Monday, August 27, 2018

Google and Facebook terminate bot-like accounts from Iran (and more from Russia) for meddling with public opinion

Both Google and Facebook have just more terminated bot-like accounts associated with Iran and Russia recently.

CNBC reports that Google terminated a small number of YouTube accounts, Google+ accounts, and even Blogger accounts (at least six of them) associated with “politically motivated phishing”, and apparently connected to the Islamic Republic of Iran broadcasting.  It’s not clear how a blog would phish, but in the past (especially about ten years ago) if was common for spam blogs to be removed.  YouTube and Google+ content can be curated and directed toward users by algorithms; blog content generally cannot.   We’re familiar with spam in email; but repeated bot postings directed at a user by algorithms would function very much like spam. Indeed, many of the sites offered might have malware.

Facebook reportedly took down 652 accounts and pages associated with Russia and Iran  (Guardian).
Jessica Guynn has a more detailed and illustrated story on USA Today on how Iran tried to manipulate the more vulnerable visitors on the Left as well as the alt-Right.  Claiming “an immigrant took my job” in a photo – is that something on the Left or the alt-Right?   They are pretty much the same.

Still, at this late time (less than 90 days until the midterm elections), we are left wondering now, two years after the 2016 elections, social media users would be so vulnerable to propaganda and manipulation and obviously questionable claims.  Don’t visitors and voters have some moral responsibility for how they consume news sources?   Ask David Hogg.

I’ve never completely bought the theory that Russian social media manipulation threw the 2016 elections.  They may have matter more in the Republican primaries; still the zombie-like chants at Trump rallies sounded like scenes out of dystopisan Hollywood movies.  Even on Nov. 7, they were chanting “Lock her up!” 
Unfortunately, the only usable YouTube video on this story came from Russia Today – which really “isn’t that bad”.  

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