RSS

Category Archives: Media

Facebook fills George Orwell’s plot line

When you hold up terms such as ‘fake news‘ and ‘alternative facts‘ to the Orwellian mirror, things become a lot more clear.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four the government’s Ministry of Truth, or ‘Minitrue,’ produces distorted information through an assembly line of sorts. Importantly, though it’s managed by humans, not machines. Today we call these folks trolls, and the assembly line is the Internet.

In that fictitious dystopia, truth gets thrown down a memory hole. And citizens like Winston Smith who work for Minitrue, are tasked with creating alternative versions of history for ‘tele-screens’ and other media. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

There’s a telling piece in Fortune  and Chicago Tribune, journalists appear to have interviewed a Russian troll. In fact he worked with other trolls in a ‘Facebook Department.’

Did the social network know about this? In 2016 Facebook was reportedly working on a global ‘counter speech’ effort. It’s a big deal to them, even in Europe. Social networks must surely be bracing themselves for the legal consequences of sleeping at the wheel, while being compromised.

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , ,

Radio days! Podcasts back with a vengeance!

In case you’ve not noticed the podcast landscape had changed. I’m so glad this genre – audio story-telling –has survived in a digital age that at one time seemed to gravitate toward video, slapstick entertainment, and uninformed opinions.

These are highly-researched, well-produced shows – not just opinionated rants. 

Here are a few:

Code Switch – Fascinating takes on race and identity

Rough Translation – A great way to escape the echo-chamber!

The Hidden Brain – Shankar Vedantam’s insight into human behavior

The Tip-Off – Peeling back investigative journalism, by Maeve McClenaghan of London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism

 

Some older podcasts still give the newbies a run for their money. Those such as:

  • This American Life – Ira Glass’ extremely topical take on all things social, political, personal
  • Invisiblia – Gripping tales and insights about the forces that shape us.

 

 

Tags: , , ,

“Negotiating with Jell-O” and other zingers

Sometimes a zinger in a speech captures the essence of all the other verbiage put together.

Consider these:

“I get it, I get it. We’ve got to address the elephant that’s not in the room.”

(Hasan Minhaj, host of the White House Correspondent’s dinner this year.

It got better, especially with the rest of the thought aimed at president Trump who did not attend:

“The leader of our country is not here. And that’s because he lives in Moscow. It is a very long flight.  

 

“I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”                  

                                                                                                             Lloyd Bentsen

The context was the VP debates; Dan Qayle had  likened himself to JFK and was treated to a delicious zinger by  Bensten.

Negotiating with Trump ‘like negotiating with Jell-O’

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 23, 2018 in Communications, Media

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Fake news – Old model recycled for digital age

Before we called it Fake News, it was called propaganda. Or just plain dirt.

The New York Times has a great story on the roots of Fake News. (I’ve always disliked the term; it suggests there is such a thing as ‘authentic news.’) When information is manipulated, and planted, and spread, it is not just fake but spurious. The Rand Corporation calls this the ‘Firehose of Falsehood‘ propaganda model.

It’s features are:

  • High-volume and multichannel
  • Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
  • Lacks commitment to objective reality
  • Lacks commitment to consistency.

The firehose brings in information from so many sources that it tends to consume and compromise the bandwidth of attention we have to process the information.

But while we pay attention to malicious actors who spread falsehoods, let’s not be blinded to other ways fake news, falsehoods and propaganda spread. In a much older analysis of news and propaganda (Manufacturing of Consent, 1998) Noam Chomsky revealed how systemic propaganda is part of the business model of newsmaking. He identified ‘filters’ in the media embed propaganda and bias.

Fake news is just a new digital iteration of what we’ve had, and blissfully ignored before. Everything old is new again!

 

 

Tags: , ,

Nalaka’s take on responding to ‘fake news’

At a forum on Media and Development in Berlin yesterday, my friend Nalaka Gunewardena (who moderated a discussion) brought on a fresh perspective to the problem. It’s not about the tools per se that we could use to fight Fake News. It’s also about education, alliances and policy reform, .

We must also look for the symptoms in the loss of trust in journalism, he said. The need is to build structures that enhance and nurture quality journalism. In other words, create trustworthy messengers before trying to fix (or block) the pipes through which the messages flow. Plus the need to influence policy and literacy.

This is a lot more nuanced than just clamping down on media platforms or discrediting the sources – reactive steps.

So let’s get pro-active about a problem that didn’t arrive yesterday, and won’t go away soon.

I encourage you to read Nalaka’s post about this.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , ,

When a speech gets waterlogged.

Pity the speechwriter on the White House payroll. I envision the person banging his or head on the keyboard, every time the boss speaks. The most recent being Trump’s description of relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

“The response and recovery effort probably has never been seen for something like this. This is an island surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water.”

Trump’s speechwriter must be probably wondering:

  • Why state the obvious in a tragedy caused mostly by water?
  • Why heap on adjectives such as ‘big’ and ‘ocean’?

“This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean.”

Perhaps he believed that things might have been different had it taken place in a small ocean? Leaves us scratching our heads if it’s possible the real estate mogul knows of some islands surrounded by something other than water? (Blue Gatorade, perhaps?)

Whatever it is, my sympathies go out to Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior speechwriter, who’s probably right now trying to tell the boss to stick to the teleprompter. Or at least run a phrase through a cliché-extracting machine.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Media, Social Media

 

Tags: , ,

Algorithms do make mistakes! A teaching moment after Vegas

It’s so easy to assume that ‘algorithms‘ can do no wrong. Did you even use the fancy word prior to ‘Search Engine Optimization’ ?

So Google’s statement that, after the Las Vegas tragedy (and the inaccurate news that ensued via social media) they had to go in and over-ride the algorithm, says volumes.

“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Here’s what is worth teaching.

  • A search result that pops up may not be accurate. In fact it can be deliberately misleading. (The Tom Petty headline, being the latest in ‘inadvertent’ mistakes.)
  • Cross-reference your ‘facts’. Read the whole article before drawing a conclusion.
  • The headline in a tweet or a trending FB post is an incomplete picture. Or often carries a bias. Former Facebook ‘news curators’ have admitted they were instructed to artificially inject selected stories into the trending news module.

An algorithm is just “a process or set of rules” that are set up in advance for sifting through data, and making calculations with complex variables. Algorithms are not writ in stone. Especially when there is some Artificial Intelligence involved, they are supposed to ‘learn’ from the complexity and adjust. Sometimes they aren’t good learners, and are easily misled, or tricked.

And so are we!

 
 

Tags: , , , ,