Russian intelligence agents attempted to spy on President Emmanuel Macron’s election campaign earlier this year by creating phony Facebook personas, according to a U.S. congressman and two other people briefed on the effort. About two dozen Facebook accounts were created to conduct surveillance on Macron campaign officials and others close to the centrist former financier as he sought to defeat far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and other opponents in the two-round election, the sources said. Macron won in a landslide in May. Facebook said in April it had taken action against fake accounts that were spreading misinformation about the French election. But the effort to infiltrate the social networks of Macron officials has not previously been reported.
With an election looming in September, fake news is big news in Germany. So concerned is the German government by a growing quantity of false and defamatory information online that it is going further than others in pressuring tech companies to better police their networks. Parliament approved a new law this month under which lawmakers could soon impose fines of up to €50 million on social media firms if they fail to remove criminal content like defamatory and hate-inciting posts quickly enough. “Something has changed,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament shortly after fake news played a prominent role in the U.S. election. “Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls … We must confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it.” It’s one thing to confront fake news and another to find a solution for it. Germany is hardly alone. Policymakers, the media and tech companies on both sides of the Atlantic have struggled for months now to improvise responses.
Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. Also under scrutiny is the question of whether Trump associates or campaign aides had any role in assisting the Russians in publicly releasing thousands of emails, hacked from the accounts of top Democrats, at turning points in the presidential race, mainly through the London-based transparency web site WikiLeaks.
Papua New Guinea: How traditional and social media will impact on Papua New Guinea elections | Asia Pacific Report
Social media is a new phenomenon which enables easy and instant access to voters. Papua New Guinea’s freedom of information is #51 on the Paris-based Reporters Without Border’s World Freedom Index and this study investigates traditional sources, social media and independent blogging websites to determine where a voter can locate quality information. The Papua New Guinea general election which begins next week has been impacted on by social media and provides a community platform for voters to express their opinions, and share news not found in traditional media. This has aided voters because they are able learn more about the candidates. It has also disadvantaged voters because PNG journalism does use any recognised fact-checking mediums to confirm information and this leads to an ill-informed public.
Britons vote for a new government on June 8 and, until recently, election campaigns have been tightly controlled affairs with limits on how much parties can spend per constituency, the requirement to submit detailed accounts and no political advertising on television. But the rules don’t cover online advertising – allowing Facebook to cash in, having used the Conservative Party’s 2015 victory as a case study. The Electoral Commission, which exists to regulate elections, estimates that in the 2015 general election more than 99 per cent of spending on social media was with Facebook, with the Conservatives splashing out £1.21m, Labour £160,000, Ukip £91,000, the Liberal Democrats £22,245, the Green party £20,000 and the Scottish National party £5,466.
United Kingdom: How social media filter bubbles and algorithms influence the election | The Guardian
One of the most powerful players in the British election is also one of the most opaque. With just over two weeks to go until voters go to the polls, there are two things every election expert agrees on: what happens on social media, and Facebook in particular, will have an enormous effect on how the country votes; and no one has any clue how to measure what’s actually happening there. “Many of us wish we could study Facebook,” said Prof Philip Howard, of the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, “but we can’t, because they really don’t share anything.” Howard is leading a team of researchers studying “computational propaganda” at the university, attempting to shine a light on the ways automated accounts are used to alter debate online.
National: US spies caught Russian officers bragging about causing chaos in the election 6 months before the vote | Time
On March 2, a disturbing report hit the desks of U.S. counterintelligence officials in Washington. For months, American spy hunters had scrambled to uncover details of Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 presidential election. In offices in both D.C. and suburban Virginia, they had created massive wall charts to track the different players in Russia’s multi-pronged scheme. But the report in early March was something new. It described how Russia had already moved on from the rudimentary email hacks against politicians it had used in 2016. Now the Russians were running a more sophisticated hack on Twitter. The report said the Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department. Depending on the interests of the targets, the messages offered links to stories on recent sporting events or the Oscars, which had taken place the previous weekend. When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow’s hackers to take control of the victim’s phone or computer–and Twitter account.
Like many a good spy tale, the story of how the U.S. learned its democracy could be hacked started with loose lips. In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU, was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what President Vladimir Putin believed was an influence operation she had run against him five years earlier as Secretary of State. The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election.
What the officer didn’t know, senior intelligence officials tell TIME, was that U.S. spies were listening. They wrote up the conversation and sent it back to analysts at headquarters, who turned it from raw intelligence into an official report and circulated it. But if the officer’s boast seems like a red flag now, at the time U.S. officials didn’t know what to make of it. “We didn’t really understand the context of it until much later,” says the senior intelligence official. Investigators now realize that the officer’s boast was the first indication U.S. spies had from their sources that Russia wasn’t just hacking email accounts to collect intelligence but was also considering interfering in the vote. Like much of America, many in the U.S. government hadn’t imagined the kind of influence operation that Russia was preparing to unleash on the 2016 election. Fewer still realized it had been five years in the making.
Full Article: Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America | TIME.
Iranians will be able to learn more about their presidential candidates with a simple swipe of their phone. A California-based NGO has helped to create a Tinder-like app for the Iranian smartphone market to provide unfettered information about the candidates ahead of Friday’s national elections. Creators and supporters of the app say it will help Iranian voters make informed choices away from the regime’s propaganda machine that controls the flow of information in Iran.
The Electoral Commission has launched an investigation into “potential offences” by Leave.EU over its spending during last year’s EU referendum campaign. The campaign group, which was headed by Nigel Farage and the businessman Arron Banks, is understood to have worked with the data firm Cambridge Analytica, which uses social media to influence voters. Cambridge Analytica’s involvement was not declared to the election watchdog, which has concluded that Leave.EU has a case to answer. If the commission decides that political spending laws have been breached, it can report the campaign group to the police.
Facebook says some groups tried to use its platform to sway the outcome of the U.S. presidential election. In a case study of the 2016 presidential election, the company said it found several instances of “information operations,” its term for governments and organizations who attempt to sway political opinion by spreading fake news and other nefarious tactics. The case study was included in Facebook’s white paper on “information operations.” It also detailed ways it was combating “fake news” and other misinformation spread by adding new technologies and creating more security features.