Facebook is still dealing with the fallout from a New York Times report outlining the company’s strategy to fight back against criticism, particularly its work with Definers Public Affairs, an opposition research firm with ties to the Republican Party.
That work included a document that Definers sent to reporters suggesting ties between George Soros and progressive political groups criticizing Facebook. The Times story described the broad strokes of the claims made by Definers, but the document itself has not been shared with the public — until today, when it was published by BuzzFeed.
At this point, the contents aren’t particularly revelatory, but the document is still worth reading, since it’s at the center of the recent controversy.
It’s titled “Freedom From Facebook Potential Funding,” and it begins:
Recently, a number of progressive groups came together to form the Freedom From Facebook campaign which has a six-figure ad budget. It is not clear who is providing the large amount of funding for the campaign but at least four of the groups in the coalition receive funding or are aligned with George Soros who has publicly criticized Facebook. It is very possible that Soros is funding Freedom From Facebook.
The document goes on to point out connections between Soros and several of the groups involved in Freedom From Facebook, and it notes Soros’ public criticism of Facebook and Google. On its own, the document seems “largely innocuous” (as BuzzFeed put it), but it’s become controversial for potentially playing into anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Soros.
A Freedom From Facebook spokesperson has said that no money from Soros was used to fund the campaign — in fact, Axios reported that its initial funding came from David Magerman, a Pennsylvania-based philanthropist and former hedge fund executive.
According to BuzzFeed, this is one of at least two documents that Definers prepared after Soros made critical remarks about Facebook and Google at Davos.
Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have denied knowledge of Definers’ work for Facebook, and outgoing head of public policy Elliot Schrage took responsibility for hiring the firm. But Facebook later acknowledged that Sandberg had asked the communications team to research Soros’ financial ties after he criticized the company, and reporting by my colleague Taylor Hatmaker suggests that Sandberg was more aware of Definers’ work than initially acknowledged.
When reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson pointed us to Schrage’s post and said the company has nothing further to add.
Stoop is looking to provide readers with what CEO Tim Raybould described as “a healthier information diet.”
To do that, it’s launched an iOS and Android app where you can browse through different newsletters based on category, and when you find one you like, it will direct you to the standard subscription page. If you provide your Stoop email address, you’ll then be able to read all your favorite newsletters in the app.
“The easiest way to describe it is: It’s like a podcast app but for newsletters,” Raybould said. “It’s a big directory of newsletters, and then there’s the side where you can consume them.”
Why newsletters? Well, he argued that they’re one of the key ways for publishers to develop a direct relationship with their audience. Podcasts are another, but he said newsletters are “an order of magnitude more important” because you can convey more information with the written word and there are lower production costs.
That direct relationship is obviously an important one for publishers, particularly as Facebook’s shifting priorities have made it clear that they need to “establish the right relationship [with] readers, as opposed to renting someone else’s audience.” But Raybould said it’s better for readers too, because you’ll spend your time on journalism that’s designed to provide value, not just attract clicks: “You will find you use the newsfeed less and consume more of your content directly from the source.”
“Most content [currently] is distributed through a third party, and that software is choosing what to surface next — not based on the quality of the content, but based on what’s going to keep people scrolling,” he added. “Trusting an algorithm with what you’re going to read next is like trusting a nutritionist who’s incentivized based on how many chips you eat.”
So Raybould is a fan of newsletters, but he said the current system is pretty cumbersome. There’s no one place where you can find new newsletters to read, and you may also hesitate to subscribe to another one because it “crowds out your personal inbox.” So Stoop is designed to reduce the friction, making it easy to subscribe to and read as many newsletters as your heart desires.
Raybould said the team has already curated a directory of around 650 newsletters (including TechCrunch’s own Daily Crunch) and the list continues to grow. Additional features include a “shuffle” option to discover new newsletters, plus the ability to share a newsletter with other Stoop users, or to forward it to your personal address.
The Stoop app is free, with Raybould hoping to eventually add a premium plan for features like full newsletter archives. He’s also hoping to collaborate with publishers — initially, most publishers will probably treat Stoop readers as just another set of subscribers, but Raybould said the company could provide access to additional analytics and also make signing up easier with the app’s instant subscribe option.
And the company’s ambitions go beyond newsletters. Raybould said Stoop is the first consumer product from a team with a larger mission to help publishers — they’re also working on OpenBundle, a bundled subscription initiative with a planned launch in 2019 or 2020.
“The overarching thing that is the same is the OpenBundle thesis and the Stoop thesis,” he said. “Getting publishers back in the role of delivering content directly to the audience is the antidote to the newsfeed.”
Security researchers have found flaws in four popular connected storage drives that they say could let hackers access a user’s private and sensitive data.
The researchers Paulos Yibelo and Daniel Eshetu said the software running on three of the devices they tested — NetGear Stora, Seagate Home and Medion LifeCloud — can allow an attacker to remotely read, change and delete data without requiring a password.
Yibelo, who shared the research with TechCrunch this week and posted the findings Friday, said that many other devices may be at risk.
The software, Hipserv, built by tech company Axentra, was largely to blame for three of the four flaws they found. Hipserv is Linux-based, and uses several web technologies — including PHP — to power the web interface. But the researchers found that bugs could let them read files on the drive without any authentication. It also meant they could run any command they wanted as “root” — the built-in user account with the highest level of access — making the data on the device vulnerable to prying eyes or destruction.
We contacted Axentra for comment on Thursday but did not hear back by the time of writing.
A Netgear spokesperson said that the Stora is “no longer a supported product… because it has been discontinued and is an end of life product.” Seagate did not comment by our deadline, but we’ll update if that changes. Lenovo, which now owns Medion, did not respond to a request for comment.
The researchers also reported a separate bug affecting WD My Book Live drives, which can allow an attacker to remotely gain root access.
A spokesperson for WD said that the vulnerability report affects devices originally introduced in 2010 and discontinued in 2014, and “no longer covered under our device software support lifecycle.” WD added: “We encourage users who wish to continue operating these legacy products to configure their firewall to prevent remote access to these devices, and to take measures to ensure that only trusted devices on the local network have access to the device.”
In all four vulnerabilities, the researchers said that an attacker only needs to know the IP address of an affected drive. That isn’t so difficult in this day and age, thanks to sites like Shodan, a search engine for publicly available devices and databases, and similar search and indexing services.
Although the researchers described the bugs in moderate detail, they said they have no plans to release any exploit code to prevent attackers taking advantage of the flaws.
Their advice: If you’re running a cloud drive, “make sure to remove your device from the internet.”
Meet the OrCam MyEye, a tiny wearable device that can give you secret powers if you have vision problems. It’s a tiny device that you clip to your glasses. It has a camera, a speaker and a cable that hooks up to a bigger device that is roughly the size of a smartphone. After that, you can use the OrCam MyEye to read stuff for you. We visited OrCam’s office in Jerusalem to try out… Read More
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The League, a dating app that users have to apply to join, has a new feature that could help with one of the most agonizing parts of the online dating process — wondering if someone’s deliberately ignoring you or if they just haven’t opened the app in a while. Specifically, The League is importing an idea from other messaging services — read receipts, which tell you… Read More
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How to Get People to Read Your Stuff: 8 Simple Copywriting Tips, Backed by Science by @BelleBethCooper
I’m pretty lucky to have Leo around, because there are lots of times when I’m stuck on a title for a post, or the perfect word for something I’m writing.
Even better, though, is having some data to give me a rough guide on where to start. I found some really useful data about crafting the perfect blog post or copy, and hopefully you’ll find it useful too.