back to article Where hackers haven't directly influenced polls, they've undermined our faith in democracy

What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Twitter pooh-poohed any suggestion that Russian agents ran accounts on its platform for purposes of subverting the US election. A month ago, it was forced to eat its words, owning up to maybe just a few paltry 201. Last week, in the course of a Congressional grilling, that …

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The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

Murdoch, Dacre and whoever currently owns the Express.

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

The Barclay brothers are probably feeling left out...

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

Murdoch Dacre and "whoever own the Express" (it's still Richard Desmond - great research, kiddo) make a convenient scapegoat when the public have rejected your ideas.

No self-examination or honesty required when you can blame "false consciousness".

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

You forgot convicted (in the US) fraudster Conrad Black, who was hacking the public mind for much of the same time as Murdoch. Colonials getting revenge on Blighty for having colonised their countries?

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

Why would the Colonials want revenge on the nation that established their Colonies? Now, the original inhabitants, that might be a different matter...

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

While we're on the subject of election hackers, don't forget

Cambridge Analytica

I don't think they or their targeted messages have any place in national or local elections. Same goes for all other similar organizations. Their use by political parties should be banned and any candidates or parties found to have employed them should be removed from the election results. Retrospectively if needed, with an immediate bye-election to fill the now-vacant seat.

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

Conrad Black was born in Canada. The US has plenty to answer for, but not I think Conrad Black.

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

"Murdoch Dacre and "whoever own the Express" (it's still Richard Desmond - great research, kiddo) make a convenient scapegoat when the public have rejected your ideas.

"

You don't even know what my ideas are, so how do you know?

Also, I have noted that some of my comments get voted on quite a long time after I made them. Desmond still owns the Express now. He may not next week even, as it's known to be up for sale.

For someone who claims to be a PhD, you seem to lack elementary analytical skills. As well as basic politeness. Perhaps you're really that fat bloke from The Sun who was so truthful about Hillsborough.

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Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then? @Dr Stephen Jones

I'm not sure that "the referendum got the result I wanted" justifies failure to consider whether a hostile foreign propaganda source that has been found to be active in the US might also be attempting to influence the UK*.

(* though I'm more inclined to point to the costs associated with being in an economic union looking outsized after ten years of economic turmoil that made the benefits look slender; probably worth a quick peek under the covers though, wouldn't you say?)

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Angel

Re: The biggest UK hackers of the lot then?

...financiers with deep pockets were hard at work influencing the outcomes of national elections...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

I'm shocked, shocked, that gambling is going on in this establishment!!!

This kind of crap has being going on since the Romans. Investigations are always hypocritical. To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, it's only illegal when spoken of in the third person, as in "their corruption". It's only when it's spoken of in the first person as in "our corruption" that these activities are legal.

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Anonymous Coward

That makes no sense, the people that voted for brexit were apparently very old and/or thick with no money so wouldn't have had access to the internet anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

My attempt at the use of irony to mock or convey contempt seems to have failed.

I hang my head in shame.

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Anonymous Coward

the people that voted for brexit were apparently very old and/or thick ......

But not quite all of them. And some were just self-interested or prejudiced.

AC because if you can, so I can.

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Anonymous Coward

I always post AC.

I think labelling either side as being one thing or another is not a good idea because it doesn't help and only serves a purpose of sowing division amongst the people, something the media is very fond of doing, I was using sarcasm based on the media reaction.

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"I always post AC."

I think thats why your attempt at sarcasm failed. Text is a hard enough meduim to convey subleties and intonations as it is , doing it anonymously just adds another barrier.

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"anonym[it]y just adds another barrier" - and is at the root of this entire problem.

Cambridge Analytica happens to be very good at what they do. They are hired guns. They will work for anyone with the money. Most of their work is done through anonymous posting on social media. They need not reveal who hires them or how much they are paid. Can this go on?

Who gave DUP 420,000 pounds?

We seem to think anonymity is important. Is it important enough to risk our electoral systems?

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Nil carb

As one of the very thick old people who voted for Brexit, who have no money and no access to the Internet, I sympathize with you.

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"100,000 signatures means the petition will be considered for debate in Parliament."

Key word there be considered of course...

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Headmaster

Democracy

The real way democracy works is that you get to vote for someone who lies their asses off and promises things that they will never deliver. Then when in power they take the stance of a dictator who has a job for life and do whatever they like for a few years. When the next election looms they suddenly become caring, they even venture into the real world to influence the mentally challenged with more bullshit. Rinse and repeat.

Fiddling polls makes no odds.

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Coat

Re: Democracy

When a dictator fails, they swing from a lightpost.

When a democratically elected politician fails, they write a memoir and retire to the House of Lords.

The most efficient system would be a benevolent dictator. No shortage of available dictators, problem is the benevolent part!

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Re: Democracy

The most efficient system would be a benevolent dictator.

Unfortunately that system, to be most efficient, also requires a compliant citizenry to be in complete agreement with the thoughts and intentions of the benevolent dictator.

Welcome to the Borg Collective.

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compliant citizenry to be in complete agreement

That's where the benevolence ends and the secret police start.

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Re: Democracy and cynics

Cynicism is one of the small deaths by which cowards die daily, King Jack. ;)

Cynicism did not give rise to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, nor the Clean Water Act of 1972. Nor the Emancipation Proclamation. The 19th Amendment, giving all women the right to vote in the USA, was not sparked by cynicism.

No hard feelings, just sayin'. Have a beer anyway.

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Meh

Re: Democracy

To quote Gary Strand, "A democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch."

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Re: Democracy

Actually, your diagnosis is a little too optimistic. When the next election approaches, they know perfectly well that the voters have no one else to vote for who would be any better, so they really don't need to change anything.

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Re: Democracy

I have lived under several benevolent dictators (not in the UK, of course, ours aren't very benevolent). Juan Peron, Dr Salazar, Habib Bourguiba... for most people, life wasn't noticeably different from life in Britain today. Certainly a few people disappeared alarmingly, and many of them were never seen alive again. But that happens here and now, too. It's just that our politicians and our media are dedicated to ignoring or minimizing those disappearances, because, you see, they happen to BAD people.

The arguments for a benevolent dictator are quite strong, and of course go back to Plato and long before. A fortiori, monarchy also has its attractions - see the writings of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, for instance. A monarch has a big investment in his or her country, especially if (s)he hopes to hand it on to the offspring.

The big speed bump is the word "benevolent". How on earth can you find someone who not only is benevolent now, but will remain benevolent when given power? There are your Marci Aurelii and your Frederick IIs, but they are few and far between.

The big question is whether power corrupts, or merely attracts the corruptible.

"All governments suffer a recurring problem: [p]ower attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted".

- Frank Herbert, “Chapterhouse Dune”

"The nature of power is such that even those who have not sought it, but have had it forced upon them, tend to acquire a taste for more".

- Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World Revisited”, Chapter 1

The more one reflects on the ramifications of these knotty problems, the more attractive seems the solution proposed by Philip K. Dick in his novel "World of Chance". Supreme power over the world government is bestowed completely at random by a (presumably unhackable) computer, which at any moment of the day or night may designate any human being, from anywhere and any walk of life, to be President of Earth. Such a person gets protection and advice, but must rule as best (s)he sees fit. And, of course, may be replaced as suddenly and arbitrarily as (s)he was raised to power.

The bottom line is that human beings did not evolve to live in communities of more than a hundred or so. Thus it is likely that there is no ideal way of governing them in communities of millions or billions.

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Re: Democracy and cynics

Contrariwise, as a student of British history I see cynicism and selfishness as the greatest force behind every liberalizing change going back to Magna Carta and before. British people have never had a disinterested desire for everyone to be free; individually and severally they have had a strong desire NOT to be oppressed by others, and they have cut up very rough indeed when it came to the crunch.

Imagine how much political liberty we would have today if King John had crushed the barons by force, or if King Charles I had not had his head cut off. His son King Charles II was often heard to say, explaining his readiness to submit to Parliament, that "I have no wish to go on my travels again". And King James II actually was obliged to flee abroad, being replaced by William of Orange and his wife Mary (James' own daughter).

That was one of the political principles on which Thomas Jefferson was keenest. He far preferred the spirit of the French Revolution to the comfortable, repressive, property-centric ethos of the American Revolution. And he often actually declared that he hoped there would be a revolution, however small, every few years, as the shedding of a little blood (especially that of nasty tyrants and bankers) was far preferable to the gradual loss of liberty. (Which has in fact transpired, until the USA today is a place that would probably drive Jefferson stark raving mad if he could see it).

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Why must democracy be digitised?

I get that counting votes by hand is laborious, expensive and prone to error, but isn’t trust in our democratic processes worth more than what can be saved with voting machines?

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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

You trust a system that makes no attempt whatsoever to verify that people walking into a polling station are who they say they are?

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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

You trust a system that makes no attempt whatsoever to verify that the people that are campaigning for votes are who they say they are OR will do what they say they will do.

IOW, practically all of civilization relies on a degree of trust that cannot be guaranteed for even the short term. Humans simply don't work that way.

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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

You trust a system that makes no attempt whatsoever to verify that people walking into a polling station are who they say they are?

Does it actually matter who they are unless you're trying to exclude certain classes of people from the electorate? There may be an argument for making sure that people vote only once, but anonymous voting is arguably quite desirable - especially if you accept the assertion of certain politicians that the security services had a habit of rifling through ballot boxes to determine who might have voted for leftist causes.

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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

>You trust a system that makes no attempt whatsoever to verify that people walking into a polling station are who they say they are?

Yes. If the alternative is some barrier which excludes some legit voters.

There is very little evidence of personation in elections in this country (in person). The problems come when there's a piece of paper/card which says who you claim to be.

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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

This exchange from the Simpsons might explain the enthusiasm for voting machines:

Homer: Do you want the job done right or do you want it done fast?

Marge: Well, like all Americans... fast!

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Re: Why must democracy be digitised?

"I get that counting votes by hand is laborious, expensive and prone to error, but isn’t trust in our democratic processes worth more than what can be saved with voting machines?"

Counting by hand isn't that laborious actually. And not that prone to error. And it is done by volunteers, so I'm not sure whether using voting machines would actually save (that much) money. The ballots used plus all the paperwork that goes with the counting and collating is archived until a couple of months before the next election, which usually works out to 3.5 years, so plenty of time to check on any possible irregularities.

I've been in charge of a polling station (not always the same one) in every election in my area since 2002. Federal/general, state, local, referendums, public petitions to get a referendum, run-offs, what have you. Some 20+ elections by now; I would have to flip through my old diaries to get the exact number. This year, it was two, state and general.

I can highly recommend it. For the first time in 2002, I was kindly persuaded to "volunteer"; I've been genuinely voluteering ever since. It's interesting and fun. And every now and then I can invest a day of my own time in something that is important.

But yes, trust in the process is essential, so cost must not be the first thing to consider.

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Georgia

Why would the current Republican rulers of the US state of Georgia want honest elections - the current electronic voting machines make it easy for them to stay in power.

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Re: Georgia

Gerrymandering and voter suppression can't have been enough for them.

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>There are two sets of hackers in this world: those targeting the machinery of voting and those seeking to corrupt the debate

The first set of hackers are dangerous.

Those who consider the second set of people dangerous are dangerous.

"Corrupting the debate" by adding ideas (good or bad) implies the debate should only follow along a prescribed line of thought and that alternative viewpoints should not be heard.

That is a corruption of democracy. I despise those who would rather win power than have and promote moral and logical ideas. De-platforming is for those with no argument.

We need to promote a culture of truth over one of winning.

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"Corrupting the debate"

P.Lee, you make a fair point.

I see the corruption of the debate as something different from the addition of new ideas though. The corruption is from the hardening of already held beliefs through the creation of echo chambers. This means that rather than adding to the debate, they're drowning the other side out.

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Re: "Corrupting the debate"

Corrupting the debate is sometimes using access to the media to push people further along the road to where you want them to go. Such as blaming minorities for current failures, or advancing bar-room views that have no basis in logic or fact. Find a mild prejudice and whip it along.

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BINGO

"We need to promote a culture of truth over one of winning"

At least one candidate was using dirty methods to get the nomination. Now she and her followers whine about "foreign intervention". I would say rotten folks don't succeed 100% of time, as it should be.

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Pipe dream

"We need to promote a culture of truth over one of winning".

Much as I agree with your sentiment, it is impractical. One of the best short definitions of culture is "those customs and practices that cannot be legislated for, imposed, or forbidden".

In short, culture is precisely that which cannot be "promoted" (or, for that matter, "demoted").

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Facepalm

Voting Machines vs ATM

If a hacker can Jackpot an ATM, what hope is there for voting machines?

Here in the US the debate is running in tiny circles, there's no way that the Republicans will ever admit that they might have lost the election without Russian help.

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Basically what you have here with 4chan , and now reddit is the internet version of a bunch of teenagers hanging out in a shopping maul making a nuisance of themselves.

"Script kiddies" would be a term used correctly , for once*

* usually the term is used by someone who wants to insinuate their own skillz are far better / madder / realer / sicker

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"batch-voting bots for Windows and JavaScript, supplemented by a Tor-based Linux app, designed to get past the meagre safeguards put in place by poll host PollDaddy"

When i started reading that part of the story I assumed the poll was a quickie knocked up by IT staff at the radio station and put on there website. It seems however that the poll is hosted by a business whose sole purpose is to take polls. You'd think they would have given it a bit more thought and put in less "meagre" safeguards . It cant be that hard.

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Where hackers haven't directly influenced polls, they've undermined our faith in democracy

Really?

Main thing that undermines my faith in democracy is politicians....

Hackers, dodgy and inappropriate advertising or tax revelations are merely adding extra cohorts of burrowing animals to the issue.

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Where hackers haven't directly influenced polls, they've undermined our faith in democracy

I find the idea of "faith in democracy" and the implicit "we have not undermined what they have democratically elected" quite entertaining.

60+ cases in Latin America in this century alone. Post WW2 Iran, Post fall of the wall Eastern Europe (something I have observed first hand from very close), you name it. In most cases replacing democratically elected governments with dictatorships and cleptocracies. This is in addition to replacing "their" dictatorships and cleptocracies with "ours" of course - these probably contribute 60 more (at least) in the second half of the 20th century alone.

We have no moral ground to bitch about "them" influencing public opinion. If you cannot take the heat get out of the kitchen.

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0.7% of Facebook posts and about 0.9something% of Twitter posts were by these people.

That's hardly influencing anything is it? More people tweet about Harry Styles' Kiwi fruit than that.

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Those figures are barely relevant. It's the percentages of politically-related posts and tweets which matter more.

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I think the fact Clinton campaign have started this Trump/Russia alliance matters most of all, especially when John Podesta's company are involved in colluding with Russia.

Look it up.

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"Tiger teams"

Really? And how exactly will that help?

The voting machines will have to all be tested before they're installed in polling stations to check that the software running on them is actually what we're told it is. And this will have to be done by completely re-installing the software from the firmware level upwards, otherwise we have no way of knowing that the result of any "test" isn't a pre-defined "Everything's great!" left there by whoever compromised them.

See again a great video on the subject.

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