MOI’s Killing of Three Bahrainis Leaves Lots of Unanswered Questions

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Image from the MOI saying “planned route of the boat during the smuggling operation to Iran of the wanted men”

Today saw the shooting and killing of three Bahrainis on a boat. They were alleged by the Ministry of the Interior to be escaping to Iran. The three killed were part of a group of ten people who had reportedly escaped from Jaw prison in January 2017. The Ministry of the Interior wrote a lengthy account of events here. While it is possible that the MOI version of events was accurate, this post contends that there is little reason to believe that the information released to the public is adequate in allowing anyone to determine accurately the true nature of events.

Firstly, the pertinent information regarding this operation is as follows (from the MOI website).

The Ministry of Interior has named the deceased as Redha Abdulla Isa Al Ghasra, 29, a fugitive sentenced to 79 years and life imprisonment, Mahmood Yousif Habib Hasan Yahya, 22, and Mustafa Yousif Yousif Abd Ali, 35.

Those arrested have been named as Mohamed Jassim Mohamed Jassim Al Abid, 28, Hamid Jassim Mohamed Jassim Al Abid, 28, and Hasan Ali Mohamed Fardan Al Shakar, 22, all of whom were involved in the terrorist attack on Jau Prison and/or aiding and abetting fugitives. Others arrested included Hani Younis Yousif Ali, 21, Ahmed Ali Ahmed Yousif, 20, Ali Hasan Ali Saleh, 38, and Ahmed Isa Ahmed Isa Al Malali, 23, who were named as being involved in the aiding and abetting of fugitives and the concealment and movement of firearms and explosives.

The Coastguard authority said that items found on the vessel included a Kalashnikov assault rifle which was used to attack the coastguard vessels, a GPS system and satellite phone, ID cards, money and personal items.  The authority also noted that those arrested confirmed they were in contact with, and due to meet, accomplices in Iranian waters.

Importantly, a bizarre leaked video of the operation was posted by @Alwatan_live. This can be found below (I would suggest you watch it before continuing)

There is also a clearer, more complete version of the video that was shown in a press conference recorded by BTV. It included aerial footage which indicates helicopters were likely present.

The reasons the videos are bizarre is for a number of reasons, including:

  1. It is edited in a way that makes it seem rather dramatic, with multiple angles taking from multiple points of view
  2. It does not give a full or convincing account to corroborate the MOI version of events, with, for example, it only showing one man rising up from the fugitives’ boat with a gun  (three people were killed). It does not show who shot first.
  3. The multiple cuts to the video could suggest that the editing sequence was not a chronological account of what happened
  4. The fact multiple cameras (probably around three) were evidently used to create all the angles suggests there are numerous recordings of the event from different angles, all of which would give a better idea of what happened if left unedited.
  5. The initial leaked video was also a recording of a video playing on someone’s laptop – who edited it? Why was it edited?
  6. The audio is not clear

Some of the frames from the video are puzzling. See below.

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The above shot shows a smallish boat that presumably had around 10 people in it. The man circled on the right is, from the video, brandishing a gun. However, what is happening on the left. Is someone driving the boat? Is that someone sitting by the steering wheel? Have the others ducked down? (there are meant to be ten in the boat at this point). What is the high vis looking vest? Why is it raised in the picture, but not in the later ones? Is it a person? None of the video shows clear evidence of the faces of those on board. Following this scene, the police fire (fairly recklessly, but perhaps because they were taken by surprise if the video is legitimate).

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At the end of the video you see the empty boat belonging to the fugitives. You do not get a clear view of where the victim was, as it would be in front of the steering wheel. If three people were shot thought maybe you’d expect to see blood? There is no blood. There is also an unusal shot of a policeman picking up what I presume is the assailants gun. The assailant cannot be scene, and again there is no blood.

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Gun, but no body (could be off screen nr bottom), and no blood

bloodless.jpg

At least one of the bodies should be at the top of the boat. All that is discernible is a blueish mass (could be a body). Again, no clear sign of blood suggesting three were shot. There is a high vis vest in the image, is it meant to be a body?

Bullet Path

The MOI also released other photographs showing scenes from the police operation. These included photos of a police boat with holes in.  As you can see from the first photo of the boat, the bullet holes appear to be on the left of the front of the boat. These, if the video is accurate, would presumably be exit wounds, as this boat, identifiable by the number reflected in the sea, pulled up on the right of the fugitive boat in the video. The shooter would have been on the opposite side of these holes (unless the photo is flipped). However, in another video you see the other side of the boat, where the bullets should have entered, but it doesn’t look like there are many (except one hole). Perhaps this is nothing, but it still is not clear from what people are being presented.

boatt

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Note there is perhaps only one clear bullet hole on the apparent entry side, although this is not really conclusive from the photo given (there are also close ups of the white marks on the blue, that could potentially be bullet holes).

Procedures?

For what was clearly well resourced operation, it is unclear why the security services had to result in deadly force. There are at least three coastguard boats involved. In the above picture you can see two boats, and there is also the boat from which the photo is taken. While there are inevitably procedural questions, e.g. where was this procedure learned, was the engine disabled before the boat was approached?

Opportunity for Propaganda

The MOI were very quick to mention Iran. In addition to releasing a photo of a map stating that the smugglers intended to go to Iran, the MOI’s first tweet, before even announcing the deaths, was about Iran.

While this doesn’t undermine the potential veracity of the MOI’s statement, it does, along with the bizarrely slick editing of the video, point to a very well planned media event, one clearly designed to show a hard hitting security force ready to defend Bahrain from Iran. It also feeds into the regime’s discourse that Iran is behind the unrest, and the escape of the detainees from Jau.

Whether true or not, if I were a Bahraini (irrespective of political stance), I would want to see an unedited video, and a better account of events from the MOI. This would include a proper explanation of how such a well prepared group of Coasguard and security officers allowed the smugglers to get so far out to sea before killing them.

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Aerial shot of the boats

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A triple execution in Bahrain has provoked national outrage – and international silence

Marc Jones, University of Exeter

In the middle of the night, on January 15 2017, three citizens of Bahrain were executed by firing squad. Abbas al-Samea, 27, Ali al-Singace, 21, and Sami Mushaima 42, had all been found guilty of planting a bomb which killed three policemen – but their convictions were widely seen as unsafe.

Rumours of their 3am deaths had been circulating on the social media of those with links to the government. Once the state news agency confirmed the news, many Bahrainis took to the streets in protest, confronting riot police, who used tear gas and birdshot in response. Human rights organisations condemned the killings, not simply because they oppose the death penalty, but because these executions were viewed as being political and extrajudicial.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions tweeted:

Nicholas McGeehan of Human Rights Watch added on social media: “These men’s convictions were based on retracted confessions and mired in allegations of serious torture.” It was a sentiment reflected poignantly by many Bahrainis, who formed huge queues to pay their respects to the executed men’s families.

The national controversy surrounding the executions is the latest demonstration of the political turmoil in Bahrain, and popular opposition to what is a democracy in name only. Since 2011, when widespread pro-democracy protests broke out, over a hundred civilians have been killed – many by teargas and torture. An independent report (the BICI report) documenting the events of that year revealed systematic torture, arbitrary detentions, and extra judicial killing in the streets

Since the report, which the King accepted to much international acclaim, the Bahrain government has emphasised its commitment to reforms. Yet implementation of the recommendations has been frequently documented as inadequate. Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) found that only two of the report’s 26 recommendations had been fully implemented, and eight had not even begun. Many of these reforms centred around creating mechanisms to ensure an end to torture and an increase of state accountability. Even Professor Cherif Bassiouni, the head of the BICI team, wrote in June last year that most of the reforms had not been fully implemented.

But things are actually getting worse. Amid the token reforms, the January executions show that Bahrain is regressing with regards to political development and human rights. The country’s only remotely critical newspaper, Al Wasat, which was shut down in 2011, has now been ordered by the government to close its online paper, too. The official reason given was that it was “jeapordising national unity and disrupting public peace”. In fact, it had been slighty critical of the executions.

Earlier this year, the government of Bahrain announced that it was reversing one of the BICI reforms which stipulated that Bahrain’s National Security Agency (NSA) have its powers of arrest removed. The power separation was considered important in controlling torture. Other laws enacted which have clamped down on freedom of expression, alongside the arrest of activists, have prompted accusations not of reform, but of de-democratisation. The fact that these are the first official executions to have occurred since 2010 suggest Bahrain is becoming more, not less authoritarian.

International influence

Bahrain’s small size and its reliance on foreign countries has also resulted in anger at the perceived complicity of numerous governments. Saudi troops, along with officers from states including the UAE, assisted in dealing with the unrest in 2011. Many of Bahrain’s military officers are from other Arab or Muslim countries, and many have received training by the British (including from John Yates, ex-assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard).

As a result, many Bahrainis feel increasingly isolated from the global community, who they believe are the only ones able to put pressure on the Bahrain government to reform, democratise, and implement human rights reform. Activist Maryam Al Khawaja accused the UK, Bahrain’s former protector, of abetting this authoritarian excess and allowing the executions to go ahead. She wrote on Twitter:

Protests in London outside the embassy also reflected this anger. And it is an anger founded not simply on the fact that the British response to the executions was considered “woefully inadequate”, but because the UK has been training the Bahrain police since 2011. The charity Reprieve noted that the UK also taught the Bahrainis how to “whitewash custody deaths” and provided training to the police without conducting proper human rights assessments.

As a result of the executions, frustration in Bahrain will inevitably increase. Scenes of people chanting “Down with [King] Hamad” at the police are becoming more common again. The regression back to more authoritarian ways is enabled by a lack of pressure from traditional international allies.

For the UK, this apparent “complicity” is unlikely to change. Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, notes that Brexit will likely diminish attempts to support human rights. With traditional allies like the UK less choosy about trade, less choosy about allies, and less choosy about human rights, Bahrain is set to see more instability and unrest.

The Conversation

Marc Jones, Research Fellow, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

(Cartoon added by me)

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Bahrain UK ‘There is so much we can do together’

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Today the Bahraini regime executed three young men,  Sami Mushaima (42 yrs), Abbas Al-Samea (27), and Ali Abdulshaheed Al-Singace (21). The men had their death penalties upheld by the Court of Cassation, even though, in the words of Human Rights Watch, the ‘men’s convictions were based on retracted confessions and mired in allegations of serious torture’. They were accused of killing Emirate Policeman Tariq Al Shahi, who was policing Bahrain along with mostly Sunni security officers from Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi, Syria etc.

The FCO’s response has been predictably muted, and follows on a trip to the Gulf by Theresa May, whose speech in front of British Troops emphasized the need for ‘stability’ (re status quo). Of the recent executions, Boris Johnson was entirely uncontroversial;

The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini Government.

Given the ongoing British training of the Bahrain Security Services, it is important to question how complicit the UK are.

Pro-Saudi Spam Bots on Twitter try to Drown Out News of $1.5 Billion Loan to Egypt

Over the past few weeks, we have revealed that pro-Saudi bots, or spammers, on Twitter, pollute various hashtags with pro-Saudi, or anti-Iranian propaganda. Today they were very active on the Arabic hashtag #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار . Translated, this means Saudi supports Egypt to the tune of one billion dollars. The first Tweet on the hashtag, from @htksa, refers to a $1.5 dollar loan to Egypt from Saudi Arabia. The injection is designed to end a dollar shortage that is stifling economic growth in Egypt.The news and hashtag was first Tweeted by  Saudi Twitter (@htksa) channel, who provide updates not afraid to criticize Saudi policy.

Saudi’s generosity will presumably be something that Saudi authorities do not wish to laud. With a fiscal crisis looming and a war in Yemen, many Saudis will perhaps object to the fact $1.5 billion is going abroad, even if it is a loan. As you can see from these few tweets, initial responses before the hashtag was drowned out by bots were fairly critical, with people asking why, what with unemployment and a lack of services, money was being sent abroad.

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Summary and overview of Data

The original Tweet from @htksa occurred around 8.46pm on 25th July. The sample I extracted began about 6.36 pm on 26th July, and finished at about 8.36 pm UK time. In this two hour window, which obviously began long after the original Tweet was posted, the API pulled 11, 847 Tweets. Of these Tweets, 10673 were almost certainly from bot spam accounts. That works out as about 90.1 % (1dp) of them. In terms of statistics, using the unique function in Google Sheets we can see that the 10673 Tweets came from approximately 1711 bot/spammer accounts. You can view the data here, or download it here.

The Accounts

As with previous exercises, the method here relies on discerning patterns in the data that indicate unusual activity. In terms of the accounts themselves, the following patterns exist.

  • The accounts are created across a small range of dates, very unusual considering the large volume of accounts (one would expect if the accounts were human or ‘genuine’, that they would  be created on random days, giving little in the way of a pattern). In 2014, accounts were created on consecutive days in April, May and June. In 2015, accounts were created only in February and March 2015. In 2016, the accounts sampled were only created in January and February. To put this into perspective, around 994 individual spam accounts in this sample were setup between between the 2nd and 19th February 2016. That’s around 58 accounts per day on average.
  • They are all launched from Tweet Deck.
  • As with previous examples, only accounts that were created in 2016 have full bios and banner photos. Ones created before that have no bio, and just a profile picture. The bios are generic, as are the profile pictures, which contain images harvested (presumably) from social media (See Brian Whitaker’s post). Banner images range from the random, to the bizarre, such as a  picture of freshly cut oranges, or some guy on a bike. My new favourite is the account below, of a guy who clearly just wants love. (He actually looks a lot like a Sudanese friend of mine)

    love

  • Of the over 1700 accounts in the sample, all follow between 25 and 79 people, with the exception of about 5, which follow 1 or zero people (this may be a glitch if they are programmed). Older accounts actually follow less people.
  • All of the accounts follow the same group of core people, which include, the satellite channel Saudi 24; and also certain local Saudi Twitter sites. I emphasize the term ‘local’ as these Twitter sites seem to spam local hashtags (such as Dammam and Qatif), presumably to drown out local news in these areas. (I will write more on these in a new post)
  • There is a correlation between what day the account was created, and how many Tweets it has produced. Accounts created on 19th February, for example, have about 900 Tweets, accounts on the 6th February (picked at random) have about 1,700 tweets, accounts created on 14th June 2014 (again, picked at random) have around 4000 – 4,500 Tweets etc. The older accounts tend to have a larger discrepancy in Tweet volume, presumably due to some automation variables that have accumulated over a longer time?

The Tweets

Other patterns occur in the contents of the Tweets. In the below table, if you look at the left hand column, you will see that each of the accounts tweets numerous times, often about seven or eight times per sample. As with before, during this time of high intensity Tweeting, the tweets often occur in four or five second intervals, with intermittent gaps. Take @3abdoElfasely for example (the first in the list); the first three tweets are spread four/5 seconds apart. The fourth tweet occurs about 21 minutes and 39 seconds later. Following another 21 minutes and 21 seconds later, @3abdoElfasely tweets again (22:59:01). He then tweets two more tweets at intervals of 4 seconds.

This pattern is more or less followed by @3abodelsabhin. With the exception of the first Tweet recorded, the other six tweets are fired out in two, three tweet pairs. Within each set of three, the tweets are four seconds apart. If you look at the time stamps of the other tweets in the below table, you will see similar patterns.

7/26/2016 22:15:51 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سوالف رياضية : نقاش الذايدي و جستنيه حول ( سامي الجابر و ماجد عبدالله )https://t.co/YdUtrzdKHe #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:15:55 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سوالف رياضية مع احمد العجلان ( سعود الصرامي وابراهيم بن ناهض ومحمد الذايدي ) https://t.co/M6S2CjzrAz #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:16:00 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سعود الصرامي : الاستئناف حق مشروع لنادي المجزل .. وعليهم القتال الي اخر ثانيه https://t.co/50gYgcWUeI #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:37:39 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي جستنيه: هدف “ماجد عبدالله” في الصين يساوي جميع اهداف “سامي الجابر” و كل من لعب كرة https://t.co/wmIolrvKVy #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:01 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي محمد الذايدي: هدف هدف “سامي الجابر” في تونس بتاريخ “ماجد عبدالله” كله https://t.co/uzMHAZXMZZ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:06 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي https://t.co/Nxzc1kaUKG #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:10 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي بن ناهض:لو ان لجنة القيم والاخلاق من ضمن اللجان بالاتحاد السعودي ما كان حدث كل هذا https://t.co/fcXxDJK7Jo #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:06 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي https://t.co/b2Plg3WuIY #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:34:46 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين سوالف رياضية : مداخلة هاتفية مع “حمد العثمان” امين عام نادي المجزل سابقاً https://t.co/nH2y938rHl #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:34:50 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/2EnVEUwsZH #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:34:54 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين سعود الصرامي: المجزل لم يكسب الاستئناف https://t.co/BgCxRSkmcv #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:28 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين محمد الذايدي :هناك تسعيرة للاعبين 30 الف للبلنتي و 50 الف لطرد https://t.co/AyVJtzSKrA #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:32 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين دباس الدوسري يجب ان لا تتدخل لجنة الاحتراف في تعاقدات الاندية الجديدة https://t.co/vSXE8WGAmZ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:36 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين دباس الدوسري الهلال لديه مشكلة في عقد سلمان الفرج https://t.co/H43B4miOEE #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:22 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد محمد الذايدي :هناك تسعيرة للاعبين 30 الف للبلنتي و 50 الف لطرد https://t.co/qgNzQxjCKu #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:26 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد دباس الدوسري يجب ان لا تتدخل لجنة الاحتراف في تعاقدات الاندية الجديدة https://t.co/AN0VFRQYNL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:30 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد دباس الدوسري الهلال لديه مشكلة في عقد سلمان الفرج https://t.co/1kdsX6oBTd #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:35:02 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد جاسم الحربي انا اؤيد فكرة حضور العنصر النسائي لمباريات كرة القدمhttps://t.co/NrzkSxLyUq #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:35:06 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد معجب: تكريم حكم داخل مقر نادي ما يعتبر مصيبة https://t.co/qtiglKY5yL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:35:11 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد مداخلة هاتفية مع “ماجد الفهمي” مدير المركز الاعلامي و المتحدث الرسمي بالنادي الأهلي🌴 https://t.co/hVw1tQYzXB #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:44 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد الحصاد الرياضي مع محمد الشهراني🌴 ( فؤاد انور و نايف الروقي )https://t.co/rJOv3dWfvR … #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:48 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد مداخلة هاتفية مع “عبدالرحمن الجروان” حكم دولي سابق و مقيم حكام مباراة المجزل و الجيل🌴 https://t.co/TXpm9zRgkv #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:52 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد سوالف رياضية مع احمد العجلان🌴 ( سعود الصرامي وابراهيم بن ناهض وعدنان جستنيه ) https://t.co/u6PPKvPJDR #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:38:55 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 سعود الصرامي : الاستئناف حق مشروع لنادي المجزل .. وعليهم القتال الي اخر ثانيه https://t.co/9RXw1P2Hvi #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:38:59 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 جستنيه: انصح الاستاذ “خالد البابطين” البعد عن المحاماة في المجال الرياضي https://t.co/gy94PxSVD9 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:02 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 جستنيه: هدف “ماجد عبدالله” في الصين يساوي جميع اهداف “سامي الجابر” و كل من لعب كرة https://t.co/QqXYZurZWW #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:10 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 محمد الذايدي: هدف هدف “سامي الجابر” في تونس بتاريخ “ماجد عبدالله” كله https://t.co/2XYxjdxx5i #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:16 @3alawyalshalho1 3alawyalshalhob سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي https://t.co/JECu5dokTb #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:22 @3alawyalshalho1 3alawyalshalhob سوالف رياضية : مداخلة هاتفية مع “حمد العثمان” امين عام نادي المجزل سابقاً https://t.co/A7sfL26H8t #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:29 @3alawyalshalho1 3alawyalshalhob محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/3cKgk0imYr #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:36 @3alianalmhall1 3alianalmhall محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/o10x2UC5Px #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:40 @3alianalmhall1 3alianalmhall سعود الصرامي: المجزل لم يكسب الاستئناف https://t.co/VqHTBaiaIy #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار

Of the 10673 Tweets, there are only 30 original/unique Tweets. The accounts repeat the same tweets, over and over and over. All the tweets contain video links to the Saudi satellite sports channel Saudi 24. This was the same as previous studies, where many of the accounts posted links to content on the news wing of Saudi 24. None of the Tweets actual concern the Egypt deal, suggesting they are trying to drown out the issue, rather than engage on it. Below is the break down of the 30 different tweets.

Volume Content
168 احمد الشمراني بعض الإعلاميين يظهر في التلفاز وهو لم يكتب عاموداً صحفياً إطلاقاً https://t.co/00p9lH0OhO #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
315 الحصاد الرياضي مع محمد الشهراني ( فؤاد انور و نايف الروقي )https://t.co/nkncwzXHV3 … #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
565 بن ناهض:لو ان لجنة القيم والاخلاق من ضمن اللجان بالاتحاد السعودي ما كان حدث كل هذا https://t.co/zR4tyhi0Cm #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
386 جاسم الحربي انا اؤيد فكرة حضور العنصر النسائي لمباريات كرة القدم????https://t.co/w2ZefnZjv7 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
491 جستنيه: انصح الاستاذ “خالد البابطين” البعد عن المحاماة في المجال الرياضي🌴 https://t.co/zUb7O5UIf9 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
275 جستنيه: هدف “ماجد عبدالله” في الصين يساوي جميع اهداف “سامي الجابر” و كل من لعب كرة https://t.co/zYkP0jDX2Y #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
301 دباس الدوسري الهلال لديه مشكلة في عقد سلمان الفرج https://t.co/ZPWSaGUojC #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
298 دباس الدوسري يجب ان لا تتدخل لجنة الاحتراف في تعاقدات الاندية الجديدة https://t.co/zV3f6TAWaO #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
286 سعود الصرامي : الاستئناف حق مشروع لنادي المجزل .. وعليهم القتال الي اخر ثانيه🌴 https://t.co/Zt5wKH98rz #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
568 سعود الصرامي: المجزل لم يكسب الاستئناف🇸🇦 https://t.co/ztL2P085n5 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
583 سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي🇸🇦 https://t.co/ZrMnQq9vCH #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
551 سوالف رياضية : مداخلة هاتفية مع “حمد العثمان” امين عام نادي المجزل سابقاً🇸🇦 https://t.co/Ztw7ghvYF2 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
498 سوالف رياضية : نقاش الذايدي و جستنيه حول🌴 ( سامي الجابر و ماجد عبدالله )https://t.co/YZsS9J4yJL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
490 سوالف رياضية مع احمد العجلان🌴 ( سعود الصرامي وابراهيم بن ناهض وعدنان جستنيه ) https://t.co/ZYw7hF1tpF #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
165 عبدالكريم الجاسرلقناة 24: مبدأ عمر المهنا أصرخ تفلح وبعض الأندية تأخذ هل من مزيد https://t.co/ZZIrzSnDAX #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
426 عدنان جستنيه: بيان الاتحاد السعودي بقضية نادي المجزل يحتاج ليكون أكثر شفافية🇸🇦 https://t.co/zkGkw8nngT #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
156 فوازالشريف لقناة 24 الرياضبة :الإعلام الرياضي مهنة لمن لامهنة له https://t.co/ZwSB6n9QFC #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
169 فيديو قناة 24 سعودي : ملتقى التخصصات الرابع https://t.co/zTmHtmCNGZ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
174 فيصل الجفن لقناة 24 الرياضية: الذي حصل ل فهد المطوع بصمة عار في جبين الرائد https://t.co/zzDSuDNDTJ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
492 قناة 24 سعودي :34 دوته وتأثيرها الاقتصادي على العالم https://t.co/zs2weLeZKS #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
166 قناة 24 سعودي … ردود الأفعال على رؤية السعودية 2030 https://t.co/Zy6iqw3KMI #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
171 قناة 24 سعودي… الحديث في عمق الدورات التدريبية https://t.co/ZXhNq5kZJv #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
799 محمد الذايدي: كان من الممكن اسقاط الاتحاد السعودي من قبل الهيئة الرياضية🇸🇦 https://t.co/ZTED7LKvKD #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
462 محمد الذايدي: لا يوجد لاعب في قارة آسيا مثل الكابتن “سامي الجابر”🌴 https://t.co/ZY6CsRbqze #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
460 محمد الذايدي: هدف هدف “سامي الجابر” في تونس بتاريخ “ماجد عبدالله” كله🇸🇦 https://t.co/zWVrnMtwro #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
308 محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/zVKGRbfHT9 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
290 محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق وان تكون الهيئة هيئة رقابية🇸🇦 https://t.co/zWl5MYdW5B #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
189 مداخلة هاتفية مع “عبدالرحمن الجروان” حكم دولي سابق و مقيم حكام مباراة المجزل و الجيل🌴 https://t.co/zFx68CIiqL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
309 مداخلة هاتفية مع “ماجد الفهمي” مدير المركز الاعلامي و المتحدث الرسمي بالنادي الاهليhttps://t.co/ZTsDOLBIXI #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
251 معجب: تكريم حكم داخل مقر نادي ما يعتبر مصيبة https://t.co/zxkQ86lGfK #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار

Conclusion

The above post isn’t as detailed as usual, but if you look at my previous posts you will gain a more thorough understand of how these bots operate. These are the same bots as have been examined in previous posts. I.e. they appear to have been set up by the same group of people, as their fingerprints match. If you scroll down one of these accounts far enough you will see that the same accounts Tweeting about the Egyptian deal, were tweeting about the removal of Isa Qassim’s citizenship, or Yemen (See this guy for example).

Obviously some human agency must be required to re-orientate accounts to pollute new hashtags, yet their dominant setting seems to reflect Saudi government policy. When they are not tweeting against Iran, or justifying the draconian decisions of the Bahrain government, they are praising the Saudi government and royal family (same same la?). Obviously this suggests that the bots are based in Saudi, which was probably obvious already.

We still do not know who is behind this. Nonetheless, it seems that a certain group, or institution, or agency, is working to drown out information that may cause anger and unrest in Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to promoting sectarianism, or the idea that Iran is behind all the regions ills. Yet with this latest study, we can deduce that the bots change their hashtag targets to drown out issues as they arise, suggesting it is an ongoing and dynamic, if not crude, pro-Saudi project.

Always happy to answer questions, either on Twitter or the blog.

 

A Former Durham Tutor’s View on Durham’s Tuition Fee Increase

I cringed when I saw that Durham University had preemptively advertised its undergraduate fees for 2016/17 at £9250 – currently 250 above the national maximum limit. I cringed for a number of reasons, not limited to, but including; I am an alumnus of Durham University, I have personal experience of teaching there, and since I started my undergraduate only 12 years ago, university fees have gone up 900%. Turns out you can put a price on the ‘Durham Difference’, which works out as about £250.

The proposed changes, to be activated if the Higher Education Bill passes, will mean that universities that are deemed to ‘meet expectations’ by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) can raise tuition prices in line with inflation. Roughly speaking, this means these universities can raise their fees from £9000 to £9250. However, the law (which probably will pass), has not been passed yet. The bill would put into law a body called the Office for Students, who according to the explanatory notes, can then implement the TEF.  The Times Higher noted too that ‘The bill does not deal with the TEF, which does not require legislation to be implemented at institutional level, other than to give the OfS powers over the exercise’.

It therefore seems clear that Durham, Kent, and Royal Holloway Universities are making assumptions that the law will be passed. Durham have already sought advice from the  Department for Business Innovation & Skills about whether they  satisfy the requirements of the TEF. As Durham University say on their website ‘Durham University has received confirmation from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills that we meet the first year expectations of the TEF’. Personally though, I do not understand why, if the Bill creates the OfS, and the OfS are to implement the framework, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills are already pre-empting the work of a body who do not, as yet, exist by law. The fact that they provided Durham University with information that has not been formalised into law is perhaps a reflection of the motives of not just Durham, but the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, who clearly want to set the ball rolling on this project. Certainly, framing the increase as a ‘fait accompli’ would indicate that, although it also indicates a healthy disrespect for parliament and the law-making process.

Despite the seeming mess of all this, the TEF is no secret. The Times Higher Education magazine ran a piece in which they measured how universities would perform *if* the TEF were to be implemented. Ironically, of the three Universities (Durham, Holloway, and Kent), that rushed to advertise their tuition fee increases, only Kent would actually finish in the top ten of the benchmarked TEF rankings. Thus the most eager to increase their fees are certainly not the best in terms of teaching reputation. To be fair, I guess the TEF is only concerned with institutions that ‘meet expectations’. Hopefully, if they are suitably low, then everyone can raise tuition fees. Money all round (for the universities that is)!

I say that knowing full well I taught at Durham. I should also add that myself, and some other colleagues (I do not wish to universalise this), taught and received good feedback from students, but rarely received acknowledgement by the department or university. I personally had very poor experiences lobbying for reasonable changes in remuneration policy. Indeed, most who mark essays and give feedback recognize that if this is to be done to a good standard, then the time required would mean that most of us would be receiving less than the minimum wage. However, the TEF clearly does not consider the actually arbitrary nature of how teaching is conducted. Safe to say, a lot of it is done by overworked and underpaid PhD students who receive little acknowledgement. As one Durham student said when asked what she would say to prospective freshers, ‘ I will also mention first year is largely taught by PhD students on casualised teaching contracts, something the university neglects to mention’. Fortunately for students, myself and most PhD students I know, care deeply about their students, and will feel obligated to do the best for them. Clearly though, the Office for Students is certainly not for Research Students.

Durham University’s announcement was framed by them as an act of due diligence and benevolence; they were simply fulfilling their obligations under the Competition and Markets Authority legislation’, whereby they are ‘required to provide comprehensive and transparent information to applicants, including in relation to fees, on the University website and at pre-application Open Days (which in our case were held in June 2016)’. So really, Durham were just doing everyone a favour, by managing their expectations and making sure no one felt conned. Obviously it would be ludicrous to keep fees at £9000 for say, another year, while the law has time to actually be passed. Maybe Durham don’t realise that the increase is not compulsory?

Naturally Durham’s chomping at the bit to raise fees fits in with their reputation as a University with a poor reputation for attracting poorer students. However, it probably better reflects their desperation to make more money. Recently, I was involved, along with a number of student colleagues, in protesting at the increase of college accommodation fees (much of which goes on capital expenditure), and international student fees. As you can see, this debate is still ongoing. Although the university ‘listened’ to students, I do not think they listened. In fact, from my perspective, the outcome of the discussions actually caused an immediate increase in accommodation prices for students living at one particular college, because it was deemed unfair that they weren’t paying as much as other postgraduates in other colleges. Essentially, universally higher prices were better than universally reasonable ones. In other words, Durham needs the money.

The recent announcement just illustrates that universities, given the choice, and in some cases, no option, will keep raising their fees to the detriment of both poor and middle income students. From a personal and political perspective, I find this alarming. My own experience in student politics, and of the past ten years, illustrates that students, certainly at the institutional level, are consulted, but only in the sense that they are ‘conned’ and ‘insulted’ in one super-efficient go. I do not wish to be facetious, but it would certainly seem that consultation with students to many institutions is merely part of a checklist, and not a process designed to seriously consider the position of students on topics that will impact their life chances. Either way, in the immortal words of the Offspring, ‘the kids aren’t alright’.

 

 

 

 

 

Are Twitter Bots on Yemen and Bahrain Hashtags linked to News Broadcaster Saudi 24?

Over the past few weeks, investigations published on this blog have revealed that thousands of apparently automated bot accounts on Twitter have been polluting the Bahrain hashtag with sectarian Tweets. On some days, these sectarian bots accounted for over 50% of the Tweets on the Bahrain hashtag. Despite Twitter suspending upward of 1800 accounts, the bots still exist. In my latest calculations approximately 16279 Tweets out of 51194 downloaded from the API between 3 – 11 July 2016 were automated. The tweets sampled were produced by approximately 9167 unique accounts. Of these unique accounts, approximately 1886 are unique bot accounts. Therefore from this sample, 32% (3sf) of Tweets on the Bahrain hashtag were from automated accounts, which make up approximately 21% of the total accounts in the sample. Although the API search does not reveal all Tweets on the hashtag, (potentially only 1% of all Tweets), it gives an idea of the scale of the operation.

Yemen

This morning, some fellow Tweeps alerted me to the use of similar bots on the #Yemen hashtag, so I did some preliminary tests. Sure enough, the same bots on the #Bahrain hashtag are using the Yemen hashtag to promote the idea of Iranian influence in Yemen, a common trope in Gulf politics. The accounts are indeed the same, and some have changed from Tweeting about Bahrain to tweeting about Yemen. Many still continue to tweet on the #Bahrain hashtag. The most common Tweets on the Yemen hashtag are;

العوين:مجئ الخوميني هو بداية الشر و اشعال الحروب في المنطقة https://t.co/wkYWbGT3eG … #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم #ايران #Iran #حزب_الله #yemen #Iraq

(translation: The appearance of Khomeini was the beginning of evil and the spread of wars in the region #Shaykh_Isa_Qasim, #Hezbollah, #Yemen, #Iraq, #Iran

توجيهات خادم الحرمين بايصال رسالة المملكة للعالم كله ومنها برنامج الإمامة في الخارج https://t.co/QZif2VH3PP … #ايران #Iran #حزب_الله #yemen  (The custodian of the holy mosques sends a message to the whole world….)

Of the 11,541 Tweets pulled from the Twitter API over an approximately 48 hour period, around 2,493 appear to be from bot accounts. In the sample, there were approximately 1172 individual bot accounts engaged in polluting the Yemen hashtag with the above tweets. You can see the spreadsheet data here. I have used the same methodology as in previous posts, but have not got into it here (happy to answer questions though)

The role of Saudi24?

What is interesting about virtually all the videos analysed on the #Bahrain and Yemen hashtag is that they contain links almost exclusively to the YouTube channel Saudi 24. Saudi 24 is a satellite channel that I am still trying to find more information on. Their Twitter account was set up in July 2012, before the automated Twitter activated seemed to begin. Their live link can be found here. Their website can be found here. The email address given on their Twitter bio is Info@saudi24.tv. They joined YouTube in January 2015, after many of the bot account had been created (On Youtube they have 12,501 subscribers and over 3,743,929 views ). This appears to be the Twitter account of the main presenter, Mohammad Rashid. Their rhetoric seems loosely aligned with state rhetoric. They are anti Islamic State, but antagonistic towards Iran, and sectarian towards the Shia. At the moment the link is speculative, but it does seem unusual that the bots should almost exclusively choose news clips from Saudi 24, when there are plenty to choose from that broadcast a particularly anti-Shia, anti-Iran, sectarian agenda.

New Sectarian Bots Still Flooding Twitter with Anti-Shia Hate Speech

On June 22nd, after I completed this investigation on automated Twitter bots,  Twitter looked into it and banned multiple accounts after confirming bot-like activity. These apparently automated accounts were sending thousands of sectarian Tweets per day on the #Bahrain hashtag. However, I have been monitoring the hashtag regularly, and it has yet to show diminished activity. On 23rd June, 51% of the Tweets on the #Bahrain hashtag appeared to emanate from sectarian bot accounts. Indeed, it appears that the majority of the accounts I examined or reported have not been suspended, despite the investigations revealing behaviour that appeared to reflect high levels of automation. In fact, on 23rd June, more accounts were actually created, (scroll down for more information). At the moment, sectarian tweets still account for 50% of all tweets on the #Bahrain hashtag.

Summary of Tweets 26/06/2016

Before I discuss new bot accounts created since 22nd June,  I will examine the #Bahrain hashtag on 26th June. Once again, I searched the Twitter API for ‘#Bahrain’. It returned the following results (you can download data  here ((Look at the sheet titled ‘#Bahrain’).

Total number of Tweets extracted between 4.45.12 and 23.54.56 on 26th June 2016: 10923

Total number of Tweets suspected to be ‘fake’: 5456

Total number of suspected fake accounts: 1754

Percentage of Tweets on Bahrain hashtag suspected to be fake on 26th June 2016 = 50%

 

The Tweets

As usual, there were a cycle of a certain number of Tweets broadcast at regular intervals by accounts displaying the same qualities. In this examination of 5456 Tweets, only 12 unique, yet oft repeated Tweets came up, all of which contained derogatory and sectarian terms. Most contained the term Safavid, while some contained the term Majusi. The term Shia was repeatedly used, and in close proximity to sectarian terms or terms denoting violence, such as terrorist. The below table is a breakdown of the approximately 5456 fake tweets, all of which were not actual retweets, but copy and pasted tweets from individual accounts. (Number of Tweets is approximate in below )

اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/22eXRtES4G … #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد Assaults by the deceased terrorist Nimr Al Nimr with the support and direction of the Safavid Persian Iranian regime #leader #faqih 88
الإرهابيين الصفويين https://t.co/2Lilk4cgVB … #آية_الله_قاسم #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد Safavid Terrorists. #Ayatollah_Isa_Qasim #Shaykh_Isa_Qasim #Withdrawal_of_nationality_ofIsa_Qasim #Bahrain #Faqih #Leader 1511
الارهاب الصفوي المجوسي ضد بلاد الحرمين https://t.co/0Ene5wvu0W … #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم Safavid Majusi Terrorist against the country of the  Holy Mosques #Withdrawal_of_nationality_ofIsa_Qasim #Bahrain #Faqih #Leader #Bahrain #Isa_Qasim 39
الشيخ الشيعي السعودي البلادي يكشف حقيقة #ايران الصفوية ضد المملكة https://t.co/4bRTkx036U … #اسقاط_جنسيه_عيسي_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain Saudi Shia Shaykh reveals truth about Safavid Iran against the Kingdom #Withdrawal_of_nationality_ofIsa_Qasim #Bahrain #Bahrain 891
الفرس والمجوس …حقد على العرب https://t.co/7l9MAOhJLE … #آية_الله_قاسم #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه Persians and the Majus hate the Arabs #Ayatollah_Qasim #Shaykh_Isa_Qasim #Withdrawal_nationality_isa_qasim #Bahrain #Faqih 12
تقرير الاعلام الصفوي الكذب وتزييف الحقائق https://t.co/76axOKnfAq ’’’ #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم Media report of Safavid lies and distorted facts #Withdrawal_nationality_isa_qasim #Bahrain #Faqih #Leader #Ayatollah_Qasim 204
تواصل .. لقطات روحانية من الحرمين https://t.co/61UZpPNwxD … #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم #الدراز #البحرين 470
تواصل.. إسقاط الجنسية البحرينية عن الشيعي الصفوي عيسي قاسم https://t.co/2sD5SOJRIf … #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد Removal of Bahraini nationality from Shia Safavid Isa Qasim #withdrawal_of_nationality_of_Isa_Qasim #Bahrain #Faqih #Leader 481
داعش وإيران والخطاب الموحد https://t.co/emLlqMUO5f … #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم #الدراز #البحرين #اغلاق_جمعية_الوفاق Da’esh and Iran and their unified discourse #Faqih #Leader #Ayatollah_Qasim #Duraz #Bahrain #closing_of_AlWefaq 254
سوسن الشاعر:البحرين لا تعبأ بتهديدات قاسم سليمانى ولا غيره https://t.co/Jf6wGdNQH9 … #اسقاط_جنسيه_عيسي_قاسم #آية_الله_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain Sowsan Sha’ir*: Bahrain will not listen to the threats of Qasim Suleimani**, or others like him.

*Sowsan Sha’ir is a pro-status quo Bahriani Columnist

8
فيديو الإرهابيين الصفويين https://t.co/03CQrzHz5z … #آية_الله_قاسم #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم #الدرا Video of Safavid terrorists #Ayatollah_Qasim #Shaykh_Isa_Qasim #Bahrain #Faqih #Leader #Ayatollah_Qasim #Dura  (<1511)
فيديو:الإرهاب الإيراني الصفوي بمكة المكرمة https://t.co/DdP1g3l9Lr … #آية_الله_قاسم #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain Video: Irani Safavid Terrorists in Holy Mecca #Ayatollah_Qasim #Shaykh_Isa_Qasim #Withdrawal_nationality_Isa_Qasim 1413

Following this, I combined data from 22nd, 26th, and 27th June to get an estimate of how many unique bots there were. This would allow me to get a better sense of the number of bots out there. After I compiled all the suspicious accounts, I performed a remove duplication report in  Google Sheets, resulting in about 3108 active accounts (approx), all of which  fit the profile of sectarian bot accounts. (Feel free to peruse a list of the accounts here, I could find very few that had been suspended ((Look on the sheet titled ’22, 26,27 Aggregated’). While it is early days, this would suggest that different bots become active on different days, meaning daily API extractions only reveal a limited number of bots. It does not help establish how many bots might be out there, although it indicates that there are clearly a lot.

New Bots Since  June 22

What is especially interesting is that since Twitter suspended the accounts on 22nd June, new fake accounts have been created that follow much the same pattern. Either this a planned move, or a reaction to the suspension of accounts. At least 58 accounts were created on 23rd June. These accounts demonstrate many of the same qualities as their predecessors, although arguably they are more sophisticated in the sense that they have more information to appear more ‘credible’, such as a location and birthday (you can download the data here of all suspicious accounts monitored on 27th June). Yet there is little doubt they are bots or possibly people operating dozens of accounts. The following points highlight some of the patterns.

NewAccounts

  1. The accounts repeating the same Tweets were all created on the 23rd June.
  2. All Tweets were from TweetDeck
  3. All accounts had a similar number of tweets and followers (Usually about 300 Tweets; follower numbers in the fifties; and following numbers around 11-15)
  4. All accounts are tweeting the same, copy and pasted tweets, most of which were mentioned in the first table in this post.
  5. All accounts had the same input location and format, which was ‘Saudi +((city name)). See Table X for details at the bottom of this post It should be noted that this location information is input manually and so does not reflection the actual location of the account or the servers. It should also be added that previous accounts believed to be suspicious did not include this information. However, this reflects a progressive improvement over the course of three years in providing more information on the account. (As we saw before,  accounts created after 2015 began including biographical information).
  6. Because the new accounts were set up less than a  week ago, the Twitter archiver pulled the majority of the Tweets from the account, including the first one. This gives us a better sense of the origins of the accounts. Interestingly, all the new accounts from the 58 or so known new accounts exhibited the same pattern. Their very first Tweet contained an unusual idiom, saying, or phrase in Arabic. This idiomatic phrase was always launched from ‘Twitter Web Client’,  while the rest of the Tweets were launched from TweetDeck. I tested this on about 10 of the accounts registered on 23rd June. One of the examples was ‘البس يحب الخناقة’, the idiomatic translation of which I am told is (People love their oppressors lit: cats love their stranglers/cats love to fight). See below for some examplesaccount onesnippet 2snippet 3It is interesting to note that while the Archiver can only pull Tweets from the past week, if you manually go to some of the sectarian bot accounts created earlier in the year (2016), and scroll down to the beginning of their profile, you will sometimes see the same pattern of putting out a unique tweet (usually a proverb or saying), before the account begins its automated activity. Here is an example. This appears to be a relatively recent development.
    Tweet

    You can also see on this account that the first Tweet occurred on Feb 19th, while the next one was 21 June

     

  7. Looking at the timeline of each individual account,  we see once again certain patterns of Tweeting. In the table below, or the two above, you can see that the accounts tweet approximately every four or 5 seconds in three tweet bursts, a pattern suggesting formulaic and repetitive behaviour. This pattern was apparent across all those new accounts created on 23rd June.
6/24/2016 9:15:46 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي داعش وإيران والخطاب الموحد https://t.co/7ibWPfkeEz … #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم #الدراز #البحرين #اغلاق_جمعية_الوفاق 746187535529836546 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 9:15:51 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي داعش وإيران والخطاب الموحد https://t.co/7ibWPfkeEz … #آية_الله_الشيخ_عيسى_قاسم #عيسى_قاسم #qatif #القطيف #ايران #حزب_الله #العراق 746187554421018624 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 9:15:55 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي داعش وإيران والخطاب الموحد https://t.co/7ibWPfkeEz … #اسقاط_جنسيه_عيسي_قاسم #الحشد_الشعبي 746187572095811584 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 9:39:33 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي تقرير الاعلام الصفوي الكذب وتزييف الحقائق https://t.co/9LSgLZZEjJ … #اسقاط_جنسيه_عيسي_قاسم #آية_الله_قاسم #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم 746193522345152512 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 9:39:37 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي تقرير الاعلام الصفوي الكذب وتزييف الحقائق https://t.co/9LSgLZZEjJ … #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد #آية_الله_قاسم 746193538975596545 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 9:39:42 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي تقرير الاعلام الصفوي الكذب وتزييف الحقائق https://t.co/9LSgLZZEjJ #الدراز #البحرين #اغلاق_جمعية_الوفاق #آية_الله_الشيخ_عيسى_قاسم #عيسى_قاسم 746193556637814789 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:02:45 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي تقرير الاعلام الصفوي الكذب وتزييف الحقائق https://t.co/9LSgLZZEjJ … #qatif #القطيف #ايران #حزب_الله #العراق #الحشد_الشعبي 746199359994265600 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:02:50 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #اسقاط_جنسيه_عيسي_قاسم 746199378952478720 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:02:54 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #ايران #حزب_الله #الحشد_الشعبي 746199396576985088 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:26:04 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #qatif #القطيف #ايران #حزب_الله 746205227829723139 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:26:08 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O #آية_الله_الشيخ_عيسى_قاسم #عيسى_قاسم 746205245437403136 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:26:13 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #اغلاق_جمعية_الوفاق 746205263405821955 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:49:15 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #آية_الله_قاسم #الدراز #البحرين 746211059346726913 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:49:19 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #Bahrain #الفقيه #القائد 746211076857991168 TweetDeck 12
6/24/2016 10:49:23 @gasemsheblikhau جاسم شبلي اعتداءات الإرهابي الهالك نمر النمربدعم وتوجيه من النظام الصفوي الفارسي الإيراني https://t.co/aNxGT1ai9O … #سحب_جنسية_عيسى_قاسم #البحرين 746211094595674114 TweetDeck 12

The new accounts are, as mentioned, using lots of sectarian terminology. In what is becoming a tradition, I have included a word cloud below of all the tweets used by one of the new accounts. As you can see (or not, depending on if you read Arabic), the dominant

wordcloud (1)

words include ‘Safavid’, ‘Shia’, ‘Iran/Irani’, ‘Faqih’, ‘Hezbollah’, ‘Al-Majusi’, ‘Terrorist’. As mentioned before, many of these words are derogatory terms used to refer to Shia. Terms such as Faqih too are often used, playing on Arab fears that the Shia in the Gulf are attempting to set up an Iranian-style theocracy based on Vilayat e-faqih (guardianship of the jurist).

Some Remarks

To sum up; half of the tweets on the Bahrain hashtag appear to be hate speech generated by sectarian bots. Despite reporting this to Twitter and Twitter taking action the figure has not changed. Despite Twitter’s suspension of accounts, new ones are still being created, raising question of how difficult it is to tackle them.

Clearly the problem of sectarian bots has not gone away, and will not go away anytime soon. I do not know what information Twitter have on their side to be able to determine unusual activity coming from specific email domains, or servers located in specific places for example. Unfortunately for Twitter, tales of thousands of bot accounts spewing hatred across the internet does not fit into their brand as a progressive, democracy-encouraging social media platform.

Needless to say, while the tweets examined do suggest that whoever is behind the accounts are technically anti-Islamic State, the anti-Shia discourse used indicates substantial overlap with the rhetoric of groups like Islamic State. Indeed it resembles some sort of Wahabi orthodoxy evident in places like Saudi Arabia. I certainly would suggest that these bots be taken more seriously in the fight against hate speech. Given the scale, it is very hard to imagine that this is the work of a small group of individuals. Instead it implies a large-scale operation undertaken with assistance of technical specialists, and possibly reputation management/PR companies.

 

Table X

حتات سدير – السعودية
الصفانية – السعودية
Saudi Arabia
النويعمة – السعودية
أرجح – السعودية
الفايضة – السعودية
مكة – السعودية
العوامية – السعودية
الجوف – السعودية
القيسومة – السعودية
غرّان – السعودية
أبقيق – السعودية
العديلية – السعودية
الصحف – السعودية
الصالحية – السعودية
الخفجة – السعودية
الطائف – السعودية
مليجة – السعودية
جيزان – السعودية
جرّارة – السعودية
الأفلاج – السعودية
الدلم – السعودية
البجادية – السعودية
حائل – السعودية
المزاحمية – السعودية
عثيثية – السعودية
القنفذة – السعودية
عفيف – السعودية
الزبية – السعودية
الظهران – السعودية
الدمّام – السعودية
السعودية
الرياض – السعودية
ينبع – السعودية
أحد رفيدة – السعودية
الرفيع – السعودية
بالأسمر – السعودية
العيون – السعودية
البدع الشمالي – السعودية
الخصرة – السعودية
القصيم – السعودية
السيح الشمالي – السعودية
الشوارى – السعودية
القصب – السعودية
مدينة الجبيل الصناعية – السعود
مسدح – السعودية
الدغيمي – السعودية
الزيقين – السعودية
بيشة – السعودية
الأرتوية – السعودية
حفر البطين – السعودية
جدة – السعودية
خليص – السعودية
الخوار – السعودية
السلمية – السعودية
العيينة – السعودية
Datu Saudi
القويز – السعودية