Everything Online Malign Influence Newsletter
April 17, 2023 from Hoaxlines Lab
An algorithm was supposed to save time by allocating teachers on short-term contracts to schools automatically. Failures in the code and in the design severely disrupted teachers’ lives.
When the algorithm finds an ideal candidate for a position, it does not reset the list of remaining candidates before commencing the search to fill the next vacancy. Thus, those candidates who missed out on the first role that matched their preferences are definitively discarded from the pool of available teachers, with no possibility of employment. The algorithm classes those discarded teachers as “drop-outs”, ignoring the possibility of matching them with new vacancies.
On one side are social networks like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. These sites have become better and better at identifying and removing language and content that violates their community standards.
Social media users are on the other side, and they’ve come up with coded terminology designed to evade algorithmic detection. These expressions are collectively referred to as “algospeak.”
New terms like these are just the latest development in the history of linguistic concealment. Typically, such codes have been employed by small groups. Given the reach of social media, however, algospeak has the potential to influence more broadly everyday language.
Russian state-affiliated hackers have launched a spying campaign targeting foreign ministries and diplomatic entities in NATO countries, the European Union, and, “to a lesser extent,” Africa, Poland’s top cybersecurity agency said.
The campaign is linked to the Kremlin-backed hacking group Nobelium, also known as APT29 or BlueBravo, CERT.PL said in a report published Thursday with the country's Military Counterintelligence Service.
Nobelium is responsible for several high-profile incidents, including the SolarWinds supply chain attack in 2020 that affected thousands of organizations globally and led to a series of data breaches.
A Chinese nation-state group targeted an unnamed Taiwanese media organization to deliver an open-source red teaming tool known as Google Command and Control (GC2) amid broader abuse of Google's infrastructure for malicious ends.
The potential of next-generation AI-generated propaganda has not yet been realized due to three mitigating factors, each of which is now increasingly irrelevant: access, technical capability, and the time and effort required to generate and effectively disseminate a malign fake.
VeteransToday has a partnership with an outlet affiliated with Russian intelligence. It spreads conspiracy theories and disinformation that targets veterans.
See the article How Russia Targets the U.S. Military with VeteransToday
With hacks, pro-Putin trolls, and fake news, the Kremlin is ratcheting up its efforts to turn American servicemembers and veterans into a fifth column.
Both decisions stem from decades of judicial rulings that interpret medical science for legal ends. The 2022 Dobbs decision that overturned nearly 50 years of the constitutional right to an abortion opened the door for legal challenges to any and all abortions. Dobbs addressed medical care related to pregnancy and birth, but the case mainly focused on reinterpreting the legal history of abortion to justify overturning precedent.
While some states have further limited access to abortion in the wake of the Dobbs decision, they have not been able to successfully stop the distribution of medications that can induce abortions. In part, this is because both the FDA and the Department of Justice have allowed medication that induces abortion to be mailed from states where there are fewer legal restrictions.
The Texas case illustrates how judges apply their own reading of science to a thorny political question. Kacsmaryk’s reasoning echoes Justice Anthony Kennedy’s approach in a Supreme Court case known as the Carhart decision, which restricted doctors from performing a second-trimester abortion procedure.
In that 2007 case, Kennedy asserted that women experience psychological harm from having an abortion. Yet scientific studies show that the harm of denying an abortion and forcing women to birth are greater and longer lasting, with higher rates of death. Law influences public discourse, and these statements about psychological harms are now commonplace in anti-abortion communications. These arguments were central to the Texas judge’s critique of the FDA’s scientific process.
The Indian government on April 6 announced a state-run fact-checking unit that will have sweeping powers to label any piece of information related to the government as “fake, false or misleading” and have it removed from social media. The country has tweaked its tech rules that now require platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to take down content flagged by the fact-checking body. Internet service providers are also expected to block URLs to such content.
Failure to comply could result in the platforms losing safe harbor protection that safeguards them from legal action against any content posted by their users, said India’s minister of information technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
Bulldozers, symbols of unchecked state power, are being celebrated in Indian popular culture. And the ‘Bulldozer Baba’ in Uttar Pradesh is becoming India’s favorite Hindu nationalist politician
The authors of this Perspective explore how Truth Decay — the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life — affects U.S. national security, what should be done about it, and what future research on this topic should focus on. They highlight research gaps in this field, identify pathways to further discuss and explore in this overlap area, and encourage a shared foundation and framework for future research.
A bitter rivalry between Sudan’s top two generals erupted into open warfare this weekend, further destabilizing a country that has been at the center of geopolitical power competition from the Middle East, the U.S., and Russia.
Documents obtained by WIRED detail hundreds of investigations by the US agency into alleged database misuse that includes harassment, stalking, and more.
Teachers in Arizona were put on notice last month with the launch of the Arizona Department of Education’s “Empower Hotline” which encourages parents to report “inappropriate” lessons being taught in public school classrooms. In a state that ranks last in average cost-of-living adjusted teacher salaries in the U.S., where nearly a quarter of teaching jobs are unfilled, Arizona educators already face plenty of challenges. The new hotline is only adding to the pile.
What counts as inappropriate? An official announcement on the Department of Education’s website says that parents should report lessons that focus on “race or ethnicity, rather than individuals and merit, promoting gender ideology, social emotional learning, or inappropriate sexual content.” The hotline closely mimics a project that Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin began in January 2022 and ended about eight months later due to receiving “little or no volume” of serious accusations, according to a Youngkin spokesperson.
Films provide an excellent forum for debate; however, these discourses are too often censored to appease viewers—the Cuties of the world are swept under the rug, while films like Everything Everywhere All at Once win awards and make headlines.
The film industry should seek to create films that explore a variety of opinions and contradictions. Controversy is essential to challenge our beliefs. Regardless of whether watching an evocative film ultimately changes your beliefs, these films remind us that we get to choose our values instead of passively agreeing with everyone else.
The US government will pull the plug on the servers powering the nation’s Covid notifications on May 11. States aren’t rushing to boot up replacements.
A website that claims vaccines don’t save lives is promoting misinformation about the safety of the HPV vaccine. The website shares the story of a U.K. woman who has claimed for years that the HPV vaccine is responsible for a growing list of chronic illnesses, including an allergy to her own tears. The story also falsely claims that the HPV vaccine only lasts for three years and isn’t effective against cervical cancer.
QAnon’s use of #SaveTheChildren and other appeals to those concerned with child welfare began in earnest in the summer of 2020, when Facebook, Instagram, and other popular social media platforms began to crack down on hashtags advertising explicit conspiracy theory-related content such as #qanon, or its abbreviated motto, #wwg1wga (“where we go one, we go all”).
These tactics had a special influence on women. The use of the hashtag and related child trafficking sensationalism, the harnessing of anti-vaccine language already targeted at mothers, and what social scientist Sophie Bishop calls the “feminine-coded aesthetics” of QAnon posts all worked in tandem to attract women who may have otherwise objected to the conspiracy theory.
"QAnon’s successful—and subtle—association of its core beliefs with exploitable anxiety over harm to children has accelerated the radicalization of countless individuals, especially mothers."
The symbolic resonance of protecting the innocence and vulnerability of children, whether by legislation or by extralegal armed force, all but guarantees the continued radicalization of vulnerable groups, but none more so than American mothers.
Coordinated groups of inauthentic accounts have been attempting to influence online conversations around the 2024 elections for the better part of a year, according to a recent investigation conducted by Cyabra, a social analytics firm.
According to the Israel-based firm, someone created thousands of automated Twitter accounts that appear to be praising former President Donald Trump and criticizing his political rivals on both sides of the aisle. "What I found was so interesting about this bot farm [was] that it understood the nuances of the division within the Republican Party and it was exploiting that online," Jules Gross, a solutions engineer at Cyabra, told ABC News.
Bellingcat has seen evidence that some documents dated to January could have been posted online even earlier, although it is unclear exactly when. Bellingcat also spoke to three members of the Discord community where the images had been posted who claimed that many more documents had been shared across other Discord servers in recent months.
On April 5, the documents started propagating through pro-Russian Telegram channels, with the first version found by Bellingcat being on the Telegram channel “Donbass Devushka” at 9:29 pm (Ukraine time).
State secrets can be illegally shared in countless different ways, from whispered conversations and dead drops to myriad social media platforms. But online gaming forums have long been a particular worry of the military because of their lure for young service members.
U.S. officials are limited in how closely they can monitor those forums to make sure nothing on them threatens national security. The social media world and gaming sites, in particular, have been identified as a counterintelligence concern for about a decade,” said Dan Meyer, a partner at the Tully Rinckey law firm, which specializes in military and security clearance issues.
The fact that Donbass Devushka isn’t a Russian from Donbas, as she presented herself online, but an American residing in Washington state, was first disclosed by pro-Ukrainian online open-source intelligence analysts and activists known as NAFO.
Since the discovery a decade ago of top-secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden, questions on the vulnerability of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence were only intensified after a variety of classified papers were found earlier this year in the possession of former U.S. President Donald Trump at his home at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
Teixeira is accused of the “alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information.” He has not entered a plea as yet to the charges involving the leaking of U.S. intelligence, including documents on Russian efforts in Ukraine and spying on U.S. allies.
The charges carry a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Russia has increased the effectiveness of its disinformation campaigning on social media and boasts that vast amounts of fake accounts are escaping detection, according to a report on leaked US intelligence documents. The latest material disclosed on the Discord chat platform contains claims by Russian operators of false social media accounts that they are detected by social media platforms only 1% of the time. The Russian disinformation network is known as Fabrika, according to the leak.
We find that observers systematically overperceive moral outrage in authors, inferring more intense moral outrage experiences from messages than the authors of those messages actually reported. This effect was stronger in participants who spent more time on social media to learn about politics.
Preregistered confirmatory behavioral experiments found that overperception of individuals’ moral outrage causes overperception of collective moral outrage and inflates beliefs about hostile communication norms, group affective polarization, and ideological extremity. Together, these results highlight how individual-level overperceptions of online moral outrage produce collective overperceptions that have the potential to warp our social knowledge of moral and political attitudes.
Members of an Al-Qaeda-linked terror group in Nigeria have been using social media to spread their jihadi propaganda, recruit members and gather sympathizers freely, going undetected by moderators.
Terrorist group Ansaru found ways to bypass the weak human and automated monitoring systems on the platforms, despite social media companies’ efforts to remove terror-related content, HumAngle can exclusively reveal.
By using local languages, they have enjoyed the freedom to gather audiences and create a false image of themselves in order to push themselves on potential recruits through propaganda messages reaching millions of young people.
Hundreds of Russian and Chinese state propaganda accounts are thriving on Twitter after Elon Musk wiped out the team that fought these networks, the BBC has found. The unit worked to combat "information operations", coordinated campaigns by countries such as Russia, China, and Iran, made to influence public opinion and disrupt democracy. But experts and former employees say the majority of these specialists resigned or were laid off, leaving the platform vulnerable to foreign manipulation.
It is critical that knowledge and news organizations discover and serve well-researched information regarding actions so that diverse users can select effective actions for their situations as soon as possible. Through a grant by WikiCred, we’re piloting a new collaboration among three organizations: Wikipedia, CSteps, and www.EarthHero.org. We all do similar curated research, although we present information in different ways.
Telegram channels are spreading the cover of the British weekly newspaper The New European, which allegedly shows the President of Ukraine sitting on the lap of the Dalai Lama, and next to him, holding his hands on his sides, is the disgruntled Prime Minister of Great Britain. Thus, the author of the drawing hints that Zelenskyy is ready to do anything for the sake of money.
According to an interview with Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets, 86% of Ukrainian soldiers returning from Russian captivity have reported being subjected to direct physical torture, Russia holds 20,000 Ukrainian civilians and lies to Ukrainian POWs that Ukraine does not want them, attempting to pressure them into speaking out against Ukraine for Russian propaganda media.
One of the Wagnerites confesses that he “shot a 5-year-old girl in the head” when they entered Soledar and Bakhmut, “She’s screaming, she is a small child, you know. I shot a girl between ages 5 and 6 in the head.”
“I carried out the order with this very hand; I murdered the children. You know, per directives. The truth that we were ordered to clear the area and eliminate everyone. We were 150 Wagnerites, and we killed everyone – women, men, pensioners, and children as young as five years old,” said Uldarov.
Russian attacks on civilians and the most vulnerable targets, including maternity hospitals, have been a feature of the conflict from its beginning. On March 9, 2022, the now-infamous Russian missile attack destroyed Maternity Hospital No.3 in the besieged city of Mariupol. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said the attack constituted a war crime, adding.
The security service neutralized the interregional network of pro-Kremlin Internet agitators. It included six propagandists who carried out informational and subversive activities for the benefit of the occupiers.
The attackers publicly supported the Russian armed aggression against Ukraine and called for changing the borders of our state. To do this, they created several accounts in social networks, including those banned in Ukraine. Most of the destructive content was "picked up" from the Internet resources of the aggressor country.
Since the full-scale Russian invasion, the war is still ongoing for over a year. Unable to win on the battlefield, Russia does not stop trying to impose its own idea of what is happening in and with Ukraine on the world.
Unfortunately, the echoes of Russian propaganda in the form of biased vocabulary can still be found even in the articles of reputable Western publications.
The Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security, together with the Institute of Mass Information, has developed recommendations and advice on how to use terminology in relation to the events and phenomena of the Russo-Ukrainian war.
A video is supposed to prove that war footage from Ukraine was fabricated. It shows shooting for a short film in Latvia.
Russia, China, and Iran
Ukrainian forces are finding a growing number of components from China in Russian weapons used in Ukraine, a senior adviser in President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said, as Western supplies are squeezed by sanctions.
In “the weapons recovered from the battlefield we continue to find different electronics,” said Vladyslav Vlasiuk, who advises the president’s chief of staff on sanctions policy.
“The trend is now that there is less Western-made components but more — not hard (to) guess which country — made components. Of course, China,” he said via a video call.
Earlier this week, Russian legislators voted in favor of a new digital draft. Conscripts, currently all men between the ages of 18 and 27, will now be called up electronically, as will other men eligible to serve. Hundreds of thousands of Russian men fled the country last September in response to Putin’s “partial mobilization” of citizens to fight the war in Ukraine. The Russian parliament wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
New amendments to the laws on conscription will make it illegal to ignore the electronic military summons. As soon as they are posted to a person’s e-government account (known in Russia as Gosuslugi), they will be considered “received.” This is a big change. Previously, draft officers had to physically hand a person their summons before he could be considered a conscript. But the new rules mean conscripts who fail to enlist within just seven days of receiving the summons on their Gosuslugi account will be banned from leaving the country and have their assets frozen.