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Former FBI agent Clint Watts explains why trolls are the bleak future of politics

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Internet trolls helped get President Donald Trump elected in 2016 — and a former FBI counterterrorism expert explained why social media manipulation will become a key strategy for all politicians.

The Kremlin pioneered political trolling by seamlessly fusing hacking and influence, and they used stolen data to mount propaganda campaigns around the clock in countries all over the world — including the U.S. — and that successful campaign will be copied, wrote cybersecurity expert Clint Watts for The Daily Beast.

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“Trolling-as-a-service, one stop shops for analyzing, engaging, and mobilizing online audiences, will be a method all political campaigns seek to exploit in the future,” Watts wrote.

Watts said campaigns would exploit social media data to target voters with ads preying on their emotional vulnerabilities, and then mobilize engaged audiences to destroy political foes while hiding the source of the attacks.

“The world shouldn’t be surprised Cambridge Analytica moved to offer the precursor to trolling-as-a-service,” Watts wrote. “We should instead be surprised that it’s the only one we know about to date.”

He warned that the selection of Brad Parscale, who ran Trump’s digital campaign in 2016, as the president’s re-election campaign manager was an ominous sign.

“If left unchecked, politicians and their political parties, Super PAC’s, lobbyists, and corporate public relations firms will seek out ‘trolling-as-a-service’ to dominate the information space toward their advantage but to the detriment of society,” Watts wrote.

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A template has already been established for using hackers to compromise political foes and then using trolls to stage events, generate a false sense of support and push provocative themes.

“Great reward will come to the entrepreneur with enough startup capital to harvest and correlate large amounts of personal data on distinguishable voting blocs and then mine those details rapidly and incisively by employing machine learning,” Watts wrote. “From there, rented troll farms will deploy sophisticated computational propaganda to alter the information environment and employ humans to act as for-hire propagandists advancing their client’s message and tackling their client’s adversaries.”


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New Zealand may postpone general election after 4 test positive for COVID-19: PM Jacinda Ardern

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New Zealand locked down nursing homes nationwide Wednesday after a 102-day streak without the coronavirus ended, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the outbreak could force her to postpone next month's general election.

Ardern said authorities were scrambling to trace anyone who had been in contact with four Auckland residents who tested positive Tuesday, ending the dream run in which the virus had been contained at New Zealand's borders.

A three-day stay-at-home order for Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city with a population of 1.5 million, was announced on Tuesday night and went into force at lunchtime on Wednesday.

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2020 Election

Android phones to get ‘ShakeAlert’ earthquake warnings — and phones may double as tremor detectors

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Android phones will receive warnings triggered by a "ShakeAlert" earthquake early-warning system implemented on the West Coast by the US Geological Survey and partners.

ShakeAlert uses signals from hundreds of seismometers across the state to trigger warning messages that "an earthquake has begun and shaking is imminent," according to the system's website.

"We saw an opportunity to use Android to provide people with timely, helpful earthquake information when they search, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety if needed," principal software engineer Marc Stogaitis said in a blog post.

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2020 Election

‘Don’t talk about racism, racist’: Trump scorched after claiming Biden-Harris campaign has a ‘racism problem’

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President Donald Trump continued to lash out at Kamala Harris after the California Democrat was chosen to join the 2020 Democratic Party ticket as presumptive nominee Joe Biden's running mate.

At a news conference following the selection, Trump complained about Harris being "nasty."

After 10 p.m. on Monday, Trump tweeted out an attack ad claiming "Joe Biden has a racism problem."

Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's line of attack:

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