Baltimore launches social media propaganda campaign to counter city’s failures and negative public image #MyBmore

The multiple failures are piling up at a time when Baltimore is particularly desperate to present a positive face to the world. Its tourism board has launched the #MyBmore campaign to encourage residents to post personal, positive content online to counterbalance the bleaker images more typically associated with their city.

Source: Cold classrooms, patient dumping: Baltimore tries to put its best foot forward, stumbles – Baltimore Sun

They are working on positive “branding” and “image” management to “change the narrative of Baltimore”. Experts say the PR will not work unless coupled with meaningful fixes and improvements. (I’ve been to Baltimore once and had a nice visit then.)

Basically, its yet another social media propaganda effort to confuse us.

Twitter supported “net neutrality” while simultaneously shadow banning political views on Twitter

Then: Twitter and others warn FCC of ‘disastrous’ net neutrality reversal

“Disastrously, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week released a draft order that would end this open commerce by repealing the current net neutrality rules and eliminating the protections that keep the internet free and open for America’s businesses and consumers”

Today: Twitter “shadow bans” those posting political viewpoints that Twitter does not like

A “shadow ban” means posts are visible only to the poster and no one else. By seeing their own posts, the poster is not aware they have been censored. This technique was developed to impede spammers. The spammer would post an advertisement/link in a comment – and the spammer would see their own spam appear online, unaware that the post was invisible to everyone else. It might be weeks or months before the spammer caught on. The shadow ban effectively stalled the spammer from achieving their goals.

In effect, a shadow ban is a secret censorship program. Twitter staff have been caught on camera admitting to applying shadow bans to political speech. They also admit to taking down accounts under government pressure.

It is inevitable now that social media will be subject to regulation. Twitter is on shaky ground – if they are acting as editors, then they can be held responsible for the content posted by their users. They no longer have a safe harbor that they are merely a carrier of communications, like a telephone company.

This blog was shadow banned by Facebook a year ago, almost certainly because their algorithms incorrectly identified the few automated posts originating on the then self hosted WordPress blog, as spam. I could manually post the items on FB, and after switching to a WordPress.com hosted blog, the automated posts continue to go through.

In the fall of 2018, I posted factual price quotes from HealthCare.gov as a comment to an Oregonian article on the ACA – my comment was shadow banned. We no longer read The Oregonian’s fake news.

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.)

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

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.

“News” is just entertaining gossip and “infotainment”

This may be the first of several posts on the degeneration of “news” into speculative, gossip-focused, entertaining drivel. They – and you – pretend you are being informed when in reality you are being entertained. At best your time is distracted from learning meaningful information and at worse you have become prey for propaganda messaging.

Visit the web pages of various news sites and note the majority of their “headlines” are entertaining gossip stories.

Yahoo News:

  • “Vonn: Backlash shows ‘how divided we are now'”
  • “And Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is…
  • How 1 tiny signature cost Greg Schiano $27 million
  • 10 stunning photos of Ellen’s new home
  • San Francisco mayor dead at 65
  • Jaguars take swift action against fans in ugly melee
  • Daredevil ‘Rooftopper’ Plunges 62 stories to his death
  • Watch: CNN’s Don Lemon, Branded ‘Dumbest Man’ on TV by Trump, Lost for words at Kayla Moor’es Cringe…
  • Roy Moore Reemerges for an Election-Eve Rally, and Good Lord, Was it Weird

May be 2 are “objective” journalism of any importance.

MSN:

  • Metal Building Insulation (is actually a sponsored ad made to look like a news report, in the headline spot!)
  • Suzanna Leigh, who co-started with Elvis Presley, dies at 72
  • Boy in viral bullying video speaks out as mom faces backlash
  • Matt Lauer is ‘fighting to save’ his marriage: source
  • Schwarzeneggar calls out Trump in stunt
  • Twitter goes bonkers for Dolphin’s throwback uniforms
  • Daredevil dies doing pullups off a skycraper in China
  • (way down the page, after ads and other “stuff”, news resumes)
    13th human foot washes ashore in Canada; residents seem unfazed
  • NYPD official: It’s “getting harder” to stop lone wolf attacks
  • Photos of the Day
  • Appliance Parts Fast – Huge selection of appliance parts. (sponsored ad in the list of headlines)

Local TV Station KPTV’s Web Site

These headlines are primarily reporting on the daily noise of city life. A week from now, or more likely tomorrow, we will doubtfully remember even one of these stories.

Local TV news is entertainment that occupies your time while your eyeballs and ears are leased to advertisers. They – and you – pretend you are becoming informed. But you are not. The majority of these “news reports” are useless drivel.

Most news is entertainment. It does not inform you of much. In fact, it distracts from time spent on delivering substantive subjects to you, which requires your thinking skills to process. Local news (and most national news too) is keyed towards being entertaining. In the 1980s, the term “infotainment” was created to describe television news – literally information delivery, often dramatized, as a form of entertainment.

This model is what drives almost all news reporting in the United States.

Pointless news reports are the starting point for conversations on social media as these reports are Shared, Liked and Commented upon. Some, especially when political entertainment news is Shared, become the root cause of the “culture of outrage” prevalent on social media. Each of us receives a daily onslaught of this “noise”, typically bending our internal emotions out of shape, and for some, leading to anxiety, depression and anger.

Social media becomes the amplifier of media nonsense. And none of this is good for our mental health.

 

 

Polar bears, social media, and how our emotional response may have helped a PR stunt

(This item – featuring a polar bear – emotionally hooked many people – and for some, any discussion is controversial. However, this post is not about polar bears or climate change but about successful propaganda messaging.)

Here is the original dying polar bear photo and post from photographer Paul Nicklen. Read carefully. He – and his associate – never say this polar bear is dying due to climate change but he does link climate change to polar bear habitat and asks readers to join Sea Legacy (of which he is the founder). His co-photographer Cristina Mittermeier acknowledged they had no way to know the cause of this bear’s starvation. At time of this blog post, her photo had received over 1 million likes just on Instagram. Nicklen has nearly 4 million followers of his own on Instagram.

The photos – and video – use the method of emotional engagement to capture the viewer’s quick acting System 1 thinking style. There is no question that this polar bear is starving and its life is endangered.

Again, per Mittermeier, they acknowledge they had no way of knowing the cause of this bear’s starvation.

National Geographic (for whom Nicklen has worked as a photographer), without evidence, links this bear and this photo to climate change.

Many media outlets picked up the story – emotional stories engage readers and viewers and tacked on the claim that the bear was dying due to climate change.

The photographers said, In the end, I did the only thing I could: I used my camera to make sure we would be able to share this tragedy with the world.”

The photo and videos were taken in August and published on December 5th, days before a global climate change conference in France.

Literally millions, if not tens of millions of people, saw this photo in media reports and shared posts on social media.

In the week that followed, we learned more:

Ultimately we learned that all of us were led, through a likely propaganda campaign, heavily reinforced on social media, to believe something that was not supported by evidence.

As the Toronto Sun notes, this photographer used similar photos in the past as PR for his group Sea Legacy. In this case, the photo was released months after it was taken, but days before a 50 nation climate summit in France.

Sea Legacy responded to some of the criticisms suggesting that the Inuit want to profit from polar bear hunting.

Higdon responded (and also noted that Inuit earn little from this activity):

The irony is that Sea Legacy is itself using this as a fundraiser while saying the Inuits’ interest is just money. Sea Legacy encouraged readers to join Sea Legacy and also provides licensing information for use of the video.

From a PR standpoint, this was an overwhelmingly success propaganda campaign. This story consumed social media Likes and Shares for days.

This campaign successfully delivered the message that polar bears are starving to death because of climate change – and you could make a difference by contributing to the Sea Legacy organization.

How it Worked

The photo tugs at our emotions and quickly puts our brain into an emotional response, rather than a rational response. Pre-propaganda campaigns have already established  images of polar bears as the sign of climate change; before climate change, we called it “global warming”, hence, a connection to Arctic ice.

The photographers added commentary, saying we found a starving bear, experts say climate change will cause melting ice and will lead to food shortages for bears … leaving the conclusion to the viewer –> this bear’s death is due to climate change. Much of the professional media took the bait – and immediately drew that conclusion in their reporting. This method of using a sequence of true statements to direct the target to a false conclusion is common in propaganda. See The most spectacular example of social media propaganda – so far! for another example of this method.

The message was distorted at best and possibly wrong at worst as no supporting evidence was provided as to the cause of starvation. Some suggested that Sea Legacy had a duty (because the polar bear is a protected species) to notify the Canadian government who likely would have euthanized the bear and performed a necropsy to learn more.

Bottom Line

As always, in propaganda messaging, the first message is the one that sticks, even when subsequently shown as false. We can be sure that millions of people got the messages: polar bears are already dying due to starvation caused by climate change. Young children in schools are likely brought to tears by these images and this message will stick with them perhaps for life.

In the end, this is not a story about polar bears or climate change – but a story about propaganda methods. The evidence that this was a PR stunt is greater than the evidence provided that this bear’s death is due to climate change.

This is possibly one of the most successful propaganda messaging campaigns of the modern era. Although as more people learn they were taken for a ride on this PR stunt express, this could cause long term harm to other environmental organizations attempting to legitimately raise awareness of serious issues, as we all tune out “yet another PR stunt”.

Note – This post is not about polar bears or climate change but about how a successful social media meme appears to have been launched in the media and social media days before a major international climate conference. Clearly, the pictured polar bear is starving. I have linked to respected and relevant sources (BBC, CBC, Polar Bear International’s Chief Scientist, National Post, Slate Magazine, Dr. Higdon, Andy Revkin and others) that question the accuracy of the messaging. This story, as noted by many (see links) has the appearance of a successful propaganda messaging campaign. This post makes no assertion as to the health of polar bear populations, the certainty or uncertainty of climate change or the future – and should not be interpreted as supporting or not supporting any position on those topics.)

Extraordinary popular delusions

As described in 1852:

We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it, till their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.

….

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

Charles Mackay, LL.D. (1852). Memoirs of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.

It seems little has changed in the past 165 years. Social media enables the mania to occur more rapidly!

(With thanks to the late John Heffernan who suggested I read this book.)

Just after writing the above, I saw this set of headlines at Reuters.com

Never, Ever leave a reporter in a room alone, with a number

Sheer idiocy to have written this:

The “baby boom” is officially defined as those born from 1946 to 1964.

Per the above, in the year 2060, the aging baby boomer population will be aged 96 to 114, and apparently life spans will have increased by decades by the year 2060.

The study is not accessible to the public. The reporter who wrote this article and the editor who let this fly by are idiots. In a literal sense, the baby boom population will, of course age, and be mostly dead by 2060, and per the model, Alzheimer’s disease incidence will double. But the those two facts are not related! The reporter created a logical fallacy to imply there is a linkage.

Public opinion is formed by this sort of stupidity in reporting. When they can’t get the simple things correct (like the illogical reference to baby boomers) how can we trust them with complex parts of a story?

Obviously, it has not been a good week for the media. The proper response is to be more diligent than ever – instead, the media (ABC, Reuters, Bloomberg,  and CBS (false subpoena story), CNN and CNN’s correction (false Wikileaks story), Washington Post reporter’s admitted fake photo, and MSNBC) launched significant false reports in the past week, harming confidence in the media even more. The week before, long time reporters and TV hosts Charlies Rose (PBS) and Matt Lauer (NBC) were fired for sexual harassment and worse – plus others earlier in the year including Bill O’reilly (FOX).