Hatemail 2020-09-24: The Company Collecting Voter Data for the Trump Campaign

Newsletter and intel from the LaBac Hacker Collective

A follow up to some of the information we posted last week about the software company Phunware: On Friday, Vice Motherboard published a perspective examining how user data from everyday applications is being acquired and operationalized for political campaigns by data brokers such as Phunware. 

As Vice reports, we provided their journalists with a list of apps that connect to Phunware domains. (You can find the list here). The provided information is based on a static analysis and reverse engineering process conducted on Android apps which we identified as having the Phunware software development kit (SDK) installed. Our team first started investigating Phunware back in April, after The Intercept reported that the company was collecting user data for the Trump campaign.  

Sunday, Sep 27, 2020 - Emergent works and Julie Kiserman are hosting this workshop on how to use open source tools to understand what is happening in our local communities. [Eventbrite]

Disinformation in the Era of Social Media

  • [The Verge] Leaked audio recordings obtained by The Verge show Mark Zuckerberg working to please Facebook’s more conservative user base, while simultaneously facing his employees’ discontent with how the company handles misinformation.

  • [The Daily Beast] [The Washington Post] A network of social media accounts spreading disinformation about Covid-19 were found to be linked to Turning Point USA, the conservative youth group. The network of accounts (likened to a “MAGA troll farm”) was initially uncovered by The Washington Post last week. This week, The Daily Beast has reported more information on these efforts. 

  • [The Atlantic] Renée DiResta (@noUpside) of the Stanford Internet Observatory writes on how artificial intelligence will make disinformation campaigns way more difficult to debunk and investigate. DiResta also contemplates the human effort going into disinformation campaigns and how verified identity fits into the conversation. 

  • [Mozilla] A new open-source tool, called the Social Media Analysis Toolkit (SMAT), provides a free way to explore and analyze internet trends on social media sites. The tool was co-created by Mozilla Fellow Emmi Bevensee (@emmibevensee).

White Supremacists and Police 

  • [KUSA] In Colorado, a the militant neo-nazi group Atomwaffen Division has rebranded itself and relaunched as the National Socialist Order (NSO). Before it's disbandment and transformation into NSO, Atomwaffen was linked to five murders and federal authorities arrested several members last spring. 

  • [Bloomberg] On Tuesday, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf said during a Senate hearing that white supremacists are the top terrorist threat within the U.S., further stating that white supremacists are “certainly the most persistent and lethal threat.” Wow. Who knew?

  • [The Nation] DHS has yet to come clean about the full extent of its intelligence operations responding to recent racial justice protests in Portland, which included tapping protesters’ phones, according to reporting by Ken Klippenstein (@kenklippenstein). 

  • [Medium] Wargame designer Mike Selinker (@mikeselinker) outlines four possible war scenarios following the outcome of the 2020 U.S. election, weighing the chances that future U.S. conflict will resemble the Irish War of Independence or look more like the Russian Revolution.  

On Our Radar…

  • [Vice] A company called Civvl is using the gig economy model championed by companies like Uber to evict working class people. It’s website, aimed at recruiting contract workers for eviction crew gigs, claims to be the “fastest growing money making gig due to Covid-19.”  

  • [Nature] Today’s data collection controversies were preceded by the cold-war era corporation Simulmatics, which targeted voters with predictive models and gathered what it called “massive data.” American history professor Jill Lepore explores how the history of Simulmatics influences data collection today. 

  • [The Markup] Investigative data journalist Surya Mattu (@suryamattu) has put together Blacklight, a real-time privacy inspector that can reveal the user-tracking tech being used on any given site.  

Hate speech website: qanon[.]pub

Who hosts: Cloudflare, Digital Ocean

Today’s site is qanon[.]pub. Since the takedown of other Qanon-related sites, Qanon[.]pub has become the most popular site to exchange hateful conspiracy theories related to the Qanon movement. Their site uses Cloudflare to protect their infrastructure, but we have previously observed their servers to resolve to the IP address 159.203.158[.]111, which is hosted by Digital Ocean.