Cambridge Analytica were caught on camera by Channel 4 boasting that:
“We just put the information into the bloodstream of the internet and then, watch it grow.
Give it a little push, every now and again. This stuff infiltrates the online community and expands. But with no branding.
So it’s unattributable, untrackable.
Untraceable, untrackable, unbranded
With that in mind, I began to wonder about some of the material being repetitively posted in Facebook comments and where it came from.
Take this meme, that is posted fairly regularly in Brexit groups and in comments:
The design is clearly very bad.
But it looks intentionally bad.
The spelling is partially capitalised, but if you think about it a little, it looks purposeful.
It’s quite hard to create a Union Jack graphic, with a lightning strike through it, in Photoshop or similar. You’d need to have some basic level of proficiency. The number of people who are reasonably good with Photoshop, but also dribbling morons who are unable to spell, is surely very small.
The spelling of “Railway” is capitalised.
But yet the creator(s) were apparently too stupid to capitalise “electricity”, on the next line.
The person who made it was skilled enough to fade the union jack with the lightning and text, to blend the words “currpt” and “MPs”.
But apparently not skilled enough to spell “corrupt” correctly.
It doesn’t add up. Cambridge Analytica boasted on hidden camera that they created “untraceable, untrackable” social media themes, memes and propaganda that spread. Arron Banks said something similar in the commons select committee.
“My experience [social media] a firestorm, like a brush fire, it blows over the thing.
Our skill was creating bushfires than putting a big fan on and making the fan blow.” – Arron Banks
The meme looks affected, as if it was made to look intentionally amateur, designed to be purposefully irritating and factually incorrect.
It looks like an attempt to galvanise a base of committed supporters whilst annoying “the other side”. Like the “£350m” was intentionally inflated and incorrect, to “frutrate the fact checkers” and “provoke people into argument”.
Maybe this strange, intentionally incorrect, meme was made to provoke arguments too.
Where’s it from?
It’s impossible to find out unless you work at Facebook or Google.
But there are some strange clues.
Google image search shows nothing.
TinEye reverse image search shows that it was first saved by their web crawler in 2016, a few days before the referendum on June 19th.
It shows that a (again, rather bizarre) Twitter user called “johnny” with the username “niteoflight”, posted it along with some oddly spelled commentary.
It was a screengrab of the meme though, from a phone.
The account that “johnny”, “niteoflight”, retweeted the most during his time on Twitter was Russia Today (RT).
Niteoflight went quiet in early 2018, after 4 years of activity of tweeting.
Often, unusually, using “Beeter”, an obscure Japanese Twitter app, to Tweet.
During his time on Twitter, his unusual approach to the English language made some people suspect he might not be real.
Strange. But probably just a random weird guy, from the UK, who can hardly speak English who likes Russian state TV, rather than a Russian troll worker.
The ‘first’ post
We can’t really know where this meme appeared first.
But searching back further, the earliest example of this meme that we could find was not on Google, Twitter, Facebook or elsehwere.
It was on VK.com, the Russian version of Facebook (a clone).
A guy called “Martin Corner” posted the meme on the 3rd of June 2016.
He purports to be a far right person based in the North of England.
The people who liked the post seem to also be English neo-Nazis based on their VK posts from 2016.
Whatever the truth, this meme is not an amateur creation that has gone viral.
Someone created it to look amateur, seeded it online and various groups spread it.
It is “unbranded, untraceable”, just like the Cambridge Analytica salesman boasted about the content that they create for their clients.