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December 08, 2023

Another Day, Another Government Plot to Spy On You Via Social Media

Here, it seems to be foreign governments spying on you by asking Google and Apple what your "push notifications" are.

However, do note that one way the American government snoops on its own citizens is to ask foreign governments, often the UK, to spy on American citizens, and then share the information with us. See, nothing in the Constitution stops the UK from spying on Americans, does it?

You might think that the Constitution obviously also bars from obvious end-arounds like this but our Deep State Masters choose not to read it like that.

Unidentified governments are surveilling smartphone users via their apps' push notifications, a U.S. senator warned on Wednesday.

In a letter to the Department of Justice, Senator Ron Wyden said foreign officials were demanding the data from Alphabet's (GOOGL.O) Google and Apple (AAPL.O). Although details were sparse, the letter lays out yet another path by which governments can track smartphones.

Apps of all kinds rely on push notifications to alert smartphone users to incoming messages, breaking news, and other updates. These are the audible "dings" or visual indicators users get when they receive an email or their sports team wins a game. What users often do not realize is that almost all such notifications travel over Google and Apple's servers.

That gives the two companies unique insight into the traffic flowing from those apps to their users, and in turn puts them "in a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users are using particular apps," Wyden said. He asked the Department of Justice to "repeal or modify any policies" that hindered public discussions of push notification spying.

In a statement, Apple said that Wyden's letter gave them the opening they needed to share more details with the public about how governments monitored push notifications.

"In this case, the federal government prohibited us from sharing any information," the company said in a statement. "Now that this method has become public we are updating our transparency reporting to detail these kinds of requests."


The Department of Justice declined to comment on the push notification surveillance or whether it had prevented Apple or Google from talking about it.

See why I brought up our own government? Why would the federal government forbid Google and Apple from discussing foreign governments' demands for surveillance material on US citizens, unless the US government was actually the true recipient of that information?


The source declined to identify the foreign governments involved in making the requests but described them as democracies allied to the United States.

The source said they did not know how long such information had been gathered in that way.

I suspect this foreign government is the UK, who is often the US's dirty partner is these sorts of spy operations against US citizens.

And I suspect that further because of the leading role the British spy organization the GDI has in directing censorship efforts in the US.

The State Department is financing a foreign advocacy group that aims to cut off funding to American journalists.

That's one of the blockbuster revelations in "Disinformation Inc.," a series of reports by Gabe Kaminsky in the Washington Examiner.

The "Global Disinformation Index," or GDI, is a British organization with a pair of U.S. nonprofit affiliates. It receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the State Department's Global Engagement Center and the taxpayer-funded National Endowment for Democracy.

But GDI is in the business of doing what the First Amendment doesn't allow our government to do. It blacklists news organizations to deny them advertiser dollars.

Major advertisers like the Microsoft-owned Xandr have used GDI's "dynamic exclusion list" to decide which websites will or won't get ads.

See, that's what I think the value of the push notifications are -- to find out which Forbidden Websites are being pushed to American citizens.

I mean, that's my guess. We know very little here. It's all secret.

Now... Global Engagement Center?

Where have I heard of that federally-funded censorship group lately?

Oh yes: It's the State Department-funded group engaged in censoring US citizen speech by depriving conservative/anti-Deep State speakers of advertising revenue.

Matt Taibbi:

In late October, the liberal anti-establishment investigative site Consortium News filed a historic suit against the United States of America and Newsguard,* describing a state-funded effort to label, defame, and stigmatize "media organizations that oppose or dissent from American foreign and defense policy."

Now, a pair of conservative media outlets, The Federalist and The Daily Wire, have filed a bookend suit to match the Consortium News action. This time the defendant is the Global Engagement Center, the State Department organization ostensibly dedicated to countering "foreign state and non-state propaganda." Much as Consortium News alleged the Pentagon funded Newsguard to censor its critics, the Federalist/Daily Wire action alleges the State Department sponsored Newsguard and the U.K.-based Global Disinformation Index as "censorship enterprises" targeting domestic speech, in direct violation of its charter.

Although the 1947 Smith-Mundt Act barring agencies like the State Department from engaging in propaganda at home was "modernized" through legislation passed in 2012, the broad ban on intelligence or diplomatic services meddling in the domestic news landscapes remains. Even the "modernized" Smith-Mundt Act declares bluntly that no State Department funds shall be "used to influence public opinion in the United States." Additionally, as the Federalist/Daily Wire action cites, the law governing State Department conduct, 22 U.S. Code 2656, says unequivocally that its mandate is limited to "matters respecting foreign affairs." For the State Department to fund organizations that up and down-rank domestic media organizations is a ludicrously obvious no-no.

"The State Department's mandate to administer foreign affairs is clear, making its role in the censorship scheme doubly unlawful," says Margot Cleveland, serving here as the New Civil Liberties Alliance attorney representing The Federalist and The Daily Wire.

What is the alleged "censorship scheme"? The suit outlines a number of issues, but the most damaging appears to involve the use of GEC as a mechanism to funnel money to various censorship-by-proxy organizations. One of those groups is NewsGuard, which in a recent press release said a goal of its subscription-based "credibility assessment" services is to "systemically defund sources of harmful misinformation."

NewsGuard in a presentation of its Library Partnership to the Alaska Department of Education explained in the unabashed dystopian style these organizations are becoming known for that "We are also licensing our White List of legitimate news sites to advertisers, which will cut off revenues to fake news sites":

I reached out to NewsGuard about this passage. If the company licenses a "whitelist" of "legitimate" sites with the express goal of cutting off "revenues to fake news sites," aren't they effectively engaged in a blacklisting service whose real aim is to target what it considers illegitimate sites? Is there any reason, I asked, that this service should not be described as blacklisting?

The company has, now, responded. First of all, with regard to the term "blacklisting":

Whatever term you use for our service, what we are providing is simply information --our assessments of sites -- so that advertisers can decide where to place their ads.

So I guess that's a yes on "blacklisting"? But that's not bad, because, they say:

No publisher is entitled to any particular brand's advertising dollars, and advertisers generally prefer to place their ads on sites that are credible and trustworthy. In a free market, we believe brands should be able to make their own choices about where to place their ads--and to license data that enables them to do so.

The whole point of this suit is that this is not a free market. The litigation is specifically designed to restore a free market. NewsGuard can rationalize all it wants, but when it takes government money and announces an intention to create "white lists" for some and "cut off revenues" for others, that's the opposite of a "marketplace of ideas." It's a government-sponsored thumb on the scale of "credibility" and "trust." In the absence of a big GEC- or Cyber Command-sponsored Scarlet Letter on disfavored content, advertisers would go to wherever the audiences are -- and this arrangement interferes with that organic process.

GDI, meanwhile, says one of its goals is to "defund disinformation" and uses what it seriously calls a Dynamic Exclusion List -- the most badly creepy euphemism since the Obama administration dubbed its "kill list" the "Disposition Matrix" -- to bleed news outlets deemed "morally reprehensible" or lacking "redeeming social value" of ad revenue.

Oh wait, there's the British spy/censorship organization GDI again. Hi GDI!

The company also drew up lists of "least risky" and "riskiest" news outlets that seem to contradict its stance that it does not target "information about which reasonable parties may agree, such as varying political views." Notice any patterns below?

Let me direct you to Taibbi's substack to see if you can figure out the patterns in which outlets are considered "risky" and which are "safe."

Some examples: Buzzfeed: Safe!

Daily Wire: RISKY!!!!

Huffington Post: Safe!

The New York Post: RISKY!!!!

Can you figure out what Secret Algorithm NewsGard might be employing to determine which sources are "Safe" for advertisers and which are "RISKY!!!" and should be starved of all commerce?

Update: Joe Mannix thinks this about who's using encrypted messaging services:

I think it's too build a list of who is using various "bad" services - Telegram, Signal, etc. End-to-end encrypted decentralized messaging is something *no* government likes. Spying on push systems will give them a window into who is using those platforms, and depending on what information is available, why those platforms are being used.

I strongly suspect that this is way more about Telegram and Signal and its analogues than it is about "disinformation" news pushes.

Posted by: Joe Mannix (Not a cop!)

digg this
posted by Disinformation Expert Ace at 01:29 PM

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