Infamous commander of faux Russian bot armies New Knowledge has changed its name to Yonder, memory-holing its troubled reputation with a promise of a ‘more authentic internet’ just in time for the 2020 US presidential election.
New Knowledge, the bot-hunting and consulting firm founded by a State Department alumnus, has undergone a makeover. Billing itself as “the leading authentic internet company,” whatever that means, the newly-rechristened Yonder has neatly divested itself of New Knowledge’s baggage, just in time to bury Americans in horror stories of Russian bot activity for the 2020 election cycle.
The company is under investigation by the Federal Elections Commission for meddling in the 2017 Alabama Senate race with an elaborate false-flag operation involving the creation of an army of fake “Russian” bots. “Project Birmingham” helped hand the Senate seat to Doug Jones, the first Democrat to be elected from Alabama in over two decades. Even Jones backed the inquiry after the New York Times published an exposé on the campaign last year.
That didn’t stop New Knowledge from continuing to mercilessly milk the “Russian bot” fad, smearing Democratic presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard as the “Russian favorite” with a report that Gabbard’s enemies have embraced despite its authors being thoroughly discredited. The company’s founder Jonathon Morgan was also involved in the development of the Hamilton68 “Russian bot” dashboard, whose methodology remains proprietary even as its dubious utterances are treated as gospel truth by the media. But after being exposed as disinfo merchants by the Times, of all people, New Knowledge has struggled to be taken seriously in some circles.
None of this appears in the press release New Knowledge published on PRWeb last week to celebrate the company’s new identity, of course. “Yonder is on a mission to humanize the world’s information and deliver on the promise of a more authentic internet,” declared the company whose founder was booted from Facebook for running bot armies. That mission, according to Yonder’s promotional materials, is “helping usher in an era where fake news, bots and other web wreckage isn’t so easily blended with real human insights and interactions.” The jokes write themselves.
The company’s core business of dressing up Cold War fears in slick information-age jargon hasn’t changed – Yonder’s website warns visitors that false information is “70 percent more likely to be shared on social media,” without explaining the context of the statistic (more likely than what or where?). It’s yet another irony for a company that has promised customers it will “add the necessary cultural context to online information.”
“We’re in a moment now where it’s a real reckoning for the tech industry… I think there’s a real lack of trust or loss of trust,” Morgan told Austin Inno. It’s hard to imagine how fearmongering about Russian bots dismantling American democracy is supposed to build trust. But as long as there are politicians who would rather blame a foreign country for their failures than engage in meaningful introspection, there will always be a market for companies like New Knowledge.
By Helen Buyniski, RT
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