Tag Archives: Twitter
New charges against a Russian national for allegedly trying to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and upcoming midterms reveal the creative techniques that Kremlin-linked groups have used to sow discontent among Americans.
The Department of Justice said Friday that it filed criminal charges against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova for her alleged role with the Russian propaganda operation “Project Lakhta.” This operation, according to the complaint, oversaw multiple Russian-linked entities like the Internet Research Agency that lawmakers say spread fake news and ginned up controversy on Twitter and Facebook.
Here’s some interesting takeaways from the lawsuit:
Capitalizing on polarized topics of national interest
The complaint alleges that the Russian groups grasped onto polarized issues like gun control, race relations, and immigration to further divide the U.S. populace. They spread both liberal and conservative viewpoints to various groups on social media, tailoring the message to each one, including choosing which publication to share on them.
One unnamed Russian cited in the complaint allegedly said, ” If you write posts in a liberal group,…you must not use Breitbart titles. On the contrary, if you write posts in a conservative group, do not use Washington Post or Buzzfeed’s titles.”
The Russian groups appeared to practice their own form of racism, with one member reportedly saying “Colored LGTB are less sophisticated than white; therefore, complicated phrases and messages do not work.”
The groups apparently discovered that “infographics work well among LGTB and their liberal allies,” while conservatives appeared to be indifferent to graphics.
Spinning the news
Members of the Russian entities were well versed in summarizing popular news stories and spinning them in a way that would antagonize Americans. The entities created a Facebook group dubbed “Secure Borders” that would aggregate news stories and then sensationalize them to draw emotional responses.
Here’s an example of one way the Russian groups discussed among themselves about how to spin a news story about the late John McCain’s criticism of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
Creating fake user accounts on Facebook and Twitter
The Russian groups couldn’t have spread propaganda as effectively if they used their real identities. Instead, they created fake profiles on the social media to do things like promote protests and rallies and to post divisive and hateful content.
For instance, the fictitious New York City resident “Bertha Malone” created 400 Facebook posts that allegedly contained “inflammatory political and social content focused primarily on immigration and Islam.”
Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter.
The “Malone” personal also communicated with an unnamed real Facebook user to assist in posting content and managing a Facebook group called “Stop A.I.”
On March 9, 2018, a fake Twitter user named @JohnCopper16 attempted to influence Twitter users by commenting on President Trump’s recent summit with North Korean President Kim Jong Un:
(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) on Thursday made it easier for users to identify political campaign ads and know who paid for them, as social media platforms faced the threat of U.S. regulation over the lack of disclosure on such spending.
The microblogging site launched ‘Ads Transparency Center’ to allow anyone to view ads that have been put on Twitter, with greater transparency about U.S. federal election campaign ads.
The tool follows Twitter’s recently launched political campaign ads policy and a similar move by Facebook Inc (FB.O), which started a searchable archive of U.S. political ads last month.
Facebook said on Thursday it would go even further by enabling users to see listings of all active ad campaigns, whether the advertiser is political in nature or not. Users can also view a log of name changes to a Facebook page.
The features should help people spot misuse of Facebook, it added.
Twitter’s ads center gives users access to details such as demographic targeting data for the ads from U.S. political advertisers, along with billing information, ad spending, and impression data per Tweet.
“We are making it clearer than ever who is advertising U.S. federal political campaign content on Twitter,” Twitter said in a blog post.
The transparency center will include all advertisers on Twitter globally, but at this stage only U.S. federal election campaign ads that fall under its new policy will be shown.
Google has vowed to launch a similar transparency center for political ads on its services this summer. It declined to share additional details this week.
Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Bernard Orr and Richard Chang
(Reuters) – Rocket company SpaceX’s verified Facebook page disappeared on Friday, minutes after its founder and Silicon Valley billionaire Elon Musk promised on Twitter to take down the page when challenged by a user.
SpaceX’s Facebook page, which had more than 2.7 million followers, is no longer accessible. (bit.ly/2G8BGWo)
Musk had begun the exchange by responding to a tweet from WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton of the #deletefacebook tag.
“What’s Facebook?” Musk tweeted.
Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru
Twitter is working to shield Parkland, Fla. students from bots and trolls on the platform. Many of the high schoolers are organizing in the wake of the shooting at their school on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead.
As Marjory Stoneman Douglas students continue to speak out about gun control and their follower counts on Twitter rise, there are more instances of online abuse and conspiracy theories about these teenagers.
The claims that students are “crisis actors” paid to take advantage of the tragedy to further political agendas have spread on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.
Meanwhile, Twitter is takings steps to protect these teens. The company moved quickly to verify some students’ accounts and says it is “actively working on” addressing reports of harassment and abuse.
Twitter is also using its anti-spam tools “to weed out malicious automation” targeting Parkland survivors and the conversation they’ve started.
Directly after the shooting, bots and users linked to the Russian influence campaign began pushing both sides of the gun control debate.
These announcements from Twitter come in the midst of an effort to purge bots from the site that also affected some real people. Many of the users locked out of their accounts were conservative voices on the platform, leading to calls of political bias, which the company denounced.
Users have called for Twitter to take action to combat abuse and harassment repeatedly, and the demands for better management of the platform and the community intensified after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
If you’re an Apple iPhone user who also enjoys Twitter, listen up.
Pranksters on the social media service have been sharing a character from the Indian Telugu language that causes iPhones to crash, according to Mashable. The offending users have been putting the character into their Twitter usernames and tweets and encouraging people to share them with their friends. If the character lands in a user’s Twitter feed, it will cause the social app to crash. The app will continue to crash after users try to boot it back up, ultimately stopping victims from accessing the service on their iPhones.
Last week, reports surfaced saying that a single Telugu character was enough to wreak havoc on iPhones. When the character is sent via any messaging or social networking app, the affected user’s app will crash. While it’s an obscure bug that only affects Apple’s iOS 11, it’s one that pranksters and those trying to cause harm are exploiting across the Internet. Worst of all, there’s no fix at the moment and unsuspecting victims needn’t do anything to be affected.
Get Data Sheet, Fortune’s technology newsletter
Apple acknowledged the Telugu bug last week and has promised a fix. The company hasn’t yet delivered, though, and it’s impossible to say when it’ll be released.
According to Mashable, which tested the bug on Twitter, the only way for affected users to regain access to the app is to log in via Safari and block the person that shared the character. At that point, the character won’t show up in their feeds and Twitter will be accessible.
Twitter surprised investors and followers Thursday with revenue gains and its first profit, but some analysts say the company is still withholding vital information.
Twitter (twtr), on its earnings conference call, declined to give hard daily active user (DAU) statistics, simply saying it achieved its fifth consecutive quarter of double digit DAU growth, with a 12% year-over-year increase. That’s all well and good, say analysts, but without actual numbers, it’s a relatively meaningless boast.
“The DAU growth metric is literally the FIRST THING in their shareholder letter,” said Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter via Twitter. “Their excuse that they won’t disclose is lame. If they can’t tell us the numbers, why brag about growth? It’s either important (and should be disclosed) or not (and should be ignored).”
Pachter’s frustration grew as the call went on.
And he wasn’t the only critic.
Relying on percentage growth figures without giving any sort of base is an old trick of corporations. The reigning king of this strategy is Amazon, which has yet to give hard numbers regarding Amazon Prime members, though it has regularly touted the service’s membership growth.
While Twitter won’t disclose the number of daily users, it did, however, shed some light on monthly active users. That number was roughly the same as the prior quarter at 330 million, a lower-than-projected total that the company attributed in part to stepped-up efforts to reduce spam, malicious activity, and fake accounts.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Twitter may notify users whether they were exposed to content generated by a suspected Russian propaganda service, a company executive told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday.
The social media company is “working to identify and inform individually” its users who saw tweets during the 2016 U.S. presidential election produced by accounts tied to the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Army, Carlos Monje, Twitter’s director of public policy, told the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
A Twitter spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about plans to notify its users.
Facebook Inc in December created a portal where its users could learn whether they interacted with accounts created by the Internet Research Agency.
Both companies and Alphabet’s YouTube appeared before the Senate committee on Wednesday to answer lawmaker questions about how their efforts to combat the use of their platforms by violent extremists, such as the Islamic State.
But the hearing often turned its focus to questions of Russian propaganda, a vexing issue for internet firms who spent most of the past year responding to a backlash that they did too little to deter Russians from using their services to anonymously spread divisive messages among Americans in the run-up to the 2016 U.S. elections.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded Russia sought to interfere in the election through a variety of cyber-enabled means to sow political discord and help President Donald Trump win. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Nick Zieminski
RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding, said in an interview with CNBC on Monday that he was optimistic about his investment in Twitter.
“It’s not going to be easy because they face some difficulties, but our entry point was very reasonable, so right now it’s holding on a breakeven point,” he said.
Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by David Goodman
Twitter has responded to people who criticized it for not taking down President Donald Trump’s bellicose tweet about North Korea, which led the country to claim he had declared war on it. The tweet was too newsworthy to take down, the social media platform said.
The tweet, which Trump posted on Saturday, followed a speech to the United Nations General Assembly by North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho.
Ri said it was “inevitable” that his country would fire missiles at the U.S. mainland. In response, Trump tweeted: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!”
Twitter’s terms of service claim the company does not “tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.” Many people have wondered why, given the nature of Trump’s Twitter activity, this rule hasn’t led to his suspension from the platform.
In a thread late Monday, Twitter’s policy team addressed the question. The team insisted that it holds “all accounts to the same rules,” but pointed out the factors it takes into account when assessing violations.
“Among the considerations is ‘newsworthiness’ and whether a tweet is of public interest,” the policy team wrote. “This has long been internal policy and we’ll soon update our public-facing rules to reflect this.”
“We need to do better on this, and will,” the team added.
Twitter has a longstanding problem with abuse that many see as contributing to its stagnant user growth. It has brought in several new measures this year to address the issue, such as making it harder for abusive tweets to reach the eyes of their targets, and banning more people for their trollish behavior.
The U.S. administration has strongly denied that Trump’s Saturday tweet was a declaration of war, with White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders calling the assertion “absurd.”
Transgender Twitter users aren’t here for the platform’s gendered assumptions. And they sure aren’t hesitating to make that known.
Here’s the deal: Twitter a new set of tools on May 17 which allow users to see and control the data advertisers use to target ads on the social media platform. While the move was a clear effort to increase transparency and trust between users and the social media machine, the actual data Twitter has collected is giving many users pause.
Notably, many trans and gender-nonconforming users are troubled that Twitter has been guessing the gender of users based on the gender most strongly associated with a user’s “profile and activity.” Read more…