Fascinating how fast false rumors spread on social media

This post is about how social media propaganda appeared immediately after a proposed House bill was passed, then spread like wildfire, and was mostly not true. The NY Times reviews the main social media propaganda memes and how their messages are extreme exaggerations, distortions or outright lies.

I have not looked at the bill because I doubt its going anywhere and no need for me to waste time on that. We were ObamaCare consumers starting in 2014 until our insurance rates rose by 140% from 2014 to 2017 to the point we had to drop out of the ACA markets. News reports rarely mention the majority of purchasers receive no subsidies and their rates have risen so fast and so high that many can no longer buy insurance. If you are interested in learning about the real reason for this, please read my lengthy paper on the subject to understand why ObamaCare is fatally broken, by design, with proposed solutions.)

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

 

Google working to counter “fake news” and other fake stuff

Google wants to give higher priority, in search results, to authoritative sources. However, no one outside of Google knows what “authoritative” means nor how Google determines that information is “authoritative”.

How’s Google learning from the data to figure out what’s authoritative? How’s that actually being put into practice?

Google wouldn’t comment about these specifics. It wouldn’t say what goes into determining how a page is deemed to be authoritative now or how that is changing with the new algorithm. It did say that there isn’t any one particular signal. Instead, authority is determined by a combination of many factors.

Source: Google’s ‘Project Owl’ — a three-pronged attack on fake news & problematic content

Fake news, fake search results, fake online product reviews – everywhere we look, people are gaming the systems.

And incredibly, he is still dead 3 years later!

Twitter is today filled to the brim with tributes recognizing the death of Gabriel García Márquez, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982.

One tiny detail is missing from these tributes – he died in 2014! And apparently he just died again in 2017!

Just when you think the social media mob could not possibly do something dumber than the day before, there comes the next day!

Easily verifiable items spreading like wild fire on social media illustrate the true, friction-less nature of social media for the spread of propaganda messaging. This also demonstrates how easy it is to say anything – literally tell lies – and get away with it – on social media.

Capture

As one Twitter notes,

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A related question is why are so many compelled to spread this story?

A possible explanation is signalling of some sort. Could be virtue signalling or could be signalling to others that you (the poster) are intellectual and well read or something else.

 

Most car crashes caused by cellular phone usage?

I saw an item on a Facebook group where the general meme was that everyone knows cellular phone usage while driving is the cause of most vehicle crashes. The data, however, paints a remarkably different picture. Cellular phone usage, per the government’s own data, is a minor causative factor in vehicle crashes.

There are many causative factors in car crashes: one category of causative factors is “distracted driving”. Cellular phone usage is a subset of “distracted driving”.

The U.S.government’s National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a report in 2016 on distracted driving, with data up to 2014 (the most recent data available).

Here is what they write on page 1:

“A distraction-affected crash is any crash in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash.

  • Ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014 were reported as distraction-affected crashes…”

Let’s restate this:

  • 10% of fatal crashes involved a driver distraction
  • 18% of injury crashes involved a driver distraction
  • 16% of all reported crashes involved a driver distraction

The proportion of those distracted driving incidents where a cellular phone was a causative factor is a subset of these percentages (see tables in the report):

  • 7% of 10% of fatal crashes or less than 1% of all fatal crashes
  • 13% of 18% of injury crashes or about 2.3% of all injury crashes
  • Cellular phone usage for “all crashes” (including non fatal, non injury) is not provided in the report but is likely similar to the two other categories.

The data provided by the U.S. government does not support the widespread meme that cellular phone usage is the leading cause of vehicle crashes. Is my interpretation off in space? The report uses remarkably plain language for a government report. Am I missing something?

Why do people believe cellular phone usage is a leading cause if not pre-dominant cause of vehicle crashes?  (This was the conclusion of those in a Facebook group discussing this topic.)

There is no official answer to that question so we can only guess:

  1. Selected (cherry picked) emotional stories are given widespread media exposure
  2. Bad journalism/bad reporting (fake news from “non-fake” news sources) – often using a variety of propaganda methods to convey this. One common approach in news reports is to quote an “expert” (appeal to authority) who says “Over 30% of crashes are caused by cellular phone usage”. This is a common quote in many news reports, none of which substantiate the number except by an appeal to authority.
  3. Propaganda efforts by the insurance industry to promote a reduction in risk (and their costs)
  4. The tendency to generalize from n=small numbers (I once saw a bad driver using a cellular phone, therefore most bad driving is due to cellphone usage, and if most bad driving is due to cell phone usage then this must be the cause of most crashes). This is a”logical fallacy“.
  5. Everyone just knows that cellular phone usage by drivers causes most crashes (both the assertion and the get on the bandwagon propaganda methods).
  6. If anyone cites the data in a social media reply, this unleashes a barrage of name calling (another propaganda method) that if you disagree, you are a denier, an idiot or whatever.

Facts and logic are the enemy of propaganda. When many people believe something to be true, and that “something” is not supported by official data, it is likely that propaganda messaging has been used to persuade the public.

Are social networks fading? One early proponent says yes.

The man who set up the most popular social network in Russia [VK] axed all of his online friends in one fell swoop this week. Having them, he wrote, was so 2010.

Source: Social networks are fading as messenger apps rise up | Stuff.co.nz

Just as MySpace fell off the popular list, Facebook has lost many young people who have migrated to Instagram or SnapChat. Many people have deleted one or more of their social media accounts and this does seem to be a slowly growing trend as users gradually pull back from their social media worlds.

YouTube’s Advertising Algorithms are killing Youtube video producers

Google and Facebook are a duopoly for online digital advertising. Through their ad placement programs, they are now – basically – using heavy handed automated content filters that censor out many videos. The result:

“YouTube is on the fast track to becoming Disney vloggers: beautiful young people that wouldn’t say anything controversial and are always happy.”

Google and Facebook are indeed so powerful that they now censor ordinary speech.

 

All major media participates in fake news distribution

This is also true of CNN, News.Yahoo.com and numerous other mainstream media web sites that allow advertisers to display fake news headlines as click bait. There is no longer any difference between professional news media and fake news media.

An investigation found paid-for hoaxes about high-profile public figures next to users’ news feeds, duping them to click to alleged scam websites.

Source: Facebook promoted scam ads based on fake news headlines | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

Creating fake social media accounts leads to lucrative business opportunities

Crackdowns on fake social media accounts are unlikely to hurt the multi-million-dollar spam industry — in fact, it could make the problem far worse.

Source: Crackdowns on Social Media Accounts Backfire by Driving up Demand – NBC News

Because fake accounts offer big profit opportunities, there is much money to be made as a fake account creator and broker.