The Social Media Company Reddit said Friday that it has Detected a Suspected Russian Disinformation Campaign on the Site intended to Spread Classified British Documents ahead of next week's United Kingdom (UK) Election. A Social Media Analytics Firm ...


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Evidence Shows Suspected Russian Role in Disinformation Campaign Ahead of UK Election

The Social Media Company Reddit said Friday that it has Detected a Suspected Russian Disinformation Campaign on the Site intended to Spread Classified British Documents ahead of next week's United Kingdom (UK) Election.

A Social Media Analytics Firm also suggested in a Report this week that Russian Practices Played some Role in the Leak of the Documents last month, which caused a Commotion as they Detailed U.S. and British Discussions leading up to Brexit.

The Leak also showed that U.S. Officials wanted the Public National Health Service to be “on the table” in any Post-Brexit Talks, a Claim that bolstered an Attack Line by the Opposition Labor Party and fed Allegations that the Ruling Conservatives were Putting the Health System up for Sale.

In a Statement Outlining how it Tied the latest Campaign back to Russia, Reddit said it believes the Post was Connected to Similar Disinformation efforts that Facebook Discovered earlier this year.

In an Analysis of the Earlier Campaign, which Facebook took down in May, the Washington Think-Tank, the Atlantic Council, called the Operation the "Secondary Infektion".

"The operation was strongly reminiscent of the Soviet's Operation 'Infektion' that Accused the U.S. of Creating the AIDS Virus," according to an Atlantic Council Blog Post at the time.

"The latest operation ... used a similar technique by planting false stories on the far reaches of the internet before amplifying them with Facebook accounts run from Russia."

The Atlantic Council said the Size, Scope, and Sophistication of the Effort suggested it was Developed by an Intelligence Operation.

Reddit said Friday that it Confirmed "a pattern of coordination" that Linked the Recent Suspicious Post on its Platform to the much Larger Campaign on Facebook.

Suspicious Accounts on Reddit Linked to the Post "have the same shared pattern as the original Secondary Infektion group detected, causing us to believe that this was indeed tied to the original group."

The Company said it Banned One "Subreddit" Discussion Forum and 61 Accounts as a Result of its Investigation.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


NATO Researchers Warn Social Media Failing to Remove Fake Accounts

A Group of NATO-Affiliated Researchers have found that Facebook, Google, and Twitter, are Failing to Detect and take Down Fake Accounts and Bot-Driven Engagement despite the Industry's Efforts to Clamp Down on the Issue.

The Report comes several years after the 2016 Presidential Election, which drew New Attention to the Issue of Inauthentic Activity nline as Russian Trolls flooded U.S. Networks to Manipulate Political Discourse.

Now, the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence has found that it's still fairly Easy for Bad Actors to Buy Fake Accounts and "engagement", meaning Likes, Retweets, Views, and more, on the World's Top Social Media Platforms.

"We assess that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube are still failing to adequately counter inauthentic behavior on their platforms," the Report Reads.

The Researchers spent 300 Euros, or roughly $330, on Batches of Fake Online Engagement: 3,530 Comments, 25,750 Likes, 20,000 Views, and 5,100 Followers.

They Identified 18,739 Accounts Manipulating Social Platforms.

Within four weeks, they found that 80% of the Fake Activity was still Online.

Even after they Reported much of the Inauthentic Behavior to the Platforms, they found that 95% of the Reported Content remained Active several weeks later.

They concluded that some of the Platforms are Performing better than others in the Fight against Fake Activity, however. They found that Twitter is "improving" its Ability to Block Fake Accounts when they're being Created, while YouTube is barely ever able to do so. They also found that Twitter and Facebook are getting better at Identifying and Removing Manipulated Accounts.

The Researchers compared Facebook to a "fortress with formidable defenses facing the outside world, but qualified actors are still able to scale [its] walls," while it found that Instagram, which Facebook Owns, has "significant challenges with countering abuse."

Facebook in a Statement on Friday called Inauthentic Behavior a "challenge facing the entire industry. We're making massive investments to find and remove fake accounts and engagement every day," a Facebook Spokesperson said.

And Twitter's Head of Site Integrity, Yael Roth, highlighted the Researchers' comparably Favorable Conclusions about Twitter. "Setting up fake accounts, paying for engagement, and deliberately manipulating our service are all prohibited behaviors. We're encouraged the report recognizes Twitter's proactive work to stifle inauthentic activity at the source." Roth said.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


Passage of Historic House Voting Rights Law

The House on Friday Passed Legislation to Restore a Provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The Bill would require Advance Approval of Voting Changes in States with a History of Discrimination.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act Passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats Voting for the Bill and All but One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-1st District), Voting Against it.

The Bill faces Virtually No chance of being Considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Legislation would Reverse the Supreme Court's 2013 Ruling that Eliminated the "Preclearance" Requirement. This was the Mandate that Changes in Voting Systems and Procedures in Areas with a History of Voting Discrimination be Approved in Advance by the Federal Courts or the Justice Department.

The Supreme Court Ruled 5-4 that the Evidence being used to Decide which Areas were Covered by "Preclearance" was Significantly Out-of-Date, and therefore Unconstitutional and No Longer Valid. The Court expected Congress would Update the Selection Rules, but the Congress hasn't yet Updated them, until now.

H.R.4 - Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2019

The New Legislation says a State would be Subject to Preclearance if there were 15 or More Voting Rights Violations in the last 25 years or 10 or More Voting Rights Violations in the last Quarter Century when One of those was Committed by the State itself.

Under this Formula, 11 States including the Four most Populous: California, Florida, New York, and Texas, plus Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, would be subject to Preclearance.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


Trump Under Impeachment Still Shifted $1.7 Million from Campaign Donors to His Private Business

The Trump 2020 Campaign is Spending Big Money at the President’s Properties, according to a Review of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data.

Yet the Records Show that he still has Not Donated any of his Own Funds to the Campaign. That means America’s Billionaire-in-Chief has Shifted $1.7 Million from Campaign Donors into his Private Business.

And before the New York Foundation was Closed, Foundation Donated Money was used to start his 2020 Campaign, and the Foundation and the 2020 Campaign did not Report the Transfer yet.

Forbes first Reported on this Arrangement one year ago, when Documents showed that Trump’s Companies had taken in $1.1 Million of Campaign-Donor Money. By the end of 2018, that Figure had Climbed to $1.3 Million. Subsequent Disclosures show that more than $450,000 Flowed into the Trump Empire from January to September of this year.

The Biggest Beneficiary has been Trump Tower Commercial LLC, which Controls the President’s Manhattan Skyscraper. Trump still Owns the Entity, which has accepted $1.2 Million in Rent from the Re-Election Effort and another $225,000 from the Republican National Committee (RNC).

Since Trump became President, an Estimated 1.6% of the Tower’s Revenue has come from either the RNC or the Re-Election Campaign.

The Majority of Trump Tower’s Income comes from Gucci, which leases 49,000 square feet of Prime Retail Space on Fifth Avenue for roughly $21 Million a year.

In the Basement of Trump Tower, a much Smaller Space now Serves as an Official Campaign Store, Selling Hats, T-Shirts, Signs, and other Memorabilia.

The Rent Payments for that Space could be Flowing through an Entity called Trump Restaurants LLC, which has taken in $87,000 of Rent since Trump became President. On a Price-per-Square-Foot basis, the Campaign may be Paying more for that Basement Space than Gucci is Paying for its Street-Level Location Upstairs. Smaller Spaces tend to Command Higher Rates, but the Payments have nonetheless raised eyebrows.

In the 2016 Campaign, their Online Campaign Store located in the building, was Not Collect New York Sales Tax on New York Orders. When Notified of their Error, they eventually updated the website, payed the Back Taxes, and a Fine.

The Disclosures reveal One Payment to Tag Air Inc., an Entity set up to Lease the President’s Personal Boeing 757. It was the First time since Trump took Office, and therefore gained Access to Air Force One, that the Campaign Paid the President’s Private Aviation Company. The Amount was Small, just $2,700, and the exact Rationale remains Unclear.

A Spokesperson for the Trump Organization Ignored Specific Questions about the Expenditures, instead issuing a General Statement asserting that the Transactions are Legal. “The campaign pays fair market value under negotiated rental agreements and other service agreements in compliance with the law,” the Spokesperson said in a Statement. “The campaign works closely with campaign counsel to ensure strict compliance in this regard.”

The Trump Corporation, another One of the President’s Companies, collected $65,000 from the Trump Campaign in the First Nine months of 2019, more than it did during all of 2018.

Campaign Filings List those Expenses as “Legal and IT Consulting.” It is Not clear why the Trump Organization is Charging the Campaign for such things or why the Expenses Increased since 2018.

There are Additional Questions about Money Flowing into Trump Plaza LLC, which Collects roughly $3,850 in Monthly Rent, according to the Filings.

Trump Plaza LLC Controls a Property on Third Avenue in New York City, which includes 128 Parking Spaces, Seven Storefronts, and Eight Residential Units. It’s a Mystery what the Campaign is Renting there, although a Former Member of Trump’s 2016 Team previously told Forbes that Staffers sometimes crashed at an Apartment on the Premises.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., One High-Profile Property that did Not take in much Campaign Money during the First Nine Months of 2019, is now up for Sale.

Forbes found just $761 of Expenditures there from January through September 2019. Over the Same Period in 2018, the Trump Campaign doled out more than $30,000 at the Hotel. Not that the Business is going without Customers. The Republican National Committee (RNC), for example, spent more than $35,000 there from January to September.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


FL Lawyers Say Judge's Ruling Will Nullify Law Restoring Ex-Felons' Voting Rights

A Federal Judge Ruled in October that it is Unconstitutional for Florida to make Ex-Felons who have Completed their Sentences Pay Fines, Legal Fees, and Restitution before having their Voting Rights Restored under an Amendment that took Effect in January. The State’s Lawyers are now Arguing that if that Ruling is Allowed to Stand, the Entire Law will be Nullified, and Ex-Felons will be right back where they were Before the Amendment was Passed, Permanently Barred from Voting unless a merciful Governor can be persuaded to Restore their Rights Case by Case.

Since it became a State in 1845, Florida has Barred Felons from Voting. The Law has been slightly Altered since then, notably after the Civil War and in 1968, after the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act were Passed. But until 2007, ever more Floridians Convicted of Felonies were Barred for Life from Voting. Their only hope was Personally seeking Gubernatorial Clemency, which was Rarely given.

That year, Republican, later Democrat, Gov. Charlie Crist managed to get the Legislature to Pass a Law giving Ex-Felons who had Finished their Sentences the Right to Vote if the Parole Commission agreed. Excluded were Convicted Murderers and Sex offenders. Ultimately, about 155,000 Ex-Felons got their Voting Rights back.

But then the New Republican Governor, Rick Scott, Reversed that Approach in 2011, adding a Five-year Waiting Period before any Ex-Felon could Apply for Reinstatement of their Voting Rights. From 2011 to 2018 only 3,000 Applications were Approved.

Consequently, in the 2016 Election, a Study showed that 1.7 Million Floridians were Permanently Disenfranchised because of the Felony Law, 10.43% of the State’s Population, the Highest Rate in the U.S. At the time, 23.3% of Black People Couldn’t Vote in Florida because of the Law.

The situation sparked Court Rulings on the Capriciousness of the Clemency System of Re-Enfranchisement. And 13 months ago, a Grassroots Campaign, 65% of Floridians decided the System stank and Voted for Constitutional Amendment 4 to Automatically Restore Voting Rights to Ex-Felons upon Completion of their Sentences, including Parole and Probation. Murderers and Sex Offenders are Excluded. Voting Rights Advocates were Ecstatic. The Law meant Restoration of the Vote to the Largest Group of Disenfranchised Citizens in the Nation.

But Florida’s Newest Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, arrived in Office last January, and by June had Pushed the Republican-dominated Legislature to add a Provision to the Law requiring Ex-Felons to Pay Fines and Court Fees before being Eligible for Re-Enfranchisement. Robert P. Alvarez at the Institute for Policy Studies wrote that this Subverts Amendment 4. Sponsors say it Amounts to an Illegal Poll Tax. Others just call it Voter Suppression Motivated by Racism.

In October, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, a Clinton Appointee to the Federal Bench, Ruled that it’s Unconstitutional to Deny Ex-Felons the Right to Vote if they’re Too Poor to Pay Fines and other Costs Imposed on them by the Courts. He said the State must come up with an Administrative Solution to provide Ex-Felons with a way to Prove that they Can’t Pay. The State Appealed his Decision to the 11th Circuit Court. It also asked Hinkle for a Stay until the Appeal is Completed.

The Problem with that, Hinkle noted in a testy Court Session Wednesday, is that, given the Speed with which the Court System typically Operates, No Decision might be Forthcoming in time for Ex-Felons to be able to Register to Vote for the March 17th Florida Presidential Primaries. The Registration Deadline is Feb. 18th. Leah Aden, who Represents the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said the Situation has Voter-Registration Groups at a Loss for what to do.

State Lawyers told Hinkle that if his Ruling isn’t Stayed, Evaluating Ex-Felons’ Financial Situations and Registering the many Tens of Thousands of them Eligible to Vote would be an Administrative Burden.

If the Appeals Court agrees with Hinkle, the Lawyers said after much Querying from Hinkle, the Governor’s View is that this would make All of Amendment 4 Law Null because there is No Severability that would Allow the Uncontested Parts of a Law to be Separated from a Part found to be Unconstitutional.

“If you really want to comply with the Constitution and let everyone who’s eligible to vote, vote, pretty easy,” the Judge said. “You put in place a constitutional system, it won’t matter if they (plaintiffs) like it or not. What you can’t do is to run out the clock so that people who are eligible to vote don’t get to vote in the March primary or, more importantly, in the presidential election.”

The Reality here is a familiar one. If Republicans can figure out a way to Suppress the Vote of People more likely to Vote for Democrats, not to mention Suppress the Votes of African Americans and other People of Color, they’ll do it.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker


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