How social media censorship threatens the flow of information #wikileaks

The rise of the Internet has expanded the ways in which information may be delivered to end users, going around potential media and government control of information.

However, as social media platforms increasingly become our gateways to the web, they are recentralizing the distributed web. As Facebook breaks 1.7 billion users worldwide, every one of those users in every country of the world are subject to a single centralized set of rules governing what is acceptable content that can be posted on Facebook’s pages. ….

One could easily imagine Facebook eventually developing guidelines that prohibit the redistribution of stolen materials, perhaps at the request of US law enforcement or certain foreign governments as a condition of operating in those nations…..  In such a world, Wikileaks would essentially cease to exist for the average person, as even news coverage of Wikileaks content would simply be filtered out of their daily news feed, making them entirely oblivious to the organization’s latest data dumps.

Source: Julian Assange’s Internet Access And How Facebook Could Be The End Of Wikileaks

As readers of this blog know, social media is a frictionless platform for propaganda messaging. But as the linked column points out, Internet users are increasingly leaving the web for social sharing platforms which are increasingly controlled (“censored”, “manipulated”, “propaganda-based”). Eventually, it may again become hard to find primary sources and to think for yourself, versus being told what to think by the “authorities” and “experts”.

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“What you see is all there is”

A popular propaganda method is to give you some information that leads you to a likely incorrect conclusion, but the conclusion the propagandist would like you to reach.

The trick works because we see some information in the propaganda message and our brain short circuits and concludes that “What you see is all there is”. We then quickly agree with the message without considering that we have an incomplete picture.

The following social media propaganda poster was shared into my timeline and illustrates the “What you see is all there is” problem.

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Wow – 7 species of bees were put on the endangered species list and havoc will result. Wow – Like and Share this post “Before it’s too late!” (or before your brain resumes functioning).

Did you know that there are about 4,000 species of bees in the United States?

Did you know that native bees – not honey bees – do most of our plant pollinating?

Does your view of the above poster change once you have additional information?

The above poster may also work because you may have heard about colony collapse disorder in the recent past. The die offs attributed to colony collapse disorder have become smaller in recent years and also see the EPA page.

This post is not about whether colony collapse disorder is happening or not, or whether humans or climate change or randomness are the cause. This post is about the concept of “What you see is all there is” and illustrates how a complex subject, simplified, can lead you to a potentially inappropriate conclusion.

 

Bizarre attempts at social media propaganda regarding #Wikileaks

This is bizarre on many levels:

wikileaksransomware

The files are read as HTML (text) files via the Wikileaks.org web site, which does not present a way to deliver malware to your computer. The first document release contained about 2,000 text files, making the “33,000 viruses” claim silly.

This social media propaganda message might have been posted in attempt to discourage you from reading the Wikileaks documents for your self, or it could have been posted by someone that wants you to think people discouraging the reading of Wikileaks documents are not very bright.

In a related vein, is this comment from CNN’s Chris Cuomo, a licensed attorney, who says it is illegal for people to read the Wikileaks documents but acceptable for the media to do so, and that we should rely on the media to read the documents and listen to the media’s analysis only. This is a “jaw drop” and “face palm” moment:

Cuomo appears to be saying that it is illegal for you to think for yourself. Instead, outsource your thinking to the respected experts at CNN. What ever you do, do not think for yourself – leave thinking to the professionals, to the elite who are much smarter than you.

Is it Legal to Read Wikileaks Documents?

Here is what the experts say (I know nothing of the law and am only linking to other’s comments, which I believe is still legal in the United States, but I might be wrong.)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says that someone who has no secrecy obligations to an employer has a First amendment right to read anything they want.

The U.S. government did tell U.S. government employees that reading Wikileaks documents that are in the public domain is illegal if the documents are still classified. Some government employees have restrictions against accessing classified information even when the information is in the public domain. The government said it would prosecute children, parents and relatives of government workers if children or extended family members read publicly available classified documents.

There are additional comments that the U.S. government suggested college students who post commentary on social media, indicating they had read Wikileaks documents, might not be permitted to hold government jobs, per a 2010 report.

The U.S. government has never successfully prosecuted a journalist for publishing formerly secret documents.

The main threat to reading Wikileaks document is that the NSA records the IP addresses of everyone who visits the Wikileaks.org web site (says EFF).

Cuomo has backpedaled on his legal advice, using Twitter (but not CNN):

capture

Google plans to offer “fact check” for news.google.com

Source: Labeling fact-check articles in Google News

It appears they will add links to sources that might help to check if items in the news story are true or false.

That this needs to be done says something about news reporting 🙂

I am having a difficult time seeing how “fact checking” would work on stories like this, this and this, which we showed, were incorrectly reported initially, and in some cases, led to the creation of “false” facts.

President Obama also said this week, ““There has to be, I think, some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world,” Obama added.”

and “Obama said democracy require[s] citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions.”

Truthiness is defined as “a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person making an argument or assertion claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence,logic, intellectual examination, or facts

Do Obama’s lies about the Affordable Care Act fit into “basic truthiness tests”?

These comments were followed by  CNN’s Chris Cuomo telling us we should not think for ourselves but let the media tell us what to think.

Does anything here look like propaganda messaging to you?

 

When are journalists obligated to report on received information?

Glenn Greenwald presents the basic principles:
1. A source’s motives are irrelevant in deciding whether to publish.
2. Journalists constantly publish material that is stolen or illegally obtained (e.g. NY Times and Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return)
3. The more public power someone has, the less privacy they are entitled to claim.
4. Whether something is “shocking” or “earth-shattering” is an irrelevant standard.
5. All journalists are arbiters of privacy and gatekeepers of information.

Core principles of journalism are ignored by critics of this reporting.

Source: On WikiLeaks, Journalism, and Privacy: Reporting on the Podesta Archive is an Easy Call

Do read the full article. It may help to understand how or when journalism trends into propaganda instead of journalism.

Many on social media are misquoting #Wikileaks

Recent releases from Wikileaks are, without question, exposing ethical failures and outright corruption in our government officials. The emails contain enormous evidence that this is occurring and that our government officials are as corrupt as the worst in the world.

That said, numerous people are posting excerpts on social media that are taken 100% out of context, to say something that is not true.

For example, I have seen this quote widely distributed on social media today, being presented as proof that Hillary Clinton was selling government protection to those who donated to her foundation. But that is not what the email is about:

“This is pretty simple stuff. So Algeria is on the terror list, they want off the terror list, the State Department’s making a decision to do it, they write a check for what? How much? How many million dollars do they write a check for? I don’t know, but Algeria writes a check. You’re from Boston, you know how politics works. They write a really big check to the Clinton Foundation,”

Looks damning, doesn’t it? Until you see that it was speculation from a flaky TV reporter.

The original full text is clear: this is a direct quote from MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough who was creating hypothetical scenarios.

Another example was a quote that Hillary Clinton apparently “hates everyday Americans”. Those words appear in the emails. However, this was in reference to her disliking the typical politician’s use of the phrase “everyday Americans”; she disliked the phrase.

With the normal mass media ignoring the 9,000 (so far) emails released by Wikileaks, and ignoring the documents released by DC Leaks and Guccifer 2, it is easy for poorly done crowd sourcing to take control of the story line and spread untrue statements on social media.

Again, the various released documents and emails contain a documented pattern of sleaze and corruption. There is more than enough to share that is legitimate corruption. However, spreading false statements dilutes the message and ultimately harms the messenger.

Disclaimer: I am absolutely not defending Clinton. The emails indicate a clear and unmistakable pattern of deceit and corruption. The purpose of this blog is to look at how social media is used to spread propaganda. In this situation, social media is spreading untrue statements by quickly taking quotes out of context. The use of out context quotes is a typical pattern common in propaganda messaging, whether by experts or social media amateurs. It is just another form of cherry picking to make a point.

Related: Beware of fake documents on social media purporting to be from Wikileaks

 

 

Learn how to recognize propaganda in public statements

There have been leaks of emails whose content is embarrassing. In response, U.S. intelligence agencies issued the following statement alleging that Russia is behind the hacking and release of the emails in order to influence the U.S. election:

“The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Source: U.S. Intelligence Meddles In US Presidential Election: Backs Hillary Clinton | Zero Hedge

The above statement is written very cleverly, employing basic techniques of propaganda messaging. In the bottom line, no evidence is provided to support the claims shown. Numerous hackers, the world over, who are not part of government agencies, have amply demonstrated that the ordinary hacking community is capable of these security breaches.

Devoid of evidence, this is an “Appeal to Authority” claim: Believe us because we are intelligence agencies.

Update 1: Politico notes the same problem – no evidence provided.

Update 2: There is evidence, in a public report issued in June 2016, by a private IT security firm. It is odd that the intelligence agencies never cited this public report, though. Their report indicates a common phishing technique was used to harvest passwords, including from the Clinton campaign. They have “moderate confidence” the attack initiated in Russia from a group affiliated with the Russian government. “Moderate confidence” in their own definition, means they believe their sources are reliable but the data is insufficient to draw a conclusion. However, this public report was never mentioned by the intelligence agencies asserting that Russia is behind the infiltration of the information systems. Update March 2017: The private IT security firm has since had its credibility questioned after issuing questionable reports involving Ukraine, that contained clearly and provably false data and conclusions.

Update 3: The history of how the “Russians hacked the emails” meme was started. That story illustrates how a propaganda meme is launched, and then shared on social media tens of thousands of times, confirming this “false fact” upon which no evidence has been provided. Then, the very poor reporting of Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek spread another false meme that Putin and Trump were linked together in a conspiracy and Russia was confirmed behind this due to “fake emails” being released. Eichenwald’s conspiracy theory has since been shot down and demolished but now lives on as another “false fact” while Eichenwald continues to push his false conspiracy theory. The Intercept says the real evidence shows Eichenwald is lying and that Eichenwald is a liar.

Based on the links above, it appears that Kurt Eichenwald is a propagandist who has spread his false conspiracy theory via the social media sharing crowd.

As the link notes,

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Political campaigns use fake “Astro turf” social media influencers

In politics, “grass roots” supporters refers to an organically developed  group that supports an initiative, a party or a politician. The idea is the group has arisen “from the people”.

Counter to that, lobbying organizations create fake “grass roots” support groups, with fake names such as “Citizens for Jobs”. These fake organizations are known as “astro turf” – literally fake grass roots support organizations funded and managed by lobbying groups working to present the false impression that this is a concerned citizens effort.

This article: Astroturf ‘Outrage Machine’ of Paid Trolls Floods Social Media to Counteract Negative News About Hillary Clinton | The Stream names individuals and groups who created or organized fake social media “astro turf” campaigns and accounts to further the agenda of their sponsor. These fake groups create fake Twitter and Facebook accounts and use them to flood social media with the appearance of support – or criticism – of various viewpoints. They often use “Appeal to Authority”  or “Get on the Bandwagon” propaganda methods.

For example, the Wikileaks document dump reveals what was already assumed – political campaigns employ armies of fake social media accounts to generate support for their initiatives and political goals. According to The Daily Kos, there were numerous online posts claiming to have switched from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton – but most of these posts were fake “astro turf” operations run on behalf of the Clinton campaign.

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How political campaigns control the media propaganda message

All presidential campaigns have their favorite reporters, try to plant stories they want published, and attempt in multiple ways to curry favor with journalists. These tactics are certainly not unique to the Clinton campaign (liberals were furious in 2008 when journalists went to John McCain’s Arizona ranch for an off-the-record BBQ). But these rituals and dynamics between political campaigns and the journalists who cover them are typically carried out in the dark, despite how significant they can be.

Source: EXCLUSIVE: New Email Leak Reveals Clinton Campaign’s Cozy Press Relationship

Read the whole thing. There’s more in the recent DC Leaks, Guccifer 2 and Wikileaks releases, including that MSNBC views itself as a media arm of the Clinton campaign, working with the Clinton campaign to plan and coordinate their programming. Other news organizations participate too, from Fox News on the right to MSNBC on the left. Almost certainly, all politicians work with cooperative and assistive media “reporters” (aka propaganda specialists).

These “fake news” reports are then widely shared on social media, amplifying the original message.

Update: A day later, a new Wikileaks document release shows NY Times reporters gave the Clinton campaign editing authority of their coverage, the Boston Globe coordinated positive coverage of Clinton with the Clinton campaign, and debate moderator John Harwood, who works for both the NY Times and CNBC, bragged about  how he treated Trump in a debate session.

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Beware of fake documents on social media purporting to be from Wikileaks

Beware of fake documents widely distributed on social media, and purportedly coming from Wikileaks.

Wikileaks IS distributing thousands of documents that are very likely authentic. However, others are using the publicity of the Wikileaks documents to spread their own versions that are likely fake.

For example, the document image below is being widely circulated on social media and claims to be from Wikileaks. However, a search of the Wikileaks database shows this does not exist at Wikileaks. The official Wikileaks Twitter account issued a statement saying this is not one of their documents. Yet this image of a partial document has been widely attributed to Wikileaks and even picked up by “main stream media” reports. However, for reasons explained below, this document is almost certainly a parody or outright hoax.

Here is the image (click on image for slightly larger version):

cuna2iqwcaqjhhtThe bottom of this post has two paragraphs suggesting that Clinton says Bernie Sanders’ supporters are “low social capital individuals” and are a “bucket of losers”. Initially this seems “plausible” – until you read the full document from which this quote comes.

A copy of the full document from which this comes is buried on ScribD. The full document goes on to talk about “millennial-narcissists, and white-male-feminines“:

“Such as the sub-culture self-described as ((Makes air-quotes)) bronies. Male Millennials who are fans of the young girl’s cartoon My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic, devoting social energy and capital to viewing, discussing, and dressing up as the non-human characters.”

The alleged transcript continues on and degenerates further. This appears to be an intentional parody of a Clinton speech to Goldman Sachs. Therefore, the claim that Clinton called Sanders’ supporters a “bucket of losers” is almost certainly false.

For example,

What groups are in this-these-buckets of losers?

Who are we dealing with?

H.Clinton There are three groups in the bucket. Firstly, the NEETs. These are people without social,economic, or intellectual capital. They are often possessed with both a very poor self-image and, paradoxically, a high degree of entitlement. They have nurtured a victim-mentality

S. Smith Well they have been victimized

H. Clinton =No.>Notin traditional manner<. NEETs are societies’ drop-outs and they are largely responsible for their own conditions. We should not be especially sympathetic to their plight. They are usually angry, often involuntarily celibate, and yet believe themselves to be the future of our nation.

H. Clinton Next are the Millennial-Narcissists.These are children of privilege such as Occupy Wall Street. Almost entirely white save for some highly-valued token minorities, they are insulated from the impact of a 3rd party vote due to their Caucasian-Male privilege. In other words, they can afford to vote for disruption because their parents paid for the iPhones.

Seriously? This reads like a parody. This document does not appear in the Wikileaks database and its original source is unknown. All clues that this is not what it appears to be.

From a propaganda perspective, this item works well. First, it has some context that sounds like a speech given to a financial sector organization. Indeed, parts of the text were likely taken from actual transcripts to add authenticity.

Second, the item posted as an image only, carefully includes only the prologue text which seems potentially genuine, and then tacks on one paragraph. But this has selectively quoted from the broader text. When we examine the full text, the silliness of this item becomes obvious.

Third, this social media meme works in conjunction with confirmation bias, the subject of the post appearing just before this one, below.

Text for search indexing

This coalition, a collection of generally under-represented, low social capital individuals has become increasingly networked and increasingly motivated. This group that our analysts are calling the ((Makes air quotes)) bucket of losers, could not only be a significant force in the next election but (.) could, on an outside percentile, even win.