Ben Collins Profile picture
Reporter, dystopia beat, @NBCNews.
eDo Profile picture Liz Profile picture BlackeyedSusan28 ~At Home Forever~Joe & Kamala~BLM Profile picture Birger Leth Profile picture Marilia Coutinho, Ph.D. , the Baffled Immigrant Profile picture 6 added to My Authors
30 Jul
I do wonder when the traditional political media will start to realize that QAnon is not a fringe element.

People are stuck inside watching YouTube videos all day looking for quick, magical answers. QAnon provides that. It is a sizable part of the American electorate.
Part of the reason QAnon is so undercovered is because you have to admit to yourself how dark the landscape is.

Easier to keep talking about congressional hearings than to look up and see a portion of the country has been captured by a cult obsessed with political violence.
This is an enormous part of it.

You don’t have to be a card-carrying Q guy, or even know what it is, to believe in parts of it.

Just ask somebody who doesn’t live in a city how many times they’ve heard Hillary’s arrest is imminent.

Read 6 tweets
28 Jul
Hydroxychloroquine has taken up an almost religious healing power on pro-Trump parts of the Internet.

This time, it’s a preacher saying it’s a miracle cure. There is a fanatical desire to prove this right, no different than a prophecy.
While the scientific community was testing if this drug actually worked for COVID, the ritual of hyping hydroxychloroquine as a Trump prophecy never really went away on pro-Trump Facebook.

So when an actual preacher showed up on FB to say it’s a miracle cure, they were waiting.
Read 2 tweets
22 Jul
Exclusive from me + @brandyzadrozny:



Twitter bans 7,000 QAnon accounts, limits 150,000 others as part of broad crackdown

nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
Twitter will ban QAnon-related terms from appearing in trending topics and its search feature, ban known QAnon-related URLs, and ban “swarming” of victims who are baselessly targeted by coordinated harassment campaigns pushed by its followers.
nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
QAnon followers have been targeting perceived political enemies of Donald Trump in recent weeks with harassment campaigns, sometimes with threats of violence, accusing them of being child-eating cannibals.

Twitter is looking to stomp that out.
nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
Read 6 tweets
18 Jul
Eight accounts had all of their data downloaded in Wednesday's Twitter hack by hackers.

That means they have access to direct messages of those eight high-profile accounts. Also, they now have their address books, if they synced it.
This is a doomsday scenario, and the hackers who have claimed credit for this attack and have spoken to news outlets have not mentioned it.

They said it was purely for Bitcoin and account takeovers and they let it get out of hand. Not sure why we're taking their word for it.
In conclusion, if this Twitter hack was really bad, I suppose we'll find out in October.
Read 6 tweets
15 Jul
Major hack here. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, tons of smaller verified accounts.

I'm guessing it's SIMjacking?
Uber and Apple hacked. Starting to look like the sort of major vulnerability posited in the tweet below.

It's weird they started with smaller accounts then did juggernauts next, though.

It's like robbing a bank and taking the lollipops first.

Kanye was just hacked.

Here's @David_Ingram with the developing story.
nbcnews.com/tech/security/…
Read 10 tweets
14 Jul
I think about all of my colleagues on my beat who are on actual kill lists from neonazis, who wake up to viciously racist and sexist coordinated campaigns from groups whose ultimate goal is trying to incite domestic terror.

Ain't no news cycle for them. They just keep reporting.
In fact, mentioning the depression that comes along with this sort of targeting by neonazis is viewed as whininess. So largely, we don't. We don't even tell our bosses. We might be viewed as weak. We just keep going, because it's important, we know it, and nobody else will do it.
Just some stray thoughts on a Tuesday. No reason. Back to work.
Read 3 tweets
11 Jul
I can’t believe I have to do this, but here’s a thorough debunk of the QAnon Wayfair conspiracy theory, since it’s pervasive on civilian parts of the internet.
One conspiracy theory is that the astronomical prices of some of the Wayfair pillows must mean they’re shipped with a child!

In the case of some personalized pillows, entering the name of anything a little weird will drive up the cost to about $10,000.
Other sites have exorbitantly priced basic items all over their sites too. Amazon also has a $10,000 pillow and $11,000 cabinet sold.

People have been writing ludicrous, pretty funny fanfic in the reviews for years.
Read 13 tweets
10 Jul
Pizzagate/QAnon people have Wayfair trending today. They falsely claim price glitches on storage boxes prove that the company is trafficking children.

This took off because of a post on Reddit's r/conspiracy subreddit yesterday, which is a clearinghouse for anonymous paranoia.
We're living in a second, more profound and politically important Satanic Panic. This time, everyone's in on it.

People will look for coincidences as narrow and stupid as pricing glitches on furniture sites as "proof" a global cabal is eating children and controlling the world.
This is the real worry with QAnon stuff.

Most people associate QAnon with wacko talk about clones and JFK Jr.'s ghost rising from the dead, but Q's narratives are now pervasive with young people because they linger in the ether of the social internet.
Read 5 tweets
6 Jul
Lot of folks asking me what to say to a friend or family member who has become a QAnon supporter recently.

Here's one way: Have them actually read what Q writes.

This is the first Q drop. Hillary extradited, arrested and National Guard activated on 10/30/2017.

Did that happen?
Of course, the posts get dumber and fuzzier over time, so that Q can claim victory for vague sentences and claim them as proofs.

But nobody can really answer for how blindingly stupid and extremely specific the genesis of the thing is.
The difference between QAnon and all of the other disinfo campaigns was infrastructure.

There was FBIAnon, HLIAnon, CIAAnon before it.

But Q worked because of a concerted effort from 4/8chan mods who became niche influencers on Twitter and YouTube.

nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
Read 5 tweets
29 Jun
It's mostly, if not entirely, just B.

Shame was never a deterrent. This is costing Facebook billions of dollars and the residual effects on the rest of the industry — with other companies trying to prove they're not the same — are even more profound.
I've been covering this for years and absolutely none of these companies cared in the slightest until they realized their continued existence relied on them getting violent white supremacists off their platform.

Appeals to morality never worked. They simply did not care.
High profile, violent white supremacist groups are finally getting pushed off these platforms. This should be an unmitigated good thing, but the fact that it took Unilever saying they wouldn't sell freezers on Facebook for a month to make change is actually deeply depressing.
Read 3 tweets
25 Jun
1 / I'd been thinking a lot lately about the smaller, more practically dangerous effects of unchecked disinformation on platforms with exponential sharing and community growth.

Then I saw a woman in a QAnon Facebook group earnestly ask for help with her tinnitus.
2 / The woman in the QAnon group asking for help with her tinnitus received these suggestions:

It’s your wifi. Go barefoot.

Mind control labs are just shifting their frequency.

“Your DNA is getting upgraded.”

It’s a common symptom of your mind awakening. Read my ebook.
3 / Can we put the cat back in the bag here? Probably not.

Facebook created a directory of vulnerable people who can commiserate about the unseen powers keeping them down, and for grifters to isolate and take advantage of them.
Read 6 tweets
19 Jun
Huntsville, Alabama police "identified elements of 10 of 13 antifa roles" from a BLM protest on June 3rd.

Their source is... a chart made by Hong Kong protesters.
(h/t to @rebellegrrl for the catch)
Read 2 tweets
18 Jun
1 / I lost it a little on the radio today.

A few weeks ago, I called Facebook about Boogaloo arrests in Las Vegas. The groups were all-in on memes about killing ATF agents. They demurred.

I said I’d call them back in a week when something bad happens.
2 / Turns out, four days before the phone call, a Boog boy had already killed a cop with a plan he hatched on Facebook. He'd kill another days later.

I don’t know what the answers are here, but I’m not an oracle. I’m not even smart. I’m just paying attention, and Facebook isn’t.
3 / You can listen to the whole interview with @hereandnowrobin on NPR's site here.

wbur.org/hereandnow/202…
Read 3 tweets
18 Jun
New from me + @brandyzadrozny:

Trump campaign ads were removed from Facebook for featuring Nazi iconography without context.

The campaign said it was a "symbol used by Antifa" and sent examples, which were graphics from create-your-own t-shirt websites.
nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
Here's a statement from the Trump campaign on their ads that were removed from Facebook today.

The ads featured an upside-down red triangle, which was used by Nazis to denote political prisoners.

Antifa symbols are usually a black/red flag or 3 arrows.

nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
New statement here from the ADL on the Trump campaign's use of an upside-down red triangle, a symbol used by Nazis for political prisoners, in a now-banned Facebook ad.

(The Trump campaign has claimed it was an "antifa symbol.")

nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
Read 3 tweets
16 Jun
New from me + @anblanx:

The Boogaloo extremist who ambushed a cop last week killed another cop in Oakland, trying to stoke unrest at protests

"Use their anger to fuel our fire. We have mobs of angry people to use to our advantage," he wrote on Facebook.

nbcnews.com/politics/justi…
This new indictment shows Boogaloo extremists plotted on Facebook to exploit Black Lives Matter protests to further their cause for a second civil war.

"This needs to be nationwide,” one wrote on Facebook.

An alleged accomplice responded "let’s boogie."

nbcnews.com/politics/justi…
The Boogaloo extremists targeted "soup bois," which is their shorthand for federal agents.

Memes about targeting the ATF and FBI are common, and they're referred to as "alphabet soup" agencies for their acronyms.

nbcnews.com/politics/justi…
Read 6 tweets
12 Jun
NEW from me + @BrandyZadrozny:

Man charged in deadly deputy ambush scrawled extremist 'Boogaloo' phrases in blood

nbcnews.com/news/crime-cou…
Here's some background on the phrases Steven Carillo scrawled in blood on the hood of a car:

"Boog" is short for Boogaloo, an extremist movement started on 4chan that wants to ignite a second American Civil War.

nbcnews.com/news/crime-cou…
Carillo, who allegedly killed a cop in the ambush, scrawled "I became unreasonable."

This phrase was originally written by a Marvin Heemeyer, who bulldozed a town in 2004 after a zoning dispute and has since become lionized by the Boogaloo movement.
nbcnews.com/news/crime-cou…
Read 6 tweets
11 Jun
An OSINT TV show where people explain stuff like this in detail — the Deep State didn't plant Coronavirus in Captain America; what you're seeing is an ad for linguine — would do so well.

And it might help give regular people tools to end our horrendous disinformation problem.
Read 2 tweets
9 Jun
Absolutely incredible that 5,000 people fell for this tweet alone.

apnews.com/afs:Content:90…
The first rule of busing in looters and rioters is that you must paint your name on the bus.
Read 2 tweets
7 Jun
All week, as I was reporting on the antifa panic throughout the country, I kept thinking about the 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, and the '80s Satanic Panic — residents convinced an invisible enemy was coming to their town, no matter how tiny.

nbcnews.com/tech/social-me…
But really, there's no better explanation for the nationwide antifa panic than the Simpsons' Springfield Bear Patrol — and Lisa Simpson's anti-tiger rock.

nbcnews.com/tech/social-me…
So many people responding to the nationwide antifa panic have pointed me to The Twilight Zone episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street."

It concludes with this monologue:
Read 3 tweets
6 Jun
New from @BrandyZadrozny + me:

Armed residents in small towns all across America, warned by social media and local police, have been gathering to fight off "busloads of antifa," coming to loot their towns.

They never show up.

So what happens next?

nbcnews.com/tech/social-me…
"They came with shotguns, rifles and pistols to protect their businesses from outsiders.

They had heard that antifa, paid by billionaire philanthropist Geoge Soros, were being bused in from neighboring cities, hellbent on razing their idyllic town."
nbcnews.com/tech/social-me…
Some members of these small towns see the antifa panic for what it is.

In Curry County, Oregon, a local couple wrote an op-ed In the local paper, after 200 armed people showed up to fight antifa downtown:

They called it "taking on an imaginary enemy."

nbcnews.com/tech/social-me…
Read 5 tweets
1 Jun
New + exclusive from me, @BrandyZadrozny + @_esaliba :

This viral tweet claiming to be Antifa calling for violence in residential areas was actually tweeted by white nationalist group Identity Evropa, Twitter told NBC News.

nbcnews.com/tech/security/…
More details from Twitter, and how they confirmed Identity Evropa was behind the impostor Antifa account to come in the link below.

nbcnews.com/tech/security/…
A viral tweet posing as antifa was written by white nationalist group Identity Evropa.

It took off on Twitter, but got an even more viral second life in text messages, sent to people claiming their “friend” heard antifa was coming to loot residences.

Read 5 tweets