In 2016, the hacking and trolling was in plain sight; in 2017, the media is finally admitting it

Morning Brief: But social media outlets, like Twitter, continue to fight the effort to combat trolls and bots because their business model depends on this destructive traffic

The year is almost over and it is time for reflection for many. But for TNM, the biggest regret of 2017 was that it failed in its attempt to launch a second website in 2016. It was that failure that has haunted TNM all year.

For those unaware, a little background.

With the presidential election in November of 2016, it was clear early in 2016 that this would not be a normal election, not with Donald Trump sweeping the GOP primaries. So rather than turning TNM into a politics website by constantly referring to the election season, I decided to launch a second website to cover the intersection of politics and the media. Struggling for a name, just as I did for TNM, I chose PoliMedia.press.

What PoliMedia wrote about was what the media was saying about the presidential campaign. It was completely objective in that every story would feature clips from multiple media outlets on both sides of the media landscape. As a result, there were a lot of excerpts from Breitbart and other Trump supporting websites. But when newspapers soon began writing editorials about the dangers of a possible Trump presidency, the troubles began. Soon, the new site had trouble staying online due to DDoS attacks. Also, the numbers of trolls commenting about Trump, and criticizing the media for being unfair to their candidate, was hard to handle.

With the election winding down, and with traffic at low levels due to the amount of time the site was offline, I decided to shutter PoliMedia. But what was crystal clear to me was that the 2016 election was being meddled with in an unprecedented way, and the media was hesitant to talk about it, while at the same time there seemed to be no hesitation in talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails. Journalists were dealing with trolls and bots, yet were strangely silent on the matter, using the tired theory that the story shouldn’t be about them. Yet the story was, and is, about the media, about the attack on our free press.

If that sounds partisan, then so be it. PoliMedia was simply a reflection of politics and the media itself. A perfect example was a column in The Washington Post that took Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to task for daring to air her opinions regarding a Trump presidency. The columnist, who still is featured, has since been a fierce critic of the new president, yet in his own way, worked to make that presidency possibly by trying to shut off the warnings.

As 2017 started I said that it would be impossible to continue TNM as before, not when the greatest danger to our industry in not digital competitors, but the direction of the country. And as the year has progressed, more and more reports have been filed about the extent of Russian meddling via social media, and how our social media companies are either ignoring the problem outright, or worse, cynically taking advantage of it in order to be able to claim to be growing their audience and member files.

McClatchy, Kevin G. Hall:

Jailed Russian says he hacked DNC on Kremlin’s orders and can prove it

A jailed Russian who says he hacked into the Democratic National Committee computers on the Kremlin’s orders to steal emails released during the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign now claims he left behind a data signature to prove his assertion.

In an interview with Russia’s RAIN television channel made public Wednesday, Konstantin Kozlovsky provided further details about what he said was a hacking operation led by the Russian intelligence agency known by its initials FSB. Among them, Kozlovsky said he worked with the FSB to develop computer viruses that were first tested on large, unsuspecting Russian companies, such as the oil giant Rosneft, later turning them loose on multinational corporations…

…The newest allegations are potentially significant. If the FSB did in fact direct Kozlovsky, then it debunks Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion that his government had nothing to do with hacking that all major U.S. intelligence agencies put at his feet. It also calls into question the view of a hack that was conducted as a closely held, organized FSB campaign directed from central offices. Kozlovsky says he worked largely from home, with limited knowledge of others and that the political hack was just part of larger relationship with the FSB’s top cyber officials on viruses directed at other countries and the private sector.

The New York Times, Yair Rosenberg:

Confessions of a Digital Nazi Hunter

Using a crowdsourced database of impersonator accounts, carefully curated by us to avoid any false positives, the bot patrolled Twitter and interjected whenever impostors tried to insinuate themselves into a discussion. Within days, our golem for the digital age had become a runaway success, garnering thousands of followers and numerous press write-ups. Most important, we received countless thank-yous from alerted would-be victims.

The impersonator trolls seethed. Some tried changing their user names to evade the bot (it didn’t work). Others simply reverted to their openly neo-Nazi personas. A few even tried to impersonate the bot, which was vastly preferable from our perspective and rather amusing.

Then the problems began — but not from where you might expect. The Nazis realized they couldn’t beat the bot, so they started mass-reporting it to Twitter for “harassment.” Just as they duplicitously cast themselves as minorities, they disingenuously recast our response to their ongoing abuse as harassment.

Twitter sided with the Nazis.



I’ve often said that weekend New York Times is not the same as weekday New York Times. It is on the weekend or Monday that one finds rather odd stories that seem to contradict what appears in the pages of the paper most days.

Well, the holidays at most publications mean either a complete shutdown, or that a skeleton crew will take over. And as they say, when the cat is away the mice will play.

Witness Vanity Fair, between two editors, and with the holidays upon us, the staff of “The Hive” had a chance to go full sexist — and boy did they.

But if you think telling a female to shut up and just go knit is universally seen as sexist you would be wrong. Not in the world we are rapidly creating for ourselves.

The Washington Post, Erik Wemple:

Vanity Fair staffers provide snotty, condescending life tips for Hillary Clinton

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How do you boost Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings with Trumpites? That’s a tough task, considering the enduring popularity of the whole “lock her up” movement. Yet one approach would be to line up a crew of young urbanites, put champagne flutes in their hands and have them recite snarky and demeaning New Year’s resolutions for the twice-failed presidential candidate and former first lady.

And that’s precisely what the people at Vanity Fair’s “The Hive” have done, to considerable social-media backlash.

NY Post, Alexandra Steigrad:

Vanity Fair under attack over snarky Hillary video

Hive blogger Maya Kossoff suggested Clinton take up a new hobby: “volunteer work, knitting, improv comedy — literally anything that will keep you from running again.”

Hive editor John Kelly, meanwhile, advised Clinton to “finally put away your James Comey voodoo doll.”

“We all know you think James Comey cost you the election and he might have,” Kelly said. “But so did a handful of other things. It’s a year later and time to move on.”

Fox News: Liberal outrage erupts after Vanity Fair pokes fun at Hillary Clinton
Breitbart News: Vanity Fair Sparks Liberal Meltdown After Calling for Hillary Clinton to Take Up Knitting
HelloGiggles: #CancelVanityFair is trending today because of a sexist Hillary Clinton joke



Dispatch-Argus: Requiem for newspaper vending machine
ABC (Australia): Old newspapers discovered during construction of ACT’s new court building reflect bygone era
Hold the Front Page: Review of 2017: The newspapers who made a difference

The post In 2016, the hacking and trolling was in plain sight; in 2017, the media is finally admitting it appeared first on Talking New Media.

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