"Claque": how Trump revived the ancient practice of paid applauders

Trump launched his campaign in front of an "audience" of actors paid $50/each to wear campaign shirts and cheer wildly, and he's brought his paid cheering section with him into the presidency, bringing along staffers to applaud at key moments during his press conferences and other appearances. Read the rest

The first-ever close analysis of leaked astroturf comments from China's "50c party" reveal Beijing's cybercontrol strategy

The Harvard Institute for Quantitative Science team that published 2016's analysis of the Chinese government's '50c Party', who flood social media with government-approved comments has published a new paper, How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument, in which they reveal their painstaking analysis of a huge trove of leaked emails between 50c Party members and their government handlers. Read the rest

Obviously fake "paid protester" site sets right wing media aflutter

Demand Protest, a service that bills itself as providing "deliver[ing the appearance of rage] at scale while keeping your reputation intact" purportedly pays protesters $2500/month plus $50/hour for left-wing protesters to take to the streets, and claims to have run 48 campaigns, despite having only registered its domain last month (it also displays a copyright notice that spans 2015-2017). Read the rest

Once again, McDonald's NEVER paid anyone millions for serving coffee that was too hot

Everybody knows about the ridiculous McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit where a lady who spilled coffee on her lap got millions out of McDonald's in damages for a frivolous lawsuit -- and everyone is wrong. As we've previously reported, Stella Liebeck sued McDonald's after sustaining permanently disfiguring third-degree burns to her genitals and thighs because McDonald's had served its coffee at unsafe temperatures, something that had been going on for years and had severely burned 700 other people -- and she didn't get millions, she just got enough to cover her medical expenses. Read the rest

Facebook's crackdown on publishers feeds has sites paying celebs to repost

Facebook -- which accounts for as much as 75% of the traffic to popular websites -- tweaked its algorithm to downrank those same publishers, who had been engaged in an arms-race to dominate Facebook users' feeds through techniques intended to gain high rank in Facebook's secret scoring system. Read the rest

Where the #trumpwon trend came from (not Russia)

After the #trumpwon hashtag topped the Twitter trending charts -- something Trump gleefully noted, saying it proved he'd won the initial debate with Hillary Clinton -- @DustinGiebel's claim that the trend had originated in St Peterburg, Russia (along with an accompanying map, supposedly from Trendsmap) went viral, with more than 15,000 retweets. Read the rest

Coca-Cola is paying dietitians to tweet scare-stories about soda taxes

When registered dietitians like Roseanne Rust, Sylvia Klinger, Carol Berg Sloane tweet about proposed taxes on sugary drinks and claim that these will be used to impose "stealth tax" on other food, promoting the anti-soda-tax group Cart Choice (funded by Coke) they're reflecting the deeply held views of the Coca-Cola company and its industry body, the American Beverage Association -- and amazingly enough, they all take money from Coke or the ABA. Read the rest

In a leaked "weaponized information" catalog, Indian cyberarms dealer offers blackest-ever SEO

In 2014, an Indian company called Aglaya brought a 20-page brochure to ISS World (AKA the Wiretappers' Ball -- the annual trade fair where governments shop for surveillance technology): the brochure laid out the company's offerings, which ranged from mobile malware for Ios and Android to a unique "Weaponized Information" selection that combined denial-of-service with disinformation to "discredit a target" online. Read the rest

China's online astroturf is mostly produced by government workers as "extra duty"

For many years, China watchers have written about the 50 Cent Army, contractors who are paid RMB0.50 per post to sing the praises of the government in online discussions of corruption, oppression and wrongdoing; but a new report from the Harvard Institute for Quantitative Science paints a radically different picture of Chinese networked social control. Read the rest

The "American College of Pediatricians" is a hate group with fewer than 200 members

Not to be mistaken for the legitimate American Academy of Pediatrics, which has 60,000 members! Read the rest

Trailer for The Internet Wants, when the big hotels use psychopaths to disrupt Airbnb

Indie sf movie kingpin Jim Munroe writes, "Ever wonder how the Hilton and the Marriott families feel about Airbnb? What would happen if the heir to a hotel chain empire gets fed up and decides to rebrand the sharing economy... as the scaring economy? A concept trailer for a new tech-horror webseries called THE INTERNET WANTS by Postopian Pictures, the guys behind HAPHEAD and GHOSTS WITH SHIT JOBS." Read the rest

"Citizens" who speak at town meetings are hired, scripted actors

Last December, the town council in Camarillo, a small town in southern California, a man called Prince Jordan Tyson stood up and delivered a three minute speech as a "concerned citizen" about a planned construction project before the council. Read the rest

Indian regulator stands up for net neutrality, bans Facebook's walled garden

India's Internet activists have scored an epic victory in their battle against Facebook and its attempt to become gatekeeper to the Internet in India. Read the rest

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

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

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

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

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