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Forgotten wars and the duality of digital spaces - Digital Threat Digest

PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.

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Amid the ongoing war in Sudan, positive news is hard to come by. The Economist has labelled the situation in Sudan as the ‘forgotten war’ with the international community focused on other regions. And this neglect has had several consequences. Today, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) is carrying out a genocide in West Darfur with at least 800 members of the Masalit ethnic group systematically killed and survivors ordered to bury the dead.

Threat actors have been able to operate almost under the radar, capitalising on this forgotten war concept - realising that no one is holding them accountable. The online environment remains active with dis/misinformation and hate speech spreading and civilians subjected to incitement to violence and targeted harassment.

The war that started in mid-April 2023 has changed the lives of many people in Sudan and abroad and those who have survived have tried to find ways to connect to Sudanese culture now that home is no longer safe. The physical destruction of homes, heritage sites, and ultimately cultural connection, has also led to something of an online cultural renaissance.

In an attempt to find some semblance of positive news about Sudan, I came across Sudan Tapes Archive – a project started by Haneen Sidahmed, an artist and member of the Sudanese diaspora in the US. The project is dedicated to digitising Sudanese music cassette tapes and making them available to stream online. In Sudan, these cassettes are no longer available, as shops, markets, and studios have been destroyed as part of the RSF’s occupation of Khartoum.

This project is an example of how digitisation and the digital space can be used to build bonds, bring people together, and reminisce. This is especially true in a time where positive aspects of the online world are hard to see at all. Often, our focus here is on how social media is being used to further the interests and activities of threat actors; it’s no surprise that we sometimes forget about those small moments of joy the internet and social media can provide.

By no means does this project mean that the online world isn’t as bad as we thought. Instead, the effort highlights that information environments are not static, they are constantly facilitating the spread of news and information. This information is often bad, yes, but sometimes there is something that can take you back to a childhood memory, a moment with a loved one, an image of your home country; and sometimes you need that moment to help you keep going.

Sudan’s online realities represent the complexity of an information environment trapped in a warzone; on one side we have a digital space polluted by digital threats and risks, and the other side is an attempt to bring people together – to make up for the physical loss of home. This duality of the digital space is complicated, and we must understand both sides to understand how environments can be manipulated and taken advantage of. But sometimes as a digital investigations analyst, in order to keep going, you just need to hold on to that one moment of internet joy.

More about Protection Group International's Digital Investigations

Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.

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