Neo-Nazi blogger, Andrew Anglin, celebrates Trump’s latest racist tweets

The ADL reports:

President Trump’s recent racist tweet, posted on Sunday, July 14, was greeted with enthusiasm by white supremacists and other extremists.

Mr. Trump’s inference that four U.S. Representatives who are women of color – Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayana Pressley (D-MA) – are not U.S. citizens, and that they should “go back” to their “original” countries, was echoed and applauded online by a raft of racist extremists.

Neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin was apparently thrilled by the tweets, posting on his popular Daily Stormer website: “Man, President Trump’s Twitter account has been pure fire lately. This might be the funniest thing he’s ever tweeted. This is the kind of WHITE NATIONALISM we elected him for. And we’re obviously seeing it only because there’s another election coming up. But I’ll tell you, even knowing that, it still feels so good.”

Anglin also emphasized the political implications of Mr. Trump telling people of color to “go back” to their countries: “This is what elected Trump and this is what will always be the best way for him to gain support,” and underscored the importance of these comments being directed at U.S. citizens, particularly Rep. Pressley, who was born in Cincinnati: “So this is not some half-assed anti-immigrant white nationalism. Trump is literally telling American blacks to go back to Africa.” [Continue reading…]

Neo-Nazi blogger, Andrew Anglin, ordered to pay $14 million to woman targeted in racist ‘troll storm’

BuzzFeed reports:

A federal judge ruled more than $14 million should be awarded to a woman who was barraged with anti-Semitic and threatening messages online after a neo-Nazi blogger instructed his followers to target her and her family with a “troll storm.”

The ruling was handed down Monday against Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist and publisher of the website The Daily Stormer.

In his decision, judge Jeremiah Lynch found that Anglin “acted with actual malice” when he told followers: “Let’s Hit Em Up. Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm? Because AYO – it’s time, fam.”

What followed were a series of racist and sometimes threatening messages to Montana real estate agent Tanya Gersh, her co-workers, and her family, including her 12-year-old son. [Continue reading…]

Twitter finds no fault in Trump’s racism

CNN reports:

President Trump’s weekend tweets in which he used racist language to attack four progressive Democratic congresswomen are not against Twitter’s rules, a company spokesperson told CNN Business Monday — a conclusion apparently contradicted by Twitter’s written policies.

The episode represents a tough first test for a new stance Twitter announced less than a month ago, in which it will label and down-rank tweets from Trump and other world leaders that break its rules, rather than removing them.

Trump has repeatedly tested Twitter’s community standards with his regular tirades on the platform. Some of the president’s tweets have run afoul of Twitter’s rules. [Continue reading…]

Instagramming ourselves to death

The Wall Street Journal reports:

A decade ago, fewer than 40,000 people a year came to Horseshoe Bend, officials in Page said. Now an estimated two million converge annually on the attraction, according to the National Park Service, which manages Horseshoe Bend as part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The main reason for the onslaught, officials say, is its popularity on social media.

Before Instagram, “no one really talked about Horseshoe Bend,” said Levi Tappan, the mayor of Page, population 8,000. “It was just another spot on the river.”

Across the U.S., smartphone-wielding masses are converging on picturesque attractions that many learned of on social media. The teeming crowds are creating problems that range from traffic to trash to deaths. Five people have fallen off the edge of Horseshoe Bend and died since 2017. The last such fatality had been in 2010, according to National Park Service statistics.

People have also fallen while taking pictures at the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. California’s Big Sur coast and Colorado’s Hanging Lake have been soiled by trampling of vegetation and discarded human waste. [Continue reading…]

Trump can’t block critics from his Twitter account, appeals court rules

The New York Times reports:

President Trump has been violating the Constitution by blocking people from following his Twitter account because they criticized or mocked him, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday. The ruling could have broader implications for how the First Amendment applies to the social-media era.

Because Mr. Trump uses Twitter to conduct government business, he cannot exclude some Americans from reading his posts — and engaging in conversations in the replies to them — because he does not like their views, a three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled unanimously.

Writing for the panel, Judge Barrington D. Parker noted that the conduct of the government and its officials are subject today to a “wide-open, robust debate” that “generates a level of passion and intensity the likes of which have rarely been seen.”

The First Amendment prohibits an official who uses a social media account for government purposes from excluding people from an “otherwise open online dialogue” because they say things the official disagrees with, he wrote. [Continue reading…]

Tim Wu explains why Facebook should be broken up

Nicholas Thompson interviewed Tim Wu:

Nicholas Thompson: What I’m going to do here is present the arguments that Mark Zuckerberg gave on antitrust yester­day in the fairest way I can, and then, Tim, I want you to respond. So it’ll be a bit like Tim being on stage yesterday.

Mark made two arguments, and the company often makes a third. Number one, if you break the large platforms into smaller companies, they will not compete on the stuff you want. They won’t compete on making their platform safer, they won’t compete on privacy. They’ll only compete on the stuff you don’t want, which is unadulterated growth. And if you have smaller platforms, they won’t be able to do things like hire 30,000 people to find all the bad stuff on Facebook. That is argument number one.

Argument number two: If you break up the large American tech companies, you will give an advantage to China, because there are certain technologies where you need large companies. For example, many kinds of artificial intelligence require massive data sets and massive compute, which you only have at the large tech companies. And it’s not like China is going after Alibaba. So as we head toward a technological cold war, the US government is kicking the tech platforms in the shins while the Chinese government is helping their large companies. So that’s number two. Mark didn’t make that yesterday, but others at Facebook have.

Number three: Tim, you have very specifically said that the antitrust remedy to Facebook is to split apart Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, to unwind those mergers. You can argue whether they should have been approved or not. But they were approved. You said unwind them. And what Mark said yesterday is, hey, sometimes mergers are bad, no question. But these mergers were not. Instagram had 13 employees when Facebook bought it. It didn’t have an Android app. Without Facebook, Instagram doesn’t become what it is. It has become much more innovative because of Facebook, and the same can be said of WhatsApp.

So if you could take on those three arguments, we’ll go through them.

Tim Wu: Pleased to. Let me make a preface here and talk about my greater mission. I believe that we need to reinvigorate a great American tradition, and that is the tradition of antitrust. I think we have lost some of our pioneering spirit. It’s long been part of the American tradition to believe in competition, to believe in competitive markets, and Americans have always rebelled against concentrated power. A big part of the Constitution is dividing up power to make sure no one has too much. And it’s a big part of what we did in in 1890, in 1914, and again in 1950: pass antitrust laws, the goals of which were to put some controls on private power, and to keep markets competitive and prevent them from just becoming two or three big players. So that’s my big mission. That’s the curse of bigness. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m happy to take those arguments on in reverse order.

The first is the easiest. Mark Zuckerberg wrote an email when he was acquiring Instagram that was disclosed in the New York Post, and it suggests he was buying Instagram because he saw it as a competitive threat. Now, it is a felony under US law to buy companies that you believe are competitive threats to you. And so he was actually acting in a way that was illegal when he bought Instagram. The idea that Instagram would be nothing without the infusion of Facebook’s capital is untrue. Instagram already had enormous amounts of venture capital funding; they were kind of rolling in money. Also, and this is more important, what Mark Zuckerberg didn’t mention was that Twitter was trying to buy Instagram, to turn Instagram into a Facebook killer. Instagram was the most dangerous company for Facebook. Facebook had already destroyed a company like it, MySpace, earlier. Instagram was a bigger threat for two reasons: First, it was much stronger on mobile; second, it was better at photo sharing. As a commentator said at the time, Instagram had Facebook’s Achilles heel. The American way is that we believe in competition and that companies should fight it out, not buy each other when there’s serious competition. We established that principle with the Standard Oil Company. So the purchase of Instagram was, in terms of intent and effect, an illegal transaction. [Continue reading…]

Russian Twitter propaganda predicted 2016 U.S. election polls

Trump’s poll numbers went up after high levels of Russian troll activity, though Clinton’s didn’t go down.
AP/Mary Altaffer, Chuck Burton

By Damian Ruck, University of Bristol

When Robert Mueller completed his long-awaited investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, he left many questions unanswered.

But one conclusion was unequivocal: Russia unleashed an extensive campaign of fake news and disinformation on social media with the aim of distorting U.S. public opinion, sowing discord and swinging the election in favor of the Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Because of Mueller’s work (and that of countless other journalists and academics) it can now be said with certainty that Russian trolls tried to change what Americans thought during the 2016 election.

The unanswered, and much harder question is: Were they successful?

We may be a step closer to knowing the answer.

In a statistical analysis published in First Monday , my team and I tracked the activity of Russian social media trolls on Twitter in the run up to the 2016 election.

We then compared the fluctuating popularity of this propaganda with that of the two presidential candidates: Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

We found that exposure to Russian propaganda may have helped change American minds in favor of Republican candidate Trump.

[Read more…]

The looming information apocalypse

Charlie Warzel reports:

In mid-2016, Aviv Ovadya realized there was something fundamentally wrong with the internet — so wrong that he abandoned his work and sounded an alarm. A few weeks before the 2016 election, he presented his concerns to technologists in San Francisco’s Bay Area and warned of an impending crisis of misinformation in a presentation he titled “Infocalypse.”

The web and the information ecosystem that had developed around it was wildly unhealthy, Ovadya argued. The incentives that governed its biggest platforms were calibrated to reward information that was often misleading and polarizing, or both. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google prioritized clicks, shares, ads, and money over quality of information, and Ovadya couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all building toward something bad — a kind of critical threshold of addictive and toxic misinformation. The presentation was largely ignored by employees from the Big Tech platforms — including a few from Facebook who would later go on to drive the company’s NewsFeed integrity effort.

“At the time, it felt like we were in a car careening out of control and it wasn’t just that everyone was saying, ‘we’ll be fine’ — it’s that they didn’t even see the car,” he said.

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.

“Alarmism can be good — you should be alarmist about this stuff,” Ovadya said one January afternoon before calmly outlining a deeply unsettling projection about the next two decades of fake news, artificial intelligence–assisted misinformation campaigns, and propaganda. “We are so screwed it’s beyond what most of us can imagine,” he said. “We were utterly screwed a year and a half ago and we’re even more screwed now. And depending how far you look into the future it just gets worse.”

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, for which terms have already been coined — “reality apathy,” “automated laser phishing,” and “human puppets.”

Which is why Ovadya, an MIT grad with engineering stints at tech companies like Quora, dropped everything in early 2016 to try to prevent what he saw as a Big Tech–enabled information crisis. “One day something just clicked,” he said of his awakening. It became clear to him that, if somebody were to exploit our attention economy and use the platforms that undergird it to distort the truth, there were no real checks and balances to stop it. “I realized if these systems were going to go out of control, there’d be nothing to reign them in and it was going to get bad, and quick,” he said. [Continue reading…]

Twitter’s new labels for tweets that break its rules may have stark implications for Trump’s account

The Washington Post reports:

Twitter on Thursday said it would begin labeling tweets from national political figures, including President Trump, that the company would have taken down under other circumstances for violating its rules, a move that could appease some longtime critics at the cost of opening a new political rift with the White House.

The new policy applies to political candidates and government officials who have more than 100,000 followers, Twitter said. Before users can view tweets that the company has flagged as a violation of its policy, they will need to click on a screen that says: “The Twitter Rules about abusive behavior apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”

Twitter said it would also de-prioritize the labeled tweets in the company’s algorithms and search bar so that they would circulate to fewer people. The company has set up a special team tasked with enforcing the new policy, and the notification label will appear only on rare occasions.

Twitter’s new decision to label tweets comes at a moment when technology companies are under immense pressure to better monitor and police their platforms for extremism, hate speech, violence and abuse. In response, some social media companies are embracing ideas they have long resisted.

Reddit, for example, opted on Wednesday to “quarantine” the biggest forum for supporters of President Trump after years of complaints that it had become a hub for conspiracy theories and violent threats. At Facebook, meanwhile, company officials on Thursday revealed more details about its nascent plan to create an oversight board of outside experts to help make decisions about how the company polices content. Before this week, Twitter had maintained that even vitriolic tweets from national leaders such as Trump should remain in full public view, arguing that it is in voters’ interest to see the president’s views unfettered.

But Silicon Valley’s latest efforts could touch off another sort of controversy — continued attacks from Trump and other Republicans who contend they are biased against conservatives. [Continue reading…]

Facebook doesn’t want to continue serving as an instrument of genocide

NBC News reports:

Steps away from the glass-enclosed office suite of Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s No. 2 executive, a team of employees has been taking shape with a mission that’s become critical to the tech giant’s future: avoid contributing to another genocide.

The driving force behind the team is the company’s blotted legacy in Myanmar, the southeast Asian nation where, according to United Nations researchers, Facebook became the go-to tool for spreading propaganda that helped drive a genocide of a religious minority, the Rohingya, that is estimated to have killed more than 10,000 people since the beginning of 2017.

Called Strategic Response, the team is a mix of the kind of people who have typically been found in either governments or multinational corporations with far-reaching interests. The team’s formation, which started in spring of last year and recently ramped up hiring, represents the latest evolution in the Silicon Valley’s culture: less “move fast and break things,” and more thinking through the harm they are adding to half a world away.

It’s also an implicit acknowledgement that Facebook, up until just a few years ago seen as an innocuous app for sharing photos and catching up with distant friends, has grown beyond its roots and must now embrace its emergence as a global company that plays a part in the daily lives of more than 2 billion people. [Continue reading…]