How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump

MIT Technology Review

As the Arab Spring convulsed the Middle East in 2011 and authoritarian leaders toppled one after another, I traveled the region to try to understand the role that technology was playing. I chatted with protesters in cafés near Tahrir Square in Cairo, and many asserted that as long as they had the internet and the smartphone, they would prevail. In Tunisia, emboldened activists showed me how they had used open-source tools to track the shopping trips to Paris that their autocratic president's wife had taken on government planes. Even Syrians I met in Beirut were still optimistic; their country had not yet descended into a hellish war. The young people had energy, smarts, humor, and smartphones, and we expected that the region's fate would turn in favor of their democratic demands. Back in the United States, at a conference talk in 2012, I used a screenshot from a viral video recorded during the Iranian street protests of 2009 to illustrate how the new technologies were making it harder for traditional information gatekeepers--like governments and the media--to stifle or control dissident speech. It was a difficult image to see: a young woman lay bleeding to death on the sidewalk. But therein resided its power.

U.S. to pare counterterror forces in Africa as it shifts focus to threats from China and Russia

The Japan Times

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is reducing its counterterrorism forces in Africa and studying whether to make similar moves elsewhere in the world as part of a broad effort to shift American military focus toward what it calls threats from Russia and China. The planned 10 percent cut from U.S. Africa Command's total force of 7,200 troops will be carried out over several years, the Pentagon said in a brief statement. It said the reductions will not touch military operations in Libya, Somalia or Djibouti. They will be focused on countries in West Africa; the Pentagon did not cite any specific countries as examples, but the U.S. has relatively small military groups operating in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and elsewhere. In Africa, as in other parts of the world where extremist groups pose threats, the U.S. military's approach has been to provide training and other forms of support for local armies so that they can do the main fighting against extremists.

US to cut troop figures in Africa by 10 percent

Al Jazeera

The US army will withdraw hundreds of troops conducting counterterrorism operations across Africa over the next several years, the Pentagon has said, in a move that comes amid efforts to prioritise resources "for long-term competition with China and Russia". Currently, about 7,200 US military personnel are based in dozens of African nations, with notable footprints in countries such as Somalia, Nigeria and Libya. Commander Candice Tresch, Pentagon spokesperson, said on Thursday that figure would be reduced by about 10 percent over the next few years. Tresch did not specify which countries would see a drawdown but said the cuts would leave "counter-violent extremist organisation" activities largely untouched in several countries, including Somalia, Djibouti and Libya. In other parts of the continent, including West Africa, the emphasis would shift from "tactical assistance to advising, assisting, liaising and sharing intelligence", Tresch added.

What is behind the political changes in the Horn of Africa?

Al Jazeera

Over the past year, East Africa has seen an unprecedented flurry of political developments that are changing dramatically the political landscape in the region. Eritrea has emerged out of its diplomatic isolation, signing declarations of peace and cooperation with Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia and publicly calling for the lifting of international sanctions. After years of hostility over the building of the Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, Ethiopia and Egypt have seen a significant improvement in relations. Sudan, too, has mended relations with its northern neighbour and has managed to get US sanctions lifted. Many have welcomed these new political developments with euphoria, believing that they mark a new dawn for East African politics.

Egypt says it fights fake news, critics see new crackdown

FOX News

FILE - In this April 3, 2017 file photo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi listens during a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Echoing Trump's rhetoric, authorities in Egypt are taking aim at an alleged barrage of "fake news" they say is meant to sow division and undermine the rule of general-turned-president el-Sissi. Government critics denounce the measures as the latest attempt to suppress dissent and silence what is left of independent journalism. CAIRO – Echoing some of President Donald Trump's rhetoric, authorities in Egypt are taking aim at an alleged barrage of "fake news" they say is meant to sow division and undermine the rule of general-turned-president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi. Under a new law, the state's top media regulatory agency can now use the "fake news" label to shut down social media accounts with more than 5,000 followers, without having to obtain a court order.