Social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have written “white papers” and devoted considerable resources to projects intended to create services that encourage trust and a sense of familiarity on the part of users. Messages, photos and personal information are easily shared with groups of friends and co-workers, or in response to solicitations tailored to a user’s trusted brands, thus creating an environment of perceived safety and intimacy among users. However this communal atmosphere can be, and often is, exploited by “black hat” hackers and malware that lurk behind a façade of trust. In its April 27, 2017 White Paper entitled “Information Operations and Facebook,” and its September 6, 2017 “An Update on Information Operations on Facebook,” the company noted that there are, “three major features of online information operations that we assess have been attempted on Facebook.” Those features include: (1) targeted data collection such as hacking or spearfishing; (2) content creation including the creation of false personas and memes; and (3) false amplification by creating false accounts or using bots to spread memes and false content which, in turn sow mistrust in political institutions and spread confusion. Ironically, these techniques used to spread “fake news” and malware designed to amplify divisive social and political messages, are enhanced and made effective by the very environment of trust cultivated by social media sites.
As we previously discussed in our post “The ‘Commander-in-Tweet’ and the First Amendment,” the POTUS was criticized by the Knight First Amendment Institute for blocking certain Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump account. According to the Knight First Amendment Institute, President Trump’s Twitter account functions like a town hall meeting where the public can voice their views about government actions and attendees cannot be excluded based on their views under the First Amendment. Therefore, according to the Knight Institute, President Trump is violating the First Amendment by blocking users based on the content of their tweets. Subsequently, on July 11, 2017, the Knight First Amendment filed suit against President Trump and his communications team on this basis.
When the President of the United States, every governor, every member of Congress, and—as Justice Kagan remarked—virtually every under-30 and 35 year-old in the country has a Twitter account, it’s time for social media to be recognized as a pervasive and protectable form of speech. On Monday, during oral arguments in Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States seemed to emphatically agree. The case concerns a North Carolina law that prohibits registered sex offenders from “accessing” any “commercial social networking websites” whose membership also includes minors. In particular, SCOTUS made several statements on the nature of social media:
Political campaigns have increasingly turned to social media as a channel to reach voters. Social media not only has the power to reach audiences numbering in the billions, but it also has the power to change the behavior of its users. This far-reaching influence is nothing new—advertisers pay lots of money to use these channels to sell and market their products to targeted audiences. But, could this power be used to sway voters, and is there anything that prevents social media companies from getting into the game of politics?
Today’s online world is all about engaging and staying connected with others via social media. For businesses, establishing a presence on various social media platforms is an enticing way to connect with current customers as well as foster new business.
Yet the immense popularity of social media sites can also draw unwanted attention to its users. Just as businesses are drawn to popular social medial sites to market their brands and products, so, too, are potential cybercriminals interested in targeting those who engage with these sites. On many of these platforms, user engagement is public. In other words, when a user chooses to “follow” a company or leave a comment, not only does the business take notice of the user, but everyone else on the platform can, as well, including those who are not themselves following the business. This provides a would-be cybercriminal a target-rich group upon whom to practice new (and old) scams.
On Saturday, July 23, Facebook acknowledged its anti-spam systems had briefly and accidentally blocked links to WikiLeaks files containing internal Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. WikiLeaks had released 19,000 leaked documents from the DNC containing communication between Democratic Party officials on Friday, July 22. The following day, people tweeted screenshots of an error message they received when attempting to post links to the leaked documents: “The content you’re trying to share includes a link that our security systems detected to be unsafe.”
GE’s tech chief discusses gamification and cars; Apple and the FBI’s faceoff continues; Microsoft will give developers a new toy to play with; man’s best friend takes a disliking to man’s made friend; and more …
It’s been a week when virtual reality news reigns supreme, with the technology shown off in medicine, film and entertainment, and as part of Apple’s future plans. The FCC has even suggested a spectrum designation for it. Oh, and did you hear about the Google AI’s defeat of a Go pro?