Opinion | When Antifa Hysteria Sweeps America – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Amy Moss Strong/The World

“What can we possibly make of the crisis that unfolded in the remote Oregon seaside town of Coquille?

Coquille is a sleepy logging community of 3,800 people, almost all of them white. It is miles and miles from nowhere. Portland is 250 miles to the north. San Francisco is 500 miles to the south.

But Fox News is in a frenzy about rioters and looters, and President Trump warns about the anti-fascist movement known as antifa. So early this month as a small group of local residents planned a peaceful “Black Lives Matter” protest in Coquille, word raced around that three busloads of antifa activists were headed to Coquille to bust up the town.

The sheriff and his deputies donned bulletproof vests, prepared their MRAP armored vehicle and took up positions to fight off the invasion. Almost 200 local people, some shouldering rifles and others holding flags, gathered to protect their town (overshadowing the handful of people who had come to wave Black Lives Matter signs).”

“. . . .  Race-baiting extremists have also tried to manipulate public fears. One Twitter account purportedly run by an antifa group, @Antifa_US, announced on May 31 that “tonight’s the night … we move into the residential areas … the white hoods … and we take what’s ours.” But Twitter said that the account was actually run by white supremacists posing as antifa.

These antifa panics are where racism and hysteria intersect, in a nation that has more guns than people. They arise when a lying president takes every opportunity not to heal our national divisions but to stoke them, when people live in a news ecosystem that provides no reality check but inflames prejudices and feeds fears.

You might think that this kind of hysteria would be self-correcting: Citizens would see that no antifa people show up and then realize that they had been manipulated by people who treat them as dummies. But the narrative actually gaining traction in some quarters is that guns forced the antifa to back off.   . . . . “

Inside the conservative network backing the anti-quarantine protests – The Washington Post

April 22, 2020 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

The ads on Facebook sounded populist and passionate: “The people are rising up against these insane shutdowns,” they said. “We’re fighting back to demand that our elected officials reopen America.”

But the posts, funded by an initiative called Convention of States, were not the product of a grass-roots uprising alone. Instead, they represented one salvo in a wide-ranging and well-
financed conservative campaign to undermine restrictions that medical experts say are necessary to contain the coronavirus — but that protesters call overkill and whose economic fallout could damage President Trump’s political prospects.

A network of right-leaning individuals and groups, aided by nimble online outfits, has helped incubate the fervor erupting in state capitals across the country. The activism is often organic and the frustration deeply felt, but it is also being amplified, and in some cases coordinated, by longtime conservative activists, whose robust operations were initially set up with help from Republican megadonors.

Source: Inside the conservative network backing the anti-quarantine protests – The Washington Post

Putin’s Long War Against American Science – The New York Times

On Feb. 3, soon after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global health emergency, an obscure Twitter account in Moscow began retweeting an American blog. It said the pathogen was a germ weapon designed to incapacitate and kill. The headline called the evidence “irrefutable” even though top scientists had already debunked that claim and declared the novel virus to be natural.

As the pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.

The House, the Senate and the nation’s intelligence agencies have typically focused on election meddling in their examinations of Mr. Putin’s long campaign. But the repercussions are wider. An investigation by The New York Times — involving scores of interviews as well as a review of scholarly papers, news reports, and Russian documents, tweets and TV shows — found that Mr. Putin has spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade.

His agents have repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists. The disinformers have also sought to undermine faith in the safety of vaccines, a triumph of public health that Mr. Putin himself promotes at home.

Opinion | Fox’s Fake News Contagion – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

Credit…Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“You can relax, Sean Hannity, I’m not going to sue you.

Some people are suggesting that there might be grounds for legal action against the cable network that you pretty much rule — Fox News — because you and your colleagues dished out dangerous misinformation about the virus in the early days of the crisis in the United States. Some might allege that they have lost loved ones because of what was broadcast by your news organization.

But lawsuits are a bad idea. Here’s why: I believe in Fox News’s First Amendment right as a press organization, even if some of its on-air talent did not mind being egregiously bad at their jobs when it came to giving out accurate health data.

And, more to the point, when all is said and done, my Mom will listen to her children over Fox News. One of us — my brother — is an actual doctor and knows what he is talking about. And the other is a persistent annoyance — that would be me.

I’m a huge pest, in fact. “I’m going to block your number, if you don’t stop,” my mother said to me over the phone several weeks ago from Florida, after I had texted her the umpteenth chart about the spread of coronavirus across the country. All of these graphs had scary lines that went up and to the right. And all of them flashed big honking red lights: Go home and stay there until all clear.

She ignored my texts, so I had switched to calling her to make sure she had accurate information in those critical weeks at the end of February and the beginning of March. She is in the over-80 group that is most at risk of dying from infection. I worry a lot.

But she was not concerned — and it was clear why. Her primary source of news is Fox. In those days she was telling me that the Covid-19 threat was overblown by the mainstream news media (note, her daughter is in the media). She told me that it wasn’t going to be that big a deal. She told me that it was just like the flu.

And, she added, it was more likely that the Democrats were using the virus to score political points. And, did I know, by the way, that Joe Biden was addled?”

David Lindsay: Excellent piece, thank you Kara Swisher. Here are a few of many good comments I recommended:

Todd
San Fran

@The Owl Wrong. A visit to any red state will quickly demonstrate that Fox/GOP/Russian talking points are the community discourse. Of course, it’s not just Fox, it’s the entire right-wing propaganda apparatus that parrots the same party line. Dissension is met with anger and, as your post demonstrate, derision. That’s one of the many geniuses of the far-right Fox rhetoric: it not only teaches a single-minded message, but also trains its viewers to become angry and dismissive when presented with opposing points of view. In that way they remain prisoners to the GOP agenda, and are convinced to vote and act against their own self-interest.

In Reply to Phyliss Dalmatian
866 recommeded
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BenR
Philadelphia
Times Pick

Bring back the Fairness Doctrine, abolished by President Regan in the 80’s, a federal policy requiring television and radio broadcasters to present contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance. That would be the death knell of Fox News and all the Limbaugh ‘conservative’ talk radio and hopefully lead to a more informed public.

23 Replies752 Recommended

Facebook Hires Koch-Funded Climate Deniers for ‘Fact-Checking’ – EcoWatch – Business

By Andy Rowell

It may not come as a surprise that leading climate denier Donald Trump has made more than 10,000 false or misleading claims since he became president, according to fact-checkers at the Washington Post.

As the Post reports, Trump’s “tsunami of untruths just keeps looming larger and larger.”

Much of this tsunami of untruths will get reposted on Facebook as fact. Those hoping that Facebook will accurately check Trump’s statements and clean up the torrent of fake news on its platform will have to think again, especially if you are concerned about climate change.

In what can only be described as verging on the bizarre, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has given the contract to fight fake news to an organization that pushes fake news on climate change.

According to reports in Think Progress and Grist, Facebook has announced that it was teaming up with CheckYourFact.com, which is an offshoot of the anti-science media site, The Daily Caller.

The CheckYourFact website brags that: “Our mission is a non-partisan one. We’re loyal to neither people nor parties — only the truth. And while the fact-checking industry continues to grow, there are still countless assertions that go unchecked. We exist to fill in the gaps.”

In fact, the opposite seems to be true. As Think Progress outlines:

The Daily Caller, which has published misinformation about climate science for years, was co-founded by the science-denying Fox News host Tucker Carlson and is backed by major conservative donors, including Charles and David Koch, the billionaire fossil fuel barons who are the single biggest funders of climate science misinformation.
Think Progress includes a link back to 2015, when a peer-reviewed paper from scientists at Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute was published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The Daily Caller tried to twist the research to argue that “global warming is nothing new.”

It is hardly surprising that leading climate scientists and academics are outspoken about the Facebook fact-check tie up.”

Source: EcoWatch – Business

Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

Quote

By Philip N. Howard
Professor Howard is the director of the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of “Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up.”

March 27, 2019

Some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 American presidential election, released by members of the House Intelligence Committee in late 2017.
Credit
Jon Elswick/Associated Press

“Despite the best efforts of several technology firms, there still seem to be secretive groups distributing political ads without disclosing who is funding those ads. Even if Facebook starts discouraging advertisers from targeting users on the basis of race, gender or age, as it recently announced, the wealth of existing data that it has already collected will still allow advertisers to do sophisticated ad targeting.

Social media firms want to regulate themselves, and Google has threatened to withdraw all political ads in Canada if it finds transparency rules too onerous. Facebook offers political ad archives in a few countries, and searching by hand is laborious. Independent researchers can investigate trends computationally, but Facebook, Twitter and Google are doing more and more to restrict access. There is negligible access to Instagram, where huge volumes of Russian-origin misinformation now flows. Banning political ads or creating partial ad archives in some countries won’t strengthen the world’s democracies. Ad bans give incumbent politicians an unfair advantage, and establishing partial ad archives gives political ad buyers an incentive to not declare their ads as political.

Elections officials and ad regulators in the world’s democracies urgently need to sort this out: Nearly a billion people in India and across Europe will prepare to vote in the next few months, and presidential campaigning in the United States has already started. The solution is to have all technology companies put all ads, all the time, into public archives.”

via Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

Some of the Popular Images and Themes the Russians Posted on Social Media – The New York Times

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Using an array of accounts on multiple platforms and targeting a variety of demographics, the Russians have generated millions of interactions with their posts.

By Scott Shane
Dec. 17, 2018,  172c
When Russia targets Americans on social media, it has political goals: in 2016, to damage Hillary Clinton and help elect Donald J. Trump; since then, to press Russian views on issues like the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine; and in the future — who knows?

To wield influence, Russian online operators must first build an audience. Posing as Americans, they have to persuade Americans to pay attention and give them at least a modicum of trust.

Two reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee and released on Monday shed some light on how Russia does it. The reports identify some of the most popular of the images and themes created by the Internet Research Agency, which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and owned by a businessman with close ties to President Vladimir V. Putin.

[Read more about the reports here.]

Here are a few of the Russians’ greatest hits.

via Some of the Popular Images and Themes the Russians Posted on Social Media – The New York Times

Facebook- Twitter and YouTube Withheld Russia Data- Reports Say – The New York Times

Quote

By Sheera Frenkel- Daisuke Wakabayashi and Kate Conger
Dec. 17, 2018,       77c
SAN FRANCISCO — When lawmakers asked YouTube, a unit of Google, to provide information about Russian manipulation efforts, it did not disclose how many people watched the videos on its site that were created by Russian trolls.

Facebook did not release the comments that its users made when they viewed Russian-generated content. And Twitter gave only scattered details about the Russian-controlled accounts that spread propaganda there.

The tech companies’ foot-dragging was described in a pair of reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee published on Monday, in what were the most detailed accounts to date about how Russian agents have wielded social media against Americans in recent years.

In the reports, Google, Twitter and Facebook (which also owns Instagram) were described by researchers as having “evaded” and “misrepresented” themselves and the extent of Russian activity on their sites. The companies were also criticized for not turning over complete sets of data about Russian manipulation to the Senate.

via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube Withheld Russia Data, Reports Say – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

One commenter called for all of us to quit Facebook. I responded,

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval

 

The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked | Technology | The Guardian

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A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum. As Britain heads to the polls again, is our electoral process still fit for purpose?

by Carole Cadwalladr

Sun 7 May 2017 04.00 EDT Last modified on Wed 21 Mar 2018 19.52 EDT
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This article is the subject of legal complaints on behalf of Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Limited.
“The connectivity that is the heart of globalisation can be exploited by states with hostile intent to further their aims.[…] The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty.”
Alex Younger, head of MI6, December, 2016

“It’s not MI6’s job to warn of internal threats. It was a very strange speech. Was it one branch of the intelligence services sending a shot across the bows of another? Or was it pointed at Theresa May’s government? Does she know something she’s not telling us?”
Senior intelligence analyst, April 2017

In January 2013, a young American postgraduate was passing through London when she was called up by the boss of a firm where she’d previously interned. The company, SCL Elections, went on to be bought by Robert Mercer, a secretive hedge fund billionaire, renamed Cambridge Analytica, and achieved a certain notoriety as the data analytics firm that played a role in both Trump and Brexit campaigns. But all of this was still to come. London in 2013 was still basking in the afterglow of the Olympics. Britain had not yet Brexited. The world had not yet turned.

Follow the data: does a legal document link Brexit campaigns to US billionaire?
Read more
“That was before we became this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump,” a former Cambridge Analytica employee who I’ll call Paul tells me. “It was back when we were still just a psychological warfare firm.”

Was that really what you called it, I ask him. Psychological warfare? “Totally. That’s what it is. Psyops. Psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.”

via The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked | Technology | The Guardian

Meet the KGB Spies Who Invented Fake News – By Adam B. Ellick- Adam Westbrook and Jonah M. Kessel – The New York Times

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Meet the KGB Spies Who Invented Fake News

By Adam B. Ellick, Adam Westbrook and Jonah M. Kessel

via Breaking News, World News & Multimedia – The New York Times

David Lindsay:

This is an excellent video piece about the KGB’s Disinformation work in the 1980’s.

It is unfortunate that the jounalists badly overreach, in suggesting that the KGB invented Fake News in the Cold War. Fake News, or disinformation and propaganda,  was referenced and esteemed in The Art of War by SunTsu over a  thousand years ago.

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