Megyn, Alex, and the Infowars botnet

Teh interwebs are freaking out over Megyn Kelly’s interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the spider at the center of the Infowars web, with major sponsors frantically pulling their funding left and right (pun intended).

Kelly says she wants to shine a light, but opponents say not in a way that gives him oxygen on Father’s Day, when millions of viewers are watching.

But yeah, someone ought to shine something on this Infowars stuff. This graph is from a 3-year project at the University of Washington.  The turquoise areas of this graph shows the Infowars “alternative facts” botnet empire. This is how political propaganda is spread these days–social media. This chart just shows Twitter.

“The three main hubs in this particular network are VeteransToday.com, BeforeItsNews.com, and NoDisinfo.com…”

And the botnets?

TheRealStrategy:

“…the most tweeted domain in our data was TheRealStrategy.com. It was tweeted so many times (7436) and connected to so many domains (relative to all other domains) that we had to remove it from the graph….Examining the temporal patterns (tweets over time) suggests that almost all of the tweets that linked-to this domain were generated by a computer program. That program operated hundreds of different accounts, directing them to tweet out in regular bursts (dozens at the same time). Most often, these tweets linked to TheRealStrategy, but the program also sprinkled in tweets linking to other alternative media domains. Closer analysis revealed many of these Twitter accounts to have similar profile descriptions and to use photos stolen from other people online.”

Infowars:

“The InfoWars site was the second-most highly tweeted in our data set (1742 times). Almost all of the tweet activity citing InfoWars came from a coordinated set of accounts — all were similarly named and each sent a single tweet linking to one of two InfoWars articles about different alternative narratives of different shooting events.”

Yep, there’s an info war all right. Hope someone is watching this.

Hmm, and here is something for French election aficionados ^^.

hail kekThe “Army of Kek”.  “Kek” is an intentional typo for “lol”, an internet meme used by alt-right Pepe / Gamergate / Trump followers. According to Jacob Steinblatt @JSteinblatt,

“I looked at the most influential users within the Twitter networks tweeting about #JeVote Surprise, several are American pro-Trump accounts”

Addendum:

So who is this Kate Starbird person? I’m glad you asked. Wikipedia is singularly unhelpful. We are told she is a former basketball player. If she was a fictional Pokemon character, there would probably already be several paragraphs. So, in the interests of Science, here is a short bio.

Kate Starbird

It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it. That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it.  [– Kate Starbird]

Kate Starbird (July 30, 1975 – ) is a researcher of crisis informatics and online rumors. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle.[1]

Starbird has been tracing the spread of misinformation on the web since the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.[2] Her research points to an intentional use of disinformation by “alternative media” sites with an anti-globalist political agenda, like VeteransToday.com, BeforeItsNews.com, and TheRealStrategy.com, which appears to use bots to generate automated conspiracy theory tweets. [3]

“Your brain tells you ‘Hey, I got this from three different sources,’ ” she says. “But you don’t realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn’t know how to vaccinate for it.”[4]

Starbird received her PhD in Technology, Media and Society from the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado, [5] where she received a National Science Foundation Award for the project “Detecting Misinformation Flows in Social Media Spaces During Crisis Events.”[6] She has a BS in Computer Science from Standford University. [7]

Starbird is a former professional basketball player, and was the national player of the year in 1997. [8] She is married to Melissa Marsh, a program manager for The If Project for female prison inmates in Seattle. [9]

Selected papers

  • Rumors, False Flags, and Digital Vigilantes: Misinformation on
    Twitter after the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing [10] (text) [11]
  • Information Wars: A Window into the Alternative Media Ecosystem, Conspiracy Theories, Muddled Thinking, and Political Disinformation [12]
  • Examining the Alternative Media Ecosystem through the Production of Alternative Narratives of Mass Shooting Events on Twitter [13]

External links

See also

References

[1] https://medium.com/@katestarbird
[2] http://www.npr.org/2017/04/09/523170115/how-misinformation-spreads-on-the-internet-and-how-to-stop-it
[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39930236
[4] http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/uw-professor-the-information-war-is-real-and-were-losing-it/
[5] https://www.hcde.washington.edu/starbird
[6] htt6s://www.hcde.washington.edu/news/kate-starbird-receives-nsf-award
[7] The Communication Crisis in America, And How to Fix It
edited by Mark Lloyd, Lewis A. Friedland p. xxi
[8] Basketball: A Biographical Dictionary edited by David L. Porter p. 451
[9] http://www.seattletimes.com/sports/college/kate-starbird-former-basketball-star-chooses-a-different-route-8212-as-usual/
[10] http://faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/Starbird_iConference2014-final.pdf (text)
[11] Social Media: A Reference Handbook: A Reference Handbook, by Kelli S. Burns, p. 135
[12] https://medium.com/hci-design-at-uw/information-wars-a-window-into-the-alternative-media-ecosystem-a1347f32fd8f
[13] http://faculty.washington.edu/kstarbi/Alt_Narratives_ICWSM17-CameraReady.pdf

Oh, wait, she *is* the former basketball person. Thanks for nothing, Wikipedia.

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Dildos that spy

Is your vibrator spying on you? Now we know it can be done.

Comedian Steve Colbert sends Obama a message through his microwave.

This week some Wikipedians were composing a letter to a burger chain scolding them for using Wikipedia in a commercial. But elsewhere, the incident caused people to suddenly notice that their home devices are capable of listening in on them, correctly interpreting their conversation, and responding by executing a program.

Not that the White House doesn’t already believe that Obama is spying on Trump Tower.  And Kellyanne Conway explained this could be done with a microwave.

But these are all jokes, or “alternative facts”.  What about dildos?

The makers of We-Vibe sex toy have been collecting individual dildo usage information that is tied to email addresses.  The lawsuit against them was worth $3.75 million.  About 300,000 people bought the vibrator, and who knows how many have downloaded the app, so maybe someone can do the math and say whether or not they came out ahead.

It might be worth pointing out here, that even though Comcast has had the technology to spy on you since at least 2008 — I wrote about it here at “Can Wikipediocracy spy on you through your webcam?” — and they can certainly get your IP address if you view their website, there is no proof that they can communicate with your sex toys. Absolutely none.

The gamergate war on women’s art

Amazing what people care about.  Gamergate is now trying to make people believe that women’s art is a communist conspiracy. They have spent a huge amount of energy on this.

For the last three or four days, the gamergate reddit “WikiInAction” (sorry, no link-love) has been engaged in a silent edit war.  They are  desperately trying to hide some comments on its latest thread, “Feminists / Cultural Marxists Plan to Brigade-Edit Wikipedia”, that purports to show a communist plot to take over Wikipedia with women.  The article that is making them crazy is about an editathon for women artists.

The way Reddit works is that you can get threads hidden by “downvoting” them.  The comments are still there, but in order to see them, you have to click on a tiny pale grey link that says “comment score below threshold  (3 children)

So what are they trying to hide?  First, a comment that says

“The bias they are referring to is the lack of coverage of topics of specific interest to women due to the unbalanced gender mix of Wikipedia editors.

“In practice, mostly they just write articles about female artists.”

This comment was hidden yesterday, reappeared this morning, then was downvoted and hidden again just a few moments ago.

The other thing they don’t want you to see is the links to two pages on Wikipedia that actually show what is going on, that “clarify the real situation instead of imagining a conspiracy”:  lists of articles improved  and new articles created.  This is from a 2016 editathon.

Does it work?  I think so.

You can see how the page views shot up after the comment was posted, then went to zero when the comment was hidden.  Page views started going up again last night after the comment became visible again.

If you want to follow the progress of the censorship attempt in real time, without skewing the pageview count, here is a direct link to the pageview metrics for Wikipedia:Meetup/ArtAndFeminsm/Outcomes2016improved and Wikipedia:Meetup/ArtAndFeminism/Outcomes2016new.

This is what gamergate cares about, hiding the facts, so people can’t think for themselves.  So much for “free speech”.  But then I think we knew this was a political movement all along, and not a social or cultural one.

Who knew that women artists would be in the vanguard of The Resistance? (For more, see Art+Feminism@artandfeminism)

( hmm, this is actually kinda fun….)

  

UPDATE: final tally.
The edit war on WikiInAction over hiding the Art+Feminism link continues full force — this morning it was hidden yet again. In the meantime, the “brigading” comment has a solid net 31 votes while the two Wikipedia Art+Feminism pages listing articles improved and articles created have had 79 and 74 page views respectively. Kind of ironic, a bunch of barely literate man-children have been induced to look at a list of women artists.
articles improved.jpgnew articles.jpg