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Alarmist Takes On Chinese Influence Operations Must Be Set Aside

Lotus Ruan and Gabrielle Lim have a terrific piece in Just Security ‌which strongly makes the case that, “fears of Chinese disinformation are often exaggerated by overblown assessments of the effects of China’s propaganda campaigns and casually drawn attributions.”

The two make clear that there are serious issues with how some Western policy analysts and politicians are suggesting that their governments respond to foreign influence operations that are associated with Chinese public and private parties. To begin, the very efficacy of influence operations remains mired in questions. While this is an area that is seeing more research of late, academics and policy analysts alike cannot assert with significant accuracy whether foreign influence operations have any real impact on domestic opinions or feelings. This should call for conservatism in the policies which are advanced but, instead, we often see calls for Western nations to adopt the internet ‘sovereignty’ positions championed by Russia and China themselves. These analysts and politicians are, in other words, asserting that they only way to be safe from China (and Russia) is to adopt those countries’ own policies.

Even were such (bad) policies adopted, it’s unclear that they would resolve the worst challenges facing countries such as the United States today. Anti-vaxxers, pro-coup supporters, and Big Lie advocates have all been affected by domestic influence operations that were (and are) championed by legitimately elected politicians, celebrities, and major media personalities. Building a sovereign internet ecosystem will do nothing to protect from the threats that are inside the continental United States and which are clearly having a deleterious effect on American society.

What I think I most appreciated in the piece by Ruan and Lim is that they frankly and directly called out many of the so-called solutions to disinformation and influence operations as racist. As just one example, there are those who call for ‘clean’ technologies that juxtapose Western against non-Western technologies. These kinds of arguments often directly perpetuate racist policies; they will not only do nothing to mitigate the spread of misinformation but will simultaneously cast suspicion and violence towards non-Caucasian members of society. Such proposals must be resisted and the authors are to be congratulated for directly and forcefully calling out the policies for what they are instead of carefully critiquing the proposals without actually calling them as racist as they are.

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Bill C-51 aims to ‘remove terrorist propaganda’ from internet

Bill C-51 aims to ‘remove terrorist propaganda’ from internet :

Disclosing identities

Christopher Parsons, the managing director of the Citizen Lab’s Telecom Transparency Project at the Munk Centre for Global Affairs, says that given the top court’s ruling, he’s concerned about ISPs handing over subscriber information.

Before that happens, he says, some sort of judicial process is needed to ensure that Canadians’ personal information doesn’t get disclosed to government unless they get warrants.

Parsons also expressed worry about how expansive the government’s definition of terrorist propaganda will be, especially at what he calls the margins of political and artistic speech.

Given the extent online of what the government calls terrorist propaganda, there’s also a question about the staffing required to find and remove that content from the internet. Parsons noted the challenge the RCMP has getting the resources to take down the vast quantity of child pornography.

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James Clapper, EU play-acting, and political priorities

Greenwald has an excellent piece pointing out just some of the hypocrisy surrounding the Snowden revelations. A taste:

The first NSA story to be reported was our June 6 articlewhich exposed the bulk, indiscriminate collection by the US Government of the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. Ever since then, it has been undeniably clear that James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, outright lied to the US Senate– specifically to the Intelligence Committee, the body charged with oversight over surveillance programs – when he said “no, sir” in response to this question from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden: “Does the NSA collectany type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

That Clapper fundamentally misled Congress is beyond dispute. The DNI himself has now been forced by our storiesto admit that his statement was, in his words, “clearly erroneous” and to apologize. But he did this only once our front-page revelations forced him to do so: in other words, what he’s sorry about is that he got caught lying to the Senate. And as Salon’s David Sirota adeptly documented on Friday, Clapper is still spouting falsehoods as he apologizes and attempts to explain why he did it.

There has been a considerable amount of ‘flak’ – efforts to discredit organizations or individuals who disagree with or cast doubt on the prevailing assumptions that are favourable to established power – exhibited throughout the Snowden affair. It demonstrates quite powerfully that the Propaganda Model, written about in the 1988 book Manufacturing Consent remains a powerful tool of media analysis.