A deepfake video shows Prime Minister Boris Johnson appearing to endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for prime minister, and vice versa.
The RNC paid to generate thousands of calls to the congressional offices of nearly three dozen House Democrats in recent weeks, an effort that was aimed at both shaping opinion around the impeachment inquiry and tying up the phone lines of the elected officials, the New York Times reports.
The Los Angeles Times got the back story on how the nude photos of Rep. Katie Hill (D-CA) wound up online — and it includes GOP operatives who had previously worked for Steve Knight (R), her opponent for Congress.
“Conservative websites soon revealed that they had obtained some of Hill’s private texts and nude photos of her, including one with a campaign aide. The main authors of the articles, it turns out, were former campaign advisors to Steve Knight, the Republican congressman ousted by Hill a year ago.”
First Read: “If this is what this looks like — and again, we don’t know the actual substance of the July 25 call — then it’s arguably worse than Watergate, when the dirty tricks were being conducted by Americans against Americans.”
“But this time, is the dirty trick a sitting president dangling aid to a foreign country to get it to investigate a rival campaign?”
“We learned from 2016 that the Trump campaign will do whatever it takes to win. Do national Democrats — who believe defeating Trump in 2020, not impeaching him, is the best way to remove him from office — understand what else we might see over the next 14 months?”
“New documents obtained exclusively by CNN reveal that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange received in-person deliveries, potentially of hacked materials related to the 2016 US election, during a series of suspicious meetings at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.”
“The documents build on the possibility, raised by special counsel Robert Mueller in his report on Russian meddling, that couriers brought hacked files to Assange at the embassy.”
“The surveillance reports also describe how Assange turned the embassy into a command center and orchestrated a series of damaging disclosures that rocked the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States.”
“A new study found that for every 25,000 retweets that a known Russian troll account received during the 2016 election, Donald Trump’s poll numbers jumped 1%,” Axios reports.
“Retweets did not have a similar effect on Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.”
“Caveat: Correlation does not always mean causation. If a Trump talking point encouraged a particularly viral Tweet, for example, it may have also encouraged a change in Trump’s polling on its own.”
New York Times: “All the site says about its creator is buried in the fine print at the bottom of the page. The site, it says, is a political parody built and paid for ‘BY AN American citizen FOR American citizens,’ and not the work of any campaign or political action committee.”
“There is indeed an American behind the website — that much is unambiguously true. But he is very much a political player, and a Republican one at that. His name is Patrick Mauldin, and he makes videos and other digital content for President’s Trump’s re-election campaign. Together with his brother Ryan, Mr. Mauldin also runs Vici Media Group, a Republican political consulting firm in Austin whose website opens with the line ‘We Kick’ followed by the image of a donkey — the Democratic Party symbol often known by another, three-letter, name.”
The Washington Post profiles GOP operatives Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, who see their mission as smearing critics of the president.
“As it turns out, the truth or falsity of a Burkman-Wohl-concocted story is merely an inconvenience. Let the media’s ‘puritanical’ fact-checkers puzzle it out: That’s the view of this twosome who fancy themselves as sub rosa players in the 2020 presidential contest and busy themselves trafficking in Internet rumors they hope will damage Democratic candidates. Like notorious dirty tricksters before them, they operate in a realm where it matters little whether their claims are proved — they hardly ever are — but only whether they somehow slip into a corpuscle or two of the national bloodstream.”
“But today it’s a more dangerous game: They operate in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended and in which many Americans get their information from self-affirming, partisan silos, making their brand of political cyberwarfare hyper-relevant.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said the Russian government “is likely to try to influence the 2020 presidential election, not through the release of stolen emails and other documents but through faked videos,” the New York Times reports.
He said that a carefully crafted, controversial fake video would be “hugely disruptive and hugely influential.”
“The risk is amplified because if a video is executed carefully, it can be hard to both prove it is fake and show where it came from.”
“The 2020 presidential campaigns appear to have done little to prepare for what experts predict could be a flood of fake videos depicting candidates doing or saying something incriminating or embarrassing,” Axios reports.
“The recent manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was just a taste of what could lie ahead. Fake video has the potential to sow huge political chaos, and countering it is wildly difficult. And right now, no one can agree who’s responsible for countering it.”
Related for members: It’s Going to Get Really Bad
CBS News: “Russian Twitter trolls have attempted to fuel the anti-vaccination debate in the U.S., posting about the issue far more than the average Twitter user last year, a study out of George Washington University has found.”
“The ‘sophisticated’ bots shared opinions from both sides of the anti-vaxxer debate, which took the U.S. by storm and prompted tech companies to crack down on the spread of misinformation surrounding vaccinations.”
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Haaretz: “An Israeli public relations company headed by a settler leader boasted Wednesday that it was behind the Likud initiative to place 1,200 hidden cameras in Arab polling stations on Election Day. The firm added that it was to thank for the historically low turnout among Arab voters.”
From the company’s statement: “Thanks to us placing observers in every polling station we managed to lower the voter turnout to under 50 percent, the lowest in recent years!”
Wired: “Plenty of people are following the final days of the midterm election campaigns. Yale law researcher Rebecca Crootof has a special interest—a small wager. If she wins, victory will be bittersweet, like the Manhattan cocktail that will be her prize.”
“In June, Crootof bet that before 2018 is out an electoral campaign somewhere in the world will be roiled by a deepfake—a video generated by machine-learning software that shows someone doing or saying something that in fact they did not do or say. Under the terms of the bet, the video must receive more than 2 million views before being debunked.”
“A conservative group that creates undercover ‘sting’ videos infiltrated the campaign of Abigail Spanberger, a Democrat in a tight race with Rep. Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th District,” the Washington Post reports.
“The campaign said a young woman working for Project Veritas posed as a Democratic volunteer and spent every day over the past several weeks in Spanberger’s suburban Richmond campaign office, performing basic office tasks — and peppering her office mates with questions that eventually raised red flags.”
“A cadre of conservative House lawmakers allied with President Trump has been privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that depict Khashoggi as allied with terrorists — false and distorted claims that have begun to flare into public view as conservative media figures have amplified them,” the Washington Post reports.
“Khashoggi, a dissident journalist, is believed to have been killed and dismembered by Saudi operatives.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) — who’ll be out Tuesday with his second book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal — tells Axios about new artificial intelligence algorithms that can create convincing fake images, audio and video and potentially disrupt our politics.
Said Sasse: “I had a conversation last month with one of the most senior U.S. intelligence officials, who told me that many leaders in the intelligence community worry that we’re on the verge of a deepfakes ‘perfect storm.'”
“The tussle between two Republicans vying for a chance to capture the House District 69 seat has taken an unpleasant turn,” the Tampa Bay Times reports.
“Raymond Blacklidge (R) filed a report with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office accusing his rival, Jeremy Bailie (R), of stealing his campaign fliers from the doors of dozens of St. Pete Beach homes. And, Blacklidge said, his rival then replaced them with Bailie’s own campaign materials.”
Blacklidge’s wife posted a video to Facebook showing Bailie removing the flyers.