Did Google Astroturf Group Fail to Report Copyright Lobbying to Canadian Authorities?

A few weeks ago this blog on the website of Michael Geist caught my eye.  Michael Geist is an anti-copyright activist/professor at University of Ottawa and I generally try to keep up with his writings.  In this blog he claimed that lobbyist data showed groups representing artists and other copyright holders represented the vast majority of registered copyright lobbying meetings with Canadian officials.  Registered is the key word here. Bookmark that and we’ll come back to it in a minute.

While Geist might be technically right I don’t really get the point of the blog. What is so outrageous? It should be no surprise that artists and rights holders in Canada are actively lobbying their government on copyright. The 2012 Copyright Modernization Act, Notice and Notice, and lax enforcement of online piracy have been a disaster for Canada’s creators. So-called “copyright reforms” have further decreased revenues for many artists with academic authors particularly hard hit. But more importantly it’s been a disaster for Canada’s reputation for good government.  Indeed Canada recently joined China, Russia and Venezuela on the US Trade Representative’s list of piracy havens!

Canada has started smoking and hanging out with the bad kids.

Therefore Geist’s headline is plausible but largely uninteresting. Canadian creators are very concerned about inadequate copyright protections. So yes, lots of meetings. Perhaps the only interesting thing about Geist’s misleading headline is that it is the sort of soundbite that is weaponized and then used to delegitimize copyright review processes around the world. “Big media got special treatment.” Corporate disinformation, meant to hide the fact copyright is an individual right and the only thing that guarantees large corporations pay artists anything.

We see this across all western democracies. Anti-copyright activists, many with ties to Silicon Valley cyber-libertarians, hell bent on lowering trust in democratic processes and institutions. Ends justify means if they achieve their narrow anti-copyright anti-regulatory goals. The sad truth is that these propaganda campaigns add to centrifugal nationalist sentiments tearing at foundations of western liberal democracies. See here. Folks like professor Geist are unfortunately the useful idiots in Silicon Valley’s war on all government.

Meet Open Media.

Regardless, I find Geist’s numerical claims on lobbying suspect. It just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Indeed, one Canadian author joked that this seeming imbalance was probably because the anti-copyright lobbyists were simply not filing lobbying communication reports.  Even though this statement was made in jest, it struck me as something worth investigating. Because we’ve seen this type of trickery from the anti-copyright astroturfers again and again.

I decided to poke around and see if there was something to this. I decided to start with Open Media.

In the last few weeks, The Times of London, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and this blog have written extensively about the Vancouver BC group OpenMedia.Org and it’s role in spamming the EU parliament as they voted on the EU Copyright Directive. By “spamming” I mean tweets, robo calls, fake emails and even faxes. These pre-formatted communications often contained misleading or outright false claims about the copyright directive.  Fortunately this “cyberturfing” campaign backfired. I mean really really backfired. MEP Helga Trüpel said in a teleconference right after MEPs passed the copyright directive “It is due to this message spamming campaign, I talked to my colleagues here and they are totally pissed off.”   Her words not mine.

We also caught Open Media spamming Canadian government officials on copyright review and intellectual property provisions in NAFTA negotiations.  Here’s a summary:

https://thetrichordist.com/2018/09/04/canadian-government-funded-group-spamming-canadian-negotiators-on-nafta/

So who are Open Media?

The Commissioner on Lobbying lists Open Media as an “engagement network”. Is that a thing? I don’t know what that means. Seems like double speak for something that supposed to look grassroots but is really astroturf.  I do know that this “engagement network” is at least partially funded by Google; It files lobbying reports with the Canadian Government; and has what appears to be a for profit subsidiary (New/Mode) that markets its services to other aligned groups (like SaveYourInternet.eu). One of the directors of Open Media was also Google’s former public policy chief in Canada 2007-2014. 

One bizarre fact:  the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada gave Open Media $50,000 (2016-2017). I have no idea what to make of this. It appears to be one branch of the Canadian government funding spam campaigns against other parts of the Canadian government (as well as the US and EU governments). So much for “good governance!”

But I digress.

The point is this: If any anti-copyright group would be lobbying the Canadian government on copyright, this would be it. Open media conducts very public campaigns on copyright. Why wouldn’t they also be as vocal on copyright in their lobbying?

So what do the records of the Commissioner of Lobbying show?

Consumer Affairs 41, Copyright 0

Just a few of the lobbying meetings with members of Parliament during copyright review hearings.  Topics? Consumer Affairs and Telecommunications.  

As required by Canadian law Open Media filed 53 Lobbying Communication Reports but not one lists copyright (or even intellectual property) as a topic. 41 of those meetings were said to have concerned “Consumer Affairs and Telecommunications.” 14 were “Privacy and Access to Information.” And 2 were “International Affairs.” So no copyright? Not a bit of public policy on copyright was discussed?  Even when meeting a current government official that once worked for Google on copyright policy? Does this seem plausible to anyone?

The last registration form for Open Media with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying clearly lists copyright policy as area of interest. There is currently an active copyright review in Canada.  And Open Media have an active email spam* campaign directed at foreign minister Freeland that specifically addresses copyright and NAFTA. I quote from the auto generated email:

“Furthering my concerns about intellectual property, I implore the government to ensure we protect both Canada’s fair dealing provisions, as well as our Notice and Notice copyright warning system. As one of the key levers that controls expression online, Canadians are deeply concerned about being able to shape their own copyright policy. As we head into a mandatory 2017 copyright review, we should not accept any rules under NAFTA that would restrict us from fully evaluating and updating these policies in the best interest of Canadians.”

(Shouldn’t this by itself count as lobbying and require a disclosure?)

Again I have no idea if Open Media discussed copyright with any government officials.  Maybe they didn’t. But there are 53 lobbying communications with dozens of government officials listed. Those government officials could definitively answer the question. Of special interest should be those communications that have taken place during the copyright review.

Perhaps that Canadian instinct for good governance will kick back in and someone will investigate this. Who knows maybe even the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying will look into it.

UPDATE:  Looks like Hugh Stephens (Vice Chair
Canadian Committee on Pacific Economic Cooperation) just posted a blog on Open Media as well.  Good companion piece. Read it here:

Opening the Book on Open Media

*And Spam? Yes. Try it yourself. Fill in fake name, email and random postal code, keep hitting send button.  Big fan of the 1998 Truro SpamCats, myself.)

“Totally Pissed Off” By Big Tech Spam EU Gives Artists A Copyright Victory

Start at 14:45:10 

You HAVE to watch this.  When asked why EU Parliament switched from opposing the copyright directive to overwhelmingly supporting it, German MEP Helga Truepel pulls no punches:

“I think it’s due to this message spamming campaign. I talked to some of my colleagues here [and they] are totally pissed off, cause in the streets there were a maximum 500-800 people last sunday… and we were only deleting emails for weeks now.”

We told you two months ago. This was not a normal lobbying campaign. It would seem that the EU Parliament agrees that Big Tech lobbying campaign crossed the line.  For it is now clear the vote for the copyright directive was about much more than copyright.  It became a referendum on the scummy (and possibly illegal) tactics that big tech has been using for years. SOPA, SESTA, PIPA, ACTA, US Copyright Office consultations, TPP, Net Neutrality, and Canada’s NAFTA negotiations have all seen government officials targeted with massive spam and disinformation campaigns orchestrated by Big Tech and carried out by their shadowy astroturf groups.

It’s a great day when you get to watch a democracy stand up to these arrogant Big Tech assholes and say “You have to play by our rules.”  And really mean it.

Thank you MEP Truepel.  They’ve been getting away with it for too long.

Botocracy: #SaveYourInternet Tweets to EU MEPs Peak After 1:00 AM Local Time

This is a real simple story.  There are a number of tools one can use to count the frequency of hashtags on twitter.  One is Keyhole.  There are many other great services.  But they will all tell you this:  Tweets with #SaveYourInternet hashtags appear to be at highest level in days. The only problem is it’s 2:00 AM in Brussels.  Does this seem like organic traffic to you?  (Display is set to US East Coast +6 hours for Brussels).

30.43% of all traffic today came from the US.  SaveYouInternet.eu sent the most traffic.  SaveYourInternet.eu is a website managed and controlled by N-Square. They are of course Google’s lobbyists in Brussels.  This looks to be Google spamming the EU with with tweets.  Don’t you agree?

Here are the two principals at N-Square.  The EU should make them come to EU Parliament and answer questions about their activities.

And just to be safe call this guy in.  Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Counsel.  You might want to ask him if their shenanigans in the EU are really about the copyright directive or are retaliation for the big antitrust fine the EU levied on Google.  Not saying they are. But what would it hurt to ask? You know, “clear the air.”

 

 

 

 

 

Networked Propaganda- Guest Post by Stefan Herwig.

Networked Propaganda

Online activists and lobbyists are using digitally manipulated protests and misinformation to fight a copyright reform in Europe. They know what they are doing. Do Members of the European Parliament know what this is about? A guest commentary.

Translated from original German text:

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/von-lobbiysten-die-das-urheberrecht-bekaempfen-15773233.html

“History doesn’t repeat itself, it just writes the bill,” said luxembourgian musician Jerome Reuter in an interview once. On the occasion of the recent events surrounding the European Parliament’s narrow rejection of a copyright amendment in July, Reuter’s statement may be endorsed. As for the second time, Internet activists and companies have exerted considerable influence on European policy with a concerted information campaign, and once again it was about the fundamental attempts of enabling copyright protection on the Internet. Once again, the “end of the Internet as we know it” was conjured up, an enormous expansion of censorship on the Internet feared and the alleged influence of creative industry lobbyists on European politics criticised.

With false information against the ratification of the copyright amendment in the EU Parliament

The first time was the winter of 2012 when one hundred and fifty thousand demonstrators across Europe took to the streets, wearing Guy Fawkes masks, protesting against an international trade agreement called ACTA. They were motivated by a visualised summary of the supposedly frightening effects of the trade agreement, the Youtube video “What is ACTA?” which can still be seen today and which issued the trade agreement as a pact towards a dystopian surveillance state on the internet. It struck a chord with Internet users, the media and some politicians alike.

Only days after the ratification of ACTA had been rejected by several state parliaments and the storm of indignation had died down, did the public and the media realise that the trade agreement had only a marginal connection with law enforcement on the Internet. Rather, it was intended to ensure better international cooperation against trademark piracy. “Does anyone out there still read primary sources?” asked IT specialist lawyer Nina Diercks in her blog. She was surprised at the hysterical discussion and reporting. It also suddenly became apparent that the Youtube shock video in 2012 had not only been based on the ACTA negotiations status  of 2009, but had also interpreted them in the most negative way. The agreement that was to be decided had nothing more to do with the video. It fell victim to a propaganda trick. It became, the European Ground Zero of what we now call “Fake News”. A public reappraisal of the ACTA disinformation campaign never took place, and therefore this propaganda coup could not only be repeated in matters of consecutive trade agreements (TTIP, Ceta). Now an amendment to copyright law in the European Parliament was overturned with similar false information. History does not repeat itself, it just writes the bill.

Propaganda instead of factual facts

More than six million e-mails reached the European Parliament in the days before the vote. The rapporteur of the amendment, Axel Voss (CDU), received sixty thousand e-mails asking him not to approve the amendment. SPD member of parliament Udo Bullmann even reported death threats against various parliamentarians by e-mail. In hacker circles such a mail flood is called DDOS (Distributed Denial Of Service) attack, websites are paralyzed by a bombardment of user requests. Tim Allan, press spokesman for the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, spoke of the most extreme lobbying impact on a parliamentary legislative process since its inception.

In addition to powerful tools that activists can use to automatically send emails, Twitter messages or make free international calls to MEPs’ offices, the “Saveyourinternet.eu” page contains (as this newspaper reports on 18th, 27 August and 5 September) simplifications such as “Article 13 threatens your ability to link content” (wrong), “Article 13 threatens blog pages” (wrong) or “Article 13 threatens sharing parodies” (wrong). Concerned Internet users are incited with disinformation. There is a specific term for such strategic action: It is propaganda.

In the case of the copyright amendment, the fears of the opponents of the amendment, led by Julia Reda, the last remaining MEP of the Pirate Party, seem strangely constructed: Upload filters would prevent copyrighted content from being uploaded and shared by users who have acquired no rights to it. Reda fears that these filters would block more content than just the works to be protected and that satire or quotes would certainly be included. This would lead to a censorship of the Internet, there would be deep cuts in freedom of expression through excessive overblocking to fear.

Internet platforms to be forced to license

Anyone who reads the original text of the copyright amendment will be surprised at this apocalyptic interpretation, because the installation of upload filters is not a mandatory measure mentioned within the draft. Rather, the amendment attempts to persuade large Internet platforms, streaming sites or social media services, which primarily offer content uploaded by users, to license the content commercially by changing the liability rules. For decades, copyright law has provided for licenses for all other commercial users of protected content. In particular, major commercial platforms should pay fees for the use of music, films and texts like any other commercial licensee who uses works protected by copyright. After all, the platforms earn money from the content via advertising and data analysis. The amendment is intended to eliminate a legislative imbalance that has hitherto enabled commercial Internet platforms to make profit from the content uploaded by their users, even if neither users nor platform have acquired any rights for it.

In an unusual unanimity 73 creative industry associations, such as the associations of the music industry, musicians’ and authors’ associations, actors, collecting societies or the umbrella organisation of the German film industry, voted together for the amendment in order to eliminate the market distortion caused by the lack of liability rules. After an intensive debate and various amendments to the amendment, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament followed the argumentation at the end of May and voted with fifteen to ten in favour of the controversial Article 13. Non-profit platforms such as Wikipedia, smaller platforms, blogs or even open source and science platforms were expressly excluded from the amended liability rules, which did not prevent organisations such as Wikimedia Deutschland, the operator organisation of the German Wikipedia, from continuing to claim that their existence was threatened by the amendment.

“Censorship” is interpreted very creatively

The accusations that the amendment leads to censorship, as Sascha Lobo claimed in his “Spiegel” column or Youtube star LeFloyd claims in a clip clicked over 550,000 times, are not covered by the primary text in any way. Stylizing uploading filters to “censorship machines” (Lobo) or distorting the novella into a “censorship law” (LeFloyd) is based on a rather creative interpretation of the term “censorship”. Censorship is based on a state content definition and an absolute scope. The voluntary use of an upload filter by a platform to save licence fees and counteract copyright infringements by its users is therefor not a form of censorship. In addition, the amendment provides for possibilities for users to defend themselves against possible false blocking. Uploaders whose content would be blocked as allegedly unlawful would also be entitled to a statutory complaint procedure on the platforms, which needs to be carried out in a timely manner.

The further the reporting on the copyright amendment moves away from the primary source, the less factual and one-sided the submissions become. As with ACTA, the primary source – the actual text of the law – is largely ignored, as it also includes sensible rules on orphan works, fair participation by authors, the right of associations to sue, and access to culture and information for the disabled.

Qui bono?

What does it mean for our society if deliberate disinformation on the Internet overlaps not only politics but also the media to such an extent that democratic processes and the free formation of opinion are sabotaged?

First of all, this means that we should question the ideal of the “free flow of information”, the inherent belief of net political activists. This narrative of an unregulated network that promises us an open, intelligent, participatory society is increasingly being disenchanted since whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed in 2013 that the network’s data-centric infrastructure has a dark side that has lead us to the edge of a global surveillance society. Other initially acclaimed manifestations of radical transparency and participation also proved flawed: Wikileaks, Anonymous, swarm intelligence – all of these began idealistically, but soon revealed their deficits. Swarm intelligence turned into swarm stupidity, participation into hate speech, the free flow of information into algorithmically supported disinformation, leading to events as relevant as the potential manipulation of the last American presidential election or a Brexit referencum overshadowed by disinformation. However, this does not prevent the net activists from adhering to their ideology. In order to assert them, they make use of simplification, disinformation and manipulation, as can be seen from the example of the copyright amendment.

When apologists of a free flow of information resort to populist distortions, as has happened here, they betray their own fundamental ideals. This is called a life lie.

The syntax of the internet is detrimental to democracy

We urgently need a new Internet narrative that recognizes that access to information is only apparently free and socially useful while algorithms pre-sort our information horizon, equating popularity with relevance. The master algorithm popularity = relevance is deeply inscribed in the infrastructural DNA of the internet, steadily reprogramming our society. With the infiltration of such information services, that are targeted towards steadily confirming our opinions, serving our interests and networking us predominantly with like-minded people, we constantly lessen our societal abilities to differentiate and hold constructive discourses and heat up the growing disenchantment with politics and media. Facebook’s “Social Graph”, the semantic facebook algorithm programmed for the preferences of our content, threatens our freedom of expression more than any copyright uploadfilter in the amendment ever could. Part of this is that we have as complete an information horizon as possible, through which we can get to know different opinions and conduct discourses in order to negotiate democratic processes. It is not for nothing that the German Constitution adds to its understanding of freedom of expression the need to be able to obtain unhindered information from public sources. Our online horizon is curbed, defined by platforms which, because of their inherent hunger for data, tempt us to stay within their platforms as long and as much as possible: Just don’t switch off, just don’t click away. What we don’t like, what does not support one’s own opinion, is imperceptibly pushed into the background. The AfD voter is hardly shown any content that makes foreigners look good; instead, there is a double dose of migrant fake news. The feminist only gets to see feminist-friendly content. The shared media public that unites us all, the search for consensus, recedes and is overshadowed by an individualized information offer that constantly confirms us: “You’re correct, almost everyone else thinks the same way you do.”

The rise of populists in England, Italy, North America, Germany, Hungary and Austria is strikingly synchronized with the increasing reach of our social media platforms. Populism sets the tone. Those who use the new information channels more effectively, more consistently for their own purposes gain the power. The National Socialists knew this when they offered the radio “Volksempfänger” for 35 Reichsmark in order to extend their reach. The new right-wing populists know the same.

Their rise also shows the far-reaching failure of the agenda-setting of German and European network politics: the hope for desirable technologies and competitive future scenarios while at the same time ignoring the most pressing economic, social, media and informational problems of today. If these are ignored, the immune systems of functioning societies are weakened and democracies become vulnerable at their core. There is therefore no more important digitization problem than the syntactic reformatting of our digital information horizon by the algorithms of the major platforms.

And while the large Internet platforms are becoming more and more powerful, the side of those who produce content is bleeding out economically. As a society, we deprive content makers of their financial basis through piracy and insistence on a free culture; this applies to both culture and the media. In regulatory terms, those online corporations that are economically unchallenged at the top of the food chain are even supported by politicians. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Baidu and Tencent are the largest, most successful and most valuable companies in the world. Content brands such as the New York Times, Reuters and MTV have disappeared from the top 100 brand rankings. But politics is even subsidizing the mega-companies by tolerating tax loopholes and missing liability rules. The infrastructure eats up the content.

The European copyright amendment wants to reverse this trend. It has been temporarily stopped by Internet activists, some of whom are involuntary but always useful assistants to technology and platform companies.

On September 12, the European Parliament will once again vote on the new Copyright Directive. In the days before – now – the digital siege of MEPs could continue. The outcome of the second vote is open, as is whether there will be another disinformation attack on parliamentarians and their staff. Will this kind of propaganda determine the decision-making process in Parliament? One thing is clear: History is in the making.

Stefan Herwig runs the Internet thinktank “Mindbase” and advises politics and business on network policy issues. He is a former owner of an independent music label.

Canadian Government Funded Group Spamming Canadian Negotiators on NAFTA

It ain’t gonna spam itself. Spoiler alert: it’s the same group involved in recent EU cyberturfing on Copyright Directive.

The Problem: 

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada provided funds to one of the Google backed astroturf groups engaged in a spam email campaign against Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland. The emails urge her to reject the NAFTA treaty based on objections to IP provisions that would strengthen rights of Canadian artists.

Yes, while Freeland is facing a difficult negotiation with the US, the Office of the Privacy commissioner appears to be making it even harder by helping undermine her efforts.

It is very important that Canadian policy makers take a hard look at this group (Open Media) and ask the OPC why they funded this group in the first place. As we have seen in US on FCC net neutrality hearings, this sort of spamming activity by the likes of Open Media seems designed to overwhelm the channels through which ordinary constituents communicate with government officials. It drowns out the voices of ordinary citizens, and replaces them with robotic corporate and special interest crafted messages. It is appalling that the Canadian Government funds a group that is using tactics The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has called “political hacks.”

A Little Background On Open Media and What Happened in Europe.

In the last few weeks, The Times of London, The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and this blog have written extensively about the Vancouver BC group OpenMedia.Org and it’s role in spamming the EU parliament as they voted on the new Copyright Directive. By “spamming” we mean tweets, robo calls, fake emails and even faxes. These pre-formatted communications often contained misleading or outright false claims about the copyright directive.  Unfortunately this “cyberturfing” campaign worked and Open Media was able to fool enough MEPs into thinking there was a genuine grassroots backlash, they voted to push back deliberations on the copyright directive.

More importantly the fake grassroots uprising established a false narrative that the law was “controversial” and would do terrible things it does not in fact do.  Factually incorrect claims about banning memes and jail time for The Beatles were repeated in the popular press. Disinformation triumphed.  Hybrid information warfare enthusiasts everywhere were surely delighted!

Open Media does appear to be a non-profit. But we are not sure exactly how to describe this opaque organization. It’s not really a civil society. It acts more like a trade industry group. The Commissioner on Lobbying lists it as an “engagement network” that employs lobbyists  Is that a thing? We do know it is at least partially funded by Google and other US internet interests; It files lobbying reports with the Canadian Government; and has what appears to be a for profit subsidiary (New/Mode) that markets its services to other aligned groups (like SaveYourInternet.eu).  One of the directors of Open Media was also Google’s former public policy chief in Canada 2007-2014.

In summary, what the EU learned about Open Media in last few weeks:

This is just a summary. There are a series of articles published by this blog, Billboard Magazine, The Times of London and The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that fully cover the EU Parliament cyberturfing by Open Media and associates. These are mostly collected in a reference section at the end of this post.   I urge you to read the articles at the end of this blog as these support our assertions below:

  • Open Media was key player in fake grassroots movement #SaveYourInternet that massively spammed the EU parliament with emails, robo calls, tweets, and faxes. Open Media provided the automated web tools and “cloned” websites.
  • It was a fake grassroots movement. Despite the claims that they had millions of supporters, when the leaders of #SaveYourInternet tried to organize rallies turnout was dismal. Like 18 people in Stockholm dismal.
  • Tweets, emails and web traffic exhibited irregular patterns that appeared non organic. Tweets/Emails were identical. Phone calls were scripted. Traffic was sent at odd times of day.  Clear evidence of “command and control” was observed as specific country MEPs were selectively targeted for long periods. Then targeted countries and MEPs abruptly shifted en masse. Open Media brags on own website about ability to do this.  (Independent researchers #DeleteArt13 tweets from July 4-5 can be found here)
  • Analysis of tweets and website traffic, showed % of traffic from member states wildly out of proportion with population.
  • A lot of activity from Poland was in English.
  • Activity was often steady through overnight hours.
  • Analysis of tweets showed most originated outside the EU. Content Creators Coalition (C3) an Artists Rights non profit in US, analyzed tweets carrying #DeleteArt13 hashtag and found 88,000 came from Washington DC. Only 72,000 came from entire EU.  Here.
  • Web tools provided by Open Media (To SaveYourInternet.EU) did not check for valid email addresses, physical addresses, verify identity or check to see if IP addresses were in EU, and phone calls were permitted from North American numbers.  Try it yourself. 
  • Web tools provided by Open Media allowed users to simply reload page and send hundreds of emails and tweets opposing NAFTA. Try it yourself
  • No Captcha’s were ever required, allowing easy automation by potentially malicious third parties.  Try it yourself. 
  • The #SaveYourInterent campaign was directed by Google’s “Secretariat”  N-Square in Brussels.
  • Opinion is still divided in the EU parliament but many now openly question if there ever was any real opposition to copyright directive.

Now it’s happening in Canada.

As Fake Daniel Therrien Fake Commissioner of Privacy I demonstrate how easy it is to spam Foreign Minister Freeland with anti-NAFTA messages. Go fullscreen it’s worth the 60 seconds.

Now it appears that Open Media is trying to torpedo IP protection provisions in the NAFTA treaty.  They are sending out dubious emails that speculate wildly or mischaracterize the facts.  These emails are directed at Canada’s Foreign Minister and they make wild and unsupported claims about NAFTA IP provisions.  Also  the spam email has a curious  little “rider” paragraph at the end that seems to imply that TPP has been a disaster for Canada. Is that true? It’s only been in effect a few months! So a by-product of this campaign is it falsely gives the impression that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are upset with the TPP.  I find it extremely unsettling that the Office of Privacy Commissioner of Canada provided funds to an opaque Google-funded organization that is attempting to undermine the Canadian Prime Minister on trade policies. Shouldn’t this activity be reported as lobbying or something?

Regardless, think of the implications for Canadian democracy:

Anyone can go to this website, impersonate Canadians and send as many emails as they want to Freeland.  In video above a Fake Daniel Therrien  OPC Commissioner of Canada repeatedly spams Freeland.

  • No Captcha
  • No geolocation check of IP address
  • No email verification
  • Allows repeated emails
  • Easy to impersonate anyone
  • Easily used with keystroke automation

No Protections To Guard Against Automation

I automated 25 spam emails and received 25 separate verifications from Open Media that my emails were sent to Freeland. It should be noted the “thank you” email included a solicitation for money. And by “automation” I mean I just had to hit “back” button on my browser and then “send” button on webform. Not exactly brain surgery.  This is a complete fraud.

Note: I always let recipient know these were tests and demos. I did this by changing my name to a short explanation. It is clearly working as “ThisWasDemoOfOpenMediaSpam” got a thank you email. Additional precautions were taken so targets would not mistake these communications for real constituent communications.

Why Do Silicon Valley Interests Object to IP Provisions that would protect Canadian creators. 

In the US we have long grown suspicious of groups like Open Media as their agendas seem to always exactly match the public policy positions of Google and other Silicon Valley interests.  We have come to view these groups as simply extensions of Silicon Valley corporation’s public policy operations.

Google in particular is extremely aggressive in lobbying against copyright protections. No surprise we see them trying to meddle in Canadian politics through a dubious “engagement network.”  Basically any $CAN paid to creators on its YouTube platform is one less dollar that goes to the billionaires Sergey Brin and Larry Page.  In particular YouTube relies upon what is arguably an illegal anti-competitive scam, whereby licensed versions of music videos must compete alongside “User Uploaded Content.”   In many cases (certainly in my own personal experience with my own videos) the revenues generated by the UGC content does not go to the rightful owner of video. Example this is a UGC instance of one of my songs. I have no idea where the ad revenue goes.  I can only assume Google keeps this money. Judging by Google’s enormous global lobbying efforts to prevent any copyright reforms that would force them to correct this kind of abuse, one can reasonably conclude this is an enormous profit center for Google. (Sum all those unlicensed videos streams across millions of commercially made music videos and the sums are likely staggering). In this case the NAFTA IP provisions would likely make it harder for Google pocket this undeserved revenue. Thus It makes sense that Google would fund a Canadian “engagement network” like Open Media that seeks to torpedo the entire NAFTA accord over this one little issue. Clear return on investment there.

(I don’t know how to put this in polite phrasing and still convey the outrageousness.  So apologies in advance.)

That said, It makes no fucking sense for Office of Privacy Commissioner of Canada to fund this activity. It hurts Canadian creators, but more importantly it undermines Canada’s own sovereignty. Government offices funding groups attempting to undermine Canadian sovereignty? Wow.

There are usually only two reasons for involvement by government officials in this sort of subterfuge:

  1. Incompetence
  2. Corruption

Or both. Either require firing of those responsible in the OPC.

It happened before in Canada Why is Canada Letting it Happen Again? 

Read this from 2009.  This all happened once before.

100,000 Voters Who Don’t Exist

Canadian government officials can maybe excused for doing something stupid the first time round.  Not the second time round. Investigation is warranted. Firings and even criminal and civil penalties should be contemplated.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What Should Canadian Creators Do?

This is a hack of your democracy by US corporate interests aided by your own government. Do something about it.

Write The Minister of Democratic Institutions

The Honourable Karina Gould.

Twitter handle @karinagould

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/karina.gould/

Email (For those of you that do not participate in data mining operations conducted by US social media platforms)

karina<dot>gould<at>parl<dot>gc<dot>ca

Write Chief Spam Compliance Officer  Steve Harroun

Office Twitter Handle  @CRTCeng

Email (For those of you that do not participate in data mining operations conducted by US social media platforms)

steve<dot>harroun<at>crtc<dot>gc<dot>ca

Write The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commission of Canada.

Twitter @CIEC_CCIE  English

Twitter @CCIE_CIEC French

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion

Email (For those of you that do not participate in data mining operations conducted by US social media platforms)

mario<dot>dion@parl<dot>gc<dot>ca

Write Justice Canada.

It is not clear who at Justice Canada would be responsible for investigating this sort of activity. However since it goes beyond spam and has a distinct odor of corruption, I believe that Justice Canada should at least be made aware of this activity.

Here is the generic Twitter account @JusticeCanadaEN

Here is the Twitter account of  Minister Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General @MinJusticeEn

I don’t know if this guy (Alexandre Kaufman) is the guy to write but he has reportedly filed spam complaints in the past with CRTC.

Can’t hurt to try him:

Alexandre Kaufman Senior Counsel Department of Justice Canada

https://www.canadianlawlist.com/listingdetail/contact/alexandre-kaufman-621701/

He doesn’t appear to have social media accounts. Here is his email.

akaufman<at>justice<dot>gc<dot>ca

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Reference Articles:

Observations from this blog as EU cyberturfing campaign was occurring:

Meanwhile in Europe Is Google Attempting to Hack the EU Parliament with Robo Calls, Emails and Fake News?

#SaveYourInternet Dog Whistles to Far Right with Pepe: Desperation or Stupidity?

EU MEPs Hacked: More than Half #DeleteArt13 Tweets Appear to be from Sock Puppets

https://thetrichordist.com/2018/07/04/is-google-running-hybrid-information-warfare-attack-on-eu-parliament/

https://thetrichordist.com/2018/07/06/final-thoughts-information-monopolies-information-warfare-vs-democracy/

Post Mortem and Other Press:

https://thetrichordist.com/2018/07/28/the-google-funded-astroturf-group-that-hacked-the-eu-copyright-vote-in-pictures/

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/google-funds-activist-site-that-pushes-its-views-rg2g5cr6t

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/eu-urheberrechtsabstimmung-anatomie-eines-politik-hacks-15743044.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6031363/Google-funding-campaign-group-spams-policymakers-newspapers.html

Anatomy of a Political Hack – Guest Post Volker Rieck

How Google Funded OpenMedia.org Lets Anyone Easily Hack Canadian Copyright Consultation

https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8472479/european-copyright-protests-draw-small-crowds-after-online-avalanche-column

Dismal Turnout For Anti-Copyright Directive Protests in EU Suggests Little Real Opposition

Dismal Turnout For Anti-Copyright Directive Protests in EU Suggests Little Real Opposition

Guest Post by Volker Rieck.  Translated from German.  Original here

Astroturf instead of grass roots: When clicktivism meets hard reality

Last weekend, several organizations called for a “Day of Action” with demonstrations throughout Europe against the planned EU Copyright Directive.

Among the supporters of the events were the Pirate Party, the Left, the Greens and the network association Loade.V. (FDP).

The saveyourinternet.today website created an overview map of all 27 demonstrations.

Although this page, like many other pages of the campaign, has no legal notice or stated privacy policy as required by GDPR it has nonetheless been linked by Change.org and others—groups that ordinarily assert an interest in privacy.

In any case the cards weren’t put on the table. Again.

Illustration: Saveyourinternet.today with calls and links to the demonstrations. Operator of this site unknown, data protection notice missing. The WhoIs details lead to WhoIs Guard in Panama.

The “Day of Action” in Germany

The first event was Mainz on Saturday, August 25, 2018, where prominent members of the Bundestag such as Tabea Rösner (Die Grünen) and Manuel Höferlin (FDP) spoke.

Nevertheless, they only spoke in front of about 30 participants.
While the poor attendance at the event in Mainz was notable – it was far from the worst showing of the day for the declared opposition to the copyright directive.

On Sunday, other cities followed, including Hamburg. Patrick Breyer, the former member of parliament for the Pirate Party in Kiel, also spoke in front of about 40 demonstrators.

Breyer stressed that 1 million supporters have already been collected for a petition against the directive at Change.org. He also defended himself against accusations that the petition had been supported by bots, which seemed a bit strange in view of 40 participants.

Illustration: Final photo of the rally in Hamburg, approx. 40 participants.

Pirates are obviously capable of self-reflection. Demonstrator Malte Huebner quickly aired his displeasure on Twitter that day.

“The visibility of the Hamburg #saveyourinternet demonstration is catastrophic.
We are standing there like a bunch of flat earthers that warn of reptiloids from the dark side of the moon. The scope of #article 13 cannot be conveyed with this approach.”

But it was even worse for the young pirate when the first passers-by appeared.

“Oh Shit, ‘The Pirate Party still exist? Weren’t you for pedophilia and kid porn?’”

The main event took place in Berlin at Pariser Platz. According to various estimates, it was probably the largest event of the campaign with around 100 participants, although the alleged driving force was the MEP Julia Reda. This is an astonishingly small number for the central event of a campaign!

Reda had stated in advance that with broad support the accusations that there were relatively few people behind the online campaign could be refuted.

If broad attendance was to be understood as an affirmation of the actual support of Europeans, then surely the converse is also true – the lack of broad support would suggest the opposite conclusion. The crowds, or the absence therefor, have spoken. It is now essential that major media who have largely reported the Pirate’s assertions that the directive is “highly controversial” recognize they have been following noise rather than signal. It’s not always the case that where there’s smoke there’s fire. Sometimes it is just smoke.

Illustration: The “Day of Action” at Pariser Platz in Berlin, approx. 100 participants

In other German cities, too, participation seemed to be similarly moderate. The city of Munich attracted only about 30 protesters.

Illustration: The “Day of Action” at Marienplatz in Munich, approx. 30 participants

A projection based on 15 of the total of 27 events throughout Europe, which attracted a total of around 400 participants, suggests that the maximum number of participants across Europe would be 800, as there were also locations with no shows. Even in the home country of the Pirate Party, Sweden, more precisely in Stockholm, there were only 15 participants.

Illustration: The protest in a park in Stockholm, about 15 participants. No, this is not the yoga group that usually meets there.

Poland is not lost yet

Poland was supposed to be the backbone of the anti-directive campaign, after all organizers had a few years ago managed to get 10,000 people out to protest ACTA, so surely, they would step up where there German counterparts had failed. Not this time. In total, there were an estimated fewer than 100 people across 6 different rallies in Poland. As in Germany, this should send a message to media, members of the European Parliament, and the public.

There were more police officers in Lodz than demonstrators. A total of 6 (six!) participants gathered. And who knows how many there would have been in Krakow (40 participants) if the mayoral candidate Konrad Berkowicz (Wolność party) had not used the demo on his own behalf and his supporters had increased the number of participants.

The hashtag of the campaign should therefore better be #1of8hundred and not #1of1million. That would be closer to reality.

Estimates of the number of participants in detail:

Berlin 100
Hamburg 44
Vienna 38
Cracow 35
Karlsruhe 32
Stuttgart 30
Warsaw 30
Munic 25
Katowice 25
Helsinki 18
Stockholm 18
Prag 16
Amsterdam 15
Paris 15
Lodz 6
Total 447
Average 30

A lot of noise from a few activists

So there seems to be a large numerical discrepancy between the digital protest and the number of actual opponents of the planned EU Copyright Directive.

The campaign claims to have one million signatories at Change.org, yet only 0.08% of the signatories gather to go to a demonstration.

Of course, click and demonstrations are two different ways of expressing opinions. One click is done in seconds, while a demonstration can be cumbersome.

However, the question arises how such a small core of visible opponents of the EU directive throughout Europe was able to generate so much digital noise among MEPs in July. And how could this noise, which was produced by so few, have had such an impact on so many members of the European Parliament?

The technical tools provided by the initiators of the saveyourinternet.eu website via partner sitesplay a central role here.

They have ensured that MEPs’ mailboxes were overfilled, and their Twitter accounts flooded in the week before the vote in early July.

The meagre result of the “Day of Action” must not remain hidden from EU parliamentarians.

It is almost certain the same tools will be used again before the next vote on 9/12/2018 (12.09.2018). Every Member must consider his or her decision carefully.
It is of vital importance that parliamentarians not be misled by manufactured and hyperbolic outrage, nor by media that lazily reports the existence of imaginary controversies.

Last weekend’s “demonstrations” told an important story. Not the whole story of course, but an important one nonetheless.
Governments around the world are struggling with how to translate online comments into an understanding of the will of the people. One thing is abundantly clear – They do not convey a fair representational sense of the public – particularly given the existence of marketing tools to facilitate a form of uncritical hashtag clicktivism. Astroturf is easily disguised as grassroots. This has now been exposed in Europe via last week’s protest. It is a lesson that must not be ignored by the European Parliament.

 

 

 

 

How Google Funded OpenMedia.org Lets Anyone Easily Hack Canadian Copyright Consultationi

This is the same group that the Times of London covered.  This is the group behind the massive spamming of the EU parliament on the copyright directive.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/google-funds-activist-site-that-pushes-its-views-rg2g5cr6t

Here I demonstrate how anyone in the US can repeatedly “spam” the Canadian copyright consultation with this website.  I can multiply my voice hundreds of times hitting the browser back button and resend.   You don’t need to mask IP address or fake a Canadian IP. You just need a single Canadian postal code.  Easy enough to Google and get a postal code.  I used the postal code for the town of Meat Cove at the top of Cape Breton Island.

All I Can Figure is these 42 Overpaid IP Law Professors Hate to See Musicians Paid; Love Billionaires

By “copyright holders” Prof Annemarie Bridy means musicians and songwriters. Prof Bridy attitude is typical of IP law profs.  Aw, poor streaming services can’t make money because they have to pay the producers of the only product they sell! Capitalism is sooooo hard!!

Kiss up Kick down:  IP law profs love the loophole that benefits  a handful of billionaires. Musicians? Not so much.

I’ve been musing on this for months now.  Every since I saw the “42 IP law professors” letter opposing the closure of the pre-1972 digital royalty loophole I thought “Really? how can intelligent people be FOR keeping a ridiculous loophole in place that only benefits a handful of billionaires?”

The Pre-1972 loophole is perhaps the ugliest recent episode in a very ugly history of copyright malfeasance by tech companies and digital broadcasters. In 2012 two companies, Pandora and Sirius XM unilaterally decided there was a loophole in federal law that allowed them to skip royalties to artists recorded before 1972 (the year sound recording copyrights were federalized). Other companies soon followed. Up until then it was the commonly held view that these digital royalties were required for state AND federal copyrights and folks like Aretha Franklin were paid for performances of RESPECT. In fact Apple and many other companies continue to pay these royalties.

Needless to say, lawsuits resulted and are slowly winding their way through courts. One day they may settle the issue. But in the meantime American Icons like Franklin have passed away without being paid those royalties. Yet the very same multi-billion dollar digital companies who cheated those performers on their death beds, will gladly pay tribute to them with specials and playlists. Think of the advertising dollars.  And not a penny goes to their estates.  Shameless.

The house of representatives recognizing an obvious injustice created The Classics Act to fix this bill. It was rolled into the omnibus Music Modernization Act and passed the house unanimously.  When it got to the Senate trouble started.

That’s where the 42 IP law professors come in. Now lets give them the benefit of the doubt first. The lP law professors on the surface would seem to have reasonable arguments that point out technical issues with the bill. However two things quickly became apparent.

1). There arguments were misleading and in some cases completely wrong. Other IP scholars began to debunk their arguments.  Here is a good one from law prof Matthew Barblan at George Mason University.

2) The subsequent public statements of many of these professors seemed to indicate they think artists don’t deserve to be paid. The technical legal arguments were cover for pure regressive anti worker anti artists hostility. Oh and did I mention that at least 15 of them were funded directly or indirectly by Google?

The common argument they began to advance was that fixing the loophole would be a “windfall” to these legacy artists.

Windfall?

Let’s get this straight. So you get paid by your boss until 2012. Right?  Then your boss stops paying you when under the law she should pay you. Congress steps in and proposes a bill that forces your boss to pay you.  In the framing these law professors propose hat would be a “windfall.”

What fucking amoral shithole planet do these folks live on?

42 IP Law Profs on average make tax subsidized $189,000 a year but musicians are paid too much? Especially dead ones!

I guess Tushnet’s theory was if she dressed up a tasteless insult in prose maybe no one would notice a pompous white Harvard professor was making fun of a recently departed African American woman. Harvard: Making America Pompous Again.

But as of late their arguments have gotten even more harsh  And I think it’s time we just throw this crap back it in their faces.  Are IP law profs paid too much? Are they receiving “windfalls” from US taxpayers?

I went through public records for the public universities and then used Glassdoor estimates for private universities.  These estimates are imperfect.  But if you take the 42 law professors on the list it’s pretty reasonable to conclude they are making on average $189,000 a year. Many of these professors also do outside work.  Let’s not forget universities have some of the best health and pension benefits for employees. Then consider the work hours?  A full professor generally only teaches a couple course a year.  How many hours a year do you think one of these law profs works?

A recent Princeton study showed musicians made on average $21,300 a year.  Now how many hours a year you think a musician works?

Do you think a single one of these ivory tower dwellers could survive a single week on the road?  “Oh no we might have to talk to a truck driver or convenience store clerk in western Nebraska!”

And yet virtually to a person these law profs twitter feeds are filled with vague progressive sentiments and slogans for the #resistance.   Fauxgressives. Corporate sellouts. Rent-a-profs.  Cause you can.   The letter itself was written by Google lawyer and they signed it.

The Let Them Eat Cake List 

Here are the professors.  See them on twitter or facebook?  Make them explain their opposition to closing the pre-1972 loophole. It only benefits a few white digital billionaires but will disproportionately harming performers of color.  Make them address that. Time to make these folks take responsibility for their actions.

Melissa B. Alexander
University of Wyoming College of Law

John R. Allison
McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin

BJ Ard
University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Derek E. Bambauer
University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Mark Bartholomew
University at Buffalo School of Law

Robert Brauneis
George Washington University Law School

Michael Carrier Rutgers Law School

Michael W. Carroll
American University Washington College of Law

Ralph D. Clifford
University of Massachusetts School of Law

Thomas Cotter
University of Minnesota Law School

Brian Frye
University of Kentucky College of Law

Kristelia A. Garcia
Colorado University Law School

Shubha Ghosh
Syracuse University College of Law

Jim Gibson
University of Richmond School of Law

Eric Goldman
Santa Clara University School of Law

Paul J. Heald
University of Illinois College of Law

Stacey Lantagne
The University of Mississippi School of Law

Mark A. Lemley Stanford Law School

Lawrence Lessig Harvard Law School

David Levine
Elon University School of Law

Yvette J. Liebesman
Saint Louis University School of Law

Jessica Litman
University of Michigan Law School

Lydia P. Loren
Lewis & Clark Law School

Brian Love
Santa Clara University School of Law

Glynn Lunney
Texas A&M University School of Law

Mark McKenna
Notre Dame Law School

Mike Mireles
University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law

Ira S. Nathenson
St. Thomas University School of Law

Tyler T. Ochoa
Santa Clara University School of Law

Aaron Perzanowski
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Jorge Roig
Touro Law Center

Matthew Sag
Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Zahr Said
University of Washington School of Law

Pamela Samuelson
UC Berkeley School of Law

Sharon Sandeen
Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Jason Schultz
New York University School of Law

Lea B. Shaver
Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Jessica Silbey
Northeastern University School of Law

Kevin L. Smith
University of Kansas School of Law

Katherine J. Strandburg
New York University School of Law

Rebecca Tushnet Harvard Law School

Alfred C. Yen
Boston College Law School

 

 

 

 

Anatomy of a Political Hack – Guest Post Volker Rieck

Editor note:  This has been translated from original german text here. Of particular significance Mr. Rieck suggests that the websites associated with the  political hack,  OpenMedia, New/Mode, SaveYourInternet EU and (their cloned sub-websites appear to violating e-Commerce directive proper disclosures (ownership) and New/Mode violating GDPR on user data.

Anatomy of a Policy Hack Part 2 – The Organization of Hacks

As mentioned in a previous article, saveyourinternet.eu’s campaign was primarily responsible for the flooding of MEPs’ mailboxes with ready-made e-mails their Twitter accounts with automated tweets and their phones with switched phone calls including call guidelines.

Who is behind safeyourinternet.eu?

The campaign was organized by the organization Copyright for Creativity (C4C) and its secretariat N-Square. The C4C has 42 members (EFF, Edri, BEUC etc.) and, according to its own statements, is mainly financed by the Open Society Foundation (the foundation of George Soros) and the Computer & Communications Industry Organization. Members of this American industry association include Amazon, Cloudflare, Facebook, Mozilla, Google and Uber.

Who exactly was in charge?

To carry out the campaign, N-Square (a lobby company of the KDC Group, which also works for Google, among others) links to various campaign sites. Unfortunately, it is not always clear who is behind it, because only half of the partners and tool pages involved in the saveyourinternet campaign have an legal notice.
Not even saveyourinternet.eu itself has an about us, only further links.
The imprint obligation of the e-commerce directive is ignored.
Only on a second glance over a WhoIs-Lookup one learns that the page was registered by the C4C. The conglomerate C4C, KDC Group, N-Square has registered other websites that  also play a role in this hack: fixcopyright.eu and voxscientia.eu.   Neither of these organizations disclose who created them. Only through a Whois query can you trace it back to the KDC Group.

Who needs the EU data protection basic regulation?

The basic EU data protection regulation (GDPR), which has been in force since the end of May, naturally also applies to companies operating campaign sites in Europe.
In the case of the sites registered by the KDC Group and N-Square, however, this does not seem to matter to them.
Particularly critical at liberties.eu is the transmission of visitor data to the North American New Mode, the commercial subsidiary of Open Media, without reference in a data protection declaration. Platinum sponsors of Open Media include Google and Mozilla.
Only the Open Rights Group website has a data protection declaration in accordance with the basic regulation. All others are in breach of Article 13 of the GDPR.
A GDPR-compliant data protection declaration, in particular information on the processing of consumer data, is missing in all other cases. Responsible persons are not be named.

Arm in arm with supporters of piracy

A further analysis of the traffic of Saveyourinternet.eu is very informative. Most of the visitors until the end of June came from Poland. This could have to do with the fact that there were Polish origin pages on which banners were placed. These banners were booked via the dubious English/Russian advertising network Propellerads. According to a study by the British company Incopro, Propellerads was the No. 2 ad network in 2015 that finances piracy sites through advertising. On illegal sites that violate copyrights commercially, Propellerads is an integral part of the advertising environment.

Illustration: Adtraffic to saveyourinternet.eu, 90% ads by Propellerads by Similarweb

Where are you from?

Visitors from the USA, who ranked 4th in the visitor hit list Saveyourinternet.eu, were also able to contact MEPs via the tools.
US blogger David Lowery describes in his blog Thetrichordist how he himself was able to reach EU deputies in the UK.

Illustration: Traffic share per territory by Similarweb

How much does a hack like this cost?

As several MEPs have told us, they have received between 50,000 and 70,000 emails.
If we assume that the Full Toolkit (Best Value) for 50,000 mails plus an additional package for 25,000 mails was ordered at New/Mode, the entire DDoS attack ADD “WOULD” cost only 549 US Dollar, i.e. about 470 Euro. That is only 0.60 euros per MEP.
Always assuming that several MEPs were bombarded with mails at the same time with one click.

Illustration: Price for the Full Toolkit (Best Value) at New/Mode

Conclusion

Ultimately, US companies from the Internet economy financed significant parts of a campaign in Europe to influence EU legislation.

What looked like grassrootes movement from the outside was in fact a classic form of astroturfing – designed to create the appearance of a popular movement.

Given the absence of any type of verification and the active marketing of this campaign outside of the EU, it remains entirely unclear the extent to which non-EU nationals and/or bots were involved in the generation of automated or semi-automated messages against articles 11 and 13 of the directive.

The campaign relied on dubious advertising marketers and many of the parties involved do not in the least meet minimum requirements for legal notice obligations and basic data protection regulations. There is massive violation of both.

This campaign was developed and executed precisely to create confusion about its sources, supporters and modalities, and to prevent a clear understanding of its true nature.

It is a matter of the greatest and immediate importance that the EU consider how to respond to such stealth attacks on the democratic institutions of the EU, and to ensure that such lobby-driven DDoS attacks will not endanger its ability to work fairly in support of the EU nationals and interests in the future. There is every reason to suspect that the same parties wil engage in similar, if not, identical tactics in the lead up to September vote on the directive, and therefor essential that steps be taken now to ensure against manipulation of our political processes by foreign and non-human actors.

The Google Funded Astroturf Group that Hacked The EU Copyright Vote (In Pictures)

 

Who Hacked the EU Copyright Directive Deliberations?

The EU parliament just went through a couple of contentious weeks in which they were overwhelmed with tweets, letters, emails and phone calls opposing Article 13 a section of the Copyright Directive that would have forced companies like Google to police their platforms better for copyright infringement. Last week we published a guest post by Volker Rieck in which he described in detail how a small group of anti-copyright ideologues apparently created a fake grassroots uprising against the EU copyright directive by essentially multiplying their numbers with bots.

Today I introduce you to the Google funded group that appears to have been behind virtually every single one of these fake grassroots political attacks. Including the #DeleteArt13 campaign.

 

Meet OpenMedia.org.   What a wholesome looking bunch of progressive-ish political activists!  They’re based in Vancouver BC.  A friendly town. A clean, modern, Pacific rim high tech banking city. Very multicultural, sort of like Seattle except without the crazy drug addicts with super-human-Chinese-research-chemical strength swinging shopping carts over their heads. No Vancouver is a nice place to raise your children and start an astroturf group that supports the regressive interests of Silicon Valley cyber-libertarians.

Yay!

OpenMedia.org counts Google as a “platinum supporter” whatever that means.  Mozilla Foundation which receives $300 million annually from Google is another “platinum supporter.” Then there is the super weird and mysterious Private Internet Access.  Ostensibly PIA (legal name London Trust Media) is a commercial VPN. But when you dig beneath the surface it’s ownership and corporate structure is to put it mildly opaque.

There are many other Google connections but one above all should be noted: board member Jacob Glick is the former head of the Public Policy and Government Relations for Google Canada. You think they still talk?

So what does OpenMedia do?  They fight aggressively against any sort of regulation that would harm Google and Silicon Valley’s bottom line. SOPA, Net Neutrality, DMCA Takedown Staydown and the EU copyright directive.

 

But doesn’t Google have like a zillion academics, think tanks and astroturf groups already doing that for them?  Yes. That is true. So what is so interesting about OpenMedia.org?  It’s how they go about supporting Google and other silicon valley companies.  They specialize in creating “grassroots” campaigns.  Only these aren’t really grassroots campaigns. They are pure astroturf.  Their campaigns make heavy use of automated tools that allow a single person to repeatedly spam targets with tweets, emails, robo-calls, robo-faxes and even automated letters!  How do they do that?

Meet New/Mode Purveyors of the Finest Democracy Hacking Tools.

 

Meet NewMode.net.  New/Mode is some kind of arms-length commercial subsidiary of OpenMedia.org. Which in turn is funded and directed at many levels by Google and Google associated groups.  Not sure how non-profits work in Canada, but the ownership structure as described on their home page seems odd.

Here’s what they do.  One-click calling.  One-click email. One-click faxing. Fairly predictable. Storm social? hmm like the sock puppet tweet storm we saw directed at the MEPs last month?   Letters to the editor? WTF? Automated letters to editors? (more on that in a minute).

Let’s look at one click calling. Pure clicktivist nonsense.  I tested this out a while back. A user can put in any postal code.  No one checks. I put in a postal code for a rural city in the northern plains of the US and I was connected to the office of someone who was not my congressman. I was scripted to behave as if I was a constituent.

Even better. If you stay on the line, the service keeps connecting you to additional “targets.”  So one person can easily call 20-40 “targets” in an hour.

Democracy Hacking Tools in Action

 

During the #DeleteArticle13 campaign I was able to dial UK MEPs using New/Modes tool. Even though I was using a US phone number! NewMode and OpenMedia didn’t seem to care. Why should they?  Any cybermob is a good mob right?

They helpfully gave me talking points. This is your democracy. This is your democracy on bots.

(Since I originally posted this piece I checked the calling feature again.  It still works. Even with US number. See screenshot above)

Microtargeting a Tweet Storm

 

New/Mode isn’t just about spam email and robo-calling.  They do so much more. Want a tweet storm?  Just like the one directed at Euro MEPs on article 13?  I wonder how all these sock puppet tweets were generated? They were coming out at about 3 to 5 a minute in the wee hours of the morning Brussels time.  A lot of sleepless constituents! Is meth still popular in EU?

Oh look! Those aren’t sleepless constituents. New/Mode provides exactly the tool you need to create your own middle of the night tweet storm. No Meth required!

And New/Mode lets you target exactly who you want to target. Just direct the information warfare firehose at a single wavering MP somewhere.  More effective.

 As we reported in an earlier blog, we observed the “grassroots” tweet storm behaved as if someone was in command and control.  The tweets focused on certain countries MEPs for long periods of this time, then suddenly shifted to a different country.   This is not organic grassroots behavior.

Google Command and Control

Tweet storm targets were the same as those MEPs highlighted on the SaveYourInternet.eu website. SaveYourInternet.eu used the New/Mode web tools for tweets, email and robo calls.

 

SaveYourInternet.eu website is operated by Google’s lobbyist in Brussels N-Square.  Get the picture? MEPs were cyber bullied by fake mobs under the command and control of a Google lobbyist.  How is this even legal?

In the US command and control has been effectively run by Marvin Ammori via Fight For The Future.  Fight for the Future employs the same New/Mode tools to mount it’s fake grassroots campaigns.  Ammori is/was outside counsel to Google, and is currently associated with at least three other Google funded institutions including the Center for Internet and Society.

I Love the Smell of Hacked Democracy in the Morning: Past Targets

The US Federal Communications Commission was targeted by New/Mode tools last year:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/11/29/net-neutrality-comments-mostly-came-bots-and-fake-email-addresses-pew-finds/904439001/

The Trans Pacific Partnership  trade agreement was derailed largely due to disinformation spread with this Open Media New Mode enabled tool.  Here is the OpenMedia.org “cloned” website that first deployed the tools:

https://stopthesecrecy.net

Original opposition was based on intellectual property provisions, but Trump (and to a lesser extent Sanders) hijacked the movement and turned it into a jobs issue.  (You see what happens Larry when you find a stranger in the Alps?)

In 2016 the US Copyright Office  “consultation” was similarly bombed with identical comments using a similar tool.

https://thetrichordist.com/2016/04/19/exactly-86000-identical-comments-the-illegal-comment-bombing-of-dmca-notice-takedown-review-by-google-proxy-fight-for-the-future/

Also 2014 a similar use of automated commenting tools targeted and crashed the FCC website. Freedom of Information requests later revealed that FCC staffers with close ties to Google helped the group that generated the bot comments post the comments anyway.  See emails here

These are all DDoS attacks that seek to overwhelm the voices of real  constituents by drowning them out with a flood of corporate sponsored spam. There is no other way to describe this other than a hack of the Democratic processes.

 

New/Mode also brags that it can create “clone” websites to make it appear as if there are a broad range of groups supporting the same action.  In screenshot above they brag about creating 60 “cloned” environmental group websites in Canada to put pressure on the Trudeau government.  While the end goal of this environmental campaign may be laudable, ends never justify means. Especially if it means you hand Canadian democracy over to astroturf groups controlled by Silicon Valley interests. Maybe Canada’s federal government in Ottawa ought to have a look at what’s going on all the way down at the other end of the country in Vancouver.  Seems sketchy to me.

And it is Fake Grassroots

 

 

As we have noted repeatedly on the Trichordist, when Google funded/directed astroturf groups that use the New/Mode tools then try to turn their cyber-brownshirts into boots on the ground very few (if any) people show up.

In 2016 Fight For The Future launched a campaign against the US Copyright Office consultations on copyright reform. Fight or the Future claimed to have crashed the Regulations.gov website with New/Mode tool. (Is this something to brag about?)  Fight for the Future claimed it was because tens of thousands of folks responded to their online campaign and overwhelmed the regulations.gov portal to comment on US Copyright Office consultations.  At the same time Fight For The Future organized a rally.  However only 4 people showed up to protest in person.  Judging by signs all four were pro-copyright. Apparently they showed up to oppose the non-existent Fight For The Future protestors.  Doesn’t make sense. A group that can get tens of thousands of folks to leave comments on wonky federal regulations  but they can’t get anyone show up for a protest?

Similarly there are only 37 individuals in the photo of the  “huge” white house rally to keep title two net neutrality at FCC.  This was also organized by Fight For The Future. So the online campaign generated millions of comments, emails and phone calls and 37 people show up to protest at the White House?   This does not pass the smell test.

Over in Europe reports indicate something similar happened.  The biggest #DeleteArt13 rally in Berlin had less than 150 participants.  Where are all the millions of folks who sent tweets, emails and phone calls to EU parliamentarians?

The simplest explanation is that most of the online protestors don’t really exist.

Fake, fake fake.  Pure fakery.

It Gets Worse: New/Mode Hacks Print Media

 

But forget the EU and Canada for now. The thing that stopped me in my tracks was this tool that allows a small team of individuals to write a “letter to the editor” to every local newspaper in the US.

 

Clearly these folks at Open Media know that they are up to no good. “Randomize subject lines and content to deliver an original authentic story to editors.”  This is pure shillery.  No I take that back. This is pure fuckery.  And they are fucking with our democracy at a very local level.  Turns out Canadians aren’t nice at all.

They even bragged about it and linked to robo letters that were published in small town newspapers.  What is wrong with these people?

Hack Me?  HACK YOU!

 

Just to demonstrate how fucked up this is,  I repurposed the Net Neutrality letter to the editor. I replaced their text with my own and sent the following letter to every small town newspaper in Oregon. It took maybe five minutes?  The joke in the letter is that Sen Ron Wyden of Oregon has proposed a bill to prevent hacking of federal elections by mandating paper ballots.  The problem is that Wyden clearly does not have a clue as to how our democracies will be hacked.  Our democracies will be hacked by hybrid information warfare techniques.  NOT ballot tampering. The creation of fake grassroot movements and disinformation is what will kill our democracy.  OpenMedia.org and New/Mode are already deploying the tools that will kill our democracy. But given the fact Wyden is sometimes referred to as “The Senator from Google” don’t expect him to do anything about it.  (Also Google and Oregon? See here)

Oh and Krist Novoselic is the former bass player of Nirvana.  And he does have political aspirations.  See his book

Can’t be any worse than Senator Ron “Hedge Fund In My Basement” Wyden.