“President Biden is expected to name Tim Wu, a Columbia University law professor, to the National Economic Council on Friday as a special assistant to the president for technology and competition policy, according to a White House official, putting one of the most outspoken critics of Big Tech’s power into the administration,” the New York Times reports.
“The founder of the far-right social media platform Gab said that the private account of former President Donald Trump was among the data stolen and publicly released by hackers who recently breached the site,” Ars Technica reports.
Wired: “When Twitter banned Donald Trump and a slew of other far-right users in January, many of them became digital refugees, migrating to sites like Parler and Gab to find a home that wouldn’t moderate their hate speech and disinformation. Days later, Parler was hacked, and then it was dropped by Amazon web hosting, knocking the site offline.”
“Now Gab, which inherited some of Parler’s displaced users, has been badly hacked too. An enormous trove of its contents has been stolen—including what appears to be passwords and private communications.”
“In a swift reversal from 90 days ago, Democrats are now the ones with overpowering social media muscle and the ability to drive news,” Axios reports.
“Former President Donald Trump’s digital exile and the reversal of national power has turned the tables on which party can keep a stranglehold on online conversation.”
Washington Post: “When social media website Parler’s founding CEO John Matze was pushed out last month, it was at the direction of a quiet but powerful political megadonor backing the right-leaning site. Rebekah Mercer … increasingly pulls the strings at the company.”
“Now Mercer, who is credited with helping get Donald Trump elected president in 2016, is working to revive the site. … It’s the latest in a long line of maneuvers by the Mercer family to create an alternative media industry that pushes a version of the news that fits with their right-wing, populist political agenda — while keeping a low profile themselves.”
BuzzFeed: “In April 2019, Facebook was preparing to ban one of the internet’s most notorious spreaders of misinformation and hate, Infowars founder Alex Jones… Mark Zuckerberg didn’t consider the Infowars founder to be a hate figure, so he overruled his own internal experts and opened a gaping loophole: Facebook would permanently ban Jones and his company — but would not touch posts of praise and support for them from other Facebook users. This meant that Jones’ legions of followers could continue to share his lies across the world’s largest social network.”
“Parler, the social network that drew millions of Trump supporters before disappearing from the internet, is back online a month after Amazon and other tech giants cut off the company for hosting calls for violence around the time of the Capitol riot,” the New York Times reports.
“Getting iced out by the tech giants turned Parler into a cause celebre for conservatives who complained they were being censored, as well as a test case for the openness of the internet. It was unclear if the social network, which had positioned itself as a free speech and lightly moderated site, could survive after it had been blacklisted by the biggest tech companies.”
Facebook has been “helping” law enforcement identify people who posted photos of themselves at the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, “even after the attack was over,” Yahoo News reports.
“Facebook said it is beginning to reduce how much political content users see in their news feeds, potentially diminishing the role that the world’s largest social network plays in elections and civil discourse more broadly,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Politico: “Companies and groups like Avalanche are popping up to fill the gaping hole left by Facebook and Google’s prolonged political ad bans, which bar campaigns and political groups from running ads on their platforms to draw in small-dollar donors. By cutting off that pipeline to voters and potential supporters, the tech giants have set off a race to find new ways to reach those contributors.”
“And one old-school fundraising tactic is regaining fresh traction: buying, renting and swapping email lists, tactics that have been in use for a decade but have become newly important — and, some expect, lucrative — in the world of online politicking.”
Twitter CFO Ned Segal was asked on CNBC whether Donald Trump could ever turn to the platform in the scenario that he returns to the White House in four years.
The answer was an unequivocal no: “The way our policies work—when you’re removed from the platform, you’re removed from the platform.”
“Hackers remotely accessed the water treatment plant of a small Florida city last week and briefly changed the levels of lye in the drinking water, in the kind of critical infrastructure intrusion that cybersecurity experts have long warned about,” the New York Times reports.
John Matze, fired last month as CEO of social media app Parler, told Axios that he feels “betrayed” by investor Rebekah Mercer, the heiress daughter of hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer.
Said Matze: “I thought I knew her. She invited my family on trips with them and everything. I thought that she was, generally speaking, I thought she was being real. And then she just abruptly has her people fire me and doesn’t even talk to me about it.”
He added: “I feel like it was a stab in the back by somebody that I thought I knew. And so for me, you know, I would never do business with her again.”
New York Times: “Three decades ago, the United States spawned, then cornered, the market for hackers, their tradecraft, and their tools. But over the past decade, its lead has been slipping, and those same hacks have come boomeranging back on us. Yet no one in government has seriously paused to recalibrate the strategy.”
“America remains the world’s most advanced cyber superpower, but the hard truth, the one intelligence officials do not want to discuss, is that it is also its most targeted and vulnerable. … At this very moment, we are getting hacked from so many sides that it has become virtually impossible to keep track, let alone inform the average American reader who is trying to grasp a largely invisible threat that lives in code, written in language that most of us will never fully understand.”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) is advocating a proposal that would allow tech companies to create local governments, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports.
He said that the plan would “help strengthen Nevada’s infrastructure and economy and help generate new jobs in our state.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) is set to introduce a new bill on Monday that could hold Facebook, Google and other tech giants more directly accountable when viral online posts and videos result in real-world harm, the Washington Post reports.
“The decades-old federal rules help facilitate free expression online, but Democrats including Warner say they also allow the most profitable tech companies to skirt responsibility for hate speech, election disinformation and other dangerous content spreading across the web.”
Charlie Warzel and Stuart Thompson: “About 40 percent of the phones tracked near the rally stage on the National Mall during the speeches were also found in and around the Capitol during the siege — a clear link between those who’d listened to the president and his allies and then marched on the building.”
“While there were no names or phone numbers in the data, we were once again able to connect dozens of devices to their owners, tying anonymous locations back to names, home addresses, social networks and phone numbers of people in attendance. In one instance, three members of a single family were tracked in the data.”
Vox: “Over the years, these groups used an evolving set of organizing techniques to spread extremist messages to larger and more mainstream groups of people online. They found ways to game the algorithmic feeds of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, so that their new audiences didn’t necessarily know they were being radicalized. And there’s reason to believe this is only the beginning, since these platforms tend to amplify provocative content.”