The Wrong Way to Talk About a Shooter’s Manifesto

Less than 20 minutes before a mass shooting in El Paso that left 20 people dead and dozens more wounded, the alleged gunman appears to have published a manifesto on 8chan, the notorious internet forum. If verified, it will be the third such document to accompany a mass shooting since March. Previously, manifestos were published by the alleged Christchurch shooter, who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand in March, and the gunman who opened fire and killed one person at a synagogue in Poway, California, in April. They, too, used 8chan to deliver their epistles of hate. Both times, and now again with El Paso, extremism researchers have pleaded the same case: Don’t amplify the message. It’s …

Alphabet-Owned Jigsaw Bought a Russian Troll Campaign as an Experiment

For more than two years, the notion of social media disinformation campaigns has conjured up images of Russia's Internet Research Agency, an entire company housed on multiple floors of a corporate building in St. Petersburg, concocting propaganda at the Kremlin's bidding. But a targeted troll campaign today can come much cheaper—as little as $250, says Andrew Gully, a research manager at Alphabet subsidiary Jigsaw. He knows because that's the price Jigsaw paid for one last year. As part of research into state-sponsored disinformation that it undertook in the spring of 2018, Jigsaw set out to test just how easily and cheaply social media disinformation campaigns, or "influence operations," could be bought in the shadier corners of the Russian-speaking web. In …

In the Face of Danger, Were Turning to Surveillance

When school began in Lockport, New York, this past fall, the halls were lined not just with posters and lockers, but cameras. Over the summer, a brand new $4 million facial recognition system was installed by the school district in the town’s eight schools from elementary to high school. The system scans the faces of students as they roam the halls, looking for faces that have been uploaded and flagged as dangerous. "Any way that we can improve safety and security in schools is always money well spent," David Lowry, president of the Lockport Education Association, told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. Two months before those students filed into their schools in Lockport, Taylor Swift performed a concert at the …