Steve Bannon used location targeting to reach voters who had been in Catholic churches


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Steve Bannon...

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In 2018, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon used location data from smartphones to target church-goers with get-out-the vote advertisements, according to a new report from ThinkProgress Friday.

“We’re sending a message from CatholicVote, not to go vote for a specific guy,” Bannon said. “But for all Catholics to go out and do their duty and they’re going to put out a thing to support President Trump.”

The concession came from a now-deleted scene from The Brink, a documentary by Alison Klayman focusing on Bannon’s efforts to mobilize the far-right throughout the 2018 midterm elections. In an interview with Klayman, Bannon says that he worked with the conservative group CatholicVote to use location data obtained from carriers to target…

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A new anti-robocalling bill is headed to the House floor


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robocall

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is sending a bill to help end the onslaught of unwanted robocalls to the floor, an issue that both chambers of Congress have made a priority this session.

The bipartisan Stopping Bad Robocalls Act would outlaw a slate of methods fraudsters use to scam consumers over the phone and through text. If approved, the bill would make it easier for the government to go after the fraudsters and issue tougher penalties. The Federal Communications Commission would also need to update what it considers a “robocall,” which would require more businesses to obtain consent from customers before making robotic calls.

“The American people are fed up with robocalls,” Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) said. “Who can…

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Judge bans Roger Stone from posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


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Trump Political Advisor Roger Stone Returns To Court In Effort To Dismiss Charges

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Former Trump advisor and confidant Roger Stone isn’t going to jail after violating his gag order. Instead, a judge on Tuesday condemned him to perhaps a far worse fate: Stone has been banned from posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, according to BuzzFeed News.

In February, US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson imposed a gag order on Stone, barring him from speaking about his ongoing legal case or the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign. This gag order came shortly after Stone went on a speaking tour across networks like CNN and Fox News after he was indicted by the special counsel.

But only a week after being gagged, Stone posted a photo of Jackson on Instagram with an image of crosshairs near her head. Stone…

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Congress wants to block the Trump administration from weakening Huawei restrictions


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A group of senators introduced a bipartisan piece of legislation Tuesday that would limit the Trump administration’s abilities to scale back pressure on the Chinese tech giant Huawei without an act of Congress.

The Defending America’s 5G Future Act, led by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), would block the Trump administration from single-handedly allowing Huawei to conduct business with American companies. If approved, it would also keep the Commerce Department from removing the Chinese company from its “Entity List,” codifying a recent Trump administration executive order. That list prevents companies like Huawei from purchasing US tech without government approval.

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Trump to invite social media companies to White House to discuss ‘free speech’ online


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If anything was discernible from the White House’s social media summit today, it was that President Donald Trump intends to bring representatives from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google to the West Wing to talk about platform bias at some point in the future. When exactly? It’s not clear.

Right-wing figures and meme creators including Charlie Kirk, James O’Keefe, the pseudonymous Carpe Donktum, and the infamous duo Diamond and Silk, all came to the White House to promote their argument that conservative viewpoints are being censored on social media platforms. For nearly an hour, the president rambled about his follower counts and Twitter engagement. In between the riffing, he announced plans to begin “inviting the…

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The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will blow past another deadline


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The T-Mobile and Sprint merger was reportedly supposed to be a done deal weeks ago after much of their total spectrum assets were set to be allocated to Dish to spur the creation of another major carrier. But according to The Wall Street Journal, talks have slowed, and it’s unclear when the two parties will come to an agreement.

T-Mobile and Sprint announced their $26 billion merger over a year ago, and the Journal reports that it will once again push past another deadline, July 29th, before closing the deal. This will be the second such extension since the initial announcement that has struggled to receive approval from the Justice Department.

As early as May, all Republican commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission had…

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Congress is bad at Rocket League


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On Wednesday, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) hosted a Rocket League tournament in Congress, pitting members against each other in 2v2 matches.

The ESA paired up with Congress’ Future Forum caucus to teach members about the e-sports and gaming communities. A whole slate of members picked up the game and faced off head-to-head, teaming up with staff members. The two-hour event was streamed on Twitch and featured Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Katie Hill (D-CA), Marc Veasey (D-TX), and Jimmy Gomez (D-CA).

The event included everything from professional commentary to post-game interviews and minor trolls from the chat calling for lawmakers to learn how to…

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Conservative groups push Congress not to meddle with internet law


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Over a dozen right-leaning groups wrote to Congress on Wednesday asking leaders to reject any changes to the law that provides social media platforms with their largest legal shield, even as members on both sides of the aisle are now calling for major changes to the law.

Over the past few months, members of Congress and the White House have ramped up attacks on social media platforms. Democrats have often targeted them for poor data privacy practices, and Republicans have focused more on content moderation methods that they believe favor liberal-leaning views. Republicans have floated around changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which relieves companies from liability for content posted on their platforms, as the…

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Twitter will now remove tweets that dehumanize religious groups


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Twitter is announcing updates to its policies today to address hateful language directed at religious groups, which is a significant change in how the platform moderates against hate speech. The policy will go into effect starting today, with moderation practices immediately updated to enforce the new rules. If the new policy is successful, Twitter said it could apply a similar standard to other protected groups of people in the future.

Last year, Twitter put out a call for people to help rewrite its dehumanization policies, initially proposing a policy against dehumanizing “identifiable groups,” in general. The company received 8,000 responses from people in over 30 countries in the wake of the proposal, with much of the feedback…

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Ajit Pai has a new proposal to go after international robocallers


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On Monday, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai proposed a new rule that would make malicious text message spoofing and overseas robocalls illegal, something that the agency has yet to fully address in its attempts to fight robocalls.

The measure formally implements rules approved by Congress last year that authorize the FCC to go after text message fraudsters and international robocallers. If approved, calls and texts that use spoofing to imitate a different phone number would be unlawful and would allow the FCC to bring enforcement actions against bad actors outside of the country who are looking to defraud or scam people in the US.

“Scammers often robocall us from overseas, and when they do, they typically spoof their…

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France wants to fine Facebook over hate speech


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On Thursday, French lawmakers approved a measure designed to force tech companies like Facebook and Google to remove content the French government deems “hate speech,” the Associate Press reported earlier today.

The provision, which is part of a larger internet regulation bill, was adopted by the lower house of the French Parliament on Thursday. If it were to be fully approved, it would create a 24 hour deadline for social networks to remove hate speech from their platforms once it’s flagged. According to the New York Times, the bill will move to the body’s upper chamber, their Senate, for discussion next.

The language included in the measure requires companies to remove any content that incites or encourages hateful violence or…

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Amazon confirms it holds on to Alexa data even if you delete audio files


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Amazon has admitted that it doesn’t always delete the stored data that it obtains through voice interactions with the company’s Alexa and Echo devices — even after a user chooses to wipe the audio files from their account. The revelations, outlined explicitly by Amazon in a letter to Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), which was published today and dated June 28th, sheds even more light on the company’s privacy practices with regard to its digital voice assistant.

The answers are a follow-up to a request from Coons dating to last month when Coons questioned how long the company holds on to voice recordings and transcripts from Echo interactions. In this week’s letter, Amazon confirmed some of the allegations. “We retain customers’ voice recordings…

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House lawmakers officially ask Facebook to put Libra cryptocurrency project on hold


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House Democrats are requesting Facebook halt development of its proposed cryptocurrency project Libra, as well as its digital wallet Calibra, until Congress and regulators have time to investigate the possible risks it poses to the global financial system.

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, hinted at a move like this last month shortly after the project was announced. Waters’s letter today, sent to Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, and Calibra CEO David Marcus, formalizes that request from a few weeks ago. Aside from Waters, the letter is signed by House Finance’s subcommittee leaders.

“If products and services like these are left improperly…

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Some Facebook Menlo Park buildings evacuated after possible sarin exposure in mailing facility


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Several buildings at Facebook’s Menlo Park campus have been evacuated after a machine at the company’s mailing facility alerted employees that a package may contain sarin, a potentially deadly nerve agent, as first reported by NBC Bay Area. According to that report, no one has been exposed to the substance, whatever it may be.

“We evacuated four buildings and are conducting a thorough investigation in coordination with local authorities,” Anthony Harrison, a Facebook spokesperson told The Verge. “As of now, three buildings have been cleared for repopulation. The safety of our employees is our top priority and we will share additional information when it is available.”

Facebook routinely tests packages sent through its mailing facility…

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Biden pushes smart guns as solution for gun violence during primary debate


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During Thursday night’s Democratic debates, former Vice President Joe Biden pitched his “smart gun” policy on the national stage when asked how he would work to combat gun violence.

“We should have smart guns,” Biden said. “No gun should be able to be sold unless your biometric measure could pull that trigger. It’s within our right to do that. We can do that. Our enemy is the gun manufacturers, not the NRA. The gun manufacturers.”

It’s a policy Biden has been touting frequently along the campaign trail, but the first it’s been brought up throughout this year’s Democratic debates. Generally, Biden has been advocating for some form of regulation requiring gun manufacturers to include a biometric system that would prohibit guns from being…

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Twitter will now hide — but not remove — harmful tweets from public figures


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Today, Twitter is rolling out a new notice for tweets belonging to public figures that break its community guidelines. Now, if a figure like President Donald Trump were to tweet something that broke Twitter’s rules, the platform could notify users of the violation and lessen the reach of the tweet. In recent interviews, Twitter executives have hinted that a change like this would be coming soon.

This notice will only apply to tweets from accounts belonging to political figures, verified users, and accounts with more than 100,000 followers. If a tweet is flagged as violating platform rules, a team of people from across the company will decide whether it is a “matter of public interest.” If so, a light gray box will appear before the…

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Senator calls for stricter rules on how YouTube advertises to kids


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Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), one of Congress’ top tech watchdogs, is requesting that the Federal Trade Commission force YouTube to make sweeping policy changes following reports that the agency is finishing up an investigation into how the platform handles children’s data and experiences.

Markey authored the law on how platforms should treat children’s data, entitled the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Generally, COPPA makes it unlawful for platforms like Facebook and YouTube to collect the data of users under the age of 13. In his Tuesday letter, Markey voices concerns that YouTube isn’t complying with these guidelines.

“I am concerned that YouTube has failed to comply with COPPA,” Markey wrote to the FTC. “I, therefore,…

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One of the creepiest series in YouTube history is now a decade old and can’t seem to die


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Ten years ago this week, a video appeared on the Something Awful forum describing a trove of unlabeled tapes that had been recorded as part of a student film project. The director had supposedly instructed for the tapes to be burned. But years after the project was suddenly ended, the video’s narrator reveals that he kept them intact and decided to parse through the footage.

“Should I find anything in any of them I will upload it to keep as a permanent record,” the narrator wrote. Within a few uploads, the audience was subjected to a slew of clues as to what drove the director to cancel the project. The tapes were filled with shots of eerie symbols and a tall, creeping figure without a face and dressed in a suit.

These videos were some…

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The Senate will hold a hearing next month on Facebook’s Libra currency


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On Wednesday, the Senate Banking Committee announced it will be holding a hearing next month to question witnesses over Facebook’s new cryptocurrency initiative, Libra.

The hearing, entitled “Examining Facebook’s Proposed Digital Currency and Data Privacy Considerations,” is set for July 16th, but the committee has yet to nail down who will be testifying. The plans come shortly after Facebook formally announced its new cryptocurrency and blockchain ecosystem, Libra. Facebook’s plan was met with harsh criticism from lawmakers, as well as calls for investigation into the potential consumer risks.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is the top Democrat on the committee and was one of the first lawmakers to question Facebook’s new product. “Facebook…

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