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.

 

 

 

 

 

Article 13: Anatomy of a Political Hack- Guest Post by Volker Rieck

Guest post by Volker Rieck.
Translated from German. Original article is here
http://webschauder.de/anatomie-eines-politik-hacks/

The anatomy of an assault on politics

The New Testament narrates numerous miracles attributed to Jesus Christ. One of them is the feeding of the multitude: Jesus is described as having multiplied a few loaves and fish so that five thousand people could eat and were satisfied.

The debate over the new EU Copyright Directive towards the end of June 2018 was characterized by a similarly remarkable form of multiplication. But what was being multiplied in this case was not bread or fish, but protest – or rather the appearance of protest.

To begin at the beginning …

In September 2016, EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger put forward proposals for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

Time passed, and Oettinger moved on to a new role within the Commission, but the wheels of bureaucracy continued to churn until the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) was due to vote on the proposed directive.

In the run-up to the vote, observers may have wryly recalled the dictum of German parliamentarian Peter Struck that no bill ever exits parliament in the form it enters it. The directive’s rapporteur Axel Voss (CDU/EPP) had the pleasure of steering a process in which numerous changes and additions to the text were negotiated before it was formally adopted by the JURI Committee and Voss was finally given a mandate to proceed to negotiations with the EU member states.

Julia Reda’s simple slogans

The only member of Germany’s Pirate Party with a seat in the European Parliament, Julia Reda, opposed the proposed legislation from a very early stage. Her campaign grossly oversimplified and distorted the issues at stake. Reda’s “link tax”, coined to attack Article 11 of the directive, is marvellously short and sweet, but that anybody could believe in all seriousness that it would be possible to impose a tax on linking to texts (we know taxes are collected by the tax authorities, right?) is – albeit involuntarily – rather funny.

The battle cries of “upload filter” deployed in opposition to Article 13 of the directive were not much better. Upload filters were not and are still not mentioned in the directive, but the term is eminently suited to stoking fear. And Reda did indeed succeed in her efforts to fool some of her supporters into believing that EVERYTHING on the internet will be filtered in the future if the directive is adopted in its current form and that memes– yes, even people’s much-beloved memes – will all be banned.

Illustration: Screenshot from Zeitjung.de. “The EU wants to ban memes”

 

What nobody (again) seemed to have read and/or understood

While this was completely at variance with the actual content of the directive, that appeared to be of merely tangential interest. What the directive proposed was that platforms (and only platforms) would be strongly encouraged to enter into license agreements with rightsholders covering user uploaded content.
Responsibility for taking out licenses would rest with the platforms, and end-users would be completely in the clear. The idea was simply that platforms would have a duty to maintain transparency to ensure correct licensing and the proper distribution of payments made for licenses to rightsholders. Under the directive, operators of a platform which had not concluded a licensing agreement would have been liable for unlicensed content on their platforms. How operators chose to keep their platforms clean would have been up to them. But preventing copyright violations would have come within their remit of responsibility.

Had you stayed silent, you would have stayed philosophers (to paraphrase Boëthius loosely)

And that, in a nutshell, is the content of Article 13 of the directive. Not that it mattered a jot; many commentators seem to have persistently shunned the intellectual effort required to read a current version of the draft legislation and understand the legislator’s intentions before piling in to make their own arguments. From the internet associationsof the political parties to Sascha Lobo, who wrote not once but twice in Der Spiegelabout “censorship machines”. If only the commentators had simply read the draft text that so perturbed them! Then, perhaps, they might have noticed that the users of a platform which had not licensed content would, for the first time, have gained extensive rights including an entitlement to mediation in the event of finding themselves blocked. By that point, at the latest, it ought to have become evident that the cries of “censorship” were misplaced. Perhaps the critics were simply defeated by the challenge of procuring and understanding a current version of the text?

They want censorship machines, or do they not?

But coming back to content-sharing platforms, the real issue here, let us look at one of the most successful ones, YouTube. The directive is interested only in regulating platforms like this, not in open-source platforms or sales platforms.

For years now, YouTube has been using its Content IDsystem. This system allows rightsholders who submit content to determine what should happen when users view it. The available options span the gamut from monetization (an end user uploads a video with music, for example, and the rightsholder gets a share of any advertising revenue generated) all the way to – please be brave now, Sascha Lobo and Julia Reda – blocking the video. The primary purpose of this system is to prevent third parties from generating revenue with content they have no entitlement to exploit.

What’s more, Copyright Matchis now also ready for deployment. This new system resembles a light version of Content ID. Its primary purpose is to assist YouTubers seeking to assert their rights when duplicate videos are uploaded. The first person to upload a video is automatically notified of duplicate uploads and afforded the opportunity to determine how the platform handles these duplicates. The range of options again extends – and please be brave now, dear net activists – all the way to blocking.

Has anybody condemned these options as censorship? Seemingly not. There have been no protests in the streets against Content ID and Coypright Match, and there has been no public outcry over YouTube’s “censorship machines”. Julia Reda, Sascha Loboand LeFloid, another irate YouTuber, have (right up to the present) refrained from deleting their YouTube channels or adding black sashes of mourning to protest against these upload filters.

The protesters take to the streets

This brings us nicely to the issue of the rallies against the new directive. A demonstration was held, of course. It took place on 24 June 2018 in Berlin. Rather unfortunately for the protesters, it rained that day; otherwise they would have been able to count the usual hordes of tourists at the Brandenburg Gate among their numbers.
Under the circumstances, only those who had turned up to protest were counted, an estimated 150 people. As with an earlier demonstration focused on the ancillary copyright of press publishers, the turnout was so low that there were presumably more press photographers than activists in attendance.
Even when they are initiated by the broadest of coalitions, protests like this tend to suffer from the internet’s 1-9-90 rule: 90% of net users are entirely passive, 9% click on “like” buttons now and again, and only 1% actively upload content.

This explains why campaigns like “Right To Remix” have puttered on for years without gathering much momentum: the vast majority of people are simply not interested.

When civil rights protesters play hardball

But those intent on scuppering the directive had not yet exhausted their firepower. What came now was the hour of the bots, the automatically generated emails, the automatically placed phone calls and the miraculous multiplication of protest, or rather its simulation. In the week before the plenary vote in the EU parliament on whether the adoption of the report by the JURI Committee and the negotiation mandate given to Voss should be allowed to stand,the inboxes of EU parliamentarians were flooded with automatically generated emails. Some EU parliamentarians reported having received 60,000 emails. In total, 6 million emails appear to have been dispatched to EU parliamentarians in this fashion. Compare that number to the handful of protesters in Berlin.

Almost all the emails were identical in content, phrasing and formatting, and many even came from one and the same sender, presumably following the logic that more is better. A very large number of them were sent from the domain Opendata.eu.

This site has no content. It was registered by an English limited company which is in turn a majority holding of a US Inc. that trades in domains and provides services. No civil rights initiative appears to be involved.
Did accepting responsibility for the relentless online bombardment of parliamentarians seem too risky?

The picture was repeated on Twitter, where accounts were flooded with spam, but also threats.

What happened? Sites such as Saveyourinternet.eu made tools available that enable this kind of email carpet bombing. The supporters of this site include an array of internet lobby groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Anyone who believes that the EFF are a grassroots civil rights movement should take a look at this report.
Is it necessary to mention at this point that a large number of the groups orchestrating protests are fundeddirectly or indirectly by groups with an obvious interest in the failure of reforms?

But Wikipedia also jumped aboard the bandwagon. The directive is entirely irrelevant for Wikipedia, which confined itself to condemning it in generic terms as an attack on the free internet Wikipedia understands itself as part of. This was, for all intents and purposes, rather like BMW owners protesting in response to a recall of specific Volkswagen models ordered by the Federal Motor Transport Authority and citing it as evidence of a general war on the motorist. It can only be assumed that the close ties binding Julia Reda’s office manager and his former employer were able to influence Wikipedia’s stance.

Even Mozilla joined the fray. Newsletter subscribers were invited to phone EU parliamentarians. The “Call now” button even appeared in four different places in a newsletter. And of course the calls were free.
The costs were small change for an organization which received over 500 million dollars in royalties for integrating search engines into its browser Firefox in the year 2016 alone.

Illustration: An extract from Mozilla’s campaign email: “everything you put on the internet will be filtered, and even blocked.”

EU parliamentarians reported that callers had followed scripts. The phone calls, just like the emails, relied on prefabricated phrases. It was just too bad that many callers could make little response to questions or counterarguments.

 

This persistent harassment via email, telephone and Twitter took its toll on EU parliamentarians. Many were absent during the vote. Perhaps they took thethreat of murderso seriously that earlier proponents of the legislation now opposed the directive, or perhaps they even believed the canned protests had been real. Whatever the circumstances, the outcome was clear: the motion to allow the trilogue negotiations to proceed received only 278 of the necessary 299 votes.

 

What do these events signify for political processes?

Individual citizens are perfectly entitled to voice their concerns, doubts and problems in dialogue with their representatives in the EU parliament. But this case makes a mockery of this right. Emails citizens had formulated themselves were bound to be lost without trace in the deluge of automatically generated texts. And that, in fact, is exactly what this orchestrated protest was designed to achieve: the drowning out of nuanced arguments by a vast wave of simulated protest.

Just like in the Bible: a miracle of multiplication. In this case, however, no miracle-working was involved; the heavy lifting was performed by technology. ByDDoS, to be precise.

Is this the future? Are those with better technology destined to win even when the better arguments are not on their side? If that comes about, minorities will find it very difficult to make themselves heard – let alone to participate in the process of political decision-making – unless they are able to afford the requisite technology. But even assuming equal access to resources, surely the weighing up of arguments should still count for more than the number of preformatted spam emails, threats or scripted phone calls that can be mustered?

Now, at the latest, the EU must analyse these events in depth and take precautions against politics being hacked in this fashion again. Governance by shitstorm cannot be in the interests of democratically elected governments, and it most certainly cannot be in the best interest of voters.

 

@shirleyhalperin: Variety Reveals $1,500,000,000 First Unmatched Payment to Collective Under Music Modernization Act — Artist Rights Watch

Wow Wow Wow! $1.5 Billion in unpaid songwriter royalties? Why isn’t this all caps page news? How is this possible? I wouldn’t blame anyone for rethinking position on MMA.This seems like it needs investigation not legislation.  Front Artist Rights Watch:

[Now we understand what the rush is!] The DSPs are holding some $1.5 billion in unmatched mechanical royalties. If the MMA passes, that money would be passed through to the MLC which would match it to the songwriters and publishers. Read the post on Variety

via @shirleyhalperin: Variety Reveals $1,500,000,000 First Unmatched Payment to Collective Under Music Modernization Act — Artist Rights Watch

6 Oregon Musicians That Would Make a Better Senator than Ron Wyden (And never had hedge fund in basement).

 

Senator Ron Wyden doesn’t seem to understand that he represents a state with a very dynamic music scene.  Over the last two decades Portland, the state’s largest city has become arguably the most dynamic music scene in the entire  country. Yet Wyden has twice now thrown songwriters and performers under the bus, in order to protect a few tech billionaires from California. Yes these billionaires happen to have server farms out in eastern Oregon but these server farms at most employ a few hundred folks. Portland OR alone has thousands of professional musicians.

But it’s not just that Wyden doesn’t understand this, or has forgotten about those musicians in his state. He is actively hostile to their interests.  Check it.

First in 2013 Wyden introduced the Orwellian “Internet Radio Fairness Act.”   This bill would have created “fairness” for internet radio by slashing performer and songwriter pay as much as 70%. It also placed extraordinary restraints on speech of songwriters and performers, threatening prosecution for any group of songwriters or performers that discussed digital licenses and rates with their colleagues. The language of the bill was so broad and regressive it would have punished members of a single band that collectively blogged negatively about bad digital licensing deals. We are not making this up. The congressional research office eventually stepped in because the bill was so bad. Under withering criticism Wyden abandoned the bill.

See our series on this bill:

https://thetrichordist.com/2012/11/08/irfa-section-5/

https://thetrichordist.com/2012/11/14/the-internet-radio-fairness-acts-attack-on-free-speech/

https://thetrichordist.com/2012/11/29/congressional-research-service-memo-on-constitutionality-of-irfa-section-5/

But now Wyden has taken it up a notch.  According to rules of the US Senate a single senator can put a hold on a bill.  Despite the fact the House of Representatives passed the Music Modernization Act 415-0 Wyden intends to put a hold on a consensus bill. What an egomaniac.  To put this into perspective the Dec 8th 1941 declaration of war on Japan and Germany was not unanimous.  The Music Modernization Act enjoys more consensus than WWII!  But Wyden intends to stand in the way.

But it’s even worse.  When you drill down into Wyden objects to what is perhaps the least controversial part of the bill. The part of the bill that extends digital royalties to performers that recorded before 1972.  This “pre-1972 loophole” in digital royalties is pretty much a copyright law typo.  Surely the authors of the 1995 act that formalized digital public performance royalties did not intend to exclude pre-1972 performers.  Indeed until 2013 most digital services paid royalties to pre-1972 performers. It wasn’t until Wyden’s first bill was shot down that Pandora, Sirius and other digital services began to aggressively exploit the loophole.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I think not.

This is skullduggery of the highest order. Now consider who is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this loophole: Google/YouTube.

As previously noted Google along with all the other Silicon Valley firms have large server farms out in Eastern Oregon.  And Wyden is eyeball deep in Silicon Valley politics.

As a recent commenter on this blog put it:

Ron Wyden, got his political start as a fairly conservative Democrat, which was necessary for his initial success because outside the Portland metropolitan area (and Eugene of course), the other two-thirds of Oregon’s population is very conservative.

Oregon has always had a boom or bust economy based on agriculture or dwindling natural resources, and pretty much every politician of every skunk stripe collectively bent over and grabbed ankles when the tech sector unbelted and began plowing the “Silicon Forest” with their plastic thingies and their ones and zeros. As you might expect, Google now owns Oregon. QED.

Pretty much all you need to know about Wyden is that he is on the Intelligence Committee. You don’t even approach that gig unless you have been drinking the Kool-Aid for donkey’s years. – Ron or Donna

And indeed our reader is spot on. Oregon politicians have been especially pliant when it comes to Google. The Oregonian estimates that Oregon politicians have given Google tax breaks for a single data center in The Dalles worth $100 million dollars.  The data center has less than 200 employees.  That works out to $500,000 a job.   On top of that the data centers suck down most of the cheap hydro power that should arguably go to rate payers in Oregon.  Seems pretty weird, right?  Oregon enriching a bunch of California based companies for a handful of jobs? Someone somewhere must be making a lot of money on the deal.

Also consider this.  Who do you think has oversight over those federal hydropower rates? The rates the operators of those data centers pay? If you guessed The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources you would be correct. And who might be on that committee?  Ron Wyden.

The presence of these large data centers is a net negative to the citizens of Oregon.  So why does Ron Wyden feel obliged to do the bidding of Google on a music bill?  Whether it’s ignorance or greed the result is the same.  Ron Wyden sucks at representing citizens of Oregon.  Sure he pleases many Oregon residents when he goes after the trump administration, but surely there are plenty of other progressive democratic politicians in Oregon that would do the same without icky pro-Google Silicon Valley shillery.

Then there is also the matter of the senators adult son, Andrew Wyden, and his “hedge fund” ADW Capital. The one man hedge fund was started it in the Senators Washington DC townhouse in 2011. Andrew Wyden had just graduated from college and someone gave him 3 million dollars to start a basement hedge fund. If the initial 3 million in funds came from campaign donors (specifically longtime Wyden supporter D. E. Shaw) or other investors with business before the senate you could be looking at an FBI investigation.

Even if the senator is clean,  the optics are horrible. And it’s extremely poor judgement on the part of the senator.  If there turns out to be anything to this story it’s entirely possible that Oregon may be looking for a new Senator before his term is up.

So it’s not a joke to start considering who might replace Wyden in the Senate. Given the growing importance of music to the Oregon economy (surely music is responsible for 100 times the number of jobs that Google data centers created) I humbly suggest Oregon voters look at some smart entrepreneurial musicians to replace Wyden. I believe there are probably a number of Oregon musicians that would do a much better job of representing Oregon in the US Senate.

I asked this question on twitter and here are some of the suggestions:

Well the entire band can’t be Senator, but I suppose Chris like most people is thinking of Carrie Brownstein for her role in Portlandia.  Face and name recognition. We have to assume the campaign videos would be funny. Does she still live in Portland?  Well regardless state residency didn’t stop Cheney from running for Vice President. Regardless I wouldn’t discount Drummer Janet Weiss (also of Quasi). Secret weapon. Corin Tucker also a solid choice.

Again not sure he’s in Portland proper. I believe he still lives just across the state line in Washington. I always see him in shows in Portland so he’s certainly close. Again Cheney demonstrated it’s easy enough to move. And Krist does have a keen interest in politics.  In 2004 considered a run for Lt Governor of Washington.  He is also the author of  Of Grunge and Government: Let’s Fix This Broken Democracy.

 

Larry Crane, musician, engineer, producer, music entrepreneur and Tape Op magazine editor. This is my personal vote. Anyone that has had any experience in the studio knows that producing and engineering requires great diplomatic skills. Producing and engineering of a record requires forging grand compromises between many strong personalities and interest groups: labels, managers, and the performers themselves who are often internally conflicted. It’s a tough job Larry but your state needs you!

I always forget Patterson Hood lives in Portland now. Hood hails from the deep red state of Alabama. Yet he is a strong democrat. Patterson and his band Drive-by Truckers have deftly managed to embrace progressive causes (r.g. Black Lives Matter) w/o alienating the portion of their audience that identifies with conservatives. Who else to better bridge the divide between Portland’s urban population and deep red rural parts of the state. Also he is an extremely humble guy and would never even consider a senate run. All the more reason to send Mr. Hood to Washington.

Other suggestions

We love scott.  He already is Portland’s unofficial music ambassador.

Yes indeed. If Mr Matthews simply remained in his cabin in the woods making recordings and never went to DC for a single day, Oregon residents would surely be better off than sending Wyden back to DC.

Please suggest more Oregon Musicians in comments and we will add them to the poll.

 

 

A Timely Repost: The Economics of Mid Tier Touring From Someone Who Has Done it For 34 Years

This is directed at young musicians.  I already made my money.  Further I have recurrent rock radio hits that generate revenue if I just sit at home and do nothing. Seriously.  In many ways I don’t really have a dog in the fight so to speak. . I just want to let all those young bands out there touring what the economics of streaming really mean.

There will be no middle class or niche ensemble music unless streaming revenues increase.  Flat price per stream revenue is a net transfer of wealth to top artists and streaming platforms. For those interested in the math on this transfer look here.   IMHO eventually the only albums that will be made at a profit,  are albums one or two people record on a computer and are oriented towards pop markets.  More interesting ensemble albums will be made but they will be made at a loss. Or not at all

But many argue that records are loss leaders for touring profits.  Interesting thought. Unless you do the math. For 95% of even successful artists there really isn’t much profit.  And never mind touring doesn’t compensate songwriters.  This is a repost of my article from 2016.

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It amuses me to no end when people suggest that artists can make up for recorded music revenues with live music revenues. These are people who obviously know little about the live music business. I’m sure the top 1% of touring artists can.  But for most middle tier bands this is not a reality.  The main reason lower level artists tour is that it is the most reliable way to stimulate sales of recordings!  That’s what actually supports the middle class artist.

But there are other issues to be considered before comparing live revenues and recorded music revenues.

First of all: recorded music revenues are largely “net” while live music revenues are “gross.”  You can’t equate revenues before expenses  with revenues after expenses. Apples and oranges (*ahem* NY Times Magazine).  D’oh!

Sure most midlevel artists (like my bands)  will have about two dozen  top markets where they play for 500-1000 people a night. And we strategically place those on a weekends.  And yes you can make $500-$800 per band member on shows like these. Ultimately you have to consider that these are just a small percentage of the shows that a mid level artist plays each year.

The other 80-90% of shows occur in lower population secondary and tertiary markets Sunday through Thursday. These shows naturally have much lower attendance and challenging cost structures  So even a band like my own with multiple radio hits that  does 600 paid  in Boston, 800 paid  Washington DC and 1000 in San Francisco has totally different economics on the other 80-90% of shows that make us a full time band.  No offense but places like Wichita KS and Syracuse NY?  200 on a Monday night in a rock club is actually pretty respectable.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at pollstar.com. Check data for club capacities for your favorite midlevel band.  Or pay for an account and you can see the actual ticket sales.

I’m right.  Trust me.

Sure we could skip these lesser markets and keep going back to our top 25 markets, but eventually you saturate and kill the golden goose.   Play in NY four times a year and suddenly you’re drawing 1/3 attendance. Playing in NY  Every 12-18 months maximizes attendance.   So really bands like mine have two choices.  Play only part time (like Camper Van Beethoven and have other jobs)  or play secondary, tertiary and break even foreign markets where you eek out minimum wage the other 80-90% of the year.  Why?  To sell albums, generate airplay and sometimes a sync licenses. Cause those artist royalties, mechanical royalties, public performance royalties are what is really supporting the band.

Drill down further.

So lets say your average middle tier band play 125 north american shows a year (That’s about saturation after that you start cannibalizing ticket sales from nearby cities).  Forget about those top 25 markets. We know those are decent shows.  What do the other 100 shows really look like? What do those Sunday through Thursday small market shows look like?  Let’s assume an average attendance of 200 at those other shows.

Since most of the “T-shirts and Touring” journalists are too fucking lazy to pick up a calculator and do the math I’ll do it for them.   Very important fact to remember:  my wife is a concert promoter and she books about 300 shows a year. And these are mostly middle tier artists!  Our house is a concert promotion facility. She is constantly in touch with other concert promoters, bands, managers and agents across North America.  We are awash in contracts and settlement sheets.  We know what most middle tier bands do in ticket sales Sunday -Thursday.  We know what most club concert deals look like.  I assure you that few music industry “experts” are this familiar with the day to day data.

 

In the relatively fair North American market ( assume it’s worse everywhere else especially in UK).
ON AVERAGE
Buy ticket: $22-$30+taxes Ticket face value $20
Ticket Charge $2-$10 bucks 50% to venue/ 50% to ticketing agency 0% to artist.
$20 Face Value
$8 (40%) goes to venue (rent/security/staff/pa/lighting/promoter profit)
$12 (60%) to artist. But this is artist gross!
Then artist pays.
$1.20 (10% of 60%) to agent
$1.80 (15%of 60%) to manager
$1.20 (non-resident state withholding tax average 10%)(Grrrrrrr… total government rent-seeking activity).
$7.80 (39%) adjusted gross to artist on every ticket.
Then the artist pays crew, transportation, hotels, fuel, meals, insurance etc
Let’s look and see how that works.
Take moderately popular middle class touring band. Bare bones. 4 band members and two crew. 200 paid on a monday night in Tulsa OK. $20 face value on the ticket.
Artist adjusted gross $1560
Typical daily expenses.
$300 2 crew salaries (low ball!)
$150 van/trailer rental or depreciation (300 miles a day) + insurance
$90 fuel
$450 hotels (two star or lower)
$150 meals or per diems
$100 amortize misc/overhead (supplies, accounting costs, tax filings in 40-50 states, repairs, storage, rehearsal space etc etc).
$210 amortize day off /travel days (6 days on 1 day off)
$1,450 approximate daily expense.
Each band member (4) makes $27.50 before tax. or 0.7% of face value of each ticket.
Sure the band members might make $500-$800 bucks a show in their best markets on a friday or saturday night. But if you are very lucky that’s 25 shows a year.
The other hundred shows a year look like this.

That’s why you see stories like this:

http://www.metalinjection.net/latest-news/breakups/thy-art-is-murder-vocalist-quits-over-finances-i-cant-live-like-this-anymore

And don’t tell me stupid shit like this (these are actually taken from Facebook comments:

  1. Get a $1500 used van.  Yeah what happens when it breaks down in Bend OR?   What’s that gonna cost you to get out of that?
  2. Play 7 nights a week. Uh Every notice the space on map between Kansas City and Denver?  Or Bozeman Montana and Fargo ND? Voices don’t work 21 nights in a row.   Drivers fall asleep behind the wheel and everyone dies.
  3. Sell more merch.  Most bands do $3 dollars a head in merch. Anybody who tells you anything different is bad at math or lying.  If it’s t-shirts 20-35% of that goes to club.  Then you you have to pay for the cost of making the shirts.  Then if you have a dumb design or color (fuchsia  is not in this year!) you wipe out your entire profit.   The only place to reliably make money on merch IS BY SELLING YOUR CDS AT SHOWS. RECORDED MUSIC!!!
  4. Get a corporate sponsor.   Yep that’s easy to do when you sell thousands of concert tickets a night and millions of CDs.  Not so much for middle tier of bands. Forget it if you are playing any music remotely controversial.
  5. Play more mainstream music.   Sure let’s all be as mainstream as fucking possible. That’s what made American rock and roll so great, being as mainstream as possible to maximize popularity.
  6. But <insert name> went from playing midsize clubs to arenas. Sure this happens. Just like every once in a while someone walks out of the casino $50,000 richer. But on average and over the long term most don’t. They walk out poorer. Most mid tier artists will not be playing arenas next year. 
  7. <insert  fake music business expert bullshit here> submit your own.

Face it.  Recorded music sales support the bulk of touring activity for anything that isn’t mainstream crap.

 

 

 

Google – A Pirate’s Best Friend (Guest Post Volker Rieck)

Google – A Pirate’s Best Friend

Google appears to still be blissfully oblivious to its intentional or unintentional (but readily discernible) support for piracy websites. Google supports pirates in a variety of ways, and I will explore a few of them here.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has already been critical of Google’s inaction on piracy for years. The first major problem is the prominent visibility of piracy URLs in Google’s search results. Following the classic logic that the best place to hide a body is surely on the second page of search results, the hope of the filmmakers has been that rank and file consumers, at least, might refrain from using rights-infringing sites when they no longer feature in the first few hits on search.
Pure self-interest could be expected to lead Google to the same conclusion: Google sells movies itself in its Google Play store. With every additional illegal option displayed prominently in search results, Google’s own chances of making a sale to an interested consumer recede. Against this background, let’s now see what happens when we run a search on Google for the movie “Black Panther.”

Illustration: Google search auto-complete for Black Panther
The first suggestion from Google is “Black Panther stream.” The other suggestions seem unproblematic.

 

The very first auto-complete suggestion (Black Panther stream) leads to an additional page of search results. The first three hits lead to illegal sites, and only in the fourth position does the first legitimate option appear in the form of Amazon.de.

Illustration: Black Panther stream – Google search results

As advances in artificial intelligence continue, Google is among those working intensively in this areato improve their services. Why Google has not yet deployed artificial intelligence to intelligently filter the words and phrases used in auto-complete and the links they lead to is a question only Google can answer. While such a step would not entirely resolve the problem of unregulated film distribution, it would shrink it substantially.
And Google already has the perfect data basis for differentiating between pirated and legitimate content. According to informationprovided by Google itself, Google has already received a total of 3.5 billion requests to stop links from appearing in search results. Almost all of these links are removed from the search engine’s index as a result, some even before they have been indexed in the first place.

Google has received about 200 000 takedown requests relating to the first three results in the search above and has complied with most of them.

Perhaps mere human intelligence would suffice to join the dots and resolve the issue if the necessary links were made between existing data sets. Google’s success as an enterprise is attributable to the value and the high quality of its products and services. There can be little doubt about that. But pirates also know how to make these services work for them.

Good tools, dubious users

Google’s support for pirates extends well beyond the issue of search engine rankings.
Let’s look at a few of the other things Google can do for pirates:

1. Google Analyticsis the most unproblematic Google service pirates can avail of. And practically every pirate website does avail of it: the Google account numbers are hiding in plain sight in the source code of many of these websites.
Closing these accounts would be simple for Google.

  1. Google Ads: There is no such thing as altruism on the Internet. The illegal science piracy and book websites LibGen und Sci-Hub illustrate this nicely. They present themselves as altruistic knowledge repositories. But the operators are anything but disinterested parties.
    All three banner locations at LibGen in the details view carry Google advertising. The same applies to the Sci-Hub results, which LibGen visitors can also search for. Consumers are bombarded with advertising, at the latest when they download content.


    Illustration: Lidl, Numan Radios and 1&1 can greet their customers from the LibGen website thanks to Google

    Here, again, we can ask how much more work on artificial intelligence will have to be conducted in order to establish that LibGen is not a legal website? Should the 300 000 takedown requestsreceived by Google over LibGen not already have sufficed to make the problem rather obvious?
    And we haven’t even mentioned the issue of brand safety yet. Pirate websites are not fussy about who they accept advertising from. But what reputable enterprise would want to see its products and services marketed alongside ads for pornography and poker?
    Google and the operators of LibGen clearly have a business relationship. Money changes hands regularly and accounts are settled. Google knows who the operators of LibGen are. Google, in other words, knows what the tax authorities and numerous rights holders would presumably like to discover: who are the operators of LibGen, and whose coffers are being filled as a result of Google’s regular payments to them?

  2. Google reCAPTCHA:Captchas are another excellent service provided by Google. They are used to prevent unwanted visitors or bots from accessing sites – including visitors with an interest in detecting what content is made available on certain websites. Getting around the defenses presented by Google reCAPTCHA is complex and onerous.

Only users with Google Developer accounts can deploy these Google captchas. The account data (with a unique Google ID number) can, again, be found hiding in plain sight in the source code of websites that use the service. But informing Google about seedy sites which abuse this Google service (quoting the developer account number) does not lead to such developers having their accounts withdrawn. Google simply ignores such communication.

Illustration: Accessing Game of Thrones at Serienstream.to (S.to).
A Google captcha presents a barrier to accessing the page.

The following list of pirate sites Google supports through its reCaptcha service makes it clear that the problem extends beyond isolated individual cases:

Filecrypt.cc, Goldesel.to, Ddl-warez.to, Ddl-music.to, Serienjunkies.org, Kinow.to, Serienstream.to, Nox.tv, 3ddl.tv, Iload.to, Bs.to, Streamkiste.tv, Warez-world.org

4. Google Drive:Why rent expensive servers that also have to be managed and maintained? Google offers storage space at highly attractive prices. This space also comes with high-performance connectivity, so that streaming and rapid downloads are not a problem.
Google Drive services have been used in the past by such dubious websites as Tata.toor HDfilme.tv. Only after multiple interventions did Google finally dam the streams of pirated content flowing from these sites. Other, similar websitescontinue to entrust their data to Google.

Conclusion:

“Tech giant” and “corporate responsibility” still seem to be mutually exclusive concepts in 2018. Instead of planning moonshots, Google could choose to help the creative economy by taking some very simple but effective steps.
Google’s willingness to funnel money into illegal websites such as LibGen is difficult to comprehend. Google does not need artificial intelligence to resolve problems like this, but human common sense, intelligent consolidation of data, and employees who review activated AdSense accounts.
Stopping the abuse of Google services such as reCAPTCHA in response to well-founded requests would also prove effective.

Final Thoughts: Information Monopolies + Information Warfare vs Democracy

Did Google cross the line from normal advocacy to employing techniques identical to hybrid information warfare?  These techniques are different from normal advocacy because at root they involve deception.  Manipulation of information and tampering with the natural flow of information, and purposely overwhelming target with false signals.

I’m not an expert on hybrid information warfare.  I started this conversation in hopes that experts would examine what happened with Google, civil societies, lobbying groups,the copyright directive and vote in the EU parliament. It looks like that is now going to happen.

Here are some key questions to ask when examining this within the framework of hybrid information warfare:

  1. Was there a coordinated effort to degrade and manipulate information and then distribute it?
  2. Was there then an effort  to direct that manipulated and degraded information at a particular target?
  3. Was there an effort to overwhelm the information systems of the target by technological means?
  4. If information systems were overwhelmed did this prevent contrary information from reaching target?
  5. Were there obvious command and control points that controlled the flow of manipulated information to target?
  6. Was there evidence the command and control point had the ability to direct manipulated information at particular targets?
  7. Was there evidence the flow of manipulated information was abruptly turned on or off? Or suddenly directed at different targets?

In particular look at the website SaveYourInternet.eu within this framework. This website had all the automated tools that directed, tweets, emails and robo calls to MEPs. Look at the groups at saveyourinternet.eu.  Google’s consultant N-Square Consulting apparently ran this website.  Look at command and control relationship between Google and it’s consultancy N-Square.

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

Hybrid information warfare relies on proxies.  Here are some things to remember about hybrid warfare proxies:

  1. Proxies may not be aware they are being used as proxies
  2. Proxies may be funded directly, indirectly or not at all
  3. Proxies may sometimes produce information that is not helpful to the attacker, however
  4. Proxy information not helpful to the attacker is not distributed, and
  5. Proxies never meaningfully oppose attacker
  6. Proxies can include, related corporations, subcontractors, lobbying groups, civil societies, anonymous actors, and even state funded institutions

Investigators should look for any cultivated connection between attacker and proxies that encourages the production of information helpful to the attacker.  Doesn’t need to be money.  As an example: Wikimedia gets money from Google, but the real beneficial relationship between Google and Wikimedia is built into Google’s search algorithm that drives enormous traffic to Wikipedia.

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

The big question to be examined: are private information monopolies like Google incompatible with democracy? Look at the information “battlespace” and ask who has the overwhelming advantage? Information monopolies or democracies? Use Google as the stand in:

  1. Collection of information: Google has more information than all national governments combined.
  2. Distribution of information:  Google’s search, advertising, video and mobile phone OS give it overwhelming dominance in the distribution of information.
  3. Protection of information:  Follows from Googles dominance in distribution.  It can down rank damaging information while opponents often have hacked information distributed by Google.
  4. Manipulation of information:  Google algorithms routinely present search results that do not not properly represent reality. It also appears that Google funded proxies often distribute information that is misleading or outright false.  Democracies and other political entities have very limited abilities in this regard as they do not control enough information distribution.
  5. Information Disturbance, Degradation and Denial. Google again clearly has the advantage here. This follows simply because democratic governments have few extremely limited means to distribute information when compared to Google.

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

How is hybrid information warfare any different between normal lobbying and advertising?  Just as there are laws against unattributed,deceptive or misleading advertising, the same principles follow.  If an information monopoly  engages in any sort of deception, directly or indirectly it crosses into the realm of information warfare.  Is it illegal? I’ll let experts decide.

YOU’VE GOT THREATS! Therefore We Must be on to Something

This is some funny shit. The below article apparently triggered the threat of defamation lawsuit.

Is Google Running Hybrid Information Warfare Attack on EU Parliament? 

Obviously we’re getting close. Yes I know this is bullshit. (Google wouldn’t warn me)  But clearly we’ve struck a nerve with someone close to Google and/or proxy groups.  Be a love. Help us run this down won’t you?  I’d love to mercilessly mock this person.

From our unpublished comments page.

Author Comment In Response To Submitted On
Select comment articlesema
articlesema.wordpress.comx
3358e489@emailna.co
89.238.154.118
David, why do so many of your statements of ‘fact’ have a question mark at the end?

“Is Google Running Hybrid Information Warfare Attack on EU Parliament?”

I would conclude, from your headline and the text within, that they are. With that in mind, I believe that Google’s reputation has been tarnished by your baseless accusations.

A number of people and companies you’ve been writing about in recent months (with your usual generous use of question marks and other weasel words) are very focused on what you’re writing here. I can say with certainty that some don’t like what they see.

So, a word to the wise. This blog may be hosted in the US but you are making a conscious decision to publish to the whole world. This means that things can’t [Can] get awfully annoying for you in other jurisdictions.

I humbly suggest that you restrict your blog to readers in the US moving forward, the law will be easier for you to understand there. I can’t offer the same assurances for the dozens of other countries where defamation is handled with much broader strokes.

Is Google Running Hybrid Information Warfare Attack on EU Parliament?

“Google is the first imperialist power of the 21st Century” – Anonymous Comment.

Time is of the essence here.  Therefore this is just a rough outline of an argument that I would love to see this fleshed out by researchers and/or an investigative body of the EU. It also likely has more than the usual amount of typos.

My hypothesis is that Google lobbying has crossed the rubicon and is now indistinguishable from the kind of hybrid war and information war conducted by hostile states, foreign intelligence services, and terror groups.  Although Google doesn’t (yet) conduct kinetic operations, its activities seem to nicely fit all the other accepted tenets of hybrid war.  Especially in the use of proxies (“little green men”) and information manipulation, disturbance, degradation and denial.

IMHO Google’s machinations in the debate over the proposed EU copyright directive are so far beyond the pale it’s an open question whether Google as now constituted is compatible with free and functioning democracies. To a lesser extent almost all Silicon Valley firms employ these same sort of lobbying techniques.  Certainly these firms lend support to Google in these campaigns.  They don’t say no anyway.  Depending on your viewpoint there now exists a  sort of “Sandhill Pact” or “Sandhill Axis”  that is increasingly willing to undermine democratic processes through fakery and misinformation.

If you consider the Information Space as the 21st century theatre of war, Google is clearly the dominant power.  They have more resources than all nations states put together. Although democracies can be attacked and destroyed through kinetic warfare they appear to be even more vulnerable to information warfare.

Is time to seriously consider actions by Google in the “information space” as threats to national security?

Hybrid Warfare

Hybrid warfare is a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention. By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution. –Wikipedia Contributors.

While on first brush this may seem rather strong to compare Google interventions in the democratic processes of sovereign nations as warfare.  But this is largely because most people have a 19th century view of warfare as purely kinetic operations.  In the last 50 years the information component of war has grown in importance.  In the last 10 years it is arguably it  the most important and effective component of modern warfare.

I’m confident both United States and Russian military thinkers would agree that nations on the periphery of the Russian federation have been yanked in out of the American sphere of influence largely via hybrid/information warfare.  Kinetic operations were only used as a last resort.  Think of simmering conflicts in Ukraine and Georgia.  While ISIL has used stunning displays of violence to claim and hold territory, the group largely used this to further psychological campaigns and thus weaken opposing security forces. These forces “melted away” with little kinetic warfare. ISIL was able to expand its territory dramatically with a few thousand fighters.  If you step back from the violence, ISIL has largely conducted an information war.

Kinetic operations are relatively unimportant in modern warfare, so even though Google lacks kinetic elements, the rest of it’s operations are strikingly similar to the techniques used by state actors and terrorist groups.

Remember that a group or nation does not need to gain territory or achieve a clear victory to benefit from hybrid war. Simply weakening “adjacent” nations or opponents may produce tangible benefits.

Use of Proxies

Proxies have long been used in warfare. Russian czars and the Cossacks.  US and Hmong.  Hybrid warfare importantly relies on the use of proxies not just for kinetic operations but also in information warfare.  As noted in the wikipedia description of hybrid warfare  “by combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution.”  The lack of attribution is key to Google’s strategy here in battle over the Copyright Directive. They don’t want to be punished by MEPs for seeming to have directly attacked them.

On a macro level the proxy here is pretty obvious.   The SaveYourInternet.eu campaign is run by N-Square consulting. (Read the text carefully.)

This firms biggest client is Google. Though many of the other listed clients receive Google funding as well. Most notably CDT.

But on a micro level the campaign against Article 13 is much more disturbing. If you accept the premise the “real signal” or “information” the MEPs need for the vote is “what does the directive do” and “what do my constituents think”  fake constituents providing manipulated or outright false information are doubly effective. If they are once or twice removed proxies Google can again escape retribution.

As supporters of the EU copyright directive began to push back and note Google opposition, a countering wave of misinformation was released.  Here is a twitter account distributing highly misleading information.

This does not seem to be true as Google did not lobby for upload filters. Or if they did, they simultaneously lobbied against the overall directive. Further the tweet that Joe highlights is old and taken out of context. And Joe knows this (see below). It’s a quote about Content ID (YouTube’s proprietary rights management system.) But since we are discussing proxies here, what’s more important is Joe is a Google proxy.

Joe is executive director of  EDRI.  And EDRI is funded by Google.
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/29/google_doubles_eu_lobbying/

And EDRI  is campaigning very hard against the EU copyright directive.

Proxies manipulating,disturbing and degrading information are all hallmarks of hybrid information war. That is exactly what this guy is doing.

Now one tweet is simply an anecdote. But this guy is a key figure and there are many similar tweets. I’m confident that one could easily build a convincing connectivity graph of tweets, retweets, followers and compare that to academics, lobbyists and NGOs fron the Google Transparency Project.  Look at some of the organizations/individuals in reports below and see if they are weighing in on the copyright directive.

     Featured Project Google Academics Inc. July 11, 2017 Read article    

     Blog Google Funds Dozens of Groups Fighting Sex Trafficking Bill September 27, 2017 Read article    

     Featured Project Google’s Academic Influence in Europe Read article    

  Blog US Congressional Privacy “Debate” Dominated by Google-funded Voices February 20, 2018  

     Blog Investigating Google’s European Revolving Door January 25, 2017 Read article    

     Featured Project Google’s European Revolving Door June 4, 2016 Read article    


Weapons of Information Warfare 

In a 1999 student paper a graduate student at Carnegie-Mellon University (Megan Burns) succinctly laid out the basic categories of weapons used in Information warfare.  These were summarized from a broader work on information warfare by Martin Libicki(1995) It’s a succinct read that’s why I highlight it (hope ms. Burns got an A). The key five elements are:

Information Collection

Information Transport

Information Protection

Information Manipulation

Information Disturbance, Degradation and Denial.

In information warfare the side that is able to dominate in all these weapons categories is impossible to to defeat.  At least without resorting to kinetic operations.

Information Collection

Google by the design has an extraordinary advantage over the EU Parliament.  Its Android OS, Gmail, Website analytics and ad networks give it crucial information on virtually everyone on the planet.  The EU government?  Not so much.

Information Transport

More than 90% of all web searches are conducted through Google’s search engine.  Also the default mobile search in the Apple iOS is Google. Android is a wholly owned Google product.  Most people click on the first few results. Google does not have to block information to suppress opponent information. They simply down rank links. Look at the screenshots below. These searches were conducted using private browser and VPN to minimize “browsing bubble” effect on search results.

Information Protection

“By scrambling its own messages and unscrambling those of the other side, each side performs the quintessential act of information warfare, protecting its own view of reality while degrading that of the other side.” -Martin Libicki

Information warfare is about distorting reality.  To win in information warfare your reality must win out over opponents reality. Even actual positivist reality.

It’s not just enough to control the information flow. In information warfare a entity must protect information that the other side could use to damage your capabilities.  In the case of Google they are expert at “Google washing” or obscuring damaging information.   There is no better example of this than the Google’s own “transparency report” that confuses opponents searching for “Google Transparency Project.”  Which one would your typical MEP staffer click on? By outranking adversary’s competing information,  Google partially shields  itself from damaging information.  Remember Google controls the Information distribution channel.  Essentially Google through the power of its search engine has the power to encrypt damaging information will decrypting and disseminating information that harms its opponents.

Information Manipulation 

Information manipulation in the context of information warfare is the alteration of information with intent to distort the opponent’s picture of reality. This can be done using a number of technologies, including computer software for editing text, graphics, video, audio, and other information transport forms. Design of the manipulated data is usually done manually so those in command have control over what picture is being presented to the enemy, but the aforementioned technologies are commonly used to make the physical manipulation process faster once content has been decided. – Megan Burns

In this instance we see Google Proxy SaveYourInternet.eu conduct a three step process, that allows them enormous command and control over information directed at MEPs.

Step 1.  Google proxy creates disinformation and images to share.

Step 2.   Google proxy creates technological tools to distribute the misinformation.

Step 3. Some real constituents use these tools.  But the tools were also used en masse by unknown(?) allied parties.

Any particular country’s MEPs can be targeted by SaveYourInternet.eu. As images indicate Axel Voss was being automatically targeted when image was captured.

Information Disturbance, Degradation and Denial.

“Spoofing is a technique used to degrade the quality of the information being sent to the enemy. The enemy’s flow of information is disturbed by the introduction of a “spoof”, or fake message, into that flow. The technique works because it allows you to provide “false information to the targeted competitor’s collection systems to induce this organization to make bad decisions based upon this faulty information,” Cramer 1996

Thousands of tweets against copyright directive have been sent to MEPs from fake twitter accounts. “The enemy’s flow of information is disturbed by the introduction of a ‘spoof’, or fake message, into that flow.” Zoom out and there is an grander fake message: thousands of constituents are outraged by the copyright directive.

Finally as  evidenced by the automated tweets, SaveYourInternet.com targeted specific MEPs at different times. “provide false information to the targeted competitor’s collection systems to induce this organization to make bad decisions based upon this faulty information.” See targeted robo tweets below. 

Hundreds of automated tweets an hour directed at MEP Beatriz Becerra.  Quite surprising since it’s the wee hours of the morning and the frequency of tweets seems to be increasing!?

So you got it?  A Google funded webpage using automated tools to misinform and mislead a member of EU parliament, using what often appears to be fake twitter accounts.  What do we call this?

“Another way to disturb the information being received by one’s opponent is to introduce noise into the frequency they are using. Background noise makes it difficult for the enemy to separate the actual message from the noise.” -Burns 1999

Again see above.  The volume of automated tweets makes it impossible for MEPs to “hear” information that Google does not want them to hear.  Say voices of artists and other creators that might be in favor of the copyright reforms.

“Finally, overloading is technique used to deny information to the enemy in both military and civilian settings. By sending a volume of data to the enemy’s communication system that is too large for it to handle, one causes a crash or severe degradation of the system’s ability to deliver information. The system is so busy dealing with the overload, it is unable to deliver the essential information to those who need it.”

By flooding MEPs with thousands of Spam messages, phone calls and emails, the fake information overwhelms all other information that might be useful to MEPs as they consider this bill.

Conclusion

The EU should investigate Google as their actions and those of their apparent proxies bear the hallmarks of hybrid information warfare.  The future of democracy in the EU is at stake.  These techniques could easily (and probably have been) replicated by state actors interested in undermining EU on other issues.