Another social media propaganda poster today

This came through my social media feed earlier today. Another example of a simple, well crafted social media propaganda posters that elicits a quick response and a click on the Like and Share buttons.

The quote at top is accurate, so what could be wrong?

Per Snopes, the quote is in reference to before these 4 people were killed at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya and was not in reference to events in Benghazi.

As a propaganda poster, it is effective. A short simple quote with a photograph of Hillary Clinton, followed by photos of 4 people that the target knows were, in fact, killed in Libya.

Very compelling when all we do is apply our fast acting System 1 emotional style thinking.

That makes this a very effective social media propaganda poster even though the conclusion is wrong. No one will bother to research the quote when they see this – instead, they will click on Like and perhaps Share, spreading the false propaganda on to others.

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Washington Post, Miami Herald, CBS, Vox, Buzzfeed sourced stories from Russian social media propaganda

Major US “news” publishers cited tweets now known to originate from propagandists in Russia as the source for their reporting.

As you know, social media is always a reliable source for your news reports. Not. A legitimate question is why do all media now source content from unverifiable social media? From the Washington Post to the local TV news – all of them do this routinely.

The mass media that relies on social media becomes a conduit in the propaganda war. Journalists, of all people in the world, should be hyper sensitive to the use and abuse of propaganda.

Misinformation

“The extent to which legitimate, mainstream news outlets picked up and amplified Russian misinformation is an illustration of its pernicious reach”

And it is not just “Russian misinformation” – the root cause problem is that social media is a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda by anyone, at zero cost. Everyone is spreading propaganda and misinformation.

If we focus on just that originating in Russia, we not only permit other propaganda originators to flourish, we encourage it!

The Washington Post, Miami Herald, InfoWars and other U.S. sites spread Russian propaganda from Twitter

Many online product review sites are paid by the company whose products they review

[I wrote this item in October but never published it. In light of the news about TripAdvisor.com deleting and censoring negative reviews, this item is now relevant. While this post is about mattress reviews, the same principle is at work with TripAdvisor – that is, the review site receives a sales commission for sending a sale to the vendor.]

The following link goes to a very long story about online mattress reviews. The short summary is that many mattress companies pay a sponsorship fee to the online reviewers and have taken extraordinary steps to control online reviews. These reviews have turned into “affiliate marketing” with links to the manufacturer or retailer’s web site with a spiff paid to the reviewer. Reviewers might receive $50 to $250 per mattress sold as affiliate marketing commissions.

Source: The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare | Fast Company

As mattress companies put more pressure on reviewers, some reviewers responded by writing negative comments on those that paid them lower spiffs. This eventually translated into lawsuits, followed by settlements and the disappearance of negative product reviews.

Everyone has their hand in someone else’s pockets to the extent that online reviews are today meaningless measure of the actual products. A positive review may be more of an indicator of who is paying whom.

None of this is new. Decades ago, the editor of a well known personal computer industry magazine said they only write positive reviews, and assured us  if they can’t find something positive about a product, then they do not publish a review. (Wink wink).

The only difference is that in the online world, fake reviews are easily accessible and widely distributed and it is easier to create fake review web site. Fake reviews can then be shared on social media.

Note – I probably write twice as many posts as I publish! For what ever reason, I probably have between 100 and 200 unpublished draft posts on this blog!

Using fake likes, shares and comments to boost a social media presence

I received the following email message regarding one of my Youtube accounts

Hi There!

Your channel is too good. We strongly feel that your channel should be at the top in the search ranking. With little more push it can become still more popular. We can make it happen for you.

We provide a completely anonymous and discreet service that helps you gain real exposure and encourages viewers to like, comment and subscribe.

For more information, please get in touch with us at

Email: xxxxxxxx@gmail.com
Skype ID: xxxxxxxxx

View counts, Likes and Shares cause videos to “bubble up” and then be placed on recommended viewing lists. Consequently, Youtubers may seek out methods to up their ranking.

I’ve read that nearly all of the top channels on Youtube became top channels through viewer count manipulation fraud when Early Youtubers realized the best way to get seen was to have high viewer counts on their videos. In the early days, they could create a single page of HTML that loaded their video in a Youtube player, 100 times, and then refresh the page repeatedly, rapidly cycling their viewer counts sky high!

Videos with high or rapidly climbing view counts were then “recommended” to other viewers, causing the view counts to snow ball upwards.

Today, Youtube has anti-fraud mechanisms in place to try and stop this. However, per the email message, you can see that the system is still gamed.

Fake views, likes and shares also appear on other venues. Fake reviews are a serious problem on Amazon and other online shopping systems.

 

Cleaning up your social media news feed #politics #socialmedia #propaganda

Last winter I created an informal policy on what to do about the propaganda appearing in my social media news feed, particularly Facebook.

As remarked on this blog, social media is a frictionless platform for the rapid spread of propaganda messaging. Many people are outraged over something and for whatever reason are compelled to share their outrage online.

Being outraged all the time is not likely a healthy state of life. Thrusting your outrage on to your “friends” is probably not a wise idea and probably does not accomplish whatever you hope it should accomplish. Seeing a steady stream of outrage likely takes a toll on the mental health of all the “drive by victims” who see these posts in their own news feeds.

Every time you Like or Comment on a public post, you are Sharing that post with all your friends. Some people post little but comment a lot – not realizing that all their comments (often on politics) are shared on their Facebook page with all their friends. When you tag a friend in a post, your post is published on their “wall” or page. FB is set up to distribute your activities as widely as possible, to as many other people as possible, even without your realizing this is going on.

Last winter I adopted some policies on how I use social media. Social media had gotten out of control and far too often, my visits to social  media caused me to feel upset, angry, depressed or anxious. This is the direct impact of high pressure propaganda messaging that floods social media.

I left social media for several weeks – during that time I decided I would use social media on my terms, not someone else’s terms.

That meant cleaning up my news feeds.

  1. First, I chose to post only items on FB that I personally create or which are created by a real life friend that I personally know. By adopting this policy, I stop the spread of social media propaganda, memes and fake news.
  2. Friends who share conspiracy theories or hate speech get unfriended quickly.
  3. Friends who post politics or propaganda exclusively over a period of weeks are unfriended. I have no desire to be bombarded with their politics (regardless of their political persuasion). I distinguish between items that are “thoughtful”, and provide an opportunity to think and learn – from those items that are just drive-by propaganda hit pieces. I have no interest in friends that post nothing but politics.
  4. I use the FB “Hide post” feature for those who post occasional propaganda and political items. Supposedly FB “learns” and improves its automatic filtering out of such items in the future.
  5. Friends who post multiple political propaganda pieces per week are unfollowed; I often mark their page to give “notifications” of updates, but I rarely read them. This way we remain “friends” but I don’t have to see their posts unless I feel like looking.
  6. I have never unfollowed or unfriended someone because of their political leanings – my unfollowing or unfriending comes because of the quantity of their posts and the desire to use Facebook primarily as a propaganda platform.
  7. I dropped out of some hobby oriented (non political) groups because members were not nice people. They tended to be arrogant and looked at newbie questions with disdain.

The result of these steps is I rarely see politics and – in fact – rarely see much propaganda in my Facebook news line anymore!

And leaving groups where people were not friendly means I now hang out almost entirely with friendly people, helping others and generally being happy. Being surrounded by mostly happy and helpful attitudes rubs off on our own mental health too – leaving us better for the experience. Compare and contrast to how you feel when surrounded by angry people shouting at you all the time!

On the downside, this means I have much less material to analyze for this blog! But perhaps that is a good thing!

Regardless, this illustrates what you might do to “clean up your news feed” and to avoid becoming a victim of propaganda, outrage and shouting- and avoid becoming a cog in the propaganda machine, which is what you are, when you Share, Like or Comment on any of those nasty posts.

Disaster Propaganda Part 2: Is there anything it can’t do?

This is not the Part 2 I was planning to post. Guess there will be Part 3!

Earthquakes!

A 7.1 or 7.2 magnitude earthquake occurred near Mexico City. Mexico is the 7th most seismically active country due to the intersection of 3 tectonic plates. An 8.1 magnitude earthquake took place near there in 1985, causing massive destruction to Mexico City.

Big quakes in Mexico are not unusual and they cause enormous damage, deaths and injuries.

Fires!

The western U.S., and British Columbia, Canada, have seen an above normal wildland fire season. Many commenters think this is abnormal. It’s not.

2017 has been a bad fire year, to date. Yet 2 of the past ten years have burned more acreage, to date, and 4 of the past ten years have had more total fires than 2017 (to date) (from National Interagency Fire Center, as of September 15, 2017).

Going back even further, we can see that fires prior to 1950 burned vastly larger number of acres each year.

Chart from United States Forest Service

(Much of this has to do with how the U.S. did or did not fight fires at various times, and how fires are a natural part of the ecosystem. Aggressive fire suppression for decades has resulted in built up fuels.)

Hurricanes!

This year has seen the most hurricanes since  … 2005.  Then we had a 12 year drought of land falling large hurricanes. And people forgot that Florida has been hit by 119 hurricanes since 1850. Hurricanes, even large ones, are not unusual. For emphasis, here is what the scientists say.

The Solar Eclipse!

There was a solar eclipse visible in the United States, in August. Total solar eclipses occur somewhere about every two years, on average.

Pattern Matching!

People are constantly pattern matching their current experiences to create a model of how they think the world works. Not surprisingly, based on social media posts, people have concluded that

  • these events are unique and rare
  • they must be caused by something – there must be a cause so let’s find one that fits our limited world view!
  • their pattern matching has identified a pattern – that earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, the solar eclipse in August and climate change are linked together
  • Therefore, human behaviors are causing these disasters

Face palm moment.

Logical Nonsense

This illustrates how many are easily persuaded of logical nonsense.

Twitter is filled with bizarre tweets linking quakes, hurricanes, fires – and even the solar eclipse – to confirmation of human caused climate change. Yes, the eclipse caused fires! Hurricanes! Is there anything it can’t do?

I started to collect snapshots of the Tweets but there were far too many and I gave up.

Yet it is clear that many – including seemingly “smart” people – are drawing these correlations and have convinced themselves that quakes, hurricanes, fires, solar eclipses and climate change are all linked together!

Further, they believe it essential to share their nonsense propaganda with everyone on social media.

Never let a disaster go to waste!

Afterword

NBC News tried to push the “this must be unique” moment with the following:

If the problem with this silly statement is not obvious, consider the annual variance: “normal” varies between a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 28 named storms per year.

And then think about what “average” means.

Using a “false dilemma” poll to influence the public #OccupyPropaganda #propaganda

I spotted this sign at a political party booth at a county fair. This poster is designed to frame the discussion and limit it to 3 items: ObamaCare, TrumpCare or Universal Health Care.

I removed any indications as to which political party used this poster as it does not matter and truthfully, more than one party could have posed this set of questions.

The “false dilemma” method implies you have a set of specific choices – and leaves out other potential options. In some cases, the choices are set up so there is obviously only one correct answer, thereby “winning the argument”.

The key idea from a propaganda perspective is to anchor your subsequent thinking to these 3 options. Depending on your political persuasion, you may like or dislike one or all of these ideas even though they actually mix and match the concepts of health insurance and health care (which are separate). For example, ObamaCare is about insurance (not actual health care) and Universal Health Care while sometimes referred to as health insurance is actually about care delivery (as in some other countries). I am not sure how to classify TrumpCare as it was not clear what it was trying to accomplish.

Other options might be variations of “single payer” (which is about the payment or insurance side) or other models such as direct primary care coupled with a catastrophic-like insurance policies, and other free-market approaches. These, though, are not even offered for discussion.

The intent of the poster is to anchor your thinking to these 3 options only. This is the “false dilemma” technique of propaganda. You may combat this type of propaganda by recognizing this method when you see it – and immediately ask “Why are they limiting the discussion? What are they leaving out and why? What other choices might there be?”

The key, as always, is to think for yourself. Everyone is trying to influence your thoughts and actions; we lose when we outsource our thinking to others. Think for your self!

“News is Toxic”: News is killing your ability to think clearly #SocialMedia #Propaganda #Media

But most of us do not yet understand that news is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, tidbits that don’t really concern our lives and don’t require thinking.

Key points from the column:

  • News misleads.
  • News is irrelevant.
  • News has no explanatory power.
  • News is toxic to your body.
  • News increases cognitive errors.
  • News inhibits thinking.

People who stop following the news are able to think more clearly and lead happier lives.

Source: News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier | Media | The Guardian

The next post – coming soon – looks at the trivial nonsense reporting now coming from the Texas flood disaster as reporters spin the story in multiple and pointless directions.

All of these reports are emotional in nature and designed for sharing on social media. Pointlessness.

TV news focuses on political outrage and selling eyeballs to advertisers

TV audiences can’t get enough news coverage of Donald Trump. Reporting on pretty much anything else is ratings poison.

Source: Broadcast News Misses Ratings Bonanza With Too Little Trump – Bloomberg

This year I had a chance to travel to several U.S. states. Among all the people I met, politics was avoided. Most seem fed up with politics and the purveyors of politics and definitely fed up with the culture of perpetual outrage.

Media targets a narrow demographic of the perpetually outraged that eats this up for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then shares their outrage on social media, with links to the “news”! And then the outraged come back for more!

Print publishers and broadcasters are counting the clicks – and outrage sells eyeballs to advertisers. They know what they are doing.

As noted before, “emotional hooks” are a powerful way to promote anything. When we are “emotionally engaged” we tend to stop thinking and are more susceptible to advertising messages (another form of propaganda).

Consequently, it is in the interest of media to imply politics is the only thing that matters in life as it riles up the perpetually outraged into a frenzy of emotion and social media outrage and sharing. All the better to sell stuff!

(Disclaimer – We don’t have cable TV, satellite TV, over the air antenna or a subscription to Internet TV service – we don’t watch TV news!)

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