Category Archives: Education

Misinformation and Maginot

Many security analysts argue that one of the chief threats of our time is the rise of the use of internet misinformation as an asymmetric tactic in information war. Free internet information services like FaceBook, Twitter and Gmail, and others, too, which collect user data and sell targeted ads to make money, can be exploited by bad actors; individuals, corporations and nation states can create bogus ads and “fake” news targeted to specific audiences, facilitating influence operations that result in large effects, including the possibility of mass violence or changes in election outcomes, for little expense. (Digital pioneer Jaron Lanier explains this emerging threat in detail here.)

The rise of this threat begs the question: Would more widespread use of chain of proof for internet information help counter deliberate misinformation campaigns? Wikipedia already alerts users of dubious information through a system of trusted content creators (human beings). Could every article online have an evidence chain associated with it (a source, or lineage) verified by human beings? Would blockchain be of use here?

Many of us who grew up on the internet enjoyed, celebrated, and defended the privacy and anonymity of communicating online. The rise of centralized systems and their abuse, however, seems to insist that digital information be tied to real human beings who should be held to account for what they say online, or, at least, real human beings should be there to judge the veracity of digital content whomever or whatever the source.

YouTube videos, or FaceBook articles, for example, could have a “B.S.” meter that reflects the level of verified misinformation in the content. Those who pass tests of expertise or earn reputation points would gain access levels on the platform that would allow them to judge content as a “verified human expert”. Something like this already works in content value systems like Stack Exchange’s reputation system.

Below, the author likens current tactics combating digital information warfare to the Maginot Line, arguing that they are outpaced by the tempo of bad actor innovation, that we are in a state of reaction when we should be on the offensive. The solutions argued for here are for governments to incentivize platforms to build in detection for emerging tactics and for platforms to take consequential direct action against those who misuse their systems in cooperation with government law enforcement agencies. The author fails to say precisely how this would be done, but the points are very much worth investigating.

The Digital Maginot Line

There is a war happening. We are immersed in an evolving, ongoing conflict: an Information World War in which state actors, terrorists, and ideological extremists leverage the social infrastructure underpinning everyday life to sow discord and erode shared reality.

They earned a chance

Let’s give our Afghan and Iraqi allies a place in line, preferably at the front.

Veterans Call on Congress to Protect Afghan Allies

Washington, D.C.-A group of veteran organizations today urged Congress to take action to protect Afghan military allies seeking refuge in the United States. In a letter sent to the House and Senate, Veterans for American Ideals, High Ground Veterans Advocacy, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, No One Left Behind, and Vietnam Veterans of America called on members to allocate four thousand visas through the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Program, for those who served alongside U.S.

Parliament statement

Food for thought from across the pond…

Russian Hybrid Offensives: November Statement to Parliament

Below is the unedited text of a statement sent to to the UK Parliament’s Fake News Inquiry on November 21 2017. The intention at the time of its submission was to provide Parliament and MPs the time to deal with inevitable future disinformation campaigns led by the Kremlin.

 

Al-Atrak

America and her NATO allies might be wise to focus on finding a path forward for the Kurds that works for Turkey. After the vote for Kurdish independence in September, tensions will likely increase in the area. The article and video below provide details.

It’s important to note here that losses incurred in our nearly generation-long engagements in the Middle East have been as much diplomatic as military. Without receiving significant support from Turkey, a nation that fought side-by-side with NATO in the Korean War and supported the first Gulf War, we were unwise to start conflicts in her Ottoman-era territories. The Turkish border has become a conduit for human traffic into and out of Europe, including refugees and jihadists, and the government trends authoritarian and Islamist. This situation is arguably more consequential to world affairs than instability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and so should be reversed.

The good news is that America and her allies have made great strides against the menace of ISIS, lessening the pressures of human traffic. We can seize this opportunity to work wth Turkey, Iraq, Syria and the Kurds to map a future for the region that is as stable and peaceable as possible, a political solution that provides dignity and security to the Kurds — who have earned some freedom — without taking those same interests away from the Turks.

The Trouble with Turkey: Erdogan, ISIS, and the Kurds

Turkey, a key member of NATO, has so far chosen to sit out the war against ISIS. Instead, it is at war with Kurdish militias in Syria, the only ground forces so far that have managed to take on ISIS and win.

— Marcus

War fever

Scholar Andrew Bacevich lectures Googlers in 2013 about what he considers an uncomfortable, new characteristic of American political culture: the rise of militarism and the unquestioned worship of soldiers as the standard bearers of American virtue. Bacevich argues that this new feature of our lives is not only unrealistic, but also permits folly: We’re spending lavishly on the military in a way that is not commiserate with the threats we face and we’re giving military tools primacy over diplomatic channels as a means to exert influence.  Bacevich shows us the power of intellectual honesty when asked around minute 27 to argue the counterpoint to his own assertions.

 

The subversive

Chinese Nobel Laureate Released From Prison

Liu Xiaobo was granted medical parole after being diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. In 1996, Liu was sentenced to three years in a labor camp for criticizing China’s one-party Communist system. It was during this time that he married his wife, Liu Xia, who was placed on house arrest in 2010 after informing Liu of his Nobel Prize win.

 

‘The Songs of Birds’

Every month, the Chinese poet, photographer, and artist Liu Xia boards a train bound for the country’s north. Carrying food and books and escorted by four plainclothes police officers, she heads for a prison in the city of Jinzhou where her husband, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, is serving a sentence for subversion of state power.