Google staff discussed ways to fight Trump travel ban: WSJ

A Google logo in an office building in Zurich September 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Google staff discussed ways to fight Trump travel ban: WSJ

  • An email from an employee of the Search Product Marketing division referred to brainstorming inside Google over how to respond to ban

WASHINGTON: Google employees discussed how to counter President Donald Trump’s 2017 travel ban by modifying search functions to help people contribute to immigration advocacy groups and contact lawmakers, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
They began the email discussion two days after Trump signed the first version of his travel ban targeting people from seven mainly Muslim countries, the paper reported.
Staff discussed how to tweak search functions and work against “islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.,” the Journal reported.
They looked at similar measures for the search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”
An email from an employee of the Search Product Marketing division referred to brainstorming inside Google over how to respond to ban.
Trump’s controversial measure was challenged in court and underwent several iterations before ultimately being upheld by the US Supreme Court.
The report is certain to anger Trump, who has accused Google of blocking conservative viewpoints in its search results.
Google told the Journal that none of the ideas discussed were ever implemented.
“Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology — not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration,” it said in a statement.
“Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies,” it added.
Google was among 100 tech companies that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February 2017 challenging the travel ban as harmful to US “business, innovation and growth.”


Twitter publishes tweet trove from ‘clumsy’ Iran regime campaigns

Updated 18 October 2018
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Twitter publishes tweet trove from ‘clumsy’ Iran regime campaigns

  • Twitter found 770 Twitter accounts that it traced back to Iran
  • Nearly 4,000 accounts affiliated with Russian troll farm

WASHINGTON: Twitter published a trove of some 10 million tweets that it said are potentially the product of state-backed operations by Russia and Iran, shedding new light on the scale and nature of misinformation campaigns mounted by the two nations.
Twitter said on Wednesday that it had identified 3,841 accounts affiliated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, a Russian “troll farm” that has been indicted by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller for attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
It found another 770 Twitter accounts that it traced back to Iran.
“We are making this data available with the goal of encouraging open research and investigation of these behaviors from researchers and academics around the world,” Twitter said in a statement on its “elections integrity” site.
In total, the exposed accounts shared more than 10 million tweets and 2 million images and videos, Twitter said, before being taken down.
Twitter had already made public the existence of tweets it believes to be the product of foreign misinformation campaigns, but the release of the tweets themselves on Wednesday will allow researchers to learn much more about Russia and Iran’s disinformation efforts on Twitter since 2016.
It comes less than one month before US Congressional elections which are already the subject of foreign-directed social media campaigns, according to senior US intelligence officials.
The release shows that both the Iranian and Russian operations started out as campaigns to support countries’ governments at home, but the Moscow-based effort expanded into an “offensive weapon” targeted at the United States, said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which has seen the tweets.
“The Iranian operation was clumsy. It tried to use social media to draw people toward pro-regime messaging sites,” said Nimmo, whose lab published a detailed analysis of the tweets on Wednesday.
“The Russian operation was much more skilled. It masqueraded as real Americans to turn real Americans against Hillary Clinton, and against each other,” Nimmo added, referring to Donald Trump’s presidential election challenger.