In Vietnam, citizens were enlisted to post pro-government messages on their personal Facebook pages. The Guatemalan government used hacked and stolen social media accounts to silence dissenting opinions. Ethiopia’s ruling party hired people to influence social media conversations in its favor.
Despite increased efforts by internet platforms like Facebook to combat internet disinformation, the use of the techniques by governments around the world is growing, according to a report released Thursday by researchers at Oxford University. Governments are spreading disinformation to discredit political opponents, bury opposing views and interfere in foreign affairs.
The researchers compiled information from news organizations, civil society groups and governments to create one of the most comprehensive inventories of disinformation practices by governments around the world. They found that the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled to 70 in the last two years, with evidence of at least one political party or government entity in each of those countries engaging in social media manipulation.
In addition, Facebook remains the No. 1 social network for disinformation, the report said. Organized propaganda campaigns were found on the platform in 56 countries.
International news warns New Zealand shootings are a ‘false flag’
Ever since the news broke on March 15 of two consecutive mass shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, corporate media has been determined to establish that suspect Brenton Tarrant acted alone in the terrorist attacks that took the lives of 50 innocent Muslim worshippers and wounded 50 others.
While mainstream media has been predictably eager to parade the tragedy as another chapter in the wave of rising Islamophobia and right-wing extremism globally, they have put equal effort into conscientiously avoiding any evidence that contradicts the ‘lone wolf’ theory they decided on in the initial hours following the first mass shooting in New Zealand since 1997.
YOU WOULD THINK that after decades of analyzing and fighting email spam, there’d be a fix by now for the internet’s oldest hustle—the Nigerian Prince scam. There’s generally more awareness that a West African noble demanding $1,000 in order to send you millions is a scam, but the underlying logic of these “pay a little, get a lot” schemes, also known as 419 fraud, still ensnares a ton of people. In fact, groups of fraudsters in Nigeria continue to make millions off of these classic cons. And they haven’t just refined the techniques and expanded their targets—they’ve gained minor celebrity status for doing it.
On Thursday, the security firm Crowdstrike published detailed findings on Nigerian confraternities, cultish gangs that engage in various criminal activities and have steadily evolved email fraud into a reliable cash cow. The groups, like the notorious Black Axe syndicate, have mastered the creation of compelling and credible-looking fraud emails. Crowdstrike notes that the groups aren’t very regimented or technically sophisticated, but flexibility and camaraderie still allow them to develop powerful scams.
“These guys are more like a crew from the mafia back in the day,” says Adam Meyers, Crowdstrike’s vice president of intelligence. “Once you’re in an organization and are initiated, then you have a new name that’s assigned to you. They’ve got their own music, their own language even. And there are pictures on social media where they’re flaunting what they’re doing. The whole idea is why invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to build your own malware when you can just convince someone to do something stupid?”
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