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Facebook’s Hyperpartisan Political-Media Machine (2016) (nytimes.com)
176 points by teslacar on Mar 19, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments

>"Facebook’s takeover of online media looks rather like a slow-motion coup. Before social media, web publishers could draw an audience one of two ways: through a dedicated readership visiting its home page or through search engines. By 2009, this had started to change. Facebook had more than 300 million users, primarily accessing the service through desktop browsers, and publishers soon learned that a widely shared link could produce substantial traffic."

It seems to me that the New York Times is just complaining that they can't control the political narrative anymore because the proles can now decide for themselves what news they will read. Thoughts?

Realistically speaking, when would you say the NYT last controlled the political narrative? I would argue that it's not a recent loss of control, so implying that this is a case of sour grapes strikes me as unlikely to come close to the truth.

Besides, Facebook is an appalling, festering wound. It's not just politics, but of course a lot of money and talk floats around politics and a lot of noise as a result. Facebook is a case of a minority using the service to keep in touch with some people, and a vast majority engaged in a bizarre and self-destructive series of narcissistic behaviors.

The evidence keeps mounting that using Facebook and unhappiness are strongly correlated, and I keep seeing people who aren't remotely surprised by that.

It can be hard to attribute control, if 100 news organizations all push a narrative and that narrative sticks maybe all 100 of them had some control, maybe one had control and the other 99 were just mindlessly parroting what they said. The last time the NYT's narrative matched up with the generally accepted version of the truth? Probably as recently as the 2012 election, possibly even more recently. Was that control? Certainly looks like it to me but you may disagree and as I said, control is tough to prove. I don't think the parent comment is unlikely to come close to the truth though. It seems to come from pretty reasonable observations.

That's just not even close to being true, for at least half of the country. You're not controlling anything if an order of magnitude more people listen to Rush Limbaugh than read your paper. For a huge section of society, the NYT has been seen as basically untrustworthy or a "liberal shill" since Reagan to be realistic, and Clinton to be charitable.

There's no way an order of magnitude more people listen to Rush Limbaugh than read NYT. There might be more listeners than subscribers. But that's hardly an apples to apples comparison, one is free, the other costs money. Many many more people read NYT articles for free without subscribing.

The New York Times covers many things: politics, disasters, science, the arts, education and so on.

Rush Limbaugh exists for one reason only: the promotion of a hyper-partisan view of the world. He gets millions of listeners just for that one single topic.

Does every NYT reader read it for the editorials?

Well, the NYT has a weekly circulation of about half a million, and Limbaugh gets a weekly audience of 20 million. As to who clicks through a google link to their site? I don't know. I don't think that's anything like "controlling the political narrative" though, and I don't think having a site that people sometimes read is the same as twenty million people listening to you for hours.

The New York Times has at the very least 30% more unique monthly consumers than Limbaugh, and realistically probably 300-400% more given Limbaugh's weekly listener overlap.

* nytimes.com had 72.9 million users and 649.2 million page views in January 2016 [1]

* "Limbaugh still draws some 13 million listeners a week (though that’s down from his 1990s peak of more than 20 million)", per an article from May 2016 [2]

1. http://adage.com/article/media/york-times-pulls-back-ahead-w...

2. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/05/is-rush-limba...

Of course that averages out to 9 page clicks per user, and Alexa estimates that more than 25% of those clicks are Google referrals. Not exactly the same as millions of people listening to your every word.

Then there's drumdance's excellent point.

Indeed, 13-20 million people listening to a voice in the background while driving to lunch is not exactly the same as 73 million people actively mentally engaged while reading an article.

Even notwithstanding his comparatively miniscule and unengaged audience, Limbaugh's agenda-setting power pales in comparison with The New York Times. The combined audience of The New York Times' editorially-aligned media ecosystem utterly dwarfs that of Limbaugh.

Limbaugh influences Hannity, Beck, Levin, and other conservative talk radio; and, to an extent, cable news like Fox and web media like Breitbart.

The New York Times influences a vastly larger media syndicate: the most listened-to radio organization, NPR; print and web media like The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Atlantic; cable and network news like CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS and NBC. And while there are of course other areas of coverage, politics garners the largest share and most prominent placement. The New York Times' highly syndicated political message not only covers the general population, but also percolates through universities, where engagement with it deepens as it intertwines with the academic curriculum.

The vast reach and depth of the latter media apparatus means that The New York Times plays a major role -- and quite likely constitutes the single most influential voice -- in shaping the dominant narrative in American political life.

I see that the Gish Gallop is alive and well, and I'm starting to see what that other article was saying about shills.

> generally accepted version of the truth

Does it exist?

In 2003, the NYT was crucial in generating public support for the Iraq War. They uncritically reported literal fake news provided to them by the Bush administration, and people who disbelieved them were regarded as cranks.

So, depends on what you consider recent.

Realistically, before talk radio and before the internet. both diversified the point of view and the later gave way to an incredible number of sources to include the view from elsewhere in the world.

the problem I think is that many inside the beltway don't understand this or want to. look at all the complaints against non traditional media sources being shown preference in the WH. Yes some of it is politically oriented but their real fear is that it cements in the minds of many they the press doesn't is not just certain big papers and television sources, it is anyone who can create an audience and deliver the story.

that is beneficial to all. the more voices the better and less likely the message will be controlled, manipulated, or simply one sided.

>the more voices the better

Remember that the next time you try to hear your own voice in a stadium. It's an old trick to say, "I want to hear what you all have to say... at once." Then smile as people drown each other out...

> decide for themselves

That's in interesting interpretation of what goes on to determine what Facebook shows to users.

Worse, it adapts to interactions.. so if you lean one way, you tend to mostly see one way... same the other way. There is some weird influence from FB news, or so it would seem. But mostly it's confirmation alignment... It's weird what some friends see, vs what I see in our respective feeds.

I have an eclectic combination of very conservative, liberal, statist, centrist and libertarian friends. So I see it all over the map. Other friends don't.

No – the article wouldn't make any sense if it were some other newspaper taking the NYT's market share, even thought the loss of power for the NYT were the same.

This isn't some selfish ploy to protect power by the NYT. Maybe their view of the importance of journalism is tainted by being the subject as well, but there are any number of non-journalists agreeing with the idea.

The political culture has significantly changed over last twenty years, and the changes in the media landscape are one of very few causal mechanisms that have been proposed (neo-capitalism destroying the middle class being among the others).

Looking at these changes, it's really hard to argue that the media of the past (or, actually, present) failed the people – at least in comparison to whatever instagram feed is supposed to replace it.I'm hoping there'll be a few powerful institutions left when the slaughter is over, but they all disappear, today's democratic societies will devolve into some bizarre pre-democratic dystopias.

> It seems to me that the New York Times is just complaining that they can't control the political narrative anymore because the proles can now decide for themselves what news they will read. Thoughts?

Lets assume that NYT is indeed complaining. How does this make it ok for Facebook to control? This is a classic ad hominem fallacy.

Not exactly, they're complaining that ANOTHER company is controlling access and therefore the financial gains associated to the news industry. It was never a battle simply about ideas, but about the profits behind the news-producing machine.

> because the proles can now decide for themselves what news they will read.

Except that Facebook is very much like minitrue, a large machine with people as its cogs that outputs information that may or may not be correlated with facts. Not to mention that it's also targeted at each prole, so the proles always get an echo chamber that will quell the rebellion.

The 1984 analogies go both ways.

> the proles can now decide for themselves

the facebook algorithms are a black box

> It seems to me that the New York Times is just complaining that they can't control the political narrative anymore because the proles can now decide for themselves what news they will read. Thoughts?

Well, there have always been different sources of media contending for the narrative. My grandpa used to read both the Washington Times, which he saw as basically true news; he also read the Washington Post (affectionately: "the com-Post") because he wanted to keep an eye on the other team's plans.

What is novel here is that there are now random teenagers in Macedonia just totally making stuff up, and this is competing for reader attention with the same amount of weight as all the other stuff which we traditionally called "news" (https://www.wired.com/2017/02/veles-macedonia-fake-news/).

As recently as 2009 it seemed totally crazy that, like, teenagers on the Internet could just make stuff up and it would affect world affairs -- see https://xkcd.com/635/ , Randall Munroe's September 2009 mockery of the Orson Scott Card "Ender's Game" future where blogger kids make stuff up to change national discourse.

Munroe was wrong, Card was right (?!), and it totally happened. The 2016 US elections went to /b/, /pol/, and /int/ -- congrats, folks! Interesting times.

The "old media" people who bewail this stuff may be complaining that they're losing influence, yes, but some of them actually believed the story that they were doing a public service, and those people are upset about something else, too.

A friend who spent some time in the old media told me that what worries them about this shift is that people are "no longer following a single newsgathering organization they can hold accountable" and instead use "contextless random shares via their Facebook feed (which produce a sort of race to the bottom)". He added that "the passive nature of the Facebook News Feed is one of many forces causing people to take less responsibility for their information intake and lose information literacy skills. I guess that's probably bad."

Those are reasonable things to be worried about whether you favor the Washington Times or the Washington Post or Breitbart or the Huffington Post or Coast to Coast AM.

And how the hell do you "hold accountable" a traditional old media? They are big powerful conglomerates that are only really accountable to the politicians that pay their salaries, the few cents you give them by buying the paper is a drop in the ocean. At least with FaceBook you're on a level playing field with everyone else that's posting shit, and there are a LOT of people posting, so you have more freedom to pick your sources based on their objective truth or any other metric you care about. And if you don't want to hear the truth, you won't be reading the Washington Whatsit, you'll be reading the Daily Mail in the first place.

Typically the way that you would "hold accountable" the traditional old media is by ignoring sources that prove bad.

If you think the Washington Post is publishing bad, pointless nonsense news, you stop reading it. Cancel your subscription. Don't buy a copy at a newsstand. Don't buy ads for your local business. Don't place classified ads (remember those?). Tune it out.

Subscriber count will drop. The rate card will list a lower readership and ad rates will go down. The newspaper will lose revenue. It will lay off staff and implode.

"Traditional old news" was all published together in a big bundle of paper and if it was bad quality stuff you would stop reading the whole thing. That was how you held it accountable -- you stopped paying attention to junk.

This has certainly happened -- remember News of the World? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_of_the_World) Certainly everyone in Liverpool remembers The Sun. Traditionally, newspapers which did bad journalism and just printed crap shaped up or they closed down.

With the advent of Facebook News Feed driven news it's harder to punish a bad source. A typical News Feed post shows me, in order, (1) the name of the friend who shared it (2) some text they wrote about it (3) a photo (4) the headline (5) some text from the article and finally (6) the actual source of the news. I have to deliberately choose to ignore or distrust stuff based on the source -- and that's after I have read the material. I had no choice in terms of, not even picking up a newspaper in the first place.

In the 2000s it was easy for me not to read the Epoch Times (the Falun Gong newspaper printed in the New York area and distributed throughout the US) and when I did read articles in it I knew that I was reading something printed by a Falun Gong mouthpiece organization. In the 2010s it is hard for me not to see videos made by Russia Today (a fascinating, viral news organization with a heavy Web presence); it's pretty common for me to see rt.com content in my various social news feeds and I incur a bunch of extra cognitive load to remember the biases that that newsgathering organization brings to the table.

The proles only think they are deciding. Things were tolerable when media outlets controlled access. Thier bias was open for all who cared to challenge. Now control is in the hands of facebook's robot. Bias is now hidden behind math, code and interface. There is nobody to challenge or attack. Instead of calling out NYT we must now fight smoke.

> Facebook’s takeover of online media looks rather like a slow-motion coup.

... complains the former king.

When was the last time the NYT was the king of anything? Rush Limbaugh and his type have been dominating for a couple of decades now.

Do people still listen to Limbaugh? He's on in the middle of the day in any market I've ever been in so he was never even competing for either of the drive times for me. I moved completely to podcasts a few years ago anyway.

He has about twenty million weekly listeners.

He actually has about 13 million weekly listeners.

The weekly audience of The New York Times is likely 3-4x larger. Details: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13911658.

In the blue collar world, it's not unreasonable that people have the radio on while they work.

Google seems to somehow avoid criticism for doing the same crap other companies do. They have had horrible problems with Sexual Harassment, just as bad and toxic as Uber, but the narrative is not there, just stop and think about that for a second.

you're implying the NYT has ever been the king of online media

Only unintentionally. I meant that they were king of print, and have been completely usurped by a new mechanism for controlling content consumption by users.

I don't buy for a moment that Facebook users are choosing a lot of the content they see.

> king of print

The Wall Street Journal has had a larger national subscription base for years.

And of course there were many dominant local city papers in the days before digital. I used to read the Chicago Tribune cover to cover every day. Before that I read the Atlanta Journal.

Here's what I keep coming back to: when Dan Rather was hoodwinked into pushing a fake story about GWB's minimal military service, he was fired. When Keith Olbermann was similarly caught pushing a story he found and liked that turned out to be false, he was fired. When Brian Williams made up a BS story about an RPG firing at his chopper, be was suspended for 6 months.

What happens when Breitbart or HuffPo or various YouTubers and bloggers get caught in a lie? Nothing. Nobody's head is put in the noose.

News aggregators are to journalism what AliExpress is to shopping - they'll give you what you wanted at the price you wanted, but piled high with lies and crappy quality, and you'll never find the same company twice so their reputation doesn't matter.

Who went to jail for this?


> What happens when Breitbart or HuffPo or various YouTubers and bloggers get caught in a lie? Nothing. Nobody's head is put in the noose.

You switch to a different information provider.

It's not true that the people you mention in the first paragraph were punished after a single instance of fake news. The truth is that networks like NBC are as loose with the truth as Breitbart and have been for decades. Millenials won't remember what it was like flipping through the nightly news shows before the internet and seeing the same false stories reported on different networks with the same phrases and clips of the same "experts". The only difference now is that they have competition. Other organizations can call them out on their lies when they become too outrageous. But the news media has always been hyperpartisan and full of lies.

Edit: Yeah. Just downvote, cowards.

Instead of calling downvoters cowards can you point to something that substantiates your argument? I was able to swiftly look for and find the exact story re: Rather and Olbermann mentioned in the parent comment.

What do you offer here to counter this that doesn't rely on me blindly taking your word for it?

I belive the fundamental difference is that in the old system, someone could be incredibly selective in which facts they used, and slant those facts as much as they wanted, but the sacred line than could not be crossed was making up facts.

However, in this new thing, reputation free news, right and left, the baseline of facts is gone.

Fact is there are no good old days, in the gatekeeper era only a select few got to BS, now that BS vending is widespread. The Networks act certain way because remember they use the "airwaves" permitted to them by the public for common good. That is it.

As some one said, If Trump were to walk on Water, NYT would report, Trump cannot swim. We already know no positive headline would come out of NYT for a Republican president, so is it really "highly" credible? If we think these are the worst of the times, then we really do not have depth about what happened in the past.

The Press wants good old days, where they were demi-gods with access to contacts and info, and in this information age that bar has been lowered and Facebook is eating their "attention" lunch.

If looked objectively NYT is just being a whinny grumpy old man.

Or the NYT would parrot his war machine propaganda (Judith Miller and Iraq war) and bury his illegal dragnet surveillance (NSA warrantless wiretapping).

The NYT (and MSM in general) do not have a liberal bias but an establishment bias...unless of course we're supposed to seriously believe that they buried Bernie and elevated Hillary because "he wasn't as liberal as Hillary"...

If the Past 8 years are any evidence, I would disagree with your analysis of "establishment" bias. Even with Snowden revelations its every body but Obama that was guilty.

edit: I m being specific to NYT.

You can "disagree" with it all you want, but you just cited an example in support of it...Obama and the NSA (the establishment) wasn't the bad guy, Snowden (i.e. Emmanual Goldstein) was.

There are many examples of the mainstream media manipulating the news to suit their preferred narrative. I have written about this a bit, using the example of how the New York Times, and their associated fact checkers, pushed the false narrative that Trump mocked a reporter's disability. [1] There are hundreds of other examples, but you have to make the effort to get out of your bubble to see them.

As for the topic: Traditional media is losing its distribution to social networks, so it's fighting back with what it sees as its market advantage: The Truth. However, the new distribution methods allow users to find the truth in a different way from before. Instead of Dan Rather telling you the one true news, people collect their news from multiple sources and make their minds up. As with distribution, the mainstream media is set to lose this next part of the battle.

[1] http://newslines.org/blog/lets-talk-about-fake-news/

People don't "collect their news from multiple sources and make their minds up". Even if one is ignorant of the decades of substantial research on political ignorance (Phillip Converse, Ilya Somin, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse's "Stealth Democracy", etc.) that demonstrates this to be false, they need only have multiple interactions with other Americans to realize that in most cases they're dealing with parrots.

That is not fake news. Trump made a pallsy gesture when mocking a disabled reporter who actually crooks his arms like that. It's not the media's fault he's the kind of bloated jackass who makes pallsy gestures when mocking everybody.

They saw something that walked and talked like a duck and called it a duck. You supported a bloviating toddler for president, don't call it "fake news" when somebody notices.

That's not even what fake news even means. "Fake news" is yet another example of the right perverting a word to mock others for their own weaknesses. Fake news isn't slightly distorting the facts or lying by omission, it's making things up from whole cloth.

Obama birth certificate nonsense is "fake news". Pizzagate is fake news. Trump making pallsy gestures when mocking a disabled reporter is literally what happened. The only thing is some missing nuance that he does that to everybody because he's a dick.

You can argue about the Trump gesture but at least he wasn't making a lot of money out of imitating a vulnerable person in public as did Trump's critic, Meryl Streep and company with the film 'Iron Lady'. Margaret Thatcher was still alive at that time suffering from dementia. Thatcher's biographer has noted that no one asked the family for their permission or views on portraying her at such a distressing time. Imagine the feelings of family members while film goers went to see an enactment of scenes undoubtedly akin to the reality.

Ironically, when discussing the NYT and fake news, one might make a strong case with Judith Miller's reporting on Iraq, or Wen Ho Lee. There's lots of scandals where major outlets have pursued obviously agenda driven stories to the point of journalistic malpractice. But what Sparkzilla sees as fake news is the most literal reporting on the most straightforward example on which there's almost no disagreement by anyone else.

See my answer above. It's fake news because it was a manipulation of the truth to suit a narrative. That the narrative is so strong is why I chose it. The facts are independent of whether one supports Trump or not.

This is a truly pathetic take. Your best example of "Fake News" is NYT reported on Trump making a gesture suspiciously exactly what one might do if one wanted to mock someone with Serge Kovaleski's disability?

My god the fact that you can think this and think you're being reasonable makes me despondent. If a kid does this in school the teacher makes them apologize and doesn't let the kid weasel out by saying "but I do it to everyone!!!" Actions have consequences. NYT and others holding Trump to the moral standard of a grade schooler is not "Fake News".

It's the best example because it shows how strong the narrative is. As you can see from the video and other evidence that has been presented by multiple sources, Trump did not actually mock Kovaleski's disability. He is an equal opportunity mocker, and has mocked non-disabled people in exactly the same way. Other evidence shows that Kovalestic doesn't even have the kind of motions Trump mocked.

The Times, and the fact checkers, clearly manipulated the incident to make the case that he specifically mocked his disability. The freeze frame is the most obvious trick, but the words and tone go a long way too. But the evidence shows their manipulations to be false, yet the narrative persists. Even the fact check admits he didn't mock the reporter's disability (yet it still gives him a negative rating). Instead of being despondent at me -- and shooting the messenger -- you should be angry at them for manipulating you.

You have also invented a narrative for yourself and aren't responding to what I wrote. I'm talking about what he did, you're talking about a straw man who thinks that Trump for sure 100% in his heart of hearts knew how Serge Kovaleski looked and meant to mock that. I can't know 100% what's in Trump's mind. The idea of knowing is horrifying enough, so no thank you. Regardless it sounds like we agree that he did something exactly like what you'd do if you wanted to mock someone with Serge Kovaleski's disability.

It's not unfair to Trump or "Fake News" that he is such a jackass that he made fun of a guy who had a disability by doing a motion that looked like that disability. It's not "Fake News" to report on how he acted, how it looked, and how he refused to apologize or really give anyone a reason to think he wasn't making fun of the guy. Trump is lucky to have sleuths like you on the case though to clear his otherwise pristine name.

You say the contents of Trump's heart, and video evidence that he does this to everyone, somehow excuse this action. I say that's nonsense, and your attempts to cover for him, and to paint this as some kind of media bias, are both bizarre and disheartening.

I'm sorry, in 3rd grade and for the president, you have to apologize when you do something like this whether in your heart you meant to or not. Actions and consequences matter, and video evidence from your blog post, of Trump acting like a the bloated mean-spirited old pervert with the mind of an incurious 11 year old that he is a bunch of other times, is not some smoking gun that proves we're all under a delusion. But keep fighting the good fight buddy. Really glad to have you putting all this effort into something worthwhile.

It's cool how articles like this are able to take a vague feeling that probably a lot of people have and put it in more concrete terms. It is well-written.

They mentioned that some post had gotten big enough that it had merited commentary by Snopes. When the vast majority of political discussion takes place over a distributed mess of memes the nature of fact-checking changes tremendously. On top of that, a lot of these pages are building up the ideological armor to rebuff attempts by the platforms themselves to provide more rigorous filters (e.g. "corrupt Twitter / Reddit algorithms"). Maybe this is just the way the world works now, but if so that's kind of depressing.

Thought this was interesting:

///// Littlepage is also a recent convert. During the primaries, he was a Cruz supporter, and he even tried making some left-wing pages on Facebook but discovered that they just didn’t make him as much money. /////

Now with Trump in charge, will this flip? With angry leftists flocking to Occupy Democrats, Young Turks, etc?

We'll see.

I skimmed that buzzfeed article for examples, all the ones I checked were either right-wing outlets "conservative Daily" or articles containing speculation about Trump's/Bannon's plans, backed by recent factual evidence. Not fake facts.

To me, the media always believes the rest of the non-media world is interested. We are not.

None of the 300-500 people i deal with each week ever talk about "stuff" in this article. Hardly ever does the word Facebook ever come up (except my spouse who uses FB to voyeur friends &family )

<centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way.

Nope. Not to those I know. Just because it's on a screen does not mean it an engrain.

People aren't stupid. Really. Whether it's Walter Cronkite or National Enquirer or Readers Digest. Or now Facebook or fox news or npr or blogs. We get it.

Just because the vehicle to spread BS has moved does not mean we don't realize that.

Chill out American press.

You don't have any friends or family who sincerely believe in patently stupid claims on FB, like Hillary Clinton being a Satanist and/or serial killer? You're quite fortunate, but I assure you there are large numbers of people who genuinely believe in complete BS.

Perhaps. How would or could I determine this?

I think there is a difference between reciting BS on the internet and believing it.

Just for kicks i am going to ask my acquaintances if they use FB, why and how often. Could be a good conversation starter.

The big issue not mentioned is how much influence Facebook exerts by feeding users what each user likes. Facebook is by its nature a filter bubble. That's inherently divisive.

The filter bubble is relatively minor -- we've always filtered our social groups. The open bazaar Internet is a recent anomaly. Facebook's dark side is how outrageous lies spread faster than nuanced truth (regardless of partisanship), and Facebook's technology accelerates the difference

This seems like a good time to link to this prescient 2002 TED talk from Daniel Dennett on "dangerous memes":


Fucking LOL. The NYT. Purveyors of bullshit extraordinaire. Telling us about the media machine.

Their end can't come soon enough. Judith Miller 2003. Never forget.


from August 2016

Good catch! Added.

Visit the article, if for no other reason than the emoji Great Seal

Those are Facebook UI graphics, not emoji

Actually, an emoji is defined as "any of various small images, symbols, or icons used in text fields in electronic communication (as in text messages, e-mail, and social media) to express the emotional attitude of the writer, convey information succinctly, communicate a message playfully without using words, etc" (merriam webster)

So I think the icons seen in the graphic would qualify as emoji.

Verify and Trust;

we need to realize that social media experts have basically discovered a new form of addictive drug that is based on ideas instead of on a physical substance. "if it bleeds, it leads", but industrialized and backed by big data, in the way that cocaine was an industrial-revolution optimization of relatively benign coca leaves. there are people who literally cannot take their eyes of this stuff, constantly looking for the next 'high' of outrage. righteous anger in meme form has some kind of addictive force beyond what we have seen before on a scale that can manipulate mass audiences in a way that propagandists of the old times would never have been able to dream of.

we should be worried the last three presidents were all elected by the team with the best data operation.

it has infiltrated the communication you have with your family members - never before in human history was your interaction with your own family and friends mediated through a for profit corporation whose interest it was to make you share memes.

i dont know if i am ahead of things but as someone who was on the internet since 1996... i deleted my facebook account years ago. i deleted my twitter this past year. i am close to deleting google.

i pay money to certain sites that i value, and patreon creators. my money goes to people who make stuff, and they make stuff i like without trying to manipulate me with some kind of weaponized big data political campaign. the free internet is almost become an unusable pile of shit.

i feel like there is this nugget of people leaving behind the 'standard internet' for these new little bubble enclaves where we cannot be assaulted with never ending streams of .... garbage. i dont know the name for it...

we need a name for it. its something like a drug, but crossed with a meme. it is a virus but one that you voluntarily re-infect yourself with every time you log on to some platform like facebook.

its like addiction but without the physical component. its a dysfunctional manipulative relationship but one side is a data center and a bunch of algorithms.

its like a toxic person but that person is a platform that you log in to every day to try to connect with people who are not toxic. its like you cannot get away from the toxicity anymore

its like if there was ubiquitous angry talk radio that you could never escape. its there in your pocket all the time waiting to get you angry about something or other.

its almost like the internet is turning people into psychotics... except they really do hear little voices in their heads all day long telling them how terrible the world is. because that is what is really actually happening.

its like renting your brain out to a corporation, for free, so that you can plug into some pseudo community that exists only to generate profit.

these things all come through some kind of 'feed', which is designed to trigger the release of brain chemicals that in a feedback loop cause you to consume more of the feed.

the feed is designed by an algorithm and big data. you are like the squirrel in the psychology experiment, except of pushing the lever to get more nuts, you push the lever to get another hit of the chemicals that are released when you have a nother righteous anger story in your feed.

they used to call blackberry 'crackberry'.

maybe they are more like drug dealers. anger dealers.

or virus spreaders. they spread the viruses and re-infect people even as they try to get away.

maybe they are the reservoirs of the virus....

their only purpose is to grow. using your brain. your mind that is.

maybe they are , essentially,

mind cancer.

Have you ever watched CGP Grey's "This Video Will Make You Angry"[1]? I feel it touches on most of the issues you raised with the spread of 'garbage' ideas.

[1] http://www.cgpgrey.com/blog/this-video-will-make-you-angry

I liked your comment. Social media capitalizes on perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of being human: the need for validation. In the physical world, we build relationships with each other by validating and appreciating each other. I liked your comment. What do you think of mine?

Legacy media is a one-way street: they talk to you. In social media, it's a conversation. Even by clicking 'like' or 'dislike' you feel like you are part of the conversation, even if it is in some small, non-zero way. You get to be heard. This is what makes it so addictive.

Made an account to respond to this.

On the net a bit before you. Effectively left the net around 2003-2004 due to a dangerous rise in vigilante-ism specific to a community I was involved in. Saw the darkness coming, a prelude to the Twitterite-Trumpian shit. Net was no longer about amazing technologies connecting people. Became a power that could be used against people.

Never had any social media accounts. Surprises me people could not see where it was going. People who never touched HTML didn't see what they were giving up by raising their flag on corporate PHP. The ecosystem of private web has almost entirely disappeared. Today you're either corporate or silenced.

Don't have any permanent accounts anywhere. Imo, accounts are surveillance / advertising delivery mechanisms. The longer you ride an account, the more info "they" have on you. And one day somebody is going to want to f__k with you. And it'll all be there, on a plate.

(This is not a theory. I saw it happen, more than once. Including to myself.)

Gave up email around 2005 as the worst offender. All your account information, all your personal business, all your draft-grade ideas, all in one place, waiting for some a__h__e to hack in or get a warrant? No thanks. And nobody has any discretion in email. Nobody has figured out how to use PGP in 25 years. Hopeless.

People who use social media, imo, are like Neanderthals waiting for their extinction event. Intelligent people, engineers, and evil corporate and political people are basically cooking up crack and handing it out so they can get rich and grab power. Zuckerberg sitting beside world leaders at the G8 a decade ago kind of cemented this perception imo. And the Neanderthals keep signing up as if all of this was neutral, like clean air or fresh water.

(My favorite Neanderthals are the political activists claiming the high ground of human rights to conduct their political campaigns via Facebook without the threat of surveillance!)

And, yes, I live in a cave. I'm almost not joking.

Tried recently to get an email to register for a throwaway account somewhere. Could not figure it out via Tor. Tor services permanently or temporarily out of service. Or require non-anonymous bitcoin. No way to get emails without leaving trail. No way to be anonymous. Internet = surveillance. No more privacy. Everybody is a social media idiot. America is crumbling. Not a coincidence, imo.

When I get nostalgic for the good old days of cyber revolutionaries and tech manifestos, I think of the failure of the front page of Reddit to provide any solutions to the very serious long term problems we are facing as a species. It's all astroturfed joke gifs and one or two rage-news story of the moment. The comments have gone from bad to impenetrably terrible in the past 5 years. There's no wisdom in this crowd.

(Hackernews is an interesting exception, but the narrowness that keeps it sane is also its shortfall. Not every problem can be solved from the command prompt by start-up engineering visionaries. The principle virtue here is respect for craft, and it shows everyday in the careful comments.)

The internet has turned into something worse than television. The people are more passive as ever in their hyper-personalized info-holes, zoned into whatever gives them that dopamine hit, as you put it.

Reading used to be an alternative to television. We used to leave the boob tube and go read a newspaper, or a book. Reading was good. The internet has transformed reading into the problem. Where is the escape? The people who wrote, who called themselves intellectuals, used to occupy a social and technological space separate from television. They had their own world. Now writers, um, bloggers, newspapermen, scholars, and the rest, are all shoulder to shoulder in a disorderly cue, all mobbed together trying to get a golden ticket on the train to success. And the train station is called Facebook, or Twitter. Writers have always been poor, but never until today have they been beggars.

(My favorite omen is Twitter, where all the formerly important pillars of the political aristocracy, like Bill Kristol for example, go to flash their underwear. Trump is just the best example. Hardly the worst. Imagine Hemmingway ruined by Twitter.)

The internet destroyed the BBS scene. First came the information superhighway through that hometown feel. Then came the skyscraper social media conglomerates. Now we're getting the double tap psychological bombing campaigns that shake the ruins we are huddling in. And we are supposed to be amused.

I don't know how people manage all this disaster. Maybe like most people they buy junk cookies and pies and forget that grandma used to make this stuff at home much better, and that's why we used to love her. Life in America has become worse and worse. Emptier and emptier. More abstractly equal, more invasively political. And in the past 20 years, America has been transformed by surveillance properties of the internet.

Nobody has a handle on this. Including the great political parties, including the technologists, including the intelligence services. Great winds are sweeping through.

I think America is reaching its late Soviet period. The machine is creaking. Everybody is looking at each other wondering what part of the machine is breaking. The ship is full of leaks (and not only Wikileaks).

The plan is to rearrange the deck chairs. Just a little more Uber. A few more sprinkles of Netflix. Just one more cloud service. Fix Facebook. If we can get one more round of funding. If I can cash this pay check (with no healthcare no dental no retirement fund). One more Walmart shopping binge. One more lid of meth. One more line of code.

The internet revolution has become nothing other than the digital exploitation of the masses. Every attempt to right the ship has failed. There is no decentralized post-surveillance internet coming. Trump is the past present and future.


Have you considered that you're just old and the new generation will be able to instinctively pick out which bloggers are credible and which are just full of shit? I mean, your rant reads like something Bradbury would write approx. 50 years ago regarding TV.

> whose interest it was to make you share memes

why would Facebook care about your sharing memes? Facebook cares about you spending time on the site (so you look at ads)


Gotta be either the Soros or the Koch, right? I don't have a coin at hand to flip.

"Why not both." I just looked, and it seems, during the last election cycle, the Facebook PAC gave just about equal amounts to both parties.

As technologists defining our black sheep is as core to defining our community as to any other. It make us feel better about ourselves (as long as we are not associated with the dark side). Instead of focusing on building better tech, we can instead point fingers at <put political target here> for getting in our way.

When you accuse people of being shills, you miss the point entirely. Why would it matter? If the shills are promoting bad ideas, people will respond with criticism, and the evil forces behind the shills will have wasted their money. This is definitely not the kind of site where opinions go unchallenged.

This also indicates a delusional, conspiratorial view of the world, to the extent that you believe people on this relatively niche site are being paid to post things. Has it occurred to you that people actually believe this things? That's all that is sufficient to explain this.

>This also indicates a delusional, conspiratorial view of the world, to the extent that you believe people on this relatively niche site are being paid to post things

I would believe that too, but given the fact that 90% of the news related to those companies not only here, but in most tech sites are always negative I'm starting to think the contrary.

If it is negative and there are no false criticisms in there, then maybe that negativity is warranted? Not to mention it seems to echo with the gut feeling of quite a few people.

> then maybe that negativity is warranted?

I don't think so, because even positive things gets twisted into something negative, the biaz is to strong.

Well, don't leave us all waiting - who is it?

Hacker News has a heavy Google Bias. If you criticize google on here, half the time your comment will get shadow censored.

Such biases are almost always in the eye of the beholder.

Unintentionally gigantic? I really kind of thought the first order of business was to make that social media platform into a giant.

well fuck me sideways, i thought the purpose of technology was to enoble the human condition, lift up society, and make our civilization better for the future generations. didnt realize that corporations profit margin is the only possible good to come out of technology.

Technology does not have purpose. We use technology to our own ends.

> i thought the purpose of technology was to enoble the human condition, lift up society, and make our civilization better for the future generations

The question is whether that is the purpose of Facebook. I don't think it is; I think the purpose of Facebook is to become a social media giant, as coffeymug said. Technology for Facebook is just a means to that end.

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