The Box

This is a fascinating account of the very analog part of the Edward Snowden leak: how he moved the documents from point A to point B. It involves code words and, surprisingly, the United States Postal Service. The piece also points out that, while the narrative of the leak is fairly well known at this point, the story from Snowden's point of view still hasn't been told by Snowden.

“We would call the unnamed source the “architect” and refer to the mysterious shipment as “architectural materials.” The recipient of the package would be called the “sink.” Should that person prove to be unavailable, I would find a backup choice, whom we would call the “other sink.” The NSA or FBI would be called the “co-op board” — a tribute to the truculent nature of such boards in New York City. And if either of us wrote, “The carpenter quit the job,” that meant it was time to start over with a new plan.”

Voter Suppression Using Facebook Dark Posts

Some amount of credit for the win must be directed at the digital operation, which was profiled at length in Bloomberg Businessweek.

An alarming, but unsurprising, statement made in that profile:

“We have three major voter suppression operations under way,” says a senior official. They’re aimed at three groups Clinton needs to win overwhelmingly: idealistic white liberals, young women, and African Americans.

Some of the tactics used to drive this suppression have recently been reported, including the use of "Dark Posts" via Facebook Ads:

For example, Trump’s digital team created a South Park-style animation of Hillary Clinton delivering the “super predator” line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.” Then, Trump’s animated “super predator” political advertisement was delivered to certain African American voters via Facebook “dark posts” — nonpublic paid posts shown only to the Facebook users that Trump chose.

Many people are susceptible to believing anything they see on Facebook or Google. The idea that anything could be loaded into a Dark Post and receive massive, targeted distribution via Facebook Ads without broad public scrutiny is alarming.

twitter's challenge

Twitter users have always been highly opinionated, especially when it comes to Twitter as product. For once, though, I'm starting to think Twitter users might be better at running Twitter than the current Twitter team.

It seems like all chances of a Twitter sale are gone now, with the Disney walk-off being the most damning. Bloomberg:

Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.

The bottom end of Twitter is a real problem for Twitter, and Twitter doesn't seem to grasp that. Instead, Variety says:

Twitter has hired AngelHack founder Gregory Gopman to work on its nascent virtual reality (VR) initiative, Variety has learned. The company may add native 360-degree video integration as well as 360-degree video live streaming to its products in the coming months.

It's almost impossible to rationalize what is going on over there at the moment.

facebook and political media

It's amazing how far Facebook has come since the 2008 election: from a grassroots organizing, novelty poll generating curiosity to a dominant pillar in shaping the national political conversation.

This year, political content has become more popular all across the platform: on homegrown Facebook pages, through media companies with a growing Facebook presence and through the sharing habits of users in general. But truly Facebook-native political pages have begun to create and refine a new approach to political news: cherry-picking and reconstituting the most effective tactics and tropes from activism, advocacy and journalism into a potent new mixture. This strange new class of media organization slots seamlessly into the news feed and is especially notable in what it asks, or doesn’t ask, of its readers. The point is not to get them to click on more stories or to engage further with a brand. The point is to get them to share the post that’s right in front of them. Everything else is secondary.

To Trump, Even Losing Is Winning

Neal Gabler, a favorite, for the New York Times:

People run for the presidency for all sorts of reasons. But Donald J. Trump may be the first to run because he sees a presidential campaign as the best way to attract attention to himself. There seems to be no other driving passion in him, certainly not the passion to govern.

Clearly.

Attention has always been the foundation of Mr. Trump’s modus operandi. Basically, he sells his name: Trump steaks, Trump water, Trump University. You have to hand it to him, though. He discovered that, in a celebrity society like ours, where so many people are competing for attention, running for president puts you a leg up even on the Kardashians.

How do we keep this from happening again?