Russiafvckery Open Thread: (Dis)Information Wants to Be… Leaked?

Kevin Poulsen — there’s a name I don’t remember seeing since the Snowden days. Feels, to my untechnologically-clued-in self, that most of Wikileaks activity over the last several years seems to have been the online equivalent of dogs pissing on fenceposts. Or the couch:

… The site, Distributed Denial of Secrets, was founded last month by transparency activists. Co-founder Emma Best said the Russian leaks, slated for release Friday, will bring into one place dozens of different archives of hacked material that, at best, have been difficult to locate, and in some cases appear to have disappeared entirely from the web.

“Stuff from politicians, journalists, bankers, folks in oligarch and religious circles, nationalists, separatists, terrorists operating in Ukraine,” said Best, a national-security journalist and transparency activist. “Hundreds of thousands of emails, Skype and Facebook messages, along with lots of docs.”

Distributed Denial of Secrets, or DDoS, is a volunteer effort that launched last month. Its objective is to provide researchers and journalists with a central repository where they can find the terabytes of hacked and leaked documents that are appearing on the internet with growing regularity. The site is a kind of academic library or a museum for leak scholars, housing such diverse artifacts as the files North Korea stole from Sony in 2014, and a leak from the Special State Protection Service of Azerbaijan…

Last year, Best agreed to help another journalist locate a particular Shaltai Boltai leak, a hunt that sent her into the world of Russian hacktivism. “Later I’m talking to some hackers—this is after DDoS’ public launch—and they hooked me up with a few archives,” Best told The Daily Beast. “A couple gigabytes, something like that. I do some digging, ask around, and manage to stir up a good bit more.”

Once word got around that Best was collecting Russian hacks, the floodgates opened. In late December, the project was on the verge of publishing its Russia collection when “middle of the night, more files come in,” Best said. Then an organization with its own collection of Russia leaks opened its archives to Best and her colleagues…

DDoS differs from WikiLeaks in that it doesn’t solicit direct leaks of unpublished data—its focus is on compiling, organizing, and curating leaks that have already appeared somewhere in public. “Emma Best, I think, is someone who will actually do a good job,” said Weaver, citing Best’s aggressive use of the Freedom of Information Act to extract documents from recalcitrant U.S. agencies. “Things get so scattered that putting it all into one place is a huge benefit.”…

It’s past my bedtime, so if I’ve misinterpreted / botched this info, I’m sure y’all will make due corrections in the comments.








Derp State

That we have a scabrous, demented swine thrashing around the Oval Office causing untold domestic and international turmoil is on the American people, the Republican Party, and the Russian Federation (in no particular order). But assuming our little experiment in democracy survives and committees are impaneled to study what the fuck happened in the detail such a calamitous clusterfuck warrants, should the role of our national security organizations and their political apparatuses be scrutinized too?

Hell yes, they should. It’s already clear Trump is a Russian asset. The only remaining question is how long and actively he’s been in on Putin’s con. That such a destructive, incompetent, addled and compromised fool got within a country mile of the fucking White House points to national security failures as vast as those that allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen and enabled Cheney & Co. to falsely portray Saddam Hussein’s Potemkin nukes as an existential threat.

Like those monumental fuck-ups, I suspect the lapse that allowed a malignant orange clown to seize personal control of the world’s most fearsome nuclear arsenal was more a failure of imagination than a lack of dedication or skill, particularly on the part of the people doing the actual work. In other words, it was a strategic cock-up rather than a tactical one. But yeah, we’re gonna need a truth and reconciliation panel on national security too.








Today’s Big Read: Russia’s Comprehensive Disinformation Campaign

Pushing ten thousand comments on the Post’s online story, as of 6am:

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel hasn’t said whether it endorses the findings. It plans to release it publicly along with another study later this week.

The research — by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm — offers new details of how Russians working at the Internet Research Agency, which U.S. officials have charged with criminal offenses for interfering in the 2016 campaign, sliced Americans into key interest groups for targeted messaging. These efforts shifted over time, peaking at key political moments, such as presidential debates or party conventions, the report found.

The data sets used by the researchers were provided by Facebook, Twitter and Google and covered several years up to mid-2017, when the social media companies cracked down on the known Russian accounts. The report, which also analyzed data separately provided to House Intelligence Committee members, contains no information on more recent political moments, such as November’s midterm elections.

“What is clear is that all of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump,” the report says. “Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting.”…
Read more








Open Thread: Steve ‘Pigmuck’ King, Old Man, Yells At (the) Cloud

Post title borrowed from this response:

BUT SERIOUSLY… Per Newsweek:

Republican representative Steve King requested Google CEO Sundar Pichai give the government the names of more than 1,000 employees who oversee the company’s search engine to determine whether its algorithm was biased, The Hill reported. King said he wanted to look at employees’ social media and see if they’re biased.

As Pichai appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, Democrats questioned the tech giant’s privacy regulations, The New York Times reported. Republicans expressed distrust for the company, questioning whether it stifles conservative search results.

“There is a very strong conviction on this side of the aisle that the algorithms are written with a bias against conservatives,” King said, alleging that Google has an inherent ideological tilt because it is located in the Democrat-heavy Silicon Valley. “What we don’t know are who are these thousand people and we don’t know what their social media looks like.”

California Republican Kevin McCarthy voiced similar concerns. “All of these topics — competition, censorship, bias and others — point to one fundamental question that demands the nation’s attention,” he said. “Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom or instruments of control?”…

Pichai said at the beginning of his testimony, “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” according to The Guardian. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions—and we have no shortage of them among our own employees.” He also said that the employees do not choose which news outlets show up in searches, saying the search engine adapts based on what users select…

King’s real butthurt: When you’ve brought up your kids to believe that everyone (who matters) hates immigrants, people of color, and diversity in all its forms…


“Some kinda hand-me-down”, indeed.








Open Thread: Catering to ‘Fox Nation’ Snowflakes’ Sensibilities…


 
But wait, there’s more!… Almost forgot I’d been saving this gem for a quiet patch. From Vanity Fair, “Hannityflix for Snowflakes: Fox Nation, the Murdoch’s New Streaming Service”:

The animating spirit of Fox Nation, the Trump-friendly network’s new video-streaming offering, is inadvertently revealed in the fifth episode Brian Kilmeade’s travelogue show, What Made America Great. Dressed in a sharp blue-checked shirt, the Fox & Friends host strolls through Andrew Jackson’s former plantation, absorbing the majesty of America’s seventh president. “Walking around, you get the sense that Andrew Jackson just left,” he marvels, admiring the poplar-wood columns and military portraits lining the Hermitage.

Like many programs on the so-called “Netflix for conservatives,” the pastoral scene—Kilmeade in gingham, colonnades, portraiture—is unnervingly familiar. In fact, much of the footage from What Made America Great is recycled from Andrew Jackson: Hero Under Fire, overlaid with new narration, graphics, and calming piano music. The same promotional image and footage appears again in America: Great from the Start, Kilmeade’s live lecture series wherein he summarizes historical events covered in his nonfiction books (in this case, 2017’s Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans).

Recycled content appears to be part of the Fox Nation business model. If Fox News exists to serve red meat, Fox Nation is its mechanically separated byproduct—extra bits scraped off the carcasses of more profitable franchises, puréed, and shaped into spongy content nuggets. It is unapologetically a platform of B-sides. The impetus behind Fox Nation’s launch is fairly obvious; the brand appears to be a naturally recurring retirement community trying to keep apace in a dynamic media ecosystem. The network’s average viewer is 64 years old, 21st Century Fox has sold the majority of its entertainment assets to Disney, and the next generation of viewers is cutting the cord. (“It’s scary, right?” Kilmeade told The New York Times, recalling a conversation with his son: “He’s like, ‘Dad, nobody’s watching cable anymore.’”) For $5.99 a month, the subscription platform promises to deliver extra-special content from its deep bench of talent, and to provide an exclusive entre into their world. The sign-up-screen video shows Kilmeade and Co. at a party, popping the corks off champagne bottles and playing pool. Below, a tantalizing promise: “More of the content you love from the people you trust.”…

Fox Nation, for when chewing your own oatmeal is too much of a mental chore…