Search

Exposing Russian Trolling and Information Warfare Tactics

Do NOT Take Boris Word for It

My Journalist Friend Lives in Real Fear for Her Life

By Eric Tallant: former Army NCO/Fellow at The Intelligence Community

 

image

 

Kseniya Kirillova is a friend of mine. She’s from Russia, and has recently moved to the United States. Her articles are featured in Euromaidan Press, Voice of America, and she has also contributed to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. When trouble from Russian subversives operating in American information space came my way, I could always count on Kseniya to cover the events in the press, thus relieving the clandestine troubles that could effect me. Needless to say, I owe her one.

Very recently, a Russian journalist, living in Ukraine, was murdered. Shortly after his murder, a hit list featuring Russian “traitors” was published online. Kseniya was on that list. The following is a link to said list. It is in Russian, so I advise you use Google Translate to decoded it: http://putin24.info/cherez-mesyats-posle-ubiystva-sheremeta-nayden-mertvym-sozdatel-novogo-regiona.html

My friend Resa Warchick, a writer for World Net Daily, has already shared her concerns for Kseniya online. The more we discuss this topic, the better chance we have at saving her life.

 

 

Why can’t American Minds Conceive the Inconceivable: Russia and Modern European Empire Building

 

By Eric Tallant

Former Army NCO and Fellow at The Intelligence Community

The New Normal

War is simply incomprehensible to most Westerners. Enemy occupation of our sovereign land is beyond incomprehensible, it’s so foreign to those of us in America that we’d seldom give it a passing thought. No matter how much inhumanity, suffering, injustice, and real evil that we see in the media, the idea that an army would sweep into our nation, take it over, and subject the citizenry to its whims just doesn’t cross our minds. We have every right not to worry (I suppose). Our military is the finest in the world. Our lands are expansive, and protected by militias, police, and an armed citizenry. As a matter of fact, Americans seem to fear the biggest paper tiger of them all, the jihadist. Now don’t get me wrong, jihadists are a threat. Extremists are a threat. From Bin Laden to McVeigh, we’ve suffered horrible wounds here at home. The reason I refer to jihadists (and domestic terrorists) as paper tigers is because despite the real damage, fear, and evil they cause, they can never alter the entire landscape and political process of the United States. Sure, they can change the way we conduct business. All one has to do is pay attention to the civil liberties advocates, and you’ll know what I mean.

 

massing forces

 

The debates raging among those on both sidesthe civil liberties vs security argument are essentially carrying out the function of American spirit. That spirit is captured in lively dialogue about what freedom really means. So, despite the horror of radical terrorists, the bedrock of American spirit remains in place.

The new normal for America has been to focus on terrorism, cyber attacks, and keeping aggressive state actors in their lane. All worthy national security endeavors. With the assured feeling that the brave men and women, provided with the right amount of technology, training, support and leadership, will handle the aforementioned challenges, I took it upon myself to focus on what modern war and empire building looks like. Didn’t have to look further than Central Europe to find it.

Modern warfare and occupation of civilized nations seems like a concept few at home will accept. Viewing the news, there’s very little talk of Russia slowly regaining their lost Soviet Empire in Eastern and Central Europe. Sure, we all know Obama and Putin don’t get along, but few care why, or even worse, they accept Putin’s aggression because they think Obama is weak.

I think that American’s and our media suffer from another problem. That problem is the inability to conceive that a modern army can sweep into a civilized nation, commit atrocities, seize the land, and impose their political and social will. It seems that the “HD” graphics of our televisions are incapable of broadcasting images of modern white people murdering and enslaving other white people. Those images just don’t jive with the current Middle Eastern, dark skinned jihadist threat. The “white” army attacking another “white” nation just can’t happen. Granted, Central Europe and Russia are not all “white” people. There’s Asiatic people,Slavs, and others that make up their rich populations. Basically, I think that the idea of European aggression, from the viewpoint of Americans, died out after WWII. What was left of that threat got washed out of Western thought at the end of the Cold War.

Perhaps that’s the problem. We don’t see Russia as a threat to us or Europe anymore because we’ve become transfixed on another enemy for almost the last two decades. The notion that we live under the fear of Middle Eastern borne terrorism has dominated our collective national security fears. We focus on what we’ve become strangely comfortable with, and failed to recognize other threats. Specifically, I don’t think we want to comprehend, or even consider what an army of tanks attacking a modern city would really be like. I don’t feel we are ready to see white people in modern military garb, with smartphones and technology killing/enslaving other white people with the same means. It doesn’t match up with the current narrative. It’s too scary. It’s uncomfortable. Whatever. It’s the new reality in Central Europe, and I hope Americans will start paying attention.

 

 

 

Troll Hunting-How to Win the Information War with the Truth, Honestly, and Dignity PART 1: Observations

By Eric Tallant

Former Army NCO/Fellow at The Intelligence Community

trump

 

I’ve been recently kicked off a popular social media platform. Appeals for reinstatement have been denied. A year’s worth of work and networking are all but gone. Most wouldn’t feel too much about losing access to a social media website. They’d move on. However, I was using social media, on this particular platform, to combat hostile propagandists and trolls that were flooding news feeds with provocative disinformation, misinformation, and conspiracy theories.

Basically, whenever a hostile profile would post inaccurate and inflammatory information, especially about the US, I would do my best to counter their claims with factual information. I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t become snarky with these information agent provocateurs- I did- but as time moved forward, there became more enemies than I and my colleagues could keep up with, and soon we were overwhelmed with complaints to the social media police. Thus, bans came down.

The reasons I took up fighting against online agents of disinformation, conspiracy theorists, and propagandists were all based in protection of my country. The alternative media, mostly filled with conspiracy theorists and anti-government types (both on the right and the left), have been getting a steady diet of state sponsored propaganda from Russia, China, Iran, and other extremist groups. The marriage between the paranoid far right in the US and Russian media has been consummated. The conspiracy theorist shock jock Alex Jones has for some time been provided “expert analysis” by Roger Stone -a political advisor whom helped oversee ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanucovyk’s rise to power at the Kremlin’s bequest. Stone now advises Donald Trump, and continues to appear on Alex Jones’ “Infowars” program. Perhaps this explains some of Trump’s conspiracy related quips.

As the US presidential race got into full swing, I started to notice that there was more and more pro-Russian, anti-American conspiracy related garbage being spouted on social media sites through conservative male profiles. As I engaged these profiles, I discovered some of the individuals behind the keyboard were real and some were fake. One of my colleagues went to great lengths to uncover a totally fake conservative American male profile had been purposefully setup to gather a large following. This profile was spewing nothing but pure Russian-sponsored propaganda, aimed at perpetuating divisiveness in American politics and culture. The profile was made to look like it belonged to a successful, white male businessman that had lost faith in the current American way of doing things. This profile appears to be actually created systematically by analyzing different variables found in polls and demographics of visitors/viewers of certain TV stations and websites, and then tailored to project a cross section of the most popular divisive theories found on those media platforms.

My colleague engaged, with much vitriol, this fake profile. In the process of his engagement, seemingly real Americans who shared a somewhat similar viewpoint as this fake profile, began to show up. My friend, a man with decades’ worth of experience in Civil Affairs, PSYOPS, and as an advisor to Special Forces as an Information Operations officer, sensed that if he didn’t maintain a straight forward, decisive, friendly yet firm attitude towards these real Americans, he’d lose the advantage of speaking the truth, and risk being a propaganda blurb for the bad guys. All in all, my colleague kept his cool, advanced on the objective, and, at the very least, kept the narrative two-sided.

To Be Continued…..

Why do we continue to lose the Information War against Daesh and al-Qaeda Affiliates?

By Alan Malcher MA

Social/Cultural Analyst

 

Understanding and harnessing the persuasive powers of narratives is central to US and international counter-terrorism efforts. There is an urgent need to understand the narrative tactics of terrorist recruitment and equal if not greater need to destabilize the weakness of those narratives.”

 (Ajit Maan PhD, Narrative Strategies: Counter Terrorismhttp://www.ajitkaurmaan.com/books-and-articles.html)

Since 9/11 we have seen increasing sophistication in the use of narratives by al- Qaeda, its affiliates, and especially by Daesh, to shape the minds of their international audience.  Well scripted secular narratives often illustrated by skilfully edited visual images drive home the message to young people that they are being oppressed by the western world- the west is inherently racist and all their experiences: lack of work and education opportunities, marginalization and all social problems, both real and imagined, are because of the corrupt western governments which is being supported by Christian-Jewish elitism.

Secular narratives are designed to create a culture of blame towards the western nations and those outside their peer group.  Religious narratives, or to be more precise the extremist’s version of Islam, provide not only strong moral justification for violent Jihad but also provides a peer-group of like-minded individuals willing to use violence to address their perceived grievances. The occasional outbursts of resentment from an individual has been transformed into collective action to violently challenge the status quo.

Once an individual has been suitably spoon fed with the urgent need to act, violent Jihad is far easier to sell as a religious duty. The cognitive effects of the combination of secular and religious narratives closely fit Jerome Bruner’s (American psychologist) concept of ‘Narrative Construction of Reality.’ It may also be described as ‘Narrative Based Knowledge’ (Nicolas Szilas).

Although narrative analysis (narratology) can be complex, in principle we can break it down into Emotions, Motivation and the mobilization of Action.

An example of Daesh attempting to increase civil unrest in the USA and promoting the illusion of the Islamic State embracing equality among all races. 

Narratology (the analysis of narratives in their many forms)

Since the 1960’s Narrative theorists have always shown interest in the relation between minds and narratives, or to put it another way, the cognitive effects of narratives.  Although many argue that Narratology was starting to be regarded as an important area of research during the 1960s, throughout the 1960s and well into the 1990’s this research was being conducted by scholars from a wide variety of disciples which included: Social Anthropologists, Philosophers, Social Historians, Psychologists and Sociologists. Each disciplined tended to work in isolation resulting in their findings, the development of concepts and analytical tools not being shared with other disciplines and there were no peer-group reviews from outside their profession.  I am pleased to see that Narrative Strategies (http://www.narrative-strategies.com/) has started to address this major shortcoming by establishing an increasingly influential public platform consisting of a coalition of scholars and military professionals involved in the non-kinetic aspects of counter-terrorism, irregular warfare, and social conflict.

When attempting to analyse narratives from Daesh and AQ affiliates we find ourselves attempting to identify how these various narratives are designed in order to “construct reality” for a specific audience.  Only then is it possible to construct a workable counter narrative. Furthermore, an added difficulty is due to the fluidity of the narratives used by Daesh and AQ. These organisations closely monitor all government communications, the media and pay close attention to international affairs and western military initiatives. They look for every opportunity to distort the original message to fit their propaganda objectives.

A simple example which has been much quoted occurred shortly after 9/11 when George W. Bush said, “this crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while…”  within hours the word ‘Crusade’ was used to project the image of America being the aggressor against Islam. They received a further propaganda opportunity after columnist Alexander Cockburn, suggested in the Counter Punch magazine, that Bush was referring to the “Tenth Crusade” in which he numbered America’s War on Terrorism to follow the nine medieval crusades between 1095 and 1272.  As Bush used the word ‘crusade’ and an American publication ‘confirmed’ the USA was going to continue the medieval European crusade against Islam this was not only used as confirmation that America was bent on destroying Islam, 9/11 was also portrayed as being ordained by God! As can be seen by this example of one word resulting in a huge propaganda victory which was used for moral justification for terrorism, recruitment and proof that Jihad against America and its western allies was the duty of all Muslims, most government communications which lack close scrutiny may be used for propaganda purposes simply through careful manipulation based on cultural and social interpretations; and the distortion of the original message to support the extremist mythology based on their view of an unjust and un-Godly world in which the west continues to be responsible.

The current threat from international terrorism cannot be addressed by conventional and SOF alone and the use of soft power, for example, the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction, are essential for countering this new terrorist phenomenon based on ideology and destruction.

I agree with Paul Cobaugh who says, “The US soft power tool box is half empty and poorly stocked…  we are employing an ineffective, ambiguous, antiquated strategy and there is a limited number of true, trained craftsmen…”

 (Paul Cobaugh, Soft Power on Hard Problems (forthcoming) ed. Ajit Maan, Ph.D. and Brig. (retired) Amar Cheema.)

I would add, this is not just a US problem, all western nations share the problems addressed by Paul Cobaugh.   Again, I also agree with Paul Cobaugh’s assertion that “Daesh is a media influence effort supported by arms and brutality rather than the other way around” and “We require sophisticated media campaigns in the media and on the ground…”

Due to the powerful and fluid nature of the plethora of Daesh narratives I also agree with Paul Cobaugh’s view that those responsible for government or military communications must be capable of thinking out of the box and we must also utilize the media, diplomacy, business development etc. This multi-faceted approach which Paul Cobaugh discusses in great detail, are clearly essential for establishing workable and fluid counter narratives both inside theatres of operations and also to address secular and religious narratives which continue to be powerful recruiting tools especially when it comes to valuable men and women living in the west and also provides opportunities for the development of the ‘self-radicalized’ and so-called lone wolf attacks.

Furthermore, any efforts in the form of refugee aid and stability development, irrespective of whether this is a government or NGO initiative should be widely promoted. (See Ian Bradbury, Narrative Strategies http://www.narrative-strategies.com/)  Humanitarian work of this nature helps counter the narratives depicting western nations being led by the epitome of evil (the United States) and the Christian- Jewish alliance to crush Islam.

 The Digital Culture: Finding and analyzing the continuous flow of Narratives.

Apart from analyzing narratives with the intention of countering their message or story, such analysis may also provide information on the target audience, the writer and his/her intentions and this is especially true with western audiences. Of particular interest is language syntax- informal speech patterns, country or regional variations, jargon, teen idioms and expressions, Pidgin English etc. However, an increasing problem is finding the narratives to analyse in the first place.

It is well known that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube continue to be used by Daesh and AQ affiliates for the dissemination of propaganda and are also used for recruitment. It is also known that as soon as these accounts come to the attention of network monitors they are deleted but only to be replaced by large numbers of new accounts which are often linked to disposable email accounts.  Furthermore, some accounts may deliberately use expressions which are not connected with extremism or religion in order to avoid detection and subsequent suspension of the account.

In 2013 I said, in ‘Narrative: Pathways to Domestic Radicalization and Martyrdom’, every effort is being made to recruit technical-jihadists and IT professionals specializing in security should not be complacent by believing they are the smartest people in their field. Some of my IT contacts remained adamant: they held graduate and post graduate degrees and had far greater knowledge and experience than any terrorists. Since then we have seen an increasing degree of cyber sophistication and media manipulation from Daesh technical jihadists.

Although Daesh continue to use multiple Twitter, You Tube and Facebook accounts and easily form new accounts to replace those which have been removed, these and other mainstream social media networks are now mainly used as conduits to steer willing audiences and potential recruits to more secure networks which us various forms of encryption and the choice of network is sometimes used to target a particular geographical area.

Blackberry Channel

Blackberry’s media platform, ‘Channel’, according to IBRANO, have over 1 million channels which can only be accessed through Blackberry Messenger and users can start channels covering topics of their choice. The Al-Hayat media wing of Daesh, who publish the Dabiq Magazine, have been found using the Blackberry Channels.  According to ARS Technica, Channel is used to target an English speaking audience and is regarded as a versatile recruiting tool which Daesh regards as far more effective and more secure than their estimated 46,000 Twitter accounts (ARS Technica).

In 2015, the BBC reported that “new platforms are popping up on a weekly basis in order to get away from mainstream social media platforms and to hide in corners…” (BBC Trending, 13 March 2015)

We now find that many of the narratives we need to address along with the planning of attacks, recruitment information, bomb making instructions; ideological literature, advise on how to engage in so-called lone wolf attacks against soft targets, and other instructional, motivational material and advice, is being sent to willing audiences and the fully radicalized via secure mobile messaging apps some of which have been designed by technical jihadists.

Telegram, which is described as a cloud-based instant messaging service for both mobile (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Ubuntu Touch) and desktop systems (Windows, OS X, Linux) allow users to send messages and exchange photos, videos and files of any format up to 1.5 GB in size and has extensively been used by Daesh and AQ Yemen (AQAP). This was a natural choice simply because Telegram provides optional end-to-end encrypted messaging with self-destruct timers. According to promotional material it is “Pure instant messaging — simple, fast, secure and synced across all your devices and has over 100 million active users.”

For Daesh, Telegram provides two major security requirements. Firstly, it has been widely said Telegram does not disclose where it rents offices or which legal entities it uses to rent them, citing the need to shelter the team from unnecessary influence and protect users from governmental data requests. Secondly, it is also widely claimed that once the self-destruct timers have been activated and all data has been deleted no data can be recovered using forensic software.  Naturally, both claims are open to debate.

Telegram and other encrypted apps are also used to distribute their publication ‘Inspire’ which concentrates on training and their glossy magazine Dabiq which has a strong media brand and is designed for the dissemination of ideological congruent propaganda to promote radicalization among sympathizers and foreign fighters mainly from the English speaking nations.

Daesh also maintain their electronic presence and distribute their narratives by adopting per-to-peer technology.  For instance, anonymous peer-to-peer networks such as Ask.Fm was used for one-to-one interaction, and the distribution of information on how to join Daesh.

It is also known that Firechat app has been utilized for covert planning of coordinated attacks and also for international recruitment.

According to the Office of University Programs and Technology Directorate, US Department of Homeland Security, in December 2014, “After profiling this group’s {Daesh} use of cyber technology for over a year they found the use of a variety of technical platforms, diverse languages and tailored messages… cyber technologies also facilitate internal co-ordination (e.g. Command and control) and focused information flow externally with the broader Umma {the whole community of Muslims bound together by ties of religion} and potential foreign fighters.”

This paper also explains Daesh has a sophisticated understanding of cyber marketing, organisational branding and has robust and a fluid recruitment arm and highlights the kind of personal information they can access.

Apart from the intelligence and security implications associated with encrypted communications over several platforms it also presents a series of hurdles we must overcome before we can counter the stream of narratives from Daesh and the various AQ affiliates.

  Daesh using race to promote the ‘virtue’ of their ideology.

Exposing Edward Snowden: The XXcommittee’s John Schindler Offers the Counterintelligence Perspective

Foreword by Eric Tallant

Former Army NCO/Fellow at The Intelligence Community

 

I read the XXcommittee’s blog about once a week. The analysis, which is largely from a counterintelligence perspective, is excellent. John Schindler, whom appears to be XXcommittee’s chief analyst really digs into topics and subjects from the often jaded, conspiracy driven perspective of a CI officer. Don’t get me wrong, CI agents have to be suspicious of all things, at all times. I’m a fan of that perspective because it allows one to filter past seemingly benevolent motives, and get into the desires, goals, and objectives of real, and would be hostile state and non-state actors. The CI perspective is a needed view point when creating an analysis product. Out of all Schindler’s blog work I’ve found value in, nothing strikes me as more poignant and note worthy than his analysis of Edward Snowden. Here’s a link to an index of XXcommittee’s Snowden analysis product:

The XX Committee Snowden Reader

May 31, 2014

Over the year since the case of the NSA traitor-turned-defector Edward Snowden broke into the public eye – and what a year it’s been for your humble blogger here – I’ve written up a lot on this remarkable affair. On all aspects: intelligence, politics, diplomacy, personalities, zeitgeist. I’m in the process of writing a book on Russian intelligence, but you can get my content on the Snowden Operation for free, now, right here. For the benefit of new visitors, here’s the full list of my writings on the case, in reverse order, beginning with my latest post, which I wrote this very day. It’s all here – the secret stories, the hidden agendas, the painful lies of Ed’s defenders, the online dust-ups with Wikileaks, and Glenn Greenwald repeatedly refusing to debate me … you saw it here first, so enjoy!

[UPDATE: Since the Snowden Operation continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, I will maintain this as a living document and update it with my new writings on the case, as they happen.]

Wikileaks is a Front for Russian Intelligence (31 August 2015)

The Painful Truth About Snowden (19 July 2015)

The Snowden Story Slowly Unravels (15 June 2015)

Snowden is a Fraud (12 June 2015)

I Told You So (28 May 2015)

Snowden and Russian Intelligence: An Update (12 January 2015)

Snowden’s New Lies for Old (13 August 2014)

Berlin: NSA is not spying on German industry (11 August 2014)

German Counterintelligence and the American Threat (29 July 2014)

The Snowden Operation: Assessing the Damage (15 July 2014)

The Snowden Operation Meets ECHELON (3 June 2014)

When did Snowden go over to the Russians? (31 May 2014)

The Snowden Operation Falls Apart (30 May 2014)

KGB General: Of Course Snowden is Working for Russian Intelligence (23 May 2014)

Schindler v. Greenwald … almost (18 May 2014)

Germany wakes up from its Snowden binge (2 May 2014)

How to Win Cold War 2.0 (26 March 2014)

Western Journalists and Russian Intelligence (21 March 2014)

How Snowden Empowered Russian Intelligence (20 January 2014)

The End of the Snowden Operation (18 January 2014)

Meet the Anti-Snowden: Captain John Philip Cromwell (24 December 2013)

Sweden Exposes the Snowden-Greenwald Fraud (18 December 2013)

Denmark gets ahead of the Snowden Operation (27 November 2013)

Reforming NSA from the top (26 November 2013)

On Snowden and Coincidences (23 November 2013)

Snowden’s Thunder Down Under (21 November 2013)

The Guardian really needs to stop lying … (17 November 2013)

Russian Intelligence is Behind the Snowden Show: German Intelligence (5 November 2013)

Google and NSA (4 November 2013)

The Realities of Intelligence: The French View (2 November 2013)

What’s Wrong with NSA (30 October 2013)

Update: Merkel’s “real” cellphone is secure (28  October 2013)

NSA, Germany and Handygate: A Reality Check (27 October 2013)

It’s called the Second Oldest Profession for a reason (21 October 2013)

So you want to know about NSA … (6 September 2013)

Snowden, NSA, and Counterintelligence (4 September 2013)

My walk in the EMOPROG lion’s den (2 August 2013)

Wikileaks, Snowden, and the Belarus Connection (6 July 2013)

WWDD: On Real NSA Whistleblowing (2 July 2013)

Snowden in the US-Russian SpyWar (27 June 2013)

Will the real Edward Snowden please stand up? (25 June 2013)

Fistfight in Secrecy (or, Me & Glenn) (20 June 2013)

Snowden, Intelligence, and History (17 June 2013)

No Such Agency no more (16 June 2013)

LinkedIn followed reports of Russian trolls like Twitter does, deleted Americans, especially their retired diplomats, CIA people

By Tetyana Stadnyk

This article is about pro-Kremlin trolls attacking LinkedIn accounts, among them are American intelligence service veterans. It is the first time I have seen Russian trolls go this far and people’s accounts are permanently suspended. And LinkedIn as an American company doesn’t stand up for their own respected citizens.

Twitter and Facebook already do that, I didn’t expect it here. Linkedin is an American professional network company at least was until today. I live inUkraine, and I am not American, so I don’t protect their constitution or something, Americans will have to do that themselves, it’s their company. I am writing this because I want to show their social media companies are used by other countries against them.

It has been almost 3 years as Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and annexedCrimea. Russian invasion, which followed after Maidan – a nationwide protest, which outed corrupt former president with strong ties to Kremlin. In a moment, when your country doesn’t have a government, is a post-revolution and just next day neighbour country is invading with their 10x stronger army, war is coming and everyone understands this.

In such a panicking situation in the country, when you don’t trust anyone, I have met Charles Leven on LinkedIn. He is a retired man from the CIA, where he spent maybe 40 years. I was afraid at first when I saw that title :). I don’t remember who added whom, but it doesn’t matter, it was a long time ago. As time was passing by, I saw every day he was posting correct info about what happens here in my country and it should have been done not by him, but by American journalists and news websites, he did the job for them, instead of enjoying his retiring time.

American news still keep writing bullshit, calling Russian invasion in Ukraine either “crisis” or “conflict”, maybe Russia bribes them or maybe they don’t care as long as it doesn’t touch much of their own interests, in this case, I am speaking about Charles’ good qualities in comparing to most Americans I met and keep meeting. Soon I was not afraid of him. He always replies to messages, doesn’t attack anyone, not even Kremlin trolls, for whom he was just sending correct info in the form of links and articles. Seeing truth made Russian trolls think it’s harassment because they are so afraid of the truth, they used it as a reason to report him.

Oh, and he scared all Kremlin trolls from my profile, so they don’t bother me anymore, which is important for our peace of mind living in Ukraine at the current time. I never asked him for that, but every time there was a troll on my profile, very fast Charles was there and after that the trolls disappeared. Now I see them coming back, they will be here too.

A week ago LinkedIn Trust and Safety team sent an  email to Charles that he had violated user agreement and deleted his account I saw it on this blog.

I sent him an email to ask what happened. LinkedIn deleted him, because the Kremlin trolls reported him. 

For me it’s not new, I’ve been there already. I live in Ukraine and it happened with me 2,5 years ago on Twitter, this article is about 2nd or 3rd time as it happened with Ukrainian users which is also an American company. I was waiting for one month (+/-few days) for the Twitter “police” to unblock me. When I logged in finally, I saw that trolls have me blocked, so they indeed reported me, but as they are stupid, they can’t see I am now online and have more people following me. Americans are naive in this.They have to read more about Kremlin trolls and what they do.

Russia is in a state of war and they behave like this.

Having my own experience with this on Twitter I knew he cannot contact them, using same email he used here. So I sent them a few requests to their customer support to check it, I saw other people did the same. And reply was the usual bs, which doesn’t matter whether you submit it in Russian or in English language.

Charles also knows it is crap 🙂

Then on the other request I submitted I got more or less normal response from someone who I thought wanted to do something.

Charles said I can send Jarvis a screenshot of his email that he can’t even contact him using his email as his account was blocked, which I knew as you can’t submit to the website if you used same email when registering in this case.

Jarvis also appeared to be a disappointment, providing same reply, acting like nothing had happened. This is their customer service 🙂

Now, how to deal with it? Here is an example.

Two months ago Twitter had blocked the account @DarthPutinKGB – this British guy is mocking Kremlin aggressive politics against Ukraine using humor, satire and jokes. Kremlin became angry and launched trolls attack against him, so he was also blocked like Charles. As Darth Putin had 60K+ followers, including politicians and journalists. It made it to the media the next day, so twitter had to unlock him in 3 days and even gave him extra followers, but no apologies.

So, just submit it in the media and tomorrow Charles, James Berger and Eric Tallant will be back on here, it’s how it works. Sending to LinkedIn CS or to the management it’s useless, they don’t care as long as it doesn’t bring harm in public. Charles also says so. Listen to him, he knows more than I do 🙂

Article Charles wants you to see is here and this map of Russian soldiers who fight in Ukraine.

I saw someone wrote that Charles accused others of being a troll, so they don’t want to send request to CS, well, maybe you have read RT or other Russian media which writes bullshit and then this opinion sticks in your mind and you believe it? Maybe you also believe that there are no Russian soldiers in Ukraine, Ukraine invaded herself and people who are dead is not true either? What will you say if I will tell that in other wars where maybe your country participated no one died? I bet you will be very upset, so think first and don’t complain if you are called a troll or an idiot, rather find out more about the subject on which you don’t agree with other people 😉

Charles worked in a very dangerous field, which helped to keep your American country safe. James Berger is a lawyer and was a premium user for 4 years I think, should get back all money he paid LinkedIn for this, also had 20K followers, probably didn’t save their contacts and they can’t contact him now, andEric Tallant was in the US army. I can’t understand why they get this from their own American company?

LinkedIn just deleted them and didn’t give them chance to download their archive with their contacts and activity, it takes 24 hours to download it. I know already no one cares what happens in Ukraine (except of few of my friends :)) and their media follows orders of the trolls to delete Ukrainians and if you want to convince me you do, bring these American guys back on LinkedIn 😉

Unfortunately, it happens with all who want to know about Russian politics, what Russia does in Ukraine. If you want to know it too, be ready for this and don’t forget to save your contacts and their contact info.

I was asked if my account was deleted, but for now not yet 🙂

Not that I care anyway, especially if I had this experience and if you don’t save people’s contacts and then will rush in case something like this happens, it means you add people to become popular and not interested in networking. I am sure Charles now learns who is his friend who is not, if he gets email from someone now. I showed him few messages of other people which I found, so he likes them too 🙂 Like this , or this  and this .

This is life and unfortunately it’s not a fiction, but reality, even if someone doesn’t believe it. They are nice guys and you should send report to LinkedIn to unlock them, especially if you are an American 😉

Why this happens here on LinkedIn and why American companies like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook don’t protect their members and let this happen without any prior investigation? Why LinkedIn doesn’t even know how their system works and just sending standardized replies, when each case is different and you have to check every single case and not closing each case after you send standard reply. Is this what people pay for? This is not professional at all. I hope Charles & James will use their connections to make LinkedIn accountable for this.

Psychological Manipulation via Social Media and the concept of self-identity

 

Alan Malcher MA

Social-Cultural Analysis

Although I started researching this subject 11-years ago and the research continues, after recently reading an excellent paper on ‘The Psychology Behind Social Media Interactions’, By Dr Liraz Margalt, who is now one of my LI connections, I decided to write this brief introduction to manipulation based on my own observations of the ‘virtual world’. Many of these observations support several theories put forward by various academics studying both the ‘real’ and ‘virtual world’.

During her examination of the question, ‘why is digital communications often easier than face to face communications’; after reading her views on the social interaction theory of mind and emotional involvement, I found the following of particular interest as it fits my own research observations. “When interacting with other people”, she writes, “we automatically make inferences about them without being consciously aware of it…”.  Liraz, further explains that during face-to-face interactions we subconsciously rely heavily on non-verbal communications such as facial expressions etc. This, as she says, suggests that interaction with human partners require more emotional involvement and thus more cognitive effort than interacting via a computer.

Due to this lack of ‘synchronous’ interaction (subconscious exchanges of non-verbal communications, speech structure; the use of oblique remarks etc.)  I agree with her assertion- it is easier to hide our emotions online.  Based my own observations, I have also come to the conclusion it is also easier to psychologically manipulate or be manipulated in the ‘virtual’ world due to the lack of these behavioral cues we subconsciously detect and process during face-to-face interactions.

Contagion and Uncritical Thinkers

Fiske (2013) and others have shown that emotional states can be transferred to others by what they describe as emotional contagion which lead others to experience the same emotions without their awareness.  This ‘contagion’ may lead to the mind creating a view of the world by acquiring insights and an amalgam of rational and irrational beliefs (see Paul and Elder). This is similar to the contagion theory of crowds. One of several interpretations of this theory includes- the effect of a crowd is to assimilate individuals within it, producing and overriding psychological unity and changing an individuals’ usual psychological responses in the process (Statt. D, A Dictionary of Human Behavior, Harper Reference)

This process may contain a degree of self-deception which has been deliberately imparted, identified or exploited by an extremist groomer/recruiter who has used the lack of cognitive cues within the virtual world to his/her advantage.

Although there are multiple drivers leading to violent extremism (VE) which are usually mutually reinforcing, one concept of particular interest is people who are described as ‘uncritical thinkers’, which Elder describes as ‘intellectually unskilled thinkers’. Some academics have also used the term ‘unreflective thinkers’.  People who fit this category, according to Elder- their minds are products of social and personal forces they neither understand and can’t control.  Taking Elder’s argument forward, by observing social media networks we see these ‘uncritical thinkers’ being manipulated by those who tend to skilfully use the rhetoric of persuasion. The rhetoric of persuasion used by extremist groomers and recruiters include oversimplification, sweeping generalizations and the use of stereotypes to enforce prejudices and false quandaries in an attempt to promote a culture of blame and the need for retribution. Over time, the groomer will identify those more likely to accept, without question, the narratives associated with VE and with it the ideology.  This ‘induction’ is the prerequisite for believing in a shared identity which embraces violent ‘jihad’. (see focal actors –https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/basic-analysis-social-media-examining-use-drivers-alan-malcher-ma?trk=pulse_spock-articles)

Identity and Selective self-presentation

Identity is a construct that incorporates the way we think about ourselves and our role/position within the larger social environment. As cyberspace and VE ideology is a global phenomenon, both can have a powerful effect on ones view of the world and ‘perceived’ grievances.

Although online identities may be difficult to ascertained due to identity cues being masked or purposely misrepresented, by careful observations and comparisons, online activities and their visible traces may be analysed. If we take LinkedIn as an example, many members who have confronted Russian trolls have identified the use of Selective Self-Presentation to reveal a number of false profiles held by one person. The term ‘selective’  is used to describe a false profile which has been selected for a given purpose. For instance, in the case of Russian propagandists some may claim to be involved in international affairs in the hope of encouraging greater credibility to their comments and other internet activities. Likewise, it is not uncommon for those with a terrorist agenda to claim they are professionally involved in ‘positive’ occupations such as human rights, humanitarian aid etc.

Asynchronous

In the ‘real world’ human interaction and communications are of a synchronous nature- non-verbal communications, eye contact, speech tones etc., and this is a two- way process giving further meaning and substance to the conversation.

CMC (computer-mediated communications) is of an asynchronous nature and thus void of any meaningful communications and identity cues. This time delay allows sufficient time to carefully compose messages tailored to meet the needs and also appeal to the subject/s being manipulated by the focal actor (extremist groomer/recruiter).  For example, in an earlier thread a young person may have mentioned concerns regarding their home life, problems at schools or concerns regarding their employment situation. Although the focal actor may have no personal experience of these problems the natural time delay in responding provides opportunities to use the Internet to read-up on these concerns. They are now in a position to offer ‘disguised’ advice and support. Showing empathy and creating rapport are among the methods used during the induction phase.

The above represents just some of the methods used to encourage belief in a common or collective identity which is the foundation of VE ideology.

Reference and further reading:

The Psychology behind social media interpretation, Liraz margalt, Psychology Today, 29 August 2014.

A Psychological Perspective on virtual communities: Supporting terrorism and extremist’s ideology, Lorraine Bowman-Grievet, Security Informatics, 2013, (2:9)

Primer of Deception, Joseph W. Caddel, Strategic Studies Institute, December 2004

Lying Words: Predicting deception from linguistic styles, Matthew Newman, James W. Penneboke, University of Texas and University of Washington, 2003.

Induced negative subliminal reactions to radical media: Countering recruiting methods in a congested media environment, Small Wars Journal, 7 August 2016.

Manipulation through mental distortion and emotional exploitation, Susan T. Fiske, Academy of Sciences, Princetown University, 23 October 2013.

Fallacies: The art of mental trickery and manipulation, Richard Paul and Linda Elder, Foundation of Critical Thinking 2004 (Understanding self-deception)

Future Identities: Changing Identities in the UK- the next ten-years, Social Media and identity, Nicole Ellison, Michigan State University 3 January 2013.

 

Basic Analysis of Social Media: Examining the use of narrative-based drivers for remote radicalization.

By Alan Malcher MA

Cultural/Social Analyst

 

As I am fortunate to have a large number of data analysts and those involved in the behaviour sciences among my LinkedIn contacts, I would like to point out this paper is not intended to bring anything new to the study of radicalization or extremist behaviour. I also feel sure that many of my contacts in this field will put forward various other methods which may be used to collect the same datasets mentioned in this paper.

Several years ago, as part of my research into the induction and radicalization process used by AQ affiliates via social media (SM), I spent a considerable amount of time reading academic papers on SM mapping and human behaviour.  This information allowed me to research SM, the web and dark web in order to increase my understanding of the drivers associated with violent extremism (VE) and the mindsets of vulnerable people who may be psychologically manipulated to join the extremist cause. It also allowed me to examine and test new theories put forward by various academics.

The following is a basic introduction to the subject which is based on the research of others and which I have modified for my own research needs. Furthermore, due to the limited scope of this paper I have not included data associated with demography, gender; or the analysis of text and visual images which are to be found in the ‘extremists’ virtual world of their making.

Finally, although I and other members of the Narrative Strategies Team (http://www.narrative-strategies.com/) have a comprehensive understanding of the narrative based drivers associated with VE, I have found the following allows us to examine these drivers working over time and space along with the behavioral changes experienced by some members of the target audience.

Analysing Social Media (SM networks)

Virtual social networks, like those found in the ‘real’ world, consist of relationships and relationship building blocks. An examination of this network reveals a combination of relationships which create identifiable patterns of connected people, groups and organisations.  As explained later, this virtual social network which appears to allow users to remain anonymous provides a false sense of security where members are willing to express their concerns, frustrations and other personal information which they may not be willing to discuss in the real world. This provides an indication of an individual’s vulnerabilities which may leave them open to psychological manipulation.  When one examines the communications between like mined individuals within this network it may first appear to resemble a peer-group support network which by its very nature encourages additional personal information to be shared with ‘like-minded’ people. Accordingly, extremist groomers and recruiters can select suitable individuals who may be radicalized.

Virtual Social Networks

It is easier to regard social networks as consisting of social entities: actors, distinct individuals, groups and organisations. We must also be prepared to follow these entities as they migrate to or simultaneously use other SM platforms.  For instance, Twitter is limited to the maximum use of 140 characters (Tweets) and due to this limitation member who are of interests to extremists are often encourage to join a similar network on another SM platform with less restrictions and/or is considered more secure.  Consequently, it is not uncommon to find the same social entities on various SM platforms.

Relationship ties (Contacts)

Some relationships which are tied to others across the network/s are said to be ‘informal’ because they are not widely known by others entities of the network under examination.  For example, on LinkedIn we often find third degree contacts commenting on updates posted by members from outside their network simply because the commentator is connected to one or more of the writers’ first degree contacts.  Such entities, in this example LinkedIn members, are often referred to as ‘Muktiplexity’ or ‘Multiplex’ because these individuals are actors with ties to other actors connected to you. I plan to cover this concept in greater detail at a later date during my examination of Russian trolls and the information war.

The Two Node Network consists of actors who may not have direct ties with each other but they attend similar events within a community (Mosques, sports clubs etc.) or may regularly visit similar websites. Although there are no virtual or physical connections, this provides an opportunity for prominent actors (Focal Actors) to form a false rapport with members of the Two Node Network and the opportunity to form a ‘weak’ link.  The establishment of ‘strong’ links are only attempted after an individual is thought to be of interest to the extremist cause.

Egocentric, also called personal networks, tie directly with Focal actors (those with influence, i.e., groomers, recruiters, propagandists etc.) in the network.  Hanson and Shneiderman describe this as, “Social Centric or complete network consisting of the relational ties among members of a single bounded community. (Social Network Analysis: Measuring, Mapping and Modelling Collections of Connections, D. Hanson and B Shneiderman, 2010).

The examination of networks also allows us to develop what some academics call ‘name generators’ which is simply the names of social entities, in this case people, who frequently communicate with the focal actors.  Hanson and Shneiderman call those names generated by the focal actor, ‘the actors alters’.

The use of name generators, as advocated by Hanson and Shneidrman, allows for the identification of strong ties across a dense network.  To identify weaker ties in more wide ranging networks, acquaintance name generators can be used.

Another useful tool discussed by Hanson and Shneiderman, is the Positioning Generator. This allows the researcher to identify people who fill a particular ‘valued’ role or position within the network and therefore have access to a range of resources. These resources may include professional knowledge, or work related experience beneficial to an extremist group.

Psychological Manipulation

Apart from the same narrative based drivers being used within the real and virtual world, we also find the same methods used to encourage members of their target audience to express their concerns, frustrations, aspirations and how they see themselves.  This information is used to psychologically manipulate suitable members within the network and tie them to others with similar mindsets. The linking of suitable individuals within a network will often reinforce these concerns and produce suitable conditions for physiological manipulation. A United Nations report describes this as, psychological manipulation, “to undermine an individual’s belief in certain collective social values, or to propagate a sense of heightened anxiety, fear or panic within a population or subset of the population…” (The Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes: United Nations Office of Drug and Crime, NY 2012) It is also widely acknowledged that certain cognitive propensities can combine to create a mindset that presents a high risk of being radicalized (see Drivers of Violent Extremism: Hypotheses and Literature Review, RUSI, 16 October 2015) and it is these propensities which extremists seek to identify within members of the network.

Social media has made social connections and networks more visible and open to research. “The internet and its use by terrorist organisations, individual members, supporters and recruits afford new avenues for assessing information about groups and their activities…” (Lorraine Bowman-Grieve, Security Informatics, 2013, 2:9) As Bowman-Grieve says, “individual reasons why people become involved are many and varied, with no single catalyst event that explains involvement.” However, research indicates that involvement is a gradual process that occurs over time and the development of this process, which is driven by narratives and supported by inter-personal bonds that have been created for this purpose, can be examined through social network analysis.

By analysing network activities over a period of time not only do we see the use of narratives as efficient drivers towards extremism, we also see the development of identities being slowly formed. This includes perceived victimization and attempts to convince individuals they are victims and linking this to a common or shared identity and the legitimization of violence to address these perceived injustices. We also see the development of dualist thinking which supports the extremist’s’ view of the world, other cultures, religions and western society.

Don’t Invite Russia to the Olympics? No problem! Russia will Seize Ukraine!

By Eric Tallant

Former Army NCO/Fellow at The Intelligence Community

Everyone has that one family member that they just can’t have at a gathering anymore. You know the one. They show up drunk, loud, and suck all the life out of the party. The offender only gets worse as the get together goes along. You know, making passes at family friend’s spouses, taking four ounce shots of vodka, before finally passing out in the bathroom, naked. Well, that’s Russia, right now.

Russia’s behavior excludes them from participating in, well, almost everything these days. Soccer hooligans from Russia took home first place for worse behaved fans, ever, at this year’s international soccer games.  That’s no small feat for soccer fans, who are widely known to be rowdy.  Add to that, the fact that members of Russia’s would be Olympic team tested positive for enough performance enhancing drugs to make Lance Armstrong say, “DAMN!”, and Russia gets declined their chance to compete for “The Gold”.

So, the no good Russian leadership does what it does best when shunned on the world stage. They do no good.

Think back to 2014. It was only two years ago. Russia used the cover of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi to seize part of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. By now, you probably know that story. So, I won’t insult your intelligence with a recap. Well, it’s time for the Summer Olympics, Russia isn’t invited, but they won’t let that bother them. Instead, they’ll throw their own party. A military party, and it’ll be staged on the Russian/Crimean border with Ukraine.

 

Russian Armor and Internet Blackouts

I awoke this morning to several Facebook Instant Messenger messages from a friend of mine in Ukraine. That’s not uncommon. What is uncommon is the contents of her messages. Here, I’ll let you see for yourself:massing forces

She went on to state, “And my home internet doesn’t work all weekend for some unknown reason

On the phone all the time.”

 

 

Well, it does appear Russian armor is massing on Ukraine’s borders, and those reports are being supported by several bloggers, both here, and in Ukraine:

https://toinformistoinfluence.com/2016/08/07/another-olympics-another-russian-invasion/

 

http://www.unian.info/society/1457063-russia-massing-tanks-near-crimean-dzhankoy-at-border-with-mainland-ukraine-witnesses.html

 

So, it appears that not inviting our drunken, belligerent Russian uncles to the party means they’ll throw a tantrum. I pray that Russia gets responsible leadership, soon. However, it’s going to take more than prayers to save Ukraine from the world’s office party bullies.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑