At Jacobin, Branko Marcetic has written a lengthy piece—Russia Was a Latecomer to the Cyberwar Game: The US, not Russia, pioneered the use of state-sponsored social media manipulation. Here is an excerpt:

Before 2016, the public’s biggest anxiety around social media was that it could be used to beam reams of information about us straight to the prying eyes of faceless spies. Now, our chief fear is that those same spies will be the ones beaming information to us.

The ongoing revelations surrounding the Russian cyber-disinformation campaign in 2016 and beyond — which included everything from the use of paid trolls and online bots to spread propaganda to the dissemination of fake news to unwitting readers — have spurred an ongoing panic about the effects of such campaigns and the Kremlin’s ability to wage them. This disinformation campaign has been widely labelled “cyber warfare,” a term that traditionally referred to attacks on computers or information networks using viruses and denial of service attacks. Russian intelligence agencies have been dubbed “masters” of such a “cyber foreign policy,” their work likened to “the world of mind control imagined by George Orwell.”

As a result, the response from embattled social media companies tends to focus on the dangers of cyber-disinformation originating in Russia. Facebook is working on creating a tool that tells users if they’ve interacted with a Facebook page or Instagram account created by the recently indicted Internet Research Agency (IRA). In response to a report that content from IRA-linked websites was shared on Reddit, the company’s co-founder insisted they were doing what they could about it and that “the biggest risk we face as Americans is our own ability to discern reality from nonsense.”

This current laser-like focus on Russia’s “mastery” of cyber-disinformation obscures the full context of the history of such campaigns. Looked at with a wider lens, the affair resembles less a singular act by the Kremlin than the latest episode of a global arms race — often led by Western, democratic countries.

Learning From Democracies

The explosion of cyber-disinformation campaigns by governments around the world can be traced back to a US-funded program started eight years ago.

“Authoritarian regimes tend to learn from democracies, and really all this stuff started with the United States in 2010” — three years before Russia’s Internet Research Agency was founded — says Samantha Bradshaw, a researcher on the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University, who co-authored a report last year titled “Troops, Trolls and Troublemakers: A Global Inventory of Organized Social Media Manipulation,” documenting such manipulation by governments in twenty-eight countries.

“It was DARPA that put money into studying how messages go viral on social media and how to generate movement around particular issues. That research has now made its way back to politics,” she says. […]

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QUOTATION

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
               ~Stephen Hawking, Der Spiegel (1988)

TWEET OF THE DAY

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Huge difference between saying Hawking achieved things “despite his disability” and saying Hawking achieved things “as a disabled scientist who had to fight ableism and access barriers in academia & STEM.” The first statement is ableist. The second is not.

— Karrie Higgins ♿︠(@karriehiggins) March 14, 2018

BLAST FROM THE PAST

On this date at Daily Kos in 2010—Radical Roadmap: Whack the Middle Class:

NPR’s Guy Raz interviewed Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan Sunday. It was another softball moment. You could almost see Raz nodding in agreement with the genial Congressman as he plugged his radical Roadmap for America’s Future. It’s this era’s Contract with America, with Ryan as a more appealing, more narrowly focused Newt Gingrich, pitching a plan for completing the bumpy 30-year-long journey whose destination for middle-class citizens is the bottom of a cliff. A Deadend Plan for America.

Except, of course, for that hunk of the population that decades of upwardly transferring wealth has already fattened to the proportions of Mr. Creosote. For that Top Tenth, Ryan’s plan offers more of the same smooth ride. Raz asked Ryan if he weren’t concerned that the leadership of the GOP has failed to publicly back his plan. That’s the line that Newsweek and the Cato Institute have taken, too. But why should Ryan worry? The leadership will eventually come around. The Roadmap, after all, would transform their Reaganomic fantasies into reality. 

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, Trump makes everything up, so lol yolo nothing matters. Greg Dworkin has more PA-18 wrap-up, plus pundit musings on the future of Dem leadership. Good guy #GunFAIL in school. Trump’s a traitor. Keep an eye on this Broidy character, too. 

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