Thursday, November 02, 2017

Eric Schmidt's Google & RUSSIAN HACKERS; (8) Olga Lazin - Olga Lazin added 3 new photos.

(8) Olga Lazin - Olga Lazin added 3 new photos.: What I am surprised of is that E.S. (Eric Schmidt's Google) states that he did not understand how Russian hackers and Putin manipulated Google, and used ITS tools to mingle into the Election process of a democracy like OURS. Due to the fact that my origins are similar to his (born in Sighet, Romania) where we had a dictatorship for 40 years with Nicolae Ceausescu and the infamous Securitate: the question arises then has ES forgotten so fast where he came from? An ex-Soviet satellite country called Romania.

In a range of interviews late this summer, these executives said that Alphabet was actually ahead of the curve on these issues compared to their Silicon Valley counterparts. “Some of the problems that are being created are being created because the [tech] companies aren’t fixing them,” Schmidt told Fast Company. “There are now teams [inside Alphabet] looking at the technology behind information warfare. Not in the military sense–I mean in the manipulation sense.”
In the weeks following these conversations, there has been a stream of revelations detailing how vulnerable technology companies were to the proliferation of Russia-linked propaganda leading up to the presidential election. Just this month, the New York Times reported that the Kremlin-backed news organization RT exploited YouTube and its close relationship with the Google-owned video network to spread propaganda, and the Washington Post reported that Google has found evidence that Russian operatives intending to peddle disinformation spent tens of thousands of dollars through ads on Google’s platforms such as its search and Gmail products.
Google is actively examining these findings. “We are taking a deeper look to investigate attempts to abuse our systems, working with researchers and other companies, and will provide assistance to ongoing inquiries,” Andrea Faville, a company spokesperson, said in a statement.
Some of the research on the problem of fake news is being handled by Jigsaw, a think tank-like subsidiary previously known as Google Ideas. Founded by Schmidt and Jared Cohen, a former State Department policy staffer who worked under Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton, Jigsaw’s leaders consider the group an early warning system for potential threats to Google, and say they first started exploring disinformation in the context of Russia’s response to Euromaidan, the wave of anti-government protests in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014.
“We’ve been looking at the exercises the Russians were doing in terms of disinformation and misinformation to shape that environment for years,” says Scott Carpenter, another former State Department official who now serves as Jigsaw’s managing director and also acts as a liaison with teams at Google and other Alphabet subsidiaries.
Still, it wasn’t until October 2016 that the group assisted in launching a tool specifically to address fake news in the United States. Called Fact Check, the service is embedded in Google News and labels articles using criteria such as whether they include opinion or highly cited reporting. “Before the election, people were like, ‘What the fuck do you need a fact checker for?'” Carpenter recalls. “And then they were like, ‘Oh my god, we have Fact Check! Look! We did it! Google! In Search! Before the election!'”
Google, in response to growing public criticism since that time, has created initiatives to address the problem of fake news. In April, the search giant announced an effort to tweak its algorithm, codenamed “Project Owl,” to stop “the spread of blatantly misleading, low-quality, offensive, or downright false information” polluting its search results, as engineering VP Ben Gomes said in a company blog post.
Despite these moves, a handful of policy experts and former White House and State Department officials told me that Alphabet–like Facebook and Twitter–is not moving fast enough nor investing the appropriate resources to police its platforms. Jigsaw, for example, has just 60 employees, only a fraction of whom are actually working on issues related to disinformation. “To be blunt, Silicon Valley has lived in a libertarian fantasy world with all this ‘Don’t Do Evil’ shit for the last 10 to 20 years, and there is a realization starting to come over Washington that it’s a real uncontrolled industry,” says Max Bergmann, a senior fellow at the liberal think tank American Progress focused on U.S.-Russia geopolitics, who previously served on former Secretary of State John Kerry’s policy planning staff.
But Cohen, who serves as Jigsaw’s CEO and is also a senior adviser to Schmidt at Alphabet, says the company can’t solve the fake news problem immediately. Rather, they are taking a more deliberate approach. “I always tell the team that we’re not reactive, otherwise, one year we’d be working on Ebola, and another year we’d be working on fake news,” says Cohen. Adds Carpenter, “[We’re] trying to tackle this question of fake news but in a way that we think makes sense, not like, ‘Ah! The house is on fire! We need to do something about it!’ Forget about doing anything [yet]; we need to understand what’s actually happening [first].”
Toward that end, in June, Jigsaw sent a team to Macedonia to understand why the Balkan country has become a haven for producing a disproportionate amount of the world’s fake news. “We want to look at what we call ‘networked propaganda,’ the idea that fake news is part of the information food chain that spreads online,” Carpenter says. “How does the food chain work? How does it spread from offline to online back to offline? What are the distribution channels?” Schmidt adds that Alphabet has “gotten very interested in misinformation, how misinformation works, and how it manipulates people. These are areas that are new to me.”
Schmidt and Cohen say one of their biggest concerns going forward is the erosion of truth. That is, as agents of disinformation become more adept at spreading propaganda, there’s the potential that even the tech- and media-savvy will find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between what’s real and what’s fake. “You could be interacting with a bunch of people online, believing you’re talking to Bernie Sanders or Trump supporters, but really, you’re talking to three guys outside of St. Petersburg,” Cohen says. “It really oversimplifies it to just say this is a fake news problem. We talk about it in terms of ‘digital paramilitaries.'”
Schmidt, likewise, references the dangers of “mechanized” fake content on YouTube (say, a video of Hillary Clinton with manipulated audio and visuals to make it sound and look as if she’s confessing to one of the many conspiracy theories orbiting her), and warns of the increasing role bots might play in the national discourse as their interaction skills improve. “How many Twitter accounts are real people versus non-real people? It’d be useful to know if the thing tweeting at and spamming you was a person or not,” he says. “And in Facebook’s case, they’re working hard on this, but how would you know that it was a computer that was spreading viral fake news?”
“One of the things I did not understand was that these systems can be used to manipulate public opinion in ways that are quite inconsistent with what we think of as democracy,” Schmidt continues. “So that’s a really interesting problem, that Google and particularly Jigsaw should be pursuing, whether with fake news sites or more subtle things. Just using the Russians as an example–although plenty of other governments can do this–how would you feel if that stuff gets stronger? Would you be worried about it?” Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be essential to addressing these challenges, he explains, but “it remains to be seen whether some of these algorithms can be used to prevent bad stuff.”

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