Digital Shadows Announces Social Monitor

October 19, 2021

Deep fakes? They are here and Digital Shadows has a service for those who live in fear of digital manipulation.

Bad actors often pose as corporations’ executives and other key personnel on social media. Sometimes the goal is to damage the target’s reputation, but more often it is to enact a phishing scheme. Either way, companies must put a stop to these efforts as soon as possible. We learn there is a new tool for that from, “Digital Shadows Launches SocialMonitor—a Key Defense Against Executive Impersonation on Social Media” posted at PR Newswire. The press release tells us:

“All social media platforms will take down fake accounts once alerted but keeping on top of the constant creation of fake profiles is a challenge. SocialMonitor overcomes these challenges by adding targeted human collection to SearchLight’s existing broad automated coverage. Digital Shadows customers simply need to register key staff members within the SearchLight portal. Thereafter, users will receive ‘Impersonating Employee Profile’ alerts which will be pre-vetted by its analyst team. This ensures that organizations only receive relevant notifications of concern. Russell Bentley at Digital Shadows comments: ‘Fake profiles on social media are rife and frequently used to spread disinformation or redirect users to scams or malware. Social media providers have taken steps such as providing a verified profile checkmark and removing fake accounts. However, there is often too long a window of opportunity before action can be taken. SocialMonitor provides organizations with a proactive defense so that offending profiles can be taken down quickly, protecting their customers and corporate reputation.’”

Note this is yet another consumer-facing app from Digital Shadows, the firm that appears to be leading the Dark Web indexing field. Curious readers can click here to learn more about SocialMonitor. Digital Shadows offers a suite of products to protect its clients from assorted cyber threats. Based in San Francisco, the company was founded in 2011.

Cynthia Murrell October 19, 2021

Facebook and the UK: About to Get Exciting

October 13, 2021

Remember Cambridge Analytica? I think that some in the UK do. There’s been some suspicion that the Brexit thing may have been shaded by some Cambridge Analytica magic, and that may ignite the modern equivalent of the Protestant-Catholic excitement of the 16th century. Not religion this time. Social media, Facebook style.

The increasingly commercial BBC or Beeb published “Facebook Whistleblower to Appear before UK Parliament.” The write up states:

Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower who accuses the technology giant of putting profit ahead of safety, will give evidence to the UK Parliament later this month. Ms Haugen will appear before the Online Safety Bill committee on 25 October. It is examining a law to impose obligations on social-media companies to protect users, especially children.

Kids are a big deal, but I think the Brexit thing will makes some snorting sounds as well.

The write up states:

Damian Collins, who chairs the committee reviewing the draft legislation, said Ms Haugen’s information to date had “strengthened the case for an independent regulator with the power to audit and inspect the big tech companies”.

Will Facebook’s PR ace get a chance to explain Facebook? What about the Zuck?

Interesting  because Ms. Haugen may be asked to do some sharing with EU regulators and the concerned officials in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand too.

Stephen E Arnold, October 13, 2021

Snap Cracks into Action

October 8, 2021

I read “Snap Is Taking Action to Address Fentanyl Dealing on Snapchat.” I learned:

In its blog post, Snapchat stresses that it’s taking more enforcement action against dealers on its platform. It says that enforcement rates have more than doubled in the first half of 2021, and that its systems have proactively detected 260 percent more material than it did previously. It says that nearly two-thirds of drug-related content is proactively discovered by its artificial intelligence systems and adds that it’s improved its response time to valid law enforcement requests by 85 percent year over year. Nevertheless, Snap admits it still has more work to do.

Yep, encouraging. Slow responses to government inquiries? Hey, the company is busy. A synthetic heroin market? Hey, who knew. More work to do? Heck, yes. Busy? Right.

Social media companies are interesting. Just busy.

Stephen E Arnold, October 8, 2021

Why Good Enough Is a Winner

October 5, 2021

Low fidelity is a thing. “Why Lo-Fi Music Draws Listeners In” explains:

“Lo-fi” means “low-fidelity,” a term for music where you can hear imperfections that would typically be considered errors in the recording process. On YouTube channels like ChillHop music or DreamyCow, however, those “mistakes” become an intentional part of the listening experience.

With fancy technology and bandwidth, what’s with lousy audio data? Pulling in is garden variety magnetism or attraction.

Here’s the answer for music:

“It’s because people respond to the beat.”

American Bandstand made this truism a standard. Mr. Clark would ask a teen, “Why do you like the song?”

The teen would say, “I like the beat.”

So triggering a response based on a pattern is a potent magnetic force. The force operates when a “smart” online service provides content which attracts attention. The familiar generates a desire for more like this. The flaws are irrelevant.

My hunch is that this magnetic force for the “beat” — responding to something familiar, patterned, and emotional — operates within effective social media.

Addictive? Yes. Controllable? Not easily.

Stephen E Arnold, October xxl, 2021

Social Media Engagement, Manipulation, and Bad Information

October 1, 2021

Researchers at Harvard’s NeimanLab have investigated the interactions between users and social media platforms. Writer Filippo Menczer shares some of the results in, “How ‘Engagement’ Makes You Vulnerable to Manipulation and Misinformation on Social Media.” Social media algorithms rely on the “wisdom of the crowds” to determine what users see. That concept helped our ancestors avoid danger—when faced with a fleeing throng, they ran first and asked questions later. However, there are several reasons this approach breaks down online. Menczer writes:

“The wisdom of the crowds fails because it is built on the false assumption that the crowd is made up of diverse, independent sources. There may be several reasons this is not the case. First, because of people’s tendency to associate with similar people, their online neighborhoods are not very diverse. The ease with which a social media user can unfriend those with whom they disagree pushes people into homogeneous communities, often referred to as echo chambers. Second, because many people’s friends are friends of each other, they influence each other. A famous experiment demonstrated that knowing what music your friends like affects your own stated preferences. Your social desire to conform distorts your independent judgment. Third, popularity signals can be gamed. Over the years, search engines have developed sophisticated techniques to counter so-called “link farms” and other schemes to manipulate search algorithms. Social media platforms, on the other hand, are just beginning to learn about their own vulnerabilities. People aiming to manipulate the information market have created fake accounts, like trolls and social bots, and organized fake networks. They have flooded the network to create the appearance that a conspiracy theory or a political candidate is popular, tricking both platform algorithms and people’s cognitive biases at once. They have even altered the structure of social networks to create illusions about majority opinions.”

See the link-packed article for more findings and details on the researchers’ approach, including their news literacy game called Fakey (click the link to play for yourself). The write-up concludes with a recommendation. Tech companies are currently playing a game of whack-a-mole against bad information, but they might make better progress by instead slowing down the spread of information on their platforms. As for users, we recommend vigilance—do not be taken in by the fake wisdom of the crowds.

Cynthia Murrell, October 1, 2021

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

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