Twitter

NBC Publishes 200,000 Tweets Tied To Russian Trolls 238

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: NBC News is publishing its database of more than 200,000 tweets that Twitter has tied to "malicious activity" from Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These accounts, working in concert as part of large networks, pushed hundreds of thousands of inflammatory tweets, from fictitious tales of Democrats practicing witchcraft to hardline posts from users masquerading as Black Lives Matter activists. Investigators have traced the accounts to a Kremlin-linked propaganda outfit founded in 2013 known as the Internet Research Association (IRA). The organization has been assessed by the U.S. Intelligence Community to be part of a Russian state-run effort to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential race. And they're not done. At the request of NBC News, three sources familiar with Twitter's data systems cross-referenced the partial list of names released by Congress to create a partial database of tweets that could be recovered. You can download the streamlined spreadsheet (29 mb) with just usernames, tweet and timestamps, view the full data for ten influential accounts via Google Sheets, download tweets.csv (50 mb) and users.csv with full underlying data, and/or explore a graph database in Neo4j, whose software powered the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations.

NBC News' partners at Neo4j have put together a "get started" guide to help you explore the database of Russian tweets. "To recreate a link to an individual tweet found in the spreadsheet, replace 'user_key' in https://twitter.com/user_key/status/tweet_id with the screenname from the 'user_key' field and 'tweet_id' with the number in the 'tweet_id' field," reports NBC News. "Following the links will lead to a suspended page on Twitter. But some copies of the tweets as they originally appeared, including images, can be found by entering the links on webcaches like the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine and archive.is."
Democrats

32 Senators Want To Know If US Regulators Halted Equifax Probe (engadget.com) 93

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Earlier this week, a Reuters report suggested that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) had halted its investigation into last year's massive Equifax data breach. Reuters sources said that even basic steps expected in such a probe hadn't been taken and efforts had stalled since Mick Mulvaney took over as head of the CFPB late last year. Now, 31 Democratic senators and one Independent have written a letter to Mulvaney asking if that is indeed the case and if so, why.

In their letter, the senators expressed their concern over these reports and reiterated the duty the CFPB has to not only investigate the breach but to bring action against Equifax if deemed necessary. "Consumer reporting agencies and the data they collect play a central role in consumers' access to credit and the fair and competitive pricing of that credit," they wrote. "Therefore, the CFPB has a duty to supervise consumer reporting agencies, investigate how this breach has or will harm consumers and bring enforcement actions as necessary."

Government

Dutch Intelligence Agents Watched Russia Hack the DNC (volkskrant.nl) 358

Long-time Slashdot readers Agilulf, Sara Chan, and wiredmikey -- plus an anonymous reader -- all submitted the same story. Agilulf writes: Dutch hackers from AIVD (their intelligence agency) infiltrated Russian hackers, had access to their CCTV system, and followed them for more than a year, watched their attack on the DNC, provided the proof to the U.S. intelligence community that Russia was behind those hacks and the stolen emails, and were disappointed with the response from the U.S.
The Dutch agents also watched Russian agents breach a non-classified network at the U.S. State Department in 2014, where the Russians then sent a phishing email to the White House, successfully stole login credentials, and then accessed email from embassies and diplomats.

"Three American intelligence services state with 'high confidence' that the Kremlin was behind the attack on the Democratic Party," according to the article, which adds that that certainty "is derived from the AIVD hackers having had access to the office-like space in the center of Moscow for years."
Communications

The Legislative Fight Over Loot Boxes Expands To Washington State (arstechnica.com) 127

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The government backlash against video game loot boxes -- the randomized in-game item purchases that some observers and legislators consider a form of gambling -- moved from Hawaii to Washington state earlier this month. That's when a group of three Democratic state senators introduced a bill that would require the state gambling commission to examine loot boxes and determine "whether games and apps containing these mechanisms are considered gambling under Washington law." "What the bill says is, 'Industry, state: sit down to figure out the best way to regulate this,'" Orcas Island Senator and bill coauthor Kevin Ranker told the Tacoma News Tribune. "It is unacceptable to be targeting our children with predatory gambling masked in a game with dancing bunnies or something."

The bill text puts specific focus on the question of whether children who "may be more vulnerable to gambling addiction" should be allowed to access games with loot boxes, and on the question of "transparency" around "the odds of receiving each type of virtual item." The latter point took on additional salience last month as Apple required such odds to be posted alongside games with loot boxes. Actual government regulation of loot boxes in Washington is still a ways off, though. Ranker's bill needs to be approved by the full Washington state legislature (which is narrowly held by Democrats) and be signed by the governor before being referred to the gambling commission. At that point, the commission would have until December 1 to form its recommendations for any regulatory and enforcement system the state might set up.

Government

Net Neutrality Comment Fraud Will Be Investigated By Government (arstechnica.com) 79

Last month, a number of US Representatives sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking it to investigate fraudulent comments submitted to the FCC's proposal to repeal net neutrality. Multiple groups found evidence that millions of the comments submitted during the FCC's public comment period were linked to fake email addresses, were fraudulently posted under others' names and addresses and were even attributed to people known to be dead. ArsTechnica reported on Wednesday that the GAO has agreed to investigate the issue. From the report: The GAO will do just that, having told Democrats in a letter that it will "review the extent and pervasiveness of fraud and the misuse of American identities during federal rulemaking processes." The investigation was requested by nine Democrats led by Reps. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). GAO investigations do not happen quickly. "At the current time we anticipate that staff with the required skills will be available to initiate an engagement in about five months," the office said.
Democrats

Democrats Are Just One Vote Shy of Restoring Net Neutrality (engadget.com) 331

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer now says Democrats in the Senate are a single vote away from restoring net neutrality. According to the senator from New York, they now have a total of 50 votes for a Senate resolution of disapproval that would restore the Open Internet Order of 2015 and deliver a stiff rebuke to Ajit Pai and other Republican members of the FCC. It would also prevent the agency from passing a similar measure in the future, all but guaranteeing Net Neutrality is permanently preserved. Right now the resolution has the support of all 49 Democrats in the Senate and one Republican, Susan Collins of Maine. But Schumer and the rest of the caucus will have to win over one more Republican vote to prevent Vice President Mike Pence from breaking tie and allowing the repeal to stand. Under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate has 60 days to challenge a decision by an independent agency like the FCC. Democrats have less than 30 days to convince a "moderate" like John McCain or Lindsey Graham to buck their party. Further reading: The Washington Post (paywalled)
Government

House Passes Bill To Renew NSA Internet Spying Tool (reuters.com) 114

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill to renew the National Security Agency's warrantless internet surveillance program, overcoming objections from privacy advocates and confusion prompted by morning tweets from President Donald Trump that initially questioned the spying tool. The legislation, which passed 256-164 and split party lines, is the culmination of a yearslong debate in Congress on the proper scope of U.S. intelligence collection -- one fueled by the 2013 disclosures of classified surveillance secrets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Senior Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives had urged cancellation of the vote after Trump appeared to cast doubt on the merits of the program, but Republicans forged ahead.
Government

Senate Bill to Block Net Neutrality Repeal Now Has 40 Co-Sponsors (thehill.com) 106

New submitter Rick Schumann writes: The senate bill to block the FCC repeal of Obama-era internet net neutrality rules now has 40 co-sponsors, up from the 30 co-sponsors it had yesterday. The bill, being driven by Senate minority Democrats, requires only a simple majority vote in order to be passed, although Washington insiders are currently predicting the bill will fail. "The bill would use authority under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the FCC's repeal from going into effect," reports The Hill. "And with more than 30 senators on board, the legislation will be able to bypass the committee approval process and Democrats will be able to force a vote on the floor."
The Internet

Senate Will Force Vote On Overturning Net Neutrality Repeal (theverge.com) 143

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) has mustered the 30 votes necessary to force a vote on the FCC's decision to repeal net neutrality. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) announced that she's signed onto Markey's request to overturn the new rules, under the Congressional Review Act -- which lets Congress nullify recently passed regulations with a simple majority. Markey announced his intention to file a resolution of disapproval in December, just after the FCC voted on new rules that killed net neutrality protections from 2015. These new rules were officially published last week, and with 30 sponsors, Markey can make the Senate vote on whether to consider overturning them. If this happens, it would lead to a debate and final vote. That's not remotely the end of the process: if it's approved, the resolution will go to the House, and if it passes there, the desk of Donald Trump, who seems unlikely to approve it.
United States

Can the FCC's 'Net Neutrality' Decision Be Overturned in Congress? (newsweek.com) 186

"Cancel the funeral and get ready to fight: Net neutrality is far from dead," argues Evan Greer, the campaign director for the pro-net neutrality group Fight for the Future in Newsweek: Our elected officials in Congress have the power to reverse what is swiftly becoming one of the U.S. government's most unpopular decisions ever. And if they don't, they'll pay for it come election season... 26 senators have already signed on to a Resolution of Disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), a vehicle to overturn the FCC's net neutrality repeal with a simple majority vote in both the Senate and House. [UPDATE: 28 Senators have now co-sponsored the resolution]. It's not going to be easy, but it's increasingly within reach with Democrats in lock step against the FCC rollback and half a dozen Republicans already publicly criticizing the move.

Outside of Washington, DC, net neutrality is not a partisan issue. Voters from across the political spectrum overwhelmingly agree that they don't want their cable companies controlling where they get news, how they stream music and videos, or which apps they use to pay for things, get directions, or communicate with friends and family. Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T poured money into misleading advertisements, ghost written op-eds, and astroturf campaigns, to fool customers into thinking that they would voluntarily abide by the principles of net neutrality... But after all of that, they've completely failed to build any real grassroots support for their attack on net neutrality, from the left or the right. And every member of Congress knows that. 75 percent of Republican voters support the net neutrality protections the FCC just slashed... No matter how hard they try, telecom lobbyists will just never convince a meaningful number of Republican voters that killing net neutrality, and ending the internet as a free market of ideas, is a good thing. And that's what gives us a unique chance to get our normally gridlocked Congress to take action and overrule the FCC's politically toxic order.

Lawmakers in every state have been getting hammered for months with millions of phone calls, emails, protests, constituent meetings, media requests, and pressure from small businesses at volumes that just never happen. Net neutrality is becoming one of the most talked about political issues in recent human history... The FCC did something that a supermajority of people in this country oppose. Our elected officials have to decide whether to rubber stamp that betrayal or overturn it. The internet makes the impossible possible. If we harness our anger and direct it strategically, we can get the votes we need to restore the net neutrality protections that should never have been taken away in the first place. Any lawmaker who refuses to listen to their constituents will have to go on the record right before an election as having voted against the free and open web. They would be wise not to underestimate the internet's power to hold them accountable.

Privacy

Russian Hackers Targeted More Than 200 Journalists Globally (apnews.com) 72

The Associated Press: Russian television anchor Pavel Lobkov was in the studio getting ready for his show when jarring news flashed across his phone: Some of his most intimate messages had just been published to the web. Days earlier, the veteran journalist had come out live on air as HIV-positive, a taboo-breaking revelation that drew responses from hundreds of Russians fighting their own lonely struggles with the virus. Now he'd been hacked. The Associated Press found that Lobkov was targeted by the hacking group known as Fancy Bear in March 2015, nine months before his messages were leaked. He was one of at least 200 journalists, publishers and bloggers targeted by the group as early as mid-2014 and as recently as a few months ago. The AP identified journalists as the third-largest group on a hacking hit list obtained from cybersecurity firm Secureworks, after diplomatic personnel and U.S. Democrats. About 50 of the journalists worked at The New York Times. Another 50 were either foreign correspondents based in Moscow or Russian reporters like Lobkov who worked for independent news outlets. Others were prominent media figures in Ukraine, Moldova, the Baltics or Washington.
United States

Bipartisan US Election Group Issues Security Tips (reuters.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes Reuters: A bipartisan Harvard University project aimed at protecting elections from hacking and propaganda will release its first set of recommendations today on how U.S. elections can be defended from hacking attacks. The 27-page guidebook calls for campaign leaders to emphasize security from the start and insist on practices such as two-factor authentication for access to email and documents and fully encrypted messaging via services including Signal and Wickr. The guidelines are intended to reduce risks in low-budget local races as well as the high-stakes Congressional midterm contests next year.

Though most of the suggestions cost little or nothing to implement and will strike security professionals as common sense, notorious attacks including the leak of the emails of Hillary Clinton's campaign chair, John Podesta, have succeeded because basic security practices were not followed... "We heard from campaigns that there is nothing like this that exists," said Debora Plunkett, a 31-year veteran of the National Security Agency who joined the Belfer Center this year. "We had security experts who understood security and election experts who understood campaigns, and both sides were eager to learn how the other part worked."

The group includes "top security experts" from both Google and Facebook.
Businesses

FCC Announces Plan To Repeal Net Neutrality (nytimes.com) 331

FCC on Tuesday said it plans to dismantle landmark regulations that ensure equal access to the internet, clearing the way for companies to charge more and block access to some websites. From a report on the New York Times: The proposal, put forward by the F.C.C. chairman, Ajit Pai, is a sweeping repeal of rules put in place by the Obama administration that prohibited high-speed internet service providers from blocking or slowing down the delivery of websites, or charging extra fees for the best quality of streaming and other internet services for their subscribers. The clear winners from the move would be telecom giants like AT&T and Comcast that have lobbied for years against regulations of broadband and will now have more control over the online experiences of American consumers. The losers could be internet sites that will have to answer to telecom firms to get their content in front of consumers. And consumers may see their bills increase for the best quality of internet service. Note from the editor: the aforementioned link could be paywalled; consider the alternative sources: NPR, ArsTechnica, Associated Press, BBC, Axios, Reuters, TechCrunch, and Slate.

FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny criticized the move. She said, "So many things wrong here, like even if FCC does this FTC still won't have jurisdiction. But even if we did, most discriminatory conduct by ISPs will be perfectly legal. This won't hurt tech titans with deep pockets. They can afford to pay all the trolls under the bridge. But the entrepreneurs and innovators who truly make the Internet great won't be so lucky. It will be harder for them to compete. The FCC is upending the Internet as we know it, not saving it."

This is what the internet looks like when there is no net neutrality. Earlier today, news outlet Motherboard suggested we should build our own internet if we want to safeguard the essence of open internet.
Google

Why Google Should Be Afraid of a Missouri Republican's Google Probe (arstechnica.com) 231

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Republican attorney general of Missouri has launched an investigation into Google's business practices. Josh Hawley wants to know how Google handles user data. And he plans to look into whether Google is using its dominance in the search business to harm companies in other markets where Google competes. It's another sign of growing pressure Google is facing from the political right. Grassroots conservatives increasingly see Google as falling on the wrong side of the culture wars. So far that hasn't had a big impact in Washington policymaking. But with Hawley planning to run for the U.S. Senate next year, we could see more Republican hostility toward Google -- and perhaps other big technology companies -- in the coming years. The Hawley investigation will dig into whether Google violated Missouri's consumer-protection and antitrust laws. Specifically, Hawley will investigate: "Google's collection, use, and disclosure of information about Google users and their online activities," "Google's alleged misappropriation of online content from the websites of its competitors," and "Google's alleged manipulation of search results to preference websites owned by Google and to demote websites that compete with Google." States like Missouri have their own antitrust laws and the power to investigate company business conduct independently of the feds. So Hawley seems to be taking yet another look at those same issues to see if Google's conduct runs afoul of Missouri law.

We don't know if Hawley will get the Republican nomination or win his challenge to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) next year, but people like him will surely be elected to the Senate in the coming decade. Hawley's decision to go after Google suggests that he sees some upside in being seen as an antagonist to a company that conservatives increasingly view with suspicion. More than that, it suggests that Hawley believes it's worth the risk of alienating the GOP's pro-business wing, which takes a dim view of strict antitrust enforcement even if it targets a company with close ties to Democrats.

Businesses

Munich Council: To Hell With Linux, We're Going Full Windows in 2020 (theregister.co.uk) 544

The German city of Munich, which received much popularity back in the day when it first ditched Microsoft's services in favor of open-source software, has now agreed to stop using Linux and switch back to Windows. If the decision is ratified by the full council in two weeks, Windows 10 will start rolling out across the city in 2020. From a report: A coalition of Social Democrats and Conservatives on the committee voted for the Windows migration last week, Social Democrat councillor Anne Hubner told The Register. Munich rose to fame in the open-source world for deciding to use Linux and LibreOffice to make the city independent from the claws of Microsoft. But the plan was never fully realised -- mail servers, for instance, eventually wound up migrating to Microsoft Exchange -- and in February the city council formally voted to end Linux migration and go back to Microsoft. Hubner said the city has struggled with LiMux adoption. "Users were unhappy and software essential for the public sector is mostly only available for Windows," she said. She estimated about half of the 800 or so total programs needed don't run on Linux and "many others need a lot of effort and workarounds." Hubner added, "in the past 15 years, much of our efforts were put into becoming independent from Microsoft," including spending "a lot of money looking for workarounds" but "those efforts eventually failed." A full council vote on Windows 10 2020 migration is set for November 23, Hubner said. However, the Social Democrats and Conservatives have a majority in the council, and the outcome is expected to be the same as in committee.
Television

FCC To Loosen TV, Newspaper Ownership Rules (reuters.com) 86

The FCC is planning to vote on rolling back landmark media ownership regulations that prohibit owning a television station and newspaper in the same market and making it easier to acquire additional TV or radio stations. Reuters reports: If approved at the FCC's November meeting, the move would be a win for newspapers and broadcasters that have pushed for the change for decades, but was criticized by Democrats who said it could usher in a new era of media consolidation. The FCC in 1975 banned cross-ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market, unless it granted a waiver, to ensure a diversity of opinions. The rule was made before the explosion of internet and cable news and Republican President Donald Trump and Pai have vowed to reduce government regulation.

"We must stop the federal government from intervening in the news business," Pai told a congressional panel, noting that many newspapers have closed and many radio and TV stations are struggling. Pai moved earlier this year to make it easier for some companies to own a larger number of local stations. Pai said the marketplace no longer justifies the rules, citing Facebook and Alphabet's dominance of internet advertising. "Online competition for the collection and distribution of news is greater than ever. And just two internet companies claim 100 percent of recent online advertising growth; indeed, their digital ad revenue this year alone will be greater than the market cap of the entire broadcasting industry," Pai said.

Television

FCC Ends Decades-Old Rule Designed To Keep TV, Radio Under Local Control (variety.com) 223

The FCC on Tuesday voted to eliminate a rule that required broadcast station groups to maintain a physical presence in the community of their primary local coverage area, a move that critics say will help media companies further consolidate their operations and even be a boost to the ambitions of Sinclair Broadcast Group. Variety reports: But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the elimination of the rule has been a long time coming and will produce cost savings for stations. He said the "overwhelming majority" of public input favored the elimination of the rule, citing the support for such an action even from National Public Radio. "Continuing to require a main studio would detract from, rather than promote, a broadcaster's ability and incentive to keep people informed and serve the public interest," Pai said. The National Association of Broadcasters supports the rule's elimination, and has argued that it will free up funds for stations to spend on staff and programming. Commissioner Michael O'Rielly said the elimination reflects how the public currently interacts with local businesses -- not by visiting their facilities, but through telecommunications and social media. The rule dates to 1940. The two Democrats on the commission opposed the change. "There are many broadcasters who do an extraordinary job serving communities during disaster," said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. "But let's be honest -- they can only do so when they have a real presence in their area of license. That's not a retrograde notion -- it's a fact."
Businesses

Equifax Board Forms Panel To Review Executives' Stock Sales After Data Breach (bloomberg.com) 57

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Equifax's board of directors has formed a special committee to review the stock sales that top executives made days after the company found out it was hacked. Directors at Equifax have retained counsel and are conducting a "thorough review" of the trades, according to a Sept. 28 letter the company's outside lawyers submitted to the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The examination adds to investigations already being conducted by federal law-enforcement agencies. "Equifax takes these matters seriously," the company said in its response to questions posed by Democrats on the panel, led by Frank Pallone, from New Jersey. "The board of directors has formed a special committee," according to the letter, addressed to Pallone and obtained by Bloomberg News.

The trades, which were first reported by Bloomberg, involve Equifax CFO John Gamble, President of U.S. Information Solutions Joseph Loughran and President of Workforce Solutions Rodolfo Ploder. They unloaded shares worth almost $1.8 million just days after the company says it discovered the breach on July 29. Equifax has repeatedly said the managers didn't know of the intrusion when they sold stock.

Advertising

Democrats Ask FEC To Create New Rules To Keep Foreign Influence Off Social Media Ads (thehill.com) 195

Cristina Marcos reports via The Hill: Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday asked the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to establish new guidelines for online advertising platforms that would prevent foreign spending to influence U.S. elections. The move comes after Facebook provided information to Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference, about Russian ad purchases during the 2016 campaign.

"The recent revelations that foreign nationals with suspected ties to the Russian government sought to influence the 2016 election through social media advertisements are deeply concerning and demand a response," 20 House and Senate Democrats wrote in the letter. "We are fast approaching the 2018 election cycle. As such, it is imperative the Federal Election Commission begin this effort in earnest," they wrote. CNN, which first reported on the Democrats' letter, cited Facebook sources saying they expect Congress may try to require disclaimers on online political ads in the future, similar to political television ads. The Democratic lawmakers suggested that any FEC guidance address how foreign actors can use corporate or nonprofit designations to avoid disclosing political spending; what advertisement platforms can do to prevent foreign campaign activity; and possible changes to disclosure standards for political advertisements.

Businesses

Silicon Valley Bosses Are Globalists, Not Libertarians (economist.com) 308

From a report via The Economist: In a recently published survey of 600 entrepreneurs and executives in Silicon Valley, conducted by David Broockman and Neil Malhotra of Stanford University and Gregory Ferenstein, a journalist, three-quarters of respondents said they supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. But although technology-firm leaders hold views that in general hew much closer to Democratic positions than Republican ones, they are far from reliable partisan ideologues. As you might expect from captains of industry, Silicon Valley executives are much more likely to support free trade and to oppose government regulation of businesses than your average Democrat is. For example, just 30% of tech bosses believe that ride-hailing companies need to be regulated like the taxi industry, compared with 60% of Democrats.

Given their combination of socially liberal attitudes and a preference for free markets, you might call Silicon Valley executives libertarians. However, libertarians generally advocate shrinking the state as a share of the economy, which technology bosses resolutely do not. When asked if they "would like to live in a society where government does nothing except provide national defense and police protection, so that people could be left alone to earn whatever they could," just 24% agreed. In contrast, 68% of Republican donors concurred with that statement. Moreover, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are just as likely to favor redistributive economic policies, such as universal health care and higher taxes on the rich, as an average Democrat is. The outlook of our new robot-building overlords is far more communitarian than, say, the doctrines of Ayn Rand.

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