A market failure in the market of ideas. A changing tale of casus belli and war aims. Media organizations targeted by state actors.

In one look.

  • A market failure in the market of ideas.
  • A moving tale of casus belli and war aims.
  • Media organizations targeted by state actors.

A market failure in the market of ideas.

Crowdsourcing of the kind used by wikis, and which is particularly displayed in the largest wiki of them all, Wikipedia, has become an online version of the marketplace of ideas that classical liberals saw as the best path to consensus that approximate objective truth . Wikipedia in particular has gained a good reputation, with fact-checkers rating it as generally more accurate, if not somewhat accurate, than traditionally refereed reference works.

But this market can have its own shortcomings. Vice has a Account of such a failure. It’s an outlier, but it’s an interesting cautionary tale that suggests some of the limitations of crowdsourcing. “A Chinese woman has spent years writing alternate accounts of medieval Russian history on Chinese Wikipedia, evoking imaginary states, battles and aristocrats in one of the open source platform’s biggest pranks.” Since 2019, the writer, Zhemao, had published more than two hundred articles which constituted a long work of painstakingly intersected and interwoven historical fiction, authoritative and sober in tone, and carefully researched. The documentation was largely wrong, but this was not noticed until a novelist, Yifan, who had come across one of his stories and found it interesting and compelling for a work of fiction, tried to find some of the references. They did not follow through, and others drawn to the writings soon revealed an elaborate fraud.

“When we review new content, we only check if it is blatant plagiarism and if it has proper sources,” Yeh Youchia, a volunteer editor who “patrolls” entries, told Vice, adding. : “She [Zhemao] understood the Wikipedia format very well and provided sources that were very difficult to verify. “Editors normally assume good faith on the part of writers. In this case, that assumption was misplaced. Zhemao not only created a world, but created at least four contributors of the sock puppets as well, with whom she interacted , sometimes controversially, to lend verisimilitude to his efforts.

His motivation was interesting. She did not do it for gain, neither for political purposes, nor at the request of any government or organization. She did it because she was bored. Her husband traveled a lot and she had free time. She posted a letter of apology in which she describes herself as a high school-educated person with no working knowledge of Russian or English. “The hoax began with innocuous intent. Unable to understand the scientific papers in their original language, she pieced together the sentences with a translation tool and filled in the blanks with her own imagination.”

We don’t see good alternatives to the marketplace of ideas when it comes to public discourse, but marketplaces sometimes fail. Zhemao says she is determined to learn a trade and stop engaging in counterfeiting. We hope someone can hire him as a writer.

A changing tale of casus belli and war aims.

Or, as Moscow prefers to put it, not a war, but a “special military operation”.

In a interview Along with RIA Novosti, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said NATO’s supply of artillery to Ukrainian forces pushed Russia to expand its territorial objectives beyond Donbass and into southern regions along the black Sea. Russia cannot, he said, tolerate long-range weapons in the hands of the Ukrainian government because they threaten Russian territory. (The AP offers a summary rocket and cannon systems that NATO members have shipped to Ukraine, and the effect these systems are having on the battlefield. The rocket launchers were HIMARS and MLRS; the guns were a variety of 155 mm howitzers. While the guns come from different countries – the United States, France and Germany – they all fire standard NATO ammunition.) So the expansion of the war is again NATO’s fault. . The New York Times has a helpful, brief account of Moscow’s changing justifications for its war, and how those justifications have been adjusted to fit battlefield realities:

“Russian officials have given varying – sometimes contradictory – accounts of their war aims. the Union – and on Wednesday, even as Europe baked in a heat wave for the record books, they made it clear that a winter of war awaited them, warning of energy shortages and calling for solidarity. .. In a speech announcing the start of the full-scale invasion on February 24, Mr. Putin claimed that Russia had no intention of occupying the country or “imposing anything on anyone by force”. Moscow simply wanted to “demilitarize” a neighbor it saw as a threat, he said. He cited the danger of NATO missiles stationed in Ukraine and aimed at Russia – although Ukraine is not a member of NATO and no such missiles are on its soil.”

Russia finds that persuasion is inherently harder to achieve than confusion: getting an audience to believe a particular story is harder than simply obfuscating advice. Russian operators excelled in the latter area, but fell short in the former. Inconsistency doesn’t matter much when you’re aiming for disruption, but it does make building a positive narrative much more fragile.

Inconsistency aside, an essay in the Wilson Quarterly argue that Russia also has another problem: the Ukrainian “counter-narrative”. This is partly a matter of Ukraine’s content (and the general allegiance of that content to facts is a significant advantage), its politics (tolerance and even encouragement of “citizen journalism”, and a willingness to relinquishing the tight, all-encompassing control of messaging that Moscow aspires to), and its style. President Zelenskyy’s fluency as a speaker, the relaxed style he and his government members adopt, and the regularity and ease with which they communicate have largely contributed to the success of Kyiv’s messages internationally. Casual trousers and a t-shirt make a better wartime impression than an expensive suit surrounded by a richly beribboned Ruritanian guard.

Media organizations targeted by state actors.

Late last Thursday Proofpoint published a study recent activities by state actors directed against the media. The researchers find that China, North Korea, Turkey and Iran have been particularly active in media prospecting. “Proofpoint researchers have observed APT actors since early 2021 targeting and impersonating journalists and media organizations to advance their state-aligned demands and collection initiatives.” Journalists’ social media accounts have been of particular interest to threatening groups. Proofpoint suggested that all organizations, not just the media, try to clarify who is most likely to receive this kind of attention, and tailor their training and other protective measures as appropriate.

BeepComputer describe attempts as a preparatory activity intended to serve broader espionage campaigns: “Adversaries disguise or attack these targets because they have unique access to nonpublic information that could help expand a cyber espionage operation.” Their efforts include both identity theft and credit harvesting.

Forbes asked for advice from Proofpoint for working media and journalists. “There are several ways journalists can protect themselves from APT attacks,” Sherrod DeGrippo, Proofpoint’s vice president of research and threat detection, told me. “One is that journalists and their associated media understand their overall level of risk. For example, we have seen targeted attacks on academics and foreign policy experts, especially those working on Middle Eastern foreign affairs, so people working in this field should be especially careful. Another is that if journalists are going to use email addresses outside of their corporate domain, such as Gmail or ProtonMail, they should list them publicly on their website so that public sources can verify whether they are or not from a legitimate e-mail. Conversely, experts approached by reporters should check the reporter’s website to see if the email address belongs to the reporter.

The motivation for such operations varies. Espionage is an obvious goal. But so is influence, the ability to plant and amplify stories. Proofpoint concludes: “Targeting journalists and media organizations is nothing new. APT actors, regardless of state affiliation, have and likely always will have a mandate to target journalists and media organizations and will use associated figures to further their collection goals and priorities. intentions to gather sensitive information in an attempt to manipulate public perceptions, knowledge and the access that a journalist or media outlet can provide is unique in the public space. Targeting the media sector also reduces the risk of failure or discovery for an APT actor rather than pursuing other more hardened targets of interest, such as government entities.”

About Catharine C. Bean

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