Almost 48 million Twitter accounts are bots - Axios
Featured

Almost 48 million Twitter accounts are bots

Eric Stoller/JISC

A new study from The University of Southern California and Indiana University finds that up to 15% of active Twitter accounts are bots with built-in retweet and mention strategies that target specific groups. With 319 million monthly active users, that equates to roughly 48 million active bot accounts on Twitter, more than the population of California.

While the study highlights the malicious applications of bots, like spurring fake grassroots political support, It's important to note that not all bots are bad, and many help to shape user experience. A Twitter spokesman tells CNBC that some bots in the study's calculation "are extremely beneficial, like those that automatically alert people of natural disasters…or from customer service points of view."

Why it matters: One could argue that the prevalence of bots calls into question the validity of Twitter's monthly active user base, which has basically plateaued over the last year, despite the prolific use of the platform by the President. But bot traffic is not unique to Twitter, as Facebook and Google's "good bots" make up 8% of all internet traffic. The real concern is whether audience measurement companies should take bots into consideration as part of user traffic numbers, which affect advertising potential, if their behaviors mimic that of real human users.

Featured

What's at stake for China in North Korea

Andy Wong / AP

Amid escalating anxieties that North Korean tensions with the U.S. might lead to all out war, this week America sent its highest-ranking military officer to do the rounds to try and patch up differences and assuage some fears about military operations, visiting South Korea first, then China and Japan.

And it actually appears to have worked — Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford signed a deal with his Chinese counterpart to increase operational communication between the U.S. and Chinese militaries. The idea is to avoid miscommunication and inadvertent encounters in the military realm.

This comes on the heels of last week's South China Sea encounter, in which China told a U.S. warship to turn around 10 times, claiming the U.S. "violated Chinese and international law." But the Pentagon told Axios the move was lawful. (This probably didn't cause the visit, but they likely discussed it; the WSJ reports the visit was planned in advance of last week.)

Why it matters: Working with Beijing first is a key step to denuclearization of the North, as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger argued in the WSJ. This agreement also serves as a reminder that China's in a tough spot between the U.S. and North Korea.

  1. China's got a treaty with North Korea with a mutual defense provision, meaning if the DPRK were attacked, China would have to help, which is part of why China is wary of some U.S. behavior towards North Korea, Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, an expert on North Korea at the NYU SPS Center for Global Affairs, told Axios. Particularly, China is wary in the military realm. Plus, if China were to renege on the treaty, it would reflect poorly on them to other countries.
  2. China shares a border with North Korea: China is also concerned about what would happen if North Korea gets isolated too much due to strong sanctions regimes, which could lead to a collapse of the North and leave it outside of Beijing's orbit, Sidhu said. Plus if the North collapsed, China would likely have a humanitarian crisis on its hands with an influx of millions of refugees (and although China wouldn't say the reason, it's been building up its border with North Korea in the last few months.)
  3. China's concerns are also economic; it has a trade relationship with the North that's mutually beneficial.
  4. China might look responsible if chaos breaks out and risks deteriorating relations with the U.S. if it doesn't pressure Pyongyang enough, per Kissinger.

What to look out for: Diplomacy is about to get even tougher. Next week the U.S. and South Korea will be conducting their annual military exercises, involving tens of thousands of American and South Korean troops. That's despite pressure from China, Russia, and North Korea to refrain from running them since, to them, it looks like preparations to invade the North. Gen. Dunford said scrapping the drills is not on the table, which is not likely to go over well with Beijing.

Featured

Trump weighs in on Boston protests

Evan Vucci / AP

Thousands marched in Boston today in opposition of a planned "free speech rally," which invited "libertarians, conservatives, traditionalists, classical liberals, (Donald) Trump supporters or anyone else who enjoys their right to free speech," according to a group calling itself the Boston Free Speech Coalition, per CNN.

This comes exactly one week after the white nationalist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville last weekend. Trump had a terrible week of responding to the violent Charlottesville attack, but he quickly made a statement on Twitter about today's Boston protests:

Why it matters: Trump called for a "swift restoration of law and order" in his initial remarks about the Charlottesville rally last weekend. Today's response echoes that sentiment and, similar to his remarks on Tuesday doubling down on the "both sides" argument in which he only condemned the "alt-left," today Trump labeled the left-wing protestors as "anti-police agitators" deserving of "tough" police presence.

Featured

Trump's Breitbart endorsement could soon backfire

President Trump promoted Breitbart on Twitter this afternoon setting it up as a real news source in opposition to the rest of what he calls the fake, mainstream media. "Steve Bannon will be a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews...maybe even better than ever before. Fake News needs the competition!" he tweeted.
Why this could create challenges: The president is positioning Breitbart as Real News and they're about to ramp up a relentless campaign against half the West Wing — including the "globalists" and the "West Wing Democrats." That's Bannon-speak for Ivanka and Jared, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster and Dina Powell.
Mark down this prediction: Within a few weeks' time - actually probably sooner -West Wing officials will be anonymously telling reporters that Breitbart is a joke and its hit pieces shouldn't be taken seriously.
Featured

Immelt is frontrunner for Uber CEO

Steven Senne / AP

Recode's Kara Swisher reports that Jeff Immelt, the former chairman of GE, is the leading candidate to be the next CEO of Uber. Citing several sources, she reports the pick isn't final and others are still in the running, though none of them are women. A decision by the board could come in the next 2 weeks.

Why it matters: Swisher reports Immelt is a strong candidate because as an experienced CEO he'll be able to navigate the tumultuous board dynamic (ousted CEO Travis Kalanick is still a member and an investor is suing to get him removed), and he's well known to Wall Street ahead of a possible IPO.

Featured

WH lawyer: Mueller probe should end by Thanksgiving

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

"White House lawyer [Ty] Cobb predicts quick end to Mueller probe," by Reuters' Karen Freifeld:

  • Cobb to Reuters: "I'd be embarrassed if this is still haunting the White House by Thanksgiving and worse if it's still haunting him by year end ... I think the relevant areas of inquiry by the special counsel are narrow."
  • "Cobb [said] he talks to Trump on an almost daily basis and has been in contact with the team of Robert Mueller."
  • Understatement of the year: Cobb's "projected timeline ... suggests a speedier end to Mueller's probe than several outside experts believe is likely."
Featured

Sheldon Adelson privately supports anti-McMaster campaign

Kin Cheung / AP

Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson has privately told one of his allies that he supports a campaign that depicts H.R. McMaster as anti-Israel and seeks to remove him from his post as national security adviser.
In an email to Mort Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, Adelson writes: "Now that I have talked to somebody with personal experience with McMaster, I support your efforts."
Why this matters: Adelson is arguably the most influential donor in Republican politics, spending tens of millions of dollars each election season. He also funds the ZOA, which has been relentlessly attacking McMaster and leading an outside campaign to remove him from his post.

Adelson's spokesman Andy Abboud told Axios recently that Adelson had nothing to do with ZOA's campaign against McMaster and was "perfectly comfortable" with the job McMaster was doing.

Abboud was correct about Adelson being unaware of the campaign, though Adelson makes clear in his email to Klein that he was never "comfortable" with McMaster because he knew nothing about him.
What changed: Adelson tells Klein he spoke with Safra Catz, the Israeli-born CEO of Oracle. Adelson says Catz told him about a dinner she had recently with McMaster and "it certainly enlightened me quite a bit."
But Adelson also makes clear in his email that he doesn't want to be publicly associated with the campaign against McMaster. (Klein never claimed Adelson was supporting it, and while he accepts funding from Adelson he is known as an independent Israel hawk who cannot be corralled, even by his major donor.)
The pushback: A White House source points out that the Israel team at the White House, including noted right winger Ambassador Friedman, "feel McMaster is remarkably pro-Israel and he just had a meeting with senior Israeli officials where he won plaudits from them for understanding their unique security needs."
Featured

The Daily Stormer is back online

Virginia Mayo / AP

A 20-year-old is making sure the neo-nazi, white supremacist website the Daily Stormer continues to exist online, at least for now, after GoDaddy and Google kicked it off their servers last weekend. ProPublica talked to Nicholas Lim, the man behind Daily Stormer's resurrection, who said he's simply trying to protect free speech rights.

  • Lim didn't even know what type of content the Daily Stormer publishes before ProPublica reached out to him. "I think there's a lot of stupid ideas here,'' he told ProPublica. "But frankly it's not my decision or something I really want to get involved in."
  • Daily Stormer was kicked from its internet servers after publishing articles bashing the physical appearance of Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old woman killed by the man who drove his car through a crowd last weekend in Charlottesville.
  • Lim's company, Bitmitigate.com, just launched in March and he told ProPublica that resurrecting Daily Stormer could bring beneficial publicity to his company. "I thought it would really get my service out there."
Featured

Ben Sasse doubts if Trump can calm the nation after more violence

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska has been trying to understand last weekend's violence in Charlottesville, much like the rest of the country. Between his talks with constituents —one of whom is a self-described Trump supporter who told Sasse "we should admit that the President has done a bad job getting us through this" — and his discussions with family, Sen. Sasse has a prediction for what's next: By equalizing the "alt-right" and "alt-left," Trump's comments could lead to future clashes because his lousy responses don't calm tensions between the groups.

Key quote: "What will happen next? I doubt that Donald Trump will be able to calm and comfort the nation in that moment. He (and lots of others) will probably tell an awful combination of partial truths and outright falsehoods. On top of the trust deficits that are already baked so deeply in, unity will be very hard to come by."

Why it matters: Sen. Sasse has never liked Trump. He's consistently stood up to him, calling him a "megalomaniac strongman" and refusing to say whether or not he even considers Trump an adult. But his public (and blunt) Facebook message against Trump's handling of Charlottesville reflects a larger trend of Republican lawmakers distancing themselves from the president after his week of flip-flopping on whether to denounce violent white nationalists.

Other highlights from Sasse's post:

  • "I expect that violence will come when white supremacists and the alt-right fight anarchist groups aligned with the extreme left."
  • "Besides ability and temperament, I also worry that national unity will be unlikely because there are some whispering in the President's ear that racial division could be good politics for them."

Why it really matters: September is just a few days away and Trump will need to push forward (and pass) various important legislation that will require the support of Republican lawmakers. (Think: increasing the debt ceiling, passing a budget to avoid a government shutdown, moving ahead on and introducing a proper tax reform plan, possibly revisiting the health care repeal.) Trump willingly ostracized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake when he repeatedly attacked them on Twitter. But reactions like Sasse's show that other Republicans, who Trump hasn't targeted in recent weeks, are now choosing to alienate themselves from the president after months of seeing how little he values words and uniting the country.

Featured

"Where racists are born"

Andrew Harnik / AP

Kim Kingsley former Politico COO, Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute, media consultant, Penn State proud writes about her native Scranton, Pa in a post titled "My Life Lessons in Rust Belt Racism":

Anyone who knows me would say I wear my blue-collar roots as a badge of honor. This very white, working-class town and my big Irish family taught me a whole lot. My now 90-year-old, World War II veteran grandfather worked three jobs at a time — a high school janitor by morning; a railroad worker by night; and a father of nine, 24 hours a day.
Anyone sitting on a branch of this family tree learned the importance of family, faith and friendships — what it means to be loyal, what it means to have work ethic, and how to fight for the little guy.
But it's also in this town, like many white working-class cities across the U.S., where racists are born.

"After this weekend's events, former Washington Post colleague and founder of Define American, Jose Antonio Vargas tweeted:

"Dear Well-Meaning White People Who Want Nothing To Do With Alt-Right: We, people of color, cannot carry this burden. You must engage."

He's absolutely right.

Like most of the white people whose hearts and minds are on the right side of history, I'm sickened by what happened in Charlottesville. It's the same feeling I had when nine black church-goers were shot dead by a white supremacist in South Carolina, and the same feeling I had when the not guilty verdicts came down after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Freddie Gray.

I spent the hours following these events "engaging," tweeting quotes from the most prominent civil rights activists like Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin or my favorite poet Maya Angelou. My body filled up with so much rage that I felt like my retweets on a social media platform of like-minded followers would make a difference. But the right people were not listening. The right people were not reading my Twitter feed. What I hope we can do now is step away from our comfortable bubbles and get uncomfortable.

Let's really engage.

  • Let's speak up. Let's turn to our closed-minded family members who make us furious and ask them why. Let's turn to our open-minded friends and family who text you privately "can I post this?" and ask them why not.
  • Let's talk about race at the dinner table, in the office, on our social media feeds, at our evenings out with friends, or anywhere we might normally stay silent on this tough topic. We might feel like we are saying the wrong words, don't have words, or think that we will end up doing more harm than good. Let's try.
  • Let's stop patronizing businesses that we know are led by people with racists beliefs. That will surely put the issue at their front doorstep.
  • Let's not just stop laughing at racist jokes, but asking the person why it was told in the first place.
  • Let's look around, study the diversity of our workplaces and recognize our role in making it better. It's not on the handful of minority employees to create and execute a diversity plan. It's on the white people at every level across the company to take responsibility for creating a workplace of diverse people and views and for recognizing what a better company you will be for it.
  • Let's get proximate. I spent this week polling a number of family members, asking some how they ended up so open-minded growing up in our environment and asking others if they think it's possible to change. Those exchanges gave me more hope this past week than anything I've read online.

Let's begin turning the page in our country's history of racism and oppression, knowing that page will only turn if we, white people, acknowledge our role in turning it."

Read the whole thing here.


Featured

The Trump show's shrinking cast

Trump's circle is shrinking.

  • Going: Bloomberg: "Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has ended his role as a special regulatory adviser to President Donald Trump after questions were raised about potential conflicts of interests with his business dealings. In a letter to Trump posted Friday on Icahn's website, he denied profiting from his advice-giving role -- a possibility raised by Democratic critic."
  • Staying: "Trump's evangelical advisers sticking with him amid fallout," by AP Religion Writer Rachel Zoll: "Only one of Trump's evangelical advisers has quit the role ... The Rev. A.R. Bernard, pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn and one of the most influential clergymen in New York, announced his decision Friday night ... Trump won 80 percent of the white evangelical vote."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama's first chief of staff: "I'm going to nominate this White House for a Tony Award for the most drama. Not the best drama, but the most drama."