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Google shuts YouTube channel implicated in Kremlin political propaganda ops (techcrunch.com)
58 points by doppp 9 days ago | hide | past | web | 49 comments | favorite





"..although the videos did not gain significant traction .. only garnered “hundreds” of views prior to the channel being closed (vs the pair’s Facebook page having ~48,000 fans before it was closed, and videos uploaded there racking up “thousands” of views)."

really hundreds of likes and thousands of views are going to have any impact on the election? Come on! Show us the money, i want to see proof of some real money (millions of dollars channeled in) before i buy this whole "Russia backed" story. Not some pocket change lunch money and a couple of guys (are they even real?).

They are basically saying i can sell an average home and use that money to influence the results of the American elections. Complete BS.


> thousands of views are going to have any impact on the election?

We're not talking about Prime Time TV grabs, this is microtargeting, death by a thousand cuts. This one just one of dozens of campaigns that we are just now learning about. Here are some more examples:

* Russian-funded Facebook ads backed Stein, Sanders[1]

* Shuttered Facebook group that organized anti-Clinton, anti-immigrant rallies across Texas was linked to Russia[2]

* Russians Impersonated Real American Muslims to Stir Chaos on Facebook and Instagram[3]

Just over a month ago FB was denying any Russian influence. And now we know of 4 different demographics, with 4 different campaigns. These "thousands of views" that you pooh-pooh start to add up and you can see how the cumulative influence could have a real effect.

[1] http://www.politico.com/story/2017/09/26/facebook-russia-tru...

[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-group-russia-texas-a...

[3] https://www.thedailybeast.com/exclusive-russians-impersonate...


>this is microtargeting, death by a thousand cuts

Nah this isn't. This is a failed propaganda campaign.


I'm pretty sure that it never is one thing. However if you have a US president who is knee deep in Russia and several accounts here and there, RT, subreddits, twitter bots who also support Russian policies, doesn't that make you think a bit?

You are taking one (obviously failed) campaign and act like it's all while ignoring the whole picture that is evolving around this presidency. This looks...weird.


i would like to see them expose a real money channel if there is one. Why cant they do that? Real names, real money and banks involved. Not 2 ghosts with a failed youtube channel.

....you know what nobody cares though. Average intelligence of an American citizen is pretty low so they will buy any story they are fed.


>Not 2 ghosts with a failed youtube channel.

If you look at this in isolation, it isn't much. You need to place it in the larger context. We have a lot of facts available to us at this time, and there are more facts being uncovered daily.

Your comments here do not seem inline with someone who is keeping close track of facts.


If 100k is all it took to win an election then facebook must be the best advertising that money can buy. Why even run TV ads? :)

To be sure the TV stations will be thankful for your money and to reach all the old people?

Will Google shut down all the USA [1] propaganda channels as well?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voice_of_America


That's the American equivalent to RT, neither of which is in dispute. The channel mentioned in TFA features black actors pretending to be american aimed at discrediting political opponents of Russia and inciting racial conflict to sow instability among Americans. That's not censorship of an alternative viewpoint: this is unambiguously hateful propaganda.

>discrediting political opponents [...] and inciting racial conflict to sow instability among Americans

Your mass media/ruling class does that too (especially on the political right). And they have much more influence than some largely unknown YT channel allegedly backed by Russia.


> And they have much more influence than some largely unknown YT channel allegedly backed by Russia.

How about RT? They play in the same conspiracy league though RT reaches far more people since they air the same agenda in different western countries and languages.


VOA is not covert and its intentions are quite clear.

This equivocation makes no sense.


On the other hands, tons of "NGO"s, foreign journalists, parties, etc sponsored under the table and over the table by various agencies, think tanks, etc, are indeed covert.

Which shows why China (corrupt/autocratic ruling elite or not) feels a need to control its own internet/web -- and would still would be justified to feel that need even if it was a perfect democracy.

Because when country X runs the most/biggest internet properties, then X country's propaganda ops can run uninterrupted on all of its-owned/run web players and services spanning the globe, but other countries' political propaganda can be stopped at any time.

Now, if you're in the side which owns the most/biggest internet properties, then you'll probably feel there's no problem with this imbalance -- nor would you find any reason to control your own internet.

That's because, since all the big players are yours, the global internet is "your own internet" anyway. Plus it's not like your citizens are ever going to venture that far of your national services for alternative news sources. Heck, it's not even like your domestic alternative news sources are much popular, the vast majority is fed 2 partisan shades of the same BS.

And because facts are facts, it gets worse when one side get to unilaterally control and mark as "political propaganda ops" not just actual political propaganda ops, but facts too for everybody concerned.

Especially since, whether you're in country X or another, if you never venture outside of mainstream media (of whatever political persuasion), you'll also tend to find your country's propaganda ops as just neutral reporting. After all, that's what your own media tells you 24/7, what your "neutral" official history books say, etc.


So, Russia influenced the election by having two black men run a YouTube channel?

Among other things, yes.

Yup. This was just one channel among many, following the Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" approach to propaganda. It used the same DDoS-like approach during it's incursion into Georgia and annexation of Crimea.

https://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE198.html

> The Russian propaganda model is high-volume and multichannel, and it disseminates messages without regard for the truth. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency. Although these techniques would seem to run counter to the received wisdom for successful information campaigns, research in psychology supports many of the most successful aspects of the model. Furthermore, the very factors that make the firehose of falsehood effective also make it difficult to counter.


If the US was doing the same thing on a global scale, how would we know? We'd probably be entirely under its influence. We would see certain falsehoods as self-evident facts, because every source we try to read or research, more or less confirms the propaganda.

The distinguishing feature is that the claims are provably false, but the sheer quantity and repetition of claims overwhelms the ability to debunk them. The current US administration actually has quite a few examples of this, but it's arguable whether it's due to incompetence or malice. http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/stateme...

How about the whole "Russia made Trump win the election" narrative itself? Sounds like propaganda to me.

Did you even read the OP's original link about the channel which was shut down? I highly recommend educating yourself on the issue.

The channel run by two black guys? Because that totally validates the propaganda? Did you read the top comment in this thread?

Wow.

I saw this on Rachel Maddow this morning. http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/us-tech-giants-oddl...

Near as she can tell, they live in Nigeria (though I don't think she's actually been able to back that up).

She also digs into a number of the other accounts that did this. The "I love Texas" twitter account was another one that seemed pretty egregious. For example encouraging armed revolt if hillary wins. Switching their account-name and branding to "Secede if Hilary Win" days before the election to make it LOOK like their followers were ALWAYS in favor of extreme political action.

This stuff is pretty dark.


If they would shutdown all news channels that sometime distribute "propaganda", there would not be many left...

Sure, but only if your definition of "propaganda" is completely useless.

So you think that there are a lot of honest media channels that never ran propaganda pieces, not even once!

No, I just think you have no idea what propaganda is since you've probably never witnessed it. Otherwise you would be careful with those superlatives you throw around here.

I know exactly what it looks like, as I've lived under two different third world dictatorships for several years.

It looks like this: everyone repeating the exact same narrative, broadcast everywhere, to the point where it's taken for granted, and anyone who dares point out other possibilities is immediately ostracized and shamed.


>The content appeared intended for an African-American audience, although the videos did not gain significant traction on YouTube, according to The Daily Beast, which said they had only garnered “hundreds” of views prior to the channel being closed (vs the pair’s Facebook page having ~48,000 fans before it was closed, and videos uploaded there racking up “thousands” of views).

Hundreds of views? For the whole channel, huh? Not sure what their distribution targets were but they sure failed to meet them.

And they (presumably) shared these videos on their 48k fan facebook page, yet the videos only managed to get "thousands" of views? Hope they didn't have that Kremlin ad spend behind them because those numbers are pitiful.

>And their content was pulled from Facebook back in August after being identified as Russian-backed propaganda, according to the Daily Beast’s sources.

I think it would be helpful for community moderators everywhere, including Hacker News, to understand how they were identified as Russian-backed propaganda.


> And they (presumably) shared these videos on their 48k fan facebook page, yet the videos only managed to get "thousands" of views? Hope they didn't have that Kremlin ad spend behind them because those numbers are pitiful.

Wasn't the main aim for the facbook network to host Ads? I've read somewhere that they reached millions with that.

> I think it would be helpful for community moderators everywhere, including Hacker News, to understand how they were identified as Russian-backed propaganda.

The most obvious would be the content. You can just turn on the still existing propaganda channels like Russia Today to compare the content.


I want to know specifically the Williams and Kalvin Johnson affiliation with the Kremlin and how it was identified. They are obviously real people (maybe not their real names) right?

How did Facebook determine that they were Russian government-backed counterinformation agents?


>The most obvious would be the content. You can just turn on the still existing propaganda channels like Russia Today to compare the content.

So, like, anything not agreeing with the mainstream US opinion on things?


"So, like, anything not agreeing with the mainstream US opinion on things?"

I live in a country (Lithuania) RT constantly pours BS on, so no, I can assure you it isn't just alternative news -- it is a pure propaganda machine. The latest major story was that German NATO soldiers (stationed in Lithuania as a part to deter Russia from trying something like in Ukraine) raped a local teenage girl[0]. Of course, neither a "victim", nor a single witness was found by police and more reputable journalists.

0. http://www.dw.com/en/why-the-fake-rape-story-against-german-...


>The latest major story was that German NATO soldiers (stationed in Lithuania as a part to deter Russia from trying something like in Ukraine) raped a local teenage girl

That might been a BS report, but it's not like that never happens and is never covered up. Soldiers out of duty, especially drunk, do all kinds of similar shit (assaults, rape, drunken fights, etc) around such bases. We had a few around our here parts -- but here are some more from more reputable sources if you prefer:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1995_Okinawa_rape_incident https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmudiyah_rape_and_killings http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/the-forgotten... http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=82993 http://edition.cnn.com/2006/LAW/10/18/soldiers.court/

Many, of course, such incidents never see the light of day. I don't know whether this one is one such (and it's suppression is touted as it being false to begin with) or the other side, eager to publish some anti-NATO stuff didn't fact-check or even fabricated it. So, I'll give you that. But as "fake news" goes, this is quite on the mark of what often goes on -- not some Pizzagate level BS.

Speaking of fake news, it's not like the other side would never stoop so low either: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nayirah_testimony

(among tons of other such BS)

Also "as a part to deter Russia from trying something like in Ukraine" -- so, to deter them from intervening when the elected government is coup-ed by a ragtag coalition (including bona fide neo-nazis) with support from outside (who wanted to pressure Russia)? In a country which is in their borders and has parts with majority Russian ethnicity that felt threatened?

How good of this good-will organization to protect Lithuania. It's not a full threatening army machine itself, promoting any particular national interests in the region at all, nor is it used for pushing increasingly towards Russia's borders and keeping the pressure of them, decades after the cold war ended. And it's never known to invade sovereign countries which have nothing to do with it, itself, for BS or no pretexts and making hell-holes of civil war and "reconstruction" out of them.

Lithuania's story with USSR and/or current relations with Russia have never been that great, to put it mildly, and Lithuania had suffered a lot under Stalinism etc. It's also good to be paranoid about a powerful neighbor. But I think it finds solace in false friends, who, if the need arose, they wouldn't think twice to sacrifice it themselves. Well, not that differently from false friends in WWII...


I'm not going into Internet political discussion, because it never leads to anything constructive, so I'll just ignore a good portion of your comment. My described incident was different because it was pushed heavily by Russian press and letter was sent to the member(s) of Lithuania parliament trying to cause a stir, so it wasn't just some random BS, it clearly had political motivation to deteriorate relations between locals and NATO soldiers. Also, it was heavily investigated both by police and by media, so if it had had any factual base, I'm sure something would have been found (and here are also some people, who would love if it was true, so there was plenty of motivation, not just formalities). A town this rape supposedly has taken place is very small, population of ~30k, so I'm sure somebody (relatives, neighbors, random people etc.) would have noticed at least something.

> So, like, anything not agreeing with the mainstream US opinion on things?

No, however such narrow view of the world as you demonstrate here would cause suspicions.

Edit: Pinochet? What has he to do with the current situation today? Are you so desperate that you have to reach 40 years back? What youtube channels were involved back then?


Or, you know, I'm from a country that the "US fair view" has caused untold damage, whereas we never had a particular beef with Russia.

Maybe ask some Chileans who suffered under Pinochet about their opinions on US "facts"?


Will they shut down the Russian YouTube offices, which are overrun by the same Kremlin propagandists, wrecking havoc on Russian Youtube (shutting down opposition videos etc)?

What are you talking about? Do you have credible links?

Of course I have no proof, but there are links, and this is one of them: http://www.bbc.com/russian/news-40674508, which you can use as a point of reference.

The Russian net is talking about it (on youtube, on twitter, on VK etc), but no one has proof — if there was proof, it would be scandalous. Thus it's just common knowledge.


So Google is censoring again. It's not extremist. It's not violent. Why does it need censorship? What will they label and censor as "propaganda" next?

Many companies play up the pretense that they are 'global' corporations. There are only nations. Google is a US corporation.

A global corporation would not pay this much attention to the influence of a single nation or it would pay more attention to all of them.


This is only suprising (or outrageous) under the assumption that we live in a global civil rights society. Only commerce is more or less global because it directly serves the interests of states around the world.

Is normal.


when will they shut down Russia Today?

I would note there is a bit of a difference between something called "Russia Today" (or Voice of America) and something purporting to be grassroots activism. If you want to trust clearly labeled foreign news, whether it's Russia Today or Voice of America or the BBC, you're at least making a semi-informed decision.

"Hey, Alexei, activate account number two"!

"Hey Sasha, niet problema I'll ask Kaspersky Lab to help us with this one"



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