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Extremism

Kiwi Farms: Far right extremist website blocked over harassment

Kiwi Farms, an internet forum that facilitates online discussion and harassment particularly of neurodiverse and trans personalities, came under scrutiny for doxing people.

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Earlier this month Kiwi Farms, an internet forum that facilitates online discussion and harassment particularly of neurodiverse and trans personalities, came under scrutiny for doxing people. Notably it targeted a trans Twitch streamer, Clara Sorrenti who as a result had to flee the country. At first, the content delivery network Cloudflare, refused to stop providing its services. However, after a while, on 3rd September Cloudflare stopped protecting the website.

Sorrenti was just one of the victims of this far-right website that caused at least three suicides. Kiwi Farms was launched in 2009 as CWCki dedicated to referencing the online presence of Christine Weston Chandler aka Chris Chan aka Sonichu.  It officially changed its name in 2015 and soon gained a lot of popularity. The format of the website is simple – identify a victim, label them a “lolcow” – an online slang term for someone who can be exploited and made fun out of – and then stalk them to the point of harassment.

Some recent victims of the trolling website:

The far-right Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene became a target of this website when she became a victim of a swatting incident. In this, a fake call was made to the authorities to bring them to her house in August of this year.  

A caller connected to Kiwi Farms called police officers and told them that a man was shot five times in a bathtub at the address of Greene. According to the police report, the police later received a computer-generated call that stated she was targeted because of her stance on “transgender youth’s rights.”

In response, Greene stated: “There should be no business or any kind of service where you can target your enemy. That’s absolutely absurd.”

In late August, there was a bomb threat at the Boston Children’s Hospital after which they had to contact the authorities. The threat was anonymous but luckily no bomb was found.  The hospital was attacked for providing gender-affirming hysterectomies to children. The bomb threat resulted after a week-long cyber-attack on the hospital as one statement read:

“(the hospital) has been the target of a large volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff. We are deeply concerned by these attacks on our clinicians and staff fueled by misinformation and a lack of understanding and respect for our transgender community.”

Children’s National Hospital in Washington DC was also subjected to similar harassment for the same reasons. As a result, the hospital had to release a statement.

The Trevor Project’s Hotline is meant to help LGBTQ+ kids who are battling suicidal thoughts. The users of Kiwi Farms tried to clog up the hotline with fake calls in late August so that the real kids could not access it.  They failed to succeed but the Kiwi Farms website was filled with users proud of what they had done.

The most recent victim was Clare Sorrenti who opened the door to a barrel of a gun pointing at her face on September 5th. The police were called to her house by Kiwi Farm users in a swatting incident after months-long harassment.

She was accused of sending violent emails to local politicians which led to her being arrested temporarily. As a result, she and her fiancé moved to a local hotel only to be doxed again after the users found the hotel by a picture that she posted of her cat sitting on the bed.

Realizing the severity of the situation, she moved to Northern Island to evade the stalking and harassment. However, the users again found her in no time and hacked her family members’ mobile phones. This stalking was made worse because she fought back instead of backing down and crowdfunded around $100,000 to “seek justice and make sure something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

She also created a trending Twitter hashtag “#DropKiwiFarms” which was joined by her fans as well as the Anti-Defamation League.

Interference of Cloudflare

Cloudflare is a company that provides security by warding off DDoS attacks and keeping hackers at bay. The company has been under scrutiny for protecting Kiwi Farms but this is not the only controversial website they provided security to. The company also protected the Daily Stormer and 8chan, both websites that were closed down.  

Without Cloudflare, the website could be attacked by hackers and shut down before it leads to a bigger incident. The company refused to stop providing services to this controversial website by stating:

“Just as the telephone company doesn’t terminate your line if you say awful, racist, bigoted things, we have concluded in consultation with politicians, policymakers, and experts that turning off security services because we think what you publish is despicable is the wrong policy.”

A while later, on September 4th, the company did decide to terminate its services to Kiwi Farms for “unprecedented emergency and immediate threat to human life”.

However, similar sites that are dedicated to doxing people still exist such as The Lolcow.farm imageboard which has been around since at least 2014, and the Pretty Ugly Little Liar forum which started in 2015 and still exists.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

The Taliban’s Broken Pledges: a regressive state for women’s rights

It is an unfortunate plight that the Taliban have come back into power in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s broken pledges, prove that Afghanistan is a regressive state for Women’s rights.

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The Talibans Broken Pledges: a regressive state for womens rights

The return of the Taliban and their uncompromising government following their capture of Kabul on August 15th, 2021 is seeing the lives of Afghans spiral back into one reminiscent of that during the 1990s, and once again the rights of women are being violated the most – showcasing the examples of the Taliban’s broken pledges.

The Taliban’s promise to uphold a less repressive leadership seems to be failing especially concerning the liberties of women. Women and girls are being prevented from basic human rights such as freedom of expression, movement and freedom to earn a living. 

     For many Afghan girls however, their right to education has been their most precious ambition. But with the hope and promise of this education, these dreams have been just as quickly crushed as girls were turned away from schools, following the announcement that only girls in grade six and below were eligible to attend. Additionally, despite giving more flexibility than their predecessors, like allowing selected jobs or circumstantial travelling, the Taliban have maintained that women need to be accompanied by a male family member at all times, resulting in a negative domino effect on other rights. Thus, it seems life for girls now doesn’t differ much from how it was under the Taliban’s last rule from 1996-2001.

Canadian journalist Kathy Gannon suggests that this failure to fulfil promises to Afghan girls comes from a discordance within the Taliban itself. It seems members from newer generations in the group – many of whose daughters reportedly receive their education in Pakistan –  are at odds with older and stricter members. It may be that those holding onto more conservative views of the Taliban from the 90s are perhaps the obstacles in the way of more progressive and necessary changes.    

The rest of the Afghan population also continues to suffer from dire human rights violations. With more than a reported ‘95% of Afghans’ being food insecure for almost the entire year of Taliban government, millions of civilians, specifically children, are subject to malnutrition and facing either ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’ levels of food insecurity. With aid halted from international governments and the restrictive measures on the roles of women, people are having to turn to extreme solutions like sending their children to work. But this alone does not provide enough to sustain even low living standards. And with a collapsed healthcare system, Afghans are barely existing.

Human Rights Watch notes this is largely due to the failure of the Taliban and foreign governments to come to an agreement regarding financial aid, and given that before August 2021, 75% of Afghan economy was dependent on foreign aid, it appears that the Taliban’s ability to fulfil their pledges relies on their cooperation and communication with both domestic and international bodies. But this doesn’t absolve foreign governments of their responsibilities – particularly in the West – who likely deliberately fail to engage with the Taliban because its politics oppose majority global opinion, and who value political favour more highly than Afghan lives.

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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Crime

US Operations in Afghanistan and Beyond: A threat to locals

The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows the US has still not given up on its operations in Afghanistan.

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US operations in Afghanistan and beyond: a threat to locals

The assassination of Ayman Al- Zawahiri through a drone attack shows that US operation in Afghanistan have still not ended. 

The Al- Qaeda leader, wanted for his role in various terrorist attacks around the world and in the US, has not only left an empty place for a future successor but has also opened a place for the Taliban to calculate their moves against the US and the groups within the country. 

The Twitter feeds of Afghan journalists are filled with various videos of clashes between Taliban militants and the Islamic States sympathizers of Khorasan Province (ISKP). The clashes have resulted from the former group’s attack on Shia gatherings and busses that has caused numerous casualties. These videos containing several graphic scenes of blood and bodies are just an insight into the state of Afghanistan after a year of America abandoning it in the hands of the Afghan Taliban. 

            Since the United States removed its forces from Afghanistan after 2 decades of controlling the country’s borders and shifting the political and social dynamics of the region, the country has been struggling to regain its identity and strength. While the Taliban forces are trying to imitate governance with an Islamic rule in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, extremist groups from the inside of the country are becoming a challenge for them. ISKP has already claimed the lives of more than 300 people between January 2020 and July 2021. The casualties from the Kabul airport attack and the recent attacks on Shia groups in the Holy month of Muharram hike the number up to around 600.

            The recent killing of Al- Qaeda’s leader Ayman al Zawahiri in a drone attack orchestrated by the US in Kabul has further fueled the unrest. Zawahiri, who was leading Al-Qaeda’s operations since the killing of Osama Bin Laden, had been on the United State’s wanted list for years. His involvement in the infamous 9/11 plans had put a bounty of 25 million dollars on his head. The attack through which according to the US “justice has been delivered,”, has been called a violation of the Doha pact signed between the Taliban and US officials in 2020. While Al-Qaeda is deciding on a new leader, the group is also being prompted to respond to this loss. Several statements from ISKP’s telegram have been made to frame the Taliban for assistance in the attack, mocking the apparent alliance between Al-Qaeda and The Taliban forces. 

            The situation in Afghanistan keeps getting worse but it appears that America is using the savior narrative, to explain the US operations in Afghanistan, for its people to distract from the bigger changes that are taking place in the dynamics of foreign affairs, seeming to be a threat to locals. The narrative that aided its involvement in Iraq, sanctions on Iran, and 20 years long control over Afghanistan have not bore any fruitful results, but rather have overturned the sociological and international stature of the region. 

US President Biden, in his remarks on the attack, assured the people of America of their safety and security, “We will always remain vigilant, and we will act.  And we will always do what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of Americans at home and around the globe.”

In the meantime, the US continues aid to Ukraine against Russia, and its visit to Taiwan amid growing tensions between China and Taiwan is signaling a threat that is potentially greater than Al-Qaeda. 

As Biden pledges to “continue to conduct effective counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and beyond”, it remains unclear how the US plans to address the impact of these operations on the lives of the people in Afghanistan and beyond where people are already living under a threat of a humanitarian crisis. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis 

International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet

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“Winter is coming.”

That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.

“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”

Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.

After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.

A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.

On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet. 

“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”

And there are thousands of children like them.

“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”

A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior. 

“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.

“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.

Afghanistan abandoned


A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”

“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”

The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families. 

“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.

Prospects of famine remain

With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.

“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.

“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.

Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.

“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”

The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.

Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.

Need for international aid

At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing      over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.

“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.” 

He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”

The question of frozen assets

Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.

Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.

The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.

Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.

“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”

Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis. 

“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.

“Don’t forget them,” she said.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Extremism

OPINION: ‘Islamism’ is not a greater threat to Britain than the far-right.

‘Islamism’ is not a greater threat than the far-right but we’ve been led to believe it is by the media and right-wing commentators

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In a recent article for The Times, James Forsyth tried to make the case that “Islamism” is a greater threat than the far right.

A report by the Centre For Strategic & International studies however, found that the most significant threat of terrorism likely comes from white supremacists, in other words, those on the far right.

Forsyth states that “armed jihadist groups with international fighters are engaged in conflicts around the world….while the global far right is becoming more organised and connected, it is not yet as militarily advanced.” 

He must have missed the U.S led invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, the numerous bombardments and incursions into Muslim countries that have resulted in millions of dead, the consequent discrimination against Muslims citizens in Europe and America, the Western arming of rebel groups to overthrow middle eastern ‘regimes’ seen unfit to govern by Uncle Sam and its allies. 

It’s true that Muslim terror groups are more advanced; after all, their biggest supplier of arms are the very governments they are trying to terrorise.

He seems to be unaware of all the rebel groups that have popped up in the one European country being subjected to a barrage of bombs: Ukraine. ‘One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’ I suppose. 

He goes on to say that “Public bodies often end up inadvertently partnering with groups that hold dubious views. Both Network Rail and the NHS are partners of Islamophobia Awareness Month, which is organised by Mend, which wants Prevent scrapped.”

According to Forsyth, organisations that aim to build bridges between communities and highlight discrimination based on religion, are dubious.

Using words like “Islamist” and “religious ideology” naturally creates the perception that Islam as a religion is in some way the same as “Islamism”. And yet, “Islamism” is a modern ideology whose devotees cherry pick Islamic symbols and aspects and politicise them to advance territorial and political aims – according to them, they are fighting the great war, or “Jihad” against the Western aggressor and conqueror.

“Even within government there is a general reluctance to understand the role that Islamist ideology play” he says.

“I am told that an examination of those who went to Syria to join Islamic State that is circulating in Whitehall argues that religion was not a significant motivation. This seems bizarre, given that those going there were doing so to, among other things, live under a caliphate,” he argues.

Rather than trust those who have actually spoken to these extremists and examined their motivations, he seems to make up his own conclusions. There has been plenty of evidence that those who went to join Daesh were going there because of political frustrations, not religious motivations. They weren’t regular Mosque goers, often petty criminals and one journalist noted Isis didn’t even have a copy of the Qur’an.  

He claims: “Some in government think the desire to emphasise the mental health problems of terrorists reflects the same mindset. If offenders have these issues it is easier to play down the ideology that lies behind their decision to resort to violence. Yet, it is the fusion of troubled individuals with this ideology that leads to violence.” 

Yet this is as true, if not more so, for those who carry out atrocities for their right-wing, often nationalist agendas. Too many times, white men who carry out school shootings or rampages are passed off as deranged or troubled, the public acrimony softened considerably more so than for their Muslim counterparts. 

Forsyth says that ‘far right and Islamic terrorism’ should be treated the same way.

He is absolutely correct. The ideology of a few fringe extremists should be kept as exactly that; a fringe ideology. His insinuation, though purposely vague and leading, that the ideology behind Muslim extremism specifically has religious underpinnings is just another way of saying that Islam as a religion and Muslims as a community are not compatible with the West. 

Well that’s patently not true. Islamic values of democracy and justice were adopted by the West centuries after Islam introduced them in the 7th Century. If extremists misuse and misquote scripture to justify their violent actions it doesn’t mean the religion condones that.

Perhaps Forsyth should listen to those who are at the forefront of tackling extremism, rather than make his own conclusions based on prejudice and misinformation.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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