Bots Surpass Humans at Spreading News on Twitter

❝ As bots have become inextricably tied to the spread of “fake news,” a new study looking at how automated accounts engage with popular websites finds they are more prolific than humans on Twitter, posting two-thirds of all shared news links.

While Pew Research Center analysts found…that the majority of bot-generated links on Twitter come from sports and adult content websites, suspected bots also accounted for about two-thirds, or 66 percent, of tweeted links to popular news and current event websites.

❝ About the same average proportion of bots posted links to all the sites the study covered, including pages about news and current events, sports, commercial information, celebrities and commercial products or services…

❝ “These findings illustrate the extent to which bots play a prominent and pervasive role in the social media environment,” Aaron Smith [Pew’s associate director of research] said in a news release. “Automated accounts are far from a niche phenomenon: They share a significant portion of tweeted links to even the most prominent and mainstream publications and online outlets.”

So, anyone hear what TWITTER and their peers are doing about any of this? If anything? Removing these posts might reduce the take from advertisers paying for clicks and posts, eh?

Facebook censored the historic “Napalm girl” photo — why is anyone surprised?


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Nick Ut

❝ If you were to pick a handful of images that changed how people think about war, Nick Ut’s most famous photograph would surely be among them. The image of 9-year-old Kim Phuc running from napalm — her skin burning, her clothes burned away — defined the horrors of the Vietnam War.

❝ Norwegian author Tom Egeland had the lasting power of Ut’s work in mind when he shared the photo to Facebook weeks ago. But when Facebook’s moderators saw the Pulitzer Prize-winning image, they saw not its documentary significance or its impact on the world, but a violation of the site’s nudity policy.

Facebook’s moderators removed the photograph from Egeland’s page, along with its accompanying text. His account was suspended for 24 hours after he shared an interview with Phuc criticizing Facebook’s decision to censor this image, he said. But that was just the beginning of the incredible outrage at Facebook that has swept across Norway in recent days, becoming the subject of an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg from Norway’s largest newspaper, and rising all the way up to the country’s prime minister.

❝ After initially defending its decision to remove the photograph, Facebook decided to “reinstate” the image on Friday afternoon, according to a written statement from a Facebook spokeswoman. “We recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time,” the statement reads. “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.”…

Corporate hogwash.

❝ While Zuckerberg recently said that Facebook is “a tech company, not a media company,” this incident highlights just how much control the platform can wield over what media its users do (and don’t) see.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor of Aftenposten — Norway’s largest paper — called Zuckerberg the “world’s most powerful editor” in an open letter to Zuckerberg protesting Facebook’s censorship of the photo, which was published on Friday morning.

“I think you are abusing your power, and I find it hard to believe that you have thought it through thoroughly,” he wrote.

❝ The outrage in Norway escalated when Prime Minister Erna Solberg posted the image to her own Facebook page on Friday, after the publication of Aftenposten’s letter. “Facebook gets it wrong when they censor such pictures. It limits the freedom of speech,” she wrote in an accompanying statement that was translated by Reuters. “I say yes to healthy, open and free debate — online and wherever else we go. But I say no to this form of censorship.”

Solberg’s post, along with the statement, then disappeared. A spokesman for the prime minister’s office confirmed that she “did not remove it” herself from her own page — instead, Facebook deleted it.

❝ She later reposted the image — censoring Phuc’s entire body with a large black box — and called on Facebook to reconsider its policies. She paired the censored version of Ut’s work with several other censored versions of iconic photos, writing, “What Facebook does by removing images of this kind, good as the intentions may be, is to edit our common history.”

❝ Aftenposten ran its direct address letter to Zuckerberg on the front page of its paper. “I am writing this letter to inform you that I shall not comply with your requirement to remove a documentary photography from the Vietnam war made by Nick Ut. Not today, and not in the future,” Hansen, the paper’s editor, wrote.

“The media have a responsibility to consider publication in every single case. This may be a heavy responsibility. Each editor must weigh the pros and cons,” Hansen wrote. “This right and duty, which all editors in the world have, should not be undermined by algorithms encoded in your office in California.”

After more bullshit, Facebook finally relented.

RTFA and you’ll bump into all the rationales Facebook editors offered up to excuse and continue their censorship. Eventually, you can read their attempt to excuse their actions. It reads like a press release from any government, any corporate behemoth, trying to excuse a self-serving attempt to control access to history, to politics, to the freedom of individuals to decide what they wish to see and read.

That’s what it comes down to.

Don’t kid yourself about geeks being liberal or tech entrepreneurs automatically having the best interests of the world at heart. The breed has no corner on the market for kindness, care or concern – for either individual rights or the end of the world. Dollar$ govern the system. Don’t count on Harvard dropouts to be less likely to harbor bigotry and reactionary foolishness than any less-educated populist idjit.

Of course that includes the head of Facebook, the corporation. Ultimately, Mark Zuckerberg sets the standards of the company he started.

News about the police shootings in Baton Rouge

image
Click to enlargeJoe Penney/Reuters

Or, rather, news about news sources. As much as our TV Talking Heads and print journalists pat themselves on the back about “the Fourth Estate” and Freedom of the Press – they do a pretty mediocre job.

These shootings happened very recently. I haven’t checked on what time; but, as I walked into the house from grocery shopping, a notification from the BBC dinged into place at the top of my iPad in the living room. Picked it up and checked quickly through the numerous news apps I keep at hand. I’m a news junkie.

Quick responsive posts from the BBC, the Guardian, AlJazeera. Nothing from AP, NY Times, Washington Post, local newspapers, TV stations. The first traditional American source on the job was Bloomberg. As I would expect. They do a better job than CNN did BITD when they were a real news source.

Just saying. If you want to keep in touch with what’s going on in the world, keep some real news sources on your handheld computing device. Not just the usual plastic desert.

Twitter wants to know what other apps you have on your phone

Twitter, hungry for new data to fuel its targeted advertising, will start looking at what other apps its users have downloaded.

Starting Wednesday, the company will begin collecting data on which other apps its users have on their iOS and Android smartphones. The data, Twitter says, will help it deliver better “tailored content” to its users. That’s sure to include ads, but maybe also better recommendations about whom to follow when users sign up, or more relevant first tweets in the feed, which could help Twitter hook people early.

It’s strictly a list of the apps users have installed, Twitter says, not data pertaining to what people do inside those apps. So Twitter would know if you have a ride-hailing app, but it wouldn’t see your rides taken with the app.

Well, this week, anyway.

…Twitter’s move stands to raise privacy concerns at least among some people, perhaps depending on which other apps are on their phones.

Twitter’s data collection will start automatically, unless users have already turned on the built in “limit ad tracking” or “opt out of interest-based ads” option on iOS or Android phones, respectively. Twitter users will be notified of the data collection, but they can turn it off at any time from within their app’s settings, Twitter says. If users turn it off, the data is removed from Twitter’s servers…the company says.

Is the NSA buying stock in Twitter, yet?

Thanks, Mike

Breaking News in LA TIMES — written by a Robot

The Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper to publish a story about an earthquake on Monday – thanks to a robot writer…Journalist and programmer Ken Schwencke created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs.

Mr Schwencke told Slate magazine that it took around three minutes for the story to appear online.

The LA Times is a pioneer in the technology which draws on trusted sources – such as the US Geological Survey – and places data into a pre-written template.

As well as the earthquake report, it also uses another algorithm to generate stories about crime in the city – with human editors deciding which ones need greater attention.

Other news organisations have experimented with algorithm-based reporting methods in other areas, particularly sports.

The generated story does not replace the journalist, Mr Schwencke argued, but instead allows available data to be quickly gathered and disseminated.

“It’s supplemental,” he told the magazine.

“It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would.

Maybe so. It’s as elemental as the sparse data served up by some wire services. At worst, probably not as useless as the crap offered up by so-called local TV. Which is generally the property of some amorphous conglomerate hundreds of miles away with no “local” ownership.

At its best, this could be as useful as an up-to-the-minute neighborhood weather report. Especially if there actually is a follow-up article written by a sentient being.

Thanks, Mike

The Year in Bacon

Bacon may extend life expectancy

Researchers at ETH Zurich have found that foods rich in niacin — including bacon — can help you live longer, therefore making it advantageous to eat foods that are rich in the vitamin…

Men who eat bacon, may have less normal sperm

New research suggests eating bacon tends to lower sperm count. The data was presented at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine’s 2013 Annual Meeting in Boston where researchers advised men to stay away from bacon and other forms of red meat if they are trying to conceive…

Kansas State gives out free bacon at women’s basketball game

In order to promote the women’s basketball team’s home opener against Tennessee State on Friday evening, Kansas State University handed out free bacon beginning an hour before tipoff.

Bacon scented deodorant?

A Seattle company responsible for baconnaise, Bacon soda and Sriracha popcorn has a new product in time for the holiday season: bacon-scented deodorant…

105-year-old woman loves bacon, eats it every day

About a month after she turned 105, Pearl Cantrell told local news station KRBC how much she loves bacon, and Oscar Mayer sent the iconic Wienermobile to take her for a ride around Richland Springs, Texas. “I love bacon. I could eat it for every meal, and I do!” she said and encouraged others to do the same…

That’s only half the happenings – half of the really interesting things that happened to bacon, with bacon. Click the link in the post and read the rest.