It's laughably simple to buy thousands of cheap, plausible Facebook identities

Twitter draws a lot of fire for making it easy for anyone to set up an anonymous account or a bot; the argument against this says that making it easy to be anonymous also makes it easy to be shady. Read the rest

How Russian investigative journalists working for precarious free press outlets exposed the "troll factory"

St Petersburg's Internet Research Agency -- AKA "The Troll Factory" -- is in the news since Robert Mueller indicted 13 of its employees, but it first came to public attention in 2013, when investigative reporters working for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta revealed that the agency was working to manipulate Russian public opinion in favor of Putin and the Kremlin and against opposition politicians by flooding Russian online discussions with thousands of "patriotic" posts made under a welter of pseudonyms. Read the rest

Before standing for the Democratic nomination in a NY congressional race, Patrick Ryan was in business spying on union organizers and left-wing activists

Patrick Ryan wants to be the Democratic nominee for New York's 19th district in the Hudson Valley, a Republican seat that Dems hope to flip; he's gone on record stating that he can do the job because of his entrepreneurial success -- but he didn't mention that he built his career at Berico Technologies by pitching a product to help businesses spy on union organizers and left-wing activists, a plan that included spying on left-wing Democrats and planting fake documents in order to discredit labor unions. Read the rest

Take the Pew Future of the Internet Survey

The Pew Research Center is soliciting answers for a "Future of the Internet" survey that asks a bunch of thought-provoking questions about the security of the Internet of Things; social cohesion in a social media-dominated public sphere; education and innovation; automation and robots taking our jobs; machine learning and justice; and the tone of the online public sphere in the next 10 years. 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

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

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

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

Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Doubt Factory"

From one of science fiction's most versatile writers comes a caper novel about corporate sleaze and net-savvy guerrilla activists that is as thrilling as it is trenchant. Cory Doctorow reviews Paolo Bacigalupi's The Doubt Factory.

Facebook manipulation experiment has connections to DoD "emotional contagion" research

Here's a new wrinkle on the massive emotion-manipulation study that Facebook conducted in concert with researchers from Cornell and UCSF: one of its researchers is funded under a US Department of Defense program to study "emotional contagion" and civil unrest. Read the rest

Secret service developing a sarcasm detector. Oh great.

The Department of Homeland Security has put out a request for proposals for a Computer Based Annual Social Media Analytics Subscription that can detect sarcasm (and run on Internet Explorer 8) (this is not sarcasm). This will surely end well. Read the rest