MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA – The Guardian reports today that Google’s CyberCrime Investigative Group has been leaking the personal information of conservative users to a counterterrorism fusion center based in California’s Bay Area.
The article describes an analysis of documents downloaded by hackers in what is called the “Blueleaks trove.”
The Blueleaks documents were taken from a Texas hosting facility used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies. The Blueleaks trove was released to the public on June 19 – “Juneteenth” – just as public outcry over the death of George Floyd in police custody gained momentum across the country.
Former DHS official Stewart Baker doubts the released documents will reveal police misconduct, but does worry they will expose ongoing investigations and endanger lives.
“Every organized crime operation in the country will likely have searched for their own names before law enforcement knows what’s in the files, so the damage could be done quickly. I’d also be surprised if the files produce much scandal or evidence of police misconduct. That’s not the kind of work the fusion centers do.”
The Guardian article states that data Google sent to the fusion center was from users who “were often threatening violence or otherwise expressing extremist views, often associated with the far right.” The sentence implies that “threatening violence” is associated with “the far right” rather than any other group that might also threaten violence.
The article does not define “far right,” leaving readers the problem of guessing what that might mean. This is not as simple as it might seem, from the single example given.
The example starts:
“On a now-deleted video on the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton by Canadian white nationalist, Stefan Molyneux (whose channel YouTube has now banned) … .”
What this tells us is that there were two mass shootings. One was in El Paso, the other in Dayton. It then links the two shootings to Molyneux, who is identified as a “white nationalist.”
The implication is that the shootings are linked to approval from Molyneux. In the context of the article, “far right” apparently describes Molyneux and both shooters in El Paso and Dayton. We don’t know for sure, though, because the video has been deleted and Molyneux has been banned from YouTube.
The problem is that a credible argument can be made that Molyneux is not a white nationalist. According to an essay posted on his website, titled “What I Believe,” Molyneux writes:
“I do not believe that any race is ‘superior’ or ‘inferior.’”
He goes on to write:
“I believe in equality before the law and reject any and all laws based on race. No race should ‘rule’ or dominate any other race.”
Those two statements should be enough to dispel the idea that Molyneux is a “white nationalist.” If not, he has consistently supported those principles throughout the article and, presumably, elsewhere.
If his essay is some form of deception, it is convincing enough that it should cause pause in any journalist before they describe Molyneux as a white nationalist.
This begs the question: If Molyneux isn’t a white nationalist, does he belong to the “far right?”
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Molyneux’s views center on his stated desire to use observations of evidence to generate knowledge. This is distinct from what he sees among many politicians, journalists, and even scientists, to ignore evidence that is inconvenient to their beliefs (because it undercuts their validity) or it is antithetical to their ideals.
This has led him to make statements that have been described as racist or misogynistic when it might be more appropriate to try and refute the evidence he has based his statements on.
The name of the Dayton shooter is Connor Stephen Betts. On Aug. 4, 2019, he shot 26 people outside of the Ned Peppers Bar in Dayton, Ohio. Nine of his victims died from their wounds. Betts’ Twitter account, other social media activity, and testimony from friends, establishes that he is a Bernie Sanders-supporting leftist.
Just like James Hodgkinson, who fired on Republican senators at a baseball game in 2017.
El Paso shooter Patrick Crusius published a short essay, described as a “manifesto” by the media, shortly before he carried out his attack. According to the essay, his attack was designed to prevent the political takeover of the American government by Hispanics imported from Mexico and other countries.
For that reason, he targeted Hispanic victims.
Crusius’ views are different from those of Molyneux, who doesn’t believe in race-based laws or the inherent superiority or inferiority of any race over another. The essay is also distinct from what is known of Sanders and other politicians supported by Betts, all of whom support unfettered immigration to the United States.
Why, then, are Betts, Crusius, and Molyneux linked together in the same sentence as “white nationalists?”
The Guardian article is about how hacked files from law enforcement servers exposed Google’s practice of sending data on conservative users to law enforcement. As written, it looks like a weak cousin to the practice of “swatting”: calling the police to fraudulently claim that a life-threatening emergency is occurring at a specific address.
The goal is to prank someone by having an entire SWAT team show up at their door, though nothing untoward is going on.
If Google is using their algorithms to target conservatives for law enforcement action, though their activities are innocent, that would be a serious problem. It would be another reason to remove the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that prevent legal liability for user content.
However, if their algorithms don’t know what a “white nationalist” is, they may be ineffective at identifying real conservatives. Getting closer to the source, maybe the Guardian doesn’t know the difference between a leftist and a conservative.
Google appears to be motivated to harm conservatives in America. It, therefore, makes sense that their algorithms could selectively target conservatives for law enforcement scrutiny. However, errors of fact in the Guardian article make it difficult to accept the premise without due consideration to other alternatives.
One of those is that due to liberal bias at the Guardian, the story was written to highlight the existence of a vast right-wing conspiracy populated by violent extremist crazies. Unfortunately, the information in its article is flawed.
Until further notice, my takeaway from this information is that 1) a law enforcement hosting service was hacked, 2) hundreds of thousands of sensitive law enforcement files were released to the public on June 19, 2020, and 3) the release of the Blueleaks files represents a danger to law enforcement, operations, and sources.
If Google is targeting conservatives, as the Internal Revenue Service did during Barack Obama’s presidency, there should be consequences. However, more investigation is required.
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