disinformation

White House shares manipulated Infowars video to justify CNN press ban

Read this slowly: The White House’s press secretary has tweeted a manipulated video shared by the editor-at-large of conspiracy theorist outlet Infowars to attempt to justify its decision to suspend the press credentials of CNN’s chief white house correspondent. CNN’s Jim Acosta had his press pass pulled by the White House earlier today after press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed he had “plac[ed] his hands on a young woman just trying to do her job”. Acosta disputes this. The journalist had being trying to continue asking president Trump questions during a contentious exchange at a White House press briefing. During this exchange Trump cut over him verbally — saying “that’s enough” — at which point a female White House intern moved towards Acosta and attempted to take the microphone out of...

Facebook is facing an EU data probe over fake ads

The UK’s privacy watchdog has asked Facebook’s lead EU regulator to look into ongoing data protection concerns about its ad platform — including how its platform is being used to target and spread fake adverts to try to manipulate voters. Facebook’s international HQ is in Ireland so the regulator in play here is the Irish Data Protection Commission. The ICO noted the action in a 113-page report to parliament yesterday giving an update on its long-running investigation into the use of data analytics in political campaigns — writing: We have referred our ongoing concerns about Facebook’s targeting functions and techniques that are used to monitor individuals’ browsing habits, interactions and behaviour across the internet and different devices to the to the IDPC. Under the GDPR, the IDPC is ...

Twitter removes thousands of accounts that tried to dissuade Democrats from voting

Twitter has deleted thousands of automated accounts posting messages that tried to discourage and dissuade voters from casting their ballot in the upcoming election next week. Some 10,000 accounts were removed across late September and early October after they were first flagged by staff at the Democratic Party, the company has confirmed. “We removed a series of accounts for engaging in attempts to share disinformation in an automated fashion – a violation of our policies,” said a Twitter spokesperson in an email to TechCrunch. “We stopped this quickly and at its source.” But the company did not provide examples of the kinds of accounts it removed, or say who or what might have been behind the activity. The accounts posed as Democrats and try to convince key demographics to stay at home an...

Fake news ‘threat to democracy’ report gets back-burner response from UK gov’t

The UK government has rejected a parliamentary committee’s call for a levy on social media firms to fund digital literacy lessons to combat the impact of disinformation online. The recommendation of a levy on social media platforms was made by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee three months ago, in a preliminary report following a multi-month investigation into the impact of so-called ‘fake news’ on democratic processes. Though it has suggested the terms ‘misinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ be used instead, to better pin down exact types of problematic inauthentic content — and on that at least the government agrees. But just not on very much else. At least not yet. Among around 50 policy suggestions in the interim report — which the committee put out quickly exactly to call ...

Civil, the blockchain journalism startup, has partnered with one of the oldest names in media

Civil, the two-year-old crypto startup that wants to save the journalism industry by leveraging the blockchain and cryptoeconomics, has partnered with the 172-year-old Associated Press to help the wire service stop bad actors from stealing its content. Civil, using its blockchain-enabled licensing mechanism, which is still in development, will help the AP track where its content is going and whether it’s licensed correctly. In exchange, the AP has granted the newsrooms in Civil’s network licenses to its content. Civil, which has raised $5 million from the blockchain venture studio ConsenSys, plans to make the licensing tool available to all the newsrooms in its ecosystem once it’s up and running. Matthew Iles, the founder and CEO of Civil, told TechCrunch he wants the company to become the...

Facebook buys ads in Indian newspapers to warn about WhatsApp fakes

As Twitter finally gets serious about purging fake accounts, and YouTube says it will try to firefight conspiracy theories and fake news flaming across its platform with $25M to fund bona fide journalism, Facebook-owned WhatsApp is grappling with its own fake demons in India, where social media platforms have been used to seed and spread false rumors — fueling mob violence and leading to number of deaths in recent years. This week Facebook has taken out full page WhatsApp -branded adverts in Indian newspapers to try to stem the tide of life-threatening digital fakes spreading across social media platforms in the region with such tragic results. It’s not the first time the company has run newspaper ads warning about fake news in India, though it does appear to be first time it’s responded t...

Facebook’s dark ads problem is systemic

Facebook’s admission to the UK parliament this week that it had unearthed unquantified thousands of dark fake ads after investigating fakes bearing the face and name of well-known consumer advice personality, Martin Lewis, underscores the massive challenge for its platform on this front. Lewis is suing the company for defamation over its failure to stop bogus ads besmirching his reputation with their associated scams. Lewis decided to file his campaigning lawsuit after reporting 50 fake ads himself, having been alerted to the scale of the problem by consumers contacting him to ask if the ads were genuine or not. But the revelation that there were in fact associated “thousands” of fake ads being run on Facebook as a clickdriver for fraud shows the company needs to change its entire system, ...

Some hard truths about Twitter’s health crisis

It’s a testament to quite how control freaky and hermetically sealed to criticism the tech industry is that Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey went unscripted in front of his own brand livestreaming service this week, inviting users to lob awkward questions at him for the first time ever. It’s also a testament to how much trouble social media is in. As I’ve written before, ‘fake news’ is an existential crisis for platforms whose business model requires them to fence vast quantities of unverified content uploaded by, at best, poorly verified users. No content, no dice, as it were. But things get a whole lot more complicated when you have to consider what the content actually is; who wrote it; whether it’s genuine or not; and what its messaging might be doing to your users, to others and to society a...

Social media is giving us trypophobia

Something is rotten in the state of technology. But amid all the hand-wringing over fake news, the cries of election deforming Kremlin disinformation plots, the calls from political podia for tech giants to locate a social conscience, a knottier realization is taking shape. Fake news and disinformation are just a few of the symptoms of what’s wrong and what’s rotten. The problem with platform giants is something far more fundamental. The problem is these vastly powerful algorithmic engines are blackboxes. And, at the business end of the operation, each individual user only sees what each individual user sees. The great lie of social media has been to claim it shows us the world. And their follow-on deception: That their technology products bring us closer together. In truth, social media i...

A young startup with a timely offer: fighting propaganda campaigns online

The prevalence of so-called fake news is far worse than we imagined even a few months ago. Just last week, Twitter admitted there were more than 50,000 Russian bots trying to confuse American voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election. It isn’t just elections that should concern us, though. So argues Jonathon Morgan, the co-founder and CEO of New Knowledge, a two-and-a-half-year-old, Austin-based cybersecurity company that’s gathering up clients looking to fight online disinformation. (Worth noting: The 15-person outfit has also quietly gathered up $1.9 million in seed funding led by Moonshots Capital, with participation from Haystack, GGV Capital, Geekdom Fund, Capital Factory and Spitfire Ventures.) We talked earlier this week with Morgan, a former digital content producer and State ...

Twitter accused of dodging Brexit botnet questions again

Once again Twitter stands accused of dodging questions from a parliamentary committee that’s investigating Russian bot activity during the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum. In a letter sent yesterday to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, DCMS committee chair Damian Collins writes: “I’m afraid there are outstanding questions… that Twitter have not yet answered, and some further ones that come from your most recent letter.” In Twitter’s letter — sent last Friday — the company says it has now conducted an analysis of a dataset underpinning a City University study from last October (which had identified a ~13,500-strong botnet of fake Twitter accounts that had tweeted extensively about the Brexit referendum and vanished shortly after the vote). And it says that 1% of these accounts were “registered in Russia...

Facebook expands ‘Community Boost’ digital skills training program to Europe

Facebook has announced it’s expanding a free training program that teaches Internet-skills, media literacy and online safety to Europe. It says its “ambition” is to train 300,000 people across six EU countries by 2020 — specifically in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Poland. It also says it will be opening “digital learning centers” in three of the countries — Spain, Italy, and Poland — as part of the program (though it’s not yet clear where exactly the three centers will be located). The company says the training will generally be offered to “underrepresented groups”. It’s not entirely clear what that means but Facebook points to a Berlin school it set up last year, in partnership with the ReDI School of Digital Integration, which teaches classes ­such as coding and professional...

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