Gambit in a Box

Russia still sowing discord; campaigns still running Facebook ads without requisite disclosures; and more.


  • Election 2018: Intelligence officials are warning that Russia is already (still) using social media bots and fake accounts to sow discord and animosity between Americans online as part of their effort to interfere with the upcoming midterm elections, Matthew Rosenberg, Charlie Savage, and Michael Wines report for The New York Times.

  • Although the Federal Election Commission has demanded big political ads on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platform include disclaimers about who paid for and approved of the message, hundreds of political ads continue to run with no such statements, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries reports for ProPublica, up to and including ads from the Democratic National Committee and the Donald Trump 2020 campaign.

  • This is not civic tech: Perhaps you too, got caught up in the turmoil over the idea of delivering food assistance in a one-size-fits-all box, an idea thoroughly skewered in a series of tweets by Atlantic writer Annie Lowrey. Now, Glenn Thrush is reporting that that was part of the plan all along. “[T]he idea, according to two administration officials who worked on the proposal, was a political gambit by fiscal hawks in the administration aimed at outraging liberals and stirring up members of the president’s own party working on the latest version of the farm bill,” Thrush writes. “The move, they said, was intended to lay down a marker that the administration is serious about pressing for about $85 billion in other cuts to food assistance programs that will be achieved, in part, by imposing strict new work requirements on recipients.” Political gambit or not, it still turns my stomach.

  • Bill Gates hasn’t seen any any promising solution to the problem of social media’s role in spreading misinformation and propagandistic messages, he told The New York TImes’ Nick Wingfield. “The whole tech world should look at these criticisms, look at these effects, you know, try to make sure that without giving up what’s good about that, that we can reduce some of it,” he said.

  • Media matters: The Guardian ran a little solutions journalism experiment and found that people like to read about what’s working in this messed up world, Mark Rice-Oxley reports for The Guardian.

  • Technology journalist Quinn Norton was ever so briefly a member of The New York Times’ editorial board, Tom Kludt reports for CNN.

  • Steven Perlberg and Alex Kantrowitz report for BuzzFeed that media executives at a meeting of the trade group Digital Content Next discussed the possibility of demanding government regulation of Facebook and other social media platforms. One attendee reportedly compared the social media giant to Big Tobacco.

  • Starting tomorrow, Google’s Chrome browser will automatically block ads that don’t conform to standards set by the Coalition for Better Ads, Frederic Lardinois reports for TechCrunch.

  • Industry updates: New Media Ventures received 736 applications on the theme of Shift the Story for the open call for the New Media Ventures Innovation Fund, a 50 percent increase over last year.

  • Civic Hall founder Andrew Rasiej gets a mention in Erin Griffith’s recent article for Wired on Silicon Valley’s imitators. “I don’t want New York to be associated with Silicon Valley and the culture of Silicon Valley,” Andrew Rasiej told Wired in an earlier interview. “I want to make sure people know there is a very clear distinction between the way New York’s tech community thrives, acts, and thinks of itself.”

  • Opportunities: Sidewalk Labs is looking for a director of resident experience to work on their smart city project in Toronto, although the position is primarily NYC-based. “You will be a member of the City Operations team, which is responsible for creating a dramatically improved experience for the residents of Sidewalk Toronto, one that is personalized, seamless, responsive, and interactive. This could include experiences such as maintenance requests, service enrollments, payments, feedback, control of the physical environment, and civic involvement as well as those traditionally govtech and civic tech solutions that improve citizen experience. At its core, the products built or procured should enable a new level of agency for citizens, establishing a seamless feedback loop between residents, the built environment, municipal institutions, building management, and social institutions.”