“Many 2020 presidential campaigns may be broadly vulnerable to cyberattacks despite taking some steps to beef up security, an issue brought into fresh focus by President Trump’s comments that he might accept information from foreign governments that was damaging to his rivals,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Los Angeles Times: “Trump is using the advantage of incumbency, a huge pile of campaign cash and a clear path to his party’s nomination to build a digital operation unmatched by anything Democrats have. His campaign is testing all manner of iterations, algorithms and data-mining techniques — from the color of the buttons it uses on fundraising pitches to the audiences it targets with short videos of his speeches.”
“By the time Democrats pick a nominee, some of the party’s top digital strategists warn, Trump will have built a self-feeding machine that grows smarter by the day. His campaign has run thousands of iterations of Facebook ads — tens of thousands by some counts — sending data on response rates and other metrics gleaned from the platform to software that perpetually fine-tunes the campaign messages.”
Washington Post: “The probe announced Monday is expected to be far-reaching and could result in hearings, document requests and other demands that would put Silicon Valley’s business practices on public display at a time when Republicans and Democrats are in rare agreement that the tech giants have been unregulated for too long.”
The Guardian: “Facebook says it will continue to host a video of Nancy Pelosi that has been edited to give the impression that the Democratic House Speaker is drunk or unwell, in the latest incident highlighting its struggle to deal with disinformation.”
“Despite the apparently malicious intent of the video’s creator, Facebook has said it will only downgrade its visibility in users’ newsfeeds and attach a link to a third-party fact checking site pointing out that the clip is misleading. As a result, although it is less likely to be seen by accident, the doctored video will continue to rack up views. Facebook only took the action following inquiries from the Washington Post, which first reported the story.”
Related for members: It’s Going to Get Really Bad
“Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now spread at the speed of the Web,” the Washington Post reports.
“The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup,” was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.”
CBS News: “Facebook said it saw a ‘steep increase’ in the creation of abusive, fake accounts in the past six months. The company took down more than 3 billion fake accounts from October to March, twice as many as it did in the previous six months.”
“Facebook is still reeling from the fallout from its Cambridge Analytica scandal more than a year ago, as multiple former recruiters say candidates are turning down job offers from what was once considered the best place to work in the United States,” CNBC reports.
“Among top schools, such as Stanford, Carnegie Mellon and Ivy League universities, Facebook’s acceptance rate for full-time positions offered to new graduates has fallen from an average of 85% for the 2017-2018 school year to between 35% and 55% as of December, according to former Facebook recruiters.”
“The White House on Wednesday escalated its war against social media when it announced an unprecedented campaign asking Internet users to share stories of when they thought they were censored by Facebook, Google’s YouTube and Twitter, tapping into President Trump’s long-running claim that tech giants are biased against conservatives,” the Washington Post reports.
Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes argues in the New York Times that the social media giant must be broken up.
“Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.”
“Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.”
“Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American. It is time to break up Facebook.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders “flaunted his ground operation Saturday with what he called the ‘largest distributed day of action ever in a presidential campaign’ and announced a new online organizing tool called BERN,” NBC News reports.
“The app allows everyday supporters to contribute to the campaign’s voter database by logging names and background information of anyone from a family member to a stranger met at a bus stop. It matches each name to a voter record before noting their level of support, priority issue and even union membership.”
Motherboard: “At a Twitter all-hands meeting on March 22, an employee asked a blunt question: Twitter has largely eradicated Islamic State propaganda off its platform. Why can’t it do the same for white supremacist content?”
“An executive responded by explaining that Twitter follows the law… With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.”
“Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians… The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.”
Facebook said that it expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations after an investigation found that its handling of data had harmed consumers, the New York Times reports.
The F.T.C. opened a new investigation last year after Facebook came under fire again for the improper handling of people’s data involving Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, as well as a major data breach.
President Trump met privately with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, “a huddle at the White House between one of the site’s most prolific users and an executive who’s faced criticism for the way Twitter has handled the president’s tweets,” the Washington Post reports.
“A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers… Trump said he had heard from fellow conservatives who had lost followers for unclear reasons as well.”
“A network of more than 5,000 pro-Trump Twitter bots railed against the ‘Russiagate hoax’ shortly after the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report last week, according to data gathered by a prominent disinformation researcher and analyzed by NBC News. The network illustrates the ongoing challenge Twitter faces in persistent efforts to manipulate its platform.”
“These bots, however, did not appear to come from Russia. Instead, the bots had ties to a social media operation that previously pushed messages backing the government of Saudi Arabia and were connected to a person who claimed to be a private social media consultant.”
“German WhatsApp users are spreading far-right propaganda through the use of stickers and chain letters but the company is doing little to nothing to stop it, despite local laws forbidding the use of Nazi imagery,” BuzzFeed News reports.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), “whose mastery of social media has helped drive the national conversation and shed light on the inner workings of congressional power, has given up on the most popular social network in the world,” the Washington Post reports.
The freshman lawmaker says she stopped using her Facebook account and was scaling back on all social media, which she described as a “public health risk” because it can lead to “increased isolation, depression, anxiety, addiction, escapism.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg backs new regulations for the Internet in a Washington Post op-ed.
“By updating the rules for the Internet, we can preserve what’s best about it—the freedom for people to express themselves and for entrepreneurs to build new things—while also protecting society from broader harms.”
Zuckerberg added that he believes these updates can be broken down into four categories “harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability.”