Friday, 18 January 2019

The weaponization of social media

Things seem to be even messier over there than here:
Rudy Giuliani just totally contradicted 18 months of 'no collusion' talk from Donald Trump - CNNPolitics
“He Had No Choice”: Giuliani’s Meltdown Foreshadows Another Russia Bombshell | Vanity Fair
Now Giuliani says he has 'no knowledge of any collusion' by the Trump campaign | Daily Mail

And messier:
Escort Who Said She Had Tapes of Russian Meddling to Be Deported From Thailand - The New York Times
Model who claimed to have proof of Russian meddling in US election arrested | US news | The Guardian

And so it continues - in the United States:
Russian interference in US elections far from over – Here’s what to watch for | Fox News
Trolling the U.S.: Q&A on Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election - UT News

- and in Europe:
Russian bid to influence Brexit vote detailed in new US Senate report | World news | The Guardian
Russia has meddled in European elections – and will do so again, Democrat report claims | South China Morning Post

It's all done with fakery and subterfuge, as covered on this blog:
Futures Forum: How Britain grapples with the nationalist dark web
Futures Forum: Brexit: and new evidence emerging over the role of Cambridge Analytica > follow the money
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Exeter's MP suggesting there are "serious questions to answer"
Futures Forum: The age of Social Warming

Meanwhile, though, other actions are taking place to counter this:
Facebook removes hundreds of ‘fake’ accounts linked to Russia | Financial Times
Facebook removes 512 Russian accounts and pages that were spreading disinformation | Fox News
‘Political censorship’: Sputnik slams Facebook as it removes 350+ pages for ‘inauthentic behavior’ — RT World News

And in its latest message, the campaigning group Avaaz suggests what can be done: 

We’ve been hijacked

Dear friends,

We’ve been hijacked.

The internet was supposed to connect all of humanity like never before -- beyond any boundaries, race or religion.

But the fascist forces that led the world into darkness 80 years ago are spreading their tentacles again, deploying vast armies of fake accounts to turn us against each other. To make us distrust, hate, even kill each other!

In India, innocent men and women were massacred after fake stories about them stealing children spread on WhatsApp like wildfire. A landmark study in Germany found the more people used Facebook, the more attacks on refugees. And a neo-fascist is Brazil’s new president after toxic lies about his opponents went viral on social media -- until 89% of his voters believed them!

It’s an all-out propaganda war -- not through the radios in our homes, but the smartphones in our pockets.

But there’s a way to stop this.

During Brazil’s election, Avaaz ran an experiment -- just six people were given basic training to investigate the troll networks, and they shut down false stories that reached *16 million* people. Imagine what ten times as many could do!

With crunch elections in Europe, Canada, India and beyond just months away, we need to act fast. Chip in now -- if we raise enough, we’ll hire, train and deploy the most sophisticated teams of specialists to defend our democracies. Our grandparents said “Never again!” and now it’s on us to live up to their promise. If we don’t fight for the truth to prevail, no one will:

Fear and anger bring out the worst in humanity. And those who want to drive us apart have found a powerful weapon in social media, where fake blogs can get more engagement than a BBC news story.

Avaazers have been fighting this from the start. We’ve pressured social media executives to act, advocated lawmakers from Berlin to Brasilia, and investigated some of the world’s biggest disinformation networks. But it’s not enough. Europe and Canada have mainly resisted the far right until now, but this year’s elections could completely change that.

Our Brazil experiment showed how to stop it -- catching fake stories early and reporting those who posted and spread them. But for this to work, we need to hire and train many more to investigate, infiltrate and break down these massive propaganda networks -- and with key elections around the corner, we need to do it NOW!

The Avaaz movement is powered by the truth that more unites us than divides us. That unity is the trolls biggest fear -- so chip in now to unleash it, and let’s launch this people-powered push to defend the truth, before it's too late:

This is nothing less than a call to arms. To all of us. To fight for a world that is just too beautiful to be left in the hands of fascists and hate-mongers. And with social media becoming the internet, the central nervous system that connects all of humanity, it’s where we must win.

With hope and determination,

the Avaaz team

More information:

How Russian trolls lie their way to the top of your news feed (C-Net)

Facebook Fueled Anti-Refugee Attacks in Germany, New Research Suggests (New York Times)

Fake news travels much further and faster than real news on social media, study finds (The Independent)

Next year's EU election at risk of Russian meddling (EU Observer)

Next Canadian federal election will be target for Russian meddling: Sajjan (CBC)

Corruption, fake news, and WhatsApp: how Bolsonaro won Brazil (Vox)

Avaaz is a 47-million-person global campaign network that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people

Avaaz - The World in Action

Finally, then, it's about trying to counter the 'weaponization of social media' - with the first part here of a pretty disturbing piece on how it's able to happen:

Why Social Media Is the New Weapon in Modern Warfare

Jan 17, 2019
Business Radio

If the first wars were fought with sticks and stones, modern warfare is a high-tech battlefield where social media has emerged as a surprising — and effective — weapon. From Russian hacking to influence the American election to online recruitment for terror groups such as ISIS, an array of players are using false news and bogus accounts to stoke fear, incite violence and manipulate outcomes.

Authors Peter W. Singer and Emerson T. Brooking describe this as “likewar,” a term that plays on the Facebook “like” feature. In their new book, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, they explain how these platforms have become persuasive tools of propaganda. The recently joined the Knowledge@Wharton radio show on Sirius XM to discuss their work.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

Knowledge@Wharton: It is incredible how social media has developed and expanded rapidly in the last 20 years, and the impact it has had on politics.

Peter Singer: It’s absolutely fascinating. One of the people we interviewed for the book was the literal godfather of the internet itself, Vint Cerf. He talked about how it was once this military network for scientists, and then there was this moment when the scientists began to email back and forth about science fiction. That’s when he realized, “Hold it. It’s become this social thing.”

You move forward, and now [there’s] Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. They’re not just the nervous system of the modern world, they’re where we do business. They’re where we set up dates. But they’ve also become this space of battle, and battle over everything from political campaigns to use in military operations, marketing wars, you name it.

One of the things that the book is about is essentially how, if cyberwar was the hacking of networks that both governments and businesses have had to deal with, we now have this phenomenon of what we call “likewar,” which is the hacking of the people on the networks by this mix of “likes,” but also lies.

Knowledge@Wharton: You think about the stories we’ve heard about ISIS and other organizations using social media to recruit people. Can you talk about that?


Authors Peter Singer and Emerson Brooking explain how social media became a powerful weapon of warfare.

Emerson Brooking: This issue came on our radar and the radar of a lot of folks across the country back in the summer of 2014, when the Islamic State invaded northern Iraq. They only had about 1,500 militants. They had pickup trucks and secondhand weapons from a lot of militant groups past.

But they did something new, and that was instead of keep their invasion a secret, they actually tweeted about it. They had a hashtag campaign, #AllEyesOnISIS, which they used to consolidate and broadcast their propaganda. And they had a huge network of both passionate supporters but also Twitter bots, which they used to lock down the trending hashtags on Twitter for the Arabic-speaking users.


Why Social Media Is the New Weapon in Modern Warfare - Knowledge@Wharton

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