15 votes

A Global Guide to State-Sponsored Trolling

20 comments

  1. [2]
    zoec Link
    Bloomberg looks at how nation-state-level propaganda is operated on the infrastructure of social media. The deeply interconnected world of modern online life is the perfect campaign ground for...

    Bloomberg looks at how nation-state-level propaganda is operated on the infrastructure of social media. The deeply interconnected world of modern online life is the perfect campaign ground for surveillance, disinformation, and top-down control.

    Only a few years after Twitter and Facebook were celebrated as the spark for democratic movements worldwide, states and their proxies are hatching new forms of digitally enabled suppression that were unthinkable before the age of the social media giants, according to evidence collected from computer sleuths, researchers and documents across more than a dozen countries.

    Many of those findings are contained in a report released this week by a global group of researchers that uncovered evidence of state-sponsored trolling in seven countries, and Bloomberg reporters documented additional examples in several others.

    (Here's the direct link of the PDF file State-Sponsored Trolling: How Governments Are Deploying Disinformation as Part of Broader Digital Harassment Campaigns)

    9 votes
    1. it-is-sandwich-time Link Parent
      I'm linking Reddit because I created a sticky of tools for seeing/combat political influence. I keep checking it to stay aware of ways it's being used because it makes me more conversational about...

      I'm linking Reddit because I created a sticky of tools for seeing/combat political influence. I keep checking it to stay aware of ways it's being used because it makes me more conversational about it to know what they're doing/attempting: https://old.reddit.com/r/NewsofSeattle/comments/8z4gkl/ways_to_seecombat_political_influence/?st=jjw9lyib&sh=dd3202fd

      1 vote
  2. [2]
    patience_limited (edited ) Link
    Honestly, if you've ever worked in a data center, managed a mail or chat system, had any security visibility into connection logs, etc., state-sponsored attempts to decrease signal/noise ratio and...

    Honestly, if you've ever worked in a data center, managed a mail or chat system, had any security visibility into connection logs, etc., state-sponsored attempts to decrease signal/noise ratio and otherwise interfere with the open Internet have been grossly evident since the early '00's.

    This is not news to Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. They made intentional decisions to prioritize growth over any reasonable semblance of user protection, and we've reaped the whirlwind. [Not to belabor the point, but unfettered capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction.]

    7 votes
    1. 39hp Link Parent
      A week or so ago, YouTube announced yet another campaign to push back agains bad actors, and all I could do was wonder how it would fail this time. For anyone still preaching that the “marketplace...

      This is not news to Facebook, Twitter, Google, et al. They made intentional decisions to prioritize growth over any reasonable semblance of user protection, and we've reaped the whirlwind.

      A week or so ago, YouTube announced yet another campaign to push back agains bad actors, and all I could do was wonder how it would fail this time.

      For anyone still preaching that the “marketplace of ideas” will sort itself out, we are watching that premise fail literally all around us, literally all the time.

      Not to belabor the point, but unfettered capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction.

      I wish it could implode without taking the rest of us with it.

      6 votes
  3. [16]
    delicious_grownups Link
    Great read. I wouldn't be surprised if, as a civilization, we decide to abolish or criminalize social media one day in the not too distant future

    Great read. I wouldn't be surprised if, as a civilization, we decide to abolish or criminalize social media one day in the not too distant future

    1 vote
    1. [14]
      zoec Link Parent
      Well, I speculate that a slightly more likely future is mandatory social media participation and propaganda receiverhood, possibly via direct brain implant device, under hypertotalitarian...

      Well, I speculate that a slightly more likely future is mandatory social media participation and propaganda receiverhood, possibly via direct brain implant device, under hypertotalitarian governments.

      But on a more serious note, I guess that maybe the social media Internet's hierarchical, centralized structure is particularly amenable to propaganda campaigns. With the nation-state-level resources, the focus is on creating a few massively connected nodes, which has an advantage in taking over a network with scale-free characteristics. Those few "massively connected" nodes don't have to be physical ones; more likely they're botnet-like collectives under central control.

      In related news, China's official news-propaganda agency, the Xinhua, is going in the direction of AI-powered automate newsroom. Fully automated news and opinion production could simply flood the network. Coupled with surveillance-based personal targeting, it could become... "Too powerful" doesn't cut it.

      An AP writer is going to write one article… but what if you could write a hundred? Now, you’re not just a major player in the already-small number of players controlling a pretty big influence in a global conversation, but you’re the best player.

      There's also the problem of perverse incentives. The few big companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, are not beholden to public good. Even if they "wanted" to, they couldn't have. Their internal structures and relationships with governments are not built to provide public good.

      5 votes
      1. [11]
        39hp (edited ) Link Parent
        Its so frustrating to have seen this in real time. I remember when these companies were young and they had unofficial mottos like, “Don’t be evil.” Twitter is happily endorsing Nazi and white...

        The few big companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google, are not beholden to public good. Even if they "wanted" to, they couldn't have. Their internal structures and relationships with governments are not built to provide public good.

        Its so frustrating to have seen this in real time. I remember when these companies were young and they had unofficial mottos like, “Don’t be evil.”

        Twitter is happily endorsing Nazi and white supremecist accounts. Facebook told a policing subcontractor not to flag hate groups even though they violated Facebook’s terms. Google through YouTube finds it somehow impossible to give accounts like InfoWars a third strike despite its content being identical from video to video.

        5 votes
        1. [3]
          delicious_grownups Link Parent
          I miss the "don't be evil" days

          I miss the "don't be evil" days

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            39hp Link Parent
            I remember a younger me legitimately thinking, “Google would never be evil.” Oh sweet, summer me.

            I remember a younger me legitimately thinking, “Google would never be evil.” Oh sweet, summer me.

            3 votes
        2. [7]
          starchturrets Link Parent
          You think infowars is bad, try Elsagate.

          Google through YouTube finds it somehow impossible to give accounts like InfoWars a third strike despite its content being identical from video to video.

          You think infowars is bad, try Elsagate.

          1 vote
          1. 39hp (edited ) Link Parent
            Aaand I’m screaming. I’m shocked (shocked) that YouTube’s algorithms failed.

            Aaand I’m screaming.

            I’m shocked (shocked) that YouTube’s algorithms failed.

            3 votes
          2. [5]
            delicious_grownups Link Parent
            What's that about? What's the spark notes?

            What's that about? What's the spark notes?

            1 vote
            1. [4]
              starchturrets Link Parent
              In short: Vids of disturbing content, made by bots, of disturbing, explicit content (think Mickey Mouse Masturbating) are being recommended by the algorithm, even making their way into Youtube...

              In short: Vids of disturbing content, made by bots, of disturbing, explicit content (think Mickey Mouse Masturbating) are being recommended by the algorithm, even making their way into Youtube Kids.

              Edit: Stupid me, saying disturbing content twice.

              2 votes
              1. 39hp Link Parent
                I guess I should have known about this. I remember seeing some questionable vids come up on the YouTube Kids account for the kids I sit for.

                I guess I should have known about this. I remember seeing some questionable vids come up on the YouTube Kids account for the kids I sit for.

                1 vote
      2. [2]
        delicious_grownups Link Parent
        Welp, there goes my dream of being a journalist. And yeah, social media is one of those things that doesn't seem to operate within the realm of "what's good for everyone"

        Welp, there goes my dream of being a journalist. And yeah, social media is one of those things that doesn't seem to operate within the realm of "what's good for everyone"

        1 vote
        1. zoec Link Parent
          Journalism has never been more important.

          Journalism has never been more important.

          2 votes
    2. saydie Link Parent
      I don't know about criminalization but it's become more and more evident that it needs to be regulated.

      I don't know about criminalization but it's become more and more evident that it needs to be regulated.