Telegram and Criminal Usage: Who Knew?

September 27, 2021

Why would cyber criminals and regular run-of-the-mill criminals use a message app which was able to encrypt messages, enable “transactions,” and support file attachments? (A file attachment could be malware, an image one would not show a grade school class, or a video with semi-interesting behavior on display.)

Telegram Has Seen a Sharp Rise in Cybercriminal Activities, Report Says” reveals this previously unknown factoid. Astounding. I learned:

Cybercriminals have been using Telegram for years, because it’s encrypted and easy to access. According to a recent investigation conducted by The Financial Times and cyber intelligence group Cyberint, though, there’s been “a 100 percent-plus rise in Telegram usage by cybercriminals” recently. And FT says the rise in criminal activity on the app came after users flocked to it following a change in WhatsApp’s privacy policy.

Yep, Facebook — again.

The write up did not make clear that:

  • Telegram has reached some rapprochement with Russia’s telecommunications authority.
  • Encryption at scale creates interesting challenges for law enforcement, intelligence, and regulatory entities
  • Fosters a wide range of criminal activities; for example, recruiting individuals for illegal activities, dissemination of proscribed content, and coordinating distributed cyber crime actions.

Is there a solution? Not an easy one I fear.

Stephen E Arnold, September 27, 2021

Yay, A Facebook Friday

September 24, 2021

Three slightly intriguing factoids about the Zuckbook.

The first is a characterization of Facebook’s and the supreme leader’s time spirit:

“Shame, addiction, and dishonesty.”

Well, that’s a poster message for some innovator in the decorative arts. The original could be offered on Facebook Messenger and the cash transaction handled at night in a fast food joint’s parking lot. What could go wrong? And the source of this information? The work of the UX Collective and included in a write up with the title “Zuckerberg’s Zeitgeist: A Culture of Shame, Addiction, and Dishonesty.” What’s left out of the write up? How many UX Collective professionals have Facebook accounts? And what’s the method of remediation? A better interface. Okay. Deep.

The second is from “Facebook’s Incoming Chief Technology Officer Once Said People Being Cyberbullied to Suicide of Killed in Terror Attacks Organized on the Site Was a Price Worth Paying to Connect People.” The headline alleges that the new Facebook chief technology officer or C3PO robot emitted this statement. Another memorable phrase from the C2PO Facebooker is allegedly:

Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people.’

Snappy? Yep.

And, finally, today (September 24, 2021), that  the estimable Salesforce luminary, Marc Benioff, who maybe said:

In regards to Facebook, they are not held accountable.

The write up “Tech Billionaire: Facebook Is What’s Wrong with America” contains an even more T shirtable slogan. I live in fear of Google’s duplication savvy smart software, but I want to be clear:

Facebook is what’s wrong with America

I like this statement whether from the humanoid running Salesforce or a thumbtyping PR expert with a degree in art history and a minor in business communications. Winner.

Net net: Facebook seems to be a font of news and inspiration. And, please, remember the fix: user interface changes. Yes.

Stephen E Arnold, September 24, 2021

Apple, Facebook, and an Alleged Digital Trade for a Contentious Product

September 23, 2021

I read “Apple Threatened Facebook Ban over Slavery Posts on Instagram.” I have nothing but respect for the BBC, Brexit, and, of course, the Royals. I also believe everything I read online. (Doesn’t everyone?) Against this background, this BBC slavery write up is interesting indeed.

I read  this passage twice to make sure I was getting the message:

Apple threatened to remove Facebook’s products from its App Store, after the BBC found domestic “slaves” for sale on apps, including Instagram, in 2019. The threat was revealed in the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) Facebook Files, a series of reports based on its viewing of internal Facebook documents.

Okay. Slave trade. Facebook. Info from “internal Facebook documents.”

Here’s another passage I circled with my trusty red Sharpie Magnum marker:

The trade was carried out using a number of apps including Facebook-owned Instagram. The posts and hashtags used for sales were mainly in Arabic, and shared by users in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Okay. Arabic. Saudi Arabia. Kuwait.

And the Sir Gawain in this matter? China-compliant Apple.

It [Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal] said the social media giant only took “limited action” until “Apple Inc. threatened to remove Facebook’s products from the App Store, unless it cracked down on the practice”.

I hear the digital French Foreign Legion’s tune Le Boudin. Do you?

And the good news? The BBC stated:

In its June 2020 response to these, Facebook wrote: “Following an investigation prompted by an inquiry from the BBC, we conducted a proactive review of our platform. We removed 700 Instagram accounts within 24 hours, and simultaneously blocked several violating hashtags.” The following month the company said it removed more than 130,000 pieces of Arabic-language speech content related to domestic servitude in Arabic on both Instagram and Facebook. It added that it had also developed technology that can proactively find and take action on content related to domestic servitude – enabling it to “remove over 4,000 pieces of violating organic content in Arabic and English from January 2020 to date”.

Interesting indeed. Slavery. Facebook. Social media. Prompt action documented. Apple the pointy end of the stick for justice. Possible vacation ideas for some. The BBC. And more. Quite a write up.

Stephen E Arnold, September 23, 2021

Is Pew Defining News Too Narrowly?

September 21, 2021

I read what looks like another “close enough for horse shoes survey.” The data originate from the Pew Research Center, which has adopted the role of the outfit which says, “This is what’s shaking the digital world.”

The article “News Consumption across Social Media in 2021” reports that ”about half of Americans get news on social media at least sometimes, down slightly form 2020.”

But what’s news? I don’t want to dive into the definitional quandary, but news? What’s truth? Ethical behavior? Honor?

There is a factoid tucked into the write up which is interesting because it seems that hot social media properties like Reddit, TikTok, LinkedIn (Microsoft), Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Twitch are not where Americans go for news.


Let’s zoom into Reddit. The majority of the content is news related; that is, the information calls attention to an action or instrumentality. One easy example is the discussion threads related to problems with computers. Isn’t this information news?

What about WhatsApp (Facebook)? With encrypted messaging services becoming the new Dark Web, much of the information on special interest groups focused on possible illegal activities is, according to my DarkCyber research team, is news: Who, what, where, when, etc.

Another issue is that anyone with an interest in an event (for instance, a law enforcement professional) may find quite “newsy” items on Facebook and YouTube pages. And the sampling used for the Pew study? Maybe not representative?

Net net: Interesting study just a slight shading of “news.” The world has changed and as cartoon characters once said, “Phew, phew.”

Stephen E Arnold, September 21, 2021

Facebook and Social Media: How a Digital Country Perceives Its Reality

September 17, 2021

I read “Instagram Chief Faces Backlash after Awkward Comparison between Cars and Social Media Safety.” This informed senior manager at Facebook seems to have missed a book on many reading lists. The book is one I have mentioned a number of times in the last 12 years since I have been capturing items of interest to me and putting my personal “abstracts” online.

Jacques Ellul is definitely not going to get a job working on the script for the next Star Wars’ film. He won’t be doing a script for a Super Bowl commercial. Most definitely Dr. Ellul will not be founding a church called “New Technology’s Church of Baloney.”

Dr. Ellul died in 1994, and it is not clear if he knew about online or the Internet. He jabbered at the University of Bordeaux, wrote a number of books about technology, and inspired enough people to set up the International Jacques Ellul Society.

One of his books was the Technological Society or in French Le bluff technologique.

The article was sparked my thoughts about Dr. Ellul contains this statement:

“We know that more people die than would otherwise because of car accidents, but by and large, cars create way more value in the world than they destroy,” Mosseri said Wednesday on the Recode Media podcast. “And I think social media is similar.”

Dr. Ellul might have raised a question or two about Instagram’s position. Both are technology; both have had unintended consequences. On one hand, the auto created some exciting social changes which can be observed when sitting in traffic: Eating in the car, road rage, dead animals on the side of the road, etc. On the other hand, social media is sparking upticks in personal destruction of young people, some perceptual mismatches between what their biomass looks like and what an “influencer” looks like wearing clothing from Buffbunny.

Several observations:

  • Facebook is influential, at least sufficiently noteworthy for China to take steps to trim the sails of the motor yacht Zucky
  • Facebook’s pattern of shaping reality via its public pronouncements, testimony before legislative groups, and and on podcasts generates content that seems to be different from a growing body of evidence that Facebook facts are flexible
  • Social media as shaped by the Facebook service, Instagram, and the quite interesting WhatsApp service is perhaps the most powerful information engine created. (I say this fully aware of Google’s influence and Amazon’s control of certain data channels.) Facebook is a digital Major Gérald, just with its own Légion étrangèr.

Net net: Regulation time and fines that amount to more than a few hours revenue for the firm. Also reading Le bluff technologique and writing an essay called, “How technology deconstructs social fabrics.” Blue book, handwritten, and three outside references from peer reviewed journals about human behavior. Due on Monday, please.

Stephen E Arnold, September 17, 2021

Just a Little Help from Friends Government Style

September 16, 2021

Nothing should be surprising anymore when it comes to online privacy and targeted ads, but The Guardian shares how governments are trying to alter behavior in the article: “Study Finds Growing Government Use of Sensitive Behavior To ‘Nudge’ Behavior.” Governments have turned to targeted ads on search engines and social media platforms to shape or “nudge” their citizens’ behaviors.

This is a new move “stems from a marriage between the introduction of nudge theory in policymaking and an online advertising infrastructure that provides unforeseen opportunities to run behavioural adjustment campaigns.” Implementing this type of behavior modification could create a perfect feedback loop:

“’With the government, you’ve got access to all this data where you can see pretty much in real time who you need to talk to demographically, and then on the other end you can actually see, well, ‘did this make a difference?’,’ said Ben Collier, of the University of Edinburgh. ‘The government doing this supercharges the ability of it to actually work.’”

Government behavioral modification programs are not new. Countries across the globe have long histories of altering citizens’ behaviors. The United Kingdom is currently employing targeted ad campaigns to deter minors from becoming online fraudsters. Identified at-risk minors online activities are monitored collect data on them that are then used for “influence policing” campaigns with targeted ads. Another influence policing campaign the UK dealt with fire safety. People who purchased candles or matches on Amazon were sent targeted fire safety messages.

The targeted ads appear innocuous and helpful, but the government farms out the work to third party companies. Governments and companies could become lackadaisical with people information and it could impart disinformation. For example, minors targeted with anti-knife violence campaigns might believe that more people carry knives than reality. This could inspire minors to start carrying knives. The anti-fraudster campaigns could also inspire minors to become online bad actors, while the fire safety ads might encourage playing with fire.

Cue the music, please.

Whitney Grace, September 16, 2021

TikTok: Privacy Spotlight

September 15, 2021

There is nothing like rapid EU response to privacy matters. “TikTok Faces Privacy Investigations by EU Watchdog” states:

The watchdog is looking into its processing of children’s personal data, and whether TikTok is in line with EU laws about transferring personal data to other countries, such as China.

The data hoovering capabilities of a TikTok-type app have been known for what — a day or two or a decade? My hunch is that we are leaning toward the multi-year awareness side of the privacy fence. The write up points out:

TikTok said privacy was “our highest priority”.

Plus about a year ago an EU affiliated unit poked into the TikTok privacy matter.

However, the write up fails to reference a brilliant statement by a Swisher-type of thinker. My recollection is that the gist of the analysis of the TikTok privacy issue in the US was, “Hey, no big deal.”

We’ll see. I wait for a report on this topic. Perhaps a TikTok indifferent journalist will make a TikTok summary of the report findings.

Stephen E Arnold, September 15, 2021

Australia Channels China: What Is Next Down Under?

September 13, 2021

Should one be alarmed about the power that social media has. Should one sorry when governments, after decades of indifference, exert their authority over social media. The Conversation discusses a new Australian law and its implications in, “Facebook Or Twitter Posts Can Now Be Quietly Modified By The Government Under New Surveillance Laws.” The new law updates the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 and Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979. The addendum gives law enforcement officials in Australia to modify, add, copy, or delete online during an investigation.

The Human Rights Law Centre says the bill could violate free speech, while the Digital Rights Watch pointed out that the Australian government ignored recommendations to limit powers in the new bill. Not to mention, legal hacking could make it easier for bad hackers.

The new bill allows authorities to copy, delete, or modify data, with a warrant collect data, and assume control of a social media account. It also contains “emergency authorization” for law enforcement to do any of the above without a warrant.

Prior legislation of this nature included better privacy protections, but the new bill gives law enforcement free rein and force individuals to assist them or face prison time. On one hand the ill makes sense:

“According to the Department of Home Affairs, more and more criminal activity makes use of the “dark web” and “anonymising technologies”. Previous powers are not enough to keep up with these new technologies. In our view, specific and targeted access to users’ information and activities may be needed to identify possible criminals or terrorists. In some cases, law enforcement agencies may need to modify, delete, copy or add content of users to prevent things like the distribution of child exploitation material. Lawful interception is key to protecting public and national security in the fight of global community against cybercrimes.”

On the other hand, third parties could be subject to law enforcement. Individuals’ freedoms could be violated too.

Channeling China? Trying to control speech? What’s next?

Whitney Grace, September 13, 2021

Taliban: Flying Disabled Helicopters and Doing the Social Media Thing

September 7, 2021

Images of disabled US military helicopters stick in my mind. The Taliban claims it is no longer a terrorist group and promises it will keep some of the changes that were implemented in Afghanistan in the last twenty years. Plus, the ruling group knows how to fly and do social media. ABC News explores how the Taliban uses modern technology to its advantage: “How The Taliban Use Social Media To Seek Legitimacy In The West, Sow Chaos At Home.

The Taliban has one of the more interesting human rights records in the world. Religious fundamentalist groups (of any origin) manifest fascinating behaviors. Take that back, religious fundamentalist groups do change to accommodate anything they can exploit for their advantage, like the Taliban has with social media. The Taliban adopted social media as a propaganda tool in the manner the Nazis turned every faction of society from movies to children’s books into a propaganda piece.

The Taliban controls or influences news pieces about Afghanistan:

“The Taliban now has the ability to communicate directly with the rest of the world, as well as to control the narrative around events as it has been trying to do for years at home and abroad through a barrage of messages on social media. Experts say it effectively did an end around the Afghan government through its unrelenting publicity campaign, capitalizing on disinformation and a lack of media literacy.”

Journalists in Kabul report on Afghanistan’s crisis, but the Taliban says everything is okay on social media. Experts claim that the Taliban has a sophisticated social media strategy to deceive the West and legitimize the new “government” on the world stage. The Taliban is very deceptive and know how to placate westerners, similar to Chinese and North Korean politicians.

Afghanistan has low Internet literacy and most Afghanis are apt to take Taliban propaganda as fact. Meanwhile the Taliban as an active social media presence, especially on Twitter. Twitter does not ban the Taliban, because the US government has not labeled it a terrorist group. Facebook, however, does ban the Taliban.

The Taliban posts more messages in foreign languages, especially English. In fact, they post more on Twitter than many US and European government departments. They also post lies aka disinformation on Twitter. There is widespread demand for Twitter to ban the Taliban accounts, but Twitter responds they are vigilant monitoring them. The Taliban wants to lure the West into a false sense of security and arguably it is what they have done for the past twenty years. Maybe some of the Taliban picked up social media methods from Cambridge Analytica?

Whitney Grace, September 7, 2021

Taliban: Going Dark

September 3, 2021

I spotted a story from the ever reliable Associated Press called “Official Taliban Websites Go Offline, Though Reasons Unknown.” (Note: I am terrified of the AP because quoting is an invitation for this outfit to let loose its legal eagles. I don’t like this type of bird.)

I can, I think, suggest you read the original write up. I recall that the “real” news story revealed some factoids I found interesting; for example:

  • Taliban Web site “protected” by Cloudflare have been disappeared. (What’s that suggest about the Cloudflare Web performance and security capabilities?)
  • Facebook has disappeared some Taliban info and maybe accounts.
  • The estimable Twitter keeps PR maven Z. Mjuahid’s tweets flowing.

I had forgotten that the Taliban is not a terrorist organization. I try to learn something new each day.

Stephen E Arnold, September 3, 2021

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