Interesting Things I Come Across
Edition 043
Read time: 2 min 
The Republican Party has uploaded a photo of you!
We start this week with newly-elected U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 28, and the incredible headline: ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ FAKE NUDE PHOTOS DEBUNKED BY FOOT FETISHIST. In short, after nude photos allegedly of AOC appeared online, the good people at WikiFeet (a real website you can look up in your own time) were quick to debunk to hoax:

"Because we can’t dorsi- or plantarflex our 2nd-5th toes independently I knew it wasn’t a matter of the toe being bent. I thought that maybe she has some form of brachydactyly but her WikiFeet page has clear evidence to the contrary. So it was clear to me that it wasn’t her feet."

Welcome to a generation of politicians with embarrassing historic social media
Allow me to segue to this article at Motherboard, which makes the good point that AOC is one of the first elected officials to have been active on social media most of her life. People of my generation growing up and entering politics will no doubt be haunted by old Facebook statuses, Tweets, messages, and so on. Republican politicians recently tried to make a big deal out of a video of AOC dancing with college friends, which is rather benign in the greater scheme of damaging online content. 

More interesting is this Republican attack ad against Jon Ossoff, who was but 30 years old when he campaigned for a House seat in a Georgia district. The video uses old social media clips of college-era Ossoff dressing up in Star Wars gear and singing, claiming this shows he's "not ready" and "not serious" enough to govern.

To date, the norms for media reporting on public figures' old social media posts seems to be highlighting character flaws, or hypocrisy, such as when athletes get sent to teams they’d previously trashed on Twitter, or when politicians go back on their word or do something they'd previously criticised an opponent for.  

This raises an interesting question: when should private social media posts be considered fit for the public domain? 

When to report?
More vexing is the question of reporting on deliberate misinformation campaigns. Last year in New Zealand, media reported on a public denial from the Police confirming that rumours about Clarke Gayford, husband of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, engaging in criminal conduct were not true. The rumours themselves, which centred on false drug dealing allegations, were not disclosed.

Ahead of the 2016 U.S. election, media reported widely on Wikileaks’ release of Democratic National Committee emails, which were most likely hacked by Russia. On the other hand, a similar tactic failed in France, where no major media outlets reported on the existence of a major hack and document dump of Macron in the days leading up to the 2017 election. 

I suspect a French approach will become the norm in future, notwithstanding First Amendment considerations in the U.S., but this would also raise important questions about who has the right to decide what information is part of a foreign information warfare campaign, and what is not. 
About Interesting Things I Come Across 
Interesting Things I Come Across is a weekly, self-explanatory newsletter. My goal is to share thoughtful ideas with clever people in no more than 500 words. Replies are encouraged and corrections are welcomed. I don't necessarily endorse the Things I write about, unless explicitly stated.

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