Each week, technology reporters and columnists from The New York Times review the week’s news, offering analysis and maybe a joke or two about the most important developments in the tech industry. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Sign up here.
Hi, I’m Adam Satariano, a tech correspondent based in London, and I don’t know who wrote the Op-Ed.
One moment during Jack Dorsey’s testimony in the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday perfectly summed up the upside-down world we’re living in. The alt-right provocateur Laura Loomer began yelling from the back of the hearing room while holding a floral-cased smartphone and pink selfie stick, to film and broadcast her outrage. Representative Billy Long, Republican of Missouri, broke into an auctioneer’s patter — he was once an auctioneer — to drown her out until security arrived.
It felt like the pathetic moment we deserve: A hearing, called ostensibly to explore the power of social media, being interrupted by one of social media’s worst creations, filming herself to presumably post on social media. The C-SPAN video went viral, of course, and in it there’s a woman sitting a few rows in front of Ms. Loomer, staring forward somberly, painfully enduring what’s happening. I’m with her.
Ms. Loomer wasn’t alone in making a spectacle. Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist behind Infowars, tussled with a senator.
On Thursday, Twitter said it would permanently suspend Mr. Jones’s account, as well as the account for Infowars. The company said Mr. Jones had posted new messages that violated its policies, which — if you need a reminder — prohibit direct threats of violence and some hate speech but allow deception or misinformation.
This weeks’ theater reinforced a point Farhad Manjoo makes in a column this week: A few giant technology platforms are serving as giant amplifiers for some voices — often in ways that aren’t beneficial for society.
The past week brought a new list of examples. In Libya, Facebook is being used as a weapon between warring groups. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has used the platform to spread false information about critics of his drug war. And in Germany, Facebook helped far-right activists organize an anti-immigrant protest that turned violent in the town of Chemnitz.
“If our Facebook page were to be deleted, we would disappear completely,” a German organizer told Buzzfeed.
Here’s some other news from the week:
■ To understand how actions by Facebook and YouTube can handicap a website, look no further than Mr. Jones. As Jack Nicas reports, his audience has tumbled since he was barred from the two platforms, and his podcast was pulled by Apple.
■ After Amazon briefly entered the trillion-dollar club, Karen Weise writes that its founder, Jeff Bezos, made his biggest political contribution: $10 million to a group that supports military veterans running for office.
■ Using a mix of facial recognition technology and a gifted team of human investigators with a remarkable skill for remembering faces, British authorities were able to comb through thousands of hours of surveillance videos to identify suspects in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter. Ellen Barry explains how they did it.
■ In need of a cleanse from news about politics and social media? Look no further than Erin Griffith’s story about the world of high-priced fitness equipment in Silicon Valley.
Adam Satariano is the European technology correspondent for The Times. Follow him on Twitter: @satariano