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Election battle moves to cyberspace

An increasingly bizarre election plays out on the Internet with spy stories, fake ads and misinformation. An insurance firm wants to read your Facebook posts, one girl really shouldn’t be allowed near a phone, and a beleaguered granny fights back against copyright meanies.


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As we get down to the wire in the U.S. election, the accusations of tech tomfoolery are reaching epic proportions.

FBI director James Comey wrote that the agency had discovered more emails that may or may not be relevant to the now-closed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. “The FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant,” the report said, leading the Twitterverse to instantly conclude that the emails were super-significant and that Clinton was under investigation again.

Meanwhile, the world was in uproar after an expose in Slate questioned a link between servers using a domain managed on behalf of Donald Trump and servers in a Russian bank. This led people to wonder whether the Donald was in fact a Russian asset. The article has since been critiqued and an update written. Do we really need such subterfuge? The whole election is frankly crazy enough.

Vote-from-home ad plagues gullible voters

Trolls and airheads haven’t been the only ones to chatter on Twitter about the election — apparently, others have mounted a concerted campaign to try and stop people voting. An unknown party was tweeting ‘vote from home’ messages claiming that Clinton voters could happily vote by text. We strongly suspect anyone that tries will already have drilled a headphone socket into their iPhone.

Twitter initially responded to complaints by saying that these ads didn’t violate its terms of service. After Buzzfeed picked up the story, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey responded, saying “Not sure how this slipped past us, but now it’s fixed.” Which is a phrase social media CEOS should really just turn into a badge, or something.

Insurance firm wants to monitor Facebook posts

No social media posts would slip past insurance firm Admiral, if it had its way. The firm planned to use Facebook posts to analyze the personalities of car owners and help set the price of their insurance. The firm killed the Facebook analysis part of the service, called firstcarquote, after the social media giant said it violated user privacy.

Talking of which, we’d love to know what Admiral’s algorithms would make of Miranda Rader’s social media usage. The Texas A&M University student was happily minding her own business while sending a topless selfie to her boyfriend on Snapchat. Unfortunately, she was driving at the time with an open bottle of wine in the cupholder, and rear-ended a police patrol vehicle.

Dingbat of the week

We strongly considered Ms. Rader for dingbat of the week, but eventually awarded it to a Canadian company instead, which hounded an 86-year-old granny for online piracy. Christine McMillan was accused of downloading a pirated version of the first-person shooter Metro 2033, in a letter from Canadian Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement (CANIPRE), which is a for-profit firm enforcing anti-piracy letters on behalf of copyright holders. The bewildered octogenarian insisted that she hadn’t downloaded the game, as blasting zombies wasn’t really her thing.

Copyright enforcement regulations in Canada now mandate that ISPs send enforcement letters to alleged downloaders. It feels like blackmail and makes people cry, according to some. When the BBC inquired with CANIPRE on McMillan’s behalf, the firm said she could pay $5,000 and make the whole thing go away. Apparently followed by the phrase “Nice collection of porcelain figurines you have there, ma’am. Shame if anything happened to it.”

Image: Free Digital Photos

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