This newsletter is published at techpolicy.substack.com. The following is an excerpt from Edition 13.
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Of Muddied Water, Explosions, The Big QAn(o)on(A) and New Twiplomacy
MisdisMal-Information Edition 13
The Beirut Explosion
The explosion in Beirut once again reminded that in additional to the loss of lives and property, accurate information is another casualty during such incidents.
From nuclear bombs to attacks and Donald Trump, Marianna Spring has a round-up that demonstrates this
🚨 How did misinformation spread on social media after the explosion in Beirut? Rumours about the cause of the Beirut blast quickly went viral in the immediate aftermath of the explosion👇 Here’s what happened THREAD
And I realise the contradiction with my mini-rant about foreign interference above but here Marc Owen Jones details activity from Saudi focused accounts.
And just in case I was able to live that one down, here is Samantha North with a post from @adico that talks about the resurrection of previously de-platformed “South Front”. (Bonus Question: Does de-platforming work? @ me on twitter)
The Big QAn(o)on(A)
Hey, it isn’t my fault QAnon lends itself to some really bad puns.
- Ok, but QAnon is serious business. Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins have done some excellent reporting on the group. They were also on this week’s episode of Lawfare’s Arbiters of Truth series.
- In this conversation with Charlie Warzel, Adrian Hon (chief executive of the gaming company Six to Start) likens it to an Alternate Reality Game:
> QAnon was born on forums like 4chan and 8chan, and the way that people interact with it initially is so purely online. But the effects bleed into the real world much like an alternate reality game. > QAnon uses a phrase like, “I did my research.” I kept hearing that and I couldn’t get it out of my head. This research is, basically, typing things into Google but when they do, they go down the rabbit hole. (remember facts v/s truth) > Many people feel alienated and left behind by the world. There’s something about QAnon like ARGs that reward and involve people for being who they are. They create a community that lets people show off their “research” skills and those people become incredibly valuable to the community. > It is good thing that Twitter is trying to ban accounts and viral conversations around QAnon. It helps reduce the spread. But the reason this is so dangerous is that the little rabbit holes that take you deeper into QAnon are everywhere. A YouTube video might lead you to a Wikipedia page that takes you to another video. Each one is maybe harmless but the combined effect might draw you into the world.
- And some time early on Friday morning in India, Facebook took down one of the largest QAnon groups.
Aside: During the podcast, Ben Collins made a reference to the fact that groups like ISIS have nowhere near the footprint the kind of footprint that QAnon does. It also reminded of a very comprehensive and insightful thread from Daphne Keller on GIFCT earlier in the week.
72% of images, videos, and URLs GIFCT blocks are in this “glorification of terrorist acts” category, so we should know what it means. Which groups get to celebrate violent “rebellion” or “resistance” and which do not? At the edges, that’s an incredibly fraught question. 8/