All posts by Robert A Williams

Did Russia Affect the 2016 Election? Its Now Undeniable

For some time, there has been a conflation of issues—the hacking and leaking of illegally obtained information versus propaganda and disinformation; cyber-security issues and the hacking of elections systems versus information operations and information warfare; paid advertising versus coercive messaging or psychological operations—when discussing “Russian meddling” in the 2016 US elections. The refrain has become: “There is no evidence that Russian efforts changed any votes.”

But the bombshell 37-page indictment issued Friday by Robert Mueller against Russia’s Internet Research Agency and its leadership and affiliates provides considerable detail on the Russian information warfare targeting the American public during the elections. And this information makes it increasingly difficult to say that the Kremlin's effort to impact the American mind did not succeed.

The indictment pulls the curtain back on four big questions that have swirled around the Russian influence operation, which, it turns out, began in 2014: What was the scope of the Russian effort? What kind of content did it rely on? Who or what was it targeting, and what did it aim to achieve? And finally, what impact did it have?

Most of the discussion of this to date has focused on ideas of political advertising and the reach of a handful of ads—and this discussion has completely missed the point.

So let’s take these questions one at a time.

1. What was the scope of the Russian effort?

The Mueller indictment permanently demolishes the idea that the scale of the Russian campaign was not significant enough to have any impact on the American public. We are no longer talking about approximately $100,000 (paid in rubles, no less) of advertising grudgingly disclosed by Facebook, but tens of millions of dollars spent over several years to build a broad, sophisticated system that can influence American opinion.

The Russian efforts described in the indictment focused on establishing deep, authenticated, long-term identities for individuals and groups within specific communities. This was underlaid by the establishment of servers and VPNs based in the US to mask the location of the individuals involved. US-based email accounts linked to fake or stolen US identity documents (driver licenses, social security numbers, and more) were used to back the online identities. These identities were also used to launder payments through PayPal and cryptocurrency accounts. All of this deception was designed to make it appear that these activities were being carried out by Americans.

Additionally, the indictment mentions that the IRA had a department whose job was gaming algorithms. This is important because information warfare—the term used in the indictment itself—is not about "fake news" and “bots." It is about creating an information environment and a narrative—specific storytelling vehicles used to achieve goals of subversion and activation, amplified and promoted through a variety of means.

2. What kind of content did it rely on?

As the indictment lays out in thorough detail, the content pumped out by the Russians was not paid or promoted ads; it was so-called native content—including video, visual, memetic, and text elements designed to push narrative themes, conspiracies, and character attacks. All of it was designed to look like it was coming from authentic American voices and interest groups. And the IRA wasn’t just guessing about what worked. They used data-driven targeting and analysis to assess how the content was received, and they used that information to refine their messages and make them more effective.

3. Who or what was the operation targeting, and what did it aim to achieve?

The indictment mentions that the Russian accounts were meant to embed with and emulate “radical” groups. The content was not designed to persuade people to change their views, but to harden those views. Confirmation bias is powerful and commonly employed in these kinds of psychological operations (a related Soviet concept is “reflexive control”—applying pressure in ways to elicit a specific, known response). The intention of these campaigns was to activate—or suppress—target groups. Not to change their views, but to change their behavior.

4. What impact did it have?

We’re only at the beginning of having an answer to this question because we’ve only just begun to ask some of the right questions. But Mueller’s indictment shows that Russian accounts and agents accomplished more than just stoking divisions and tensions with sloppy propaganda memes. The messaging was more sophisticated, and some Americans took action. For example, the indictment recounts a number of instances where events and demonstrations were organized by Russians posing as Americans on social media. These accounts aimed to get people to do specific things. And it turns out—some people did.

Changing or activating behavior in this way is difficult; it’s easier to create awareness of a narrative. Consistent exposure over a period of time has a complex impact on a person’s cognitive environment. If groups were activated, then certainly the narrative being pushed by the IRA penetrated people’s minds. And sure enough, the themes identified in the indictment were topics frequently raised during the election, and they were frequently echoed and promoted across social media and by conservative outlets. A key goal of these campaigns was "mainstreaming" an idea—moving it from the fringe to the mainstream and thus making it appear to be a more widely held than it actually is.

This points to another impact that can be extracted from the indictment: It is now much more difficult to separate what is “Russian” or “American” information architecture in the US information environment. This will make it far harder to assess where stories and narratives are coming from, whether they are real or propaganda, whether they represent the views of our neighbors or not.

This corrosive effect is real and significant. Which part of the fear of “sharia law in America” came from Russian accounts versus readers of InfoWars? How much did the Russian campaigns targeting black voters impact the low turnout, versus the character attacks run against Clinton by the Trump campaign itself? For now, all we can know is that there is shared narrative, and shared responsibility. But if, as the indictment says, Russian information warriors were instructed to support “Sanders and Trump,” and those two campaigns appeared to have the most aggressive and effective online outreach, what piece of that is us, and what is them?

Persuasion and influence via social media cannot be estimated in linear terms; it requires looking at network effects. It is about the impact of a complex media environment with many layers, inputs, voices, amplifiers, and personalities. All of these elements change over time and interact with each other.

So anyone trying to tell you there was little impact on political views from the tools the Russians used doesn't know. Because none of us knows. No one has looked. Social media companies don't want us to know, and they obfuscate and drag their feet rather than disclosing information. The analytical tools to quantify the impact don’t readily exist. But we know what we see, and what we heard—and the narratives pushed by the Russian information operation made it to all of our ears and eyes.

The groups and narratives identified in the indictment were integral parts of the frenzied election circus that built momentum, shaped perceptions, and activated a core base of support for now-President Trump—just as they helped disgust and dismay other groups, making them less likely to vote (or to vote for marginal candidates in protest).

In the indictment, Trump campaign officials are referred to as “unwitting” participants in Russian information warfare. This gives the White House an out—and a chance to finally act against what the Kremlin did. But the evidence presented in the indictment makes it increasingly hard to say Russian efforts to influence the American mind were a failure.

Molly K. McKew (@MollyMcKew) is an expert on information warfare and the narrative architect at New Media Frontier. She advised Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government from 2009 to 2013 and former Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat in 2014-15.

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Lifes Better Unplugged: The Value Of Cell Phone Bans In The Music Industry

Sos Adame

Technology has drastically improved our world. In a matter of seconds, I can send a video clip to my boyfriend across the country, I can Skype with my mother in the Midwest, I can Instagram a memory of my sister and I and remind her how much she’s loved. With technology, I’m able to talk with friends and strangers from across the globe, discuss writing, sell products, express thoughts, engage and celebrate both our similarities and differences. I can make loved ones feel as if they are with me during important moments; I can record and relive a blip in time, again and again.

What happens when, instead of enjoying an experience we’re trying to capture it for the aesthetic? For likes? For views?

Daniel Goldstein, known by his stage name Lane 8, is an Denver-based musician, electronic music producer, and DJ who challenges the use of technology in our highly-influenced world. Since the opening of his tour, he’s put a strict ban on cell phone/camera usage at his shows – making the focus shift from the experience to actually it.

On his website, Goldstein’s message is this:

“We live at a time when distractions from reality are never further away than our fingertips. Our phones offer us unlimited stimulation and temporary comfort. The possibilities of technology are endless, but they also limit the possibility…the possibility to truly experience and submit to the moment.”

There’s so much truth in that.

One of the things I’ve love about concerts/clubs is the ability to just release – to pull away from every day life, to find peace, to live in the now. But honestly, sometimes I’m so distracted by my phone/camera that I don’t let the music wash over me fully. I want to capture the moment, show it to the world. I want to share the artist/DJ/experience with friends and family who aren’t there with me. I want to experience the event later, and all over again. But when I’m so focused on I’m not actually

Lane 8’s tour pushes back against this cultural norm. He speaks to the experience of music and why the media ban is of utmost importance to him:

“For me, going to a club has always been about letting go of the world around me, like a vacation from the nagging realities of everyday life…The best clubs I have been to, the people were united by a desire to experience electronic music in the purest sense; to get lost in its tension and release,” he says.

“No matter what was going on in their lives, it was a place where, for at least a few hours, nothing else mattered by the sheer power music had to bring people joy. And those experiences – held only by those in that room, at that moment – were almost like the reward to submitting to a secret society.”

In having a cell phone/photography ban, Lane 8 allows for his fans and concert-goers to have that ‘secret society’ experience—a place where they are the only ones privy to the music, the moment, the community. For him, it’s not just about the artist/DJ performing, but about the shared space—

Dance music has always been a communal experience – but how much of that community is lost when we’re all on our screens? All recording videos? All posting Snapchats? Instagrams? Live videos for our Twitter feeds?

“I understand people want to take quick pictures or videos at a show, just so they can remember it later, and I don’t feel there’s anything inherently wrong with that,” Goldstein says, “But I feel we’ve moved to a new phase where the focus is not on experiencing what is happening in front of you, at all, but on using your (phone) photos and videos as an asset to bolster your social media presence. That’s what I object to.”

Lane 8 is not the first producer/performer to implement a media ban; from Dave Chappelle, Bob Dylan and Alicia Keys to Jack White, Björk, Savages and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, artists have noted and enforced this important change. However, inspired by clubs like Berghain in Berlin and Output in NYC, Lane 8 is one of the first in the electronic scene.

Even though this genre is heavily influenced (and ultimately created) by technology, taking a step away from that is actually getting back to the roots of the music experience – community, connection, and release.

and Lane 8’s media ban are all about mindfulness – being present, being authentic, being

And in removing the screens, he gives people a space for dancing, for interacting, for letting go of inhibitions and societal pressures, and for having rather than worrying about having the best thing to post.

He sums up his goal perfectly in a letter to fans, “Sometimes the best thing we can do is fully appreciate what is happening in that room, at that moment, with those people around us.”

And this, we can only do when our phones are put away, and our hands are joined with those around us—celebrating right here, right now.

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18 ejemplos de juegos de video que te harn agradecer el avance de la tecnologa

Si hay un sector en donde salte a la vista su avance tecnolgico es el de los videojuegos. En menos de 30 aos pasamos de imaginarnos los mundos fantsticos en las pantallas de computador a apreciar sitios con un sinfn de detalles.

La siguiente es una pequea muestra de cmo eran los juegos antes y que nos ayudar a apreciar lo que disfrutamos ahora.

  • 1. Call Of Duty

    Pin It

    Antes: Call of Duty (2003)

    Ahora: Call of Duty WWII (2017)

  • 2. Crash Bandicoot

    Pin It

    Antes: Crash Bandicoot (1996)

    Ahora: Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (2017)

  • 3. DOOM

    Pin It

    Antes: DOOM (1993)

    Ahora: DOOM (2016)

  • 4. Final Fantasy

    Pin It

    Antes: Final Fantasy (1987)

    Ahora: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

  • 5. Gran Turismo

    Pin It

    Antes: Gran Turismo (1997)

    Ahora: Gran Turismo Sport (2017)

  • 6. Grand Theft Auto

    Pin It

    Antes: Grand Theft Auto (1997)

    Ahora: Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

  • 7. Halo

    Pin It

    Antes: Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)

    Ahora: Halo 5: Guardians (2015)

  • 8. Madden NFL

    Pin It

    Antes: John Madden NFL ’95

    Ahora: Madden NFL 18

  • 9. Metal Gear

    Pin It

    Antes: Metal Gear (1987)

    Ahora: Metal Gear Solid V (2015)

  • 10. Pokemon

    Pin It

    Antes: Pokemon Red (1996)

    Ahora: Pokemon X (2013)

  • 11. Resident Evil

    Pin It

    Antes: Resident Evil (1996)

    Ahora: Resident Evil 7 (2017)

  • 12. SimCity

    Pin It

    Antes: SimCity (1989)

    Ahora: SimCity (2013)

  • 13. Sonic The Hedgehog

    Pin It

    Antes: Sonic The Hedgehog (1991)

    Ahora: Sonic Forces (2017)

  • 14. Super Mario Bros

    Pin It

    Antes: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

    Ahora: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)

  • 15. Tetris

    Pin It

    Antes: Tetris (1984)

    Ahora: Tetris (2015)

  • 16. The Elder Scrolls

    Pin It

    Antes: The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994)

    Ahora: The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (2011)

  • 17. Tomb Raider

    Pin It

    Antes: Tomb Raider (1996)

    Ahora: Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)

  • 18. World of Warcraft

    Pin It

    Antes: World of Warcraft (2005)

    Ahora: World of Warcraft (2017)