Open Thread: Steve ‘Pigmuck’ King, Old Man, Yells At (the) Cloud

Post title borrowed from this response:

BUT SERIOUSLY… Per Newsweek:

Republican representative Steve King requested Google CEO Sundar Pichai give the government the names of more than 1,000 employees who oversee the company’s search engine to determine whether its algorithm was biased, The Hill reported. King said he wanted to look at employees’ social media and see if they’re biased.

As Pichai appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, Democrats questioned the tech giant’s privacy regulations, The New York Times reported. Republicans expressed distrust for the company, questioning whether it stifles conservative search results.

“There is a very strong conviction on this side of the aisle that the algorithms are written with a bias against conservatives,” King said, alleging that Google has an inherent ideological tilt because it is located in the Democrat-heavy Silicon Valley. “What we don’t know are who are these thousand people and we don’t know what their social media looks like.”

California Republican Kevin McCarthy voiced similar concerns. “All of these topics — competition, censorship, bias and others — point to one fundamental question that demands the nation’s attention,” he said. “Are America’s technology companies serving as instruments of freedom or instruments of control?”…

Pichai said at the beginning of his testimony, “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way,” according to The Guardian. “To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests. We are a company that provides platforms for diverse perspectives and opinions—and we have no shortage of them among our own employees.” He also said that the employees do not choose which news outlets show up in searches, saying the search engine adapts based on what users select…

King’s real butthurt: When you’ve brought up your kids to believe that everyone (who matters) hates immigrants, people of color, and diversity in all its forms…


“Some kinda hand-me-down”, indeed.



Open Thread: Catering to ‘Fox Nation’ Snowflakes’ Sensibilities…


 
But wait, there’s more!… Almost forgot I’d been saving this gem for a quiet patch. From Vanity Fair, “Hannityflix for Snowflakes: Fox Nation, the Murdoch’s New Streaming Service”:

The animating spirit of Fox Nation, the Trump-friendly network’s new video-streaming offering, is inadvertently revealed in the fifth episode Brian Kilmeade’s travelogue show, What Made America Great. Dressed in a sharp blue-checked shirt, the Fox & Friends host strolls through Andrew Jackson’s former plantation, absorbing the majesty of America’s seventh president. “Walking around, you get the sense that Andrew Jackson just left,” he marvels, admiring the poplar-wood columns and military portraits lining the Hermitage.

Like many programs on the so-called “Netflix for conservatives,” the pastoral scene—Kilmeade in gingham, colonnades, portraiture—is unnervingly familiar. In fact, much of the footage from What Made America Great is recycled from Andrew Jackson: Hero Under Fire, overlaid with new narration, graphics, and calming piano music. The same promotional image and footage appears again in America: Great from the Start, Kilmeade’s live lecture series wherein he summarizes historical events covered in his nonfiction books (in this case, 2017’s Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans).

Recycled content appears to be part of the Fox Nation business model. If Fox News exists to serve red meat, Fox Nation is its mechanically separated byproduct—extra bits scraped off the carcasses of more profitable franchises, puréed, and shaped into spongy content nuggets. It is unapologetically a platform of B-sides. The impetus behind Fox Nation’s launch is fairly obvious; the brand appears to be a naturally recurring retirement community trying to keep apace in a dynamic media ecosystem. The network’s average viewer is 64 years old, 21st Century Fox has sold the majority of its entertainment assets to Disney, and the next generation of viewers is cutting the cord. (“It’s scary, right?” Kilmeade told The New York Times, recalling a conversation with his son: “He’s like, ‘Dad, nobody’s watching cable anymore.’”) For $5.99 a month, the subscription platform promises to deliver extra-special content from its deep bench of talent, and to provide an exclusive entre into their world. The sign-up-screen video shows Kilmeade and Co. at a party, popping the corks off champagne bottles and playing pool. Below, a tantalizing promise: “More of the content you love from the people you trust.”…

Fox Nation, for when chewing your own oatmeal is too much of a mental chore…



Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg Are Having a Very Bad, No Good, Horrible Day: British Parliamentary and International Grand Committee on Disinformation Edition

Carole Cadwalladr’s relentless pursuit of the bad acts committed by a host of bad actors around Brexit and the 2016 US presidential elections has some news for us from the British parliamentary inquiry, also attended by representatives from Canada, Germany, Belgium, and other countries, into Facebook. From the 4:30 PM GMT session:

This is in addition to this morning’s (Greenwich Mean Time) bombshells:

Is Zuckerberg about to have a very, very bad several weeks? Why yes, yes he is!

 

For those who want to see her entire live tweetstorm of this morning’s hearings, you can start here:

Jason Kint’s starts here:

While the current administration may not care to do anything about this, especially given how much it has benefited the President, and the GOP majorities in the House and the Senate aren’t really interested either, the British, the Canadians, the Germans, the Belgians, the French, and the European Union are. And they will conduct the inquiries, criminal investigations, prosecutions, and ultimately create the regulation that will bring Zuckerberg and Sandberg and a whole host of other bad actors that have leveraged what Zuckerberg and Sandberg created to heel.

Do you know who in the US is paying close attention to the inquiries today in Parliament? Special Counsel Mueller and Congressman Adam Schiff.

Open thread!



That NYTimes Facebook Bombshell: “Delay, Deny, Deflect..”

Much as I hate to endorse any opinion of Franklin Foer’s, I have to admit I’m glad I never joined Facebook. (Not being on Facebook has sometimes felt like a minor luxury, because I don’t have an employer who demands it, or social networks that I can’t access via alternate routes. And, yes, I realize they’ve probably mined all my personal information anyways.) Props to the NYTimes reporters:

In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes that propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

When Facebook users learned last spring that the company had compromised their privacy in its rush to expand, allowing access to the personal information of tens of millions of people to a political data firm linked to President Trump, Facebook sought to deflect blame and mask the extent of the problem.

And when that failed — as the company’s stock price plummeted and it faced a consumer backlash — Facebook went on the attack.

While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook’s critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

…[T]rust in the social network has sunk, while its pell-mell growth has slowed. Regulators and law enforcement officials in the United States and Europe are investigating Facebook’s conduct with Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm that worked with Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, opening up the company to fines and other liability. Both the Trump administration and lawmakers have begun crafting proposals for a national privacy law, setting up a yearslong struggle over the future of Facebook’s data-hungry business model…
Read more



This Morning’s Big Hacking Stories

The stories actually go beyond hacking, but that’s an adequate title for a placeholder post until Adam or Major Major Major Major can weigh in.

There are two stories, one about China and one about Russia’s GRU, their military intelligence agency.

Bloomberg has, for reasons I can’t imagine, gone with a white typeface on black background, which I find painful to read, so I’ll work from the Washington Post’s summary.

Bloomberg has just published an explosive article claiming that a secret unit in the Chinese military has compromised the motherboards (the systems of chips and electronics that allow computers to work) of servers used by Apple, a bank and various government contractors.

China’s exploit was discovered when Amazon did due diligence on a company that it was acquiring, which used servers with the compromised motherboards. Both Apple and Amazon have issued statements denying the Bloomberg claims, but Bloomberg seems confident that it’s correct, saying it has multiple sources inside Amazon and the intelligence community. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

We have long depended on China for essential electronic components. That’s seemed dangerous to me, but nobody listens to me on such things.

Also this morning, Vice President Mike Pence gave a speech at the rightwing Hudson Institute and said that China was the biggest threat to the United States. It’s hard not to see these events as being coordinated. Pence claimed, as did President Donald Trump at the United Nations, that China was trying to hack the US elections. Which probably means that they will call any Democratic wins a Chinese plot. Also, too, when you are making googly eyes at Vladimir Putin, you have to have an enemy to gin up support at home.

Also this morning, the United States, UK, and the Netherlands announced indictments against Russian members of the GRU for hacking a great many agencies, including the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and anti-doping organizations. Russia, of course, denies everything. I am also seeing bits and pieces coming across my Twitter feed from open-source investigators pointing to obvious tells from Russian agents, like using consecutively numbered passports and US $100 bills.

It looks like the GRU has gotten sloppy in their spycraft, or that Russia would like the world to know it operates with impunity.

It is the US that is bringing the indictments. It looks like parts of our government have not signed on to the googly eyes strategy and are continuing to prosecute conspiracies against our country. That’s an interesting development. Its implications for Trump are not clear, although one might think that this investigation has shared information with Robert Mueller’s staff.

Both these stories are developing.



AP News Open Thread: Julian Assange, the Biter Bit?

This is the AP, not some blog with a history of overreaction, so… cui bono, at this particular moment?

LONDON (AP) — Julian Assange had just pulled off one of the biggest scoops in journalistic history, splaying the innards of American diplomacy across the web. But technology firms were cutting ties to his WikiLeaks website, cable news pundits were calling for his head and a Swedish sex crime case was threatening to put him behind bars.

Caught in a vise, the silver-haired Australian wrote to the Russian Consulate in London.

“I, Julian Assange, hereby grant full authority to my friend, Israel Shamir, to both drop off and collect my passport, in order to get a visa,” said the letter, which was obtained exclusively by The Associated Press.

The Nov. 30, 2010, missive is part of a much larger trove of WikiLeaks emails, chat logs, financial records, secretly recorded footage and other documents leaked to the AP. The files provide both an intimate look at the radical transparency organization and an early hint of Assange’s budding relationship with Moscow.

WikiLeaks has repeatedly been hit by unauthorized disclosures, but the tens of thousands of files obtained by the AP may be the biggest leak yet.

The AP has confirmed the authenticity of many of the documents by running them by five former WikiLeaks associates or by verifying non-public details such as bank accounts, telephone numbers or airline tickets.

One of the former associates, an ex-employee, identified two of the names that frequently appeared in the documents’ metadata, “Jessica Longley” and “Jim Evans Mowing,” as pseudonyms assigned to two WikiLeaks laptops.

All five former associates spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, in some cases because they didn’t want their past association with WikiLeaks to become public, and in others because they feared legal retaliation or harassment from the group’s supporters…

Metadata suggests that it was on Nov. 29, the day after the release of the first batch of U.S. State Department files, that the letter to the Russian Consulate was drafted on the Jessica Longley computer…



The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York Strikes Again

They got him! They finally got him!!!!

I guess I’m not getting that $25 dollar electronic funds transfer though…

Open thread.