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More work for you, internet nags!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 by Jo Clifton

For all of you who nag your local media to get the story right, or yell at your computer when you find a false story (and spread the word), for all of you primed to fight for democracy, know that you are valued. Your acknowledgement came at a South by Southwest event called “Bad Guys Attacking Elections: It’s Not Just the U.S.” New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose thanked the people he called “an amazing community of pedants,” who worked to fight disinformation in the 2018 midterm elections. These people scour the internet and report on the deceptive, false and dangerous lies perpetrated by trolls with a political agenda in many countries. Roose joined panelists Graham Brookie, director and managing editor of the Digital Forensic Research Lab; Katie Harbath, public policy director for global elections at Facebook; and Moira Whelan, founding partner of BlueDot Strategies, to talk about the international problem of online manipulation of opinion. That includes an election in North Macedonia, Roose said: “It’s incredibly strange that the four of us are talking about safeguarding the Macedonian election …. The fact that the integrity of global elections relies on the efforts of a few people in California and New York and D.C. is just incredibly strange and I don’t think we should accept that as the status quo.” He added, “One of the things I will be looking for in the years ahead” will be local news outlets and global platforms willing to make changes to their products. One example was a decision by Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, to limit the number of times a message can be forwarded. The previous limit was 20, while the new limit is just five. Forwarding may be an easy way to spread news, but as Facebook learned, it’s also an easy way to spread lies and rumors. So, to those of you who are inclined to be cranky and nag your local media, we salute you and encourage you to spread your wings. There are an amazing number of elections around the world coming in April. You can help!

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