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Russia’s ability to manipulate social media is far worse than we previously thought: report

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A new report reveals that Russia’s ability to manipulate Twitter before and during the 2016 presidential election is far worse than previously thought.

The cybersecurity firm Symantec offered that sobering conclusion in a report published Wednesday. It found that the Russian troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency began sowing the seeds of its disinformation and political divisiveness campaign long before the 2016 presidential election before kicking it into full effect during the campaign.

The key findings of the report included that “the operation was carefully planned, with accounts often registered months before they were used — and well in advance of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” It also learned that the IRA had a “core group of main accounts,” which were utilized to manufacture original content for exacerbating divisiveness among both liberals and conservatives, targeting “the most disaffected elements of both camps.” This content included but was not limited to “‘fake news’ outlets.” A much larger pool of auxiliary accounts was used to amplify messages pushed out by the main accounts,” which instead of posing as political organizations or regional news outlets, pretended to be ordinary individuals.

“Most accounts were primarily automated, but they would frequently show signs of manual intervention, such as posting original content or slightly changing the wording of reposted contented, presumably in an attempt to make them appear more authentic and reduce the risk of their deletion,” Symantec said in its report. “Fake news accounts were set up to monitor blog activity and automatically push new blog posts to Twitter. Auxiliary accounts were configured to retweet content pushed out by the main accounts.”

The company also wrote that “while this propaganda campaign has often been referred to as the work of trolls, the release of the dataset makes it obvious that it was far more than that. It was planned months in advance and the operators had the resources to create and manage a vast disinformation network.”

When speaking with Michael McFaul, former President Barack Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, Salon learned about how Russian President Vladimir Putin has a global agenda, which McFaul dubbed “the Illiberal International.”

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“[Vladimir] Lenin and his comrades created the Communist International. I do think Putin is leading something akin to an Illiberal International, not only in our country, but trying to find like-minded individuals, and movements and parties first and foremost, in Europe, in the United States and he’s investing in those relationships,” McFaul told Salon.

He later added, that if Putin succeeds in his goals, “the consequence, I think, is the end of the liberal international order. If he succeeds, that’s what he’s aiming to do. The breakup of states as you have in the UK, the breakup of alliances and NATO, the breakup of the European Union, those are all things that Putin thinks are in his national interest. Tragically, he had some wins lately.”

He concluded that Putin’s ultimate goal is “to weaken the West, and then after if everything worked out the way he liked – that we are just a collection of nation states – he will then forge bilateral relationships with Germany, with the UK, with United States, and with China. Which is to say that I think he’s sober enough about Russia’s potential in the next couple of decades to understand that in that world China would be first among equals. Key to his concept is that there would be several equals. It would become a multipolar world as opposed to a unipolar or bipolar world dominated by the United States and China.”

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‘Dangerous linguistic power’: A historian explains how Trump weaponizes nicknames

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Is Donald Trump the modern day Earl Long?

A three-time Louisiana governor, Long mastered the art of political ridicule seven decades ago by weaponizing nicknames. The hilarious names Long pinned on his rivals, and the rollicking stories he told about them, riveted audiences bored by puffed-up rhetoric.

While Long’s stunts may be remembered as silly hijinks, there was a sly, often deadly serious, purpose to his technique. He used it to get voters to laugh at his foes and to put them on the defensive––a place politicians never want to be. Tucked within Long’s jests were razor-sharp attacks aimed at exploiting opposition weaknesses––hidden swords inside a pea-patch cloak.

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Walmart got a $2.2 billion tax cut — now it’s laying off workers

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Walmart announced it will lay off hundreds of workers in North Carolina despite receiving billions in tax cuts that the Republican Party and President Trump claimed would spur job growth.

The giant retailer will lay off about 570 employees and close its corporate office near the Charlotte airport, despite signing a 12-year lease just four years earlier, the Charlotte Business Journal reported.

The work done at the Charlotte facility will be outsourced to a firm in Arkansas, according to the report.

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Amazon, Google and Facebook warrant antitrust scrutiny for many reasons – not just because they’re large

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There’s a growing chorus of U.S. politicians, antitrust scholars and consumer watchdogs calling for stricter antitrust treatment of Amazon, Google, Facebook and other tech giants. Some even say they should be broken up.

Most recently, U.S. lawmakers launched a sweeping review to determine if these companies have become so big and powerful that they are stifling competition and harming consumers, while federal regulators are also gearing up to take action.

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 ENOUGH IS ENOUGH 

Trump endorses killing journalists, like Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Online ad networks are now targeting sites that cover acts of violence against dissidents, LGBTQ people and people of color.

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