Sunday, February 1, 2015

Social media in government: 26 January to 1 February 2015

The United Nations held its first "Social Media Day" Saturday. Using the hashtag #SocialUN, the event attracted online and offline participants and featured Adam Synder of Burson-Marsteller who gave a keynote speech on the latest (2014) Twiplomacy report.
In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa announced the launch of Somos + (We Are More), a social platform where users can sign up to receive alerts each time the Ecuadorian government is "smeared" in social media. “If they [the president’s critics] send out a tweet, we will send 10,000 tweets calling you a coward,” the President exclaimed during his weekly television address Citizen Link. During the programme, Correa identified his critics on Twitter by their full names, photo, age, and the city in which they live.
President @MashiRafael paid particular attention to the popular Facebook page Crudo Ecuador (Raw Ecuador)The page posts jokes about Ecuador, the President and the government and Correa claims the page is funded by the opposition. Crudo Ecuador's administrator denies this, claiming to have voted for Correa. The administrator noted, “I see many positive things about Rafael Correa, but my page is called ‘Raw Ecuador.’ The point is to try and see beyond the things are spoken or made.” Since Correa's announcement, Crudo Ecuador has received several threats on Twitter, but the page has also seen its popularity on Facebook grow.
In Nigeria, Muslim clerics and youth attended a 3-day workshop on the use of social media. Local leaders cautioned those attending to avoid blackmailing other users via social media.
The annual Social Media Awards Africa (), sponsored by Sterling Bank Pic, were held in Lagos last weekend. Rwanda's Ministry of Youth & ICT  ()won the continental social media award in the Government/Public Sector category. The award highlighted the Rwandan Ministry's Youth Conneckt Hangout platform, which allows young citizens to interact online with decision-makers, a la Google Hangout.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a ban shut down internet and SMS service across the country the 19th of January to help stop violent protests. This past week, internet service was restored to banks and government agencies but not to citizensThis is the second time that the DRC government has shut down internet and mobile services to its citizens in the past four years.
Turkey continues to target journalists and citizens criticising the government via social media. The Kartal Blood Donation Center fired Dr. İlker Can Topçu, who had worked at the Center for three years, for sharing a cartoon of the popular caricature Bahattin, known on Turkish social media for criticising the government. In the cartoon that Dr.Topçu shared, the caricature called the government's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) supporters “AK Trolls.” The doctor has filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
Meanwhile, a Turkish judge gave the go ahead last week to arrest the television presenter Sedef Kabas for Tweeting photos of an allegedly crooked prosecutor who dropped a high profile case looking into government corruption. Her Tweet captioned the photos with “Do not EVER FORGET this man,” and she was charged under an anti-terrorism law.
Even Facebook agreed to block an unspecified number of pages that allegedly insult the Prophet Mohammed from Turkish users following a court order in Ankara last Sunday. If Facebook had failed to block the pages, the Turkish court threatened to block the entire network in Turkey.
On social media, ISIS has threatened to behead Jordanian pilot Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh if Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman imprisoned for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack in Jordan, is not released. 
Egyptian social media is outraged over the attacks in #Sinai as well as the alleged murder of a peaceful protestor by police in Cairo.
The Egyptian President blamed the Muslim Brotherhood while a Sinai-based militant group with links to ISIS actually took credit for the attacks that killed 29 to 30 people in Sinai. Yet some social media users called on the President to take responsibility. "I cannot see an end for this dark tunnel of black terrorism from one side and only security solutions from the other... If Al-Sisi wants to stop the bloodshed he should step down from power immediately," the popular actor and film director Khalid Abul-Naja Tweeted to over a million followers.
Egyptian protester Shaimaa El Sabbagh, a young mother, joined several peaceful protestors to lay wreaths at Tahrir Square in honour of the 900 protestors who died during the 2011 revolution. The police opened fire on the protestors with tear gas and shotgun pellets and El Sabbagh was killed. Graphic images of her final moments shared via social media angered the population and two prominent journalists, causing the police to open up an inquiry into her death.
In the UAE, member of the royal family and the Deputy Chairman of the Sharjah Petroleum Council and Chairman of Sharjah Pipeline Company (Anabeeb) Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi wrote an opinion piece on the need for governments to embrace transparency in the digital age. He noted, "In the age of the social media, governments face a challenge to ensure that the public and media are in sync when it comes to airing their opinions on important issues like tourism, investment and trade."
When attending the funeral of former Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, USA's first lady Michelle Obama did not wear a head scarf. This prompted the nationally trending hashtag #ميشيل_أوباما_سفور (#Michelle_Obama_unveiled). Saudi Arabia boasts one of the most active populations in the world on Twitter and Facebook, and Saudis are some of the most avid fans of YouTube.
Indian political parties continue to encourage their rank and file to get active on social media. However, a recent court case has objected to elected officials holding social media accounts The plaintiff has cited as the source of his objection the Public Records Act, which states that "no person shall take or cause to be taken out of India any public records without the prior approval of the central government."
January 26 was Republic Day, India's national day, and US President Barack Obama attended in person. Prime Minister Modi invited listeners to his monthly radio 'Mann ki Baat' (from the heart) to #AskObamaModi questions via social media in honour of the visit.
China is updating the "great firewallto block VPNs and better block foreign social media sites. The firewall has been used to block critical commentary of the government and to give home-grown tech an advantage over foreign companies. The new restrictions will also require foreign companies to to turn over source code, submit to audits and build back doors in both hardware and software.
The Japanese hostage Kenji Goto was allegedly beheaded in an ISIS video after Goto warned that the Jordanian pilot Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh will be next. A social media campaign #IamKenji showed its support for Goto and his family. Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, called the murder 'despicable.'
Australian politicians continue to look technically illiterate.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott called social media #electronicgraffiti, touching off the immensely popular hashtag in Australian social media. Sixty percent of all Australians have a social media account and most spend an average of two hours a day on social networks. Not to mention the several million dollars that the Abbott government spends on monitoring the nation's electronic graffiti. To top off Abbott's disdain, the Indian Prime Minister Modi sent a Tweet celebrating Australia Day (the same day as India's Republic Day), and received no reply from the Aussie leadership.
Australians are considering new, expansive privacy legislation requiring companies to keep metadata on users for up to two years. In the Parliamentary Committee discussing the legislation, MP and party whip Philip Ruddock asked, "Skype. That's a telephone you use on a computer?" causing another gleeful wave of social media criticism of the current government's lack of basic tech know-how.
Europe and American tech companies continue to struggle over privacy regulations, both existing and proposed.
European MEPJan Philipp Albrecht claimed that Facebook was "abusing" its "quasi-monopoly" on user data to explore alternative business models. The EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove has called for for telecommunications firms to share their encryption keys with government authoritiesUS-based tech companies question the legitimacy of European complaints given the continent's potential desire to protect existing state monopolies and the limitations of governments when it comes to protecting private data from cyber attacks. De Kerchove has suggested creating teams to remove terror-related video content from, for example, YouTube. Google's public policy manager Verity Harding noted that nearly 300 minutes of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute,. "To pre-screen those videos before they are uploaded would be like screening a phone call before it's made," she said.
France has launched a website and social media campaign to deter potential jihadists and to alert friends and family of potential jihadist-like tendencies. The site includes an infographic detailing suspicious behaviour and videos and articles aimed at young men and women considering jihad. The goal of the site is to counter jihadist propaganda with government messages. France is also preparing legislation that will make social networks accomplices in distributing terrorist content.
Bosnia’s Republika Srpska entity is proposing changes to the Law on Public Peace and Order in Republika Srpska that will expand the definition of "public place" to include the Internet. This would allow officials to censor internet posts deemed to violate the public peace, law, and order. “Expanding the definition of a ‘public place’ from the real to the virtual world represents the worst form of legal violence over freedom of expression and imposes censorship over the Internet, which directly violates the European Convention of Human Rights, and international agreements on civic and political freedom,” said the Association of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina Tuesday.
A British jihadist that fled the country while out on bail for assault with a pen used Twitter to encourage any UK-based jihadists to threaten British MPs and servicemen. At the same time, UK mosques threw open their doors in an effort to educate the public about Islam in the campaign #VisitMyMosque.
In Ireland at the ‘Reform or Referendum – The UK, Ireland and the Future of Europe’ conference in Dublin Castle (#UKRef), political leaders discussed the idea of a European Union without the UK and the impact such an event would have on Ireland. A lot of discussion took place online as well as off.
The 7th National Data Protection Conference (#dpconf15) in Ireland this past week hosted talks from Dara Murphy, the Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection, and Max Schrems, the Austrian leading a class action lawsuit against Facebook for the alleged transfer of personal data from Facebook to the US National Security Agency.
Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is leading a crackdown on extremist content on the webShe says there "no shortage of radical content online" and has called on social media companies to address the issue. "The online messages conveyed are often graphic and distorted versions of the truth, not least in terms of how the Islamic faith is portrayed," the Minister stated.
In the USA, Wikileaks is considering legal action against Google for handing over information on its journalists to the US government and then telling Wikileaks - 3 years later. "While it is too late for our clients to have the notice they should have had, they are still entitled to a list of Google's disclosures to the government and an explanation why Google waited more than two and a half years to provide any notice," read the letter from the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of WikiLeaks.
The Harvard Kennedy School hosted #Hack4congress - A Not-Just-for-Technologists Event to Fix Congress with the OpenGov Foundation - to inspire social scientists, political and government workers as well as the average citizen to "help fix Congress." Participants presented ideas of how to "hack" Congress to make it better, and many of these ideas were widely discussed around the hashtag.
This Sunday is the American Super Bowl, a big sporting event that Homeland Security will watch - both online and offline. Security will be scanning social media for any threats to the event and its participants and spectators. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson re-launched the “If You See Something, Say Something” (#SeeSay) campaign, encouraging people to report suspicious activity. 
Finally, the USA's Government Services Administration has proposed a Social Media Cyber-Vandalism Toolkit to address social media security in government institutions and agencies. They suggest setting up a social media stakeholder group that includes government agents and contacts at social media companies. In addition, the toolkit recommends a two-step password verification procedure. Check out the full list of guidelines here.
This week's recommended resource is "Social Movements and Governments in the Digital Age: Evaluating a Complex Landscape," published in the Journal of International Affairs by Zeynep Tufekci.
For more, follow @Linda_Margaret on Twitter.

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