In today's tour of state-sponsored propaganda, President Bashar al-Assad's propaganda war moves to Twitter, Hugo Chavez's physical condition is "excelente" and North Korea is confused by the Trayvon Martin case. We begin in Syria.
From an Actual War to a Twitter War
On Monday night, pro-Assad forces hacked into the Twitter account of the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel and began disseminating a flurry of false news stories. "The Qatari prime minister’s daughter is arrested in London," read one message. "Qatar’s army chief stages a coup against the emir," read another. "Hamad bin Jassim, the prime minister, is sacked" read a third. As Roula Khalaf and Abeer Allam at Financial Times report, "None of these stories is true, but for a while Syria’s embattled regime tried to make them credible partly thanks to a group of loyal hackers." The FT says by targeting the Saudi-owned news service, Assad was trying to depict the conflict in his country as a fight between noble Syria and a band of rich Gulf monarchies bent on destroying Syria. "To a certain extent the regional battle is real," writes the Times, "Qatar and Saudi Arabia, long-time rivals in the region, have been remarkably unified over Syria, and have taken the harshest line against Mr Assad."
According to Al Arabiya, this wasn't the only way Assad's regime tried to thwart it. When the news service broke the story about Assad's leaked e-mails, it was under constant electronic jamming from the regime. Additionally, "Al Arabiya website has been blocked in Syria," reports the news service. "On March 27, hackers affiliated to Assad’s electronic army hacked the account of Al Arabiya English on Facebook, but it was restored a few hours later." Unfortunately for Assad these types of cheap propaganda stunts aren't going to turn the tide of popular opinion that has swelled against him.