Tips to Get Teens to Put Down Smartphones

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I know it’s still three days away, but I will not be posting a blog message again until next Monday. Please have safe travels and enjoy your time with family and friends. Last Friday I did blog about some recent findings on the possible detrimental effects of too much time on smartphones for our preschool and school-age children. Now for some more helpful tips from child developmental researchers.

Keep Devices Out of Kids Bedrooms Kids need more more sleep than grown ups. Taking away a child’s phone at bedtime can be a battle, but it’s worth the fight.

Set Online Firewalls and Data Cutoffs A young person’s brain is wired for exploration and, to some extent, thrill-seeking – not restraint. Most devices and internet providers, as well as some apps, offer parenting tools and restrict access to problematic content and curb data use. Take advantage of them.

Create a Device Contract These rules could include no Smartphones at the dinner table or no more than a hour of social media use after school. If a child violates the rules, he or she should lose the phone for a period of time.

Model Healthy Device Behaviors Just as kids struggle to stay off of their phones, so do parents. And if you are a phone junkie yourself, you can’t expect your kids to be any different. Apart from putting you own phone away while driving or during mealtimes (Thanksgiving!), it’s important to recognize that your kids also see what you put online.

Consider Old-school Flip Phones Kids can always access social media or video from home computers or tablets during their free time. But when they’re out in the world, they won’t be tempted with all-the-time access to screen-based distractions.

Have a happy, text-free Thanksgiving dinner. Will be back next Monday. Enjoy!

Ray Myers

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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

Trump Tweets While We Burn

I used to think that tweeting was just for fun.  You really don’t have to think too hard and if you can learn all the abbreviations and other Twitter short-cuts, you can really pack a lot of thoughts (?) in those 140/280 characters.  I never really thought you could become president of the United States by doing this?  Well I guess I am wrong again.  I suppose we have all been “trumped,” at least those of us who may have voted for another candidate in last year’s election.  You know who you are.

Trump has used his Twitter account since March 2009.  He has tweeted more than 36,000 times and has 41.7 million followers. Trump has credited his use of social media as among one of the main reasons he was elected.  “You have to keep people interested also.  You know, you have to keep people interested.”  Twitter also serves as one of Trump’s main tools for deflecting criticisms and attacks.  He has said, “When somebody says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it.”  Trump’s Twitter account was deactivated for 11 minutes Thursday night by a company employee on his last day on the job. Maybe he/she was just trying to exert some type of “executive privilege.”

Or perhaps he/she was just trying to fact check some of  Trump’s tweets, in which case the “fake facts” just overloaded the system.

Ray Myers

Automated Dining in an Automated World – Still Hungry for Something Else? 

I think it used to be a novelty.  At least that is how I remembered going to a Horn and Hardart Automat when I was a boy and being intrigued by the process of opening tiny glass doors to retrieve your favorite dishes.  It has been a while since I have experienced this self-service feature but from what I have read about today’s automats are that they are more technologically enhanced and offer a more varied menu that would even appeal to vegetarian diners.  Now it appears that diners are frowning upon “faceless dining.”

Eve Turow Paul recently wrote in Forbes magazine that “the links between technology and increasing rates of loneliness, depression, and anxiety.  Many in this young generation battle a creeping sense of nugatory existence by connecting over a meal – whether it’s by cooking for family, dining out with friends, or chatting with others online about gluten-free recipes.  My research clearly shows these human-facing moments and different instances of interaction help soothe this digitally-connected generation.”

Funny, I don’t remember family meal times as always being a “soothing experience.”   But I guess that we all got to know more about each other in a “face-to-face” way.

Ray Myers

P.S.  Happy Halloween 👻, everyone.  I will be back next Friday after a Halloween break with family.  I hope it’s not too scary!


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

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

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

Digital Tool for Reporting Hate Crimes 

Please have a look at this article I am posting in its entirety.  Unfortunately, hate crimes seem to be on the rise, but fortunately we now are able to report their occurrence more accurately, and share information about them in a more timely manner.  An innovative and powerful example of how “technology can scale access to knowledg

For victims of hate crimes, the struggle for justice is often along one.

Many victims never find justice, experts say, because they don’t know where — or how — to seek it out. A substantial number may not even be sure they’ve been the victims of legitimate hate crimes, or they’re too ashamed or nervous to contact law enforcement, so they choose to remain quiet instead of seeking assistance, experts say“The data reveals that about 80 percent of Americans who want access to legal information or services can’t get it,” said Nicole L. Bradick, a former civil rights lawyer in Maine. “On the one hand, that’s because people believe the cost is too high. On the other, that’s because taking steps to advocate for yourself in the justice world are seen as big, scary steps.”

In some ways, they’re right, said Bradick, who is the chief strategy officer for CuroLegal, an organization that aims to improve legal access via technology. Depending on the nature of the incident and where it occurred, reporting a hate crime can involve multiple organizations — some public, some private and some overlapping — and the process can vary depending on state laws. The how-to information is out there, Bradick said, but it exists in isolated pockets around the Web.

To simplify what can be an incredibly confusing process, Bradick and a team from Cisco Systems and the American Bar Association’s Center for Innovation unveiled a digital tool last week to help streamline parts of the reporting process by turning them into an easy-to-use Web application. The name: Hatecrimehelp.com.

The service, which is free, uses a format similar to “Mad Libs” in which users fill out a paragraph by choosing from words describing their incident, which can include terms such as verbal hate, property damage, violence or harassment.

The form allows users to add the location of the alleged crime, their Zip code and what they think motivated the incident — ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or immigration status, for example.

Once the form is completed, the page offers the names and contact information of local nonprofits organizations and government resources for hate crime reporting, as well as a feature that explains “what to expect” from each organization.

The site also explains the difference between a hate crime and a “bias incident,” and offers a side-by-side look at a state’s law vs. federal law.

“We wanted to create technology that would present the law in digestible ways,” Bradick said, noting that the designers put themselves in the shoes of a hate crime victim and spent months doing Google searches to better understand the challenges victims face online.

“Almost everybody has a smartphone and can pull up this information on a browser from anywhere. We’re huge believers in the idea that technology can scale access to knowledge.”

Bradick said the page was prompted by the spike in hate crimes since last year’s presidential election, an increase that has been documented by academics, politicians and experts at organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The FBI reports that there were more than 5,800 hate crime incidents involving about 7,100 victims in 2015, the most recent year that statistics were available.

As The Washington Post’s Janell Ross reported last week, another division of the Justice Department that uses a survey to ask Americans directly about whether they’ve been victims of hate crimes paints a vastly different picture of hate:

“Each year, the results are quite different than the landscape of crime delineated in the FBI’s report,” Ross writes. “Between 2004 and 2015, people living in the United States reported experiencing an average of 250,000 hate crimes each year, according to a report released by the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Statistics in June. In the last five years of that period, nearly half of the hate crimes — 48 percent — self-reported by victims were “motivated by racial bias” and 90 percent involved violence, according to the DOJ report.”

To address underreporting, Bradick said her team plans to do user testing to make sure their site is as easy to use as possible.

“When it comes to the law, we don’t make it very easy for people to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to protect themselves or take advantage of the protections the law provides them,” she said. “Hopefully, we can begin to change that.”  (Holley, Washington Post, 10/9/1)

Ray Myers

Online Dating

“Being upfront about my disability liberated me.”  In this case a young woman, Emily Ladau, who describes herself as playing the online dating game finally decided to make it clear in her online profile that she was in a wheelchair.  Ironically she was a person who was a advocate for the rights of the disabled, but in the dating world, her disability was her secret shame.  Here is how she describes the change she made on her own online world.

“So I decided it was time for a change. I started gradually, making references to my disability throughout my profile, then adding photos in which my wheelchair is clearly visible. I tried to keep things light and humorous. For instance, OKCupid asks users to list six things they can’t live without; one of mine is “the invention of the wheel.”

Still, I found myself having to make sure that potential matches had actually picked up on the trail of clues I’d left. I grew tired of feeling like I needed to deceive men into being interested because society instilled in me that my disability makes me undesirable. Finally, I took the leap I’d been so afraid to make, opening up about disability to strangers whom I hoped would appreciate my honesty and perhaps send me a message.

Prominently in my profile, I wrote: “I’d like to be very upfront about the fact that I use a wheelchair. My disability is part of my identity and I’m a loud, proud disability rights activist, but there is so much more that defines me (you know, like the stuff I’ve got in my profile). I realize some people are hesitant to date a human who experiences the world sitting down. But I’d like to think you’ll keep reading and dive a little deeper. And you’re welcome to ask questions, should you have any.”

Once I added that paragraph, I felt liberated, relieved that anyone I spoke to would have a clearer picture of me. There have been plenty of matches that haven’t worked out, and whether that’s actually because of my disability, I’ll never know. But I had a nearly yearlong relationship with a man I met through OKCupid, so I know it’s possible for lightning to strike again. My dating life remains a comedy of errors, and I still struggle every day with the feeling that my disability means I won’t find love, but at least I’m being true to myself. I’m putting myself out there — my whole self — and it feels good to be proud of who I am.”

Emily Ladau (@emily_ladau) is a disability rights activist, writer and speaker. She is editor in chief of Rooted in Rights. Her work can be found on her website, Words I Wheel By.

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.

Special Sunday Edition for Americans: You and Your Flag

As a public service and in light of recent comments by our “so-called President,” I would like to post this informative article which may help us all better understand how to respect and not disrespect the American flag.  Knelling or sitting down during the playing of the national anthem is not designated as disrespectful.

“Here Are Some Ways People Disrespect The Flag Daily Based On Flag Code” -° HUFFINGTON POST

09/24/2017 12:56 AM EDT

Taking a knee is not one of them.

President Donald Trump accused athletes on Friday of disrespecting the American flag by silently protesting, but taking a knee isn’t covered in the U.S. Flag Code’s respect section.

On June 14, 1923, or Flag Day, a federal code was put in place that would serve as a guideline for how to handle the American flag. There are several sections in the code about proper national anthem conduct, how to display the flag, and yes, even how to respect the flag.

The code does state that everyone should stand at attention facing the flag during the national anthem, but standing or kneeling isn’t actually covered in the respect portion of the code.

Here are some things that Americans do on a daily basis, however, that are disrespectful:

American Flag Clothing

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free.”

That means every American flag swimsuit, button-up shirt, and even those famous Old Navy flag shirts, are disrespectful.

The Flag Shouldn’t Be Carried Flat  

“The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”

Most people know the flag should never touch the ground, but few know that it has to be displayed vertically. Maybe it’s a nod to the lyric that had the flag “gallantly streaming” in the air. Whatever the case, an unfurled flag that sits flat is a disrespect to the flag code.

Drawing On The Flag

“The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.”

This one seems pretty self-explanatory. Most people understand that drawing on the symbol of the country will probably be seen as disrespectful. But freedom of expression is a constitutionally protected right, so artists are still free to make that choice.

Disposable Flag Products 

“It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard.”

Sorry to put a damper on probably every Fourth Of July cookout ever, but the paper plate supporting that juicy burger better not have a flag on it.

Flag Advertisements

“The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever.”

If a business or company is using a flag in its advertisements, that’s yet another disrespectful gesture. A flag printed on a disposable flyer is probably a double offense.

Flag Uniforms

“No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations.”

Sports teams aren’t allowed to put the flag on uniforms. The only way to respectfully wear the American flag is with a patch on the side for service members, firefighters, and police officers.

Perhaps a special “patriotic organization” exception could be made for athletes during certain memorials and holidays, though.

Ray Myers


Melania Speaks Out Against Bullying – Wait, What?

Just two days ago, I commented on the bullying tactics of so-called President Trump.  He has become masterful in using social media to taunt and berate friends and foes alike.  Here is what I wrote:  “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground. Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Now the so-called President’s First Lady has launched a crusade against bullying, and in particular, cyber bullying.  The first lady’s speech made no mention of her husband as she urged the world to “ensure that our children’s future is bright.”  So please help me figure this all out.  If you are a man and the so-called President, you can bully and/or cyber bully anyone you want, any time, but now Melania is telling all young boys and girls (around the world?) that they should not follow her husband’s example. She plans to follow up with social media leaders and educators on this topic.

Maybe it’s time for the Trumps to coordinate their “messaging.”  But I doubt if that is ever going to happen.  After all, he is the “Bully-in-Chief.”

Ray Myers


Abuser of Twitter and of Women Too

So I may be digressing from my usual commentary here about how technology’s advances and empowerment have made the internet a powerful tool for free expression, but Trump has also managed to make it a tool of oppression.  For example, “Over the weekend, the president of the United States retweeted to his 38 million Twitter followers a video clip doctored to show him driving a golf ball off the tee and between the shoulder blades of Hillary Clinton – ‘Crooked Hillary’ in the tweet – knocking the former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee to the ground.  Eighty-four thousand people ‘liked’ this violent takedown of Trump’s former opponent.

A woman has been Speaker of the House (and proved substantially more effective than the two men who succeeded her), another came within a whisker of the presidency, and others (Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine) wield the decisive votes on health-care and other legislation.  But recent events make it feel as if we’re in an earlier time, when a woman’s job in politics was simple: sit down and shut up.  This no doubt is the work of a president who, by word and deed, make sexism safe again, giving license to shed ‘political correctness and blame troubles on minorities, immigrants and women (Milbank, Washington Post, 9/20/17).”

Unfortunately, it looks like there will not be a second chance for Hillary, but her recent book sale numbers may portend what the future may bring.  “What Happened” is now the No. 1 best-selling book in America.

Ray Myers


Trump is the Biggest Winner in the Midst of All this Hurricane Disaster

Well I guess we should all be thankful that the so-called President’s estate in Florida has been spared any catastrophic damage that we know of to date.  But I am sure that if there is any way for him to claim more expensive damages at the expense of the American taxpayer he will be the first in line.  He owes it to himself and to the country?  I don’t think things have always been this way, but then again, we never had a “president” like him before.  Oh, just in case you haven’t heard, our government is running out of money to provide the required Secret Service protection for him and his entire family?  I do have to admit that this guy really knows how to make the “big deals” when it comes to his benefit and that of his family.  Your money was never more well spent, right?

Now I have to connect all this devastation to how improved technological resources could have spared us all this destruction.  But as I noted in my post last week, it is not the technology (scientific data) that has failed us, it is our political leadership that remain “deniers” of the climatic reality that is now destroying many Americans homes and their livelihoods.  Let’s face it, we (and Mr. Trump) must acknowledge these inconvenient truths as I discussed at the end of last week in this blog?  Let’s make America “Save Again.”  And this should be reflected in both our understanding of humans’ impact on “Mother Nature” as well as our general concern for the safety of our citizenry (fewer guns).

I will be back on Wednesday, and am hopeful that all this weather will settle down, and we can get back to more staid political topics, like what is Trump going to do to improve our infrastructure, and build that “Great Wall” in Texas to keep the Mexicans out, etc.  Maybe on the question of the “Wall” he will have to wait until all that water recedes before he can really start? 

Ray Myers




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


It’s Not Who You Know, It’s What You Do

Get on the web, and get some friends.  Who knows, with the right connections and all of your networking skills, you too can become rich and famous.  Not so fast I am afraid.  It looks like all this networking may leave you with little to show in the way of professional accomplishments.  Ironically you may find that you have traded quantity for quality in seeking more “productive” relationships.  Less is more?

“Networks help, of course.  In a study of internet security start-ups, having a previous connection to an investor increased the odds of getting funded by that investor in the first year.  But it was pretty much irrelevant afterward.  Accomplishments were the dominant driver of who invested over time.  .  .  If you make great connections they may advance your career.  If you do great work, those connections will be easier to make.  Let your insights and your output – not your business cards – do the talking” (NY Times, 8/27/17).   It seems that networking alone leads to empty empty transactions, not rich relationships.

So as we approach Labor Day 2017, maybe we have to take a careful look at where are labor is leading us.  The social network alone may not lead to sustained professional success.

Ray Myers


Some Parental Advice from Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates does not presume to be a professional parenting expert. But she does have some thoughts to share based on her own personal experience as a mother who happens to be married to Microsoft’s founder. They are primarily reflections on her own parenting experience and what she might have done differently. Her over-riding concern is that parents should decide for themselves what works for their family, but adds that “I probably would have waited longer before putting a computer in my daughters’ pockets.”

“Phones and apps aren’t good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don’t yet have the emotional tools to navigate life’s complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up: learning to be kind, coping with feeling of exclusion, taking advantage of freedom while exercising self-control. It’s more important than ever to teach empathy from the very beginning, because our kids are going to need it.” One online resource that she mentions is Common Sense Media (commonsensemedia.org) which advises families on how media can best be adapted to support more shared life experiences. For example, “One of my favorite things you can do is plan a ‘device-free dinner.’ It’s not complicated. It’s exactly what it says: an hour around a table without anything that has an on or off switch . . . (with) the promise of an amazing conversation.” 

Well, maybe they won’t all be “amazing conversations,” but at least we can increase the odds of having some. And Melinda Gates also believes that in learning to better listen and talk with each other, we may all develop a deeper sense of empathy for one another. I agree, and I don’t think you will find an “app” for that yet?

Ray Myers