UK Counter-Terror Program Targeted BAME Women Using Fake Instagram Platforms

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Both the platforms of Stoosh and This is Woke were created by a London-based communications company called Breakthrough Media, which was working under contract to the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT). The OSCT is a unit within the UK Home Office.

Evidence has emerged of the UK’s controversial Prevent program, dealing in counter-terrorism and anti-radicalization, developing and using online media platforms such as Instagram to target specifically young women from the BAME community.

UK security officials have admitted that an Instagram and Facebook account called Stoosh was in fact fully created as part of Prevent’s campaign of counter-terrorism. Only nine months earlier, the UK had also admitted that a similar platform titled This is Woke was also purely created by Prevent.

Both platforms have now been shown to have been created by a London-based communications company called Breakthrough Media, which was working under contract to the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT). The OSCT is a unit within the UK Home Office.

The OSCT was forced to confirm its role in creating platforms like Stoosh after a request by Faisal Qureshi, a British film scriptwriter and producer, under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act – however the OSCT is currently withholding material with further details based on “national security”.

Stoosh and Propaganda

Stoosh, drawing its name from a Jamaican patois term that means “superior”, was created in 2017 and described itself as having been produced by a “media/news company”. It also described itself on Facebook as having “aims to promote a safe online environment for young women to tell their stories, taking ownership of their own narrative”.

In fact, it has been revealed that a number of people with large social media followings were recruited as influencers and paid to promote Stoosh by using hashtags and/or retweeting its content – without being told of its connections to the Home Office.

Screengrab of one of Stoosh’s Instagram posts (Image credit: MEE)

One influencer, speaking to MEE, who has tens of thousands of social media followers as a fashion and lifestyle blogger, explained how they were approached by Stoosh as being a women’s empowerment project. “I wasn’t told anything about the government or the Home Office,” she stated.

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Breakthrough Media, which was behind Prevent’s work with platforms like Stoosh, has since rebranded itself as Zinc Network, and is currently working with the British government on “monitoring fake news” from Russia.

A spokesperson for Zinc Network stated: “We have always taken seriously our responsibility to operate transparently and act with integrity. Supporting communities, brands, and governments to promote positive social change is the driving force of our agency.”

The Home Office’s Targeted Attack on Muslims and the BAME Community

A series of recent leaks from within the Home Office has shown that the purpose of the controversial Prevent program is to “affect attitudinal and behavioral change” amongst British Muslims, and to create “a reconciled British Muslim identity”.

A propaganda section within the OSCT called the Research, Information and Communications Unit, has also employed behavioral psychologists, anthropologists, and digital media specialists as part of its online campaign of questionable counter-terrorism tactics.

Prevent’s campaign of specifically targeting British Muslims as well as the BAME community is especially troubling when considering the ongoing and relentless “othering” of these communities by both the far-right as well as the Conservative Party in the UK.

Rightfully so, many in both the Muslim and BAME community of Britain have warily looked at the government’s Prevent campaign as a concentrated attack on an already marginalized community without dealing with the root causes of the growing polarization of extremism.

With platforms such as Stoosh and This is Woke having been exposed, it remains to be seen how deeply and how targeted Prevent’s propaganda is attempting to reach in already vulnerable and marginalized communities.

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