Fair warning to readers: This news story from Tuesday’s Guardian, excerpted below, is—for a variety of reasons--going to upset the hell out of at least a few people.
And, on that ominous note, one of the more stunning news stories I’ve ever read appeared in the Guardian, today (without much fanfare, I might add; h/t to Kossack joe shikspack). The excerpt, below, barely scratches the surface of the taxpayer-supported mindf*ck described in it. There's more detail about this ongoing story, farther down this page. But, if you're a fan of reality-based reportage, you really should make it your business to read the whole article, linked immediately below. Alternatively, of course, you may just pull-up the bed covers over your head...
(Bold type is diarist's emphasis.)
US military studied how to influence Twitter users in Darpa-funded research
• Defense Department spent millions to research social networks
• Studies focused on Occupy and Middle East protests
• Projects also analysed memes, celebrities and disinformation
Ben Quinn and James Ball in London
Tuesday 8 July 2014 12.02 EDT
The activities of users of Twitter and other social media services were recorded and analysed as part of a major project funded by the US military, in a program that covers ground similar to Facebook’s controversial experiment into how to control emotions by manipulating news feeds.
Research funded directly or indirectly by the US Department of Defense’s military research department, known as Darpa, has involved users of some of the internet’s largest destinations, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Kickstarter, for studies of social connections and how messages spread.
While some elements of the multi-million dollar project might raise a wry smile – research has included analysis of the tweets of celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, in an attempt to understand influence on Twitter – others have resulted in the buildup of massive datasets of tweets and additional types social media posts.
Several of the DoD-funded studies went further than merely monitoring what users were communicating on their own, instead messaging unwitting participants in order to track and study how they responded.
Shortly before the Facebook controversy erupted, Darpa published a lengthy list of the projects funded under its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program, including links to actual papers and abstracts.
The project list includes a study of how activists with the Occupy movement used Twitter as well as a range of research on tracking internet memes and some about understanding how influence behaviour (liking, following, retweeting) happens on a range of popular social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Kickstarter, Digg and Reddit...
...Unveiled in 2011, the SMISC program was regarded as a bid by the US military to become better at both detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns on social media...
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So here’s some recent history on this inverted totalitarian travesty, starting with my post here from May 2012, and continuing through to just last week...
House NDAA Bill Passed w/Amendment Formally Authorizing Gov’t To Lie To U.S. Citizens
Sat May 19, 2012 at 06:28 PM EDT
As many reading this may already know, the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) was passed by the House, 299-120, on Friday afternoon, despite threats earlier in the week from the White House to veto it for a variety of reasons. 77 Democrats voted FOR the bill in tandem with 222 Republicans.
(DIARIST’S NOTE ON 7/8/14: This bill was passed and signed into law just a few weeks later, pretty much as described herein.)
However, due to the timing of a last-minute, exceptionally-Orwellian amendment to the NDAA -- one that makes it officially sanctioned and legal for our government to LIE to us as it pretty much deems it necessary -- which made it into the final, approved version of the bill, hours before its passage, perhaps the biggest reason for vetoing the bill has gone largely unnoticed by the MSM and most of the blogosphere, as the administration remains focused on back-to-back G-8 and NATO meetings at Camp David and in Chicago, respectively, through the weekend. (More about this draconian exercise in totalitarianism, down below. But first, a little more background.)
(NOTE: A big h/t to Kossacks Quasimodal and Jesselyn Radack for bringing this to the community’s attention. See: Quasimodal’s comment in Jesselyn Radack’s post, from a few hours ago. And, as I was writing this, I realized that Kossack Shawn Russell posted the first diary on this story which you may read by clicking HERE.)
BACKGROUND“…the President has threatened to veto the bill for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the authorization spends more on defense than the Pentagon requested.”And, here’s Think Progress…
House Passes Republican Amendment Backing Indefinite Detention For Terror Suspects On U.S. SoilAMENDMENT #114 TO THE NDAA
By Eli Clifton
May 18, 2012 at 11:06 am
The House of Representatives this morning took a hard line against efforts by Democrats and libertarian Republicans to limit the president’s power to indefinitely detain terrorism suspects captured in the U.S.
…While the battle in Congress over the detention provisions in the NDAA may have come to an end with the defeat of the Smith-Nash amendment and the passage of the competing Republican amendment, legal and political challenges may await the NDAA in the very near future.
On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York issued a temporary injunction, finding that the detainee provisions in the current NDAA are unconstitutional.
And the White House, in a statement (PDF) released on Tuesday evening, listed a series of objections with the pending NDAA including: restrictions on the implementation of the New START treaty; limits on reductions for the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal; and new restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees. Moreover, the White House objected to the overall size of the bill, which surpasses President Obama’s request by $3.7 billion and exceeds the Budget Control Act spending caps by $8 billion, and threatened to veto the NDAA if sent to the President in its current form.
Here’s the skinny from Draconia-on-the-Hill, first from Taegan Goddard over at his Political Wire blog, from a few hours ago…Lawmakers Seek to Lift Propaganda BanAnd, here’s BuzzFeed…
May 19, 2012
An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed reports.
The amendment to the defense authorization bill would "strike the current ban on domestic dissemination" of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon."
"The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts -- the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987 -- that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government's misinformation campaigns…"
Congressmen Seek To Lift Propaganda BanThe article continues on to tell us that the bi-partisan Amendment to the NDAA bill, sponsored by Rep. Mark Thornberry from Texas and Rep. Adam Smith from Washington State, with both the Amendment and the bill being passed by the House, yesterday, “…would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.”
Propaganda that was supposed to target foreigners could now be aimed at Americans, reversing a longstanding policy. “Disconcerting and dangerous,” says Shank.
Posted May 18, 2012 4:27pm EDT
An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.
The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website…
…Critics of the bill say there are ways to keep America safe without turning the massive information operations apparatus within the federal government against American citizens.There’s a LOT more to this story than I’m mentioning in this BuzzFeed article. Facts and quotes that’ll both boggle your mind and make your blood boil, IMHO. (i.e.: the Pentagon spends $4 billion a year on its propaganda efforts, already.) You really should read it, because it’s almost too twisted to believe otherwise!
“Clearly there are ways to modernize for the information age without wiping out the distinction between domestic and foreign audiences,” says Michael Shank, Vice President at the Institute for Economics and Peace in Washington D.C. "That Reps Adam Smith and Mac Thornberry want to roll back protections put in place by previously-serving Senators – who, in their wisdom, ensured limits to taxpayer–funded propaganda promulgated by the US government – is disconcerting and dangerous…"
…The new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false...”
We’re talkin’: ”The upshot…is the Department of Defense using the same tools on U.S. citizens as on a hostile, foreign, population.”
Again, this was passed by the House, yesterday, with 77 Democrats voting along with 222 Republicans in favor of it.
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On Friday, Kossack David Waldman had a good preview of the legislative action on this bill in the House which may be read HERE.
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As folks reading this may recall, just over three weeks ago, I featured this controversial Guardian story, by Nafeez Ahmed, in a post here on Friday, June 13th, titled: “Guardian: Pentagon Preparing For Mass Civil Breakdown; DoD Report: Activists Are ‘Social Contagions’.” My diary focused upon an ongoing U.S. Department of Defense program known as “The Minerva Project” (a/k/a "The Minerva Research Initiative").
The following Monday, June 16th, I discussed the Minerva Initiative in greater detail in this post: “More Damning Truths By The Day: Update On Surveillance of Peaceful, Domestic, Political Activists.” Here’s the detail I provided at the time on this government program…
… as part of my ongoing follow-up to my post here on Friday, Guardian: Pentagon Preparing For Mass Civil Breakdown; DoD Report: Activists Are "Social Contagions," a few more developments loaded with pertinent and confirming facts, all pointing to more inconvenient truths that the greater story really is about current-day, domestic, military-intelligence realities, and it has very little to do with any lame attempts at spin proffered up by government apologists, including even a few in this community. So, here's a little more specific, damning info regarding my original post on Friday, as: brought to my attention by a friend, over the weekend; and, a second piece at the Guardian, from Friday, from Nafeez Ahmed, who’s been covering this Orwellian nightmare—in far greater detail, I might add--for much longer than I initially realized. See the excerpt farther down, below, from Ahmed from last year, as well.
As kind of an intro to these two pieces from Ahmed, here’s the real deal on those DoD research grants, directly from the U.S. Army, as far as the Minerva Initiative’s concerned (see page 3 of the original document--linked via the headline, below--that includes the critical blockquote, immediately below, too)…
From the U.S. Army’s Documentation on The Minerva Research Initiative
…The Minerva Research Initiative competition is for research related to the seven (7) topics listed below. Detailed descriptions of the topics can be found in Section VIII, “Specific Minerva Research Initiative Topics.” The detailed descriptions are intended to provide the proposer a frame of reference and are not meant to be restrictive. Innovative proposals related to these research topics are highly encouraged. White papers and full proposals are solicited which address the following topics:
(1) Strategic Impact of Religious and Cultural Changes
(2) Terrorism and Terrorist Ideologies
(3) Science, Technology and Military Transformations in China and Developing States
(4) National Security Implications of Energy and Environmental Stress
(5) New Theories of Cross-Domain Deterrence
(6) Regime and Social Dynamics in Failed, Failing, and Fragile Authoritarian States
(7) New Approaches to Understanding Dimensions of National Security, Conflict, and Cooperation…
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Here are the links to the two Ahmed/Guardian articles which I covered in my June 16th post:
"Defence officials prepare to fight the poor, activists and minorities (and commies)"
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Coming full-circle, back to the Facebook story referenced in the opening sentences in Tuesday's Guardian article, near the very top of this post, later in June, this fascinating piece (h/t Michael Krieger) was posted by NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen on his Facebook page:
Strange little turn in the story of the Facebook “emotional contagion” study. Last month’s press release from Cornell highlighting the study had said at the bottom: “The study was funded in part by the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the Army Research Office.”From blogger Mike Krieger...
Why would the military be interested? I wanted to know. So I asked Adam D.I. Kramer, the Facebook researcher, that question on his Facebook page, where he has posted what he called a public explanation. (He didn’t reply to my or anyone else’s questions.) See:https://www.facebook.com/...
Now it turns out Cornell was wrong! Or it says it was wrong. The press release now reads: “Correction: An earlier version of this story reported that the study was funded in part by the James S. McDonnell Foundation and the Army Research Office. In fact, the study received no external funding.”
Why do I call this strange? Any time my work has been featured in an NYU press release, the PR officers involved show me drafts and coordinate closely with me, for the simple reason that they don’t want to mischaracterize scholarly work. So now we have to believe that Cornell’s Professor of Communication and Information Science, Jeffrey Hancock, wasn’t shown or didn’t read the press release in which he is quoted about the study’s results (weird) or he did read it but somehow failed to notice that it said his study was funded by the Army when it actually wasn’t (weirder).
I think I would notice if my university was falsely telling the world that my research was partially funded by the Pentagon… but, hey, maybe there’s an innocent and boring explanation that I am overlooking.
...It gets even more interesting from here. The Professor of Communication and Information Science, Jeffrey Hancock, whom Mr. Rosen mentions above, has a history of working with the U.S. military, specifically the Minerva Institute.And, when Krieger digs a little further, lo and behold we find...drumroll please...proof positive appears, directly from a list of government-funded Minerva projects, that the work Hancock's doing in that program is very similar to the description of the study that he just concluded for Facebook.
I sincerely have no doubt that this is all "perfectly legal and legitimate." Because, as everyone knows (and as the Guardian reported same on Tuesday), Facebook--like many of its Silicon Valley counterparts--has worked very closely with our government on multiple projects, to date.
Perhaps (much) more importantly, as we now realize based upon a myriad of news reports over the past few years--not the least of which being yesterday's Guardian article--it sure looks like Facebook will be working quite closely with our government for many years to come, as well.
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