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Russian trolls are outsourcing to Africa to stoke US racial tensions

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With tech companies wise to many of the tactics that Russia’s now-infamous troll farms used to seed disinformation during the 2016 election, those campaigns are getting creative.

According to a pair of reports out from Facebook and Twitter, a disinformation campaign run by individuals with links to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) is back and focused on the U.S., but this time it’s being run out of Africa.

“This network was in the early stages of building an audience and was operated by local nationals — some wittingly and some unwittingly — in Ghana and Nigeria on behalf of individuals in Russia,” Facebook explained in its blog post.

CNN apparently conducted its own deep investigation into the operations in Ghana and Nigeria, going so far as to even tour one of the houses where a group of Ghanaians worked to craft posts targeting American social issues.

Surprisingly, Graphika, a social analytics firm that specializes in disinformation, observed that these campaign did not focus on the U.S. election or presidential candidates specifically, but when candidates did come up in the content “it was through the lens of human rights, tolerance and racism.”

Graphika Chief Innovation Officer Camille Francois notes that the Russia-based campaign relied on a Ghana-based NGO as a kind of proxy and that at least some of those involved were likely not aware of the true nature of their work.

“That operation shows us the appetite of foreign actors to use proxy groups in increasingly creative way,” Francois told TechCrunch. “It also shows information operations can be based anywhere”

Most of the accounts were created in the second half of 2019 and the content they generated addressed issues around race, particularly tensions between black and white Americans. According to Facebook, the campaign concentrated on topics like black history and black excellence, but also “content about oppression and injustice, including police brutality.”

Facebook detected 49 Facebook accounts, 69 Facebook Pages and 85 Instagram accounts participating in the campaign. On Facebook, the relatively nascent accounts accumulated roughly 13,500 followers. On Instagram, the accounts had a following of around 265,000.

On Twitter, 71 accounts linked to the Russian-run operations in Ghana and Nigeria spread similar messages in an effort to “sow discord by engaging in conversations about social issues, like race and civil rights.”

It’s alarming — if not surprising — that Russian efforts to inflame existing social divides in the U.S. continue, but Twitter offered a useful reminder that most disinformation in the country comes from within, not from without.

TechCrunch

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Mystery shaking, rumbling felt along Jersey Shore again. No earthquakes reported.

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Mystery shaking, rumbling felt along Jersey Shore again. No earthquakes reported.

For the second time this month, residents across southern New Jersey have been reporting long periods of shaking inside their homes Thursday afternoon, with windows and walls rattling. And just like before, there have been no earthquakes reported anywhere in the eastern United States.

There also have been no thunderstorms reported in or near New Jersey on Thursday, but some residents are speculating the rattling inside their homes — along with some reports of loud booms — may be linked to military planes and helicopters flying over the Garden State.

Naval Air Station Patuxent River, a U.S. naval station based in St. Mary’s County in Maryland, issued a noise advisory on its Facebook page Tuesday, saying it would be conducting “noise-generating testing events” between Tuesday and Friday.

“Pilots at NAS Patuxent River will be conducting Field Carrier Landing Practices (FCLPs). FCLPs are simulated carrier landings conducted to prepare the pilot to land safely on an aircraft carrier,” the agency said in its Facebook post.

“The practices consist of series of touch-and-go maneuvers, called ‘bounces.’ Airspeed, altitude and power are all precisely choreographed in order for a pilot to approach the ship within an acceptable window to land on the deck safely,” the post added.

“Residents may notice increased noise levels due to these operations,” the post said.

It wasn’t immediately known how far away the noise would carry. But Facebook has been packed with reports of shaking in homes and businesses across South Jersey Thursday afternoon. The first was around 11 a.m. and the second about two hours later.

Several residents noted they have felt some shaking or heard some loud booms in the past, but they said they never felt the rattling become as intense as it was on Thursday.

Among the towns or sections of towns where rattling was reported were Erma, Cape May, Galloway, Middle Township, North Cape May, Rio Grande and Smithville. Some residents said they felt their houses shake but heard no booms, while others said they heard loud booms.

“My whole house shook. Windows rattle(d), bed moved back and forth. And it was long,” one resident wrote on the Facebook page of South Jersey weather forecaster “Nor’easter Nick” Pittman. “I do hear the jets as I’m in Galloway near the airport, but this just seemed different. No boom, just steady shaking. At first I thought it was the wind but it got stronger.”

Another Facebook user in Atlantic County said: “In Smithville we just shook for a good 45-60 seconds with a small pause, but the dog and cats did not like it, this time was more than the sonic boom or break that we feel at 2 p.m. It was freaky!!”

On Friday, Jan. 13, residents from as far south as Cape May and up to Manahawkin along the coast and as far west as Glassboro in Gloucester County reported feeling shaking in their homes. They said the rattling lasted at least 10 seconds.

A supersonic military airplane was flying a few miles off the coast that day, and could have been the cause of the rumbling, the Press of Atlantic City reported at the time. The military has an Atlantic test track for flights about 3 miles off the eastern seaboard, and a sonic boom would occur if a plane was flying fast enough to break the sound barrier.

South Jersey isn’t alone when it comes to feeling and hearing loud noises. In early January, a loud boom — which some described as being as loud as an explosion — was reported by many people in northern New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania.

The cause of that boom was not immediately determined.

___

© 2023 Advance Local Media LLC

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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How much do we shape-shift across social media?

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How much do we shape-shift across social media?

Like the spaces we frequent in the physical world, each social app serves a different, fairly obvious purpose. If LinkedIn is a job fair of some sort, Instagram is a playground, or a party — both of which can be simultaneously bright, loud, and exhausting. The distinctions between these platforms are very much known.

But these are places we go to everyday, and in each, we shift. We flick through a handful apps everyday, the more prominent ones arguably being TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. On some, our tone may be nonchalant; on another, indignant. These are emotions expressed daily, sometimes concurrently, with different interfaces displaying alternative views, moods, even personas.

How much do we actually do shape-shift across social media? Turns out, a lot.

Samara Madhvani, who owns a boutique social media consultancy(Opens in a new window), says that what she shares on TikTok is vastly different from her posts on Instagram.

“Most of my friends don’t use [TikTok], so I feel like I can post more freely without being judged,” she tells Mashable. “It’s a great space to experiment with different kinds of content, that I would probably never share on Instagram.”

Similarly, brand management and development specialist MaryKate tells Mashable that she shows her “full authentic self” solely on Snapchat.

“Snapchat is for [my] innermost thoughts,” she says. Meanwhile, she uses Instagram to post “photos of things, travel and the occasional selfie”. TikTok is for more niche interests, where she posts “drone footage or animal footage”. Twitter is a point of conflict, where she feels more filtered.

“I feel like each social media platform is a different part of me,” she says.

At their core, these apps are intending for users to be on display, in whatever curated form they desire. Apps like BeReal have attempted to offer a different side to social media, with the premise that users can be their most authentic selves. Yet, it’s another platform that is, in reality, asking something of the user: who are you in this moment? What do you and to show?


“When you look at our behaviour on social media as a whole, our personality on a platform depends on how we perceive its usage.”

– Ria Chopra

Ria Chopra(Opens in a new window), a writer and journalist, says that she is guarded about her personal life and selective when it comes to posting across all platforms.

“The sides of my personality I choose to show differ from platform to platform,” she says. “When you look at our behaviour on social media as a whole, our personality on a platform depends on how we perceive its usage. LinkedIn is perceived by me to be a professional space, so I’m professional there. Instagram is for personal connections, so I’m more likely to put up birthday posts there, while Twitter is more stream-of-consciousness, simply because of that’s the kind of stuff I see there and believe it’s for.”

Being human means having to change, situationally and socially, on the daily. This isn’t news to any adult. Who you are at work may be a far cry from who you are at home. What you show to your closest friends can be deviation from who are you with your siblings. For Black people and people of color, code switching is even more habitual(Opens in a new window), particularly in the workplace where bias based on factors like speech(Opens in a new window) has long had a negative impact. These ever-so-subtle shifts that take place are near instinctive for most. But when this applies to the internet, too, identity can be in constant flux.

For many users, this is a natural aspect to having more than one social media account. It’s almost a given: an exercise in construction and curation(Opens in a new window), for numerous reasons.

Being a woman or a marginalized person on social media comes with its own set of complications, for instance. These are ones that can largely hinder what a person chooses to share and speak about on public platforms. Seyi Akiwowo(Opens in a new window), author of How to Stay Safe Online(Opens in a new window), addressed this extensively in her guidebook to the internet. “The idea that online platforms are neutral is a fairy tale. It’s not a few bad apples ruining the experience for the rest of us. The very DNA of these platforms is in conflict with the best interests of a large number of their users,” Akiwowo writes. “Women and girls across the globe are walking on eggshells because of the fear of online abuse.”

Research by Plan International in 2017(Opens in a new window), which Akiwowo cites, found that 43 percent of girls aged 11 to 18 admitted to holding back their opinions on social media for fear of being criticized. Self-censorship, while admittedly an issue for all on social apps, is heightened when it comes to young girls who are doing so for their own safety online.

“Women can post on almost any topic — animal rights, climate change, healthcare — and abuse usually follows,” writes Akiwowo.

Then there are the lesser but significant factors everyone faces – like who your followers are and whether your account is private. These will also play a natural role in choosing how to behave on a certain platform. This is perhaps what led to the surge of “finstas” — which now seem near extinct — a few years ago. These “fake” Instagram accounts allowed for privacy and exclusivity, but are now a dated concept, shadowed by integrated features like Instagram’s Close Friends and Twitter Circle. The demand for these also alludes to the greater desire to post and interact in different ways, even in the space of a singular app.

Madhvani believes that total, complete authenticity is a far reach on any platform. “Even a comment or a like on someone else’s content will leave a digital footprint,” she says. “Today, everything that people post is somewhat curated. At the end of the day, you’re posting and sharing for a purpose whether it’s to look a certain way or to get more followers or even sell a product.”

Alex Quicho, head of futures at trends agency Canvas8(Opens in a new window), suggests there is a positive side to the transformations we undergo on apps, saying that social media can play a role in “trying out different facets of one’s persona”.

“Today’s crop of users are less concerned about projecting a stable image or personal brand,” says Quicho. “We’re seeing many Gen Zers adopt an exploratory attitude to how they appear on social platforms: seeing these false personas as creative and constructive.”

In this vein, having different sorts of social media can provide paths to traverse identity and to explore different interests. The possible trouble is not in utilizing these purpose-driven platforms. Instead, there is potential for burnout in these spaces(Opens in a new window), which is already a dangling possibility(Opens in a new window) for anyone who uses social media.

Chopra says that she is increasingly “cross-posting” across platforms, in an endeavor to integrate content and show her comprehensive self.

“It’s unconscious, but maybe that’s my bid to be more ‘me’ everywhere. So I’ve posted my tweets on LinkedIn, my Instagram posts on Twitter, if I want to. And it’s paying off — I feel more authentic knowing that I’m reflecting a more holistic sense of my personality everywhere,” she explains.

Let’s face it: authenticity and social media are hardly interconnected. Some social media users are increasingly pursuing this concept, seeking to be themselves on platforms designed to allow the opposite. But living in the digital age — with an influx of apps at our disposal — means having to have more than one public face: a near constant metamorphosis.



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This Facebook Page Shares 116 Memes That Might Teach You Something (New Pics)

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This Facebook Page Shares 116 Memes That Might Teach You Something (New Pics)

What was your experience like in school? Were you straight-A student, or were you more focused on upholding your reputation as class clown than finishing your homework on time? Regardless of how much you remember from the good (or bad) old days in the classroom, it’s likely that there weren’t many memes involved in the curriculum. If there were, I’m jealous! And if there weren’t, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered with your daily dose of educational memes down below!

We’ve gathered some of the best posts from Educational Memes on Instagram to remind you all that learning and laughing don’t have to be mutually exclusive. So, pandas, enjoy these pics that might take you back to the days of packed lunches, recess and raising your hand when you had a question, and   be sure to upvote the ones that make you feel particularly intelligent.

Keep reading to also find a conversation with the creator of this hilarious account, Yashdeep Kanhai, and then if you’re interested in finding even more memes dedicated to living, laughing and learning, you can find Bored Panda’s previous article featuring Educational Memes right here!

More info: Instagram | Facebook


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