LONDON, July 10 -- It’s the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend which means many from London and the south-east will be headed up the M1, M40, A5 or taking a “quick route only we know” over the coming days to take in the spectacle in Northamptonshire.
Doubtless many of them will be followers of current F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. But, how many of them actually “follow” Hamilton on Twitter? Research carried out by private number plates company Click4reg.co.uk suggests the figure is not as big as it might appear. The research concludes that 34.3% of Hamilton’s followers are, to use a currently popular word – fake! Even allowing for these figures, Hamilton still has the biggest following among F1 drivers who have a personal Twitter account (two – Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel – don’t have one).
The research showed that:
Last November, Instagram cracked down on celebrities and influencers with followers who aren’t genuine. This ‘purge’ reduced significant numbers of fake, inactive, spam, bots, or as often discovered – bought – followers. Why buy followers? Users may do so to appear more influential, to harness more media and therefore commercial attention, among other reasons. But Instagram isn’t the only social platform faced with this issue. Twitter has battled the problem of bots and spam accounts for many years. So, with the British Grand Prix as its cue, Click4reg wanted to discover how many followers of the 20 competing F1 drivers are fake.
Author: Lora Smith
LONDON, June 14 -- The UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed he has signed a request for Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. where he faces charges of computer hacking, The Guardian reports.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Thursday, June 13, Javid said: “He’s rightly behind bars. There’s an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.” Javid’s decision opens the way to the court sending the WikiLeaks founder to America. Assange faces an 18-count indictment, issued by the U.S. Justice Department, that includes charges under the Espionage Act. He is accused of soliciting and publishing classified information and conspiring to hack into a government computer. Javid said: “It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but there is a very important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
Javid’s decision follows news last week that an attempt to extradite Assange to Sweden had suffered a setback when a court in Uppsala said he did not need to be detained. The ruling by the district court prevented Swedish prosecutors from applying immediately for an extradition warrant for Assange to face an allegation of rape dating back to 2010. Assange denies the accusation. Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its offer of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him.
SHANGHAI, May 19 -- China’s notoriously lax local government officials and polluting companies are finding creative ways to fudge their environmental responsibilities and outsmart Beijing’s pollution inspectors, despite stern warnings and tough penalties.
Recent audit reports covering the past two years released by the environment ministry showed its inspectors were frequently presented with fake data and fabricated documents, as local officials – sometimes working in league with companies – have devised multiple ways to cheat and cover up their lack of action. Local governments have been under pressure to meet environmental protection targets since Chinese President Xi Jinping made it one of his top three policy pledges in late 2017. The performance of leading local officials is now partly assessed by how good a job they have done in cleaning up China’s much depleted environment. According to the reports released this month by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, pollution inspectors have found evidence in a number of city environmental protection bureaus of made-up meeting notes and even instructions to local companies to forge materials. Cao Liping, director of the ministry’s ecology and environment law enforcement department, said many of the cases uncovered were the result of officials failing to act in a timely manner. “In some places, local officials didn’t really do the rectification work. When the inspections began, they realised they didn’t have enough time, so they made up material,” he said.
China still facing uphill struggle in fight against pollution
’While some officials are covering up their inaction, others are actively corrupt. According to Guangzhou’s Southern Weekend, since 2012 there have been 63 cases involving 118 people in the environment protection system involved in corruption. In the southwest province of Sichuan, 32 current and former employees of Suining city’s environmental protection bureau were found to be corrupt, raking in illicit income of 6.32 million yuan (US$900,000).
The party committee of Bozhou district in Zunyi, Guizhou province in southern China, was found to have fabricated notes for 10 meetings – part of the work requirement under the new environmental targets – in a bid to cheat the inspectors. The case was flagged by the environment ministry in a notice issued on May 10, which said party officials in Bozhou lacked “political consciousness … the nature of this case is very severe”.
Watering down results
Environmental officials in Shizuishan, in the northwest region of Ningxia, tried to improve their results in December 2017 by ordering sanitation workers to spray the building of the local environmental protection bureau with an anti-smog water cannon. The intention was to lower the amount of pollutant particles registered by the building’s monitoring equipment.
The scheme may have gone undetected if the weather had been warmer but the next day a telltale layer of ice covered the building and the chief and deputy chief of the environmental station in the city’s Dawokou district were later penalised for influencing the monitoring results.
ROTTERDAM, March 14 -- If you've ever expressed the least bit of skepticism about environmentalist calls for making the vast majority of fossil fuel use illegal.
You've probably heard the smug response: “97% of climate scientists agree with climate change” — which always carries the implication: Who are you to challenge them?
The answer is: you are a thinking, independent individual--and you don’t go by polls, let alone second-hand accounts of polls; you go by facts, logic and explanation.
Here are two questions to ask anyone who pulls the 97% trick.
1. What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
Usually, the person will have a very vague answer like "climate change is real." Which raises the question: What is that supposed to mean? That climate changes? That we have some impact? That we have a large impact? That we have a catastrophically large impact? That we have such a catastrophic impact that we shouldn't use fossil fuels? What you'll find is that people don't want to define what 97% agree on--because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use. It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from. If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause--that is, that we are over 50% responsible. The warming is a whopping 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years, a warming that has tapered off to essentially nothing in the last decade and a half.
Even if 97% of climate scientists agreed with this, and even if they were right, it in no way, shape, or form would imply that we should restrict fossil fuels--which are crucial to the livelihood of billions.
Because the actual 97% claim doesn’t even remotely justify their policies, catastrophists like President Obama and John Kerry take what we could generously call creative liberties in repeating this claim. On his Twitter account, President Obama tweets: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Not only does Obama sloppily equate “scientists” with “climate scientists,” but more importantly he added “dangerous” to the 97% claim, which is not there in the literature. This is called the fallacy of equivocation: using the same term (“97 percent”) in two different ways to manipulate people. John Kerry pulled the same stunt when trying to tell the underdeveloped world that it should use fewer fossil fuels:
And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain. . . 97 percent of climate scientists have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible. . . . . they agree that, if we continue to go down the same path that we are going down today, the world as we know it will change—and it will change dramatically for the worse. In Kerry’s mind, 97% of climate scientists said whatever Kerry wants them to have said. Bottom line: What the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree on is very mild and in no way justifies restricting the energy that billions need. But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that. Which brings us to the next question:
2. How do we know the 97% agree?
To elaborate, how was that proven? Almost no one who refers to the 97% has any idea, but the basic way it works is that a researcher reviews a lot of scholarly papers and classifies them by how many agree with a certain position. Unfortunately, in the case of 97% of climate scientists agreeing that human beings are the main cause of warming, the researchers have engaged in egregious misconduct.
One of the main papers behind the 97 percent claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the popular website SkepticalScience.com, a virtual encyclopedia of arguments trying to defend predictions of catastrophic climate change from all challenges. Here is Cook’s summary of his paper: “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”
This is a fairly clear statement—97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause—main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent. But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” Cook calls this “explicit endorsement with quantification” (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming. Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called “explicit endorsement without quantification”—that is, papers in which the author, by Cook’s admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called “implicit endorsement,” for papers that imply (but don’t say) that there is some man-made global warming and don’t quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn’t. The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public—and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested:
“Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”
—Dr. Richard Tol
“That is not an accurate representation of my paper . . .”
—Dr. Craig Idso
“Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”
—Dr. Nir Shaviv
“Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument . . .”
—Dr. Nicola Scafetta
Think about how many times you hear that 97 percent or some similar figure thrown around. It’s based on crude manipulation propagated by people whose ideological agenda it serves. It is a license to intimidate. It’s time to revoke that license.
ROTTERDAM, March 11 -- Only a fool would cheer the banning of Tommy Robinson by Facebook and Instagram.
It doesn’t matter if you like or loathe him. It doesn’t matter if you think he’s a searing critic of the divisive logic in the politics of diversity or Luton’s very own Oswald Mosley in Jack Wills clobber. The point is that his expulsion from social media confirms that corporate censorship is out of control. It speaks to a new kind of tyranny: the tyranny of unaccountable capitalist oligarchs in Silicon Valley getting to decide who is allowed to speak in the new public square that is the internet.
Robinson, having already been thrown off Twitter and Patreon, was unceremoniously cast out from Facebook and Instagram yesterday. He had one million followers. So we are not talking about some bedroom-bound imbecile who says mad things to 27 fellow losers on Twitter, but about a public figure, someone who commands an audience and enjoys political influence. His crime, in the eyes of Facebook’s and Instagram’s community-standards cops, was to nurture ‘organised hate’ towards Muslims. He used ‘dehumanising language’ and made ‘calls for violence’, the social-media giants decreed. And therefore he had to go.
There are many disturbing things about this latest act of Silicon Valley silencing of an awkward public voice. The first is the apparent involvement of Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation. Yesterday Shafiq boasted about having met with Facebook representatives to encourage them to ban Robinson over his ‘brainwashing’ of his followers into feeling ‘racism’ towards Muslims. This is the same Mohammed Shafiq who once attended an event with Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman, a Pakistani cleric who praised the murder in 2011 of the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, by a radical Islamist who despised Taseer for his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and his calls for the Christian ‘blasphemer’, Asia Bibi, to be released from jail. Shafiq also called for the anti-extremist campaigner Maajid Nawaz to be dumped as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats after Nawaz committed the speechcrime of tweeting a cartoon of Jesus & Mo. All of which raises a question: why is Facebook reportedly taking advice from someone like that? Does it also meet with campaigning Christians and jot down which critics of Christ they would like to see removed from its website?
The other disturbing thing is the growing power of internet corporations to police public speech. Not content with banning the likes of Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, and feminists like Meghan Murphy who criticise the politics of transgenderism, and various white nationalists, now the social-media giants are going after right-wing political activists whose views they don’t like. Alongside Robinson it has been reported that some leading UKIP activists have had their Facebook accounts suspended. This has a very strong whiff of political censorship. It is perverse and dispiriting to see ostensible leftists and progressives whoop with delight as corporate tech giants suspend or censor political undesirables. First because since when was the left in favour of the exercise of property rights against people’s rights? In their applauding of Silicon Valley’s censorious rampage these left-wing anti-fascists sound an awful lot like right-wing libertarians. They are effectively saying, ‘Hey, these are private companies, so they can ban whoever they want to’. Suddenly their traditional concern with reining in the unaccountable power of big business goes out the window and they find themselves standing with the bosses against the individual.
TORONTO, March 11 -- Greenpeace co-founder and former president of Greenpeace Canada Patrick Moore described the cynical and corrupt machinations fueling the narrative of anthropocentric global warming and “climate change”.
In a Wednesday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak, Moore explained how fear and guilt are leveraged by proponents of climate change:
Fear has been used all through history to gain control of people’s minds and wallets and all else, and the climate catastrophe is strictly a fear campaign — well, fear and guilt — you’re afraid you’re killing your children because you’re driving them in your SUV and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and you feel guilty for doing that. There’s no stronger motivation than those two. Scientists are co-opted and corrupted by politicians and bureaucracies invested in advancing the narrative of “climate change” in order to further centralize political power and control, explained Moore.
Moore noted how “green” companies parasitize taxpayers via favorable regulations and subsidies ostensibly justified by the aforementioned narrative’s claimed threats, all while enjoying propagandistic protection across news media” And so you’ve got the green movement creating stories that instill fear in the public. You’ve got the media echo chamber — fake news — repeating it over and over and over again to everybody that they’re killing their children. And then you’ve got the green politicians who are buying scientists with government money to produce fear for them in the form of scientific-looking materials. And then you’ve got the green businesses, the rent-seekers, and the crony capitalists who are taking advantage of massive subsidies, huge tax write-offs, and government mandates requiring their technologies to make a fortune on this. And then, of course, you’ve got the scientists who are willingly, they’re basically hooked on government grants. When they talk about the 99 percent consensus among scientists on climate change, that’s a completely ridiculous and false number. But most of the scientists — put it in quotes, scientists — who are pushing this catastrophic theory are getting paid by public money, they are not being paid by General Electric or Dupont or 3M to do this research, where private companies expect to get something useful from their research that might produce a better product and make them a profit in the end because people want it — build a better mousetrap type of idea. But most of what these so-called scientists are doing is simply producing more fear so that politicians can use it to control people’s minds and get their votes because some of the people are convinced, ‘Oh, this politician can save my kid from certain doom.’
The narrative of anthropogenic global warming or “climate change” is an existential threat to reason, warned Moore:
It is the biggest lie since people thought the Earth was at the center of the universe. This is Galileo-type stuff. If you remember, Galileo discovered that the sun was at the center of the solar system and the Earth revolved around it. He was sentenced to death by the Catholic Church, and only because he recanted was he allowed to live in house arrest for the rest of his life. So this was around the beginning of what we call the Enlightenment, when science became the way in which we gained knowledge instead of using superstition and instead of using invisible demons and whatever else, we started to understand that you have to have observation of actual events and then you have to repeat those observations over and over again, and that is basically the scientific method.
“But this abomination that is occurring today in the climate issue is the biggest threat to the Enlightenment that has occurred since Galileo,” declared Moore. “Nothing else comes close to it. This is as bad a thing that has happened o science in the history of science.” Moore concluded, “It’s taking over science with superstition and a kind of toxic combination of religion and political ideology. There is no truth to this. It is a complete hoax and scam.”
MOSCOW, January 22 -- Russia’s media watchdog (Roskomnadzor) has unblocked 2.7 mln IP addresses belonging to Amazon, says a statement from the watchdog.
"Roskomnadzor experts have figured out that the Telegram messaging service stopped using those subnets to ensure its functioning a long time ago," the statement reads. According to the RNS news agency, the Ariston company earlier reported that owners of Ariston water heaters and gas boilers were facing issues using the Ariston Net app for remote control purposes. The company said technical failures stemmed from the media watchdog’s move to block some IP addresses in April 2018.
In December 2017, Telegram’s top managers filed a lawsuit with Russia’s Supreme Court asking that an order of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which demanded decryption keys for users’ messages, be declared void. On March 20, the Supreme Court turned the request down. On April 13, 2018, Moscow’s Tagansky District Court ruled to block access to Telegram in Russia over its failure to implement the FSB’s order. On April 16, the Russian media watchdog received the court’s ruling on restricting access to Telegram. On the same day, mobile operators began to take steps to block Telegram in compliance with the court’s decision. At the same time, the watchdog started blocking access to numerous IP addresses belonging to Amazon and Google, which Telegram used to avoid restrictions. As a result, reports started coming about failures of third party websites that also used those hosting services.
LOS ANGELES, January 22 -- Facebook announced that 364 pages and accounts will be closed, due to “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Central and Eastern European countries.”
In short, Facebook has managed to identify 364 pages that claim to be independent news pages, but in reality – a part of a coordinated operation, lead from Russian state actors. In this case – state owned Russian agency, Sputnik. According to the Facebook announcement, the pages that have been closed have been linked to employees of Sputnik. The pages have been devoted to various topics, liked weather, travel, sports or politics. Several pages have been devoted to politicians in several EU member states, Eastern Partnership states and in Central Asia. The pages now closed by Facebook, had around 790,000 followers and invested 135,000 US Dollars on advertising.
Besides the 364 pages connected to the Sputnik Agency, Facebook closed another 107 pages, groups and accounts and 41 Instagram pages, all engaging in coordinated inauthentic behaviour as part of a network, based in Russia and operating in Ukraine. The term “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” means that the pages are part of coordinated effort, in this case run by Kremlin operatives, but pretending to appear as independent, individual sites.
Facebook and other social networks have intensified their efforts to sniff out this kind of deception: “Our security efforts are ongoing to help us stay a step ahead and uncover this kind of abuse, particularly in light of important political moments and elections in Europe this year. We are committed to making improvements and building stronger partnerships around the world to more effectively detect and stop this activity.” The EU issued late last year an Action Plan aimed at tackling online disinformation in EU countries and beyond. The Action Plan acknowledges the need to challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns.
The Action Plan will also ensure that tech companies comply with the European Commission’s Code of Practice, a document that commits online platforms to increase transparency for political advertising and to reduce the number of fake accounts.
ROTTERDAM, January 5 -- The term “fake news” has become an epithet that US President Donald Trump attaches to any unfavorable story. But it is also an analytical term that describes deliberate disinformation presented in the form of a conventional news report.
The problem is not completely novel. In 1925, Harper’s Magazine published an article about the dangers of “fake news.” But today two-thirds of American adults get some of their news from social media, which rest on a business model that lends itself to outside manipulation and where algorithms can easily be gamed for profit or malign purposes. Whether amateur, criminal or governmental, many organizations are skilled at reverse-engineering how tech platforms parse information. To give Russia credit, it was one of the first governments to understand how to weaponize social media and to use America’s own companies against it.
Overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information available online, people find it difficult to know what to focus on. Attention, rather than information, becomes the scarce resource to capture. Big data and artificial intelligence allow micro-targeting of communication so that the information people receive is limited to a “filter bubble” of the like-minded. The “free” services offered by social media are based on a profit model in which users’ information and attention are actually the products, which are sold to advertisers. Algorithms are designed to learn what keeps users engaged so that they can be served more ads and produce more revenue. Emotions such as outrage stimulate engagement, and news that is outrageous but false has been shown to engage more viewers than accurate news. One study found that such falsehoods on Twitter were 70% more likely to be retweeted than accurate news. Likewise, a study of demonstrations in Germany this year found that YouTube’s algorithm systematically directed users toward extremist content because that was where the “clicks” and revenue were greatest.
Fact-checking by conventional news media is often unable to keep up, and sometimes can even be counterproductive by drawing more attention to the falsehood. By its nature, the social-media profit model can be weaponized by states and non-state actors alike. Recently, Facebook has been under heavy criticism for its cavalier record on protecting users’ privacy. Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg admitted that in 2016, Facebook was “not prepared for the coordinated information operations we regularly face.” The company had, however, “learned a lot since then and have developed sophisticated systems that combine technology and people to prevent election interference on our services.”
Such efforts include automated programs to find and remove fake accounts; featuring Facebook pages that spread disinformation less prominently than in the past; issuing a transparency report on the number of false accounts removed; verifying the nationality of those who place political advertisements; hiring 10,000 additional people to work on security; and improving coordination with law enforcement and other companies to address suspicious activity. But the problem is not solved.