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Inside the Online Campaign to Whitewash the History of Donald Trumps Russian Business Associates

A secret customer has actually been paying blog writers in India and Indonesia to compose short articles distancing President Donald Trump from the legal travails of a mob-linked previous company partner.

Spokespeople for online track record management business in the 2 nations validated that they had actually been paid to compose posts trying to whitewash Trump’s ties to Felix Sater, a Russian-born business owner who, with previous Russian trade minister Tevfik Arif, teamed up with the Trump Organization on many property offers from New York to the previous Soviet Union.

The project appears created to affect Google search results page relating to Trump’s relationship with Sater, Arif, and the Bayrock Group, a New York property company that teamed up with Trump on a series of realty offers, and hired Russian financiers for possible Trump handle Moscow.

Sater– who as soon as had a workplace at New York’s Trump Tower, Trump Organization service cards, and declares to have actually worked as a senior advisor to Trump– has just recently became an essential figure in the federal examination led by unique counsel Robert Mueller into Russian meddling in the 2016 governmental election.

In the lead-up to the election, Sater worked thoroughly with Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in an unsuccessful effort to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow with the help of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, which Sater stated would assist Trump win the presidency. According to declarations made by Cohen in 2015, Trump personally signed-off on the job.

Sater and Cohen likewise worked together on a proposition early in the Trump administration to fix the years-long dispute in Ukraine’s Crimea area, and to raise sanctions enforced versus Russia for their military intervention in and addition of the area. Inning accordance with a current BBC report , Sater even assisted Cohen assist in a conference in between Trump and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko, for which Cohen was covertly paid $400,000. Sater and Cohen both rejected that report.

Sater’s relationship with Trump and his household returns much even more. The Russian emigre has actually checked out property handle Moscow given that the late '&#x 27; 80s. When the Trump Organization took interest, Sater was straight associated with their company efforts in the nation, even accompanying Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on a 2006 see to Moscow at the demand of the older Trump. The senior Trump now states he does not even keep in mind Sater.

In 2010, a one-time executive at Bayrock brought a claim versus the company. “For the majority of its presence, [Bayrock] was considerably and discreetly mob-owned and ran,” “the match declared. Bayrock and Sater rejected the claims, and the suit– which at one point noted Trump and Ivanka as co-defendants– was settled in February.

In the meantime, a lawyer for the complainant because fit had actually brought another claim declaring tax scams by Bayrock. That 2nd fit, which was based upon proof reduced by the judge throughout the very first, was dismissed in 2015. When somebody started paying for blog site posts about the case, #peeee

That’s.

The Daily Beast formerly reported that a Pakistani blog writer had actually been paid to compose a short article for the Huffington Post’s now-defunct factor platform hailing the termination of the tax scams case. That blog writer, who passed the deal with Waqas KH, stated his customer, whom he decreased to call, had actually supplied the text of the piece completely.

HuffPost is a popular U.S. news source, however on more odd platforms, utilized clearly for search-engine optimization, over 50 other stories have actually turned up hyping the claim’s termination and trying to insulate Trump from debate including Sater and Bayrock. The short articles were released over an eight-month duration, from September 2017 through June 2018.

“Certainly now that Trump is President of the United States, there is not most likely to be any additional ramifications for him in this case,” stated a November post at a since-deleted site billing itself as an online forum for a “organisation advancement professional.” The post was composed by Abhishek Chatterjee, who owns an Indian SEO organisation that uses to position short articles on a network of 900 sites for $20 each.

Chatterjee stated he ‘d got an order to release the short article “by means of a random e-mail,” which he doesn'&#x 27; t understand who put the order. “We get orders from numerous customers little business or huge business throughout the world,” Chatterjee composed in an e-mail. “Most of the times we do not even understand why [we are] blogging about [our customers] or who asked us to do that.”

A day prior to Chatterjee’s post published, another piece appeared on a likewise suspicious site hailing the termination of tax scams charges versus Sater, whom it called a “previous Trump crony.” That piece was authored by Mahruz Aly, an Indonesian SEO online marketer who charges up to $225 to release stories on a network of more than 2,000 sites.

Aly decreased to state who paid him for the Sater piece. Rather, he pitched his service: “If you have post for publishing, I can release it. For paid sir.”

GodsSEO, an Indonesian-based business that charges up to $600 to put dummy posts for SEO functions, was even less helpful in its reaction. “Wazup, kid?” stated a contact for the business, who reacted to queries from the e-mail address [e-mail secured]

Another Indonesian SEO supplier, Ongky Firmansyah, stated in an e-mail that he had actually been paid to arbitrarily place the names “Tevfik Arif” and “Tevfik Arif Doyen” into posts on his site.

Sater rejected any understanding of the paid SEO projects. Arif did not return efforts for remark.

The usage of “personal blog site networks” (PBNs), or dummy sites established to video game online search engine results, is a typical, if typically frowned-upon, web marketing technique, inning accordance with Brendon McAlpine, a service advancement supervisor for Australian online credibility management service Internet Removals.

McAlpine stated link plans like PBNs are regularly utilized to spread out disinformation. “The issue with PBNs is that … anybody can produce a site, develop material and authority, then take paid advertising material without vetting the precision of it,” he described. “We regularly see PBNs utilized for the damage of companies, people, federal government and star credibilities. PBNs resemble the economy of influencers, where you can discover a blog site pertinent to your target’s industry/interests and spread out harmful material or counter intelligence for a little cost.”

Google’s Webmaster Guidelines clearly forbid of usage of “massive short article marketing or visitor publishing projects” like the one utilized to advertise Sater. To avoid making use of PBNs and to secure the stability of its search results page, Google has actually even established an algorithm to immediately discover and punish efforts to fraudulently control its search ranking system.

The methods aren’t restricted to sites either. A host of dummy social networks accounts– consisting of Twitter and Facebook pages bearing the names Tevfik Arif, Tevfik Arif Doyen, TevfikArif Bayrock, and (Serbian for Tevfik Arif)– have actually been utilized given that in 2015 to plug the termination of the claim versus Sater and Bayrock.

“Another success for our terrific president Trump track record,” stated one such account in December. “Fake news loses once again.”

Read more: http://www.thedailybeast.com

Roger SafontInside the Online Campaign to Whitewash the History of Donald Trumps Russian Business Associates
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Why Google Is the Perfect Target for Trump

A full hour before the sun rose in Washington, DC, Tuesday, President Donald Trump fired off a pair of tweets claiming that Google had “rigged” search results against conservatives. Like so many Trump grievances, the argument seems steeped less in fact than in a roiling stew of personal animus. But in Google News, the latest subject of his ire, Trump may have found the perfect target.

In Trump’s tweets—which he later deleted, then tweeted again, with no substantive changes—you can see the outlines of an attack that can’t be easily fact-checked or dismissed. Charges of bias against Google will stick, because no algorithm is truly neutral. And while Trump’s logic is specious, effectively countering it would require acceptance among his base that mainstream news sources like The New York Times are not, actually, the enemy of the people.

In truth, there’s a lot going on with these two tweets. So much so that it’s helpful to break down what Trump’s claiming, and why, and what he plans to do about it, sentence by sentence:

Google search results for 'Trump News' shows only the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media.

Here, Trump is including not just The New York Times, CNN, and familiar targets under the "Fake News Media" umbrella, but every major media outlet other than The Wall Street Journal and The Economist. We know this because his entire argument appears to be based on this recent story in PJ Media, which claims outrageous bias in Google News results against conservative sites, yet counts everything from Reuters and Bloomberg to the Columbia Journalism Review as left-leaning. (Trump not only cites a specific statistic from the PJ media piece, suggesting strongly that’s his source, but also famously doesn’t use a computer. Googling "Trump News" is not a lived experience for him.)

In a statement, Google rejected Trump’s premise: “Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users' queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

Google News, if anything, appears to be one of the few places left online that hasn’t devolved into microtargeted filter bubbles. In a study published just last month in Computers in Human Behavior, researchers Seth Lewis and Efrat Nechushtai found that Google News recommendations were in fact largely homogeneous, with liberals and conservatives being shown the same links regardless of ideology. In addition, the top five results for news searches came overwhelmingly from a handful of mainstream sources: The New York Times, CNN, Politico, and The Washington Post.

“Yes, Google News is dominated by mainstream news,” says Lewis, who focuses on emerging media at the University of Oregon. “If you consider mainstream news to be left-leaning, you will have concerns about the results you get from Google News. There’s no question about that.”

It’s that “if” that Trump is leaning on. If you consider everything left of The Daily Caller biased, you’re going to find bias everywhere you look.

In other words, they have it RIGGED, for me & others, so that almost all stories & news is BAD.

Google doesn’t “rig” its algorithm against conservatives, or against Trump, at least not in the way that he means here. Whether the stories and news it surfaces are “bad” depends on what happened in the world—like, say, close associates pleading guilty to or being convicted of federal crimes—right before you search. A very simple case in point: If you type “Trump” or “Trump news” right now into Google News, the top results all center around this very tirade. The fourth result in a recent search in an incognito window, which doesn't factor in search history, came from the reliably conservative Fox News.

Is Google News rigged, though? Almost certainly not, but you’d be hard-pressed to prove it. That’s because Google search, like Facebook’s News Feed and other platforms, derives its power from an algorithm for which no one outside of the company has any specific insight.

“The ways in which right-wing organizations have been able to manipulate Google and Facebook have actually worked in Donald Trump’s favor."

Safiya Noble, USC

“Black box algorithms may be kept secret for business and intellectual property reasons, but they’re vulnerable to conspiracy theories,” says Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at the University of Michigan. “There’s no way to know what the algorithm is doing for someone outside of Google or Facebook, or whatever tech company you’re talking about. And in some deeper, fundamental way, some of the machine-learning algorithms, even the people working on them don’t fully understand what they’re doing.”

That has very real stakes; a 2015 study showed that the ordering of positive and negative stories in Google search rankings could hold real sway over how people vote. Keeping algorithms closely held does have the benefit of making Google’s systems harder to game, but it also gives Trump a huge amount of runway to make allegations that aren’t easily disproven.

Fake CNN is prominent.

True enough, at least the prominence part. Lewis and Nechushtai found that CNN occupied a slot in the top five rankings for news stories on Google 12 percent of the time. Only The New York Times had more, hitting 22 percent. But relying on mainstream news outlets rather than the fringes has its own societal benefit.

“The argument—that it's bad that Google leads people to find democratic news organization—is dangerous. What we want is for people to have access to common understandings about what’s happening in the world, and investigative journalism that’s vetted and in many ways credible,” says Safiya Noble, professor at the University of Southern California and author of Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. "We certainly want people to have access to multiple news outlets, and search engines often do lead us to multiple voices. It’s just the more powerful voices are often on the first page.”

Republican/Conservative & Fair Media is shut out.

Again, it depends on how you define the terms. But this sentence features at least two levels of absurdity.

“The conceptual problem with Trump’s tweets is the idea that an algorithm is only fair if it returns an equally balanced number of stories favoring one side versus the other,” says Nyhan. “Take that to its logical extreme: Imagine if you searched for ‘does gravity exist,’ and Google had to return half of the search results saying ‘actually it doesn’t.’ It’s a preposterous notion, but that’s the implication of the president’s claim here.”

The idea that Google and other platforms have shut out conservative voices is also broadly incorrect. “What we have found over and over again, for a long time, is that the most conservative and racist and misogynist voices are deeply skilled in optimizing content, and have had more than their fair share of control and representation in search. In fact, it was that phenomenon that led to President Trump getting elected,” adds Noble. “The ways in which right-wing organizations have been able to manipulate Google and Facebook have actually worked in Donald Trump’s favor."

Illegal?

Algorithms can indeed be found to be in violation of the law, according to Salome Viljoen, a privacy fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. But that's not what's happening here. If Google’s algorithms did in some way infringe on free speech, that would only be legally problematic if Google were the US government. “You have no constitutionally protected free-speech right on Google. It’s a private platform,” says Viljoen.

Similarly, Google would be in legal trouble if its search algorithm were discriminating against a constitutionally protected class, but the 14th Amendment does not cover political conservatives. Lastly, algorithmic bias could be illegal if it somehow caused someone to, say, be turned down for a loan application, notes Viljoen. But since with news results there’s no information being sold to third parties—for example, banks, to continue the hypothetical—that concern doesn't apply.

So, to answer Trump's question in one word: No.

96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media, very dangerous.

See above. The 96 percent number comes from the PJ Media story, which defines “National Left-Wing Media” as anything mainstream. Yet a study following the 2016 election actually found the candidate who most benefited from mainstream media bias was Trump, since coverage of Hillary Clinton was found to be overwhelmingly negative, and mainstream outlets paid comparatively little attention to Bernie Sanders.

Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good.

This is a new spin on the argument that Twitter was biased against conservatives because it banned several accounts for abusive behavior. It’s the behavior part that matters. Or in this case, it’s the thousands of signals that Google uses to determine which sites rise to the top of the rankings.

“When it comes to a regular Google search, people still might not realize what that represents,” says Lewis. “There’s preferential attachment for sites that have been around a long time. Sites that have more incoming links are seen as having higher authority. There are certain terms over time where you develop that Google juice, that gives you more salience in the rankings. The same factors that go into Google search go into Google News.”

They are controlling what we can & cannot see.

It’s true! Google does control what people see, in a way that deeply impacts society—especially marginalized voices. "Google search results work in favor of people in power, quite frankly," says Noble. "What you are more likely to see are vulnerable communities, racial and ethnic minorities, women and girls, and so forth, who are often much less likely to have influence over the algorithm or over search-engine optimization strategies and so forth in a major search engine like Google."

By appropriating this argument to his own ends, Trump also shifts attention from the very real conversations that should happen around algorithms, corporate responsibility, and representation.

"There are very many real concerns about the influence these companies wield. What's disappointing about Trump's argument is that it forces people who want to defend freedom of the press into a defense of the platforms, which deserve a lot of scrutiny. They do exert a disproportionate influence over the information people see," says Nyhan. "The danger, though, is that they will be bullied into political submission" by Trump and other aggrieved conservatives.

That could take troubling forms; look no further than Facebook cowing to conservative pressure and abandoning oversight of Trending Topics, which let unvetted stories run rampant on the platform leading up to the 2016 election. Google News today shows everyone the same stories, projecting a ground-level truth. The alternative: deeply entrenched echo chambers, the kind that have turned so much of the internet toxic.

This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!

It’s not clear what sort of regulation Trump has in mind here. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday that the administration was “taking a look” at the possibility—but even the threat has serious implications.

"We should take seriously when political leaders threaten speech and media coverage they don’t like," says UMich's Nyhan. "We should worry about not just formal mechanisms of power but informal ones, political leaders bullying companies into their skewing search results or their coverage because of the threat that they'll be attacked by political leaders, or subject to regulation or other types of scrutiny.”

Facebook failed that test in 2016. Now it's Google's turn. But with its algorithm locked in a black box, and an opponent who views any media left of Breitbart with suspicion, it's going to be an unwinnable fight.


More Great WIRED Stories

Read more: http://www.wired.com/

Roger SafontWhy Google Is the Perfect Target for Trump
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Inside the Mueller Indictment: A Russian Novel of Intrigue

It was the day of the biker rally, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend 2016, when thousands of motorcyclists descend in a cacophonous blitz on Washington, DC, for the annual Rolling Thunder rally. Soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, wearing a blazer sans tie but with a red MAGA hat firmly ensconced on his head, worked the crowd around the Lincoln Memorial. “Look at all these bikers,” he said. “Do we love the bikers? Yes. We love the bikers.”

Looking around, though, it was not quite enough bikers for him. “I thought this would be like Dr. Martin Luther King, where the people would be lined up from here all the way to the Washington Monument,” he said, disappointed at the turnout for his gathering.

His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, spent the morning working the Sunday shows, downplaying concerns about the Trump campaign’s turmoil, dismissing rumors of infighting with his rival Paul Manafort (their relationship was “fantastic,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace), and expressing confidence about how the small campaign staff was all they needed to defeat Hillary Clinton (“This is media hype,” he said).

Amid the bustle of the capital and the general tumult of the campaign, there may not have been a person in Washington who noticed the American holding up a sign outside the White House, just blocks away from Trump’s glad-handing at the Rolling Thunder rally. “Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss” it read. The unnamed American who held up the sign, posing for a picture, didn’t really know why he’d been hired for such a strange task.

The people who had hired him online to stand in front of the White House had simply told him they wanted the picture for “a leader here and our boss…our funder.”

Whoever the people who ordered the photo were, they got it held up in public in time for June 1.

It was a small detail, seemingly insignificant in the capital city, almost impossible to place in the grand scheme of a billion-dollar presidential election. Except for one thing, a fact that—more than a year later—would stand out to the investigators working with Special Counsel Robert Mueller: On June 1, 2016, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin turned 55 years old.

Prigozhin was hardly a household name in the United States—until last Friday, at least—but to investigators and intelligence officers, he was a key figure in the overlapping circles of oligarchs, spooks, and organized crime figures who run Russia under Vladimir Putin. You can only imagine that when he saw a photograph of the sign held aloft by an American, he smiled.

Because in the midst of an effort to influence and to disrupt American democracy, an effort that spanned four years, cost millions of dollars, and employed hundreds of Russians, the team at the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg had arranged a joke, a present, and a tribute for the Kremlin oligarch who was making it all possible.

In the days since Bob Mueller’s 37-page indictment of 13 Russians and three companies involved in sowing political discord in the midst of the 2016 US presidential election, much of the media focus has been on the Internet Research Agency, the so-called troll factory responsible for running a network of phony social media identities and paid political advertisements aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton and building up Donald Trump.

A closer read of the indictment, though, tells an even more interesting story—a story of how a restaurateur whom Vladimir Putin made wealthy repaid the favor by unleashing an army of trolls to promote #MAGA, bash Trump opponents, organize political rallies, suppress the votes of Clinton supporters, and hire Americans to dress up like Clinton in prison.


Becoming Putin’s Cook

According to Mueller’s investigation, the IRA was overseen by two Prigozhin-controlled companies—Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering. While Concord Catering was—until last Friday at least—a name all-but unknown in the United States, it’s a corporate entity almost as infamous as major Russian conglomerates like Gazprom to those who track the epidemic of corruption unleashed by Putin.

Concord Catering was Prigozhin’s ticket out of obscurity. Growing up in the Soviet Union, where athletic prowess was celebrated as a path to greatness, he’d once had aspirations of being a champion cross-country skier. Instead, he became a low-level criminal and spent most of the 1980s in prison after being caught in a robbery and prostitution scheme. He gained freedom just as the country he’d known since birth unraveled. It was the perfect moment for an entrepreneur to remake himself—and he started with a hot-dog stand.

It was improbably successful, and by 1996 he had the wherewithal to found Concord Catering, the corporate home for a growing restaurant empire that included eateries aimed at the St. Petersburg elite. His first major success was the “Old Customs House” in St. Petersburg—a nod to the city’s glory days in the time of Peter the Great—that featured decadent dishes like oysters and foie gras from Finland.

In 1998, he opened what would become his most famous venture, a floating restaurant known as the “New Island Restaurant” that would become well known to wealthy Russians and a favorite of Putin himself, who hosted the Japanese prime minister at one of Prigozhin’s restaurants just after he took office in 2000.

In 2001, Putin took French President Jacques Chirac to New Island and returned the following year with President George W. Bush. Prigozhin, who would later explain that when he started he didn’t even know a restaurant’s wine specialist was known as a “sommelier,” wasn’t shy about touting his business success; as he bragged to one local publication, “Vladimir Putin saw how I built up my business from nothing.”

As the Anti-Corruption Foundation reports, Prigozhin holds a unique position in the constellation of Russian oligarchs—he’s there simply because Putin likes him: “The man did not invent anything, did not find the treasure, did not win at the Olympics. He received an award in gratitude for the good service of the president, as a tip. He was told that now you can freely and with impunity engage in corruption.”

Over the next 15 years, Prigozhin—and Concord Catering—became the go-to supplier for Russia’s government food contracts, serving meals in schools, the military, and even at Dmitry Medvedev’s presidential inauguration. Much of the capital that fueled Concord Catering’s early growth was underwritten by Vnesheconombank, the Russian development bank overseen by Putin’s ally Sergey Gorkov. (Not coincidentally Vnesheconombank has become a critical financial vehicle for oligarchs and served as cover for Russian intelligence operations overseas.)

Concord Catering faced regular criticism for its failure to deliver on its promised contracts; parents revolted against the heavily processed meals Concord served in their childrens’ schools. But competency was hardly a requirement for business success in the kleptocracy that had come to dominate Russia.

By 2011, Prigozhin was winning contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars—and then, in 2012, more than $1 billion to feed more than 90 percent of the Russian military. The contracts transformed Prigozhin’s life; his family moved to a St. Petersburg compound with a basketball court and a helicopter pad, and they enjoyed a private jet and a 115-foot yacht.

He was known in the press as “Putin’s cook.” Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny had a different nickname for him: “Putin’s troll.”

That moniker stemmed from Prigozhin’s unique side project. After all, one of the unwritten rules of Putin’s Russia is that those who see wealth showered upon them by the state owe a debt to aid Putin politically.

For Prigozhin, that meant funding the Internet Research Agency.


The Translator Project

The Internet Research Agency was created in the summer of 2013 in St. Petersburg’s Lakhta-Olgino neighborhood; in short order it had hired hundreds of employees who generated a steady stream of pro-Putin, anti-west propaganda online. They flooded the internet with comments and bots, and by 2014, the IRA was so notorious that it became known simply as the troll factory. It attracted talent, in part, by paying higher-than-average salaries for those interested in digital marketing—about $700 a month, according to former workers who have been interviewed by western media.

According to Mueller’s indictment, Concord funded the IRA “as part of a larger Concord-funded interference operation that it referred to as ‘Project Lakhta,’” named after a nearby lake and the historic neighborhood where the agency was founded. The IRA’s mission was to spread misinformation via the internet around the world. Its initial targets were Ukraine and various European democracies.

Concord classified the payments for Project Lakhta as “software support and development,” and to conceal the funding funneled it through the bank accounts of 14 different affiliates. Over its first year, the IRA also set up a number of other front companies with names like MediaSintez LLC, GlavSet LLC, MixInfo LLC, Azimut LLC, and NovInfo LLC.

The project’s main leaders were an unlikely trio of a retired police officer, a tech entrepreneur, and a PR executive. The 50-something CEO, Mikhail I. Bystrov, had spent most of his career as a St. Petersburg police officer, retiring as a colonel and joining the IRA around February 2014; he was also listed as the head of other IRA front companies, including serving as the general director of Glavset LLC.

The executive director, Mikhail L. Burchik, was a 30-year-old tech entrepreneur; he joined IRA in the fall of 2013 and by March 2014 had risen to be its executive director, second only to Bystrov.

Alexandra Krylova was the IRA’s No. 3 official; she had previously worked at the “Federal News Agency,” a media outlet linked to Prigozhin that has played a key role in promoting Russia’s military operations in Syria.

The Internet Research Agency organized itself like any modern digital marketing firm, with departments focused on graphics, data analysis, and search engine optimization, as well as the standard back-office functions like an IT department and finance department to handle budgeting. Estimates of its total staff have ranged from 400 to 1,000.

In April 2014, the IRA created a new unit, known as the Translator Project, that focused on “the US population and conducted operations on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter,” according to the indictment. By the following month, the project outlined, apparently in an internal document, an explicit goal: “Spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.”

Over the next three years, the project would move through distinct phases as the IRA’s team researched American politics, cultivated false personas, criticized the leading Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton—a particular nemesis of Vladimir Putin—and eventually went all-in for a Donald Trump victory. In time, the staff on the Translator Project burgeoned to more than 80 employees.

The Translator Project was originally overseen by Maria A. Bovda and Robert S. Bovda—how the two are related is unclear from the indictment—who both worked at IRA from November 2013 to October 2014 and laid the groundwork for the initial operation. In the fall of 2014, Dzheykhun Aslanov joined IRA and eventually took over as the head of the Translator Project, overseeing the operations that targeted the unfolding American presidential election and, like Bystrov, serving on paper as the head of front companies that helped funnel money to the effort.

The operation began to come together in the spring of 2014, months before the first formal event in America that unofficially kicked off the 2016 election, the November announcement by former Virginia Senator Jim Webb that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Over the course of 2014, the IRA’s employees and what Mueller’s team calls “their co-conspirators” began “to track and study groups on US social media sites dedicated to US politics and social issues.” They carefully tracked the size and engagement of various online conversations, including the frequency of posts and the average number of comments or responses.

That spring, Krylova, Bogacheva, and Robert Bovda applied for visas to visit the United States themselves “to collect intelligence for their interference operations,” according to the indictment. All three stated, falsely, they were traveling to the US for personal reasons, concealing their place of employment. While Bovda was turned down for a visa, the other two were approved and set off on a three-week trip in June 2014 through Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, and New York.

They came prepared for low-level espionage, purchasing cameras, SIM cards, and “drop phones”—untraceable burners—and with pre-planned “evacuation scenarios” in case something went wrong. There’s no record in the indictment of who they met with or where precisely they went, but their travels took them through most of the largest electoral states in the country.

When the two travelers returned to Russia, Krylova sat down with Burchik, the IRA’s executive director, for a debriefing. That fall, a third coconspirator spent four days in Atlanta, Georgia, for further research and, on returning to St. Petersburg, met with the manager of IRA’s IT department, Sergey P. Polozov, whose job it was to procure servers and other technical infrastructure inside the US to help mask the origins of the IRA’s activity. Underscoring just how banal even geopolitical espionage can be, this third traveler filed his expense report with Polozov.

This collective research, both online and on the ground in the US, provided a critical political education on America to the Russians. Even as Kyrlova and Bogacheva traveled across the country, their colleagues—posing online as Americans—began corresponding with a political activist in Texas, who explained how they should focus their influence efforts on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia, and Florida.”

It was a concept and phrase the IRA quickly grasped and adopted; from then on, the IRA employees would refer internally to their targets as “purple states.” They also circulated lists of US holidays to ensure that employees put out appropriate social media content.

That fall, as the Translator Project gained momentum, the IRA relocated, moving to a modern four-story office building with floor-to-ceiling windows at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, just two blocks off the Neva River on the north shore of the Gulf of Finland.

While much of the IRA’s activity focused on promoting Putin and Russia, the Translator Project was seen as the organization’s elite by those who toiled elsewhere in the IRA on projects like attacking Ukraine or Putin’s domestic opposition. As one former worker in the “troll factory” told the Washington Post over the weekend, “They were totally modern-looking young people, like hipsters, wearing fashionable clothes with stylish haircuts and modern devices. They were so modern that you wouldn’t think they could do something like this.”

Reaching across the Atlantic from St. Petersburg presented a massive logistical challenge; the IRA employees opened hundreds of social media accounts, creating fictitious Americans who they, with time, transformed into “leader[s] of public opinion,” according to the indictment.

The IRA’s employees, known as “specialists,” worked around the clock, with a day-shift and a night-shift to ensure 24/7 coverage of the US, where the east coast is eight hours behind St. Petersburg. The indictment specifically cites four other Russian employees—Vadim V. Podkopaev, Gleb I. Vasilchenko, Irina V. Kaverzina, and Vladimir Vankow—who helped research American politics, draft social media content, and “operated” US personas online to post on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Their goal was to enflame “political intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation, and oppositional social movements.”

To do so, they focused on US foreign policy and economic issues, creating group pages on sites like Facebook and Instagram that targeted immigration (one group was called “Secured Borders”), Black Lives Matters (they created a “Blackivist” page), religious groups (“United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”) and geography (“South United” and “Heart of Texas.” All told, their pages amassed hundreds of thousands of followers. They also built numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if they belonged to Americans, like @TEN_GOP, aka “Tennessee GOP,” and created an intricate account hierarchy, designating certain accounts to post original content and using others to repost, amplify, and promote it.

“Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants’ means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the US political system,” Mueller’s indictment says. “[They] had the strategic goal to sow discord.”

While some of the accounts barely received any tractions, others did quite well online; the @TEN_GOP amassed 100,000 followers and was retweeted at times by senior Trump aides like Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump Jr., and Gen. Michael Flynn.

It was a sophisticated operation, akin to any other digital marketing campaign by a brand or political organization. The IRA studiously tracked the accounts and their engagements—including comments, likes, and reposts—to decipher what succeeded and helped boost their audience.

Colleagues helped audit the content created by the “specialists” to make sure it “appeared authentic” and they received regular guidance on post lengths and how to incorporate graphics and video. The IT manager, Polozov, and his team orchestrated a network of VPNs inside the US to disguise the origins of his colleagues’ work.

As the presidential campaign unfolded through 2015, the Russian operation expanded into paid political advertisements that amounted to thousands of dollars a month; the Mueller indictment shows that the IRA carefully calculated their ad spends and submitted the budgets to the parent company, Concord.


Going Deeper into America

Then, as 2016 itself started, they expanded further, appropriating the Social Security Numbers of living Americans and using them to open accounts at Paypal. They used fake drivers’ licenses and false and stolen IDs to establish cover identities.

For some of this activity, they turned to a California man, Richard Pinedo, 28, who ran an online service called “Auction Essistance.” Pinedo—who pleaded guilty to identity fraud in a case unsealed Friday along with the other Mueller indictments—ran a service to circumvent the security features of sites like Paypal, selling bank accounts established under false identities to help people avoid declaring their real names to Paypal.

A one-time computer science major who lived in the suburbs of Ventura County and ran an SEO digital marketing company as his day job, Pinedo, according to rough estimates given in his sentencing documents, appears to have made somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000 in his scheme over the three years his company existed, from 2014 to 2017. (According to the special counsel’s office, he never knew he was working with the Russian Internet Research Agency. The Pinedo case was the first publicly known avenue of the investigation that involved Ryan Dickey, an experienced prosecutor who specializes in cybercrime and was brought to Mueller’s team in November; Dickey, who helped target major hackers like Guccifer, is one of the Justice Department’s top cybercrime investigators.)

All told, the IRA team set up more than a dozen fraudulent bank accounts. The fake Paypal accounts were used to purchase political advertisements, purportedly by Americans, with messages like “Vote Republican, vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment” and “Ohio Wants Hillary 4 Prison.” Just days before the IRA specialists hired the birthday sign-holder in front of the White House in May 2016, they promoted an ad saying “Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,” the Mueller indictment says.

On June 7, a day after Hillary Clinton clinched the 2,383 pledged delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination, they paid for an ad saying “Trump is our only hope for a better future.”

Coincidentally or not, there was a flurry of activity in mid-June 2016 the same week that the Washington Post first reported that the DNC had been hacked by the Russian government. One day before the Post report on June 14, 2016, the Russian IRA operation used the wemakeweather@gmail.com email address to fraudulently obtain a bank account, the first listed such action in Mueller’s indictment. Then, two days after the Post report, on June 16, they fraudulently used a stolen Social Security number to set up a bank account and a Paypal account using an email accounted called allforusa@yahoo.com.

The overall mission of all of this effort—the fake Facebook groups, the false Twitter posts, the undercover identities, the online ads—was clear: As the IRA instructed its specialists, “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them).”

The team appropriated and amplified relevant hashtags, like #Trump2016, #TrumpTrain, #MAGA, and #Hillary4Prison,” and seized on new events to create even more accounts, like “Trumpsters United,” which they used to communicate with what Mueller’s indictment calls “unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump Campaign involved in local community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump.”

Those astroturf accounts that weren’t enthusiastic enough were singled out for corrective action; one of the organization’s internal audits concluded that the Facebook group “Secured Borders” was insufficiently critical of Hillary and its team was told “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton,” according to the indictment.

The effort, well-staffed and expensive—by the fall it was spending upward of $1.25 million a month—was a top priority for the IRA. Its CEO, Bystrov, communicated “frequently” with its oligarch patron, Prigozhin, about Project Lahkta and had “regularly scheduled in-person meetings” throughout 2015 and 2016, according to Mueller’s indictment.

As the summer of 2016 unfolded—two years after the original scouting trip that launched the project—the IRA took its influence campaign to a new level, organizing and coordinating political rallies inside the US, pretending to be grassroots activists themselves. They built attendance by promoting events through fake social media accounts and contacted the administrators running other large, legitimate social media groups.

Using that same email address linked to the fraudulent bank account, allforusa@yahoo.com, they sent out press releases for a “March for Trump” in New York on June 25, 2016, and used a Facebook account for a fake American named “Matt Skiber” to contact a rally recruiter offering to “give you money to print posters and get a megaphone.”

They helped promote a July 9, 2016, rally in DC, that was supposed to showcase how Hillary Clinton would turn the country over to Sharia law. They hired a “real US person,” the indictment says, to hold up a sign showing Hillary Clinton and a quote falsely attributed to her: “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”

They used a Gmail account, joshmilton024@gmail.com, to promote a “Down with Hillary” rally on July 23, sending out press releases to more than 30 media outlets, and also bought Facebook ads to promote the event. (Intriguingly, the day of the “Down with Hillary” rally coincided with the day that Wikileaks released thousands of emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.)

In August, they helped coordinate and promote “Florida Goes Trump” rallies, using their fake personas to communicate with Trump campaign staff and local community organizers, and purchased Facebook and Instagram ads to promote the series of events on August 20, 2016.

In one message to the Facebook group “Florida for Trump,” they even adopted their preferred candidate’s verbal proclivities, writing, “Listen we’ve got an idea. Florida is still a purple state and we need to paint it red. If we lose Florida, we lose America. We can’t let it happen, right? What about organizing a YUGE pro-Trump flash mob in every Florida town?”

More than 8,300 Facebook users clicked on the ads they were promoting for the Florida rallies, leading them to the IRA’s fake Facebook page “Being Patriotic.”

The sheer volume of the IRA’s effort staggers the imagination. All told, it posted some 80,000 pieces of content in 2015, 2016, and 2017. Facebook has struggled to wrap its arms around the IRA’s activities in the year since the election; according to Facebook’s estimates, more than 126 million Americans saw some of the IRA’s propaganda. The company estimates that the IRA spent around $100,000 to promote some 3,000 different ads related to the campaign, all part of what it says are about 470 “inauthentic accounts and Pages.” On Twitter, the Russian efforts garnered more than 131,000 tweets, and there were more than 1,000 videos uploaded to YouTube.

According to the indictment, they even did individual voter outreach through social media—contacting, according to an internal IRA list, more than 100 voters individually—encouraging people to show up at rallies and lining up individuals to provide signs for an event. For the Florida rallies, they even recruited and paid one US person to build a cage on a flatbed truck, and someone else to wear a costume portraying Hillary in prison.

A Trump campaign chair for a county in Florida contacted the masquerading Russians to suggest two other cities to host events, and the “Matt Skiber” persona contacted a Trump campaign staffer at the official’s DonaldTrump.com email address—the official is known only in the indictment as “Campaign Official 1”—to introduce himself as heading a “grassroots conservative online movement” and reporting that they had 13 confirmed rally locations. In the days ahead, they contacted two additional Trump campaign officials; there’s no record in the indictment whether the campaign staff responded or corresponded with the fake IRA accounts.

The events were such a success that the IRA moved to organize similar events in New York and Pennsylvania in the fall, paying protesters at the rallies and buying Facebook ads to promote the events.

That summer, in the heat of the campaign, the IRA began to promote allegations of voter fraud, seeking to sow uncertainty and division among Democratic voters by circulating rumors that Clinton had stolen the Iowa caucuses from Bernie Sanders and posting reports that Clinton was getting illegal mail-in votes in Broward County, Florida.

Then, in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, the IRA’s specialists adopted a new tactic: Voter suppression. They encouraged minority voters to sit out the election entirely or to support third-party presidential candidates like Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee who had attended a December 2015 dinner in Moscow, sitting at the same table with Vladimir Putin and retired General Michael Flynn

In an October 16, 2016, an Instagram account called “Woke Blacks” posted, “[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d be surely better off without voting at all.” On Election Day itself, a similar post by “United Muslims of Americans” encouraged Muslims to boycott the elections because “most of the American Muslim voters refused to vote for Hillary Clinton.”

The third-party candidate vote proved critical to Donald Trump’s victory; the vote total in Michigan for Jill Stein represented four times the size of Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton, and also exceeded Trump’s victory margin in Wisconsin.

According to the indictment, Election Day and Trump’s surprise victory hardly slowed the IRA’s efforts; in the days after November 8, the specialists began organizing rallies on both sides, supporting Trump, with a November 12 rally in New York, and also organizing rallies to protest his election, with a “Charlotte Against Trump” rally on November 19. After months of doing all it could to promote Trump’s election, it appears that the IRA was—at least for a time—reverting to its original agenda: dividing Americans and sowing doubt and distrust in democracy.

While there was regular reporting on the Internet Research Agency and the suspicious activity of what appeared to be Russian bots and trolls online, those running the organization apparently didn’t fear exposure of their efforts. In fact, two of the fraudulent bank accounts listed in the indictment were set up as late as March 30, 2017, and one of the stolen identities in the indictment was taken in May 2017, indicating that the Translator Project continued apace well past Trump’s inauguration.

Then last fall, as Robert Mueller’s investigation gained steam and the social media platforms began to face tough questions from Congress, the IRA appeared to panic.

On September 13, 2017, one of the specialists—Irina Kaverzina—wrote to a family member: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with colleagues.”

As she explained, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

It was a message echoed Friday by none other than the oligarch patron himself. “The Americans are very impressionable people, and they see what they want to see,” Prigozhin told a Russian news agency after Friday’s indictment. “I respect them very much.”


Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) is a contributing editor for WIRED and the author ofThe Threat Matrix: Inside Robert Mueller's FBI. He can be reached at garrett.graff@gmail.com.

Russia's Facebook Invasion

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If Google goes to China, will it tell the truth about Tiananmen Square?

The business questionable strategy to relaunch search is a possibility to defend fact in the age of disinformation

G oogle’s strategy to relaunch search in China, the world’s biggest market, is dealing with pushback from workers, human rights protectors and political leaders. With great factor. The Chinese federal government will firmly insist that the online search engine reduce outcomes associated to the Tiananmen democracy demonstrations of 1989, where numerous hundred serene protesters were shot by the army.

But worldwide standards require business to deal with human rights atrocities such as the Tiananmen Square massacre in a different way. Reducing details about these atrocities weakens the cumulative and specific right to reality that is significantly acknowledged in human rights law.

Google and other web business, especially those that have actually placed themselves as protectors of personal privacy and flexibility of expression, have to attest to these atrocities, not catch state pressure to bury them.

In the past, political and spiritual partisans burned challengers’ books to reduce undesirable facts and spread frauds. Today’s conspiracy-mongers and extremists do not require a match to ruin the reality; they choose to bury it with seo. Some have actually mastered raising their views to the top of Google searches, moving more trustworthy sources down the page. It’s info warfare, however with more recent weapons.

When pressured, Google can and does react to criticism associated to its human rights effects. 2 years back, Carole Cadwalladr discussed how Google allowed the spread of false information that reviled and damaged females, black individuals, Muslims and Jews. She pointed out a number of search results page, among which worried the Holocaust. When she typed “did the hol” into the search box, Google provided to finish the query as “did the Holocaust occur”– and the leading outcome was a white nationalist website that rejected the recorded historic reality of the Holocaust.

Though it openly distanced itself from the despiteful material, Google initially reacted that its search algorithms were unbiased and intended to “offer the most helpful and appropriate outcomes for our users”. The business, along with others in the environment, likewise consequently altered the script so that trustworthy sources moved to the top.

Big tech business can not prevent these debates, as the current Alex Jones case shows. Jones shamelessly promotes damaging and incorrect conspiracy theories, competing, for instance, that the Sandy Hook grade school massacre was a liberal scam staged by stars– prompting continual harassment of the moms and dads of the killed kids. Versus the loud protest of his “alt-right” fans, Facebook, YouTube, and others (significantly belatedly, and possibly just partly, Twitter ) prohibited him from their websites.

These debates typically originate from an extensive distinction in between the method online platforms typically specify their function and how the general public in fact views them. For a lot of software application engineers, the dominating values is to produce “neutral” platforms that make it possible for an energetic exchange of diverse views. Like other huge platforms, Google is loth to choose whose views must dominate on their websites, a technique that resonates with America’s right to totally free speech. The general public, on the other hand, thinks of that Google search results page are curated sources of authority or a grant of authenticity– as they would with products in an archive or library. On celebration, Google has actually even explained itself in those terms– as a repository of the world’s understanding, in the custom of the ancient library at Alexandria.

u-responsive-ratio”> Visitors Visitors collect at a display screen cubicle for Google at a 2016 conference in Beijing. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

Surely, Google and the huge socials media are ideal to prevent the function of referee in the majority of conflicts over exactly what is excellent and real. In cases of real views held by genuine individuals– unlike Russian hackers– who is to state they should not be heard, even if toxic to a lot of? With their massive power over exactly what is seen and heard, it’s simple to visualize a domino effect towards the type of harmful circumstances thought of by conspiracy theorists. No business or set of business need to have the ability to work out that sort of power in a democracy.

But online search engine– especially Google’s– currently play an extremely crucial function in forming our social understanding of exactly what deserves understanding. Google acknowledges this, in part through its subscription in the Global Network Initiative, a multi-stakeholder company devoted to advancing and safeguarding liberty of expression and personal privacy for web users. And modern-day democratic societies acknowledge that a shared social understanding and memory of human rights atrocities are a diplomatic immunity. International fact commissions and courts, beginning at Nuremberg, have actually well developed the realities of lots of human rights atrocities. Archives, such as the Muro de la Memoria (Wall of Memory) of the desaparecidos (the vanished) in Chile, show the value of sustaining a cumulative memory of well-documented occasions. This “best to reality” is progressively acknowledged in human rights law, as both a cumulative and specific. Permitting websites that reject human rights atrocities to “outrank” those that properly record them threatens that right to fact and memory.

Fortunately, online search engine and socials media need not be the arbiter of the reality of human rights claims. In choosing the best ways to react to destructive propaganda or state pressure to censor, they can depend on worldwide standards. These standards, particularly the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, can boost their inspiration and capability to act– consisting of in China. They can likewise count on 3rd parties, such as reality commissions and professional public investigative bodies, to serve as the arbiters. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and comparable organizations have actually assisted establish jurisprudence on the right to fact for private victims– and for society as a whole. Google has no responsibility to look for reality, however it does have the duty to consistently appear the actual truth of a human rights atrocity, such as the Holocaust and the massacre at Tiananmen Square. To do so, online search engine have to produce a brand-new algorithmic script. Call it a “bearing witness” script.

An attesting script is completely constant with the engineers’ dedications and ability. Counting on accurate accounts of human rights atrocities produced by skilled public bodies is well lined up with democratic worths and prevents the slipperiness of internal decisions. It is, in truth, a personification of the brand-new slogan of Alphabet , Google’s moms and dad business: do the ideal thing.

Deirdre K Mulligan is an associate teacher at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, a professors director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology and an establishing member of the Global Network Initiative. Daniel S Griffin is a PhD trainee at UC Berkeley’s School of Information

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Stop calling them ‘Russian troll farms’

(CNN)The expression “Russian giant farms” has actually ended up being common. It’s on network tv . It’s in leading papers. It’s on the lips of United States senators .

But it’s a deceptive expression — alarmingly deceptive.
The Russian stars who, through the Internet, disrupted America’s 2016 governmental election and are once again disrupting our 2018 midterm elections aren’t anything like the “giants” who’ve been a scourge of the Internet for 20 years. Up until we comprehend the distinction, we will not comprehend the danger our democracy is dealing with.
      Let’s start with how these things happened called”giant farms “in the very first location. As the degree of Moscow’s disturbance in the 2016 election emerged, the most remarkable aspect (beyond the possibility of collusion by the Trump group itself) was the concept of numerous Russians investing their hours in front of poorly lit computer system screens, feeding Americans intentionally polarizing, incorrect stories about our own nation. We required a word for bad stars online.
      So, we relied on “giants.” This recognized terminology to those who had actually tracked online habits given that the development of the Internet. Lots of people succumbed to the temptation to conceal behind the privacy of the Internet to bother, plague, and bully others — typically total strangers. Those who did were stated to be participated in “trolling.” Quickly those who chose unwinnable battles and bullied victims for the large sake of bullying them ended up being “giants.”

      What giants are — and are not

      Why do giants do it? Teacher Whitney Phillips, in a landmark book on giants, discusses that “giants take perverse happiness in messing up total strangers’ days.” Eventually, Phillips composes, “giants are encouraged by exactly what they call lulz, a specific type of unsympathetic, unclear laughter.” They’re in it for enjoyable, even if a sickening kind of enjoyable that comes at others’ expenditure. And giants are basically chaotic: They serve as a flash mob, organizing together spontaneously to troll various targets then going their own method.
      Those whom Moscow used to hinder American democracy bear neither of these trademarks. Rather the opposite. The Russian tweeters, Facebook posters, and YouTube commenters who weaponized social networks in 2016 weren’t in it for the laughter or the enjoyable.
      To the contrary, the specific grunts remained in it for the cash; and their managers in the Kremlin remained in it to destabilize American democracy and immobilize the United States. Exactly what’s more, there was major company to the effort , with purposeful hierarchies, subunits concentrated on specific messaging styles, mindful growings of phony personalities, and other particular tradecraft and strategies that were duplicated and improved. As one previous so-called Russian giant informed the Washington Post , “My viewpoints were currently composed for me.”

      An intentional disinformation project

      This was, all informed, a disinformation project thoroughly arranged and handled by state security forces. Unique Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russia’s Internet Research Agency, which was signed up with the Russian Government, and associated Russian entities with Russian federal government agreements explains intentional project preparation and execution such as sending out people to American soil to collect intelligence on exactly what would end up being the project’s audience; developing a computer system facilities developed to mask the Russian origins of the project’s messages; collaborating activities with “unwitting people related to the Trump project” to optimize the project’s effect; and guaranteeing financing for the personal companies that were essential parts of the project’s architecture.
      The Agency itself was tidily arranged into departments that consisted of a management group, an information analysis department, a graphics department, a search-engine optimization department, an infotech department, and a financing department.
      Moreover, a different indictment gotten by Mueller of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton project explained in information phishing attacks, cash laundering, and the tried hacking of state elections boards, all in service of the Kremlin’s total election disturbance project and all including Russian federal government authorities themselves.
      To call those who became part of this sophisticated architecture “giant farms” is to provide totally the incorrect impression by recommending that the inspiration and company bore some similarity to lulz-seeking, chaotic Internet goons. The ranks of Moscow’s social networks army were absolutely nothing of the sort.
      The distinction isn’t really simply semantic. It’s conceptual, and it’s crucial to safeguarding the health of our democracy. The very best method to handle giants — genuine giants — is to neglect them. That eliminates their enjoyable. It stalls their momentum. It leads them to search for other targets — or, much better still, to switch on each other.
      The opposite holds true for an advanced state star like the Kremlin. If Americans neglect exactly what the Russians did to corrupt our democracy in 2016 — as President Trump, being in Helsinki in person with Vladimir Putin, insisted we must do — then we’re sure to see more of the exact same from Moscow.

      Four methods to combat back

      Indeed, United States intelligence neighborhood chiefs have actually informed us we’re seeing more disturbance currently as we head into the 2018 midterm elections . Acknowledging Moscow’s attack on American democracy as a goal-driven, collaborated activity completely undeserving of the label “trolling” exposes the aspects of a preliminary action that we still frantically require in location. Is much better information-sharing in between federal government and the tech sector on the most current patterns and strategies so that both can be prepared to react more quickly and successfully.
      Second is a set of brand-new laws and guidelines that would inject higher openness into online political marketing. Third is experimentation by the tech sector with more aggressive, proactive methods to avoid disinformation projects from contaminating their platforms. 4th is penalty and hence deterrence of the Kremlin itself through harder monetary sanctions and continuing criminal indictments.

      Join us on Twitter and Facebook

      Strategic efficiency starts with conceptual clearness. Let’s stop calling them “troll farms” and begin calling them exactly what they are: the Kremlin’s disinformation army.

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    Roger SafontStop calling them ‘Russian troll farms’
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    CNN Exclusive: Surgeon falsely accused of wrongdoing tries to recover his name

    (CNN)Two years ago, Dr. Ricardo Quarrie, a cardiothoracic fellow at Yale New Haven Hospital, was publicly accused of lying to a patient to cover up a surgical mistake.

    The stories went viral and the ramifications were swift and severe: Quarrie says he became a “pariah” and potential employers have shunned him. Accused of such a heinous act, his promising future in a prestigious field disappeared.
    Now, the lawyer who accused Quarrie has recanted.
      CNN exclusively obtained a copy of the July 16 statement from New Haven, Connecticut, attorney Joel Faxon.
      In his statement, Faxon said Quarrie did not lie to his client, who was a patient at Yale.
      “The statements attributed to Dr. Quarrie were made by another health care practitioner at the hospital, or his designee,” Faxon wrote. “I hope this letter clarifies any misunderstandings.”
      Multiple news outlets, including CNN, covered Faxon’s original remarks accusing Quarrie of lying to the patient. Even though it’s been two years, those stories show up prominently on the first page of a Google search of Quarrie’s name.
      “Employers told me I was very qualified for positions, but patients Google their doctors, and they didn’t feel like they could refer patients to me,” said the cardiothoracic surgeon, who trained at Yale, the Cleveland Clinic and Ohio State.
      “It’s been a nightmare,” added Quarrie, the father of two young children. “The spread of that information — or misinformation — is so rapid, and people really do believe what they read.”
      Quarrie, 36, says the statement is a first step toward reclaiming his name.
      “But that’s two years of my life I can’t have back,” he said.
      Digital experts say it might be too late to reverse the damage to Quarrie’s career. When patients do a Google search, the old stories that say Quarrie lied might appear higher on the search than any stories that might be written about the July 16 retraction.
      “That’s the power of the Internet and the digital age: You can cause extensive damage and ruin people’s lives,” said Craig Bullick, chief operating officer of Empathiq, a company that helps doctors manage their online reviews but which Quarrie does not use.

      The wrong rib removed

      In 2015, Deborah Craven had surgery at Yale to remove part of her eighth rib.
      Quarrie assisted in that surgery. At the time, he was on a two-year training fellowship at Yale.
      The hospital admits that a mistake was made in that surgery. Craven’s lawsuit details how her seventh rib was removed instead of her eighth rib, and she then had a second surgery to remove the correct rib.
      But her lawsuit goes on to say something that later turned out not to be true: She accused Quarrie by name of lying to her about the reason for the second surgery to cover up the mistake.
      Multiple media outlets, including CNN, reported on the mistake and alleged coverup.
      Faxon, the patient’s lawyer, told a Hartford television station that Quarrie had told his client “lies” and was “just plain deceitful.”
      In his retraction last month, Faxon wrote that he believed those statements to be true when he said them in March 2016.
      “However, information uncovered in the course of the litigation’s discovery phase demonstrates inaccuracies in those statements,” he said.
      During that discovery phase, his client accused two other Yale staffers — a physician’s assistant and a different doctor — of lying to her. She said she didn’t even speak to Quarrie about her surgery.
      CNN asked Faxon why he thought Quarrie had been responsible for the alleged coverup when his own client, just a few months after his television interview, said explicitly that Quarrie was not the staffer who had misled her.
      Faxon said he couldn’t comment due to a confidentiality agreement with Yale.
      CNN was unable to reach Craven, who settled her case with Yale. When she filed her lawsuit two years ago, the hospital said in a statement that it recognized that a mistake had been made and that staff had apologized to Craven. A hospital spokesman declined to comment for this story.

      The long road to recovery

      Quarrie says he has no idea why the lawsuit and Faxon labeled him as telling lies.
      “I can only wonder about his motivation, but I don’t think I’ll ever know the truth,” Quarrie said.
      Quarrie says now he’s focused on recovering, both financially and emotionally, from being wrongly accused.
      While he was at Yale but before Craven filed her lawsuit, Quarrie was accepted into a one-year training program at the Cleveland Clinic. He said the hospital allowed him to stay on longer as a trainee.
      Quarrie said he won’t file a lawsuit against Faxon because it would take too long. He said he promised not to file a lawsuit as a condition of getting the statement from Faxon.
      He said he’s paying an online reputation company nearly $900 a month to help him reclaim his name.
      The surgeon said he’s been angry and struggled with periods of depression from being wrongly accused.
      “I’ve always wanted to be a heart surgeon. Since I was 6 years old, that’s all I’ve wanted to do,” he said. But as job after job fell through because of the false accusations, he says, he considered leaving medicine.
      He said his family persuaded him to keep going.
      “I want to be able to provide a better future for my children than what I had,” said Quarrie, who was born in Jamaica and moved to Florida when he was 12.
      He said his wife told him that the truth will come out in the end.
      He said he hopes stories about Faxon’s new statement will end up at the top of Google’s results, satisfying potential employers that patients will see those stories first, instead of the years-old stories that accused him of lying.
      According to Google, old stories typically don’t rank higher than new stories.

      See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

      But digital experts say old stories can rank higher if those old stories were particularly popular. They said negative stories — in this case, the old stories about the surgical error and a coverup — tend to be passed around on social media, giving them even more staying power through search engine optimization.
      “The stories about the retraction won’t have the same SEO ‘juice’ as the earlier negative stories,” said Jonathan Catley, director of sales and marketing for MD Connect, a company that helps doctors manage their online reputations, which also isn’t involved in Quarrie’s case.
      Empathiq’s Bullick agreed.
      “Recanting is not going to be as popular,” he said. “I feel bad for him.”
      Quarrie says he knows that Faxon’s statement won’t instantly change anything.
      “I know I have a long road ahead,” he said.

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      Roger SafontCNN Exclusive: Surgeon falsely accused of wrongdoing tries to recover his name
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