Author: Taylor Hatmaker

Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos may leave Facebook over disinformation drama

Facebook’s latest public controversy may have claimed its first major casualty. According to reporting from The New York Times, the social media giant is poised to part ways with its high-profile chief security officer, Alex Stamos. That story suggests that Stamos created friction within Facebook by pushing for an aggressive approach to exploring and disclosing to the public the platform’s role in disseminating Russian state-sponsored disinformation to users. Stamos apparently initiated his exit in December 2017 but was convinced to stay on through August to avoid the hit to public perception, The New York Times reports.

Stamos weighed in over the weekend, arguing that Facebook’s revelations around the Trump campaign-linked data analytics firm did not qualify as a “breach” in the technical sense. That term generally connotes hacking or a technical compromise of some kind, though the Cambridge Analytica situation involves a since-deprecated lax API and a business model that revolves around collecting massive troves of personal data and doling it out in ways often far from transparent to the average user.

Stamos, who joined the company in June 2015 after spending nearly a year-and-a-half wrestling with privacy woes at Yahoo, is generally well-respected within the security community. According to a story from Reuters in 2016, Stamos reportedly left his position as the top security officer at Yahoo after the company complied with a secret U.S. intelligence directive that allowed the government to search Yahoo user emails via purpose-built software.

Stamos’s presence at Facebook — and his at-times candid explanations of the internal workings and reasoning of the often opaque social network — projected the sense that the company was taking user privacy seriously. Depending on what happens next, the security officer’s absence at Facebook is likely to speak volumes, too.

Update: In a tweet, Stamos contradicted reporting that he is on the way out at Facebook, claiming that his role has shifted. TechCrunch has reached out to Facebook for clarification on Stamos’s role. 

Twitter is killing its Twitter for Mac desktop client

 On Friday, Twitter announced that it would abandon its lesser-loved Mac app, directing users to instead. The company declared that it will refocus its efforts on “a great Twitter experience that’s consistent across platforms” rather than continuing development for Twitter for Mac, a message that doesn’t sound great for TweetDeck lovers. Read More

Special counsel Robert Mueller indicts Russian bot farm for election meddling

 Special Counsel Robert Mueller has just handed down a set of indictments, charging 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations with interference in the U.S. presidential election in efforts dating back to 2014. The indictment names the Internet Research Agency, a bot farm and disinformation operation based out of St. Petersburg as one of the sources of the fake accounts meant to… Read More

Facebook and Twitter face a short deadline on Russian bot #ReleaseTheMemo reports for Congress

 Two leading Democrats in Congress are calling for new disclosures from Facebook and Twitter about Russian disinformation campaigns on their platforms. In a letter, Rep. Adam Schiff and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, minority leads on the House Intel and Senate Judiciary committees respectively, called for the two tech companies to release any information that have about Russian ties to the recent… Read More

Facebook is testing a city-specific section of its app to elevate local news and events

 In an effort to up its signal to noise ratio, Facebook may go local. The company is testing a new area of its app called “Today In,” a mix of city-specific events, announcements and local news. For its new local hub, Facebook is starting with a small batch of test markets. Those initial cities are New Orleans, LA; Olympia, WA; Billings, MT; Binghamton, NY; Peoria, IL and Little… Read More

This bot unrolls Twitter threads and turns them into readable blog posts

 For as much as its users love to hate on their platform of choice, Twitter occasionally really comes through with a deep dive on a hot topic that provides actual, meaningful insight. Such an event is almost enough to remind us why we all fritter our lives away on there to begin with. Remember when we used to blog? Like, we issued thoughts in sentences and paragraphs instead of a series of… Read More