Vox

What the viral Facebook check-in at Standing Rock says about activist surveillance

On Facebook, more than a million people checked in to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota on Oct 31, but that didn’t mean that many people were actually at the site. The action was an act of solidarity with indigenous water protectors and activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline, inspired by a viral Facebook post that began circulating from an unidentified source.

Social media has become a double-edged sword for activism. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become crucial ways for people to participate in and organize contemporary social justice movements. Even though “hashtag activism” has been used to demoralize a new generation of activists, social media tools like hashtags have allowed people to organize and amplify their messages beyond their local physical community and network faster than ever. Social media has also democratized who bears witness to these events and how. Yet while law enforcement have used social media to target criminals, activists have also been monitored on these platforms for their organizing efforts.

Why you should assume your e-mail will get hacked or leaked eventually

The Podesta leak hasn’t just been embarrassing for John Podesta, it has also been embarrassing for many other Hillary Clinton campaign staffers who communicated with him. Also exposed were numerous other people in the progressive movement who either included Podesta in e-mail chains or had their e-mails forwarded to Podesta after the fact. So even if you’re extremely careful with your own online security, your private messages could still be exposed if anyone you correspond with is careless.

Your e-mails could also become public if, say, a former colleague becomes disgruntled and decides to deliberately leak embarrassing private e-mails to the press. Another danger is that your e-mail provider itself could be hacked. In Sept, we learned that hackers broke into Yahoo’s e-mail servers, gaining access to 500 million accounts. So far, it doesn’t appear that the culprits have released any of that information to the public, but whoever was responsible for the leaks likely has a great deal of juicy information they could release in the future. If you’re a prominent person — and especially if you’re a senior adviser to a presidential candidate or world leader — you should take the possibility of getting hacked very seriously. That partly means doing everything you can to lock down your e-mail service — by enabling two-factor authentication and ensuring everyone in your workplace or organization gets thorough training on e-mail security. But it also means you should be careful about what you write in an e-mail. Because there’s a very real risk that anything you write down and send over the Internet will eventually become available to the whole world.

Fox News has never been as vulnerable as it is right now. Enter Trump TV?

Fox News hasn’t always known how to handle the Trump phenomenon The Fox News audience is old and getting older. Trump TV could grab younger conservatives. When push comes to shove, I’d probably still bet on Fox News in this potential battle. But it’s clear that the network is trying to shed some of its reputation as a news source for older white men — particularly as it continues to boost the profile of Kelly. And at a time when Trump’s campaign is driven so heavily by playing directly to the identity politics of white men, well, there’s probably a market niche in which Trump TV can thrive. Making that demographic appeal to white male identity politics so far looks like it won’t win Trump the White House. But that appeal is one that can work in an ever more divided media landscape. Trump TV probably can’t vanquish Fox News — but it could become Fox News’s younger, “more conservative” alternative, as unlikely as that sounds.

President Obama says the US government still doesn't know who shut down the Internet on Oct 21

It’s still unclear who is responsible for Oct 21’s massive Internet outages, according to President Barack Obama. The attack was comprised of hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Internet-connected devices that sent junk traffic to Dyn, a major domain name service provider. The attack took down major sections of the Internet across the United States for hours. Basic security flaws found in webcams and other Internet-connected recording devices were compromised in the attack, according to Chinese device manufacturer Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology, which admitted its products were partially to blame. A recall of Hangzhou Xiongmai products has been initiated. But other IoT device makers were targeted, too. Still, no one seems to know who perpetrated it. And it may take weeks to find out. "We don't have any idea who did that,” said President Obama.

The AT&T/Time Warner merger has a big political problem on its hands

[Commentary] The good news for AT&T/Time Warner is that antitrust enforcement is not, in practice, as politicized as many people seem to think. In the past, regulators have allowed broadly similar mergers to go forward, albeit with conditions attached that undermine their main business rationale. But one reason antitrust enforcement has not been particularly politicized is that it hasn’t been a major point of political emphasis. That’s been changing rather rapidly in 2016. Here’s a look at some of the hurdles ahead:
Conduct remedies are going out of style
Sen Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has made antitrust enforcement a priority
The timing of the deal makes this a key test

Why the strongest case for AT&T's merger with Time Warner is also the case against it

[Commentary] There’s growing concern on both the right and the left that major media conglomerates are becoming too concentrated. In particular, there’s a high level of resentment against incumbent telecommunications providers, which are seen as charging high prices and offering poor service. That makes opposing the deal good politics.

Luckily for AT&T, antitrust decisions are supposed to be made based on the law rather than on political considerations. AT&T’s fate will rest in the hands of whoever runs the Justice Department’s antitrust division in the next administration. But in making the case for the deal, the company has a big problem: The most compelling business arguments for the deal — that the new megacompany can boost profits by giving Time Warner content favorable treatment on AT&T’s wired and wireless networks — are also the arguments that are most likely to attract skepticism from regulators. Because of that conundrum, AT&T executives have effectively been forced into telling a somewhat self-contradictory story, talking vaguely about synergies the deal will allow while simultaneously insisting they won’t exploit those synergies so much that it could damage competition.

Donald Trump doesn’t need to broaden his appeal. The rise of cable TV explains why.

[Commentary] For months now, pundits and politicians have been waiting for Donald Trump to “pivot,” presumably moving away from his divisive, inflammatory rhetoric of the Republican primary and toward a more inclusive, mild demeanor for the general election. Since the first debate, we have seen a pivot, but not the one we’ve been waiting for: Trump has fully pivoted from presidential candidate to media mogul for a budding political entertainment movement.

This may seem like a strange transition for a presidential candidate to make, but recent events, and Trump’s reactions to them, suggest that his primary goal of building a lucrative audience has finally eclipsed his purported goal of building a winning electorate, with traditional allegiances to political party, fellow candidates, and even a running mate falling by the wayside. Trump’s recent behavior is almost certainly informed by a need to place blame for his looming defeat. But it’s also an amplification of a thread that’s always been present in his campaign, even back when his poll numbers were rising instead of plummeting.

[Jason Mittell is a professor of film and culture and American studies at Middlebury College]

Cities spent millions on fast gigabit networks. No one is sure what they're good for.

A few dozen cities in America have next-generation broadband networks that offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second — about 50 times faster than a typical connection. These super-fast connections were supposed to revolutionize Americans’ experience of the Internet and rev up the country’s noncompetitive broadband market. When these networks were being built, advocates pointed to a number of potential applications.

Gigabit networks, they promised, would enable users to interact in complex virtual reality environments. They’d make possible good-as-life teleconferencing that could allow seniors to visit doctors from home. But six years after the first super-fast connections went live, even proponents concede no “killer” gigabit application has emerged. Most of their potential, critics say, is simply ignored by users. And building gigabit networks nationwide would be a colossally expensive undertaking. That has caused even some former enthusiasts of these networks to wonder whether the early hype around gigabit networks was misplaced. Perhaps it makes sense to settle for more incremental — and much less expensive — upgrades to the networks we already have.

Calling Donald Trump's lies "lies" isn't partisan. It's the truth.

Even after President Barack Obama released his longform birth certificate in 2011, Donald Trump repeatedly questioned its authenticity and insinuated there was a conspiracy (including murder!) to keep the truth of President Obama’s foreign birth from the public. Then in September 2016, Trump finally acknowledged that he did in fact believe President Obama was born in the US — and said that he’d dropped the issue after the longform birth certificate came out, even going so far as to falsely blame his opponent, Hillary Clinton, for starting the whole thing.

Trump did something — for years — and then denied he’d done it. Is it fair to call him a liar? Common sense says this is a pretty open-and-shut question. But New York Times public editor Liz Spayd — the paper’s independent ombudsperson — is really, really resistant to the idea that it’s ever okay to say, in so many words, that a politician “lied.” Ultimately, she’s okay with it in the case of Trump’s post-birtherist denials — because it was a particularly sustained and particularly racist kind of lie. But she protests that journalists shouldn’t use the word “lie” just because it’s “factually accurate” that a lie has taken place: "That said, I think The Times should use this term rarely. Its power in political warfare has so freighted the word that its mere appearance on news pages, however factually accurate, feels partisan. It feels, as Ryan said, as if you’re playing the referee in frivolous political disputes."

Do presidential debates matter? Here's the political science evidence.

How much do the debates even matter, anyway? The evidence isn’t entirely conclusive, but in my read of it, debates have the potential to make a small but real impact on the race. Polls have often shifted by a few percentage points during debate season, and in a close race, that could really matter. Now, the effect of general election debates has been overhyped by some. There’s little historical evidence that they’ve ever swung polls by more than a few percentage points. General election debates aren’t like primary debates — there are strong partisan loyalties, the vast majority of debate viewers have already made up their minds about who they’re voting for, and few are willing to change their minds because of what happened in one debate. But, in a close race, with a very polarized electorate, a shift of just a few percentage points could matter a great deal. And even if debates don’t swing the presidential outcome, if they help or hurt a presidential candidate by a few percentage points, that could have a domino effect in down-ballot races — such as the battle for the Senate.

If the media judges Trump by extremely low expectations, or if his outrageous conduct is normalized, that could really affect how some viewers understand what happened. Overall, if Hillary Clinton were still leading Trump by 9 percentage points, then she and her supporters could feel confident that the debates would be highly unlikely to change that. A lead of about 3 percentage points is a different story, though.