Insightful newsletter of Drishtikone: Issue #254 - The Perfect Espionage Strategy!
To rule us, they need to include us as a data point in the vast ocean of surveillance web. To shut it down is against Human Rights. To question and expose is sedition.
“If after every tempest come such calms,
May the winds blow till they have waken'd death!” ― William Shakespeare, Othello
The power of deception is when you strongly believe it is the paragon of truth and integrity. The most deceptive are the ones we find hard to even question. Their word is like God’s own word. It is that close.
But even more powerful are the weapons which are unleashed on your for your own good. In the name of fundamental rights and justice. Even when the enslaver is only interested in making you a puppet.
We live in such a web. First, let us understand what it is. That is the first step. Isn’t it?
Iconoclasm. Bring the Gods down.
A suspicious Scorpio SUV was spotted right outside Antilla building - the residence of Indian Billionaire Mukesh Ambani. It contained 20 gelatin sticks.
According to Mumbai Police, some number plates were also found inside the SUV. The number plates inside the vehicle reportedly matched vehicles used in the security detail of Mukesh Ambani. Police have also revealed that a letter was found from the vehicle but its content has not been made public yet.
Ambanis have been demonized by the so-called protesters who had been unleashed for the Farm Bills in India. We have written extensively about the dangers that are there for Indian businesses in India and if they go outside.
This is a manifestation of how the hatred that is articulated day in and day out against legitimate large corporations employing hundreds of thousands of Indians is playing out.
If something happens to someone like Mukesh Ambani, the Indian stock market could go into a major upheaval.
The current battle between Amazon and Reliance shows that there is a lot to gain from an attack on Reliance or its owners by some foreign competitors in India.
But today, let us go into another area which is even more significant.
The Perfect Espionage Strategy
In 2012, Facebook did a very controversial experiment to manipulate people’s minds using the news feeds in a certain way.
In 2014, a scientific paper based on the research involving about 700,000 users carried out over a period of one week in 2012 showed that Facebook had been tweaking the content of its users’ "news feeds" in order to create an "emotional contagion" across the social network. What does that mean? That these users whose feeds were tweaked, when they saw one emotion being expressed online would express themselves in similar emotions. Creating a custom echo chamber. The research was conducted without the knowledge of the users.
Now, it has come to light that a multi-million dollar research project using tweets by celebs like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga were done as well. They were not just monitoring the messages but intervening as well. The research subjects were messaged and their responses were measured.
Why is this important?
Because for many years US Department of Defense’s military research department, known as Darpa has been funding projects involving users on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Kickstarter.
Before Facebook had shared the project to twist the users’ minds using feeds, DARPA had come out with some of the projects that it was funding.
The project list includes a study of how activists with the Occupy movement used Twitter as well as a range of research on tracking internet memes and some about understanding how influence behaviour (liking, following, retweeting) happens on a range of popular social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Kickstarter, Digg, and Reddit. (Source)
DARPA is at the cutting edge of the internet and technology world. They created the precursor to today’s internet - ARPANET.
ARPA research played a central role in launching the Information Revolution. The agency developed and furthered much of the conceptual basis for the ARPANET—prototypical communications network launched nearly half a century ago—and invented the digital protocols that gave birth to the Internet. DARPA also provided many of the essential advances that made possible today’s computers and communications systems, including seminal technological achievements that support the speech recognition, touch-screen displays, accelerometers, and wireless capabilities at the core of today’s smartphones and tablets. DARPA has also long been a leader in the development of artificial intelligence, machine intelligence and semi-autonomous systems. DARPA’s efforts in this domain have focused primarily on military operations, including command and control, but the commercial sector has adopted and expanded upon many of the agency’s results to develop wide-spread applications in fields as diverse as manufacturing, entertainment and education. (Source)
And they also pioneered the technology for the Dark Net.
Interestingly DARPA also co-developed The Onion Router (Tor) project with US NRL that morphed into the Dark Net (Source)
DARPA had Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program. What was that? Lets read it from the guy who was managing the program.
On July 14, 2011 – while I was a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – I published a Broad Agency Announcement (DARPA‐BAA‐11‐64), a call for proposals, for a program I created called Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC). The BAA said the program would be funded in the amount of $42M and with additions of various types it ended up at about $50M by the time it basically concluded four years later. (Source)
So, it was a USD 50 million program run over 4 years by the US Department of Defense using the large social media platforms.
What were its objectives?
The general goal of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base. In particular, SMISC will develop automated and semi‐automated operator support tools and techniques for the systematic and methodical use of social media at data scale and in a timely fashion to accomplish four specific program goals:
1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media sites and communities.
3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.
4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.
The program scope suggests that the organization’s interest was in information theory, massive‐scale graph analytics and natural language processing.
All this was being developed 10 years back.
In 2014, the US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden had warned an audience via a video that not just a few individuals, but entire populations were under constant surveillance now.
Now, the methodology is not to keep a tap on people whom they suspect. But to create an entire population-wide “machine” of full information. They capture information on “phone calls, emails, texts, search history, what you buy, who your friends are, where you go, who you love.” (Source)
The Snowden documents, first leaked to the Guardian last June, revealed that the US government has programs in place to spy on hundreds of millions of people’s emails, social networking posts, online chat histories, browsing histories, telephone records, telephone calls and texts – “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, in the words of one leaked document. (Source)
So, let us recap:
Since a decade at least, the US Department of Defense via its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program has been tapping in the emails, social media, chats, posts, browsing, phone calls and texts for entire populations.
All this is done to specifically do mind experiments in collaboration with the social media platforms for, among other things counter adversary campaigns with their own information.
Many a times, this means using false information to “discredit” the enemies as well.
Documents prepared by NSA and Britain's GCHQ (and previously published by the Intercept as well as NBC News) revealed aspects of some of these programs. They included a unit engaged in “discrediting” the agency’s enemies with false information spread online. (Source)
If you think that the creation of social media was a gift that the US intelligence agencies started using to undertake Influence Operations, then you don’t realize how the Western Intelligence works with the top news agencies.
UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) used to sponsor Reuters and the BBC to conduct similar secret programs with the objective of changing regime in Russia and undermining Russia across Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The leaked materials show the Thomson Reuters Foundation and BBC Media Action participating in a covert information warfare campaign aimed at countering Russia. Working through a shadowy department within the UK FCO known as the Counter Disinformation & Media Development (CDMD), the media organizations operated alongside a collection of intelligence contractors in a secret entity known simply as “the Consortium.” (Source)
The FCO had sought out help in creating “a programme of themed tours to the UK by Russian journalists and online influencers.” So Reuters sent in a formal tender signed by Reuters CEO Monique Ville on July 31, 2017.
The whole collaboration between the top news agency in the world and UK’s FCO is very deep.
It’s Counter Disinformation & Media Development (CDMD) had a program to run through 2022 at a cost of $8.3 million to the British taxpayer. It aimed to establish new outlets and support preexisting media operations “to counter Russia’s efforts to sow disunity” and “increase resilience to hostile Kremlin messaging in the Baltic states.” (Source)
But then the British Government has been funding Reuters since 1960s to run its “influence operations” programs!
The British government secretly funded Reuters in the 1960s and 1970s at the direction of an anti-Soviet propaganda organization with links to MI-6, according to unclassified documents unveiled Monday. The government used the BBC to conceal funding in making payments to the international news group. "We are now in a position to conclude an agreement providing discreet Government support for Reuters services in the Middle East and Latin America," reads a 1969 redacted secret British government document entitled "Funding of Reuters by HMG," or Her Majesty's Government. (Source)
One still remembers who we were told to listen to BBC to improve our knowledge and specifically our English. And how impartial the news from Reuters and BBC were.
Well, now you know.
While there is a need for organizations like Reuters, AP, BBC, CNN to spread fake and false narratives to do the bidding for the Western intelligence organizations, it is the Big Tech companies that are the chief weapon in the hands of these intelligence organizations. And, they are NOT monitoring you. They are managing you!
Given the scope of programs that organizations like DARPA and FCO undertake and the warning from Edward Snowden, it is obvious that no one and nothing is out of the comprehensive “surveillance machine”. Something that the Netflix series had discussed about in detail. As outlandish as it may seem, it was actually pretty real.
The weapons in the hands of the Western intelligence - these news agencies and the social media platforms - are above law in other lands. They are above questioning. Something that Facebook clearly conveyed to the Indian Supreme Court.
Facebook on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it is agreeable and complying with all Indian laws but it cannot be compelled to subject itself to the jurisdiction of Parliament and assembly to appear before their panels probing misuse of social media and its right to silence cannot be taken away. Senior Advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Facebook, told a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Hrishikesh Roy that the company and its representatives cannot be forced to appear before the legislative panel to give an opinion, and the summons issued by the Delhi assembly committee reeks of "constitutional arrogance". (Source)
That is why the Guidelines for social media intermediaries such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter by the Indian government are so significant. Here is a list of the main ones. (Source)
All social media companies will need to appoint a grievance officer. The officer should acknowledge user complaints in three days and resolve them within a month.
Intermediaries must remove non-consensual nude or semi-nude photos within 24 hours after receiving a complaint. This includes deepfakes and revenge porn.
India will have an oversight committee with representatives from the ministries of defence, external affairs, home, I&B, law, IT, and women and child development. It’ll have powers to summon heads of social media companies in case they don’t follow these rules.
The larger ones will also need to follow these.
Apart from a grievance officer, these firms will need to appoint a Nodal officer that could be contacted round the clock by law enforcement, and a compliance officer to address any issue related to these rules.
These companies will need to publish a monthly compliance report on the number of complaints received and resolved.
Trace the first originator of a message. The government said intermediaries will “not be required to disclose the contents of any message,”but how will social media companies trace a message if they don’t know the content? This might mean that chat apps such as WhatsApp and Signal might want to break encryption.
Companies will need to remove offensive or unlawful content based on a court order within 36 hours. This will create a lot of controversy as in a diverse country like India, what’s considered offensive is highly subjective.
If a platform decides to restrict access to someone’s account on their own, they’ll need to inform the user before taking the action. Plus, the platform should provide an appeal mechanism for the restricted user to challenge the action.
Social media platforms should have a voluntary verification program, such as verification through your mobile number. A lot of social media platforms already have that, but it’s unclear how government rules will affect that.
This is the first step to counter these organizations.
Come to think of it, under the guise of “Freedom of Speech,” the Western governments are forcing their extended espionage machines to infiltrate every part of your country. And, under the “Human rights” (Issue #239 - The REAL Game) international laws, even blocking them can lead to sanctions!
What a perfect espionage strategy!
market corner: 10 quick bytes
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Doval back-channels: The joint statement issued by India and Pakistan on the ceasefire agreement between their top military commanders comes months after National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his counterpart in Islamabad initiated back-channel conversations to ensure peace along the borders, people aware of the matter said. (Source)
Serious Data Breach by Pak: The Army is investigating a serious case of a data breach from the sensitive Northern Command. A soldier is alleged to have passed on a large chunk of secret information to his Pak-based handlers. An inquiry is underway at the Nagrota based 16 Corps, deemed to be serious as it allegedly happened when the border with China too is active in eastern Ladakh. (Source)
Cant hit for not getting tea (Duh!): Upholding a 35-year-old man's conviction for assaulting his wife, the Bombay High Court has said the wife's refusal to make tea for her husband could not be accepted as a provocation for him to assault her and observed that wife is "not a chattel or an object" (Source)
Israeli Nuke Facility: A secretive Israeli nuclear facility at the center of the nation’s undeclared atomic weapons program is undergoing what appears to be its biggest construction project in decades, satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press show. A dig about the size of a soccer field and likely several stories deep now sits just meters (yards) from the aging reactor at the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center near the city of Dimona. (Source)
Entry Barrier to being rich: Joining the ranks of the richest 1% is never easy, but it's especially hard in Monaco. You need to be worth almost $8 million to make the cut in the Mediterranean principality, where residents typically don't pay income taxes, according to research on more than two-dozen locations by Knight Frank. Switzerland and the U.S. have the next highest entry points, requiring fortunes of $5.1 million and $4.4 million, respectively, according to the property broker's 2021 Wealth Report. In Singapore, $2.9 million will get you over the threshold. (Source)
Sounds on Mars: This set of sounds from the surface of Mars were recorded by the microphone on the side of NASA’s Perseverance Rover on February 20, 2021. In the first set, sounds from the rover itself dominate. In the second set, the sound was filtered to make sounds from Mars more audible. You can hear a little wind in the second set. This is the first time a Mars rover has been equipped with a microphone. The images in this video were taken by Perseverance's Navigation Cameras, or Navcams, on the same day as the microphone sounds (Source)
Egyptian Mona Lisa: 4,600-year-old painting dubbed the 'Mona Lisa of Ancient Egypt' depicts an extinct species of GOOSE with 'distinct bold colors and patterns on its body', new analysis reveals. The painting, now held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, once adorned part of the north wall of a chapel in the Mastaba (or tomb) of Nefermaat and Itet at Meidum. University of Queensland expert Anthony Romilio's fresh analysis of the artwork determined that the bird — with its distinct bold colors and patterns — was unique. (Source)
video corner: What makes a Good life?
Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger was the director of 75-year-old study on adult development. He did an unprecedented study collecting data on true happiness and satisfaction.Waldinger shares three important lessons learned from the study by Harvard.
Very interesting. It was the longest study ever. It has been going on since 1938!
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