Technology

17 Players in Five States, Composing Over the Internet

Last month, I did something I used to do often before the pandemic: I watched a rehearsal. But this time it wasn’t a matter of sitting in a concert hall and watching a group work onstage.Sixteen instrumentalists from the contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound were scattered across several states and four makeshift home offices and professional studios, working with Tyshawn Sorey on his “Autoschediasms.” To synchronize everyone’s efforts, each “pod” of musicians was simultaneously logged into two different internet conferencing applications.One web browser tool, LiveLab, used the rectangular, talking-head format familiar from months of Zoom. But since video conferencing is rife with delays in sound signals, not to mention less than stellar quality, the musicians’ microphones were s...

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Technology

Twitter Bots Poised to Spread Disinformation Before Election

Be aware: Fake Twitter accounts will very likely sow disinformation in the few remaining days before Election Day on Nov. 3.This week, researchers at the University of Southern California released a new study that identified thousands of automated accounts, or “bots,” on Twitter posting information related to President Trump, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and their campaigns. The study examined over 240 million election-related tweets from June through September.Many of these bots, the study said, spread falsehoods related to the coronavirus and far-right conspiracy theories such QAnon and “pizzagate.” The study said that bots accounted for 20 percent of all tweets involving these political conspiracy theories.“These bots are an integral part of the discussion” on social media, said Emilio Ferrar...

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Technology

We Need Policy, Not WrestleMania

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.One of the central questions for our elected representatives is how to exercise effective oversight over technology.Some days, like when lawmakers ask whether the tech giants have become too powerful, I feel hopeful about government officials’ ability to do this. Right now … I’m not so sure.The Senate on Wednesday is holding a hearing ostensibly about whether to revise or undo a bedrock law of the internet that made possible sites like Facebook and YouTube by providing a limited legal shield for what users post. It is in principle a worthwhile debate about how U.S. laws should balance protecting people from online horrors with providing room for expression online.But the hearing is mostly a point...

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Technology

Tech chiefs plan a vigorous defense of speech on their sites.

At Wednesday’s Senate hearing, the chief executives of Twitter, Facebook and Google will deliver a full-throated defense of speech on their platforms, according to their prepared testimony, which was made public on Tuesday.All three leaders are also set to vigorously support Section 230, the law that has shielded their companies from liability for much of the user-generated content posted to their sites — even if the law does not stay the same.Here’s a look at what each chief executive plans to argue.TwitterJack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter, used his prepared testimony to suggest ways Congress could change Section 230 without constraining online speech.“Without Section 230, platforms could potentially be held liable for everything people say,” he said. Companies should instead be ...

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Technology

Evidence of anti-conservative bias by platforms remains anecdotal.

Conservatives have said for years that online social media platforms censor their views. But their evidence is largely anecdotal, and conservative accounts frequently perform extremely well online.The charges of censorship will almost certainly play a central role in Wednesday’s hearing. Republicans like Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas are likely to criticize the chief executives about how their platforms have moderated content posted by conservative politicians or right-wing media outlets.Conservatives have seized on individual instances of content moderation to claim that there is a systemic bias against them on the platforms. In some cases, the companies have said that the content violated their policies; in other instances they have said that the ...

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Technology

Facebook Removes Trump and Biden Ads, Saying They Could Mislead Voters

Facebook said on Tuesday that it had removed ads from both the Trump and Biden presidential campaigns that arguably could mislead voters in states where early voting has not started.The ads were bought by the campaigns over the weekend, as part of a last-minute push to secure Facebook ads before the end of Monday. Facebook recently said it would not accept any new political ads in the week before Election Day, but would continue to run ads that had been bought ahead of time.The Trump and Biden campaigns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Megan Clasen, a Biden campaign media adviser, tweeted that Facebook had told her office that it could not run ads that urged people to vote by saying that “Election Day is tomorrow” or “Election Day is today.” She then pointed to a simi...

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Technology

Trump Allies Amp Up Fight Over Tech’s Legal Shield Before Election

WASHINGTON — In September, the White House nominated a lawyer to be a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission. One line on his résumé: aiding the administration’s push to limit an important legal shield for Silicon Valley companies.That same month, the Justice Department sent Congress a detailed proposal for how to change the law behind that legal shield.And on Wednesday, lawmakers will confront the chief executives of Facebook, Google and Twitter. The topic of discussion: whether that law enables bad behavior from the companies.The Trump administration and its allies have fanned out widely in Washington in recent months to attack that law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The law is considered sacred by social media platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitte...

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Technology

5 Lessons on Voter Misinformation From Kentucky’s Election in 2019

Local election officials, politicians and disinformation researchers continue to express concern about how misinformation about voting could disrupt Election Day next week. False and misleading information, research shows, has already been spreading widely.The 2019 race for governor of Kentucky illustrates what can go wrong, as we explored in the latest episode of “Stressed Election.” In that race, the standing governor, Matt Bevin, a Republican, disputed the results when the vote tally showed him narrowly losing to his Democratic challenger, Andy Beshear.Mr. Bevin and some of his allies argued, without showing any evidence, that there were voting irregularities and fraud, echoing some false and misleading statements made on social media. The governor initially refused to concede even t...

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Technology

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 will 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. 6, until 9 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 23.This week, as the presidential election approached, the most viral news on social media was, surprisingly, not directly r...

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Technology

Thanks to Trump, Huawei’s Cool New Phones Might Be Limited Edition

Huawei, the embattled Chinese tech giant, has some slick new handsets. They’ve got the works: fast processor, glossy user interface, high-performance cameras.The problem? Supplies might be limited.With all the usual pomp and showmanship, Huawei on Thursday took the wraps off the Mate 40 series, the company’s first new top-of-the-line smartphones to be released since the Trump administration imposed sharp limits on its ability to buy computer chips anywhere in the world.But the company did not say whether those restrictions would stop it from buying enough chips or other components to keep the latest phones coming. Smartphones contain a multitude of parts from different suppliers. Running out of even one of them could force Huawei to halt shipments.Richard Yu, the head of Huawei’s consum...

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