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Tag: Social Media

Silly Conspiracy Theory Woven from Comey Tweet Prompts School to Cancel Event

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

An innocuous tweet from former FBI Director James Comey turned into a bizarre conspiracy theory that prompted a California school to cancel its upcoming fundraiser.

The Grass Valley Charter School Foundation wasn’t taking any chances after an online conspiracy theory targeted the school.

The conspiracy began after Comey took part in a popular Twitter game, “Five Jobs I’ve Had,” in late April. A conspiracy theorist “isolated random letters and threaded them together to suggest ‘Five Jihad(s)’ involving ‘Grass Valley Charter School Foundation,’” KCRA 3 reports.

“It was everything from Comey and his people were going to come and kidnap our children to there was going to be a mass shooting,” foundation President Wendy Willoughby said.

Kathy Dotson, parent and co-producer of the fundraiser, said “you can’t help but take it seriously.”

In a letter to parents, school Principal Scott Maddock explained why the festival was canceled.

“I want to stress the fact that there was no threat made against our school,” the letter reads. “Law enforcement agencies are completely certain that this conspiracy theory poses no danger to our school or community. We are canceling the Blue Marble Jubilee because of the negative attention placed on our festival.”

Law enforcement did not consider the threat to be credible, but school officials and event organizers said they were worried about copycats.

“These theories, although they hold no basis in reality or fact, what they can do and have the power to do through social media is embolden unstable people to take action and potentially do dangerous things,” Willoughby said.

School officials moved the fundraiser online.

Russian Troll Farms Disproportionately Targeted African Americans, Congressional Reports Show

An image posted by a Russian troll farm, Black4Black.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Russia’s campaign to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential race disproportionately targeted African Americans on numerous social media platforms, more than previously known, according to reports commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Two reports show the extent to which the Russian Internet Research Agency, a troll farm, sought to divide Americans with misinformation and meme content during the election.

One of the primary goals of the campaign, which was launched on every major social media platform, was to support Trump and to stir up racial tensions, according to the reports. 

The social media accounts were designed to look like Africans Americans were running the accounts, when in fact Russians had created and ran them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube and Reddit. The reports emphasized that Russia made an extraordinary effort to target African Americans.

“The most prolific I.R.A. efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” one of the reports reads.

Black4Black, an account and website created by Russian troll farms.

The report adds that while “other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts, the black community was targeted extensively with dozens.” 

Some of the examples include Facebook ads targeting users interested in black history, Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party. The most popular was an Instagram account called @blackstagram that gained more than 300,000 followers.

In addition, the troll farm created a dozen websites that looked like they were run by African Americans, with names like blackmattersus.com, blacktivist.info, blacktolive.org and blacksoul.us. 

Russian-created YouTube accounts played a big role in covering the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, creating channels called “Don’t Shoot” and “BlackToLive.”

Simultaneously, the Russians created “Southern pride” accounts with Confederate flags.

The tactic of sowing racial divisions is nothing new with Russians, who decades ago exploited the sensitive topic of race in the U.S. to turn Americans on each other.

Many Trump voters cited anti-brutality protests as a reason they supported the president.

Alarmingly, the reports warned that Russians continue to use the social media platforms and plant to launch similar propaganda during the 2020 elections.

Trump’s Tweetstorm May Be Considered Obstruction And Witness-Tampering

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump’s habit of firing off incendiary tweets without consulting with White House attorneys may have landed him in hot water.

As special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigates whether Trump obstructed justice in connection with his 2016 presidential campaign, he “edged closer to an open display of obstruction of justice and witness tampering,” The Washington Post reports

In a series tweet Monday, Trump urged former aides aim to refuse to cooperate with the federal investigators and even appeared to imply threats against those who do.

It began with an attack on his former attorney Michael Cohen, suggesting he should receive no deals for cooperating with investigators.

“‘Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time.’ You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? … He lied for this outcome and should, in my opinion, serve a full and complete sentence,” Trump tweeted.

Subjects of criminal investigations are prohibited from retaliating against people who testify against them. 

Trump followed up the tweet with a quote from Stone: “I will never testify against Trump.”

Trump added, “This statement was recently made by Roger Stone, essentially stating that he will not be forced by a rogue and out of control prosecutor to make up lies and stories about ‘President Trump.’ Nice to know that some people still have ‘guts!’ ”

The Washington Post wrote:

So where he threatened a stick against Cohen, Trump offered a carrot to Stone, signaling where their allegiances should lie. This proof of potential witness tampering and obstruction of justice is made even stronger by the fact that the messaging is from the person who holds the most powerful get-out-of-jail-free card: a presidential pardon.”

Taken together, Trump’s statements Monday are a message not only to Cohen and Stone, but also to anyone else who may be considering testifying or cooperating against the president or any of his associates. And the message is quite clear: Those who cooperate with law enforcement and agree to be witnesses against Trump will be punished, while those who keep his secrets will be protected.

The tweets Monday are not, alas, isolated incidents. The president has tweeted before that he is being persecuted by the special counsel’s office, purportedly threatened those in a position to preserve the Mueller investigation, asked for loyalty of those who might prosecute his confederates and engaged in a host of additional conduct evincing an intent to block Mueller’s work, as well as committing overt acts seemingly directed at obstructing the investigation.

Google Tips Off Users about FBI Investigation into Some Users

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Google alerted dozens of people or more that the search engine giant was ordered by the FBI to release user data as part of an unspecified investigation.

The news site Motherboard indicated that the “unusual notice appears to be related” to a hacking tool called LuminosityLink. 

Several people reported receiving the email and posted the information on popular social media platforms and HackForums, a popular source of information about hacking and cybersecurity.

“Google received and responded to legal process issue by Federal Bureau of Investigation (Eastern District of Kentucky) compelling the release of information related to your Google account,” the email read, according to people who said they received it.

A lawyer who specializes in cybercrimes said it appears Google was eventually given permission to notify users.

“It looks to me like the court initially ordered Google not to disclose the existence of the info demand, so Google was legally prohibited from notifying the user. Then the nondisclosure order was lifted, so Google notified the user. There’s nothing unusual about that per se,” the lawyer, Marcia Hoffman, told Motherboard in an online chat. “It’s common when law enforcement is seeking info during an ongoing investigation and doesn’t want to tip off the target(s).”

Police Recover Van Stolen by Pennsylvania Fugitive Who Threatened to Kill Trump And Law Enforcement

Shawn Christy

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Police in West Virginia have recovered a van believed to have been stolen by a Pennsylvania fugitive who has been on the run for more than a month after threatening on social media to assassinate President Trump and use “full lethal force on any law enforcement officer” who tries to detain him. 

The FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and local and state police have been trying to track down 26-year-old Shawn R. Christy, who threatened on Facebook in June to shoot Trump and the Northampton County district attorney in the head.

A federal arrest warrant was issued on June 19, and authorities believe he is armed with at least three stolen handguns.

The FBI’s Pittsburgh office said on Twitter that the stolen van was recovered near Nitro, W.V., on Tuesday and has been impounded.

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

Christy has a history of threatening elected officials.

According to the Morning Call

In 2010, Christy, then 18 years old, was served with a protection-from-abuse order from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for allegedly bombarding her with unwelcome emails. The next year, Christy and his father, Craig, were arrested by federal authorities in Allentown on charges of harassing Palin’s lawyers in phone calls.

Christy pleaded guilty to harassment in that case and was sentenced to probation. He served some time in federal prison when he violated terms of the probation.

He was later sentenced to probation and anger management classes for threatening to shoot a Bangor tax collection clerk, and was then arrested in Schuylkill County on an aggravated assault charge for allegedly swinging a large stick at McAdoo Mayor Stephan Holly.

Anyone with information on Christy’s location is asked to call the FBI at 610-433-6488 or 215-418-4000, or the U.S. Marshals Service at 877-926-8332.

 

Facebook Reveals New Coordinated Disinformation Campaign Ahead of Midterm Elections

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Facebook revealed Tuesday that it uncovered a new coordinated disinformation campaign potentially targeting the midterm elections.

The company said the campaign involved dozens of fake accounts on its social media platform. In a statement posted on Facebook, the company said it removed 32 pages and accounts from its platform and Instagram “because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior.” 

Facebook said the accounts were targeting protests planned in Washington D.C. next week.

The company is uncertain of the source of the fake accounts and is investigating.

The discovery comes at a time when federal agencies in the U.S. said Russia continues to spread disinformation to divide Americans.

Facebook found:

  • In total, more than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of these Pages, the earliest of which was created in March 2017. The latest was created in May 2018.
  • The most followed Facebook Pages were “Aztlan Warriors,” “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” and “Resisters.” The remaining Pages had between zero and 10 followers, and the Instagram accounts had zero followers.
  • There were more than 9,500 organic posts created by these accounts on Facebook, and one piece of content on Instagram.
  • They ran about 150 ads for approximately $11,000 on Facebook and Instagram, paid for in US and Canadian dollars. The first ad was created in April 2017, and the last was created in June 2018.
  • The Pages created about 30 events since May 2017. About half had fewer than 100 accounts interested in attending. The largest had approximately 4,700 accounts interested in attending, and 1,400 users said that they would attend.

Trump Loses Patience with Special Counsel Probe, Calls It ‘Russia Witch Hunt’

President Trump, via the White House

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump lashed out yet again at what he called the “Russia Witch Hunt” and suggested the obstruction charge is for a “made up, phony crime.”

“The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination or anything else with Russia. So now the Probe says OK, what else is there? How about Obstruction for a made up, phony crime.There is no O, it’s called Fighting Back.”

He also took aim at Democrats.

“The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in place that actually protects people from injustice…and just wait ‘till the Courts get to see your unrevealed Conflicts of Interest!”

Trump has increased his rhetoric against the special counsel investigation, just a day after his new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said the president may plead the fifth or just refuse to sit down with Robert Mueller, who is heading up the year-old probe.

If Trump refuses is subpoenaed and still refuses to sit down for an interview with Mueller, it likely would lead to a Supreme Court decision on whether a president can even be charged with a crime.

Growing Fla. School Shooting Conspiracy Catapults YouTube Video to No.1

David Hogg discounted the conspiracy theory on CNN on Tuesday.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The soaring popularity of a discounted, right-wing conspiracy theory that claims last week’s Florida school shooting was an FBI plot was underscored Wednesday when YouTube’s top trending video featured a segment on the baseless allegations.

The video, originally posted in August, claimed that David Hogg, a survivor of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., was an “actor,” not a classmate.

In the video, the 17-year-old was featured in an interview with the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles to discuss a dispute between a lifeguard and a swimmer.

The video, which received more than 200,000 views in about 12 hours, was copied and re-uploaded by a YouTube user named “mike m,” who wrote new caption: “DAVID HOGG THE ACTOR …”

Since the massacre that killed 17 people, the conspiracy theory has gained traction among Trump supporters and others on the far right who believe – or want you to believe – that the shooting was an FBI plot to seize power from Americans.

The video was removed by YouTube for violating its policy on bullying and harassment.

On CNN on Tuesday, Hogg disputed the outrageous claims.

“I’m not a crisis actor,” Hogg told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “AC360” Tuesday. “I’m someone who had to witness this and live through this and I continue to be having to do that.”

He added, “I’m not acting on anybody’s behalf.”