Tim Starks reports:
Russia's infamous troll farm conducted a campaign on Twitter before the 2016 elections that was larger, more coordinated and more effective than previously known, research from cybersecurity firm Symantec out Wednesday concluded.
The Internet Research Agency campaign may not only have had more sway — reaching large numbers of real users — than previously thought, it also demonstrated ample patience and might have generated income for some of the phony accounts, Symantec found.
The company analyzed a massive data set Twitter released in October 2018 on nearly 3,900 accounts and 10 million tweets.
The research discovered that the average lag between account creation and first tweet was 177 days. The most retweeted account garnered 6 million retweets, and less than 2,000 of those came from within the IRA-linked network of accounts. The huge delay points to a lot of patient preparation, and the retweets indicate that a lot of unaffiliated Twitter users were amplifying the IRA's message.
While most of the accounts were automated, they frequently demonstrated evidence of manual manipulation, such as slight wording changes in an apparent bid to dodge detection, according to Symantec.
"While this propaganda campaign has often been referred to as the work of trolls, the release of the dataset makes it obvious that it was far more than that," the company wrote. "It was planned months in advance and the operators had the resources to create and manage a vast disinformation network."
Jazz Shaw writes:
Just how big has Google become? That almost seems like a silly question in 2019. The company is omnipresent. If you own an Android phone and want to ask a question, you don’t address “Siri” or “Cortana.” You say, “Okay, Google.” The name of the company has become a verb. Most of us don’t talk about doing a web search. We say, “let me Google that.” When asking for the location of a particular place, Google Maps is the go-to answer.
So have they gotten “too big” for their own good? Perhaps. The Department of Justice is opening another investigation to see if the company is in violation of anti-trust laws. And if they are, they could conceivably be broken up just like Bell Telephone was back in the day. (Associated Press)
The U.S. Justice Department is readying an investigation of Google’s business practices and whether they violate antitrust law, according to news reports.
The search giant was fined a record $2.72 billion by European regulators in 2017 for abusing its dominance of the online search market. In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission made an antitrust investigation of Google but closed it in 2013 without taking action.
Now the Justice Department has undertaken an antitrust probe of the company’s search and other businesses, according to reports by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Bloomberg News. They cited unnamed people familiar with the matter.
So is Google a monopoly or not? The EU clearly thinks so, having fined them billions of dollars. But let’s keep in mind that the current European Union is pretty much the epitome of Big Brother governance. We’ve seen pro and con arguments over Google’s monopolistic traits for years now. Back in 2017, Ryan Cooper, writing for The Week, made the argument that Google was most certainly a monopoly and needed to be broken up. But nearly the entirety of Cooper’s argument consisted of saying that Google’s success was unearned since they only grew massively because they were in the right place at the right time. Even if we accept this argument, to the best of my knowledge there is still no law against being lucky.
Conversely, James Pethokoukis made the argument last year that there is absolutely zero evidence that Google is a monopoly. He bases this conclusion on the belief that Google fears competition and spends “tens and hundreds of billions of dollars a year on R&D.” He also notes that there is no empirical evidence to suggest that the company’s operations are bad for consumers.
It seems to me that there are three possibilities to consider. First, does Google control infrastructure that allows them to shut out possible competition the way Bell did through owning all of the phone lines? No, they don’t. You can delete your bookmarks to Google any time you like and use Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine you prefer.
Another question is whether or not Google is squashing the competition by preventing them from doing business. They do buy an awful lot of companies, but I’ve yet to see one market segment where they don’t have competitors available. In fact, some of their efforts have failed spectacularly. You may recall how they tried to break into the social media market by launching Google Plus. That landed with a thud and they stopped supporting the service a while back.
All that leaves us with is the possibility that Google grew so large because they simply offer a family of products that people like to use. And yes, perhaps they benefitted from a bit of luck in the beginning. But neither of those concepts are particularly nefarious.
Don’t get me wrong. Google is most certainly up to all sorts of shady things. From selling off all of your data to the highest bidder and tracking your every move, there’s plenty to complain about. They largely avoid legal problems in the United States because Google relies on the fact that most of the people in the government who are assigned to investigate them probably couldn’t tell you much more about how the internet operates beyond saying that it’s like a large series of tubes. But I’m not yet convinced that they’re operating in violation of anti-trust laws or need Uncle Sam to dismantle them.
Rafael Bernal and Jordan Fabian report:
'President Trump on Thursday announced new tariffs on Mexico in an effort to pressure the country to halt the flow of migrants from Central America, a dramatic escalation of his hard-line border policy that could jeopardize a pending trade deal with Canada and Mexico.
Trump said in a pair of tweets that the U.S. will impose a 5 percent tariff beginning June 10 on all Mexican imports “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP,” a goal that has never been achieved in recent history.
The tariff will increase by 5 percent each month until it reaches 25 percent “unless and until Mexico substantially stops the illegal inflow of aliens coming through its territory,” the president said in an unusual, 1,004-word follow-up statement distributed by the White House.
Trump teased the announcement earlier Thursday, saying he would be making a “big league statement” that would include a “very dramatic” move regarding the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump last month threatened to slap tariffs on Mexico or close the border, but described his threat as a “one-year warning.”
The Trump administration has struggled to stem the tide of illegal migration, as crossings by migrants seeking asylum have approached levels not seen in more than a decade. More than 1,000 migrants were apprehended near a border crossing in El Paso, Texas on Wednesday in the largest single round-up on record, according to NBC News.
Natasha Bertrand reports:
Special counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday said he would prefer to not testify before Congress about his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“I hope and expect this to be the only time that I will speak to you in this manner. I am making that decision myself,” Mueller said in remarks on camera at the Justice Department. "I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation."
Mueller also said he would be resigning from his position and returning to private life.
His remarks were the first time the public had heard from Mueller after two years, 199 criminal charges and 37 indictments.
Mueller delivered the statement more than two months after he submitted his 448-page final report on the 22-month Russia investigation. He did not take any questions.
The rare statement came after negotiations between Mueller’s team and the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees for him to testify publicly about his findings — talks that have faltered in recent weeks as Mueller has sought clarity from the Justice Department on the boundaries of his would-be testimony.
The White House was notified on Tuesday night that Mueller might make a statement on Wednesday and was not caught off-guard by the announcement. It’s not clear whether the White House knows what Mueller will say, but President Donald Trump will be monitoring the comments, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The House Judiciary Committee was also given a heads up, according to a spokesperson.
Mueller did again outline his findings, which were set out in two separate volumes of his final report. The first section outlined the campaign’s contacts with Russia but determined that the evidence did not establish a criminal conspiracy between the two sides. The second section discussed Trump’s efforts to interfere in the Russia investigation but declined to either indict or exonerate Trump on possible obstruction of justice charges.
Justice Department officials confirmed to POLITICO last month that Mueller wrote a letter to Attorney General Bill Barr in March complaining that a four-page memo Barr wrote characterizing Mueller’s primary findings “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of the Russia investigation.
Mueller sent the letter to Barr on March 27, three days after Barr issued his four-page summary. The missive cited “public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.”
“This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations,” Mueller wrote at the time.
The question of whether or not “democracy” works is always being studied, by proponents of freedom as well as by proponents of authoritarianism. The founding fathers of the sovereign American experiment were far more intelligent than some critics today give them credit for – they knew full well that democracy does NOT work, not without some rules which make certain rights inalienable. This is why they modeled the original American system as a Republic, not a democracy.
Today, there are many people (primarily in academia) that seem to think they are gifted with more insight into our political and social systems than the founders of old, and are constantly trying to sell a myriad of concepts for improving our existing structure. Some of these people are well meaning, and some of them are not, but their ideas for “fixing” the problems of our political and social systems almost universally ignore or overlook the root causes of those problems. They try to cure the symptoms rather than the disease.
The Arctic remains one of the few areas of the globe with relatively little human activity and therefore limited prospects for international conflict. Even during the Cold War the Arctic remained comparatively under-resourced by both adversarial blocs. The main theater was Europe, supporting theaters included the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but the Arctic was mainly visited by strategic nuclear platforms such as submarines and bombers which rehearsed their WW3 missions there.
The end of the Cold War gradually raised the Arctic’s importance, and it did so for two reasons. The current multipolar power distribution means the addition of two independent or largely independent political actors, namely the EU and China, and the shifting of the global economic “center of gravity” eastward. This development is increasing Russia’s importance as the economic and political link between the EU and China. However, while the European and Asian economic powerhouses are exploring various forms of economic linkages with Russia serving as a vital component of the relationship, United States is actively seeking to drive a wedge between them by isolating the EU from Russia and therefore also China, and fully subordinating Europe to its economic and political interests. Whether the EU acquiesces to being merely a US protectorate or asserts its independence remains to be seen, however, in the meantime the Arctic is acquiring importance as a trade route linking Europe and Asia. The second reason for the Arctic’s importance is the presence of considerable reserves of energy resources in the region on which the global economy will depend. National control over these resources or lack thereof will in turn determine the power ranking of the country in question.