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France might be losing its first big information war (0day.rocks)
153 points by liotier 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 173 comments





Modern platforms enable the rapid and wide spread of information from peer to peer, whether truthful or false. But if foreign provocateurs can successfully sow discord and fan the flames to the point that there's riots in the streets, there are deeper problems in that society that have been lurking skin deep in the minds and fears of the populace, almost always tracing back to economic anxiety, even when masquerading as xenophobia or racism.

These posts about foreign psy-ops are implicitly suggesting that the representative democracy and predominantly free assembly that western states have come to expect is trivially susceptible to DDOS. This is true, but there's nothing fundamentally enshrined in the deep rulebook of history that says big western states must remain organized along such values. A populace not subject to daily economic anxiety is more willing to tolerate less representation in government without there being widespread discontent. It's a false dichotomy that a western state must either be overtly democratic or completely dysfunctional.

The remarkable thing is that mega-states loosely constituted along ethno-national lines, beholden to frequent elections and policy reversals, in a hypercompetitive world with increasingly open borders and stubbornly persistent income inequality, existed with remarkable stability for as long as they did. We've entered a time where the formula is easy to disrupt, and it's up to each state's people to evaluate how to proceed when faced with such a threat, but people worrying about the cost of living will find it hard to think of the big picture.


> A populace not subject to daily economic anxiety is more willing to tolerate less representation in government without there being widespread discontent.

No one has figured out the whole "prosperity without scary periods of scarcity" thing yet.

> almost always tracing back to economic anxiety, even when masquerading as xenophobia or racism.

Xenophobia has a bit of a chicken-and-egg relationship with economic anxiety.

Does the xenophobia cause economic anxiety, or does economic anxiety cause xenophobia? I don't think the answer is so straight-forward, especially this time around history's block. It's not like 2016 was the 1930's... even economically depressed parts of the country were doing better than they were for decades.

Are people anxious because they're xenophobic and believe that "those people" are out to get them where it hurts (for them, the pocket book)? Or, are they anxious because they're afraid of losing their way of life and the objectively most likely cause of that loss is "those people", thus causing xenophobia?


So someone has decided to send in political ambassadors to the city in order to spread their culture, with the ultimate goal of flipping the city? I've played that game.

Brazilian here.

After the horrible very bad choices we made on last election here, thanks to WhatsApp, I fear that "digital democracy" looks each day more like mob rule fed by paranoia.


It is interesting that WhatsApp is credited with so much of the fake news and disinformation in the recent Brazilian election as opposed to Twitter. Do you have an idea of why this is? I read this article [1] which mentions that while most Brazilians have mobile phones, their data plans only include free access to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp and ordinary data is expensive (i.e. no net neutrality). That means that information is spread more often through these apps rather than by people reading news websites.

However, WhatsApp seems a very inefficient method to spread propaganda. You have to share each message either with an individual or a group and there is no "news feed" curated by some algorithm to target your interests specifically. Also, given that Twitter is also free for most Brazilians, I would expect that to be a more effective method to find and spread propaganda. One explanation given by the article is that "Since WhatsApp text messages are forwarded and reforwarded by friends and family, the information seems more credible." This makes sense but it doesn't explain why this phenomenon would happen more in Brazil than in the US.

[1] https://theconversation.com/whatsapp-skewed-brazilian-electi...


I think you are forgetting about six degrees of separation. It doesn’t take many shares/forwards to reach every one. As for the news feed part, I think people would more readily believe something their friend/family sent in the group chat as opposed to on a news feed. But that second point is just my opinion.

Friends and family sharing things that pertain to a field I know they're knowledgeable in sure. However I've got plenty of family (thankfully not too many friends) that are happy to amplify the signal of things that they're not qualified to speak to. Aunt Anti-vaxx if anything gets more scepticism about anything she tries to tell me.

Simply pretty much everyone here uses WhatsApp, including people who have no other contact with the internet.

How many people even use Twitter compared to services like Facebook and WhatsApp? Twitter gets endless media attention for some reason, but it's direct reach is severely limited by the fact that it's a niche service, at least compared to its largest competitors.

It’s always astonishing to me how many Americans support “direct democracy” as opposed to representative. Mob rule plays out time and time again without representative democracy

> Mob rule plays out time and time again without representative democracy

No, mob rule plays out time and again without limited government. Whether legislation is direct or representative doesn't really matter, but in either direct or indirect democracy, election timing and structure (e.g., staggered six-year terms in the Senate for representative democracy, and supermajority or pass-twice-with-specified-interval rules for certain major changes in direct democracy) can.


I do think that building in checks and delays can help stabilize government, but I am somewhat concerned by how to keep it up to date with the rapidly changing world. We're still trying to figure out how to regulate the internet and that's been around for ~30 years.

> Mob rule plays out time and time again without representative democracy

Mob rule plays out with representative democracy too. Disinformation can get a mob boss elected and that mob can trample on minority groups freedoms.

It's the disinformation that is the issue. In both cases, the distortions will manifest.


Yep, the only reliable difference between functional democracy and dysfunctional is the level of education, both generally and politically.

I recently had a thought about democracy (in any form), being a societal form of bullying on those that voted for the losing parties.

Compared to a dictatorship, democracy is 'better', as at least you get the opportunity every few years to have your views acted on by the politicians. But then, sometimes you don't. And if your views are on the fringes, your views will never be acted on.

Either way, a definition of bullying is someone using their power of consequences (whether it's a beating or emotional blackmail, blackmail, or fines or prison et al) to make others do what they want - which is what democracy delivers to the victors.

Still pondering and wondering about better ways....


Switzerland has the most direct democracy and it works really quite well. We can overrule things representatives do with a 50000 signatures and a popular vote. We can introduce new laws with 100000 signatures and a popular vote.

That sort of system has many flaws but I would take it much rather then the US system.

In fact the Swiss system is based on the US, just with more direct democracy and a far less powerful president.

I would actually argue that the removal of presidential powers is the most important thing. Having all your top ministers be selected by the one popular vote for president is pretty insane when you think about it.

In Switzerland the top ministers are from 4-5 different parties and they have to work together every day. The departments are not fixed and switch about between people and parties.


Sometimes there are unpopular decisions that are nevertheless the right decisions. When you elect a representative, you're basically putting your faith in that person, rather than a particular policy.

Yes, we have representatives to and its a nice theory. But at least in the Swiss experience the population often makes pretty tough choices.

We voted on 6 weeks mandatory vacation and the people voted against it.

The parliament wanted to join the EU in the 1990, the people rejected it.

Also, often you end up putting your faith into parties rather then people and the people are compromised by party policy anyway. That you are voting for free thinking individual is mostly a fantasy.


This leads to anti-minority laws like Minarett-Verbot (minarets can no longer be built due to this law) etc.

Yes, people love to talk about that one law and bring it up at every opportunity as if we were stoning muslims to death.

It was really mostly because people didn't like the architecture. Muslims in Switzerland are freer then in many other countries in Europe and for every 'evil populist' law that Switzerland made you will find that 10 populist proposals have been rejected (left and right wing).

Also, lets remember that Minarett are something people like, they are not required or in any way limit religious freedom of Muslims.

So yes, we had like 4 Minaret and they wanted to build 2 more and can't. Populism has truly made live hell.


That's very interesting, thanks for sharing.

What is the mechanism for creating or disbanding ministries?


The ministries are always the same. Sorry if I implied differently.

The 7 Top Minister (Bundesrat elected by Parliament) pick a ministry and the select based on how long they have been in.

So in the beginning you might get something unpopular like military but after a couple years you can switch to interior minister.

Because they don't get replaced as often as US presidents they can have a much longer term view. In fact they hardly get replaced at all, mostly they just retire.


Representative democracy devolves into elitist managerialism that abstracts away whom they manage.

I prefer to be governed by a lottery system with checks to insure loyalty and capability.


And like the Chinese historically did, ensure these people are not local to the constituency they represent/rule over to eliminate favoritism.

Sortition now!

Every system has failure modes. It is possible but not completely obvious that mob rule is a worse failure mode than corruption amongst the representatives in a Republic. Any one can imagine a direct democracy where the quorum is, say, 60% instead of 50.01%, leading to greater stability.

Purely out of interest, do you see yourself as more part of the mob, or more part of the representatives?


The problem is less the form of elections and representations, but how they come about. In representative democracy, you need to bribe just the representative. In direct democracy, you need to bribe/trick some majority.

If the US switched to direct democracy tomorrow, I'd bet the same issues would pop up, just in a different form.


One mans mob rule is another mans will of the people. Just like a politician is a demagogue if you don't like them, but have they speak to the people if you do like them.

Tyranny of the majority. Suppose 51% of the population is in group X and 49% in group Y. Should group X be allowed to vote for more benefits and lower taxes for themselves, while balancing the budget by increasing taxes and slashing benefits for group Y?

> Suppose 51% of the population is in group X and 49% in group Y. Should group X be allowed to vote for more benefits and lower taxes for themselves, while balancing the budget by increasing taxes and slashing benefits for group Y?

Representative government does nothing to stop that, except insofar as representation is non-proportional, and allows Y to do that instead of X, giving tyranny of the minority instead of tyranny of the majority.

The solution you are looking for is limited (either absolutely or procedurally) government, not representative over direct democracy.


Well, to begin with the first thing one should note: middle age people living of welfare do not use Tviter, neither are the inner city demographics.

See the demographics of protesters, they are all but the two groups above.

Being unfortunate to live 13 years in Russia, I can tell the trick: the initial "ignition source" might've been the middle age welfare receivers, but later on it was pivoted towards the usual malcontents under the cover of commotion.

Simple as hell trick, but yeah, it gave France hell.

The threat of mob rule you described, is only there if you allow it to be forcefully/artificially instated through psyops/political technologists/disinformation


> middle age people living of welfare do not use Tviter, neither are the inner city demographics.

Both of those demographics do in fact use Twitter, quite a bit actually.


Are the Vietnam and Iraq Wars strong arguments for representative democracy?

We're tired of representatives abusing their power.

Sure, because that's the problem we have. We forget that the problem we don't have may be worse.

What gives you the impression a significant number of Americans support direct democracy?

The fact that California is nearly ungovernable due to it?

California is perfectly governable. There used to be a perennial budgeting problem due to a supermajority requirement which, like all of the CA Constitution, was directly adopted, but that was solved by the people withdrawing the requirement.

Whether that's a fact or not, it doesn't seem to have much to do with whether lots of Americans support direct democracy. The California process itself is well over a century old.

can you elaborate, please?

> What gives you the impression a significant number of Americans support direct democracy?

The fact that most states have at least some degree of it, and the people don't use it to abolish itself in favor of purely representative democracy.


These all tend to be from the Progressive Era. By the same argument, we can conclude most Americans are deeply paranoid about the dangers of direct democracy because the founders of the US were. Neither is terribly convincing.

Support for this stuff tends to ebb and flow - not surprisingly, depending on whether any particular party or force thinks it can gain advantage from it, or it thwarts its plans.

This can be seen especially well with the Supreme Court, which is arguably the single most undemocratic American institution. In the Progressive Era, SCOTUS was castigated by the left for slowing down the reforms, and eventually adopted the "judicial restraint" stance. Then the Civil Rights era came, with SCOTUS often the driving force - and now it was a good thing that it was forcing the hand of state legislatures regardless of popular support or lack thereof. Similarly, when you look at it from the right, the positions were essentially reversed - under FDR the right expected the courts to fight back against populism, in the Civil Rights era the right expected those same courts to defer to state legislatures.

More recently, in the 90s-10s period, it has been on full display - just take any op-ed with obvious partisan bias about any major Supreme Court decision. If the author agrees with it, they will usually exalt the wonders of an unelected body keeping the mob in check. If the author disagrees, then they will rant about how SCOTUS is undemocratic and thwarts the will of the people. Sometimes, the same author will write several op-eds over time, with varying position depending on the case.


> These all tend to be from the Progressive Era.

And they all contain the mechanisms by which, if people didn't like them, they could be undone.

> By the same argument, we can conclude most Americans are deeply paranoid about the dangers of direct democracy because the founders of the US were.

No, you can't, because to be “by the same argument”, you'd have to. show that, in a case where it was procedurally possible for the people directly to institute or remove direct democracy, they generally choose to avoid it entirely. Which is exactly the opposite of reality.


I don't because I'm not asking what is procedurally possible. I'm asking what is the evidence that right now, piles and piles of Americans support direct democracy. There are zillions of aspects of government that exist and that alone (or the fact that they haven't been reformed away) doesn't indicate widespread support or non-support of them. This is about as weak an indication as the historical arguments which tell you something about how some Americans felt at the time.

> I'm asking what is the evidence that right now, piles and piles of Americans support direct democracy.

And the evidence is that they have it and choose to keep it, since its existence allows them to remove or further limit it should they wish to.


The United States has been on a long bend toward more direct democracy because it’s self reinforcing. How would you “remove” direct democracy? Put it to a “vote of the people”? Okay. Now you have to convince them that they should give up their “power” to directly inform their governance. Who is going to vote for this? As more and more people become accustomed to voting on more and more issues that were previously the exclusive purview of their elected representatives, of course they’re going to want more of that same structure. You get to a point where you’re putting enormously complex issues to a vote, which is just kind of mind boggling to me.

Not sure if we’re agreeing or disagreeing, but to state my position explicitly direct democracy is the final form of decline for civil republican government. After that you’re headed for authoritarianism, be it left or right.

“Should they wish to” is frankly wishful thinking.


> Now you have to convince them that they should give up their “power” to directly inform their governance. Who is going to vote for this?

You so realize that you are literally making my point that direct democracy has significant support?

> “Should they wish to” is frankly wishful thinking.

I think you are confused about the subject: that they manifestly don't wish to is my entire point.


I know I’m making your point. I was trying to. I’m in total agreement that direct democracy is an unstoppable force.

The last sentence I wrote was perhaps me misunderstanding your phrasing. I’m operating from a prior that direct democracy is very bad, and should be avoided.

Rhetorically what I meant was that “should they wish to” is not a meaningful distinction, since they would never wish not to [operate via direct democracy once that Pandora’s box is opened].


Ballot measures, initiatives are an example of this tendency.

Because of WhatsApp? That's like blaming the telephone or the printing press. WhatsApp is just a communication channel. If your democracy depends on people being unable to communicate, it's no democracy at all.

> After the horrible very bad choices we made on last election here, thanks to WhatsApp

For those of us unfamiliar, can you share info on what WhatsApp did? Also curious how results are attributed to it. In the US many found big-web tech as a convenient scapegoat but evidence of its overarching effect is tenuous.


It is a public bus with a steering wheel fitted to the back of every seat, that is sold as an improvement to the terrible oppression of having bus drivers.

edit, to be fair, I should have clarified this with 'the majority of implementations appear to be', I am not philosophically against direct democracy in principle, just most of the ways it is generally attempted.


I'm pretty sure WhatsApp didn't cast any votes.

The big thing nobody talks about with Bolsonaro though is the geopolitical implications with China. US and Brazil could starve China into compliance as they produce around 80% of the worlds soy and corn. Nobody is talking about that aspect,the fact that brazil has non-socialist anti-China leader for the first time in decades, although Trump must be aware because he sent Bolton down to Brazil and invited Bolsonaro to the white house

It applies beyond China as well. They could just become OPEC for food and both countries would benefit from being able to jack up prices on crops and livestock.


Well, Brazil had to sell those soybeans somewhere. Their economy is half bankrupt already anyway. If not China, where are going to send all the natural resources to, with its current price? Presumably not US, who is also desperate trying to sell its own gases/agricultural products to the world. They are competitors, not friends.

In worst case, China can just reduce the consumption of livestock, after all that is what soybeans had been used for, while finding replacements somewhere else. As long as they have enough rice, China will be fine.


China is fishing in all the planet and can exert a lot of influence over many countries in Africa. Chinese investors had spent more than $23 billion in Brazil in the last three years investing in energy and entering in the development of infrastructures. Would not be a wise move for the brazilian government.

Bolsonaro's big quote is that "China isn't investing in Brazil, it's buying brazil". If Trump offers Bolsonaro a good trade deal I wouldn't be surprised to see him take it to get away from China's influence

That is the accusation regarding the one belt one road. Some Africans are making the same accusations regarding their investments.

If there is a buyer, then there is a seller also.

>US and Brazil could starve China into compliance

Into compliance with what, exactly?


Trade blockade, and food in particular.

Russian farmers will be happy, once in a blue moon.


American interests

And those are?

trade, IP, muslim concentration camps, illegal island creation in south China sea, the list goes on.

Xi's power grab is only accepted because life is pretty good right now in China. He won't be able to maintain power over a billion hungry, angry chinese


I have a feeling that Muslim concentration camps is not on top of the list of issues that Trump or Bolsonaro are worried about...

Maybe if MBS starts to care about Uyghurs?

MBS doesn't care about Arabs in Yemen. Why would he start caring about Uyghurs half a continenet away?

Some of them form Salafist militias in Syria.

realpolitik, anything Trump can use to turn the international community against China will be used

I don't recall any "horrible very bad choices". The country voted against corruption, against being like Venezuela, against being bought by China, against letting criminals have defenseless prey, and against being pointlessly hostile to the USA. IMHO, things are really looking up for Brazil.

Mussolini made the trains run on time, but that didn't make him a "good choice". Things may be looking up for Brazil if you're a corporation (especially one looking for unrestrained exploitation of natural resources) or a member of the ethnic majority. Otherwise you're fucked[1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro#Views_on_the_Br...


I know very little about Brazil or Bolsonaro but one thing I read which shocked me was the statistic that 30% of the citizens of Rio were caught in cross fire in the last year [1]. If that's accurate it's mind blowing and really helps me to understand why Brazilians want a political change and somebody (perceived to be) tough on crime. It's like there are problems with the lower levels of the hierarchy of needs, and only after safety and stability are established will people care about the environment, liberal ideals, or fair treatment of people.

1 - https://www.presstv.com/DetailFr/2018/04/02/557207/Brazil-Ri...


> If that's accurate it's mind blowing and really helps me to understand why Brazilians want a political change and somebody (perceived to be) tough on crime.

That's understandable, and I'm certainly in no position to judge the people of Brazil. However it's possible for both of these to be true:

* Brazil is facing a public safety crisis that requires immediate, drastic action.

* Bolsanaro is a proto-fascist opportunist capitalizing on the crisis to rise to power.


I agree, and, knowing little about Brazil, that's what I think is happening. The thought behind my response was that I wanted to stress that the motivation behind electing Bolsonaro may be more serious than making trains run on time.

Mussolini was a better choice then many socialist back then. His power was massively checked and only because of development in Germany did it end up as it did.

The new guy is of course a major asshat, but government before was making lots of really bad choices as well and Brazil was not going in a good direction.

The important thing is to not let anybody get enough power to remove the whole institutional machinery.


Being bought by China? I wonder what the ultraliberal minister of the economy Paulo Guedes thinks about not doing deals with China.

Could you explain how voting a criminal into power is going to prevent him from having defenseless prey?

You've got to be joking... He's a genocidal, homophobic, racist piece of shit, borderline dictator. Read this: https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Jair_Bolsonaro, if you agree with anything on there, you really have to rethink your entire life

I wonder how one can be genocidal without having killed anyone, homophobic without having persecuted LGBT, racist without having defended racial thesis. Has Bolsonaro said ugly reprehensible things ? Yes he did. But that is his opinion at best.

Bringing these empty accusations wont prove your point neither add to the discussion.


> Yes he did. But that is his opinion at best.

What does this mean? We're not talking about a random Youtuber here. He's the leader of the country. Presumably his opinion will influence his policy decisions (in fact he's promised as much)[1].

When somebody tells you they're going to kill you and they're holding a gun - it's wise to believe them even if they've never murdered before.

[1] https://globalnews.ca/news/4606489/jair-bolsonaro-beliefs-br...


Have you read his quotes? This guy really does not shy from calling for blood. That's pure Nazi shit. "empty accusations" is quite dishonest as he literally calls for death of _thousands_ of his fellow citizens.

It is convenient that those are all in English, but that casts suspicion on them. FWIW though, I don't object to everything on that list.

There are no perfect politicians, and they are always presented in the worst possible light by their opponents. Times change; you could look back at old quotes and then conclude that our Hillary Clinton hates same-sex marriage and immigrants.

Picking from the non-ideal choices actually available, Brazil did very well.


> Picking from the non-ideal choices actually available, Brazil did very well.

Do you honestly believe that there will be another democratic election in Brazil under Bolsonaro's rule?

> "We're going to shoot all the PT (Workers' Party) supporters in Acre." - Jair Bolsonaro (1 September 2018)

I'm not so sure.


Do you know the context for that, or if the translation is any good?

Sarcasm is a thing.


Are you for real? I don't care about other "non-ideal" choices, once you (repeatedly!) call for someone's death in public you should be (at least!) banned from running for any public office, period. The false equivalence with HRC when the other side does pure Nazi lets-kill-some-people-to-solve-our-problems shit paints you in reaally bad light.

While I too worry about political influence through abuse of social media, this article doesn't prove that this actually took place.

What we see here is that there are some very dubious twitter accounts with some interactions. But are these meaningful interactions? Did any of the content reach and influence the supposed target audience? Are the communities shown in the Gephi graph real communities? These communities and their interactions could just as well be fake. When I was working on exactly this, I noticed that fake communities (i.e. sets of fake accounts all retweeting each other) are quite common.

Just look at the specific accounts mentioned (Pascal66616113 and 1Happeningnow). They have only 2 and 51 followers, respectively, and right now it's 4 and 72.

I think it's very important to detect malicious political accounts on social media and be aware of their impact. This article mentions two examples of such accounts, but doesn't prove anything about impact. The conclusion that France is losing an information war here doesn't follow.


You make some good points. It's possible that the article, in itself, is a kind of propaganda to make it seem as if the actions of the French are influenced more by foreign agents than by their own volition and will.

That said, TW could do more to make the example accounts less relevant in any case --to eliminate some of the accusation.


> It's possible that the article, in itself, is a kind of propaganda (...)

No. It's just poor reasoning with a click-baity headline.


you beat me to it

Indeed. How do we not know this article itself is not an example of the phenomenon?

Author here. It is true you can't really tell. But now just use your common sense, look at the data. And yes, there are people leveraging these events to cause confusion. Make up your own opinons and feel free to disagree, nothing wrong here.

I suspect these 'misinformation campaigns' are completely ineffectual and the main effect we are seeing is factual information routing around mainstream media outlets and successfully embarrassing subjects that the mainstream media would rather protect.

For instance it was very embarrassing for the mainstream media and the democratic party that leaked emails showed them in collusion and undermining Bernie Sanders, but this was not misinformation. Likewise it was very embarrassing for the foreign policy establishment when their tools such as the oscar-winning White Helmets relief-workers were photographed arm-in-arm with rebel militants and shown staging videos, but I didn't see any of this exposed as 'misinformation.' I guess it was just 'the wrong information' to be reporting on.

Revelations like this are much more powerful than silly memes from Twitter accounts with no real followers.


> For instance it was very embarrassing for the mainstream media and the democratic party that leaked emails showed them in collusion and undermining Bernie Sanders, but this was not misinformation.

Except they didn’t, at all, and the people spreading this theory are spreading misinformation.


At all? Did we read the same emails? Even Donna Brazile, who was dismissed from CNN over her leaked email, thinks so.

The leaked emails are pretty damning. I don't know how you can say there was no conspiracy against Sanders.

He lost fair and square for being out of the mainstream. There was no conspiracy.

>> Likewise it was very embarrassing for the foreign policy establishment when their tools such as the oscar-winning White Helmets relief-workers were photographed arm-in-arm with rebel militants and shown staging videos

I looked this up and I found is this: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/is-this-proof-white-helmet...

Wikipedia has a couple of incidents listed in the 'Controversies' section on White Helmets, that do not really show them as 'tools of the foreign policy establishment'.

>> but I didn't see any of this exposed as 'misinformation.'

Well there you go then.


The snopes page has them admitting in an official statement to making a fake video but, you see, that’s ok because they were intentionally making a fake video, it was an exercise, and they never meant for it to be distributed. Right.

The Wikipedia article states that they were founded by a man who happens to be a former British military intelligence officer, that they were initially funded by the UK foreign office, that they received 30 million annually from western governments and NGOs, and that they now operate in other countries. Sounds a hell of a lot more like a foreign policy tool than a grass roots charity operation, to me at least.

And lest we think this is just some pictures flying around on unverified Twitter accounts, here’s a BBC Panorama documentary featuring blatantly faked footage.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SvjTeuSKTW0&t=3m54s&feature=yo...


> The snopes page has them admitting in an official statement to making a fake video but,

That's false. The Syrian Civil Defense never said/admitted such thing.

>>>> These images have been online since 2016, and show members of the White Helmets filming a “mannequin challenge” video.

So have you seen that video? I haven't. I guess you haven't either. Let's watch it then, shall we? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zgl271A6LgQ Now, why are you calling it "fake"?

> NGOs, funding, etc.

How does that make them a FP tool?

I wanted to look into the BBC Panorama Saving Syria's Children thing, and haven't found anything conclusive and short.

The BBC's reponse is the most relevant probably: https://bbcpanoramasavingsyriaschildren.wordpress.com/2014/0...

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/50507/i... [BBC's case against RT UK, which of course run with the whole "scandal"]

https://www.snopes.com/news/2018/05/02/assad-supporters-plan...

It's still possible that the BBC and its crew is full of lies. But at least their lies are well in line with what Assad is doing nowadays - and what probably did in 2013 too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2X84JZINcI


It’s a video featuring people pretending to rescue someone who is pretending to be injured. I call that fake. Why are they engaging in this sort of activity?

The BBC are standing by their footage, but it looks mighty fake to me, I suppose it could be real though.


They are doing homemade amateur performance art basically: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannequin_Challenge

> Foreign propagandists are getting a strong foothold in France, and the traditional media can’t fight it

Or, another way to look at it, is that MSM in the country has lost control of the "narrative". Whether that is good or bad largely depends on whether your opinions fit within the status quo.


You seem to think that everything is about "narrative" or "bias"- this is incorrect, since some things are fact.

If the MSM says that the Earth is round, that's not their narrative, it's fact, and anyone who says differently is just plain wrong.


The trouble with telling noble lies is that once people realize that you've been lying to them, they start to suspect everything you say. That's part of why the replication crisis in the social sciences is so corrosive: it shreds people's willingness to believe unintuitive things that institutions insist are true, even in those instances where institutions are correct.

Social Sciences is used to create propaganda, which is used to tell us that the Institutions of Social Sciences speak truth & facts. It becomes tautological.

Another issue is it's no longer in an ordinary citizen's interest to believe these institutions, since they encourage the citizen to act against their own interests to the benefit of the institutions, capital holders, & political leaders.

Another issue is equating the opinion of a subset of the experts (which are often cherry-picked) or an institution with fact.

Another issue with social sciences is each study is only as good as what abstractions were conceived of to measure minus the accuracy of the measurements.

Many scientists have a poor understanding of the Philosophy of Science, as it's not emphasized in the educational process. Philosophy is often seen as a "solved" problem, instead of the foundation of interpretation of information. This cloisters the scientists to the point to them becoming glorified technicians only capable of measuring the culturally accepted data points & unable to relate the information beyond their ever-shrinking domain of expertise.


With very, very few exceptions, half the battle is what is true and what isn't, and how well they map to reality.

>Today the president visited voters in New York

may be factually true, but

>In a desperate attempt to win the election, the sitting president tried to win voters in New York

Is actually more accurate.


When the web started to mature, seeing the MSM lose control of the narrative was a breath of fresh air. However the average person started to understand and use the web, so did sponsored entities and governments. After this there was a noticeable change of narrative on the web. Everything was polarizing, right and wrong with no middle ground.

I used to fully support direct democracy, but after seeing this I've changed my views.


That way of looking at it assumes that the MSM is no more truthful than the foreign propagandists. I'm willing to believe quite a bit negative about the MSM, but the foreign propagandists are in fact less truthful.

The foreign propagandists are nationalists and the domestic MSM is anti-nationalist. Weird huh? The anti-nationalists are saying because you support strengthening national sovereignty you are subversive to the nation and anti-patriotic. War is peace. Freedom is slavery and all that.

"Strengthening national sovereignty" is often a thinly veiled synonym for "putting a bunch of strong-hand authoritarians in charge and letting them suppress opposition". A good example of that is PiS in Poland. If you believe that political freedom is a core part of your national identity, then fighting back against those people is very much patriotic.

Poles say they voted for them because they promised to keep muslim migrants out which they did once elected.

> A good example of that is PiS in Poland.

What are examples of "suppressing opposition" in Poland?


Taking control of the Supreme Court.

>Taking control of the Supreme Court.

Or maybe even Constitutional Tribunal? :-)

Anyway, I'm still waiting for examples of opposition oppression, not squabbles between politicians and part of judiciary (which, I hope, is not considered to be opposition).


What do you think the control the Court is needed for?

I'm less familiar with the situation in France, but I'm going to guess that they share some players in common with the foreign propagandists we had here in the US. They weren't nationalists - they backed nationalists. And they also backed anti-nationalists. The intent was to cause division and strife, and thereby weaken the country. Because this is a foreign power trying to weaken the country, labeling them "nationalists" is completely mistaken.

Can you prove that?

I am pretty sure I could run a very effective propaganda show, by only spreading true, but carefully choosen facts; it would help me greatly that I could always say "don't believe me, go look it up".


It could be done that way... but it wasn't.

Unfortunately most of people out of France don't understand the situation here. They get to blame some violence propaganda of twitter account with less than a hundred followers without talking about how one-sided are mainstream medias (which have much bigger reach). I'm tempted to say that this is a move to discredit Gilets Jaunes movement.

Bingo. The establishment media is so desperate to control the narrative of this. For the longest time they kept beating the drum of “gas tax protests” to downplay other less flattering issues. Well, the gas tax was abandoned but the problem remains. What now? Better blame it on bots and foreign interests. This seems really familiar...

What are those other issues?


This talk of "information war" is extremely creepy. IW is unfalsifiable and indistinguishable from legitimate popular dissatisfaction, which is a much more likely explanation for recent political outcomes. No, the existence of a few foreign-sources social media posts is not evidence that recent political results differ from the genuine will of the people. The results of elections and polls do, in contrast, constitute evidence that the people, as a whole, feel a certain way. Macron has an approval rating of 17%. Are foreign agents manipulating 83% of the population?

While "information war" is bogus as an explanatory or predictive theory, it's an excellent pretext for censorship, especially since it seems to be brought up whenever a political outcome disfavored by the elites occurs. Followed to its logical conclusion, fighting "information war" yields a regime of public censorship that differs from China's only in flavor.


You may want to redo your analysis with a #giletsjaunes or whatever the french tags are. Don't expect a French movement born on Facebook from mainly boomers to use an English tag on twatter.

Is disingenuous communication protected by freedom speech? If I am allowed to say X, can I also pretend to be person Y and say as X as Y? Can I pretend to be person Y_0 ... Y_N-1 and still say X for any arbitrarily large value of N?

disingenuous - Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does. [0]

[0] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/disingenuous


Well, I don't think that's actually the question nor the solution. The solution might lie in treating new and low activity accounts differently. Of course, this does not prevent "sleeper" accounts which act one way and then "turncoat" --however this method requires too much pre-planning and engagement (thus relatively costly) for it to be viable, I think.

In most non-official speech (under oath, perjury, etc.) you are not required to be truthful. I.e, I don't have to be truthful with directions when a stranger asks me, nor you give me the right time when I ask you for it.


One of the reasons I asked this question is that I think we need to re-ask and re-answer the question of what makes communication spam? The severity of the answer would inform the means by which people would deal with it and the urgency of doing so.

Things get too complicated. Is teenage babbling "spam"? Unwanted marketing? People showing off? Or being silly. As for deception or less than honest speech, that may be even trickier since many things are multifaceted and can have different "truths" depending on perspective. I don't think it's a viable approach.

> If I am allowed to say X, can I also pretend to be Y and say as X as Y?

If “Y” is a person, that's false impersonation if it is done to cause harm to Y or benefit you.

If “Y” is an adjective, and it's done to induce other people to take detrimental action that they otherwise would not, it's fraud.


Good catch! I meant Y as type of person. I'll update my post. Thanks again 'dragonwriter.

There's all sorts of things you can say as long as it's your opinion.

Once you start trying to get other people to do things, there are big areas that are off limits. We have laws about public safety, inciting crimes, fitness for purpose ("drink this battery acid, it cures gout!"), fraud, libel, and slander.


Problem is, there's no hard line. One could reasonably argue that expressing your opinion to a sufficiently large number of people translates to measurable influence on their behavior. Hell, depending on the nature of the relationship, expressing your opinion to one person can translate to them changing behavior.

Sure, you could argue that. And you would be wrong.

At least in the United States, political expression is extremely protected.

I can think of nothing more important for free speech to protect than political speech.


I believe "no" if "disingenuous" is a synonym for false I think it'd be like "yelling fire in a crowded theater":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shouting_fire_in_a_crowded_the...

IANAL


"Fire in a crowded theater" is probably the wrong example. (In part because it was used to justify restrictions on political speech that would not fly today.)

A better example is: https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/394/705/

> Petitioner's remark during political debate at small public gathering that, if inducted into Army (which he vowed would never occur) and made to carry a rifle "the first man I want to get in my sights is L.B.J.," held to be crude political hyperbole which, in light of its context and conditional nature, did not constitute a knowing and willful threat against the President within the coverage of 18 U.S.C. § 871(a).

Freedom of speech in the U.S. is extremely broad. False and damaging speech is in theory not protected (so defamation laws are valid), but the standard is very high even then. "Disingenuous" speech is protected (OP is calling it "disingenuous" because he can't prove it's clearly false.)


I used the phrase "disingenuous communication" not "disingenuous speech". The part that is misleading is a person using a bot that pretends to be another person (real or imaginary) to make a claim. The veracity of the claim doesn't really matter so much as the claims ability to stoke emotion. The part I find disingenuous (insincere) is pretending to be a human being and using other people's naïve assumption that the act is real to influence current events.

Your link says "yes".

> limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot).


Depends which country you live in.

Yes it is free speech.

I don't see anything wrong with people making political arguements.


France is losing its war against digital populism amid a large scale of economic stagnation, might be a better title.

Let's just call everyone who is fed up with overreaching overspending governments a foreign agent and get it over with. Also, every country should setup firewalls analogous to the China's to protect our democracies

Conversely, let's just pretend that there's no foreign influence at all?

Targeting mass discontent and revolutionary movements like that is not new. Germans have poured millions of marks into the Bolsheviks during WW1, for example. It doesn't mean that everyone who supported Bolsheviks was a foreign agent, but it would certainly be unwise to ignore that sort of thing, and it behooves one to ask why those other governments support these movements.


> Make your own opinion and fact check everything you read online.

Dear French Citizens,

A foreign adversary has infiltrated our country and sabotaged seven of our bridges.

When driving, please stop and briefly leave your vehicle to manually authenticate each bridge for structural integrity before continuing your trip.

Stay safe, France!

Sincerely, The GPG UX Team


It's like the whole world is in an Eternal September phase.

These are the glory days for trolls. Some of them can even get paid for it...


We know that the human brain has trouble recalling that information came from an unreliable source. Until we can fix that problem, the only solution I know of is to filter it out before we perceive it.

I think there are certain domains where anonymity is of paramount importance. Support groups for sure, matters of civics? Maybe. But someone making bold claims isn't entitled to my attention until they've established a track record of some kind, or are vouched for by someone I trust on the subject.

I keep thinking we're going to end up with a social circle that's morally equivalent to Web-of-Trust in the old PGP days but nothing ever comes. And even if it does come, it won't fix the thought bubble problem because the people whose opinions you trust have their own biases.


> I think there are certain domains where anonymity is of paramount importance. Support groups for sure, matters of civics? Maybe. But someone making bold claims isn't entitled to my attention until they've established a track record of some kind

The reverse is also true.

Literally EVERY comment Trump makes should be followed up with "why would anyone trust anything you've said when you were so wrong about X"...


Yeah the bold claims are only plausible if they are in a domain the persona has previously demonstrated competence in.

If Aunt May tells me I have to use cold butter in grandma's cookie recipe, I'll absolutely believe her. But no matter how many times she corrects my baking, I'm never going to take her advice on dentistry or geopolitics.


Sincere question, is this really France's "first big information war"? I feel like there was a lot of similar activity leading up their election last year try to get Le Pen elected which wasn't successful but I'm not sure how accurate that is.

You are right. The 2017 election in France was under the spotlight especially after what happened in 2016 in the US and the Brexit in the UK.

EM! (Macron's party) was a victim of massive internet attacks during the campaign. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/ne...

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen French fake posts that were popular in the past 24 months raise again like an army of Phoenix. As far as media go, we have usually and relatively independent media in France, even public. However, foreign entities and especially RT France have been controversial in some of their coverage.


Why are people still paying attention to Twitter and Facebook? I kind of get Facebook because your friends are there but I've never seen the point of Twitter.

Can Twitter not do something where new and low activity accounts are given less weight and thus rise in relevance more slowly compared to seasoned and active accounts? Maybe even disallow likes and retweets till it matures as an account.

That said, you can't just ban "non-local" accounts from injecting themselves into a remote topic. If Kyle Jenner wants to tweet about something in France or Brazil, it should be non-exceptional (etc.)


I've thought about this but social media sites have negative incentive to prevent abuse. To them, all engagement is good engagement, it seems, whether it's vitriol or misinformation, if it gets people clicking, it's gonna make ad money.

Why would they? That would reduce engagement.

I don't think it would have a big impact. New accounts should by their nature have few followers. Accounts with historically low activity should also have little effect on "engagement".

These are good points. Twitter has means to prevent disinformation campaigns using relatively simple math. The question we need to ask is why they don't do it.

Somewhat orthogonal to this: live coverage from the streets of Paris. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vEcYzBGfKBA

In times like this when verifying identity on social media seems like valid point. Then you get into chinese way of getting more serious and have privacy concerns. Repetition creates reality, no matter media distribution, internet mass distribution makes it more convenient and remotely available.

It's not like it's inconceivable that generally rural people struggling to make ends meet might be sensitive to a fuel tax increase. Tax revolts have been happening for thousands of years. Not all of them are the result of Russians posting online.

It doesn't require thousands of TPUs and the latest deep learning methods to reveal these fake accounts, so there's at least something that can be done? Value authorative accounts higher somehow such that new / fake ones don't get this traction?

Why is the assumption that "bots" are being created by people not in France? If I was part of a semi-violent protest group I would definitely not use my personal account and instead create something new like this.

Another interesting place to help fact-checking: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com

Now wait till the trolls flood skeptics.stackexchange.com

The author of the article clearly doesn't know France nor its recent history.

The Gilets Jaunes movement is a contestation of late stage capitalism, not a series of pogroms against muslims.

The people has been rumbling for quite some time now. With an arrogant, borderline authoritarian president that has nothing but contempt and mocking towards the French people, added to a weak political line (ni de droite ni de gauche ... mais surtout de droite. Neither left nor right, but especially right).

People are roaring in uprising because what they see is a convergence of the resources towards the hands of those who have too much, and less and less towards those of who have too few.

You don't need propaganda when the King is also the Fool.


I will just leave this here for readers to judge: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11406694

Community detection in uncovering fake news FTW!

we have overabundance of information. You can find evidence to support / prove anything, including misinformation.

This is the Russians.

I will never understand why Twitter exposes the UI language of all users. Terrible, security-wise.

Is it really terrible? Maybe they should hide usernames too

Why is this terrible?

Because in many places in the world, speaking some languages is inviting trouble. In US, for example, people speaking Arabic in public (including online) can be harassed over that.

France is a nation of 67 million people. Who is losing, exactly?



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