What’s new in tech
From Russia with memes
In an experiment, a Google subsidiary called Jigsaw paid a Russian troll farm $250 to carry out a disinformation campaign, said Andy Greenberg in Wired. Jigsaw first “created a website—seeded with blog posts and comments they’d written to make it appear more real—for a political initiative called Down With Stalin,” referring to a hot-button debate in Russia about the legacy of the former dictator. Then, to test how easily the liberal campaign could be undermined, Jigsaw, “posing as political adversaries” of the site, paid a service called SEOTweet to discredit the “Down With Stalin” campaign. Within two weeks, SEOTweet “had posted 730 Russian-language tweets attacking the anti-Stalin site from 25 different Twitter accounts, as well as 100 posts to forums and blog comment sections.”
Discord lives up to its name
A free chat service popular with teen gamers has turned into a “virtual Lord of the Flies,” said Julie Jargon in The Wall Street Journal. Discord debuted four years ago offering streams of real-time, around-the-clock conversation for the “up-all-night culture of gaming.” Today, it has more than 250 million registered users. Said one parent, “These kids aren’t calling, texting, or Skyping each other anymore. They’re all just Discording.” But “when you funnel that many anonymously registered teens into the same channels, with a near total lack of rules,” it can quickly turn ugly— “racist memes, vulgar talk, and bullying.”
Facebook gets a ‘deepfake’ CEO
Two artists posted a fake video of Mark Zuckerberg onto Facebook-owned Instagram to test the platform’s policies on spreading misinformation, said Allyson Chiu in The Washington Post. Facebook has come under fire for refusing to delete a viral video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “that was edited to make her sound as if she were drunkenly slurring her words.” The Zuckerberg “deepfake”—a sophisticated altered video—appeared to show the Facebook CEO “bragging about abusing ‘stolen data’” in a segment from CBS News’ streaming channel. “Imagine this for a second: one man with total control of billions of people’s stolen data,” Zuckerberg appears to say. But the words “were actually spoken by a voice actor reading from a script” and dubbed over Zuckerberg’s image by “dialogue replacement technology.” Instagram and Facebook have not taken down the video, which has now been “liked” thousands of times.