Sunday, December 17, 2017
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Caribbean attorney predicted use of social media to attack US


S-M-IIn a series of communications starting as long ago as February 2014, an attorney at law in the Eastern Caribbean alerted Facebook and US federal government agencies about the use of fake or fictitious social media accounts that were being used to the detriment of genuine users and national security generally.


On three occasions, in February 2014, April 2015 and September 2015, the US federal government in the shape of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) was notified that Facebook, as a publicly traded company, was continuing to ignore its own published terms and standards, with potentially serious and undisclosed implications for actual and/or potential investors.


Facebook has extensive published policies regarding, in particular, its identity requirements for users, which it fails to enforce until damage is done and it is too late. Such policies form part of information provided to actual and potential investors and on which such investors are entitled to rely.


The undisclosed risk to investors is that Facebook’s real user base may be substantially lower than claimed.


More presciently, however, the SEC was alerted that the company may be facilitating terrorist and other groups that rely on the anonymity afforded by Facebook (contrary to its own rules) to recruit supporters and foment unrest generally.


This was also drawn to the attention of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the same time. 


According to a senior US intelligence source, congressional policymakers were likewise alerted to the national security risks posed by the widespread and uncontrolled use of fake and/or anonymous social media accounts.


Apparently mirroring the inaction by US federal agencies prior to the September 11 attacks, nothing was done by Facebook, DHS, SEC and/or US lawmakers to address the issues raised in 2014 and 2015.


In a critique of government missteps before the September 11 attacks, the Justice Department’s inspector general (IG) said the FBI missed at least five opportunities to uncover vital intelligence information about the terrorists, and the bureau didn’t aggressively pursue the information it did have.


“The way the FBI handled these matters was a significant failure that hindered the FBI’s chances of being able to detect and prevent the September 11 attacks,” Inspector General Glenn Fine said.


On Friday, Richard Clarke, former US national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism, said that Russia used tens of thousands of fake Facebook and Twitter accounts to manipulate the outcome of the November 2016 US elections.


“They were micro-targeting individual voters in swing districts, shaping their opinions – it was psychological warfare on a grand scale. They conducted the largest psychological warfare campaign in history and they won,” Clarke said.


“This is the 21st century equivalent to having Russians land Marines on the Jersey Shore,” he added.


“After what happened in the last election, the US should have instituted a comprehensive program to ensure that Russians never got involved in our election again,” Clarke said. “And they have done nothing. Nothing at all. And, as James Comey said, they will be back.”


In response to a suggestion that America might never learn what happened because the president was the beneficiary of the hacking so he has no incentive to solve the issue, “That’s why he’s not investigating it,” Clarke agreed. “That’s why he’s not doing all the things we need to do to make sure it can’t happen again.”


However, that does not explain why the early warnings that could have prevented or at least mitigated the election hacking were not heeded and acted upon years ago by the several parties and agencies in a position to do so.

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