Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Twitter. Show all posts

14 January 2021

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media

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Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media (ozrimoz/Shutterstock)

Donald Trump’s controversial removal from social media platforms has reignited debate around the censorship of information published online. But the issue of disinformation and manipulation on social media goes far beyond one man’s Twitter account. And it is much more widespread than previously thought.

Since 2016, our team at the Oxford Internet Institute has monitored the rapid global proliferation of social media manipulation campaigns, which we define as the use of digital tools to influence online public behaviour. In the past four years, social media manipulation has evolved from a niche concern to a global threat to democracy and human rights.

Our latest report found that organised social media manipulation campaigns are now common across the world — identified in 81 countries in 2020, up from 70 countries in 2019. The map below shows the global distribution of these 81 countries, marked in dark blue.

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
The countries marked in dark blue experienced industrial disinformation campaigns in 2020. (OII, Author provided (No reuse))
In our report, we focus on the use of “cyber troops”, which are teams from the government, the military or political parties which are committed to manipulating public opinion on social media. Cyber troops regularly conduct what we call “computational propaganda” campaigns.

Computational propaganda involves the use of programmed bots or humans to spread purposefully misleading information across the internet, often on an industrial scale.

To do this, computational propagandists make use of an extensive toolkit of disinformation tools. Political bots amplify hate speech and create the impression of trending political messages on Twitter and Facebook. The illegal harvesting of data helps propagandists target messaging at specific, often vulnerable individuals and groups. Troll armies, meanwhile, are regularly deployed to suppresses political activism and the freedom of the press.

In 2020, we identified 62 countries in which state agencies themselves are using these tools to shape public opinion. In other countries included in our study, these tools are being used by private organisations, or foreign actors.

Disinformation for hire

Despite the Cambridge Analytica scandal exposing how private firms can meddle in democratic elections, our research also found an alarming increase in the use of “disinformation-for-hire” services across the world. Using government and political party funding, private-sector cyber troops are increasingly being hired to spread manipulated messages online, or to drown out other voices on social media.

Our research found state actors working with private computational propaganda companies in 48 countries in 2020, up from 21 identified between 2017 and 2018, and only nine such instances between 2016 and 2017. Since 2007, almost US$60 million (£49 million) has been spent globally on contracts with these firms.

Additionally, we’ve uncovered relationships between hired cyber troops and civil society groups who ideologically support a particular cause, such as youth groups and social media influencers. In the United States, for example, the pro-Trump youth group Turning Point Action was used to spread online disinformation and pro-Trump narratives about both COVID-19 and mail-in ballots.

To achieve their political ends, smear campaigns against a political opponent are the most common strategy employed by cyber troops, featuring in 94% of all the countries we investigated. In 90% of countries we observed the spreading of pro-party or pro-government propaganda. Suppressing participation through trolling or harassment was a feature in 73% of countries, while in 48% cyber troops’ messaging sought to polarise citizens.

Social media moderation

Clearly, debates around the censoring of Trump and his supporters on social media cover only one facet of the industry’s disinformation crisis. As more countries invest in campaigns that seek to actively mislead their citizens, social media firms are likely to face increased calls for moderation and regulation — and not just of Trump, his followers and related conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Trump's Twitter Ban Obscures The Real Problem: State-Backed Manipulation Is Rampant On Social Media
Donald Trump was banned from Twitter in the aftermath of the Capitol riots (pcruciatti/Shutterstock)

Already this year, the prevalence of computational propaganda campaigns throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the US election has prompted many social media firms to limit the misuse of their platforms by removing accounts which they believe are managed by cyber troops.

For instance, our research found that between January 2019 and December 2020, Facebook removed 10,893 accounts, 12,588 pages and 603 groups from its platform. In the same period, Twitter removed 294,096 accounts, and continues to remove accounts linked to the far right.

Despite these account removals, our research has exposed that between January 2019 and December 2020 almost US$10 million was spent by cyber troops on political advertisements. And a crucial part of the story is that social media companies continue to profit from the promotion of disinformation on their platforms. Calls for tighter regulation and firmer policing are likely to follow Facebook and Twitter until they truly get to grips with the tendency of their platforms to host, spread and multiply disinformation.

A strong, functional democracy relies upon the public’s access to high-quality information. This enables citizens to engage in informed deliberations and to seek consensus. It’s clear that social media platforms have become crucial in facilitating this information exchange.

These companies should therefore increase their efforts to flag and remove disinformation, along with all cyber troop accounts which are used to spread harmful content online. Otherwise, the continued escalation in computational propaganda campaigns that our research has revealed will only heighten political polarisation, diminish public trust in institutions, and further undermine democracy worldwide.

About Today's Contributor:

Hannah Bailey, PhD researcher in Social Data Science, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

3 July 2020

2020 Part 2: What Can We Expect From The Second Half Of The Year?

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2020 Part 2: What Can We Expect From The Second Half Of The Year?
2020 Part 2: What Can We Expect From The Second Half Of The Year? (Pixabay - CC0 Licence)
The calendar flipping over into July means - among other things - that this year (which has seemed to be several years long itself already) has finally entered its second half. If you are someone who follows news media, it has undoubtedly been a packed year, but strap yourself in - there’s another six months before it’s at an end.

As we enter Part 2 of 2020, it’s worth looking ahead and considering what the rest of the year might have in store for us. After all, we were all a little blindsided by the way that this year started, so it’s a good idea to be ready for anything in the next six months.

Will the UK have a second wave of Coronavirus?

The nature of pandemics is that there tends to be an initial ramping up to a frightening peak, which then relents to a point where things can be somewhat relaxed. We’re at the third point of that path, which sounds good. However, the overall path of a pandemic usually includes a sting in the tail in the form of a “second wave”. Unless the virus is entirely eradicated globally, it’s almost certain that a second wave will arise in some areas of the world.

Will the UK be among those areas? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but let’s consider these points:

  • One city has already had to announce that their planned exit from lockdown will be delayed; more are expected to follow.
  • New Zealand, which had eradicated the virus within its borders, then announced two new cases; both visitors from the UK.
  • Within days of opening up beaches, the town of Bournemouth was the scene of a “major incident” as thousands of people descended to enjoy a heatwave.
In other words, all the signs are that the UK will be prone to another wave. While the first caught most of us by surprise, we can at least be more prepared for the probable second wave. Smart moves include buying more tinned food with your regular shops, setting up a quarantine system for deliveries, and ensuring that any underlying conditions you have are well managed. For instance, asthma sufferers are more vulnerable to the virus, so this article may be beneficial.

Will there be a swine flu outbreak to deal with, too?

While we are already dealing with Covid 19, many of us will have noted from our social media timelines that there might be more bad news on the way:

So, will we go from protecting against Covid 19 to fighting the new strain of swine ‘flu? Will we, perish the thought, find ourselves battling both at the same time? The truth is, we can’t really say right now. The fact that the virus has been highlighted as having “pandemic potential” certainly isn’t good news. What we know is that the virus can infect humans and, because it is new, we’re unlikely to have any inbuilt immunity to it. It’s also not a strain that is currently protected against by the ‘flu vaccine.

Where we need to be particularly vigilant is in not seeing this as simply a threat that is being amped up. It is possible for two unpleasant and highly contagious viruses to be in circulation at once. Whether or not you believe the present pandemic was a particularly serious event, you should err on the side of caution if this latest virus starts to make its way around the world. If people become skeptical and cease to follow social distancing and other anti-transmission measures, this could vastly increase the potency of either virus, or both.

Will things ever be normal again?

In the early days of lockdown, many of us will have repeatedly used a form of words along the lines of “when this is over/when things are back to normal” or similar. It will have crossed very few minds that “this” might not be over any time soon, and that “normal” might mean something very different by the time it is over. In truth, looking into the future, we may all have reason for uncertainty. It’s an uncertainty that won’t go away any time soon, in all likelihood.

Let’s look at one of the most obvious changes that has taken place since the virus started spreading: working practices. If you have begun working from home since March, how inclined are you to go back to a workplace? Particularly if doing so involves getting on a bus or a train? When every contact is a potential opportunity for the virus to spread, and people don’t need to be symptomatic to pass it on, “normal” is unlikely to describe the overall situation any time before 2021.

There is, essentially, no part of everyday life which is the same right now as it was this time last year. The number of things that have changed, and the extent to which they have changed, may well make it impossible for life ever to go back to the way it was before, or anything like it. That doesn’t need to be a bad thing - if you can make adjustments that allow you to have more time with family and, eventually, friends - but equally, it is important not to rely on things getting back to how they used to be any time in 2020.

The first half of 2020 has been tumultuous, and it’s entirely understandable if you’re still digesting it all. As we turn to the second half, it is important to be ready for anything that it might throw at us. Recent history has taught us that things can happen fast and turn the world upside down.

8 January 2020

Deepfakes: Informed Digital Citizens Are The Best Defence Against Online Manipulation

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Facebook announced Jan. 6 it will remove videos edited to mislead in ways that ‘aren’t apparent to an average person,’ and are the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning. Here, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a hearing at the U.S. House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) 
 More than a decade ago, Internet analyst and new media scholar Clay Shirky said: “The only real way to end spam is to shut down e-mail communication.” Will shutting down the Internet be the only way to end deepfake propaganda in 2020? 

Today, anyone can create their own fake news and also break it. Online propaganda is more misleading and manipulative than ever.

Deepfakes, a specific form of disinformation that uses machine-learning algorithms to create audio and video of real people saying and doing things they never said or did, are moving quickly toward being indistinguishable from reality.

Detecting disinformation powered by unethical uses of digital media, big data and artificial intelligence, and their spread through social media, is of the utmost urgency.

Countries must educate and equip their citizens. Educators also face real challenges in helping youth develop eagle eyes for deepfakes. If young people lack confidence in finding and evaluating reliable public information, their motivation for participating in or relying on our democratic structures will be increasingly at risk.

Undermining democracy

It is now possible to generate a video of a person speaking and making ordinary expressions from just a few or even a single image of this person’s face. Face swap apps such as FaceApp and lip-sync apps such as Dubsmash are examples of accessible user-friendly basic deepfake tools that people can use without any programming or coding background.

While the use of this technology may enrapture or stun viewers for its expert depictions in entertainment and gaming industries, the sinister face of deepfakes is a serious threat to both people’s security and democracy.

Deepfakes’ potential to be used as a weapon is alarmingly increasing and many harms can be anticipated based on people’s ability to create explicit content without others’ consent.

It’s expected that people will use deepfakes to cyberbully, destroy reputations, blackmail, spread hate speech, incite violence, disrupt democratic processes, spread disinformation to targeted audiences and to commit cybercrime and frauds.

Danielle Citron, professor at Boston University School of Law, discusses how deepfakes undermine truth and threaten democracy.

Deepfake detection

Key players have ventured into finding a response to deepfake threats.

Facebook announced Jan. 6 it “will strengthen its policy toward misleading manipulated videos that have been identified as deepfakes.” The company says it will remove manipulated media that’s been “edited or synthesized — beyond adjustments for clarity or quality — in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person” and if the media is “the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merges, replaces or superimposes content onto a video, making it appear to be authentic.”

The news follows Facebook’s “deepfake challenge,” which aims to design new tools that detect manipulated media content. The challenge is supported by Microsoft, a consortium on artificial intelligence and a US$10-million fund.

In late October, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified at a U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington about the company’s cryptocurrency plans, where Zuckerberg faced questions about what the company is doing to prevent deepfakes.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense is working on using specific types of algorithms to assess the integrity of digital visual media.

Some researchers discuss the use of convolutional neural networks — a set of algorithms that loosely replicates the human brain, designed to analyse visual imagery and recognize patterns — to detect the inconsistencies across the multiple frames in deepfakes. Others propose algorithms to detect completely generated faces.

Hani Farid, an expert in digital forensics and one of the leading authorities on detecting fake photos, and his student Shruti Agarwal at University of California, Berkeley are developing a software that uses the subtle characteristics of how a person speaks to distinguish this person from the fake version.

Farid is also collaborating very closely with deepfake pioneer Hao Li to confront the problem of “increasingly seamless off-the-shelf deception.”

YouTube nation

What if we wake up tomorrow to a deepfake of Greta Thunberg, Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year, accusing a specific organization to be the major catalyst of climate change? Would any youth be skeptical of the information?

We are living in a digital era when many people expect every answer to be found through a Google search, a YouTube or a Vimeo video or a TED talk. Nearly 100 per cent of Canadian youth between 15 to 24 years old use the internet on a daily basis. Most follow news and current affairs through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In 2017, 90 per cent of Canadians aged 18 to 24 were active YouTube users.

According to Statista, a company that provides market and consumer data, “as of May 2019, more than 500 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute,” equating to “approximately 30,000 hours of newly uploaded content per hour.” The company reports that between 2014 and 2019 “the number of video content hours uploaded every 60 seconds grew by around 40 percent.”

Many of today’s 18- to 24-year-old social media users recognize the agendas and algorithms behind the posts that pop up on their walls. In my PhD thesis research, I explored how 42 participants in this age group understood refugees in a contexts where ideas about refugees were deeply influenced by social media propaganda, fake news and disinformation. I found that many craved to become influencers and disrupt public commentary and media-generated messages in ways that resonate with advocacy or activist campaigns today led by youth.

The deepfake phenomenon is a new critical challenge they, and all participants in our democracies, now face.

Education for resilience

In Canada, Journalists for Human Rights announced a new program, funded by Heritage Canada, to train journalists and to enhance “citizen preparedness against online manipulation and misinformation.”

Educators can play a key role in fostering youth agency to detect deepfakes and reduce their influence. One challenge is ensuring youth learn critical media literacy skills while they continue to explore valuable resources online and build their capacities and knowledge to participate in democratic structures.

Following steps I have identified in the “Get Ready to Act Against Social Media Propaganda” model — beginning with explaining stances on a controversial issue targeted through social media propaganda — educators can help youth discuss how they perceive and recognize deepfakes. They can explore the content’s origins, who it’s targeting, the reaction it’s trying to achieve and who’s behind it.

They can also discuss youth’s role and responsibility to respond and stand up to disinformation and potential digital strategies to pursue in this process. A well-equipped generation of digital citizens could be our best bet.
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About Today's Contributor:

Nadia Naffi, Assistant Professor, Educational Technology, Holds the Chair in Educational Leadership in the Sustainable Transformation of Pedagogical Practices in Digital Contexts, Universit├ę Laval

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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8 October 2019

Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster

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rade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster - book cover
Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster - book cover
Today the decorum of trade negotiations has been replaced with a trade war reality show leaving the world as a whipsawed spectator. For the first time in history, the curtain of trade negotiations has been torn off, creating a turbulent, emotional environment of fear, anxiety, and hope. Global markets and businesses both large and small are trying to navigate the Twitter storms of President Trump—the threats, declarations of winning, and blame. This rhetoric has intentionally buried and distorted the truth of the trade war. That is, until now.

Best-selling author Lori Ann LaRocco has written a detailed examination of the current global trade and tariff wars, entitled: Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster. The book tells the true story of the trade wars through the experiences of American farmers, industry, ports, and markets, in the words of those involved and impacted, and with the trade data, which does not lie.

The flow of trade is agnostic and does not play favorites. Ninety percent of the world's trade is transported by water. The magnitude of the water superhighway is extraordinary. More than 9 billion tons of cargo—the equivalent of more than a ton for each person in the world—is transported by over 86,000 ships each year. This tremendous volume provides the tea leaves for divining the story of trade negotiations.

China is not the only country in a trade war with the United States. It is a multifront war involving Turkey, Russia, the E.U., Japan, and India. Canada and Mexico were also included but recently worked out a trade deal, which has still not been ratified by Congress. This global trade war has impacted U.S. industries ranging from agriculture to steel, motorcycles to whiskey.

Some markets were simply wiped out with the stroke of a pen.

"Our European buyers told us they wanted to put all shipments on hold until the trade talks get settled out," said Tom Lix, CEO of Cleveland Whiskey. "Once the tariff was official, shipments were then canceled. The E.U. made up 15 percent of our overall revenue. Now it's gone."
Join author LaRocco as she leads readers through fake headlines, Twitter rants, and geopolitical calculation on a story about globalization in the throes of change. Read how businesses, individuals, and even countries are victims, villains, and heroes as told by actual trade data. Ms. LaRocco notes, "China wants a basket of trade and they are doing just that. If they cannot trade with the U.S., they are finding alternatives."

According to the U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC), the United States soybean industry would need to have a 92 percent market share with every country that is importing soybeans right now to make up for the loss of trade with China. The volume of the trade shows the uphill battle of the soybean farmer.

Ms. LaRocco has dug deep into U.S. trade, and while businesses have been successful in expanding into new or existing markets, the fact is China is not buying, and the empty bucket of China is difficult to fill. "It takes seven Vietnams to make a China," explained Gene Seroka, executive director for the Port of Los Angeles, the United States' largest port.

The changing patterns of trade reveal the truth. Containers don't lie.

Praise for Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster:

"If you want to understand the nuts and bolts of President Trump's trade war—how we got here and its fallout on global trade, industry and the economy—then you must read this book. Lori Ann LaRocco is masterful at weaving together a clear picture of the trade war, which will become more important to all our livelihoods as it rages on." – Mark Zandi, chief economist, Moody's Analytics
"Whatever side of the debate you are on LaRocco's extensive research on the impact of the trade war speaks for itself. Trade War: Containers Don't Lie, Navigating the Bluster provides tremendous data on the impact of the flow of global trade. Very compelling!" – Gerald Storch, Founder and CEO of Storch Advisors, Former Vice Chairman Target, Former Chairman and CEO Toys "R" Us and Former CEO of HBC (Parent of Saks, Hudson's Bay, and Lord & Taylor)
"LaRocco's book shows you the underlying truth of this trade war. The export and import data shows the dramatic trends of how quickly tariffs have impacted the competitiveness of the United States. Import growth from U.S. competitors cannot be spun away with rhetoric. In the pursuit of 'fair trade,' the American farmer and other industries have been negatively impacted. The equilibrium of a free trade world has been thrown off. The 'benefit' of this multi-front trade war has yet to be realized. The indisputable proof based on the flow of trade only shows disruption." – Anthony Scaramucci, SkyBridge Capital Managing Partner
"Lori Ann has done an excellent job of using readily available data combined with personal interviews to lay out the real life effects of our current trade war and the structural changes that are underway as a result. I found the insights provided to be most helpful in pointing out many of the difficulties that lie ahead." – Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) Former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
"President Donald Trump trade policy is the most significant and risky presidential economic policy decision of the past half century. Lori Ann's book provides a real time account of the events and the real time consequences of the President Trump trade decisions to date. Her research is impeccable and her knowledge of trade routes and evaluation of container trade provides a guidepost that every policy maker should heed. This is a very important book for the future of the U.S. economy because it sounds an alarm about the trade war now before it is too late to take corrective action. Win or lose this trade war, what is happening today in trade will be analyzed and evaluated and criticized and praised for years. This book will be invaluable to that evaluation." – Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) former Banking and Agriculture Committee member
"Lori Ann LaRocco has provided a first class analysis of current shipping patterns, and their implications for global trade. By doing so, she has given us a book that is a must-read for any student of global trade (and the global economy)." – David M. Rubenstein, The Carlyle Group Co-Founder, Co-Executive Chairman
"Lori Ann LaRocco's prescient book is a clarion call, and makes a compelling, timely and well-documented case for how our trade flows, our joint production platforms and integrated supply chains, and the openness of our economies and dare I say our societies too, need to be defended, but also explained and articulated to a sceptic and, in some cases, angry public." – Arturo Sarukhan, (former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., 2007-13)
Lori Ann LaRocco (image via loriannlarocco.wordpress.com)

About the author:

Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She coordinates high-profile interviews in business and politics, as well as special multimillion dollar on-location productions for all shows on the network. Her specialty is in politics, working with titans of industry. 

LaRocco is the author of Dynasties of the Sea, Part 2: The Untold Stories of the Postwar Shipping Pioneers (Marine Money, Inc., 2018), Opportunity Knocking (Agate Publishing, 2014), Dynasties of the Sea: The Shipowners and Financiers Who Expanded the Era of Free Trade (Marine Money, Inc., 2012), and Thriving in the New Economy: Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds (Wiley, 2010).

SOURCE: Marine Money

13 September 2019

Bud Light Produces Special Edition Alien-Themed Cans [Just In Time For The Storm Area 51 Event]

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Alien-themed Bud Light cans
Alien-themed Bud Light cans (PRNewsfoto/Bud Light)
Today, Bud Light announced it is producing an alien-themed Bud Light Can to share with any alien that leaves the sanctuary of Area 51 on September 20th.

In July, Bud Light had pledged free beer for all aliens who escaped and promised to create a limited-edition alien pack if this tweet received 51K retweets. While the tweet fell just short of 51K RTs, Bud Light aims to please and the consumer response was so great, they decided to make it anyway. The favorite light lager of American Earthlings has followed through and created the Bud Light alien cans for legal drinking aged humans and extraterrestrials to enjoy together.
A Bud Light operative unable to disclose their name for security purposes said, "The way we see it, we'd much rather people crack open a crisp Bud Light with alien visitors rather than storm Area 51. Nothing says we come in peace like sharing a beer with friends from another place or another galaxy. We promised to have beer waiting for any alien that wants it and we plan to deliver on that promise. Our hope is that humans stock up too because you never know when you might need some Bud Lights to welcome intergalactic neighbors."
For any aliens that escape or decide to visit Earth, Bud Light produced an alien-friendly fridge that's stocked with plenty of Bud Light alien cans.
"For any aliens that escape or decide to visit Earth, Bud Light produced an alien-friendly fridge that's stocked with plenty of Bud Light alien cans." (PRNewsfoto/Bud Light)
Starting today, fans in Nevada, Arizona, and California will be able to purchase the Bud Light alien cans to celebrate the potential release of our otherworldly friends. The special-edition aluminum cans feature a green alien and black background as well as a new crest welcoming all extraterrestrials from near and far to crack a cold one.

For any aliens that escape or decide to visit Earth, Bud Light produced an alien-friendly fridge that's stocked with plenty of Bud Light alien cans. The fridge is locked and includes an alien finger scan in order to open, to ensure the beer supply is available only to our extraterrestrial friends. 

"The fridge is locked and includes an alien finger scan in order to open, to ensure the beer supply is available only to our extraterrestrial friends..."
"The fridge is locked and includes an alien finger scan in order to open, to ensure the beer supply is available only to our extraterrestrial friends..." (PRNewsfoto/Bud Light)
Bud Light is staging the fridge in a coveted Las Vegas club's VIP section at the Luxor Hotel and Casino that will be roped off and reserved exclusively for aliens to live it up. The VIP table invites aliens, 21 years or older, to join the party from September 13 - September 20 and toast to their escape while making a few new human friends over alien-themed Bud Lights. 

"The special-edition aluminum cans feature a green alien and black background as well as a new crest welcoming all extraterrestrials from near and far to crack a cold one..."
"The special-edition aluminum cans feature a green alien and black background as well as a new crest welcoming all extraterrestrials from near and far to crack a cold one..." (PRNewsfoto/Bud Light)
  • Bud Light is also sponsoring the Area 51 Celebration music festival on September 19 at the Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. 
To bring the raid to fans everywhere, Bud Light is also producing a line of limited-edition merch to match the alien-themed Bud Light Cans. Starting today, legal drinking aged fans can purchase items online from the abgiftshop.com. Merch includes koozies, shirts, hat and bomber jackets and prices range from $100 or less.
To bring the raid to fans everywhere, Bud Light is also producing a line of limited-edition merch to match the alien-themed Bud Light Cans. Starting today, legal drinking aged fans can purchase items online from the abgiftshop.com. Merch includes koozies, shirts, hat and bomber jackets and prices range from $100 or less. (PRNewsfoto/Bud Light)

SOURCE: Bud Light

26 August 2019

#TwitterPhilanthropy: CEO & Award-Winning Author Gives Away Thousands of Dollars Via Twitter in the New Age of E-Philanthropy

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Scott Levy
Scott Levy
Scott Levy, CEO of Award-Winning Digital Agency Fuel Online and Best-Selling Author & Investor, uses his own personal Twitter to help those in need with financial gifts and Amazon Gift Cards. 

The wealthy CEO & digital influencer has been giving away his money for weeks to teachers who have had to use their personal funds to supply their classrooms, as well as veterans and other people who find themselves simply in need.

Levy's Verified Twitter account, @FuelOnline, has been taking social media by storm making it rain, so to speak, in a monsoon of charitable gifts. Levy hopes his actions will inspire others to join him in giving back and paying it forward. His hashtags include: #TwitterPhilanthropy #payitforward #bekind #kindness #Teachers which dictate the underlying reasons that has spurred him on this journey. With a new user every fifteen seconds, social media plays an integral part in how to fulfill the moral imperative of doing right as charity has become a more interactive experience - the upside being a wider reach.

#clearthelist is an online viral campaign whereby teachers create Amazon Wishlists for their classroom supplies. Most teachers pay in the vicinity of $500, even up to $2500, of their own money to set up their classroom. The movement alleviates the financial pressure from teachers.
"It really bothered me that underpaid teachers are expected to buy classroom supplies out of their meager salaries, it's just not fair," says Levy. "I had to do something about it."
Teachers from all over the US have benefited from Levy's Twitter-verse of E-Philanthropy.
"I am a single mom in a Title 1 district with high poverty, high crime and high trauma. Thanks to Mr. Levy, I was able to support my 40 students with supplies to get them through their school year," says Teacher, Stef Moyer from Pennsylvania. "Mr. Levy continued his support by clearing the lists of other teachers we have met through this movement helping us build the foundation of learning for all students."
Levy is one of the founders and pioneers of digital marketing having started doing SEO work in 1997. His agency, FuelOnline, is based in both Boston and New York and works with mid-sized and Fortune 500 Companies on all things digital. He is a best-selling author ('Tweet Naked') and an investor who is grateful that his success has given him the ability to help others.
Scott Levy's Best-Selling Book "Tweet Naked"
Scott Levy's Best-Selling Book "Tweet Naked"
In addition to teachers Levy, who considers himself a strong patriot, assists Veterans. Navy Veteran & Special Ed Teacher, Michele Downard of California explains, "This movement has brought a light to the amount teachers are spending in their classrooms and my gifts from Scott Levy have relieved the burden and allowing me to focus on additional projects and lessons."

Levy also works closely with Code of Vets, an organization that authenticates Veterans who need help and raises funds for them - from healthcare to housing to vehicles. Levy is helping them build a program via Amazon Wishlists whereby even the most basic necessities are met.
"We're a grassroots mission. We use social media to raise immediate funds for veterans in crisis," says Gretchen Smith, Code of Vets. "Scott Levy's donation is a beautiful example of Americans teaming up with us to support our military/veteran community. We are taking care of our own. One veteran at a time."
In addition to teachers and Vets, Levy's generosity extends to any individual in need. One Wisconsin-based man who couldn't afford a necessary operation reached out via Twitter and Levy stepped in to help foot the bill.
"I was reflecting on how fortunate I am and if I was gone tomorrow what would I have left behind? Who had I helped in this life? I wanted to do more. The biggest challenge after success is learning how to share it," says Levy. "I chose Twitter because it's my largest reach and I wanted help identifying who needed it the most. I'm also hoping to inspire the masses to give back as well. It's been a massive success, and I'm overwhelmed by the love and feedback."
Marrying social media know-how with a passion for giving, Levy has stumbled upon the perfect method with which to contribute his strengths to society at large. He hopes others who are similarly endowed will step up and lead the charge in this new age of Social Media beneficence.
SOURCE: Scott Levy

28 June 2019

#McGhoster: Support for The Humane League's Animal Welfare Campaign Surges, as Consumers Make a Stand on Twitter

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Sending ghost emojis and using #McGhoster, the public are calling out McDonald's on Twitter for not signing the Better Chicken Commitment.
Sending ghost emojis and using #McGhoster, the public are calling out McDonald's on Twitter for not signing the Better Chicken Commitment. (PRNewsfoto/The Humane League)
The Humane League's #McGhoster campaign is acting as a wake-up call to the fast-food industry leader McDonald's, with more than 21,000 signatures already on the petition.

Thousands of conscious consumers across the US and the UK have taken to Twitter to grab the attention of McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook. Sending ghost emojis and using #McGhoster, the public are calling out McDonald's for not signing the Better Chicken Commitment, and criticising them for 'ghosting' their animal welfare responsibilities, unlike their competitors.

Public protests, billboards, and ad vans have been popping up across the UK to further spread the word and build as much pressure as possible; followed by an online brand-jacking film that's racked up over 700,000 views already (on Facebook and YouTube).

The Video


McDonald's is one of the biggest restaurant chains in the world with a net income of $5.877B. Yet, as companies like Pret A Manger are making concrete, meaningful changes to chicken welfare, McDonald's is lagging behind; despite previously facing criticism for the treatment of its chickens. What's more, The Humane League argues that eating poor chickens raised in cramped and confined factory farms have potential health risks for the public.

"Although McDonald's has taken progressive steps on some animal welfare issues, the truth is that when the suffering of millions upon millions of chickens—the most numerous animals in McDonald's supply chain—is at stake, McDonald's fails to live up to the upstanding image it portrays," said Pru Elliott, Head of Campaigns at The Humane League UK.
#McGhoster van
#McGhoster van
The Humane League is calling on McDonald's consumers and the wider public to demand improvements to its supply chain, and appreciates any support people are able to give to shine a light on their bad practice.

  • You can sign the petition here



22 March 2019

Why Emmanuel Macron's Plan For A European Agency To Fend Off Fake News Makes Sense

by
Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron (EPA/Ludovic Marin)
When French president Emmanuel Macron sent an open letter to the people of Europe, he said their first freedom is democratic – “the freedom to choose our leaders as foreign powers seek to influence our vote at each election”. He went on to propose establishing a European agency to protect this right. The idea would be to provide European states with experts to help them fend off cyberattacks and other kinds of threats to their elections.

It’s clear that Europe does indeed need an agency of this kind. There is significant evidence that the cyber-attacks and misinformation campaigns that targeted the 2016 US presidential election were not an isolated incident. Nor is the phenomenon geographically limited to the US.

There have been allegations of Russian meddling in the UK’s Brexit referendum and of fake news being spread in the run up to the unofficial referendum on Catalonia’s independence from Spain in 2017.

In Germany, state agencies have accused Russia of hacking into state computer systems in the run up to parliamentary elections. Concerns have been raised about misinformation being spread on social media in Estonia, Lithuania and Taiwan. And of course, the topic is important to Macron, who saw his emails hacked and leaked online just hours before his second round presidential election run off against far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The modus operandi of most of these incidents has been almost identical – although the actors behind the operations are becoming more diverse. Russia was the earliest adopter but Taiwanese officials claim that China has begun to employ similar means towards their citizens. And as Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries develop cyber-capabilities, they are almost certain to soon follow suit.

International threat

It’s clear that all European member states, regardless of their size, are potential targets. The same strategy – steal political intelligence through cyber-attacks, leak it online to sew discord and doubt during the run up to key democratic events – is just as viable a tool of power politics in Montenegro as it is in Germany. This adds weight to Macron’s argument that the response to this problem must come from the European level.

Equally, applying a technical, legislative solution in one EU nation won’t be enough to negate the risk. Twitter and Facebook operate across borders so the response can only be effective if it does too.

The global nature of companies like Facebook and Twitter, whose platforms are the delivery systems of these attacks on democratic processes, poses another problem which is better suited to an EU-driven response. In much the same way that trade deals negotiated on behalf of multinational blocs can often lead to better terms than those sought by individual nations alone, it’s easier for an international institution to force transnational businesses like Facebook to change their ways or accept responsibility for a problem than it would be for an individual country working alone.

The difficulties faced by British parliamentary committees when trying to force Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to attend evidence hearings is a striking example of this. Zuckerberg repeatedly evaded them. Even when the UK worked in partnership with Canada, he resisted. An agency representing the economic and global power of the whole EU might have better luck.

Sharing knowledge

Working together also provides European nations with the opportunity learn from each other. Lithuania, for example, has taken an interesting approach by combining military and civilian infrastructures in its counter strategy. Military personnel work alongside journalists and political commentators to directly engage with fake news. They act as fact checkers and censors, removing potentially destabilising stories.

It’s early days for this approach but it does appear to be effective, at least within the Lithuanian or Baltic context. Adapting it to the European level will inevitably raise questions about censorship but there are nevertheless lessons to be learnt even if the technique is not adopted wholesale.

Due to their geographical location and the politics of their region, states like Lithuania and Estonia have been exposed to disinformation of this kind for longer, which has arguably given them a head start on thinking about a solution. This makes them ideally placed to provide the context that is still lacking in the European political debate. While everyone else is just waking up to the concept of the role and threat posed by information operations of this type, these countries are not only aware but have already been educating their citizens about this threat for years.

Emmanuel Macron meets with Mark Zuckerberg in 2018
Emmanuel Macron meets with Mark Zuckerberg in 2018. (EPA)
Individual countries have been developing their own approaches to the kinds of problems Macron is talking about. But bringing these efforts together under a single, central body capable of pooling wisdom and expert led resources would be a significant step. Whether Macron can make it work, though, is a different matter. The French president’s vision will require a significant pooling of political will against a poorly defined threat.

Europe is seeking to deal with a number of crisis, small and large, some of which have been amplified or brought on by the very risks that this agency would seek to mitigate. Russian troll accounts have fanned the fires of the Gilet Jaunes riots in France, for example. Amid disagreement over so many other issues in Europe, forming an agency with a clear, shared role may prove an uphill struggle.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Alexi Drew, Research Associate, King's College London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

20 March 2019

Theresa May Requests Short Brexit Extension: How To Understand This Reckless Move

by
Theresa May
Theresa May (PA)
Before the October 1964 general election, Harold Wilson was reported to have stated “a week is a long time in politics”.

Never has that maxim been truer than in relation to the politics of Brexit and the publication of prime minister Theresa May’s letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, requesting an extension to the Article 50 period until June 30 2019.

Less than a week earlier, a day after MPs had for a second time rejected May’s European Union withdrawal deal by a thumping majority of 149, her own de facto deputy prime minister David Lidington had told the House of Commons that the government was opposed to seeking a short extension rather than a long one, stating::
"In the absence of a deal, seeking such a short and, critically, one-off extension would be downright reckless and completely at odds with the position that this House adopted only last night, making a no-deal scenario far more, rather than less, likely. Not only that, but from everything we have heard from the EU, both in public and in private, it is a proposal it would not accept."
Less than a week later, without parliamentary support for her deal, May has sought that very short, one-off and “downright reckless” extension, which is completely at odds with the House of Commons’ position.

A number of important consequences are likely to follow on from May’s actions on what may become known as her “Reckless Wednesday”.

Her request for a short extension is, for a start, unlikely to be accepted by all 27 European Union member states without more concessions from the UK. Upon receiving May’s letter, Tusk said the extension would be possible if MPs approved her deal first.

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier had previously reiterated that the EU27 would only countenance such an extension if it received “a concrete plan from the UK” which increased the chances of ratification of the withdrawal agreement, or if the UK requested more time to rework the non-binding political declaration setting out the rough plan for the future relationship between the UK and EU.

Tusk is meeting with EU leaders this week
Tusk is meeting with EU leaders this week. (EPA/Olivier Hoslet)
May’s request letter has not set out a persuasive “concrete plan”. She cannot guarantee that any third meaningful vote on her EU Withdrawal deal will see her deal passed by MPs. She cannot even guarantee, at this stage, that a third vote will happen – given that the speaker of the House of Commons has warned that she cannot ask MPs to vote again on exactly the same proposal. In her letter, May merely states that it remains her intention to put the deal to the house for a third vote, without saying how that is to come about.
Nor has May requested more time to rework the political declaration. She has instead requested that the European Council approve the supplementary documents to the withdrawal agreement and political declaration agreed with Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission – precisely the deal rejected by the House of Commons.

Was this a resignation letter?

What’s more, by ruling out a much longer extension, May has increased the odds of a no-deal Brexit. A longer extension might have enabled a clear plan to be implemented to enable cross-party support to be built for an alternative to her own withdrawal agreement. That seems unlikely in the shorter timeframe.

With that longer extension and threat to Brexit now explicitly ruled out by May, many of the hardcore of European Research Group Conservative MPs will feel that a further defeat for the government in any third vote will increase the likelihood of their preferred no-deal scenario. It will also have the bonus effect of ridding the Conservative Party of a leader and prime minister they have openly opposed, but failed to unseat in last December’s vote of no confidence.

In effect, May has set out the timetable and personal terms for her own resignation and departure as prime minister. If, as seems probable, the House of Commons rejects her EU withdrawal deal for an historic third (and likely final) time – so that Tusk cannot agree to a short extension – and then votes to seek an extension from the European Union beyond June 30, in order to allow sufficient time to negotiate an alternative Brexit or to hold a general election or further referendum, May will have little choice but to resign.

In the foreword to her party’s 2017 election manifesto, May stated: “Brexit will define us: our place in the world, our economic security and our future prosperity.

Rarely were truer words spoken. Brexit has defined May’s premiership. It has been a shambles from first to last. It has put at risk the UK’s place in the world, and compromised its economic security and future prosperity. It was for precisely those reasons that, on April 25 2016, May herself had advocated the UK remaining in the EU.

Article 50 was triggered by May without a concrete plan for its delivery which could command the support of her own MPs, let alone a majority of the House of Commons. Now, on her own “Reckless Wednesday”, May has sought an extension to Article 50, again without a concrete plan which can command the support of her own party or the House of Commons. By her own hand, May has written her own political obituary as prime minister.The Conversation

About Today's Contributor:

Simon Lee, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Hull

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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