Facebook's Observations on Information Operations and the 2016 US Election

Facebook published paper on the information operations it has seen, as well as some observations regarding the recent US election. It's interesting reading.

Posted on May 9, 2017 at 6:36 AM • 37 Comments

Comments

DanielMay 9, 2017 9:46 AM

This is the same Facebook that is repressing speech in Thailand....

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/thailand-facebook-users-blocked-video-king-crop-top-article-1.3148695

and repressing speech in Pakistan....

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4357694/Pakistan-says-Facebook-vows-tackle-concerns-blasphemous-content.html


Forgive if I refuse to click on a link of a company whose has zero credibility. It's not interesting to me because I am not interested in what FB has to say when it runs around the world acting like a jackass.

It's nickname as "repression's little helper" is well earned.

BobMay 9, 2017 10:39 AM

@Daniel

Agreed. We all know PR failures do not last long, people forget and corporations can count on continuing with all impunity. It is time to give entities that deserve zero credibility what they deserve, zero attention to what they say. It is our moral obligation considering how little our attention is and how much millions of people need it.

bobMay 9, 2017 10:45 AM

@Daniel

Your culture is not somehow "correct". Your social mores are as arbitrary as any other culture's. Complaining that Facebook conforms to local culture is very close to bigotry.

BOBMay 9, 2017 11:14 AM

@bob

At some point acceptance of diversity falls to the moral code one individually follows. I find slavery and genital mutilation horrific, therefore I feel that a culture that enforces those values to be morally wrong. I do not say that one culture is better than another, all have flaws. But even still I will not shrug and say "Oh, that's just the way they are, cest le vie." when I feel that something should change. Consequently, when a corporation from my culture supports actions that I feel are morally wrong, one of the steps to take is to attempt to chastise that corporation using the tools available.

DanielMay 9, 2017 11:44 AM

@bob

Complaining that Facebook conforms to local culture is very close to bigotry.

Except that is not my complaint. My complaint is that Facebook is not conforming to American culture. If American culture and local culture come into conflict then local culture loses. Why? Because Facebook is an American firm, responsible to the American legal system, born and raised as a company in American culture and values.

Thailand and Pakistan are free to have whatever culture they want to have. What I object to is when those countries use American businesses to strong-arm their local norms and when in the process of enforcing those local norms those American business violate American norms.

So long as Facebook continues to violate American norms, I, as an American believe it has no moral or ethical legitimacy whatsoever. I refuse to use it and I refuse to give any credence to anything it says.

Ross SniderMay 9, 2017 12:34 PM

Facebook censored sharing of the Snowden Documents in the United States.

The reason for this was clearly an information operation.

I do not approve of Facebook being an extension of our National Security and Military state.

Ross SniderMay 9, 2017 12:43 PM

Facebook SELLS what they call "false amplification". That's literally how they make money.

They studied with the Department of Defense how to use Facebook for information operations. They've partnered with non-state actors with political and geopolitical objectives to filter news on the platform. They censor news according to the whims of their partner governments. They choose to engage in political amplification for their own purposes.

This looks more like a document on warfare than it does on "corporate responsibility".

This is the kind of lipstick you expect to see on a pig.

Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don't know why.
Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb fucks

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mark_Zuckerberg

Ross SniderMay 9, 2017 12:44 PM

I just made a comment on here and it got blocked.

I am concerned about what heuristic would have chosen to block the comment I was trying to commit.

The comment was not blocked for the reasons listed on the page (missing or improper name or a cloned/duplicated comment).

keinerMay 9, 2017 12:47 PM

from google-facebook-palantir to NSA-CIA-FBI just one information-security-complex...

BobMay 9, 2017 1:18 PM

@bob @BOB @Daniel

I understand this is not a blog on philosophy, so I won't use more space on the comment section on this and risk being censored. But security, as Bruce said, does touch on politics so I will say as much about ethics.

We need not appeal to local culture or American culture. There is a big fallacy going around in the post-modern world, it is that ethical subjectivism is objective and undeniable to any rational person. Truth is, not half of the academic community agrees with moral relativism or any other ethical subjectivism. A big quantity of they who dedicate their lives to the study of meta-ethics think that it is not bigotry, there is one universal set of values that we all ought to follow, independent of culture or personal beliefs.

EvanMay 9, 2017 3:01 PM

Yeah I read the article and it is generally neutral but I also am very skeptical. Largely because they talk about amplification and disinformation but seem to place the MSM above these tactics even though they're just as guilty as it as the next person. Also, I read that the majority of overly sensational fake news was made solely for economic purposes (by people in third world countries no less) and I believe it. The stories were so ridiculous and stupid that you have to be a total idiot to believe them (which sadly like 50+ percent of the population seems to be that stupid). The FB article however, stated that economic incentives were generally not the main cause of 'information campaigns'. I don't believe that.

I think it's a happy coincidence that someone writing an article like "Hillary Clinton traffics children supposedly aid by the Clinton Foundation" or "Donald Trump blackmailed by Putin due to video of him pissing on hookers!" happened to influence peoples political opinions. That is just the normal click baiting crap but targeted at people interested in politics because that's what people were interested in at the time. Post election the idiotic click bait is back to being about celeb scandals, penis enlargement and get rich quick schemes.

Lastly the only information campaign they really made reference to was clearly WikiLeaks and even though they admitted in their own findings that amplification of those articles had a marginal impact (because as soon as the inauthentic users promote it sufficiently that real people see it the real people promote it much much more) they still identified it as a problem. I don't care what kind of an account shares a link to WikiLeaks, that isn't disinformation, someone amplifying it is no different than when MSM decides to cover a story heavily so trying to limit the spread of stuff like that is straight up bullshit. Last complaint, they said they could not give attribution about these activities but that their findings didn't contradict those of the DOJ. OK, pretty sure if the DOJ had sufficient information to conclude Russia is behind all of this then FB would too. When I say pretty sure, I'm being sarcastic, I'm actually positive. The idea that the Kremlin ran an information campaign largely using FB as it's platform for spreading information but FB can't provide attribution while the DOJ definitely knows it was Russia, that is very unlikely to be true.

So yeah in conclusion, while what they say is good, it's also largely common sense to interested parties who observed the pre-election activities and are knowledgeable about the economics and technology involved and I have a hard time believing it isn't entirely bullshit. Seems likely that FB will be keeping their policies regarding fake users and account compromise exactly the same and regarding news that contradicts the main stream narrative as false while also peddling the fake news generated by the US Gov. It annoys me to know end that in the midst of all this 'fake news' the US Gov is gonna go around saying "Russia did it!" while providing no evidence what so ever to us. Like ugh... Doesn't that seem a bit like fake news to you?

ModeratorMay 9, 2017 3:52 PM

@Ross Snider: Your comment, now published, was held for moderation thanks to the profanity in the quote.

DanielMay 9, 2017 5:43 PM

http://www.reuters.com/article/facebook-austria-idUSL8N1IA21C?

While we are on th topic....

Austrian court rules Facebook must delete "hate postings"

So yes there is a clash of values going on and it is not just a clash with the third world. Moreover, since FB has already capitulated to the demands of two military dictatorships (ok ok Pakistan is not /technically/ a military dictatorship) it has no moral force to push back against demands by European countries.

Sooner or later FB is going to have to choose what values it wants to uphold (besides greed) otherwise everyone will hate it.

Ross SniderMay 9, 2017 6:14 PM

@Moderator

Ahh, thank you very much for the transparency. That makes sense.

Thank you for your moderation.

AJWMMay 9, 2017 6:35 PM

Sooner or later FB is going to have to choose what values it wants to uphold (besides greed) otherwise everyone will hate it.

Not sure why you're using the future tense in that last phrase there. I suppose there are still a few who don't.

albertMay 9, 2017 6:56 PM

You guys are missing the point.

FB is a -money-making- operation. That's its sole purpose.

Everything else they say is BS.

Large multi-nationals don't give a rats sorry ass about local cultures, as long as they get their business. The same applies for US businesses in the US. If FB was beyond criticism here, then position 'papers' like this one wouldn't be necessary.

Interesting reading only in the sector of propaganda studies.

The only thing I disapprove of is the number of people who take 'social' media seriously.

Are FB and their ilk part of the Deep State? Well, its leaders are part of the Elite. Never forget that. 'Social' media are not part of the 'press', are not 'journalism', and are not 'news' sources.

Remember the old saying: "'Tis an ill wind that blows no good."

. .. . .. --- ....

Clive RobinsonMay 9, 2017 7:30 PM

@ albert,

FB is a -money-making- operation. That's its sole purpose.

At which it is failing from what I hear, so I guess they are more a "confidence game" run by tricksters and con artists.

The need for such a report certainly suggests so.

In a way it's to hide their original interest in fake news. Because as a form of click bate Fake-News made Facebooks figures look better than they realy were. All to impress the gullible with money. That was untill the "Real Story" (TM) showed Facebook morals --or lack there of-- for what they were.

I guess one day their users might wise up to how they are being quite ruthlessly manipulated.

Speaking of which I don't know if you've read some of the stories comming out about US Billionaires scraping facebook to manipulate UK voters over Brexit... At least it makes a change from pointing at Putin and co.

Patriot COMSECMay 9, 2017 7:52 PM

@ Albert

"FB is a -money-making- operation. That's its sole purpose.

Everything else they say is BS."

Exactly. It is not a social services organization. They are there to make money, but they blithely preach an ideology that masks their real purpose: spy on you and sell the information. I do not trust them at all. Zuckerberg is not the most honest guy you could meet.

Facebook targets people for Facebook's very own information operations, and those operations are profitable. I am tired of Facebook's constant deceptions, of their misinformation and disinformation, now all nicely hidden in a treatise on both.

An interesting question is the degree to which Facebook colludes with the U.S. Gov in illegal collection. It would be nice to hear a leak.

Facebook's constant disinformation about itself is loathesome, and now they have become the main carrier of the world's tainted information. That sounds like a kind of justice.


TorwannabeMay 9, 2017 8:19 PM

I have a big bone to pick with the Tor people. A constructive one.


Why is getting traction so hard for Tor?


Perhaps it's as simple as "things being too hard to setup or even find"?


Couldn't find any way to install the browser bundle to this Ubuntu machine until I found Micah Lee's patch.

Had trouble getting the Tor relay to work properly in Windows (had a reason), and was spinning wheels until discovery of IPfires very sane installtion.


Now I'm hunting for a Whonix system which might enable local onion self hosting. Can't find it.


This stuff just goes on and on. The pieces are often out there - but you'll never find them unless your a stubborn asshole.

Just what is wrong with simple isos for standardized machines?


No wonder onionland is so thin. People have given up. And when they trust hosting "experts" - those guys seem to always get caught and shut down.


This can't continue. Something hasta give. The Tor organization should get serious - or just fold. Folding would leave a vacuum some other more energetic bunch might fill.

The public *NEEDS* safe places for anon publishing. It's not getting them.


Patriot COMSECMay 9, 2017 8:20 PM

@ Daniel

I would like to comment on the article about Thailand.

First, Facebook is very important in Thailand. Just about every single young person has it, and most of them spend hours on it every single day. It is like heroin. It is the most important thing in the lives of millions of people. Facebook has a profound effect on the lives of Thai people, and I think many of the effects are negative: wasting time, focus on images, voyeurism, distraction from school, enabling state-sponsored collection. The kids are not being educated properly because they are glued to an entertainment device. Even very young kids, two years old--it is really scary.

Facebook has to be careful in Thailand because of the lese majesty laws. Rama IX, who passed away last year, was deeply loved and revered. His son, Rama X, is sometimes controversial. To make fun of a Thai king means jail, and anything that could be interpreted as negative would surely be enough to send the police to knock on your door. Facebook cannot support free speech everywhere it has customers, and so they have to do a little tap dance.

Based out of Thailand, our group sees the power that Facebook has over the lives of people in the Kingdom. Facebook is not going to give up that power because the current government could make Facebook illegal and shut if off with a firewall.

Facebook does not care about free speech; they care about access to data. As long as they have access (starts to sound like the NSA), they are happy. I think they are damaging a generation of kids, and I hope General Prayut Chan-o-cha cuts the umbilical cord and gets rid of Fakebook.

Patriot COMSECMay 9, 2017 8:34 PM

@ Ross Snider

"Facebook SELLS what they call "false amplification"."

Indeed, they do. That is what makes the document such an interesting read: what they talk about preventing is largely their bread and butter.

Patriot COMSECMay 9, 2017 8:55 PM

I wrote an unclear sentence above:

Facebook is not going to give up that power because the current government could make Facebook illegal and shut if off with a firewall.

This is what I was trying to say:

Facebook is not going to give up their incredible stranglehold on Thai social media. They know the current Thai government could make Facebook illegal or inaccessible, so they have to put a firewall on their own content before the Thai government firewalls Facebook out of the market--like the Chinese did in China.

In America they can talk about free speech, but in Thailand they have to $qua$h it.

Given the amount of money that could be made by a Thai suitor, it is amazing that Facebook has not been replaced. Anyone want to be a billionaire?

firewallMay 9, 2017 9:25 PM

Given the amount of money that could be made by a Thai suitor, it is amazing that Facebook has not been replaced. Anyone want to be a billionaire?
Look forward to FB offering franchise opportunities

ab praeceptisMay 9, 2017 9:46 PM

Clive Robinson

fb ... money making:

I'm neither too interested nor savvy re. economy issues but looking at the history of fb/zuckerberg I assume that both massive data collection and brainwashing/influencing opinion *was* a major goal of fb since the inception.

From my, granted simple minded, perspective I'd imagine that it even started with/there was from the first hour a deal along the lines "You (zb/fb) will a) give us full (covert) access to any- and everything and b) you'll massage public opinion in the way we desire and you can keep the billions that will be earned with fb".

SpartacusMay 10, 2017 2:29 AM

Facebook's use of big data to create it's own intelligence service is very disturbing.

On top of that, Mr. Zuckerberg is reportedly preparing for a presidential run. The appearance is with his big money and data access he is trying to buy the presidency. It seems a pattern is evolving of self-entitled super rich people deciding the position of President is some kind of oligarch plum.

From the report, FB will be: "Continually studying and monitoring the efforts of those who try to negatively manipulate civic discourse on Facebook;"

Besides the political ramifications, FB now sets itself up as the worldwide censor of those who ....'negatively'.....manipulate civic discourse. I must ask, what is positive discourse and who decides which is which and by what criteria?

Can Facebook and it's executives be trusted?

Patriot COMSECMay 10, 2017 3:59 AM

@ Spartacus

"On top of that, Mr. Zuckerberg is reportedly preparing for a presidential run."

One morning in Thailand, I was sipping my coffee and read the headline: "Mark Zuckerberg Believes in God." I think that was also the morning I saw a big black Tarantula in my living room, but I did not put those two events together until much later--not that I am superstitious.

A couple weeks later I read the headline: "Zuckerberg Likely to Run for Office in 2020." So I put it together: fella wants to be President, and so he is getting a little training in how to lie and make himself look presidential, not that he needs help in being able to bend the truth.

The document that Mr. Schneier recommended is a wonderful example of disinformation. It is cunning, blithe, and blatant. If you can be that self-interested and that dishonest, getting anyone to believe you for one moment, perhaps you do deserve to rule the land, but people are tired of the lies, and I hope that Zuckerberg gets disappointed, torpedoed, and cut off at the knees. These people succeed by lies and tricks, and those are getting very tiring.

Patriot COMSECMay 10, 2017 4:15 AM

@ Daniel

"and repressing speech in Pakistan...."

I can't wait for Facebook in North Korea. FB will provide all the repression Kim Jung-un needs.

Loud funny wordsMay 10, 2017 11:44 AM

"Your comment, now published, was held for moderation thanks to the profanity in the quote."

-That's goddam acceptable, dammit Bruce keep up the good work!

On the topic,

WHO trusts Facebook to be that honest broker? NOBODY WITH HALF A BRAIN.
Who trusts ANY current major corporation with that responsibility? Ditto.

The fact that Breitbart "news" has managed to aggregate in google's news feed should be enough of an example that disinformation campaigns WILL find a way to their audience, and I only chose that because it's a recent glaring example. There are literally thousands of individual campaigns (some quite well funded!) using these leverage points as able without any countermanding force really in a position to stop it.

We've found AI incredibly fungible in this regard, it's not ready for primetime and it's not close, and as a result of failures FB and others are hiring en masse thousands of human eyeballs to censor/edit/focus/omit information that was once handled by veteran journalists (and subsequently quashed by massive corporate network interests for commercial reasons.)

We need to collectively decide a few things : CAN we trust ANYONE in this model, HOW can we be sure that's well placed, and WHAT does a healthy unmolested public discourse LOOK LIKE?

Because it sure as hell doesn't look like Facebook, as viewed from one of its many global facets with entirely different information operations for each one, censorship regimes changing by the week.

How can one company even aspire to censor/control an entire WORLD's thought processes? The idea is megalomania itself. The greatest virtue the "media" ever had was its collective nature of essentially peer review. One company's reputation was important to maintain and protect by not being associated with false information, as judged by the collective majority, and so they FACT CHECKED and had EDITORS. If you made something up, you would LOSE YOUR CREDIBILITY for a long time and people would KNOW THAT. There was no anonymous sh*tposting because THAT IS NOT JOURNALISM. Period, full stop!

So if FB or any other organization wants to be a source of public trust, they need to BE of that self-contained democratic process internally, fact checking, peer reviewing, and reputation regulating with enough variety and depth as not to be itself controlled by any single political bent or campaign towards one.

Under Zuckerberg, admitted trust thief and liar, it's but a ridiculous thought experiment.

albertMay 10, 2017 11:55 AM

Zuckerberg for President?

Had not The Donald come along, I would have laughed derisively, with undeleted expletives. Though both are a##holes, Da Zuck could never bury his frat boy image. Rumour has it that Bush breathed a sigh of relief when Trump won. No longer would he be the worst President in recent history. Who could be worse than Trump? And imagine Facebook during a Zuckerberg campaign.

. .. . .. --- ....

albertMay 10, 2017 12:00 PM

@Ross,
See my previous comment. Initially blocked for a single word, then passed after the edit you now see.

This is obviously automated.

@Bruce, can you post your list of prohibited words?

. .. . .. --- ....

Like this on Loss-of-facebook!May 10, 2017 12:27 PM

Shame about Comey, huh? They really ground his face into the dirt. Showed him how to use that Opus Die cilice, clamp it down good on your яичко's. It's mortification, it makes Babyjesus smile! So, any volunteers to screech RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA for Lockheed Martin? There's a vacancy...

Anonymous but verified... somehow.May 10, 2017 12:49 PM

Comey was fired because he asked to expand the investigation and Trump was freaked out about all the subpoenas going out this week, testimony of staffers, etc.

Otherwise, sending his personal bodyguard Keith to deliver his note asserting that he was not under investigation (albeit while Comey wasn't even in his office... genius that) wouldn't make as much obvious sense as a broadcasted threat to anyone else thinking of investigating his crimes from within his Executive branch.

Certainly not Jeff Sessions, the accused/recused. What Russia investigation? I'm just a simple country Attorney General...

Like This on Loss-of-Facebook!May 10, 2017 1:50 PM

Considering the gleeful sadism of Comey's ouster (announced on TV behind him while he makes a speech, Trump personally taunting him on twitter,) - does anybody think they're done with him? He'll be lucky if he doesn't take a quick left on the Louis Free Byway.

www.whowhatwhy.org/2014/09/10/update-louis-freehs-curious-car-accident/

Comey covered up a lot of crimes in universal jurisdiction. The people who control that information (and that includes the Russians) can make him pray for death.

Patriot COMSECMay 13, 2017 8:13 PM

I start to think that we need more misinformation and more disinformation. Technologists and inventors need to work on cutting Facebook off at the knees.

Disposable identities, fake searches, encrypted fake traffic, photos of non-existent people, artifical-intelligence tools for generating fake blogs and comments, fake clicks, a tsunami of false information for the NSA, Google, and Facebook to enjoy, to make the haystack bigger and make their intrusion worthless...

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of IBM Resilient.