Facebook still a great place to amplify pre-election junk news, EU study finds

A study carried out by academics at Oxford University to investigate how junk news is being shared on social media in Europe ahead of regional elections this month has found individual stories shared on Facebook’s platform can still hugely outperform the most important and professionally produced news stories, drawing as much as 4x the volume of Facebook shares, likes, and comments.

The study, conducted for the Oxford Internet Institute’s (OII) Computational Propaganda Project, is intended to respond to widespread concern about the spread of online political disinformation on EU elections which take place later this month, by examining pre-election chatter on Facebook and Twitter in English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish, and Swedish.

Junk news in this context refers to content produced by known sources of political misinformation — aka outlets that are systematically producing and spreading “ideologically extreme, misleading, and factually incorrect information” — [...]  read more

Many of the Brexit Party’s Twitter followers appear to be bots

Some of these accounts have been producing massive volumes of tweets focused on Brexit, and clearly in unrealistic amounts. One tweeted 823 times in the space of a day. Some are new, while others are from outside the UK. Regardless of behavior, the surge of new followers for the party suggested “inorganic” behavior.

Just who is behind the accounts isn’t clear. It could be “astroturfing” where organizers or supporters artificially inflate follower counts and messages to make the party seem more popular than it is. However, it could also represent an outside influence campaign trying the familiar tactic of stoking political tensions to weaken the country’s resolve. A spokesperson claimed the party didn’t have any more control over individuals creating accounts than it did “the weather,” but that didn’t address concerns about highly automated account creation or buying legions of fake followers.

Twitter has banned at least seven [...]  read more

Twitter launches new search features to stop the spread of misinformation about vaccines

As measles outbreaks in the United States and other countries continue to get worse, Twitter is introducing new search tools meant to help users find credible resources about vaccines. It will also stop auto-suggesting search terms that would lead users to misinformation about vaccines.

In a blog post, Twitter vice president of trust and safety Del Harvey wrote “at Twitter, we understand the importance of vaccines in preventing illness and disease and recognize the role that Twitter plays in disseminating important public health information. We think it’s important to help people find reliable information that enhances their health and well-being.”

When users search for keywords related to vaccines, they will see a prompt that directs them to resources from Twitter’s information partners. In the U.S., this is Vaccines.gov, a website by the Department of Health and Human Services. A pinned tweet from one of Twitter’s partners will also appear.

One of Twitter's new tools to stop the spread of vaccine misinformation

One [...]  read more

After year-long lockout, Twitter is finally giving people their accounts back

Twitter is finally allowing a number of locked users to regain control of their accounts once again. Around a  year after Europe’s new privacy laws (GDPR) rolled out, Twitter began booting users out of their accounts if it suspected the account’s owner was underage — that is, younger than 13. But the process also locked out many users who said they were now old enough to use Twitter’s service legally.

While Twitter’s rules had stated that users under 13 can’t create accounts or post tweets, many underage users did so anyway thanks to lax enforcement of the policy. The GDPR regulations, however, forced Twitter to address the issue.

But even if the Twitter users were old enough to use the service when the regulations went into effect in May 2018, Twitter still had to figure out a technical solution to delete all the content published to its platform when those users were underage.

There have been questions and concerns about accounts being locked because [...]  read more

After Math: Liar, liar, pants on fire


Researchers find Twitter is good for amplifying lies

Their rigorous survey included an intense examination of waves vaguely at the entirety of the social media hellscape in which we all currently reside


Putin signs Russian internet isolation bill into law

Jokes aside, this development does not bode well for the people of Russia. A regression towards isolationism only hinders the world’s efforts to combat global issues like climate change and addressing why people keep marrying the Jonas Brothers.


Facebook and Instagram ban Alex Jones and other far-right extremists

This is fantastic news for Alex Jones. Namely because now, when he spends his weekends in public parks shouting conspiracy theories through a microphone, he’ll have some company! I mean, aside from the squirrels who — I think we all know — secretly control the world’s gold bullion markets.


Ajit Pai admits FCC got broadband growth figures wrong

Let me just take a nice, long sip of coffee from my ludicrously oversized Reese’s Pieces brand mug then sit down and read about what FCC chairman Ajit Pai has been up to.


How augmented reality put five Madonnas on stage at once

In the land of the blind Madonnas, the One-Eyed Madonna is Queen. Which means that [...]  read more

Jungle Ventures hits $175M first close on its third fund for Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem is set to get a massive injection of funds after Jungle Ventures reached a first close of $175 million for its newest fund, TechCrunch has come to learn.

Executives at the Singapore-based firm anticipate that the new fund, which is Jungle’s third to date, will reach a final close of $220 million over the coming few months, a source with knowledge of the fund and its plans told TechCrunch. If it were to reach that figure, the fund would become the largest for startup investments in Southeast Asia.

Jungle Ventures declined to comment.

An SEC filing posted in December suggested the firm was aiming to raise up to $200 million with the fund. Its last fund was $100 million and it closed in November 2016. Founding partners Anurag Srivastava and Amit Anand started the fund way back in 2012 when it raised a (much smaller) $10 million debut fund.

Digging a little deeper, our source revealed that the new Jungle fund includes returning LPs World Bank affiliate [...]  read more

Sending severed heads, and even more PR DON’Ts

This week, I published a piece called the “The master list of PR DON’Ts (or how not to piss off the writer covering your startup).” The problem, of course, with writing a “master list” is that as soon as you publish it, everyone takes the opportunity to point out all the (hopefully) long-tail stories that you didn’t include the first time.

And wow, startup founders and PR folks find some funky ways to pitch journalists.

That original master list had 16 entries, ranging from not using pressure tactics to force a story to not changing your company’s name capitalization multiple times.

Now, here is a list of 12 more PR DON’Ts from the TechCrunch staff, who have turned our Slack thread on this subject into a form of work therapy.

DON’T send severed heads of the writer you want to cover your story

TechCrunch writer Anthony Ha holds his future (and his head) in his own hands.

Heads up! It’s weird to send someone’s cranium to them.

This is an odd one, but believe it or not, severed heads seem to roll into our office every couple of months thanks [...]  read more

Twitter makes ‘likes’ easier to use in its twttr prototype app. (Nobody tell Jack.)

On the one hand, you’ve got Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey lamenting the “like” button’s existence, and threatening to just kill the thing off entirely for incentivizing the wrong kind of behavior. On the other hand, you have twttr — Twitter’s prototype app where the company is testing new concepts including, most recently, a way to make liking tweets even easier than before.

Confused about Twitter’s product direction? Apparently, so is the company.

In the latest version of the twttr prototype, released on Thursday, users are now able to swipe right to left on any tweet in order to “like” it. Previously, this gesture only worked on tweets in conversation threads, where the engagement buttons had been hidden. With the change, however, the swipe works anywhere — including the Home timeline, the Notifications tab, your Profile page, or even within Twitter Search results. In other words, it becomes a more universal gesture.

You like their Tweets. Swipe right [...]  read more

Jack Dorsey just met with Trump to talk about the health of Twitter’s public discourse

Twitter’s co-founder and CEO historically doesn’t have the most discerning tastes when it comes to who he decides to engage with. Fresh off the podcast circuit, today a thoroughly beardy Jack Dorsey sat down with President Trump for his most high-profile tête-à-tête yet.

Unlike his recent amble onto the Joe Rogan show, Dorsey’s 30-minute meeting with Trump happened behind closed doors. Motherboard reported the meeting just before Trump tweeted about it.

Unless either of the men decides to share more about what they discussed we won’t know how things went down exactly, though it’s probably easy enough to guess. According to the Motherboard report, the initial internal Twitter email named “the health of the public conversation on Twitter” as the topic of the day.

Given that, we’d guess that Trump probably took the chance to bring up recent unfounded gripes about conservative censorship on the platform [...]  read more