Digital Content

Information that is published or distributed in a digital form, including text, data, sound recordings, photographs and images, motion pictures, and software.

President Trump can block people on Twitter if he wants, administration says

The administration of President Donald Trump is scoffing at a federal lawsuit by Twitter users who claim that their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle. "It would send the First Amendment deep into uncharted waters to hold that a president's choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter—a privately run website that, as a central feature of its social-media platform, enables all users to block particular individuals from viewing posts—violate the Constitution." That's part of what Michael Baer, a Justice Department attorney, wrote to the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuit.

In addition, the Justice Department said the courts are powerless to tell Trump how he can manage his private Twitter handle, which has 35.8 million followers. "To the extent that the President's management of his Twitter account constitutes state action, it is unquestionably action that lies within his discretion as Chief Executive; it is therefore outside the scope of judicial enforcement," Baer wrote. Baer added that an order telling Trump how to manage his Twitter feed "would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns by intruding directly into the president's chosen means of communicating to millions of Americans."

Judge says LinkedIn can't block startup from user’s public data

A federal district court judge on Aug 14 said that LinkedIn cannot block a startup company from accessing users' public profile data. Judge Edward Chen in the northern district of California granted hiQ labs, an employment startup, a preliminary injunction that forces LinkedIn to remove any barriers keeping hiQ from accessing public profile information within 24 hours. HiQ’s operations depend on its ability to access public LinkedIn data. The company sells analytics to clients including eBay, Capital One and GoDaddy that aim to help them with employee retention and recruitment. LinkedIn contends that hiQ’s services threaten its users’ privacy. Even though their information is already public, LinkedIn argued that users might not want to have employers tracking changes on their profiles, for example if they are seeking a new job. In his order, Chen argued that LinkedIn’s argument was flawed.

Twitter users are revealing the identities of Charlottesville white supremacist protestors

If the white nationalists and supremacists at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville (VA) were looking to be noticed, mission accomplished. A group of Twitter users — most notably the @YesYoureRacist account — have been publishing photos of the protestors on the social networking site and asking followers for help identifying them. One of the first to be identified on Aug 12 — a 20-year-old college student named Peter Cvjetanovic — told the Channel 2 news station in Reno (NV) that he “did not expect the photo to be shared as much as it was.” “I understand the photo has a very negative connotation,” he said. “But I hope that the people sharing the photo are willing to listen that I’m not the angry racist they see in that photo.” Cvjetanovic traveled to the “Unite the Right” march to protest the planned removal of a statue of Confederate Army General Robert E. Lee, he said, because “the replacement of the statue will be the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States and the people who fought and defended and built their homeland.”

Facebook’s Onavo Gives Social-Media Firm Inside Peek at Rivals’ Users

Months before social-media company Snap publicly disclosed slowing user growth, rival Facebook already knew.

Late in 2016, Facebook employees used an internal database of a sampling of mobile users’ activity to observe that usage of Snap’s flagship app, Snapchat, wasn’t growing as quickly as before. They saw that the shift occurred after Facebook’s Instagram app launched Stories, a near-replica of a Snapchat feature of the same name. Facebook’s early insight came thanks to its 2013 acquisition of Israeli mobile-analytics company Onavo, which distributes a data-security app that has been downloaded by millions of users. Data from Onavo’s app has been crucial to helping Facebook track rivals and scope out new product categories.

Twitter users want President Trump’s account suspended for ‘threatening violence’ against North Korea

Can a president be suspended from Twitter for threatening to attack another country? That's what some Twitter users, including actor and former Barack Obama aide Kal Penn, are demanding, after President Donald Trump tweeted Aug 11 that US “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely.” Critics of the president's tweet say the rhetoric reflects a threat of violence against North Korea that violates Twitter's rules and terms of service.

Squeezed out by Silicon Valley, the far right is creating its own corporate world

Over and over again, America’s far-right has learned that the 1st Amendment doesn’t protect them from Silicon Valley tech companies. Over the last two years, a crop of start-ups has begun offering social media platforms and financial services catering to right-wing Internet users. “We’re getting banned from using payment-processing services, so we have no other choice,” said Tim Gionet, who goes by the name “Baked Alaska” and who is scheduled to speak at the Charlottesville (VA) rally. “If that’s the gamble they want to take, I guess they can, and we’ll make our own infrastructure.” The new companies are small, paling in audience size to their gargantuan, mainstream counterparts. But piece by piece, supporters of the far-right are assembling their own corporate tech world — a shadow Silicon Valley, one with fewer rules.

Ousted Fox News host Bill O'Reilly launches online news show

Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has launched his own daily online news program, building on his “No Spin News” podcast. O'Reilly, once a conservative powerhouse at Fox News, was fired in April after The New York Times reported he sexually harassed at least seven women at the network. O'Reilly posted the first half-hour of the show on on Aug 9, but only subscribers with premium membership — which cost $4.95 per month — could watch. On Aug 10, the show was made available to the public.

What Happened to Google's Effort to Scan Millions of University Library Books?

It was a crazy idea: Take the bulk of the world’s books, scan them, and create a monumental digital library for all to access. That’s what Google dreamed of doing when it embarked on its ambitious book-digitizing project in 2002. It got part of the way there, digitizing at least 25 million books from major university libraries. But the promised library of everything hasn’t come into being. An epic legal battle between authors and publishers and the Internet giant over alleged copyright violations dragged on for years. A settlement that would have created a Book Rights Registry and made it possible to access the Google Books corpus through public-library terminals ultimately died, rejected by a federal judge in 2011. And though the same judge ultimately dismissed the case in 2013, handing Google a victory that allowed it to keep on scanning, the dream of easy and full access to all those works remains just that.

Dispute Over Public Officials and Social Media

An emerging debate about whether elected officials violate people's free speech rights by blocking them on social media is spreading across the US as groups sue or warn politicians to stop the practice.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Gov Paul LePage (R-ME) and sent warning letters to Utah's congressional delegation. It followed recent lawsuits against the governors of Maryland and Kentucky and President Donald Trump. Politicians at all levels increasingly embrace social media to discuss government business, sometimes at the expense of traditional town halls or in-person meetings. "People turn to social media because they see their elected officials as being available there and they're hungry for opportunities to express their opinions and share feedback," said Anna Thomas, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Utah. "That includes people who disagree with public officials." Most of the officials targeted so far — all Republicans — say they are not violating free speech but policing social media pages to get rid of people who post hateful, violent, obscene or abusive messages.

How Palantir, Peter Thiel's Secretive Data Company, Pushed into Policing

Palantir had been selling its data storage, analysis, and collaboration software to police departments nationwide on the basis of rock-solid security. “Palantir Law Enforcement provides robust, built-in privacy and civil liberties protections, including granular access controls and advanced data retention capabilities,” its website reads. The scale of Palantir’s implementation, the type, quantity and persistence of the data it processes, and the unprecedented access that many thousands of people have to that data all raise significant concerns about privacy, equity, racial justice, and civil rights. But until now, we haven’t known very much about how the system works, who is using it, and what their problems are. And neither Palantir nor many of the police departments that use it are willing to talk about it.