Antivax propaganda is eroding support for childhood vaccines

A new Gallup poll reveals a decline in the percentage of Americans who think childhood vaccinations are important.

Widespread public support for childhood vaccines creates a wall preventing contagious diseases like measles and polio from spreading in the U.S., but a breach in that wall appeared in 2015 and it has not been repaired. A recent Gallup survey finds 84% of Americans saying it is extremely or very important that parents vaccinate their children. That matches Gallup's prior reading in 2015 but is down from 94% in 2001.

Thanks, Facebook!

Image: Buzzfeed Read the rest

Facebook promised to provide academics data to study disinformation, but their foot-dragging has endangered the whole project

Social Science One is an academic consortium that was created to conduct "independent scientific research into potentially consequential phenomena such as online disinformation, polarization, and echo chambers" after the Big Tech platforms made changes to their policies that made this kind of research effectively impossible without cooperation from the platforms themselves. Read the rest

Revisiting Operation Mindfuck

Over at Medium, BB pal Douglas Rushkoff explores how today's propaganda -- born in the 17th century to propagate the Catholic faith and reborn in the 20th century as "public relations" -- is no longer about convincing people to believe in whatever story the source happens to be selling. Today, Doug writes, "the primary goal of government propaganda is to undermine our faith in everything. Not just our belief in particular stories in the news, but our trust in the people who are telling the stories, the platforms, and fact-based reality itself." Interestingly, he traces this kind of systematic reality disruption to the counterculture. From Medium:

Before Watergate anyway, it felt as if the press and the government were on the same side, telling the same story to us all. There was no way for the underfunded counterculture to compete with mainstream reality programming—except by undermining its premises. The flower children couldn’t overwhelm Richard Nixon’s National Guard troops, but they could put daisies in the barrels of their rifles.

Taken to the extreme, this sort of activist satire became Operation Mindfuck, first announced in 1975 by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea in their Illuminatus Trilogy!. The idea was to undermine people’s faith in government, authority, and the sanctity of consensus reality itself by pranking everything, all the time.

The idea of Operation Mindfuck was to break the trance that kept America at war, blindly consuming, and oblivious to its impact on the rest of the world. Destabilize the dominant cultural narrative through pranks and confusion.

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​Twitter is awash in disinformation bots tweeting lies about the Kentucky gubernatorial election results

It's a preview of just how badly things could go in 2020: the Kentucky gubernatorial race was narrowly decided for the Democratic candidate Andy Beshear, but the monumentally unpopular Trumpist incumbent Matt Bevin will not concede, and instead, he is repeating the Trumpist lie that "voter fraud" caused him to lose his office. Read the rest

The Internet Archive's massive repository of scanned books will help Wikipedia fight the disinformation wars

For years, the Internet Archive has been acquiring books (their goal is every book ever published) and warehousing them and scanning them. Now, these books are being "woven into Wikipedia" with a new tool that automatically links every Wikipedia citation to a print source to the exact page and passage from the book itself, which can be read on the Internet Archive. Read the rest

The far right is dominating the information wars through "keyword signaling"

It's an old story: someone searches Google for a common keyword -- "jews," "women," "black people" -- and gets back a bunch of far-right conspiracist/genocidal garbage; Google gets embarrassed, twiddles some search-weighting knobs, and the results change. Read the rest

GOP-led Senate panel agrees Russia infowar campaign helped Trump

In the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, a bipartisan panel of lawmakers presented evidence that Russia conducted information warfare against the U.S. in 2016 and demanded urgent action from Congress, the trump White House, and Silicon Valley to prevent the same thing from happening in 2020. Read the rest

"Troll Factory" games teaches you how fake news is spread - and why

Troll Factory is an entertaining online edugame that shows you how disinformation merchants infiltrate social media and spread their corrosive anti-democracy propaganda.

Yle's Troll Factory game asks you to imagine you are a professional troll who tries to amass influence in social media by spreading fear, bias and suspicion using botnets, paid marketing and internet memes. The game combines authentic social media content with game-like simulation that's personalised based on the user's choices.

Fake news, hate speech and conspiracy theories spread in Facebook, Instagram and Youtube. The big internet behemoths can't stop this from happening. So it's becoming increasingly hard for people to notice when they share, comment or like something inaccurate online -- even unintentionally.

"We decided to turn the whole fake news problem upside down. What if you became an actual troll to understand the motives and intentions behind today's information wars?" says Jarno M. Koponen who's leading the project for the Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle's News Lab in Helsinki.

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China's using LinkedIn to recruit spies... again

I don't think that I've ever met anyone that actually enjoys using LinkedIn. I mean sure, depending on what you do for a living, it might help you land a new gig. Maybe, it can help you to network with folks within your industry. But it's awful. On the occasions where I need to use it in order to get hold of a PR rep from some hard-to-reach tech firm, I've always found it slow to load and a drag to navigate. That said, the problems that folks like you and I have leveraging the platform for anything useful might not be enough to keep a motivated employer from using the social media platform to track down top-shelf talent.

From the New York Times:

Foreign agents are exploiting social media to try to recruit assets, with LinkedIn as a prime hunting ground, Western counterintelligence officials say. Intelligence agencies in the United States, Britain, Germany and France have issued warnings about foreign agents approaching thousands of users on the site. Chinese spies are the most active, officials say.

“We’ve seen China’s intelligence services doing this on a mass scale,” said William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, a government agency that tracks foreign spying and alerts companies to possible infiltration. “Instead of dispatching spies to the U.S. to recruit a single target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in China and send out friend requests to thousands of targets using fake profiles.”

Lazy access to potential intelligence assets? Read the rest

Podcast: Fake News is an Oracle

In my latest podcast, I read my new Locus column: Fake News is an Oracle. For many years, I've been arguing that while science fiction can't predict the future, it can reveal important truths about the present: the stories writers tell reveal their hopes and fears about technology, while the stories that gain currency in our discourse and our media markets tell us about our latent societal aspirations and anxieties.

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A "Fake News Game" that "vaccinates" players against disinformation

Bad News is a free webgame created by two Cambridge psych researchers; in a 15-minute session, it challenges players to learn about and deploy six tactics used in disinformation campaigns ("polarisation, invoking emotions, spreading conspiracy theories, trolling people online, deflecting blame, and impersonating fake accounts"). Read the rest

Analysis of a far-right disinformation campaign aimed at influencing the EU elections

F-Secure Labs used a bot to harvest and analyze high-ranked disinformation tweets aimed at influencing the EU elections; they found that some of the highest-ranked xenophobic/Islamophobic disinformation came from a pair of related accounts: NewsCompact and PartisanDE, both in "the top three most engaged accounts in the EU election conversation space on Twitter two weeks ago." Read the rest

U.S. Cyber Command DDOS'd Russian troll factory's internet on 2018 midterms voting day: WaPo

The official cyberwarfare division of America's military successfully blocked off Internet access for the Russian government's notorious “troll factory” on the day of the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Read the rest

'He has learned nothing,' Zuckerberg considers crowdsourcing news fact-checks for Facebook

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg reveals the company may crowdsource fact-checking as a new model for Facebook’s third-party factchecking partnerships, now that they've botched the deal they had with Snopes.

Earlier this month, we wrote that Snopes ended their 'debunking false stuff' partnership with Facebook.

This is the first time we've read that Mark Zuckerberg has come up with a new plan.

It sucks.

From today's new reporting at the Guardian:

In the first of a series of public conversations, Zuckerberg praised the efforts of factcheckers who partnered with Facebook following the 2016 presidential election as a bulwark against the flood of misinformation and fake news that was overtaking the site’s News Feed.

“The issue here is there aren’t enough of them,” he said. “There just aren’t a lot of factcheckers.”

He continued: “I think that the real thing that we want to try to get to over time is more of a crowdsourced model where people, it’s not that people are trusting some sort, some basic set of experts who are accredited but are in some kind of lofty institution somewhere else. It’s like do you trust? Like if you get enough data points from within the community of people reasonably looking at something and assessing it over time, then the question is: can you compound that together into something that is a strong enough signal that we can then use that?”

Here's the bullshit-free response from Snopes' Brooke Binkowski, same Guardian story:

Brooke Binkowski, the former managing editor of Snopes, a factchecking site that previously partnered with Facebook, said Zuckerberg’s comments signaled that he “has learned nothing at all”.

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The Convoy: a glimpse of a deepfakes future owned by James O'Keefe-style hoaxers

On Motherboard, Brian Merchant's (previously) new science fiction story The Convoy poses an eerily plausible future for political deepfake hoaxing -- with James O'Keefe-alikes running the show -- that skillfully weaves in elements of the Innocence of Muslims hoax with the current state-of-the-art in high-tech fakery. Read the rest

Regardless of political affiliation, over-65s are most likely to share "fake news" (and there's not much fake news, and it's largely right-wing)

A peer-reviewed study conducted by a trio of Princeton and NYU political scientists and published in Science Advances systematically examined the proliferation of fake news in the 2016 election cycle and found that, contrary to earlier reports, disinformation did not get shared very widely, and that most of it was right-wing, and that the people who shared disinformation of all political orientation were over 65. Read the rest

'SANCTIONS ARE COMING' - Trump has 'Game of Thrones' poster of himself on table in Cabinet meeting

“Sanctions are Coming - November 4.”

For today's Cabinet meeting at the White House, there was a weird Trump Game of Thrones political meme poster, wall sized, displaying Trump's face and those words, placed right on the middle of the table as some kind of weird creepy internet fascist prop. Read the rest

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