Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads – The New York Times

“SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.”

DL: Here is my favorite comment:

Concerned Citizen
San Francisco

Accurate facts are essential to free elections, the cornerstone and heart of our democracy. If Facebook is so arrogant as to not take any responsibility for the accuracy of what it publishes, then it’s time to break them up and shut them down. Really.

Reply26 Recommended

Opinion | Why Politicians Get a License to Lie – Charles Warzel – The New York Times

” . . . .  Throughout the Trump era, the media has often found itself caught in the newsworthiness trap. In his new book, “Why We’re Polarized,” Ezra Klein, co-founder of Vox, describes this cycle as “a fortress of tautology: Whatever we are covering is newsworthy because everyone is covering it, and the fact that everyone is covering it proves that it is newsworthy.” Part of the reason for this is, as Mr. Klein writes, “to obscure the fact that the decisions being made [by the press] are decisions at all.”

Mr. Trump exploits the media’s blind newsworthiness adherence masterfully, as the political journalists dance to his tune tweet after tweet. It is even easier for those same politicians to manipulate social media, which is designed to lure users into an endless maze of amplified newsworthiness. The press ultimately must own its editorial decisions; the tech giants refuse to even admit that they make deeply consequential editorial decisions with every approved political ad and rule change.

Incendiary content from a newsworthy individual goes viral. It is given additional coverage because it went viral. The additional coverage makes it even more newsworthy and viral. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. With each iteration misinformation spreads, outrage grows, polarization hardens and politicians and those lucky enough to be considered newsworthy grow ever emboldened.

But newsworthiness is a choice masquerading as an inevitability. Amplifying lies and empowering our most divisive politicians with an endless supply of attention is not inevitable. When the press does it uncritically, citizens rightly demand accountability. We should demand the same from Big Tech.”

Opinion | We Talked to Andrew Yang. Here’s How He’d Fix the Internet. – By Charlie Warzel – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Warzel is an Opinion writer at large.

CreditCreditMark Makela/Reuters

“This week’s Privacy Project newsletter is a pre-debate conversation with the former entrepreneur and current presidential candidate Andrew Yang. I wanted to speak to Yang since he’s the only candidate to address data privacy as a campaign policy issue. He’s a proponent of an idea that’s somewhat controversial among privacy professionals, which is that we should own our own data.

Our short conversation turned out to be pretty sprawling, touching on subjects like data dignity, whether Facebook should be able to run political ads, whether any of us have free will and what his proposed Department of the Attention Economy might look like.

This is a condensed and edited version of our conversation:

You’re the only candidate who has decided to make privacy a campaign issue. How’d you get there?

I’m an avid user of the internet and I understand that users are completely at the mercy of tech companies in terms of what happens to our data. They pretend it’s our choice. In reality, 99.9 percent of people scroll down and hit “I agree.” The trade we’re making is for cost and convenience, but in return we’re forfeiting our data.

That data is packaged and sold and resold and we are none the wiser. We occasionally get notifications of a data breachClose X and think, “Oh, snap, should I change my password?” That’s an irritation but what’s going on with our data is much bigger than that.”

This Is the Moment Rachel Maddow Has Been Waiting For – by Amanda Hess – The New York Times

“Maddow has hosted “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC at 9 p.m. five nights a week for 11 years. But over the past three, her figure has ascended, in the liberal imagination, from beloved cable-news host to a kind of oracle for the age of Trump. If her show started out as a smart, quirky, kind-of-meandering news program focusing on Republican misdeeds in the Obama years, it has become, since the 2016 election, the gathering place for a congregation of liberals hungering for an antidote to President Trump’s nihilism and disregard for civic norms.

CreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

Maddow does not administer beat-downs or deliver epic rants. She is not a master of the sound bite. Instead, she carries her viewers along on a wave of verbiage, delivering baroque soliloquies about the Russian state, Trump-administration corruption and American political history. Her show’s mantra is “increasing the amount of useful information in the world,” though the people who watch it do not exactly turn to it out of a need for more information. They already read the papers and scroll through Twitter all day. What Maddow provides is the exciting rush of chasing a set of facts until a sane vision of the world finally comes into focus.”

David Lindsay:

My good friend Vin Gulisano had me over for dinner about a few years before he died, and what he really wanted to share with me was his passion for Rachel Maddow. We watched an episode, and I was ambivalent. She was sharp and articulate, but she gave her opinions loosely, as part of the news she reported, in a way that I thought was unprofessional.

The story above by Amanda Hess describes someone who has perfected a strong story telling style. I taped her show last night, and was deeply impressed. She has truly studied, relentlessly, Trump’s relations with Russia, and it gave depth and gravity to her understanding of the problems Trump now is having with the Ukraine. Her quote, from her recently published book, was shockingly news worthy and to the point. She was the first opinion journalist to say clearly, Donald will be impreached by the house, since he has already admitted to doing what he is accused of doing, asking a foreign government to meddle in our next election to help Trump.

One of my favorite commentors at the NYT.com, Christine McMorrow, had this comment about Maddow:

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“By the time she cut to her first commercial break, she had zoomed out so far that Trump’s July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine appeared to be just one little pushpin on a map of vast global corruption.” That’s what she does, and that’s why some of us love her to death.

Yes, her monologues can be tedious (Get to the point, Rachel!) but always in the end, well worth it. She manages to pack 100 pounds of news into a 5-pound news slot, weaving and integrating building blocks of understanding. It’s truly amazing how she writes her openings, and yet, at a dime, changes them in seconds to meet the latest late-breaking.

I’ve never seen any media person like her, and consider her a rare treasure in a sea of repetitive pundits. She may urge us to watch what Trump does, not says, but in her case, I want to watch what she says, each and every night.

1 Reply625 Recommended

Opinion | Trump Is Too Dangerous for Twitter – By Kara Swisher – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Swisher covers technology and is a contributing opinion writer.

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“It’s almost as if Donald Trump is trying to get impeached.

By Twitter, I mean.

That’s where the twitchy fingers of the president of the United States have been working overtime to try to get him tossed off the digital communications service by posting all kinds of rule-breaking things and often in all caps with lots of exclamation marks — just so we don’t miss them.

But just as the internet companies have been gifted with a big hug of a law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which extends them broad immunity from controversial content that is posted on their platforms, Mr. Trump has been given an epic pass on Twitter for whatever he does.

Why? Basically, he’s been deemed newsworthy by the company.

True enough. But that means that every day and literally twice on Sunday, it’s more incendiary tweets and rage-filled tweets and appalling tweets and reckless tweets and misleading tweets and inaccurate tweets and really inaccurate tweets. And the many lies as tweets — so, so many tweet lies.”

How YouTube Radicalized Brazil – The New York Times

“NITERÓI, Brazil — When Matheus Dominguez was 16, YouTube recommended a video that changed his life.

He was in a band in Niterói, a beach-ringed city in Brazil, and practiced guitar by watching tutorials online.

YouTube had recently installed a powerful new artificial intelligence system that learned from user behavior and paired videos with recommendations for others. One day, it directed him to an amateur guitar teacher named Nando Moura, who had gained a wide following by posting videos about heavy metal, video games and, most of all, politics.

In colorful and paranoid far-right rants, Mr. Moura accused feminists, teachers and mainstream politicians of waging vast conspiracies. Mr. Dominguez was hooked.

As his time on the site grew, YouTube recommended videos from other far-right figures. One was a lawmaker named Jair Bolsonaro, then a marginal figure in national politics — but a star in YouTube’s far-right community in Brazil, where the platform has become more widely watched than all but one TV channel.”

David Lindsay:  When Elizabeth Warren included Google in her list of major Social Media and Tech companies that should be broken up and heavily regulated, I thought she had gone overboard. It turns out, she was right, and I was clueless as to what a nightmarish monster parts of Google, such as Youtube, have become, aiding and abetting the rise of facists and extreme right wingers around the world. I now join Elizabeth Warren, that Google is on the list of oversized and dangerous monoliths that have to be broken up and carefully regulated to protect democratic and open market values.

The Weekly | Facebook Love Scams: Who’s Really Behind That Friend Request? – The New York Times

Producer/Director Rolake Bamgbose

“A lonely Florida woman established a Facebook romance with a man she thought was an American soldier in Iraq. It wasn’t until she had sent him tens of thousands of dollars from her and her husband’s life savings that she learned her buff, blue-eyed friend was a fake.

Online scams may be as old as the internet, but Facebook has made it easier for scammers to victimize users longing for connection, and to draft unwitting U.S. service members into their schemes. Neither the world’s largest social network nor the world’s most powerful military seem to be able to stop it.

In a special one-hour episode of “The Weekly,” our technology reporter Jack Nicas tries to track down some of these digital con artists.”

In Push for 2020 Election Security- Top Official Was Warned: Don’t Tell Trump – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.

President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

Opinion | Think You’re Discreet Online? Think Again – The New York Times

Zeynep Tufekci

By Zeynep Tufekci

Dr. Tufekci is a professor of information science who specializes in the social effects of technology.

CreditAlexis Beauclair
“People concerned about privacy often try to be “careful” online. They stay off social media, or if they’re on it, they post cautiously. They don’t share information about their religious beliefs, personal life, health status or political views. By doing so, they think they are protecting their privacy.

But they are wrong. Because of technological advances and the sheer amount of data now available about billions of other people, discretion no longer suffices to protect your privacy. Computer algorithms and network analyses can now infer, with a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, a wide range of things about you that you may have never disclosed, including your moods, your political beliefs, your sexual orientation and your health.

There is no longer such a thing as individually “opting out” of our privacy-compromised world.

The basic idea of data inference is not new. Magazine subscriber lists have long been purchased by retailers, charities and politicians because they provide useful hints about people’s views. A subscriber to The Wall Street Journal is more likely to be a Republican voter than is a subscriber to The Nation, and so on.”

Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times

Quote

By Philip N. Howard
Professor Howard is the director of the Oxford Internet Institute and the author of “Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up.”

March 27, 2019

Some of the Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the 2016 American presidential election, released by members of the House Intelligence Committee in late 2017.
Credit
Jon Elswick/Associated Press

“Despite the best efforts of several technology firms, there still seem to be secretive groups distributing political ads without disclosing who is funding those ads. Even if Facebook starts discouraging advertisers from targeting users on the basis of race, gender or age, as it recently announced, the wealth of existing data that it has already collected will still allow advertisers to do sophisticated ad targeting.

Social media firms want to regulate themselves, and Google has threatened to withdraw all political ads in Canada if it finds transparency rules too onerous. Facebook offers political ad archives in a few countries, and searching by hand is laborious. Independent researchers can investigate trends computationally, but Facebook, Twitter and Google are doing more and more to restrict access. There is negligible access to Instagram, where huge volumes of Russian-origin misinformation now flows. Banning political ads or creating partial ad archives in some countries won’t strengthen the world’s democracies. Ad bans give incumbent politicians an unfair advantage, and establishing partial ad archives gives political ad buyers an incentive to not declare their ads as political.

Elections officials and ad regulators in the world’s democracies urgently need to sort this out: Nearly a billion people in India and across Europe will prepare to vote in the next few months, and presidential campaigning in the United States has already started. The solution is to have all technology companies put all ads, all the time, into public archives.”

via Opinion | A Way to Detect the Next Russian Misinformation Campaign – The New York Times