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America slides into Russia's DMs

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One of Facebook's key talking points over the past year, as it faces more pressure to act in the face
 
October 23 · Issue #233 · View online
The Interface
One of Facebook’s key talking points over the past year, as it faces more pressure to act in the face foreign interference in elections, is that it can’t do the job alone. The government is best positioned to fight foreign threats, it has argued. And for various reasons, many of which are political, the government to date has not seemed to be fighting very hard.
Today, however, the United States Cyber Command disclosed its first known foreign operation designed to protect the integrity of our elections. And the linchpin of this operation, aimed at Russian operatives, is … sending them direct messages.
Defense officials would not say how many individuals they were targeting, and they would not describe the methods that Cyber Command has used to send the direct messages to the operatives behind the influence campaigns. It is not clear if the information was delivered in an email, a chat or some other electronic intervention.
Senior defense officials said they were not directly threatening the operatives. Still, former officials said anyone singled out would know, based on the United States government’s actions against other Russian operatives, that they could be indicted or targeted with sanctions. Even the unstated threat of sanctions could help deter some Russians from participating in covert disinformation campaigns, said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, a former intelligence official now with the Center for a New American Security.
If this intervention feels rather … gentle, there’s a reason for that, Barnes reports. The rules of cyberwar are unsettled, and US officials worry that more aggressive measures could trigger a series of quick escalations from the Russians.
Still, the cyberwar is happening. On one hand, multiple reports say that Russia is unlikely to target our election infrastructure, such as voting machines. On the other, the Justice Department indicted a Russian national named Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova for allegedly conducting a multimillion-dollar campaign of information warfare that played out across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
And so the world’s most powerful military has elected to respond in kind, with strongly worded DMs. We don’t know what those messages said, or to whom exactly they were targeted. While I can imagine a Russian troll farm worker receiving such a message and recoiling in terror, I can also imagine him sharing it in the Internet Research Agency’s private Slack, where he and his co-workers could whoop it up.
So, points for effort. But not too many points. A DM can be a powerful thing. But it’s unclear that it will make a particularly good weapon.

Democracy
Government bans phrase 'fake news' 
Removing a spam network from Facebook in the Philippines
Removing Spam and Inauthentic Activity from Facebook in Brazil
Tech lobby outlines its own set of privacy regulations
Twitter bans more InfoWars accounts
Immigrant Recruits Are Having Their "Loyalty" Questioned For Following Lawsuits Against The Pentagon
We’re Tracking Misinformation About The Migrant Caravan Headed To The US
Amazon Pushes ICE to Buy Its Face Recognition Surveillance Tech
Elsewhere
Amazon exec and Super Micro CEO call for retraction of spy chip story
PiperJaffray surveys teens about social media
Lawsuits Over Paparazzi Images on Instagram Raise Celebrity Questions Over Right of Publicity
When YouTube went dark
Launches
Facebook is rolling out a redesigned Messenger focused on simplicity
Making Advertising Transparent
Apple iPhone XR review: better than good enough
YouTube is investing $20M in educational content, creators
Reddit partners with Patreon to help creators build communities
Takes
YouTube backed itself into a corner with Logan Paul and Pewdiepie
Your move, Bloomberg
And finally ...
Y Combinator co-founder and influential startup thinker Paul Graham has discovered the scourge of algorithmic radicalization in his own home:
Paul Graham
My 9 yo informed me today that the sinking of the Titanic was a hoax. Thanks Youtube.
4:43 AM - 23 Oct 2018
Talk to me
Send me tips, comments, questions, and your DMs with Russian trolls: casey@theverge.com.
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