Society now requires us to be liked on social media?

Not only is a “strong social media presence” now a prerequisite for many, if not most, jobs, but companies have begun to look at your number of followers as both a measure of monetary value and a career determiner. And according to TIME.com, employers actually consider people without Facebook suspicious. “If you boycott Instagram, you’re cutting yourself off from a lot of opportunities,” said Emily. “I started posting more selfies, despite being self conscious about it, because honestly—you get so many more ‘likes’ when you post a selfie. And you get so many more followers.”

Even Karimi admitted her social media absence is holding her back.

Source: “,,Why don’t I look like her?”,, How Instagram is ruining our self esteem

Many of us notice that popular social media personalities we  are recommended to follow appear to be mostly young and attractive. I went looking for commentary on that subject and ran into the above item.

Using social media presence and likes would appear to be a new form of potentially illegal job discrimination, particularly when it becomes a de facto proxy to preferentially hire young, healthy, good looking people.

When fake news is not good enough, buy fake readers to sell to advertisers

This blog has long suggested that Newsweek appears to be based on the fake news publishing model. Now we learn their parent company has fake readers:

Newsweek Media Group, the parent company of IBT, acknowledged it purchases audiences from ad networks that sell pop-up and pop-under traffic

Source: The Publisher of Newsweek And The International Business Times Has Been Buying Traffic And Engaging In Ad Fraud

The head editor at Newsweek is currently suspended over allegations of sexual harassment. The IRS is said to have filed millions of dollars in tax liens against the publisher.

Fake news publishers often intermix real news with exaggerated, emotion-laden click-bait articles designed for online sharing on social media. The goal is to drive eyeballs to advertisers. And when that is insufficient to create ad traffic, they can always buy fake readers.

Millions of fake Twitter followers, often based on stolen Twitter account identities

Not surprisingly, everything about social media is mostly fake.

“Devumi sells Twitter followers and retweets to celebrities, businesses and anyone who wants to appear more popular or exert influence online. Drawing on an estimated stock of at least 3.5 million automated accounts, each sold many times over, the company has provided customers with more than 200 million Twitter followers, a New York Times investigation found.

The accounts that most resemble real people, like Ms. Rychly, reveal a kind of large-scale social identity theft. At least 55,000 of the accounts use the names, profile pictures, hometowns and other personal details of real Twitter users, including minors, according to a Times data analysis.”

Of course, the NY Times hints at their own conflict of interest – people with many followers, real or fake, get endorsement deals. That means ad dollars flowing to people and groups other than the NY Times.

“High follower counts are also critical for so-called influencers, a budding market of amateur tastemakers and YouTube stars where advertisers now lavish billions of dollars a year on sponsorship deals. The more people influencers reach, the more money they make. According to data collected by Captiv8, a company that connects influencers to brands, an influencer with 100,000 followers might earn an average of $2,000 for a promotional tweet, while an influencer with a million followers might earn $20,000.”

Facebook to alter its news feed sharing algorithms

Facebook is said to be rolling out changes to how content is selected for each of us to see in our news feed. FB will show us content that their algorithms believe is user generated (versus that from publishers), and which has been shared, liked or commented upon. Other posts will apparently see lower priority and less visibility, meaning, they sort of disappear.

Facebook says this should result in seeing more personal posts from actual FB friends. FB is trying to discourage “passive” reading of posts and wants to push people to interact more. I suspect they are pushing towards interaction because passive reading provides them no data on your interests. By leading you to click Like, Share or Comment, they can detect your interests which they use to refine their dossier on each of us, to improve the marketing of products and services to us.

Source: ‘We’re losing hope’: Facebook tells publishers big change is coming to News Feed – Digiday

Political propaganda on social media likely to ramp up significantly

In Russia, billionaire Yevgeny Prigozhin funds the Internet Research Agency (IRA) social media “troll farm”. His organization has tripled in size. The IRA is accused of flooding social media with propaganda messaging, fake news, and comments to influence elections in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In the U.S., billionaire Tom Steyer will spend $30 million to get Democrats elected in 2018. Much of this will likely fund social media propaganda activities.

I am so old, I remember 18 months ago when the billionaire class buying elections was a really bad thing. Ahhh, the good ‘ol days!

Author advocates more control and censorship over Youtube video content

In a free advertisement courtesy of USA Today, author Andrew Keen, who has made his living writing books condemning the Internet is quoted:

Andrew Keen says the real problem lies with YouTube, a platform without gatekeepers. The rules on the content that’s allowed on television, particularly children’s television, should extend to YouTube, which is soaking up more and more of young people’s screen time, says Keen, author of the upcoming book How to Fix the Future: Staying Human in the Digital Age.

“It’s the same old story. No curation, no mediation, no taste, no boundaries. All clicks,” says Keen. “How many times does this need to happen?”

Source: Logan Paul Japan vlog video raises issue: Is YouTube is safe for kids?

Keen thinks user generated content is evil. While I have similar concerns I do not advocate heavy handed, top down, centralized content control nor censorship programs, as Keen does.  I advocate that information consumers turn off the spigot and take charge over what they subject themselves to each day and learn to think for themselves. Consumers must use social media with their brains firmly engaged. Think before you Like and Share. Don’t be gullible.

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

How social media propaganda can spread globally in minutes

Dave Weigel is a politics reporter for the Washington Post. Recently he posted a photo of a mostly empty arena that was used for an event with the President, with the caption “Packed to the rafters” showing that the arena was not very full. He neglected to note that the photo was taken hours before the event was to begin.

The event, in fact, had 1,000+ more attendees than seats in the arena and was filled. Weigel may have suffered from confirmation bias – and like most everyone else on social media, quickly shared his post online without stopping to verify.

Within minutes, his tweet reached millions of people.

Thin-skinned President Trump, who suffers from the verbal equivalent of diarrhea and is unable to control his own Tweeting, named the errant reporter in a Tweet, instantly spreading Dave Weigel’s Twitter feed to tens of millions of people.

Weigel responded by noting he had deleted the tweet “after like 20 minutes“.

It took “like 20 minutes” for his tweet to spread like wildfire, reaching tens of millions of people, becoming the subject of national news coverage,and being cited by the President.

Literally, a single tweet, in minutes, became a national news story and was cited by the President.

This incident illustrates the incredible power of social media for propaganda.

Weigel gave a hint as to a possible motivation for his embarrassing tweet – just 2 hours later he posted this on his Twitter account, now being visited by potentially millions of people:

Is it possible that reporters are, in fact, making sloppy mistakes because they’ve learned that all publicity, even bad publicity, is of value to their personal brand?

Weigel turned his Twitter nonsense into a sales pitch for his own book. With one simple tweet, he bought himself a whopper of an ad campaign on social media, with help from the President’s verbal diarrhea problem. In effect, Weigel staged a public relations (also known as propaganda) coup to benefit himself.

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?