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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home

When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home

When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home

When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

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Brian Krebs
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March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

The Admin

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
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March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

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Brian Krebs
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March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

The Admin

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

By

Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

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Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home FAKE TRENDING: PRO-TRUMP GROUP PAYS TEENS TO POST ONLINE

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The messages have been emanating in recent months from the accounts of young people in Arizona seemingly expressing their own views — standing up for President Trump in a battleground state and echoing talking points from his reelection campaign.

Far from representing a genuine social media groundswell, however, the posts are the product of a sprawling yet secretive campaign that experts say evades the guardrails put in place by social media companies to limit online disinformation of the sort used by Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Teenagers, some of them minors, are being paid to pump out the messages at the direction of Turning Point Action, an affiliate of Turning Point USA, the prominent conservative youth organization based in Phoenix, according to four people with independent knowledge of the effort. Their descriptions were confirmed by detailed notes from relatives of one of the teenagers who recorded conversations with him about the efforts.

The campaign draws on the spam-like behavior of bots and trolls, with the same or similar language posted repeatedly across social media. But it is carried out, at least in part, by humans paid to use their own accounts, though nowhere disclosing their relationship with Turning Point Action or the digital firm brought in to oversee the day-to-day activity. One user included a link to Turning Point USA’s website in his Twitter profile until The Washington Post began asking questions about the activity.

In response to questions from The Post, Twitter on Tuesday suspended at least 20 accounts involved in the activity for “platform manipulation and spam.” Facebook also removed a number of accounts as part of what the company said is an ongoing investigation.

The effort generated thousands of posts this summer on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an examination by The Post and an assessment by an independent specialist in data science. Nearly 4,500 tweets containing identical content that were identified in the analysis probably represent a fraction of the overall output.

The months-long effort by the tax-exempt nonprofit is among the most ambitious domestic influence campaigns uncovered this election cycle, said experts tracking the evolution of deceptive online tactics.

“In 2016, there were Macedonian teenagers interfering in the election by running a troll farm and writing salacious articles for money,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. “In this election, the troll farm is in Phoenix.”

The effort, Brookie added, illustrates “that the scale and scope of domestic disinformation is far greater than anything a foreign adversary could do to us.”

Turning Point Action, whose 26-year-old leader, Charlie Kirk, delivered the opening speech at this year’s Republican National Convention, issued a statement from the group’s field director defending the social media campaign and saying any comparison to a troll farm was a “gross mischaracterization.”

“This is sincere political activism conducted by real people who passionately hold the beliefs they describe online, not an anonymous troll farm in Russia,” the field director, Austin Smith, said in the statement.

He said the operation reflected an attempt by Turning Point Action to maintain its advocacy despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, which has curtailed many traditional political events.

“Like everyone else, Turning Point Action’s plans for nationwide in-person events and activities were completely disrupted by the pandemic,” Smith said. “Many positions TPA had planned for in field work were going to be completely cut, but TPA managed to reimagine these roles and working with our marketing partners, transitioned some to a virtual and online activist model.”

The group declined to make Kirk available for an interview.

The online salvo targeted prominent Democratic politicians and news organizations on social media. It mainly took the form of replies to their posts, part of a bid to reorient political conversation.

The messages — some of them false and some simply partisan — were parceled out in precise increments as directed by the effort’s leaders, according to the people with knowledge of the highly coordinated activity, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect the privacy of minors carrying out the work.

One parent of two teenagers involved in the effort, Robert Jason Noonan, said his 16- and 17-year-old daughters were being paid by Turning Point to push “conservative points of view and values” on social media. He said they have been working with the group since about June, adding in an interview, “The job is theirs until they want to quit or until the election.”

Four years ago, the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency amplified Turning Point’s right-wing memes as part of Moscow’s sweeping interference aimed at boosting Trump, according to expert assessments prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. One report pointed specifically to the use of Turning Point content as evidence of Russia’s “deep knowledge of American culture, media, and influencers.”

Now, some technology industry experts contend that the effort this year by Turning Point shows how domestic groups are not just producing eye-catching online material but also increasingly using social media to spread it in disruptive or misleading ways.

“It sounds like the Russians, but instead coming from Americans,” said Jacob Ratkiewicz, a software engineer at Google whose academic research, as a PhD student at Indiana University at Bloomington, addressed the political abuse of social media.

To some participants, the undertaking feels very different. Notes from the recorded conversation with a 16-year-old participant — the authenticity of which was confirmed by The Post — indicate, “He said it’s really fun and he works with his friends.” The participant, through family members, declined to comment.

The social media users active in the campaign, some of whom were using their real names, identified themselves only as Trump supporters and young Republicans. One described herself simply as a high school sophomore interested in softball and cheerleading.

Noonan, 46, said “some of the comments may go too far” but cast the activity as a response to similar exaggerations by Democrats. “Liberals say things that are way out there, and conservatives say things that are sometimes way out there, or don’t have enough evidence.”

Those recruited to participate in the campaign were lifting the language from a shared online document, according to Noonan and other people familiar with the setup. They posted the same lines a limited number of times to avoid automated detection by the technology companies, these people said. They also were instructed to edit the beginning and ending of each snippet to differentiate the posts slightly, according to the notes from the recorded conversation with a participant.

Noonan said his daughters sometimes work from an office in the Phoenix area and are classified as independent contractors, not earning “horrible money” but also not making minimum wage. Relatives of another person involved said the minor is paid an hourly rate and can score bonuses if his posts spur higher engagement.

Smith, as part of written responses to The Post, deferred specific questions about the financial setup to a “marketing partner” called Rally Forge, which he said was running the program for Turning Point.

Jake Hoffman, president and chief executive of the Phoenix-based digital marketing firm, confirmed the online workers were classified as contractors but declined to comment further on “private employment matters.” He did not respond to a question about the office setup.

Addressing the use of centralized documents to prepare the messages, Hoffman said in written responses, “Every working team within my agency works out of dozens of collaborative documents every day, as is common with all dynamic marketing agencies or campaign phone banks for example.”

The messages have appeared mainly as replies to news articles about politics and public health posted on social media. They seek to cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process, asserting that Democrats are using mail balloting to steal the election — “thwarting the will of the American people,” they alleged.

The posts also play down the threat from covid-19, which claimed the life of Turning Point’s co-founder Bill Montgomery in July. One post, which was spread across social media dozens of times, suggested baselessly that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is inflating the death toll from the disease. (Most experts say deaths are probably undercounted.) Another pushed for schools to reopen, reasoning, “President Trump is not worried because younger people do very well while dealing with covid.”

Much of the blitz was aimed squarely at Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee. The former vice president, asserted one message, “is being controlled by behind the scenes individuals who want to take America down the dangerous path towards socialism.”

By seeking to rebut mainstream news articles, the operation illustrates the extent to which some online political activism is designed to discredit the media.

While Facebook and Twitter have pledged to crack down on what they have labeled coordinated inauthentic behavior, in Facebook’s case, and platform manipulation and spam, as Twitter defines its rules, their efforts falter in the face of organizations willing to pay users to post on their own accounts, maintaining the appearance of independence and authenticity.

In removing accounts Tuesday, Twitter pointed to policies specifying, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts.” That includes “coordinating with or compensating others to engage in artificial engagement or amplification, even if the people involved use only one account,” according to Twitter.

On Twitter, the nearly verbatim language emanated from about two dozen accounts through the summer. The exact number of people posting the messages was not clear. Smith, the Turning Point field director, said, “The number fluctuates and many have gone back to school.” Hoffman, in an email, said, “Dozens of young people have been excited to share their beliefs on social media.”

The Rally Forge leader is a city council member in Queen Creek, Ariz., and a candidate for the state legislature.

Some of the users at points listed their location as Gilbert, Ariz., a suburb of Phoenix, according to screen shots reviewed by The Post. Some followed each other on Twitter, while most were following only a list of prominent politicians and media outlets.

One was followed by a former member of Congress, Republican Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who is on the Catholics for Trump advisory board. Huelskamp said he could not recall what led him to follow the account and was not familiar with the effort by Turning Point. But he praised the group for “doing a great job of messaging, particularly with younger folks.”

Several teenagers were using their real names or variations of their names, while other accounts active in posting the pro-Trump messaging appeared to be operating under pseudonyms. The Post’s review found that some participants seem to maintain multiple accounts on Facebook, which is a violation of the company’s policies.

Explaining why the users do not disclose that they are being paid as political activists, Hoffman said they are “using their own personal profiles and sharing their content that reflects their values and beliefs.” He pointed to the risk of online bullying, as well as physical harm, in explaining why “we’ve left how much personal and professional information they wish to share up to them.”

The accounts on Twitter alone posted 4,401 tweets with identical content, not including slight variations of the language, according to Pik-Mai Hui, a PhD student in informatics at Indiana University at Bloomington who performed an analysis of the content at the request of The Post. The analysis found characteristics strongly suggestive of bots — such as double commas and dangling commas that often appear with automatic scripts — though at least some of the accounts were being operated by humans.

While the messaging appears designed to seed pro-Trump content across social media, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the act of repeated posting also helps instill the ideas among those performing the activity. In addition, it familiarizes the users with the ways of online combat, she said, and makes their accounts valuable assets should different needs arise as the election nears.

“There is a logic to having an army locally situated in a battleground state, having them up and online and ready to be deployed,” Jamieson said.

Turning Point Action debuted as a 501(c)(4) organization last year, with more leeway in undertaking political advocacy than is afforded to the original group, which is barred from campaign activity as a 501(c)(3). Both nonprofits are required only to disclose the salaries of directors, officers and key employees, said Marc Owens, a tax attorney with Loeb & Loeb.

Turning Point dates to 2012, when Montgomery, retired from a career in marketing, heard Kirk, then 18, deliver a speech in the Chicago suburbs at Benedictine University’s “Youth Government Day.” He called the address “practically Reaganesque,” according to a 2015 profile in Crain’s Chicago Business newspaper, and urged Kirk, a former Eagle Scout, to put off college in favor of full-time political activism. Kirk became the face of Turning Point, while Montgomery was “the old guy who keeps it all legal,” he told the business weekly.

The organization amassed prominent and wealthy conservative allies, including Richard Grenell, the former ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence, and Foster Friess, who made a fortune in mutual funds and helps bankroll conservative and Christian causes. Both men sit on Turning Point’s honorary board.

Its standing rose significantly as Trump came to power. Turning Point USA brought in nearly $80,000 in contributions and other funds in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to IRS filings, a fraction of the $8 million it reported for 2017 and $11 million for 2018.

The group, which describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing youth organization in America,” claims to have a presence on more than 2,000 college and high school campuses. It hosts activist conferences and runs an alumni program. It also maintains a “Professor Watchlist” designed to expose instructors who “discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

Kirk, the group’s president and co-founder, has been embraced and promoted by Trump and his family. Speaking at Turning Point USA’s Teen Student Action Summit last year, Trump hailed Kirk for building a “movement unlike anything in the history of our nation.” A quote attributed to Donald Trump Jr., who has appeared at numerous Turning Point events, features prominently on the group’s website: “I’m convinced that the work by Turning Point USA and Charlie Kirk will win back the future of America.”

Kirk has returned the praise. In his speech at last month’s Republican nominating convention, he extolled Trump as the “bodyguard of Western civilization.”

Equally impassioned rhetoric marked the campaign on social media, with posts asserting that Black Lives Matter protesters were “fascist groups . . . terrorizing American citizens” and decrying the “BLM Marxist agenda,” among other incendiary language.

Noonan said his wife, a hairstylist, monitors the online activity of their daughters more closely than he does, and that their work is often a topic of conversation when the family convenes in the evening.

“We are Trump supporters, but one of the things my wife and I have been very consistent on is to always understand both sides and make decisions from there,” the father said.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

The Admin

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

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Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home How a veteran’s idea to solicit donations for a border wall won over Trump supporters — and produced conspiracy charges – The Washington Post

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As he commiserated with fellow activist Tiffiny Ruegner in December 2018, Kolfage broached an idea.

“He said, ‘Hey, Tiffiny, what if we do a GoFundMe to help President Trump build the border wall?’ ” Ruegner recalled in an interview. “I said, ‘That would be interesting, I think we might get some supporters, but I don’t think you’re going to raise a lot of money.’ ”

Kolfage’s brainchild, dubbed “We Build the Wall,” would generate more than $17 million in just the first week and would eventually attract some of Trump’s highest-profile supporters.

Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign strategist — whom Ruegner said she had put in touch with Kolfage a month or two earlier — began running the day-to-day operations. Former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, an immigration hard-liner with close ties to the administration, said Trump had given the project his blessing in a phone call. The president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., touted the effort at a symposium near a section of wall the group paid to have built.

Last week, though, Bannon, Kolfage and two others — venture capitalist Andrew Badolato and businessman Timothy Shea — were charged in a federal conspiracy case, in which prosecutors in Manhattan alleged they falsely claimed they were receiving no pay from the effort as they secretly spent hundreds of thousands of donor dollars on travel, home renovations and personal credit card debt.

Bannon and Kolfage have defended themselves, asserting that the indictment against them is a politically motivated effort to undermine supporters of the president and one of his signature campaign promises. Others involved in We Build the Wall say they were unaware of some of the conduct that investigators claim to have uncovered and would wait to learn more.

“I can’t imagine that Steve Bannon, whom I know well, is either that careless or that dumb,” said former congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who served on the advisory board of We Build the Wall. “I saw in the press that Bannon will be pleading not guilty, and I will wait for more information or evidence before making any further comment.”

Almost from the start, We Build the Wall was dogged by controversy. In early 2019, just after the campaign had launched, BuzzFeed News reported on allegations that funds Kolfage raised in a previous campaign for veterans at military hospitals had not actually gone to the medical centers, and that he had pushed to sensationalize right-wing content at a news website he ran.

In the wall funding effort, Ruegner, an organizer for the tea party movement and a writer, said the group had initially hoped to give the donations they raised to the government but were told the government could not promise the funds would be used for a border barrier.

GoFundMe suspended Kolfage’s campaign after it had raised more than $20 million, warning Kolfage that he had to identify a legitimate nonprofit to which the funds would be transferred, according to the indictment against him. Bannon and Badolato, a business partner, ultimately created such a nonprofit, and the group changed its direction — deciding donor funds would be used on private construction of a wall, rather than given to the government, according to the indictment.

But to get GoFundMe to release the donations, they had to agree that Kolfage would “personally not take a penny of compensation,” and that donors would have to reaffirm they wanted their donation to go to We Build the Wall, according to the indictment.

Ruegner said one of her jobs was to call and email donors, convincing them to re-opt in. She said she was paid for her work but declined to say how much. She has not been accused of any wrongdoing and said she has had no contact with law enforcement. The group ultimately only lost about 10 percent of its contributions, Ruegner said.

Federal prosecutors alleged that the group persuaded donors to stay on by promising Kolfage would take no compensation. Ruegner, who said she left the organization in October 2019 and did not handle finances, insisted that in the script she read to donors, they promised only that Kolfage would not be paid “until after the first mile is built” and made no representations about others.

The group had high-profile conservative support. In addition to Kobach, Bannon and Tancredo, it counted among its advisory board members Erik Prince, a conservative activist and defense contractor close to Bannon; former Milwaukee County sheriff David Alexander Clarke Jr.; and former Major League Baseball star Curt Schilling. A member of the group tweeted last summer that she had personally met with Trump and answered specific questions about the project, and Yahoo News reported that acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf visited one of the group’s building sites.

“We all kind of knew each other from conservative stuff that we were doing,” Ruegner said. “How it grew, it was just very organic and very fast.”

Progress on the wall, though, was another matter. In the early months of 2019, some who said they were donors began complaining on We Build the Wall’s Facebook page and to the Daily Beast about the lack of construction. Kobach had told the New York Times in January 2019 — when he declared the effort had Trump’s blessing — that they would hopefully be breaking ground “within weeks,” but as of mid-May, they had not.

According to the We Build the Wall website, the group completed its first small section near Sunland Park, N.M., in June 2019. The next month, Trump Jr. made a surprise visit to a symposium the group held and praised the organization as “private enterprise at its finest.”

“Doing it better, faster, cheaper than anything else,” he added, in comments the group highlighted on its website.

The way prosecutors tell it, though, Kolfage, Bannon, Badolato and Shea — a vocal supporter of Trump online — were privately scheming to pocket hundreds of thousands for themselves and keep the arrangement secret using fake invoices and sham vendor arrangements.

It is unclear how federal authorities first became interested in the group, but the investigation was underway by October — when the men were tipped to its possible existence from a financial institution, according to the indictment. That investigation, led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and federal prosecutors in Manhattan, culminated last week, when authorities took all four into custody.

Bannon was pulled off a 150-foot yacht called the Lady May owned by a friend and business associate, Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui — a vocal online critic of the Chinese government who was once close with that country’s intelligence service but is now wanted by authorities in Beijing on charges of fraud, blackmail and bribery.

Trump had already seemed to sour slightly on the group. After ProPublica reported in July that its wall was in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, the president tweeted, “I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work.”

After Bannon’s arrest, Trump reiterated that he did not support the privately constructed wall.

“I don’t like that project,” Trump said. “I thought it was being done for showboating reasons.”

Ruegner, who met Trump in 2014 and has a picture with him on her Facebook page, said she was unbothered by the president’s comments.

“He doesn’t know us personally. He only knows the information that’s being given to him. That information can change depending on who’s giving it,” she said, noting that Donald Trump Jr. had visited the wall.

Bannon and Kolfage have portrayed themselves as being targeted for their support of Trump. In a series of Facebook posts about his arrest, Kolfage wrote, “The witch hunt is on! I’m not going to be bullied into being a political prisoner for my beliefs. I have fought hard for these freedoms and the SDNY is on [an] all out assault to take down every Trump insider from the 2016 election, that means Bannon.”

SDNY refers to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which brought the case.

Bannon, emerging from the courthouse after an initial hearing in which he pleaded not guilty, similarly said, “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”

Ruegner said she remains proud of the work the group did. She said the government told the group it could cost as much as $25 million to build just one mile of barrier; We Build the Wall, she said, built at least 3½ miles for less than that. She said she did not mind Kolfage, in particular, taking a salary, given how much work he did.

“This organization 100 percent did what they said they were going to do with the money,” Ruegner said.

Federal prosecutors, meanwhile, have continued to investigate. Just as authorities moved to arrest Bannon, two others who worked with We Build the Wall — Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence — said in a statement that “heavily armed federal law enforcement officers” executed search warrants on their cellphones and served them with subpoenas to appear before a grand jury in New York.

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home They told you not to reply (2008)

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When businesses want to communicate with their customers via e-mail, many send messages with a bogus return address, e.g. “somethinghere@donotreply.com.” The practice is meant to communicate to recipients that any replies will go unread.

But when those messages are sent to an inactive e-mail address or the recipient ignores the instruction and replies anyway, the missives don’t just disappear into the digital ether.

Instead, they land in Chet Faliszek‘s e-mail box.

As owner of www.donotreply.com, the Seattle-based programmer receives millions of wayward e-mails each week, including a great many missives destined for executives at Fortune 500 companies or bank customers, even sensitive messages sent by government personnel and contractors.

The majority of the e-mails naturally are from spammers, who also are quite fond of using Faliszek’s domain name in the “From” field of their junk e-mails. Some of the non-spam bounce-backs are fairly harmless, like the ones he gets every so often from desperate, hungry people who bought a CharBroil brand grill but can’t get the thing to work properly.

“Instead of letting people just hit reply to these support mails, they make the customer click on a link,” Faliszek said. “It’s sad, too, because I’ll get these e-mails from people and they’re like ‘Oh, man, I really wanted to grill, but it’s not working.’ Sometimes they’ll even send pictures of their grill, too.”

But many of the misdirected e-mails amount to serious security and privacy violations. In February, Faliszek began receiving e-mails sent by Yardville National Bank in New Jersey (now part of PNC). Included in the message were PDF documents detailing every computer the bank owned that was not currently patched against the latest security vulnerabilities. Faliszek has so far amassed more than 200 reports about the bank detailing computers, full branch reports and graphs showing the top 10 most vulnerable systems.

In a blog post cleverly titled “What’s in Your Return Address Field,” Faliszek posted another bank screw up last month after he began receiving replies from Capital One customers inquiring about various details of their accounts. He says Capital One appears to have used donotreply.com as the return address for automated payment transfers and debits set up by customers.

Faliszek also routinely receives bizarre e-mails from Kellog Brown & Root, a Houston-based engineering company and former subsidiary of Halliburton. He said it looks like someone at KBR has set up a system that scans incoming faxes as PDFs and mails them off to various recipients.

“It’s really kind of weird, because I’ll get these faxes from Iraq, where they talk about various camps, when and where they’re moving the support equipment, what they’re buying, accident reports, and information on people applying for jobs,” Faliszek said.

Faliszek bought donotreply.com back in 2000 when he and some friends were running an e-mail service. But he never imagined he would get such a huge volume of misdirected mail.

“We started thinking of all the stupid e-mail names we could register, and we all thought it would be funny to send e-mail from an account at donotreply.com,” Faliszek said.

With the exception of extreme cases like those mentioned above, Faliszek says he long ago stopped trying to alert companies about the e-mails he was receiving. It’s just not worth it: Faliszek said he is constantly threatened with lawsuits from companies who for one reason or another have a difficult time grasping why he is in possession of their internal documents and e-mails.

“I’ve had people yell at me, saying these e-mails are marked private and that I shouldn’t read them,” Faliszek said. “They get all frantic like I’ve done something to them, particularly when you talk to the non-technical people at these companies.”

Instead, he blogs about the most interesting ones. Companies embarrassed by having their e-mails posted online can get him to pull the entries from his blog for a small payment. The normal fee to be removed from the site is proof of a donation to an animal protective league or humane society. So far, Faliszek says his blog has raised roughly $5,000 for local dog pounds.

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Brian Krebs
 | 
March 21, 2008; 9:30 AM ET

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How to make money online home business how to make money online for beginners how to make money online for free real ways to make money from home make money from home online ideas to make money from home How a veteran’s idea to solicit donations for a border wall won over Trump supporters — and produced conspiracy charges – The Washington Post

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As he commiserated with fellow activist Tiffiny Ruegner in December 2018, Kolfage broached an idea.

“He said, ‘Hey, Tiffiny, what if we do a GoFundMe to help President Trump build the border wall?’ ” Ruegner recalled in an interview. “I said, ‘That would be interesting, I think we might get some supporters, but I don’t think you’re going to raise a lot of money.’ ”

Kolfage’s brainchild, dubbed “We Build the Wall,” would generate more than $17 million in just the first week and would eventually attract some of Trump’s highest-profile supporters.

Stephen K. Bannon, Trump’s former campaign strategist — whom Ruegner said she had put in touch with Kolfage a month or two earlier — began running the day-to-day operations. Former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, an immigration hard-liner with close ties to the administration, said Trump had given the project his blessing in a phone call. The president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., touted the effort at a symposium near a section of wall the group paid to have built.

Last week, though, Bannon, Kolfage and two others — venture capitalist Andrew Badolato and businessman Timothy Shea — were charged in a federal conspiracy case, in which prosecutors in Manhattan alleged they falsely claimed they were receiving no pay from the effort as they secretly spent hundreds of thousands of donor dollars on travel, home renovations and personal credit card debt.

Bannon and Kolfage have defended themselves, asserting that the indictment against them is a politically motivated effort to undermine supporters of the president and one of his signature campaign promises. Others involved in We Build the Wall say they were unaware of some of the conduct that investigators claim to have uncovered and would wait to learn more.

“I can’t imagine that Steve Bannon, whom I know well, is either that careless or that dumb,” said former congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), who served on the advisory board of We Build the Wall. “I saw in the press that Bannon will be pleading not guilty, and I will wait for more information or evidence before making any further comment.”

Almost from the start, We Build the Wall was dogged by controversy. In early 2019, just after the campaign had launched, BuzzFeed News reported on allegations that funds Kolfage raised in a previous campaign for veterans at military hospitals had not actually gone to the medical centers, and that he had pushed to sensationalize right-wing content at a news website he ran.

In the wall funding effort, Ruegner, an organizer for the tea party movement and a writer, said the group had initially hoped to give the donations they raised to the government but were told the government could not promise the funds would be used for a border barrier.

GoFundMe suspended Kolfage’s campaign after it had raised more than $20 million, warning Kolfage that he had to identify a legitimate nonprofit to which the funds would be transferred, according to the indictment against him. Bannon and Badolato, a business partner, ultimately created such a nonprofit, and the group changed its direction — deciding donor funds would be used on private construction of a wall, rather than given to the government, according to the indictment.

But to get GoFundMe to release the donations, they had to agree that Kolfage would “personally not take a penny of compensation,” and that donors would have to reaffirm they wanted their donation to go to We Build the Wall, according to the indictment.

Ruegner said one of her jobs was to call and email donors, convincing them to re-opt in. She said she was paid for her work but declined to say how much. She has not been accused of any wrongdoing and said she has had no contact with law enforcement. The group ultimately only lost about 10 percent of its contributions, Ruegner said.

Federal prosecutors alleged that the group persuaded donors to stay on by promising Kolfage would take no compensation. Ruegner, who said she left the organization in October 2019 and did not handle finances, insisted that in the script she read to donors, they promised only that Kolfage would not be paid “until after the first mile is built” and made no representations about others.

The group had high-profile conservative support. In addition to Kobach, Bannon and Tancredo, it counted among its advisory board members Erik Prince, a conservative activist and defense contractor close to Bannon; former Milwaukee County sheriff David Alexander Clarke Jr.; and former Major League Baseball star Curt Schilling. A member of the group tweeted last summer that she had personally met with Trump and answered specific questions about the project, and Yahoo News reported that acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf visited one of the group’s building sites.

“We all kind of knew each other from conservative stuff that we were doing,” Ruegner said. “How it grew, it was just very organic and very fast.”

Progress on the wall, though, was another matter. In the early months of 2019, some who said they were donors began complaining on We Build the Wall’s Facebook page and to the Daily Beast about the lack of construction. Kobach had told the New York Times in January 2019 — when he declared the effort had Trump’s blessing — that they would hopefully be breaking ground “within weeks,” but as of mid-May, they had not.

According to the We Build the Wall website, the group completed its first small section near Sunland Park, N.M., in June 2019. The next month, Trump Jr. made a surprise visit to a symposium the group held and praised the organization as “private enterprise at its finest.”

“Doing it better, faster, cheaper than anything else,” he added, in comments the group highlighted on its website.

The way prosecutors tell it, though, Kolfage, Bannon, Badolato and Shea — a vocal supporter of Trump online — were privately scheming to pocket hundreds of thousands for themselves and keep the arrangement secret using fake invoices and sham vendor arrangements.

It is unclear how federal authorities first became interested in the group, but the investigation was underway by October — when the men were tipped to its possible existence from a financial institution, according to the indictment. That investigation, led by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and federal prosecutors in Manhattan, culminated last week, when authorities took all four into custody.

Bannon was pulled off a 150-foot yacht called the Lady May owned by a friend and business associate, Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui — a vocal online critic of the Chinese government who was once close with that country’s intelligence service but is now wanted by authorities in Beijing on charges of fraud, blackmail and bribery.

Trump had already seemed to sour slightly on the group. After ProPublica reported in July that its wall was in danger of falling into the Rio Grande, the president tweeted, “I disagreed with doing this very small (tiny) section of wall, in a tricky area, by a private group which raised money by ads. It was only done to make me look bad, and perhaps it now doesn’t even work.”

After Bannon’s arrest, Trump reiterated that he did not support the privately constructed wall.

“I don’t like that project,” Trump said. “I thought it was being done for showboating reasons.”

Ruegner, who met Trump in 2014 and has a picture with him on her Facebook page, said she was unbothered by the president’s comments.

“He doesn’t know us personally. He only knows the information that’s being given to him. That information can change depending on who’s giving it,” she said, noting that Donald Trump Jr. had visited the wall.

Bannon and Kolfage have portrayed themselves as being targeted for their support of Trump. In a series of Facebook posts about his arrest, Kolfage wrote, “The witch hunt is on! I’m not going to be bullied into being a political prisoner for my beliefs. I have fought hard for these freedoms and the SDNY is on [an] all out assault to take down every Trump insider from the 2016 election, that means Bannon.”

SDNY refers to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which brought the case.

Bannon, emerging from the courthouse after an initial hearing in which he pleaded not guilty, similarly said, “This entire fiasco is to stop people who want to build the wall.”

Ruegner said she remains proud of the work the group did. She said the government told the group it could cost as much as $25 million to build just one mile of barrier; We Build the Wall, she said, built at least 3½ miles for less than that. She said she did not mind Kolfage, in particular, taking a salary, given how much work he did.

“This organization 100 percent did what they said they were going to do with the money,” Ruegner sai