A few days ago, President Trump pledged to “look into” Twitter “shadow banning” conservatives.
I have no problem with people bringing attention to this, but at the same time, it’s not President Trump’s place, and it’s NOT illegal. It sucks, but the government has no business telling a private company what to do.
Go ahead and point out the reality of what’s happening– sure. Yes– the “algorithm shifts” seem to ALWAYS favor the left. Go ahead and draw attention to that, but it has to end there. This isn’t the government’s place.
ANYWAY. Twitter decided to address the whole “shadow banning” thing in a blog post, but instead of easing nerves, it actually kinda sorta confirmed that it is shadow banning certain people.
People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not. But let’s start with, “what is shadow banning?”
The best definition we found is this: deliberately making someone’s content undiscoverable to everyone except the person who posted it, unbeknownst to the original poster.
We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.
We do rank tweets and search results. We do this because Twitter is most useful when it’s immediately relevant. These ranking models take many signals into consideration to best organize tweets for timely relevance. We must also address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation.
“…although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile.”
Isn’t that precisely what shadow banning entails, at least in part?
Yesterday, we identified an issue where some accounts weren’t auto-suggested in search even when people were searching for their specific name. To be clear, this only impacted our search auto-suggestions. The accounts, their tweets and surrounding conversation about those accounts were showing up in search results. As of yesterday afternoon, this issue was resolved.
Here’s more of their explanation:
“It looks like this only affected Republican politicians. Were Democratic politicians also impacted?” Yes, some Democratic politicians were not properly showing up within search auto-suggestions as result of this issue. As mentioned above, the issue was broad-ranging and not limited to political accounts or specific geographies. And most accounts affected had nothing to do with politics at all.
“OK, so there was a search auto-suggest issue. But what caused these Republican representatives to be impacted?” For the most part, we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves (see bullet #3 above). There are communities that try to boost each other’s presence on the platform through coordinated engagement. We believe these types of actors engaged with the representatives’ accounts– the impact of this coordinated behavior, in combination with our implementation of search auto-suggestions, caused the representatives’ accounts to not show up in auto-suggestions. In addition to fixing search yesterday, we’re continuing to improve our system so it can better detect these situations and correct for them.
“…we believe the issue had more to do with how other people were interacting with these representatives’ accounts than the accounts themselves.”
They believe that, but they don’t really know.
Twitter’s response sounds like a whole lot of yada yada yada.
h/t The Right Scoop
Less than a third of the way into his upcoming book on nationalism, Israeli philosopher and scholar Yoram Hazony warns about the growing censorship constricting debate in Western societies when the opinion in question runs counter to the views of politically correct liberalism.
Facebook wasted no time in making his case for him.
“There is a sense today throughout the Western world that one’s beliefs on controversial matters should no longer be discussed openly,” Hazony writes in “The Virtue of Nationalism,” to be published by Basic Books in September, adding:
We are now aware that we must think a second and third time before acting or speaking. … Genuine diversity in the constitutional or religious character of Western nations persists only at mounting costs to those who insist on their freedom.
The observation was prescient, and Hazony is now facing these costs.
Facebook has blocked ads for Hazony’s book ostensibly because, as an announcement informed him: “Your ad was not approved because your Page has not been authorized to run ads with political content.”
According to Facebook’s own definition, however, political content is support for candidates, legislation, ballot questions, etc.
Having spent part of a North Carolina family vacation wrestling with an advance galley, I can attest that “The Virtue of Nationalism” does not do that. What it does do is challenge present notions of how societies are ordered.
Hazony’s book presents three paradigms of political order: the clan-based society, the international empire, and, as the happy middle, the national state. (For those interested, the natural progression from the individual to global governance goes this way: Individuals form families, which form tribes, which form clans, which form nations, which form empires.)
The nation-state (a term Hazony purposely avoids) takes the best of the clan and the empire.
From empire it takes the idea that allegiance can be given to an abstraction rather than individuals, “the creation of a large space of domestic peace,” and impartial justice. From the clan, the nation “retains the ideal of a ruler devoted to the unique needs and interests, traditions and aspirations of a particular community that is different from all others.”
Hazony, president of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, takes on ideas cherished by the right and the left. He is no fan of John Locke, considered by many today as the main modern proponent of liberal democracy, natural rights, and the need for the consent of the governed.
Hazony blames Locke for the idea that individual freedom is the “only one principle at the base of legitimate political order.” Locke offered “an impoverished and unsuccessful account of human motivation and action,” Hazony says, and was rightly derided by many, from Hume to Burke.
Likewise, he demolishes the idea that Nazi Germany was the result of overwrought nationalism:
The Nazi viewpoint was precisely the opposite of this: Hitler saw his Third Reich as an improved incarnation of what he referred to as the ‘First Reich’—which was none other than the Holy Roman Empire of the Hapsburgs.
Many of these observations have been made before, though few have made them as cogently, but Hazony’s best insights involve the modern application of his ideas.
The international empire is today best exemplified by the European Union, with its usurpations of national privileges and prerogatives. The defenders of the rights of national states (remember, the best way to order society) are the bete noires of the bien pensant and the international media: states such as Israel, Poland, and Hungary.
The reader does not have to agree with everything that Hazony writes to find his book insightful and thought-provoking.
I, for example, did not like his constant portrayal of the Catholic Church as one of the liberty-stifling empires of world history. The church is a spiritual enterprise concerned with individual salvation.
Hazony takes issue with a religion’s belief that it has a monopoly on the way to salvation, seeing in that the seed of empire-making. This, perhaps, prevents him from discussing another solution to the West’s present crisis: the need for spiritual renewal through a religious awakening.
But that doesn’t matter, because Hazony’s job was to make me think, to make me wrestle with his ideas in the midst of swimming, sunning, and fishing. His job was not to provide me with a safe space. His work is a needed corrective to the steady march of global governance over the past 30 years.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week, Hazony described how he went through hoops to get Facebook to approve his ads, doing everything the platform required of him. No matter: “After 10 weeks, I still have no ads.”
In the end, he wonders whether Facebook is “simply unwilling to run ads for a book about the virtues of nationalism.”
Maybe this is yet another “accidental” constraining of views on social media that run contrary to the present acceptable norm. But the lack of transparency and responsiveness from Facebook reinforces Hazony’s concerns and makes it clear that his book is timely and important.
#FakeNews gonna #Fake.
Do you guys remember National Geographic’s heart-wrenching story about a starving polar bear?
At the time, Nat Geo blamed the polar bear’s demise on climate change. They wrote:
Dec. 7, 2017 – This is what a starving polar bear looks like. This bear was spotted by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen on Somerset Island in the Canadian Arctic. Since the bear went missing after this video was made, it’s impossible to know specifically what ailed it. However, scientists warn that as temperatures rise, and sea ice melts, polar bears lose access to the main staple of their diet—seals. Starving, and running out of energy, they are forced to wander into human settlements for any source of food. Feeding polar bears is illegal. Without finding another source of food, this bear likely only had a few more hours to live.
That video became one of “the most viewed video on National Geographic’s website.”
But…was the polar bear’s demise REALLY due to climate change?
The team behind the photo, including Cristina Mittermeier, spoke out about the controversial image and basically admitted that it’s misleading. Climate change wasn’t responsible for the polar bear’s demise.
“Photographer Paul Nicklen and I are on a mission to capture images that communicate the urgency of climate change. Documenting its effects on wildlife hasn’t been easy,” she wrote. “With this image, we thought we had found a way to help people imagine what the future of climate change might look like. We were, perhaps, naive. The picture went viral — and people took it literally.”
“We had lost control of the narrative,” she continued.
There could’ve been a number of reasons that polar bear was dying. Maybe it was old. Maybe it was injured. Maybe it was sick. She even admitted that she couldn’t definitively say that the polar bear was “starving because of climate change.”
“Perhaps we made a mistake in not telling the full story — that we were looking for a picture that foretold the future and that we didn’t know what had happened to this particular polar bear,” she said.
Her explanation will appear in the August issue of National Geographic. The article contains this editor’s note as well:
Editor’s Note: National Geographic went too far in drawing a definitive connection between climate change and a particular starving polar bear in the opening caption of our December 2017 video about the animal. We said, “This is what climate change looks like.” While science has established that there is a strong connection between melting sea ice and polar bears dying off, there is no way to know for certain why this bear was on the verge of death. Above is an updated version of the video.
How nice of Nat Geo to issue a correction ALMOST ONE YEAR LATER. So kind of them. So responsible.
Millions of people saw that and probably still believe the original narrative. It’s not easy to “take back.”
And they wonder why we call them #FakeNews.
h/t Fox News
The Facebook drama continues…
According to this, Facebook has removed “fake accounts” that were allegedly attempting to “interfere in the midterm elections.” In response, they’ve removed a total of 32 pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram.
“We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this,” Facebook stated. “It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past.”
I thought this little snippet from CNBC was interesting.
Facebook said it has not been able to confirm Russia’s involvement. During the 2016 election, the Russian troll farm Internet Research Agency (IRA) was accused in an indictment of election interference. In its announcement, Facebook admitted it did not have all the facts on who was responsible for the effort, but said it was disclosing the fake accounts now ahead of planned protests in Washington, D.C. next week.
Here’s more of Facebook’s statement:
Today we removed 32 Pages and accounts from Facebook and Instagram because they were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. This kind of behavior is not allowed on Facebook because we don’t want people or organizations creating networks of accounts to mislead others about who they are, or what they’re doing.
We’re still in the very early stages of our investigation and don’t have all the facts — including who may be behind this. But we are sharing what we know today given the connection between these bad actors and protests that are planned in Washington next week. We will update this post with more details when we have them, or if the facts we have change.
It’s clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past. We believe this could be partly due to changes we’ve made over the last year to make this kind of abuse much harder. But security is not something that’s ever done. We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics. It’s an arms race and we need to constantly improve too. It’s why we’re investing heavily in more people and better technology to prevent bad actors misusing Facebook — as well as working much more closely with law enforcement and other tech companies to better understand the threats we face.
To be continued…
This is something else.
Kim Kardashian sat down with Jimmy Kimmel the other night, and they talked a lot about Kim’s newfound calling of helping people like Alice Johnson. Interestingly enough, she wasn’t totally insufferable. In fact, I kind of enjoyed the interview. It was really amusing, because Kimmel dropped a few snarky remarks about Trump and left the door opened for Kim to participate, but she didn’t. She kind of laughed it off and honestly rolled her eyes a little bit.
She also talked about Kanye’s support of Trump, which was interesting.
“To make it clear, when Kanye —we would talk about it and would talk about policies, he doesn’t necessarily agree with his policies,” Kimmel said. “He likes his personality and how he made it to be president when everyone really underestimated him.”
“I have nothing bad to say about the president,” Kim said. “You know, he’s done something amazing. I am very focused. I don’t agree with everything either. I had no idea what to expect going in there, and I was like, ‘Look, I’m going to be focused.’ It really turned my idea around in this category.”
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m impressed by the way she handled herself during that entire interview. It was almost– dare I say– ALMOST classy. The whole “I was naked and put a robe on when they called” part was whatever, but other than that..not bad. Even her vocal fry was at a minimum.
See for yourself.