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Diane Francis: Two years after social media’s dirty tricks were exposed, nothing has changed – Financial Post



In 2018, British journalist Carole Cadwalladr exposed how the outcome of the Brexit referendum was engineered through a massive Facebook campaign. The social media giant accepted ads that spread disinformation, smears, inaccuracies and fear, in the form of both ads and “news” content pushed into users’ feeds, on behalf of the Vote Leave campaign.

She ferreted out the now-defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica and Christopher Wylie, who became a whistleblower, and described how their psychometric targeting tool, and access to tens of millions of Facebook accounts, was deployed against people who were deemed to be “persuadable.”

Her revelations also exposed that the same dirty tricks that skewed the Brexit vote affected the 2016 presidential election in the United States, the French election and votes in other countries. The furor led to hearings, the shuttering of Cambridge Analytica and Wylie’s testimony in front of numerous legislatures around the world, but Facebook’s business model hasn’t changed. It is a social media site that profits by publishing targeted ads based on the personal information of its users.

It is not about left or right or leave or remain, about whether it’s possible to have a free and fair election ever again

British journalist Carole Cadwalladr

Cadwalladr pulled no punches about Big Tech when she did a TED Talk in front of a crowd of tech executives last year. “The Brexit vote demonstrates that liberal democracy is broken and you (Facebook, Google, Twitter and the tech industry) broke it,” she said. “Spreading lies in darkness paid for with illegal cash from God knows where. It’s subversion and you are accessories to it. Now it’s a crime scene.”

Her exposés led to parliamentary hearings in Britain and an investigation by the National Crimes Commission. Facebook did not co-operate: its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, refused to appear at a parliamentary hearing and the company rejected calls to release information about the viscous Vote Leave campaign, including its archive of ads and posts, as well as who was responsible for funding it.

“It is not about left or right or leave or remain, about whether it’s possible to have a free and fair election ever again,” Cadwalladr said.

Her research began after 63 per cent of the electorate in her home town in Wales voted to leave the European Union, even though tens of millions of dollars of EU funds had gone toward infrastructure and social improvements there.

“I met a young man who said he voted to leave because the EU had done nothing for him,” she said. “He was fed up with it. People all around town told me the same. They wanted to take back control. Most were fed up with the immigrants and yet this area had one of lowest rates of immigration in the U.K.”

The reason was that “a fire hose of disinformation” was unleashed to locals through Facebook, she said, bombarding them with “lies,” such as one stating that Turkey was about to join the EU and send a tsunami of migrants to Europe.

“There was no archive of ads or what had been pushed into people’s news feeds,” she said. “There was no information on how much was spent on these ads and by whom. Facebook knows, but refuses to give information to the U.K. Parliament and Zuckerberg wouldn’t appear. The entire referendum took place in darkness because it took place on Facebook.…. Some people say it was only a few lies, but this was the biggest electoral fraud in Britain in 100 years, a once-in-a-generation vote that hinged on a small percentage of the electorate.”

Her research linked what happened in Britain with U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign. Cambridge Analytica was owned by Trump supporter Robert Mercer and advised by Trump guru Steve Bannon, who is close to Brexit Party Leader Nigel Farage and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, both of whom supported Brexit.

“Brexit was the petri dish for Trump’s online campaign. The same techniques were used,” Cadwalladr said.

Ironically, Britain has now embarked on its destructive exit from the European Union, while recent polls reveal that a majority of the country would prefer to stay. There are also profound economic consequences to the decision. “Japanese car manufacturers that came here to replace the lost coal mining jobs have left and the damage is profound,” Cadwalladr said.

And Canadians are not immune from such dangerous and deceiving social media campaigns. Russia and others have undertaken similar online campaigns in Canada and the U.S., in order to stoke environmental hysteria and opposition to resource development, according to Congressional investigations.

Indeed, little has changed since Cadwalladr’s explosive revelations came out, and iron-clad guardrails to protect democracies against social media do not exist yet.

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Victoria police respond to social media posts alleging sexual assault at tattoo parlour – CityNews Vancouver



VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Police in Victoria are asking possible victims of sexual abuse involving a local tattoo artist to contact their Special Victims Unit.

No charges have been recommended, but Carne Tattoo posted a message online Monday confirming an artist was let go for his “betrayal of young women” and references an incident dating back to 2019.

Other social media posts indicate the alleged abuse was initially reported in 2019.

After seeing reports on social media, Victoria Police ask anyone who might have experienced “sexualized violence” during tattoo appointments to get in touch.

“We want everyone in those threads who have experienced sexualized violence to know that if you report what you’ve experienced to our Special Victims Unit detectives, you will be listened to, you will be treated with respect, and you will be believed,” reads a statement from police.

“If you do think that you may want to consider a criminal process, it is important to know that for potential future court processes, it is best that you provide your statement to the police prior to speaking to any media outlets or posting details of your story publicly on social media. This is to ensure that your statement belongs to you and you only.”

The Instagram account of a man identified as the artist has been taken down.

To speak to a detective, call the non-emergency line at 250-995-7654 and select extension 1 for the report desk. Or, reach out to the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre at 250-383-3232, if you aren’t sure about getting in touch with police.

Editor’s note: The screenshots in this article have been edited to hide the name of the tattoo artist because he has not been charged. 

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New book echoes conference on classics, media theory | Cornell Chronicle – Cornell Chronicle



A new edited volume, “Classics and Media Theory,” features participants from a Cornell media studies conference exploring the interactions between media and antiquity.

The book, in the Oxford University Press “Classical Presences” series, gathers expert analysis from scholars engaging with myriad aspects of classical Greece and Rome, with a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives from fields including classical literature, art history, cultural studies, film studies, media theory and media history.

The contributors include Verity Platt, professor of classics and the history of art and visual studies in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Revolving around issues of philosophy, cultural history, literature, aesthetics and epistemology, the volume highlights interactions between classical studies and media theory, why they matter and how they can be developed further. The book also explores the implications of the study of media for the study of culture, including the processes of cultural production and reception; and it encourages scholarly attention to media in the study of Greco-Roman antiquity.

The volume highlights several emergent fields within media studies ranging from cultural techniques to media archaeology; the persistence of Greco-Roman paradigms across different strands of media theory; and the conceptual underpinnings of cultural practices in the transformation of ancient Greece and Rome into “classics.”

Platt has joined researcher Till Heilmann and media studies professor Jens Schroeter of the University of Bonn, and the book’s editor, Pantelis Michelakis, reader in classics at the University of Bristol, to establish a network for the study of media and the premodern.

All participated in the international conference “Siren Echoes: Sound, Image, and the Media of Antiquity,” presented by the Media Studies Initiative on campus in November 2019.

Themes and topics at the two-day conference included “Antiquity in Media Theory,” “Sounds of the Anthropocene,” “Media Pathologies,” “Genealogies of the Image,” “Sacred Resonances” and “Image, Medium and Light.” The event “was a huge success,” said Jeremy Braddock, associate professor of English.

Michelakis, a Greek literature and classical theater scholar, organized a similar conference in Bristol, which also provided content for the book.

“Although the ancient world has played an important role in media theory, especially in scholarship on orality and literacy, ‘media studies’ tends to be associated with the technologies of the industrial and computer age,” Platt said.

There are many scholars at Cornell who focus on “modes of transmission, communication and reproduction in the premodern world and later cultural reception,” she said, “all of which can be put into fruitful dialogue with scholars focused on more contemporary issues.”

A second Cornell conference, “Media Objects,” planned for March 2020, was to feature content ranging from film screenings and internet art to architectural installations, exhibitions and digital collections.

Postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference will be staged during the 2020-21 academic year as a series of virtual panels, lectures and related events, Braddock said, with plans to culminate in an event in fall 2021 at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. A follow-up to “Siren Echoes” in spring 2021 is also a possibility, Platt said.

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Pop Smoke's social media posts led suspects to L.A. home, say police –



Authorities believe rising rapper Pop Smoke was shot and killed during a Los Angeles home-invasion robbery in February after his social media posts led five suspects to the house he was renting, police said after detectives arrested the group Thursday morning.

Los Angeles police had initially discounted a robbery theory in the days after the 20-year-old rapper’s death Feb. 19 at a home in the Hollywood Hills. Pop Smoke’s legal name is Bashar Barakah Jackson.

Capt. Jonathan Tippet, who oversees the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite Robbery-Homicide Division, said three men and two teenage boys likely went to the home because they knew Pop Smoke was there from social media posts.

They stole items from the home, though Tippet said he could not divulge what was taken. The teens were 15 and 17 years old.

“We believe that it was a robbery. Initially we didn’t really have the evidence but then we discovered some other evidence that showed this was likely a home invasion gone bad,” Tippet told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The five suspects were arrested Thursday morning as detectives served several search warrants in Los Angeles. All are believed to be members of a South Los Angeles gang, which Tippet would not name, and at least some of them are believed to be linked to the 2019 homicide of an 18-year-old man when a fight escalated into a shooting outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The three men were identified as Jaquan Murphy, 21, Corey Walker, 19, and Keandre D. Rodgers, 18, all of Los Angeles. Walker and Rodgers were arrested on suspicion of murder and Murphy was held on suspicion of attempted murder, police said. The men were being held in lieu of $1 million bail apiece.

The 15-year-old and the 17-year-old also were booked on suspicion of murder. It wasn’t immediately known whether any of those arrested had attorneys.

Pop Smoke and his entourage staying at the home are not believed to be associated with the gang, Tippet said. No one else was shot during the incident.

Pop Smoke is seen performing at a Houston concert in November 2019. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Times reported in February that the rapper had posted pictures of him posing by an infinity pool in the home’s backyard, as well as a picture of the Los Angeles skyline from what was likely the house’s backyard. In another post, Pop Smoke or a member of his entourage put a picture of a gift bag tagged with the Hollywood Hills address and a different photo showed him posing by a Range Rover in a spot where the home’s address was partly visible in the background.

“It’s our belief that [the home-invasion robbery] was based on some of the social media” posts, Tippet said. “It’s based on the fact that he was posting his information may have contributed to knowing where to find him.”

The home where the shooting occurred is owned by Edwin Arroyave and his wife Teddi Mellencamp, daughter of Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer John Mellencamp and a star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Teddi Mellencamp previously said on Instagram that the couple had been notified of the shooting at their rental property but knew no more than what they had seen in media reports.

Pop Smoke arrived on the rap scene in 2018 and broke out with Welcome to the Party, a gangsta anthem with boasts about shootings, killings and drugs that became a huge sensation, and prompted Nicki Minaj to drop a verse on a remix.

Earlier this year, Pop Smoke released the mixtape Meet the Woo 2, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart. It was the follow up to his first official release, Meet the Woo. The rapper also had the popular hit Gatti with Travis Scott and Jackboys and the track Dior.

His major label debut album, Shoot for the Stars Aim for the Moon, was executive produced by 50 Cent. It was released posthumously last Friday to mostly positive reviews and features appearances from popular artists including Future, DaBaby and Quavo.

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