Social media disinformation seeks to mislead public over Turkey's Syria operation
ISTANBULOct 18, 2019 - 11:06 pm GMT+3
by Oct 18, 2019 11:06 pm
Operation Peace Spring launched on Oct. 9 has been paused with a deal struck between Turkey and the U.S. The 10-day long campaign was very successful for the Turkish military but was faced with a social media smear campaign that spread fake news. According to an expert, this trend in social media is part of a social media disinformation operation against the Turkish military offensive. "We see that a disinformation operation is ongoing on social media" Deniz Unay, a social media specialist, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Soon after the military operation, pro-People’s Protection Units (YPG) social media accounts posted manipulated and doctored photos of the Syrian conflict to mislead the international community. For instance, supporters of the terror group posted an image of a mother hugging her children, a picture that was actually taken in 2014, falsely claiming that it was captured during Operation Peace Spring. They also manipulated a photo of children being taken to a health center in the wake of an airstrike in Idlib this July, intentionally mislabeling the picture: "The latest images from the Turkish army's attacks."
Unay stressed that fake accounts and bots are constantly posting thousands of fake photos and videos which were taken in the past at various locations, often hundreds or thousands of miles away from northern Syria. About 85% of these tweets were posted in English and aim to mislead social media users through disinformation, he added. An artificial intelligence program found that almost all of these tweets were posted at seemingly random times from various countries, he stressed. They seek to manipulate people through spreading disinformation. Pro-terrorist accounts also spread the image of a child with a bloody face as the result of a Russian airstrike on Idlib in August 2016, over two years ago, falsely claiming it was shot during Turkey's current anti-terror operation in northern Syria.
As part of their disinformation campaign, they also spread a May 2014 image of a man carrying a child's body in Aleppo after airstrikes by the Assad regime, misrepresenting it as taken during Operation Peace Spring. He urged social media users not to trust everything they see, but to seek out confirmation and check reliable news sources. "Social media spreads lies and fake news faster than visual and written media," he said. Stressing that some media outlets effectively became terrorist groups' "spokespeople," he said they deceived people by manipulating events. He underlined that these outlets could even portray a terrorist group as being "innocent." "We should explain events as they are and leave the decision to the public," he said, urging media outlets to be impartial. As a measure against these smear campaigns, Turkey launched an investigation against various social media users. "We will continue our fight crime and criminals everywhere as well as in the virtual environment," the Turkish Security General Directorate said last week on the issue.