Archive for the ‘Fake News’ Category

Were You Pwned by the “Human Cat” Story?

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Overseas Fake News Publishers Use Facebook’s Instant Articles To Bring In More Cash by Jane Lytvynenko

Fake stories first:

From the post:

While some mainstream publishers are abandoning Facebook’s Instant Articles, fake news sites based overseas are taking advantage of the format — and in some cases Facebook itself is earning revenue from their false stories.

BuzzFeed News found 29 Facebook pages, and associated websites, that are using Instant Articles to help their completely false stories load faster on Facebook. At least 24 of these pages are also signed up with Facebook Audience Network, meaning Facebook itself earns a share of revenue from the fake news being read on its platform.

Launched in 2015, Instant Articles offer a way for publishers to have their articles load quickly and natively within the Facebook mobile app. Publishers can insert their own ads or use Facebook’s ad network, Audience Network, to automatically place advertisements into their articles. Facebook takes a cut of the revenue when sites monetize with Audience Network.

“We’re against false news and want no part of it on our platform; including in Instant Articles,” said an email statement from a Facebook spokesperson. “We’ve launched a comprehensive effort across all products to take on these scammers, and we’re currently hosting third-party fact checkers from around the world to understand how we can more effectively solve the problem.”

The spokesperson did not respond to questions about the use of Instant Articles by spammers and fake news publishers, or about the fact that Facebook’s ad network was also being used for monetization. The articles sent to Facebook by BuzzFeed News were later removed from the platform. The company also removes publishers from Instant Articles if they’ve been flagged by third-party fact-checkers.

Really? You could be pwned by a “human cat” story?

Why I should be morally outraged and/or willing to devote attention to stopping that type of fake news?

Or ask anyone else to devote their resources to it?

Would you seek out Flat Earthers to dispel their delusions? If not, leave the “fake news” to people who seem to enjoy it. It’s their dime.

Fact Forward: Fact Free Assault on Online Misinformation

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Fact Forward: If you had $50,000, how would you change fact-checking?

From the post:

The International Fact-Checking Network wants to support your next big idea.

We recognize the importance of making innovation a key part of fact-checking in the age of online misinformation and we are also aware that innovation requires investment. For those reasons, we are opening Fact Forward. A call for fact-checking organizations and/or teams of journalists, designers, developers or data scientists to submit projects that can represent a paradigmatic innovation for fact-checkers in any of these areas: 1) formats, 2) business models 3) technology-assisted fact-checking.

With Fact Forward, the IFCN will grant 50,000 USD to the winning project.

For this fund, an innovative project is defined as one that provides a distinct, novel user experience that seamlessly integrates content, design, and business strategy. The innovation should serve both the audience and the organization.

The vague definition of “innovative project” leaves the impression the judges have no expertise with software development. A quick check of the judges credentials reveals that is indeed the case. Be forewarned, fluffy pro-fact checking phrases are likely to outweigh any technical merit in your proposals.

If you doubt this is an ideological project, consider the implied premises of “…the age of online misinformation….” Conceding that online misinformation does exist, those include:

1. Online misinformation influences voters:

What evidence does exist, is reported by Hunt Allcott, Matthew Gentzkow in Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, the astract reads:

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many have expressed concern about the effects of false stories (“fake news”), circulated largely through social media. We discuss the economics of fake news and present new data on its consumption prior to the election. Drawing on web browsing data, archives of fact-checking websites, and results from a new online survey, we find: (i) social media was an important but not dominant source of election news, with 14 percent of Americans calling social media their “most important” source; (ii) of the known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favoring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared 8 million times; (iii) the average American adult saw on the order of one or perhaps several fake news stories in the months around the election, with just over half of those who recalled seeing them believing them; and (iv) people are much more likely to believe stories that favor their preferred candidate, especially if they have ideologically segregated social media networks.

Or as summarized in Don’t blame the election on fake news. Blame it on the media by Duncan J. Watts and David M. Rothschild:


In addition, given what is known about the impact of online information on opinions, even the high-end estimates of fake news penetration would be unlikely to have had a meaningful impact on voter behavior. For example, a recent study by two economists, Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow, estimates that “the average US adult read and remembered on the order of one or perhaps several fake news articles during the election period, with higher exposure to pro-Trump articles than pro-Clinton articles.” In turn, they estimate that “if one fake news article were about as persuasive as one TV campaign ad, the fake news in our database would have changed vote shares by an amount on the order of hundredths of a percentage point.” As the authors acknowledge, fake news stories could have been more influential than this back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests for a number of reasons (e.g., they only considered a subset of all such stories; the fake stories may have been concentrated on specific segments of the population, who in turn could have had a disproportionate impact on the election outcome; fake news stories could have exerted more influence over readers’ opinions than campaign ads). Nevertheless, their influence would have had to be much larger—roughly 30 times as large—to account for Trump’s margin of victory in the key states on which the election outcome depended.

Just as one example, online advertising is routinely studied, Understanding Interactive Online Advertising: Congruence and Product Involvement in Highly and Lowly Arousing, Skippable Video Ads by Daniel Belanche, Carlos Flavián, Alfredo Pérez-Rueda. But the IFCN offers no similar studies for what it construes as “…online misinformation….”

Without some evidence for and measurement of the impact of “…online misinformation…,” what is the criteria for success for your project?

2. Correcting online misinformation influences voters:

The second, even more problematic assumption in this project is that correcting online misinformation influences voters.

Facts, even “correct” facts do a poor job of changing opinions. Even the lay literature is legion on this point: Facts Don’t Change People’s Minds. Here’s What Does; Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds; The Backfire Effect: Why Facts Don’t Win Arguments; In the battle to change people’s minds, desires come before facts; The post-fact era.

Any studies to the contrary? Surely the IFCN has some evidence that correcting misinformation changes opinions or influences voter behavior?

(I reserve this space for any studies supplied by the IFCN or others to support that premise.)

I don’t disagree with fact checking per se. Readers should be able to rely upon representations of fact. But Glenn Greenwald’s The U.S. Media Suffered Its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages and Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened makes it clear that misinformation isn’t limited to appearing online.

One practical suggestion: If $50,000 is enough for your participation in an ideological project, use sentiment analysis to identify pro-Trump materials. Anything “pro-Trump” is, for some funders, “misinformation.”

PS: I didn’t vote for Trump and loathe his administration. However, pursuing fantasies to explain his victory in 2016 won’t prevent a repeat of same in 2020. Whether he is defeated with misinformation or correct information makes no difference to me. His defeat is the only priority.

Practical projects with a defeat of Trump in 2020 goal are always of interest. Ping me.

A/B Tests for Disinformation/Fake News?

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

Digital Shadows says it:

Digital Shadows monitors, manages, and remediates digital risk across the widest range of sources on the visible, deep, and dark web to protect your organization.

It recently published The Business of Disinformation: A Taxonomy – Fake news is more than a political battlecry.

It’s not long, fourteen (14) pages and it has the usual claims about disinformation and fake news you know from other sources.

However, for all its breathless prose and promotion of its solution, there is no mention of any A/B tests to show that disinformation or fake news is effective in general or against you in particular.

The value proposition offered by Digital Shadows is everyone says disinformation and fake news are important, therefore spend money with us to combat it.

Alien abduction would be important but I won’t be buying alien abduction insurance or protection services any time soon.

Proof of the effectiveness of disinformation and fake news is on a par with proof of alien abduction.

Anything possible but spending money or creating policies requires proof.

Where’s the proof for the effectiveness of disinformation or fake news? No proof, no spending. Yes?

Scoop Mainstream Media on “… 6 Russian Government Officials Involved In DNC Hack”

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

You have read US Identifies 6 Russian Government Officials Involved In DNC Hack or similar coverage on Russian “interference” with the 2016 presidential election.

Here’s your opportunity to scoop mainstream media on the identities of the “…6 Russian Government Officials Involved In DNC Hack.”

Resources to use:

Russian Political Directory 2017

The Russian Political Directory is the definitive guide to people in power throughout Russia. All the top decision-makers are included in this one-volume publication, which details hundreds of government ministries, departments, agencies, corporations and their connected bodies. The Directory is a trusted resource for studies and research in all matters of Russian government, politics and civil society activities. Government organization entries contain the names and titles of officials, postal and e-mail addresses, telephone, fax numbers plus an overview of their main activities.

Truly comprehensive in scope, and listing all federal and regional government ministries, departments, agencies, corporations and their connected bodies, this directory provides a uniquely comprehensive view of government activity.

For playing “…guess a possible defendant…,” $200 is a bit pricey but opening to a random page is a more principled approach than you will see from the Justice Department in its search for defendants.

If timeliness isn’t an issue, consider the Directory of Soviet Officials: Republic Organizations:

From the preface:

The Directory of Soviet Officials identifies individuals who hold positions in selected party, government, and public organizations of the USSR. It may be used to find the incumbents of given positions within an organization or the positions of given individuals. For some organizations, it serves as a guide to the internal structure of the organization.

This directory dates from 1987 but since Justice only needs Russian sounding names and not physical defendants, consider it a backup source for possible defendants.

For the absolute latest information, at least those listed, consider The Russian Government. The official site for the Russian government and about as dull as any website you are likely to encounter. Sorry, but that’s true.

Last but be no means least, check out Johnson’s Russia List, which is an enormous collection of resources on Russia. It has a 2001 listing of online databases for Russian personalities. It also has a wealth of Russian names for your defendant lottery list.

When Justice does randomly name some defendants, ask yourself and Justice:

  1. What witness statements or documents link this person to the alleged hacking?
  2. What witness statements or documents prove a direct order from Putin to a particular defendant?
  3. What witness statements or documents establish the DNC “hack?” (It may well have been a leak.)
  4. Can you independently verify the witness statements or documents?

Any evidence that cannot be disclosed because of national security considerations should be automatically excluded from your reporting. If you can’t verify it, then it’s not a fact. Right?

Justice won’t have any direct evidence on anyone they name or on Putin. It’s strains the imagination to think Russian security is that bad, assuming any hack took place at all.

No direct evidence means Justice is posturing for reasons best know to it. Don’t be a patsy of Justice, press for direct evidence, dates, documents, witnesses.

Or just randomly select six defendants and see if your random selection matches that of Justice.

Russians Influence 2017 World Series #Upsidasium (Fake News)

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Unnamed sources close to moose and squirrel, who are familiar with the evidence, say Russians are likely responsible for contamination of 2017 World Series baseballs with Upsidaisium. The existence and properties of Upsidaisium was documented in the early 1960s. This is the first known use of Upsidaisium to interfere with the World Series.

Sports Illustrated has photographic evidence that world series baseballs are “slicker” that a “normal” baseball, one sign of the use of Upsidaisium.

Unfortunately, Upsidaisim decays completely after the impact of being hit, into a substance indistinguishable from cowhide.

Should you obtain more unattributed statements from sources close to:

By Source, Fair use, Link

or,

By Source, Fair use, Link

Please add it in the comments below.

Thanks!

Journalists/Fake News hunters: Part truth, part fiction, just like reports of Russian “influence” (whatever the hell that means) in the 2016 presidential election and fears of Kasperkey Lab software.

Yes, Russia exists; yes, there was a 2016 presidential election; yes, Clinton is likely disliked by Putin, so do millions of others; yes, Wikileaks conducted a clever ad campaign with leaked emails, bolstered by major news outlets; but like Upsidaisim, there is no evidence tying Russians, much less Putin to anything to do with the 2016 election.

A lot of supposes, maybes and could have beens are reported, but no evidence. But US media outlets have kept repeating “Russia influenced the 2016” election until even reasonable people assume it is true.

Don’t do be complicit in that lie. Make #Upsidasium the marker for such fake news.

Gender Discrimination and Pew – The Obvious and Fake News

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Women are more concerned than men about gender discrimination in tech industry by Kim Parker and Cary Funk.

From the post:

Women in the U.S. are substantially more likely than men to say gender discrimination is a major problem in the technology industry, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in July and August.

The survey comes amid public debate about underrepresentation and treatment of women – as well as racial and ethnic minorities – in the industry. Critics of Silicon Valley have cited high-profile cases as evidence that the industry has fostered a hostile workplace culture. For their part, tech companies point to their commitment to increasing workforce diversity, even as some employees claim the industry is increasingly hostile to white males.

Was Pew repeating old news?

Well, Vogue: New Study Finds Gender Discrimination in the Tech Industry Is Still Sky-High (2016), Forbes: The Lack Of Diversity In Tech Is A Cultural Issue (2015), Gender Discrimination and Sexism in the Technology Industry (2014), Women Matter (2013), to cite only a few of the literally thousands of studies and surveys, onto which to stack the repetitive Pew report.

Why waste Pew funds to repeat what was commonly known and demonstrated by published research?

One not very generous explanation is the survey provided an opportunity to repeat “fake news.” You know, news that gets repeated so often that you don’t remember its source but it has credibility because you hear it so often?

“Fake news,” is the correct category for:

…even as some employees claim the industry is increasingly hostile to white males.

Repeating that claim in a Pew publication legitimates the equivalent of cries coming from an asylum.

One quick quote from Forbes, hardly a bastion of forward social thinking dispels the “hostile to white male” fantasy, The Lack Of Diversity In Tech Is A Cultural Issue:


It has been a commonly held belief that the gender gap in tech is primarily a pipeline issue; that there are simply not enough girls studying math and science. Recently updated information indicates an equal number of high school girls and boys participating in STEM electives, and at Stanford and Berkeley, 50% of the introductory computer science students are women. That may be the case, but the U.S. Census Bureau reported last year that twice as many men as women with the same qualifications were working in STEM fields.

A USA Today study discloses that top universities graduate black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering students at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them. Although these companies state they don’t have a qualified pool of applicants, the evidence does not support that claim.

When 2/3 of the workers in a field are male, it’s strains the imagination to credit claims of “hostility.”

I have no fact based explanation for the reports of “hostility” to white males.

Speculations abound, perhaps they are so obnoxious that even other males can’t stand them? Perhaps they are using “hostility” as a cover for incompetence? Who knows?

What is known is that money is needed to address sexism in the workplace (not repeating the research of others) and fake news such as “hostile to white males” should not be repeated by reputable sources, like Pew.