Thursday, August 23, 2018

Facebook Kills 'Inauthentic' Foreign News Accounts - US Propaganda Stays Alive

By Moon of Alabama - August 23, 2018 at 09:24AM

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The creation of digital content led to the re-establishment of claqueurs:
By 1830 the claque had become an institution. The manager of a theatre or opera house was able to send an order for any number of claqueurs. These were usually under a chef de claque (leader of applause), who judged where the efforts of the claqueurs were needed and to initiate the demonstration of approval. This could take several forms. There would be commissaires ("officers/commissioner") who learned the piece by heart and called the attention of their neighbors to its good points between the acts. Rieurs (laughers) laughed loudly at the jokes. Pleureurs (criers), generally women, feigned tears, by holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes. Chatouilleurs (ticklers) kept the audience in a good humor, while bisseurs (encore-ers) simply clapped and cried "Bis! Bis!" to request encores.
Today anyone can create content and rent or buy virtual claqueurs in from of  "likes" on Facebook or "followers" on Twitter to increase its distribution.

An alternative is to create artificial social media personas who then promote ones content. That is what the Internet Research Agency, the Russian "troll factory" from St. Petersburg, did. The fake personas it established on Facebook promoted IRA created clickbait content like puppy picture pages that was then marketed to sell advertisements.

The profit orientated social media giants do not like such third party promotions. They prefer that people pay THEM to promote their content. Selling advertisements is Facebook's business. Promotional accounts on its own platform are competition.

The anti-Russian mania in US politics gives social media companies a welcome excuse to clamp down on promotional schemes for sites like Liberty Front Press by claiming that these are disinformation campaigns run by the US enemy of the day.

Tuesday Facebook announced  that it deleted a number of user accounts for "inauthentic behavior":
We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US. FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, gave us a tip in July about “Liberty Front Press,” a network of Facebook Pages as well as accounts on other online services. 
...
We are able to link this network to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins. For example, one part of the network, 'Quest 4 Truth,' claims to be an independent Iranian media organization, but is in fact linked to Press TV, an English-language news network affiliated with Iranian state media.
The FireEye report Facebook acted on notes:
FireEye has identified a suspected influence operation that appears to originate from Iran aimed at audiences in the US, UK, Latin America, and the Middle East. This operation is leveraging a network of inauthentic news sites and clusters of associated accounts across multiple social media platforms to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests. These narratives include anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as support for specific US policies favorable to Iran, such as the US-Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA). 
...
Based on an investigation by FireEye Intelligence’s Information Operations analysis team, we assess with moderate confidence that this activity originates from Iranian actors.
The evidence FireEye presents is quite thin. The purpose of its inquest and report is obviously self-promotion.

Moon of Alabama is also promoting anti-Saudianti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes. It supports the JCPOA deal. This is, according to FireEye, "in line with Iranian interests." It may well be. But does that make Moon of Alabama a "suspected influence operation"? Is it an "inauthentic news site"?

Is the @MoonofA Twitter account showing "coordinated inauthentic behavior" when it promotes the pieces presented on this site? We, by the way, assess with high confidencethat that this activity originates from a German actor. Is that a reason to shut it down?

Who will shut down the tons of "inauthentic" accounts US spies, the British military and Israeli propaganda organisations run?

Here is another high confidence tip for FireEye. There is proof, and even an admission of guilt, that a hostile government financed broadcasting organization is creating inauthentic Facebook accounts to disseminate disinformation. These narratives include anti-Russian, anti-Syrian, and pro-Saudi views, as well as support for specific US policies favorable to Israel, such as its financing of the anti-Iranian headscarf campaign.

This year the US government run Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) will spend more than $23 million for its Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB). OCB administers Radio and Television (TV) Martí programs directed at the Cuban public. In its 2019 budget request to Congress (pdf) the BBG admits that it creates inauthentic Facebook accounts to increase the distribution of its dreck:
In FY 2018, OCB is establishing on island digital teams to create non-branded local Facebook accounts to disseminate information. Native pages increase the chances of appearing on Cuban Facebook users newsfeeds. The same strategy will be replicated on other preferred social media networks.
How is this different from what the PressTV may have done? When will Facebook shut those inauthentic BBG accounts down?

Reprinted with permission from MoonOfAlabama.

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