Bad week for Facebook and Twitter

Facebook lost about $113 billion market capitalization this week (per news reports). Twitter share price also fell about -20%.

One pundit on Twitter remarked that while government did nothing about Facebook’s privacy scandals, the free market itself just assessed a $100 billion fine on Facebook, of which about $16 billion came out of Mark Zuckerberg’s pocket.

Mean world syndrome

At a local comic con, of all places, a cosplayer and recent sociology graduate introduced me to the term “mean world syndrome”.

Mean world syndrome is a term coined by George Gerbner to describe a phenomenon whereby violence-related content of mass media makes viewers believe that the world is more dangerous than it actually is.

Source: Mean world syndrome – Wikipedia

She says sociology, as a field, suffers from mean world syndrome as all they do today is study things that are mean or sad.

Mean world syndrome is related to “hypodermic needle theory“:

The “magic bullet” or “hypodermic needle theory” of direct influence effects was based on early observations of the effect of mass media, as used by Nazi propaganda and the effects of Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s.[1] People were assumed to be “uniformly controlled by their biologically based ‘instincts’ and that they react more or less uniformly to whatever ‘stimuli’ came along”.[2] The “Magic Bullet” theory graphically assumes that the media’s message is a bullet fired from the “media gun” into the viewer’s “head”.[3] Similarly, the “Hypodermic Needle Model” uses the same idea of the “shooting” paradigm. It suggests that the media injects its messages straight into the passive audience.[4] This passive audience is immediately affected by these messages. The public essentially cannot escape from the media’s influence, and is therefore considered a “sitting duck”.[4]

In the pre-21st century, most propaganda messaging was large scale, targeting entire groups through mass media.

In the 21st century, we have social media and online tracking systems that enable the target of messages to individuals – which has brought some renewed interest in the “hypodermic needle” concept as modern propaganda injects messages into individuals.

The difference is that today’s massive databases allow for the mass customization of messages. So it is not one generic mass media message, but many individualized messages, coordinated by a massive algorithm

Identical letters to the editor published in newspapers nationwide

Source: Newspapers run IDENTICAL letters slamming Trump’s Supreme Court pick | Daily Mail Online

At least one of the signatories to the letter says she never sent the letter and suggests that her name was lifted off a petition.

This was an astro-turf propaganda operation, flooding the world with a message that is made to look like it comes “from the people” (grass roots) when in fact, it was manufactured by an organization or public relations agency working on behalf of an organization.

We covered use of “astroturf” operations in 3 prior posts.

Basically you should assume that 100% of what you see in media or social media (or online forums and review sites!) is fake.

In 2004 the liberal group launched a website tool that generated editorial letters for its members promoting the Michael Moore film ‘Fahrenheit 911.’ All it required was a name, hometown and ZIP code.

The program provided users with sample sentences and a salt-to-taste text editor. Many left the stock message the way it was and clicked ‘send.’

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism’s Online Journalism Review reported that the Republican National Committee had the technique down a year earlier.

Using a website called ‘GOP Team Leader,’ the party offered ‘points’– redeemable for merchandise – when their letters were actually published.

YouTube to combat “fake news” and conspiracy theory videos by making “authoritative news” highly visible

The company said it would invest in more “authoritative” news videos to counter the conspiracy-theory clips that plague the site. It will also insert “text articles” in feeds when breaking news occurs, and will roll out an “information panel” promoting videos from legitimate news groups.

Source: YouTube Will Invest $25 Million to Fight Fake News – The Daily Beast

Presently, Youtube already stuffs my Youtube video feed with news videos, usually CNN but sometimes other networks. I do not watch TV news and have no desire to see this stuff. Even though I have manually unselected the items, Youtube keeps bringing them back. Sounds like Youtube intends to stuff more random news reports into our video feeds, which would degrade the user experience.

Another social media meme turned into imaginary news story

“I don’t like the phone because my [parents] are on their phone every day … I hate my mom’s phone and I wish she never had one,” one student wrote in a photo posted to Beason’s Facebook page that has since been turned to private.

The post was shared more than 261,000 times — parents expressed guilt, and fellow teachers echoed similar conversations they’ve had in their classrooms.

Source: | I wish my mom’s phone wasn’t invented, 2nd grader writes in school project

KGW is a competitor of local station KATU, which does this too (see the following post).

Study proves media engages in propaganda messaging

In a peer-reviewed study we published this month, we find op-eds do change minds. After reading opinion pieces, we found people were far more likely to agree with the author’s point of view. Even in today’s allegedly post-fact world, people are capable of considering new evidence and reaching new conclusions.

Source: This column will probably change your mind – The Washington Post

I expect to discontinue this blog,

I began writing this blog, privately – not visible to the public – back in 2014. It was a way for me to keep notes on my observations about propaganda on social media.

At the time, due to Facebook’s incorrect characterization of my politics, my news feed was filled with very left wing propaganda – typically what I call “propaganda posters”. I observed that this seemed like propaganda – a topic I knew little about back then. I set about to learn more and ended up reading numerous books on propaganda spanning about 100 years of recent history.

I began this blog as a way of documenting the propaganda messages and how they worked to influence us, and especially to document how social media became a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda messaging.

In the summer of 2016, I started making posts live, editing and publishing posts I had written over the prior year and half or so. As we entered the election season, I saw more and more propaganda, much of disgusting, vile, laced with hate and anger, and almost always using various techniques of propaganda (fear, lies, etc).

It got to a point that I unfriended a dozen friends, unfollowed even more, and began using Facebook’s “Hide post” feature such that most of the propaganda garbage was filtered out of my news feed. That of course, gave me less material to work with! I also aggressively began “Muting” prolific propagandists on Twitter.

In March of 2018, the issues with Facebook’s global surveillance, propaganda and manipulation efforts became well known. There is no longer much to say about this topic. Most people now understand that social media operated in a dangerous and reckless manner and continues to do so

I learned though this experience, and my (very negative) experience with ObamaCare that no one cares what I think nor do they care what you think. Hence, there is no reason for me to continue writing this. I kept at it up until now as a way to take notes for myself, thinking I might put together an e-book on the topic of social media propaganda.

But the reality is, I lack the proper credentials and am not a member of an elite institution – hence, no one cares what I have to say. I’ve learned repeatedly, unless you have a PhD degree or an executive title at an institution, no one listens to us – I could give you real world examples of the many times I encountered this attitude by parties that could have saved everyone much grief if only they had been willing to listen.  But they don’t listen because the people in power are arrogant and believe they know what is best for everyone else.

Consequently, this blog is mostly fading away. I will probably move the content back to my own server at so I don’t have to pay WordPress hosting fees. This is not happening right away – I’ll post an announcement when this happens (could be months yet). If all works out correctly, the domain name should go straight to my own server once that switch happens.