Hype Video Broadcast App Has Niche Potential

The folks who brought Vine into the world last month introduced a new video broadcasting app called “Hype.”

Available for free from Intermedia Labs in Apple’s iTunes App Store, Hype not only allows users to broadcast live to the Internet, but also lets followers interact with their broadcasts in real time.

Some of the other things users can do with the app:

  • Replay a broadcast after it’s over;
  • Share broadcasts on Twitter;
  • Add “sparkles” to a broadcast to reveal viewers’ thoughts;
  • Share viewer comments with others watching a broadcast;
  • Customize broadcast backgrounds; and
  • Present slideshows made from photos and videos on a camera roll in a broadcast.

Enriched Broadcasts

At first blush, it might seem that Hype’s offering closely mirrors Periscope and Facebook Live, but that’s not the case, said Jack Kent, a senior analyst for mobile media at IHS Markit.

“Hype is offering a number of innovations around personalizing the broadcast — adding graphics and images, which are similar to those offered by other messaging and photo apps but not yet part of live broadcasts,” he told TechNewsWorld.

 Hype Interactive Live Video

Rich content and interactivity set Hype apart from its rivals, observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“One of Hype’s biggest differentiators is support for mixed media, so during live streaming broadcasters can patch in preprepared content to enrich the overall event,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Meanwhile, broadcast viewers can express their opinion of it with their sparkles — stars that serve a purpose similar as hearts in Periscope.

“Broadcasters can dynamically respond to those inputs, thus enriching the event, and the app keeps a tab on those interactions,” King said.

Hype also allows users to push broadcasts and replays out to their Twitter and Facebook feeds, he added.

Gaining an Audience

Capturing an audience for Hype will be challenging for founders Colin Kroll, Rus Yusupov and Dominik Hofmann.

“The live video broadcast space is already very competitive and dominated by Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live,” IHS Markit’s Kent pointed out.

“Without being able to piggyback onto a platform of hundreds of millions of users, Hype will have to look for differentiated features to acquire users outside its much bigger platform rivals,” he noted.

One way to do that might be to focus on niche areas as a way to build an engaged standalone community, Kent said.

One possible niche market could be commercial broadcasters of live events, suggested Pund-IT’s King.

“The richness of features that Hype supports could also make it useful for broadcasting commercial or corporate events,” he said. “Those could include anything from live music performances to public lectures to business conferences.”

The ability to wrap other media into a broadcast could be very valuable, particularly in the branded content space, noted Eric Galen, a social media attorney with Greenberg Glusker.

“But brands don’t care about the functionality of an app until it has a big audience,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Avoid Dying on the Vine

Ironically, the Hype team was rolling out its new app just as Twitter was axing Vine, the 6-second video app it purchased in 2012.

Two things moved Twitter to kill Vine, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

The app was hard to monetize, and it didn’t fit in with Twitter’s new focus on news and what’s live, he told TechNewsWorld.

“Twitter wants to be the live platform — the platform for seeing what’s happening right now,” Dawson said.

“They’re extending that into video with all their deals with Bloomberg, the NFL and so on, but live is the broad strategy behind a lot of what Twitter is doing at the moment,” he explained.

“If Twitter had been in better financial health and didn’t need to make cuts, Vine might well have survived,” Dawson added, “but it’s just too obvious a place to make cuts, given Twitter’s strategic priorities right now.”

Twitter could have done a better job of supporting Vine in the face of competition from larger and better-funded rivals, Pund-IT’s King noted.

That’s certainly why Vine’s founders appear to have regretted its sale to Twitter, IHS’ Kent said, “but if they want to remain independent with their new venture — or ensure it is a long-term success, independent or otherwise — they will need to not only acquire users but also have a clear path to monetization.”

Conspiracy Theories in the Information Age, Part 2

In the past, heightened rhetoric and propaganda were the tools of choice for those looking to convince an electorate to vote them into office, and conspiracy theories were their bane. This election season has seen the rise of a new form of persuasion, one that’s unique to the Information Age.

For months, WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange had promised to rain bombshells on the narrowing field of presidential candidates, and he indicated that Hillary Clinton would be the target of the release. Rumors had swirled around the secrets the former secretary of state might have wanted to protect when she deleted more than 30,000 emails from a private server.

As the U.S. celebrated Independence Day, WikiLeaks released the first batch of emails, and the fireworks began. Nothing in the emails proved particularly damaging for Clinton’s presidential aspirations, though.

WikiLeaks had released troves of sensitive information in the past, so at first glance its actions represented nothing new. However, that particular series of leaks was about to introduce much of the world to a new form of propaganda.

 conspiracy-theories

The Tainted Well

During the Cold War, authoritarian regimes had their own mouthpieces, along with enough control over the populace to stomp out dissenting voices, noted Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture.

“They were organs of the state, and they spoke about whatever it was the government wanted to speak about,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Those were obviously perfect means of distributing propaganda — particularly if the government was also able to suppress any other voices from making it to the public.”

With the rise of the Internet, it became difficult to drown out competing voices. From the delivery of “paquetes” of digitized American culture in Cuba to hacktivism in China, the Internet has provided tools that make it next to impossible for any government to silence its critics completely, or to screen outside ideas from their view.

“We’ve got an interesting experiment going on right now,” Fenster said in an interview conducted prior to last week’s election, “if the allegations are true that Russian hackers, ordered by the Russian government, got hold of email documents from [Clinton campaign manager] John Podesta, the DNC and the Clinton campaign, and are releasing them collectively to in order to manipulate the election for their preferred candidate: Donald Trump.”

The cache of Clinton campaign documents might not have been as devastating as Assange initially indicated, but it undoubtedly added a new dimension to this election season and introduced the public to what might be called the “tainted well.”

“This isn’t propaganda in the classic since,” Fenster said, “but it is a way of trying to shape government opinion.”

Because of the positive adjectives Pressident-Elect Donald Trump used to describe Russian leader Vladimir Putin during the campaign, speculation grew that the leaked emails were intended specifically to damage Clinton’s chances.

However, it is still not clear that Russia — even if it did commission the hacks — aimed to sway the election toward Trump. Russia might have been trying to prevent either candidate from having a mandate upon taking office, suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, in a conversation prior to the election.

I think “Russia isn’t trying to promote either candidate at the moment, it is operating to ensure that neither of them will be able to actually govern if elected, operating under a broad strategy of discrediting the government and effectively fermenting revolt,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Please Sir, More Propaganda

Whatever the true motives of the leaks and their possible sponsors might have been, it’s indisputable that the Internet has created a world that’s ripe for and receptive to propaganda in many forms — from ads many try to avoid, to stories that gain attention through votes cast by mouse clicks and screen taps.

“Even if unintentional, online news services currently track interests and serve up news based on those interests,” noted Enderle.

During the latest election cycle, for instance, liberal and conservative voters received very different news streams, he pointed out, so their perceptions of the world were very different. It helped to massively polarize the two views.

Just as social media metrics have advanced to help marketers serve up relevant ads at the moment consumers are primed to purchase goods or services, those same tools can be used to dish out fake or heavily biased news, according to Enderle.

“Confirmation bias already teaches we are very vulnerable to this type of manipulation, and this same methodology is largely used for telephone and Internet scams,” he observed.

While there are few governments that grip as tightly as North Korea does these days, states still use propaganda for good and bad, according to University of Florida’s Fenster.

Governments use propaganda all of the time, he said.

“They do so by publishing information on their websites or releasing information to the press and NGOs to report on,” Fenster noted. “Oftentimes, governments have their own public relations offices that might not be named as such but work the same.”

There are times when governments turn to conspiracy theories as a form of propaganda, suggested Richard W. Lachmann, a professor of comparative/historical sociology and political sociology at the University of Albany.

“Whenever a country is losing a war, there always are conspiracy theories to explain the loss,” he told TechNewsWorld.

When it comes to propagating propaganda about war, it’s common for governments to spin webs about traitors, he added.

Most famously, there was “the ‘stab in the back’ conspiracy theory in Germany at the end of World War I, when many Germans came to believe that their defeat was due to Jewish traitors in Germany rather than to the manpower and weapons edge of the Allies,” Lachmann said.

In the Information Age, there’s a new way to tell war stories that favor one side over the other. Dip from a tainted well and offer a drink to a world that’s thirsty for information.

Facebook, Google, Others Launch Drive Against Fake News in France

Social media companies Facebook, Google and a group of news organisations launched an initiative on Monday to tackle fake news stories in France, with the media in the spotlight as the country’s presidential election approaches.

Facebook, Google, Others Launch Drive Against Fake News in France

Facebook said it would work with several leading French news organisations, including Agence France-Presse, BFM TV, and newspapers L’Express and Le Monde to ensure that false news items were not published on its platform.

Google also said it was part of the initiative, dubbed “Cross Check” by the partners.

Facebook has faced criticism that it did not do enough to prevent false information being republished on its platform during last year’s US presidential campaign, and in response has set up measures to try to tackle the problem.

There have been similar concerns that people could disseminate false information on Facebook in the build-up to the French election, which takes place in April and May.

In the United States, Facebook has said users would in future find it easier to flag fake articles as a hoax, and added that it will work with organizations such as fact-checking website Snopes, ABC News and the Associated Press to check the authenticity of stories.

Last month, Facebook also set up an initiative against fake news in Germany, where government officials had expressed concerns that false stories and hate speech online could influence a parliamentary election in September in which chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.

ISRO to Launch Record 104 Satellites on a Single Launch Next Week

India will create history by launching a record 104 satellites, including 101 foreign ones, on February 15 from Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, an official said on Monday.

ISRO to Launch Record 104 Satellites on a Single Launch Next Week

“We have tentatively decided to launch the satellites at one go around 9am into the sun-synchronous orbit, about 500km above the earth,” the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) official told IANS in Bengaluru.

Of the total earth-observation satellites, three are Indian, 88 are from the US and the remaining are from Israel, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.

“A 320-tonne rocket – Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) – will launch all the satellites with a combined weight of 1,500kg, including the 650kg remote-sensing Cartosat-2 and two nano-satellites (IA and IB) weighing 15kg each,” the official said.

Though the Indian space agency had launched 20 satellites in one shot on June 22, 2016, the launch of 104 satellites will surpass the 37 satellites launch record set in June 2014 and 29 satellites launched by NASA in 2013.

Telecom Commission Seeks Clarification on Rs. 3,050-Crore PoI Penalty

Telecom Commission has asked DoT to seek clarification from TRAI on the Rs. 3,050-crore penalty recommended by the watchdog on three service providers Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio.

Telecom Commission Seeks Clarification on Rs. 3,050-Crore PoI Penalty

“The Telecom Commission has asked DoT to seek clarification from TRAI on 10-12 points, including whether the 90-day period was given to telecom operators for providing point of interconnection, method of calculating penalty of Rs. 50 crore per circle etc,” an official source said.

The source said that clarification has been sought on the recommendation of an experts panel set up in the Department of Telecom (DoT).

Besides this, the Telecom Commission also approved demand of Rs. 2,834 crores to be raised from those telecom operators who provided services between the period February 2012, when Supreme Court cancelled their licenses, and till the time they procured fresh permits after buying spectrum in auction.

A DoT panel, set up to study and recommend action on penalty suggested by TRAI, has sought clarification whether the regulator considered 90-day period that is given to operators for providing Points of Interconnection (PoI) to Reliance Jio from the date of request, a source said.

In August, Jio had submitted to TRAI that it will need 12,727 PoIs for mobile services and 3,068 PoIs for STD call facility before commercial launch of its services. The company launched commercial services on September 5.

TRAI’s recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 percent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not releasing sufficient number of PoIs.

In October, TRAI had recommended imposing total penalty of Rs. 3,050 crores on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio that led to deterioration in quality of service.

As per TRAI’s recommendation, the penalty for Airtel and Vodafone works out to about Rs. 1,050 crore each, while in case of Idea Cellular it comes to about Rs. 950 crores. The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to significant consumer inconvenience.

DoT then sought legal opinion from Attorney General (AG) on whether it had powers to impose penalty in the case. The AG opined positively saying that the DoT can impose penalty on the operators.

Nubia N1 Variant Launched in India With Twice the Storage, New Colour

ZTE is refreshing its Nubia N1 smartphone in India with a new variant. The ZTE Nubia N1 will now be available in an-all new Black and Gold colour combination and will come with twice the storage. Priced at Rs. 12,499, the ZTE Nubia N1 will go on sale exclusively via Amazon India starting midnight Wednesday.

Nubia N1 Variant Launched in India With Twice the Storage, New Colour

To recall, the Nubia N1 was initially unveiled in December last year and was priced at Rs. 11,999. The new Nubia N1 will now pack 64GB inbuilt storage, which is double the storage found on earlier version. The company was earlier only selling the 32GB storage model in India in a Gold colour variant.

The biggest highlight of the Nubia N1 remains to be the 5000mAh battery which is claimed to last for over three days with normal use while almost two days with heavy usage.

Another notable feature of the Nubia N1 is its fingerprint sensor at the back that is claimed to unlock the smartphone in just 0.2 seconds.

Other specifications of the ZTE Nubia N1 remain identical to the previous version. It features a 5.5-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) display with 401ppi pixel density, and also comes with 2.5D arc glass. It is powered by a 64-bit Mediatek Helio P10 octa-core SoC (four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1.8GHz, and four Cortex-A53 cores clocked at 1GHz) paired with 3GB of RAM. The smartphone offers expandable option via microSD card slot (up to 128GB). The Nubia N1 runs Nubia UI 4.0 based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It packs a 13-megapixel rear and front cameras. The rear camera features PDAF, f/2.2 aperture, and LED flash. The selfie camera comes with beauty filters, and smart fill light for better night photography. Connectivity options include 4G LTE with VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, GPS + GLONASS, and USB Type-C support.

Commenting on the launch, Eric Hu, Country Manager Nubia India said, “Consumption of data directly coincides with downloads, from videos, music, PDFs to our social media. Keeping in mind our consumers need the new Nubia N1 has 64GB internal storage. A phone is part of our personality and the new Nubia N1 in Black and Gold encapsulates beauty elegance and a refined style.”

Micromax Sets Up $75 Million Fund to Invest in Consumer Internet Firms

independent fund that will focus on investing in domestic and international consumer Internet companies.

Micromax Sets Up $75 Million Fund to Invest in Consumer Internet Firms

In the last two years, Micromax has already invested in about 10 startups, including ixigo, Gaana, HealthifyMe and Scandid.

The fund – Orbis Capital – aims to raise $75 million in the next 12-18 months. Backed by Micromax as an investor and strategic partner, the fund will focus on investing in consumer Internet companies both locally and internationally.

“We have tasted a great amount of success with all our investments that we strategically did over the last two years and this progression to announce an independent fund was due to the large opportunities that the market presents. This fund will look at investing in consumer internet companies across the world that have local relevance,” Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma told PTI.

This will also allow Micromax to further leverage its platform for larger opportunities, he added.

Orbis Capital is in the process of building an advisory board alongside the investment team and has already brought on board leading entrepreneurs including Nami Zarringhalam (Truecaller co-founder) and Parry Blacher (former co-founder, Covestor).

Kumar Shah, who spearheaded Micromax’s global investment programme will lead Orbis Capital along with his existing team.

Hype Video Broadcast App Has Niche Potential

 Hype Interactive Live VideoThe folks who brought Vine into the world last month introduced a new video broadcasting app called “Hype.”

Available for free from Intermedia Labs in Apple’s iTunes App Store, Hype not only allows users to broadcast live to the Internet, but also lets followers interact with their broadcasts in real time.

Some of the other things users can do with the app:

  • Replay a broadcast after it’s over;
  • Share broadcasts on Twitter;
  • Add “sparkles” to a broadcast to reveal viewers’ thoughts;
  • Share viewer comments with others watching a broadcast;
  • Customize broadcast backgrounds; and
  • Present slideshows made from photos and videos on a camera roll in a broadcast.

Enriched Broadcasts

At first blush, it might seem that Hype’s offering closely mirrors Periscope and Facebook Live, but that’s not the case, said Jack Kent, a senior analyst for mobile media at IHS Markit.

“Hype is offering a number of innovations around personalizing the broadcast — adding graphics and images, which are similar to those offered by other messaging and photo apps but not yet part of live broadcasts,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Rich content and interactivity set Hype apart from its rivals, observed Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“One of Hype’s biggest differentiators is support for mixed media, so during live streaming broadcasters can patch in preprepared content to enrich the overall event,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Meanwhile, broadcast viewers can express their opinion of it with their sparkles — stars that serve a purpose similar as hearts in Periscope.

“Broadcasters can dynamically respond to those inputs, thus enriching the event, and the app keeps a tab on those interactions,” King said.

Hype also allows users to push broadcasts and replays out to their Twitter and Facebook feeds, he added.

Gaining an Audience

Capturing an audience for Hype will be challenging for founders Colin Kroll, Rus Yusupov and Dominik Hofmann.

“The live video broadcast space is already very competitive and dominated by Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook Live,” IHS Markit’s Kent pointed out.

“Without being able to piggyback onto a platform of hundreds of millions of users, Hype will have to look for differentiated features to acquire users outside its much bigger platform rivals,” he noted.

One way to do that might be to focus on niche areas as a way to build an engaged standalone community, Kent said.

One possible niche market could be commercial broadcasters of live events, suggested Pund-IT’s King.

“The richness of features that Hype supports could also make it useful for broadcasting commercial or corporate events,” he said. “Those could include anything from live music performances to public lectures to business conferences.”

The ability to wrap other media into a broadcast could be very valuable, particularly in the branded content space, noted Eric Galen, a social media attorney with Greenberg Glusker.

“But brands don’t care about the functionality of an app until it has a big audience,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Avoid Dying on the Vine

Ironically, the Hype team was rolling out its new app just as Twitter was axing Vine, the 6-second video app it purchased in 2012.

Two things moved Twitter to kill Vine, said Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw Research.

The app was hard to monetize, and it didn’t fit in with Twitter’s new focus on news and what’s live, he told TechNewsWorld.

“Twitter wants to be the live platform — the platform for seeing what’s happening right now,” Dawson said.

“They’re extending that into video with all their deals with Bloomberg, the NFL and so on, but live is the broad strategy behind a lot of what Twitter is doing at the moment,” he explained.

“If Twitter had been in better financial health and didn’t need to make cuts, Vine might well have survived,” Dawson added, “but it’s just too obvious a place to make cuts, given Twitter’s strategic priorities right now.”

Twitter could have done a better job of supporting Vine in the face of competition from larger and better-funded rivals, Pund-IT’s King noted.

That’s certainly why Vine’s founders appear to have regretted its sale to Twitter, IHS’ Kent said, “but if they want to remain independent with their new venture — or ensure it is a long-term success, independent or otherwise — they will need to not only acquire users but also have a clear path to monetization.

wattOS Energizes Aging Hardware

wattOS app menuwattOS is a stunning example of really great things coming in small packages.

wattOS is a lightweight and fast desktop Linux distribution based on Ubuntu 16.04.1 LTS built around the LXDE. It uses the lightweight Openbox window manager as its default user interface.

To credit this 8-year-young community of developers with birthing an energy-efficient Linux distribution is an understatement.

It has phenomenal performance on older hardware that lacks resources. It installs on computers with as little as 192 MB to 256 MB of RAM, and it can throttle back with only 128 MB of RAM. However, it runs much better with double that amount.

wattOS ships with all the system control you will need.

I initially tried installing wattOS on a 2005 edition of an HP Pavilion laptop that barely ran Windows XP. wattOS lit up that hardware better than Puppy Linux on a USB drive. wattOS was an excellent performer on much newer desktops and laptops sitting on my test bench.

Staying Power

LXDE versions of wattOS should be able to run on any computer with a processor released in the last 10 years, according to the developers. My own testing shows that it works on some processors that are even older.

The goal of the R10 release is to provide a clean basic desktop with a few key apps.

wattOS desktop

wattOS has a clutter-free desktop and a very functional LXDE desktop environment.

That somewhat minimalistic approach lets you do the very basic computing tasks. To push that further, you will have to install packages to suit your needs.

For that purpose, you must use the Synaptic Package Manager. wattOS lacks it own distro-specific software repository, but using Synaptic to install and remove software could keep the distro more flexible and sustainable.

In keeping with the distro’s lean but mean philosophy, the developers removed default packages found in other LXDE releases. They have tended to cut software that might not be used much by typical users. Two examples are CD burning tools and the native LXDE video player.

wattOS applications

wattOS includes some of the most popular basic Linux computing applications, giving users the option to add what they need.

wattOS taps into the Ubuntu Software Center for system updates. One of the settings panels in that system tool lets you check for and add additional drivers for your hardware.

Watt’s Inside

wattOS R10 shipped this summer with a stock software array of basic lightweight Linux OS tools. It runs kernel 4.4.0-36. It comes packaged with the Firefox 48.0 Web browser and Filezilla 3.15.0.2 FTP program.

It includes PCMan file manager 1.2.4, Transmission 2.84 bittorrent application, Evince 3.10.3 PDF reader, and Gufw 16.04.1 as its firewall tool.

This release replaces the Audacious music player with Lollypop 0.9.112, a modern GTK+3 music player written in Python. This release also switched to gThumb 3.4.3 for graphics/picture editing.

The R10 release is compliant with more legacy systems, thanks to wider support for hardware and wireless devices. The included tools for better power management and performance optimization are also a nice addition.

It has nice power management utilities like PowerTOP to optimize settings. Those settings include additional tools for laptops.

Look and Feel

The wattOS desktop is clean and simple. The lightweight desktop environment is not cluttered with gadgets or resource-draining animations. It provides solid functionality and basic system services.

For example, the LX panel controls let you add or remove panel items with a right-click. You can right-click on any item in the main software menu to put an application icon on the desktop.

You also can right-click any place on the desktop to select the Web browser, the terminal emulator, a couple of system configuration panels, and the virtual workplace switcher. Unlike with the Xfce lightweight desktop, you can not access the software main menu by right-clicking on the desktop.

The taskbar provides access to all of the system options. For instance, it hosts the menu and icons for LXTerminal. It hosts the PCManFM file manager, Firefox Web browser and opened applications.

Other Options

The wattOS R10 edition can be a perfect computing solution. Its single LXDE desktop environment makes it an easy choice. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit hardware to further its staying power and flexibility.

The distro also offers another choice. wattOS Microwatt Edition is a minimalist tiling window manager (i3) driven desktop system.

The Microwatt Edition offers low resource requirements and simplicity. However, its release is delayed for fine-tuning.

Bottom Line

I found the wattOS to be a reliable and useful alternative to other lightweight Linux choices available. It is much less bothersome to configure compared to Puppy Linux and the many variants in PuppyLand, for instance.

It’s chief advantage is an ability to run on older hardware with a clean and familiar user experience. It might fall short of expectations, however, when you push it to the limit beyond basic computing functions like Web surfing, word processing, email and playing music. Its performance will be spotty for heavy video viewing and editing.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Talkback feature below to add your comments

Conspiracy Theories in the Information Age, Part 2

conspiracy-theoriesIn the past, heightened rhetoric and propaganda were the tools of choice for those looking to convince an electorate to vote them into office, and conspiracy theories were their bane. This election season has seen the rise of a new form of persuasion, one that’s unique to the Information Age.

For months, WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange had promised to rain bombshells on the narrowing field of presidential candidates, and he indicated that Hillary Clinton would be the target of the release. Rumors had swirled around the secrets the former secretary of state might have wanted to protect when she deleted more than 30,000 emails from a private server.

As the U.S. celebrated Independence Day, WikiLeaks released the first batch of emails, and the fireworks began. Nothing in the emails proved particularly damaging for Clinton’s presidential aspirations, though.

WikiLeaks had released troves of sensitive information in the past, so at first glance its actions represented nothing new. However, that particular series of leaks was about to introduce much of the world to a new form of propaganda.

The Tainted Well

During the Cold War, authoritarian regimes had their own mouthpieces, along with enough control over the populace to stomp out dissenting voices, noted Mark Fenster, a professor at the University of Florida and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture.

“They were organs of the state, and they spoke about whatever it was the government wanted to speak about,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Those were obviously perfect means of distributing propaganda — particularly if the government was also able to suppress any other voices from making it to the public.”

With the rise of the Internet, it became difficult to drown out competing voices. From the delivery of “paquetes” of digitized American culture in Cuba to hacktivism in China, the Internet has provided tools that make it next to impossible for any government to silence its critics completely, or to screen outside ideas from their view.

“We’ve got an interesting experiment going on right now,” Fenster said in an interview conducted prior to last week’s election, “if the allegations are true that Russian hackers, ordered by the Russian government, got hold of email documents from [Clinton campaign manager] John Podesta, the DNC and the Clinton campaign, and are releasing them collectively to in order to manipulate the election for their preferred candidate: Donald Trump.”

The cache of Clinton campaign documents might not have been as devastating as Assange initially indicated, but it undoubtedly added a new dimension to this election season and introduced the public to what might be called the “tainted well.”

“This isn’t propaganda in the classic since,” Fenster said, “but it is a way of trying to shape government opinion.”

Because of the positive adjectives Pressident-Elect Donald Trump used to describe Russian leader Vladimir Putin during the campaign, speculation grew that the leaked emails were intended specifically to damage Clinton’s chances.

However, it is still not clear that Russia — even if it did commission the hacks — aimed to sway the election toward Trump. Russia might have been trying to prevent either candidate from having a mandate upon taking office, suggested Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, in a conversation prior to the election.

I think “Russia isn’t trying to promote either candidate at the moment, it is operating to ensure that neither of them will be able to actually govern if elected, operating under a broad strategy of discrediting the government and effectively fermenting revolt,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Please Sir, More Propaganda

Whatever the true motives of the leaks and their possible sponsors might have been, it’s indisputable that the Internet has created a world that’s ripe for and receptive to propaganda in many forms — from ads many try to avoid, to stories that gain attention through votes cast by mouse clicks and screen taps.

“Even if unintentional, online news services currently track interests and serve up news based on those interests,” noted Enderle.

During the latest election cycle, for instance, liberal and conservative voters received very different news streams, he pointed out, so their perceptions of the world were very different. It helped to massively polarize the two views.

Just as social media metrics have advanced to help marketers serve up relevant ads at the moment consumers are primed to purchase goods or services, those same tools can be used to dish out fake or heavily biased news, according to Enderle.

“Confirmation bias already teaches we are very vulnerable to this type of manipulation, and this same methodology is largely used for telephone and Internet scams,” he observed.

While there are few governments that grip as tightly as North Korea does these days, states still use propaganda for good and bad, according to University of Florida’s Fenster.

Governments use propaganda all of the time, he said.

“They do so by publishing information on their websites or releasing information to the press and NGOs to report on,” Fenster noted. “Oftentimes, governments have their own public relations offices that might not be named as such but work the same.”

There are times when governments turn to conspiracy theories as a form of propaganda, suggested Richard W. Lachmann, a professor of comparative/historical sociology and political sociology at the University of Albany.

“Whenever a country is losing a war, there always are conspiracy theories to explain the loss,” he told TechNewsWorld.

When it comes to propagating propaganda about war, it’s common for governments to spin webs about traitors, he added.

Most famously, there was “the ‘stab in the back’ conspiracy theory in Germany at the end of World War I, when many Germans came to believe that their defeat was due to Jewish traitors in Germany rather than to the manpower and weapons edge of the Allies,” Lachmann said.

In the Information Age, there’s a new way to tell war stories that favor one side over the other. Dip from a tainted well and offer a drink to a world that’s thirsty for information