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'Weaponized' Twitter Bots Spread Info From French Campaign Hack (recode.net) 255

"The French media and public have been warned not to spread details about a hacking attack on presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron," writes Slashdot reader schwit1, with the election commission threatening criminal charges. But meanwhile, "the leaked documents have since spread like wildfire across social media, particularly on Twitter," reports Recode. Nicole Perlroth, a cybersecurity reporter with the New York Times, pointed out that an overwhelming amount of the tweets shared about the Macron campaign hack appear to come from automated accounts, commonly referred to as bots. About 40% of the tweets using the hashtag #MacronGate, Perlroth noted, are actually coming from only 5% of accounts using the hashtag. One account tweeted 1,668 times in 24 hours, which is more than one tweet per minute with no sleep... Twitter appears not to have done anything to combat what is obviously a bot attack, despite the fact the social media company is well aware of the problem of bot accounts being used to falsely popularize political issues during high-profile campaigns to give the impression of a groundswell of grassroots support.
The Times reporter later tweeted "This could be @twitter's death knell. Algorithms exist to deal with this. Why aren't you using them?" And one Sunlight Foundation official called the discovery "statistics from the front lines of the disinformation wars," cc-ing both Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. In other news, the BBC reports France's president has promised to "respond" to the hacking incident, giving no further details, but saying he was aware of the risks because they'd "happened elsewhere"."
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'Weaponized' Twitter Bots Spread Info From French Campaign Hack

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  • Isn't it obvious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rainer_d ( 115765 )

    Quite likely, some parts of the US government have in the past and probably wish to in the future used these bots themselves.

    The only thing worse than Twitter not shutting them down this time would be them being found partisan.

    Also, Trump uses Twitter, so the US government will probably bail them out.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 06, 2017 @07:44PM (#54369265)

      The bigger issues here are the overseas bank account he denied having and what's in the emails. Don't get distracted by who's releasing damning information, if the information is real the only issue is that it exists - of course corrupt people have dirt on them.

      • Thank god I'm not French or I'd have to dig through all that and decide if it's actually all legit.

        While it could all be cooked up by Putin's finest, it could also be a CIA operation to de-stabilize Europe (which would be sort-of good for the US).

        It could also be a Chinese thing. They smile all day and do as if they can't do wrong but I don't trust 'em. ;-)

        Or it could be S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is trying to create turmoil so they can run their heist-of-the-century.

        The fact is we don't really know who is behind this.

        • by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @08:38PM (#54369395) Journal

          Maybe the time has come to stop obsessing about whether our politicians are pure as the driven snow.

          I've been thinking about this for a while, and while I don't like the idea of wantonly electing crooks, it strikes me that seeing as the general populace has no lack of shady people, I can't sort out why it is exactly we expect the political class to be paragons of virtue.

          In the French election, there's a choice between a center-left politician and a hard-right politician. Now neither are ideal, and neither in fact really are what one would classify as the best representatives of their particular parties, but they're the ones that have made it to the top. So rather than obsess about some rather peculiarly-timed leaks, maybe you just take them for what they are, and what they represent and go from there. If in the end, they prove to be crooked, well, either it's so severe that it drives them from office, or you use the next election to punish them.

          The reality is that for anyone who is on the left, or is a progressive, or even a moderate right winger, Le Pen and the Front National are a nightmare; the party itself has a pretty dire history of being anti-Semitic and anti-European and highly xenophobic, and while Le Pen, perhaps sensing she's heading for defeat precisely because of her and her party's intemperate declarations, is now suddenly trying to portray a softer, gentler image, I simply cannot imagine even a right-minded individual who may not be a big fan of immigration thinking that electing the head of a party of virulent hate-mongers is the answer.

          Frankly, French politics has a pretty long history of pretty dodgy figures, to suddenly decide that Emmanuel Macron isn't worthy of the job because of some last-minute releases of allegedly hacked files, and that a bigot like Le Pen is the one deserving of the presidency, it just boggles my mind. Even if some of the alleged leaks suggesting some dodgy tax avoidance are true, what of it? For chrissakes, what do you imagine a leak of Front National's servers would produce?

          • Maybe the time has come to stop obsessing about whether our politicians are pure as the driven snow.

            I've been thinking about this for a while, and while I don't like the idea of wantonly electing crooks, it strikes me that seeing as the general populace has no lack of shady people, I can't sort out why it is exactly we expect the political class to be paragons of virtue.

            It's an interesting question, for sure.

            But the thing is: people like idols, they like to idealize their politicians - and then relish the demolition of the very same idol.
            At least, here in Europe.

            • What person reaches the age of maturity and idolizes a politician? That suggests that some people never actually reach the age of maturity.

              I'm pretty damned realistic about politicians. I don't expect they'll keep half their promises, in part because they don't intend to, and in part because they won't be able to. The other half are promises that I probably will end up wishing they hadn't kept. What you're really doing is electing the people that will run your government, and they will be flawed individuals

              • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @09:26PM (#54369545) Homepage

                I expect different things in the age of the internet. I expect all people seeking public office to have equal access to a public information distribution system to provide details of their policies and an end to private for profit advertisements. I expect that once they throw their hats in the ring, that all party communications are to be made publicly, live in order to prevent two faced politics. I expect a record to be kept of campaign promises and should the individual be elected by held accountable for those promises unless they are able to substantiate why they were not able to fulfill them. I expect all individuals seeking public office should be tested in the exact same manner as all other government employees are subject to, publicly audited and controlled tests for intelligence, knowledge and psychological evaluation (keep in mind modern psychopathy tests can not be cheated) and the public to have access to those results.

                Provide those and elections will produce much better results, done and finished.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            > Maybe the time has come to stop obsessing about whether our politicians are pure as the driven snow.

            Nope. Maybe the time has come for the guilty to be brought to justice. I'm sorry an inordinate number of them happen to be on "your team".

          • > Maybe the time has come to stop obsessing about whether our politicians are pure as the driven snow.

            I think you badly underestimate just how sick the general public is of this kind of hypocrisy. This idea that we can excuse any sort of corruption because they're "one of us" has been given the middle finger quite often lately, so I'm a bit surprised that people keep believing it.

            • I think you badly underestimate just how sick the general public is of this kind of hypocrisy.

              Yep sick of it! Hey all I've got a really good idea, if you hate hypocrisy, don't vote for the generally skeezy politician sort, vote for the REALLY sleazy, racist politician instead! That'll stick it to them.

      • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @08:14PM (#54369345)

        The bigger issue is "why are so many ACs suddenly posting 'what if' scenarios?".

        You positively reek of troll factory.

        • What if I told you that I was an a.c. ?

        • by _merlin ( 160982 )

          What if Mr T hacked the game and added a mohawk class? What if Mr T's pretty handy with computers?

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          As ever, it's 4chan and 8chan users. Head over to their /pol boards and you can see them talking about doing this stuff quite openly. Twitter bots, armies of sockpuppet accounts with French names and copy/paste French text, and of course every trick in the leaked GCHQ interference playbook such as posting speculative nonsense and seeding dissent.

          I just hope that Le Pen can't win. They are determined to see Europe burn.

      • While I want to agree with what you're saying, there's a subtler phenomenon at play here: We don't have comparable information on Le Pen. For all we know she could literally be a baby killer, and that could be information that the hackers discovered, but their political bias leads them to suppress that information.

        In other words, you can't accurately compare something that's known to something that's unknown. A smart player understands this, and can be selective with what they reveal in such a way that othe

        • There's no need for leaks on Le Pen or her party. The following is public information and has been available for any person able to read:

          • The FN is under investigation for the embezzlement of €5MM at the EU level through fictive jobs and €6.2MM at the French level during the 2012 Legislative campaign. Documents seized by the authorities indicate that both are the results of a strategy coming from the top level of the party. Marine Le Pen paid her ex sister-in-law and her own body guard using the E
      • by geoskd ( 321194 )

        The bigger issues here are the overseas bank account he denied having and what's in the emails.

        The even bigger issue is the authenticity of the information being released. When the information is dumped in this fashion, there is no time to properly vette any of the data to validate if it is true or not, and because it is being released by an unknown (for the moment) hacker, there is no one to prosecute for election tampering.

        Under most circumstances, I would side with wikileaks, but lately it seems that wikileaks is crossing the line from performing an invaluable public service to outright election t

  • by _KiTA_ ( 241027 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @07:21PM (#54369205) Homepage

    They're already suppressing it. The various hashtags talking about this were artificially blocked from trending.

    What is the next step they could take? Auto-hiding tweets talking about it? (They're already doing that.) Banning users for talking about it? Auto-removing discussion of his name?

    At what point do calls for the blatant support for a single politician or suppressing support for others cross the line into political censorship and attempts at manipulating the election?

    • by TimothyHollins ( 4720957 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @08:23PM (#54369361)

      It could be related to the French law that makes it illegal to campaign the day before the election. Any French news outlet that discusses the leaks will be prosecuted.

      It could also be related to the obvious connection between these leaks and fake news and Russian interest in supporting Le Pen.

    • Twitter doesn't like their platform being used to spread (Russian) propaganda.

      And it's their service, so at no point in time does it become censorship. Censorship is when the government acts to repress speech and last I check Twitter is not an arm of any government.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by guruevi ( 827432 )

      That's what they want, control all media to make sure you make the "right" choice.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      They have been reducing the impact of tweets by new accounts and obvious sock-puppets for a long time now. It's very effective because the trolls mostly use fresh accounts that are hastily created, often by bot, and are thus easy to filter. It just happens that the same anti-troll technology works well for people trying to post this stuff.

  • Censorship (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 06, 2017 @07:44PM (#54369267)

    "Why aren't you suppressing information in order to allow our pre-selected candidate to breeze through to a state-approved victory!!!???"

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @08:00PM (#54369301)
    No one might have noticed.
  • by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @08:01PM (#54369305)
    Is there even anything in the leaks worth leaking. Maybe I'm not hearing about any damning information or juicy emails because I'm not French, but on the other hand there may be nothing terribly interesting. Not that it will stop a few crazies from thinking pizza is a reference to pedophilia or something like that, but is there anything salacious that could actually change the election?
    • by phayes ( 202222 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @10:46PM (#54369763) Homepage

      Nah, it's just internal campaign emails of little importance that the leakers mixed in with transparently forged documents about foreign bank accounts. I have friends who'll be voting FN & even among them nobody believes that the bank account dumps are true. Putin's overuse of the same tactics are wearing thin.

  • I suspect...everyone.

  • by Kernel Kurtz ( 182424 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @08:11PM (#54369331) Homepage

    let the Russians totally pwn their electoral process with impunity. Putin has made you folks a laughing stock. Just sayin.

    Tomorrow I expect the French people will give a big fuck you to Czar Vladimir

    • It does appear that way. Le Pen is way behind, and it's difficult to imagine her catching up. This time, at least, it appears to have failed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Xenographic ( 557057 )

        So Le Pen also has a 1% chance to win?

        I think we all know what happens next.

        • Probably a lot closer to zero than to one.

      • Unfortunately that's not so simple. In 2002 Le Pen (father) got 18%. This time she gets (daughter) 40%. Even if the far-right loses the presidential election, they will likely get more power though other institutions (parliament...) in a near future (June)
        • by phayes ( 202222 )

          Marine could score 49.9999% & that still wouldn't give the FN a single Député. The FN will have to do muuuuch better in the parlementary elections in June than they have ever done and except for Dupont-Aingan nobody will ally themselves with the FN and though they may score higher than the currently fragmented political parties in France the FN is rarely over 50% they'll need when everyone else unites against them.

    • It's really sweet you think our election was the result of a nefarious Russian dictator and not just us Americans being hateful idiots.

      If there's apathy about Russian interference, I think it's a realization that there's unlikely to be much of a change. We'll still have the dumbasses who voted for him, we'll still have the GOP.
    • I'm curious how you believe that to be true?

      Did the Russians hack the voting machines themselves? Afaik, there hasn't been a whisper of that from either side.
      Did they sneakily install and run the email server from Ms Clinton's home for years without her knowledge?
      Did they poison her food, giving her muscular tremors and looking like a debilitated invalid trying to hide it from the public?
      Did they prevent her campaign from being able to spend any time or resources in Michigan or Wisconsin?
      Did they manipulat

  • "Information just wants to be Free" crowd (Russians?). Seriously, everybody has some secrets and there's not necessarily anything wrong with that. What's the old saying? Never ask a man how he made his first million. Put another way, why is it everybody's gun ho about privacy on this forum until it's the privacy of a private political party? Moreover, it's terrifying that Putin's probably going to take over the Ukraine thanks to nothing more than an info war.

    If you really want everything done out in the
    • by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @09:02PM (#54369479)
      "Qu'on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j'y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre."
      Translated: "If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him."

      There's certainly something to be said about the truth coming out. What we're seeing lately is not that, however. It's deliberate, one-sided, theft and carefully timed release of one side's information for specific political advantage. The concept isn't new, either - it was tried before and wound up becoming a scandal called Watergate.

      What's different now is that the internet makes it so much easier to do, both because everyone uses it for communication and coordination on pretty much everything, but you don't need to even be close by to steal it, either. And even when you get caught red handed because all the digital evidence points right back to Russia, you've still got tons of useful idiots who'll throw up their hands and claim "it could be anyone else, we can never know, false flag, etc etc", never-mind the bots and sock puppets you can make to do the same.
  • EU flag (Score:2, Troll)

    by manu0601 ( 2221348 )

    Dear Slashdot,

    Could you please have an icon other than the EU flag for France related news? Especially to cover a national election where some voters/candidates reject EU.

  • That psyop [wikipedia.org] will not save France from Macron's presidency, unfortunately. Most of his vote will come from its own opponents that feat Le Pen even more than him.

    That odd situation happens because only 34% of citizen did cast a vote for Macron or Le Pen during election's first round.

    • You can argue that it's inefficient, but it's a hell of a lot better than a winner take all system, where you're forced to vote for the lesser evil at the start. At least this way, French citizens got to express their preference, first. Nobody is going to be under the illusion that Macron was the first choice of the majority.
      • Yes, election system could be even worse.

        Another issue at work is that despite his low score on first round, Macron said he would consider votes for him on second round as support for his project, which include a blitz krieg against labor laws. That drives many poor workers toward Le Pen.

        • France can recover from Macron's missteps. Le Pen would be the end of liberté, égalité, and fraternité. I just don't think the French are willing to give up the France no matter how many sock-puppets Putin deploys.

  • The Times reporter later tweeted "This could be @twitter's death knell.


  • by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Saturday May 06, 2017 @09:57PM (#54369637)

    ...control is great. But what's in the hacked information? Its pretty clear what media including slashdot is doing here. Attempting to destroy the messenger while ignoring the message. Hackers are the new journalists.

  • The "bots" seems to be an excuse for Facebook and Twitter to target a number of high-visibility anti-Macron accounts. I have witnessed that myself, as one of my accounts was flagged as "bot" after I retweeted something about the #MacronLeaks. But for about three days, I had seen signs of accounts being targeted, and they were all anti-Macron accounts (I followed both sides and had probably about as many subscriptions in one camp and in the other). Hate from the pro-Macron account (of which I witnessed a lot

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