Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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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

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

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

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

At a Facebook content moderation site, one contractor has died, and others say they fear for their lives

Casey Newton reports: Keith Utley loved to help. First, he served in the Coast Guard, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant commander. He married, had a family, and devoted himself utterly to his two little girls. After he got out of the military, he worked as a moderator for Facebook, where he purged the social network of the worst stuff that its users post on a daily basis:

With cryptocurrency launch, Facebook sets its path toward becoming an independent nation

The world’s newest country? railway fx/Shutterstock.com By Jennifer Grygiel, Syracuse University Facebook has announced a plan to launch a new cryptocurrency named the Libra, adding another layer to its efforts to dominate global communications and business. Backed by huge finance and technology companies including Visa, Spotify, eBay, PayPal and Uber – plus a ready-made user base of 2 billion people around the world – Facebook is positioned to pressure countries

Facebook’s path to global domination: Take over the internet, then the world’s financial system

Thomas Claburn writes: Facebook – the global ad business pilloried repeatedly over the past 15 years for privacy disasters – on Tuesday announced a scheme to allow account holders to buy credits and spend the digitized funds online through a network of partners, under a “strong commitment to privacy.” The antisocial network’s blockchain-tracked currency, Libra, will reside in a digital wallet named for the company’s newly formed financial services subsidiary

YouTube’s new policy on hate speech risks increasing ignorance about fascism

The Guardian reports: YouTube has blocked some British history teachers from its service for uploading archive material related to Adolf Hitler, saying they are breaching new guidelines banning the promotion of hate speech. The video-sharing website announced on Wednesday that it would remove material glorifying the Nazis from its platform in an attempt to stop people being radicalised. In the process however, it also deleted videos uploaded to help educate

Russian disinformation on YouTube draws ads, lacks warning labels, say researchers

Reuters reports: Fourteen Russia-backed YouTube channels spreading disinformation have been generating billions of views and millions of dollars in advertising revenue, according to researchers, and had not been labeled as state-sponsored, contrary to the world’s most popular streaming service’s policy. The channels, including news outlets NTV and Russia-24, carried false reports ranging from a U.S. politician covering up a human organ harvesting ring to the economic collapse of Scandinavian countries.

Facebook is an enemy of the effort to avert catastrophic climate change, scientists say

Joe Romm reports: ThinkProgress asked some experts what Facebook’s latest actions mean for the national conversation on climate change. “Facebook is complicit in spreading outright falsehoods and misinforming the public about matters of public concern,” environmental sociologist Robert Brulle wrote in an email. The company’s “refusal to take down this blatant distortion of Speaker Pelosi shows that they are an irresponsible actor, and contributing to the decline of public discourse.”

Twitter is eroding your intelligence. Now there’s data to prove it

The Washington Post reports: Twitter, used by 126 million people daily and now ubiquitous in some industries, has vowed to reform itself after being enlisted as a tool of misinformation and hate. But new evidence shows that the platform may be inflicting harm at an even more basic level. It could be making its users, well, a bit witless. The finding by a team of Italian researchers is not necessarily

Finland is winning the war on fake news. What it’s learned may be crucial to Western democracy

CNN reports: On a recent afternoon in Helsinki, a group of students gathered to hear a lecture on a subject that is far from a staple in most community college curriculums. Standing in front of the classroom at Espoo Adult Education Centre, Jussi Toivanen worked his way through his PowerPoint presentation. A slide titled “Have you been hit by the Russian troll army?” included a checklist of methods used to

A path for regulators to break up Facebook remains unclear

April Glaser writes: Facebook is big. Possibly too big. Which is why the chorus of experts and former Facebookers who think it’s time to break the company up is getting louder. Last Thursday, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes wrote a mammoth op-ed in the New York Times about why the company that made him very wealthy should be less powerful. In his view, the way to do that is to make

Trump’s social media bias reporting project is a data collection tool in disguise

Casey Newton writes: Three years ago this month, Mark Zuckerberg gathered together a group of influential conservatives to defend Facebook against allegations of political bias. The company had found itself under pressure after Gizmodo reported that the editors who then worked for Facebook “routinely suppressed conservative news” from its since-abandoned Trending Topics module. It hoped that a roundtable discussion with Glenn Beck, Fox News host Dana Perino, and others would

Trump administration balks at global pact to crack down on online extremism

The New York Times reports: The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would not sign an international accord intended to pressure the largest internet platforms to eradicate violent and extremist content, highlighting a broader divide between the United States and other countries over government’s role in determining what content is acceptable online. Citing free speech protections, the administration said in a statement that “the United States is not currently

Facebook busts Israel-based campaign to disrupt elections

The Associated Press reports: Facebook said Thursday it banned an Israeli company that ran an influence campaign aimed at disrupting elections in various countries and has canceled dozens of accounts engaged in spreading disinformation. Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, told reporters that the tech giant had purged 65 Israeli accounts, 161 pages, dozens of groups and four Instagram accounts. Although Facebook said the individuals behind the network attempted