A Human-First Approach Over Profits

Newsletter and intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

The New Yorker piece on Moxie Marlinspike (@moxie) linked below warmed our hearts in ways we did not expect. When Marlinspike first created Signal, the app was seen as a refreshingly simple means of operating end-to-end encrypted text messages. Now, it seems that Signal stands for so much more. The very act of using it is a form of rebellion, depending on the local encryption laws — laws that were very likely penned because of what some states around the world see a threat posed by widespread encryption and privacy.

One of the most compelling thoughts behind the Signal story is that the app, protocol, and company were not made with profit in mind. Instead, it was a technical solution to a very human mission of getting more people the safety and security of encrypted communications. This human-first approach is rare, and those who elect this path over that of immediate profit deserve recognition.

Week of Action Against Disinformation (October 26 - 30) - Events include daily conversations with Dr. Joan Donovan, canaries in the coal mine, healing from disinformation, and flash training on disinformation, ending with a reddit AMA with disinformation experts. [Media Justice]

Proliferation of Private Surveillance, Mercenarism, and Intelligence

  • [Haaretz] Dan Zorella, CEO of the Israeli private intelligence firm Black Cube, was questioned in 2016 by members of Romania’s Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism over an operation involving Black Cube in Bucharest. The released transcript of the Zorella interview offers a rare view into the workings of political espionage.

  • [Just Security] Just Security reports that for Twitter social networks concerning Egypt, both pro- and anti-government media content show signs of coordinated inauthentic behavior, meaning that deceptive campaigns are creating the false appearance of overwhelming anti-regime protests as well as ardent pro-regime support.

  • [VICE] Former employees of the surveillance startup Verkada used facial recognition software and their access to office security footage to take and post photos of colleagues in a Slack channel dedicated to making sexually explicit jokes about women they worked with. The employees responsible were only fired after Vice dropped their article on the sexual harassment taking place at the company.

  • [Rolling Stone] Seth Hettena (@seth_hettena) profiles Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater (once known as Xe Services and now officially renamed Academi). He also examines Prince’s role in a failed mercenary operation in Libya, how Blackwater has supported authoritarian regimes, and current attempts to bring Blackwater back with the backing of the Trump administration.

  • [New Yorker] Signal, the increasingly popular end-to-end encrypted messaging service, has grown during periods of political unrest. (For instance, downloads of Signal have increased by four hundred percent since Trump’s election). Moxie Marlinspike, Signal’s founder, understands the appeal of subversion in these changing times, but also believes that encrypted-communication should be the norm no matter the social moment.

(More) Hate and White Supremacy

  • [BuzzFeed News] Last Friday, a complaint was issued by federal officials against Texas resident Ivan Harrison Hunter after footage showed him firing into a police building with an AK-47. The complaint reveals a nationwide network of “boogaloo” boys using social media to coordinate violent attacks, with the aim of sparking a civil war in the confusion.

  • [The Atlantic] Alex Wagner (@alexwagner) scrutinizes the Fox News machine — how it functions as a mouthpiece for paranoid perspectives, and how it remains deeply influential among conservative voters.

  • [The Daily Beast] The FBI is four months late in producing a report on white-supremacist terror threats (because of course it is). The delay of the report, which the agency is legally required to hand over, comes ahead of an election that national security experts are concerned could spark right-wing violence.

  • [Buzzfeed News] Anthropologist Peter Turchin and sociologist Jack Goldstone are warning that the levels of “political stress” in the United States indicate we may be approaching an event of social division similar to the Civil War. Meanwhile, a group chat called Patriot Front that emerged after the events in Charlottesville is building a community of white supremacists who are preparing to take advantage of the chaos of Trump’s presidency.

  • [NBC News] The Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the Global Disinformation Index published an analysis that found 73 U.S.-based hate groups were serviced by at least 54 online fundraising and finance platforms such as Stripe, PayPal, Facebook, and Amazon.

On Our Radar…

  • [Life After Hate] Some potential good: This group of former white supremacist extremists has started a deescalation and support group for those recovering from their own time as violent extremists. Since their founding in 2011, they’ve fostered anti-hate speech campaigns and exit programs for white supremacists.

  • [Enough 14] A deep dive into a bristling Wisconsin militia and its members, including Thomas Leager, a gun rights extremist and self-titled “independent journalist.”

  • [Polygon] While this (probably) will not be indicative of next week’s election, Nickelodeon’s ‘Kids Pick the President’ mock-vote was a target of interference from bots. Event organizers learned of an online effort to manipulate the result with bots and successfully weeded out bot-generated votes. In a statement on the incident, a Nickelodeon representative said: “Just as kids value honesty and fairness, so do we at Nickelodeon.”

  • [Time] Maria Ressa, founder of the Filipino news site Rappler and who is currently facing jail time in the Philippines for “cyberlibel,” was one of four journalists named as Time’s person of the year in 2018. Last week, Time published a discussion between Ressa, Prince Harry, and Stanford Internet Observatory Research Manager Renée DiResta about disinformation and social media.

Hate speech website: unz[.]com

Who hosts: Cloudflare

Today’s site is unz[.]com. The site publishes material far-right views and racism. The Anti-Defamation league has specifically called out the site and its owner for embracing “hardcore anti-Semitism”. Unz uses Cloudflare to protect and disguise their infrastructure. However, we have previously observed the website to be hosted on Godaddy's infrastructure, with the IP 50.62.133[.]196.