Social Media

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  • May.13.2018: Social media may be banned from taking overseas cash for political ads. Foreign advertisements promoting the interests of political parties may be banned from social media in the UK under proposals being considered by the govt. The move reflects concern around the world about the way that overseas groups are using ads on #Twitter, #Google and #Facebook to try to skew the results of domestic elections. Russian attempts to influence the result of the 2017 general election by promoting the Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, ... run-up to next week’s Irish referendum, ... Britain is assessing whether it should be a crime for social media companies to take money from abroad for political ads. This would overturn a loophole in electoral law that allows foreign individuals or entities spend up to £20,000 on political ads. Damian Collins, the Conservative MP who chairs the digital, culture, media and sport select committee, said social media companies should have a “responsibility and a liability” to spot and stop foreign ads that meddle with UK politics. The Electoral Commission has pressed the govt to bring in regulations making it compulsory for all advertisers to be clearly named. Twitter has operated a ban on Irish referendum advertising from the beginning of the campaign. While Google adopted a similar policy last week, Facebook still accepts ads on the referendum from Irish customers. Facebook has also been criticised for allowing groups based in Ireland to spread misinformation through paid advertising. One Catholic group suggested that abortion caused breast cancer and increased a woman’s risk of suicide. Jonathan Calbert, George Arbuthnott, Caroline Wheeler, The Sunday Times.
  • Mar.18.2018: Stalker unleashes bot army to smear "devastated" woman. Fake accounts on Twitter have been used to try to sway elections, sow dissent and spread propaganda. The abuse is being posted from a network of fake accounts, many of them Russian — known as “bots” after the software that is used to drive them. The accounts were created to post messages automatically on demand for paying customers. Some of the accounts that sent abusive posts about Tait are linked to a British firm called Retweets Pro that claimed to be “The world’s No 1 Twitter and Instagram marketing agency”. It offered a service that let customers pay for any message they wanted to be tweeted up to 50,000 times — with no questions asked. It was based in a rented farmhouse in Suffolk by Jamie Robertson, 37, who also runs a wedding catering firm. Last month The Sunday Times exposed how bots he used were spreading Russian propaganda and web scams. Robertson has shut down Retweets Pro after being exposed by this newspaper, but many similar companies are still operating. Robin Henry, The Times.
  • Jan.23.2018: "Never get high on your own supply". Why social media bosses don’t use social media. Developers of platforms such as Facebook have admitted that they were designed to be addictive. Should we be following the executives’ example and going cold turkey – and is it even possible for mere mortals? Alex Hern, The Guardian.
  • Jan.17.2018: Thread collating recent research on media — old and new — and political polarisation. We obsess over social media filter bubbles, but evidence suggests old media and the least "social" of new media (partisan news sites, not social platforms) are the real problem. Studies find political polarisation is more acute among low-internet-use groups in US than among social media generation. Trump made biggest gains on Romney among non-internet-users. @JBurnMurdoch, Twitter.


  • Feb.09.2018: UK Fake News Inquiry Joins Forces With US Russia Probe. Facebook's exchanges were tense, with the Social Media company deflecting any responsibility for what ads it publishes and what money it takes being poorly received by the Committee. Policy director Simon Milner was challenged on accepting foreign payments during UK election campaigns, confirming the company was fully aware this was illegal yet did not prevent it from happening, saying: "my understanding is it's a matter for the Electoral Commission to investigate it." Committe MP Ian Lucas responded to Facebook's Milner saying: "it's a matter for you to comply with the law because you are facilitating an illegal act." J.J. Patrick, ByLine.


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  • May.08.2018: Twitter ‘testing’ secret encryted messaging service. Currently direct messages on Twitter are currently sent in plain text. A computer science student unearthed the encryption feature in unactivated code when she was analysing the Android application package (APK) for Twitter. APKs, used by the Android operating system to install apps, often contain code for unlaunched features. Code in the most recent version suggests that an encryption feature is being tested. A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the discovery. Kate Gibbons, The Times.


  • Jun.07.2018: Dark web souks are so last year: Cybercrooks are switching to Telegram. Underground cybercrime marketplaces are in decline because cybercrooks have begun switching to chat channels to trade illegal goods, according to a new report. The climate of fear and mistrust following the AlphaBay and Hansa takedowns in Jul.2017 has resulted in crims switching tactics and using less convenient decentralized platforms, such as Telegram, according to research from Digital Shadows. The paper, entitled "Seize and Desist", claimed the cybercriminal community has instead fallen back on alternative ways to conduct transactions across decentralized markets and messaging networks such as Telegram. Telegram in particular is proving increasingly popular as an alternative. Rick Holland, CISO and VP Strategy at Digital Shadows said: “Historically, when popular marketplaces disappear, another leader emerges. The effects of law enforcement action are therefore relatively short-lived, becoming a game of 'whack-a-mole' where cybercriminals are always one step ahead. But this hasn’t happened in this case (for now) and instead they have dispersed to alternative platforms and techniques to transact online.” Blockchain technology has been seen by some cyber criminals as a "saviour" that would bring about alternative models for decentralized marketplaces. Sites that are hosted on blockchain, often with the “.bazar” TLD, are perceived to be less susceptible to law enforcement takedowns. This is why notable sites, such as Joker’s Stash, have switched to blockchain hosting. The decentralized marketplace OpenBazaar has also experienced steady growth, with nearly 4,000 new users signed up in the last four months. John Leyden, The Register. Linkback: Dark Web
  • Apr.17.2018: Russia blocks messaging app Telegram. Russia began blocking access to the popular messaging app Telegram yesterday in one of its biggest crackdowns on the internet. Pavel Durov, the Russian entrepreneur who founded Telegram, defied a demand from the Supreme Court last month to give Russia’s security services access to users’ messages. RoskomnadzorWikipedia-W.svg, the communications watchdog, said that it had sent telecoms operators a notification about blocking access to Telegram inside Russia. Telegram, which says it has more than 200m active users worldwide, was founded in 2013 and is ranked the 9th most popular mobile messaging app in the world. It provides “end-to-end encryption”, meaning that even Telegram cannot read the messages. Mr Durov has repeatedly declined to hand over encryption “keys” that would give the Federal Security ServiceWikipedia-W.svg a back door to private messages between Telegram users. Telegram is widely used in Russia, including by the political elite, and its closure could provoke a backlash. Amnesty International said the blocking was the “latest attack on online freedom of expression” in Russia. Tom Parfitt, The Times.