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

Robert Mueller was target of Russian infowar, Senate report reveals

After Donald Trump was sworn in as President, Russia's information warfare teams focused on a new target: special counsel Robert Mueller. Read the rest

Using information security to explain why disinformation makes autocracies stronger and democracies weaker

The same disinformation campaigns that epitomize the divisions in US society -- beliefs in voter fraud, vaccine conspiracies, and racist conspiracies about migrants, George Soros and Black Lives Matter, to name a few -- are a source of strength for autocracies like Russia, where the lack of a consensus on which groups and views are real and which are manufactured by the state strengthens the hand of Putin and his clutch of oligarchs. Read the rest

Twitter kills pro-Saudi “botnet” spreading Khashoggi disinformation tweets

Twitter today pulled down a disinfo bot network that was amplifying pro-Saudi talking points about disappeared journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who is presumed to have been tortured and killed on orders of the government of Saudi Arabia. Read the rest

When should the press pay attention to trolls, lies and disinformation?

Whitney Phillips (previously), a researcher at the "think/do tank" Data & Society (previously) has prepared a snappy, short report on the paradox of covering disinformation campaigns, trolling, and outright lies? Read the rest

Facebook discloses ongoing political disinfo campaigns (It's probably Russia again)

Facebook is said to be revealing today that it has identified “coordinated political influence campaigns using fake accounts to influence the midterm elections on issues like “Unite the Right” and #AbolishICE,” reports the New York Times. The company has been working with FBI to investigate who's behind the campaigns, which apparently came to light a few weeks ago and have since been shut down by Facebook admins. Read the rest

The Biology of Disinformation: Interview with Rushkoff, Pescovitz, and Dunagan

Over at Mondo 2000, our old pal RU Sirius interviewed Douglas Rushkoff, Jake Dunagan, and I about the "The Biology of Disinformation," a new research paper we wrote for Institute for the Future about how media viruses, bots and computational propaganda have redefined how information is weaponized for propaganda campaigns. While technological solutions may seem like the most practical and effective remedy, fortifying social relationships that define human communication may be the best way to combat “ideological warfare” that is designed to push us toward isolation. From Mondo 2000:

R.U. Sirius: In a sense, you’re offering a different model than the one most of us usually think in, as regards memetics. Instead of fighting bad memes with good, or their memes with ours, are you suggesting that we look at memes themselves as viruses attacking us? Is that right?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah, that’s the simplest way of looking at it. That’s why I called memes in media “media viruses.” Even if they end up forcing important ideas into the cultural conversation, and even if they ultimately lead to good things, they do infect us from the outside. They attack our weak code, and continue to replicate until we repair it, or until we come to recognize the “shell” of the virus itself. I think what makes our analysis unique, compared with a lot of what’s out there, is that we’re not proposing yet another technosolutionist fix. Mark Zuckerberg wants to fight fake news with artificial intelligence. Great.

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In two days, an EU committee will vote to crown Google and Facebook permanent lords of internet censorship

On June 20, the EU's legislative committee will vote on the new Copyright directive, and decide whether it will include the controversial "Article 13" (automated censorship of anything an algorithm identifies as a copyright violation) and "Article 11" (no linking to news stories without paid permission from the site). Read the rest

"The Biology of Disinformation," a paper by Rushkoff, Pescovitz, and Dunagan

My Institute for the Future colleagues Douglas Rushkoff, Jake Dunagan, and I wrote a research paper on the "Biology of Disinformation" and how media viruses, bots and computational propaganda have redefined how information is weaponized for propaganda campaigns. While technological solutions may seem like the most practical and effective remedy, fortifying social relationships that define human communication may be the best way to combat “ideological warfare” that is designed to push us toward isolation. As Rushkoff says, "adding more AI's and algorithms to protect users from bad social media is counterproductive: how about increasing our cultural immune response to destructively virulent memes, instead?" From The Biology of Disinformation:

The specter of widespread computational propaganda that leverages memetics through persuasive technologies looms large. Already, artificially intelligent software can evolve false political and social constructs highly targeted to sway specific audiences. Users find themselves in highly individualized, algorithmically determined news and information feeds, intentionally designed to: isolate them from conflicting evidence or opinions, create self-reinforcing feedback loops of confirmation, and untether them from fact-based reality. And these are just early days. If memes and disinformation have been weaponized on social media, it is still in the musket stage. Sam Woolley, director of the Institute for the Future’s (IFTF) Digital Intelligence Lab, has concluded that defenders of anything approaching “objective” truth are woefully behind in dealing with computational propaganda. This is the case in both technological responses and neuro-cultural defenses. Moreover, the 2018 and 2020 US election cycles are going to see this kind of cognitive warfare on an unprecedented scale and reach.

Read the rest

Leaked Kremlin memos reveal plan to destabilize Ukraine

The Kiberkhunta hacker group has dumped 2,000 messages from Putin aide Vladislav Surkov's email, including two documents related to the Kremlin's plans to consolidate their annexation of Ukraine: "Priority Action Plan to Destabilize the Social-Political Situation in Ukraine," and "Concrete Action Plan on the Promotion of the Federal Status of Zakarpattia Oblast." Read the rest

Egypt Lies I Read on Twitter: Debunking Rumors and Misinformation on the #Jan25 Uprising

Photo by Arabist, via TwitPic

In Egypt, six days of massive demonstrations against the government look set to continue.

Two days ago, the country's president of 30 years sacked his government. Yesterday, he named a new one - and for the first time during his reign, picked a vice president. Today, protesters continue to rally, calling for Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Like during Tunisia's "Jasmine Revolution" just a few weeks earlier, there's been an outpouring of support and interest on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. But, inevitably, with all the cheerleaders and nay-saying being bandied about, so too is a slew of ... less than reliable tweets.

For example:

Hearing UNCONFIRMED info that the Egyptian Army getting ready to announce President Hosni Mubarak is stepping down. #Egypt #Jan25

OR the more nuanced version:

Ben Wedeman @bencnn reported on air just now #Mubarak is preparing to step down, quoting sources inside regime #Egypt #Jan25

Well, needless to say, we're still waiting for that to happen... but here's what the New York Times Lede blog published Wedeman actually saying: Read the rest