Air & Space Magazine
These sources consist of legitimate science. Legitimate science follows the scientific method, is unbiased and does not use emotional words. These sources also respect the consensus of experts in the given scientific field and strive to publish peer reviewed science. See all Pro-Science sources.
Notes: Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine is a bimonthly magazine put out by the National Air and Space Museum.
Source: http://www.airspacemag.com/ (Source)
Fake news stories can have real-life consequences. On Sunday, police said a man with a rifle who claimed to be “self-investigating” a baseless online conspiracy theory entered a Washington, D.C., pizzeria and fired the weapon inside the restaurant.
So yes, fake news is a big problem.
These stories have gotten a lot of attention, with headlines claiming Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump in November’s election and sites like American News sharing misleading stories or taking quotes out of context. And when sites like DC Gazette share stories about people, who allegedly investigated the Clinton family, being found dead, the stories go viral and some people believe them. Again, these stories are not true in any way. (Source)
Are Jews evil? It’s not a question I’ve ever thought of asking. I hadn’t gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google’s question. And this was Google’s answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which “confirm” this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: “Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews.” I click on it: “Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe.”Google is search. It’s the verb, to Google. It’s what we all do, all the time, whenever we want to know anything. We Google it. The site handles at least 63,000 searches a second, 5.5bn a day. Its mission as a company, the one-line overview that has informed the company since its foundation and is still the banner headline on its corporate website today, is to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It strives to give you the best, most relevant results. And in this instance the third-best, most relevant result to the search query “are Jews… ” is a link to an article from stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi website. The fifth is a YouTube video: “Why the Jews are Evil. Why we are against them.” (Source)
Claim: Trump’s talking to the Taiwanese President was unprecedented and possibly dangerous.
Issues and Analysis
> It seems possible to model the eventuality of a dead child’s photo showing up on the feed, but the designers didn’t consider it. Perhaps because those who write these algorithms have not experienced such trauma, or perhaps they just weren’t talking about the human feelings in their product meetings—especially when you are a company focused on engagement and growth. The lack of empathy in technology design isn’t because the people who write algorithms are heartless but perhaps because they lack the texture of reality outside the technology bubble. Facebook’s blunders are a reminder that it is time for the company to think not just about fractional-attention addiction and growth but also to remember that the growth affects real people, for good and bad. (Source)
In November, 2014, Norma broke up with Morcos. He barraged her with texts, sometimes telling her that she needed to talk to him because his mother was deathly ill. (This was a lie.) Other texts threatened to post online her intimate photographs. A few months later, Norma received a text message from a stranger, who said that he’d seen her page on PornHub, one of the most popular X-rated sites. She called her boss at the clothing store where she worked and said that she was going to be late that afternoon. Then she frantically began searching the Internet. Eventually, she found eight photographs that she’d given to her boyfriend, on a page that identified her by her first and last names. Norma told me, “It was basically soliciting people to contact me for oral sex. It had my phone number—that’s how that stranger had found me. It had my street name. My town was there. It said, ‘Find me on Facebook.’ My bra size was there. And then the photos.” (Source)
This assessment came from a participant in my study on online harassment—a young woman of color living in a low-income neighborhood in New York City. Her tone was only half-ironic. While she faces plenty of challenges in her daily life, the digital world worries her more. She’s scared of being harassed for what she posts online, having personal photos hacked and distributed without her consent, or getting “doxed”—slang for posting someone’s address, phone number, and sensitive personal information without their permission. For this bright, motivated young woman, the internet is a frightening, dog-eat-dog world. It’s often safer to keep your opinions to yourself than risk retaliation. (Source)
San Francisco Municipal Railway riders got an unexpected surprise this weekend after the system’s computerized fare systems were apparently hacked. According to the San Francisco Examiner, the MUNI system had been attacked on Friday afternoon.
MUNI riders were greeted with printed “Out of Service” and “Metro Free” signs on ticket machines on late on Friday and Saturday. MUNI first became aware of the intrusion on Friday, according to the Examiner.
Computer screens at MUNI stations displayed a message: “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted. Contact For Key(firstname.lastname@example.org)ID:681 ,Enter.” MUNI Spokesman Paul Rose spoke to the Examiner and noted that his agency was “working to resolve the situation,” but refused to provide additional details. (Source)
Posted by American News, a conservative site supporting Trump.
Claims Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose name the article mis-spells (along with ‘mayor’) said that Chicago would be a “sanctuary city”.
Emanuel did say this, although he did not pay big. The article claims that he can be prosecuted under law and sentenced to up to 10 years of prison under section 1324 of the U.S. Code. More on that in Sanctuary Cities
TBILISI, Georgia — Jobless and with graduation looming, a computer science student at the premier university in the nation of Georgia decided early this year that money could be made from America’s voracious appetite for passionately partisan political news. He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar.
“I don’t know why, but it did not work,” said the student, Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realized what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald J. Trump that mixed real — and completely fake — news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervor.
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More than 6,000 miles away in Vancouver, a Canadian who runs a satirical website, John Egan, had made a similar observation. Mr. Egan’s site, The Burrard Street Journal, offers sendups of the news, not fake news, and he is not trying to fool anyone. But he, too, discovered that writing about Mr. Trump was a “gold mine.” His traffic soared and his work, notably an invented story that President Obama would move to Canada if Mr. Trump won, was plundered by Mr. Latsabidze and other internet entrepreneurs for their own websites.
“It’s all Trump,” Mr. Egan said by telephone. “People go nuts for it.” (Source)
There are literally hundreds of ad networks. Literally hundreds. Last week my inbox was just filled everyday with people, because they knew that Google was cracking down — hundreds of people wanting to work with my sites. I kind of applaud Google for their steps, although I think what they’re doing is kind of random. They don’t really have a process in place for identifying these things. I happen to know a very successful site that, as of today, of this morning is still serving Google ads. So it seems to be a kind of arbitrary step that they’re taking either based on, I don’t know if it was my reputation within the industry or specifically the Denver Guardian site that angered them, or I don’t know what it is, but back to your question, there’s hundreds of people that will work with me. (Source)
Do you know who wrote the actual FBI Clinton story?
I do know who wrote the story, but only through an anonymous pen name. Privacy is something that we take very seriously in our writers group. The actual reasonings behind that story … it’s one of hundreds that have been written about mysterious deaths of Clinton associates or political foes. This one kind of took off more than others, I believe, just because of the nature of the story. The people wanted to hear this. So all it took was to write that story. Everything about it was fictional. The town, the people, the sheriff, the FBI guy. Then, we had our social media guys kind of go out and do a little dropping it throughout Trump groups and Trump forums and boy it spread like wildfire. (Source)
You’re talking about the future of this (fake-news business) which looks more insidious because it’s more real?
That’s the way that it’s going to be. Not just from where I am. I mean, this is probably going to be my last run in the fake-news biz, but I can promise you that it’s not going to go away. It’s even going to grow bigger and it’s going to be harder to identify as it kind of evolves through these steps. … (Source)
When did you notice that fake news does best with Trump supporters?
Well, this isn’t just a Trump-supporter problem. This is a right-wing issue. Sarah Palin’s famous blasting of the lamestream media is kind of record and testament to the rise of these kinds of people. The post-fact era is what I would refer to it as. This isn’t something that started with Trump. This is something that’s been in the works for a while. His whole campaign was this thing of discrediting mainstream media sources, which is one of those dog whistles to his supporters. When we were coming up with headlines it’s always kind of about the red meat. Trump really got into the red meat. He knew who his base was. He knew how to feed them a constant diet of this red meat.
We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out. (Source)
“There are literally hundreds of ad networks,” he says. “Early last week, my inbox was just filled every day with people because they knew that Google was cracking down — hundreds of people wanting to work with my sites.”
Coler says he has been talking it over with his wife and may be getting out of the fake-news racket. But, he says, dozens, maybe hundreds of entrepreneurs will be ready to take his place. And he thinks it will only get harder to tell their websites from real news sites. They know now that fake news sells and they will only be in it for the money. (Source)
Coler says he has tried to shine a light on the problem of fake news. He has spoken to the media about it. But those organizations didn’t know who he actually was. He gave them a fake name: Allen Montgomery.
Coler, a registered Democrat, says he has no regrets about his fake news empire. He doesn’t think fake news swayed the election.
“There are many factors as to why Trump won that don’t involve fake news,” he says. “As much as I like Hillary, she was a poor candidate. She brought in a lot of baggage.” (Source)
During the run-up to the presidential election, fake news really took off. “It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they’re about to get served,” Coler says. “It caused an explosion in the number of sites. I mean, my gosh, the number of just fake accounts on Facebook exploded during the Trump election.”
Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait. (Source)
He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it. He wrote one fake story for NationalReport.net about how customers in Colorado marijuana shops were using food stamps to buy pot.
“What that turned into was a state representative in the House in Colorado proposing actual legislation to prevent people from using their food stamps to buy marijuana based on something that had just never happened,” Coler says. (Source)
>The coexistence of racism and sexism in the so-called manosphere dates back to the dawn of the internet. One early men’s rights site, Fathers’ Manifesto, interspersed references to Warren Farrell’s book The Myth of Male Power with calls to exile blacks from America.
>Nonwhite voters’ rejection of libertarianism has stoked extremism among some frustrated libertarians, according to the Daily Stormer’s Weev. He described for me what he saw as the thinking among libertarians who join the cause: “First it’s just, ‘Leave me alone, don’t legislate shit about me, let me have what I work for,'” said Weev, who does tech support for a variety of alt-right websites. “And then you figure out they”—i.e., the nonwhite voters—”aren’t going to let you have what’s yours. They are going to come for you unless you fight back…And now you are with us.”
>In March, Loyola University economics professor Walter Block announced on LewRockwell.com that he was forming a group known as Libertarians for Trump. Discussing the subject of slavery in a 2013 blog post, Block wrote: “The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc.” Block is a senior fellow at the paleolibertarian Mises Institute, which has published attacks on “compulsory integration” and apologia for Confederate leaders.
> Yarvin finds Trump lacking, a “hilariously pathetic” Hitler or Mussolini. “It’s like watching the magician’s 12-year-old son try to play with his father’s spellbook,” he says. Yet Yarvin values Trump’s “ability to present himself as the candidate of ‘No.'” By effectively hijacking the Republican Party and subverting political norms, Trump may hasten the downfall of the American political system, in Yarvin’s view. “Credibility is just breaking down all over the place,” he enthuses. “You know that scene in Inception, where all of the buildings are collapsing?”
>Thiel, who reportedly donated more than $1 million to Trump’s campaign and was named to his transition team in November, has circled neoreactionary ideas. “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” he wrote on the Cato Institute’s blog in 2009, adding that women and “welfare beneficiaries” have through their voting habits “rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” (Yarvin says he and Thiel have never discussed neoreaction; Thiel could not be reached for comment.)
In what began in 2007 as a series of blog posts now sometimes cited by the alt-right, Yarvin laid out a political philosophy known as neoreaction or the “Dark Enlightenment.” Combining a technocratic sensibility with reactionary political thought, neoreaction rejects Enlightenment concepts such as democracy and equality and instead advocates something much closer to authoritarianism. One of Yarvin’s favorite political leaders is Napoleon, whom he considers to be “kind of the Steve Jobs of France.”
Andrew Auernheimer, a.k.a. Weev, a notorious troll who moved to Ukraine to elude US authorities, claims he is ready to take alt-right trolling to the next level. Trump “is going to come in with a mandate,” says Weev, who now helps run the Daily Stormer, “and if Congress doesn’t give him what he wants, then it gets really fun for us. The battle gets really enjoyable and mean.” He talks of hitting his enemy’s “primary assets” by “visiting people’s homes and slipping Pepe [images] under the door or following people on subways and coming up to them and whispering ‘Pepe’ in their ears.”
>Likewise, provocateurs have increasingly sought to subvert journalism—facilitated by Facebook’s feckless response to fake news stories flooding its platform during the height of the 2016 presidential race. A phony tale about the death of an FBI agent involved in the Clinton email investigation was shared far and wide just days before the vote.** Sites like Mike Cernovich’s Danger and Play and Chuck Johnson’s Got News spread other internet rumors, packaging them into viral clickbait. Even though later debunked (by Snopes and others in Cernovich’s case, and by Mother Jones and others in Johnson’s), such content sometimes gets picked up by larger outlets. (Cernovich said his blog is factually accurate. Johnson vehemently rejected the premise, threatening to sue Mother Jones. Mark Zuckerberg called the concern that fake news affected the election a “pretty crazy idea,” but later said Facebook would take measures to address it.
>The alt-right has elevated fringe trolling into a virulent form of propaganda that Spencer and others dub “meme magic.” Trolls push hateful memes such as the Jewish “Happy Merchant” and the black “dindu nuffin” (a slur meant to echo “I didn’t do nothin'”) without fear of censure, thanks to the anonymity of Twitter and other platforms. Some journalists have speculated that the spread of this content is in part the work of Russian troll farms, though the extent of foreign involvement is unknown.
After weeks of push back from U.S. lawmakers, media and civil rights leaders, Facebook FB -0.46% on Friday announced it will stop allowing advertisers to use “ethnic affinity” to target the reach of employment, housing and credit-related ads with the aim of better preventing discrimination on the social network.
Facebook’s policies ban discriminatory advertising content or “ad creative.” However, before Friday, Facebook allowed advertisers to use “ethnic affinity,” among a host of other signals such as gender, age, favorite movies, food preferences and geography, to determine the reach of any type of ad, including ads related to housing, employment and credit services. (Source)
The repercussions have been far-reaching. Mr. Alefantis, his friends and employees are now dealing with a flood of nasty comments on social media, threatening phone calls and even visits to their restaurant from people who say they believe the fake news articles. Mr. Alefantis has gotten in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the local police and many social media companies to try to take down the fake items. He has had little success. (Source)
Herrenvolk democracy is a system of government in which only the majority ethnic group participates in government, while minority groups are disenfranchised. Similar concepts include ethnic democracy and ethnocracy. The German term Herrenvolk, “master folk”, was used in 19th century discourse that justified colonialism with the racial superiority of Europeans. (Source)
Schrader ‘s job was to help make sure that inaccurate news didn’t trend on Facebook. But he said his trending topics division was eliminated just weeks after criticism earlier this year, that Facebook’s information gatekeepers were suppressing conservative viewpoints. He said his division could have helped minimize the amount of fake news.
“By stopping fake news from trending, you’re likely to stop fake news from spreading further and I think one of the biggest principles of journalism is making sure people have truthful accurate and fair news,” Schrader said.
When asked how much personal responsibility Facebook users should bear in making sure the news they read or share is accurate, Schrader said it’s unrealistic for everyone to fact-check all the news on their feeds, so it’s up to the distributor – in this case Facebook – to step in. (Source)
Teens also can learn basic skills used by professional fact-checkers, Dr. Wineburg says. Rather than trusting the “about” section of a website to learn about it, teach them “lateral reading”—leaving the website almost immediately after landing on it and research the organization or author. Also, explain to teens that a top ranking on Google doesn’t mean an article is trustworthy. The rankings are based on several factors, including popularity. (Source)
By age 18, 88% of young adults regularly get news from Facebook and other social media, according to a 2015 study of 1,045 adults ages 18 to 34 by the Media Insight Project. (Source)
This movement among the public, and particularly the engaged public, tracks with increasingly polarized voting patterns in Congress, though to a far lesser extent. As many congressional scholars have documented, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are now further apart from one another than at any point in modern history, and that rising polarization among elected officials is asymmetrical, with much of the widening gap between the two parties attributable to a rightward shift among Republicans. As a result, using a widely accepted metric of ideological positioning, there is now no overlap between the two parties; in the last full session of Congress (the 112th Congress, which ran from 2011-12), every Republican senator and representative was more conservative than the most conservative Democrat (or, putting it another way, every Democrat was more liberal than the most liberal Republican). (Source)
A second consideration is that the nation as a whole has moved slightly to the left over the past 20 years, mostly because of a broad societal shift toward acceptance of homosexuality and more positive views of immigrants. Twenty years ago, these two issues created significant cleavages within the Democratic Party, as many otherwise liberal Democrats expressed more conservative values in these realms. But today, as divisions over these issues have diminished on the left, they have emerged on the right, with a subset of otherwise conservative Republicans expressing more liberal values on these social issues.
However, on economic issues and the role of government, Republicans and Democrats are both substantially more consolidated than in the past: 37% of Republicans are consistently conservative and 36% of Democrats are consistently liberal on a five-item subset of the scale restricted to just the items about economic policy and the size of government. In 1994, those proportions were 23% and 21%, respectively. (Source)
The authors of the Pew report find it more difficult to deal with the question of whether these important changes are comparable for the two parties. A brief section on “Is Polarization Asymmetrical” carefully navigates the treacherous waters often associated with this question. They note the shift in ideological consolidation among Democrats between 1994 and 2014 is more pronounced than among Republicans, leaving today’s parties at roughly the same place. But they qualify that finding by also noting the sharper movement right among Republicans in the last decade and the fact that the increasing Democratic ideological consolidation is associated with a nationwide leftward shift in attitudes on same-sex relations and immigration. (Source)
Some contemporary presidential spouses have led active, involved political lives, providing more than a sounding board. Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, served as a sort of shadow president when her husband was diminished by a stroke. (Critics called her administration the “petticoat government.”) Eleanor Roosevelt published books, magazine articles and newspapers advocating positions that routinely outwinged her husband, especially on civil rights. She testified before Congress. She had a regular radio program. She gave regular news conferences. She toured the country in support of migrant workers. Hillary Clinton actually worked on health policy for her husband, to great failure. (Source)
Two weeks after firing its entire editorial staff, Facebook’s Trending news section highlighted a report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons—which believes that the “gay male lifestyle” shortens lives by 20 years and abortion can cause breast cancer—claiming “most doctors polled” had “serious concerns” about Hillary Clinton’s health on Friday.
Most links in the trending section about the poll referred to a post on PRNewswire, a website where anyone can post a press release, or right-wing blogs.
The story is still appearing in Facebook’s Trending section at press time, and Facebook has not yet responded to an email from The Daily Beast requesting comment.
AAPS’ press release says “nearly 71% of 250 physicians” dub concerns about Clinton’s health “serious.” Also receiving votes in response to that question are “shows how the powers that be are willing to use her to win regardless of having to prop her up and keep her from speaking in public” and “in this case, she is so much more dangerous to the repbulic [sic] if she’s healthy.” (Source)
Though BuzzFeed News looked at nine fake news sites in its analysis, there was a 10th, American News, that didn’t make it in. American News, liked by more 5 million people on Facebook, was bigger than the rest of the sites in the analysis by a wide margin. American News is not a fake news site, per se, but it often takes a nugget of truth and writes a dramatically exaggerated story around it with a conservative slant. After Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed in the New York Times reacting to Trump’s victory saying he’s willing to work with the president-elect under some circumstances, for example, American News published a story with the headline: “Sanders Completely Turns On Hillary, Now Backing Trump.” (Sanders, in no part of his op-ed, said he supported the president-elect.)
American News is only one of a number of publications of its kind on the internet. You can think of them as mermaids. Seen from the surface, all appears to be normal. But go deeper, and things start to look fishy. These sites are masters at heavily slanting news to play on confirmation bias, and some are very, very popular. (Source)
In January 2015, Facebook got more aggressive. It wrote a News Feed FYI blog post with the title “Showing Fewer Hoaxes.” People were complaining about fake news and hoaxes, the blog post said, so Facebook would diminish these posts’ reach. “A post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed,” the post said. And with that, Facebook began a public fight against fake news.
But the filter bubble was still getting bigger than ever, and it was about to get worse due to a change in the way people were behaving on the site. (Source)
And while it was likely never the company’s intent to create a system that encouraged people to hear only what they wanted — whether or not it was true — Facebook didn’t get here by accident. It made a huge push over the last four years to be a destination for news, indeed, to be your “perfect personalized newspaper.” Since that Obama tweet, the company retooled its platform, creating a system designed to make it easier to share and promote timely and trending stories and to help them spread rapidly across its network. In the process, Facebook, with its 1.79 billion monthly active users, grew to more than five times the size of Twitter. (Source)
Now that it had new tools in place to identify and promote trending stories, Facebook took another step that it largely kept secret: It began making editorial decisions about the content that would appear in Trending. The company had hired a team of humans to curate its Trending column, but in August 2015, it told Recode that its algorithms alone were responsible for deciding what ended up there. “These people don’t get to pick what Facebook adds to the trending section,” Recode reported. “That’s done automatically by the algorithm. They just get to pick the headline.”
Not so. In May 2016, Gizmodo published an explosive story reporting that these human curators “routinely suppressed conservative news.” The article, quoting the curators themselves, found that there was indeed human judgement involved in what appeared, and didn’t appear, in the Trending column. A conservative member of the curation team told Gizmodo that right-leaning Trending topics were regularly omitted.“I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz,” the curator said. (Source)
So-called “original sharing,” where people post their own photos, text updates, etc., instead of simply pressing “share,” was declining. The extent of Facebook’s original sharing problem came to light in an April 2016 article in The Information, which reported that original sharing was down by 21% in mid-2015 compared to the previous year. With sharing down, content from celebrities, political candidates, and news sites began to fill that void. Faceboook’s algorithm was already turning the platform into a playland for confirmation bias content, and the original sharing decline gave it yet another boost. (Source)
Clearly, these Democrats hadn’t yet taken notice of his Facebook page. Two days later, a Trump post about immigration would receive more than 190,000 shares on Facebook. That was almost twice as many shares as Obama’s election night post had three years earlier. (Source)
By November 2014, Mark Zuckerberg was feeling pretty confident in Facebook’s capacity to deliver the latest news, enough so that he likened Facebook’s aim, incredibly, to that of a newspaper’s. “Our goal is to build the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world,” he said. “We’re trying to personalize it and show you the stuff that’s going to be most interesting to you.”
To build this “perfect personalized newspaper,” Facebook had to make the News Feed as interesting and relevant to people as possible. And to do that, it engaged in a number of quality-improving measures, including surveying its users on what they found valuable, and optimizing for time spent reading stories after a click from the Facebook News Feed, in addition to measuring traditional metrics like the number of shares and likes.
These moves were well-intentioned but fundamentally flawed. You’re unlikely to spend much time reading and interacting with material you disagree with. As another former Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News, “Even though they could show you stories that you disagree with, they’ll probably not because chances are you’ll spend more time on Facebook if you are seeing stuff you agree with and that you like.”
Fake news sites just out for a profit, and fringe websites trafficking in propaganda, both benefitted enormously. And a Facebook now outfitted with the mechanisms to make stories rapidly propagate turbocharged their rise. (Source)
Five months later, on August 6, 2013, Facebook held a press event that, according to TechCrunch, repeatedly “emphasized real-time content” in its News Feed. The next day, Facebook added another feature: Trending. Facebook emphasized that Trending, a module that highlights some of the most talked about content on Facebook, was a small test, and promised to “share more details down the line if we decide to roll it out more widely.” (Source)
Facebook’s transformation began almost immediately after the 2012 election. On November 14, 2012, a full eight days after the vote, a TechCrunch headline proclaimed: “Facebook Finally Launches ‘Share’ Button For The Mobile Feed, Its Version Of ‘Retweet.’”
The move, seemingly minor at the time, set the table for a behavior shift on Facebook, encouraging people to share quickly and without much thought. That in turn helped all forms of content boom across the network. As the TechCrunch article astutely noted: “When people do use the Share button on the web, they often give their own description of a link. But on mobile where typing is more of a pain, a Share button could encourage people to rapidly re-share link after link.”
The mobile share button would help links surpass text and photos as the fastest growing form of content shared on Facebook. This would prove crucial in an unexpected but very important way not long down the road. (Source)
LONG BEACH, CALIF.—Fewer than 2,000 readers are on his website when Paris Wade, 26, awakens from a nap, reaches for his laptop and thinks he needs to, as he puts it, “feed” his audience. “Man, no one is covering this TPP thing,” he says after seeing an article suggesting that President Obama wants to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership before he leaves office. Wade, a modern-day digital opportunist, sees an opportunity. He begins typing a story.
“CAN’T TRUST OBAMA,” he writes as the headline, then pauses. His audience hates Obama and loves president-elect Donald Trump, and he wants to capture that disgust and cast it as a drama between good and evil. He resumes typing: “Look At Sick Thing He Just Did To STAB Trump In The Back …”
Ten minutes and nearly 200 words later, he is done with a story that is all opinion, innuendo and rumour. He types at the bottom, “Comment ‘DOWN WITH THE GLOBALISTS!’ below if you love this country,” publishes the story to his website, LibertyWritersNews.com, and then pulls up the Facebook page he uses to promote the site, which in six months has collected 805,000 followers and brought in tens of millions of page views. “WE CANNOT LET THIS HAPPEN!” he writes, posting the article. “#SHARE this 1 million times, patriots!” Then he looks at a nearby monitor that shows the site’s analytics, and watches as the readers pour in. (Source)
Imagine you’re trying to cut down on sugar, because you’re pre-diabetic, but there are M&M’s literally everywhere you look, and every time you stress-eat an M&M, invisible nerds exclaim, “Aha! She actually wants M&M’s!” That’s what I’m talking about, but where you replace M&M’s with listicles.
This human weakness now combines with technological laziness. Since Facebook doesn’t have the interest, commercially or otherwise, to dig in deeper to what people really want in a longer-term sense, our Facebook environments eventually get filled with the media equivalent of junk food. (Source)
I tell this story to emphasize that it isn’t just Facebook that has a fake news problem, and it isn’t just Donald Trump and kids in Macedonia who are using social media to send the news spinning wildly away from the truth. When sites like the Huffington Post post partisan clickbait that is clearly untrue, they deserve to be shunned, not reshared.
In the context of the work that social media sites like Facebook need to do to improve their algorithms (something I wrote about last week in Media in the Age of Algorithms), it isn’t just a matter of determining which stories are true or false. It’s a matter of understanding which sites tell the truth, and which don’t, and lowering the algorithmic encouragement they give to those that fail to tell the truth. This is not that dissimilar to what PageRank and similar Google algorithms do, figuring out which sites are authoritative, and which are ripoffs. (Source)
Can it be that “The Donald” is already affecting American policy, without even yet being the Republican nominee?
It sure looks that way, or perhaps it’s just coincidence. However more likely than not, Trump’s constant bashing of Ford moving to Mexico, has apparently been making ripples both within the news media and perhaps among the voting public. (Source)
On several occasions in October, Donald Trump tweeted links to stories at Prntly.com, a blog that didn’t exist during the last election cycle. One story (now offline but copied here) indicated that Trump’s support from blue-collar workers was the highest since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s.
It’’s not clear what the basis for the claim was beyond that Trump led in Rust Belt states — like Ohio, which he lost — but, no matter. Trump was enthusiastic.
Prntly popped up again last week as the source of a rumor about the Ted Cruz campaign. The site cut and pasted an old story about Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe. The headline suggested that perhaps Roe had approved the ad attacking Melania Trump run by an anti-Trump super PAC, but it offered no evidence to that effect.
It was, in other words, a very typical Prntly article: Mostly content from somewhere else with an unabashedly pro-Trump frame overlaid, and then shared by one of the site’s two apparent authors, Connor Balough or Shelby Carella.
The site itself, as it turns out, is a near-perfect reflection of the candidate that it loves. It, too, started out as a business that had nothing to do with politics. It, too, proclaims that it is the best. And it, too, is not afraid to just say anything that it feels like and hope that people flock to it as a result. (Source)
This whole Google AdSense thing is pretty scary. And all this Facebook stuff. I make most of my money from AdSense — like, you wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it. Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense.
[Google’s top news link for ‘final election results’ goes to a fake news site with false numbers]
I know ways of getting hooked up under different names and sites. So probably if they cracked down, I would try different things. I have at least 10 sites right now. If they crack down on a couple, I’ll just use others. They could shut down advertising on all my sites, and I think I’d be okay. Plus, Facebook and AdSense make a lot of money from [advertising on fake news sites] for them to just get rid of it. They’d lose a lot of money.
But if it did really go away, that would suck. I don’t know what I would do. (Source)
I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad]. (Source)
Political people in the United States are watching the chaos in Washington in the moment. But some people in the science community are watching the chaos somewhere else — the Arctic.
It’s polar night there now — the sun isn’t rising in much of the Arctic. That’s when the Arctic is supposed to get super-cold, when the sea ice that covers the vast Arctic Ocean is supposed to grow and thicken.
But in fall of 2016 — which has been a zany year for the region, with multiple records set for low levels of monthly sea ice — something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia. (Source)
The U.S. Department of Education overpaid Pell grant recipients by $2.03 billion in fiscal 2016 and made another $188 million in underpayments, according to an agency finance report released this week. (Source)
But the actual cause of his death was not simple old age. As his manager announced on Wednesday, he died following a fall.* And as our population continues to live longer and longer, falls are becoming the great plague of the modern era. They are the leading cause of accidental death in the elderly, and the incidence has increased steadily over the past decade. And, usually, they are not an easy way to go—many cause prolonged discomfort.
Still, we don’t think of falls as being that serious. Consider the following two scenarios. In the first, you learn that your mother has just been diagnosed with cancer. Regardless of its stage, this news is likely to be met with tremendous distress by both patients and their families. People spring into action. Treatment plans are made. Financial houses are put in order. Wills are written. Advanced-care directives are considered. Old grudges are forgiven. In the second scenario, you are told that your mother has been admitted to the hospital after a fall. Obviously, you are worried. But, you may think, at least she’s not dying or anything. (Source)
Charles Wright Mills (August 28, 1916 – March 20, 1962) was an American sociologist, and a professor of sociology at Columbia University from 1946 until his death in 1962. Mills was published widely in popular and intellectual journals, and is remembered for several books, among them The Power Elite, which introduced that term and describes the relationships and class alliances among the U.S. political, military, and economic elites; White Collar, on the American middle class; and The Sociological Imagination, where Mills proposes the proper relationship in sociological scholarship between biography and history.
Mills was concerned with the responsibilities of intellectuals in post-World War II society, and advocated public and political engagement over disinterested observation. Mills’ biographer, Daniel Geary, writes that Mills’ writings had a “particularly significant impact on New Left social movements of the 1960s.” It was Mills who popularized the term “New Left” in the U.S. in a 1960 open letter, Letter to the New Left. (Source)
This is the ultimate guide to how Facebook chooses what to show in your News Feed, and how you can get your content seen by more people.
Understanding how the News Feed works is tough because the algorithm is always changing. So TechCrunch launched this research project for today’s 10th anniversary of News Feed, interviewing Facebook’s team members, compiling the company’s announcements, and reviewing a decade of our coverage. The result is this helpful explainer, which we’ll keep updated as new changes roll out so it’s always accurate. (Source)
Science has been peculiarly resistant to self-examination. During the ‘science wars’ of the 1990s, for instance, scientists disdained sociological studies of their culture. Yet there is now a growing trend for scientists to use the quantitative methods of data analysis and theoretical modelling to try to work out how, and how well, science works — often with depressing conclusions. Why are these kinds of studies being produced, and what is their value?
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Take a study published on 10 November1 by psychologists Andrew Higginson of the University of Exeter and Marcus Munafò of the University of Bristol, UK. It considers how scientists can maximize their ‘fitness’, or career success, in a simplified ecosystem that allows them to invest varying amounts of time and effort into exploratory studies. The study finds that in an ecosystem that rewards a constant stream of high-profile claims, researchers will rationally opt for corner-cutting strategies, such as small sample sizes. These save on the effort required for each study, but they raise the danger that new findings will not prove robust or repeatable.
A slightly different perspective — but a similar conclusion — comes from work published on 21 September2, by information scientist Paul Smaldino at the University of California, Merced, and evolutionary ecologist Richard McElreath, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They take an evolutionary view, imagining that laboratories are in competition for rewards, and that the most successful of them produce more ‘progeny’: new research groups that use the same techniques and strategies. There is generally a trade-off between productivity and rigour: producing more statistically secure, replicated findings takes more time and effort, but generating too many false positives will eventually take its toll on reputations. Under selection for productivity, however, less-rigorous methods spread and false discovery rates increase. (Source)
In The Science of Equality, Godsil and her co-authors proposed several tactics that seem, based on the research, promising: presenting people with examples that break stereotypes, asking them to think about people of color as individuals rather than as a group, tasking them with taking on first-person perspectives of people of color, and increasing contact between people of different races. All of these interventions appear to reduce subconscious racial biases, while interracial contact appears most promising for reducing racial anxiety more broadly.
Of course, interracial contact can be hard to achieve in communities that are racially homogeneous — in other words, a lot of rural white communities. But the researchers note that even indirect contact — for example, knowing that one of your white neighbors is friends with a person of color — can reduce prejudice, suggesting there are ways to reduce racial anxiety without direct contact.
Godsil and her team also put forward tactics that can help people limit actions based on racial biases, such as getting people to slow down in their decision-making and teaching them about how subconscious processes can influence their impulses — even on issues unrelated to race — in order to push them to question their own objectivity. The research suggests these ideas have potential, but they generally seem to require that people are genuinely willing to reduce their biased behavior and actions. (Source)
One approach is to pursue certain policies in a race-neutral manner. For example, equipping police with body cameras has become a prominent idea in response to the police shootings of black men over the past few years. But the inherent idea behind body cameras doesn’t have to be racial — it can just be about generally holding police accountable, no matter whom they’re interacting with. And indeed, polls have found that support for body cameras on police officers in general hovers above 90 percent. (Source)
Hochschild shared similar stories in her book. In one example, a woman tells Hochschild about her love for conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh because he stood up to people — feminists, environmentalists, and other liberals — that she felt belittled her and her lifestyle. As the woman explained, “Oh, liberals think that Bible-believing Southerners are ignorant, backward, rednecks, losers. They think we’re racist, sexist, homophobic, and maybe fat.” She felt that these accusations overlooked many of the problems that rural white Americans faced — growing up poor, struggling to get a better education, and so on.
Because Hochschild, who’s liberal, didn’t immediately dismiss the woman’s comments and insult her, the two managed to have a frank conversation to reach a better understanding of each other. And the two continued talking as Hochschild wrote her book. From one simple exchange of empathy, it was possible to have more frank conversations. (Source)
One of the white participants left the session and went back to her desk, upset at receiving (what appeared to the training team as) sensitive and diplomatic feedback on how some of her statements had impacted several people of color in the room. At break, several other white participants approached us (the trainers) and reported that they had talked to the woman at her desk, and she was very upset that her statements had been challenged. They wanted to alert us to the fact that she literally “might be having a heart-attack.” Upon questioning from us, they clarified that they meant this literally. These co-workers were sincere in their fear that the young woman might actually physically die as a result of the feedback. Of course, when news of the woman’s potentially fatal condition reached the rest of the participant group, all attention was immediately focused back onto her and away from the impact she had had on the people of color. (Source)
What’s more, accusations of racism can cause white Americans to become incredibly defensive — to the point that they might reinforce white supremacy. Robin DiAngelo, who studies race at Westfield State University, described this phenomenon as “white fragility” in a groundbreaking 2011 paper:
White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
“Telling people they’re racist, sexist, and xenophobic is going to get you exactly nowhere,” said Alana Conner, executive director of Stanford University’s Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions Center. “It’s such a threatening message. One of the things we know from social psychology is when people feel threatened, they can’t change, they can’t listen.”
Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist and author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, provided an apt analogy for white rural Americans’ feeling of neglect: As they see it, they are all in this line toward a hill with prosperity at the top. But over the past few years, globalization and income stagnation have caused the line to stop moving. And from their perspective, people — black and brown Americans, women — are now cutting in the line, because they’re getting new (and more equal) opportunities through new anti-discrimination laws and policies like affirmative action. (Source)
This is how many white Americans, particularly in working-class and rural areas, view the world today. So when they hear politicians and journalists call them racist or remind them about their privilege, they feel like elites are trying to distract from the serious problems in their lives and grant advantages to other groups of people. When Hillary Clinton called half of Trump voters “deplorable,” she made this message explicit. (Source)
In talking with researchers and looking at the studies on this, I found that it is possible to reduce people’s racial anxiety and prejudices. And the canvassing idea was regarded as very promising. But, researchers cautioned, the process of reducing people’s racism will take time and, crucially, empathy.
This is the direct opposite of the kind of culture the internet has fostered — typically focused on calling out racists and shaming them in public. This doesn’t work. And as much as it might seem like a lost cause to understand the perspectives of people who may qualify as racist, understanding where they come from is a needed step to being able to speak to them in a way that will help reduce the racial biases they hold. (Source)
Twitter suspended a number of accounts associated with the “alt right” movement on Tuesday as part of a renewed effort to crack down on harassment, USA Today reports.
Among the accounts suspended: white nationalist Richard Spencer, Spencer’s think tank National Policy Institute, his journal Radix, his publishing company Washington Summit Publishers, former Business Insider chief technology officer Pax Dickinson and alt-right personalities Ricky Vaughn and Paul Town.
In an interview with the Daily Caller News Foundation, Spencer — an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump — accused Twitter of censoring alt-right voices in the aftermath of Trump’s election.
“This is corporate Stalinism,” he told the Daily Caller. “Twitter is trying to airbrush the Alt Right out of existence.”
Twitter has banned high-profile alt-right accounts in the past for harassment. In May 2015, it banned conservative provocateur Chuck Johnson, and in July 2016, it banned Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos.
The most recent wave of high-profile suspensions came the same day that Twitter released new anti-harassment tools that allow users to mute tweets containing specific words and hashtags. (Source)
That’s consistent with Zuckerberg’s approach to other deeper questions about Facebook’s role in the media, including the charge that it insulates users in ideological bubbles by reinforcing what they already believe. “All the research we have suggests that this isn’t really a problem,” Zuckerberg said on Thursday, citing a Facebook-funded 2015 study that has been criticized as misleading. The data showed that Facebook does in fact expose users primarily to political content that conforms to their partisan identifications. But the study concluded, a little defensively, that this problem was insignificant compared with the problem of users’ own choices as to which sort of content to engage with. As Jefferson Pooley pointed out in Slate, it’s impossible to reproduce Facebook’s findings, because the company won’t let independent researchers see its data. (Source)
At Fusion’s Real Future Fair today, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden expressed doubt that Americans would fall hard enough for fake stories on Facebook that it could sway their votes. His comments echoed those recently made by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who claimed it is “extremely unlikely hoaxes changed the outcome of this election in one direction or the other.”
“I think that’s a very sad indictment of our democracy, that our voters could be so easily misled. But were it true, and there is some evidence that it may be, this gets into a bigger challenge,” Snowden said, moving on to concerns about the size and dominance of platforms like Facebook in our daily lives.
“When you get a Google in place, a Facebook in place, a Twitter in place, they never seem to leave,” he said. “When one service provider makes a bad decision we all suffer for it. … The Silicon Valley desire for massive, world-eating services, the scale that takes over not only our country but all others, it’s asking us to accept a status quo where we set aside that competition in favor of scale. We should be particularly cautious about embracing this and taking this to be the case.”
Snowden cautioned that social media networks are careful to respect users as they grow, but get more reckless as they establish dominance. “To have one company that has enough power to reshape the way we think — I don’t think I need to describe how dangerous that is,” he concluded. (Source)
The results, published in the November edition of Political Behavior, concluded that direct, negative responses to racist tweets could have an impact—but, at least in this test’s case, they were far more effective when they appeared to come from white users.
NYU student Kevin Munger began his experiment by identifying 231 Twitter accounts with a propensity for using the n-word in a targeted manner (meaning, the message included the “@” symbol and used second-person language). All of these accounts were at least six months old and had used the n-word in at least three percent of their posts during the period Munger monitored them (late summer last year). Munger explains that he chose white men as the study’s subjects “because they are the largest and most politically salient demographic engaging in racist online harassment of blacks,” and also to control “the in-groups of interest (gender and race).” (Source)
Right before the election, 16% of Republicans said the economy was getting better. Right after the election, 49%. (Source)
Sarah Jeong, a journalist trained as a lawyer at Harvard Law School, discusses the problem of “online harassment,” with various accounts of harassment that have made their way into mainstream media, as well as lesser-known ones. The Internet of Garbage considers why and how to recalibrate this ongoing project of garbage-removal from content platforms and social media networks. It’s not as simple as policing offensive material and hitting the delete button online: Jeong tackles precarious issues like free speech, behavior vs. content, doxing and SPAM.
On Monday, the hashtag “Trump wins” featured a post that recounted stories of slurs against Asian-Americans, and attributed them to anti-Trump protesters. The post even specifically claimed that journalist Wilfred Chan had received racist abuse and implied it was from anti-Trump protesters. It was, in fact, abuse from Trump supporters.
Christina Xu, a tech ethnographer who is currently in China, first noted what was happening. “Chinese audience, who (reasonably) don’t understand US race dynamics, will believe this 100%. Reinforces belief that Trump is better for China,” she wrote on Twitter.
Xu said that this misinformation might be the result of a translation error, but said that the “more likely” explanation was that it was “willfully directed by someone(s) stoking support of Trump [and] defensive ethnocentrism.”
In an interview, she said that there had been a surge of misinformation in China about the American election. She wasn’t completely sure why, but she noted that “there are really too many [false news stories] for it to be a coincidence, in my opinion.”
“I’ve talked to well-educated, relatively liberal Chinese people who have asked me if Hillary really assassinated a guy,” Xu said to me. (Hillary Clinton did not assassinate anyone.) “Someone here told me the other day they heard that Trump had won 90 percent of the popular vote.” (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.)
Earlier in the week, she also tweeted about a Weibo trending topic that claimed that Clinton had blamed Obama for her electoral loss.
Xu recounted one time that her father sent her an article about “a list of DNC mysterious deaths linked to Hillary.” She found it so absurd that she spent time to look up where it had come from. “The only place I found this list [of names] really was Breitbart,” she said, referring to the right-wing news site. Her theory is that someone is translating Breitbart articles into Chinese and feeding them into social media. (Source)
Worried about fake news about this election? It’s rampant overseas too. (Source)
David French is targeted.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw a picture of my then-seven-year-old daughter’s face in a gas chamber. It was the evening of September 17, 2015. I had just posted a short item to the Corner calling out notorious Trump ally Ann Coulter for aping the white-nationalist language and rhetoric of the so-called alt-right. Within minutes, the tweets came flooding in. My youngest daughter is African American, adopted from Ethiopia, and in alt-right circles that’s an unforgivable sin. It’s called “race-cucking” or “raising the enemy.” (Source)
We help companies build their brand and source technical talent through our business products: Display Ads and Talent. These services in turn help developers find better jobs and also learn about companies in a way that is respectful to the user experience (no spammy inmail, no flash ads, etc.). We consider the developer experience in everything we do, which is what makes everything we sell as a company unique.
It’s a lot like questions and answers. Companies are asking for developers, and we need experts to answer the call. In order for this to work, we need people on both sides of the equation. The more companies and developers we have, the better and faster the matching we can do with developers and hopefully their dream jobs. For companies, we aim to match them with a handful of candidates that are an awesome match, not 500 candidates that barely match at all. This is where we can provide value. We want to optimize things. We don’t want to waste your time or a company’s time – there’s so much inefficiency here we aim to improve with the whole hiring process. (Source)
The Big Five tech companies dominate the NASDAQ in terms of market value.
Here’s a fun fact: 30.3 percent of the market capitalization of the Nasdaq is now accounted for by just five companies — Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent), Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. That percentage is high, historically speaking. (Source)
CPTR is the algorithm/equation Facebook uses to determine whether to show you something in your feed.
Facebook claims that human curation is problematic. But problematic for who?
According to Facebook, it developed two different options for how the 2016 clickbait update would work. One was a classifier based off the 2015 hoax detector based on user reports, and another was the machine learning classifier built specifically for detecting clickbait via computer algorithm.
Facebook says it found the specially-made machine learning clickbait detector performed better with fewer false positives and false negatives, so that’s what Facebook released. It’s possible that that the unreleased version is what Gizmodo is referring to as the shelved update. Facebook tells me that unbalanced clickbait demotion of right-wing stories wasn’t why it wasn’t released, but political leaning could still be a concern.
The choice to rely on a machine learning algorithm rather than centering the fix around user reports aligns with Facebook’s recent push to reduce the potential for human bias in its curation, which itself has been problematic. (Source)
Many Trump voters support him because they feel he respects them. It’s worth noting that Romney probably failed this test.
I ask him if Trump is a racist, and he turns pained. “I want to chose my words carefully. He isn’t a racist, but a realist. It is easy for folks who live in wealthy neighborhoods to say they will accept any neighbor of any color. Who wouldn’t want to have a doctor or lawyer move next door, regardless of if they are black or white? But that isn’t who is moving into our neighborhood. It is mostly people without jobs, on assistance, and mostly African Americans from the projects, and it is sending our crime higher and our house prices lower. I think folks in rich neighborhoods wouldn’t want that either.”
Most others, especially the Trump supporters, are unabashed in their views, celebratory, giddy to have someone addressing their concerns, and talking their language. Two guys, just off work, come in and yell to their friends, “Fuck yeah, dicks! The Polacks for Trump are here!”
That everyone else hates Trump makes them all the more confidant he is their man, further cements the feeling they are, finally, members of an exclusive club. As one guy yelled when the TV showed a controversy over something Trump said: “You get them Donald! They been getting us forever.”
Most of all, Trump voters want respect. They want respect for their long hours of work that risks their bodies, for the hands caught in vices, backs wrenched by weights, and knees torn. They want respect because they are doing dangerous work, but their pay has been flat for decades.
They want respect because they haven’t just lost economically, but also socially. When they turn on the TV, they see their way of life being mocked and made fun of as nothing but uneducated white trash.
With Trump, they are finding someone who gives them respect. He talks their language, addresses their concerns. Sometimes it is celebrating what defines their neighborhood, what they in Parma have in common: being white. They and Trump are playing in dangerous territory, with the need for respect tipping into misplaced revenge.
In another all-white working-class neighborhood not far away, a collection of retired workers, all Trump voters, gather in the mornings at McDonald’s. When the talk turned to politics the N-word is thrown around with ease, and racial jokes are par for the course. (Source)
The map of counties in US that shifted to Trump, from Romney, is almost an exact map of the counties having increases in drug overdoses (Source)
In the wake of the Trump election — a triumph of fake news — both Google and Facebook have announced that they will take countermeasures to exclude “fake news” from their services, downranking them in the case of Facebook and cutting them off from ad payments in Google’s case.
This is the latest step on a long journey. In its early days, Google was bombarded with complaints about its search-ranking: the proprietors of low-ranked sites insisted that Google had insulted them by not ranking them higher, and wanted to know how they could improve their ranking and thus make more money, command more attention, and increase their influence. (Source)
Medicare phaseout is highly viral, and gets shared fairly well.
During the campaign, coverage of the issues was blotted out by coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails and Donald Trump’s broad suite of sociopathic tendencies. And of the issues that did receive any attention, a conspicuously missing one was Paul Ryan’s plan to push Medicare beneficiaries into private health insurance. Reporters just assumed that, since Trump never talked about it, it won’t happen. But Paul Ryan still wants it to happen. And in a Fox News interview with Bret Baier, Ryan said Medicare privatization is on.
“Your solution has always been to put things together, including entitlement reform,” says Baier, using Republican code for privatizing Medicare. Ryan replies, “If you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. … Medicare has got some serious issues because of Obamacare. So those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare.” (Source)
New anti-abuse tools
Internal changes: One effort Twitter is making to help curb harassment on its platform is behind-the-scenes: It has retrained all of its support teams on its policies as well as provided them with “special sessions on cultural and historical contextualization of hateful conduct.” The teams will also have an “ongoing refresher program” and improved internal tools to help deal with the flood of abuse reports. A Twitter spokesperson said in an email that these training sessions involve educating the support teams on the types of prejudice, persecution and atrocities certain groups have faced. The effectiveness of the support teams was also tested through hypothetical scenarios. (Source)
“People know there are concerned employees who are seeing something here which they consider a big problem,” she said. “And it doesn’t feel like the people making decisions are taking the concerns seriously.”
The New York Times reported last week that top executives at Facebook have discussed the issue, and that a private Facebook post shared by Zuckerberg last week to a small group of friends and colleagues refuted the idea that Facebook had influenced the elections.
Citing statistics about low voter turnout, Zuckerberg wrote, “So rather than focusing on strengths or weaknesses in specific demographics, or other factors that may have pushed this race in one direction or another, these stats clearly suggest what many people have said all along. Both candidates were very unpopular.”
The Facebook employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News stressed that they were not trying to “take sides” over who won the elections, but make an argument that Facebook should not be bolstering any political candidate through fake or misleading news items. (Source)
“Facebook, by design, by algorithm, and by policy, has created a platform that amplifies misinformation,” said Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has been vocal in the need for social media to consider their role in spreading fake news. (Source)
Or, as former Facebook designer Bobby Goodlatte wrote on his own Facebook wall on November 8, “Sadly, News Feed optimizes for engagement. As we’ve learned in this election, bullshit is highly engaging. A bias towards truth isn’t an impossible goal. Wikipedia, for instance, still bends towards the truth despite a massive audience. But it’s now clear that democracy suffers if our news environment incentivizes bullshit.” (Source)
“It’s not a crazy idea. What’s crazy is for him to come out and dismiss it like that, when he knows, and those of us at the company know, that fake news ran wild on our platform during the entire campaign season,” said one Facebook employee, who works in the social network’s engineering division. He, like the four other Facebook employees who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story, would only speak on condition of anonymity. All five employees said they had been warned by their superiors against speaking to press, and feared they would lose their jobs if named.
The employees declined to provide many details on the task force. One employee said “more than dozens” of employees were involved, and that they had met twice in the last six days. At the moment, they are meeting in secret, to allow members of the group to speak freely and without fear of condemnation from senior management. The group plans to formalize its meetings and eventually make a list of recommendations to Facebook’s senior management. Another Facebook employee said while the task force remained small, “hundreds” of Facebook employees had expressed dissatisfaction with the company’s stance on fake news in private online chats, and wanted to support efforts to challenge that position. (Source)
The second major failure is in targeted news on social media – virality is proving fatal to truth in political discourse. Here, the success of BIG DATA led to a major failure in the democratic process. I’m disheartened to hear that Mark Zuckerberg won’t acknowledge the role Facebook played in spreading disinformation in the 2016 campaign. More than half of the country gets its news from social media, and when that news is targeted it simply feeds into confirmation bias. Our community has developed remarkably effective tools to microtarget advertisements. But if you use ad models to deliver news, that’s propaganda. And just because we didn’t intend to spread rampant misinformation doesn’t mean we are not responsible. (Source)
Facebook likes automated solutions that are cheap and require as little human intervention as possible. This is a problem if it is to be the center of global civic life. For example one result of this is that it was comfortable firing all the editors who worked on trending topics. Another is that strangers could “report” Tressie Cottom and she could not keep her Facebook account from being destroyed. (Source)
Facebook is, to its chagrin, part of the conversation about the outcome of the 2016 election. Here is a list of some special moments that we have all shared with Facebook:
Facebook has ~1.8 billion users and 66% get news from the platform. In May, Facebook was accused by conservatives of forcing its “Trending Topics” to have a left-leaning bias. In late August, Facebook fired its “trending news team,” prohibiting them from talking or writing about what happened. In September, Facebook/Oculus founder Palmer Luckey funded white-nationalist “meme magic” for Trump and Facebook censored a famous photo from the Vietnam War for nudity. In October, Facebook began “choking off reach in the news feed.” It was harder for traditional publishers to get distribution without paying for it. They could presumably pay Facebook but they also began to pay celebrities directly. According to Digiday, “When Mic shared a story about convicted rapist Brock Turner on its own Facebook page, it gathered about 7,700 reactions and was shared 4,400 times. When [George] Takei shared that same story the next day, it got nearly three times as many reactions — over 22,000 — and drove over 5,000 shares.” In early November, Facebook was revealed to be hosting viral political content that was made up out of whole cloth by Macedonian teens looking to make money. This content was apparently very popular and widely shared. For example, according to the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, as quoted in the New York Times, “A fake story claiming Pope Francis — actually a refugee advocate — endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions.” Presumably traditional news media was performing well during this time, but Facebook has also been encouraging people to pay for shares on its platform, so Soon after the election, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said it was “crazy” that the fake news had influenced the election. People on Twitter quickly responded by pointing out that Facebook eagerly sells its influence to advertisers, and took partial credit for mass pro-democracy activist uprisings during the Arab Spring. They asked: So which is it? On November 8, Facebook generated tremendous engagement during the election. According to Forbes, “There were 115.3 million people on Facebook worldwide that generated 716.3 million likes, posts, comments and shares related to the election. There were 643 million views of election-related videos. And, over 10 million people in the U.S. shared on Facebook that they’d voted.” One person with a close connection to Facebook also weighed in. On November 9, a former Facebook product designer, Bobby Goodlatte, wrote the following on Facebook: “This isn’t anybody’s fault. Nobody predicted this. But this must be a wake up call. My aim here is not to point fingers. Again, this isn’t about blaming or accusing. But this election is a clear mandate to act.” On November 12, facing public criticism, Mark Zuckerberg issued a very carefully-worded statement that accepted no responsibility for the election results. He downplayed the impact of fake news—“only a very small amount is fake news and hoaxes,” he explained, although he didn’t make clear how often fake news was shared. He then restated the larger issue of news reliability as, essentially, a product problem: “Identifying the ‘truth’ is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.” Zuckerberg also linked to the “News Feed FYI,” for those wanting to learn more, but that was last updated in August. Also on November 12th, BuzzFeed reported that the Trump campaign attributed a great deal of its digital fundraising success to Facebook’s advertising products. Today, November 14, it was reported that Facebook apparently had a “fix” for the fake news, but after the mess with trending topics, didn’t want to release the fix because it would upset the same conservative forces that had led to the “Trending Topics” debacle. Also today, New York Magazine proposed how Facebook could deal with its fake news problem: “…It will need to bring back and expand the human editorial teams, and partner product managers and engineers with people with editorial expertise. Another important step, he says, would be to create a public editor position, similar to the role at the New York Times — someone who acts as a liaison between readers (or users) and the organization itself.” Finally, also today, Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociologist and activist who writes about digital media, race, and many other issues, had her Facebook account deleted because trolls reported her for violating Facebook’s “real names” policy: “As of 1 PM on November 14, 2016, Facebook had indeed locked me out of my account. I was able to extract ten years of photos first, which is important. But, it does mean both my professional and personal accounts are gone. So, whomever reported me won this round.”
So that’s Facebook. (Source)
“The article’s allegation is not true,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We did not build and withhold any News Feed changes based on their potential impact on any one political party. We always work to make News Feed more meaningful and informative, and that includes examining the quality and accuracy of items shared, such as clickbait, spam and hoaxes.”
A recent BuzzFeed investigation found that 38% of posts shared from three large right-wing politics pages on Facebook included “false or misleading information,” and that three large left-wing pages did the same nearly 20% of the time. A follow-up investigation by BuzzFeed revealed how teenagers in Macedonia create fake, pro-Trump news stories that are designed to go viral on Facebook.
President Obama recently called out Facebook’s role in spreading fake news for creating a “dust cloud of nonsense.” (Source)
Facebook knew the impact on election was non-symmetrical.
Now a new report from Gizmodo claims the company chose not to take steps to suppress fake news earlier this year because it would have “disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds.”
Facebook may have been scared of provoking a backlash from conservative users of the service in the wake of an episode earlier this year in which contractors employed by Facebook reportedly suppressed conservative-oriented news articles from the trending news section. (Source)
BREAKING: Hillary Announces Massive Hunting Ban… Say Goodbye To Your Favorite Pastime (Source)
They don’t like my name. Mostly I was reported by political malcontents and Facebook just follows through. (Source)
Automating community policing leads to horrible community policing decisions.
On Sunday morning, I awoke to an email from a Donald Trump supporter that contained a threat to my life. I have received such threats before and will surely continue to get them. But this one was especially graphic and specific and has required me to consult with law enforcement—a nightmare scenario that was unimaginable before Trump and his ghastly army of piteous tormenters came on the scene. To illustrate the gruesome hate that now regularly pours into my inbox, I posted the email on Facebook and made the image public. Hundreds of people shared it as an example of the bigotry that Trump has unleashed upon people like me.
MARK JOSEPH STERN
Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers the law and LGBTQ issues.
Then, a few hours later, Facebook removed the image, informing me that it violated “Community Standards.” It also removed altogether a long post that a close friend had written about the email and the threats to my life, which included an image of the threat. I promptly reposted the email along with Facebook’s warning. Naturally, Facebook removed that post as well. It then required me to “Review the Community Standards” before continuing to use the platform. (Source)