deporting illegal immigrants from Haiti after suspending this practice in the wake of last year’s earthquake. Alright, looks like everything’s back to normal.

Al Shabaab has arrested regional leaders for stealing $10,000 in aid intended for drought-affected areas. If they just kicked out the remaining aid agencies they wouldn’t have to worry about this kind of embarrassment…