The Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" Propaganda Model Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It

Since its 2008 incursion into Georgia (if not before), there has been a remarkable evolution in Russia's approach to propaganda. The country has effectively employed new dissemination channels and messages in support of its 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula, its ongoing involvement in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and its antagonism of NATO allies. The Russian propaganda model is high-volume and multichannel, and it disseminates messages without regard for the truth. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency. Although these techniques would seem to run counter to the received wisdom for successful information campaigns, research in psychology supports many of the most successful aspects of the model. Furthermore, the very factors that make the firehose of falsehood effective also make it difficult to counter. Traditional counterpropaganda approaches will likely be inadequate in this context. More effective solutions can be found in the same psychology literature that explains the surprising success of the Russian propaganda model and its messages.
  • Forewarn audiences of misinformation, or merely reach them first with the truth, rather than retracting or refuting false "facts."
  • Prioritize efforts to counter the effects of Russian propaganda, and focus on guiding the propaganda's target audience in more productive directions.
  • Compete with Russian propaganda. Both the United States and NATO have the potential to prevent Russia from dominating the information environment.
  • Increase the flow of information that diminishes the effectiveness of propaganda, and, in the context of active hostilities, attack the means of dissemination.

How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare

"We can see a similar thinking informing the Kremlin as it toys with Eastern Ukraine, using indirect intervention through local gangs, with a thorough understanding of the interests of such local power brokers such as Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine’s richest man) or Mikhail Dobkin, the former head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and now presidential candidate. Though these local magnates make occasional public pronouncements supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, their previous support of Yanukovych makes them wary of the new government in Kiev. Just the right degree of separatism could help guarantee their security while ensuring that their vast financial global interests are not harmed. “Think global, act local” is a favorite cliché of corporations — it could almost be the Kremlin’s motto in the Donbass.

Is the Art World Responsible for Trump? Filmmaker Adam Curtis on Why Self-Expression Is Tearing Society Apart

"...however radical your message is as an artist, you are doing it through self-expression—the central dominant ideology of modern capitalism. And by doing that, you’re actually far from questioning the monster and pulling the monster down. You’re feeding the monster. Because the more people come to believe that self-expression is the end of everything, is the ultimate goal, the more the modern system of power becomes stronger, not weaker.

...I’m sorry I’m being rude here, but at this point radical art involves going off on one demonstration, or doing an installation that says something angry, and then going home. And that’s it. You’ve felt you’ve expressed yourself, but if you do want to change the world you have to give yourself up to it.

In my country, the classic example of this was the march against the Iraq invasion in 2003. Three million people marched through London. It was a really impressive march. And they had this slogan that I thought was very much of its time: “Not in my name.” That is the ultimate individual protest. So what then happened is they all went home feeling that they had all protested against the war and it was no longer their war, and then they did nothing else.

They really did nothing else."

Gun violence researchers race protect data trump

"Magdalena Cerdá noticed something different about the White House’s website: All of its references to climate change had disappeared. Cerdá is an epidemiologist at UC Davis’ Violence Prevention Research Program, which focuses on another politicized region of science—gun violence. So she knew what that meant.

...With links to climate data vanishing, she worried the same thing could happen to gun violence data on websites belonging to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. “I was on Amtrak between Berkeley and Sacramento,” she says. “So I sent an email to Garen Wintemute saying we needed to start downloading our data immediately.”"

Trying (and Failing) Not to Fear So Much About Trum

"The falsehoods that Trump tells are of a scale and recklessness that, even if they seem to be of minimal harm for the moment, are still inherently sinister, not merely silly. The falsehood that Trump tells about the three million fake voters in the Presidential election is typical. No sane person—not merely no other politician but no one you have ever known—would make a claim of that kind: so obviously crazy and inarguably false, implying an impossible set of human circumstances. Their effect is not merely to comfort his ego but permanently to discomfit our democracy. This is not “I am not a crook”; it is not a claim that there are weapons of mass destruction; it is not “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” These are all ways of parsing reality, or normal fibs told by normal people. Trump’s falsehoods are deliberate attempts to warp the entire field of veracity, so as to defy the simplest parameters of sanity. "

Scientists trying to save data under Trump

Their undertaking, at the time, was purely speculative, based on travails of Canadian government scientists under the Stephen Harper administration, which muzzled them from speaking about climate change. Researchers watched as Harper officials threw thousands of books of aquatic data into dumpsters as federal environmental research libraries closed.
But three days later, speculation became reality as news broke that the incoming Trump administration’s EPA transition team does indeed intend to remove some climate data from the agency’s website. That will include references to President Barack Obama’s June 2013 Climate Action Plan and the strategies for 2014 and 2015 to cut methane, according to an unnamed source who spoke with Inside EPA. “It’s entirely unsurprising,” said Bethany Wiggin, director of the environmental humanities program at Penn and one of the organizers of the data-rescuing event.
Back at the library, dozens of cups coffee sat precariously close to electronics, and coders were passing around 32-gigabyte zip drives from the university bookshop like precious artifacts.

More information on Trump's data team

As with all things involving Trump, this is not without controversy. Although Cambridge Analytica worked with Senator Ted Cruz and Ben Carson during the primaries, several Republican operatives tell WIRED they question the firm’s methodology, willingness to collaborate, and claims of involvement in major projects like Brexit. And the fact that Robert Mercer, a major GOP donor, is an owner of the company leaves some wondering if nepotism plays a role in any contracts the company lands.


And the most recent news from Analytica

British newcomers Cambridge Analytica earned serious bragging rights—and more than a few enemies—as the data firm that helped engineer Donald Trump’s victory in its first US presidential election. Now it’s poaching the Republican National Committee’s chief technology officer, Darren Bolding, in a quest to become the analytics outfit of record for the GOP.


What Happens When Algorithms Design a Concert Hall? The Stunning Elbphilharmonie

The auditorium—the largest of three concert halls in the Elbphilharmonie—is a product of parametric design, a process by which designers use algorithms to develop an object’s form. Algorithms have helped design bridges, motorcycle parts, typefaces—even chairs. In the case of the Elbphilharmonie, Herzog and De Meuron used algorithms to generate a unique shape for each of the 10,000 gypsum fiber acoustic panels that line the auditorium’s walls like the interlocking pieces of a giant, undulating puzzle.

Humor: I Will Not Be Able to Complete the Assignment Because We Live In a Post-Truth Society

"...I just don’t think it’s possible to write an objective essay, which the assignment clearly asks for.
For example, I type the phrase, “When England fought in the War” but then I’m thinking, OK, but England — like the concept of England — didn’t fight. People did. Also, what’s war? Also, what’s the? So I google it, but who am I to referee the mad game of Truth versus Fiction."

Death to the Gerrymander

"...legislators often use the process [Gerrymandering] to lock the minority party out of power. Both Democrats and Republicans deploy partisan gerrymandering to dilute votes for their opponents, creating one-party rule and, arguably, greater polarization. That’s bad for the body politic and a clear contravention of the Constitution. But as long as the courts refuse to step in, gerrymandering will continue to plague the country."
The difficulty in curbing partisan gerrymandering has not been in convincing judges that the practice is unconstitutional—the Supreme Court has found that it is—it’s convincing judges that they can fix it. Most gerrymanders involve a blatantly unconstitutional practice called “packing and cracking”: packing some supporters of the opposing party into a few “safe” districts and distributing others throughout a bunch of districts to dilute their votes. This form of gerrymandering runs afoul of two constitutional guarantees: The First Amendment, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s viewpoint, and the Equal Protection Clause, which bars the government from disfavoring individuals on the basis of an illegitimate classification like political affiliation....
Smith and the CLC believe they have found the right standard in the work of two scholars, Nicholas O. Stephanopoulos and Eric M. McGhee. This formula—called the “efficiency gap”—cites two types of “wasted votes” in the redistricting process: “lost votes” cast in favor of a defeated candidate, and “surplus votes” cast in favor of a winning candidate that weren’t actually necessary for the candidate’s victory. The efficiency gap is, in Stephanopoulos’ words, “the difference between the parties’ respective wasted votes in an election, divided by the total number of votes cast.”.....

Amazon's Alexa

Children ordering (accidentally or otherwise) items from gadgets is nothing new. Major retailers have refunded purchases made by children playing with phones or computers, and with voice-activated devices making their way into homes, it’s a problem that parents will have to be on the lookout for.
One recent instance occurred in Dallas, Texas earlier this week, when a six-year-old asked her family’s new Amazon Echo “can you play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” The device readily complied, ordering a KidKraft Sparkle mansion dollhouse, in addition to “four pounds of sugar cookies.” The parents quickly realized what had happened and have since added a code for purchases. They have also donated the dollhouse a local children’s hospital.
The story could have stopped there, had it not ended up on a local morning show on San Diego’s CW6 News. At the end of the story, Anchor Jim Patton remarked: “I love the little girl, saying ‘Alexa ordered me a dollhouse,’” According to CW6 News, Echo owners who were watching the broadcast found that the remark triggered orders on their own devices.
Patton didn’t think that any of the devices went through with their purchases, who told The Verge that the station received a handful of reports of viewer devices attempting to order a dollhouse after hearing his remarks. “As for the number of people affected - I don't know,” Patton noted in an email. “Personally, I've seen one other email and have been told there were others, as well as calls to our news desk with similar stories.”
Alexa’s settings can be adjusted through the device’s app, and users can either turn off voice ordering altogether, or add a passcode to prevent accidental purchases.

Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People

An interesting talk that goes against the AI alarmism of Elon Musk. The key point is the fact that we do not have a good idea of what intelligence actually is. There are also no clear indications that an AI would want to destroy us.



Malcolm Gladwell on Edward Snowden

Gladwell has lost his mind: No Ivy PhD means Snowden is not a legitimate whistleblower. Ellseberg has a Harvard PhD, making him a legitimate leaker.

"But Snowden did not study under a Nobel Prize winner, or give career advice to the likes of Henry Kissinger. He was a community-college dropout, a member of the murky hacking counterculture. He enlisted in the Army Reserves, and washed out after twenty weeks. He worked at the C.I.A. for a few years and left under a cloud. He learned about the innermost secrets of American intelligence-gathering and policy not because he was personally involved with that intelligence-gathering or policymaking but because he was a technician who helped service the computer systems that managed these things."

Also, just throwing a phrase from game theory around does not make you article scientific.