Tag Archives: propaganda

I was shadow banned by Oregonian censorship, a powerful form of propaganda

Today, the Oregonian ran a story from the AP about the high costs of ACA insurance policies. I added two comments to the story. One of my comments appears online and the other is “shadow banned”.

When I am logged in to the Oregonian, I see this

When I am not logged in, I see only this which is presumably what everyone else sees as well. In other words, my comment is visible only to me but invisible to everyone else.

This was tested on both Windows and Mac OS X and multiple browsers.

The Oregonian shadow banned my comment, for unknown reasons. My comment presents actual price quotes from HealthCare.gov. This is public information and is non-controversial. Did factual information bother someone at the Oregonian?

A shadow ban is when a web site bans your content from being seen by others but allows you see to see your own content tricking you in to thinking your comment is online. A shadow ban hides the act of censorship from the content writer who is unaware they have been shadow banned – because they see their own comment.

This is a grotesque form of censorship by the Oregonian.

Censorship is one of the strongest forms of propaganda messaging.

Two can play that game as well – we will no longer be reading The Oregonian as their content can not be trusted when they engage in secret censorship of factual information. Facts and logic are powerful antidotes to propagandists – but only if they can cut through the media censors.

I am trying to get an answer from the Oregonian as to what is going on and will update this if they tell me.

Social media companies really do read your posts, emails and documents

Google’s GMail service “scans” your emails and Google Docs to serve you ads. The word “scans” implies scanning for keywords but that is a false assumption about what is actually being done.

Natural language processing technology has advanced to where these algorithms are the equivalent of someone reading all of your emails and taking notes. Literally, online services are reading all of your email and building dossiers on what they think they know about you, ostensibly to better target advertising to you.

Facebook is taking this to extremes, having announced this week that Facebook’s algorithms are analyzing all of your online posts to determine if you suffer from depression and may be suicidal. In the event their algorithm decides you may be showing suicidal tendencies, Facebook alerts the authorities who send first responders to your home.

In other words, Facebook is now operating as an unlicensed health care practitioner and diagnosing your health based on your writings, and without ever having met you or spoken with you.

Facebook uses this information for marketing purposes too – imagine conducting this analysis and then showing you ads for anti-depressants and “talk to your doctor”. Also consider,

“An egregious example of the kind of behavior these companies’ business models encourage surfaced this summer when an internal Facebook sales pitch to advertisers was leaked to an Australian newspaper. Facebook stated it had pinpointed an audience of thousands of young teenagers who felt “insecure,” “defeated,” “nervous,” “failures,” “worthless,” and “needed a confidence boost.” These diagnoses were based on a psychoanalysis of private Facebook information: what users posted, what they liked, how they appeared in photos, who their friends and how depressed were they as well as their search and shopping histories, visits to mental illness sites or hotlines and so forth.” (source)

Twitter analyzes your Tweets, “Likes” and who you follow, plus combines this information with 3rd party advertising networks to create a profile of attributes. You can see this by going to Settings and Privacy and then selecting Your Twitter Data, page down and look at Interests from Twitter and Interests from Partners.

I discovered that almost everything they deduced about me in the Interests from Partners was wrong – seriously wrong. About the only correct items are that I have a cat and a graduate degree (2 actually, but do not tell them!)

All of this collected data is used to fine tune propaganda messaging directed at you. Of course, much of this is advertising; however, ads are also run for political purposes too. In effect, online services are proving our hypothesis – that social media has become the most advanced, friction-less propaganda platform in human history.

Silicon Valley “tech” firms have morphed into the most advanced propaganda operations in human history. Their actions are conducted in secret, they are unbounded, and they are unregulated. Their technology is now used to directly influence you and public policy.

To illustrate, this week, the head of the FCC commented on “net neutrality” and noted that Silicon Valley tech firms promote neutrality of the broadband pipe – while simultaneously censoring discussions conducted on their platform (Twitter and Youtube both do this). As if on cue, almost immediately thereafter, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Alphabet (parent of Google) announced they will now censor news.google.com to remove stories from Russian media outlets such as RT.

In that instant, Google showed its defense of net neutrality is shallow if not completely hollow. Google wants other people to be forced to be neutral while preserving a right to censorship (including news and political speech, among the most protected of speech in the United States) for itself.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are not merely platforms for the dissemination of propaganda – they are themselves major propagandists seeking to have others adopt their agendas for their benefit.

Google is not just evil (to re-arrange their motto of “Don’t be evil”) but is acting as a menace to democracy itself.

And what could possibly go wrong with Facebook’s surveillance and analyzing our posts and perhaps discovering that we hold views contrary to the power structure?

Someone should write a book about this – I know, they could title it “1984”!

Bottom Line

Online services including Google (Gmail, Docs), Facebook and Twitter and undoubtedly others are doing the machine equivalent of reading your email and documents, taking notes, and analyzing what you are writing to draw conclusions about you.

What could possibly go wrong?

June 2015 article about Internet Research [Agency] in Russia

The article details an attempt to gather information about the Internet Research [Agency] organization in St Petersburg, Russia, described as a professional propaganda operation run by an oligarch. This article is of interest in its description of a propaganda operation. The article was published in June 2015, well before the U.S. media and political interest in social media propaganda.

I friended as many of the trolls on Facebook as I could and began to observe their ways. Most of the content they shared was drawn from a network of other pages that, like Ass’s, were clearly meant to produce entertaining and shareable social-media content. ….. The posts churned out every day by this network of pages were commented on and shared by the same group of trolls, a virtual Potemkin village of disaffected Americans.

The quoted section illustrates how social media acts a friction-less platform for the distribution of propaganda. “Like”, “Share” and “Comment” are all, by default the same – they all end up sharing a post to more people.

IRA is not the only social media propaganda operation. Unfortunately, there are many more and the others are being ignored.

An even earlier story appeared in 2013 describing the trolling operation of the IRA.

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.