Cyber Saturday—The War on InfoWars

Good evening, Cyber Saturday readers.

A number of tech companies excised the rantings and ravings of Alex Jones, a pundit known for promulgating deranged conspiracy theories, from their digital repositories this past week.

On his website, InfoWars, Jones has been known to push baseless, detestable claims; for example, that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax and the September 11th attacks were orchestrated by the government. Fed up with Jones’ antics, Apple, Facebook, Spotify, and YouTube—with the notable exception of Twitter—corked his megaphone.

Add this confrontation to the longstanding tug-of-war between free speech and censorship on the web. One of my favorite contributions to this dialogue was supplied last year by Matthew Prince, CEO and cofounder of Cloudflare, a startup offering services that improve website performance and security. By policy, Prince’s firm chooses to protect all comers, whether that’s the webpage of an ecommerce startup or a black market site. Cloudflare has long maintained that policing the Internet is a job for, well, the police—not for itself.

Until Prince broke his own rule. As the CEO described it in a blog post, one day he felt a customer crossed the line. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi sympathizing site, said that Prince’s company was a secret supporter of its ideology. That went too far—and to prove the point, Prince gave the site the boot.

“Now, having made that decision, let me explain why it’s so dangerous,” Prince wrote. “Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.”

Subverting his own decision, Prince continued: “Law enforcement, legislators, and courts have the political legitimacy and predictability to make decisions on what content should be restricted. Companies should not.”

I don’t have an easy answer for these predicaments. But as I considered Facebook’s move, the words of the company’s parting security chief, Alex Stamos, rang in my ears. “We need to be willing to pick sides when there are clear moral or humanitarian issues,” he said in March, part of a letter addressed to Facebook that leaked publicly. “And we need to be open, honest and transparent about our challenges and what we are doing to fix them.”

Amen to that. What do you make of this debate, dear reader? I would like to hear from you. What is the right course of action for these companies? Is Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in the right for keeping Jones afloat, or not?

Do write. I welcome your thoughts.

Have a great weekend.

Robert Hackett

@rhhackett

[email protected]

Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. Fortune reporter Robert Hackett here. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.

How to See Your Company through the Eyes of the Employees

Have you ever seen the reality show Undercover Boss? I highly recommend it.

On the show, the CEO of a company, disguised in casual clothes and with a made-up back story, spends time working incognito alongside his or her front-line employees. There are the predictable inter-employee spats, miniature crises, and times when the CEO just doesn’t ‘get’ how to do some simple task.

It’s all in good fun. The dramatic buildup is to the big reveal at the end where the CEO takes off the disguise, rewards the freshly discovered unsung heroes of the business with money and promotions, shares and fixes lessons learned about the company.

What I recommend about Undercover Boss is not just that you watch it for fun, but that you copy it in your own life. I believe that the leader of an organization should find a way to see his or her business through the eyes of the employees, just as on the show.

I mean, consider: Do you really know what your front-line employees face on the job every day? It’s unlikely; even if you are present in the office, do you really think they behave the same when the boss is standing there?

So try it. Come in to the office in jeans one day, don’t introduce yourself, and try using the mail room. Contact your HR as a “new employee” and ask questions about health insurance and educational or learning opportunities. If you are in retail business, go to a store anonymously or call one with a question. How are people treating each other? The customer? Is the environment bustling and productive or lethargic and unhappy?

Of course you don’t always have to do the James Bond thing and show up in a disguise. Try the classic manage-by-walking-around strategy and make it a regular part of your schedule to go talk to people. Ask about what procedures (or lack thereof) get in the way of productivity. You’ll have to build trust, of course, that talking frankly and even complaining will not be penalized. That’s why you have to do it more than occasionally.

If you are the leader, chances are you don’t really know what it takes to get something done. You haven’t walked down all the pathways that are required to get an idea from Point A to Point B. You probably just say some variation of “Make it so,” and then you’re on to the next thing.

Meanwhile, your employees might be forced into a convoluted process that is not of their choosing. Sometimes they might even have to drop an initiative altogether, or hollow it out until it’s meaningless, simply because of an inefficient structure that gets in  the way.

How much more effective could you be if you really understood where lack of procedure and murky channels of communication are bogging things down? After all, you’re the person who has the clout to change all that–so you need to know.

What ends up falling by the wayside because no one is paying attention to the pathways? That’s why you need to get out your best hourly-worker costume and go find out. It might not make you a TV star, but it will definitely make you a Boss and Leader. (But if you want to see the real Undercover Boss show just for fun, check out the one when my colleague Bryon Stephens, CEO of my Extreme Leadership Institute, was the star of an episode.)

This Company Forces Its Employees to Unplug and It Can't Stop Growing

Culture is often overlooked when starting a business. You have to find customers, deal with growth, and tackle logistics, so culture isn’t always at the top of the list. In fact, most company cultures form unintentionally out of personality and habits because, even though you know it’s important, culture isn’t paying to keep the lights on when you’re just starting out.

Companies that last are the ones that build strong cultures from day one. Culture plays a key role in growth and agility in a constantly evolving marketplace. It can unify employees around a common goal, help you stay on course during tough times, and allow you to pivot quickly in new directions when needed — plus, it’s crucial to employee retention.

Build Off Existing Cultures That Work

As you might guess, building something that’s this essential to your company’s future isn’t exactly easy, and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. One way to start is by understanding who you are as a company and what you value; then find examples of other companies that share your values, so you can get a feel for policies and attitudes that might work for you, too.

A good example of culture driving success is Bandwidth, a communications platform as a service company. Based in Raleigh, North Carolina, it went public late last year and has since seen its stock steadily rise over 60 percent.

Like any company, Bandwidth is built around its founder, David Morken, who bootstrapped it over the first 10 years to a company of more 350 employees and a valuation over $630 million.

Every culture reflects its founder in some way. Morken values being active and unplugging for specific periods of time. The latter is somewhat rare, especially for a tech CEO, but his “vacation embargo” policy is one of the most progressive culture ideas in the country.

Align Your Culture With Your Values

Vacation time is mandatory at Bandwidth. You have to take it. The idea is simple: Bandwidth wants to keep its employees fresh and enable them to tackle challenges with new perspectives. That’s hard to do when you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions by notifications that always seem to demand your attention right this second.

One of the greatest challenges for organizations right now is focus. It’s great you can now work from home or your favorite cafe or anywhere else, but that connectedness doesn’t come without a price: We are constantly connected.

That’s not a bad thing inherently, but it can be if you’re expected to respond to an urgent email on a Saturday morning during your kid’s soccer game or while you’re on vacation. This constant, always-on state of connectivity leads to burnout. Consequently, it makes employees less motivated, less productive, and less excited to evangelize their own company.

No one wants to live like that. Morken, a father of six, said he values family time, so when he’s on vacation, he can’t be reached. Instead, he delegates responsibility and trusts his team. And every team member is afforded this same courtesy.

That’s incredibly uncommon, especially for company founders, but the policy is strictly enforced because everyone in the company values it and would want the same in return. It’s indicative of a culture of respect and trust, and it builds a bond throughout the organization.

Something to Remember …

Unless you play an active role in building a culture that reinforces your values, then you’re going to end up falling backward into reactive habits and processes that are going to be really hard to change down the road.

Your company is a reflection of you, so make sure your culture affords your employees the same things you’d want. The fastest way to lose trust and lower morale among your team members is to say one thing and then do another. Avoid that fallout by creating a culture that aligns with your values. The less you have to worry about fixing a broken culture, poor retention, and negative overall morale, the more you can concentrate on growing and thriving as a business now and in the future.

Doug Field, former Tesla engineering chief, returns to Apple

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Doug Field, who stepped down as the senior vice president of engineering at Telsa Inc (TSLA.O) last month, is returning to Apple Inc (AAPL.O), Apple told Reuters on Thursday.

Customers walk past an Apple logo inside of an Apple store at Grand Central Station in New York, U.S., August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Field will be working with Apple executive Bob Mansfield, who has been heading up Apple’s self-driving car program, Project Titan. Field and Mansfield previously worked together on engineering Apple’s line of Mac computers.

Field has spent the past five years at Tesla. In April, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a tweet that he had asked Field to manage the company’s engineering and production while Musk focused more time on Model 3 production.

But in May, reports emerged that Field was leaving the carmaker, which has raced to meet production targets for the Model 3. At the time, Tesla said Field was “just taking some time off to recharge and spend time with his family. He has not left Tesla.”

In July, Tesla announced that Field had left Tesla.

Apple has said little about the scope of its self-driving car project, but court documents filed last month said that as many as 5,000 people were authorized inside the company to access information about the project.

Reporting by Stephen Nellis; Editing by Chris Gallagher

China revamps national technology leadership group, tech shares rise

BEIJING (Reuters) – China has revamped a national leadership group charged with planning and studying its key technological development strategies, signaling potential policy shifts are underway as its technological ambitions fueled a backlash abroad.

FILE PHOTO: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at the China-EU Business Roundtable held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, Monday, July 16, 2018. Ng Han Guan/Pool via Reuters

The group, formerly called the “National Technology and Education leadership Group” under the state Cabinet, has been renamed without the mention of education to reflect a focus on technology, according to a circular published on the government’s website on Wednesday.

The circular said the change was due to “relevant arrangements” as required by work, without elaborating. Premier Li Keqiang, who had chaired the original group since 2013, will lead the renamed body with vice premier Liu He as deputy.

More assistance for China’s tech sector would mark the latest in a series of growth-boosting measures being rolled out by Beijing as an escalating trade war with the United States puts more pressure on China’s already slowing economy.

Shares of China’s leading tech firms rallied on Thursday, with investors expecting a policy boost for their sector.

An index tracking major IT firms rose more than 4 percent, while an index tracking major telecoms firms gained nearly 4 pct. China’s tech-heavy start-up board ChiNextP was up 3.4 percent.

Under a state-backed industrial policy known as Made in China 2025, China wants to catch up with rivals in sectors including robotics, aerospace, clean-energy cars and advanced basic materials.

The strategy, unveiled by China’s State Council in 2015, is at the core of China’s efforts to move up the value chain and achieve President Xi Jinping’s vision of turning the country into a global superpower by 2050.

However, foreign business groups have criticized the program as large-scale import substitution.

Under the plan, Beijing wants Chinese suppliers to capture 70 percent of market share by 2025 for “basic core components and important basic materials” in strategic industries.

Other members of the revamped leadership group include top officials from more than a dozen ministries and key central government bodies, including central bank head Yi Gang and State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission director Xiao Yaqing.

It was unclear how the member composition was different because the state Cabinet did not publish the notice announcing the former group’s members on its official website (www.gov.cn).

The State Council Information Office did not answer repeated phone calls seeking comment.

Reporting by Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo; Editing by Paul Tait

Musk plan to privatize Tesla pushes $2.3 billion of debt above conversion price

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s suggestion on Tuesday that he would like to take Tesla Inc private may provide something the electric car maker needs: a little debt relief.

FILE PHOTO: Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk pauses during a news conference in Tokyo September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

The 11 percent jump in Tesla’s stock price following Musk’s public musings on possibly buying the company from existing shareholders drove $2.3 billion of convertible debt past the level at which investors can swap them for stock at a profit.

Tesla shares ended the day at $379.57, within reach of their all-time high and more than 5 percent above the bonds’ conversion price of $359.8676.

“This is great news for any bondholder any way you spin it,” said Ross Gerber, chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management who owns both the convertibles and the stock.

“Most of these bonds are convertible notes, so we can choose to convert into stock at a huge profit,” he said. “This is a boon for any bondholder at Tesla, because most of the bonds are convertible notes.”

Convertibles give bondholders the right to trade their debt for equity after shares rise over a certain set price.

The $2.3 billion in debt that investors can now take in equity rather than cash removes pressure from the cash-strapped company which has about $9.5 billion in long-term debt, according to its latest financial statements.

After first issuing a tweet that he was mulling the idea of taking Tesla private, Musk on Tuesday said in a letter to employees that he would prefer to run Tesla as a private company to allow it to operate away from the attention it receives due to its notoriously volatile stock price.

While no final decision has been made, he suggested a buyout price of $420 per share.

Investors like billionaire George Soros now have the option to take advantage of Tesla’s recovering share price, as the company’s $920 million convertible bond due in March 2019 passed its $359.8676 conversion rate.

Soros Fund Management LLC took a $35 million stake in the 2019 Tesla convertible bonds in May of 2018.

The company’s $1.38 billion convertible bond due in March 2021 also passed the same conversion rate.

The convertibles have oscillated between being in and out of the money several times over the last year.

They first rose above the conversion price in June 2017 and Tesla’s stock price hit a record high of $389.61 in September last year. The stock then plunged to as low as $244.59 in April as the company struggled to meet production targets for its Model 3 sedan and Moody’s Investors Service cut Tesla’s credit rating deep into junk-bond territory.

Tesla on Aug. 1 reported that it had ended the second quarter with $2.78 billion in cash after spending $610 million in capital expenses, while its negative free cash flow narrowed.

Tesla has been burning through cash as manufacturing problems have thwarted its ability to meet production targets for its Model 3 sedan.

The company also has a $1.8 billion high-yield bonds, which rose to 92 cents on the dollar on Tuesday, up half a cent and the highest since mid-June. Following the Moody’s downgrade, the bond had fallen to as low as 86.25 cents on the dollar. It now yields 6.75 percent versus more than 7.7 percent in early April.

Reporting by Kate Duguid; Editing by Dan Burns and Clive McKeef

Elon Musk says taking Tesla private is 'best path,' shares jump

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Chief Executive Elon Musk said on Tuesday he is considering taking Tesla Inc private in what would be the largest deal of its type, moving the electric car maker out of the glare of Wall Street as it goes through a period of rapid growth under tight financial constraints.

“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” Musk said on Twitter bit.ly/2Om3gn3. At $420 per share, a deal would be worth $72 billion overall.

In a letter to Tesla employees published more than an hour later on the company’s blog here, Musk explained that going private would be “the best path forward.” Such a move – over which no final decision had been made – would let Tesla “operate at its best, free from as much distraction and short-term thinking as possible,” he wrote.

Tesla shares closed up 11 percent at $379.57, slightly below their all-time high.

Asked on Twitter whether Musk would continue to be CEO under such a scenario, he replied there would be “no change.”

Musk has been under intense pressure this year to turn his money-losing, debt-laden company into a profitable higher-volume manufacturer, a prospect that has sent Tesla’s valuation higher than that of General Motors Co.

The company is still working its way out of what Musk called “production hell” at its home factory in Fremont, California, where a series of manufacturing challenges delayed the ramp-up of production of its new Model 3 sedan, on which the company’s profitability rests.

The Silicon Valley company faces a make-or-break moment in its eight-year history as a public company as competition from European automakers is poised to intensify with new electric vehicles from Audi and Jaguar, with more rivals to follow suit next year.

Meanwhile, Tesla has announced plans to build a factory in Shanghai, China, and another in Europe, but details are scarce and funding unknown.

Going private is one way to avoid close scrutiny by the public market as Musk and the company face those challenges. Musk has feuded publicly with regulators, critics, short sellers and reporters, and some analysts suggested that less transparency would be welcomed by Musk.

“Musk does not want to run a public company,” said Gene Munster of Loup Ventures, as Tesla’s ambitious mission makes it “difficult to accommodate investors’ quarterly expectations.”

Musk owns nearly 20 percent of the company. He said in his letter to employees he did not seek to expand his ownership.

A price of $420 per share would represent a nearly 23 percent premium to Tesla’s closing price on Monday, which gave the company a market value of about $58 billion.

In his letter, Musk suggested a choice for shareholders of selling their shares for $420 each or remaining investors in a private Tesla. He said he hoped all current investors would remain were the company to go private.

He made no mention in his tweets nor his letter where the funding for a deal would come from, and the letter did not discuss funding for the plan.

Like any other investor, Musk is beholden to securities laws and several securities attorneys told Reuters he potentially could face lawsuits if it was proven he did not have secure financing at the time of his tweet.

(GRAPHIC-Market value of Tesla, Ford, GM: tmsnrt.rs/2n4mFjh)

BIGGEST GO-PRIVATE DEAL

If Musk were to succeed in taking Tesla private, it would be the largest leveraged buyout of all time, beating the record set by the $45 billion deal for Texas power utility Energy Future Holdings, which ended in bankruptcy in 2014.

Raising both the debt and equity required for such a deal would be a challenge. Many major Wall Street bankers contacted by Reuters said on condition of anonymity they were not aware of Musk’s plans ahead of his tweets, and several expressed skepticism that a leveraged buyout of Tesla could be financed given the company’s negative cash flow.

“It’s unfathomable to me that anyone would finance the acquisition of such a liability-laden company that is losing so much money and have massive capex requirements going forward,” said Mark Spiegel, portfolio manager of hedge fund Stanphyl Capital Partners, who holds a short position in Tesla and has been a vocal critic of Musk on Twitter.

FILE PHOTO: Elon Musk listens at a press conference following the first launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo

The most obvious equity partners for Musk would be a sovereign wealth fund such as Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) or major technology investment funds such as SoftBank Group Corp’s Vision Fund, bankers said.

China’s Tencent Holdings, which took a 5 percent stake in Tesla last year, is another possible partner.

Such foreign sources of capital would be subject to scrutiny by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which looks closely at deals for potential national security risks.

Earlier on Tuesday, a source familiar with the matter said Saudi Arabia’s PIF had bought a minority stake of just below 5 percent in Tesla.

UNORTHODOX ANNOUNCEMENT

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment on Musk’s tweet, but the agency allows companies to use social media outlets like Twitter to announce key information in compliance with its fair disclosure rules if investors are alerted about which social media outlets will be used.

Tesla alerted investors in a 2013 SEC filing that they should follow Musk’s Twitter feed for “additional information” about the company. There is no reference to Musk’s Twitter account on the company’s investor relation page under “investor communication,” although Tesla’s Twitter feed is included.

In his letter to employees, Musk wrote that, “as the most shorted stock in the history of the stock market, being public means that there are large numbers of people who have the incentive to attack the company.”

A short squeeze is a trading scenario that occurs from time to time in heavily shorted stocks, when bearish traders are forced to buy shares to avoid big losses – something that ends up pushing the stock only higher.

Short interest in Tesla on Tuesday stood at nearly $13 billion, according to S3 Partners, a financial analytics firm.

(GRAPHIC-Tesla shares jump 10 percent, near record high: tmsnrt.rs/2MbzJin)

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla sales and service center is shown in Costa Mesa, California, U.S. June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru, Alexandria Sage in San Francisco, Carl O’Donnell, Liana Baker, David Randall in New York and Pete Schroeder in Washington; editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty, Bill Rigby and Chris Reese

Apple, YouTube, and others drop conspiracy theorist Alex Jones

(Reuters) – Apple Inc, Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Facebook Inc and Spotify all took down podcasts and channels from U.S. conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, saying on Monday that the Infowars author had broken community standards.

The sweeping moves are the broadest actions yet by internet companies that previously have suspended or removed some of the conspiracy-driven content produced by Infowars.

Since founding Infowars in 1999, Jones has built a vast audience. Among the theories he has promoted is that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington were staged by the government.

Facebook said it removed Alex Jones pages “for glorifying violence, which violates our graphic violence policy, and using dehumanizing language to describe people who are transgender, Muslims and immigrants, which violates our hate speech policies.”

The Infowars app remained available on the app stores hosted by Apple and Alphabet’s Google Play, however, while Twitter Inc said that Infowars accounts were not currently in violation of its rules.

Alphabet and Apple did not immediately respond to questions about why the app remained available on their platforms.

Infowars editor-at-large Paul Joseph Watson said in a tweet here that the broad take-downs amounted to censorship and were intended to help Democrats in congressional elections due in November.

“Infowars is widely credited with having played a key role in electing Donald Trump. By banning Infowars, big tech is engaging in election meddling just three months before crucial mid-terms,” Watson wrote on the Infowars website.

FILE PHOTO: Alex Jones from Infowars.com speaks during a rally in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

Neither Jones nor a representative for Infowars was available for additional comment. None of the companies that took down the content commented on whether they had coordinated their actions.

The Alex Jones Channel on YouTube on Monday displayed a banner saying the account had been terminated for violating community guidelines, and a spokesperson added by email that repeated violation of policies such as those prohibiting hate speech and harassment led to termination of accounts.

Apple deleted most Infowars podcasts and a spokeswoman said in a statement that the company “does not tolerate hate speech” and publishes guidelines that developers and publishers must follow.

“Podcasts that violate these guidelines are removed from our directory making them no longer searchable or available for download or streaming,” Apple said in a statement. “We believe in representing a wide range of views, so long as people are respectful to those with differing opinions.”

Only one program provided by Infowars, “RealNews with David Knight,” remained on Apple’s podcasts platforms on Monday. BuzzFeed earlier reported that Apple had removed the library for five of Jones’s six Infowars podcasts, including the shows “War Room” and the daily “The Alex Jones Show.”

Twitter said in an email that content posted to other websites often was not put on Twitter and that tweets from Infowars typically were replied to by people rebutting and challenging it. If Infowars violates Twitter rules in the future, it will take action, it added.

Music and podcast company Spotify said on Monday that it had now removed all of Jones’s Infowars programs from its platform, after last week removing some programs.

A representative said that Spotify took seriously reports of hate content. “Due to repeated violations of Spotify’s prohibited content policies, The Alex Jones Show has lost access to the Spotify platform,” the representative said.

In late July, Facebook had suspended Jones’s personal profile for 30 days for what the company said was bullying and hate speech.

Jones has also promoted a theory that the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre was faked by left-wing forces to promote gun control. The shooting left 26 children and adults dead at a Connecticut elementary school.

FILE PHOTO: An Apple logo hangs above the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in the Manhattan borough of New York City, July 21, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar

He is being sued in Texas by two Sandy Hook parents, seeking at least $1 million, claiming that they have been the subject of harassment driven by his programs.

Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Sonam Rai, Ishita Chigilli Palli and Arjun Panchadar in Bengaluru and Peter Henderson, Paresh Dave and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Rosalba O’Brien

FCC Admits Its Website Wasn’t Hacked During Net Neutrality Commenting. Ajit Pai Blames Obama Hire

The FCC’s inspector general said that the agency’s commenting system was not hacked by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on May 7, 2017, despite claims by FCC officials then and a refusal to address the issue by FCC Chair Ajit Pai and others in intervening months. This included the FCC failing to respond to congressional demands for more information. The comments related to the Pai’s plan to overturn network neutrality rules clarified during the Obama administration.

The actual cause? A technical failure to handle many people simultaneously heeding John Oliver on HBO’s Last Week Tonight to post comments in favor of net neutrality.

Pai now states that he was misled, despite ample time within the agency to review the information and made a determination separate from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), especially after it admitted to Gizmodo in July 2017 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that it had no record of an analysis that led to the conclusion of an attack, nor any written record of the IT staff documenting that an attack had occurred.

Separately, the issue that as many as 94% of the 23 million comments successfully submitted were clogged with duplicates and contained mostly forgeries remains unaddressed, and has also dogged the credibility of Pai and others at the FCC. The attorney general of New York at the time opened an investigation. In May 2018, two Democratic senators demanded new security measures for commenting and accountability for previous failures in a letter to Pai.

The OIG report denying an attack in May 2017 has not yet appeared, but FCC Chair Ajit Pai released a statement to try to set the news coverage agenda, ascribing all blame on one person, David Bray: “I am deeply disappointed that the FCC’s former Chief Information Officer (CIO), who was hired by the prior Administration and is no longer with the Commission, provided inaccurate information about this incident to me, my office, Congress, and the American people.”

This wasn’t the first time the comment system locked up, nor the first time Bray was fingered as making an unsupportable statement. In 2014, Oliver also asked viewers to post comments supporting net neutrality and the system went down. According to reporting in August 2017 from Gizmodo, Bray allegedly leaked information to Motherboard in 2014, following that crash, claiming that malicious activity was responsible.

Gizmodo reported that no information emerged showing an attack in 2014. Pai’s statement purports that the contents of the FCC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) reveals the same.

The FCC voted December 14, 2017, in a party-line 3-2 split, to repeal rules set in 2015 that prohibited Internet service providers from throttling, prioritizing, or discriminating data based on site, service, or device, among other regulations.

Ahead of Midterm Elections, U.S. Officials Warn of Russia While Trump Prevaricates

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coates said Thursday that Russia is “a keyboard click away” from disrupting America’s midterm elections. Joined by a collection of top security officials for a White House press briefing, he noted that Moscow’s meddlers “are looking for every opportunity, regardless of party.”

One must commend Coates for his candor. He is trying, desperately, to raise awareness about one of the gravest, immediate threats to American democracy, despite his boss’s intransigence on the matter. President Donald Trump has continued, in contrast, to prevaricate when asked about Russia’s interference in U.S. politics. His go-to: ignoring the consensus of the intelligence community, casting doubt on its findings, and offering Russian President Vladimir Putin a free pass. (As recently as two weeks ago—days after the disastrous Helsinki summit—he called Russia’s interference “all a big hoax.”)

Whether Trump realizes it or not, this approach serves to further the Kremlin’s aims: fomenting mistrust through disinformation. It is a shame to see it. These are not times for sophistry; the American public—and its allies abroad—deserve clarity and guidance. Nothing less than the integrity of the electoral system—the bedrock of this nation’s right to govern—is at stake.

During my cybersecurity session at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo. last month, I cited another one of Coates’ recent remarks as a prompt for my panelists. Coates had warned in the days prior that “the warning lights are blinking red again” in a way not observed since the lead-up to the coordinated terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, 2001. Jen Easterly, a security leader at Morgan Stanley and former White House counterterrorism official, replied lucidly. Her answer was so eloquent, I must quote it here in full.

“I’ll try not to use any double negatives,” Easterly began, alluding to Trump’s thin, post-Helsinki summit walk-back regarding Russia’s election interference. “There is no mystery. There is incontrovertible evidence of nation state-sponsored attacks and deliberate—it’s not just espionage—but deliberate sabotage against what we hold dear as part of our constitutional democracy: fair and free elections. I don’t say this as an employee of Morgan Stanley; I don’t say it as a former senior White House official; I say it as an American and, frankly, as a former military officer who spent 22 years in the army sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic.”

Her words were refreshing. It’s the kind of statement one might hope to hear from a chief executive.

This article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily newsletter on the top tech news. To get it delivered to your in-box, sign up here.