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For Google, the Pixels Just Hit the Fan

Sputnik – July 12, 2017

Distinguished research psychologist Robert Epstein explains why Google was recently fined $2.7 billion for one of its search-engine manipulations. This is just the beginning, he says, of bad news for a company that tracks and manipulates people on a massive scale.

Dr. Robert Epstein — The pixels have hit the fan. The EU just fined Google $2.7 billion for favoring its online comparative shopping service in its search results.

Google officials knew this fine was coming and that much worse is possible, so in August 2015, they reorganized the company so that it is now part of a holding company called Alphabet. This was not done, as Larry Page, one of the company’s co-founders, rapped at the time, to make the company “cleaner and more accountable” (what on earth does that mean?). It was likely done to try to protect the value of the stock held by the company’s major stockholders.  The EU’s antitrust action against Google had been filed in April, 2015, and that got Google officials thinking. When the US Department of Justice broke up AT&T in the 1980s, the stock value dropped by 70 percent.

Google officials are nervous because they know exactly how many questionable practices they engage in every day, along with how many have been uncovered so far and how many are still unknown to authorities. My associates and I have discovered some of these practices, and we study them every day.  They are brilliant, mind-blowing, and largely invisible new ways of both tracking and manipulating human behavior on an unprecedented scale, all serving a singular purpose: to make Google richer.  Before I give you a few examples of the practices we are examining these days, let me put the big EU fine into a broader context.

First of all, Google can handle it. The company will likely have revenues of over $100 billion this year, so they can pay the fine painlessly, and they also have unlimited legal resources. In court, they will claim, as they always do, that they haven’t done anything wrong, that it’s just the algorithm, and that the algorithm — in its objective purity, driven by its deep digital desire to serve human needs — just happens to rank Google products above inferior ones.

This is complete nonsense. As I explain in detail in my US News essay, “The New Censorship,” Google employees have complete control over where items occur in search results. The search algorithm is just a set of computer instructions written by Google software engineers, and they manually adjust the algorithm daily to remove items from the search results it generates about — 100,000 items per year under Europe’s “right to be forgotten” law alone — or to demote companies that piss Google off.

Second, this hefty fine is just the tip of a very large digital iceberg. Bear in mind that it is based on merely one instance of search bias: putting Google’s own comparative shopping service ahead of others. A US Federal Trade Commission investigation in 2012 found that Google’s search results are generally skewed to favor its own products and services. When was the last time you Googled a movie without seeing YouTube — owned by Google — in the top search result? Both India and Russia have levied fines against the company for rigging search results, with a much larger fine still looming in India. Bear in mind also that the EU’s search-related action against Google is just one of three antitrust cases they have initiated so far; the other two concern Google’s dominance in mobile computing and advertising. Europe’s concerns about Google are so deep that in late 2014 the European Parliament voted (in a non-binding proceeding) to break Google up into pieces, reminiscent of the DOJ’s dismantling of AT&T.

These and other legal actions are all about new techniques Google has developed for tracking and manipulating people. The search engine may have started out as a simple index of web pages, but it was soon refined and repurposed. Its main purpose became to track user behavior, yielding a vast amount of information about people that Google still leverages to send out the targeted advertisements that account for most of the company’s income. The public still thinks of the Google search engine, Google Maps, Google Wallet, YouTube, Chrome, Android and a hundred other Google platforms as cool services the company provides free of charge. In fact, they are all just gussied-up surveillance platforms, and authorities around the world are finally figuring that out.

As the EU’s recent antitrust decision shows, authorities are also beginning to figure out how extensively Google is using its platforms to suppress competition and manipulate user behavior. The EU’s investigation found, for example, that when Google officials realized in 2007 that their comparative shopping service was failing, they elevated their own service in their search results while demoting competing services. This increased traffic to its service “45-fold in the United Kingdom, 35-fold in Germany, 19-fold in France, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy” while reducing traffic to its competitors by “85% in the United Kingdom, up to 92% in Germany and 80% in France.”

Does position in search results really affect user behavior that much? You bet. My own research has shown, for example, that favoring one political candidate in search results can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by up to 80 percent in some demographic groups.  Search results that favor one perspective over another on abortion, fracking, homosexuality, you name it also dramatically shift the opinions of people who haven’t yet made up their minds. The research also shows, unfortunately, that this type of manipulation is virtually invisible to people and, worse still, that the few people who can spot favoritism in search results shift even farther in the direction of the bias, perhaps because they see the bias as a kind of social proof.

What if authorities were examining not just the dominance of Google’s comparison shopping service in the company’s search results but the dominance of, say, anything, in those results: certain brands of mobile phones or computers; political candidates who serve or interfere with the company’s needs; attitudes toward Oracle, Microsoft, Yahoo, and other companies that compete with or are in conflict with Google; news stories that are “fake” or anti-Trump or pro-Google; and on and on. Do you see how big this problem really is? And no one — at least not yet — is tracking any of this. The trillions of pieces of information Google is showing people every day are all ephemeral. They hit your eyeballs and then disappear, leaving no trace, and much or most of them favor one perspective or another. Do we really want a single company, which handles 90 percent of search in most countries, to have the power to manipulate our opinions about anything? How, over the years, has Google been exercising this power?

My newest research is showing that it is not just the order of search results we need to worry about.  Here are three examples of manipulations we are currently studying which, once again, no authorities are tracking — at least not yet:

  1. Search suggestions: Before you even see those search results, Google typically flashes search suggestions at you. When Google introduced this feature in 2004, they showed you a long list of suggestions — usually 10 — that indicated what other people were searching for; Bing and Yahoo still do this. Google, however, now typically shows you just four suggestions that are often unrelated to what others are searching for. Instead, they show you terms they believe you are likely to click, which gives them a great deal of control over your search. One way they now manipulate searches is by strategically including or withholding negative search terms. Negative terms (like “suicide” or “crimes”) attract far more clicks than neutral or positive ones do-10-to-15 times as many in some demographic groups. By withholding negative suggestions for a perspective or person the company supports while allowing negatives to appear for a person or perspective the company dislikes, they drive millions of people to view material that shifts opinions in ways that serve the company’s needs.  Four, it turns out, is the magical number of suggestions that maximize their control. It maximizes the power of the negative search term to draw clicks while also minimizing the likelihood that people will type their own search term.
  2. I’m feeling lucky: When you mouse over a Google search suggestion, you see a small “I’m feeling lucky” link. With this feature, Google gets people to skip seeing search results altogether; it gives the company complete control over the actual web page you see. By limiting the number of suggestions you see and then attracting you to the “lucky” link, they exert a high degree of control over what opinion you will form on issues you’re uncertain about. All of this occurs without users having any awareness of how they are being manipulated.
  3. The featured snippet: Google is rapidly moving away from the search engine model of tracking and manipulation toward much more powerful means. (To view a satire I wrote about Google donating its search engine to the American public, click here.) The “featured snippet” — the answer box we see more and more frequently above the search results — is one such tool we are studying. Google officials have long known that people don’t really want to see a list of 10,000 search results when they ask a question; they just want the answer. That’s what the snippet is now giving people — the answer, wrong or right, and it’s often wrong. In one of our newest experiments, the voting preferences of undecided voters shifted by 36.2 percent when they saw biased search rankings without an answer box, but when a biased answer box appeared above the search results, the shift was an astounding 56.5 percent. In other words, when you give people the answer, you have an even larger impact on their opinions, purchases, and voting preferences. Google is rapidly shifting to this new model of influence not just on its search engine, but with its new audio Home device (“Okay Google, what’s the best Italian restaurant around here?”), as well as with its new Android-based Google Assistant.

It took years for the EU to collect and analyze the terabytes of data it needed to make a case against Google in the shopping services action. Meanwhile, Google is moving light years ahead. This might always be a problem when it comes to the machinations of high-tech companies. Laws and regulations will necessarily lag way behind, unless-unless, that is, we change the game.

As The Washington Post and other media outlets reported in March 2017, about six months before the November 2016 election in the US, my associates and I deployed a Nielsen-type system for tracking search results in real time. Using custom software and a nationwide network of anonymous field agents, we were able to look over the shoulders of people as they conducted a wide range of election-related searches using Google, Bing, and Yahoo, ultimately preserving the first page of results from 13,207 searches and the 98,044 web pages to which the search results linked. We found that these searches, especially the ones conducted on Google, generally favored Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in all ten search positions on the first page of search results. Perhaps more important, we learned that our monitoring system could be used to track any of the ephemeral stimuli that Google and other tech companies are showing us every day: news feeds, advertisements, you name it.

I am now working will colleagues from Stanford, Princeton, King’s College London and a dozen other institutions to create an organization that will monitor the online behavior of Big Tech companies worldwide on a real-time basis. If we do this right, it will take only seconds, not years, to spot illegal or unethical behavior, and we might even be able to anticipate manipulations before they occur, providing evidence on an ongoing basis to journalists, regulators, legislators, law enforcement officials, and antitrust investigators.  Such a system will force Big Tech companies, both now and in the future, to be more accountable to the public, and it will also help preserve the free and fair election.

In the meantime, my advice to consumers is:  be wary of the information you obtain online and, more important, be cautious about the information you reveal. Learn how to increase your online privacy; it’s not that hard.

And my advice to Google officials is: cut down on the greed and arrogance. The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.

_______________________

A Ph.D. of Harvard University, Robert Epstein is senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, the author of 15 books, and the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today magazine. Follow him on Twitter @DrREpstein.

July 12, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | Leave a comment

Who Shall Debunk The Debunkers?

By Tim Hayward | June 27, 2017

Established information sources like Google or Wikipedia sometimes answer a search about an intriguing claim you’re investigating by assuring you from the get-go that it has been discredited or debunked. They seem keen you should know this before they even explain what the claim actually is. I’ve learned to be suspicious.

Relatedly, I’ve found, the entire purpose of certain “independent” organisations calling themselves “fact checkers” seems to be to dispose of views that challenge or dissent from a given narrative promoted by the corporate media. These defensive communicators are savvy enough to know you can’t fool all the people all the time but, being part of a near monopoly of information, they have an advantage of numbers.  Dissenters can get isolated and marginalised as “conspiracy theorists”. Challenges to authorized versions of events are portrayed as all the crazier when they diametrically oppose “what we all know”.

“We all know”, for instance, that Bashar Al-Assad is an evil dictator murdering his people, so when people die in an apparent chemical attack, “we all know” he was responsible; sure, the definitive prove might not be there “yet”, but we are promised we’ll have it in due course. Meanwhile, the sight of some dead children – no matter if they might have been killed and filmed by war criminals opposed to the Syrian government – is enough evidence for warmongers in Washington to license the unleashing of a bit of armed “democracy”, US-style.

Complicit in this process are those who undertake to discredit dissenting voices. Their support is needed because regarding such red-line-crossing incidents as those involving chemicals in Syria – as in 2013 and in April 2017 – controversy remains about who was responsible. Certainly, it is not beyond reasonable doubt that Assad was responsible. Too many indications suggest the possibility of an opposed conclusion.[1]

The quality of debunking, in fact, is sometimes shoddy. I first got drawn into publicly debating information about Syria for that reason. Having seen the famous clip of Eva Bartlett confronting the mainstream media narrative at the UN,[2] I was intrigued to learn that Channel 4 had debunked her claims. The Channel 4 piece was extraordinarily misleading, however, since it did not in fact attempt to refute any of Eva’s major claims about no western journalists being on the ground in Aleppo and about all information coming from compromised sources. She was demonstrably correct on those points. Her substantive version of events on the ground was also then vindicated with the liberation of Aleppo.

Misdirection, however, appears to be standard practice for those debunkers who present themselves as impartial arbiters of evidence but in fact cherrypick and obfuscate it.[3] One modus operandi is to pick up on some technical detail of an event that can be cast as a scientific inquiry. Very long and convoluted reasoning is then deployed to “prove” that this scientific evidence is actually sufficient, for those capable of understanding it, to prove the authorized account. Dissenters are then dismissed by showing that they cannot grasp the science. If they say that the scientific question is not sufficient to settle the matter about who is responsible, they get carefully coralled back to questions that the debunker has prepared a position on. Those who persist in asking independently reasonable questions are liable to get ignored. As are those who engage knowledgeably about the science. One way or another, dissent is largely managed away.

So who is to debunk the debunkers? The rest of us have less information about events than will a well-supported debunker. It is quite possible that the more prominent organisations, particularly those that appear to have no need to engage in any fundraising activities, will be suitably briefed about what “is known” in relevantly authoritative circles.

Nonetheless, all of us are capable of using basic logic and evaluating the credibility of competing witness statements. That is why jury systems can deliver verdicts that as a society we are prepared to rely upon. Whereas a jury in a trial gets to hear evidence on two sides, however, the current situation involves a virtual monopoly of information on the part of the authorized version. The case for the other side remains to be made.

To answer my question: those who have skills or knowledge to challenge the authorized version have an obligation of responsible citizenship, in the public interest, to do so. This applies across the social world, but includes a part I know quite well, namely, the academic. Universities and research institutes are full of people with the knowledge and experience to ask probing questions and develop credible alternative explanatory hypotheses. The particular obligation of academics is all the more pointed, I would suggest, since among the debunkers themselves may be some who hold university positions.

There is a line here that I believe we – as academics, and also as part of a wider society – have to hold. It is a line already worryingly breached by the dramatic burgeoning in the neo-liberal era of Think Tanks with barely a veneer of objectivity or impartiality. Within universities, I believe, the disinterested pursuit of knowledge should be regarded as a sacrosanct goal. It has already been put somewhat at risk by governmental pressures on academics to have ‘impact’, and it has always been somewhat blurred in practice, especially in research fields closely alligned with industry interests. I would also acknowledge that those of us who work in social sciences will have certain political leanings that can affect our research priorities. But the academic world as a whole ought to be pluralist and open enough for manifestations of bias to be exposed and adjusted for.

So we depend on proper academic procedures that ensure we all maintain suitably rigorous standards of practice in the conduct of research and dissemination of its findings.

Practitioners from other fields that enter academia with different expertises and experiences can greatly enrich it. This is certainly true in the case of journalists and citizen investigators. There are special affinities here, because we are all engaged in the same kind of enterprise – researching what is going on in the world. The main difference is that a priority for journalists is to do so in timely fashion, whereas the priority for academics is to do so with great accuracy.  In an ideal world, we could collaborate to generate knowledge of the world that is invariably both timely and accurate. In the real world, our collaboration may not yield perfection but it can strive for an optimally timely and reliable knowledge.

But I end with a word of caution. It is theoretically possible that people with academic positions could also have conflicts of interest. I believe it is the collective responsibility of members of universities to ensure that none of our number should act in ways that so contravene basic academic standards as to undermine the very purpose of the university as a public institution. Of course, universities have disciplinary mechanisms for ensuring they are not brought into disrepute. All of us as academics have a professional and personal responsibility, I think, to ensure that the operative criteria of good reputation match those of the fundamental purposes of a university as a social institution. In the age of social media, with truth claims of all sorts being contested as never before, the public role of the university is something to be duly reflective about.

Notes

[1] I have written about the lack of evidence regarding the April 2017 incident here. In subsequent debate on the subject with George Monbiot here, and further here, numerous people have also added interesting additional points in the comments sections.

[2] See the video here, especially from 13:30: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1VNQGsiP8M

[3] Readers will notice that I am not naming names here. My ultimate purpose is not to name and shame any person or organisation but to get the measure of a hat that nobody will want to admit fits them!

June 27, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | 1 Comment

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

By John W. Whitehead | The Rutherford Institute | June 26, 2017

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice, dissenting in Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 341 (1966)

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

Credit for this particular brainchild goes to the Obama administration, which issued Executive Order 12333 authorizing the collection of Americans’ data from surveillance conducted on foreign soil.

Using this rationale, the government has justified hacking into and collecting an estimated 180 million user records from Google and Yahoo data centers every month because the data travels over international fiber-optic cables. The NSA program, dubbed MUSCULAR, is carried out in concert with British intelligence.

No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about the USA Freedom Act, which was supposed to put an end to the NSA’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls.

The NSA had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

The USA Freedom Act was just a placebo pill intended to make the citizenry feel better and let the politicians take credit for reforming mass surveillance. In other words, it was a sham, a sleight-of-hand political gag pulled on a gullible public desperate to believe that we still live in a constitutional republic rather than a down-and-out, out-of-control, corporate-controlled, economically impoverished, corrupt, warring, militarized banana republic.

In fact, more than a year before politicians attempted to patch up our mortally wounded privacy rights with the legislative band-aid fix that is the USA Freedom Act, researchers at Harvard and Boston University documented secret loopholes that allow government agents to bypass Fourth Amendment protections to conduct massive domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie.

The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

In other words, the surveillance state is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America.

On any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

We have now moved into a full-blown police state that is rapidly shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state.

Not content to merely transform local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are working to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

Thus, the NSA’s “technotyranny”  is the least of our worries.

A government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing cannot be reformed from the inside out.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have managed to shut down the government’s secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages, transactions, communications and activities.

Even with restrictions on its ability to collect mass quantities of telephone metadata, the government and its various spy agencies, from the NSA to the FBI, can still employ an endless number of methods for carrying out warrantless surveillance on Americans, all of which are far more invasive than the bulk collection program.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases, exploiting your social media posts and turning that information over to the government.

“Few consumers understand what data are being shared, with whom, or how the information is being used,” reports the Los Angeles Times. “Most Americans emit a stream of personal digital exhaust — what they search for, what they buy, who they communicate with, where they are — that is captured and exploited in a largely unregulated fashion.”

It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”)—the smart watches that can monitor our blood pressure and the smart phones that let us pay for purchases with our fingerprints and iris scans—are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

For instance, imagine what the NSA could do (and is likely already doing) with voiceprint technology, which has been likened to a fingerprint. Described as “the next frontline in the battle against overweening public surveillance,” the collection of voiceprints is a booming industry for governments and businesses alike.

As The Guardian reports, “voice biometrics could be used to pinpoint the location of individuals. There is already discussion about placing voice sensors in public spaces… multiple sensors could be triangulated to identify individuals and specify their location within very small areas.”

Suddenly the NSA’s telephone metadata program seems like child’s play compared to what’s coming down the pike.

That, of course, is the point.

The NSA is merely one small part of the shadowy Deep State comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control.

For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability and a representative government by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we the people.”

Incredibly, there are still individuals who insist that they have nothing to fear from the police state and nothing to hide from the surveillance state, because they have done nothing wrong.

To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning.

There is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

The danger posed by the American police/surveillance state applies equally to all of us: lawbreaker and law-abider alike, black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, and any other distinction you’d care to trot out.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

Eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The West’s War on Free Speech

By Tony Cartalucci – New Eastern Outlook – 05.06.2017

With a name like the “National Democratic Institute” (NDI) one might expect the US State Department-funded, corporate-financier chaired front to be the premier proponent of freedom and democracy worldwide. And although it poses as such, it does precisely the opposite. It uses principles like free speech, democracy, press freedom, and human rights as a facade behind which it carries out a politically motivated agenda on behalf of the special interests that fund and direct its activities.

In a recent Tweet, NDI linked to a New York Times article titled, “In Europe’s Election Season, Tech Vies to Fight Fake News.” It claimed in the Tweet that the article featured:

A look at some of the projects aiming to use automated algorithms to identify and combat fake news.

The article itself though, reveals nothing short of a global effort by US tech-giants Google and Facebook, in collaboration with the Western media, to censor any and all media that fails to align with Western-dominated narratives.

The article itself claims:

The French electorate heads to the polls in the second round of presidential elections on May 7, followed by votes in Britain and Germany in the coming months. Computer scientists, tech giants and start-ups are using sophisticated algorithms and reams of online data to quickly — and automatically — spot fake news faster than traditional fact-checking groups can.

The goal, experts say, is to expand these digital tools across Europe, so the region can counter the fake news that caused so much confusion and anger during the United States presidential election in November, when outright false reports routinely spread like wildfire on Facebook and Twitter.

The article then explains that once “fake news” is spotted, it is expunged from the Internet. It reports that:

After criticism of its role in spreading false reports during the United States elections, Facebook introduced a fact-checking tool ahead of the Dutch elections in March and the first round of the French presidential election on April 23. It also removed 30,000 accounts in France that had shared fake news, a small fraction of the approximately 33 million Facebook users in the country.

Were foreign government-linked tech companies purging tens of thousands of accounts ahead of elections in say, Thailand or Russia, it is very likely organizations like NDI and media platforms like the New York Times would cry foul, depicting it as censorship.

In determining what is and isn’t “fake news,” the New York Times offers some clues (emphasis added):

Using a database of verified articles and their artificial intelligence expertise, rival groups — a combination of college teams, independent programmers and groups from existing tech companies — already have been able to accurately predict the veracity of certain claims almost 90 percent of the time, Mr. Pomerleau said. He hopes that figure will rise to the mid-90s before his challenge ends in June.

In other words, “fake news” is determined by comparing it directly to narratives presented by establishment media platforms like the New York Times, the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and others who have notorious track records of serial deception, false reporting, and even war propagandizing.

Nowhere does the New York Times explain how these “verified articles” have been determined to be factually accurate, and instead, it appears that all these algorithms are doing is ensuring all media falls in line with Western narratives.

If media in question coincides with Western-dominated media platforms, it is given a pass – if not, it is slated for expunging as described elsewhere in the New York Times’ piece.

Thus, the National Democratic Institute, who claims on its website to “support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government,” finds itself promoting what is essentially a worldwide agenda of malicious censorship, manipulating the perception of the globe’s citizenry, not supporting or strengthening it’s participation in any sort of honest political process.

To answer the question as to what the NDI is referring to when it claims other nations are “censoring” free speech and press freedoms, it involves defending local fronts funded by the NDI and its parent organization, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) who merely repeat Western propaganda in local languages and with local spins. When foreign nations attempt to deal with these instances of “fake news,” US fronts like NDI and NED depict it as censorship.

While the West poses as the premier champion of free speech, citizen participation, openness, and accountability, the New York Times article reveals an unfolding plan to utterly crush any narrative that deviates from Western media talking points, thus controlling citizen perception, not encouraging “participation,” and ensuring that the West alone determines what is “opened” and held “accountable.”

No worse scenario can be referenced in human history or even among human fiction than plans to determine for the world through automatic algorithms and artificial intelligence almost in real time what is heard and read and what isn’t. It is even beyond the scope and scale of George Orwell’s cautionary dystopian “1984” novel.

In a truly free society, an educated citizenry is capable of deciding for itself what is “fake news” and what isn’t. Because of the rise of alternatives to the West’s monopoly over global information, many people are doing just that – determining that Western narratives are in fact deceptions. At no other point in modern history has the Western media faced as many alternatives, and as much skepticism on this scale, as well as an ebbing of trust domestically and abroad. It is no surprise then, to find the West resorting to outright censorship, even if it cushions mention of it with terms like “fake news.”

June 5, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

School-issued computers spy on children in US without parental consent – digital rights group

RT | April 18, 2017

School-issued computer devices – provided to one-third of school children across the US – collect excessive amounts of highly sensitive personal data on the students without parental consent or even prior notice, a new study finds.

Electronic devices distributed in US schools collect unprecedented amounts of personal data on children as young as five years old, according to a new report by Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), dubbed ‘Spying on Students’ – the result of a two-year study.

The surveillance comes under the guise of “personalized education.” Roughly one-third of primary and secondary education (K-12) students have received various electronic devices. Many tech companies provide electronic devices for free or a steeply reduced fee, as they seek their share in the $8 billion education technology (ed-tech) market.

Ed-tech, however, can be described as “the world’s most data-mineable industry by far,” according to the report, as the devices use apps and software which collect highly sensitive personal information, including names, dates of birth, browsing history and location data of children. Providers of ed-tech services, however, often fail to protect sensitive data.

The researchers “investigated the 152 ed tech services reported as in use in classrooms, and found troubling trends in their privacy policies regarding lack of encryption, opaque data retention practices, and inadequate data aggregation and de-identification.” Only 118 of them had published privacy policies, while some sort of encryption was mentioned in only 46 of them, and de-identification or aggregation of user data was mentioned in 51. De-identification – the prevention of linking a person’s identity with information – was almost exclusively mentioned in connection with providing information to third parties about their services, according to the report.

The potentially dangerous devices are also often distributed without parental consent or notice. Parents sometimes do not receive any information about ed-tech until after the technology is implemented, according to the study.

“We were given no information about our first-grader receiving a device – a tablet – this year. And when we ask questions, there is little information given at every level,” the report quoted parents from Maryland as saying.

Teachers and school officials are also obliged to use the school-issued devices, often without their consent as well.

“Staff and student details – that is, full names and school email addresses – were passed to Google to create individual logins without consent from staff. I’m not sure about consent from parents,” a teacher wrote on social media, according to the report.

Parents who expressed privacy concerns were often not able to opt out of the programs, as the authorities for some reasons protected interests of ed-tech providers instead of users. For example, when a California teacher allowed a schoolgirl to use her own device instead of a school-issued device after her parents voiced concerns over her privacy, district officials intervened and prohibited such exceptions, according to the report.

“While schools are eagerly embracing digital devices and services in the classroom – and ed tech vendors are racing to meet the demand – student privacy is not receiving the attention it deserves,” the study concluded. “Meaningful improvements in student data protection will require changes in state and federal law, in school and district priorities, and in ed tech company policies and practices.”

April 18, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment

‘Any Data They Can Intercept’: US Congress Will Let Companies Sell Browsing Data

Sputnik – 29.03.2017

Following in the Senate’s footsteps, the US House of Representatives has approved a piece of legislation that would allow massive telephone and cable companies to sell the data generated by internet users’ browsing habits.

On March 28, the US House narrowly passed a bill that analysts say is a huge win for the bloated telecommunications industry, and a commensurately large invasion on citizens’ privacy – or lack thereof. The resolution cleared its way through the lower chamber of the legislature by a 215-205 vote.

If US President Donald Trump signs the resolution into law, companies will legally be able to create profiles about every internet user, then sell those profiles to the highest bidder, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a statement.

“Considering how much access [internet service providers, or ISPs] already have to highly sensitive data, it is absolutely unacceptable for them to monetize personal information,” Representative Mike Pocan of Wisconsin said Tuesday.

The ability for service providers to collect “essentially any data they can intercept and read for themselves” was supposed to be an opt-in only policy, giving consumers a choice whether to disclose their data, but instead telecommunications companies will have the ability to generate revenue off of the public’s browsing habits, said Matt Erickson on Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary with Eugene Puryear. Erickson is a director with the Digital Privacy Alliance.

​”Google and Facebook collect large amounts of information in ways that should be very concerning to people,” Puryear said.

The news comes as a major setback for privacy advocates and a major victory for Comcast, TimeWarner, AT&T and Verizon, which “will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements,” the EFF said.

What’s more, at a time when nearly every major financial institution, electrical utilities company, defense and aerospace firm, and governmental agency is seeking to bolster its cyber defense systems, there are a host of reasons to think that these new rules would be detrimental to the US’ collective cybersecurity.

By recording your traffic and building a profile about you, for instance, hackers gain a new target database to breach.

March 29, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Google employs army of censors “quality raters” to combat horrid things on the web

OffGuardian | March 15, 2017

It seems the unofficial Minitrue we predicted in yesterday’s piece is already here. Google’s “Quality raters” will, from Tuesday, be combing the net with fresh vigour looking for “upsetting-offensive” things and making sure we never get to see them.

The article in the Guardian covering this new development highlights its use against the usual suspect – “Holocaust denial”, which is of course the thinnest and most entirely acceptable end of the wedge. The one they always use as a poster child for censorship of any kind. But we would have to be cosmically naive to believe Google’s anonymous and entirely unaccountable “10,000-strong army of independent contractors” will stop there. We should also remain a little sceptical about Google’s vaguely worded claim that these new guidelines will not effectively remove certain opinions from the web. The only way the quality control can work is through promoting some sites while suppressing others.

We might not be concerned when white supremacists sites are being targeted for such suppression, but what about alternative health sites? Truther sites? Or indeed alt news sites such as ours? How will Google’s busy crusaders for “quality” deal with them?

Alex Hern, in the Guardian, predictably thinks Google isn’t going far enough, and that:

Google’s failure to keep fake news and propaganda off the top of search results is broader than simply promoting upsetting or offensive content.

He illustrates this with Google’s “snippets in search” feature quoting “questionable sites”, leading to “the search engine claiming in its own voice that “Obama may be planning a communist coup d’état”, and – even worse – the same feature once:

lied to users about the time required to caramelise onions

Hern does rather grudgingly admit that “shortly after each of these stories were published, the search results in question were updated to fix the errors,” but that apparently doesn’t mitigate the indictment.

So, be warned. Google may be showing us the way to a simpler and safer world where upset and offence will just be a distant and fading memory, but that’s only a beginning. If the Graun and other neoliberal opinion-makers have their way there will be a time in the not too distant future when merely referencing any “controversy” from debatable optimum cooking times to the alleged funding of ISIS will be about as socially unacceptable as urinating in public.

March 15, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments

Mainstream Media’s ‘Victimhood’

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | February 28, 2017

It’s heartwarming that The New York Times and The Washington Post are troubled that President Trump is loosely throwing around accusations of “fake news.” It’s nice that they now realize that truth does not reliably come from the mouth of every senior government official or from every official report.

The Times is even taking out full-page ads in its own pages to offer truisms about truth: “The truth is hard. The truth is hidden. The truth must be pursued. The truth is hard to hear. The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious. …”  On Sunday, those truth truisms ran opposite an alarmist column by Jim Rutenberg entitled, “Will the Real Democracy Lovers Please Stand Up?” Meanwhile, The Washington Post launched its own melodramatic slogan, “Dies in Darkness.”

Yet, it was only weeks ago when the Post and Times were eagerly promoting plans for silencing or blacklisting independent news sites that didn’t toe the line on what the U.S. government and its allies were claiming was true.

On Nov. 20, the Times published a lead editorial calling on Facebook and other technology giants to devise algorithms that could eliminate stories that the Times deemed to be “fake.” The Times and other mainstream news outlets – along with a few favored Internet sites – joined a special Google-sponsored task force, called the First Draft Coalition, to decide what is true and what is not. If the Times’ editorial recommendations were followed, the disfavored stories and the sites publishing them would no longer be accessible through popular search engines and platforms, essentially blocking the public’s access to them. [See Consortiumnews.com’sWhat to Do About ‘Fake News.’”]

On Thanksgiving Day, the Post ran a front-page story citing an anonymous group, called PropOrNot, blacklisting 200 Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other important sources of independent journalism, because we supposedly promoted “Russian propaganda.”

Although PropOrNot and the Post didn’t bother to cite any actual examples or to ask the accused for comment, the point was clear: If you didn’t march in lockstep behind the Official Narrative on, say, the Ukraine crisis or the war in Syria, you were to be isolated, demonized and effectively silenced. In the article, the Post blurred the lines between “fake news” – stories that are simply made up – and what was deemed “propaganda,” in effect, information that didn’t jibe with what the U.S. State Department was saying.

Back then, in November, the big newspapers believed that the truth was easy, simple, obvious, requiring only access to some well-placed government official or a quick reading of the executive summary from some official report. Over the last quarter century or so, the Times, in particular, has made a fetish out of embracing pretty much whatever Officialdom declared to be true. After all, such well-dressed folks with those important-sounding titles couldn’t possibly be lying.

That gullibility went from the serious, such as rejecting overwhelming evidence that Ronald Reagan’s Nicaraguan Contra rebels were deeply involved in drug trafficking, to the silly, trusting the NFL’s absurd Deflategate allegations against Tom Brady. In those “old” days, which apparently ended a few weeks ago, the Times could have run full-page ads, saying “Truth is whatever those in authority say it is.”

In 2002, when the George W. Bush administration was vouching for a motley crew of Iraqi “defectors” describing Saddam Hussein’s hidden WMDs, Iraq’s purchase of some “aluminum tubes” must have been for building nuclear bombs. In 2003, when Secretary of State Colin Powell showed some artist drawings of “mobile chemical weapons labs,” they must really exist – and anyone who doubted Powell’s “slam-dunk” testimony deserved only contempt and ridicule.

When the Obama administration issued a “government assessment” blaming the Syrian military for the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013, there was no need to scrutinize its dubious assertions or ask for actual proof. To do so made you an “Assad apologist.”

When a bunch of U.S. allies under the effective control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence service presented some videos with computer-generated graphics showing Russians supplying the Buk missile that shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014, there was no need to examine the holes in the evidence or note that the realistic-looking graphics were fictional and based on dubious assumptions. To do so made you a “Moscow stooge.”

In other words, when the U.S. government was gluing black hats on an “enemy” and white hats on a U.S. “ally,” the Times never seemed to object. Nor did pretty much anyone else in the mainstream media. No one seemed to note that both sides usually deserved gray hats. With very few exceptions – when the State Department or other U.S. agencies were making the charges – the Times and its cohorts simply stopped applying responsible journalistic skepticism.

Of course, there is a problem with “fake news,” i.e., stories that are consciously made up for the purpose of making money from lots of clicks. There are also fact-free conspiracy theories that operate without evidence or in defiance of it. No one hates such bogus stories more than I do — and they have long been a bane of serious journalism, dating back centuries, not just to the last election.

But what the Times, the Post and the rest of the mainstream media have typically ignored is that there are many situations in which the facts are not clear or when there are alternative explanations that could reasonably explain a set of facts. There are even times when the evidence goes firmly against what the U.S. government is claiming. At those moments, skepticism and courage are necessary to challenge false or dubious Official Narratives. You might even say, “The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious…”

A Tough Transition

During the transition from the Obama administration to the Trump team, the Times, the Post and other mainstream media outlets got caught in their own transition from trusting whatever the outgoing officials said to distrusting whatever the incoming officials said. In those final days, big media accepted what President Obama’s intelligence agencies asserted about Russia supposedly interfering in the U.S. election despite the lack of publicly available evidence that could be scrutinized and tested.

Even something as squirrelly as the attack on Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn – with Obama holdovers citing the never-prosecuted Logan Act from 1799 as the pretext for ginning up some kind of criminal-sounding case that scared Trump into firing Flynn – was treated as legitimate, without serious questions asked. Since Obama officials were doing the feeding, the no-skepticism rule applied to the eating. But whatever statements came from Trump, even his few lucid moments explaining why war with nuclear-armed Russia wasn’t such a great idea, were treated as dangerous nonsense.

When Trump scolded the mainstream press for engaging in “fake news” and then applied the phrase “enemy of the people,” the Times, the Post and the rest went into full victimization-mode. When a few news companies were excluded from a White House news briefing, they all rushed to the barricades to defend freedom of the press. Then, Trump went even further – he rejected his invitation to the White House Correspondents Dinner, the black-tie/evening-gown event where mainstream media stars compete to attract the hottest celebrity guests and hobnob with important government officials, a walking-talking conflict-of-interest-filled evening, an orgy of self-importance.

So, the Times, the Post and their mainstream-media friends now feel under attack. Whereas just weeks ago they were demanding that Google, Facebook and other powerful information platforms throttle those of us who showed professional skepticism toward dubious claims from the U.S. government, now the Times, the Post and the others are insisting that we all rally around them, to defend their journalistic freedom. In another full-page ad on Sunday, the Times wrote: “Truth. It’s more important now than ever.”

I would argue that truth is always important, but especially so when government officials are leading countries toward war, when lives are at stake, whether in Iraq or Syria or Ukraine or the many other global hotspots. At those moments in the recent past, the Times did not treat truth – in all its subtlety and nuance – as important at all.

I would argue, too, that the stakes are raised even higher when propagandists and ideologues are risking the prospect of nuclear war that could kill billions and effectively end human civilization. However, in that case, the American people have seen little truly professional journalism nor a real commitment to the truth. Instead, it’s been much more fun to demonize Russian President Vladimir Putin and paint black-and-white pictures of the evil Russians.

At such moments, those New York Times’ truisms about truth are forgotten: “The truth is rarely simple. The truth isn’t so obvious. …”


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Fact-Checking Institute Sponsored by Soros on War Path Against ‘Fake News’

Sputnik – 26.01.2017

The fake news “hysteria” has recently resulted in a number of initiatives to fight against the so-called misleading information and false statements. The campaign has been launched by such Internet giants, as Facebook and Google.

For instance, Google has permanently blocked 200 publishers which are labelled by the search engine giants as fake news content sites. In its turn, German Facebook tasked the fact-checking Correctiv research center with filtering out fake news in its news feed.

In an interview with Sputnik Germany, experienced freelance journalist Paul Schreyer revealed some surprising facts about fact-checking teams.

According to Schreyer’s research, the fake news campaign was originally born in the US in a journalist school called the Poynter Institute in Florida. The school had been running a so-called International Fact Checking Network for over a year, consisting of journalists working for such major media outlets like AP or ABC.

“The Poynter Institute’s network is indirectly sponsored by the US government via a think tank, but also by the Bill Gates foundation, Google, George Soros and some other foundations. So you see in the background of the campaign against fake news there is a network of very financially strong elites and the government. You should keep in mind that there are not just journalists who are concerned about the reputation of the industry, but also very influential financiers in the background,” the journalist told Sputnik Germany.

In particular, Schreyer found out that the German Correctiv team also receives a lot of money from influential supporters.

“Correctiv has existed since 2014 and is, according to own data, an independent research center. It is funded by the Brost Foundation, a foundation of a well-known journalist, who built the WAZ media group in the post-war period. Correctiv receives about one million euros every year according to official figures, and there are also funds from private sponsors, from the Federal Center for Political Education and some media groups,” Schreyer stated.

The journalist also pointed out that the members of the team have not yet worked out certain criteria which they will use to fact-check the information and define false statements.

Although Correctiv consists of professional journalists, who worked for major German media outlets, like Der Stern und Der Spiegel, exactly this can be a problem during their work. In particular, it is not quite clear what kind of approach they will use to independently and unbiasedly check the content of large media groups with whom they have connections with. According to Schreyer, it is very difficult to define what fake news, actually, is.

“David Schraven [Correctiv team member] repeatedly said that they do not want to assess opinions, but rather check factual statements. This sounds quite reasonable, but when you think about it, you realize that you can’t separate opinions and factual statements so clearly at all. There can be statement in the middle of the two. For example, “Putin jeopardizes the security of Europe.” Is this now an opinion or a factual statement? Can this be checked? What criteria should be used to check it? There you have a grey zone which can very fast fall into the area of the censorship,” the journalist said.

Earlier, it was reported that German Facebook will trial a fake news filtering system for German users of the site, allowing individuals to fact-check and report stories they suspect to be untrue. The users will be able to flag any story that appears in their newsfeed they suspect is fake news.The story will then be dispatched to Correctiv and if the team determines the story to be fake, it will be marked as false and users seeing it in their feeds will be warned about its doubted authenticity. It will also be blocked from being promoted in users’ feeds.

Commenting on the new initiative, Schreyer stated that it sounds to him, like censorship and added that “the whole fake news topic has turned into an incredibly hysterical debate at the moment.”

Facebook representatives, in their turn, stated that by adding additional context to stories deemed fake, it gives people an opportunity to decide for themselves what to believe and what information they share.

See also:

Google Blacklists 200 Publisher Sites to Quell ‘Fake News’

UK University Scientists Consider ‘Vaccine’ Against Fake News

‘Neo-Liberals’ and ‘Fake News’: The West’s Campaign Against Free Speech

January 26, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Google, Facebook purge ‘fake news’ sites

RT | January 25, 2017

Under increased scrutiny for supporting the spread of false and misleading news, Google and Facebook are taking steps to purge networks of several hundred fake news sites.

On Wednesday, Google announced it had reviewed some 550 sites since its policy changes, permanently banning nearly 200 published sites and temporarily cutting off another 140 sites from the company ad dollar source, according to Variety.

Among the typical culprits was a conspiracy blog that appeared as the first item found for the search “who won the popular vote,” which suggested Donald Trump had won the popular vote. Another was a made-up story about President Barack Obama supposedly seeking a third term.

Google regularly weeds out advertisers for false and misleading claims, but the search giant has now booted publishers off its ad network for fake news.

The company responded to criticism that it supported fake news by changing its Adsense policy, prohibiting sites that “misrepresent, misstate, on conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose” of the site from using Google ads for monetization.

An annual report of ad violations shows that Google took down 1.7 billion ads for various policy violations in 2016, including 17 million ads for illegal gambling, 5 million payday loans and 80 million misleading or shocking ads.

The company declined to release a list of the banned sites.

Facebook also announced it is overhauling its “trending topics” box, as part of its effort to curb fake news.

Beginning on Wednesday, its software will track only topics that have been covered by a significant number of credible publishers.

“If just one story or post went viral, it wouldn’t make it into the trending as it might previously,” Will Cathcart, a Facebook vice president of product management told the Wall Street Journal. “It really takes a mass of publishers writing about the same topic to make the cut.”

Facebook will take into account how long a publisher has maintained a presence on the social network.

The trending feature appears in a box on the right side of the Facebook page.

The change, however, will do little to affect what is reflected in users’ newsfeeds. In December, Facebook had fact-checking groups flag stories if they were false, which would then be demoted in the news feed.

Another popular social media company, Snapchat, is embracing the fake news challenge. In a redesign rolled out Wednesday, the company will restrict publishers from using images or headlines in Discover that lack editorial value. The Discover channels, which were introduced last summer, are a grid of tiles that are scrollable by users.

Future plans will be an age-gating tool to prevent minors from seeing inappropriate content on the Discover feed.

January 25, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

‘Facebook deals first blow in the fake war against fake news’

RT | January 19, 2017

Governments are using media organizations as proxies in an effort to control the information citizens can get from the Internet, says former MI5 officer Annie Machon. The fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie, she added.

RT has been blocked from posting content to its Facebook page during the live broadcast of Barack Obama’s final news conference over an alleged copyright infringement.

The suspension was triggered by one of the social network’s algorithms, which is alerted according to what’s being submitted.

RT has a contract with the Associated Press and streamed a news feed. The agency has confirmed RT had the right to retransmit the video, so the problem must lie with Facebook.

The head of Russia’s telecoms watchdog is warning of “active response measures” if RT’s work is restricted by the American media or the social networks.

Facebook has not replied to inquiries, and the restrictions on posting remain.

RT: The news outlet was mentioned as triggering a Facebook alert and says it’s not them. So just how sensitive has Facebook’s media clampdown tool become?

Annie Machon: I think this is the first blow in Facebook’s self-proclaimed war against so-called fake news. Both Facebook and Google in the wake of the shadowy PropOrNot list of 200 news organizations around the world that are supposedly peddling fake news, but actually just offering an alternative to the corporate US media, and RT was included in that. Facebook and Google in the aftermath said that they would start to censor all these outlets. I think that is what we are seeing with Facebook now is that they are using the excuse of copyright to censor legitimate news channel and stop them from covering a world event that the rest of the world is going to watch without any problem on other channels.

RT: At the World Economic Forum in Davos the Facebook representative said that their organization is dedicated, as they put it, to tackling so-called fake news and the whole phenomenon that we’ve heard of lately. Do you think this is part of that?

AM: I think it is part of that. And it is not just Facebook and Google who said they are going to take on the so-called fake news. It is also the European Union who issued a diktat last November saying that they were going to set up a body to counter fake news. We see countries like France and Germany already peddling this idea that there is going to be hacking and counter-democratic activity in the run up to their elections this year. So, they are using this. But I think it is interesting to see that the copyright has been used as a pretext for this censorship. I’ve been saying for years that the media organizations are being used by the governments as proxy organizations in terms of trying to control the information we can ingest over the internet and the information we can actually access over the internet.

RT: The suspension is imposed ahead of Trump’s inauguration and won’t be lifted until the day after it. What do you make of that? Is it a coincidence?

AM: Absolutely not. It is a first blow in the so-called battle – fake battle against fake news. And let’s just remind ourselves how this so-called concept of fake started. Somehow information was leaked from the DNC last year and the people who received that information, WikiLeaks said very clearly it was not a hack, it was actually a leak. And yet the corporate media in America has said again, “No, this was Russia hacking the DNC.” And then somehow it became Russia hacking the American elections, Russia hacking voting computers, Russia hacking the energy grid in America. None of this has been proven. Some of it has been actively proven to be false. But when Obama expelled the 35 Russian diplomats from America back to Russia before Christmas, that sort of solidified as fact that the Russians had done something wrong. There is no proof whatsoever. So this fake war against fake news is predicated on a big lie.

I think there are strings have been pulled in the background, shall we say. Particularly, in America. And the big media and internet corporations in America have been proven year after year to be very much in bed with the US state and with the US secret state. We know this of course because of the revelations of Edward Snowden. You know, all the big social media giants signed up to allow access to their databases by the secret agencies in America, starting with Microsoft back in 2006. We know that they are complicit; we know that they have been compromised. So, who can tell where this is going to go. There is a sort of all-out fight between the president-elect anyways and his so-called intelligence agencies.

RT: The original source mentioned as alerting Facebook denies it raised a copyright flag. AP confirmed RT had the rights for transmission. Facebook is the only entity yet to answer. Why isn’t it being more pro-active to remedy this considering this being a pretty big media news?

Chris Bambery, political analyst: It is pretty big media news, and I am really puzzled. Donald Trump is about to become President, and he is painted by much of the world’s media and spy agencies as being President Putin’s chum. And yet there is this continuing escalation of the Cold War with Russia, even hours before Trump is elected. Facebook is a giant American transnational. It is not known for its own transparency over these things. It does lead one to suspect that there are sections of our US elite who really do not like Donald Trump and want to create difficulties between the incoming presidency and Russia.

RT: RT’s troubles with Facebook come a day after the online news alert service Dataminr refused to renew our contract with them. That stems back to the CIA also being denied access and saying the same should apply to RT claiming we’re tied to Russian intelligence. Is that the real reason, do you think?

CB: On that basis, if you are being blocked because you receive state funding, the BBC World service is funded by the British Foreign Office, so why would that not be blocked? And I am sure Radio Free Europe and various other outlets have received funding from the American state. So, if that is to be criteria than a lot of leading news agencies would be off social media, and off air. This is going to feed into the conspiracy theories because it is so bizarre and strange.

Well, the biggest fake news story I’ve seen was the so-called dossier about Donald Trump, and they didn’t seem to be blocking that, which was all over Facebook. Again, I find it rather strange.

Read more:

Facebook blocks RT from posting until after Trump inauguration

Dataminr terminates RT access to Twitter news discovery tool, gives no official reason

January 19, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Foxes Guard Facebook Henhouse

By F. William Engdahl – New Eastern Outlook – 22.12.2016

The latest mantra of CIA-linked media since the “Pizzagate” leaks of data alleging that Hillary Clinton Campaign Manager John Podesta and other highly influential political persons in Washington were connected to an unusual pizza place near the White House run by a 41-year old James Achilles Alefantis called Comet Ping Pong, is the need to crack down (i.e. censorship) on what is being called “Fake News.” The latest step in this internet censorship drive is a decision by the murky social media organization called Facebook to hire special organizations to determine if Facebook messages are pushing Fake News or not. Now it comes out that the “fact check” private organizations used by Facebook are tied to the CIA and CIA-related NGO’s including George Soros’ Open Society Foundations.

In the last weeks of the US Presidential campaign, Wikileaks released a huge number of emails linked to Clinton Campaign Manager, John Podesta. The contents of thousands of emails revealed detailed exchanges between Podesta and the oddly-influential Comet Ping Pong pizza place owner, Alefantis, as well as the Clinton campaign, which held fundraisers at Comet Ping Pong.

The Pizzagate scandal exploded in the final weeks of the US campaign as teams of private researchers documented and posted Facebook, Instagram and other data suggesting that Alefantis and Comet Ping Pong were at the heart of a pedophilia ring that implicated some of the most prominent politicians in Washington and beyond.

The New York Times and Washington Post moved swiftly to assert that the Pizzagate revelations were Fake News, quoting “anonymous sources” who supposedly said the CIA “believed” Russia was behind hackers who exposed emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta. Former NSA senior intelligence expert William Binney claimed the Podesta and Clinton campaign data were leaked, not hacked. The NSA, he pointed out, would immediately identify a hack, especially a foreign hack, and they have remained silent.

The uncovering and release to Wikileaks of the Podesta emails were immediately blamed on Russian intelligence by the CIA, and now by the US President, with not a shred of proof, and despite the fact that NSA. Wikipedia, whose content is often manipulated by US intelligence agencies, rapidly posted a page with the curious title, “Pizzagate (Conspiracy Theory).”

To make certain the neutral interested reader gets the message, the first line reads, “Pizzagate is a debunked conspiracy theory which emerged during the 2016 United States presidential election cycle, alleging that John Podesta’s emails, which were leaked by WikiLeaks, contain coded messages referring to human trafficking, and connecting a number of pizzerias in Washington, D.C. and members of the Democratic Party to a child-sex ring.”

‘Fake News’ Mantra Begins

My purpose in mentioning Pizzagate details is not to demonstrate the authenticity of the Pizzagate allegations. That others are doing with far more resources. Rather, it is to point out the time synchronicity of the explosive Pizzagate email releases by Julian Assange’s Wikileaks web blog, with the launch of a massive mainstream media and political campaign against what is now being called “Fake News.”

The cited New York Times article that Wikipedia cites as “debunking” the Pizzagate allegations states, “None of it was true. While Mr. Alefantis has some prominent Democratic friends in Washington and was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton, he has never met her, does not sell or abuse children, and is not being investigated by law enforcement for any of these claims. He and his 40 employees had unwittingly become real people caught in the middle of a storm of fake news.” The article contains not one concrete proof that the allegations are false, merely quoting Alefantis as the poor victim of malicious Fake News.

That New York Times story was accompanied by a series of articles such as “How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study.” Another headline reads, “Obama, With Angela Merkel in Berlin, Assails Spread of Fake News.” Then on November 19, strong Clinton supporter, Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg is quoted in a prominent article titled, “Facebook Considering Ways to Combat Fake News, Mark Zuckerberg Says.”

Facebook uses CIA Censors

Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of the world-leading social media site, Facebook.com, the world’s 5th wealthiest man at an estimated $50 billion, has now established a network of “Third Party Fact Checkers” whose job is to red flag any Facebook message of the estimated one billion people using the site, with a prominent warning that reads, “Disputed by Third-Party Fact Checkers.”

Facebook has announced that it is taking its censorship ques from something called The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN). This IFCN, a new creation, has drafted a code of five principles for news websites to accept, and Facebook will work with “third-party fact checking organizations” that are signatories to that code of principles.

If we search under the name International Fact-Checking Network, we find ourselves at the homepage of something called the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

OK. If we look a bit deeper we find that the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network in turn, as its website states, gets money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google, the National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Foundations of George Soros.

Oh my, oh my! Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation who partners with Soros in numerous nasty projects such as convincing African countries to accept Genetically Modified or GMO seeds? Google, whose origins date back to funding by the CIA and NSA as what intelligence researcher Nafeez Ahmed describes as a “plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority‘ “?

The Omidyar Foundation is the foundation of eBay founder and multi billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, which finances among other projects the online digital publication, The Intercept, launched in 2014 by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.

And the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the US Government-financed “private” NGO behind every Color Revolution CIA regime change from the Ukraine Color Revolutions to the Arab Spring? The NED was a CIA project created in the 1980’s during the Reagan Administration as part of privatizing US intelligence dirty operations, to do, as Allen Weinstein, who drafted the Congressional legislation to establish the NED, noted in a candid 1991 Washington Post interview, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”

And if we dig even deeper we find, lo and behold, the name George Soros, convicted hedge fund insider trader, tax-exempt philanthropist and giga-billionaire who seems to fund not only Hillary Clinton and virtually every CIA and US State Department Color Revolution from Russia to China to Iran through his network of Open Society Foundations including the 1990’s Jeffrey Sachs Shock Therapy plunder of Russia and most of former Communist East Europe.

Another one of the media working with Zuckerberg’s Facebook censorship of Fake News is the Washington Post, today owned by Amazon billionaire founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos is a major media business partner of…. The US Central Intelligence Agency, a fact he omitted to inform about after taking over ownership of the most important newspaper in Washington.

Bezos’ Washington Post recently published a bizarre list of 200 websites it claimed generated Fake News. It refused to identify who gave them the list. Veteran Washington investigative reporter, Wayne Madsen, exposed the source of the McCarthy-style taboo list of so-called Fake News. It was a “website called PropOrNot.com that has links to the CIA and George Soros.”

It’s not merely the Pizzagate revelations that have triggered such a massive attack on independent Internet websites. It seems that back in January 2014 at the Davos World Economic Forum control of information on the Internet was a top item of discussion. At the time, Madsen noted, “With the impending demise of World Wide Web ‘net neutrality,’ which has afforded equal access for website operators to the Internet, the one percent of billionaire investors are busy positioning themselves to take over total control of news reporting on the Internet.”

It’s not even the foxes who are guarding the Internet Henhouse. It’s the werewolves of CIA and US Government censorship. Whether the explosive Pizzagate Podesta revelations merely triggered a dramatic acceleration in the timetable for the CIA’s planned “Fake News” operation as the successor to their 1980’s “Conspiracy Theory” linguistic discrediting operation, it’s clear this is no unbiased, objective, transparent public service to protect the Internet public from harmful content.

And, besides, who are they to tell me or you what you are allowed to read, digest and form your independent ideas about? This is a 21st Century reincarnation of the Spanish Inquisition, one by the real fake newsmakers–Washington Post, AP, ABCNews, Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, the CIA and friends. I would say it’s an alarming development of cyber warfare, not by Russia, but by those CIA-run networks that are fomenting Fake News to demonize any and everyone who opposes Washington intelligence propaganda.

December 22, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Fake News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments