Over 1,000 Google employees walk out today in protest of top male executives protection against sexual harassment allegations; Department of Defense investing in using social media to monitor anti-Trump protests; & more
This is civic tech: Remember Twitter Vote Report? If you do, you are an OG PDFer. But just in time for next week’s election, say hello to SeeSay2018, an app for reporting polling site problems built by Democracy Labs in partnership with the Open Source Election Foundation and NBC News. The easy way to remember the URL: bit.ly/seesay2018.
Code for Africa is crowdsourcing information to build a living map of global human trafficking.
Congrats to Ambassador Karen Kornbluh, who is joining the German Marshall Fund of the United States to direct its technology policy program, where she will be focusing on tech that “strengthens rather than undermines democratic values.”
More than a thousand Google employees are taking part in a walkout today at company offices around the world, in a protest of the company’s protection of top male executives against serious allegations of sexual harassment, sidelining of women and other misbehavior revealed last week by the New York Times. As Kate Conger, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Katie Benner, the reporters who broke that original story, follow up, Google’s all-male senior leadership is struggling to respond appropriately. (Asked to name a female role model, Sergey Brin couldn’t remember Gloria Steinem‘s name, despite meeting her and saying he was impressed by her, they report.) Tech workers at companies like Google have been organizing more and more in response to controversial issues, like whether their companies should seek Pentagon contracts or collaborate with China, but this is the first time that a big tech company has faced any kind of work stoppage.
“Personally, I’m furious,” one Google employee told Caroline O’Donovan and Ryan Mac of BuzzFeed News. “I feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behavior towards women at Google‚ or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin. And it’s a leadership of mostly men making the decisions about what kind of consequences to give, or not give.”
Speaking of Pentagon contracts, the Department of Defense is investing in research and tools aimed at using social media surveillance to monitor and pre-empt anti-Trump protests, Nafeez Ahmed reports for Motherboard. Well, that’s the clickbait version of the story. A closer read suggests that the Pentagon funded research that analyzed social media around 2016 anti-Trump protests to determine if it was possible to predict outbreaks of anti-government protests, including their location, from social media networks. One can imagine using these tools to also monitor right-wing insurrectionists. Depends which generals are in charge, right?
What sharing economy? “Every pirate wants to be an admiral,” writes Cory Doctorow in a brilliant series of tweets exploring how once disruptive tech firms like Uber and Lyft use the law and legal muscle to block disruptive competitors, like platform cooperative ride-hailing service like Ride, from making an even better service for consumers.
Life in Facebookistan: Accounts and pages connected to the far-right Proud Boys group are being banned from Facebook and Instagram, as the company is invoking its rules against hate groups, Rob Price reports for Business Insider.
Congress and the FEC have each failed to move forward on new disclosure rules for online political ads, allowing companies like Facebook to make a mush of things, Makena Kelly explains for The Verge.
Election protection? Federal agencies involved in cyber-security are basically being left to their own devices when it comes to developing any kind of coordinated response to the possibility that a foreign adversary will try to influence next week’s election, Eric Geller reports for Politico, because the White House has offered no high-level leadership on the issue. This despite the fact that intelligence agencies have been warning that Russia, China and Iran are waging “ongoing campaigns” aimed at the elections. Hey, remember that August 2001 memo, “Bin Laden determined to strike in United States?”
Information disorder: Russian trolls get retweeted far more by Americans than by Eastern Europeans, which Kevin Poulsen of the Daily Beast says shows that they’re a lot more gullible.
Here’s a compelling dissection of “How a lie about George Soros and the migrant caravan multiplied online,” put together by Brad Heath, Matt Wynn and Jessica Guynn of USA Today.
Speaking of the caravan, “Late last week, about 60 percent of the conversation was driven by likely bots” on Twitter, Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired. That’s based on an assessment done by Robhat Labs, which builds tools to detect bots online. Their first product, a Chrome extension called BotCheck.me, will show you what accounts in your Twitter timeline are likely bots. And their new tools, FactCheck.me, is aimed at helping news organizations see how much bot activity is taking place around a specific topic or hashtag.
According to FactCheck.me, 23% of the Twitter conversation from Sunday about the Pittsburgh shooting is being powered by bots.
A lot of misinformation that incites the public doesn’t come from bots or the dark web, writes Jim Rutenberg for The New York Times, it comes from mainstream book publishers, Hollywood, and cable TV.
End times: Now this is the kind of conspiracy theory we can get behind. It starts with “1. A year ago, we got buzzed by a really weird interstellar object that is looking increasingly like some sort of galactic sentry buoy…”
Also, if you are heavy Slack user, don’t look at this.