At a glance.
- AI and its potential use in disinformation.
- Meta's approach to disinformation in its new Threads platform.
- Telegram's role in Russia's war.
- Mr. Prigozhin's mansion, his continuing war on REMFs, and a comparison and contrast with President Putin's presentation of self.
AI and its potential use in disinformation.
One obvious application of artificial intelligence (AI) is in the production of disinformation at scale. CyberScoop reports that US secretaries of state (the state-level officials whose duties include supervision of elections, not the Secretary of State responsible for foreign relations) are bracing for the use of AI to push narratives and disinformation with a view to influencing or disrupting next year's elections. “'I think the newness of everything provides a lot of opportunities for malfeasance and mischief,' said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), who also advocated for disclosure laws. 'We all recognize the presence of AI and the cybersecurity umbrella of challenges that we’re going to be encountering this cycle. Everyone is talking about it. Everyone is exploring solutions. There doesn’t seem to be as of yet a bipartisan divide because we see it as a storm we all need to tackle,' she added."
The Wall Street Journal looks at AI-generated content and concludes that artificial intelligence is flooding the Internet with garbage. A lot of it is junk news. "In early May, the news site rating company NewsGuard found 49 fake news websites that were using AI to generate content. By the end of June, the tally had hit 277, according to Gordon Crovitz, the company’s co-founder." It makes the jobs of editors who have to select contributed content much harder. There may be some self-limitation at work, however. As more AI-produced content finds its way to the Internet, the corpus on which the large language models train themselves will grow increasingly derivative and stereotyped, leading to what some call a collapse. So apparently human-generated content remains necessary to keep the bots sufficiently frisky.
None of this, however, should lead us to think that automated detection of AI-generated content will be easy. There are systems that do that kind of screening, but they are, Technology Review reports, relatively easy to evade. A study by investigators at universities in Europe and Mexico concluded "that the available detection tools are neither accurate nor reliable and have a main bias towards classifying the output as human-written rather than detecting AI-generated text."
Meta's approach to disinformation in its new Threads platform.
Meta seems ready to implement an approach to disinformation in Threads that's similar in part to the one it's followed with Facebook. There the company has concentrated on exposing and blocking "coordinated inauthenticity," and in doing so has to a significant extent avoided putting itself in the position of controlling speech. You can say what you will, but you can't pretend to be something or someone you aren't. Forbes reports that Threads will offer two features aimed at countering disinformation. One is reminiscent of the exposure of coordinated inauthenticity: Threads will identify state-sponsored media. The second aspect of the approach, an offer of fact-checking, comes closer to inevitably more controversial content moderation.
Telegram's role in Russia's war.
The Verge describes how Telegram, with its small staff, tolerant moderation practices, and its large user base (especially in Russia and Ukraine) has enabled an outsized contribution to the sharing of war news. It's been permitted to operate relatively unmolested by Roskomnadzor, Russia's Internet regulation body, at least since the last round of attempted censorship was abandoned in 2020. Instead, the social platform has been the locus of free speech, sound information, disinformation, contending narratives, and a range of conspiracy mongering. The Russian organs seem to be leaving Telegraph largely alone because they believe they may be able to break its anonymity and track its users, if they haven't already done so.
Mr. Prigozhin's mansion, his continuing war on REMFs, and a comparison and contrast with President Putin's presentation of self.
The line on Yevgeny Prigozhin, sometime head of the Wagner Group and leader of the mutinous march on Moscow, is hardening. Russian state television (which we watch courtesy of the Russian Media Monitor) has been showing video of raids on his property, with stacks of cash stored in an expensive mansion along with such expensive possessions as a private helicopter. Also on display are an array of handguns, sledgehammers (ceremonially packed in felt-lined boxes the commentators say are "coffin-like"), and, of course, the disguises we saw last week. Mr. Prigozhin is being framed as a criminal, a crook, and this assessment is offered as an ironical take on the denunciations of Ministry of Defense corruption the Wagner Group leader posted as he announced his march on Moscow. Mr. Prigozhin, the analysts say, is not only a crook now, but he's always been a crook, and he should be dealt with by investigation and prosecution. The sniffish mention of the sledgehammers is interesting. The Wagner Group's association with sledgehammers as tools of execution and intimidation had formerly been treated favorably. They were taken as a sign of uncompromising commitment to a hard war, a good thing.
The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) describes the phases of the official Russian information response to the mutiny. "Russian state-approved media has responded to the 24 June 2023 Wagner Group mutiny in three phases. Outlets were almost certainly initially surprised by the mutiny and were not prepared; Russian TV maintained its usual schedule. After the insurrection was defused, Russian state outlets sought to ‘correct’ claims that security forces had been passive. Narratives promoted the idea that President Vladimir Putin had triumphed by thwarting the insurrection, while avoiding bloodshed, and sought to unite the country behind the president. Nearly a week later, the state started to play down the significance of Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin and the mutiny, while tarnishing his character. Wagner Telegram channels have largely gone silent, almost certainly due to state intervention." State intervention or not, Mr. Prigozhin did return to his Wagner Group PMC channels this weekend to denounce the media REMFs who've been slanging him on television. As quoted by @JuliaDavisNews, his remarks read in part: "[R]eading the current media stories on t.v., I feel very sick, television b*st*rds who only yesterday admired the guys from the Wagner PMC, are now pouring all possible slops...Remember, television creatures, that it was not your children who fought in our ranks, not your children who [were] dying, and you b*st*rds are rating yourselves with such stories."
The UK's MoD goes on to note that President Putin is working the tame media to increase his public stature. "By contrast, Putin has undertaken unusually prominent public engagements, almost certainly aiming to project strength." That projection of strength includes evidence that Russia's president is also no stranger to luxury, although this is being pointed out not by Rossiya 1, but by the hostile press of what he would call the "collective West." President Putin, for example, uses an armored train for domestic travel. The Telegraph has an account, complete with pictures. It's pretty posh, with a spa, cosmetological treatment suite, a gym, and other amenities. The conference and dining rooms look equally smart but curiously retro, as if inspired by James West's secret agent train from the old Wild, Wild West t.v. show, that Pullman car where Agents West and Artemus Gordon used to meet President Grant to get their marching orders. (Unlike Jim West's Pullman, however, Mr. Putin's train is armored, for his protection.)