#LushSummit: Tracking Surveillance Power and Internet Control in the Middle East

Bahrain Watch Panel at the 2017 Lush Summit...

Watch the full event on Lush Player

8 February 2017 - With the support of Lush, Bahrain Watch hosted a panel discussion at the 2017 Lush Summit to discuss surveillance and internet control in the Middle East. From exploiting one of the rarest Apple iPhone exploits in history to using mobile forensics to target and torture activists, Gulf states have been using technological advancements to shutdown online freedoms. Bahrain Watch has been at the forefront of confronting such threats in the Gulf.

Our panelists included Bahrain Watch Co-Founder Dr. Alaa Shehabi, Senior Researcher Marc Owen Jones and AmanaTech lead Ali Abdulemam.

Dr. Alaa Shehabi began the discussion by introducing Bahrain Watch and the import of its work as a result of increasing repression in the region. She discussed the strategic interests around Bahrain and the strong western connections to our work as a result. The work of Bahrain Watch in digital rights began in 2012 when suscipious emails were discovered by our researchers to have contained hidden spyware. The spyware was the first specimen discovered at the time to be used in Bahrain to target activists and our discovery had global ramifications for the hacking industry.

Ali Abdulemam spoke about the Bahrain Watch Amanatech platform and why it is important for activists and civil society in the region. AmanaTech is a platform to help keep the internet free and protect critical users across the Gulf. He highlighted his own experiences in Bahrain with censorship and torture, including how he set up the first platform for people in the country to freely voice their opinions. He also showcased how Bahrain Watch has been aiding targetted online users through security alerts, technical consultations for lawyers and other support to tackle social media and personal account hacking.

Marc Owen Jones spoke about low level social media repression and control across the Arab world. Social media was a key environment for voicing opinions and organising during the Arab spring but it has also been used by governments to target and suppress civil society. Social media has been adapted by governments as a tool of control. Marc also spoke about his wider research at Bahrain Watch regarding current government controlled social media bots used to promote sectarian propaganda and drown out legitimate debate.