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Friday, July 8, 2011

Facebook Now Helping Governments Spy On And Arrest Peaceful Activists



Posted by Alexander Higgins - July 8, 2011 at 6:27 pm



News reports confirm that governments are now being aided by Facebook to spy on activists who plan peaceful protests. One report reveals that over 300 activists were tracked, detained and in some case deported after organizing events on the popular social networking site.


As I previously reported, Pro-Palestinian activists planned a peaceful ‘Fly-In’ protest in a solidarity mission against Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestine territories. The story made news after 
Israel put security forces on a state of high-alert ahead of scheduled protests.



Also recall not to long ago Julian Assange, of Wikileaks fame, reported that Facebook is being used as spy machine for the US Government.

Julian Assange: Facebook is a “spy machine” for US Intelligence

[...]
While talking to Russia Today about recent revolutions in the Middle East and the role of social media, Assange explained that Facebook is “the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, and their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to U.S. Intelligence.”
In the interesting interview, Assange added that it’s not just Facebook, butGoogle and Yahoo as well as all other major U.S. organizations have developed built-in interfaces for U.S. Intelligence. It helps get around the costly and time-consuming serving of subpoenas.
Not that Facebook is run by U.S. Intelligence agencies, but instead of handing out records “one by one,” it saves Facebook time and money to have “automated the process” for spying. Assange believes that all Facebook users should understand that by adding friends, it connects the dots, builds the databases, and does “free work for United States intelligence agencies.”
It’s no surprise that U.S. Intelligence trawls millions of websites, Twitter feeds,YouTube, and blog posts, looking for connections between people, groups, and events. That job must surely be a madhouse right now.
[...]
Source: Dj PostL


At that point in time most dismissed Assange’s comments as anecdotal because they were a likely scenario that could unfold. At that point there was no evidence to prove that the government was actually engaging in such activities.

That is until today, when we get our first news report confirming that Facebook is in fact aiding government operatives in spying on peaceful activists.

According to a report by the Associated Press, that protestors have been stopped in their tracks after Facebook aided Israel in cracking down on the group of  activists from the UK, France and Belgium who planned their event using the popular social networking site.

According to the report,  Facebook allowed government agents to track the activists activities and  then create a black-list of people who participated in the planning of the protests.

The group black-listed people was then forwarded to airlines with instructions to prevent the activists from boarding air flights to Israel. Over 200 activists were prevented from flying after being added to the airlines terrorism watch list, according the the AP report.

Still, hundreds of people planning to participate in the protests were still allowed to fly to Israel. However, when they attempted to reach the West Bank on the peaceful solidarity mission they were met by Israeli security forces who participated in spying on the activists using Facebook.

According to the Associated Press reports, over 310 activists have been arrested after landing with several being detained until they can be deported.

The Star reports:

Israel uses Facebook to blacklist, detain or deport Tel Aviv-bound travellers
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL—Aided by Facebook, Israel on Friday prevented scores of pro-Palestinian activists from boarding Tel Aviv-bound flights in Europe, questioned dozens more upon arrival at its main airport and denied entry to 69, disrupting their attempts to reach the West Bank on a solidarity mission with the Palestinians.

Israel had tracked the activists on social media sites, compiled a blacklist of more than 300 names and asked airlines to keep those on the list off flights to Israel. On Friday, 310 of the activists who managed to land in Tel Aviv were detained for questioning, said Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad. Of those, four were immediately put on return flights and 65 were being held until flights home could be arranged for them, she said. The rest were permitted entry, she said.

At one point during the operation, two planes from Geneva and Rome were diverted to a secluded area of the airport upon landing and boarded by security.

Organizers of the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign accused Israel of overreacting to what they said is a peaceful mission to draw attention to life under Israeli occupation, including travel restrictions. Israel controls all access to the West Bank.

She said she was the only member of a 40-member group on a flight from Britain who managed to enter Israel. “Unfortunately everybody else is in a holding bay and expected to be deported,” she said. “There are people from Belgium, France and the U.K.”
Anna De Palma, 44, a Portuguese citizen, said she passed border controls without problems, apparently because she didn’t identify herself as an activist. “I said I was coming to visit. That was it,” she said. “I am not a conspicuous person and we don’t have to be conspicuous about it.”

“I am going to participate in the mission on the call of civilian Palestinian society. To participate in specific demonstrations. To help the Palestinian people. To make a stand,” she said.

One of the organizers, French activist Olivia Zemor, said her group planned only nonviolent activities. “Welcome to Palestine” released a statement Friday calling the moves to prevent activists from reaching Israel “provocative, blackmailing and illegal.”

Israel has not publicized its criteria for denying entry, but has said peaceful visitors will not be deported. The large numbers of people who were blocked indicated that Israel was giving few activists the benefit of the doubt.

Visitors can reach the West Bank only through Israeli-controlled crossings, either through international airports or the land border with Jordan. Citing security concerns, Israel bars most Palestinians from entering Israel or using its airport, meaning they must travel to neighbouring Jordan to fly out.
At any given time, hundreds of foreigners, including activists and aid workers, are in the West Bank.
Travel restrictions in the Gaza Strip, ruled by the militant Hamas group, are even more rigorous. Israel allows few people to cross its border with Gaza, and most Gazans can travel abroad only by crossing into Egypt through their shared border.

Source: The Star

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