Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.
The tag 'Google' is associated with 9 posts.

YouTube Fascism in Brazil

In recent programs, we have examined the profound role of online technology in the promotion of fascism, as well as overlapping areas of intelligence activity. In that context, it is vital to remember that the Internet was developed as a weapon, with the focus of the technology being counterinsurgency. In Brazil, the rise of Jair Bolsonaro’s fascist government received decisive momentum from YouTube, which is transforming the political landscape in Brazil, as it is in this country.


FTR #1081 Surveillance Valley, Part 7: Yasha Levine Gets the Jim Garrison/Gary Webb Treatment

We emphasize the treatment afforded Yasha Levine. As might be expected, Levine received the Jim Garrison/Gary Webb treatment. The retribution directed at Yasha Levine epitomizes why Mr. Emory refers to the so-called progressive sector as “so-called.”

” . . . . The threats and attacks had begun sometime overnight while I slept. By morning, they had reached a vicious and murderous pitch. There were calls for my death—by fire, by suffocation, by having my throat slit by razor blades. People I had never met called me a rapist, and alleged that I took delight in beating women and forcing people to have sex with me. I was accused of homophobia. Anonymous people filed bogus claims with my editor. Allegations that I was a CIA agent poured in, as did claims that I worked with British intelligence. The fact that I had been born in the Soviet Union didn’t do me any favors; naturally, I was accused of being an FSB spy and of working for Russia’s successor to the KGB. I was informed that my name was added to a dark net assassination list—a site where people could place anonymous bids for my murder. The roaming eye of the Internet hate machine had suddenly fixed on me. . . .”

In addition to online bullying, slander and veiled and direct threats, the so-called “privacy activists” joined in pillorying Yasha Levine: ” . . . . Micah Lee, the former EFF technologist who helped Edward Snowden communicate securely with journalists and who now works at The Intercept, attacked me as a conspiracy theorist and accused me and my colleagues at Pando of being sexist bullies, he claimed that my reporting was motivated not by a desire to get at the truth but by a malicious impulse to harass a female Tor developer. Although Lee conceded that my information about Tor’s government funding was correct, he counter intuitively argued that it didn’t matter. . . .

” . . . . Journalists, experts, and technologists from groups like the ACLU, the EFF, Freedom of the Press Foundation and The Intercept and employees of the Tor Project joined in to attack my reporting. Unlike Lee, most did not attempt to engage my reporting but employed a range of familiar PR smear tactics—tactics you usually see used by corporate flacks, not principled privacy activists. They took to social media, telling anyone who showed interest in my articles that they should ignore them instead. Then, when that didn’t work, they tried to discredit my reporting with ridicule, misdirection, and crude insults. . . .

” . . . . A respected ACLU privacy expert, who now works as a congressional staffer, called me “a conspiracy theorist  who sees black helicopters everywhere” and compared my reporting about Tor to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As someone who escaped state-sponsored anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, I found the comparison extremely offensive, especially coming from the ACLU. The Protocols were an anti-Semitic forgery disseminated by the Russian Tsar’s secret police that unleashed waves of deadly pogroms against Jews across the Russian Empire in the early twentieth century. Tor employees put forth a torrent of childish insults, calling me a ‘dumb Stalinist state-felcher’ and a ‘fucktard’s fucktard.’ They accused me of being funded by spies to undermine faith in cryptography. One of them claimed that I was a rapist, and hurled homophobic insults about the various ways in which I had supposedly performed sexual favors for a male colleague.

 “In the way that these Internet hazing sessions, go, the campaign evolved and spread. Strange people began threatening me and my colleagues on social media. Some accused me of having blood on my hands and of racking up an “activist body count”–that people were actually dying because of my reporting undermined trust in Tor.The attacks widened to include regular readers and social media users, anyone who had the nerve to ask questions about Tor’s funding sources. An employee of the Tor Project went so far as to dox an anonymous Twitter user, exposing his real identity and contacting his employer in the hopes of getting him fired from his job as a junior pharmacist.

It was bizarre. I watched all this unfold in real time but had no idea how to respond. Even more disconcerting was that the attacks soon expanded to include libelous stories placed in reputable media outlets. The Guardian published a story by a freelancer accusing me of running an online sexual harassment and bullying campaign. The Los Angeles Review of Books, generally a good journal of arts and culture, ran an essay by a freelancer alleging that my reporting was funded by the CIA. Paul Carr, my editor at Pando, lodged official complaints and demanded to know how these reporters came to their conclusions. Both publications ultimately retracted their statements and printed corrections. An editor at the Guardian apologized and described the article as a ‘fuck up.’ But the online attacks continued. . . .”

Program Highlights Include:

1.–The role of Eddie Snowden in misattributing the Shadow Brokers non-hack to Russia.
2.–Snowden’s foreshadowing of the alleged Russian “hack” of the Macron campaign”: ” . . . . ‘That could have significant foreign policy consequences,’ Snowden wrote on Twitter. ‘Particularly if any of those operations targeted US allies. Particularly if any of those operations targeted elections.’ . . .”
3.–James Bamford’s analysis of WikiLeaker/Tor promoter/BBG associate Jacob Apelbaum as the most likely source of the Shadow Brokers non-hack. 
The ludicrous nature of the “Russia-did it” hypothesis concerning the Macron hacks: ” . . . . The hacked documents in the ‘Macron hack’ not only contained Cyrillic text in the metadata, but also contained the name of the last person to modify the documents. That name, ‘Roshka Georgiy Petrovichan’, is an employee at Evrika, a large IT company that does work for the Russian government, including the FSB (Russian intelligence.) Also found in the metadata is the email of the person who uploaded the files to ‘archive.org’, and that email address, frankmacher1@gmx.de, is registered with a German free webmail provider used previously in 2016 phishing attacks against the CDU in Germany that have been attributed to APT28. It would appear that the ‘Russian hackers’ not only left clues suggesting it was Russian hackers behind the hack, but they decided to name names this time–their own names. . . .”
4.–Neo-Nazi and Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras associate Andrew Auerenheimer’s role in modifying the documents in the Macron hack:  ” . . . . Shortly after an anonymous user of the 4chan.org discussion forum posted fake documents purporting to show Mr. Macron had set up an undisclosed shell company in the Caribbean, the user directed people to visit nouveaumartel.com for updates on the French election. That website, according to research by web-security provider Virtualroad.org, is registered by ‘Weevlos,’ a known online alias of Andrew Auernheimer, an American hacker who gained notoriety three years ago when a U.S. appeals court vacated his conviction for computer fraud. The site also is hosted by a server in Latvia that hosts the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site that identifies its administrator as ‘Weev,’ another online alias of Mr. Aeurnheimer, Virtualroad.org says. ‘We strongly believe that the fake offshore documents were created by someone with control of the Daily Stormer server,’ said Tord Lundström, a computer forensics investigator at Virtualroad.org. . . .”
5.–French cybersecurity chief Guillaume Poupard negated the assertion that Russia hacked the Macron campaign: ” . . . . The head of the French government’s cyber security agency, which investigated leaks from President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign, says they found no trace of a notorious Russian hacking group behind the attack. . . . “


FTR #1080 Surveillance Valley, Part 6: Double Agents, Part 2 (Foxes Guarding the Online Privacy Henhouse, Part 3)

In this program, we resume discussion and analysis of the consummately important recent book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet by Yasha Levine. In the previous program, we noted, among other points of analysis, the decisive role of Eddie “The Friendly Spook” Snowden in promoting the intelligence-agency crafted Tor network.

In addition to Tor, the Open Technology Fund (read “CIA”) helped finance the Signal app for mobile phones. It, too, is fundamentally compromised. ” . . . . . . . . The Tor project remained the best-known privacy app funded by the Open Technology Fund, but it was quickly joined by another: Signal, an encrypted mobile phone messaging app for the iPhone and Android. . . .”

Not surprisingly, the CIA’s Eddie “The Friendly Spook” Snowden was a big promoter of Signal, as well as Tor: ” . . . . People at the ACLU claimed that Signal made federal agents weep. The Electronic Frontier Foundation added Signal alongside Tor to its Surveillance Self-Defense guide. Fight for the Future, a Silicon Valley-funded privacy activist organization, described Signal and Tor as ‘NSA-proof’ and urged people to use them. Edward Snowden was the combo’s biggest and most famous booster and repeatedly took to Twitter to tell his three million followers that he used Signal and Tor every day, and that they should do the same to protect themselves from government surveillance. ‘Use Tor, Use Signal,’ he tweeted out.

“With endorsements like these, Signal quickly became the go-to app for political activists around the world. Egypt, Russia, Syria, and even the United States—millions downloaded Signal, and it became the communication app of choice for those who hoped to avoid police surveillance. Feminist collectives, anti-President Donald Trump protesters, communists, anarchists, radical animal rights organizations, Black Lives Matter activists—all flocked to Signal. Many were heeding Snowden’s advice: ‘Organize. Compartmentalize to limit compromise. Encrypt everything, from calls to texts (use Signal as a first step.)’ . . . .”

Yasha Levine sums up the fundamental contradictions inherent  in this dynamic: ” . . . . If you stepped back to survey the scene, the entire landscape of this new Internet Freedom privacy movement looked absurd. Cold War-era organizations spun off from the CIA now funding the global movement against government surveillance? Google and Facebook, companies that ran private surveillance networks and worked hand in hand with the NSA, deploying government-funded privacy tech to protect their users from government surveillance? Privacy activists working with Silicon Valley and the US government to fight government surveillance—and with the support of Edward Snowden himself? . . . .”

Following Snowden’s promotion of OTF’s Tor and Signal technologies, OTF was at a zenith: ” . . . . After Edward Snowden, OTF was triumphant. It didn’t mention the leaker by name in its promotional materials, but it profited from the crypto culture he promoted and benefited from his direct endorsement of the crypto tools it financed. It boasted that its partnership with both Silicon Valley and respected privacy activists meant that hundreds of millions of people could use the privacy tools the US government had brought to market. And OTF promised that this was just a start: ‘By leveraging social network effects, we expect to expand to a billion regular users taking advantage of OTF-supported tools and Internet Freedom technologies by 2015. . . .’

As eventually became clear, the Tor network was easily breached. It is a safe bet that the fascists grouped around the Pirate Bay site (on which WikiLeaks held forth), had breached Tor’s “secrecy,” in addition to the obvious fact that intelligence services could penetrate it at will.

With this in mind, John Young’s rumination about WikiLeaks sound more and more substantive.

In all probability, WikiLeaks was a huge data mining operation both by the very intelligence agencies who were ostensibly targeted by WikiLeaks, and the Fascist International network around Carl Lundstrom, Daniel Friberg, David Duke et al.

In FTR #’s 756 and 831 we noted Snowden’s fascist views and connections. Levine merely characterizes him as a “right-wing libertarian,” but there is MUCH MORE TO IT THAN  THAT!

Snowden downplayed the fundamental role of the Big Tech firms in aiding and abetting government surveillance, in addition to their own massive surveillance and resultant data mining. ” . . . . There, while living under state protection at an undisclosed location in Moscow, he swept Silicon Valley’s role in Internet surveillance under the rug. Asked about it by Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman, who had first reported on the NSA’s PRISM program, Snowden shrugged off the danger posed by companies like Google and Facebook. The reason? Because private companies do not have the power to arrest, jail, or kill people. ‘Twitter doesn’t put warheads on foreheads,’ he joked. . . .”

Embodying his “corporatist” and Technocratic Fascist point of view, Snowden championed the Big Tech firms as bulwarks against government Internet surveillance, despite the only-too-obvious fact (reinforced by the documents he leaked) that Big Tech is–and always has been–in bed with, and actively collaborating with, the very government intelligence agencies conducting that surveillance: ” . . . . The only islands of safety were the private data centers controlled by private companies—Google, Apple, Facebook. These were the cyber-fortresses and walled cities that offered sanctuary to the masses. In this chaotic landscape, computer engineers and cryptographers played the role of selfless galloping knights and wizard-warriors whose job was to protect the weak folk of the Internet: the young, the old and infirm, families. It was their duty to ride out, weapons aloft, and convey people and their precious data safely from fortress to fortress, not letting any of the information fall into the hands of government spies. He called on them to start a people’s privacy war, rallying them to go forth and liberate the Internet, to reclaim it from the governments of the world. . . .”

The nauseating head of Facebook–Mark Zuckerberg–has decried the intelligence community’s use of the Internet for data mining. In FTR #1077, we highlighted the Cambridge Analytica affair, and Facebook’s full cooperation with that project at every turn.

Other Big Tech firms had similar reactions. “. . . . . ‘We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday,’ Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. He blamed the government and positioned Facebook as a victim. “I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.’ Apple,  Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo! All reacted in much the same way, denying the allegations and painting themselves as the victims of government overreach. ‘It’s tremendously disappointing that the government sort of secretly did all this stuff and didn’t tell us. We can’t have a democracy if we’re having to protect you and our users from the government,’ Larry Page told Charlie Rose in an interview on CBS. . . . .”

We present the conclusion of the main part of the book, with Levine’s summation of the inextricable nature and symbiosis between the Internet, the tech firms and the so-called “privacy community.”

The key points of discussion and analysis of Levine’s book (as a whole) include:

1.–The Internet is a weapon, developed for counter-insurgency purposes.
2.–Big Tech firms network with the very intelligence services they publicly decry.
3.–Big Tech firms that data mine their customers on a nearly unimaginable scale do so as a direct, operational extension of the very surveillance function upon which  the Internet is predicated.
4.–The technologies touted by the so-called “Privacy Activists” such as Edward Snowden and Jacob Applebaum were developed by the very intelligence services they are supposed to deflect.
5.–The technologies touted by the so-called “Privacy Activists” such as Edward Snowden and Jacob Applebaum–such as the Tor Internet function and the Signal mobile phone app– are readily accessible to the very intelligence services they are supposed to deflect.
6.–The organizations that promote the alleged virtues of Snowden, Applebaum, Tor, Signal et al are linked to the very intelligence services they would have us believe they oppose.
7.–Big Tech firms embrace “Internet Freedom” as a distraction from their own willful and all-embracing data mining and their ongoing conscious collaboration with the very intelligence services they publicly decry.

NB: Mr. Levine does not go into the fascistic character of Snowden, Assange, Greenwald et al. Some of those shows: Greenwald–FTR #888, Snowden–FTR #’s 756, 831, Assange and WikiLeaks–FTR #’s 732, 745, 755, 917.

“. . . . Then there was the fact that Signal ran on Amazon’s servers, which meant that all its data were available to a partner in the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program. Equally problematic, Signal needed Apple and Google to install and run the app on people’s mobile phones. Both companies were, and as far as we know still are, partners in PRISM as well. ‘Google usually has root access to the phone, there’s the issue of integrity,’ writes Sander Venema, a respected developer and secure—technology trainer, in a blog post explaining why he no longer recommends people use Signal for encrypted chat. ‘Google is still cooperating with the NSA and other intelligence agencies. PRISM is also still a thing. I’m pretty sure that Google could serve a specially modified update or version of Signal to specific target for surveillance, and they would be none the wiser that they installed malware on their phones.’ . . .

. . . . So, although the app encrypted the content of people’s messages, it also marked them with a flashing red sign: ‘Follow Me, I Have Something to Hide.’ (Indeed, activists protesting at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016 told me that they were bewildered by the fact that police seemed to know and anticipate their every move despite their having used Signal to organize. . . .”

” . . . . For many Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, surveillance is the business model. It is the base on which their corporate and economic power rests. Disentangle surveillance and profit, and these companies would collapse. Limit data collection, an the companies would see investors flee and their stock prices plummet. [Italics are mine–D.E.]

“Silicon Valley fears a political solution to privacy. Internet Freedom and crypto offer an acceptable alternative. Tools like Signal and Tor provide a false solution to the privacy problem, focusing people’s attention on government surveillance and distracting them from the private spying carried out by the Internet companies they use every day. All the while, crypto tools give people a [false] sense that they’re doing something to protect themselves, a feeling of personal empowerment and control. And all those crypto radicals? Well, they just enhance the illusion, heightening the impression of risk and danger. With Signal or Tor installed, using an iPhone or Android suddenly becomes edgy and radical. So instead of pushing for political and democratic solutions to surveillance, we outsource our privacy politics to crypto apps–software made by the very same powerful entities that these apps are supposed to protect us from. . . .”


FTR #1075 Surveillance Valley, Part 1: Eugenics, Racism and High Tech

Beginning a critically important series on a vitally important book titled Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, this program explores the genesis of high tech and data processing, an origin that is inextricably linked with eugenics, anti-immigrant doctrine and–as is characteristic of fascism, the fear of the ubiquitous, malevolent “other.”

Highlights of discussion and analysis include:

1.–The genesis of high tech was Herman Hollerith’s tabulating machine. ” . . . . A few years earlier, working for the U.S. Census Bureau, Hollerith had developed the world’s first functional mass-produced computer: the Hollerith tabulator. An electromechanical device about the size of large desk and dresser, it used punch cards and a clever arrangement of gears, sorters, electrical contacts, and dials to process data with blazing speed and accuracy. What had taken years by hand could be done in a matter of months. As one U.S. newspaper described it, ‘with [the device’s] aid some 15 young ladies can count accurately half a million of names in a day.’ . . .’
2.–Hollerith’s machine found its (arguably) greatest application with the compilation of the census and the application of the pseudo-science of eugenics to it: ” . . . . Grasping about for solutions, many settled on various strains of race science quackery. So-called social Darwinists relied on a twisted version of the theory of evolution to explain why the poor and marginalized should remain that way while the wealthy and successful deserved to rule unchallenged. Taking this notion a step further, adherents of eugenics fervently believed that naturally superior Anglo-Americans were on the verge of being wiped out due to the high birth rates of ‘degenerate’ and immigrant stock. To head off this threat, they advocated strict controls on reproduction — breeding humans for quality in the same way that farmers did cows and horses. . . .”
3.–Hollerith’s machine was seen as the perfect vehicle for realizing eugenic practice through refining the census: ” . . . . The census had been a racial instrument from its inception, beginning with the original constitutional clause that instructed census officials to count black slaves separately from whites and to assign them a value of only three-fifths of a person. With each decade, new ‘racial’ categories were invented and added to the mix: ‘free colored males and females’ and ‘mulatto’ were counted, including subdivisions like including ‘quadroon’ and ‘octoroon.’ Categories for Chinese, ‘Hindoo,’ and Japanese were added, as were ‘foreign’ and ‘native born’ designations for whites. The census slowly expanded to collect other demographic data, including literacy levels, unemployment statistics, and medical ailments, such as those who were ‘deaf, dumb, and blind’ and the ‘insane and idiotic.’ All of it was broken down by race. . . .The census needed to improve drastically. What it needed was a talented inventor, someone young and ambitious who would be able to come up with a method to automate tabulation and data analysis. Someone like Herman Hollerith. . . .”
4.–Hollerith’s technology–when applied to the census, anticipated the mass surveillance technology of the internet: ” . . . . Overnight, Hollerith’s tabulator technology had transformed census taking from a simple head count into something that looked very much like a crude form of mass surveillance. To the race-obsessed political class, it was a revolutionary development. They could finally put the nation’s ethnic makeup under the microscope. The data seemed to confirm the nativists’ worst fears: Poor, illiterate immigrants were swarming America’s cities, breeding like rabbits, and outstripping native Anglo-American birth rates. Immediately following the census, the states and the federal government passed a flurry of laws that heavily restricted immigration. . . .”
5.–As discussed in FTR #279, IBM’s Hollerith machines (acquired when Thomas J. Watson bought out Hollerith) were fundamental to the operations of the Third Reich: ” . . . . ‘Indeed, the Third Reich would open startling statistical venues for Hollerith machines never before instituted — perhaps never before even imagined,’ wrote Edwin Black in IBM and the Holocaust, his pioneering 2001 exposé of the forgotten business ties between IBM and Nazi Germany. ‘In Hitler’s Germany, the statistical and census community, overrun with doctrinaire Nazis, publicly boasted about the new demographic breakthroughs their equipment would achieve.’ . . . Demand for Hollerith tabulators was so robust that IBM was forced to open a new factory in Berlin to crank out all the new machines. At the facility’s christening ceremony, which was attended by a top U.S. IBM executive and the elite of the Nazi Party, the head of IBM’s German subsidiary gave a rousing speech about the important role that Hollerith tabulators played in Hitler’s drive to purify Germany and cleanse it of inferior racial stock. . . .”
6.–The Trump administration’s framing of questions for the 2020 census appear aimed at creating a “national registry”–a concept reminiscent of the Third Reich’s use of IBM’s Hollerith-collected data: ” . . . . Based on a close reading of internal Department of Commerce documents tied to the census citizen question proposal, it appears the Trump administration wants to use the census to construct a first-of-its-kind citizenship registry for the entire U.S. population — a decision that arguably exceeds the legal authority of the census. ‘It was deep in the documentation that was released,’ Robert Groves, a former Census Bureau director who headed the National Academies committee convened to investigate the 2020 census, told me by telephone. ‘No one picked up on it much. But the term ‘registry’ in our world means not a collection of data for statistical purposes but rather to know the identity of particular people in order to use that knowledge to affect their lives.’ Given the administration’s posture toward immigration, the fact that it wants to build a comprehensive citizenship database is highly concerning. To Groves, it clearly signals ‘a bright line being crossed.’ . . .”


Birds of a Feather: The So-Called Internet “Privacy Activists,” the Intelligence Services and Big Tech

Yasha Levine’s recent book “Surveillance Valley” is a MUST READ! Relatively short and very much to the point, this volume–subtitled “The Secret Military History of the Internet”–chronicles the fact that the Internet is a weapon, developed as part of the same group of overlapping DARPA/Pentagon projects as Agent Orange. In posts and programs to come, we will more fully develop the basic themes set forth in the excerpt recapped in this post: 1 )The Internet is a weapon, developed for counter-insurgency purposes. 2) Big Tech firms network with the very intelligence services they publicly decry. 3) Big Tech firms that data mine their customers on a nearly unimaginable scale do so as a direct, operational extension of the very surveillance function upon which the Internet is predicated. 4) The technologies touted by the so-called “Privacy Activists” such as Edward Snowden and Jacob Applebaum were developed by the very intelligence services they are supposed to deflect. 5) The technologies touted by the so-called “Privacy Activists” such as Edward Snowden and Jacob Applebaum–such as the Tor Internet function and the Signal mobile phone app– are readily accessible to the very intelligence services they are supposed to deflect. 6) The organizations that promote the alleged virtues of Snowden, Applebaum, Tor, Signal et al are linked to the very intelligence services they would have us believe they oppose. 7) Big Tech firms embrace “Internet Freedom” as a distraction from their own willful and all-embracing data mining and their ongoing conscious collaboration with the very intelligence services they publicly decry.


The Cambridge Analytica Microcosm in Our Panoptic Macrocosm

Let the Great Unfriending Commence! Specifically, the mass unfriending of Facebook, which would be a well deserved unfriending after the scandalous revelations in a recent series of articles centered around the claims of Christopher Wylie, a Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower who helped found the firm and worked there until late 2014 until he and others grew increasingly uncomfortable with the far right goals and questionable actions of the firm. And those questionable actions by Cambridge involve a larger and more scandalous Facebook policy brought forth by a Facbook whistle-blower, Sandy Parakilas: Facebook was handing out exactly the kind of data collected by Cambridge Analytica to all sorts of app developers for years. Beyond that, it appears that Facebook really did have an exceptionally close relationship with Cambridge Analytica’s research partner and was only bothered by its data collection when the media got wind of it. It also looks like Steve Bannon was overseeing this entire process, although he claims to know nothing. Oh, and Palantir appears to have had an informal relationship with Cambridge Analytica this whole time. And this state of affairs is an extension of how the internet has been used from its very conception a half century ago. And that’s all part of why the Great Unfriending of Facebook really is long overdue, along with a lot of other reforms.


FTR #996 Civilization’s Twilight: Update on Technocratic Fascism

Updating our ongoing analysis of what Mr. Emory calls “technocratic fascism,” we examine how existing technologies are neutralizing and/or rendering obsolete foundational elements of our civilization and democratic governmental systems.

We begin our description by referencing a vitally important article by David Golumbia. ” . . . . Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant corporate-digital leviathan. Hack­ers (‘civic,’ ‘eth­i­cal,’ ‘white’ and ‘black’ hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous ‘mem­bers,’ even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (rightly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrongly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . . [Tor co-creator] Din­gle­dine  asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role. . . .”

Beginning with a chilling opinion piece in “The New York Times,” we note that technological development threatens to super-charge the Big Lies that drive our world. As anyone who saw the file Star Wars film “Rogue One” knows, the technology required to create a nearly life-like computer-generated videos of a real person is already a reality. Once the province of movie studios and other firms with millions to spend, the technology is now available for download for free.

” . . . . In 2016 Gareth Edwards, the director of the Star Wars film ‘Rogue One,’ was able to create a scene featuring a young Princess Leia by manipulating images of Carrie Fisher as she looked in 1977. Mr. Edwards had the best hardware and software a $200 million Hollywood budget could buy. Less than two years later, images of similar quality can be created with software available for free download on Reddit. That was how a faked video supposedly of the actress Emma Watson in a shower with another woman ended up on the website Celeb Jihad. . . .”

The technology has already rendered obsolete selective editing such as that performed by James O’Keefe: ” . . . . as the novelist William Gibson once said, ‘The street finds its own uses for things.’ So do rogue political actors. The implications for democracy are eye-opening. The conservative political activist James O’Keefe has created a cottage industry manipulating political perceptions by editing footage in misleading ways. In 2018, low-tech editing like Mr. O’Keefe’s is already an anachronism: Imagine what even less scrupulous activists could do with the power to create ‘video’ framing real people for things they’ve never actually done. One harrowing potential eventuality: Fake video and audio may become so convincing that it can’t be distinguished from real recordings, rendering audio and video evidence inadmissible in court. . . .”

After highlighting a story about AI-generated “deepfake” pornography with people’s faces superimposed on others’ bodies in pornographic layouts, we note how robots have altered our political and commercial landscapes, through cyber technology: ” . . . . Robots are getting better, every day, at impersonating humans. When directed by opportunists, malefactors and sometimes even nation-states, they pose a particular threat to democratic societies, which are premised on being open to the people. Robots posing as people have become a menace. . . . In coming years, campaign finance limits will be (and maybe already are) evaded by robot armies posing as ‘small’ donors. And actual voting is another obvious target — perhaps the ultimate target. . . .”

Before the actual replacement of manual labor by robots, devices to technocratically “improve”–read “coercively engineer” workers are patented by Amazon and have been used on workers in some of their facilities. ” . . . . What if your employer made you wear a wristband that tracked your every move, and that even nudged you via vibrations when it judged that you were doing something wrong? What if your supervisor could identify every time you paused to scratch or fidget, and for how long you took a bathroom break? What may sound like dystopian fiction could become a reality for Amazon warehouse workers around the world. The company has won two patents for such a wristband. . . .”

For some U.K Amazon warehouse workers, the future is now: ” . . . . Max Crawford, a former Amazon warehouse worker in Britain, said in a phone interview, ‘After a year working on the floor, I felt like I had become a version of the robots I was working with.’ He described having to process hundreds of items in an hour — a pace so extreme that one day, he said, he fell over from dizziness. ‘There was no time to go to the loo,’ he said, using the British slang for toilet. ‘You had to process the items in seconds and then move on. If you didn’t meet targets, you were fired.’

“He worked back and forth at two Amazon warehouses for more than two years and then quit in 2015 because of health concerns, he said: ‘I got burned out.’ Mr. Crawford agreed that the wristbands might save some time and labor, but he said the tracking was ‘stalkerish’ and feared that workers might be unfairly scrutinized if their hands were found to be ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ ‘They want to turn people into machines,’ he said. ‘The robotic technology isn’t up to scratch yet, so until it is, they will use human robots.’ . . . .”

Some tech workers, well placed at R & D pacesetters and giants such as Facebook and Google have done an about-face on the  impact of their earlier efforts and are now struggling against the misuse of the technologies they helped to launch:

” . . . . A group of Silicon Valley technologists who were early employees at Facebook and Google, alarmed over the ill effects of social networks and smartphones, are banding together to challenge the companies they helped build. . . . ‘The largest supercomputers in the world are inside of two companies — Google and Facebook — and where are we pointing them?’ Mr. [Tristan] Harris said. ‘We’re pointing them at people’s brains, at children.’ . . . . Mr. [RogerMcNamee] said he had joined the Center for Humane Technology because he was horrified by what he had helped enable as an early Facebook investor. ‘Facebook appeals to your lizard brain — primarily fear and anger,’ he said. ‘And with smartphones, they’ve got you for every waking moment.’ . . . .”

Transitioning to our next program–updating AI (artificial intelligence) technology as it applies to technocratic fascism–we note that AI machines are being designed to develop other AI’s–“The Rise of the Machine.” ” . . . . Jeff Dean, one of Google’s leading engineers, spotlighted a Google project called AutoML. ML is short for machine learning, referring to computer algorithms that can learn to perform particular tasks on their own by analyzing data. AutoML, in turn, is a machine learning algorithm that learns to build other machine-learning algorithms. With it, Google may soon find a way to create A.I. technology that can partly take the humans out of building the A.I. systems that many believe are the future of the technology industry. . . .”


FTR #946 In Your Facebook: A Virtual Panopticon, Part 2

In FTR #718 (recorded on Independence Day weekend of 2010), we noted that the new social medium–Facebook-might very well be the opposite of the liberating, empowering entity many believed it to be.

On the contrary, we said–it received financial backing from the CIA, permits unprecedented gathering and databasing of users’ personal information, and might very well be a “panopticon”–a type of prison in which the interned can never see his or her jailers, but their keepers can see the interned at all times.

In particular, we noted the prominent position of major Facebook investor Peter Thiel in “Mondo Zuckerberg.” Of German (and probable I.G. Farben) origins, we opined that Thiel was Underground Reich. Opposed to democracy because he feels it is inimical to wealth creation and doesn’t believe women should be allowed to vote, Thiel has now emerged as one of the most prominent of Donald Trump’s supporters, transition team creators and influential policy wonks.

Whereas we explored the “virtual panopticon” concept of Facebook with a question mark in 2010, we now feel affirmatively on the issue.

A very important story from New York magazine sets forth Facebook’s role in the just-concluded election. ” . . . . Facebook’s size, reach, wealth, and power make it effectively the only one that matters. And, boy, does it matter. At the risk of being hyperbolic, I think there are few events over the last decade more significant than the social network’s wholesale acquisition of the traditional functions of news media (not to mention the political-party apparatus). Trump’s ascendancy is far from the first material consequence of Facebook’s conquering invasion of our social, cultural, and political lives, but it’s still a bracing reminder of the extent to which the social network is able to upend existing structure and transform society — and often not for the better. . . .

” . . . . Facebook’s enormous audience, and the mechanisms of distribution on which the site relies — i.e., the emotionally charged activity of sharing, and the show-me-more-like-this feedback loop of the news feed algorithm — makes it the only site to support a genuinely lucrative market in which shady publishers arbitrage traffic by enticing people off of Facebook and onto ad-festooned websites, using stories that are alternately made up, incorrect, exaggerated beyond all relationship to truth, or all three. . . .

” . . . . And at the heart of the problem, anyway, is not the motivations of the hoaxers but the structure of social media itself. Tens of millions of people, invigorated by insurgent outsider candidates and anger at perceived political enemies, were served up or shared emotionally charged news stories about the candidates, because Facebook’s sorting algorithm understood from experience that they were seeking such stories. Many of those stories were lies, or ‘parodies,’ but their appearance and placement in a news feed were no different from those of any publisher with a commitment to, you know, not lying. As those people and their followers clicked on, shared, or otherwise engaged with those stories — which they did, because Trump drives engagement extremely bigly — they were served up even more of them. The engagement-driving feedback loop reached the heights of Facebook itself, which shared fake news to its front page on more than one occasion after firing the small team of editorial employees tasked with passing news judgment. . . .

” . . . . Something like 170 million people in North America use Facebook every day, a number that’s not only several orders of magnitude larger than even the most optimistic circulation reckonings of major news outlets but also about one-and-a-half times as many people as voted on Tuesday. Forty-four percent of all adults in the United States say they get news from Facebook . . . ”

Symptomatic of Facebook’s filter of what its users see concerns the social medium’s recent non-coverage of the women’s march:

” . . . . We don’t usually post on Pando at the weekend, but this is too topical and too shameful to wait until Monday. As you certainly know, today is the day of the Women’s March on Washington in protest of Donald Trump. The main event is in DC, where something close to 500,000 protesters of all genders and ages have packed the streets — but there are also major protests in Chicago, New York and around the world. Including Antarctica.

You certainly know this because the protest march is the top story on every major news outlet, and because updates and photos from the event are flooding your Twitter and Facebook feeds.

And yet, here’s what Facebook’s trending news feed looked like at the height of the march…

And here’s its trending politics feed…

Notice anything missing?

Like, say, a half million women? . . .

In case you think I’m seeing something different from the rest of the world, be assured I’m not….”

Facebook has changed its algorithm, no longer factoring in “likes” and other personal preferences in determining its news feed.

This, however, does not bode as well as Facebook would like us to believe. Facebook has promoted, among others, Campbell Brown, to an important position in structuring its news feed: ” . . . . Brown has longstanding ties not just to the traditional news media, but also to conservative politics, although she describes herself as a political independent. She is a close personal friend of Betsy DeVos, the Republican megadonor who is Donald Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, and is married to Dan Senor, a former top advisor to Mitt Romney who also served as spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. . . .

. . . . And alongside her mainstream media experience, Brown is familiar with the world of non-traditional news outlets springing up online. In 2014, she founded a nonprofit news site, The 74, which bills itself as nonpartisan but which critics have said functions as advocacy journalism, tilted in favor of charter schools and against teachers’ unions. The site was launched with money from donors including the foundation run by DeVos, Trump’s proposed Education Secretary. When the nomination was announced, Brown said she would recuse herself from The 74’s coverage of DeVos. . .”

Brown is joined by Tucker Bounds, a former John McCain adviser and spokesman for the McCain/Palin campaign.

Exemplifying the terrifying possibilities of the virtual panopticon, we examine the nexus of Cambridge Analytica, its principal investors, Robert and Rebekah Mercer and Steve Bannon, a key member of the firm’s board of directors and a political guru to Rebekah. ” . . . . For several years, a data firm eventually hired by the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, has been using Facebook as a tool to build psychological profiles that represent some 230 million adult Americans. A spinoff of a British consulting company and sometime-defense contractor known for its counterterrorism ‘psy ops’ work in Afghanistan, the firm does so by seeding the social network with personality quizzes. Respondents — by now hundreds of thousands of us, mostly female and mostly young but enough male and older for the firm to make inferences about others with similar behaviors and demographics — get a free look at their Ocean scores. Cambridge Analytica also gets a look at their scores and, thanks to Facebook, gains access to their profiles and real names.

“Cambridge Analytica worked on the ‘Leave’ side of the Brexit campaign. In the United States it takes only Republicans as clients: Senator Ted Cruz in the primaries, Mr. Trump in the general election. Cambridge is reportedly backed by Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire and a major Republican donor; a key board member is Stephen K. Bannon, the head of Breitbart News who became Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman and is set to be his chief strategist in the White House. . .

” . . . . Their [the Mercers] data firm, Cambridge Analytica, was hired by the Cruz campaign. They switched to support Trump shortly after he clinched the nomination, and he eventually hired Cambridge Analytica, as well. Their top political guru is Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart News chairman and White House chief strategist. They’re close, too, with Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who also has a senior role in the White House. They never speak to the press and hardly ever even release a public statement. Like Trump himself, they’ve flouted the standard playbook for how things are done in politics. . . .”

Bannon’s influence on Rebekah Mercer is particularly strong: ” . . . Another of the Republican operatives described Bannon as the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ to Rebekah Mercer, and a third was even more pointed: ‘Svengali.’ Bannon is ‘really, really, really influential’ with Mercer, said the former Breitbart employee. The Mercers, the former employee said, made their wishes known through Bannon, who would sometimes cite the company’s financial backers as a reason for Breitbart not to do a story. Bannon didn’t respond to a request for comment about this. . . .”

In turn, the influence of Steve Bannon within the Facebook virtual panopticon is even more sinister considering Bannon’s political outlook: ” . . . . But, said the source, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about Bannon, ‘There are some things he’s only going to share with people who he’s tight with and who he trusts.’

Bannon’s readings tend to have one thing in common: the view that technocrats have put Western civilization on a downward trajectory and that only a shock to the system can reverse its decline. And they tend to have a dark, apocalyptic tone that at times echoes Bannon’s own public remarks over the years—a sense that humanity is at a hinge point in history. . . .”

One of the influences on Bannon is Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug, who has actually opened a backchannel advisory connection to the White House: ” . . . . Before he emerged on the political scene, an obscure Silicon Valley computer programmer with ties to Trump backer and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was explaining his behavior. Curtis Yarvin, the self-proclaimed ‘neoreactionary’ who blogs under the name ‘Mencius Moldbug,’ attracted a following in 2008 when he published a wordy treatise asserting, among other things, that ‘nonsense is a more effective organizing tool than the truth.’ When the organizer of a computer science conference canceled Yarvin’s appearance following an outcry over his blogging under his nom de web, Bannon took note: Breitbart News decried the act of censorship in an article about the programmer-blogger’s dismissal.

Moldbug’s dense, discursive musings on history—’What’s so bad about the Nazis?’ he asks in one 2008 post that condemns the Holocaust but questions the moral superiority of the Allies—include a belief in the utility of spreading misinformation that now looks like a template for Trump’s approach to truth. ‘To believe in nonsense is an unforgeable [sic] demonstration of loyalty. It serves as a political uniform. And if you have a uniform, you have an army,’ he writes in a May 2008 post.’It’s been a while since I posted anything really controversial and offensive here,’ he begins in a July 25, 2007, post explaining why he associates democracy with ‘war, tyranny, destruction and poverty.’

Moldbug, who does not do interviews and could not be reached for this story, has reportedly opened up a line to the White House, communicating with Bannon and his aides through an intermediary, according to a source. Yarvin said he has never spoken with Bannon. . . .”

After discussing Facebook’s new AI technology being employed to search users’ photos, the program concludes with the shift of Silicon Valley money to the GOP.

Program Highlights Include: review of Steve Bannon’s role on the NSC; review of the martial law contingency plans drawn up by Oliver North during the Reagan administration, involving the deputizing of paramilitary right-wingers; review of Erik Prince’s relationship to the Trump administration and Betsy De Vos, Trump’s education secretary.


Beware of Dragon Slayers Bearing Bad Ideas. They Might Not Be Fair. Or Useful

As should be obvious to nearly everyone with an internet connection these days, Google is both really useful and kind of terrifying given the scope of how much Google knows about nearly all of us and how much it controls what we know. The fact that Google’s list of corporate ambitions includes things like ‘owning the internet’ and owning the internet’s pipes doesn’t really. And then there’s the killer robots and wage-theft. All in all, it’s not hard to hope Google gets Scroogled. Soon.

But there’s more than one way to screw Google and not everyone that fears Google is some random consumer. Major corporate entities also fear Google and it just so happens that a coalition of many of the largest publisher in Europe has a plan to slay the Google Dragon they fear so much. Unfortunately, this coalition might slay “fair use” across the internet in the process. That’s right, copyright law could be getting a big ‘upgrade’ in the digital realm as part of a new anti-Google initiative in a way that upgrades the bottom line of the biggest publishers and downgrades everyone else’s general ability to find news articles and talk about the world. This is happening.