Malware from Fake Source, Whistleblower’s Gratitude and the Story of the Tek Fog Story

Tek Fog may be an app that aims to dehumanise and divide people, but our investigation into its use in 2020 also marked the beginning of our friendship.

On March 1, 2020, Ayushman and I met for the first (and only) time in person, outside a local market in Noida. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss a report I had independently published a few months earlier that highlighted the massive tweet volumes and complex hierarchies of the BJP and Congress IT Cells on Twitter. Ayushman was interested in finding common ground between his work as a research analyst at a digital forensic lab and the dataset that I had used to analyse the network of IT Cells. A day before we met, he was working on a two-part investigation into neo-Nazi groups on Telegram and was amazed at how the BJP network graph looked in one of my reports.

We planned to meet briefly over filter coffee at Lakshmi Coffee House, but the topic of studying dis- and misinformation in India was so intriguing that we kept discussing its different angles on the street for at least two hours afterwards. We finally decided to document our conversations, track the lifecycle of one of the bot accounts in the BJP and Congress networks, and meet again in a month to share and corroborate our findings. Little did we know that the country would come to a standstill in just three weeks, thanks to

— source | Devesh Kumar, Ayushman Kaul | 21 January 2022

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Hijacking WhatsApp to Drive BJP Propaganda

Technology developed and deployed by political operatives working to further the interests of India’s ruling party appears to have given them the ability to add script to the URLs of published news stories at mainstream platforms in order to redirect unsuspecting readers to fake news and also hack into and take over WhatsApp accounts, potentially exposing millions of Indians to the risk of identity theft.

Since the aim of the exercise is to use inactive hacked accounts to seed disinformation and fake news, vulnerable WhatsApp users also face potential legal liability in the event that criminal cases are filed relating to objectionable content simulated as emanating from their phone numbers.

Last week, The Wire published the first part of its 20-month-long investigation into the secret ‘Tek Fog’ app being used by cyber operatives to manipulate social media trends in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party, and target critics of the Narendra Modi government.

— source thewire.in | Ayushman Kaul, Devesh Kumar | 10 Jan 2022

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Facebook Hosted Surge of Misinformation in Months Leading Up to US Capitol Attack

January 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, with many calling for executions or other political violence, an investigation by ProPublica and the Washington Post has found.

The barrage – averaging at least 10,000 posts a day, a scale not reported previously – turned the groups into incubators for the baseless claims supporters of then-President Donald Trump voiced as they stormed the Capitol, demanding he get a second term. Many posts portrayed Biden’s election as the result of widespread fraud that required extraordinary action – including the use of force – to prevent the nation from falling into the hands of traitors.

“LOOKS LIKE CIVIL WAR is BECOMING INEVITABLE !!!” read a post a month before the Capitol assault. “WE CANNOT ALLOW FRAUDULENT ELECTIONS TO STAND ! SILENT NO MORE MAJORITY MUST RISE UP NOW AND DEMAND BATTLEGROUND STATES NOT TO CERTIFY FRAUDULENT ELECTIONS NOW !”

Another post, made 10 days after the election, bore the avatar of a smiling woman with her arms raised in apparent triumph and read, “WE ARE AMERICANS!!! WE FOUGHT AND DIED TO START OUR COUNTRY! WE ARE GOING TO FIGHT…FIGHT LIKE HELL. WE WILL SAVE HER❤ THEN WERE GOING TO SHOOT THE TRAITORS!!!!!!!!!!!”

One post showed a Civil War-era picture of a gallows with more than two dozen nooses and hooded figures waiting to be hanged. Other posts called for arrests and executions of

— source thewire.in | Craig Silverman, Craig Timberg, Jeff Kao, Jeremy B. Merrill | 06/Jan/2022

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People are lying more since the rise of social media and smartphones

Back in 2004, communication researcher Jeff Hancock and his colleagues had 28 students report the number of social interactions they had via face-to-face communication, the phone, instant messaging and email over seven days. Students also reported the number of times they lied in each social interaction. In Hancock’s study, the most lies per social interaction occurred via the technology with all of these features: the phone. The fewest occurred on email, where people couldn’t communicate synchronously and the messages were recorded.

When Hancock conducted his study, only students at a few select universities could create a Facebook account. The iPhone was in its early stages of development, a highly confidential project nicknamed “Project Purple.”

As in Hancock’s study, people told the most lies per social interaction over media that were synchronous and recordless and when communicators were distant: over the phone or on video chat. They told the fewest lies per social interaction via email.

— source theconversation.com | Nov 9, 2021

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Social Networking Suck

A social networking service is an online service, platform, or website that focuses on building and reflecting social relations among people.

A social network service essentially consists of a representation of each user (often a profile), his/her social links, and a variety of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide means for users to interact over the Internet, such as e-mail and instant messaging.

The main types of social networking services are those which contain category places (such as former school-year or classmates), means to connect with friends (usually with self-description pages) and a recommendation system linked to trust. Popular methods now combine many of these, with Facebook and Twitter widely used worldwide. MySpace and LinkedIn being the most widely used in North America. Nexopia (mostly in Canada), Bebo, Hi5, Hyves (mostly in The Netherlands), StudiVZ (mostly in Germany), iWiW (mostly in Hungary), Tuenti (mostly in Spain), Nasza-Klasa (mostly in Poland), Decayenne, Tagged, XING, Badoo and Skyrock in parts of Europe. Orkut and Hi5 in South America, India and Central America, and Friendster, Mixi, Multiply, Orkut, Wretch, renren and Cyworld in Asia and the Pacific Islands and Twitter, Orkut and Facebook in India.

Why do I say that social networking suck?

Because in essence it has very little to do with actual social interaction and because in many cases it prevents people from real social value!

— source unixsheikh.com | 2010-11-18

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Fake Social Media Accounts Against Farmer’s Protests

Even after the Narendra Modi-led government announced that the three controversial agri-marketing Bills will be withdrawn in the next session of the parliament, the farmers’ protests continue.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, the governing body of the movement, says that the withdrawal of the three laws is only an acceptance of half of their charter of demands. Therefore, protests shall continue, they said in an open letter to the prime minister earlier this week.

Furthermore, supporters of the movement say that a year-long vilification of the movement by ministers in the government, and the ‘murders’ of over 700 farmers, are hard to forgive and forget.

In this backdrop, a report has been released by a UK-based organisation – Centre For Information Resilience (CIR) – which has revealed that fake social media accounts were being run on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to run a divisive propaganda against Sikhs and discredit the struggle of a majority of farmers in the ongoing stir.

“We will continue to monitor accounts associated with the patterns”

The CIR report is authored by Benjamin Strick, who is a digital investigator. He specialises in open source intelligence, geospatial intelligence and data analysis, and has a background in the military and law.

— source thewire.in | Pawanjot Kaur | 28/Nov/2021

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Sikhs being targeted by fake social media profiles

A network of fake social media profiles of people claiming to be Sikhs, and promoting divisive narratives, has been exposed.

A new report shared exclusively with the BBC ahead of its publication on Wednesday identified 80 accounts in the network, which have now been suspended because they were fake.

The influence operation used accounts across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote Hindu nationalism and pro-Indian government narratives.

The aim of the network appears to have been to “alter perceptions on important issues around Sikh independence, human rights and values”, according to the report’s author,

— source bbc.com | Shruti Menon, Flora Carmichael | Nov 24, 2021

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10 fringe publishers fuel 69% of digital climate change denial

The science is undeniable – human activity is warming our planet at an ever-accelerating rate and leading to catastrophic climate change.

Yet, ten publishers – The Toxic Ten – are spreading baseless, unscientific climate denial on their own websites and across social media. They are responsible for 69% of all interactions with climate denial content on Facebook.

It’s a climate denial propaganda machine funded in part by Google via ad revenue, and spread across the world via social media, in particular Facebook, who allow them to pay to promote their denial.

We are calling on Facebook and Google to stop promoting and funding climate denial, start labelling it as misinformation, and stop giving the advantages of their enormous platforms to lies and misinformation.

Click to access f4d9b9_277d4dc5f1f84858a6a2dc149f00b759.pdf

— source counterhate.com | Nov 3, 2021

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Facebook’s Hate-Speech Rules Collide With Indian Politics

In Facebook posts and public appearances, Indian politician T. Raja Singh has said Rohingya Muslim immigrants should be shot, called Muslims traitors and threatened to raze mosques.

Facebook Inc. employees charged with policing the platform were watching. By March of this year, they concluded Mr. Singh not only had violated the company’s hate-speech rules but qualified as dangerous, a designation that takes into account a person’s off-platform activities, according to current and former Facebook employees familiar with the matter.

Given India’s history of communal violence [which started after British rule] and recent religious tensions, they argued, his rhetoric could lead to real-world violence, and he should be permanently banned from the company’s platforms world-wide, according to the current and former employees, a punishment that in the U.S. has been doled out to radio host Alex Jones, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and numerous white supremacist organizations.

— source wsj.com | Newley Purnell, Jeff Horwitz | Aug 14, 2020

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