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Facebook and Google Struggle to Squelch ‘Crisis Actor’ Posts

The resilience of misinformation, despite efforts by the tech behemoths to eliminate it, has become a real-time case study of how the companies are constantly a step behind in stamping out the content. At every turn, trolls, conspiracy theorists and others have proved to be more adept at taking advantage of exactly what the sites were created to do — encourage people to post almost anything they want — than the companies are at catching them.PhotoA Facebook post calling Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, “crisis actors.” Facebook has said it will remove such content.“They’re not able to police their platforms when the type of content that they’re promising to prohibit changes on a too-frequent basis,” Jonathon Morgan, founder of New Knowledge, a company that tracks disinformation online, said of Facebook and YouTube.The difficulty of dealing with inappropriate online content stands out with the Parkland shooting because the tech companies have effectively committed to removing any accusations that the Parkland survivors were actors, a step they did not take after other recent mass shootings, such as last October’s massacre in Las Vegas. In the past, the companies typically addressed specific types of content only when it was illegal — posts from terrorist organizations, for example — Mr. Morgan said.Facebook and YouTube’s promises follow a stream of criticism in recent months over how their sites can be gamed to spread Russian propaganda, among other abuses […]

Rick Gates, Trump Campaign Aide, Pleads Guilty in Mueller Inquiry and Will Cooperate

While the government outlined the charges against him, Mr. Gates grew red, his eyes cast downward.It is unclear exactly what he might have to offer the special counsel, or what his cooperation with Mr. Mueller means for President Trump. Neither indictment indicated that either Mr. Gates or Mr. Manafort had information about the central question of the investigation — whether Mr. Trump or his aides coordinated with the Russian government’s efforts to disrupt the 2016 election.But Mr. Gates was present for the most significant periods of activity of the campaign, as Mr. Trump began developing policy positions and his digital operation engaged with millions of voters on platforms such as Facebook. […]

The Making of a No. 1 YouTube Conspiracy Video After the Parkland Tragedy

“I had no idea where all the attention was coming from,” said “mike m.” in an online chat interview with The New York Times. “I just noticed it started to take off.”Many commenters were confused. “Why is this on trending, especially on news? Nothing special,” wrote one. Others, tipped off by the caption calling Mr. Hogg an actor, knew exactly what they thought they were seeing: “Someone get this kid an Oscar!” one wrote.By noon on Wednesday, YouTube had pulled the video for violating its policy on harassment and bullying.It was not the first time that YouTube had served not just as a source of fringe conspiracy theories, but as an accomplice in their rapid spread.After the massacre in Las Vegas last October, YouTubers filled a void of information about the killer’s motives with dark speculation, crowding the site with videos that were fonts of discredited and unproven information, including claims that the tragedy had been staged.After a mass shooting last November at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., those seeking news about the event on YouTube were overwhelmed by videos falsely claiming it had been a “false flag” attack meant to spur gun control measures or a plot carried out by the so-called antifa (short for anti-fascist) movement.PhotoMr. Hogg speaking at a rally calling for more gun control after the shooting at his high school.Credit Jonathan Drake/ReutersIn the wake of this latest tragedy, which left 17 people dead at the school in Parkland, YouTube still seemed caught by surprise by the rise of another video meant to peddle a baseless theory.Continue reading the main story“In 2017, we started rolling out changes to better surface authoritative news sources in search results, particularly around breaking news events,” YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a statement. “We’ve seen improvements, but in some circumstances these changes are not working quickly enough. […]

Trump Promotes Arming Teachers, but Rejects Active Shooter Drills

The president made his comments as he convened law enforcement, state and local officials at the White House to discuss a range of proposals that could prevent future school shooting massacres. […]

How Unwitting Americans Encountered Russian Operatives Online

SubscribeLog In SubscribeLog InAdvertisementPoliticsHow Unwitting Americans Encountered Russian Operatives OnlineImageAbout a dozen people protested against what they called the threat of radical Islam at the Islamic Da’Wah Center in Houston in May 2016. They were met by a much larger crowd of counterprotesters. […]

Opinion: Can Your Hip Replacement Kill You?

These devices have helped countless people, and some have saved lives. But many others are harmed — and doctors and patients are at the mercy of manufacturers’ claims about the safety and efficacy of the devices. Medical interventions are now the third-leading cause of death in the United States, and devices play an increasing role in that statistic.Many people assume that the Food and Drug Administration requires rigorous testing of medical devices before they are approved, the same as the lengthy approval process it requires for new drugs. In fact, most high-risk devices on the market, including implants, have undergone no clinical testing at all.Although the standard for approval of a new drug usually calls for two randomized, controlled clinical trials, the standard for many medical devices is no standard at all. Since medical devices didn’t come under regulatory control by the F.D.A. until 1976, the agency simply grandfathered in all devices that were already on the market under a provision known as 510(k), which allows manufacturers to sell most new devices without requiring any clinical testing as long as the manufacturer says its product is “substantially equivalent” to an existing device.Newsletter Sign UpContinue reading the main storySign Up for the Opinion Today NewsletterEvery weekday, get thought-provoking commentary from Op-Ed columnists, the Times editorial board and contributing writers from around the world.Thank you for subscribing.An error has occurred. Please try again later.You are already subscribed to this email.View all New York Times newsletters.In addition to the 510(k) pathway, medical device companies can avoid clinical testing for the highest risk devices through the supplement pathway by telling the F.D.A. […]

Amid Calls from Trump, F.B.I. Renews Questions Over Clinton Foundation

As Mr. Mueller’s investigation has intensified, the president and his conservative allies have mounted blistering counterattacks trying to discredit the F.B.I. and federal prosecutors. Mr. Trump has described the investigation as a witch hunt and accused F.B.I. leadership under the bureau’s former director, James B. […]