dimanche 9 juillet 2017

The Rise of the Weaponized AI Propaganda Machine

This thread overlaps politics and science. It's not about a conspiracy theory, it's about marketing a message using sophisticated data mining to manipulate beliefs and actions. Given current events and the alt-right focus using these techniques the article discusses, I think it belongs here.

There’s a new automated propaganda machine driving global politics. How it works and what it will mean for the future of democracy.

It's a perfect storm when data mining has become sophisticated and stealthy at the same time the tools exist to market messages to individuals rather than through mass market messaging. But the idea the alt-right has a major player in this game is disturbing.

Most recently, Analytica helped elect U.S. President Donald Trump, secured a win for the Brexit Leave campaign, and led Ted Cruz’s 2016 campaign surge, shepherding him from the back of the GOP primary pack to the front.

The company is owned and controlled by conservative and alt-right interests that are also deeply entwined in the Trump administration. The Mercer family is both a major owner of Cambridge Analytica and one of Trump’s biggest donors. Steve Bannon, in addition to acting as Trump’s Chief Strategist and a member of the White House Security Council, is a Cambridge Analytica board member. Until recently, Analytica’s CTO was the acting CTO at the Republican National Convention.

Political analysts in the Clinton campaign, who were basing their tactics on traditional polling methods, laughed when Trump scheduled campaign events in the so-called blue wall -- a group of states that includes Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and has traditionally fallen to Democrats. But Cambridge Analytica saw they had an opening based on measured engagement with their Facebook posts. It was the small margins in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that won Trump the election.
I said all along the Democrats haven't figured this stuff out. People tried to tell me that Obama had because, gee, he used the Net to fund-raise. And Sanders used it to create a following. But the alt-right, (with Trump only a figure head for them*), have been using it and developing the science of exploiting human psychology since the Koch brothers first delved into funding think tanks to manipulate beliefs.

*I say that about Trump being a figurehead because I don't believe for a minute he would have had found the underlying apparatus of persuasion on his own.

Think about how far this has come since Frank Luntz' focus groups and framing Words that Work.

An example of weaponized AI:

Dark posts were also used to depress voter turnout among key groups of democratic voters. “In this election, dark posts were used to try to suppress the African-American vote,” wrote journalist and Open Society fellow McKenzie Funk in a New York Times editorial. “According to Bloomberg, the Trump campaign sent ads reminding certain selected black voters of Hillary Clinton’s infamous ‘super predator’ line. It targeted Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood with messages about the Clinton Foundation’s troubles in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.’”
By dark posts what they mean are those messages only you see.

Because dark posts are only visible to the targeted users, there’s no way for anyone outside of Analytica or the Trump campaign to track the content of these ads. In this case, there was no SEC oversight, no public scrutiny of Trump’s attack ads. Just the rapid-eye-movement of millions of individual users scanning their Facebook feeds.

In the weeks leading up to a final vote, a campaign could launch a $10-100 million dark post campaign targeting just a few million voters in swing districts and no one would know. This may be where future ‘black-swan’ election upsets are born.
Re fake news, it's not just about slipping them into the echo-chamber, it's much more sophisticated than that.

The web of fake and biased news that Albright uncovered created a propaganda wave that Cambridge Analytica could ride and then amplify. The more fake news that users engage with, the more addictive Analytica’s personality engagement algorithms can become.

Voter 35423 clicked on a fake story about Hillary’s sex-trafficking ring? Let’s get her to engage with more stories about Hillary’s supposed history of murder and sex trafficking.

The synergy between fake-content networks, automated message testing, and personality profiling will rapidly spread to other digital mediums. Albright’s most-recent research focuses on an artificial intelligence that automatically creates YouTube videos about news and current events. The AI, which reacts to trending topics on Facebook and Twitter, pairs images and subtitles with a computer generated voiceover. It spooled out nearly 80,000 videos through 19 different channels in just a few days.
I've been following this stuff for years and that was shocking even to me.

Then there was exploitation of botnets that does get into conspiracy territory, except this is a conspiracy with a track record:

Before long, Howard and his team were getting the heads up about bot propaganda campaigns from the creators themselves. As more and more major international political figures began using botnets as just another tool in their campaigns, Howard, Woolley and the rest of their team studied the action unfolding.

The world these informants revealed is an international network of governments, consultancies (often with owners or top management just one degree away from official government actors), and individuals who build and maintain massive networks of bots to amplify the messages of political actors, spread messages counter to those of their opponents, and silence those whose views or ideas might threaten those same political actors..
I thought it was bad when Erik Prince gained government contracts to use his Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq and later New Orleans. This is a thousand times worse:

It's likely Cambridge Analytica will secure more contracts with federal agencies and is in the final stages of negotiations to begin managing White House digital communication throughout the Trump Administration. What new predictive-personality targeting becomes possible with potential access to data on U.S. voters from the IRS, Department of Homeland Security, or the NSA?
The article is a must read for anyone who is interested in critical thinking and media literacy.

Sorry for being preachy.

via International Skeptics Forum http://ift.tt/2sFrpu5

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