Doctor and activist


Notice: Undefined index: hide_archive_titles in /home/chesterf/public_html/wp-content/themes/modern-business/includes/theme-functions.php on line 233

Tag: Fake News

Fake Facebook Pages Allow Dictators to Rule

1 May 2021

A Facebook whistleblower, Sophie Zhang, says that in many countries fake pages are distorting perceptions of politicians and trolling opposition leaders.  She says that while there is some interest in this in the Western Democracies there is not much interest in countries like Honduras, Azerbaijan, Mexico and the Philippines.  Clearly if action is delayed in these areas politicians may win elections, distorting whole nations’ futures. 

Sophie Zhang was a low-level data analyst who found this and tried to get Facebook management interest, but was continually rebuffed and finally sacked. 

Marx said that ‘Power is control of the means of production’ in that it gave access to money, but now it would seem that power is control of the means of information.  This is why Murdoch and Fox are so powerful.  With 70% of Australia’s print media a drip-feed of negative stories can get rid of governments. 

My personal view is that the fact that Rudd would not change the media ownership laws in Murdoch’s favour was why Rudd fell, though of course his two other key policies, a carbon tax, and royalties on mining offended the mining lobby.  Offending both Murdoch and the miners was terminal.

Apart from the mainstream media (MSM) the other significant media player, which the population think that they control, is the social media, particularly Facebook.  We might ask whether it determined the 2016 US election that elected Trump, or the 2016 Brexit vote.  My more recent view is that my own personal lack of awareness of the power of social media probably cost me my seat in NSW Parliament.

Be all this as it may, Sophie Zhang has raised a very important issue in the power of Facebook and the clash between its commercial interests and its social function. Like many whistle-blowers, she is a hero who has suffered for her efforts.

www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/apr/12/facebook-fake-engagement-whistleblower-sophie-zhang

Continue Reading

Are Google Algorithms Reinforcing Anti-Science positions? 3 Feb. 2021

As the anti-science movement seems to gain strength and undermines the campaign for COVID vaccination, there has been increased interest in the origin, strength and tactics of this.

It is blamed on the Russians, who presumably are trying to weaken and divide the West, and on civil libertarians, who want to politicise medical common sense.  But when it helped by people like Trump in the White House and Kelly in Australia the conspiracy theories are put into perspective, as the anti-science views are given legitimacy.

But in the fuss about Google withdrawing from Australia, or not covering Australian politics, I wondered what effect this might have and tried a different search engine, duckduckgo.  The difference is that google gives me a personalised feed, but duckduckgo gives everyone the same information for the same key words. 

Search engines at a basic level give a ‘top pops’ of popularity of a topic in that those with the greatest number of clicks go to the top.  This may be fine if you are looking for a movie review, but if you want older material it will be a long way down. Scientific articles are a lot further down than mainstream ones, and the algorithm is influenced by the viewer’s previous viewing habits.  If a person has viewed a lot of conspiracy articles, it is presumably then likely that these are more likely to come up again and reinforce the existing views of the viewer.    If the feed is continually biased to a point of view, the viewer is likely to come into contact with more of this view and people who share t, so that they are eventually in a bubble or subculture of people with this belief, and are unaware that their reality has been changed. 

As an example my son went to school with a boy in NZ whose father controlled feral pests for a living, which meant shooting rabbits, ferrets, deer, pigs, cats and possums which are predators on various farms in NZ.  He kept in touch with his friend and they played video games online.  But his friend went shooting quite a lot with his father, joined a gun club and started to receive the literature of this subculture.  His previously non-political, mainstream views are now hugely influenced by the American gun lobby and rabidly right wing.  This is quite unusual in rural NZ.  My son commented, ‘In the end, you think what you get in your feed’.

The algorithms exist to make you happy and to keep you clicking in order to get you to buy things.  But the result might be quite different- a creation of a bubble environment where everyone’s opinion tends to be magnified, sometimes going in a bad direction.

How this can be controlled is a question- if we all got the same feeds, would the sensible people make sensible articles come up first?  Presumably; if most people were well educated.  We had better go there also.  Which Big Brother will tell google how to do its algorithms?

(The longer version of this attached article is available via a link at its end).

https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/peter-hotez-anti-science-movement-killing-hundreds-of-thousands_n_6014b39ac5b622df90f382ee?ri18n=true&fbclid=IwAR19_qqWuNe9t8ySSTdNU5OjL6jKkxPCT3cDbAP0EhAKXoXrLPod_xVfdKM

Continue Reading