Sports

Instagram Tries Clamping Down on Misinformation

Instagram on Thursday took aim at the spread of misinformation on its platform, announcing that it would temporarily eliminate users’ ability to view some recent posts ahead of Election Day.In two tweets, Instagram said it would remove the “recent” tab from hashtag pages. Previously, users could view the most recent posts tagged with a particular hashtag. Now, only “top” posts under a specific hashtag that have been reviewed by the platform will be viewable.Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said the change was made to “reduce the real-time spread of potentially harmful content that could pop up around the election.”The change took effect Thursday night and the “recent” tab will return sometime after the election, an Instagram spokeswoman said. The platform said it hopes the change ...

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Sports

What Went Viral This Week

Here at Daily Distortions, we try to debunk false and misleading information that has gone viral. We also want to give you a sense of how popular that misinformation is, in the overall context of what is being discussed on social media. Each Friday, we feature a list of the 10 most-engaged stories of the week in the United States, as ranked by NewsWhip, a firm that compiles social media performance data. (NewsWhip tracks the number of reactions, shares and comments each story receives on Facebook, along with shares on Pinterest and by a group of influential users on Twitter.) This week’s data runs from 9:01 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 23, until 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 30.On TV and in newspapers, wall-to-wall coverage of next week’s election may be dominating. But on social media this week, stor...

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Sports

Amazon and Google’s True Advantage

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.My colleagues wrote about the eye-popping sales numbers coming from America’s technology superstars, including Google, Facebook and Amazon. Their sales and profits this year, in the middle of a pandemic, are truly hard to fathom. It’s so much money, you guys.But these companies also spend gobs of money, which in turn helps them make more money.The ability to spend like crazy — because Big Tech has money and hardly anyone questions how the companies spend it — is one of the secrets to why the tech industry giants are so difficult to unseat.A few examples: Amazon hired 250,000 full- and part-time employees — on average roughly 2,800 each day in the 90 days that ended in September — and then about 1...

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Sports

How Three Election-Related Falsehoods Spread

Falsehoods about Tuesday’s election have overwhelmed local election officials, who said they were dealing with “tsunamis of misinformation,” have lost sleep and were working extra long hours.The officials told us they were dealing with several common flavors of election-related misinformation. So we decided to track three categories of the rumors they had encountered using CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned analytics tool, and then focused on the spread of one the lies in each of the categories. We also recorded the volume of tweets about the rumors we followed using BuzzSumo, another analytics tool.The data showed how a single rumor pushing a false narrative could rapidly gain traction on Facebook and Twitter, generating tens of thousands of shares and comments. That has made the misinforma...

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Sports

Big Tech Continues Its Surge Ahead of the Rest of the Economy

While the rest of the U.S. economy languished earlier this year, the tech industry’s biggest companies seemed immune to the downturn, surging as the country worked, learned and shopped from home.On Thursday, as the economy is showing signs of improvement, Amazon, Apple, Alphabet and Facebook reported profits that highlighted how a recovery may provide another catalyst to help them generate a level of wealth that hasn’t been seen in a single industry in generations.With an entrenched audience of users and the financial resources to press their leads in areas like cloud computing, e-commerce and digital advertising, the companies demonstrated again that economic malaise, upstart competitors and feisty antitrust regulators have had little impact on their bottom line.Combined, the four comp...

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Sports

You (YOU!) Can Stop Election Rumors

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.Americans are voting in a highly unusual election, during a highly polarized time, and mistrust in authority figures is in overdrive. Misleading information about election tampering and voter suppression is now everywhere.I spoke about the prevalence of election-related rumors and confusion with my colleagues Kellen Browning and Davey Alba, who wrote on Thursday about the local election officials who are trying to counter bad information:Shira: How does false information or misunderstandings about the election start? Is it just made-up lies? Kellen: It often starts with a grain of truth that gets spun out of proportion.The lead attorney of Henrico County, Va., told me about two recent instances t...

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Sports

The ‘South Park’ Guys Break Down Their Viral Deepfake Video

Like so many other things on the internet, the viral video “Sassy Justice” seemed too good to be true when it started showing up on television and then on the internet earlier this week. Presented as a local news broadcast from a station in Cheyenne, Wyo., the video is hosted by a reporter named Fred Sassy, who appears to be a dead ringer for President Trump — if he wore a cheap suit and a white wig and spoke with a campy accent.Sassy conducts what he claims is an interview with Al Gore and spars with the unscrupulous owner of a dialysis center, who looks an awful lot like Mark Zuckerberg. All the while, he warns of the dangers of deepfakes: sophisticated computer-generated images that have been manipulated to look like familiar people engaging in actions that never happened and speakin...

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Officials Warn of Cyberattacks on Hospitals as Virus Cases Spike

Hundreds of American hospitals are being targeted in cyberattacks by the same Russian hackers who American officials and researchers fear could sow mayhem around next week’s election.The attacks on American hospitals, clinics and medical complexes are intended to take those facilities offline and hold their data hostage in exchange for multimillion-dollar ransom payments, just as coronavirus cases spike across the United States.“We expect panic,” one hacker involved in the attacks said in Russian during a private exchange on Monday that was captured by Hold Security, a security company that tracks online criminals.Some hospitals in New York State and on the West Coast reported cyberattacks in recent days, though it was not clear whether they were part of the attacks, and hospital offici...

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‘Perception Hacks’ and Other Potential Threats to the Election

In Georgia, a database that verifies voter signatures was locked up by Russian hackers in a ransomware attack that also dumped voters’ registration data online.In California and Indiana, Russia’s most formidable state hackers, a unit linked to the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B., bored into local networks and hit some election systems, though it is still unclear why.In Louisiana, the National Guard was called in to stop cyberattacks aimed at small government offices that employed tools previously seen only in attacks by North Korea.And on Tuesday night, someone hacked the Trump campaign, defacing its website with a threatening message in broken English warning that there would be more to come.None of these attacks amounted to much. But from the sprawling war room at United States Cy...

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Sports

Disinformation Moves From Social Networks to Texts

Last week, a political action committee called the American Principles Project unveiled a new video on Twitter falsely claiming that Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden Jr. supported sex changes for 8-year-olds.Since Friday, a similar video has also appeared on Facebook as many as 100,000 times — primarily in Michigan, a swing state in the Nov. 3 election.What has been harder to pinpoint is how widely the video has been spreading through text messages.Though companies like Facebook and Twitter have developed tools for tracking and policing disinformation on their social networks, texting activity is largely a free-for-all that receives little scrutiny from tech companies and government regulators.“There is no way to audit this,” said Jacob Gursky, a research associate at the...

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