U.S. Companies and Ransomware
Investigating Algorithmic Injustice
Tracking Censorship and Surveillance
A surge in identity theft during the pandemic underscores how easy it has become to obtain people’s private data. As hackers are all too happy to explain, many of them are cashing in on it.
After a WBUR/ProPublica investigation revealed Boston Police bought spy tech using funds hidden from the public, city legislators called for a review of the transaction.
The technology that enables ransomware may be new, but extortion and ransom are not. So why is this happening now? And can it be stopped? A new podcast from ProPublica and MIT Tech Review aims to find out.
Massachusetts police can seize and keep money from drug-related arrests. No one has publicly reported how that money gets spent. A WBUR/ProPublica investigation found that Boston police used over $600,000 of it on a controversial surveillance device.
Chinese propaganda officials have tried to shape the global discussion of the tennis player Peng Shuai’s accusations and disappearance, but their top-down strategy has largely stumbled.
Google kicked Bannon off YouTube because of his violent rhetoric but still sent ad dollars to his website that promotes misinformation about the election and the pandemic.
Phony job advertisements are proliferating on the internet, often as part of identity-theft schemes. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to them.
From Facebook to LinkedIn to Indeed, ads are popping up that promise well-paying jobs — if applicants provide their Social Security numbers and other details up front. Scammers then use the information to apply for unemployment benefits.
From suspiciously low prices to sellers who demand payment in gift cards, there are multiple warning signs a Marketplace listing might be fraudulent.
Facebook Grew Marketplace to 1 Billion Users. Now Scammers Are Using It to Target People Around the World.
ProPublica identified thousands of Marketplace listings and profiles that broke the company’s rules, revealing how Facebook failed to safeguard users.
WhatsApp assures users that no one can see their messages — but the company has an extensive monitoring operation and regularly shares personal information with prosecutors.
Citing a ProPublica report on the high numbers of complaints about involuntary Chime account closures and other problems, Sherrod Brown asked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to lay out a plan for overseeing neobanks.
Chime, a “neobank” serving millions, is racking up complaints from users who can’t access their cash. The company says it’s cracking down on an “extraordinary surge” in fraudulent deposits. That’s little consolation to customers caught in the fray.
Thousands of videos of Uyghurs denying abuses against their community are showing up on Twitter and YouTube. They’re part of an elaborate influence campaign by Chinese officials to counter reports of human rights violations in Xinjiang.
Five months before DarkSide attacked the Colonial pipeline, two researchers discovered a way to rescue its ransomware victims. Then an antivirus company’s announcement alerted the hackers.
Addressing Rape in Four Minutes or Less: Dating App Reps Left Unprepared to Respond to Assault Victims
At OkCupid and other dating apps, moderators are expected to resolve customer claims of sexual assault in minutes — and with no special training.
Senator Says Censorship in Turkey Raises “Serious Questions” About Facebook's Commitment to Free Expression
After ProPublica reported that Facebook blocked a militia group targeted by Turkish forces, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee demanded that Mark Zuckerberg provide answers to more than a dozen questions.
Dogged by questions about sexual violence, Match Group — which owns Tinder, Hinge, Match.com, OkCupid, PlentyofFish and others — is investing in a company that aims to enable background checks on apps. Some legislators say it’s not enough.
The cyberbreach at a plant in Oldsmar, Florida, which could have resulted in a mass poisoning, was a reminder of a disturbing reality: Despite a decade of warnings, thousands of water systems around the country are still at risk.
Sheryl Sandberg and Top Facebook Execs Silenced an Enemy of Turkey to Prevent a Hit to the Company’s Business
Amid a 2018 Turkish military campaign, Facebook ultimately sided with Turkey’s demand to block the page of a mostly Kurdish militia. “I am fine with this,” Sandberg wrote.
Jeff Kosseff wrote the book on Section 230, the law that gave us the internet we have today. He talks with ProPublica Editor-in-Chief Stephen Engelberg about how we got here and how we should regulate our way out.
The U.S. Spent $2.2 Million on a Cybersecurity System That Wasn’t Implemented — and Might Have Stopped a Major Hack
The software company SolarWinds unwittingly allowed hackers’ code into thousands of federal computers. A cybersecurity system called in-toto, which the government paid to develop but never required, might have protected against this.
As the coronavirus spread in China, the government stage-managed what appeared on the domestic internet to make the virus look less severe and the authorities more capable, according to thousands of leaked directives and other files.
A Trump video targeting Florida’s growing Venezuelan American population falsely claimed that Venezuela’s socialist regime wanted Biden to win. But President Nicolás Maduro has said that he opposed both candidates.
Trump ganó Florida tras publicar un anuncio falso que vinculaba a Biden con los socialistas venezolanos
Un anuncio de Trump dirigido a la creciente población venezolano-estadounidense de Florida declaró falsamente que el régimen socialista de Venezuela quería que Biden ganara. Pero el presidente Nicolás Maduro ha dicho que se opone a ambos candidatos.
Al menos 800,000 residentes de estados clave recibieron robocalls pidiéndoles que se “quedaran en casa” el día de las elecciones. El FBI está investigando.
Una empresa que rastrea las llamadas automatizadas, conocidas en inglés como *robocalls*, dijo que se hicieron más de tres millones de llamadas el 3 de noviembre que contenían un mensaje críptico, instando a la gente a “permanecer seguros y quedarse en casa". Las tácticas se suman a otras que buscan confundir a los votantes en este ciclo electoral.
Robocalls Told at Least 800,000 Swing State Residents to “Stay Home” on Election Day. The FBI Is Investigating.
A firm that tracks robocalls said more than 3 million calls were made on Nov. 3, which contained a cryptic message instructing people to “stay safe and stay home.” The tactics join other efforts to confuse voters this election cycle.
The malware attack, which sent fake email replies to voters and businesses, spotlights an overlooked vulnerability in counties that don’t follow best practices for computer security.
Two months out from Election Day, Facebook’s changes to its political ad rules cause additional problems for the government officials running the vote.
Brands have long been able to bid for the premier slot at the top left of Amazon’s listings, but during the pandemic the online retailer has begun using this position for its private-label items, raising antitrust concerns.
How Political Advertisers Target You on Facebook
Millions of Americans Might Not Get Stimulus Checks. Some Might Be Tricked Into Paying TurboTax to Get Theirs.
Congress gave the IRS the job of sending out coronavirus rescue checks. But the underfunded agency is struggling, while for-profit companies like Intuit have started circling, hoping to convert Americans in need into paying customers.
The company gives extremists and neo-Nazis banned from other platforms unprecedented access to a mainstream audience — and even promotes their books.
With schools closed because of coronavirus, students are expected to learn remotely. But what happens when your school district doesn’t have the internet access to keep you in school? Here’s one district’s paper trail.
Our analysis found that websites in dozens of towns and counties voting on Super Tuesday have security weaknesses. Richmond, Va., still uses software from 2003.
Intuit has amped up its misleading digital advertising in the wake of a new IRS agreement that bars tax prep companies from burying the agency’s Free File program.
Prompted by press reports, including a recent article by Columbia Journalism Investigations and ProPublica, a House subcommittee announced that it would examine the use of dating apps by minors and the prevalence of sex offenders on such sites.
For years, the company has moved billions in profits to Puerto Rico to avoid taxes. When the IRS pushed it to pay, Microsoft protested that the agency wasn’t being nice. Then it aggressively fought back in court, lobbied Congress and changed the law.
Wary of alarming investors, companies victimized by ransomware attacks often tell the SEC that “malware” or a “security incident” disrupted their operations.
A system supposedly meant to root out voter fraud was beset by security and accuracy issues.
We’re not done digging. Now we need your story.
We found more than 50 government-funded channels from countries including Russia, Iran and the United States that the Google subsidiary failed to flag.
Thanks to Michael Gillespie, an obscure programmer at a Nerds on Call repair store, hundreds of thousands of ransomware victims have recovered their files for free.
Millions of Americans’ Medical Images and Data Are Available on the Internet. Anyone Can Take a Peek.
Hundreds of computer servers worldwide that store patient X-rays and MRIs are so insecure that anyone with a web browser or a few lines of computer code can view patient records. One expert warned about it for years.
A Virginia cybersecurity company asserted many states were vulnerable to election system intrusions. Critics called the report flawed and questioned whether the company was looking to exploit legitimate anxiety about election security.
How Kentucky Gambled for Hundreds of Millions of Dollars From a Broadband Program It Didn’t Qualify for
Former Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration was warned multiple times that its rural broadband bet wouldn’t get certain federal funds. Meet the officials and conflicted consultants who didn’t listen and doomed the plan.
Tech moguls like Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt have gotten unprecedented access to the Pentagon. And one whistleblower who raised flags has paid the price.
The state’s Department of Financial Services will look into allegations, first exposed by ProPublica, that advertisers can exclude users by race, gender, age and other characteristics that are protected under federal law.
Facebook says its rules prohibit hate in secret groups, but it won’t discuss how it moderated the offensive Border Patrol posts — if it did anything at all.
An in-depth look at software that claims to spot aggression from your voice.
Aggression Detectors: The Unproven, Invasive Surveillance Technology Schools Are Using to Monitor Students
In response to mass shootings, some schools and hospitals are installing microphones equipped with algorithms. The devices purport to identify stress and anger before violence erupts. Our testing found them less than reliable.
We recently wrote about two U.S. firms that promised high-tech ransomware solutions but instead paid the cyber-attacker. A U.K. company appears to do the same.
The Trade Secret: Firms That Promised High-Tech Ransomware Solutions Almost Always Just Pay the Hackers
As ransomware attacks crippled businesses and law enforcement agencies, two U.S. data recovery firms claimed to offer an ethical way out. Instead, they typically paid the ransom and charged victims extra.
Has your organization been hit by ransomware? Did you hire a data recovery firm? Do you know how an attack works from the inside? We’d like to hear from you.
Governor Matt Bevin's opponents on both sides of the aisle are coming after him for failing to address KentuckyWired delays.
Gov. Matt Bevin has offered no solution to the boondoggle he inherited, a plan to bring high-speed internet to Kentucky’s remote corners.
More than a dozen cases were dismissed after defense attorneys asked to examine, or raised doubts about, computer programs that track illegal images to internet addresses.
HUD Sues Facebook Over Housing Discrimination and Says the Company’s Algorithms Have Made the Problem Worse
The charge comes a week after Facebook made major changes to its advertising platform, and two years after our reporting raised the issue.
The sweeping changes come two years after ProPublica’s reporting, which sparked lawsuits and widespread outrage.
The National Association of Secretaries of State is asking the social media companies to direct prospective voters to government sites after claims TurboVote occasionally failed to properly process registrations, among other missteps.
Our tool had let the public see exactly how users were being targeted by advertisers. The social media giant urged us to shut it down last year.
Do You Know Someone Struggling With Video Gambling? Help Us Understand Video Slot and Poker Addiction in Illinois.
More than 30,000 video gambling machines are scattered across Illinois, and gambling addiction appears to be on the rise.
A ProPublica analysis found that the state was busily fixing problems in its voter registration hours after the office of Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, had insisted the system was secure.
We’ve identified 12 ad campaigns in which energy, insurance and other industries masked their sponsorship of political messages on Facebook.
Starting today you can download a version of the Firefox browser with the Facebook Political Ad Collector built in.
We’re highlighting examples from our Facebook political ad collection that are interesting because of how they’re targeted, what they say or how they can help explain how Facebook’s advertising system works — and how it can be gamed.
A review by ProPublica found that 15 employers in the past year, including Uber, have advertised jobs on Facebook exclusively to one sex, with many of the ads playing to stereotypes.
While attention has focused on the potential to penetrate voting machines, a ProPublica survey found that more than one-third of counties overseeing toss-up congressional elections have email systems that could be vulnerable to hacking.
The well-funded group behind the campaign, the Israel On Campus Coalition, has links to the Israeli government.
Hacking conference organizers said kids had hacked “exact clones” of state election reporting websites, but that didn’t happen.
The social network is removing 5,000 options that regulators say enable advertisers to discriminate.
Settling an investigation by the state of Washington prompted by a ProPublica story, the social networking company said it would no longer allow advertisers to exclude users by any federally protected categories.
See how political advertisers target you. Use this database to search for political ads based on who was meant to see them.
The social network is letting some political ads slip through without the required verification, while blocking promotional posts by news organizations, which are pushing back.
Facebook announced a new system to make political ads more transparent. It’s got holes.
It can be done but it’s not easy.
The Arizona special election campaign of Hiral Tipirneni targeted ads at people across the country who “liked” the pages of liberal icons.
Senators held Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to account today, grilling him while often citing our investigations. You can help keep Facebook accountable, too.
For years, Congress and federal regulators have allowed the world’s largest social network to police itself — with disastrous results. Here are four promising reforms under discussion in Washington.
From Australia to Scandinavia, our Political Ad Collector is holding advertisers accountable by revealing pitches that only a targeted slice of Facebook users would otherwise see.
Starting in Canada, Facebook is rolling out a global program to prevent foreign meddling in elections. Ads targeted to a narrow audience may be seen by other Facebook users — if they look hard enough.
To make American campaigns more transparent, we’ve built a tool to display political ads that are rarely seen outside their selected audience of Facebook users.
We’re asking a federal court for the code behind a technique that critics say may have put innocent people in prison.
Most tech companies have policies against working with hate websites. Yet a ProPublica survey found that PayPal, Stripe, Newsmax and others help keep more than half of the most-visited extremist sites in business.
We wrote software to find the external domains contacted by popular websites that have been identified as extremist by either the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League.
The web services company Cloudflare appears to have ended its relationship with the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.
A trove of internal documents sheds light on the algorithms that Facebook’s censors use to differentiate between hate speech and legitimate political expression.
Americans face unprecedented threats to the digital safety of their personal information. We offer nine tips to foil hackers, ransomware, online trackers, data brokers and other menaces.
Artificial Intelligence is only as good as the patterns we teach it. To illustrate the sensitivity of AI systems, we built an AI engine that deduced synonyms from news articles published by different types of news organizations.
As we enter the era of artificial intelligence, machines regularly conduct experiments on human behavior. Here’s a look at how software used by the New York Times and New York Post uses you to test their headlines.
The phone you use, the computer you own and the ZIP code you live in can all be factors in what prices you see when shopping online. Welcome to the world of mass customization.
We live in an era of increasing automation. But as machines make more decisions for us, it is increasingly important to understand the algorithms that produce their judgments.
There’s software used across the country to predict future criminals. And it’s biased against blacks.
A new kind of tracking tool, canvas fingerprinting, is being used to follow visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.