As tech companies regulate speech, will they lose their safe harbor? | Coldstreams

Cross posted from my Internet of Things/Technology blog.

Tech companies have argued they are not and cannot be held responsible for speech, including defamatory speech, hosted on their platforms. Now they are specifically removing some types of speech, implying they can and do have the ability to control speech on their platforms, and therefore, may find themselves losing their “safe harbor” defense against defamatory speech.

Source: As tech companies regulate speech, will they lose their safe harbor? | Coldstreams

Social media outrage mob falsely accuses professor of racism, calls for his firing

Social media outrage led to amateurs falsely identifying a University professor as participating in the Charlottesville, VA mob, leading to people publicly calling him a racist and calling upon the university to fire the professor of engineering.

He was verified and confirmed at University event 1,100 miles away at the time of the riot. Imagine if this happened to any of us – and we did not happen to be at an event providing us with an alibi.

Social media is a platform for hate – and not just the racists and their evil, but also the hatred that emerges from the outrage culture leading to venomous attacks on innocent individuals and groups. Social media – Facebook, Twitter – are leading to the downfall of civilized society.

No they didn’t: “2 Florida students find 6 NASA space suits worth up to $20,000”

Headline says “space suits“. Lead photo shows astronauts in space suits.

But they actually found blue coveralls worn by some Shuttle astronauts, not “space suits”. The headline is fiction.

Source: NEW: 2 Florida students find 6 NASA space suits worth up to $20,000

Clicks always outrank accuracy. Journalism has becoming a whopping joke of bull shit.

The web URL for this web site may be changing

I originally hosted this on my own virtual server at social.coldstreams.com.  I chose to stop self hosting because:

  1. The self hosted WordPress software, themes and plug ins required an endless stream of software updates, taking up much time since I hosted 4 blogs.
  2. Google decided to force web sites to use https security by pushing sites using http way down in search results. This requires purchasing, on an annual basis, a security certificate. Because I put my blogs on subdomains (social.coldstreams.com instead of coldstreams.com/social) this required that I purchase 4 separate security certificates to implement https, which becomes expensive. I did purchase one certificate and went through the process of converting an http site to https – while straightforward, this turned out to be quite time consuming.
  3. After moving the blog to WordPress.com, we see noticeably faster response time. Speed of response is also a factor used by search engines in ranking the search results. (Speed is faster on a huge server infrastructure like wordpress.com versus a virtual server hosted on a single server in Washington State.)

Unfortunately, Google also degrades search ranking for sites hosted on services like wordpress.com and using a generic xyz.wordpress.com web address. When hosted on social.coldstreams.com, this blog received most of its traffic as a result of search queries using Google, Bing and so on. As in hundreds of visits per day coming from search queries. By comparison, since I moved this to wordpress.com, the search query traffic collapsed to fewer than ten visits per day.

The solution is to set up a custom domain name for the blog causing search rankings to move up higher at Google and other search services.

This discovery illustrates the immense power that search engines have over access to information – and how they can control your thoughts by restricting access to information. This becomes a form of propaganda messaging – literally cherry picking what you see.

I do not yet know what URL I will use for this blog. However, it is likely that once it is implemented the existing Facebook page links back to this blog will no longer work. It is unlikely that I will fix the old links. New posts will be correctly linked, of course.

Eating too much protein will kill you? No, but it grabs the emotions and gets shared on #socialmedia!

Eating too much protein will kill you? That’s the message left by hundreds of headlines and news stories earlier this week. But the statement was misleading at best and untrue in regards to the individual who died. Yet most stories ran with quotes like this:

Meegan Hefford, a mother of two and bodybuilder, died after an overconsumption of protein shakes, supplements and protein-rich foods.

Source: Bodybuilder mom dies from too much protein before competition | New York Post

or “That Extra Scoop of Protein in Your Shake Might Actually Kill You

The family is calling for government regulation of “protein shakes or supplements”, presumably to require a doctor’s prescription and be dispensed at a pharmacy.

Many news stories about this event imply that eating too much protein will kill you. Which it can, if you too suffer from a rare medical disorder. She had a genetic disorder that caused her body to fail to remove ammonia from the blood stream. That’s what killed her.

The disorder is “urea cycle disorder“:

is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation that results in a deficiency of one of the six enzymes in the urea cycle. These enzymes are responsible for removing ammonia from the blood stream. The urea cycle involves a series of biochemical steps in which nitrogen, a waste product of protein metabolism, is removed from the blood and converted to a compound called urea in the blood. Normally, the urea is transferred into the urine and removed from the body. In urea cycle disorders, the nitrogen accumulates in the form of ammonia, a highly toxic substance, resulting in hyperammonemia (elevated blood ammonia). Ammonia then reaches the brain through the blood, where it can cause irreversible brain damage, coma and/or death.

Men’s Health got the story correct. Days later some of the other headlines morphed into the accurate “Australian mom with rare disorder dies eating high-protein diet“.

The media spun this into a viral fiction suitable for sharing on social media. When push comes to ad revenue, the media pays lip service to accurate reporting: It’s about the clicks and the social media shares. One writer says the media was straight up lying about this story to sell ads (I agree).

To make this work for them, the media down played or censored the rare disorder aspect of the story (censorship, cherry picking). If it is mentioned, it is mentioned in passing or at the end of the article. As shown on our blog, most people only read the headlines (especially those shared on social media) – the headline is the story.

The report – which comes from Australia and has no importance to people in the United States – became a focus because of multiple hooks:

  1. “eating too much protein” puts fear into everyone that this could happen to them (use of fear)
  2. Story involves a 25 year old Mom of two kids (stories about Mom’s with young kids target an emotional response),
  3. The victim was a 25 year old blonde fitness fanatic (she’s cute). You may have noticed that CNN and FOX generally *only* cover “cute lost white chicks”, sometimes for days and weeks on end – yet nearly a million people go missing every year and most are eventually found. But unless the missing are cute or have some other emotional hook attached, there is no news coverage and certainly no national news coverage. The subject’s cuteness is a prime reason for the story to run in the United States (every version of the story I checked had at least one and sometimes many photos of the victim). Heck, this one, with its outrageous fiction headline has five photos of the cute victim! And to further prove the point, the 12 year old story of missing Natalee Holloway is back to “Breaking” and “Developing” news reports today because … she’s cute. Remember, over 2,300 people go missing every day but only the missing cute white chicks get covered by the “news” services with saturation coverage for years.

In short, this story used multiple methods of propaganda for the purpose of selling eyeballs to advertisers. The hooks encouraged the sharing of the story on social media, thereby enlarging the potential ad audience.

 

 

Facebook launches Thought Police censorship program

Facebook has taken the step of allowing people to share the post only if they also condemn its content, which is not unprecedented but unusual, according to The Verge. Posts that include the link will automatically be removed from Facebook, unless it also includes a caption that condemns either the article or The Daily Stormer, The Verge reported.

Source: Facebook is actively deleting shares of ‘The Daily Stormer’ article on Heather Heyer

Obviously, the post and the racist group behind it are extraordinarily evil in their goals and action. But when 1/3 of the entire population of the earth has a Facebook account and most log in daily, Facebook has the most extraordinary power of propaganda messaging in world history. What else will Facebook choose to censor? (Quite a bit, actually, as they already censor on behalf of some governments.)

The Occupy Propaganda blog was itself previously censored by Facebook’s algorithms, and is the reason this blog is no longer hosted on my own web server but moved to wordpress.com. Facebook secretly “shadow banned” this blog’s auto posts to the Facebook group page, last winter. You can read about our experience with that, here.

At some point, people and governments that believe the freedom of expression is essential (and sometimes painful) to a democracy may believe they should step in and regulate Facebook’s extraordinary power to control world thought. But that could never happen: Facebook’s propaganda capabilities are so powerful that Facebook could readily turn the public against such an idea, or more likely, seemingly support such regulation but in a way (like most regulations) use the regulatory process to stymie competitors.

Rent A Crowd “Crowds on Demand” – and How Absolutely Everything is Fake

A local politician came out to speak to an enthusiastic audience? Could be an entirely fake audience of paid participants.[1]

A local protest takes to the streets to demand ACTION over whatever – and gets extensive media coverage? Could be a fake group of paid participants. Or sometimes, it is a mix of paid actors plus others who think its an organic, grass roots event. But its fake too.

There are “public relations” firms (a.k.a. propaganda firms) that specialize in hiring crowds of people to create a media friendly spectacle. Here is a screen capture (August 14, 2017) of crowdsondemand.com:

Source: Crowds on Demand | Celebrity Experiences for Rent | Entourages, Paparazzi and Fans| Strategic Publicity Stunts | Corporate Events

We are surrounded by public relations/propaganda messaging campaigns 24 x 7. The term “grass roots” refers to an action that is allegedly coming “from the people”. The term “astroturf” refers to fake “grass roots” programs, like the above, designed to trick politicians and leaders into taking action based on a false perception of a “grass roots” effort. Most “grass roots” efforts today are actually “astroturf” operations run by professional propaganda outfits. More on our blog, here.

Powerful people in our society use rent-a-crowds to give the appearance of support to their own agendas. They could could be a business (say wanting to expand a building and needing local public support), a property developer wanting to build a new development, a non profit activist group seeking to raise donations, a politician seeking support for legislation – and on and on.

I first learned about this from an item shared on social media, an item, which like the “fake photos”, is incorrectly attributed to the Charlottesville, Virginia riot. Here it is – note the ad actually references Charlotte NORTH CAROLINA – not Charlottesville, Virginia.

Notes

[1] The flip side of this is the use of paid audience members who are trained to help shape the discussion in the direction the politician or other leader desires. This is done even at local community meetings. Ostensibly a meeting is held to obtain community input. In reality, the decisions have already been made and the purpose of the meeting is to steer the group into a consensus around the decision that was already made. Techniques include rearranging seating to avoid “organized blocks” from emerging, the use of “planted” audience members who are called upon and give feedback supporting the desired meeting outcome, and other methods. These are methods of persuasion, propaganda and control. We are subjected to them daily without even realizing that we’ve been “had”.

Photo said to be from August 12 – Charlottesville, VA, circulating on social media is not from August 12

The following photo is now circulating widely on social media as shown in this screen capture from Twitter: 

The image used here appears, currently, in Google Image search results spanning an astounding 15 pages. The above tweet has alone been shared 227,000 times on social media. This is not the only social media copy, either. It is likely this has now been shared tens of millions of times on social media.

The photo, while from Charlottesville, is of a different event in early July, 2017. And it is a very good photo, as is the professionalism of this police officer!

The situation may be similar. The sentiments expressed may be similar. And I suspect most of us agree with this caption and are impressed. But it is not a photo from Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017.

Update:

Another widely shared item concerns commentary about North Korea. This one uses the “Appeal to Authority” argument by citing an alleged comment from a Marine regarding threats from North Korea. As you can see, the names were blacked out in the original. We have no idea who wrote this or whether the claims or true or not. Whether we agree his or her sentiments is not the point here – the point is how we quickly share what we likely agree with, regardless of whether it is accurate, well sourced or whether any part of it can be confirmed. This may very well be from a US Marine too. But we just don’t know! Yet we share it online like crazy.

What This Illustrates

After many widely reported, highly emotional news events, many people turn to social media to spin the story for their own propaganda messaging. For example, I saw on social media a claim that the driver of the car in Charlottesville panicked after his car was attacked and was merely responding to an alleged attack and drove erratically to escape. No supporting evidence was provided for this assertion. Lacking actual information, this is propaganda messaging to spin the story in someone’s desired direction.

Be extremely cautious about what you see on social media after such events occur. As this blog previously noted, racist supremacist groups made extensive use of social media after protests at the University of Missouri.  Be extremely skeptical of what you see on social media. Most of it is propaganda messaging.

Update: I changed the caption on this post. It originally was titled “Fake photo…” but that gives the wrong connotation. This is a genuine photo but from a different event that occurred in Charlottesville in early July, and not on August 12th.

 

Old News now: NY Times “large screw-up on climate change story”

The NY Times reported it had obtained a secret, suppressed government study on climate change that had not been made public … blah blah blah. Except it turned out that (a) the study draft had gone out for public comment in December 2016, and (b) the full draft was readily available in The Internet Archive since January. In other words, it was not secret and not suppressed.

The NY Times reporter has since said they were not familiar with The Internet Archive. To which I can only respond: WTF? Reporters do not know about the Internet Archive? What?

Source: Washington Post – the New York Times guilty of large screw-up on climate-change story

Fictional news stories are common, if not the norm. In an era of loudly alleged “fake news” stories, the media needs to clean up its act and move away from confirming the view that the media is mostly a fiction news service. Remember, emotional hooks like “secret” studies being “suppressed” make for great social media “shares”, even when its just a fiction story. Which makes fiction stories like this highly effective for propaganda messaging.

(I called this “old news now” because this story happened a week ago. I was busy and/or traveling and did not have time to post this until now.)