Goodbye Cambridge Analytica, Your Work is Done (for now?)

The London based firm blamed “unfairly negative media coverage” and said it has been “vilified” for actions it says both legal and widely accepted as part of online advertising. As most Americans know by now, its actions included the spreading of false news in support of the election of Mr. Trump, and to the denigration of Hilary Clinton’s campaign.

Cambridge Analytica said it has filed papers to begin insolvency proceedings in the U.K. And will seek bankruptcy protection in a federal court in New York. “The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the company’s customers and suppliers.”

“So sad” as Mr. Trump would say.

Ray Myers

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No More Fake News – We Can Only Hope!

Google recently announced that it will be offering online tools and funding for journalists ($300 million over the next three years). It will be known as the Google News Initiative. I am not sure that I completely understand how all of this is going to work, but hey, who really reads newspapers anymore? Maybe Google can bring them all back, if that’s really the goal? Or perhaps we all should pledge to read more news in “reliable” print format everyday, but I think it may be too late. Some experts have already proposed that young minds are already “flickering” because of all the technology tools surrounding them. But let’s give Google its due and highlight a couple of their efforts.

As part of its Initiative, Google is creating a Disinfo Lab in partnership with the Harvard Kennedy School’s First Draft, which will attempt to identify false news during breaking news situations. Google and YouTube, the video site owned by Google’s parent company, have been criticized for allowing conspiracy theories and unreliable partisan sources to filter to the top of their search results for breaking news and for having failed to stop the spread of false news during the 2016 presidential election (have a look at my blog post on Wednesday about YouTube and Wikipedia joining forces, sort of). In addition, Google.org, Google’s nonprofit arm, also announced a $10 million media literacy project to help America’a teenagers learn skills to identify fake news (maybe it will also help parents!).

So watch out kids! Your days will be getting busier and busier. No time for all those “extracurricular” activities that might be the most “real” part of your day.

Ray Myers

Fact-checking on YouTube – You’ve Got a Friend in Wikipedia?

Whether one party wants the friendship or not! This seems to be a very confusing turn of events. It also appears to be about the “little people” helping a Goliath of the tech world, but why? It must be the money, but no one seems to know how much and for how long? Here’s what has been reported to date.

The plan was presented as just one of many ways that YouTube, which is owned by Google, would address mounting concerns about its content. But it highlighted a jarring dynamic: Here was Google, a company with revenues in excess of $100 billion last year, calling on a volunteer-built, donation-funded nonprofit organization to help it solve a crisis. The main problem with YouTube’s presumptuous announcement is being criticized by some because Wikipedia is not necessarily geared toward breaking news – and conspiracy theories tend to move at lightning speed during times of crisis.

Is this all simply a case of “breaking news” being scrutinized by some form of journalistic review. Or perhaps it just doesn’t matter any more on the age of Trump.

Ray Myers

We Still Have Football!

As we all know, Trump and company have shut down the federal government, but we still have Super Bowl football and all its hype to entertain us over the next few weeks. I am not sure which is more entertaining over the long run, but we shall find out. But what can I say about all the technological tools involved in informing us about these “winter spectacles.”

Will we all be better informed this time around? Will Twitter be overloaded with barbs and updates about our political and football fanaticisms? I am afraid so. Depending on your personal or political view, are we now headed for a “winter of our discontent” or content for some?

I am sure there are parts of New England where there are many people happier to be watching Tom Brady on the football field than follow all the tweets from the so-called president in the Oval Office, when he is not in Mar-a-Lago.

Ray Myers

Fighting Against Trumpism and Racism – Not a War of Words

It’s just too easy.  We can write blogs, tweet our anger about the state of affairs in the U.S. today, but do you often wonder about who is really listening or who really cares. It is all so easy and self-satisfying to let people know how angry and upset we are.  But at the same time, do we really begin to ask ourselves whether this is all having any impact?  Mere words may not be enough.  

I think the Bully-in-Charge (a.k.a, the so-called president) really has the upper hand.  He uses Twitter to communicate with all his adoring fans, and they really like it.  Nothing is really complicated – just listen to my harangues and we will all feel a lot better.  He will lead us in making America Great Again.  Just read and believe!  He is tweeting while “Rome burns,” and very few seem to really care.  I am sure we can all write statements in opposition to all this “fake rhetoric” but what have we really accomplished?  Many worry that ceaseles statement -writing is sucking us dry.

In a New York Times’ opinion piece on Sunday Tiya Miles wrote: “I doubt my own courage and wonder each day whether I could deploy my body beyond the relative safety of marches approved by permits.  But I am certain of this: The change we seek to make won’t be accomplished by words alone.”

Ray Myers

The Internet Knows Who You Are!

Who really were all those crazy white men who came to Charlottesville last weekend?  It seems like most of them were NOT from Charlottesville at all.  Thanks to the Internet they were able to spread their poisonous rhetoric far and near.  And thanks to the Internet we are also able to find out who they are, and hopefully never let this happen again.  But I am being overly optimistic, and as long as Trump is in the White House it looks like we are in for a lot more hatred and potentially violent episodes in the days ahead.

So it is not all about cable news stoking Trump’s bigotry and paranoia as I wrote earlier this week. The Internet also still seems a powerful force when used to coalesce and connect those who wish to do others harm.  Fortunately, it can also be used to call out those who are hate mongers.  “The mostly male crowd that participated in Friday night’s tiki-torch-lit rally did not cover their faces, and they were widely photographed.  A Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, began posting photographs of participants and uncovering their identities.  .  .  The account would soon identify students enrolled at the University of Nevada and Washington State University, leading both of  the schools to issue statements condemning racism.(Washington Post, 8/15/17).”

Remember the days of “Make Love, Not War.” A distant memory for many of us who attended college in the sixties.  Many now seem to prefer Hate to Love.

Ray Myers

We Have All Been Trumped!

Cable news loves Trump.  He has been a boon to their ratings over the past two years, and they are not letting go any time soon.  So in many ways, we have become what we like to watch, and Trump is the character who has captured our imagination for the right or wrong reasons.  It’s all about the ratings, baby!

“The three leading cable news networks rarely discuss any other topic other than Trump during prime-time hours, their highest-rated period of the day.  Trump is the focus during daytime hours, too, when cable news actually tends to report some news, rather than merely talking about it .  .  . But cable’s reliance on Trump is as much a programming strategy as a reflection of the news of the moment.  Zucker (Cable News Network President) acknowledges that the audience’s response to all the Trump news on cable validates the approach.  Only a few years ago, ‘writers wrote that cable news was irrelevant, that it was being overtaken by the Internet’ he said.  ‘The fact is, cable news has never been more relevant or more successful than it has been for the last two years.'”

And I thought the Internet was going to change the world!  I guess that watching TV is just more entertaining, and maybe that is what most people want to do during “prime time.”  Cable news has become our latest national obsession.  Jeff Zucker is very happy!

Ray Myers