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Dominant social media platforms cracked down on election disinformation and conspiratorial content after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, but in the past year domestic extremists have shifted online strategies in a way that experts say still poses real-world risks.
Meanwhile, the Cyber Ninjas firm is shutting down after a $50,000 a day fine was issued, and Twitter is giving users a new way to react to posts on the site.
Let’s jump into the news.
Far-right extremists shift online tactics
Domestic extremists are adapting their online strategies to push disinformation and conspiracies despite a crackdown by social media platforms in the year since the attack by a pro-Trump mob on the Capitol.
The playbook: Online extremist groups and far-right influencers are using more coded language to slip through gaps in mainstream content moderation enforcement and are still active on alternative platforms that have risen in popularity since the Jan. 6, 2021 riot.
Experts say efforts to counter domestic extremism must adapt as well, or else the spread of disinformation online poses real world risks heading into the midterms and 2024 presidential election.
“There's always going to be this synergistic relationship between the content moderation failures of Facebook, Twitter and alt tech platforms like Parler. So we should absolutely expect that going into the 2022 midterms, especially in battleground states where things are extremely polarized, we will see a similar dynamic,” said Candace Rondeaux, director of the Future Frontlines program at the think tank New America.
Election concerns: What’s even more worrying is what may happen during the lead up to the 2024 presidential election — where the capital available to candidates, parties and interested stakeholders is larger and platforms can be used to “influence debate to the point where things may get violent,” Rondeaux said.
Research reports released this week highlighted disinformation narratives among far-right groups on platforms such as Parler, Gab and Telegram. The Department of Homeland Security also warned partners of an uptick in chatter on online extremist pages.
Although fringe platforms brand themselves as separate from mainstream social media, they’re intertwined with the broader scope of internet conversations. Experts warned against dismissing the influence of alternative platforms despite their lower user base.
Cyber Ninjas shut down after $50K a day fine
Cyber Ninjas, a firm hired by the Arizona state Senate to conduct a review of Maricopa County’s election results, on Thursday announced that it is shutting down after a county government report slammed the firm and a judge ordered it to pay $50,000 a day in fines.
Shut down: Sam Levine, a reporter for The Guardian, first reported the news of Cyber Ninjas closing down on Thursday, tweeting that CEO “Doug Logan and the rest of the employees have been let go and Cyber Ninjas is being shut down.”
The news followed a Thursday order that Cyber Ninjas turn over public records to The Arizona Republic, including emails and text messages, to comply with an August ruling — or face $50,000 in fines per day.
The firm was hired to conduct an audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County following former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE's claims the election was stolen from him. Arizona was a swing state that Biden won narrowly.
Cyber Ninjas, which says it recounted 2.1 million ballots, confirmed Biden beat Trump in the state but claimed in its September draft report that thousands of ballots had issues, including duplicate ballots, voters who cast ballots multiple times and unregistered voters participating in the election.
Maricopa County released a report this month, arguing Cyber Ninjas made 22 misleading claims, 41 inaccurate claims and 13 claims that were false.
MORE WAYS TO REACT ON TWITTER
Twitter launched a new feature that allows users to retweet a post with a video reacting to the content, the company announced Thursday.
“Tweet reaction videos can now start on Twitter! Testing on iOS: when you tap the Retweet icon, choose 'Quote Tweet with reaction' to create and customize your very own Tweet Take –– a reaction video (or photo) with the Tweet embedded,” the company tweeted.
The feature is similar to TikTok’s reaction video feature, which Instagram recently launched as well for its Reels product.
The reaction videos launch on Twitter also comes as the company continues to roll out new products and features, looking to ramp up its daily users and double its revenue by the end of 2023.
BITS AND PIECES
An op-ed to chew on: There’s still a chance to deliver historic science funding in 2022
Lighter click: Glass doors get us too, Buddy
Notable links from around the web:
Biden Administration Warns Against Spyware Targeting Dissidents (The New York Times / Julian E. Barnes)
COVID-19 tests are so hard to find that console trackers are stepping in (Polygon / Nicole Carpenter)
Reddit Taps Morgan Stanely and Goldman Sachs for IPO (Bloomberg / Katie Roof and Crystal Tse)
One last thing: A White House denial
The White House is pushing back on an NBC News report that the Biden administration is prepared to propose scaling back troop deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe next week as the U.S. and Russia are poised to meet about Moscow’s security demands.
An administration official told NBC that it is “compiling a list of options for force posture changes in Europe to discuss with Russia" at the talks, adding that the U.S. is prepared to discuss specific moves if Russia is willing to scale back its own presence.
Russia would have to take equivalent steps to scale back its own military presence in the region beyond scaling back troops in Ukraine, officials told the outlet.
“It is not accurate that the administration is developing options for pulling back U.S. forces in Eastern Europe in preparation for discussions with Russia next week, which we told NBC while they were reporting this story,” National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne told The Hill in a statement.