Last time we chatted I posted about the severe security problem caused by U.S. Government employees who look at sketchy porn sites or dating sites at work (ANONYMOUS did a great run through of this as well). I also introduced you to #pizzagate, a massive citizen investigation into the complex world of corruption linked to child and baby trafficking. This time around we will look at what researchers call Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) and the mechanics of a citizen investigation. We will consider the ethical side of mining the public domain for information about people and public-facing institutions.
ON BEING SEO-DISCREET AND PROTECTING YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
I will avoid posting here any details about the mountain of circumstantial evidence surrounding the citizen investigation called #pizzagate. First of all, the content is somewhat horrific. Also, most of the content is copyrighted material belonging to the suspects in the investigation and that includes photos, videos and art pieces. I would like to avoid DMCA take down notices for my blog because it is about general cyber security and technology, more than this specific topic. I will therefore talk about this in a way that let’s me be discreet and avoid hammering you with truly gross, and scary content until YOU choose to look into it with a better understanding of the scope of the investigation.
LET’S INVENT A FAKE INTERNET CONSPIRACY THEORY!
Let’s say you follow some guy on Instagram named Doug. He often posts a picture of himself with a sweet designer bag. He (and his followers) like to chime in and make non-veiled jokes about stealing designer bags, vandalizing bags, hanging bags, cooking bags, eating bags and destroying bags. In fact, some of Doug’s friends make art about ritualistic purse vandalism, or invest a tremendous amount of money in super obvious purse fetishism art. Doug, and his friends, also use coded messages and symbols officially documented by the FBI as relating to a secret society (a cult really) of designer purse fetishists. While you feel that it’s odd a man would be so obsessed with lady’s purses, you may start to wonder: “Where does this man get all these purses he has no need for himself?” So you start to look up all the other people making weird comments on the purse pictures and try to figure out what is going on. You then look up a myriad of publicly available info online and begin to unravel a network that is made up of people who appear to have all the logistics and skills required to steal purses, transport purses, deliver purses, sell purses, rent purses, change ownership information about purses and even import purses from halfway across the world! After all this effort, you realize that there is no direct proof that these people actually steal designer bags, granted, bags cannot really complain about being stolen… maybe that’s the point. Still you consider that this may be a convoluted inside joke. But then you discover that every single person involved in this little social circle is once-removed from dozens of confirmed purse fetishist, some of whom have served jail time for purse stealing, vandalism and even destruction! On top of this, Doug and his friends are connected to the biggest and most powerful political figures, media icons and pop culture celebrities! When you run out of energy to scream WTF?! at your computer screen you formulate a conspiracy theory (a story that alleges that people conspire to accomplish a common goal). Then, as soon as you post on Twitter: “Look, I think these people are stealing designer purses for celebrities!”, the entire mainstream media comes together to tell the world that there is no such thing as #pursegate and that only crazy people could ever believe that people snatch purses or, even worse, that multiple people could collaborate to do this. The same media outlets then delete their own stories about the alleged purse snatcher or about purse snatching in general. Then, to add insult to emotional injury, when annual “National Purse Snatching Awareness Day” comes around, during the newly declared “National Purse Snatching Awareness Month”, you notice that no major media organization even mentions it, except Forbes’ blog, which is a low quality newsjacking SEO tool. Meanwhile, in mainstream media land, you find another irresponsible item that claims that purse fetishization is just fine! This “industry”, whose most important and active operators are given a slap on the wrist, whose victims are disbelieves and gaslit and whose detractors are “suicided” or massacred, is the second largest organized criminal activity in North America, after the illicit drug trade.
There you have it,
the exact state of #pizzagate,
as of January 14, 2017,
a few days after
National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.
SOCIAL MEDIA CHANGES EVERYTHING
When I started to use the internet to communicate with others, around 1990, it was impossible for us to share photos (I had to publish the face book by snail mail!). It was impossible for us to leave much bread crumbs for others to follow (the data was replicated from one BBS to the next using regular phone lines and there was no search!). If you didn’t read walls of texts or have the technical ability to publish your own, the internet wasn’t for you. This didn’t keep me from using the internet like it was my own private diary, a very purposeful life hack to attain eternal life! Before the turn of the Century (in pre 9/11 world) it was possible for a small number of people to control the narrative and destroy evidence. It was easy for the powerful to intimidate TV stations into never showing documentaries that skewer Elites and their darker hobbies like The Power of Nightmares, Conspiracy of Silence and, more recently, An Open Secret.
It was around 2006, with the advent of web 2.0, that the average person was able to set up a profile on a forum or on MySpace to share their slice of life or, their opinion. Today, you don’t even need a computer anymore to post online, all you need is a smart phone and a data plan. When you look at “the internet” through the limited peephole of an iPhone app, it’s harder to imagine the crowd that lies beyond. I becomes obvious that some people do not quite understand how public their social media posts are.
In spaces such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, people create small affinity or friends groups and share photos and videos. Unlike Facebook, which has the most complicated and granular privacy settings ever devised in a piece of software, Instagram and Twitter have very few ‘all or nothing’ privacy settings.
Instagram is a fascinating place because it is inhabited by people who wouldn’t normally be visible in society like self-representing “criminals” and the entertaining antics of children of rich Elites. Escorting (by so-called models) is probably the most obvious and impressive “illicit” use of Instagram. Instagram is also where pimp-drug-dealer-type-fixers (notably those who operate in Las Vegas) advertise their “concierge” services. It’s where insanely rich kids brag about the stuff their parents give them instead of attention. Instagram is where celebrities communicate directly with their fans allowing them much greater control over their careers. Instagram is where anyone who is blessed with the ability to reflect light correctly can become famous. All these groups have their own lingo and hashtags. Instagram watching is its own brand of modern anthropology! Instagram is used by people across the entire spectrum of humanity. It brings people together who would never interact normally. Therefore, it attracts nosy people who might pry in your business.
MINING THE PUBLIC SPACE FOR DIRT ON DIRT
So let’s get back to #pursegate, the fake conspiracy involving an alleged designer bag trading group. What happened to Doug’s social media? Well, random internet people have:
- Archived all of Doug’s photos and all the photos of Doug’s friends, even their children from Instagram.
- Collaborated to analyze the meaning of cryptic messages and codes within them (on forums such as Reddit).
- Scrutinized all of Doug’s political donations using FEC transparency tools.
- Cataloged all of Doug’s business with political action committees using the same type of online tools.
- Read all of the society pages in multiple magazines spanning a decade that installed Doug as a socialite in Washington D.C. further cataloging his key business and personal relationships.
- Realized he is “XOXOXO” message tight with the most powerful lobbyist in the capital (and his even more powerful brother) because of stolen e-mails published by Wikileaks.
- Cataloged and scrutinized all of Doug’s visits to the White House or participation in fancy events and awards (because such information is public).
- Made a list of all his businesses (most of which are secret) using public records.
- Made a list of all his properties (most of which are secret) using tax records.
- Publicized Doug’s participation in art projects that glamorize and normalize the lifestyle of purse fetishization using his Instagram followers and Facebook friends list.
- Realized that, maybe, Doug is kind of a big deal and hard to reach given his ties to all the right people.
- And, ultimately, detailed where Doug appears to be keeping all the ill-gotten purses!
Poor Doug, he is completely naked on the internet! By now ALL of his collaborators and bosses must know about this and they can’t be too happy with him. First rule of Purse Club? You don’t talk about Purse Club!
In the past two months Doug has worked hard to use DMCA takedown notices to remove the content on various forums. He is, after all, owner of the original content that ties him to everyone required to operate a sophisticated purse trade ring. He may be getting a bit of help from his ex-boyfriend Buck who owns two companies that produce carefully worded propaganda to explain away political shenanigans of the Democrats. But since these efforts were made to protect the people above Doug in the operation, he is left alone to clean the internet while running two restaurants, a grilled cheese truck and, his usual “overtime work”. He is quite lucky, the dozens of articles supportive of him, and his business, have shamed the general population from even considering informing themselves on this matter. Conveniently, these puff pieces have crowded out articles that don’t pretend #pursegate is “fake News” in Google search results. But, inadvertently, the media put the word #pursegate out there in the public forum. Recently, a Wall Street Journal survey showed that, amazingly, 25% of people who voted for Doug’s favorite political party, the Democrats, believe #pursegate is real! This either means that people will gladly vote for people involved in awful crimes (on their side of the political divide) or, the mainstream media’s attempt as calling #pursegate a hoax or “fake news” failed miserably!
AND WHEN IT’S ALL IN YOUR FACE, IT’S STILL UNBELIEVABLE
All of this seems completely ludicrous to anyone who spends no time whatsoever considering that purse fetishists exist. The media has been so good at making us think that, when push comes to shove, purse snatching is something that only mentally ill lone wolves do. Purse snatching couldn’t possibly be the collaboration of bright people connected to the highest forms of political power… Nope! The media spend a lot of time tying lose ends when someone spills the bean. This happens every 10 years, on the dot because skeletons inadvertently fall out of the SAME closet. This explanation can no longer stand because of social media, because of the indelible nature of the Internet and MOSTLY because Doug and his friends are not only indiscreet but very empowered and proud about their special place. You see, Doug and his friends have grown up in the purse snatching cult and have been told they are better than everyone else with plenty of huge receipts to prove it. When the biggest pop star tells you that “This is how we do it and it’s no big deal!” it’s hard to argue.
Doug’s biggest problem right now is that his latest fake business (an very conveniently located way station in the purse trade process) cost a lot of money to outfit. This has all been in the works for 10 years. Then, random people on the internet who have eyes, ears and all the time in the world, blew the lid on his operation possibly throwing millions in expected revenue down the drain. And that’s AFTER the next-in-line boss of his enterprise failed to win the election! This makes for a very grumpy army of foot soldiers who run on promises of advancement in a very well-organized cult. When Doug saw one of the excellent videos detailing his operation on Youtube, he threatened to kill the vlogger’s entire family. He also stated that “everything they say about me is true, but I don’t like purses, not at all!”, a bewildering statement that has left #pursegate researchers puzzled. The hobbyist vlogger filed a police report in Texas which was dutifully scooped up by the FBI, an agency that is supposed to take care of this sort of criminal cartel.
WHAT ABOUT THE ‘REAL PIZZAGATE’, AND THE ‘REAL COPS’?
So far, the FBI, the Washington P.D. and the N.Y.P.D. have been trying very hard to keep the internal wars concerning this investigation from the public. Prominent people who have mentioned insider knowledge about the investigation were quickly contacted and silenced (or even temporarily institutionalized!). In this case, FOIA requests, congressional hearings and Wikileaks documents tend to show that everybody’s hands are tied, that the people involved are untouchable. I don’t mean to be down on the FBI, they collaborate with our RCMP and bust human trafficking and distribution of child abuse videos every year in my country, Canada. The FBI also collaborates with police in Norway, UK and Australia because… production of child abuse videos and child sex trafficking is a highly organized hobby spanning the globe using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, to coordinate.
AND WHAT ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY?
#pizzagate is a situation that, if unraveled, can take down the whole of the U.S. government causing a massive problem with continuation of leadership in all essential services. The incoming administration of Donald Trump is fully aware of this situation. Trump has surrounded himself with people who show intention and have past experiences that suggest they are going to do something about this very problem. However, the Trump team has yet to pass the most lenient test of decency, accuracy, veracity or competence for that matter. It may be that citizens will have to continue to document all the sordid details of all the people involved until there is no way anyone can get off easy or discretely, as is usually the case. Worse, what if people suddenly shed their media-indoctrinated and weaponized Right-Left partisanship and, together, realize that they are Down, and the problem is Up?
2017 is going to be much uglier politically than 2016 or 2015 ever was, and nobody is mentally or emotionally prepared for what is going to fall out of this huge closet full of small skeletons. We will never be the same and we will have to work double time explaining more than “golden showers” to our frightened children.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
The #pizzagate citizen investigation is the first of its kind. Does the end justify the means? Or, is data mining social media, Wikileaks and public records in order to write our own investigative journalism kind of stalker-ish? Do citizen investigations provide value? How does a police tip line function when the “tip” can be over 5 Gigs of collated evidence with tidbits from tens of thousands of contributors? Will #pizzagate fragment every authoritative institution between those who are on the take and those who aren’t? Does #pizzagate put every country the United States has ever made into a “bad guy” for profit on a higher moral ground? Will Donald Trump, a man reviled by the same Elites who benefit from the system that underpins #pizzagate, do something about it? Or will he use his newfound power for his own benefit to acquire empty flattery and line his coffers?
LET ME END WITH A LITTLE STORY
When I was born to a 19 year-old single mom in 1971, the Catholic Church ruled all aspects of life in the Province of Quebec. The Church engineered the people of New France since 1534 and ruled us with an iron fist controlling the people via parochial schooling, hospital and institutional care. The Church also ran residential schools (everywhere in Canada) which were filled with tens of thousands of Aboriginal children taken away from their parents. I, too, was taken away from my mother. Not forcibly but via intimidation and omissions. It took about 10 months for my mother to sign the papers indicating much indecision in the matter. It is staggering to think that I would be a completely different person today had I been raised by a single mom. Incidently, I was raised by a single mom because the ‘better people’ the Church put me with, the defrocked nun who married the physicist, separated when I was 4. So much for Christian societal engineering of the nuclear family! What happened to my biological mother happened to over a quarter of a million women in Canada, in the 20th century. The Church committed various atrocities including sexual abuse, genocide, infanticide and torture of mentally patients during the 19th-20th Century. The people revolted in the 1960s in an event that became known as Quebec’s Quiet Revolution. As atrocious as these crimes against humanity were, our “civil war” killed no-one. It was about regular people (most of them French-speaking Catholics) vs. the Queen’s sanctioned Catholic Church. In the 70s our entire governmental, healthcare and educational system was rebuilt from scratch! A progressive socialist system was put in place with welfare, universal healthcare and free education. Everything was secularized. Quebec remains the most progressive and feminist “state” in North America, but its story is never told, because we produce all our news and culture in French isolating us from the rest of you guys. Churches, today, are mostly empty and it is not because we are soulless heathens, it is because we said, “enough is enough!” with the unearned power of organizations who abuse the people who paid to keep them in business for so long.
I love Americans and I hope that they find a way to reform their unsustainable Empire and choose better tenured overlords.
You will find easy to digest information on #pizzagate at pizzagate [dot] com. If you like challenges, I can confirm that there are 1-2 facts on the page that could be disputed. I will not, however, try to get that 25K so have at it!