The old is new again: States want schools to teach students “media literacy”

State lawmakers around the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction online, a skill they say is critical to democracy.

Lawmakers have introduced or passed bills calling on public school systems to develop lessons for a form of instruction called “media literacy.”

Alarmed by fake news, states push media literacy in schools

We did this when I was a kid in elementary school. We were asked to read a newspaper article each day starting in about 2nd or 3rd grade. By 5th or 6th grade, we were required to write a paragraph summary of a newspaper article (sometimes each day). I grew up infatuated with the “news” and the importance of “news”. We were taught how news worked, how reporters were “objective” and unbiased, and how a free press was critical to a democracy.

Today, of course, we’ve learned that pros play silly games with absurd click-bait headlines (shouldn’t this be titled “Alarmed by this, states push this on school children”?), engage in subject cheer leading instead of objective and unbiased reporting,while sanctimoniously lecturing us while their star personalities (and many more) were arrogant jerks.

Will students be taught to think for themselves (hopefully!) or will they be trained how to be compliant targets of propaganda wars waged in the media and in social media?

Facebook deletes FB, Instagram accounts of Head of Chechen Republic

The Head of the Chechen Republic is the title formerly known as “President of Chechen Republic”.

The strongman leader of the Chechen Republic has long been a prolific social media user, filling his accounts with photos of him cuddling his cat, lifting weights or soliciting poems about President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

So when Ramzan Kadyrov’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, which had four million followers between them, were unexpectedly taken down on Dec. 23, people took notice.

A Facebook spokeswoman said that Mr. Kadyrov’s accounts were deactivated because he had just been added to a United States sanctions list and that the company was legally obligated to act.

Facebook removes social media accounts of Chechen Republic leader

Twitter curates the Tweets you see

Many Twitter tweets I see are from people I do not follow yet their tweets appear in my Twitter feed. Why?

Twitter inserts them because they can!

Twitter inserts others tweets into each of our feeds based on its own secret algorithms. By choosing to insert tweets from people we choose not to follow, Twitter introduces its own potential propaganda messaging. 100% of such tweets I checked are political in nature – and I do not know why I am seeing them.

Source: Yes, Twitter is putting tweets in your timeline from people you don’t follow

Another reason I am no longer a regular user of Twitter.

(I filed this under Censorship as the closest matching category – by increasing the noise to signal ratio, Twitter is censoring the content I wanted to see.)

We watched a social media propaganda theme explode in real time – and you won’t believe what happened next!

This past week we learned about social media idiots!

In a world where facts and logic no longer matter, a train derailment on the first paying passenger run on a brand new, $181 million upgraded rail corridor, completed as part of an $800 million dollar infrastructure upgrade, is:

  1. An example of America’s “crumbling infrastructure”
  2. An example of America’s lack of investment in infrastructure
  3. An example that future budgets (which might cut infrastructure spending) caused this crash, in the present
  4. An example that Congress is stealing from the poor and giving to the wealthy
  5. Caused by Antifa pouring concrete on the tracks

All of these “instant” explanations were shared on social media because never let an event go unused for political propaganda messaging! And never let facts or logic intervene either!

In the real world, the propagandists promoting these messages were idiots – all of them.

The Reality

Option 6. Social media is filled with idiots

The rail line is brand new and is owned by Sound Transit, a government agency; the train cars are owned by the State of Washington and the State of Oregon which subsidize 40% of the costs and hire Amtrak to run the train. This was the first paying passenger run on the new line.

A total of $800 million was spent on the PNW corridor as a just completed infrastructure upgrade. 

Washington State Department of Transportation explained that the track is new as is the lead locomotive. The system has an active train control system designed to prevent over speed accidents but it had not yet been activated.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, a data recorder on the train showed it traveling at 80 mph in a 30 mph speed zone. Physics – not infrastructure spending – caused the train to fly off the tracks (see also).

Social Media is Dominated by Idiots

The track and locomotive were BRAND NEW. You are an idiot.

Everything was BRAND NEW as a result of infrastructure investment. You are an idiot.

The track was BRAND NEW. Education investment played a role? You are an idiot.

The track was BRAND NEW. You are an idiot.




Fake news sites InfoWars and GatewayPundit, spread rumors that Antifa caused the train wreck, spreading pointless speculation in the absence of evidence (but but but speculation is okay you know!). Idiots.

Right-wing hysteria web site DrudgeReport presented the story this way – not one bit of it was true – it all false to the point of being fake news:


Newsweek has a long track record of misreporting and was the only news outlet to spin the story as in their headline. Idiots.


A day later, CNN jumped in with a pretend news report, rich in speculation, critical of not having enacted an infrastructure spending bill in 2017. All of which was irrelevant to the train crash but fit the fake news meme du jour popular on social media and in much of the media.

We went down this path before

In July 2015, Occupy Democrats blamed Republican investment in wars – and not infrastructure – for the collapse of an old bridge that was intentionally being demolished by construction crews because a brand new bridge had just been completed. Their followers shared this item tens of thousands of times on social media.

Facts and Logic No Longer Matter

All that matters is your feelings. If you feel a brand new train, crossing a brand new rail line funded with $800 million of infrastructure improvements – is an example of not funding infrastructure then your feelings must be true. Or a sign that you are idiot.


When a social media platform becomes over run with idiots, the value of that platform to everyone else goes down. Why spend time reviewing posts or tweets when so much of it is not true, fake news, or just outrage?

Since the train crash, I’ve largely stopped using Twitter and deleted the Twitter app from my phone and tablet. The signal to noise ratio dropped too low this past week.

U.S. firms use social media age-based ad targeting to discriminate against older workers

Major U.S. employers use social media’s ability to display job ads only to those in certain age groups, such as between age 25 to 36, or below age 38 or below age 50. They are using this feature to advertise job openings only to younger workers, thereby removing older workers from their candidate pool.


  • Verizon targeted showed ads only to those age 25 to 36 years old
  • UPS targeted age 19 to 35
  • State Farm targeted age 19 to 35

Reporters found they could readily purchase job ads based on age profiles at Google and LinkedIn.

Health care employers ran ads based on sex, targeting female nurses (nursing is 90% female) and using ad tactics that may avoid reaching men. Employers can also use social media targeted advertising to intentionally reach – or discriminate against – ethnic and minority groups.

Facebook says age-based job ads are justified and does not plan to stop the practice by employers. Critics point out that as job seekers discover Facebook promotes age discrimination in job advertising, job seekers will go elsewhere.

A class action lawsuit has been filed against Facebook on behalf of all Facebook users 40 or older.

Personal Note

I do not believe I have ever seen a job ad on Facebook.

I have a undergrad degree in computer science, a graduate degree in software engineering, and an M.B.A. degree, and have worked in Silicon Valley and for Microsoft Corporation.

I am skilled in the top 3 most sought after fields in the United States. But I have never seen a job ad for my field on Facebook. Ever. I am also over 50 years old.

Facebook suspends account of man who posted photo of his wife

He posted photos of his wife, who died at age 32, of cancer with words encouraging others to get appropriate medical tests done. Facebook suspended his account. More here.

Social media is how we talk to each other – except when Facebook, Google and Twitter engage in heavy handed censorship typical of an oppressive government regime. This is not good.

Another example of “Begging the Question” fallacy

The very first passenger train with paying customers crashed on a brand new rail line with a brand new locomotive.  A spokesperson then proceeds to tell us that the railroad is safe:

“It’s important to note, this is not a comment on the safety of those tracks. We have no reason to believe those tracks are anything but safe,” WSDOT spokeswoman Barbara LaBoe said. “This is a decision based on sensitivity both to the people involved in Monday’s tragic events and our ongoing passengers.”

No reason? After you’ve just experienced a spectacular crash on the first passenger run? Seriously, no reason? Empirically, the rail service was not and is not safe.

See here and here for other examples of this fallacy.

This is a common propaganda spin – after something bad happens, we assert that this is “not who we are”, or “our streets” or “our rail lines” are safe. When you see this you are seeing propaganda drivel at work.

Another post will look at other, louder propaganda that emerged after this rail crash.



Google and Facebook among most prolific of web trackers

Google and Facebook are some of the most prominent trackers, according to Ghostery.

Google is in the top ten of the most widely used trackers based on the various services the Internet giant uses, including Google Analytics and Google Adsense. Facebook is next with three.

Google Analytics was found on almost half of all loaded pages at 46.4 percent, while Facebook Connect was on more than a fifth, coming in at 21.9 percent.

Other companies that showed include comScore and Twitter.

Your data is being grabbed by Web ‘trackers’

And as will be seen in a future post, companies like Facebook enable advertisers to target age groups. Some of America’s best known employers, including tech companies, are targeting their employment ads – by age. Literally posting job ads only to those under age 38 or age 50, in what some law professors say is a egregious violation of Federal employment law. By preventing older workers from seeing job ads, these firms filter out older workers.

Google and Facebook threaten to control our thoughts (WSJ)

In his 2014 book “Zero to One,” Peter Thiel notes that because Google “doesn’t have to worry about competing with anyone, it has wider latitude to care about . . . its impact on the wider world.” If executives at a Silicon Valley monopoly believe that censoring certain content will push the world in a positive direction, market pressures cannot sufficiently restrain them.

Journalists also argue that tech companies are pushing media toward the lowest common denominator. Social media rewards clickbait—sensational headlines that confirm readers’ biases. Google and Facebook’s advertising duopoly bleeds traditional publishers of the revenue needed to produce high-quality news. At the same time, Google’s search engine is biased against subscription content, depleting another source of funding.

The Google-Facebook Duopoly Threatens Diversity of Thought

Facebook will automatically recognize people in any photos uploaded to Facebook

Facebook will automatically scan all uploaded photos and automatically identify who appears in the photo – if someone posts a photo of you, Facebook will now send you an alert.

What could go wrong?

Update: Fortune has this to say

The social network debuted new features on Tuesday intended to alert people when someone else has uploaded a photo of them, even if they weren’t “tagged” in the photos with their real names. Users can then approve the image for publishing, choose for it to be untagged without their names, or contact the person who uploaded the photo.

Facebook says that facial recognition technology will be used to make our lives better and there is an option in Settings to turn it off.