Showing posts with label Social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social media. Show all posts

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Trump administration seeking information on thousands of people who interacted with anti-Trump Facebook page


CNN Politics, 29 September 2017:

Washington (CNN)Trump administration lawyers are demanding the private account information of potentially thousands of Facebook users in three separate search warrants served on the social media giant, according to court documents obtained by CNN.

The warrants specifically target the accounts of three Facebook users who are described by their attorneys as "anti-administration activists who have spoken out at organized events, and who are generally very critical of this administration's policies."….

These warrants were first reported by LawNewz.com.

Facebook has not responded to a request for comment about whether it has, or plans to, comply with the search warrants.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing the three Facebook users, filed a motion to quash the warrants Thursday.

"What is particularly chilling about these warrants is that anti-administration political activists are going to have their political associations and views scrutinized by the very administration they are protesting," said ACLU attorney Scott Michelman.

Facebook was initially served the warrants in February 2017 along with a gag order which barred the social media company from alerting the three users that the government was seeking their private information, Michelman said. However, Michelman says that government attorneys dropped the gag order in mid-September and agreed that Facebook could expose the existence of these warrants, which has prompted the latest court filings. Michelman, however, says all court filings associated with the search warrant, and any response from Facebook, remain under seal.

The Justice Department is not commenting on these search warrants, but government attorneys have issued a similar search warrant to the web provider DreamHost seeking wide-ranging information about visitors to the website disruptj20.org, which provided a forum for anti-Trump protestors. In that case, DOJ modified its initial search warrant seeking millions of IP address for the visitors who merely clicked on the disruptj20.org website. But DC Superior Court Judge Robert Morin largely granted prosecutors' request to collect a vast set of records from the company, which will include emails of the users who signed up for an account associated with the website, and membership lists……

American Civil Liberties Union DC, media release, 28 September 2017:

Overbroad Search Warrant Implicates Private Pages of Two Local Activists and First Amendment Rights of Thousands of Facebook Users

WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia (ACLU-DC) went to court today to block the enforcement of search warrants targeting three Facebook accounts as part of the government’s investigation and prosecution of activists arrested on Inauguration Day 2017 in Washington D.C.

Two of the warrants would require Facebook to disclose to the government all information from the personal Facebook profiles of local DisruptJ20 activists Lacy MacAuley and Legba Carrefour from November 1, 2016 through February 9, 2017. Although the warrants claim to seek only evidence in support of the government’s prosecutions of January 20 demonstrations, they demand—among other things—all private messages, friend lists, status updates, comments, photos, video, and other private information solely intended for the users’ Facebook friends and family, even if they have nothing to do with Inauguration Day. The warrants also seek information about actions taken on Facebook, including all searches performed by the users, groups or networks joined, and all “data and information that has been deleted by the user.”

The third search warrant was issued for the “DisruptJ20” Facebook page (now called “Resist This”), administered and moderated by Emmelia Talarico. Although the page is public, the warrant would require the disclosure of non-public lists of people who planned to attend political organizing events and even the names of people who simply liked, followed, reacted to, commented on, or otherwise engaged with the content on the Facebook page. During the three-month span the search warrant covers, approximately 6,000 Facebook users liked the page.
The ACLU-DC filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the Facebook users whose accounts are targeted, and a motion to quash or modify the search warrants, arguing that the warrants are overbroad under the Fourth Amendment (which protects personal privacy) and are particularly problematic because the lawful political associations and activities of the users and thousands of third parties will be revealed. The ACLU filing asks the court either to void the warrants outright or to appoint a “special master” who is not part of the prosecutor’s office, to review the Facebook information before providing to the prosecutor only the material—if there is any—relevant to their criminal prosecutions.

“Opening up the entire contents of a personal Facebook page for review by the government is a gross invasion of privacy,” said Scott Michelman, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU-DC.  “The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment was to prevent this type of exploratory rummaging through a person’s private information. Moreover, when law enforcement officers can comb through records concerning political organizing in opposition to the very administration for which those officers work, the result is the chilling of First Amendment-protected political activity.”

None of the ACLU-DC’s clients in today’s filing has been charged by the U.S. Attorney with any Inauguration Day-related crimes.

The public first learned of this case when Facebook revealed it had received the warrants and challenged a gag order attached to the warrants that prevented the company from notifying its customers that their information was sought by federal law enforcement. Public interest groups including the ACLU, ACLU-DC, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Citizen, as well as internet companies including Google, Apple, and Microsoft, filed friend-of-the-court briefs arguing that the gag order should be lifted so the Facebook users could challenge the constitutionality of the search warrants under the First and Fourth Amendments. On the eve of the hearing on the gag order before the D.C. Court of Appeals, the government abruptly withdrew the order. Facebook then notified MacAuley, Carrefour, and Talarico of the warrants and the threats to their privacy.

“My Facebook page contains the most private aspects of my life—and also a frightening amount of information on the people in my life. There are intimate details of my love life, family, and things the federal government just doesn’t need to see,” said MacAuley, one of the ACLU-DC clients challenging the enforcement of the warrants. “Jeff Sessions doesn’t need to see my family photos.”

"This is part of a pattern of prosecutorial overreach in the repression of Inauguration Day protestors," said Carrefour. "This warrant is more than just a violation of privacy. It is a direct attack on D.C.’s grassroots organizing community," said Talarico. "In a city rife with inequities and injustices, the deck is already stacked against us. This overreaching warrant would strike a devastating blow to organizers working every day to make this city a better place."

This is second known attempt by the government to conduct unlawful dragnet searches of the internet and social media in search of evidence against activists arrested on Inauguration Day. In a similar case of government overreach, the government had issued a warrant to website hosting provider Dreamhost for the IP addresses of the 1.3 million people who ever visited the DisruptJ20.org website. Dreamhost, supported by several amici and intervenors, challenged the scope of the warrant and went public with the government’s overbroad request. Amidst public outcry, the government asked the D.C. Superior Court to narrow the time frame of the warrant and eliminate the request for IP addresses. The court agreed and went further by demanding strict safeguards for privacy before the warrant may be executed. The government is now litigating the scope of these additional protections. 

Today’s motions to intervene and to quash were filed in D.C. Superior Court. The case is formally titled In the Matter of the Search of Information Associated with Facebook Accounts disruptj20, lacymacauley, and legba.carrefour That Is Stored at Premises Controlled by Facebook, Inc.


BACKGROUND

The New Yorker, 21 June 2017:

On the morning of January 20th, the day Donald Trump was inaugurated, in Washington, D.C., a large group of anti-Trump protesters, dressed in black, roamed through the city for close to an hour. Some chanted, some dragged newspaper boxes into the street, and some smashed the windows of various stores. In response, the police arrested more than two hundred people, setting in motion a complex legal saga that, months later, is far from over.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit accusing the police of violating the rights of several people by using pepper spray and explosive devices without warning or justification; by making a mass arrest without differentiating between those who had broken laws and those who hadn’t; and by holding detainees for hours without food, water, or access to toilets, and subjecting some to “humiliating and unjustified” invasive searches.

The four plaintiffs in the A.C.L.U.’s lawsuit include Shay Horse, a twenty-three-year-old whose Twitter account identifies him as a photojournalist and “scrumptious/rambunctious anarchist.” According to the lawsuit, Horse broke no laws on the day of the protest but was doused with pepper spray, trapped between police lines for several hours, and then arrested and subjected to a rectal probe. In February, prosecutors dropped all charges against him. The other plaintiffs are Milo Gonzalez, a protester who, the lawsuit says, was also subjected to a rectal search after his arrest and was denied access to a bathroom for nine or ten hours; Elizabeth Lagesse, who, according to the suit, did not break any laws before being arrested but was handcuffed so tightly her wrists bled; and a lawyer named Judah Ariel, who said that he was among a group of people on a sidewalk who were pepper-sprayed without cause but not taken into custody…………

While it seemed clear on the day of the protest that the vandalism and property damage were committed by a small number of people, a superseding indictment handed down in late April charged two hundred and twelve people with rioting, inciting a riot, and engaging in a conspiracy to “damage, destroy, or deface property.” Because participants in a conspiracy can be held responsible for an offense committed by a co-conspirator, the defendants were all charged with breaking the windows of a Bank of America branch, a McDonald’s restaurant, a café, and two separate Starbucks stores. All of them faced the possibility of lengthy prison sentences.

According to defense lawyers, there appears to be no modern-day precedent for charging everyone arrested during a particular protest with conspiracy, and, in May, thirty of the accused filed a motion saying that those charges lacked merit and asking that the superseding indictment be dismissed. Lawyers from the Georgetown Criminal Justice Clinic, white-shoe firms like Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, and D.C.’s Public Defender Service joined in the motion, which argued that the indictment had attributed crimes “collectively and indiscriminately” to defendants without offering evidence of individual culpability.

Some of the defendants have said that they believe they are being targeted for their perceived political identity. Calls for an “anti-capitalist anti-fascist bloc” on Inauguration Day had begun circulating soon after the election in November. Social-media messages included a photograph of a group of black-clad figures brandishing flags and what appear to be flares along with the hashtag #disruptJ20 and the words “wear black.” A communiqué on the Web site CrimethInc read, “If Trump is to be inaugurated at all, let it happen behind closed doors, showing the true face of the security state Trump will preside over. It must be made clear to the whole world that the vast majority of people in the United States do not support his presidency or consent to his rule. . . . We must take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear.”

The authorities seemed aware of the political leanings associated with the protest. Charging documents said that police officers had been “monitoring a planned assembly of individuals that were known to be associated with an anarchist group” and that intelligence-division officers knew that they would be gathering “with the express intent to disrupt Inauguration-related activities.”

Prosecutors in D.C. now face a potentially daunting number of cases, and whether they will be able to come up with individual evidence for each defendant’s case remains to be seen. So far, according to court documents, they have looked at photographs taken by police officers, reviewed video footage, and obtained a judge’s permission to search more than a hundred cell phones seized from those who were arrested. In March, they obtained a warrant to search the home of a man described as a protest organizer and to take computers, cell phones, tablets, and any material documenting the planning of a “riot or ‘Black Bloc’ march” or the planned destruction of property.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Twitter shows its heart is as dark as Facebook's when it comes to Donald Trump


As a businessman, television ‘personality', presidential candidate and now US president, Donald J. Trump has always used his Twitter account @realDonaldTrump to boast, misinform, openly lie, insult, incite, personally attack, defame and threaten.

Over the seven years his main account has been in existence I know of no instance where Twitter Inc has sanctioned this account for breaking its participation rules.

Having deliberately used this digital megaphone to bring the world closer to a nuclear war in 2017, Trump remains immune regardless.

It would appear that, like Zuckerberg and Facebook Inc, CEO Jack Dorsey and Twitter 
shareholders have been more concerned with profit margins than the harm they are enabling. 

In Twitter's case by allowing Trump to tweet with no genuine consideration by the company of a tweet’s context or content.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Twitter cited President Donald Trump’s “newsworthiness” and the public interest as reasons why it declined to remove a tweet that added to the fiery rhetoric between the United States and North Korea.

Trump tweeted Saturday : “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” On Monday, North Korea’s top diplomat called the tweet a declaration of war. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded by calling the suggestion of such a declaration “absurd.”

Twitter’s rules state users “may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.”

The company responded to questions about why Trump’s tweet wasn’t removed Monday by posting in a series of messages on its public policy account that “newsworthiness” is one of the factors it considers in determining if a tweet breaks the platform’s rules.

“This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect it,” one message read. “We need to do better on this, and will.”

The company also stated it’s “committed to transparency and keeping people informed about what’s happening in the world.”

Calls on the company to curtail Trump’s use of the platform are not new . The company has said in the past that it doesn’t comment on individual accounts, but it has cited the importance of hearing from leadership in order to hold people accountable.

Trump’s account wasn’t affected in July, when Twitter announced that it was taking action, including suspensions, on 10 times the number of abusive accounts than it did a year before.

Excerpt from The Twitter Rules:

Abusive Behavior

We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

Violent threats (direct or indirect): You may not make threats of violence or promote violence, including threatening or promoting terrorism.

Harassment: You may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others. Some of the factors that we may consider when evaluating abusive behavior include:

if a primary purpose of the reported account is to harass or send abusive messages to others;
if the reported behavior is one-sided or includes threats;
if the reported account is inciting others to harass another account; and
if the reported account is sending harassing messages to an account from multiple accounts.

Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories. 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Study finds Trump, right-wing extremism and fake news won the media battle during the 2016 US presidential election campaign


In which Facebook Inc is identified as a major commercial player in the media landscape and a significant purveyor of fake news, as well as giving page space to highly partisan and clickbait news sites.

Excerpts from Harvard University, Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society, Rob Faris et al, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, 16 August 2017:

Both winners and losers of the 2016 presidential election describe it as a political earthquake. Donald Trump was the most explicitly populist candidate in modern history. He ran an overtly anti-elite and anti-media campaign and embraced positions on trade, immigration, and international alliances, among many other topics, that were outside elite consensus. Trump expressed these positions in starkly aggressive terms. His detractors perceived Trump’s views and the manner in which he communicated them as alarming, and his supporters perceived them as refreshing and candid. He was outraised and outspent by his opponents in both the primary and the general election, and yet he prevailed—contrary to the conventional wisdom of the past several elections that winning, or at least staying close, in the money race is a precondition to winning both the nomination and the election.

In this report we explore the dynamics of the election by analyzing over two million stories related to the election, published online by approximately 70,000 media sources between May 1, 2015, and Election Day in 2016. We measure how often sources were linked to by other online sources and how often they were shared on Facebook or Twitter. Through these sharing patterns and analysis of the content of the stories, we identify both what was highly salient according to these different measures and the relationships among different media, stories, and Twitter users.

Our clearest and most significant observation is that the American political system has seen not a symmetrical polarization of the two sides of the political map, but rather the emergence of a discrete and relatively insular right-wing media ecosystem whose shape and communications practices differ sharply from the rest of the media ecosystem, ranging from the center-right to the left. Right-wing media were centered on Breitbart and Fox News, and they presented partisan-disciplined messaging, which was not the case for the traditional professional media that were the center of attention across the rest of the media sphere. The right-wing media ecosystem partly insulated its readers from nonconforming news reported elsewhere and moderated the effects of bad news for Donald Trump’s candidacy. While we observe highly partisan and clickbait news sites on both sides of the partisan divide, especially on Facebook, on the right these sites received amplification and legitimation through an attention backbone that tied the most extreme conspiracy sites like Truthfeed, Infowars, through the likes of Gateway Pundit and Conservative Treehouse, to bridging sites like Daily Caller and Breitbart that legitimated and normalized the paranoid style that came to typify the right-wing ecosystem in the 2016 election. This attention backbone relied heavily on social media.

For the past 20 years there has been substantial literature decrying the polarization of American politics. The core claim has been that the right and the left are drawing farther apart, becoming more insular, and adopting more extreme versions of their own arguments. It is well established that political elites have become polarized over the past several decades, while other research has shown that the electorate has also grown apart. Other versions of the argument have focused on the internet specifically, arguing that echo chambers or filter bubbles have caused people of like political views to read only one another and to reinforce each other’s views, leading to the adoption of more extreme views. These various arguments have focused on general features of either the communications system or political psychology—homophily, confirmation bias, in-group/out-group dynamics, and so forth. Many commentators and scholars predicted and measured roughly symmetric polarization on the two sides of the political divide.

Our observations of the 2016 election are inconsistent with a symmetric polarization hypothesis. Instead, we see a distinctly asymmetric pattern with an inflection point in the center-right—the least populated and least influential portion of the media spectrum. In effect, we have seen a radicalization of the right wing of American politics: a hollowing out of the center-right and its displacement by a new, more extreme form of right-wing politics. During this election cycle, media sources that attracted attention on the center-right, center, center-left, and left followed a more or less normal distribution of attention from the center-right to the left, when attention is measured by either links or tweets, and a somewhat more left-tilted distribution when measured by Facebook shares. By contrast, the distribution of attention on the right was skewed to the far right. The number of media outlets that appeared in the center-right was relatively small; their influence was generally low, whether measured by inlinks or social media shares; and they tended to link out to the traditional media—such as the New York Times and the Washington Post—to the same extent as did outlets in the center, center-left, and left, and significantly more than did outlets on the right. The number of farther-right media outlets is very large, and the preponderance of attention to these sources, which include Fox News and Breitbart, came from media outlets and readers within the right. This asymmetry between the left and the right appears in the link ecosystem, and is even more pronounced when measured by social media sharing…..

Our data suggest that the “fake news” framing of what happened in the 2016 campaign, which received much post-election attention, is a distraction. Moreover, it appears to reinforce and buy into a major theme of the Trump campaign: that news cannot be trusted. The wave of attention to fake news is grounded in a real phenomenon, but at least in the 2016 election it seems to have played a relatively small role in the overall scheme of things. We do indeed find stories in our data set that come from sites, like Ending the Fed, intended as political clickbait to make a profit from Facebook, often with no real interest in the political outcome…..

Our observations suggest that fixing the American public sphere may be much harder than we would like. One feature of the more widely circulated explanations of our “post-truth” moment—fake news sites seeking Facebook advertising, Russia engaging in a propaganda war, or information overload leading confused voters to fail to distinguish facts from false or misleading reporting—is that these are clearly inconsistent with democratic values, and the need for interventions to respond to them is more or less indisputable. If profit-driven fake news is the problem, solutions like urging Facebook or Google to use technical mechanisms to identify fake news sites and silence them by denying them advertising revenue or downgrading the visibility of their sites seem, on their face, not to conflict with any democratic values. Similarly, if a foreign power is seeking to influence our democratic process by propagandistic means, then having the intelligence community determine how this is being done and stop it is normatively unproblematic. If readers are simply confused, then developing tools that will feed them fact-checking metrics while they select and read stories might help. These approaches may contribute to solving the disorientation in the public sphere, but our observations suggest that they will be working on the margins of the core challenge……  

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter……

Immigration emerged as the leading substantive issue of the campaign. Initially, the Trump campaign used a hard-line anti-immigration stance to distinguish Trump from the field of GOP contenders. Later, immigration was a wedge issue between the left and the right. Pro-Trump media sources supported this with sensationalistic, race-centric coverage of immigration focused on crime, terrorism, fear of Muslims, and disease.

While coverage of his candidacy was largely critical, Trump dominated media coverage…..

Conservative media disrupted.
Breitbart emerges as the nexus of conservative media. The Wall Street Journal is treated by social media users as centrist and less influential. The rising prominence of Breitbart along with relatively new outlets such as the Daily Caller marks a significant reshaping of the conservative media landscape over the past several years…..  

Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.
Figure 1: Number of sentences by topic and candidate from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

On the partisan left and right, the popularity of media sources varies significantly across the different platforms. On the left, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Vox are prominent on all platforms. On the right, Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Caller, and the New York Post are popular across platforms.

Table 1: Most popular media on the right from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Table 2: Most popular media on the left from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Disinformation and propaganda are rooted in partisanship and are more prevalent on social media.

The most obvious forms of disinformation are most prevalent on social media and in the most partisan fringes of the media landscape. Greater popularity on social media than attention from media peers is a strong indicator of reporting that is partisan and, in some cases, dubious.

Among the set of top 100 media sources by inlinks or social media shares, seven sources, all from the partisan right or partisan left, receive substantially more attention on social media than links from other media outlets.


These sites do not necessarily all engage in misleading or false reporting, but they are clearly highly partisan. In this group, Gateway Pundit is in a class of its own, known for “publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes.”

Disproportionate popularity on Facebook is a strong indicator of highly partisan and unreliable media.

A distinct set of websites receive a disproportionate amount of attention from Facebook compared with Twitter and media inlinks. From the list of the most prominent media, 13 sites fall into this category. Many of these sites are cited by independent sources and media reporting as progenitors of inaccurate if not blatantly false reporting. Both in form and substance, the majority of these sites are aptly described as political clickbait. Again, this does not imply equivalency across these sites. Ending the Fed is often cited as the prototypical example of a media source that published false stories. The Onion is an outlier in this group, in that it is explicitly satirical and ironic, rather than, as is the case with the others, engaging in highly partisan and dubious reporting without explicit irony.


Asymmetric vulnerabilities: The right and left were subject to media manipulation in different ways.

The more insulated right-wing media ecosystem was susceptible to sustained network propaganda and disinformation, particularly misleading negative claims about Hillary Clinton. Traditional media accountability mechanisms—for example, fact-checking sites, media watchdog groups, and cross-media criticism—appear to have wielded little influence on the insular conservative media sphere. Claims aimed for “internal” consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem were more extreme, less internally coherent, and appealed more to the “paranoid style” of American politics than claims intended to affect mainstream media reporting.

The institutional commitment to impartiality of media sources at the core of attention on the left meant that hyperpartisan, unreliable sources on the left did not receive the same amplification that equivalent sites on the right did.

These same standard journalistic practices were successfully manipulated by media and activists on the right to inject anti-Clinton narratives into the mainstream media narrative. A key example is the use of the leaked Democratic National Committee’s emails and her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, released through Wikileaks, and the sustained series of stories written around email-based accusations of influence peddling. Another example is the book and movie release of Clinton Cash together with the sustained campaign that followed, making the Clinton Foundation the major post-convention story. By developing plausible narratives and documentation susceptible to negative coverage, parallel to the more paranoid narrative lines intended for internal consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem, and by “working the refs,” demanding mainstream coverage of anti-Clinton stories, right-wing media played a key role in setting the agenda of mainstream, center-left media. We document these dynamics in the Clinton Foundation case study section of this report.

The New York Times, 6 September 2017:

Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads

Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.

Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a post on Facebook by Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer. The ads, which ran between June 2015 and May 2017, were linked to some 470 fake accounts and pages the company said it had shut down.

Facebook officials said the fake accounts were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, which is known for using “troll” accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.

The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election. Multiple investigations of the Russian meddling, and the possibility that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia, have cast a shadow over the first eight months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Facebook staff members on Wednesday briefed the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are investigating the Russian intervention in the American election. Mr. Stamos indicated that Facebook is also cooperating with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, writing that “we have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.”….

In its review of election-related advertising, Facebook said it had also found an additional 2,200 ads, costing $50,000, that had less certain indications of a Russian connection. Some of those ads, for instance, were purchased by Facebook accounts with internet protocol addresses that appeared to be in the United States but with the language set to Russian.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Facebook Inc still pursuing dream of spying on users through their webcams and via their touch screens or mobile phones


The Daily Dot, 8 June 2017:

Your worst internet nightmare could be on its way to becoming a reality.
newly discovered patent application shows Facebook has come up with plans to potentially spy on its users through their phone or laptop cameras—even when they’re not turned on. This could allow it to send tailored advertisements to its nearly two billion members. The application, filed in 2014, says Facebook has thought of using “imaging components,” like a camera, to read the emotions of its users and send them catered content, like videos, photos, and ads.

“Computing devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and tablets increasingly include at least one, and often more than one, imaging component, such as a digital camera. Some devices may include a front-facing camera that is positioned on the same side of the device as a display. Thus, during normal operation, a user may be looking towards the imaging component. However, current content delivery systems typically do not utilize passive imaging information. Thus, a need exists for a content delivery solution that takes advantage of available passive imaging data to provide content to a user with improved relevancy.”

This is the US patent application to which the article is referring.

United States Patent Application 20150242679
Kind Code:
A1
Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery are described. In one embodiment, for example, an emotion detection component may identify at least one type of emotion associated with at least one detected emotion characteristic. A storage component may store the identified emotion type. An application programming interface (API) component may receive a request from one or more applications for emotion type and, in response to the request, return the identified emotion type. The one or more applications may identify content for display based upon the identified emotion type. The identification of content for display by the one or more applications based upon the identified emotion type may include searching among a plurality of content items, each content item being associated with one or more emotion type. Other embodiments are described and claimed.

Publication number
US20150242679 A1
Publication type
Application
Application number
US 14/189,467
Publication date
Aug 27, 2015
Filing date
Feb 25, 2014
Priority date
Feb 25, 2014
Also published as
Inventors
Original Assignee
Export Citation
External Links: USPTOUSPTO AssignmentEspacenet

Facebook Inc appears to have been granted this related patent, Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery (US 9681166 B2- Publication date 13 June 2017):

ABSTRACT
Techniques for emotion detection and content delivery are described. In one embodiment, for example, an emotion detection component may identify at least one type of emotion associated with at least one detected emotion characteristic. A storage component may store the identified emotion type. An application programming interface (API) component may receive a request from one or more applications for emotion type and, in response to the request, return the identified emotion type. The one or more applications may identify content for display based upon the identified emotion type. The identification of content for display by the one or more applications based upon the identified emotion type may include searching among a plurality of content items, each content item being associated with one or more emotion type. Other embodiments are described and claimed.

BACKGROUND
Users of computing devices spend increasing amounts of time browsing streams of posts on social networks, news articles, video, audio, or other digital content. The amount of information available to users is also increasing. Thus, a need exists for delivering content a user that may be of current interest to them. For example, a user's interests may be determined based upon their current emotional state. Computing devices such as laptops, mobile phones, and tablets increasingly include at least one, and often more than one, imaging component, such as a digital camera. Some devices may include a front-facing camera that is positioned on the same side of the device as a display. Thus, during normal operation, a user may be looking towards the imaging component. However, current content delivery systems typically do not utilize passive imaging information. Thus, a need exists for a content delivery solution that takes advantage of available passive imaging data to provide content to a user with improved relevancy.

Facebook also appears to have been granted a US patent in May this year for Augmenting Text Messages With Emotion Information (US 20170147202 A1).

According to CBINSIGHTS this patent would; automatically add emotional information to text messages, predicting the user’s emotion based on methods of keyboard input. The visual format of the text message would adapt in real time based on the user’s predicted emotion. As the patent notes (and as many people have likely experienced), it can be hard to convey mood and intended meaning in a text-only message; this system would aim to reduce misunderstandings.
The system could pick up data from the keyboard, mouse, touch pad, touch screen, or other input devices, and the patent mentions predicting emotion based on relative typing speed, how hard the keys are pressed, movement (using the phone’s accelerometer), location, and other factors.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The American Resistance has many faces and tweeters are just some of them (11)


In the matter of KNIGHT FIRST AMENDMENT INSTITUTE AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY; REBECCA BUCKWALTER; PHILIP COHEN; HOLLY FIGUEROA; EUGENE GU; BRANDON NEELY; JOSEPH PAPP; and NICHOLAS PAPPAS, Plaintiffs, v DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States; SEAN M. SPICER, White House Press Secretary; and DANIEL SCAVINO, White House Director of Social Media and Assistant to the President, Defendants, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK. Filed 11 July 2017.

The New York Times, 11 July 2017:

WASHINGTON — A group of Twitter users blocked by President Trump sued him and two top White House aides on Tuesday, arguing that his account amounts to a public forum that he, as a government official, cannot bar people from.

The blocked Twitter users, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, raised cutting-edge issues about how the Constitution applies to the social media era. They say Mr. Trump cannot bar people from engaging with his account because they expressed opinions he did not like, such as mocking or criticizing him.

“The @realDonaldTrump account is a kind of digital town hall in which the president and his aides use the tweet function to communicate news and information to the public, and members of the public use the reply function to respond to the president and his aides and exchange views with one another,” the lawsuit said.

By blocking people from reading his tweets, or from viewing and replying to message chains based on them, Mr. Trump is violating their First Amendment rights because they expressed views he did not like, the lawsuit argued.

It offered several theories to back that notion. They included arguments that Mr. Trump was imposing an unconstitutional restriction on the plaintiffs’ ability to participate in a designated public forum, get access to statements the government had otherwise made available to the public and petition the government for “redress of grievances.”

Filed in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, the lawsuit also names Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, and Dan Scavino, Mr. Trump’s director of social media, as defendants. It seeks a declaration that Mr. Trump’s blocking of the plaintiffs was unconstitutional, an injunction requiring him to unblock them and prohibiting him from blocking others for the views they express, and legal fees.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

NSW Police public relations blunder


In light of ongoing revelations concerning data security and privacy breaches (including hacking) by police personnel around Australia, this was not exactly a wise post on the part of NSW Police on or about 6 May 2017. As evidenced by its apparent online deletion since.



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Examining the Alternative Media Ecosystem using Twitter



In the aftermath of major political disruptions in 2016—in Britain with the Brexit vote and in the United States with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency—there has been widespread attention to and theorizing about the problem of “fake news”. But this term is both amorphous and contested. One perspective locates the problem within the emerging ecosystem of alternative media, where the term has been applied to refer to “clickbait” content that uses tabloid-style headlines to attract viewers for financial reasons (Silverman & Alexander 2016) and to describe political propaganda intentionally planted and propagated through online spaces (Timberg 2016). Challenging these definitions, alternative media outlets have appropriated the term to attack “mainstream” media for its perceived economic and political biases and for hosting inaccurate or under-sourced content (e.g. Rappoport 2016). Beneath this rhetoric, we are seeing traditional new providers and emergent alternative media battle not only for economic viability, but over accepted methods of how information is shared and consumed, and, more profoundly, for how narratives around that information are shaped and by whom.

This research seeks to provide a systematic lens for exploring the production of a certain type of “fake news”— alternative narratives of man-made crisis events. For three years, our research group has examined online rumoring during crises. Over that time, we noted the presence of very similar rumors across many man-made crisis events— including the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and several mass shooting events including those at Umpqua Community College in Oregon (October, 2015). For each event, rumors claimed the event had been perpetrated by someone other than the official suspects—that it was instead either a staged event performed by “crisis actors” or a “false flag” orchestrated by someone else. Both explanations claimed that a powerful individual or group was pulling the strings for political reasons. Interestingly, though the arguments and evidence used to support these alternative narratives were somewhat consistent across events, the motives cited were often very different—e.g. from the U.S. government trying to support gun control to coordinated global actors staging violence to motivate military intervention.

For this paper, we utilize this type of conspiracy theory or alternative narrative rumor as an entry point for understanding the ecosystem of alternative media. We examine the production of these narratives through Twitter and across the external websites that Twitter users reference as they engage in these narratives. We propose and demonstrate that this lens—Twitter data from mass shooting events and our method for utilizing that data to reveal and explore connections across web domains—provides a systematic approach for shedding light on the emerging phenomena of alternative media and “fake news”.

Our contributions include an increased understanding of the underlying nature of this subsection of alternative media—which hosts conspiratorial content and conducts various anti-globalist political agendas. Noting thematic convergence across domains, we theorize about how alternative media may contribute to conspiratorial thinking by creating a false perception of information diversity……

We collected tweets related to shooting events for more than ten months in 2016. This time period included several high profile shooting events, including mass shootings with civilian casualties at an Orlando, FL nightclub on June 12, in a shopping district in Munich, Germany on July 22, and at a mall in Burlington, WA on September 23. Each of these events catalyzed considerable discussion online and elsewhere about the details and motives of the attack— including claims of the attack being a “false flag”.

More than half of our alternative narrative collection (30,361 tweets) relates to the Orlando event, including:

@ActivistPost: "Was Orlando Shooting A False Flag? Shooter Has Ties To FBI, Regular At Club, Did Not Act Alone? "

This tweet is typical of an alternative narrative tweet, leveraging uncertainty in the form of a leading question (Starbird et al. 2016) to present its theory. The linked-to article—whose title is the content of this tweet—presents evidence to support the theory, including facts about the case (such as previous contact between the FBI and the shooter) and perceived connections to past events that are similarly claimed to be false flags. The underlying theme here is that the U.S. government perpetrated the shooting with the intention of blaming it on Islamic terrorism. This tweet’s author, the ActivistPost, is associated with one of the central nodes in our network graph (see Figures 1-3), referenced in 191 tweets by 153 users and connected (by user activity) to a relatively high number of other domains.

The following tweet, by an account associated with a domain that has a strong edge tie with ActivistPost, forwards a similarly themed alternative narrative:

@veteranstoday: Orlando nightclub shooting: Yet another false flag? - looks like another PR extravaganza

This article was linked-to 147 times in our data. The tweet and the article feature an image with the title, “Omar Mateen: Patsy or MK Mind-Control Slave”. The term patsy is often used to label an accused perpetrator who has been framed for the incident by government or other powerful groups. MK Mind-Control refers to a CIA project that experimented with mind control in the 1950s. This speculative tweet and related article therefore present two potential explanations of the Orlando shooting event, both building off alternative narratives used in previous events. The underlying claim here is that the named suspect was not responsible for the Orlando shootings, but that the U.S. government was. This claim is extended in the article to apply to other violent acts attributed to Muslim terrorists.

Alternative narratives around the Munich shooting had a similar theme, though blame was pushed onto international geo-political actors: Desperate Zionists Commit Another Fraud with Munich Shooting Hoax - NODISINFO

The above tweet links to an article (tweeted 54 times) within the nodisinfo.com domain, one of the most highly tweeted and highly connected domains in our data. Citing photographic evidence from the scene, the article claims that the shooting was a drill, staged by crisis actors. All of these terms echo other alternative narratives of other events. Diverging from the Orlando narratives, which blame the U.S. government, in this case the accused “real” perpetrators are Zionists—echoing long-active narratives about covert power wielded by Jewish bankers and others. The article offers no evidence to support that connection other than reference to other “staged” events.

The Cascade Mall Shooting in Burlington, Washington referenced a third kind of alternative narrative that has appeared after many U.S.-based shootings, including the Sandy Hook School shooting in 2012 and the Umpqua School shooting in 2015. This narrative claims that these mass shooting events are again staged using crisis actors, but in this case by the left-leaning U.S. government to provide a political basis for reducing gun rights.

Absence Of Footage Of Wounded/Deceased Victims. Media Were Told Victims Remained In The Mall #Cascade #FalseFlag

This tweet suggests that there were no actual victims of the event. It links to an article on the memoryholeblog.com domain, which also has a relatively high degree in our network graph and was tweeted 125 times. The linked-to article assembles evidence to make a case for the event being a drill and describes an outlook that connects several events to this narrative: “Such events are reported on by major news media uncritically, thus supporting the call for strengthened gun control measures. […]”

Interestingly, the second most highly referenced event in our alternative narrative collection from 2016 (at 5,914 tweets) is the Sandy Hook shootings, which occurred in 2012. Though a large portion of those tweets contest or deny that alternative narrative, several utilize Sandy Hook “evidence” to support alternative narratives around more recent events. For example:

Orlando shooting was a hoax. Just like Sandy Hook, Boston Bombing, and San Bernandino. Keep believing Rothschild Zionist news companies. More Orlando shooting Hoax – proof - same actors in Sandy hook & Boston Marathon Fake bombing - gun take away agenda.

These two tweets both connect the Orlando Shooting to claims that Sandy Hook was a hoax. In the first, the author refers to the “Rothschild Zionist news companies”, a reference to anti-globalist and anti-media viewpoints that appear as major themes across many alternative news sites. The second tweet connects Orlando to Sandy Hook (and paradoxically the Boston Marathon bombings) as part of an ongoing agenda to reduce gun rights in the U.S.

Taken together, these examples describe a few of what turns out to be a collection of distinct alternative narratives that share several common features. As the above tweets highlight at the micro-level, at the macro-level our domain data demonstrate that different alternative narratives are connected across users and sites—e.g. some users reference both memoryholeblog.com (which assigns blame to U.S. government officials trying to take away gun rights) and veteranstoday.com and/or nodisinfo.com (which theorize that international conspirators set up these events to further their political agendas by falsely blaming Muslim terrorists). Our tweet and domain data suggest that the production of these narratives is a distributed activity where “successful” elements (e.g. drills, crisis actors, Zionist conspirators) of one narrative are combined with others in a mutually reinforcing manner……