The Chorus Director’s Fault

Marjory Stoneman Douglas students push for change, on- and offline; Facebook to verify location of US election ad-buyers; and more.

  • Virginia Heffernan reports for Wired on how the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas took to social media during and after the school shooting last week to document what happened, and when necessary, counter lies, disinformation, and pro-gun talking heads.

  • Entrepreneur (and former Thiel Fellow) William LeGate created a Twitter list of students, faculty, and staff from the school, so you can follow along with their campaign in real time.

  • Social media matters: Maya Kosoff reports for Vanity Fair on Twitter’s troubles responding to abuse, and whether the blame lies with the VP of trust and safety, Del Harvey, who hasn’t articulated a clear content policy; with Jack Dorsey, who is said to not be able to make up his mind about anything; or with Ruby on Rails, the original Twitter backend.

  • Former Twitter employee Blaine Cook responded on Twitter: “Tech had nothing to do with Twitter’s abuse issues. We had some pretty serious tech issues, but to make a very long story short, in 2006/2007 we also knew about many of the potential vectors for abuse, and designing against them was de-prioritized as a top-level product concern.”

  • Nina Burleigh reports for Newsweek on how a network of bot accounts and a couple sham websites amplified and weaponized the allegations against Al Franken and the ensuing public debate.

  • Katharine Schwab reports for Fast Co.Design on how ProPublica uses algorithms and machine learning to report on how companies like Facebook use algorithms and machine learning.

  • Mike Monteiro makes the case for requiring designers to get licensed. He includes an anecdote about giving a talk at Facebook about a college student who was outed by Facebook after she was added to a group called “The Queer Chorus,” was disowned by her parents, and later tried to commit suicide, and an engineer screamed out, “It was the chorus director’s fault, not ours.”

    One more time: “It was the chorus director’s fault, not ours.” As Monteiro writes, “that somehow manages to be the scariest part of this whole story.”

  • Tech and politics: Facebook is going to use postcards sent by U.S. mail to verify that the purchasers of U.S. election-related ads are located in the United States, Dustin Volz reports for Reuters.

  • Trump supporters who were provided evidence that they interacted with Russian agents trying to sow discontent and division in the United States seem rather unfazed by the encounter, per Anton Troianovski, Rosalind S. Helderman, Ellen Nakashima, and Craig Timberg’s latest reporting on the Internet Research Agency for The Washington Post. “There was no Russians at my rally. I knew everyone there,” said one supporter, who organized a rally for Trump upon request by a Russian agent posing as an American. “I would have done it for Trump anyway. There was still a lot of excitement and Russians had no part of that. This wasn’t a trick for me.”

  • Longread: Writing in The New York Times Magazine, Charles Duhigg details Google’s history of anticompetitive behavior, and reflects on the antitrust battles of yesteryear—Standard Oil, Microsoft—to better understand what steps regulators could or should take.