Russian Federation

E-mails threatening Dem voters came from Estonia

Putin is worried he's about to lose his Puppet:


“We are in possession of all your information You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you.”

Authorities are classifying this as a "Scam," but it's a hell of a lot more sinister than some identity theft effort. Not only does it seek to intimidate voters into choosing Trump, it also seeks to undermine faith and trust in our entire voting system. It doesn't matter how clumsy the effort is, and it should not be downplayed:

Social media battleground: Disinformation is the game, chaos is the goal

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And the upcoming election is the perfect medium for it:

Intelligence officials have expressed concerns that Russian and other actors will have a major opening if mail-in ballots are slow to be counted, or there are charges and countercharges about the handling of mail-in ballots, which President Trump has already said are being used to “rig” the outcome.

During that time after the election, the two agencies said, hackers could amplify “disinformation that includes reports of voter suppression, cyberattacks targeting election infrastructure, voter or ballot fraud and other problems intended to convince the public of the elections’ illegitimacy.”

Bolding mine, because these are issues that are already of major concern to many on the left. They know we're worried about it, thus we have been preconditioned to help in the dissemination of that disinformation. But here's where it gets really complicated: Some of these stories might be true. Black voters may get harassed in Missouri, an election system may get hacked in Arizona. But sharing the hell out of that story on Facebook or Twitter may also discourage people from voting. And that would make said disinformation a success. Facebook is going after some low-hanging fruit right now:

Exploring the impact of misinformation on the general public

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It is everywhere, but is it working?

Professors at Duke University gathered for a panel on digital disinformation and so called "fake news," addressing the various challenges it poses to society and how it might be addressed. Bill Adair, a professor of journalism at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy, said that digital misinformation has begun to spread throughout every facet of the world.

"We just see in every corner of the world, in every corner of our lives ... there is just so much misinformation," he said. "It pops up in such insidious ways. It’s really scary.”

It is scary. But possibly the scariest aspect of this issue is the inevitable trend for people to (eventually) disbelieve everything they read, regardless of the bonafides of the source. Sowing distrust is a major goal of many of the players (Russia in particular), and it will be hard as hell to track the responsibility for that back to the original sources of misinformation. But at least one Duke researcher doesn't believe it's having much impact on opinions:

Foreign interference in 2020 Election is already rampant

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Be extremely careful of the information you share on social media:

The intelligence warning on Friday did not accuse the Chinese of trying to hack the vote; instead it said they were using their influence “to shape the policy environment in the United States” and to pressure politicians “it views as opposed to China’s interests.”

Russia, the warning said, was continuing to “spread disinformation in the U.S. that is designed to undermine confidence in our democratic process,” and it described Iran as an emerging actor in election interference, seeking to spread disinformation and “recirculating anti-U.S. content.”

Guarding against being involuntarily manipulated by these operations is even harder than it was four years ago. Their process has evolved, their skills have been sharpened, and their work will circulate into your orbit at one time or another. And our own strong desire to expose and fix corrupted elements of our society will be used against us, if they can. But we need more information about these developments, some specific examples of such, and the intelligence community's innate desire to keep these things secret is causing a rift between them and Congress:

Senate Judiciary approves Mueller protection bill

And yes, I chose this particular Tweet because it's evidence Fran De Luca is against investigating public corruption. Hypocrites-R-Us...

Missouri episode exposes motives and methods of Russian propagandists

Throwing a gas can onto a tiny campfire:

Russian Twitter trolls pounced on the University of Missouri’s woes in 2015 using the same techniques they applied to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, a U.S. Air Force officer wrote in an article published recently in Strategic Studies Quarterly. In the aftermath of the Nov. 9, 2015, resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe during protests over racial issues, some feared a violent white backlash.

It was fueled in part by a real post on the anonymous social app Yik-Yak from Hunter Park, then a student at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, that he would “shoot every black person I see.” The fear was enlarged and spread by a now-suspended Twitter account that warned, “The cops are marching with the KKK! They beat up my little brother! Watch out!” that included a photo of a black child with a severely bruised face and the hashtag #PrayForMizzou.

This might seem like an inappropriate or way off-topic post for BlueNC, but (imo) it is actually critical moving into the 2018 election season. While social media has completely changed the game on organizing and activism, turning out crowds that number in the thousands in just a short period of time, it has also become a minefield of click-bait and disinformation. We (each) have to be our own gatekeepers on Facebook and Twitter, taking that extra ten minutes to vet and verify stories before we aid and abet that disinformation by sharing or re-Tweeting. It's not a conspiracy theory that people are pushing conspiracy theories, there is a concerted effort to undermine and/or redirect the energies of well-meaning activists:

Trump blocks release of Democrats' memo on Carter Page investigation

A blatant effort to conceal damning evidence of Russian involvement with his administration:

In a letter to House intelligence committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the White House said it could not release the Democrats' memo because the Justice Department "has identified portions...which it believes would create especially significant concerns for the national security and law enforcement interests."

That explanation stands in stark contrast to his release of the GOP memo last Friday. The president approved its release over the strong objections of the FBI, which warned that it could jeopardize national security. The president's refusal to release the Democrats' memo also goes against the committee's unanimous, bipartisan decision Monday to make it public.

Trump is playing an extremely dangerous game here, and it's a good bet he doesn't realize it. Mueller is a lot more intelligent than he is, and is likely watching this circus to see which animals might turn on their trainers. Or which animals are performing too well. It's complicated, which means Trump is way out of his depth. In order to understand just how silly and off-topic this dueling memo thing is, you need to grasp the significance of the FBI's target of those investigations, Carter Page himself:

Bumbling towards war: U.S. airstrike targets Syrian government-backed militia

Bringing us that much closer to a clash with Russian forces:

The Russian military says a U.S. strike on government-backed troops in eastern Syria reflects Washington's efforts to make a grab for the nation's economic assets. The overnight attack, which killed about 100 according to a U.S. military, came when hundreds of attackers launched an assault on U.S.-backed forces known as the Syrian Democratic Forces who were accompanied by U.S. advisers in the oil-rich Deir el-Zour province.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday the U.S. strike wounded 25 pro-government Syrian volunteers. It noted that the government-backed Syrian forces had failed to coordinate their action with the Russian military prior to launching the mission.

On the plus side, that last sentence is a tacit admission by the Russians those Syrian troops made a mistake in attacking a group with U.S. advisors in it. But that's not much of a plus. It still leaves two wildly different conclusions that could be drawn, neither of them good: a) The Russians are not exerting a level of control over Syrian forces that might prevent catastrophe, or b) They are lying about that prior coordination and maybe even engineered the attack knowing there were Americans present. You might be tempted to dismiss that second possibility because of its recklessness, but take it from an old Cold Warrior: Russian strategy can be very complex. They might view the deaths of a handful of American military advisors as the best way to get the U.S. *out* of that theater of conflict, especially if it appears to be an unfortunate "accident." And filed under the category, "Sounds great but may be dangerous as hell":

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