September 29, 2017 Last Updated 9:36 am

Twitter tries to explain itself, but makes a mess of it; Creative photo editing at Spanish papers

Morning Brief: Both Facebook and Twitter face backlash over very poor response to investigations into their fake accounts, and Russian agents using their platforms to push divisive politics in the US and Europe

This week began with Morning Brief saying that the week would be decisive in regards to the future of the ACA, Spain and possibly the east coast of the US. Two of three, it can be said have, indeed, been resolved. The Senate will not vote on a new health care bill as enough GOP Senators said they would vote no; and Hurricane Maria weakened and moved out to see, no longer poses a direct threat to North Carolina and beyond.

But on Sunday Catalans still believe they will be able to vote on an independence referendum, and Spanish authorities still hope to stop the vote. Neither side wants a violent confrontation, though the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has set the stage for a confrontation.

But another story, Puerto Rico, continues to grow as relief aid is still slow to reach those effected, and the White House has had to backtrack on its stance to not lift regulations on shipping to the island. Meanwhile, other scandals grow in the White House as this week we learned of private jets to transport cabinet members around the country, and the use of private email accounts by government officials. Then there is the Mueller investigation that continues on, though rather quietly this week.


What is it about Silicon Valley companies they cannot deal with public relations problems? We have seen in the past how Apple could not deal with antenna issues on its iPhones, or how Microsoft was slow to address security issues with Windows. But that was years ago, now we have Facebook and Twitter struggling to deal with the issue of foreign, fake accounts using its services to influence US and European politics.

Yesterday, Twitter responded to inquiries concerning fake accounts with a lengthy, and totally ridiculous screed that tried to bury the problem with tech talk and clichés.

The problem these social media companies have is that they have tried to convince investors that the real measure of success at their companies is new customer acquisition, the more people using their services the better. This has led to them turning a blind eye to the number of fake accounts being created on their platforms.

The screenshot above has appeared here before, it shows that the number of fake or bogus accounts that “follow” the president on Twitter almost equals the number of real people. One reading of the responses to a Trump tweet is enough to know that Twitter is not dealing well with the issue of bots, trolls and nefarious characters on Twitter.

That is why reaction to Twitter’s decision to double the number of characters in a tweet from 140 to 280 has been negative: Twitter is not addressing the real problem with its platform, length of tweets is not one of them, fake accounts is.

Twitter, Twitter PublicPolicy:

Update: Russian Interference in 2016 US Election, Bots, & Misinformation

Every online platform has to deal with spam, and there is no silver bullet. For example, the Internet Society estimated in October 2015 that up to 85 percent of all global email is spam — and that’s after decades of every email platform in the world tackling this challenge. Obviously email is very different from Tweets, but it’s important to understand the scale of what we are dealing with, and that this is a global issue for all platforms.

Russia and other post-Soviet states have been a primary source of automated and spammy content on Twitter for many years. Content that violates our rules with respect to automated accounts and spam can have a highly negative effect on user experience, and we have long taken substantial action to stem that flow.

CNBC, Sara Salinas:

Twitter details how Russian-linked accounts bought $270,000 of ads during election

Twitter sold more than $270,000 of ads to Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election, the company said Thursday, further detailing the extent of potential foreign influence that’s spurred Senate investigations and calls for greater regulation.

Twitter accounts affiliated with Russia Today, an outlet with “strong links” to the Russian government,” promoted more than 1,800 tweets that “definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market,” the company saidin a statement.

Twitter also said that it found Twitter accounts for 22 of the 450 Russia-linked accounts that Facebook said had bought ads on Facebook during the election. It also found 179 more accounts linked to those 22. Twitter has suspended all those accounts.

The New York Times: Senator Berates Twitter Over ‘Inadequate’ Inquiry Into Russian Meddling
The Hill: Black lawmaker presses Facebook to stop racially charged Russian ads



Everyone knows that reporters and editors can make editorial decisions that can turn a story in one direction or another. Today, the NY Post features an AP story on the use of cruise ships to ferry people out of Puerto Rico. But the headline on the story in the Post is “This is the picture of Puerto Rico’s despair” and the picture looks like a group of tourists having a good time. What is Rupert Murdoch’s paper saying?

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and the above example is perfect. Here are three Spanish newspapers, each with a variation of shots taken involving government ministers and a Spanish policeman. The picture in the nationalist, rightist paper ABC (left) appears to show an official dismissing a Spanish policeman, or at least being leery of him. Another, in the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia, we see the same man happily shaking the hand of the policeman. Then, at left, we see that El Mundo has shown the same picture as ABC, but uncropped and we get the actual story, the official is with others and simply walking away.

The actual story tied to the photo is that the police force in Catalonia is trying to determine how to react on Sunday to incidents arising during the voting, or the suppression of that voting, on Sunday.

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