Everything Online Malign Influence Newsletter
December 22, 2022
- Everything Online Malign Influence Newsletter
- Big Tech
- 🔗Guardian newspaper hit by a suspected ransomware attack, staff told not to come to the office
- 🔗Elon Musk blames Twitter cost cuts on "$3 billion negative cash flow"
- 🔗Google and Meta are expected to bring in less than half of all U.S. digital advertising for the first time since 2014
- 🔗Epic Games agrees to pay a record-breaking $520 million for privacy violations
- 🔗OP-ED: Twitter Chaos Reinforces Why Governments Must Limit Reliance on Commercial Software
- Conspiracy theories, propaganda, and disinfo
- 🔗As QAnon Falters, European Followers Flock to a Financial Conspiracy (live data visualization worth seeing)
- 🔗RT: How the World Is Fighting Kremlin Media, and Propagandists Are Looking for New Ways to Influence Foreign Audiences
- 🔗More Kremlin lies about Ukraine
- 🔗OP-ED: Stop rewarding elite performances
- Democracy and Human Rights
- 🔗European Values Center launches Orban Watch newsletter
- 🔗A Texas superintendent ordered school librarians to remove LGBTQ books. Now the federal government is investigating.
- Health Security
- 🔗WHO Expresses Concern About COVID Situation in China
- 🔗China says no new Covid deaths after changing criteria
- 🔗Mpox, AIDS, and COVID-19 show the challenges of public health messaging to specific groups
- International order
- 🔗From Russia with love to Musk
- 🔗China deflects from the impending crisis by talking about the US
- 🔗Peruvians fight for democracy
- 🔗Trouble in Turkey
- 🔗Another article covering the trouble in Turkey
- 🔗Dutch Court, in Life Sentences: Russia Had "Overall Control" of Forces in Eastern Ukraine Downing of Flight MH17
- The Russian invasion of Ukraine
- 🔗Russia tried to create an information empire on Telegram. It didn't work out well.
- 🔗Masked Men Throw Sledgehammers On Grounds Of Finnish Embassy In Moscow
- 🔗No, Transparency International did not say that Ukrainians resell more than 70 percent of humanitarian aid
- 🔗Russia will punish people who draw maps of the Russian Federation without the occupied lands of Ukraine
- Fact check roundup
- Documents to read
🔗Guardian newspaper hit by a suspected ransomware attack, staff told not to come to the office
- The attack hurt the news organization's business services, but its online site and apps weren't affected. They'll keep publishing stories.
- It's unclear if the attackers accessed or stole data, but it could be a data protection breach if they did. Also, sensitive information on newsroom systems could expose sources.
🔗Elon Musk blames Twitter cost cuts on "$3 billion negative cash flow"
🔗Google and Meta are expected to bring in less than half of all U.S. digital advertising for the first time since 2014
- Google and Meta, known together in the ad industry as the "duopoly," are expected to bring in less than half of all U.S. digital advertising this year for the first time since 2014.
- The duo's ad dominance has made both companies the target of antitrust investigations and lawsuits for years. While they still tower over digital rivals, their momentum slows as competition moves in.
- By the numbers: Google and Meta will together capture 48.4% of all U.S. digital ad revenue this year (28.8% for Google and 19.6% for Meta), down from 54.7% at their peak in 2017 (34.7% for Google and 20.0% for Meta), per data from Insider Intelligence.
- The biggest threat to their collective ad dominance is Amazon, which has grown its ad business to over 30 billion dollars annually.
- TikTok is expected to earn $8.6 billion in ad revenue in 2024, making it the fifth-largest digital ad publisher in the U.S., following Google, Meta, Amazon, and Microsoft/LinkedIn.
🔗Epic Games agrees to pay a record-breaking $520 million for privacy violations
- Epic Games to pay $520 million over FTC allegations Epic violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and deployed dark patterns to dupe millions of players into making unintentional purchases.
- The largest penalty ever obtained for violating an FTC rule, the agency said, and Epic will be required to adopt "strong privacy default settings for children and teens."
- It is the largest administrative order in history and the FTC's largest refund amount in a gaming case.
🔗OP-ED: Twitter Chaos Reinforces Why Governments Must Limit Reliance on Commercial Software
- Twitter is an example of a digital infrastructure co-opted by people who want to exploit its dependency.
- It's a reminder that promises about technology–how data will be used and how software will be maintained–are brittle.
- The solution is simple but not easy: organizations and agencies that depend on digital infrastructure must take ownership of it.
- One way to do it is with a trust, a legal tool for owning property for someone else.
- A trust helps to illustrate and execute a simple principle: government software should be built for the people, not rented to them.
- Co-ownership doesn't make software less risky or limit its potential for harm. But issues are easier to spot and correct when they aren't hidden behind a vendor's proprietary black box or buried in a roadmap.
Conspiracy theories, propaganda, and disinfo
🔗As QAnon Falters, European Followers Flock to a Financial Conspiracy (live data visualization worth seeing)
- New data shows that QAnon's hold on the continent's conspiracy discourse has begun to loosen while some of its European followers flock to a decades-old financial conspiracy.
- That decades-old conspiracy is GESARA, which holds that a financial reset will see billions of secret funds distributed to people across the globe and the erasure of all debts.
- NESARA stands for National Economic Security and Recovery Act. GESARA (Global Economic Security and Recovery Act) is the name for it in the US. His reforms included a return to the gold standard. They appeared in a manuscript titled "Draining the Swamp: Monetary and Fiscal Policy Reform” from the 90s.
- GESARA / NESARA has been described as a "grandfather" of QAnon, the conspiracy that casts Donald Trump as a white knight fighting a Satan-worshiping, child-killing "cabal."
- GESARA keywords increasingly appear in European QAnon and conspiracy channels alongside links to GESARA influencers like Nicholas Veniamin.
🔗RT: How the World Is Fighting Kremlin Media, and Propagandists Are Looking for New Ways to Influence Foreign Audiences
- RT is a state-run Russian media outlet that has existed since 2005 and has been promoting the Kremlin's propaganda narratives for many years.
- The people involved in RT's creation, management, and dissemination of disinformation include the most famous Russian propagandists, Dmitry Kiselyov, Margarita Simonyan, and Anton Krasovsky. They've been stirring up hostility toward Ukraine on Russian TV channels for years.
- RT's job is to tell the world what the Kremlin wants them to know through Russian, English, Arabic, Spanish, French, German, and Serbian media.
- RT channels for spreading Kremlin propaganda include websites, TV channels, social media, and even personal accounts of propagandists. Publications can also site Kremlin propaganda, which leads people to content despite bans.
- Lithuania and Latvia banned RT. The EU has also imposed sanctions on RT English, RT UK, RT Germany, RT France, and RT Spanish; however, these restrictions do not prevent RT from creating new pages connected to Russian state media.
- The spread of disinformation and propaganda messages is multiplied several times through the personal pages of RT propagandists on social networks and their personal projects on YouTube.
- As we see, RT is a global propaganda machine with numerous channels for spreading propaganda and disinformation campaigns, which requires the same global clean-up from the information space of the civilized world.
🔗More Kremlin lies about Ukraine
- Russian propagandists claim that Ukraine is committing war crimes, stepping up attacks on Orthodox churches, refusing to let mothers bury sons who died in the conflict, and publishing children's private information online.
- State media also blamed the United Kingdom for stopping Zelensky's early efforts to push for peace, and the Kremlin dismissed Zelensky's plan as "three steps towards continued military action."
🔗OP-ED: Stop rewarding elite performances
- In the lead-up to the 2022 midterms, experts and elected officials anticipated that actors would push false narratives of voter fraud, vote rigging, and election denialism through news programming.
- Journalists thwarted these attempts by preemptively engaging in democracy-centered reporting, highlighting the security of US elections, and appropriately pushing back against unfounded election-related conspiracy theories.
- The poor showing of election-denying GOP candidates in the 2022 midterms not only highlighted the public's distaste for authoritarianism. It also served as a testament to the hard work of journalism professionals who, for weeks, had sought to center democratic processes and sideline cynical political actors.
- Dramatic displays of identity threat, like those exhibited by Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, are motivated by a keen understanding of the routines, biases, and incentives of news.
- Journalists can choose to relegate cynical elite displays of identity threat to mere footnotes, focusing instead on democratic processes and institutions.
Democracy and Human Rights
🔗European Values Center launches Orban Watch newsletter
- EVC asserts that Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a menace and that Europe's military, economic, and energy security are at risk because of Fidesz, Orban's party.
- Viktor Orban aligns with leaders like Putin and Xi Jinping, risking stability and prosperity in exchange for his short-sighted interests. His propagation of an irredentist 'Greater Hungary' narrative calls to mind the words of Putin before he invaded Georgia and Ukraine.
- He promotes his illiberal worldview, a pseudo-fascism, despite the norms and values leading NATO and European Union member states.
- EVC hopes to provide accurate information on the policies and actions that weaken the transatlantic alliance and its defense. It hopes leaders in Europe and North America will recognize and respond to Orban's partnerships with Eastern authoritarians.
- EVC notes that they look forward to the day when Hungary will be a democratic state again and contribute to a better-protected, more united Euro-Atlantic community.
🔗A Texas superintendent ordered school librarians to remove LGBTQ books. Now the federal government is investigating.
- The U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has launched an investigation into the Granbury Independent School District after receiving a complaint that the district violated a federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender.
- The complaint was based largely on an investigation published in March by NBC News, ProPublica, and the Tribune that revealed that Granbury's superintendent, Jeremy Glenn, instructed librarians to remove books dealing with sexual orientation and people who are transgender.
- If the investigation confirms violations of students' rights in Granbury schools, the agency can require the district to make policy changes and submit to federal monitoring.
🔗WHO Expresses Concern About COVID Situation in China
- The WHO says that China could have over a million deaths from infections next year. "We are very concerned about the situation in China," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
🔗China says no new Covid deaths after changing criteria
- China said Wednesday that only one person died since lifting the zero-Covid policy, after changing how deaths are recorded to mean that most are no longer counted.
- Hospitals are struggling, pharmacy shelves are stripped bare, and crematoriums are overwhelmed since the Chinese government's sudden decision to lift years of lockdowns, quarantines, and mass testing.
🔗Mpox, AIDS, and COVID-19 show the challenges of public health messaging to specific groups
During infectious disease outbreaks, clinicians and public health officials are tasked with providing accurate guidance for the public on how to stay safe and protect themselves and their loved ones. However, sensationalized media coverage can distort how the public perceives new emerging infections, including where they come from and how they spread. This can foster fear and stigma, especially toward communities that are already mistrustful of the health care system.
The racial and sexual stigma surrounding monkeypox is what spurred the World Health Organization to rename the disease to mpox in November 2022. While this is a step in the right direction, I believe more work needs to be done to reduce the stigma surrounding infectious diseases like mpox.
🔗From Russia with love to Musk
- Elon Musk's account was among the most mentioned accounts by Russian state media and diplomats on Twitter. Last week, it was the most embedded account in state media articles, as propagandists highlighted Musk's embrace of right-wing grievances.
🔗China deflects from the impending crisis by talking about the US
- Chinese authorities are conducting a speedy exit from their previous zero-covid policies.
- "COVID" was the most popular non-Saudi related key phrase, and "COVID19" was the fourth most frequent hashtag in tweets from the Chinese network last week.
- In parallel to this positive coverage of Chinese public health measures, some diplomats and state media accounts also portrayed the situation in democracies, especially in the United States, as grim.
🔗Peruvians fight for democracy
- Pedro Castillo was impeached as Peru's president after illegally trying to dissolve Congress.
- Peruvians are protesting government measures they consider a severe threat to democracy.
- The Congress, whose popularity hovers around 11 percent, is seen as self-serving and corrupt.
- Many Peruvians want a citizen's assembly to draft a new constitution, replacing the 1993 document.
- Dina Boluarte, formerly Castillo's first vice president and currently serving the rest of Castillo's term, has declared a 30-day state of emergency.
🔗Trouble in Turkey
- A court in Turkey sentenced the sitting mayor of Istanbul, Ekrem İmamoğlu, to two years and seven months in prison for calling members of the Supreme Election Council "idiots" in 2019 after they vacated his first election to the office.
- The sentence reflects a new escalation of the same criminalization of politics and journalism that the regime has engaged in for years, and it may provoke a backlash from the Turkish people.
- If Erdoğan successfully uses political prosecutions and other authoritarian tools to cling to power next year despite historic unpopularity, he may deal another body blow to what's left of Turkish democracy.
🔗Another article covering the trouble in Turkey
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denies any suggestion that a political ban on rival Ekrem Imamoglu would impact the nation's politics.
- The U.S. Department of State said in a statement that it was "deeply troubled and disappointed" by the court's verdict against the mayor.
- Imamoglu is expected to appeal, and if he wins in the court of appeals, he still may not be able to assume the presidency due to the political ban.
🔗Dutch Court, in Life Sentences: Russia Had "Overall Control" of Forces in Eastern Ukraine Downing of Flight MH17
Recently, a Dutch District Court found three Russian-backed commanders guilty of downing Flight MH17, killing 298 people, in July 2014. The court also found that Russia controlled the commanders' forces in eastern Ukraine. This is significant because it means Russia could have prevented the plane from being shot down.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine
🔗Russia tried to create an information empire on Telegram. It didn't work out well.
Russian propaganda on Telegram channels is similar to official Kremlin rhetoric. There are four main themes:
1. Russian humanitarian relief efforts to help the Ukrainians and distribution of Russian aid (one of the most popular topics during the spring); 2. The military success of the Russian army and the dominance of Russian weapons; 3. Classic propagandist narratives such as "brotherly peoples," "common history," "returning to the fold," and "mighty Russia"; 4. Attempts to weave these narratives into the argumentation for referendums.
🔗Masked Men Throw Sledgehammers On Grounds Of Finnish Embassy In Moscow
- On December 20, masked men threw sledgehammers onto the Finnish Embassy grounds in Moscow.
- This comes after Russia's Wagner mercenary group published a video of an apparent execution of one of its members, whose head was smashed in by a sledgehammer after returning from Ukrainian captivity, where he indicated the intention to change sides.
- Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin has said he will send a sledgehammer tainted with blood to the European Parliament in response to the EU's call to make his Wagner company a terrorist organization.
🔗No, Transparency International did not say that Ukrainians resell more than 70 percent of humanitarian aid
A Tiktok video spreads disinformation about corruption in Ukraine. The source of the video is a dubious pro-Russian site promoted by well-known disinformation actors. Contrary to claims, Transparency International did not publish any information about the alleged resale of humanitarian aid.
🔗Russia will punish people who draw maps of the Russian Federation without the occupied lands of Ukraine
- At a meeting on December 21, the State Duma adopted a punishment of up to life imprisonment for "assisting subversive activities."
- The chamber chairman, Vyacheslav Volodin, said that adopting the law was "a fundamentally important step necessary to protect the country."
- The law also includes the concept of "propaganda of sabotage." This should be understood as "activities for the dissemination of materials and (or) information aimed at forming a person's conviction in need to carry out sabotage activities."
- From 15 to 20 years or life imprisonment is introduced for organizing a sabotage community. For participation in it, the punishment is lower - from five to ten years.
Fact check roundup
- Colloidal Silver In Nebulizers And Humidifiers Is not A Proven Treatment For Viral Infections Such As RSV, COVID-19
- HIV does cause AIDS
Documents to read
- Cassidy Hutchinson, September 14, 2022, September 15, 2022.
- Chris Krebs
- Stephen Ayres, Part 1, Part 2
- Mark Esper
- Ken Klukowski, June 10, 2022
- Sarah Matthews
- Christopher Barcenas
- Kathy Berden
- Alexander Bruesewitz
- Patrick Casey
- Dion Cini
- Jeffrey Clark Part 1, Part 2
- Jim DeGraffenreid
- Enrique De La Torre
- John Eastman
- Jenna Ellis
- Kimberly Fletcher
- Michael Flynn
- Nick Fuentes
- Julie Fancelli
- Bianca Gracia
- Alex Jones
- Ryan Kelley
- Charlie Kirk
- David Scott Kuntz
- Antonio LaMotta
- Philip Luelsdorff
- Robert Patrick Lewis
- Joshua Macias
- Shawna Martin
- John Matze
- Michael McDonald
- Stewart Rhodes
- Mayra Rodriguez
- Michael Roman
- Roger Stone
- Enrique Tarrio
- Phil Waldron
- Kelli Ward
- Garrett Ziegler
Further testimony from: