web analytics
a

Facebook

Twitter

Copyright 2015 Libero Themes.
All Rights Reserved.

8:30 - 6:00

Our Office Hours Mon. - Fri.

703-406-7616

Call For Free 15/M Consultation

Facebook

Twitter

Search
Menu

Digital Edits, a Paid Army: Bloomberg Is ‘Destroying Norms’ on Social Media

Westlake Legal Group 00bloombergmedia-facebookJumbo Digital Edits, a Paid Army: Bloomberg Is ‘Destroying Norms’ on Social Media twitter Social Media Presidential Election of 2020 Political Advertising Instagram Inc Google Inc Facebook Inc Bloomberg, Michael R

SAN FRANCISCO — In the first few months of his presidential campaign, Michael R. Bloomberg has been as aggressive on social media as President Trump was four years ago. But with a lot more money to spend.

Mr. Bloomberg has hired popular online personalities to create videos and images promoting his candidacy on social media. He is hiring 500 people — at $2,500 a month — to spend 20 to 30 hours a week recruiting their friends and family to write supportive posts. And his campaign has posted on Twitter and Instagram a flattering, digitally altered video of his debate performance last week in Las Vegas.

Through his money and his willingness to experiment, the billionaire former mayor of New York has poked holes in the already slapdash rules for political campaigns on social media. His digitally savvy campaign for the Democratic nomination has shown that if a candidate is willing to push against the boundaries of what social media companies will and won’t allow, the companies won’t be quick to push back.

“The Bloomberg campaign is destroying norms that we will never get back,” said Emerson Brooking, a resident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which studies disinformation. The campaign, he said, has “revealed the vulnerabilities that still exist in our social media platforms even after major reforms.”

On Friday, Twitter announced that it was suspending 70 pro-Bloomberg accounts for violating its policies on “platform manipulation and spam.” The accounts were part a coordinated effort by people paid by the Bloomberg campaign to post tweets in his favor.

Twitter’s rules state, in part, “You can’t artificially amplify or disrupt conversations through the use of multiple accounts,” including “coordinating with or compensating others” to tweet a certain message.

In response to Twitter’s move, the Bloomberg campaign issued a statement on Friday evening. “We ask that all of our deputy field organizers identify themselves as working on behalf of the Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign on their social media accounts,” it said. The statement added that the tweets shared by its staff and volunteers with their networks went through Outvote, a voter engagement app, and were “not intended to mislead anyone.”

Social media companies have been under pressure since the 2016 presidential election. Over the last year or so, they have publicized a stream of new rules aimed at disinformation and manipulation. Facebook, Google and Twitter have created teams that look for and remove disinformation. They have started working with fact checkers to distinguish and label false content. And they have created policies explaining what they will allow in political advertisements.

Most social media companies have special rules that place elected officials and political candidates in a protected category of speech. Politicians are allowed much more flexibility to say whatever they want online. But the companies have had a hard time defining what is a political statement and what crosses the line into deception.

When Mr. Trump posted an altered video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Facebook and Twitter refused to take the video down. A 30-second video ad on Facebook in October falsely accused former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. of blackmailing Ukrainian officials to stop an investigation of his son.

Mr. Bloomberg, a latecomer to the race, has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into it. As the owner of Bloomberg L.P., he has the money and the resources to vastly outspend his rivals.

Mr. Bloomberg has reassigned his employees and recruited other workers from Silicon Valley with salaries nearly double what other campaigns have offered their staffs. The roughly $400 million he has spent has made him omnipresent in ads across Facebook and Instagram, as well as on more traditional forms of media such as television and radio.

His campaign’s sophisticated understanding of how to generate online buzz has shown how uneven social media’s new political speech rules can be.

Mr. Bloomberg’s lackluster performance in the Las Vegas debate — three days before Saturday’s Democratic caucuses in Nevada — was startling even to his supporters. But soon after, his campaign’s digital team edited the debate into digestible bites on social media that made Mr. Bloomberg appear as though he had done better. On Thursday morning, a video was posted to his Twitter account.

“I’m the only one here, I think, that’s ever started a business. Is that fair?” Mr. Bloomberg said in the clip, showing him up on the debate stage. The video then cut to reactions from the other candidates, who appeared speechless. Crickets chirped in the background as the silence stretched on for 20 seconds.

In reality, Mr. Bloomberg had paused for about a second before moving on.

“It’s tongue in cheek,” Galia Slayen, a Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman, said of the video, which was viewed nearly two million times within hours. “There were obviously no crickets on the stage.”

Was the video against the rules?

Referring to new guidance on manipulated videos, Twitter said it would most likely label the video as misleading. That is, it would if the rule, which goes into effect in March, were already in effect. The company said it would not label Mr. Bloomberg’s video retroactively.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it would not remove the video. The company has recently altered its policy on manipulated media to state that Facebook will remove videos that have been edited “in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say.”

The companies are less certain of how they will handle Mr. Bloomberg’s hiring of 500 “deputy digital organizers” to recruit and train their friends. (All 500 haven’t been hired yet.) His campaign has said it is paying people to use their own social media accounts to publish content of their choosing to mobilize voters for Mr. Bloomberg.

“We are meeting voters everywhere on any platform that they consume their news. One of the most effective ways of reaching voters is by activating their friends and network to encourage them to support Mike for president,” said Sabrina Singh, a spokeswoman for the Bloomberg campaign.

The Bloomberg team said the people they hired were ordinary Americans, and would not include so-called social media influencers, or individuals with large social media followings. The campaign said the digital organizers would not add disclosures to every post, but they would be directed to clearly identify in their social media profiles that they were affiliated with the Bloomberg campaign.

“We recommend campaign employees make the relationship clear on their accounts,” said Liz Bourgeois, a spokeswoman for Facebook. But if Mr. Bloomberg’s employees do not make clear on their accounts that the campaign paid them, Facebook has no easy way to identify them, she said.

Facebook has also made it clear that influencers who post content in support of Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign must clearly label themselves as being sponsored. The company also is exploring ways in which it can identify and catalog sponsored political content.

Google, which owns YouTube, did not respond to a request for comment on how it plans to handle paid influencers as well as digital organizers working for the Bloomberg campaign.

Mr. Brooking and other social media experts said they believed that until the companies saw themselves as media organizations — not neutral internet platforms — they would continue to struggle with how to police their platforms.

“We would not tolerate a falsified, unattributed political ad on CNN. We would not tolerate a paid campaign staffer masquerading as an objective analyst on NBC,” Mr. Brooking said. “We should not tolerate these behaviors on Twitter and Facebook today.”

Sheera Frenkel reported from San Francisco, and Davey Alba from New York.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

He Combs the Web for Russian Bots. That Makes Him a Target.

Westlake Legal Group 00disinfo-nimmo-facebookJumbo He Combs the Web for Russian Bots. That Makes Him a Target. YouTube.com twitter Social Media Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Rumors and Misinformation Presidential Election of 2016 Politics and Government Facebook Inc elections Cyberwarfare and Defense Computers and the Internet Ben Nimmo

HADDINGTON, Scotland — In August 2017, Ben Nimmo was declared dead by 13,000 Russian bots on Twitter.

“Our beloved friend and colleague Ben Nimmo passed away this morning,” read the epitaph, which was manipulated to look as if it were from a co-worker’s Twitter account. “Ben, we will never forget you.”

The message was immediately shared thousands of times by the network of automated accounts. Notes began pouring in from worried friends and colleagues — even though Mr. Nimmo was very much alive.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Nimmo, who helped pioneer investigations into online disinformation, to figure out what was going on: He had been targeted by a shadowy group after reporting, along with others, that American far-right groups had adopted pro-Kremlin messages on social media about Ukraine. His fake death notice was a sinister attempt at disinformation, which is the spreading of falsehoods with the deliberate intent to mislead.

“That made it personal,” said Mr. Nimmo, 47, whose home address in a town near Edinburgh and other personal data, like bank details, have also been posted online.

For the last five years, Mr. Nimmo, a founder of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, has been a leader of a small but growing community of online sleuths. These researchers serve as an informal internet police force that combats malicious attempts to use false information to sway public opinion, sow political discord and foment distrust in traditional institutions like the news media and the government.

Mr. Nimmo’s work came to the fore after the 2016 American presidential election, when intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had used Facebook and other internet platforms to influence voters. His research has since caused Facebook and other companies to ban thousands of disinformation-related accounts; he has also been tapped as an expert by governments studying foreign interference.

Now his skills are needed more than ever, as the 2020 presidential election approaches and the tactics of internet trickery have been adopted by governments, activist groups and clickbait farms in at least 70 countries. In tandem, a disinformation-for-hire industry has emerged. And domestic disinformation efforts in the United States are also on the rise.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you throw at the problem, or how many technological advances you have,” said Jenni Sargent, managing director of First Draft, a London group that tracks disinformation and trains journalists. “Without the human layer of someone like Ben dissecting the way that people use the internet, then we wouldn’t be as far ahead as we are in terms of understanding the problem and the scale.”

Mr. Nimmo’s goal is to spot disinformation early — essentially, to stamp out the fire before it spreads.

His techniques have changed as his adversaries have become more cunning. Because Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are now policing their platforms more aggressively, he is less able to rely on obvious clues like masses of automated Twitter posts and fake Facebook accounts.

So Mr. Nimmo has started looking for clues in obscure areas of the internet, like German news sites that accept unverified user-generated content and Iranian video-sharing services. Websites like Reddit, Medium and Quora are becoming popular places to create fake accounts and plant disinformation and leaks.

“Every time we catch a threat actor, you can bet that the other ones will change their tactics to try and keep ahead,” he said.

More interference is coming in the 2020 campaigns, Mr. Nimmo said. He said he was particularly worried about a “hack-and-leak” operation like the one in 2016 when Russian operatives took information from the Democratic National Committee’s servers and got it published online. Loaded with juicy and accurate information, such leaks go viral on social media and can be irresistible to the news media.

Mr. Nimmo’s path to disinformation research was not an obvious one. An Englishman who studied literature at Cambridge University, he worked as a scuba diving instructor in Egypt, as well as a travel writer and journalist in Europe. In 2007, while reporting on violent demonstrations in Estonia for Deutsche Presse-Agentur, he was head-butted by a protester, breaking his nose and leaving it off center still today.

In 2011, he began working at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a press officer. While there in 2014, he saw how Russia had worked to muddy perceptions of its invasion of Crimea that year, including misrepresenting Russian soldiers as “local self-defense forces.”

“There was this constant drumbeat of Russian disinformation,” he said.

Inspired to dig deeper, he became an independent researcher that same year. He moved to Scotland to be closer to family and began doing contract work on Russia for pro-democracy think tanks like the Institute for Statecraft.

During the 2016 American election campaign, Mr. Nimmo helped found the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, a Washington-based group that studies online disinformation. Facebook made him and the lab among the first outsiders allowed to study disinformation networks on its site before the company shut the networks down.

Last year, Mr. Nimmo became the head of investigations for the social-media monitoring company Graphika.

“He was there well before this was a trendy thing to do,” said Alex Stamos, who is conducting similar disinformation research work at Stanford University and was previously Facebook’s chief security officer. Both Graphika and the Digital Forensic Research Lab have received funding from Facebook.

Mr. Nimmo works from his home atop a hill and next to a grain farm in the small Scottish town of Haddington. To ferret out disinformation networks, he relies on open-source digital tools: the Wayback Machine to find internet pages that have been deleted; Amnesty International’s Citizen Evidence Lab, which provides information about YouTube videos; and Sysomos for spotting social media trends.

What is hard, he said, is determining when material is coming from regular people expressing a point of view or from a coordinated system linked to a government. One giveaway is when the same material is posted at the same time, or when it can be traced to an original post — “patient zero,” he said — known to be a website or social media account used by a government.

“The magic of the internet is there is always another clue to find,” he said.

Mr. Nimmo speaks fluent Russian, French, German and Latvian — and is conversant in several other languages — teaching himself by buying books in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in languages he is trying to learn. That makes it easier for him to spot clues like mistakes a native Russian speaker makes when writing in English in disinformation posts.

The amount of disinformation has increased recently. In October, Mr. Nimmo’s team at Graphika explained how pro-China propaganda accounts targeted Hong Kong demonstrators. In November, he helped expose an operation that used fringe platforms to leak a sensitive British trade document before Britain’s general election. And in December, he analyzed Facebook’s first big takedown of fake accounts with profile pictures generated by artificial intelligence.

Most recently, he has investigated Iranian disinformation after the United States killed the head of Iran’s security machinery, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, last month. Mr. Nimmo is also tracing Russia-linked campaigns, including an effort to blame the United States for the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which Iran said it mistakenly shot down last month, killing 176 people.

This past week, after technical problems delayed the reporting of results from the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Nimmo was on alert for disinformation. There was little, he said, and he mainly found gleeful trolling from Republican supporters and right-wing groups.

Mr. Nimmo has sometimes made mistakes in identifying culprits. In 2018, he pinpointed a number of Twitter accounts as “Russian trolls,” when one of them was a British citizen sympathetic to Russia.

One recent evening, he started work at 7, chasing leads on Iranian disinformation related to the killing of General Suleimani. One suspicious Twitter account provided clues that led to various YouTube videos. From there, Mr. Nimmo found links to Facebook and Instagram pages. After a few hours, he had traced how memes from a suspicious pro-government Iranian website had traveled elsewhere on the web.

By the time Mr. Nimmo went to bed after 2 a.m., he had more than 50 tabs open on his browser, but no definitive evidence of an Iranian government campaign.

“He’s very careful,” said Camille François, the chief innovation officer at Graphika, who hired Mr. Nimmo. “It’s important to detect them, and to study them, but it’s also important not to overreact to the threat.”

That’s especially true now that foundations, universities and companies have poured money into efforts to examine disinformation, luring new researchers eager to spot such activity. Mr. Nimmo said he was concerned that investigators could have an incentive to sensationalize material that cannot be accurately attributed and argued that new standards were needed.

“When we look back on 2020, I hope we’ll see it as the year when disinformation research passed the tipping point and really started becoming a mainstream discipline,” he said. “We need to make that happen, because the threat actors aren’t going away.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hamish McFall: Downing Street would be misguided to rely on Social Media to get across its message

Hamish McFall is a public relations and marketing consultant, and is a former Parliamentary candidate.

Andrew Gimson, Boswell for our new Johnson, has written about Number 10’s attitude towards the Lobby. How many of our supporters would understand that opening sentence? I am not being patronising, like Remoaners were, about people being too “thick” to understand the issues. I am, however, trying to draw attention to the fact that people in the Westminster bubble use terms and language that has no resonance with the vast majority of the Electorate.

I am lucky enough to live in a constituency where 33,346 people voted Conservative at the last General Election. I doubt that more than 3,000 of them were influenced by “Social Media”. Number 10 and others within the Party seem to think that getting the message only to those that engage with Social Media is both necessary and sufficient. If you conducted an internet poll then you would probably be able to confirm the interest of the self-selecting audience. This, of course, misses the point that most people are not engaged with Social Media.

You will most likely only be able to read this article if you are online. You are therefore part of the Silo mentality that rules how we get news. The Internet is a marvellous thing but that doesn’t mean that anything that happens on the internet is good. Just because a method of communication is available, for example, Facebook or Twitter, doesn’t mean that you have to use it. Journalists employed by the BBC should be spending their time on the day job. Why do people like Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg constantly tweet? They are both excellent journalists who have plenty of air-time. Why do they feel it necessary to bombard us with their Tweet views? Alastair Stewart might agree that it would be better if broadcast journalists restrained from tweeting.

The danger of the Internet, Twitter and Facebook, is that people within the Silo are just talking to themselves and other like-minded people. At the same time, they think that they are talking to the whole universe.

I would bet a large amount of money that the majority of Conservative voters, and indeed all voters, would have liked to see and hear the message from the Prime Minister on Brexit night. The church bells rang in my local church and people let off fireworks but neither the BBC nor ITN broadcast a word from the Prime Minister. Number 10 thought that they were being terribly clever by releasing the statement on-line. They don’t realise that 95 per cent of the population lives outside the Westminster bubble. We don’t engage in social media. Why should we? If we wanted to do so it would be difficult. We have slow Broadband connections. Downloading a video of the Prime Minister’s speech would be time-consuming and why should we have to do so when a national broadcaster could and should do it for us.

The essential point about all political communications is the message. It is not about the media. The current trend of thinking that Social Media is the most important thing ignores the fact that anyone over the age of 65 is unlikely to engage in the sort of minute by minute Love island social media that its exponents promote.

We have a great opportunity to make a real difference for all of the United Kingdom. Let’s not pretend that London-centric social media is the answer.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Schiff, Calling Trump ‘Wrathful and Vindictive,’ Sees Tweet as a Threat

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_167788866_d0c7d542-de37-454a-8e72-d2d217ae32e5-articleLarge Schiff, Calling Trump ‘Wrathful and Vindictive,’ Sees Tweet as a Threat United States Politics and Government twitter Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Schiff, Adam B Roberts, John G Jr impeachment

Representative Adam B. Schiff, the lead House impeachment manager, said a tweet by President Trump was “intended to be” a threat against him.Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Representative Adam B. Schiff, the House’s lead impeachment manager, accused President Trump of trying to threaten him on Twitter and urged Republican senators to find the “moral courage to stand up” to a “wrathful and vindictive president.”

Mr. Trump, writing on Twitter Sunday morning, attacked Mr. Schiff as “a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man,” warning, “He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!”

It was an extraordinary back-and-forth between a member of Congress and a sitting president, coming at a turning point in Mr. Trump’s impeachment trial on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors — the third presidential impeachment trial in American history.

“Look at the president’s tweets about me today saying that I should pay a price,” Mr. Schiff said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

“Do you take that as a threat?” asked Chuck Todd, the show’s host.

“I think it’s intended to be,” the congressman replied.

Mr. Schiff has been under fire from Republicans for mentioning a news report during the trial that alleges that the White House had threatened to put their heads “on a pike” if they voted to convict, and he doubled down on that claim Sunday, saying that he merely meant it would require fearlessness on the part of the senators.

On Monday, the Senate will reconvene at 1 p.m. for the president’s legal team to continue its defense. Unless at least four Republicans join with Democrats to vote to expand the scope of the proceedings by bringing in witnesses or documentary evidence, the trial could wrap up as early as this week with Mr. Trump’s expected acquittal.

Mr. Schiff on Sunday also appeared to urge Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who is presiding over the trial, to use his authority to determine whether witnesses might be appropriate, and if so, which ones.

Democrats have been pushing for four witnesses — including John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff — over the strong objections of Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. Some Republicans are floating the idea of a witness swap in which they would call either former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. or his son Hunter, both of whom Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate, even though neither has direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s behavior.

Democrats have opposed such a move, and Mr. Schiff suggested the chief justice should rule on that question.

“We have a very capable justice sitting right behind me who can make decisions about the materiality of witnesses,” Mr. Schiff said, adding: “We trust the Supreme Court justice.”

If history is any guide, Chief Justice Roberts will be reluctant to do so. When President Bill Clinton was tried in the Senate in 1999, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist used his authority sparingly, leaving most questions to the Senate to decide.

Lawmakers on both sides — along with Alan Dershowitz, a consultant to Mr. Trump’s legal team — took to the Sunday morning talk show circuit to make the case for or against Mr. Trump. The president was impeached by the House in December on charges that he abused his oath of office and obstructed Congress by pressuring the leader of Ukraine to investigate his political rivals and then covering it up by concealing evidence from lawmakers.

Mr. Schiff and his team of prosecutors maintain that the president was trying to influence the 2020 election for his personal gain. During an abbreviated session of the Senate on Saturday, the president’s team pushed back hard on that assertion, arguing that it was the Democrats who were trying to undo the results of the 2016 election — and to interfere with the one in 2020.

“They’re asking you to tear up all of the ballots all across the country on your own initiative, take that decision away from the American people,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, said of the House managers, adding: “They’re here to perpetrate the most massive interference in an election in American history, and we can’t allow that to happen.”

Mr. Dershowitz, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” backed away from an assertion he made in 1998, when Mr. Clinton was facing possible impeachment in the House, that a crime is not needed to remove a president from office. Mr. Trump’s team has argued that he cannot be convicted or removed because he is not accused of violating a law — an argument Mr. Dershowitz said he now agreed with because he had done more research.

“I’ve been immersing myself in dusty old books, and I’ve concluded that no, it has to be a crime,” Mr. Dershowitz said. “That’s what scholars do, that’s what academics do. We do more research.”

Mr. Schiff has emerged as a polarizing figure in the trial. His speech on Thursday telling lawmakers they could “not trust this president to do what is right for this country” went viral — and earned even grudging respect from some Republicans. But on Friday, he invoked a CBS report that cited an anonymous source saying Republican senators had been warned their heads would be “on a pike” if they voted against Mr. Trump.

In so doing, Mr. Schiff angered several centrist or swing-state Republicans — including Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — who are potential votes in favor of having witnesses. The congressman said Sunday that he was not intending to offend.

“It is going to be very difficult for some of these senators to stand up to this president, it really is, there’s no question about it,” he said. “I don’t want to acknowledge it in a way that is offensive to them, but I do want to speak candidly about it — and if this weren’t an issue, there wouldn’t be an issue about calling witnesses.”

Chris Cameron contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads

Westlake Legal Group 09facebook-facebookJumbo Facebook Says It Won’t Back Down From Allowing Lies in Political Ads Zuckerberg, Mark E Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government twitter Trump, Donald J Social Media Sandberg, Sheryl K Presidential Election of 2020 Political Advertising Online Advertising Instagram Inc Google Inc Facebook Inc Dorsey, Jack Computers and the Internet Bosworth, Andrew (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook said on Thursday that it would not make any major changes to its political advertising policies, which allow lies in ads, despite pressure from lawmakers who say the company is abdicating responsibility for what appears on its platform.

The decision, which company executives had telegraphed in recent months, is likely to harden criticism of Facebook’s political ad practices heading into this year’s presidential election.

The company also said it would not end so-called microtargeting for political ads, which lets campaigns home in on a sliver of Facebook’s users — a tactic that critics say is ideal for spreading divisive or misleading information.

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.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the re-election of Mr. Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Mr. Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Mr. Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Mr. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Mr. Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Mr. Trump’s re-election, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Mr. Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Mr. Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this the better.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Facebook Discovers Fakes That Show Evolution of Disinformation

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166226280_01e1cbc9-c350-4082-8c26-13e406edc001-facebookJumbo Facebook Discovers Fakes That Show Evolution of Disinformation twitter Social Media Rumors and Misinformation Facebook Inc Epoch Times Computers and the Internet Artificial Intelligence

Facebook said on Friday that it had removed hundreds of accounts with ties to the Epoch Media Group, parent company of the Falun Gong-related publication and conservative news outlet The Epoch Times.

The accounts, including pages, groups and Instagram feeds meant to be seen in both the United States and Vietnam, presented a new wrinkle to researchers: fake profile photos generated with the help of artificial intelligence.

The idea that artificial intelligence could be used to create wide-scale disinformation campaigns has long been a fear of computer scientists. And they said it was worrying to see it already being used in a coordinated effort on Facebook.

While the technology used to create the fake profile photos was most likely a far cry from the sophisticated A.I. systems being created in labs at big tech companies like Google, the network of fake accounts showed “an eerie, tech-enabled future of disinformation,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

The people behind the network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts posted about political news and issues in the United States, including President Trump’s impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, trade and religion.

“This was a large, brazen network that had multiple layers of fake accounts and automation that systematically posted content with two ideological focuses: support of Donald Trump and opposition to the Chinese government,” Mr. Brookie said in an interview.

The Atlantic Council’s lab and another company, Graphika, which also studies disinformation, released a joint report analyzing the Facebook takedown.

The Epoch Media Group denied in an email sent to The New York Times that it was linked to the network targeted by Facebook, and said that Facebook had not contacted the company before publishing its conclusions.

The people behind the network used artificial intelligence to generate profile pictures, Facebook said. They relied on a type of artificial intelligence called generative adversarial networks. These networks can, through a process called machine learning, teach themselves to create realistic images of faces, even though they do not belong to a real person.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said in an interview that “using A.I.-generated photos for profiles” has been talked about for several months, but for Facebook, this is “the first time we’ve seen a systemic use of this by actors or a group of actors to make accounts look more authentic.”

He added that this A.I. technique did not actually make it harder for the company’s automated systems to detect the fakes, because the systems focus on patterns of behavior among accounts.

Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, said that “we need more research into A.I.-generated imagery like this, but it takes a lot more to hide a fake network than just the profile pictures.”

Facebook said the accounts masked their activities by using a combination of fake and authentic American accounts to manage pages and groups on the platforms. The coordinated, inauthentic activity, Facebook said, revolved around the media outlet The BL — short for “The Beauty of Life” — which the fact-checking outlet Snopes said in November was “building a fake empire on Facebook and getting away with it.”

Mr. Gleicher said Facebook began its investigation into The BL in July, and accelerated its efforts when the network became more aggressive in posting this fall. It is continuing to investigate “other links and networks” tied to The BL, he said.

Facebook said the network had spent less than $9.5 million on Facebook and Instagram ads. On Friday, Facebook said The BL would be banned from the social network.

The Epoch Times and The BL have denied being linked, but Facebook said it had found coordinated, inauthentic behavior from the network to the Epoch Media Group and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf.

The Epoch Media Group said in its email that The BL was founded by a former employee and employs some of its former employees. “However, that some of our former employees work for BL is not evidence of any connection between the two organizations,” the company said.

In August, Facebook banned advertising from The Epoch Times after NBC News published a report that said The Epoch Times had obscured its connection to Facebook ads promoting President Trump and conspiracy content.

Twitter said on Friday that the social network was also aware of The BL network, and had already “identified and suspended approximately 700 accounts originating from Vietnam for violating our rules around platform manipulation.” A company spokeswoman added that its investigation was still open, but Twitter has not identified links between the accounts and state-backed actors.

Facebook also said on Friday that it had taken down a network of more than 300 pages and 39 Facebook accounts and their coordinated, inauthentic activities on domestic political news in Georgia.

Facebook said the network tried to conceal its coordination but it found that the accounts responsible were run by the Georgian Dream-led government, and Panda, a local advertising agency in the country. The owners of the Facebook pages masqueraded as news organizations and impersonated public figures, political parties and activist groups.

In a related move, Twitter said it also took down 32 million tweets from nearly 6,000 accounts related to a Saudi Arabian social media marketing company called Smaat, which ran political and commercial influence operations.

Smaat was led in part by Ahmed Almutairi, a Saudi man wanted by the F.B.I. on charges that he recruited two Twitter employees to search internal company databases for information about critics of the Saudi government, said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, which separately analyzed Twitter’s takedown.

The operation was “extremely high volume,” and automatically generated by “Twitter apps that made religious posts, posts about the weather” and other topics, Ms. DiResta said.

At times, the accounts were used for “more tailored purposes,” including more than 17,000 tweets related to Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and columnist for The Washington Post, who was killed while visiting a Saudi consulate in October last year.

Many of the tweets claimed that those criticizing the Saudi government for their involvement were doing so for their own political purposes.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Facebook Discovers Fake, A.I.-Generated Profiles

Westlake Legal Group merlin_166226280_01e1cbc9-c350-4082-8c26-13e406edc001-facebookJumbo Facebook Discovers Fake, A.I.-Generated Profiles twitter Social Media Rumors and Misinformation Facebook Inc Epoch Times Computers and the Internet Artificial Intelligence

Facebook said on Friday that it had removed hundreds of accounts with ties to the Epoch Media Group, parent company of the Falun Gong-related publication and conservative news outlet The Epoch Times.

The accounts, including pages, groups and Instagram feeds meant to be seen in both the United States and Vietnam, presented a new wrinkle to researchers: fake profile photos generated with the help of artificial intelligence.

The idea that artificial intelligence could be used to create wide-scale disinformation campaigns has long been a fear of computer scientists. And they said it was worrying to see it already being used in a coordinated effort on Facebook.

While the technology used to create the fake profile photos was most likely a far cry from the sophisticated A.I. systems being created in labs at big tech companies like Google, the network of fake accounts showed “an eerie, tech-enabled future of disinformation,” said Graham Brookie, director of the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab.

The people behind the network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts posted about political news and issues in the United States, including President Trump’s impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, trade and religion.

“This was a large, brazen network that had multiple layers of fake accounts and automation that systematically posted content with two ideological focuses: support of Donald Trump and opposition to the Chinese government,” Mr. Brookie said in an interview.

The Atlantic Council’s lab and another company, Graphika, which also studies disinformation, released a joint report analyzing the Facebook takedown.

The Epoch Media Group denied in an email sent to The New York Times that it was linked to the network targeted by Facebook, and said that Facebook had not contacted the company before publishing its conclusions.

The people behind the network used artificial intelligence to generate profile pictures, Facebook said. They relied on a type of artificial intelligence called generative adversarial networks. These networks can, through a process called machine learning, teach themselves to create realistic images of faces, even though they do not belong to a real person.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said in an interview that “using A.I.-generated photos for profiles” has been talked about for several months, but for Facebook, this is “the first time we’ve seen a systemic use of this by actors or a group of actors to make accounts look more authentic.”

He added that this A.I. technique did not actually make it harder for the company’s automated systems to detect the fakes, because the systems focus on patterns of behavior among accounts.

Ben Nimmo, director of investigations at Graphika, said that “we need more research into A.I.-generated imagery like this, but it takes a lot more to hide a fake network than just the profile pictures.”

Facebook said the accounts masked their activities by using a combination of fake and authentic American accounts to manage pages and groups on the platforms. The coordinated, inauthentic activity, Facebook said, revolved around the media outlet The BL — short for “The Beauty of Life” — which the fact-checking outlet Snopes said in November was “building a fake empire on Facebook and getting away with it.”

Mr. Gleicher said Facebook began its investigation into The BL in July, and accelerated its efforts when the network became more aggressive in posting this fall. It is continuing to investigate “other links and networks” tied to The BL, he said.

Facebook said the network had spent less than $9.5 million on Facebook and Instagram ads. On Friday, Facebook said The BL would be banned from the social network.

The Epoch Times and The BL have denied being linked, but Facebook said it had found coordinated, inauthentic behavior from the network to the Epoch Media Group and individuals in Vietnam working on its behalf.

The Epoch Media Group said in its email that The BL was founded by a former employee and employs some of its former employees. “However, that some of our former employees work for BL is not evidence of any connection between the two organizations,” the company said.

In August, Facebook banned advertising from The Epoch Times after it found it had obscured its connection to Facebook ads promoting President Trump and conspiracy content.

Twitter said on Friday that the social network was also aware of The BL network, and had already “identified and suspended approximately 700 accounts originating from Vietnam for violating our rules around platform manipulation.” A company spokeswoman added that its investigation was still open, but Twitter has not identified links between the accounts and state-backed actors.

Facebook also said on Friday that it had taken down a network of more than 300 pages and 39 Facebook accounts and their coordinated, inauthentic activities on domestic political news in Georgia.

Facebook said the network tried to conceal its coordination but it found that the accounts responsible were run by the Georgian Dream-led government, and Panda, a local advertising agency in the country. The owners of the Facebook pages masqueraded as news organizations and impersonated public figures, political parties and activist groups.

In a related move, Twitter said it also took down 32 million tweets from nearly 6,000 accounts related to a Saudi Arabian social media marketing company called Smaat, which ran political and commercial influence operations.

Smaat was led in part by Ahmed Almutairi, a Saudi man wanted by the F.B.I. on charges that he recruited two Twitter employees to search internal company databases for information about critics of the Saudi government, said Renee DiResta, a disinformation researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory, which separately analyzed Twitter’s takedown.

The operation was “extremely high volume,” and automatically generated by “Twitter apps that made religious posts, posts about the weather” and other topics, Ms. DiResta said.

At times, the accounts were used for “more tailored purposes,” including more than 17,000 tweets related to Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and columnist for The Washington Post, who was killed while visiting a Saudi consulate in October last year.

Many of the tweets claimed that those criticizing the Saudi government for their involvement were doing so for their own political purposes.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Twitter and Facebook Want to Shift Power to Users. Or Do They?

Westlake Legal Group 18internetfix-facebookJumbo Twitter and Facebook Want to Shift Power to Users. Or Do They? Zuckerberg, Mark E twitter Social Media Libra (Currency) Facebook Inc Dorsey, Jack Computers and the Internet Blockchain (Technology) Bitcoin (Currency) Berners-Lee, Tim

SAN FRANCISCO — Not so long ago, the technology behind Bitcoin was seen in Silicon Valley as the best hope for challenging the enormous, centralized power of companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Now, in an unexpected twist, the internet giants think that technology could help them solve their many problems.

The chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, said last week that he hoped to fund the creation of software for social media that, inspired by the design of Bitcoin, would give Twitter less control over how people use the service and shift power toward users and outside programmers.

Likewise, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he hopes the same concepts from Bitcoin could “take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands.”

This push toward decentralization — the buzzword people in tech are using to describe these projects — has already gained enough currency and has sounded outlandish enough that it was one of the central themes of the satirical HBO show “Silicon Valley.”

Though Bitcoin’s digital tokens are widely used among the tech set, its underlying concept — a network of computers managing the currency without anyone in charge — is what’s most interesting to many people working on decentralization.

Countless entrepreneurs are working on decentralization projects, including the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He founded Solid, which seeks to fix the problems of the centralized internet by shifting the ownership of personal data away from big companies and back toward users.

But the other efforts have largely been aimed at taking down Twitter and Facebook rather than helping them solve their problems. And the two behemoths have plenty of problems, from policing their sites for toxic content to dealing with pressure from regulators who think tech companies have grown too powerful.

Not surprisingly, the efforts at Twitter and Facebook have faced skepticism and questions about whether they are just trying to land some positive press while dodging responsibility — and regulations.

“When a company does something like this when it is under pressure, it becomes a way to distract attention by appearing to do something,” said Mitra Ardron, the head of the decentralized web project at the Internet Archive, which has hosted the Decentralized Web Summit the last four years.

Many people working on decentralization projects are concerned that Twitter and Facebook are trying to align themselves with the work’s countercultural spirit without giving up their enormous power.

“The monoliths see it as a threat to their model, so they try to weave in the concepts into their own products to maintain control,” said Eugen Rochko, the founder of Mastodon, a competitor to Twitter. With around two million users, Mastodon has been one of the most successful alternative projects.

Mr. Dorsey said Twitter was just starting to look at the idea and had committed only five people to it. Facebook has moved ahead with its Bitcoin-inspired cryptocurrency and has beefed up encryption, but the company has otherwise taken few steps to decentralize its services. Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg, though, have frequently discussed decentralization, suggesting they have a personal fascination that goes beyond business interests.

Mr. Dorsey also hired a small team at his second company, Square, to work full time on Bitcoin, without any commercial responsibilities. And he recently announced that he was hoping to take an extended sojourn in Africa to understand how Bitcoin was working there.

“It’s clearly catching on in part because people believe in it,” said Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “It’s not necessarily that it is cheaper or more efficient or faster or easier. In fact, it is much harder. But it’s clear that this idea speaks to people.”

Mr. Dorsey’s tweets last week suggest that he wants the new team, Blue Sky, to build essentially a basic version of Twitter that would be available for anyone to copy. This would make it easier for outside developers to build on top of Twitter and to compete with it. A competitor might be able to offer a version without ads, or one that recommends tweets to readers based on different standards.

While that would most likely pose a commercial threat to Twitter, Mr. Dorsey said it would also force the service to be “far more innovative than in the past” and could draw more overall users to it.

The idea of decentralization harks back to the basic design and ideals of the internet, which was supposed to be a global gathering place where everyone was welcome and no one was in charge.

Mr. Dorsey said the invention of Bitcoin had made it possible to revive those early ideals. The key to Bitcoin is its blockchain database, which provides a way for a network of disconnected computers to agree on a single set of records for every Bitcoin in existence.

Mr. Dorsey is following in the steps of the many cryptocurrency advocates who have argued that the underlying technology could be used to record all the users and activity on a social network, and to agree on a single set of rules for the network, without having any single company in charge. He said, though, that it would most likely take “many years.”

Facebook has pursued several projects over the past year that would shift control to its users.

The company’s most notable effort with blockchains is the Libra cryptocurrency, which aims to create money outside the control of any one company. The Libra effort has faced crippling opposition from politicians, regulators and even some of the project’s original partners. But it appears to have inspired central banks in China and Europe, which are also considering ways to duplicate Bitcoin’s underlying technology.

Already, many start-ups have tried to use blockchains to create social networks to compete with Twitter and Facebook. But these networks, with names like Minds and Steemit, have faced many of the same problems that Bitcoin has, struggling to attract mainstream attention and leaving users to fend off hackers themselves. Many investors have largely given up on blockchain investments.

Several up-and-coming projects focused on decentralization, including Mr. Berners-Lee’s Solid, have steered clear of the blockchain entirely because they don’t believe it is useful for anything other than financial transactions.

Mr. Dorsey said one of the great appeals of a decentralized future was that Twitter would no longer be the only one in charge of deciding what is and isn’t allowed on the network.

To many people, that sounded like an effort by Mr. Dorsey to wash his hands of the hardest but arguably most important responsibility of social networks today: identifying and filtering bad actors and disinformation.

“I’m concerned that Twitter may try to foist the responsibility for dealing with these problems onto the decentralization community,” said Ross Schulman, the senior policy technologist at New America’s Open Technology Institute.

A spokeswoman for Facebook had no comment on the company’s efforts.

Mastodon, the Twitter competitor, allows anyone to tweak the software in order to create his or her own version of Mastodon. If people don’t like the rules set up in one version, they can move to another.

But Mastodon has provided a window into just how difficult these problems are to deal with, even with decentralization.

The Mastodon software was created to form a refuge from anger and hate speech on Twitter. But recently, a social network with close ties to hate crimes and the far right, Gab, used Mastodon’s software to create a new home after it was pushed off the mainstream internet. Mastodon’s leaders were opposed to it but could do little to stop it.

“Building these types of decentralized social networks comes with a slew of challenges that we haven’t figured out how to solve yet,” said Ms. Narula, who was a co-author of an article titled “Decentralized Social Networks Sound Great. Too Bad They’ll Never Work.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Internet Giants, Defied by Bitcoin, Now See Its Tech as a Remedy

Westlake Legal Group 18internetfix-facebookJumbo Internet Giants, Defied by Bitcoin, Now See Its Tech as a Remedy Zuckerberg, Mark E twitter Social Media Libra (Currency) Facebook Inc Dorsey, Jack Computers and the Internet Blockchain (Technology) Bitcoin (Currency) Berners-Lee, Tim

SAN FRANCISCO — Not so long ago, the technology behind Bitcoin was seen in Silicon Valley as the best hope for challenging the enormous, centralized power of companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Now, in an unexpected twist, the internet giants think that technology could help them solve their many problems.

The chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, said last week that he hoped to fund the creation of software for social media that, inspired by the design of Bitcoin, would give Twitter less control over how people use the service and shift power toward users and outside programmers.

Likewise, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he hopes the same concepts from Bitcoin could “take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands.”

This push toward decentralization — the buzzword people in tech are using to describe these projects — has already gained enough currency and has sounded outlandish enough that it was one of the central themes of the satirical HBO show “Silicon Valley.”

Though Bitcoin’s digital tokens are widely used among the tech set, its underlying concept — a network of computers managing the currency without anyone in charge — is what’s most interesting to many people working on decentralization.

Countless entrepreneurs are working on decentralization projects, including the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He founded Solid, which seeks to fix the problems of the centralized internet by shifting the ownership of personal data away from big companies and back toward users.

But the other efforts have largely been aimed at taking down Twitter and Facebook rather than helping them solve their problems. And the two behemoths have plenty of problems, from policing their sites for toxic content to dealing with pressure from regulators who think tech companies have grown too powerful.

Not surprisingly, the efforts at Twitter and Facebook have faced skepticism and questions about whether they are just trying to land some positive press while dodging responsibility — and regulations.

“When a company does something like this when it is under pressure, it becomes a way to distract attention by appearing to do something,” said Mitra Ardron, the head of the decentralized web project at the Internet Archive, which has hosted the Decentralized Web Summit the last four years.

Many people working on decentralization projects are concerned that Twitter and Facebook are trying to align themselves with the work’s countercultural spirit without giving up their enormous power.

“The monoliths see it as a threat to their model, so they try to weave in the concepts into their own products to maintain control,” said Eugen Rochko, the founder of Mastodon, a competitor to Twitter. With around two million users, Mastodon has been one of the most successful alternative projects.

Mr. Dorsey said Twitter was just starting to look at the idea and had committed only five people to it. Facebook has moved ahead with its Bitcoin-inspired cryptocurrency and has beefed up encryption, but the company has otherwise taken few steps to decentralize its services. Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg, though, have frequently discussed decentralization, suggesting they have a personal fascination that goes beyond business interests.

Mr. Dorsey also hired a small team at his second company, Square, to work full time on Bitcoin, without any commercial responsibilities. And he recently announced that he was hoping to take an extended sojourn in Africa to understand how Bitcoin was working there.

“It’s clearly catching on in part because people believe in it,” said Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “It’s not necessarily that it is cheaper or more efficient or faster or easier. In fact, it is much harder. But it’s clear that this idea speaks to people.”

Mr. Dorsey’s tweets last week suggest that he wants the new team, Blue Sky, to build essentially a basic version of Twitter that would be available for anyone to copy. This would make it easier for outside developers to build on top of Twitter and to compete with it. A competitor might be able to offer a version without ads, or one that recommends tweets to readers based on different standards.

While that would most likely pose a commercial threat to Twitter, Mr. Dorsey said it would also force the service to be “far more innovative than in the past” and could draw more overall users to it.

The idea of decentralization harks back to the basic design and ideals of the internet, which was supposed to be a global gathering place where everyone was welcome and no one was in charge.

Mr. Dorsey said the invention of Bitcoin had made it possible to revive those early ideals. The key to Bitcoin is its blockchain database, which provides a way for a network of disconnected computers to agree on a single set of records for every Bitcoin in existence.

Mr. Dorsey is following in the steps of the many cryptocurrency advocates who have argued that the underlying technology could be used to record all the users and activity on a social network, and to agree on a single set of rules for the network, without having any single company in charge. He said, though, that it would most likely take “many years.”

Facebook has pursued several projects over the past year that would shift control to its users.

The company’s most notable effort with blockchains is the Libra cryptocurrency, which aims to create money outside the control of any one company. The Libra effort has faced crippling opposition from politicians, regulators and even some of the project’s original partners. But it appears to have inspired central banks in China and Europe, which are also considering ways to duplicate Bitcoin’s underlying technology.

Already, many start-ups have tried to use blockchains to create social networks to compete with Twitter and Facebook. But these networks, with names like Minds and Steemit, have faced many of the same problems that Bitcoin has, struggling to attract mainstream attention and leaving users to fend off hackers themselves. Many investors have largely given up on blockchain investments.

Several up-and-coming projects focused on decentralization, including Mr. Berners-Lee’s Solid, have steered clear of the blockchain entirely because they don’t believe it is useful for anything other than financial transactions.

Mr. Dorsey said one of the great appeals of a decentralized future was that Twitter would no longer be the only one in charge of deciding what is and isn’t allowed on the network.

To many people, that sounded like an effort by Mr. Dorsey to wash his hands of the hardest but arguably most important responsibility of social networks today: identifying and filtering bad actors and disinformation.

“I’m concerned that Twitter may try to foist the responsibility for dealing with these problems onto the decentralization community,” said Ross Schulman, the senior policy technologist at New America’s Open Technology Institute.

A spokeswoman for Facebook had no comment on the company’s efforts.

Mastodon, the Twitter competitor, allows anyone to tweak the software in order to create his or her own version of Mastodon. If people don’t like the rules set up in one version, they can move to another.

But Mastodon has provided a window into just how difficult these problems are to deal with, even with decentralization.

The Mastodon software was created to form a refuge from anger and hate speech on Twitter. But recently, a social network with close ties to hate crimes and the far right, Gab, used Mastodon’s software to create a new home after it was pushed off the mainstream internet. Mastodon’s leaders were opposed to it but could do little to stop it.

“Building these types of decentralized social networks comes with a slew of challenges that we haven’t figured out how to solve yet,” said Ms. Narula, who was a co-author of an article titled “Decentralized Social Networks Sound Great. Too Bad They’ll Never Work.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Internet Giants, Defied by Bitcoin, Now See Its Tech as a Remedy

Westlake Legal Group 18internetfix-facebookJumbo Internet Giants, Defied by Bitcoin, Now See Its Tech as a Remedy Zuckerberg, Mark E twitter Social Media Libra (Currency) Facebook Inc Dorsey, Jack Computers and the Internet Blockchain (Technology) Bitcoin (Currency) Berners-Lee, Tim

SAN FRANCISCO — Not so long ago, the technology behind Bitcoin was seen in Silicon Valley as the best hope for challenging the enormous, centralized power of companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Now, in an unexpected twist, the internet giants think that technology could help them solve their many problems.

The chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, said last week that he hoped to fund the creation of software for social media that, inspired by the design of Bitcoin, would give Twitter less control over how people use the service and shift power toward users and outside programmers.

Likewise, Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has said he hopes the same concepts from Bitcoin could “take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands.”

This push toward decentralization — the buzzword people in tech are using to describe these projects — has already gained enough currency and has sounded outlandish enough that it was one of the central themes of the satirical HBO show “Silicon Valley.”

Though Bitcoin’s digital tokens are widely used among the tech set, its underlying concept — a network of computers managing the currency without anyone in charge — is what’s most interesting to many people working on decentralization.

Countless entrepreneurs are working on decentralization projects, including the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. He founded Solid, which seeks to fix the problems of the centralized internet by shifting the ownership of personal data away from big companies and back toward users.

But the other efforts have largely been aimed at taking down Twitter and Facebook rather than helping them solve their problems. And the two behemoths have plenty of problems, from policing their sites for toxic content to dealing with pressure from regulators who think tech companies have grown too powerful.

Not surprisingly, the efforts at Twitter and Facebook have faced skepticism and questions about whether they are just trying to land some positive press while dodging responsibility — and regulations.

“When a company does something like this when it is under pressure, it becomes a way to distract attention by appearing to do something,” said Mitra Ardron, the head of the decentralized web project at the Internet Archive, which has hosted the Decentralized Web Summit the last four years.

Many people working on decentralization projects are concerned that Twitter and Facebook are trying to align themselves with the work’s countercultural spirit without giving up their enormous power.

“The monoliths see it as a threat to their model, so they try to weave in the concepts into their own products to maintain control,” said Eugen Rochko, the founder of Mastodon, a competitor to Twitter. With around two million users, Mastodon has been one of the most successful alternative projects.

Mr. Dorsey said Twitter was just starting to look at the idea and had committed only five people to it. Facebook has moved ahead with its Bitcoin-inspired cryptocurrency and has beefed up encryption, but the company has otherwise taken few steps to decentralize its services. Mr. Dorsey and Mr. Zuckerberg, though, have frequently discussed decentralization, suggesting they have a personal fascination that goes beyond business interests.

Mr. Dorsey also hired a small team at his second company, Square, to work full time on Bitcoin, without any commercial responsibilities. And he recently announced that he was hoping to take an extended sojourn in Africa to understand how Bitcoin was working there.

“It’s clearly catching on in part because people believe in it,” said Neha Narula, the director of the Digital Currency Initiative at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “It’s not necessarily that it is cheaper or more efficient or faster or easier. In fact, it is much harder. But it’s clear that this idea speaks to people.”

Mr. Dorsey’s tweets last week suggest that he wants the new team, Blue Sky, to build essentially a basic version of Twitter that would be available for anyone to copy. This would make it easier for outside developers to build on top of Twitter and to compete with it. A competitor might be able to offer a version without ads, or one that recommends tweets to readers based on different standards.

While that would most likely pose a commercial threat to Twitter, Mr. Dorsey said it would also force the service to be “far more innovative than in the past” and could draw more overall users to it.

The idea of decentralization harks back to the basic design and ideals of the internet, which was supposed to be a global gathering place where everyone was welcome and no one was in charge.

Mr. Dorsey said the invention of Bitcoin had made it possible to revive those early ideals. The key to Bitcoin is its blockchain database, which provides a way for a network of disconnected computers to agree on a single set of records for every Bitcoin in existence.

Mr. Dorsey is following in the steps of the many cryptocurrency advocates who have argued that the underlying technology could be used to record all the users and activity on a social network, and to agree on a single set of rules for the network, without having any single company in charge. He said, though, that it would most likely take “many years.”

Facebook has pursued several projects over the past year that would shift control to its users.

The company’s most notable effort with blockchains is the Libra cryptocurrency, which aims to create money outside the control of any one company. The Libra effort has faced crippling opposition from politicians, regulators and even some of the project’s original partners. But it appears to have inspired central banks in China and Europe, which are also considering ways to duplicate Bitcoin’s underlying technology.

Already, many start-ups have tried to use blockchains to create social networks to compete with Twitter and Facebook. But these networks, with names like Minds and Steemit, have faced many of the same problems that Bitcoin has, struggling to attract mainstream attention and leaving users to fend off hackers themselves. Many investors have largely given up on blockchain investments.

Several up-and-coming projects focused on decentralization, including Mr. Berners-Lee’s Solid, have steered clear of the blockchain entirely because they don’t believe it is useful for anything other than financial transactions.

Mr. Dorsey said one of the great appeals of a decentralized future was that Twitter would no longer be the only one in charge of deciding what is and isn’t allowed on the network.

To many people, that sounded like an effort by Mr. Dorsey to wash his hands of the hardest but arguably most important responsibility of social networks today: identifying and filtering bad actors and disinformation.

“I’m concerned that Twitter may try to foist the responsibility for dealing with these problems onto the decentralization community,” said Ross Schulman, the senior policy technologist at New America’s Open Technology Institute.

A spokeswoman for Facebook had no comment on the company’s efforts.

Mastodon, the Twitter competitor, allows anyone to tweak the software in order to create his or her own version of Mastodon. If people don’t like the rules set up in one version, they can move to another.

But Mastodon has provided a window into just how difficult these problems are to deal with, even with decentralization.

The Mastodon software was created to form a refuge from anger and hate speech on Twitter. But recently, a social network with close ties to hate crimes and the far right, Gab, used Mastodon’s software to create a new home after it was pushed off the mainstream internet. Mastodon’s leaders were opposed to it but could do little to stop it.

“Building these types of decentralized social networks comes with a slew of challenges that we haven’t figured out how to solve yet,” said Ms. Narula, who was a co-author of an article titled “Decentralized Social Networks Sound Great. Too Bad They’ll Never Work.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com