With the US presidential election coming up, there’s a lot of activity recently to spin potential Russian interference as a nothing-burger: unintentional leaks, serious scientific paper, a piece in the New Yorker.

It is worth reminding everyone that Russian Interference was real but it was mostly not done through advertising. $100,000 in ads on Facebook can be a powerful tool but it can’t buy you an American election, especially when the candidates themselves are putting up several orders of magnitude more money on the same platform (not to mention other platforms).

Instead, the Russians worked to exploit existing divisions in the American public for example by hosting Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protest events in the same city on the same day. The people who shows up to those events were real even if the event coordinator was not. Likewise the groups of Americans being fed partisan content was real even if those feeding them were not.

Facebook executive: we got Trump elected, and we shouldn’t stop him in 2020 – Colin Lecher, The Verge

How social network sites and other online intermediaries increase exposure to news – Michael scharkow at al., PNA

The point of all this, of course, was to sway the election in Trump’s favor, and, given the election’s narrow margins, it’s highly possible that it worked. (The Internet Research Agency, a troll farm associated with Putin, purchased thirty-five hundred Facebook ads between 2015 and 2017; Parscale and his team bought millions.)

The Man Behind Trump’s Facebook Juggernaut – Andrew Marantz, New-Yorker

This all looks suspicious and surprisingly well-timed. Just be careful.

I know what you did last summer

“The device’s owner was easy to trace, revealing the outline of the person’s work and life. The same phone pinged a dozen times at the nearby Secret Service field office and events with elected officials. From computer screens more than 1,000 miles away, we could watch the person travel from exclusive areas at Palm Beach […]

The umpire strikes back

Mark Zuckerberg promises Facebook won’t be biased against Elizabeth Warren – The Verge Facebook has incredible power to affect elections and our national debate. Mark Zuckerberg is telling employees that he views a Warren administration as an “existential” threat to Facebook. The public deserves to know how Facebook intends to use their influence in this […]

Five billions

This should have been big news, but people barely talked about it. It might have to do that there are more PR specialists at Facebook than there are reporters in most journals — an industry helped decimate. FTC Imposes $5 Billion Penalty and Sweeping New Privacy Restrictions on Facebook – FTC

Private totalitarianism

The Libra is currency of the day, yet is profoundly lacks balance… I worked at Facebook from 2005 to 2010 in a series of roles culminating in a position as Zuckerberg’s speechwriter, and had an opportunity to observe the development of Facebook both as a social media platform and as what it increasingly aims to […]

The panopticon is leaking

Because of course it has to.. Malicious cyber attack’ exposes travelers’ photos, says US customs agency – The Guardian Should We Be Worried About Computerized Facial Recognition? – The New Yorker “A number of years from now, we will have a difficult decision to make,” he continued. “All the core competencies we’ve built up on […]

The Platform Challenge

Alex Stamos on The Platform Challenge: Balancing Safety, Privacy and Freedom

The blue App

Nick Thompson is not mincing words 15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook – WIRED

Is that what we want?

Normally we wouldn’t share a TED talk, but this is so good. Carole Cadwalladr – Facebook’s role in Brexit and the threat to democracy

Sexual reeling

Who thought sharing sensitive data about sexual orientation could be an issue? Grindr’s Chinese owner forced to sell service over US security concerns, says report – The Verge Would one be so out of touch to draw a parallel line to the Breed Ready Rewards Status? An exposed database tracked whether 1.8 million Chinese women […]