Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

We now have a closer look at Facebook researchers' "WW" project, a parallel-world version of the social network populated entirely by bots, via The Verge's James Vincent.

Why it matters: The simulation of the entirety of the social network is designed to help the company anticipate and forestall new forms of online mischief and scams using a copy of Facebook's actual codebase.

  • The simulation app is "headless" — that is, there's no front-end user interface, no pages to read, just data interacting with other data to produce more data.
  • Facebook's goal is to run experiments to learn how to discourage bad behavior in the "real" Facebook — like city planners simulating traffic flow so they can know where best to place speed bumps.
  • The researchers say they haven't yet produced findings that have been used to improve the "real" Facebook's defenses, but they expect that to happen by the end of the year.

The big picture: Simulation is one of the most fundamental and oldest tricks a computer system can perform.

  • Facebook itself is a single world-sized system that users interact with.
  • Now the company has a second version of the system to help it find new ways to get users in the first one to do what it wants them to do.

Our thought bubble: You could look at this as an ingenious and well-intentioned effort on the part of Facebook's engineers to deter bad behavior on the scale of the world's largest digital platform.

  • But you could also conclude that Facebook is a colossal Skinner box, and we are 2.6 billion rats.

Go deeper

Tech's reluctant road to taking on Trump

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests and a looming election have brought long-simmering conflicts between tech platforms and President Trump to a boil, as Facebook, Twitter and other services are starting to take presidential misinformation seriously.

What's happening: Wary of becoming arbiters of political speech, tech's platforms have carved out a range of exceptions and immunities for Trump and other political leaders — but that accommodation is coming undone.

Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as running mate

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Joe Biden announced Tuesday that he has chosen Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) as his running mate — the first Black woman to be named to a major-party U.S. presidential ticket, and potentially the first woman vice president if Biden defeats President Trump.

The big picture: Harris was probably the safest choice Biden could have made among his running mate finalists. She has a national profile and experience with elected office, was vetted and tested in the Democratic presidential primaries and can boost Biden's fundraising.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 20,158,258 — Total deaths: 738,063 — Total recoveries: 12,388,686Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,116,791 — Total deaths: 164,137 — Total recoveries: 1,670,755 — Total tests: 62,513,174Map.
  3. States: Florida reports another daily record for deaths State testing plans fall short of demand.
  4. Axios-Ipsos poll: 1 in 2 has a personal connection to COVID-19.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. 🏈 Sports: Big Ten scraps fall football season due to coronavirus.