Trump tells tech CEOs that Washington needs to ‘catch up with the revolution’

At a meeting with top tech leaders Trump promised a transformation of outdated federal technology, which astonishingly still includes floppy disks

Donald Trump called for sweeping transformation of the federal governments technology during the first meeting of the American Technology Council, established by executive order last month.

Eighteen of Americas leading technology executives including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent Alphabet convened at the White House Monday for the summit.

Government needs to catch up with the technology revolution, said Trump. America should be the global leader in government technology just as we are in every other aspect, and we are going to start our big edge again in technology such an important industry.

The tech leaders spent four hours meeting officials including vice-president Mike Pence, treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and commerce secretary Wilbur Ross before meeting with the president. Ivanka Trump, the presidents daughter, was also present.

They discussed modernizing the governments technological infrastructure, cutting fraud and government costs and improving services for taxpayers. The White House believes these measures could save up to $1tn over 10 years.

Together we will unleash the creativity of the private sector to provide citizen services in a way that has never happened before, said White House senior adviser and Trumps son-in-law Jared Kushner, before the sessions started.

Kushner highlighted some astonishing examples of outdated federal IT infrastructure, including the fact that the defense department still uses 8-inch floppy disks on some of its legacy systems. He also mentioned that civilian agencies maintain more than 1.6m email addresses per month using on-premise servers at an average cost of $20-per-user per month. Switching to cloud-based email services could reduce these costs down to $3-per-user per month, he said.

Our goal here is simple: we are here to improve the day to day lives of the average citizen. Thats a core promise and we are keeping it, said Kushner.

We will foster a new set of start ups focused on gov-tech and be a global leader in the field making government more transparent and responsive to citizens needs.

Ivanka Trump sits beside Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, at the roundtable in the state dining room of the White House. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

The tech CEOs were also pushing their own agendas, according to Recode. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, for example, called on the government to take advantage of the type of commercial technology that Amazon sells. Palantir CEO Alex Karp said that big data analysis, the kind Palantir offers, could help stop fraudulent federal spending. Apples Tim Cook wanted coding to be made a requirement in schools.

This was the first meeting of the American Technology Council since the president announced its creation in an executive order signed on 11 May.

Within the order, which builds on plans laid out by the Obama administration, Trump announced the creation of the council, whose mission is to coordinate the vision strategy and direction for the federal governments use of information technology and the delivery of services through information technology.

The council was given 90 days to come up with a plan to transition antiquated, fragmented systems across government to either one or more consolidated network architectures or shared IT services, including email, cloud and cybersecurity services.

Other members of the council include: Ajay Banga, the CEO of Mastercard; Safra Catz, co-CEO of Oracle; Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir; Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel; Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM; and Peter Thiel.

The council is led by Chris Liddell, a top aide to Trump and the former chief financial officer of Microsoft.

Notably absent from the meeting was Facebook neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Sheryl Sandberg were able to attend due to scheduling conflicts. It was the only one out of the top-five most valuable companies in the US to not have a representative at the meeting.

The meeting comes at a time when a number of people in the tech world have chosen to distance themselves from Trump after he withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla and Space X, announced on Twitter: Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

Elon Musk (@elonmusk)

Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.

June 1, 2017

Before that Ubers embattled CEO Travis Kalanick left Trumps business advisory council after the company faced criticism for working closely with the Trump administration and for its response to the White Houses travel ban affecting people from seven Muslim majority countries.

In January, the social media meme #DeleteUber exploded online after the ride-sharing company was accused of exploiting the travel ban for commercial gain. In protest at the travel ban the New York Taxi Workers Alliance called on its members to avoid JFK airport. However, Uber flouted the strike although removed surge pricing from journeys to and from the airport. It was far from Ubers most egregious undertakings, but enough to give arch rival Lyft a 7% boost in users.

Uber NYC (@Uber_NYC)

Surge pricing has been turned off at #JFK Airport. This may result in longer wait times. Please be patient.

January 29, 2017

Uber apologized for the misunderstanding and Kalanick sent a memo to all of Ubers staff.

There are many ways we will continue to advocate for just change on immigration, but staying on the council was going to get in the way of that, he said.

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Ex-Twitter CEO says meeting Trump is like ‘waterboarding yourself’

Don't expect Dick Costolo at Trump's next meeting with Silicon Valley leaders.
Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Let’s just say former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo had a really unpleasant visit with President Donald Trump.

Costolo dramatically likened Trump’s meetings with Silicon Valley leaders to alcohol poisoning and extreme water torture.

“If you don’t get invited to this meeting and want to know what it was like, just drink a bottle of gin and then waterboard yourself,” Costolo tweeted.

Costolo, who ran Twitter from 2010 to 2015, issued this hyperbolic tweet in response to a BuzzFeed report that Trump will meet soon with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to discuss emerging technology, such as drones and the Internet of Things.

The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is organizing the technology meeting, which is slated for June 22. The event arrives three days after Trump is expected to meet with tech executives including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz to discuss topics like immigration and modernizing government operations, according to BuzzFeed.

Silicon Valley leaders have had an uneasy relationship with the Trump administration so far.

Donald Trump, then president-elect, with Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel and Apple CEO Tim Cook during a meeting at Trump Tower, Dec. 14, 2016 in New York City.

Image: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Executives are facing rising public pressure to break ties to the White House or risk appearing to condone Trump’s controversial policies, including travel bans that target immigrants from majority Muslim countries, or calls for a wall spanning the U.S.-Mexico border. Tech leaders maintain that without access to the White House, they can’t be a moderating voice in the president’s ear.

Some execs, however, appear to have reached their limit.

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk recently said he intends to leave Trump’s economic advisory council after the president announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement.

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Want a U.S. visa? Please list your social media handles from the last 5 years.

Image: Semansky/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Those seeking a visa to enter the United States will now have to air out their dirty social media laundry, which could bring the approval process to an agonizingly slow pace.

The Trump administration recently released a lengthy new questionnaire for visa applicants that goes above and beyond all previous such measures, according to a Reuters report. After a contentious public comment period, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the expansive questionnaire on May 23.

Among the new fields is a section dedicated solely to social media, in which applicants are asked to provide their “unique user name” for any online service used to “create or share content” over the past five years.

Consular officials can also now ask applicants for all prior passport numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, and 15 years of biographical information under the new protocol, making the application process much more burdensome for those looking to enter the United States.

Completing all fields of the questionnaire is voluntary but the language at the bottom of the form clearly states that failure to provide the information “may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application.”

The strict new questionnaire doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. The State Department first proposed the new application parameters early last month as part of its initiative to follow through on the president’s promise for “extreme vetting” of those entering the United States.

The new application isn’t as visible as the failed travel bans that the president has attempted to push through via executive orders but they could affect even more people.

Reuters reports that State Department officials said they will request the additional information of applicants when it’s decided that extra steps are needed to “confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting,” a condition that essentially gives official carte blanche to conduct the searches on whomever they please, for any reason.

That’s a shift from what was originally described when the initiative was first announcedthen, only visa applicants “who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities” were said to be facing the additional scrutiny. The State Department estimated only 0.5 percent of the annual applicant pool, or about 65,000 people, would be under the additional scrutiny.

The social media field in the visa questionnaire.

Image: screenshot/US State Dept

The application isn’t so intrusive that it asks for access to those social media accounts requests like that are more likely to come from border officials on the spot, after all but the barrier for entry into the country is now raised.

Think about the various profiles and online accounts you’ve set up over the years. Can you recall every single one of them?

The same goes for the 15-year window required for the biographical information, which could also be used to catch applicants making innocent mistakes and give officials an excuse to keep them out of the country.

It’s just another step to make it easier for the administration to block anyone they want from entering the U.S. whether they’re a true threat to national security or not.

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Trump’s bad week just got even worse and Twitter was there for it

Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

Don’t look now, but it seems like Comey’s Revenge has officially begun and it’s not looking good for Trump.

A memo from the recently fired FBI director made its way to the New York Times Tuesday and it was jam-packed with damaging claims about the president.

Among the most outrageous were the allegations that Trump asked James Comey to shut down the federal investigation into Trump’s former national security advisor Michael T. Flynn and equally as worrying that he floated an idea to lock up reporters for publishing classified information.

As the clamor for a full investigation grew, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz said his committee is willing to issue a subpoena to get hold of the memo.

Amidst all the craziness, a person was spotted jumping the White House fence. The only question was whether they were trying to infiltrate the Oval Office or flee the raging dumpster fire.

How exactly the latest, potentially wildly damaging revelation will play out remains to be seen but in the meantime, Twitter had a schadenfreude-fest.

Here’s how it played out.

‘Obstruction of Justice’ shot to the top trending list within hours.

Impeachment was a popular subject.

Of course Trump’s old tweets came back to bite him

And the GIFs were out in full force.

A lot of people thought it wasn’t really a fair fight.

One person was conspicuous by his absence.

The ball, as ever, is in Trump’s court.

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The bright spots in the dark era of Trump Twitter: political parody accounts

Image: mashable composite: Christopher Mineses

Over the course of his first months in the White House, President Trump notoriously turned Twitter into his personal outlet for unhinged political venting. That of course inspired the creation of dozens of parody accounts that became tools of resistance, coping mechanisms, and light-hearted distractions from the political chaos.

A simple Twitter search for “Donald Trump Parody” reveals a collection of over 50 accounts, and though each tackles Trumps presidency with a different approach, they all set out with a common goal: to make Twitter in the Trump era a bit more bearable.

To get a better sense of what it takes to challenge Trump on his favorite social platform, we reached out to the creators of two of the most popular Trump parody accounts on Twitter and uncovered some intriguing facts about the 24/7 job.

For instance: One of the most thought-provoking accounts on Twitter was inspired by Trump’s spat with the musical Hamilton.

While accounts like @RealDonalDrumpf and @mechanicaltrump attempt to imitate Trump’s unique online behavior, tweeting with an excessive amount of exclamation points and bashing Obama and the Democratic party every chance they get, others, like @aTinyTrump, give followers a good laugh with the help of Photoshop.

The more serious parody account @DTrumpExposed, meanwhile, provides followers with essential information related to Trump’s presidency and his administration, serving as an alternative source of news for those who want to stay in the loop.

@IfHillaryHad imagines American politics in an alternate reality, tweeting on a day-to-day basis as Hillary Clinton had she won the election. @BRIDGETTRUMPSD1 is a depiction of Trump’s diary entries if they were written in the style of Bridget Jones. You know, very normal stuff.

Which brings us to @HalfOnionInABag, the scrap of a vegetable just looking to get more Twitter followers than Trump. It hasn’t quite reached the president’s 28.4 million, but 739,000 followers is still pretty impressive for a vegetable.

Trump now with maturity!

If there’s anything we’ve learned from the overzealous, typo-ridden 140-character messages posted to the president’s Twitter account, it’s where there’s a Trump tweet, there’s room for improvement.

One man decided to take on the taxing job of editing those tweets to try and make the president’s words sound more, well, presidential. Under the promise of anonymity, the 52-year-old creator of Mature Trump Tweets spoke to us about the inspiration behind the thought-provoking account, how life has changed since starting it, and what kind of impact he hopes his revised words have on the world.

Here’s how he edited one of Trump’s tweets about “fake news”:

Since several early followers wondered if Barack Obama were behind the account, the creator has decided to go by the nickname Barry.

“I think he’s failed to recognize, or worse doesn’t care, that his words matter.”

He began the account last fall, a few weeks after Trump won the election, as things on Twitter got more and more surreal.

“I think he’s failed to recognize, or worse doesn’t care, that his words matter,” Barry said. “I became almost numb due to the Twitter assault that seemed to attack first amendment rights and lack of civility in his tone,” he went on, identifying the president’s Twitter beef with the cast of Hamilton as one of the events that drove him to create the account.

“I needed to do something because I felt powerless. So I decided to recreate his tweets and tweet the way I think a true diplomatic statesman would. It was cathartic for me, and I had a hunch it would be for others too.”

Throughout the course of the young presidency, Barry’s goals for the account have evolved. “Originally it was selfish. I needed an outlet,” he explained. “I also was determined to not allow this type of tone to be normalized. That’s a scary proposition.”

Retweets from powerful social media voices like J.K. Rowling, Ricky Gervais, Seth McFarlane, and Mark Cuban were soon to follow. Mature Trump Tweets has 123,000 followers, some of whom have reached out to tell Barry how important the account is to them, offering to start GoFundMe or Kickstarter campaigns to ensure it remains up and running.

“Today, I have bigger goals,” Barry admitted. “I think this could be a counter movement. One that espouses kindness, civility, decorum things I think Americans and people around the world truly want and crave.”

Maintaining an account that directly responds to Trump’s relentless Twitter activity isn’t always easy. “I usually retweet Trump when he tweets, which means daily usually early in the morning or late at night,” Barry said.

Barry also tweets whenever he feels the president should be tweeting, even if Trump remains silent. “Those are often the most popular, because it demonstrates the fact he seems tone deaf on what’s important and what the majority of Americans want to hear from him.”

Embracing the chaos through humor

During Trump’s first month in office, executive order signing became something of a sport for President Trump and it wasn’t long before 34-year-old Mike Gaines took notice.

With each document Trump presented, Gaines thought he resembled a proud little kid showing off his drawings to his parents. Gaines was inspired to take a more lighthearted approach to manage his political frustrations. Trump Draws a brilliant collection of photoshopped GIFs was born.

When Trump fired Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general who refused to defend his travel ban, the Los Angeles-based visual effects artist decided to transform the proud president into an ambitiously doodling toddler with the help of his iPad Pro, the app Procreate, and Adobe After Effects.

Gaines began posting to the account several times a week, showing Trump dramatically revealing drawings of cute little animals and holiday greetings, with timely political references. He misspelled captions (in too-real Trump fashion) and occasionally even doodled with his non-dominant hand to really capture the youthful aspect of his photoshop creations.

“In this increasingly divisive political world, the account somehow cuts through all the BS,” Gaines said. It’s “simply a way to laugh at the doodles of a very proud man, who just happens to be the president of the United States.”

After the account which is currently at 439,000 followers received such a positive response from Twitter users, Gaines decided to expand the endeavor to include paintings in the White House, presentation tools, and really any other white surface begging to be memed.

“I feel like these accounts really are a bright light in a pretty dismal world right now, he said. “Laughing and comedy are the best way to cope.”

Though Gaines refers to Trump as “a diamond mine for comedy,” he thinks the president’s seemingly unfiltered, unprofessional Twitter account is a true cause for concern. “Dude needs to pick a new game … maybe trying to run the country instead?” he suggested, clarifying that he’s not trying to use Trump Draws to make a political statement.

“I really just want to add some levity to this crazy political climate,” Gaines said. “Sometimes you just need to see Trump childishly draw an elephant to get you through the day.”

So simple, yet so effective.

Parodies FTW

Though its tough to say definitively whether Trump is the most parodied president in history I mean, even George Washington was subject to sketches The Donald does seem to have a big target painted on his back in the social media age.

Even when it comes to more recent presidents, a search for “Barack Obama parody” yields eighteen results on the platform. “George Bush parody” reveals a mere three. (Though, to be fair, Obama was elected when Twitter was only in its infancy.)

The takeaway? When it comes to being parodied on Twitter, Trump is winning. So much winning.

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