Facebook confirms it is a platform for the friction-less spread of propaganda

Emphasis added:

Facebook said Russia-backed operatives published about 80,000 posts that were delivered to approximately 29 million people on the social network during a two-year period, CBS News reported Monday, citing a source familiar with Facebook’s planned testimony. The posts may have spread to three times that many people after they were shared, liked and followed by Facebook users.

Source: Facebook: Russian-backed posts reached 126M during election – CNET

I am amused that the many (but not all) of the media reports seem oblivious to the widespread use of Facebook as a propaganda delivery platform. Some of the coverage of this topic leaves one thinking that most propaganda on Facebook must originate in Russia!

The problem with censoring speech is … who gets to be the censor?

Who gets to be the censor?

Crazily, Americans say they favor free speech and censorship!

… the survey also found Americans willing to censor, regulate, or punish a wide variety of speech and expression they personally find offensive:

  • 51% of staunch liberals say it’s “morally acceptable” to punch Nazis. 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.

  • 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people’s preferred gender pronouns.

  • 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.

  • 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts. 4

  • 7% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.

Source: Poll: 71% of Americans Say Political Correctness Has Silenced Discussions Society Needs to Have, 58% Have Political Views They’re Afraid to Share | Cato @ Liberty

Read the whole thing. Americans think they – and college students – should engage in free speech – but simultaneously favor censorship of speakers they don’t like.

There is a way to censor speech you do not like – avoid it, do not listen to it, do not attend their talks, do not lend them support.

Users denied access to their own Google Docs for “violating terms of service”

Even if the error turns out to be a technical glitch, the fact that Google is capable of identifying “bad” Google Docs at all is a reminder: Much of what you upload, receive or type to Google is monitored. While many people may be aware that Gmail scans your emails — for instance, so that its smart-reply feature can figure out what responses to suggest — this policy extends to other Google products, too.

Source: Google Docs ‘terms of service violation’ affecting users – The Washington Post

Google admits they scan your email and monitor and log everything you do online. Per the reporter, Google would not say whether they read your Google Docs documents.

There are good reasons to avoid using Chrome, or cloud services like those provided by Google “for free”. Remember, when its free, you are the product that is being sold.

Update from Google – apparently they do scan our documents.

Hi everyone,

This issue should now be resolved and you should be able to access your files.

For more details, this morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked. A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs. Protecting users from viruses, malware, and other abusive content is central to user safety. We apologize for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again.

Best,

Julianne

Google Docs Community

How ‘Obamacare’ propaganda works

ObamaCare propaganda is simple and not at all sophisticated.

Like almost all ObamaCare news stories, the article linked below discusses benefits only – and never, ever mentions that half the market receives no subsidies and never, ever mentions an actual cost per month for people paying for health insurance.

Did you know that some have ACA annual premiums as high as $49,000 per year for a basic Silver plan? Yes, seriously. Read on to learn more. And how the media hides this information from you.

Most news reports about the ACA are like this: If they quote an insurance premium they typically select age 27, and rarely, age 40. But the rates from 21 to 40 are nearly flat – about 270% of the price increase occurs after age 43! This presents the public with a misleading view of premium costs.

By leaving out critical information and presenting only benefits, why would anyone have any concerns at all about ObamaCare?

This article by the Associated Press and their member news organizations is propaganda messaging. You will literally be dumber for having read the AP article!

Source: ‘Obamacare’ curveball: free insurance in 1,500-plus counties | The Seattle Times

NPR has a similar propaganda piece, mentioning only benefits – never, ever mentioning actual problems with ObamaCare. This is PR puffery, not journalism.

Cherry Picking and Censorship Methods of Propaganda

Let’s look at real numbers for 2018 – all of which are omitted from the AP’s “errors by omission” piece. This falls under the propaganda method of “censorship” – literally cutting out information that contradicts the propaganda message.

  • In Flagstaff, AZ the least cost Silver plan for a 64 year old married couple making $65,000/year in pre-tax income is about $35,000/year – which is less than last year!

You might be thinking, but don’t they get a subsidy? No. The subsidy cut off limit is completely unrelated to the cost of insurance; its based on the regional poverty income level.

Let’s look at another example – it gets worse!

  • In Laramie, WY, the lowest cost Silver plan for this 64 year old couple earning $65,000 per year and above the subsidy cut off is a whopping $49,100 per year! Whoa! With a $5,000 deductible on the policy, they’ll pay just about 100% of their after tax income before collecting on their insurance policy. (Oddly, the cheapest Gold policy is a bargain at just over $40,000/year – but we use the Silver as the benchmark, just like HHS does.)

Yet if they earned only $64,000, they would receive about $43,000 in direct subsidy. Since insurance is paid for with after tax dollars, that is similar to earning $50,000 before taxes. This illustrates how upside down and crazy this has become – by earning $1,000 less, they receive a pre-tax benefit greater than the their direct cost of insurance! ($50k pre-tax value compared to $49k after taxes paid value.) This is insanity!

What’s going on?

There are two defects (of many) in the ACA that are at work here.

  • First, the subsidy cut off level has no relation to the insurance cost – it is based on the regional poverty level. Consequently, even though rates may take up 100% of your after tax income, you do not receive a subsidy.
  • Second, the way the ACA works is that those who receive subsidies are paying essentially the same price as in 2014. As insurers raise rates, the government increases the subsidy. But the subsidy cut off level continues to track the regional poverty level. Rates can climb as high as they want but the subsidy level remains unchanged!

The second point is why 1,500+ counties will have “free insurance” policies – the subsidies have grown so enormous that taxpayers now pay everything.

This “freebie” is a side effect of the super high cost of insurance in the ACA market places – it is not “by design”.

Insurance companies may be gaming the system. They can focus on the subsidized half of the market – and raise rates without limits because the government will always increase the subsidies. Subsidies, of course, are funded by taxpayers and transfer money from taxpayers to the insurance companies.

  • Now – see if you can find a news report that covers any of this. Go ahead – try and find just one!
  • Update: Finally – at last! The Oregonian quotes prices for a 60 year old and notes that in the market they checked, the price is now $918/month for one person (or $22,032 for a married couple, a detail they leave out). The article notes provider networks are being cut to smaller sizes and many insurers have left the non-metro markets.

To learn more about this problem – and possible solutions – read my full paper. (My paper did influence policy makers in my own state, by the way.)

“Errors of Omission” via Cherry Picking and Censorship

This example illustrates the power of every day propaganda messaging. The media has never critically reported on ObamaCare and largely writes fluff pieces discussing only benefits. The general public receives a skewed perspective on ObamaCare when real life problems and actual defects in the Act are hidden from view. Problems that are hidden cannot be fixed and the act of hiding the problems leaves us worse off.

Many in the media have been cheerleaders for ObamaCare – they are not objective reporters. Consequently the news media earns a reputation for  propaganda messaging. By leaving out critical data, they have created a fictional story through the use of cherry picking and censorship.

Faceback ads reach 4 out of every 3 teens in the U.S.!

Facebook ads also reach 12 out of every 7 young adults in the U.S.!

Facebook makes up their advertising reach numbers:

According to Facebook, there are 41 million adults between the ages of 18 and 24. However, according to data from the U.S. census, there are just 31 million. Facebook also says there are 60 million between the ages of 25 and 34, while the U.S. census puts its estimate at just 35 million.

Source: Facebook Claims It Reaches More People Than the U.S. Census Data Says Exist – Adweek

And apparently for just $100,000, you can reach 126 million people!

For just a few million $s you could reach trillions of people on earth!

Note

I have not written much about the use of Facebook by propagandists linked to Russia.  These stories may be standard issue social media-based fake news using inflammatory posts designed for online sharing, with the goal of driving eye balls to ad filled web pages. In other words, it just a business.

Teens in Macedonia and other countries (not just Russia) are making a great income writing fake news stories for sharing and selling eyeballs to advertisers, targeting political activists in the U.S.

There are a great many documented fake news publishers, operating on this business model because it works and its profitable!

Inflammatory issue-oriented ads and fake news posts said to have originated with in Russia may be social media-based online publishers, selling eyeballs to advertisers. Who knows? May be there is more to the story but after a year of government investigations, the story mutated from Russia hacked the election to someone in Russia bought Facebook ads and posted fake news. This sounds similar to a classic social media-based, online, for profit, fake news publishing model. There are more descriptions of the postings in this article and they sound a lot like fake news publishing. (Update – But also see this newer post about Internet Research [Agency] – they use the methods of fake news publishers but their goal may not be making a profit. Their social media activities took all sides – for and against candidates and issues: “Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos“.)

The real story here is how surprisingly easy it is for anyone to use Facebook, Twitter and Google as a platform for the mass dissemination of propaganda messaging.

Continue reading

Facebook hides posts from pages you follow but it’s only a test, they say

Facebook Explore Feed is rolling out globally this week. Most people around the world can see it in their bookmarks and they can discover new content here. But in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia it works differently: all posts by pages are moved from newsfeed to Explore Feed. In main newsfeed are now just friend and sponsored posts.

Yes, you log into Facebook and you can see only posts from your friends and ads. You have to click on Explore Feed to see posts from pages you follow.

Source: Biggest drop in Facebook organic reach we have ever seen

Facebook insists it is just a test “But that doesn’t mean Facebook won’t move forward with implementing a similar change more widely if users prefer their News Feed just be posts from friends.”

I use FB primarily for groups and pages that I follow! Facebook, though, wants to display lots of political nonsense from my FB “friends” because FB thinks it knows what we want better than we do!

Arghhhh!

Did an Iranian immigrant start California fires? NO.

This fake news nonsense came through my Twitter feed today.

The story traces back to this fake news web site.

Source: Fact check: Did Illegal Muslim From Iran Started California Wildfire – ayupp

Answer: NO, the entire story is fake.

Note that this item has been shared 471 times and liked 330 times on Twitter. Of the 105 comments, very few pointed out that its a fake news story.

The photo, which is easy to cross check, is of a Palestinian who “carried out on Friday a stabbing attack in Halamish settlement in which three Israelis were killed and a fourth was injured”

There is more in the ynetnews.com online magazine about the related trial which took place in September 2017.

Disney’s “secret army” of Moms spread Disney promotional propaganda #marketing #astroturf

Disney has a secret army of mothers who flood the internet with Disney propaganda

While this sounds like a big deal and “secret” and what not, it is just “astro turf” public relations.

“Grassroots” organizing is when a group of people supposedly come together to promote something (often political or government policy related). The idea is that it is a movement that arose from the people.

In reality, nearly all “grassroots” movements today are “astro turf” operations, carefully orchestrated and run by public relations organizations. To learn more about how astro turf operations are run, see our previous post on astro turf propaganda. The best astro turf operations enlist participants who do not even realize that are being controlled as part of a public relations operation – participants think they are part of a grassroots movement!

Disney has enlisted an estimated 1,300 mothers who frequently blog about positive Disney experiences. Disney provides them with enhanced experiences at Disney theme parks with the hope this leads to further positive messaging, influencing the bloggers friends and followers  Participants blog and share their positive experiences on social media, enabling Disney to incorporate an astro turf army of moms into their social media marketing (also known as propaganda). The Mom’s who participate are fully aware of the PR efforts underway by Disney; this is not a secret.

None of this is new! Astro turf lobbying and astro turf marketing have gone on for years. Social media is merely a new platform for astro turf marketing.

Corollary: Absolutely nothing can be taken at face value: The innocent comments about a great experience at a restaurant or theme park may very well be sponsored. “Grass roots” lobbying efforts for a local city park or a state or Federal law are almost always driven by a professional public relations agency engaged in astro turfing. Social media  has expanded the ease with which fake grassroots messaging can be quickly delivered to millions of people.

Astro turf marketing is a powerful and effective method of propaganda that is frequently used to sell a product, service or an idea (such as new government program or policy).

Crime is worse than ever – except not really! #crime #media

Most of us believe crime is getting worse. How often do we see yet another news report about car prowling, a break in, or especially, a violent crime? Probably every single day. Many TV news casts lead with murders and mayhem, followed by fires and auto crashes.

What effect do you think this has on how you view the world?

Pew Research took a look at the data and found that “public perceptions about crime in the U.S. often don’t align with the data”. In fact, they wrote:

  • “Violent crime in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past quarter century.

  • Property crime has declined significantly over the long term”

Source: 5 facts about crime in the U.S. | Pew Research Center

Surprised?

Take a look at the Pew charts:

Media’s interest is in selling eye balls to advertisers. Headlines about a young single mom assaulted outside her home grab our attention.

The media frequently cherry picks stories (by frequently we mean perhaps most of the time) based on their emotional hooks and novelty. Their goal is to sell advertising. Their “propaganda” is to push stories that persuade you to watch or read their story in order to expose yourself to their advertising customers.

Novelty, emotion and fear are powerful hooks. Crime stories are scary!

A side effect is we get a very skewed perspective on the world around us – and incorrectly think that crime is worse than ever.

More on how social media “negativity” harms us all

Highlighting the work of social psychologist Roy Baumeister, Seppälä points out that our brain’s “tendency to give more weight to the negative may have helped our species survive by highlighting potential dangers.”

“However, in this day and age, our negativity bias, both as it relates to the environment and to our self-judgments, is harmful,” she writes.

Source: Psychologist says this mindset makes you happier and successful

Attributes of social media – especially the angry, negative posts – may be overloading our brain’s ability to cope with the scary. We really are better off focusing on the positive rather than the negative.