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Facebook Combats “Russian Propaganda” While Letting Israeli Trolls Do As They Please

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Facebook Combats "Russian Propaganda" While Letting Israeli Trolls Do As They Please

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On October 29th, the New York Times published an article titled “‘A New Message’: Russia Trains Its Propaganda Machine on Africa,” focused on Russia’s alleged Russian propaganda campaign in Africa.

“Russia has been playing for power in Africa in recent years by sending arms, offering mercenaries, and cinching mining deals. More quietly, it has started to set up a low-profile infrastructure of political influence that bears echoes of the Kremlin’s strategy in Europe and the United States. And it is already identifying African politicians and activists who will carry its message.”

In the article, NYT presents Jose Matemulane who studied in Saint Petersburg about 20 years ago, and has established a think tank called Afric “which describes itself on its website as “funded by donors with a common passion to foster Africa’s development,” without mentioning Russia.”

Naturally, part of this are RT and Sputnik, who are funded by the Russian state, and that’s never been a secret. They are to organize courses on social media for African journalists, and they will be organized in Moscow, Russia.

“We understand that getting to Moscow costs quite a bit of money, and this may well be too expensive for African newsrooms,” Alexei Volin, Russia’s deputy minister for communications and mass media, added after making the pitch. “We are ready to consider possibilities for RT and Sputnik specialists to organize courses on the ground in this or that African country.”

Of course, no Russian hysteria takes place in Africa, without mentioning Yevgeny Prigozhin, as he is “Putin’s chef” and carries all sorts of “evil deeds” all across the world, but mostly in the African region.

“Perhaps the most prominent figure in Russia’s Africa push is Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the St. Petersburg businessman indicted by the United States for running the online “troll farm” that sought to sway the 2016 American presidential election, who is said to run a military contractor called Wagner that is involved in several African countries.

Another is Konstantin Malofeev, a nationalist banker under American sanctions who has cultivated ties with far-right politicians in Europe and the United States, as well as pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.”

Prigozhin, of course, wasn’t present at all at the Russia-Africa summit that took place on October 23-24th, but Malofeev was there. He was advertising a new project: an agency promising to help African governments gain access to financing as an alternative to Western sources like the International Monetary Fund.

Malofeev described the organization, called the International Agency for Sovereign Development, as an economic approach to the ideological battle he’s been fighting for a long time: breaking the Western world order.

“I oppose liberal totalitarianism. I’m against the global dominance of the Federal Reserve System,” Malofeev said in an interview.

The abovementioned Afric think tank, then is allegedly funded by Prigozhin, but it denies the allegation.

Essentially, the entire NYT article claims that Russia is undertaking in a massive propaganda campaign, by simply saying that the Western system is ineffective, which it clearly is, as African leaders themselves say it is so.

Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, the foreign minister of Djibouti, ticked off countries that he said suffered as a result of misguided Western policies — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon.

“Why shouldn’t we try a new approach? A new message?” Mr. Youssouf said. “Maybe Russia is the alternative.”

One day after the NYT published its piece, Facebook undertook its own steps: it banned three networks allegedly tied to Russia, who attempted to interfere in the domestic politics of African countries.

“Today, we removed 35 Facebook accounts, 53 Pages, seven Groups and five Instagram accounts that originated in Russia and focused on Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon.”

Separately, ones focused on Sudan were also removed:

“We also removed 17 Facebook accounts, 18 Pages, 3 Groups and six Instagram accounts that originated in Russia and focused primarily on Sudan.”

Finally, accounts focused on Libya were also suspended:

“Finally, we removed a network of 14 Facebook accounts, 12 Pages, one Group and one Instagram account that originated in Russia and focused on Libya.”

All of these networks were allegedly connected to Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin and lawyers representing him did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest Facebook accusations. He had denied any allegations former and current.

“There’s sort of a joining of forces, if you will, between local actors and actors from Russia. It appears that the local actors who are involved know who is behind the operation,” Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cyber security policy told Reuters.

Facebook declined to identify which local people or organisations had worked with the accounts or which companies it had connected to the activity and Prigozhin.

But researchers at Stanford University, who worked with Facebook on its investigation, said the companies included the “mythical” Wagner Group.

At the same time, Israeli social media trolls appear to be allowed to do whatever they please on the social media platform.

On October 9th, Facebook deleted the page of the popular Palestinian news website, the Palestinian Information Center (PIC). It had nearly 5 million followers, and it was quite popular, and too effective.

According to a document obtained by the Electronic Intifada, the Israeli government has funded a “global influence campaign” with a massive budget with the sole aim of inluencing  foreign publics and combating the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

In September 2016, the Israeli government announced its willingness to work with Facebook to “tackle incitement.”

The social media giant obliged even if that meant violating the very basic freedom of expression it has repeatedly vowed to respect.

An agreement was reached on how to tackle the “issue.” The agreement was the outcome of two days of discussions involving the Israeli interior minister, Gilad Erdan, and justice minister, Ayelet Shaked, among others.

Erdan’s office said in a statement that, “they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content.”

As per the ZComm article, the process of targeting Palestinians and their supporters follows this logic:

  • Pro-Israel trolls fan out, monitoring and commenting on Palestinian posts.
  • The trolls report allegedly offensive individuals and content to the Facebook/Israeli “team”.
  • Facebook carries out recommendations regarding accounts that have been flagged for censorship.
  • The accounts of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian pages and individuals are deleted or banned.

And this appears to be happening, and it is quite similar to the censorship against Russia, Iran and others, which simply doesn’t fit with the US-led narrative.

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