The War with Google, Facebook, Wikipedia,etc. Just kill them
SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Facebook Inc (FB.O), Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) collectively removed hundreds of accounts tied to an alleged Iranian propaganda operation on Tuesday, while Facebook took down a second campaign it said was linked to Russia.
Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the accounts identified on his company’s platform were part of two separate campaigns, the first from Iran with some ties to state-owned media, the second linked to sources that Washington has previously named as Russian military intelligence services.
“Such claims are ridiculous and are part and parcel of U.S. public calls for regime change in Iran, and are an abuse of social media platforms,” said Alireza Miryousefi, spokesman for the Iranian mission to the United Nations.
The Kremlin rejected Facebook’s accusations. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow did not understand the basis for such statements and that they looked like “carbon copies” of previous allegations that Moscow has denied.
Global social media companies are seeking to guard against political interference on their platforms amid rising concerns about foreign attempts to disrupt the U.S. midterm elections in November.
The United States earlier this year indicted 13 Russians on charges they attempted to meddle in U.S. politics, but the alleged Iranian activity, exposed by cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc (FEYE.O), suggests the problem may be more widespread.
“It really shows it’s not just Russia that engages in this type of activity,” Lee Foster, an information operations analyst with FireEye, told Reuters.
FireEye said the Iranian campaign used a network of fake news websites and fraudulent social media personas spread across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Plus and YouTube, to push narratives in line with Tehran’s interests.
The activity was aimed at users in the United States, Britain, Latin America and the Middle East up to and through this month, FireEye said. It included “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes,” as well as advocacy of policies favorable to Iran, such as the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal.
FireEye said the Iranian activity did not appear “dedicated” to influencing the upcoming election, though some of the posts aimed at U.S. users did adopt “left-leaning identities” and took stances against U.S. President Donald Trump.
That activity “could suggest a more active attempt to influence domestic U.S. political discourse” is forthcoming, Foster said, but “we just haven’t seen that yet.”
Facebook said the Russia-linked accounts it removed were engaged in “inauthentic behavior” related to politics in Syria and Ukraine. It said that activity did not appear to be linked to the Iranian campaign.
“These were distinct campaigns and we have not identified any link or coordination between them. However, they used similar tactics by creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” the company said in a statement.
Facebook last month removed 32 pages and accounts tied to another misinformation campaign without describing its origins, but that U.S. lawmakers said likely had Russian involvement.
Microsoft said this week that hackers linked to the Russian government sought to steal email login credentials from U.S. politicians and think tanks, allegations the Russian Foreign Ministry described as a “witch-hunt.”
FireEye said the U.S.-focused Iranian activity ramped up just months after Trump took office, with websites and social media accounts posting memes and articles, some of which were apparently copied from legitimate U.S. and Iranian news outlets.
In some cases, the domains for the fake websites like “US Journal” and “Liberty Free Press” were registered years before the 2016 election, in 2014 and 2013, but most remained inactive until last year, FireEye said.
Arabic-language, Middle East-focused websites appear to be part of the same campaign, the company added.
FILE PHOTO: 3D-printed Facebook and Twitter logos are seen in this picture illustration made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 26, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo
The technology companies variously said they linked the accounts to Iran based on user phone numbers, email addresses, website registration records and the timing of account activity matching Iranian business hours.
FireEye expressed “moderate confidence” about the Iranian origins but said it has not been able to tie the accounts to a specific organization or individuals.
Hundreds of thousands of people followed one or more of the Facebook pages implicated in the campaign, Facebook said.
It shared examples of removed posts, including a cartoon depicting an Israeli soldier executing a Palestinian and a fake movie poster showing Trump embracing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Postings cited by FireEye expressed praise for U.S. politicians and other Twitter users who criticized the Trump administration’s decision in May to abandon the Iranian nuclear pact, under which Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear weapons program in exchange for the loosening of sanctions.
Some Twitter and Facebook accounts were designed to appear as if they belonged to real people in the United States, Britain and Canada, according to FireEye. The accounts used a combination of different hashtags to engage in U.S. culture, including “#lockhimup,” “#impeachtrump” and “notmypresident.”
Twitter, which called the effort “coordinated manipulation,” said it removed 284 accounts.
Facebook said it removed 254 pages and 392 accounts across its flagship platform as well as its Instagram service.
The accounts spent about $12,000 to advertise through Facebook and Instagram. Facebook said it had notified the U.S. Treasury and State departments of the purchases, which may violate sanctions.
Alphabet, parent company of Google and YouTube, did not respond to a request to comment.
Reporting by Paresh Dave in San Francisco and Christopher Bing in Washington; Additional reporting by Nikhil Subba in Bengaluru, Polina Nikolskaya in Moscow, Michelle Nichols in New York and Warren Strobel; Writing by Jack Stubbs; Editing by Jon Boyle and Steve Orlofsky
Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Facebook escalates censorship of left-wing, anti-war organizations
23 August 2018
One year ago this week, the World Socialist Web Site published an open letter to search monopoly Google demanding that it end its censorship of the internet.
The letter documented that a change in Google’s search algorithms that the company claimed was aimed at promoting “authoritative” news sources had led to a substantial decline in search traffic to left-wing, socialist and anti-war sites. Google, the letter from WSWS International Editorial Board Chairperson David North stated, was “engaged in political censorship of the Internet.”
One year later, it is clear that the allegations against Google were both correct and extremely prescient. The measures taken by Google initiated a sweeping system of corporate-state censorship adopted by all the US technology monopolies, including Facebook and Twitter. A campaign that began under the pretext of combatting “Russian meddling” and “fake news” is ever more openly targeting left-wing views.
The latest and most extreme attack on democratic rights came Tuesday, when Facebook announced that it has removed hundreds of user accounts and pages, many opposing the crimes of the American, Saudi, and Israeli governments in the Middle East, claiming they were the result of “influence campaigns” by Iran and Russia.
Some of the accounts purported to be “American liberals supportive of US Senator Bernie Sanders,” who expressed “support for Palestinians and opposition to Israel,” according to FireEye, the cybersecurity firm, heavily staffed by former intelligence operatives, with whom Facebook coordinated the deletions.
The press went even further in linking left-wing viewpoints with “foreign influence” operations. The Financial Times declared, “In the US, FireEye found accounts purporting to support Bernie Sanders, the US senator, and a fake organisation called Rise Against the Right. In the UK, the company discovered fabricated organisations called British Left and the British Progressive Front posting in support of Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party.”
Virginia Democrat Mark Warner, who is leading the campaign for censorship, made clear that the internet giants’ moves to censor the internet are far broader than the original pretext of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election. “There’s no way the problem of social media manipulation is limited to a single troll farm in St. Petersburg, and that fact is now beyond a doubt.” He added, “Iranians are now following the Kremlin’s playbook from 2016.”
Tellingly, FireEye said that it had only “moderate confidence that this activity originates from Iranian actors.” The company added that the possibility exists that “the activity could originate from elsewhere” or includes “authentic online behavior.”
Wherever the accounts originate, it is not up to Facebook to determine whether they are “authentic” or not. Tellingly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a conference call with reporters, added that some of the accounts removed came from “a set of people the U.S. government and others have linked to Russia.” Given that dominant sections of the US state have sought to brand anyone who opposes US foreign policy as an agent of the Kremlin, such a broad definition could extend to any public critic of the US political establishment.
On the same day that Facebook removed pages and accounts it said were “linked to Iran,” it terminated the longstanding Facebook account of a WSWS contributor writing under a pseudonym, declaring that it would only reinstate the account if he provided government identification proving his identity.
Were such a standard to apply across the board, social media posts by contemporary authors Stephen King (who writes as Richard Bachman), Anne Rice (who writes as Anne Rampling) and countless others would be “inauthentic” if they were to use the names by which they are known to by millions of people. Some of the most famous figures in the revolutionary movement, including Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, were known exclusively by their pen names. And of course, the American Federalist Papers and Anti-Federalist papers were all drafted by writers using pseudonyms.
Facebook, acting in coordination with government entities, serves as judge, jury and executioner in deciding who is granted the freedom of expression guaranteed under the First Amendment and international civil rights laws. It claims the right, with no trial, no appeal, and providing no information, to declare statements to be “inauthentic” and remove accounts making them.
Last month, Facebook deleted the official page of the left-wing counter-protest to this month’s fascist “Unite the Right 2” demonstration in Washington, which was endorsed by prominent left-wing political activists, including whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Its rationale was that one account connected to the event page displayed “coordinated inauthentic behavior.”
This week, the Washington Post reported that Facebook operates an internal ranking system to determine “the trustworthiness of its users on a scale from zero to 1.” Those labeled “untrustworthy” will evidently be liable for deletion.
What is being introduced, piece by piece, is the mechanism for US technology monopolies to silence anyone, at any time, for any reason, by claiming their statements and views are “inauthentic” and “divisive.”
Such a mechanism, tested and implemented in the privately-controlled social media ecosystems, will then, with the ending of net neutrality, be used by internet service providers to block access to sites on the public internet and through email, claiming the “responsibility” to police their privately-owned networks.
In other words, one year after the WSWS published its open letter, all the mechanisms have been created for Google, Facebook, Twitter and leading internet service providers to ban and silence anyone, with no legal recourse, oversight or public knowledge.
But in the year since the publication of the open letter, another process has emerged. The working class all over the world has entered into struggle, beginning with a wave of teachers’ strikes in the US earlier this year, and continuing with strikes by heavy industry workers in Germany, airline pilots throughout Europe at Ryanair, and a growing opposition and anger among UPS workers, autoworkers, Amazon workers and other sections of the working class.
The moves to intensify censorship are aimed above all at blocking the intersection of this growing movement of the working class with a socialist program.
But this movement of the working class also creates the political basis for the struggle against censorship. As workers clash with their employers and their union collaborators, they must inscribe on their banners opposition to political censorship and must fight for the expropriation of the social media monopolies under public control as a key component of the fight for socialism.
In January of this year, the World Socialist Web Site issued an open letter calling for “socialist, anti-war, left-wing and progressive websites, organizations and activists” to join “an international coalition to fight Internet censorship.” This appeal is more relevant than ever. We urge everyone seeking to fight the grip of the technology monopolies and intelligence agencies over the internet to contact us and join the fight against censorship!