Is social media a mental health disease vector?

It made me wonder if we’re in the same boat as the neolithic cities, only for what you might call viruses of the mind: Toxic ideas that spread like wildfire.


Likewise, in recent years we’ve gone from an era when ideas spread comparatively slowly, to one in which social media in particular allow them to spread like wildfire. Sometimes that’s good, when they’re good ideas. But most ideas are probably bad; certainly 90% of ideas aren’t in the top 10%. Maybe we don’t know the mental disease vectors that we’re inadvertently unleashing.

Source: Social media threat: People learned to survive disease, we can handle Twitter


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.

The culture of perpetual outrage is set to kill (we are way past set to stun)

As a comment to one of the stories says, “People will see what they want to see”.

So many people today want to be outraged that they are continuously on the prowl for opportunities to be outraged. And once they have spotted an opportunity for outrage, they share it on social media! The ease with which we can share our outrage becomes a form of propaganda – spreading myths and half truths and creating suspicion where none is warranted.

Even the most innocent or kind actions are viewed by someone as something other than what was intended, as a symbol representing something else that only the perpetually outraged sees.

All of us now walk on egg shells for fear that our most innocent of comments or actions will be interpreted by someone else as something that our action is not.

  • I was once jogging, with my dog, past an elementary school. I was on a public roadway. A schoolyard monitor told me I should not jog past the elementary school on the public road “Because we can never be sure these days“.
  • As a guy, can I go to the zoo by myself or will someone suspect that an older male by himself at the zoo must be a child molester?
  • If I offer my seat on a train to an older person – especially a woman – does that make me a chivalrous sexist lout?
  • If I am friendly and smile at someone, does that mean I am obviously a chivalrous sexist lout?
  • If I hold open or hold a door for anyone other than a white male – does that make me a suspicious character exerting white male patriarchal privilege? (Apparently)
  • Recently, I noticed a blind woman standing near me, in a large, confusing crowd of people. I asked if she needed assistance (no, she was waiting for friends to come to her). Before I asked, I worried my asking might be interpreted as a sign of disrespect – since by asking, I was implying she could not manage on her own, or something, right?
  • If I volunteer at a public school, does that make me a suspicious character who is obviously trying to hang out with young girls and women? (I have been an engineering mentor for high school robotics teams for 9 years – each year I need to have a background check run and undergo two hours of training on harassment – just to be a high skilled engineering volunteer “Because we can never be sure these days”.)
  • Yesterday, a Twitter tweet told me all guys are to blame for the actions of some guys regarding sex harassment by people in power. The tweet further said that I, as a guy, am responsible for their actions. (This type of thinking is identical to that of racists who judge individuals by their skin color or ethnicity, or the sexism that judges all women by the actions of some women.)

See how confusing this gets?

Thanks to the culture of perpetual outrage none of us can interact with others for fear of being accused of misconduct. We can not be friendly and helpful to others without being looked at with suspicion. We must be cautious about offering to volunteer to help others. We cannot engage in perfectly ordinary activities (like walking down a street) without being viewed with suspicion. Wearing the wrong color stocking cap can get us trouble; putting the wrong color shoelaces in our shoes can get us accused of racism.

In a world of perpetual outrage, where the outrage turns all activities into something they are not, all of us are guilty, no matter how hard we try to be a nice and helpful person.

This is the world of social media’s culture of perpetual outrage. Social media is destroying our lives.

Related: How can we keep track of all the interpretations of common symbols? Before I wrote this, I did not know that the “Ok” symbol, drinking milk, or wearing black boots with white or red shoe laces are signs of racism. How can we know how others will interpret what seem like innocent actions?


Drinking milk is a sign of racism?

The Swedish government issued a report on racism and white power movements in Sweden. A machine translation of their document (original in  Swedish) yielded this from page 33 of the translation:

The paper also notes that placing quotes around certain words, such as “refugee” or “immigrant” imply special meaning, such as questioning whether someone is actually a refugee or immigrant.

Swedish paper source: Kaati, L. (ed.). (2017, Nov). Det vita hatet: radikal nationalism i digitala miljöer  (or English) The white hate: radical nationalism in digital
environments. Published by the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

No, the “OK” Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol

Has the simple thumb-and-forefinger “OK” hand gesture become a white supremacist hand sign?

Source: No, the “OK” Gesture Is Not a Hate Symbol says the Anti-Defamation League.

Another day, another Internet meme – this time claiming that people making a popular “Ok” symbol with their thumb and index finger are actually expressing a symbol for “white power”. This in turn has been used to publicly accuse people who display the “ok” symbol as clandestinely flashing a white power symbol.

All thanks to social media propaganda!



Facebook Ad scheme looks much like a fake news publishing model

The more we learn about the ads linked variously to parties in Russia, the more they look like online, social media-based, for profit, fake news publishers:

The Facebook ads placed by a Russian troll farm and released on Wednesday by the U.S. Congress Intelligence Committee show that the Russian propaganda campaign of 2016 didn’t favor either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Instead, it mocked and goaded America, holding up a distorted but, in the final analysis, remarkably accurate mirror.


The ads backed white nationalist as well as black causes. They often targeted Clinton before the election but switched to attacking Trump immediately afterwards. The ads against both were even visually similar.


Neither the trolls with their tiny budgets — at best, hundreds of thousands of dollars compared with the hundreds of millions spent by the candidates and their U.S. backers — nor Russian state media with their laughable reach compared with U.S. cable TV could have hoped to shape the election outcome.

Source: Facebook Ads Reveal the Real Russian Game – Bloomberg

If you click the “ads” link you can see some of the ads. They look very similar to the type of inflammatory, emotion hooking posts used by for profit fake news publishers.

There is not enough information released by Congress to tell if these ads linked back to ad supported pages. While links are shown in the metadata files, they go to FB pages that no longer exist.

Zuckerberg says Facebook is open to social media laws regarding foreign interference

“I’ve expressed how upset I am that the Russians tried to use our tools to sow mistrust,” he said. “What they did is wrong and we are not going to stand for it. For those who have followed Facebook you know that when we set our minds to something, we’re going to do it.”

Source: Zuckerberg Is ‘Dead Serious’ About Russia, Open to Legislation – Bloomberg

Unfortunately, as documented on this blog, there is extensive creation and distribution of fake news and related propaganda from people in the United States.

The root problem is that share-able social media is a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda messaging. No one has identified an effective solution to corral this serious problem.

Facebook confirms it is a platform for the friction-less spread of propaganda

Emphasis added:

Facebook said Russia-backed operatives published about 80,000 posts that were delivered to approximately 29 million people on the social network during a two-year period, CBS News reported Monday, citing a source familiar with Facebook’s planned testimony. The posts may have spread to three times that many people after they were shared, liked and followed by Facebook users.

Source: Facebook: Russian-backed posts reached 126M during election – CNET

I am amused that the many (but not all) of the media reports seem oblivious to the widespread use of Facebook as a propaganda delivery platform. Some of the coverage of this topic leaves one thinking that most propaganda on Facebook must originate in Russia!

Faceback ads reach 4 out of every 3 teens in the U.S.!

Facebook ads also reach 12 out of every 7 young adults in the U.S.!

Facebook makes up their advertising reach numbers:

According to Facebook, there are 41 million adults between the ages of 18 and 24. However, according to data from the U.S. census, there are just 31 million. Facebook also says there are 60 million between the ages of 25 and 34, while the U.S. census puts its estimate at just 35 million.

Source: Facebook Claims It Reaches More People Than the U.S. Census Data Says Exist – Adweek

And apparently for just $100,000, you can reach 126 million people!

For just a few million $s you could reach trillions of people on earth!


I have not written much about the use of Facebook by propagandists linked to Russia.  These stories may be standard issue social media-based fake news using inflammatory posts designed for online sharing, with the goal of driving eye balls to ad filled web pages. In other words, it just a business.

Teens in Macedonia and other countries (not just Russia) are making a great income writing fake news stories for sharing and selling eyeballs to advertisers, targeting political activists in the U.S.

There are a great many documented fake news publishers, operating on this business model because it works and its profitable!

Inflammatory issue-oriented ads and fake news posts said to have originated with in Russia may be social media-based online publishers, selling eyeballs to advertisers. Who knows? May be there is more to the story but after a year of government investigations, the story mutated from Russia hacked the election to someone in Russia bought Facebook ads and posted fake news. This sounds similar to a classic social media-based, online, for profit, fake news publishing model. There are more descriptions of the postings in this article and they sound a lot like fake news publishing. (Update – But also see this newer post about Internet Research [Agency] – they use the methods of fake news publishers but their goal may not be making a profit. Their social media activities took all sides – for and against candidates and issues: “Their goal is to create confusion and dissent. The target is the U.S. and NATO, not any particular candidate. They just want chaos“.)

The real story here is how surprisingly easy it is for anyone to use Facebook, Twitter and Google as a platform for the mass dissemination of propaganda messaging.

Continue reading

Facebook hides posts from pages you follow but it’s only a test, they say

Facebook Explore Feed is rolling out globally this week. Most people around the world can see it in their bookmarks and they can discover new content here. But in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia it works differently: all posts by pages are moved from newsfeed to Explore Feed. In main newsfeed are now just friend and sponsored posts.

Yes, you log into Facebook and you can see only posts from your friends and ads. You have to click on Explore Feed to see posts from pages you follow.

Source: Biggest drop in Facebook organic reach we have ever seen

Facebook insists it is just a test “But that doesn’t mean Facebook won’t move forward with implementing a similar change more widely if users prefer their News Feed just be posts from friends.”

I use FB primarily for groups and pages that I follow! Facebook, though, wants to display lots of political nonsense from my FB “friends” because FB thinks it knows what we want better than we do!


Disney’s “secret army” of Moms spread Disney promotional propaganda #marketing #astroturf

Disney has a secret army of mothers who flood the internet with Disney propaganda

While this sounds like a big deal and “secret” and what not, it is just “astro turf” public relations.

“Grassroots” organizing is when a group of people supposedly come together to promote something (often political or government policy related). The idea is that it is a movement that arose from the people.

In reality, nearly all “grassroots” movements today are “astro turf” operations, carefully orchestrated and run by public relations organizations. To learn more about how astro turf operations are run, see our previous post on astro turf propaganda. The best astro turf operations enlist participants who do not even realize that are being controlled as part of a public relations operation – participants think they are part of a grassroots movement!

Disney has enlisted an estimated 1,300 mothers who frequently blog about positive Disney experiences. Disney provides them with enhanced experiences at Disney theme parks with the hope this leads to further positive messaging, influencing the bloggers friends and followers  Participants blog and share their positive experiences on social media, enabling Disney to incorporate an astro turf army of moms into their social media marketing (also known as propaganda). The Mom’s who participate are fully aware of the PR efforts underway by Disney; this is not a secret.

None of this is new! Astro turf lobbying and astro turf marketing have gone on for years. Social media is merely a new platform for astro turf marketing.

Corollary: Absolutely nothing can be taken at face value: The innocent comments about a great experience at a restaurant or theme park may very well be sponsored. “Grass roots” lobbying efforts for a local city park or a state or Federal law are almost always driven by a professional public relations agency engaged in astro turfing. Social media  has expanded the ease with which fake grassroots messaging can be quickly delivered to millions of people.

Astro turf marketing is a powerful and effective method of propaganda that is frequently used to sell a product, service or an idea (such as new government program or policy).