Social media companies really do read your posts, emails and documents

Google’s GMail service “scans” your emails and Google Docs to serve you ads. The word “scans” implies scanning for keywords but that is a false assumption about what is actually being done.

Natural language processing technology has advanced to where these algorithms are the equivalent of someone reading all of your emails and taking notes. Literally, online services are reading all of your email and building dossiers on what they think they know about you, ostensibly to better target advertising to you.

Facebook is taking this to extremes, having announced this week that Facebook’s algorithms are analyzing all of your online posts to determine if you suffer from depression and may be suicidal. In the event their algorithm decides you may be showing suicidal tendencies, Facebook alerts the authorities who send first responders to your home.

In other words, Facebook is now operating as an unlicensed health care practitioner and diagnosing your health based on your writings, and without ever having met you or spoken with you.

Facebook uses this information for marketing purposes too – imagine conducting this analysis and then showing you ads for anti-depressants and “talk to your doctor”. Also consider,

“An egregious example of the kind of behavior these companies’ business models encourage surfaced this summer when an internal Facebook sales pitch to advertisers was leaked to an Australian newspaper. Facebook stated it had pinpointed an audience of thousands of young teenagers who felt “insecure,” “defeated,” “nervous,” “failures,” “worthless,” and “needed a confidence boost.” These diagnoses were based on a psychoanalysis of private Facebook information: what users posted, what they liked, how they appeared in photos, who their friends and how depressed were they as well as their search and shopping histories, visits to mental illness sites or hotlines and so forth.” (source)

Twitter analyzes your Tweets, “Likes” and who you follow, plus combines this information with 3rd party advertising networks to create a profile of attributes. You can see this by going to Settings and Privacy and then selecting Your Twitter Data, page down and look at Interests from Twitter and Interests from Partners.

I discovered that almost everything they deduced about me in the Interests from Partners was wrong – seriously wrong. About the only correct items are that I have a cat and a graduate degree (2 actually, but do not tell them!)

All of this collected data is used to fine tune propaganda messaging directed at you. Of course, much of this is advertising; however, ads are also run for political purposes too. In effect, online services are proving our hypothesis – that social media has become the most advanced, friction-less propaganda platform in human history.

Silicon Valley “tech” firms have morphed into the most advanced propaganda operations in human history. Their actions are conducted in secret, they are unbounded, and they are unregulated. Their technology is now used to directly influence you and public policy.

To illustrate, this week, the head of the FCC commented on “net neutrality” and noted that Silicon Valley tech firms promote neutrality of the broadband pipe – while simultaneously censoring discussions conducted on their platform (Twitter and Youtube both do this). As if on cue, almost immediately thereafter, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet (parent of Google) announced they will now censor news.google.com to remove stories from Russian media outlets such as RT.

In that instant, Google showed its defense of net neutrality is shallow if not completely hollow. Google wants other people to be forced to be neutral while preserving a right to censorship (including news and political speech, among the most protected of speech in the United States) for itself.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are not merely platforms for the dissemination of propaganda – they are themselves major propagandists seeking to have others adopt their agendas for their benefit.

Google is not just evil (to re-arrange their motto of “Don’t be evil”) but is acting as a menace to democracy itself.

And what could possibly go wrong with Facebook’s surveillance and analyzing our posts and perhaps discovering that we hold views contrary to the power structure?

Someone should write a book about this – I know, they could title it “1984”!

Bottom Line

Online services including Google (Gmail, Docs), Facebook and Twitter and undoubtedly others are doing the machine equivalent of reading your email and documents, taking notes, and analyzing what you are writing to draw conclusions about you.

What could possibly go wrong?

Major global brands pull all ads from Youtube

The Times of London discovered that Youtube was running hundreds of thousands of videos basically containing “scantily clad” children, and those videos had numerous comments containing sexually explicit content. Ads from mainstream companies were running along side these videos – in effect, Google/Youtube was profiting from pedophilia.

Companies such as HP, Deutsche Bank and others have now pulled all ads from the Youtube platform.

Meanwhile, it was discovered that typing “How to have” in to the Youtube search box returned suggested searches like “How to have sex with children”, “How to have sex with kids”. Youtube itself was offering those suggestions (I verified that this was true, before Youtube removed this “feature”).

More

 

TripAdvisor’s censorship of online reviews more extensive than originally thought #tripadvisor

TripAdvisor admitted to censoring some specific negative reviews by consumers reporting that crimes and acts of violence had occurred at some venues.

Since then, more people have documented that TripAdvisor has censored reports of crime at U.S. hotel and related properties. Update: TripAdvisor caught lying, now said to be under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

Unfortunately, online review sites are worthless due to a combination of “gaming the system” with fake reviews (both positive for your business and negative fake reviews for competitive businesses) and active censorship of negative reviews by online review sites such as TripAdvisor.com.

Social media’s ease of publishing has led to a rapid degradation in the quality of material available online. Online reviews are a form of propaganda – intended to influence your decision making. Review web sites know this. Business operators know this.

Now we know this: We intentionally avoided search results that went to TripAdvisor.com for a trip we completed over a week ago. What else can we do?

 

Is social media a mental health disease vector?

It made me wonder if we’re in the same boat as the neolithic cities, only for what you might call viruses of the mind: Toxic ideas that spread like wildfire.

….

Likewise, in recent years we’ve gone from an era when ideas spread comparatively slowly, to one in which social media in particular allow them to spread like wildfire. Sometimes that’s good, when they’re good ideas. But most ideas are probably bad; certainly 90% of ideas aren’t in the top 10%. Maybe we don’t know the mental disease vectors that we’re inadvertently unleashing.

Source: Social media threat: People learned to survive disease, we can handle Twitter

Another social media propaganda poster today

This came through my social media feed earlier today. Another example of a simple, well crafted social media propaganda posters that elicits a quick response and a click on the Like and Share buttons.

The quote at top is accurate, so what could be wrong?

Per Snopes, the quote is in reference to before these 4 people were killed at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya and was not in reference to events in Benghazi.

As a propaganda poster, it is effective. A short simple quote with a photograph of Hillary Clinton, followed by photos of 4 people that the target knows were, in fact, killed in Libya.

Very compelling when all we do is apply our fast acting System 1 emotional style thinking.

That makes this a very effective social media propaganda poster even though the conclusion is wrong. No one will bother to research the quote when they see this – instead, they will click on Like and perhaps Share, spreading the false propaganda on to others.

The culture of perpetual outrage is set to kill (we are way past set to stun)

As a comment to one of the stories says, “People will see what they want to see”.

So many people today want to be outraged that they are continuously on the prowl for opportunities to be outraged. And once they have spotted an opportunity for outrage, they share it on social media! The ease with which we can share our outrage becomes a form of propaganda – spreading myths and half truths and creating suspicion where none is warranted.

Even the most innocent or kind actions are viewed by someone as something other than what was intended, as a symbol representing something else that only the perpetually outraged sees.

All of us now walk on egg shells for fear that our most innocent of comments or actions will be interpreted by someone else as something that our action is not.

  • I was once jogging, with my dog, past an elementary school. I was on a public roadway. A schoolyard monitor told me I should not jog past the elementary school on the public road “Because we can never be sure these days“.
  • As a guy, can I go to the zoo by myself or will someone suspect that an older male by himself at the zoo must be a child molester?
  • If I offer my seat on a train to an older person – especially a woman – does that make me a chivalrous sexist lout?
  • If I am friendly and smile at someone, does that mean I am obviously a chivalrous sexist lout?
  • If I hold open or hold a door for anyone other than a white male – does that make me a suspicious character exerting white male patriarchal privilege? (Apparently)
  • Recently, I noticed a blind woman standing near me, in a large, confusing crowd of people. I asked if she needed assistance (no, she was waiting for friends to come to her). Before I asked, I worried my asking might be interpreted as a sign of disrespect – since by asking, I was implying she could not manage on her own, or something, right?
  • If I volunteer at a public school, does that make me a suspicious character who is obviously trying to hang out with young girls and women? (I have been an engineering mentor for high school robotics teams for 9 years – each year I need to have a background check run and undergo two hours of training on harassment – just to be a high skilled engineering volunteer “Because we can never be sure these days”.)
  • Yesterday, a Twitter tweet said all guys are to blame for the actions of some guys regarding sex harassment by people in power. The tweet further said that specifically, I, as a guy, am responsible for their actions.

See how confusing this gets?

Thanks to the culture of perpetual outrage none of us can interact with others for fear of being accused of misconduct. We can not be friendly and helpful to others without being looked at with suspicion. We must be cautious about offering to volunteer to help others. We cannot engage in perfectly ordinary activities (like walking down a street) without being viewed with suspicion. Wearing the wrong color stocking cap can get us trouble; putting the wrong color shoelaces in our shoes can get us accused of racism.

In a world of perpetual outrage, where the outrage turns all activities into something they are not, all of us are guilty, no matter how hard we try to be a nice and helpful person.

This is the world of social media’s culture of perpetual outrage. Social media is destroying our lives.

Related: How can we keep track of all the interpretations of common symbols? Before I wrote this, I did not know that the “Ok” symbol, drinking milk, or wearing black boots with white or red shoe laces are signs of racism. How can we know how others will interpret what seem like innocent actions?

Notes

Drinking milk is a sign of racism?

The Swedish government issued a report on racism and white power movements in Sweden. A machine translation of their document (original in  Swedish) yielded this from page 33 of the translation:

The paper also notes that placing quotes around certain words, such as “refugee” or “immigrant” imply special meaning, such as questioning whether someone is actually a refugee or immigrant, and that this too is a sign of racism and bigotry.

Swedish paper source: Kaati, L. (ed.). (2017, Nov). Det vita hatet: radikal nationalism i digitala miljöer  (or English) The white hate: radical nationalism in digital
environments. Published by the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

Another example of fake news

This item appeared in my Facebook crap feed yesterday and linked to a supposed news report. I searched Google News and Bing News for reports about Jimmy Hoffa, “22 bodies”, and “Flint River” and neither returned any relevant stories related to this, a sure sign of creative fake news driving Likes, Shares and selling eye balls to advertisers.

It just never ends, does it?

Bill Gates never gave this high school speech

This crossed by Facebook crap feed this week. It is a fake, of course. The “rules” were written by author Charles Sykes in a couple of books he wrote. This has nothing to do with Bill Gates or even a high school.

Did Bill Gates create a list of ‘Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School’?

Source: Bill Gates High School Speech

But thanks to social media, this was shared, Liked and re-shared again this past week.

‘Fake news’ becomes a business model: researchers

Is this fake news? Duh? Hello? I’ve been writing about this for a long time and researchers just notice that “fake news” is “a profitable business model”?

Cyber criminals have latched onto the notion of “fake news” and turned it into a profitable business model, with services starting at under $10, security researchers said Thursday. The online security firm Digital Shadows released a report highlighting services aimed at creating bogus media

Source: ‘Fake news’ becomes a business model: researchers

Good grief, such insight!

“Like any good news story, content will be shared, liked, reposted and distributed across many different platforms and channels,” the report said.

and

Holland said misinformation has been around for a long time but that “what has changed in the digital world is the speed such techniques spread around the world.”

Really? I would have never guessed!