The FCC just voted to repeal its net neutrality rules, in a sweeping act of deregulation

The Washington Post reports: Federal regulators voted Thursday to allow Internet providers to speed up service for websites they favor — and block or slow down others — in a decision repealing landmark Obama-era regulations overseeing broadband companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

The move by the Federal Communications Commission to deregulate the telecom and cable industries was a prominent example of the policy shifts taking place in Washington under President Trump and a major setback for consumer groups, tech companies and Democrats who had lobbied heavily against the decision.

The 3-2 vote, which was along party lines, enabled the FCC’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, to follow through on his promise to repeal the government’s 2015 net neutrality rules, which required Internet providers to treat all websites, large and small, equally. The agency also rejected some of its own authority over the broadband industry in a bid to stymie future FCC officials who might seek to reverse the Republican-led ruling.

The result was a redrawing of the FCC’s oversight powers, at a time of rapid transformation in the media and technology sectors. [Continue reading…]

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NY Attorney General Schneiderman: I will sue to stop illegal rollback of net neutrality

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman writes: The FCC’s vote to rip apart net neutrality is a blow to New York consumers, and to everyone who cares about a free and open internet. The FCC just gave Big Telecom an early Christmas present, by giving internet service providers yet another way to put corporate profits over consumers. Today’s rollback will give ISPs new ways to control what we see, what we do, and what we say online. That’s a threat to the free exchange of ideas that’s made the Internet a valuable asset in our democratic process.

Today’s new rule would enable ISPs to charge consumers more to access sites like Facebook and Twitter and give them the leverage to degrade high quality of video streaming until and unless somebody pays them more money. Even worse, today’s vote would enable ISPs to favor certain viewpoints over others.

New Yorkers deserve the right to a free and open Internet. That’s why we will sue to stop the FCC’s illegal rollback of net neutrality.

Today’s vote also follows a public comment process that was deeply corrupted, including two million comments that stole the identities of real people. This is a crime under New York law – and the FCC’s decision to go ahead with the vote makes a mockery of government integrity and rewards the very perpetrators who scammed the system to advance their own agenda.

This is not just an attack on the future of our internet. It’s an attack on all New Yorkers, and on the integrity of every American’s voice in government – and we will fight back. [Continue reading…]

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Russia could cut off internet to NATO countries, British military chief warns

The Guardian reports: Russia could pose a major threat to the UK and other Nato nations by cutting underwater cables essential for international commerce and the internet, the chief of the British defence staff, Sir Stuart Peach, has warned.

Russian ships have been regularly spotted close to the Atlantic cables that carry communications between the US and Europe and elsewhere around the world.

Air Chief Marshall Peach, who in September was appointed chair of the Nato military committee, said Russia had continued to develop unconventional warfare. He added that threats such as those to underwater cables meant the UK and its allies had to match the Russian navy in terms of modernising its fleet.

“There is a new risk to our prosperity and way of life, to the cables that crisscross our sea beds, disruption to which through cable-cuts or destruction would immediately – and catastrophically – fracture both international trade and the internet,” he said.

The warning came a fortnight after the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange issued a report saying 97% of global communications and $10tn in daily financial transactions were transmitted through such cables. [Continue reading…]

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Former Facebook exec says social media is ripping apart society

The Verge reports: Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.” [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s uncontrollable tweeting triggers deeper anxiety among advisers

Politico reports: It took nearly 24 hours for President Donald Trump to tweet about the news that his former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents — a delay that Trump’s advisers said was not uncommon for the president, who often tweets after catching up on cable news.

Many Republicans at first saw the radio silence as a welcome sign of restraint.

But by Sunday, the notoriously hot-headed president had already claimed Flynn was fired earlier this year in part for lying to the FBI and had moved on to accusing the nation’s top law-enforcement agency of being “in tatters.”

“Worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness,” he tweeted.

The tweets all combined to reignite fears among people close to Trump that the president is not taking the special counsel’s investigation seriously enough and is getting bad advice from his legal team.

Trump supporters, former campaign aides and former administration officials are beginning to privately raise red flags that the White House can’t keep up with the president’s own tweets and doesn’t have a coherent messaging strategy on the Russia investigation, according to interviews with a half-dozen people close to the president.

The people close to the president stressed that they are not worried that special counsel Robert Mueller will ensnare the president or find evidence of collusion. But they nonetheless fear that the near-daily revelations about the investigation will overtake Trump’s presidency.

“There’s no quarterback. There’s no strategy. They’re literally making it up as they go along,” said one of the people. “We’re in very dangerous territory.” [Continue reading…]

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We’re all part of Trump’s show

Bret Stephens writes: If you want to understand the ways in which Donald Trump’s presidency is systematically corrupting the American mind, I have a book recommendation for you. It’s about Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The book is Peter Pomerantsev’s “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible.” It was published in 2014, and it brilliantly tells the story of the (Soviet-born) British author’s sojourn as a producer for Russian TV. As the title suggests, at its heart it’s the tale of the substitution of reality with “reality,” of factual truth with interpretive possibility.

That’s also the central task of Donald Trump’s presidency.

We were reminded of this again this week, on news that Trump is backing away from his public admission last year that he said what he said on the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Then there was his appalling insinuation Wednesday that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough might have killed an office intern in 2001. And his hallucinatory tweet last week in which he claimed to turn down an approach from Time magazine to make him Person of the Year for the second time in a row.

Before that it was his multiple attacks against his attorney general. Or his tweeting of a video pastiche in which he physically assaults CNN. Or his voter fraud claims. Or the ones about the size of his inaugural crowds.

All this has given rise to the suggestion that Trump is mentally unwell. That’s the charitable interpretation. But the president also gives signs that he is perfectly well, can communicate relatively coherently when he wants to do so, and knows exactly what he is tweeting (and subtweeting), and to what effect.

This is where Pomerantsev is so instructive. In one of his book’s early scenes, he relates a professional homily from a man he identifies as prominent Russian TV presenter. “We all know there will be no real politics” in Putin’s Russia, the man says at a staff conference.

“But we still have to give our viewers the sense something is happening. They need to be kept entertained. So what should we play with? Shall we attack the oligarchs? Who’s the enemy this week? Politics has got to feel like … like a movie!”

This is why there’s a Colosseum in Rome, and why public spectacle, theater, cinema, TV and now the internet have always been handmaids of dictators. [Continue reading…]

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Mark Zuckerberg’s fantasy world vs. the world Facebook is actually creating

John Harris writes: Zuckerberg’s new sense of mission was laid out in the commencement address this Harvard dropout delivered at his alma mater in May. He wants to stop climate change. He intends to be part of a generation “that ends poverty, that ends disease”. He talks about “a level of wealth inequality that hurts everyone”, and says he “wants a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful”. He talks about being on the side of “freedom, openness and global community” against “authoritarianism, isolationism and nationalism”. But every word highlights the same absence. The ends seem nice. What of the means?

In Zuckerberg’s case, the sense of liberal cant is made even more glaring by the contradictions that swirl around him. As he sketches out his nebulous utopia, he says: “People like me should pay for it.” But he makes no mention of his company’s questionable record on tax, instead emphasising his belief in charity. He affects to worry about social and political polarisation while the very algorithms that power his platform encourage it. He superficially sets himself against the global forces of reaction while they make merry on his servers.

And though Facebook’s continuing travails have evidently rattled him, he inevitably has no sense that its ethos and operations need any reining-in. Quite the reverse, in fact. Judging from his recent pronouncements in response to the way that society and politics have become more divided and fractious, Zuckerberg wants Facebook “to develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us”.

He thinks there is a small subset of Facebook’s 2 billion users who make up “meaningful communities” on the platform, and that via a reinvention of Facebook’s Groups, more of us should follow their example. All this is as vague as everything else, but it boils down to something captured in a headline from Wired magazine: “Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to a world divided by Facebook is more Facebook”. [Continue reading…]

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More than a million pro-repeal net neutrality comments were likely faked

Jeff Kao writes: NY Attorney General Schneiderman estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans’ identities were stolen and used in spam campaigns that support repealing net neutrality. My research found at least 1.3 million fake pro-repeal comments, with suspicions about many more. In fact, the sum of fake pro-repeal comments in the proceeding may number in the millions. In this post, I will point out one particularly egregious spambot submission, make the case that there are likely many more pro-repeal spambots yet to be confirmed, and estimate the public position on net neutrality in the “organic” public submissions.

Key Findings:

  1. One pro-repeal spam campaign used mail-merge to disguise 1.3 million comments as unique grassroots submissions.
  2. There were likely multiple other campaigns aimed at injecting what may total several million pro-repeal comments into the system.
  3. It’s highly likely that more than 99% of the truly unique comments were in favor of keeping net neutrality.

[Continue reading…]

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Twitter facing serious questions over its efforts to deal with disinformation

BuzzFeed reports: BuzzFeed News has uncovered a new network of suspected Twitter propaganda accounts – sharing messages about Brexit, Donald Trump, and Angela Merkel – that have close connections to the Russian-linked bot accounts identified by the social media platform in its evidence to the US Congress.

The 45 suspect accounts were uncovered through basic analysis of those that interacted or retweeted accounts cited by Twitter to Congress, yet none of them appeared on the company’s list.

The relative ease of discovery raises serious questions as to just how many Russian-linked bots may still be active on Twitter, how the company identifies and removes such accounts, and whether its process for identifying accounts for its evidence was inadequate.

Until BuzzFeed News approached Twitter on Tuesday afternoon with details of the accounts, they all remained active on the platform, though dormant. But within 24 hours, all 45 had been suspended. [Continue reading…]

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Doomsday preppers expect civilization to collapse but the internet will survive

Bloomberg reports: Wendy McElroy is ready for most doomsday scenarios: a one-year supply of nonperishable food is stacked in a cellar at her farm in rural Ontario. Her blueprint for survival also depends upon working internet: part of her money, assuming she needs some after civilization collapses, is in bitcoin.

Across the North American countryside, preppers like McElroy are storing more and more of their wealth in invisible wallets in cyberspace instead of stockpiling gold bars and coins in their bunkers and basement safes.

They won’t be able to access their virtual cash the moment a catastrophe knocks out the power grid or the web, but that hasn’t dissuaded them. Even staunch survivalists are convinced bitcoin will endure economic collapse, global pandemic, climate change catastrophes and nuclear war. [Continue reading…]

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Mark Zuckerberg’s latest fig leaf for his Russian propaganda problem

Justin Hendrix writes: Since Facebook disclosed that at least 150 million Americans were exposed to Russian propaganda on Facebook in the run up to the 2016 election, pressure has been growing for the company to demonstrate transparency and notify its users. During testimony by Facebook General Counsel Colin Stretch on Capitol Hill at the beginning of November, members of Congress called on the social media giant to do just that. At the same time, I started a public petition calling for notification that swelled to nearly 90,000 signatories.

Stretch argued such a disclosure would be technically difficult, but lawmakers pressed the company to explore it. It was remarkable that he did not come prepared and willing to offer any specifics of such difficulties, and appeared to be saying more that it would be difficult to reach every person rather than difficult to do a lot of the job. In a strongly worded follow up letter, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) gave the company an explicit assignment.

“Consumer service entities like yours have long understood their duty to inform their users after mistakes are uncovered,” Senator Blumenthal wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “You too have an obligation to explain to your users exactly how Russian agents sought to manipulate our elections through your platform.” Blumenthal set November 22nd as the deadline for a response from Facebook.

On Nov. 22, the company announced its plan in a blog post entitled “Continuing Transparency on Russian Activity.”

“We will soon be creating a portal to enable people on Facebook to learn which of the Internet Research Agency Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts they may have liked or followed between January 2015 and August 2017,” the company said. “This tool will be available for use by the end of the year in the Facebook Help Center.”

Certainly, this proposal is a step in the right direction, especially for a company that has been slow to divulge details of what ultimately may go down in history as one of the most extensive and effective propaganda campaigns by a foreign adversary against the United States, and also for a company that has in fact made it harder for independent researchers to investigate the problem. But is it enough? Did Facebook answer Congress’s call to notify users?

On balance, the answer is clearly no. [Continue reading…]

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Extreme digital vetting of visitors to the U.S. moves forward under a new name

ProPublica reports: The Department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement is taking new steps in its plans for monitoring the social media accounts of applicants and holders of U.S. visas. At a tech industry conference last Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, ICE officials explained to software providers what they are seeking: algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the United States and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk.

The comments provide the first clear blueprint for ICE’s proposed augmentation of its visa-vetting program. The initial announcement of the plans this summer, viewed as part of President Donald Trump’s calls for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, stoked a public outcry from immigrants and civil liberties advocates. They argued that such a plan would discriminate against Muslim visitors and potentially place a huge number of individuals under watch.

ICE officials subsequently changed the program’s name to “Visa Lifecycle Vetting.” But, according to the ICE presentation, the goal of the initiative — enhanced monitoring of visa holders using social media — remains the same. [Continue reading…]

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FCC has obstructed criminal investigation of corruption of its notice and comment process on net neutrality

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman writes in an open letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai: As you recently announced, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under your leadership, soon will release rules to dismantle your agency’s existing “net neutrality” protections under Title II of the Communications Act, which shield the public from anti-consumer behaviors of the giant cable companies that provide high-speed internet to most people. In today’s digital age, the rules that govern the operation and delivery of internet service to hundreds of millions of Americans are critical to the economic and social well-being of the nation. Yet the process the FCC has employed to consider potentially sweeping alterations to current net neutrality rules has been corrupted by the fraudulent use of Americans’ identities — and the FCC has been unwilling to assist my office in our efforts to investigate this unlawful activity.

Specifically, for six months my office has been investigating who perpetrated a massive scheme to corrupt the FCC’s notice and comment process through the misuse of enormous numbers of real New Yorkers’ and other Americans’ identities. Such conduct likely violates state law — yet the FCC has refused multiple requests for crucial evidence in its sole possession that is vital to permit that law enforcement investigation to proceed.

In April 2017, the FCC announced that it would issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking concerning repeal of its existing net neutrality rules. Federal law requires the FCC and all federal agencies to take public comments on proposed rules into account — so it is important that the public comment process actually enable the voices of the millions of individuals and businesses who will be affected to be heard. That’s important no matter one’s position on net neutrality, environmental rules, and so many other areas in which federal agencies regulate.

In May 2017, researchers and reporters discovered that the FCC’s public comment process was being corrupted by the submission of enormous numbers of fake comments concerning the possible repeal of net neutrality rules. In doing so, the perpetrator or perpetrators attacked what is supposed to be an open public process by attempting to drown out and negate the views of the real people, businesses, and others who honestly commented on this important issue. Worse, while some of these fake comments used made up names and addresses, many misused the real names and addresses of actual people as part of the effort to undermine the integrity of the comment process. That’s akin to identity theft, and it happened on a massive scale. [Continue reading…]

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FCC plans net neutrality repeal in victory for telecoms

The New York Times reports: The Federal Communications Commission announced on Tuesday that it planned to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites.

The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration. The rules prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. Those limits are central to the concept called net neutrality.

The action immediately reignited a loud and furious fight over free speech and the control of the internet, pitting telecom giants like AT&T against internet giants like Google and Amazon, who warn against powerful telecom gatekeepers. Both sides are expected to lobby hard in Washington to push their agendas, as they did when the existing rules were adopted. [Continue reading…]

Ars Technica reports: In addition to ditching its own net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission also plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service.

This detail was revealed by senior FCC officials in a phone briefing with reporters today, and it is a victory for broadband providers that asked for widespread preemption of state laws. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposed order finds that state and local laws must be preempted if they conflict with the US government’s policy of deregulating broadband Internet service, FCC officials said. [Continue reading…]

The Daily Beast reports: Citing an “unprecedented power grab of the Obama-era FCC” that is a “trojan horse for censorship,” pro-Trump websites like InfoWars and Reddit’s r/The_Donald applauded the Republican-controlled FCC for its plans to strip Net Neutrality protections on Tuesday.

Experts say, however, sites like InfoWars and fringe communities like 4chan would likely be the first to have their websites slowed down by telecoms in the new plan, unveiled by Trump-appointed FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on Tuesday.

Tim Karr, the Senior Director of Strategy at the internet rights nonprofit Free Press, said Pai’s plan would allow telecom giants like Comcast to prioritize their own websites and properties, like Comcast-owned NBC sites.

In turn, this would slow traffic to fringe or non-mainstream political sites like InfoWars and 4chan—unless users paid more for a “higher tier” internet, which currently doesn’t exist. [Continue reading…]

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The education of Mark Zuckerberg

Alexis C Madrigal writes: There’s a story that Mark Zuckerberg has told dozens of times over the years. Shortly after he’d launched Facebook in February 2004, he went to get pizza with Kang-Xing Jin, a coder friend who would become a Facebook executive, at a place around the corner from his dorm.

In one telling, Zuckerberg says he was thinking, “this is great that we have this community that now people can connect within our little school, but clearly one day, someone is going to build this for the world.”

But there was no reason to expect that this kid and his group of friends would be the people who would build this for the world. “It hadn’t even crossed my mind,” he said in 2013. They were technically gifted, but as Zuckerberg tells it, they had basically no resources or experience at a time when there were already massive technology companies trying to create social networks from MySpace to Microsoft, Google to Yahoo.

Looking back, it’s also clear that they had no experience with community building, organizing, sociology, social work, or any other discipline that might have helped them understand the social forces they were unleashing, quantifying, amplifying, and warping. Mark Zuckerberg was just a kid eating pizza after writing some code.

13 years later, he wields unquestioned formal and informal control over a company that is now the battleground for elections as well as home to cultural discourse and basic family relationships.

That’s the crucial background for Mark Zuckerberg’s now-concluded tour of 30 American states, a photo-op-heavy barnstorm that has served, it seems, as a remedial education for Zuckerberg in what it means to be a normal person in America. Time and again, Zuckerberg has marveled at how people’s communities are enriched by their unions, churches, schools, and other civic institutions.

Most recently, for example, this was how he described his major takeaway from his travels at the concluding stop at the University of Kansas. “The thing that struck me everywhere I went—and I have stories from every state that I visited—was how central communities are to people,” he said.

You don’t say!

This level of naïveté sounds unbelievable until you remember that the only two states of adulthood the man has known are Harvard undergraduate and CEO of a company with unending funding and growth. His childhood was financially comfortable and individualistic in the way wealthy childhoods usually are. Where was he supposed to acquire an understanding of the ways that most places—middle-class, working-class, and poor—hold themselves together? [Continue reading…]

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Trump tweets on CNN could muddy AT&T-Time Warner lawsuit

Politico reports: The Justice Department’s decision to block the AT&T-Time Warner merger sets up another high-profile lawsuit in which President Donald Trump’s prolific and opinionated tweets could complicate his administration’s agenda.

The DOJ announced Monday that it would seek to derail the $85 billion deal because the combined company could charge competitors hefty fees to distribute Time Warner content, providing an unfair advantage to AT&T-owned DirecTV. But questions about political meddling by the Trump administration have dogged the merger throughout the government’s review process — and those concerns could now factor into arguments the companies make in court challenging the rejection of their proposed union.

“Donald Trump’s dangerous talk about CNN cast a shadow over their actions,” said Craig Aaron, president of advocacy group Free Press, which opposes the merger. While Aaron called AT&T-Time Warner a “huge merger with clear consumer harms,” he warned: “If there’s any evidence the White House interfered because it dislikes CNN’s journalism, that would be a disaster.”

The president’s tweets have come up in the legal arguments of those battling his other policies, including his administration’s restrictions on travelers from Muslim countries, decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and ban on openly transgender soldiers. [Continue reading…]

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The stunted human development of the high priests of Silicon Valley

John Naughton writes: One of the biggest puzzles about our current predicament with fake news and the weaponisation of social media is why the folks who built this technology are so taken aback by what has happened. Exhibit A is the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, whose political education I recently chronicled. But he’s not alone. In fact I’d say he is quite representative of many of the biggest movers and shakers in the tech world. We have a burgeoning genre of “OMG, what have we done?” angst coming from former Facebook and Google employees who have begun to realise that the cool stuff they worked on might have had, well, antisocial consequences.

Put simply, what Google and Facebook have built is a pair of amazingly sophisticated, computer-driven engines for extracting users’ personal information and data trails, refining them for sale to advertisers in high-speed data-trading auctions that are entirely unregulated and opaque to everyone except the companies themselves.

The purpose of this infrastructure was to enable companies to target people with carefully customised commercial messages and, as far as we know, they are pretty good at that. (Though some advertisers are beginning to wonder if these systems are quite as good as Google and Facebook claim.) And in doing this, Zuckerberg, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and co wrote themselves licences to print money and build insanely profitable companies.

It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid? The cynical answer is they knew about the potential dark side all along and didn’t care, because to acknowledge it might have undermined the aforementioned licences to print money. Which is another way of saying that most tech leaders are sociopaths. Personally I think that’s unlikely, although among their number are some very peculiar characters: one thinks, for example, of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel – Trump’s favourite techie; and Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber. [Continue reading…]

The technology boom of the 1990s was driven as much by investment as business success. The winners became billionaires and in a nation that equates wealth with success, the Zuckerbergs and Brins could count themselves as supremely successful. Yet anyone who worked in Silicon Valley during this period can attest to the fact that technology companies were (and still are) culturally dysfunctional by virtue of being mostly boys clubs — and I use that phrase in the most literal sense.

The fact that Mark Zuckerberg, now in his 30s, still looks like a 15-year-old is not a function of his ignorance about history and society or his genes — it is very clearly an expression of his emotional and human development.

Teenagers who struggled socially because of their lack of interpersonal skills found that as code warriors they could skip many of the challenges of entering adulthood. Having attained positions of great power in the tech industry, their deficits in the department of human maturity went unchallenged.

To put it most bluntly, the tech leaders don’t just need to have more rounded educations — they need to grow up.

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We can’t trust Facebook to regulate itself

Sandy Parakilas writes: I led Facebook’s efforts to fix privacy problems on its developer platform in advance of its 2012 initial public offering. What I saw from the inside was a company that prioritized data collection from its users over protecting them from abuse. As the world contemplates what to do about Facebook in the wake of its role in Russia’s election meddling, it must consider this history. Lawmakers shouldn’t allow Facebook to regulate itself. Because it won’t.

Facebook knows what you look like, your location, who your friends are, your interests, if you’re in a relationship or not, and what other pages you look at on the web. This data allows advertisers to target the more than one billion Facebook visitors a day. It’s no wonder the company has ballooned in size to a $500 billion behemoth in the five years since its I.P.O.

The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place. [Continue reading…]

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