Twitter Iran RT chaos

From Twitter in the last few minutes, a chaos of echo’d posts about army moves. Just a few excerpts here by copy/paste, mostly without the all-important timestamps. Without tools to trace reports to their source, to claims about their source from credible intermediaries, or evidence, this isn’t directly useful. Even grassroots journalists needs evidence. I wonder how Witness and Identi.ca fit into all this. I was thinking today about an “(person) X claims (person) Y knows about (topic) Z” notation, perhaps built from FOAF+SKOS. But looking at this “Army moving in…” claim, I think something couched in terms of positive claims (along lines of the old OpenID showcase site Jyte) might be more appropriate.

The following is from my copy/paste from Twitter a few minutes ago. It gives a flavour of the chaos. Note also that observations from very popular users (such as stephenfry) can echo around for hours, often chased by attempts at clarification from others.

(“RT” is Twitter notation for re-tweet, meaning that the following content is redistributed, often in abbreviated or summarised form)

plotbunnytiff: RT @suffolkinace: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
r0ckH0pp3r: RT .@AliAkbar: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
jax3417: RT @ktyladie: RT @GennX: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection #iran
ktladie: RT @GennX: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection #iran
MellissaTweets: RT @AliAkbar: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
GennX: RT @MelissaTweets: RT @AliAkbar: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection

The above all arrived at around the same time, and cite two prior “sources”:

suffolkinnace: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection   18 minutes ago from web

Who is this? Nobody knows of course, but there’s a twitter bio:

http://twitter.com/suffolkinace # Bio Some-to-be Royal Military Policeman in the British Army. Also a massive Xbox geek and part-time comedian

The other “source” seems to be http://twitter.com/AliAkbar
AliAkbar: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
about 1 hour ago from web
url http://republicmodern.com

This leads us to   http://republicmodern.com/about where we’re told
“Ali Akbar is the founder and president of Republic Modern Media. A conservative blogger, he is a contributor to Right Wing News, Hip Hop Republican, and co-host of The American Resolve online radio show. He was also the editor-in-chief of Blogs for McCain.”

I should also mention that a convention emerged in the last day two replace the names of specific local Twitter users in Tehran with a generic “from Iran”, to avoid getting anyone into trouble. Which makes plenty of sense, but without any in the middle vouching for sources makes it even harder to know which reports to take seriously.
More… back to twitter search, what’s happened since I started this post?

http://twitter.com/#search?q=iranelection%20army

badmsm: RT @dpbkmb @judyrey: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLZ RT! URGENT! #IranElection #gr88
SimaoC: RT @parizot: CONFIRMÉ! L’armée se dirige vers Téhéran contre les manifestants! #IranElection #gr88
SpanishClash: RT @mytweetnickname: RT From Iran:ARMY movement NOT confirmed in last 2:15, plz RT this until confrmed #IranElection #gr88
artzoom: RT @matyasgabor @humberto2210: RT CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! #IranElection #iranrevolution
sjohnson301: RT @RonnyPohl From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection #iran9
dauni: RT @withoutfield: RT: @tspe: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
interdigi: RT @ivanpinozas From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
PersianJustice: Once again, stop RT army movements until source INSIDE Iran verifies! Paramilitary is the threat anyway. #iranelection #gr88
Klungtveit Anyone: What’s the origin of reports of “army moving in” on protesters? #iranelection
Eruethemar: RT @brianlltdhq: RT @lumpuckaroo: Only IRG moving, not national ARMY… this is confirmed for real #IranElection #gr88
SAbbasRaza: RT @bymelissa: RT @alexlobov: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
timnilsson: RT @Iridium24: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protesters! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
edmontalvo: RT @jasona: RT @Marble68: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
stevelabate: RT army moving into Tehran against protesters. Please RT. #iranelection
ivanpinozas: From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection
bschh: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection (via @dlayphoto)
dlayphoto: RT From Iran: CONFIRMED!! Army moving into Tehran against protestors! PLEASE RT! URGENT! #IranElection

In short … chaos!

Is this just a social / information problem, or can different tooling and technology help filter out what on earth is happening?

Problem statement

A Pew Research Center survey released a few days ago found that only half of Americans correctly know that Mr. Obama is a Christian. Meanwhile, 13 percent of registered voters say that he is a Muslim, compared with 12 percent in June and 10 percent in March.

More ominously, a rising share — now 16 percent — say they aren’t sure about his religion because they’ve heard “different things” about it.

When I’ve traveled around the country, particularly to my childhood home in rural Oregon, I’ve been struck by the number of people who ask something like: That Obama — is he really a Christian? Isn’t he a Muslim or something? Didn’t he take his oath of office on the Koran?

It was in the NYTimes, so it must be true. Will the last one to leave the Web please turn off the lights.

Inevitable Nipple Analogy

A genetic theory of homosexuality.

The article reports on recent work (pdf) addressing the ‘if homosexuality is genetic, why hasn’t it died out?’ debate, which suggests that the ‘gene for male homosexuality persists because it promotes—and is passed down through—high rates of procreation among gay men’s mothers, sisters, and aunts‘.

In other words, gayness in men can be as natural and as the male nipple, even if both are initially puzzling when thought of in evolutionary terms. OK I’m stretching things slightly, but I can’t help but wonder whether the nipple analogy might be a good basis for informal arguments for a bit more tolerance:

Let He Who is Without Nipples Cast the First Stone?

Or maybe not.

More on the Great Nipple Question from straightdope.com; a moment of science; and the evolution-101 blog.

Anti-me

I can’t explain how weird this is to read, and only really because my name is obscure enough that I don’t run into other Dan Brickleys very often:

Chimes in Dan Brickley, of TLC’s A Makeover Story: “Although Hillary’s made some major fashion faux pas in the past (anyone remember a certain wedding dress?), we wouldn’t see her in a pair of pegged acid washed jeans, peddling a bicycle built for two with Bill…

“Yet, as far as fashion’s concerned, Obama’s putting function before fashion,” Brickley adds. “Unfortunately, we’ll all have to wait and see if Barack’s helmet can stand up against Cindy McCain’s hair helmet this November — Now that’s not a headpiece to mess with!”

That said, I’m “friends” with two other DBs on Facebook. Maybe it’s time to start a group and agree some basics for not bringing our name into disrepute…

Nokiana: the one about the CIA, Syria, and the N95

Matt Kane resurfaced on Bristol‘s underscore mailing list  with this intriguing snippet, after some travels around the middle-east: ” … discovered N95s (not mine) cannot be taken into Syria”.

I asked for the backstory, which goes like this:

Quite a palaver. Got the train from Istanbul to Syria (amazing trip!). At the border they didn’t search the bags of “westerners” but asked us all to show our phones and cameras. They glanced at them all quickly, checking the brand (“Nikon, ok. SonyEricsson, ok”). One guy had an N95 and they led him off the train. His sister informed us that they’d said it wasn’t allowed in Syria, and that if she knew her brother he’d not give it up without a fight. Despite being on contract, he argued with them for an hour and a half, even calling the embassies in Damascus and Ankara. In the end he gave it up, with a promise that they’d send it on to the airport from where he was leaving. A few days later we’re chatting with a barman and spot his phone – an N95, and yes, he got it in Syria! A few days after that we found out the full story from our hotel owner in Damascus. Apparently the CIA gave a load of bugged N95s to high-ranking Kurdish officials in Iraq, many of which were then smuggled into Syria and given as gifts to various shady characters. After the Hezbollah guy was assassinated in Damascus a few months ago, the Syrians set about trying to root out spies, which led to this ban on bringing N95s into the country. Apparently.

This is the first I’ve heard of it, but searching throws up a few references to rigged N95s as “spy phones”.

Somewhat-unrelated aside: I don’t believe the relevant functionality is exposed in the N95’s widget APIs yet. I had trouble making it vibrate, let alone self-destruct after this message. But at least widget/gadget/app security is getting some attention lately. It can’t be too long before “spy widgets” on your phone become a real concern, particularly since the exposure of phone APIs to 3rd party apps is such a creative combination. I should be clear that AFAIK, Nokia’s N95 widget platform is free of such vulnerabilities currently, and any “spy phone” mischief so far has been achieved through other kinds of interference. But it does make me glad to see a Widgets 1.0: Digital Signature spec moving along at W3C…

EMR (Joost UK only)

OK, what happens if I put an URL in the Blog text: box?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0398037/

And how can I tag this to be in my “conspiracy theory” category? http://danbri.org/words/category/world/conspiracy-theory

Do blog posting APIs support categories? I hope at least Atom’s does…

Joost thumbnail

From Joost : EMR

Stuck in a dead-end job and living alone with his cat, Londoner Adam Jones (Adam Leese) spends his free time obsessing over the latest conspiracy theories on the internet.Joostâ„¢ the best of tv and the internet

Conspiracy Theory?

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.

–Robert Benchley, Benchley’s Law of Distinction

From a recent Guardian article, “Police scrutinise extremist Islamist websites“:

Among the sites causing concern is Jihadunspun (JUS), a highly professional website which claims to present “a clear view of war on terror”. It has been widely criticised in the US by agencies including the state department.

Nearby in the Web, Google News carry the site, causing much grumbling amongst those who’ve noticed its iffy content.

Digging around a bit more unearthed a bit of controversy around the site, specifically, claims that it is a CIA front. For example, see commentary on the Wisdom Fund site, or Information Clearing House. Both of which draw attention to the Canadian hosting of the site, its use of PayPal to sell video content, etc.

Who to believe? :)

Rummaging on the JUS site itself, there’s a lengthy and peculiar story from its “owner and publisher”:

My name is Khadija Abdul Qahaar and I am the owner and publisher of Jihad Unspun. I am Muslim, who like many others, embraced Islam as the result of 911. Many of our viewers will know me as Bev Kennedy and Paul Morris-Read, the pen names I have used on this portal, a necessary precaution particularly in the early days of publishing this portal, due to the nature of our work. [...]

Most intriguingly…

For the curious, a copy of my CV is located here.

That article mentions “Bev’s” prior work in the Web industry, and her work for the “aerospace market”. The CV includes 1999-2003 as president/director/shareholder of DataCrafters Inc. Their website is now blank, but much of it is available through the Internet Archive. The Client Kudos section is interesting, as is the Before and after page, which features happy customer Royell Manufacturing, makers of aerospace parts. Back in the pre-9/11 copy of the site, the “spinbin” section had a press release announcing the release of the “eSYS Online Estimating System”, including a glowing quote from a Robin Crabb of Aeroalliance, (whose website is full of pictures of scary military jets):

“We are delighted that eSYS is now in beta testing. With feedback from high caliber Aeroalliance members like Royell, we are confident that we will have captured the ease of use and familiarity of process that aerospace manufacturers find appealing.”

The company seems to have had a lot of dealings with the military-tinged aerospace industry, before Bev switched to working on JUS. Bev’s autobiographical note on the JUS goes into some detail describing her change of heart, as – if you believe twf.org – does this lengthy letter, which also discusses the “CIA front” accusation. Whatever the truth, it’d make for a good movie.

I could go on, there’s plenty more out there on the site. It’s hard to know really what the Guardian guys should’ve done. Ten minutes of digging around the background to DataCrafters does suggest a remarkable change of heart, and one that’s not documented heavily on the JUS site.

Is the “this is a CIA front” accusation purely an exercise in tin-foil hattery? Who knows!

Another quote from the JUS site, puffing up the warmongering ‘clash of civilizations’ agenda…

I named the portal as a reference to Benjamin Barber’s best seller, Jihad vs. McWorld, an excellent work that explains the clash of two civilizations, but that entirely omits the reason why. The result was Jihad Unspun.

Update: there’s a huge and often silly, offensive etc thread on the libertyforum.org site. See also jihadunspun unhinged on the Internet Haganah site; they seems to take JUS seriously and quote from Bev’s JUS-hosted story:

Late in 2002, the Jewish vigilante groups struck with a vengeance. Through a stupid error on our part, we had a portfolio gallery showing off some of our client work on our web company’s website and after putting two and two together, they managed to access some of our client list. They of course went after the aerospace companies and I was forced to sell of my aerospace application at a significant loss and eventually I had shut down the company entirely in order to protect my clients.

I wonder what happens next…