Posted by: maboulette | December 21, 2019

Foreign Companies Supported by Russia Have Massive Social Media Presence

social media

55 million Facebook accounts follow YouTube channels that have been developed with support by Russian intelligence and have been online for some time under the name of TheSoul Publishing.  YouTube Channels under the name of Smart Banana, as well as Bright Side are just two channels that TheSoul Publishing is running.  

WELL-KNOWN CHANNELS

This company is supporting some of the internet’s most well-known channel brands and this is content that is shared by many daily – from life-hacks to science, beauty to crafts, offering something for everyone. Among their most popular brands is…Bright Side.  These channels have millions of followers and viewers.  Go to their URL TheSoul Publishing and you can see how many programs they have on YouTube and how unassuming and all American, these channels currently are.

NBC NEWS

But according to news reports from NBC News and the Rachael Maddow show, these are Russian backed disinformation sites posing as just your all-American type YouTube sites.  But these sites will gradually, before the election, change their programming or gradually insert false information and downright lies about the United States, Donald Trump and other topics surrounding the election.  It is a very subtle way of mind-manipulation.

NBC TECH AND MEDIA

Maddow on her Friday night show interviewed a reporter from NBC tech and media department on this company.  Their accounts that were fake, using artificially made user photos together with a pro-Trump agenda were finally banned by Facebook as was The Epoch Times. But Ben Collins said that this occurred only after this company had already cumulatively gathered tens of millions of followers and addresses using clickbait contents and ads bent toward conservative readers.  And this happened due to reporting by the Snopes.com.

OCTOBER 2019

In October Snopes first begin reporting on a media outlet named the BL (“Beauty of Life”), which seemed to be a pro-Trump media outlet whose grasp was quickly expanding all over Facebook and was linked in many ways to The Epoch Times, a company already accused of having many Facebook violations.

NOVEMBER

In November, Snopes reported  “hundreds of fake accounts of largely Vietnamese origin used to promote BL-linked groups without disclosure.”  In that investigation, they made the argument that the outlet’s social media presence was “built on unambiguously inauthentic or fraudulent tactics.”

CORNERSTONE OF THE EPOCH TIMES AND THE BL

A cornerstone of both The Epoch Times’ and The BL’s Facebook approach had been to purchase massive numbers of Facebook ads that seemingly promoted their organizations but were largely indistinguishable from Trump campaign ads. Previous reporting showed that at least 1,929 ads created by The BL, representing around a half million dollars in money paid to Facebook, were removed for violating Facebook’s ad policies. The combination of advertising-policy violations and clearly inauthentic behavior — on top of The BL’s unwillingness to admit its connection to The Epoch Times — raises a serious question: What does it take for Facebook to consider a “media company” a bad actor on its platform?

DECEMBER 13TH

On Dec. 13, Snopes again challenged Facebook to explain its apparent inaction against this “textbook example” of coordinated inauthentic behavior, suggesting that Facebook’s response to The BL was “inconsistent with their own public statements that proclaim a commitment to rooting out such abuse.”

GROUPS

The groups “administered” by these fake profiles appear geared toward attracting conservative Americans who would be receptive to The BL’s explicitly pro-Trump editorial strategy. Those running the groups employ tactics that seek to increase engagement on their pages. As an example, many pages have a pinned post with a picture of Ivanka Trump or other Trump figures and an exhortation to type the word “beautiful” below it, something that improves engagement numbers for the group.

GROUP NAMES

 Representative group names include

  • “Make America Great Again – PRESIDENT TRUMP”;
  • “PRESIDENT TRUMP MAGA #2020”;
  • “Support President Trump KAG 2020”;
  • “USA for President Trump 2020”;
  • “WE SUPPORT PRESIDENT TRUMP #KAG 2020.”

Whatever the group name, the content is the same: pro-Trump memes and links to the BL.com.

BL MODUS OPERANDI

Snopes writes “The BL’s modus operandi appears to go something like this: create a group using one of the over 300 fake accounts or over 73 pages at The BL’s disposal and fill it with a large number of fake BL profiles. Operators of the scheme then shift that group around the BL network, pairing it at times with other official BL pages in order to catch new members. The BL’s Best Videos Facebook page, for example, has served as an admin in at least 25 pro-Trump Facebook Groups, right alongside other BL employees who also act as admins. Ultimately, the group-growing game is one of attrition. Not all of the groups thrive, but the ones that do are usually cut off from having any obvious link to The BL — left to roam free in a meme-polluted wasteland while serving as a broadcast antenna for The BL, their content, prompts to sign up for text-message alerts, and their political agenda”.

DECEMBER 20TH

On Dec. 20, Facebook announced — citing its own “internal investigation” and “open source reporting” — that it had removed The BL’s Facebook presence entirely:

“We … removed 610 accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts that originated in Vietnam and the US and focused primarily on the US and Vietnam … This activity primarily focused on The BL, a US-based media company, and its Pages, which were operated by individuals in the US and Vietnam. The people behind this activity made widespread use of fake accounts … to manage Pages and Groups … Our investigation linked this activity to Epoch Media Group, a US-based media organization, and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf. … The BL is now banned from Facebook. We are continuing to investigate all linked networks and will take action as appropriate if we determine they are engaged in deceptive behavior.”

NOT TRUE

But this is not true – Facebook might have removed some of this network or the BL and Beauty of Life has started to rebuild, but it is quite easy to get to this functioning network.  So, saying that BL is now banned from Facebook, I find hard to believe.

YOUTUBE AND FACEBOOK

YouTube and Facebook presence by these companies are producing what is referred to as “Artificial amplification”.  These companies are all mass producing content both on YouTube accounts as well as accounts of Facebook users that are all generated using artificial amplification to deeply dig into the American experience.

REP. MALONEY

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, member of the House Intelligence Committee, talked with Rachel about his concerns of the treatment of fake media to the 2020 election season and the need to hold Facebook and other social media companies accountable for a more responsible code of conduct.  According to him there is more danger from this foreign based online presence than from hackers hacking election votes on election day from some Russian farm operators managed by the Kremlin.

MASS PRODUCED VIDEOS

What he is concerned about is videos mass produced that are totally bogus yet look quite real but artificially produced and send to millions of viewers addresses from this massive media presence. These videos can have a candidate saying something that is totally false, send to their millions of viewers and those who view these videos have no idea and thus believe everything the video is saying.

 “Hey, I heard him say it in a video that’s good enough for me – he will never get by vote.”

This can really screw a campaign or candidate running for elective office and shows that we have very little to combat these companies that are already dug deeply into our society.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT

Another question is as the election season rolls around, how much help will the government currently run by Donald Trump, give to fight this massive social media presence that is already deeply entrenched in our society?  How ready is the Democratic party to fight this also?

 

 

 


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