Tumblr: Sorry about the rocky porn ban rollout

Tumblr probably won't win back any users affected by the platform's new porn ban, which went into effect Monday. But that isn't stopping the company from trying. On Monday, Tumblr issued an apology for the porn ban's rocky rollout. It also claimed that no content is being purged from the platform; affected posts are simply being … Continue reading “Tumblr: Sorry about the rocky porn ban rollout”

Tumblr probably won't win back any users affected by the platform's new porn ban, which went into effect Monday. But that isn't stopping the company from trying.

On Monday, Tumblr issued an apology for the porn ban's rocky rollout. It also claimed that no content is being purged from the platform; affected posts are simply being hidden from public view.

That means content creators still have time to download and migrate their past posts to an alternative platform—assuming they don't deliberately run afoul of Tumblr's new anti-porn rules.

"We're removing content, not people. However, those who repeatedly and deliberately post new content that violates our updated guidelines may have their account deactivated per our Terms of Service," the company said in a support page post.

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  • Users most infuriated by the porn ban include erotic artists, free speech advocates, and members of the LGBTQ community, who say Tumblr is effectively banning certain sexual content from the mainstream internet. Tumblr disagrees; it noted that you can still write about sex on the platform. Users are also free to post nude images and videos related to gender-confirmation surgery, art, or political speech.

    "We fully recognize Tumblr's special obligation to these communities and are committed to ensuring that our new policy on adult content does not silence the vital conversations that take place here every day," the company added in its blog post.

    But whether Tumblr and its computer algorithms can distinguish between legitimate content and pornographic imagery remains in question. To enforce the ban, the company said its anti-porn systems have been scanning through "tens of billions of GIFs, video and photos" and trying to flag that that actually depict sexual activities.

    Unfortunately, the system is far from flawless. Users have been noticing Tumblr mistakenly flagging images of dogs, Jesus, and superheroes as sexually explicit.

    "Having a post mistakenly flagged as adult totally sucks; we understand and agree that there have been too many wrongfully flagged posts since we announced the policy change," Tumblr said on Monday.

    The company promises that its anti-porn detection systems will improve over time. But in a bit of irony, Tumblr is also asking the public to report when the system flags the wrong content. "With tens of billions of GIFs, videos, and photos to review and millions of new posts every day, we really need your help to get it right," the company said.

    However, users most affected by the ban may not care; some have been instead calling for a boycott of Tumblr.

    Tumblr announced the porn ban weeks after the company's iOS app was temporarily pulled from Apple's App Store over child pornography found on the platform. In April, the US also passed a new anti-online sex trafficking law, called FOSTA, which opens the door for criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits against websites that faciliate prostitution.

    Tumblr has provided a link to users who want to appeal wrongfully flagged posts. If you want to export your blog from Tumblr, you can go here to learn how.

    This article originally appeared on PCMag.com.

    Facebook’s photo bug: How to see if you were exposed

    Facebook has, yet again, goofed. On Dec. 14, the company announced that it inadvertently exposed 6.8 million users' photos to third-party apps that weren't supposed to have them.

    If you granted a third-party app access to your Facebook photos from Sept. 13-25, 2018, the bug allowed it access to all of your photos, not just those posted on your timeline. This means photos you posted privately, or those you didn't finish uploading, might be there.

    Facebook promised that it would send a notification to users who were exposed. However, if you don't want to wait around, you can check for yourself.

    If you want to be super thorough, you can check any third-party apps that you may have granted photo permissions to during this time. Or, you can follow these steps as a shortcut.

    1. Log into your Facebook account. Open Facebook and type your username and password into the text boxes in the top right corner. Or select, your profile picture on the left.

    2. Go to this page in Facebook's Help Center. 

    3. Scroll to the middle of the page. If your account was impacted, you'll see a list of apps that may have had inadvertent access to your photos. If your account was not impacted, you'll see a message that says "Your Facebook account has not been affected by this issue and the apps you use did not have access to your other photos."

    If Facebook says your photos were impacted, make sure to check the apps it lists and delete any photos that shouldn't be there.

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    Facebook blasted by dozens of civil rights groups for ‘generating bigotry’

    A coalition of civil rights organization slammed Facebook for "generating hatred and bigotry" in a Tuesday letter addressed to CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg.

    The open letter – signed by 31 different groups, including Muslim Advocates, MoveOn, CREDO, MomsRising, the National LGBTQ Task Force, United We Dream, and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice – hits the tech giant for failing to heed repeated warnings about hate speech and groups that harness the ubiquitous social network to stoke religious, racial or political resentment.

    "We asked you to take immediate action to stop abuse on the platform. Recent news demonstrates, however, that Facebook was not only looking the other way in response to our concerns but also has been actively working to undermine efforts by those who seek to hold the company responsible for abuses on the platform," the letter states.

    The line above is a reference to Facebook's hiring of a GOP-tied firm that, among other things, looked into whether liberal financier George Soros was shorting the company's stock after he labeled the tech giant a "menace" in a speech early this year. According to critics, the firm, Definers Public Affairs, used anti-Semitic tropes to target Soros.

    BIG TECH'S DISASTERS AND DEBACLES: FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, TWITTER AND AMAZON'S TORTUROUS 2018

    "Out of your need to treat those leveling legitimate critiques against Facebook as your enemies, you jeopardized the safety and security of people who have dedicated their lives to the common good," the letter says. "This decision crossed all lines of common decency."

    The letter demands a series of major changes at the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, including that Zuckerberg and Facebook's COO Sheryl Sandberg both step down from the board of directors as long as they retain their current titles; that the company expand its board by at least three members to "reflect the diversity" of its 2.2 billion active monthly users; and that the board appoint an independent and permanent civil rights ombudsman, who would also serve as a board member, to "conduct consistent and ongoing reviews of the civil rights implications of Facebook's policies and practices."

    On Tuesday, Sandberg released an update on the tech giant's civil rights audit, which the COO said is one of her top priorities for 2019 and very important to her. The ongoing audit has been helmed by Laura Murphy, a prominent D.C. civil rights and civil liberties leader.

    Video

    The civil rights audit update, which states that Murphy's team has spent hundreds of hours meeting with advocates from communities representing 90 different organizations, is primarily a look back at previously announced policy changes and updates from 2018 to address civil society groups' concerns about voter suppression, content moderation and enforcement, advertising, algorithmic bias, privacy, transparency, accountability and diversity.

    FACEBOOK'S PHOTO BUG: HOW TO SEE IF YOU WERE EXPOSED

    "We have witnessed some progress and tangible results, including policy changes, improvements to enforcement, and greater transparency in certain areas," Murphy, who worked for 17 years as the ACLU's legislative office director, says in the update. "Facebook has sought to deepen its engagement with the civil rights community through this process."

    For 2019, Facebook plans to focus first on making more progress in the areas of content moderation, which the company has said will be an area that is always being worked on, and creating a "civil rights accountability infrastructure" to "ensure that the changes it is making are systemic" so that civil rights issues are considered on the front end as Facebook rolls out new products, features and policies.

    Still, civil rights advocates pushed back hard on the audit update and said they expect much more from Zuckerberg's social network.

    "Muslim Advocates and our partners demanded this audit in 2017. Laura Murphy's thorough preliminary report makes clear that Facebook has done little to meaningfully address the bigotry and discrimination that pervades its platform. Sheryl Sandberg's introduction indicates a lack of understanding that, after years and years of abuse, significant reforms are urgently needed now," said Muslim Advocates' special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry, Madihha Ahussain, in a statement.

    MYSTERIOUS TWITTER BUG LINKED TO 'UNUSUAL ACTIVITY' FROM CHINA, SAUDI ARABIA

    Ahussain continued: "We stand by our letter demanding serious changes to Facebook's board. The board is not in a position to hold its management accountable, it doesn't match the demographics of its user community, and it doesn't understand civil rights and serious reforms to it are necessary to protect vulnerable communities."

    "This report is long on excuses and short on meaningful progress. It is not enough to merely identify the many challenges that we have explained to Facebook. It is hard to take seriously a paper-thin promise without a timeline, benchmarks or accountability mechanism," said a statement from Color of Change, a racial justice organization that met with Sandberg amidst the Definers controversy.

    Color of Change continues to demand a C-Suite level "Chief User Advocate" who would work in close consultation with civil rights groups, a public report with recommendations and a timeline for implementation, the creation of a public-facing board committee or task force that has all the resources needed to implement any changes from the audit, and the release of all documents produced by Definers Public Affairs and other firms used to undermine the credibility of civil rights organizations.

    In a pair of reports released this week and prepared for the U.S. Senate, Facebook was faulted for allowing a massive Russia-led campaign that sowed racial and political discord in the U.S., systematically targeted African-Americans and tried to recruit them as "assets" in the years before the 2016 presidential election.

    At the conclusion of the post, Murphy notes that Facebook plans to issue another civil rights audit update in 2019.

    Separately, the NAACP returned on monetary donation from Facebook and called on users to log out of the social network and the other platforms it owns on Tuesday because of the company's "engagement with partisan firms, its targeting of political opponents, the spread misinformation and the utilization of Facebook for propaganda promoting disingenuous portrayals of the African American community."

    Christopher Carbone covers technology and science for Fox News Digital. Tips or story leads: christopher.carbone@foxnews.com. Follow @christocarbone.

    Mysterious Twitter bug linked to ‘unusual activity’ from China and Saudi Arabia

    A mysterious Twitter bug has been linked to suspicious activity from China and Saudi Arabia.

    “We have become aware of an issue related to one of our support forms, which is used by account holders to contact Twitter about issues with their account,” explained Twitter, in a statement released Monday.

    The bug could be used to discover the country code of people’s phone numbers if they had one associated with their Twitter account, as well as whether or not their account had been locked by Twitter.

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    Twitter began working to deal with the bug on Nov. 15 and fixed it the following day. However, the company’s investigation into the mysterious issue has led to China and Saudi Arabia.

    “We observed a large number of inquiries coming from individual IP addresses located in China and Saudi Arabia,” it said. “While we cannot confirm intent or attribution for certain, it is possible that some of these IP addresses may have ties to state-sponsored actors.”

    The issue did not expose full phone numbers or users’ other personal data, according to the San Francisco-based firm.

    TWITTER'S RELEASE OF 10 MILLION RUSSIAN, IRANIAN INFLUENCE CAMPAIGN TWEETS SHOWS US VULNERABILITY

    The hack has prompted speculation that the bug may have been used to target dissidents.

    Fox News has reached out to Chinese and Saudi authorities with a request for comment on the mysterious bug.

    Twitter revealed the bug on the same day that two separate reports revealed the bewildering scale of Russia’s social media campaign to sow discord in the U.S.

    In October Twitter also released an archive of more than 10 million tweets originating in Russia and Iran, which it says demonstrates efforts to spark friction in America.

    Fox News’ Christopher Carbone contributed to this article.

    Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

    Big Tech’s disasters and debacles: Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon’s torturous 2018

    Big Tech would love to forget 2018.

    From slowing growth and calls for CEOs to step aside to privacy breaches and increased scrutiny about hate speech and misinformation, there was no shortage of internal and external problems at Facebook, Twitter, Google and Amazon.

    The following list, therefore, is far from comprehensive, but it does provide insight into what controversies and problems will likely continue to plague Big Tech in 2019.

    Tech workers revolt

    Google, Facebook and Twitter all saw their dirty laundry aired this year thanks to employees who leaked internal emails and video, published internal memos and signed petitions demanding better benefits or more ethical practices. Former Facebook employee Mark Luckie, who worked at the social network as a strategic partner for influencers focused on underrepresented groups, published a memo saying the company has a "black people problem" and is failing its black users and employees.

    At least 17,000 Google employees staged a walkout demanding wage equality, revamped sexual harassment policies and more focus on race and gender-based discrimination at the search giant. Although Google has responded to some of the group's demands regarding forced arbitration for sexual harassment cases, others have not been acted upon. Hundreds of Google employees also pushed back against the company's reported plans, now apparently scuttled, for a censored Chinese search engine.

    A slew of prominent tech industry insiders blasted the addictive qualities of social media and the massive scale of giants like Facebook and Google, with some, including the founder of the World Wide Web, calling for Big Tech's breakup.

    GOOGLE'S CHINA SEARCH ENGINE PROJECT 'EFFECTIVELY ENDED': REPORT

    Bias audits

    Big Tech also didn't catch any breaks on either side of America's ideological divide. Republicans continued to hammer away that Google was actively suppressing conservative content or skewing its search results, grilling CEO Sundar Pichai about it last week during his House of Representatives hearing. Pichai said the search giant's employees and algorithms are not politically biased.

    Meanwhile, Facebook, which is conducting an audit of alleged anti-conservative bias, also saw 100 employees complain about the company's "political monoculture" in August. The audit won't be completed until next year, but the Mark Zuckerberg-led company has not committed to publicly releasing the audit's results. That stands in contrast to Facebook's civil rights audit, which was pushed for by advocacy groups such as Color of Change.

    The Menlo Park, Calif.-based firm has promised to update the public on the civil rights audit by the end of this year in the wake of its employment of a GOP-tied opposition firm that critics say used anti-Semitic tropes to target liberal financier George Soros after he called the platform a "menace" to society.

    Amazon vs. Big Apple Liberals

    Amazon hit a brick wall known as Big Apple Democrats in its quest to build a massive campus, known as HQ2, for 25,000 workers on the waterfront in Long Island City, Queens. The deal between Jeff Bezos' company and New York includes tax breaks and perks (including a widely-derided helipad) worth up to $3 billion.

    Critics including Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several Democrats on the New York City Council have demanded more transparency, a series of public hearings and a repurposing of some of the Amazon-alotted funds to public goods such as mass transit or affordable housing.

    Despite the pushback, Amazon is still slated to open up its New York-based HQ2 (along with its Northern Virginia counterpart) in the not-too-distant future, but certain aspects of the deal could be modified.

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    Real-world violence

    Social media companies increasingly saw their platforms weaponized in ways that led to real-world violence or the potential for bloodshed, which is something advocates have warned about for many years.

    A series of false rumors spread on Facebook-owned WhatsApp led to more than 20 people being lynched in India. Cesar Sayoc, who stands accused of sending 13 pipe bombs through the mail to a range of prominent Democrats and critics of President Trump, trafficked in conspiracy theories, white supremacy and anti-Semitism on his Facebook profile. Robert Bowers, the 46-year-old man accused of murdering 11 people at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, posted that Jews were "the enemy of white people" on far-right social platform Gab.

    Meanwhile, Facebook stands accused of allowing its platform to be used for "ethnic cleansing" by the Myanmar military, which has targeted the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority group with severe violence. And Twitter was just blasted by Amnesty International for allowing racism, misogyny and homophobia to flourish unchecked on its platform.

    Tech CEOs grilled (Or given the empty chair treatment)

    Facebook's CEO said he didn't know or would have his team look into it dozens of times during April testimony on Capitol Hill, being questioned by lawmakers about the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, the viral spread of hate speech and Russian meddling on the platform. Although Zuckerberg seemed to emerge unscathed, the company's stock has not been so lucky. Shares are down sharply this year due in part to slowing or declining user growth in some parts of the world, critics calling for a leadership shakeup and the NAACP is making a #LogOutFacebook push over privacy violations and the company's treatment of African-Americans.

    Notably, Zuckerberg refused to testify before a grand hearing on misinformation in Europe, choosing to send another executive.

    Google's CEO did testify before House lawmakers last week, in a somewhat strange appearance that was filled with weird moments and focused mostly on accusations of bias against conservatives.

    The Russia connection

    Lastly, two new reports produced for the U.S. Senate revealed that Russia's influence campaign during the 2016 presidential election was a sophisticated and multifaceted effort to target the African-American community and sow political division among the public across social media platforms.

    The nefarious effort spanned Facebook, Google, Twitter, Google-owned YouTube and Facebook-owned Instagram. It reached 126 million people on Facebook, posted 10.4 million tweets on Twitter, uploaded over 1,000 videos to YouTube, and reached over 20 million users on Instagram. "The IRA created an expansive cross-platform media mirage targeting the Black community, which shared and cross-promoted authentic Black media to create an immersive influence ecosystem," one report states.

    Although each company has taken down pages and removed bots, or implemented policy changes around election integrity, most also acknowledge that Russian efforts to subvert U.S. democracy are ongoing and unlikely to stop.

    Christopher Carbone covers technology and science for Fox News Digital. Tips or story leads: christopher.carbone@foxnews.com. Follow @christocarbone.

    5G is here. What that means and how you can get it

    5G is here. It promises super-fast speeds, and it will enable some really cool, futuristic technology. You can get it if you want it, but you practically have to stand on your head.

    What 5G tech you can get now

    Ushering in the mobile 5G era, AT&T announced Tuesday that it will start selling a 5G wireless hotspot. It can offer speeds up to 400 megabits per second, which is way faster than most home broadband connections and between 10 and 100 times faster than 4G, depending on network conditions. 4G is the fastest wireless technology available to most people right now.

      The hotspot will convert the network’s airwaves into Wi-Fi, allowing PCs, phones, and other internet-connected gadgets to access AT&T’s ultra-fast 5G speeds.Verizon beat AT&T to the punch earlier this year. Its 5G Home device works like a home broadband router, receiving Verizon’s 5G signal and converting it into Wi-Fi. Read MoreThat’s about it for now. Verizon and AT&T both announced that they will offer a 5G Samsung phone in the first half of 2019. Verizon said its Motorola Z3 will come with a modular attachment that will enable 5G service for that phone — but that’s also coming next year.

      Okay, now for the caveats

      AT&T (CNN’s parent company) only has 5G service up and running in 12 cities: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio and Waco. The 5G hotspot, the Netgear Nighthawk, will only work on one part of AT&T’s 5G technology, called millimeter wave. Those super-high frequency airwaves offer ultra-fast speeds, but they travel very short distances and don’t penetrate walls well, which is bad news if you’re inside. So AT&T had to install its initial 5G radios primarily on rooftops, lamp poles and utility poles. That means the hotspot will get 5G service in city centers but not the outskirts. The broader-span 5G radios will be turned on next year.It’s also only available to select customers. You can’t walk into an AT&T store to get a Nighthawk — you have to live or work in one of the locations with the 5G service. AT&T said the 5G hotspot will be available more broadly in the spring, at which point it expects to have deployed 5G service in seven more cities. The Nighthawk will cost $499 upfront and $70 a month, AT&T said. Verizon similarly offers its 5G service in only a handful of cities: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. And you can’t take the 5G Home device with you — and even if you could, it only works on Verizon’s proprietary network technology. Verizon plans on launching standards-based mobile 5G technology next year.AT&T (T) said the slow rollout is deliberate.”As with any new technology that’s as nascent as 5G, you’ve got to start somewhere, said Andre Fuetsch, AT&T’s chief technology officer. “As with 4G and 3G when they were new, a lot of it is just getting it out there to see how it performs and gauge customer reaction.”

      Why 5G is a big deal

      AT&T and Verizon’s achievements are nevertheless important. When the device goes live Friday, AT&T will become the only American wireless company to sell a standards-based 5G device that people can take around with them. The fact that it’s standards-based means it will be universal — the Nighthawk will work anywhere in the world with 5G service once those networks are operational.Although the Nighthawk was the first 5G device AT&T was able to get out the door, it will be one of many soon to come.”You’re going to see a wave over the next couple years and beyond of all kinds of new devices hitting the market,” Fuetsch said.Verizon (VZ) is marketing its 5G home internet service as a replacement for wired internet connections for homes — it even comes with free YouTube TV as a throw-in. 5G potentially allows companies like Verizon and AT&T to become broadband competitors in every city — something they were unable to do with FiOS and U-Verse.Both companies say they’ll have nationwide 5G coverage by 2020. Sprint (S) and T-Mobile (TMUS) have similar 5G rollout ambitions.5G’s low latency can allow self-driving cars to process all the information they need to make life-or-death decisions in the blink of an eye. And the network can also act like a cloud server, performing much of the computing and storage that otherwise would have to be done by the self-driving cars themselves. That could potentially save the cars a lot of power and space.

        The health care industry believes 5G could help power the next generation of telemedicine and robotic surgeries.Before all of that can happen, however, wireless companies have tens of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure to upgrade, devices to test, and some early adopting customers to serve as 5G guinea pigs.

    California abandons plan to tax text messages

    California regulators no longer plan to tax text messages.

    The California Public Utilities Commission said a new FCC ruling prevented the state from levying a tax on text plans. The state hoped to add new monthly fees onto wireless customers’ bills to increase funds for programs that bring connectivity to underserved residents. Regulators were scheduled to vote on the measure on January 10, 2019. The FCC put the text tax’s future in doubt when it issued a new rule on December 12 determining text messages constitute an “information service” — not a “telecommunications service.” CPUC commissioner Carla Peterman withdrew the text tax propsal “in light of the FCC’s action.”

      Here is an update to the #texting surcharge proposal before @californiapuc. pic.twitter.com/6QziYqQKXY

      — California PUC (@californiapuc) December 15, 2018

      Proponents of the FCC’s new rule say it will give carriers the ability to crack down on spam messages, and critics say it could lead to carriers censoring messages. The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.The CPUC’s proposed text tax faced strong opposition from industry trade groups, including CTIA, which represents AT&T Mobility, Sprint, and T-Mobile. (AT&T is the parent company of CNN.)Read More

        The industry group said the CPUC proposal would have created inequity “between wireless carriers and other providers of messaging services,” such as WhatsApp, iMessage and Skype. In a legal filing, CTIA called the text tax plan “illogical, anticompetitive, and harmful to consumers.”CTIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

    Russians sought to recruit ‘assets’ through social media, Senate told

    The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to release two reports on Monday detailing the breadth of the Russian social media campaign to sow discord in the United States.

    The reports, both of which were commissioned by the committee, are based on troves of data that Facebook, Twitter, and Google handed over to the committee about the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and American politics generally. Much of the data has not previously been disclosed publicly. Researchers analyzed more than 10 million tweets, 116,000 Instagram posts, 61,000 Facebook posts and 1,000 videos posted by the Russian government-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA), the troll group indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year.

      Recruiting ‘assets’

      CNN obtained one of the reports in advance of its release. That report was prepared by New Knowledge, a firm that tracks disinformation online. New Knowledge found that the IRA’s efforts went beyond the digital, as the group regularly tried to co-opt unsuspecting Americans to complete real-world tasks or hand over their personal information. CNN and other outlets have previously reported on some efforts like this, but others included in the New Knowledge report had not previously been made public. Her son was killed — then came the Russian trollsRead MoreIn one instance, through its page “Army of Jesus,” which was targeting Christians, the group offered “free counseling to people with sexual addiction,” New Knowledge found. The phony counseling service could have created an opportunity to blackmail or manipulate individuals who availed of it, the report notes.”Recruiting an asset by exploiting a personal vulnerability — usually a secret that would inspire shame or cause personal or financial harm if exposed — is a timeless espionage practice,” it says. New Knowledge says that it is not known whether anyone took up the offer of counseling. CNN has previously reported that the IRA co-opted unsuspecting Americans to coordinate protests in the U.S., in one instance even paying a Florida man to build a cage to bring to an event advocating for the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton.

      A shift to Instagram

      All of the major social media platforms were used as part of the campaign, the reports said. But New Knowledge found that in 2017, as investigators and reporters began unearthing the Russian social media campaign on the two platforms it used most, Facebook and Twitter, “the IRA shifted much of its activity to Instagram.”The spread of disinformation on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has received less scrutiny than it has on other platforms. “The most prolific IRA efforts on Facebook and Instagram specially targeted Black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing Black audiences and recruiting Black Americans as assets,” the report notes.

      Wikileaks and local news

      New Knowledge found that the IRA ran a sustained effort to undermine trust in American mainstream media, while “extolling the virtues of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.”On October 4th, 2016, the report notes, there were a small number of posts from IRA pages reinforcing Assange’s “reputation as a freedom fighter.” Those were the group’s first posts about Assange in about a month, according to the analysis. A few days later, on October 7th, Wikileaks released the hacked emails of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman. The emails had been hacked by the GRU, Russian military intelligence, according to an indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. New Knowledge notes that, though it has no definitive proof for this, “Given the GRU involvement in the DNC hack with Wikileaks, it is possible that the IRA was tasked with socializing Wikileaks to both Right and Left audiences.”In addition, the researchers found, there were 44 Twitter accounts posing as US-related news organizations that had amassed more than 600,000 followers. The report notes that many of the phony news organizations posed as local outlets and that the group could have based this strategy on studies that show Americans trust local media over national outlets.

      Supporting Trump, voter suppression

      The report notes that the IRA was largely focused on supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump, and undermining Clinton’s, including by amplifying support for Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein late in the election cycle. In the days leading up to the general election, New Knowledge notes, the IRA began to “deploy voter suppression tactics on the black community targeted accounts, while simultaneously fear-mongering on Right-targeted accounts about voter fraud and delivering ominous warnings that the election would be stolen and violence might be necessary.”On the morning of the election, one IRA account, @racist_paul, sent “dozens of tweets harassing a variety of Jewish reporters and other (real) Twitter users with content about how Trump was ‘warming up an oven’ for them.”

      Silicon Valley

      The report is critical of social media companies’ cooperation with the committee. After reviewing the data provided by the tech giants to the committee, New Knowledge concluded that the companies may have provided the “bare minimum” to meet the committee’s requests. The firm advised lawmakers that there are likely more Russian accounts that the social media companies failed to identify.A spokesperson for Google said the company did not have a comment on the report but pointed to steps the company has taken to combat disinformation since 2016.A Twitter spokesperson told CNN the company has made “significant strides” toward preventing the manipulation of its service. “Our singular focus is to improve the health of the public conversation on our platform, and protecting the integrity of elections is an important aspect of that mission,” the spokesperson said. “We’ve made significant strides since 2016 to counter manipulation of our service, which includes our release of additional data in October related to previously disclosed activities to enable further independent academic research and investigation.”In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said it is cooperating with officials investigating Russian activity around the 2016 election. “We’ve provided thousands of ads and pieces of content to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for review and shared information with the public about what we found. Since then, we’ve made progress in helping prevent interference on our platforms during elections,” the spokesperson said.

        Second report

        A separate report also commissioned by the committee and using the same data similarly found that the IRA was active on every social media platform and sought to help Trump win. The details of the report by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and Graphika, a network analysis firm, were first reported Sunday by The Washington Post.

    Big Tech is way too big

    Amazon, Google and Facebook tower over their tech competitors. But have they grown too big?

    Antitrust expert Tim Wu thinks so. The Columbia University law professor doesn’t see much of a difference between Big Tech and Standard Oil, one of the industrial giants of the early 20th century. Powerhouses like that one were eventually broken up by landmark antitrust law. “There’s been a profound change in the tech economy, and I think one that’s very dangerous for the United States’ economy,” Wu told CNN Business. “Right now, what we’re seeing is a lack of innovation. A lack of starts. That’s why I think it’s important to have a shake-up of the industry every so often.”

      According to Wu, the technology industry didn’t always look this way.”It was a sector that everyone always thought was going be so competitive forever,” he said, adding that many believed that new startups would continue to pop up, preventing any one company from becoming too dominant. Read MoreFor example, he said AOL used to be big — until it wasn’t. Netscape followed a similar path. But in Wu’s new book, “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age,” he argues that all of that has changed. Antitrust regulators who should have stopped Big Tech from rising up were “asleep at the wheel,” he added. Wu criticized the dozens of acquisitions Facebook and Amazon have made without receiving significant pushback from regulators. A spokesperson for Facebook noted Wu “was a regulator in the Obama Administration at the time of least one of the acquisitions.” Wu served as a Senior Adviser to the Federal Trade Commission from 2011 to 2012.Wu wrote that Google has snapped up more than 200 companies, a few of which had conditions attached. Some of those deals were small — perhaps a sign of Big Tech’s interest in talent more than anything else. But Wu argued that others were deliberate attempts to avoid competition. He cited Google’s (GOOGL) acquisition of YouTube, Facebook’s (FB) deal for Instagram and Amazon’s (AMZN) purchase of the online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos. Asked to respond to Wu’s claims, Google declined to comment. Amazon provided a statement to CNN defending their history of acquisitions, saying they “operate in a diverse range of businesses, from retail and entertainment to consumer electronics and technology services, and we have intense and well-established competition in each of these areas.Those mergers did not necessarily raise prices for consumers, which is a typical concern about monopolistic power. But Wu argued that concentrating all of the power can still stifle innovation and hurt consumers in the long term. He added that trust busting doesn’t always have to be about whether consumers are paying more money, either.

        Wu said that some antitrust cases in technology haven’t been about raising prices. He cited the US government’s case against Microsoft (MSFT) two decades ago, when the company was accused of unfairly bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its operating system. That case wasn’t about raising prices, since IE and competing browsers were available for free, Wu added. But he said the case and the conditions placed on Microsoft helped open the way for the growth of companies like Google.

    T-Mobile and Sprint just cleared key hurdles to their huge merger

    The multibillion-dollar merger of T-Mobile and Sprint is moving closer.

    The wireless operators have received approval from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a government panel that vets certain deals involving foreign investors, T-Mobile (TMUS) said in a statement late Monday.The company added that the US Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense have withdrawn an earlier request to delay the deal.

      “We are pleased to achieve both of these important milestones in the journey to build the New T-Mobile,” CEO John Legere said in a statement. But he added that the companies still need approval from other regulators before the deal can close. If T-Mobile and Sprint (S) merge as planned in the first half of next year, the number of wireless providers in the United States will drop from four to three, with the new company competing against Verizon (VZ) and CNN’s parent company, AT&T (T).Read MoreT-Mobile and Sprint have vowed to offer lower prices if they are allowed to merge. They argue that joining forces would also help increase competition in the industry and that they need one another to introduce 5G services.