Did You Miss Our Top 14 Stories of 2014?


Visualization created from Gephi by Gilad Lotan.

This year we grabbed your attention while documenting war crimes in Gaza, debunking conspiracy theories in the MH17 crash, exposing propaganda wars in Crimea and keeping up with the stories eating up the Caribbean's bandwidth. 

2014 was the year of big news stories, and we focused on sifting through misinformation in overreported stories, while continuing to shed light on the most underreported stories around the world. 

Here are our top 14 most visited stories of 2014.   

1. Israeli Army Whistle-Blower Gets Arrested After Posting ‘Israeli Troops Killed Gaza Civilians in Revenge’ on Facebook by Joey Ayoub

In recent days I was arrested by authorities and questioned about my research regarding the use of illegal weapons in Gaza, my mail and Facebook accounts were blocked, And I received strong hints that my life is at risk and I need to be silent and keep low. But I'm not going anywhere. They may close my communication channels again,but that does not mean I'm not here, I'll find a way to get the information out to you,and I trust you will echo it on, go down with it to the streets ,And demand your representatives, your government to stop funding the slaughter in your name,to boycott Israel and to stop the bloodshed in Gaza. The whole world is watching now, history is being made.

2. [Warning: Graphic] Video From Gaza Documents the Killing of Journalist Ramy Ryan by Israeli Missiles  by Joey Ayoub

At 3:50, we see Ramy Ryan on the floor, lying over a pool of blood. He's dead. A man is telling us “Look, look. A journalist. Look.” while showing us Ramy Ryan's “Press” insignia. The man then tells us angrily, “show the United Nations! Show the world! Show the Red Cross! Show the Arab traitors! They are all traitors!”

3. Meet Crimea's New Anime Mascot, Natalia Poklonskaya by Andrey Tselikov


Natalia Poklonskaya as an anime character. Image distributed online.

Natalia Poklonskaya, the newly minted Prosecutor General appointed by the secessionist government of Crimea, has captured the hearts and minds of RuNet, and, surprisingly, Japan. A video from her March 11 press conference accepting the position has over a million views on YouTube, perhaps because of her incongruously youthful appearance (she is actually 33) combined with the seriousness of her office.

The fresh-faced, yet stern, Poklonskaya, talking to the press surrounded by microphones, served as an inspiration for Japanese and Russian fan-art. Most of the pictures are drawn in a manga (Japanese comics) style, and grotesquely over-emphasize the “cute” or “kawaii” aspects of Poklonskaya's appearance.

4. Kremlin Has Mastered Propaganda, But Not Photoshop: Fake MH17 Photo Lights Up RuNet by Aric Toler


The image Russian state TV claims is proof that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. Screenshot from 1tv.ru.

The photo shows MH17 a bit north of Donetsk being fired upon by a ‘fighter jet,’ presumably Ukraine’s, with a missile en route. A number of pro-Kremlin bloggers and Russian news outlets immediately shared this news as a smoking gun, claiming that what most in the West had dismissed as a conspiracy was now indisputable. However, as many on the RuNet immediately noticed, this image was just too good to be true.

5.  Israel, Gaza, War & Data – The Art of Personalizing Propaganda by Gliad Lotan 

While war rages on the ground in Gaza and across Israeli skies, there’s an all-out information war unraveling in social networked spaces. Not only is there much more media produced, but it is coming at us at a faster pace, from many more sources. As we construct our online profiles based on what we already know, what we’re interested in, and what we’re recommended, social networks are perfectly designed to reinforce our existing beliefs. Personalized spaces, optimized for engagement, prioritize content that is likely to generate more traffic; the more we click, share, like, the higher engagement tracked on the service.

6. Malaysia Airlines MH370 Mystery Fuels Conspiracy Theories by Jeff South

After a week of conflicting information surrounding the disappearance of flight MH370 and its 239 occupants, theories ranging from ludicrous to plausible have cropped up to fill the void about what happened. Wild guesses abound on social media, where riveted users were thinking about everything from black ops to black magic. Some people suggested that aliens, UFOs or a meteor strike could be involved. Others blamed terrorists or speculated that the Malaysian military might have mistakenly shot down the passenger plane. Several hypothesised that the Boeing 777 could have landed safely and that its occupants are still alive.

7. Video of Mother Hitting Daughter With Belt Goes Viral in Trinidad & Tobago by Jason Nathu

A video depicting a mother's idea of ‘discipline’ is spreading like wildfire in Trinidad and Tobago, prompting strong reaction from the blogosphere. An unidentified mother and her twelve year-old daughter are the subject of the video, which has been posted and reposted on Facebook and other social networking sites. The video shows the mother hitting the child several times with a belt, after the child was alleged to have posted suggestive photographs of herself online.

8. Want to Use Public Wi-Fi in Russia? Let's See Some ID by Tetyana Lokot

Internet users in Russia won't be able to use Wi-Fi in public spots anonymously any longer. The Russian government is now going to require individuals accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots to present their passports or IDs. Personal data will be recorded and stored by the Internet provider, along with information about the devices used, including their unique MAC-addresses.

9. The Chikungunya Virus Brings Jamaica to Its Knees by Janine Mendes-Franco

Chikungunya, a virus that causes high fever and severe joint pain, is now rampant across the Caribbean. The disease is vector-spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, and the number of new cases has steadily risen across the region.

Jamaica in particular seems to be having difficulty containing the spread of both the virus and misinformation about the disease. Using the hashtags #chikungunya #caribbean, Twitter users are sharing information about how climate change can contribute to the spread of disease, about regional Chikungunya death toll statistics, and much more.

10. ‘Anonymous International’ Leaks Kremlin's Instructions to Russian TV by Kevin Rothrok

Russian television has long been infamous for parroting the Kremlin on political issues. It is still rare, however, that the public glimpses this propaganda system’s internal workings. If Anonymous International’s leak is genuine, Russians are getting to peek behind the curtain today.

11. Russian State TV Edits Wikipedia to Blame Ukraine for MH17 Crash by Kevin Rothrok

The war in Ukraine moves to Wikipedia. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

The war in Ukraine moves to Wikipedia. Images mixed by Kevin Rothrock.

Unsurprisingly, the blame game is now playing out on Wikipedia, where editors battle to record the polemics that best reflect their side of the story. Earlier this morning, the Russian-language Wikipedia entry for commercial aviation accidents hosted one such skirmish, when someone with an IP address based in Kyiv edited the MH17 record to say that the plane was shot down “by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation.” Less than an hour later, someone with a Moscow IP address replaced this text with the sentence, “The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.”

12. Confessions of an Angry Iranian by Kambiz Hosseini

Kambiz Hosseini is an Iranian political satirist, actor, television host, and radio host

I am an angry Iranian. Well, before being an Iranian, I am an angry man, just like the angry Middle Eastern men you see on television, the ones you see on the streets with clenched fists and anguished faces showing their protest. I wasn’t always angry; I turned angry. What tormented me and turned me into an angry man goes back to when I lived in Iran. Of course, from a certain point on, my anger surpassed ordinary boundaries and I started to laugh to survive. I mean, I cannot be angry without laughing at my own anger.

Today, turning my anger into comedy and laughing at my anguish is my livelihood. My reasons for this anger keep mounting every day, and therefore, I have more reasons to laugh, too. 

13. A Singer Called Her Home Country Guyana ‘Poor’ on American TV. Should the Guyanese People Be Upset?


Screenshot of Lisa Punch performing on the ABC show “Rising Star” via YouTube.

Writer and cultural activist Ruel Johnson praised Punch for persevering through difficult circumstances. “What got her to where she is today is sheer hard work, incredible individual talent, unstinting support from her mother and friends, and belief in her own ability to make it,” he wrote. “Instead of decrying her on the basis of some bullshit, delusional positive patriotism, we should be thanking her for acknowledging us at all when this place as a community of people and laws did.

14. The Pissing Tanker is on a Mission to Stop Public Urination in India by Rezwan

The Clean Indian, an anonymous anti-public urination activist group, has come up with one possible solution to stopping public urination in Mumbai. The group, whose members wear masks to conceal their identities, patrols Mumbai city with their giant yellow water tanker and sprays water on those urinating in public.

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