Category Archives: Media

YouTube’s AI-based video recommendations skew, obviously, to what results in more views

The goal of Youtube, obviously, is to increase the percent of time you spend watching Youtube, and their ads every few minutes:

New research published today by Mozilla backs that notion up, suggesting YouTube’s AI continues to puff up piles of ‘bottom-feeding’/low grade/divisive/disinforming content — stuff that tries to grab eyeballs by triggering people’s sense of outrage, sewing division/polarization or spreading baseless/harmful disinformation — which in turn implies that YouTube’s problem with recommending terrible stuff is indeed systemic; a side-effect of the platform’s rapacious appetite to harvest views to serve ads.

Source: YouTube’s recommender AI still a horrorshow, finds major crowdsourced study | TechCrunch

Machine learning-based recommendation systems are constantly seeking patterns and associations – person X has watched several videos of type Y, therefore, we should recommend more videos that are similar to Y.

But Youtube defines “similar” in a broad way which may result in your viewing barely related videos that encourage outrage/conspiracy theories or what they term “disinformation”. Much of that depends, of course, on how you define “disinformation” – the writer of the article, for example, thinks when a user watches a video on “software rights” that it is a mistake to then recommend a video on “gun rights” and implies (in most examples given) that this has biased recommendations towards right-leaning topics.

News reports also highlighted inappropriately steering viewers to “sexualized” content, but that was a small part of the recommendations. This too might happen based on the long standing marketing maxim that “sex sells“.

What seems more likely is the algorithms identify patterns – even if weak associations – and use that to make recommendations. In a way, user behavior drives the pattern matching that ultimately leads to the recommendations. The goal of the algorithm (think of like an Excel Solver goal) is to maximize viewing minutes.

Ultimately, what the Mozilla research actually finds is the recommendations are not that good – and gave many people recommendations that they regretted watching.

Yet the researchers and TechCrunch writer spin this into an evil conspiracy of algorithms forcing you to watch “right wing” disinformation. But the reality seems far less nefarious. It’s just pattern matching what people watch. Their suggestion of  turning off these content matches is nefarious – they want Youtube to forcefully control what you see – for political purposes – not simply increasing viewing minutes.

Which is more evil? Controlling what you see for political purposes or controlling what you see to maximize viewing minutes?

Even science has lost credibility

The pandemic has been devastating to the credibility and trust placed in public health and epidemiology.

That loss of trust extends to science itself.

In the UK, their SAGE Committee employed a subteam of psychologists skilled in behavior manipulation (notably based on fear) and propaganda as part of their Covid-19 response. A UK politician has said they should employ the same methods for climate change policy.

Here in the U.S., there has long been a major focus on fear – even news reports that “experts” felt we must exaggerate the fears.

Continue reading Even science has lost credibility

Ignoring the Olympics

It is weird that some think the purpose of the Olympics should be political messaging.

American Olympians criticized the International Olympic Committee for its reiteration of a ban on protests at the Games.

Source: Tokyo Olympics: American athletes criticize IOC over protest ban

And after doing political messaging, some lose sponsorships and  complain of poverty. Athletes seem to misunderstand why someone offered to pay them money – probably not to promote political agendas and potentially upset future customers.

Athletics and sports are entertainment – and nothing more. The participants lose sight of this and deceive themselves into thinking they are something more than entertainment.

The heat dome effect: Pandemic will be declared over with within about a week

The media will pivot from the pandemic fears and hysteria to the climate change fears and hysteria. The timing of the western heat dome coincides with the end of the pandemic – hence, within about a week the pandemic will be declared largely over with. Time to move on to the next scary thing.

“Climate change isn’t your grandchildren’s problem, it’s yours.”

Source: With a heat dome poised to shatter Oregon records, what role does climate change play? – oregonlive.com

Unfortunately, the media and the experts have cried wolf so many times this past year, that even a real issue of concern may now be ignored by the public. Much of the public has learned a lesson about the media, fused with the suicide of expertise this past year.

I don’t have a link but I had seen a while back that insiders at CNN said they were, in fact, planning to pivot to climate change fear porn as their next major media push.

Same thing happened in my state

News outlets, local and national, were conflating the actual number of Floridians who had died of COVID on a given day with the number of COVID deaths that had been entered into the system on that day — a total that included deaths that had occurred days and sometimes weeks before the entry date.

Source: Rebekah Jones Tried to Ruin Florida Academic’s Career | National Review

In January of 2021, our state’s director of public health stated that it appeared January would be the worst month for deaths in our state.

Curiously, I noticed that the “daily reported deaths” often included body counts dating back months ago.

I painstakingly entered into a spreadsheet the actual date of death for what was then about 1,600 deaths in my state.

I found that deaths, by actual date of death, not by date they were reported, had peaked in early December.

I notified my state’s public health officials and within about 2 1/2 weeks they began publishing a new chart on their web site showing deaths by date of death, not date of report. This confirmed my analysis had been correct.

This was the type of mistake that a competent media would have identified instead of having it identified by a brain injured idiot with no relevant experience who makes observations and asks stupid questions.

Incredibly, this error in reporting was widespread and occurred in many states. Which is why I lack any confidence in epidemiology – this was a fundamental error that should never have occurred.

Read the linked article and learn what happened to one grad student who identified this problem in Florida. His career trajectory was nearly killed because he pointed this out.

Apparently IRS tax returns are not secret anymore?

Perhaps we should all just publish our returns on the Internet and be done with the pretense of privacy?

ProPublica said it is not disclosing how it obtained the data, which was given to it in raw form. It is illegal for the IRS to give out the personal returns of any individual. ProPublica says it has the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years.

Source: Billionaires including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk avoided paying federal income taxes in some years, report says – MarketWatch

Do they have their medical records too?

Considering the Experian leak or numerous retail credit card leaks, it seems that privacy no longer exists. What does this mean, long term, if everything we have ever done, bought, used, paid as taxes, used as health care, or discussed on line, in text messages, is no longer private?

In the case of Experian, the leak itself was the story. Now, the media itself gleefully participates in the leak and ignores their ethical lapse in participation as a party to this leak.

UPDATE: This story isn’t going over well for Propublica. First, some question the media’s use of stolen, private tax records – that is a real story. Second, Propublica uses a tax calculation they invented – as if unrecognized gains should be taxed and compared to income taxes. Third, it is an agenda-driven propaganda piece pushing a “wealth tax”. This is not journalism – this is advocacy.

Propublica cherry picks data, confuses wealth versus income, invents their own tax calculations, and says 25 tax returns are representative of everyone[1] thereby creating an effective propaganda hit piece.

[1] “Is anecdotal evidence reliable? One reporter says ‘Yes'”