Grassroots or US Cyberturf? Who Tweets on EU Copyright

Editors Note: In light of the very recent article by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on efforts by cyberturfers Create.Refresh to pay YouTubers to influence debate on the EU Copyright Directive, this analysis of influencers on Twitter is extraordinarily important.  Please note, this article was reworked from earlier version, omitting location data that proved to be unreliable).

Who tweets on EU copyright?

The debate on the reform of EU copyright law has many facets and a considerable part of the discussion takes place on Twitter.
The power of hashtags

On the one hand, hashtags are used to search for key words in discussions particularly quickly and effectively. On the other hand, it is very easy to find out which topics receive special attention on Twitter by analyzing which terms are often hashed and how often and dynamically they are shared. These terms are then displayed as so-called “trending topics” on the Twitter home page. The so-called “retweeting”, i.e. the unchanged forwarding of a tweet along with hashtags to one’s own followers, is an important factor here.

The frequency of use and distribution of hashtags is therefore often seen as an indicator of the public relevance of certain topics. If, for example, the #saveyourinternet hash tag appears regularly in the trending topics, the impression is created that more and more people are rejecting the copyright reform.

The importance of influencers

Now that the final decision on the reform is about to be taken, it makes sense to take a closer look at the Twitter campaign against the EU copyright reform using aggregated data. The data is based on data from the Talkwalker service, which we have compared with alternative services such as Keyhole. Here we use only the global data without geolocation, i.e. the worldwide number of uses of certain hashtags in a certain period of time, were examined. (the geolocation data proved to be faulty).

Using data from the Hashtagify service, the largest influencers were measured in terms of range.
This makes it easy to see who gave a hash tag the most momentum.The so-called “mentions”, i.e. the mention of a hash tag in a tweet, are decisive for the spread of a hash tag. The more mentions a hashtag experiences, the more it is perceived as relevant for a topic.

The following analysis focuses on the mentions of the hashtags, which play a major role in the campaign against the EU directive from a German perspective, because they are the framing of the anti-reform movement.

#saveyourinternet

#Artikel 13

#upload filter

#linktax

#censorshipmachines

The temporal development of mentions

Most noticeable is the increase in mentions of #saveyourinternet after Google/Youtube started its active campaign around this hashtag in autumn 2018.  The numbers doubled.

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Illustration: worldwide cumulative representation of the development of the hashtag #saveyourinternet. Source: Talkwalker

The  graph illustrates very well the influence that Google has on the debate.

The timing  of the votes in the parliament created short peaks peaks in the change (or delta) in number mentions of  #saveyourinternetcampaign.  These boosts helped prolong and expand the reach of the campaign.

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Illustration: Overall development of the hashtag #saveyourinternet 01.2018- 02.2019 on a weekly basis, source: Talkwalker

One can see very well in this weekly development the impact that Google had through its own Twitter channels Youtube and Youtube Creators.

The campaign with the Hashtag #saveyourinternetwas mainly determined by Google and Youtube from the end of October and was much broader in November/December than in the summer of 2018. There were, however, also peaks that could be explained by the two voting dates.

This is confirmed by the reach measured by the Hashtagify service. It is referred to there as Influence, which we refer to in the following charts and in the text as reach.

In this analysis, the top 10 influencers for different hashtags were examined, but this also means that there were of course far more influencers involved.

The top 10 influencers at Hashtag #saveyourinternettherefore had a reach of 1.5 billion

However Youtube and YoutubeCreators constitute 1,3 billion at the reach.

That corresponds to 85% of the Top 10 Influencer.

7 further of the Top 10 Influencer are Youtuber. It should be noted that Twitter accounts from Youtubers sometimes have a slightly different name than the Youtube channels. There are also Youtubers who have several Twitter accounts.

The only outlier is the Pirate Party, with a very small percentage.

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The second largest reach in this study was hashtag #Artikel13.

However, it was only 9% of the range of #saveyourinternetwith 135 million reach (Top 10 Influencer number)

6 of the top 10 influencers are Youtuber. Other media also play a role here, as the shares of the Heuteshow, Extra3 and the SZ illustrate.

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With a reach of 111 million for the top 10 influencers according to Hashtagify, the hashtag #Uploadfilter comes in 3rd in this review. 5 of the Top 10 are Youtuber.
Other media like Heuteshow, ZDFheute and SZ are also among the Top 10.

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The Hashtag #linktaxcomes to a reach of 24 million.

So it seems to have captured less attention.
There is a somewhat different picture.
The US organizations Creative Commons and EFF apparently managed to best spread this hashtag in the debate about an EU legislation.

Picture6The Hashtag #censorshipmachinesachieved the lowest reach with 8.4 million related to the Top 10. Nevertheless it is remarkable that a US organization (Creative Commons) with almost 70% share within the top 10 dominates the debate in a European legislative process with an anti-reform hashtag.

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Conclusion:

There are two inescapable lessons:
1.  fear sells
2.  YouTube and Google can effectively use their platforms to capture the attention of their users and to directly affect perceptions on matters relevant to their operations. This capacity can be used to distort debates and create an appearance of movements, or can actually create movements based on the presentation of one-sided information that distorts what is actually a far more nuanced truth.

YouTube intentionally created panic about its future that rather predictably resulted in an outpouring of expression of concern, reflected in the data presented here. A cynical campaign that itself illustrates the dangers to society presented by monopoly/monopsony platforms.

 

Cloudflare: The Bad, The Worse and The Criminal? @GoldmanSachs @USTreasury #OFAC

Translated from German.  Original here.

Cloudflare: The bad, the worse and the criminal

In the US, a large technology company is about to go public. Cloudflare, a San Francisco-based company, wants to collect nearly $3.5 billion on the stock exchange in the first half of the year with the support of the investment bank Goldman Sachs. But there are dark shadows over Cloudflare. The spectrum of its customers ranges from credit card fraudsters and spammers, to sites that engage in copyright infringement as a business model, to terrorist sites. Even US embargos are undermined.

What is Cloudflare?

Cloudflare offers a content delivery network.

In simple terms, it provides a kind of turbo drive for web pages, allowing them to be delivered world-wide quickly and securely. Cloudflare places itself between, on one hand, the web page and/or servers of its customers and, on the other, the site visitor and/or user of the service. By enabling it to selectively control and distribute site traffic, it can offer increased speed and protection against network overload attacks (DDoS).

However, Cloudflare also offers another feature: anonymizing its customers.

By placing a virtual screen over the original web page and/or their server, Cloudflare makes the operator practically untraceable. Upon inquiry, Cloudflare will only provide its own data, hiding client information such as hosting service and IP address, making it impossible to take legal action against illicit sites and services.

Civil law inquiries are futile, because Cloudflare only provides the naming of the hosting services, which is worthless without the respective IP address. This is roughly equivalent to seeking info on an unmarked apartment with just the address of a high-rise building housing thousands of residents.

The Cloudflare problem is well known

This anonymizing feature from Cloudflare attracts a number of unsavory customers including, again and again, copyright infringers.  But it doesn’t stop there.
Since December 2018, the EU Commission has included Cloudflare on a watch list for counterfeiting and piracy. Most recently, the service received the dubious prize as the worst enemy of the creative community from the US blog TheTrichordist.

The listing of infringing market participants has a long history in the US.
The music association RIAA submits an annual list of the worst offenders to the US Department of Commerce. In 2017, 9 out of 20 violators could not be identified by the RIAA because Cloudflare effectively camouflaged them.
The US film association MPAA is also aware of the problems with Cloudflare obfuscation and names the company in its annual list of interferers.

In the relatively new piracy segment IPTV – the streaming of non-licensed TV signals – the company is also on the move. A study from Fall 2018 shows the role of Cloudflare both in camouflaging the sites that sell IPTV subscriptions and in concealing the origin of the streams.

In a survey of data centers comprising file and streaming hosts in 2016, 40% of the Top 10 and 47% of the Top 30 used Cloudflare.
The ECO, a German association, which obviously doesn’t care about anything

 

Cloudflare is a member of the German industry association ECO. The purpose of this membership is probably to get a discount for traffic at the Frankfurt (DE-CIX) internet node, which ECO operates through a subsidiary.
ECO has never seemed to care that providers who are very heavily involved in piracy, including Cloudflare, are members of the association. In any case, there was no reaction to corresponding reports that ECO members, including Cloudflare, are responsible for over 50% of piracy traffic in the film sector in 2014, with 45.2% of this activity accounted for by Cloudflare and around 6% by a further five members.

Cloudflare Picture1.png

Screenshot: Extract from the ECO member list, February 2018,

www.eco.de/ueber-eco/mitglieder/#C

Cloudflare in court

The reports of legal proceedings against Cloudflare are long and concern more than just virtual goods. For example, two manufacturers of bridal fashions filed suit for trademark and copyright infringements by plagiarizers who were made anonymous by Cloudflare. And, while a claim brought by adult entertainment provider ALS-Scan ultimately ended in settlement, the judge found that Cloudflare’s activities could significantly support copyright infringement by hosting cached copies of files (though the settlement precluded a final judgment on Cloudflare’s actions and liability).

Supporting Illegal Activity: Calculated or Coincidence?

In Fall 2018, Cloudflare made news by ending its business relationship with pirate hosts like Rapidvideo due to violating its terms of use. Such action begs the question: is the service being cleaned up in anticipation of the IPO or are these just insignificant and cynical platitudes? After all, before this,  Cloudflare had only voluntarily terminated its business relationship with US Nazi site the Daily Stormer in 2017.

Cloudflare picture2.png

Screenshot Youtube Video with Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince on Fox Business Network

Big Data brings it to light

The current Google Transparency Report offers a look at the actual extent of Cloudflare’s involvement in piracy.
In the report, Google lists all requests from rights holders for deletions from the Google search index that concern rights violations.

In order to understand the importance of Cloudflare to the market, the 5,000 domains that are inactive sites parked with companies such as Team Internet, Sedo or GoDaddy but still protected by Cloudflare have to be subtracted from the 5,000 domains.

This leaves 3,645 domains. Of these 3,645 right-infringing sites, 41.9 % run via Cloudflare. For their part, they are responsible for 44.7 % of the copyright infringements reported to Google.

If one were to extrapolate this proportion to the total number of domains listed in the Google Report for copyright infringements, one would come up with almost 670,000 domains protected by Cloudflare – a significant portion of the 2.2 million domains with requests for delisting from Google’s search engine.

 

Among Cloudflare’s customers are:

Torrentz.eu, Gosong.net, Share-online.biz, Catshare.net, Bitnoop.com, Deepwarez.org, Turbobit.net, Myfreemp3.eu, and Nitroflare.com.

Each of these websites received at least 3 million deletion requests from the Google search index.

Not only pirates love Cloudflare – also credit card fraudsters, phishing sites, extortionists, and terrorists

The Watchwebsite Crimeflare is a real treasure trove of information about Cloudflare, liisting650 credit card fraud sides alone, to which Cloudflare offers shelter.

 

Cloudflare also proudly deals in SSL certificates, providing sites like Phishingseiten the manufactured consumer security and confidence-building necessary to be successful. According to the German magazine Heise, hundreds of such certificates for cheats were issued by Cloudflare.

Of course, as Spamhaus reports, the spreading of Malware often takes place over Cloudflare.

With Cloudflare, extortion is also par for the course, which conveniently generates additional services. By providing anonymity and untraceability to sites threatening, for example, to bring a web page to a standstill through DDoS, Cloudflare can then sell the attacked site its protection services.
A truly special form of customer acquisition.

Cloudflare has also found good business in terror.

As far back as 2012, the news agency Reuters confronted Cloudflare with the fact that it maintained the websites of Hamas and Al-Quds, designated by the US as terrorist groups.
In 2015, a petition against Cloudflare in the US highlighted that the service offered shelter to about 50 websites attributed to ISIS.
And in 2018, terrorist organizations were still being supported, with Dutch security researcher Bert Hubert identifying at least 7 different terrorist organization websites that use Cloudflare.

The Huffingtonpost had these findings evaluated by Benjamin Wittes, Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution:

“This is not a content-based issue. Cloudflare] can be as pure-free-speech people as they want – they have an arguable position that it’s not their job to decide what speech is worthy and what speech is not – but there is a law, a criminal statute, that says that you are not allowed to give services to designated foreign terrorist organizations. Full stop.”

As icing on the cake, the company even has customers who are on the official embargo list of the US (SDN list). For example, CENTRAL REPUBLIC BANK from the Donetsk region uses Cloudflare’s services.

Cloudflare Picture3

Screenshot: Collage of information from theUS Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control
https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Pages/default.aspx

Cloudflare Picture 4

Screenshot: Whois record of crb.dnr.ru at February 18th2019

Do investors actually know what they are investing in?

Against the background of all these facts, two things are worth considering:

1) How has Cloudflare been able to obtain financing rounds from various investment companies in the past, including Google’s parent Alphabet?

2) Does Goldman Sachs actually know anything about the extent of its involvement in rights violations and its support of dubious “ventures,” even to the point of undermining US embargoes?

Risk management is one of the central parameters of investment banks when evaluating investments. Risks must be known and assessable in advance. Cloudflare’s considerable participation in dubious transactions is rare in an IPO and a huge risk. Particularly if, as in the ALS-Scan case, the company is faced with its own liability, or if criminal law is violated through the service’s business with terrorist organizations.

Goldman Sachs and current investors either lack moral standards, are naïve, or consider the risk of failure to be very low, which only shows how urgently we need government regulation of intermediaries on the Internet.

EU Tech Lobbying: Tricks-Camouflage-Deception

 

<Editors note   Original German Version of this article here. http://webschauder.de/tricksen-tarnen-taeuschen/  We appreciate Volker connecting the dots for us in the increasingly murky lobbying campaign by Google against Article 13.  The counter-narrative has already started–Google is using cherry-picked facts to try to make Members of the European Parliament believe that they are being outlobbied by artists, songwriters and journalists.  This conveniently overlooks the millions Google has spent in Europe trying to influence public opinion and, of course, the Google revolving door.  It’s also hard to believe that Google’s lobbying on its competition law fines had no affect on its lobbying against Article 13.:>

Tricks – Camouflage – Deception

Facebook makes you sit up and take notice. The British former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, a new Head of Global Affairs for Facebook, was barely introduced when he made his first interesting public statements. “Regulation is not so bad,” Clegg told the Financial Times. As a former senior member of the government, presumably this comes naturally to Clegg because he simply knows it from his work.

Clegg made another surprising yet unsurprising statement on the subject of campaigns. In light of the possible influence of Facebook advertising on elections, Clegg promised that future campaigns on Facebook would be clearly labeled, for example, “Paid for by….”

Facebook is somewhat ahead of the EU in this respect, which is currently making efforts to do something about disinformation—especially in view of the EU election in May 2019.

This includes Brussels demanding monthly updates from Internet companies such as Google or Facebook, in which they must present what they have actually done to counter disinformation by, at a minimum, providing greater transparency. We will see whether this effort to promote greater transparency is successful, and one might be forgiven for having doubts based on past performance, but evolution is an agonizingly slow process.

Other tech lobby groups go the other way…

The Saveyourinternet.eu campaign takes a completely different approach masked in lack of transparency. As described in detail in earlier articles, the website played a central role in the attempted manipulation of EU parliamentarians by mail avalanches and Twitter storms in the summer of 2018.

The website was registered at the time by the lobby company N-Square from Belgium, which also does work for Google.

If you look at the current registration data for the website, you will see that the site is now anonymous. The French company Gandi SAS is used for this purpose, which conveniently and effectively disguises the true name and other data of the registrant.

 

Saveyourinternet.eu whois

Illustration: WhoIs of Saveyourinternet.eu at EURID

 

So it is not clear who is responsible for the page, because even a close examination of the page itself is anything but illuminating. There is a note indicating that the organization EDRi manages the site, but that does not meet the requirements of the E-Commerce Directive which requires a legal notice identifying a responsible person and address.

Edri management of the site .png

Illustration: Notes on the management of the site by EDRi

Family Business

One can only speculate about the reasons why EDRi has jumped into the breach here.

Maybe N-Square and its managing director, Caroline De Cock, wanted to get out of the line of fire after the response to its action against the MEPs from summer 2018.

However, presumably through oversight, the registration data for other websites involved in the campaign against the EU copyright reform have not been anonymized, although their look and feel is very similar to that of the Saveyourinternet site.

Fixcopyright.eu e.g. still has registration data of Ms De Cock and her parent company KDC Group and it may only be a matter of time before this page is also anonymized.

Fix copyright. eu registration.png

You also won’t find any necessary legal notice data on the FixCopyright site. If you follow their Privacy Policy, it forwards you to Create-Refresh, a commercial campaign site operated by the consulting company, Purpose Campaigns LLC from the USA. Create-Refresh has itself been incessantly banging the drum against the new EU Copyright Directive since the summer, including through the placement of banner ads on Twitter, for example.

And it also must be said that the partners of Create-Refresh parent company, Purpose Campaigns LLC, include, among others, Google and the Ford Foundation.

List of Partners at Purpose Campaigns LLC

Illustration: List of Partners at Purpose Campaigns LLC


Fixcopyright.eu therefore violates the E-Commerce Directive as well as saveyouinternet.eu!!

In addition, there are no data protection notices in accordance with the DSGVO, which has been in force in the EU since May 2018. Visitors to the site are redirected to the Twitter accounts of MEPs, for example, but they are not informed of this in any privacy notices, which of course also apply to so-called civil society groups.

In the end, however, these anti-Article 13 sites remain a kind of family business.

If one superimposes the financiers of EDRi and Copyright4Creativity, which is still managed by Caroline de Cock, or Purpose Campaigns, there are interesting intersections, be it the Open Society Foundation or the Ford Foundation. These two foundations alone accounted for almost 37% of EDRi revenues in 2017.

Even more exciting is the list of other EDRi donors.

One of them is Mozilla, who is known for financing Open Media, the company that via its subsidiary New/Mode provided the tools for the attack on the offices of members of parliament in the summer of 2018.

Open your wallets

Another donor is Wikipedia Germany.

Anyone who visits Wikipedia from October onwards will hardly be able to escape the appeals for donations. This was of course also the case in 2018.

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Illustrations: Donation appeal from Wikipedia Germany in autumn 2018 as well as the thank you message, banner from the Wikipedia Germany page.

Wouldn’t it be more honest in the course of such appeals for donations to say that a large part of the money collected in Germany is thrown into the big pile of money that Wikipedia has in the USA and currently amounts to more than 120 million dollars?  (An amount for which one could probably finance the online encyclopedia for years to come.)

How this is compatible with Wikipedia’s non-profit status in Germany is another question that I will leave to another day.

Against this background, the statements made by John Weitzmann of Wikipedia Germany deserve further scrutiny. At a copyright congress in Berlin in November 2018, in front of roughly 250 people, Weitzmann declared that Wikipedia had never supported http://Saveyourinternet.eu . Apparently, he had, or has, a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction as this was clearly untrue. Or perhaps he was misled by Wikipedia and Saveyourinternet’s own disinformation campaign—a campaign itself rooted in obfuscation.

Of course, the picture of deception is incomplete without considering the role of Julia Reda, the only member of the Pirate Party in the EU Parliament. Ms. Reda has been very busy promoting a meme generator on Twitter apparently clinging to the myth that the directive restrict memes. Putting aside the fact that memes are not affected by the directive (and so every meme is compliant with the directive) it is highly instructive to observe the provenance of this CreateRefresh tool so favored by Ms. Reda! Part of the campaign is paid by Purpose Campaigns LLC, which as noted earlier, also lobbies for Google. So the circles are closing here as well.

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Illustration: Screenshot of Julia Reda’s Twitter account

It will be interesting to see how the EU reacts to all these interconnected relationships.

Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was presented with comprehensive documentary evidence in Strasbourg at the beginning of December, which presents and proves the background of the non-transparent campaign against the EU, undertaken in conflict with the requirements of existing EU legislation.

Changes such as the changes to the Saveyourinternet.eu website indicate that the campaign operators are apparently becoming aware of the terrain they have entered and seems to be evidence they are distancing themselves.

It will be interesting to see how the EU reacts to all these events.
Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was presented with comprehensive documentary evidence in Strasbourg at the beginning of December, which presents and proves the background of the non-transparent campaign against the EU, undertaken in conflict with the requirements of existing EU legislation.
Revisions such as the anonymizing changes to the Saveyourinternet.eu website indicate that the campaign operators are apparently aware of the terrain they have entered.

Volker Rieck is managing director of the content protection service provider FDS File Defense Service, which works for numerous rights owners. The company also prepares studies on piracy and supports law enforcement companies with the data it collects.
Volker Rieck blogs regularly on Webschauder and from time to time on the US blog The Trichordist on various aspects of unregulated content distribution. His articles also appear on Tarnkappe.info and in the FAZ.