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Israeli court orders Facebook to unblock account of NSO Group employee

MEMO | February 18, 2020

A Tel Aviv court ordered Facebook Inc to unblock the private account of a worker at Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, and similar rulings are expected for other employees in the coming days, an NSO spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

A group of NSO employees filed suit against Facebook in November, saying the social media giant had unfairly blocked their private accounts when it sued NSO in October.

Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp accused the Israeli firm of helping government spies break into the phones of about 1,400 users in a hacking spree targeting diplomats, political dissidents, journalists and senior government officials across the globe.

The NSO employees said their Facebook and Instagram accounts, and also those of former workers and family members, had been blocked.

Ruling on their complaint, Tel Aviv District Court ordered the account of one employee to be restored by Wednesday afternoon.

“We are certain that following the court’s unequivocal statements, Facebook will reverse the action it took against other employees,” the NSO spokeswoman said.

Facebook officials could not immediately comment.

The company said in November it had disabled “relevant accounts” after attributing a “sophisticated cyber attack” to the NSO Group and its employees, saying the measure was necessary for security reasons.

Read also:

UK to help controversial Israel spyware firm to sell product  

February 18, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

The Death Of Free Speech: Zuckerberg Asks Governments For Instructions On “What Discourse Should Be Allowed”

By Jonathon Turley | February 17, 2020

I have written for years on the effort of European countries to expand their crackdown on free speech globally through restrictions on social media and Internet speech. It appears that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has relented in what may prove the death knell for free speech in the West. Zuckerberg seems to relent in asking governments for regulations stipulating what speech will be permitted on Facebook and other platforms. It is the ultimate victory of France, Germany, and England in their continuing attack on free expression though hate speech laws and speech regulation.

Zuckerberg told an assembly of Western leaders Saturday at the Munich Security Conference that “There should be more guidance and regulation from the states on basically — take political advertising as an example — what discourse should be allowed?” He did add: “Or, on the balance of free expression and some things that people call harmful expression, where do you draw the line?” The problem is that his comments were received as accepting that government will now dictate the range of free speech. What is missing is the bright line rule long maintained by the free speech community.

As tragically demonstrated in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, speech regulations inevitably expand with time. The desire to silence one’s critics becomes insatiable for both governments and individuals.

Zuckerberg is facing great pressure, including from Democratic leaders in the United States, to regulate political speech and he seems to be moving away from the bright-line position against such regulation as a principle. Instead, he is accepting the fluid concept of “balanced” regulations that has always preceded expanding speech codes and criminalization:

“There are a lot of decisions in these areas that are really just balances between different social values. It’s about coming up with an answer that society feels is legitimate and that they can get behind and understand that you drew the line here on the balance of free expression and safety. It’s not just that there’s one right answer. People need to feel like, ‘OK, enough people weighed in, and that’s why the answer should be this, and we can get behind that.’”

 

February 17, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Washington Mandarins and Veteran Disinformation Spooks Behind Stanford’s Internet Observatory

By Morgan Artyukhina | Sputnik | February 13, 2020

Stanford University’s Internet Observatory (SIO) is the latest in a growing network of cybersecurity groups policing the activities of social media users, pushing a pro-State Department line about Washington’s adversaries, and spreading the fear of disinformation that’s driving popular support for renewed conflict with Russia and other nations.

This article will pull back the veil on one of the fastest-growing institutions in the US Security State’s information war. Some of the observatory’s central figures include Facebook’s security chief during the Cambridge Analytica scandal, leading academic champions of Western triumphalism and US policy advisers, and even a lead researcher from a cybersecurity group previously exposed as being itself a disinformation outfit.

‘Rebuilding the Arsenal of Democracy’

Formed just this past summer, the observatory is attached to Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center instead of a think tank like the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab or operating as a for-profit cybersecurity company, like FireEye. In line with its more academic focus, SIO offers cybersecurity courses for students, such as program Director Alex Stamos’ popular “HackLab” course, “Trust & Safety Engineering,” and “Online Open Source Investigation,” as well as grants for full-time researchers and post-doctoral students, counting among its staff senior Stanford academics.

Startup funding for the Observatory came from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, a $5 million gift to fund nearly a dozen researchers for two years. Newmark, the billionaire founder of the website Craigslist, has quietly established a name for himself as another bankroller of State Department-approved media organs, alongside eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, oil tycoons the Koch brothers, and investor George Soros. Sputnik’s inquiries to Stamos about potential future funding sources were not returned by the time this story went to publication.

Newmark’s justification for supporting the Observatory serves as an effective summary of his efforts in this field:

“What we’re doing is rebuilding the arsenal of democracy,” he told Reuters in July 2019. On another occasion, Stanford quoted him as saying: “The strength of our democracy depends on ensuring that all people have access to accurate information. The Internet Observatory has a vision for a trustworthy Web, and I’m proud to support their mission-critical work to grapple with disinformation and other ways that bad actors use tech against the common good.”

Who’s Who at SIO

Heading up the outfit is Alex Stamos, the former security chief at Facebook and a visiting fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution think tank. Not only was Stamos in charge of Facebook’s cybersecurity during the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which some 87 million users had their personal information collected and used, most without their knowledge or consent, by companies intending on helping candidates like Donald Trump shape elections, but when he left Facebook in the summer of 2018 to form the SIO, Stamos’ departure was based primarily in his disagreement with other Facebook executives’ apprehension at surrendering so much user data to cybersecurity firms in their effort to track down supposed Russian political meddling on the site.

Meanwhile, its research team is headed up by Renée DiResta, a Mozilla fellow who’s lectured at events hosted by the arch-conservative Federalist Society. DiResta was also the research director at New Knowledge, ostensibly a cybersecurity outfit that disbanded after it was revealed they had played a deep role in an online disinformation campaign designed to influence the December 2017 Alabama special election in favor of Democratic candidate Doug Jones.

Stanford Internet Observatory Director Alex Stamos (left) and Research Manager Renée DiResta (right), Rod Searcey

While DiResta has sworn up and down that she knew nothing about the disinformation campaign being waged by New Knowledge chief Jonathon Morgan, at the time of the campaign she was also an Advisor on Policy at Data for Democracy, an informal cybersecurity brainstorming and collaboration network set up and coordinated by Morgan.

Other Stanford academics who’ve joined the SIO milieu include “end of history” proponent Francis Fukuyama and Hoover Institute fellows Amy Zegart and Michael McFaul, the latter of whom was also US Ambassador to Russia.

Further, the Stanford Cyber Policy Center’s codirector is Nate Persily, who founded Social Science One in April 2018 to do much the same as the SIO hopes to now: sort through petabytes of privacy-protected data on Facebook users to “investigate the spread of information and misinformation on Facebook, and their impact on elections and democracy,” as Wired put it in July 2018. Indeed, Wired noted Stamos hoped in setting up the Observatory to gain access to Facebook data via SSO.

“There’s an enormous number of questions you can ask about what 2 billion people around the world are clicking and reading and sharing,” Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Science director Gay King, who co-founded SSO with Persily, told Wired. The group receives funding from Omidyar-connected groups such as the Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund and the Omidyar Network, as well as the Charles Koch Foundation of conservative oil tycoon fame.

DiResta’s Proximity to Disinformation Electioneering

DiResta became embroiled in this disinformation cauldron as early as November 2016, when she met Mikey Dickerson, a former Obama administration official who served as the first head of the US Digital Service, which managed US government websites and who, according to the Washington Post, “expressed a desire to fight back” against Trump’s election victory.

“There was a feeling after the Trump election that Democrats hadn’t prioritized tech, that Republicans had built this amazing juggernaut machine,” DiResta told the Post in January 2019. “The right wing was running a meme war, and there were these crazy dirty tricks. People wanted to build countermeasures.”

Facebook banned the account of Jonathon Morgan, the CEO of New Knowledge, a cyber firm that meddled in Alabama’s 2017 special election.

Soon after, Dickinson founded American Engagement Technologies (AET), which later played a pivotal role in the Alabama special election, coordinating a massive effort to impersonate Republicans in an effort to discourage Alabamans from voting for Republican candidate and slavery and pedophilia defender Roy Moore. AET was bankrolled by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who sunk $750,000 into AET, $100,000 of which was used by Dickinson to hire New Knowledge. New Knowledge, in turn, coordinated Project Birmingham, the name of the disinformation effort, as documents obtained by the Washington Post show.

Hoffman has emerged again in recent news as the money behind ACRONYM, the group who sabotaged the February 2020 Iowa Democratic Caucus results in an operation noted by observers to be very similar to that concocted by New Knowledge, including attempting to frame Russians for the interference.

​DiResta, in turn, advised AET before it obtained Hoffman’s backing, migrating to New Knowledge in the aftermath of the Alabama campaign, pledging to the Post she knew only of “an experiment in Alabama” but disavowing knowledge of their tactics.

However, DiResta had also joined Morgan startup group Data for Democracy as the group’s Policy Lead in August 2017, a nonprofit network of roughly 1,200 hackers founded by Morgan the previous December to “use data and technology for social impact,” according to its LinkedIn profile, especially “election integrity, disinformation & social network manipulation, transparency, and policy initiatives.” Between these three connections, it seems increasingly unlikely she knew nothing of the tactics behind Project Birmingham  – indeed, she had already professed sympathy with just such efforts to “fight back” against Trump.

The Pesky Problem of Privacy

Stamos, in an interview with Reuters, said pressures on Facebook to protect user privacy are making it harder to see and combat misuses on the platform, such as disinformation and election interference.

“The ability to do academic research on what’s happening online has never been worse,” Stamos told Reuters in a July 2019 interview. “What you get is everything encrypted and everything locked up and not available to researchers.”

He specifically blasted the Federal Trade Commission settlement requiring Facebook’s board to create an independent privacy committee and to have greater oversight over third-party apps on its platform, saying the skittishness it creates around sharing users’ data with research groups would be “a blow for the public’s understanding of social media manipulation,” as Reuters summarized it.

​Building a ‘Data Clearinghouse’

Indeed, now that Stamos has moved from security chief to academic, he’s renewed his pressure on tech giants to hand over user data for “academic” purposes, successfully winning backdoor access to user and ad data via API gateways from Facebook, Google, and Bing, turning the SIO into what Wired called “his data clearinghouse.”

At the time this article went to publication, Stamos had not answered inquiries by Sputnik about the other social media giants Wired noted the Observatory was courting for API access, including Twitter, YouTube and Reddit.

‘For $5,000 I Can Buy A Whole Lot of Speech’

Like Stamos, DiResta has a history of distrusting online people-to-people networks. In September 2018, she appeared on a panel titled, “Is Social Media a Threat to Democracy? Fake News, Filter Bubbles, and Deep Fakes,” at which she blasted Twitter for enabling “more speech” with its autofill retweet function, noting that “for $5,000 I can buy a whole lot of speech.”

That event, the Reboot 2018 Conference in San Francisco, was hosted by the Federalist Society, perhaps the country’s premier elite club for the Establishment Right, counting so many leading DC policymakers, diplomats and federal judges – including more than half of the Supreme Court – that in January 2019, Washington Post Magazine opined that the Federalist Society had reached an “unprecedented peak of power and influence.”

In describing the panel’s focus, the event handout noted that “Social media companies are under increasing scrutiny for their effect on American society. According to critics, these platforms promote hyper-partisanship, disinformation, extremism and even violence. They are also blamed for facilitating Russian-sponsored voter manipulation during the 2016 election. Our panel of experts will discuss these challenges as well as their implications for the upcoming election.”

Renee DiResta speaking at Reboot 2018 Conference in San Francisco, October 2, 2018, Sputnik Screenshot

Pruning Facts: Be More Like Google!

Since its formation, the Observatory has rushed to embrace the standard of “Russian disinformation campaigns,” turning out several reports ostensibly documenting such efforts in Africa, and also attacking Bing for failing to prune their search results of pro-Russian links.

While the SIO purports to have identified “Evidence of Russia-Linked Influence Operations in Africa,” as the title of an October 2019 report suggests, in truth they offer nothing but insinuation and supposition. The report itself admits they “cannot independently verify” their most contentious claim, that the Russian security contractor “Wagner Group” is behind a supposed “Facebook operation” in Libya.

Further, the extent of their proof of “Russia-linked organizations likely operating at least in part at the behest of a state actor” that shared “tactical similarities to Internet Research Agency activities” extends to little more than native-speakers speaking well of local initiatives tied to the Russian government and Facebook pages that “often re-posted Sputnik articles.” Quelle horreur!

This is the same kind of suggestive wording obfuscating ignorance that FireEye and the Atlantic Council’s DFRL have employed in claiming to identify disinformation campaigns by US targets for regime change, including Russia but also Venezuela, Iran, and China, among others.

For example, as Sputnik has reported, during the regular purges carried out by Twitter and Facebook, the cybersecurity reports used to justify the purges routinely enjoyed only moderate or low confidence by the researchers, and in at least one instance in May 2019, Twitter Site Integrity chief Yoel Roth was forced to admit they never looked at FireEye’s report before summarily deleting 2,800 accounts “linked to Iran.”

In another report in December 2019, the SIO faulted Microsoft default search engine Bing for failing to prune its search results as efficiently as Google does, specifically naming higher-ranked links to Sputnik and RT stories on search terms like “novichok,” “Skripal,” and “MH17” as a problem.

A graphic from a December 2019 report by the SIO showing RT and Sputnik in search results for “skripal” “MH17” and “novichok” on Bing and Google, Stanford Internet Observatory

In an interesting moment of frankness, the SIO admits that Google does, in fact, manually prune its search results – something the tech giant has long maintained it doesn’t do. A November 2019 report by the Wall Street Journal confirmed what documents leaked to the Daily Caller the previous April had hinted at: that Google intervenes directly to “correct” algorithms that yield politically undesirable search results.

“Over time, Google has increasingly re-engineered and interfered with search results to a far greater degree than the company and its executives have acknowledged,” the WSJ wrote, noting the efforts had increased sharply since the 2016 US elections. The litany of manipulations range from “algorithmic changes to its search results that favor big businesses over smaller ones” to making “behind-the-scenes adjustments” to “auto-complete suggestions, boxes called ‘knowledge panels’ and ‘featured snippets,’ and news results, which aren’t subject to the same company policies limiting what engineers can remove or change.”

“Despite publicly denying doing so, Google keeps blacklists to remove certain sites or prevent others from surfacing in certain types of results,” the WSJ report continues. “These moves are separate from those that block sites as required by US or foreign law, such as those featuring child abuse or with copyright infringement, and from changes designed to demote spam sites, which attempt to game the system to appear higher in results.”

From ‘Fake News’ to ‘Disinformation’

The language deployed in the SIO report is also interesting, in that it categorizes stories forwarding a point of view differing from the US State Department’s line alongside conspiracy theory links about Pizzagate, links between vaccines and autism, and white supremacist content, as if they were all just flavors of “fake news” to be purged in the defense of “real” news.

Although US President Donald Trump is credited with popularizing the slander, “fake news” is a narrative swallowed hook, line and sinker in recent years by both tech giants and the billionaire investors who bankroll their growing media networks. For example, in 2015, Craig Newmark Philanthropies joined the Omidyar-backed Knight Foundation, the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation to back Google’s First Draft News and the Google News Lab, projects that aimed to coordinate “efforts between newsrooms, fact-checking organizations, and academic institutions to combat mis- and disinformation.”

As MintPress News documented, these efforts are just drops in the bucket of a much larger project involving every major US-based tech giant to shape media narratives around the globe to reflect the US State Department line, adopting common definitions of disinformation that dismiss alternative points of view as assaults upon reality.

“Fake news” has dovetailed with “disinformation” to provide a convenient excuse to extend state control over the realm of cyberspace, and the SIO is just the latest instrument in a growing symphony of thought policing.

February 13, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

UK Will Make Facebook Responsible for Harmful Content as Ofcom is Set to Have More Powers – Report

Sputnik – February 12, 2020

Facebook and some other social media companies have recently come under fire for failing to remove allegedly misleading and harmful content from their platforms. Now, British regulatory authority Ofcom is reportedly set to be given a role in policing social media companies.

Britain’s media watchdog Ofcom will have more power in regulating social media companies in the UK, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Snapchat, and will make them accountable for harmful content, the BBC reported citing Digital Secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan.

Social media companies have long defended their rights to control unacceptable content on their platforms related to violence, terrorism or child abuse, but according to reports, this is now going to change in the UK.

“There are many platforms who ideally would not have wanted regulation, but I think that’s changing”, Nicky Morgan, Baroness Morgan of Cotes, was quoted as saying. “I think they understand now that actually regulation is coming”.

The information has not been confirmed by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport but it was reported that on Wednesday the government will present a draft of the new legislation related to online harm and will announce Ofcom’s new powers. So far, the authority has only been entitled to regulate British media, not social media platforms or internet safety. The news could cause some concerns among the public about potential censorship over online content.

Facebook has long been criticised for failing to take responsibility for content on its platform, including its refusal to remove political ads that may contain misinformation, citing its monitoring, rather than regulatory role.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has maintained that the company was still accountable for removing harmful content related to child exploitation, terrorism, or violence from the its platform. However, in relation to political ads, he cited the policy of free speech and insisted that social media users were still able to make up their own minds about the political agenda.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Removes 3 Account Networks From Russia, Iran, Myanmar Over Policy Violations

Sputnik – 12.02.2020

Facebook has removed three account networks originating from Russia, Iran, and Myanmar and Vietnam, for violating its policy that bans government interference, and coordinated, inauthentic behaviour, the company said on Wednesday.

“Today, we removed three unconnected networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in foreign or government interference — which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a government or foreign actor — on Facebook and Instagram. The first operation originated in Russia and primarily targeted Ukraine and its neighboring countries. The second originated in Iran and focused mainly on the US. The third network originated in Myanmar and Vietnam and targeted audiences in Myanmar. Each of them created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing,” Facebook said in a statement.

In October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told NBC News in an interview that the company had thwarted new interference campaigns from Russia, China and Iran that could have allegedly become the groundwork for meddling efforts during the 2020 presidential election in the United States.

Russian officials have repeatedly denied meddling in the US election, saying the allegations were invented to excuse election losses as well as deflect public attention from actual instances of electoral fraud and corruption.

February 12, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | | Leave a comment

Keeping with its Crackdown on Alternative Voices, Google Deletes Press TV from YouTube

By Alan Macleod | MintPress News | January 15, 2020

Without warning, tech giant Google “permanently removed” Iranian government-owned media channel Press TV UK’s YouTube channel Monday night amid increasing American hostility to Iran.

“This attack on the freedom of speech of Press TV’s journalists seems to be part of an anti-Iran purge as the West sets its sights on regime change in Iran,” Press TV said. Its content, in its own words, focuses on “anti-imperialism, anti-racism, and covers aspects of the news which the mainstream corporate media in the United Kingdom have refused to air.”

The London-based outlet had over 28,000 subscribers on its YouTube account at the time of its deletion.

British-Sudanese journalist Ahmed Kaballo accused Google of acting like the “judge jury and executioner” for his employer’s channel, expressing his great disappointment that his journalistic output is now gone and his worry at “what this really represents” for alternative media that “show a different perspective and holds a critical lens” on war and empire.

MintPress News reached out to Kaballo for comment. “The actions of Google in the last 24 hours has made me lose hope in the idea of free press and free speech,” he said. “Journalism is about pushing the boundaries and being fearless in our reporting but in this climate where they can do this to us in this fashion, it’s clear that our perspective. which is overtly anti-imperialist, is, in the eyes of Google, simply not allowed.”

After online pushback, by Wednesday morning UK time, Google had reversed its decision. However, just as Press TV was celebrating its reinstatement, it was again taken off the air. YouTube sent a message to Press TV UK claiming that they had received a complaint about the channel and decided that it violates their terms of service. Kaballo described the political hokey pokey his organization was under as “psychological warfare.”

Press TV says the move is “part of an anti-Iran purge as the West sets its sights on regime change in Iran.” It comes in the context of the Trump administration’s assassination of Lt. General Qassem Soleimani January 3, while he was in Iraq attending peace talks. In response, Iran launched dozens of ballistic missiles at U.S.-occupied military bases in Iraq, although it was careful to warn the U.S. of the attack beforehand. As a result, there were no deaths. The Iraqi parliament also immediately voted to expel all American troops from the country. However, the U.S. refused to leave.

While the threat of a hot war with the Iran appears to have subsided, an intense, online propaganda war rages between the two countries. During his funeral, the hashtag #IraniansDetestSoleimani trended across American Twitter. But analysis showed that it was not Iranians, but organized Trump supporters who were boosting the message, supporting, as 47 percent of Americans did, their president’s decision to kill him.

Last Friday, Facebook announced that it felt compelled to delete all positive posts about the deceased general from its platform and its subsidiary Instagram. “We operate under U.S. sanctions laws, including those related to the U.S. government’s designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its leadership,” it said, explaining that Trump’s new sanctions made supporting Iran online on any American website essentially illegal. Instagram had already closed Soleimani’s account in April last year, following Trump’s designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group. Just after Facebook’s decision, Twitter suspended Ayatollah Khamenei’s account for “unusual activity.” Instagram is extremely popular in Iran, with around one in three people owning an account, almost as popular as Soleimani, who over 80 percent view positively or very positively. Thus, the U.S. government has, through pressuring monopolistic Silicon Valley giants, effectively banned a majority opinion being shared by Iranians to Iranians, in Iran.

This is not the first occasion that the U.S. government has used the American monopoly over the means of communication online to shut down alternative voices from other countries. Facebook has previously de-platformed Venezuela-based outlets TeleSUR English and Venezuelanalysis, both of which offered differing opinions and analysis of the U.S. government’s actions in Venezuela and Latin America. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has forced RT journalists to register as “foreign agents,” under a rule originally set up to deal with Nazis during World War Two.

Press TV, too, has had a history of poor treatment at the hands of the U.S. state. In January last year, the FBI illegally detained Press TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi for ten days. She was never charged and was deprived of Halal food and a hijab during her detention. While the network is still reachable directly on its website, the fact that the U.S. government can unilaterally decide what the world sees, hears or reads, zapping British based Iranian networks from universal social media giants the entire world uses raises questions about freedom of information in the digital age.

January 18, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 3 Comments

After US killing of Iran’s Soleimani, narrative control on social media is getting worse

By Eva Bartlett | RT |  January 17, 2020

Twitter has been on a narrative-control rampage, removing or censoring legitimate accounts that are critical of US-led wars, propaganda and lies. Facebook and Instagram have increased their Big Brother policing, too.

Attempts by American-based social media behemoths to silence or censor voices critical of the establishment-approved narrative is nothing new, but this trend seems to have intensified lately.

Just in the past several days, following the criminal US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, Instagram and Facebook have been removing posts supportive of Soleimani, even profile photos honouring the general, allegedly to comply with US sanctions, a truly absurd explanation for the narrative control.

On January 7, it was reported that Twitter had suspended numerous Venezuelan accounts, including those of the central bank, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, public media, political leaders, the Finance & Oil ministries.

At the end of last year, Italy’s Rai News conducted an interview with Syrian President Bashar Assad, but then decided not to air it. Days later, as the interview was being aired instead by the Syrian Presidency, its respective Twitter account was inexplicably and suddenly restricted.

It returned to normal some days later but, at the start of January, the account was again no longer available. Admin used a backup account with a dramatically smaller following and, although after about a week—and many Twitter protests later—the account was again restored, it has not since tweeted and thus appears to be restricted.

In mid-2019, the account of the Russian embassy in Syria disappeared not long after tweeting about the White Helmets, terrorists, and war propaganda. This, again, begged the question of what ‘Twitter rules’ had been violated.

These aren’t some isolated incidents, they’re part of a systematic purging by the NATO-aligned social media corporations who bleat about alleged “Russian propaganda” but are themselves the (transparently poor) masters of propaganda.

Many anti-war voices have been scrubbed from Twitter and Facebook, including the prominent anti-war voice of Daniel McAdams – Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity– who was banned from Twitter for using the word “retarded” to describe a Fox News host, something I’m sure many people would think an insufficient and mild description of such corporate media entities…

Accounts Calling For Genocide A-Okay on Twitter

While accounts like McAdams’ are taken down allegedly for reasons of political correctness, other accounts can call for genocide and destruction with no repercussions.

Take the rather no-name lobbyist Jack Burkman, who, after the US assassination of Iran’s beloved General Soleimani, tweeted about the “need to burn every major Iranian city to the ground.” His tweet actually included “Load up the [chemical weapon] napalm.” On several more occasions, Burkman tweeted about destroying Iran, including his tweet on the firebombing of Dresden and his desire to “replicate the campaign against Iran.” Some of those tweets have been removed, but his account remains active, without restrictions, as though he hadn’t violated Twitter rules on multiple occasions.

Then there is the President of the United States, who, after having General Soleimani illegally assassinated, went on to threaten to destroy 52 Iranian cultural sites. That tweet remains up on Twitter, in spite of surely violating rules on threatening violence (and not only against a person but a nation). I mean, most normal people consider threatening to destroy places somewhat violent.

On the other hand, allegations about genocide risk being censored, as happened to Mint Press News’ editor in chief, Mnar Muhawesh, whose video on the US-Saudi led war on Yemen was deemed “child nudity” by Facebook.

Muhawesh protested: “This is false. Images show skeleton, dying children wearing diapers.”

Terrorist Accounts, Exploited Children, And More Twitter Restrictions

Accounts abound on Twitter and Facebook that are openly supportive of suicide bombers, ISIS and al-Qaeda. I’ve found Western corporate journalists citing terrorist-supporting accounts as “media activists” in areas militarily surrounded by the Syrian army, as was the case when eastern Ghouta was being liberated, although the ‘activists’ allegiance to Jaysh al-Islam and al-Qaeda was easily identified.

And there are accounts representing the terrorists themselves, whose graphic content certainly ought to be deemed violations of Twitter’s rules, yet so many of these accounts remain intact.

Twitter serves as a platform for war propaganda, that’s fairly clear. But there’s a point that some people might not know about Twitter and Syria: Twitter doesn’t recognize the Syrian country code, thus you’d need a non-Syrian phone number to open an account.

So how do all these poster children like Bana al-Abed (one of the chief faces of war propaganda in the lead-up to the liberation of Aleppo in late 2016) and those which popped up later in eastern Ghouta and then in Idlib get accounts?

Keep that in mind when the war propaganda again resurges around Idlib and the children holding English posters and hashtagging #SaveIdlib pop into your feed. More exploitation of kids, and Twitter the perfect platform.

In researching for this piece last week, I came across a recent article announcing a new feature Twitter would test, in its valiant efforts to quash trolls: limiting who may reply to tweets before sending a tweet.

This smacks not of cutting out trolls, but of making echo chambers more impenetrable, so war propagandists can back-slap one another without allowing intelligent voices to poke holes in their lies.

But in the end, perhaps even that doesn’t matter, because at any moment your account can be zapped. Nestled in Twitter’s terms of service is this line: “We may suspend or terminate your account…for any or no reason…” This means any protest over suspended accounts is thus a waste of time after all.

This is total narrative control, and it’s only getting worse.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

January 17, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

Facebook censors explainer clip recalling when western media liked Soleimani – and demonetizes popular account for sharing it

RT | January 15, 2020

Facebook is doubling down on censorship of anything less than villification of slain Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, deleting a clip showing his history of fighting terrorism – and demonetizing the account posting it.

The social media behemoth didn’t just remove independent journalist Dan Cohen’s ‘In the Now’ segment, “How ‘good guy’ Soleimani became US media’s ‘bad guy,” from the show’s page on Tuesday – it demonetized In the Now entirely, citing the typical unspecified violations of “community standards.” The move comes amid an alarming escalation in the platform’s crackdown on political speech that runs contrary to US foreign policy, a wave of censorship that has not been limited to Facebook.

Cohen’s video calmly and accurately explains how Soleimani “saved the region from falling to ISIS,” fighting the terrorist group alongside the US and its Kurdish allies before he was recast posthumously by a complicit western media as “actually a huge terrorist and a ticking time bomb who was born to kill Americans.” The video exposes the ideological inconsistency of the outlets currently depicting the Quds Force commander as the devil incarnate, showcasing clips from those same outlets in recent years praising Soleimani’s battlefield performance.

Rania Khalek, who runs In the Now, tweeted in shock that a video merely stating facts about Soleimani had gotten her page demonetized, asking “where is the outrage” now that Facebook was so explicitly deleting material for ideological reasons.

Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram have come under fire from independent journalists and media organizations like the International Federation of Journalists for embarking on a wholesale campaign to deplatform all support for Soleimani in the weeks following the US airstrike that killed him. The company has claimed the extensive US sanctions placed on Iran, including the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, require it to censor such posts, though even legal experts quoted by CNN took a dim view of that rationale.

Facebook and Instagram not only remove accounts run by or for sanctioned individuals or groups, but also posts that (they claim) praise or seek to assist the people in question – making sanctions a convenient excuse for mass-deplatforming any user who holds a political view the US government has deemed heresy.

Iranians saw insult added to injury when over a dozen Iranian journalists, several state-run media organizations, and countless ordinary individuals and activists’ Instagram accounts were yanked entirely in the days following Soleimani’s assassination. Many more saw pro-Soleimani posts removed, even when they carefully avoided saying his name – one Lebanese researcher praised “Q*ssem S*leim*ni” for protecting Christians from ISIS and al-Qaeda, only to have his video removed anyway.

The rank ideological discrimination not only left them unable to publicly mourn for a leader beloved by the lion’s share of the people, but allowed pro-regime-change trolls to dominate the narrative. Facebook has recently taken flack from the US political establishment for refusing to “fact-check” political ads, but non-advertising content is more tightly controlled than ever.

Facebook and Instagram are far from alone in clamping down on the speech of Iranian users, however – YouTube briefly deleted state-backed PressTV’s channel earlier this week, only to reactivate it after an outpouring of popular support.

Twitter removed state-backed media outlet Al-Alam News’ account, as well as that of the popular Iran-backed Spanish-language media outlet HispanTV, only reinstating the latter after a massive public backlash. Dozens of individual Iranians who supported their government were also deplatformed on Twitter, while anti-government users – many linked to notorious exile terror group Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK) – were allowed to continue slinging hate against Soleimani and his supporters. Twitter even dished out a ban to Syrian President Bashar Assad, but restored the account after a few days.

January 15, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 6 Comments

Twitter Shutters Dozens of Venezuelan Government-Linked Accounts

By Morgan Artyukhina | Sputnik | 08.01.2020

Dozens of Twitter accounts for figures and institutions related to the Venezuelan government, including military branches, political leaders and journalists, were suddenly suspended without explanation on Tuesday, a day after Washington condemned the National Assembly for failing to re-elect presidential claimant Juan Guaido.

The social media giant has suspended the accounts of numerous Venezuelan government institutions, including the country’s Army, Navy, National Guard, Air Force, Central Bank, Finance Ministry, Oil Ministry, National Center for Information Technology (CNTI) and National Commission for Information Technology.

The accounts of government figures like Victor Clark, the governor of Venezuela’s Falcon state; former Bolivarian National Army Forces General Commander Jesus Suarez; and Freddy Bernal, the coordinator of the country’s subsidized food distribution program, the Local Committees for Supply and Production (CLAP), were also shut down.

Still other accounts shuttered include Red Radio Venezuela, the presidential press office and the press office for the mayor of Caracas.

According to TeleSur, no explanation has been given for the suspensions, just a notice that the accounts had ostensibly violated Twitter’s terms of use.

While a few of the accounts have since been unlocked, such as Bernal’s and the Finance Ministry’s, most remain locked.

Toeing the State Department Line

TeleSur noted that according to Twitter’s rules, an account can be closed if it’s being used for spam, has been hacked, participates in abusive or bellicose behavior or impersonates another account – but the closed accounts haven’t violated any of these rules.

The crackdown mirrors one by the social media giant in September that targeted numerous Cuban news outlets and journalists. As Sputnik reported, dozens of Cuban accounts were shut down just moments before Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel addressed the nation about a chronic fuel shortage caused by US sanctions and collective methods of coping with the shortages.

Twitter has steadily treaded closer to the US State Department’s line in recent years, adopting the same bellicose stance against accounts associated with governments targeted by Washington, including those of Venezuela, Iran, Russia and China. Under the guise of combating disinformation, Twitter, along with Facebook and Google, have closed down accounts spreading information and news that run counter to the US government’s official line on events such as the Guaido’s declaration of his own interim presidency and the anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong. However, in the recent crackdowns on Cuban and Venezuelan accounts, Twitter has not even attempted to offer a veil of justification.

Washington Decries Guaido’s Ouster

On Sunday, Guaido failed to secure re-election as the speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly, a post he received in January 2019 amid rotating leadership of the legislature by the country’s opposition parties. Instead, 81 of the 150 lawmakers chose Luis Parra, an independent opposition member representing Yaracuy State.

Parra recently left the centrist opposition party Primero Justicia, the party of Henrique Capriles, who challenged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in the 2013 presidential election.

Unsure if he would win re-election, Guaido postured as if he had been barred entry to the legislature, attempting to scale the fences outside on Sunday. However, there’s no evidence Guaido was actually prevented from entering the building in a normal way, especially since Guaido loyalists like William Davila entered without trouble.

Video footage later emerged showing Guaido refusing to enter unless in the company of several lawmakers whose parliamentary immunity has been revoked for alleged criminal offenses, Venezuelanalysis noted.

After opposition members failed to convince Guaido to enter, he and they later met at the headquarters of anti-government newspaper El Nacional, declaring the parliament’s vote void and re-electing Guaido as speaker, with several figures standing in for legislators who had left the country.

Washington quickly denounced the events in the National Assembly, with US Vice President Mike Pence declaring Guaido the country’s “only legitimate president” and US Special Envoy to Venezuela Elliot Abrams promising new sanctions against Maduro.

Guaido’s claim to be interim president is recognized by roughly 50 countries, mostly European and US-allied nations, while Maduro, who won reelection in 2018, remains recognized as the president of Venezuela by roughly 75% of the world’s nations. Since January 23, 2019, Guaido has launched four attempted coups d’etat, each of which has gained less traction than the last.

January 9, 2020 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Facebook Blocks State-run Radio Pakistan’s Live Streaming for Highlighting Kashmir Issue

Sputnik – December 30, 2019

For four months, the Pakistani government has been accusing Twitter of suspending hundreds of accounts of Pakistanis for raising issue related to Indian-administered part of Kashmir. The communication blockade entered its 148th day in Kashmir since the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by Modi’s government.

Pakistan’s government has criticised the American social media giant Facebook for blocking the live streaming of news bulletins run by state-run Radio Pakistan, terming it a violation of basic human rights.

Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Ministry Firdous Ashiq Awan said that government will “make efforts for the restoration of the live streaming of Radio Pakistan’s news on Facebook”.

The minister said every time the state-run radio service tries to highlight “human rights violations” in Kashmir on social media platforms, “the accounts are suspended”.Earlier in the day, Radio Pakistan said its live streaming service of news bulletins was blocked for highlighting “Indian atrocities in Kashmir”.

The news coverage exposing “continued atrocities, curfew and military lockdown” led to the blockage, the statement read.

Radio Pakistan has also shared a screenshot message reportedly sent by Facebook in which the American firm claimed that “your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organisations”.

A huge number of Pakistani nationals have been venting their ire on social media since the Indian parliament revoked the decades-old temporary special status of Jammu and Kashmir State on 5 August and bifurcated it later into two federally-administered Union Territories.

A number of accounts of Pakistani journalists, activists and even some of government officials were suspended in August, triggering outrage among the people.

The Kashmir region has been a bone of contention for India and Pakistan. Both the nuclear-armed neighbours claim Kashmir in full but rule only part of the region.

December 30, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Media Censorship Reaches New Heights as Twitter Permanently Bans Dissent

Mnar Muhawesh speaks with journalist Daniel McAdams about being permanently banned from Twitter, social media censorship and more.

By Mnar Muhawesh – MintPress News – November 14, 2019

It’s an open secret. The deep state is working hand in hand with Silicon Valley social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Google to control the flow of information. That includes suppressing, censoring and sometimes outright purging dissenting voices – all under the guise of fighting fake news and Russian propaganda.

Most recently, it was revealed that Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa is an active officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations.

In other words: he specializes in disseminating propaganda.

The news left many wondering how a member of the British Armed Forces secured such an influential job in the media.

The bombshell that one of the world’s most influential social networks is controlled in part by an active psychological warfare officer was not covered at all in the New York Times, CNN, CNBC, MSNBC or Fox News, who appear to have found the news unremarkable.

But for those paying attention and for those who have been following MintPress News extensive coverage of social media censorship, this revelation was merely another example of the increasing closeness between the deep state and the fourth estate.

Amazon owner, and world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos was paid $600 million by the CIA to develop software and media for the agency, that’s more than twice as much as Bezos bought the Washington Post for, and a move media critics warn spells the end of journalistic independence for the Post.

Meanwhile, Google has a very close relationship with the State Department, its former CEO Eric Schmidt’s book on technological imperialism was heartily endorsed by deep state warmongers like Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton and Tony Blair.

In their book titled, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote:

What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first.

Another social media giant partnering with the military-industrial complex is Facebook. The California-based company announced last year it was working closely with the neoconservative think tank, The Atlantic Council, which is largely funded by Saudi Arabia, Israel and weapons manufacturers to supposedly fight foreign “fake news.”

The Atlantic Council is a NATO offshoot and its board of directors reads like a rogue’s gallery of warmongers, including the notorious Henry Kissinger, Bush-era hawks like Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, James Baker, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security and author of the PATRIOT Act, Michael Chertoff, a number of former Army Generals including David Petraeus and Wesley Clark and former heads of the CIA Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Michael Morell.

39 percent of Americans, and similar numbers of people in other countries, get their news from Facebook, so when an organization like the Atlantic Council is controlling what the world sees in their Facebook news feeds, it can only be described as state censorship on a global level.

After working with the council, Facebook immediately began banning and removing accounts linked to media in official enemy states like Iran, Russia and Venezuela, ensuring the world would not be exposed to competing ideas and purging dissident voices under the guise of fighting “fake news” and “Russian bots.”

Meanwhile, the social media platform has been partnering with the US and Israeli governments to silence Palestinian voices that show the reality of life under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The Israeli Justice Minister proudly revealed that Facebook complied with 95 percent of Israeli government requests to delete Palestinian pages. At the same time, Google deleted dozens of YouTube and blog accounts supposedly connected to the government of Iran.

In the last week alone, Twitter has purged several Palestinian news pages, including Quds News Network — without warning or explanation.

Electronic Intifada co-founder Ali Abunimah wrote,

This alarming act of censorship is another indication of the complicity of major social media firms in Israel’s efforts to suppress news and information about its abuses of Palestinian rights.

Alternative voices not welcome

The vast online purge of alternative voices has also been directed at internal “enemies.”

Publishers like Julian Assange and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning are still being held in solitary confinement in conditions that international bodies and human rights groups call torture, for their crime of revealing the extent of the global surveillance network and the control over the media that Western governments have built.

As attempts to re-tighten the state and corporate grip over our means of communication increases, high-quality alternative media are being hit the hardest, as algorithm changes from the media monoliths have deranked, demoted, deleted and disincentivized outlets that question official narratives, leading to huge falls in traffic and revenue.

The message from social media giants is clear: independent and alternative voices are not welcome.

One causality in this propaganda war is Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, a public advocacy group that argues that a non-interventionist foreign policy is crucial to securing a prosperous society at home. McAdams served as Senator Paul’s foreign affairs advisor between 2001 and 2012. Before that, he was a journalist and editor for the Budapest Sun and a human rights monitor across Eastern Europe.

McAdams, who spent much of his time on Twitter calling out the war machine supported by both parties, was recently permanently banned from the platform for so-called “hateful conduct.” His crime? Challenging Fox News anchor Sean Hannity over his hour-long segment claiming to be against the “deep state,” while simultaneously wearing a CIA lapel pin. In the exchange, McAdams called Hannity “retarded,” claiming he was becoming stupider every time he watched him.

Yes, despite that word and its derivatives having been used on Twitter over ten times in the previous minute, and often much more aggressively than McAdams used it – only McAdams fell victim to Twitter’s ban hammer. Something didn’t make sense about this ban. One only needs to read the replies under any of President Trump’s tweets to see far more hateful speech than what McAdams displayed to suspect foul play.

I spoke with McAdams about the ban and began by asking him if he accepts the premise of the ban, or if he believes something else was afoot.

November 15, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Video | , , | 1 Comment

Only thing clear about the new Transparency Act is that US senators are about to let Google keep manipulating your search results

By Michael Rectenwald | RT | November 10, 2019

In June, whistleblower Zach Vorhies dumped internal Google documents exposing the company’s shady practices and political agenda. Rather than investigate, US lawmakers are offering Big Tech political cover and a legislative decoy.

Internal documents and secret recordings continue to make abundantly clear what many already knew and others strongly suspected about Google and other digital goliaths; that Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and others manipulate their content and their users.

Stepping into the fray, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) has boasted that his new bill – the Filter Bubble Transparency Act – is the silver bullet for bursting user information filter bubbles, the predictable information dead ends that reinforce users’ pre-existing perspectives. He would have us believe that the use of personal user data by search engine algorithms is the real problem with the internet.

But this issue is the least of the problems that users face online. The bill’s co-sponsors hope we’ve forgotten – or never knew – that Google and the rest are not the unbiased, politically neutral information sources or social media platforms that they (so poorly) pretend to be. Far from it.

Google blacklists sources and prevents them from appearing in news results or featured links. Google’s blacklist is a manually curated file including over 500 websites that are excluded from news results.

Google applies fringe ranking to sites, downgrading those sites – but not The New York Times and The Washington Post – that promote “conspiracy theories” and “fake news.” Fringe ranking involves the manual grading of sites, although only those whose conspiracy theories or fake news stories fail to meet Google’s criteria for credible, plausible narratives are downgraded.

Google and YouTube use “hate speech” labeling, downgrading sites and videos they believe contain “hate speech.” YouTube scoring is apparently based solely on whether videos express “supremacism.”

Google and YouTube use “authoritativeness” scoring to rank sites and videos. The authoritativeness score is necessarily based on whether a news site or video conforms to Google or YouTube’s notions of credible and respectable views.

Last is the little-known fact that Google ranks websites against Wikipedia pages, treating Wikipedia as an unbiased and authoritative source. As Zach Vorhies told me in a private chat, “the core issue is that sites are not being ranked according to user data, they are being ranked against Wikipedia.” Websites are downgraded if Wikipedia pages contain negative information about them. Yet, as information age philosopher Jaron Lanier has noted, Wikipedia is notorious for its left-leaning political bias and its overwriting of known facts to suit its agenda. The issue has been addressed on Wikipedia itself.

Together, Google’s site-ranking methods favor liberal and left-leaning sites – but Google goes even further by steering voters toward preferred candidates and, in an insider video, the company made clear that it intends to intervene in the 2020 presidential election.

The Big Tech giants manipulate data and users and under questionable pretences and using highly subjective criteria. And they’ve done most of these things, or so they hoped, without our knowledge or permission.

The proposed legislation doesn’t even mention –let alone address– these practices. Instead, it pretends to talk tough. Google, Facebook, and other major search and social media platforms would be required to give users an option to use “input-transparent algorithms” that don’t incorporate user data in search results. Platform providers would have to disclose when they use “opaque algorithms” that use such user-connected data. Whoopee.

While it may be true that, as Sen. Thune suggests, the new internet bill was written to give users “more control over what they see online,” it leaves that control by and large in the hands of Google and other digital giants. The proposed bill deflects attention from the basis of this control – the manipulation of search results and use of other data-meddling and scoring tactics by big digital players. Whether intentionally or not, the Filter Bubble Transparency Act serves as a diversionary device, allowing Big Tech to hide in plain sight.

Michael Rectenwald is the author of nine books, including the most recent, Google Archipelago.

November 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 1 Comment