Take Downs

White supremacists swap bomb-making tips; crowdsourcing to save Gothamist & DNAinfo clips; and more.


  • New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has introduced new legislation to close gaps in New York’s data security laws that expose New Yorkers to unnecessary risks, and hopefully curb data breaches.

  • White supremacists are sharing instructions on how to make bombs, grenades, mines, and other incendiary devices in online chats, A.C. Thompson and Ali Winston report for ProPublica. “It is unclear how seriously the documents shared in the chats were explored by any of Anticom’s members or followers, much less whether the documents were actually used to craft incendiary devices,” they write. “But the transcripts of the chats include racist talk and open mentions of mass killings.”

  • Tech companies’ practice of removing videos and images depicting violence is threatening cases against war criminals, Avi Asher-Schapiro reports for The Intercept.

  • Media matters: Journalists and others across the country expressed shock and horror at the news that DNAinfo and Gothamist (and LAist, Chicagoist, etc.) were suddenly shut down and their staffs laid off yesterday afternoon, just a week after the New York offices voted to unionize, Andy Newman and John Leland report for The New York Times.

  • Joe Ricketts, the billionaire owner who decided to close the companies, wrote a blog post in September titled “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create.”

  • The magic of crowdsourcing: Other websites have shut down and left the archives up online for posterity, but the Gothamist and DNAinfo websites were immediately wiped. Although a spokesperson for the companies told the Times that there are plans to return the archives to the internet in some form, some concerned citizens immediately started offering assistance to journalists afraid of losing their clips, sometimes representing years of work. Parker Higgins, who works at the Freedom of Press Foundation, offered to help journalists get PDFs of cached articles. Taking it a step further, Twitter users @turtlekiosk and @xn9q8h wrote a tool that retrieves articles from AMP caches. And Paul Ford created a massive Google doc with links to articles in the Internet Archive.

  • Claire Wardle and Hossein Derakhshan share 35 suggestions on how to respond to information disorder campaigns, with recommendations for technology companies, media companies, government, civil society, education ministries, and foundations.

  • Jenna Abrams’ tweets on pop culture, current events, and politics have appeared in more than 30 news outlets, from InfoWars to The New York Times, but the “straight-talking, no-nonsense, viral-tweet-writing young American woman” was an invention of the Russian Internet Research Agency, Ben Collins and Joseph Cox report for The Daily Beast. “While the the typical image of a Russian troll may be a hastily put together Twitter account blaring out non-stop political messages, Abrams’ account went to great lengths to simulate a real, American person who existed outside of Twitter fights and amplifying racist disinformation,” Collins and Cox write. “Her Twitter account was created back in 2014. She had a personal website, a Medium page, her own Gmail, and even a GoFundMe page.”

    Many of the articles that featured the thoughts of Ms. Abrams were frankly quite dumb. One was a BBC roundup on “to shave or not to shave” your armpits in which “Jenna Abrams” expressed the opinion “this is simple hygiene”; one was a roundup of the 15 funniest tweets of the week. They served to boost her credibility. Can we have a moratorium on this kind of “journalism,” please?

  • The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal cut through the throat-clearing to explain the 15 new facts gleaned from the testimony of tech companies in Congressional hearings this week. One number I had missed: 3.3 million Americans followed one of the Russian Facebook pages.

  • ICYMI—although you probably didn’t—a customer support employee at Twitter shut down @realDonaldTrump’s Twitter account yesterday on the employee’s last day of work, Claudia Koerner and Charlie Warzel report for BuzzFeed. The break lasted just 11 minutes. A former Twitter employee told BuzzFeed Twitter knew that its suspension permissions could be abused but didn’t do anything to fix it, like enable two-person authentication for verified or especially prominent accounts.

  • Event organizers, take note: Tiffani Bell, the founder of The Human Utility, took to Twitter to complain about the casual racism she experiences at tech conferences in San Francisco, even those she has been invited to as a speaker. “Stopping someone and asking them for their badge and where they’re going as *they’re on the way to the registration table* is a bit much,” she writes. “I know, I know. There’s only about 5 black folks you’re used to seeing at anything, but if we walk in, 99.999% chance we’re supposed to.”

  • Food for thought: Chayenne Polimedio writes for New America Weekly about the decline of church and our “third place” and what we have lost as individuals and as a society.

  • Job opportunity: Brave New Films is looking for a programs director. Learn more here.