Category Archives: Reporting

How the press manufactured the Peppa Pig scandal

In a show of questionable journalism at best, and blatant deception at worst, several major news outlets have mistaken a piece of satire as a genuine call for the banning of the children’s show Peppa Pig.

Peppa Pig

Peppa Pig is a British preschool animated television series

News outlets including the Metro, IBTimes and Daily Mirror, have all published highly inaccurate and defamatory articles about a supposedly Bradford man who posted a satirical video on Youtube on the “Dangers of Peppa Pig to Muslim Children.”

Dangers of Peppa Pig to Muslim Children [PARODY]

The video, which is clearly labelled as parody, was quoted extensively in these reports.

The Metro’s report, published on September 5th, states:

The ban Peppa Pig campaign appears to have been started by Zayn Sheikh, from Bradford, after he found his youngest child Abdullah watching the ‘abominable creature’.

He was even more disgusted when the child informed him he no longer wanted to be a doctor, but instead wanted to be a pig.

In a video uploaded to the Facebook page, Mr Sheikh explains: ‘For us Muslims it is very important that we do not eat meat of the pork.

‘It is completely wrong that our kids are being shown these things on TV.’

Mr Sheikh instead proposes replacing the pig with an ‘Abdullah the cat’ cartoon.

He said: ‘Children still need cartoons to develop their minds. I propose we introduce Abdullah the cat. I think that if we had a good Muslim cartoon then our children would be better Muslims.’

However, according to messages on twitter, Zyan Shiek is not his real name and he is not from Bradford. His real name and location are still unknown, apart from his username MBAM Ummah.

Within the description of the video posted on Ummah’s Youtube Channel, BritishMuslim Comedy, he clearly states that he is not in fact the instigator of the petition or any Facebook pages.

He said: “This video is obviously a parody. I have NOT made the page ‘Muslims Against Peppa Pig’ or any other Facebook pages of the sort.

“This country’s possible future downfall is 1 million times more likely be down to the rapid multiplication of the mentally deficient like you who have failed to spot the satire rather than immigrants who have been unlucky in the accident of birth and have since then decided to move here for better prospects (just like you would in their shoes),” he added.

Ummah’s video was originally uploaded to his Youtube account on June 11th, but was later re-uploaded to a channel called United Midlands on August 22nd, who have posted two other questionable video’s about Islamic extremist.

Their profile picture also bears the motto, “Realists not racists”, and appears to be a group affiliated with the English Defence League.

After becoming aware of the reports, Ummah published a new video labelled, “Dangers of Peppa Pig Part 2”, in which he responds to the backlash surrounding his original clip.

Dangers of Peppa Pig Part 2

He said: “Of course there is a reason I am making this video and now and not in the past.

“It is because the Metro, which is a paper I like to read, has published a story that someone is trying to ban Peppa Pig today, which came up in my facebook feed and many of my friends have been telling me about.

“The only person that I see in that video talking about banning Peppa Pig is me in a parody version of myself.

“That wasn’t serious, they are inventing people.”

Ummah accused Amy Willis, a journalist at the Mail Online and Metro UK, of writing “nonsense in a newspaper which I respected up until this point”.

“It’s a bit suspicious that all your articles seem to be against Muslims,” he added.

The articles have gone on to fuel a huge outpouring of hate for Muslims, including offensive images and statements found on a group called “Peppa Pigs against Muslims“, which currently has over 6000 followers.

These include an image of bacon inside a Quraan and a pig on top of a Kaaba, an important holy site for Muslims, and have acquired thousands of likes and comments.

Comments range from accusing Muslims of being paedophiles, that they have sex with animals, and other derogatory remarks.

Initially it was claimed this page was in response to the group supposedly set up by Ummah, yet evidence indicates that the “Muslims against Peppa Pig” page (which has now been taken down) was set up as a parody, including the petition.

However, similar pages were set up by anti-Muslim activists with the aim of smearing Islam.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said Ummah, “that newspapers can try and even try and defend such a page, by making it seem as if it is a defensive action”.

“I demand an apology from both these papers for taking this story out of context and using it to fuel anti-Muslim hatred.

“Whatever is going on in the rest of the world is not do with us regular Muslims in the UK because we’re just like any other people, we’re normal people just trying to get by.”

The IBTimes, Metro and Mirror have been contacted but have yet to respond.

Social enterprise plan to teach Barkingside about growing their own fruit and veg

Note: This report was orginally written for the East London Guardian-Series.

A social enterprise aiming to increase the supply of organic food in Redbridge is due to open a new educational site in Barkingside.

image

Toni Dipple, the founding director of Organic Ilford CIC

Starting from September, people will be able learn about growing their own organic fruit and veg on a patch of land off Horns Road, Ilford.

Toni Dipple, the founding director of Organic Ilford CIC, said: “Our aim is to provide locally sourced organic vegetables across Redbridge from small scale farms.

“By buying and producing locally you are helping to support the community and environment.”

Along with educating the public, social enterprise Organic Ilford have been offering a selection of locally produced jams, chutneys, eggs and freshly picked fruit and vegetables since May this year.

They now have over 40 regular customers with three collection points across Ilford.

Toni and her volunteers received a £6000 grant in June from Transform and Redbridge Council to create the education site in Barkingside.

The Organic Ilford box scheme has been guided by the Growing Communities Start-up Programme, which works with groups across the UK to help set up community-led box schemes.

Kerry Rankine, Assistant Director at Growing Communities said: “We’re really delighted that the scheme has taken off in Ilford.

“Toni and all the volunteers are really doing an amazing job,” she added.

Local Elections 2014: Ed Miliband hails party’s ‘incredible’ council election victory outside Town Hall

Note: Written by Sebastian Mann and Suhail Patel

Labour leader Ed Miliband swept into Ilford town centre today to hail his party’s “incredible” victory in yesterday’s council election.

Labour leader Ed Miliband sticks to US political website RealClearPolitics

Labour leader Ed Miliband sticks to US political website RealClearPolitics

On the steps of Redbridge Town Hall, he told a small crowd but enthusiastic crowd he wanted to thank the local party for their hard work in the campaign and claimed the win came from a “deep desire for change” in the UK.

Labour learnt it had taken control of the council for the first time in its 50 year history this morning. The party gained 14 seats, meaning 35 of the borough’s 63 councillors are now red.

“I just want to say thanks again for this incredible, brilliant victory in Redbridge,” Mr Miliband told supporters inside Redbridge Town Hall after addressing crowds outside.

“I also want to say how proud I am of you because you’ve done something that’s never been done in the history of Redbridge.”

He told the Recorder: “I think that what happened is that [Cllr] Jas [Athwal] and his team showed the voters they can make a difference to people’s lives”, adding he thought their message would “resound” nationwide”.

Cllr Wes Streeting, Labour’s General Election candidate in the Ilford North constituency, tweeted: “I promised @Ed_Miliband we’d win Redbridge at our campaign launch and he promised to visit again if we did. Great to have him back.”

Kashif Ansar, a 21-year-old student from Goodmayes who heard the Labour leader’s address, said: “I am ecstatic that Labour has won and I think there is a bright future for Labour in the upcoming general election.”

Peter Ledwidth, who works in Ilford, added: “I voted for Labour yesterday. It’s great to see Labour in power but it is important that they actually start doing something and make sure there is change.”

Redbridge Sikhs offer amazing response to cancer appeal

Note: Written by Harry Kemble and Suhail Patel

Two Sikh congregations have showed a united front by registering 500 donors and raising thousands of pounds to increase bone marrow donors in the borough last week.

Milan Singh Lall

Milan Singh Lall

The chance of finding a matching donor within the British Asian community is far smaller than if you were from a Caucasian background, due to lower population figures.

The two Sikh temples in Redbridge – Gurdwara Karamsar in High Road, Ilford, and Gurdwara Singh Sabha in High Road, Seven Kings, held an event, on behalf of Delete Blood Cancer, to register blood donors and raise money for the cause.

Mankamal Singh, a committee member at the Singh Sabha Gurdwara, said: “I was definitely amazed by the response but the temple was busy because it was the Sikh festival of Vaisakhi. The mind set of the festival is to help people.

Harpreet Lall attended the two-day festival on the Monday.

Her six-year-old son Milan Singh Lall was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia in January after being in remission for three years.

Aged just three Milan was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Mrs Lall, a teacher assistant from Gidea Park, Romford, has had to leave her job to care for her son.

She said: “There are not many donors amongst Asians as a whole – I think there is only 3 per cent in the whole world on the national and international register.”

But Mrs Lall, whose family helped drive the cancer awareness campaign, is still trying to find a confirmed donor for her son.

She added: “We do not know if one of those 700 donors will help us in the future.”

Mrs Lall admitted she was “very surprised” £7,000 was donated to Delete Blood Cancer.

“We had people coming into the temple and pulling up their sleeves and saying “where do we give blood.”

If anyone still wants to register as a potential donor to help someone with Leukaemia, they can do so by visiting deletebloodcancer.org.uk

Oxfam condemns government for increasing income inequality

Radio package created for Vox Radio (Featured by AudioBoo)

The government need to do more to curb rising income inequality across the UK, according to a new report published by Oxfam last week.

The charity condemned the government for cutting services for the poor, calling for an increase in progressive tax rates and a clamp down on offshore tax havens used by the rich elite.

Today, the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20 per cent of the entire population.

“There is global recognition that inequality is undermining our ability to achieve the social and environmental goals we want to accomplish,” said Faiza Shaheen, senior researcher at the new economics foundation.

The think tank argues that we should tackle inequality at a grassroots level, and calls for more to be done at an earlier stage to ensure people are paid a fair wage.

Adam Memon, head of economic research at Central Policy Research said the solution is not taxing the rich more.

“The vast majority of people, whether you’re on the right or left wing, want to reduce income inequality – It’s clearly a bad thing.

“If we’re looking to reduce income inequality it’s far more important to reduce the tax burden on those with lower incomes,” he added.

Last month, a study by TUC showed that in the last three years the gap between the top 10% and bottom 10% of earners in London rose by almost 5%.

In the last two decades the richest 0.1% has seen their income grow by more than £24,000 a year across the UK.

In comparison, the bottom 90 per cent experienced a real terms increase of less than £150 a year.

Speaking to The Daily Mail, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “This growing pay gap is bad news for our economy and bad news for living standards.

“The picture is particularly bleak in London and the South East, but in areas like the Midlands, the North West and the East of England, a significant gulf has developed between top and bottom earners.

“Unless this trend stops now and more high-skilled jobs with decent pay are created, this worrying pattern is likely to become even more entrenched.”

London: Heated debate over social housing shortfall

A heated debate took place during the Mayors Question time at City Hall over the number of affordable homes being built across London.

Responding to a question asked by London Assembly Member Tom Copley, Mayor of London Boris Johnson claimed that he was doing more than previous governments to tackle the shortfall in affordable homes.

He said: “We are finally showing the guts and determination to get homes built across London in huge numbers.”

Boris claimed that during his first term the number of affordable homes has increased by 11,000 on average, compared to a 15,000 decrease under previous Labour Mayor Ken Livingston.

He also outlined plans to increase spending on social housing by £1.25 billion, promising to deliver over 100,000 homes in the next eight years.

However, Tom criticised the mayor’s statistics, citing GLA’s monitoring figures which show Labour councils have built twice as many affordable homes than the average Tory council since the last set of local elections in 2010.

“I sometimes think you hallucinate the figures” he said.

“Why are Tory boroughs performing so badly?”

In total, there were less than 50 affordable homes built in Tory controlled Kensington & Chelsea over the past four years, nearly twenty times less than the amount built in Labour controlled Southwark.

“In the league table of social houses delivered over the last four years, 9 out of the top 10 boroughs are Labour,” he added.

Conservative Assembly Member Richard Stacey, representing Wandsworth, was quick to point out his boroughs plan to build 1000 new affordable homes.

However, according to figures from the GLA, there have been less than 500 affordable homes built by the borough during the past three years.

In comparison, Labour run boroughs in Hackney have built more than three times as many affordable homes over the same time period.

Boris said: “The figures I’ve seen show huge numbers of affordable homes being built across London by all boroughs.

“Some people need to do more and we’re on their case.”

Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff was concerned with the effect of a proposed cap on the sale of council houses by Labour.

Currently, the money raised in the sale of a council home is used to invest in new housing developments.

But critics argue that the Right-to-buy leads to privatisation of homes built especially for those on the lowest incomes, which are then put on the market to rent at full price.

This can lead to the gentrification of traditionally working class areas.

Writing for The Guardian, social affairs journalist Hannah Fearn said we must recognise “the need to retain homes as a local asset rather than letting them slip from grasp.

“Right-to-buy was designed for the 1980s, for the boom years; in bust we need something new, something flexible and something designed locally.”

The next Mayor’s Question Time is set to take place on Wednesday 11 June, and is open to the public.

Questions are published a week before the meeting on the GLA’s website.

Malaria scales new heights

Originally published on the Giving What We Can blog

Researchers have warned that future climate warming could lead to an increase in malaria cases, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Malaria

Last week, scientists from the University of Michigan and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published strong evidence linking increases in temperature with the movement of malaria to higher altitudes, areas which have normally been safe from the disease.

According to the papers extract: “The impact of global warming on insect-borne diseases and on highland malaria in particular remains controversial.

“We provide evidence for an increase in the altitude of malaria distribution in warmer years, which implies that climate change will, without mitigation, result in an increase of the malaria burden in the densely populated highlands.”

The study found that when temperatures increase, mosquitos infected with the Plasmodium parasite which cause the disease, are able to move to colder areas, where normally the lower temperatures would slow down both the mosquito and the development of the parasite within it.

As mosquitos are able to move outside the “malaria belt” due to global warming, densely populated regions of South America and Africa would be left vulnerable to a malaria epidemic.

Using records spanning over 15 years from the highland regions of Ethiopia and Cambodia, the scientists predicated a three million increase in annual cases if the temperature were to rise by 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This is indisputable evidence of a climate effect,” said Mercedes Pascual, a disease ecologist at Michigan and one of authors of the Science paper. “Our findings here underscore the size of the problem and emphasize the need for sustained intervention efforts in these regions, especially in Africa.”

Turkey: PM threatens to block Facebook and Youtube

Turkey’s Prime Minister has threatened to ban social networking sites where recent corruption leaks have gone viral.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Source: Wikipedia

PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Source: Wikipedia

Late last Thursday, in a private interview with ATV television, Erdogan said: “We won’t allow the people to be devoured by YouTube, Facebook or others. Whatever steps need to be taken we will take them without wavering.”

“There are new steps we will take in that sphere after March 30 … including a ban [on YouTube, Facebook],” adding to the restrictions that have already been put in place.

Over a million people listened to the recordings within 12 hours, having first been posted to Soundcloud and shared primarily via social networks, where users also voiced their discontent about the Erodgan government.

In one of the leaked conversations, it appears as if Erdogan is instructing his son to dispose of hidden funds amid a corruption investigation.  While in another recording, Erdogan discusses easing zoning laws for a construction tycoon in exchange for two villas for his family.

President Abdullah Gul, a frequent social media user, said that despite the Prime Ministers threat, social media sites would not be blocked in Turkey.

“YouTube and Facebook are recognized platforms all over the world. A ban is out of the question.”

Controversial internet censorship

After the 2013 protests, where social media played a key part due to a media blackout, Erdogan has been attempting to tighten his government’s grip on the internet, drawing international criticism.

As early as June last year, Erdoğan accused “internal traitors and external collaborators” of orchestrating the protests using social media.

He said: “Social media was prepared for this, made equipped. The strongest advertising companies of our country, certain capital groups, the interest rate lobby, organisations on the inside and outside, hubs, they were ready, equipped for this.”

On 24 January 2014, access to SoundCloud, a popular audio sharing site, was blocked indefinitely by the Turkish government, partly due to the release of secretly recorded phone calls between the PM and his family, local politicians and businessmen.

Following the leaks, on 5 February 2014, the Turkish Parliament adopted a controversial new Internet law that sparked protests across Istanbul.

Thousands marched against the new “draconian” law which allows the government to block any website within 24 hours, without needing a court ruling, and requires Internet providers to store all data on web users’ activities for two years.

However, the law must be signed by the Turkish president Gül to come into effect. Erogan is under both domestic and foreign pressure not to ratify the legislation, which he claims are to make the internet “more safe and free”.

According to Engelliweb.com, 10,000 more websites have been blocked this year in Turkey compared to last year, bringing the total to over 40,000.

Speaking to The Guardian, Özgür Uçkan, member of the Alternative Informatics Association and professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, said: “The new internet law is catastrophic for Turkey.

“It makes censorship and surveillance legal in Turkey, which is contrary to our constitution and to all international conventions that Turkey is party to.”

Corruption in Turkey

Allegations of corruption first took place late last year, when on 17 December 2013, Istanbul’s Security Directory detained 47 people, including officials from Turkeys Housing Development Administration of Turkey, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, and the District Municipality of Fatih.

The police confiscated $17.5 million as money used in bribery during the investigation.

During the initial phase of the investigation, prosecutors accused 14 people of bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and smuggling gold. In total, 91 people were detained in the investigation, with 26 of them being arrested by the court.

A second wave of arrests soon followed, with several newspapers reporting that a new investigation was expected on 26 December, involving Prime Minister Erdoğan’s sons, Bilal and Burak, as well as certain Al-Qaeda affiliates from Saudi Arabia.

However, since the beginning of the investigation, the Turkish government has attempted to purge the police force, removing hundreds of police officers from their positions, including chiefs of the units dealing with financial crimes, smuggling and organised crime.

Prime Minister Erdoğan has described the corruption investigation as a “judicial coup” backed by foreigners and those jealous of his success.

One of those accused of orchestrating this scandal is US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, leader of the Gulen movement, a “pacifist, modern-minded” transnational religious and social movement.

In emailed comments to the Wall Street Journal in January 2014, Gülen said that “Turkish people … are upset that in the last two years democratic progress is now being reversed”, but denied being part of a plot to unseat the government.

Are viral videos the new propaganda?

Originally written for and published on www.planetivy.com

I Am a Ukrainian

A video of a blue-eyed woman asking westerners to petition their governments gained seven million views. But are these videos as innocent as they seem?

In a clip posted to YouTube last week, above, a pretty Ukrainian woman asked the world to react to the increasing violence in the Ukraine. Soon after the video went viral, amassing over seven million views at the time of writing. But all is not as it seems my friends, for while efforts on social media have sparked an international uproar, a counter video soon emerged, debunking the I Am a Ukrainian clip as a western-sponsored exercise in propaganda and linking the distributors of the video to the infamous Kony 2013 viral video.

'I am a Ukrainian' Video Exposed As Kony-Style Scam

So do these allegations hold any merit? While at first the term propaganda conjures up images of an inept North Korean government, western states also use propaganda to try and engineer public opinion, but in a much more subtle manner than Kim Jong-Un and his cronies. From the Egyptian Pharaohs to Nazi Germany, information has been used to great effect to the further the causes of the ruling classes. But what has changed is the means this propaganda is disseminated. While the internet is an unregulated platform for the sharing of information, it is precisely this difficultly in controlling what is said and shared that has involuntarily made us all propagandists.

The very strength of social media, to quickly spread information and organise vast swathes of people, is being used to proliferate staged videos, fake images and unsubstantiated rumours. Disinformation is an emerging problem on the web, thanks in part due to the sheer quantity of information being generated on social media sites. Reactions tend to be instantaneous and lacking in any deep analysis, or often even basic verification.

For example, the rising tensions in Venezuela were first predominantly reported through social media, due to a partial media blackout in the country. But what was shared was at times incredibly misleading. In the following picture, an injured government supporter from a year earlier is purported to be an anti-government protester from recent clashes.

Fake-Venezuela-Protest-Photo-3

This picture was shared nearly 240 times, without a single person realising that the post was a sham. In another tweet, a picture of a religious procession is re-captioned as a large group of anti-Muduro protesters, perpetuating the image of a nation in crisis to the outside world.

Fake-Venezuela-Protest-Photo-11

Every retweet has helped ingrain these misleading photos into the official narrative. We’re much more likely to believe something if it has been shared by people we know and trust, than if the video was endorsed and released by a politician or government as traditional propaganda was, which is what makes disinformation spread this way so insidious.

In one widely publicised instance in August last year, as part of a campaign to improve its image abroad, Israeli students were in effect paid to tweet pro-Israeli propaganda. The Netanyahu government offered to provide scholarships to hundreds of students in exchange for them making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences. The students would not have to reveal they had been paid to do so.

According to historian and researcher Dr Peter Johnson, writing on propaganda in social media: “Such accounts operate very much in the black propaganda mould that was seen throughout the First and Second World Wars, deceptive propaganda that was issued under one guise but emanated from another source. This direct parallel demonstrates just how important social media is in the ongoing information war.”

While during the riots in Egypt last year, there were so many faked images circulating the internet that Facebook pages were set up with the goal of separating fact from fiction. In the video below, members of the Muslim Brotherhood are accused performing “street theatre”, faking death and injury during staged demonstrations while taking photos to be disseminated through the media.

Muslim Brotherhood pretend death and injury to deceive the world

Some governments have long realised the power of social media. China created its own Twitter-esque social media platform, Weibo, which is heavily censored and monitored for political dissidents. Meanwhile, the Snowden leaks have revealed that US has been developing sophisticated “sockpuppetting systems”, contracting a Californian company called Ntrepid to develop an “online persona management” system. On Monday, Glenn Greenwald published an entire GCHQ presentation detailing how the GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a “dirty tricks” group, are attempting to infiltrate online communities, spreading propaganda and influencing online discussions.

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But it’s not just politically motivated hoaxes that are quickly spread through social media. One rumour that spread like wildfire back in 2012, debunked in this Guardian article, claimed that Samsung paid Apple a $1bn fine by sending over 30 trucks to Apple’s headquarters loaded with nickels. And viral marketers are seemingly infiltrating every corner of the web, with whole communities dedicated to weeding out posters, otherwise known as “paid shills”. Recently, a group of universities, led by the University of Sheffield, began developing a system that could automatically identify where a rumour originates and whether it is a reliable source that can be verified.

For a democracy to flourish we must have access to free and impartial information. Bandwagoning without all the facts can help spread dangerous lies which are then ultimately acted upon, often with disastrous consequences such as the Iraq War. It is imperative that we are cautious with what we choose to share online, keeping an air of scepticism regarding what we are told or hear on social media, until we can be certain where that information has come from. As Noam Chomsky wrote: “For those who stubbornly seek freedom around the world, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination.”