Thursday, 17 February 2011

Early morning attacks, troll Armies, Twitter and new journalism

The attack on Bahrain's Pearl Roundabout is now known to have happened not at night but just before dawn. A clear indication of this was already obvious several hours ago when we looked at a number of accounts which had been very active on Twitter. These accounts were pursuing various strategies all designed to support the Regime. Some passed as "undecided" people who were helping people on Twitter with balanced information. Some claimed to be family friend. Some stressed that the protests were sectarian driven.

What was amazing is how many of these twitter accounts became inactive just before 4 am. Even before we knew the time frame of the attacks we had reason to wonder if some instruction from the Regime had gone out to many "supporters" on Twitter to stop their activities.

The conclusion we draw is that Bahrain's regime had planned and executed a Troll Attack on Twitter. We assume this extended to Facebook and YouTube but have only seen evidence on YouTube so far. Many of the tweet accounts were created by expert web marketing professionals employed by the state. They used a wide variety of different strategies planning on matching a specific strategy to targets on the web. So a variety of different approaches were used, from stressing economic prosperity of the island, to sectarian concerns, to out right lies and even intimidation. One such troll threatened us with a "report to Twitter", a silly threat but one that she undoubtedly was using to try and catch some anti-government tweeters off guard.

The objective of the state in Twitter in using this "Troll Army" was to try and undermine the growing sense of Arab and global solidarity with the movement in Bahrain as the armed police prepared to crush the protests with violence. This use of cyber bullying, lying an disinformation was a strategic part of the Regimes plans to violate the human rights of those people in Bahrain.

We ask Twitter to immediately terminate the accounts of persons posing as Bahrain residents who were active in support of the government on Twitter and then stopped suddenly before the attack took place. We also urge Twitter to not consider these people as normal users with given rights of privacy, but as a hostile attack and conspiracy mounted no their social network in violation of the UN Convention of Human Rights.

We would ask people to leave the twitter accounts of any such people on this site as we are composing a list of these accounts for later publication.

Update: When asked where he was for 16 hours @hendali11 said he had been "sleeping" through the entire crack down and had only just awaken in the afternoon. On the 16th of February this supporter of the Regime made dozens of posts to twitter. Today he has made two.

Most accounts have remained silent since the crack down.

The question remains, were they tasked to rant in favor of the government and did they know something about what was going to happen?
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