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India set to expand trade relations with Iran

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New Delhi: A press report in Iran revealed that New Delhi was interested in inking a preferential trade agreement with Tehran once the global embargo related to trade was lifted.

“We have a good relationship with Iran. It is a good market for us in the long term,” the Economic Times newspaper quoted a “senior” commerce department official as saying.

If the agreement is sealed then it would be the first of its kind in India. Though the trade pact is in a conceptual stage, both India and Islamic Republic of Iran had expressed deep eagerness in the deal. However, no formal negotiations had been initiated.

New Delhi’s eagerness comes at a time when the Obama administration is slated to lift the embargo in January next year. Notably, the report filed by the nuclear watchdog of the United Nation said that there was a dearth of evidence that could prove that Iran was carrying out the process of uranium enrichment for developing nuclear arms. They had successfully justified its activities of the hard-water plants as well.

Earlier, the Manmohan Singh government in India had failed to implement the project of a gas pipeline which also involved Pakistan. It had allegedly irked the Tehran.

However, the Iran and the six-nations talks on the nuclear deals and the IAEA’s reports had cornered Tehran.

India had not explored the West Asian market before due to obvious reasons. Civil wars, militancy and religious fundamentalism in the west Asian counties did hinder business strategies.

However, currently India is spreading its market globally under the stewardship of Narendra Modi. The deal with the country would definitely provide a foothold to explore markets in the region.

Besides exporting chemicals, agricultural goods and automobile spares to Iran, India ranks second in importing crude oil from them.

A deal with them would not only be profitable for India, but it would bolster the economy of the country.

(With inputs from ET)

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Twitter Releases Tweets Showing Attempts Of Influence On U.S. Politics From Foreign Countries

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted.

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Twitter
The Twitter logo is shown at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California. VOA

On Wednesday, Twitter released a collection of more than 10 million tweets related to thousands of accounts affiliated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency propaganda organization, as well as hundreds more troll accounts, including many based in Iran.

The data, analyzed and released in a report by The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, are made up of 3,841 accounts affiliated with the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, 770 other accounts potentially based in Iran as well as 10 million tweets and more than 2 million images, videos and other media.

Russian trolls targeting U.S. politics took on personas from both the left and the right. Their primary goal appears to have been to sow discord, rather than promote any particular side, presumably with a goal of weakening the United States, the report said.

DFRlab says the Russian trolls were often effective, drawing tens of thousands of retweets on certain posts including from celebrity commentators like conservative Ann Coulter.

Russia, Twitter
The Internet Research Agency building, dubbed the Russian troll factory, is seen at Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, Russia. VOA

Some of the tweets posted:

“Judgement Day is here. Please vote #TrumpPence16 to save our great nation from destruction! #draintheswamp #TrumpForPresident,” said a fake Election Day tweet in 2016.

“Daily reminder: Trump still hasn’t imposed sanctions on Russia that were passed 4,193 in the House and 982 in the Senate. Shouldn’t that be grounds for impeachment?” said another tweet in March of this year.

Multiple goals

The Russian operation had multiple goals, including interfering in the U.S. presidential election, polarizing online communities, and weakening trust in American institutions, according to the DFRLab.

“The thing to understand is that the Russians were equal opportunity partisans,” Graham Brookie, one of the researchers behind the analysis, told VOA News. “There was a very specific focus on specific ideological communities and specific demographics.”

Twitter
The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, speaks at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington. VOA

Following an initial push to prevent Hillary Clinton from being elected in 2016, the analysis identified a “second wave” of fake accounts, many of which were focused on infiltrating anti-Trump groups, especially those identified with the “Resistance” movement, exploiting sensitive issues such as race relations and gun violence. These often achieved greater impact than their conservative counterparts.

“Don’t ever tell me kneeling for the flag is disrespectful to our troops when Trump calls a sitting Senator “Pocahontas” in front of Native American war heroes,” tweeted an account posing as an African-American woman named “Luisa Haynes” under the handle @wokeluisa in November 2017. The tweet garnered more than 32,000 retweets and over 89,000 likes.

“They tried to inflame everybody, regardless of race, creed, politics or sexual orientation,” the Lab noted in its analysis. “On many occasions, they pushed both sides of divisive issues.”

Iran trolling

Iran’s trolling was primarily focused on promoting its own interests, including attacking regional rivals like Israel and Saudi Arabia.

However, Iran’s trolling was less effective than the Russian posts, with most tweets getting limited responses.

Twitter
Twitter Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on foreign influence operations and their use of social media on Capitol Hill. VOA

This was partially because of posting styles that were less inflammatory, according to the report.

“Few of the accounts showed distinctive personalities: They largely shared online articles,” according to the report. “As such, they were a poor fit for Twitter, where personal comment tends to resonate more strongly than website shares.” Generally, many troll posts were ineffective, and “their operations were washed away in the firehose of Twitter.”

All of the accounts linked to the massive trove of tweets released by Twitter have been suspended or deleted, and the analysis notes that overall activity from suspected Russian trolls fell this year after Twitter clampdowns in September and June 2017.

Also Read: Facebook Better Prepared To Defend Itself Against External Manipulation For The Elections

But, that does not mean political trolls do not still pose a threat.

“Identifying future foreign influence operations, and reducing their impact, will demand awareness and resilience from the activist communities targeted, not just the platforms and the open source community,” according to the report. (VOA)