The Online Universe of Hate Speech is Still Alive and Well

*epilepsy warning*|Hatemail: Newsletter and intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

Hates Speech Thrives Despite Recent Platform Crackdowns

Hello! Hello! Did you miss us? A lot has happened recently…

Over the past month, there’s been one impeachment vote, one inauguration, and one attempted-coup (though we’ll concede that the coup was somewhat poorly carried out, even if it was distressing).  

Social media platforms were a significant force in each of these events, prompting nationwide discussion on misinformation, platform bans, and online hate – especially as it becomes clear that sites like Facebook and Parler emerged as the essential organizing tools for far-right extremists. Facebook in particular has become the host for a thriving community of rising star influencers that embrace conspiracy theories and far-right ideology in order to amass followers. 

A frustrating element to this saga is that it took five deaths and a coup attempt to get the needle moving on these moderation enforcements. Data since Trumpworld’s deplatforming is demonstrating that the practice works to quell hate speech online, but (of course) this is something that academics, researchers, journalists, and sex workers have been saying for years.

And yet, there’s still a looming political battle ahead. Conservatives have responded to deplatforming with boycott threats and accusations of censorship. This current outrage conveniently forgets the long-documented and well-observed reality that far-right voices have been tolerated - even bolstered - inappropriately on these platforms for a long time. 

What is missing is a comprehensive, consistent, and transparent strategy where deplatforming exists as simply a tool in the toolbox, rather than a weighty (and often ineffectively wielded) uniform response.

On our end, members of our collective have been monitoring different far-right forums and archiving related media to create a documented record. As the political and corporate reaction to the Capitol Building attack continues to unfold (and as the attack’s ties to online hate speech come to light) we’ll be working to mitigate cyber abuse where we can.

Online Platforms Adapt to Changing Discourse on Hate Speech

  • [Verge] [Gizmodo] Major online platforms are rolling out crackdowns and restrictions in response to the violence at the Jan. 6 Capitol Building attack by Trump supporters – a riot that developed out of Trump’s ‘Stop the Steal’ Rally, and was fueled by online disinformation campaigns along with the spread of unchecked conspiracy theories on social media. Parler, on the other hand, has continued to hold out for its more hateful users, registering its domain with Epik (the same host for the white nationalist site the Daily Stormer) after getting cut off by Amazon Web Services. 

  • [New York Times] The messaging app Telegram is facing new scrutiny as far-right ideologues, hate groups, and conspiracy theories flock to the platform. Following Facebook and Twitter crackdowns in the aftermath of  Jan. 6, twenty-five million new users moved to Telegram in a massive digital migration.

  • [ProPublica] Connor Sheets takes a closer look at the politics of Kevin Greeson, a Trump supporter who died from a heart attack while demonstrating in front of the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. A longtime Democrat, Greeson’s politics transformed in recent years as his community lost manufacturing jobs and as he started engaging with far-right communities online. 

Security Initiatives and Privacy Breaches

  • [Department of Justice] Yesterday, the Department of Justice announced plans to take action against a major ransomware campaign that targeted hospitals, universities, and government municipalities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The ransomware, known as NetWalker, was part of a service model in which affiliates would split the ransom after the victim paid the requested amount in cryptocurrency. Part of the initiative includes charges against a Canadian national who was connected to NetWalker, the seizure of $451,530.19 USD in cryptocurrency assets, and the disablement of the dark web tool that allowed communication with victims of the NetWalker ransomware. 

  • [New York Times] An unclassified memo recently published by the New York Times reveals that a sector of the federal intelligence community purchases commercial databases of location data, reaped from smartphone apps, and uses the information to track the whereabouts of civilians under investigation without needing a warrant. The practice sheds light on law enforcement’s increasing interest in utilizing commercially available surveillance technology and personal data. 

  • [ZDNet] News broke over the weekend that a well-known hacker leaked user data of 2.28 million people from the dating site MeetMindful. The leaked data was dumped onto a public hacking forum where individuals can share hacked databases. The leak includes sensitive information that can be used to target MeetMindful users and raises concerns that similar information breaches have previously led to sextortion schemes and other forms of exploitation.

On Our Radar...

  • [NPR] [CNBC] [TechCrunch][Verge] Stonks go up! A battle between everyday retail investors and Wall Street has emerged, centering around a handful of stocks like  GameStop that have been made popular due to discussion on popular subreddit /r/WallStreetBets. We potentially see a more insidious story: How grassroots movements can be hijacked and coordinated through covert means (and memes).

  • [OneZero] OpenAi’s text-generating algorithm, GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3), contains a concerning bias against Muslims, according to a white paper published earlier this month. OpenAi has previously disclosed GPT-3’s anti-Muslim bias and even mentions it on its own GitHub page, but the algorithm remains unchanged.  

  • [The Intercept] After seven days of hundreds of workers striking at Hunts Point Produce Market – one of New York City’s major food hubs that handle most of the produce that gets distributed and sold throughout the city – workers won a 70 cents per hour raise (to be upped to $1.85 per hour in total over the next three years). The victory has been lauded as a successful labor campaign organized by essential workers hit hard by the pandemic. 

  • [arsTechnica] This report by Sean Gallagher is the first in a series on the history of digital-enabled warfare as a “connected battlespace.” Military commanders have sought greater awareness and control over the battlefield, and through that pursuit, they have tried to integrate with computers to achieve superiority over their adversaries. This historical analysis reviews the evolution in technology to enable a more network-enabled battlefield. 

Hate speech website: deepsukebe[.]io

Who hosts: IP Volume Inc

Today’s site is deepsukebe[.]io. The site is the latest fork of the original Deepnude app, whose source code was leaked to the public after white hat hackers made operating the service untenable.

We have observed that deepsukebe’s site resolves to an IP address geolocated in the United Kingdom and operated by IP Volume at 80.82.67[.]172.

USENIX Engima Conference (Monday, Feb. 1 - Wednesday, Feb. 3) - The annual USENIX Enigma conference is next week! Enigma is one of the more engaging offerings in the USENIX conference circuit, with a specialization in security, privacy, and online threats. We are particularly looking forward to Sofía Celi’s session “The Tales of Intimate Gender-Based Online Abuse in the Global South[USENIX]

What is Media Manipulation? With Joan Donovan (Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1pm ET) - The Univerisity of Illinois is launching their Just Infrastructures speaker series “to interrogate the complex interactions between people, algorithms, and AI-driven systems.” Their first event will be hosted by online disinformation expert Joan Donovan! [Illinois University]

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