It’s not just Russia: Everyone is deploying computational propaganda on social media

“Social media manipulation is big business,” the researchers found. “We estimate that tens of millions of dollars are being spent on social media manipulation campaigns, involving tens of thousands of professional staff.”

While there is nothing new about political parties and governments using disinformation to manipulate elections at home and abroad, the Oxford researchers note that the massive, easily accessible, and lightly regulated platforms offered by Facebook and Twitter have become enormously powerful tools in the hands of political actors, who have used social media to kick their propaganda campaigns into overdrive and cast doubt on science and public institutions.

Source: Russia Was Just the Beginning: Here’s How Social Media Became Infested with ‘Computational Propaganda’ Designed to Control Society | Alternet

Begging the Question Fallacy: “This is not who we are” … again and again and again … 

Previously I wrote about the “Begging the Question” fallacy (and another example here). Immediately after an event, say a mass shooting, a city Mayor says “this is not who we are…

after actual events just showed that this is precisely who they are.

Source: Begging the Question Fallacy: “This is not who we are” … once again | – Occupy Propaganda

Predictably, after 70 people were shot in Chicago this past weekend, confirming the cities long time reputation for gun violence, Mayor Rahm Emanuel says

“All of us know that this is not Chicago, what we saw. We are better than what we saw.”

This is known as the “begging the question” fallacy, which is to assert that something is true, in spite of actual events, and assert everyone agrees with this. This method is extremely common in corporate and government propaganda efforts.

Journalists and Academics seek special privileges on Facebook

Facebook restricts certain conduct on its platform. However, journalists and academics are seeking to be treated as special, and receive special privileges to do things that are prohibited for others.

Journalists and academics, for example, would be permitted to set up fake accounts with fake or curated content, for the purpose of studying users.

Individuals, however, would be banned from conducting the exact same research and thus, would be prohibited from verifying or evaluating the work of journalists and academics. Basically, the proposal is to have a group of “elite” Facebook users and everyone else are lab rats.

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

One of the wealthiest and most influential families in the world, the banking dynasty was founded in the 1760s. Because the family’s wealth is private, it’s difficult to ascertain its net worth – estimates range all the way up to a staggering $700 trillion, split between legions of descendants. The philanthropic clan has interests in real estate, art and wine.

The World’s Richest Families’ staggering wealth

According to Credit Suisse, the total wealth in the world in 2017 was $280 Trillion.

Snopes also demolishes this absurd news report from MSN.

Remember, the way to address accusations of fake news is to … create more fake news? Hello?


“Facebook, Apple and YouTube remove pages and podcasts from Alex Jones for hate speech violations”

Source: Apple bans Alex Jones podcasts; Facebook pulls four pages

But not Twitter – says Jones’ does not violate their policies.

Alex Jones is a long time conspiracy theorist (everything that happens in the world is a plot by secret powers) who used social media platforms to amplify his often untrue and hurtful ideas. Millions of people are said to have subscribed to his propaganda operation.

(Amusingly, Apple, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, PInterest, LinkedIn, and MailChimp – all made their shutdown effective roughly simultaneously, which in turn, is feeding the conspiracy theories that this was a coordinated shutdown by Big Tech…. arghhh…)

Separately, earlier this year, Patreon cut off China’s most watched Youtuber and Maker, Naomi Wu. It’s a complicated story but apparently used their legal team to cut off Wu’s Patreon account (and her primary source of funding). Their “legal team” was Sarah Jeong, a lawyer recently appointed to the NY Times Editorial Board. Jeong has come under fire for hateful and angry tweets of her own.

Elsewhere, left wing Media Matters advocates that Facebook should censor “climate change deniers”.

When social media organizations cut off access, it raises questions about the power of corporations to control what we see, what we read, and how we are influenced. Censorship is one of the most powerful forms of propaganda as it cuts off alternate views from being expressed, especially from those we may disagree with. Censorship is the opposite of diversity.

The traditional view of free speech is that the answer to speech we do not like is more speech, not censorship.

Update: Social media platforms have long argued they are not responsible for the user content on their platforms, claiming a “safe harbor” that they are similar to a telephone company which is not responsible for the content of phone calls. However, once they begin censoring the content on their platform, they are de facto admitting they are responsible for the content posted on their platforms. It is difficult to see how these companies can have it both ways – not responsible yet responsible for content.


Many people publish items on social media that can at best be described as dumb, but which are also hurtful, mean, and in some cases, are offensive “hate speech”. Many notable personalities have lost their job over past comments. Many of those cut off were posting items that lack class and decorum and were mostly rude to obscenely rude and hurtful. What prompts such people to engage in this way on line?

There are many recent incidents where it seems arrogance plays a role. Perhaps more on that another day.

‘The idea of free information is extremely dangerous’

Why is liberalism under particular threat from big data?

Liberalism is based on the assumption that you have privileged access to your own inner world of feelings and thoughts and choices, and nobody outside you can really understand you. This is why your feelings are the highest authority in your life and also in politics and economics – the voter knows best, the customer is always right. Even though neuroscience shows us that there is no such thing as free will, in practical terms it made sense because nobody could understand and manipulate your innermost feelings. But now the merger of biotech and infotech in neuroscience and the ability to gather enormous amounts of data on each individual and process them effectively means we are very close to the point where an external system can understand your feelings better than you. We’ve already seen a glimpse of it in the last epidemic of fake news.

There’s always been fake news but what’s different this time is that you can tailor the story to particular individuals, because you know the prejudice of this particular individual. The more people believe in free will, that their feelings represent some mystical spiritual capacity, the easier it is to manipulate them, because they won’t think that their feelings are being produced and manipulated by some external system.


The idea of free information is extremely dangerous when it comes to the news industry. If there’s so much free information out there, how do you get people’s attention? This becomes the real commodity. At present there is an incentive in order to get your attention – and then sell it to advertisers and politicians and so forth – to create more and more sensational stories, irrespective of truth or relevance. Some of the fake news comes from manipulation by Russian hackers but much of it is simply because of the wrong incentive structure. There is no penalty for creating a sensational story that is not true. We’re willing to pay for high quality food and clothes and cars, so why not high quality information?

Source: Yuval Noah Harari: ‘The idea of free information is extremely dangerous’ | Culture | The Guardian

Twitter mistakenly classifying real people as “bots” and banning or shadow banning their accounts

Twitter and Facebook have both said the solution to bad actors on their platforms is more artificial intelligence. I have argued that this will not work as well as they say it is going to work.

Surprise: Twitter is shadow banning or banning real people after its AI-driven account review is incorrectly labeling real people as robots.

Source: Crackdown on ‘bots’ sweeps up people who tweet often –

Political propaganda drops all pretense of logical thinking #ACA #ObamaCare #MedicareForAll

“Faithfully executed, as the Constitution requires, the ACA was working and insurance markets were stable” – Andy Slavitt, former head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2015-2016.

During the period from 2014 to 2016, the average premium went up by 106% according to the CMMS, and in 3 states average premiums went up by over 200%. This, he says, is a “stable” market. And he was in charge during most of that time frame. Prices continued to rise at similar rates in 2017 and 2018.

The AP reports:

Of course – a very stable market requires ever increasing government subsidies while premiums rise at astronomical rates. Not.

This column in USA Today works as propaganda rather easily through the use of

  • Appeal to Authority (Slavitt)
  • Asserting things are true, that clearly are not. Which is just another form of lying.
  • Logical fallacy, “the ACA was working and the markets were stable”.
  • Censorship, by leaving out the writer’s relevant past experience.
  • The target’s quick acting System 1 thinking style that avoids details and misses the logical fallacies used in the proponent’s arguments.

The USA Today column mentions Slavitt’s involvement with CMMS but omits his full history. Once you learn of his past history, your perspective of his comments may change. What do you think?

Slavitt left a job as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs to become CEO of a company named Ingenix, a subsidiary of United Healthcare. Under his leadership, Ingenix was sued, twice, for creating fraudulent data used in health care billing and paid $400 million in settlements. Slavitt, who led the fraud scheme, was appointed to head CMMS and implementation of the ACA. Ingenix changed its name after the settlements – and Slavit was put in charge of CMMS where he regulated his past employer which is a conflict of interest prohibited by the Federal government. However, the Obama Administration issued an “Ethics Waiver”, waiving its conflict of interest rules and permitting Slavitt to head CMMS anyway.


Not only was the ACA not working due to how the Act was written, the ACA is not sustainable. I wrote a paper on the subject that was read by staff at the Oregon Health Authority, numerous Oregon state legislators, health care industry executives and economists and was, in part, influential in changing Oregon State law to partially fix the definitely not stable ACA markets here. To learn more, please read my paper.

Proponents who say the ACA is “working” and “stable” are simultaneously advocating “repeal and replace” the ACA:

Logically, why is it necessary to repeal and replace a government program that is “working” and “stable”?

The propaganda efforts by Slavitt are perplexing. Presumably he is trying to buttress his past association with the ACA. But he is doing so through the use of lies while supporters simultaneously say it should be repealed and replaced. There is a logical disconnect here.