Category Archives: Social media

Why I am walking away from social media including #Facebook and #Twitter

Last December “We watched a social media propaganda theme explode in real time – and you won’t believe what happened next!” when a train derailed on the first passenger carrying run of a brand new, $181 million upgraded rail corridor completed as part of an $800 million dollar infrastructure upgrade. Read the linked post for details.

From the President of the United States down through network television personalities to individuals, everyone piled on saying this was an example of a lack of a infrastructure investment, our country’s “crumbling infrastructure”, that Congress was stealing from the poor and giving to the wealthy – or that the crash was caused by domestic terrorists.

All ignored that this was a brand new locomotive on a brand new rail corridor completed as part of an $800 million upgrade program.

Facts and logic no longer mattered.  The signal-to-noise ratio of social  media had fallen to very low levels.

I also concluded that social media seems dominated by idiots devoid of facts and logic.

After taking a ten day break from Twitter, I briefly looked at Twitter again and it seemed that about 90% of the Twitter feed is just noise.  Why do we waste so much time subjecting ourselves to noise?

Social media is designed as a platform for highly effective propaganda – no broadcast license or printing press is required. The ease of use of social media for propaganda means it will and is over run with noisy idiocy.

What can we do about this? Our best bet is to walk away from social media. The purpose of social media is global surveillance for creating the world’s most effective propaganda and manipulation of people – this is what is designed to do!

Why are doing this to ourselves by voluntarily signing up for propaganda mind control?

The solution is to Walk away from social media.

Be skeptical of everything. Learn to think for yourself. Refuse to be manipulated by those in powerful positions.

My Journey off of Social Media

Almost two years ago I stopped sharing anything on Facebook that I did not personally create (except I shared a few items created by friends who I know in real life and trust).  If we share only our own content then fake news can not spread.

After the details of Facebook’s surveillance operation became public, I deleted essentially all posts and likes since I created the account in 2010. I dropped out of 60+ groups, stopped following Pages and unfriended 25% of my FB “friends”. I kept the account primarily to access a software programming group page that I manage – I no longer post status updates.

I set up Twitter so that Tweets more than a few months old are deleted automatically (the half life of a Tweet is about 15 minutes – no one reads old Tweets except when trying to find dirt on someone).

After a break from Twitter, Twitter just looks like a massive waste of time. Twitter does not even show us what we want to follow – Twitter, like Facebook, curates our newsfeed to show us what their algorithms want us to see.

We have passed peak social media. It’s time to resume real life and think for ourselves.

HP computers and data privacy and spying

I have an older HP desktop computer. I’ve long observed significant slow downs as various background tasks were underway and I had assumed it was just anti-virus software running in the background. But it was not – instead, the HP Support Assistance was frequently scanning the entire system, using 55% of the CPU and hogging the disk input/output, tremendously slowing down the system. I finally disabled the HP software as I had never seen any value from it.

Then I went to read the HP Privacy policy (which may be different today from what it was when I bought the computer years ago).

(Click on any image to read the full size screen capture of the HP privacy policy).

In addition to the data collected by HP, HP also “deduces” attributes about you, and collects data when you use social media logins to access anything. This means when you log in to a site using your Facebook login, data about your visit is collected by Facebook and shared with Facebook’s partners (which is literally the entire world).

HP remotely spies on your use of HP printers, collecting a database of pages printed, type of print media used, what ink you are using, including what brand of ink, and the names of the applications from which you print.

HP also purchases information from third party data services, social media networks and advertising networks. Ad networks are used to track every web site you visit online. HP uses this, as they disclose, to get your name, address, “preferences, interests and certain demographic data”. Clearly, HP is buying data about us from Facebook, Google and Twitter.

This example illustrates the pervasive – and nasty – web of anti-privacy efforts underway by the high tech industry. The entire industry works together to intensely monitor, intercept and collect enormous quantities of data about every one of us. Further, they use automated software systems to analyze and interpret this data to then draw inferences about us.

A previous post on my SocialPanic.org blog found that inferences made by Facebook and Twitter were completely wrong – but there is no way to correct that. In most cases there is no way to know what inferences companies like HP have made about us.)

What Can You Do?

  • Delete the HP support assistant. I have found no value from having run it on this computer for many years. Optionally, disable it in the Windows Task Scheduler so it does not run.
  • Delete or disable other software that you do not need or us.
  • Do not use social media logins to web sites other than the social media web site.
  • Use privacy enhanced browsing to minimize tracking across the web. First, never use Chrome. Google logs every web site you visit. Use the Epic Privacy Browser or use Mozilla Firefox with the Privacy Badger and Ghostery plug ins. Use the Cookie-AutoDelete plugin to automatically remove tracking cookies when leaving a web site (you can optionally “white list” web sites so that cookies and logins remain active, if you wish).
  • The Epic Privacy Browser includes access to a proxy server to hide your IP address from web sites.
  • When using mobile phones, note that operating systems such as Android always track your location if Location Services is enabled (such as using mapping). Most people leave Location Services on all the time, and Google uses that to build a database of everywhere you travel and every place you visit. Google also records information about WiFi networks and Bluetooth devices within range of your phone. Even when location services is turned off, WiFi access points and even some Bluetooth devices can reveal your location anyway. Disabling WiFi and Bluetooth will reduce this data collection.

The tech industry has been operating in a free wheeling, Orwellian 1984 world of intense spying on everyone who uses online services including web sites, monitoring our email communications, our social media Likes, every where we travel, and even monitoring our use of home printers.

Automobiles are also now collecting information about our use of the vehicles, including our driving habits and locations visited.

They argue that if we don’t like this, then we should not use online services or we should not use printers or we should not drive a car. These arguments are wholly unrealistic.

Yet most people seem oblivious to this: Facebook has been widely exposed as a massive global surveillance network and propaganda platform – yet financial analysts say they see little harm to Facebook’s business as few seem to care.

Should you delete your #Facebook account? Yes, if you can #DeleteFacebook

I’ve written a detailed of explanation of the enormous quantity of data that Facebook is accumulating on each of us, and some of the shocking methods they use to spy on us. That explanation is available at my Learn2C (programming) web site.

At its core, Facebook is a global surveillance and propaganda platform and nothing more.

They are using every possible method to track our online activities, our mobile device activities (location, phone and text message data, web access), our offline activities (yes, they know when you bought something at a retail store having nothing to do with Facebook) and how they harvest our Group memberships, Page Likes and Post Likes to develop elaborate models for each of us – to describe our behavior, our interest and activities, our physical and mental health, our “hot issues” and more. It is truly frightening what Facebook is doing.

For those reasons I no longer believe it is save for anyone to use Facebook. If you do not understand what the problem is with Facebook , you need to read my essay.

A follow up post will discuss ways to minimize Facebook’s surveillance if you are not able to delete your account at this time.

Loyalty Cards are used to spy on  your purchases, and not just with the vendor

The story of how that Sudafed ad got to me begins at Walgreens. As I bought tissues and Afrin, I keyed in my phone number so I could get loyalty points.

Source: Facebook Really Is Spying on You, Just Not Through Your Phone’s Mic – WSJ

Stores use your loyalty card to identify you and all of your purchases. Your purchase transactions are then sold to other marketing companies. This data, in turn, can and is matched to your Facebook account and other online data using the phone number that you gave to the store and to Facebook or Google.

Think about how Facebook, Twitter and other online services are constantly pestering you to give them your phone number. Once they have your phone number, anything else you do that is linked to your phone number – such as using a loyalty card when buying stuff at Safeway or Walgreen’s is then accessible.

Update: CONFIRMED. Facebook purchases your online retail store purchase data from companies like Axciom, Datalogix, Epsilon and others. FB even says so buried in their anti-privacy policy. Your email address, phone number and possible credit number are used to link your Facebook surveillance logs with your offline purchases.

Everyone is also using the tracking data that Google collects on your Android phone to monitor where you are. Remember, that too is tied to your phone number. As I described on my other blog, the Facebook dossier even tracks what apps you have on  your phone and data mines that to identify potential marketing opportunities.

Google and Facebook are doing highly invasive surveillance and almost no one understands what is being done or what this means.

 

Author advocates more control and censorship over Youtube video content

In a free advertisement courtesy of USA Today, author Andrew Keen, who has made his living writing books condemning the Internet is quoted:

Andrew Keen says the real problem lies with YouTube, a platform without gatekeepers. The rules on the content that’s allowed on television, particularly children’s television, should extend to YouTube, which is soaking up more and more of young people’s screen time, says Keen, author of the upcoming book How to Fix the Future: Staying Human in the Digital Age.

“It’s the same old story. No curation, no mediation, no taste, no boundaries. All clicks,” says Keen. “How many times does this need to happen?”

Source: Logan Paul Japan vlog video raises issue: Is YouTube is safe for kids?

While I have similar concerns I do not advocate heavy handed, top down, centralized content control nor censorship programs; Keen thinks user generated content is evil. I do advocate that information consumers turn off the spigot and take charge over what they subject themselves to each day.

Social media, confirmation bias and its use in marketing #FakeNews #Propaganda #SocialMedia

(I originally posted this on May 24, 2014, about 2 1/2 years before “fake news” became a popular meme. Since then, social media has become a friction-less platform for the spread of propaganda, fake news, and worse. I run an entire blog on the topic of social media propaganda at Occupy Propaganda – the title being a spoof on a whole bunch of “Occupy” titled propaganda and fake news web sites on Facebook.)

Confirmation bias occurs when we tend to give weight to information that supports our beliefs and to ignore or discard information that opposes our beliefs.

There are several studies finding social media reinforces confirmation bias. All the studies I found address this in the context of politics and liberal or conservative bias.  However, the issue is much more widespread than political topics.

For example, many people share stories about contemporary topics – without bothering to check if the story is accurate or is provided with full or appropriate context. In some cases, bogus news reports become viral as they are quickly shared. “Untruths” are spread wide but corrections rarely follow.

Worse,

“When it comes to new information, people are heavily influenced by the first information that they’re exposed to. Combating an existing bias is much harder than influencing people on a subject that they have never been exposed to. Sometimes it is more important to be first”

Thus posting something that is unchecked, and possibly wrong, has great influence on others.

First, we tend to share things with friends, who are friends, in part, because they already share similar views.

Second, when a “friend” posts something that is wrong, who wants to tell a “friend” they are wrong and risk losing a “friend”? We may think social media encourages self correction of those items that are wrong, but there is a bias against causing hurt to friends. Many such posts are based on an “appeal to authority” by quoting an “expert” (who often suffers from confirmation bias).  Arguments based on “appeal to authority” are the weakest of arguments but provide a quick way to shut down skeptical responses: “How dare you question X!

I have noted that many items shared on social media typically rest on the “appeal to authority” because the method is very effective:

“…it was found that high-status individuals create a stronger likelihood of a subject agreeing with an obviously false conclusion, despite the subject normally being able to clearly see that the answer was incorrect.”

The result is that social media is a highly effective platform for spreading false information, intentionally or unntentionally. Here is a classic example: a widely shared list of celebrities with high IQs, allegedly provided by Mensa, giving it the appeal to authority – except it was a hoax.

In the case of intentionally spreading false or incomplete information, social media becomes an idealized platform for propaganda. Falsity is not confined to celebrity rumors but includes alleged scientific facts and statements about government policy.

The Pew Research Center did a survey regarding social media and confirmation bias within the realm of political thinking where confirmation bias, they found, is very much alive and well. They found that the more extreme the views (very conservative or very liberal), the more “they agree with their friends’ comments most of the time or always” suggesting (but not stated in the report) that the more strongly held the views, the more likely you have built a “friends” group of matching beliefs who exchange information further reinforcing their confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias within social media is a powerful force for sales and marketing activities and there are at least two ways it can be used.

One, and the positive one, is to “develop a reputation for accuracy” and to “cite your sources”. The goal is to be a trusted source of accurate information.

The other approach is to use confirmation bias for manipulating your audience into taking actions. That’s the sleazy option which is commonly used in political activities and emotional marketing appeals.  It is used, though, because it works. Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, discusses how decision making is often based on emotional responses, not on hard data. People have evolved to use emotional responses as a rapid heuristic to quickly arrive at decisions, versus the tedious and time consuming use of hard data. A side effect is that we can be easily fooled into making decisions based on emotions and confirmation bias – even if the information is wrong.

If you want to manipulate others, create or pass along stories attributable to “experts”. Few will question the “wisdom” imparted, whether right or wrong!

The upshot of this is that social media has degenerated into a platform for propaganda. Propaganda is a method of influencing entire populations towards a specific outcome. As written at Wikipedia,

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. Propaganda can be used as a form of ideological or commercial warfare

The root of propaganda is the same as the root of propagate – or the spreading of something.  As described above, social media is the ideal platform for the use of propaganda to achieve desired outcomes. Here, the vector is our “friends”, who we may not wish to challenge. In fact, a perilous group think sets in: we pass things along without checking them ourselves. Besides, as noted above, who wants to cause a rift and point out their friends are wrong for passing the item along?

A consequence seems to be less thinking and an increase in gullibility. We pass along anything. We do not question. Skeptical questioning is discouraged. We became dumber as we accumulate “knowledge” of things that are not true or are misinterpreted and misquoted out of context.

Our best response might be to recognize and ignore posts based on appeals to authority, and to consider how we use social media ourselves and to be willing to dig deeper into the details. Details matter. A lot. But who has time to fact check every item posted on Facebook? No one, so the process continues and we become dumber, day by day. And as we become dumber, we become easier to manipulate … and the cycle goes on and on.

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” 
― Daniel J. BoorstinThe Discoverers: A History of Man’s Search to Know His World and Himself

Source for the quote is here.

 

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UK to log all web site access from everyone

In a move taken by few other nations, it [new law] requires telecommunications companies to store for a year the web histories known as internet connection records — a list of websites each person has visited and the apps and messaging services they used, though not the individual pages they looked at or the messages they sent.

Source: Sweeping UK spy bill dubbed ‘snoopers’ charter’ becomes law – SFGate

No warrant is required to access the data and the list of accessed web sites will be available to nearly any government agency, not just police investigating crimes.

This is the largest, publicly disclosed, mass surveillance system in history.

Facebook Experiments With Disappearing Posts

Facebook Experiments With Disappearing Posts.

Enables you to post something with an expiration date and time.

Many users of FB do this now but manually: they post a topic, and when challenged on the accuracy of the topic or post, they delete it.

This enables the spread of inaccurate views intended to influence others while simultaneously avoiding challenges. In the field of propaganda, the first message that consumers receive is the one most likely to stick, even when it is wrong. Propagandists know that most people share before thinking, thereby using social media as a frictionless conduit for propaganda.

Past posts about the use of social media for propaganda purposes are here.

“Study: Social media users shy away from opinions”

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions | Technology | KATU.com – Portland News, Sports, Traffic Weather and Breaking News – Portland, Oregon.

Study suggests people post what they expect their followers to agree with – in other words, Facebook becomes an echo chamber that stifles discussion and debate. Few people will challenge their “friends” when there are different interpretations or even when the facts are completely wrong.

A side effect is that people become dumber over time as they learn things that are not actually true but which go unquestioned. Propagandists know the first message delivered often sticks, in spite of later contradictory information. As a consequence, social media has become a frictionless conduit for the unimpeded flow of propaganda messaging.

A related issue is that as elections approach (and for some people this seems to be a 12 month long event, held annually), much political propaganda is posted online. And much political propagandizing falls into the category of online bullying: anyone who does not agree is obviously wrong or stupid.