Twitter to judge users’ “offline behavior”

Not certain what this means – Twitter says it will start judging “verified” Twitter users on the basis of their “offline behavior”. The metrics and rules concerning this are not available to the public.

It does seem that technology companies are turning into a global censor.

Source

 

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Avoid TripAdvisor.com? Online reviews were censored, worked as propaganda

Update: TripAdvisor claimed to have apologized about deleting negative reviews but it turns out they lied about their apology: They had not apologized to the victim. One Senator is requesting the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate TripAdvisor over their use of false reviews. TripAdvisor’s stock price fell this week from about $40/share to $31/share and one analyst is forecasting a $28/share price. In August, several analysts had forecast $44-$47 share prices for TRIP.

 

As noted previously, online reviews of products and services are subject to manipulation. The problem is so bad that at least two online businesses help you identify fake reviews on Amazon.com: FakeSpot and ReviewMeta.

TripAdvisor is an online web site that offers user written travel reviews. But they did not disclose that TripAdvisor deliberately censored certain negative reviews of travel destinations and services according to a long report by USA Today.

TripAdvisor intentionally removed factual negative reviews – such as those by victims of crime and women who were sexually assaulted at facilities. In one example, TripAdvisor removed 27 negative reviews of one resort. Additionally, many of TripAdvisor’s “destination experts” who act as moderators have financial interests in the destination – such as they run a business in the area.

TripAdvisor did not disclose to users of the web site that they censored certain negative reviews.

TripAdvisor is an ad-based service that receives a commission when users click through links on the site to book hotels, for example.

Censorship and Cherry-Picking

Consequently, TripAdvisor became a propaganda operation – using the method of censorship to create artificially positive views of destinations and travel services. The effect is to present users with a cherry-picked selection of overly positive reviews – by censoring truthful bad reviews.

USA Today: TripAdvisor removed warnings about rapes and injuries at Mexico resorts, tourists say.

Update: TripAdvisor says they are no longer censoring reviews.

TripAdvisor official statement acknowledges they did indeed censor certain reviews in the past and blames it on a “family friendly” wording policy such that reporting about a crime in a review was not “family friendly”. TripAdvisor continued this policy for many years, in spite of numerous users trying to get their attention.

The company has a conflict of interest in that their income comes from ad-sales and especially commissions paid by destinations when users click through to purchase travel services.

What we need next is an online review web site – that reviews online review web sites! And which will be filled with bogus reviews too!

How ‘Obamacare’ propaganda works

ObamaCare propaganda is simple and not at all sophisticated.

Like almost all ObamaCare news stories, the article linked below discusses benefits only – and never, ever mentions that half the market receives no subsidies and never, ever mentions an actual cost per month for people paying for health insurance.

Did you know that some have ACA annual premiums as high as $49,000 per year for a basic Silver plan? Yes, seriously. Read on to learn more. And how the media hides this information from you.

Most news reports about the ACA are like this: If they quote an insurance premium they typically select age 27, and rarely, age 40. But the rates from 21 to 40 are nearly flat – about 270% of the price increase occurs after age 43! This presents the public with a misleading view of premium costs.

By leaving out critical information and presenting only benefits, why would anyone have any concerns at all about ObamaCare?

This article by the Associated Press and their member news organizations is propaganda messaging. You will literally be dumber for having read the AP article!

Source: ‘Obamacare’ curveball: free insurance in 1,500-plus counties | The Seattle Times

NPR has a similar propaganda piece, mentioning only benefits – never, ever mentioning actual problems with ObamaCare. This is PR puffery, not journalism.

Cherry Picking and Censorship Methods of Propaganda

Let’s look at real numbers for 2018 – all of which are omitted from the AP’s “errors by omission” piece. This falls under the propaganda method of “censorship” – literally cutting out information that contradicts the propaganda message.

  • In Flagstaff, AZ the least cost Silver plan for a 64 year old married couple making $65,000/year in pre-tax income is about $35,000/year – which is less than last year!

You might be thinking, but don’t they get a subsidy? No. The subsidy cut off limit is completely unrelated to the cost of insurance; its based on the regional poverty income level.

Let’s look at another example – it gets worse!

  • In Laramie, WY, the lowest cost Silver plan for this 64 year old couple earning $65,000 per year and above the subsidy cut off is a whopping $49,100 per year! Whoa! With a $5,000 deductible on the policy, they’ll pay just about 100% of their after tax income before collecting on their insurance policy. (Oddly, the cheapest Gold policy is a bargain at just over $40,000/year – but we use the Silver as the benchmark, just like HHS does.)

Yet if they earned only $64,000, they would receive about $43,000 in direct subsidy. Since insurance is paid for with after tax dollars, that is similar to earning $50,000 before taxes. This illustrates how upside down and crazy this has become – by earning $1,000 less, they receive a pre-tax benefit greater than the their direct cost of insurance! ($50k pre-tax value compared to $49k after taxes paid value.) This is insanity!

What’s going on?

There are two defects (of many) in the ACA that are at work here.

  • First, the subsidy cut off level has no relation to the insurance cost – it is based on the regional poverty level. Consequently, even though rates may take up 100% of your after tax income, you do not receive a subsidy.
  • Second, the way the ACA works is that those who receive subsidies are paying essentially the same price as in 2014. As insurers raise rates, the government increases the subsidy. But the subsidy cut off level continues to track the regional poverty level. Rates can climb as high as they want but the subsidy level remains unchanged!

The second point is why 1,500+ counties will have “free insurance” policies – the subsidies have grown so enormous that taxpayers now pay everything.

This “freebie” is a side effect of the super high cost of insurance in the ACA market places – it is not “by design”.

Insurance companies may be gaming the system. They can focus on the subsidized half of the market – and raise rates without limits because the government will always increase the subsidies. Subsidies, of course, are funded by taxpayers and transfer money from taxpayers to the insurance companies.

  • Now – see if you can find a news report that covers any of this. Go ahead – try and find just one!
  • Update: Finally – at last! The Oregonian quotes prices for a 60 year old and notes that in the market they checked, the price is now $918/month for one person (or $22,032 for a married couple, a detail they leave out). The article notes provider networks are being cut to smaller sizes and many insurers have left the non-metro markets.

To learn more about this problem – and possible solutions – read my full paper. (My paper did influence policy makers in my own state, by the way.)

“Errors of Omission” via Cherry Picking and Censorship

This example illustrates the power of every day propaganda messaging. The media has never critically reported on ObamaCare and largely writes fluff pieces discussing only benefits. The general public receives a skewed perspective on ObamaCare when real life problems and actual defects in the Act are hidden from view. Problems that are hidden cannot be fixed and the act of hiding the problems leaves us worse off.

Many in the media have been cheerleaders for ObamaCare – they are not objective reporters. Consequently the news media earns a reputation for  propaganda messaging. By leaving out critical data, they have created a fictional story through the use of cherry picking and censorship.

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.

The remarkable power of propaganda

I just scanned Twitter for items about the Affordable Care Act.

I estimate 99% of the Tweets were lies, contained significant errors, left out key information, or significantly exaggerated points. This included linked news stories at main stream news services such as the Los Angeles Times and NPR and others, which contained significant inaccuracies or left out crucial information and data that refuted the thrust of the article.

How many read the ACA? Probably a number approaching zero.

How many researched any of the topics at all? Probably a very small number.

So why are these people posting so much nonsense on Twitter?

Because of the effectiveness of propaganda that has delivered messages to them, which they in turn, regurgitate online, further spreading the propaganda message.

I covered this previously in National public opinion surveys are propaganda messaging in disguise.

Unfortunately, most national surveys of “American’s opinions” are surveys of propaganda effectiveness. The survey itself then adds to the growing body of propaganda messaging on a subject and becomes, itself, a form of propaganda.

You can go to news.google.com and find similar surveys.

  • 9% of American’s Feel Shingles Vaccination is a Priority
  • Many believe race relations will worsen under Trump
  • 68% of Americans believe humans are causing warming
  • 71% of Americans consider granola bars to be healthy

Surveys often follow a period of concerted propaganda messaging in the media.

In these and other cases, the survey is primarily measuring the effectiveness of the propaganda messaging around a subject. Most American’s understand little of the facts or logic for any of these items (and many more). Survey respondents are regurgitating the view given to them by propaganda messaging and the methods used to persuade masses of people.

 

Visa applicants to US must turn over all social media account IDs for past 5 years

The US government announced today that applicants requiring a visa to enter the U.S. must turn over

  • All social media account IDs used during the past 5 years, even if since deleted.
  • All names, phone numbers and email address of yourself, your siblings (including adult siblings!) and children used during the past 5 years.
  • Detailed 15 year biography, including identifying each country you may have visited, when you visited, and how your trip was funded.
  • Failure to provide accurate information is grounds for visa denial.

Most people can’t remember the information that is being requested. Further, that the U.S. is requesting account data going back 5 years, even for deleted accounts, means that the U.S. government admits it has used surveillance to log all phone calls, emails and social media posts of everyone, world wide, for the past 5 years.

A likely consequence of this is that other countries will now require that U.S. citizens provide similar information when applying for a visa to visit those countries.

What does this mean for social media?

A great many people, particularly young people, may have no idea what they posted – or more importantly – who they have friended on social media over the years.

For example, because of my personal interest in 3D photography, I have social media friends in Russia, China, Mongolia, Iran and many countries who share an enthusiasm for 3D photography. Because some of the countries are considered “evil” by the U.S. government, do I need to prune my friend list?

Over the past few months, I deleted all of my Tweets going back years so that I only now publicly display the last 90 days of tweets – anything older is auto-deleted. I deleted my Instagram and SnapChat accounts. I went through all of my Facebook posts and deleted nearly all posts, likes and shares, more than a few months old.

I am not trying to hide anything. The problem is that people with wild imaginations can conjure up conspiracy theories based on one’s friends, the topics that interest us online and more.

What impact will these government measures have on social media? I would predict that there will gradually be fewer posts, better use of “privacy” settings, and pruning of friend lists. In effect, a lot of people will start engaging in self censorship, including U.S. citizens – because we have no idea what the rules are for evaluating our friend lists or how our posts will be interpreted and evaluated.

The 1st, 4th and 5th amendments to the U.S. Constitution have largely been suspended.

News and social media “filters” reinforce established beliefs

Facebook, Google News and other online services automatically try to filter the information you see, to deliver to you what their algorithms think you want to see. Usually, this means delivering items to you similar to those you’ve already looked at before. The effect seems to strengthen bias, rather than challenge them. A simplified study was done to test this idea in practice and it (so far) confirms that our online world may be leading to less diversity in ideas, rather than more:

filtering of either sort led people to click and spend more time on “pro-attitudinal” articles — that is, articles most likely to reflect their own opinions right back at them. In a way, the bottom-right graph is the most interesting. It shows that people in the control group spent more than half their time on the site reading articles that challenged their beliefs. That number plummeted precipitously in the other conditions.

Original source