Censorship, fake news, perception management

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Sat Jan 07, 2023 2:31 pm

Twitter Files Show How The Deep State Conquered Social Media

Matt Taibbi provides a summary of the recent revelations of Twitter manipulations in service of partisan government entities. The publication of the 'Twitter files' came in several Twitter threads from writers, left and right leaning ones, who had been given access to the files and internal Twitter communication.

Capsule Summaries of all Twitter Files Threads to Date, With Links and a Glossary
https://taibbi.substack.com/p/capsule-s ... ll-twitter

There have been 12 threads so far. Some of these are of special interest:

Twitter Files Part 1: December 2, 2022, by @mtaibbi


Recounting the internal drama at Twitter surrounding the decision to block access to a New York Post exposé on Hunter Biden in October, 2020.

Key revelations: Twitter blocked the story on the basis of its “hacked materials” policy, but executives internally knew the decision was problematic. “Can we truthfully claim that this is part of the policy?” is how comms official Brandon Borrman put it. Also: when a Twitter contractor polls members of Congress about the decision, they hear Democratic members want more moderation, not less, and “the First Amendment isn’t absolute.”

We will later learn that it was the FBI, which had the Hunter Biden laptop material and knew it was real, which pushed Twitter to censor the story by claiming that it was 'Russian hacked' material.

Twitter censorship:

Twitter Files Part 2, by @BariWeiss, December 8, 2022


Bari Weiss gives a long-awaited answer to the question, “Was Twitter shadow-banning people?” It did, only the company calls it “visibility filtering.” Twitter also had a separate, higher council called SIP-PES that decided cases for high-visibility, controversial accounts.

Key revelations: Twitter had a huge toolbox for controlling the visibility of any user, including a “Search Blacklist” (for Dan Bongino), a “Trends Blacklist” for Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, and a “Do Not Amplify” setting for conservative activist Charlie Kirk. Weiss quotes a Twitter employee: “Think about visibility filtering as being a way for us to suppress what people see to different levels. It’s a very powerful tool.” With help from @abigailshrier, @shellenbergermd, @nelliebowles, and @isaacgrafstein.

The above one is of special interest to me.

Until late 2021 my Twitter account @MoonofA, which I mostly use to promote my writings here, was not allowed to grow beyond 19,500 followers. There were also signs that tweets by me were not shown to users who were following me. After my account was released from the growth prison it rapidly grew to 47,500 followers in the fall of 2022. It then again went into growth prison for no discernible reason and without me getting any notice of it. Now anytime my follower count increases by 100 or so it will automatically be slashed back to 47,450 followers. There are also again signs that tweets from my account are again 'shadowbanned'.

Yesterday @semperfidem2014 retweeted my latest:

Blue Check Brandon @semperfidem2004 - 21:27 UTC · Jan 5, 2023
Well worth reading

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA · Jan 4
New on MoA:
Ukraine - The Big Push To End The War
https://moonofalabama.org/2023/01/ukrai ... e-war.html

Then @New_Westphalian responded to @semperfidem2014;

New Westphalian @New_Westphalian - 21:47 UTC · Jan 5, 2023
Replying to @semperfidem2004

If you hadn’t retweeted that, I doubt I’d have seen it. I follow MoA, never see a single tweet.
Not sure the cleanup has been entirely successful yet.

Well, I do not think that Elon Musk bought Twitter to do a 'cleanup'. I believe he wants to use it for his own purposes whatever those may be. If it requires a new deal that gives government entities censoring access in exchange for whatever Musk's wants or needs he will agree to that.

Back to Matt Taibbi's summaries. Thread 3 to 5 were about Trump's removal from Twitter. His account was locked despite the fact that he had not violated any of Twitter's internal rules.

Thread 6 to 12 are about the government infiltration of Twitter from every angle, the Pentagon, the three letter agencies as well as various other entities started to censor free speech on Twitter:

Twitter Files Parts 11 and 12, by @mtaibbi, January 3, 2023



These two threads focus respectively on the second half of 2017, and a period stretching roughly from summer of 2020 through the present. The first describes how Twitter fell under pressure from Congress and the media to produce “material” showing a conspiracy of Russian accounts on their platform, and the second shows how Twitter tried to resist fulfilling moderation requests for the State Department, but ultimately agreed to let State and other agencies send requests through the FBI, which agent Chan calls “the belly button of the USG.”

Revelations: at the close of 2017, Twitter makes a key internal decision. Outwardly, the company would claim independence and promise that content would only be removed at “our sole discretion.” The internal guidance says, in writing, that Twitter will remove accounts “identified by the U.S. intelligence community” as “identified by the U.S.. intelligence community as a state-sponsored entity conducting cyber-operations.” The second thread shows how Twitter took in requests from everyone — Treasury, HHS, NSA, FBI, DHS, etc. — and also received personal requests from politicians like Democratic congressman Adam Schiff, who asked to have journalist Paul Sperry suspended.

The big mainstream media have been quiet about the Twitter revelations. The New York Post and a few other right leaning outlets had a piece about the attempt to ban columnist Paul Sperry:

Dem Rep. Adam Schiff wanted journalist Paul Sperry’s account suspended over reporting on Trump whistleblower, Twitter Files reveals

The journalist in question was Paul Sperry, a Post columnist who in January 2020 wrote an article for RealClearInvestigations about the purported “whistleblower” behind former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, for which Schiff served as a House manager.
In the article, Sperry said then-CIA analyst Eric Ciaramella was overheard talking in the White House with Sean Misko, a holdover staffer from former President Barack Obama’s administration.

A former official who reportedly heard the conversation told Sperry, “Just days after [Trump] was sworn in they were already trying to get rid of him.”

Misko later left the White House and joined the Intelligence Committee, which Schiff chaired, Sperry reported.

The email posted by Taibbi shows that Schiff’s office asked Twitter to take five specific steps that an unidentified company employee said were “related to alleged harassment from QAnon conspiracists.”

They included, “Remove any and all content about Mr. Misko and other Committee staff from its service — to include quotes, retweets, and reactions to that content.”

In response, another unidentified Twitter employee wrote, “no, this isn’t feasible/we don’t do that.”

Schiff’s office also asked for suspension of “the many accounts, including @GregRubini and @paulsperry_, which have repeatedly promoted false QAnon conspiracies and harassed” someone whose name is blacked out.

The Twitter employee responded to that by writing, “we’ll review these accounts again but I believe [name blacked out] mentioned only one actually qualified for suspension.”

In an email Tuesday, Sperry told The Post, “I have never promoted any ‘QAnon conspiracies.’ Ever. Not on Twitter. Not anywhere.”

“Schiff was just angry I outed his impeachment whistleblower and tried to get me banned,” he said. “I challenge Schiff to produce evidence to back up his defamatory remarks to Twitter.”

The only major and good piece written about the Twitter revelations I know of is by Lee Smith in the otherwise not readable Tablet Magazine:

How the FBI Hacked Twitter
The answer begins with Russiagate

This one is well researched and well written. It shows that the whole manipulation by the FBI was and is done in partisan interest with the war-mongering parts of the Democrats being the main beneficiary. The piece is quite long but I recommend to read it in full.

You may think that the paragraph below is exaggerated. However, the evidence following it fully supports the conclusion:

In fact, the FBI’s penetration of Twitter constituted just one part of a much larger intelligence operation—one in which the bureau offshored the machinery it used to interfere in the 2016 election and embedded it within the private sector. The resulting behemoth, still being built today, is a public-private consortium made up of U.S. intelligence agencies, Big Tech companies, civil society institutions, and major media organizations that has become the world’s most powerful spy service—one that was powerful enough to disappear the former president of the United States from public life, and that is now powerful enough to do the same or worse to anyone else it chooses.

All of this was build in secret. All of it can be secretly used against any target. It is also interesting that the fake issue of 'Russiagate', like the 'Skripal affair' in Britain, was to a large part the preparatory buildup to the current war in Ukraine.

While the Twitter files have now given us some knowledge of this they will not change anything. The Republicans are too weak, too corrupt and too susceptible to blackmail to seriously get into the depth of the whole issue.

Posted by b on January 6, 2023 at 17:26 UTC | Permalink

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2023/01/t ... .html#more

The Republicans are just out of favor with the ruling class plurality, They'll squirm and hollar for the time being, knowing their turn will come. Given the historical record of Democratic foreign aggression and current circumstances Europeans might be forgiven for thinking that the Republicans are a reasonable alternative. I remember Nixon's promise in 1968 to end the war in Vietnam, upon election he prosecuted the most intense bombing campaign in history to date.

Capitalist government will use every means it can get away with to maintain control. Consider it a given. We might use their lies and hypocrisy as a cudgel against them but that only serves to alert the masses, it will change nothing in the short run. But it must be done. It will be all up-hill, a large portion of the public already believes that anything that falls outside of the mainstream narrative must be some heinous conspiracy.
"There is great chaos under heaven; the situation is excellent."

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Sun Jan 08, 2023 5:01 pm

Under Musk, Twitter Continues to Promote US Propaganda Networks


Twitter’s “state-affiliated media” policy has an unwritten exemption for US government-funded and -controlled news media accounts. Twitter even boosts these accounts as “authoritative” sources for news during the Russian/Ukrainian war.
Twitter‘s change of ownership does not appear to have altered the platform’s special relationship with the US national security state (Intercept, 12/20/22).
Elon Musk’s controlled release of the documents known as the “Twitter Files” has given us some insight into the inner workings of the social media platform. The batch of docs released on December 20 is arguably the most explosive, detailing Twitter’s deliberate shielding of US propaganda operations. After getting limited access to Twitter‘s internal systems, Lee Fang of the Intercept (12/20/22) detailed how Twitter staff “whitelisted” accounts run by US Central Command (CENTCOM), the unit of the US military that oversees the Middle East, as part of covert propaganda campaigns. In other words, Twitter protected accounts engaged in US psychological warfare operations, even though they clearly violated the platform’s terms of service.

But this is far from the whole story of Twitter’s assistance with US influence operations. A FAIR investigation reveals that dozens of large accounts that are part of US overt propaganda networks are given special treatment from the company, in blatant violation of Twitter’s own policies.

Through a lopsided “state-affiliated” media policy application, Twitter has actually gone against its own mission to provide “context” to users. More acutely, in Ukraine, Twitter actively promoted US funded media organizations as part of the “Topics” feature which ostensibly aggregated “authoritative” sources. The prominence of these outlets on the platform has strengthened their influence on the national media ecosystem, and has helped shape public perceptions of the entire war.

‘State-affiliated media’

Twitter LogoIn 2020, as part of an effort to “provide additional context” for information users encounter on the platform, Twitter (8/6/20) announced a policy to add labels to “accounts that are controlled by certain official representatives of governments, state-affiliated media entities and individuals associated with those entities.”

“We believe,” Twitter declared in a blog post, “people have the right to know when a media account is affiliated directly or indirectly with a state actor.” Twitter further said it would not “recommend or amplify accounts or their tweets with these labels.”

The clear primary target at the time was Russian state-affiliated media, though the policy has been extended to other countries. According to Twitter‘s own numbers, accounts with the “state-affiliated” label experience up to a 30% reduction in circulation.

As part of its policy during the Ukraine War, Twitter (3/16/22) announced its intention to “elevate credible and reliable information.” In a blog post, Twitter praised its “effective” policy implementation against Russian government accounts. They claimed that “engagements per tweet decreased by approximately 25%,” and “the number of accounts that engaged with those Tweets decreased by 49%”

But it’s clear that Twitter’s policy isn’t applied evenly. There are numerous media operations with close ties to the US government—some even fully government-funded and -run—whose accounts aren’t labeled “state-affiliated.” Under this biased application of the policy, Twitter enables US propaganda outlets to maintain the pretense of independence on the platform, a tacit endorsement of US soft power and influence operations.

This lopsided approach makes it clear that Twitter’s policy is not about “providing context” to users, but rather promoting the US establishment worldview. In short, Twitter is serving as an active participant in an ongoing information war.

Delegitimizing official enemies

Twitter defines “state-affiliated media” as

outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.

The policy is ostensibly apolitical and applies to all state media accounts equally, but in practice, the true purpose of the policy is clear: to delegitimize media affiliated with states opposed to US policy. The assumption inherent in Twitter’s policy is that if a state is considered to be an enemy of the US, then any media affiliated with that state is inherently suspicious. Users therefore need to be warned about the content they are consuming. FAIR could find no examples of accounts labeled “United States state-affiliated media,” even though there are many outlets that would obviously seem to fit that description.

Twitter: Which Accounts Currently Have a Label?


Twitter lists the countries to be targeted by the policy, which has some notable omissions. For example, the list does not include Qatar, and accounts for the Qatar-funded media outlets Al Jazeera and AJ+ do not feature the “state-affiliated” label. But even among the states that are listed, the policy is not applied equally.

Although Twitter lists the United States and US allies like the United Kingdom and Canada as countries where “labels appear on relevant Twitter accounts,” this appears to refer to outlets based in those countries that are affiliated with other countries. Certainly there are US-linked accounts that could not more obviously fit the category of “state-affiliated” yet receive no labels.

As an example of some blatant oversights, none of the accounts for the US Army, National Security Agency or Central Intelligence Agency are currently labeled as a state or government entity, despite being “government accounts heavily engaged in geopolitics and diplomacy.” Additionally, the accounts for the Israeli Defense Force, Ministry of Defense and prime minister are all unlabeled.

Meanwhile, Twitter rigorously enforces the rules for states the US considers to be hostile. Accounts for major state agencies in Russia, China and Iran are generally labeled as state entities. Media outlets from those countries are also targeted: PressTV from Iran, RT and Sputnik from Russia, and China Daily, Global Times, CGTN and China Xinhua News from China are all labeled “state-affiliated media.”

Twitter has taken extra measures against Russia after the invasion, adding explicit warnings on any post linking to “a Russian state-affiliated media website”:


If a user attempts to like, retweet or quote tweet a post that includes this restricted media, they are given a second warning:

Twitter: This Tweet Links to a Russia State-Affiliated Media Website


Though the user is still able to interact with the content, these warnings are designed to nudge the user away from doing so, thus slowing the spread of disapproved information.

Artificial exceptions

Twitter’s policy defines “state-affiliated media” as newsrooms where the state has “control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution.” But there are several major media accounts that seem to fit this description that have no such warning labels.

None of the major public media outlets in the US, Britain and Canada have received the label. In 2017, NPR received 4% of its funding from the US government. The BBC receives a large portion of its funding from the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The CBC receives $1.2 billion in funding from the Canadian government. Yet Twitter accounts for the BBC, CBC and NPR are all unlabeled on the platform.

To explain this discrepancy, Twitter makes a distinction between “state-financed” and “state-affiliated” media. Twitter writes:

State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy.

The idea that publicly supported media in either Britain or the US are independent of the state is highly dubious. Firstly, it is unclear why state funding does not fall under the “financial resources” language in Twitter’s policy; governments can and have used the threat of pulling funding to enforce their editorial judgments (Extra!, 3–4/95; FAIR.org, 5/17/05). Secondly, government influence operates on a bureaucratic level, as scholar Tom Mills (OpenDemocracy, 1/25/17) noted of the BBC:

Governments set the terms under which it operates, they appoint its most senior figures, who in future will be directly involved in day-to-day managerial decision making, and they set the level of the license fee, which is the BBC’s major source of income.

National Endowment for Democracy


A look at the US’s soft power initiatives shows far more outlets that ought to fall under the “state affiliated” label. One such conduit for funding is the National Endowment for Democracy. The NED, created during the Reagan administration, pours $170 million a year into organizations dedicated to defending or installing regimes friendly to US policies.

ProPublica (11/24/10) described the NED as being “established by Congress, in effect, to take over the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts.” David Ignatius of the Washington Post (9/22/91) reported on the organization as a vehicle for “spyless coups,” as it was “doing in public what the CIA used to do in private.” The first NED president, Carl Gershman (MintPress, 9/9/19), admitted that the switch was largely a PR move to shroud the organization’s intentions: “It would be terrible for democratic groups around the world to be seen as subsidized by the CIA.”

NED operations in Ukraine deserve especially close scrutiny, given the organization’s role in the 2014 Maidan coup and the information war surrounding the Russian invasion. In 2013, Gershman described Ukraine as the “biggest prize” in the East/West rivalry (Washington Post, 9/26/13). Later that year, the NED united with other Western-backed influence networks to support the protest movements that later led to the removal of the president.

The history of the board is a who’s who of regime change advocates and imperial hawks. The current board includes Anne Applebaum, a popular anti-Russian staff writer at the Atlantic and frequent cable news commentator whose work epitomizes the New Cold War mentality, and Elliott Abrams, a major player in the Iran/Contra scandal who later played a key role in the Trump administration’s campaign to overthrow the Venezuelan government. Victoria Nuland, formerly the foreign policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, is a key player in US foreign policy, and was even one of the US officials who was caught meddling behind the scenes to reshape the Ukrainian government in 2014. She served on the NED board in between her time in the State Department for the Obama and Biden administrations. Other former board members include Henry Kissinger, Paul Wolfowitz, Zbigniew Brzezinski and current CIA director William Burns.

After the war started, the NED removed all of its Ukraine projects from its website, though they are still available through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. A look at 2021 projects shows extensive work funding media organizations throughout Ukraine with the ostensible goal of “promot[ing] government accountability” or “foster[ing] independent media.” Despite their overt funding from a well-documented US propaganda organ, none of these organizations’ Twitter accounts contain a “state-affiliated media” label. Even the NED’s own Twitter account does not reference its relationship to the US government.

This is highly relevant to the current war in Ukraine. CHESNO, ZN.UA, ZMiST and Ukrainian Toronto Television, Vox Ukraine are all part of the NED’s media network in Ukraine, yet their Twitter accounts have no state-affiliated label. Furthermore, some of the newsrooms in this network boast extensive ties to other US government organizations. European Pravda, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center and Hromadske—all founded during or shortly after the US-backed Maidan coup in 2014—boast explicit partnerships with NATO. Hromadske and the UCMC also tout partnerships with the US State Department, the US Embassy in Kyiv and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID plays a similar role to the NED. Under the protective cover of humanitarian aid and development projects, the agency serves as a conduit for US regime change operations and soft power influence peddling. Among other things, the organization has been a cover for “promoting democracy” in Nicaragua, and provided half a billion dollars to advance the coup attempt against Venezuela’s elected government.

Kyiv Post and Independent


The most popular recipient of NED funds has been the Kyiv Independent, a reconstitution of another NED-funded newsroom, the Kyiv Post. Though it claims to receive the majority of its funding through advertising and subscriptions, the Post website lists the NED as “donors who sponsored content produced by the Kyiv Post journalists.”

When the Post was temporarily shuttered in a staff dispute in November 2021, many of the journalists formed the Kyiv Independent. They did this with a $200,000 grant from the Canadian government, as well as an emergency grant from the European Endowment for Democracy, an organization headquartered in Brussels that is both modeled after and funded by the NED.


After the outbreak of war, the Independent gained over 2 million Twitter followers and attracted millions of dollars in donations. Staff from the Independent have flooded the US media ecosystem: Its reporters have had op-eds in top US newspapers like the New York Times (3/5/22) and the Washington Post (2/28/22). They often appear on US TV channels like CNN (3/21/22), CBS (12/21/22), Fox News (3/31/22) and MSNBC (4/10/22).

Omitting the newsroom’s ties to the US government, CNN’s Brian Stelter (3/20/22) praised the Independent for going from “a three-month-old startup and relative unknown in the Western world to now one of the leading sources of information on the war in Ukraine.” Its funding drives have been promoted by US outlets like CBS and PBS (MintPress, 4/8/22).

The top staff of the Independent have extensive connections to other US government projects. Contributing editor Liliane Bivings worked on Ukraine projects at the Atlantic Council, a think tank funded by the US and other governments that serves as NATO’s de facto brain trust. Chief financial officer Jakub Parusinski worked with the USAID-funded International Center for Policy Studies (MintPress, 4/8/22).

Chief Executive Officer Daryna Shevchenko previously worked for IREX, an education and development nonprofit created by the State Department and Ford Foundation that still receives most of its funding from the US government. She also co-founded the Media Development Foundation, an organization funded by the NED and the US Embassy in Kyiv to promote “independent” media in Ukraine. Chief operating officer Oleksiy Sorokin got his start at Transparency International, an NGO funded by the US State Department as well as other NATO-friendly governments (Covert Action, 4/13/22).

Boosting US propaganda

Twitter’s policy effectively amounts to providing cover and reach for US propaganda organs. But this policy effect is far from the whole story. Through various mechanisms, Twitter actually boosts US-funded newsrooms and promotes them as trusted sources.

One such mechanism is the curated “Topics” feature. As part of its effort to “elevate reliable information,” Twitter recommends following its own curated feed for the Ukraine War. As of September 2022, Twitter said that this war feed for the Ukraine War had over 38.6 billion “impressions.” Scrolling through the feed shows many examples of the platform boosting US state-affiliated media, with few or no instances of coverage critical of the war effort. Despite their extensive ties to the US government, the Kyiv Independent and Kyiv Post are frequently offered as favored sources for information on the war.

The account has generated a list based on what they claim to be reliable sources on the conflict. The list currently has 55 members. Of these, at least 22 are either US-funded newsrooms, their affiliated journalists. Given the complexity of the funding channels, and the lack of information on some of these newsrooms’ websites, this number is likely an undercount:

New Voice of Ukraine (NED, State Department)

Euan MacDonald

Kyiv Post (NED)

Natalie Vikhrov

Kyiv Independent (NED)

Anastasiia Lapatina, Oleksiy Sorokin, Anna Myroniuk, Illia Ponomarenko

Zaborona (NED)

Katerina Sergatskova

Media Development Foundation of Georgia (NED, USAID, State Department)

Myth Detector

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (USAGM)

Reid Standish

Center for European Policy Analysis (NED, State Department)

Anders Ostlund, Alina Polyakova

EurasiaNet (NED)

Peter Leonard

Atlantic Council (NATO)

Terrell Jermaine Starr

If Twitter applied its own “state-affiliated media” policy consistently, these users wouldn’t be included in such a list. In fact, Twitter would actively diminish the reach of these accounts.

Worldwide propaganda network
There are things the New York Times (12/26/77) could say in 1977 that it can’t say in 2023.
The US government currently funds other media organizations that function more blatantly as arms of the state, yet none have the “state-affiliated media” label on their Twitter accounts. These outlets are part of the media apparatus set up to promote the US point of view around the world during the Cold War. The New York Times (12/26/77) once described them as being part of a “worldwide propaganda network built by the CIA.”

The network, known as the “Propaganda Assets Inventory” within the agency, once encompassed around 500 individuals and organizations, ranging from operatives in major media like CBS, Associated Press and Reuters to smaller outlets under the “complete” “editorial control” of the CIA. Radio Free Asia, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty were at the vanguard of this propaganda operation. The Times reported in 1977 that the network resulted in a stream of US media stories that were “purposely misleading or downright false.”

The US government continues to directly operate several of these organizations. These outlets now fall under the auspices of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM), a federal agency that received $810 million in 2022. That number marks a 27% increase from its 2021 budget, and is more than twice the amount RT received from Russia for its global operations in 2021 (RFE/RL, 8/25/21).

The first “broadcasting standard” listed on the agency website is to “be consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.” While the structure of USAGM ostensibly includes a “firewall” protecting editorial independence, the outlet is unlikely to hire anyone who is not comfortable with this primary goal. Certainly the US government has over USAGM what Twitter elsewhere has defined as “control through financial resources.”

US Agency for Global Media org chart

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


RFE/RL operates on a budget of $126 million and reaches 37 million people across 27 languages. It boasts that its reporting receives “daily citations in global media, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, AP, Reuters, USA Today, Politico, CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC.”

RFE/RL has been stepping up operations in Ukraine. The network says it “serves as a media leader in Ukraine, frequently conducting high-profile interviews that are picked up across Ukraine’s top media outlets.” The news operation includes “a vast network of local news bureaus and an extensive freelance network,” according to USAGM documents. None of the Twitter accounts under the umbrella of RFE/RL have been labeled “state-affiliated media.” This includes RFE/RL Pressroom and RFE/RL’s Persian service, Radio Farda.

Radio Free Asia


Radio Free Asia reaches almost 60 million people across nine languages, mainly focused on East Asian countries. RFA receives a $47.6 million budget, with the mission of “counter[ing] authoritarian disinformation and false narratives.” “As the United States aims to re-engage with global partners on issues of diplomatic and economic importance,” USAGM states, RFA “will need to combat the malign influence of China’s disinformation juggernaut.”

The main RFA account does not have the“state-affiliated media” label, and neither do the accounts for RFA Uyghur, RFA Burmese, RFA Korean, RFA Tibetan, RFA Vietnamese or RFA Cantonese. RFA’s largest channel, RFA Chinese, has 1.1 million followers, but no label.

Voice of America


With a budget of $257 million, Voice of America (VoA) is USAGM’s largest operation. Its 961 employees reach 311.8 million including 40 million in China, and 10 million Iranians. The media network’s goal is to “[tell] America’s story” and “enhance” the “understanding of US policies” in target populations.

Aimed at Iran, VoA Farsi was described in 2019 by one former executive as pushing “blatant propaganda” with “no objectivity or factuality” (Intercept, 8/13/19). During the height of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign, the outlet became “a mouthpiece of Trump—only Trump and nothing but Trump.” In addition to promoting the US-supported Iranian terrorist group MEK, the outlet “lash[ed] out at people they deem unsupportive of President Donald Trump’s Iran policy.”

Neither the main VoA Twitter account with 1.7 million followers, the VoA Chinese account with 1.8 million followers, nor the VoA Farsi account with 1.7 million followers feature the “state-affiliated media” label.

Office of Cuba Broadcasting


USAGM includes the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), a Miami-based operation that receives $12.9 million a year to “promote freedom and democracy” in Cuba. A recent USAGM report noted OCB’s “ongoing, timely and thorough reporting of the Cuban dissident movement.” According to an OCB fact sheet, Radio Television Marti, the main network overseen by OCB, reaches 11% of the Cuban population each week through audio, video and digital content. The network’s Twitter account does not possess the state-affiliated label.

Middle East Broadcasting Network


USAGM also oversees the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN), an Arab-language network headquartered in Springfield, Virginia, whose mission is to “expand the spectrum of ideas, opinions and perspectives” in Middle East/North Africa countries. USAGM states that MBN is “poised to represent America like no other across the region.” The network is “fully funded” with a budget of $108.9 million.

According to the agency, MBN reaches more than 33 million people across 22 MENA countries. Its media reached 76% of the population in non-Kurdish Iraqi territories, and in Palestine, MBN media reached 50%. MBN networks include Alhurra TV, Radio Sawa and MBN Digital. The Alhurra TV Twitter account, with 3.6 million followers, does not contain the “state-affiliated” label.

Each of these operations are funded in whole or in part by governments, yet Twitter does not think that they classify as state-affiliated. Therefore, none of them are labeled, nor are they subjected to the limits that the platform applies to labeled accounts. If Twitter doesn’t consider a newsroom “fully funded” by the US government to be “state-affiliated,” it should be clear that its goal of providing “context” does not apply to the organs of US propaganda. The feature serves only to nudge users away from state funded organizations belonging to states hostile to the US.

Twitter and the establishment

Twitter’s adherence to Western foreign policy objectives is nothing new. Twitter has even openly announced that its company policy includes support for NATO. In 2021, as tensions between Russia and Ukraine were on the rise, Twitter announced that it had removed dozens of Russian accounts as “state-linked operations.” The reason Twitter (2/23/21) cited for the removal was that they were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability.” The support for US global objectives has extended to other regions.

In 2019, as Trump was ramping up the coup attempt and brutal sanctions regime against Venezuela, Twitter assisted the US efforts to delegitimize Venezuela’s elected government. Twitter suspended the accounts of Venezuelan government officials and agencies, including the English language account of President Nicolas Maduro himself. At the same time, Twitter “verified” officials in the US-backed self-appointed “government” attempting to overthrow Venezuela’s elected executive (Grayzone, 8/24/19).

A longstanding issue with the platform is its arbitrary enforcement of the rules against critics of US policy. The platform often suspends or bans users for alleged violations with no explanation.
Twitter‘s executive with editorial responsibility for the Middle East was simultaneously working for a unit that gives the British military “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level” (Middle East Eye, 9/30/19).
Twitter, like other SiliconValley behemoths, has numerous links to the national security state. An investigation by Middle East Eye (9/30/19) revealed that one of Twitter’s top executives was also a member of one of the British military’s psychological warfare units, the 77th Brigade. Gordon MacMillan, who holds the top editorial position for the Middle East and North Africa at Twitter, joined the UK’s “information warfare” unit in 2015 while he was at Twitter. One UK general told MEE that the unit specialized in developing “the capability to compete in the war of narratives at the tactical level.” The story was met with near total silence in US and UK press (FAIR.org, 10/24/19), and MacMillan still works for Twitter.

Twitter also partners with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a hawkish think tank funded by the military industry and the US government, for its content moderation policies. In 2020, Twitter worked closely with the ASPI to remove over 170,000 low-follower accounts they alleged to be favorable to the Communist Party of China. More recently, Twitter and ASPI have announced a partnership ostensibly aimed at fighting disinformation and misinformation.

Twitter’s Strategic Response Team, in charge of making decisions about which content should be suppressed, was headed by Jeff Carlton, who previously worked for both the CIA and FBI. In fact, MintPress News (6/21/22) reported on the dozens of former FBI agents that have joined Twitter’s ranks over the years. Elon Musk’s controlled leak of internal communications, known as the “Twitter Files,” has renewed attention to the close relationship between the agency and the platform.
“In the first week of the Ukraine/Russia war there was a huge mass of pro-Ukrainian hashtag bot activity,” Declassified Australia (11/3/22) reported. “Approximately 3.5 million tweets using the hashtag #IStandWithUkraine were sent by bots in that first week.”
Though Twitter has previously denied directly “coordinat[ing] with other entities when making content moderation decisions,” recent reporting has revealed a deep level of integration between federal intelligence agencies, and Twitter’s content moderation policies. In part 6 of the “Twitter Files,” Matt Taibbi reported that the FBI has over 80 agents dedicated to flagging content on the platform and interfacing directly with Twitter leadership. Last year, emails leaked to the Intercept (10/31/22) showed how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Twitter had an established process for content takedown requests from the agency related to election security.

The platform is clearly an important hub for pro-Ukrainian sentiment online, though not all of the activity is organic. In fact, one study (Declassified Australia, 11/3/22) released last year found a deluge of pro Ukrainian bots. Australian researchers studied a sample of over 5 million tweets about the war, and found that 90% of the total were pro-Ukrainian (identified using the #IStandWithUkraine hashtag or variations), and estimated that up to 80% of them were bots. Though researchers did not determine the precise origin of these accounts, it was obvious that they were sponsored by “pro-Ukrainian authorities.” The sheer volume of tweets undoubtedly helped shape online sentiment about the war.

It appears that Washington understands the importance of Twitter in shaping public sentiments. When Musk originally set his sights on buying the platform, the White House even considered opening a national security review of Musk’s business ventures, citing Musk’s “increasingly Russia-friendly stance.” These concerns were prompted by Musk’s plan to bar SpaceX’s StarLink system from being used in Ukraine, after a spat between Musk and a Ukrainian official. The concerns also came after Musk (10/3/22) tweeted out the outlines to a potential peace proposal between Russia and Ukraine. This proposal was met with scorn and shock among American elite circles, where escalation rather than peace is the dominant position (FAIR.org, 3/22/22).

Musk and the national security state
Alan MacLeod (MintPress, 5/31/22): Elon Musk “is no threat to the powerful, entrenched elite: he is one of them.”
But Musk’s hot take on the Ukraine war should not be taken as proof of Musk’s anti establishment bona fides. Far from being an establishment outsider, Elon Musk himself is a major figure in the military industrial complex, and represents the long tradition of Silicon Valley giants being thoroughly enmeshed in the military and intelligence wars.

Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX, is a major military contractor, earning billions of dollars from the US national security state. It has received contracts to launch GPS technology into orbit to assist with the US drone war. The Pentagon has also contracted the company to build missile defense satellites. SpaceX has further won contracts from the Air Force, Space Defense Agency and National Reconnaissance Organization, and has launched spy satellites to be used by the CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies (MintPress, 5/31/22).

In fact, SpaceX’s existence is largely owed to military and intelligence ties. One of its earliest backers of the company was the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the same military research agency that gave us much of the technology that defines the modern internet age.

Mike Griffin, then the president of the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, was a close associate of Musk’s and was deeply involved in SpaceX’s conception. When Griffin became head of NASA under Bush Jr., he awarded Musk a $396 million dollar contract before SpaceX had even successfully flown a rocket. This later ballooned to a $1 billion contract to resupply the International Space Station.

After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Musk made headlines by offering to donate his Starlink technology to the Ukrainian government to keep the country online. Starlink, a satellite-based internet provider, was essential to Ukraine’s war effort after the Russian attack disabled much of its traditional military communications. It has enabled Ukrainians to quickly share battlefield intelligence, and connect with US support troops to perform “telemaintenance.”

Musk’s offer to “donate” the technology earned him a lot of positive press, but it was quietly revealed later that the US government had been paying SpaceX millions of dollars for the technology—despite what SpaceX officials had told the public. According to the Washington Post (4/8/22), the money was funneled through USAID, an organization that has long been a tool of US regime change efforts, and a front for covert intelligence operations.

Multiple reports have called the Starlink technology a game-changer in the war. The Pentagon’s director of electronic warfare fawned over Starlink’s capabilities, calling them “eye-watering.” The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff honored Musk by name, saying that he symbolized “the combination of the civil and military cooperation and teamwork that makes the United States the most powerful country in space.”

Ukraine isn’t the only area of interest where Musk’s Starlink is involved. As protests began to rock Iran over the country’s treatment of women, the US saw an opportunity to increase internal, destabilizing pressure on the government—long a goal of US policy in the region. Amid Iran’s crackdown on the internet, the Biden administration solicited Musk for assistance in using Starlink to circumvent blackouts. Later, Starlink terminals began to be smuggled into the country.

The relationship between Musk and the security state is so strong that one official even told Bloomberg (10/20/22) that “the US government would also use Starlink in the event of telecommunications outage,” hinting at links to high-level national contingency planning.

Continuity of governance?

The conversation surrounding Twitter has centered around whether or not Elon Musk is a free-speech advocate, though little has focused on the implications of a military contractor having complete control over such an important platform. Though Musk may (or may not) be stepping down as CEO, the platform will remain his domain.

Many things have changed under Musk’s Twitter, but Twitter’s role as a megaphone for US government–funded media has not. It would take a large research study to understand precisely how much impact Twitter’s misapplication of its own policies has on the propagation. But even without this data, it is clear that the platform’s design serves to nudge users away from most media funded by Washington-unfriendly governments, and, in the case of the Ukraine War, push users toward media funded by the US government. Musk’s status as a military contractor only underscores that challenging US foreign policy objectives is unlikely to be a priority for the company.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Tue Jan 10, 2023 4:39 pm

Two Parties Of Capitalist Imperialists: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix


They don’t just call Democrats “communists” and “Marxists” in order to attack Democrats, they do it to disappear the entire giant expanse of political spectrum that exists to the left of the capitalist imperialist Democratic Party. They want you to think that’s as far left as it gets.

Democrats refer to themselves as “the left” for the same reason. Both mainstream factions work to shrink the Overton window into a tug-o-war between Republican capitalist imperialists and Democrat capitalist imperialists.
Between two opposing factions of neoliberal neocons.

The problem with the belief that we must start new social media companies because the US government keeps infiltrating the popular social media companies is that it does nothing to confront the huge problem that the US government keeps infiltrating popular social media companies. Until we turn and squarely address the problem that the world’s most powerful government keeps infiltrating the popular online platforms we use to communicate with each other in order to interfere in our communications, they’re just going to keep doing it. Their actions need to be stopped.

Sure you can keep starting new social media companies in response to this problem, but they’ll either remain small platforms without any meaningful influence or they’ll be overpowered by the US government and made to facilitate US information interests. That’s the real issue. To accept that we can only have unrestricted political speech on small platforms is to accept that we can have free speech so long as no one hears us. That we can say whatever we want as long as we speak it into a hole in the ground.

Starting new platforms isn’t the solution to this problem. The solution to this problem is loud, forceful, aggressive opposition to the US government interfering with the way people communicate with each other on the internet until they stop. This is actually very possible to do, because the US government needs to preserve its image as an upholder of liberal values. If that image starts to deteriorate as public awareness grows that they’re working to censor worldwide political speech, their behavior will need to change. So what we can do is work to grow public awareness and opposition to the US government’s increasingly intrusive operations in Silicon Valley.

That’s a much better use of our energy than self-isolating our dissident speech in small online platforms that have no mainstream impact. US government agencies would love it if we’d all self-quarantine ourselves in the obscure margins of the internet where we can’t infect the mainstream herd with wrongthink. We’d be doing their work for them. It’s better to stay on the largest platforms and work to open some eyes.

“China’s going to invade Taiwan!”

“What? How do you know?”

“Well we’re pouring tons of weapons into Taiwan, and we know we’d definitely invade if the Chinese were doing that in Cuba.”

“Ahh. So you’ve got some solid intelligence then.”

I’m often accused of “praising” or “supporting” Russia or China, which is funny because I never actually do. People are just so accustomed to being told the US and its allies are pure good and its enemies are pure evil that anything outside this looks wildly imbalanced to them.

It’s possible to saturate a civilization so thoroughly with propaganda that the entirely normal baseline act of focusing one’s criticisms on the world’s most powerful and destructive power center looks freakish and suspicious in contrast to what you’re accustomed to consuming. In reality, criticizing the US-centralized empire with appropriate and proportional forcefulness and focus looks like treasonous support for enemy nations for the same reason sunlight would seem shocking and abrasive to someone who’s lived their whole life in a cave.

We do not live in a free society, we live in a highly controlled society where we are psychologically manipulated into mental homogeneity in service of the powerful. Criticizing foreign countries for not having freedom like ours helps make our own society even more tightly controlled.

We’re told we’re freer than other countries so that we won’t see how unfree we are. You can’t look down your nose at countries like China or North Korea and still clearly see how controlled and homogenized your own country is. You can’t celebrate your freedom while still lucidly understanding your oppression.

The illusion of freedom is precisely where the reality of our imprisonment hides. We’ve been conditioned to mistake being able to choose between two fake political factions for political freedom. To mistake being able to regurgitate what we’ve been propagandized into saying for free speech.

People say “I’m free because where I live I can say, do and experience anything I want!” But that’s not true; you can’t. You can only say, do and experience what you’ve been conditioned to want to say, do and experience by the mass-scale psychological manipulation you’ve been marinating in since birth. You can do what you want, but they control what it is that you want.

There’s no better illustration of how unfree we are than the way westerners all think the same thoughts about how unfree people are in countries the western empire just so happens to disapprove of. We bleat in unison, “I’m so glad I don’t live in a tyrannical homogenized country like China where people aren’t free to be individuals.”

We won’t be free until our minds are free. Until all of us (not just the lucky few who happen to stumble outside the narrative matrix) are able to shape their own perspectives based on truth rather than on what benefits the powerful. Until we’re able to become true individuals.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Thu Jan 12, 2023 3:50 pm


Meta allows targeted hate speech, violence, but only against U.S. rivals
Originally published: Al Mayadeen on January 11, 2023 by Agencies (more by Al Mayadeen) | (Posted Jan 12, 2023)

US tech giant Meta announced on Monday that it now permits sharing posts calling for the death of Iran’s leader Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

The decision overturns an earlier policy to ban such posts, with Meta claiming that the phrase “Death to Khamenei” does not entail a literal threat against his life.

Users can now liberally use the phrase in English or Farsi, without violating the company’s policies and risking penalties.

“It is a rhetorical, political slogan, not a credible threat,” the Facebook parent company said in a statement.

The new policy contradicts Meta’s terms that prohibit users from promoting violence.

Furthermore, the decision comes despite all U.S. social media platforms insisting that they practice “responsible” censorship in combating posts that contain misinformation and provoke violence, threats targeting individuals or groups, or “hate speech”.

However, this is not the case when it comes to entities and individuals that don’t align with the U.S. foreign policy, i.e. anyone who opposes the U.S. and its illegal hegemonic actions around the world.

“In the Iranian context … Meta must do more to respect freedom of expression and permit the use of rhetorical threats. The Iranian government systematically represses freedom of expression, and digital spaces have become a key forum for dissent. In such situations, it is vital that Meta supports users’ voices,” the U.S. tech giant claimed in a statement.

According to American “free speech” policies, calling for support to countries facing Western aggression, such as Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iran, or Russia, is a violation, which entails bans and suspensions from American-owned social media platforms.

Charlie Hebdo, free speech with an angle
Earlier this month, the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo published caricatures intended to ridicule religious and political Iranian authorities.

The cartoon, which was widely circulated intentionally, demonizes Iran in light of the recent riots that have been manipulated to fit the West’s agenda and its aspirations to fulfill regime change in Iran.

However, despite the offensive content that targeted tens of millions of Iranians, the paper chartered Western support, in addition to backing from the Israeli occupation entity.

Twitter, Fb, TikTok, more are run by the FBI, CIA, and NATO
A report released last June by MintPress found that, after conducting an analysis of employment and recruitment websites, Twitter has hired “an alarming number” of ex-FBI agents and other former “feds and spies.”

However, MintPress noted that Twitter is not the only social media platform that is “cultivating such an intimate relationship with the FBI and other groups belonging to the secret state.”

According to a MintPress News report, “dozens of individuals from the national security state” have been hired in recent years “to work in the fields of security, trust, safety, and content.” Furthermore, it is stated that the FBI is the chief among the places where Twitter finds future recruits.

Twitter’s claims of neutrality are undermined by the reality that the majority of its candidates come from U.S. national security groups which in itself “is the source of some of the largest and most extensive influence operations in the world,” the report added.

“One cannot help noticing that this list correlates quite closely to a hit list of U.S. government adversaries. All countries carry out disinfo campaigns to a certain extent. But these ‘former’ spooks and feds are unlikely to point the finger at their former colleagues or sister organizations or investigate their operations,” MintPress explained.

The report found that Facebook, with approximately 2.9 billion users whose feeds are affected by the company policy, “has entered into a formal partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab.” This means that the choice of employees creates an entire and cumulative atmosphere that actively helps “decide what content to promote and what content to suppress.” In addition, Facebook also hired former NATO Press Secretary, Ben Nimmo, as its head of intelligence.

Furthermore, according to the MintPress report, TikTok, Reddit, Thomson Reuters, and a variety of U.S. media outlets have also been filling their organizations with alumni from U.S. national institutions such as the Atlantic Council, NATO, CIA, and the State Department.

Meta bans Palestine
A Human Rights Watch report released in October 2021 said Meta wrongfully removed and suppressed content by Palestinians and their supporters, including content regarding human rights abuses committed by “Israel” against Palestinians during the Seif Al-Quds battle.

Human Rights Watch documented several removals of posts by Meta’s Instagram.

Those posts included:

A screenshot of New York Times photos and opinion articles, which a user posted with a caption urging Palestinians to never concede.
A photo of a building captioned: “This is a photo of my family’s building before it was struck by Israeli missiles on Saturday, May 15, 2021. We have three apartments in this building.”
A political cartoon asserting that Palestinians are oppressed, not fighting a religious war with the occupation.
Instagram also removed all the aforementioned posts under the pretext that they contain “hate speech or symbols.”

There were reports regarding hundreds of deleted posts, suspended or restricted accounts, disabled groups, and so on, underlining Meta’s censorship of the systemic violence against Palestine.

Facebook has never disputed this claim. However, it told HRW in a letter it has “one single global process for handling government requests for content removal.”

In September of 2022, Human Rights Watch repeated that Meta, Facebook, and Instagram’s parent company censored and removed content documenting human rights abuses committed by “Israel” during the May 2021 Israeli aggression on Gaza.

The human rights organization said Meta’s social media platforms censoring content relating to human rights abuses, “particularly during periods of violence,” is especially harmful to human rights.

Gaza deemed not “newsworthy”
Between August 5 and August 15 of 2022, when “Israel” was carrying out an aggression on Gaza, 7amleh (the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, a civil society group that formally collaborates with Meta on speech issues) counted approximately 90 deletions of information pertaining to bombings.

“Their censorship works almost like clockwork—whenever violence on the ground escalates, their takedown of Palestinian content soars,” said Marwa Fatafta, Middle East North Africa policy manager for Access Now, an international digital rights organization.

Examples of Palestinian content that has been censored that The Intercept has looked at include the removal on August 5 of a post lamenting the passing of Alaa Qadoum, a five-year-old Palestinian girl killed by an Israeli missile strike, as well as an Instagram video of Gazans recovering bodies from the rubble.

Both posts were deleted along with a notice stating that the imagery “goes against our guidelines on violence or dangerous organizations”–a reference to Meta’s corporate policy against posting any content that promotes violence or information about its extensive list of prohibited individuals and organizations.

Google permits a Play Store game that simulates assassinating Iran’s Leader
A free game landed on Google’s Play store last week that enables users to assume the role of Iranian protesters.

The game “Zahak” tasks players to fight senior Iranian officials and ultimately assassinate Iran’s leader and force regime change.

Meta allows dehumanizing content against Russians
In March of 2022, following the start of the Russian war in Ukraine, Meta announced that it will allow Ukrainian users to post violent and dehumanizing content on Facebook and Instagram for several weeks.

The exemption went into effect until April 30 and continued to be available only to Ukrainian users, as ordered by the company at the end of March.

Some Meta employees expressed frustration on an internal social platform about the fact that Ukrainians are being granted an unprecedented exception that no other users from conflict-torn regions, such as the Middle East, have received before, according to the news agency.

“Seems this policy is saying hate speech and violence is ok if it is targeting the ‘right’ people,” one of Meta’s employees was cited as saying then.

On March 21, Russia labeled Meta as an extremist after the social media giant selectively relaxed its rules to allow Ukrainians to call for violence and use hate speech against Russians, including calls for the death of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Fri Jan 13, 2023 3:18 pm

Western Journalists Are Cowardly, Approval-Seeking Losers


Research conducted by New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics into Russian trolling behavior on Twitter in the lead-up to the 2016 US presidential election has found “no evidence of a meaningful relationship between exposure to the Russian foreign influence campaign and changes in attitudes, polarization, or voting behavior.”

Which is to say that all the years of hysterical shrieking about Russian trolls interfering in US democracy and corrupting the fragile little minds of Americans — a narrative that has been used to drum up support for internet censorship and ever-increasing US government involvement in the regulation of online speech — was false.

And to be clear, this isn’t actually news. It was established years ago that the St Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency could not possibly have had any meaningful impact on the 2016 election, because the scope of its operations was quite small, its posts were mostly unrelated to the election and many were posted after the election occurred, and its funding was dwarfed by orders of magnitude by domestic campaigns to influence the election outcome.

What’s different this time around, six years after Trump’s inauguration, is that this time the mass media are reporting on these findings.

The Washington Post has an article out with the brazenly misleading headline “Russian trolls on Twitter had little influence on 2016 voters“. Anyone who reads the article itself will find its author Tim Starks acknowledges that “Russian accounts had no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior,” but the insertion of the word “little” means anyone who just reads the headline (the overwhelming majority of people encountering the article) will come away with the impression that Russian trolls still had some influence on 2016 voters.

“Little influence” could mean anything shy of tremendous influence. But the study did not find that Russian trolls had “little influence” over the election; it failed to find any measurable influence at all.

Starks does some spin work of his own in a bid to salvage the reputation of the ever-crumbling Russiagate narrative, eagerly pointing out that the report does not explicitly say Russia definitely had zero influence on the election’s outcome, that it doesn’t examine Russian trolling behavior on Facebook, that it doesn’t address “Russian hack-and-leak operations,” and that it doesn’t say “doesn’t suggest that foreign influence operations aren’t a threat at all.”

None of these are valid arguments. Claiming Russia definitely had no influence on the election at all would have been beyond the scope of the study, the report’s authors do in fact argue that the effects of Russian trolling on Facebook were likely the same as on Twitter, the (still completely unproven) “Russian hack-and-leak operations” were outside the scope of the study, as is the question of whether foreign influence operations can be a threat in general.

What Starks does not do is make any attempt to address the fact that mainstream news and punditry was dominated for years by claims that Russian internet trolls won the election for Donald Trump. He does not, for example, make any mention of his own 2019 Politico article telling readers that the Russian Twitter troll operation ahead of the 2016 election “was larger, more coordinated and more effective than previously known.”


Starks also does not take the time to inform The Washington Post’s readership about the false reporting this story has received over the years from his fellow mainstream news media employees, like The Washington Post’s David Ignatius and his melodramatic description of the St Petersburg troll farm as “a sophisticated, multilevel Russian effort to use every available tool of our open society to create resentment, mistrust and social disorder” in an article hysterically titled “How Russia used the Internet to perfect its dark arts“. Or The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg in her article “Yes, Russian Trolls Helped Elect Trump“, in which she argues that it looks increasingly as though the Internet Research Agency “changed the direction of American history.” Or NBC’s Ken Dilanian (a known CIA asset), who described Russian trolling on Twitter in the lead-up to the election as “a vast, coordinated campaign that was incredibly successful at pushing out and amplifying its messages,” a claim that was then repeated by The Washington Post. To pick just a few out of basically limitless possible examples.

Starks and his editors could easily have included this sort of information in the article. It would have greatly helped improve clarity and understanding among The Washington Post’s audience if they had. It would have been entirely possible to clearly spell out the fact that all those other reports appear to have been incorrect in light of this new information, or at least to acknowledge the fact that there is a glaring difference between this new report and previous reporting. It would do a lot of good for awareness to grow, especially among Washington Post readers, that there’s been a lot of inaccurate information circulating about Russia and the 2016 election these past several years.

But they didn’t. And nobody else in the mass media has done so either. Even The Intercept’s report on the same story, despite having the far more honest headline “Those Russian Twitter bots didn’t do $#!% in 2016, says new study,” doesn’t name any names or criticize any outlets for their inaccurate reporting on Russian trolls stealing the election for Donald Trump.

Indeed, it’s very rare in the west to see mainstream journalists hold other mainstream journalists accountable for their false reporting, facilitation of propaganda, or journalistic malpractice, unless it’s journalists whose approval they don’t care about like members of the opposite political faction or independant media reporters. This is because western journalists are worthless, obsequious cowards whose entire lives revolve around seeking the approval of their peers.

The most important reporting a journalist can do in the western world today is help expose the lies, propaganda and malpractice of other western journalists and news outlets. But that is also the last thing a western journalist is ever likely to do, because western journalists seek praise and approval not from the public, but from other western journalists.

You can see this in the way they post on Twitter, with their little in-jokes and insider references, how they’re always cliquing up and beckoning and signaling to each other. Twitter is a great window through which to observe western journalists, because they really lay it all out there. Watch their bootlicking facilitation of status quo power, their ingratiating tail-wagging with each other, the way they gang up on dissenters like zealots burning a heretic. To see what I’m talking about you have to pay attention not to their viral tweets that go off but to all the rest that receive little attention, because the ones that take off are the ones the public are interested in. If you watch them carefully it becomes clear that for most of them the intended audience of the majority of their posts is not the rank-and-file public, but their fellow members of the media class.

Look at this Twitter conversation between Australian journalists right after the Ecuadorian embassy cut off Julian Assange’s internet access in 2018 for a good illustration of this. Former ABC reporter Andrew Fowler (now a vocal supporter of Assange) questions ABC’s Michael Rowland for applauding Ecuador’s move, and ABC’s Lisa Millar rushes in to help Rowland argue that Assange is not a journalist and doesn’t deserve the solidarity of journalists, and that Fowler is putting himself on the outside of the groupthink consensus by claiming otherwise. Millar and Rowland are part of the clique, Fowler is being ostracised from it, and Assange is the heretic whose lynching they’re braying for:

Western journalists have a freakish herd-like mindset that makes the derision and rejection of their class the most nightmarish scenario possible and the approval of their class the most powerful opiate imaginable. They’re terrified of other journalists turning against them, of being rejected by the people whose approval they crave like a drug, of being kicked out of the group chat. And that’s exactly what would happen if they began leveling valid criticisms at mass media propaganda in public. And that’s exactly why that doesn’t happen.

The western media class is a cloistered, incestuous circle jerk that only cares about impressing other members of the cloistered, incestuous circle jerk. It doesn’t care about creating an informed populace or holding the powerful to account, it cares about approval, inclusion and acclaim from its own ranks, regardless of what propagandistic reporting is required to obtain it. The Pulitzers are mostly just a bunch of empire propagandists giving each other trophies for being good at empire propaganda.

A journalist with real integrity would spurn the approval of the media class. It would nauseate and repel them, because it would mean you’ve been aligning yourself with the most powerful empire in history and the propaganda machine which greases its wheels. They would actively make an enemy of the mainstream western press.

Journalists without integrity — which is to say the overwhelming majority of journalists — do the opposite.

None of this will be news to any of my regular readers, who will likely understand that the role of the mass media is not to inform but to manufacture consent for the agendas and interests of our rulers. But we shouldn’t get used to it, or lose sight of how odious it is.

It’s important to be clear about how gross these people are. You can never be sufficiently disdainful of these freaks.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Tue Jan 17, 2023 4:46 pm



By John Helmer, Moscow @bears_with

The media audience has been moving fast in the opposite direction from the reporters and media proprietors. The majority of US audiences, for example, believes all sides of a story deserve to be reported in a balanced fashion. The journalists strongly disagree, however. The younger these reporters are, the more they claim to be leftwing, and the more concentrated their employment in the online media, the more committed they are to the propaganda mission of their employers, and of their governments.

This is Ass Backwards, as Mike Ryan for TNT Radio spells out in this discussion of the performance of the Australian press. There isn’t a major issue in election politics, the recent history of pandemic emergency powers, the display of Nazi symbols, and the wars against Russia and China, which Australian journalists haven’t ignored, covered up, or misreported the story in a way which would have been impossible fifty years ago. History too is Ass Backwards.

More than half of all Australian readers don’t trust what they read in the news media. Thai is roughly the same level of distrust of journalism as in Canada, Hong Kong and Poland. But no one distrusts journalism as much as Americans whose scepticism of the published word leads the world.

Since readers are smarter than journalists, less gullible, less trusting, what can readers do to learn the truth and stop the lies. Start with this discussion, and then consider how to vote – and if to vote – and how to keep this a secret from pollsters and journalists until Election Day.

Tune into the discussion at Minute 15:51.

https://tntradiolive.podbean.com/e/john ... uary-2023/

http://johnhelmer.net/ass-backward-abje ... more-70501


Recalling CNN’s Fraudulent “Interview” With A Seven Year-Old Syrian Girl


There’s a thread going around on Twitter by Columbia University’s Sophie Fullerton advancing the claim that I have promoted crazy conspiracy theories about child “crisis actors” in Syrian war atrocities. Fullerton has me blocked on Twitter so I can’t respond to her there, but in her thread she brings up one of the most egregious instances I’ve ever seen of US war propaganda in the mass media, so it’s worth taking some time to unpack her claims here as a public service.

Fullerton has written for The Washington Post slamming social media users who travel to Syria and dispute the official mainstream narrative about what’s been happening in that country, and has served as an expert analyst in a Daily Beast hit piece on the progressive Gravel Institute for their scrutiny of US warmongering. So it’s fair to call her a spinmeister on the side of the US empire, and it’s probably fair to predict that her young career will bring her tremendous success and mainstream elevation as a result of this.

“It takes a special kind of evil to see what happened yesterday in Dnipro and immediately start doing PR for the perpetrator,” Fullerton tweets, with a screenshot of me saying it’s deceitful for people to talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine without also talking about the ways the US empire provoked and benefits from this war. “It should come at no surprise that this account built a following out of claiming Syrian children impacted by Assad/Russia atrocities were crisis actors,” she adds.

Fullerton’s thread has gained a lot of traction because it has been amplified by Olga Lautman, a Senior Fellow at the imperialist think tank Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) with a large following. CEPA’s donor list includes the US State Department, the CIA cutout National Endowment for Democracy, and the weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, and General Atomics.

Fullerton uses the phrase “crisis actors” to evoke the image most people have of that term and what it means: conspiracy theories about actors pretending to have been wounded or otherwise involved in a false flag mass shooting or bombing incident, particularly Alex Jones’s infamous claims about Sandy Hook victims. Google defines “crisis actor” as “a person who takes part in a supposed conspiracy to manipulate public opinion by pretending to be a victim of an event such as a bombing, mass shooting, or natural disaster.” Imperial spinmeisters have a history of using the phrase “crisis actors” to smear skeptics of dubious claims by the US empire about what’s been happening in Syria as crazy conspiracy theorists who are the same as Sandy Hook deniers.

But for her evidence of my “crisis actors” conspiracy theorizing, Fullerton cites something very different from any such claim. She cites an article I wrote in 2018 titled “That Time CNN Staged A Fake Interview With A Syrian Child For War Propaganda“, and revealingly she includes only a screenshot of the top of the article rather than providing a link. She did this because the arguments made in the article are unassailable, and she doesn’t want people to see them.

In 2017 CNN conducted a fraudulent interview with a seven year-old Syrian child named Bana Alabed, whose name had earlier been popularized by a Twitter account operated by an adult calling for US interventionism in Syria to overthrow president Bashar al-Assad. I know the interview was fraudulent not because I’m some kind of dogged investigative journalist who spent months digging into the facts and the sources, but because I watched the interview. It is plain as day that the child was either reading or reciting words that had been prepared for her, and every comment I can see on CNN’s YouTube share of the segment agrees with this assessment. To the best of my knowledge, no serious attempt has ever been made by anyone to dispute this.

Fullerton claims that my article “attacks Bana al-Abed”, but if you actually read it you will see that what I am in fact attacking is CNN for staging a bogus interview with a child who is clearly reading or reciting words authored by an adult, and CNN’s Alisyn Camerota for playing along with this sham. My article at no time mentions the phrase “crisis actor” (pretty sure I’ve never even used those words except in reference to claims made by other people), and it is quite obvious from the child’s awkward recitations in her CNN appearance that she is not an actor by nature.

No intellectually honest person with any sense of normal human speech will ever claim that this interview was anything but scripted. And, I mean, of course it is. A CNN anchor asked a seven year-old child for her opinions on who is responsible for a chemical weapons attack on Syria and repeatedly asked her for her perspective on the highly complex and multifaceted conflict in her country; the only way you’re going to get answers to those questions from a child that age is if you feed them to her. This shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say.

But even if you accept on faith the idea of a seven year-old child conducting off-the-cuff military analysis and geopolitical punditry on cable television, it is evident from the video that that isn’t what’s happening. She not only speaks like someone with no acting experience reading from a script, she sounds like someone who is not fluent in English simply sounding out English words phonetically.

Which would make sense, because other video evidence indicates that she did not speak English very well around the time of her CNN appearance:

In footage from an interview in Turkey (where according to the CNN chyron Alabed also conducted the Camerota interview from), Alabed is asked in English if she likes the food in Istanbul. She replies “Yes,” and when asked what food she likes, Alabed replies “Save the children of Syria.” Her mother says something to her, and then Alabed replies, “Fish.”

She did not understand the question. But Sophie Fullerton wants you to believe this child was engaging in adult-level conversation about complicated ideas on CNN, in fluent English.

Again, this is not an attack on a Syrian child. It would be insane and ridiculous to expect a seven year-old Syrian to be fluent in English and to be able to articulate highly advanced analysis about what’s been happening in her native country, so I am of course not criticizing her inability to do so. I am absolutely criticizing the war propagandists who put her up to it, though, and I am absolutely criticizing those who run apologia for their having done so.

The US-centralized empire’s dirty war on Syria has had many atrocious elements to it over the years, and an abundance of propaganda and spin have been used to facilitate them. But never has it been so in-your-face brazen as when CNN staged a plainly fraudulent interview with a small child.

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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Wed Jan 18, 2023 5:01 pm

Jan 17, 2023 , 2:10 p.m.

Twitter "Russian trolls" had little effect on the results of the 2016 US election, but that didn't stop it from having consequences experienced until today (Photo: Getty Images)

The same people who pride themselves on sternly harping on the facts, ideally explained in the friendly tone of a Western newscaster, are happy to accept conspiracy theories that support their own worldview.

That's why the idea that Russian disinformation on social media influenced the 2016 election, or even its results, gained so much popularity, despite the fact that a recent study unsurprisingly finds no evidence for it. .


The impact of alleged "Russian troll" Twitter accounts on the US presidential race nearly seven years ago was minimal, according to a study by New York University's Center for Politics and Social Media published in the journal Nature Communications . For technical reasons, the study focuses on Twitter, though its findings certainly apply more broadly.

"Russian trolls" influenced the voting results of a relatively small number of Twitter users during the presidential run of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, the study says. In addition, the majority of those affected by "Russian disinformation" were staunch Republicans, according to the results of the work.

Researchers doubt that the influence of "trolls" was enough to tip certain states towards Trump's side, where his advantage over Hillary Clinton was minimal (Photo: File)

One of the authors of the investigation, Josh Tucker, told The Washington Post that previous assessments of the importance of the actions of "Russian trolls" are exaggerated, since the publications were mainly directed at a small part of the population that actually voted for Trump. According to the study, just 1% of Twitter users were the target audience for around 70% of all "Russian trolls" tweets, and Democratic supporters saw those posts nine times less than extreme Republicans.

This fact must be emphasized. The troll accounts were viewed disproportionately by staunch Republicans. In other words, these weren't people who sat at home and didn't know who to vote for, and then saw a negative post about Hillary Clinton on social media and thought, "Well, now I can't vote for the Democrat I've scorned." literally for decades."

In addition, the study found that "the correlation between the number of posts from foreign-influenced Russian accounts viewed by users and voting for Donald Trump is close to zero."

According to the authors of the work, about 32 million people saw tweets allegedly "sponsored by Russia", while Facebook in 2017 announced 126 million visits to such posts on its site. At the same time, posts by American media and politicians had a greater impact on the electorate, while the actions of Russian Twitter users did not affect "political views, polarization, preferences, and voter behavior."

"The content of mainstream domestic political outlets and US political candidates exceeded that of Russian accounts by at least an order of magnitude," the report said.

The authors also warned that the danger of the influence of the "Russian trolls" event on the results of the US elections remains quite significant. Tucker described as one of the potential risks that, due to the extensive discussion on this issue, some Americans may doubt the results of the 2020 presidential race, in which Trump lost to the current head of state, Joe Biden.


This conspiratorial idea fueled the denial of the 2016 election by Democrats; catalyzed a judicial investigation into Trump; created an entire industry of ostensible disinformation experts; pushed social media companies to engage in political censorship in the name of moderating "fact-based content"; and led to the cover-up of the Hunter Biden laptop story.

The consequences of all this can still be felt today. Panic over misinformation has become the backdrop for the release of "Twitter Files" followed by Republican-led House hearings.

Had the report's conclusions been more politically expedient, the mainstream media, urging everyone to accept its conclusions as "scientific", would have spread them left and right.

In the end, as it turned out, the greatest success of the non-existent Russian operation was that it maddened a segment of American political opinion and directly influenced, to this day, the demonization of President Vladimir Putin and the nation he presides over. In this way, the "total war" campaign after the Russian special military operation in Ukraine has had a narrative basis from the bases of the Democratic Party and the American establishment that has seen how it loses ascendancy in a good part of the world.

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Trump/2016 is just a 'slice of time' in the ongoing effort to domesticate the minds of the US masses which has been going on since at least 1945. One lie builds upon the last, which by repetition has become 'common knowledge'. When one thinks one has 'common knowledge' backing one's opinions nothing short of some kind of trauma can correct the situation.

Think not? Just go into a bar(or other gathering place) and tell the truth about Ukraine and you will be dismissed as dumb and evil and might get you in a fight. I spent years blowing off the hyperbole surrounding the 2016 election which only assured people that my 'take' on the Ukraine war was equally wrong and I am just a crank.
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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Tue Jan 24, 2023 4:10 pm


Media in the digital age
By Prabir Purkayastha (Posted Jan 24, 2023)

Originally published: NewsClick.in on January 2, 2023 (more by NewsClick.in) |

Digital media is increasingly taking over our lives—whether it is social media, digital classrooms or Over the Top (OTT) platforms like Netflix. Even the World Cup is being transmitted not only by TV but also through various apps.

Younger people today have a passionate relationship with their mobiles, giving us time only between the loading of their screens. Along with the rise of digital media, we also have the rise of powerful digital platforms that increasingly determine how we get our news and entertainment while also becoming among the biggest monopolies in the world.

While these digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook/Meta, are often called social media, differentiating them from media, we need to recognise that they are very much a part of the larger media landscape today. Calling them social media differentiates them from older media but only as a new media segment. It can therefore hide in what way the new digital media is similar to older media.

As a Marxist, the key question is how does media earn its revenue? And the answer to both the new social media and the older forms of media is that they have the same revenue model: advertisements! We then need to examine how the new digital platforms have created their monopoly in media and the change it has made to the structure of media.

The Background: The Digital Revolution

The digital revolution has created new digital monopolies—not just Google and Facebook. In 2006, Microsoft was the only digital company in the top ten global monopolies. Today, more than half of the top ten—or six—are digital monopolies (Figure 1) with Apple having overtaken Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world!

Among the top five global monopolies, four are digital monopolies with their market capitalisation in trillions of dollars. Apple is the largest producer of the iPhone but does not own a single factory for its production. Only two out of the six are social media companies, counting Google as social media, though the bulk of its profits come from the search engine.


One of the misconceptions about the digital revolution is the belief that data is by itself a product, and this is powering the digital economy, what the World Economic Forum propagated, data as the new oil. The others, influenced by the Italian school of “autonomistas”, talked about how algorithms, through their computations, produced a surplus, the concept of an algorithmic surplus.

What they miss is the purpose for which companies use either the data or the algorithms in the real world. Digital monopolies are not homogenous entities and use data and algorithms differently depending on whether they are Amazon, Microsoft, Google or Facebook.

If we look at the business models of digital monopolies in the top 10 global monopolies, they are quite different. Only two of the digital monopolies among the top ten global monopolies, Google and Facebook, are media monopolies.

They are trying to branch out using their captive users into other domains such as, for example, finance—Google Pay, Facebook Pay and Amazon Pay—but the bulk of their revenue still is from advertising. The core business of Google and Facebook is selling us, their users, to the advertisers, and their business model is the old-fashioned media business of advertising.

The other four in the top ten global monopolies are digital monopolies but with quite different business models. The business of Amazon is buying and selling goods, similar to what the brick-and-mortar monopoly Walmart was and still is, despite its digital forays. And Microsoft’s major revenue is its Windows monopoly, other proprietary software and services built on top of the Microsoft suite just as Apple’s monopoly is as a seller of devices, primarily the premium brand, the iPhone. TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductors), the latest entry into the top 10, is the biggest chip manufacturer in the world.

Clearly, the digital revolution is bringing about a change in the structure of capitalism. So, what is the digital revolution all about?

There are two axes to the digital revolution: one, the communication network and its bandwidth, and the second, the computational capacity of the devices on this communication network. Digital media is the consequence of the revolutionary changes in both the communications network—the internet—through which we send or receive information and the devices themselves connected to the network.

I will use a simple measure of the increased reach of the communications network, the number of nodes (connections) on the internet and the amount of data being transmitted in the network. This shows that the amount of data being transmitted in the network is increasing roughly at the rate of 40% every year and the number of devices by about 18% annually. It is this explosive growth of data communications that drives the need for more computational power in the chips of our devices.

Why is the processing power of chips so important for media? Chips enter in two ways into the media domain. Transmitting moving images for viewing requires not only a fast communications network but also processing power at both ends of the network.

A mobile phone today has hundreds of thousands of times more computing power than the onboard computer that guided the Apollo 11 landing on the moon! This is what we require to see moving pictures in real-time—whether a film, a video on Facebook or YouTube or to watch sports.

There is an understanding that data itself is of commercial value, and the digital revolution is all about data. This view was based on the success of Google and Facebook and the belief that they harvested data from us, the users, and this data provided an inexhaustible resource they are monetising. This view not only limits the digital revolution to only social media companies but also misunderstands the nature of the surplus that digital monopolies generate and from whom.

Media and advertising in the age of the Internet

Advertising revenue has shifted in the last decade decisively towards digital monopolies. As can be seen from Figure 2, print and TV, which were roughly a quarter and early half of all ad revenues in 2015, have shrunk to less than one-tenth and about a quarter of the total ad revenues in 2022, a dramatic fall in a scant seven years. The gain has all been for digital platforms, which used to be only a quarter of all the ad revenues but are today more than half of all ad revenues in the world.


How much of the revenue of Google and Facebook is from advertising? In 2021, out of Google’s revenue of $258 billion, 81% was from advertising. For Meta, formerly known as Facebook, a whopping 97.4% of its revenue of $118 billion in 2021 was from advertising. Therefore, we need to place Google and Facebook in the larger context of media and advertising.

For the rest of this article, I will restrict myself to only the digital media platforms, in what way are they similar to earlier media platforms and the ways they are not.

We have already established that the business models of the two digital platforms—Google and Facebook—are based on advertising revenues. In Marxist terms, we also have to understand the source of this surplus and also what it is that a media company, in this age of digital platforms, delivers to advertisers those who advertise their goods on it. I am also going to skip over the role of advertising under monopoly capitalism as this is a much bigger exercise.

I will make only two assumptions from other studies on media and monopolies. One is that advertising competition is preferable to price competition for companies as it retains the total quantum of surplus, the competition being only for its redistribution.

This is the famous competition between Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which avoided price competition in favour of advertising competition. The other is that the revenue for advertising companies only redistributes the surplus which comes out of production. While advertisers also produce ads, commercials, and billboards and have their own production cycle, this production cycle is funded by the surplus of other companies/monopolies.

What happens if an advertising company holds a monopoly on viewers in a particular medium, for example, say it owns all the cinema halls or TV channels in a country? This would then lead to a redistribution of the surplus to the advertiser from those who produce goods as they cannot reach their consumers without the advertiser, and the advertiser could charge a higher rent from the producer of the goods.

Let us start with television, as it makes it easier to understand what a media company sells to those who want to advertise on their channels. Tim Wu, in his book, The Attention Merchants, argues that all of us have a finite amount of attention—he calls it attention capita. The task of media companies is to grab as much of it as they can and sell our attention to the advertisers. Interestingly, talking about the New York newspaper, he does identify the reader as the product, but he focuses more on the attention of the reader as the commodity, not the readers themselves, as the commodity.

Dallas Smythe, in 1977 and well before Wu formulated attention capital, more correctly identified that media companies sell us, the consumers of media, the advertisers. This is what he termed as the audience commodity. He also wrote that communications were the blind spot of Western Marxism for not understanding the political economy of media focussing only on its propaganda role.

While it is important to analyse the content of media, its ideology, and the hegemonic role it plays, it must also be accompanied by an analysis of the economic role of media itself. And if media companies are among the big hitters of global capital, they are playing a major economic role that we need to understand.

What is sold by the media companies to the advertisers are different sets of audiences: diced up into small segments based on their purchasing power, geography, possible needs, and other details. This is how our data is used by digital platforms, not as a commodity by itself, but to create our profiles such that we can be sold more effectively to advertisers. These sets of data are then matched to the product or products of the company and then used to position their ads. We will not go into the complex process of accepting and selling ads on Google and Facebook platforms, but broadly, there are two functions that all media companies play: one is identifying the possible consumers of the products of a company, and second, the actual process of buying and selling of such ads.

The Purpose of Big Media is Advertising Business

Mass media and mass communications have two purposes: a) to attract and hold our attention by giving us news and entertainment and b) to sell us as commodities to advertisers. To be able to sell ads, media companies need our eyeballs, or our attention. None of us—barring a few shopaholics—want to see ads. We consider them a necessary evil for either getting news, analysis or entertainment.

Vineet Jain, the managing director of Bennet & Coleman, the company that owns The Times of India, was quite correct in saying to The New Yorker, “We are not in the newspaper business; we are in the advertising business.” It might have shocked the news readers and even journalists, but the shock was merely one of brutally stating what we have known all along!

There were other alternatives to media being funded mainly by advertisers. If it was funded by subscribers alone, its price would preclude it from becoming mass communication. It could have been state-funded or subsidised. But those were roads not taken and starting with newspapers in the 19th century to television, ads have been the major business model for news organisations.

I am not touching on the other aspect of media, which, for example, Noam Chomsky (co-authored with Herman Edwards) has written in great detail in his book Manufacturing Consent, which remains a classic and relevant even today. If there was any doubt regarding how the legacy print, television media or the new digital media carry news, we have only to see their near homogenous reaction: whether Iraq, Afghanistan or the Ukraine War to the economic war against China. Whether it is The New York Times, the BBC, CNN or the policies of Facebook and Google, they have been very similar. The task of manufacturing consent for the ruling class is common to both the old and the new media.

Leaving out the more protected digital markets, either due to conscious decisions of the countries such as China and Russia to protect their digital space or due to sanctions imposed by the U.S., e.g., Iran, the dominant social media players are Google and Facebook. These two platforms today have more than 90% of the world’s digital ad revenue. So, what is it that they monopolise, and how do they achieve such monopolies?

The internet has led to an enormous increase in connectivity of the communications network as people connect to the internet through their mobile phones and laptops. This increased connectivity has opened up the possibility of alternate ways of tapping into us as an audience and selling us as commodities to advertisers.

There is a structural difference between all earlier forms of data and the new digital media. With older media, the media companies create the content and the delivery network. On the internet, we, its users, create much more content than all other media companies. And the delivery network (at least, initially) was the internet itself, running on existing telecom infrastructure.

Today, the bulk of the content on the internet is created not by the platforms but by those who use them, or what is termed as user-generated content. The number of web pages on the internet is about half that of the total number of people connected to it. If we add billions of Facebook and Chinese social media platform users who have pages on such platforms, practically everybody connected to the internet is a producer as well as a recipient of the content. If we add the video content that users post on a variety of platforms, from YouTube and Instagram Reels to TikTok, no media company can compete with this volume of user-generated content today.

The new digital monopolies do not create content but offer us a platform and tools to create or post our content on their platforms. That is why they are termed “intermediaries”, or those who host other peoples’ content on their platforms. With increasing user-generated content, the distinction between public and private communication spaces of the earlier era has increasingly collapsed. People posting on Facebook or Twitter believe they are having a conversation in a private space while it is occurring very much in a public space.

While one end of the business of Google and Facebook is common—selling us to advertisers—the purpose of why we go to each of these platforms is different. The most likely reason we use Google is to search for information, most of which has been created by other users like us. Its virtual monopoly over the search engine made it the early leader in gathering advertising revenue. This revenue has made it possible for Google to acquire companies such as YouTube, the premiere video hosting site, and Android, the operating system (OS) for most mobiles except iPhones, to expand their reach even further.

Though Android is an open-source project maintained by Google, its control over its distribution has meant that most mobile phone manufacturers accept Google’s conditions, its add-ons and its restrictions. The Competition Commission of India and other regulators have come down heavily against such anti-competitive practices of Google. The U.S. sanctions on Chinese phone maker Huawei meant that it was forced to develop its own OS with its Apps, as Google stopped Huawei from using its Play Store and, therefore, from accessing all the Apps that most users are familiar with.

When we use any of its products—Google search, Gmail or any Android-based mobile phone, Google profiles us by our location, the kind of query we have made, who our friends are, etc., adding all of this to our profile. In addition, they, like other apps or websites, put cookies on our computers/phones when we use their websites or products. All of it helps Google sell us more efficiently to the advertiser, meaning a buck spent on advertising on Google is more effective than any other platform, barring possibly Facebook/Meta.

Facebook, the other major monopoly in the digital platform market, chose a different route. It created a space where you could put up content about yourself and connect to your friends or relatives who knew you. Facebook monitors our data and the data of our network of friends and relations on Facebook, enabling it to monetise us more efficiently.

Facebook’s ability to profile and sell us to consumers is almost as good as Google’s. Before its sharp drop in market capitalisation, its market cap was more than a trillion in august company of Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet and Amazon. This drop is not because of its inability to sell us—its current users—to advertisers. Investors believe that the huge amount of money that Zuckerberg is sinking into his pet project, the Metaverse, will not have suitable returns. Therefore, the drop in Meta/Facebook’s market capitalisation, which is based on the expectation of future profits for capital.

Google’s search engine was not the only one that tried to solve the problem of search; it won the race initially, as its search engine was perhaps better, the search results were not biased, and possibly even dumb luck. Just as Facebook was not the first social media company with the idea of connecting friends and families, it just scaled better initially and emerged as the market leader in this social networking space.

One company had to be the winner in this winner-takes-all games: whoever took the lead initially got the first-mover advantage in their respective areas. Just as Twitter and TikTok have done later, creating a market niche where they are the leaders.

Any media company, be it a newspaper or a TV station, spends a large amount of money to get our attention and hold it. Newspapers require capital investment in printing presses, operational expenses for distribution and news gathering. Similarly, TV requires investment for production and uplinking to either terrestrial networks or satellites for distribution.

Since we create the content, Google’s and Facebook’s investment were initially neither on creating content nor on a delivery infrastructure. We, the users, provided the content, and the telecommunications network provided the infrastructure for delivery. Their main task was to create tools, which we can use to either find the content of interest to us or post our content for our friends and relations.

The mode of advertising on online platforms is also different from that of broadcast media. Since broadcasting, by its very structure, reaches out as a one-to-many communication, it does not know who receives such content. The only information that such broadcast platforms, such as TV, have—via Nielson ratings—is how many people are watching what programme. The only choice that the people watching these programmes have is to flip the channel or not watch TV. This approach to advertising is like a scattergun approach: spray advertisements around hoping they would stick to some people and that you would remember their brand or product when you go out and buy.

Internet platforms chose a different approach. They knew their users very well; the common internet refrain is Google and Facebook know you better than your mother. The internet can deliver what is called targeted ads to get an ad-to-conversion ratio that is much higher than what the broadcast media can deliver. If you are looking for a video camera through a Google search, Google will show you ads for video cameras for weeks afterwards. Or your friend shows the new video camera she has bought, and you, as her friend on Facebook, get ads for video cameras.


The consequence of this shift in ad revenue is visible today. Print newspapers are losing ads so fast that they are shutting down or converting to online “papers”. TV’s ad revenue is growing but much slower than that of digital ad revenues (Figure 2). In 2017, digital ad revenues overtook the combined TV (broadcast and cable) ad revenues. And out of this, the top two—Google and Facebook—have about 70% of the revenue. The chart (Figure 3) shows not only the sharp rise of the advertising revenue of digital media companies but visually establishes that the fall of newspaper ad revenue is strongly correlated to the rise of Google and now Facebook.

How Did Google and Facebook Become Monopolies?

Both Google and Facebook were led by tech people who understood that in this field, the quality of the technology would be the differentiator between companies. Since they were not selling software, Google and Facebook both used the existing free and open software tools and the community to develop tools for their purpose.

They have also released a number of such tools as open source. Making available some of the tools/platforms provides Google and Facebook with an eco-system for drawing on the resources of the open-source community for further development of the tools.

While Google and Facebook share some of their revenue with content creators, the calculations are not as simple as they claim. One of the monopoly investigations against Google is how it rigs the advertising bids. When YouTube says that it shares 55% of its ad revenue with content creators, it does not tell us how much of the ad revenue is received by YouTube and how much goes to other Google intermediaries. These are the subject of antitrust lawsuits in the U.S. and monopoly/competition commissions in the EU and UK.

Facebook is also facing similar antitrust and ant-competition legal action in both places. This is after the systematic weakening of monopoly laws in Europe, calling them “competition” laws. In the U.S., though the laws themselves were not changed, they were weakened considerably. The interpretation changed, that monopoly itself is not the issue; the regulatory authorities needed to show that consumers or competitors have been hurt due to the monopoly to take anti-monopoly action. This interpretation set a much higher bar for action against monopolies.

When Google became the number one search engine, we had no idea how it could become one of the world’s leading behemoths. It was helping us find content more easily, had no ad business, and its slogan was “Do no Evil”. A nice and cuddly monopoly! The reality has turned out very different.

Larry Page, the co-founder of Google, claimed in 2004 that its purpose was to take you to sites that had content relevant to your search. Today, two-thirds—or two out of three—of your searches end up without a further click, what search engine expert Rand Fishkin calls a zero-click search. The number rises even higher to four out of five mobile searches.

The majority of searches on Google lead to no further clicks on the links in the displayed search pages. Or if links on the search pages are clicked, they mostly lead to other Google sites not to that of the original content creators. This is why Google has a monopoly over internet searches, the only exception being the independent Facebook and Amazon sub-spaces.

Google’s command over all the searches on the internet is only part of the problem. The other is it is a two-sided monopoly. Dina Srinivasan, a leading researcher on monopolies, writes, “In advertising, a single company, Alphabet (Google), simultaneously operates the leading trading venue as well as the leading intermediaries that buyers and sellers go through to trade. At the same time, Google itself is one of the largest sellers of ad space globally.” This means that the marketplace for internet ads is heavily jigged in favour of Google. This is why a number of states in the U.S. are filing cases against Google.

Facebook has no pretence of being an open space. It is a “walled garden” on the internet connecting you to friends, relations and like-minded people on the platform. When you connect to Facebook and interact with others, the platform gets to sell you to its advertisers. Its purpose is to maximise engagement—that is, to keep you on Facebook.

Google had the pretension that the purpose of their search engine is to send you to those who have generated the original content. Facebook, from the beginning, barred any intrusion by others, for example, Google’s search engine from indexing its pages and showing such links on its search results. That is why we call such sites private gardens as they can be accessed only with the owner’s express permission.

So how does Facebook maximise our attention on their site/sites and keep us there? They have worked out that engagement, on Facebook, is driven by our emotions. Fear and hate are stronger emotions than others, and therefore, posts that generate such emotions get more traction and propagate deeper and further within Facebook. This is Facebook’s problem with hate groups. They may make all the noises they want for public relations but are fully aware that the virality of hate posts, and even fake news, is the core of its business model.

The challenge of any new technology is that its speed of spread is faster than the understanding of its social impact. This is not limited to the new digital technologies.

The invention of the printing press was the first instrument of mass communications, creating what we now call the public sphere. It led to the rise of literacy, democratisation of knowledge and transformed society. It also gave rise to newspapers, which were printed, and, therefore, could have a mass readership. Benedict Anderson has identified print capitalism and newspapers as the key to the creation of the nation state.

But the printing press also had other consequences. When the printing press was introduced in Europe by Gutenberg, the first and most popular book was the Bible, known as the Gutenberg Bible. The second most popular book was the Malleus Maleficarum, usually translated as The Hammer of the Witches, the handbook of the Inquisition. How many died as a consequence of the Inquisition? As a result of the nationalist wars in Europe? Due to the looting, genocide, and slavery by colonial powers in Asia, Africa and the Americas?

And yet we look upon the printing press and its expansion of the public sphere as a part of the forward march of history. It increased public participation and literacy, the preserve earlier of the feudal elite, and expanded to even include the working class. It is not an accident that Lenin regarded the Iskra not simply as a mouthpiece of the party but also as an instrument to build the party.

It is not that technology is by itself liberating or enslaving. Any advance in technology has social consequences—both beneficial and harmful. The increase in the productive capacity of technology leads to more being produced and therefore benefits society. It leads—in class-divided societies—to the concentration of wealth and power, the benefits of technological advances are not equal for all sections of society. The battle, therefore, is not for or against technology but on who owns the technology and for whose benefit the increased productive forces are used in society.

The expansion of the printing press and the creation of newspapers led to the creation of the advertising industry. This is what underpins the public sphere in capitalist countries. Advertisements for snake oil, aphrodisiacs, and even cocaine—Coca-Cola had cocaine in its initial secret formula—provided the money for the newspapers and later on, radio and television.

Though certain kinds of advertising have officially been banned or regulated in most countries, the reality of the advertising world is to convince us that we, in our natural state, can be vastly improved by buying, say, a perfume or a fairness cream! It panders to the worst prejudices in society, of which Fair and Lovely ads are only a more sanitised version.

In the U.S., ads for example, routinely portrayed the black community as criminals or naturally violent. But despite the advertising business with all its problems underpinning the media business, it has also created the public sphere. Just as it also helped create Mussolini and Hitler. Mussolini’s radio lectures and Leni Riefenstahl films are again examples that mass media can also be a powerful weapon against the people.

One of the consequences of the struggle against snake oil kind of medicines led to most countries enacting laws on what could be advertised and what could not. These laws also controlled what could be sold as medicines. The problem has been the will to use these laws—whether against Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali empire here or pharma companies selling opioids in the U.S. In addition, it was recognised that media has a major influence on politics, and, therefore, a need to control media monopolies. Unfortunately, the weakening of monopoly commissions and laws and converting them to Competition Commissions has diluted these laws considerably. Monopoly by itself is held to be acceptable unless it can be shown that such a monopoly harms other companies or the people, a much higher bar than when Standard Oil, and AT&T, the telephone monopoly in the U.S., were broken up. Most countries also have laws on what can be published or shown.

The problem in the digital media space is, as we have discussed earlier, the collapse of the distinction between private and public space. When we post on Facebook, put up a clip on YouTube or make a comment on Twitter, we believe that we are speaking privately even if what we are saying is public. The amount of content is also far higher than what can be monitored by public bodies, like a Censor Board for films.

Therefore, in the digital media space, most governments are asking the platforms to police themselves: companies like Facebook and Google should have algorithms for filtering out fake news. This is what the Indian government is also asking the big digital platforms to do.

I am not going to examine here the problems of having algorithms decide on what to censor and what not to censor. Cathy O’Neil, in her book, Weapons of Math Destruction, has dealt with the problems of using algorithms to make human decisions. The issue—what is harmful and what is not—cannot be solved with better maths.

The problem is not who should police the content. It is the task of the creators of content—the users of such platforms— that they conform to the laws. If they don’t, the state and the content platforms have to work together to see that such content is taken out. The problem is that the platforms have the power not only to sell goods but also “sell” candidates in elections and even “sell” legislation and laws to legislators. Asking them to be gatekeepers is like asking the wolves to guard the sheep.

These platforms today also wield far more power than oil, and financial oligarchies did in the earlier centuries. Their net worth, or market capitalisation, is higher than the GDP of most countries.

We need an alternative approach. Tim Wu, in his new book The Curse of Bigness, advocates the break-up of these monopolies to create a number of smaller entities—the same approach taken towards Big Oil and Ma Bell/AT&T. The Just Net Coalition have proposed in The Delhi Declaration for a Just and Equitable Internet that these platforms today are essential infrastructure and should be either regulated as public utilities or be publicly owned.

Technology creates possibilities; it is we who make these possibilities real, including the social and economic structures within which media operates. None of this could happen if the technology of mass communication did not change dramatically, leading to the rise of search engines, social media and the platform economy.

We did not foresee such changes. But once these changes have happened, we need to see how they can be brought in line with the larger goals of humanity and a more humane society. The key issue is who owns this technology and the instruments of mass production of news or views in print, audio, or visual form. Is it capital or is it the working people of this country? This is the challenge of history before us today—the public ownership of the public sphere.

https://mronline.org/2023/01/24/media-i ... gital-age/
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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Thu Jan 26, 2023 3:27 pm

Study Exposes George Soros' Network of Media Ties

George Soros | Photo: Twitter/ @speedyy26

Published 26 January 2023 (1 hours 28 minutes ago)

Soros gave at least US$131 million alone to influence 253 media groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Aspen Institute, The Marshall Project and ProPublica.

While scandals over the manipulation of social media by U.S. government agencies have been swirling lately, it is worth noting that in fact, the "freedom of the press" that the American media has always boasted has long been dominated not only by the government, but also by money politics.

According to a study conducted by Media Research Center Business, Hungarian-born tycoon George Soros has ties to some of the most influential people in the U.S. and foreign media.

The report has exposed connections between the liberal billionaire financier and 54 prominent media figures. As documented by its authors, Joseph Vazquez and Dan Schneider, these include reporters, anchors, columnists, editors, news executives and journalists.

Soros spent hundreds of millions of U.S. dollars in bribes to build his own "network of media ties" so as to manipulate public opinion. Between 2016 and 2020, Soros gave at least US$131 million alone to influence 253 media groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Aspen Institute, The Marshall Project and ProPublica.

"This network of media ties allows Soros to hold sizable influence over the stories that the media covers, how they cover those stories, and what stories they don't cover," Vazquez said.

The highest-profile media figures revealed to have connections to Soros, often due to them sitting on boards of organizations he funds, include the following:

CNN's Christiane Amanpour sits on the board of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative journalism group funded by Soros, that critics charge mainly targets Republican fundraisers.

NBC's Lester Holt, the Washington Post's Sally Buzbee, Associated Press executive editor Julie Pace, and Reuters editor-in-chief Alessandra Galloni all sit on the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a Soros-funded organization that purports to defend the rights of journalists.

CBS's Margaret Brennan and CNN's Fareed Zakaria serve on the board of the massively influential Council on Foreign Relations, a Soros-backed think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy.

NBC's chairman Cesar Conde is on the board of the Aspen Institute, a Soros-backed think tank. In recent years, it launched a left-leaning commission to combat so-called disinformation.

NPR's president and CEO John Lansing is connected by the direct funding Soros gives his publication.

PolitiFact editor-in-chief Angie Dronbic Holan serves on the board of the Soros-backed International Fact-Checking Network, which has openly pressed Facebook to censor what it considers misinformation (i.e., anything that goes against the liberal narrative), and serves as the "high body" for dozens of fact-checking organizations under its umbrella.

"The others encompass reporters, anchors, columnists, editors, news executives and journalists linked to organizations like ABC, CBS, NPR, Bloomberg News, Reuters, The New York Times and a host of additional outlets," Vazquez said.

"A few months ago, we learned that Soros donated more money to the Democrats than any other donor in the 2022 midterms after allocating more than US$128 million," said the study.

https://www.telesurenglish.net/news/Stu ... -0002.html


Spain Debunks Russiagate like New York Times Letter Bomb Story

Just three days ago I mocked a New York Times story that used 'Russiagate' like claims by 'U.S. officials' to tie a number of letter bomb incidents in Spain to some 'Russian terrorist organization'.

U.S. Officials Claim More 'Russiagate' Like Nonsense

According to what U.S. officials claim some anti-Kremlin fringe group in Russia was used by a Russian intelligence service to somehow send letter bombs from Valladolid, Spain, to some offices in Madrid.

But why would Russian intelligence run such a nonsense campaign? Why would it use a problematic fringe group of Russian crazies to do so. Why in Spain? Why not in Poland, Germany or France? What is the evidence?

None of those questions get answered. Instead rumors and hot air assumptions are put together to make the claims somewhat less outrageous. This is on the same level as the lies about 'weapons of mass destruction in Iraq' the Times printed 20 years ago.
We know that 'U.S. intelligence' is bullshit and that U.S. official are liars, especially with regards to anything around Ukraine.

We know that because 'U.S. officials' said so:


That makes the publishing of the above story by the Times even more egregious.

Three days on the Spanish police arrested the guy most likely responsible for making and sending out those letter bombs:

The man was detained in the northern town of Miranda de Ebro, and police searched his home.
The suspect is a retired Spanish citizen with the initials P.G.P. who is tech-savvy and very active on social networks, the ministry said.

Armed officers kept people away the low-rise cinder-block building housing the man's third-floor apartment in a blue-collar neighbourhood.
A video provided by the Interior Ministry showed officers and a sniffer dog searching a silver Peugeot car parked outside as forensic specialists took photographs. Police also appeared to gain access to a lock-up garage.

Witnesses said the suspect remained inside the house as the searches were conducted.

The man used to work for the town hall of the Basque capital Vitoria-Gasteiz before retiring in 2013, a city spokesperson said. Miranda de Ebro is 35 km (22 miles) southeast of Vitoria.
Investigators have concluded that all six parcels were sent from the city of Burgos, the ministry said.

A source close to the inquiry had told Reuters in early December that all the parcels had been mailed from Valladolid, a two-hour drive from Miranda del Ebro.

All the named cities and towns are in norther Spain and near to each other.

So it now seems that some lonely tech savvy pensioner, for whatever reason, has made and sent those bombs. Someone who had worked in a local city administration. There is no reporting from Spain of any relation of the case with Russia or some Russian fringe group.

The Times today reports of the arrest but uses it to regurgitate all the 'Russiagate' like nonsense claims its previous story provided. This again without any evidence and solely based on what 'U.S. officials say ...'.

But the Spanish authorities did not even consider that obvious nonsense. As Reuters provides:

The New York Times reported on Sunday that investigators had focused on the Russian Imperial Movement, a group with ties to Spanish far-right organisations that was believed to be linked to Russian intelligence.
Spanish officials have declined to comment on the report, while a senior judicial source denied having knowledge of such a line of investigation.

In other words - the whole story was made up by 'U.S. officials' to further the creation of the Russian bogeyman:

Lawmakers stirred up anti-Russian sentiment long before the invasion of Ukraine. It can be argued that the Russian “malign influence” story helped to get the public’s buy-in for a new Cold War with Russia by normalizing the idea that Russians not only helped to elect Donald Trump, but were actively trying “to destroy U.S. democracy” and are still doing so. “It became conventional wisdom that Russia wants not just to compete with the United States, but to destroy us—to divide our society from within, to cripple our democracy,” said George Beebe, a former chief of the CIA’s Russia analysis and author of The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe (2019).
“Russiagate transformed Russia from a foreign policy issue into a matter of domestic politics at a time when the United States was becoming increasingly divided,” points out Beebe, who is now director of grand strategy at the Quincy Institute (and so is my colleague). As a result, adds Arta Moeini, research director for the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy, “demonization of Russia [prior to its invasion of Ukraine] permitted a new Manichean dynamic, an inflated threat that would be used to rationalize increased securitization domestically, and a fresh push for containment of Moscow internationally.”
“The constraints this scandal imposed on U.S. policy toward Russia have been immense,” Beebe said. “It prevented Trump from advancing any kind of a détente with Russia. Its lingering effects made it all but impossible for Biden to seek a compromise over Ukrainian membership in NATO—the one thing that might have prevented the war—even if he had wanted to.”
Today, we can only pray that the anti-Russian narrative enabled by the manipulation of social media does not become a self-fulfilling prophecy ending in a direct fighting war with the nuclear power.

The New York Times, as well as British media with their equally stupid Skripal affair claims, can be credited with giving cover for the anti-Russian propaganda campaign. It was unleashed after, in 2014, Russia reintegrated Crimea and foiled British and U.S. plans for stationing their naval forces in the Azov and Black Sea.


The Times and other media should be held responsible for the deadly consequences its misreporting and lies have caused.

Posted by b on January 26, 2023 at 8:16 UTC | Permalink

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2023/01/s ... .html#more
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Re: Censorship, fake news, perception management

Post by blindpig » Sat Jan 28, 2023 3:36 pm

Twitter Files Debunk Hamilton 68 Dashboard - (We Did The Same Five Years Ago)

The Twitter files continue to confirm our long held suspicion of nefarious anti-Russian influence in mainstream media.

When criticizing the recent fakenews about letter bombs in Spain spread by the New York Times I asserted:

The New York Times, as well as British media with their equally stupid Skripal affair claims, can be credited with giving cover for the anti-Russian propaganda campaign. It was unleashed after, in 2014, Russia reintegrated Crimea and foiled British and U.S. plans for stationing their naval forces in the Azov and Black Sea.
The Times and other media should be held responsible for the deadly consequences its misreporting and lies have caused.

Six days ago the New York Times attributed the letter bombs in Spain to Russian secret service based on 'U.S. officials' assertions. Yesterday the Spanish investigating magistrate refuted those claims:

[T]he evidence suggests Gonzalez acted alone, the judge wrote. He said the suspect's alleged actions showed his intent to alter the public peace and to give the impression they were carried out by people with ties with Russia as retribution for Spain's and the United States' support for Ukraine amid Russia's invasion of the country.
"There is no indication that the person under investigation belongs to or collaborates with any terrorist gang or organised group," the statement said.

The letter bomb campaign, as well as the New York Times false assertions about them, were both part of the public anti-Russia campaign.

The campaign, launched in 2014, was reinforced after the 2016 election when the losing candidate, Hillary Clinton, blamed 'Russian influence' for her loss instead of her own ineptitude for any higher government position.

Soon a horde of 'disinformation de-bunking' institutes and lobbies evolved. They all claimed to have some insight into 'Russia's influence campaign' that was allegedly designed to deceive U.S. voters. 'Russiagate', the MI6 operation that created the Steele dossier and the false narratives around it, grew on top of that. Partisan actors in the FBI and CIA jumped in to amplify that stuff despite knowing well that it was nonsense. Irresponsible media sucked it all up and spread it further without any fact checking or logical thought. For so called mainstream journalists it was all easy work that brought in good money.

One of the organization involved in this was the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD), a part of the the German Marshall Fund (which has by the way little to do with Germany). It created the 'Hamilton 68 dashboard' which listed trending hashtags used by some 600 Twitter accounts which it alleged were 'Russian bots'.

Based on the dashboard mainstream media produced hundreds of stories about trending hashtags that allegedly furthered Russian influence.

But, as I exposed in February 2018, there was nothing there. Just like 'Russiagate' it was just another great scam.

As I wrote at that time:

The "Alliance for Securing Democracy" is run by military lobbyists, CIA minions and neo-conservative propagandists. Its claimed task is:

... to publicly document and expose Vladimir Putin’s ongoing efforts to subvert democracy in the United States and Europe.
There is no evidence that Vladimir Putin ever made or makes such efforts.

The ASD "Hamilton 68" website shows graphics with rankings of "top items" and "trending items" allegedly used by Russian bots or influence agents. There is nothing complicate behind it. It simply tracks the tweets of 600 Twitter users and aggregates the hashtags they use. It does not say which Twitter accounts its algorithms follows. It claims that the 600 were selected by one of three criteria: 1. People who often tweet news that also appears on RT (Russia Today) and Sputnik News, two general news sites sponsored by the Russian government; 2. People who "openly profess to be pro-Russian"; 3. accounts that "appear to use automation" to boost the same themes that people in group 1 and 2 tweet about.
Nowhere does the group say how many of the 600 accounts it claims to track belong to which group. Are their 10 assumed bots or 590 in the surveyed 600 accounts? And how please does one "openly profess" to be pro-Russian? We don't know and the ASD won't say.

On December 25 2017 the "Russian influence" agents or bots who - according to the NYT - want to sow divisiveness and subvert democracy, wished everyone a #MerryChristmas.


The real method the Hamilton 68 group used to select the 600 accounts it tracks is unknown. The group does not say or show how it made it up. Despite that the NYT reporters, Sheera Frenkel and Daisuke Wakabayashi, continue with the false assumptions that most or all of these accounts are automated, have something to do with Russia and are presumably nefarious:

Russian-linked bots have rallied around other divisive issues, often ones that President Trump has tweeted about. They promoted Twitter hashtags like #boycottnfl, #standforouranthem and #takeaknee after some National Football League players started kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice.
The automated Twitter accounts helped popularize the #releasethememo hashtag, ...

The Daily Beast reported earlier that the last claim is definitely false:

Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo. There are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian.
The same is presumably true for the other hashtags.

Matt Taibbi, who was recently given access to Twitter's internal archives, has retrieved and analyzed internal Twitter emails and conversations about the 'Hamilton 68' scam. His thread about his finds is here. His full write can be found here.

Mr. Tweet @elonmusk - 19:48 UTC · Jan 27, 2023
An American group made false claims about Russian election interference to interfere with American elections

Matt Taibbi @mtaibbi - 19:44 UTC · Jan 27, 2023

Hamilton 68’s blue-red founding team of Jamie Fly and Laura Rosenberger, told Politico they couldn’t reveal the “dashboard” accounts because “the Russians will simply shut them down.” The real reason? It was bullshit:

Move Over, Jayson Blair: Meet Hamilton 68, the New King of Media Fraud
The Twitter Files reveal that one of the most common news sources of the Trump era was a scam, making ordinary American political conversations look like Russian spywork

From the Twitter Files Taibbi found:

The company was concerned enough about the proliferation of news stories linked to Hamilton 68 that it also ordered a forensic analysis. [..] Twitter was checking to see how many of Hamilton’s accounts were spammy, phony, or bot-like. Note that out of 644 accounts, just 36 were registered in Russia, and many of those were associated with RT.
Examining further, Twitter execs were shocked. The accounts Hamilton 68 claimed were linked to “Russian influence activities online” were not only overwhelmingly English-language (86%), but mostly “legitimate people,” largely in the U.S., Canada, and Britain. Grasping right away that Twitter might be implicated in a moral outrage, they wrote that these account-holders “need to know they’ve been unilaterally labeled Russian stooges without evidence or recourse.”
“The selection of accounts is… bizarre and seemingly quite arbitrary,” wrote [Twitter's Trust and Safety chief Yoel] Roth. “They appear to strongly preference pro-Trump accounts (which they use to assert that Russia is expressing a preference for Trump… even though there’s not good evidence any of them are Russian).”

But fearing a backlash Twitter refrained from going public with the fraud it had found. On background it informed several journalists that the whole thing was bogus. This led to the Daily Beast story linked above. But most media simply ignored Twitter's background information and continued to spread the dashboard nonsense.

Moon of Alabama was one of the few sides that dug into this and called the media out:

The fraudsters who created the Hamilton 68 crap seem to have filled their database with rather normal people from all over the world who's opinions they personally dislike. Those then are the "Russian bots" who spread "Russian influence" and divisiveness.

Moreover - what is the value of its information when six normal people out of millions of active Twitter users can push a hashtag with a handful of tweets to the top of the dashboard?

But the U.S. media writes long gushing stories about the dashboard and how it somehow shows automated Russian propaganda. They go to length to explain that this shows "Russian influence" and a "Russian" attempt to sow "divisiveness" into people's minds.

This is nuts.

Last August, when the Hamilton 68 project was first released, the Nation was the only site critical of it. It predicted:

The import of GMF's project is clear: Reporting on anything that might put the US in a bad light is now tantamount to spreading Russian propaganda.
It is now even worse than that. The top ranking of the #merrychristmas hashtag shows that the algorithm does not even care about good or bad news. The tracked twitter accounts are normal people.

The whole project is just a means to push fake stories about alleged "Russian influence" into U.S. media. Whenever some issue creeps up on its dashboard that somehow fits its false "Russian bots" and "divisiveness" narrative the Alliance for Securing Democracy contacts the media to spread its poison. The U.S. media, - CNN, Wired, the New York Times - are by now obviously devoid of thinking journalists and fact checkers. They simple re-package the venom and spread it to the public.

How long will it take until people die from it?

It took four years. The public sentiment created by the anti-Russia campaign was one of the conditions for the war in Ukraine. Some 150,000 Ukrainian soldiers, some 20,000 men fighting on the Russian side (source Col. Doug Macgregor) and some 10,000 civilians (UN) have so far died in it.

But the media and politicians who willingly fell for the scam and furthered the anti-Russian disinformation will never acknowledge that they were wrong and are guilty of causing so much deaths.

As Taibbi writes:

I asked for comment from a huge range of actors — from the Alliance for Securing Democracy to Watts and McFaul and Podesta and Kristol to editors and news directors at MSNBC, Politico, Mother Jones, the Washington Post, Politifact, and others. Not one answered. They’re all going to pretend this didn’t happen. The few reporters who got this right contemporaneously, from Glenn Greenwald to Max Blumenthal to Miriam Elder and Charlie Wurzel of Buzzfeed to sites like Moon of Alabama, can take a victory lap. Almost every other news organization ran these stories and needs to come clean about it.

I honestly do not feel like taking a victory lap. The Hamilton dashboard, like the Steele dossier, was so obviously fake and dangerous that it did not take much effort to debunk it.

I am just sad that so few called it out and that, in the end, it all achieved the desired nefarious results.

Posted by b on January 28, 2023 at 10:46 UTC | Permalink

https://www.moonofalabama.org/2023/01/t ... .html#more
"There is great chaos under heaven; the situation is excellent."

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