Category Archives: Other

Facebook monitors network access of everyone, even those not having a FB account

Not content with monitoring the movements of its own users, the largest social network in the world is building secret files on the activities of billions of people.
Mark Zuckerburg’s company says that is uses this information to target adverts and content based on your preferences, as well as for security purposes.
Facebook account holders are able to download a copy of the file kept on them, which contains detailed records of their activities while logged in.

Source: Facebook keep creepy secret files on every internet user | Daily Mail Online
Facebook, an NSA buddy, collects all this data in order to better pitch propaganda a.k.a. advertising messages to you.

Facebook aims to be less useful to you

Had this announcement in my notifications today:

Facebook intends to stop showing me content that I actually want to see. You can turn this off but it requires manual intervention to regain control over what you want to see, rather than what Facebook thinks you want to see.

  • First, when Facebook decides what you see, Facebook is acting as an editorial director.
  • Second, when Facebook decides what you see, Facebook is potentially promoting propaganda. It does not matter that this editorial selection is conducted by algorithms.

I learned long ago that working in any field for a period of time warps our thinking.
After two decades in the computer software industry, my brain was brainwashed into thinking all the world’s problems could be solved with software solutions. Everyone in tech sincerely believes that everything is just a software or tech problem!
After those two decades, I went to grad school and earned an MBA. I spent my time hanging out with people who did not work in the tech sector and discovered that not everything is solved with tech. I also learned many others believe that most of the world’s problems can be solved with what ever their expertise is in!
Indeed, all the way back as an undergraduate in computer science, in a private conversation with a professor of statistics, he said, “When you get down it, life is nothing but statistics. Everything in life is statistics!” Like all of us buried in a specialty, we only see the world through the eyes of our specialty
It’s as if, when all you have is a hammer, the entire world starts to look like a nail – hah hah.
Many years ago I attended a public community meeting where there were 22 people in attendance – 21 of which worked in health care, plus me, who did not. 21 of the attendees believed every community problem was a health care problem! Seriously, crime was a health care problem! Public bus transportation was a health care problem! By the time the meeting was over with, probably four dozen community problems were identified and each and every one of them could be solved through better access to health care and more subsidy money spent on health care.
And on and on.
The point is that Facebook, Google, and Twitter all believe any problems they have in their propaganda platforms being abused is just a software problem. More software will solve this! That’s because to them when all they have is software, the whole world looks like a software problem.
The tech sector needs to get out of its Get Smart-level Cone of Silence bubble and recognize that problems require a multi-disciplinary approach and solutions. For now, they are proceeding down the nonsensical, inward focused “it’s just a software problem”. 
They and many others do not yet realize that the propaganda problem on social media is not the messages, it’s the medium.

Is there a solution to the social media propaganda problem?

For several years I have been pointing out the problem of social media dominated by propaganda.
In the past week, awareness of social media propaganda has risen, albeit, focused solely on Russia connected actors.
Amusingly, a lot of posts from individuals bemoaning Russia connected propaganda are from individuals who do not realize their own posts are the problem too. Far too many users of Facebook and Twitter believe the primary purpose of their posts is to persuade others to adopt their agenda – this is nearly all that they do on social media!
You likely have friends whose online posts are predominantly political propaganda messaging. Your friends are propagandists who exploit the free and frictionless social media platform for their own propaganda operations.
Which leads to social media propagandists protesting the use of social media for propaganda!
Marshall McLuhan’s long ago phrase “The Medium is the Message” is a clue to our present predicament. It’s not the Russians – its the medium itself that is the problem.
Social media is the problem.
Is this problem solvable?
Not under the current business structures of the social media companies.
Obviously, social media companies are under pressure to put a stop to propaganda messaging regarding politics – depending on the source of the messaging – and to hate speech.

  • Some think new software technology based on neural networks and machine learning will identify inappropriate propaganda from appropriate and acceptable propaganda.
  • Some think software and new procedures will identify automated “bot” propaganda accounts -and distinguish between “evil” ones and “good” ones.
  • Perhaps new procedures will emerge to solve the problem. Facebook has said that in the future political ads will require verification by a U.S. address – but that does not stop foreign actors from using in country addresses. Nor does it stop the legal activity of foreigners exercising rights to voice their opinion about U.S. political activities in their personal posts, or of U.S. citizens from exercising rights to voice their opinion of political activities in other countries.
  • I’ve proposed charging a small fee for social media posts, to cut down on the endless sharing of propaganda messaging. Without sharing, propaganda memes go nowhere. This idea, of course, will go nowhere.

Could we train social media users?
Some think social media users need to be more discerning about the provenance of the content they view and share. Unfortunately, every day I see smart people sharing things that are exaggerated or untrue. I doubt training will work.
Could we train social media users not to share? I rarely share on my social media pages content that I or someone I know did not create. My goal is to prevent myself from becoming a cog in the social media propaganda machinery. But I do not see others adopting such stringent standards.
Is Social Media so overrun with crap that people quit?
This is entirely possible. We have already seen social media changes. Myspace is gone. Young people have abandoned Facebook in favor of Snapchat and Instagram. Estimates are that 15-50% of Twitter accounts are bots or otherwise controlled by software applications producing tweets automatically on behalf of a real person.
This reminds me of a cartoon from 20+ years ago. It showed a hypothetical automated classroom where students were taught by images on a video screen. In the other direction, the students were replaced by tape recorders 🙂
Twitter is becoming the same way – its automated messaging talking to other automated bot accounts, each re-tweeting each other’s content which is being read by fewer and fewer actual people.
When the medium is overcome with artificially generated and shared propaganda, people will abandon the platforms as the value proposition erodes.
I have semi-abandoned the platforms by choosing to be aggressive about cutting off friends and followers whose main use of a platform is to propagandize others. When my “friends” on Facebook believe the primary purpose of Facebook is to spread their propaganda, I hide, snooze or unfollow them. In some cases, I just unfriend them.
On Twitter I’ve taken to muting people who post the same general propaganda memes over and over again, and rarely offer any other interesting content. Simultaneously, I have dramatically cut my time spent on Twitter.
Cutting back our use of noisy social media, which is too often filled with outrage, is a first step to abandoning the platforms and a sign that the value of social media is becoming less and less for each of us.

"Analyzing Contemporary Propaganda"

Everyone participates in the process of persuasion, which is the use of words and other symbols to influence people. People use persuasion to gain social power. But the term propaganda is generally used when someone is aiming to reach a large group of people, not just a few.
If you are an activist, you may have created propaganda yourself. People who create propaganda have a specific goal and design a communication message that is intended to circulate among a large group of people and create a reaction. Propaganda involves reinforcing existing beliefs, changing perceptions, activating an emotional response or provoking a behavior.
Today, social media like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter make it easy for ordinary individuals to create or disseminate propaganda.

Source: Mind Over Media: Analyzing Contemporary Propaganda
Excellent summary of propaganda, a few methods, and how social media plays a role, from The Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island.