Smarter Every Day @smartereveryday I'm Destin. Bama boy, Rockets, likes to learn, likes to share what I learn with others. Feb. 02, 2019 6 min read

I’m an Engineer who loves America.
I just figured something out I want to talk about it.
Let's talk about weaponized bots, algorithm exploitation, countermeasures, and counter-countermeasures. <A MEGATHREAD>

So I'm checking YouTube on my phone and see a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Trump side by side. Clearly that's a big deal so I consider clicking on it... but it looks a little weird. Then I see the 135,000 views in one day and I'm like WHOA this must be real <le click>

The video is clearly a bot voice reading a script. "Wow" I thought. How the heck did they come up with ways to auto-make YouTube videos, AND upload it? Impressived. I recognize that this video is meant to manipulate me so I go to close the video....but HOLD ON, WHAT?

HOW IN THE WORLD does a video like that have a 2,400 to 143 like to dislike ratio? Are people of that particular persuasion truly this dumb?
Surely not. I submit to you that this is weaponized algorithm exploitation... and I'd like to talk about what I think is up.

When you go to a video... You get several suggestions, mostly because of stuff you watch. The weight loss thing is probably there because I told my wife I need to lose 5 lbs this morning, whatever... but the OTHER things are stuff that YouTube is gambling that I'd like to see.

The MAJOR KEY 🔑 to getting a ton of views on YouTube is to get in this sidebar, or suggested videos. I don't know who "The Small Workshop" is, but they've won the algorithm shuffle this time. I'd probably click that.

Anyway… back to the weird stuff. I got to thinking about how such a weird video could get in my sidebar with 135k views and a crazy like/dislike ratio…. So I searched for that particular title. What I found was disturbing.

If you search for the title “"After trump sends note to Ginsburg"... you see a ton of… well dang it… this is a coordinated attack. Tons of videos that are *just* different enough to not trip the algorithm are uploaded to work in concert together.

They all use the exact same script, but the computerized voices are different to not trip YouTube's audio detectors, the videos all use different footage to avoid any visual content ID match. This is offensive AI at work, and it's built to avoid every countermeasure..... slick.

(Tweet 10/28) The like/dislike ratio on all of them is good, (The YouTube algorithm likes that) meaning it’s been artificially inflated by either bots, or an army of people sitting at computers clicking “like”.

What’s even scarier, is that this is a multi-layer attack. Look at all these comments. Click on any of them. The channels were created simply to like and comment on videos like these. Occasionally you'll find a real human that's been tricked, but that ratio is low.

I think the strategy is simple… if you bot-create enough videos on the same topic, and generate traffic to those artificially…many will fail, but eventually the algorithm will suggest one of them above the others, and it will be promoted as “THE ONE”.

(13/28) It (THE ONE) will then be suggested in the sidebar of the feeds belonging to actual humans. It worked on me. If even a small fraction of 135,000 views are real, thousands of people could see this stuff. And if they even read the headline, they could be influenced.

There’s this thing called the “Signal to Noise Ratio”. By weaponizing algorithmic noise and pouring small amounts of algorithmic favor into one single video… they can make the video pop up above the noise... amplifying it to a signal (your watch page.)
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal-to-noise_ratio 

(16 of 28 or so) Obviously the enemies of the US are exploiting our companies' own algorithms to try to influence our politics and have us destroy ourselves from within. It's smart. So my question is simple. Is this an attack? Like… a military attack? I would argue it is.

Tech company engineers are tasked with developing countermeasures to this type of attack, right? It’s an attack on a nation, defended by YouTube engineers. Does that make them mercenaries?

(18 of 28) If it IS an attack on a nation, who are the attacking soldiers? Is there a building in a foreign country where soldiers go to work/battle every day to "comment, like, and subscribe?

(19) OR, are they clever software developers building bots to automatically create videos and accounts to promote those videos? I would assume they’re using AI to see what types of videos and comments are amplified the most. Is the keyboard is mightier than the sword?

Are these soldiers and developers briefed every morning on the offensive maneuvers and attacks they’ll be performing that day?

How often Do TTPs (Techniques, Tactics, and Procedures) change? When the small groups of engineers at YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter develop a countermeasure, how long until counter-countermeasures are developed and deployed?

(22) Attacks of this scale require lots of funding…. And from my personal observations, they seem to be increasing. This is a real war isn’t it?

(23) It’s odd to think that in 1919 WWI soldiers were returning to their homes from War.... and now in 2019 we're going to War from home.
They returned after spending months firing vengeful weapons at each other from within mud foxholes…..

(24) In 2019 soldiers may be crawling back into newer foxholes (cubicles?) equipped with keyboards and coffeemakers…. Still firing vengeful weapons at each other… with one major difference after 100 years….

(25) Instead of military on military force….. These attacks are primarily carried out against civilians. We’re at war with an external enemy, many of our leaders just might not realize the gravity of it yet because they may be the first casualties.

(26) If the purpose of the attacks are to make us hate each other and divide our minds into “Us” and “Them” tribes, how do we civilians protect our minds from this division? I submit to you, that our best hope to survive this modern bombardment is nothing short of ACTIVE UNITY.

(27 of 28) If we all choose to interact with Forgiveness and Grace. These weapons simply will not work. This is the ultimate countermeasure against this type of attack.

I have many more thoughts on this topic, but perhaps I should save them for another time. Until then...

(28 of 28) Thank you for reading. I’m Destin. Let’s get Smarter Every Day together (the together part is important). I Love you all. Have a good one.

P.S. I plan on touching on this in my next YouTube video.
P.P.S. If you follow me on twitter I mostly tweet science stuff. 🚀

P.P.P.S
Here are the videos. Subtle differences
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0HbTry4QEU 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OceX0I_4GFA 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WG22U8jyG8 
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW6fiTtLFRo 

The Engineers at @YouTube have a difficult job. Truly a complex technical and social problem, and they're literally on the front lines.


You can follow @smartereveryday.



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