Qatar's state news agency blames hackers for fake news story praising Israel and criticising allies

The Independent - Tech

Qatar's state-run news agency has been targeted by hackers who used their access to publishing platforms to distribute controversial statements falsely attributed to the Gulf state's monarch. The fake report published late on Tuesday quoted Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani commenting on a number of sensitive regional issues, including relations with other Middle Eastern countries and new US President Donald Trump. Mr al-Thani was quoted as saying "there is no wisdom in harbouring hostility towards Iran" and that relations with the Trump administration are "tense" despite a positive meeting between the two leaders in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabia capital, last week. Qatar's ties to Israel were "good", the false story also quoted the sovereign as saying, and he hoped to help broker a peace deal in the Arab-Israeli conflict. At the same time, the story attributed positive statements about Gaza-based extremist organisation Hamas to the ruler, which it called the "official representative of Palestinians."


Netflix removes comedy episode after Saudi complaint

BBC News

The second episode of Patriot Act, with US comedian Hasan Minhaj, was removed following an official complaint that it had violated Saudi anti-cybercrime law. Netflix confirmed the move to the UK's Financial Times (FT) newspaper. It said that it strongly supported artistic freedom but had to comply with local law. Despite the move, people in Saudi Arabia can still watch the episode on the show's YouTube channel. In the episode that was removed, Minhaj criticises Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.


How fake news in the Middle East is a powder keg waiting to blow

The Independent - Tech

Conspiracy theories are not a new phenomenon in the Middle East. Many governments and influential organisations in the region โ€“ if not all of them โ€“ have long thrived on the power of disinformation and propaganda, which not only confuses enemies but keeps citizens in a state of pliant uncertainty. That Russian stories spread by legions of Twitter bots and trolls managed to so spectacularly derail the 2016 US election has conclusively proved that we are living in a post-truth era. The impact the new fake news ecosystem could have when the Middle East's appetite for half-truths meets increasingly sophisticated methods of spreading political disinformation, however, are not yet known โ€“ and could have devastating consequences. The possibility for fresh disruption in the increasingly polarised region is immense, said Dr Jean Marc Rikli, a research fellow at King's College London and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.


Israeli spyware firm fails to get hacking case dismissed

The Guardian

An Israeli judge has rejected an attempt by the spyware firm NSO Group to dismiss a case brought against it by a prominent Saudi activist who alleged that the company's cyberweapons were used to hack his phone. The decision could add pressure on the company, which faces multiple accusations that it sold surveillance technology, named Pegasus, to authoritarian regimes and other governments that have allegedly used it to target political activists and journalists. A Tel Aviv court ruled that the case brought by Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident based in Canada, could go ahead. In his lawsuit, he has argued that Saudi spies used Pegasus to read his conversations with Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist later murdered in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul. The Guardian understands that Abdulaziz and Khashoggi exchanged hundreds of messages in the months before he died.


How a fake war photojournalist totally fooled media organisations around the world

Mashable

Someone has pulled off one of the most spectacular cons in the history of photojournalism by tricking established media outlets and his 120,000 Twitter followers into thinking that he was a conflict photographer. SEE ALSO: That viral'Game of Thrones' photo is totally fake news "Eduardo Martins," a blond and handsome 32-year-old from Sao Paulo, Brazil, supposedly survived childhood leukemia to become a sought-after, accomplished war photojournalist for the UN with a passion for surfing. His fake images of conflict in Gaza, Syria, and Iraq were delivered to agencies such as Getty Images, Zuma, and NurPhoto and published in The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, The Telegraph, and BBC Brazil. His now-deleted Instagram profile had over 120,000 followers. Except all of this was exposed as a lie, thanks to the attentive eye of some fellow photographers and a BBC Brazil journalist named Natasha Ribeiro.