Digital Democracy 20–25 April

Toomas Hendrik Ilves
Apr 26 · 27 min read


Mueller discovered new ways Russia attempted to interfere in the 2016 election– CNN

While Washington debates how damaging the Mueller report is for President Donald Trump, there is no doubt about its verdict that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a “sweeping and systematic fashion.”The 448-page report provides new details on what was a coordinated and extensive Russian government effort to undermine the US electoral process.Amongst the more striking revelations in the report are claims that Russian government hackers managed to compromise a Florida county’s election systems and that Russia attempted to hack Hillary Clinton’s campaign just five hours after Trump publicly appealed for her deleted emails.

‘Putin Has Won’: Mueller Report Details the Ways Russia Interfered in the 2016 Election– WSJ

The report reinforces the conclusion of intelligence agencies, offers unprecedented detail of the Russian government’s activities

Opinion | How Barr and Trump Use a Russian Disinformation Tactic- The New York Times

On Nov. 9, 2016, according to the Mueller report, some redacted figure wrote to a Russian regime crony, “Putin has won.” Based on the assessment of the intelligence community and the findings of Robert Mueller, President Vladimir Putin of Russia did indeed succeed in his efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Donald Trump. But Mr. Putin’s ultimate victory may have come on Thursday morning, during Attorney General Bill Barr’s news conference. By seamlessly conflating the terms “collusion” and “conspiracy,” and absolving President Trump of both, Mr. Barr revealed that the Russian information warfare technique of “reflexive control” has officially entered American public discourse — and threatens, with his recent allegations of campaign “spying,” to stay there for a while.

Here’s Everything The Mueller Report Says About How Russian Trolls Used Social Media- BuzzFeed

The Mueller report clearly describes how Russian trolls reached millions of people on Facebook, were quoted in major newspapers as real Americans, and even organized rallies.

Mueller identified ‘dozens’ of US rallies organized by Russian troll farm- TheHill

Special counsel Robert Mueller in his highly-anticipated report said his team identified “dozens” of U.S. political rallies organized on social media by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm that was later indicted for attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Kushner: Mueller Probe Worse for U.S. Than ‘a Few Facebook Ads’ From Russia — The Daily Beast Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, on Tuesday claimed that the Russia investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been “way more harmful to our country” than any Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Fact Check: Russian Interference Was More Than ‘Facebook Ads’ As Kushner Said– NPR

In a rare public appearance on Tuesday, Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and one of his closest advisers, said that the multiple investigations into Russian election interference have been more harmful to American democracy than the original interference itself.

Look again: The Mueller report spells it out — Putin’s Russian hack delivered America to Donald Trump — Raw Story

As we collectively devour the Mueller Report, there are two gigantic questions surrounding the entire Russiagate saga that transcend the deeply problematic behavior of Donald Trump and his campaign. 1) Is the Russian government engaged in an ongoing attack against the United States and our elections, and 2) did the 2016 phase of the attack change the outcome of the election, handing the victory to Trump?

Mueller: Russians breached a Florida county’s computer system ahead of 2016 election-

Russia’s military intelligence agency gained access to at least one Florida county government’s computer system in a sweeping cyberattack targeting Florida election officials, special counsel Robert Mueller revealed in his final report. According to Mueller’s partially redacted report, Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, sent “spearphishing emails” like those used to target the DNC to “over 120 email accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 U .S. election.”

Mueller Report Draws Attention To Russian Election Interference In Florida– NPR

While the headlines about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report have focused on the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice, the report also gave fresh details about Russian efforts to hack into U.S. election systems.

Cybersecurity and the Mueller Report– Lawfare

It isn’t as sexy as the overall question of Russian information operations or the president’s obstructive criminal behavior, but as someone focused on cybersecurity more generally, I thought it would be amusing to tease out a few of the issues in the Mueller report that bump up against my day job. To be clear, I am not talking about the blindingly obvious — namely, the fact that the thrust of Volume I of the report is on two Russian cyber operations, one a hacking operation by Russian military intelligence against Democratic operatives and the other an information operation by a Russian goverment-affliated group, the Internet Research Agency, targeting Western opinion via social media. There are also indications of unsuccessful efforts to directly intrude on the electoral databases of some election agencies. At the risk of overstating the case only a slight bit, the Russia portion of this criminal investigation is a cybercrime extravaganza and an indictment of the (lack of) cybersecurity in a wide range of institutions.

Kremlin Dismisses Mueller Report on Russian Election Interference- Polygraph

On April 18, the U.S. Justice Department released a redacted versionof the “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election” — more commonly known as the Mueller Report, after the man leading it, Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller — was released to the public. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded the next day, dismissing allegations of Russian interference.

After Mueller report, Twitter bots pushed ‘Russiagate hoax’ narrative- NBC

As social media platforms continue to prepare for the 2020 election, efforts to spread disinformation and sow discord remain an ongoing issue.

Hoaxes And Misinformation About The Mueller Report Are Already Spreading- BuzzFeed

Fake accounts, false headlines, and joke screenshots are already spreading.

Robert Mueller Showed How U.S. Elections Broke in 2016. Here’s How to Fix Them- Time

Over a nearly two-year investigation, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has shown the sheer breadth of the Russian effort to meddle in the 2016 election. From hacking into campaign email systems to using social media to stir up voters, the Russian effort hit at a number of soft spots in the American electoral system. Experts say Russia didn’t stop there either, using similar strategies to attempt to influence the 2018 elections, and, they expect, the 2020 elections as well. They also warn that Iran and China may be mulling similar influence operations too. Here’s what experts say would strengthen American elections against future attacks.

After Mueller report exposed Russian interference ‘roadmap,’ is US ready for 2020?- ABC News

Now that special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report has revealed the purported “sweeping and systematic” effort by the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. government is left with a pressing challenge looking forward: how to prevent or defend against a similar attack in 2020.

What the Mueller Report Tells Us About Russia’s Designs on 2020– Foreign Policy

Political chaos in Washington is what Moscow was hoping for all along, U.S. intelligence officials say. And the Kremlin would like to create more of it.

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

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

DNC pledges not to use hacked materials, presses RNC to do the same- Politico

The head of the DNC pledged the committee wouldn’t use hacked emails or stolen data for political gain ahead of the 2020 presidential election and pressed his RNC counterpart to make the same commitment.

The EU’s Looming Test on Election Interference- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

The upcoming May 2019 European Parliament elections could be the next epicenter for malign election interference. While Europe has confronted the specter of foreign meddling before, these are the first European Parliament elections to be held since it became clear how disruptive Russian interference can be. Moreover, the stakes are now arguably even higher, as these elections will be crucially important to the future of the European Union (EU) over the next several years, and the contests will take place even as political fragmentation across Europe continues to grow.

Facebook signals softer stance on ad rules for EU elections- Financial Times

Facebook is ready to give in to pressure from Brussels over criticism that its new rules on online political advertising restricts EU parties from campaigning in next month’s European elections. Nick Clegg, Facebook’s head of global affairs, has written to Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, offering to explore ways to exempt European parties and EU elections from the campaign rules after they sparked a fierce backlash among MEPs.

EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections- EU Observer

The EU institutions and pan-European political groups are demanding Facebook tweak its transparency rules in order to carry out continent-wide election and awareness campaigns, ahead of the May elections.

Twitter to offer report option for misleading election tweets– TechCrunch

Twitter is adding a dedicated report option that enables users to tell it about misleading tweets related to voting — starting with elections taking place in India and the European Union .

Twitter Will Let Users Report Tweets That Mislead Voters- BuzzFeed

The tool will be rolled out in India, where general elections are already underway, and in the European Union, which holds elections in May.

Strengthening our approach to deliberate attempts to mislead voters-

Voting is a fundamental human right and the public conversation occurring on Twitter is never more important than during elections. Any attempts to undermine the process of registering to vote or engaging in the electoral process is contrary to our company’s core values. Today, we are further expanding our enforcement capabilities in this area by creating a dedicated reporting feature within the product to allow users to more easily report this content to us. This is in addition to our existing proactive approach to tackling malicious automation and other forms of platform manipulation on the service. We will start with 2019 Lok Sabha in India and the EU elections and then roll out to other elections globally throughout the rest of the year.

Elections in 2019: Risks of More Interference– DisinfoPortal

The past year was a turbulent one for democracy in the transatlantic space. A rising tide of populism, nationalism, extremism, and illiberalism continued to upend politics. These trends should continue in 2019 and could affect elections throughout the transatlantic community. In the European Parliament elections, far-right parties are expected to perform well. Ukraine, in many ways “ground zero” for Russian interference, will hold a presidential election, followed by parliamentary elections. Looming uncertaintyin the United Kingdom about Brexit could trigger a general election and perhaps another referendum. On the other side of the Atlantic, the campaign for the 2020 presidential election in the United States will soon be in full swing, while Canada will hold federal elections.

How 11 People Are Trying to Stop Fake News in the World’s Largest Election- Bloomberg

One of the operations most vital to Facebook Inc. at this moment is a world away from its Menlo Park, California, headquarters, and in more ways than one. Instead of the sprawling roof gardens and upscale cafes packed with Silicon Valley’s latest health fads, this cramped Mumbai office has worn carpets and fading walls lined with exposed electrical ducts. This is Boom Live, one of seven tiny fact-checking firms at the heart of Facebook’s efforts to rebuild some of its credibility during India’s elections.

‘They think they are above the law’: the firms that own America’s voting system- The Guardian

Maryland congressman Jamie Raskin is a newcomer to the cause of reforming America’s vote-counting machines, welcomed through baptism by fire. In 2015, Maryland’s main election system vendor was bought by a parent company with ties to a Russian oligarch. The state’s election officials did not know about the purchase until July 2018, when the FBI notified them of the potential conflict.

America’s new voting machines bring new fears of election tampering- The Guardian

In the first of a two-part series: Many jurisdictions will offer voters a paper trail in 2020. But the systems involved are far from foolproof

2020 Campaigns Are Still Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks– Time

Most Americans aren’t yet paying a lot of attention to the 2020 presidential campaign. The same can’t be said for Russian spies. Aides and advisers to the vast field of Democratic hopefuls are ringing alarm bells, telling their bosses they should assume that Moscow is laying the groundwork to disrupt, if not derail, their campaigns, just as Russian intelligence did to Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.

Top Cyber Diplomat Says U.S. Needs Allies’ Help to Punish Cyberattacks– Nextgov

Creating a unified international response around online attacks will help “establish the legitimacy” of norms for cyberspace, says Rob Strayer.

Fake U.S. State Dept. docs used in European embassy cyberattacks- SC Magazine

Cyberattackers, possibly Russian, recently struck numerous embassies in Europe with a malicious email attachment that uses a weaponized version of the TeamViewer remote desktop tool to gain control of the target computer. Check Point researchers reported that the attack is well structured, yet somewhat sloppy, but in the end potentially quite dangerous.

Everything is hackable: The crowd is here to help- SC Magazine

The cybersecurity industry at large is facing a massive skills shortage. Coupled with a growing attack surface and economically incentivized adversaries, this skills gap has made it more difficult than ever for organizations to shore up their defenses.

Evgeniy Mikhailovich Bogachev: The growing partnership between Russia’s government and cybercriminals — 60 Minutes- CBS News

An Obama administration national security official tells 60 Minutes, “Increasingly, you cannot tell which is which when it comes to the criminal and the intelligence agency.”

What ‘The Godfather’ can teach us about fighting cyber attacks- Financial Times

Countries can defend against individual hackers by sending them a ‘horse head’ message

The Cybersecurity 202: DHS is pushing cybersecurity support to presidential campaigns- Connecticut Post

The Department of Homeland Security is offering to help test and improve the cybersecurity of Democratic presidential campaigns — and this time, these services are getting a lot of interest.

How to be an ethical hacker- SC Magazine

At first glance, the term “ethical hacking” may seem like an oxymoron. That’s because criminal “hacker” has become a pejorative that’s closely tied to the bad guys — black hat threat actors looking to steal or corrupt data or other assets within digital reach.

A mystery agent is doxing iran’s hackers and dumping their code– WIRED

NEARLY THREE YEARS after the mysterious group called the Shadow Brokers began disemboweling the NSA’s hackers and leaking their hacking tools onto the open web, Iran’s hackers are getting their own taste of that unnerving experience. For the last month, a mystery person or group has been targeting a top Iranian hacker team, dumping their secret data, tools, and even identities onto a public Telegram channel — and the leak shows no signs of stopping.

Hacker Can Monitor Cars And Kill Their Engines After Breaking Into GPS Tracking Apps — Motherboard “I can absolutely make a big traffic problem all over the world,” the hacker said.

UK gives Huawei an amber light to supply 5G — Tech Crunch The UK government will allow Huawei to be a supplier for some non-core parts of the country’s 5G networks, despite concerns that the involvement of the Chinese telecoms vendor could pose a risk to national security.

Huawei will help build Britain’s 5G network, despite security concerns — The Verge UK Prime Minister Theresa May has signed off on letting Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei help build “non-core” parts of the country’s 5G infrastructure, including antennas and other network components, according to The Telegraph.

U.K. Prepares Tougher Rules on Huawei, Avoids Full Ban- Bloomberg

Britain is set to toughen the rules under which Huawei Technologies Co.operates in the country while stopping short of an outright ban on the Chinese telecom equipment maker, according to people familiar with the matter.

Why it’s so hard to know who owns Huawei — Tech Crunch It’s one of the greatest technology “startup” success stories of the personal computer and smartphone eras.

Turmoil consumes White House team guiding feds’ tech strategy– Politico

‘This organization looks like it’s in free fall,’ one former senior federal official says.

It’s U.S. vs. World as Big Tech Faces Specter of Limiting Speech Online- The New York Times

Many other countries are adopting or considering stricter moderation of online speech.

Democrats and Republicans find a common cause: Whacking tech companies- POLITICO

Issues that have already drawn cross-party buy-in run the gamut from antitrust enforcement to bolstering publishers’ power against tech platforms.

A Silicon Valley Apostate Launches ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for Tech- WSJ

Tristan Harris believes that more needs to be done to counter the corrosive effects technology is having on society

Tristan Harris: Tech Is ‘Downgrading Humans.’ It’s Time to Fight Back- WIRED

The creator of the “time well spent” movement disappeared for a year, but now he’s come back with a new phrase and a plan to stop technology from from destroying free will, creating social anomie, and wrecking democracy.

Technology ethics campaigners offer plan to fight ‘human downgrading’– Reuters

Technology firms should do more to connect people in positive ways and steer away from trends that have tended to exploit human weaknesses, ethicists told a meeting of Silicon Valley leaders on Tuesday.

How artificial intelligence systems could threaten democracy– The Conversation

U.S. technology giant Microsoft has teamed up with a Chinese military university to develop artificial intelligence systems that could potentially enhance government surveillance and censorship capabilities. Two U.S. senators publicly condemned the partnership, but what the National Defense Technology University of China wants from Microsoft isn’t the only concern.

The four “I”s undermining democracy- Brookings

Democracy is facing some sharp challenges everywhere. Specifically, four of them — the four “I”s — identity, inequality, information, and interference.

How people feel about algorithms has become the new digital divide — Quartz

The main reason for the new digital divide, in my opinion as someone who studies information systems, is that so few people understand how algorithms work. For a majority of users, algorithms are seen as a black box.

Tesla’s new AI chip isn’t a silver bullet for self-driving cars — The Verge At Tesla’s Autonomy Day event for investors on Monday, CEO Elon Musk made a characteristically big deal out of the company’s new microchips.

The new new web — Tech Crunch Over the last five years, almost everything about web development has changed. Oh, the old tech still works, your WordPress and Ruby On Rails sites still function just fine — but they’re increasingly being supplanted by radical new approaches.

Russia isn’t the first country to protest Western control over global telecommunications– The Conversation

As the international community becomes increasingly concerned about misinformation and data breaches, the Russian government has announced plans to test its own, sweeping solution to the problem: disconnecting Russia from the global internet. Russian President Vladimir Putin has argued that internet administration is too concentrated in the U.S., and that online misinformation campaigns threaten Russia’s national security. But neither these problems nor Putin’s intended solution are particularly new.

EU official urges Trump to adopt tough data privacy rules- Financial Times

Brussels-style rules for the US seen as precursor to broader talks on data sharing

Washington state legislature passes data breach law, but punts on privacy law- SC Magazine

The Washington state legislature went one-for-two this month in its attempt to pass major data breach and privacy regulations. Yesterday, lawmakers unanimously passed HB 1071, which firms up and expands requirements for public breach notifications, but the state apparently has failed to approve a sweeping new state privacy law, SB 5367, after the House declined…

How Big Tech’s cozy relationship with Ireland threatens data privacy around the world- POLITICO

The GDPR is the world’s toughest standard for data privacy. But nearly a year later, its chief enforcer has yet to take a single action against major tech firms like Facebook and Google.

Why fascism is so tempting — and how your data could power it- Yuval Noah Harari, TED2018 In a profound talk about technology and power, author and historian Yuval Noah Harari explains the important difference between fascism and nationalism — and what the consolidation of our data means for the future of democracy.

Tech and Privacy Groups Hate the Census Citizenship Question- WIRED

The Trump administration wants to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Tech companies and privacy advocates think that’s a bad idea.

Why we should open the Cambridge Analytica data vault- Financial Times

Understanding precisely how tech businesses use our data is crucial if we are to have a sensible debate on reforming them

Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State- The New York Times

In Ecuador, cameras capture footage to be examined by police and domestic intelligence. The surveillance system’s origin: China.

Who’s using your face? The ugly truth about facial recognition- Financial Times

Researchers are scraping our images from social media and CCTV. We may not like the consequences

Apple claims it isn’t scanning customers’ faces, after teen sues for $1 billion — The Verge Apple is being accused of using facial recognition software in its Apple Stores to arrest the wrong person for theft — a New York student who’s now suing Apple for $1 billion.

When can we finally get rid of passwords? — The Verge On February 25th, Google introduced a new feature to Android that could have huge implications for our online security. The company announced that all Android devices running on version 7.0 and higher are now FIDO2 certified for password-free logins.

Hackers Can Tell What Netflix BandersnatchChoices You Make- WIRED

Researchers have shown that even though Netflix encrypts its traffic, hackers can figure out your interactive movie choices.

How Recommendation Algorithms Run the World- WIRED

Companies use recommendation engines to tell you what to buy, read, and watch. But those algorithms aren’t your friends.

AI Could Predict Death. But What If the Algorithm Is Biased?- WIRED

Opinion: Researchers are studying how artificial intelligence could predict risks of premature death. But the health care industry needs to consider another risk: unconscious bias in AI.

Your car is watching you. Who owns the data?- RollCall

Computers on wheels raise thorny questions about data privacy

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

People concerned about privacy often try to be “careful” online. They stay off social media, or if they’re on it, they post cautiously. They don’t share information about their religious beliefs, personal life, health status or political views. By doing so, they think they are protecting their privacy. But they are wrong. Because of technological advances and the sheer amount of data now available about billions of other people, discretion no longer suffices to protect your privacy. Computer algorithms and network analyses can now infer, with a sufficiently high degree of accuracy, a wide range of things about you that you may have never disclosed, including your moods, your political beliefs, your sexual orientation and your health.

Facebook Expects to Be Fined Up to $5 Billion by F.T.C. Over Privacy Issues- The New York Times

Facebook said on Wednesday that it expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations. The penalty would be a record by the agency against a technology company and a sign that the United States was willing to punish big tech companies.

Facebook is facing a federal investigation that could hold Mark Zuckerberg accountable for privacy mishaps- The Washington Post

Federal regulators investigating Facebook for mishandling its users’ personal information have set their sights on the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, exploring his past statements on privacy and weighing whether to seek new, heightened oversight of his leadership.

Facebook sets aside $3bn to cover expected FTC fine- Financial Times

Social media group says ‘range of loss’ in privacy inquiry could go as high as $5bn

Canada accuses Facebook of breaking local privacy law, threatening to take company to court- The Washington Post

Canadian regulators on Thursday found that Facebook committed “serious” breaches of local laws over its mishandling of users’ personal information, announcing they would take the company to court to force it to change its privacy practices.

Facebook profits likely to fall after fake news and privacy scandals- The Guardian

Analysts predict first quarterly drop in earnings since 2015 on $3bn rise in turnover

Facebook hires State Department lawyer as general counsel– Reuters

Facebook Inc on Monday named the legal adviser to the U.S. State Department as its general counsel, as the social media giant faces growing regulatory hurdles and privacy concerns. Jennifer Newstead, who brings government and private sector experience to the role, will succeed Colin Stretch, who decided to quit the company in July 2018, Facebook said in a blog post.

Facebook appoints US state department lawyer as new general counsel- Financial Times

Facebook has hired one of the top lawyers at the US Department of State to oversee its global legal functions at a time when lawmakers around the world weigh restrictions on ‘big tech’ and social media networks.

Why Facebook hired a Patriot Act author and privacy activist- POLITICO

The social network giant is girding for regulatory battles worldwide.

Mark Zuckerberg has a podcast — Tech Crunch In the future, everyone will have a podcast — and by “future,” I mean like mid-2020. But one step at a time, starting with Facebook founder, CEO and definite human person, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook announced the podcast’s Spotify link on Twitter.

Mark Zuckerberg has a podcast now — The Verge

Today, the Facebook Twitter account posted a link to a new podcast called Tech & Society with Mark Zuckerberg. In an episode published today, he spoke with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner about the impact of social media on journalism.

How One Dem Super PAC Uses Facebook Ads to Get Critical Voter Data to its Candidate — The Daily Beast A super PAC supporting Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) has developed a way to share information and strategy with his presidential campaign in a manner that experts say is both novel and right at the end of the legal boundaries for permissible coordination.

Once upon a time in Silicon Valley: How Facebook’s open-data nirvana fell apart– NBC News

Analysis: A lack of rules built upon optimism about the internet and amplified by a growth-at-all costs strategy has given way to scrutiny and skepticism.

Facebook and the art of the news dump– CNN

After more than a year of seemingly endless scandals for the social network, its communications team appears to have settled on some favorite techniques to minimize the damage of these types of announcements. Sometimes called “news dumps,” these timing tricks are used for news about topics like hacks, the mishandling of customer data, and bad behavior by executives.

Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match- The New York Times

A reconstruction of Sri Lanka’s descent into violence, based on interviews with officials, victims and ordinary users caught up in online anger, found that Facebook’s newsfeed played a central role in nearly every step from rumor to killing. Facebook officials, they say, ignored repeated warnings of the potential for violence, resisting pressure to hire moderators or establish emergency points of contact.

Facebook urged to tackle spread of fake profiles used by US police- The Guardian

A Guardian report recently revealed a secret network of accounts operated by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Social Media Has Been Blocked For Over 24 Hours In Sri Lanka After The Deadly Explosions- BuzzFeed

Social media will remain blocked while security forces investigate the bombings.

Don’t Praise the Sri Lankan Government for Blocking Facebook- WIRED

Social media can provide vital information in a crisis, and there’s evidence that blocking it does more harm than good.

When a Country Bans Social Media- The Atlantic

Sri Lanka’s ban on social media forces a question nobody wants to ask: What if a global media network is impossible?

Sri Lanka: shutting down social media to fight rumors hurts victims- Access Now

As families gathered for Easter Sunday mass in Sri Lanka, a deadly coordinated attack targeted churches and hotels across the country. So far, this despicable and cowardly act has claimed the lives of 290 people and injured more than 500. In response to these attacks, the government has declared a state of emergency and introduced a 6:00 pm curfew, which was lifted today (Monday the 22nd). Authorities also blocked access to social media platforms, and the shutdown is ongoing.

Sri Lanka’s decision to block social media after the bombings sets an alarming precedent- The Washington Post

EXPLOSIONS IN Sri Lanka killed at least 290 people and injured more than 500 on Sunday, an unconscionable attack on Christian worshipers on their most sacred day. The story behind the tragedy is still murky, but officials have taken one drastic step to prevent false tales from spreading: They shut down access to several of Sri Lanka’s most popular social media services.

Like Guns, Social Media Is a Weapon That Should Be Regulated- WIRED

In the wake of the massacres in Sri Lanka, the government imposed a social media blackout. This may be a turning point in the way we think about how to control big platforms.

Facebook blocks could open the door to online censorship- The Verge

‘In that chaos and confusion, people don’t know what to believe’

Sri Lanka blocked access to social media after misinformation on bombings. What does that mean for Silicon Valley?- The Washington Post

The Sri Lankan government’s decision to shutter access to social media sites after Sunday’s deadly bombings may mark a turning point in how countries around the world perceive Silicon Valley — and their willingness to act to stop the spread of falsehoods online.

Brazilian Courts Seek to Hush Critics, Independent Media– WSJ

Brazilian judges are ratcheting up a campaign against what they deem to be misleading press coverage and offensive social-media posts, raising concerns among free-speech advocates.

Platforms Want Centralized Censorship. That Should Scare You– WIRED

In the immediate aftermath of the horrific attacks at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, internet companies faced intense scrutiny over their efforts to control the proliferation of the shooter’s propaganda. Responding to many questions about the speed of their reaction and the continued availability of the shooting video, several companies published posts or gave interviews that revealed new information about their content moderation efforts and capacity to respond to such a high-profile incident.

Austria draft law would require real names for internet comments- Engadget

You could use a public nickname, but anonymity would still disappear.

Of Blackouts and Bandhs: The Strategy and Structure of Disconnected Protest in India by Jan Rydzak– SSRN

State governments in India have executed approximately half of the world’s known network shutdowns — large-scale, deliberate disruptions of Internet connectivity, cell phone service, or social media. India is also a hotbed of collective action with widely varying degrees of organization and coordination, which are partially determined by the identities of the primary participants. However, no independent assessment of the effects of such information vacuums on the strategy and structure of collective action exists, for India or any other state. In this study, I expand on a previously formulated theory of disconnective action by examining how structural and strategic characteristics affect collective action responses during a network shutdown in an extreme case via statistical analysis.

Jack Dorsey just met with Trump to talk about the health of Twitter’s public discourse — Tech Crunch Twitter’s co-founder and CEO historically doesn’t have the most discerning tastes when it comes to who he decides to engage with. Fresh off the podcast circuit, today a thoroughly beardy Jack Dorsey sat down with President Trump for his most high-profile tête-à-tête yet.

Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey Attended Closed-Door Meeting With President Trump — Motherboard The meeting lasted 30 minutes, and touched on “the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” according to an internal Twitter email obtained by Motherboard.

Trump’s Twitter follower count and the Jack Dorsey meeting, explained– Recode

It’s part of Twitter’s efforts to make its platform less bad.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Met With President Trump- WIRED

The Twitter CEO says in an internal email that it’s “important to meet heads of state in order to listen, share our principles and our ideas.”

Jack Dorsey says it’s time to rethink the fundamental dynamics of Twitter– TechCrunch

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took the stage today at the TED conference. But instead of giving the standard talk, he answered questions from TED’s Chris Anderson and Whitney Pennington Rodgers. For most of the interview, Dorsey outlined steps that Twitter has taken to combat abuse and misinformation, but Anderson explained why the company’s critics sometimes find those steps so insufficient and unsatisfying. He compared Twitter to the Titanic, and Dorsey to the captain, listening to passengers’ concerns about the iceberg up ahead — then going back to the bridge and showing “this extraordinary calm.”

Twitter CEO Gently Tells Trump: Your ‘Lost’ Followers Are Bots and Spam Accounts — The Daily Beast

Jack Dorsey may have wanted to use Tuesday’s meeting to talk up Twitter’s efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, but the president had more important things on his mind.

Pew: U.S. adult Twitter users tend to be younger, more demographic; 10% create 80% of tweets — Tech Crunch A new report out this morning from Pew Research Center offers insight into the U.S. adult Twitter population.

Twitter Is Not America- The Atlantic

A new Pew study finds a gulf between the general population and Twitter users.

Reddit’s BlackPeopleTwitter Forum Wants to Know if Its Users Are Actually White — The Daily Beast Moderators for the popular subreddit had an idea to weed out the white users. But their experiment ended after just a few days — and inspired right-wing outrage.

Twitter algorithm to fight white supremacy could flag GOP politicians: report- Business Insider

Twitter is holding back from implementing a possible algorithm that could allow Twitter to more effectively crack down on Neo-Nazi and white supremacist content over concerns it could report accounts of Republican politicians, according to a new report from Vice News’ tech site Motherboard.

Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too.– Motherboard

A Twitter employee who works on machine learning believes that a proactive, algorithmic solution to white supremacy would also catch Republican politicians.

Twitter Users Are Richer and More Woke Than the Rest of Us- WIRED

A new report from Pew Research backs up the idea that social media often doesn’t reflect the larger world around us.

How social media has changed the disinformation game– ITProPortal

Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have made it easier than ever to mislead and influence.

Macron, Ardern Seek Pledge to Purge Extremism From Social Media- WSJ

France and New Zealand are trying to pull together a meeting of political and tech leaders in Paris next month

The Kids Use TikTok Now Because Data-Mined Videos Are So Much Fun- Bloomberg

The video-sharing app by the Chinese-owned Bytedance, the world’s most valuable startup, has a younger audience than Facebook, an algorithm that learns you, and different ideas about free speech.

Indian court lifts ban on TikTok in India — Tech Crunch An Indian state court has reversed its ban on TikTok, allowing the short video app to return to both Apple and Google’s app stores, according to a report this morning from Reuters.

Advanced Persistent Manipulators, Part Two: Intelligence-led Social Media Defense– Alliance For Securing Democracy

This brief is Part Two of a three-part series. It outlines an approach for social media companies and governments to counter the new era of Advanced Persistent Manipulators discussed in Part One of this series. A forthcoming, final brief on “The Social Media Kill Chain” will finish this series.

“They will take from you everything”: how the far-right is already exploiting the tragedy of the Notre Dame fire- Prospect Magazine

From unverified claims that the fire was intentional to fake pictures and videos of alleged arsonists, far-right internet trolls started spreading disinformation within minutes of the fire breaking out

A Wild Plan to Crowdsource the Fight Against Misinformation– WIRED

Misinformation is in some ways a harder enemy to eliminate from the internet than violent or graphic imagery, or even hate speech, which can all be a little more easily classified into cut-and-dry categories for people and machines to recognize. What makes misinfo especially pernicious is one of its hallmarks: The “fact” in question often feels just true enough or plays into existing biases. Misinformation also exploits a basic emotion: fear. Especially people’s biggest fears about their own safety and that of the people they love. That’s where the crowd can help. People are experts in their own cultural context, and if there’s some sort of system where they can bring that expertise to bear, maybe they can fight against zombie rumors trudging across the internet.

Kremlin’s Disinformation Machine Recycles Soviet Narratives- Disinfo Portal

The attacks of Russian-controlled media on Ukrainian candidates in the Presidential elections are almost primitive: those candidates who wish to yield to Russia’s demands and to stop the conflict unconditionally are described by Kremlin-loyal media as “candidates of peace.” However, the candidates who wish to continue the defense of Ukraine against the five-year-long Russian aggression get condemned by the Kremlin. Officials label those who insist that Russia has to end the military aggression on Ukrainian territory and meet international standards before the fighting stops as “party of war.”

Fake news and public executions: Documents show a Russian company’s plan for quelling protests in Sudan– CNN

When anti-government protests erupted in Sudan at the end of last year, the response of President Omar al-Bashir came straight from the dictators’ playbook — a crackdown that led to scores of civilian deaths. At the same time, a more insidious strategy was being developed — one that involved spreading misinformation on social media, blaming Israel for fomenting the unrest, and even carrying out public executions to make an example of “looters.” The author of this strategy was not the Sudanese government. According to documents seen by CNN, it was drawn up by a Russian company tied to an oligarch favored by the Kremlin: Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Measles outbreak is a reminder of the power of viral information- Financial Times

Rise in cases shows it is time for systematic scrutiny of algorithms that determine behaviour

EXPOSED: Chinese Communist Party promoter joins Trump campaign with help of illicit massage parlor founder — Raw Story A report on Wednesday revealed that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has a fundraising contract with a promoter for China’s Communist Party.

Stop the Misinformation Virus: Don’t Be a Carrier– The News Literacy Project

The growing contagion of online misinformation should serve as a national wake-up call: We need a new ethos of personal responsibility about the news and other information that we trust — and that we share.

Today’s Disinformation Research Could Learn Much From Last Century’s Propaganda Research– Forbes

Foreign influence campaigns, rampant “fake news” and false rumors fanned by adversarial nation-states, thrown elections, a polarized nation living in filter bubbles, a deluge of hate speech spinning into violence, citizens overwhelmed and retreating from a deluge of questionable information filled with falsehoods and democracy in decline, collapsing under the pressure of failed communications platforms and misinformation, disinformation and fake news. Every policymaker, academic and business pitching an “instant fix” that will make use of the latest technology to instantly fix everything. At first glance this might seem a description of today’s world of social media-fueled disinformation but in reality, it summarizes the world of propaganda research of a century ago. Look closely and all of our modern talk of fake news, foreign influence and democracy in decline are merely our latest reckoning with the age-old tactic of governments using communications technologies as a weapon of war.

Man fined £365 for calling Putin ‘fantastical f***head’ in first use of new censorship law- The Independent

A 34-year-old man has become the first Russian to fall foul of new legislation banning “disrespect” of government officials after labelling President Vladimir Putin a “fantastical f***head”. The controversial law had been in place for just two days before a regional judge fined the equivalent of £365 for a post criticising the country’s leader. Unfortunately for the Kremlin, the offending phrase has now become the only thing people are talking about.

Thanks to technical assistance by Priit Talv

Toomas Hendrik Ilves

Written by

President of Estonia (2006–2016), Berggruen Fellow at CASBS, Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Global Digital Policy Incubator, Stanford