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Wired

Big Tech’s Election Plans Have a Blind Spot: Influencers

In the months before the 2016 election, Samuel Woolley worried a lot about bots being used to hijack political conversation online. Woolley, the director of propaganda research at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Media Engagement, found it frighteningly easy for someone to swarm the web with fake comments and posts from an automated bot network. What would stop a candidate or outside group from bombarding social media with artificial praise or slandering their opponent? Fortunately, platforms like Facebook and Twitter have developed strategies to target that kind of behavior. So now, instead of bots to boost political messaging, Woolley says, “what we’ve seen is more usage of real users.” By “real users,” Woolley means influencers. His research group has been tracking the ways political groups—from candidates to PACs to outside organizations—are increasingly turning to digital creators as part of their campaigns. It’s not just influencers with massive followings, either. Sure, Brad Pitt did a campaign ad for Joe Biden, but Woolley says highly visible celebrity endorsements overshadow campaigns’ use of nanoinfluencers, who have fewer than 10,000 followers. These more modest influencers tend to have closer relationships to their audience and higher engagement too—twice as high as bigger influencers, according to a recent industry report. And that kind of authentic connection is valuable to any advertiser, whether it’s a fashion label or a candidate running for office. “The campaigning world is years behind the brand world, and influencer marketing is already huge in the brand world, so I’d…Continue readingBig Tech’s Election Plans Have a Blind Spot: Influencers

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Mashable

Wikipedia prepares for election day misinformation

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election inches closer, much of the discourse around misinformation has centered on and . However, there’s one popular platform that’s been missing from the conversation: Wikipedia.  The popular online encyclopedia has become more trusted over the years, yet anyone can edit it. A platform like that should be ripe for misinformation. Yet, the site’s army of volunteer editors have kept the site mostly free from “fake news.” And Wikipedia has already taken some action to maintain the integrity of the site before the election. Last week, Wikipedia rolled out “” on its page, as first noticed by . This classification blocks any users from making edits to this Wikipedia entry unless they have been a registered user for at least 30 days and have made a minimum of 500 edits on the site. The move should stop any newcomers joining the page just to cause havoc by publishing fake results. Wikipedia administrators will also maintain a “watchlist” of political pages about congressional races, the election pages for each state, and other election-related entries. A longtime Wikipedia editor told Wired that additional protections are expected to roll out as well. For example, the final election results will likely only be sourced by one of the more reputable news outlets, such as the Associated Press. An experienced page administrator will likely be the one granted the power to enter the final results on the page. A scenario where nefarious users attempt to edit Wikipedia pages with unofficial…Continue readingWikipedia prepares for election day misinformation

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Mashable

Facebook’s tools for ‘at-risk’ countries in play for the U.S. election

Facebook is apparently preparing to break out the emergency tool kit to deal with the 2020 U.S. election.  These internal tools, typically reserved for use in “at-risk” countries, help to slow down the spread of viral misinformation related to an election or other major event, The Wall Street Journal reports.  Sources “familiar with the matter” say the company is ready to implement those tools if needed as the 2020 election concludes. As part of the process, Facebook will not only slow down the spread of posts as they go viral, but will also alter the news feed to change the type of content that appears. Additionally, the company might also “lower the threshold” for what its software considers to be dangerous content. Essentially, the tools are meant to help limit the amount of exposure Facebook users have to posts that contain misinformation, sensationalism, and calls for violence. While that seems like the responsible approach, WSJ‘s sources say that Facebook employees feel uneasy because it “could suppress some good-faith political discussion.” But the tech giant isn’t pulling out the tools just yet — Facebook executives said they would only carry out the changes “in dire circumstances,” such as if violence erupted in relation to the election.  But the company does need to be prepared for all types of situations as well.  This also wouldn’t be the first time Facebook had plans to combat misinformation prepared ahead of an election. As noted by WSJ, the company developed tools for the 2018 midterm…Continue readingFacebook’s tools for ‘at-risk’ countries in play for the U.S. election

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The Verge

Facebook reportedly bracing for US election chaos with tools designed for ‘at-risk’ countries

Facebook is planning for possible chaos around the November 3rd US presidential election with internal tools it’s used before in countries like Sri Lanka and Myanmar, The Wall Street Journal reported. The plans may include slowing the spread of posts as they begin to go viral, altering the news feed algorithm to change what content users see, and changing the rules for what kind of content is dangerous and warrants removal. They’re strategies Facebook has previously used in so-called “at-risk” countries dealing with mass ethnic unrest or political bloodshed. The tools would only be used in the event of election-related violence or other serious circumstances, according to the WSJ, but some employees at the company said they were concerned that attempting to slow down viral content could unintentionally hide legitimate political discussions. Facebook’s handling of violent hate speech against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar several years ago was widely criticized. After a 2018 independent assessment of the situation, the social media giant conceded it wasn’t “doing enough to help prevent our platform from being used to foment division and incite offline violence. We agree that we can and should do more.” It pledged to better prepare for future risks. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a September blog post that the US presidential election “is not going to be business as usual.” He said he was “worried that with our nation so divided and election results potentially taking days or weeks to be finalized, there could be an increased risk of…Continue readingFacebook reportedly bracing for US election chaos with tools designed for ‘at-risk’ countries

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Wired

On the Week of the Election, Social Media Must Go Dark

America has given social media giants ample time to figure out how to stop their platforms from being used to sow political discord. Yet we find ourselves stuck in an even more precarious situation than 2016—not only is the possibility of a stolen election real, democracy itself is vulnerable to a potential heist. No meaningful laws have improved the landscape. Instead, it is up to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others to show a rare sense of self-awareness and take a few days off—not as an admission of failure, but to reduce the odds of enabling harm. Social media outlets should voluntarily go silent for a few days before and after the election. A few days of silence would prevent many online attempts at election interference and would hinder President Trump’s effort to build a preemptive narrative—for example, portraying a potential blue shift (as mail-in ballots are counted) as fraudulent. WIRED OPINION ABOUT Martin Skladany is a professor of law and technology, intellectual property, and law and international development at Penn State Dickinson Law. He is the author of Copyright’s Arc (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Not only do a majority of both Democrats and Republicans support the idea of social media platforms going offline for the week of the election, there are analogous examples across the world. By law, the French observe a period of no electoral press coverage starting 44 hours before an election. In the UK, TV and radio stations are prohibited from covering the election when the polls…Continue readingOn the Week of the Election, Social Media Must Go Dark

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Engadget

Facebook and Twitter CEOs will testify in Senate hearing after the election

Facebook said at the time that it was reducing the story’s distribution until it had been reviewed by the company’s fact checking partners. A spokesperson explained that it’s “part of [the company’s] standard process to reduce the spread of misinformation.” Meanwhile, Twitter completely blocked the story’s URL from being shared via tweets and direct messages, citing its existing policies around hacked materials. The steps the platforms took reignited accusations that they have an anti—conservative political bias. As a result of the backlash, Twitter had to update its hacked materials policy and had to unblock the New York Post link. In addition to discussing the companies’ response to the Post’s story, the committee will also take the chance to “review [their] handling of the 2020 election,” since the hearing is happening a couple of weeks after Election Day. Before the executives face the Senate to testify about news suppression, though, they first have to attend a hearing about Section 230 protections on October 28th. Source linkContinue readingFacebook and Twitter CEOs will testify in Senate hearing after the election

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TechCrunch

Facebook and Twitter CEOs to testify before Congress in November on how they handled the election – TechCrunch

Shortly after voting to move forward with a pair of subpoenas, the Senate Judiciary Committee has reached an agreement that will see the CEOs of two major social platforms testify voluntarily in November. The hearing will be the second major congressional appearance by tech CEOs arranged this month. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg will answer questions at the hearing, set for November 17 — two weeks after election day. The Republican-led committee is chaired by South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who set the agenda to include the “platforms’ censorship and suppression of New York Post articles.” According to a new press release from the committee, lawmakers also plan to use the proceedings as a high-profile port-mortem on how Twitter and Facebook fared on and after election day — an issue that lawmakers on both sides will undoubtedly be happy to dig into. Republicans are eager to press the tech CEOs on how their respective platforms handled a dubious story from the New York Post purporting to report on hacked materials from presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. They view the incident as evidence of their ongoing claims of anti-conservative political bias in platform policy decisions. While Republicans on the Senate committee led the decision to pressure Zuckerberg and Dorsey into testifying, the committee’s Democrats, who sat out the vote on the subpoenas, will likely bring to the table their own questions about content moderation, as well. Source linkContinue readingFacebook and Twitter CEOs to testify before Congress in November on how they handled the election – TechCrunch

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Wired

12 Cyber Threats That Could Wreak Havoc on the Election

Wednesday night, at a brief, hastily arranged press conference at FBI headquarters, four top US national security officials announced solemnly that they had evidence that two foreign adversaries, Iran and Russia, had obtained US voter data and appeared to be trying to spread disinformation about the election. It was the latest—and most troubling—episode in a week that has seen near-daily events set off potential alarms about how the US will hold up on and approaching Election Day. In the final hours last Tuesday before the voter registration deadline in Virginia, an accidentally cut fiber-optic cable knocked out access to the state registration portal. The next morning, the New York Post published an odd, inconsistent, and poorly sourced story about Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian energy company Burisma that reeked of a ham-handed information operation. A day later came an extended outage of Twitter. Neither the Virginia cable cutting nor the Twitter outage was nefarious, though US officials continue to argue over the origins of the Burisma leaks. This week, voters in states like Alaska and Florida began reporting threatening emails, purportedly from the white supremacist group Proud Boys, saying that the targeted Democratic voters should support Donald Trump—or else. National security officials soon confirmed that the emails appeared to originate with Iran—a revelation that led to Wednesday’s press conference. FBI director Christopher Wray used the event to highlight how united and focused the nation’s security leadership is on protecting the election. “We are not going to let our guard down,”…Continue reading12 Cyber Threats That Could Wreak Havoc on the Election

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Engadget

Feds blame Russia, Iran for election misinformation and threatening emails

Threatening emails like this — purporting to be from the Proud Boys — are being sent to voters in Florida and Alaska. We do not know who is behind them, but whoever it is is taking a lot of steps to mask their identity. https://t.co/cB3RpocA5i pic.twitter.com/NjYti0ufbe — Donie O’Sullivan (@donie) October 21, 2020 His statements echoed an earlier note signed by intelligence leaders, which said that “We assess that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections.” FBI Director Christopher Wray also appeared at the press conference, and said “We’re not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election. When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re going to aggressively investigate and work with our partners, to quickly take appropriate action.” “You should be confident that your vote counts…Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.” Source linkContinue readingFeds blame Russia, Iran for election misinformation and threatening emails

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TechCrunch

VCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead – TechCrunch

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here. It was an active week in the technology world broadly, with big news from Facebook and Twitter and Apple. But past the headline-grabbing noise, there was a steady drumbeat of bullish news for unicorns, or private companies worth $1 billion or more. A bullish week for unicorns The Exchange spent a good chunk of the week looking into different stories from unicorns, or companies that will soon fit the bill, and it’s surprising to see how much positive financial news there was on tap even past what we got to write about. Databricks, for example, disclosed a grip of financial data to TechCrunch ahead of regular publication, including the fact that it grew its annual run rate (not ARR) to $350 million by the end of Q3 2020, up from $200 million in Q2 2019. It’s essentially IPO ready, but is not hurrying to the public markets. Sticking to our theme, Calm wants more money for a huge new valuation, perhaps as high as $2.2 billion which is not a surprise. That’s more good unicorn news. As was the report that “India’s Razorpay [became a] unicorn after its new $100 million funding round” that came out this week. Razorpay is only one of a number of Indian startups that have become unicorns during COVID-19. (And here’s another digest out this week concerning…Continue readingVCs reload ahead of the election as unicorns power ahead – TechCrunch