Canadian "protesters" at Huawei extradition hearing say they were tricked, thought they were in a music video

The idea of paid protesters is a favorite of the right, though as always, the thing you accuse your opponents of inevitably turns out to be the thing you're doing yourself (Trump paid actors to cheer his presidential campaign announcement and big industry groups pay actors to protest regulations that undermine their profits). Read the rest

Trump sets presidential record for most tweets in one day, all 123 of them stupid

Trump seemed awfully uptight today, didn't he. Can it be the impeachment trial?

By 4:25 PM today in Washington, DonaldTrump broke his own previous record of 123 tweets in a single day, a milestone he set just over one month ago, according to Factba.se, 'a service that compiles and analyzes data on Trump’s presidency.' Read the rest

Facebook paid Teen Vogue to run a fake article praising Facebook for "helping ensure the integrity of the 2020 election"

Everyone knows Facebook is doing the opposite of helping ensure the integrity of the 2020 election, so it makes sense it would pay Teen Vogue to run a fake article titled “How Facebook Is Helping Ensure the Integrity of the 2020 Election.”

When the article ran on Wednesday, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s machiavellian chief operating officer posted on her Facebook page, "Great Teen Vogue piece about five incredible women protecting elections on Facebook. Since 2016, we've worked to stop the spread of misinformation, fight foreign interference and voter suppression, improve transparency, and encourage people to vote." Lol.

Shortly after the byline-free "article" ran, a notice appeared at the top, which said, “Editor’s note: This is sponsored editorial content.” A little while later, the piece disappeared entirely.

The curious piece, and its sudden disappearance, became a topic of online conversation, prompting Teen Vogue to issue a statement that read, “We made a series of errors labeling this piece, and we apologize for any confusion this may have caused. We don’t take our audience’s trust for granted, and ultimately decided that the piece should be taken down entirely to avoid further confusion."

The New York Times looked into it and got the story:

Facebook pitched the idea for the article last year, when the social media network and the online magazine were in talks about the Teen Vogue Summit, a three-day event that took place in Los Angeles in November, with speakers including the YouTube star Liza Koshy and the film director Greta Gerwig.

Read the rest

Nicaragua continues to be on its bullshit

It's been a while since we talked about Nicaragua, but the nefarious crap that's been going on in the Central American nation for more than a year hasn't stopped. In fact, according to the United Nation's human rights office, things are most certainly getting worse.

From Reuters:

The U.N. human rights office on Tuesday criticized the arrest of 16 anti-government protesters in Nicaragua accused of arms trafficking, saying that the charges appeared to have been “trumped-up.”

On Monday, Nicaraguan authorities said the 16 detainees included student protesters such as Nicaraguan and Belgian national Amaya Coppens, who has been arrested previously.

Nicaraguan police also said the protesters were suspected of planning to carry out terrorist attacks in the Central American country, which has been roiled by demonstrations against the administration of President Daniel Ortega since April last year.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman in Geneva for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters the arrests looked like an attempt to silence criticism of the government.

So yeah, same greasy tricks, different year and people. President/ gutter trash dictator Daniel Ortega and his Vice President/power hungry despot/wife Rosario Murillo have been using their nation's military, police and masked militia-types to terrorize those opposed to their government's abusive policies for over a year now.

Violence and incarceration have been used as ways to shut up members of Nicaragua's judiciary, students protestors, intellectuals, members of the media and anyone else willing to stand up to the Ortega government. It's believed that at least 320 civilians have been murdered since protests, sparked by Ortega's plans to screw with his citizen's social security system, started in April of 2018. 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.

Read the rest

Warren trolls Facebook by running campaign ads that lie about Mark Zuckerberg

This morning I posted that Facebook and Twitter have taken the position that they will accept political ads that contain lies because they don't feel it's in their best interest to fact check claims made in the ads.

Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren put Facebook to the test by running an ad on Facebook falsely claiming that Facebook and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg have publicly announced their endorsement of Trump for president. Facebook said it will let the ad run. “If Senator Warren wants to say things she knows to be untrue, we believe Facebook should not be in the position of censoring that speech,” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone told CNN.

"Either Facebook doesn't touch the ad and the ad is therefore noteworthy, or they touch the ad and it's noteworthy," Dave Karpf, an associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, told CNN. "It's a smart tactical move."

From CNN:

Warren has become one of Facebook's key antagonists after first calling for it and other Silicon Valley giants — such as Amazon, Google and Apple — to be broken up. But her rift with Facebook deepened after leaked audio published by The Verge revealed Zuckerberg fretting about the potential consequences of a Warren presidency.

"If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge," Zuckerberg is heard saying at a companywide meeting. "And does that still suck for us?

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.

Read the rest

Scandals hit US Agency for Global Media which runs VOA, Radio Martí, TV Martí

Newly unearthed scandals are placing a harsh spotlight on the United States Government agency behind Voice of America, Radio Martí, TV Martí, and other broadcast entities purportedly in the business of amplifying American values abroad. Read the rest

Art pranksters upload Mark Zuckerberg deepfake to Instagram to test Facebook's non-removal policy

We knew it was a matter of time before someone tested Facebook's claim they won't remove so-called 'deepfakes,' aka convincingly real faked videos like that recently viral clip of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, edited to appear 'drunk'. Read the rest

What it's like to watch someone you love fall down the Fox News rabbit-hole

Luke O'Neil put a call out for his readers' stories of their loved ones' capture by Fox News, being overtake by its paranoid, racist conspiracy mindset: he got back a heartbreaking collection of tales of "funny, compassionate" older relatives turning into someone who was "increasingly angry, bigoted, and paranoid" -- some people even found their older relatives dead in front of a TV playing Fox. Read the rest

Alibaba developed Chinese Communist Party propaganda app that became China Apple Store hit: Report

The smash hit Chinese government propaganda app Xuexi Qiangguo, which translates to 'Study to make China strong', was developed by the technology firm Alibaba, reports Reuters today. Read the rest

Gorgeous retro Star Wars propaganda posters

Russell Walks' astounding and vast collection of licensed, retro-styled Star Wars propaganda posters are also available in postcard form. Read the rest

Algorithmic anti-semitism and computational propaganda

Just days before the horrific mass murder at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, my Institute for the Future colleagues Sam Woolley and Katie Joseff published a deeply upsetting study on how social media bots and computational propaganda are being used to instigate and amplify anti-semitism online and manipulate public opinion. From the paper:

This report explores the ways in which online propaganda, harassment and political manipulation are affecting Jewish People in the runup to 2018 U.S. midterm elections. In the course of our research, members of this group have described a marked rise in the number of online attacks their community is experiencing. This is proving especially true during electoral contests and major political events. Correspondingly, our analyses suggests that tools like social media bots, and tactics including doxxing, disinformation, and politically-motivated threats, have been used online during the 2018 midterms to target Jewish Americans. According to interviewees, veiled human users—rather than automated accounts—often deliver the most worrisome and harmful anti-Semitic attacks.

As part of the wider paper series focused on “humanizing the effects of computational propaganda” this empirical work details the ways in which the Jewish socio-religious population in the U.S. is being disproportionately targeted with disinformation and abuse during this crucial political moment. We use a mixed methods approach in this research, deploying both qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to generate both a culturally deep and statistically broad understanding of how computational propaganda is being leveraged against this community...

Analysis of 7,512,594 tweets over a period from August 31, 2018 to September 17, 2018 shows the prevalence of political bots in these efforts and highlights groups within the U.S.

Read the rest

Anonymous Trump official: Don't worry, America, us unelected nameless GOP hacks have quietly executed a coup

Trump is mentally incapable of functioning as president, writes one of his administration's senior officials, anonymously, in the New York Times. But not to worry, America. An administrative coup has been effected and we're making sure the GOP's agenda will be executed for as long as we can strap him to his horse.

Given the instability many witnessed, there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment, which would start a complex process for removing the president. But no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis. So we will do what we can to steer the administration in the right direction until — one way or another — it’s over.

It's so uninformative and lacking in detail that anyone could fake it and were it not for the Times' imprimatur, no-one would believe it was real. Nothing good will come of this, other than the fun of speculating who authored it and why.

What it smoothly describes is, in fact, worse than Trump: an administration run secretly by unnamed, unelected figures in the Republican Party. But that can't be the whole truth, because why would they publish an op-ed about it in the Times if they actually wanted to carry on with the plan?

This is probably just blather from some palace functionary or a cabinet member who wants to look good when it's all over, someone who knows that the editorial page of the New York Times is 2018's best place for bullshit.

Update: an unusual word in the article, "lodestar," is a favorite of Vice President Mike Pence. 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.

Read the rest

This is the "movie trailer" that Trump played for Kim Jong-Un

At yesterday's Trump-Kim summit, the White House played this fake movie trailer. I wish it began with "Imagine a world.." but the actual narration is almost as good:

“Destiny Pictures presents a story of opportunity, a new story, a new beginning, one of peace, two men, two leaders, one destiny."

Korean version below.

(Quartz)

Read the rest

The future of computational propaganda

On January 17, 2017, Girl 4 Trump USA joined Twitter. She was silent for a week, but on January 24, she suddenly got busy, posting an average of 1,289 tweets a day, many of which were in support of U.S. President Donald Trump. By the time Twitter figured out that Girl 4 Trump USA was a bot, “she” had tweeted 34,800 times. Twitter deleted the account, along with a large number of other Twitter bots with “MAGA,” “deplorable,” and “trump” in the handle and avatar images of young women in bikinis or halter tops, all posting the same headlines from sources like the Kremlin broadcaster RT. But Twitter can’t stop the flood of bots on its platform, and the botmakers are getting smarter about escaping detection.

What’s going on? That’s what Sam Woolley is finding out. Woolley, who recently joined Institute for the Future as a Research Director, was the Director of Research at the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University. In this episode of For Future Reference, we asked Sam to share highlights of his research showing how political botnets — what he calls computational propaganda — are being used to influence public opinion.

Listen to the podcast interview with Sam Woolley here. Subscribe to the IFTF podcast on iTunes | RSS | Download MP3 Read the rest

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