Alex Pasternack
Alex Pasternack
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One secret weapon against extremism: Google ads promoting mindfulness

One secret weapon against extremism: Google ads promoting mindfulness

advertisementadvertisementadvertisementadvertisementadvertisementHow do you pull people out of the rabbit holes that lead to violent extremism, or keep them from falling in? If conspiracy-laced hate is another kind of pandemic pushed by online superspreaders, could we build something like a cure or a vaccine?advertisementadvertisementThe deadly Capitol riot on January 6 has set off a fresh scramble to answer these questions, and prompted experts like Vidhya Ramalingam to look for new ways to reach extremists—like search ads for mindfulness.“It’s so counterintuitive, you would just think...

Mar 11
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As a mob attacked the Capitol, Wikipedia struggled to find the words

As a mob attacked the Capitol, Wikipedia struggled to find the words

advertisementadvertisementadvertisementadvertisementadvertisementOn the afternoon of January 6, as a giant crowd began to swarm the U.S. Capitol, Jason Moore, a 36-year-old digital strategist, was at home in Portland, Oregon, switching between CNN and MSNBC. “I try not to get caught up in the sensationalism of cable news,” he says, but admits he had to watch. Soon, concern became shock. “I could not believe what I was witnessing, and also knew history was being made.”advertisementadvertisementSo he got to work. Moore is a veteran editor on Wikipedia, spending hours a day creating,...

Jan 14
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AI could help root out bad cops—if only the police allowed it

AI could help root out bad cops—if only the police allowed it

advertisementadvertisementAs someone who has seen a lot of awful, often fatal police encounters, Rick Smith has a few ideas for how to fix American law enforcement. In the past decade, those ideas have turned his company, Axon, into a policing juggernaut. Take the Taser, its best-selling energy weapon, intended as an answer to deadly encounters, as Smith described last year in his book, The End of Killing. “Gun violence is not something people think of as a tech problem,” he says. “They think about gun control, or some other politics, is the way to deal with it. We think, let’s just make...

September 15, 2020
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Facebook is quietly pressuring its independent fact-checkers to change their rulings

Facebook is quietly pressuring its independent fact-checkers to change their rulings

UPDATES: advertisementadvertisementWhen Mark Zuckerberg went to Washington for a rare, three-day charm tour last September, his schedule featured behind-closed-doors lunches, dinner with President Trump and Peter Thiel, and one-on-ones with lawmakers who, among other things, wanted to talk about a video on Facebook.advertisementadvertisementThe two-minute-40-second clip, titled “Abortion is never medically necessary,” had racked up a few thousand shares since it had appeared weeks earlier, and had already stirred up a litany of outrage. The anger wasn’t over the video’s misleading title or...

August 20, 2020
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The problem with Facebook’s plan to sign up 4 million voters

The problem with Facebook’s plan to sign up 4 million voters

UPDATES: advertisementadvertisementStarting Friday, everyone who’s voting age on Facebook in the U.S. will be part of one of the biggest-ever experiments in democracy: a reminder will appear at the top of their feed with more information about how to register to vote online or in person.advertisementadvertisementThe notice—with a link to your state’s registration website or to a nonpartisan partner if your state doesn’t have voter information readily available online—is part of what the social media giant calls “the largest voting information campaign in American history.” The aim, it says,...

July 3, 2020
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We spent a fortune on police body cams. Why haven’t they fixed policing?

We spent a fortune on police body cams. Why haven’t they fixed policing?

UPDATES: advertisementadvertisementThe footage from the evening of May 25th in Minneapolis was filmed by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier on her phone. Sixteen times over five minutes, George Floyd says he can’t breathe. A group of onlookers, including Frazier, hurl anguished pleas at the officers, including Derek Chauvin, a two-decade veteran of the force, who keeps his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. “I’m about to die,” Floyd says at one point. Chauvin tells him to relax.advertisementadvertisementFrazier’s video has sparked worldwide protests over a long history of brutal,...

June 17, 2020
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Before Trump, Cambridge Analytica quietly developed psy-ops for militaries

Before Trump, Cambridge Analytica quietly developed psy-ops for militaries

advertisementadvertisementBy Jesse Witt and Alex PasternackRevelations of dirty tricks and illicitly-harvested Facebook profiles turned Cambridge Analytica into a global symbol for the dark side of big data. Its actual impact on the insurgent victories of Donald Trump and Brexit, however, remains one of many mysteries surrounding the disgraced political consultancy. The company’s sophisticated-sounding electioneering tactics seemed to rely as much upon hype and marketing whimsy as they did upon behavioral science, Facebook ads, and murky pools of data.advertisementadvertisementBut documents...

September 25, 2019
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How Wikipedia’s volunteers became the web’s best weapon against misinformation

How Wikipedia’s volunteers became the web’s best weapon against misinformation

advertisementadvertisementFor a few minutes near the end of his first presidential debate, Mike Bloomberg was dead. At 9:38 p.m. Eastern time, a Wikipedia user named DQUACK02 added some text to the Wikipedia page for the former Democratic presidential candidate and New York City mayor:advertisementadvertisement“death_date   = {{Death date and age|2020|02|19|1942|02|14}}; |death_place  = [[Las Vegas, Nevada]], U.S.; |death_cause = [[Getting stabbed by Warren, Biden and Sanders]].”Within three minutes, another user named Cgmusselman had reverted the page back. By then the inevitable...

March 7, 2020
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