A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Thursday that would require online political advertisers to provide additional disclosures about who’s paying for their ads, but the measure may prove a half-step toward preventing foreign adversaries from influencing US elections online.Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar introduced the much-anticipated Honest Ads Act, co-sponsored by Republican Sen. John McCain."Our entire democracy was founded on the simple idea that the people in our country should be self governing," Klobuchar said.But the design of digital platforms, which unlike radio and television allow virtually anyone to create content, means rules aimed only at advertisements will have limited effect.“It’s a good piece of legislation to address the modern realities of campaign financing and the need for disclosure,” says Adam Sharp, former head of news, government, and elections at Twitter.It would require tech platforms with at least 50 million monthly users in the United States to "maintain and make available for online public inspection" a record of advertisers who spend at least $500 on the platform advertising on campaign issues, or issues of "national legislative importance."
Hillary Clinton has accused WikiLeaks of being a "subsidiary of Russian intelligence" and slammed its founder Julian Assange as a "nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator."In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Four Corners scheduled to air Monday (16 October) night, the former Democratic presidential candidate alleged that Assange worked with a Russian intelligence operation to interfere in the 2016 election and damage her bid for the White House."Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator," Clinton told ABC's Sarah Ferguson.In January, US intelligence agencies concluded that Putin ordered a complex, multifaceted influence campaign that included cyberattacks, misinformation campaigns and more to undermine American democracy, hurt Clinton's chances and help Trump win the presidency.The 25-page report also assessed with "high confidence" that the Russian government directed the hacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic officials before relaying the stolen material over to WikiLeaks to publish online."Our intelligence community and other observers of Russia and Putin have said he held a grudge against me because as secretary of state, I stood up against some of his actions, his authoritarianism," Clinton said.
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It is not clear whether Facebook could be held liable for allowing ads purchased by foreign entities to run on its platform.Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg told Axios' Mike Allen on Thursday that the company would not have removed the political ads purchased by accounts operating out of Russia if they had been posted by real people rather than fake accounts.When you allow free expression, you allow free expression, and that means you allow people to say things that you don't like and that go against your core beliefs.Laura Rosenberger, director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States, said Friday that Sandberg's comments miss the point.While it is illegal for a foreign government or entity to spend money on political ads in an attempt to sway a US election, "there is no doubt disagreement over which ads are covered by the prohibition," said election law and campaign finance expert Rick Hasen."At the least, ads that contain express advocacy (such as ads saying 'Vote for Stein,' as is alleged to be within the group of Facebook ads), would be illegal," said Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine.
Divisive political posts linked to Russian operatives ended up in an unexpected place during the 2016 U.S. presidential election: PinterestThe social bookmarking site, which is popular for wedding planning, home decor and recipe ideas, also found Russian-linked posts on its platform, The Washington Post reported.Pinterest users were saving or “pinning” this content onto their digital scrap boards from other websites, including social networks Facebook and Twitter.In September, Facebook said that 470 fake accounts and pages that appear to be linked to Russian entities ran roughly 3,000 ads from 2015 to 2017.“We believe the fake Facebook content was so sophisticated that it tricked real Americans into saving it to Pinterest,” Pinterest head of public policy Charlie Hale told the media outlet.“We’ve removed the content brought to our attention and continue to investigate.”
We live in a system where corporations and the state work together to take control of our information, our communications, and potentially even our future digital souls.It is a simple human right that is essential for a functioning democracy, recognized as such after WW2 and enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.It was a time of relative peace after the Cold War and before the horrors of September 11, 2001, when the gloves came off in the War on Terror.Innocent people were sent to prison due to suppressed evidence in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in London.State manipulates news and politicsI witnessed government agencies manipulate the news through guile and charm, at times even writing it themselves.
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According to Bloomberg, Facebook has for years fought to avoid being transparent about who's behind election-related ads online."Since 2011, Facebook has asked the Federal Election Commission for blanket exemptions from political advertising disclosure rules -- transparency that could have helped it avoid the current crisis over Russia ad spending ahead of the 2016 U.S. election," reports Bloomberg.From the report: Communications law requires traditional media like TV and radio to track and disclose political ad buyers.The rule doesn't apply online, an exemption that's helped Facebook's self-serve advertising business generate hundreds of millions of dollars in political campaign spots.When the company was smaller, the issue was debated in some policy corners of Washington.Now that the social network is such a powerful political tool, with more than 2 billion users, the topic is at the center of a debate about the future of American democracy.
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Two members of Congress penned a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Tuesday expressing concerns over the spread of racism on the platform.Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)said in the letter to Dorsey (embedded below) that they were concerned about Twitter and other social media platforms “being used for the purpose of propagating hate and undermining democracy.”They cited the use of Twitter accounts by Russian operatives to sway the results of the 2016 presidential elections in the U.S., as well as the fact that people “feel comfortable sharing racist ideologies” on the social network.Coleman and Cleaver urged Dorsey to “clearly outline” what efforts Twitter has made to detect the Russian operatives’ accounts, security measures that have been enacted to prevent further abuses and the reporting process by which the government and the public will be informed about such issues.The two representatives threatened “increased regulations and government oversight of this industry” if the issues they mentioned were not addressed, adding, “In this constantly evolving technological environment, we believe that it is incumbent on Twitter to be proactive in seeking out solutions to combat the racial animus that is being spread on your social networking platform.
If you’ve never been to a city council meeting, consider yourself lucky.Political operatives know them as “the squeaky wheel challenge,” while polling professionals talk about the “STP problem,” otherwise known as the “the same ten people problem.”But now a startup in Madison, Wisconsin wants to break this dysfunctional cycle of civic engagement by offering a new communication platform that gives citizens a straightforward way to voice their opinions and ideas to elected officials and policy makers.On the flip side, it helps cities, counties, nonprofits and school districts conduct verified policy polling with powerful data visualization tools to help them find the best ways to move forward.The company is called Polco, a shortening of the concept “Political Compass.” The platform is the brainchild of two veterans of military and public service who have assembled an A-team of economists, engineers, policy experts and entrepreneurs to bring their concept to the masses.Admittedly, co-founders Alex Pedersen and Nick Mastronardi have extraordinary backgrounds for two guys entering the wild-west world of startups.
Facebook Inc. on Monday said it estimates 10 million people saw ads it has discovered on its platform paid for by Russian entities, but warned that it may not have uncovered all malicious activity that attempted to interfere in the American political process.The revelation from Facebook quantifies for the first time the spread of the known Russian activity since the social network said last month it had identified 470 “inauthentic” Russian-backed accounts responsible for $100,000 in advertising spending.Facebook on Monday presented congressional investigators with data on 3,000 ads bought by the Russian actors before and after the U.S. presidential election.Half of the ads cost less than $3 to run.“We hope that by cooperating with Congress, the special counsel and our industry partners, we will help keep bad actors off our platform,” Facebook said in a statement Monday.“What should alarm the American people is the brazen exploitation and distortion of popular opinion by a hostile foreign power, amounting to really an attack on our democracy, to disrupt our election by surreptitiously targeting voters in certain places with certain backgrounds and views,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Monday.
Like a lot of children of the 1950s, William Gibson grew up haunted by the specter of the atomic bomb, and enthralled by science fiction stories.His latest project combines his two childhood preoccupations by imagining a very different outcome to World War II—one in which America bombed its allies in the Soviet Union as well as its foes in Japan, and went on to rule the world as its sole nuclear power.And in the 21st century, things gets even darker when a string of nuclear bombs are detonated across the globe, turning the Earth into an irradiated hellscape that can only be escaped through time travel.The book, illustrated by Butch Guise, opens with a scene that reads like the logical end of that Cold War nuclear anxiety: a nightmarish montage of the world’s largest cities in ruin, iconic landmarks like Big Ben and the Kremlin destroyed.Although the cause of the chain reaction is unclear, democracy has died in the aftermath, leaving a dictatorial President-for-Life in charge of the wasteland.If you’re thinking “create a super-advanced machine and send people back in time to 1945 Berlin to change the course of World War II,” then you and Gibson are on the same page.
As a young hotshot in the 1960s, Robertson had defied the engineering establishment to erect the iconic skyscrapers.In his reckoning, Robertson managed to avoid the twin seductions of defensiveness and self-savagery—and took responsibility for his work.Mark Zuckerberg, an engineer in another key, has also seen his magnum opus breached, with a force that may yet shatter it.Over the past two and a half years, Facebook’s integrity as a place that “helps you connect and share with the people in your life” has been all but laid to waste—as it has served as a clearinghouse for propaganda, disinformation, fake news, and fraud accounts.When President Obama reportedly urged Zuckerberg to take seriously that Facebook could be exploited by hostile powers intent on undermining democracy, even then Zuckerberg shrugged.That impression was bolstered when he later hired Joel Benenson, a former campaign adviser to Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The past seven days have seen a depressing lack of support for the massive humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, the complicated response to the death of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, and a shift in the diplomatic relationship between the US and Cuba for the strangest of reasons.The official reasoning was, as revealed via blog post, to improve communication in languages other than English, but no one on Twitter was buying that.Beyond garden-variety complaints, there were two common threads in the response to the change.But perhaps this was merely the latest in a long line of bad/weird decisions from Twitter?The Takeaway: Take a minute, if you can, to consider the true victims of this new switch: those who have perfected the 140 character format.As Mark Zuckerberg offhandedly dismissed claims of Russian interference and declared Facebook was "a platform for all ideas and force for good in democracy," Twitter released its own review of its presence in the political sphere.
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An anonymous reader quotes Silicon Beat: Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak penned an op-ed on Friday with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, urging the current FCC to stop its proposed rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations.In the op-ed published by USA Today, Wozniak and Michael Copps, who led the FCC from 2001 to 2011, argued the rollback will threaten freedom for internet users and may corrode democracy... "Sometimes there's a nugget of truth to the adage that Washington policymakers are disconnected from the people they purport to represent," they wrote."It is a stirring example of democracy in action.With the Internet's future as a platform for innovation and democratic discourse on the line, a coalition of grassroots and diverse groups joined with technology firms to insist that the FCC maintain its 2015 open internet (or 'net neutrality') rules."In the joint letter, Wozniak and Copps write that "We come from different walks of life, but each of us recognizes that the FCC is considering action that could end the internet as we know it -- a dynamic platform for entrepreneurship, jobs, education, and free expression.""Will consumers and citizens control their online experiences, or will a few gigantic gatekeepers take this dynamic technology down the road of centralized control, toll booths and constantly rising prices for consumers?
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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak penned an op-ed on Friday with a former Federal Communications Commission chairman, urging the current FCC to stop its proposed rollback of Obama-era net neutrality regulations.In the op-ed published by USA Today, Wozniak and Michael Copps, who led the FCC from 2001 to 2011, argued the rollback will threaten freedom for internet users and may corrode democracy.It’s the right thing for us as consumers and as citizens.”Net neutrality is a longstanding digital principle that internet service providers should treat all web traffic equally and fairly.This means providers cannot prefer one website or service over the other by granting unequal loading speeds or by blocking or slowing content.In 2015, the FCC passed a resolution to reclassify providers like public utilities and subjected them to tougher regulations.
Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook Wednesday to once more defend himself and his platform.Responding to a cavalierly-tweeted charge of anti-Trump bias from the President of the United States, Zuckerberg again repeated his claim that Facebook was [a platform for all ideas,” and that, contrary to unfolding public opinion, his company did much more to further democracy than to stifle it.“There were billions of interactions discussing the issues that may never have happened offline.” He also pointed to the number of candidates that used Facebook to communicate, and the amount of money they spent publishing political advertising on his platform.In his first letter to investors in 2012, he wrote that “people sharing more … leads to a better understanding of the lives and perspectives of others” and “helps people get exposed to a greater number of diverse perspectives.”These arguments rest on a simple equation: The amount of information that a population shares is directly proportional to the quality of its democracy.And, as a corollary: the more viewpoints that get exposed, the greater the collective empathy and understanding.
But, after being gamed by dark forces with an eye on disrupting global politics, they're being forced to rip up and rewrite the playbook.In response to the backlash around the spread of fake news, or more accurately false information, during Brexit and the US presidential election, Facebook has taken a different approach to the recent federal election in Germany.In an abrupt volte-face, Zuckerberg now says his company is “taking steps to protect election integrity and make sure Facebook is a force of good in democracy”.In response, the US House Intelligence Committee has announced it will hold a public hearing on the matter of Russian election influence and has invited Facebook, Google and Twitter to testify.Twitter has also come under fire for its role in allowing bot accounts to spread false information on divisive issues.In addition, there’s evidence of Russian-linked accounts that posed as Americans – highlighting the network’s struggles to get a grip on fake accounts.
The theft of an estimated 143 million Americans’ personal details in the breach of consumer-credit reporting agency Equifax and the Russian hack of the U.S. elections through Facebook had one thing in common: They were partly possible because our personal data has no legal protections.Our privacy laws were designed in the days of the telegraph and are badly in need of modernization.Much damage has already been done to our finances, privacy, and democracy — but worse lies ahead.Credit bureaus have long been gathering information about our earnings, spending habits, and loan-repayment histories in order to determine our credit-worthiness.Our smartphones know everywhere we go and can keep track of our health and emotions.Facebook required its users to grant it “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content” they posted to the site.
During the half century that they ruled the country, Myanmar’s military dictators occasionally turned to astrology for policy decisions.In the late ’80s, for example, the government switched the currency from units of 10 to nine, a more auspicious number.More recently, after an astrologer reportedly warned of an imminent American air strike, the capital was relocated from Yangon to a half-finished outpost in the middle of a jungle.Because of the dictatorship’s rigid controls on everything from media to education, hardly anyone had a mobile phone, and internet access was severely limited.Aung San Suu Kyi, a founder of the National League for Democracy, was freed from house arrest in 2010.I loved the Six Million Dollar Man and James Bond for all their technology.
Attempts by Russia-linked social media accounts to influence events in the US apparently weren't limited to last year's US election.A network of Twitter accounts suspected of links to Russia were used this weekend to stoke the controversy over whether NFL players should stand for pregame performances of the national anthem, The New York Times reported late Wednesday.The accounts pushed both sides of the debate, using hashtags such as boycottnfl, standforouranthem and takeaknee, the newspaper reported.Researchers at the Alliance for Securing Democracy have been publicly tracking 600 Twitter accounts they have linked to Russian influence operations.Those accounts, operated by human users and suspected bots alike, pushed the opposing messages surrounding the NFL and the playing of the national anthem, researchers said.Twitter didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reddit could join Facebook and Twitter as a target for federal investigators exploring Russian influence over the 2016 presidential election, according to a spokesperson for Senator Mark Warner, the ranking Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee.Warner’s staff indicated to the Guardian that, while nothing was imminent, the senator has considered examining the site as the question of 2016 election interference lingers on in parallel congressional and FBI investigations.“[Reddit] is one of the forums that some of the coordinated information campaigns happened on,” Samantha Bradshaw, a researcher at Oxford University, told the Hill.Bradshaw studies how governments use social media to influence public opinion, and said she had witnessed patterns on the site that suggested a deliberate effort to distribute false news.The discussion site is one of the 10 most visited websites in the US, along with Google, Facebook and Twitter, and is considered by many to be the internet’s stepping stone between mainstream social media and more niche sites such as 4chan.Unlike Facebook, which more aggressively polices content it deems harmful, Reddit is known for much looser rules and restrictions, which is part of why the site has been identified at various times as a safe haven for internet trolls, cyberbullies, and Nazi and white supremacist groups.
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