Saturday, November 4, 2017

Social Media: Blessing or Curse for Pakistan?

Is the rapid growth of social media helping or hurting Pakistani state and society?

What are the consequences of the proliferation and abuse of the new media?

What about terrorist groups like ISIS using viral images and videos to radicalize young people?  Or the state-run intelligence agencies and their agents and bots using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread disinformation to manipulate and divide people in countries and societies seen as hostile to their interests?

Is Pakistan being targeted by India's RAW and other hostile foreign intelligence agencies using social media to divide and manipulate Pakistanis by spreading fake news and doctored videos and images? Are they following the blueprint of the Russian intelligence troll farms that were used against America before, during and after the 2016 US presidential elections?

Should there be any codes of conduct or rules and regulations for social media users? Or should it be free-for-all?

ALKS host Faraz Darvesh discusses these questions with Riaz Haq (www.riazhaq.com)


https://youtu.be/zuPMy65O6-s




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Indian BJP's Social Media Troll Farms

Social Media in Pakistan

CIA and ISIS

Is India Sponsoring Terror in Pakistan?

Tarek Fatah vs Riaz Haq

Husain Haqqani vs Riaz Haq

Talk4Pak Youtube Channel

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Social media has been a blessing for Pakistan. It has given the people an opportunity to interact with one another and has been the single reason why young people in the country have become so politicized. Elites and corrupt thugs of the country want to see social media crackdown and have been using excuses like "blasphemy" to have websites shut down like Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia and YouTube. Prior to the internet, people had no choice but to listen to PTV Kharanama. There was no alternative and everybody was a yes man. Without the internet, there was no chance of Imran Khan and PTI ever becoming a household name.

As far as "propaganda" goes, Indian propaganda is ridiculously easy to spot. They don't even try and mask the photos and video. A simple Google reverse image search of those so-called "Baloch" photos almost always finds it way back to either Iraq or Afghanistan...with the photos being upto 10 years old. And they're always images of dead ISIS or Al Qaeda terrorists. Indian propaganda has no skill or expertise and anyone who actually believes it doesn't seem to have a very high IQ.

On the contrary, Pakistan seems to be waging quite an effective social media war upon India. They seem to be pushing the Khalistan and Dravida Nadu movements online very strongly and both seem to have caught fire. Google trends indicate that prior to 2015, Dravida Nadu was barely mentioned on the internet. Since 2015 however, the term has skyrocketed.

Social media is a blessing. When used properly, it can work to your advantage.

Riaz Haq said...

Two #Russian trolls outed. #Trump #RussiaGate #SocialMedia

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/presidential/russia-fake-twitter-facebook-posts-accounts-trump-election-jenna-abrams-20171103.html


Jenna Abrams and Pamela Moore were followed by tens of thousands, including members of Trump's campaign.
Updated: NOVEMBER 3, 2017 — 11:05 AM EDT

Jenna Abrams was a popular figure in right-wing social media circles. Boasting nearly 70,000 followers, Abrams was featured in numerous news articles during the 2016 election, spotlighted by outlets as varied as USA Today, the Washington Post, the BBC, and Yahoo! Sports. Her tweet about CNN airing porn during Anthony Bourdain’s show (it didn’t) was reported by numerous outlets.

But Abrams never existed.

According to information released by House Democrats earlier this week, Abrams was one of more than 2,750 fake Twitter accounts created by employees at the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” funded by the Russian government based in St. Petersburg. In addition to the Abrams account, several other popular conservative social media personalities — @LauraBaeley, SouthLoneStar, Ten_GOP — were all revealed to be troll accounts. All have been deactivated on Twitter.

According to the Daily Beast, the agency developed a following around the Abrams account by offering humorous, seemingly non-political takes on pop culture figures like Kim Kardashian. The agency also furnished the fake account, which dates back to 2014, with a personal website, a Gmail account and even a GoFundMe page.

Once the Abrams account began to develop a following, the tone of its tweets shifted from pokes and prods at celebrities to divisive views on hot topics like immigration and segregation.

But Abrams never existed.

According to information released by House Democrats earlier this week, Abrams was one of more than 2,750 fake Twitter accounts created by employees at the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” funded by the Russian government based in St. Petersburg. In addition to the Abrams account, several other popular conservative social media personalities — @LauraBaeley, SouthLoneStar, Ten_GOP — were all revealed to be troll accounts. All have been deactivated on Twitter.

According to the Daily Beast, the agency developed a following around the Abrams account by offering humorous, seemingly non-political takes on pop culture figures like Kim Kardashian. The agency also furnished the fake account, which dates back to 2014, with a personal website, a Gmail account and even a GoFundMe page.

Once the Abrams account began to develop a following, the tone of its tweets shifted from pokes and prods at celebrities to divisive views on hot topics like immigration and segregation.

--------------------

Pamela Moore, another popular online personality during the 2016 election who tweeted using the handle @Pamela_Moore13. was also created in the same Russian troll factory with the same basic mission — to sow division and heighten racial tension among Americans.

Unlike the Abrams account, which went out of its way to say it wasn’t pro-Trump, nearly all of Moore’s tweets leading up to the election appear to have crafted to support Trump’s campaign. Among the account’s most widely shared posts leading up to the election were tweets repeating lies and conspiracy theories about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and pushing themes of Trump’s campaign, including this anti-refugee post that was shared more than 4,700 times.

Riaz Haq said...

Most Facebook content censored at government request July-Dec 2016

India at no 4 with 719 requests

Pakistan at no 15 with 16 requests

1 Brazil
2 Turkey
3 Germany
4 India
5 France
6 Israel
7 Austria
8 UK
9 Russia
10 Argentina

https://govtrequests.facebook.com/

Riaz Haq said...

#Broadband users in #Pakistan cross 48.13 million • Dispatch News Desk #3g #4g #smartphones

https://dnd.com.pk/broadband-users-in-pakistan-cross-48-13-million/135221


The total broadband subscribers including for 3G and 4G services have crossed around 48.13 million mark in the Country till September this year, registering a reasonable growth rate with each passing month.

As per latest figures issued by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the number of broadband users was around 46.9 million till August 2017 and major contribution in one month has been made in shape of 3G and 4G subscribers by Mobile Phone Operators which reached 46 million by August.

The tele-density of total broadband has reached 22.6 per cent while tele-density for mobile broadband touched 21.6 per cent mark till the period mentioned. Total mobile phone subscribers in the country have reached 141 million mark with tele-density of 70.25 till August 2017.

The number of broadband subscribers in other technologies included DSL 15,53,062, HFC 51,226, Wimax 1,55,747, FTTH 52,749, EvDO 5,68,368 and other 9,264 subscribers.

Experts of telecom industry are having a viewpoint that portable mobile broadband devices like MiFi and Wingles are one of the main reasons of this growth in 3G/4G subscribers and many more will follow this trend in upcoming days.

Meanwhile, the Country’s largest mobile phone operator, Mobilink has overtaken its competitors as 3G/4G player after official figures were released by PTA. Jazz subscribers base was 13.7 million 3G and 1.35 million 4G till the period mentioned.

A senior official of the Company said key to this leading position is consistent investment to further innovate on behalf of subscribers by delivering not just the best 3G/4G and voice network, but also improvements in customer service, and product lines.

Riaz Haq said...

'We know what you're doing': Theresa May slams Russia over election meddling and fake news
The Prime Minister said Russia wants to "sow discord in the West"

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/we-know-what-youre-doing-11516927

"This has included meddling in elections, and hacking the Danish Ministry of Defence and the Bundestag, among many others.

"It is seeking to weaponise information. Deploying its state-run media organisations to plant fake stories and Photoshopped images in an attempt to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions.

"So I have a very simple message for Russia.

"We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed. Because you underestimate the resilience of our democracies, the enduring attraction of free and open societies, and the commitment of Western nations to the alliances that bind us.

"The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise."

Mrs May also stressed the need to improve relations with Russia to avoid a return to the Cold War, saying: "While we must beware, we also want to engage."

She evoked the hope that greeted the fall of the Soviet Union, saying Britain and Russia should not be "in a state of perpetual confrontation", and announced that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will visit Moscow in the coming months for talks.

"We know that a strong and prosperous Russia which plays by the rules would be in the interests of the United Kingdom, Europe and the world.

Riaz Haq said...

HOW RUSSIA ‘PUSHED OUR BUTTONS’ WITH FAKE ONLINE ADS

https://www.wired.com/story/how-russia-pushed-our-buttons-with-fake-online-ads/

Psychologists and students of advertising say the ads were cleverly designed to look like other internet memes, and to appeal to readers’ emotions. Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor of psychology at NYU, says he was surprised at the sophistication of the campaign. “It wasn’t transparent lies. It was just pushing our buttons,” says Van Bavel. “To me, this is more pernicious. It’s not a matter of fiction that we can root out with fact-checking. It’s more about turning Americans against each other.”

The ads took issues that voters care about and then “fed them to us as aggressively as possible,” he says.

Facebook estimates that 10 million people saw the paid ads and up to 150 million people saw other content from the fake accounts, which Facebook has traced to the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-backed troll farm. The ads were placed by fake accounts with names like United Muslims of America, Blacktivist, and LGBT United that could have passed for real Facebook groups.

“The IRA are not amateurs, they're clearly familiarizing themselves with the kind of content that resonates with the target audiences,” says Renee DiResta, researcher with Data for Democracy, a nonprofit group that has been digging into the data on Russian-linked accounts.

The ads did not look like the products of Madison Avenue. Rather, they camouflaged themselves in the vernacular of the Internet. Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University who teaches about memes, thinks the low-budget look is an engagement strategy. They want to make it appear as though the ads “could have been created by your average American. They don’t want glossy high production.” Grygiel said that ads from the LGBT United group reminded her of events she’s been involved in. The ad was plastered with rainbows and tells Facebook users, “I’m just really excited to go out and protest the Westboro Church!”

Grygiel also noticed the use of iconography like cowboys, American flags, and women in burqas in that Heart of Texas ad. “It was almost distilled to the point of it being pop art,” she says. “Essentially what they’re doing with some of these memes is like a culture mash. It’s almost like re-mixing American culture and in this case some American fears.”

The text of some ads included spelling mistakes and non-idiomatic English, but DiResta, of Data for Democracy, says relying heavily on images minimizes “the possibility of giveaway errors” that would become apparent in a longer post.


Riaz Haq said...

She Warned of ‘Peer-to-Peer Misinformation.’ Congress Listened.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/12/technology/social-media-disinformation.html

SAN FRANCISCO — Before the sun came up on Oct. 31, Renee DiResta sat in bed in her pajamas and logged into a virtual war room.

For years, Ms. DiResta had battled disinformation campaigns, cataloging data on how malicious actors spread fake narratives online. That morning, wearing headphones so she wouldn’t wake up her two sleeping children, Ms. DiResta watched on her laptop screen as lawyers representing Facebook, Google and Twitter spoke at congressional hearings that focused on the role social media played in a Russian disinformation campaign ahead of the 2016 election.

Ms. DiResta knew the lines of questioning inside and out. Along with a handful of people with a similarly obsessive interest in mapping data across social media, she had helped prepare congressional staff members ahead of the hearings. That morning, they gathered in a dedicated channel on the Slack messaging app to watch and listen for answers to questions they had been asking for years.

“We were monitoring closely to see when the companies gave misleading or partial answers so that we could follow up,” said Ms. DiResta, 36, who became immersed in disinformation campaigns in her spare time outside of her job as a founder and head of marketing at Haven, a shipping technology company.

How a small group of self-made experts came to advise Congress on disinformation campaigns is a testament to just how long tech companies have failed to find a solution to the problem. For years, the informal group — about a dozen or so people — have meticulously logged data and published reports on how easy it was to manipulate social media platforms.

Van Bavel, the NYU professor, has studied a phenomenon he calls “moral contagion,” referring to the use of moral emotional language to help content go viral on social networks. He says tugging at those emotions tends to drive people deeper into ideological echo chambers, dynamics he saw at play in the Russian ads. “What you’re more likely to click on is stuff that triggers this part of the brain that is so primal,” he says. “Russians knows as much. They know how to pull us apart and agitate us.”

There’s nothing new about campaigns to manipulate voters, but Van Bavel believes says it can be more polarizing in the internet age because access to media is more fragmented and curated.

-----

Bruce McClintock, an adjunct policy analyst at the Rand Corporation and a retired brigadier general who served as the senior defense official at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, says the ads resonate with Russian and Soviet tactics of other eras.

“It’s about spreading disinformation, propaganda, counterfeit official documents to increase confusion,” he says. McClintock says the goal of the campaign likely was broader than just the election and includes the long-term objective of weakening the US and undermining America’s reputation in the eyes of the world.

He notes that Russian operatives have been accused of inflaming racial tensions in the US before, including unconfirmed reports that the KGB sent fake letters from the Ku Klux Klan and spread conspiracy theories that the US government was behind the assassination of Martin Luther King. More recently, there was a KGB campaign that US scientists had developed HIV as a biological weapons experiment. This technique approaches disinformation like “a conspiracy theory incubator,” he says.

Riaz Haq said...

Signs of Russian Meddling in Brexit Referendum
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK NOV. 15, 2017


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/world/europe/russia-brexit-twitter-facebook.html

LONDON — More than 150,000 Russian-language Twitter accounts posted tens of thousands of messages in English urging Britain to leave the European Union in the days before last year’s referendum on the issue, a team of researchers disclosed on Wednesday.

More than 400 of the accounts that Twitter has already identified to congressional investigators as tools of the Kremlin, other researchers said, also posted divisive messages about Britain’s decision on withdrawing from the bloc, or Brexit, both before and after the vote.

Most of the messages sought to inflame fears about Muslims and immigrants to help drive the vote, suggesting parallels to the strategy that Russian propagandists employed in the United States in the 2016 election to try to intensify the polarization of the electorate.

The separate findings amount to the strongest evidence yet of a Russian attempt to use social media to manipulate British politics in the same way the Kremlin has done in the United States, France and elsewhere.

------------------------------


Researchers study Twitter for indications of broader patterns in social media, because information about its users and contents is more accessible than in the larger but less-open platforms like Facebook. But without the disclosure of more information from the companies, social scientists said, neither of the findings disclosed this week will provide conclusive evidence of a deliberate Kremlin campaign to influence the Brexit vote or other British elections.

Ms. Cram, for example, noted that Russian propagandists might have used hashtags related to Brexit only because they fit with protectionist, nativist or anti-Muslim themes that resonated in the context of the American election, as well.

“These accounts were definitely using Brexit hashtags,” she said, “but we cannot say whether they were primarily trying to influence Brexit or whether it was a side effect of them trying to wreak discord generally.”

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has denied trying to influence the Brexit vote. But concerns about Russia’s use of social media to meddle in elections have become so commonplace that the Spanish government recently accused Russians of playing a significant role in the push for Catalan independence.

A third, smaller survey, reported last week by Wired magazine, found that 29 of the Russian-linked Twitter accounts identified to Congress had also tweeted 139 times about Britain or Europe. Blaming terrorist attacks on Islam or railing against immigrants were favorite themes, said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a digital security firm based in Austin, Tex., that conducted the survey.

“Many of these accounts strongly pushed the narrative that all Muslims should be equated with terrorists and made the case that Muslims should be banned from Europe,” he said. “That is very consistent with the Russian strategy on U.S. issues, and the fact that they were using the same tactics to target Europeans is extremely telling.”

Riaz Haq said...

John Swinton - Yes, He Said It, But...
3-8-2

John Swinton: Yes, he said it, but...

http://www.rense.com/general20/yes.htm

One night, probably in 1880, John Swinton, then the preeminent New York journalist, was the guest of honour at a banquet given him by the leaders of his craft. Someone who knew neither the press nor Swinton offered a toast to the independent press. Swinton outraged his colleagues by replying:

"There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it.

"There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty_four hours my occupation would be gone.

"The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press?

"We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes."

(Source: Labor's Untold Story, by Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, published by United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America, NY, 1955/1979.)

Riaz Haq said...

RUSSIAN ACTIVE MEASURES IN GERMANY AND THE UNITED STATES: ANALOG LESSONS FROM THE COLD WAR
LAURA DANIELS

https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/russian-active-measures-in-germany-and-the-united-states-analog-lessons-from-the-cold-war/

Leaking damaging documents during election season, feeding the media false stories about candidates, and concocting conspiracy theories to smear politicians: this will sound familiar to anyone who followed the U.S. presidential election, and to an extent, recent campaigns in France and Germany. But these methods are not new. In fact, the Soviet Union used them all in West Germany throughout the Cold War.

The United States, as the Soviet Union’s “main enemy,” and West Germany, seen as the KGB’s “door to the West,” were the primary targets of Soviet “active measures,” or subversive operations. The two countries share a history that is all the more vital to understand amid claims that Russian active measures are back in business.

In Germany, warnings of the resurrection of active measures followed a series of high-profile incidents last year that evoked Cold War methods. Particularly notorious was the Lisa case, in which even Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov joined Kremlin-backed media in stoking German public outrage over the alleged rape of a Russian-German by refugees — after the story had been debunked. Compounding that, after the highly publicized 2015 hack of the German parliament, some feared that stepped-up attempts to hack politicians and journalists would lead to the leaking of documents during the elections. Berlin suspected the recent attempts, along with the 2015 hack, were committed by APT 28, the Russian military-linked group accused of the 2016 Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack.

On the day of the U.S. presidential election, German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that confronting “internet attacks that are of Russian origin” and the “false information” propagated by Russian media had already become “a daily task.” Though the election campaign was relatively quiet — briefly interrupted by a Russian-language botnet bolstering misleading messages from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) — the entrance of the Russia-friendly, Euroskeptic AfD in parliament with a significant number of seats has opened the door for the kind of polarizing politics that such influence operations feed on.

As Germany hastens efforts to shield itself from outside interference and the United States presses on in its investigations into Russian meddling, it’s worth re-examining the two countries’ experience with active measures. West Germany, after all, endured the whole gamut of active measures, including at least three instances of Moscow interfering in its elections. For its part, the United States made a vocal effort to determine how to confront the problem that the Soviets posed to it and its European allies. As policymakers today confront a familiar toolkit, this history shines light on the kind of impact active measures can have, how attempted defenses have fared, and what lessons have endured despite active measures’ digital upgrade.

“Fake News” and Leaks 1.0

Decades before “fake news” became a catchphrase, the Soviet Union was spending millions annually on falsified and misleading stories. Its official news agency, TASS, as well as the nominally independent Novosti, the predecessor to Sputnik, cooperated with the KGB active measures department to disseminate covert propaganda — that is, propaganda that masks its origin — abroad. The Soviets commonly used forgeries — fabricated documents, often made to look like government memos — and improved on this tool over the course of the Cold War.

Riaz Haq said...

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

Jeff Jarvis: Washington shows the morals of a clumsy spammer

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to "address US audiences" with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Centcom said it was not targeting any US-based web sites, in English or any other language, and specifically said it was not targeting Facebook or Twitter.

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.

Centcom's contract requires for each controller the provision of one "virtual private server" located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.

Riaz Haq said...

CIA Admits to Congress the Agency Uses Mainstream Media to Distribute Disinformation: 1975 Video

https://www.globalresearch.ca/1975-video-cia-admits-to-congress-the-agency-uses-mainstream-media-to-distribute-disinformation/5424860

It has been verified by a source who claims she was there that then-CIA Director William Casey did in fact say the controversial and often-disputed line “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false,” reportedly in 1981.

Despite Casey being under investigation by Congress for being involved in a major disinformation plot involving the overthrow of Libya’s Qaddafi in 1981, and despite Casey arguing on the record that the CIA should have a legal right to spread disinformation via the mainstream news that same year, this quote continues to be argued by people who weren’t there and apparently cannot believe a CIA Director would ever say such a thing.

But spreading disinfo is precisely what the CIA would — and did — do.

This 1975 clip of testimony given during a House Intelligence Committee hearing has the agency admitting on record that the CIA creates and uses disinformation against the American people.

Question: “Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to a major circulation — American journal?”

Answer: “We do have people who submit pieces to American journals.”

Question: “Do you have any people paid by the CIA who are working for television networks?”

Answer: “This I think gets into the kind of uh, getting into the details Mr. Chairman that I’d like to get into in executive session.”

(later)

Question: “Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to the national news services — AP and UPI?”

Answer: “Well again, I think we’re getting into the kind of detail Mr. Chairman that I’d prefer to handle at executive session.”

It’s easy enough to read between the lines on the stuff that was saved for the executive session. Then-CBS President Sig Mickelson goes on to say that the relationships at CBS with the CIA were long established before he ever became president — and that’s just one example. Considering 90% of our media today has been consolidated into six major corporations over the past decade, it’s not hard to see that you shouldn’t readily believe everything you see, hear or read in the “news.”

“I thought that it was a matter of real concern that planted stories intended to serve a national purpose abroad came home and were circulated here and believed here because this would mean that the CIA could manipulate the news in the United States by channeling it through some foreign country,” Democratic Idaho Senator Frank Church said at a press conference surrounding the hearing. Church chaired the Church Committee, a precursor to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was responsible for investigating illegal intelligence gathering by the NSA, CIA and FBI.

This exact tactic — planting disinformation in foreign media outlets so the disinfo would knowingly surface in the United States as a way of circumventing the rules on domestic operations — was specifically argued for as being legal simply because it did not originate on U.S. soil by none other than CIA Director William Casey in 1981.

Riaz Haq said...

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

Jeff Jarvis: Washington shows the morals of a clumsy spammer

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks


The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to "address US audiences" with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Riaz Haq said...

they have continued to talk about covert actions by Indian agents to destabilize and balkanize Pakistan. Former RAW chief B. Raman has argued that India appoint a covert ops specialist as the new head of RAW. He said last December that “at this critical time in the nation’s history, RAW has no covert action specialists at the top of its pyramid. Get a suitable officer from the IB or the Army. If necessary, make him the head of the organization.”

Vikram Sood, another former top spy in India, has elaborated on Ind ia's covert warfare options to target Pakistan in the following words: "Covert action can be of various kinds. One is the paramilitary option, which is what the Pakistanis have been using against us. It is meant to hurt, destabilize or retaliate. The second is the psychological war option, which is a very potent and unseen force. It is an all weather option and constitutes essentially changing perceptions of friends and foes alike. The media is a favorite instrument, provided it is not left to the bureaucrats because then we will end up with some clumsy and implausible propaganda effort. More than the electronic and print media, it is now the internet and YouTube that can be the next-generation weapons of psychological war. Terrorists use these liberally and so should those required to counter terrorism."

S.M. Mushrif, former Police Chief of Maharashtra and the author of "Who Killed Karkare?", believes that the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) is up to its neck in conspiring with the extreme Hindutva groups against Indian Muslims and creating trouble between India and Pakistan, and now it is ominous to see one of the former IB leaders K.C. Verma heading RAW as of last year.

The power establishment that really runs the affairs of India (Mushrif says it is not Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh or Rahul Gandhi) does not want to expose the rabidly anti-Muslim Hindutva terrorists.

Verma was appointed last year as the new head of RAW, regarded as one of the top intelligence agencies along with Mossad, ISI, SVR, MI6, and the CIA. This choice appears to have been made at the suggestion of intelligence hawks like B. Raman to appoint an outsider, in spite of significant resistance from within the agency. Mr. Verma has been tasked with rapidly building strong covert ops capabilities within RAW. It is not a coincidence that the terrorist attacks in Pakistan have dramatically increased since Verma took the reins of RAW.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2010/07/who-is-behind-data-darbar-bombing-in.html

Riaz Haq said...

Inside the Two Years That Shook Facebook—and the World

https://www.wired.com/story/inside-facebook-mark-zuckerberg-2-years-of-hell/

IN FEBRUARY OF 2016, just as the Trending Topics fiasco was building up steam, Roger ­McNamee became one of the first Facebook insiders to notice strange things happening on the platform. McNamee was an early investor in Facebook who had mentored Zuckerberg through two crucial decisions: to turn down Yahoo’s offer of $1 billion to acquire Facebook in 2006; and to hire a Google executive named Sheryl Sandberg in 2008 to help find a business model. McNamee was no longer in touch with Zuckerberg much, but he was still an investor, and that month he started seeing things related to the Bernie Sanders campaign that worried him. “I’m observing memes ostensibly coming out of a Facebook group associated with the Sanders campaign that couldn’t possibly have been from the Sanders campaign,” he recalls, “and yet they were organized and spreading in such a way that suggested somebody had a budget. And I’m sitting there thinking, ‘That’s really weird. I mean, that’s not good.’ ”

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Inside Facebook itself, the backlash around Trending Topics did inspire some genuine soul-searching. But none of it got very far. A quiet internal project, codenamed Hudson, cropped up around this time to determine, according to someone who worked on it, whether News Feed should be modified to better deal with some of the most complex issues facing the product. Does it favor posts that make people angry? Does it favor simple or even false ideas over complex and true ones? Those are hard questions, and the company didn’t have answers to them yet. Ultimately, in late June, Facebook announced a modest change: The algorithm would be revised to favor posts from friends and family. At the same time, Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s News Feed boss, posted a manifesto titled “Building a Better News Feed for You.” People inside Facebook spoke of it as a document roughly resembling the Magna Carta; the company had never spoken before about how News Feed really worked. To outsiders, though, the document came across as boilerplate. It said roughly what you’d expect: that the company was opposed to clickbait but that it wasn’t in the business of favoring certain kinds of viewpoints.

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The past year has also altered Facebook’s fundamental understanding about whether it’s a publisher or a platform. The company has always answered that question defiantly—platform, platform, platform—for regulatory, financial, and maybe even emotional reasons. But now, gradually, Facebook has evolved. Of course it’s a platform, and always will be. But the company also realizes now that it bears some of the responsibilities that a publisher does: for the care of its readers, and for the care of the truth. You can’t make the world more open and connected if you’re breaking it apart. So what is it: publisher or platform? Facebook seems to have finally recognized that it is quite clearly both.

Riaz Haq said...

Depth Of Russian Politician's Cultivation Of NRA Ties Revealed
March 1, 20189:03 PM ET

https://www.npr.org/2018/03/01/590076949/depth-of-russian-politicians-cultivation-of-nra-ties-revealed

Russian politician Alexander Torshin, standing next to then-Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin, attends a ceremony at the Kremlin in 2011. Torshin is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and says he met Donald Trump through the group in 2015.


A prominent Kremlin-linked Russian politician has methodically cultivated ties with leaders of the National Rifle Association, and documented efforts in real time over six years to leverage those connections and gain access deeper into American politics, NPR has learned.

Russian politician Alexander Torshin claimed his ties to the National Rifle Association provided him access to Donald Trump — and the opportunity to serve as a foreign election observer in the United States during the 2012 election.

Torshin is a prolific Twitter user, logging nearly 150,000 tweets, mostly in Russian, since his account was created in 2011. Previously obscured by language and by sheer volume of tweets, Torshin has written numerous times about his connections with the NRA, of which he's a known paid lifetime member. NPR has translated a selection of those posts that document Torshin's relationship to the group.

These revelations come amid news that the FBI is investigating whether Torshin, the deputy governor of the Bank of Russia, illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to assist the Trump campaign in 2016, McClatchy reported in January.

In a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate intelligence committee, the NRA denied any wrongdoing and suggested the FBI is investigating Torshin, not the NRA. Neither the NRA nor Torshin responded to inquiries from NPR.

Investigations by Congress and the Department of Justice have revealed that the Russian government has sought to sharpen political divisions among American citizens by amplifying controversial social issues. Investigators have expressed concern about Russian links to the NRA, one of the most politically polarizing organizations in the U.S.

Torshin is a former Russian senator and served as the deputy speaker of Russia's parliament for more than a decade. Known as a Putin ally, he also spent time on Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee, a state body that includes the director of Russia's internal security service and the ministers of defense, interior and foreign affairs.

Torshin's use of NRA connections to open doors, and his 2015 claim to know Trump through the organization, raise new questions about the group's connections with Russian officials — at a time when the organization is being roundly criticized by its opponents, and at times the president himself, for being a factor in American gun violence.

Among his tens of thousands of tweets, Torshin also documented his attendance at every NRA convention between 2012 and 2016, only some of which have been previously reported.

On his verified Twitter account, Torshin talked about how he knew Donald Trump through the NRA, citing a connection at the 2015 convention. Responding to a tweet about comedian Larry David accusing Trump of being a racist, Torshin said he knew the businessman through the NRA, and defended him.

Riaz Haq said...

Trump’s Truth Bomb: “You Think We’re So Innocent?”
by JOHN WIGHT

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/09/trumps-truth-bomb-you-think-were-so-innocent/

“Putin’s a killer.” This was the claim made by Fox News ‘journalist’ Bill O’Reilly during his recent interview with Donald Trump. Trump’s reply came in the form of a simple question. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?” It was a reply that succeeded in puncturing the bubble of exceptionalism in which Mr O’Reilly and those like him have long chosen to cocoon themselves from reality.

It was an extraordinary exchange, one that has gone viral on social media since. For liberals in the US and beyond it is being touted as yet more evidence of the fact that Donald Trump is completely unsuited to the rigors of the office of President. Meanwhile for dyed-in-the-wool neocons it suggests a leader of the so-called free world who is yet to realize the difference between ‘us’, the good guys, and ‘them’, the bad guys.

“Putin’s a killer.” Just ponder this statement for a moment, consider the ignorance, arrogance, and delusion it describes. Consider, too, the millions of human slaughtered by successive US presidents over the years, going back, say, to the Korean War and working your way forward. That they were killed in the name of democracy and human rights, at least according to Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the gang over at Fox News, is a boast as preposterous as it is grotesque. Firstly, justifying the wholesale slaughter of men, women, and children in the name of democracy renders the word completely meaningless. And secondly, what Mr O’Reilly describes as democracy others would describe as imperialism.

But then, you see, this is the problem when you sit at the apex of the most destructive empire the world has ever known. It distorts your sense reality to the point where you become intoxicated with the associated myths used to justify this empire and the vast destruction it has wreaked and continues to wreak across the world.

We see this distortion in the way that Barack Obama has been allowed to walk off into the sunset with the highest approval ratings of any US president in living memory, lamented as one of the most progressive leaders ever to occupy the Oval Office. It is a rendering of the legacy country’s first black president that fails to pass even the most tepid scrutiny.

Obama’s administration was, to be frank, a veritable killing machine, one comprising almost daily drone strikes, kill lists, and the wholesale destruction of entire countries, as in the case of Libya. In his final year in office the US dropped 27,000 bombs, up from the number dropped in 2015. Yet we are meant to regard the 44th president and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize as the modern incarnation of Dr Martin Luther King, a president who worked tirelessly for peace and justice.

Reminding Mr O’Reilly and his ilk of a few basic facts when it comes to the difference between Moscow and Washington’s actions around the world in recent years, there is a significant difference between a foreign policy driven by restoring stability and security to entire regions, in the case of Russia vis-à-vis the Middle East, and a foreign policy that has only succeeded in sowing instability and terrorism across those regions, in the case of the United States.

Bill O’Reilly’s discomfort at being corrected by the country’s President on the egregious record of his own country when it comes to body count, was redolent to that of a vampire suddenly exposed to daylight. The Fox News anchor was left floundering around in his chair, rattled by Trump’s simple yet withering words of truth in response to the kind of statement that has no place being made by any self-respecting journalist.

But then the Bill O’Reilly’s of our world are not journalists they are propagandists, engaged in spreading disinformation in the cause of the previously mentioned myths that both sustain and nourish a perverse worldview.

Riaz Haq said...

Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook is a Match

NY Times

By Amanda Taub and Max Fisher

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/21/world/asia/facebook-sri-lanka-riots.html

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But where institutions are weak or undeveloped, Facebook’s newsfeed can inadvertently amplify dangerous tendencies. Designed to maximize user time on site, it promotes whatever wins the most attention. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, produce the highest engagement, and so proliferate.

In the Western countries for which Facebook was designed, this leads to online arguments, angry identity politics and polarization. But in developing countries, Facebook is often perceived as synonymous with the internet and reputable sources are scarce, allowing emotionally charged rumors to run rampant. Shared among trusted friends and family members, they can become conventional wisdom.

And where people do not feel they can rely on the police or courts to keep them safe, research shows, panic over a perceived threat can lead some to take matters into their own hands — to lynch.

Last year, in rural Indonesia, rumors spread on Facebook and WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messaging tool, that gangs were kidnapping local children and selling their organs. Some messages included photos of dismembered bodies or fake police fliers. Almost immediately, locals in nine villages lynched outsiders they suspected of coming for their children.

Near-identical social media rumors have also led to attacks in India and Mexico. Lynchings are increasingly filmed and posted back to Facebook, where they go viral as grisly tutorials.

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No organization has ever had to police billions of users in a panoply of languages. Although Facebook prohibits incitement and hate speech, there is no clear line between prudence and censorship.

Despite criticism and concerns from civil society groups, the company has done little to change its strategy of pushing into developing societies with weak institutions and histories of social instability, opening up information spaces where anger and fear often can dominate.

When Facebook entered Myanmar in 2014, Buddhist extremists seized on the platform, spreading misinformation that set off a deadly riot that year. In 2017, hate speech on Facebook contributed to ethnic cleansing against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority.
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Pakistan is deeply vulnerable to a weaponized Facebook and lesser degree Twitter. We have no protection in place. We have no counter in place. We have no idea what or how Facebook plans to protect our communities. You can literally galvanize a people around hate, around a fake issue causing real damage even before the truth has time to put it boots on.

Below are comments about the article from Twitter:

"Facebook consistently ignores political tensions in countries which are not the USA. influence on local minorities, violence and hate speech, local content providers - all of this means nothing. It will backfire and when it will, @facebook will pay heavy price and a real one."

"Please read our major new investigation on the spate of real-world communal riots and lynchings we traced back to Facebook's newsfeed algorithm, which is scrambling social relations in developing countries. "

"Mass media has long been used to mobilize mass violence. But Facebook gave anyone with a smartphone the ability to broadcast hate, especially in areas where institutions are weak or underdeveloped"

"Among many other things, this piece shows what happens in the void that's created when real news, and real journalists, disappear from a place."

"Don't take “we were blindsided” as an answer. Many people & groups have been pleading with Facebook for years. It's not that Facebook is 100% responsible for everything. It's that they've been gravely negligent in what they *could* do. At least try. "

Riaz Haq said...

Now openly admitted, governments and militaries around the world employ armies of keyboard warriors to spread propaganda and disrupt their online opposition. Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favourable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives. Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media. This is The Corbett Report.

https://youtu.be/0dL8vt1n-f8

Fighting digital disinformation is hard

Analyzing, let alone countering, this type of provocative behavior can be difficult. Russia isn’t alone, either: The U.S. tries to influence foreign audiences and global opinions, including through Voice of America online and radio services and intelligence services’ activities. And it’s not just governments that get involved. Companies, advocacy groups and others also can conduct disinformation campaigns.

Unfortunately, laws and regulations are ineffective remedies. Further, social media companies have been fairly slow to respond to this phenomenon. Twitter reportedly suspended more than 70 million fake accounts earlier this summer. That included nearly 50 social media accounts like the fake Chicago Daily News one.

Facebook, too, says it is working to reduce the spread of “fake news” on its platform. Yet both companies make their money from users’ activity on their sites – so they are conflicted, trying to stifle misleading content while also boosting users’ involvement.

Real defense happens in the brain

The best protection against threats to the cognitive dimension of cyberspace depends on users’ own actions and knowledge. Objectively educated, rational citizens should serve as the foundation of a strong democratic society. But that defense fails if people don’t have the skills – or worse, don’t use them – to think critically about what they’re seeing and examine claims of fact before accepting them as true.

American voters expect ongoing Russian interference in U.S. elections. In fact, it appears to havealready begun. To help combat that influence, the U.S. Justice Department plans to alert the public when its investigations discover foreign espionage, hacking and disinformation relating to the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. And the National Security Agency has created a task force to counter Russian hacking of election systems and major political parties’ computer networks.

https://wtop.com/social-media/2018/07/weaponized-information-seeks-a-new-target-in-cyberspace-users-minds/