Sex Trafficking on Social Media

Just say “no.”  Remember that one.  It was a slogan used by the federal government in the Reagan days to combat drug trafficking. Thank you Nancy Reagan.  Now we have the Internet and social media at our disposal if we chose to “traffic” in illegal activities.  Sex trafficking is one of the more flagrant abuses that, up to now, has gone unchecked.  Congress has now gotten involved, enacting legislation that will hold online sex traffickers accountable and help give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.

Tech titans such as Facebook, Twitter and Google have finally relented and agreed to grant victims the ability to secure the justice they deserve, allow Internet platforms to continue their work combatting human trafficking, and protect good actors in the ecosystem.  It will hold online sex traffickers accountable and give trafficking survivors the justice they deserve.  Consumer advocates said that the law also put bigger media companies on notice as well.

In reality, and perhaps unfortunately, the Internet of Things can be whatever we humans make of it.

Ray Myers

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Facebook and Google and Amazon, Oh My!

Don’t worry, Dorothy, these tech giants aren’t as dangerous as those “Lions and Tigers and Bears” that you worried about in the land of Oz, or are they?  I guess I just get worried when I hear words like “lobbying Congress” on behalf of more transparency in government regulation – not that there is anything wrong with that.  But it seems that the people who are making the most financial benefit at this point are the lobbyists on K Street, D.C.  Now I know that those lobbyists are real “truth-seekers,” and maybe they do know all about “disinformation” campaigns, but how do you legislate for transparency on the Internet?  Do we currently make all advertisers on public and commercial media do that now?

“The lawmakers behind proposed ad transparency legislation said the bill is designed to prevent another Russian-backed disinformation campaign that ran on Web platforms during the 2016 elestion.  Facebook said that it will take its own steps to increase the transparency of political ads and that it generally supports legislative efforts to do the same.”  I think that this is all very interesting since Facebook seemed to be the favorite vehicle for Russian-backed disinformation in the 2016 campaign.  But why should I worry.   All these Congressional leasders are servants of the American people first!

This is what was recently reported by Hamza Shaban the Washington Post: “Lawmakers behind the proposed ad transparency legislation said the bill is designed to prevent another disinformation campaign.”  Good luck with that!

Ray Myers

Social Media Becomes Hate Media

So how did all this happen?  We have gone from “fake news” to hate mongering on social media sites such as Facebook.  A student was recently stabbed to death at a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus.  I guess those Russian hackers really paved the way for co-opting our technological prowess and turning it in to a tool for disinformation and now, tragically, a tool for hate and deadly crime.  This is NOT what was supposed to happen.

This slaying sparked national outcry after police announced that they were investigating the accused murder’s connection to a Facebook page called Alt-Reich.  University of Maryland Police have said that the content from that page was full of racist and inflammatory material.  University police also said that drugs and alcohol may have played a role in the case.  What a deadly combination!

And what can the so-called president do to help social media be more social and less hateful?  One suggestion: stop tweeting about how “right” he always is, attacking any opposition on a personal (ad hominem) basis.

Ray Myers


Russia Targets U.S. Military Community with Facebook and Twitter

It just keeps getting “curiouser and curiouser” as Alice once said while traveling through Wonderland.  But you really don’t have to go to Wonderland to have this feeling.  I think I am having that feeling right here in the U.S.A. as we discover more about the Russian interference in last year’s election with every passing day.  Social media has become political media and our comrades in Russia are showing us how it’s done.  So maybe this is how you really achieve world dominance after all.  Here is how it was reported in The Washington Post on October 10 by Craig Timberg.

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.

In some cases, the disinformation reached the friends and families of military personnel and veterans as well, the researchers said. But it was not always clear who was creating the content. Twitter, for example, makes it easy for users to hide their true identities.

“The social networks mapped over Twitter and Facebook include both genuine accounts created by U.S. military organizations, by service personnel and veterans themselves, and by groups seeking to influence those users,” the report says. “Some of the accounts are pro-Putin accounts pushing out significant amounts of Russian-oriented content.”

The report by Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which has been studying ways that fake news and propaganda reached Americans during the 2016 election and its aftermath, is the first in which the group sought to explore the spread of disinformation on both Twitter and Facebook, and also how links are shared back and forth across these platforms.

Facebook and Twitter both declined to comment on the report, advanced copies of which were shared with the companies by the researchers.

To examine the kind of information that reaches military personnel and veterans, the researchers analyzed content between April 2 and May 2 on Twitter including popular hashtags such as #GoArmy or #Iraq to determine what users of these hashtags posted. In some cases, said Philip N. Howard, an Oxford professor who co-authored the report, known Russian trolls were using those hashtags to draw attention to content they were promoting.

They researchers also tracked information on several military-themed websites and used the traffic to these sites — along with the Twitter data — to determine what Facebook accounts promoted similar content on publicly available pages. That yielded maps of online interaction showing, for example, that accounts that linked frequently to veterans and military issues also in many cases linked to content related to Russia.

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.

In some cases, the disinformation reached the friends and families of military personnel and veterans as well, the researchers said. But it was not always clear who was creating the content. Twitter, for example, makes it easy for users to hide their true identities.

“The social networks mapped over Twitter and Facebook include both genuine accounts created by U.S. military organizations, by service personnel and veterans themselves, and by groups seeking to influence those users,” the report says. “Some of the accounts are pro-Putin accounts pushing out significant amounts of Russian-oriented content.”

The report by Oxford’s Project on Computational Propaganda, which has been studying ways that fake news and propaganda reached Americans during the 2016 election and its aftermath, is the first in which the group sought to explore the spread of disinformation on both Twitter and Facebook, and also how links are shared back and forth across these platform.

To examine the kind of information that reaches military personnel and veterans, the researchers analyzed content between April 2 and May 2 on Twitter including popular hashtags such as #GoArmy or #Iraq to determine what users of these hashtags posted. In some cases, said Philip N. Howard, an Oxford professor who co-authored the report, known Russian trolls were using those hashtags to draw attention to content they were promoting.

The researchers also tracked information on several military-themed websites and used the traffic to these sites — along with the Twitter data — to determine what Facebook accounts promoted similar content on publicly available pages. That yielded maps of online interaction showing, for example, that accounts that linked frequently to veterans and military issues also in many cases linked to content related to Russia.

The kind of information shared by and with veterans and active-duty personnel span a wide range, with liberal political content also common, though not as common as conservative political content. The online military community, the researchers found, also shared links about sustainable agriculture, mental health issues such as addiction, and conspiracy theories.

No one subject dominated the online content flowing among these communities, but the largest individual categories dealt with military or veteran matters. Russian disinformation was a smaller but significant and persistent part of the overall information flow.

“The very idea that there’s aggressive campaigns to target military personnel with misleading content on national security issues is surprising. It’s disappointing,” Howard said. “Because they’re opinion leaders, they get more attention from governments and people who spread misinformation.”

The other authors of the report, titled “Junk News on Military Affairs and National Security: Social Media Disinformation Campaigns Against US Military Personnel and Veterans,,” were John D. Gallacher, also of Oxford, and Vlad Barash and John Kelley of Graphika, which uses social media data to analyze online relationships and influence.

Ray Myers

Russian-linked Accounts Bought $270,000 of Twitter Ads During Election 

First, it was all about Facebook and how the Russians used it, but wait, Twitter was part of this propaganda master plan as well. Perhaps the sworn enemies of capitalism know how our system works better than we do?  Maybe we really do like “fake news” over the real thing after all, and that’s the scary part.  Or we just have an insatiable appetite for any news that’s instantaneous and never really fact-checked.  We see it on our mobile devices and we believe.  No time to analyze or scrutinize!  And maybe the saddest part is that we like it that way.  Here’s the latest.

Twitter has released a statement explaining how accounts affiliated with Russia Today paid to promote news stories, which may have been attempts to influence the election.

The company has turned details over to Congress.

Senator Mark Warner, who is leading inquiries into Russian election interference, said he was “deeply disappointed” with Twitter’s presentation.

Twitter sold more than $270,000 of ads to Russia-linked accounts during the 2016 election, the company said Thursday, further detailing the extent of potential foreign influence that’s spurred Senate investigations and calls for greater regulation.

Twitter accounts affiliated with Russia Today, an outlet with “strong links” to the Russian government,” promoted more than 1,800 tweets that “definitely or potentially targeted the U.S. market,” the company said in a statement.

Twitter also said that it found Twitter accounts for 22 of the 450 Russia-linked accounts that Facebook said had bought ads on Facebook during the election. It also found 179 more accounts linked to those 22. Twitter has suspended all those accounts.

Thursday Twitter turned over “a round-up of ads” from Russia-linked accounts targeted to the U.S. market, the statement said.

“We are concerned about violations of our Terms of Service and U.S. law with respect to interference in the exercise of voting rights,” the statement said. “During the 2016 election, we removed Tweets that were attempting to suppress or otherwise interfere with the exercise of voting rights, including the right to have a vote counted, by circulating intentionally misleading information.”

Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia who has been helping to lead inquiries into how Russia tried to influence the election via American social media, was not impressed with Twitter’s presentation.

He said the Twitter briefing was mostly derivative of a presentation earlier this month given by Facebook and lacked thoroughness. “Their response was, frankly, inadequate on almost every level,” Warner told reporters.

Ray Myers


More on Facebook and Russia

Here is some more information on the investigation into Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election last year.  As posted on Monday, Facebook has finally come to the realization (admission) that it had been duped, but had also been rewarded handsomely by the fake news vendors.

“Facebook has now disclosed that fake accounts and pages had paid the social media giant over $100,000 during the 2016 presidential election cycle. These accounts purchased 3,000 ads, largely for the purpose of spreading false information about Hillary Clinton. The ad purchasers were, as expected, Russian. Now Robert Mueller has reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the fake accounts that Facebook claims to have shut down earlier this month.

Wall Street Journal was the first to report on this issue, “Facebook Inc. has handed over to special counsel Robert Mueller detailed records about the Russian ad purchases on its platform that go beyond what the company shared with Congress last week, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, says reports that special counsel Robert Mueller got a search warrant for Facebook content could be “the biggest news” related to since the raid on Paul Manafort’s home. Knowing now that not only did Facebook comply with Mueller’s warrant, but that the company turned over more detailed information than that which they turned over to Congress is excellent news.

There are still obstinate deniers that Russia interfered with the 2016 president election, all of the intelligence to the contrary. Kellyanne Conway, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Sean Spicer have done everything they can to frame this investigation as equal parts conspiracy theory fodder and media bullying. The more information Russia can get that directly supports Russian interference, whether through making deals or disseminating false information propaganda-style.

There are some who simply will not be convinced. After all, an astonishing number of Republicans still believe former president Obama was not born in the United States.”

Ray Myers

Trump Attacks NFL and Russians Hack Facebook

What a week!  Trump raises the stakes on how patriotic NFL football fans should be, i.e., let’s all stand for the national anthem. You really don’t have to stand, as explained in my commentary yesterday.  And then we find out that Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had been hacked by the Russians last year and conceivably played an dominant role in insuring Trump’s presidential victory.  I think Maureen Dowd’s column in yesterday’s NY Times explains all this much better than I ever could, please see below “Will Zuck ‘Like’ This Column?”

Ray Myers

Maureen Dowd, New York Times, 9/24/17
WASHINGTON — The idea of Mark Zuckerberg running for president was always sort of scary.  But now it’s really scary, given what we’ve discovered about the power of his little invention to warp democracy.

All these years, the 33-year-old founder of Facebook has been dismissive of the idea that social media and A.I. could be used for global domination — or even that they should be regulated.

Days after Donald Trump pulled out his disorienting win, Zuckerberg told a tech conference that the contention that fake news had influenced the election was “a pretty crazy idea,” showing a “profound lack of empathy” toward Trump voters.

But all the while, the company was piling up the rubles and turning a blind eye as the Kremlin’s cyber hit men weaponized anti-Hillary bots on Facebook to sway the U.S. election. Russian agents also used Facebook and Twitter trolls, less successfully, to try to upend the French election.

Finally on Thursday, speaking on Facebook Live, Zuckerberg said he would give Congress more than 3,000 ads linked to Russia. As one Facebooker posted: “Why did it take EIGHT MONTHS to get here?”

Hillary is right that this $500 billion company has a lot to answer for in allowing the baby-photo-sharing site to be turned into what, with Twitter, The Times’s Scott Shane called “engines of deception and propaganda.”

Robert Mueller’s team, as well as House and Senate investigators, are hotly pursuing the trail of Russian fake news. On Friday, the Department of Homeland Security told 21 states, including Wisconsin and Ohio, that Russian agents had tried to hack their elections systems during the campaign.

As Vanity Fair pointed out, Mueller’s focus on social media during the campaign could spell trouble for Jared Kushner, who once bragged that he had called his Silicon Valley friends to get a tutorial in Facebook microtargeting and brought in Cambridge Analytica — Robert Mercer is a big investor — to help build a $400 million operation for his father-in-law’s campaign.

Some lawmakers suspect that the Russians had help in figuring out which women and blacks to target in precincts in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Senator Martin Heinrich, a New Mexico Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee looking into Russia’s intervention in 2016, has a suspect in mind. “Paul Manafort made an awful lot of money coming up with a game plan for how Russian interests could be pushed in Western countries and Western elections,” Heinrich told Vanity Fair.

ProPublica broke the news that, until it asked about it recently, Facebook had “enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of “why jews ruin the world.”’”

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s C.O.O., apologized for this on Wednesday and promised to fix the ad-buying tools, noting, “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way — and that is on us.”

The Times’s Kevin Roose called this Facebook’s “Frankenstein moment,” like when Mary Shelley’s scientist, Victor Frankenstein, says, “I had been the author of unalterable evils, and I lived in daily fear lest the monster whom I had created should perpetrate some new wickedness.”

Roose noted that in addition to the Russian chicanery, “In Myanmar, activists are accusing Facebook of censoring Rohingya Muslims, who are under attack from the country’s military. In Africa, the social network faces accusations that it helped human traffickers extort victims’ families by leaving up abusive videos.”

The Sandberg admission was also game, set and match for Elon Musk, who has been sounding the alarm for years about the danger of Silicon Valley’s creations and A.I. mind children getting out of control and hurting humanity. His pleas for safeguards and regulations have been mocked as “hysterical” and “pretty irresponsible” by Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg, whose project last year was building a Jarvis-style A.I. butler for his home, likes to paint himself as an optimist and Musk as a doomsday prophet. But Sandberg’s comment shows that Musk is right: The digerati at Facebook and Google are either being naïve or cynical and greedy in thinking that it’s enough just to have a vague code of conduct that says “Don’t be evil,” as Google does.

As Musk told me when he sat for a Vanity Fair piece: “It’s great when the emperor is Marcus Aurelius. It’s not so great when the emperor is Caligula.”

In July, the chief of Tesla and SpaceX told a meeting of governors that they should adopt A.I. legislation before robots start “going down the street killing people.” In August, he tweeted that A.I. going rogue represents “vastly more risk than North Korea.” And in September, he tweeted out a Gizmodo story headlined “Hackers Have Already Started to Weaponize Artificial Intelligence,” reporting that researchers proved that A.I. hackers were better than humans at getting Twitter users to click on malicious links.

(Musk also tweeted that it was a cautionary tale when Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay, had to be swiftly shut down when Twitter users taught her how to reply with racist, misogynistic and anti-Semitic slurs, talking approvingly about Hitler.)

Vladimir Putin has denied digital meddling in the U.S. elections. But he understands the possibilities and threat of A.I. In a recent address, the Russian president told schoolchildren, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” Musk agreed on Twitter that competition for A.I. superiority would be the “most likely cause of WW3.”

On Thursday, touring the Moscow tech firm Yandex, Putin asked the company’s chief how long it would be before superintelligent robots “eat us.”

Zuckerberg scoffs at such apocalyptic talk. His project this year was visiting all 50 states, a trip designed by former Obama strategist David Plouffe, which sparked speculation that he might be the next billionaire to seek the Oval Office.

As Bloomberg Businessweek wrote in a cover story a few days ago, Zuckerberg has hired Plouffe, other senior Obama officials and Hillary’s pollster. He has said he is no longer an atheist and he changed Facebook’s charter to allow him to maintain control in the hypothetical event he runs for office.

Yep. Very scary.

Trump Tweets While Houston Floods

I think the title of this short blog is self-explanatory, but let’s talk a little about how some leaders (emperors?) react to natural disasters.  Just like ol’ Nero fiddled away while Rome burned back in 64 AD, our so-called President likes to tweet when disasters like the floods in Houston threaten the lives and livelihoods of American citizens.  What else has he really done about it?

Fortunately, some Americans have begun to fill this void by using social media to help those in harm’s way.  Now I know Melania looks great in stiletto heels 👠, but this is not a fashion show!  It’s a disaster!  The Facebook group “Hurricane Harvey Helping Hands” has multiple examples of homegrown rescuers posting photos of their boats and trucks along with their phone numbers.  Police have also asked boat owners to use social media to help authorities with rescues.  Some Texans have responded in a true expression of their Lone Star State independence: “I am not going to wait.  I am going to get out there and help people myself.”

Now remember that “big, beautiful wall” we are going to build along the Mexican border with the United States.  Luckily, we haven’t been able to get started yet.  With our current “open” border the Mexican government has been able to send supplies and offer other forms of relief assistance to our fellow Americans.  I am sure that they will now be glad to help us build that wall (a la Trump), so that we can keep them out the next time.  WHAT?

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Labor Day weekend.  I will be back next Friday, September 8


Hate on the Internet

Talk about your unintended consequences!  At least I don’t think “social networking” on the Internet was envisioned as creating a platform for hate groups and terrorists in the U.S.  Unfortunately this has come to pass before our very eyes in the deadly confrontations in Charlottesville last weekend.   Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that such groups are also able to raise funds for their reprehensible intentions to spread hatred for blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, feminist activists, etc., thanks, in some measure to “funding” sites that solicit contributions online.  The sites themselves are not the culprits, but the hate groups that use them for such purposes must be stopped.  PayPal, for example, has already agreed to remove at least 34 organizations that include companies that are selling gun accessories explicitly explicitly for killing Muslims!

Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal role.  These companies have limited experience handling these issues.  They must answer to share-holders and demonstrate growth in users and profits – weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum.  These platforms are so massive – Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base:  GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites – it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently.  But tech companies are reportedly forging ahead.  At this point it appears to be an industry-lead initiative that has been decried by some “alt-right” leaders as intrusive censorship that could lead to increased government “”meddling.”

Spewing hatred on the Internet, to my mind, is not exercising free speech.  We are constantly being reminded that “words have consequences” in our daily political discourse.  Freedom of speech demands that we use words to ensure a freedom of expression that does not foment hatred.

Ray Myers



Forget about Trump – How about Internet Freedom!

Hopefully reality has set in.  Donald Trump seems to be coming more irrelevant with every passing days of angry tweets and political posturing.  He really doesn’t know how to play this game!  What has he really accomplished?  So November is slowly approaching and now he is talking about bombing North Korea?  Maybe this will save his presidency, but God help us all.  And now to world affairs and how squelching internet freedom from our friends in China and Russia will make us all better world citizens.

Let’s just talk about China as an example, but I know Trump has great friends in Russia as well, but that may evolve into a more continuing geopolitical saga (can’t get enough of that Vladimir Putin!).  “China’s great firewall, a massive system of Internet filters and blocking, has long had a crack in it.  The firewall prevents most users inside China from accessing platforms outside the country, such as Facebook, Google and Netflix.  In keeping with China’s desire to censor what can be seen and read.  But popular software known as virtual private networks, or VPNs permit a user within China to tunnel through the firewall.  Now the crack is gradually being cemented up.”

Unfortunately, I believe Trump wants to emulate these totalitarian laders, and make Internet freedom a nostalgic fantasy in the U.S.  Please don’t let this happen!

Ray Myers

Summer Rerun – Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in U.S.  (Originally posted on July 13, 2016)

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year. Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.” What a concept! And Twitter is making this all possible. Social media can now become political media. I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors. But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen. I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals. “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all! What a country! What are we doing? We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go. And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices. My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and tuhat our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.” Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently treading water in an ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors. Everybody wants to be on Facebook. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?

Ray Myers

Summer Rerun from Last Summer:  Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in the U.S. (Originally posted on July 13, 2016)

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year. Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.” What a concept! And Twitter is making this all possible. Social media can now become political media. I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors. But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen. I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campjmaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals. “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all! What a country! What are we doing? We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go. And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices. My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and that our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.” Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently tread ing water in ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors. Everybody wants to be on Facebook. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?


Ray Myers

Summer Rerun: Tech and Trump Collide! (Originally posted on January 30, 2017)

Figuratively speaking that is. But this is all about how technology has expanded as an industry that has a global reach. Not only in terms of the powers of the Internet, but its effect on humanity around the world. Many different races and people from all corners of the globe can now benefit and contribute to its continuing growth and reach. Silicon Valley has brought some of the most talented tech “workers” from around the world into the U.S. We are talking about companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Amazon, Netflix and Microsoft. Trump’s proposed immigration ban could impair the ability of top U.S. companies to recruit and retain such talent in order to better compete globally.

In a company-wide email, Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, stated his opposition very clearly, particularly in terms of its impact on immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. “I’ve heard from many of you who are deeply concerned about the executive order issued yesterday restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries. I share your concerns. It is not a policy we support.” In open letters and other public statements during the Presidential campaign, tech executives and workers also objected to Trump’s anti-Muslim statements, and some signed onto a commitment not to help design his proposed Muslim registry.

Well, it’s the start of another work week at the White House. Although it’s only the second one, it already seems like a long time from the inauguration. I’m still waiting for the part where we become “great again!”

Ray Myers

P.S.  TechtoExpress will be on “vacation” next week.  We will return on Monday, July 31.

How to Catch an Extremist?

Facebook used to be a fun place.  As we all well know, that is not necessarily the case today.  Unfortunately it has also provided a means for terrorist networking.  I know this is not the happy “talk” that I like to post on this site, but we can not afford to be naive in how social networking is being used.  But do you really think artificial intelligence will save us from this blight of hatred and terrorism in which Facebook seems to play a large part?  I am not very reassured from what I read on both sides of the equation.

Facebook representatives have said they were hopeful that the new artificial intelligence technology could be used to counter any form of extremism that violated the company’s terms of use, although for the time being it will be “narrowly focused.”  Representatives from the international freedom of expression group at the Electronic Frontier Foundation wonder if Facebook’s action will be effective or will it be overreach.  “Are they trying to discourage people from joining terrorist groups to begin with, or to discourage them from from posting about terrorism on Facebook.”  I guess the answer could be “both,” but I think that Facebook is still trying to minimize the use of its platform as a terrorist “social network.”

Let’s start somewhere.  This is a needed form of network censorship.

Ray Myers

Where Everybody Knows Your Name – Maybe Online, But Not in Real Time

Before there was Facebook and Twitter (I do remember), people would actually talk to each other face-to-face.  They were not as concerned about the number of retweets or likes they received on social media (there was none).  Maybe they just wanted to have a few close friends or family members that they could always count on to be around whenever they needed them, or just wanted to enjoy each other’s company.  In our virtual world of today when can choose to be connected to our friends and family whenever, and in whatever ways we choose.  But living in the virtual world full time may actually deprive us of having a longer life.  Feeling isolated and disconnected from the real world can actually make us sick.

Recent  research suggests that being unpopular (in the real world) can be hazardous to our health.  In fact, it might even kill us.  Yet most don’t realize that there’s more than one type of popularity and social media may not supply the one that makes us feel good.  This same research also reveals that there is more than one type of popularity, and most of us may be investing in the wrong kind.  We can be popular by simply being likeable.  Likeability reflects kindness, benevolent leadership and selfless, prosocial behavior.  This same research suggests that this form of popularity offers lifelong advantages, and leads to relationships that confer the greatest health benefits.  We may be built by evolution to care deeply about popularity, but it’s up to us to chose the nature of the relationships we want with our peers.  It may also mean that we step away from Twitter once in a while.

May we all live long and prosper in real time.  🖖

Ray Myers

Faked Out by Fake News

Oh, those automated algorithms!  One day they are riding high as our anointed saviors from being duped by fake news and exposed to gory live streaming, and the next day we are not quite so sure (see my post on May 3).  So what is Mark Zuckerberg and others to do?  I guess they will have to hire more humans or, as they are called in the business, “screeners.”  So how many for how long?  And why are we so gullible, and so intrigued by gory spectacles we can watch on demand.  Sounds like the old days of the Roman Empire when they threw the Christians to the lions.  Only now you can watch it at any time and any place thanks to technology.  Not to mention reading the fake news to fill in your spare time.  Can Mark Zuckerberg or anybody really solve this problem

Despite Zuckerberg’s pledge to do a better job in screening content, many Facebook users did not seem to believe that much would change.  Hundreds of commenters on his post related personal experiences of reporting inappropriate content to Facebook that the company declined to remove.  So who are these reviewers and what standards do they apply?  Most of them are low-paid contractors overseas who spend an average of just a few seconds on each post.  A National Public Radio investigation last year found that they inconsistently apply Facebook’s standards, echoing previous  research by other outlets.  Hmmmm, I wonder if some of these same people work in those famous “call centers” that American companies have established abroad?

Sounds to me that we may be “faked out” for a long time to come.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting on Friday.  Busy weekend ahead.  Enjoy yours.  Back on Monday.



Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Shop/Search Online

Remember the Yellow Pages?  I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly.  I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  What would we do now without Amazon or Google?  As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.

Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear.  Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping:  My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required.  Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked:  It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?”  And now there is even more.  Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.

But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants:  Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft.  It’s too late to escape.

Ray Myers


Tech Tackles Fake News

What’s all this about fake news? (remember Rosenne Rosanadana, TV’s Saturday Night Live).  I just read the other day that computer experts are using sophisticated algorithms and online data to spot misinformation.  So now it seems that we have “machine learning” tools that use artificial intelligence to combat fake news.  A growing number of technology experts worldwide are now harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online.  Calls for combating fake news have focused on some of the biggest online players, including American giants like Facebook and Google.  Why did we have to wait for this call until after a U.S. Presidential election?  Does fake news really have more readers than real news?

I am not really a conspiracy theorist, and maybe the technology and needed algorithms were not fully developed in time for last year’s election, but perhaps it’s just another example of “timing being everything.”  Technology still seems to hold a revered place as our best hope for discerning fact from fiction.  But many Europeans are not so optimistic.  With fake news already swirling around their forthcoming elections, analysts also worry that technology on its on may not be enough to combat the threat.  

Remember the old adage, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”  I guess it’s time to rethink that old saw, or maybe we should literally start reading (and listening) again with a more critical perspective.  We must never think that technology can do all this for us.

Ray Myers

Corralling the Social Media Market

Do you ever think of social media as a business that has to be regulated in order to ensure fair competition in this marketing space.  In the period of ten years we have gone from a time when the American marketplace was dominated by  companies such as Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Microsoft, Citigroup and Bank of America to a new era of technology companies replacing them in the size of their market caps.  Microsoft remains in the middle of this group at #3, but is now joined by its largest tech competitors: Apple (1), Alphabet (2, Google parent company), Amazon (4), and Facebook (5).    We may eventually have to regulate these tech giants if they are determined to truly be monopolies that limit competition by smaller tech businesses in this space.

“We are going to have to decide fairly soon whether Google, Facebook and Amazon are the kinds of natural monopolies that need to be regulated, or whether we allow the status quo to continue, pretending that unfettered monoliths don’t inflict damage on our privacy and democracy.  It is impossible to deny that Facebook, Google and Amazon have stymied innovation on a broad scale. To begin with, the platforms of Google and Facebook are the point of access to all media for the majority of Americans.  While profits at Google, Facebook and Amazon have soared, revenues in media businesses like newspaper publishing or the music business have, since 2001, fallen by 70 percent.”   So most Americans can now “proudly” say that they only know what they see on their computer screens (of varying sizes).  Maybe this is really how all those fake news stories began?

Fewer newspaper readers, but more “screen” readers.  Let’s face it, our social media markets are like the Wild West of the Digital Age.  Maybe we do need a few Marshall Dillons to protect all of us law-abiding citizens (anyone remember Gunsmoke?).

Ray Myers


Choose Your Own News and TV Program Endings

Now it seems that you may never have to live in the “real world.”  Or at least when you are watching TV or searching for the latest news online (some people, I guess, still buy daily newspapers, and end their searching there).  But technology has made it possible for us to go online and search for whatever news we may like.  Sorry, but I am getting very confused here.  Maybe Kellyanne Conway was right: there may truly be “alternative realities” out there, and you can pick whatever one you like.  

Some reporting on the recent South by Southwest Interactive Festival may be helpful in trying to understand it all.  “(Netflix) is developing new interactive technology allowing viewers to direct the plots of certain TV shows, Chose-Your-Own Adventure style.”  They are also focusing on children’s programming, more as a developmental learning tool than as some new twist on the modern media sphere’s rush to give you exactly what you want when you want it.   Well, as the old expression goes: “Good luck with that!”  It just might turn out that it will be more profitable for Netflix  and others to give their audiences what they want, and then what?  They are already giving viewers the opportunity to choose their own endings!

So much news, so little time.  Who do you trust?  Dan Rather?  Kellyanne Conway?

Ray Myers