Updated: Bans and banalities

26 07 2019

Many readers will have seen that Facebook has “removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.”

“Coordinated inauthentic behavior” is defined by Facebook here. Note that the action is not necessarily because posts are “fake news.” It is that they are deceptive about their identity and who they work with and for or by hiding where they operate. Another source explains “coordinated inauthentic behavior” as involving multiple account purporting to be unrelated acting in tandem. This behavior uses sock puppets to create the impression that information is coming from multiple independent sources.

Not everyone is comfortable with Facebook’s actions, not least because many of those removed have links with countries the current US administration defines as “enemy” states (Iran, Russia, etc.).

The Thailand details are explained by Facebook:

We removed 12 Facebook accounts and 10 Facebook Pages for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Thailand and focused primarily on Thailand and the US. The people behind this small network used fake accounts to create fictitious personas and run Pages, increase engagement, disseminate content, and also to drive people to off-platform blogs posing as news outlets. They also frequently shared divisive narratives and comments on topics including Thai politics, geopolitical issues like US-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that some of this activity was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow.

    • Presence on Facebook: 12 accounts and 10 Pages.
    • Followers: About 38,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages.
    • Advertising: Less than $18,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars.

We identified these accounts through an internal investigation into suspected Thailand-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our investigation benefited from information shared by local civil society organizations.

For many readers, the examples provided of Land Destroyer, New Eastern Outlook, The Local Revolution and The New Atlas are well-known as purveyors of the work of the pseudonymous Tony Cartalucci. Examples of his anti-democratic paeans to yellow shirts can be seen at Land Destroyer blog. At times in the past, “Tony Cartalucci” was boostering for the likes of Alex Jones, Iran and China, before landing with Russian-funded groups.

Some time ago we noted the remarkable influence “Tony Cartalucci” had had within Thailand’s extreme right and, more significantly, on ultra-royalists:

Thailand’s military junta is composed of royalist rightists who have faithfully imbibed palace propaganda for years. In more recent times, as the military supported and egged on anti-democrat and royalist protesters, these military rightists have accepted a nastier propaganda that combines extreme right and extreme left elements, cobbled together with conspiracy theory….

We noted that (links not updated):

Thailand’s official propaganda agency is now citing the a yellow-shirted conspiracy theorist writing for one of Russia’s propaganda outfit, the New Eastern Outlook, which provides links to a range of alternative media sites, some of them anti-Semitic, others climate change deniers and many libertarian. Some of the co-authors have links to the extreme right in the U.S., including Lyndon LeRouche.

Back in 2013 we posted on the links that “Tony Cartalucci” had with the People’s Alliance for Democracy. Former “leftists” associated with PAD and the Democrat Party religiously sent “Tony Cartalucci” posts on to PAD networks that included royals, royalists and politicians. The conspiracies peddled caught on among these anti-democrats.

The Bangkok Post, which has previously had op-eds that trotted out “Tony Cartalucci”-like material, states:

According to a 2014 Asian Correspondent article, Tony Cartalucci is believed to be a pseudonym made up by Michael Pirsch, who in an abbreviated biography on the website Truthout.com, describes himself as a former “union activist and union organizer for more than 25 years and a DJ on Berkeley Liberation Radio, a pirate radio station” who now lives “as an economic refugee from the United States in Thailand.”

Having said all of that, we are PPT are not enthused by efforts to silence critics, even if they are mad right-wing conspiracy theorists. But, then, it is only Facebook and Twitter where this has occurred and all the parent pages – mostly blogs and “news” sites – continue to pump out the drivel. For obvious reasons, we think the notion that “fictitious” identities is a reasonable reason for declaring “coordinated inauthentic behavior” is dubious and dangerous. Anonymity and the use of pen names has been common for centuries.

And restricting the drivel from an expatriate, former leftist, now monarchist and rightist American means little in Thailand where conspiracy theory has run rampant in recent years. Most of the nutters who get oxygen seem to be those who make use of the monarchy in political battles.

The most recent example is the banal conspiracy claims by Natthaporn Toprayoon, “a lawyer and former adviser to chief Ombudsman, [who] accused the FFP [Future Forward Party] of being a threat to the constitutional monarchy, which plays a fundamental part in Thailand’s political system.” He has made several accusations, including that Future Forward’s “logo — an upside-down triangle — is reversed, it bears a close resemblance to the Illuminati’s triangle sign.” He has “claimed that the Illuminati was behind efforts to overthrow monarchies in Europe and that it also played a role in the US Declaration of Independence in 1776.”

How bizarre.

Update 1: Natthaporn has claimed that:

that remarks made by several key FFP members discouraging the act of prostrating oneself to pay respects, pouring scorn on “Thai smiles”, and trying to end the patronage of all religions in the country were in line with Illuminati thinking as well as those of the Nitirat group of progressive-minded law scholars.

He seems misguided at best but seems more like a nutter. The Thaiger describes him as having “gone ‘full woo woo’,” which is a polite way of describing a looney. But the seriously nutty are sometimes taken seriously when their “ideas,” plots and conspiracies match the political aims of the powerful in Thailand.

The idea that “the orange triangular logo used by Future Forward, if turned upside down, closely resembles the symbol used for the Illuminati” is seriously deranged. If there was any “truth” in the claim, then he’d have to also include Google Drive, Google Play, several banks, Alcatel, Kenwood, Delta and Qantas airlines, Caterpillar, Hyundai Engineering, Le Coq Sportif,  CITGO, Aston University, Mitsubishi and more.

You get the picture. Nattahaporn has been imbibing far too much mind-altering kool-aid.

But there’s a link to “Tony Cartalucci”-like ramblings. As can be seen in the nuttier conspiracy theorists that span extreme left gone extreme right, the so-called Illuminati are today associated with “World Government” or a “New World Order” that infiltrates a lot of American-originated rightist propaganda like the “work” or Alex Jones and a range of Tea Party, Neo-fascist, anti-Semitic ideologues. “Tony Cartalucci” has been there.

Update 2: New Eastern Outlook has been quick to defend “Tony Cartalucci.” We suspect that it is “Tony Cartalucci” who wrote the post.


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