How Russian investigative journalists working for precarious free press outlets exposed the "troll factory"

St Petersburg's Internet Research Agency -- AKA "The Troll Factory" -- is in the news since Robert Mueller indicted 13 of its employees, but it first came to public attention in 2013, when investigative reporters working for the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta revealed that the agency was working to manipulate Russian public opinion in favor of Putin and the Kremlin and against opposition politicians by flooding Russian online discussions with thousands of "patriotic" posts made under a welter of pseudonyms. Read the rest

Online copyright infringement is up, and water is still wet

During the Napster wars, Bruce Schneier famously quipped, "Making bits harder to copy is like making water less wet." Read the rest

Why no one has made a tool to turn off Facebook oversharing

The debate over whether Cambridge Analytica's harvesting of tens of millions of Facebook profiles was a "breach" turns on the question of whether Cambridge Analytica did anything wrong, by Facebook's own policies. Read the rest

More than a decade's worth of Facebook catastrophes

In the wake of the latest Facebook data breach catastrophe, Josh Constantine rounds up more than a decade's worth of major catastrophes wrought by Facebook's recklessness, greed, and foolishness, from Beacon to the "Engagement Ranked Feed" to the "Engagement Priced Ad Auctions" to the choices that created spamming games like Zynga's offerings, to the mass overwriting of privacy preferences, to "ethnic affinity" ad targeting, to the Real Names policy and the stalkers it abetted to Facebook's global anti-Net-Neutrality campaigns; to self-serve ads; to developer data access and the gift it handed to crooks like Cambridge Analytica. Read the rest

Facebook once boasted of its ability to sway elections, now it has buried those pages

Facebook maintains a repository of success stories trumpeting the advertisers who have attained greatness by buying Facebook ads; most of these are businesses, but until recently, Facebook also trumpeted Florida Governor Rick Scott's use of Facebook ads to "boost Hispanic voter turnout in their candidate’s successful bid for a second term, resulting in a 22% increase in Hispanic support and the majority of the Cuban vote." Read the rest

European Parliament ambushed by doctored version of pending internet censorship rules that sneaks filtering into all online services

For months, the European Parliament has been negotiating over a new copyright rule, with rightsholder organizations demanding that some online services implement censoring filters that prevent anyone from uploading text, sounds or images if they have been claimed by a copyright holder. Read the rest

Happy 20th, Kottke!

Jason Kottke's blog turns 20 today (our online incarnation is a mere 18.3 years old, though we go back in print by another decade-plus); he celebrates with a lovely essay that recalls some of his thoughts in 2008, when he celebrated his tenth by speculating on whether he'd still be going in 2018, 2028 or 2038: "I had a personal realization recently: kottke.org isn’t so much a thing I’m making but a process I’m going through. A journey. A journey towards knowledge, discovery, empathy, connection, and a better way of seeing the world. Along the way, I’ve found myself and all of you. I feel so so so lucky to have had this opportunity." Read the rest

Study finds that false news spreads faster than truth online, thanks to humans (not bots)

An MIT research team has published a paper in Science detailing their analysis of the virulence with which truth and falsehood spread on Twitter; they analyzed 126,000 stories tweeted by 3m people 4.5m times, characterizing the stories as true or false according to consensus among a pool of independent fact-checking organizations, and concluded that "falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information." Read the rest

Rhode Island proposes blocking all online porn and charging $20 to unblock it

Rhode Island Democratic state Senators Frank Ciccone (@senatorciccone) and Hanna Gallo (@hannagallo27) have proposed grandstanding, unworkable legislation, "Relating to Public Utilities and Carriers—Internet Digital Blocking" which would mandate the state's ISPs to identify all the pornography on the internet, and then block it for all Rhode Islanders, unless those Rhode Islanders specifically requested their porn to be unblocked and paid $20 for the privilege. Read the rest

Adblock will cache popular Javascript libraries, meaning adblocked pages will be faster and less janky

Years ago, big tech companies stumbled on a brilliant scheme for collecting data on web-users: they started providing incredibly useful free Javascript libraries to web publishers: whenever a web publisher embedded one of these libraries, it would serve as a tracking beacon for everyone who visited that publisher's site, all without having to get into the messy business of even serving ads. Read the rest

Now that Trump's FCC has killed Net Neutrality, we all need to participate in instrumenting the net to document violations

Ajit Pai's Net Neutrality-killing order is scheduled to go into effect on April 23, and when that happens, it'll be open season on the free, fair and open internet. Read the rest

A census of leading Italian politicians' Twitter followings finds a horde of zombies and bots

As Italy heads into a national election in which mass inequality and food poverty have disrupted Italy's always-shaky political equilibrium, La Republica publishes its analysis (Google Translate) of the Twitter followers associated with each of Italy's political superstars and finds some pretty intense inflation in the numbers. Read the rest

Browser extensions to restore "View Image" and "Search By Image" to Google Image search results

It's been 72 hours since Google Images removed the "View Image" and (the even more essential) "Search By Image" buttons from its search-results; now you can just install a browser extension (Firefox, Chrome). Read the rest

Wikipedia discontinues its "zero-rating," will focus on research-driven outreach

When Facebook was desperately trying to game the Indian regulatory process to get approval for its "zero-rating" system (where it would bribe Indian ISPs to give it the power to decide which services would be free to access, and which would be capped and metered), one of the frequent arguments in favor of this "poor internet for poor people" was that the Wikimedia Foundation had struck similar deals in poor countries around the world, freeflagging Wikipedia use on networks that were otherwise strictly capped and metered. Read the rest

AT&T's 1993 "You Will" ads, the rightest wrong things ever predicted about the internet

In 1993, AT&T ran a series of ads trumpeting the future of the internet, called "You Will." Read the rest

New York Federal judge rules that embedding tweets can violate copyright law

Katherine Forrest, an Obama-appointed federal judge in New York, has overturned a bedrock principle of internet law, ruling that embedding a copyrighted work can constitute a copyright infringement on the part of the entity doing the embedding. Read the rest

Canada's SOPA moment: Canadian telco giants pushing for site blocking without court orders

SOPA may be a distant memory for the Internet community, but Canada now finds itself in its own SOPA moment. Telecom giant Bell leads a coalition of companies and associations in seeking support for a wide-ranging website blocking plan that could have similarly harmful effects on the Internet, representing a set-back for privacy, freedom of expression, and net neutrality. While that need not be the choice - Canada’s Copyright Act already features some of the world’s toughest anti-piracy laws - the government and the CRTC, Canada's telecom regulator, are faced with deciding on the merits of a website blocking plan that is best described as a disproportionate, unconstitutional proposal sorely lacking in due process.

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