Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts

Friday, 20 April 2018

A measure of justice for an Australian tweeter

The win won’t eradicate the sustained personal stress or financial difficulties that such an unfair dismissal imposed – still it was pleasing see this tweeter's actions recognised as the right to freedom of political expression.

Hopefully Comcare will not be so bloody minded as to appeal the judgement,

The Sydney MorningHerald, 18 April 2018:

A  former Immigration official sacked over tweets critical of Australia's asylum seeker policy has won a fight for compensation, after an appeals tribunal found her dismissal was unlawful and described government efforts to restrict anonymous comments from its employees as Orwellian.

The decision on Monday will redirect scrutiny to the Immigration Department's dismissal of Michaela Banerji for tweeting criticisms of detention policies, and challenges Australian Public Service rules stopping public servants from expressing their political views on social media.

Ms Banerji took the government to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal after federal workplace insurer Comcare refused to compensate her for the psychological condition that developed after she was sacked in 2013 over tweets from a pseudonymous Twitter account.

The tribunal overturned Comcare's decision and found she suffered depression and anxiety that could be classed an injury under federal compensation laws.

Ms Banerji was working in the Immigration Department when co-workers learnt she was behind the tweets railing against the government's treatment of asylum seekers.

She lost a high-profile attempt to stop her dismissal in the Federal Circuit Court in 2013, a decision seen as likely to curtail other bureaucrats' use of social media when judge Warwick Neville found Australians had no "unfettered implied right (or freedom) of political expression".

In a case that Ms Banerji's lawyer Allan Anforth from Canberra Chambers said could have implications for other public and private sector employees, the AAT said Comcare's refusal was based on a dismissal that was unlawful because it intruded on her right to free political expression.

Her tweets, made from the Twitter handle @LaLegale, were anonymous and did not disclose confidential departmental information, but an internal investigation in 2012 found she had breached the code of conduct for government employees.

In a submission to the tribunal, Mr Anforth said the tweets were posted from her own phone and, in most cases, outside work hours.

The appeals tribunal found the Immigration Department itself had identified Ms Banerji after she posted anonymously, and said guidelines stopping public servants from publicly criticising the government should not be applied to anonymous comments.

"A comment made anonymously cannot rationally be used to draw conclusions about the professionalism or impartiality of the public service," it said.

"Such conclusions might conceivably be open if the comments were explicitly attributed to, say, an unnamed public servant, but that hypothetical situation does not apply to Ms Banerji."

The tribunal found Ms Banerji appeared to have taken care not to have used information which could only have been in her possession as an Immigration employee.

It lashed the government decision to sack her, saying it "impermissibly trespassed upon her implied freedom of political communication", and "with a law only weakly and imperfectly serving a legitimate public interest".

"The burden of the code on Ms Banerji’s freedom was indeed heavy – the exercise of the freedom cost her her employment.

"In our opinion, there is no significant justification available to the employer here for the law which exacted that cost."

Comcare is considering the tribunal's decision. The findings could be appealed in the full Federal Court…..

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The American Resistance has many faces and these are just two of them (17)

* The woman is this photograph was susequently fired by her employer, government contrator Akima LLC, a subsidiary of NANA Development Corporation

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

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, 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 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 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.


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. 

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Is @Team_Trump45 an underground Trump election campaign Twitter account?

Peel back the layers and it appears highly likely that this Twitter account which Donald J. Trump, first as a presidential candidate and now as US president, likes to retweet was actually created by his election campaign team.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Oh, it burns! It burns!

News Corp hack Chris Kenny gets well and truly burned by ABC journalist Emma Alberici……….

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

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


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.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Just one more thing that is fake about Donald Trump

It’s not just his 'orange' tan or his self-reported degree of personal wealth which is fake - it seems Donald J. Trump’s Twitter numbers are not what they seem either.

At least 12.9 million fake followers last week and 14.7 million followers without a pulse this week. 

Wonder how long it actually took the White House 'communications' team to amass that many proofs of his social inadequacy? Creating an extra 1.8 million little Twitter bots to boost that king-sized ego must have his minions' thumbs working frantically.

Each audit takes a sample of up to 5000 (or more, if you subscribe to Pro) Twitter followers for a user and calculates a score for each follower. This score is based on number of tweets, date of the last tweet, and ratio of followers to friends. We use these scores to determine whether any given user is real or fake. Of course, this scoring method is not perfect but it is a good way to tell if someone with lots of followers is likely to have increased their follower count by inorganic, fraudulent, or dishonest means.
TwitterAudit is not affiliated with Twitter in any way.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Trump's bully boys went after Twitter, then turned tail and ran

US President Donald Trump's bully boys issued a summons on 14 March 2017:

This is an action to prevent the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), U.S. Customs and Border Protection ("CBP"), and the individual Defendants from unlawfully abusing a limited-purpose investigatory tool to try to unmask the real identity of one or more persons who have been using Twitter's social media platform, and specifically a Twitter account named @ALT_USCIS, to express public criticism of the Department and the current Administration. The rights of free speech afforded Twitter's users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech. In these circumstances, Defendants may not compel Twitter to disclose information regarding the real identities of these users without first demonstrating that some criminal or civil offense has been committed, that unmasking the users' identity is the least restrictive means for investigating that offense, that the demand for this information is not motivated by a desire to suppress free speech, and that the interests of pursuing that investigation outweigh the important First Amendment rights of Twitter and its users. But Defendants have not come close to making any of those showings. And even if Defendants could otherwise demonstrate an appropriate basis for impairing the First Amendment interests of Twitter and its users, they certainly may not do so using the particular investigatory tool employed here—which Congress authorized solely to ensure compliance with federal laws concerning imported merchandise—because it is apparent that whatever investigation Defendants are conducting here does not pertain to imported merchandise.

@ALT_uscis weighs in:

The American Civil Liberties Union joins the fray:
On 8 April it was announced that the Trump Adminstration had withdrawn the summons.

Reuters, 8 April 2017:

The abrupt end to the dispute may indicate that Justice Department lawyers did not like their chances of succeeding in a fight about speech rights, said Jamie Lee Williams, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for digital rights.

"It seemed like a blatant attempt to censor or chill the people behind this account, or to retaliate against people who are speaking out against this administration," Williams said.

"This could have been a huge loss for the administration in court," she added.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Quotes of the Week

Those who ignore history are condemned to retweet it. 
[David Brooks writing in The New York Times on 8 April 2017]

The algorithm purportedly used by the Department to match business names between the ATO dataset and Centrelink data was leaked to the media, and I undertook an analysis of it. This algorithm is breathtakingly naïve and will result in incorrect matches for common situations such as typographical errors, misplaced punctuation, and the legal entity name being different from the business trading name. The potential for mismatches is significant. Various more sophisticated fuzzy matching algorithms are readily available. [Senate Standing Committees On Community Affairs, Inquiry Into Design, Scope, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Contracts Awarded And Implementation Associated With The Better Management Of The Social Welfare System Initiative, Submission 38]

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 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 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 (which assigns blame to U.S. government officials trying to take away gun rights) and and/or (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……

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Cottoning on to Donald Trump's tweets

Graphic by @gibilisco

Excerpt from A Taxonomy of Trump Tweets interview with cognitive linguist George Lakoff, 13 January 2017:

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  Obviously, you don't think the media are handling these utterances very well. What do you suggest that we do?

GEORGE LAKOFF:  The media is addicted to breaking news, so we have to give the tweet first. That’s the breaking news. Wrong, because that allows him to manipulate you as a reporter and manipulate the truth.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:  So you're saying don't report on the tweet?

GEORGE LAKOFF:  You begin by telling the truth and giving the evidence for that truth, then mention his tweet, point out that that contradicts the truth and then talk about what kind of tweet this is. You know, you say, this is a case of diversion. Here’s what he is diverting, quickly. Don't have a panel discussion about it, you know, [LAUGHS] just do it and go on. Keep going back to substance and the truth.

Also, what is the effect of his tweeting on the truth? He’s trying to say, usually, that this truth is a general truth. And that’s another thing that I should add to this list of the things he does, is to take a specific case and say that it's the general case.

The Guardian, 7 March 2017:

President Donald Trump is the most powerful cornered animal in the world

For all his inconstancy of character, Donald Trump is a master manipulator. He rose to political prominence by slandering Barack Obama. He rode the birther myth as far as it would go – before brazenly jettisoning it with the insistence that it was all the handiwork of Hillary Clinton.

Now once again, he seeks to buoy his political fortunes by attacking Obama. Perhaps what is so striking about the tweets is not their desperation, but their cynicism. In exclaiming “This is McCarthyism!”, Trump said something deeply revealing – only about himself. McCarthyism was never in the first instance about wiretapping. It was about defaming public officials with charges of treason without a shred of evidence. Sounds familiar, no?

Equally revealing was Trump’s tweet: “I’d bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!” As Trump well knows, a good lawyer can make a case out of anything.

In the 1970s, after the justice department accused the Trump Corporation of racially discriminatory rental policies, Trump hired Roy Cohn. This was a man who, as a young lawyer, had assisted Joseph McCarthy’s red-baiting. On Trump’s behalf, Cohn countersued the government for $100m, a tactic Trump absorbed and has practiced throughout his career: when on the defensive, attack.

Concerned about congressional investigations into contact between his campaign and the Russians? Make a groundless charge of wiretapping against Obama and insist that the allegations be included in the investigations.

Cohn’s countersuit did not prevail, nor will Trump’s charges against Obama stick. But that is not the point. The point is to distract attention away from real allegations by creating a chaos of conflicting claims. And in this regard the strategy is all too effective. If there is something extraordinary about Trump it is how low he is willing to go……

Since his inauguration a scant six weeks ago, Trump has defamed a great newspaper, a federal judge, and a former president. He has attacked whole institutions, pillars of American democracy. He appears willing to hold a great constitutional order hostage to his narcissism and political insecurities.

One wishes to echo the words of Joseph Welch who famously asked of Joe McCarthy: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Take a bow Twitter in Australia - a large part of the reason Turnbull & Co weren't unconditionally loved by the electorate on 2 July 2016 is your fault!

Excerpt from Sky News Australian Agenda 3 July 2016 interview with Liberal Senator for Tasmania George Brandis:

Can I just ask, do you think we are seeing deeper changes in Australian politics? We have now gone for a decade and the evidence is that it's very hard for a first-term government to it be re-elected. The electorate seems to be more impatient and more critical. Do you think that's right?

I do, and there are a lot of reasons for that. I think one of the drivers of this is the increasing velocity of events. Another is the trivialisation of political communication through Twitter and things like that. There are a lot of phenomena that sociologists and political scientists will no doubt write about, but I do think that the velocity of events, the increasing accelerating velocity of events and the trivialisation of political discourse have a lot to do with it.

Take a bow, Aussie twerps.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: Liberals behaving badly and being found out right to the bitter end of campaign

The Liberal Party of Australia has been caught lying to Twitter in an attempt to manipulate mention of its campaign in the Higgins electorate on that particular social media platform. Polling earlier in June 2016 suggested Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer is in danger of losing her seat.

Social media giant Twitter has launched an investigation into the Liberal Party after it faked a copyright claim to try and shut down a joke account that likened embattled assistant treasurer Kelly O'Dwyer to Sophie Mirabella.

Last week Fairfax Media reported that Ms O'Dwyer had taken the extraordinary step of forcing Twitter to dismantle the joke account @Kelly_dnuSophie, which compared her election campaign in Higgins to the disastrous 2013 loss of Indi by her friend and fellow Liberal Sophie Mirabella.

The joke account had barely more than 200 followers at the time – "a significant proportion of whom are pornbots" said one of the students who started it – but the public comparisons to Ms Mirabella's failed campaign seemingly irked Ms O'Dwyer.

As the "is Kelly the new Sophie" comparisons gained traction, an official complaint was lodged by Jennifer Freind (sic), who is described as the "social media advisor to the Victorian Liberal Party".  She issued a "Digital Millennium Copyright Act (USA) takedown notice", claiming the copyright to photographs used by the account was owned by Kelly O'Dwyer.

Twitter locked the account in response, however, most of the photographs on the site appear to be under copyright not to Ms O'Dwyer, but to Fairfax Media.

Twitter's latest determination of "Case #34662656" isn't good news for Liberal Party of Victoria or Ms O'Dwyer.

"Upon further review of the DMCA notice  . . we have determined that the notice is invalid," states the social media giant.  "The content has been restored and [the] account has not been penalised."

Twitter has also issued a please explain to the Liberal Party of Victoria, and wants to know why it faked a copyright claim over the photos in order to shut down the account. 

"We have requested additional information from the reporting party," read a statement from Twitter.

As part of the original complaint, Jennifer Freind [sic] had signed a statement declaring that "Kelly O'Dwyer" owned the copyright to the photos, and  "the information in this notification is accurate, and I state under penalty of perjury that I am authorised to act on behalf of the copyright owner"……

One senior Victorian Liberal told Fairfax Media there were real fears Higgins could be "the Indi of 2016", a reference to Sophie Mirabella's shock loss of the safe Liberal seat of Indi to independent Cathy McGowan at the 2013 federal election…..