Traces #33: Pizza Laundering

Originally sent on Nov 21, 2017 via Tinyletter.

Your Autocracy Will Be Laundered

Pizzagate: Anatomy of a Fake News Scandal. I’ve talked before about how most discussion of free speech and disinformation is stuck in a centralized model that ignores the current multi-agent process by which the fake is laundered into the real. This article is long, but will show you how it is done.

Keanu Reeves Did NOT Say Hollywood Elites Use “Blood Of Babies To Get High” It’s worth understanding that stories like Pizzagate tapped into a long running tradition of conspiracies about elite satanic child abuse rings. Some of these frameworks are derived from old anti-Semitic models. Here’s an example.

Russia used hundreds of fake accounts to tweet about Brexit, data shows. To be clear, these are small numbers, but they are very incomplete, and the real story is how small amounts of paid activity can leverage broader platforms through the laundering of falsehood. Note that it’s the press, unsurprisingly, that amplify the influence of these fake accounts. 

Adventures in Generic “Community”

The Education of Mark Zuckerberg. “The new Facebook will be rebuilt inside the carcass of the old.” Mark Zuckerberg continues to evolve his notion of community, but it is still impoverished.

A notorious Russian Twitter troll claims to be back, and Twitter has not stopped it. Real communities have implicit missions and values and by-laws and well-funded mechanisms for enforcement. Twitter has a revenue model.

Free Speech is Like Free Markets. Broken.

Political correctness isn’t the problem. “Indeed, a recent much-publicized poll purporting to show creeping authoritarianism among young people was funded with Koch money, and the best academic research proves the poll’s findings wrong.”

Related, the recent Stanford walkout on Jihad Watch speaker Robert Spencer looks different when you see who funds these speeches.

Disruption games: why are libertarians lining up with autocrats to undermine democracy? Interesting question, but it needs to go deeper into the Silicon Valley myths of meritocratic dictatorships that propel this trend.

Gamergate: The Dry Run for the Apocalypse

In chatlogs, celebrated hacker and activist confesses countless sexual assaults This horrifying story of a privacy activist and Intercept reporter who raped multiple women with impunity doesn’t belong to a single section, but putting it here because of this: “Throughout The Verge’s investigation, sources expressed fear that Marquis-Boire, a lauded security expert, could hack them in retaliation…One alleged victim told us that he had apologized to her, but had done it — either coincidentally or on purpose — through an ephemeral messaging app, one of the very technologies he had advocated for as an activist.”

Your company’s Slack is probably sexist Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t (it probably is). The important point is all technology is designed in a way that favors some interactions and styles of engagement over others and that favors certain people. The best hedge against that to have diverse teams involved in the build process.

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Winning the Information War Techniques and Counter-strategies to Russian Propaganda in Central and Eastern Europe “Modern Russian propaganda is cleverly targeted, technically adept and cynically fact-free. It is also enjoyable.” Old CEPA Stratcom report I skimmed over the weekend. Co-published with Legatum, which has brought up this idea that we must make disinfo countermeasures as enjoyable as disinfo in several contexts. See also Factual Entertainment. Mostly a review of current state of the info war in Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland Czech Republic, and Slovakia.

In our Digipo info-environmentalism projects we will be looking at the broad array of emotional/psychological reasons why people spread disinformation. In addition to disinfo being fun, I’d add it’s nice to feel smarter than other people, and it’s good to be seen as a person who knows things first. And that’s just scratching the surface. I’ll talk more about this in a post eventually.

I’m a Deleter

No, Facebook Didn’t Remove the Ability to Delete Posts—But It Did Hide It From Some Users. It is completely possible that Facebook may make it harder to delete posts at some point. Today is not that day, but watch for it.

Polarization Is an Elite-Driven Phenomenon

Republicans’ beliefs are bending to Trump. Here’s why they might not even notice. People forget what they formerly believed, which allows them to maintain an illusion of ideological consistency even when belief changes are massive. And so you have a situation where a lot of people think they support Trump because he is anti-globalist, but the truth is weirder – they latched onto the leader, switched beliefs, and then attributed their support of the leader to their beliefs retroactively. The same is true to some extent, of course, on the Democratic side.

Which is to say, for the umpteenth time, that while dissatisfaction may be grassroots, the nature and extent of subsequent polarization is elite driven. Solutions must address that.

Rethinking Online Media Literacy

The Civic Online Reasoning site from the Stanford History Education Group has launched. It’s focused more on K-12, but it’s really good. Check it out.

1984, Inc.

Tech Leaders Dismayed by Weaponization of Social Media. I mean, great. Welcome to the club. What next?

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