Blocking social networks after terrorist attacks can do more harm than good

Imagine for a moment that you run a small country prone to outbreaks of sectarian violence. The terrorist attacks affected a number of churches and hotels in his country on a major religious holiday, raising fears that the violence will spread. Your citizens are using social networks to get in touch with their loved ones and you coordinate disaster response efforts, but they also seem to be using those same networks to plan more violence. It is your job to control the situation in a way that balances voice rights with security. Leave Facebook online or turn it off?

That was the dilemma faced by Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, when at least 290 people died in a series of attacks. The government decided to adopt a more restrictive approach: it blocked access to Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber and YouTube. It was the second time in so many years that Sri Lanka temporarily blocked access to social networking sites. (Last year was in response to anti-Muslim violence).

For some observers, the closure was a welcome measure. Kara Swisher writes in New York Times :

It hurts me as a journalist, and someone who once believed that a world media would announce more tolerance, admit it, say that my first instinct was to turn everything off. But with each incident it is clear to me that the greatest experiment in human interaction in the history of the world continues to fail in increasingly dangerous ways.

In summary: Stop the world of Facebook / YouTube / Twitter: we want

But two questions are presented each time a government acts to restrict speech in this way. First, to whom will the unexpected failure in the communication infrastructure harm? And second, does it solve the problem you want?

We continue immediately after the Sri Lankan attacks, so it is very difficult to say who may have been harmed by the social media ban. We often hear that in some developing nations, Facebook is synonymous with the internet itself . The company also manufactures tools designed to help disaster victims coordinate their response, including their security verification function. For families who communicate primarily through Facebook's infrastructure, an interruption in service can introduce more chaos in an already complicated day.

In addition, social networks gained popularity in Sri Lanka and elsewhere because it was more reliable than official government sources. As reported by Megha Rajagopalan in BuzzFeed the people of Sri Lanka have good reason to doubt the official sources of information:

On the one hand, the country has a long history of heavy-handed media controls, and Journalists have routinely faced violence and intimidation about their work. This means that many Sri Lankans rely on social media for up-to-date information, including publications that discredit false claims that are spread in social and traditional media.

The pressure on journalists has diminished somewhat since President Maithripala Sirisena took office in 2015. But when a constitutional crisis broke out last fall, supporters of the country's former president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, took control of newspapers state offices and assaulted the offices of a state television station, forcing them to temporarily leave the air.

It is clear that Extremists have really been using social networks to spread misinformation after the attack. It is also clear that the Sri Lankan government has been an unreliable narrator over the years.

But let's say you made peace with the government blocking access to Facebook and your colleagues. Will that stop the spread of misinformation? But let's say you've made peace with the government by blocking access to Facebook and your peers. Will that stop the spread of misinformation? There are reasons for doubt. Last year, Times reported that the previous social media ban in Sri Lanka was easily avoided:

One official estimated that almost three million users in Sri Lanka continued to access social networks through of virtual private networks, which connect to the Internet from outside the country.

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, a researcher and author from Sri Lanka, made a forensic analysis of the blockade and told Jane Lytvynenko BuzzFeed that Wijeratne studied more than 60,000 posts on Facebook to understand whether a blockage of social networks imposed by the government in 2018 was effective. Ultimately, he discovered that he was not.

"People not only evaded it in an instant, anecdotal evidence suggests that it caused significant damage to tourism and e-commerce, both of which are based on Facebook ads," he said.

None of this is to suggest that social networks deserve the benefit of the doubt. Last April, civil society groups in Sri Lanka wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in which they described the company's failure to enforce its own community standards in the country, a likely consequence of the hiring very few moderators who speak Sinhalese, one of the native languages ​​of Sri Lanka.

But we must be careful with the dramatic "solutions" that do not have a clear benefit. Instead of intermittently blocking access to social networks, Sri Lanka could always try … to regulate them? Develop standards around the identification and removal of harmful content, and hold companies accountable, as Europe is doing now. Or, if you are concerned that regulation simply entitle holders, then take antitrust measures that promote competition. Both measures are likely to do more to promote trust between the government and its citizens than simply shutting down Facebook when a cabinet minister gets nervous. (My colleagues Adi Robertson and Makena Kelly will have more to say soon about how groups can advocate for the closure of the Internet by the government).

If the current US government UU Blocked all access to social networks after a terrorist attack, we would oppose the measure. An authoritarian indignation. When other countries do, we should be equally suspicious.


Facebook's new chief lawyer helped write the Patriot Act

Russell Brandom introduces us to Jennifer Newstead, a person named by Trump who served in the Department of Justice. under President Bush and who will soon take over as Facebook's general counsel:

As The Hill notes, a 2002 Justice Department press release describes it as "helping to develop" the legislation . The notorious Bush administration lawyer, John Yoo, described him as the "daily administrator of the Patriot Act in Congress" in his 2006 book.

Approved after the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act greatly expanded the scope of the government's surveillance powers, which enable new techniques such as itinerant telephone tapping and so-called "hidden" orders. Section 215 of the Patriot Act was used to justify the mass collection of telephone records of US operators. UU., Although both the sentence and the legal interpretation that justified it remained secret until Snowden leaked.

to stay

Sheera Frenkel and Ben Hubbard explore how Hezbollah and other extremist groups manage to remain on social platforms after being expelled:

Hamas and Hezbollah, in particular, have evolved by having their followers post images and videos that deliver their message, but that does not activate the alarms of social media platforms. Nowadays, the groups publish images of festive parades and religious celebrations online, as well as videos of speeches by their leaders.

That has allowed Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as groups like Shabab, based in East Africa, to proliferate largely unverified on social media, even as a repression by Facebook and others has neutralized the online presences of the terrorist organizations that are the most threatening to the West: the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

How WhatsApp, FaceTime and other encryption applications are configured the result of Mueller's report

Craig Timberg and Drew Harwell explain how the special adviser's investigation became more difficult due to the encrypted messaging applications that serve as a Good preview of something we'll talk about a lot as Facebook pivots towards privacy:

Special Advisor Robert S. Mueller III detailed multiple contacts between Russian agents and associates of President Trump in the report made public on Thursday. yes. But Mueller also repeatedly regretted what he could not learn, because encrypted communications put key conversations beyond his reach.

"The Office learned that some of the people we interviewed or whose conduct we investigated – including some related to the Trump Campaign – deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using applications that have encryption or do not allow retention long-term data or communications records, "Mueller wrote in his executive summary.

36 Days after Christchurch, Videos of Terrorist Attack Still on Facebook

Joseph Cox finds images of New Zealand attacks on Facebook, but it seems that in all cases here, the images were modified in an effort to evade detection.

Some of the videos, which are cuts from the original 17-minute clip, are cut out in about a minute or more, and are open for all to see. In one case, instead of removing the video, which shows the terrorist who shoots and murders innocent civilians from a first-person perspective, Facebook has simply marked the clip as potentially "violent or graphic content." A video with that tag requires Facebook users to click on a confirmation that they want to watch the video.

How Facebook fights the fake news in the world's largest election

Saritha Rai describes Boom, one of the third parties who verified the false information in India before his election this year:

A visit to the Boom's offices makes it clear that the magnitude of Facebook's response in India so far is not enough. The small team seems to be capable and hardworking almost failing, but given the magnitude of the problem, they could be sifting grains of sand from a toxic beach. "What can the 11 people do?" Says Deputy Editor of Boom Karen Rebelo "when hundreds of millions of Internet users for the first time on a smartphone greedily share all the suspicious videos and false gossip What are they presented to you? " Your team Federal Facebook investigations could hold Mark Zuckerberg responsible for privacy, sources say

Tony Romm says that the Federal Trade has been working for Facebook since a regional election last summer, and work related to the election current intensified earlier this year. The commission could fine the Facebook CEO:

In previous Facebook research, the US government UU He chose to spare Zuckerberg the most onerous scrutiny. The documents obtained from the FTC under the federal laws of open records reflect that the agency considered, and then refused to put Zuckerberg directly in order during his last agreement with Facebook in 2011. If he had, Zuckerberg could have faced fines for future violations of privacy.

The antitrust case against Facebook: a turning point in the Big Tech debate and monopoly

Cory Doctorow writes about a new article by Dina Srinivasan that Facebook's data collection practices became more intense and hostile as competitors in the market decreased:

Srinivasan's story of the implementation of Facebook surveillance makes clear the link between monopoly and surveillance. During its first ten years, Facebook was sold as the alternative in favor of privacy to systems such as Myspace, Orkut and other competitors, repeatedly promising that it would not track or analyze the activity of its users. As each of Facebook's competitors disappeared, Facebook advanced its surveillance technology, often facing user resistance. But as the number of Facebook alternatives decreased, because Facebook crushed them or bought them, Facebook's surveillance became more aggressive. Today, with Facebook as the only dominant social network, people who leave Facebook end up joining Instagram a subsidiary of Facebook.

Therefore, there are many reasons to think that the surveillance of Facebook could be disciplined by the competition. After all, Facebook's only credible competitor is Snapchat: a company whose main value is their privacy.

Stock images of beautiful women and propaganda of the border wall: the Facebook advertising strategy of the Trump Campaign

Pema Levy searches the president's Facebook for ads:

The numbers tell the story of a campaign that reverses Much on Facebook, a platform where you can reach millions of voters and, so important in this first stage of the race, test the performance of your ads. At the time of writing this report, the campaign and its associated fundraising committee have spent $ 11,326,128 on 196,352 ads in less than a year.

That's less than $ 58 per ad. The reason is that different iterations of the same content count as different ads. Many of the ads are published only for one day and are identical or almost identical to those of others. (Journalist Judd Legum, in his newsletter Popular Information counted 217 notices asking supporters to wish Melania Trump a happy birthday later this month.)

EU tells Nick Clegg of Facebook rethinking announcement rules for elections [19659051] In an effort to mitigate the impact of foreign interference on elections, Facebook now requires advertisers in the European Union and elsewhere to register in the countries where they operate. The EU is concerned that this makes certain types of political advertising impossible. And for some reason, the Guardian writes about this as if it were an embarrassment to the head of global policy Nick Clegg.

China forbids the word & # 39; Leica & # 39; on social networks

To Beijing really does not like when brands refer to Tiananmen Square:

When a promotional video for German camera maker Leica came to the web this week It seemed like a bold statement about the hard work done by photojournalists from around the world. But the company is now distancing itself from the 5-minute video after Chinese social media users shouted and the word "Leica" was banned from the Weibo social networking site. The problem? The dramatic video was made in 1989 during the protests in favor of democracy in Tiananmen Square on which it is forbidden to speak in China.

The video, entitled "The Hunt", is a fictional montage of several areas of conflict around the world. Its most controversial sequence shows a photojournalist who speaks English struggling to find his camera and being questioned by the Chinese authorities.


Silicon Valley came to Kansas schools. That started a rebellion.

Nellie Bowles writes about the latest school district to challenge custom learning software created by Facebook engineers. ( New York wrote about a similar uprising in Connecticut last year.)

Many families in Kansas cities, who have dealt with public schools with insufficient funds and deteriorating test scores, initially accepted the change. Under the Summit program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and connect online for lesson and test plans, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers help students with work, conduct tutoring sessions and direct special projects. The system is free for schools. Laptops are usually purchased separately.

Then, the students began to arrive home with headaches and cramps in their hands. Some said they felt more anxious. A child began to have a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring their dad's hunting earmuffs to the class to block his classmates because the work was largely done by himself.

What it is to be a founder in the Instagram era

It's very stressful, writes Carrie Battan, but you can also be a good fundraising tool:

Even when using Instagram to spread an empowering message , certain stereotypes are perpetuated. Often, businesswomen must traffic in self-loathing, transmitting "a little relativity," says cultural critic and brand strategist Aminatou Sow, co-founder of the popular Call 19 Call Your Girlfriend podcast. She has realized that while male CEOs seem comfortable posting selfies on private jets, women tend to relegate positions that reveal their newly discovered luxury lifestyle to private accounts, or abandon them. completely. Haney from Outdoor Voices & # 39; says she is aware of not looking too "daunting" on social media and avoids bragging about her success.


Byte, the follow-up application of the co-creator of Vine Dom Hofmann, is in beta and he shared a preview on Twitter .


"I , also, I am Contrarian "

Alex Danco, who is one of my favorite Silicon Valley thinkers, says goodbye to the venture where he worked with a very funny post about how everyone tries to be" contrarian "on Twitter: [19659071] (Leaving aside, Silicon Valley is supposed to be in a place where people think freely.) Do you know how people see themselves freely? It seems like a place with a cheap art scene, with many musicians, a place where young people walk by there and cause minor problems, it seems that San Francisco used to be, for sure, but nowadays San Francisco is more like something like the television show The Good Place .)

And finally …

The CIA joins Instagram

Instagram is no longer loses the only thing that was obviously missing, Makena Kelly reports:

An Instagram spokesperson told The Verge on Monday: "Our team worked with the CIA, as with many partners, to provide the best practices and guidance when launching an Instagram account. "

I'm going to throw in a pair. Do : Enable two-factor authentication. No : Send people your stories individually if you have already published them in your public history. Thanks in advance!

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Send me suggestions, comments, questions and ideas about what the CIA can do on Instagram. I mean other than all of us in real time: [email protected]

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