Countering baseless claims online has become a global challenge, former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) director Chris Krebs told my colleague Ellen Nakashima at a Washington Post Live event on Thursday.

“Every government out there U.S., European, elsewhere has to be thinking about disinformation as a strategic threat,” Krebs said, calling disinformation one of two key priorities he would flag for his successor, Jen Easterly.

Krebs is no stranger to rebutting baseless online claims.

Former president Donald Trump fired Krebs in November after he refuted Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. (In January, Krebs and former Facebook chief security officer Alex Stamos founded the Krebs Stamos Group.)

In his conversation with Ellen, Krebs doubled down on the importance of combating misinformation, even at a local level. He praised officials in Maricopa County, Ariz., who have denied claims that the election was stolen.

“But ultimately some folks, unfortunately, are too far gone,” Krebs said. “I think there’s an alternate-reality bubble that’s set up around this,” he added, noting that he has seen the “alternate realities that have evolved” firsthand when he dives into Twitter and sees what some people are saying.

Baseless claims about issues like coronavirus vaccines can have real-world consequences, and major social media platforms are key players.

The problem has plagued social media platforms despite a year of fighting it, my colleagues Gerrit De Vynck and Rachel Lerman reported last week.

President Biden has blamed social media companies like Facebook for allowing baseless claims about coronavirus vaccines to fester through a small group of accounts, and he initially called out the company for “killing people” but later clarified his comments.

President Biden on July 19 said that Facebook was not killing people, but that coronavirus vaccine misinformation on its site was killing people. (The Washington Post)

Facebook said it has made significant progress in fighting coronavirus misinformation by promoting trusted information and removing more than 18 million “instances of covid-19 misinformation.”

Disinformation efforts are getting increased attention after Biden suggested Russia is trying to interfere in the 2022 midterm elections.

Look what Russia is doing already about the 2022 elections and misinformation,” Biden said in a speech delivered to the U.S. intelligence community this week. “It’s a pure violation of our sovereignty.”

Its not clear whether Biden was briefed on a specific threat to the election, and a senior administration official declined to clarify the comments.

But Krebs warned that Chinese disinformation efforts can be much more insidious and subtle than those emanating from Moscow. 

“They work it at a local level,” Krebs said. “Where Russia tends to be more of the arsonist, theyre much more subtle in terms of laying their groundwork.” Krebs also cited FBI statistics that the bureau opens a new investigation into China every 10 hours and called Chinese efforts a “remarkable campaign.”

Under Krebs’s leadership, CISA pushed back against foreign influence campaigns on social media and used creative tactics to educate Americans on what to trust online. 

One of those initiatives came in the form of an infographic warning Americans to be cautious about how foreign adversaries like Russia could exploit Americans’ divisions, in an example scenario: pizza toppings and the “war on pineapple.” 

Krebs also touted CISA’s “Rumor Control” initiative, which debunked false claims about the 2020 election and suggested it could be scaled with subject matter expertise.

“I think CISA has an opportunity, just like disinformation-as-a-service is emerging[through] Rumor Control-as-a-service, pre-bunking, debunking disinformation as it hits us on those infrastructure-related and national security-related topics,” Krebs said. “I think there’s plenty of opportunity there.”

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Advocacy groups said the FTC should crack down on surveillance technology sold by Amazon and other companies.

The 48 groups warned that the technology threatens people of color and the data collected by companies like Amazon entrenches the company’s monopoly power, Motherboard’s Edward Ongweso Jr. reports. The groups went on to urge the Federal Trade Commission to “use its rulemaking authority to ban corporate use of facial surveillance technology, ban continuous surveillance in places of public accommodation, and stop industry-wide data abuse.”

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment from Motherboard.

FTC Chair Lina Khan is a longtime critic of the company. The e-commerce giant wants Khan to recuse herself from matters concerning the company, claiming she is not able to work on them with “an open mind.” 

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

TikTok is giving users quick, intimate looks at the Olympics, threatening NBC.

The video-sharing platform has surged in popularity, and its videos seem to be getting more views than NBC’s official Olympics coverage, Tatum Hunter reports. Olympic stars have also turned to the platform to share goofy and behind-the-scenes videos.

TikTok users have also shared Olympics clips before they’ve been aired on NBC. TikTok spokeswoman Megan Cook said the company takes copyright infringement “very seriously” and is “continuing to work closely with the [International Olympic Committee] and NBC to identify and take down content that violates their usage guidelines.”

Chinese ride-share giant Didi is thinking about delisting from the New York Stock Exchange to appease Chinese regulators.

The company is considering a move to go private in the wake of scrutiny by Beijing over data security practices, the Wall Street Journal’s Jing Yang reports. The company began thinking about delisting in mid-July as a regulatory crackdown worsened, according to people familiar with the matter.

Didi did not respond to a request for comment, though it later said on the microblogging platform Weibo that “rumors of Didi’s privatization are false” and that it is cooperating with an investigation by Chinese regulators. Chinese app stores were ordered to take down Didi apps in early July.

Rant and rave

Amazon reported strong earnings but missed expectations. NPRs Alina Selyukh:

CEO Andy Jassys absence was noted. The Hollywood Reporters Alex Weprin:

The New York Times’s Erin Griffith:

Workforce report

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  • Tech:NYC executive director Julie Samuels has stepped down. She plans to be involved in the search for her successor and said she will retain a seat on the organization’s board.

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  • NetChoice hosts an event on the implications of U.S. lawmakers and regulators adopting a European antitrust approach on Aug. 3 at noon.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation hosts an event on content moderation on Aug. 5 at 8 p.m.

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