Now why on Earth would Israel want to interfere with elections in Africa, Asia and Latin America?
The fact that it has – according to Facebook – raises questions about interference in the UK. Have Israeli organisations been trying to influence our elections.
What about other countries? We hear a great deal about Russia, for example.
But then, can we trust Facebook? This is an organisation that hosts targeted “dark advertising”, which cannot be seen by anybody other than the intended recipient, meaning it is hard to follow and, if it is funded by a political party, it is difficult to track that party’s spending for electoral purposes.
Globalisation is a keystone of the neoliberal ideology pushed by organisations like the Conservative Party in the UK.
I wonder if they realised it meant letting foreign powers try to dictate who would win elections right here.
Facebook has banned an Israeli company for interfering with elections around the world by creating fake accounts and pages to spread propaganda and manipulate voters.
Tel Aviv-based Archimedes Group coordinated campaigns across Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to an internal investigation by Facebook into inauthentic behaviour on its platform.
The social network removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages, groups and events that were deemed to be fake or used to disseminate deliberately manipulative content.
Around 2.8 million Facebook accounts followed one or more of these pages, with various events organised by the pages’ creators.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Theresa May has been accused of a grave abuse of her position, after it was claimed that her national security adviser gave Labour MPs intelligence and security briefings on Syria, on the basis of their support for air strikes.
If the allegation is true, it means that people who were not cleared to receive this information were provided with it – implying a possible breach of the UK’s national security.
The allegation has been made by Scottish Nationalist Party MP Stewart McDonald:
“Intelligence and security briefings on Syria have been used by the Government to manipulate Labour MPs, the Commons has heard.
“The SNP’s Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) claimed he was informed by several sources that the Government has been “selectively offering” briefings by the Prime Minister’s national security adviser.
“He added they appear to have been offered to Labour MPs who are “sympathetic” to the Government’s position.
“Mr McDonald, raising a point of order in the House of Commons, said: “It’s been brought to my attention by several sources that the Government has been selectively offering intelligence and security briefings by the Prime Minister’s national security adviser on the current situation in Syria and the UK military response to it.
“”These briefings appear to have been offered to members of the Labour opposition not on the basis of privy counsellor status but on the basis of those Opposition members who are sympathetic to the Government’s position.
“”That leads to concerns that the Government is using intelligence briefings to manipulate Parliament and to bolster its own case for its behaviour on the Opposition benches – not on security terms, but on politics.””
Mr McDonald repeated his claim on Twitter:
Several sources have told me that the Prime Minister’s National Security Adviser has given Labour MPs intelligence & security briefings on Syria, not on the basis that they are Privy Councillors – and therefore security cleared – but instead to those who support air strikes. https://t.co/d51QBf9Wea
Then there’s the response to people like Mr McDonald, who dare to question the narrative:
Hello children, you live in a country which is a world policeman. No one gave the UK this job. The UK took it and it means your country bombs places where it wants to have influence or wants to help the USA have power. If you ask why, some MPs will say you’re helping tyrants.
Such a response is no doubt on its way to former First Sea Lord, Lord West (if it hasn’t reached him already), after he told BBC News he does not believe the claim that Syrian President Bashar al Assad ordered the alleged chemical weapons attack on Douma that triggered Mrs May’s decision to take part in air strikes on alleged (again) chemical weapons installations.
We have already heard that these alleged installations were nothing of the sort, and that the evidence from Douma was of people being treated for dust inhalation rather than a chemical weapons attack. Now this:
⭕ Lord West tells @BBCNews: “It doesn’t ring true [that Assad carried out this chemical attack]. We know that in the past some of the Islamic groups have used chemicals and of course there would be huge benefit for them in labelling an attack as coming from Assad.” #SyriaDebatepic.twitter.com/T08gDkJVSw
He went on to say he would have advised Assad’s opponents to stage a chemical attack – which is very nearly what Russia warned was planned, days before the alleged attack in Douma (although the Russians said a fake attack was to take place):
⭕ Quite literally a bombshell from Lord West on @BBCNews as he admits that he would advise those fighting Assad to stage a chemical attack for strategical purposes: “I would say wait until there’s another attack by Assad’s forces and we must set off some chlorine.” #SyriaDebatepic.twitter.com/RSKkAEJCgE
And he downplayed the validity of the reports from Douma which were used to justify the air strikes:
⭕ Lord West: “The reports that have come from #Douma are from the White Helmets who are not neutral, and the World Health Organisation doctors who are embedded with the groups fighting Assad. They are not neutral.” #SyriaDebatepic.twitter.com/U8puKvRv6C
And there is one more inconsistency – raised via another current news story. That is Theresa May’s utter failure of compassion for human beings of foreign origin (or indeed, UK residents).
The Windrush scandal has shown that Mrs May does not care about the suffering of other human beings; in fact, she does everything she can to cause it.
So I tend to agree with Tom, below:
Given her disgusting track record at the Home Office the idea that Theresa May gives the faintest damn about the suffering of other human beings is ridiculous, which makes her stated justification of the Syria airstrikes (humanitarian concern) completely & utterly unbelievable.
If you agree as well, then it seems Mrs May has been trying to deceive the citizens of the United Kingdom with a fraud so huge that, if proved, she should be taken out of Parliament and thrown in the deepest, darkest prison cell we have – permanently.
So let’s get on with proving it.
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Why is the DWP not under continual criticism for the way it collects and presents statistics? The intention is always to put forward the best possible impression of the Department – and never to present the facts in a clear, usable way.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been accused of manipulating statistics in an attempt to hide the ongoing barriers, cuts and harassment experienced by disabled people seeking support from a key disability employment programme.
The claims followed the release of new figures which showed the number of disabled people approved every year for support from the Access to Work (AtW) programme had fallen by 15 per cent under seven years of Conservative rule.
The scheme has been repeatedly praised as an effective way of supporting disabled people in work and ensuring they keep their jobs, and provides funding for work-related support such as aids and equipment, communication support, travel to work, physical adaptations to a workplace, and hiring support workers.
Deaf and disabled campaigners cast grave doubt last night (Wednesday) on the figures and suggested DWP was attempting to camouflage continuing cuts to people’s support.
Although the figures show the number of people who had support packages approved in each year, they do not include those who continue to receive AtW support without the need for reassessment, or show how many people lost their support or had it cut after being reassessed.
This means it is impossible to know how many disabled people are currently receiving AtW compared with previous years, or how the average level of support packages have risen or fallen.
Ellen Clifford (pictured, right), Inclusion London’s campaigns and policy manager, said DWP’s document “takes creative use of statistics to a whole new level of unreality”.
She said the motivation for changing the way the statistics were collated could only be to disguise what was really happening “because they now provide a much less clear picture of how many people the scheme is benefiting… The manipulation of figures in this way suggests the DWP has something to hide”.
Richard Thaler: His theory has allowed the UK’s Conservative-led governments to victimise thousands of vulnerable jobseekers.
It is a travesty that the Nobel Prize for economics has been awarded to a man whose theories were used by the Conservative-led Coalition government of 2010-15 to manipulate unemployed people into inappropriate work.
Richard Thaler’s ‘nudge’ theory acknowledged that people frequently make bad decisions in their lives, thus contradicting one of the central tenets of economics – that people will always act rationally for their own good.
The theory suggests that the way choices are phrased or presented – the ‘choice architecture’ can be framed so that it nudges people towards the most beneficial outcome without restricting their personal freedom.
That is not what has happened. Look at the Coalition’s Behavioural Insights Unit, an organisation originally attached to the Cabinet Office, that used the theory to ‘nudge’ people towards decisions that benefited the Conservative Party and not the individuals concerned.
The best example of this is the fake questionnaire put out by the Department for Work and Pensions to manipulate jobseekers into doing what the Department wanted, rather than what was in their own best interests.
In theory, Thaler may have had a point. In practice, the UK government turned it into attempted mind control.
As the Skwawkbox article in the link above states, the questionnaire was rigged to suggest people had strengths that their answers did not bear out: “Untold numbers of people running around trying to use ‘strengths’ that actually have nothing to do with their actual personality – all under the threat of losing their income if they fail to comply.”
So ‘nudge’ theory was used to lie to vulnerable people, and to threaten them with destitution if they did not do as the Tories demanded.
And for this, the Nobel committee has given Richard Thaler a prize?
A demand for an apology would be better – along with financial restitution for all those whose lives have been blighted – or ended – by the implementation of his theory by genocidal politicians.
Richard Thaler has won the Nobel economics prize for his contributions to behavioural economics.
He championed the concept of “nudging” people, through subtle changes in government policy, to do things that are in their long-term self-interest, such as saving for a pension.
“Richard Thaler’s contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making, said the Nobel committee.
“His empirical findings and theoretical insights have been instrumental in creating the new and rapidly expanding field of behavioural economics, which has had a profound impact on many areas of economic research and policy.”
Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].
Bizarrely, this manipulation by right-wing hate-propagandists could have a beneficial effect – Google may end up employing human editors to ensure the company evades any… legal entanglements.
But the issue of fake news is huge. Tom Watson may have made a fool of himself, attacking The Canary for no very good reason, but there is a serious point here.
If right-wing manipulators are spreading disinformation, they are to be countered – or people will make political decisions based on this nonsense and who knows where we’ll end up?
The article states that Jonathan Albright, assistant professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, said right wing websites had launched a new “information war”, and were winning.
His research has shown that fake news and information is a far bigger structural problem than had been previously realised. He has mapped a “vast satellite system that is encroaching on the mainstream news system”.
Websites propagating extreme right wing propaganda have thrown out thousands of hyperlinks that connect to each other and to mainstream news sources, such as YouTube and Facebook, and he says they “are growing in strength and influence every day”.
How do we fight this?
Google must urgently review its search ranking system because of “compelling” evidence that it is being “manipulated and controlled” by rightwing propagandists, leading academics have said, after the Observer reported that hate sites are now dominating searches on Muslims, Jews, Hitler and women.
Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist and the author of Weapons on Math Destruction, said that unless Google acknowledged responsibility for the problem, it would be a “co-conspirator” with the propagandists. “This is the end for Google pretending to be a neutral platform,” she said. “It clearly has a terrible problem here and it has to own and acknowledge that.
“It simply can’t go on pretending that it has no editorial responsibilities when it is delivering these kinds of results. It is simply not defensible for it go on claiming ‘plausible deniability’. It has clearly become a conduit for rightwing hate sites and it must urgently take action.”
Google had removed the lines suggesting that Jews and black people are evil and that blacks “commit more crimes”, but it is still suggesting Muslims were “bad” and that Islam “should be destroyed”. While Facebook has faced criticism in the wake of revelations about how the site had become a conduit for fake news, the problem facing Google is potentially even more intractable.
The DWP closely monitors media output, and compiles a “sentiment of articles” chart every month to make sure that they receive positive coverage.
Ministers have been doing their best to pretend that they never do anything wrong – and have then done their best to hide the fact that this is what they’re doing.
Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know about the DWP?
Officers for the Department claimed that the information was “commercially sensitive”, of all things.
That just leads one to ask why. What commercial contracts would this information prejudice?
Clearly the Information Commissioner was not convinced by whatever argument the DWP produced, because we have our information now.
This Blog is one of the social media sources that offers almost exclusively negative coverage of the Department for Work and Pensions, and it is interesting to note how the DWP treated one of my biggest stories.
In August 2015 the DWP “proactively briefed” the media about the long-awaited statistics which showed the amount of ESA claimants who had died after being found fit for work.
I had no way of knowing this at the time, but this action was successful in ‘spiking’ coverage in the FT (whose editors should have known better), the Express (this is more understandable) and on ITV.
The DWP’s commentary stated that the most critical initial coverage of the statistics misrepresented their details. This was because the DWP had done its best to present them in a manner that would be misunderstood. Still, it was able to secure corrections in the Grauniad and the Mirror which weakened the story.
We are left with a clear message: The DWP is more concerned with distorting the facts – or preventing them from being known at all – than with the facts themselves.
It does not matter to Conservative ministers that their policies have killed thousands of people.
They just want to make sure nobody finds out about it.
Following a 13 month battle, the DWP have finally been forced to release secret documents illustrating the tactics they use to control and manipulate the media.
The documents reveal that the DWP monitors and analyses both mainstream and social media to reduce and manage negative coverage.
And even more worryingly, the documents show the DWP have managed to kill hundreds of stories by making sure that they are not reported.
Almost every month since March 2014 the DWP communications team has produced “Media Evaluation Reports” detailing the ways and methods that the DWP controls negative stories about them in the media.
The reports give valuable insight into a department that is unhealthily focused on the press coverage [it receives].
The fact that they have managed to kill so many stories that they don’t approve of raises serious questions as to how the department is exercising its influence over the free press.
The role of journalism is to bring people the truth behind the DWP’s rhetoric, not to act as the chief mouthpiece for it.
Has anybody else noticed the eerie similarity between the drop in unemployment over the last three months, recorded by the Office for National Statistics (132,000), and the number of jobseekers put on sanction by the Department for Work and Pensions every month (170,000)?
According to a Guardian report, the Lib Dems said the number of sanction referrals has increased from around 60,000 a month in the early part of the last decade to around 170,000 today – and went on to state that around 15 per cent of these sanctions were overturned on the grounds that the decision was flawed.
That means 144,500 jobseekers would be off-benefit at the moment. If the figures show a drop of only 132,000, then unemployment has in fact risen by 12,500 people!
People claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance who have their benefits sanctioned by DWP staff are not included in unemployment counts. Nor are those who have been sucked into mandatory work activity schemes, for that matter…
The Liberal Democrats, you see, want to introduce a “yellow card” system – well they would; yellow is their colour – to give rule-breaking jobseekers a final warning before sanctions are imposed, and DWP bosses a chance to check the facts and avoid mistakes.
On the face of it, this might seem like a good idea – and it would be very interesting to monitor such a scheme, if implemented.
If the claimant count were to rise, we would have proof that the Conservatives have been using sanctions to manipulate the figures.
What an embarrassment: George Osborne should be ashamed of the rubbish he spouted in his speech yesterday (Friday).
George Osborne is flailing.
He’s a desperate man, trying vainly to convince us that the current state of the British economy was his plan all along when anybody with half a brain can see it wasn’t.
Yesterday he was in Washington, trying to convince Americans that he knows what he is doing, but US economists are far too canny to accept anything he says at face value.
His principal claim was that critics of what he and the ConDem inner circle still laughably call “the government’s long-term economic plan” have been proved “comprehensively wrong”. Some of us would like to see his proof of that.
Back in 2010, when Osborne took over at the Treasury, trashed a perfectly good Labour-stimulated recovery and sent the economy into freefall, those of us with any sense said the situation would worsen until it hit the point at which the economy would stabilise of its own accord, without any interference from politicians. Then it would start to improve because demand would start to rise again.
We reached the lowest point possible in the British economic cycle; from there, the only way was up. That is why there is a recovery – and a mean, meagre little thing it is, too. We should be 20-25 percentage points above where we are. Instead, we’re 1.4 per cent behind our pre-recession peak and the money is going to the wrong people.
The only question you should be asking is why this Tory illiterate has held us back.
Osborne told America that the British economy was growing faster than any other in the G7 – which means nothing. When an economy has shrunk more than any other, it is easier for it to grow. It doesn’t mean that our economy will be bigger than the others, although that is certainly the impression that Osborne wants to convey.
He said the growth was “despite warnings from some that our determined pursuit of our economic plan made that [economic growth] impossible”. This was a lie.
Osborne knows perfectly well that nobody said growth was impossible. They said Osborne’s policy would delay any recovery, causing misery for millions of medium- and low-waged people and providing a spurious justification for his colleague Iain Duncan Smith’s purges of benefit claimants – actions that have caused many thousands of unnecessary deaths.
Apparently, to quote members of a previous Tory government, that is “a price worth paying”. For what?
He said: “Fiscal consolidation [austerity] and economic recovery go together, and [the economic turnaround in the UK] undermines the pessimistic prognosis that only further fiscal stimulus can drive sustainable growth.” This is not what the data shows. It shows, as already stated, that the British economy hit rock-bottom under Osborne’s guidance and has now started the long climb upward of its own accord. That is not an endorsement of his policy; fiscal stimulus along Keynesian lines would have arrested the decline and boosted the economy back into growth – as evidenced four years ago, when Osborne inherited an economy that had been growing for five consecutive quarters and sent it right back into decline.
Osborne claimed, yet again, that a Keynesian scheme would create more debt – denying the simple economic fact that the boost it would have provided would have put more money into the Treasury and cancelled the debt far more quickly than his cuts.
It’s obvious, really. Any growth is despite austerity, not because of it. If you take money out of a system, it’s harder for anybody to make a profit on which tax can be paid. Economics 101, George. But you studied history, didn’t you? And towel-folding.
We should also remember that in Osborne’s first Budget he promised – promised – a “steady and sustained” economic recovery. Instead, we had three years in which the economy flatlined. Then he brought in ‘Help to Buy’ – a very crude fiscal stimulus scheme that has created a housing price bubble that is hugely damaging for low earners while putting money into the pockets of people who don’t need it. The economy picked up, because housing relies on other industries, but the crash that is to come might create a worse situation than before.
Osborne wants us to believe that wages will start to rise above inflation, even though the experience of the Americans to whom he delivered his speech is that 95 per cent of post-recession growth went to the richest one per cent of the population. He wants us to believe living standards will improve, but there is no evidence for this at all.
It’s all just another big lie.
Just take a look around you and you’ll see the facts. Osborne was charged with keeping the economy on its knees because that is what the Tories needed, in order to suck the cash from the middle-class, working-class and unemployed people of the UK.
Tories need mass unemployment to maintain the UK as a low-wage economy, creating more profit for bosses while keeping the workers under the cosh.
They need stagnation in much of the economy in order to ensure that the deficit does not go away and the national debt rises, thereby making it possible from them to continue selling off the National Health Service and dismantling the welfare state.
They need a housing bubble in places like London, to ensure that it is too expensive for undesirable poor and middle-income people, ship them out to other towns that have suffered the planned decimation of their economic bases (in order to ensure that they could not make a better living there), and make the capital city a playground for the rich.
And they have done it all by manipulating the media into telling you the worst lies about your own well-being – lies like those in George Osborne’s speech yesterday.
The last 40 years of British history represent the worst decline in living standards for the British people in the entire history of our nation. Never before did we have as much as when the Conservatives came to office in 1979; never before did we have so much to lose.
And we gave it away to liars like George Osborne, just because they had honey on their forked tongues.
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