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.

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

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.

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.

The Gorilla Channel

A cartoonist, who has done this sort of satire before, posted the following on Twitter:

He made this fake excerpt as a parody of Trump, the book, and the media and you won’t believe what happened next! Hah hah.

About twenty gazillion people shared this on social media, thinking it was genuine. This illustrates both the craziness of the political elite (Trump is odd) and the confirmation bias that people bring to social media, and who share nonsense without questioning anything.

Worse, of course, is when the professional media sources from social media because – reliability or something!

I expect a lot of fake memes like this to now flood social media. Why not?

Will virtual reality lead to more effective propaganda?

By “effective” we mean, propaganda that is more successful at persuading someone to adopt someone else’s agenda:

“What really makes people trust VR more is that it creates a greater sense of realism compared to text and that creates the trustworthiness,” said Sundar.

….

That said, the immersive quality of virtual reality and 360-degree video may make the content more shareable, according to the researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

Source: Virtual reality makes journalism immersive, realism makes it credible — ScienceDaily

VR appears to strengthen two key attributes of propaganda messaging:

  1. The VR experience enhances credibility of the propaganda message
  2. VR content may be “more shareable” than other content.

In other words, people are less likely to question the propaganda and are more likely to share it – further enhancing social media’s role as a frictionless platform for propaganda messaging.

Are we doomed? 🙂

Social media propaganda poster implies world hunger is getting worse (but it’s not) #socialmedia #propaganda

This came across my Facebook time line today:

“The world’s hunger is getting ridiculous” – the word “getting” implies global hunger is getting worse – which is the message intended by this social media propaganda meme.

Some types of shampoo may contain extracts of flowers or herbs and a few may contain extract of a fruit, but they are not significant components, by mass, of shampoo. This tidbit seems thrown in to encourage the target to feel guilty.

In reality, in the incidence of global hunger is decreasing sharply. In spite of growth in the world’s population, hunger fell from 1,010.6 million afflicted in 1990-1992 to 794.6 million afflicted in 2014-2016.

Because of population growth, when translated to a percentage, the incidence of hunger fell from 18.6% to 10.9%.

Social media is filled with false propaganda claims such as the above. The target is undoubtedly aware that hunger is a problem. Due to media coverage and advertising campaigns by groups[1] doing fund raising to fight hunger (which remains a genuine problem, although access to clean water is a bigger problem), the target has received pre-propaganda messaging to know that hunger is a problem. Consequently, when a minor social media propaganda post such as the above is shared by friends on Facebook, the target’s System 1 intuitive and easy going thinking mode kicks in and thinks, wow, hunger is getting worse.

Few people will stop to think about this poster. The effect is that social media propaganda messaging, even extremely simple messages like that in this poster, have the desired impact on the target. This type of simplistic propaganda is effective at influencing public opinion – and notably, the results of public opinion polls.

As we noted in the past, public opinion polls measure the effectiveness of a propaganda campaign (at best). Opinion polls are mostly just another form of propaganda used to influence public policy.

The person posting and sharing this poster (or similar) is engaged in virtue signalling, showing to others that he or she is a compassionate, caring individual. On Twitter we see many “Re-tweet if you agree” memes. Not one of these tweets will actually fix or change anything – but the person re-tweeting can feel good about themselves because they are making a difference (well, not really) – and letting their friends know that they care!

[1] Hunger, with a focus on children, is a powerful marketing message for fund raising. Groups that depend on donations know this and make hunger the “face” of their promotional activities because it works. Many of these groups have effective programs and are doing good works but hunger programs may be a relatively minor part of their spending.

 

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

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

CNN

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.

Epilogue

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.