Friday, June 16, 2017

Censorship as Security: "Facebook Boosts AI to Block Terrorist Propaganda" WSJ


I began my day by reading in the Wall Street Journal of new efforts by Facebook to monitor and expunge material deemed propaganda and/or linked with terror using specially designed algorithms:
Sam Schechner. (2017, June 15). Facebook Boosts AI to Block Terrorist Propaganda. The Wall Street Journal, https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-boosts-a-i-to-block-terrorist-propaganda-1497546000
New software is tasked with identifying videos, photos, language and users that need to be removed, at times without human moderators.
The print version of this article indicates that countries, such as Germany are proposing new legislation that would fine firms for failing to remove "fake news or hate speech - including terrorist content" (p. A4).

The article goes on to say that the UK and France "published a counterterrorism action plan this week that calls on technology companies to go beyond deleting content that is flagged, and instead identify it beforehand to prevent publication"

So, we have entered a new extension of the post-9/11 security regime.

Censorship will be AUTOMATED on the internet and its methodology will be ANTICIPATORY.

The TARGETS of censorship are NOT LIMITED to TERRORISM, as they INCLUDE "fake news."

I must ask the question of who is going to decide the criteria used to identify "fake news"?

Having analyzed the "truthfulness" of media across the spectrum, I suggest that efforts toward authenticity and deliberate propaganda can be found everywhere.

Some alternative media celebrities and sites are deliberately sophistic, others pursue truth, thought in the Socratic sense.

The same can be said for the authorities and narratives produced by the mainstream media apparatus, as anyone who has read Edward Bernays' work knows.

The Washington Post has a page online that was excerpted from the CIA's Report on Project Mockingbird. The page indicates that the news media acted as a publication conduit for leaks from government agencies. Its not clear whether the press investigated these leaks before reporting them https://apps.washingtonpost.com/g/documents/local/cia-report-on-project-mockingbird/295/

Past history illustrates how this process of leaks can result in propaganda: E.g., as illustrated when the Pentagon tried to turn private Jessica Lynch into a "Rambo" war hero to glorify an unpopular war https://www.theguardian.com/world/2007/apr/24/usa.marktran

In my opinion, the automated and anticipatory governance of "fake news" is CENSORSHIP in the name of a  form of SECURITY that is increasingly antithetical to civil rights.

Self-surveillance will increase as individuals and organizations seek to avoid outright censorship.

Automated search criteria will steer users clear of interpretive accounts that stray from the narratives provided and/or approved by official sources.

The Ministry of Truth was established in the US with H.R.5181 - Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016114th Congress (2015-2016), which faces the contradictory imperative to "develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative" AND promoting a free press in countries vulnerable to foreign disinformation, as illustrated in this excerpt from the bill:
(4) the challenge of countering disinformation extends beyond effective strategic communications and public diplomacy, requiring a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power;

(5) the United States Government should develop a comprehensive strategy to counter foreign disinformation and propaganda and assert leadership in developing a fact-based strategic narrative; and

(6) an important element of this strategy should be to protect and promote a free, healthy, and independent press in countries vulnerable to foreign disinformation. https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/5181/text

The bill's injunction to create and disseminate "fact-based narratives and analysis to counter propaganda and disinformation directed at United States allies and partners" is particularly concerning. Essentially, the government has given itself to be the ultimate arbitrator of truth through its "fact based narratives."

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