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Trash Talk: Dead on the Field

I didn’t think anyone would miss my Trash Talk, but lo and behold, someone actually did.

Yeah, I’m surprised, too, because I’m not a sportser whether on a field or in the woods or on the water.

I do take some sick pleasure in sportsers’ pain, though.

Don’t tell my kid but I laughed my butt off when they complained in all caps it was COLD in the woods during their week of deer hunting.

You wanted this, kid. You knew going into the woods it’s cold, the hours are long, and venison is not a sure thing. You really have to enjoy nature and solitude.

The stories that come out of these hunting trips will last for years, though, and they’ll be buffed up and hauled out over every family gathering. They’ll last far longer than the venison sausage exchanged for a week’s worth of dogsitting.

Can’t wait to hear the tales during our next family gathering during the holiday season.

~ ~ ~

Today was the first Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup match. Ecuador met host Qatar and kicked their asses 2-0.

It’s the least that could happen after so many workers died building Qatar’s field, stadium, and other amenities for its participation in and hosting of FIFA’s World Cup.

Someone calculated the estimated number of hours of play expected in this World Cup series against the total number of workers’ deaths since Qatar was awarded this series in 2010, arriving at a figure of one dead worker for every 64 minutes of play.

Nobody needs futbol that badly.

FIFA’s president also set the tone for this series with an hour-long rant:

FIFA President Gianni Infantino’s extraordinary tirade against Western critics of the controversial tournament in an explosive hour-long monologue is still making headlines around the world. Human rights groups described it as “crass” and an “insult” to migrant workers.

Infantino, the boss of world soccer’s governing body, looked on glumly as he addressed hundreds of journalists in Doha, Qatar, Saturday, and started the news conference with a near hour-long speech, during which he accused Western critics of hypocrisy and racism.

Sure, sure…just because the colonialist west built itself on the backs of enslaved people and occupied indigenous lands, they’re not entitled to grow the fuck up and demand better especially from a sport which has been ridiculously corrupt?

The topper: no beer allowed because it’s a Muslim country and alcohol is forbidden.

I get it, your country, your rules, but those dead workers deserved better. The least they merit is a memorial toast if you’re in reach of alcohol while committing to a global standard for workers’ safety.

It wasn’t just alcohol but kosher food which was banned. Not exactly welcoming to all the people of the Middle East.

I’m not looking forward to the rest of this series.

Wonder how Twitter handled the match; I have no idea because I haven’t been over there. Probably not badly given the largest number of Twitter users are in the U.S. and Japan.

~ ~ ~

Speaking of Twitter, was Kyrie Irving ever suspended or banned from social media platforms?

I see he’s apologizing now for his bullshit anti-Semitic speech. Wonder if that’s about the National Basketball Association’s 8-game suspension alone, or if it’s about Irving’s access to media.

The Brooklyn Nets guard has been cleared to play and will start Sunday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. It will mark his first game since he was suspended Nov. 3 for “harmful impact of his conduct” relating to social media posts around a book and movie that contained antisemitic ideas.

With Twitter’s Musk relying on a poll outcome manufactured by the trolls/bots he derided, Twitter’s allowed both Trump and Kanye West back on and both committed their share of hate speech.

And look, there he is on Twitter, no mention of his hate speech, though.

Which means it’s not Twitter access spurring Irving to offer his questionable mea culpa.

~ ~ ~

What the actual. Detroit’s kitties won their third straight game today, this time over the New York Giants with a final score of 31-18 at the Giants’ field.

Jamaal Williams scored three touchdowns for the Lions.

Anything is possible, huh?

Bmaz wondered earlier in the week where Buffalo was going to play if at all given the record-breaking snow storm expected which was supposed to drop six feet of snow.

Since the Lions were in Giants’ Meadowlands MetLife stadium in New Jersey, the Buffalo Bills played in Detroit’s covered Ford Field stadium, located less than a three-hour drive from Cleveland.

Detroit was on the wrong side of a Great Lake for the weather system which dropped snow on the west side of Michigan and New York state – conveniently for Buffalo, since the team won 31-23 over the Cleveland Browns.

Looks like it was a good time even if it wasn’t at home.

~ ~ ~

This post’s title “Dead on the Field” is derived from a riddle:

Dead on the field lie ten soldiers in white, felled by three eyes, black as night.

Offer your solution to this riddle below in comments.

Treat this as an open thread.

Three Things: Twitter Death Watch in Progress

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This could be hyperbole but it’s difficult to imagine a social media platform the size of Twitter surviving nearly 90% loss of employees across the organization inside a three-week time frame.

I certainly wouldn’t bet any of my money on it.

~ 3 ~

Thursday was the deadline Twitter’s owner Elon Musk set for remaining Twitter employees to commit to being “hardcore” for Elmo.

They were supposed to have clicked/not clicked by 5:00 p.m. to take an offer of termination with severance.

Many are choosing to walk away, their goodbyes recorded in this ongoing thread (link active at time of posting but no guarantees how long it will stay up):

Kylie Robison for Fortune Magazine reported in a Twitter thread that as much as 88% of the staff Twitter had when Musk took over on October 27 has either been fired or opted to leave.

There were employees on vacation, on medical leave, and under H1-B visa who have questions which haven’t been answered; they will not have been able to make a fair election of hardcore for Elmo or nope, thanks.

The number of employees which may fall under this category could be about 1000.

At one point it was said Musk was negotiating with a handful of key engineers critical to keeping Twitter running.

Zoe Schiffer at Platformer reported at 6:52 p.m. ET badge access had been suspended and the Twitter office buildings closed.

Her tweets leave open the possibility some of the employees who opted to leave may yet be asked to remain.

I wouldn’t hold my breath after reading BusinessInsider’s Kali Hays.

How does a company operate without payroll?

If Twitter has virtually no information security personnel, likely has no documented plan in place for dealing with this scenario, let alone failures all along the way for handling roll out of the Twitter Blue verification system which was a mess of violations all on its own, Twitter could be hammered hard by the Federal Trade Commission for failing to meet the terms of the 2011 consent agreement.

I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to say FTC has grounds to shut Twitter down right now if no users’ or advertisers’ data is secure; the FTC has shut down businesses before. Taking any money from advertisers at this point let alone users for Twitter verification or Twitter Blue would shortchange them if they expected data security.

As Alex Stamos, Facebook’s former CISO notes in this Twitter thread, it’s not just the FTC with whom Musk and Twitter will be in trouble. Twitter’s former outside counsel Riana Pfefferkorn agrees there are big problems and has more to add.

And Elmo’s response to all of this is shitposting.

Not even his own shitposting; he stole the meme from another user.

With total staffing and capabilities up in the air, will Twitter survive into the World Cup which begins on this coming Sunday November 20?

I won’t even put money on that.

~ 2 ~

Marcy wrote recently about Elmo’s forced marriage. Looking at the timeline of events leading up to the closing of the Twitter acquisition, there was certainly something iffy in the way Elmo avoided a background check and due diligence when offered a seat on the board of directors in April, and in the way he hustled out of Delaware’s Chancery Court in October where discovery might have revealed all that wasn’t back in April.

@capitolhunters found some embarrassing information about Elmo which might explain his skittishness. It’s public record but unless one is determined to find it, it won’t surface readily.

Read the entire thread at the Internet Archive; I wouldn’t count on it being available at Twitter. It may have been shadow banned at one point earlier Thursday evening as I couldn’t pull it up.

Is it possible the lack of qualifications and credentials as well as his former status as an illegal immigrant are the reasons why Musk appeared to avoid a background check and due diligence?

Is this a compelling reason he should not have been able to purchase Twitter to begin with — because he could be compromised because of repeated misrepresentations about his background?

~ 1 ~

If you’re a regular Twitter user, you may wish to see something constructive done and soon. There are entire communities of people who can’t just switch to another platform because they’ve had small businesses built up around their Twitter presence. There are minority groups who have difficulty switching to different platforms; without Twitter they lose contact with others in their minority community.

One only need look at the mass shooting at University of Virginia last weekend and the confusion about verification on Twitter to realize how serious the loss of Twitter’s integrity as a utility is to much of the U.S. — and it’s not just the U.S.

I recommend checking @Celeste_pewter’s Twitter thread for action items including calling your senator.

(There’s a copy of her thread at the Internet Archive just in case the original one at Twitter becomes unavailable.)

~ 0 ~

I can’t help think of two things:

— Oil producing countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and UAE financed a considerable portion of Musk’s purchase of Twitter, with Prince al Waleed being the second largest investor. Did they do it for an investment, for access to a media space to promote their agenda, or because they saw a way to screw with one of the most popular electric car manufacturers by giving its compromised CEO the means to fuck himself?

— Text messages produced as part of discovery in Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk included messages between Musk and his ex-wife Talulah (Jane) Riley in which she begged him to buy Twitter and delete it because Twitter had banned conservative satire site Babylon Bee. Riley had discussed the banning with her close friend Raiyah Bint Al-Hussein, wife of British journalist Ned Donovan, and half-sister to King Abdullah II of Jordan. Why would a British actress like Riley be so upset about an American conservative website’s banning by a U.S. social media platform?

Three Things: The Early Bird Got Wormed

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

The self-ownage continues at Twitter. I don’t even know where to start because there’s just so much damage in the bird app’s debris field.

Let’s go with the problems closest to deaths.

~ ~ ~

The brilliant billionaire who overpaid for Twitter, who thought his Tesla engineers were qualified to determine staffing levels on software created over 16 years they didn’t write, had another brilliant idea.

He played Jenga with code within the platform because the application was too slow.

(I haven’t heard anyone complain about Twitter’s speed in ages, and when there’ve been complaints they’re usually in tandem with a major event flooding the network and system with user requests and tweets.)

Twitter’s speed hasn’t been a bottleneck to increasing users or profitability.

In the process of unplugging stuff to see if the platform would speed up, a worker who actually knew something about all the legacy code criticized Musk’s absurd efforts.

Free speech absolutist Musk fired him, egged on by his fanboi trolls.



And then users began to experience problems with Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) over Short Message Service (SMS), otherwise know as text messages.

The security system which allows users to ensure their account can’t be accessed by unauthorized persons was broken, preventing users from accessing their accounts.

This also prevented users from checking their accounts to make sure they weren’t hacked and their verification worked.

~ ~ ~

Which is why during Sunday’s night’s mass shooting at University of Virginia, students as well as the public following the story were reportedly confused about UVA’s emergency message. They couldn’t be sure after Elon Musk’s back-and-forth changes to its verification system whether the message they read in Twitter from UVA-Emergency Management was legitimate.

Fortunately students used their own student-developed thread in a mobile app called Yik Yak to validate the emergency. Yik Yak has been problematic in the past, pulled from app stores because of unmoderated toxic behavior, but it was relaunched in 2021 and valuable to students during the shooting lockdown at UVA because Yik Yak limits reach to five miles. In other words, the students knew whoever was using the app was local to campus.

It’s possible the students could have deduced the UVA-Emergency Management tweet was legitimate because it displayed the source of the message – Rave Mobile Safety, an emergency messaging system. Had UVA-Emergency Management’s account been spoofed, a phone or desktop might have appeared instead of Rave.

This detail may not be available for much longer. Musk thinks identifying the source of tweets by device or application is just inconvenient bloatware.

Should we ask UVA students and their parents about Twitter’s bloatware problem?

~ ~ ~

As I noted in my previous Twitter acquisition timeline post, the company has been subject to a Federal Trade Commission consent decree since 2011 because of its failures to assure users’ personal data was secure.

From the FTC’s 2011 statement:

…The FTC alleged that serious lapses in the company’s data security allowed hackers to obtain unauthorized administrative control of Twitter, including both access to non-public user information and tweets that consumers had designated as private, and the ability to send out phony tweets from any account.

A $150 million penalty had been levied by the FTC only a month after Twitter and Musk agreed on terms for the acquisition.

And yet Musk noodled around with Twitter Blue and the blue check verification system, affecting the verification status of organizations as well as individuals – none of the changes done with documentation prepared in advance, or with red team testing for quality assurance.

Musk’s ham-handed mucking around in microservices temporarily affecting 2FA SMS – some accounts are apparently still affected – was likewise done without advance preparation, and in the face of criticism by seasoned employees who understood the system.

It’s worth noting in that same statement by the FTC these last two paragraphs:

NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the respondent that the law has been violated. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,800 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. “Like” the FTC on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter.

Though the FTC might want to rethink that last Follow, persons who felt their personal data was at risk over the last three weeks might want to drop the FTC a note.

~ ~ ~

After reading about the acquisition and the subsequent mass terminations along with the manifold fuck-ups like verification and 2FA SMS, I wonder if Musk and Twitter executives ever notified the FTC of the change in ownership as required by the consent decree.

The Tanking of Twitter

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

First, before the rest of this post, a warning: if you have a Twitter account, active or inactive, go turn on 2FA.
Do it on a desktop or laptop, not your phone.
Be sure to obtain a single-use backup code for secure login in case you’re unable to use 2FA.*

There are too many reports right now of quirky things going on at Twitter. Just play it safe and protect your account.

~ ~ ~

It’s amazing how little drag billions of dollars provides in the face of gravity — and by gravity I mean the force hubris and ignorance may exert when they meet reality.

This observation is spot on after Thursday’s conference call with Twitter’s current owner, Elon Musk:

I don’t even dare embed the original tweet because it may disappear if the worst should come to pass and swaths of Twitter are shuttered to outside access.

How the hell did Musk, the head of SpaceX and Tesla, manage to burn up so much goodwill inside 16 days?

Let’s take a look at the timeline of events since Musk began buying stock in Twitter.

Date

Description

31-JAN-2022

Musk begins accumulating shares of Twitter

14-MAR-2022

Musk now owns 5% of Twitter

25-MAR-2022

Musk polls Twitter users, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” 70% of 2 million participants said no.

26-MAR-2022

Reuters: Elon Musk giving ‘serious thought’ to build a new social media platform

Musk makes contact with former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as well as Twitter board members to discuss the platform

04-APR-2022

Musk filed a Schedule 13G with the Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing his acquisition of a 9% stake in Twitter.

The SEC acknowledged receipt of the 13G and asked Musk for clarification of several points including how Musk determined March 14 was the date which triggered a need for the 13G filing, and why he didn’t file within 10 days of March 14.

04-APR-2022

Twitter’s board offers Musk a seat on the board if he accumulates no more than 14.9% of the company’s stock. The offer includes a background check and completion of a D&O questionnaire.

https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1418091/000119312522095651/d342257dex101.htm

05-APR-2022

CEO Parag Agrawal welcomes Musk to the board via tweet.

09-APR-2022

Including a list of the Twitter accounts with the most followers, Musk tweets, “Most of these “top” accounts tweet rarely and post very little content. Is Twitter dying?

Agrawal replied that the tweets were unhelpful. It isn’t known until much latter via released text messages that Musk and Agrawal had been talking up to this point.

09+10-APR-2022

AP: Musk suggests Twitter changes, including accepting Dogecoin; Musk tweeted these ideas over the weekend.

11-APR-2022

AP: Tesla CEO Elon Musk won’t join Twitter’s board after all; Agrawal tweeted this news on Monday.

13-APR-2022

Musk files Amendment 2 to his Schedule 13D/A

The amendment includes his offer — a non-binding proposal — to Twitter’s Chairman of the Board Bret Taylor to acquire Twitter at $54.20/share and take it private.

15-APR-2022

Twitter adopted a rights agreement which included a poison pill.

20-APR-2022

Musk obtained $46.5 billion in financing commitments according to exhibits to amended 13D filed with the SEC.

25-APR-2022

Twitter’s board unanimously approved an offer by Musk to buy Twitter for $44 billion.

29-APR-2022

Reuters: Musk sells Tesla shares worth $8.5 billion ahead of Twitter takeover

02-MAY-2022

In 10-Q filing to SEC, Twitter estimated spam accounts as 5% or less of active users.

Musk tweeted, “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

04-MAY-2022

Amendment 6 to Schedule 13D showed Musk obtained commitments amounting to more than $7 billion in funding for the acquisition of Twitter.

10-MAY-2022

NPR: Elon Musk says he’ll reverse Donald Trump Twitter ban

12-MAY-2022

Twitter CEO announced a hiring freeze and cost cutting along with releasing two executives. They were:

– Kayvon Beykpour, general manager

– Bruce Falck, general manager for revenue

13-MAY-2022

WaPo: Elon Musk says Twitter deal is on hold, putting bid on shaky ground — Musk expressed concern that spam/accounts were in actuality more than 5% of users in spite of Twitter’s 10-Q statement.

25-MAY-2022

Federal Trade Commission and Dept of Justice Order Twitter to Pay $150 Million Penalty for Violating 2011 FTC Order and Cease Profiting from Deceptively Collected Data

06-JUN-2022

WaPo: Elon Musk threatens to back out of Twitter deal over withholding data – he claimed Twitter was “actively resisting” requests for information though his April agreement to purchase Twitter waived the right to look more deeply at the company’s data.

08-JUL-2022

WaPo: Elon Musk files to back out of Twitter deal – Musk’s letter to Twitter filed with the SEC said he was “terminating their merger agreement” but Twitter replied the same day saying it would sue Musk.

12-JUL-2022

NYT: Twitter Sues Musk After He Tries Backing Out of $44 Billion Deal – the company filed suit in Delaware’s Chancery Court.

19-JUL-2022

Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick set a trial date for October 17 in Delaware’s Chancery Court.

29-JUL-2022

Bloomberg: Musk Files Defense Under Seal as Twitter Trial Set for Oct. 17

09-AUG-2022

A former Twitter employee was found guilty of spying on behalf of Saudi Arabia.

23-AUG-2022

USNews: Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s former security chief July 2020-January 2022, claimed in a whistleblower complaint filed in July with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice that Twitter was not straightforward with regulators about its information security and its handling of disinformation.

13-SEP-2022

Twitter’s former security chief Zatko testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about Twitter’s problematic information security.

03-OCT-2022

Musk tweets Vladimir Putin’s “peace plan”; it’s alleged this tweet occurred after Musk had a conversation with Putin.

04-OCT-2022

Twitter disclosed in an SEC filing that Musk agreed to complete the purchase of Twitter for $44 billion according to the terms established in April.

06-OCT-2022

WaPo: Twitter-Musk trial delayed as sides argue over money and trust

20-OCT-2022

Report: Musk explained to prospective investors that he will cut Twitter staffing by 75%

26-OCT-2022

Musk arrives at Twitter’s corporate offices carrying a bathroom sink. “Let that sink in!” he tweeted along with a video of his entrance.

27-OCT-2022

Musk takes control of Twitter, firing uppermost management including

– Parag Agrawal, Chief Executive Officer

– Ned Segal, Chief Financial Officer

– Vijaya Gadde, Global Lead of Legal Policy, Trust, and Safety

– Sean Edgett, General Counsel

30-OCT-2022

The Verge: Twitter is planning to start charging $20 per month for verification – Musk threatened to fire employees building this verified user system.

30-OCT-2022

Musk tweeted, “The whole verification process is being revamped right now

01-NOV-2022

Departure of more Twitter officials revealed, top management gutted; exits include

– Sarah Personette, Chief customer officer

– Dalana Brand, Chief People and Diversity Officer

– Nick Caldwell, General manager for core technologies

– Leslie Berland, Chief marketing officer

– Jay Sullivan, Head of product

– Jean-Philippe Maheu, vice president of global sales

01-NOV-2022

Major brands pause advertising on Twitter, including Audi, General Mills, General Motors, Ad rep Interpublic Group, Mondelez International, Pfizer, Volkswagen

01-NOV-2022

Twitter to deny Blue subscribers access to ad-free articles

01-NOV-2022

Musk mixed it up with author Stephen King over the proposed $20/month fee for Twitter Blue verified status

01-NOV-2022

CNET: Twitter Will Charge $8 a Month for Verified Accounts, Elon Musk Suggests

04-NOV-2022

Half of Twitter’s workforce is pink slipped.

Included are personnel who were building the new verification system.

04-NOV-2022

CNN: Elon Musk said Twitter has seen a ‘massive drop in revenue’ as more brands pause ads

04-NOV-2022

Entire departments were gutted:

– Human Rights

– Communications

– Accessibility Experience Team

– META (Machine learning ethics, transparency and accountability)

– Curation

04-NOV-2022 through 08-NOV-2022

CNN: Elon Musk sold nearly $4 billion worth of Tesla stock since Twitter deal closed

05-NOV-2022

Engadget: Twitter starts testing paid account verification on iOS

06-NOV-2022

Bloomberg: Twitter Now Asks Some Fired Workers to Please Come Back – some were fired “by mistake”

06-NOV-2022

Actor Kathy Griffin suspended by Twitter after mocking Musk by changing her account name and avatar to copy Musk’s.

07-NOV-2022

CBS: Musk says Twitter account holders who impersonate others will be banned

08-NOV-2022

Guardian: Twitter to offer ‘official’ label for select verified accounts – “Accounts that will receive [the label] include government accounts, commercial companies, business partners, major media outlets, publishers and some public figures,” Twitter’s Early Stage Products manager Esther Crawford tweeted.

08-NOV-2022

Reuters: Twitter engineer says he was fired for helping coworkers who faced layoffs — several employees are now filing a lawsuit against Twitter for firing them while engaged in protected work per the National Labor Relations Board.

09-NOV-2022

1:45 p.m. ET – Twitter users note there are two Twitter Blue services at different prices.

2:00 p.m. ET – Engadget: Twitter’s $8 a month Blue subscription with verification is rolling out; available on iOS only relying on Apple’s identity verification.

2:52 p.m. ET – Twitter users receive a notice there will be a change in Twitter Blue service; the service is being revamped with current subscriptions to be canceled at the end of the month.

09-NOV-2022

5:26 p.m. ET – Twitter Support tweets, “We’re not currently putting an “Official” label on accounts but we are aggressively going after impersonation and deception.

10-NOV-2022

Several high-level technical executives resigned, including

– Yoel Roth, Lead, Integrity and Safety

– Lea Kissner, CISO

– Damien Kieran, Chief Privacy Officer

10-NOV-2022

Internal communications about separations and outstanding compensation are a mess.

10-NOV-2022

With little advance notice, Musk hosts an Ask Me Anything-type of meeting with employees. Topics included:

– turning Twitter into a banking services business-news

– insufficient cash flow with bankruptcy a possibility

– elimination of remote/work from home with mandatory return to the office

– offering short-form video in competition with TikTok (like Twitter’s now-defunct Vine service)

10-NOV-2022

Multiple outlets note that Twitter may be in violation of the FTC’s 2011 Consent Decree by not developing a security program documented in writing within days of rolling out new services.

A former outside counsel to Twitter warned of FTC fines for lack of compliance, but Twitter is apparently requiring its engineers to “self certify” while failing to put new services through full red team review before implementation in production environment.

10-NOV-2022

A U.S. Senator, a major pharmaceutical company, a major aerospace and defense company, and Chiquita are among the noted individuals and organizations whose identities have been spoofed by accounts using the new Twitter Blue verification service.

10-NOV-2022

Twitter paused its Twitter Blue verification service on Thursday night after the new service had been abused with misinformation.

11-NOV-2022

NYT: Insiders report as much as 80% of engineering staff have been fired, leaving little more than a skeleton crew to manage key portions of the platform.

11-NOV-2022

Twitter’s remaining Human Resource team sent laid-off workers an email acknowledging delays sending their separation agreements and release of claims documents. But HR sent it CC: not BCC: with a Reply-All barrage following.

Stories of badly handled terminations are becoming public.

12-NOV-2022

Thread: “Scoop from within Twitter: small things are breaking, not enough engineers to fix them. Noticed that notification counts are not showing? The BE service powering it is down since Thursday. A bug was filed, but the team that would fix it is full on with verification work.

12-NOV-2022

More personnel are being terminated overnight, without warning. Managers are learning as their reports including contract personnel suddenly disappear from resources.

The last couple of items were added late Saturday night. I’m afraid to look and see what might have transpired since I checked last.

There’s no nice way to put this: this entire situation is fucked up and it’s all on Elon Musk.

He’s done immense damage to Twitter’s brand as well as his own personal brand. He seems to think branding isn’t important though advertising customers like Eli Lilly, Lockheed Martin, and Chiquita offer evidence brand damage from sloppy management actually costs money.

The FTC is likely to punctuate this even further because of the egregious manner in which Twitter under Musk’s ownership has failed to comply with the 2011 consent decree. Musk ought to talk with Facebook’s Zuckerberg about how expensive this can be.

And there are humans who are going to pay for Musk’s cavalier behavior — families who might be expecting a child who are now dealing with COBRA, remote workers who are being forced back to the office in areas with severe housing shortages (that’d be Ireland, not just the U.S.). Musk has tweeted about this but this issue didn’t come up out of thin air, and like everything else so far has been handled badly.

There’s some question whether Twitter has adequate staffing related to compliance with EU regulations and GDPR and are they in Ireland.

Three points about Musk’s Twitter acquisition really boggle my mind after reading all this material. First,

Mr. Musk had brought his own advisers, many of whom had worked at his other businesses, such as the digital payments company PayPal and the electric carmaker Tesla. They parked themselves in the “war room,” on the second floor of a building attached to Twitter’s headquarters. The area, which Twitter used to fete big-spending advertisers and dignitaries, was stocked with company memorabilia. …

The advisers included the venture capitalists David Sacks, Jason Calacanis and Sriram Krishnan; Mr. Musk’s personal lawyer Alex Spiro; his financial manager Jared Birchall; and Antonio Gracias, a former Tesla director. Joining in were engineers and others from Tesla; from Mr. Musk’s brain interface start-up, Neuralink; and from his tunneling company, the Boring Company.

Musk is relying on the expertise of people in disparate businesses which have nothing to do with social media — unless Musk is already thinking he’s going to Johnny Mnemonic users’ heads with their Twitter accounts using Neuralink, a product which is likely to go nowhere since it is technically a medical device and it’s not ready for testing in humans.

The Boring Company, though. Really? Name a successful, profitable installation. Don’t mind me not holding my breath waiting, though.

There have been rumors Musk is surrounded by yes men and sycophants. We may now know who they are.

The  second questionable point:

The scope of layoffs was a moving target. Twitter managers were initially told to cut 25 percent of the work force, three people said. But Tesla engineers who reviewed Twitter’s code proposed deeper cuts to the engineering teams. Executives overseeing other parts of Twitter were told to expand their layoff lists.

Tesla. Engineers.

The people who engineer electric cars, the software of which is not safe for autonomous self driving, somehow understand enough about social media software used by hundreds of millions of accounts globally, 7/24/365, to make an assessment of staffing requirements.

They somehow understand the issues consumers, governments, industries, nonprofits/NGOs have had using and relying on this social media application since it was launched 16 years ago.

Clearly not since they missed the part about the FTC’s consent decree which might shape how any code is written, tested, rolled out, operates, and maintained.

The third doozy:

Twitter executives also suggested assessing the lists for diversity and inclusion issues so the cuts would not hit people of color disproportionately and to avoid legal trouble. Mr. Musk’s team brushed aside the suggestion, two people said.

This is the same Elon Musk whose businesses have been sued more than once for discriminatory practices, pointedly choosing to ignore federal and state employment law.

It’s a pattern of behavior and it’s not acceptable, particularly if Musk’s corporations are beneficiaries of federal incentives.

~ ~ ~

We’re long overdue to regulate social media, not just because they are monopolistic and oligopolistic.

Our businesses, our personal lives have become dependent on some of these platforms. So has our government. It should not be possible to spoof the identity of a U.S. member of Congress let alone any other government employee or entity. It should not be easy to trash businesses’ reputations for the lulz.

Nor should we as individuals be waiting for the moment we learn our personal data has been breached because a billionaire was sloppy and indifferent about its security though it’s a key facet of the business he bought for the lulz.

Democrats may have a majority in both houses of Congress next year. But they already have one now and they should use it immediately learn why Elon Musk thinks his new toy is above the law and beyond regulatory oversight.

__________
* I meant to add you should seriously consider deleting the Twitter app from your phone. I suspect there will be attempts to hack users’ accounts using the cell phone information Twitter has on record. Protecting this data was at the heart of the FTC’s consent decree.

Lasciando il matrimonio di Elmo

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

My moderation team counterpart bmaz is a bit put out at people who are flouncing Twitter dramatically. We don’t see eye to eye about the topic of departing Twitter now. I’m among those who are unwinding their accounts now that Elmo has been forced into marrying Twitter, Inc.

Elmo’s turbulent management style is one reason I’d like to leave. Who knows what any given day will yield – will a new policy pop up out of the blue insisting users must pay for services to which they’ve become accustomed for years?

Security is another matter of concern, and in saying security I mean I have my doubts about personal data security now that Elmo has capriciously announced he’s going to fire 75% of Twitter’s personnel…and now 50% this Friday…and maybe with or without compliance with state or federal WARN Act.

Does anyone really think Twitter personnel are at top form right now when they’re looking over their shoulder for their pink slip? Could you blame them if they aren’t?

But my biggest single reason for wanting to leave Twitter is this: I do not want to be Elmo’s product.

~ ~ ~

Artist Richard Serra said of his experience viewing the painting Las Meninas (c. 1656) by Diego Velázquez:

“I was still very young and trying to be a painter, and it knocked me sideways. I looked at it for a long time before it hit me that I was an extension of the painting. This was incredible to me. A real revelation. I had not seen anything like it before and it made me think about art and about what I was doing, in a radically different way. But first, it just threw me into a state of total confusion.”

When one first sets eyes upon the painting, it appears to be one of the young Infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain and her ladies in waiting, standing next to a portraitist at work. It takes a moment to realize that the portraitist isn’t painting the Infanta but whomever the Infanta is observing, and yet another moment to realize the subject of the portrait and the Infanta’s gaze can be seen in the mirror behind them.

The painting’s observer will then realize they are standing in for the Infanta’s parents who are being painted by the portraitist — and the painting is a self portrait of Velázquez at work. The painting’s observer is a proxy who has not fully consented to their role but nonetheless becomes the subject of the painter at work.

It is this same inversion which must be grasped to understand why I refuse to be Elmo’s product.

I know that I am not Twitter’s customer. I’m not the consumer.

If I remain I am the consumed in Elmo’s forced marriage scenario.

~ ~ ~

Serra and director Carlota Fay Schoolman produced a short film in 1973 entitled, “Television Delivers People.” It was considered video art, using a single channel with a text scroll to critique television.

This excerpt explains the relationship between the audience and television:

Commercial television delivers 20 million people a minute.
In commercial broadcasting the viewer pays for the privilege of having himself sold.
It is the consumer who is consumed.
You are the product of t.v.
You are delivered to the advertiser who is the customer.
He consumes you.
The viewer is not responsible for programming —
You are the end product.

What television did in the 1970s, social media does today. It consolidates access to disparate individuals over distances into audiences of varying sizes and offers them to advertisers.

Social media is mass media.

Social media, however, doesn’t serve audiences to advertisers alone. Given the right kind of incentives and development, audiences can be bought for other purposes.

There are almost no regulatory restrictions on audiences being identified, aggregated, bought, and resold, and very little comprehensive regulation regarding data privacy.

Elmo so far doesn’t appear to understand any of this between his uneducated blather about free speech and his ham handedness about Twitter’s business model.

I do not want to be sold carelessly and indifferently by Elmo.

~ ~ ~

If you are a social media user, even if validated or a celebrity with millions of followers, you are the product. You are being sold by the platform to advertisers.*

There may even be occasions when you’re not sold but used – recall the access Facebook granted to researcher Aleksandr Kogan in 2013 as part of experimentation, which then underpinned the work of Cambridge Analytica ahead of the 2016 election.

Facebook was punished by the Federal Trade Commission for violating users’ privacy, but there’s still little regulatory framework to assure social media users they will not be similarly abused as digital chattel.

What disincentives are there to rein in a billionaire with an incredibly short attention span and little self control now that he’s disbanded Twitter’s board of directors? What will prevent Elmo from doing what Facebook did to its users?

I’ve raised a couple kids with ADD. I don’t want to be on the other end of the equation, handled as digital fungible by an adult with what appears to be ADD weaponized with narcissism.

I deserve better.

I’m only going to get it if I act with this understanding, attributed again to Serra:

If something is free, you’re the product.

~ ~ ~

By now you should be used to hearing this, but I’m leaving this marriage, Elmo.

Treat this as an open thread.

__________

* We do not sell data about our community members.

Once Again Trump’s Self-Victimhood Distracts from His Negligence

It will be the subject of extensive discussion going forward how plans for an insurrection made in plain sight on social media went from being viewed, by the FBI and DHS, as First Amendment protected speech to so dangerous that social media shut down key influencer accounts and Apple and Google kicked entire platforms out of their stores within days. But that’s what happened.

On Thursday, a various law enforcement agencies tried to explain why they had allowed the Capitol to be overrun by terrorists, they claimed not to have seen the signs many of us were seeing of plans for violence.

Federal and local officials said Thursday they did not have intelligence suggesting any violent mob was preparing to attack the Capitol, even as demonstrators were publicly saying on social media they were not planning a typical protest.

Despite weeks of preparations, “obviously, what happened no one anticipated,” Michael Sherwin, acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia, told reporters in a telephone press conference Thursday. “Things could have been done better.”

[snip]

Police were caught flat-footed the next day. DC Police Chief Robert Contee told reporters Thursday there was no intelligence that suggested there would be a breach of the US Capitol on January 6. Three DHS sources, who usually receive such reports, were unaware of a threat assessment being shared from the DHS intelligence office ahead of Wednesday’s siege.

But just over a day later, Apple announced that it was giving Parler 24 hours to come into compliance with its moderations guidelines; Google just removed Parler from its stores entirely. Twitter first removed various QAnon supporters, including Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn. Then, finally, after allowing him to Tweet twice after a short-term ban, Twitter announced it was removing Trump permanently and those social media platforms that hadn’t already done so removed Trump as well.

Trump spent the night trying to find workarounds, using the POTUS account, attempting to have one of his sons tweet out his content, and having his social media staffer tweet on his own account. Unless the Tweet included a presidential message, the content was removed.

In response, Trump, his supporters, and the usual commentariat have decried a purportedly authoritarian “censorship” of Donald Trump. Indeed, most of the discussion since then has focused on whether Twitter and other social media platforms acted appropriately.

That has, as has happened so many times in the last four years, distracted from Trump’s own refusal to act.

Here’s Twitter’s description of why it found that Trump had violated Twitter’s Glorification of Violence prohibition.

Overview

On January 8, 2021, President Donald J. Trump tweeted:

“The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”

Shortly thereafter, the President tweeted:

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

Due to the ongoing tensions in the United States, and an uptick in the global conversation in regards to the people who violently stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks. After assessing the language in these Tweets against our Glorification of Violence policy, we have determined that these Tweets are in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy and the user @realDonaldTrump should be immediately permanently suspended from the service.

Assessment

We assessed the two Tweets referenced above under our Glorification of Violence policy, which aims to prevent the glorification of violence that could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.

This determination is based on a number of factors, including:

  • President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate and is seen as him disavowing his previous claim made via two Tweets (1, 2) by his Deputy Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, that there would be an “orderly transition” on January 20th.
  • The second Tweet may also serve as encouragement to those potentially considering violent acts that the Inauguration would be a “safe” target, as he will not be attending.
  • The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.
  • The mention of his supporters having a “GIANT VOICE long into the future” and that “They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!” is being interpreted as further indication that President Trump does not plan to facilitate an “orderly transition” and instead that he plans to continue to support, empower, and shield those who believe he won the election.
  • Plans for future armed protests have already begun proliferating on and off-Twitter, including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021.

As such, our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so.

Effectively, Twitter is saying that these Tweets have been exploited by the terrorists supporting Trump as support for further violence. It specifically described plans, being made both on and off Twitter, for a follow-on attack no January 17 (apparently because Q is the 17th letter in the alphabet).

Twitter is not actually arguing that Trump intended to incite violence. Rather, they’re saying that his Tweets are being interpreted as encouragement of more violence that is already being actively planned, regardless of what Trump actually meant by it.

Now, maybe Trump didn’t intend that to be the effect, though Twitter makes a fair point that both the reference to a “GIANT VOICE” in the future — one that may depend on further terrorism — and the formal announcement that the inauguration could be targeted without endangering Trump himself might be seen as inviting more violence.

But if he didn’t mean to do so, the proper response of any marginally responsible adult would be to say, “Golly, I didn’t realize how my own words were being used in ways I didn’t intend. Let me take the next few weeks off to cool off, or better yet, let me find other ways to correct any misinterpretation that I supported violence.” The appropriate response for the Commander in Chief would be to say, “Wow, that was a totally unprecedented attack on our Capitol the other day, I’m deploying all the resources of the Federal government to ensure these planned follow-up attacks will not take place.”

Have you noticed that Trump hasn’t actually said he has ordered the government to prevent further violence?

That’s all the more alarming, given that US law enforcement agencies increasingly share intelligence with the social media platforms, which suggests that Twitter’s reference to “a number of factors” doesn’t rule out specific intelligence about follow-on plans that aren’t visible on social media.

Twitter said, tucked away there in a fifth bullet, that one of the reasons they (and presumably Facebook and Apple and Google and everyone else) acted is because there are specific plans for future terrorist attacks.

And instead of talking about the fact that the man who remains President is doing nothing to prevent those follow-on attacks, we’re talking about what a victim he is.

Not All Influencers Are Celebrities on YouTube

[NB: Note the byline. ~Rayne]

There’s something hinky going on with news curation in Twitter. The story at the top of the Moments/Trends yesterday in the mobile app was this one:

We now know the GOP anticipated additional accusers when the story above was published. This morning the story at the top of Twitter’s mobile U.S. news feed is this one:

Which seems really odd that both of these stories push the White House/GOP angle promoting the troubled nomination of Brett Kavanaugh by attacking accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility.*

Meanwhile, the New Yorker story by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow about a second victim alleging an assault by Kavanaugh published last evening set Twitter timelines ablaze immediately and overnight. Yet that story isn’t the one at the top of Twitter’s US News this morning.

Is this an example of poor or biased curation by Twitter? Or is this the effect of a public relations campaign (by a firm like CRC for which Ed Whelan has worked) paying to promote a news article without any indication to the public that this elevation has happened?

Would such a PR-elevated piece written by a news outlet ever fall under the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission as YouTube influencers’ embedded promotions have recently? Or would it slip by without the public’s awareness because it’s First Amendment-protected content?

The Federal Communications Commission won’t want to touch this subject because its chair Ajit Pai won’t want to open up a can of worms about the internet and its content as a regulated commodity like broadcast radio and television.

The Federal Election Commission hasn’t looked at news-as-campaign-ads when such content is produced in the U.S. related to an unelected/appointed official position.

Google News is a little better this morning:

Note the position of the New Yorker piece in the feed. But it’s not clear how any of the news related to Kavanaugh surfaces to the top of Google’s news feed due to a lack of transparency let alone a particular story. The public doesn’t know if there have been any attempts to manipulate the elevation/submersion of a news story favorable/unfavorable to any subject including unelected/appointed officials.

As a majority of Americans increasingly obtain their news online instead of by broadcast or print media, we’re going to need more clarity about social media’s role as a publishing platform and whether social media giants are still being used to manipulate public opinion.

__________

* First image is the expanded version as I didn’t realize at time of screenshot there would be a relationship between top of Twitter news feed on September 23 and this morning’s top of news feed. All images in this story are used under Fair Use for purposes of media criticism

Parkland and the Twittered Revolt

Marvel at the teen survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Their composed rage is terrifying to a generation or two which have not seen the like since the 1960s and early 1970s. They are leading a revolution — but note the platform they’re using to best effect.


I can’t tell you how much use they are making of Facebook as I haven’t used it in several years. What I find telling is the dearth of links to students’ and followers’ Facebook posts tweeted into my timeline. I also note at least one MSD student exited Facebook after receiving death threats.

Twitter’s platform allows the authenticity and immediacy of the students’ communications, as easy to use as texting. There’s no filter. For whatever reason, parents haven’t taken to Twitter as they did Facebook, leaving the micro-blogging platform a space without as much adult oversight.

These attributes terrify the right-wing. There’s nothing limiting the reach of students’ messages — no algorithms slow their tweets. The ability to communicate bluntly, efficiently, and yet with grace has further thrown the right. The right-wing’s inability to accept these students as legitimately speaking for themselves and for their fellow students across the country is an expression of the right’s cognitive dissonance.

The students’ use of Twitter redeems the platform, asserting its true value. It’s 180 degrees from the problems Twitter posed as a toxic cesspool filled with trolls and bots. Parkland’s tragedy exposes what Twitter should be, what Twitter must do to ensure it doesn’t backslide.

Minors shouldn’t have to put up with bullying — especially bullying by adults. Donnie Trump Jr. is one of the worst examples of this bullying and should be booted out of the platform. Other adult bullies have also emerged but Twitter’s user base is ruthless in its swiftness, dealing a coup de grâce to Laura Ingraham’s sponsorships.

If only Twitter itself was as swift in ejecting bullies and trolls. Troll bots continue to flourish even after a large number were removed recently. Victims of tragedies should expect an ethical social media platform to eliminate trolls and bots promptly along with bullies.

Ethical social media platforms also need to ask themselves whether they want to make profit off products intended to maim and kill. Should it allow certain businesses to use promoted tweets to promote deadly products, or allow accounts for lobbying organizations representing weapons manufacturers as well as owners? Should Twitter remove the NRA just as it doesn’t permit accounts representing tobacco products?

Not to mention avoiding Facebook’s ethical crisis — should Twitter be more proactive in protecting its users now that Parkland’s Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School students have revitalized its brand?

The Gizmo™: Correlation Doesn’t Equal Adversary Nation

For days, reporters have been mis-using The Gizmo™ (the name I use for the “disinformation dashboard” from the German Marshall Fund, a black box that purports to show “Russian propaganda efforts on Twitter in near-real time”) to claim that Russian-linked accounts are pushing the #ReleaseTheMemo campaign calling for the public release of Devin Nunes’ politicized memo attacking the FBI.

As the effort lead by some Republicans to curtail special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into the election meddling has heated up, Russian-linked accounts helped amplify a Twitter hashtag calling for the release of a memo the group hopes will help discredit Mueller’s work, according to Hamilton 68, a research firm that tracks the malicious accounts. The #releasethememo hashtag was tweeted by these accounts nearly 4,000 times in the last couple of days, the firm said.

As always with such reporting, the articles don’t provide even the nuance the project’s most responsible contributor, JM Berger, lays out on their methodology page.

  1. Not all content in this network is “created” by Russia. A significant amount—probably a majority—of content is created by third parties and then amplified by the network because it is relevant to Russian messaging themes.
  2. Not all content amplified by this network is pro-Russian. The network frequently mobilizes to criticize or attack individuals or news reports that it wishes to discredit.
  3. Because of the two points above, we emphasize it is NOT CORRECT to describe sites linked by this network as Russian propaganda sites. We are not claiming that content producers linked by this network are Russian propaganda sites. Rather, content linked by this network is RELEVANT to Russian messaging themes.

Such reports certainly don’t consider the validity of drawing conclusions from such analysis that the authors have refused to have vetted by a third party. What does it mean to openly profess to be pro-Russian, for example? Do non-consensus views on Syria or Ukraine count? Does skepticism about Russian involvement in the election count?

And the reports don’t note the serial false positives, such as the time Jim Lankford used The Gizmo™ to claim Russia was stoking tensions around NFL players taking a knee during the anthem. More responsible analysis showed that,

[B]oth #TakeAKnee and #BoycottNFL were genuinely viral movements, generating high volumes of traffic from large numbers of accounts, but both received an additional boost from bots.

The bots which amplified #TakeAKnee were primarily non-political; they appear to be bots for hire, repurposed to amplify specific posts. Of these, the most significant group is that which retweeted @DianneLogic, given its previous use in online harassment campaigns in the context of Russia and the far right. However, the evidence of its prior behavior is suggestive but not conclusive. It cannot be taken as proving Senator Lankford’s claim.

The accounts which amplifed #BoycottNFL are a different breed. They are largely cyborgs, rather than bots, posting authored content in between slews of retweets. They are also political, rather than commercial. Their sole purpose appears to be boosting far-right American posts.

In both cases, the bots were functionally anonymous, providing no verifiable information on the identity of the user behind them. There is thus no independent information which would allow us to say definitively whether they were American, linked somehow to Russia, or managed from another country entirely.

In short, in spite of this thing being shown to measure something entirely different from what reporters continue to report — correlated traffic (and that, based on unpublished criteria) rather than causal traffic — nevertheless Russia got credit for a campaign clearly driven by right wing Americans backed by a far more extensive propaganda infrastructure.

And then, even as Twitter started leaking initial analysis saying just that — that Russia wasn’t to blame …

[A] knowledgeable source says that Twitter’s internal analysis has thus far found that authentic American accounts, and not Russian imposters or automated bots, are driving #ReleaseTheMemo. There are no preliminary indications that the Twitter activity either driving the hashtag or engaging with it is either predominantly Russian.

In short, according to this source, who would not speak to The Daily Beast for attribution, the retweets are coming from inside the country.

… Two members of Congress from California, Adam Schiff and Dianne Feinstein, called on two California companies, Twitter and Facebook, to confess further manipulation by Russia.

We understand Facebook and Twitter have developed significant expertise in identifying inauthentic and malicious accounts.  Further, your forensic investigations into Russian government exploitation of your platforms during the 2016 U.S. election have helped expose to the American public the vast extent of Russia’s covert influence efforts. We therefore request that your companies conduct an in-depth forensic examination of this real-time activity on your platforms to determine:

  1. Whether and how many accounts linked to Russian influence operations are involved in this campaign;
  2. The frequency and volume of their postings on this topic; and
  3. How many legitimate Twitter and Facebook account holders have been exposed to this campaign.

Given the urgency of this matter, we ask that you provide a public report to Congress and the American public by January 26, 2018.  In addition, we urge your companies to immediately take necessary steps to expose and deactivate accounts involved in this influence operation that violate your respective user policies.

Nothing in this letter explains why Facebook should have to do this work, as The Gizmo™, the sole piece of evidence Schiff and Feinstein rely on, doesn’t track Facebook.

But even the demand to Twitter was based on yet another misreading of what The Gizmo™ actually measures. And, having never asked The Gizmo™ to explain the methodology behind its serial panics, a Senator representing both Facebook and Twitter demanded that they check its work, rather than vice versa.

If I were a forewoman in a Russian troll factory, there would be no easier way to boost my career prospects than to use a few of my bots to manipulate The Gizmo™’s sloppy methodology to claim credit for an obviously American-generated hoax. “Ивана! Давайте претендовать на последнюю республиканскую пропаганду!” Doing so would set off a self-fulfilling prophecy, precisely the kind of thing The Gizmo™’s authors claim to want to prevent, boosting Russia’s ability to sow discord with virtually no effort.

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2016-2017

Happy Birthday to me! To us! To the emptywheel community!

On December 3, 2007, emptywheel first posted as a distinct website. That makes us, me, we, ten today.

To celebrate, over the next few days, the emptywheel team will be sharing some of our favorite work from the last decade. I’ll be doing probably 3 posts featuring some of my most important or — in my opinion — resilient non-surveillance posts, plus a separate post bringing together some of my most important surveillance work. I think everyone else is teeing up their favorites, too.

Putting together these posts has been a remarkable experience to see where we’ve been and the breadth of what we’ve covered, on top of mainstays like surveillance. I’m really proud of the work I’ve done, and proud of the community we’ve maintained over the years.

For years, we’ve done this content ad free, relying on donations and me doing freelance work for others to fund the stuff you read here. I would make far more if I worked for some free-standing outlet, but I wouldn’t be able to do the weedy, iterative work that I do here, which would amount to not being able to do my best work.

If you’ve found this work valuable — if you’d like to ensure it remains available for the next ten years — please consider supporting the site.

2016

Why Doesn’t Dianne Feinstein Want to Prevent Murders Like those Robert Dear Committed?

I’ve written a lot about how the focus on Islamic terrorism, based on a claim it’s foreign, creates gross inequalities for Muslims in this country, and does nothing to address some of our most dangerous mass killers (as the Stephen Paddock massacre in Las Vegas makes all too clear). This post is one of that series. It focuses on how the ill-advised efforts to use the No Fly List to create a list of those who couldn’t own guns would be discriminatory and wouldn’t add much to safety.

“Only Facts Matter:” Jim Comey Is Not the Master Bureaucrat of Integrity His PR Sells Him As

From the periods when Jim Comey was universally revered as a boy scout through those when Democrats blamed him for giving us Trump (through the time Democrats predictably flip flopped on that point), I have consistently pointed to a more complicated story, particularly with regards to surveillance and torture. I think the lesson of Comey isn’t so much he’s a bad person — it’s that he’s human, and no human fits into the Manichean world of good guys and bad guys that he viewed justice through.

NSA and CIA Hacked Enrique Peña Nieto before the 2012 Election

As Americans came to grips with the fact that Russia had hacked Democrats to influence last year’s election, many people forgot that the US does the same. And it’s not even just in the bad old days of Allen Dulles. The Snowden documents revealed that NSA and CIA hacked Enrique Peña Nieto in the weeks before he was elected in 2012. The big difference is we don’t know what our spooks did with that information.

Why Is HPSCI’s Snowden Report So Inexcusably Shitty?

In 2016, HPSCI released its Devin Nunes-led investigation into Edward Snowden’s leaks. It was shitty. Really shitty.

Now that the HPSCI investigation into the Russian hack (which has not been subjected to the same limitations as the Snowden investigation was) has proven to be such a shit show, people should go back and review how shitty this review was (including its reliance on Mike Flynn’s inflammatory claims). There absolutely should have been a review of Snowden’s leaks. But this was worse than useless.

Look Closer to Home: Russian Propaganda Depends on the American Structure of Social Media

As people began to look at the role of fake news in the election, I noted that we can’t separate the propaganda that supported Trump from the concentrated platforms that that propaganda exploited. A year later, that’s a big part of what the Intelligence Committees have concluded.

The Evidence to Prove the Russian Hack

In this post I did a comprehensive review of what we knew last December about the proof Russia was behind the tampering in last year’s election.

Obama’s Response to Russia’s Hack: An Emphasis on America’s More Generalized Vulnerability

Last year, in a speech on the hack, Obama focused more on America’s vulnerability that made it possible for Russia to do so much damage than he did on attacking Putin. I think it’s a really important point, one I’ve returned to a lot in the last year.

The Shadow Brokers: “A Nice Little NSA You’ve Got Here; It’d Be a Shame If…”

In December, I did a review of all the posts Shadow Brokers had done and suggested he was engaged in a kind of hostage taking, threatening to dump more NSA tools unless the government met his demands. I was particularly interested in whether such threats were meant to prevent the US from taking more aggressive measures to retaliate against Russia for the hack.

2017

On “Fake News”

After getting into a bunch of Twitter wars over whether we’re at a unique moment with Fake News, I did this post, which I’ve often returned to.

How Hal Martin Stole 75% of NSA’s Hacking Tools: NSA Failed to Implement Required Security Fixes for Three Years after Snowden

The government apparently is still struggling to figure out how its hacking tools (both NSA and CIA) got stolen. I noted back in January that an IG report from 2016 showed that in the three years after Snowden, the IC hadn’t completed really basic things to make itself more safe from such theft.

The Doxing of Equation Group Hackers Raises Questions about the Legal Role of Nation-State Hackers

One thing Shadow Brokers did that Snowden and WikiLeaks, with its Vault 7 releases, have not is to reveal the identities of NSA’s own hackers. Like DOJ’s prosecution of nation-state hackers, I think this may pose problems for the US’ own hackers.

Reasons Why Dems Have Been Fucking Stupid on the Steele Dossier: a Long Essay

I believe Democrats have been ill-advised to focus their Russia energy on the Steele dossier, not least because there has been so much more useful reporting on the Russia hack that the Steele dossier only makes their case more vulnerable to attack. In any case, I continue to post this link, because I continue to have to explain the dossier’s problems.

Other Key Posts Threads

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2008-2010

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2011-2012

10 Years of emptywheel: Key Non-Surveillance Posts 2013-2015