disinformation

The Public Square of Spirit & Compassion & Disinformation

November 21, 2019

Sister of Social Service Simone Campbell of Social Service Simone Campbell is an author, lawyer, poet, and Executive Director of NETWORK, an organization that lobbies on issues of economic justice, immigration reform, and healthcare.

My faith impels me into the public square. It is abundantly clear that Pope Francis is correct when he says that faith has real consequences in the world . . . and these consequences involve politics. . . . Religion/politics is at the heart of my contemplative practice. I am nourished daily by the people I meet and whose stories I hear. My heart is broken open by the truth of their hunger and hope. It is not a theoretical reality for me. My meditation has become breath, that we might see, that we might walk, and, in the process, heal our society that is famished for community and knowing that we belong to each other. . . .

No one can be left out of my care. Therefore [our] political work is anchored in caring for those whom we lobby as well as those whose cause we champion. This was illustrated for me recently when I was . . . lobbying a . . . Senator. . . . I commented on the story of a constituent and asked her how her colleagues could turn their eyes away from the suffering and fear of their people. The conversation went on a bit, and then the senator came back to my question. She said that . . . they did not get close to the candid stories of their people. In fact, some did not see these constituents as “their people.” Tears sprang to my eyes at her candor and the pain that keeps us sealed off from each other because of political partisanship. . . .

In many ways, we are a bit like the senators who close themselves off from the needs of their constituents. We could get caught in the pain of rejection and blame, fighting against an unjust judgment. But for me, the contemplative perspective leads to letting go of my desires and control while opening to the gift of the moment. My consistent learning is that behind the loss is always a surprise, opening into something new. There are prices to be paid, but they are small when compared to the hunger of our people. . . .

My prayer has led me to compassion. Compassion often leads to much more nuanced analysis. . . . The Spirit has pushed us out of our comfort zone of acceptability in order to meet the needs of people we had not known were ours. . . .

-Center for Action and Contemplation


As a platform for disinformation, it is a weapon. To be used intentionally as a platform for disinformation, it is an atomic bomb.

AXIOS

Ad targeting is how Facebook, Google and other online giants won the internet. It’s also key to understanding why these companies are being held responsible for warping elections and undermining democracy, managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes in the opening installment of our “What Matters 2020” series.

  • Critics and tech companies are increasingly considering whether limiting targeting of political ads might be one way out of the misinformation maze.
  • Giant platforms would still allow campaigns and candidates to purchase political ads — but the companies would stop (either voluntarily or by law) selling messages aimed only at narrow segments of the electorate.

How ad targeting works: Facebook and Google have somewhat different systems for targeting ads, but both allow advertisers to bid on narrowly defined demographic groups or keywords.

  • For instance, you can tell Facebook to show your message only to Southern men who don’t have a college degree and earn less than $75,000 — or ask for married suburban moms in three ZIP Codes outside Indianapolis who own SUVs and play tennis.
  • In the political ad world, these tools allow candidates and groups to exploit those populations’ anxieties and resentments, efficiently.

The link between ad targeting and misinformation … Tech platforms stand accused of multiple sins, including:

  • Improperly collecting users’ data to build massive databases of profiles.
  • Allowing politicians and their campaigns to spread lies.
  • Creating partisan “echo chambers” and “filter bubbles” that segment reality by ideology.

Facebook and Google didn’t invent these phenomena — they existed pre-internet. But by tying them together, ad targeting can kick misinformation into overdrive:

  • Data collection and profile building is what makes ad targeting possible. It’s also what keeps getting tech platforms in trouble with users and governments.
  • Campaigns have always shaded the truth and even lobbed false accusations. But in a broadcast world, it was easy for opponents and neutral third parties to witness and call out such behavior.
  • In the world of micro-targeted ads, it’s almost impossible — despite transparency efforts like Facebook’s ad library.
  • Misleading ads fuel frenzies in the closed-loop worlds of partisan echo chambers long before platforms can step in to bar them.

Banning all political ads vs. banning targeting: Many critics have urged social media platforms to bar political advertising altogether — a move both Google and Facebook have resisted, even as their smaller but politically high-profile competitor Twitter said it would embrace it.

  • Facebook argues that such a ban would harm outsider candidates and causes.
  • Twitter’s ban is significant, but its ad market share and targeting capabilities are minuscule compared to Facebook’s and Google’s.

The idea of a targeting ban has gained momentum recently, with figures like Bill Gates and FEC chair Ellen Weintraub endorsing it.

  • Defenders of the status quo argue that online targeting isn’t fundamentally different from longtime campaign practices like ZIP Code targeting of postal flyers, and they maintain that it’s a free-speech issue.

The Guardian

‘DT, hosted the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for a private dinner at the White House last month.

NBC News revealed that the meeting, which had not previously been disclosed, took place when Zuckerberg was in Washington being grilled by Congress over topics including Facebook’s limited steps to ban to misinformation in political advertising.

NBC (also) reported the billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a conservative who donated to Trump’s 2016 campaign and sits on Facebook’s board, was also present at the meeting.’

Thiel, who is the chairman of private data technology company Palantir, donated $1.25m to DT’s 2016 presidential campaign. In August a report by Mijente, a Latinx organizing not-for-profit, found that Palantir has more than $1.5bn in federal government contracts.

[According to Forbes, Thiel has a net worth of $2.5 billion.]

#PeterThiel

Huffington Post

“…an essay published in 2009, (Thiel) surprised many when he wrote that giving women the right to vote — by constitutional amendment in 1920 — was a blow to democracy.”

TV News and Disinformation

October 9, 2019

LOS ANGELES, CA, UNITED STATES – 2019/02/06: The CNN logo is seen atop its bureau in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Jay Rosen: 

“What if the hosts threw their shows over to the beat reporters more often? What if guests who lied weren’t brought on again? What if people who had worked on campaigns couldn’t be brought on to spin the news unmitigated?”

[Jay Rosen is a media critic and journalism professor Studio 20 program at NYU.]

CNN public editor: What actually is CNN?

By Emily Tamkin

WHEN I THINK OF CNN—when I watch it, or when I scroll through Twitter, or when I think of what I want to write about it—I think of what Jeff Zucker, CNN president, said in 2017: “The idea that politics is sport is undeniable, and we understood it and approached it that way.”

The contrast now is stark. It’s not that the CNN beat reporters are good and hosts are bad—many of the latter are accomplished journalists, too. It’s just that what is mostly reflected on the screen—especially during prime time—seems to be less news reporting, more punditry, more round tables, more horse race politics, more talking heads, more interviews and interviewees yelling at each other, more that makes the news more confusing for the viewer (or at least for this viewer).

I find myself wrestling with this tension when I write these columns. I know I’m not the only one: Bernie Sanders’ campaign manager, Faiz Shakir went on Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources and expressed frustration that the networks were more focused on politics than on policy, and that, on TV news shows, “it tends to be a game”. (Stelter, to his credit, acknowledged that many viewers agree, and that “the shiny object, the sensationalism, it’s a problem.”)

https://www.cjr.org/public_editor/cnn-coverage-reporting.php

 

 

‘A nation without shared truth will be hard-to-impossible to govern.’ 

September 1, 2019

[AXIOS]

The occupier of the Oval Office, DT’s campaign and key allies plan to make allegations of bias by social media platforms a core part of their 2020 strategy, officials tell me.

  • Look for ads, speeches and sustained attacks on Facebook and Twitter in particular, the sources say.
  • The irony: The social platforms are created and staffed largely by liberals — but often used most effectively in politics by conservatives, the data shows.

Why it matters: DT successfully turned the vast majority of his supporters against traditional media, and hopes to do the same against the social media companies.

  • Republicans’ internal data shows it stirs up the base like few other topics.
  • “In the same way we’ve seen trust in legacy media organizations deteriorate over the past year, there are similarities with social media companies,” a top Republican operative involved in the effort told me.

Between the lines: The charges of overt bias by social media platforms are way overblown, several studies have found. But, if the exaggerated claims stick, it could increase the chances of regulatory action by Republicans.

  • “People feel they’re being manipulated, whether it’s by what they’re being shown in their feeds, or actions the companies have taken against conservatives,” the operative said.
  • “It’s easy for people to understand how these giant corporations could influence them and direct them toward a certain favored candidate.”

How tech execs see it: They know the escalation is coming, so they are cranking up outreach to leading conservatives and trying to push hard on data showing that conservative voices often outperform liberal ones.

Reality check, from Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried: What is real is that most of the platforms have policies against bias that some conservative figures have run afoul of.

  • Managing editor Scott Rosenberg notes that Twitter is Trump’s megaphone, while Facebook is often his favorite place to run ads.

What’s next: By the time 2020 is over, trust in all sources of information will be low, and perhaps unrecoverable.

  • A nation without shared truth will be hard-to-impossible to govern. 


MIT Management/Sloan Schools

A 4-step plan for fighting social media manipulation in elections

by Meredith Somers

Social media manipulation of voters shows no sign of abating. Two professors propose a new research agenda to fight back.

Since the 2016 presidential election, there’s been no shortage of reports about false news being shared across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter — and with the 2020 vote only a year away, the question is not when will the misinformation strike, but how can we guard against it?

MIT professor of IT and marketing Sinan Aral and associate professor of marketing Dean Eckles propose a four-step process for researchers to measure and analyze social media manipulation, and to turn that data into a defense against future manipulation.“Without an organized research agenda that informs policy, democracies will remain vulnerable to foreign and domestic attacks,” the professors write in an article for the August 30 edition of Science magazine.

1.

Catalogue exposures to manipulation 

 

To defend against manipulation, Aral and Eckles write, researchers need to index a variety of social media information:

  • What texts, images, and video messages were advertised?
  • What type of advertisement was used (organically posted, advertised, or “boosted” through paid promotion)?
  • What social platforms were these texts, images, and video messages appearing on?
  • When and how were they shared and re-shared by users (in this case, voters)?

2.

Combine exposure and voting behavior datasets

In the past, public voting records and social media accounts were compared using data like self-reported profile information. But this type of comparison can be improved by using location data already being collected by social media companies, the researchers write.

This could be something like matching voter registration with home addresses based on mobile location information — the same data used for marketing purposes by social media companies.

 

This could be something like matching voter registration with home addresses based on mobile location information — the same data used for marketing purposes by social media companies.

One challenge of studying voter behavior, Aral and Eckles write, is that the results aren’t always accurate enough to answer questions.

Social media companies already run A/B and algorithm tests, Aral and Eckles write. The same tests could be used to measure exposure effects.

3.

Calculate consequences of voting behavior changes 

 

Aral and Eckles write that measures like predicted voter behavior — with or without exposure to misinformation — should be combined with data like geographic and demographic characteristics for a particular election. This would help with vote total estimates in a particular area.

4.

Calculate consequences of voting behavior changes 

 

Aral and Eckles write that measures like predicted voter behavior — with or without exposure to misinformation — should be combined with data like geographic and demographic characteristics for a particular election. This would help with vote total estimates in a particular area.

FB’s News Tab: #manipulation

August 20, 2019

Thomas Merton:

Nothing is more empty and more dead, nothing is more insultingly insincere and destructive than the vapid grins on the billboards and the moronic beatitudes in the magazines, which assure us that we are all in bliss right now.

[AXIOS]

News Tab

Facebook executives tell me they’re hiring seasoned journalists to help curate a forthcoming “News Tab” that they hope will change how millions get news.

  • Why it matters: News Tab is an effort by Facebook to restore the sanity and credibility that’s lost in the chaos of our main feeds.
  • Facebook will personalize the News Tab, so it will need a massive amount of content, from the New York Jets to gardening.

News Tab, a personal passion of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is also an effort by Facebook to develop a healthier relationship with publishers, many of whom have had their business models destroyed by social platforms.

  • Facebook will pay dozens of publishers to license content for News Tab, and news from many more will be included.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that the largest partners will be paid millions of dollars a year.
  • News Tab will try to give credit to the outlet that broke a story, rather than an aggregator.

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, said: “Our goal with the News tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience … The majority of stories people will see will appear in the tab via algorithmic selection.”

  • A small team of journalists will pick stories for a Top News section.

Last year, Facebook killed Trending Topics, populated by contractors, after being accused of bias.

  • “We learned a lot from Trending,” a Facebook executive told me. “This is a completely different product.”

What’s next: A News Tab test for 200,000 users will begin in October, with a rollout to all U.S. users early next year.

Profit manipulation:

‘The Wall Street Journal reported that the largest partners will be paid millions of dollars a year.’

Gatekeeper manipulation:

‘A small team of journalists will pick stories for a Top News section.’

 

 

June 7, 2018

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