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Russia didn’t hack the U.S. election. It didn’t need to.


Good morning! This Wednesday, the final report on 2020 election interference is in, Wikipedia's looking for new ways to make money, Google's lowering its cut of developer fees and apparently "physical NFTs" are a thing now.

Also, we have a new episode of the Source Code podcast! We talked with Dylan Field, the CEO of Figma, about his experience in the crypto art world and why he sold his favorite CryptoPunk (and former Twitter avatar) for $7.5 million last week.

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The Big Story

A hack-free election hack

The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence released its official report on foreign interference in the 2020 U.S. election. It found that lots of foreign governments tried to influence the election, and that they didn't need to use hackers to do so. Those two things should feel like a paradox, but they're not. And that's scary.

Other parts of the U.S. intelligence world disagree with a few of the report's characterizations, but here's essentially what the ODNI found:

  • Social media was the real battleground. Russian trolls tried to get Trump elected; Iranian trolls tried to prevent that. A number of other countries around the world tried to influence the election as well.
  • Notably absent? China. "We assess that China did not deploy interference efforts and considered but did not deploy influence efforts intended to change the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election," the report said. China is looking to improve its relationship with the U.S. rather than sow more chaos, the investigation found, and figured it could get its way by other means.
  • There's no evidence of hacking at all, a reversal from 2016, when Russians hacked the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign. From the report: "We have no indications that any foreign actor attempted to interfere in the 2020 US elections by altering any technical aspect of the voting process, including voter registration, ballot casting, vote tabulation, or reporting results."

Russia seems to have been the biggest player here, trying to influence the election without directly trying to hack it. But Iran seems to have used the internet the most cleverly:

  • From the report: "In a highly targeted operation, Iranian cyber actors sent threatening, spoofed emails purporting to be from the Proud Boys group to Democratic voters in multiple U.S. states," and produced a Proud Boys-like video alleging voter fraud.
  • The Iranian government used "several thousand" social media accounts, some of which have been active since 2012, to sow discord and spread anti-Trump messages.

At least when it comes to elections, most foreign governments seem to think actively hacking the U.S. is too risky to be worth it. (Obama's retaliations in 2016 may have helped scare them off.) And they figure they can cause enough trouble through social media anyway. But when the election's over, the hacking commences: Just look at SolarWinds and Hafnium. It's simply different tools for different jobs.


Wikipedia as a service

Wikipedia is ready to get paid. And not in the "Jimmy Wales in a pop-up begging you for donations once a year" way, either. In an attempt to monetize its unique place in the internet world, Wired reported, Wikipedia is becoming something a lot like a SaaS company.

Its new arm is called Wikimedia Enterprise, and it "provides paid developer tools and services that make it easier for companies and organizations to consume and re-use Wikimedia data."

  • Companies use Wikipedia data for lots of things: to give useful search results on Google, to add helpful context on YouTube, to train AI models of all sorts. Wikipedia has long been a part of the internet's underlying infrastructure, really.
  • Companies normally that Wikipedia data in one of two ways. They can grab a biweekly download of the whole platform or a constant stream of everything being changed. Either way, Wikimedia's Lane Becker told Wired, it's "a lot of low-level work — cleaning and managing — which is very expensive."
  • Now it's planning to offer a more structured, cleaner, more compatible version of that data to paying customers, along with better customer support. It'll even host data on AWS to make it easier.

How big this will get is hard to say. Wikipedia's still going to make all those free tools freely available, it's just hoping companies like Google eventually decide they'd rather pay to get good data than do the work themselves. And Wikimedia told Wired it expects donations to still make up most of its revenue, so those Jimmy Wales pop-ups aren't gone just yet.

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People Are Talking

Platforms should have clear rules but shouldn't be held responsible for the whole stack, Patrick Collison said:

  • "We expect platforms that are built on Stripe to implement their own moderation and governance policies and we think that they should have the latitude to do so … Otherwise, we're ultimately all at the mercy of the content policies of our DNS providers, or something like that."

In leaked internal audio from Parler, Chief Policy Officer Amy Peikoff revealed the company's approach to misinformation:

  • "We are not going after misinformation in any way. We are not being the arbiters of truth."

Australia is going to keep being an early test for all kinds of tech regulation, Atlassian's Scott Farquhar said:

  • "Whether that is encryption and privacy, antitrust involving media with big technology. Skilled migration is a big issue for us. There's a lot of things that are being tested out here in Australia that I think are having global implications."

Turning broadband into a public good is an increasingly popular idea, Rep. Jamaal Bowman said:

  • "There's a lot of momentum and energy around making this a utility, not just from members of Congress but from organizers on the outside. The grassroots is really behind this."

Samsung co-CEO Koh Dong-jin said the chip shortage is going to hurt business, as the company said it might skip the Galaxy Note this year:

  • "There's a serious imbalance in supply and demand of chips in the IT sector globally."

Making Moves

Jade Raymond is starting a new game studio called Haven. She had been running Google's Stadia studio but left when that was shut down.

Colin Huang left Pinduoduo's board, where he'd been chairman. CEO Chen Lei will replace him. The company announced it had 788.4 million active buyers last year, making it bigger than Alibaba.

Lucas Moody is Twitter's new head of security technology, joining from Rubrik.

Megan Clasen is starting a digital ad firm after running a huge campaign that helped President Biden get elected.

Laércio Albuquerque is Cisco's new VP of Latin America after running operations in Brazil for the last few years.

In Other News

  • Amazon promised workers that it wouldn't interrogate or surveil union activists as part of a 2016 settlement with the NLRB over a Virginia unionization effort, The New York Times reported. That raises questions about whether it's keeping those promises in the current Alabama union fight.
  • U.K. Uber drivers will now get minimum wage, pensions and vacation pay after the company reclassified them all as "workers." It called for competitors to do the same, a big change in tone after it lost a Supreme Court battle on how to classify drivers.
  • France is investigating Clubhouse over data privacy concerns. News outlets have previously reported on privacy concerns with the way the app handles users' phone contacts, prompting a change in the app earlier this week.
  • Speaking of Clubhouse: Wired just published a good profile, with lots of access to the otherwise press-shy founders.
  • Google halved its Play commission to 15% on the first $1 million of developers' annual revenue. Apple did the same thing last year.
  • Facebook will pay writers to use its new publishing platform, Axios reported. The platform will reportedly be free and will allow writers to create websites and newsletters.
  • Only 14.2% of VC decision-makers are women, according to Axios. That's better than last year's 12.4% figure, though, and a lot better than 2016's 5.7%.
  • Riot found no evidence of wrongdoing from Nicolo Laurent, its CEO who had been accused of sexual misconduct.
  • Foxconn might use its Wisconsin plant to make electric vehicles, it said. If true, that would be a big development for the controversial facility.

One More Thing

Ja Rule Fyre Festival NFT

NFT of the day

It's called "F.or Y.our R.eal E.ntertainment," Ja Rule commissioned it, and it was made to commemorate the Fyre Festival, which absolutely no one on Earth would ever want to commemorate. It's not a digital object, but rather a 48" x 60" oil-based artwork. We used to call these "paintings," but now apparently we're going with "physical NFT?" All I know is it's currently $50,000, and I'd rather pay that much for an NFT of that picture of the sandwiches.

Today's Source Code was written by David Pierce, with help from Anna Kramer and Shakeel Hashim. Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to, or our tips line, Enjoy your day; see you tomorrow.

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