CounterPoint

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Isaac Asimov

Category: Social Media

Welcome to the Post-Truth Era

“..the collective postmortem – on the left and right of politics – has focused on a concern with far greater long-term impact: the accidental or deliberate propagation of misinformation via social media.”

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, having initially denied that fake news was problematic, now wants us to believe that “we’ve been working on this problem for a long time.” Really? So it is a problem after all?Much has been written about the arrival of a “post-truth” era, in which facts become secondary to feeling; expertise and vision to ersatz emotional connection. Nazi Germany shows that this is not new, but the internet-driven efficiency with which it can be manipulated is.

One of the main drivers of this process is a click-based revenue model, in which algorithms prioritise items in news feeds based on how likely individual users are to “engage with” (ie click on) them – and thus be exposed to more ads. Whether these items contain carefully researched or fabricated material is of no concern to the algos: in fact, false, sensationalist stories that bolster existing prejudices are more likely to draw clicks than sober analyses that challenge assumption. With misinformation being incentivised in this way, who could be surprised when Buzzfeed found a group of young Macedonians copying the most outlandish fabrications to more than 140 specially created pro-Trump websites and sexing up the headlines to gain clicks and go viral on Facebook?

Among the most pernicious myths of our time is that the functioning of the web is neutral and immutable; that it has evolved of its own ethereal logic, like a galaxy, and can’t be changed or stopped.

This is important, because a recent study by the Pew Research Centre found a majority of American adults using Facebook as a source of news (which means Britain is sure to follow). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been resistant to the notion that his company, social media, or the web in general are undermining democracy (“a pretty crazy idea”), even after dozens of his own staff formed a covert taskforce to address the problem post-election. It’s easy to see why he bridles too, because if he accepts the truth that his algorithms function no more objectively than a human editor, then he bears responsibility for their choices. And once he does that, he allows the equally obvious truth that Facebook, whether it wants to be or not, is now a media organisation and must vouch for the information it disseminates.

The pedlars of fake news are corroding democracy | Andrew Smith

The most interesting question about 2016 is not why the Brexit result and Trump happened, but whether historians will regard both as incidental; whether this will go down as the year democracy revealed itself unworkable in the age of the internet – in which reality, already engaged in a life-or-death struggle with inverted commas, finally gave way to “alt-reality”.

How the ‘Alt-Right’ Grew From an Obscure Racist Cabal

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups in the US, NPI is one of the four most influential organizations of academic racists in the country. Its companions on that list include the Charles Martel Society, run by NPI’s founder, millionaire publisher William Regnery. Also on the list: the New Century Foundation, which is run by Jared Taylor, one of the founding members of NPI’s board. It’s a small pond, and just about everything you fish out of it has some connection to NPI.

THE TERM “ALT-RIGHT” probably makes you think of Twitter or a dark subreddit, or 4chan, or some social medium occupied by meme-slinging, Trump-supporting, unapologetically bigoted provocateurs. You probably don’t think of a PO box in Whitefish, Montana. In any event, they should be called what they are: Nazis.

But now that clique’s ideas, the ideological tentpoles of the alt-right movement, have swum out into the mainstream.

The National Policy Institute spread the term “alt-right.” It’s a white nationalist think tank (and an academic version of 4chan). The post How the Alt-Right Grew From an Obscure Racist Cabal appeared first on WIRED.

via How the Alt-Right Grew From an Obscure Racist Cabal — WIRED

A Proustian View on Being Unfollowed

How do we really feel when someone unfollows our blog or our Facebook account? In this personal reflection, Andrew Reid Wildman unpeels the “layers upon layers of emotion that can find themselves interwound with social media.”

via A Proustian View on Being Unfollowed — Discover

The Immortal Myths About Online Abuse

Our communities are defined by the worst things that we permit to happen. What we allow tells the world who we are.

View story at Medium.com

Because the vast majority of online abuse is directed at underrepresented people who are women, people of color, and/or members of other marginalized groups, the net effect of online abuse is to silence members of these communities. Allowing abuse hurts free speech. Communities that allow abusers to dominate conversation don’t just silence marginalized people, they also drive away any reasonable or thoughtful person who’s put off by that hostile environment. Common sense tells us that more people will feel free to express themselves in an environment where threats, abuse, harassment, or attacks aren’t dominating the conversation.

Could Facebook Rig the 2016 Election?

Facebook occupies a remarkably large role in people’s daily lives. In the United States, 72% of online adults have a Facebook account, and these users spend as nearly as much time on the site per day (39 minutes) as they do socializing with people face-to-face (43 minutes). The scope of the social network’s power also extends to media—particularly digital media—where 40% of all news traffic in the U.S. now originates on the site. The sheer size and scope of Facebook might not be as alarming if it were an unfiltered conduit of information, like Twitter for example. Contrary to popular belief, however, Facebook is highly curated and filtered content pipeline. The social network’s role in dictating the American news diet means their ability to tilt an election has never been greater.

Source: THE ATLANTIC

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