Thursday, November 17, 2016

That Liberal Bias

The "fake news" controversy is amazing. Here's the problem: Twitter and Google and especially Facebook get flooded with viral fake news. These are sometimes plausible-sounding narratives that look and sound like real news stories, but they are pure fictional bull-oney. There was enough of it this year that it might have been a factor in the election.

Some form of this has been around for a long time, BTW. You didn't really think Brad Pitt and Cher had secretly married and adopted an alien baby, did you?

Why would somebody post fake news, you ask? They post fake news because it fits their world-view, especially their political world-view. It is absolutely plausible to someone that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian who has personally called for the assassination of twenty-three innocent beautiful women in jealous rages. And so totally fictional stories get circulated widely, they go viral and become a part of the background of our thinking. We see it and realize rationally that Hillary probably isn't a murderous jealous lesbian, and so we move on but the garbage leaves a residue, a smell, and that can add up to political points in the long run.

And I would say that the smell was what caused her to lose the election. The most investigated person ever, in history, never charged with anything -- how could she be "a criminal," or even "corrupt?" You say it over and over and people accept it. Wouldn't one of those Republican committees have found something, if there was a crime or corruption? Her big scandal, an email server -- it didn't matter how trivial it was. Nobody could tell you what she had done wrong, but it smelled like she had done something after decades of false accusations. That's why she lost, if you ask me. Even if you know it's wrong, the smell gets to you.

For a long time, people have been calling on Facebook and Twitter and Google, but mostly Facebook, to clean up their act. At least don't put fake news into the "trending" box. How hard could it be?

Well it is harder than you'd think. I think you can imagine the outcry if Facebook suddenly "banned" or de-emphasized the story about Hillary's murderous lesbian rages. That would be anti-conservative censorship!

Facebook used to have human beings manage the trending list, but it became a little scandalous when they actually used -- gasp -- human judgment to add or remove stories. For instance, the Charlie Hebdo attack and the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 did not trend immediately on Facebook, so employees added them. The company was accused though of "manipulating" the news, biasing what Facebook users would see. To fix this, they developed an algorithm for selecting trending topics. They had developed a program to identify and remove fake news, but never implemented it.

According to C-NET:
The software update would have been used in "downgrading and removing" fake news stories from people's Facebook feeds, according to Gizmodo. The update was apparently shelved because it would have disproportionately blocked out supposed stories from right-wing news sites, and Facebook didn't want to give the impression it was politically biased.

So by trying not to be politically biased, did Facebook actually end up favoring the Republican nominee?
I know what you're thinking right now: "Reality has a liberal bias." It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
So why would Facebook even be worried that it looked biased? That reportedly stems from a controversy earlier this year, in which Facebook was accused of encouraging its human staffers to hide conservative news from its "trending stories" feature. After that, Facebook did a review of all its products to make sure there wasn't any appearance of political bias, according to Gizmodo.

"They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news," one source told Gizmodo.

That bogus news includes a story that claimed an FBI agent associated with the Hillary Clinton email leaks was found dead in a murder suicide (didn't happened). Another fake story said the Pope endorsed Trump (again, nope).
I think we have been consistent here at the Vigilance blog. We're not against people with conservative values, not against Christians or straight people or Republicans. We are opposed to people who decline to use facts and logic to draw conclusions. The fake news situation is exactly what we have been talking about. These are stories that someone would post because it supports their side and makes the other side look bad, even though there is no truth to it.

That is deplorable.

I am not at all impressed by someone who has strong beliefs and has to call on made-up evidence to support them. I can hardly imagine the mind that justifies that.
The denial comes after Zuckerberg last week defended Facebook and its role in the election. He said it took a "profound lack of empathy" to think someone would choose how to vote based on fake news. Over the weekend, he posted a lengthy note on his Facebook page, reiterating that fake news is just a small part of Facebook content. He did say, though, that Facebook still has work to do.

"We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further," he said.
By "profound lack of empathy," I thnk he is saying that people who rely on logic and facts tend to think that people who prefer fake news are stupid. Is "lack of empathy" really the best term for that?

This story is not going away. A group of Facebook employees have formed a secret task force to address the issue and the outcome is really going to be interesting.

Oh, and Crooks & Liars has an unbelievable story. It turns out that half of the "fake news sites to watch out for" stories are actually fake themselves. C&L discovered that they and Think Progress and Raw Story are on some of the lists. Clickbait fake news providing fake lists of fake news sites. Sad! Use your judgment, people, it is easy to google around and see if a story holds up.

And even more from the HuffPo UK:
Facebook is vouching for the ‘authenticity’ of pages which have distributed false and misleading news to millions of users on its platform, The Huffington Post UK has found.

The firm’s official verification of six pages analysed by HuffPost UK shows the extent of the problem facing the company, as it battles accusations that false news on its network contributed to Donald Trump’s stunning US election victory.
And remember as we are hurled into The Near Future, the mainstream media do the same thing. During the Iraq war, I'd say there was a fake news story every other day in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the cable networks. Cyanide in the Euphrates River, Saddam throwing people into a plastic shredder, WMD launchers discovered, aluminum tubes for refining uranium, it seemed like every day there was fake news tossed into America's driveways. It will be like that now, too, and it is up to us to be vigilant and watch for it, and to speak out against it when we see it.

Maybe "fake news" will lead to a populist epistemological epiphany, where the people have to decide, communally, what is truth, what is knowledge. It has to be something everybody can accept, so nobody loses the revenue from misdirected mouse-clicks. The cool question is, how do you write a computer algorithm that reliably distinguishes valid or true text from text that is false and misleading and propagandistic? This might be the place where AI becomes smarter than people.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’

"...Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

...My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.

Why? I mean — why would you even write that?

Just ’cause his supporters were under the belief that people were getting paid to protest at their rallies, and that’s just insane. I’ve gone to Trump protests — trust me, no one needs to get paid to protest Trump. I just wanted to make fun of that insane belief, but it took off. They actually believed it.

I thought they’d fact-check it, and it’d make them look worse. I mean that’s how this always works: Someone posts something I write, then they find out it’s false, then they look like idiots. But Trump supporters — they just keep running with it! They never fact-check anything! Now he’s in the White House. Looking back, instead of hurting the campaign, I think I helped it. And that feels [bad].

... Facebook and Google recently announced that they’d no longer let fake-news sites use their advertising platforms. I know you basically make your living from those services. How worried are you about this?

This whole Google AdSense thing is pretty scary. And all this Facebook stuff. I make most of my money from AdSense — like, you wouldn’t believe how much money I make from it. Right now I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense.

I know ways of getting hooked up under different names and sites. So probably if they cracked down, I would try different things. I have at least 10 sites right now. If they crack down on a couple, I’ll just use others. They could shut down advertising on all my sites, and I think I’d be okay. Plus, Facebook and AdSense make a lot of money from [advertising on fake news sites] for them to just get rid of it. They’d lose a lot of money.

But if it did really go away, that would suck. I don’t know what I would do.

Thinking about this less selfishly, though — it might be good if Facebook and Google took action, right? Because the effects you’re describing are pretty scary.

Yeah, I mean — a lot of the sites people are talking about, they’re just total BS sites. There’s no creativity or purpose behind them. I’m glad they’re getting rid of them. I don’t like getting lumped in with Huzlers. I like getting lumped in with the Onion. The stuff I do — I spend more time on it. There’s purpose and meaning behind it. I don’t just write fake news just to write it.

So, yeah, I see a lot of the sites they’re listing, and I’m like — good. There are so many horrible sites out there. I’m glad they’re getting rid of those sites.

I just hope they don’t get rid of mine, too.

November 17, 2016 9:35 AM  
Anonymous svelte_brunette said...

When considering fake news and the internet, or Stephen Colbert for that matter, it is useful to keep in mind Poe's law:'s_Law

"Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a creationist in such a way that someone won't mistake it for the genuine article."

The law applies equally well to any type of fundamentalist.

I am reminded of comments by conservatives several years ago making it clear that they actually thought Colbert actually meant and believed the stuff he said. Watching their confusion as they started to suspect he wasn't what they thought he was, was both priceless and sad, as it revealed a portion of the population seemingly genetically predisposed to be unable to distinguish between a joke and a fact.

November 17, 2016 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Nasty Woman said...

"a portion of the population seemingly genetically predisposed to be unable to distinguish between a joke and a fact."

And now they've elected one as President.

November 17, 2016 12:26 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

One of your best posts yet Jim.

Many in the news media spent as much time on the fake Hillary email "scandal" as they did on all other issues combined.

As you said, no one could point to anything that was done wrong, there was no scandal but the media kept referring to it as such and saying it "raised questions" when in fact the answer to those questions was always "There's nothing there.". Polls showed the public thought Hillary's email was a big deal, many thought she should be imprisoned for it but no one could point to a single email that would in any way imply she had done something wrong.

"[Zucker]said it took a "profound lack of empathy" to think someone would choose how to vote based on fake news.".

What a bizarre statement! Who does Zucker think he's kidding?! Is his morality and honesty so overtaken by greed that he thinks its okay to make such an absurd claim? Apparently so.

November 17, 2016 12:31 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

Cynthia said "

I am reminded of comments by conservatives several years ago making it clear that they actually thought Colbert actually meant and believed the stuff he said. Watching their confusion as they started to suspect he wasn't what they thought he was, was both priceless and sad, as it revealed a portion of the population seemingly genetically predisposed to be unable to distinguish between a joke and a fact.".

When Colbert first came on the air I watched one or two shows and thought he was just another right wing bigot and stopped watching. It wasn't until years later I read he was doing a character parody and started watching again and enjoying the spoof.

Poe's law indeed.

November 17, 2016 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Gregg Popovich said...

How did people react to what you said?

I got a lot of email.

Do you feel good about speaking up?

I don’t know. Somebody asked me and I told the truth of what I felt, and I still feel the same way. It’s still a disorienting situation, when you thought you lived in a certain kind of country with certain values that were held in esteem and find out those values aren’t very important to half the country. I thought that with all the divisiveness in the election and all the groups President-elect Trump disparaged, the best way to start out would not be to worry about Obamacare or to talk about Wall Street or Medicare or anything, or make appointments, but to maybe say some things to assuage the feelings of all those groups he disparaged. But that didn’t happen. That was my hope. I thought that would be a great way to start if he was really interested in unifying and bringing everybody into the tent, so to speak. But that just got totally blown away, and everything he said ― there is no responsibility or accountability for it. So that still bothers me very much.

Were you shocked at the way the election went?

Sure. I think most people were. I think he was shocked. I think he was preparing to lose. You could tell because ... he doesn’t seem to be really that interested in policy or anything like that. I haven’t seen or heard from any core values or principles. He’s got one motivation and that’s to win at whatever he does. But that’s not a core value. That’s not a principle. That’s not a vision. I think it was pretty apparent that, at some point, when he thought he was going to lose, that’s when [he said] the system was rigged, just like in the primary. [That’s when he said] the reporter, the moderator asked more questions than him, the media this and that. [That’s when he said,] “I’m getting a raw deal.” But when he was winning, everything was fine. The same thing with the election. Now it’s not rigged, of course.

What do you think of Steve Bannon being one of his top advisors?

Well, I think that’s very troublesome to many of us. As I said, it would be great if he [Trump] made some statements to all of the groups he disparaged, to bring us all together, and to allay fears, because there are a lot of fearful people, and for good reason. But rather than doing that, he inflamed it even more with that appointment [of Bannon]. It’s kind of ironic. I wonder sometimes if he made all those statements, he certainly whipped up the fear-mongering and emotion in that base. But it’s going to be ironic because now a lot of the things he told them he’s going to do he’s already started to walk back a little bit. It’s sort of like, did he use them all to get elected, and thus [to win] again? He’s pretty good at that. You can’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth. It changes day to day, depending on the situation and what he needs at the moment.

Would you potentially skip a future White House visit because he’s there?

I’m not going to speculate on the future. I’m just talking about how I feel at the moment, and mostly for all of those groups that we all know.

The Holt family [which owns the Spurs] contributed a good chunk of money to Trump. They’ve obviously given you the green light to speak your mind?

No, they haven’t given me that freedom. I live in America. That’s what has given me that freedom. There are no individual people that give me that freedom.

There are people who say about you ― saying this to “stick to sports.” Why is it important for you to speak out?

I think everybody’s views are important. I think anybody who says that, it’s an easy argument. What we say might make them feel uncomfortable, so they have to come back with something. It’s basically sort of Trump-like. DO we want to go back to eighth grade, and do the cut-down artist thing? And go back and forth with someone if they disagree with me?

But everybody can have an opinion. You can be the doctor, the plumber, the lawyer the car mechanic, the gardener or a lowly basketball coach. You can have an opinion.

November 17, 2016 4:37 PM  
Anonymous No worries! It's just a Chinese hoax said...

The North Pole is an insane 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends

-The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia.

-At the same time, one of the key indicators of the state of the Arctic — the extent of sea ice covering the polar ocean — is at a record low...the ice’s area is even lower than it was during the record-low 2012.

-Arctic temperatures about 20 degrees Celsius higher than normal above 80 degrees North Latitude.

-This is the second year in a row that temperatures near the North Pole have risen to freakishly warm levels.

-the jet stream, which travels from west to east across the Northern Hemisphere in the mid-latitudes, is becoming more wavy and elongated as the Arctic warms faster than the equator does.

-the jet stream at the moment is well configured to transport warmth northward into the Arctic.

-Abnormally warm air has flooded the Arctic since October. Richard James, a meteorologist who pens a blog on Alaska weather, analyzed 19 weather stations surrounding the Arctic Ocean and found that the average temperature was about 4 degrees (2 Celsius) above the record set in 1998.

-Not only are air temperatures unusually warm, but water temperatures are as well. “There are some areas in the Arctic Ocean that are as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit above average now,” Serreze said. “It’s pretty crazy.”

-Northern Hemisphere Sea Ice Extent - October Anomalies, 1979-2016

November 18, 2016 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Not fake news but outright lies from our Pu--y Predator President Elect said...

Trump’s lies about keeping a Ford factory in America are a scary indication of where his presidency is headed.

"On Thursday evening, Trump took to Twitter to congratulate himself for keeping American jobs in America:

Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
Just got a call from my friend Bill Ford, Chairman of Ford, who advised me that he will be keeping the Lincoln plant in Kentucky - no Mexico
9:01 PM - 17 Nov 2016

Donald J. Trump ✔@realDonaldTrump
I worked hard with Bill Ford to keep the Lincoln plant in Kentucky. I owed it to the great State of Kentucky for their confidence in me!
9:15 PM - 17 Nov 2016

But there is a problem. The Ford plant in question was never slated to close or move in the first place. Instead, Ford was planning to move a production line of a single model—the Lincoln MKC—to Mexico..."

See also:

Trump just took credit for stopping Ford from moving a plant to Mexico. But it wasn’t planning to.

November 18, 2016 10:33 AM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

"The North Pole is an insane 36 degrees warmer than normal as winter descends"

The first half of November in Saskatchewan has been a great deal warmer than normal. Several new record highs were reached.

November 18, 2016 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Drain swamp, refill with racist said...

Sessions is Trump's idea of the Best Person to be the USA's Attorney General.

"In 1986, Sessions was a 39-year-old U.S. attorney for Alabama when President Ronald Reagan's administration nominated him to serve as a federal judge.

The position requires approval from the Senate. And as Sessions settled in for review by the Senate Judiciary Committee, his career in law was almost destroyed when former colleagues brought forward troubling accusations about things Sessions had said to them with regard to race.

The accusations mostly came from (but were not limited to) Sessions's former deputy, Thomas Figures. He sent a letter to the Senate and reporters claiming his boss said insensitive things about black people, at times directly to him.

Figures, who is black, said Sessions told him to be careful about what he said ''to white folks” after Figures got into a heated argument with a white colleague. And Figures testified Sessions called him “boy” on multiple occasions.

Figures also said Sessions had joked about the Ku Klux Klan, saying he thought its members were “okay, until he learned that they smoked marijuana.”

A Justice Department lawyer, J. Gerald Hebert, testified that Sessions had described the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union as “un-American” and “Communist-inspired.”...

By the time the testimony was finished, Sessions's “reputation was in tatters,” wrote Isaac Stanley-Becker in The Post this July.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), then the leading Democrat in the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the New York Times that after hearing Sessions's accusers out, his prospects for a nomination were “bleak” and Sessions appeared unfit for a federal judgeship.

In the end, the Republican-controlled committee voted 10 to 8 to block Sessions's nomination, with two Republicans joining Democrats to stop it from going forward to a full vote in the Senate. At the time, CNN calculated, Sessions was only the second nominee in 50 years to be denied by the Senate for a federal judgeship...."

November 18, 2016 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It won't be long now until "the blacks" can answer Pu--y Predator President Elect's question to them: 'What the Hell Do You Have to Lose?'

November 18, 2016 3:45 PM  
Anonymous too seay, it's just too easy said...

That's right. They will soon see the con job the Dems have played on them for years. When the new administration creates inner city jobs, provides school choice to provide quality education opportunities for inner city kids, and provides adequate law enforcement to reduce crime in inner cities. They will realize that Dems long ago sold out them out to appease special interest groups. They will see that Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 were right all those years ago: you haven't done nothin'!

Meanwhile, the liberal meltdown proceeds. Last night, Mike Pence went to Manhattan to see Hamilton. During the curtain call, the cast couldn't resist delivering a lecture to him from the stage about diversity. The media-entertainment-liberal didn't learn a thing on election day. They can look forward to years of defeat. In January, the GOP will control both houses of Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court, most governors' mansion and state legislators. Get used to it.

btw, a recent poll revealed that the current favorite for the Dem presidential nomination in 2020 is.....Michelle Obama.

hahaha! This just can't get any funnier!!

November 19, 2016 6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure laugh and by all means reside deeply inside your bubble where you fail to realize Courts are finally pointing out the racism behind voter ID laws --
Laws targeting minority voters are no different today than they were during the Jim Crow era.

Jeff Sessions: It was 'good news' for the South when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act

Jeff Sessions, Trump's Pick for Attorney General, Is a Fierce Opponent of Civil Rights

‘Anti-Immigrant’ Jeff Sessions and Alabama’s Racist Voter ID Law

JeffSessions on Civil Rights

November 19, 2016 8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"recent poll revealed that the current favorite for the Dem presidential nomination in 2020 is.....Michelle Obama."

Michelle Obama beat everyone in a recent NBC/WSJ poll, That poll Confirmed: Michelle Obama is the most popular person on America’s political stage

59% held a positive view of Michelle compared to only 29% who held a positive view of your Pu--y Predator President Elect.

Also, only 25% held a negative view of Michelle Obama compared to 62% who held a negative view of your Pu--y Predator President Elect.

Gallup has been putting out a lot of polls of late and here's a sampling of what they've found:

NOVEMBER 15, 2016
Obama Job Approval Jumps to Four-Year High: 57%

NOVEMBER 18, 2016
Image of Democratic Party More Positive Than GOP

NOVEMBER 14, 2016
Expectations of Trump High on Economy, Low on Race Relations

And choosing Sessions for AG could have only brought expectations of your Pu--y Predator President Elect lower on race relations.

November 19, 2016 9:05 AM  
Anonymous You call that a lecture? said...

"During the curtain call, the cast couldn't resist delivering a lecture to him from the stage about diversity."

The entire 1 minute and 23 second "lecture" is available for all to see here.

My transcript:

"You know we had a guest in the audience this evening. And Vice President Elect Pence I see you are walking out but I hope you will hear us just a few more moments. There's nothing to boo here ladies and gentlemen, nothing to boo here. We're all here sharing a story of love. We have a, we have a message for you sir. We hope the you will hear us out. And I encourage everybody to pull out your phones and tweet and post because this message is to be spread far and wide, OK?

Vice President Elect Pence we welcome you and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton, An American Musical, we really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us, all of us.

Again we truly thank you for sharing this show, this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men and women of different colors, creeds and orientations."

November 19, 2016 9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now your Pu--y Predator President Elect is demanding an apology for this four sentence "lecture" with its two "thank yous" poor VP Elect Pence had to suffer through after seeing a great performance of a timely show.

When is your Pu--y Predator President Elect going to apologize to all of The 282 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter during his campaign including the disabled, Mexicans, reporters, Muslims, African Americans, Asians, American POWs, women, US allies, etc.

November 19, 2016 12:15 PM  
Anonymous Nasty Woman said...

Booing by the audience members after the Hamilton performance was very rude.

What they should have done was chant "lock him up!" and scream "Trump that bitch!"

It's also fine to call him "nasty" to his face.

This booing, however, is disrespectful.

November 19, 2016 1:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home