Four Futures by Peter Frase outlines some possible futures after capitalism, with a view to automation and the effects it could have. The futures are communism, rentism, socialism, and exterminism. This review on Goodreads has some examples of sci-fi renditions of these different types of future.
Communism: Star Trek, Corey Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magical Kingdom
Rentism: Charles Stross’ Accelerando, “Anti-Star Trek”, Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan
Socialism: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Pacific Edge, Mars Trilogy, 2312. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Exterminism: Blomkamp’s Elysium (Source)
Nick Srnicek spoke at Newspeak House with Michael Roberts on the topic of technology, capitalism, and class.
We were encouraged to think about whether ‘full unemployment’ is desirable; how we could change the over zealous importance given to work ethic; and what technologies we should promote to bring about a post-work world.
As I’ve been reading about platform co-ops lately, I was interested to get Nick Srnicek’s view on if and how they could help being a post work world.
Paraphrasing, I would say Nick’s answer was. I like them, I support them, but I don’t think they will achieve much in the struggle against capitalism. The main reason for this being the massive companies already dominating the platform space with huge financial backing.
Interesting to hear those views, and I look forward to reading Nick’s new book Platform Capitalism.
Ansible is nicely portable. If you have a playbook, you can use it build a container, a dev VM with vagrant, a cloud instance on e.g. digitalocean, or even on bare metal machine.
Ansible Playbooks are portable. If you build a container with a pure Dockerfile, it means that the only way you can reproduce that application is in a Docker container. If you build a container with an Ansible Playbook, you can then reproduce your environment in Docker, in Vagrant, on a cloud instance of your choice, or on bare metal. Plus, you can build your containers up using Ansible Roles, so that even complex container descriptions are easily read, and different container roles can be reused across many environments. (Source)
Botnet which makes use of insecure connected IoT devices.
Mirai (Japanese for “the future”) is malware that turns computer systems running Linux into remotely controlled “bots”, that can be used as part of a botnet in large-scale network attacks. It primarily targets online consumer devices such as remote cameras and home routers. (Source)
> It seems possible to model the eventuality of a dead child’s photo showing up on the feed, but the designers didn’t consider it. Perhaps because those who write these algorithms have not experienced such trauma, or perhaps they just weren’t talking about the human feelings in their product meetings—especially when you are a company focused on engagement and growth. The lack of empathy in technology design isn’t because the people who write algorithms are heartless but perhaps because they lack the texture of reality outside the technology bubble. Facebook’s blunders are a reminder that it is time for the company to think not just about fractional-attention addiction and growth but also to remember that the growth affects real people, for good and bad. (Source)
In November, 2014, Norma broke up with Morcos. He barraged her with texts, sometimes telling her that she needed to talk to him because his mother was deathly ill. (This was a lie.) Other texts threatened to post online her intimate photographs. A few months later, Norma received a text message from a stranger, who said that he’d seen her page on PornHub, one of the most popular X-rated sites. She called her boss at the clothing store where she worked and said that she was going to be late that afternoon. Then she frantically began searching the Internet. Eventually, she found eight photographs that she’d given to her boyfriend, on a page that identified her by her first and last names. Norma told me, “It was basically soliciting people to contact me for oral sex. It had my phone number—that’s how that stranger had found me. It had my street name. My town was there. It said, ‘Find me on Facebook.’ My bra size was there. And then the photos.” (Source)
This assessment came from a participant in my study on online harassment—a young woman of color living in a low-income neighborhood in New York City. Her tone was only half-ironic. While she faces plenty of challenges in her daily life, the digital world worries her more. She’s scared of being harassed for what she posts online, having personal photos hacked and distributed without her consent, or getting “doxed”—slang for posting someone’s address, phone number, and sensitive personal information without their permission. For this bright, motivated young woman, the internet is a frightening, dog-eat-dog world. It’s often safer to keep your opinions to yourself than risk retaliation. (Source)
San Francisco Municipal Railway riders got an unexpected surprise this weekend after the system’s computerized fare systems were apparently hacked. According to the San Francisco Examiner, the MUNI system had been attacked on Friday afternoon.
MUNI riders were greeted with printed “Out of Service” and “Metro Free” signs on ticket machines on late on Friday and Saturday. MUNI first became aware of the intrusion on Friday, according to the Examiner.
Computer screens at MUNI stations displayed a message: “You Hacked, ALL Data Encrypted. Contact For Key(email@example.com)ID:681 ,Enter.” MUNI Spokesman Paul Rose spoke to the Examiner and noted that his agency was “working to resolve the situation,” but refused to provide additional details. (Source)
Claims Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose name the article mis-spells (along with ‘mayor’) said that Chicago would be a “sanctuary city”.
Emanuel did say this, although he did not pay big. The article claims that he can be prosecuted under law and sentenced to up to 10 years of prison under section 1324 of the U.S. Code. More on that in Sanctuary Cities
> Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet[…]
“They want to essentially erode faith in the U.S. government or U.S. government interests,” said Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute who along with two other researchers has tracked Russian propaganda since 2014. “This was their standard mode during the Cold War. The problem is that this was hard to do before social media.” (Source)
The commonly accepted image of baby opposums riding on their mother’s back, with their tails hanging from hers which is pointed towards her head, actually has little scientific basis. It seems to be an early example of a meme – a contagious, self-contained idea. This meme was both started and debunked long ago and yet persists in popular perception to this day.
In the original image, made in a 1719 by renowned scientific illustrator Maria Sibylla Merian, the animals’ tails are behind them. The images later evolved to show the babies hanging on to the tail like a railing. Since the 20th century, scientists have established that, while baby opossums do often ride on their mothers’ backs, the entwining of their tails is not characteristic behavior. However, the meme with its memorable image remains so persistent that one biologist recorded his surprise at finding out that they contain little truth. [Source: Grzimek’s Tierleben, print encyclopedia on animals in my personal library].
Call it the fake news of the colonial era. Today, it is commonly known that the fruit of the cocoa tree is unusual: it does not grow on the branches, but hangs directly from the trunk on a short stem. But in the time after Europeans learned of such tropical plants, but before photography and before they were successfully grown in Europe, botanical illustrators tried to depict them only on the basis of pieces brought back from the New World by scientists. Any gaps in knowledge were filled in by the artists imagination.
Thus, in one grand volume of botanical illustrations, the cocoa pod itself is accurately rendered, but is depicted growing upwards from a branch in defiance of gravity.
This interesting example of inaccuracy through artistic invention was shown to me by Matze, the gardener of Berlin’s Prinzessinnengärten, who has this print in his private collection precisely because he he is intrigued by the careful visual construction of a falsehood.
Ansible automates server provisioning. You give it provisioning ‘playbooks’ and it executes it all over SSH to your remote host. This article gives an overview of how to provision a server with a WordPress app installed on a digitalocean droplet.
Ansible is an automation tool for provisioning, application deployment, and configuration management. Gone are the days of SSH’ing into your server to run a command or hacking together bash scripts to semi-automate laborious tasks. Whether you’re managing a single server or an entire fleet, Ansible can not only simplify the process, but save you time. So what makes Ansible so great?
Ansible is completely agent-less, meaning you don’t have to install any software on your managed hosts. All commands are run through Ansible via SSH and if Ansible needs updating you only need to update your single control machine.
Commands you execute via Ansible are idempotent, allowing you to safely run them multiple times without anything being changed, unless required. Need to ensure Nginx is installed on all hosts? Just run the command and Ansible will ensure only those that are missing the software will install it. All other hosts will remain untouched. (Source)
Seems to be a movement away from Bower and towards just npm and webpack or browserify.
In almost all cases, it’s more appropriate to use Browserify and npm over Bower. It is simply a better packaging solution for front-end apps than Bower is. At Spotify, we use npm to package entire web modules (html, css, js) and it works very well. (Source)
Seems like GitLab is gaining more traction as a possible alternative to GitHub. Everything else aside, the fact that GitHub is closed source is a very interesting point to consider.
Partly as an experiment, partly because we’ve been using it at work for a while and I’ve been using it for private projects (you get unlimited private projects for free!) and I’ve been impressed. It has some great features such as integrated CI (and some that GitHub are now playing catch-up too, like emoji reactions to issue to cut down on +1-ism), and it’s nicely customisable. Plus I’ve always found it odd that the open source world keeps its DVCS repos on a single closed source platform… (Source)
> Monique Atherton will convert the project room into a live peep show booth, inviting viewers to communicate with her through the window of a soundproof booth by picking up a telephone and paying a small fee. The conversation will begin once the money is placed into the slot at the rate of $1 per minute and end abruptly when time runs out. The conversation can last as long as a viewer is willing and able to pay.
The performance positions the visual arts within the context of a working class service industry. (Source)
The IndieWeb is a set of ideas for getting away from the corporate web. It’s about having control over your own data.
The IndieWeb is a people-focused alternative to the “corporate web”.
Your content is yours
When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.
You are better connected
Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.
You are in control
You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as example.com/ideas. These links are permanent and will always work.
Interesting thoughts related to the current populist backlash against “experts”. A general appreciation of the scientific method will remove the need for “encyclopaedic minds and advanced sociologists”?
“Available to everyone will be a general scientific education, especially the learning of the scientific method, the habit of correct thinking, the ability to generalize from facts and make more or less correct deductions. But of encyclopedic minds and advanced sociologists there will be very few. It would be sad for mankind if at any time theoretical speculation became the only source of guidance for society, if science alone were in charge of all social administration. Life would wither, and human society would turn into a voiceless and servile herd. The domination of life by science can have no other result than the brutalization of mankind” https://manifesto.lorea.io/
A social networking autonomous techology to build a distributed, encrypted and federated network.
Manifesto reads like an artist’s statement…
“Available to everyone will be a general scientific education, especially the learning of the scientific method, the habit of correct thinking, the ability to generalize from facts and make more or less correct deductions. But of encyclopedic minds and advanced sociologists there will be very few. It would be sad for mankind if at any time theoretical speculation became the only source of guidance for society, if science alone were in charge of all social administration. Life would wither, and human society would turn into a voiceless and servile herd. The domination of life by science can have no other result than the brutalization of mankind.“
There’s various different definitions for decentralised networks with not a great deal of agreement. A workable middle ground, is that a federated network is a distributed network with each node of this distributed network being a centralized network. Such a federated network is a type of decentralized network, with another type of such a network being the distributed network.
“The most sensible approach might be that of Narayanan et al, who use “decentralized” as an umbrella label that includes both federated and distributed networks. Semantically this is a solid categorization, as both types of network are indeed not centralized. As both federated and distributed networks have “not being centralized” as one of their main distinguishing features, it makes sense to include them in one category based on that characteristic.
Looking at just the “federated” label, what most authors seem to agree on is that a federated network is the same “distributed network of centralized networks” that Baran called decentralized. So in that sense, “federated” has replaced “decentralized” in its original meaning, while “decentralized” has been adopted in various different ways, mostly as an umbrella term. This is a reasonable redefinition, considering the fact that a distributed network could technicallyalso be considered to be decentralized, and the close resemblance of the federated structure to the structure of a political federation, where autonomous sub-entities (such as American states) form one single larger entity (the United States).
The most workable middle ground, then, seems to be that a federated network is a distributed network with each node of this distributed network being a centralized network. Such a federated network is a type of decentralized network, with another type of such a network being the distributed network.” (Source)
The Fairphone 2 is designed to extend lifespan, increase repairability and reduce e-waste
TBILISI, Georgia — Jobless and with graduation looming, a computer science student at the premier university in the nation of Georgia decided early this year that money could be made from America’s voracious appetite for passionately partisan political news. He set up a website, posted gushing stories about Hillary Clinton and waited for ad sales to soar.
“I don’t know why, but it did not work,” said the student, Beqa Latsabidze, 22, who was savvy enough to change course when he realized what did drive traffic: laudatory stories about Donald J. Trump that mixed real — and completely fake — news in a stew of anti-Clinton fervor.
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More than 6,000 miles away in Vancouver, a Canadian who runs a satirical website, John Egan, had made a similar observation. Mr. Egan’s site, The Burrard Street Journal, offers sendups of the news, not fake news, and he is not trying to fool anyone. But he, too, discovered that writing about Mr. Trump was a “gold mine.” His traffic soared and his work, notably an invented story that President Obama would move to Canada if Mr. Trump won, was plundered by Mr. Latsabidze and other internet entrepreneurs for their own websites.
“It’s all Trump,” Mr. Egan said by telephone. “People go nuts for it.” (Source)
As software pervades the world more and more, it’s important to think about the ethical implications of what we do.
“I wish I could tell you that when I first saw those requirements they bothered me. I wish I could tell you that it felt wrong to code something that was basically designed to trick young girls. But the truth is, I didn’t think much of it at the time. I had a job to do, and I did it.”
“As developers, we are often one of the last lines of defense against potentially dangerous and unethical practices.”
A responsible data policy outlines what an organisation does to try and ensure it is looking after the data it holds on other people/organizations.
The Engine Room are early proponents of the idea of responsible data.
“we also get worried about how haphazardly data and technology is used by social change organisations. So we spend considerable energy building responsible data practices into our work, and supporting partners to do the same” (Source)
There are literally hundreds of ad networks. Literally hundreds. Last week my inbox was just filled everyday with people, because they knew that Google was cracking down — hundreds of people wanting to work with my sites. I kind of applaud Google for their steps, although I think what they’re doing is kind of random. They don’t really have a process in place for identifying these things. I happen to know a very successful site that, as of today, of this morning is still serving Google ads. So it seems to be a kind of arbitrary step that they’re taking either based on, I don’t know if it was my reputation within the industry or specifically the Denver Guardian site that angered them, or I don’t know what it is, but back to your question, there’s hundreds of people that will work with me. (Source)
Do you know who wrote the actual FBI Clinton story?
I do know who wrote the story, but only through an anonymous pen name. Privacy is something that we take very seriously in our writers group. The actual reasonings behind that story … it’s one of hundreds that have been written about mysterious deaths of Clinton associates or political foes. This one kind of took off more than others, I believe, just because of the nature of the story. The people wanted to hear this. So all it took was to write that story. Everything about it was fictional. The town, the people, the sheriff, the FBI guy. Then, we had our social media guys kind of go out and do a little dropping it throughout Trump groups and Trump forums and boy it spread like wildfire. (Source)
You’re talking about the future of this (fake-news business) which looks more insidious because it’s more real?
That’s the way that it’s going to be. Not just from where I am. I mean, this is probably going to be my last run in the fake-news biz, but I can promise you that it’s not going to go away. It’s even going to grow bigger and it’s going to be harder to identify as it kind of evolves through these steps. … (Source)
When did you notice that fake news does best with Trump supporters?
Well, this isn’t just a Trump-supporter problem. This is a right-wing issue. Sarah Palin’s famous blasting of the lamestream media is kind of record and testament to the rise of these kinds of people. The post-fact era is what I would refer to it as. This isn’t something that started with Trump. This is something that’s been in the works for a while. His whole campaign was this thing of discrediting mainstream media sources, which is one of those dog whistles to his supporters. When we were coming up with headlines it’s always kind of about the red meat. Trump really got into the red meat. He knew who his base was. He knew how to feed them a constant diet of this red meat.
We’ve tried to do similar things to liberals. It just has never worked, it never takes off. You’ll get debunked within the first two comments and then the whole thing just kind of fizzles out. (Source)
“There are literally hundreds of ad networks,” he says. “Early last week, my inbox was just filled every day with people because they knew that Google was cracking down — hundreds of people wanting to work with my sites.”
Coler says he has been talking it over with his wife and may be getting out of the fake-news racket. But, he says, dozens, maybe hundreds of entrepreneurs will be ready to take his place. And he thinks it will only get harder to tell their websites from real news sites. They know now that fake news sells and they will only be in it for the money. (Source)
Coler says he has tried to shine a light on the problem of fake news. He has spoken to the media about it. But those organizations didn’t know who he actually was. He gave them a fake name: Allen Montgomery.
Coler, a registered Democrat, says he has no regrets about his fake news empire. He doesn’t think fake news swayed the election.
“There are many factors as to why Trump won that don’t involve fake news,” he says. “As much as I like Hillary, she was a poor candidate. She brought in a lot of baggage.” (Source)
During the run-up to the presidential election, fake news really took off. “It was just anybody with a blog can get on there and find a big, huge Facebook group of kind of rabid Trump supporters just waiting to eat up this red meat that they’re about to get served,” Coler says. “It caused an explosion in the number of sites. I mean, my gosh, the number of just fake accounts on Facebook exploded during the Trump election.”
Coler says his writers have tried to write fake news for liberals — but they just never take the bait. (Source)
He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it. He wrote one fake story for NationalReport.net about how customers in Colorado marijuana shops were using food stamps to buy pot.
“What that turned into was a state representative in the House in Colorado proposing actual legislation to prevent people from using their food stamps to buy marijuana based on something that had just never happened,” Coler says. (Source)
The city of Berlin planned to build on the open space at Tempelhofer Feld, until recently an airport, and part of the development plans was a new building to unite the central library, currently split between two sites. For the sake of preserving the green space as a park, the unprecedented size of which makes it one of a kind in the city, a majority voted for a proposition to ban new development, which also meant nixing the library building…
> What do native speakers contribute to a discourse about their own language? They are the only people who can provide an insider’s perspective that is very different from those who have grown up with dominant English or other languages[…] Non-native speakers of Pidgin can provide a supplementary discourse about Pidgin that helps to keep things honest. That is, the inner discourse needs to bounce off of something. Insiders asking questions about outsiders research and vice versa, helps us to see that we often have blinders on[…]There is always a need for several different discourses.
>The coexistence of racism and sexism in the so-called manosphere dates back to the dawn of the internet. One early men’s rights site, Fathers’ Manifesto, interspersed references to Warren Farrell’s book The Myth of Male Power with calls to exile blacks from America.
>Nonwhite voters’ rejection of libertarianism has stoked extremism among some frustrated libertarians, according to the Daily Stormer’s Weev. He described for me what he saw as the thinking among libertarians who join the cause: “First it’s just, ‘Leave me alone, don’t legislate shit about me, let me have what I work for,'” said Weev, who does tech support for a variety of alt-right websites. “And then you figure out they”—i.e., the nonwhite voters—”aren’t going to let you have what’s yours. They are going to come for you unless you fight back…And now you are with us.”
>In March, Loyola University economics professor Walter Block announced on LewRockwell.com that he was forming a group known as Libertarians for Trump. Discussing the subject of slavery in a 2013 blog post, Block wrote: “The slaves could not quit. They were forced to ‘associate’ with their masters when they would have vastly preferred not to do so. Otherwise, slavery wasn’t so bad. You could pick cotton, sing songs, be fed nice gruel, etc.” Block is a senior fellow at the paleolibertarian Mises Institute, which has published attacks on “compulsory integration” and apologia for Confederate leaders.
> Yarvin finds Trump lacking, a “hilariously pathetic” Hitler or Mussolini. “It’s like watching the magician’s 12-year-old son try to play with his father’s spellbook,” he says. Yet Yarvin values Trump’s “ability to present himself as the candidate of ‘No.'” By effectively hijacking the Republican Party and subverting political norms, Trump may hasten the downfall of the American political system, in Yarvin’s view. “Credibility is just breaking down all over the place,” he enthuses. “You know that scene in Inception, where all of the buildings are collapsing?”
>Thiel, who reportedly donated more than $1 million to Trump’s campaign and was named to his transition team in November, has circled neoreactionary ideas. “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible,” he wrote on the Cato Institute’s blog in 2009, adding that women and “welfare beneficiaries” have through their voting habits “rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” (Yarvin says he and Thiel have never discussed neoreaction; Thiel could not be reached for comment.)
In what began in 2007 as a series of blog posts now sometimes cited by the alt-right, Yarvin laid out a political philosophy known as neoreaction or the “Dark Enlightenment.” Combining a technocratic sensibility with reactionary political thought, neoreaction rejects Enlightenment concepts such as democracy and equality and instead advocates something much closer to authoritarianism. One of Yarvin’s favorite political leaders is Napoleon, whom he considers to be “kind of the Steve Jobs of France.”
Andrew Auernheimer, a.k.a. Weev, a notorious troll who moved to Ukraine to elude US authorities, claims he is ready to take alt-right trolling to the next level. Trump “is going to come in with a mandate,” says Weev, who now helps run the Daily Stormer, “and if Congress doesn’t give him what he wants, then it gets really fun for us. The battle gets really enjoyable and mean.” He talks of hitting his enemy’s “primary assets” by “visiting people’s homes and slipping Pepe [images] under the door or following people on subways and coming up to them and whispering ‘Pepe’ in their ears.”
>Likewise, provocateurs have increasingly sought to subvert journalism—facilitated by Facebook’s feckless response to fake news stories flooding its platform during the height of the 2016 presidential race. A phony tale about the death of an FBI agent involved in the Clinton email investigation was shared far and wide just days before the vote.** Sites like Mike Cernovich’s Danger and Play and Chuck Johnson’s Got News spread other internet rumors, packaging them into viral clickbait. Even though later debunked (by Snopes and others in Cernovich’s case, and by Mother Jones and others in Johnson’s), such content sometimes gets picked up by larger outlets. (Cernovich said his blog is factually accurate. Johnson vehemently rejected the premise, threatening to sue Mother Jones. Mark Zuckerberg called the concern that fake news affected the election a “pretty crazy idea,” but later said Facebook would take measures to address it.
>The alt-right has elevated fringe trolling into a virulent form of propaganda that Spencer and others dub “meme magic.” Trolls push hateful memes such as the Jewish “Happy Merchant” and the black “dindu nuffin” (a slur meant to echo “I didn’t do nothin'”) without fear of censure, thanks to the anonymity of Twitter and other platforms. Some journalists have speculated that the spread of this content is in part the work of Russian troll farms, though the extent of foreign involvement is unknown.
After weeks of push back from U.S. lawmakers, media and civil rights leaders, Facebook FB -0.46% on Friday announced it will stop allowing advertisers to use “ethnic affinity” to target the reach of employment, housing and credit-related ads with the aim of better preventing discrimination on the social network.
Facebook’s policies ban discriminatory advertising content or “ad creative.” However, before Friday, Facebook allowed advertisers to use “ethnic affinity,” among a host of other signals such as gender, age, favorite movies, food preferences and geography, to determine the reach of any type of ad, including ads related to housing, employment and credit services. (Source)
The repercussions have been far-reaching. Mr. Alefantis, his friends and employees are now dealing with a flood of nasty comments on social media, threatening phone calls and even visits to their restaurant from people who say they believe the fake news articles. Mr. Alefantis has gotten in touch with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the local police and many social media companies to try to take down the fake items. He has had little success. (Source)
Herrenvolk democracy is a system of government in which only the majority ethnic group participates in government, while minority groups are disenfranchised. Similar concepts include ethnic democracy and ethnocracy. The German term Herrenvolk, “master folk”, was used in 19th century discourse that justified colonialism with the racial superiority of Europeans. (Source)
Schrader ‘s job was to help make sure that inaccurate news didn’t trend on Facebook. But he said his trending topics division was eliminated just weeks after criticism earlier this year, that Facebook’s information gatekeepers were suppressing conservative viewpoints. He said his division could have helped minimize the amount of fake news.
“By stopping fake news from trending, you’re likely to stop fake news from spreading further and I think one of the biggest principles of journalism is making sure people have truthful accurate and fair news,” Schrader said.
When asked how much personal responsibility Facebook users should bear in making sure the news they read or share is accurate, Schrader said it’s unrealistic for everyone to fact-check all the news on their feeds, so it’s up to the distributor – in this case Facebook – to step in. (Source)
Teens also can learn basic skills used by professional fact-checkers, Dr. Wineburg says. Rather than trusting the “about” section of a website to learn about it, teach them “lateral reading”—leaving the website almost immediately after landing on it and research the organization or author. Also, explain to teens that a top ranking on Google doesn’t mean an article is trustworthy. The rankings are based on several factors, including popularity. (Source)
This movement among the public, and particularly the engaged public, tracks with increasingly polarized voting patterns in Congress, though to a far lesser extent. As many congressional scholars have documented, Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill are now further apart from one another than at any point in modern history, and that rising polarization among elected officials is asymmetrical, with much of the widening gap between the two parties attributable to a rightward shift among Republicans. As a result, using a widely accepted metric of ideological positioning, there is now no overlap between the two parties; in the last full session of Congress (the 112th Congress, which ran from 2011-12), every Republican senator and representative was more conservative than the most conservative Democrat (or, putting it another way, every Democrat was more liberal than the most liberal Republican). (Source)
A second consideration is that the nation as a whole has moved slightly to the left over the past 20 years, mostly because of a broad societal shift toward acceptance of homosexuality and more positive views of immigrants. Twenty years ago, these two issues created significant cleavages within the Democratic Party, as many otherwise liberal Democrats expressed more conservative values in these realms. But today, as divisions over these issues have diminished on the left, they have emerged on the right, with a subset of otherwise conservative Republicans expressing more liberal values on these social issues.
However, on economic issues and the role of government, Republicans and Democrats are both substantially more consolidated than in the past: 37% of Republicans are consistently conservative and 36% of Democrats are consistently liberal on a five-item subset of the scale restricted to just the items about economic policy and the size of government. In 1994, those proportions were 23% and 21%, respectively. (Source)
The authors of the Pew report find it more difficult to deal with the question of whether these important changes are comparable for the two parties. A brief section on “Is Polarization Asymmetrical” carefully navigates the treacherous waters often associated with this question. They note the shift in ideological consolidation among Democrats between 1994 and 2014 is more pronounced than among Republicans, leaving today’s parties at roughly the same place. But they qualify that finding by also noting the sharper movement right among Republicans in the last decade and the fact that the increasing Democratic ideological consolidation is associated with a nationwide leftward shift in attitudes on same-sex relations and immigration. (Source)
Some contemporary presidential spouses have led active, involved political lives, providing more than a sounding board. Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson, served as a sort of shadow president when her husband was diminished by a stroke. (Critics called her administration the “petticoat government.”) Eleanor Roosevelt published books, magazine articles and newspapers advocating positions that routinely outwinged her husband, especially on civil rights. She testified before Congress. She had a regular radio program. She gave regular news conferences. She toured the country in support of migrant workers. Hillary Clinton actually worked on health policy for her husband, to great failure. (Source)
Two weeks after firing its entire editorial staff, Facebook’s Trending news section highlighted a report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons—which believes that the “gay male lifestyle” shortens lives by 20 years and abortion can cause breast cancer—claiming “most doctors polled” had “serious concerns” about Hillary Clinton’s health on Friday.
Most links in the trending section about the poll referred to a post on PRNewswire, a website where anyone can post a press release, or right-wing blogs.
The story is still appearing in Facebook’s Trending section at press time, and Facebook has not yet responded to an email from The Daily Beast requesting comment.
AAPS’ press release says “nearly 71% of 250 physicians” dub concerns about Clinton’s health “serious.” Also receiving votes in response to that question are “shows how the powers that be are willing to use her to win regardless of having to prop her up and keep her from speaking in public” and “in this case, she is so much more dangerous to the repbulic [sic] if she’s healthy.” (Source)
Though BuzzFeed News looked at nine fake news sites in its analysis, there was a 10th, American News, that didn’t make it in. American News, liked by more 5 million people on Facebook, was bigger than the rest of the sites in the analysis by a wide margin. American News is not a fake news site, per se, but it often takes a nugget of truth and writes a dramatically exaggerated story around it with a conservative slant. After Bernie Sanders wrote an op-ed in the New York Times reacting to Trump’s victory saying he’s willing to work with the president-elect under some circumstances, for example, American News published a story with the headline: “Sanders Completely Turns On Hillary, Now Backing Trump.” (Sanders, in no part of his op-ed, said he supported the president-elect.)
American News is only one of a number of publications of its kind on the internet. You can think of them as mermaids. Seen from the surface, all appears to be normal. But go deeper, and things start to look fishy. These sites are masters at heavily slanting news to play on confirmation bias, and some are very, very popular. (Source)
In January 2015, Facebook got more aggressive. It wrote a News Feed FYI blog post with the title “Showing Fewer Hoaxes.” People were complaining about fake news and hoaxes, the blog post said, so Facebook would diminish these posts’ reach. “A post with a link to an article that many people have reported as a hoax or chosen to delete will get reduced distribution in News Feed,” the post said. And with that, Facebook began a public fight against fake news.
But the filter bubble was still getting bigger than ever, and it was about to get worse due to a change in the way people were behaving on the site. (Source)
And while it was likely never the company’s intent to create a system that encouraged people to hear only what they wanted — whether or not it was true — Facebook didn’t get here by accident. It made a huge push over the last four years to be a destination for news, indeed, to be your “perfect personalized newspaper.” Since that Obama tweet, the company retooled its platform, creating a system designed to make it easier to share and promote timely and trending stories and to help them spread rapidly across its network. In the process, Facebook, with its 1.79 billion monthly active users, grew to more than five times the size of Twitter. (Source)
Now that it had new tools in place to identify and promote trending stories, Facebook took another step that it largely kept secret: It began making editorial decisions about the content that would appear in Trending. The company had hired a team of humans to curate its Trending column, but in August 2015, it told Recode that its algorithms alone were responsible for deciding what ended up there. “These people don’t get to pick what Facebook adds to the trending section,” Recode reported. “That’s done automatically by the algorithm. They just get to pick the headline.”
Not so. In May 2016, Gizmodo published an explosive story reporting that these human curators “routinely suppressed conservative news.” The article, quoting the curators themselves, found that there was indeed human judgement involved in what appeared, and didn’t appear, in the Trending column. A conservative member of the curation team told Gizmodo that right-leaning Trending topics were regularly omitted.“I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz,” the curator said. (Source)
So-called “original sharing,” where people post their own photos, text updates, etc., instead of simply pressing “share,” was declining. The extent of Facebook’s original sharing problem came to light in an April 2016 article in The Information, which reported that original sharing was down by 21% in mid-2015 compared to the previous year. With sharing down, content from celebrities, political candidates, and news sites began to fill that void. Faceboook’s algorithm was already turning the platform into a playland for confirmation bias content, and the original sharing decline gave it yet another boost. (Source)
Clearly, these Democrats hadn’t yet taken notice of his Facebook page. Two days later, a Trump post about immigration would receive more than 190,000 shares on Facebook. That was almost twice as many shares as Obama’s election night post had three years earlier. (Source)
By November 2014, Mark Zuckerberg was feeling pretty confident in Facebook’s capacity to deliver the latest news, enough so that he likened Facebook’s aim, incredibly, to that of a newspaper’s. “Our goal is to build the perfect personalized newspaper for every person in the world,” he said. “We’re trying to personalize it and show you the stuff that’s going to be most interesting to you.”
To build this “perfect personalized newspaper,” Facebook had to make the News Feed as interesting and relevant to people as possible. And to do that, it engaged in a number of quality-improving measures, including surveying its users on what they found valuable, and optimizing for time spent reading stories after a click from the Facebook News Feed, in addition to measuring traditional metrics like the number of shares and likes.
These moves were well-intentioned but fundamentally flawed. You’re unlikely to spend much time reading and interacting with material you disagree with. As another former Facebook employee told BuzzFeed News, “Even though they could show you stories that you disagree with, they’ll probably not because chances are you’ll spend more time on Facebook if you are seeing stuff you agree with and that you like.”
Fake news sites just out for a profit, and fringe websites trafficking in propaganda, both benefitted enormously. And a Facebook now outfitted with the mechanisms to make stories rapidly propagate turbocharged their rise. (Source)
Five months later, on August 6, 2013, Facebook held a press event that, according to TechCrunch, repeatedly “emphasized real-time content” in its News Feed. The next day, Facebook added another feature: Trending. Facebook emphasized that Trending, a module that highlights some of the most talked about content on Facebook, was a small test, and promised to “share more details down the line if we decide to roll it out more widely.” (Source)
Facebook’s transformation began almost immediately after the 2012 election. On November 14, 2012, a full eight days after the vote, a TechCrunch headline proclaimed: “Facebook Finally Launches ‘Share’ Button For The Mobile Feed, Its Version Of ‘Retweet.’”
The move, seemingly minor at the time, set the table for a behavior shift on Facebook, encouraging people to share quickly and without much thought. That in turn helped all forms of content boom across the network. As the TechCrunch article astutely noted: “When people do use the Share button on the web, they often give their own description of a link. But on mobile where typing is more of a pain, a Share button could encourage people to rapidly re-share link after link.”
The mobile share button would help links surpass text and photos as the fastest growing form of content shared on Facebook. This would prove crucial in an unexpected but very important way not long down the road. (Source)
LONG BEACH, CALIF.—Fewer than 2,000 readers are on his website when Paris Wade, 26, awakens from a nap, reaches for his laptop and thinks he needs to, as he puts it, “feed” his audience. “Man, no one is covering this TPP thing,” he says after seeing an article suggesting that President Obama wants to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership before he leaves office. Wade, a modern-day digital opportunist, sees an opportunity. He begins typing a story.
“CAN’T TRUST OBAMA,” he writes as the headline, then pauses. His audience hates Obama and loves president-elect Donald Trump, and he wants to capture that disgust and cast it as a drama between good and evil. He resumes typing: “Look At Sick Thing He Just Did To STAB Trump In The Back …”
Ten minutes and nearly 200 words later, he is done with a story that is all opinion, innuendo and rumour. He types at the bottom, “Comment ‘DOWN WITH THE GLOBALISTS!’ below if you love this country,” publishes the story to his website, LibertyWritersNews.com, and then pulls up the Facebook page he uses to promote the site, which in six months has collected 805,000 followers and brought in tens of millions of page views. “WE CANNOT LET THIS HAPPEN!” he writes, posting the article. “#SHARE this 1 million times, patriots!” Then he looks at a nearby monitor that shows the site’s analytics, and watches as the readers pour in. (Source)
“Telling people they’re racist, sexist, and xenophobic is going to get you exactly nowhere,” said Alana Conner, executive director of Stanford University’s Social Psychological Answers to Real-World Questions Center. “It’s such a threatening message. One of the things we know from social psychology is when people feel threatened, they can’t change, they can’t listen.”
Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist and author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, provided an apt analogy for white rural Americans’ feeling of neglect: As they see it, they are all in this line toward a hill with prosperity at the top. But over the past few years, globalization and income stagnation have caused the line to stop moving. And from their perspective, people — black and brown Americans, women — are now cutting in the line, because they’re getting new (and more equal) opportunities through new anti-discrimination laws and policies like affirmative action. (Source)
If a new technology is not socially beneficial, then don’t call it innovative.
I think there’s also a certain fatigue when it comes to the language of innovation. Is it really all that innovative to build a technology that generates short-term wealth for a small group who will then take that money and fly off to Mars? Or, should we think about innovation in terms of the common good? It’s really not that complicated. Next time you come across a so-called “disruptive technology,” simply put it to the test. Ask how it contributes to the bottom line of the common people. If it doesn’t hold up, we shouldn’t call those technologies innovative. (Source)
Imagine you’re trying to cut down on sugar, because you’re pre-diabetic, but there are M&M’s literally everywhere you look, and every time you stress-eat an M&M, invisible nerds exclaim, “Aha! She actually wants M&M’s!” That’s what I’m talking about, but where you replace M&M’s with listicles.
This human weakness now combines with technological laziness. Since Facebook doesn’t have the interest, commercially or otherwise, to dig in deeper to what people really want in a longer-term sense, our Facebook environments eventually get filled with the media equivalent of junk food. (Source)
I tell this story to emphasize that it isn’t just Facebook that has a fake news problem, and it isn’t just Donald Trump and kids in Macedonia who are using social media to send the news spinning wildly away from the truth. When sites like the Huffington Post post partisan clickbait that is clearly untrue, they deserve to be shunned, not reshared.
In the context of the work that social media sites like Facebook need to do to improve their algorithms (something I wrote about last week in Media in the Age of Algorithms), it isn’t just a matter of determining which stories are true or false. It’s a matter of understanding which sites tell the truth, and which don’t, and lowering the algorithmic encouragement they give to those that fail to tell the truth. This is not that dissimilar to what PageRank and similar Google algorithms do, figuring out which sites are authoritative, and which are ripoffs. (Source)
Can it be that “The Donald” is already affecting American policy, without even yet being the Republican nominee?
It sure looks that way, or perhaps it’s just coincidence. However more likely than not, Trump’s constant bashing of Ford moving to Mexico, has apparently been making ripples both within the news media and perhaps among the voting public. (Source)
On several occasions in October, Donald Trump tweeted links to stories at Prntly.com, a blog that didn’t exist during the last election cycle. One story (now offline but copied here) indicated that Trump’s support from blue-collar workers was the highest since Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s.
It’’s not clear what the basis for the claim was beyond that Trump led in Rust Belt states — like Ohio, which he lost — but, no matter. Trump was enthusiastic.
Prntly popped up again last week as the source of a rumor about the Ted Cruz campaign. The site cut and pasted an old story about Cruz’s campaign manager, Jeff Roe. The headline suggested that perhaps Roe had approved the ad attacking Melania Trump run by an anti-Trump super PAC, but it offered no evidence to that effect.
It was, in other words, a very typical Prntly article: Mostly content from somewhere else with an unabashedly pro-Trump frame overlaid, and then shared by one of the site’s two apparent authors, Connor Balough or Shelby Carella.
The site itself, as it turns out, is a near-perfect reflection of the candidate that it loves. It, too, started out as a business that had nothing to do with politics. It, too, proclaims that it is the best. And it, too, is not afraid to just say anything that it feels like and hope that people flock to it as a result. (Source)
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.
[Google’s top news link for ‘final election results’ goes to a fake news site with false numbers]
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. (Source)
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]. (Source)
Political people in the United States are watching the chaos in Washington in the moment. But some people in the science community are watching the chaos somewhere else — the Arctic.
It’s polar night there now — the sun isn’t rising in much of the Arctic. That’s when the Arctic is supposed to get super-cold, when the sea ice that covers the vast Arctic Ocean is supposed to grow and thicken.
But in fall of 2016 — which has been a zany year for the region, with multiple records set for low levels of monthly sea ice — something is totally off. The Arctic is super-hot, even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia. (Source)
The U.S. Department of Education overpaid Pell grant recipients by $2.03 billion in fiscal 2016 and made another $188 million in underpayments, according to an agency finance report released this week. (Source)
But the actual cause of his death was not simple old age. As his manager announced on Wednesday, he died following a fall.* And as our population continues to live longer and longer, falls are becoming the great plague of the modern era. They are the leading cause of accidental death in the elderly, and the incidence has increased steadily over the past decade. And, usually, they are not an easy way to go—many cause prolonged discomfort.
Still, we don’t think of falls as being that serious. Consider the following two scenarios. In the first, you learn that your mother has just been diagnosed with cancer. Regardless of its stage, this news is likely to be met with tremendous distress by both patients and their families. People spring into action. Treatment plans are made. Financial houses are put in order. Wills are written. Advanced-care directives are considered. Old grudges are forgiven. In the second scenario, you are told that your mother has been admitted to the hospital after a fall. Obviously, you are worried. But, you may think, at least she’s not dying or anything. (Source)