Do you go on Facebook? Twitter. How about Reddit? If you do, you have been victimized and its likely getting worse by the day.
We all know about the big social media platforms: Facebook and Twitter. But there are many others nationally and internationally. Second tier social media platforms include Instagram, Reddit and 4Chan and more are coming from within the United States and beyond its borders.
Much has been written about Facebook and Twitter when it comes to spreading “fake news.” That, however, is only part of what should concern you each time you click online. Other major considerations that affect what we see online include the use of such platforms by terrorists and by influence operations. Sometimes the lines between them are blurred. For instance, “Active Measures” is a Russian long-game operation, that seek to influence world events through fake news.
So what is being done about these active risks?
First, all social media tech companies work in some form or fashion with the Federal government and law enforcement on cases in various forms. Internally, Facebook currently has 10,000 employees assigned to a department dedicated to combatting terrorist’s usage and fake news. Given the swelling of both issues, Facebook is forecasting a department increase of up to 20,000 employees.
There are two things Facebook is doing that are of some real concern. Facebook outsources social media scoring based on your activity on the site, grading and cultivating those ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and comments. That outsourced company is called Crowd Tangle. That data is shared with other social media platforms as well as media. Further, Facebook has an interesting division in building 8 where their artificial intelligence resides such that technology is routine by machines and human intelligence is dismissed for the sake of mere data to control user thinking, reaction and behavior.
Twitter, for its part, estimates that 5% of its 300 million accounts are fake. Twitter has some internal oversight of those accounts but the company relies mainly on automation and outsourcing as a solution to those problems.
For both companies, it is said as fast as they address an account, block it or terminate it, bots, trolls or the users create new accounts within minutes to replace blocked accounts.
The answer to the question of how susceptible or vulnerable have you been to all of this is impossible to answer.
Remember when we questioned the integrity of voting? Remember when we questioned what company owned voting machines? Remember when we question who was allowed to vote and who was bussed in to vote? Who counted those votes?
All those issues were manifested and exploited by global bad actors.
When the National Football League kneeling scandal hit, accounts, articles and comments increased in huge numbers – and all of that all exploited by external propaganda operations if not created by them. The same was true during the Roy Moore election.
Then there was the Federal Communications Commission vote to roll back the Obama era net neutrality regulations. There were over 21 million comments on this rule change. Really? Ah, but of that 21 million, it is estimated that half were fake comments.
Exactly who determined that and who is investigating that?
Well, Eric Schneiderman, the New York Attorney General has the case and he was crowd-sourcing in an attempt to determine what was real and what was not. Really? Yes and the FCC is not releasing evidence.
So, are things more perilous on the web these days or are they getting better. Sadly, no one can say for sure. Get on the internet at your own peril these days.
All of that bring us to U.S. Senate Bill 1989.
It is titled ‘Honest Ads Act.’ It sounds great but this proposed legislation has issues and does not cover all the fault lines in the social media realm. The bill does, however, reveal that some members of Congress are quite aware of fake news, fake accounts, and bad actors. It also shows an awareness of the continued vulnerability of users and that all of this presents a challenge to our political discourse if not our form of government.
Beyond that, there is no cyber policy to punish external active measure operations and not all blame goes to Russia. Don’t forget the Sony hack or the WannaCry malware that struck 74 countries. The Chinese have robust hacking operations and Iran is increasing its abilities.
In summary, think twice when clicking ‘like’, ‘share’ or commenting. Don’t be sucked in by merely reading the headlines. You hardly know the whole story or context as critical thinking, inspection as well as trustworthiness must be applied.
None of this will go away any time soon and with the midterm elections as well as the general election moving closer, more user exploitation is expected since the United States has no clear legislative policy, rules or regulations on how to deal with the problem.
Discourse and interaction is a wilderness and compounded with social justice warriors and political correctness conflicts. So, prepare yourself accordingly in the wild west of the internet.
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