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Imaginary ISIS attack on Louisiana and the twitterbots who loved it


Gilad Lotan has spotted some pretty sophisticated fake-news generation, possibly from Russia, and possibly related to my weird, larval twitterbots, aimed at convincing you that ISIS had blown up a Louisiana chemical factory.

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ISIS vs Twitter: A cautionary tale told through data visualization

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A report by the Brookings Institution analyzed a sample 20,000 ISIS-supporting Twitter accounts, and sought to answer the question of how suspending accounts impacts the community. The data visualizations, included in the report, bring the message home. According to the authors, suspensions serve to focus ISIS supporters into a dense cloud: on the lower right of the image above.

The node-link diagram describes ISIS supporters from February 2015. The darker cloud shows the increased concentration of interactions after the suspensions, while the lighter cloud at the top left shows more scattered peripheral relationships at the same time. "As suspensions contract the network, members increasingly talk to each other rather than to outsiders," the report states. The upshot? Suspensions, of which Twitter made more than a thousand by December, may have unintended consequences, including cutting off ISIS supporters from beneficial social pressures on Twitter.

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The report was written by author and analyst J.M. Berger (@intelwire) and data scientist and podcaster Jonathon Morgan (@jonathonmorgan), and commissioned by Google.

What's up with these incredibly prolific twitterbots?


Old, highly-retweeted tweets in which I was @'ed keep getting RT'ed by fake twitterbots whose profile photos, bios and names are randomly composited from other Twitter users; they follow each other and spawn at an alarming rate.

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Nerdcore Net Neutrality rap

Nerdcore rapper Dan Bull recorded this Net Neutrality rap today and crowdsourced an excellent video for it in three hours, with the help of his Twitter friends.

Twitterbot generates North Korean patriotic slogans with Markov chains


The 300 weird patriotic slogans that North Korea released last week had the stilted feel of machine-generated text.

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Tone-deaf Valentines tweets from the NSA

"Roses are red, violets are blue, #NSA loves privacy rights and you." No, seriously.

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Generic YA dystopian novel (Twitter edition)


The @Dystopianya account is tweeting an entire cliched YA dystopian novel in bite-sized chunks.

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Fun with promoted Tweets


Andy Baio's been playing with Twitter's "promoted tweet" targeted ads, sending out tweets that are only seen by Twitter staff (hey, verify me already!), politicians (make better laws!), and, in one bizarre case, no one (a process Twitter calls "nullcasting").

Google fought gag order over Wikileaks emails

The company says that it fought the warrants and their gag orders, and the reason they weren't able to follow Twitter's suit by disclosing the warrants' existence was that prosecutors were furious over the public backlash when Twitter got to disclose.

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Britons: we have three days to kill the new Snooper's Charter

The all-pervasive spying bill that was struck down in 2012 is back.

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Chest-burster Creme Egg


A seasonal treat, courtesy of @Ghouliachilds.

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Teens' use of social media is significantly shaped by race, class, geography, cultural background


danah boyd responds to A Teenager’s View on Social Media (written by an actual teen), pointing out that what white, affluent boys do with social media is not a full account of "how teens use the Internet.

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The best deleted political tweets from 2014


Nicko sez, With 2014 coming to close, it's that time of year to curl up by the fire and enjoy the biggest Twitter regrets from US politicians. They're all saved in Politwoops and the midterm elections meant it was extra busy." -

Calling out the doctors who abetted CIA torture


Dr Atul Gawande (whose Reith lecture on systems thinking I featured last week) took to Twitter to express his shock and disgust at the medical professionals who participated in the crimes documented in the CIA torture report.

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NYC theater overrules MPAA rating for Snowden documentary


Citizenfour, the acclaimed Laura Poitras documentary about Edward Snowden, has been given an R rating by the notoriously corrupt and opaque MPAA ratings board (see This Film Is Not Yet Rated).

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Proposal to fight Twitter abuse with volunteer juries


Now that Twitter has admitted it has a troll problem, it has to figure out how to scale up its human review of abuse complaints.

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Twitter takes aim at trolls—and promises more

Glenn Fleishman explains Twitter's blocking system and its freshly-fortified abuse-reporting tools. Read the rest