Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Facebook is just another disinformation source

May 13, 2016

That Facebook is biased and reflects the views of its owners/managers is neither a surprise or anything wrong. What I find reprehensible is the lie promoted by Facebook that ist is objective and unbiased. After the Gizmodo story this week, Facebook denied that it was spinning the news. But the latest revelations show that the allegations were fundamentally true. The simple truth is that Facebook promotes certain news stories and suppresses others. They don’t manufacture news. But what they do is to spread a skewed version of what is news. And that is disinformation. Again, nothing wrong with that. It is what every newspaper or TV channel does. But the prejudices and biases of, say, the Washington Post are not hidden under a false cloak of objectivity.

facebook disinformation

facebook disinformation

The shattering of the cloak of objectivity around Facebook and its subjective choice of news stories to promote or to suppress can no longer be ignored by Zuckerberg and he has initiated an “investigation”. A biased platform with a hidden, skewed agenda is fundamentally incompatible with selling advertising where the advertisers need to know, objectively, how well their messages are targeted.

BBC:

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has said the company is investigating claims it censored news reports with conservative viewpoints. It follows a week of allegations in the media and discussion in the US Senate.

The tech news website Gizmodo had said Facebook staff suppressed articles on conservative topics from the site’s “trending” news section and “injected” others, even if they were not trending. ….

….. Mr Zuckerberg said he was inviting leading conservatives to meet him to discuss their views.

…… Gizmodo’s original report alleged that staff tampered with trending topic stories and were told to include stories published by the BBC, CNN and other mainstream news organisations ahead of smaller news sites.

It said the trending topics section was run like a newsroom, with curators able to “blacklist” or “inject” topics.

The report was followed by a release of documents to The Guardian, which appeared to show editorial decision-making by Facebook staff, alongside the company’s algorithm, to determine what is trending.

The Guardian:

Leaked documents show how Facebook, now the biggest news distributor on the planet, relies on old-fashioned news values on top of its algorithms to determine what the hottest stories will be for the 1 billion people who visit the social network every day.

The documents, given to the Guardian, come amid growing concerns over how Facebook decides what is news for its users. This week the company was accused of an editorial bias against conservative news organizations, prompting calls for a congressional inquiry from the US Senate commerce committee chair, John Thune. ….

….. But the documents show that the company relies heavily on the intervention of a small editorial team to determine what makes its “trending module” headlines – the list of news topics that shows up on the side of the browser window on Facebook’s desktop version. The company backed away from a pure-algorithm approach in 2014 after criticism that it had not included enough coverage of unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, in users’ feeds.

The guidelines show human intervention – and therefore editorial decisions – at almost every stage of Facebook’s trending news operation, a team that at one time was as few as 12 people …… 

Facebook is in the business of skewed information dissemination and that skewing is effectively disinformation. Every entity involved in providing information must, by its selection of information to be distributed, also be involved in disinformation. But the additional problem for Facebook is that this disinformation and skewing of stories is not in the interests of the advertisers. Facebook is not just misleading its users, it is misleading its advertisers.


 

Who’s surprised? Facebook’s algorithms are dishonest and self-serving

May 9, 2016

So who’s surprised that Facebook’s “trending” algorithms are far from objective. In fact they are blatantly dishonest and exhibit the biases of its owners and managers. They also suppress any unfavourable statistics about Facebook itself. They suppress favourable statistics on political viewpoints that Zuckerberg does not share and inject false statistics about political viewpoints that he supports.

Self-serving and dishonest, without a doubt. But no different to any lobby group or news outlet which has a particular point of view. The problem is that Facebook claims that its trending module is objective when it clearly is not. And that is fraud.

GizmodoFacebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.

Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.

In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”


 

Major disconnect between record votes for, and media opposition to, Trump

April 27, 2016

There are very few (if any) media outlets which support Donald Trump’s candidacy. Most are quite scathing about him. Yet he seems to be getting more Republican votes than any other candidate ever has. With the numbers actually turning out for Trump, it is impossible that many of his supporters are not also consumers of the media denigrating him. The media, every time they attack Trump, are also saying that all his supporters are imbeciles.

This is only a reminder of the basic truth that the media are not representative of anything other than themselves. Which raises the question whether having a one-sided and unrepresentative representation of the population – as is apparent with the media and the US electorate – enhances or degrades democracy? But Trump’s successes in the face of virulent media opposition demonstrates a disconnect of massive proportions between the US electorate and their media.

trump voters

Politico:

With his five blowout wins Tuesday night, Donald Trump has passed Mitt Romney’s popular vote total from four years ago and is on a trajectory that could land him more Republican votes than any presidential candidate in modern history – by a lot.

Trump surged to 9.9 million votes, according to totals that include Tuesday’s preliminary results across the northeast and could rise further as the final votes are counted. That’s already more than 100,000 more than Romney earned in the entire 2012 primary season and tens of thousands more than John McCain earned in 2008.

Trump is certain to pass McCain’s total next week in Indiana, but more importantly, he’s positioned to easily pass the modern record-holder George W. Bush — who collected 10.8 million votes in 2000.

That presents an uncomfortable reality for anti-Trump forces: they’re attempting to thwart the candidate who is likely to win more Republican primary votes than any GOP contender in at least the last 36 years, and maybe ever.

In an email to POLITICO, University of Minnesota political science professor (and Smart Politics blogger) Eric Ostermeier noted that only eight candidates have won more than 7.5 million Republican primary votes since the advent of the modern primary and caucus system. Ronald Reagan won about 7.7 million votes in 1980, the fewest other than George W. Bush’s 7.6 million in 2004, when he didn’t face a primary challenge.

George H. W. Bush clocked in at 8.2 million votes in 1988 and 9.2 million in 1992, while Bob Dole earned 8.4 million in 1996.

I am more than a little cynical about the media. So I suspect that we shall see them beginning to start backing away from their vicious opposition to Trump as his chances of becoming the Republican nominee increase. That should be by June this year. We shall then see them even beginning to become mild supporters by about September or October. It is a little too risky for any media outlet to openly court IRS investigations under a future President Trump. After all, there is not a single media outlet without reported losses. And all those “apparent losses” are always a tax offset for the owning entity.


 

Swedish media in denial after being called out for concealing facts about immigrants

March 22, 2016

It is always amusing when the sanctimonious get their comeuppance.

The mainstream, politically correct, Swedish media are flailing about protesting their innocence after being accused by two political heavyweights that they have been concealing the true picture about immigrants and asylum seekers. But even if they are fooling themselves, they are not fooling anybody else.

I have observed for many years the lengths to which Swedish media will go to conceal anything that is politically incorrect. It applies not only to the criminality of some immigrants but also to the gods of multiculturalism and alarmism and ecofascism. I perceive the journalist corps as being dominated by the intolerant left. There are some very good writers among them, but they are, almost to a man, political cowards. They are usually very good fact checkers and they do not – usually – make up facts. (They do however “spin” facts to fit into politically correct memes). Their cowardice takes the form mainly of omission. Their fears of being labelled racist have led to the non-reporting – if not active concealment – of any facts about immigrants which might be considered derogatory.

The mainstream media have not created the far-right, anti-immigrant websites (Avpixlat for example), but their concealment of the facts has certainly driven people to such sites looking for information that they know is being withheld by the msm.

An article in Dagens Nyheter by Ulf Adelsohn (former leader of the Moderate party) and his wife, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth (former Minister of Culture) has set the cat among the pigeons. They accused the media of concealing facts about immigration. And the pigeons are soiling themselves in the rush to deny their cowardice and their biases.

The Swedish media is extremely self-righteous with an unhealthy conviction about its own virtue. But the media is one of the most politically correct groups I have ever experienced. They are also fairly cowardly when it comes to challenging political correctness. Swedish Television and Swedish Radio are by far the worst. But DN, Aftonbladet, SvD and Expressen – in that order – are not much better.

And it is entertaining to see them squirm.


 

US media overwhelmingly against Trump, but yet …..

March 21, 2016

There is something strange in the mood abroad among the US electorate and it is something that the US media either do not understand or are deliberately ignoring.

That the liberal media oppose Trump is only to be expected. The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the LA Times, Politico and their ilk cannot be expected to support any GOP candidate at the best of times. But against Trump they are positively vitriolic. The “hard left” media (Slate, Salon, Huffington Post etc) are apoplectic when it comes to Trump. They have compared him to Hitler, Mussolini and even Kim Jung-Un. But now even the right of centre media (Wall Street Journal, Fox News….) are lambasting him. Even the hard right media (Breitbart, Drudge, Washington Times….) will not endorse Trump but just stay “neutral”.

And yet Trump’s numbers continue to rise. It is apparent that the media are failing to capture the mood in the country. I am sticking to my theory that Trump has activated an anti-establishment sentiment where all the mainstream media are considered “establishment”. And this gives the peculiar situation where any attack by an establishment figure only sustains the anti-establishment sentiment that Trump has tapped into.

Observing this from across the Atlantic has proven to be even more fascinating than my wildest expectations. But the anti-establishment sentiment is also abroad in Europe. It shows up in the BREXIT campaign and in the rise of parties which challenge the “politically correct” view. It is not just anti-immigration, far-right parties which are prospering but any party which occupies the “anti-establishment” space. That can be seen in Denmark and Norway and Sweden where mainstream centre-right parties are taking away some support from the far-right  by adopting somewhat “politically incorrect” positions.

I suspect that this is not just restricted to the US and Europe. I see in India and Africa the beginnings of something similar. It is a mood which has global dimensions and is, I think, something primal. A reaction perhaps to 3 decades of sanctimonious “political correctness” which has – or is perceived to have:

  • excused criminality and bad behaviour on genetic or social grounds
  • downgraded the victims of crime or bad behaviour
  • protected criminals and “bad people” in the name of human rights,
  • downgraded “family values”
  • promoted the bureaucracy against the individual
  • downgraded the individual
  • relaxed moral values
  • promoted deviation and deviants
  • demonised progress and economic growth
  • …….

Maybe I am reading too much into this, but the fact remains that the US media are missing something quite fundamental. i expect that to defeat Trump it needs someone to take his ground away from him – not just attack the ground he stands on. And that requires someone who is perceived to be just as “anti-establishment”. And there is no one on the GOP side who can do that and only Bernie Sanders among the Democrats comes close.

From the Reuters tracking poll:

Reuters tracking 18032016


 

What the Swedish press plays down or does not report

January 26, 2016

These are the top headlines in the Daily Mail in the UK about Sweden. The question I have is why similar headlines are not to be seen in Sweden? The same information is hidden away in the msm and the obvious conclusions are never explicitly expressed. Even allowing for the sensationalism of the Daily Mail and their anti-immigrant bent, it is I think, a remarkable dereliction of journalistic “duty” by the Swedish press.


 

Update: Some Swedish media are now giving more space to this — but only after it had made headlines abroad.


 

The same stories are played down and, to my mind, overly subdued in the Swedish media. Part of that is because the Swedish laws are very restrictive about publicising details of those accused of criminal acts. Victims of criminal acts are also generally underrepresented within the justice system. But most of the non-reporting is by the choice of the media. My impression is that the Swedish media are not only scared of being accused of “racism”, but also that they make the fundamental error themselves of equating “culture” with ethnicity. They do not report on the differences of culture, which lead to young asylum seekers not fitting in, for fear of being labelled racist and because they do not want to admit their past blunders. That is the same phenomenon on display also in Germany. In the UK it applies to the government and local authorities but not, to the same extent, to the media.

Much of the “political correctness” on display by the Swedish media has, in fact, been created by the media and is self-inflicted and self-perpetuating. Currently, for example, the media have created a raging storm in a teacup about Margot Wallström’s hiring (at market prices) of an apartment from a friendly trade union. (So what?) But they are silent about the realities of integrating gangs of young “asylum seekers”. Much of the media and the political left (Social Democrats, the Green Party and the Left Party) are in denial about the failure of multiculturalism. They will not, can not, admit to 5 decades of the fundamental blunder of equating multicultural with multiethnic. It is only now that there is some reluctant acceptance politically – but not yet in the self-deluding media – that the future of Europe (and Sweden) lies in a multiethnic, but not multicultural, society.

Daily Mail Sweden0

Migrant centre worker Alexandra Mezher, 22, (pictured left and centre) was attacked today at a centre for unaccompanied migrant children aged between 14 and 17 in Molndal, on Sweden’s west coast. She was taken to Sahlgrenska Hospital but later died of her injuries. A boy, aged 15, has been arrested on suspicion of murder following the ‘frenzied attack.’ Miss Mezher, whose family are originally from Lebanon, had only worked at the accommodation (right) for unaccompanied refugee children for a few months. The stabbing comes on the same day as police in Sweden demanded more resources to stem rising violence they claim is linked to the migrant crisis. According to the Swedish Migration Agency, as the tide of asylum seekers grows ever larger (bottom right) the number of threats and violent incidents at asylum facilities more than doubled between 2014 and 2015. In 2014, there were 148 incidents but in 2015 that number jumped to 322.

The Swedish press are effectively betraying the victim by their silence. Being 15 years old, there will be more time spent by the media on finding excuses for the murderer than on the immeasurable loss of Alexandra Mezher. Whatever mild consequence the murderer may face, it will have no component of recompense for the loss suffered by the victim (not possible in this case of course), or her family or the society she was part of.

And yesterday’s Daily Mail had this story which I did not see highlighted in the Swedish media. Not that I was specially looking for it but I do manage to scan all the headlines. The only reason I looked for it later, was because it was among the headlines in the Daily Mail.

Swedish police warn Stockholm’s main train station is now overrun by migrant teen gangs ‘stealing and groping girls’

  • Hundreds of Moroccan children living on the streets in Stockholm
  • Accused of stealing and assaulting security guards at the main station 
  • Police say they grope girls and ‘slap them in the face when they protest’
  • One in five Moroccan migrant children run away from housing since 2012

Swedish police warns that Stockholm’s main train station has become unsafe after being ‘taken over’ by dozens of Moroccan street children. The all-male migrant teen gangs are spreading terror in the centre of the Swedish capital, stealing, groping girls and assaulting security guards, according to Stockholm police.

Members of the gangs, some as young as nine, roam central Stockholm day and night, refusing help provided by the Swedish authorities. 

It is the oppression of the do-gooders who cannot admit that their sanctimonious do-gooding is itself the problem.

Good Grief! Scientists uncover a difference between the sexes

August 16, 2015

Perhaps somebody could tell the politically correct that “different” is not an issue of “better” or “worse”. It is about not being the same. Vive la différence.

From the “science is wonderful” category.

Scientists have discovered there are fundamental differences between the brains of men and women. You cannot blame the scientists for the headlines of course, otherwise I would not know whether to be worried or relieved. In any case we could always pass a law saying this is not so.

N. Tabatadze, G. Huang, R. M. May, A. Jain, C. S. Woolley. Sex Differences in Molecular Signaling at Inhibitory Synapses in the Hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 2015; 35 (32): 11252 DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1067-15.2015

Press Release from Northwestern University:

Scientists Uncover a Difference Between the Sexes

Male and female brains operate differently at a molecular level, a Northwestern University research team reports in a new study of a brain region involved in learning and memory, responses to stress and epilepsy.

Many brain disorders vary between the sexes, but how biology and culture contribute to these differences has been unclear. Now Northwestern neuroscientists have found an intrinsic biological difference between males and females in the molecular regulation of synapses in the hippocampus. This provides a scientific reason to believe that female and male brains may respond differently to drugs targeting certain synaptic pathways. 

“The importance of studying sex differences in the brain is about making biology and medicine relevant to everyone, to both men and women,” said Catherine S. Woolley, senior author of the study. “It is not about things such as who is better at reading a map or why more men than women choose to enter certain professions.”

Among their findings, the scientists found that a drug called URB-597, which regulates a molecule important in neurotransmitter release, had an effect in females that it did not have in males. While the study was done in rats, it has broad implications for humans because this drug and others like it are currently being tested in clinical trials in humans.

“Our study starts to put some specifics on what types of molecular differences there are in male and female brains,” Woolley said. 

 

Windows 10 buys your soul (with your consent)

August 2, 2015

I suppose I have little option but to upgrade.

And I am resigned to being “targeted” by advertisers selected specifically for me. I take some comfort in the fact that I cannot recall actually buying anything because of a web advertisement. I suppose I am just too old for them.

Image result for windows 10

The soul – however you want to define it – is manifested (not defined) in your behaviour. The advent of the internet and its apparent anonymity actually makes visible some parts of your hidden self.  People visit sites and make comments that they would never otherwise do if they were in public view. Of course much of that anonymity is only a perception. Your internet “self” (ID, email, passwords, sites visited, on-line community memberships,…. ) comes closer to painting a picture of your soul than just your visible behaviour.

And Windows 10 acquires more of your soul than ever before – and all with your consent.  It is with your consent because few will ever read and understand the 45 pages of terms and conditions that must be agreed to. Not that Apple and Google are not also involved in photographing and capturing your soul. But even an on-line presence is only a manifestation of your soul and each of Microsoft or Google or Apple have have their own painting of your essence. And these perceptions of who you are, these paintings of your soul, are theirs to sell – to advertisers or to governments or to other interested parties.

The Guardian:

Hundreds of commenters on sites such as Hacker News and Reddit have criticised default settings that send personal information to Microsoft, use bandwidth to upload data to other computers running the operating system, share Wi-Fi passwords with online friends and remove the ability to opt out of security updates.

Many of the complaints relate to the new personalised adverts embedded in Windows 10. When the OS is installed, Microsoft assigns the user a unique advertising ID, which it ties to the email address registered with the company. That email address is also associated with a raft of other services, such as the company’s productivity and communication programs, as well as app downloads and cloud-storage uploads.

Using that information, Microsoft is able to personalise ads to the user, during both web surfing and, for newer apps downloaded from the Windows Store, app usage. Microsoft itself is leading the way on that front, even turning the in-built version of Solitaire (the card game that has been a staple of Windows installations since 1990’s Windows 3.0) into a freemium game, complete with unskippable video adverts.

Elsewhere, Windows 10 also harvests user information in order to teach the built-in personal digital assistant Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Siri. To enable Cortana, the company says, it “collects and uses various types of data, such as your device location, data from your calendar, the apps you use, data from your emails and text messages, who you call, your contacts and how often you interact with them on your device”.

“There is no world in which 45 pages of policy documents and opt-out settings split across 13 different Settings screens and an external website constitutes ‘real transparency’.”

……. The European digital rights organisation (EDRi) sums up the company’s 45 pages of terms and conditions by saying: “Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties.”

In many ways, however, Windows 10 is merely moving closer towards what has become the new normal thanks to mobile operating systems. Both Siri and Google Now require access to the user’s personal information to personalise responses, while both Apple and Google offer developers the ability to deliver personalised ads to users based on information such as app installs.

Web ads may not be the dominating revenue model in the future

June 11, 2015

I find web ads always irritating and sometimes so intrusive that they have put me off the site altogether. Now I use Adblocker with Chrome, which works very well and this allows me to visit and stay on sites which I would otherwise have avoided. Apparently Apple will also allow ad blocker apps with Safari (iOS9) and clearly they see it as a way of improving the experience of their users. But what Apple plans will allow more than just ad blocking:

“Content Blocking gives your extensions a fast and efficient way to block cookies, images, resources, pop-ups, and other content.”

Effectively Apple are offering”ghostery” rather than ad blocking:

QuartzGhostery is a popular browser extension for all major desktop browsers. It blocks all content pulled in from third-party servers.

The way the modern web works is this: if you go to a website, it only sends some text and images your way. But it also pulls in data from dozens of analytics tools, ad servers, ad exchanges, web analytics firms, social buttons and trackers, and various other forms of online surveillance that serve you ads, measure you responses, gauge your profile, figure out your shoe size, and so on. Ghostery stops all of it. Apple’s content blocker appears to allow developers to do something similar.

Why is Apple doing this? Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab lays out three ways of looking at it: either Apple is serious about all its recent privacy talk, or it is out to get Google and Facebook, or it wants people to look at the ads served by its own iAds service on its new News app. Perhaps it is a mix of the three.

But what is clear is that small businesses that rely entirely on online advertising are going to have to rethink how they make money.

In fact it could be a way for Apple not only to to differentiate themselves from their competitors but also to develop some brand loyalty from among the increasing number of web and mobile users who are just irritated and get no added value from the ads and 3rd party content.

Since using Adblocker I have returned to many sites which I had abandoned because of their intrusive ads. Typically on the news sites, “quality” news sites have upto 5 ads blocked per web page while the “tabloids” have 10 – 20 ads blocked. One tentative conclusion that I come to is that the experience of getting the “news” is inversely proportional to the number of ads on the page.

Surfing some of the news sites just now I found the number of ads being blocked as below:

NYT – 5, Wa Po – 3, Huff Po – 13, CNN – 5, NY Post – 9, CBS News – 18

The Telegraph – 13, The Guardian – 5, The Independent – 19, Daily Mail – 12, The Times -8, BBC – 4, The Mirror – 38

The Hindu – 3, Times of India – 5, Hindustan Times -6

Expressen – 7, Svenska Dagbladet – 2, Dagens Nyheter – 7, Aftonbladet – 21

Der Spiegel -3, Deutsche Welle – 0, Reuters – 17, Le Monde – 4, El Pais – 6

So by my simple reckoning, without an adblocker, The Mirror provides about the worst experience and Deutsche Welle, SvD, BBC, Der Spiegel and Le Monde offer the least intrusion and disturbance to their readers.

In spite of Google apology, Modi still prominent in “Top 10 criminals” image search

June 4, 2015

It seems the Google search algorithms are all too easily subverted. I suspect that Google itself carries out “subversion” to put its favoured documents or images higher up in the list of “hits”.

BBCInternet giant Google has apologised after Indian PM Narendra Modi’s photos started appearing in the image search results for “Top 10 criminals”. 

“We apologise for any confusion or misunderstanding this has caused,” a Google statement said. Mr Modi figures prominently in the search alongside images of terrorists, murderers and dictators. Other world leaders on the list include former US president George Bush and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. 

Other prominent Indians who come up in the search include Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, lawyer Ram Jethmalani, fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt who is serving a jail term in connection with deadly blasts in Mumbai in 1993. “These results trouble us and are not reflective of the opinions of Google,” the company said in its statement released on Wednesday night.

But a search just now (screenshot below) shows that Google have not been able to correct their algorithms. In a Google image search for “top 10 criminals”, Narendra Modi appears 8 times among the first 40 images and more often than anyone else, even Osama bin Laden. I gave up counting after that but his image keeps cropping up. George Bush and Bill Gates are there as well. But I couldn’t find Tony Blair.

Modi as

Modi as “top 10 criminal” on google

The internet firm said the result was due to a British daily which had published an image of Mr Modi with erroneous metadata.

Really?

For 8 images out of 40?

It is pretty obvious that the results of a Google search do not represent a listing by popularity or importance. In fact the first 4 or 5 entries after the ads are often subverted. And switching from “News” to “web” to “images” or back again can very easily confuse the Google algorithms.

In any event it is best to assume that a Google search gives a list of mainly relevant results. The list is neither comprehensive nor objective. The ranking of hits on the list of is no real relevance since it can be so easily subverted and sometimes, it seems, the subversion is by Google itself. The first 4 or 5 “hits” after the obvious ads – for some searches – also seem to be sponsored in some way. Almost as if Google has overt and covert ads.


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