Hillicon Valley: Facebook uncovers Iranian disinformation campaign | Bomb suspect regularly tweeted threats | Trump complains Twitter removing people from his account | California pauses enforcement of net neutrality law

Hillicon Valley: Facebook uncovers Iranian disinformation campaign | Bomb suspect regularly tweeted threats | Trump complains Twitter removing people from his account | California pauses enforcement of net neutrality law
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SALAM CHETORI, FACEBOOK:  Facebook has discovered Iranian disinformation activity on its platform and is working to reduce its impact.

The company's head of cybersecurity, Nathaniel Gleicher, revealed Friday that Facebook had removed 82 pages, accounts and groups that engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

Roughly 1 million accounts followed those pages, with another 25,000 accounts joining at least one of the groups and 28,000 accounts following the Instagram pages.

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The accounts shared politically divisive messages on issues and political figures, including Colin Kaepernick, British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and on allegations that President TrumpDonald John TrumpMichelle Obama says not always easy to live up to "we go high" Georgia certifies elections results in bitterly fought governor's race Trump defends border deployment amid fresh scrutiny MORE's campaign colluded with Russia.  

The accounts also created seven events and purchased two ads for under $100 total. Gleicher, though, said the focus of the pages appeared to be on messaging through organic content.

"Our threat intelligence team first detected this activity one week ago," Gleicher wrote in a blog post.

"Given the elections, we took action as soon as we'd completed our initial investigation and shared the information with US and UK government officials, US law enforcement, Congress, other technology companies and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab," he added.

He noted that while the misinformation accounts originated in Iran, Facebook has not been able to find ties between the different accounts.

On a call with reporters, Gleicher revealed that the earliest accounts were created in June 2016, but were not very active until this year.

He touted Facebook's quick response in detecting and removing the accounts within a week, crediting the company's new "war room" in Menlo Park, Calif. The war room is an office dedicated to catching and curbing the spread of political misinformation campaigns.

 

How lawmakers are reacting:

House Intelligence Ranking Member Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffSunday shows preview: New members preview agendas after Democratic House takeover Heads up, GOP: Elections have consequences Top Dems: DOJ position on Whitaker appointment 'fatally flawed' MORE (D-Calif.): "Facebook's discovery and exposure of additional nefarious Iranian activity on its platforms so close to the midterms is an important reminder that both the public and private sector have a shared responsibility to remain vigilant as foreign entities continue their attempts to influence our political dialogue online. The decision to pull down the pages and accounts in question and to publicly share this type of information is critical to keeping users aware of and inoculated against such foreign influence campaigns."

Senate Intelligence Ranking Member Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerFacebook reeling after damning NYT report On The Money: Trump, Senate leaders to huddle on border wall funding | Fed bank regulator walks tightrope on Dodd-Frank | Koch-backed groups blast incentives for corporations after Amazon deal Schumer told Warner to back off of Facebook: report MORE (D-Va.): "I've been saying for months that there's no way the problem of social media manipulation is limited to a single troll farm in St. Petersburg, and that fact is now beyond a doubt," Warner told the Washington Post.

Read more here.

 

BOMB SUSPECT WAS EXTREMELY LOGGED IN: Cesar Soyac Jr., the man suspected of sending explosives in the mail to Democrats and other Trump critics over the past week, regularly posted pro-Trump and anti-Democratic content on social media channels.

Soyac was extremely plugged into fringe-right-wing media and posted heavy amounts hoax theories and misinformation.

He often posted memes that claimed political movements than ran against conservative interests were tied to hedgefund billionaire and prominent Democratic donor George Soros -- views common in anti-semitic circles.

His Facebook account, where he posted much of the content, was deactivated on Friday. Twitter initially left Soyac's account up but suspended it late on Friday afternoon.

Read more here.

 

Bomb suspect threatened a former Dem aide: A former Democratic congressional aide said Friday that she reported a Twitter account believed linked to the man arrested in connection with a series of pipe bombs mailed to Democrats, but says Twitter failed to take action.

Rochelle Ritchie, who previously served as a press secretary for the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee and who has contributed to The Hill, reported the exchange to Twitter on Oct. 11, according to a screenshot of an email she tweeted.

"Hey @Twitter remember when I reported the guy who was making threats towards me after my appearance on @FoxNews and you guys sent back a bs response about how you didn't find it that serious," she tweeted, including the screenshots.

"Well guess what it's the guy who has been sending #bombs to high profile politicians!!!!" she added. 

Read more here.

 

BIG WEEK FOR ONLINE MISINFORMATION: One bright spot in the misinformation fight. YouTube is outpacing its social media rivals when it comes to curbing the spread of misinformation during breaking news events, while Facebook and Twitter are still struggling.

From this week's bomb scares to news of a migrant caravan slowly making its way toward the U.S., misinformation and hoaxes have run rampant on most social media platforms.

Facebook and Twitter have stumbled in the past to keep their platforms from being a clearinghouse for quickly disseminating unsubstantiated stories and armchair conspiracy theories that rapidly snowball in digital communities. But in the wake of major breaking news events this week, YouTube appears to have bolstered its safeguards for curtailing the rampant flow of misinformation.

Facebook and Twitter searches for terms related to the migrant caravan and bomb scares auto-populated on Wednesday with conspiracy results pushing the claim that Soros is linked to the caravan and that the bombs are a false flag.

Searching for "soros" on Twitter offered up the search suggestion "soros caravan," while typing in "bomb" on Facebook yielded search suggestions such as "bomb false flag."

YouTube searches generally haven't prompted users with such links. And when users search for conspiracies, most of the results are from vetted outlets on the center, left and right.

Read more here.

 

TWITTER RESPONDS TO TRUMP: Twitter is defending its policy of removing fake accounts after President Trump attacked the tech company for removing "many people from my account."

The social media giant said it was seeking to remove fake accounts so that people would know their followers are actually real people and argued that this was for the better.

"Our focus is on the health of the service, and that includes work to remove fake accounts to prevent malicious behavior," a spokesperson for Twitter said in a statement to The Hill. "Many prominent accounts have seen follower counts drop, but the result is higher confidence that the followers they have are real, engaged people."

The statement comes after Trump criticized the company, tweeting Friday: "Twitter has removed many people from my account and, more importantly, they have seemingly done something that makes it much harder to join -- they have stifled growth to a point where it is obvious to all. A few weeks ago it was a Rocket Ship, now it is a Blimp! Total Bias?"

SocialBlade analytics show that Trump's follower account has steadily increased since Oct. 13. However, it is possible that Twitter's purge of automated accounts, or bots, impacted Trump's number of followers. 

Read more here.

 

CALIFORNIA WON'T ENFORCE NET NEUTRALITY IN TRUCE WITH DOJ: California has agreed to temporarily halt enforcement of its expansive new net neutrality law as part of an agreement reached with the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday.

The DOJ and California reached an agreement to postpone their court battle over the state's law while a federal appeals court decides the fate of the repeal of federal net neutrality rules.

Under the agreement, detailed in filings with a federal court in California, the state won't take any action to enforce its law that was passed late last month while the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) repeal is being litigated.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who pushed through the repeal last year, said the move was a major concession by net neutrality supporters.

"I am pleased that California has agreed not to enforce its onerous Internet regulations," Pai said in a statement. "This substantial concession reflects the strength of the case made by the United States earlier this month. It also demonstrates, contrary to the claims of the law's supporters, that there is no urgent problem that these regulations are needed to address."

Read more here.

 

CITIES CHALLENGE FCC OVER 5G PROPOSAL: More than 20 cities and counties asked a federal appeals court to block a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule limiting what local authorities can charge telecom companies for installing 5G wireless networks.

Three separate lawsuits were filed Wednesday and Thursday by nearly two-dozen cities, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Los Angeles; and San Jose, Calif.

The new rule limits municipal authorities to charging $270 per cell site per year, which the FCC argues will free up $2 billion in capital for wireless providers to use in underserved areas like rural communities.

But critics charge that the rule amounts to a massive handout to telecom giants, with no incentive or requirement for them to use the funds on deployment to new areas. Read more here.

 

MICROSOFT OVERTAKES AMAZON IN VALUE: Microsoft overtook Amazon to become the second most valuable tech company in the United States on Friday.

The change in rankings was the result of a drop in Amazon's stock value, Reuters reports, after a weaker-than-expected quarterly report from the online retailer wiped out $65 billion worth of market capitalization.

Microsoft, meanwhile, saw a positive quarterly report on Wednesday and has gained 4 percent in stock value since then, according to Reuters. 

Read more here.

 

FOMOT -- FEAR OF MISSING OUT ON TWITTER: Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingDems must wield power against the powerful to win back rural America Iowa governor: Steve King needs to decide if he wants to represent ‘the values of the 4th District’ Conservative magazine posts recording of King using derogatory language against immigrants MORE (R-Iowa) called out Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Friday, demanding that he "unlock" the GOP congressman's account.

It wasn't immediately clear what purported restrictions the Iowa Republican was referring to on Twitter, but he indicated in a tweet that he wanted his followers to see posts from conservative podcast host Allie Beth Stuckey.

King had previously tweeted about Stuckey's content in a post that was still viewable Friday afternoon.

Read more here.

 

'RISING' TO THE SKY: On Hill.TV today, satellite communications leader Matt Desch praised Elon Musk and his company SpaceX for making space exploration affordable, saying it helped bring wireless communications to a truly global scale. Watch the interview here.

 

AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: Social media is the machine gun of modern disinformation war.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: case study on eating a burrito from the side.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

dark consensus about screens and kids begins to emerge in Silicon Valley. (The New York Times)

'Right-to-repair' advocates claim major victory in new smartphone copyright exemption. (The Washington Post)

WarnerMedia's classic cinema streaming service FilmStruck is shutting down. (The Verge)

Big Tech's year of reckoning. (Axios)

Looking at GMail's new A.I. nudges. (The Baffler)

It's legal to hack your own devices to fix them. (Motherboard)