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Tag: Social Media

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.”

Trump Supporters Fumed over Twitter’s Purge of Suspected Bots

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Conservative Twitter users are fuming Wednesday after the social media company purged suspected malicious bots – the same automated accounts Russian agents are accused of using to wage an unprecedented propaganda campaign to help Donald Trump win the election.

The purge comes amid mounting pressure from lawmakers calling on social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, to eliminate fake accounts that peddle fake news.

Far-right Twitter users vented, under the trending hashtag, #TwitttertLockOut, that they lost hundreds and even thousands of followers and accused the social media giant of waging a leftist purge to silence conservatives and Trump supporters. 

“The Words of Day Are ‘Twitter Purge’ On Tuesday Night, Most of Us Lost Thousand of Followers. As #Deplorables & #Trump Supporters, ‘We Must Help Each Other,’” a Trump supporter tweeted. “Lets Follow & Follow Back Everyday. The #Trump Agenda Must Be Pushed Forward.#TwitterLockOut.”

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Twitter responded that its “tools are apolitical” and that it periodically culls accounts suspected of being fake.

“As part of our ongoing work in safety, we identify suspicious account behaviors that indicate automated activity or violations of our policies around having multiple accounts, or abuse,” Twitter’s statement said. “We also take action on any accounts we find that violate our terms of service, including asking account owners to confirm a phone number so we can confirm a human is behind it. That’s why some people may be experiencing suspensions or locks.”

Twitter didn’t indicate how many suspicious users were removed. 

Thirteen Russians were charged last week on charges of using bots and social media advertising as part of an unprecedented propaganda campaign to help Trump get elected. Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to spread disinformation.

Russian Trolls Make Resurgence on Social Media to Interfere with Special Counsel Probe

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Russian-linked social media accounts that spread immeasurable propaganda during the 2016 presidential election are making a comeback in an escalating campaign to influence the investigations of possible ties between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin.

Two top Democrats sent a letter to Twitter and Facebook earlier this month, warning that Russian-linked accounts are cropping up in alarming numbers to spread information intended to undermine investigations by congressional committees and  special counsel Robert Mueller.

“It is critically important that the Special Counsel’s investigation be allowed to proceed without interference from inside or outside the United States,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, both of California, in the letter, according to CNBC.

Each serves on a committee investigation Russian interference during the election.

Thousands of automated accounts, called bots, have cropped up lately in response to the widening investigations that have reached the White House.

Many of them have joined a viral hashtag campaign – #ReleaseTheMemo – to press for the public disclosure of a Republican memorandum that claims the FBI and Justice Department are tainted by political biases. On Monday, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee voted to publicly release the secret, much-disputed memo that alleges the agencies abused their authority by extending surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser and suspected Russian agent Carter Page.

The vote, along party lines, ignored Justice Department warnings that the release would be “extraordinarily reckless” because the memo draws from classified information. 

The lawmakers expressed concern that the reemergence of Russian bots “are intended to influence congressional action and undermine Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation,” of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Russian-linked trolls also are spreading content from Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has relentlessly blasted the intelligence agencies for alleged anti-Trump biases, Mother Jones reported, basing the information on data compiled by the nonpartisan Alliance for Security Democracy. 

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded last year that Russia launched an aggressive, sophisticated smear campaign designed to disseminate disinformation on social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Google. The propaganda targeted controversial subjects such as police brutality, Black Lives Matter, immigration and Muslims.

Wired reported earlier this month that Mueller’s team interviewed at least one member of Facebook’s team connected Trump’s campaign as part of the investigation into Russian interference.

During a series of congressional hearings last year, Twitter, Facebook and Google were criticized by lawmakers for failing to take steps to eliminate the Russian propaganda campaign.

Twitter plans to notify nearly 700,000 users who interacted with suspected Russian propagandists.

Other Stories of Interest

With Upcoming Election, FBI Unit Plans to Alert U.S. Companies About Foreign Disinformation and Social Media Manipulation

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

With a new election approaching, the FBI is concerned.

The FBI’s “foreign influence” task force plans to alert U.S. companies and the public about efforts by Russia or other nations to use disinformation and social media manipulation to interfere in upcoming elections, Bloomberg News reports.

At the same time, the feds are being careful not to upset free speech and constitutional rights, a top law enforcement official said.

Bloomberg reports:

The direction that the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “foreign influence” task force is heading could dramatically reshape the relationship between government and social media companies in order to address vulnerabilities that enabled Russia to meddle in the 2016 election.

“We’ve been reluctant in some instances to share the amount of information of what we know about what’s happening,” said Jeffrey Tricoli, a top FBI official heading the task force. “You can’t stay with the same strategy if you think there needs to be changes. So going forward there’s going to be opportunities for us to share information in better ways.”

 

ICE Seeks Help from Social Media Companies to Spy on Visa Holders

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Trump administration’s increasing battle against illegal immigration may soon include tracking the social media feeds of foreign visitors.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement told software providers that it’s seeking “algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the U.S. and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk,” ProPublica reports. 

The move appears to be part of Trump’s demands for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, raising criticism from immigrants and civil liberties advocates.

ICE is searching for “risk-based metrics” to indicate potential dangers posed by visa holders, who could remain under continuous surveillance while in the U.S., according to Louis Rodi, deputy assistant director of ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ National Security Program, who spoke at a recent tech industry conference in Arlington, Va.

“We have millions and millions and millions of people coming every year, and subsequently departing, so we have to be smart about it,” said Rodi to a room of representatives from companies like Microsoft, Accenture, Deloitte and Motorola Solutions. “And I’m sure there are tools out there that can help.”

The program, however, has not begun, stressed ICE spokeswoman Carissa Curttel.

“The request for information on this initiative was simply that—an opportunity to gather information from industry professionals and other government agencies on current technological capabilities to determine the best way forward,” Cutrell wrote in an email.

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