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    • By Usman Khan Lodhi
      Twitter cracks down on QAnon conspiracy group, bans 7,000 accounts
      by Usman Khan Lodhi



      Twitter announced that it would permanently ban accounts that violate the platform's policies while tweeting about QAnon, the conspiracy theory movement that asserts "deep state" actors are plotting against Donald Trump. In the last several weeks, about 7,000 accounts, which violated the firm's rules against spam, platform manipulation, and ban evasion, have been banned. In a suspension later rolled out this week, the circulation of roughly 150,000 additional accounts will be limited, as they'll stop appearing in recommendations, trends, and search.

      Per online conspiracies, the term "deep state" refers to a combination of elites from intelligence, political, business, and entertainment sectors, and QAnon's theories assert that the "deep state" is a secret war with Trump.

      Twitter stated that QAnon-related links will be blocked from being shared on the platform, and accounts associated with the conspiracy movement will no longer be promoted in search, conversations, or trending topics. The firm didn't elaborate on which forums or sites might be impacted.

      Last year, QAnon was designated as a potential domestic extremist threat by the FBI when it issued a warning about "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists."

      Source: Reuters

    • By Jonathan Nolan
      YouTube takes on conspiracy videos, offering fact-check links while watching
      by Jonathan Nolan

      YouTube announced this week that it is partnering with information site Wikipedia to offer users "additional information" when viewing videos that might be considered controversial or related to a conspiracy theory.

      The measure was revealed by the company's CEO Susan Wojcicki at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The festival is a major event for 'creating and discovering' for professionals in the video, music, and interactive industries. The plan is that in the near future, should you be watching a video that falls into such a category, a text box called an "information cue" will pop up below the video suggesting you to look further into the matter rather than taking what is said in the video as the full story.

      With respect to the viewing experience, Wojcicki said:

      Conspiracy theories have become an issue for the Google-owned company who previously made changes to search engine results to promote more "authoritative results". It's unclear how many videos may be labeled as such or exactly which ones, with an example mentioned during the presentation concerning the 1969 Moon landing. As it stands, the effectiveness of this change remains to be seen.

      Source: CNBC

    • By Hum
      If there is anything worse than losing a child, it is losing a child and having people taunt you over the loss.
       
      That is what happened to the family of Noah Pozner, a 6-year-old with tousled brown hair and lollipop-red lips, the youngest of the 26 children and staff members gunned down in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
       
      In the years since the massacre that shook the country and opened new anxiety over gun violence, the family has received hate-filled calls and violent emails from people who say they know the shooting was a hoax. Photos of their son — some with pornographic and anti-Semitic content — have been distributed on websites.
       
      These outlandish theories, which hold that the Newtown school shooting was a staged mass murder engineered by gun control advocates, have lived until now in the dark corners of the Internet.
       
      But they have gained fresh momentum in the last several months, residents here say, at a time when conspiracy theorists across the country have attained the status of celebrities, and the nation as a whole is engaged in a contentious debate over the nature of truth.
       
      President Trump and his national security advisor, Michael T. Flynn, have been open enthusiasts of Alex Jones’ Infowars, a Web-based radio and video network that has relentlessly pushed the theory that Sandy Hook was staged by Democrats to advance a gun control agenda. 
       
      An unabashed Trump supporter during the campaign, Jones says he received a personal call of thanks from the president-elect days after the election.
       
      Although Trump has not spoken publicly about Sandy Hook, many residents here say he is nurturing the culture of exaggeration and paranoia on which conspiracy theorists thrive.
       
      Mark Fenster, a law professor at the University of Florida and author of a book about conspiracy theories in American politics, said the Sandy Hook hoax theory was a response to a Democratic-controlled White House of a kind that often shows up in political extremist circles.
       
      An unemployed waitress was arrested in December in Florida on charges of making death threats against Pozner, with repeated phone calls to his home in which she muttered ethnic and racial slurs and profanities. Another man is in Rikers Island prison in New York fighting transfer to Connecticut for a deluge of harassing phone calls to the home and office of the medical examiner who signed the coroner reports for Sandy Hook victims.
       
      Another man was convicted of stealing memorial signs erected in playgrounds to commemorate the dead children. He later called the children’s parents and said they shouldn’t mind because their children never existed.
       
      Most of the families associated with Sandy Hook have removed or protected their social media accounts and unlisted their telephone numbers; some have changed homes.
       
      Newtown residents are distrustful of outsiders. On the fourth anniversary of the massacre in December, there was a low-key prayer vigil in a Catholic Church. An unmarked police car was stationed outside the elementary school to keep an eye out for hoaxers who show up frequently, photographing children and confronting families.
       
      The “Sandy Hook truthers,’’ as they called themselves, tormented not only the grieving families, but teachers, police, photographers, first responders, neighbors, government officials and witnesses — they all were said to be part of the ever-expanding conspiracy to fake the massacre.
       
      The conspiracy theorists have shown unflagging energy. The most persistent, Wolfgang Halbig, a 70-year-old Florida man who describes himself as a retired school safety expert, said he had made 22 trips to Connecticut, wiped out his pension and spent more than $100,000, which he raised online.
       
      His theory is that between 500 to 700 people were involved in the “conspiracy” — including the schoolchildren, parents, teachers and police, all the way up to President Obama.

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    • By Sszecret
      Here's a quote from one of the attendants of the Davos panel (can't be bothered to look up her name): "if  you look nationally, internationally at whether or not there are any human rights, if there's any constitutional protections for something like freedom of thought, or mental privacy or cognitive liberty, nothing like that exists yet."
       
      I am quite interested in neuroscience and this as a scientific advancement is worthy of thought. That said, I can't help but see the potential for massive amounts of nefarious use. Thoughts?