Electoral Commission admits digital politics is a problem

The Electoral Commission has printed a report on the December General Election. It can be found here. (exact date of the report is not mentioned but is sometime in June). It is similar to the report given earlier. Election financial information is posted here but with no information on computer system costs.

The following are quotes from the report:

The election was generally well-run, but there is new evidence showing challenges for the future

The 2019 UK Parliamentary general election was held on Thursday 12 December. More than 40 million people were registered to vote, and the turnout of registered voters was 67%. There were high levels of satisfaction with the processes of registering to vote and voting. These were similar to other recent elections in the UK.

Beneath this generally positive picture, however, we have also seen evidence about concerns and problems at this election. Some people did not receive the service they should be able to expect, and many were not confident that the election was well run.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/uk-general-elections/report-overview-2019-uk-parliamentary-general-election

The concerns were as follows:

  • Misleading campaign techniques risk undermining voters’ trust
  • The rules for campaigners need modernising for the digital age
  • Tackling intimidation of candidates requires a holistic approach
  • Steps taken to secure the democratic processes must continue

These are quotes from the report:

People were concerned about misleading campaign techniques from across the political spectrum, and bias in the media. We received a large number of complaints raising concerns about the presentation, tone and content of election campaigns
Transparency about who is behind political campaigns online at elections is important for people in the UK. In our research after the election, nearly three quarters of people agreed that it was important for them to know who produced the political information they see online, but less than a third agreed that they can find out who has produced it

The UK Government and other bodies monitored digital campaigning during the election period for risks to democratic processes from foreign interference and organised disinformation. The UK Government has said that work to examine these aspects after the election is ongoing

The UK Government should also set out plans to modernise the rules for campaigners to keep pace with the digital age. The law should tell campaigners and digital platforms the amount and type of information they need to give to voters, the media, other campaigners and regulators, including to us.

At this election, Facebook, Google and Snapchat published libraries and reports of the political advertising run on their platforms and channels during the election. They also required political advertisers to put ‘Paid for by’ disclaimers on their political adverts.

These measures are a step in the right direction and they enabled us to see who is paying to place adverts. But they still don’t provide enough information about digital campaigning.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/uk-general-elections/report-overview-2019-uk-parliamentary-general-election

Quite a few problems here…

Whilst admitting a problem, the EC did not have any solution. Plus they are gaslighting you. Gaslighting by ommission. The EC report did not admit the full scope of the problem which have been known about since at least EU Referendum and 2016 Presidential Elections. We know this because Elizabeth Denham, the UK ICO Commissioner (that regulates data privacy) announced the problem with social media and data analytics in 2018!

Fact 1: The fact that the electoral registration system is broken. Local Council election management systems are out of date. Central Government systems (and no doubt Dominic Cummings’ Voter Intention Collection System) has far better demographic systems which could automatically update electoral rolls.

Fact 2: The EC do not even admit that the social media platforms collect “pyschographic” information – a more likely barometer of voter intentions than any sample survey. The EC is out of touch with the digital world. While the ICO recognises the problem (in part), they have no teeth to do anything about it.

Fact 3: The EC do not mention the true level of postal vote problem – only that there was some confusion. When some people apparently tried to register three times or so, and late into the election process, this is a warning that voter fraud is being undertaken! (The process is described here).

Fact 4: But worst of all is the online manipulation of voters and even mainstream media by fake news spread by bots and sockpuppets (fake accounts). This is not just a vague Trump-style throw away… but it was specifcally recorded, tracked and documented… even by the BBC! This event alone demonstrates the vast power that computers and automation (weilded by the Tories) can do to twart the democratic process. This issue is not addressed either by the EC or ICO.

I’ll leave the conclusion of this article as as a quote

“The invisible, ‘behind the scenes’ use of personal data to target political messages to individuals must be transparent and lawful if we are to preserve the integrity of our election process.”

Elizabeth Denham, the UK ICO Commissioner November 2018

Big Data and Covid-19

Big Data systems fed from the government’s new tracking app would definitely help track, manage and contain the Covid-19 pandemic. If Dominic Cummings had that idea then all credit to him. Cummings has for years maintained a blog documenting his enthusiasm for new technologies and artificial intelligence, as reported on the DailyGasLamp. However, with the introduction a new smart phone tracking app, there are two small problems:

Cronyism

Taken from this Guardian Article: One of the IT companies that was hired to work with Dominic Cummings on the Vote Leave campaign, Faculty aka Faculty Science, previous called Advanced Skills Initiative, has been awarded at least seven government contracts worth almost £1m in the space of 18 months.

  • Faculty has links to senior Tory figures, and is rapidly expanding its reach into various corners of Whitehall.
  • Last year it was tasked with finding ways to apply artificial intelligence across government agencies. Faculty is run by Marc Warner, who has attended a meeting of the government’s scientific advisory group on emergencies (SAGE) and “behaved as Cummings’ deputy” as disclosed in an article in the Times.
  • Marc Warner’s brother, Ben Warner, is a data scientist, was reportedly recruited to Downing Street last year by Cummings after running the data modelling for the Conservative party’s general election campaign. Ben Warner worked on Vote Leave.
  • Faculty is working at the heart of the government’s response to the pandemic. It has been processing large volumes of confidential UK patient information in an “unprecedented” data-mining operation alongside Palantir, a US firm founded by the libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel. Faculty’s government work with Palantir on Covid-19 is based out of NHSX, the digital technology arm of the health service. This work was awarded to Faculty in March under the government’s fast-track procedures to respond to the pandemic, without any other firms being asked to bid for it.
  • Faculty’s work on the coronavirus response is only the latest government project it has secured under the Conservative administration. One early contract when called Advanced Skills Initiative, was for £32,000, funded fellowships in 2018 to place data scientists in city governments to help solve local challenges.
  • Last year Faculty was awarded a £250,000 contract from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to run a cross-government review on the adoption of artificial intelligence.
  • Under the contract, Faculty worked with two government departments – the Office for Artificial Intelligence and Government Digital Service (GDS) – “to identify the most significant opportunities to introduce AI across government with the aim of increasing productivity and improving the quality of public services”.
  • Faculty has been awarded a £264,000 contract from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to monitor the impact of the coronavirus on industry. (The DailyGasLamp analysis btw is free).
  • One of Faculty’s shareholders is Lord Agnew, a financier who has been a government minister since 2017. He has owned shares in the firm for the past four years. They are worth around £90,000, according to its most recent filings. In February this year it was announced that Agnew had become a minister in the Cabinet Office and Treasury and had taken ministerial responsibility for the GDS, which works with official bodies to use digital technology to improve public services. A government spokesperson said Agnew had had no role in awarding any contracts to Faculty while he had been a minister. However, Spotlight on Corruption, a watchdog group, has called on Agnew to sell his shareholding in Faculty, saying it raised questions over the government’s rules on managing conflicts of interests.

So just to reiterate, a Cabinet Office minister, Theodore Agnew, who is responsible for the government department that promotes the use of digital technology within public services, is resisting calls to sell a £90,000 shareholding in the company “amid claims of a conflict of interest” – yes, clear conflicts of interest are just “claims of a conflict of interest”. Hmm.

The government spokesperson replied that Agnew had followed the appropriate procedures by declaring his shareholding in House of Lords register of interests and under the ministerial code of conduct etc.

Holly Searle, Faculty’s head of PR and communications, said: “Faculty has strong governance procedures in place to guard against conflicts of interest when competing for new work. All of its contracts with the government are won through the proper processes and in line with procurement rules.”

In the meantime, some people are getting worried that the UK Government has handed over ALL NHS DATA to a consortium of companies which consists of Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Faculty and Plantir Technologies (a company named after an evil artefact that comminicates with far away places). So much so they are planning on sueing the UK Government.

Dominic Cummings has also been accused of conflicts of interest regarding the smart phone tracking app.

End of Democracy

This is a bit like who guards the guardians. There is no oversight either from crony corruption or it seems, the misuse of data. The control on data controllers should be applied by the Information Commisioner Office – see https://ico.org.uk/ – as discussed previously on the DailyGasLamp.

The privacy concerns have been highlighted by 177 cyber experts. They have written an open letter to the goverment to stop the app being used as a mass-surveillance tool. Why?

  • The UK government stated that it would not use Apple and Google’s built-in privacy protection systems to anonymise data collected from apps on iPhone and Android smartphones.
  • This allows the government to create a database that could then be used to de-anonymize users, and just like Cambridge Analystica and other AI/Big Data companies have proven, be used for other purposes.

And sure enough security concerns have now developed into security flaws.

Also discussed before on the DailyGasLamp, the “exhaust” from Covid-19 would be a significant boost to Dominic Cummings’ Voter Intention Collection System… no need to worry about going to the polls, there would be instant analysis of whether the Government Response to the pandemic is working… not working for you, but working for THEM… whether they and their cronies need to worry “politically” about any the decisions that are killing off the old and disabled. Big Data in the hands of this particular government means the End of Democracy, as explained here. Probably the end of many other things too (depending on your attiritude to spooks!).

This is further described in a tweet from Carol Cadwalladr – linking terrorist surveillance and covid with the support Dominic Cummings and his chums…

Ultimately it is supposed to be the 4th Estate to keep the Government in check. The BBC is merely the Ministry of Truth. The newspapers are owned by billionaires. Social media is now corrupt. Suggestions on a postcard, please… (PS you cannot rely solely on Piers Morgan for all 4th Estate watch-dogging.)

Summary: the new smart phone app and the way it is likely to be applied, will be not only be measuring the spread of the virus but also (via Big Data) the political impact: the public reaction to the covid-19 response, allowing the Tories to persue the cheapest, eugenics-like policies at a level which will not remove them power.

GE2019: “system under strain”

A report in The London Economic by Jack Peat confirms DailyGasLamp reports. Throughout the article there are many euphemisms for “electoral fraud” and dodges the big issues of Big Data, Bots/Sock Puppets and only hints at postal fraud.

2019 election report finds widespread reports of abuse and system ‘under strain’
The festive timing made it harder to find polling venues and voters expressed concern about ‘misleading’ online campaigning.

Jack Peat April 21, 2020

Targetted Ads

It states “(about)… one in five people – told the commission they were “not confident” that it was well run, with concerns over the transparency of online campaigning…” going onto to reference online adverts and not the harvesting of social media data to obtain the TARGETTING of such adverts.

Bots and Sock Puppets

But the biggest ommission in Peat’s article is reference to (illegal) Cambridge Analystica and PysOp methods of sock puppets and artifical intelligent bots suckering people into revealing personal details, not just voting preferences not also voting intentions: the likelihood of people voting at all. This information is then suspected to be for widespread postal fraud in marginal seats – widespread but targetted and minimal – not too much, not too little but just right amount. Dominic Cummings’ Voter Intention Collection System would statistically be so accurate that it could determine not only voter’s politically preference but also how likely they are to vote at all. Thus providing exactly the right level of postal vote fraud to allow the Conservatives an 80 seat majority – just as Cummings promised a month before the election.

Postal delays

Peats article states there was “reported delays in issuing and returning postal votes in some areas” including “Voters overseas reported receiving their ballots too late to send back, meaning they missed out on having a say“. The latter could have been easily overcome by allowing local print out of ballot papers, but of course, people living abroad may have had the “wrong sort” of Brexit preferences… ie deliberate voter suppression. Please refer to earlier DailyGasLamp posts of how easy voter suppression is enabled towards postal voters.

Yeah, the system is “under strain”.

Control the Message

Old style mainstream media was out in force against Labour in GE2019 according to this article. It claims that the Mainstream Media was “Rigged” against Labour and for the Conservatives. But most people already know that the newspapers are owned by billionaires and are right wing. GE2019 was different becuase it was not just the newspapers but bias within the BBC, and TV in general, and also – probably for the first time – online through both search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and social media gaslighting. Not just Big Data analytics either…

Beyond SEME, is the use of intelligent Bot systems (where developers actually get help and support from the bot technology that they are using!)…

This seems to be a key tool in automating the Conservative GE2019 campaign, to control the message. How many people were fooled by disinformation, controlled messages, the dopamine hit of a “like” to right wing comment from a bot, or an AI message from a new “friend” that appeared to be taking interest in their opinions?

Botpress has a nice graphic interface and the developers get support from the bot, giving friendly advice on how to achieve particular goals. It can even autocomplete various functions. Botpress, or similar tools from Google or Pandora, adds more detail to the description in an earlier DailyGasLamp article here. In that article it described bots and sock puppets. Botpress would be the Bot component (while a “sock puppet” is just a person with multiple identities).

Interestingly, these systems are used by some major, major companies that supply the UK government with their systems… so this type of technology would be known to Dominic Cummings who from his blog post seems to have quite an interest in the subject.

Botpress also comes with a facebook connector (info here). How to use this tool is described here… the peak downloads for this software was June 2019 – plenty of time to ramp up development for GE2019. Botpress capabilities vs competiting products is described here.

The set up and running of this technology requires a huge amount of capital intensive investment – the rich are organised “few” – the 1%, less than 0.01% actually – and they outgun the poor, the disorganised “many”. So democracy is now a hidden war between people-powered electioneering (“the people”) against a limitless army of hidden robots controlled and funded by a few billionaires. Democracy vs oligarchy – we currently have the latter…

Too Much News

There is too much news and not enough analysis. CovId-19 is seriously changing the world. Who knew that a Cold Virus would cause so much mayhem? Besides Boris Johnson, of course…

The DailyGasLamp is hard at work on several stories… here is the heads up:

  • The relationship of the campaign of Anonymous Companies and Brexit – and the destruction of the planet – it’s hideous. Contributions to follow this up would be welcome.
  • Bernie Sanders getting the “Jeremy Corbyn treatment” by the USA media. This pandemic has turned up at exactly the time to disrupt Sanders’ presidential campaign…
  • DailyGasLamp is still following up the (illegal) use of AI for the GE2019 campaign. See new article here
  • Finally… (hold your breath)…
  • Stories that the CovId-19 virus itself is man-made. That statement is not made lightly, there is a good scientific source for this.

We built a chimeric virus encoding a novel, zoonotic CoV spike protein—from the RsSHC014-CoV sequence that was isolated from Chinese horseshoe bats—in the context of the SARS-CoV mouse-adapted backbone. The hybrid virus allowed us to evaluate the ability of the novel spike protein to cause disease independently of other necessary adaptive mutations in its natural backbone.

A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence
Vineet D Menachery et al

This information needs to be taken in the context of the earlier DailyGasLamp article regarding the smelly state of the US/UK response to this pandemic.