Category Archives: The Web

How the Alt-Right Brought #SyriaHoax to America

Ben Nimmo reports for the Digital Forensic Research Lab:

US President Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes against Syria in the wake of a major chemical weapons attack provoked outrage from the far-right groups who were his most aggressive supporters. As rumors of the impending strikes broke, they launched an online campaign claiming that the chemical attack had been a hoax.

The hashtag followed two days of reporting by the so-called “alt-right” — anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, socially conservative and, until the strikes, vociferously pro-Trump — that the chemical attack had been staged.

The DFRLab has traced the origins of the story, and found that the alt-right coverage was based on report in a propaganda outlet linked to the Assad regime.

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Fake News’ One of Three Challenges Stopping Web From Serving Humanity

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has pointed to the spread of “fake news” as one of three challenges stopping his creation from being “a tool which serves all of humanity”.

The exchange of personal data for free content and a lack of transparency around political advertising were also highlighted as areas of concern for the computer scientist.

In an open letter on the 28th anniversary of his original proposal for the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee set out a five-year plan to tackle these three “complex problems”.

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How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide

Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times:

Image result for How Uber Deceives the Authorities WorldwideUber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program, including Greyball, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by Uber.

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Wikipedia just ruled the Daily Mail to be an unreliable source

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

Image result for daily mail wikipediaTo the untrained eye the Daily Mail may appear to be a newspaper, but it’s no such thing. It’s an extreme-right propaganda empire that has been owned and operated by the tax-dodging billionaire Harmsworth family for generations.

I’m sure we can all think of examples that demonstrate that the Daily Mail is savagely right-wing propaganda rag: Their support for Hitler and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s; their homophobic rants; their smearing of dead war heroes; their constant anti-immigrant hatemongering; their support for extreme-right candidates on the continent; their blaming a murder victim for their own death; their habit of mocking the gullibility of their own readers; their support for Theresa May’s effort to scrap parliamentary sovereignty and turn herself into an all-powerful autocrat who can make and repeal laws as they please.

Interestingly Wikipedia have cottoned on to what an incredibly dodgy extreme-right propaganda empire the Daily Mail is, and after deliberation, the consensus amongst the community of Wikipedia editors is that the Daily Mail is an unreliable source that should no longer be used as a reference (unless absolutely necessary).

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Black Ops Advertising: Interview with Mara Einstein

Black Ops Advertising, Mara Einstein

Jeff Schechtman recently spoke with Mara Einstein, professor, independent marketing consultant and the author of a new book titled: Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content, Marketing, and the Covert World of the Digital Sell. (Who What Why)

LISTEN TO OR DOWNLOAD THE INTERVIEW…

Facing Possible Threats Under Trump, Internet Archive to Build Server in Canada

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speaks to Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, which has announced that it will be moving a copy of its archive to Canada in the wake of Trump winning the 2016 election. The archive is one of the world’s largest public digital libraries. Part of the site includes the Wayback Machine, which preserves old websites, allowing researchers to access pages deleted by politicians and others. Laurie Allen of #DataRefuge Project also briefly joins the discussion to talk about climate change. (Democracy Now!)

The Right Has Learned to Love Trolling

Ben Shapiro writes for National Review:

Image result for The Right Has Learned to Love TrollingOn New Year’s Eve, our president-elect unleashed a tweet in honor of the coming year: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

His most ardent followers thrill to this display of full-on juvenile testosterone. They thrill at what they approvingly call “trolling” by the “madman.” They tweet pictures of Pepe the Frog jubilantly, figuratively slapping each other on the back over the audacity of their Big Man on Campus.

This is the “new conservatism”: Elicit a reaction.

There’s no follow-up. There’s no design. And truth is unimportant. The new “conservatism” promoted by Trump and his most ardent imitators is a teenage slapfight with no general purpose other than to deliberately offend, thereby making yourself appear more powerful. Remember when Trump said that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in JFK’s murder? That was trolling. And when Cruz responded, Trump’s followers laughed, called Trump a “madman,” and suggested that Cruz was a weakling for letting such things get under his skin.

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Reddit For Sale: How We Bought The Top Spot For $200

Is ‘the front page of the internet’ being gamed by vested interests? In this story, Phil Harper shows how easy it is to buy your way onto Reddit, the world’s most popular and influential forum. A more in-depth article by Jay McGregor can be found at Forbes titled: Reddit For Sale: How We Made Viral Fake News For $200(Point)

 

The Saga of ‘Pizzagate’: The Fake Story That Shows How Conspiracy Theories Spread

BBC Trending reports:

a picture of pizzaNo victim has come forward. There’s no investigation. And physical evidence? That doesn’t exist either.

But thousands of people are convinced that a paedophilia ring involving people at the highest levels of the Democratic Party is operating out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

The story riveted fringes of Twitter – nearly a million messages were sent last month using the term “pizzagate”.

So how did this fake story take hold amongst alt-right Trump supporters and other Hillary Clinton opponents?

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Say Goodbye To Your Privacy: UK Government Just Passed The Most Extreme Surveillance Law In History

Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty, writes for The Independent:

theresa-may2.gifThis week a law was passed that silently rips privacy from the modern world. It’s called the Investigatory Powers Act.

Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the British state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. It now has the ability to indiscriminately hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population.

The hundreds of chilling mass surveillance programmes revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 were – we assumed – the result of a failure of the democratic process. Snowden’s bravery finally gave Parliament and the public the opportunity to scrutinise this industrial-scale spying and bring the state back into check.

But, in an environment of devastatingly poor political opposition, the Government has actually extended state spying powers beyond those exposed by Snowden – setting a “world-leading” precedent.

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Your Government Wants to Militarize Social Media to Influence Your Beliefs

Nafeez Ahmed reports for Motherboard:

Image result for Your Government Wants to Militarize Social Media to Influence Your BeliefsA global conference of senior military and intelligence officials taking place in London [last week] revealed how governments increasingly view social media as “a new front in warfare” and a tool for the Armed Forces.

The overriding theme of the event is the need to exploit social media as a source of intelligence on civilian populations and enemies; as well as a propaganda medium to influence public opinion.

A report from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last month revealed how a CIA-funded tool, Geofeedia, was already being used by police to conduct surveillance of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to monitor activists and protesters.

Although Facebook and Twitter both quickly revoked Geofeedia’s access to their social feeds, the conference proves that social media surveillance remains a rapidly growing industry with no regulatory oversight. And its biggest customers are our own governments.

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How Pro-Trump Twitter Bots Spread Fake News

Gideon Resnick reports for The Daily Beast:

President-elect Donald Trump has credited the strength of his political movement, in part, to his immense reach on social-media platforms.

And it’s true, he does have a ton of followers on Facebook and Twitter. But not all of those followers are human. Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, automated networks of social-media bots spread erroneous information to potential voters—often to the benefit of Trump.

According to a new memo compiling data from the election by a team of researchers including Oxford University Professor Philip Howard, automated pro-Trump activity outnumbered automated pro-Hillary Clinton activity by a 5:1 ratio by Election Day. And many of those auto-Trumpkins were busy spewing lies and fake news: that Democrats could vote on a different day than Republicans; that Clinton had a stroke during the final week of the election; and that an FBI agent associated with her email investigation was involved in a murder-suicide.

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Inside 4chan’s Election Day Mayhem And Misinformation Playbook

Joseph Bernstein reports for BuzzFeed News:

In the weeks before election day, pro-Trump, alt-right trolls have leveraged the scale of social media to spread misinformation aimed at keeping Clinton voters away from the polls — most prominently by disseminating official-looking, but totally bogus, campaign ads that encourage people to vote for Clinton by text message. There’s been a growing response to the pro-Trump misinformation campaign on Twitter and other social platforms — Twitter yesterday released an official video debunking the vote-by-text nonsense, for example. But get ready for even more, because the people behind them are hardly out of ideas.

Posts on 4chan’s politically incorrect message board — a nerve center of the alt-right from which many of these posts appear to have originated — detail a multi-pronged campaign of election day social media deception and mayhem, intending to confuse, slow, and disenfranchise Clinton voters.

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The Most Technology-Driven Election in American History

David Gewirtz writes for ZDNet:

Image result for The Most Technology-Driven Election in American History[…] Two technologies have loomed so large in this election that without them, we would almost undoubtedly have had an entirely different campaign season.

Without Twitter, Donald Trump would not be the Republican candidate. Without email, Hillary Clinton might be able to sleep tonight.

We often forget that the ability to record candidates is itself a technology. Whether it’s Obama’s clinging to guns and religion, Clinton’s basket of deplorables, Romney’s 47 percent, or Trump’s grab them by the p-word, semi-private recordings have leaked into the public arena, angering and polarizing the populace.

Even texting has influenced this election. Former United States Congressman and, apparently, full-time pervert Anthony Weiner texted sexually charged messages to an underage girl.

As we all now know, just a week before the election, a laptop seized by the FBI during that investigation was found to have emails possibly related to the Hillary Clinton investigation. Prior to their divorce, Weiner had been married to Clinton’s longtime aide, Huma Abedin and, apparently, the laptop was shared by the couple.

That’s before we even discuss the worldwide echo chamber that we’ve all built together: YouTube videos, blog posts, tweets, and Facebook rants we’ve filmed, written, posted, tweeted, retweeted, and shared.

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How Teens In Macedonia Are Duping Trump Supporters With Fake News

Craig Silverman and Lawrence Alexander report for BuzzFeed:

[…] Over the past year, the Macedonian town of Veles (population 45,000) has experienced a digital gold rush as locals launched at least 140 US politics websites. These sites have American-sounding domain names such as WorldPoliticus.com, TrumpVision365.com, USConservativeToday.com, DonaldTrumpNews.co, and USADailyPolitics.com. They almost all publish aggressively pro-Trump content aimed at conservatives and Trump supporters in the US.

The young Macedonians who run these sites say they don’t care about Donald Trump. They are responding to straightforward economic incentives: As Facebook regularly reveals in earnings reports, a US Facebook user is worth about four times a user outside the US. The fraction-of-a-penny-per-click of US display advertising — a declining market for American publishers — goes a long way in Veles. Several teens and young men who run these sites told BuzzFeed News that they learned the best way to generate traffic is to get their politics stories to spread on Facebook — and the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters.

As a result, this strange hub of pro-Trump sites in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is now playing a significant role in propagating the kind of false and misleading content that was identified in a recent BuzzFeed News analysis of hyperpartisan Facebook pages. These sites open a window into the economic incentives behind producing misinformation specifically for the wealthiest advertising markets and specifically for Facebook, the world’s largest social network, as well as within online advertising networks such as Google AdSense.

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Meme Warfare: How the Power of Mass Replication Has Poisoned the U.S. Election

Douglas Haddow writes for The Guardian:

If you use Facebook, or Twitter, have a Wi-Fi connection, watch television or have been to an office Halloween party, you’ve probably encountered them: internet memes.

These shareable, sometimes pithy and often puerile units of culture have emerged as the lingua franca of the 2016 election, and have given the American people an entirely new way of articulating their beliefs. Clinton’s top tweet is a meme. Trump’s taco bowl became one. Through memes, Ted Cruz was “unmasked” as the Zodiac killer. Jeb Bush’s limp plea for applause got him Vined into oblivion. Bernie Sanders shared a moment with a bird that blossomed into something out of Walt Disney’s long-lost Marxist phase.

Memes can be fun, or they can be dumb – but as an emerging medium, they haven’t provoked a lot of debate or analysis. In fact, they seem to defy scrutiny.

And slowly, before anyone can even take note, memes are ruining democracy.

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Standing Rock Protesters Are Creating Social Media Noise to Confuse Police

Kristen V. Brown reports for Fusion:

If your Facebook News Feed is anything like mine, it’s currently a flood of check-ins at somewhere your friends have probably never been. Swarms of people are checking in at Standing Rock, North Dakota, the site of the ongoing protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The check-in is an act of protest, but also intended as a form of cover for the people dedicated enough to show up in person.

On Monday, a rumor spread across the web that police in North Dakota were using Facebook to monitor activists protesting the pipeline’s construction. Tensions between police and protesters have been mounting for months in Standing Rock as officers have used pepper spray, tasers, and beanbag rounds against protesters, and arrested them in droves. The Orwellian rumor echoed the revelation from earlier this year that police had carried out secret surveillance of protesters with Black Lives Matter.

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The Disturbing Facebook Scandal We’re All Ignoring

David Dayen writes for The Fiscal Times:

Image result for Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by RaceImagine if a report came out showing evidence that Wells Fargo violated the Fair Housing Act by hiding certain home listings from African-Americans. Every politician in Washington would condemn the bank for illegal practices. The Justice Department would be inundated with letters demanding prosecution. Congressional committee chairs would schedule hearings to give members an opportunity to yell at executives. Wells Fargo would put out a sober apology expressing deep sorrow and vowing to make everything right. In other words, we have a context for bank misconduct, and everyone dutifully plays their part.

When the same circumstance occurs with Facebook in the role of the villain, however, nobody knows how to react. There are no assigned roles when a tech firm with a glimmering reputation creates a controversy. We implicitly give them a break, regardless of the merits. That’s a bias we should probably correct.

On Friday, ProPublica revealed that Facebook allows advertisers a tool that enables them to exclude “ethnic affinities” like African-Americans or Hispanics from viewing their ads. (Facebook does not ask users about their race, but collects data based on posts they like or comment on.) This goes well beyond targeting different styles of advertising to certain groups, which is common. Instead, it specifically prevents a black or Hispanic Facebook user from seeing a particular ad.

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The AT&T Mega-Merger and Its Selling of Customer Data For Profit

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, about the $85 billion proposed mega-merger of telecommunications giant AT&T and Time Warner. They also speak to Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about U.S. police departments paying AT&T millions to spy on  Americans. (Democracy Now!)

The U.S. Government Wants to Read Travelers’ Tweets Before Letting Them In

Cora Currier reports for The Intercept:

Soon, foreign visitors to the United States will be expected to tell U.S. authorities about their social media accounts.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to start collecting “information associated with your online presence” from travelers from countries eligible for a visa waiver, including much of Europe and a handful of other countries. Earlier this summer, the agency proposed including a field on certain customs forms for “provider/platform” and “social media identifier,” making headlines in the international press. If approved by the Office of Management and Budget, the change could take effect as soon as December.

Privacy groups in recent weeks have pushed back against the idea, saying it could chill online expression and gives DHS and CBP overbroad authority to determine what kind of online activity constitutes a “risk to the United States” or “nefarious activity.”

The United Nations special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression wrote last month that the scope of information being collected was “vague and open-ended,” and that he was “concerned” that with the change, “government officials might have largely unfettered authority to collect, analyze, share and retain personal and sensitive information about travelers and their online associations.”

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AT&T Acquires Time Warner In Media Mega-Deal

Brian Stelter reports for CNN:

media shakeup att-twx merger graphic new AT&T and Time Warner have agreed to an $85 billion deal — one of the biggest media tie-ups ever.

The move, announced Saturday evening, will help AT&T expand beyond wireless and Internet service into programming. Time Warner is the parent of CNN, TNT, HBO, the Warner Bros. studio, and other channels and websites.

AT&T, which dates back to the invention of the telephone in 1876, is one of the country’s largest providers of wireless phone and Internet service. It also recently acquired the DirecTV satellite TV business.

The deal will be subject to a review by government regulators that could take more than a year to complete.

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Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False And Misleading Information At An Alarming Rate

Craig Silverman, Lauren Strapagiel, Hamza Shaban, Ellie Hall and Jeremy Singer-Vine report for BuzzFeed:

Hyperpartisan political Facebook pages and websites are consistently feeding their millions of followers false or misleading information, according to an analysis by BuzzFeed News. The review of more than 1,000 posts from six large hyperpartisan Facebook pages selected from the right and from the left also found that the least accurate pages generated some of the highest numbers of shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook — far more than the three large mainstream political news pages analyzed for comparison.

Our analysis of three hyperpartisan right-wing Facebook pages found that 38% of all posts were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false, compared to 19% of posts from three hyperpartisan left-wing pages that were either a mixture of true and false or mostly false. The right-wing pages are among the forces — perhaps as potent as the cable news shows that have gotten far more attention — that helped fuel the rise of Donald Trump.

These pages, with names such as Eagle Rising on the right and Occupy Democrats on the left, represent a new and powerful force in American politics and society. Many have quickly grown to be as large as — and often much larger than — mainstream political news pages. A recent feature in the New York Times Magazine reported on the growth and influence of these pages, saying they “have begun to create and refine a new approach to political news: cherry-picking and reconstituting the most effective tactics and tropes from activism, advocacy and journalism into a potent new mixture.”

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The Internet of Things Sucks So Bad Even ‘Amateurish’ Malware Is Enough

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports for Wired:

Over the last few weeks, unknown hackers have launched some of the largest cyberattacks the internet has ever seen. These attacks weren’t notable just by their unprecedented size and power, but also because they were powered by a large zombie army of hacked cameras and other devices that fit into the category of Internet of Things, or IoT.

On Friday, the hacker who claims to have created the malware that was powering this massive “Botnet Of Things” published its source code, which appears to be legitimate.

“It looks like this release is the real deal,” according to Marshal Webb, the chief technology officer of BackConnect, an anti-DDoS firm, who has been collecting samples of the malware in the last few weeks.

However legitimate, the malicious code isn’t actually that sophisticated, according to security researchers who have been studying it.

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Yahoo Secretly Scanned Customer Emails for U.S. Intelligence

Joseph Menn reports for Reuters:

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

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Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones’ War on Your Mind

Nolan Higdon wrote for Project Censored in 2013:

In 1833, William Miller predicted the second coming of Jesus Christ in the year 1843. Only after his fourth failed prediction, each of which saw hundreds of thousands of followers turn out, did his followers abandon him. By this time, Miller had already absconded with copious amounts of their money, spent on his publications and for ascension robes that were supposed to prepare them for Jesus Christ’s arrival. A profiteer relying on distortion and unfulfilled predictions, contemporary radio personality and activist Alex Jones operates in the same mode as Miller. Instead of ascension robes, Jones profits from the fear and uncertainty he relentlessly peddles via DVDs, publications, books, a TV show, a radio show, and websites.

Jones is recognized as a spearheading figure of anti-establishment reporting for many Google-searching-truth-seekers. Jones’s work includes an abundance of unfulfilled predictions that often rely on distorted and unproven claims. Despite his many predictions going unfulfilled, Jones and his claims increasingly appear in the corporate press as major media outlets rely on Internet sources for news content. As a result, the works of Alex Jones have broken into the so-called mainstream. This creates a serious problem for investigative journalists and scholars who focus on controversial subjects. Jones’ self-promotional, unfulfilled predictions and his speculative writings and reports can take away from other legitimate, fact-based researchers who investigate similar topics by shifting the focus from the relevant facts of the particular topic to his unverified and often sensational claims. The result is that those inclined to believe the so-called mainstream media disassociate themselves with some political movements and topics because Jones’ and his speculative reports become the face of said particular movements and topics. Jones’ ability and pattern of delegitimizing controversial, yet evidence-based contingents of so-called truth movements through radicalization and guilt by association, is eerily analogous to the blueprints of various US Government programs– most notably COINTELPRO from the 1960s and ‘70s. More recently, this has also been the case regarding establishment efforts to discredit the Occupy Wall St. Movement. This article will explore the work of Alex Jones’ and the effects he has had on others who research similar controversial subjects, and how research into those very subjects comes to be viewed in the public once Jones is perceived as a spokesperson or figurehead.

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Mark Zuckerberg Accused of Abusing Power After Facebook Deletes ‘Napalm Girl’ Post

Julia Carrie Wong reports for The Guardian:

Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” he added.

The controversy stems from Facebook’s decision to delete a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland that featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children – including the naked 9-year-old Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Egeland’s post discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare” – a group to which the “napalm girl” image certainly belongs.

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Google Program to Deradicalize Jihadis Will Be Used for Right-Wing American Extremists Next

Naomi LaChance reports for The Intercept:

A Google incubated-program that has been targeting potential ISIS members with deradicalizing content will soon be used to target violent right-wing extremists in North America, a designer of the program said at an event at the Brookings Institution on Wednesday.

Using research and targeted advertising, the initiative by London-based startup Moonshot CVE and Google’s Jigsaw technology incubator targets potentially violent jihadis and directs them to a YouTube channel with videos that refute ISIS propaganda.

In the pilot program countering ISIS, the so-called Redirect Method collected the metadata of 320,000 individuals over the course of eight weeks, using 1,700 keywords, and served them advertisements that led them to the videos. Collectively, the targets watched more than half a million minutes of videos.

The event at Brookings was primarily about the existing program aimed to undermine ISIS recruiting. “I think this is an extremely promising method,” said Richard Stengel, U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Ross Frenett, co-founder of Moonshot, said his company and Jigsaw are now working with funding from private groups, including the Gen Next Foundation, to target other violent extremists, including on the hard right.

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Warner Bros Issuing Takedowns For Its Own Site Is No Laughing Matter

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

Warner Brothers logoLots of people have been talking the past few days about TorrentFreak’s discovery of the fact that Warner Bros., via its hired DMCA agent Vobile, has been issuing DMCA takedowns on its own website. Specifically, in recent notices to Google from Vobile, on behalf of Warner Bros., the infringing domains include WB’s own official websites for movies like “Batman, the Dark Knight” and “The Matrix.”

It’s easy to look at this and laugh. And the story’s been getting lots of attention thanks to places like the BBC picking up on it as well. And thus, jokes like this one are an easy target.

And, yes, this is hardly the first time that companies have been caught targeting themselves. After all, Viacom famously sued YouTube over Viacom’s own promotional clips that it had uploaded to the site. And, the recording industry is famous for taking down the official videos of its artists.

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Inside Facebook’s Political-Media Machine

John Herrman reports for The New York Times:

[…] Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the United States each month, out of a total population of 320 million. A 2016 Pew study found that 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. These are approximate exterior dimensions and can tell us only so much. But we can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.

The Facebook product, to users in 2016, is familiar yet subtly expansive. Its algorithms have their pick of text, photos and video produced and posted by established media organizations large and small, local and national, openly partisan or nominally unbiased. But there’s also a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed. These are news sources that essentially do not exist outside of Facebook, and you’ve probably never heard of them. They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands.

Using a tool called CrowdTangle, which tracks engagement for Facebook pages across the network, you can see which pages are most shared, liked and commented on, and which pages dominate the conversation around election topics. Using this data, I was able to speak to a wide array of the activists and entrepreneurs, advocates and opportunists, reporters and hobbyists who together make up 2016’s most disruptive, and least understood, force in media.

Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.

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The World Wide Cage

Nicholas Carr, author of Utopia Is Creepy, writes for Aeon:

Image result for The world wide cage[…] In the early 1990s, I launched a browser for the first time and watched the gates of the web open. I was enthralled – so much territory, so few rules. But it didn’t take long for the carpetbaggers to arrive. The territory began to be subdivided, strip-malled and, as the monetary value of its data banks grew, strip-mined. My excitement remained, but it was tempered by wariness. I sensed that foreign agents were slipping into my computer through its connection to the web. What had been a tool under my own control was morphing into a medium under the control of others. The computer screen was becoming, as all mass media tend to become, an environment, a surrounding, an enclosure, at worst a cage. It seemed clear that those who controlled the omnipresent screen would, if given their way, control culture as well.

‘Computing is not about computers any more,’ wrote Nicholas Negroponte of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in his bestseller Being Digital (1995). ‘It is about living.’ By the turn of the century, Silicon Valley was selling more than gadgets and software: it was selling an ideology. The creed was set in the tradition of US techno-utopianism, but with a digital twist. The Valley-ites were fierce materialists – what couldn’t be measured had no meaning – yet they loathed materiality. In their view, the problems of the world, from inefficiency and inequality to morbidity and mortality, emanated from the world’s physicality, from its embodiment in torpid, inflexible, decaying stuff. The panacea was virtuality – the reinvention and redemption of society in computer code. They would build us a new Eden not from atoms but from bits. All that is solid would melt into their network. We were expected to be grateful and, for the most part, we were.

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