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.

on naming

Slate has a piece called Gchat Was the Future of Messaging, But Google Didn’t Know What It Had. Not sure I agree with the premise that Gchat was Slack before Slack, but I did find this yarn interesting:

The first sign that Google didn’t love Gchat the way consumers did was in the name. We can talk about Gchat all day, but Google never officially acknowledged that as the service’s title or explained why it wasn’t. The company staunchly referred to the application (released in 2005) as Google Talk and the Gmail integration (released in 2006) as Google Chat or just Chat.

A gentle reminder that product names matter a lot.

[sidebar: There's a yarn in the recent episode of The Talk Show where John Gruber and MG Siegler talk about the name challenges in Amazon's Echo/Alexa product. The product is called Echo, but the activation word (and even the app name) is Alexa. This is challenging for consumers and doesn't feel very thoughtful.]

facebook's trending news widget

Given: the debate about the neutrality and sourcing (human vs. algorightm) of the "Trending News" widget in the sidebar of Facebook is a worthy one to have.

Problem: the nuance of that debate requires a patience that sometimes escapes the mainstream media - a problem exacerbated when the genesis of the story is caked in generalization and hysteria.

This morning, the writer of the Gizmodo story went on CBS This Morning, and gave an interview. In the middle of the interview he delivered this soundbite, which was then spliced out and replayed across the CBS Radio Network all morning long:

"What we found is that a select group of about 20 journalists - young 20-somethings, often ivy-league educated, or from private, East coast schools - are the ones that are sorting through the News Feed, and determining what people are able to see and, more importantly, what they're not able to see."

Let aside the generalizations about education, what will be heard by most people in this soundbite is "random people are choosing what I see in my News Feed." The insinuation is wrong, and being this imprecise with language is irresponsible.