New York Times: As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place

New York Times: As Local News Dies, a Pay-for-Play Network Rises in Its Place. “Maine Business Daily is part of a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country. Yet the network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals, a Times investigation found.”

Stanford University: Analysis of an October 2020 Facebook Takedown Linked to U.S. Political Consultancy Rally Forge

Stanford University: Analysis of an October 2020 Facebook Takedown Linked to U.S. Political Consultancy Rally Forge. “An astroturfing operation involving fake accounts (some with AI-generated images) that left thousands of comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Clients included Turning Point Action and Inclusive Conservation Group, a pro-hunting organization.”

Washington Post: Fake Twitter accounts posing as Black Trump supporters appear, reach thousands, then vanish

Washington Post: Fake Twitter accounts posing as Black Trump supporters appear, reach thousands, then vanish. “An account featuring the image of a Black police officer, President Trump and the words ‘VOTE REPUBLICAN’ had a brief but spectacular run on Twitter. In six days after it became active last week, it tweeted just eight times but garnered 24,000 followers, with its most popular tweet being liked 75,000 times. Then, on Sunday, the account was gone — suspended by Twitter for breaking its rules against platform manipulation.”

New Yorker: Why Facebook Can’t Fix Itself

New Yorker: Why Facebook Can’t Fix Itself. “There are reportedly more than five hundred full-time employees working in Facebook’s P.R. department. These days, their primary job is to insist that Facebook is a fun place to share baby photos and sell old couches, not a vector for hate speech, misinformation, and violent extremist propaganda.”

Mail-In Voter Fraud: Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign (Harvard University)

Harvard University: Mail-In Voter Fraud: Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign. “Our results are based on analyzing over fifty-five thousand online media stories, five million tweets, and seventy-five thousand posts on public Facebook pages garnering millions of engagements. They are consistent with our findings about the American political media ecosystem from 2015-2018, published in Network Propaganda, in which we found that Fox News and Donald Trump’s own campaign were far more influential in spreading false beliefs than Russian trolls or Facebook clickbait artists.”

Politico: HHS ad blitz sputters as celebrities back away

Politico: HHS ad blitz sputters as celebrities back away. “The health department’s $300 million-plus, taxpayer-funded vehicle to boost confidence in President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic is sputtering. Celebrities are refusing to participate, and staff are arraying against it. Some complain of the unstated aim of helping Trump’s re-election. Others point to an ill-prepared video team and a 22-year-old political appointee who has repeatedly asserted control despite having no public health expertise, according to six people with close knowledge of the campaign and documents related to its operations.”

Facebook: Fake pages from China tried to disrupt US politics (AP)

AP: Facebook: Fake pages from China tried to disrupt US politics. “Facebook says it has removed a small network of fake accounts and pages that originated in China and focused on disrupting political activity in the U.S. and several other countries. The U.S.-focused activity was just a ‘sliver’ of the accounts’ overall activity and gained almost no following, Facebook said. Their primary focus was Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.”

‘It’s like every red flag’: Trump-ordered HHS ad blitz raises alarms (Politico)

Politico: ‘It’s like every red flag’: Trump-ordered HHS ad blitz raises alarms . “The health department is moving quickly on a highly unusual advertising campaign to ‘defeat despair’ about the coronavirus, a $300 million-plus effort that was shaped by a political appointee close to President Donald Trump and executed in part by close allies of the official, using taxpayer funds.”

“I Have Blood on My Hands”: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation (BuzzFeed News)

BuzzFeed News: “I Have Blood on My Hands”: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation. “Facebook ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform have been undermining elections and political affairs around the world, according to an explosive memo sent by a recently fired Facebook employee and obtained by BuzzFeed News. The 6,600-word memo, written by former Facebook data scientist Sophie Zhang, is filled with concrete examples of heads of government and political parties in Azerbaijan and Honduras using fake accounts or misrepresenting themselves to sway public opinion. In countries including India, Ukraine, Spain, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, she found evidence of coordinated campaigns of varying sizes to boost or hinder political candidates or outcomes, though she did not always conclude who was behind them.”

Politico: Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci

Politico: Emails show HHS official trying to muzzle Fauci. “Emails obtained by POLITICO show Paul Alexander — a senior adviser to Michael Caputo, HHS’s assistant secretary for public affairs — instructing press officers and others at the National Institutes of Health about what Fauci should say during media interviews. The Trump adviser weighed in on Fauci’s planned responses to outlets including Bloomberg News, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and the science journal Cell. Alexander’s lengthy messages, some sent as recently as this week, are couched as scientific arguments. But they often contradict mainstream science while promoting political positions taken by the Trump administration on hot-button issues ranging from the use of convalescent plasma to school reopening.”

Politico: HHS bids $250 million contract meant to ‘defeat despair and inspire hope’ on coronavirus

Politico: HHS bids $250 million contract meant to ‘defeat despair and inspire hope’ on coronavirus. “As the presidential election fast approaches, the Department of Health and Human Services is bidding out a more than $250 million contract to a communications firm as it seeks to ‘defeat despair and inspire hope’ about the coronavirus pandemic, according to an internal HHS document obtained by POLITICO.”

Washington Post: Trump and allies ratchet up disinformation efforts in late stage of campaign

Washington Post: Trump and allies ratchet up disinformation efforts in late stage of campaign. “On Aug. 30, the president retweeted footage of a Black man violently pushing a White woman on a subway platform under the caption, ‘Black Lives Matter/Antifa’ — but the man was not affiliated with either group, and the video was shot in October. White House social media director Dan Scavino shared a manipulated video that falsely showed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seeming to fall asleep during a television interview, complete with a fake TV headline. And Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the second-ranking House Republican, released a video splicing together quotes from activist Ady Barkan — who has Lou Gehrig’s disease and uses computer voice assistance — to falsely make it sound as if he had persuaded Biden to defund police departments.”

BBC: Facebook and Twitter ‘dismantle Russian network’

BBC: Facebook and Twitter ‘dismantle Russian network’. “Facebook says it has dismantled a small network of accounts and pages that were part of a Russian influence operation. The company said the campaign was linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), an organisation close to the Russian government and accused of interference in the 2016 US election. Twitter also suspended five accounts from the same network.”

NBC News: Viral pro-Trump tweets came from fake African American spam accounts, Twitter says

NBC News: Viral pro-Trump tweets came from fake African American spam accounts, Twitter says. “Twitter has taken action to stop a spam operation that pushed messages from fake accounts about Black people abandoning the Democratic Party. The company removed two fake accounts and deleted the account of a San Diego man who spammed the platform, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.”

ZDNet: Twitter takes down ‘Dracula’ botnet pushing pro-Chinese propaganda

ZDNet: Twitter takes down ‘Dracula’ botnet pushing pro-Chinese propaganda. “Social media research group Graphika said today it identified a Twitter botnet of around 3,000 bots that pushed pro-Chinese political spam, echoing official messaging released through state propaganda accounts. Graphika said it was able to identify the botnet due to a quirk shared by the vast majority of bot accounts, most of which used quotes from Bram Stoker’s Dracula book for the profile description and the first two tweets.” Dracula?