Category Archives: Cyberwarfare

Sheryl Sandberg and Top Facebook Execs Silenced an Enemy of Turkey to Prevent a Hit to the Company’s Business

Amid a 2018 Turkish military campaign, Facebook ultimately sided with Turkey’s demand to block the page of a mostly Kurdish militia. “I am fine with this,” Sandberg wrote.

By Jack Gillum and Justin Elliott.  Published 2-24-2021 by ProPublica

Sheryl Sandberg. Photo: World Economic Forum/flickr/CC

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As Turkey launched a military offensive against Kurdish minorities in neighboring Syria in early 2018, Facebook’s top executives faced a political dilemma.

Turkey was demanding the social media giant block Facebook posts from the People’s Protection Units, a mostly Kurdish militia group the Turkish government had targeted. Should Facebook ignore the request, as it has done elsewhere, and risk losing access to tens of millions of users in Turkey? Or should it silence the group, known as the YPG, even if doing so added to the perception that the company too often bends to the wishes of authoritarian governments? Continue reading

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Google Workers Form Union to ‘Promote Solidarity, Democracy, and Social and Economic Justice’

The tech titan “has a responsibility to its thousands of workers and billions of users to make the world a better place,” two of the union’s leaders wrote. “We can help build that world.”

By 

The Googleplex (Google headquarters) in Mountain View, CA. Photo: The Pancake of Heaven!/CC

Decrying numerous policies and practices they say violate Google’s “don’t be evil” founding principle, more than 200 of the Silicon Valley tech giant’s workers on Monday announced they are forming a union, a move that was applauded by progressive lawmakers and labor advocates nationwide.

The Alphabet Workers Union (AWU)—named after Google’s parent corporation—says it “strives to protect Alphabet workers, our global society, and our world,” and to “promote solidarity, democracy, and social and economic justice.” It will operate as part of the Communications Workers of America and will be open to all 120,000 of the company’s employees.

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In Effort to ‘Cultivate Hopelessness,’ Trump 2016 Campaign Used Facebook for Deterrence Operation Targeting Millions of Black Voters

The social media giant, said one critic, “is the newest frontier in a long history of suppression of the Black vote.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-28-2020

Photo by Ben Combee from Austin, TX, USA (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election campaign sought to persuade 3.5 million Black voters in key battleground states to stay home on Election Day by targeting them with negative Facebook ads about Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a Monday report on Britain’s Channel 4 News.

A massive data leak obtained by the U.K. outlet shows that four years ago Trump’s digital campaign team compiled files on 198 million American voters, which included information about their domestic and economic status obtained from market research companies. An algorithm then divided the voters into eight categories, called “audiences,” so they could be targeted with tailored ads on Facebook and other social media platforms. Continue reading

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Espionage and repression in the Middle East courtesy of the West

Western companies are providing surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.

By Jon Hoffman.  Published 5-13-2020 by openDemocracy

Cellphone tower | Picture by Peter Bjorndal / pixabay.com. Public Domain

Regime-directed surveillance has taken new forms within the Middle East as governments have been forced to adapt to new technological and social environments. While government surveillance of its citizens is not new to the region, this old authoritarian impulse has been revamped in the attempt to subvert opposition and monitor dissidence amid widespread use of social media and access to smartphones within the region.

New forms of targeted hackings and espionage have therefore become commonplace throughout the region, and often extend across borders into the international arena. Western companies, governments, and individuals have provided extensive assistance to the surveillance efforts of these governments, often by supplying them with the necessary technology and expertise needed to conduct such sweeping operations. However, regional countries – particularly Israel – have increasingly constructed and exported their own indigenous operations and platforms designed to surveil their publics. Conducted on a mass scale and bolstered by western technological support, these new and sophisticated forms of surveillance have supplied these governments with the tools necessary to go on the offensive against all who seek to challenge the status quo. Continue reading

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American Weapons Manufacturers Are Thriving Even as the US Economy Suffers

Washington has made it a priority to radically overhaul the military in double time, designating weapons manufacturers as “essential” services during the pandemic.

By Alan Macleod.  Published 5-13-2020 by MintPress News

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Brad Fallin)

The economy has crashed. A nationwide pandemic that has (officially) claimed some 84,000 Americans has also resulted in an estimated 36 million filing for unemployment insurance and millions frequenting food banks for the first time. Yet business is booming for one unlikely industry; weapons manufacturers are busier than ever and are even advertising for tens of thousands of more workers.

Northrop Grumman announced that it was planning to hire up to 10,000 more employees this year. Airlines are being hit particularly hard, as the number of people flying on commercial planes has cratered. Raytheon, who supplies parts to civilian aircraft manufacturers, has lost a great deal of business. Yet it is still advertising 2,000 new jobs in the military wing of its business. Boeing, who endured a torrid 2019, with multiple high-profile crashes of its 737 MAX-8 airliner, is preparing to lay off ten percent of its staff as airlines predict a long and sustained drop in air travel. Nevertheless, it is looking to add hundreds of new workers in its defense, intelligence, and cybersecurity departments. Continue reading

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Citing CIA’s Dark History, Librarians Protest Agency’s Recruiting at Their Conference

“Everything they stand for is a violation of the values of librarianship, so we protested.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-24-2019

A protester holds a sign in front of the CIA’s exhibitor booth at the American Library Association’s 2019 annual conference. (Photo: Callan Bignoli)

A group of librarians demanded the American Library Association abide by its values on Friday as they staged a protest of the CIA’s presence and recruitment at the professional organization’s annual conference.

At the convention, which is taking place June 20-25 in Washington, D.C., the CIA is among the hundreds of exhibitors. Continue reading

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‘We Refuse to Create Technology for Warfare and Oppression’: Microsoft Workers Demand Company End Army Contract

“As employees and shareholders we do not want to become war profiteers.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 2-23-2019

The Hololens is demonstrated at the Penn Museum. (Photo: Penn Libraries-TRL/flickr/cc)

Declaring to chief executives that they refuse “to become war profiteers,” a group of Microsoft workers on Friday demanded the company cancel a contract with the U.S. Army that they say would “help people kill” and turn warfare into a “video game.”

Their open letter is addressed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and president and chief legal officer Brad Smith, and, according to the “Microsoft Workers 4 Good” Twitter handle, which posted the document, it got over employee 100 signatures in its first day. Continue reading

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Facebook Accused of ‘Full-Frontal Suppression of Dissent’ After Independent Media Swept Up in Mass Purge

The massive shutdown affected many progressive sites devoted to covering war, police brutality, and other issues neglected by the corporate media

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-12-2018

“Those who demanded Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants censor political content—something they didn’t actually want to do—are finding that content that they themselves support and like end up being repressed,” noted The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald in response to Facebook’s announcement. “That’s what has happened to every censorship advocate in history.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

After Facebook announced on Thursday that it shut down and removed hundreds of pages and accounts that it vaguely accused of spreading “spam” and engaging in “inauthentic behavior,” some of the individuals and organizations caught up in the social media behemoth’s dragnet disputed accusations that they were violating the platform’s rules and raised alarm that Facebook is using its enormous power to silence independent political perspectives that run counter to the corporate media’s dominant narratives.

While it is reasonable to assume that some of the more than 800 total pages and accounts shut down by Facebook were engaged in overtly fraudulent behavior—such as the use of fake accounts and bots to generate ad revenue—numerous independent media outlets that cover a wide array of issues say they were swept up in the massive purge despite never using such tactics. Continue reading

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Facebook Will Fail to Solve #FakeNews

Zuckerberg needs to step back for his company to succeed

By Juan Ortiz Freuler. Published 8-28-2018 by Common Dreams

“It has amassed such power that experts and public opinion refer to it as the digital public square: the place where people protest, sign up for public events, get information about politics, and more.” (Photo: Legal Loop)

Every policy-tweak Facebook attempts to roll out is faced with public criticism. This signals a structural problem: Facebook developed quicker than its own systems of governance and now struggles to carry its own weight. In other words, Facebook seems to lack the legitimacy to exercise the huge power it has amassed over the years.

If the user base were smaller, Facebook would have a group of like-minded individuals that could be more easily catered to. But Facebook has become very big and diverse. With over 2 billion active monthly users, it’s bigger and more diverse than any community we’ve ever seen. Continue reading

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What Facebook’s New Political Ad System Misses

Facebook announced a new system to make political ads more transparent. It’s got holes.

By Jeremy B. MerrillAriana Tobin, and Madeleine Varner. Published 5-24-2018 by ProPublica.

Screenshot: Bloomberg

Facebook’s long-awaited change in how it handles political advertisements is only a first step toward addressing a problem intrinsic to a social network built on the viral sharing of user posts.

The company’s approach, a searchable database of political ads and their sponsors, depends on the company’s ability to sort through huge quantities of ads and identify which ones are political. Facebook is betting that a combination of voluntary disclosure and review by both people and automated systems will close a vulnerability that was famously exploited by Russian meddlers in the 2016 election.

The company is doubling down on tactics that so far have not prevented the proliferation of hate-filled posts or ads that use Facebook’s capability to target ads particular groups. Continue reading

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