tv USC Discussion on War and Social Media CSPAN January 13, 2019 12:27am-1:58am EST
william barr is now counsel at the law firm of kirkland and analysts and served as attorney general for president george h.w. bush. watch the confirmation process for attorney general nominee, william barr, live tuesday at 9:30 a.m. eastern on c-span3. theoday's the 22nd day of government shutdown, shutting the record for the longest government shutdown in u.s. history. continuing to follow it all on the c-span networks. a forum now on politics, war, and the use of a social media. war"o-authors of "like talk about what they have yearsd from five researching their book and identifying strategies of social media influence and how political campaign and others use them.
this is a partnership of three organizations. that diplomacy council, public diplomacy association of america, and university of southern california annenberg center for communication, leadership and policy. our program today is quite timely. if you have looked at the front page of the new york times or the washington post. and very high on the website, always a topic which gets attention. we are grateful to our two speakers today, joining us to address this from a base of years of research on this.
before it became front-page news, they were already working on it. are two speakers are peter singer, he is senior fellow at new america foundation. he has consulted for the defense department defense intelligence agency and fbi. and he has advised a range of entertainment programs. including what i think is still the number one videogame of all time, "call of duty." he has been named by the smithsonian is one of the 100 most influential people in
our other spea everything from corporations like wendy's, to chicago gangs. the wildly different organizations. with different real-world goals. using the very same tactics online to achieve their online goals. there are a series of best tactics, procedures. that are best ways of fighting at like war, whether you are a celebrity, a political campaign to military unit. you see the various tactics being used.
in the news today is how you saw actors trying to shape an election in alabama by mimicking what everyone from the top -- from the trump campaign to russian military units have done in other activities. you get this back and forth. that is the essence of what like war is. one of the messages of the book project is that you better get used to it because we are going to be seeing it again and again. emerson: something we discovered in our research is that something that did not happen in the real-world, but nonetheless a story that goes viral about it, can have been a real political effect on events to come. meanwhile, something that actually happens and receives little attention, might well have not happened at all.
there is this parallel battle space now in which the united states and anyone who wants to succeed in modern conflict has to invest sufficient resources. >> one of the things that the actors in these campaigns want to do is to remain hidden, remain secret. how did you research this? emerson: we draw a distinction between two different types of campaigns. they feed off each other. they are the very public campaigns. those that seek to use social media to amplify their influence and project more power and capability than they might actually possess. the islamic state is an excellent example. there's a second type of campaign, kind of subterranean
manipulation, which takes place out of sight of social media users, but they see the effects. examples here are the intelligence services of the russian federation. bit more about a the research method? peter: i think one of the things that drove us to this project, and we have been at it for about five years, to give you the sense of the scale of us. what drove us is that strangely for a space about connection and networks, is that there was a massive amount of stove piping going on. you have geographic stove piping. the people that were interested in whether it was interested in in terms of researching, in terms of being the journalist writing on it, to the actual people fighting in it on topics
like isis and the middle east, were unfamiliar with and often uninterested in what russia was doing and ukraine. in turn, the people interested in american electoral politics, everything from voters to the journalist assigned to cover political campaigns were unfamiliar with what russia was doing in ukraine. there would be things that would happen that someone, if they can make the connection would go, this is just what russia did in ukraine, but it would seem completely new and unfamiliar for someone looking at american electoral politics. the same thing was going on if you are not just a geographical connection, but topical. people interested in war disconnected from people working in silicon valley. you would have generals saying to us, why they doing x, y and z
and someone in silicon valley saying, they are doing something natural a company would do. the same thing when it connects the research world and the serious world of politics and celebrities and fame. you would have isis do something that was new and renovated, and anyone who knew anything, would be like that is not new and innovative, that is already out there. so we tried to bring these different cases together. another aspect of it is methodology. this is a space where there is just a massive amount of data. you can finally do really big, quantitative, large in studies. there has been this wonderful mapping of what is going on so you can map out, here is what russian sock puppet accounts were doing. here are the 60,000 different
accounts that isis was doing. that was different from people interested in say military history or communication studies with a field of psychology or public diplomacy. you found those connections were not being made. the final methodology we applied is very rarely were people speaking to the people at work in the field. we went around interviewing this wildly diverse set of people, everything from tech company executives to recruiters for extremist groups, to people working in public diplomacy at the state department to the military both active duty and retired people that later would make the news in a major way. for example general michael , flynn to celebrities. people who appeared in mtv realm -- reality shows and the like. by bringing these different
people together, we found inside -- we found insights that cut across. i think that is part of the fun of the journey. and the fun of the book. but it also allowed us to make connections and draw insights that otherwise would not be possible. emerson: it was remarkable to track this issue big event then were operation of pillar daynse, an eight inconclusive air campaign between the idf and hamas.
and the u.s. military relaxed regulations on social media is overseas. we see in kenya al-shabab mallhes an attack at the and a three-day running sees and kills -- that is what gets us in this unique position. >> there is another difference about the topic from one's that i worked on in the past, is that you can both study it but you can also jump into the fray yourself. throughout this period that we are doing this gathering of, whether it is the interviews to pulling in lessons from what
does a telegraph due to international diplomacy, we are also doing everything from trolling russian trolls, setting honey traps for them so they reveal themselves and we learned from that. to adjoining -- online armies for different nations out there. it is a little bit of -- in other spaces like sports reporting, you sometimes have seen writers join a sports team. george plimpton, there is a famous scene. part of what we learned from this was by doing studies of other spaces. >> in all of this research and interviews you have done over the years, are there one or two,
that stood mething out that spoke to how social flatten eed political dialogue and ability for unusual actors to have an outsize voice in international conversation as the number of times that there were young girls who were major political players. we have a domestic example to hilda liziak an investigative reporter in pennsylvania., she launched her newspaper at age 7. her first major story was the birth of her baby brother and subscribe are account
dozens but he because she was hype are local r local and good she as first on the ground to report on a local murder investigati investigation. quite quickly not necessarily the murder but the fact that she leading the coverage f it became an international sto story. enterprising l american journalist but there girls. other 7-year-old one which i think a lot of folks familiar with is faun afra abed the 21st century ann frank gave us unprecedented understanding of what it was for civilians suffering a
besiegement. startedther gorilla who jana sh girl who started g jihad working out of the west mother's i-phone o document roadblocks and operations and said she is a journalist but her smartphone a kind of weapon and vastlyst illustrates how different there terrain is, how eople with virtually no resources can nonetheless come such vast attention and power and influence. , i think, is relevant to a lot of folks athered in this recommend in public -- this room in public but macy we had a fun strange experience where we nterviewed a young man named spencer pratt. if you know pop culture you will
be familiar with him. if not, he is a person who broad the kardashians into your lives. he originally was a producer of that brought how them on to the screen. he then decided that he wanted be a celebrity himself so he finagle reality his way on to a show where he met his wife, and they became kind of a celebrity phenomenon called and at one time there ere the highest paid reality celebrities even more than the president. bit of a dered him a rival. the two of them talked us -- incredibly nice but us through how they in essence manipulated in media to achieve their goals and their goal was
celebrity. they reinforced the key lessons the ew in the book one on importance of the power of narrative. , after of days later talking to spencer who is this california bro', we go to the state department and meet that is in charge of countering isis online. and very quickly we realized spencer got it and the didn't.epartment team that he intimately understood how to win in this space and we as a nation, as a government, were not going to do because at the time the people that were running this counterisis operation didn't get it and we even had this internal hould we maybe link them up with spencer out in malibu. ut the point is that it
captured this sense of the trangeness of this space and yet how insights could come from spaces of since then we have seen how both in politics and in national people drawing from the spaces of celebrity both for worse. and that echos something that merson brought in, the duality of this. ne lesson of the little girl actors is how social media can is power where it used for good or where it is violence. the same tactics have the same twin effect. you say the state department didn't get it. do you think they are getting it now? can't resist.
some have advanced in areas, but there are other areas whe still frankly, it doesn't. one of the issues is striking a between trying to credibili lity but credibility. of there have been a couple campaigns where it particularly back feared for the state department. hash tag swagger one would illustration of one that had one intent and had an opposite effect. we want to get to audience questions in a moment, but it like this has no rule. rules.ike war without is that correct? thoughts to f consider. the first is that the truth is there.
there was a time when there was expectation that if you were, say, conducting a h-level negotiations or secret special operation omewhere in the world this would stay hidden. no more guarantee because of the proliferation of smartphones an social media. there are numerous examples. to is the int tweeting of the 2011 raid to capture and kill osama in pakistan. only a few people knee about it onducted -- only a few people know about it conducted by the most specialized teams but nonetheless there was a i.t. guy up late working on a project and hears
it copters and tweets about because they are keying him up. immediately when obama is media can link that story with his inadvertent reporting and that provides a new source of information. sensors and d of available information has only exploded since then. in addition f this srrt live tweet iing pakistan h internet penetration of 6%. be, if oon there will fact there is reasonable expectation there is a smartphone or some evidence that you go ck you if somewhere. in the back we spoke with a more officer who said than a twepbg of reyet -- twinge withgret that secrets come a laugh life. but -- half life. ut it is easier than ever to hide the truth. the new form of censorship so much involve state authorities scrubbing away
don't that they particularly like or don't find to keep the ying truth from the population that way. easier to is were just sew 10 or 12 other to exist alongside the evidence of one nugget of discredit all possible explanations for something. nd, of course, russia is the progenitor and principal pioneer f this information tactic today. >> i think given the idea of the there but it can be buried under a sea of lies. terms think of that in of international conflict to isis operations to u.s. domestic politics, to how teenagers act online and the like. a thread that runs through that. virality, what goes viral or not is what wins
out. the networks were designed not veracity. they were not designed to reward the truth. award re designed to virality. make s how the companies profit. that is the business structure of it. a series of here's you drive something viral or not. lyon nd this just utter engaging how terly the same tactics can be used by different actors. is the power of narrative. another is the idea sounds like is ntradiction but it planned authenticity. both theexemplified by elebrity taylor swift but also j isis as top
recruiter. both had the understanding that as real mattered the most and it was them who would .ngage out there hey would both -- taylor swift taylurking and she would monitor what fans were talking about and personally them.e with it might be congratulating somebody on passing a driver's license test. it could be consoling somebody who broke up with already boyfriend. her.ally is but she would do it in knowledge that the whole world was watching. so, it combined this different nature of social media from communication where it is simultaneously a went is being -- but it one-on-one conversation but introduced it the world and
hussein would do the same and does the same thing. and it might be trying to do when he positive way harps but it could be in a way an rawing attention, internet beef, engaging in an argument. calling somebody names on a basis with the intent of the whole world is watching then i can draw attention to me and pull attention from some topic. and again trump mastered this before his n well eye turns to politics he realizes that this is the way to win -- for him to win on line and then to win at politics. a series of lessons of winning at virality, which then achieve your other goals, whether it is to sell r albums, recruit somebody to join your terror recruit somebody to vote for you. the same tactics win out.
>> we will have microphones on both sides of the rooms, so we your questions and comments. i'm looking at arnold. what should or can the any of us do about this? of the last series section of the book is all on the what can we do about it and important to have this because right now there's a lot this space y around and we feel it is all for the worse and there is no turning back. first as we lay out in these examples there is always a negative nd illustration of the use of the lessons. feels like the negative side has won out for two reasons. is that we had this sort t everyoechno optimism where
we assumed it is better and social media with re e democracy. facebook had as a marketing line more we connect the better it gets. was -- that had one mean line 2011 and now that the more we connect the better it gets coming from facebook was little bit creepy because post elections it d revelations about loss of privacy and we are on the other techno re we have pessimism. one way and nging now we are swinging the other. say no, it is o both. second is the forces of bad have because they ore have better understood lessons. they have been more willing to
them into place. to directly answer your question hat can we did on the governmental side. one is to understand that this is a battle space and battle space that matters. there's a lot of parallels with what played out the last 15 urity years where we went from not bag saying we need to recognize that it is an issue security, rsonal economic security, and national to rity apnd it needs reorganize around it and did everything from develop a .ational strategy we have a national strategy for cybersecurity. this otherve one for form of online threats. involve security will everything from reorganizing at the agency level all the way helping digital literacy. strange that the u.s. government provides funning for
students -- funding for ukrainian students to learn identify russian disinformation threats but we on't have that for our own populace. ou can see that with public diplomacy issues external to the domestic side. ome of it may be creating new organizations, new programs. others might be bringing back programs. back during the cold war we had the active measures working group. brought together everything from spies to diplomats, to broadcasters, to educators, to identif identify, at the time, soviet active measures. .g.b. campaigns designed to plant secrets in cold war battle fields. stories, basically trying to harm. the difference today is that it soviet union and the battlefield is not some
third world. government and the battlefield is facebook. twitter.lefield is we don't have an equivalent of the active measures working interring a us an aspect it bring together the u.s. around. things government can and should did but just like sooner arallel of security there's in role for the private sector. as e's in role for us individuals. if you want to speak it the quickly side i will hit the private sector site. one of the other changes that on in this spwaeus is - has gone on is purr of companies but if the companies at large but a handful of actors in them. we have entered a space that is that study r those issues like war where handful of people are among the most powerful
politics all war and today and they never set out for hat role and they are really not all that interested in war an politics. berg set out to write allowing you to rate the hotness or not of fellow schoolmates. that is the origin of what was called face mash. not just one of the world's most profitable and makingl companies, he is decisions on everything from information an dis warriors be allow you had to use forms form and what should i turn a blind eye to engages in genocide. -- what are the rules and what kind of investments should against y make recruitment by radical groups
isis to american neo-nazis. of he alone has that kind power to essentially tilt the belt field one way -- one way or another and that can affect the outcome elections to from wars themselves. ne thing we're watching is the companies but more so the individuals come to grips with that power. and we have likened them to sanction parents going through stages of grief at what has happened it their babies. stages, u know the initially they are in denial and ow they are in the form bargaining, saying i will do g y.t i'm not going to do that is a imagine political issue not just in the united but pretty much any government is this bargaining back and forth in terms of the but also the individuals at the -- as they
ome to tkpreups with the power -- grips with the power they have. >> this is a giant question to on.ve us for us as individuals, very briefly unfortunately we've less power than government. we have less significantly less ower than social media companies. but something we can do is to begin it think of this asineering of misinformation a new kind of public health craves. crisis. a armful story spreads and lot the same way a virus does. starts by being shared by and a bit anding somebody more credulous or vulnerable to stuff. but once it has been shared by person, others in their etwork are more likely to believe it and share it. loveis broadly returned as
of the same. it is a very human instinct. social ebody in your network tells you something you on. more likely to pass it that is good because that helps us build societies. speed and when a false story or headline can of and the attention millions in a few hours it can be devastating. satisfy friends or -- see friends or neighbors sharing nformation this is not quite true it is up to us to comment you might want to check up on offer that contrasting point of view early in the process. it is also then the role of sufficiently society to invest aggressively in information literacy programs -- we e way away invest invest in public health programs
schools.n want to circle back to government. something i have been thinking about the last couple days. in 2017 the state department was $100 million for public diplomacy initiatives. it was allowedof to be spent. center had hiring rozen and didn't have any russian ling quizzes on staff. trump administration at any time have a cabinet level idea of n the whole information operation and influence until late 2018. cabinet level meeting focused almost exclusively on voting machine security and very little on this comment.
he reason there is the look of focus is perhaps because emphasis on this draws in the question the president's mandate.c regardless of reason, if there wenot the focus from the top will they have be prepared to deal with these issues. new e sentence from the york teams story about what no ened in alabama is that laws were broken. legal so far.y >> thank you. from three weeks in hina after a three-year absence. nd we found that people weren considerableably wedded to their i have far greater than seen in the united states. of course -- everybody a two-way it was street because the iphone is an
well asnt of control as getting information. and it seemed to me that this future. the because chinese seem to be well head of this kind of technology. i'm wondering if you have looked into that and whether you had any comments on that particular situation. >> there's a great kind of connection point in your in that the very first social network online when you origin to literally the of the internet was actually a that built around ssentially geek scientists basically people from the quivalent of "big bang theory" characters talking about what was the pwbest science fiction d it is a very appropriate start for this space and as you head
in china in ave use off the both massive cutting across all the different engagement in society, thisyou look at the use of smartphone for everything from you have a system that combines everything from social networks to online one.ing, all packed into the equivalent of all of facebook, google, hem combined and it was very si sci-fi and it is. ut the other side of science fiction is that it has created he what is a potential and is becoming a reality of science iction level of control that even a george orwell wouldn't be able to imagine.
social credit system. if you are not familiar with it, combined ntially a kind of -- and again the company s in china and state linked so you have the ability to gather data on all of the different a person's life and it will be used to create a score of eric someone's perceived of tworthiness in the eye the companies and the government itself. but like a credit score goes beyond it. or example, if you by diapers your score goes up because you are a good parent. video games for too long, your score goes down because you are screwing around. is a network, so it is not the your own activity but activities of all the other people in your network. your brother f
at ains about the service the city run, the government run he is a complainer. your score goes down too so you brother and say knock it off. matters because it translates into real world potential unishments and they might be micro-level rewards, free charging of your phone at a shop, to you what get flights, to you want get access to beds on overnight score is too low, to your score is being moved for job evaluations. if it is too low you won't be -- eligible to being internet dating. if it is too low in the eyes of
be government it will also too low to be matched with or one who is attractive forth. so, this again feels very fiction but points to what emerson was talking about how this level of observation can be used to drive people toward kind of real world activities. kind of a different krpbs sore ship because -- ensor slip because it is not screening things but steering society as a whole toward behavior that f the government wants. >> china is the predominant how a deeply society can nected nonetheless remain authoritarian. you probably saw a lot of folks wuone super app
uber, facebook,f twitter, yelp. and it is extraordinary. friends in china who love using the app. he down side is all of that data is freely accessible to the government. aware of that data. >> right. that is the trade after you take. that is the basis of the social credit system that peter talked about. things no note on the totality and chinese ation of this system here, there are still formal censors. there is a wonderful times talked last week that about how government censors oday go through a course and continue pheu1 tienemen square they are not working for the working for r
praouf private krrs who are hired to the laws of the chinese communist party. added to this is an estimated 3 million folks who at least casually host online about how much they love the and the intent there censor ormuch to even discredit or actively attack make them s but to seem a smaller the objective of all of these things working in tandem is to make political expression more trouble than it is worth. it has always been the focus of the chinese government not to
eliminate the dissident expression entirely but rather ensure that there are breaks in place that it never achieves critical mass and viral momentum. what makes social media different from these previous social mobilizing technologies is that one person can make note of something and can very quickly start a movement. if you have breaks in place to stop that from happening, then you can enjoy all of the good things about the internet or economic growth while maintaining totalitarian and political control. peter: and it also leads into two other things. the first, the parallelism of that program of creating a seeming online army of voice of people, a popular opinion that
maybe is not popular. but is sort of created. that has parallels in american domestic politics with the practice of what is known as astroturf and. astroturfing is the evil twin of a grassroots movement. a grassroots movement is -- astroturfing, one of the first examples we saw of this was back in the 2012 election, the first early example of people buying mass numbers of fake followers and bots online. for example, newt gingrich is running a presidential campaign and is later reported to have bought over one million followers. it looks like one million online followers, so it looks like he has this movement behind him.
but, one million of them are essentially fake. so the policies he is pushing for, one was famously a moon base by 2020, they seem like they have support and they don't. that idea of an astroturf movement, you can see that moving everything into the 2016 election to we will see it in the 2020 election. the foreign-policy question relative to what you saw in china is will that model that they have achieved be exported or not? we have seen everywhere from cuba to vietnam, interest in government in having what they call, the chinese model. there is a foreign-policy question for the united states. do we push back against the export of that chinese internet model? and what are we offering in opposition, itself? -- if so? >> that is an interesting
question for public diplomacy. greta morris? >> thank you very much. thank you for a very interesting comment. i want to go back to earlier, you mentioned this person named spencer who really seemed to get it. but the state department countering isil folks did not. i am wondering if you can comment a little more about what spencer did that was so effective? then, if i could follow up with a comment. i would be interested in your views. it almost seems like that the next presidential candidate should take the lesson that if you are not a master or mistress of this kind of social media use, you really have no chance of being elected president. that seems to be the avenue to political success as well as success in countering disinformation or whatever other things you want to counter in terms of international relations.
the telegraph -- abraham lincoln does not become president in a pre-telegraph era. the telegraph is what carries the story of his debates with douglas and gives this little-known -- actually does not win the election in illinois. gives him notoriety to television. the stories of how it changes -- i'm sorry, the 1960's, and political candidates have to be telegenic, an idea that would not have mattered before hand. the same thing is played out with social media. it is noteworthy in lots of different ways. one of the interviews we did was with a top political strategist who went through all of the different ways that donald trump should not have won in 2016. not morally, but he ticked through all of the advantages his rivals had both for the republican nomination and then against clinton. all of the old measures of campaign cash to the number of
offices, to newspaper endorsements, and he basically says come it did not matter because the rules have changed. those rules are now in place, and trump joined social media at the age of 61. every now politician who will run for whether it is president to mayor, to student council, will have joined before hand, they will bring a trail of stories behind them. they are going to have learned the lessons of what works, what doesn't. it is here to stay. i think you can again see the changes, a great one we play with the book is the back-and-forth of the story of george allen and eight o'rourke. -- and beto or work. george allen was a republican senator from virginia who many people thought had the inside track to the republican nomination. something emerson was talking about. the change of a world of observation. he does a campaign stop at a rural part in virginia.
he says a remark that is racist. in the past, it would not have been noticed because it happens in the middle of nowhere. but this new service called youtube has just started. that remark, the macaca moment, goes viral. george allen never wins another election. because he is surprised by the idea that there is someone with a camera watching him. move forward, beto o'rourke, his celebrity, his campaign was built about a full embrace of social media. he is constantly taping himself and sharing it with the world. and it brings him notoriety beyond texas. he is one of the potential nominees for the democrat. you see a change in both tactics but who it draws and. -- draws in. that is not just in the united states. that is happening everywhere. what has played out in brazil is a good illustration. you can hit the other question if you would like. emerson: sure. so, what we mean when we talk
about -- the contrast between the lesson -- peter: what spencer had. emerson: spencer was understood -- pardon me. peter: spencer understood two different things. one was the power of narrative. narrative matters not just in writing, but basically hits are very psyche, one of the first studies in psychology way back in the field -- back in the 1940's, they presented a film to test subjects that showed three shapes, the circle, a triangle, and a square. the shapes are interacting.
the test subjects, all but one of them came up with stories to explain what was happening. the circle was mad at the square, the triangle was sad. one of the things the test subjects do also is they put gender on top of it. a he, a she. talking about the circle and square. only one of the test subjects does not see narrative in what is just again shakes interacting. it is basically the idea that we are all hardwired for story. spencer got that and used the story in everything from how you explain it to others, to the importance of characters and the like. he used that to drive his own name toward celebrity. another thing he got was the back-and-forth of drawing attention, and how that can be used for you. but also can be used against you. to carry this over to the story
of the counter isis, one, in no way shape or form did they get the power of story of narrative. they felt like if they pushed out a fact that that would win out. another thing they did not get was attention and how attention can be something that you use for yourself but it can backfire upon you. there is this weird moment, probably the strangest moment and all public diplomacy history, where the u.s. state department argues back against a single isis member account and a says, you are not telling the truth, that image that you are presenting to the world is actually hungarian pornography. which first raises the question, why is the u.s. state department arguing with someone about hungary and pornography? and second, why are they granting to this single isis member of the full attention of the united states government? it is like shining a spotlight. giving this single isis member exactly what they want. it is this strange moment that illustrated that they did not get it.
they thought fax would matter over everything -- facts would matter over everythingthey did not understand in this game that they were essentially -- it was like shining a spotlight in a battle against a network. emerson: i will add a few things there. to the credit of the state department, spencer pratt is not a massive government bureaucracy. even after -- i think we were talking about the center for countering terrorist communications, which initially contracted out folks individually replying on twitter, to isis of dissidents saying, actually, this is not her wrong. it was not a great messaging approach and it was thoroughly vested by the u.s. press. the global engagements entered is created as an interagency organization to draw money for the -- from the defense department because there is no money to be had in the state
department. it is then -- it's been a points mike lumped in he is familiar with these issues. well, when you are leading an interagency organization almost invariably, you are at the bottom of the list to get attention and national security -- in the national security meetings. he has to navigate that. he discovers his most effective investments are in local groups that do not bear the moniker of the u.s. government on the. that is great. how do you report this respect -- those results to congress which is eager to hear about how you prevented new recruits from coming to isis? and how do you prove that counterfactual in the first place. those are the issues that confronted the gdc. and unfortunately, we are still not that much closer to solving them.
i wanted to circle back to the president question. i think any competitive candidate in the future is going to have to be very converse of social media, and is going to have to use it themselves. they will not be able to delegate that duty to a staff or to a chain of authorities where it takes multiple people. in the case of the hillary clinton campaign, as many as 11 folks reviewing a tweet before it was approved. trump was super late to the social media game. but because he understood branding, so intuitively, he knew, and we hit this lesson again and again in the book, one of the roles, he knew the best way you command attention is impolite terms, throw as much crap at the wall as possible and see what sticks. he didn't always have an intuitive idea of what would go viral. but he knew that the media and public attention would find a few of them. we see in the emerging social
media celebrities now who are the emerging generation of american politicians, the most successful ones are and will be those who every day are out there selling multiple sewing line -- storylines. peter: there is a lesson in this. you asked about the politician, but there is also hope political campaigns are organized in their strategy. trump won the attention war, the media war, on twitter. he gets the equivalent, dependent on the study, somewhere around the equivalent of $5 billion worth of advertisements and attention from what he is able to drive with his twitter strategy. but his campaign wins votes via facebook, where it had a very good strategy that allowed it
to, through its own means and gains from others, achieve massive amounts of data that allowed it to both simultaneously push out huge numbers of messages, but simultaneously micro target. brad par scow, the campaign manager, talked about he was able to target and add toward 14 people in a town in a florida panhandle in a way using facebook ads, in a way that you would not have been able to do with tv commercials and the like. you are going to see every future political campaign operating in that way. to hit what emerson was saying, one of the flaws of the hillary clinton campaign was not just
her twitter account where you have this bureaucratic approach, but they were aware of the internet. they arguably lost in 2008 in part to obama because of his use of the internet. they knew about it. but like every other army, they are fighting the last war. they are structured for a 2008-2000 12 campaign. the internet has changed in 2016. same thing moving forward. you will see playing out in 2020, who gets it? not just to gets it in terms of the individual politicians broadcasting themselves and using these strategies, but are their campaign -- are there campaigns organized to engage and like war or not? emerson: the last thing i will leave you with. perfect for the upcoming presidential election. in the last month, beto o'rourke, elizabeth warren, and alexandra cortez have done instagram live streams from their kitchens. how often has that happened in previous political cycles? it hasn't. but we are absolutely going to see more of that in the future. that is a vivid illustration of how rapidly this battleground -- peter: your kitchen and instagram is the equivalent of
the new hampshire diner and a tv camera. right? it is the way of showing that you are real. >> fascinating comparison of abraham lincoln and/or o'rourke losing the election but winning the popular idea. >> i win on asian programs at interviews. you talked about the rules for going viral. i think it is a really interesting phenomenon that a lot of them are based in strategies for propaganda. i worked -- but worked for a long time. i'm wondering, a lot of those are based on this algorithm that, for instance facebook has set up that it is not value the truth, but eyeballs and money. if this algorithm were to be changed come to value
truthfulness, the companies are coming under scrutiny, for instance, in myanmar. would that change the rules? would that change how people communicate on these platforms? i think it also brings up interesting questions about whether the ways people communicate are responding to the platforms now, howard psyche is changing. i had a separate question on whether you looked at communications in more private channels? private facebook messenger or whatsapp groups? emerson: the second question first. private channels to a lesser extent simply because they are hard to track. even for folks who are doing a lot of on the ground research, the only way to get in these private channels is to actually stay -- say, in the case of brazilian elections, have been there and be part of the same whatsapp groups that are sharing information.
this is a huge challenge for people who want to study these issues because oftentimes, the only way we know what information is being shared is if you are part of those groups. and also, most coverage to date, are more western nations. whatsapp is not the predominant means of communication in the west. it is in brazil and india. not to bias is covered but i am glad you brought up the social media companies. it is one of the biggest takeaways in what constituted our research for this project. is that all of this battle for attention is not playing out in some neutral battlefield. it is playing out in an environment that has been engineered by basically a handful of americans who have come up in silicon valley, generally white, male,
upper-middle-class, and who now have announced their political influence over the whole world. to your question about if the algorithms were reengineered to favor truthfulness, i think that would be market dramatic and positive change. that raises questions of how you possibly do that, except retroactively. more and more investment and content moderation and that is the direction the company's are moving in. also, the moral, political, and ethical questions of to what extent are we willing to have private american corporations arbitrating the nature of political truth versus a public organization or some sort of public trust or some other entity? we are going to move toward a
point where i think the governments around the world will demand a more active role in the content moderation policies and procedures of these companies safely because so much political discourse takes place on these platforms now. >> i would follow-up about your question about the ethics of defining truth, that i think there has been a lot of gray and discussion around the issue, but i think in the cases, for instance, in india where misinformation shared on whatsapp has led to 62 lynch lovings in 2018. there is truth in falsity. there are certain cases where that can be defined. emerson: an example i'm thinking of -- there are clear-cut cases. something that has stuck with me, i think it was an interpreter, times article, came out on the 28th, there was a new leak of the massive facebook
content moderation guidelines handbook and there was essentially guidance that typically the discussion of the taliban is verboten. it is moderated or deleted if you express pro-taliban sentiment. an addendum have been added, the discussion of the taliban in the context of a new cease-fire proposal was permitted. again, i agree with the general sentiment. that is a deeply political decision that is made not by the american government or the government of afghanistan or anyone knows that has a public constituency, but by an american corporation. peter: i think what we are seeing is an evolution of a couple of things. it links back to your question relevant to political campaigns. the first is the change in how we view these companies themselves. once they were the bells of the ball.
the companies that were most admired and the like across the political spectrum. now, both the right and left wing see political value in beating up on these companies, for better and forwards. not just inside the united states whether it is in europe and the like are the companies, their reputation has shifted to the others. i have become political issues. i don't think that is going away. the discussion of whether and how to regulate these companies is a political campaign issue. in upcoming elections in a way that it was not in the past. the other evolution is what emerson was getting at. how these companies view themselves. at one point of time, they were saying, we don't want to be the "arbiters of truth." to use a zuckerberg statement. to go back to how i was saying,
the denial to bargaining. in the most recent american fall election, facebook said we do not want to be an arbiter of truth, then says, ok, if you are spreading false information about the upcoming election, where to vote or the like, we can boot you off the network. twitter is doing the same. the company has gone from saying we are not an arbiter of truth, to on certain issues, we have decided we will be an arbiter of truth. where this gets sticky is on issues like, for instance, extremism. in content moderation, isis, all the different companies were ok with a booting off isis members. they will say to congress, you
are mad at us about russian information, but let us talk to you about the things we did against terrorist groups. ok. but what about, for example, far right extremism in america? oooh, now it got kind of awkward to should you be allowed to call for violence in those cases? what groups, if you show, for example, and isis black flag on your twitter account, that image, the ai kamal griffin, has been set up to automatically boot you. but if you put a 1488, which is a lingo of white supremacist groups on it, we have not set up the algorithm to be to you. there are these political debates inside the company's to what is allowed or not. they have become part of. in terms, that in turn, we will see a political debate to decide
it, do we continue to allow them to decide, or will government make that decision for them? so far, europe says government's will decide for you. in the united states, we have deferred to the private companies themselves. >> when you begin your discussion comey you talked about various groups you observed. individuals, political groups, countries. and almost had a playbook. at how you go about spreading disinformation or getting bots and putting that information out there. flipping to the other side which has been touched upon, how does this not turn into a continually escalating game of whack a mole, when you are at a individual, company, or country trying to stop what you know is wrong,
when you are a candidate who can say, i was not even in office, that was two years before i was in office when that happened? and you can say that, but it seems as though, you put out one fire and more spring up. if it is that easy to go to war, and weaponize social media, how does the social media user or consumer become more savvy or band together or somehow have an advocacy group that is acceptable to government and private industry to combat it? peter: great question. it circles back to an earlier question of what can we do? the what can we do is going to play out on multiple different levels. one is the level of government. there is this strange inside irony that the united states is the nation that invented the internet, and we are now the example that other nations .2 of, don't let what happened to them happened to us. and defense officials and other nations, we are the bad example, we are the victim example. it goes back to when emerson was saying. it is sad when we know that and yet, our government is still in that mode of denial and not organizing around it.
the good side of that is that there are series of things the governments around the world, democratic governments have done to better secure themselves and still retain respect for rights and privacy. in particular, to what has played out in the baltics, which are the best at this in part because they are the first to be targeted by russia. one of the things they have there is a government basically almost akin to sharing information about bad weather, or hurricanes coming, here is an incoming information assault from another nation. here's something that is about to go viral that is a false story that has been pointed. that not only aids government and media awareness, a different example of this in norway. the media companies compete against each other. they are corporate rivals. that they share in fact checking. they have these checks on false stories that not only allow people to see them in coming,
but also makes it easier when u.s. and individuals, when your relative shares it, you are able to say, that is the false story. here's the origin point. it is not organic. it was originally planted. here's the russian bot account. there is a government level to that down to your individual level. there is a company role in this. one of the things the companies have to deal with to echo back to the parallel of what emerson was saying of public health is the role of what are known as super spreaders. in public health, when disease viruses spread, we are all not equal. there is almost always a small number of people that are the key vectors of the spread of disease.
they are called super spreaders. it is the same thing in online misinformation, disinformation. one of the interesting things about this is that there is actually an alignment in some of the worst ills online. when there was a data study of, who were the accounts that russia was trying to magnify? of all the people online, who did russia retweet the most? who did russia want more people to read in here? it was actually conspiracy theorists and extremists. for example, one of the key figures behind pizza gate, the online conspiracy theory was
actually, if i remember the data point, was the third most re-tweeted account by russian bots. if everyone in the world, and it was by several orders of magnitude to the fifth, six, and the like, the russians said this individual is who we want more people to read about. that points to, hold it, if we figure out how to deal with the super spreaders, we will have a positive affect on making it harder for disinformation campaigns here it we will make it harder for conspiracy theories to spread. that circled back to your question about the role of corporations. this history should follow people. if you deliberately spread disinformation, you have a freedom of speech right to the -- to do that. you do not have an inherent right to do that on a privately owned and operated network, if
you violate their rules. we have seen that effective d platforming and what it has done to figures like alex jones, milo, and the like. understanding the business of the internet will be the factor. and then you and i. it is weirdly ok for someone in our network to share disinformation. it is not ok for them to cough in your face. we should treat them in the same way. gently correct them the first time they do it. but hey, actually, if you keep on doing it, you are an ill, you are danger not just make him a are danger in society in the same way. emerson: how do we stop playing whack a mole? i think with rule of law. this goes further to what is in the book. but i have a strong proponent of free speech on the internet.
but i think what happened in alabama was wrong. i think if you are operating a group that is advocating for one candidate or another, you should be candid about it. if you you are using other media that are not the internet, you have to be candid about it. the u.s. federal government has never applied the same scrutiny to the internet in this political context than it has two previous broadcast mediums. i think it is time for that to change. peter: can i interject? the rules on skywriting are effectively, that is what is used to regulate online ads relevant to the space. originally, it was the thinking that it is ephemeral, it will disappear like smoke disappears in the sky. we know it is the exact opposite. something placed online can go
viral and live there forever. it is a particular example of the updating of the law that is needed. emerson: exactly. or an application of law that unfortunately never happened. two small things. if you are running the group on behalf of a candidate, disclose who you are. if there is a bot operating on the network, it should label itself accordingly. that is it. these two small changes would have a tremendous positive impact on american political discourse. and the arguments back and forth on the constitutionality of it. why not invite those challenges and have that discussion? you talked about the public banding together. there was a time when the government, the collective, expression of the public will cut our interest in doing anything about that has been entirely absent. we tend to think of government as something other than our own collective decision-making. that has to change. that is how we stop playing whack a mole with these political problems. >> you have the last question.
>> i am wrestling with two questions. one is, you are not necessarily against some of the tools. i am aware of groups in social media, particularly videotaping police officers doing certain things, and using that to basically show that there is a problem. there are groups doing that. there are also groups in places like the middle east where people navigate around it. there are always questions about truth. the other thing i am wrestling with is where this stands in the history of propaganda? we have had situations over and over again in this country, going back to the birth of the nation, extremely powerful
propaganda. they would not call it that at the time, of course. all of it is praying that social media is preying on our own prejudices, our own divisions, so i'm wondering how you look at those two questions? for whichever one you can get at before adam shuts it down? [laughter] peter: there is a danger when you are writing about technology. the internet really is. the first one, where any individual can speak to anyone else anywhere in the world, but also the same message can reach tens of millions of people. it is individual interaction and a broadcast medium together. the crucial difference between the internet and these previous platforms is also speed. when you propagate a piece of content through this system, there is no time to fact check it.
there are no gatekeepers. this is usually taken as a positive thing that it actually is more mixed in practice. because there is no informed observer to inject a bit of caution into the claim that is being spread. there is no one to offer a bit of fact checking. in fact, fact checking that often attempts to accompany viral claims usually receives one or 2% of the audience share of the underlying wild propaganda rumor. this is the new environment we are dealing with. we have to take steps to adjust accordingly. peter: i would say the first on the shift of neutrality, i do not know if we are neutral, we are essentially saying this is a technology and these are a set of rules that can be used for both good and bad ends. like every other technology in the past, whether it was a stone. the first stone that was picked up was other used to build
something or bash someone in the head. the same thing when we are talking here about anything from the rule of mass observation and no more secrets. the examples range from huge loss of privacy, to we have this great story of war crimes being unearthed. that previously, you would have had a mass killing that would have been gotten away with and now it has been documented. to crowdsourcing. the ice bucket challenge. the ice bucket challenge was used to raise awareness of a disease by leading into the idea that we all want our own celebrity. it hit on a certain human psychology. it was also used to raise attention and fun raise for
extremist groups. there is always this duality and we need -- the forces of good need to understand these rules and lean into them if they want it was also used to raise to win out. to the propaganda side, again, to echo what emerson was saying, i think it is a great way to end on, that you can see a parallelism with things in the past but also how it has been taken to a new level. a great illustration of what would play out is project infection, which was a kgb active measure, factor in the cold war, to plant the false story that the united states was behind the creation of aids. it is almost a perfect parallel in its structure to what they did against the u.s. 2016 election, and are continuing -- and are continuing to do today. and whether it was originally they plant the false story in a series of front accounts back then, it was an indian newspaper that had actually been funded by the kgb. they use false personas to validated.
it was communist newspapers and the far right lyndon larouche campaign. and it works for them. but it takes them basically about four years to carry out to the operation, to have it seen by hundreds of thousands. by comparison, one story could be planted and using the same idea of false run accounts, but through the power of social media, it can be seen by tens of millions within a set of hours, because what it is leaning into is the fact that we are the ones who share it because of what you were saying, our own biases, our own interest in achieving our own celebrity and the like. in many ways, we are doing the work for the adversary. until we understand that we are both targets and combatants in this space, we will continue to -- it will continue to be used. that is the underlying message of the book. we have to understand these new rules of the game, if we want to stop being taken advantage of. whether it is by a political campaign, a marketing campaign,
the foreign government disinformation campaign, because actually they are sharing the same dynamics. >> thank you for sharing the insights from your research from your work and from your book. please join me in thanking our speakers. [applause] our next session will be the second monday of february, monday, february 11. till then, we are adjourned. announcer: today is the 22nd day of the government shutdown, setting a record for the longest government shutdown in u.s. history. continue to follow the story with house and senate debate and briefings, all on the c-span networks. announcer: the senate confirmation hearings for william barr to be the next attorney general of united dates begin on tuesday at 9:30 a.m. eastern. in december, president trump nominated him to replace jeff sessions, who held the position for over a year and a half,
since the beginning of the trump administration. william barr is now talk counsel -- top counsel at a law firm in served under george h.w. bush. watch the confirmation process for william barr, live tuesday at 9:30 a.m. eastern on seized in3. -- on c-span3. joining us now as kristen brengel, vice president of government affairs at the national parks conservation association. thank you for joining us. can you slain the role of your organization? -- can you explain the role of your organization? aroundwe have 27 offices the cult -- the country and we worked to protect and enhance national park's for future generations. host: as we look at the government shutdown we have heard a lot of stories and seen a lot of pictures from national parks about what is going on with this shutdown. how many national parks are there? what is in national park?