Friday, March 16, 2018

Americans Love Israel...Really

American Support for Israel at Record High - Yair Rosenberg 

This week, Gallup released its annual poll on American attitudes towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As it has for decades, the survey showed overwhelming American support for Israel.

What is remarkable about the polling on Israel is how consistent it has been. Notably, despite endless talk about the Democratic party "turning against Israel" under Obama, Democratic support for Israel is essentially the same in 2018 (49%) as it was when Obama took office in 2008 (48%).

Israel is viewed even more positively than head-to-head polling about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would indicate. When asked simply whether they viewed Israel favorably (rather than to choose a side in the conflict), "83% of Republicans, 72% of independents and 64% of Democrats view Israel favorably."

Support for Israel is higher among older brackets, but still robust among the young. As Gallup puts it, "Israel also receives higher favorable ratings from adults 55 and older (80% favorable) than from those 35 to 54 (72%) or 18 to 34 (65%)."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Cutting Edge Video Technology May Unravel Trust In What We See

Above is a completly bogus-fake video of President Obama giving a speech he never gave.  The implications of this technology are far reaching.  

Terrorists Will Soon Be Able to Fake Videos - Elliot Friedland 

“The idea that someone could put another person’s face on an individual’s body, that would be like a homerun for anyone who wants to interfere in a political process. This is now going to be the new reality, surely by 2020, but potentially even as early as this year.” 

— Senator Mark Warner (D-VA)
New technology with the ability to create hyper-realistic fake videos has the potential to wreak havoc on the political landscape, lawmakers and technology experts say.
The tech allows people’s faces to be superimposed onto different bodies in other videos. Different technology can also allow allow facial expressions to be altered. Adobe even has a program to create new audio from text.
Currently, fake video technology requires manipulation of existing video footage of a person, and cannot create fake video from scratch with just a picture.
Right now, the technology is not that widespread and can still be detected by experts. But it is improving rapidly.
Such videos have already caused controversy. Fake pornographic videos have been made by face-swapping celebrities into pornographic movies. In February 2018, the popular content sharing website Reddit banned the r/deepfakes subreddit, which had been used to share fake pornographic content featuring celebrities. Reddit updated its rules prohibiting sharing pornographic content of someone without that person’s consent to include faked images. In February 2018, the pornographic website Pornhub banned deepfake videos from its platform.
The combination of the different emerging technologies means it is highly likely we will soon see videos of public figures saying and doing things which never happened, that are all but indistinguishable from the real thing.
In July 2017, a team of researchers created a fake video of former president Barack Obama giving a speech he never gave, as an experiment.

The national security implications for terrorist groups using this technology are very worrying.

They will be able to create images of politicians announcing strikes that never happened, announcing anti-Muslim policies that don’t exist, making racist and bigoted remarks they never said or even footage of war crimes that never took place.
As Lawfare blog writes “The spread of deep fakes will threaten to erode the trust necessary for democracy to function effectively, for two reasons. First, and most obviously, the marketplace of ideas will be injected with a particularly-dangerous form of falsehood. Second, and more subtly, the public may become more willing to disbelieve true but uncomfortable facts.”
The deepfakes trend takes existing problems with fake news to the next level. As fake news spreads, the public will be less and less inclined to believe what they see, hear and read, and more inclined to rely on tribal in-groups and partisan sources they trust to support their specific narratives and interests.
Terrorists can and probably will manipulate these passions in three main ways:
  1. Faking anti-Muslim hate crime and anti-Muslim bigotry in order to sow distrust between communities. It achieves this goal by making Muslims more afraid of non-Muslims, and by making non-Muslims less likely to trust stories of anti-Muslim bigotry.
  2. Faking terrorist attacks and making sophisticated threats to spread fear and reduce our ability to respond appropriately to genuine danger.
  3. Faking news reports or other information about genuine terrorist attacks, in order to increase confusion and put more lives at risk (ie falsely giving information that a suspect has been subdued when in fact there are more gunmen at large).
Deep fake videos are “like a weapon of mass destruction in the world of fake news and extremist propaganda, especially for hostile intelligence agencies engaging in political influence operations,” Clarion Project National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro said.
Yet despite the risks, the technology is ploughing ahead with no signs of slowing. The website offers tutorials to anyone with an internet connection on how to create fake videos.
Nor are government attempts to develop reliable ways of authenticating content likely to be effective.
We all will need some form of authenticating our identity through biometrics. This way people will know whether the voice or image is real or from an impersonator,” Congressman Ro Hanna (D-CA) told The Hill. He called on the military’s research and development wing, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create secure authentication techniques.
Yet the lighting-quick development of digital technologies suggests any such process would become liable to manipulation. It even opens up the possibility of a fake video being stamped with a real mark of authentication.
“Any technology that will allow you to fingerprint, the adversary is going to figure out how to take it out, manipulate the content, and then put that fingerprint back in,” Dr. Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College, who specialises in digital forensics told ABC News“That is almost guaranteed.”
Cybersecurity experts are working on possible solutions to the coming threat, but so far have not agreed on a viable path forward.
[Clarion Project]

Friday, March 02, 2018

Treating the BDS Cancer

Addressing the Root of the BDS Problem 
- Baruch Landa [guest blogger]

The rise of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, otherwise infamously referred to as the BDS, perhaps may be a bit over-sensationalized. At least this is the thinking among many pro-Israel groups worldwide. This is primarily due to statistics showing that the global BDS movement has had zero economic impact on Israel. This line of thought further extends into the statement that the BDS is no more than an annoying gnat. But, is this really all there is to it?
Bringing down a nation by focusing on its economy, even under the harshest of sanctions, isn’t easy. We see this with North Korea, Iran and Syria. It could take decades and even then, nothing may ever materialize. However, every situation is unique in its own way.
As of today, the BDS movement may in fact be “over-sensationalized” and hyped beyond what its true capabilities are. But, that doesn’t make it a non-issue. The BDS, even in its current state, is a threat to Israel. There is arguably no other collective group working harder to bring down a sovereign state than the BDS.

A BDS demonstration in France in 2016
Politicians across the political spectrum realize this. Businesses realize this. The world realizes this. That’s why we are seeing states within the US and even the federal governmentsponsoring bills that legally outlaw the BDS. While these laws are a big win for Israel, it is unlikely to eradicate the problem in its entirety. Throwing money, passing bills, and other counter-measures are helpful, but the BDS won’t die out from these acts. We all need to be using the most effective option in fighting the BDS, which should lead to its ultimate demise.
Let’s take poverty for example. As a human race on a whole and looking at the world from a macro standpoint, we have never been in such a better financial position than we are today. Yet, poverty continues to get worse with each passing year. Money is thrown at the problem – to the tune of over $370 billion in charitable donations in 2015 – a record at the time. And yet, the problem still grew. That’s because most of the global charitable foundations that are meant to eliminate poverty don’t actually address the root of the problem. We need to look at the core issue. For poverty, it would be helping the impoverished get education and ultimately jobs, thus ending the cycle of poverty once and for all.
The same goes for everything in life, and certainly regarding the BDS. If we are to defeat the BDS for good, it starts with focusing our efforts on the core problem: education.
Anti-Israel Activity on College Campuses at its Worst
If you’ve been following the news recently about Israel, it seems like every other story is about the overwhelming anti-Israel rhetoric on US college campuses. From California all the way to New York, there are almost no exceptions. Adding insult to injury, the media further dramatizes it, putting the Israel-BDS fight front and center (hey, the ratings are great, right?). Thereafter, we see millions of user comments taking sides, as the internet has enabled everyone to have a personal opinion.
Hateful anti-Israel BDS posters used on campuses worldwide
Now, we’ve all heard that you’re not going to change anyone’s mind arguing with them online. That’s fine. People retreat to their homes or other extracurricular activities, and oftentimes forget about their 15 minutes of internet fame. The real issue occurs on college campuses, where “thought provoking discussions” are the supposed foundations of these institutions.
The problem is that these are anything but thought-provoking conversations. Sometimes, the “dialogue” is outrageous and full of hate speech as seen in this video about BDS on American campuses (Here is the link to watch a similar video about antisemitism on British campuses).  It’s flat out anti-Semitism, masking itself as anti-Israel action.
Here is an abridged version of the two videos above:
You may think that most people understand this, and perhaps they do. But then why do we not see many Israel advocates on US campuses? And the students and parents that are currently engaging with these anti-Israel bigots, how are they unable to properly address anti-Israel activity on these campuses? Why aren’t they armed with the proper tools and education? The lack of preparation is at the very least shocking and at worst harmful.
It’s comical because we live in a digital age. Information is right at our fingertips and there are some organizations like Jerusalem U who help prepare students and parents to educate anti-Israel activists. Organizations such as Jerusalem U have online libraries full of resources, such as “Step Up On Campus”, which provide a wealth of useful information about how to engage with these anti-Israel protesters.
Let’s stop trying the ineffective decades old methods of dealing with anti-Israel activism on US campuses. By addressing the root of the problem combined with the proper resources, the BDS is quite literally no match. We have tools to defeat this so let’s use them!
This is a guest post by Baruch Landa, an activist with Jerusalem U.

[Jerusalem U]