On Thursday, March 30th the US Senate Intel Committee held an open hearing on Russian Intelligence activities. The full 4 hours of video of the morning and afternoon sessions and written transcript are available at the C-Span website. The focus of the meeting was to understand just what exactly Russia may have done using hacking, propaganda, social, and media manipulations and how these may have effected the elections. The information discussed in this hearing is not exclusive to the election, or to Russia. Although the committee’s focus is specific, the information, terms, and tactics discussed are general and far reaching.
On Friday, March 31st I was banned and blocked from the Facebook group “Beautiful Native Americans” for what the administrator perceived as harassing other members of the group. I had requested to join the group weeks earlier specifically because I noticed that the group was under heavy pressure from foreign imposter accounts.
(Nellie- A suspiciously alluring girl with a wide variety of interests who makes posts in different groups without writing a word. Bonus Round: Timestamps on consecutive days reveal clues of automation)
The administrator appeared to be a genuinely caring person and I wanted to help her understand what was going on. I informed her publicly that I’d like to communicate by private message which she agreed to, but she never replied to my messages. On Friday the group feed was having a particularly bad day. Fed up with waiting, I began to post screenshot evidence of the fact that these accounts were automated.
I collected an assortment of duplicate sexy selfie posts that had been planted in a variety of Native and truck driving groups by this brand new account. Confident this would cause the administrator to see through the “friendly greeting” of the bot and ban the account, I was shocked that the administrator thought I had invaded the privacy of this young woman and attempted to publicly humiliate her. The administrator banned me instead. (Facebook deleted 2 of the 3 fake profiles I had reported)
(This group pf pictures shows a commentbaiting post planted by a very unlikely character. Image search reveals that the Stefan’s stylish photos were stolen from Hernan Fratto’s Instagram account. We also see that Stephan’s groups and likes are an improbably assortment of culture grabs at American interests.)
Most research on the activities of bots focuses on Twitter. There is a reason for this. The Twitter platform allows certain information to be extracted and charted. It is possible for a researcher to produce very compelling graphics which show the activity and connections of bots and other twitter users. The charts make the tangle of data over thousands of accounts and through space and time- suddenly read as clearly as a traffic signal.
The harm to Native American people through Mark Zuckerberg’s hypocrisy is unquantifiable and intangible. While financial losses might be estimated, how do you measure the harm of reinforced stereotypes, sexualization, blurring of history, apropriation, and stoking the fires of the Pretendians? The Facebook platform shields the dishonest and provides no means of protest or accountability. Mark Zuckerberg is allowing profit motivated impostors with their tactics, to overwhelm the public presence of a living modern population of people.
The Vietnamese teeshirt marketers paid him well to sponsor ads for fraudulent shirts, printed with copyrighted stolen graphics, along with the suggestion that the purchase would contribute to Supporting Water Protectors. Facebook’s datamining provided a pre-selected target audience for these fraudulent ads. Even after Craig Silverman exposed this specific scam in a Buzzfeed article, Facebook did nothing to stop the marketing which continues to this day. Money that would have gone to Native owned clothing brands and contribute to Standing Rock fundraising was funneled instead to Vietnam and Facebook ad fees.
April 2, 2017- The day after April Fools- is “International Fact Checking Day” If Americans can take anything away from the sobering information in the Senate Intel Committee hearing, it is that they are pawns in a very serious game. Maybe these guys from Kosovo aren’t out for world domination, maybe (maybe) they just want to buy a car or pay for college, but if you can’t see their game- your blindness is a liability. You need to be proactive about educating yourself and others about what is going on and what tools are available to verify, not just the news story- but the profile who shared it and the group it was posted in. Let’s do less compulsive sharing more purposeful verifying.
I want that when an American right-clicks on a picture, and chooses “search google for this image” from the drop down menu- that they feel as if they are pulling a weed from their victory garden.
1. Darkposting now also allows pages which are fundamentally merchandisers, to hide that entirely from their page fan base until the targeted ads show up in their newsfeed.
2. Since much of this posting is automated, it’s not as if human eyeballs actually enter the group and engages with it in the way that people do. They don’t see what everyone else has posted. The postings are executed from a spreadsheet combining the list of bot profiles and their passwords, the list of groups they are enrolled in, the page posts they should push, and a schedule for when to send them out. Automated programs also have the ability to pull posts FROM groups and post them onto the fake profile’s timeline, presenting the image of an engaged member of the social circle. They can also autopost comments. I believe a major function of “one word baiting” is to give automated profiles a prompt and a safe place to leave a comment that does not need to be composed by a thinking human.
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