Political will holding up Brexit

Remember Brexit?

“Brexit proposals are not undeliverable but rather it is political will holding up negotiations” – curiously that’s the view of the politician in charge, the United Kingdom’s Brexit Minister Dominic Raab.

Reuters: UK’s Brexit proposals are not undeliverable, it is about political will: Raab

Raab also said Britain shouldn’t have a closed mind in negotiations and was open to listening to other suggestions to help break the impasse on outstanding issues.

Also:

The Independent: Three Tory ministers back new Brexit referendum, Conservative conference event told

At least three government ministers privately support giving the public another vote on Brexit, a former minister has claimed.

Dr Phillip Lee, who quit the government in June in order to speak out on Brexit, said he knew of other ministers who were “on the cusp” of resigning over the issue.

The MP warned a fringe event at the Conservatives‘ annual conference that the party was now “on the side of angry men, against women and young people”.

Asked how many Tory MPs privately support the campaign for a Final Say referendum, Mr Lee told the Conservatives for a People’s Vote event: “I suspect there are significant numbers of colleagues who see the argument for a second vote.

BBC: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU

A referendum – a vote in which everyone (or nearly everyone) of voting age can take part – was held on Thursday 23 June, 2016, to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Leave won by 51.9% to 48.1%.

That was over two years ago. Progress is slow.

When is the UK due to leave the EU?

For the UK to leave the EU it had to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which gives the two sides two years to agree the terms of the split. Theresa May triggered this process on 29 March, 2017, meaning the UK is scheduled to leave at 11pm UK time on Friday, 29 March 2019. It can be extended if all 28 EU members agree, but at the moment all sides are focusing on that date as being the key one, and Theresa May has now put it into British law.

So is Brexit definitely happening?

The UK government and the main UK opposition party both say Brexit will happen. There are some groups campaigning for Brexit to be halted, but the focus among the UK’s elected politicians has been on what relationship the UK has with the EU after Brexit, rather than whether Brexit will happen at all. Nothing is ever certain, but as things stand Britain is leaving the European Union. There is more detail on the possible hurdles further down this guide…

What’s happening now?

The UK and EU have provisionally agreed on the three “divorce” issues of how much the UK owes the EU, what happens to the Northern Ireland border and what happens to UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK but talks are now focusing on the detail of how to avoid having a physical Northern Ireland border – and on future relations. To buy more time, the two sides have agreed on a 21-month “transition” period to smooth the way to post-Brexit relations.

 

Brexit is Titanic

“Brexit means Brexit, and we are going to make a TITANIC success of it”.

From Remain to Brexit due to Euro

Missy:

This is a great explanation as to why Brexit is a good thing. This was originally written as a twitter thread, and picked up by a magazine and published as an article. The guy who wrote it voted Remain, he was angry at the result, but now has an understanding as to why the UK needs to leave the EU, and not just leave, but leave cleanly.

Country Squire: From Remain to Out Now

I could never understand why people were anti EU – what a wonderful liberal construct that did so much good in the world. It brought countries together, helped poor ones develop. It made us prouder to be from this continent as we were building something unique.

So, what changed?

In a word, the Euro.

I remember watching horrified as the EU via the ECB removed two heads of state in Italy and Greece. Forced the Irish to take on their entire banking sector’s debt and drove the Greek economy and much of the south into a depression. How could this be happening? The EU were the good guys. They didn’t do this – that was the US; the IMF; the World Bank.

How could all these people be party to this horror? How could they sit by as peoples’ lives were destroyed and, in many cases, finished due to suicide?

This organisation did not give a shit about the south. It was their fault. And I thought “but that is economically illiterate” but by then I had realised they didn’t care – and so we wandered on towards Brexit.

And the results came – we lost! I was angry. So angry that I remember shouting at my best friend who voted leave – and saying he didn’t realise what he had done – I think more in shock – but after I thought you know this could be good this could be what the EU needs – a wake-up call.

And after a time, I began to realise – watching Verhofstadt, Barnier, Tusk et al – they didn’t get it. They didn’t get the anger that was there – for me over Greece and the state of the Euro but for others – migration, democracy, laws. Listening to the shameful descriptions of the UK as an extremist country and that it was an isolated case – I watched election after election and like Chemical Ali they keep parroting the same line – ‘this is an aberration’. Completely ignoring the trends, completely ignoring the facts on the ground and I realised that they were literally cut off from reality – they had no idea what so many people were thinking!

Even if the wanted to know what ‘the people’ thought it would be difficult to understand ordinary people in every country in the EU.

In any case, the bigger the body, the more distant the head gets from the arms and legs.

I want to go vote and hold politicians to account – I want us to trade, cooperate and ally with countries but one where we have control – we the people – and you know what I might lose many of the arguments and this country might not be what I want all the time.

And if those in power get too distant and too arrogant,in democracies people have an ability to rebel via the ballot box.

As for the EU, I feel its dying – the dream started dying 8 years ago and they are damn well doing their best to make sure it stays dead – but you know what … I don’t wish it ill, it doesn’t need any help from me – I just don’t want to be associated with it anymore.

The disadvantages have grown to eclipse the advantages of the EU.

But it starts for me – getting clean Brexit and starting a new exciting conversation – one that I never thought I would suggest we have – it’s strange how life changes you along the way – strange the way important things fade, and new ones emerge.

Regardless of controversy over the Brexit campaign the UK needs to move forward with it.

And a general hope:

But before that – let’s start by being kinder to each other – I have been as guilty as others – but I have realised it is not healthy for me, for others or the country to rage at each other – people hold their views because they care – let’s all try and keep that in mind.

That is good advice for any country. New Zealand political and social discourse would be the better for a kinder approach. The United States in particular, which is struggling with increasing division.

“What we are living with is pre-fascism”

New Zealand is largely unscathed, so far, but here is a plausible claim that the US at least is at threat of an unfolding progression towards fascism.

To grasp what is going on in the world right now, we need to reflect on two things. One is that we are in a phase of trial runs. The other is that what is being trialled is fascism – a word that should be used carefully but not shirked when it is so clearly on the horizon. Forget “post-fascist” – what we are living with is pre-fascism.

It is easy to dismiss Donald Trump as an ignoramus, not least because he is. But he has an acute understanding of one thing: test marketing. He created himself in the gossip pages of the New York tabloids, where celebrity is manufactured by planting outrageous stories that you can later confirm or deny depending on how they go down. And he recreated himself in reality TV where the storylines can be adjusted according to the ratings. Put something out there, pull it back, adjust, go again.

Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.

Trump’s rise has certainly not been solely on his own merits. He has defied predictions, he has defied common sense. To many he is a blundering buffoon, but he has secured a strong, sizeable minority support base who defend him regardless of what he does.

One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections – we’ve seen that trialled in the election of Trump, in the Brexit referendum and (less successfully) in the French presidential elections.

All major elections are ‘rigged’, in that they are dominated by PR machines that are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Even New Zealand elections have become battles of media coverage and promotion of shallow imagery.

Another is the generation of tribal identities, the division of society into mutually exclusive polarities.

I don’t know if this is happening more than in the past, or is just more apparent with the advent of social media.

It is a lot easier to portray discord and division, and to accentuate it, than it is to promote tolerance and sensibility.

Fascism does not need a majority – it typically comes to power with about 40 per cent support and then uses control and intimidation to consolidate that power. So it doesn’t matter if most people hate you, as long as your 40 per cent is fanatically committed. That’s been tested out too. And fascism of course needs a propaganda machine so effective that it creates for its followers a universe of “alternative facts” impervious to unwanted realities. Again, the testing for this is very far advanced.

There’s certainly signs of this in the US in particular, but also in the UK, which is in a political mess that keeps deteriorating.

How much can be attributed to single conspiracy, and how much is just different bunches of blundering political organisations, is difficult to judge.

But when you’ve done all this, there is a crucial next step, usually the trickiest of all. You have to undermine moral boundaries, inure people to the acceptance of acts of extreme cruelty. Like hounds, people have to be blooded. They have to be given the taste for savagery. Fascism does this by building up the sense of threat from a despised out-group. This allows the members of that group to be dehumanised. Once that has been achieved, you can gradually up the ante, working through the stages from breaking windows to extermination.

The ostracising of large groups of people is certainly a common tactic of Trump – Muslims, Mexicans, immigrants, North Koreans, Chinese, Canadians, Europeans, Germans, Britons have all been attacked by Trump to different degrees.

Some of these groups are under sustained attack, some attacks are followed by reversals and contradictions.

Is this just Trump’s erratic behaviour, or is it a carefully staged strategy? It could feasibly be both.

It is this next step that is being test-marketed now. It is being done in Italy by the far-right leader and minister for the interior Matteo Salvini. How would it go down if we turn away boatloads of refugees? Let’s do a screening of the rough-cut of registering all the Roma and see what buttons the audience will press. And it has been trialled by Trump: let’s see how my fans feel about crying babies in cages.

Possibly. But is this different politicians in different countries trying similar approaches because it seems to be successful, or is it a coordinated conspiracy?

Some of it is opportunist copy cat campaigning. It is likely that is all we have had here in New Zealand.

But there are some known common denominators. Like Cambridge Analytica, which played what some think was a significant role in the surprise Brexit result, and the shock rise of trump in the US.

There are other factors playing parts as well. It’s hard to see Hillary Clinton’s poor campaign as a deliberate aid to Trump. And it’s hard to see Theresa May’s misjudgement in calling a snap election, and her poor leadership since, as part of a grand plan. These two have helped head their countries into political chaos, but that is likely to be inadvertent assistance.

Back to the fascist conspiracy.

To see, as most commentary has done, the deliberate traumatisation of migrant children as a “mistake” by Trump is culpable naivety. It is a trial run – and the trial has been a huge success. Trump’s claim last week that immigrants “infest” the US is a test-marketing of whether his fans are ready for the next step-up in language, which is of course “vermin”. And the generation of images of toddlers being dragged from their parents is a test of whether those words can be turned into sounds and pictures. It was always an experiment – it ended (but only in part) because the results were in.

This is plausible.

But even if these a examples of deliberate pre-fascism trials, I can’t help thinking that “cock-up, not conspiracy” is never far from politics anywhere.

Again, perhaps there is some of both. Smart campaigners and manipulators will learn from mistakes as well as from deliberate trials.

This is greatly encouraging for the pre-fascist agenda. The blooding process has begun within the democratic world. The muscles that the propaganda machines need for defending the indefensible are being toned up. Millions and millions of Europeans and Americans are learning to think the unthinkable. So what if those black people drown in the sea? So what if those brown toddlers are scarred for life? They have already, in their minds, crossed the boundaries of morality.

They are, like Macbeth, “yet but young in deed”. But the tests will be refined, the results analysed, the methods perfected, the messages sharpened. And then the deeds can follow.

There are some plausible claims in all of this. There is no doubt that there has been increasingly sophisticated use of and manipulation with social media. Both media and increasingly social media play a large part in politics, in elections and in PR.

How else can you explain Trump’s shocking siding with long time arch enemy Russia, and at the expense of trashing his countries own intelligence agencies? Diminishing the credibility of the FBI and other intelligence agencies seems to be an ongoing tactic of Trump’s.

Is Trump a blundering fool, or is he a fascist tool?

Perhaps he is both, unless the buffonery is a part of the plan.

Is fascism a deliberate end goal? Or is it just where powerful people and powerful conspiracies end up – riding roughshod over democracy and decency may just happen t tend towards a state of fascism.

Source – Fintan O’Toole: Trial runs for fascism are in full flow

See another trump trial?: Trump back flips over Russian election meddling

Breaking News: all leave voters are thick

Leave.EU breached multiple counts of electoral law

New Zealand isn’t the only country with far too slow, too weak electoral law.

The UK Electoral Commission has fined Leave.EU for multiple breaches of electoral law and referred the matter to the police, but the referendum result still stands.

BBC – Brexit: Leave.EU fined £70,000 for breaking electoral law during referendum

Campaign group Leave.EU has been fined £70,000 after an investigation into funding during the 2016 referendum.

The Electoral Commission concluded that the campaign group incorrectly reported what it spent during the referendum.

It found Leave.EU failed to report at least £77,380 of spending and exceeded the limit for non-party registered campaigners by at least 10%.

Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the data war

I often seen people doing and sharing surveys and quizzes on Facebook. They always looked looked suspicious to me – they looked designed to suck people in.

And it turns out some of them were exactly that – for a nefarious reason. They were used to gather data and compile personality profiles of hundreds of millions of people, and then those people were targeted with “rumour, disinformation and fake news” to influence them in elections.

The process was used experimentally in many elections in many countries – I don’t know if New Zealand was subjected to subliminal coercion (journalists?). The first big election that it was tried on was the Brexit vote in the UK, which surprisingly swung to a vote to exit the European Union.

Then it was used in the US election which resulted in Donald Trump being elected against the odds (aided by a flawed campaign and a flawed campaigner, Hillary Clinton).

Now Cambridge Analytica and the use and abuse of Facebook is being exposed.

Bloomberg: Facebook Suspends Trump Election Data Firm for Policy Violations

  • Data harvested from 50 million Facebook accounts: N.Y. Times
  • Fighting ‘culture war,’ ex-Cambridge Analytica employee says

Facebook Inc. suspended Cambridge Analytica, a data company that helped President Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election and which may have collected data from 50 million Facebook profiles without their owners’ permission.

The social-networking company said in a blog post Friday that Cambridge Analytica received some user data through an app developer on its social network, violating its policies. In 2015, Facebook said Cambridge Analytica certified that it had destroyed the information.

“Several days ago, we received reports that, contrary to the certifications we were given, not all data was deleted,” Facebook said in a statement. Cambridge Analytica and parent Strategic Communication Laboratories have been suspended from the social network, “pending further information,” Facebook said.

Cambridge Analytica said in a Saturday statement it did nothing illegal and is ​in touch with Facebook in order to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

Originally funded by Robert Mercer, the conservative political donor and former co-chief executive officer of Renaissance Technologies, Cambridge uses data to reach voters with hyper-targeted messaging, including on Facebook and other online services. It was hired to help with voter outreach by the Trump campaign, whose former campaign manager, Steve Bannon, had been on the company’s board.

Steve Bannon was closely connected to this – and became closely connected to the Trump campaign.

Now one of the people deeply involved is blowing the whistle:The Cambridge Analytica Files 

‘I created Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower

For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate.

Starting in 2007, Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on “big five” personality traits – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism – and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles.

Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook “likes” across millions of people.

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. “They had a lot of approaches from the security services,” a member of the centre told me. “There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked ‘I hate Israel’ on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

“There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.”

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research.

That should be a concern to everyone – this is not the Russian establishment, it is the US and UK establishment, which New Zealand has close links to.

“And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems they’re absent-minded professors and hippies. They’re the early adopters… they’re highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.”

T…the job was research director across the SCL group, a private contractor that has both defence and elections operations. Its defence arm was a contractor to the UK’s Ministry of Defence and the US’s Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in “psychological operations” – or psyops – changing people’s minds not through persuasion but through “informational dominance”, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

It turned out the the UK and US democracies were unable to defend themselves either.

A few months later, in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon. At the time, he was editor-in-chief of Breitbart, which he had brought to Britain to support his friend Nigel Farage in his mission to take Britain out of the European Union.

“[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking ‘Ugh. Totally ugly’ to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.”

But Wylie wasn’t just talking about fashion. He had recently been exposed to a new discipline: “information operations”, which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US military’s doctrine of the “five-dimensional battle space”. His brief ranged across the SCL Group – the British government has paid SCL to conduct counter-extremism operations in the Middle East, and the US Department of Defense has contracted it to work in Afghanistan.

I tell him that another former employee described the firm as “MI6 for hire”, and I’d never quite understood it.

“It’s like dirty MI6 because you’re not constrained. There’s no having to go to a judge to apply for permission. It’s normal for a ‘market research company’ to amass data on domestic populations. And if you’re working in some country and there’s an auxiliary benefit to a current client with aligned interests, well that’s just a bonus.”

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer – the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates – and his daughter Rebekah.

“It didn’t make any sense to me,” says Wylie. “I didn’t understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?”

Mueller’s investigation traces the first stages of the Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 US election back to 2014, when the Russian state made what appears to be its first concerted efforts to harness the power of America’s social media platforms, including Facebook. And it was in late summer of the same year that Cambridge Analytica presented the Russian oil company with an outline of its datasets, capabilities and methodology.

The presentation had little to do with “consumers”. Instead, documents show it focused on election disruption techniques.

Russia, Facebook, Trump, Mercer, Bannon, Brexit. Every one of these threads runs through Cambridge Analytica. Even in the past few weeks, it seems as if the understanding of Facebook’s role has broadened and deepened. The Mueller indictments were part of that, but Paul-Olivier Dehaye – a data expert and academic based in Switzerland, who published some of the first research into Cambridge Analytica’s processes – says it’s become increasingly apparent that Facebook is “abusive by design”. If there is evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, it will be in the platform’s data flows, he says.

Millions of people’s personal information was stolen and used to target them in ways they wouldn’t have seen, and couldn’t have known about, by a mercenary outfit, Cambridge Analytica, who, Wylie says, “would work for anyone”. Who would pitch to Russian oil companies. Would they subvert elections abroad on behalf of foreign governments?

It occurs to me to ask Wylie this one night.

“Yes.”

Nato or non-Nato?

“Either. I mean they’re mercenaries. They’ll work for pretty much anyone who pays.”

It’s an incredible revelation. It also encapsulates all of the problems of outsourcing – at a global scale, with added cyberweapons. And in the middle of it all are the public – our intimate family connections, our “likes”, our crumbs of personal data, all sucked into a swirling black hole that’s expanding and growing and is now owned by a politically motivated billionaire.

The Facebook data is out in the wild. And for all Wylie’s efforts, there’s no turning the clock back.

What to take from all of this? It’s difficult to know. The Wylie revelations could be fake news. Or this story could reveal a propaganda genie that is now out of the bottle, an insidious corruption of democracy.

We are all influenced with the news and views we see online. It’s impossible for us to know whether we have been targeted, whether we have been sucked in, whether we have been influenced by people deliberately trying to swing elections.

Using political propaganda is nothing new, it has been done in various ways for a long time. But using the power and speed of the Internet, the potential is certainly there to take propaganda to a new and dangerous level.

How dangerous? Enough to steer the UK towards chaos as they try to extract themselves from the European Union. Enough to install a chaotic president in the US. Enough to elect an unlikely president in France? Enough to create a precarious political balance in Germany?

What about New Zealand? See Was New Zealand’s election rigged by foreign powers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

UK and EU in ‘Brexit’ breakthrough

Report of a breakthrough in talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union that will allow ‘Brexit’ to progress to the next stage.

BBC – Brexit: ‘Breakthrough’ deal paves way for future trade talks

PM Theresa May has struck a last-minute deal with the EU in a bid to move Brexit talks on to the next phase.

There will be no “hard border” with Ireland; and the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU will be protected.

The so-called “divorce bill” will amount to between £35bn and £39bn, Downing Street says.

The European Commission president said it was a “breakthrough” and he was confident EU leaders will approve it.

They are due to meet next Thursday for a European Council summit and need to give their backing to the deal if the next phase of negotiations are to begin.

Talks can then move onto a transition deal to cover a period of up to two years after Brexit, and the “framework for the future relationship” – preliminary discussions about a future trade deal, although the EU says a deal can only be finalised once the UK has left the EU.

A final withdrawal treaty and transition deal will have to be ratified by the EU nations and the UK Parliament, before the UK leaves in March 2019.

But it is still not simple from here due to the precarious position of the May led Government.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, whose opposition on Monday led to talks breaking down, said there was still “more work to be done” on the border issue and how it votes on the final deal “will depend on its contents”. Mrs May depends on the party’s support to win key votes in Westminster.

What has been agreed?

  • Guarantee that there will be “no hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic and that the “constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom” will be maintained.
  • EU citizens living in the UK and vice versa will have their rights to live, work and study protected. The agreement includes reunification rights for relatives who do not live in the UK to join them in their host country in the future
  • Financial settlement – No specific figure is in the document but Downing Street says it will be between £35bn and £39bn, including budget contributions during a two-year “transition” period after March 2019

Brexit: All you need to know

The cost is high:

A figure is not mentioned in the text of the agreement but Downing Street says it will be between £35bn and £39bn – higher than Theresa May indicated in September but lower than some estimates. It will be paid over four years and the precise figure is unlikely to be known for some time.

The prime minister said it would be “fair to the British taxpayer” and would mean the UK in future “will be able to invest more in our priorities at home, such as housing, schools and the NHS”.

So Brexit still has a difficult and potentially very expensive path to follow.

Facebook and the Brexit vote

Facebook is also under investigation in the UK to see how much Russian operatives might have interfered in the Brexit vote.

The Telegraph: MPs order Facebook to hand over evidence of Russian election meddling

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee has demanded that the US internet giant release adverts and pages linked to Russia in the build up to last year’s EU referendum and June’s general election.

On Tuesday Damian Collins, the chairman of the committee, wrote to Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg asking for the company to hand over examples of adverts bought by Russian-linked accounts as well as details about how much they cost and how many people saw them.

The committee is currently investigating the influence of fake news, which critics say has thrived on Facebook in the last year amid politically-divisive votes in the US and across Europe.

“Part of this inquiry will focus on the role of foreign actors abusing platforms such as yours to interfere in the political discourse of other nations,” Mr Collins wrote.

Facebook sparked a political storm in the US last month when it revealed that thousands of adverts were bought by Russians in the run-up to Trump’s election victory.

Under investigation from Congress it has handed over 3,000 adverts purchased over two years by the Internet Research Agency, a group linked to the Russian Government. Mr Collins said he was looking for similar evidence in the UK.

The US adverts, which also appeared on Instagram and were seen by 10 million people, focused on divisive topics such as race, immigration and gun rights, and were allegedly used to help propel Donald Trump to the White House. Mr Trump has attempted to play down the impact of the adverts, saying the amounts spent were “tiny” and claiming that Facebook was on Hillary Clinton’s side.

Mr Zuckerberg has said it “just wouldn’t be realistic” to stop all interference in election campaigns on Facebook, although the company has since vowed to manually review every advert targeting people by political affiliation or race.

The Internet has become a key component in the globalisation of dirty politics.

Examining the Russian media war

A very interesting article by Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times that claims Russian influence in what has become known as fake news, used to promote discord and protest and to interfere in elections in countries around the world.

Examples are given of interference in Germany over immigration, in the UK over Brexit, and in the US election.

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.

…Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. “They are demonstrating — ‘Save our children,’ ‘No attacks from immigrants on our children’ and some things like that,” Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office’s fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor’s supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin’s tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three “Southern-looking men” — by which she meant Arab migrants — had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.

The allegations were false, but Russian news agencies kept publishing them, promoting protests and discord over immigration in Germany.

Officials in Germany and at NATO headquarters in Brussels view the Lisa case, as it is now known, as an early strike in a new information war Russia is waging against the West. In the months that followed, politicians perceived by the Russian government as hostile to its interests would find themselves caught up in media storms that, in their broad contours, resembled the one that gathered around Merkel.

They often involved conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods — sometimes with a tenuous connection to fact, as in the Lisa case, sometimes with no connection at all — amplified until they broke through into domestic politics. In other cases, they simply helped promote nationalist, far-left or far-right views that put pressure on the political center.

What the efforts had in common was their agents: a loose network of Russian-government-run or -financed media outlets and apparently coordinated social-media accounts.

And this is effective. This is evident in New Zealand where ordinary people, especially those with conspiracy tendencies or with strong views about things like immigration or politics, pick up on and amplify the messages – which is of course one of the aims.

After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum.

Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.”

I wouldn’t rule out other countries either, like North Korea, from the Middle East – and the US, who are also one of the main targets.

But all of this paled in comparison with the role that Russian information networks are suspected to have played in the American presidential election of 2016.

In early January, two weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, American intelligence officials released a declassified version of a report — prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency — titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.” It detailed what an Obama-era Pentagon intelligence official, Michael Vickers, described in an interview in June with NBC News as “the political equivalent of 9/11.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the authors wrote. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.” According to the report, “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The intelligence assessment detailed some cloak-and-dagger activities, like the murky web of Russian (if not directly government-affiliated or -financed) hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole gigabytes’ worth of email and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

But most of the assessment concerned machinations that were plainly visible to anyone with a cable subscription or an internet connection: the coordinated activities of the TV and online-media properties and social-media accounts that made up, in the report’s words, “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”

The assessment devoted nearly half its pages to a single cable network: RT. The Kremlin started RT — shortened from the original Russia Today — a dozen years ago to improve Russia’s image abroad.

But it is not simple to isolate and combat.

Plenty of RT’s programming, to outward appearances, is not qualitatively different from conventional opinion-infused cable news.

Its fans point to its coverage of political perspectives that aren’t prominent on mainstream networks — voices from the Occupy movement, the libertarian right and third parties like the Green Party. The network has been nominated for four International Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy.

This makes RT and Sputnik harder for the West to combat than shadowy hackers.

 RT might not have amassed an audience that remotely rivals CNN’s in conventional terms, but in the new, “democratized” media landscape, it doesn’t need to.

Over the past several years, the network has come to form the hub of a new kind of state media operation: one that travels through the same diffuse online channels, chasing the same viral hits and memes, as the rest of the Twitter-and-Facebook-age media.

In the process, Russia has built the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far, one that thrives in the feverish political climates that have descended on many Western publics.

It is a long article but worth reading if you have any interest in international propaganda and information wars.

As stated it is not just the use of news organisations, it is the use of social media as well. Facebook is gradually admitting how they were used during the US election campaign.

Reuters: Facebook says some Russian ads during U.S. election promoted live events

Some of the ads bought by Russians on Facebook last year promoted events during the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook Inc said on Tuesday, indicating that alleged meddling ahead of the 2016 election went beyond social media.

Facebook said in a statement that its takedown of what the company last week called Russian-affiliated pages included shutting down “several promoted events.”

Facebook declined to provide details of the promoted events.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, said last week that an operation likely based in Russia had placed thousands of U.S. ads with polarizing views on topics such as immigration, race and gay rights on the site during a two-year period through May 2017.

The Daily Beast, the news website that first reported on the promoted events posted on Facebook, said one advertisement promoted an anti-immigrant rally in Idaho in August 2016.

The rally was hosted by a Facebook group called “Secured Borders,” which was a Russian front and is now suspended, according to the Daily Beast.

In social media they commonly target people who want to believe certain things and  spread issues that have dubious merit.