Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Stop the presses!

On 13 November 2016, Mark Zuckerberg (CEO) posted an online response denying claims that Facebook posts had influenced the 2016 US Presidential elections. A few days earlier, he had stated: “Personally I think the idea that fake news on Facebook – of which it’s a very small amount of the content – influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” (NYT, TCWSJ)

Washington Post News Alert of 25 September 2017: “Nine days after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as “crazy” the idea that fake news on his company’s social network played a key role in the U.S. presidential election, then-President Barack Obama delivered what he hoped would be a wake-up call to the youthful executive.”

During September 2017, we have first heard the mea culpa of Facebook (WP, WSJ) and then Twitter (WSJ) on Russian interference in the 2016 US elections. Ironically, Russia now threatens to block Facebook during the 2018 Russian Presidential elections over Facebook’s refusal to store its data in Russia (ABCCNN, Independent).

A recent Wired article, on how Myanmar’s internet disrupted society and fuelled extremists, made me reflect on the use of internet in mass communication. I prepared a diagram which I will explain below.

In essence, communication is a message from Sender to Receiver. It has 2 basic strategies: push and pull. The main disadvantage of pushing a message through the communication channel is noise or interference. My diagram gives 3 examples: (i) language (eg, lost in translation), (ii) required licenses from receiving State in order to broadcast a message, and (iii) the (physical) distribution of the message

Internet allows Sender to communicate directly to Receiver by pulling him/her to its message (ie, online content). Theoretically, this removes all hurdles or obstacles. Obviously, the devil is in the details. Advertisements (or ads) are a common method for pulling receiver to sender’s message. Early September 2017, Facebook disclosed that accounts with apparent Russian ties purchased 5,200 ads totaling $150,000 of turnover (Politico). These small numbers seem irrelevant.

Similar insignificant, surprising and weird variances were noted in the 2016 election results of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won these states by just above or just below +1% of the votes (PR). Shortly after the 2016 elections, computer scientists had noticed these statistical anomalies (eg, CNN, WP). So far the 2016 election recounts show fraudulent signals (PR) but are without conclusive evidence of fraud (WP).

On 1 September 2017, Kenya’s supreme court annulled the country’s disputed presidential election because the voting may have been hacked (Economist, NYT). USA may follow.

Spent the day in bed (2017) by Morrissey – artist, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

Stop watching the news!

Because the news contrives to frighten you

To make you feel small and alone

To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own

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