The Twitter Bomb

When the whisper network goes digital; telcos are selling your location data; and more.

  • Both Twitter and Facebook have deleted or removed from public access data of interest to investigators looking into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. As Josh Meyer reports for Politico, in Twitter’s case this occurred because the company’s never retains information from accounts that users delete. In Facebook’s case, the company said it was just fixing a bug in its Crowdtangle tool that had allowed researchers like Jonathan Albright of Columbia’s Tow Center to access hundreds of old posts by accounts that have been identified as Russian-related.

  • Last Friday’s #WomenBoycottTwitter campaign, which was focused on responding to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and Twitter’s decision to ban the actress Rose McGowan for violating its terms of service, got some healthy pushback from women of color and their allies who were tired of being asked to rally for white women when the reverse rarely happens, The Washington Post’s Eugene Scott reports.

  • Speaking of Twitter, Mike Monteiro’s essay on Medium beautifully captures the heady days of turn of the century San Francisco, when people gravitated to the Internet industry because “it felt like punk rock for publishing on a global scale,” and when the “privileged white boys” who created Twitter just thought they were giving everyone a voice and “never asked themselves what everyone meant.” To this day, he adds, Twitter co-creator “Jack Dorsey doesn’t realize the size of the bomb he’s sitting on” and is “utterly unprepared for the burden he’s found himself responsible for.”

  • Riding the hate wave, Monteiro argues, became Twitter’s solution to its growth problem, and it masked that choice behind a naive belief in “free speech.” He writes:

    Twitter would have you believe that it’s a beacon of free speech. Biz Stone would have you believe that inaction is principle. I would ask you to consider the voices that have been silenced. The voices that have disappeared from Twitter because of the hatred and the abuse. Those voices aren’t free. Those voices have been caged. Twitter has become an engine for further marginalizing the marginalized. A pretty hate machine.


  • Last week, a Google spreadsheet called “Shitty Media Men,” listing dozens of allegations, briefly circulated online before being taken down. Writing for The New Yorker, Jia Tolentino parses the pluses and minuses of what happens when a whisper network’s list goes digital. The woman who made the spreadsheet told her:

    “I realized that I had been keeping this list in my mind for years, and that to make it I relied on backchannels and friendships that I only developed after having been in media for some time,” she wrote. “I didn’t have this information when I was 22, interning, and eager to make my potential apparent to the people—men—in power.” The democratization of the whisper network was always the goal of the spreadsheet, she explained, and anonymity was a necessity. But this, she realized, “was both what gave the spreadsheet its potential and also what doomed it.” The document was distributed more widely, and faster, than she expected—a testament, in her view, to “the pervasiveness of the problem” and to “the generosity of women who wanted to keep each other safe.” I asked her if, with time, women would have found a way to identify and remove any baseless allegations from the spreadsheet. “I hope so, but honestly I have no idea,” she wrote. “We didn’t get a chance to find out.”


  • Crypto-wars, continued: If you use Linux or Android devices, the Wi-Fi WPA2 security protocol is vulnerable to all kinds of hacking, security researcher Mathy Vanhoef reports. Updating your Wi-Fi password will not protect you from this vulnerability; updates from vendors are pending.

  • North Korea has gotten really good at cyberwar, David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick and Nicole Perlroth report for The New York Times. Their story ends with a warning: when the North Koreans say they will decimate the United States should war break out, could they be talking about cyber rather than nuclear conflict?

  • Telcos have been selling your location data, down to the real-time location of your cell phone, Philip Neustrom demonstrates.

  • What sharing economy? A new study from researchers at UC Davis has found that ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are causing more car traffic and less transit ridership in major cities, Angie Schmitt reports for Streetsblog. On the positive side, these services also appear to be reducing drunk driving and car ownership.

  • Facing questions from right and left about its rising economic clout, Amazon is beefing up its lobbying muscle, Cecilia Kang reports for The Washington Post, led by its chief spokesman, former Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney.

  • Laurene Powell Jobs and her Emerson Collective philanthropy are launching the Dream Coalition today in defense of young immigrants.

  • The inaugural Obama Foundation Summit will be capped by a concert featuring Chance the Rapper, the National and Gloria Estefan, Rolling Stone’s Daniel Kreps reports. No civic revival movement without spending millions on entertainment!

  • A $4 million bequest by an eccentric librarian who worked for decades at the University of New Hampshire was converted into $100,000 to the school’s library and $1 million to a fancy digital scoreboard for its football stadium, Craig Fehrman reports for Deadspin. But that’s just the beginning of university’s perfidy.

  • Salesforce Ventures has launched a $50 million impact investment fund focused on companies active in workplace development, equality, sustainability and the social sector, Ben Paynter reports for Fast Company.

  • Apply: The Momentum Community, a training network that is basically trying to fight everything above, is holding its next organizer training December 8-10 in New York City.

  • Stand Up America, a resistance community of more than one million, is looking to hire a senior digital strategist.