Digital Threat Digest - 9 February 2022
PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, daily insights into disinformation, misinformation, and online harms.
We’re keeping up with current events today in taking a look at the Olympics and the ongoing Ottawa convoy saga, and how they relate to some classic behaviours.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain and pay no attention to that nuclear power plant behind the ski jump. There are two basic ways of manipulating public opinion – either you seed an idea to a target audience so they pick it up (inception style) or you suppress any attempts to force a dissenting narrative into the information environment.
The use of swathes of inauthentic accounts to amplify an idea is very 2015; it’s easily identifiable and the idea typically fails to take root or have impact. The use of a similar army of accounts to drown out a dissenting voice is still very effective though, because it really doesn’t matter if it’s easily detectable so long as it achieves its goal of suppression. And so to the Olympics, where the Wall Street Journal have reported on a significant number of pro-China accounts suppressing a hashtag critical of the event - #GenocideGames. The activity is clearly inauthentic and easy to detect, and China is aware of this, but at the end of the day it’s successfully suppressing the content.
The Ottawa trucker protest remains a going concern despite Justin Trudeau asking them very nicely to stop. Much of the reporting has focused around the backgrounds of the participants—primarily racists and conspiracists—and the fundraising; which saw USD 14m dollars raised across two campaigns. One of the most interesting moments of the US2020 cycle was the speed at which the #StopTheSteal movement grew. Amassing 320,000 members in 20 hours it was one of the fastest growing groups in Facebook’s history. Returning to Canada, there are a plethora of Facebook groups dedicated to the Ottawa convoy and to other similar planned convoys elsewhere, some with up to 200,000 members. Grid have investigated some of these groups, and—allegedly—found a single account responsible for administering multiple of the largest groups. Its US creator claims it was hacked in October of last year – but the article does not solve the question of who might have done so and why.
One to watch.
Classic cult of personality
Facebook and Telegram are very different platforms. I was once banned from Telegram and was able to directly contact one of their 200 employees at the time to explain the misunderstanding. Within 24 hours my account had been reactivated. It’s never quite been that simple with Facebook. However, it’s a fairly straightforward argument to say that Mark Zuckerberg has established a solid cult of personality, and the same can be said of Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov. That leads us to a very short entry about a very long article from Wired. Based on a year of research, this long read tracks the rise and progression of Telegram to become the opposite of Facebook, despite the original shared objectives of their founders in creating a space free of state control or regulation.
More about Protection Group International's Digital Investigations
PGI’s Social Media Intelligence Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.
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