Technology

Facebook Was Tool of Choice for Russians

New York Times: “While the indictment does not accuse Facebook of any wrongdoing, it provided the first comprehensive account from the authorities of how critical the company’s platforms had been to the Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election. Facebook and Instagram were mentioned 41 times, while other technology that the Russians used were featured far less. Twitter was referenced nine times, YouTube once, and electronic payments company PayPal 11 times.”

“It is unprecedented for an American technology company to be so central to what the authorities say was a foreign scheme to commit election fraud in the United States.”

The Coming Information Apocalypse

BuzzFeed News: “Aviv Ovadya saw early what many — including lawmakers, journalists, and Big Tech CEOs — wouldn’t grasp until months later: Our platformed and algorithmically optimized world is vulnerable — to propaganda, to misinformation, to dark targeted advertising from foreign governments — so much so that it threatens to undermine a cornerstone of human discourse: the credibility of fact.”

“But it’s what he sees coming next that will really scare the shit out of you.”

”That future, according to Ovadya, will arrive with a slew of slick, easy-to-use, and eventually seamless technological tools for manipulating perception and falsifying reality.”

Sasse Quits Using Twitter

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) “is known as one of the more prolific Twitter users in Congress, often writing his own tweets himself to chime in on policy issues, crack jokes, and in some cases, rebuke President Donald Trump. But over Christmas weekend last year, Sasse stopped tweeting and has not picked up the phone since,” Business Insider reports.

Sasse sees his sabbatical from Twitter as a healthy decision too, because “there’s just a ton of data about the way social media is designed to create dopamine hits for teenage kids.”

Missouri Governor Sued Over Disappearing Messages

Missouri Gov. Eric Greiten’s (R) office is being sued over its use of Confide, “an ephemeral messaging mobile app, which they say is in violation of state public records law,” Ars Technica reports.

Confide, like Signal and other popular encrypted-messaging apps, auto-deletes messages after a certain period of time, making automated record-keeping of those messages very difficult, if not impossible. Use of such apps by public employees for official business is almost certain to run afoul of transparency laws.”

Mueller Has Interviewed Facebook Staff

Special counsel Robert Mueller and his office “have interviewed at least one member of Facebook’s team that was associated with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign,” Wired reports.

“Facebook and other social platforms have emerged as a key part of that investigation, not only because the company embedded staff with the San Antonio-based digital team working on Trump’s campaign, but also because it sold more than 3,000 Facebook and Instagram ads to fake accounts linked to the Russian propaganda group Internet Research Agency.”

China Has Ambitious Plans to Track Its Citizens

China’s government is embracing facial recognition by combining footage from security cameras with videos from private cameras to create a nationwide surveillance system, the Washington Post reports.

Officials hope to utilize the footage to track citizens’ activity and beliefs, eventually assigning everyone a “social credit” score representing whether the government can trust the person.

Ex-Facebook Exec Says Social Media Is Ripping Us Apart

Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make, The Verge reports.

Said Palihapitiya: “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”

He added: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

Bipartisan Panel Recommends Hacking Safeguards

“A bipartisan Harvard University project aimed at protecting elections from hacking and propaganda will release its first set of recommendations today on how U.S. elections can be defended from hacking attacks,” Reuters reports.

“The 27-page guidebook shown to Reuters ahead of publication calls for campaign leaders to emphasize security from the start and insist on practices such as two-factor authentication for access to email and documents and fully encrypted messaging via services including Signal and Wickr.”

Russian Bots Rushed to Deflect Bad Trump News

“Disguised Russian agents on Twitter rushed to deflect scandalous news about Donald Trump just before last year’s presidential election while straining to refocus criticism on the mainstream media and Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” according to an Associated Press analysis of since-deleted accounts.

“The analysis illuminates the obvious strategy behind the Russian cyber meddling: swiftly react, distort and distract attention from any negative Mr. Trump news.”

Thousands Attended Election Protest Arranged by Russians

“BlackMattersUS, a social media campaign believed to be Russians meddling in the U.S. politics, promoted a large anti-Trump march in New York City in the days after the election,” BuzzFeed reports.

“The archived events page shows the event was shared with 61,000 people, 33,000 were interested in the event and 16,000 people marked themselves as going… In the weeks after the election, it wasn’t hard to convince people in New York City to attend an anti-Trump protest, which might help explain the size of the protest.”

How the Russians Targeted Facebook Users

“Russian operatives targeted users on Facebook by race, political preference, religion and interests such as gun ownership, according to advertising data released by lawmakers as part of congressional investigations into Russian manipulation on social media around the U.S. election,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The new data show the sophistication of the Russian effort to hit precise groups of people to amplify specific, simmering tensions within the U.S.”

Politico: The social media ads Russians wanted Americans to see.

Facebook Stuggles to Contain Russia Narrative

Politico: “Facebook has been happy to keep congressional investigators focused on the Russian-bought online ads that helped sway voters in last year’s election — despite the many other ways that fake messages and bogus accounts spread on the dark side of social media.”

“But that may be about to end: Facebook, Twitter and Google are preparing for hearings this week where lawmakers are expected to grill the companies about the broad reach that foreign actors achieved through fake accounts and deliberate misinformation, a topic that encompasses far more than the 3,000 paid political ads that Facebook disclosed last month.”

Why Facebook Doesn’t See They’re a Problem

BuzzFeed News: “To truly understand how Facebook is responding to its role in the election and the ensuing morass, numerous sources inside and close to the company pointed to its unemotional engineering-driven culture, which they argue is largely guided by a quantitative approach to problems. It’s one that views nearly all content as agnostic, and everything else as a math problem. As that viewpoint has run headfirst into the wall of political reality, complete with congressional inquiries and multiple public mea culpas from its boy king CEO, a crisis of perception now brews.”