tv Clint Watts Messing with the Enemy CSPAN July 8, 2018 3:00pm-4:11pm EDT
1,000, 2,000 worldwide. because in these days, you can follow a church on youtube. all the sermons are webcast every week. but it's that, it's that commingling of passion in america, and what does this say about us as a culture, and what -- is in any, is there any precursor of what we might see down the road. when you get the genie out of the bottle of mixing guns and religion, in almost any society it's been problematic. >> tonight at eight eastern on c-span's q&a. >> okay. we're going to get started here in just a minute as some people are still coming in. just while we do -- are those of you -- how many of you have been here both days so far?
okay. how many of you have been here just this morning? okay. have people learned some things? yeah? has it been useful to you? okay. so i said this last night, i'll say it again. at the media lab, we do a lot of events. the vast majority of the time we're focusing on emerging media technology, innovation, the opportunity with these technologies. of course today, last night we were focusing on the externalities, the challenges, the problems and what we can do to solve them. this event is really an experiment. and i will appreciate your feedback. we will be sending you a a feedback form after the fact, what we can do better, if we should do this again. right now does anybody have an instinct, should we do this again or not? >> [applause] that's good to hear. there may be some naysayers and those who are disappointed fnght please, you can write me directly and send me your feedback. i'm grateful to all of you for being part of this. is the video team ready? that would indicate they're ready, okay, so that means we
can go ahead and get started. so i think some people will come and join us. i, when we set out to do this event, it was sort of almost, almost on a whim it was part of this course that we were doing, this tech media and democracy course or which i've mentioned a couple of times. we had 120 graduate students across new york city. david was one of the faculty members who was part of it, david carroll, up here in the taught the nyu piece of it. columbia journalism schools, queens college, cuny, cornell connective media was part of it. and we really focused on this intersection of tech, media and democracy. so that's one of the themes that i hope is running through, you know, these past couple days. fundamentally the reason i'm concerned about this and the reason i know so many of you are concerned about this is beyond party lines, beyond partisan interests, this gets to the
heart of, you know, whether we're going to be able to have a healthy discourse amongst citizens iner a democracy whichi shul, you know, believe that we must work on every day as individuals and as committed and responsible citizens. so i'm really, really pleased to introduce our keynote speech thisis morning, clint watts, who has an amazing background with the u.s. army officer, fbi special agent and military intelligence and counterterrorism background. he is now a a senior fellow at e center for cyber and homeland security at the george washington university as well as holding a variety of other posts. and i think it's fair to say that he's one of the foremost experts on the issues we've been discussing today, and i think he's going to give us an excellent sense ofnk where thins have been but also where things are going. clint told me that in this book that he's written there's actually a chapter that they did
not publish, chfl a bit of sciencee fiction -- which was a bit of science fiction that was looking at the future and how manipulation campaigns might play out in the near term and how technology might invent those things. he himself has been the subjects of attacks on his sort of personal security as a result of his work in this regard, was early at spotting russian efforts to interfere in u.s. democracy in our campaign. and, of course, has been an important person to testify to the senate, other parts of our government about russian election interference and efforts in the middle east as well. so without further ado, i'm goingg to introduce clint watts to give us a talk, then i'll join him for u a little bit of q&a, and we'll then open to audience questions. we are filming this. c-span is here filming it, oh others of you are filming it. when we take q and a, we're going to line up over here by this light, and we'll need to ask questions into the microphone so that, you know,
the people out there in tv land will be able to appreciate this. so just be prepared for that, all right? and when you do ask the question, i'll ask that you identify yourselves, all right? but over to clint watts. >> or in the tradition of misinformation, misidentify yourself. [laughter] so that's been most of my career near recent years, is misidentification. and so that's kind of where i'll start today. so, justin, thanks for having me. this is where you come to meet everybody you met on twitter, which is a great event. [laughter] i've run into lots of people that you would not normally run into, and it's actually close are. i actually live in the new york city area which most people -- which is convenient for me -- think ico live somewhere else. but it's nice to only have to ride the subway to get here today. so thanks for t having me and fr doing what you do. this, obviously, is an alien world forha me in many ways because i was in government circles for a long time.
depending on the web site you read, as you know, i'm a member of the deep state -- r][laughter] and if you actually read my book, you'll understand why that doesn't make any sense whatsoever. troubles if i'm in the government too long and i kind of have to duck out every once in a while and work on things a little bit differently. so i'm here shamelessly promoting a book that i had come out called "messing with the enemy." it's a book that i've wanted to write for a long time. and before i testified to the senate, i had written up this proposal, and no one wanted it. and then suddenly -- because, literally, i hadri agents tell e nono one cares about this russia stuff, it sounds really boring. and so that has all switched in four years, and now the book is really aboutn social media and influence. and i wanted to start off with kind of a discussion of how i came to it. i generally did two things. i either worked in the fbi or when i wasn't with the fbi, i was working on social media and
influence. but mostly around terrorists. so going back to about 2005, i worked at west point as an instructor at the combating terrorism center. we ran projects where we were looking at thee intersection of new media -- then it was called the internet -- and social media after it and how extremists would come into it. and i started working basically on my own in 2010, '11, '12, '1, i started writing a blog called selected wisdom. that's why i have that goofy twitter handle, because you can't change it after you get started. but it was a blog. and it was about could you, essentially, use crowd sourcing to sort of figure out how national security threats were emerging. and when i was doing that, i would often times run into the threat, meaning the enemy. and that's the where the title comes from.om and i would talk back and forth to terrorists on twitter. if you're in that community, you could see i. and this is when -- see it.n and this is when twitter wasn't
an awful experience. i would write up forecasts. and then we were trying to assess what was happening in the terrorism space moving back and forth, and i would have great discussions with a smaller community of people who are either studying terrorists or involved in counterterrorism, and you could talk back and forth. and it was a great experience, and i met a guy named j.m. berger who you guys may know as intel wire on twitter. and then we realized we lived two blocks apart, and we walked out -- [laughter] and talked to each other in person, which was unusual. and, but we worked on all sorts of projects together, and i would just write up these findings. and what i found was that if i asked people for their contributions, they wouldn't help me. but if i put out anything into the public space, they would immediately tell me what was wrong with it. and so i was like this is fantastic. if i mail people and ask them for -- if i mail people and ask them for feedback, i may wait for weeks. i'm like, this is great.
and fbi interview interrogation, we call that ego, one of the things that motivates people. i'm like, this is saving me a lot of time. i'd come up with an 80% solution, and terrorist and terrorist sympathizers would tell me, no, no, you've got it all wrong. i'm on this chat room, this is what they're saying. [laughter] i'm like, okay, great. and then i started writing about this american extremist who was from daphne, alabama, and he had gone and joined al-shabaab. initially, the islamic corps, and i worked a lot on the horn of africa during my counterterrorism days. so i was writing about him, and j.m. brger had also -- berger had also been interacting with him. he said, man, that guy reads everything you write. and i'm, that's right, because terrorists are are narcissists. and they like to read about themselves. no one wants to be a suicide bomber if they don't have a
martyr -- [inaudible] they don't. you have to glorify these people. and the first thing that extremists want to do when they get to iraq or syria is take a picture or selfie and show themselves in battle in syria or iraq. and we would build entire excel sheets. so i knew that omar read what i was writing, and one night i saw a signal. and when i saw that signal, i was like this is one of omar's friends, and they're trying to tell me whatgh i got wrong on a post. so i would engage in conversations back and forth publicly with omar. and i just wanted him to keep talking. i knew the more he talked, the more he would discredit himself to other extremists and the less other extremists would want to do what omar wanted to do. but it brought up this fascinating issue about authenticity. so i can talk back and and forth to this terrorist, and we had very american conversations. i would talk to him about christy cream doughnuts because -- krispy kreme
doughnuts, we would talk about soccer, he would talk about sports or things that he missed, his wife's cooking wasn't that good, and i would say here's some chinese food. and so you could pretty much figure out where omar was, and others knew where he was too. and this was what my facebook handle initially looked like. i only knew how to do -- draw one character when i was a kid in art class, and that was it on the left. so when ike first did my twitter handle, i drew it up that way. and you could even engage in comedy withh these extremists. and so he was worried that i was a sock puppet. he's, like, i've never really seen your face. i know you're a former fbi agent or whatever. i said, oh, yeah. i said, no, that's not my sock puppet, here he is. and i took a picture of it and shot itsa back. he thought this was hilarious. and so a terrorist and i are laughing on twitter, other sides of the planet, back and forth. so facebook, as we know, saved the world -- twitter saved the
world during the arab spring. and then within two years what omar was talking to me about was already happening. he would say, no, people shouldn't come here to shabaab, he was eventually killed by his own terrorist group, and he live tweeted that. he was shot in the neck one day, he live tweeted that. you could talk back and forth to him. he then was killed not long after in the middle of the woods. andd so you could communicate with these extremists in what would be very routine ways, you know? it was very odd. but you could see what was sort of percolating, and he was pointing to it. there was a rift. there was social media populism in extremist circles that was overpowering that establishment, and that establishment was al-qaeda. and he would say post-al-qaeda we are looking at broad-based jihad. and and guessis what? that happened in less than two years. and it happened in syria. he said everybody should go to syria, don't come to somalia. so if you fast forward just two to three years, what we saw was
how social media populism could be hijacked, and what we saw was how people were choosing which information they wanted. no one was better at this than the russian disinformation system because they had mastered it on their own people first. the russian people have suffered from this system of information annihilation, i callsi it, for a very, very long time. and there are some fantastic books out in that you can read about this -- out there that you can read about this. the red weapon, everything is possible, nothing's real. you can see that it's your pr versus my pr, and is we were mapping out the disinfo system because it came after me. and it was trolling. i've been trolled a lot, but this system was very different. but this system isn't just a useful tool. j.m. berger, andrew weisberg and i wrote it up just before the election. that's why i showed up to testify that day in march of 2017. this system, though, what was fascinating about it is not so much what they did, but how easy it was for them to do, which is
pitting people against each other by using overt, covert, semi-covert information, false information, manipulated truths that play to your biases. what we were witnessing wasn't something that the russian kremlin disinformation systemed had y invented, they were just hijacking the system that was already there that we had created. we are the ones who founded social media. we're the ones that blew it out and proliferate it around the world, and now we are vulnerable to it. and they understood this because the goal of active measures -- this is always what they try to do -- was use the force of politics rather than the politics of force. if i can get different groups inside your democracy fighting each other or advance my foreign policy position inside your population, then have those officials elected, you will not me meet me or challenge me on the battlefield. it's a process of devolution. it's designed to break unions, to break things into smaller components so that there are no
alliances that actually go against russia. they instead go one to one against allll their opponents until suddenly elected leaders show up and start advocating on behalf of the kremlin even though they're notnt part of the kremlin. maybe you watch the news today. [laughter] so with that, what or we are witnessing, this is where it comes into democracy, and i am tired of talking about the russian disinfocr system because now it is american disinformation that is the real threat to our democracy. what i have seen in the last year since i talked about that was not russian disinfo breaking up our unions, it's american disinformation, it is american active measures that we will see in 2018. i consistently get this question asked of me, and my congressmen are concerned, should i worry about russia knocking me out or, you know, using disinfo against me. the answer is,us no, you need to worry about everybody else who's duplicating this system and using it against their opponents. we've already seen this in southeast asia.
that is a place where it's come on very strong for a couple reasons. lots of access technology wise in terms of mobile devices, hooked not to the internet through social media. it's not a playing field that's sort of open, it is one that's by choice, and it's by design. that has already taken the place right now. and those that have been successful with it are authoritarians. it's gone in two ways. the disinfo system is either used for domestic suppression like we see going on in cambodia, philippines, myanmar, or it's used for audience distortion, manipulation and annihilation like in our own country. this comes from, essentially, where i move to the conclusion of the book and where i'm looking forward is trolling is a service. everyone will have their own manipulation machine. they will make their own information outlets. they will promote them. they will create real and false personas. they will use social bots that are rented. they don't need to make them.
they will persistently pursue it, and they will have resources, and they will be better at it than the russian disinfo system for two reasons. one, they'll be able to aggregate all your personal information data, preferences, purchases so that they can recon audiences in the way that like a disinfo be system could never do. couldn't do it, there's no way. the other thing they can do is use artificial intelligence, advance tech tools that no real authoritarian stateth has at the moment but will eventually purchase. you've already seen this a little bit. cambridge analytica is a natural any political campaign. many will say why, why to do we even worry about it? why not, right? the rules of the game say what? win. win at all costs. because losing isn't an option whenever you're serving a customer. those that will come to dominate this, those that can actually put all that data together, recon it at a light speed and then deploy it very quickly that
can bring all of your information together, all of your preferences together will win. we've talked a lot about filter -- [inaudible] and ely parish did a great examination of that a few years ago.o. but i would offer we are in a much different state now, and we are in preference bubbles. it's the extension of filter bubbles because it is not the social media company's fault, it is yours. you are the one that put yourself in the preference bubble. you choose. they are just providing you a service. you cannot participate in the service, butci you won't do that because you're addicted to it. this is how you operate now. you spend a large part of your life on this. depending on the survey, 3-5 hours are spent a day on mobile devices in the united states. out of those 3-5, the number one thing, apps that are used are social media apps. you spend more of your time engaging with people that are not with you than you do with people that are around you. you know the a preferences, and you speak to people online more than you speak to your
neighbors. sot this has created a preferee bubble where you are literally picking your own alternative reality. the digital tail wags the physical dog. the most impressive version of this today is the islamic state. they were a preference bubble that overtook thal tide establishment. -- the al-qaeda establishment. bin laden wouldn't have approved of half of the things the isis guys were doing, the extreme violence. they didn't care, because why? click, click, click, click. i like this video, i like that. they had people, entire families going into syria and iraq as millions of refugees were flooding out. they believed in this clalternative reality so strong, they took their families into a war zone and were killed in droves. they believed that a fight in kobani, a historical story that was put out throughout social media, was where the prophesy would come back, and they were
slaughteredded by airstrikes in the hundreds. that is a virtual reality that became actual with reality and created -- it is happening in our own country. our virtual preferences are bringing people together, and they are migrating, they are moving, they are showing up to events, and they are going against their neighbors and their opponents. thispr comes for several reason. really the combination of three personal factors that come together. one, confirmation bias, which we all know comes on social media. i like this, it confirms what i say, so i keep gravitating to it. the second part and really what the russians understood about social media as a weapon is implicit bias. i like information that comes from people that look like me and talk like me. that's why the troll farm made people that look like you and talk like you. some of the bots that we would diagnose, what were the words in their profiles that they used the most? god, christian, country. that's just targeting. that's just smart targeting. it's the same way we would do advertising. the third part is once you get
into these herds, you don't want to leave them. and so you'll start going along with things that you may actually notk entirely agree wh but are too afraid to speak against. or as de tocqueville would say, the tyranny of the majority. we talked about this in social capital in the 1800s. he would say there's nothing worse than being on the outside of a majority in america, there's nothing more paralyzing, nothing more suppressive. the same thing happens in your digital herd. i've seen this firsthand. nfl, take a knee, don't take a knee. you either opt in or you opt out or you sit back, right? am i supposed to? i kind of want to the stand. am i for trump? am i for kaepernick? you get into these debates that in reality aren't even there. that's a virtual debate. it doesn't even make sense. so with that, preference bubble is one part algorithm and is one part you. you are picking your alternative reality. i always tell people they're like when will the matrix take us over, when will machines take
us over. no, you will volunteer to go in the matrix. you will choose it. for americans if it gets above 72 degrees or below 68, they startyo changing their environment. right? same thing happens in social media. block, block, i don't like this, i don't -- i like this. everybody else likes this, i like this then. oamg, i'm going to stay right here. you are seeing three dynamic changes. the first is click, bait populism. the personas that voice them. we would never have our current president or an advocate who changed the clemency this week before social media. it would notot happen. this is, essentially, you get the most clicks and likes, then you set the agenda. if you please w the audience, te audience will be your advocates, and they will advance your cause. theia second thing that is realy a stark whenever i look at this is social media nationalism. we are not a billion nation right now in america. -- a
physical nation be right now in america. i know a lot more about you if i know your twitter profile than when you tell me you're a democrat or republican or what state you're from. those thingsri are almost meaningless. but if you tell me your hashtags, i know exactly who you are, what you believe in and other people you like. if i a were to build a mapped today, i would say we're probably five social media nations with splits in between it. little subgroups in between each of those. some of them overlap, some of them don't. some even overlap in odd ways, particularly in the extreme right and left of our political spectrum. they tend to share some of the same content, which is fascinating. if they ever met in person, they might kill each other, but online, they're supporting each other's views. this identity is more shaped by how you characterize yourself, and it's become very important to us. so important that in the physical world we will carry around signs with hashtags on them rather than carry around
flags at protests. this is a dynamic shift that's happened just in the last few years. the last part is the death of expertise. this is the belief, and it's more powerful with every generation, that as long as you have access to the internet, you are as qualified and as smart as every other person in the world to matter what their experienc, qualifications, where they've been. in 2011 and '12, i was running surveys on the internet, and it was all about crowd sourcing. you ask a crowd a question, they will give you the best answer. i was asking national security questions,n and they were wrong every single time. finish every single time. these were counterterrorism experts oftenas times. they missed every single one that i asked. and so i started to realize that the onlyth real way to do this s to get around people's digital nations and their expertise got worse when they went in this crowd, not better. because they were digitally herding. and so i started a process called thedo wisdom of outliers.
i deliberately would listen to what the majority was saying, and i would completely toss it out. and then i would use the outliers because usually they were most aggressive. they saw things that were occurring, they were passionate about their beliefs, and they had some sort of information, education, skill or travel experience that made them smarter than the majority. and so we were using this, essentially,y, to say isis will overtaketh al-qaeda, the trump train will overtake the gop, and no i'm doing it to see will the resis sans in the blue wave be good or bad for the democrats, ultimately. i'm not saying they're equal. i've had audiences go crazy, i'm not a terrorist. i'm not saying you're a terrorist. but the arab spring was the first version of social media populism overtaking an establishment. it's really good for mobilization. it's not so good after they win. you can see this often times because the group is named after their objective, and once their objective is achieved, they don't know how to carry on. occupy was to occupy.
they did that very well. the arab spring was to overthrow governments. theaf islamic state was to do what? build an islamic state. they did that. they didn't say exactly how it was going to go, and we see it in our own politics. lots of passion around certain hashtags, certain issues, certain keywords, and once those are achieved in terms of governance, then it gets a little tough. you say, well, what are we actually going to do? if the physical and virtual come together, it's quite powerful. that is happeninge today, and you're seeing it. and i'll kind of talk about it at the end. so which nation do you spend more time in, the one on the left or the one on the right? with every generation in america, we spend more time in that virtual world than we do in the physical world. this can be good and bad. it's good because maybe we have more connections, right? we can build around policy, we can do activism, we can do those sorts of things. but it's also bad because often times we get in our preference bubbles, and we block out the
opponents. we block outut the others. we don'te have common dialogue. and if that comets the way it continues now, things are really, really bleak. like, very bleak. and you can already see the signs of it. this was in the economist. it was a survey, and it shows the divergence. it literally maps out the bubbles, which is pretty fascinating. and that transcendence, that speed at which it moves could not have happened in a traditional way, in an analog way to move people that quickly is very, very difficult. to go from people saying usa at the 1980 olympics to russia is our friend at a white nationalist rally in charlottesville inn 20 years is pretty remarkable, you know? to make that sort of a change. that's only possible in the social media age. it ramped things up, and it makes it quicker. to get 10,000 foreign fighters to move into syria, you could not do that in the analog era.
it m took a decade for the mujahideen before they became al-qaeda. it took two years tops to get maybe that number to syria and iraq. so the power of social media is there. but then the question becomes is this good or bad for democracy. if you look back at the lathe '90s when -- late '9 0s when we talked about the internet, the internet was going to do what? >> [inaudible] >> bring the world together. it was buy a coke, everyone hug each other, we're on the internet. the long tail doesn't just bring people to low frequency products, it also brings extremists around the world together over time or people to poles overg time. socialal media has had the opposite effect. internet brought everybody together, and social media has pushed everybody apart in their own directions, in their own performance -- preference bubbles. so it comes down to social capital. we always have institutions, we have economic growth and development s and the third part was social capital. this is the secret sauce of
american democracy. robert putnam talked about it during the '90s in bowling alone, and there's two kinds of social capital, bridging and bonding. and it was a mixing of both. bonds are great, they tend to be hierarchical, bridging's even better because it brings people of different associations. and on average, we all work it out, and we get along, and it is the coke commercial, and everything goes great. social media actually reinforcing bonding capital and breaks bridging capital. it turns out when we actually all get together on social media, we find out we don't like each other very much. [laughter] we don't, right? twitter is where you go to get yesterday at by people you don't know. facebook is where you go to get yelled at by people you do know that secretly don't like you. [laughter] right? this is how social media works. and i can tell this, right? i know if i put something up and nine people -- let's say i've gotho a hundred people that are facebook friends and nine people troll me, prettied good bet
there were 27 others that wanted to troll me too, and they did not. they held back. probably because they thought they might see me at work, or we might bump into each other on the street. so you canl tell this. you can see it happen. whose facebook feed here has gotten stronger since the election? more conversations since the election. who's gotten less conversation since the election? man, mine iset like, i don't kn, it's like tumble we'ds rolling through down now, right? it's just cats and kids. that's it, right? htcats, kids, cats, kids, boom, boom. why do we do that? we're like, man, i don't think we want to talk and tell each other what we really think anymore, because we know we don't think alike, and we don't really like each other, right? so it's fascinating. i'm going to kind of conclude, but maybe we can open up to discussion about what do governments do and what do social media companies do. i get put into these boxes a lot, people are like what should
the government do. there are a lot of things we can do in that space, andly then the other one is shouldn't we just destroy these social media companies, and the answer is, no. one of our greatest innovations, it's amazing what we're able to do. i mean, imp think youtube is one of the most impressive things in the history of mankind, right? you can watch so many things going on around the world. but what is their responsibility in this space? because they truth is governmes will governing physical nations, but who will govern virtual nations? and that will be social media companies. we are already to the point where social media companies -- now they even have more power because of all the information they have, but their terms of service hold more value on their social mediame nations than it does on the real world. in some weird way when they like it or not, they're now in charge of how we conduct ourselves a good portion of the day. 3-5 hours a day they're telling us how we will behave. they are our new laws, our new institutions whether they like it or not and whether we like it
or not. they have that power over how we will behave going into the future. so i will give you the two scenarios of how it goes because i think you asked me that, right, justin? so i'll give you the bad scenario first. we don't makeof it. we don't make it at all. and i'll tell you how -- here's one way it could play out. if the democrats win in 2020, do not be surprised if in 2024 or 2028 there is a major political figure in the united states that runs under the platform that once elected, they will break up the united states of america. it is already there. there are these small grassroots movements. do not be surprised. they won't win, i don't think they'll actually win under that platform, but what if they get 10% of the vote? is and what if they get 10% of the vote, but all their vote comes from three or four states in the united states? is one i would tell you to study as a case study. that would be devastating to this country. even a loss.
even if it doesn't come about, because seeing people en masse say i literally don't want to be part of your country anymore, and that's where this ultimately comes to. we're not the united states of america anymore, we're the divided states of america. this is also met by physical and economic change. no more multilateral, everything bilateral are. everything moving to state-to-state relations or state rules. let's let the states set their own rules. maybe they don't even need to payed into the federal system, r the federal system doesn't pay them i back. it happens much slower. it's not the movie version, you a michael bay film and there's some sort of raid and helicopters. it's not like that. this willmi happen slowly, very showily, and you won't even feel it -- slowly. and you won't even feel it. here's the good news story. we have seen physical activism like we have not seen maybe in our country's history. i don't even know if the 1960s compare to what we've seen the last two years. so the good news is we start to value physical relationships
more than virtual relationships. so it'ss good that your conversations are cats and kids on social media, and it's not aboutrt politics all the time. and we start coming together and deciding what we really believe in and what we fight for, and the next two elections, let's say, are more about, hey, let's actually restore our institutions, and we'vest seen e people speak, and we have a new wave of elected officials, and we're going to come together and this is successful. it goes either way. and it really is up to us in this room, and it's up to everybody in america. do they want to set between 72 and 68 degrees until the power just turns off one day and you're overrun by the horde? or do you want to take a little bit of time out to get to know your neighbors and talk to to them or fight for the issues that you believe in both online and on the ground and come together and make actual changes that are good for society? tocqueville actually predicted this, ironically. he said you will start to, you know, essentially focus so much on the president -- i think he
call it the presence pleasures -- that you block out what's obviously coming over the horizon which is a despot that does not look like a despot and overruns you. and suddenly what you've enjoyed so much isn't there anymore x you don't know how you got there. in that conclusion it's 50/50. i don't want to stop and just be negative because i'm the guy who's a terrorism analyst, so i'm always focused on the negative. there is positive out there, and it really comes down to us. glng thanks. ms. . [applause] >> you didn't give us which one you think is going to happen. a little bit more green sheet, what are you optimistic about? >> there is, sitting in between. >> what let me do the might test real quick.
that was one of the funniest videos i've seen. here's what i'm optimistic about and i am optimistic in some ways. the physical activism, i feel like friends that were angry at me during the election, people that were upset at me going in the election for political reasons as reengaged with me and realized we were in this emotional battle and it wasn't really about us and at the same point on the virtual level, the online space, the social media companies reacted. i can tell you that even without institutions, i'm
going to use the senate intel committee. i had a great experience with the senate intel committee. in terms of interacting with them both republicans and democrats. if you look at the election detection bill that was harris the langford, they are both great and i'veseen it in person physically , talking to each other and i was like oh my god, this not voted off and you get excited. they're working together. a bill came out. the house, it's not going to work out. house is where the tribes, pointed out but that's good. that's an institution. i also look at the courts and i go that's great. with the social media companies, i was frustrated. over the years i tried to engage with them about terrorism and the russians and would all fall since the election, you feel like a pirate a lot of the people. in the past in other contexts, they are moving trying to come up with ideas . even thinking of facebook, while they missed big-time going in, for the election
they were there pretty quickly. i think they are tackling on the russian side and even putting in policies and regulations and trying to come to service and even twitter and the slowest and i was most frustrated with recently, they tried to put new community will in place to reduce trolling potentially and i think that's good. all that is really good so there is a positive out there, thursday but i think there are positives. >> we had a question in a discussion and around the us government and what they are doing to combat this abroad. there was concern about us and its own behavior in terms of pushing a message or interfering in others politics for generally using propaganda methods itself. obviously there's a tension of offense and defense, where do you think we are on that your experience? >> we really aren't into that
chapter just on my experience . >> with counter intelligence, i have never any time in working by were through the us government seen anything as evil as what russia just pulled off and continues to the law. i never saw people going out and creating personas and trying to manipulateaudiences date other people .most of our culture influences is in terror and it failed. it was terrible. you look atthe expenditures of the us government to counter extremist, you would think we made more . we spent billions and got no theme and we were trying to do democracy promotion which i think is everything i've seen is democracy promotion and we have this moral
equivalence sort of thing, and supports, not only have i never seen, i would never want the united states of america to be involved in full personas, to try to form populations, into hundreds of foreign people, don't their private information out and be saddened and disgusted if they did. i would also tell you i think they're organized enough to do it. so the great conundrum of our time is people that are so smart to do this but before that was so incompetent they couldn't do anything. what i tell you is always good to push on your elected officials. i've never witnessed it and i would tell you that by and large, experience with the us was a deep fear, particularly of influencing america. it stops every good counter influence proposal i saw with the fear there would be an american audience base and we
would not see those speed things because we were afraid. >> particularly during the volunteer when we were, was yearssocial media there . but there was always the fear of what do we do if we accidentally encounter an american in the audience? i think it stayed that way. i literally think we should not engage, encounter or influence until we figure out what we believe in. we don't know right now. there's not much back if you don't know what you believe in as a country. now our administration is repeating exactly what russia is saying so i don't know what our county would be. and in the extremism space, we no longer are doing democracy. we are literally rewriting the government so i don't know how we could counter this point. it's better to not do anything at all and to get out there under awful presents. >> one of the things, sam woolley is the office author pointed out that one of the
things that keeps him up at night is not really the russians or other state actors, but it's the fact that the chinese have yet really engaged in this kind activity in english or western circles. >> you see that part of the future or are you concerned about? >> for a few reasons one, this is the geopolitically, china's views are different than russia. russia has a zero-sum game, or russia, america must descend. i think doesn't care, they're just like whatever. based push forward, their influences all more spirit, they are more interested in southeast asia and their broader spirit in asia. and also ironically do more positive approach so some of the stuff they put out is more saying how to underrate the government rather than know, we're great.
that's what they do best which is a different disinformation about emotion. so it's different. my suspicion is that they use it more to suppress incidents , more to rally their own nationalism internally and third if they do go overseas going to be more in southeast asia though they might try to run the disinfo plan. but it's election, and other countries fall, i don't know what their interests are in the unitedstates . if they have the skills to do, language is a big factor. >> a couple questions from the floor, we have to usethis might. please, and the lineup here, highway . there are a lot of people in this room who are technologists and we've got designers, you are audio
engineers, people who know how to make these deep state. >> what should these people be working on to help prepare for the future and what should they prioritize? >> how do you ensure authenticity and protect anonymity? that's a big thing of everything i've worked on with social media. we always want to be able or someone who's being oppressed for someone who's being pushed in one direction politically or through violence to be to have a place, that's what we believe in but you need to be verified and to know that someone will use it for a bad reason. >> -tellyou this, inspiration from my perspective i think is russia using the disinfo system was the arab spring. you look at the spring and you said this is how, you don't have to invade anybody? that's what they were already thinking that way naturally but when i look back, they
were like americans and going around with their democracy. what do they do with this? remember, the other thing is i don't want technologists who are really using technology to think the way i do. i think very negatively. read the book and you will get this, not in a negative person, whenever i see something, chapter 1 i talk about prank phone calls, that's how it started. i was really good at making phone calls. >> but that is social engineering so i think having good technical engineers maxed with social engineers is the way forward. we did this insider so my sbi loss in the financial stream is. brett connolly call it a threat intelligence with an incident responder. because it's more checklist and controls on one side but on the other side it's like the system to work with mark.
>> and controlled are very good now and manipulators will look at those terms of service and try to work inside or if you push me off on this, i'm going to make another platform where it's justanonymous . forgeries are patient, there are things they want to achieve that you need a social engineer can figure out what they want to achieve and put down with the technology. answer better way because i want all the brilliant people to do technology and i wanted to be innovative and i want >> what's a social engineering vulnerability assessment for social media. sometimes i get these apps, and i'm like, do you know what i could do to my buddies with this? >> trying to bring that vulnerability into thinking about the design process, so thank you for that message. we're going to ask a couple questions here. barron, would you like to come and ask the nurse one? >>on thank you -- for your fist
one? >> you talked about the role of the governments and the social media networks, do you think there's a role t for traditional media and journalism, and if so, what can we be doing? >> yes. i was very fortunate to get to talk to a lot of foreign editors at a conference recently, and i could see their sort of loss of, like, what do we do. and the idea was we need to fact check were better. you know, i hear that a lot. the return on that is so mar a ginnal. -- marginal. good newspapers, i've worked with them. they fact check really well. my book editors do. so i threw a few things out to them. one that i've always pushed, and i get pushback from some audiences, and others say this is just a waste of time, people are stupid, it won't work, but i disagree.tu information consumer reports. so how do you help good facilitiers that are trying to provide -- filters that are tryingat to provide facts. part of the challenge on social media is you trust your friend
sharing you something, so you don't know the source. the source isn't the source, the source is your friend or family or somebody you're connected to. and this is what the russians are brilliant about in terms of their disinfo. they knew that. so the way they got r.t. to spread so successfully on youtube was to send it through their reporters and producers because you didn't really know where it was coming from. so that's a smart strategy. in fact, all newspapers are doing that today. how do you thwart that? you don't want to repress freedom of d the speech and of e press. but it all comes down to awareness. why doesn't everybody read the en"national enquirer" every morning and pick it up at the newsstand? why not? how do youy know? how did you know when you went to the grocery store not to pick -- that the aliens did not land in new mexico? how did you know that? well, you're like, sometimes they get it right, but sometimes they don't. a rating is the way to beat that. so i push consumer reports for information. when we had bad products that we
didn't understand the source of, we wanted to know how do we keep our kids safe whether it's toys or different devices. we've depended on ratings, but that is confirmation bias aggregated right now. so the way to do that is to create an independent agency, i think, that goes through and does like a sweeps. and rather than trying to fact check every single article that comes occupant, you give a rating to the information source. you doy that over a period, you have the same also matrix that used to be in consumer reports where the consumer can go to it. it's optd in or opt out, but ty all have to use it. so when it shows up in your social media feed or it shows up on the internet search, there's an icon, and it measures two fact versus fiction during the rating period and opinion versus reporting. this is the other thing consumers struggle with and i struggle with, is, is this reporting or is this opinion. and i think this helps for news outlets. their biggest challenge is do i report the news or am i the
news. and this is the big challenge. can you support reporting where it's not about your reporter, butrt it's about that. if y you look at a lot of the citizen journalism out there especially used in disinfo, it's or being the news. and that is edu-tainment, as i call it, education and entertainment combined. >> mr. watts, very glad you could come together. we get a double-edged sword from readers on our web site. on one hand, they ask the question about government getting involved in some aspect with regards to social media regulation, but then they turn around and look at mark zuckerberg's hearings anda some of the questions congress asked, and they're or very concerned about whether congress is really up on 1998 technology let alone 2018 technology. laugh. >> how did you get that from that hearing? i don't know. [laughter] >> it's very uneven, right? someou of the congressmen are really good, you know?
you're like, okay, they get it. some of them you're like -- >> which ones? >>re you know, i'll give you one though that would surprise you is kennedy from louisiana. if youso remember, he boiled the question down to the essential question, you know, so that the public could understand it and social media could understand it. so whoever prepped him or however they did it, did it really well. i think harris and lankford and warrener at the senate, they are all very deep dived into it, so that's not surprising. i'm nervous. i understand why social media companies would push back against regulators and regulation, because who knows to get and howng to enforce it. and i've seen some even from europe. europe is really leading on this. they're the one that will impose the regulations that social media'sme adapting to. and i've seen some that talks about the spread, you know, you should hit certain requirements. i'm, like i don't think that'll even make a dent, you know, in social media. p so what should government do. i think there are some very
basic things they can do around data privacy and information security. the honest ads act, for example, is a very simple legislative move that basically facebook just decided they would do it because no one can believe they're not doing it, right? so there's very simple, bare bones things that we could say -- much the way kennedy presented his questions -- would you want your data, you know, given to somebody else? are you telling people where you stayed in a hotel last night? okay, this is where the rule is at that the government should be implementing. this is how long you can store information. this is the third party, you know, we do third party information security assessments in cyber. we should be doing that with social media. you are on the hook. if you come and scrape 50 million people's social media profiles,ed then you are legally liable for what happens to that if youou lose control of that, u know? this is for regulation of third party information. that, i think, is good. but i am also somewhat sympathetic to the social media companies that they need to
figure out terms of service that maintains the trust for their platform. because they always push for revenue be right up to the point where suddenly the consumers don't want to be there because theye don't trust the platform. >> next question, please. >> thank you for a very interesting talk. i would like to ask you -- [inaudible] >> yeah, it's okay. >> ask as you very eloquently mentioned, russian disinformation was one thing, but now we are in a completely different place which is even more dangerous. >> right. >> but this russian disinformation campaign and active measures possesses a foundational position. [inaudible] that we live through. i wouldld like to ask you to address, since this is an event about fake news, to address
three claims that you've made from your u.s. senate testimony about the topic about -- [inaudible] have proved to be completely debunked and one unverified. the first one, very briefly, it's that prl -- [inaudible] and sputnik essentially went public with a story about terrorists overcomingg a u.s. army base which was completely debunked because the r.t. reports were based on primal sources in turkey. basically, the whole turkey press -- >> so you're familiar with -- >> i go one by one just so -- >> yeah, let's address that one first. >> i agree with you, the r.t. and sputnik stories were about the protests -- >> yeah, there were actual
protests. >> right? the story we published at the daily beast was what i was referring ton and it was talkig about the disinfo system as an entirety which was r.t. and sputnik news stories came out, and then there were bots that were promoting the story and characters that were discussing. so that's the first one. go aheadre with the second one. >> thank you. that's way better. [laughter] >> and i just say, if you go to the daily beast story, there's a full two-page discussion of it. >> the second one is your claim that the trump campaign took some talking points from a sputnik article, again, about campaign finances and a whole set of baseless allegations. but thisal sputnik article was scrapped after 20 minutes because the journalist recognized that it was a mistake. he lost his job, and this whole
media campaign was based on a "newsweek" article by -- [inaudible] so this was, again, a nonstory. and the third one, not to -- >> no, can i go to -- >> oh. >> i was asked a question in the senate. do you remember what the question was. >> i remember the claim. i don't remember the question. >> okay. so the question that i was asked was why does this work. this was senator lankford. i said it was because donald trump, famously i said, uses russian active measures against his opponents. my point was if you don't know where fact and fiction was, and this is where i concluded, then we don't know. so the article that you had in question, i a -- i had read an npr story that said did donald trump use russian propaganda. before that, manafort citing a case of terrorism in turkey. the president often times does that, con fuse fact and fiction.
so later i think you're saying that the story came down or not. for me, it doesn't matter if the story shows up at sputnik after the president says it or if they take it the other way. the idea is if our government leaders are using propaganda and false information and putting it out from a public stage, we cannot have public debate, and we cannot have democracy. >> ith see. and to sum up, the third part of my question is you have on one hand you have mentioned your very big -- your great experience with extremists online. but on the other hand, you published an article defending the group -- >> oh, i'm so glad you brought this one. bring it, buddy, let's do it. [laughter] >> thank you. so ill like to ask how -- i would like to ask how on the one happened -- >> you know, i've been waiting for this for a few years.
>> -- on the other hand, you defend them online, and also you claim that you were target, a target of a big trolling and harassment campaign against you which is, again, unverifiable going through your tweets and the comments. >> i'll just ask you to identify yourself for the record as well. >> my name is ilya. [inaudible] i'm from columbia journalism school and the -- [inaudible] >> great. >> great, thank you. so if you go to my wikipedia page today, you will see a controversy from 2014, right? and so that controversy is that i'm a terrorist supporter, right? >> you would like me to confirm your claims? [laughter] i mean, itcl was -- >> just wondering. so it's interesting because that was the first time i got into the russian disinfo space. people always wonder how to you go from extremist to russian
disinfo. well, that's how it was. i wrote an article with two colleagues. i'll leave their name out of it so i can just be the one that the focus is on. but the idea was we were talking about soft power in syria at the time, if you remember. this was the obama administration. we were not deploying troops to syria. so we offered, hey, if we are not going to do anything here, why don'tti we try and use more diplomacy or negotiation with islamist groupse to try and pel them awayma from al-qaeda. ..
many of the account were part of the box we tracked that led to a petition on the white house webs nonas alaska back to russia and that's where we got on to them, through the article and through that trolling campaign. >> but we struggling campaign isn't there. that was my question. >> i have to ask you to maybe take it up afterwards. >> 'll meet you afterwards. >> last question. very brief. >> should crypto currency be viewed as a community and a community seeing itself uprising above nationality and government
and is it also an aspect of wealth concentration and weaponizing wealth. >> one where will it become the currency of social media nations? right? it's ungoverned by police cal constitution -- i don't trust it. i don't know where my money is at or who has it. it's interesting because when i watch it, it has all the problems of trust but that an nonmanipulate. it's beneficial to people who dent have banking systems and in kenya we had given a driver mutt but he couldn'tite so we gave him cellphone card.
i don't trust crypto currency, and i also feel like it's one of the things that has been great so far but something that aid all criminals who want to do elicit business around the world and if something goes wrong, who is get to to get my now? so it's interesting. i talk to one of my colleagues, who is an fbi agent. he had a crisis and was like issue just can't trust this thing. don't know where to go. so maybe that comes around but i don't feel like over time both for that reason and the economic -- environmental issues with the -- it's a sustainable way to do things ultimately. >> but as a means -- it's a means factor, and i think we need to look at it from all viewpoints as a mean factory, and maybe it's a mean to be looked at in terms of how we can
understand this dynamic of mean factories and how we going to live with them. >> yeah. they're going to be around. the more we're connected. what i also wonder about is you're seeing a lot of nation states trying to create their own digital currency. >> venezuela. >> so they understand the val knew that. so if wore broking down global unions how does the crypto currency being valid if we breaking all unions around the world. don't know. probably out of my area as an economist. >> clint, thank you very much. >> thank you. ty for having me. [applause] >> we have panel coming up talking about how the issues affect the vulnerable communities and strategies to
counter misinformation that is aimed at vulnerable communities. i want to urge you stay with us for that and excellent work shawns this afternoon, everything from how to do deep fakes and how to the makings of misinformation and still a lot left today. it's lunch time and it's next door. thank you. [applause] >> i'm reading everything. some people go to psychiatrists. raid for therapy. this weekend i might michael
book on privacy which is very good. and i also read romance, spy thrillers. gingrich's latest back. if you look at my i have to bring my kindle up. i read an average of a book a day or every other day. >> resident do you have on the kindle. >> a good -- you learn a loud -- i fir learned but the iran number crisis early series -- several years ago. i happen ben rhodes, the world as it, james clapper, and of course i have to need a book but trump's america but i have a ton of other books. james patterson, stuart wood, bill clinton's become. i finished the other book, jake
tapper's book if read everything, including to a little lying romance to escape the world. >> send us your summer reading book. booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. >> in zero day, once again, we return to the theme of the economically stressed house. drake, virginia, coal-mining town. sounds like your family roots. that's the story of drake, virginia? >> well, it is a town that's that has seen better days. >> a coal town. >> guest: right on the bored are of west virginia. so if you were southwest virginia or west virginia, these coal towns on the spine. >> host: did it exist. >> guest: i made it up. write but places -- i make up
places. it was a place i had a military footprint, and there's a object there, this aenormous dome that is there, that john puller has investigated a murder and comes across this enormous dome that was left over by the military from 040 years ago and nobody knows what is inside the dome. it's all covered, the for forest has reclaimed it. i like going to small towns, eeking out its history, little by little, and showing it has secrets nobody is aware of. almost like unpeeling the layer of onion until you get to to the core. i like to con come stories and people overtime realize, my god, i never saw that coming. >> host: there are places from world war ii where there are abandoned sites that have dangerous material in them such
as this. >> all over the place. it's just a lot of it that -- there is would do in the '50s in, '6 associations '7 sod we weren't -- the didn't have money to clean it up so they're like, dome it over and we're out of here0. bury-undery it in ground. the epa didn't exist until nixon create it in the '70s no epa before that. that's u why you have love candle. document become corporations self-regulating, doesn't work. it was easier televerite behind and move on. >> host: cow told me during the break that you did more -- research work for this series of books than almost any of others. why. >> guest: the military is a complicated east and rules and regulations and acronyms and just understanding the weaponry
they use, and i don't like to drill done too much into that because i'm writing a book, not a textbook but a novel, but you have to get into the weeds at bit but have to make almost shorthand. i have served military so when he puts out his m-11, i can describe it. every military important knows it's a side arm he can pull out. or a particular scope he will use on a sniper gun, or the particular duffle bag or the cut as his uniform, what he wears and i had to build that into his mentality such that it wasn't like i a took a paragraph to describe it. that's is how heed his life. it's hard to do that. i never want to write a flip book where a writer does a lot of research but doesn't want to integrate so it he finds a stop
some slaps it in. so when you are a reader and hit this step and you flip, flip, flip, and get back to the story. never want to write a flip book. >> hello, everyone. welcome. hello, everyone. >> hello. >> hi. welcome, everybody. thank you for being here. pre eastbound. i he wills a want to welcome or national audience, c-span, so welcome everyone. we also want to say thank you to at the pittsburgh cultural trust and the pittsburgh theater. a beautiful stage. going on until