John Yang: All the attention on the Nunes memo goes back two weeks, even more. And there are questions about whether some of that attention, at least on social media, has been coming from real users, or whether it's being ginned up artificially. William Brangham has more.
William Brangham: In the days leading up to the release of that controversial Nunes memo, there was a hashtag on Twitter called #releasethememo that became hugely popular on Twitter.It was used by conservatives and allies of the president who hoped the memo's release would undercut special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. But a series of recent reports indicate that some of those Twitter accounts promoting #releasethememo were fake, and that some of them were linked to Russian interests. Thomas Rid is at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies, and he's been examining how Twitter and other online platforms can be used by these so-called fake bots to spread information online. Welcome back to the "NewsHour."
Thomas Rid: Hi.
William Brangham: So, as I was describing, this hashtag on Twitter called #releasethememo became hugely popular. Lots of people, real live human beings, were using the hashtag because they wanted the memo to come out, but allegedly some of these hashtag were being promoted by these bots. Can you explain what we know about these bots and what they have — how they might have been connected to Russia?
Thomas Rid: So, a bot is an automated Twitter account that doesn't have a real human being behind it, but just a program. And, indeed, it seems that some automated accounts and some fake real human beings that aren't actually who they pretend to be, use the #releasethememo hashtag — a hashtag is a way to make a Twitter — a tweet circulate more — used that hashtag to give it some lift. Really, it's very difficult to distinguish between these real conservative activists and politicians.
William Brangham: Real people.
Thomas Rid: Real people — and fake personas that may be linked to Russian interests. And that is a problem in itself.
William Brangham: So, explain how this would actually work. For those who don't use Twitter or understand the mechanics of it, basically, I choose who I want to follow, some 50,000, 100,000 different voices, and I get messages from those people directly in their Twitter as they tweet out messages. If I don't follow these bots, why do I care what they are or are not saying?
Thomas Rid: So, indeed, a lot of users on Twitter think they don't follow any bots — and they may actually not follow any artificial accounts that are not human — and therefore think that doesn't concern me, this problem. But that's not how this works. For example, imagine you see a tweet, a post on Twitter, and that has been retweeted or liked thousands, tens of thousands of times. You never check whether these retweets, which make something appear very important and viral, whether they actually are real or not. So it's possible to give actual messages, like a hashtag, to give it more lift and more weight through automation and through automated abuse.
William Brangham: Now, it's like fake applause for a comedian. He plants people in there to clap or laugh extra hard, and it makes him seem funnier, at least to the audience, than he really might be.
Thomas Rid: Absolutely, except it's not just the specific line that the comedian talks about that can be amped up and amplified. It can be other messages that sort of filter up very slowly out of the vastness of all the Twitter posts and Twitter messages. So, Twitter, in fact, is a huge part of this problem here.
William Brangham: Now, Kellyanne Conway and the White House have said this wasn't about a hashtag on Twitter. This was a vote in the House Intelligence Committee. They're the ones who released this memo. What is the evidence that exists, if any, that this was some coordinated campaign by non-American actors?
Thomas Rid: So, Russia — and in the Cold War, it was Soviet, of course, including East German and others — information operations, active measures was the term of art — always exploit existing conflicts, they exploit existing cracks in our political system, and then exacerbate these cracks and drive wedges into them. They don't create new conflict, which is a really important insight. It's not a distinction between fake and real, because they take a real conflict and make it worse.
William Brangham: So, I understand there was also some question as to whether or not the Black Lives Matter, the Confederate rallies, that those also were objects of attack by these Russian bots.
Thomas Rid: Very much so, but not just bots, just intelligence operators or sometimes contractors. And, again, there's a long history. We know from the Cold War that Soviet operators had a long history of exacerbating racial tensions. They would sometimes pose as the Ku Klux Klan, at other times pose as African-American activists. There's a long history of this.
William Brangham: I know you have been very critical of Twitter and other social media platforms, arguing that they could do more to stem this kind of fake messaging. What would you like them to do?
Thomas Rid: For example, Twitter gives the same level of privacy protection to you and possibly your children that it gives to Russian bots and fake accounts. That is just not OK. So, Twitter refuses to make the distinction and refuses to point out abuse, the fake bot accounts to its own users. It's impossible to, for example, opt out of bot traffic, to opt out of messages from bots and retweets from bots.
William Brangham: And that's something you argue that Twitter could easily do that to identify the fake from the real.
Thomas Rid: Absolutely. Technically, that is not a big problem. Indeed, Twitter claims that they can recognize bots automatically. But at the same time, the bots make Twitter appear larger and more engaging than it actually is. Twitter has never made money, and that's a way for them to appear bigger than they actually are.
William Brangham: Thomas Rid, thank you very much.
1.leading up to 通往
I'm leading up to something quite important.
2.come out 出现/出版
The book comes out this week.
3.the term of art 这里应该用的词
The term of "Chinese contemporary art" are constantly emerging in our familiar journals.
4.opt out of 退出/排除掉
He tried to opt out of political and economic decision-making.
威廉·布拉纳姆：在颇具争议的努涅斯备忘录公布前的几天，推特上出现了一个井号(#)标签，即# releasethememo，并且逐渐走红 。它被保守派人士和总统一派利用，而后者希望备忘录的公布可以削弱特别顾问罗伯特·穆勒的调查 。但最近的一系列报道显示，推特上发布# releasethememo的账户涉嫌造假，其中一些涉及俄罗斯利益 。华盛顿约翰霍普金斯大学高级国际研究所的托马斯·里德，一直在研究推特及其他一些网络平台，如何被这些所谓的假机器人利用，来散播消息 。欢迎回到NewsHour 。
威廉·布拉纳姆：所以，正如我之前所描述的那样，这个推特上名为# releasethememo的标签大肆走红 。很多人，活生生的人，他们在看或转发这个标签，因为他们希望备忘录事件水落石出，但据称，这些标签都是由这些机器人发布的 。你能解释一下，我们对这些机器人都有哪些了解吗？它们有什么——它们又是如何与俄罗斯方面产生联系的？
托马斯·里德：那么，机器人是一个背后无真人操控的自动推特帐户，它只是一个程序 。而且，的确，似乎有些自动帐户和一些假扮成真人的机器人，使用# releasethememo井号（#）标签——井号（#）标签可以增加推文的循环次数，从而提高关注度 。真的，要区分哪些是真正的保守派人士，哪些是政客，的确非常困难 。
托马斯·里德：真人——以及那些与俄罗斯利益相关的假人 。这本身就是一个问题 。
托马斯·里德：事实上，推特上的很多用户都认为他们没有关注任何机器人，而且他们可能实际上确实没有去关注任何人造非人账户，因此他们认为此事与自己无关 。但运作机制并非如此 。例如，想象一下，你看到一篇推文，推特上的帖子，而这封帖子已经被千万次地转发或点赞了 。但你却从不看看这些让事情看起来非常重要而且火爆的转推，它们究竟是真是假 。因此它可能在一个实际消息上放上井号（#）标签，并以一种自动化滥用的方式，去提升它的关注度，转发量以及重要性 。
威廉·布拉纳姆：现在，它就像一个喜剧演员获得的虚假掌声 。他在那安排些人，使劲鼓掌发笑，这让他看起来比实际更有趣，至少对观众而言是这样 。
托马斯·里德：没错，只是它不仅是喜剧演员口中的具体台词，具体台词可以放大 。它可能是其他消息，这些消息从数量巨大的推贴和推文中慢慢过滤出来 。事实上，推特在这方面起到了很大作用 。
威廉·布拉纳姆：现在，凯莉安·康威和白宫都说，这与推特上的井号（#）标签无关 。这是众议院情报委员会的一次投票 。他们是将这份备忘录公布的人 。如果有证据的话，哪些显示了，此次竞选是与美国境外势力协同主导的？
托马斯·里德：因此，俄罗斯——当然在冷战时期，是苏联，包括东德和其他国家——信息运作，术语叫做积极措施——他们总是利用现有的冲突，利用我们政治体制中存在的裂痕，然后加剧这些裂痕，并在其中插上楔子 。他们并不制造新的冲突，这种洞察力非常重要 。这不是真与假的分别，因为它们利用的是真实的冲突，然后使其加剧 。
威廉·布拉纳姆：所以，我懂了，还有一些问题，关于Black Lives Matter，关于Confederate rallies，这些也都是这些俄罗斯机器人攻击的对象 。
托马斯·里德：真是这样，但不只是机器人，不只是情报运作者，也不只是承包者 。再说一次，这种事由来已久 。我们知道，从冷战时期起，苏联就有人作祟，加剧种族紧张局势 。他们有时会冒充3K党，有时冒充美国非裔人士 。这种事情他们做得有年头了 。
托马斯·里德：例如，推特对您，可能还有您的孩子，以及俄罗斯机器人和虚假帐户都给予了同等的隐私保护（或限制） 。那是不行的 。因此，推特没有将这些人群区别对待，没有向用户告知这种滥用情况以及虚假账户的存在 。因此，也就不可能，比如说，切断机器人账户的数据通路，从而筛选出机器人发布的推文及转推 。
托马斯·里德：没错，严格来讲，这并非什么大问题 。的确，推特声称他们能自动识别机器人 。但同时，机器人也令推特看起来比实际更大，更加容光焕发 。推特从未盈利，而这种方法则让他们显得比实际更加强大 。