The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

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Addie
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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#26

Post by Addie » Mon Apr 09, 2018 12:05 pm

USA Today
Bots rampant on Twitter, study says, as network tries to thwart devious tweets

There's a lot of bots out there on Twitter.

That's the message from a new Pew Research Center study, out Monday, which found that two-thirds of tweets that link to digital content are generated by bots — accounts powered by automated software, not real tweeters.

Researchers analyzed 1.2 million tweets from last summer (July 27-Sept. 11), most of which linked to more than 2,300 popular websites devoted to sports, celebrities, news, business and sites created by organizations.

Two-thirds (66%) of those tweets were posted or shared by bots and even more, 89%, of links that led to aggregation sites that compile stores posted online were posted by bots, the study says.

The findings suggest that bots "play a prominent and pervasive role in the social media environment,” said Aaron Smith, associate research director at Pew, which used a "Botometer" developed at the University of Southern California and Indiana University to analyze links and determine if was posted by an automated account.


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#27

Post by Addie » Sun Apr 15, 2018 5:41 am

New York Mag
The Internet Apologizes …

Even those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created. A breakdown of what went wrong — from the architects who built it. ...


Why, over the past year, has Silicon Valley begun to regret the foundational elements of its own success? The obvious answer is November 8, 2016. For all that he represented a contravention of its lofty ideals, Donald Trump was elected, in no small part, by the internet itself. Twitter served as his unprecedented direct-mail-style megaphone, Google helped pro-Trump forces target users most susceptible to crass Islamophobia, the digital clubhouses of Reddit and 4chan served as breeding grounds for the alt-right, and Facebook became the weapon of choice for Russian trolls and data-scrapers like Cambridge Analytica. Instead of producing a techno-utopia, the internet suddenly seemed as much a threat to its creator class as it had previously been their herald.

What we’re left with are increasingly divided populations of resentful users, now joined in their collective outrage by Silicon Valley visionaries no longer in control of the platforms they built. The unregulated, quasi-autonomous, imperial scale of the big tech companies multiplies any rational fears about them — and also makes it harder to figure out an effective remedy. Could a subscription model reorient the internet’s incentives, valuing user experience over ad-driven outrage? Could smart regulations provide greater data security? Or should we break up these new monopolies entirely in the hope that fostering more competition would give consumers more options?

Silicon Valley, it turns out, won’t save the world. But those who built the internet have provided us with a clear and disturbing account of why everything went so wrong — how the technology they created has been used to undermine the very aspects of a free society that made that technology possible in the first place. ...

How It Went Wrong, in 15 Steps
Step 1
Start With Hippie Good Intentions …


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#28

Post by Addie » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:17 am

Fast Company
“Did We Create This Monster?” How Twitter Turned Toxic ...

For all the ways in which the Imposter Buster saga is unique, it’s also symptomatic of larger issues that have long bedeviled Twitter: abuse, the weaponizing of anonymity, bot wars, and slow-motion decision making by the people running a real-time platform. These problems have only intensified since Donald Trump became president and chose Twitter as his primary mouthpiece. The platform is now the world’s principal venue for politics and outrage, culture and conversation–the home for both #MAGA and #MeToo.

This status has helped improve the company’s fortunes. Daily usage is up a healthy 12% year over year, and Twitter reported its first-ever quarterly profit in February, capping a 12-month period during which its stock doubled. Although the company still seems unlikely ever to match Facebook’s scale and profitability, it’s not in danger of failing. The occasional cries from financial analysts for CEO Jack Dorsey to sell Twitter or from critics for him to shut it down look more and more out of step. ...

Twitter is not alone in wrestling with the fact that its product is being corrupted for malevolence: Facebook and Google have come under heightened scrutiny since the presidential election, as more information comes to light revealing how their platforms manipulate citizens, from Cambridge Analytica to conspiracy videos. The companies’ responses have been timid, reactive, or worse. “All of them are guilty of waiting too long to address the current problem, and all of them have a long way to go,” says Jonathon Morgan, founder of Data for Democracy, a team of technologists and data experts who tackle governmental social-impact projects.

The stakes are particularly high for Twitter, given that enabling breaking news and global discourse is key to both its user appeal and business model. Its challenges, increasingly, are the world’s.

How did Twitter get into this mess? Why is it only now addressing the malfeasance that has dogged the platform for years? “Safety got away from Twitter,” says a former VP at the company. “It was Pandora’s box. Once it’s opened, how do you put it all back in again?”


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#29

Post by Addie » Sun May 06, 2018 9:29 am

Cross-Posting

The Guardian
Cambridge Analytica: how did it turn clicks into votes?

How do 87m records scraped from Facebook become an advertising campaign that could help swing an election? What does gathering that much data actually involve? And what does that data tell us about ourselves?

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has raised question after question, but for many, the technological USP of the company, which announced last week that it was closing its operations, remains a mystery.

For those 87 million people probably wondering what was actually done with their data, I went back to Christopher Wylie, the ex-Cambridge Analytica employee who blew the whistle on the company’s problematic operations in the Observer. According to Wylie, all you need to know is a little bit about data science, a little bit about bored rich women, and a little bit about human psychology...

Step one, he says, over the phone as he scrambles to catch a train: “When you’re building an algorithm, you first need to create a training set.” That is: no matter what you want to use fancy data science to discover, you first need to gather the old-fashioned way. Before you can use Facebook likes to predict a person’s psychological profile, you need to get a few hundred thousand people to do a 120-question personality quiz.

The “training set” refers, then, to that data in its entirety: the Facebook likes, the personality tests, and everything else you want to learn from. Most important, it needs to contain your “feature set”: “The underlying data that you want to make predictions on,” Wylie says. “In this case, it’s Facebook data, but it could be, for example, text, like natural language, or it could be clickstream data” – the complete record of your browsing activity on the web.“Those are all the features that you want to [use to] predict.”


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#30

Post by pipistrelle » Sun May 06, 2018 10:44 am

Addie wrote:
Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:55 pm
Daily Beast: Silicon Valley and the Threat to Democracy

Forget Russian hacking—the real threat to democracies around the globe is social media’s inexorable and unavoidable destruction of common ground and shared perspective.
I would add "truth." I see so many conspiracy theory, doctored video, etc., posts, even from reasonably well-educated people, that's it's cringeworthy. No one vets something before liking or sharing. And then there are small things, like authoritative comments, even on innocuous subjects, that are just wrong, but because they seem (and may be) well intended, everyone accepts it. This has always happened (see "old wives' tales") but not on a massive scale.
Edit: Like our own Dick Tater trying to lead us to believe roosters have four legs and fur.



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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#31

Post by Addie » Fri Jul 27, 2018 11:07 am

CBC - March 28 2018
The Persuasion Machine of Silicon Valley

How Facebook Was Harnessed to Micro-Target Voters and Promote Donald Trump ...


Hong’s boss Brad Parscale had a similar take about the social media platform. In an interview with 60 Minutes, Parscale, the Trump's campaign Digital Director said, “I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won.” ...

Parscale and the digital team harnessed Facebook in two ways.

One was to regularly test small variations in the background, colour, design, and phrasing of Facebook ads, to maximize impact. Each day, 50,000 to 60,000 variations were tested each day. On some days they tested 100,000. These micro-targeted ads weren’t limited to Facebook. But the Trump campaign did spend the lion’s share of its advertising budget, around US $85 million, on it.

The other Facebook strategy, according to a BusinessWeek report, was to dissuade voters from showing up to the polls by bombarding Facebook with "dark posts" — non public posts whose viewership the campaign controlled. “Only the people we want to see it, see it,” Parscale explained to Bloomberg.

For instance, they created a Facebook ad that said, “Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators," and targeted it to African American voters. The goal was to depress Clinton’s vote total.

“We know because we’ve modeled this,” Parscale told BusinessWeek. “It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.”


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#32

Post by RVInit » Fri Jul 27, 2018 11:21 am

I think Facebook should just ban all political ads and political news.

Of course, I also believe we should take a huge amount of money out of the election process and get to a point where we are receiving information about candidates through debates. I understand there are problems with that approach and how, and if, to limit the number of candidates. But, voters aren't being served by having a ridiculous amount of money involved in the process and information about candidates coming from all over the place. It's crazy. I don't think we need all the ads on TV that completely misrepresent everything and don't give us valuable information to help inform our choices. I don't know how we go about simplifying and streamlining the process and reducing it to modes that produce valuable information about the candidates' policy positions, what they think are the problems that need to be solved, and how they intend to go about solving those problems, and creating an environment for society (including business and individuals) to thrive. We are getting far too much toxic "information" and way too little good and helpful information. Debates seem to give us the most amount of information. But maybe thinking outside the box could also produce other modes of eliminating the wasteful, toxic, and false information and increasing the amount of useful information regarding our candidates.


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#33

Post by Addie » Fri Jul 27, 2018 12:11 pm

The Verge
Twitter reports a million fewer users as a result of ongoing crackdown on bots

They were never ‘real’ users, but they were counted


Twitter’s monthly user count dropped by 1 million over the past few months and could drop by millions more as the company cracks down on bots and spam. Its monthly user count — a metric often used to discuss the company’s growth and success — fell from 336 million last quarter to 335 million this quarter. And Twitter says it could lose “mid-single-digit millions” more over the next few months.

The numbers were reported this morning in Twitter’s second quarter earnings for 2018. Though Twitter didn’t necessarily lose many “real” users in its account purge, the company hurts its outlook among investors because, in past quarters, it had counted those fake accounts as real, inflating the size of its apparent business.

Getting rid of the spammy accounts is by all means a good thing. It means that Twitter has a better count of how many users it actually has, and it means a better experience for users on the platform. Not to mention, it means fewer potentially bad headlines from the trouble those accounts caused.

But for the time being, at least, it’s a bad look. It means Twitter had been counting fake accounts as real ones, making investors believe the company had more real users and was growing faster than it really was. The company’s stock immediately tumbled in pre-market trading, falling around 16 percent.


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#34

Post by Addie » Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:38 am

The Guardian - John Naughton
Twitter was supposed to spread democracy, not Trump’s ravings

Here’s the $64,000 question for our time: how did digital technologies go from being instruments for spreading democracy to tools for undermining it? Or, to put it a different way, how did social media go from empowering free speech to becoming a cornerstone of authoritarian power?

I ask this as a distressed, recovering techno-utopian. Like many engineers of my generation, I believed that the internet would be the most empowering and liberating technology since the invention of printing by moveable type. And once the web arrived, and anyone who could type could become a global publisher, it seemed to me that we were on the verge of something extraordinary. The old editorial gatekeepers of the pre-internet media world would lose their stranglehold on public discourse; human creativity would be unleashed; a million flowers would bloom in a newly enriched and democratised public sphere. In such a decentralised world, authoritarianism would find it hard to get a grip. A political leader such as Donald Trump would be unthinkable.

Naive? Sure. But I was in good company, as Fred Turner, the distinguished Stanford sociologist, recounts in a remarkable essay about Twitter in a collection recently published by MIT Press.

Turner sets our contemporary dilemma in a longer historical context of the relationship between media and power. In the 1930s, observers marvelled at the astuteness of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, particularly the way he harnessed broadcast (ie one-to-many) communications technology to induce Germans to tune into a single powerful source. “By turning together in a single direction,” Turner writes, “audiences rehearsed the one-to-many structures of fascism.” Mass media deployed in this way “tended to produce an authoritarian personality style”. ...

And then, one day, the internet arrived and the game changed. Suddenly, anyone could be a publisher. Every individual would be able freely to choose what to believe, with whom they would associate and where they would choose to direct their attention. The power of broadcast media would be attenuated. The public sphere could become a free “marketplace of ideas” in which good ideas would drive out the bad. Twitter seemed like the technological instantiation of this ideal: it promoted individual expression and helped to build social networks. Anyone could say anything (well, almost: there were always those vapid “community guidelines”). The first amendment ruled OK.

Trump’s capture of the presidency, says Turner, has comprehensively refuted the democratising promise of digital media. The key feature of authoritarian capture is the projection of the charismatic personality of the ruler. In an analogue era, that meant that the bodies or minds of his audience had to be brought together in one place so that he could work his hypnotic magic. Think Nuremberg rallies or regular speeches like the ones Goebbels used to transmit, via the inexpensive radio receivers he dispensed and also by loudspeakers in public places.


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Re: The Attention Economy: What Hope for Democracy?

#35

Post by Addie » Wed Sep 19, 2018 10:07 am

Sydney Morning Herald
Twitter bots more influential than people in US election: research

They were the 90 minutes of television that set America on fire. As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stepped up to the podium for the first presidential debate of the 2016 election, the battle was already raging on Twitter.

But not all of those users joining in the discussion were human.

An army of so-called Twitter bots, or automated accounts, were also at work, firing off hashtags and worming into feeds, in a wave of "information warfare" that has since come under investigation by a US probe into Russian interference in the presidential race.

Now, on the other side of the world, Canberra computer scientists have written an algorithm to track the influence of these bots on the election - and the results have surprised even them.

Analysing the more than 6.4 million tweets that circulated during those 90 minutes, researchers at the Australian National University found bots were on average about two and a half times more influential than people. While there was a lot less of them than expected, with only about 4.8 per cent of users identified as clear bots, they were also more successful at attracting exposure via retweets.


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