Washington Post

Google prompts a Spanish language spike for ‘register to vote’ — especially in Florida

September 27 was National Voter Registration Day. To the extent that you were aware of this, it was probably because you, like me, were greeted with a prompt to ensure you were registered when you went to Facebook to see what some-guy-you-went-to-high-school-with's baby looks like. Or maybe you visited Google, where the daily doodle was focused on the subject.

If people clicked that, they were taken to a search page for "how to register to vote." Or, in Spanish, "registrarse para votar." After that push, Google saw a huge spike in searches for the Spanish-language phrase. Hispanic Americans typically vote at much lower rates than other groups. Census Bureau data suggests that Hispanics turn out for presidential elections at about the rate non-Hispanic white Americans turn out for midterms. There are a variety of reasons for this, but it has been a focus of Hispanic organizations for some time to boost those numbers. It has also been a priority for Democrats, particularly this year. Hispanics tend to vote more heavily Democratic than Republican, and activists see an opportunity this year given Donald Trump's disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants.

Donald Trump says Google proves he’s winning — and is trying to make sure he loses

At the top of his rally in the critical Wisconsin county of Waukesha, Donald Trump accused Google of both impeding and bolstering his candidacy. "A new post-debate poll, the Google poll, has us leading Hillary Clinton by two points nationwide," he said, "and that's despite the fact that Google search engine was suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton. How about that." As it turns out, this is classic Trump: Running full steam ahead with any sketchy evidence that seems like it might be helpful to him. Here's each thing he was referring to, so you can judge for yourself.

Cyberattacks on personal health records growing ‘exponentially’

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better known as HIPAA. Since it took effect, doctors’ offices, hospitals and other health-care providers have been very careful about releasing information. Sometimes frustratingly so. I’ve had providers refuse to send my information to me by e-mail, because that form of communication is considered less secure than the now-ancient practice of faxing. A new Government Accountability Office report shows that concern is warranted, now more than ever.

In 2015, 113 million electronic health records were breached, a major leap over the 12.5 million the year before. In 2009, the number was less than 135,000. The number of reported hacks and breaches affecting records of at least 500 individuals rose from none in 2009 to 56 last year, almost double from 2014. But electronic health records come with a cost. As cyberthieves become bolder, more creative and more successful, the risks to our personal information increases. That includes everything from Social Security numbers to medical conditions.

Government ‘hacking’ and the Playpen search warrant

[Commentary] In recent months, over a dozen district courts have handed down divided opinions on the legality of a single search warrant that was used to search the computers of many visitors to a child pornography website. The warrant raises interesting legal issues, although I think the significant issues are mostly not the ones that have received the most media attention. Many of these cases are headed to various courts of appeal, so I thought I would present an overview of the investigation and discuss some of the legal issues raised by the warrant.
[Orin Kerr is the Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor at The George Washington University Law School, where he has taught since 2001. ]

Dear readers: Please stop calling us ‘the media.’ There is no such thing.

I’m writing because I have a request: Please stop calling us “the media.” Yes, in some sense, we are the media. But not in the blunt way you use the phrase. It’s so imprecise and generic that it has lost any meaning. It’s — how would you put this? — lazy and unfair. As I understand your use of this term, “the media” is essentially shorthand for anything you read, saw or heard today that you disagreed with or didn’t like. At any given moment, “the media” is biased against your candidate, your issue, your very way of life. But, you know, the media isn’t really doing that. Some article, some news report, some guy spouting off on a CNN panel or at CrankyCrackpot.com might be. But none of those things singularly are really the media. Fact is, there really is no such thing as “the media.” It’s an invention, a tool, an all-purpose smear by people who can’t be bothered to make distinctions.

The three types of political astroturfing you’ll see in 2016

As more and more political discourse has moved to the Internet, the techniques of political "astroturfing" have multiplied. Here are what some of the motivated actors are attempting now:

The bots: There are the bots, for starters — we tend to hear about those a lot. While an analysis by the Atlantic’s Andrew McGill found that there are relatively few Twitter bots among the direct followers of Donald Trump and Clinton, that certainly hasn’t been the case elsewhere. Especially seen in the Brexit vote.
The coordinated posters: That could also be said of what we’ll term the “coordinated posters” — real users who are secretly instructed to share similar political messages on behalf of a campaign or other organization. This isn’t fakery, per se — but it’s also not 100 percent certified organic.
The dark-money memes: viral videos, memes and other apparently amateur political ephemera, which behave like political ads but require very little disclosure.

Government lawyers don’t understand the Internet. That’s a problem.

[Commentary] Federal government lawyers are struggling to grasp the increasingly technical cases that come before them. Both federal prosecutors and the attorneys who represent executive agencies in court are bungling lawsuits across the country because they don’t understand what they’re talking about. Too few lawyers have the skill set or the specialized knowledge to make sense of code, networks and the people who use them, and too few law schools are telling them what they need to know.

[Garrett Graff is a former editor of Politico Magazine]

How Donald Trump’s Internet policy could benefit Russia

Reporting has uncovered extensive ties between Donald Trump and Russia. Trump has made little secret of his personal admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has praised as having "great control over his country." The Republican presidential nominee even appeared to openly solicit Russian hacking of Hillary Clinton's e-mails — to the point that critics have accused him of treason. So it may seem surprising to hear the Trump campaign suddenly change its tone on Russia over an obscure battle on Internet policy.

Taking a swipe at Russia's support for Internet censorship, a Trump policy adviser warned Sept 21 against giving the Kremlin too much say in how the Internet should be governed. The statement reads like a snub to Putin — that is, until you realize that Trump's own policy could wind up giving the Russian leader precisely what he wants. According to critics, Trump's call to stop the transition would actually wind up helping Putin rather than undermining the Russian leader. "If the US is forced to abort the transition now it would play right into the hands of authoritarian states," said Milton Mueller, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. "'Look,' they will say, 'the US wants to control the Internet. Why can’t we?'"

Government lawyers don’t understand the Internet. That’s a problem.

[Commentary] The government’s lawyers are struggling to grasp the increasingly technical cases that come before them. Both federal prosecutors and the attorneys who represent executive agencies in court are bungling lawsuits across the country because they don’t understand what they’re talking about. Too few lawyers have the skill set or the specialized knowledge to make sense of code, networks and the people who use them, and too few law schools are telling them what they need to know. “It would be enormously helpful to have a deeper bench of lawyers with technical backgrounds,” says Susan Hennessey, a Brookings Institution fellow and former National Security Agency lawyer. This situation is stymieing criminal investigations, upending innocents’ lives and making it harder to set legal boundaries around mass-surveillance programs. The result is that, when it comes to technology, justice is increasingly out of reach.

Today, cyber, data and privacy questions lie at the core of numerous corporate and government cases, and there aren’t anywhere near enough practicing lawyers who can adequately understand the complex issues involved, let alone who can sufficiently explain them in court or advise investigators on how to build a successful case. “This is a problem that pervades all of the national security apparatus,” says Alvaro Bedoya, who previously worked as the chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, and now leads Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology. “You don’t have a pipeline of lawyers right now who can read code.”

[Garrett Graff is the former editor of Politico Magazine, and is a leading authority on national security, technology, and politics]

Trump once said TV ruined politics. Then it made him a star.

In 1980, in one of his first big TV interviews, Donald Trump was asked whether television was ruining politics. “It’s hurt the process very much,” Trump told NBC’s Rona Barrett.

“Abraham Lincoln would probably not be electable today because of television. He was not a handsome man, and he did not smile at all. He would not be considered to be a prime candidate for the presidency — and that’s a shame, isn’t it?”

But in the years since Trump lamented the negative effect of TV, he has embraced it like no presidential candidate in history and has even derided rival candidates he deems not telegenic. Hillary Clinton, he said, doesn’t have “a presidential look, and you need a presidential look.” While real estate made him money, TV made him famous. Trump, who has never held elected office, became a household name through television, mainly his starring role for 14 years in “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” The self-described “ratings machine” is as defined by television as past presidents have been defined by military or public service.