Tag Archives: Twitter

11Feb/17

Should We Worry About…Fake News?

“Fake News”…the social media phenomenon of 2017. But what exactly is classed as fake news? How do you spot it? And should we be worried about it?

Fake news websites (also known as hoax news) deliberately publish hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news – often using social media pages and accounts to drive web traffic and amplify their effect. The vast majority of these websites are monetized by ads, usually Adsense and other methods (usually by using an accompanying video which is itself monetized on Youtube)

It is important to distinguish between actual fake news sites and  news satire sites,such as the Rochdale Herald, Newsthump etc.

News satire sites, whilst walking a thin line between comedy and fake news, are the polar opposite of a fake news website.

Fake news websites seek to mislead, rather than entertain, readers for financial (not to say that satire sites are not monetized as well), political, or other gain.  Such is the perceived threat from these sites that world leaders have felt the need to pronounce about them.

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday against the power of fake news on social media to spur the rise of populists, after launching her campaign for a fourth term.”
Read More Here:

In the UK Labour MP Michael Dugher was assigned by the Labour Party Deputy Leader Thomas Watson in November 2016 to investigate the impact of fake news spread through social media.   Watson said they would work with Twitter and Facebook to root out clear-cut circumstances of “downright lies”. in an article for the Independent Watson  suggested methods to respond to fake news. Conservative MP, and Minister for Culture Matthew Hancock, stated the British government would investigate the impact of fake news and its pervasiveness on social media websites.

Pressure from the UK, the EU, the USA and other Governments has led to social media giants, Google, Twitter and Facebook promising to tackle fake news on its platforms. Google first updated its policy saying that the company will try to ban sites that “misrepresent, misstate (sic), or conceal information.” Websites who don’t comply with this rule will get banned from using Google AdSense.  Facebook, has also updated its policy to rule out fake news sites from using Facebook Audience Network. More:

German politicians want to go a step further than this, Thomas Oppermann, who leads the SPD in Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, Speaking with “Der Spiegel” magazine, Oppermann said that harsh punitive measures were necessary in order to make social networks

Thomas Oppermann SPD (picture-alliance/dpa/A.Jensen)
shoulder their share of the burden. He suggested a fine of 500,000 euros ($522,000) if websites such as Facebook didn’t remove harmful material within one day of being notified of it.
So, Governments and social media sites are making moves to prevent fake news, but just how worried should we be about it? And what effect does it have in the real world? 
Fake news can start of innocently enough, a post on Twitter or Facebook. But occasionally these posts can go viral. The New York Time’s noted this particular incident last November (2016). 

A simple enough post. Man spots buses lined up and jumps to the conclusion that it was Hilary supporters being ferried in to demonstrate against Trump during the election. The post was by a certain Eric Tucker, and this seemingly innocent mistake fuelled a worldwide conspiracy theory — one that Trump gleefully joined in promoting.

The post was quickly picked up by fake news sites.

All of this seems harmless enough, except that even though it was thoroughly debunked, a great many people still believe it to be true. 
This is just example of how fake news can accidentally be created. But what happens when fake news is specifically created for more sinister purposes?  To try to influence an election? Promote extremist views? vilify an entire race/religion? 
People familiar with the hate group Britain First on Facebook will know that it is mostly known for its spread of repackaged viral memes online and spinning stolen news articles for its own advantage. Many people forwarding these memes are unaware of the origins of these posts, and thus misinformation and disinformation are spread abound.  What is concerning is that, most people who read the fabricated stories on Facebook — such as the widely-circulated hoax meme that Pope Francis had endorsed Trump — actually believed them.
And now we come to Mr James Dowson, head Coconut Tapper at Knights Templar International.
Jim Dowson, described by The Times as an “inveterate agitator” and “the invisible man of Britain’s far right”.  Dowson himself advocated Britain’s exit from the EU and has expresses admiration for the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Dowson has made it his mission, according to messages posted on one of his sites, to
spread devastating anti-Clinton, pro-Trump memes and sound bites into sections of the population too disillusioned with politics to have taken any notice of conventional campaigning,” in the same way that Dowson “made deft use of social media … to promote [his] work and convey an impression of mass following”, according to the New York Times.
Thankfully, it seems that Dowson’s fake new sites have been closed down (but not the mouthpiece of Nick Griffin KTI page). But this is a man who advocates a war against Islam, has links to Russia,  the Syrian regime and neo-Nazi paramilitaries throughout Europe (and further).

Even during the 2015 conservative (read Nazi) forum in Russia,  Dowson stated:

“We have the ability to take a video from today and put it in half of every single household in the United States of America, where these people can for the first time learn the truth, because their own media tell lies, they tell lies about Russia,” Mr. Dowson said then.

“We have to use popular culture to reach into the living rooms of the youth of America, of Britain, France, Germany, and bring them in,” he said. “Then we can get them the message.” Video

 

Dowson and his Knights Templar use of fake even prompted an investigation by Channel 4 News for its Fake News Week series 10/02/2017.

Obviously, it is impossible to tell just how much fake news influenced the US election and helped to put the Tangerine Toddler into the most powerful office in the world. But it is potential links to fake news sites and Putin that are the most concerning.

Some analysts see the hallmarks of Russian interests and far-right agitators in Europe and the United States.  Alina Polyakova, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, a nonpartisan international affairs institute in Washington believes that fake news.

“Messages seep into the mainstream, they may have been extreme or fringe at one point in time, but they have been incredibly influential in shaping people’s views about key geopolitical events in a very specific direction.”

 “Moscow specifically encourages and facilitates the spreading of propaganda through proxies”

 

Even the term Fake News has begun to be abused. Comment after comment on social media news articles from MSM sites states “FAKE NEWS!!!!”; in todays Post Truth world it seems that fake news is believed by many people to be anything they disagree with.

The President of the United States is at it:

That was a fake Tweet Mr President….

Should we be worried about fake news? It is too soon to tell really. What is worrying is the the ability of people with sinister motives, backed by money (and possibly by foreign powers) being able to shape the public conscience.

And never forget…

¡No Pasarán!

 

08Feb/17

Trump – Easy D – Twitter Does What It Does Best

The Tangerine Toddler just had to up the ante on Twitter with his latest bizarre tweet.

Minutes later ‘Easy D’ was trending on Twitter…

…and Google searches…

Obviously, the Twitterverse just could not stop itself, so here’s the best so far…

According to the Urban Dictionary…

Our own poor effort…

Once again Twitteratti, we salute you!

 

¡No Pasarán!

 

 

 

09Jan/17

Should we be worried about…Trumps Tweets?

Trump first joined Twitter back in 2009, and almost immediately people started to notice just how bizarre his Tweeting habits were. It was as if he had hooked up his internal monologue to his Twitter account and just let it loose. His Tweets range in content from the…

Deranged

:

Paranoid:

It was a pen, in case you were wondering

Conspiracies:

Personal Attacks:

 

And self aggrandisement:

For several years, none of this really mattered. Back when he was just a C List celeb it was seen by most as a bit of a joke…but this man will soon be POTUS, Leader of the Free World. Surely, many followers thought, not even Trump would do something so ‘unpresidented’ as to continue with these tirades when he became President Elect?

Of course we all now know that post election it was business as usual for Trump on Twitter. But should we be worried about Trumps Tweets?

Even before winning the US election, Trump was already a powerful figure, whose Tweets could and have affected people’s lives. Take the case of Lauren Batchelder, whose crime was to have the audacity to accuse trump of not respecting women.

Of course, the Tangerine Toddler would not just let that lie, off to Twitter he went to have a public tantrum and attack a private US citizen.

Then the backlash against Lauren Batchelder began. As the Washington Post noted:

“Her phone began ringing with callers leaving threatening messages that were often sexual in nature. Her Facebook and email inboxes filled with similar messages. As her addresses circulated on social media and her photo flashed on the news, she fled home to hide.

“I didn’t really know what anyone was going to do,” said Batchelder, now 19, who has never discussed her experience with a reporter until now. “He was only going to tweet about it and that was it, but I didn’t really know what his supporters were going to do, and that to me was the scariest part.”

Even a year later for Batchelder,  “the abuse continues. Five days before the election, she received a Facebook message that read: “Wishing I could f—ing punch you in the face. I’d then proceed to stomp your head on the curb and urinate in your bloodied mouth and i know where you live, so watch your f—ing back punk.””

Trump supporters on Twitter can be pretty terrifying: take, for example, these Tweets made during Meryl Streep’s marvelous take-down of Trump at the Golden Globe Awards:

What a nice man. Luckily for Streep she can afford protection. Others are not so lucky.

Today, Trump has more than 17 million followers on Twitter.  The fact that even when just a candidate and TV personality, he deemed it acceptable to attack a young woman who criticised him is bad enough, but what effects are Trumps’s Tweets having in the wider real world, now that he has become the President Elect?

Trump watchers will probably remember that time he Tweeted about General Motors.

This single Tweet caused Shares in General Motors Co to fall 0.7%

And he did it again with Toyota:

Once again this had an immediate effect. Shares in Toyota fell about 0.4%. All this is shows a potential conflict of interest for businessman Trump. With one Tweet he can manipulate the markets, damage rivals and harm business reputations.

Then there is the delicate world International Relations, surely even the Umpa Lumpa Elect would not be so irresponsible to harm them with a Tweet?

Trump had already caused a diplomatic firestorm by breaking protocol with a telephone call to Taiwan’s leader. This actually led to China’s foreign ministry lodging a complaint with the United States. What is even more disturbing is that, according to people close to Trump, he had been planning to make the call all along, in full knowledge of the potential for a diplomatic backlash from China.

And then, weeks later, he turned to his favorite social media platform, again:

Original Tweet actually said “Unpresidented’ much to the hilarity of the Twitterverse

The Trump decided to Tweet this, even though the US military had already announced  it had reached an understanding with China for the return of the underwater glider. But Trump had to make it seem that he had a hand in this with a follow up Tweet.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook confirmed that “through direct engagement with Chinese authorities, we have secured an understanding that the Chinese will return the UUV to the United States,” according to USA Today.

But the Chinese Defence Ministry lamented the “inappropriate” choice in the US to “dramatise the issue”. A situation worsened by the Tweets.

Then there are the barbs he keeps firing at Mexico about the ‘Wall’:

 

Tweets that have angered both the President and an Ex-President of Mexico.

This is pretty awful, undiplomatic stuff from a man who will soon become the most powerful in the world. But it becomes even more frightening when you consider, as with his call to Taiwan, that they may not be just random and ill-thought out, but deliberately planned to provoke a reaction. And, or course, it is just a coincidence that China and Mexico are two of the biggest exporters to the USA.

We mustn’t ignore his attacks upon any media that displeases the self-appointed God Emperor:

In today’s post truth world, where the truth is deemed fake news and fake news seen as the truth, these Tweets only serve to further muddy the waters. The influence that Trump has; the ability to shape the conscience of his followers; is truly frightening. Never forget that Control of the Media is one of the 14 Points of Fascism.

Should we be worried about Trumps Tweets? We would say a resounding yes. His influence on social media is astounding. The fact is, his Tweets have very real and lasting real world effects that will only become more enhanced when he finally is sworn in as the next President of the United States. He is surrounded by advisers, and yet still appears to post personally and without consideration. Is this how he will attempt to manage his Presidency?

Are Trumps Tweets really as random as they seem, or could they be coldly calculated to cause as much disruption and distraction as possible, all the while feeding Trumps immense ego?

Do Trumps Tweets show a deeper, psychological problem? Who knows? But we ARE worried.

He could, of course just be trolling the world. Now that would be impressive!

¡No Pasarán!

 

06Jan/17

Should we be worried about…Breitbart?

Fake news, we have all read some online. Most is easy to spot, with wild exaggerations and conspiracies – obvious for being such. But what happens when an online news source is deemed by thousands to be more informative and honest than the Mainstream Media? When editors of said news site have links to the President Elect?

Obviously it is Breitbart we are talking about here; the fascists’ – sorry, that was not very politically correct – Alt Right, Nationalists (as Fascists like to call themselves these days) rag of choice.

Breitbart has aligned itself with the European populist right and American alt-right under the management of former executive chairman Steven K. Bannon (pictured above with Trump). The New York Times describes Breitbart News as an organization with “ideologically driven journalists”, that is a source of controversy “over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist”. Steven Bannon himself still faces accusations of racism, anti-semitism and having white supremacist leanings. Some are even going so far as to state that Bannon has become the ‘Voice of Racism‘ within Trump’s cabinet.

Another Breitbart editor with links to Donald Trump – Raheem Kassam (far right)

The fact that the soon-to-be POTUS Trump has invited Bannon and the ‘Alt Right’ into the Whitehouse, and indeed actually given them important positions, is cause for concern enough. But even more worrying is that many political commentators believe that Breitbart, which has actively sought support from white supremacists, actually helped  with Donald Trump’s election victory. The media influencing elections is nothing new.

But the danger posed by Breitbart goes further than even the manipulation we have seen from Murdoch’s news empire.

Breitbart has a long history of producing material dedicated to hate speech. Obviously, Breitbart itself denies it is a fake news site, even though the online fact checking site Snopes has page after page debunking Breitbart articles. But, even when proven to be exaggerations or down right lies, most people who read the fabricated stories on social media actually believe them.
Take this shocking article for example:

Which was quickly picked up by other far right sites and pages and shared many thousands of times on social media.

This is pretty frightening stuff, a church in Germany set alight and the police attacked by over 1000 Muslims…except none of it is actually true.

The article was attributed to German news site Ruhr Nachrichten, which hit back on Wednesday, accusing Breitbart of “using our online reports for fake news, hate and propaganda.” As Ruhr Nachrichten pointed out, Breitbart attributed separate unconnected incidents to a larger, collective “mob”.

“There was in fact a total of around 1,000 people gathered to celebrate New Year’s Eve in Leeds Square, including “large and small groups” of young, foreign men as well as families with children, according to Ruhr Nachrichten. The original report by the local news site from that night describes how some individuals did start launching fireworks from within the crowd towards police, who told them to stop but were ignored. Broadcaster WDR reported that officers then issued orders for some people to leave and took some into custody. While Breitbart wrote that the “mob” set the roof of Germany’s oldest church on fire, Ruhr Nachrichten pointed out that this was also not accurate. St. Reinold is not Germany’s oldest church – that would be the Cathedral of Trier – and a small fire had started on some netting on scaffolding around the church, not the roof, due to one firework.” – Read More

Exaggerations and lies; the stock in-trade of demagogues and propagandists throughout history. Even though the true facts behind the article have surfaced, the damage has already been done. The majority of people who read it will not bother to fact check and a great many,  even when shown the truth, will believe it to be Governments trying to cover up the truth: that the fake news is real and the real news is fake.

What can be done about the proliferation of fake news? Germany is proposing to fine social media companies if they do not remove fake news articles. Is censorship the way forward? Although ‘fake news’ is generally viewed as a problematic issue which needs to be dealt with, the more liberty-minded have cautioned vociferously that even light censorship of ideas will cascade into widespread editing of thought. But can fake news be allowed to continue to shape the public conscience? Anyone who spends even a small amount of time on social media will witness comment after comment by people who have obviously bought into the lies and spin of the far right. Whereas in the past people would struggle to find like minded individuals in which to share and validate their views, social media has made it simple for them to get together in groups and on pages. The far right are on the rise throughout the world: Trump in the USA; Orban in Hungary; LePenn in France; the AFD in Germany; Wilders in the Netherlands; Da’esh; Putin, the list goes on and on. Just how much of this rise can be attributed to fake news and its proliferation on social media is a debate for another day. But never forget this.

¡No Pasarán!