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<nettime> fun with ACTA astrohoovering (was Re: Internet for Democracy.
t byfield on Fri, 12 Mar 2010 08:07:05 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> fun with ACTA astrohoovering (was Re: Internet for Democracy. Shut down the Euro Parliament. Now!)


richard.deboer {AT} xs4all.nl (Wed 03/10/10 at 06:19 PM +0100):

> NotWorking Youth declaimed:
> 
> > With this petition, we are demanding the European Parliament:
> >
> >     * Desists, with immediate effect, from all its activities.
> > We don't want to continue paying the bill of an expensive and
> > bureaucratic machine for something we can do better ourselves from
> > the comfort of our armchairs.
 <...>

You're far too kind. "Notworking Youth's" timing couldn't be better:
they denounced the EP right before it voted against ACTA 663-13 -- and
NWY did so as "digital natives [and] web-enthusiasts" (WTF?), purportedly
in the name of (this is really priceless) "a brand new click-based
model of democracy." If NWY had their way, their new democracy would be
subject to a EULA under ACTA.

I very, very rarely speak as a moderator of this list, but in this case
I'll make an exception. I thought that message smelled about as fishy
as it gets when it came in, and partly for that reason I *approved* it --
the alternative being that mods reject messages they 'don't like' for
some vague reason, which would open entirely new horizons of perverse 
incentives. 

But take a look at NWY's site, with its US-style street address in 
Rotterdam ('20 Robert Fruinstraat,' not 'Robert Fruinstraat 20'), the
banal American cadence to its language and (more curious) the complete
lack of europantoesque typos, its non-linked logos for orgs in their
alleged 'network,' the 'No © (2010) European NotWorking Youh' footer,
and its host, Dreamhost. Maybe just some k-rad American expat, right? 
But, still, a bit unusual for a group that's flying no-globo banners.

But here's the kicker: they say they're 'hosted' by something called
'repetitionr' -- and again, that hosting logo isn't linked. Nothing a 
little typing can't fix, so take a look at repetitionr.com's site
and what do we find? Apparently, repetitionr's hosting is really full-
service, because it shares the same vector graphic files of alienated 
hoodie-wearing no-globo youth that NWY is pimping -- and, shall we say,
a certain rhetorical style.

A parsimonious theory might be that NWY is some cockamamie PR scheme
cooked up by some former pseudo-rads to launch their Web 2.0 startup. 
Maybe. So if that's the case, then maybe some or even all of their
other 'petititions' were cooked up as PR as well? Here's the complete
list of this as of this writing:

    Global Petition to Amnesty International: Restoring the 
         Integrity of Human Rights [by "Anon," with 707,971 votes]

    HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT! [by "Amnesty," with 716,098 votes]

    No Amnesty [by Sam Tackle, with 200,017 votes]

    I SUPPORT OBAMA!!! [by "A proud American and Obama supporter,"
         with 750,003 votes]

    A Threat to Local Democracy [by "Premier Dalton McGuinty" --
         with 200,053 votes]

    Abbassiamo Gli Stipendi ai politici! [by "Marco Severini," with
         750,024 votes]

    Petition Against Socialized Healthcare! [by "Strunz," with 
         1,000,043 votes]

    Stop Global Warming [by "Stop Global Warming . Org," with 
         5,001,601 votes]

    In Support of A Green Revolution in Iran [by "greenrevolutioniran,"
         with 104,873 votes]

Where to begin?

How about with a petition related to a city council issue in the
Toronto region -- East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough,
Toronto and York -- that's garnered 200,053 votes. I know the 
pietism that all politics are local, but that's some pretty bad-
ass organizing for an issue related to city council politics, no?

Here are the total alleged votes for all the petitions, stacked up:

    5,001,601
    1,000,043
      707,971
      716,098
      750,003
      750,024
      200,017
      200,053
      104,873
       45,943

Notice any patterns? What's the probability that, out of ten petitions,
four would be in the 700,000s and two of them at 750,0**? Or that two
would be in the 200,000s, both at 200,0**, and upper-bounded by petitions
with 5 million signatures and lower-bounded by a petition with ~100,000
signatures. These 'petition' numbers were seeded -- by a really lazy 
motherfucker. So let's try again: notice anything that *isn't* a pattern? 
If not, you're not looking hard enough, because the only one that wasn't 
seeded with a round number, if not outright concocted, is NWY's anti-EP 
petition. So maybe it isn't beyond the realm of possibility that several 
'petitions' are noise generated to obscure NWY's anti-EP petition.

For anyone who's skeptical, here's some ~actuarial red meat -- a simple 
table of (a) integers from 0-9, (b) the number of times that integer 
occurs in repetitionr's claimed petition results, (c) _b_ expressed as 
a percentage of _a_, and (d) what _c_ would be if it followed Benford's 
Law (Wikipedia is your friend here):

   (a)  (b)    (c)       (d)
   INT  FRQ    ACT%      BL%
    0   21     34.4%      
    1    7     11.5%     30.1%
    2    3      4.9%     17.6%
    3    5      8.2%     12.5%
    4    5      8.2%     9.7%
    5    5      8.2%     7.9%
    6    2      3.3%     6.7%
    7    8     13.1%     5.8%
    8    2      3.3%     5.1%
    9    3      4.95     4.6%

Upshot: if repetitionr's numbers were audited by a ~professional, as 
opposed to a pissed-off nettime moderator, the result would be, as the
kewl kids today say, FAIL. It looks a lot like the ONLY petition that
wasn't manufactured from whole cloth is NWY's -- the group that (1) is
trying to pass itself off as grassroots no-globo, (2) is flogging an
anti-EP petition, and (3) is doing so on the eve of the EP's anti-ACTA
vote.

Now, given what's at stake in ACTA -- a multilateral agreement in the 
service of multinational IP interests which seeks to impose a DMCA-
like regime globally, with the added benefit of a three-strikes rule
-- it shouldn't be surprising that we'd see some astroturfing efforts.
But this particular instance is notable for a few reasons:

1. It's masquerading as a petition, i.e., it's aimed at exploiting
people's legitimately and openly political desire to sign a petition
with authentically personal identifying info. This is an effort to
hoover up true names. 

2. It was sent *specifically to nettime.* Not to a long, spammy list
of lists, but a unique mail sent to this list's *admin* address. That
suggests that whoever's behind this has, at the very least, done
some homework -- maybe poorly, maybe well, but homework nonetheless.
If it was sent to other lists and fora (as I strongly suspect it was),
a little crowdsourced research is in order. If not...ACTA guys, your
researchers' gray roots are showing.

Happily, the people behind this astrohoovering effort left us with
some useful data to look into:

     first order (directly involved):

          internetfordemocracy.net
          repetitionr.com
          
     second order (NWY's nonlinked 'network' in order):
     
          european notworking youth [EN]
          europeavenir [FR]
          action for rhizom.eu [EU]
          p2p left europe [EN]
          ERPD (europäische radikale patriotische demokraten) [DE]
          postav-avanguardia televisionaria italiana [IT]
          sentimentos digitales [ES]

Nice language distribution. I haven't dug into these deeply, but 
it looks like most of them consist of little more than logos on 
NWY's site. 

NWY's site also lists several sites under 'connections' but actually
links to them; I won't list them here because the day that a third-
party link is grounds for suspicion will be a sad day indeed.

ACTA's stakes are very, very high. The EP vote was a real victory 
in the face of intense IP-interest lobbying, but those lobbies won't 
go away. Keep an eye out for pro-ACTA astroturfing, astrohoovering 
(hostile data collection masked as petitioning), researching and 
targeting established networks, etc.

But for me the really telling point is that this effort to use no-
globo imagery in an explicit and focused effort to delegitimize the 
EP as such. Look at what's happening in the US now, then think about 
that.

Cheers,
T

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