Henry Farrell & Bruce Schneier: Democracy’s dilemma

“Democracies depend on the free flow of accurate information more fundamentally than autocracies do, not only for functioning markets and better public policy, but also to allow citizens to make informed voting decisions, provide policy input, and hold officials accountable. At the same time, information flows can be manipulated to undermine democracy by allowing the unchecked spread of propaganda and pseudo-facts, all made more efficient by the Internet, automation, and machine learning. This is Democracy’s Dilemma: the open forms of input and exchange that it relies on can be weaponized to inject falsehood and misinformation that erode democratic debate.”

Communicator-in-chief Dan Scavino

Next to Donald Trump himself, perhaps no one understands the MAGA zeitgeist as well as Dan Scavino, Trump’s director of social media. But therein lies the problem. Yes-man Scavino enables Trump to use social media for bias-confirmation from slavishly devoted followers and, potentially, foreign trolls, rather than employing it to persuasively communicate policy choices shaped by experience and expertise.

White House launches tool for snowflakes

The White House launched a tool on Wednesday that will allow any U.S. citizen to submit a complaint if they think they were unfairly censored on social media platforms. The tool asks users to click which platform they’ve experienced bias on (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Other), and to link to the suspected post and post a screenshot of the rule violation notification. Skeptics pointed out that the unsophisticated form could be easily gamed by anyone who wanted to troll the administration.

US won’t join international agreement against online extremism

The U.S. says it supports an international effort spearheaded by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron to find ways to stop social media from spreading hate — but won’t take part in it. Signing onto the effort are the UK, Japan, Australia, Italy, India, Germany, and Spain, along with tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube. The White House suggested it has concerns about First Amendment violations.

Michelle Goldberg: Twitter isn’t real life (if you’re a Democrat)

“In his own horrific way, Trump seemed to expand the possibilities of American politics, making it seem as if the old rules of electability no longer applied. Many of us assumed that the expansion would go in both directions, since Trump’s rise represented such a catastrophic failure of the political center. But there are a lot of Democrats who don’t want a revolution, or even a protracted political fight. They just want things to be the way they were before Trump came along, when ordinary people didn’t have to think about Twitter at all.”

Who gets to define ‘fake news’?

Singapore’s ruling party defended its planned bill to combat “fake news” amid continued debate about who gets to define what’s true and false. Under a new bill backed by the government, it will be government ministers who make that call. “Free speech should not be affected by this bill,” Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in parliament this week. “We are talking here about falsehoods, we are talking about bots, we are talking about trolls, we are talking about fake accounts, and so on.”

Yevgeni Simkin: Is it worth ruining relationships over opinions?

“There are groups out there in whose interest it is to make you hate one another and playing on your heartfelt beliefs is an amazingly effective way to achieve that division. You’re being played. Vladimir Putin (as just one example) figured out how to weaponize your fragile ego and he’s turning you into an unwitting participant in the decimation of your neighbourly good will. And he’s not the only one. So many entities would love for us to be at each other’s throats. Because it makes you loyal to them and—more importantly—it makes them money.”

Everybody’s getting a subpoena

Canada’s Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics has issued subpoenas for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to appear before the committee. Zuckerberg had previously ignored previous requests to appear before the committee. The committee wants Zuckerberg to address election meddling and misinformation in their meeting.

With ‘friends’ like these, you don’t need enemies

Be careful who you friend on Facebook. The company said Monday that it had removed a network of 21 fake Russian accounts that were “engaged in a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts to join Groups, impersonate other users, and to amplify allegations about a public figure working on behalf of intelligence services.” A sample post shared by one of the fake accounts was about a conspiracy theory about the Democratic Party.

Facebook opens EU ‘war room’

As Facebook prepares to combat misinformation in the upcoming European elections, the social media giant has opened a European “war room” in Ireland. The space will be used by Facebook employees to fight back against fake news and misinformation on the platform during the lead up to the EU’s elections.

Sri Lanka mastermind used Facebook to radicalize

Muslim community leaders say the mastermind of the Sri Lanka Easter suicide attacks used Facebook to publicly call for the death of non-Muslims, and worked for months in private chatrooms to persuade six young men to sacrifice themselves for that cause. He also used social media to inspire wealthy brothers Ilham and Inshaf Ibrahim to bankroll his assault.