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The Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Big Tech Doesn’t Want You to Know

Corbett • 07/05/2019

Once a sleepy farming region, Silicon Valley is now the hub of a global industry that is transforming the economy, shaping our political discourse, and changing the very nature of our society. So what happened? How did this remarkable change take place? Why is this area the epicenter of this transformation? Discover the dark secrets behind the real history of Silicon Valley and the Big Tech giants in this important edition of The Corbett Report.
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TRANSCRIPT

Silicon Valley. Nestled in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, the Valley is not just a geographical location. It’s an idea. It’s an expression of the urge to digitize all of the information in the world, and to database, track and store that information. And as we are now beginning to learn, the result of that digitization of everything is a world without privacy. A world where our ability to participate in public debate is subject to the whims of big tech billionaires. A world where freedom is a thing of the past and no one is outside the reach of Big Brother.

For many, this is just a happy coincidence for the intelligence agencies that are seeking to capture and store every detail about every moment of our lives. It is just happenstance that the information-industrial complex now has enough information to track our every move, listen in on our every conversation, map our social networks, and, increasingly, predict our future plans. It is just a series of random events that led to the world of today.

But what the masses do not know is that Silicon Valley has a very special history. One that explains how we came to our current predicament, and one that speaks to the future that we are sleepwalking into. A future of total surveillance and total control by the Big Tech billionaires and their shadowy backers.

These are The Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Big Tech Doesn’t Want You to Know.

You’re tuned into The Corbett Report.

Once known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight,” the Santa Clara Valley was a bucolic, agrarian area known for its mild climate and blooming fruit trees. Until the 1960s, it was the largest fruit-producing-and-packing region in the world.

Today there are few reminders of the valley’s sleepy farming past. Now dubbed “Silicon Valley,” it is home to many of the world’s largest technology and social media companies, from Google and Facebook to Apple and Oracle, from Netflix and Cisco Systems to PayPal and Hewlett-Packard. It is the hub of a global industry that is transforming the economy, shaping our political discourse, and changing the very nature of our society.

So what happened? How did this remarkable change take place? Why is Silicon Valley the epicenter of this transformation?

The answer is surprisingly simple: WWII happened.

The influx of high-tech research and industry to the region is the direct result of the advent of WWII and the actions of one man: Frederick Terman.

Frederick was the son of Lewis Terman, a pioneer of educational psychology at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. An avowed eugenicist, Lewis Terman popularized IQ testing in America, helping to conduct the first mass administration of an IQ test for the US Army during America’s entry into the First World War.

Frederick Terman attended Stanford, earning an undergraduate degree in chemistry and a master’s degree in electrical engineering before heading to MIT to earn his doctorate in electrical engineering under Vannevar Bush. This connection came into play at the outbreak of World War II, when Bush—now heading up the US Office of Research and Development, which managed nearly all research and development for the US military during wartime—asked Terman to run the top-secret Radio Research Laboratory at Harvard University. There, Terman directed 800 of the country’s top researchers in the emerging field of electronic warfare. Their work included the development of some of the earliest signals intelligence and electronic intelligence equipment, including radar detectors, radar jammers and aluminum chaff to be used as countermeasures against German anti-air defenses.

The Valley as we know it today was born in the post-World War II era when Terman returned to Stanford as dean of the School of Engineering and set about transforming the school into the “MIT of the West.”

STEVE BLANK: Terman, with his war experience, decided to build Stanford into a center of excellence on microwaves and electronics, and he was the guy to do it. The Harvard Radio Research Lab was the pinnacle in the United States of every advanced microwave transmitter and receiver you could think of. And what he does is he recruits eleven former members of the radio research lab and says, “You know, we really don’t have a lab, but congratulations! You’re all now Stanford faculty!” “Oh great, thanks.” They joined Stanford and they set up their own lab: the Electronics Research Lab for basic and unclassified research. And they get the Office of Naval Research to give them their first contract—to actually fund in the post-war Stanford research into microwaves. By 1950, Terman turns Stanford’s engineering department into the MIT of the West, basically by taking all the war innovative R&D in microwaves, by moving it to Stanford, by taking the department heads and key staff.

SOURCE: Secret History of Silicon Valley

With the military research funds flowing into the region, Terman began transforming the San Francisco Bay Area into a high-tech research hot spot. In 1951, he spearheaded the creation of Stanford Industrial Park—now known as Stanford Research Park—a joint venture between Stanford and the City of Palo Alto to attract big technology corporations to the area. The park was a huge success, eventually luring Hewlett-Packard, General Electric, Kodak and other important technology firms, and cementing Silicon Valley as a nexus between Stanford, big tech and government-sponsored research.

And this connection was not tangential. As researcher Steve Blank writes in his own history of Silicon Valley’s military roots:

“During the 1950s Fred Terman was an advisor to every major branch of the US military. He was on the Army Signal Corps R&D Advisory Council, the Air Force Electronic Countermeasures Scientific Advisory Board, a Trustee of the Institute of Defense Analysis, the Naval Research Advisory Committee, the Defense Science Board, and a consultant to the President’s Science Advisory Committee. His commercial activities had him on the board of directors of HP, Watkins-Johnson, Ampex, and Director and Vice Chairman of SRI.  It’s amazing this guy ever slept. Terman was the ultimate networking machine for Stanford and its military contracts.”

It is no secret that Silicon Valley has thrived since the very beginning on Pentagon research dollars and DoD connections. From William Shockley (a rabid eugenicist who spent WWII as a director of Columbia University’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Group and who is sometimes cited as Silicon Valley’s other founding father for his work on silicon semiconductors) to the Stanford Research Institute (a key military contractor that had close ties to the Advanced Research Projects Agency [ARPA]) the US Defense Department has had a key role in shaping the development of the region.

The Stanford Research Institute (SRI) was spearheaded by Terman and created by the trustees of Stanford University in 1946. From its inception, the SRI was instructed to avoid pursuing federal contracts that might embroil Stanford in political matters. But within six months it had already broken this directive, pursuing contracts with the Office of Naval Intelligence. In the 1960s, at the same time that the institute’s Artificial Intelligence Center was creating “Shakey,” the “first mobile robot that could reason about its surroundings,” SRI was targeted by Vietnam War protesters for its contract work with ARPA, the Pentagon arm devoted to developing cutting edge technology. The pressure caused Stanford University to formally cut its ties with SRI in the 1970s, but the institute’s military-funded research did not stop there.

The Stanford Research Institute was to become the second node in the ARPANET, the Pentagon-created packet-switching network that gave birth to the modern-day internet. The first message ever sent between two computers was sent on the ARPANET between a computer at UCLA and one at SRI.

It was the head of ARPA’s command and control division, Robert Kahn, who set up the first experimental mobile network (known as “PRNET”) around Silicon Valley and formed the initial satellite network (“SATNET”) that connected the early internet internationally. In 1973, Kahn enlisted the help of Vint Cerf, an assistant professor at Stanford University, to develop—as a Department of Defense project—the TCP/IP protocol suite that would help make the internet possible.

In a recent panel discussion hosted by DARPA, the latest moniker for what was originally ARPA, Vint Cerf admitted that the entire ARPANET project was dictated by the Pentagon’s needs for a command and control system that would be responsive to military requirements:

VINT CERF: The internet was motivated by a belief that command and control could make use of computers in order to enable the Defense Department to use its resources better than an opponent. In that particular case—Bob in particular started the program at DARPA in the early 1970s—[we] realized that we had to have the computers in ships at sea, and in aircraft, and in mobile vehicles, and the ARPANET had only done dedicated, fixed . . . You know, machines that were in air-conditioned rooms connected together—you know, roughly speaking, dedicated telephone circuits. So you can’t connect the tanks together with wires because they run over them and they break, and the airplanes, they’ll never make it off the ground, you know, you can see all . . . So this led to the need for mobile radio communication and satellite communication in a networked environment.

The question about global nature here is easily answered. At least I thought we were doing this for the Defense Department, which would have to operate everywhere in the world. And so it could not be as a design that in some way was limited to CONUS, for example. And it also could not be a design that depended at all on the cooperation of other countries allocating, for example, address space. I mean, the sort of silly model of this is if we use country codes to indicate different networks . . . different network identifiers. Imagine that you’ve got to invade country B and before you do that you have to go and say, “Hi, we’re gonna invade your country in a couple of weeks and we need some address space to run another call system.” Yeah, you know, it probably wasn’t gonna work. So we knew it had to be global in scope.

SOURCE: From ARPAnet to the Internet, Web, Cloud, and Beyond: What’s Next?

One of the first demonstrations of the protocol—a 1977 test involving a van equipped with radio gear by SRI that is now dubbed the birth of the modern internet—even simulated “a mobile unit in the field, let’s say in Europe, in the middle of some kind of action trying to communicate through a satellite network to the United States.”

But while direct investment in this technological revolution suited the purposes of the Pentagon, the US intelligence community was pursuing other, more covert avenues for harnessing the incredible potential of Silicon Valley and its surveillance technologies. With the advent of the Cold War and the increased tensions between the US and the USSR in a new, highly technological game of “spy vs. spy,” the funding for research and development of cutting edge technology was placed under a cover of national security and classified.

BLANK: But in the early 1950s, the Korean War changes the game. Post-World War II—those who know your history—we basically demobilized our troops, mothballed our bombers and our fighters, and said, “We’re going to enjoy the post-war benefits.” 1949, the Soviets explode their first nuclear weapon. The Cold War, with the Korean War, becomes hot. All of a sudden, the United States realizes that the world’s changed again, and spook work comes to Stanford.

The military approaches Terman and asks him to set up the Applied Electronics Lab to do classified military programs, and doubles the size of the electronics program at Stanford. They said, “Well, we’ll keep this separate from the unclassified Electronics Research Lab.” But for the first time it made Stanford University a full partner with the military in government R&D.

SOURCE: Secret History of Silicon Valley

The arrival of intelligence agency investment money created a new relationship between the government and the researchers in the Valley. Rather than directly hiring the technology companies to produce the technology, consumer electronics would increasingly be regulated, directed, overseen and infiltrated by government workers, who could then use that technology as the basis for a worldwide signals intelligence operation, directed not only at the militaries of foreign countries, but at the population of the world as a whole.

Now cloaked in a shroud of national security, the government’s role in the development of Big Tech has been largely obscured. But, if you know where to look, the fingerprints of the intelligence agencies are still visible on nearly every major company and technology to emerge from Silicon Valley.

Take Oracle Corporation, for instance. The third-largest software corporation in the world, Oracle is famed for its eponymous database software. What many do not know is that the “Oracle” name itself comes from the firm’s first customer: the CIA. “Project Oracle” was the CIA codename for a giant relational database that was being constructed on contract by Ampex, a Silicon Valley firm. Assigned to the project were Larry Ellison, Bob Miner and Ed Oates. Although Project Oracle “was something of a disaster” it did lead Ellison and his partners to spin off Oracle Corporation, which to this day gets 25% of its business from government contracts.

Or take Sun Microsystems. Founded in 1982, the Silicon Valley software and hardware giant’s flagship Unix workstation, the “Sun-1”, as ComputerWorld explains, “owes its origins rather directly to a half-dozen major technologies developed at multiple universities and companies, all funded by ARPA.” Sun was acquired by Oracle in 2010 for $7.4 billion.

But to an entire generation growing up today, this is ancient history. Sure, the intelligence agencies and the Defense Department were involved in the founding of these Silicon Valley stalwarts. But what about the Silicon Valley of today? What does this have to do with Google or Facebook or PayPal or the Big Tech giants that have become synonymous with computing in the age of the internet?

The modern era of Silicon Valley began in the 1990s, when the advent of the World Wide Web brought the full potential of the computing revolution into homes across America and around the globe. This was the era of the dotcom bubble, when small start-ups with no business plan and no revenue could become million-dollar companies overnight. And behind it all, steering the revolution from the shadows, were the intelligence agencies, who helped fund the core technologies and platforms of the modern internet.

One of the first problems confronting early users of the web was how to search through the dizzying array of personal web sites, corporate web pages, government sites and other content that was coming online every day. In order for the web to turn from a playground for tech geeks and hobbyists into a ubiquitous communication tool, there would need to be a way to quickly sort through the vast amount of information available and return a relevant list of websites to lead users to useful information. Early iterations of online search, including personally curated lists of interesting sites and primitive search engines that relied on simple keyword matching, failed to live up to the task.

By happy coincidence, the problem of cataloguing, indexing, sorting and querying vast troves of information was one that the intelligence agencies were also working on. As the masses of data flowing through the internet gave rise to the era of Big Data, the NSA, the CIA and other members of the US intelligence community recruited the best and the brightest young minds in the country to help them store, search and analyze this information . . . and those searching for it. And, as usual, they turned to Stanford University and the Silicon Valley whiz kids for help.

Google—as the now familiar story goes—started out as a research project of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two graduate students at Stanford University. Unsurprisingly, one does not have to dig very deep to find the connection to the Defense Department. DARPA—the current name of the oft-rebranded ARPA—was one of the seven military, civilian and law enforcement sponsors of the “Stanford Digital Libraries Project,” which helped fund Page and Brin’s research. DARPA was even thanked by name in the white paper where the idea for Google was first laid out: “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.”

Less well-known is the “Massive Digital Data Systems” project spearheaded by the US intelligence community and funded through unclassified agencies like the National Science Foundation. As an email introducing the project to researchers at major US universities in 1993 explains, it was designed to help the intelligence agencies take “a proactive role in stimulating research in the efficient management of massive databases and ensuring that I[ntelligence] C[ommunity] requirements can be incorporated or adapted into commercial products.”

As Jeff Nesbit—former director of legislative and public affairs for the National Science Foundation—detailed in a revealing 2017 article for qz.com on Google’s true origin:

“The research arms of the CIA and NSA hoped that the best computer-science minds in academia could identify what they called ‘birds of a feather:'[sic] Just as geese fly together in large V shapes, or flocks of sparrows make sudden movements together in harmony, they predicted that like-minded groups of humans would move together online.[. . .]

“Their research aim was to track digital fingerprints inside the rapidly expanding global information network, which was then known as the World Wide Web. Could an entire world of digital information be organized so that the requests humans made inside such a network be tracked and sorted? Could their queries be linked and ranked in order of importance? Could ‘birds of a feather’ be identified inside this sea of information so that communities and groups could be tracked in an organized way?”

The project dispersed more than a dozen grants of several million dollars each to help realize this goal of tracking, sorting and mining online behavior in order to identify and categorize communities and track groups in real life. And one of the first recipients of this grant money? Sergey Brin’s team at Stanford and their research into search query optimization.

From its very founding and continuing right through to the present day, Google has maintained close ties to America’s intelligence, military and law enforcement apparatuses. As with all matters of so-called “national security,” however, we only get a window into that relationship from the public and declassified record of contracts and agreements that the tech giant has left in its wake.

In 2003, Google signed a $2.1 million contract with the National Security Agency, the US intelligence community’s shadowy surveillance arm that is responsible for collecting, storing and analyzing signals intelligence in foreign intelligence and counterintelligence operations. Google built the agency a customized search tool “capable of searching 15 million documents in twenty-four languages.” So important was this relationship to Google that when the contract expired in April 2004, they extended it for another year at no cost to the government.

In 2005, it was revealed that In-Q-Tel—the CIA’s venture capital arm and itself the perfect encapsulation of the intelligence agencies’ relationship with Silicon Valley—had sold over 5,000 shares of Google stock. It is not exactly clear how the CIA’s venture capital firm ended up with 5,000 shares of Google stock, but it is believed to have come when Google bought out Keyhole Inc., the developer of the software that later become Google Earth. The company’s name, “Keyhole,” is a none-too-subtle reference to the Keyhole class of reconnaissance satellites that the US intelligence agencies have been using for decades to commit 3D imaging and mapping analysis. Keyhole, Inc. worked closely with the US intelligence community and even bragged that its technology was being used by the Pentagon to support the invasion of Iraq. To this day, the CIA itself describes Google Earth as “CIA-assisted technology” on its own page dedicated to “CIA’s Impact on Technology.”

In 2010, details of a formal NSA-Google relationship began to emerge, but both parties refused to divulge any further information about the relationship. Subsequent reporting suggested that Google had “agreed to provide information about traffic on its networks in exchange for intelligence from the NSA about what it knew of foreign hackers.” More details emerged from a Freedom of Information Act request in 2014, which revealed that Sergey Brin and Eric Schmidt were not only on a first name basis with then-NSA chief General Keith Alexander, but that Google was part of a “secretive government initiative known as the Enduring Security Framework,” and that this initiative involved Silicon Valley partnering with the Pentagon and the US intelligence community to share information “at network speed.”

The Enduring Security Freedom initiative is just one window into how Big Tech can reap big dollars from their relationship with the NSA. In 2013, it emerged that the participants in the PRISM program—the illegal surveillance program which allowed the NSA backdoor access to all information and user data of all of the Big Tech companies—were reimbursed for the program’s expenses by a shadowy arm of the agency known as “Special Source Operations.”

MARINA PORTNAYA: The entire process reportedly cost PRISM participants millions of dollars to implement each successful extension, and those costs, according to US documents, were covered by an arm of the NSA known as “Special Source Operations.” According to The Guardian newspaper, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has described Special Source Operations as the “crown jewel” of the agency that handles all surveillance programs that rely on corporate partnership with telecoms and internet providers to access communication data. Now, this revelation is being considered evidence that a financial relationship between tech companies and the NSA has existed. And as The Guardian newspaper put it, the disclosure that taxpayers money was used to cover the company’s compliance costs raises new questions surrounding the relationship between Silicon Valley and the NSA.

SOURCE: NSA Paid Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo To Spy On You

The PRISM program itself proves that the military and intelligence agency ties to modern day Silicon Valley do not end with Google. In fact, every one of the Silicon Valley stalwarts that dominate the web today have similar ties to the shadowy world of spooks and spies.

In June 2003, the Information Processing Techniques Office—the information technology wing of DARPA that had overseen the original ARPANET project in the 1960s—quietly posted a “Broad Agency Announcement” to its website to request proposals for an ambitious new project. Labeled “BAA # 03-30,” this “proposer information pamphlet” requested proposals from developers to build an “an ontology-based (sub)system” called LifeLog that “captures, stores, and makes accessible the flow of one person’s experience in and interactions with the world.”

The idea, which seemed somewhat fantastic in 2003, was that users of LifeLog would wear a device that would capture and record all of their transactions and interactions, physical movements, email and phone calls, and a variety of other information. The LifeLog would be presented to users “as a stand-alone system to serve as a powerful automated multimedia diary and scrapbook,” but, as the announcement goes on to reveal, the data collected would be used to help DARPA create a new class of truly ‘cognitive’ systems that can reason in a variety of ways.”

If it had gone ahead, LifeLog would have been a virtual diary of everywhere that its users went, everything they did, everyone they talked to, what they talked about, what they bought, what they saw and listened to, and what they planned to do in the future. It immediately drew criticism as an obvious attempt by the government to create a tool for profiling enemies of the state, and even supporters of the plan were forced to admit that LifeLog “could raise eyebrows if [DARPA] didn’t make it clear how privacy concerns would be met.”

But then, without explanation, the announcement was withdrawn and the project was dropped. DARPA spokesman Jan Walker chalked the cancellation up to “A change in priorities” at the agency, but researchers close to the project admitted that they were baffled by the sudden stopping of the program. “I am sure that such research will continue to be funded under some other title,” wrote one MIT researcher whose colleague had spent weeks working on the proposal. “I can’t imagine DARPA ‘dropping out’ of such a key research area.”

The cancellation of LifeLog was reported by Wired.com on February 4, 2004. That very same day, a Harvard undergrad named Mark Zuckerberg officially launched “TheFacebook.com,” the first incarnation of Facebook, which collects vast amounts of data on its users, offering them the promise of “a powerful automated multimedia diary and scrapbook,” but, as has become more and more evident in recent years, using and selling that data for ulterior motives.

But it is not just this interesting coincidence that connects Facebook to DARPA. Once again, the money that helped “TheFacebook” go from a Harvard “student project” to a multi-billion user internet giant involved a relocation to Silicon Valley and copious injections of venture capital from intelligence-connected insiders. Facebook moved to Palo Alto, California, in 2004 and received its first investment of $500,000 from Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal. But the real money, and the real interest in Facebook, arrived in 2005, in the form of a $12.7 million investment from Accel Partners and an additional $1 million from Accel’s Jim Breyer. Breyer, it turns out, had some interesting connections of his own.

NARRATOR: First venture capital money totaling $500,000 came to The Facebook from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, founder and former CEO of PayPal. He also serves on the board of radical conservative group Vanguard DAC. Further funding came in the form of $12.7 million dollars from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Accel’s manager, James Breyer, was former chair of the National Venture Capital Association. Breyer served on the National Venture Capital Association’s board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. This firm works in various aspects of information technology and intelligence, including, most notably, nurturing data mining technologies. Breyer has also served on the board of BBN Technologies, a research and development firm known for spearheading the ARPANET, or what we know today as the internet.

In October of 2004, Dr. Anita Jones climbed on board BBN along with Gilman Louie, but what is most interesting is Dr. Jones’ experience prior to joining BBN. Jones herself served on the board of directors for In-Q-Tel and was previously the director of defense research and engineering for the US Department of Defense. Her responsibilities included serving as an advisor to the Secretary of Defense and overseeing the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

This goes farther than just the initial appearances. DARPA shot to national fme in 2002, when knowledge of the existence of the Information Awareness Office (IAO) came to light. The IAO stated its mission was to gather as much information as possible about everyone in a centralized location for easy perusal by the United States government, including but not limited to: internet activity; credit card purchase history; airline ticket purchases; car rentals; medical records; educational transcripts; driver’s licenses; utility bills; tax returns; and any other available data.

SOURCE: Facebook CIA connection

It should come as no surprise, then, that the ex-director of DARPA, Regina Dugan, was hired by Google in 2012 to head its Advanced Technology and Projects group, and that she was then hired by Facebook in 2016 to head their “Building 8” research group focusing on experimental technologies like brain sensors and artificial intelligence. Nor is it a surprise to learn that DARPA is already working to weaponize Facebook’s Oculus virtual reality technology for fighting cyberwar.

Nor is it a surprise that Facebook seed money investor Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, developed Palantir—a data-mining and analysis tool used by the NSA, FBI, CIA and other intelligence, counterterrorism and military agencies—from PayPal’s own fraud-detection algorithm. Or that In-Q-Tel was one of the first outside investors in the Palantir technology, which has gained notoriety in recent years for “using War on Terror tools to track American citizens.”

Nor is it a surprise to learn that Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and current technical advisor to Google parent company Alphabet, is now the chairman of the Pentagon’s “Defense Innovation Board,” which seeks to bring the efficiency and vision of Silicon Valley to the Defense Department’s high-tech innovation initiatives.

Nor is it surprising that Schmidt, in addition to being a member of the elitist Trilateral Commission, is on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group, a cabal of financiers, industrialists, high-ranking public officials, military brass and royalty that has been meeting annually in nearly total secrecy since 1954. Nor is it surprising that the Bilderberg Group now counts a number of Silicon Valley stalwarts among its ranks, from Schmidt and Thiel to Palantir CEO Alex Karp and former Electronic Frontiers Foundation chair Esther Dyson.

In fact, it would be more surprising to find a major Silicon Valley company that was not connected to the US military or to the US intelligence agencies one way or another. This is not an accident of history or a mere coincidence. The very origins of the internet were in shadowy Pentagon programs for developing the perfect command and control technologies. From the earliest attempts to form electronic databases of information on counterinsurgents in Vietnam right through to today, this technology—as Yasha Levine, author of Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, explains—was intended to be used as a tool of warfare against target populations.

YASHA LEVINE: To understand what the internet is and what the internet has become, you have to go back to the very beginning. Back to the 1960s, when the internet was being created by the Pentagon. Back then, America was a relatively new global empire facing an increasingly chaotic and violent world. There was the Vietnam War—that was central—but the US was facing insurgencies all around the world, from Latin America to Southeast Asia. It was also facing an increasingly volatile and violent domestic environment. You had the anti-war movement. You had militant black activism. You had groups like The Weather Underground that were setting off bombs seemingly daily in cities all across the country. You had race riots in major cities.

And America’s paranoid generals looked at this, right, and they saw a vast communist conspiracy, of course. They saw the Soviet Union expanding globally, underwriting insurgencies all around the world, backing countries that were opposed to America. At the same time they were underwriting opposition movements in America, and they saw this as a new kind of war that was happening. This is not a traditional war that you could fight with traditional weapons. This is not a war that you could drop a nuke on. It was not a war that you could send a tank division into, because the combatants did not wear uniforms and they did not march in formation. They were part of the civilian population of the conflict that they were taking part in.

So it was as a new kind of war and new kind of global insurgency. And in certain rarefied circles in the military, people who were familiar with the new kind of computer technology being developed, they believe that the only way to fight and win this new war was to develop new information weapons—computer technology that could: ingest data on people and political movements; that could combine opinion surveys, economic data, criminal histories, draft histories, photographs, telephone conversations intercepted by security services; and put that all into databases that could allow analysts to perform sophisticated analysis on it and run predictive surveys. The idea was you have to find out who the enemy is and isolate it from the general population, and then take that enemy out. And at the time some even dreamed of one day creating a global system of management that could watch the world in real-time and intercept threats before they happened in much the same way that America’s early warning radar defense system did for hostile aircraft.

This is the general background from which the internet emerged. Today the counterinsurgency origins of the internet have been obscured. They’ve been lost for the most part. Very few histories even mention it, even in a little bit. But at the time that it was being created in the 1960s, the origins of the internet and the origins of this technology as a tool of surveillance and as a tool of control were very obvious to people back then. At the time people did not see computers and computer networks as tools of liberation or utopian technologies, they saw them as tools of political and social control—and that specifically included the ARPANET, the network that would later grow into the internet.

SOURCE: Yasha Levine: Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet

The internet was never intended as a tool of liberation. It was from its very inception intended to be a tool for tracking, surveilling and, ultimately, controlling a target population. And in the volatile environment of the 1960s, that “target population” quickly morphed from the Viet Cong counterinsurgents into the American public itself and anyone else who could pose a threat to the Pentagon’s ambitions at home or abroad.

Seen in the light of this history, recent developments on the internet make more sense. Silicon Valley did not spring out of the California soil by itself. It was carefully seeded there by the military and intelligence agencies that require this technology to fight the information warfare of the 21st century.

The Department of Defense did not announce in 2003 that they were going to “fight the net” as if it were an enemy weapons system because they were afraid the internet could be weaponized by their enemies. They knew it was already a weapon because they themselves had weaponized it.

The US government is not afraid of the Russians and their ability to “undermine American democracy” by purchasing thousands of dollars of advertising on Facebook. They were the ones who envisioned a LifeLog system to observe and control the population in the first place.

The Pentagon does not fret about the security vulnerabilities of the internet. It exploits those vulnerabilities to develop some of the most destructive cyberweapons yet unleashed, including the US/Israeli-developed Stuxnet.

And, as the next generation of networking technologies threatens to add not just our Facebook data and our Google searches and our tweets and our purchases to the government’s databases, but actually to connect every object in the world directly to those databases, the military is once again at the cutting edge of the next internet revolution.

SEAN O’KEEFE: Internet of Things is penetrating an ever0wider swath of daily life and the global economy. Our good friends and helpful proliferators of information at Wikipedia define the Internet of Things as the network of physical objects—things embedded with electronics (software sensors, network connectivity)—which enables these objects to collect and exchange data. Essentially it allows objects to be sensed and control remotely, creating an integration between physical world and computer systems. Think smart grid: energy systems related to each other to maximize efficiency and all tied to that objective. Internet of Things is transforming modern business, leveraging embedded sensors, connectivity, digital analytics, and the automation to deliver greater efficiency and effectiveness on a wide range of market fronts.

The military has been a leader in developing many of the Internet of Things component technologies, but can do more to leverage the benefits of Internet of Things solutions. The broader national security establishment also faces unique challenges in adopting Internet of Things technologies ranging from security and mission assurance to infrastructure and cost constraints and cultural hurdles. Now, in September, just a couple of months ago, the CSIS Strategic Technologies Program released a report: Leveraging the Internet of Things for a More Efficient and Effective Military, which outlines how the military can adopt lessons from the private sector to take advantage of these broader benefits of Internet of Things.

SOURCE: Leveraging the Internet of Things for a More Efficient and Effective Military – Opening Keynote

From the earliest days of networked computing—when the ARPANET was still just a twinkle in its engineers’ eyes and famed ARPA computer scientist J. C. R. Licklider was writing memos to his colleagues in Palo Alto updating them on his vision for an “Intergalactic Computer Network”—to today, when DARPA scientists are plotting military uses for the Internet of Things,the technology underpinning the US government’s plans for full-spectrum dominance of the cyber world has advanced by leaps and bounds. But the vision itself remains the same.

In this vision, every person is tracked, their conversations recorded, their purchases monitored, their social networks mapped, their habits studied, and, ultimately, their behaviours predicted, so that the Pentagon and the spies of Silicon Valley can better control the human population. And, with the advent of technologies that ensure that every item we own will be spying on us and broadcasting that data through networks that are compromised by the intelligence agencies, that vision is closer than ever to a reality.

And there, helping that vision to come to reality, are the giants of Big Tech who were founded, funded, aided and, when needed, compromised by the spooks, spies and soldiers who desire complete control over the cyber world.

This is the secret of Silicon Valley. In a key sense, the Big Tech giants are the Pentagon and the intelligence community. The DoD and the intelligence agencies are the Big Tech giants. It was this way from the very dawn of modern computing, and it remains this way today.

We should not be surprised that the world of the internet—the world bequeathed to us by the ARPANET—is increasingly looking like an always-on surveillance device. That was what it was intended to be.

Yet the public, blissfully unaware of this reality (or willfully ignorant of it) continues to record their every move in their Facebook LifeLog, flock like birds of a feather to ask their most intimate questions of Google, and feed their personal data into the gaping maw of the PRISM beast.

It may be too late to pull back from the brink of this always-on, always-surveilled, wireless networked precipice . . . but until we look squarely at the facts showing that Big Tech is a front for the US government, we will never hope to escape the silicon trap that they have laid for us.

July 9, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Google Promising Real-Time Censorship

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | July 5, 2019

Google has changed their algorithm so that it actively suppresses “misinformation” when “bad events” are taking place. This is pretty big news if you’re interested in free speech or the free flow of information. Nobody in the media treated it that way.

In fact, you probably didn’t see it at all. Almost no papers covered it – and the major one that did, The Guardian, buried back in the “science and technology” section.

The idea that Google suppresses “misinformation”, and boosts “authoritative voices” is not new. We already know they do that. The new part is that they will do it in real-time, they will respond to “tragic events” by focusing more on blocking “misinformation” at “criticial times”.

Pandu Nayak, the Google representative interviewed for the article, summed it up thus:

…we have developed algorithms that recognise that a bad event is taking place and that we should increase our notions of ‘authority’, increase the weight of ‘authority’ in our ranking so that we surface high quality content rather than misinformation in this critical time here.”

He is directly referencing mass shootings in the Sandy Hook vein, but he could just as well be talking about terrorist attacks, natural disasters, election results or war.

When he says “high quality content” (sic) he means corporate media. When he says “authority”, he means government sources.

Essentially, Google – the most powerful company on Earth – is going to be tightening its control on the flow of information when important news is breaking.

This is a step backwards for the internet, and the world. And it’s a direct response to challenges to state-backed narratives in multiple theatres of information warfare.

Take the Gulf of Oman incident. Compare and contrast: The Gulf of Oman, the USS Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin. The similarities are obvious, I won’t bother explaining.

The difference? Real-time flow of facts. Social media allowed people to comment on the flaws in the narrative instantly. The internet lets people see/hear Iran’s side of the narrative quickly and easily.

That open communication is the difference between a propagandised populace baying for blood, and an informed public asking the right questions. The difference between “historical realisation” decades after the fact, and instantaneous fact-checking. The difference between war and peace.

The almost-war with Iran is just the most recent example. Going back years now “official narratives” have faced a heretofore unknown level of challenge. The sheer number of people calling BS on the Skripal affair and the Douma chemical attack prevented a stronger reaction to both those false flags.

The war in Syria didn’t happen. The war in Iraq did. People believed babies were thrown out of incubators, but never bought that Assad had gassed his own people. All because of the direct channel of communication between people who know the truth and the people who want the truth.

That’s the channel Google are trying to close. Google, and Facebook, and Twitter and everyone else.

And, of course, the press cheers them on. Demanding we have our rights taken away for the sake of freedom, and applauding when some massive corporate conglomeration places yet another restriction on the liberty of the individual.

The Guardian has always been at the forefront of that push, with their absurd “Web We Want” section (which died a swift death, fortunately).

This article uses all the usual tricks, dressing the issue up in emotionally manipulative language – citing mass shootings and holocaust denial as if free speech precludes being wrong or offensive (it doesn’t).

The specifics don’t matter. Examples don’t matter. All that matters are the precedent and the future applications.

This is about what all “safeguards” on the internet are about – controlling the narrative. The old idiom still applies:
Knowledge IS power.

Right now WE have it, and THEY want to take it back.

Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.

July 8, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

Google’s Empire: The Science Fiction of Power

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | June 28, 2019

For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to make a film about libraries,” explains Ben Lewis, the director of Google and the World Brain (2013). About libraries, he says, “they are my favourite places to be. Serene, beautiful repositories of the best thoughts that men and women have ever had”. Political economy, and the rights of citizens in a democracy, also loom large in Lewis’ estimation of the importance of libraries. As he states, libraries are: “Free to use. Far from the din of modern capitalism, libraries are the epitome of the public institution. There is simply nothing bad about a library. It is my paradise”. While praising the value of the Internet, Lewis warns, “the Internet also takes things from us, without asking”. Marrying the Internet and libraries raises hugely problematic issues, especially in the case of Google’s book-scanning project—problems surrounding copyright, national cultures and surveillance.

The political economy of knowledge production is one of the central areas of research interest that constitute the Zero Anthropology Project. This documentary was a good match for that interest, especially as it provokes a number of “big questions”: What are the social and political consequences of knowledge centralization? How, or when, is the digitization of knowledge problematic, and for whom? What role do libraries play in contemporary society? Does copyright protect much more than just authors’ rights and publishers’ profit-making activities? How is the digitization of knowledge linked to surveillance and governance? Should private corporations play any part in creating and/or controlling a universal library? Is a universal library even possible?

Google and the World Brain (2013)

If you were looking for a documentary that was not just another evangelical tract about how “information wants to be free,” spoken by wide-eyed zealots of “open access,” then this is the film for you. While beginning with enthusiasm for open access, for nearly a decade now Zero Anthropology has been warning about the dangers of open access, especially when it comes to facilitating the flow of information to the imperialist military of the US, or bolstering US academic hegemony. Ben Lewis’ Google and the World Brain shows us that we are on the right track. Yet some will argue that there are questionable aspects of Lewis’ critiques and the way they are presented in the film.

Directed by Ben Lewis, Google and the World Brain (2013) runs for 89 minutes. A trailer is included below, but the film in its entirety can be seen online, for free, on Archive.org and on the website of Polar Star Films. If you have 89 minutes to spare, please view it and then let us know if the following analysis was either flawed or unfair.

A trailer for the film is available below:

Polar Star Films, which produced Google and the World Brain, provided a detailed synopsis of the film which forms the basis for the following overview of the film.

Overview

Google and the World Brain is the story of “the most ambitious project ever attempted on the Internet: Google’s project to scan every book in the world and create not just a giant digital global library, but a higher form of intelligence”. The film’s critique draws from the dystopian warnings of H.G. Wells who in his 1937 essay “World Brain” predicted the creation of a universal library that contained all of humanity’s written knowledge, and which would be accessible to all of humanity. However, this would not just be a library in the sense of a static holding of inventoried contents, rather it would form the foundation for an all-knowing entity that would eliminate the need for nation-states and governments. With every increase in the quantity of information that it possessed, the globalist World Brain would be better able to rule over all of humanity, and would thus monitor every human being on the planet.

Supposedly Wells’ dystopian vision of technological progress (has progress ever really produced anything other than a succession of dystopias?) was just science fiction. However, this film shows how a World Brain is being brought into existence on the Internet: “Wikipedia, Facebook, Baidu in China and other search engines around the world  are all trying to build their own world brains—but none had a plan as bold, far-reaching and transformative as Google did with its Google Books project”.

Starting in 2002, Google began its project of scanning the world’s books. To do so, they entered into legal agreements with major university libraries in the US, most notably those of Harvard, Stanford, and Michigan, and then expanded to include deals with the Bodleian Library at Oxford in the UK and the Catalonian National Library in Spain. The goal was not simply the collection of all books—instead, as Lewis’ film argues, there was “a higher and more secretive purpose” which was to develop a new form of Artificial Intelligence.

Of the 10 million books scanned by Google by the time this documentary was made, six million of them were under copyright. This fact provoked authors, publishers, and some librarians around the world to not only protest Google, but also to take legal and political action against it. In the fall of 2005 the Authors Guild of America and the Association of American Publishers filed lawsuits against Google. That resulted in a 350-page agreement negotiated with Google, which was unveiled in October of 2008.

However, that agreement which involved Google paying a settlement of $125 million, also granted Google Books huge new powers. The result was that Google would become the world’s biggest bookstore and commercialized library. Google now had the exclusive right to sell scans of all out-of-print books that were still in copyright. What this meant is that Google had a monopoly over the majority of books published in the 20th-century.

Reacting against this settlement, Harvard University withdrew its support for Google’s project. Authors in Japan and China joined a worldwide opposition to Google’s book-scanning. The governments of France and Germany also condemned the agreement. In the US, the Department of Justice launched an anti-trust investigation. Starting in late 2009, US Judge Denny Chin held hearings in New York to assess the validity of the 2008 Google Book Settlement, and in March of 2011 he struck it down.

Google altered its plan in order to continue with a version of its book-scanning project. Google signed deals with many individual publishers that would allow Google to show parts of their books online. Google also continued to scan books out-of-copyright. What Google was not able to do was carry out its master plan for an exclusive library that it controlled alone. The Authors Guild also persevered with  suing Google for up to $2 billion in damages for scanning copyrighted books.

In this documentary, Google occupies the spotlight. Issues of copyright, privacy, data-mining, downloading, surveillance, and freedom come to the fore as a result.

The key figures interviewed in this film include some of the leading Internet analysts such as Evgeny Morozov, Jaron Lanier, Kevin Kelly, Clay Shirky, and Pamela Samuelson. Librarians in charge of some of the world’s leading libraries are also interviewed, including Robert Darnton (Harvard), Reginald Carr and Richard Ovendon (Bodleian), Jean-Noel Jeanneney (French National Library). In addition, authors involved in the struggle against Google Books such as Charles Seife, Roland Reuss, and Mian Mian (a best-selling Chinese author), are also key figures in the film.

The filmmakers challenge utopian visions of the Internet as the hoped for means of spreading democracy, freedom, and culture around the globe. Instead, the film argues that the Internet has enabled practices contrary to those ideals by, “undermining our civil liberties, free markets and human rights, while concentrating power and wealth in the hands of powerful new monopolies over which we have little influence”.

Polar Star Films ends its synopsis with this very important warning and urgent call for action:

“Humanity now stands at a crossroads. We can either take action to ensure that all the information and knowledge that the Internet is providing serves us, or we can remain passive consumers, and wait for all that information to take control over us. Whatever we do in the next few years will shape society for centuries to come”.

Contemporary Globalization as Science Fiction

H.G. Wells has to be one of the most prescient thinkers of the past two centuries. It is astounding just how far his supposed science “fiction” was in fact an outline discerning what would soon become reality. He had a particularly keen sense of the patterns taking shape around him, and just as keen a vision of the direction in which forces would move the world.

This is not the first time that we resort to the work of H.G. Wells which, under the guise of “fiction,” seemed to provide what global leaders would then adopt as a plan of action. In “The Shape of Things to Come in Libya,” we witnessed the applicability of Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come with its domineering figures, the “United Airmen”—progressivist autocrats who proclaimed themselves “freemasons of science”. Precursors to the neoliberal globalist mode of governance, the United Airmen came to vanquish local warlords and end all national governments, declaring independent sovereign states at an end, even if it meant war to erase them from the face of the earth.

Google and the World Brain opens with these words from the 1937 essay, “World Brain,” by H.G. Wells:

“There is no practical obstacle whatever now to the creation of an efficient index to all human knowledge, ideas and achievements. To the creation, that is, of a complete planetary memory for all mankind”.

Wells’ depiction of the World Brain was of a new kind of empire: a global dictatorship of technologists and intellectuals. Managers would become the new de facto politicians. This tyranny of expertise sits very well with the current neoliberal world order which sees its future in jeopardy.

It is a peculiar way to start, accompanied by an eerie soundtrack, since one might think that there is nothing especially scary about an “index,” about efficient organization of information, or a complete memory. However, given the mood of the film’s opening, we are immediately invited by the filmmaker to consider these aims in a different light—a much dimmer one.

The film also ends with Wells—all is bad that ends Wells. Quoting from his 1945 book, Mind at the End of its Tether, Wells predicted that this progressivist new world order would come crashing down:

“It is like a convoy lost in darkness along an unknown rocky coast with quarrelling pirates in the chart room and savages clambering up the sides of the ship to plunder and do evil as the whim may take them. That is the rough outline of the more and more jumbled movie on the screen before us. There is no way out. Or round. Or through”.

What is at Stake?

Wells also seemed to predict the Internet as making this world brain possible—this complete database of all human knowledge, past and present, could “be reproduced exactly and fully in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa or wherever else”. One of the analysts interviewed in the film, Kevin Kelly, is of the opinion that having instantaneous access to all human knowledge, “changes your idea of who you are”. Some will inevitably ask: “Is that a bad thing?” Kelly himself seems to think not, and he appears in this film as an evangelist for AI, the Internet, and the wonders of the screen.

The film thus turns its attention to the Google book-scanning operation, described by one analyst as, “clearly the most ambitious World Brain scheme that has ever been invented”. Still, some will wonder, what is the problem? How is the scanning of books something that should alarm anyone?

The film focuses further, and becomes a story about Google trying to achieve a monopoly over the digitization of books. Some will ask: “Is the real problem the total digitization of printed knowledge (which is quite distinct, and often separate from all knowledge as such, since not all human knowledge is published), or is the problem that of corporate monopoly?” In its early minutes, the documentary can be confusing about its intended aims.

The third focus comes next: the argument becomes that Google could track everything, and as Pamela Samuelson (law professor, Berkeley) explains, Google “could hold the whole world hostage”. Some viewers might balk: “this is just alarmism”.

Robert Darnton, Director, Harvard Library

What are the stakes? Speaking of the continued importance of libraries, Robert Darnton (Director, Harvard University Library) says in the film that libraries are, “nerve centres, centres of intellectual energy”. Lewis Hyde adds: “Libraries stand for an ideal, which is an educated public. And to the degree that knowledge is power, they also stand there for the idea that power should be disseminated and not centralised”. Are centralization and dissemination opposed and mutually exclusive? Even as he calls for dissemination, Darnton himself utilizes the concept of “centres”.

(Ironically, Darnton calls for the knowledge held by libraries to be opened up and shared—yet when I tried to gain access to some of Harvard’s library collections myself during research visits in 2004 and 2005, I required special written permission just to gain entry into the buildings.)

Expanding and Centralizing the Control of Knowledge

Google was initially successful in seducing a few of the world’s largest libraries, including those of Harvard and Oxford, whose chief librarians interpreted Google’s book-scanning project as a logical extension of a long history of attempts at centralizing knowledge. Among the earlier attempts were encyclopaedias; plans for a catalogue of all knowledge; and, microfilming.

More recently, and since the advent of the World Wide Web, Project Gutenberg became the first digital library, one which scholars have used and will continue to use regularly. Project Gutenberg, founded by Michael Hart, actually started in the early 1970s with the simple act of typing and distributing the Declaration of Independence.

Ray Kurzweil’s invention of the scanner clearly represented the one key advance needed to proceed towards digitizing knowledge. In 1975, Kurzweil created the first omni-font optical character recognition device, which went commercial in 1978. As Kurzweil admits, “we talked about how you could ultimately scan all books and all printed material”.

In the late 1990s the book, the scanner, and the Internet were combined in an effort to create what was hoped would be gigantic digital libraries. The Internet Archive, an indispensable tool for both myself and likely many readers of this review, was established in 1996. Significantly, the director of the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle, speaks in this film and indicates that he refused collaboration with Google because of the secrecy surrounding the nature of its agreements with libraries, and the fact that Google appeared to be on track to create something exclusive and separate.

Wikipedia, and arguably YouTube, are also massive attempts at acquiring and centralizing knowledge.

Google = Hegemony

Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google with Larry Page, says that Page first conceived of Google Books in 1999. Google Books was then initiated in 2004. In “A Library to Last Forever,” published in The New York Times on October 9, 2009, Brin explained that Google’s digitization effort would be history’s largest-scale effort, primarily because Google invested significantly in the resources needed for the project. In that article, Brin also is clear that Google was zeroing in on out-of-print but in-copyright books, and commercializing them, while also seeking to create new regulations that would allegedly serve the interests of rights holders. Brin argues that Google’s motivation was to preserve “orphan books” against physical destruction and disappearance. Commenting on Google’s supposedly lofty goals, Evgeny Morozov says the following in this film:

“I don’t think that Google is aware of the fact that it’s a corporation. I think Google does think of itself as an NGO that just happens to make a lot of money. And they think of themselves as social reformers who just happen to have their stock traded on stock exchanges and who just happen to have investors and shareholders, but they do think of themselves as ultimately being in the business of making the world better”.

Google, while claiming to be laying the path for others to follow and which says it has aided other digitization efforts, is highly secretive about its scanning operation. It refused the filmmakers access to any of its (secret) scanning locations, and the film thus relies on six seconds of footage—the only such footage in existence—that was leaked out. Google’s secrecy extends to the total number of books it has scanned, and to how much it costs to scan them on average (one estimate is between $30 and $100 per book). Google also worked to prevent any one of its partner libraries from communicating with other partner libraries about the nature of their individual contracts with Google. According to Sidney Verba, former director of Harvard Library, Google “bent over backwards” to make sure that each library would not tell the others what kind of contract they had and how they were working with Google.

How did Google benefit from book-scanning? Five explanations are offered by interviewees in the film.

(1) Lawrence Lessig introduces the point that one of the benefits of massive book-scanning, is that it pumps information into Google’s core, allowing it to develop more sophisticated algorithms that depend on knowing more and more.

(2) Sidney Verba offers a different explanation: by having lots of information in Google, more people would use Google, which would increase the prospective advertising landscape, thus enriching Google by selling advertising space.

(3) Pamela Samuelson, narrowing Google down to a search engine, offers a third viewpoint: having more data (from books, for example), allows Google to perfect its search technology.

(4) Jaron Lanier argues that there is a competition between all sectors of the modern economy (whether healthcare, information and communications technology, finance, criminality, etc.) for more and more data, because data—and specifically data differentials—is a measure of power. Then the data hoarders can in some cases claim that their work is for the common good, by increasing efficiency.

(5) Lanier, Lessig, and Kevin Kelly together make the point that feeding all these books into Google’s servers leads to the creation of something akin to a life-form, a transformative force, a mass of memories that empowers an artificial intelligence system. As the reader will have noted, there is nothing about these five theories that renders them mutually exclusive—they can all be true, at the same time.

The head of Google Books Spain, Luis Collado, the only company official willing to speak to the filmmakers about Google Books, offered a comparatively milder and more innocent explanation. Collado says that Google’s motivation was to amplify the richness of online knowledge. Until it started adding books to the Internet’s offerings, the Internet only consisted of materials that were specifically created for it. For example, in late 1994 in the SUNY-Cortland library I surfed the entire World Wide Web as it then existed, in just one afternoon (at the time I rushed to the conclusion that the Internet was “useless”). For a few years, it was actually practical for me to print everything I found interesting online, because there was so little worth printing. So Collado has a point, even if it does not exhaust the range of plausible explanations.

For Father Damià Roure, Library Director at the Monastery of Montserrat in Spain, Google’s book-scanning was a means of “diffusing our culture” to the rest of the world, while helping to preserve the knowledge contained in its vast library. What he was simply unable to answer was why the monastery had not asked Google to pay for the privilege of scanning the monastery’s collection. As Google turned its operation into a business, from which it would profit, was it fair to get the materials for free? Father Roure went completely silent at this point in the film, in one of the longest, most awkward silences I have ever seen on the screen. He brought it to an end by saying that he was not in a position to comment on anything other than digitization. Reginald Carr, former director of the Oxford’s Bodleian Library, simply downplayed the point: Google, in his view, was fully entitled to make a profit—having invested so much in the scanning—even if the Bodleian’s ethos was to make knowledge available for free.

These two library directors serve a useful purpose: they are a reminder to us that willing collaboration on the part of intermediary local elites is often essential to any grant project of hegemony-building. When it comes to the Internet, and Google in particular, readers of this article are also collaborators—collaborators that, at a minimum, feed Google with content with each search they perform. By continuing to use Google, you make it more powerful.

Assisted Intelligence or Artificial Intelligence?

Jaron Lanier

Speaking of collaboration, the film specifically addresses how Internet users are themselves used. To the extent that this is done unknowingly, unthinkingly, and without compensation, we move from collaboration to exploitation. Jaron Lanier makes this argument forcefully:

“AI is just a religion. It doesn’t matter. What’s really happening is real world examples from real people who entered their answers, their trivia, their experiences into some online database. It’s actually just a giant puppet theatre repackaging inputs from real people who are forgotten. We are pretending they aren’t there. This is something I really want people to see. The insane structure of modern finance is exactly the same as the insane structure of modern culture on the Internet. They’re precisely the same. It’s an attempt to gather all the information into a high castle, optimise the world and pretend that all the people the information came from don’t deserve anything. It’s all the same mistake”.

An absolutely unctuous and all too precious spokesperson for Google, Amit Singhal, actually confirms Lanier’s point when he says the following in the film:

“Google Search is going to be assisted intelligence and not artificial intelligence. In my mind I think of Search as this beautiful symphony between the user and the search engine and we make music together”.

Singhal confirms what Lanier argued, that Google is powered by its users, but then makes the false analogy to a symphony. Musicians performing in an orchestra are clearly instructed on their roles, they perform willingly, and they perform in accordance with known rules and by reading codified music sheets. In other words, the musicians are willing, aware, and informed. Most of Google’s users do not know they are performing in any “symphony”. Google emphasizes harmony where there is in fact concealment, deceit, and exploitation. If there is any music, it is music only to Google’s ears.

Google and Copyright: The Essence of the Confrontation

The film takes a turn into questions of copyright at this stage, when Harvard’s library director, Robert Darnton, points out that its agreement with Google only allowed for the scanning of books in the public domain. However, Google’s agreements with other libraries allowed it to scan all books, including those in copyright. Mary Sue Coleman, president of Michigan University, openly stated that her university allowed Google to scan copyrighted books, claiming that it was “legal, ethical, and noble” to do so (meanwhile universities warn students not to photocopy more than 10% of any given work). Copyright violation is where the legal problems exploded in Google’s face.

However, one of the outcomes of the lawsuits against Google was that the settlement agreement allowed Google to become the world’s biggest bookstore, specializing in out-of-print but in-copyright books. The settlement in fact granted Google an exclusive right to sell such books, without sharing the profits with authors. Google would also not respect the privacy of readers: the company would instead track what readers read, and for how long they read it.

One of the features of copyright that stands out in this film, is that copyright on the Internet takes the place of national borders. Thus we hear from Angela Merkel in this film, asserting that the German government would defend the rights of German authors, by making sure that copyright had a place on the Internet. Likewise, the former President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, declares in footage shown in this film that France would not allow a large private corporation to seize control of French national heritage, “no matter how nice, important, or American it may be”. Standing against the imperial ambitions of Google therefore was the seemingly old-fashioned principle of copyright. It reached the extent that when the Google book settlement was taken to court in 2009, representatives of foreign authors and foreign governments, accused the US of violating various treaty obligations which could force foreign parties to go to the WTO—and in the likely event of the US losing a case before the WTO, other nations would then have a right to impose trade sanctions on the US.

The outcome is that Google remains the target of publishers’ and authors’ lawsuits, while it continues to scan both out-of-copyright books as well as in-copyright books (in agreement with major libraries, and then offering only “snippets” of the book online). Rivalling Google, various governments and major libraries have undertaken their own library digitization, thus defeating Google’s attempt at becoming an exclusive monopoly. The Digital Public Library of America is one such example of a project that took off in response to the threat posed by Google, as is the case of Europeana.

Google as Empire

The film quotes from William Gibson’s 2010 article in The New York Times, “Google’s Earth,” as part of its argument that Google is building an artificial intelligence entity of a grander scale and sophistication than was even imagined in science fiction. As Gibson explains in that article, Google is “a central and evolving structural unit not only of the architecture of cyberspace, but of the world,” and he adds that this was, “the sort of thing that empires and nation-states did, before,” only now Google’s empire is one that also becomes an organ of “global human perception”. In Google, we are citizens, but without rights.

French National Library

Jean-Noël Jeanneney

Jean-Noël Jeanneney, the former director of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (the French National Library), represents the voice of the library of the nation-state, that which Google ultimately seeks to erase. He recounts in the film his first encounter with two young Google representatives who came to meet him—he points out that what struck him was their “arrogance” and “brutal commercialism”. These “salesmen,” as he calls them, badly miscalculated his psychology when they brought as a gift a thermo-flask, for which he had no use and which he cast aside. Following his meeting with Google’s representatives, and the company’s announcement that it alone would build a universal digital library, Jeanneney announced to his staff a plan for what he emphatically calls a “counter-offensive”. He criticized the Google book-scanning project as incorporating an Anglo-American cultural bias, and in a noteworthy critique published by Le Monde in 2005 titled “When Google Challenges Europe,” he argued that, “what I don’t want is everything reflected in an American mirror. When it comes to presenting digitized books on the Web, we want to make our choice with our own criteria”. Jeanneney pointed to “the risk of a crushing domination by America in the definition of the idea that future generations will have of the world”. Google suddenly appears not so much as a “new” empire, as in Gibson’s piece, but rather a part of the American empire in a new extension of itself. We are thus back to the familiar problems of Americanization and cultural imperialism.

As Sidney Verba explains in the film, there were two additional sides to the French critique of Google: one had to with the dominant language of Google search results—English—which thus acted as a force undermining French, and the second had to do with who got to decide what would be digitized, its order of priority, and who would get to do the digitization. Who are the Americans at Google who get to digitize France’s books?

Conclusion

While sometimes striking an alarmist tone that was not warranted by the empirical substance that was presented, one could also conclude that the film is only guilty of erring on the side of caution. When dealing with Google in particular, we are well past the point of being cautious: it is a monopolistic entity that for years had a large revolving door between itself and the State Department and the Democratic Party, while also striking deals with the Pentagon and engaging in political censorship. There is nothing innocent about Google, and to the extent that it swallows the Internet, there is little about the Internet that is innocent.

One of the possible lapses of the film is that it does not direct as much attention to China’s Baidu, which has its own extensive book-scanning project that might even rival Google’s. The film presents an interview with Baidu’s communications director, and provides some useful statistics from Baidu employees about the extent of its own book-scanning project—but the bulk of the criticism is reserved for Google.

A book scanning unit in China

However, it has to be said that Ben Lewis does us all an essential service with this film that, ostensibly, appears to be about the simple act of scanning library books, and becomes instead a much larger story about democracy, rights, nation-states, cultures, corporatization, political economy, international law, and the future of globalization.

It was not surprising to see that, once again, one of the top documentaries we have had the privilege of reviewing was produced by Europe’s Arte television company.

This documentary, with all of its thought-provoking questions and careful detail, would be suitable for a wide range of courses in fields such as Information and Communication Studies, Librarianship, Media Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, and Political Science. The film earns a score of 8.75/10.

(This documentary review forms part of the cyberwar series of reviews on Zero Anthropology. This film was viewed four times before the written review was published.)

June 28, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Film Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | 1 Comment

Egypt’s NileSat halts broadcast of Press TV, other Iranian channels: Saudi media

Press TV – June 25, 2019

Saudi media say Egyptian-owned satellite firm NileSat has halted the broadcast of three Iranian TV channels, including English-language Press TV news network, in yet another attack on media freedom.

The Arabic-language Saudi daily newspaper Okaz, citing an informed source, said Sunday that the regional satellite provider halted the broadcast of Press TV as well as entertainment and movie channels of iFilm in English and Arabic languages.

Earlier, some informed sources had reported that Arab satellite companies had agreed to cancel their contracts with Iranian media outlets in the region.

The move by the Arab alliance was claimed to be a response to the networks’ “spread of rumors and creation of division.”

It is not the first time that Iranian television channels come under attacks by Arab and European satellite firms.

Egypt — a close Saudi ally — is party to a Riyadh-led coalition waging a bloody military campaign against Yemen. The Saudi regime and its allies are especially outraged by Iranian media’s wide coverage of the crimes being committed against Yemeni people, among other issues.

Since its launch in 2007, Press TV has been using a wide range of platforms, from TV broadcast and website to social media, to offer its audience a fresh view of world news, with a focus on developments in the Middle East’s conflict zones.

In April, Press TV’s verified YouTube account — along with the page of Iran’s Spanish-language Hispan TV — was blocked with no prior notice by tech giant Google.

The move came as the US stepped up its pressure campaign against Iran with the backing of Saudi Arabia and other repressive Persian Gulf Arab regimes. Washington is the main sponsor of the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Google Executive Allegedly Says Only Big Tech Can Prevent 2020 ‘Trump Situation’

Sputnik – June 25, 2019

While Big Tech has consistently brushed off accusations of discrimination and political bias, a new investigative report by Project Veritas provides new insight into Google’s alleged internal practices.

Project Veritas has published a new report on Google along with an undercover video of the company’s head of Responsible Innovation, Jen Gennai, and leaked docs by an alleged insider that purportedly expose the tech giant’s plans to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential elections in the United States and “prevent the next Trump situation”.

“Elizabeth Warren is saying we should break up Google. And like, I love her but she’s very misguided, like that will not make it better it will make it worse, because all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation, it’s like a small company cannot do that”, she appears to be saying in the footage, which was filmed at a restaurant on a hidden camera.

Gennai was referring to a statement by Massachusetts Senator Warren to break up tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook as the companies face mounting backlash ahead of the 2020 vote.

The executive, whose “Responsible Innovation” sector monitors and evaluates the implementation of AI technologies, said in the video that Google has been working to reprogramme its systems and algorithms.

“We all got screwed over in 2016, again it wasn’t just us, it was, the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like, everybody got screwed over so we’re rapidly been like, what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again. We’re also training our algorithms, if 2016 happened again, would we have, would the outcome be different?”

According to Project Veritas, Gennai as well addressed the anti-conservative bias accusations the company has recently faced and explained that “conservative sources” and “credible sources” didn’t always overlap in line with Google’s editorial practices.

“We have gotten accusations of around fairness is that we’re unfair to conservatives because we’re choosing what we find as credible news sources and those sources don’t necessarily overlap with conservative sources…”

As part of the report, the video also contains snippets of an interview with an alleged Google whistleblower, who provided information on the alleged “algorithmic unfairness” and Machine Learning Fairness, which he claimed was “one of the many tools the company uses to advance a political agenda”.

“They are going to redefine a reality based on what they think is fair and based upon what they want, and what and is part of their agenda”.

Gennai has already read the Project Veritas report and penned a Medium post to explain what happened, claiming that the outlet had edited the video “to make it seem that I am a powerful executive who was confirming that Google is working to alter the 2020 election”.

She dismissed the report as an “unadulterated nonsense” and reiterated that the company “works to be a trustworthy source of information, without regard to political viewpoint”.

“In a casual restaurant setting, I was explaining how Google’s Trust and Safety team (a team I used to work on) is working to help prevent the types of online foreign interference that happened in 2016. I was having a casual chat with someone at a restaurant and used some imprecise language. Project Veritas got me. Well done”, she wrote.

YouTube has already removed the video of the interview with Gennai from the platform, while Reddit has suspended Project Veritas’ account following the release of the report.

This isn’t the first time Project Veritas has had its accounts or content removed after publishing an investigative report which exposes the internal practices of big tech firms. One of its reports, which shed light on Pinterest’s internal blacklists, was censored heavily as a result of questionable privacy complaints.

Aside from being taken down from YouTube, Project Veritas was also suspended on Twitter and other journalists who talked about the report in their videos had them removed.

In the past few weeks, Google and its video-sharing platform YouTube have faced multiple accusations of political bias against conservative views and independent media sites, as well as suppression of free speech.

The tech giants have, however, always denied the allegations.

June 25, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

How NeoCon Billionaire Paul Singer Is Driving the Outsourcing of US Tech Jobs to Israel

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | June 11, 2019

WASHINGTON — With nearly 6 million Americans unemployed and regular bouts of layoffs in the U.S. tech industry, major American tech companies like Google, Microsoft and Intel Corporation are nonetheless moving key operations, billions in investments, and thousands of jobs to Israel — a trend that has largely escaped media attention or concern from even “America first” politicians. The fact that this massive transfer of investment and jobs has been so overlooked is particularly striking given that it is largely the work of a single leading neoconservative Republican donor who has given millions of dollars to President Donald Trump.

To make matters worse, many of these top tech companies shifting investment and jobs to Israel at record rates continue to collect sizable U.S. government subsidies for their operations while they move critical aspects of their business abroad, continue to layoff thousands of American workers, and struggle to house their growing company branches in Israel. This is particularly troubling in light of the importance of the tech sector to the overall U.S. economy, as it accounts for 7.1 percent of total GDP and 11.6 percent of total private-sector payroll.

Furthermore, many of these companies are hiring members of controversial Israeli companies — known to have spied on Americans, American companies, and U.S. federal agencies — as well as numerous members of Israeli military intelligence as top managers and executives. 

This massive transfer of the American tech industry has largely been the work of one leading Republican donor — billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, who also funds the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Islamophobic and hawkish think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and also funded the now-defunct Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

Singer’s project to bolster Israel’s tech economy at the U.S.’ expense is known as Start-Up Nation Central, which he founded in response to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use nonviolent means to pressure Israel to comply with international law in relation to its treatment of Palestinians.

This project is directly linked to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who in recent years has publicly mentioned that it has been his “deliberate policy” to have former members of Israel’s “military and intelligence units … merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners” in order to make it all but impossible for major corporations and foreign governments to boycott Israel.

In this report, MintPress identifies dozens of former members of an elite Israeli military intelligence unit who now hold top positions at Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

Singer’s nonprofit organization has acted as the vehicle through which Netanyahu’s policy has been realized, via the group’s close connections to the Israeli PM and Singer’s long-time support for Netanyahu and the Likud Party. With deep ties to Netanyahu, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and controversial tech companies — like Amdocs — that spied on the American government, this Singer-funded organization has formed a nexus of connections between the public and private sectors of both the American and Israeli economies with the single goal of making Israel the new technology superpower, largely at the expense of the American economy and government, which currently gives $3.2 billion in aid to Israel annually.

Researched and developed in Israel

In recent years, the top U.S. tech companies have been shifting many of their most critical operations, particularly research and development, to one country: Israel. A 2016 report in Business Insider noted that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple had all opened up research and development (R&D) centers in recent years, with some of them having as many as three such centers in Israel, a country roughly the size of New Jersey. Other major tech companies that have also opened key operation and research centers in Israel include Sandisk, Nvidia, PayPal, Palantir and Dell. Forbes noted last year that the world’s top 10 tech companies were now “doing mission-critical work in Israel that’s core to their businesses back at HQ.”

Yet, some of these tech giants, particularly those based in the U.S., are heavily investing in their Israeli branches while laying off thousands of American employees, all while receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government subsidies funded by American taxpayers.

For example, Intel Corporation, which is the world’s second largest manufacturer of semiconductor computer chips and is headquartered in California, has long been a major employer in Israel, with over 10,000 employees in the Jewish state. However, earlier this year, Intel announced that it would be investing $11 billion in a new factory in Israel and would receive around $1 billion in an Israeli government grant for that investment. Just a matter of months after Intel announced its major new investment in Israel, it announced a new round of layoffs in the United States.

Yet this is just one recent example of what has become a trend for Intel. In 2018, Intel made public its plan to invest $5 billion in one of its Israeli factories and had invested an additional $15 billion in Israeli-created autonomous driving technology a year prior, creating thousands of Intel jobs in Israel. Notably, over that same time frame, Intel has cut nearly 12,000 jobs in the United States. While this great transfer of investment and jobs was undermining the U.S. economy and hurting American workers, particularly in the tech sector, Intel received over $25 million dollars in subsidies from the U.S. federal government.

A similar phenomenon has been occurring at another U.S.-based tech giant, Microsoft. Beginning in 2014 and continuing into 2018, Microsoft has laid off well over 20,000 employees, most of them Americans, in several different rounds of staff cuts. Over that same time period, Microsoft has been on a hiring spree in Israel, building new campuses and investing billions of dollars annually in its Israel-based research and development center and in other Israeli start-up companies, creating thousands of jobs abroad. In addition, Microsoft has been pumping millions of dollars into technology programs at Israeli universities and institutes, such as the Technion Institute. Over this same time frame, Microsoft has received nearly $197 million in subsidies from the state governments of Washington, Iowa and Virginia.

Though Israeli politicians and tech company executives have praised this dramatic shift as the result of Israel’s tech prowess and growing reputation as a technological innovation hub, much of this dramatic shift has been the work of the Netanyahu-tied Singer’s effort to counter a global movement aimed at boycotting Israel and to make Israel a global “cyber power.”

Start-Up Nation Central and the Neocons

In 2009, a book titled Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, written by American neoconservative Dan Senor and Jerusalem Post journalist Saul Singer (unrelated to Paul), quickly rose to the New York Times bestseller list for its depiction of Israel as the tech start-up capital of the world. The book — published by the Council on Foreign Relations, where Senor was then serving as Adjunct Senior Fellow — asserts that Israel’s success in producing so many start-up companies resulted from the combination of its liberal immigration laws and its “leverage of the business talents of young people with military experience.”

“The West needs innovation; Israel’s got it,” wrote Senor and Singer. In a post-publication interview with the blog Freakonomics, Senor asserted that service in the Israeli military was crucial to Israel’s tech sector success, stating that:

“Certain units have become technology boot camps, where 18- to 22-year-olds get thrown projects and missions that would make the heads spin of their counterparts in universities or the private sector anywhere else in the world. The Israelis come out of the military not just with hands-on exposure to next-gen technology, but with training in teamwork, mission orientation, leadership, and a desire to continue serving their country by contributing to its tech sector — a source of pride for just about every Israeli.”

The book, in addition to the many accolades it received from the mainstream press, left a lasting impact on top Republican donor Paul Singer, known for funding the most influential neoconservative think tanks in America, as noted above. Paul Singer was so inspired by Senor and Singer’s book that he decided to spend $20 million to fund and create an organization with a similar name. He created the Start-Up Nation Central (SUNC) just three years after the book’s release in 2012.

To achieve his vision, Singer – who is also a top donor to the Republican Party and Trump – tapped Israeli economist Eugene Kandel, who served as Netanyahu’s national economic adviser and chaired the Israeli National Economic Council from 2009 to 2015.

Senor was likely directly involved in the creation of SUNC, as he was then employed by Paul Singer and, with neoconservatives Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, co-founded the FPI, which Singer had long funded before it closed in 2017. In addition, Dan Senor’s sister, Wendy Singer (unrelated to either Paul or Saul), long-time director of Israel’s AIPAC office, became the organization’s executive director.

SUNC’s management team, in addition to Eugene Kandel and Wendy Singer, includes Guy Hilton as the organization’s general manager. Hilton is a long-time marketing executive at Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs, where he “transformed” the company’s marketing organization. Amdocs was once highly controversial in the United States after it was revealed by a 2001 Fox News investigation that numerous federal agencies had investigated the company, which then had contracts with the 25 largest telephone companies in the country, for its alleged role in an aggressive espionage operation that targeted the U.S. government. Hilton worked at Microsoft prior to joining Amdocs.

Beyond the management team, SUNC’s board of directors includes Paul Singer, Dan Senor and Terry Kassel — who work for Singer at his hedge fund, Elliott Management — and Rapheal Ouzan. Ouzan was an officer in the elite foreign military intelligence unit of Israel, Unit 8200, who co-founded BillGuard the day after he left that unit, which is often compared to the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA). Within five months of its founding, BillGuard was backed by funding from PayPal founder Peter Thiel and former CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt. Ouzan is also connected to U.S. tech companies that have greatly expanded their Israeli branches since SUNC’s founding — such as Microsoft, Google, PayPal and Intel, all of which support Ouzan’s non-profit Israel Tech Challenge.

According to reports from the time published in Haaretz and Bloomberg, SUNC was explicitly founded to serve as “a foreign ministry for Israel’s tech industry” and “to strength Israel’s economy” while also aiming to counter the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to use a nonviolent boycott to end the illegal military occupation of the West Bank and Israeli apartheid, as well as the growth of illegal Jewish-only settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Since its founding, SUNC has sought to transfer tech jobs from foreign companies to Israel by developing connections and influence with foreign governments and companies so that they “deepen their relationship with Israel’s tech industry.” Though SUNC has since expanded to include other sectors of the Israeli “start-up” economy, its focus has long remained on Israel’s tech, specifically its cybersecurity industry. Foreign investment in this single Israeli industry has grown from $227 million in 2014 to $815 million in 2018.

In addition to its own activities, SUNC appears to be closely linked to a similar organization, sponsored by Coca Cola and Daimler Mercedes Benz, called The Bridge, which also seeks to connect Israeli start-up companies with large international corporations. Indeed, SUNC, according to its website, was actually responsible for Daimler Mercedes Benz’s decision to join The Bridge, thanks to a delegation from the company that SUNC hosted in Israel and the connections made during that visit.

Teaming up with Israel’s Unit 8200

Members of Israel’s signals intelligence Unit 8200 work under a Saudi flag. Photo | Moti Milrod

Notably, SUNC has deep ties to Israel’s military intelligence unit known as Unit 8200 and, true to Start Up Nation’s praise of IDF service as key to Israel’s success, has been instrumental in connecting Unit 8200 alumni with key roles in foreign companies, particularly American tech companies. For instance, Maty Zwaig, a former lieutenant colonel in Unit 8200, is SUNC’s current director of human capital programs, and SUNC’s current manager of strategic programs, Tamar Weiss, is also a former member of the unit.

One particularly glaring connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 can be seen in Inbal Arieli, who served as SUNC’s Vice President of Strategic Partnerships from 2014 to 2017 and continues to serve as a senior adviser to the organization. Arieli, a former lieutenant in Unit 8200, is the founder and head of the 8200 Entrepreneurship and Innovation Support Program (EISP), which was the first start-up accelerator in Israel aimed at harnessing “the vast network and entrepreneurial DNA of [Unit] 8200 alumni” and is currently one of the top company accelerators in Israel. Arieli was the top executive at 8200 EISP while working at SUNC.

Another key connection between SUNC and Unit 8200 is SUNC’s promotion of Team8, a company-creation platform whose CEO and co-founder is Nadav Zafrir, former commander of Unit 8200. In addition to prominently featuring Team8 and Zafrir on the cybersecurity section of its website, SUNC also sponsored a talk by Zafrir and an Israeli government economist at the World Economic Forum, often referred to as “Davos,” that was attended personally by Paul Singer.

Team8’s investors include Google’s Eric Schmidt, Microsoft, and Walmart — and it recently hired former head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, retired Admiral Mike Rogers. Team8 described the decision to hire Rogers as being “instrumental in helping strategize” Team8’s expansion in the United States. However, Jake Williams, a veteran of NSA’s Tailored Access Operations hacking unit, told CyberScoop:

“Rogers is not being brought into this role because of his technical experience. … It’s purely because of his knowledge of classified operations and his ability to influence many in the U.S. government and private-sector contractors.”

In addition to connections to Unit 8200-linked groups like Team8 and 8200 EISP, SUNC also directly collaborates with the IDF in an initiative aimed at preparing young Israeli women to serve in Unit 8200. That initiative, called the CyberGirlz Club, is jointly funded by Israel’s Defense Ministry, SUNC and the Rashi Foundation, the philanthropic organization set up by the Leven family of Perrier-brand water, which has close ties to the Israeli government and IDF.

“Our aim is to bring the girls to this process already skilled, with the knowledge needed to pass the exams for Unit 8200 and serve in the military as programmers,” Zwaig told Israel National News.

Seeding American tech

The connections between SUNC and Unit 8200 are troubling for more than a few reasons, one of which being that Unit 8200, often likened to the U.S.’ NSA, closely coordinates with Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, and is responsible for 90 percent of the intelligence material obtained by the Israeli government, according to its former commander Yair Cohen. Cohen told Forbes in 2016, that “there isn’t a major operation, from the Mossad or any intelligence security agency, that 8200 is not involved in.” For obvious reasons, the fact that an organization founded by an American billionaire is actively promoting the presence of former military intelligence officers in foreign companies, specifically American companies, while also promoting the transfer of jobs and investment to that same country, is very troubling indeed.

Particularly troubling is the fact that, since SUNC’s founding, the number of former Unit 8200 members in top positions in American tech companies has skyrocketed. Based on a non-exhaustive analysis conducted by Mintpress of over 200 LinkedIn accounts of former Israeli military intelligence and intelligence officers in three major tech companies, numerous former Unit 8200 alumni were found to currently hold top managerial or executive positions in Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

At Microsoft, managers for at least 15 of the company’s products and programs — including Microsoft’s lead managers for engineering, product strategy, threat analytics and cloud business intelligence — publicly listed their affiliation with Unit 8200 on their LinkedIn accounts. In addition, the general manager of Microsoft’s Israeli Research and Development Center is also a former member of Unit 8200. In total, of the 200 accounts analyzed, 50 of them currently worked for Microsoft.

Similarly, at Google, 28 former Unit 8200 members at the company were identified from their LinkedIn accounts. Among them are Google’s Engineering Director, its strategic partner manager, two growth marketing leads, its lead technical manager, and six product and program managers, including Google’s manager for trust and safety search.

Facebook also has several Unit 8200 members in prominent positions, though fewer than Google and Microsoft. MintPress identified at least 13 Unit 8200 alumni working for Facebook, including its director of engineering, lead manager for express wi-fi, and technical program manager. Notably, Facebook has spent the last several years collaborating with Israel’s government to censor Israel’s critics.

Of course, there is likely much more influence of Unit 8200 on these companies than this non-exhaustive analysis revealed, given that many of these companies acquired several Israeli start-ups run by and staffed by many Unit 8200 alumni who subsequently went on to found new companies and start-ups a few years or shortly after acquisition. Furthermore, due to the limitations of LinkedIn’s set-up, MintPress was not able to access the complete list of Unit 8200 alumni at these three tech companies, meaning that the eye-opening numbers found were generated by a relatively small sample.

This jump in Unit 8200 members in top positions in tech companies of global importance is actually a policy long promoted by Netanyahu, whose long-time economic adviser is the chief executive at SUNC. During an interview with Fox News last year, Netanyahu was asked by Fox News host Mark Levin if the large growth seen in recent years in Israel’s technology sector was part of Netanyahu’s plan. Netanyahu responded, “That’s very much my plan … It’s a very deliberate policy.” He later added that “Israel had technology because the military, especially military intelligence, produced a lot of capabilities. These incredibly gifted young men and women who come out of the military or the Mossad, they want to start their start-ups.”

Netanyahu further outlined this policy at the 2019 Cybertech conference in Tel Aviv, where he stated that Israel’s emergence as one of the top five “cyber powers” had “required allowing this combination of military intelligence, academia and industry to converge in one place” and that this further required allowing “our graduates of our military and intelligence units to merge into companies with local partners and foreign partners.” The direct tie-ins of SUNC to Netanyahu and the fact that Paul Singer has also been a long-time political donor and backer of Netanyahu suggest that SUNC is a key part of Netanyahu’s policy of placing former military intelligence and intelligence operatives in strategic positions in major technology companies.

Notably, just as SUNC was founded to counter the BDS movement, Netanyahu has asserted that this policy of ensuring Israel’s role as a “cyber power” is aimed at increasing its diplomatic power and specifically undermining BDS as well as the United Nations, which has repeatedly condemned Israel’s government for war crimes and violations of international law in relation to the Palestinians.

Building the bi-national surveillance state

Top U.S. tech companies have filled top positions with former members of Israeli military intelligence and moved strategic and critical operations to Israel, boosting Israel’s economy at the expense of America’s, and SUNC’s role in this marked shift merits scrutiny.

A powerful American billionaire has built an influential organization with deep connections to the U.S.-Israel lobby (AIPAC), an Israeli company that has been repeatedly investigated for spying on the U.S. government (Amdocs), and the elite Israeli military intelligence unit (Unit 8200) that has used its influential connections to the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector to dramatically shift the operations and make-up of major companies in a critical sector of the U.S. economy.

Further consider that U.S. government documents leaked by Edward Snowden have flagged Israel as “leading threat” to the infrastructure of U.S. financial and banking institutions, which use much of the software produced by these top tech companies, and have also flagged Israel as a top espionage threat. One U.S. government document cited Israel as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S. behind Russia and China. Thus, Paul Singer’s pet project in Start-Up Nation Central has undermined not only the U.S. economy but arguably U.S. national security as well.

This concern is further exacerbated by the deep ties connecting top tech companies like Microsoft and Google to the U.S. military. Microsoft and Google are both key military contractors — Microsoft in particular, given that it is set to win a lucrative contract for the Pentagon’s cloud management and has partnered with the Department of Defense to produce a “secure” election system known as ElectionGuard that is set to be implemented in some U.S. states for the 2020 general election.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

June 11, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Internet Free Speech All but Dead

Unelected, unnamed censors are operating across the Internet to suppress “unapproved” content.

Internet All But Dead

By Philip Giraldi | Global Research | June 8, 2019

The Internet was originally promoted as a completely free and uncensored mechanism for people everywhere to exchange views and communicate, but it has been observed by many users that that is not really true anymore. Both governments and the service providers have developed a taste for controlling the product, with President Barack Obama once considering a “kill switch“ that would turn off the Internet completely in the event of a “national emergency.”

President Donald Trump has also had a lot to say about fake news and is reported to be supporting limiting protections relating to the Internet. In May, a “net neutrality” bill that would have prevented service providers from manipulating Internet traffic passed in the House of Representatives, but it is reported to be “dead on arrival” in the Senate, so it will never be enacted.

Social networking sites have voluntarily employed technical fixes that restrict some content and have also hired “reviewers” who look for objectionable material and remove it. Pending European legislation, meanwhile, might require Internet search engines to eliminate access to many unacceptable old posts. YouTube has already been engaged in deleting existing old material and is working with biased “partners” like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to set up guidelines to restrict future content. Many users of Facebook will have already undoubtedly noted that some contacts have been blocked temporarily (or even permanently) and denied access to the site.

Google now automatically disables or limits searches for material that it deems to be undesirable. If Google does not approve of something it will either not appear in search results or it will be very low on the list. And what does come up will likely favor content that derives from those who pay Google to promote their products or services. Information that originates with competitors will either be very low in the search results or even blocked. Google is consequently hardly an unbiased source of information.

In May 2017 Facebook announced that it would be hiring 3,000 new censors, and my own experience of social networking censorship soon followed. I had posted an article entitled “Charlottesville Requiem” that I had written for a website. At the end of the first day, the site managers noticed that, while the article had clearly attracted a substantial Facebook readership, the “likes” for the piece were not showing up on the screen counter, i.e., were not being tabulated. It was also impossible to share the piece on Facebook, as the button to do so had been removed.

The “likes” on sites like Facebook, Yahoo! news comments, YouTube, and Google are important because they automatically determine how the piece is distributed throughout the site. If there are a lot of likes, the piece goes to the top when a search is made or when someone opens the page. Articles similarly can be sent to Coventry if they receive a lot of dislikes or negative marks, so the approvals or disapprovals can be very important in determining what kind of audience is reached or what a search will reveal.

In my case, after one day my page reverted to normal, the “likes” reappeared, and readers were again able to share the article. But it was clear that someone had been managing what I had posted, apparently because there had been disapproval of my content based on what must have been a political judgment.

A couple of days later, I learned of another example of a similar incident. The Ron Paul Institute (RPI) website posts much of its material on YouTube (owned by Google) on a site where there had been advertising that kicked back to RPI a small percentage of the money earned. Suddenly, without explanation, both the ads and rebate were eliminated after a “manual review” determined the content to be “unsuitable for all advertisers.” This was a judgment rendered apparently due to disapproval of what the institute does and says. The ability to comment on and link from the pieces was also turned off.

Dissident British former diplomat Craig Murray also noted in April 2018 the secretive manipulation of his articles that are posted on Facebook, observing that his “site’s visitor numbers [were] currently around one-third normal levels, stuck at around 20,000 unique visitors per day. The cause [was] not hard to find. Normally over half of our visitors arrive via Facebook. These last few days, virtually nothing has come from Facebook. What is especially pernicious is that Facebook deliberately imposes this censorship in a secretive way.

“The primary mechanism when a block is imposed by Facebook is that my posts to Facebook are simply not sent into the timelines of the large majority of people who are friends or who follow. I am left to believe the post has been shared with them, but in fact it has only been shown to a tiny number. Then, if you are one of the few recipients and do see the post and share it, it will show to you on your timeline as shared, but in fact the vast majority of your own friends will also not receive it. Facebook is not doing what it is telling you it is doing—it shows you it is shared—and Facebook is deliberately concealing that fact from you. Twitter has a similar system known as ‘shadow banning.’ Again, it is secretive and the victim is not informed.”

More recently, pressure to censor Internet social networking and information sites has increased, coming both from government and from various interested constituencies. In late May, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss how to eliminate “hate speech” on the Internet.

The two men agreed that the United States Internet model, in spite of already being heavily manipulated, is too laissez faire, and expressed an interest in exploring the French system where it is considered acceptable to ban unacceptable points of view. Zuckerberg suggested that it might serve as a good model for the entire European Union. France is reportedly considering legislation that establishes a regulator with power to fine Internet companies up to 4% of their global revenue, which can in some cases be an enormous sum, if they do not curb hateful expressions.

So unelected, unnamed censors are operating all around the Internet to control the content, which I suppose should surprise no one, and the interference will only get worse as both governments and service providers are willing to do what it takes to eliminate views that they find unacceptable—which, curiously enough, leads one to consider how “Russiagate” came about and the current hysteria being generated in the conventional media and also online against both Venezuela and Iran. How much of the anger is essentially fake, being manipulated or even fabricated by large companies that earn mega billions of dollars by offering under false pretenses a heavily managed product that largely does what the government wants? Banning hate speech will be, unfortunately, only the first step in eliminating any and all criticisms of the status quo.

June 9, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 2 Comments

How the U.S. Weaponizes “Internet Freedom”

By Julianne Tveten | American Herald Tribune | June 8, 2019

Several weeks ago, Edward Snowden took to Twitter to weigh in on the recent coup attempt in Venezuela. “Big: Venezuela’s opposition leader just launched a coup,” he wrote. “Reports coming in that the government is now blocking access to social media in response. Any interference with the right of the people to communicate freely must be condemned.”

Snowden, of course, was referring to the U.S.-backed attempt to oust the elected Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and install right-wing opposition party member Juan Guaidó. Yet Snowden’s concerns didn’t revolve around the damages visited upon Venezuela. Instead, as his critics observed, his focus on Internet access revealed a decidedly libertarian set of values: Sure, a potential (albeit failing) coup was in progress, hurling the Venezuelan people into the throes of imperialist upheaval—but wouldn’t someone think of the Internet access?

This time, it seemed Snowden, who was catapulted into international recognition for exposing the National Security Agency (NSA)’s surveillance abuses, was doing the U.S. government’s bidding. For decades, U.S. institutions have weaponized the arbitrary notion of “Internet freedom” for political gain. Their goal: to villainize “enemy states” in order to sustain U.S. hegemony, technologically and otherwise.

By various accounts, the notion of “Internet freedom” entered U.S. policy during the Clinton Administration, in the early stages of the Internet’s commercialization. In 1997, then-President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore argued that “governments must adopt a non-regulatory, market-oriented approach to electronic commerce” and warned against those that “will impose extensive regulations on the Internet and electronic commerce.” Stating that the “private sector should lead,” their proposal envisaged the Internet, first and foremost, as a global marketplace governed by laissez-faire individualism.

Hillary Clinton cemented this concept in a 2010 speech, insisting that the United States would confront governments that implemented online “censorship,” including, but not limited to, China, Iran, and North Korea—countries, like Venezuela, that have worked to develop infrastructures and economies independent of the U.S.’s capitalist framework. Clinton also touted the role of the private sector in such an effort. Advocating for an Internet defined by “free expression” and, most important, free markets, she lauded the Global Network Initiative, an “anti-censorship” collaboration among tech firms like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and various NGOs.

The Clintons’ Internet-policy postures have persisted into the present day. The U.S. nonprofit and Global Network Initiative member NetBlocks, for example, regularly issues reports warning of limited Internet access throughout the world. Among its most commonly cited countries, by far, is Venezuela. Over the course of the attempted Venezuelan coup, which began in January, NetBlocks has published dozens of reports of restrictions to access of various U.S. web services, including YouTube, Google, and Bing. Instead of offering geopolitical context to explain why a country might be forced to limit access, these reports offer an alternative narrative: A beleaguered country’s temporary (if exaggerated) shutdowns of a few websites, rather than a U.S.-led coup, are the real problem.

Think tank Freedom House, which is significantly funded by the U.S. government, offers similar assessments. According to its 2018 “Freedom on the Net” report, “digital authoritarianism” is on the rise, thanks largely to China, a country that has long curbed access to—and thus constrained the market and influence of—U.S. tech platforms. Not coincidentally, Freedom House has ranked China the least “free” country for four consecutive years, with Syria, Iran, and Cuba closely trailing. Meanwhile, Freedom House, as well as NetBlocks, have been consistent sources for U.S. corporate media, including the Washington Post and the New York Times.

For all of their admonitions about censorship abroad, these “watchdogs” have done little to underscore the censorship committed by U.S. tech companies. Freedom House concedes that “Internet freedom” has declined in the United States; the reasons it provides relate to such valid and significant issues as network monopolies, the FCC’s assault on net neutrality, and the “digital divide.” Nowhere, however, does Freedom House acknowledge Google’s and U.S. social media’s inveterate silencing of left-leaning media and organizations, nor the punitive surveillance activists disproportionately face. Instead, the think tank routinely deems the U.S. Internetfree.”

This dovetails with another cause of “free Internet” acolytes: U.S. access to other countries’ data. Various countries, such as China, Russia, and Vietnam, have required storage of their data on devices within their own countries’ borders—a policy known as data localization. An assertion of sovereignty, data localization is often in direct opposition to the vision of an “open” Internet outlined by the Clintons. In other words, as it blocks foreign companies’ and governments’ access to international digital data, it wrests control of the Internet from the U.S. Right on cue, Freedom House’s 2018 report condemned China, Russia, Vietnam, and other countries’ decisions to institute data localization.

An illustrative scenario took place in 2013. In the wake of revelations that part of the NSA’s surveillance program included spying on Brazil, Brazil’s then-president Dilma Rousseff proposed a shift toward data localization. Aptly enough, former Google executive Eric Schmidt fretted not long before Rousseff’s proposal that data localization—which would corrode his company’s profits—might lead to a “balkanized Internet”:

“The real danger [from] the publicity about all of this is that other countries will begin to put very serious encryption – we use the term ‘balkanization’ in general – to essentially split the Internet and that the Internet’s going to be much more country specific. That would be a very bad thing, it would really break the way the Internet works, and I think that’s what I worry about.”

Schmidt’s concerns echo those of the Clintons. A “free” and “open” “global” Internet, they claim, is a democratic forum, the “great equalizer”; all countries will thereby be more enlightened for connecting to Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and other multibillion-dollar U.S. corporations with military contracts. This rationale permeates corporate media and think tanks, both of which characterize a “balkanized Internet” as a civilizational regression. What these proclamations omit is the fact that there are reasons some countries don’t agree with the U.S.’s digital prescriptions. The Internet doesn’t exist in a political vacuum; it’s an extension of geopolitical relations and all of the iniquities that accompany them.

These fearmongering editorials and reports will continue, invoking imperialism’s dog whistles: “censorship,” “authoritarianism,” and other affronts to putative “freedom.” Yet these are only a problem to those who would believe that the U.S.’s superpower status is some sort of good. Vulnerable countries’ efforts to defend themselves from the scourge of exploitation, in any way they see fit, aren’t a pity or a threat; they’re a liberatory necessity. No matter what the U.S. insists, there are plenty of places—digital and physical—where its capitalist metrics of “freedom” simply don’t belong.


Julianne Tveten’s work has appeared at In These TimesFairness & Accuracy In Reporting, The NationPacifica Radio and elsewhere.

June 8, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | Leave a comment

The Trust Project: Big Media and Silicon Valley’s Weaponized Algorithms Silence Dissent

Trust Project founder Sally Lehrman speaks at the 2018 organization of News Ombudsmen conference. Photo | ONO
By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | June 7, 2019

After the failure of Newsguard — the news rating system backed by a cadre of prominent neoconservative personalities — to gain traction among American tech and social media companies, another organization has quietly stepped in to direct the news algorithms of tech giants such as Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Though different from Newsguard, this group, known as “The Trust Project,” has a similar goal of restoring “trust” in corporate, mainstream media outlets, relative to independent alternatives, by applying “trust indicators” to social-media news algorithms in a decidedly untransparent way. The funding of “The Trust Project” — coming largely from big tech companies like Google; government-connected tech oligarchs like Pierre Omidyar; and the Knight Foundation, a key Newsguard investor — suggests that an ulterior motive in its tireless promotion of “traditional” mainstream media outlets is to limit the success of dissenting alternatives.

Of particular importance is the fact that the Trust Project’s “trust indicators” are already being used to control what news is promoted and suppressed by top search engines like Google and Bing and massive social-media networks like Facebook. Though the descriptions of these “trust indicators” — eight of which are currently in use — are publicly available, the way they are being used by major tech and social media companies is not. 

The Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in favored news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives. Even if its effort to promote “trust” in establishment media fail, its embedded-code hidden within participating news sites allow those establishment outlets to skirt the same algorithms currently targeting their independent competition, making such issues of “trust” largely irrelevant as it moves to homogenize the online media landscape in favor of mainstream media.

The Trust Project’s director, Sally Lehrman, made it clear that, in her view, the lack of public trust in mainstream media and its declining readership is the result of unwanted “competition by principle-free enterprises [that] further undermines its [journalism’s] very role and purpose as an engine for democracy.”

Getting to know the Trust Project

The Trust Project describes itself as “a consortium of top news companies” involved in developing “transparency standards that help you easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism.” It has done this by creating what it calls “Trust Indicators,” which the project’s website describes as “a digital standard that meets people’s needs.” However, far from meeting “people’s needs,” the Trust Indicators seem aimed at manipulating search engine and social-media news algorithms to the benefit of the project’s media partners, rather than to the benefit of the general public.

The origins of the Trust Project date back to a 2012 “roundtable” hosted by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, a center funded by former Apple CEO Mike Markkula. That roundtable became known as the Roundtable on Digital Journalism Ethics and was created by journalist Sally Lehrman, then working at the Markkula Center, in connection with the New Media Executive Roundtable and Online Credibility Watch of the Society of Professional Journalists. Lehrman has explicitly stated that the Trust Project is open only to “news organizations that adhere to traditional standards.”

The specific idea that spurred the creation of the Trust Project itself was born at a 2014 meeting of that roundtable, when Lehrman “asked a specialist in machine learning at Twitter, and Richard Gingras, head of Google News, if algorithms could be used to support ethics instead of hurting them, and they said yes. Gingras agreed to collaborate.” In other words, the idea behind the Trust Project, from the start, was aimed at gaming search-engine and social-media algorithms in collusion with major tech companies like Google and Twitter.

Sally Lehrman discusses the Trust Project at 2018 WordCamp For Publishers

As the Trust Project itself notes, the means of altering algorithms were developed in tandem with tech-giant executives like Gingras and “top editors in the industry from 80 news outlets and institutions,” all of which are corporate, mainstream media outlets. Notably, the Trust Project’s media partners, involved in creating these new “standards” for news algorithms, include major publications owned by wealthy oligarchs: the Washington Post, owned by the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos; the Economist, directed by the wealthy Rothschild family; and the Globe and Mail, owned by Canada’s richest family, the Thomsons, who also own Thomson Reuters. Other Trust Project partners include The New York Times, Mic, Hearst Television, the BBC and the USA Today network.

Other major outlets are represented on the News Leadership Council of the Markkula Center, including the Financial Times, Gizmodo Media, and The Wall Street Journal. That council — which also includes Gingras and Andrew Anker, Facebook’s Director of Product Management — “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators.”

These “Trust Indicators” are the core of the Trust Project’s activities and reveal one of the key mechanisms through which Google, Twitter and Facebook have been altering their algorithms to favor outlets with good “Trust Indicator” scores. Trust Indicators, on their face, are aimed at making news publications “more transparent” as a means of generating increased trust with the public. Though a total of 37 have been developed, it appears only eight of them are currently being used.

These eight indicators are listed and described by the Trust Project as follows:

  • Best Practices: What are the news outlet’s standards? Who funds it? What is the outlet’s mission? Plus commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections and other standards.
  • Author/Reporter Expertise: Who made this? Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: What is this? Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: What’s the source? For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions.
  • Methods: How was it built? Also for in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced? Was the reporting done on the scene, with deep knowledge about the local situation or community? Lets you know when the story has local origin or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: What are the newsroom’s efforts and commitments to bringing in diverse perspectives? Readers noticed when certain voices, ethnicities, or political persuasions were missing.
  • Actionable Feedback: Can we participate? A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public’s help in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, ensuring accuracy and other areas. Readers want to participate and provide feedback that might alter or expand a story.

How the Trust Project makes these indicators available to the public can be seen in its new project, the Newsroom Transparency Tracker, where it provides a table of “transparency” for participating media outlets. Notably, that table conflates actual transparency practices with simply providing the Trust Project with outlet policies and guidelines related to the above indicators.

For example, The Economist gets a perfect transparency “score” for having provided the Trust Project links to its ethics policy, mission statement and other information requested by the project. However, the fact that those policies exist and are provided to the Trust Project does not mean that the publication’s policies are, in fact, transparent or ethical in terms of their content or in practice. The fact that The Economist provided links to its policies does not make the publication more transparent, but — in the context of the Newsroom Transparency Tracker’s table — it provides the appearance of transparency, though such policy disclosures by The Economist are unlikely to translate into any changes to its well-known biases and slanted reporting towards certain issues.

Trust Indicators manipulate big tech algorithms

The true power of the Trust Indicators comes in a form that is not visible to the general public. These Trust Indicators, while occasionally displayed on partner websites, are also coupled with “machine-readable signals” embedded in the HTML code of participating websites and articles used by Facebook, Google, Bing and Twitter. As Lehrman noted in a 2017 article, the Trust Project was then “already working with these four companies, all of which have said they want to use our indicators to prioritize honest, well-reported news over fakery and falsehood.” Gingras of Google News also noted that the Trust Indicators are used by Google as “cues to help search engines better understand and rank results … [and] to help the myriad algorithmic systems that mold our media lives.”

A press release from the Trust Project last year further underscores the importance of the embedded “indicators” to alter social-media and search-engine algorithms:

While each Indicator is visible to users on the pages of the Project’s news partners, it is also embedded in the article and site code for machines to read — providing the first, standardized technical language that offers contextual information about news sites’ commitments to transparency.”

Despite claiming to increase public knowledge of “news sites’ commitments to transparency,” the way that major tech companies like Google and Facebook are using these indicators is anything but transparent. Indeed, it is largely unknown how these indicators are used, though there are a few clues.

For instance, CBS News cited Craig Newmark — the billionaire founder of Craigslist, who provided the Trust Project’s seed funding — as suggesting that “Google’s search algorithm could rank trusted sources above others in search results” by using the project’s Trust Indicators.

Last year, the Trust Project stated that Bing used “the ‘Type of Work’ Trust Indicator to display whether an article is news, opinion or analysis.” It also stated that “when Facebook launched its process to index news Pages, they worked with the Trust Project to make it easy for any publisher to add optional information about their Page.” In Google’s case, Gingras was quoted as saying that Google News uses the indicators “to assess the relative authoritativeness of news organizations and authors. We’re looking forward to developing new ways to use the indicators.”

Notably, the machine-readable version of these Trust Indicators is available only to participating institutions, which are currently corporate, mainstream publications. Though WordPress and Drupal plug-ins are being developed to make those embedded signals to search engines and social media available to smaller publishers, it will be made available only to “qualified publishers,” a determination that will presumably be made by the Trust Project and its associates.

Richard Gingras, in a statement made in 2017, noted that “the indicators can help our algorithms better understand authoritative journalism — and help us to better surface it to consumers.” Thus, it is abundantly clear that these indicators, which are embedded only into “qualified” and “authoritative” news websites, will be used to slant search-engine and social-media news algorithms in favor of establishment news websites.

The bottom line is that these embedded and exclusive indicators allow certain news outlets to avoid the crushing effects of recent algorithm changes that have seen traffic to many news websites, including MintPress, plummet in recent years. This is leading towards a homogenization of the online news landscape by starving independent competitors of web traffic while Trust Project-approved outlets are given an escape valve through algorithm manipulation.

The tech billionaires behind the Trust Project

Given the Trust Project’s rich-get-richer impact on the online news landscape, it is not surprising to find that it is funded by rich and powerful figures and forces with a clear stake in controlling the flow of news and information online.

According to its website, the Trust Project currently receives funding from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Google, Facebook, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (often abbreviated as the Knight Foundation), and the Markkula Foundation. Its website also states that Google was “an early financial supporter” and that it had originally been funded by Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist. As previously mentioned, the Trust Project’s co-founder is Richard Gingras, current Google vice president of News. The Trust Project’s website described Gingras’s current role with the organization as “a powerful evangelist” who “can always be counted upon for expert advice and encouragement.” Newmark’s current role at the Trust Project is described as that of a “funder and valued connector.”

Google VP Richard Gingras testifies at a British Committee Hearing on “Fake News”

Newmark, through Craig Newmark Philanthropies, who provided the initial funding for the Trust Project, and has also funded other related initiatives like the News Integrity Initiative at the City University of New York, which shares many of the same financiers as the Trust Project, including Facebook, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, and the Knight Foundation. The Trust Project is listed as a collaborator of the News Integrity Initiative. Newmark is also very active in several news-related NGOs with similar overlap. For instance, he sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a longtime recipient of massive grants from the Omidyar Network, and Politifact.com, which is funded in part by Omidyar’s Democracy Fund.

Newmark is currently working with Vivian Schiller as his “strategic adviser” in his media investments. Schiller is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, former head of news at Twitter, and a veteran of well-known mainstream outlets like NPR, CNN, The New York Times and NBC News. She is also a director of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian.

The Markkula Foundation, one of the key funders of the Trust Project, exercises considerable influence over the organization through the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, which originally incubated the organization and whose News Leadership Council plays an important role at the Trust Project. That council’s membership includes representatives of Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Financial Times and Google, and “guides the Trust Project on our Trust Indicators and advises on core issues related to information literacy and rebuilding trust in journalism within a fractious, so-called post-fact environment.”

Both the Markkula Foundation and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics were founded by A. M. “Mike” Markkula, former CEO of Apple. The Markkula Center’s Journalism Ethics program is currently headed by Subramaniam Vincent, a former software engineer and consultant for Intel and Cisco Systems who has worked to bring together big data with local journalism and is an advocate for the use of “ethical-AI [artificial intelligence] to ingest, sort, and classify news.”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is another interesting funder of the Trust Project, given that this same foundation is also a key investor in Newsguard, the controversial, biased news rating system with deep connections to government insiders and self-described government propagandists. There is considerable overlap between Newsguard and the Trust Project, with the latter citing Newsguard as a partner and also stating that Newsguard’s demonstrably biased ratings use the project’s “trust indicators” in its full-length reviews of news websites, which Newsguard calls “nutrition labels.” In addition, becoming a Trust Project participant is a factor that “supports a positive evaluation” from Newsguard, according to a press release from last year.

Notably, Sally Lehrman, who leads the Trust Project, described the project’s trust indicators for news as ”along the lines of a nutrition label on a package of food” when the Trust Project was created nearly a year before Newsguard launched, suggesting some intellectual overlap.

A previous MintPress exposé revealed Newsguard’s numerous conflicts of interest and a ratings system strongly biased in favor of well-known, traditional media outlets — even when those outlets have a dubious track record of promoting so-called “fake news.” It should come as no surprise that the Trust Project’s goal is to increase public trust in the very same traditional media outlets that Newsguard favored and to use HTML-embedded codes in news articles to promote their content at the expense of independent alternatives.

A familiar face in the war against independent media

The Democracy Fund, another top funder of the Trust Project and a bipartisan foundation that was established by eBay founder and PayPal owner Omidyar in 2011 “out of deep respect for the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s core democratic values.” It is a spin-off of the Omidyar Network and, after splitting off as an independent company in 2014, became a member of the Omidyar Group. The fund’s National Advisory Committee includes former Bush and Obama administration officials and representatives of Facebook, Microsoft, NBC News, ABC News and Gizmodo Media group.

The Democracy Fund’s involvement in the Trust Project is notable because of the other media projects it funds, such as the new media empire of arch-neoconservative Bill Kristol, who has a long history of creating and disseminating falsehoods that have been used to justify the U.S. war in Iraq and other hawkish foreign policy stances. As a recent MintPress series revealed, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund provides financial support to Kristol’s Defending Democracy Together initiative and also supports Kristol’s Alliance for Securing Democracy, a project of the German Marshall Fund think tank that is best known for its cryptic Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard. Omidyar’s Democracy Fund has also donated to the German Marshall Fund’s Defending Digital Democracy project and directly to the German Marshall Fund itself. In addition, Charles Sykes, a co-founder and editor-at-large of Kristol’s new publication The Bulwark, is on the Democracy Fund’s National Advisory Committee.

An acolyte of Kristol’s who works at the German Marshall Fund, Jamie Fly, stated last October that the coordinated social-media purges of independent media pages known for their criticisms of U.S. empire and U.S. police violence was “just the beginning” and hinted that the German Marshall Fund had a hand in past social media purges and, presumably, a role in future purges. Thus, the Democracy Fund’s links to neoconservatives who promote the censoring of independent media sites that are critical of militaristic U.S. foreign policy jibe with the fund’s underlying interest in the Trust Project.

Omidyar’s involvement with the Trust Project is interesting for another reason, namely that Omidyar is the main backer behind the efforts of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to become a key driver of which outlets are censored by Silicon Valley tech giants. The ADL was initially founded to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all” but critics say that over the years it has begun labeling critics of Israel’s government as “anti-Semites.”

For example, content that characterizes Israeli policies towards Palestinians as “racist” or “apartheid-like” is considered “hate speech” by the ADL, as is accusing Israel of war crimes or attempted ethnic cleansing. The ADL has even described explicitly Jewish organizations that are critical of Israel’s government as being “anti-Semitic.”

In March 2017, the Omidyar Network provided the “critical seed capital” need to launch the ADL’s “new Silicon Valley center aimed at tackling this rising wave of intolerance and to collaborate more closely with technology companies to promote democracy and social justice.” That Omidyar-funded ADL center allowed the ADL to team up with Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft — all of whom also collaborate with the Trust Project — to create a Cyberhate Problem-Solving Lab. Since then, these companies and their subsidiaries, including Google’s YouTube, have relied on the ADL to flag “controversial” content.

Given the fact that the Trust Project shares with the ADL a key funder (Pierre Omidyar) and several external tech partners, it remains to be seen whether there is overlap between how major tech companies like Google and Facebook use the Trust Indicators in its algorithms and the influence of the ADL on those very same algorithms.

Outsourcing censorship

Of course, the most interesting and troubling donors of the Trust Project are Google and Facebook, both of which are using the very project they fund as a “third party” to justify their manipulation of newsfeed and search-engine algorithms. Google’s intimate involvement from the very inception of the Trust Project tags it as an extension of Google that has since been marketed as an “independent” organization tasked with justifying algorithm changes that favor certain news outlets over others.

Facebook, similarly, funds the Trust Project and also employs the “trust indicators” it funds to alter its newsfeed algorithm. Facebook’s other partners in altering this algorithm include the Atlantic Council — funded by the U.S. government, NATO, and weapons manufacturers, among others — and Facebook has also directly teamed up with foreign governments, such as the government of Israel, to suppress accurate yet dissenting information that the government in question wanted removed from the social-media platform.

The murkiness between “private” censorship, censorship by tech oligarchs, and censorship by government is particularly marked in the Trust Project. The private financiers of the Trust Project that also use its product to promote certain news content over others — namely Google and Facebook — have ties to the U.S. government, with Google being a government contractor and Facebook sporting a growing body of former-government officials in top company positions, including a co-author of the controversial Patriot Act as the company’s general counsel.

A similar tangle surrounds Pierre Omidyar, funder of the Trust Project through the Democracy Fund, who is extremely well-connected to the U.S. government, especially the military-industrial complex and intelligence communities. And partnering with media outlets like the Washington Post, whose owner is Jeff Bezos, spawns more conflicts of interests, given that Bezos’ company, Amazon, is also a major U.S. government contractor.

This growing nexus binding Silicon Valley companies and oligarchs, mainstream media outlets and the government suggests that these entities have increasingly similar and complementary interests, among which is the censorship of independent watchdog journalists and news outlets that seek to challenge their power and narratives.

The Trust Project was created as a way of outsourcing censorship of independent news sites while attempting to salvage the tattered reputation of mainstream media outlets and return the U.S. and international media landscape to years past when such outlets were able to dominate the narrative.

While it seems unlikely that’s its initiatives will succeed in restoring trust to mainstream media given the many recent and continuing examples of those same “traditional” media outlets circulating fake news and failing to cover crucial aspects of events, the Trust Project’s development of hidden algorithm-altering codes in participating websites shows that its real goal is not about improving public trust but about providing a facade of independence to Silicon Valley censorship of independent media outlets that speak truth to power.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

June 7, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Sniper-killing journalist game pulled after outcry over ‘Breaking News’ mission

RT | May 19, 2019

A popular sniper-mission video game encouraging players to assassinate a journalist has been pulled by its developer after media reports exposed the controversial shooting scene.

‘Sniper 3D Assassin’ was a free game on Apple devices as well as gaming platform Steam, and was available on Amazon, Google and Microsoft app stores.

New York Times journalist Jamal Jordan tweeted about the journalist killing mission after his nephew showed him the game.

The ‘Breaking News’ mission tells players to make a journalist “famous in a different way,” by shooting them after they receive documents from a police officer. When the mission ends, the screen reads, “That’s a cover story.”

Revelations about the journalist murder mission game were received with horror on Twitter, especially by media workers.

Developers from TFG Co. pulled the game after it was contacted by the HuffPost, insisting it had been “fictional” and intended for “mature audiences.”

“At TFG, we work to create games that bring fun and entertainment to users all around the world,” CTO Mac-Vicar said. “As such, we take feedback from our players very seriously. After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

The game was released in 2014 and had 10 million downloads in its first month. At one stage in 2016 it was the most downloaded game on Apple’s App Store.

May 19, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

As US Government Strangles Iran’s Economy, Google ‘Suffocates’ Iranian Media

Sputnik – April 25, 2019

The recent shutdown of PressTV and HispanTV’s YouTube and Gmail accounts are more examples of the continued effort by the US government to silence Iranian media outlets, Alex Rubinstein, a journalist for MintPress News, told Sputnik.

“I think that this is part of a larger trend of cracking down on Iranian media,” Rubinstein told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary on Wednesday. “Just as this was happening, the United States was saying that we want to bring down Iranian oil exports to zero. Well, it seems like they’re also trying to bring down Iranian expression down to zero through these kinds of moves.”

“It’s a message which both strangles their economy and also suffocates their voice,” he added.

​Google barred PressTV and HispanTV, an Iranian Spanish-language outlet, from accessing their respective YouTube and Gmail accounts without notice and without an explanation detailing what Google policies were violated, the outlets recently reported.

Although content from both outlets is still viewable, the organizations are unable to upload new content.

Israeli media outlets have speculated that the order was handed down by Google after HispanTV issued a report claiming imprisoned Palestinians were being used for medical experiments.

“On its face, that sounds like that could be questionable,” Rubinstein said of the speculation. “But there have been a number of other outlets to carry this report, and it wasn’t like they were pulling this information out of thin air — it came from a Palestinian politician in Israel… he made this allegation, and they were citing him properly.”

The journalist told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon that while it’s unclear what initiated Google’s action, it seems in line with the behavior of tech companies vying to “stifle Iranian media” at the behest of the US government.

“These tech companies are basically extensions of the US empire. You look at all that’s going on with NATO and the US government trying to push back on Chinese 5G — well, the point of that is that [the US] can’t spy so well if [the 5G grid is] Chinese,” Rubinstein said.

“The American government has a dominance over these companies, and we see that with the ban on PressTV, and we see that with the other countries that have been targeted, which are primarily Russia and Venezuela.”

“It’s hard to imagine that this is just a coincidence,” he added.

Earlier this month, after the US formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, popular photo and video-sharing platform Instagram began banning pages belonging to various Iranian military officials. The site later explained that the move was in line with the US’ designation.

“I understand to have a policy against spreading terrorist messages on a social media platform… but we didn’t see these crackdowns for terrorist organizations like the Free Syrian Army, or any of the other supposedly moderate rebels in Syria,” Rubinstein told Blackmon.

“We see them [crackdowns] for the supposed terrorist that are enemies of the United States… It seems like the tech companies are all too happy to follow in lockstep.”

See also:

Google’s Campaign Against Iranian Media Outlets Sets ‘Dangerous Precedent’

Facebook Takes Down Iranian Media Pages in Continued War on Alternative News

April 25, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Goodbye to the Internet: Interference by Governments Is Already Here

By Philip M. GIRALDI | Strategic Culture Foundation | 21.03.2019

There is a saying attributed to the French banker Nathan Rothschild that “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes its laws.” Conservative opinion in the United States has long suspected that Rothschild was right and there have been frequent calls to audit the Federal Reserve Bank based on the presumption that it has not always acted in support of the actual interests of the American people. That such an assessment is almost certainly correct might be presumed based on the 2008 economic crash in which the government bailed out the banks, which had through their malfeasance caused the disaster, and left individual Americans who had lost everything to face the consequences.

Be that as it may, if there were a modern version of the Rothschild comment it might go something like this: “Give me control of the internet and no one will ever more know what is true.” The internet, which was originally conceived of as a platform for the free interchange of information and opinions, is instead inexorably becoming a managed medium that is increasingly controlled by corporate and government interests. Those interests are in no way answerable to the vast majority of the consumers who actually use the sites in a reasonable and non-threatening fashion to communicate and share different points of view.

The United States Congress started the regulation ball rolling when it summoned the chief executives of the leading social media sites in the wake of the 2016 election. It sought explanations regarding why and how the Russians had allegedly been able to interfere in the election through the use of fraudulent accounts to spread information that might have influenced some voters. In spite of the sound and fury, however, all Congress succeeded in doing was demonstrating that the case against Moscow was flimsy at best while at the same time creating a rationale for an increased role in censoring the internet backed by the threat of government regulation.

Given that background, the recent shootings at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and at mosques in Christchurch New Zealand have inevitably produced strident demands that something must be done about the internet, with the presumption that the media both encouraged and enabled the attacks by the gunmen, demented individuals who were immediately labeled as “white supremacists.” One critic puts it this way, “Let’s be clear, social media is the lifeblood of the far-right. The fact that a terror attack was livestreamed should tell us that this is a unique form for violence made for the digital era. The infrastructure of social media giants is not merely ancillary to the operations of terrorists — it is central to it [and] social media giants assume a huge responsibility to prevent and stop hate speech proliferating on the internet. It’s clear the internet giants cannot manage this alone; we urgently need a renewed conversation on internet regulation… It is time for counter-terrorism specialists to move into the offices of social media giants.”

It’s the wrong thing to do, in part because intelligence and police services already spend a great deal of time monitoring chat on the internet. And the premise that most terrorists who use the social media can be characterized as the enemy du jour “white supremacists” is also patently untrue. Using the national security argument to place knuckle dragging “counter-terrorism specialists” in private sector offices would be the last thing that anyone would reasonably want to do. If one were to turn the internet into a government regulated service it would mean that what comes out at the other end would be something like propaganda intended to make the public think in ways that do not challenge the authority of the bureaucrats and politicians. In the US, it might amount to nothing less than exposure to commentary approved by Mike Pompeo and John Bolton if one wished to learn what is going on in the world.

Currently I and many other internet users appreciate and rely on the alternative media to provide viewpoints that are either suppressed by government or corporate interests or even contrary to prevailing fraudulent news accounts. And the fact is that the internet is already subject to heavy handed censorship by the service providers, which one friend has described as “Soviet era” in its intensity, who are themselves implementing their increasingly disruptive actions to find false personas and to ban as “hate speech” anything that is objected to by influential constituencies.

Blocking information is also already implemented by various countries through a cooperative arrangement whereby governments can ask search engines to remove material. Google actually documents the practice in an annual Transparency Report which reveals that government requests to remove information have increased from less than 1,000 per year in 2010 to nearly 30,000 per year currently. Not surprisingly, Israel and the United States lead the pack when it comes to requests for deletions. Since 2009 the US has asked for 7,964 deletions totaling 109,936 items while Israel has sought 1,436 deletions totally 10,648 items. Roughly two thirds of Israeli and US requests were granted.

And there is more happening behind the scenes. Since 2016, Facebook representatives have also been regularly meeting with the Israeli government to delete Facebook accounts of Palestinians that the Israelis claim constitute “incitement.” Israel had threatened Facebook that non-compliance with Israeli deletion orders would “result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.” Facebook chose compliance and, since that time, Israeli officials have been “publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders.” It should be noted that Facebook postings calling for the murder of Palestinians have not been censored.

And censorship also operates as well at other levels unseen, to include deletion of millions of old postings and videos to change the historical record and rewrite the past. To alter the current narrative, Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook all have been pressured to cooperate with pro-Israel private groups in the United States, to include the powerful Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL is working with social media “to engineer new solutions to stop cyberhate” by blocking “hate language,” which includes any criticism of Israel that might be construed as anti-Semitism by the new expanded definition that is being widely promoted by the US Congress and the Trump Administration.

Censorship of information also increasingly operates in the publishing world. With the demise of actual bookstores, most readers buy their books from media online giant Amazon, which had a policy of offering every book in print. On February 19, 2019, it was revealed that Amazon would no longer sell books that it considered too controversial.

Government regulation combined with corporate social media self-censorship means that the user of the service will not know what he or she is missing because it will not be there. And once the freedom to share information without restraint is gone it will never return. On balance, free speech is intrinsically far more important than any satisfaction that might come from government intrusion to make the internet less an enabler of violence. If history teaches us anything, it is that the diminishment of one basic right will rapidly lead to the loss of others and there is no freedom more fundamental than the ability to say or write whatever one chooses, wherever and whenever one seeks to do so.

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | , , , , , , | 2 Comments