Twitter touts its recent work to 'protect the integrity of elections'


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It’s almost the midterm elections in the US, and that means disinformation campaigns could be working overtime. Social networks have been introducing new features, rolling out changes and even asking the government for help to fight off trolls and fake news disseminators. Twitter, for instance, has expanded its ability to spot and remove fake accounts. In a post detailing its elections integrity work, the microblogging platform said it may now delete “fake accounts engaged in a variety of emergent, malicious behaviors.”

Going forward, it will take several new factors into account when determining which users are fake, including the use of a stock or a stolen avatar. The use of stolen profile bios and putting intentionally misleading information, such as location, in profiles will also make a user look suspicious in Twitter’s eyes.

The platform will also take action against accounts that deliberately mimic or were clearly created to replace older accounts that were previously suspended for violating its rules. Further, it will also take action against users who claim responsibility for a hack, who threaten to hack specific people and who announce incentives for other people to hack specific people and accounts.

According to Twitter’s report, it already removed around 50 accounts pretending to be members of various state Republican parties. Back in August, it also banned 770 accounts from Iran that were part of a coordinated attempt to spread disinformation on the website. It said it’s been implementing proactive detections and enforcements, which reduced the spam-related reports it’s been receiving, and is also making it harder for sketchy developers to access its API.

Still, the company knows those aren’t enough. It needs to be able to strike down fake accounts as fast as they’re created, so it’s also building proprietary systems that can identify and delete “ban evaders at speed and scale.” Twitter will also proactively send nominees reminders to switch on two-factor authentication for their protection. It will also offer them support via an elections-specific portal, which will allow the company to address their concerns (and their fake news/account reports) as soon as possible.

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All the most beautiful places in the world are in Illinois, according to this Twitter account

This is One Good Thing, a weekly column where we tell you about one of the few nice things that happened this week.

It’s been an exhausting few days, so let’s take a moment to appreciate Beautiful Illinois. 

I’m not talking about the state of Illinois, though I’m sure it’s great. I’m talking about @IllinoisViews, a Twitter account dedicated to posting the most breathtaking photos of their beloved Prairie State. Kind of. 

The account, which offers no information about its creators, tweets stunning photos of other places and insists they’re in Illinois. 

We all know the Sidney Opera House is in … Illinois. 

Who wouldn’t want to visit “Evanston, aka Heavenston” for a romantic, palatial Mediterranean getaway? With jaw-dropping beaches and castles that seem to touch the water, you’re sure to have a memorable time right in the heart of the United States. 

Need to get out of the city for a forest camping trip? Check out Homewood, Illinois, for massive redwood tress and crystal clear lakes. 

Let’s not forget Illinois’ tropical side, where you might catch a glimpse of sharks while sipping your piña colada by the ocean. 

Sure, none of this is real. But in the void that was the news this week, Beautiful Illinois stayed endlessly positive about the undeniably gorgeous Prairie State.

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Twitter explains dehumanizing speech so you maggots will understand


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Twitter is still taking your responses and suggestions on its incoming policy against “content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target.” Apparently, a lot of the feedback received over the last few days has complained that the policies aren’t clear enough, so the company updated its blog post with more details and a couple of examples.

Twitter examples of dehumanizing language against particular groups

So now that you’ve seen some examples, let us know — and perhaps more importantly, let Twitter know before the survey closes on October 9th — what you think of them.

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Elon Musk sued by SEC for Tesla privatization tweet

Tesla CEO Elon Musk keeps getting sued.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk keeps getting sued.
Image: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

UPDATE: Sept. 27, 2018, 2:24 p.m. PDT The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission held a press conference Thursday afternoon after filing a suit against Elon Musk. More details about the suit and a statement from Musk have been included in the article below.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is feeling the heat for a tweet he posted last month. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a suit against him Thursday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York for securities fraud.

The tweet that led to all this was Musk mulling buying out his publicly traded electric car company. He said he had “funding secured.”

The tweet set off the stock — which wasn’t at $420 yet — and sent shareholders, Tesla owners, the company, and the media into a tizzy. Musk seemed to be serious about taking Tesla private with a company-wide email and public posts about his plan, but then in late August he called it all off.

In the SEC complaint, the SEC alleges that Musk’s “funding secured” tweet was “false and misleading, as were his following tweets later that same day.

The complaint goes on that Musk’s tweets caused “significant confusion and disruption in the market for Tesla’s stock and resulting harm to investors.”

At a Thursday press conference SEC officials said investors took the tweet — which many thought was a joke because of the marijuana reference with the $420 stock price — “at face value.”

Musk said in an email statement after the SEC press conference he was “saddened and disappointed.” 

He wrote, “This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed. I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way.” 

Separately, Tesla could face criminal charges for the tweet. Tesla said the U.S. Department of Justice had requested documents for the same “funding secured” tweet.

The SEC lawsuit comes after the British cave diver that Musk insulted over Twitter sued the billionaire

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Moth memes will light up your life

Like a moth to a lamp, people are flocking to these memes. 

Moth memes are the surrealist escape everyone needs every now and then. Playing off the insects’ relentless desire to get to the forbidden light, the meme often features moths searching for lamps, fantasizing about lamps, and embracing lamps — even if it destroys them. 

Moth humor has been around for a while — this tweet went viral in July. 

The same month, Redditor No_Reason27 posted a close-up photo of a moth in r/creepy. The creature was an absolute unit — with its furry body, bright red eyes, and hairy legs grasping out toward the camera, the moth longs for the light inside the OP’s home.

In August, someone posted it to Twitter, captioning it, “Y’all got any fuckin lamps?”

People began editing the chunky moth into memes. 

Variations of the meme include the “Bröther, may I have some öats” copypasta.

In the past week, the meme blew up and spread through social media. 

So hide your wife, hide your lamps, because moth memes are everywhere. 

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Kind stranger gifts kid an adorable parking spot specifically for his little bike

Landing a guaranteed parking spot is the holy grail of city living. This little kid was gifted on in the most adorable way. 

Writer Christie Dietz tweeted a photo of her son’s new parking spot. The little boy has locked his tiny green bike to a local lamppost almost every day this year. On Monday, they discovered that the lamppost was graced with a designated parking sticker specifically for him. 

“Absolutely made our day,” Dietz tweeted. “People can be so brilliant. Thank you, whoever did it.”

Other Twitter users agreed that the act — as small as it was — was the most pure thing to happen. 

Dietz said that she would write a thank you note for the anonymous sticker maker, basically starting an adorable pen pal lamppost system. 

Now let’s work on getting designated bike lanes. 

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Jeff Sessions' Big Meeting on Big Tech Regulations Was Good for Everyone But Jeff Sessions

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According to the president, Jeff Sessions is not the Attorney General of the United States. But he keeps showing up to work and doing something. On Tuesday, he held a much-anticipated meeting with state attorneys general to discuss “political bias” on tech platforms. The transparent move to please his boss didn’t go…

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Twitter’s new policy aims to eradicate ‘dehumanizing speech’

Twitter today announced it’d be altering its hateful conduct policies to prohibit “dehumanizing speech.” By doing so, it intends to patch a hole in its rules against hate speech to account for tweets that don’t specifically target anyone, but which are nonetheless demeaning. It’s also asking for users to give feedback on whether the new rules are clear.

Del Harvey, Twitter‘s VP of Trust and Safety, and Vijaya Gadde, Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead, authored the new rules. According to them, this new policy has been in development for months, in an attempt to address tweets that users find abusive but that do not outright violate existing rules: “Better addressing this gap is part of our work to serve a healthy public conversation.”

Twitter‘s basing the rule on research from Harvard researchers, as well as the Dangerous Speech Project. The latter claims, on its site, to have “been in touch with Facebook, Twitter, Google and other Internet companies as an unpaid advisor, providing ideas for diminishing DS and other harmful content online while protecting freedom of speech.”

According to Harvey, Twitter defines dehumanizing speech thus:

Language that treats others as less than human. Dehumanization can occur when others are denied of human qualities (animalistic dehumanization) or when others are denied of human nature (mechanistic dehumanization). Examples can include comparing groups to animals and viruses (animalistic), or reducing groups to their genitalia (mechanistic).

I’m sure we’ve all seen this kind language on Twitter before — and on Facebook, Instagram, etc. Twitter isn’t the first to institute rules against it, either. Facebook’s definition of hate speech includes this description:

A post that calls all people of a certain race “violent animals” or describes people of a certain sexual orientation as “disgusting” can feel very personal and, depending on someone’s experiences, could even feel dangerous. In many countries around the world, those kinds of attacks are known as hate speech. We are opposed to hate speech in all its forms, and don’t allow it on our platform.

It’s interesting to see this particular definition arise in the wake of the Alex Jones scandal: Jones was banned for violating the policy against abusive behavior, and is alleged to have tripped Twitter‘s alarms by saying CNN reporter Oliver Darcy had “the eyes of a rat.” Animalistic dehumanization, possibly? Or perhaps this would be considered dehumanizing language under the new policy:

Regardless, those cute Mean Tweet videos Jimmy Kimmel puts out every few months might have to soften up, since usually at least one tweet per video compares a celebrity or a musician to an inanimate object.

Twitter is giving users two weeks to provide feedback on the proposal, via a form in Gadde and Harvey’s blog post. Users have to rate the clarity of the new rules on a scale of 1-5, give examples of speech that might violate this policy but still be part of healthy conversation, and say how it could be improved.


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How to register to vote in less than two minutes

Image: Shutterstock / 3dfoto

All the cool kids are doing it. That’s what you can tell your best friend when you finally convince them to register to vote. 

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day, the nationwide holiday that celebrates democracy and promotes voter registration every fourth Tuesday of September.

So if you haven’t registered already, you should do so now because the midterm elections are just a few weeks away. If you’re not sure about your state’s election date or the location of your polling place, you can visit Rockthevote.org to learn more. 

As Rock The Vote President and Executive Director Carolyn DeWitt suggests, this is not an election day you can afford to miss. “This is the most consequential midterm election in the lifetime of young voters. National Voter Registration Day is a critical moment to ensure that their voices are able to be heard in the midterms,” she said in a statement. 

“The energy and engagement we have seen from our youth since the 2016 elections has been unprecedented,” DeWitt added. “Whether at marches, rallies, or town halls the youth of our nation have made one thing very clear, that the time for them to be heard is now and in these midterms they will come out in record numbers.”

If you’ll be away from home on election day, remember to request an absentee ballot at Vote.org. As noted on the website, applications must be received by the Friday before Election Day, which is Nov. 6. Mark your calendar, set an alarm, do what you have to and send it in. 

There are countless ways to register, one of which requires a visit to the DMV. In many states, you can undergo the process when you renew or apply for a driver’s license. However, if you’re dreading the infamous long lines, you can save time and opt to register online. These 10 brands, organizations, and platforms, can help you get the job done in no more than two minutes. 

1. March For Our Lives

Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, student activists embarked on a summer bus tour to register young people to vote, with the hope that their votes ushered in progressive leaders who’d push for gun law reforms. If you missed out on the tour, you can still take part in the movement and register on The March For Our Lives website.

2. The Women’s March

The Women’s March launched their Power to the Polls campaign to channel the energy from the nationwide protests to the polls. You can register through the website, or if you’d rather use your phone, you can text P2P to RTVOTE (788-683). Message and data rates may apply. 

3. When We All Vote

Former First Lady Michelle Obama, alongside Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monáe, and more, started the When We All Vote campaign to remind citizens of their responsibility to register and vote. You can take your first steps by clicking here, or text WeAllVote to 97779. Message and data rates may apply. 

4. The Skimm

In addition to delivering digestible news about culture, politics, and more to its predominantly millennial, female readership, The Skimm is adamant about making an impact through voter registration. Through their No Excuses campaign, the email newsletter hopes to get 100,000 people to the polls this midterm election. 

5. HeadCount

HeadCount is the best of both worlds: democracy and music. The nonprofit is dedicated to registering people to vote, at concerts, festivals, and online. When you’re done filling out the registration form on their website, explore the rest of the site to learn about additional voting information, volunteer opportunities, and upcoming events. 

6. Voto Latino

As the name of the nonprofit suggests, the aim is to empower young Hispanic and Latino voters to take part in elections. This year, the organization announced its Somos Mas campaign, a collective effort to ensure the power of the Latino vote comes through on election day. 

7. Turbo Vote

Turbo Vote has all the voter information you could ever need in one convenient place. Whether you have questions about election dates or absentee ballots, this site has got you covered. 

8. Movement for Black Lives

Back in February, just before Marvel’s Black Panther hit theaters, The Movement For Black Lives launched a campaign to register black moviegoers to vote. To join in, text WAKANDA to 91990. Message and data rates may apply. 

9. Twitter

In partnership with Turbo Vote, Twitter launched their #BeAVoter campaign to encourage people to register and provide information regarding election dates and absentee ballots. The next time you’re scrolling through your feed, be on the lookout for this prompt. 

10. Snapchat

So many nonprofits, brands, and especially candidates, attempt to reach young voters, but Snapchat has an edge, here. If you’re over 18 and on the platform, expect to see a “Register to vote” link on your profile page. You can’t miss it. 

The point is, whether you register with the help of your favorite social media platform or a reliable nonprofit, you, your friends, and your family need to do so. As Oprah would say, “You should vote. You should vote. Everyone should vote.”

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