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Report Claims That 18 Nation's Elections Were Impacted By Social Engineering Last Year (bbc.com) 235

sqorbit writes: Independent watchdog group Freedom House released a report that claims that 18 nation's elections were "hacked." Of the 65 countries that Freedom House monitors, 30 appear to be using social media in order to affect elections by attempting to control online discussions. The report covers fake news posts, paid online opinion writers and trolling tactics. Other items in the report speak to online censorship and VPN blocking that blocks information within countries to interfere with elections. The report says net freedom could be aided by: large-scale programs that showed people how to spot fake news; putting tight controls on political adverts; and making social media giants do more to remove bots and tune algorithms to be more objective.
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Report Claims That 18 Nation's Elections Were Impacted By Social Engineering Last Year

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  • by Hetero ( 5159127 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @09:08PM (#55567277)
    Can you BELIEVE IT! Someone used INFORMATION to INFLUENCE people's MINDS! WOW!!!
    • UN-altered REPRODUCTION and DISSEMINATION of this IMPORTANT Information is ENCOURAGED, ESPECIALLY to COMPUTER BULLETIN BOARDS.

    • by MangoCats ( 2757129 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @11:42PM (#55567757)

      Newsflash: social engineering has been used to influence elections ever since before the first election was held.

      Nature of the beast, people will buy, beg, lie, cheat, and do any other thing that they can get away with to win a contest - if it's a popularity contest, that's going to mean lots of social engineering. Now we communicate via internet, so you can't just buy ads on television and radio anymore.

    • Well I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you.
      So now they call it "social engineering" to make it sound more scary. The original word is "propaganda", and whether it's delivered via radio broadcast, dropped leaflets, or the interwebs doesn't really matter. It's still propaganda and the idea has been around for millennia.

  • Only 18? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @09:11PM (#55567303) Journal

    Only 18? I thought that ALL elections were subject to "Social Engineering".

    That's part of the point.

    Elections aren't about being fair. They're about preventing civil war.

    They do this by predicting how a civil war to reverse their decision would come out - believably enough to convince the losers of the election that they'd also lose the war to reverse their results.

    Propaganda and other "fake news", to recruit and radicalize cannon-fodder for the civil ware are integral to the process. The election process SHOULD include them - or it becomes less believable and thus less stabilizing.

    • Yeah, I am amazed when these articles pop up sounding surprised that propaganda using current generation media avenues was used. Everyone treats new stuff like it's different than old stuff. 40 years ago they made pamphlets and distributed them. Good ol technology has made it easier to talk to everyone around the world in teal time, so now they use that - I'm aghast!

      Maybe if we still taught critical thinking to our kids then they could decide what they want to think about things. But a spoonfed public i

      • Re:Only 18? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Darkling-MHCN ( 222524 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @11:13PM (#55567681)

        Just because they did it 40 years ago doesn't mean it's OK to do it now.

        Four million years ago we ran around clubbing each other over the head, didn't farm and ate raw meat. Four hundred years ago an unmarried women with a cat could be justifiably burnt to death for being witch. Forty years ago it wasn't unheard of for people to be lynched because of the colour of their skin.

        Do you see now just how stupid your argument is? Just because they did it in the past doesn't make it OK for them to do it now, only on a much bigger scale.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It isn't being done on a bigger scale. 40 years ago people weren't surprised by a lynching. They shouldn't be surprised now because propaganda has always been going on. It's called politics and has basically existed since people first grouped together. If you're surprised about that then you need to pop the bubble you're living in. WWII propaganda was in the education system, entertainment, news, advertising, products, and peer groups. Today propaganda is in the education system, entertainment, news,

        • by umghhh ( 965931 )
          You can also see a club back then as a fair way of fighting as another club was usually at hand. If social media warriors decide you to be an evil man (usually but there are plenty of female victims too) you cannot do much. You may in fact lose a job, friends and see your family get away from you. But hey we are all better off as a society right? The clubbing back then gave you at least some chance to get at one of your attackers how do you do it with internet mob of vigilantes?
        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Additionally, social media is an unprecedented tool for propaganda and interference. Never before in human history has it been so cheap and easy to reach so many people with these messages. The risk is also historically low, as there is no need to actually enter the target country and hand out physical media or talk to people IRL. Those people working out of that St. Petersburg office are beyond our reach and when their fake identities are discovered they can just make new ones. No deportation, no arrest, s

          • This works on both sides though. Information is easier to disseminate whether it is true or false. The problem is that in politics, itâ(TM)s probably all true, from Benghazi to Pizzagate and from bankruptcies to pissing on some prostitutes; Iâ(TM)m willing to go out on a limb and say: thereâ(TM)s probably an air of truth in all of it and to deny that Clinton and her band is thoroughly corrupt or that Trump is a thoroughly perverted tax-evading capitalist is also true; statistically speaking t

            • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

              False information is easier to disseminate. The truth is often complex and not what people want to hear. The lies are simple and benefit from confirmation bias.

    • Re:Only 18? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Darkling-MHCN ( 222524 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @10:12PM (#55567523)

      What a depressing take on it all.

      This is the kind of thinking somehow distorts, fraud, dishonesty, immorality and turns it into virtues defined by a single word "winner".

      It honestly turns my stomach.

      We've got about 50-100 years to come up with something better than law of the jungle, if we can't evolve socially we're just going to wipe ourselves out along with most of the other species on this planet.

      So no I disagree, this sort of perversion, fraud, corruption, immorality, dishonesty shouldn't be a part of the election process and when it is, it should be called out and the candidate thrown out on his/her ass or better still put in jail.

    • by Q-Hack! ( 37846 )

      I'm going to have to agree with Gary Johnson on this... While foreign governments involvement in the social engineering of elections is interesting, I am far more concerned with the government's abuse of 4th amendment rights. Illegal snooping on citizens is far more dangerous than some agency posting stories that feed people false information trying to keep them in their little bubbles.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Whataboutism. Just because your own government is abusive doesn't mean you should be any less concerned about external influence.

        • I think the point is to be concerned about the issues at hand that each candidate is trying to solve. Youâ(TM)re always going to have propaganda and nobody is truly qualified to lead a nation, they all promise lower taxes and more jobs, when you accept those things then all you can end up doing is look at what are they going to do, what can you hold them to.

          Compare what Trump and Hillary say (because all evidence points to the next election being just that again) and how they are going to do it or how

  • social engineering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @09:13PM (#55567315) Journal
    So......there were only elections in 18 countries last year? Is that it?

    Seriously, the only reason Trump is president is because he was better at social engineering than Clinton. And I have to hand it to Obama, he pushed that "Hope and Change" meme better than anyone before him ever has. It's all been done before, though [youtube.com].
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      So......there were only elections in 18 countries last year? Is that it?

      Seriously, the only reason Trump is president is because he was better at social engineering than Clinton. And I have to hand it to Obama, he pushed that "Hope and Change" meme better than anyone before him ever has. It's all been done before, though [youtube.com].

      Strange you should mention that.

      There are essentially only two ways to lead, all other ways end up being boiled down into these two very broad categories, you can lead through hope or you can lead through fear.

      Obama tried to give the US hope when it was in dire need of it, and he succeeded spectacularly.

      Trump tried to give the US fear when it least needed it, he succeeded and now the US is paying for it.

      • Obama tried to give the US hope when it was in dire need of it,

        If you are dependent on your president to give you hope, then you are hopelessly pathetic.

        Trump tried to give the US fear when it least needed it, he succeeded and now the US is paying for it.

        Partisans are afraid of Trump.

    • The Clinton campaign was the one who spent more than $1 million PER MONTH on an army of internet trolls paid specifically to social engineer comments sections and social media. They openly bragged about it. David Brock is desperately trying to keep that operation going by accusing others of doing exactly the same thing.

  • Wait... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x0ra ( 1249540 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @09:22PM (#55567345)
    Aren't elections, in general, nothing more but a huge social engineering scheme at scale ?

    Look at Canada's Trudeau winning the election on a 10 billions deficit and featuring a 30 billions one in his first budget ? Or is it just "social engineering" when the "wrong side" wins ?
    • Or is it just "social engineering" when the "wrong side" wins ?

      Nonsense. Preposterous.

      It's just that "social engineering" is bad when the wrong side wins.

    • Or is it just "social engineering" when the "wrong side" wins ?

      No it's nothing more than a few people suddenly realising that elections include advertising and false promises. Don't worry as a species we'll get over this once the popular media discovers water is wet and then proceeds to dedicate the following year reporting on that new revelation.

  • Social media providers will be taking this very seriously as it undermines their systems credibility as genuine platforms for social interaction. If they don't take credible actions to reduce the flow of spam on their systems, people will eventually catch on that their whole system is a waste of time and move on.

    I think it's very obvious players like Facebook etc can do a lot more than they currently are to prevent spam. I'd say it hasn't been a high priority for them and they have actually profited from p

  • by Anonymous Coward

    And that's just the Washington Post!

  • And worse! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @09:36PM (#55567399)
    Not only that, they used social engineering to cause the /. editors to forget how to write a plural possessive.

    Nations', not nation's.
  • by NIK282000 ( 737852 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @09:36PM (#55567405) Homepage Journal

    ...because the politicians aren't behind it. The rest of the time its just called a campaign.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      No it's not called campaigning, if it were Robert Mueller and his team wouldn't be investigating Trump for links to this activity.

      Fraud, subversion and collusion with foreign governments may have been part of many elections in the past but not on this scale and in the past when candidates conducting these sorts of activities have been exposed it's meant the end of their campaign.

      • No it's not called campaigning, if it were Robert Mueller and his team wouldn't be investigating Trump for links to this activity.

        Yep. An investigation is a sure sign of guilt!

        • They're not sure signs, as you can see from all the investigations conducted on Hillary Clinton. However, there are indictments coming out of it, so he's finding good (if not necessarily conclusive) evidence of guilt. The investigation isn't finished yet, and the cases are yet to be heard in court.

  • US elections 101 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AHuxley ( 892839 ) on Thursday November 16, 2017 @10:34PM (#55567565) Journal
    Give great speeches that people in different parts of the USA want to listen to.
    Ensure that every state is included in visits by a charming politician who can give a long speech.
    Find a candidate who can keep talking for a long time.
    "Fake news" and "social media" cannot actually make a politician not show up in person all over the different parts of the USA and give a good speech.
    People all over the USA remember who they went to see in person and their ability to give a great speech.

    Dont lecture people in different states from the elite coast. All the other states can sway that US election so be more aware of local issues all around the USA.
    Dont speak of people all over the USA in a negative way. You need their vote and voters do remember all the negative words used to describe their nice parts of the USA.
    Try been positive about each part of the USA and just listen to their needs.
    Dont stay on the elite east and west coast giving short lectures to the rest of the USA.
    Talk about jobs, freedom and wealth. Real people want real ideas about good jobs, education, housing, not more negative lectures on elite issues.
    A really great candidate can get out the vote all over the USA. Staying on elite coast talking points did not win an election.
    Election observers from different political parties ensured no federal level "hacking" could happen.
    Each city, state, town voted for a person they wanted elected.
    The vote got counted and the results showed who the US states wanted elected.
    Other nations did not bus out millions of their embassy staff to vote in person all over the USA. The FBI would have noticed a few extra million embassy staff in the USA at that time.
    Other nations did not vote in the millions all over the USA. Other nations did not "hack" the computer vote as US elections do not get all counted digitally by one national computer.
    The votes get counted and the count is observed locally all over the USA.
    Real people all over different parts of the USA selected the person they wanted.
    If a political party wants their vote, fly out to their state and talk to lots of people in person.
  • The issue is that people care more about what other folks post or who liked their posts on Facebook or what's on the next episode of Big Brother than who they're voting for.

    AND THEN THEY ACTUALLY GO AHEAD AND VOTE ANYWAYS!!!!!!

    Of course the trying-to-be-elected are going to abuse the shit out of that, who wouldn't?
    I'm over-generalising, sure. But I'm not THAT far off.

    I didn't vote in the last Canadian election because every choice sucked. The country's going to hell and all we care about is muslim women wea

  • The real story is that there is a shift in the media market. People no longer go to TV news and news paper they now go to all variation of fast-food media where source of the message is no longer checked. With the amount of information that flows we no longer can look at them with a grain of salt. In old well established news outlets messages were curated for weeks. Now if you do not post in 10 min you are already late.
  • Always Influenced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jim Sadler ( 3430529 ) on Friday November 17, 2017 @12:28AM (#55567849)
    Does anyone actually believe that local churches don't interfere in elections as well as thousands of commercial organizations? I am certain that the US does a great deal to influence the results of foreign elections as well . Look at lunatic groups like the Tea Party that devote themselves to do nothing but influence elections. Sure, you can bet that if Russia feels that a certain outcome in the US will be better for Russia that great efforts will be made. Our best answer is a much higher level of education for all of our youth. Right now we have a general public that is infested with all kinds of garbage that they believe to be the truth. I fear that if the general public starts to catch on to what is going on around them that all hell will break out and our nation and society might completely melt down. Look at the immoral vampires that now occupy the White House. They want to suck the life blood out of our nation and contribute nothing at all. An entire year has passed and the supposedly important wall is not being built at all. Congress and the Senate are doing nothing good for America or our people.
    • Exactly, every election ever has been influenced by social engineering. A friend's eight year old son recently was elected the class's representative. When his parents asked him how he did that, he said that he wrote his name in bigger letters than the others on the blackboard.
  • If you haven't seen it already, you really need to see it.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • large-scale programs that showed people how to spot fake news, in other words, a central authority that tells people what they should consider true

    putting tight controls on political adverts, in other words, disallowing political speech considered untrue by a central authority

    making social media giants do more to remove bots and tune algorithms to be more objective, in other words, a central authority telling people how to run a website

    Freedom is slavery.
  • by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert&slashdot,firenzee,com> on Friday November 17, 2017 @01:53AM (#55568025) Homepage

    The problem could be solved by educating people to question what they read and do their own research when a subject matters rather than blindly believing what someone else tells them...

    But an educated populace is not what the incumbents want, they like the idea of a populace that believes whatever propaganda they read, what they don't like is for anyone else to have the ability to put propaganda infront of large numbers of people.

    • But an educated populace is not what the incumbents want, they like the idea of a populace that believes whatever propaganda they read, what they don't like is for anyone else to have the ability to put propaganda infront of large numbers of people.

      An educated, financially independent population with their own ideas and plenty of time to free time to implement them is not what incumbents want, as such people are harder to control.

      Even harder are ones that are aware of the huge amount of psy-ops being planted onto them, and who even know the tricks themselves so that they are able to not only use it to their own ends but are immune to anyone else's.

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        An educated, financially independent population with their own ideas and plenty of time to free time to implement them is not what incumbents want, as such people are harder to control.

        It's not just control. It's also a matter of selling that control to the highest bidder. Our election cycle is set up so that the big media outlets can extract significant amounts of cash from candidates in return for a reliable voting block. We still conduct major elections on a timetable designed in the days when candidates would have to ride on horseback or railroads to reach out to the populace. Why? Because time is money. And you can extract far more for continuous advertising sold over six months or

    • Why?

      ;-)
  • I've always liked Freedom House and often linked to this map as evidence that the countries the US protected ended up more free than the ones the Commies managed to overrun.

    https://freedomhouse.org/repor... [freedomhouse.org]

    Of course when I did that the US left would say that Freedom House was 'a right wing site'.

    Now it seems Freedom House - who are doggedly anti Russia/China and pro US - have released a report which fits the 'Russians influenced the election' narrative and it seems that Freedom House are suddenly a trusted

  • As a tech community, I believe we should ensure victory for one of these less popular candidates:

    (a) Nils Torvalds, Linus's father

    (b) Petrus Pennanen, the Pirate Party candidate

    It's a tough choice between the two, but I think we'll be happy either way, so let's start the social media engineering right away. Alas, we still use paper ballots, so no machines to hack there.

    • Alas, we still use paper ballots, so no machines to hack there.

      You're unimaginatively thinking within the box.

      So, it's a paper ballot. So, people make marks on a pre-printed form, which are then scanned by human eyeballs running the version-0 analogue eyeball to collate a vote count by moving the pieces of paper into piles, which are then counted by other wetware. Attack surfaces ... the wetware are attackable, and always have been. Unfortunately, people have been installing checks and balances into the c

  • Correction: All nations' elections have been impacted by social engineering all years through history.

    Covert? MMmm hmmmmm.

  • I don't think this has to do with social media influencing elections insomuch as it might be used nefariously using "Fake News" to unduly impact outcomes.

    Now in politics, generally speaking in the best of times, one party's "facts" are another's "lies". However there is a bit of a seperation between what might be a difference of opinion based on ideology VS something that is essentially totally made up. This line is sometimes blurred by those politicians that might shall we say bend the truth a bit more tha

  • Whatever happened to "affected"?

    Does everything have to be compared to a meteor strike?

    Or is it possible there was no true "impact", in which case the OP was trolling for clicks?

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