Disinformation from the White House

For anybody who saw the remarkable unscheduled press conference of the new White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, it was an astonishing event and worth watching in full. Was it spontaneous and based on unfavourable reporting? Or was it a pre-planned part of the new administration’s media strategy?

The statement was a lecture to the media on inaccurate reporting. It began with the ‘deliberately false reporting’ of the removal bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval office by Zeke Miller, a Time journalist. This was not true and Miller corrected by deleting the original tweet and producing another tweet retracting it.  This is likely to be misinformation: that is misreporting due to bias/incomplete information. Miller’s explanation is that that the bust was obscured and he could not see it. His own biases made him more likely to believe that the new administration would remove it and with the low effort cost of a tweet he reported it.

Continue reading

What might Trump mean for the Korean Peninsula?

Post by Rebecca Story, Research Intern at ICSA

Whilst President-elect Donald Trump’s plans for East Asia are still largely unknown, his lack of foreign-policy experience and  intentions to renegotiate trade and defence deals have led some to suggest that his presidency may contribute to destabilisation across the region, and particularly on the Korean Peninsula. Negative consequences for the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) economy, uncertainty over defence and heightened tensions with regards to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) are all possible features of the ROK’s post-Trump future.

During his election campaign, Trump asserted that he would decrease US defence spending in the ROK and demand a greater ROK contribution to the shared costs of defence against the DPRK threat. With the cost-sharing agreement between the ROK and the US up for renegotiation in 2017, these remarks raise concerns that a Trump presidency will lead to a weakening of the alliance between the two countries and exacerbate instability on the Korean Peninsula. Continue reading

Facebook, Fake News and Verification

Facebook has a fake news problem. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States, the social network has come under sustained criticism for failing to prevent the spread of misinformation and disinformation. Numerous articles have been written dissecting the phenomenon, the possible impact it had on the US election and what Facebook should be doing about it.

But what has been fundamentally missing from the discussion is the responsibility of users to verify the content they consume online; particularly on social media where content is shared by “trusted” friends and family. As an open source intelligence (OSINT) centre, our day-to-day work involves critically evaluating publicly available information to verify the accuracy, veracity and reliability of sources and content.  Continue reading

The Strongman Bond: Trump and Erdogan

Post by Ed Roberts, Research Intern at ICSA

A Trump administration will likely see a warming of relations between the USA, Turkey, and Russia. With regards to Turkey, Trump has praised Erdogan, stating in an interview with the New York Times, that the suppression of the coup on July 15th was ‘quite impressive from the standpoint of existing government.’ Continue reading

Trump and el-Sisi: A new brotherhood in Egypt?

Post by Peter WaringResearch Intern at ICSA

‘He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it.’                                                                                                                                       – Trump on President el-Sisi of Egypt

In September during a visit to the United Nations, President el-Sisi of Egypt met Donald Trump in a New York hotel and afterwards claimed that he had ‘no doubt’ the real-estate mogul would make a strong leader. Trump, for his part, said of el-Sisi that he was a ‘fantastic guy’ and they had ‘great chemistry.’ With such a seemingly strong rapport it was little wonder that the Egyptian strongman was the first world leader to call Trump following his election win earlier this week. Yet despite this personal goodwill, it is arguably the end of the Obama era, more so than the looming Trump presidency, that will be considered by many in the Egyptian elite as an opportunity to re-set their relations with the United States. The Egyptian regime has been critical of the White House’s response to the 2011 uprising in Cairo, particularly the perceived betrayal of longstanding partner Hosni Mubarak. Relations were further strained by the 2013 military ousting of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood regime and the ongoing reprisals meted out against its former leaders and supporters. Despite her calls as Secretary of State for a more conservative response to the crisis in 2011, Clinton’s recent rhetoric, especially in a primary debate when she referred to the Egyptian regime as an ‘army dictatorship,’ suggested a hardening in her stance toward el-Sisi’s government – a fact not lost on the Egyptians and which partly explains their recent flirtations with Russia and Iran. In contrast, Trump’s predilection for ‘strong leaders’ will likely be welcomed across the Middle East as the President–elect is, according to Robin Wright of The New Yorker, expected to prioritise ‘stability over democratic values.’

Continue reading