Tech platforms must think beyond ‘election cycles’, says think tank

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Below: Capitol Hill responds to Twitter whistleblower complaint and Facebook settles 2018 location tracking lawsuit. First:

Tech platforms must think beyond ‘election cycles’, says think tank

There’s a common refrain in Washington that no matter what month or year, it’s always election season, with political operatives constantly planning for the next cycle.

But it’s a philosophy that hasn’t fully translated to Silicon Valley, where business leaders often don’t significantly scale up platform integrity efforts until just weeks before. the vote.

Today, a group of former social media workers are urging companies to shift gears and take a more “always on” approach to protecting the US election, citing the continuing wave of attacks on the electoral process.

A new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center, a DC-based think tank made up of industry veterans, calls on digital platforms to be more proactive in coordinating with local authorities to combat misinformation and misinformation about the process of vote. He urges companies to deploy resources and policy changes sooner, and keep them in place longer, to ward off threats.

“Elections are not always over on election night, a lesson that was reported in 2020 when the escalation of election misinformation spun out of control, leading to the January 6 attack… Election efforts by tech companies also can’t end on election night.” writes the group.

The report urges companies to engage directly with government officials even years before an election to address concerns earlier in the process, including during primaries and other campaign milestones.

“It’s much easier to prevent a fire than trying to put it out once it’s happened,” said Fernekes Necklaceresearch analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The report was developed with input from local election officials and tech industry leaders, who participated in a joint exercise on potential digital threats, its authors said.

While many tech companies say they stay in close contact with election officials, historically they have largely laid out their plans in the run-up to national elections.

Twitter announced earlier this month — with less than 90 days to go until the Nov. 8 midterm elections — that he would begin enforcing his election integrity rules in the context of this year’s election. In January, Twitter confirmed to me that it had stopped enforcing those same policies “on content related to the outcome of the now-concluded 2020 U.S. election.”

These measures show how some major platforms have tied their integrity efforts closely to the home stretch of national elections.

In the past, companies have also increased their resources in the weeks leading up to Election Day.

In 2018, Facebook made headlines for creating an election “war room” dedicated to two months before the last midterm elections in the United States. But the company quietly ended its efforts a few weeks after the election, as Bloomberg News reported at the time.

Facebook has also been criticized for rolling back “dozens of election season measures it used to remove hateful and misleading content” after the 2020 election and before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, as the reported my colleagues. (Facebook said at the time that the “responsibility” for the violence lay with the rioters and that it had taken steps to limit content seeking to delegitimize the election result.)

While big tech companies have the ability to deploy resources quickly just weeks before the vote, election officials don’t have the same luxury, the group said.

“Unfortunately, there may be a disconnect between the high-speed development cycles of tech companies and the realities of the election calendar,” they wrote in the report. “Often, technology roadmaps are only created about six months to a year, which is too late to do the deep resource building that protects election integrity.”

These “staggered” hours make it more difficult for local authorities to coordinate with tech companies, said Katie Harbath, a member of the center and a former member of the political staff of Facebook. And that has limited the impact of joint initiatives in the past, including corporate push in 2020 to entice more volunteers to register to be poll workers, she said.

“Some of the companies have implemented alerts and labels [saying], ‘Hey, go sign up to be a poll worker in your jurisdiction,'” she said. “However, many election officials said … it backfired because they ultimately didn’t have enough space for everyone who was interested.”

Top lawmakers investigate Twitter whistleblower complaint

Democratic and Republican lawmakers appeared united in their responses to a whistleblower complaint filed by Twitter’s former security chief Peiter “Mudge” Zatkopolicymakers saying the disclosures raised significant national security and privacy concerns, Cat Zakrzewski reports. Zatko spoke to three congressional committees on Tuesday, Zatko’s attorney John Tye said during a Twitter space an event hosted by La Poste. And the leaders of three key congressional committees said they were reviewing Zatko’s disclosures.

  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who heads the trade panel focused on consumer protection, called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Zatko’s allegations and initiate “enforcement actions” like fines against the company. , if applicable.
  • representing Jan Schakowski (D-Ill.) said the disclosures show the FTC “definitely needs more resources.”
  • The political fallout could intensify as Republicans fear Twitter has unfairly deleted their tweets. “Twitter has a long history of making really bad decisions on everything from censorship to security practices,” Sen said. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee. “This is a huge concern given the company’s ability to influence national discourse and global events.”

The complaint could also inject new urgency into discussions of privacy and other technology-related legislation. Representatives. Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.) and Cathy McMorrisRodgers (R-Wash.), top lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said if Zatko’s claims are true, they “reaffirm” the need for Congress to protect Americans’ data through privacy legislation. .

Twitter pushed back against Zatko’s complaint, with spokeswoman Anna Hughes saying it appeared to contain “inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacked important context.” Security and privacy are “company-wide priorities” at Twitter, Hughes said. “Mr. Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to garner attention and harm Twitter, its customers, and its shareholders,” she said.

Major Crypto Firm Defies US Sanctions Against Tornado Cash

Tether, which issues the world’s largest dollar-pegged token, does not blacklist accounts associated with Tornado Cash, a cryptocurrency anonymization service called a “mixer” that the Treasury Department has sanctioned this month, Curator Newmyer and Jeremy B. Merrill report. Cybercriminals, including North Korean hackers, used Tornado Cash to conceal the proceeds of their crimes, the Treasury said.

“Tether has not been contacted by US officials or law enforcement with a request” to freeze Tornado Cash transactions, Tether Chief Technology Officer Paolo Ardoino said, noting that he “normally complies with requests from US authorities.”

It is unclear whether Tether has a legal obligation to comply with the sanctions. The company, which is based in Hong Kong, suggests that is not the case, as it “does not operate in the United States or onboard American persons as customers,” Ardoino said. But he said the company views the Treasury sanctions “as part of its world-class compliance program.”

Experts said the issue was debatable. But Tether’s decision could be perilous. “It’s never a very good idea to test OFAC. Right now is a particularly difficult time for any crypto-related business,” said a former senior official with the Office of Foreign Assets Sanctions Control. “Looks like they’re doing that.”

Facebook settles geolocation lawsuit

The company’s $37.5 million settlement resolves allegations that it violated users’ privacy by tracking their movements, Reuters said. Jonathan Stempel reports.

“Users said that even though they didn’t want to share their locations with Facebook, the company nevertheless inferred their location from their Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and used that information to send them targeted ads.” , writes Stempel. “Monday’s settlement covers people in the United States who used Facebook after January 30, 2015.”

The company denied wrongdoing and did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

Zatko’s whistleblower disclosure about Twitter was hotly discussed on Twitter. He was also the subject of lighter tweets. Our colleague, Joe Menn:

Researcher and blogger Jane Manchun Wong:

Twitter reshuffles ‘healthcare’ team amid spambot debate (Reuters)

Facebook restricted a family planning post telling people about abortion pills (Motherboard)

Snap agrees to $35 million settlement over privacy lawsuit (The Verge)

Meta learned via tweet from FTC lawsuit to block VR deal (Bloomberg)

People demand Cloudflare drop Kiwi Farms (Motherboard)

ThisThat’s all for today — thank you so much for joining us! Be sure to tell others to subscribe to The Technology 202 here. Get in touch with advice, comments or greetings on Twitter Where E-mail.

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