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Automated Crowdturfing Attacks and Defenses in Online Review Systems (arxiv.org)
88 points by bartkappenburg on Sept 4, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

This one is close to my heart. Having the internet become a place where the 'best positioned' can influence and direct opinion collapses the freedom of discussion we've had on the internet back down to the old days of big news corps and/or states controlling public opinion.

Recent history shows that this is occurring frequently on major social sites, and I see this infiltration happening more and more on smaller sites and communities.

It's an incredibly difficult problem to tackle. How do you create a hammer of justice without it crushing the freedom of discussion itself?

Better public education.

Virtually every societal problem in America can be traced back to our sub-par and falling public education.

It's a hard problem to fix - deep reforms take decades to reflect in society, and the vast majority of voters will always be ones that went through older (broken?) versions of the education system... but fixing it is the only path forward. We can't regulate or police away bad ideas. This is a problem where we need to manage demand - the answer to flat-earth theorists, Nazis, and anti-democratic propaganda is to make sure the general public is equipped to dismiss those concepts.

This is by design. The Republican party knows that attacks on education invariably end up creating more Republicans.

This is the type comment they're talking about trying to detect. It adds little/nothing of substance to the discussion and even if you were to provide sources it pulls discussion toward a poo flinging match about whether the political bias of any particular source is relevant.

Comments about substance and quality of discussion are always the same in the same ways.

One would need to have automatic classifiers and lines of discussion that can travel across hyperplanes.

Yes. Logic and reasoning don't work well for evaluating statements about complex subjects that eventually boil down to subjective assessments of things and opinions about things.

Most societal problems are NP or contain NP sub-problems.

Look are github.com/neyer/respect

Or s3.neyer.me/respect-matrix-slides.pdf

The solution is to do reputation on a pairwise basis. Recursively Expand the network of people you trust.

Thank you for these links.

You need to accept that something as big as a Facebook or Google is pure poison, inimical to anything like the freedom you're describing. You don't create a hammer, you just break everything and leave it in pieces, because at least when it's in pieces you can find something that roughly suits you and none of the pieces will crush any of the others. Of course over time some pieces will naturally band together, and eventually you'll be right back where you started, but that's just human nature and another reason why they call it "revolution" after all. As far as anyone can tell there is nothing static in nature, and nothing in human history indicates the ability for us to avoid constant change or the need for constant change, and get our history is essentially a story of trying to resist change.

As a result we get frontiers like the Internet, but those frontiers always close if they turn out to be valuable. You can either except that, you can try and open and exploit new frontiers, try to change the way we operate as a species, or just give up.

People in this thread are worried about using this for generic commenting/discussion systems. But how would that work? The RNN would need to understand the contents of the original comment to reply. It's not as simple as paraphrasing the marketing spiel of the product to confirm or deny that it works well (which is what I mostly use reviews for).

It's not so much about influencing as it is about disrupting. Putin's goal is to make democracy stop working. First in the countries of the former Soviet Union, especially Ukraine, and Georgia, then outward.

What's the difference between influencing and anarchic disruption? Disruption increases noise, influencing manipulates the signals that gets through.

Putin is not the only actor here. The Clinton campaign publicly employed crowdturfing, and I would be extremely surprised if conservative forces aren't doing the same. Not to mention corporate policy astroturfing (eg climate change).

America's foundation has been crumbling for decades... and I predict we're going to keep sliding downwards for a couple decades at minimum.

Effective democracy requires an educated electorate that can publicly manage law, economics, and culture. We're failing because the public is literally no longer equipped with the skills to govern themselves anymore. Our public education system is stuck in the 1900's, the world has gotten more complicated while our standards fell to the lowest common denominator - turning K-12 into a degree-mill crossed with a day-care for minors.

The electorate is much better educated today than it was 50 or 100 years ago.

It was common to drop out in 8th grade when my grandparents were kids. In their parents time dropping out at 5th grade was common. Do you think farming better prepares you to elect competent candidates than public education?

Average performance on IQ tests has steadily increased since we've measured it.

There is no objective measurement that would lead to the conclusion that we are less educated today.

> Do you think farming better prepares you to elect competent candidates than public education?

In some ways, yes. Running a farming business or working in a coal mine or steel mill teaches you a lot about hard work, no-BS, and the farm business teaches you math and economics. I believe that leaves the electorate less susceptible to magical thinking, less lazy, and less inclined to expect the government to fix their lives and less willing to have the government run their lives.

(Most of the modern ag-business giveaways came about after the time period in question.)

The majority of farmers weren't running a farming business--they we're sharecroppers who grew 1 or 2 crops and took the price they could get.

>I believe that leaves the electorate less susceptible to magical thinking, less lazy

This part is just romanticizing the past and fetishizing hard labor. You really think our current electorate is more prone to magical thinking than it was 100 years ago? Chain gang convicts from a century ago should be fantastic at picking leaders right?

>and less inclined to expect the government to fix their lives and less willing to have the government run their lives.

And this part is just demonstrably wrong. The New Deal was very popular among farmers and coal miners--they were most definitely calling for the government to fix their lives in a way we haven't seen in decades.

My mother's from France. Growing up her family's business was agriculture. They didn't have smartphones, TVs. This meant they'd spend a lot of their time talking with others, especially people older than you - and that's how you learn critical thinking. I recently saw a video interview - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hUOUNZrbBg - with Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Clinton commented he doesn't know how people do it these days with all the distractions for consuming and not engagement - and that he learned his thinking skills heavily through family dinner every night.

People have said the exact thing about novels, comic books, television, and telephones.

Socrates even complained about writing.

Scientific American published a screed against the negative effects of chess in the 1850s.

The devices and distractions of every new generation are the harbingers of the apocalypse for the previous one.

Well, that's interesting. All of those do present different levels of engagement though. The phone - only voice and no facial or body queues. Novels - obviously no audio and no opportunity to engage, and comic books - less use of imagination required than a novel. Television being the most like real-life, most stimulating as actually watching something in the real-world ... designed to be more engaging visually and with sound than stimulating with interesting thought (most of time - entertainment vs educational/learning). Writing too, perhaps if people you learned the most from and listened to the most from were very well-spoken - and perhaps Socrates understood the value of the listeners/readers being present for engagement, whereby if someone doesn't understand a point or wants to challenge it, they can instantly. It does seem like all of these evolutions and innovations of humanity and language, communication, are making the natural world a less healthy place.

Effective democracy requires Byzantine fault tolerance. 2/3 majority seems impossible though.

Fake news powered the biological crowdturfing agents.

Why run hundreds of even thousands of detectable bots, when one can seed real living agents of chaos? It is not unlike a reflection attack. I call it FOGGYMIRROR.

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