Ruqia Hassan Image: Abu Mohammed/Mashable
According to Mashable, the public Facebook posts of 30-year-old Ruqia Hassan (pen name Nissa Ibrahim), a journalist who remained in Raqqa after it fell into ISIS hands to report and encourage others, stopped on July 21.
She was accused of spying for the Free Syrian Army and it came out recently that she had been executed in September 2015.
That in itself is just business as usual for the Islamic State: “Since June 2014, 48 members of the media in Mosul have been killed or abducted. Sixty have fled.” (Daily Signal, November 5, 2015) Naji Jerf, the editor-in-chief of Hentah, an independent monthly was murdered, reportedly after documenting human rights violations committed in Raqqa. (Guardian)
The Signal’s take is that journalists pose a threat to the Islamic State by exposing
… the banality and routineness of ISIS’s brutality and authoritarianism, exposing ISIS terrorists not as virtuous warriors restoring Muslim dignity in the service of Allah, but as cruel, ordinary tyrants.
One can say, in memoriam, that in a world that increasingly offers mainly manufactured news, they died trying to provide the real thing.
But here’s what’s different:
Militants, however, used her account to send messages, communicating with her friends as late as last week, according to The Independent, who cited a member of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.
Supporters fear that the pretense that she was still alive was an attempt to ferret out less public dissidents.
And it points up one of two key risks with social media:
– The virtual world strips from communications the natural cues by which we spot fakes—and it’s not yet clear what virtual methods could replace them. Thu, social media are increasingly a haven for fake friends, fake product reviews, fake science journals, fake news, and fake political consensus (astroturf). To say nothing of ISIS hunting its next victim by impersonating a previous one.
– Meanwhile, in the Western world, social media giants now work with government to institute political censorship. That wouldn’t be quite so bad except that rules against hate speech, for example, are are selectively enforced, which is worse than not enforcing them at all.
But selective enforcement is inevitable in a world where in recent years it has been a crime in Turkey to say that the Armenian genocide occurred and in France to say that it didn’t. The end result is governments dictating a political agenda to compliant global social media technocrats – who can engage in surveillance of their users, for later enforcement.
Hassan posted messages on Facebook about how she felt and the music she listened to, and sent messages of hope to her followers.
Earlier she wrote of how internet spaces were being taken over by Isis, which meant losing the only means of communication with family and diaspora Syrian families. (Guardian)
The internet is like the ocean. It is there for whoever can use it, not simply for some unfocused “good.”
See also: Russia intensifies crackdown on new media (blogger sentenced to five years in Siberian prison camp)
Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian journalist, author, and blogger.