Fake Citizens armies
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Fake Citizens armies
Trolling, astroturfing, cyberstalking tactics in politics, ediplomacy & infowars
Curated by Elie Levasseur
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Fake Twitter accounts and the danger for politicians

Fake Twitter accounts and the danger for politicians | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
One of the less-discussed changes of recent times is the way Twitter has moved centre-stage in the media ecosystem, or at least in the part of it that intersects with politics. This has happened despite the ongoing growth of Facebook, which now has 1 billion users and seems destined to become the biggest virtual "country" in the world.

But while Zuckerberg's empire may indeed be having an impact on the politics of Middle Eastern countries, it is Twitter that seems to matter in the Anglo-Saxon world. Witness the role it has played in the Newsnight-McAlpine fiasco. Or the way in which several political leaders first conveyed their reaction to the re-election of Obama in tweets. Or the intriguing (not to say hilarious) way that Rupert Murdoch has engaged with it.

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Twitter Followers For Sale

Twitter Followers For Sale | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Celebrities, politicians, start-ups, aspiring rock stars, reality show hopefuls — anyone who might benefit from having a larger social media footprint — are known to have bought large blocks of Twitter followers.

The practice is surprisingly easy. A Google search for “buy Twitter followers” turns up dozens of Web sites like USocial.net, InterTwitter.com, and FanMeNow.com that sell Twitter followers by the thousands (and often Facebook likes and YouTube views). At BuyTwitterFollow.com, for example, users simply enter their Twitter handle and credit card number and, with a few clicks, see the ranks of their followers swell in three to four days.

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Political Astroturfing: Fake Followers and Planted Memes in the 2011 Spanish National Electoral Campaigns | Internet, Politics, Policy 2012: Big Data, Big Challenges?

Political Astroturfing: Fake Followers and Planted Memes in the 2011 Spanish National Electoral Campaigns | Internet, Politics, Policy 2012: Big Data, Big Challenges? | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it

The number of followers has figured centrally among the metrics indicating the level of success for a political campaign's use of social media. Furthermore, these figures have been used reliably to predict election outcomes as candidates in with more social media followers than their opponents generally have been victorious in American elections. However, the existence of services that will create social media followers raises the possibility that a political campaign may engage in astroturf to create the illusion of support among certain segments of a political system. Additionally, if followers can be faked, they can also be harnessed to plant memes and drive the political conversations. As scholars are beginning to learn how to collect and analyse large volumes of digital artefacts, it is likewise important to develop criteria to distinguish authentic and from astroturf communications for two reasons. First, astroturf can distort inferences as automated or planted actors and communications fail to correspond with the wider human organization of political and social systems. For instance, this can produce significant consequences for semantic polling as bots can be programmed to flood Twitter and Facebook with messages of a particular valence. Second, these distortions have consequences for the democratic operation of political campaigns as planted online communications may have consequences for voter preferences.

 

Direct link to study (PDF): http://microsites.oii.ox.ac.uk/ipp2012/sites/microsites.oii.ox.ac.uk.ipp2012/files/astroturf.pdf

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How Reddit Was Built With an Army of Fake Accounts

How Reddit Was Built With an Army of Fake Accounts | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Here’s an interesting revelation from Reddit Cofounder Steve Huffman: The social news site was built on a lie. Many hundreds of lies, to be more specific, in the form of fake user accounts that Huffman and fellow cofounder Alexis Ohanian used to populate the site in its earliest days.

“You would go to Reddit in the early days, the first couple of months and there’d be tons of… fake users,” Huffman says in a video for online educator Udacity.

Through those fake accounts, Huffman and Ohanian submitted high-quality content — the type of articles they wanted to read. This “set the tone” for the site as whole, Huffman says and, at the same time, made it look populated.

Internet ghost towns are hardly inviting places. Reddit’s army of fake users made the site look far more inviting to timid early explorers.

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Internet & Democracy Blog » Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Take on the Internet

Internet & Democracy Blog » Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Take on the Internet | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at the end of 2008 made a historic announcement: a project to launch 10,000 blogs for the paramilitary Basij forces. (1)

IRGC’s official press organ, Sobh Sadegh, writes that it considered the Internet and other digital devices including SMS as a threat to be controlled. It announced that the 10,000 blogs will promote revolutionary ideas. IRGC considers the Internet as an instrument for a “velvet revolution” and warned that foreign countries have invested in this tool to topple the Islamic Regime.

The use of social networking or blogging by military forces is not new. The U.S. Army has launched a video series that documents events in Iraq. (2) A series of blogs have also covered military activities in a number of countries, including Sri Lanka. (3)

What makes the IRGC project particularly interesting is its uniquely large scale, its timing and its possible consequences.

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Astroturfing: what is it and why does it matter?

Astroturfing: what is it and why does it matter? | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Claims that a pro-Kremlin group funded a vast network of online activists to create the illusion of widespread support for Vladimir Putin may seem like a bizarre tale restricted to an authoritarian state. However the use of so-called "astroturf" groups is widespread across all nations and walks of life, from China to Britain, from book reviews to online surveys, and from big business to local politics.

What is astroturfing?

Astroturfing is the attempt to create an impression of widespread grassroots support for a policy, individual, or product, where little such support exists. Multiple online identities and fake pressure groups are used to mislead the public into believing that the position of the astroturfer is the commonly held view.

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Spam Bots Flooding Twitter to Drown Info About #Syria Protests [Updated]

Spam Bots Flooding Twitter to Drown Info About #Syria Protests [Updated] | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
People following the #Syria hash tag on Twitter in the recent weeks to track the developments of the Syrian protests and the deadly governmental crackdown on peaceful protesters must have noticed two major annoyances:

First was the proliferation of what tweeps dubbed as the “twitter eggs,” a group of newly created and mostly image-less twitter accounts that cussed out, verbally assaulted, and threatened anyone tweeting favorably about the ongoing protests, or criticizing the regime. Those accounts were believed to be manned by Syrian Mokhabarat[intelligence] agents with poor command of both written Arabic and English, and an endless arsenal of bile and insults. Several twitter users created lists to make it easier for the rest to track and reports those accounts for spam. Here are a couple of examples.

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The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires

The Tea Party movement: deluded and inspired by billionaires | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
The Tea Party movement is remarkable in two respects. It is one of the biggest exercises in false consciousness the world has seen – and the biggest Astroturf operation in history. These accomplishments are closely related.

An Astroturf campaign is a fake grassroots movement: it purports to be a spontaneous uprising of concerned citizens, but in reality it is founded and funded by elite interests. Some Astroturf campaigns have no grassroots component at all. Others catalyse and direct real mobilisations. The Tea Party belongs in the second category. It is mostly composed of passionate, well-meaning people who think they are fighting elite power, unaware that they have been organised by the very interests they believe they are confronting. We now have powerful evidence that the movement was established and has been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big business. Much of this money, as well as much of the strategy and staffing, were provided by two brothers who run what they call "the biggest company you've never heard of".

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BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China's internet 'spin doctors'

BBC NEWS | Asia-Pacific | China's internet 'spin doctors' | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it

China is using an increasing number of paid "internet commentators" in a sophisticated attempt to control public opinion.
These commentators are used by government departments to scour the internet for bad news - and then negate it.
They post comments on websites and forums that spin bad news into good in an attempt to shape public opinion.
Chinese leaders seem aware that the internet - the only public forum where views can be freely expressed - needs close attention.
China's Communist Party leaders have long sought to sway public opinion by controlling what the media can report.
That policy was extended to the internet, and many websites are blocked by a system sometimes dubbed the "great firewall of China".

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The need to protect the internet from 'astroturfing' grows ever more urgent

The need to protect the internet from 'astroturfing' grows ever more urgent | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Every month more evidence piles up, suggesting that online comment threads and forums are being hijacked by people who aren't what they seem.

The anonymity of the web gives companies and governments golden opportunities to run astroturf operations: fake grassroots campaigns that create the impression that large numbers of people are demanding or opposing particular policies. This deception is most likely to occur where the interests of companies or governments come into conflict with the interests of the public. For example, there's a long history of tobacco companies creating astroturf groups to fight attempts to regulate them.

After I wrote about online astroturfing in December, I was contacted by a whistleblower. He was part of a commercial team employed to infest internet forums and comment threads on behalf of corporate clients, promoting their causes and arguing with anyone who opposed them.

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5 ways to sniff out online fakers

5 ways to sniff out online fakers | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Sift Science says it can help you finger people on your website who are likely to create fraudulent accounts, post fake reviews or do other dastardly deeds. The startup's service, now in private beta, uses machine learning to help ID the bad guys.
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What Is the Syrian Electronic Army?

What Is the Syrian Electronic Army? | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
As forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad clash with the rebel Free Syrian Army in the streets of Syria, Internet-savvy government supporters are fighting a parallel information war in cyberspace. Called the Syrian Electronic Army, the group has a single mission: unleash an onslaught of pro-government propaganda upon the Internet.

Strategy and Tactics

To achieve that goal, the group uses social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube to counter the claims of the rebel Free Syrian Army. It coordinates massive spam attacks against anyone it perceives to be anti-government, posting thousands of pro-government messages in news article comment threads and on public officials’ Facebook pages as a sort of digital sit-in.

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Obama Has Millions of Fake Twitter Followers [UPDATED]

Obama Has Millions of Fake Twitter Followers [UPDATED] | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
President Obama has nearly 19 million Twitter followers, but 70%, or approximately 13 million of them, are fake or “inactive,” according to a new analysis.

About 30% of Obama’s followers — or 5.7 million — were labeled as fake by the analysis, while nearly 40% were found to be inactive.

Mitt Romney’s Twitter account, meanwhile, has less than 900,000 followers according to the analysis, but only 15% of them, or about 135,000, are considered fakes and 31%, or about 270,000, are seen as inactive.

The numbers come from Fake Follower Check, a tool from social media firm StatusPeople that analyzes a sampling of a Twitter account’s followers and checks for telltale signs of fake followers. Fake accounts are those thought to be created for the sole purpose of sending spam, while inactive accounts lack recent updates.

“Fake accounts tend to follow a lot of people but have few followers,” Rob Waller, founder of StatusPeople, told the New York Times in a story about buying and selling Twitter followers. “We then combine that with a few other metrics to confirm the account is fake.”

Analysis of other popular Twitter accounts done using StatusPeople’s tools seems to indicate that the more popular a Twitter account is, the more likely it is that the account will have fake followers — possibly thanks to the work of Internet spammers.

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Je me suis acheté 27.000 followers sur Twitter | Slate

Je me suis acheté 27.000 followers sur Twitter | Slate | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it

Comment faire pour augmenter mon petit groupe de 1.100 abonnés? Je pourrais sans doute gagner des adeptes en proposant des liens pertinents, en m’engageant dans des débats intellectuels pointus ou en élaborant des bons mots éblouissants qui ne dépasseraient pas les 140 caractères.

Le problème est que, même si j’aimerais beaucoup m’enthousiasmer pour ce genre de choses (et il m’arrive de temps à autre d’attraper brièvement le virus Twitter), j’ai du mal à y trouver un véritable intérêt. Pour l’auteur freelance que je suis, cela ressemble un peu à du travail non rémunéré.

Donc, au lieu de cela, j’ai fait l’acquisition d’une audience de 27.000 followers auprès d’un site assez sommaire sur Internet. Coût total: 202 dollars.

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Russia: Regional Governor Holds Twitter Q&A · Global Voices

Russia: Regional Governor Holds Twitter Q&A · Global Voices | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
wo days ago Alexander Tkachev, governor of the the southern Kradnodarskiy Krai (one of Russia's 87 federal regions), announced a “twitter-conference” [ru], soliciting questions from his followers. Today he spent a few hours answering several dozen of them. The new-media-savvy public relations move met with hundreds of “trolling” questions like “how is your billionaire niece doing?” and “what types of off-shores do you recommend?” Of course, Tkachev did not answer these [ru]. However, he also failed to address some of the more legitimate concerns, for example about the recently flooded city of Krymsk or local corruption.

Some users have also alleged that Tkachev only answered planted questions from fake accounts [ru]. The Q&A session is now over, but its hash-tag #вопросТкачеву [ru] is still busy, mainly with rhetorical questions like [ru] “Tkachev, where have you lost your conscience?”

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The Twitter Underground Economy: A Blooming Business | The Barracuda Labs Internet Security Blog

The Twitter Underground Economy: A Blooming Business | The Barracuda Labs Internet Security Blog | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Many people dream of becoming popular or famous, and Twitter provides an outlet to make this possible. Most Twitter users try the standard way to get popular and gain followers: constantly tweet funny quotes or comments, discuss breaking events, or disclose information that many people want (like Guy Adams did). However, some Twitter users look for unusual ways to make themselves appear more desirable and become popular faster. One of these ways is buying Twitter followers, which right or wrong, is a significantly growing trend.

At Barracuda Labs, we consistently find and study fake profiles on social media platforms (reference our study on Facebook Fake Profiles at http://barracudalabs.com/fbinfographic/) in order to better protect our 150,000 customers from being phished or harmed. For the past 75 days, we have been investigating the business of trading Twitter followers on eBay and other websites searched from Google. As it turns out, this underground economy on Twitter is blooming! The results show that this Twitter business is growing very fast to form a series of underground markets.

For quick snapshot, please refer to our most recent infographic, The Underground Economy of Buying Twitter Followers at http://barracudalabs.com/underground/.

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Outrage in Damascus at fake lesbian blogger

Outrage in Damascus at fake lesbian blogger | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Syria's already embattled gay community has reacted with dismay that a popular blog supposedly written by a lesbian from Damascus was, in fact, dreamt up by a US academic living in Scotland.

Tom MacMaster, 40, a PhD student from Edinburgh, has apologised for Gay Girl in Damascus, which purported to describe life in the Syrian capital for Amina Abdallah, an openly lesbian 25-year-old.

The student defended his creation, saying that although the account was fictionalised, it described accurately the atmosphere inside Syria both for the gay community and pro-democracy activists. But genuine gay bloggers inside the country said the webpage had damaged Syria's nascent gay rights community and even put activists' lives in danger.

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Fillon balance les blackOps internet de l'UMP

Fillon balance les blackOps internet de l'UMP | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
A l’époque, personne n’y trouvait quoi que ce soit à redire au sein de l’ex parti de la majorité, et il a fallu attendre que ce même dispositif soit utilisé pour les guerres internes du parti pour que l’ex premier ministre lève le voile sur l’un des outils utilisé par l’UMP pour manipuler l’opinion sur internet : une mystérieuse « machine » a voter, évoquée par François Fillon sur Canal+.

En guise de « machine », un petit script qui, alternant les proxies pour simuler une multitude d’utilisateurs, vote en masse sur les divers sondages proposés par les médias en ligne afin de donner l’impression – dans le cas évoqué par Fillon – que Jean François Copé est le préféré des Français pour prendre la tête de l’UMP.

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Daily Kos: UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All

Daily Kos: UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
As I also mentioned yesterday, in some of the emails, HBGary people are talking about creating "personas", what we would call sockpuppets. This is not new. PR firms have been using fake "people" to promote products and other things for a while now, both online and even in bars and coffee houses.

But for a defense contractor with ties to the federal government, Hunton & Williams, DOD, NSA, and the CIA - whose enemies are labor unions, progressive organizations, journalists, and progressive bloggers, a persona apparently goes far beyond creating a mere sockpuppet.

According to an embedded MS Word document found in one of the HBGary emails, it involves creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated "persona management" software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.

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I’m Not a Real Activist, But I Play One on the Internet | Truthiness in Digital Media

I’m Not a Real Activist, But I Play One on the Internet | Truthiness in Digital Media | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it

Long considered the sketchy backwater of online advertising and malware (though effective!), the technology powering spambots has, slowly and steadily, continued to advance to be more believable, less detectable, and more effective in engaging people online.

This has led to a curious trend of bots moving out of primordial soup of hocking dubious medicinal cures and stealing user information into more ambitious efforts to infiltrate and astroturf the political landscape on social networks and beyond. This has produced a number of interesting (and unsettling) revealed operations in the past few years with spam bots and fake identities online. They have been prominent in a few political flashpoints abroad, but also have been the subject of a few stories domestically as well.

While these were the incidents that were detected, what is more difficult to estimate are bot deployments that have been successful in shaping online discussion and remained (as yet) undiscovered. A deeper problem is one of assigning responsibility – even when revealed, one common issue is the difficulty of figuring out who exactly launched these campaigns in the first place. Both of these factors raise obvious problems in trusting the “truthiness” of seemingly emergent and organic movements online.

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Mercury Media The Billionaires’ Tea Party or (Astro) Turf Wars’.

In Summer 2009, something stirred in America. After Barack Obama and a Democratic congress swept to power promising a new era of hope and change, out of nowhere the emergence of a citizens protest movement called the Tea Party threatened to derail their agenda. Was this uprising the epitome of grassroots democracy? Or was it, as some said, an example of “astroturfing” - the creation of fake grassroots groups, designed to put corporate messages in the mouths of seemingly independent citizens?

Fascinated by this concept of astroturfing, and curious to find out if these accusations were true, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham hopped on a plane to investigate. Going undercover as a curious onlooker, his month-long journey took him over 5000 miles, six states and right to the heart of the “American Dream”. As the investigation turns to whether it is mere ideology or corporate investment driving these groups, Taki uncovers startling and unnerving evidence that the Tea Party movement’s formation had been guided with the help of money from billionaires and big businesses - in particular the secretive oil barons Charles and David Koch.

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These astroturf libertarians are the real threat to internet democracy

These astroturf libertarians are the real threat to internet democracy | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
They are the online equivalent of enclosure riots: the rick-burning, fence-toppling protests by English peasants losing their rights to the land. When MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Amazon tried to shut WikiLeaks out of the cyber-commons, an army of hackers responded by trying to smash their way into these great estates and pull down their fences. In the WikiLeaks punch-up the commoners appear to have the upper hand. But it's just one battle. There's a wider cyberwar being fought, of which you hear much less. And in most cases the landlords, with the help of a mercenary army, are winning.

I'm not talking here about threats to net neutrality and the danger of a two-tier internet developing, though these are real. I'm talking about the daily attempts to control and influence content in the interests of the state and corporations: attempts in which money talks.

The weapon used by both state and corporate players is a technique known as astroturfing. An astroturf campaign is one that mimics spontaneous grassroots mobilisations but which has in reality been organised. Anyone writing a comment piece in Mandarin critical of the Chinese government, for instance, is likely to be bombarded with abuse by people purporting to be ordinary citizens, upset by the slurs against their country.

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Fake or Real Social Media Profile?

Fake or Real Social Media Profile? | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
We are rushing into a world of social awareness, social politics, and social media entering almost any facet of our lives. But there is no gatekeeper yet. The lack of gatekeepers is enabling fake social media accounts to be set up, maintained and used in ways from just annoying, to truly dangerous.

President Obama recently held the first ever Twitter town hall for a President of the U.S. While he was busy answering questions there were teams of people assessing questions and assisting in the background. The assumption in this situation was that the twitter accounts that were being used to ask questions were actually from real people.

This assumption about reality is probably false, at least a bit.

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Disinformation flies in Syria's growing cyber war

Disinformation flies in Syria's growing cyber war | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it

LONDON (Reuters) - On Sunday, it was a hijacked Reuters Twitter feed trying to create the impression of a rebel collapse in Aleppo. On Monday, it was another account purporting to be a Russian diplomat announcing the death in Damascus of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

As the situation on the ground becomes ever more bloody, both sides in Syria are also waging what seems to be an intensifying conflict in cyberspace, often attempting to use misinformation and rumor to tilt the war in reality.

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Fake Twitter accounts may be driving up Mitt Romney's follower number

Fake Twitter accounts may be driving up Mitt Romney's follower number | Fake Citizens armies | Scoop.it
Most of Mitt Romney's newest Twitter followers are fake, according to an investigation of bogus social media accounts.

A pay-for-follower service most likely drove the presumptive Republican nominee's recent and dramatic spike in online followers, concluded Baccardua Labs, a digital security company.

The widely reported surge in tens of thousands of new followers for @mittromney from 21 July – which provoked commentary and suspicion – appeared to have been purchased from a dealer, it said: "We believe most of these recent followers of Romney are not from a general Twitter population but most likely from a paid Twitter follower service."

The analysis, part of a wider investigation into what the report called the underground Twitter economy, found telltale signals that about a quarter of the new followers were less than three weeks old and had not tweeted. Some 80% were less than three-months-old.

The report's author, Jason Ding, said there was no way of identifying whether it was the work of the Romney campaign, a Romney supporter or an opponent out to discredit him.

"Romney's newest followers could have been paid for by himself, his associates or by his opponents. So far, there is not a feasible way to confirm who is responsible."

Authentication was not required when buying Twitter followers from eBay or other websites, he said, and anyone could buy followers for other Twitter users.

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