Monday, February 11, 2019

Jeff Bezos and the National Enquirer

Jeff Bezos:

In the AMI letters I’m making public, you will see the precise details of their extortionate proposal: They will publish the personal photos unless Gavin de Becker and I make the specific false public statement to the press that we “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

Rather than publishing this as a JPEG of text, he used Medium.

Jaclyn Peiser:

Medium, the online open platform and publisher, is one bloglike platform that has persisted and innovated in the social media era. With 90 million unique monthly visitors, it has maintained relevance as a destination for open letters, petitions and personal essays. But it scarcely sparks such frenetic reactions as it did Thursday night.

The post went viral, and Medium soon found itself in the middle of a major news story.

In a statement, a Medium spokeswoman said the site hadn’t known that Mr. Bezos was going to publish the post.

Vlad Savov (tweet):

But what stood out to me, precisely by virtue of it not being noticed or widely recognized, was the role that Twitter played in that explosive news moment. If Bezos dropped a bomb, it was Twitter that sparked and catalyzed the explosion.


The anatomy of the Bezos disclosure was simple. He chose Medium as the receptacle of his thoughts — perhaps as a neutral alternative to writing in The Washington Post, which he owns — but the path that everyone followed to get to Medium was via his tweet. No journalist was casually browsing Medium’s “Combative Blog Posts from Multibillionaires” section and accidentally stumbled upon it. No one could even have been sure it was Bezos just by looking at the blog post in isolation. Twitter was both the trigger of awareness for the post’s existence and the first step of verification for its legitimacy.

John Gruber:

Here’s a detail I would like to see everyone reporting on this story identify: what type of text messages was Bezos exchanging with Lauren Sanchez? […] This matters because SMS is not encrypted. iMessage is not just encrypted but end-to-end encrypted. If, as Bezos’s investigator apparently believes, Bezos’s phone was not compromised, that means either Sanchez’s phone was compromised, or the messages were intercepted in transit. But if they were iMessages, they couldn’t be intercepted in transit.

I’m not sure whether Bezos uses an iPhone (and thus has access to iMessage).

Lachlan Markay:

The brother of Jeff Bezos’ mistress, Lauren Sanchez, supplied the couple’s racy texts to the National Enquirer, multiple sources inside AMI, the tabloid’s parent company, told The Daily Beast.

Of course, he denies this. But, if true, he could have gotten them via physical access to Sanchez’s phone, or directly from her, without having to intercept anything. So perhaps there’s a messaging tech angle to this story, but perhaps not.


Update (2020-01-30): John Gruber:

Bezos had a personal relationship with MBS and MBS personally sent Bezos the payload to exploit his phone. The evidence is strong enough and the allegations serious enough that the United Nations has issued a report on the matter, considers it part of a pattern of human rights violations from the Saudi regime, and is calling for the United States to further investigate.

But — but! — two days ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan have evidence that The National Enquirer obtained the photos from Lauren Sanchez’s brother, who in turn was sent them from his sister’s phone.

See also: Hacker News.

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