By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, March 10 -- In Burundi the killing of opponents of Pierre Nkurunziza's third term, and the closing of radio stations are serious business. Less serious but not unrelated are charges that Presidential adviser Willy Nyamitwe is buying Twitter followers and retweets. Inner City Press has seen this before, with the UN Correspondents Association and its president, see below.
Inner City Press exposed UNCA in 2014; these days it does not tweet at all, preferring to hide behind anonymous troll accounts that are followed by UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric and the head of the UN Department of Public Information. Here's from the exposer of Nyamitwe, sent to Inner City Press:
“Last week followers of W. Nyamitwe increased in 1 day by 20,000. He had also suddenly thousands of retweets. I did a quick analysis of who was retweeting, saw a pattern and looked at who they are and when they joined it appears also saw a pattern. It's obvious he bought followers and retweets. High officials like Tom Perreillo were always in tweets. The high number of retweets could then suggest that W. Nyamitwe tweet is endorsed by 'many.' I hope you'll soon get your UN office back. I and many others do appreciate your investigation work!” [Graphs and h/there and here] He has a reply, here
The seizure of ICP's shared office in the UN, and its Banning from covering events on the second floor -- UN Security Council reform on March 9, Counter-Terrorism including in Sri Lanka on March 10 -- was, at least initially, at the demand of this same follower-buying UNCA.
Back in May 2014, with the UN Correspondents Association through Pamela Falk having tried to brand every UN press conference and even UN Security Council presidency with the name UNCA, it was perhaps not surprising that UNCA under her leadership bought Twitter followers, as reported May 9 and 10.
The reason this is pernicious is that UNCA not only doesn't defend journalists -- it has dragged its feet after French Ambassador Gerard Araud told a still dues-paying UNCA members "you are not a journalist, you are an agent" -- it has actively tried to get the investigative Pressthrown out of the UN, and then tried to cover it up, see filing here. This is a pattern.
After the spike in followers of the UNCA account from 300 to 5,500 was exposed, photo of graph here, it was quickly fixed or covered up, with the number falling to 300 again.
Simultaneously, Falk also surged with fake followers, to 9,600. Photo of graph, here. When this was exposed, the number quickly fell in half. Then there were two weight-loss messages, then the account disappeared.
Now Falk has re-appeared, admitting she had "fake followers" but claiming she was targeted by some "bot." But there's a problem: the spike in her UNCA occurred at the same time, and once publicly exposed was quickly solved, without going offline. So how DID Falk, and relatedly UNCA, suddenly get what Falk admits were fake followers?
Falk blusters that the (imaginary?) targeter, who wanted UNCA to look like it had more followers, should "get a life." But it is Falk and UNCA which, only considering recent weeks, complained to Security Council Affairs when told a staffer didn't know Falk but only the omni-present Free UN Coalition for Access.
It is Falk who tried to use the top level of the Department of Public Information to tell UNTV camera-people what they can film and what they can't, and took the time to edit out a one second cut-away of FUNCA expressing skepticism at her claims about UNCA in a canned speech, see below. Get a life, indeed.
Background: Still there are UNanswered questions about whose moneywas used to pay to buy the admitted fake followers. But the question of who bought them appears to be definitely resolved. Just as UNCA's account shot up in the last week of April -- only to fall precipitously after being exposed -- so too Pam Falk's own account shot up in late April -- higher than previously reported.
For a self-described employee of publicly-traded CBS, isn't fraudulent inflation of audience a problem?
Then, on May 21, Pamela Falk's Twitter account disappeared.
This trace remains: see photo of graph here, showing Falk suddenly jumping to over 9600 followers. After exposure, more than half of those were dropped, and now the account is gone. Guilty knowledge? Compare to UNCA's sudden leap, here. Case closed -- or opened, as to CBS and inflation of audience.
And now the UNCA further debased by Falk's Twitter follower fraud says it will belated "open" the room the UN gives it, as the UN's Censorship Alliance, on June 10 - with its name on it. The name, now, is fraud - or hucksterism. There was buzz of weight-loss advertisements. Did the purchase of fake followers lead to this? Who paid for UNCA's fake Twitter spike?
The reason this is pursued is that UNCA has become the UN's Censorship Alliance, having tried to get the investigative Press thrown out of the UN, then dragging its feet when asked to speak up for other attacked journalists, and now even trying to dictate to UNTV what it can and cannot film.
Falk complained within the Security Council when she and her circle were not sufficiently known for her taste. Did that trigger the move for fake Twitter followers, and the disappearance? Assuming a reappearance, for what? More censorship?
Also as detailed below, after Falk complained to the top of the UN Department of Public Information that UN TV camera operators dared film skeptical reaction to her May 1 "press freedom" speech, now Falk has uploaded the speech with the skepticism edited out - unloading it in the name of "UNCA Journalists." UNCA, already the UN's Censorship Alliance, is being taken ever lower.
UNCA went up to 5,500 on May 3, 2014. See photo of graph which counters cover-up, here. That UNCA's middle followers had few to no connections to the UN, journalism or international affairs and little profile information except some pornographic come-ons was noted in an article on the evening of May 9, here.
By May 10, the UNCA account's followers had suddenly fallen back down below 300, in what some are calling a cover up, as Falk's UNCA did once exposed for lining up for a free Samsung television through the UN and the South Korean mission. Once exposed, it was canceled - and Falk's UNCA demanded a "correction." And now? There are calls for an explanation of the spike and collapse, who paid for it, even, was UN wi-fi used. Not that the UN would pursue, much less fix, that...
In order to prop up its UN Censorship Alliance, the UN gives UNCA a big room on the third floor. It has been closed and scarcely used for months, as a big screen TV (Samsung through the South Korean mission until exposed) and other UN work was done. Now Falk announces that in four weeks time a toast will be raised mid-day then the room will be open 10-4, for "all" correspondents. If so, why name it for the Censorship Alliance? To prop it up.
On May 1, Falk comfortable trying to dictate how and who UN Television filmed on World Press Freedom Day.
According to multiple sources, Pamela Falk of CBS complained to the top of the Department of Public Information that UNTV dared cut away to a shot of a skeptic during her speech claiming UNCA protects journalists. Video here on Inner City Press' YouTube channel (on full video on UN website, here, from Minute 30).
But Falk uploaded, in the name of UNCA Journalists, a ham-handedly edited version of her speech with only the skeptical cut-away removed. This is censorship; there are other words for it as well. Falk has been pitching the video to, for example, the UN Spokesman and an account @NelsonMandela.
Since then, Falk has tried to promoted it this way:
“I liked a @YouTube video from Pamela Falk, 2014 World Press Freedom Day Pamela Falk, President, U N”
Now that the video and the UNCA attempt to censor that it spawned are known, other critics have come forward. This doesn't represent us, said one. Another brought up the surge in Falk's UNCA twitter accounts low number of followers, pointing out hundreds in a row with little identifying information, some with pornographic profiles, concluding, "they're bought followers."
Now, even after the reversal or cover-up, the question of precisely how this happened remains, and new questions need answering.
These included "EXTREMELY DOMINANT BBW," "Nudist * Foreskin lover #BBBH" and "the finest of erotic events and vacations" as well as being padded by executives and stringers for Falk's CBS, like Sharon Hoffman, Nick Barnets and Luke Fredberg.
These and hundreds of other followers bought by UNCA were removed between May 9 and May 10.
The month started when UNCA's 2013-14 president Pam Falk grandiosely attempted to launch a Twitter hashtag promoting the group. An UNCA member, rather than obediently tweeting the contrived tag, noted online that when Falk claimed the "GA commends UNCA every year," UNTV camera cuts to @innercitypress shaking head in disbelief, too funny.”
(The UNTV video, which we went back and found for the reasons below is online here, from Minute 30.)
As we first diplomatically recorded, the UNTV control room got a complaint about their camera angles. This is called attempted censorship, as is this Digital Millennium Copyright Act filing with Google, here.
Now we can report based on multiple sources that Falk herself complained to the top of DPI - and that this complaint, rather than being as it should have been laughed at and rejected, was passed on to the control room, trying to dictate even what the camera operators film as cut-aways.
This is outright censorship: the UN's Censorship Alliance's reverse flow.
In 2012, some on UNCA's Executive Board tried to pursue the investigative Press for its coverage of UN official Herve Ladsous and also separately of France's ambassador Gerard Araud, then moved forexpulsion based on coverage of Sri Lanka. Now, UNCA's president demands that the UN itself change how it films, to censor opposition.
Out in the real world, the UN Secretariat had no comment onEthiopia's jailing of journalists including the Zone 9 Bloggers, when asked about it by the new Free UN Coalition for Access. As we covered on May 8, the UN has yet to speak on Yemen's deportation of one of the few (but more than two) non-Yemeni journalists working in the country. The next story is Myanmar - watch this site.