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Facebook’s Political Unit Enables Propaganda (bloomberg.com)
419 points by ucaetano on Dec 21, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 237 comments



Remember this? https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15790687

To some extent it's still going on. Protests are still happening (and it's really bad) so lately I've been noticing a bunch of - what I think are - shill accounts. Couple of days before I went through some of the posts in news post about the protests and identified several profiles with no personal pictures, no posts, posting in broken Romanian about:

- anti-protests

- anti-EU and basically nationalistic bullshit

- religion and how that will solve everything

- government does nothing wrong and protesters are a bunch of thugs

- links to well-known fake news websites

- inciting violence while appearing to be pro-protest

Groups of accounts such as these are brigading some popular news postings and I don't really find them inside the anti-protester echo rooms.

the accounts look and feel similarly to the spam profiles which were prevalent a few years back having supermodel headshots as profile pictures.

I reported about 12 such profiles and the response from Facebook was that I should block these accounts as a resolution, as they aren't doing anything wrong per Facebook community guidelines and they are legit accounts.

In contrast, 'famous' people who are famously anti-government (and trolls, that's true, like this guy: https://www.facebook.com/macacaur) are getting their accounts disabled every couple of weeks and require photo ID proof to re-enable.


How do you know what goes on outside of your direct perception anyway? It used to be conventional media channels and they would print what was arguably propaganda, but there wouldn't be any Russian trolls to poke holes in it.

Imagine if the Iraq WMD story broke now. All those Russian trolls spamming Facebook running around saying it was bullshit. That would be total chaos! Why don't people trust the mainstream?

The reality is that propaganda works. You think you know what fake news is and what's reality, but we never did and most people follow the time-honored tradition of letting our chosen authority figures tell us who is conspiring with the bad guys. This frees us from the cognitive pain of considering their arguments and evidence because they are puppets of some nebulous evil forces and therefore safe to ignore.


When the Iraq WMD situation unfolded, it was met with plenty of skepticism. “MSM” gave it air time, but it was overcome by the deception of the administration at the time, e.g., Sec. Powell’s statements and the cherry-picked CIA assessment.

Your example actually undermines your argument.

If anything, we need honest actors around to poke holes in narratives produced by authorities, not ones with the goal of weakening society.

This goes for nations that experience interference from the US as well. It makes sense that Iranian society should protect itself from covert US attempts at influence.


It was "overcome" because the reporting had little backbone to begin with. Most of the rest of the world was demanding proof but the MSM did little to make the American public aware of that. Powell, the IC statements, etc. were just part of the theatre, part of the spin.

The bottom line was, the MSM was on board and played a key roll in the WMDs snow job.


But no-one believed it. At the time there was a protest of well over 1M people in London against the war. Which is huge, between 1.5% and 3.3% of the entire population of Britain. My work actually gave us the day off to go to it.


Yes, basically that's what I said. That is, the USA MSM "under-reported" the lack of belief internationally. The American people were sold fiction and they gladly bought it.


That’s simply not true. There was a huge anti-war response in the U.S. too. The country was very divided on the subject.


Wrong issue. The issue here is the validity of the WMDs. There would be no war debate is that lie was exposed for what it was (i.e., a lie).


Mmm, there was definitely enough reports in US media that reported on the criticism if you listened hard enough. Linkregister's account was what I remembered. The polling history shows a distinctive minority that opposed the war (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_opinion_in_the_United_...).

I will buy the criticism that some media definitely did stick too obediently to the administration line, the question is how much did media influence opinion? Post-9/11 "feelings" were involved after all. From my viewpoint, Abu Ghraib and the "Mission Accomplished" statement that wasn't, among other things, were needed to change many people's minds.


> if you listened hard enough

_that_ is the key. If The Fourth Estate is doing their job you shouldn't have to turn down the MSM noise to hear The Truth. Facts should be the majority not some passing fringe moment.

And don't forget Bush's follow up lie "Mission Accomplished" wasn't scrutinized as it should have been.


Yes and not everybody bought what msm sold


True. But those who didn't believe were marginalized as unpatriotic.


I think his point was, if it happened now, any skepticism would be immediately dismissed as Russian trolls, as it is not consistent with the "correct" mainstream narrative.

I see this happening frequently even where there is zero motive for Russians to be involved, but it is no less effective as we've let the authorities do our thinking for us for so long.


Things are different the closer to Russia a country is (like Romania, from where I'm from). The thing with the fake FB accounts only showing "nice girls" as profile photos is all too real, I think I've reported 2 or 3 of them directly to FB, nothing happened, at which point I started calling them out as shill accounts directly. It's interesting seeing Russian propaganda in action. For Romania they have a website called sputnik.md which apparently is centered on Republic of Moldova's domestic issues, but every couple of days or so they have an article on Romania whose exact ideas then get regurgitated by some of the Romanian corrupt politicians or by the local corrupt media supporting them another couple of days later.

> I see this happening frequently even where there is zero motive for Russians to be involved, but it is no less effective as we've let the authorities do our thinking for us for so long.

Everybody gets involved, everybody, because it's so easy and relatively cheap and because the stakes are so high (controlling the public discourse, world-wide). It's just that at the moment the Russians are better at this internet-influencing game compared to the Americans and their allies (imho the Israelis are the best, but they only get involved when there's talk about Gaza and the West Bank). I guess this is payback for Radio Free Europe and Radio Voice of America, when the US used to have the upper hand.


I agree, Russia has invested the most capital toward this tactic, and it has paid off. It also has had more historical success with this “sowing discord” tactic than the US, which preferred to spend money on puppet revolutionaries and coups during the cold war.

I would rather that instead of the US government responding in kind with sockpuppets, it would do the much harder work of coming up with an enormous transparency initiative that would nullify the effectiveness of foreign and domestic attempts at sowing discord and propagating falsehoods.

The best Soviet propaganda successes used instances that were genuine weaknesses for the US, such as civil rights and suspicion over US intelligence agencies’ abuses.


"You think you know what fake news is and what's reality, but we never did..."

I think this may be one of the most simple and insightful comments I have read recently. Thank you.

My only thought is how do you find bedrock to base ideas when you can't trust any of it?


Ehm, the WMD story was universally understood as being a load of horseshit from day one. But on the other hand lying in public and not caring about it, counting your clients proclaiming their belief in your fabrications is an exercise of power. “With us of against us”, same old monkey speak


Persona Management software is a real thing.

This link is from 6 years ago. In the past 5 years, I'm sure it's been refined and weaponized.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-op...



Who's gaming social media? EVERYONE, from every kid to every mom-and-pop store to every corporation on the planet. Why is it that people who are butt-hurt about the past election only want to talk about "the Russians," when (I'm betting) that a large chunk of users on this site are getting paid to do so as at least part of their job. If <insert Fortune 500> had the resources of a nation-state, do you think they would suddenly develop a case of ethics, and stop scaling up their efforts to play the same game that Russia did/does? Do you think China is ANY LESS involved in the same activity? Or Iran, or NK, or Israel, or the US?! I wish people would wake up and realize that the only winning move is not to play.


No, every kid and mom and pop store is not creating a network of false identities to sway public opinion and incite violence. Your hot take that kids trying to get Likes is the same thing, so we shouldn't care or do anything about it, is I'm sorry to say, insane.


Israel does.

http://www.newsweek.com/israels-fake-news-war-how-idf-uses-s...

China does. And we have documented proof of their MAJOR interference in US elections in 1996. They also have recently stolen nuclear secrets and billions worth of weapons research.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_United_States_campaign_fi...

How come nobody is talking about them? Did China magically stop being the bad guys after their last controversy... in 2008?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/20/america-china-...

If we were really as critical thinking as we think we are, we'd be wondering why Russia is so important, and yet China is completely absent from the national discussion. You can learn more from what isn't covered in the news, than what is.

And I'm not saying Russia ISN'T important. I'm saying ALL nation-state actors are important and should be discussed. Anything and everything Russia has done, China is currently doing. So why aren't we trying to stop them just as much? Why aren't we digging up dirt on them, just as hard? Why aren't we probing our senators for connections to China? Could it be they own a significant fraction of US interests? Hmmm...


I don't know what you think I said, but yes, sure, investigate all of them, that sounds great? What is your point exactly? Nobody ever said Russia is unique in this regard. That doesn't make it a waste of time to investigate the extremely current and ongoing Russian interference. It's literally affecting people's everyday lives at this very moment. Priorities are a thing.


My literal point was that China _is_ affecting our elections RIGHT NOW. So any discussion of election interference should include ALL nations that are doing it.

NK and China both directly interfered in our 2016 election:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/north-korea-china-i...

http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/11/09/china-just-won-the-u-s-e...

Did you know that already? Or are you enacting the entire flaw I'm talking about? That everyone is so focused on ONE country that they're forgetting the others that are doing the exact same thing.

And when China isn't apart of the discussion, my second point is this: Who has the most to gain by keeping the discussion on a DIFFERENT country (Russia) than themselves? China. I would not be surprised at all to know that the kings of nation-state hacking themselves, would also be fanning the "Russia is the threat (so don't look at any other threats!)" narrative to keep the heat off themselves.

I've got sources and logic on my side here. Are you really going to continue arguing that other nations don't matter, because "somehow" Russia is an even bigger threat--even when they do the same evil actions as Russia? At that the country with the largest military on the planet that is "at technological/effective parity" with US forces, doing the same evil actions, is somehow not a threat to us?

http://www.businessinsider.com/chinas-military-near-parity-w...

So is this really about politics and logic, or is this simply a matter of projecting still bitter wounds about the Trump election, and you don't "know" that China got him elected so they don't matter? What if you found out China DID get him elected, will you suddenly care then? I just proved that China interfered in our elections. So is this really about elections, or, simply, a Russia hate bandwagon and sharing the limelight with China would dilute it?

Be honest. When was the last time you saw a major discussion on HN, or the news, about China's interference in our elections? Did you even know it happened? If you found out Uber/Dick Cheney/Facebook/whatever skewed the elections and wasn't reported anywhere, wouldn't you wonder why there's that omission?


You are now being completely dishonest.

First article:

> Priebus did not cite any evidence to back up his apparent bombshell.

> The White House said in a statement to the Daily News that Priebus "was addressing hacking generally, not election manipulation."

> But none of the intelligence reports have officially said China or North Korea played a part in that, calling into question where Priebus got his information.

The second article does not even mention election interference or even swaying public opinion AT ALL, even slightly. Did you read past the headline? Because by "China Just Won The U.S. Election" the article describes that Trump's policies would be "a win" for China. Not that they got Trump elected.

You are deliberately muddying the waters in bad faith. I'm not that stupid. Goodbye.


Sure, it's a sliding scale, but the question is where you THINK you draw the line. OK, kids pestering their friends to like their stuff is one end of the scale. Are you saying that large numbers of companies AREN'T creating fake accounts to sway Facebook opinion of their public persona, or Amazon reviews of their products? That's just business, right? Well what's the difference between that, and what governments may be doing, to sway public opinion on issues, or candidates? Facebook, THEMSELVES, playing with traffic for the benefit of their own agendas, are in the mix too.

To me, it's all just differences of degree, not kind. To suggest there's a magical barrier that gets crossed when this sort of thing suddenly becomes unethical is, in my view, the insane position. Either it's all fair game, or... well, it IS all fair game, and the only people who would say that it ISN'T are the suckers. If you disagree with the state of affairs, take it up with Facebook and Twitter, who have DESIGNED their systems to be gamed, not with the people who are using them as designed.

Hate the game, not the player.


> This link is from 6 years ago. In the past 5 years, I'm sure it's been refined and weaponized.

Well before then, it's greatest impact has been on the climate change "debate" which I think was the first major deployment of the conept and they've got it down to a fine art these days. They just sow the seeds of doubt by getting the sock puppet accounts to ask seemingly innocuous questions, if you follow through with answers it quickly becomes obvious that there was no genuine curiosity, there wasn't just "one thing they don't understand about climate change" but a whole hosting of common denier talking points.


> are getting their accounts disabled every couple of weeks and require photo ID proof to re-enable.

Sounds like hi tech version if voter ID and serving basically the same purpose.


Imagine if ABC/CBS/NBC actively went to political parties and sold them on buying their way into the scripts of the top prime-time sitcoms to shape the opinion of viewers.

That's essentially what Facebook is doing out in the open.


Imagine...

If somebody like Rush Limbaugh had a nationwide radio show where day by day he created content based on RNC talking points.

Or a network like Fox or MSNBC went all in on party loyalty and based all their content on party talking points.

Or a media conglomerate like Sinclair or Clear Channel pushed out political messaging to their affiliates in small markets that had to be aired during prime viewership.

oh wait...


The goal in for-profit communication is always going to be the same: getting return visits. The best way to do that is to tell people what they want to hear. This is why Rush and Fox and MSNBC and Breitbart have the content they have.

This is also what Facebook is doing. However, since they have the advantage of being able to complete personalize your feed to give you what you want, they can provide 100% coverage across all demographics.


>The best way to do that is to tell people what they want to hear.

It's about providing validation and reassurance.

Which doesn't always require telling people what they want to hear, but it certainly helps.

Rush and Fox and Breitbart exist because there is a need -- millions of people who are seeking emotional validation that their worldviews are correct.

It's the same reason left-leaning publications exist. Emotional validation disguised as news.


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> "places where there’s no social push to behave in a certain way."

This social push is a function of a community. If you happen to not feel any pressure to behave a certain way, you're very likely already behaving in line with the norms of the community you're in.


Oh big media have Trump a big push as well

When they bought every bait and switch from him

When they blew several of his tweets out of proportion

When they demonized some of his opinions or sided with the more extreme ""leftist"" opinions


[flagged]


[flagged]


>I tracked the original studies and discovered that literally every statistics said by feminists, namely Hillary Clinton and Obama, is false.

Nope.

Whenever someone tries to imply that the "enemy" is perfectly evil or malicious, as you are attempting to do here, you can be certain that someone is trying to propagandize you. I'm going to be charitable per HN guidelines and assume you're not commenting in bad faith, but just in case you are, my advice would be to dial back the hyperbole just a wee bit if you want to accomplish anything more than incel virtue-singaling.


I don't know about "every", but I know Obama(and probably Clinton) pushed the 77% wage gap statistic. Just googling "campus rape clinton" brings me to Clinton's website which proudly displays the "one in five is sexually assaulted" story. You can tell how illusory that statistic is because the site gets the narrative wrong - it says 1/5 report sexual assault, but you can count those reports and disprove it. The narrative that goes along with that "statistic" is that 1/5 get sexually assaulted and 90%+ don't report it.

(I don't think these "lies" really make Obama or Clinton stand out from the rest of the political flock, for what it's worth, I'm a fan of Obama).


Not to mention that someone who has studied this alleged phenomenon as much as the commenter claims would be less reluctant to post evidence in support of the allegation.


I never understand why people put Fox News and MSNBC on the same pedestal.

Fox News is an an outreach of Trump's political apparatchik. MSNBC was never particularly close to Obama.


I wouldn't put them on a pedestal. And to think that MSNBC airs any kind of content that is non-partisan is a joke.


There are Republicans with shows on MSBBC. Nicolle Wallace has an hour each afternoon – she was Bush's comms director & and worked for McCain's presidential campaign. Joe Scarborough was a Republican member of congress, and he gets 3 hours of MSNBC air per day.


I never said MSNBC wasn't partisan.

But Fox News literally coordinates with the Trump team and he lavishes them personally with praise via Twitter almost every week. It's far more akin to campaign outreach rather than independent news. This never happened with Obama or the DNC.

MSNBC also does have independent journalists e.g. Chuck Todd and right-wing commentators e.g. Hugh Hewitt, Joe Scarborough etc. So it's not entirely liberal.


> This never happened when Obama or the DNC

Except of course when CNN gave the debate questions to Hillary in advance. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/07/do...


Why are people downvoting this? What is incorrect here?


Fox News is following its viewers’ sentiment; it originally favored anti-Trump stories prior to his nomination by the Republican Party.

Now it pushes the Trump line, but this is due to the fact that Fox News rightly recognizes that its viewers want their biases confirmed.


As does CNBC and CNN, admittedly to a far lesser degree, except theirs is the "correct" bias.


CNN has bias that fluctuates wildly toward the perceived flavor of the week; it operates for maximum sensationalism. It basically invented the 24-hour news cycle and hasn’t altered its formula for decades.

CNBC is business news; did you mean MSNBC?

MSNBC has the least viewership of the three and I would not consider it particularly influential. It is biased towards a minority ultra-Democrat position, hence its relatively lower viewership due to its fringe editorial content.


CNN's bias is firmly anti-Trump and it doesn't fluctuates in any way, shape or form. You can go to their home page and at any point, there will be some anti-Trump headlines.


You don’t think it’s coincidental that most Americans will click on a negative Trump article? CNN is a trend follower, not a leader in this regard.


To be fair to Fox News I don't recall anyone in the RNC resigning because they gave candidates debate questions they were privy to as corespondents. (Donna Brazile)


Misconduct occurs in all organizations; while pointing fingers I could make the claim that the Fox News organization is pro-sexual harassment because of two high officials’ actions (Ailes and O’Rielly). Yet this would be unfair and false.

Lest ye be Roy Moore’d (or Anthony Weinered), it is a mistake to take a bad actor and extrapolate isolated statements or conduct to the greater organization without evidence of a trend.

However, CNN is the topic. Don’t think for a minute if Trump or another Republican achieves greater than 50% popularity, CNN won’t swing that way. Negative coverage of Trump was en vogue before CNN started doing it, not the other way around.


I think people have trouble distinguishing the personalities from the editorial direction.

If MSNBC wasn’t close to Obama, it’s certainly in alignment with many progressive thought leader types. Fox and MSNBC are similar animals, it’s just that the Republican platform is simpler and smaller than the “big tent” Democratic platform.


The writers for most prime-time sitcoms are Democrats. They do it for free.


But their owners and managers who actually tell them what to do and have all of the power over the networks are nearly all Republicans (or right-wing democrats). They don't do it for free, they do it out of self-interest.

For example, Sinclair broadcast group that owns a huge amount of local broadcasting in every media market in the US. Their national corporate governance literally requires all subsidiaries run blatant pro-Trump hyper conservative propaganda pieces.


I've read the "journalists lean left, owners lean right" mantra many, many of times over the last 10 years on various boards, yet the overwhelming majority of network news and shows, cable news and entertainment shows dump on Republicans/Conservatism and fawn over Democrats/Liberalism. IMO, it's a very misleading idea meant to deceive people into thinking their sources of news or entertainment are somehow more honest than they actually are.


You're conflating two very different concepts. The mantra is not "journalists are Democrats, owners are Republicans."

Cable news and entertainment fawned over Hilary, not Bernie.


Cable news has an exaggerated influence. Nobody watches that crap. The real action happens in other mediums.


So they fawned over a Democrat, then? I fear I don't understand your point. Can you help me?


The error is in thinking Hillary is majorly opposed to the Republican agenda. A lot of Bernie supporters switched camps to Trump, as insane as that may sound. The rich would continue to accumulate more money either way, more war in the Middle East, etc. I viewed Trump as kind of a last ditch hail Mary, which seems to have been a bad guess in retrospect.


Hillary is a democrat, Bernie Sanders is an extremist. So the mantra stands.


This kind of information-free comment is just trolling. You've been breaking the guidelines a lot, so we have to ask that you please go read them and stop.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


As a european it's always funny hearing some americans call Bernie an extremist.

Here he's just an average left-leaning politician, we elect plenty of people like him all the time. US politics are so absurdly shifted right it's mind blowing.

Edit: Does anyone here actually disagree with this or am I just being downvoted because people are upset this is the case?


European politics is so stupidly shifted left, it’s mind blowing.


No, actually, in this case the wording applies. It's one of the only countries in the world with such conservative stances on health care, guns, drugs and religion and really the only country with the aggregate of it all.

Comparatively, Europe is shifted left for sure, but you can't start doing something differently and then claim others are the ones doing it differently.


You're mistaking "Republicans are right now a steaming heap of awful" with "News and shows are left-leaning".

I'm a huge fan of having a principled, Conservative, political group. They are there to help provide measured, sane, grounding and represent the status-quo in opposition to those who would change it.

That's actually a good thing for Progressives - it helps test the ideas, to forge them into concrete and reliable policy, as well as get rid of ideas that aren't fully formed or have terrible knock-on effects.

I'd love a Conservative group like that. But the Republicans are not it. Some channels are more left-leaning that others but - speaking as someone left wing - only barely.

It's like the show Newsroom - the lead character in that espoused traditional Republican ideals. He was very much a 60s-70s Republican. Yet he was often criticized for being "too liberal". Things that got Regan elected, but not proposed by Democrats, are "too liberal".

News will have bias, obviously. There is no such thing as news without bias, ever. However to someone from originally outside the US the US media is at best centrist. At worst it's absolutely maddeningly right-wing.


As far as I can understand, this is the wrong way to think about conservatism in the United States. Conservatives are not 'just interested in preserving the status quo'. They are interested in conserving liberty. This is because the nature of liberty is to yield, every time a law is passed it is a limitation on liberty. This is why Reagan said 'libertarianism is at the heart of conservatism' [1]

If conservatives can notice that the government has made massive incursions into liberty they have to challenge the status quo and try and roll back some of these restrictions

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYwQxvFAIJY


The “conservatives” are the main ones eroding that liberty.

Trumps Administration right now, obviously, but the PATRIOT Act, the NSA wiretap program, the entire Regan administration... etc.

So yet, it IS the right way to think about conservatives in the US because that is what they do.

I submit that what you are talking about has zero to do with conservative vs progressive and a lot to do with authoritarianism. Unfortunately the worst offenders for that are US “conservatives” (but not the only offenders).


Quite honestly, in the past 10 or so years, the Republican party has made itself extremely easy to dump on.

More so than the media leaning "left", I think they lean populist. Human interest stories, people falling on hard luck, natural disasters, terrorism. Some of these things 'feel' left-leaning, some 'feel' right-leaning.


>Quite honestly, in the past 10 or so years, the Republican party has made itself extremely easy to dump on.

Quite the opposite actually. As the contemporary left has taken over mainstream culture and turned into the de facto "establishment" that it originally railed against, it's grown intellectually soft and dishonest.

Both sides play to populist emotional appeals and sentiments, but the left-wing outrage industry and identity politics has left them intellectually vulnerable.

I mean, if you want a case study on this vulnerability just head on over to the major liberal think-piece sites and read some of the essays (Salon, Slate, The Atlantic).

Last night I read a piece in The Atlantic that bemoaned the fact that some people expect their neighborhoods to be orderly and not riddled with crime, drugs, and gangs, arguing that these attitudes unfairly discriminated against minorities. This, from a "respectable" magazine!


The left has not taken over anything. We have lived in a very conservative, anti public services regime since the early 1980s. Rollbacks and defunding public schools, health and infrastructure has been on the basis that media has systematically attacked taxation and public spending as wasteful while military spending never seems to be targeted like other social programmes.

We have stop perpetuating this narrative that the media is in anyway 'left' leaning because it is not. When was the last time you read an opinion piece that called for the nationalisation of some private industry?


>The left has not taken over anything.

I specifically said that the dominant culture is left - and it most certainly is, not the economic order.

Virtually every major newspaper in every major city is left-leaning, almost every single cable news network, and all the major tech giants, who are a gateway to content, are undeniably liberal. And academia...well that goes without saying - half are card carrying communists, while the other half are in the ballpark.

In fact, it's heresy to even be conservative at most major tech companies.


> In fact, it's heresy to even be conservative at most major tech companies.

I've found more self-professed libertarians in this field than I've found of their left-leaning counterparts.


Instead of being conservative or liberal why don't we just try being nice to people?

All these hot button issues that divide conservatives/liberals would evaporate if each side just tried, in each interaction to treat the other with dignity and according to their needs.

You know, the golden rule: Treat others like you would like to be treated? That's a good start, but we really need the platinum rule: to treat people how they would like to be treated.

Attempting to walk this path is a much harder task than relying on a dusty old book or on an enumeration of freedoms. It requires one to try to develop humility and wisdom.

I believe there are no moral absolutes, and that only by paying attention the entire situation in the moment can you tell what you should do.

When you adopt this point of view, you see that labels like liberal/conservative are just a set of received ideas that people use to avoid the difficult work described above.

They are just an interrelated set of heuristics allowing you to take shortcuts in our day to day interactions with others.


Then how do you explain the successive insanely excessive right wing governments in the US, Canada, Britain, and Australia over the last 30-40 years?

Have you even read Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky?

What do you even mean by conservative? Liberal?

You do realise that liberal and liberalism means keeping the government out of people's lives. The USA is a liberal nation by definition, for example 'The separation of church and state' and your 'right to bare arms, in a well regulated malitia'


>Then how do you explain the successive insanely excessive right wing governments

I'm not familiar with Australian politics, but as for the others, what do you mean? We have had both liberal and conservative governments the last 30-40 years. This, again, has little to do with the mainstream culture, which was my original point.

As for explaining to you why neoliberalism has triumphed, well I recommend that you start here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_War

>Have you even read Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky?

Yes, and it had quite an effect on me when I was in college, and utterly ignorant of history. A lot has changed now, and while much of the book is still good, Chomsky has lost his credibility as a cultural critic following the embarrassment of his analyses about a few corners of the world...:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fO1JkjbzvPw

Not to mention the Cambodia/Khmer Rouge situation, which should have tipped me off earlier. But I was naive then.

>You do realise that liberal and liberalism means keeping the government out of people's lives....

I understand well what the words mean, friend-o.


>I'm not familiar with Australian politics

I don't think you can really compare Australian Politics with US Politics the situation here is probably more similar to the UK than the US. Our parlimentry system is influenced by the UK 'Westminster system' we do not have a directly elected head of state. If you want to be technical the Govenor General appointed by the Queen is our Head of state. Sitting Prime ministers can be replaced by another member of their own party has happened several times in last 10 years.

To put my biases up front I am a left leaning voter who dislikes both major parties - voted for Greens most recently. Anyway here is my attempt to summarize it:

Our two major parties are the Labor party and the Liberal party.

"Liberal" in Australia has a different meaning to how the word is used in US. Calling someone a liberal or accusing them of holding liberal views has a very different meaning then in US. Here it refers to ecconomic Liberalism (support for private ownership and free trade). The Liberal party typically has a conservative stance on social issues.

Labor party has traditionally drawn it's support from Union movement it's policies mostly align with social democracy. In recent years labor has drifted more right-ward similar to Tony Blair led "New Labour" in UK. Labor party's stance on social issues has boggled my mind in recent years they tend to ping-pong all over the place. In general they take a more populist approach rather than standing on principles (i.e Kevin Rudd walking away from climate change action after declaring it the moral challenge of a generation during his election campaign) which in my opinion plays a big roll in growth of Greens (winning seats in state/federal parliament etc) as the 'inner city left' has somewhat abandoned Labor.

To call either party "insanely excessive" is inaccurate and I say that as someone who disagrees with both parties.


> insanely excessive right wing governments in Canada

Calling anyone who disagrees with your political philosophy "insane" is....I don't even know what word to use.

EDIT: Perhaps instead of a downvote, you could give a few examples of the insanely excessive things right wing governments in Canada have done recently (extraordinary claims and all that....).


The biggest thing that comes to mind (as a non-Canadian) was the Harper government banning scientists from making public statements. It's as if they knew all evidence contradicted the policy they were trying to enact, so rather than enact better policy they just decided to silence anyone who could provide evidence of their malfeasance.


No disagreement from me that that policy was absolutely shameful. But it falls a ways short of "successive insanely excessive right wing governments", at least for me.


ISPs, in basically every conversation about net neutrality for the last two weeks.


The media is biased towards the left because they chose to promote the neoliberal who said she'd back a $12.50 minimum wage versus the one who said starve.


This article?

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/12/the-cri...

In no way, shape or form does that "bemoan" efforts to fight _serious_ crime in changing neighborhoods. It DOES take into account the impact of gentrification on the less affluent residents. Is actually discussing that impact considered "liberal"?

If you want to criticize liberalism honestly, then you probably shouldn't grossly mischaracterize your evidence.


Interesting.

This is a tangent about that article, as I hadn't read it before, but I live in that part of Brooklyn, have for a few years.

Last year on J'ouvert, 2 people were shot about two and a half blocks from my apartment building. This happened every J'ouvert until this most recent one. I'm fine with the extra police presence for that one. When I moved in, there were drug dealers on every corner, including mine. Going to work, I had to go past their pitbulls in the morning or walk in the street as they all crowded the sidewalk. That ended a few months ago.

I've seen more police, and more police called for things like a drunk beating up and robbing another drunk where that used to just be let go - it's not all minor crimes, it's an attitude change as people move in that don't expect to have dangerous people and violence around them. Sure, they shouldn't necessarily call the cops on the guy barbecuing in the street at midnight, but honestly? I don't think it's a really bad thing.


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So, in your world, there are:

* uppity liberals and fringe left-wing protestors * "the rest of us"

Interesting. Lots of people on both sides of the aisle admit that there are uppity conservatives and fringe right-wing protestors, but you neglected to mention them.

Do you feel that you're "in the middle" and not a conservative?


What?

I was painting broadly the social demographic of the people that push this sort of nonsense - it usually is uppity liberals and fringe radicals.

People who actually care about their neighborhoods call the police when there are homicides, drug dealing, and violence occurring.

> there are uppity conservatives and fringe right-wing protestors

Yes, and I'm one of those uppity conservatives. I hold the fringe right-wing guys in contempt, but I don't see the relevance? If you want me to rail on them, I will gladly.

>Do you feel that you're "in the middle" and not a conservative?

Libertarian I guess? Grew up in a poor neighborhood much like the one described in the article, so I feel quite strongly about this sort of stuff. A larger police presence would have been a gift from God.


Yes, that one. I stand by my criticism, and I accuse you of the very thing that you are accusing me of. If you want me to go in depth, I will. If anything, I restrained myself in addressing that asinine article.

It opens with:

>"But having been marred by gang violence in recent years, this J’ouvert was markedly different, as The New York Times described. The event, which derives its name from a Creole term for “daybreak,” was heavily staffed by the New York City Police Department.....an overwhelming show of force in response to a comparatively small number of bad actors."

The author conveniently omitted the specifics of that "gang violance" - an aide to Gov. Cuomo was murdered at the event a couple years ago, there have been multiple stabbings, there have been homicides the past two years, and just few days before the festival this year, multiple people were shot and killed:

https://nypost.com/2017/09/04/gunfire-erupts-ahead-of-jouver...

Do tell me, how much violence and killing is acceptable for you before you call for, as the author put it, an "overwhelming show of force"?

And guess what, that police presence did nothing but make the event safer, as per the New York Times:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/04/nyregion/jouvert-brooklyn...

I can go on if you want, but I don't see the point. The article is an absurd framing of the situation, and completely omits the perspective of all the minorities who APPRECIATE the police presence, and who work with the police on a day-to-day basis, serving in community watch groups, and coordinating with and calling the police whenever they see problems. But no, that doesn't fit the narrative, so it's not in there.


So your first complaint is that the phrase "having been marred by gang violence in recent years" doesn't fully express that the violence included "multiple stabbings" and "homicides." Uh, that's what gang violence usually entails: stabbings, shootings, and murder.

You chalk that up to the writer intentionally ("conveniently") omitting that. Then you cite the NY Post, widely acknowledged as a sensational tabloid, presumably as an example of the coverage you prefer?

Then, you take fault with the author expressing their opinion that the festival had "an overwhelming show of force."

Is that all the author complained about in this respect? They didn't say "damn fascists!" or anything else? They didn't attach any value judgment -- YOU did. The author just pointed out that it was an "overwhelming show of force" which you admit did make the event safer.

If this is the awful, biased "liberal" media you're worried about, you should probably stick to the Post. That way all of your existing biases can be reinforced.


A few things - the citation is quite irrelevant when the information is true, so it's not a point worth raising. In a way - and if the Post is the only place that reported on this, then your adding credence to my argument that the media is biased. Thanks.

>Then, you take fault with the author expressing their opinion that the festival had "an overwhelming show of force.

No, I take issue with the authors insinuation that it wasn't warranted, hence:

"overwhelming show of force in response to a comparatively small number of bad actors."

>Is that all the author complained about in this respect?

Have you actually read the article? It's probably one silliest pieces of journalism I've ever read. Just read something of quotes:

>“The gentrifiers are not wanting to share—they’re wanting to take over.” One of the tools they can use to take over public spaces, he argues, is law enforcement.

Yes, law enforcement is a tool of the "gentrifiers" to move poor people out. This is ridiculous.

It's not the crimes that are the problem (homicides, assaults, drug dealing, public intoxication), but rather the "criminalization" of the criminals.

I guess the solution is just stop calling the cops?

>If this is the awful, biased "liberal" media you're worried about, you should probably stick to the Post. That way all of your existing biases can be reinforced.

Okay.


It seems like a simplistic explanation, but I wonder if some people simply forget or overlook how multidimensional and complicated life is when discussing such matters. It is extremely common when reading political discussions, even among intelligent people, to see opinions with absolute certainty on matters they know very little about. It's easy for "smart" people to see this in (let's be honest) dumb people, but very few can see it in themselves, or others sharing their political stripes.

EDIT: Wow, I didn't even criticize one side or the other, but simply pointed out a fact of human nature, and here we go with the downvotes as usual. Another excellent illustration of the "either you're with us or against us" philosophy. At least people can agree with ole George on one thing.


Disagree. The extent to which "the left" is the establishment in the media today, was also true 10 and 20 years ago. Again, the appeals to populism, human interest stories, and so on, have been staples of popular media for ages.

The attitudes you speak of in some opinion pieces may be laughable in some ways but thought-provoking in others. Is it not true that some crime-fighting techniques disproportionately affect minority communities? Eg, not in proportion to the rate at which those communities commit crimes? You can't tell me that considering these factors is without merit, even if you disagree wholeheartedly with the conclusions.

It's difficult to honestly compare a perhaps laughable premise or conclusion from one end of the political spectrum, with outright disregard for basic facts, truths, and reason-based discourse on the other. I will not participate in calling these things equivalent, however many points it may score with folks who are too afraid to offend. (We won't go into the irony of the great offense felt by folks who are hostile to truth itself, who expect their hurt feelings to entitle them to being treated as if their (lack of) ideas have merit).


If you want a case study of how the Republican party has sunk to extreme dunk-on-ability, read the Twitter feeds of David Frum, Bill Kristol, and Rick Wilson: three stalwart Republicans.


Curious about the reasons for downvotes. In case I wasn't clear, those three are very critical of the current Republican party, especially the current administration


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I think the fact you did not rise to the occasion makes my point.

You just assume everyone is a Democrat that doesn't agree with you and you can't think of such a list without serious time investment.


You're arguing with a closed-minded libertarian/conservative -- check the rest of his/her posts and save your breath :-)


Hate to break it to you, but reality tends to have a liberal bias.


I disagree. I think the "natural" state of things is definitely more conservative, and it's reflected in people's attitudes, traditions, and behaviors as they age, and their general resistance to change.

Progressivism works as a sort of pushing against the order of things, for better or worse. Its development being the result of our ability to manipulate and change our environment to an extraordinary degree, much more so than any other animal.


Maybe that's human nature, but I wouldn't call that reality. Humans have to adapt or progress to survive. I think OP here was referring to things like global warming, it's a reality, but many (most?) conservatives in the United States believe it isn't happening. Another example is creationism. 60% of Republicans believe we were created by God 10,000 years ago, and evolution played no role. Yet, we know this isn't true, it's not reality.


I would consider myself centrist (which is conservative by Silicon Valley standards). Personally, I believe global warming to be real, but I find the alarmism to be an exercise in popular histrionics.

I remember being a kid in 1992 and being told that by this point in my life I would have to wear a special suit because the hole in the ozone layer would get so bad the suns rays would start frying us. The same is happening today. People are crying wolf about everything to the point where it's become impossible to take the alarmism seriously anymore.

Ivar Giaever and Freemason Dyson have done a great job illustrating the problems with the current dialogue around climate change.


There was a global effort to eliminate causes of ozone layer depletion. It took a significant amount of political will and resources to ensure that we'd get to the point we are at today[1].

The people crying wolf back then prevented us from depleting the ozone layer.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion#Public_policy


We addressed the ozone depletion problem by banning CFCs. It didn't magically go away. The issue of global warming has yet to be addressed.

You probably recall being told about endangered species when you were a kid too. The fact that they still exist does not indicate that you experienced alarmism but that people actively protected those species.


Interesting. Ok, maybe liberal is young peoples' philosophy, conservative is old peoples'. As reflected in the many sayings about how you should be the former before 30 or 40, the latter afterwards. It's not more natural to be young or old - both are natural. From Robert Louis Stevenson:

"...the opinions of old men about life have been accepted as final. All sorts of allowances are made for the illusions of youth; and none, or almost none, for the disenchantments of age. It is held to be a good taunt, and somehow or other to clinch the question logically, when an old gentleman waggles his head and says: “Ah, so I thought when I was your age.” It is not thought an answer at all, if the young man retorts: “My venerable sir, so I shall most probably think when I am yours.”

Because I have reached Paris, I am not ashamed of having passed through Newhaven and Dieppe. They were very good places to pass through, and I am none the less at my destination. All my old opinions were only stages on the way to the one I now hold, as itself is only a stage on the way to something else. I am no more abashed at having been a red-hot Socialist with a panacea of my own than at having been a sucking infant. Doubtless the world is quite right in a million ways; but you have to be kicked about a little to convince you of the fact. And in the meanwhile you must do something, be something, believe something. It is not possible to keep the mind in a state of accurate balance and blank; and even if you could do so, instead of coming ultimately to the right conclusion, you would be very apt to remain in a state of balance and blank to perpetuity. Even in quite intermediate stages, a dash of enthusiasm is not a thing to be ashamed of in the retrospect: if St. Paul had not been a very zealous Pharisee, he would have been a colder Christian. For my part, I look back to the time when I was a Socialist with something like regret. I have convinced myself (for the moment) that we had better leave these great changes to what we call great blind forces: their blindness being so much more perspicacious than the little, peering, partial eyesight of men. I seem to see that my own scheme would not answer; and all the other schemes I ever heard propounded would depress some elements of goodness just as much as they encouraged others. Now I know that in thus turning Conservative with years, I am going through the normal cycle of change and travelling in the common orbit of men’s opinions. I submit to this, as I would submit to gout or gray hair, as a concomitant of growing age or else of failing animal heat; but I do not acknowledge that it is necessarily a change for the better — I daresay it is deplorably for the worse. I have no choice in the business, and can no more resist this tendency of my mind than I could prevent my body from beginning to totter and decay. ...

When the old man waggles his head and says, “Ah, so I thought when I was your age,” he has proved the youth’s case. Doubtless, whether from growth of experience or decline of animal heat, he thinks so no longer; but he thought so while he was young; and all men have thought so while they were young, since there was dew in the morning or hawthorn in May; and here is another young man adding his vote to those of previous generations and rivetting another link to the chain of testimony. It is as natural and as right for a young man to be imprudent and exaggerated, to live in swoops and circles, and beat about his cage like any other wild thing newly captured, as it is for old men to turn gray, or mothers to love their offspring, or heroes to die for something worthier than their lives."

http://essays.quotidiana.org/stevenson/crabbed_age_and_youth...


I’ve always suspected that the reason underwood is a democrat in house of cards is solely to deflect this very criticism.


Honestly I think it makes him more "relateable" by making him not "the enemy" for viewers


>Honestly I think it makes him more "relateable" by making him not "the enemy" for viewers

Does this mean you think all viewers are democrats (or even most) and that republicans are the enemy?


On the Netflix subscriber, likely to watch new shows demographic?

I believe betting on "most side with Democrats" is a safe bet


Why? Half the country votes Republican.


Read it again, slowly:

> On the Netflix subscriber, likely to watch new shows demographic

- How many people don't have internet?

- How many people won't/can't sign up for Netflix? (think also in Urban/Rural demographics)

- How many people have Netflix but are not interested in a new show?

I'm not saying no Republican watches House of Cards, I'm saying it is biased towards Democrats


or it could be because the character is based on bill clinton


[Citation Needed]


It is unfortunate that a request for a citation is downvoted but not responded to. Not only is the claim that every comedy writer is conservative not supported, it's not even true.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rob_Long (example of conservative sitcom writer)

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Sandler (example of conservative movie actor/producer)

Now, I don't subscribe to conservative politics myself. But it is simply a moral wrong to assume an entire profession is united in political views. Nor is it a good thing to invoke such identity politics. Let's move forward and focus on the real issues at hand.


734786710934 "knows things"


That seems unlikely, especially under union rules. Do you have any evidence to support your claim? Edit: Downvotes in the absence of that evidence makes me concerned.


Yes, and have a look at the overlap(familial, spouses, etc) between people in Obama's administration and the media: https://www.snopes.com/you-had-a-hunch-the-news-system-was-r...

It doesn't imply outright bias but it certainly seems like an unlikely co-incidince.


Parks and Rec ran for seven seasons, and its protagonist was a fictionalized Hillary Clinton. The West Wing ran for seven seasons and explicitly featured a Democratic Presidential administration.


A fictionalized Hillary Clinton?

That's... quite a leap. You could easily argue Robin Wright plays a fictionalized Hillary Clinton on "House of Cards."

Personally, I think that the free market that the conservatives love to salivate about is making this happen. It cracks me up to imagine Hollywood producers saying "Well, I COULD make more money by making a super-conservative show but I just NEED to get my liberal views out there in the American brain!" Nope. They know that conservatives are going to stroke it to Duck Dynasty and that's about it.


Leslie Knope is a blond, Midwest-born woman who believes strongly in using government to improve people’s lives. Despite being stopped short from achieving her goals time and time again, she never loses her optimism or her determination. She prepares long, in-depth policy briefings that no one ever reads, comes under attack from ignorant yokels, and even makes understandable, innocent mistakes that get blown out of proportion into major scandals. That is exactly how Hillary Clinton’s supporters see her.

The show also started around the same time as her incredibly popular tenure as Secretary of State.


You just described about half of the female civil servants that I've met in the Midwest.

Wow, blond AND from the Midwest? A dedicated and caring public servant? Shit, I guess NBC is lucky that Hillary didn't sue them for such a blatant rip-off.

Oh wait, one is a real person who served as Senator and Secretary of State and the other is a fictional bureaucrat who served 3 months on her small city's council and loves waffles.


You've been using HN primarily for political battle. That's not what this site is for, and as the guidelines point out, we ban accounts that do this irrespective of which politics they're battling for or against. I've banned this one.

If you don't want to be banned on HN, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and give us reason to believe that you'll follow the rules in the future.


> Imagine if ABC/CBS/NBC actively went to political parties and sold them on buying their way into the scripts of the top prime-time sitcoms to shape the opinion of viewers.

That wouldn't happen, because on the one hand no amount of money from the Republicans would persuade ABC/CBS/NBC to support them, and on the other hand they're quite glad to provide free support to the Democrats. The situation is reverse with Fox 'News,' of course.

This isn't for any nefarious reason: it's just that pretty much everyone associated with mass media believes that the Republicans are evil and the Democrats are good. There's no amount of money which could persuade me to claim that all murder should be legal; likewise, there's no need to pay me to say that murder should be illegal. The situation is the same for the vast majority of showrunners & news anchors: they really are doing what they believe is right.


Private web services are fundamentally different from the FCC regulated limited band of the RF broadcast spectrum. This was a major point of contention in the Net Neutrality debate, but it certainly has no application to Facebook.


There's a good book called Primetime Propaganda, showing how exactly ABC, CBS and NBC were doing that, and are still doing it.


Whoa, wait a sec, what makes you even slightly suspect this doesn't already happen?


They do that all the time:

Al Gore - 30 Rock

Joe Biden/Michelle Obama - Parks and Rec

Newt Gengrich - Murphy Brown

Donna Brazil - Good Wife

etc....


For 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, weren't those appearances after the people were already prominent and/or in office?

The 30 Rock/Al Gore example in particular happened years after he was done running for public office.

And even Parks and Rec wasn't so much advocating for Joe Biden/Michelle Obama as having a left leaning, political character be excited about the opportunity to meet them. I can also remember John McCain appearing on Parks and Rec.


On that note, recall that NBC's SNL had Donald Trump HOST the show in late 2015, during the campaign. How nuts does that seem now, given how much the writers hate him?

I think the fall from grace narrative arc was very entertaining. Most political candidates get to do hits on Late Night shows in a relaxed atmosphere whenever they want. I think it's a great part about America.


30 Rock also pushed Obama a bit if I recall correctly and before the election - but they also cracked a joke about how Tina Fey's character would tell everyone she was voting for Obama but then secretly vote Republican.

So think what you will of that.


Newt Gingrich too on Parks and Rec.


A writer pushing their political agenda is one thing and something you can't quantify. Is there a department at ABC whose sole job is getting politicians to pay for guest appearances?


This is key. It's one thing to have creative staff that lean left, it's another for the injection of political propaganda to be the product itself. In that case, there's incentive for ever increasing amounts of propaganda (until it becomes so omnipresent that there's no marginal benefit to the buyer to having more of it, which would be pretty dystopian).


Hey now, 30 Rock had Condoleeza Rice!


I hate to ruin your thesis, but:

Parks and Rec also featured Newt Gingrich, Olympia Snow, and John McCain.


What thesis is that?


How do you think Alec Baldwin got a job?


You mean like the Pentagon has been doing for decades?

https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/exclusive-documents-...

I wasn't quite aware of this myself until a few years ago. Now I see it in almost every crime/spy/military-related show or movie. I've stopped watching several shows because of it and never started watching others.


Most of these conditions look to be along the lines of, "if you're going to use military property or equipment to film your movie, you don't get to turn around and disparage the military", which has done nothing to stem the tide of Hollywood films explicitly designed to disparage the military.


Can you please give me a list of recent -- or ANY -- Hollywood films that are explicitly designed to disparage the military? That is a BOLD claim and I'd love to learn more.


Avatar comes to mind, as do all of those depressing post-Vietnam movies.


So the main point of Avatar in your opinion -- the reason it was explicitly made -- is that the military sucks? Not colonization or overcoming physical adversity or even just a fun sci-fi romp? It was just $100 million of "lol the army sucks?"

And you realize that a movie about the horrors of the Vietnam War isn't necessarily anti-military, right? America lost tens of thousands of young men and hundreds of thousands more were injured -- the country was torn about the war, with people literally dying in protests. It was a BIG DEAL. Which is why tons of movies and tv shows have dealt with those issues in the ensuing 50 years.

If your movie says "the Vietnam War sucked" or even "Lots of American soldiers came back from Vietnam with incredibly severe mental and physical problems" -- that's not anti-military. That's the truth.

If you want rah-rah, "go Army!" then there are plenty of archived Army recruitment and propaganda films from the 40s, 50s, and 60s on YouTube.


Buffalo Soldiers


I find it laughable that facebook/twitter/etc says it cant tell the difference between "kill Jews" and "kill Palestinians". But 1 groups kill messages will mostly not be censored.

Then they hire or allow groups to enforce rules who also cant tell the difference, and allow the "Kill Jew" statements to stay.

Yet, seems, most of US can see both "kill xxx" statements are equally bad and should be removed. I don't think most of us have any special skills that make us enlightened, just not so partisan heavy in attitude.


It's a pretty bad look. When I think of social tech I think of the possibility to magnify the voice/reach of individuals. When I read an article like this all I see is that magnification going solely to big spenders. How do I form an independent political ideology if I'm only being told the part of the story that heavily monied interests want me to hear? Would I ever experience an anti-monied-interest being put on a level playing field with the monied interest?


Here is a thought experiment:

Imagine a social platform with a nice API, no moderators, no global filters, and you're looking at a thread focused on a particular political issue.

Now imagine there is a chatbot that can enumerate every position a person could possibly take about this issue and generates a couple hundred thousand slightly unique strings of words that express each of these positions, and floods the thread with these "comments".

Lets say the volume of content produced by the chatbot is so high that if a user were to randomly browse comments in this thread, there is no statistically significant bias in favor of a particular position.

Now the question is how can you enable the users to find "truth", or learn anything, or even meaningfully communicate with other users within this context?


I'd say the difference is in this:

>Now imagine there is a chatbot that can enumerate every position a person could possibly take about this issue and generates a couple hundred thousand slightly unique strings of words that express each of these positions, and floods the thread with these "comments".

If there are hundreds of thousands of strings then I absolutely can't. But I'd say on most issues there are probably max a few hundred positions. If I have to crawl through the same positions restated different ways over and over then truth is lost, if I can quickly browse one unique string for each position then it will take dedication but I can suss out what I believe and have some sort of backing for it.

Dealing with information overload is sort of the unique problem of our times I suppose.


> Now the question is how can you enable the users to find "truth", or learn anything, or even meaningfully communicate with other users within this context?

It was a bad idea to think that you could do that generally before the chatbot got there.

If the cost to the chatbot is close enough to $0, or if its a state-level chatbot attack, then you're meaningfully communicating either because a) nobody who owns chatbots has an interest in disrupting you atm, or b) sheer luck.

edit: wording


You read books, and you talk to real people imo.


What continues to fascinate me about stories like this is just how nakedly, obviously partisan the post-Trump reporting on the evils of social media is. Compare this with, for example, the tone of all the stories about how the Obama campaign used social media to win the previous election...


If I recall, the bulk of those stories occurred during Obama's first campaign. At that time social media was still in its infancy (Twitter, I believe, was only about a year old) and was a new phenomenon.


Most of the stories about social media are focused on the fact that it was non-US entities putting pro Trump posts up.


There's a difference inciting violence and hatred versus party propaganda.


Social media has dramatically wider penetration, Facebook's algorithms are vastly different, and the malicious actors have figured out what works well. It shouldn't be a shock that the coverage has changed as a result.


Should also remember that media as a industry dislikes new comers like facebook which are taking away their absolute power. They had such sway before social media, that the only news coming from these oligopolies were news and the rest was propaganda.

Facebook with all its flaws is still a much more open system compared to traditional media. If you have fake news campaigns you can also make fact news campaigns, whereas with traditional media outlets, you'd have to setup expensive paper or tv channels to actually even begin to address a problem with the existing industry.

This is felt quite sharply in India, about which this article complains. The person who killed the journalist in the article is yet to be found. Her own brother gave a statement that it might have been the doing of left-wing extremists in India. Unless you know who is culpable how can you insinuate it was due to some 'nationalist right wing trolls'? This article is just another witch hunt.


If you've ever been caught up in a mob and felt yourself losing your identity in the crowd, so that you could get swept away doing things you'd never do alone, you'll know how dangerous unstructured freedom is for people.

We're tribal animals, but we're almost herd-like when we get caught up. It's important that the institutions that whip up the herd and point it around have some kind of checks and balances. We try and get by with the notion of offending public decency, of using concepts like honesty and integrity to shame people into doing the right thing, but it doesn't come naturally - it needs to be chosen, repeatedly and maintained.


I can't help but feel we're approaching a reckoning, in both senses, for platforms selling targeted access to their users.

It's just too powerful.

On one side it's propaganda, on the other it's illegal hiring practices (eg only advertising to young, able bodied men). I can't imagine a democratic world will tolerate this much longer.


I sure hope you're right. It's far beyond time for the "changing the world!" and "Don't be evil" style feel-good propaganda of Silicon Valley to be pulled back to reveal the reality of what it has been used as cover for.


Here's what I don't get. I got back onto facebook about six months ago after deleting my previous account. I was using the account to auth into news article commenting systems.

Within 24 hours I apparently had ticked someone off who had reported me, because my account was locked until I scanned a photo ID of myself and uploaded it.

If that happened to me, why isn't it happening to _everyone_?


one time facebook suggested a friend, i got confused and clicked it thinking they were requesting friendship. the person responded by clicking they didnt know me and my account was banned for 3 days.

facebook kinda sucks


It's like getting credit card offers saying you are "pre-approved". then you apply and get declined.


It's like a credit card offer that says you're pre-approved, but when you apply you get declined and your credit score drops significantly.


I hypothesize the shills/bot makers have figured out that accounts need to show recent and a relatively long activity history before unleashing them on comment systems, unlike your account.


I'm not sure you ticked someone off who reported you vs. tripped an automated check on FB's end that looks at new accounts that use old account identities, and locks them as suspicious (in case they were hacked, or someone trying to steal someone's identity) which is why they request the additional authentication via photo...


I "deleted" my original account via facebook's deletion mechanism. Then, six months later I created another account with the same email address and received a different account (the url to my profile was different).

I commented with this account for a few weeks before getting into a heavy argument with a Trump supporter in a comments thread who even accused me of being a fake account because I had no picture uploaded.

Not saying your scenario isn't plausible, just unlikely.


Facebook’s Community Standards are a total joke... no later than two days ago I came across a cartoon of a guy on public transport taking an ’upskirt’ without the woman’s consent only to start puking when he saw on his phone that she was menstruate (I kid you not). I of course reported it instantly. I promptly got an anodyne notification that ”I had done the right thing” reporting it it but that it was found ”not to violate Facebook’s community standards” so would not be taken down. I reported it again (this time as ”nudity or pornography”) and within 20 minutes my account was suspended for 24 hours. They’re dirt. And they’re too powerful.


From your description, it sounds like you abused the reporting tool by reporting content that you knew did not violate the stated guidelines. Their response was to temp-ban you. To me, that seems reasonable.

It doesn't really matter that it was a shitty, gross joke. That's not the criteria for removal, and they told you that before you reported it again.

Though, a temp-ban might be a little harsh. If the only problem was with reporting, they could easily have dealt with that by silently ignoring future reports from your account.


I was unbanned within a couple of hours and the cartoon was nowhere to be found when I was allowed back in, probably because there was a deluge of coincident reports.


I see. So, the thrust of your complaint is not that moderation is too lax, but that it is capricious and arbitratry? I could definitely see consistent moderation being a weakness for Facebook.


Basically, yes. I wish I had summarised my point in those terms. I was just so incensed at that moment in time that I didn’t plan my post very carefully. Sorry and thanks.


I did the same thing the other day. That's an easy mistake to make.


Why did this anger you so? Just a cartoon I'm thinking. edit: this is getting ridiculous at this point. downvotes for starting a conversation. come on.


Cartoon or not, or is a depiction of sexual objectification, harassment, profaning somebody’s personal space in a public context, and a denigration of womanhood. What is there to like about it?


One thing to like about it is that the poster had the ability to exercise speech without being censored because somebody found their speech distasteful. Of course, opinions on the value of censorship vary. One could argue that Facebook has a special responsibility to society due to their ubiquity, that their community standards are not stringent enough for that reason, and that they should be censoring more speech than they currently do. I guess that's what you mean when you say their standards are a "total joke." If that's so, I still think it would be good practice for them to moderate based on their publicly posted policies and not make exceptions.

Facebook has the right to moderate content on their platform however they choose. I think that saying that Facebook is "dirt" and "too powerful" because they moderate the content on their own website according to their own rules is a bit excessive, although I might agree with those descriptors with respect to some other things that they do.

You can find Facebook's standards on this topic here: https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards#nudity

I was surprised at how explicit their community standards are. After a thorough read, it seems that in this case, they exercised them with consistency and even-handedness. I also find that to be something to like about your story. 24 hour account suspension seems like reasonable sanction for abuse of the reporting system. Abuse of the reporting system makes moderation difficult and obviously has to be penalized to prevent users from taking down non-violating posts just because they are in disagreement. Allowing users to do that is certainly not a recipe for healthy discourse.


You reference an eternal (and eternally valid) debate, namely one’s right to express oneself versus another’s right to not be exposed to material perceived to be upsetting. I am usually on your side of the camp, firmly believing that somebody’s right to be offended by what I express is entirely their problem and does not impinge upon me nor does it create an implicit obligation that I not offend them.

I do, however, draw a line when there is material circulating that normalises the rising trend of boys and young men using their cellphones to take unauthorised snapshots of women’s underwear and sometimes genitalia without their consent. Such photos would clearly violate Facebook’s Community Standards, but a cartoon does not?

My reference to them being “dirt” and being “two powerful” were separate sentences for a reason. I wanted there to be a bit of distance between the two statements. They are ‘dirt’ because they remove photos of breastfeeding mothers (probably the least offensive form of partial nudity one can think of, and the most natural thing in the world) as being somehow offensive, but they apparently they give this smut a free pass.

They’re too powerful because they have no competitors that could really supplant them. There’s plenty of alternative social networks to choose from, yes, but moving to a social media network without your contacts totally disrupts your habits. To a very real extent, we who use Facebook are a captive audience.

The irony of all this is that in less than an hour my account was reactivated and the cartoon was gone. I suspect I wasn’t the only person who reported it, perhaps multiple times each, and eventually Facebook had to capitulate and as a token of apology released me early from my suspension.

But think of that... in a working, democratic institution, you know what you are held guilty of, what the process is, and what the penalties might be. You get a chance to argue your case (or better still, have it argued for you). This is citizenship in a democracy with institutions. On Facebook, we’re all little serfs, and then there’s the feudal lord (the company itself) that gets to degree by fiat what is and what isn’t wrong (often not even bothering to explain the motivation so that it might become doctrine or at least a heuristic to use when making decisions) .

So in short, no: I am against more censorship by faceless incommunicado Facebook contractors sitting in their cubicles half way across the world with minimal pay. I the power to censor to be returned to the people.


> Facebook has the right to moderate content on their platform however they choose.

They have the legal right. But any ubiquitous service should lose that right and be subject to the First Amendment.


You don't have to like it. You also don't get to censor it because you don't like it.


I shan't stand by when I see somebody being molested and humiliated and I shan't stand by when I see material that advocates molestation and humiliation. I hope you wouldn't either.


Aren't the pictures of Donald Trumps "thicc ass" attempting to climb a hill while playing golf considered sexual objectification, harassment, profaning somebody’s personal space in a public context, and a denigration of late-manhood?

One's a cartoon depiction, another is a real photograph taken without consent. Why would they take down the former but leave the latter to proliferate?


I remember back in late 1990s to early 2000s there was a fad for scaremongering articles about how computers and the Internet are the root of all evil.

Looks like it's the turn of social networks now.

> In India, the company helped develop the online presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who now has more Facebook followers than any other world leader.

...Seriously? How about another article on SEO companies training political campaign managers how to gain better ranking in Google?


I think the point is that this is a group within Facebook, when Facebook has claimed that its status as a platform means it's not culpable (for hate speech, Russian sock puppets, age-biased job postings, etc.).


Those articles back then probably had in mind some of the things that social media is occasioning now, they just didn't have the specific term for it so they lumped it all together under the big novel catch-all term “Internet”. I've read some eerily prescient forewarnings from that era, particularly about the undesirable side-effects of the “global village”.


Facebook is different. Their leadership has clearly aligned with the Republican party on an operational level. Remember, Zuckerberg gave King Bush the Second his first big public engagement after his retirement. People who support Democrats may use the machinery of Facebook, but when Facebook wants steer the machine, they steer it, ever so slowly and quietly, toward Lakoff's strong father, and away from his nurturant parent.


So what the CIA used to do on behalf of "American interests," Facebook now does without even that much of a moral compass.


the stuff about that lady "Gowri Lankesh" is misreported here.

Left wingers wish to link that murder to the state whereas the lady had a reputation of defamation and the courts had ruled her to apologize for abusing people without proof.

Her family & her brother had disowned her due to her lies and was actually involved with mafia elements. please follow her twitter posts asking for peace among her friends who were "warring".

Overall Modi government is voted by Majority Indian population and FB just came into lobby against the Net Neutrality which was rejected by The Indian Government rightly.

Attributing Modi government success to FB is spreading news without substance. FB might be meddling in Indian affairs but thats FB's problem.


It is indeed very interesting to consider that the vast majority of internet enabled people across the world don’t read Hacker News, don’t read Bloomberg editorials - they just check their Facebook feed...


Ah Facebook... I stumbled upon a con artist's account on Facebook once. And I couldn't find any way to report it as a scam.


Im taking this comment at face value. It's not that hard to report a user for at least the past 3 years.


You can report a user for "hate speech" or something like that. There isn't any option to report a fraudulent account.


Not true. I just did so myself a couple weeks ago


I didn't see any option for that. Got a screenshot?


I once found a page that was falsely representing the FBI and they refused to take it down...


This is why I don't want Mark Zuckerberg in any public office. I really think the guy has no moral compass because all his actions point to a very sinister "money is everything" attitude and that everything has a price.


Come now, Zuckerberg doesn't even need public office. He's more powerful where he is now than he could ever be in an elected position. Just based on the information in the article, he could offer technical embeds to campaigns he likes and ignore the ones he doesn't, or provide them with a much smaller degree of assistance, with no one the wiser. I don't think there's a single person in the world with as much potential to impact elections and policy choices as Zuckerberg today.


> He's more powerful where he is now than he could ever be in an elected position.

Exactly, an elected position would come with even more publicity, actual responsibilities and the possibility of being held accountable for his actions.

It's far more convenient and efficient for him to stay out of that system and just play it from the outside.


I don't know if that's true. Do we have more transparency into Trump's income, businesses, or even taxes after he became president?


> I don't know if that's true. Do we have more transparency into Trump's income, businesses, or even taxes after he became president?

Owning a bunch of hotels is a fundamentally different type of power than owning a demographic database + messaging system used to manipulate people's moods.


> Exactly, an elected position would come with even more publicity, actual responsibilities and the possibility of being held accountable for his actions.

Having full control of the platform a large portion of the population depends on for news and communication could help him evade much of that.


Why put yourself in a position where you have to evade it in the first place? There'd be no advantages for him in it, only disadvantages.

The only reason he would want to go for public office, at least I could think of, is to influence government policies. But he already has an army of experienced and well-paid people doing exactly that.


I suppose the proof of the pudding is in the eating... but my personal hope is that the current election was a fluke caused by things like facebook advertising being so new;

The theory, of course, being that we build up immunities to certain kinds of advertising; there's always a race between us humans building up that immunity, and advertisers striving for novelty.

If that theory holds, advertisers have a huge advantage every time a new platform rolls out, and that advantage is slowly eroded over time, as we humans get used to the new medium.

Is it true? i don't know.


Or maybe there's nothing flukey about it.

Trump talked about things people cared about in a straightforward, albeit bombastic, way. You may disagree with his approach, but others appreciated he was at least talking about things they cared about. Sure Hillary talked about those issues too, but she wasn't able to set a clear vision or ground her campaign in clearly defined and solid themes.

We can only learn from failure by accepting it and studying it, not by dismissing it as a fluke.


I don't think that is what happened. The media didn't hold him accountable for what he said. They wanted viewers. Websites wanted clicks. There was disinformation everywhere.

Even in discussions with people who could calmly talk about it, Trump supporters would cite obviously fake blog posts and other completely fake information that could easily be discredited with quick online searches. Even when shown that the information was fake they would not change the opinions that the fake information had created in their minds. He was talking about things that they cared about, because they had little grip on basic facts about reality. They cared about the wrong things.


Illegal immigration is a "wrong thing"? Bringing jobs back to blighted areas is a "wrong thing"? Trump talked about these things, that's real, not fake.

Media talked about Trump being terrible all the time. He was bashed at every opportunity on many of the big networks. All the free publicity he got probably helped him, even if much of it was negative.

Once Trump won the R nomination, media began to take him seriously and do their best to discredit him and his positions.


> Illegal immigration is a "wrong thing"?

It really depends on what problem you're trying to solve:

https://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2015/07/i... https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/immigrants-do-not... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/magazine/do-illegal-immigr...

If crime is your issue, illegal immigration is probably the wrong focus. If general health of the economy is the issue, probably also the wrong focus. If competition for manual labor is your issue, illegal immigration might be a cause for concern, though in order to be a good candidate/official, it's best if you've got a policy that's likely to actually help (building a wall might help the big construction companies who can land the contracts for it, but it's not likely to help anybody who isn't helping build the wall itself).

> Media talked about Trump being terrible all the time. He was bashed at every opportunity on many of the big networks.

Welcome to politics. You run for office, you're going to get criticized. Is there anything more boring at this point than a persecution complex over that fact? Particularly when (a) we're talking about Donald Trump, who isn't exactly a stranger to dishing it out himself, and (b) it comes from a side of the spectrum that also often seems to make a fuss about safe spaces and snowflakes vs robust free speech.

But even assuming Trump drew more criticism than usual -- why is it that so many Trump supporters assumed that was a matter of bias rather than a matter of professionals seeing genuinely troubling thing in Trump's character and policy? Particularly when so many of the newspaper outlets that refused to endorse him were traditionally backers of Republicans?


Talking about immigration isn't how he won.

I don't think that this would be a productive format for discussing it in depth though.


I agree, it was a close election and yes the system has it's flaws but there was nothing that went majorly wrong with this election.


There is literally a special investigation right now that is attempting to determine how and where things went wrong.


There was serious disenfranchisement of voters through onerous laws designed to keep people from voting.


The laws didn't change drastically from the time a few years earlier when all those people managed to get out and elect Obama. That doesn't seem like a deciding factor at all.


Voter ID laws definitely changed. All the kicking people off voting rolls definitely got stepped up.

Quite a few things were different.


Not really. There have been such allegations going back to every election. There is no evidence that they were more prevalent this time around. In any case, it really seems to not be relevant in a statistical sense of playing a deciding role in the election.


>Trump talked about things people cared about in a straightforward, albeit bombastic, way.

My impression was that the man rarely said the same thing twice.

My theory was that he campaigned in the style that was popular before national media, wherein you say different things to different audiences, and that this meshed really well with facebook style targeted advertising, as he could, at least on facebook, give people the message tailored to what they wanted to hear.

My theory is that because most of my media still doesn't come from facebook, and the national media outlets I follow would report everything he said, to me? he seemed like a man who didn't have any coherent beliefs.

(This, assuming that Trump is cleared of collusion with the Russians, is what I feel was wrong with the current election. I feel that having the national media point out when a candidate makes conflicting statements is a good thing; I think it was a big step forward over what came before.)


You don't think real people in this country had real grievances?


You will have to do a lot of talking to convince me that the people with real grievances voted for deep tax cuts for the rich and deep cuts to social programs for the poor.

My theory is that the average Trump voter made more than the average Clinton voter. There is some evidence for this:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-mythology-of-trumps...


Then why is he going on his "I'm running for President" tour of America, eating at blue collar family homes and visiting historically black churches?

Being in governance gives you power that you can only glance at as a private citizen. Being a billionaire and president of the US will make you far more powerful than merely being a billionaire.


it's hard to imagine that he believes he stands a chance. i'm sure any worthwhile consultant or polysci adviser could let him down gently.


What could be more powerful than a US president who also happens to have direct control of a large portion of the world's communications and information consumption?


I agree but the allure of that kind of power is intoxicating for people like him. Not to mention the deals he could set up for himself and Facebook when he goes back to the private sector.


I’m not American but I keep hoping Bill Gates’ philanthropic inclinations will eventually get the better of him and lead him to casually pour a billion or so into getting himself nominated and elected President in a ”battle of the billionaires” and end this horror.


Same here, I actually think he would be very good as a president for U.S.

But AFAIK he is not interested in politics at all.


As far as I know, he isn't either, but as I said, I keep hoping that somehow it dawns on him that salvaging the USA from this hideous path it's on is within the domain of ‘philantropy’ that he is pursuing.


well, yeah. He's just another dude in SV that either has no clue about, or pretends to have no clue about, ethics.


Personally I don’t want him in office because of his liberal politics, not his Silicon Valley ethics.


Which aspects of his politics are you referring to?


Frankly, the world would be a much better, safer place without Facebook in it.


"Dark art" is really glorifying what those desk jockeys do.

It's just a bunch of organized paid trolls with fancy ideas about themselves and what they do, because it's all secret-y and covert-y, but really, they're incompetent people who after slamming their head against the problem many times have group-devised by trial-and-error rather nifty ways of manipulating online conversations.

Any place where you can add a comment is manipulable, but their manipulations only work if people aren't aware of their existence in the comments section and of their good-cop / bad-cop group tactics, the methodological flaws of anonymous online voting and why noise-flooding works.


Its a time of political upheaval worldwide.

Nationalists are rising or at least becoming more vocal in at least Britain, India, United States, Austria, Germany, Korea, and Japan.

They are direct threats to the established status quo. Censoring their political speech will cause a "Streisand Effect" and only further galvanize a backlash against the establishment.

Social Media will probably be broken up by country (Ex. The chinese model), so that national laws on speech can be enforced.

However pros and cons of the new political groups must be debated on a public stage.


Not all of these protests or nationalism were organic, they were engineered by Russia. ex) Brexit

There is increasing number of evidence that points to the ex-KGB officer now leading a nuclear armed 2.5 world country.

If they can pull one on the US, the rest of Eastern Europe, or frankly any country facing an authoritarian government will face this new 'hybrid war'--combining cyberattacks, psy-ops on social media and backing separatists in the said country.

I fear for both of my countries Korea and Canada as they are on the trajectory of colliding with Russian & Chinese interests...and we cannot even trust the US while it's going through an internal conflict.

We've collectively realized just how powerful these social media platform is....people are heads down on their smartphones consuming low-dopamine hits that eventually overrides critical thinking.

I also think that Facebook and Twitter are going to be facing a political and legal uphill battle once the establishment has thoroughly finished analyzing exactly step by step what happened.

Honesty, regardless of his outside image, Putin is sweating. Instead of lifting sanctions he's earned the exact opposite. Instead of keeping former soviet blocs in check he scared them to the arms of US & Nato. This unrest he caused will fade as the US media ramps up their own psy-ops against Putin.

I will go far as to predict that the Russian Federation will be broken into multiple countries in the near future as their economy is destroyed by the West....with China picking up scraps and benefiting greatly from the brain drain.


> they were engineered by Russia. ex) Brexit

Yes, the 73 pence spent by Russia on covering Brexit (the paid tweets were RT twitter promotions ) were responsible for Brexit. Not that Britain has had a vocal euro-sceptic contingent for over 40 years, satisfaction with the EU has been minor and the EU's handling of the refugee crisis.

None of that. It was due to the 73p of Russian promoted tweets.


Quite. The British press has been doing its own indigenous fake news on Europe for years, before being flooded by this inferior foreign product.

/s


> Not all of these protests or nationalism were organic, they were engineered by Russia. ex) Brexit

Nothing scares me more than unfalsifiable claims like this. "The vote didn't go my way, so it must have been illegitimate. If only people weren't entranced by Russian propaganda! My side would have won!"

Truly disgusting. We're already seeing justifications for limiting speech. This is a very dark road we're going down.


There is overwhelming evidence that is rejected by Trump supporters:

https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/941120497823215616

https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/941376110381731841

I suggest you to read the facts and decide for yourself. I'm sure HNers are more than capable of connecting the dots.


That's not overwhelming evidence--it's one guy spinning a narrative by assuming the worst and painting every occurrence in the worst possible way.

But hey: HNers are typically good critical thinkers, so I'm sure they've seen spin before and know to take it with a grain of salt.


It's perfectly fine if the US does it, but if Russia does it they're the big, bad man in the room? All that blatant Pro-US Anti-Russia propaganda all over the western world must actually be efficient. Who would have thought.


People who believe these baseless conspiracy theories about Russia are starting to read like moon-landing deniers.


Wait hasn't the status quo been to be nationalist?


Negative. The status quo has been neoliberalism.


I don't really see a problem here. Facebook is providing training/guidance to customers on how to use it's software platform. Every other advertising platform allows political organizations, so why should Facebook be any different.


You mean you don't see a UNIQUE problem here.

"How X enables the Dark Art of Digital Propaganda" would be an issue of interest and concern NO MATTER WHAT THE X IS.


Which is the point. In reality the appropriate title is more along the lines: "How media enables Propaganda", so why single out just Facebook when they're just conforming to the industry standard?

There's a simple solution to this, which is to write legislation to ban commercial political ads.


I have the same inclination about ads, but I'm highly skeptical that such a solution would work fully. I'd be willing to give it a try though. The problem is bad enough that it's worth throwing solutions out and trying them until we see what sticks.

The point about Facebook anyway, singling them out, is that it happens to be an article about Facebook and how they in particular do this. A similar article on "How Fox News…" or "How ESPN…" or "How the NYT…" would be appropriate also in the case that any of those places had a dedicated political unit which was interesting to report about, especially if it contradicts the way the entity prefers to present itself.

Of course, it's reasonable to focus on Facebook merely in their dominance.

And finally, it's possible at least that Facebook is actually worse in some ways (or just more effective at spreading propaganda etc), and I'm not ready to rule that out.


i agree. Hillary had the opportunity to use the same services and she declined, whats the big deal? its not like she didnt have the budget either, according to this she had substantially more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-electi...




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