Lies, damn lies, and stuff on social media

Hoaxlines Disinformation Newsletter 8.8.2021


New York's vaccine mandate plan draws misleading 'segregation' claims

First Draft News

On Tuesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans for a vaccine mandate as the highly contagious Delta variant has Covid-19 cases surging. Some public health experts welcomed the move, but misinformation actors spread misleading and inflammatory narratives about the announcement.

"Are there penalties for providing false information on the vaccination attestation form?

United States Federal Government 

"Are there penalties for providing false information on the vaccination attestation form?  

A: Federal employees who make a false statement on the Certification of Vaccination form could be subject to an adverse personnel action, up to and including removal from their position. It is also a federal crime (18 U.S.C. § 1001) for anyone to provide false information on the form.

Falsification could also affect continuing eligibility for access to classified information or employment in a national security position under applicable adjudicative guidelines.  Declining to answer—including selecting “I decline to respond” on the Certification of Vaccination form—does not constitute providing false information."

Making sense of digital contact tracing apps for the next pandemics

Algorithm Watch

In an interview with AlgorithmWatch, Prof. Susan Landau discusses why we need to resist fear in the face of pandemic uncertainty and the normalization of health surveillance technologies — and why the time to have a broad democratic discussion about their future uses is now.

Unvaccinated Adults Who Had Virus Face Risk of Reinfection, CDC Says

New York Times

Unvaccinated people who have had Covid-19 may be more than twice as likely to get infected again than those who tested positive and bolstered their natural immunity with a vaccine, according to a small study that assessed the likelihood of reinfection.  The study, published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined the risk of reinfection during May and June among hundreds of Kentucky residents who tested positive for the virus in 2020.


Online extremist groups hyping Aug 11 as a date to protest vaccines, support Assange, and more 

Hoaxlines Disinformation Newsletter

Across platforms, groups are circulating content about Aug 11 with the hashtag #WalkOutWednesday. A website includes recommendations and arguments for protestors to make.

Sign recommendations from the website include: 

  • To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate—MY CHOICE

  • NO Forced SHOTS, I am NOT an Experiment

  • Standing for American FREEDOM!

  • I call the SHOT, NOT YOU!

  • Coercion is not CONSENT

  • I am not your Guinea Pig

  • "Not tested, Not mandated"

  • Experiment or Vaccine?

  • Don't TREAD on Me

  • No Forced Control!

  • No digital Vaccine Passports

  • Say NO to Vaccine Mandates

  • Say NO to the Needle

  • Religious freedom or Vaccine mandates, you choose

  • Vaccines can cause INJURY and DEATH

  • Vaccines are FOR PROFIT!

  • Mandatory Vaccines are UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

  • My body is not your petri dish!

  • Last Years HEROES, This Years UNEMPLOYED???


Currently, the event has a Facebook page created on August 6, 2021, where it has already shared graphics that are spreading rapidly. 

In late July, fringe Telegram channels began circulating images about testing emergency systems in the US, presumably seeing an alternate meaning. 

NVIC, an organization that frames itself as a vaccine watchdog but that frequently serves as a vector of vaccine m/disinformation, began promoting the “Walkout Wednesday” in its Telegram channel in August and Lin Wood and Sidney Powell quickly followed suit, along with an assortment of popular conspiracy belief dedicated channels.

From there, the date appeared in messages that discussed its significance. Places where the claims and graphics were shared include popular conspiracy Telegram channels like RT Chat, and alternative social media platforms. 

The date holds further significance as prominent far-right figures have shared a graphic for “Free Assange” protests. Nearly universally, the actions of Assange are mischaracterized and framed as persecution of journalists. Major mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post have even run articles under this narrative, demonstrating the role of ordinarily ethical media in mainstreaming false claims. 

In 2019, the DOJ representative John Demers said Julian Assange is “no journalist,” per the Huffington Post. Full quote below. 

Assange as a writer, is and was not accountable to anyone with no clear ethical standards against which industry or organization could judge him. He did not take care to consider or protect lives that Assange would place in harm’s way due to information he made public. Without that, it is difficult to conclude he is a journalist, which involves more than merely claiming to be one. 

Flyers are circulating for an  extremist-related event on August 17th

Eight trends in online militia movement communities since the US Capitol Riot


The DFRLab identified eight notable trends in the movement’s online nexus since the Capitol attack: three pertain to shifts in the layout of networked militia supporters online, and five pertain to propaganda narratives echoing throughout the content within those networks. 

The DFRLab provides a representative set of examples in this article to illustrate what these trends take when translated into online content. These trends exist in addition to longstanding narratives in the militia movement predicting imminent widespread civil disorder and opposing any form of gun control.

Federal agencies are failing to protect sensitive data, Senate report finds


"Released by the panel on Tuesday, the report expresses concerns about the state of federal agencies’ cyber posture during an overall 8% rise in security incidents across agencies.

The report underscores the increased scrutiny of federal cybersecurity after a months-long alleged Russian cyber-espionage campaign the private sector first uncovered in December 2020. Russian hackers used a flaw in network management software SolarWinds to infiltrate nine government agencies.

The report found that seven of the eight agencies reviewed still use legacy systems that no longer have security updates supported by their vendor. The practice can leave agencies vulnerable to foreign hacking, the report notes."

Suspected Chinese hackers took advantage of Microsoft Exchange vulnerability to steal call records


Federal Cybersecurity: America’s data still at risk 

Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

How Local Media Spreads Misinformation From Vaccine Skeptics

New York Times

Facebook and other social media have been under scrutiny for vaccine misinformation, but local outlets have also sometimes been active.

Democrats urge tech CEOs to combat Spanish disinformation

The Hill

Facebook and other social media have been under scrutiny for vaccine misinformation, but local outlets have also sometimes been active.

Facebook Boots NYU Disinformation Researchers Off Its Platform


"The researchers at the NYU Ad Observatory launched a tool last year to collect data about the political ads people see on Facebook. Around 16,000 people have installed the browser extension. It enables them to share data with the researchers about which ads the users are shown and why they were targeted.  

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had disabled the researchers' personal accounts, pages, apps, and access to its platform."

Amazon Kindle Vulnerable to Malicious EBooks


Before a patch, a serious bug could have allowed attackers to take over Kindles and steal personal data.

Chinese Cyberthreats: The Impact on National Security


"The U.S. needs to devise ways to counter Chinese cyber activity - including the theft of intellectual property and cyberattacks on government networks and critical infrastructure - that poses a direct threat to U.S. national security, according to those who testified at a Senate hearing this week.

According to testimony at the hearing, the FBI estimates that China steals $300 billion to $600 billion worth of U.S. intellectual property each year. And the U.S. Department of Justice says 60% of all trade secret theft cases have some nexus to China (see: US Indicts 4 Chinese Nationals for Lengthy Hacking Campaign).

Plus, the Chinese Communist Party is conducting "influence operations" targeting policymakers, businesses, and academic institutions in hopes of sowing dissent in the U.S. and potentially hampering a response to its intelligence operations, according to lawmakers and experts testifying."

‘The war has changed’: Internal CDC document urges new messaging, warns delta infections likely more severe

The Washington Post

The internal presentation shows that the agency thinks it is struggling to communicate vaccine efficacy amid increased breakthrough infections.

How to put Lukashenka in his place

Just Security

Lukashenka recently stepped up his terror tactics, and they spill beyond Belarus’s borders. On Aug. 3, the body of Vital Shyshou, a Belarusian democratic activist in exile in Kyiv, was found hanged in a park in the Ukrainian capital. 

In recent days, Belarusian authorities tried to force Olympic sprinter Krystina Tsimanouskaya to return to Belarus from the Tokyo games after she criticized the country’s authorities. In May, Lukashenka’s regime forced down a Ryanair commercial flight headed for Vilnius to arrest Belarusian dissident journalist Roman Pratasevich.

Disinformation News 

Tucker Carlson Summers With Viktor Orban, Speaks At Budapest Far-right Gathering

Talking Points Memo

Newsmax’s Jenna Ellis says the deaths by suicide of police officers who responded to Capitol insurrection are “really suspicious”

Media Matters

Making the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative Work

Lawfare Blog

On Aug. 5, Jen Easterly, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), announced the Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative (JCDC) to unify public and private national cyber defense efforts under one entity.

This is welcome news—when discussing federal cybersecurity efforts, an emphasis on this kind of public-private collaboration is critical to embracing a “whole-of-nation” approach and strengthening overall U.S. cybersecurity.

Taliban Play Dumb About Acclaimed Photojournalist's Death


"Mujahid’s statement was misleading. According to subsequent reports, Siddiqui may have been captured and possibly tortured, with the Taliban mutilating his body.  

On July 29, Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official who is now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., accused the Taliban of “brutally murdering” the journalist. Citing local Afghan officials and a video and photographs of Siddiqui’s body provided by an Indian government source, said Siddiqui was captured alive in a mosque where he had found shelter and was receiving first aid for shrapnel wounds."

Kazakhstan is arresting protesters seeking information about missing relatives in Xinjiang

Coda Story

Baibolat Kunbolat, a 40-year-old ethnic Kazakh, originally from neighboring Xinjiang, was one of the first protesters to start picketing the Chinese Consulate in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, in February. He and dozens more, mostly female, protesters have gathered regularly outside the consulate for the past five months.

They demand that Kazakh and Chinese authorities release information about family members and relatives they believe have disappeared or been detained in concentration camps in Xinjiang.

Lithuania Rejects Claims Iraqi Man Died At Border As Belarusian 'Disinformation'

RadioFreeEurope RadioLibrary

"Lithuania has dismissed Belarusian allegations that an Iraqi man was beaten and died after being turned away at the Lithuanian border, describing it as "disinformation."  EU member Lithuania has faced a surge of mostly Iraqi migrants in recent months, prompting authorities this week to start pushing back illegal migrants and giving border guards authority to use force.  

Lithuanian and European officials say Alyaksandr Lukashenka is orchestrating the migrant flows in retaliation for EU sanctions over his government's crackdown on the opposition following Belarus's presidential election nearly a year ago that was widely considered to be fraudulent."

Twitter works with news sites to tackle disinformation


"Twitter will collaborate with two of the largest international news providers, Reuters and the Associated Press, to debunk disinformation on its messaging site.  

The news agencies will help Twitter give more context and background information on events that create a high volume of tweets.  Twitter hopes this will counteract the spread of misleading information."

A Post-Merkel German Foreign Policy: A Look Into the Parties’ Election Agendas

Securing Democracy Alliance

Given Germany’s role as a primary target of information manipulation, it is relevant to understand how the different parties aim to design their foreign policies regarding autocratic foreign actors and how they intend to address information manipulation.    

Facebook shuts down research, blames user privacy rules

Columbia Journalism Review

"The company said that unless the researchers stopped using the browser extension they developed or changed the way that it acquired information, they would be subject to “additional enforcement action.” 

Late Tuesday night, Facebook followed through on this threat by blocking the group from accessing any of the platform’s data and shutting down the researchers’ personal accounts and pages. The company said it did so in a blog post because the browser extension violated users’ privacy. “While the Ad Observatory project may be well-intentioned, the ongoing and continued violations of protections against scraping cannot be ignored,” Facebook said.

The NYU researchers responded that they had taken precautions to avoid pulling in personally identifiable information from users—including names, user ID numbers, and Facebook friend lists—and also pointed out that the thousands of users who signed up installed the browser extension willingly to help the scientists research the impact of the social network’s ad-targeting algorithms. “Facebook is silencing us because our work often calls attention to problems on its platform,” Laura Edelson, one of the NYU researchers, told Bloomberg News in an email."

Comparisons between the team and the activity of Cambridge Analytica appear unwarranted per researcher Dr. Emma Briant, noted expert on Cambridge Analytica.  

Commentary from Ms. Edelson, a researcher removed from the platform, via the Facebook Oversight Board’s Twitter account and the Board’s own stance on the situation.

Information Campaigns and COVID-19 Vaccine Messaging: Applying Lessons Learned from the 2020 Election from the National Governors Association

National Governors Association

False information campaigns, including misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation (MDM), exploit the emotional nature of societal issues, influence public opinion, sow social discord and erode trust in public institutions. 

Strategies for Countering MDM Campaigns

A range of threat actors deployed election-related information campaigns in 2020, giving state and local officials critical experience in countering those that may apply to other events. This memorandum will identify and describe successful strategies and examine how they may augment states’ COVID-19 vaccine messaging efforts by building better public resilience to MDM and restoring trust in official sources of information. 

Those strategies include:

● Leverage Governors’ offices in elevating official guidance;

● Build public resilience to MDM through public education campaigns;

● Elevate trusted voices in the community;

● Engage the media as a partner on counter-MDM messaging; and

● Validate and secure official sources of information.

Lack of Transparency in Russian Vaccine Development Sparks a Third Protest Letter

Window on Eurasia by Paul Goble

"A group of those who served as volunteer test subjects for the Russian EpiVakCorona vaccine have dispatched an open letter to the company that developed it and to Vladimir Putin demanding that the company released a report containing the details of the test.

This is the third such letter the test subjects have sent. The authors point out that the company that conducted the tests was not qualified and was selected by the pharmaceutical company without competitive bids. And they say that they are taking this step because they do not want anyone to suffer negative consequences from getting the shots."


Possible inauthentic activity boosting #ObamaVariant on Aug 8, 2021

Hoaxlines Disinformation Newsletter

Users with traits associated with inauthenticity are boosting the # [44th President's last name] Variant. Several central accounts in the network are likely violating platform policies and display traits associated with automated activity.

For example, this handle has retweeted the hashtag over a dozen times in 3 minutes. The network appears highly centralized, indicative of inauthentic activity. Organic networks are generally more diffuse.

Another account amplifying this # regularly tweets around 50 to 60 times/hr or over 300 tweets per day. The lower limit for suspicious activity is 100 for a single day (not indicative on its own, though) and 50 times/day as an AVG, per Oxford Computational Propaganda Project.

This account displays multiple traits that research shows associate with traffic manipulation (Nimmo, 2019). Yolanda exceeded 300 tweets per day recently, has a retweet rate of 100%, where humans typically hover around 35% or less. No profile and recent creation date, too.

So, what was Yolanda retweeting? Posts from this account, which also appeared in the network analysis.

When adjusting the network to show the most in-degrees, which in this case means the account is being heavily retweeted, we see this account. Yolanda is not the only user giving a boost to this account.

This user has a strange pattern of behavior suggesting rotation of some sort. It is around 8 months old and has amassed over 30k followers.

Here are the account's top hashtags.

The account has a history of driving hashtags. 

Misinformation regarding France’s COVID-19 “health passes” spread on Twitter


Far-right French political accounts alongside inauthentic Twitter users promoted anti-vax and anti-health pass messages.  From July 7 to July 14, in the immediate aftermath of the health pass announcement, Twitter accounts with self-identified French locations used the #antivax hashtag more than any other accounts in the world.

How Local Media Spreads Misinformation From Vaccine Skeptics

New York Times

Facebook and other social media have been under scrutiny for vaccine misinformation, but local outlets have also sometimes been active. 

Jihadists flood the pro-Trump social network with propaganda


GETTR, the new platform started by the former president’s inner circle members, is awash with beheading videos and extremist content.

How Tim Pool Became One of the Biggest Political YouTubers on the Planet

The Daily Beast

A former darling of Occupy Wall Street, Tim Pool has racked up more than a billion views and millions in earnings while dangerously whitewashing the far right.

Hate Contagion: Measuring the spread and trajectory of hate on social media

Oxford Internet Institute

Researchers found that users using hate speech were more likely to go viral than users who did not. They also assessed whether people arrived with or developed extreme views on Gab. Hate speech increased with time spent online.

Angry Affiliate Leaks Conti Ransomware Gang Playbook


An apparently vengeful affiliate of the Conti Gang has leaked the playbook of the ransomware group after alleging that the notorious cybercriminal organization underpaid him for doing its dirty work.  According to a report, a security researcher shared a comment from an online forum allegedly posted by someone who did business with Conti that included information integral to its ransomware-as-as-service (RaaS) operation.

Shorenstein Center Research on Disinformation and the Public Interest Internet Receives Support from Craig Newmark Philanthropies

Shorenstein Center

Fact Checks

Fact Check: Trump Did NOT Get Subpoenas For Arizona Routers, They Could NOT Pave The Way To Reinstatement

Lead Stories 

Reported study does not talk about Alzheimer's



Eating plenty of colorful foods could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, according to research.


This research did not assess the risk of developing Alzheimer’s."

Abortion rate lower than claimed as miscarriages not factored in

Full Fact

Vaccine deaths are not higher than Covid-19 deaths

Full Fact


Official data shows twice as many people have died due to the Covid-19 vaccines in six months than people who have died of Covid-19 in 15 months.  


This is completely untrue and is based on misleading conclusions drawn from official data. It only counts Covid-19 deaths in England with no underlying conditions and misuses reports of deaths after Covid-19 vaccines where no causal link can be proven."

DeSantis’s effort to blame Biden for the covid surge in Florida

Washington Post

"After President Biden expressed frustration with unnamed governors who had resisted government recommendations for mask-wearing, DeSantis lashed out at a news conference, claiming that Biden’s immigration policies have helped “facilitate” the virus in the United States. A potential 2024 presidential hopeful, DeSantis followed up with a more pointed claim in a fundraising letter that suggested Biden was a “power-hungry tyrant.”  

“Brenda Riojas, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, says that any migrants who test positive for the virus that causes covid-19 are immediately isolated (along with family members who might have been exposed but test negative). They are not released until they test negative, so they have little interaction with the local community.

Could some migrants have infected U.S. citizens? Of course. But given that Catholic Charities seeks to isolate migrants who test positive, the odds appear relatively small."

Fact Check-Data from a study does not conclude that over 80% of pregnancies end in miscarriage after COVID-19 vaccinations; figures taken out of context


Online blogs and social media posts claim data compiled in a study concludes that over 80% of pregnancies end in miscarriage following a COVID-19 vaccine in the first or second trimester. The posts have taken figures from a table in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine out of context.

There is no graphene oxide in the Covid-19 vaccines

Full Fact


The Covid-19 vaccines contain graphene oxide.  


The MHRA has told us that none of the Covid-19 vaccines in current use contain graphene oxide."

Did Study Find Coronavirus Antibodies in 40% of US Wild Deer Populations?


Research conducted by wildlife experts and published in July 2021 found that the blood plasma of white-tailed deer, an abundant species present in every U.S. state but Alaska, showed evidence of coronavirus antibodies.  

 A total of 624 serum samples from four U.S. states were collected both before and after the pandemic was evaluated for possible SARS-CoV-2 exposure. Forty percent of deer sampled during the study period tested positive for viral antibodies.   

Antibody prevalence does not necessarily correlate directly to infection (more on that later), but the researchers noted that their findings suggest that the virus may be spilling over from human to wildlife populations.

Fact Check: Alberta Man Did NOT Prove COVID-19 Is Hoax, Restrictions NOT Dropped Because Of Him

Lead Stories

No, that's not true: King's attempt to subpoena the province's chief medical officer for his COVID-19 ticket was denied because the health agency successfully argued his request was irrelevant to the case. The timing of Alberta's changes to mask requirements and other restrictions is not related to King's case, which he lost.

News Organizations Uncritically Spread Sheriff’s Fentanyl ‘Overdose’ Video

Truth or Fiction

Although the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — part of the Centers for Disease Control — has said that fentanyl “can be absorbed into the body via inhalation, oral exposure or ingestion, or skin contact,” and ingesting the substance can be fatal, other experts have for years argued that the chances of overdose by absorption or inhalation are so low as to be nearly negligible.  

“If you could absorb drugs by touching them, why would people bother to inject them?” medical toxicologist Dr. Andrew Stolbach told the Detroit Free Press in 2018. “Drugs like fentanyl and analogs of fentanyl aren’t absorbed through the skin very well at all. So brief, incidental contact isn’t going to cause somebody to absorb a therapeutic dose, let alone a toxic dose.”

Pfizer CEO Got the COVID-19 Vaccine

The CEO of Pfizer posted a photo of himself getting the second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 10. But an Aug. 5 tweet from Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson misleadingly suggested he isn’t vaccinated. She updated the tweet hours later, acknowledging the CEO’s post — but after her claim had spread, uncorrected, on other social media.

Why the COVID-19 survival rate is not over 99%


"Most people who contract COVID-19 will not die, though an individual should not weigh their own chances of death by looking at national statistics.  

The delta variant has lowered the effectiveness of the vaccines, although researchers aren't exactly sure to what extent."

Did George Washington Order Troops To Get Vaccinated Against Smallpox?


It's more accurate to say that Washington ordered inoculation, not vaccination, of the Continental Army against smallpox. Essentially, though, he did mandate what they had at the time to protect against smallpox, a solution far more dangerous than any modern vaccine.

Sweden's low COVID-19 death tally in July ignores other markers of the pandemic's toll


Sweden, which went light on restrictions to manage the pandemic, recorded a small number of COVID-19 deaths in July 2021.  But Sweden’s death rate is more than twice as high as 10 months earlier and is higher than its neighbors’. Infections are on the rise.

Posts Misinterpret CDC’s Provincetown COVID-19 Outbreak Report

Social media posts are misinterpreting the results of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, which found that 74% of people in a COVID-19 outbreak were vaccinated, to argue against immunization. But experts say the headline-grabbing statistic is misleading without more context — and doesn’t mean that the vaccines don’t work.    If I get vaccinated, can I return to my normal activities without precautions?

Recommended Reads

Trumpist right drifts toward fascism

Media Matters

“What Fox News host Ben Domenech did on Tuesday night -- describing the progressive left as “the inheritor” of “slave power” with its “fixation on the hierarchy of race and caste” and his viewers as ideological descendants of the paramilitary pro-Lincoln “Wide Awakes” of 1860 -- wandered perilously close to a call for a new Civil War.

Domenech presented U.S. politics as an existential fight between “the enemies of everything this nation has ever been” and “the patriots, the Americans, the men and women who will do anything to preserve it, because they know what civilization requires.”

The host closed by directly addressing his millions of viewers. “You are the heart of a nation that has slept for so long,” he said. “But now at last, you are wide awake. So now I ask you again: What are you willing to do?” Domenech didn’t give an answer to the question -- but his rhetoric suggests that it isn’t casting votes for candidates who share your values.”

True lies, a recommended read about active measures

"The best form of gossip is always laced with the truth. It’s the same with active measures (AM) used to shape an adversary's perceptions, beliefs, emotions, and actions to disorientate, disrupt, and fuel internal dissent. It’s political and psychological warfare. AM includes propaganda, counterfeiting official documents, inserting false information into factual reports, as well as political repression through a bewildering mix of truth and lies. 

Leading academic on active measures, John Hopkins University Professor Thomas Rid, explains the key to AM is hooking into the population's emotions where just enough truth amplifies those emotions. Once those few facts tap into our emotions, and we connect with others who share those emotions, then the presentation of anything to the contrary has no result."

Are smart cities and privacy mutually exclusive?

Coda Story

Ann Cavoukian explains why invasive surveillance shouldn’t be the norm in modern and sustainable urban environments.

The Pandemic Exodus: Kindergarten Enrollment Drops

New York Times

As the pandemic took hold, more than 1 million children did not enroll in local schools. Many of them were the most vulnerable: 5-year-olds in low-income neighborhoods.

Opportunities and Listings

Alliance for Securing Democracy Seeks Fall Interns

"The Alliance for Securing Democracy is seeking fall interns to assist with research on malign actors’ attempts to undermine democracies. Interns will be responsible for tracking and compiling research and developments in this area, including tracking real-time developments in Europe, the United States, and other regions. 

Interns will benefit from exposure to GMF’s network and gain valuable research, analysis, and writing experience. During COVID-19, all internships will be on a remote, work-from-home basis.

Internships are paid through a $500/month stipend and offer an ideal opportunity to acquire substantive professional experience for those interested in a career in public policy or international affairs."