Winter is Coming

New lows in online harassment; government services in the digital age; and more.

  • Fighting normalization means not ignoring the fact that the President of the United States traffics in conspiracy theories, regularly and baselessly attacks Muslims and Blacks, falsely claims his tax bill doesn’t favor the rich, and is roundly supported by the leaders of the Republican Party in Congress. And let’s face it, despite a wave of electoral victories earlier this month, ongoing court battles and the current stalemate over health care, the so-called resistance hasn’t yet figured out how to congeal into something strong enough to change the country’s direction.

  • News weathervane Mike Allen of Axios says the White House expects Trump to “get even more outrageous.”

  • Related: I think it’s time to open a category called “digital stormtroopers,” for examples of neofascists who, instead of hiding behind brownshirts, use online networks to try to intimidate dissent. Such as the people behind a series of threatening robocalls that people have been getting in the wake of posting criticism of President Trump, as Kashmir Hill reports for Gizmodo.

  • TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden and Khaled Hamze found the contractor who briefly deactivated President Trump’s Twitter account.

  • Brave new world: Sam Levin and Lois Beckett report for The Guardian on the phenomenon of “hoaxer harassment”—conspiracy theorists who swarm online to attack survivors of gun violence. They write “The cycles of hoaxer harassment are now as predictable as mass shootings. And yet those with the most power to stop the spread of conspiracy theories” — meaning, companies like YouTube and Twitter — have done little to address victims’ cries for help.”

  • If you use an online service to manage your finances or track your expense reports, you may be surprised to learn that instead of using software to digest raw reports, companies like Expensify are relying on human workers from places like Mechanical Turk, Lily Hay Newman reports for Wired.

  • A tunnel that Elon Musk’s Boring Company has actually started digging in LA is slated to run, conveniently enough, past Musk’s home in Bel Air to his SpaceX headquarters, Eillie Anzilotti reports for Wired.

  • This is civic tech: Code for America has launched the Integrated Benefits Initiative, backed by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS,) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Digital Service, and Nava Public Benefit Corporation “to create an integrated enrollment experience for clients, caseworkers, and managers for government programs like Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps).” The effort will start in a handful of pilot states.

  • Life in Facebookistan: Responding to another ProPublica expose, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg told the Congressional Black Caucus it would stop allowing advertisers from being able to exclude viewers by race in its ad targeting system, Julia Angwin reports.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company is dropping its fees for nonprofits fundraising on its platform, Hanna Kozlowska reports for Quartz. The company is also creating a $50 million annual fund for assistance to victims of natural disasters, and will create APIs for fundraisers and community help to make it easier for organizations to integrate their Facebook fundraisers with their own websites, and to give disaster response groups data on people indicating they need help via Facebook. The company made $10 billion in advertising revenue last quarter, so the $50 million represents half of one percent of its quarterly profit. To put that in perspective, take your annual salary and divide it by four. Then take away two zeroes. Then divide that number in half.

  • Men behaving badly: Reed Albergotti reports for The Information on Google’s workplace culture, where several top execs have had affairs and relationships with subordinates and many employees say the issue has tainted the perception of women who earn promotions.

  • Chloe Ann King writes for The Verge about Morgan Marquis-Boire, one time a “rock star” of the cybersecurity world, who is accused of sexually assaulting numerous women. Warning: this article contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence.