The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: social media

What Online Disinformers Dish Out Is Killing The Befuddled And Benighted

Possibly you recall the “Information Superhighway,” a phrase popularized by then-Vice President Al Gore to describe the internet. The expectation was that universal connectivity would lead to widespread enlightenment and social progress. Instead, we got QAnon, TikTok, metastasizing superstition, and the cult of Donald J. Trump — a speedway to delusion and disorder. We got social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.

Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the newspaper where you may be reading this probably runs an astrology feature — an ancient belief system based upon a pre-Copernican understanding of the heavens in which stars were believed to orbit the Earth and to influence human events.

To most, astrology’s a harmless diversion. I once had a neighbor, a banker, who cast elaborate horoscopes and offered personal advice based upon the stars. His readings were amazingly complex and detailed. Once, he overheard my wife and me bickering about what she saw as the appalling chaos of my office.

The astrologer chuckled in his deep-voiced way and said, “It’s a sure thing he’s not a Virgo.”

Now, to the question “What’s your sign?” I quote Arkansas humorist Mike Trimble: “Slippery when wet.”

My September birthday, however, definitely makes me a Virgo. With odds 12-to-1 in his favor, the astrologer had gotten it dead wrong.

If you think his views were shaken, you’ve never known a serious practitioner. Evidently, my messy office signified a deeper passion for order. Or something. I forget. And while I haven’t seen the fellow in years, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d become a COVID conspiracy maven and vaccine-denier. I hope it didn’t kill him.

Mere reality isn’t enough for some people. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say it’s too much. For millions, contemporary life far surpasses their ability to assimilate and absorb conflicting information. So they turn to social media, where cranks and charlatans are happy to provide them with magic and circuses: storybook mysteries hidden from ordinary mortals but discoverable by an enlightened few.

Check out Alex Jones’ Infowars website. A contemptible fraud, Jones became a billionaire by popularizing such off-the-wall notions as the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre being a government-sponsored hoax featuring “crisis actors” masquerading as bereaved parents. It’s all a plot to seize your guns, of course. Guns being the magical totem that will protect you against what Scripture calls “the malice and snares of the devil.”

Hillary Clinton, that is. Along with international Jewish conspirator George Soros. Also Dr. Anthony Fauci. But hold that thought.

On his website, Jones also peddles survivalist gear, toxic dietary supplements, and miracle “cures” for COVID-19. It’s not clear if Jones inspired Trump’s nutball advice to inject bleach.

Even after the courts ordered Jones to pay almost $1.5 billion last year in damages to the parents of slain children he has slandered, he retains millions of online followers. Utterly shameless, he was among the invited speakers at Trump’s January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally.

“We will never back down to the satanic pedophile, globalist New World Order and their walking-dead reanimated corpse Joe Biden,” Jones announced at a post-election MAGA rally, “and we will never recognize him.” It sounds like self-parody, but he kept a straight face.

Oddly, he’s since fallen out with QAnon, the political cult holding that a cabal of cannibalistic pedophiles fixed the 2020 election.

Anyway, here’s the thing: From the Black Death of the 14th century to COVID-19, lurid fantasies have always arisen to explain the inexplicable. Human beings crave simple stories with villains and heroes. History has to have a meaning and a moral — the more melodramatic the better.

Social media, meanwhile, allows crackpot imaginings and idle fantasies to develop into full-blown conspiracy theories more quickly and circulate more widely all the time.

The saner among us must be thankful that Dr. Fauci is not Jewish. Otherwise, there’s no telling to what craven depths the conspiracist wing of the House Republican majority might have been willing to take their announced plan to investigate him.

Even the tycoon Elon Musk, who received his own medical education at the prestigious University of Twitter, wants Fauci prosecuted. Not to be outdone, exhibitionist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — she of “Jewish space lasers” fame — jumped right on board.

Perhaps the most eminent public health official in American history, Fauci retires this week at age 82 from his job as director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He says he has nothing to hide and no problem testifying.

“What really, really concerns me,” he told The New York Times, “is the politicization of public health principles. How you can have red states under-vaccinated and blue states well-vaccinated and having deaths much more prevalent among people in red states because they’re under-vaccinated — that’s tragic for the population.”

Quite so.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of The Hunting of the President.


After Public Battering, Musk Reverses Journalist Suspensions

Just days after enforcing widespread suspensions of journalists on Twitter, Elon Musk has made another decision to reverse that action.

According to Mediaite, Musk's decision comes just days after he announced the suspensions and posted a poll asking Twitter users for feedback on the decision. Based on the results of the poll, 58 percent of Twitter users did not agree with Musk's initial decision as they voted in favor of the suspensions being lifted immediately.

On Saturday, December 17, the billionaire business mogul acknowledged Twitter users' viewpoint tweeting, "The people have spoken. Accounts who doxxed my location will have their suspension lifted now.”

As of Saturday morning, Aaron Rupar, CNN's Donie O'Sullivan, New York Times reporter Ryan Mac, and The Washington Post’s Drew Harwell were all among those who have had their accounts restored.

While most accounts have been restored, the news outlet reports that not all users have regained access in the same timely manner.

Per the news outlet:

"The account for Keith Olbermann was not restored along with the handful of other accounts on Saturday morning. Olbermann has continued tweeting though, taking to an account set up for his dogs to rage against Musk. Olbermann’s last tweet before he was suspended encouraged people to share a tweet containing information about Musk’s location."

The latest debacle comes days after Musk moved to suspend several journalists for sharing the real-time location of his private jet; an action that he described as "doxxing" and against Twitter's policy. Those who shared the information had their accounts suspended and the action led to a flurry of protests from social media users.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

How The Right-Wing Attack On Social Media Is Failing

Social media is one of the main places where Americans engage in their ongoing dog fight over political differences. But anything that becomes important also becomes a target for control, and conservative politicians are doing their best to put a choke collar on Facebook and Twitter.

They suffered a setback Monday when a federal appeals court struck down a Florida law imposing heavy-handed restrictions on these communication platforms. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it last year, ostensibly to prevent tech companies from censoring conservatives.

But the court, in an opinion written by a judge appointed by Donald Trump, reminded everyone that the First Amendment protects individuals and companies from government action, not private action.

If you want to stand on a public sidewalk and spew lies, hatred and conspiracy theories, or hand out leaflets filled with them, the First Amendment says the government can't stop you. But if you want to do the same thing in a restaurant, department store or construction site, the owner, not being an agency of government, has every right to tell you to either stop or leave.

The Florida law says that social media companies have no right to make their own editorial decisions. The measure forbids them from removing anyone who is running for office and from blocking posts from "journalistic enterprises" because of their content. Failure to comply can incur fines of up to $250,000 per day.

Texas enacted a similar law, which a federal appeals court has allowed to remain in operation while it is being challenged. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said he signed it to "protect First Amendment rights in the Lone Star State."

But there is no way to square these laws with the First Amendment. Just as the Biden administration may not require Fox News to include liberal viewpoints and Democratic spokespeople on its programs, states can't require Twitter to provide a forum to Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Mike Lindell.

A social media company, like any other media entity, may make its own rules for access. Elon Musk doesn't like the rules established by Twitter. If he buys it, he'll have every right to shred them, welcoming anyone he wants and banning anyone he doesn't.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had no trouble spotting the fatal defects in the Florida law. "Social-media platforms exercise editorial judgment that is inherently expressive," it said. "When platforms choose to remove users or posts, deprioritize content in viewers' feeds or search results, or sanction breaches of their community standards, they engage in First-Amendment-protected activity."

They are no different, in constitutional terms, from The Washington Post or Breitbart News. Both publications choose what subjects to cover, what to ignore, and what viewpoints and writers to include. Without that discretion, neither could function. Without the same discretion, Facebook and Twitter would become a cesspool of bigotry, misogyny, lunacy, disinformation and violent threats.

Anyone who chafes at the restrictions on Twitter or Facebook is free to migrate to other platforms. Trump furnished that opportunity when he started an alternative, Truth Social, to "stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech."

His commitment to wide-open debate is not a model of principled consistency. One user was informed, without explanation, that he had been banned "permanently due to Truth Social community guideline violations." The apparent violation? His account, @DevinNunesCow, was intended to make fun of former Rep. Devin Nunes, the CEO of Truth Social's parent company.

Trump's fans could also move over to the platform ProAmericaOnly, which brags of its "no censorship" policy — while proudly proclaiming that it "doesn't allow liberals." The people using Twitter and Facebook have alternatives that almost all of them are rejecting.

Conservatives once believed that the government should not interfere with the content decisions of big, powerful media companies. In 1987, they persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to scrap the Fairness Doctrine, which required TV and radio stations to present competing views on controversial topics.

Its repeal facilitated the rise of conservative talk radio, because stations no longer had to balance right-wing voices with liberal ones. When a Democratic-controlled Congress passed a bill to codify the policy, President Ronald Reagan vetoed it.

"This type of content-based regulation by the federal government is, in my judgment, antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment," he said. "In any other medium besides broadcasting, such federal policing of the editorial judgment of journalists would be unthinkable."

Unthinkable to Reagan, yes. But not to the people who have taken over his party.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

‘Libs Of TikTok’ Used Twitter To Target Over 200 Teachers And Schools

The Twitter account “Libs of TikTok” has dictated right-wing media’s anti-LGBTQ talking points in recent months, especially on Fox News. The account run by Chaya Raichik frequently targets LGBTQ content creators by misgendering individuals and inciting harassment, both of which seemingly violate Twitter’s policies against hateful conduct and abusive behavior. Amid rising social media attacks and legislation against the LGBTQ community, Libs of TikTok has celebrated schools shutting down their Twitter accounts after repeated harassment and praised right-wing politicians for criticizing education around gender identity and sexuality.

A Media Matters review of Raichik’s Twitter account found that Libs of TikTok has tagged or named at least 222 schools, education organizations, or school system employees in 2022, often directing users to harass an individual school district or teacher. In the last week alone, the account has targeted a school district, a middle school, and four teachers for teaching students about identity, sexuality, or other so-called “propaganda.”

Texas’ Austin Independent School District has been targeted in at least 18 tweets by the Libs of TikTok account. The tweets questioned the district's Pride celebrations and tagged individual employees.

On March 22, Libs of TikTok shared a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to the Austin district that claimed celebrating Pride events with students was a “week-long indoctrination” and against Texas state law. Raichik wrote, “Omg. I’ve been tweeting about this district for 2 days. This makes me so happy.”

Just this week, Libs of TikTok posted another attack against the district, sharing a fake Facebook post that falsely claimed the district was giving elementary students homework on furries. This misinformation resulted in the district's Twitter account receiving replies accusing the schools of “grooming” students and claiming parents were pulling their children out for “crossing the line.”

Raichik’s targeting of Salem Keizer Public Schools in Oregon is another case study in this smear feedback loop. The schools were tagged in at least 12 tweets from Libs of TikTok between February 28 and April 5. Raichik attacked the school district over teaching a book that mentions instances of racism in U.S. history, announcing new policies that support trans students using chosen pronouns and bathrooms, and issuing pronoun pins to students and faculty.

Libs of TikTok then claimed Salem Keizer Public Schools was in “disarray” from the social media attention following the tweets. An April 4 tweet from the Salem Keizer account, which typically receives just a handful of interactions on its tweets, received hundreds of replies — many filled with anti-LGBTQ attacks and smears. Raichik mockingly called on her followers to continue harassing the district’s Twitter account, writing, “It would be really bad if everyone kept tagging them.”

In another instance of Libs of TikTok using Twitter’s platform for targeted harassment, Raichik shared a video in a thread of tweets on April 10 from a trans teacher on Instagram explaining how he teaches his students about identity. Raichik tagged the teacher’s employer and included the teacher’s Instagram username in her tweets. Users replying to Libs of TikTok argued that the teacher should not be allowed to work with children and declared that he is “another groomer that needs to be arrested and jailed for abusing and trying to indoctrinate kids into the sickness.”

The school blocked Libs of TikTok, deleted related tweets, and made its Twitter account private, likely due to the harassment received from Libs of TikTok supporters. Raichik celebrated, tweeting on April 11, “They aren’t coping well with all the attention.” The teacher’s Instagram account was made private as well.

Raichik also targeted a Florida teacher who said she'd rather lose her job than out any of her LGBTQ students to their parents. Libs of TikTok shared the video on March 29, which was then amplified by the website of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s The National Desk on March 30. The National Desk named the teacher’s employer, which said it was investigating the video. An article from right-wing outlet TheBlaze claimed the teacher had made her TikTok account private, “but Libs of TikTok saved a copy and posted it to Twitter.” (The account is now active with the video in question removed.)

Raichik’s Libs of TikTok account, which now boasts over 1 million followers, has already been suspended from Twitter twice in recent weeks for violating the platform’s rules against hateful conduct — and she has told Fox News, “I'm never gonna stop.” With previously banned accounts celebrating their opportunity to possibly return to the platform following Elon Musk’s recently announced deal to take ownership, Twitter should act now to prevent Libs of TikTok from continuing to drive harassment against LGBTQ teachers, allies, and educational institutions.

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

On Brink Of Twitter Takeover, Musk Shows Why That's A Bad Idea

Twitter’s board has approved a deal allowing Elon Musk to buy the company and take it private, in alarming news for anyone who doesn’t want a major social media platform controlled by an egomaniacal billionaire ranting about free speech while his signature company is being sued for racial discrimination.

Musk’s initial offer/threat to buy Twitter drew skepticism, but talks turned serious after he made progress in lining up financing, though it’s not yet a done deal and could—especially given who we’re talking about here—fall apart, perhaps in spectacular fashion. [EDITORIAL UPDATE: On Monday Twitter's board unanimously approved a $44 billion buyout by Musk.]

Musk has claimed he wants to turn Twitter into a “platform for free speech around the globe,” but basically every expert on social media and speech says he has no clue what he’s talking about. The major social media companies, including Twitter, have invested a lot of time and money into figuring out what works, and while no one’s saying they’ve perfected it, the likelihood that Elon Musk can manifest a better answer directly from his ego is low.

”What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have free speech today, you need moderation,” Katie Harbath, a former Facebook executive, told The Washington Post. “Otherwise, just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”

”A platform that allows people to spam misogynist and racist abuse is unsafe for pretty much anyone else and would lose advertisers, corporate partners and sponsors rapidly, leaving it a commercially unviable husk within months,” said the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate’s Imran Ahmed.


Speaking of racist abuse, Musk’s signature company, Tesla, lost one racism discrimination lawsuit, with an initial judgment of $137 million recently reduced to $15 million. Other Black employees describe a horrifyingly, overtly racist environment at Tesla’s California plant, spurring a major discrimination lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. That’s important context for Musk’s “free speech” talk. This is someone who presided over a company at which Black employees are assigned particularly difficult work in a section of the factory referred to as “the plantation,” a Black worker was fired after complaining that a supervisor called him and other Black workers “monkeys,” and use of the N-word was “the norm. It was Tesla’s tradition.”

Another interesting piece of context for Musk’s effort to buy Twitter is that in 2018, he had to step down as Tesla’s chair and paid $40 million in penalties ($20 million from himself and $20 million from Tesla) after—in a fascinating precursor to his current effort—he used tweets to claim he was taking Tesla private, causing “significant market disruption.”

Over the weekend, Musk continued to use his own high-profile Twitter account to show the kind of chaos he likes to bring to the platform, attacking Bill Gates with a crude, fat-shaming graphic, and suggesting that his hyperloop would work better than other forms of transportation because “Underground tunnels are immune to surface weather conditions (subways are a good example), so it wouldn’t matter to Hyperloop if a hurricane was raging on the surface. You wouldn’t even notice.” This howler drew a flood of responses with pictures of subway stations flooded after hurricanes or even just major rainstorms. The guy never lets not knowing what he’s talking about stop him from saying it through a huge megaphone.

Twitter may announce a deal with Musk as soon as Monday, though it could fall apart even after a public announcement.

Printed with permission from DailyKos.

‘Jewish Space Laser Lady’ Gets Trolled For Fresh Idiocy

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), having already lost her personal Twitter account for promoting COVID misinformation, is now attacking noted historian, author, and conservative columnist Max Boot for expressing concern about billionaire Elon Musk’s attempt to take over Twitter.

Musk, not only currently the richest person on the planet, but the richest person in history, was sanctioned by the Securities and Exchange Commission and ordered to pay Tesla shareholders $40 million over his Twitter posts in 2018 ($20 million from Musk, $20 million from Tesla.) He was also ordered to have his tweets vetted before posting, which he is now fighting.

Friday morning Musk officially attempted to buy the social media platform, after almost joining the company’s board earlier in the week, which came after a late disclosure he had purchased more than nine percent of the company’s stock.

“I am frightened by the impact on society and politics if Elon Musk acquires Twitter,” Boot, a former Republican, said on Twitter. “He seems to believe that on social media anything goes. For democracy to survive, we need more content moderation, not less.”

Rep. Greene went ballistic, calling Boot a “communist.”

She was quickly mocked, including by Boot himself.

But Boot also made a serious observation about the response to his original tweet:

“All the hyperventilating from Trumpist trolls in response to this post (claiming that content moderation=fascism) is a good example of the worst of social media. It’s corrosive tendencies should be curbed not amplified. Trump must never be allowed on Twitter again.”

Others chimed in too:







Published by permission of Alternet

Musk To Join Twitter Board, Promises Change

April 5 (Reuters) - Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) said on Tuesday it will offer Tesla boss and entrepreneur Elon Musk a seat on its board of directors, a position he plans to use to bring about significant improvements at the social media site.

The move came after Musk disclosed in a regulatory filing on Monday that he had amassed a 9.2% stake in Twitter, making him its largest shareholder.

Beyond the promise of big change, Tesla Inc's (TSLA.O) CEO, who often chooses unconventional paths, has provided little detail.

Even so, Musk will be involved in strategic decisions, including the direction of Twitter's Bluesky project and the addition of an edit button, according to a source familiar with the situation.

He will not have a say on the platform's moderation, what speech gets banned or whose accounts get restored, the source said - a policy that applies to all board members.

Twitter shares were up more than 4% in midday trading, after closing up over 27% on Monday.

Musk's appointment, however, will potentially block chances of a takeover bid because the billionaire cannot own more than 14.9% of Twitter's stock either as an individual shareholder or as a member of a group as long as he is on the company's board.

The disclosure of his stake on Monday stoked widespread speculation that varied from a full takeover of the platform to taking an active position.

Musk has not indicated an interest in acquiring the company, the source said.

TWITTER CEO 'EXCITED'

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

Twitter executives tweeted out congratulations after the announcement. There is hope that his presence can revive the platform that has struggled to attract users and possibly stir interest from retail investors.

"I'm excited to share that we're appointing @elonmusk to our board," Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet. "He's both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger in the long-term."

In response, Musk tweeted: "Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months."

Musk reached out to Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey and CEO Agrawal shortly after he built his stake on March 14, telling them he wanted to join the board, according to a source familiar with the situation.

They were eager to bring him on board, believing he could bring buzz to the platform as well as good ideas, the source said.

Bluesky is a company funded by Twitter to develop a new operating standard for social media. The company is working on building an open protocol that would allow different social media companies to operate together.

Musk, who calls himself a free-speech absolutist, has been critical of the social media platform and its policies, and recently ran a Twitter poll asking users if they believed the platform adheres to the principle of free speech.

After disclosing his stake on Monday, Musk put out another poll on Twitter asking users if they want an edit button, a long-awaited feature on which the social media platform has been working.

NERVOUSNESS

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

"News that he is taking a board position will lead to expectations that he wants, and will have, greater involvement in decision making at the social network," said Susannah Streeter, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"This may lead to some nervousness about Mr Musk getting too much influence about the way Twitter is run, with a view to bolstering his own personal brand and that of his companies."

Musk, a prolific user of Twitter, has made a number of announcements to his over 80 million followers on the social media platform.

His board term expires at Twitter's 2024 annual meeting of stockholders, the company said.

The world's richest man will also be a board member of Endeavor Group Holdings Inc (EDR.N), owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, until June 30. In 2018 he exited the board of tech nonprofit OpenAI, which he cofounded.

His new role as a board member at Twitter could be a further distraction from work at Tesla. He is also the founder and CEO of SpaceX, and leads brain-chip startup Neuralink and tunneling venture the Boring Company.

He said in January that Tesla will not launch a $25,000 electric car, saying "we have ... too much on our plate, frankly." Tesla needs to ramp up production at its new factories in Berlin and Texas and boost production at its existing ones despite supply-chain disruptions.

Printed with permission from Reuters.

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru, Svea Herbst in Boston, Hyun Joo Jin in San Francisco and Greg Roumeliotis in New York Writing by Anna Driver Editing by Anil D'Silva and Matthew Lewis

Hillary Clinton Hilariously Trolls Putin After Sanctions On Her

After Russian dictator Vladimir Putin decided to invade the sovereign country of Ukraine, Russia has been hit with extraordinary sanctions by the United States and NATO allies around the world, including a ban on Russian oil imports.

Although the severe sanctions have yet to stop Russian attacks, Russia recently announced its own sanctions on several American officials, which prohibit them from traveling to Russia. According to the outlet, the list includes President Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Biden National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, CIA Director William Burns, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh, USAID Director Samantha Power, Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Adewale Adeyemo, and U.S. Export-Import Bank President Reta Jo Lewis. But there are also people outside of the government on the ban list, including Hunter Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Well, it seems Hillary had the best response to this silly posturing that has no merit whatsoever.

" I want to thank the Russian Academy for this Lifetime Achievement Award," Tweeted Hillary.



Now that is some world-class trolling!

Michael Hayne is a comedian, writer, voice artist, podcaster, and impressionist. Follow his work on Facebook and TikTok