The Cold War Daily

Notes on the new great power struggle.

Russia election hacking and Russian influence stories by Chris Zappone


The only surprise for me is why the US media didn’t cover it more closely. But I have some good ideas about why they didn’t.

May 3, 2016
Blog: Donald Trump as a Manchurian Candidate (…sort of) for Russia

June 15, 2016
Fairfax: Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin: Russia’s information war meets the US election

June 22, 2016
Blog: Russia’s US election hacking / information war campaign

June 24, 2016
Fairfax: DNCHack: Did Kim Dotcom warn the world about the Democratic Party hacking?

July 26, 2016
Fairfax: DNC leak: Russia better at information war now than during Cold War

July 24, 2016
Blog: The first US election fought in cyberspace

August 1, 2016
Blog: DNCLeaks justified because, well, I can’t vote in US: Julian Assange

August 9, 2016 (Republished October 13, 2016)
Fairfax: Donald Trump campaign’s ‘firehose of falsehoods’ has parallels with Russian propaganda

August 11, 2016
Fairfax: DNCLeak: Five times WikiLeaks and Russia have crossed paths

August 14, 2016
Blog: For Russia’s social media propaganda, change is everything

August 19. 2016
Fairfax: Shadow Brokers NSA leak: this too could be a form of Russian propaganda, says expert

August 25, 2016
Blog: Information war and propaganda: a brute force attack on reality

September 7, 2016
Blog: Russian influence and Shadow Brokers’ message ‘to elites’

September 9, 2016
Fairfax: Who controls our news? Welcome to the era of Russian and Chinese information war

September 14, 2016
Fairfax: WikiLeaks drops latest Guccifer 2.0 data on Hillary Clinton, DNC, Democrats

September 16, 2016
Blog: Isn’t Russia’s meddling in the US election a ‘Cyber Pearl Harbor’?

October 14, 2016
Fairfax: If Donald Trump scares you, you should fight for facts everywhere

October 14, 2016
Blog: DNCHack is the ‘most significant’ of any cyber attack ever seen: Thomas Rid

October 19, 2016
Fairfax: Twitter bots: Donald Trump ‘has rabies’ – and it’s something we should all care about

October 26, 2016
Fairfax: SurkovLeaks: Is Vladimir Putin aide’s email hack payback for DNCLeak-Clinton exposure?

November 25, 2016
Fairfax: Why was I blocked by WikiLeaks on Twitter?

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Facebook’s confusion on Russian info ops

I’ve done a short audio cast here.

Initial thoughts.


Twitter: the ‘alternative news’ champion

A recent piece of research about how real and alternative news is spread across 4Chan, Reddit and Twitter has turned up a surprising fact.

Twitter, the preferred platform of journalists, academics, wonks, is actually the most effective platform for the promotion of alternative (read: “mostly nonsense”) news to be shared on to other platforms. That’s according to analysis of a sample of 1 percent of all publicly available tweets with URLs from 99 mainstream news and alternative news sites.


Alternative news ecosystem (Zannettou, Stringhini, etc)

The research by Savvas Zannettou and Gianluca Stringhini, and others, “modeled the influence the Twitter, Reddit and 4Chan had on each other and found “that the interplay between platforms manifests in subtle, yet meaningful ways.”

“For example, of all the platforms and subreddits, Twitter by far has the most influence in terms of the number of URLs it causes to be posted to other platforms, and contributes to the share of alternative news URLs on the other platforms to a much greater degree than to the share of mainstream URLs.”

A major factor could be the effect of the bots, while the deep engagement of ‘alternative news’ enthusiasts may also explain the trend. Nevertheless, from a 30,000-foot view, it’s quite revealing.

Think of all the people with blue checks by their name, laboring to bring expertise and enlightenment to the public. Yet they swim in waters polluted with misinformation on an industrial scale. They compete in that space with waves of nonsense, conspiracy theory, ‘news’ generated to cast doubt on verifiable facts.

The researchers culled the tweets from between June 2016 and February 2017 – which would include the final months of the US election. Given this sort of information diet, is it any wonder sensible discussion struggles to be heard.

But even in massive volumes of real and fake news churning over social media, patterns arise. The paper called, ‘The Web Centipede: Understanding How Web Communities Influence Each Other Through the Lens of Mainstream and Alternative News Sources‘, also contained another interesting conclusion.

The researchers discovered “that Twitter and Reddit users tend to post the same stories within a relatively short period of time, with 4chan posts lagging behind both of them.”

“However, when a story becomes popular after a day or two, it is usually the case it was posted on 4chan first.”

This dynamic colors the way the information – both good and bad in quality – is ingested by the wider community, in my opinion.

See the research here.

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