India's Internet activists have a SOPA moment: no "poor Internet for poor people"

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My latest Guardian column, 'Poor internet for poor people': India's activists fight Facebook connection plan, tells the story of how India's amazing Internet activists have beaten back Facebook's bid to become gatekeeper to the Internet for the next billion users. Read the rest

India's telcoms regulator says it will ignore Facebook's astroturf army

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Facebook's misleading, high budget astroturf campaign sent over 14 lakh (1.4m) comments to TRAI, the Indian telcoms regulator, almost none of which responded to the questions raised in the regulator's Net Neutrality consultation paper. Read the rest

Indian Net Neutrality vs Facebook's astroturf army

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When India's independent telcoms regulator opened up a consultation on whether to allow Facebook to continue bribing some ISPs to charge extra for access to URLs that Facebook hadn't approved, they were flooded with 5.5 million confused comments in support of the $300 billion US company. Read the rest

Government-run egg board waged high-price, secret PSYOPS war on vegan egg-replacement

The American Egg Board's members are appointed by the FDA, and it was they who funded a secrets, deceptive smear campaign against startup Hampton Creek's vegan egg replacement. Read the rest

GCHQ psychological operations squad targeted Britons for manipulation

The agency used fake accounts to "deter," "promote distrust" and "discredit" in political discussions on social media, uploaded fake book/magazine articles with "incorrect information," hacked websites, and set up fraudulent ecommerce sites.

Russia's troll factory

An outstanding expose of Internet Research Agency, a St Petersburg, Russia-based army of trolls for hire who post pro-Kremlin messages to comment forums all day. Read the rest

Imaginary ISIS attack on Louisiana and the twitterbots who loved it

Gilad Lotan has spotted some pretty sophisticated fake-news generation, possibly from Russia, and possibly related to my weird, larval twitterbots, aimed at convincing you that ISIS had blown up a Louisiana chemical factory. Read the rest

Comcast ghost-wrote politicians' letters in support of Time Warner Cable merger

Letters sent to the FCC in favor of Comcast's proposed Time Warner Cable merger came from Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, GA; Councilor Todd Wodraska of Jupiter, FL; Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown and many other politicians -- all written in whole or part by Comcast's staffers and lobbyists. Read the rest

Leaked docs detail Big Oil and Big PR's plans for a opinion-manipulation platform

The leaked slides were prepared by Edelman, the largest PR company in the world, at the behest of Transcanada, and they constitute a blueprint for tracking and influencing platform that spies on its participants in order to psychologically profile them and nudge them into becoming advocates for the oil industry. Read the rest

Secret recording of corporate lobbyist is a dirty-tricks playbook

Richard Berman -- called "Dr Evil" by both friends and enemies -- laid out the dirty tricks (PDF) needed to defeat environmental groups and labor activists to a Western Energy Alliance summit, and was so grossly offensive that one exec recorded him and leaked a transcript. Read the rest

Who is Gamergate? Analysis of 316K tweets

Waxy took a deep three-day sample of #Gamergate-tagged tweets and did some great analysis to uncover the composition and patterns of participants on both sides of the debate. Read the rest

Respected medical journal changes hands, starts publishing junk science for hire

Experimental & Clinical Cardiology published for 17 years out of Oshawa, ON, but is now owned by shadowy figures in Switzerland, whose payments are processed through Turks and Caicos, and they'll publish anything under the journal's banner, provided it's accompanied by a payment of $1200. Read the rest

Koch-affiliated astroturfers call Net Neutrality "Marxist"

American Commitment, a Koch-brothers-associated fake grassroots group whose previous campaigns include support for Keystone XL and the coal industry, has been circulating an alarmist petition against FCC action to preserve net neutrality, calling it "a Federal Internet takeover," that "sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia." Read the rest

Seattle paid $17.5K to "manage" online rep of public utility CEO

The City of Seattle paid $17,500 to Brand.com to enhance the "online reputation" of City Light, its public utility, and Chief Executive Officer Jorge Carrasco, asking them to "lessen the prevalence of any negative or less-relevant stories" in search results for the utility or the CEO, who was the highest-paid public employee in the city, with a salary of $245,000.

It's not clear what sort of bad news about Carrasco or City Light Brand.com was trying to push off the front page of Google results, but their promised methodology included placing favorable paid articles with the Huffington Post and Examiner.com, as well as "doctorate level content" written by "influential bloggers."

The Huffington Post says that it was unaware if Damon Banks, the writer who published a favorable piece about Carrasco and his utility, was being paid by Brand.com, but if he was, they'd no longer accept work from him. Banks did not reply to a request for comment from the Seattle Times.

Here's the action plan [PDF] that the city and Brand.com drew up for City Light and Carrasco's online reputation polishing. Read the rest

Big Cable fronts fake anti-Net-Neutrality group whose "members" never joined

Broadband For America is an anti-Net Neutrality group entirely funded by the National Cable and Telecom Association -- Big Cable's lobbying front, that has represented itself to the FCC as a broad-based coalition that demands as much Cable Company Fuckery as the Commission can deliver. It's got an impressive membership list, too, from golf clubs to scholarship organizations: only one problem, the members never joined. Read the rest

Russia's army of paid astroturfers message-bomb western coverage of Ukraine

A set of documents leaked by a group identifying itself as Russian hackers purports to be training materials for Russian psyops agents who were paid to make favorable comments about Russia's position in Ukraine on western media websites. The group of fake commenters, called the Internet Research Agency, is based in Saint Petersburg, and its operatives were ordered to maintain multiple commenter identities based on certain archetypes, and to post a minimum quota of pro-Russia messages every day. Included in the documents are per-site strategy notes for preventing moderators from erasing messages (for example, on Worldnetdaily, do not use "vulgar reactions to the political work of Barack Obama.")

These tactics are familiar ones. Rebecca MacKinnon's indispensable book Consent of the Networked describes the Chinese government's "Fifty Cent Army," each paid 0.5RMB per message pro-government postings. And of course, the 2011 HB Gary leak revealed the existence of a US Air Force RFP seeking "persona management" software that would let US psyops operatives maintain up to 20 fake identities from which to post pro-US messages on Arab-world websites. Read the rest

$1B/year climate denial network exposed

In Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, a scholarly article published in the current Climatic Change , Drexel University's Robert J. Brulle documents a billion-dollar-per-year climate-change denial network, underwritten by conservative billionaires operating through obfuscating networks of companies aimed at obscuring the origin of the funds.

Among the recipients of the funds are several charitable groups that are supposedly neutral on climate change, including the American Enterprise Institute (the top recipient of the funds) and the Heritage Foundation. Brulle was unable to uncover the origin of 75 percent of the funds, much of which were routed through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. Read the rest

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