Be Careful What You Wish For: Demanding Platforms Delete Disinformation May Make It Harder To Understand What Happened

from the watch-out dept

Here's another one in the "be careful what you wish for" category. Over the last few years, under tons of pressure from politicians and many users, various internet platforms have gotten more and more aggressive in removing content and accounts that were credibly accused of spreading disinformation and propaganda. Most people cheered over this, and you can completely understand why. But, that doesn't mean it doesn't create some consequences that might not all be good. J.A. Guerrero-Saade points out that all of this content removal can make things harder for researchers and investigators.

I'm reminded, somewhat, of all the demands in the past (and present) that these platforms need to take down "terrorist" content as quickly as possible. That ignores the fact that "terrorist" content can actually also be evidence of war crimes and atrocities that it might be useful for certain people to see. It also makes it that much more difficult for investigators -- whether government actors or open source investigative reporters -- to track down the perpetrators.

In response to this thread, Facebook's former Chief Security Officer, Alex Stamos, warned that he didn't think the research Facebook conducted over the past few years to find Russian disinfo spreaders would even be allowable under the GDPR:

This, as always, is the kind of thing we've been concerned about from the very beginning with the GDPR. There may be the best of intentions behind it, and "protecting privacy" always sounds good. But there are significant consequences to this, and demanding that private data be locked up, or that "bad" content be deleted as fast as possible, can have significant real world consequences that we might not like very much over the long haul.

Filed Under: alex stamos, deleting information, disinformation, gdpr, historical record, privacy, propaganda


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  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 27 Feb 2019 @ 7:26am

    Wow. Whatever happened to "destroying evidence of a crime is a crime"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    P. Hallus, 27 Feb 2019 @ 9:55am

    Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-Russia"!

    You simply don't read what's easily available when doesn't fit your bias.

    Now, who cares if some misinformation goes missing? TRUTH is always the same all times all places. You need only look.

    If actually interested in TRUTH you would read this:

    The Greatest Constitutional Crisis Since the Civil War

    For more than two years, the United States and the world have had two competing narratives: that an elected president of the United States was a Russian agent whom the Kremlin helped elect; and its rival narrative that senior officials of the Justice Department, FBI, CIA, and other national intelligence organizations had repeatedly lied under oath, misinformed federal officials, and meddled in partisan political matters illegally and unconstitutionally and had effectively tried to influence the outcome of a presidential election, and then undo its result by falsely propagating the first narrative. It is now obvious and indisputable that the second narrative is the correct one.

    https://amgreatness.com/2019/02/21/the-greatest-constitutional-crisis-since-the-civil-war/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TFG, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:01am

      Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-Russia"!

      Read the article. Heavy on assertions, light on anything to support those assertions.

      Much like you.

      It is now obvious and indisputable that the author doesn't like presenting, you know, evidence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        P. Hallus, 27 Feb 2019 @ 11:05am

        Re: Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-

        Read the article. Heavy on assertions, light on anything to support those assertions.

        And your evidence to support the "Trump-Russia collusion" is WHAT?

        State the 3 key facts of what Trump did. C'mon, you are tacitly claiming that if the article is light, then the alternative of T-RC must be true. SO SHOW YOUR FACTS.

        Brought out a bunch of gainsaying trolls is all. I hesitated to comment, because gainsaying, insults, and ad hom are all one will get here from the fanboys. They are NEVER going to admit that there's ZERO to "Trump-Russia collusion" than the allegations. (And don't say "but convictions!" because those are incidental, don't prove the main premise.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          TFG, 27 Feb 2019 @ 11:59am

          Re: Re: Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Tr

          I have made zero statements in this thread regarding the Trump-Russia collusion, and have neither the desire nor the need to attempt to prove it exists.

          The entirety of my point in this particular interaction is that the article linked has provided no evidence to support its assertions, and so is suspect.

          You can spout off all you like, but unless you got some sweet, sweet ev-i-dence, I will not believe you, and I will not believe the no-facts-all-opinion article you are basing your nonsense off of.

          Now, if someone were to actually provide some evidence that anything said was actually true, then we might have something to talk about. As it is - Have an excellent day, Mr. Winner. Enjoy your flag collection.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:11am

      Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-Russia"!

      You simply don't read what's easily available when doesn't fit your bias.

      Are you spying on me that you know what I do and don't read?

      Now, who cares if some misinformation goes missing?

      Let's say someone commits a murder. He has an accomplice, that accomplice doesn't take part in the actual act of murder but he does leave false evidence behind and lies to the police about what happened, thereby spreading some misinformation and deflecting the investigation from a guilty person to an innocent one. That accomplice is guilty of assisting the murder and obstructing justice. Both are serious crimes.

      Now let's say that the evidence the accomplice left behind goes missing from the police evidence lockup. By accident or on purpose doesn't matter, it just does. That evidence links the accomplice to the murder and proves that he tried to obstruct justice. Without that misinformation, it's impossible to prove he is guilty in trying to cover up a murder.

      Lots of people care if misinformation goes missing. The fact that it isn't true does not make it irrelevant information.

      TRUTH is always the same all times all places. You need only look.

      Exactly. And having the misinformation on hand can help clarify and point the way to the truth.

      If actually interested in TRUTH you would read this:

      I read your snippet. It presents no evidence to back up its assertions. Where is the evidence? And why would I trust baseless claims from a website I've never heard of and spouts blatant lies in their headlines?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gary (profile), 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:34am

      Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-Russia"!

      We get it Comrade, you love the Cheeto!
      No matter what Cheeto says, or how many lies he tweets, you love him because he's racist and that is the important thing. Da!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        P. Hallus, 27 Feb 2019 @ 11:10am

        Re: Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-

        "Gary", you are more clearly "Dark Helmet" astro-turfing every time you get excited. Your aggressive challenges and bombast are distinctive.

        For the record: I'm not happy with Trump, but the alternative to Trump was a known globalist fiend. Looks as though Trump is surrounded by neocons and Zionists and empirists and will start a "humanitarian war" in Venezuala to steal its oil TOO, a HUGE criminal flaw, like bombing Syria, which you types NEVER bring up.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 Feb 2019 @ 11:47am

          And yet you’re in here carrying his water for him vis-á-vis the Russia investigation, so you can’t be that dissatisfied with him if you’re willing to sell yourself out like that for the sake of antagonistic back-and-forth on a site you openly profess to hate.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 27 Feb 2019 @ 11:33am

      Re: Over 2 years YOU deliberately misunderstand "Trump-Russia"!

      Hey buddy. Thanks for making sure to comment on every fucking post and doing so in a way that is always wrong. It's impressive, and I look forward to you continuing your streak.

      Anyhoo. Nothing in this post has anything to do with "Trump Russia collusion" other than mentioning, in passing, the collection of evidence of Russian trolls using Facebook to sow discord during the election. And, of course, that part has already been confirmed. But it's unrelated to "collusion" which was not mentioned and has nothing to do with this post.

      So, uh, why even bring up collusion?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:04am

    Yeah but things like 'terrorist' content might radicalize the people who would be looking at it as evidence, and those people need no more help being radicalized.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:15am

      Re:

      might radicalize

      Key words here. Very few people are radicalized by terrorist content who weren't already going down that path anyway.

      And this is the internet we're talking about here. If someone wants to find radical terrorist content on the internet, that's not hard to do. Removing it from one section of it isn't going to magically prevent people from being radicalized online.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:30am

        Re: Re:

        Sorry. I communicated poorly.

        It is a joke.

        On the fact that certain US agents are now a notable source of 'terrorism' in the US

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Adrian Lopez, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:39am

    Freedom of speech

    Practical issues aside, there is something very disturbing about online platforms being bullied into regulating speech online. The bedrock principle of the First Amendment is that the government does not get to be the arbiter of legitimate expression, but that's exactly what they're asking service providers to do through grandstanding and threats of legislation.

    I wish online platforms would put up more of a fight. "Russian interference" deserves a place right alongside "what about terrorists" in the pantheon of lame pretexts for online regulation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2019 @ 10:51am

    It's all in the definition, history is replete with examples of the government (or other powerful people or organisations ) calling a news fragment false or fake only in the fullness of time to find out there was truth there. Terrorism similarly suffers, during the 70's and 80's the Irish Republic Army (IRA) was a terrorist origination bombing mainland England according to the UK government, but to Americans (particularly those of Irish decent in New York) these were freedom fighters, fighting oppression.

    It feels binary, we either have an open free society where we trust an educated population to make their own judgments on information in the public domain or we don't. Personally I would like to see it all and make my own mind up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Feb 2019 @ 4:37pm

    You mean like how the internet has purged Tommy Robertson ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rog S., 28 Feb 2019 @ 7:03am

    The core problem is, the US and our allies, and NGOs are so deeply involved in disinformation and other abuse, that platforms are also tasked with hiding THAT as evidence if our own malfeasance.

    This is most apparent in such as cases where mass shooters and incel guys Facebook /Twitter /Snapchat is webscrubbed to hide the involvement of our own agencies and our allies PsyOps.

    Perhaps the best documented of these is the case of William Atchison, of NM, who was followed in online gaming forums, chat rooms, and other places by British intel, and who was also followed and contacted by local US agents /agencies after utilizing pure speech.

    https://encyclopediadramatica.rs/William_Atchison

    Atchison was targeted by “mysterious ” online people for quite awhile, and visited by the FBI; and a British MP actually and remarkably, and specifically targeted Atchisons speech.

    Then, his web presence was carefully filtered before the media after his shooting event. Which seems like an awful lot of attention from “handlers ” for a stupid hillbilly kid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2019 @ 7:19am

      Re:

      It's a conspiracy! It's a conspiracy! Quick! Everybody put your hands in the air and run around screaming like a raving lunatic while simultaneously ignoring facts and reality!

      And while we're at it, let's blame everything on big tech! Why? Why not! We don't understand how it works, so it's kind of like magic, and we used to burn witches at the stake! Makes perfect sense! Burn the magical big tech companies!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rog S., 28 Feb 2019 @ 10:32am

        Re: Re:

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rog S., 28 Feb 2019 @ 10:36am

          Re: Re: Re: douchebgs as stop gaps.

          yeah, try not to burn your own infannatory fingers, huh?

          The web is full of you -s.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 28 Feb 2019 @ 10:46am

            More than you've got

            At least I can spell and don't live in a fantasy, conspiracy ridden world where everyone is out to get me and I'm literally wrong about everything.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Rog S., 28 Feb 2019 @ 11:20pm

              Re: More than you've got

              ~it's a conspiracy! It's a conspiracy! Quick! Everybody put your hands in the air and run around screaming like a raving lunatic while simultaneously ignoring facts and reality!~

              And this, stated by an anonymous coward flapping its chicken wings in the air.

              Hey hasbara cockroach bro, you could have added your name to your post, without fear.

              And to be clear: psychological profiling and psyops online, and the associated harrassment of targeted speakers offline by nin -US agents, intelligence agencies and Israelis isnt just a conspiracy, its a national shame.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Fearless Anonymous Coward with more sense, bravery, 1 Mar 2019 @ 6:29am

                Re: Re: More than you've got

                you could have added your name to your post, without fear.

                Ok.

                Happy now?

                psychological profiling and psyops online, and the associated harrassment of targeted speakers offline by nin -US agents, intelligence agencies and Israelis isnt just a conspiracy,

                Note I never actually said this never took place. I'm well aware of the use of psychological profiling and "psyops" by ALL governments in the world, including the US. They have their uses in certain situations.

                What I'm calling BS on is your asserted fact that every Tom, Dick, and Harry mass shooter was radicalized via these means and the government subsequently tried to cover it up by forcing social media companies to delete their accounts and dump the evidence. THAT is what I am saying is nothing more than mad conspiracy theory ravings. And since THAT was the thrust of your entire post, hence my mockery of said post.

                So unless you've got some evidence to prove me wrong, suck it up buttercup!

                Oh, and I can still spell better than you.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  and more spelling chops than Rog S., 1 Mar 2019 @ 6:30am

                  Re: Re: Re: More than you've got

                  Aww man, it cut off my name. It showed the whole thing in the preview. Well, here's the rest of it at least.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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