The Interface - Issue #7

Revue
 
One of the chief problems about covering Russia's election meddling, at least for the native English
 

The Interface

October 17 · Issue #7 · View online
An evening newsletter about Facebook, social networks, and democracy.

One of the chief problems about covering Russia’s election meddling, at least for the native English speaker, is that so much of it takes place in Russian. That means it’s hard to know, for example, what really goes on inside the infamous Internet Research Agency — commonly described as a “Kremlin-linked troll factory” in US media. But what exactly is a troll factory?
That’s why I’m grateful to Meduza, an English-language publication that bills itself as covering “the real Russia, today.” On Tuesday it published an illuminating look at an investigation by the Russian-language magazine RBC, which examines the Internet Research Agency and comes up with a host of interesting findings. 
Among them:
  • The IRA employs 250 people, and 90 of them worked on the US election project
  • “The head of the IRA’s U.S. desk is apparently a man originally from Azerbaijan named Dzheikhun Aslanov (though he denies any involvement with the troll factory).”
  • “The [IRA] spent almost $80,000 over two years, hiring roughly 100 local American activists to stage about 40 rallies in different cities across the United States.”
  • The IRA’s 2016 priorities for America: “to incite racial animosity (playing both sides of the issue), promoting the secession of Texas, objections to illegal immigration, and gun rights.”
Furthermore, the original IRA formally “ceased to exist” two years ago, but continues to work in secret. Its annual budget is estimated at $1 million.
Casey Michael has a good thread that looks at some of the Russian-language findings. Among other things, he finds a slew of Russia-linked Instagram accounts that appear to have played both sides of the police brutality issue. He also finds that a once-popular Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, was linked to the agency. It was shut down, but not before being quoted in a wide variety of mainstream publications.
And lest this all feel like a quaint 2016 retrospective, the RBC report makes it very clear that the Internet Research Agency isn’t going away. It continues to have a US desk, the magazine reported, and it employs 50 people. 

Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s secretive hardware lab, is leaving the company
Outbrain Is Investigating Whether Russian Trolls Used Its Platform For Election Propaganda
Google Serves Fake News Ads in an Unlikely Place: Fact-Checking Sites
Facebook Executives Find A New Crisis Communications Tool: Twitter
Launches
Facebook Is Testing Short, Disappearing Status Updates
Facebook tests a resume “work histories” feature to boost recruitment efforts
Facebook Live now has a built-in screen-sharing function
Facebook Pitches In on Intel’s Coming Artificial Intelligence Chip
Twitter’s new Video Website Card ad format uses video to push link clicks
Elsewhere
Twitter Has A Harassment Problem In India, And Targets Say The Company Isn’t Doing Much To Fix It
Here Are Twitter's Latest Rules for Fighting Hate and Abuse
Snap, NBCUniversal Form Studio Joint Venture, Tap Duplass Brothers for Original Shows
Thank you
To Taylor Lorenz, who pointed out that a Twitter link I shared yesterday to a guy who supposedly created a Snapchat geofilter to get his sister to turn down the TV was likely a hoax. Select All’s Brian Feldman makes a persuasive case. I’m sorry!
And finally
Google Maps' Failed Attempt to Get People to Lose Weight
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Carefully curated by Casey Newton with Revue.
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