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The bots that crawled into the statehouse [The Interface]

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Until now, The Interface has focused on how social media has been an attack surface for bad actors lo
 
November 8 · Issue #23 · View online
The Interface
Until now, The Interface has focused on how social media has been an attack surface for bad actors looking to meddle in national campaigns. But last night’s state elections brought word that Russian-style meddling has trickled down to state campaigns as well. Take Washington:
Bots and other suspicious social media accounts were used in an apparent attempt to influence voters in a heavily funded Washington state Senate race that could tip the balance of political power in the Western United States, according to a report from a non-partisan group of globally recognized cybersecurity researchers.
The report, which the researchers provided to GeekWire today, cites extensive evidence that suspicious Twitter accounts have been advancing attacks against Manka Dhingra, a Democrat running against Republican Jinyoung Englund in Washington’s 45th District.
The Dhingra race was more consequential than most: if she wins, control of the Senate flips Democratic, creating an unbroken West Coast wall of Democrat-controlled legislatures and governor’s offices  in Washington, Oregon and California. And so:
The researchers say that almost 10 percent of accounts tweeting about Englund and Dhingra over the past 30 days were classified as bots, accounts that use automation to spread messages on Twitter. “There is evidence of coordinated activity among the suspicious accounts tweeting aggressively against Manka,” the researchers write.
The researchers didn’t identify the culprits behind the suspicious tweets. But they noted an influx of out-of-state money into the campaign from large corporate donors.
“Funders on both sides have run divisive ads, but the fear-mongering tone of advertisements against Dhingra and exploitation of wedge issues from right-wing funders have been particularly overt this cycle,” they write in the report. “Englund’s campaign has also taken money and received support from organizations that have a documented track record of divisive and sometimes misleading campaign tactics, from big oil and big tobacco to the Koch Industries.”
The good news for Dinghra is that she appears to have won. But bot tactics on Twitter and elsewhere are likely to evolve.
In 2016 it was a Russia problem. In 2017, it’s a domestic problem. Come midterms, it’s going to be everyone’s problem. 

Democracy
China Spreads Propaganda to U.S. on Facebook, a Platform it Bans at Home
In authoritarian China, Trump’s love of free expression on Twitter is put to the test
We must not let big tech threaten our security, freedoms and democracy
What Reality TV Teaches Us About Russia’s Influence Campaign
Exclusive: Russia Activated Twitter Sleeper Cells for Election Day Blitz
Former Yahoo CEO apologizes for data breach, blames Russians
YouTube’s Rapid Response Partisans Game the News of Tragedy
Rules for Tech Likely Won’t Close Regulatory Gap with Media
Elsewhere
Facebook Workers, Not an Algorithm, Will Look at Volunteered Nude Photos First to Stop Revenge Porn
Snapchat's big redesign planned for December 4: Here's how it will work
China’s Tencent bought 12 percent of Snap — and everything else we learned from Snap’s earnings report
Snapchat Could Use Allies. Is Tencent One of Them?
Launches
Twitter’s $99 monthly subscription ad program launches into public beta
Instagram now lets you add any photos or videos to your Stories
Takes
One of my favorite media critics is Vox’s Carlos Maza, whose series Strikethrough is reliably sharp and entertaining. Here he presents a mostly familiar case about the history of Twitter harassment that excels at teasing out the many difficulties of embracing free speech. I particularly like the interview with Lindy West that begins about halfway through:
Harassment is breaking Twitter's free speech experiment - YouTube
Michael Newman media panics
And finally ...
Download Slate's 140 Chrome extension, which limits all tweets to 140 characters.
Talk to me
Questions? Tips? Coordinated attacks against Manka Dhingra? casey@theverge.com
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