Investments

The global mind-control machine; why Twitter turned a blind eye to Russian spam; and more.


  • Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of Sunday’s shooting in Sunderland, Texas. Here is a list of the mass shootings that have taken place so far in 2017, courtesy of the Gun Violence Archive.

  • Here’s a compilation of misinformation circulating in the wake of the Sunderland shooting, from BuzzFeed’s Talal Ansari and Jane Lytvynenko.

  • Corrupssia, continued: Back in early 2015, Leslie Miley, Twitter’s engineering manager of product safety and security, discovered a huge number of accounts originating in Russia and Ukraine, but told Selina Wang of Bloomberg News that efforts to weed out spam accounts were hindered by the company’s growth team, which was more focused on increasing users and revenue. “When I brought the information to my boss, the response was ‘stay in your lane. That’s not your role’,” Miley said.

  • The AP’s Raphael Satter, Jeff Donn and Chad Day break down in excruciating detail how Russian hackers phished their way into the 2016 Clinton campaign, using information from a security firm that discovered the efforts as they were underway in March 2016.

  • “The Russian content [on Facebook] was just a tiny share of the 33 trillion posts Americans saw in their Facebook news feeds between 2015 and 2017,” Republican digital strategist Patrick Ruffini writes in The Washington Post, pointing out that the paid advertising campaign that’s been reported so far couldn’t have swung the election. Of course, the issue remains: did the Trump campaign invite Russian help, and thus violate the sovereignty of the election?

  • Yuri Milner, the Russian financier who made early investments in both Facebook and Twitter, was backed with money tied to state institutions close to President Vladimir Putin, Jon Swaine and Luke Harding report for the Guardian, drawing on the new “Paradise Papers” mega-leak. Milner is also a small investor in a company founded by Jared Kushner, the Guardian reports.

  • Wilbur Ross, the Trump Administration’s Commerce Secretary, also has deep offshore business ties to Putin cronies, Mike McIntyre, Sasha Chavkin and Martha Hamilton report for The New York Times.

  • Life in Facebookistan: “You’re going to have trouble changing minds when they’re all connected to a global mind-control machine.” That’s futurist Mark Pesce talking about “The Last Days of Reality” Friday at Civic Hall, and warning that in addition to the current ways that tech platforms currently track their users and monetize their attention, the arrival of “augmented reality” apps is adding a whole new layer of surveillance and exploitation.

  • The lead editorial in the Economist declares: “The use of social media does not cause division so much as amplify it” and suggests that it is time to demand that social media companies take responsibility for what people post on their sties.

  • Tech and politics: Althea Erickson of Etsy points out in The Hill that the current tax reforms under discussion don’t take into account the reality that millions of Americans now work in the gig economy. She suggests creating a standard deduction for micro businesses, tax withholding for 1099s, the simplification of flexible spending accounts, and an expansion of the earned income tax credit.

  • This is civic tech: NYCx is seeking creative technology solutions that can enhance how people enjoy and navigate Brownsville’s public spaces at night, and offering up to $20,000 per winning idea.

  • NYU’s GovLab has launched Blockchange, a new initiative focusing on the use of blockchain technologies for social change.

  • Asher Wolf profiles nine digital rights campaigners from southeast Asia who met recently at the Coconet Digital Rights Camp.

  • Apply: AlgorithmWatch.org is looking to hire a reporter.