• Facebook knew in August ~70% of most active civic 'Groups' were too toxic to recommend to users

    In August, internal research at Facebook showed that ~70% of the platform's most active Groups were considered too toxic to recommend to users, reports Jeff Horwitz at the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. It's a well-documented tale of Facebook knowing it was amplifying domestic terrorism, and failing to address it.

    From Jeff Horwitz's piece at the Wall Street Journal:

    The company's data scientists had warned Facebook executives in August that what they called blatant misinformation and calls to violence were filling the majority of the platform's top "civic" Groups, according to documents The Wall Street Journal reviewed. Those Groups are generally dedicated to politics and related issues and collectively reach hundreds of millions of users.

    The researchers told executives that "enthusiastic calls for violence every day" filled one 58,000-member Group, according to an internal presentation. Another top Group claimed it was set up by fans of Donald Trump but it was actually run by "financially motivated Albanians" directing a million views daily to fake news stories and other provocative content.

    Roughly "70% of the top 100 most active US Civic Groups are considered non-recommendable for issues such as hate, misinfo, bullying and harassment," the presentation concluded. "We need to do something to stop these conversations from happening and growing as quickly as they do," the researchers wrote, suggesting measures to slow the growth of Groups at least long enough to give Facebook staffers time to address violations.

    "Our existing integrity systems," they wrote, "aren't addressing these issues."

    Read the rest: Facebook Knew Calls for Violence Plagued 'Groups', Now Plans Overhaul

  • Trump found some new sleazeball lawyers for his impeachment defense team, after the last ones all ran off

    Reuters: "Former U.S. President Donald Trump's office on Sunday said trial lawyers David Schoen and Bruce L. Castor will lead Trump's legal team during his Senate impeachment trial."

    This announcement follows the not-entirely-surprising news just yesterday that Trump and *all of the lawyers* on his legal team had suddenly parted ways.

    Who knows what tomorrow's installment will bring.

  • 'The Anatomy of a Lie,' NYT reconstruct of 'Trump's failed 77-day effort to subvert democracy and overturn the 2020 election'

    "Hours after the United States voted, the president declared the election a fraud — a lie that unleashed a movement that would shatter democratic norms and upend the peaceful transfer of power." — NYT 1/31/2021

    Just out on Sunday night, this extensive New York Times reconstruct of Donald Trump's failed 77-day attempt to subvert American democracy, and overthrow the 2020 presidential election. That's quite the shared byline, too, a lot of reporting power.

    Excerpt:

    Across those 77 days, the forces of disorder were summoned and directed by the departing president, who wielded the power derived from his near-infallible status among the party faithful in one final norm-defying act of a reality-denying presidency.

    Throughout, he was enabled by influential Republicans motivated by ambition, fear or a misplaced belief that he would not go too far.

    In the Senate, he got early room to maneuver from the majority leader, Mitch McConnell. As he sought the president's help in Georgia runoffs that could cost him his own grip on power, Mr. McConnell heeded misplaced assurances from White House aides like Jared Kushner that Mr. Trump would eventually accede to reality, people close to the senator told The Times. Mr. McConnell's later recognition of Mr. Biden's victory would not be enough to dissuade 14 Republican senators from joining the president's last-ditch bid to nullify millions of Americans' votes.

    Likewise, during the campaign, Attorney General William P. Barr had echoed some of Mr. Trump's complaints of voter fraud. But privately the president was chafing at Mr. Barr's resistance to his more authoritarian impulses — including his idea to end birthright citizenship in a legally dubious pre-election executive order. And when Mr. Barr informed Mr. Trump in a tense Oval Office session that the Justice Department's fraud investigations had run dry, the president dismissed the department as derelict before finding other officials there who would view things his way.

    More: 77 Days: Trump's Campaign to Subvert the Election

  • Jello Mold Timelapse [VIDEO]

    There's something peaceful about watching this lime green blob of Jell-o gelatin succumb to entropy, and sprout a crown of mold. From Temponaut on YouTube. This channel produces interesting time-lapse videos. The gross ones are my favorites! Grody slow destruction is the best. [Video Link]

  • Trump's legal team a wreck, lawyers all leave one week before impeachment trial begins

    Former president Donald Trump's legal team didn't last long.

    As of Saturday night, CNN is reporting that all five lawyers identified as part of Trump's impeachment defense — Butch Bowers, Deborah Barbier, Josh Howard, Johnny Gasser, and Greg Harris — have departed.

    Kaitlan Collins, CNN White House Correspondent: "With a little more than a week before his impeachment trial is set to begin, President Trump's legal team is up in the air. Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, who were expected to be two of the lead attorneys, are no longer on the team."

    Collins adds, "A third attorney, Josh Howard, who was also recently added to Trump's defense team, has also left, I'm told. Trump wanted the attorneys to argue there was mass election fraud and it was stolen from him rather than focus on proposed arguments about constitutionality."

    Trump is not planning to appear in person to defend himself against the charge that he incited the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, reports NBC News:

    As of last week, South Carolina attorneys Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier were expected to join the team, but now a source familiar with the matter says it was a "mutual decision" to part ways. (…) Those close to the former president are unable to identify anyone on his legal team with just over a week to go until the trial begins on Feb. 9.

    From Reuters:

    Forty-five Senate Republicans backed a failed effort last Tuesday to halt Trump's impeachment trial, in a show of party unity that some cited as a clear sign he will not be convicted of inciting insurrection at the Capitol.

  • Trump's failures with first Wuhan evacuees "increased the risk of infection transmission to American public," federal watchdog concludes

    • Special counsel also criticizes HHS general counsel for 'attempts to shame the whistleblower.'

    The Trump administration's incompetence in managing the first Wuhan evacuees one year ago at the beginning of the COVID pandemic "increased the risk of infection transmission … to the American public as a whole," a federal watchdog concludes in documents obtained by the Washington Post.

    Dan Diamond at the Washington Post reports:

    As the first American evacuees from Wuhan, China, touched down at a California military base a year ago, fleeing the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, they were met by U.S. health officials with no virus prevention plan or infection-control training — and who had not even been told to wear masks, according to a federal investigation.

    Later, those officials were told to remove protective gear when meeting with the evacuees to avoid "bad optics," and days after those initial encounters, departed California aboard commercial airline flights to other destinations.

    The "most troubling finding" is that the government's handling of the Wuhan evacuees "increased the risk of infection transmission not only to deployed [government] personnel, but also to the American public as a whole," Special Counsel Henry Kerner wrote in a letter to President Biden on Thursday.

    More: U.S. handling of American evacuees from Wuhan increased coronavirus risks, watchdog finds

  • Phone battery explodes after man bites into it [VIDEO]

    Store surveillance video captured this wild scene in China: a phone battery exploding after a man bites into it. The clip has gone viral on Chinese social media.

    From Storyful:

    The man can be seen putting the phone battery into his mouth before it suddenly explodes dangerously close to the woman's face.

    A shortened version of the footage went viral on Chinese social media sites two days later, with many commentators asking whether the woman was hurt and wondering if the man had bitten the battery to test its authenticity.

    In a January 23 post, the woman addressed these inquiries: "I'm the person involved," she wrote. "…I haven't been disfigured; thanks for your concern. He didn't [bite the battery] because he wanted to test its authenticity; actually my partner just has the habit of putting things into his mouth and nibbling on them. I'm okay, just my bangs were burnt a little bit. My first reaction was 'Are my eyebrows okay?'"

    She added that the battery her partner had bitten into wasn't a genuine iPhone battery.

  • Biden to visit Walter Reed in Bethesda, Maryland to visit with wounded service members

    President Joe Biden tomorrow afternoon (Friday, January 29th) will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland to visit with wounded service members. [via]

  • On Twitter, many follow @robinhood en masse not realizing it's The Robin Hood Society of Sherwood, UK

    Ah, yes, another case of mistaken social media handle identity.

    The World Wide Robin Hood Society, based in the heart of Sherwood, Nottingham, England, has a bunch of new followers on Twitter.

    CNN's Brian Fung observed, "People appear to be following @robinhood en masse without realizing that the handle belongs to the Robin Hood society in the UK, not the stock trading platform."

    Oops.

    The Robin Hood you are probably looking for, if you're looking for the account related to the whole GameStop stock short shenanigins, is @RobinhoodApp.

    More about all of this malarkey in Rob's earlier post.

  • WHO-led team of scientists is in Wuhan investigating COVID-19 pandemic origins in China

    A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic will meet Chinese scientists on Friday and plans to visit labs, markets and hospitals in Wuhan, reports Reuters.

    "The team plans to visit hospitals, laboratories and markets. Field visits will include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Huanan market, Wuhan CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) laboratory," the WHO said in a tweet.

    Reuters:

    The team left its quarantine hotel in Wuhan on Thursday to begin field work, two weeks after arriving in the Chinese city where the virus emerged in late 2019.

    The mission has been plagued by delays, concern over access and bickering between China and the United States, which has accused China of hiding the extent of the initial outbreak and criticised the terms of the visit, under which Chinese experts conducted the first phase of research.