President Trump Accuses Google of Rigging Search Results Against Him, Calls It 'Very Dangerous'

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President Trump’s first tweet of the day, sent at 5:24am local time, has accused Google of rigging search results against conservatives. Right-wing media personalities often claim, without evidence, that companies like Twitter and Facebook are conspiring against them, but Google search results aren’t often part of that…

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Twitter suspends more accounts for “engaging in coordinated manipulation”

Following last week’s suspension of 284 accounts for “engaging in coordinated manipulation,” Twitter announced today that it’s kicked an additional 486 accounts off the platform for the same reason, bringing the total to 770 accounts.

While many of the accounts removed last week appeared to originate from Iran, Twitter said this time that about 100 of the latest batch to be suspended claimed to be in the United States. Many of these were less than a year old and shared “divisive commentary.” These 100 accounts tweeted a total of 867 times and had 1,268 followers between them.

As examples of the “divisive commentary” tweeted, Twitter shared screenshots from several suspended accounts that showed anti-Trump rhetoric, counter to the conservative narrative that the platform unfairly targets Republican accounts.

Twitter also said that the suspended accounts included one advertiser that spent $30 on Twitter ads last year, but added those ads did not target the U.S. and that the billing address was outside of Iran.

“As with prior investigations, we are committed to engaging with other companies and relevant law enforcement entities. Our goal is to assist investigations into these activities and where possible, we will provide the public with transparency and context on our efforts,” Twitter said on its Safety account.

After years of accusations that it doesn’t enforce its own policies about bullying, bots and other abuses, Twitter has taken a much harder line on problematic accounts in the past few months. Despite stalling user growth, especially in the United States, Twitter has been aggressively suspending accounts, including ones that were created by users to evade prior suspensions.

Twitter announced a drop of one million monthly users in the second quarter, causing investors to panic even though it posted a $100 million profit. In its earnings call, Twitter said that its efforts don’t impact user numbers because many of the “tens of millions” of removed accounts were too new or had been inactive for more than a month and were therefore not counted in active user numbers. The company did admit, however, that it’s anti-spam measures had caused it to lose three million monthly active users.

Whatever its impact on user numbers, Twitter’s anti-abuse measures may help it save face during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on September 5. Executives from Twitter, Facebook and Google are expected to be grilled by Sen. Mark Warner and other politicians about the use of their platforms by other countries to influence U.S. politics.

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The before and after dorm meme makes fun of over the top makeovers

Seeing excessive dorm room makeovers fills me with a rage I can’t quite describe. Thankfully, there’s a meme that pokes fun at super extra before and after posts. 

Everyone knows that college dorm rooms are sad, barren spaces for nightly existential crises, not glamorous Instagram-friendly #goals photo ops. After all, you’ll stay in a room for less than a year. Do you really plan on taking all of these decorations down, put them in storage, and then do the whole thing over again next August?

The wildly extravagant decor doesn’t even account for RA inspections! Most college residence halls don’t even allow coffee makers, much less fire hazards like curtains and upholstered furniture. It’s a housing code violation waiting to happen.

Texas Tech student @madisyn_blayne posted pictures of her admittedly gorgeous dorm room, which caused a flurry of reactions. She’s one of many college students who posted pictures of a revamped room in the past few weeks, so Twitter users started poking fun at the trend. 

@lanipastrami, one of the first people to post the meme, compared her room’s “makeover” an iconic Vincent Van Gogh painting. 

People also tweeted pictures of lavish bedrooms, joking about the “dorm transformation.”

Others posted screenshots of pop culture’s notable sets — like Spongebob’s habitat or the bedroom from Drake & Josh.

Recognize the igloo from Club Penguin?

@AndreDobleU made a bleaker format: he posted a picture of a room stripped to almost nothing. 

After all, who needs lighting, heating, and throw pillows when you have tuition bills to take care of?

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Reddit moderators spotted Iranian fake news campaign months ago


LightRocket via Getty Images

Earlier this week, Facebook, Twitter and Google announced they had pulled a number of accounts linked to a misinformation campaign based out of Iran. Facebook took down 652 pages believed to be connected to the campaign while Twitter suspended 284 accounts. Google also removed a number of YouTube channels, Google+ accounts and Blogger blogs. But NBC News reports today that a handful of Reddit moderators spotted this misinformation effort some time ago and that their reports to the website were ignored.

After noticing certain Reddit users were posting divisive political content from some obscure news sites, one moderator, Alex Brown, and a few others began investigating. By looking into website identification data and tracking IP addresses, the group was able to determine that the websites were linked to Iran and were part of a propaganda effort. “I tried going to the admins,” Brown told NBC News. “I told them about this [eight] days ago. These are hard examples of literal fake news, with clear evidence pointing to the Iranian government.”

According to documents viewed by NBC News, the group tried to notify Reddit employees over two dozen times. Their first attempt was in July 2017 and the most recent attempts were made last week. Brown and Josh Russell, who worked with Brown and is interested in misinformation campaigns such as this one, say the effort was similar to the Russian campaigns aimed at sowing political discord ahead of the last US presidential election. Content posted by those involved with the Iran-based effort reportedly did well in subreddits like /r/WorldNews and /r/MarchAgainstTrump.

“We are aware of recent reports of malicious actors on social platforms,” a Reddit spokesperson told NBC News. “We are investigating our own site and, as we have done previously, will be transparent with our findings.” A source also said that the company was exploring the idea of allowing researchers like Brown who have identified these sorts of campaigns to contact site administrators directly. We’ve reached out to Reddit and we’ll update this post if we receive additional information.

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Twitter CEO to testify before House committee on September 5th


Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on September 5th about the company’s use of algorithms and how it monitors content.

“Twitter is an incredibly powerful platform that can change the national conversation in the time it takes a tweet to go viral. When decisions about data and content are made using opaque processes, the American people are right to raise concerns. This committee intends to ask tough questions about how Twitter monitors and polices content, and we look forward to Mr. Dorsey being forthright and transparent regarding the complex processes behind the company’s algorithms and content judgment calls,” said House Committee Chairman Greg Walden in a statement.

This announcement is on the heels of recent attempts by several tech companies that include Twitter, Facebook and Google to try to combat the meddling of mid-term elections by foreign influence and disinformation campaigns. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has been especially under fire of late for being slow to suspend InfoWars and Alex Jones, and even then, not banning the accounts outright like others have. It’s also faced accusations that it’s shadow-banned accounts, despite assertions that it does not do so.

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This genius spent months secretly tweeting the lyrics to 'Bohemian Rhapsody'

Big news everyone! There are still a few good things left on Twitter.

Take the account of Hadie Mart, aka @CostcoRiceBag. It may look to the untrained eye like a normal Twitter account, but it is actually a series of tweets that secretly contain entirety of the iconic Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Hadie spent four months crafting the finest of tweets in order to accomplish the feat.

To clarify, Mart hid the lyrics to each song in the first word of every tweet on her account. To start off here’s her last tweet, and the first lyric to the song:

She goes on to continue writing the lyrics of the song in the first word of each respective tweet.

So if you get it, it should read out, “Is this the real life?” Is this just fantasy?” And then it goes on from there. Clever right?

Her mama tweets are also really well hidden, and super normal. NO ONE would have ever guessed what she was scheming.

It’s also quite impressive how she managed to slide “Galileo” five times almost effortlessly.

And it’s also pretty great that she managed to slide “Beelzebub” into a normal tweet about cavities.

Since May 7, Hadie has tweeted over 300 times to get every single word out. Here’s the first tweet she made, and the last word of the song.

Congrats Hadie. You’re officially the best summer schemer of 2018.

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Image: Getty Images / Anwar Hussein 

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Amazon workers are being paid to defend the company on Twitter

Meet Amazon's (paid) FC Ambassadors, who will reply to your Amazon criticisms on Twitter with their positive personal experiences working for the company.
Meet Amazon’s (paid) FC Ambassadors, who will reply to your Amazon criticisms on Twitter with their positive personal experiences working for the company.
Image: TWITTER

More than a dozen Amazon workers are defending their employer on Twitter after a string of reports detailing bad working conditions at the company’s fulfillment centers.

But they’re not just tweeting out of loyalty to the company, although they say that’s a part of it. Amazon is paying them to do it.

TechCrunch first noticed the accounts after Twitter user @bornwithatail_ discovered some of the workers’ tweets. There are currently 15 known accounts, all bearing similar attributes. For example, each account uses the Amazon smile logo as its Twitter background, all have “FC Ambassador” and a little brown box emoji in their Twitter name, and every one of the accounts link to Amazon’s fulfillment center tour website.

The accounts mostly post replies to other Twitter users, likely in response to searches for comments criticizing Amazon worker conditions. The FC Ambassadors jump into the conversation with those users, replying to the critical tweet with what they say is their first-person account of working for the company.

One of the most frequent conversation topics that Amazon’s FC Ambassadors seem to pop up in are the recent reports of Amazon workers who claim they have to pee in bottles and other non-traditional workplace lavatories. The workers say that due to Amazon’s strict packaging targets and break micromanagement, they simply don’t have the time to trek to bathrooms — which can be few and far between in Amazon’s huge warehouses. FC Ambassadors obviously refute this claim.

Over on Twitter, some are calling the whole thing downright creepy. Many seem to point to the overly earnest, way-too-positive attitudes the FC Ambassadors spout, often sounding more like they’re spouting corporate PR talk than like an employee giving their employer an honest assessment.

Amazon confirmed to Mashable that actual employees with experience working in the company’s fulfillment centers run the accounts, but they’ve chosen to be FC ambassadors full time. So these aren’t bots, and it clearly isn’t astroturfing — the practice of hiring several people to create fake accounts to push a marketing goal (often positive reviews) — but its overall effect is similar. 

In a statement to Mashable, an Amazon spokesperson said: 

FC ambassadors are employees who have experience working in our fulfilment centers. The most important thing is that they’ve been here long enough to honestly share the facts based on personal experience. It’s important that we do a good job of educating people about the actual environment inside our fulfillment centers, and the FC ambassador program is a big part of that along with the fulfilment center tours we provide. Those tours enable thousands of customers every year to come and see for themselves what it’s like to work inside one of our fulfilment centers.

Hopefully, the company also addresses the concerns and criticisms of Amazon warehouse workers who have not had such pleasant personal experiences.

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Here is an ailing dummy that looks suspiciously like Mark Zuckerberg

The always disturbing subreddit r/zuckmemes has supplied another image to populate our nightmares. 

This time, it’s a medical dummy that looks suspiciously like Mark Zuckerberg, minus the gray t-shirt and, as far as we know, the crippling hubris. The dummy seems to have contracted some sort of illness and ended up in the hospital. We hope he feels better soon.

Please, won’t you join him in the uncanny valley?

Perhaps we can take a leaf out of Rep. Yvette Clarke’s book and call him Mr. Zuckerman.

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Facebook invites Google, Twitter and others to discuss election meddling


AFP

Facebook has called its fellow tech giants for a meeting to talk about their plans to prevent foreign influence and disinformation campaigns this upcoming midterm elections, according to BuzzFeed News. The publication says it got its hands on an email from the social network, scheduling a discussion with Google, Microsoft, Snapchat and other companies at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on Friday. Part of the letter written by Facebook head of cybersecurity policy Nathaniel Gleicher reads:

“As I’ve mentioned to several of you over the last few weeks, we have been looking to schedule a follow-on discussion to our industry conversation about information operations, election protection, and the work we are all doing to tackle these challenges.”

The email also revealed that the meeting’s purpose is to hear what each company has been doing to combat all kinds of information operation, to discuss the issues each of them are facing and to decide whether that kind of meet-up should become a regular occurrence.

Friday’s meeting shows Facebook’s efforts to become a lot more proactive when it comes to preventing bad actors from using its platform to spread propaganda and fake election-related news. The social network became the target of a never-ending tsunami of criticisms after it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica used data collected from Facebook to influence voters to favor the politicians it’s working with.

Investigators also found that Russian troll farms used the platform to interfere with the 2016 US Presidential Elections. Earlier this year, US officials indicted 13 Russian nationals, all of whom were involved in the illegal use of social media to sow political discord in 2016. Both issues earned Mark Zuckerberg an invite to Congressional and Senate hearings, where he got grilled for info.

This isn’t the first meeting Facebook arranged to talk about the midterm elections. Back in June, the company organized a similar meeting with representatives from the FBI’s foreign influence task force to ask about the kinds of threats tech giants might face this election season. Over the past months, Facebook also teamed up with the Atlantic Council to fight foreign election meddling and removed dozens of fake Pages and accounts made to interfere with this year’s midterms. Most recently, the social network suspended 400 apps, including Cambridge University-developed application “myPersonality,” which collected personal info from millions of Facebook users and shared that collection with researchers and companies.

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