Somaliland, the self-declared republic in northwestern Somalia, has announced it will restrict access to social media sites during its upcoming presidential elections. The electoral commission has asked phone companies to block more than a dozen social media outlets in order to limit hate speech and “fake news”. It includes Facebook, Twitter,WhatsApp, Snapchat, Viber, Flickr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Duo, Google Plus, among others. The commission blamed what it called “external forces” for spreading “inciteful and tribalistic” information (in Somali) and decried its inability to control the proliferation of these messages. As a result, the sites will be down starting from when voting ends on Nov. 13 up until the results are declared.
National: Senators say ‘cyber war’ with Russia continues far beyond ’16 election | St. Louis Post-Dispatch
U.S. Senators privy to the nation’s secrets declared Wednesday that the United States faces what one called a “cataclysmic” cyberwar with Russia and other hostile entities, and these senators were highly critical of the American-based but global social media platforms on which that struggle is taking place. Capping two days of hearings in which executives from Facebook, Twitter and Google were hauled before various congressional committees probing Russian influence on the 2016 election, Senate Intelligence Committee members debunked as simplistic the narrative that Russian efforts in cyberspace were aimed solely at getting Donald Trump elected president. Instead, senators in both parties described a complex and ongoing effort to undermine western democracies as a continuation of the Cold War on platforms that barely existed a decade ago. The intent is to “sow conflict and discontent over this country,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who represents the Silicon Valley where the companies are headquartered.
Congress will put Facebook, Twitter and Google under a public microscope Tuesday about Russia’s use of their networks to meddle in the 2016 election, a day after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal investigation disclosed its first indictments and guilty plea. Senators want to know how the companies failed to keep Russians from exploiting their networks and using fake accounts to spread chaos and disinformation. The three companies’ general counsels will appear before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday, with Facebook poised to say Russians bought 3,000 Facebook ads mostly with rubles and that posts reached the newsfeeds of 126 million users. “If someone is paying you in rubles to place a political ad, or an ad that is intended to sow the seeds of discontent and discord, that ought to be a red flag,” Senate Intelligence panel member Susan Collins of Maine said in an interview Monday. “How much more of a tipoff do you need?”
National: Proposed law would regulate online ads to hinder Russian election influence | Ars Technica
A bipartisan group of federal lawmakers wants to make it more difficult for Russia to influence US elections. To that end, the group has drawn up legislation requiring Internet-based companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to disclose who is buying political advertisements on their platforms and maintain those records after elections. The Honest Ads Act would heap on the Internet some of the same types of political advertising rules that apply for TV, radio, and print. The legislation is designed to somehow enforce federal election laws that forbid foreign nationals and foreign governments from spending money in the US to influence elections.
National: Despite backlash over political ads, Facebook’s role in elections will only grow | Los Angeles Times
Negative headlines. Congressional inquiries. Corporate apologies. The heightening scrutiny surrounding Facebook after it allowed Russian trolls and inflammatory political ads to spread on its network is the kind of thing companies would do anything to avoid. But don’t expect it to harm the tech giant’s bottom line. As the political world looks to apply the lessons of Donald Trump’s victory to future campaigns, one of the few clear conclusions is that Facebook played an outsized role in propelling the candidate to his improbable win. The company’s ability to affordably target hyper-specific audiences with little to no transparency gives it a distinct advantage over other forms of media, researchers and political operatives believe.
Alabama: Russian invasion? Roy Moore sees spike in Twitter followers from land of Putin | Montgomery Advertiser
At least 1,100 Russian-language accounts followed Republican U.S. Senate nominee Roy Moore’s Twitter account over the past few days. Moore’s team says they want to know why. “We had absolutely nothing to do with this,” said Drew Messer, a spokesman for the campaign, on Monday. “We’ve never purchased followers or dummy ads on Twitter. We’ve asked Twitter to look into this.” The increase helped push Moore’s following on Twitter from about 27,000 accounts on Friday to over 47,000, ahead of Democratic nominee Doug Jones, who has about 39,000 followers on Twitter. Many of the new followers for Moore appear to be bots, with only a handful of followers and generic profile art, including photos of singer Avril Lavigne.
Google and Facebook are looking to make an early imprint on legislation being drafted in the House and Senate that would force them and other online networks to disclose information about the buyers of political ads. Lobbyists from the Silicon Valley behemoths have met with the staffs of Sens. Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Derek Kilmer, all of whom are drawing up bills that would impose new regulations on the industry, according to Democratic aides and company representatives. The Senate bill is expected to be formally introduced next week. It is not clear when the House legislation, which has not been previously reported, will be introduced. Facebook has talked with those working on the bill, a company source confirmed, characterizing Facebook as willing to continue discussing it as the process moves along. A spokesperson for Google declined to comment.
Editorials: Let’s Consider The Risks of Applying Election Ad Rules to the Online World | Electronic Frontier Foundation
Social media platforms are avenues for typical Americans—those without enough money to purchase expensive television or radio ads—to make their voices part of the national political dialogue. But with news that a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin maintained hundreds of Twitter accounts and purchased $100,000 worth of Facebook ads aimed at influencing American voters—and specifically targeting voters in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan—these same social media companies are now at the center of a widening government investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This controversy has also sparked renewed calls for more government regulation of political ads on social media and other online platforms—including creating news rules for Internet ads that would mirror those the FEC and FCC currently apply to political ads on TV, cable, and radio. In the past, policymakers proposed essentially extending the broadcast rules to the Internet without adequately and thoughtfully considering the differences between the broadcast and online worlds. As a result, we argued for limiting the burden on online speakers from campaign finance regulations in both 2006 and 2014.
Voting Blogs: 20th Century Law Can’t Regulate 21st Century Technology | Ciara Torres-Spelliscy/Brennan Center for Justice
Unless you’ve been residing in a cave for the past 12 months or so, it is overwhelmingly evident Russia tried to covertly manipulate the 2016 election. The latest to announce that they were unwitting participants in this campaign is Google, which revealed Monday that the Russians had surreptitiously spent tens of thousands of dollars in ads on YouTube, Gmail, and ads associated with Google search. This effort has not only drawn the attention of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, who reportedly will hold hearings November 1. Of all the online providers involved in this affair, none have come in for as much criticism as Facebook. Two days after Trump’s election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told a crowd at a tech conference at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Ca., “the idea that fake news on Facebook…influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.”
National: Google uncovers Russian-bought ads on YouTube, Gmail and other platforms | The Washington Post
Google for the first time has uncovered evidence that Russian operatives exploited the company’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the company’s investigation. The Silicon Valley giant has found that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on ads by Russian agents who aimed to spread disinformation across Google’s many products, which include YouTube, as well as advertising associated with Google search, Gmail, and the company’s DoubleClick ad network, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that have not been made public. Google runs the world’s largest online advertising business, and YouTube is the world’s largest online video site. The discovery by Google is also significant because the ads do not appear to be from the same Kremlin-affiliated troll farm that bought ads on Facebook — a sign that the Russian effort to spread disinformation online may be a much broader problem than Silicon Valley companies have unearthed so far.