Summer Reruns – Trump’s the One:  “Twitter King of Insults is Now President of the United States” (Originally Posted on November 11, 2016)

Ain’t democracy great?   You too can become President of the United States.  Just get yourself a Twitter account and start hurling insults at whomever you like and, if you are running for President, just direct most of them at your opponents and see what happens.   If you saw my Twitter/blog post of October 26th, you may remember my commentary on the two pages of the “A” section of The NY Times that was devoted to cataloging some of Mr. Trump’s insults/lies directed at political opponents.  Of course, Hillary was his primary target, almost exclusively during the last two months of the campaign.   Why spend all that money on political campaigning?    Twitter can help you “reach out” to all of your eager followers.  Tech has made it so.

Is this what technology is all about?   The ability to say anything you want in 140 characters, and not worry about the accuracy or veracity of what you say.  Someone else can do that if they want, but maybe that is the most dangerous part of all.  Why take the time?  Tell your followers what they want to hear, and make it quick.   And the more you tweet, the more they want to hear.  I also think it has a very addictive appeal.  They can take a glance at their mobile devices, and get a quick fix of pithy put-downs of any opposing view or person.  In this case, go on the attack against your political rival who is trying to explain her future plans and priorities as President of the United States in a more comprehensive (traditional) way.

May we never see a campaign like this again.   But maybe it’s all about free speech, but I don’t think so.  We all have a reponsibilty to be truthful in whatever communication mode we choose.   And that includes messages of 140 characters on your Twitter account.

Ray Myers

P.S.   I will be posting “Summer Reruns” through the remainder of the summer months.  And if you are a big fan of the so-called President and his family, please continue to follow.  I also think that the “real or fake news” (take your pick) about the Trump family will be very interesting over the next few months.


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.



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

From Social Media to Political Media

I guess Mr. Trump (our “so-called President”) started it all when he learned to tweet and use it as a tool for political propaganda, but it seems that he has also created some unintended consequences.  American students at all levels have come to learn more about “fake news” and the importance of recognizing it when you see it.  Let’s look at one example.   An outraged students found found a news article that President Obama had awarded himself the Medal of Honor, which he never did.  So this particular “news item” became a teachable moment for a classroom in Topeka, Kansas.

Their teacher, Mr. Raines, appreciated that at this time in our political history it was most important to rely on the old-fashioned notion that it was most important to disagree without being disagreeable.  He added that his students are seeking direction on how we get back to that point.  They are seeking some reassurance in an age of bifurcation and rancorous disagreement.  Some teachers see a note a note of hope in all of this.  “It’s seeing students wake up to their citizenship, to the fact that citizenship is not passive, or shouldn’t be.  Regardless of how you feel about everything that’s going on, it’s thrilling for teachers to see that shift happen on a teenager, to see the world get wider.”

Protest politics in which all are welcome to participate, online or in real time!  I think we all realize how important it is to do both (or more).

Ray Myers


It’s News to Me, Fake or Real?

As reported in the New York Times, Google and Facebook “stroll to the starting line.”  I am not talking about a foot race here, but rather the rate of responsiveness in their efforts to vett or block the reporting of fake news on their websites.     Here is one account of what these two companies have been doing:  “Google and Facebook have been taking steps to curb the number  of false news articles propagated across their sites.  On Wednesday, the Silicon Valley companies showed that they were still in the early stages of their battle to limit misinformation online.”

Just this week, these tech giants announced that recent updates to their sites will help prevent hoaxes and fake news from being posted.  Still, industry watchdogs remain skeptical about the effectiveness of these moves.  Some experts remain unconvinced: “Nothing drives clicks better than when the headline is exactly what people want to hear or believe. . . without significant changes to the economies and the technology of online ads, banning individual sites would not produce change in the long run.”  In many ways, these efforts showed how the fight against fake news remains a work in progress.

So I guess it all comes back to the individual reader of the news.  Whether it’s digital or print, what we choose to believe may all still be in the “eye of the beholder.”

Ray Myers


All the News, All Fake, All the Time!

Who really wants to read a factual news story any more? I guess we have come to a time when Americans would rather read fiction over fact, but we are talking about news reporters, not novelists. Just make it up and see who buys it?  The “reporters” at the Liberty Writers News are doing exactly that, and being paid handsomely for it. They are making the average American’s yearly salary in one month.  Why not fake it.  Is the truth really that important?   Well after the recent Presidential election here in the States, I am starting to wonder myself.

Don’t trust the mainstream media.  Just read what you like or want to hear.   It’s more entertaining and you can make up your own stories, and make money doing it while print newspapers keep losing readership and revenue. The news media now encompasses the digital news that doesn’t seem to need facts as much as a vivid imagination. This explosion of fake news has further eroded the media landscape.

Even Mark Zuckerberg is perplexed.  Facebook is trying to find the “right place” between censorship and propagating dangerous untruths.  My advice is to work hard on finding those dangerous untruths.  I wouldn’t call it censorship. Let’s say “fact checking.”

Ray Myers

Happy Thanksgiving!