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

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

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

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

Ray Myers


Keeping the Net Neutral

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now

When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company isn’t messing with the data and is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience.

When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.

In 2015, millions of activists pressured the Federal Communications Commission to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet free and open — allowing people to share and access information of their choosing without interference.

But right now the internet is in peril. On Dec. 14, 2017, the FCC’s Republican majority approved Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut the Net Neutrality protections.

A former Verizon lawyer and a Trump appointee, Pai ignored the widespread outcry against his plan from millions of people, lawmakers, companies andco public-interest groups.

We can’t let Pai have the last word on this — which is why we’re calling on Congress to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s vote to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

What can we do now?

Congress has the power to reverse the FCC’s vote. Urge your lawmakers to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s decision to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to clamp down on dissent. If we lose Net Neutrality, it will have succeeded.

Ray Myers

P.S. I will not be posting any commentary on Friday, March 9. Will be back on Monday, March 12. Thanks for following TechtoExpess.

The New Educational Technology – NRA Creates New Markets!

Just sell more guns and and school security equipment! Do you think our kids will be any safer in school, or even in their homes? I don’t. Please see below for some recent reporting on the surge in sales of school security equipment that is going to make a lot of Americans (outside investors?) richer at the expense of common sense vigilance. And you thought it was inconvenient going through airport security screening. This is the new educational technology. Judge for yourself!

“Security options are manifold: Palm scanners, mobile barricades, heat detectors, walkie-talkies, trauma kits, active shooter resistance training and more. In the fall, Florida Christian School in Miami began selling $120 ballistic panels for students to put in their backpacks. At a gun show in Tampa, Florida, last weekend, administrators and parents swarmed a booth offering similar panels for nearly $200 each. . . . Some campuses are starring to rely on outside help, taking donations from families, neighborhood businesses and local Rotary clubs. One company pledged to donate proceeds from its bulletproof backpacks to Parkland victims and families (NY Times, 3/5/2018).”

How about school bake sales for school security? Just like the old days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Ray Myers

The New Anti-social Media – #TechtoAbuse

Thanks to Maureen Dowd at The NY Times (2/11/18) we now have a litany of anti-social remarks and behavior by the current White House resident who has twisted his presidential prerogatives into weapons for use against his political enemies, real and imagined. And in many cases, for his own personal and private business profitability. Twitter attacks are just part of his arsenal. Below is a sampling of what she captured in her Sunday commentary.

“We don’t want a president who’s bends over backward to give the benefit of the doubt to neo-Nazis, wife beaters, pedophiles and sexual predators – or who is a sexual predator himself. We don’t want a president who thinks #me is more important than #metoo.”

“We don’t want a president who flips the ordinary equation, out of some puerile sense of grievance to honor Russia and dishonor the F.B.I.”

“We don’t want a president who is on a sugar high of ego, whose demented tweets about nukes and crowd size scare even Omarosa.”

“And finally, we surely don’t want a president who seeks advice on foreign affairs from Henry Kissinger. Ever. Again.”

Ray Myers

Gorging on Social Media

My apologies for not posting on Monday of this week. Let’s just say that I was “in transit” and had a “tech-free day” which leads me to the to the message of today’s post and the one that you will see on Friday as well. It’s all about limiting our daily digital diets. Or as those scholarly Jesuits used to teach us: “Moderation in all things.”

Social media’s “role in your life has grown without your permission. No one had that in mind when they signed up for Facebook to stay in touch with their college roommate . . . There is a lot of complexity and uncertainty in the role that these technologies should play in personal and professional life. We’re past the stage where they’re novel, but not to the point where they’re stable (Cal Newport, Georgetown University, 2018).” A common complaint seems to be that there is too much news: I need a break. And fewer tweets from the White House might help (maybe none, remember those days)!

We have gone from “TechtoExpress” (sound familiar?) to “TechtoConsume.”

Ray Myers

We Still Have Football!

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

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

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

Ray Myers

Fake News in Print and Online – a Threat to Democracy

So the title of this post may be a little misleading, but let’s face it, we now have a president who has learned to use the power of our digital media to propagandize his agenda and belittle those who dare to oppose him. And this has all happened over the course of his first year in office.  He has apparently raised a very successful anti-press campaign.  He has recently issued “fake news” awards.

“The buzz around the president’s latest anti-press stunt has contributed to a shift in American attitudes towards the press.  In a study released this week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation, 66 percent of Americans who were surveyed  said most news organizations blurred opinion and fact, up from 42 percent in 1984.  ‘Fake news’ was deemed a threat to democracy by a majority of the respondents (NY Times, 1/18/18).” Now who are the real fake news purveyors?

Senator John McCain has risen to the occasion: “We cannot afford to abdicate America’s longstanding role as the defender of human rights and democratic principles throughout the world. Without strong leadership in the White House, Congress must commit to protecting independent journalism, preserving an open and free media environment, and defending the fundamental right to opinion and expression.”

Ray Myers

Cyber Security – Mueller Learning on the Job

This is not meant to be a critique of the Special Counsel’s performance in his investigation of the Russian involvement in the election of the so-called President. It’s more a commentary on “why did it take so long? “Some in the legal world have wondered why Mueller had not previously tapped a cyber prosecutor to join his team.”

Legal analysts have said that one charge Mueller might pursue would be conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if he can demonstrate that members of Trump’s team conspired in Russia’ s hacking efforts to influence the election. So now we have gone long past the days of scrutinizing “hanging chads” in efforts to determine the intentions of American voters. Those were the “good old days.” Now we are probing those dark corners of cyber space controlled by international “evil doers.”

From Russia with Love?

Ray Myers

P.S. I will be back on Wednesday, January 17th. Happy Martin Luther King Day!

Chris Christie and Amazon – You’ve Got a Friend in New Jersey!

Poor Chris Christie, soon-to-be former Governor of New Jersey. He didn’t get to be Vice-President after Trump picked Pence, but you never know? There do still seem be a large number of vacancies in the Trump administration in Washington, and he will be looking for a new job after January 16th. But he still seems to be trying to build a political legacy for himself in the Garden State. How about if he gets Amazon to build its second headquarters in New Jersey. What’s not to like?

Here’s the latest on the Amazon legislation package under consideration by the NJ legislature. It would expand the tax credits available from the state Economic Development Authority to entice large companies to bring their corporate headquarters to New Jersey. To be eligible, a business would need to make a minimum $3 billion capital investment in its headquarters and create a minimum of 30,000 jobs that would create a net benefit for the state over 50 years. His administration has endorsed Newark as a headquarters location, but other New Jersey cities, including Camden, have submitted bids.

Newark is a “ferry boat” ride from Manhattan. There’s a building there called the Trump tower. How convenient this all would be. And the so-called President does like to play golf in northern New Jersey. Hmmmmm!

Ray Myers

Just Deserts: Fire and Fury in the White House!

I have been waiting and hoping to write this blog for nearly a year. How sweet it is! The “fake news” Master himself is now accusing others (Michael Wolff, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”) of writing falsified accounts of the inner workings of his White House during his first year in office. He has continually maintained that he can post anything he wants to say on Twitter with impunity – no need for fact-checking or censorship when he wants to go on the attack. So far he has been able to hide behind a tortured definition of “newsworthiness.” Twitter, please stop this madness. Let’s take a look at the Twitter official explanation.

“In this latest incident with Trump’s tweets, Twitter doesn’t believe that the tweet Tuesday night about the size and effectiveness of the President’s “Nuclear Button” broke its rules. In a statement to Business Insider, Twitter said the tweet was not a “specific threat” and therefore wasn’t banned by its rule against “specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people.”

I just can’t wait to read all the “fake news” in Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” I don’t think it contains any “specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people.” It just might be “real news.”

Ray Myers

Expanding Power of Social Media #metoo

I know that the so-called President likes to use social media to advance his own agenda, but most of the time he is lying. Unfortunately, his true believers don’t really care. Other people can play this game as well and actually tell the truth. They are the women of #metoo. They are not hiding in the shadows tweeting out their grievances against powerful Hollywood magnates. They are famous, media-savvy and mostly white actors with collectively more star power than the accused. Now women from all walks of life are joining this crusade.

Maybe it’s reflective of a specific period in American history, in which working women of a new generation – those who had grown up with working mothers – decided that enough was enough. Certainly the endlessly expanding power of social media plays a role: The #metoo hashtag has been used in millions of post over the past few weeks; been translated into Italian (#Quella-Voltache, or “that time when”) and French (#BalanceTonPorc, or “out your pig”); and inspired a congressional spin-off.

Social media has now grown into a powerful politically liberating force.

Ray Myers

Copyright Infringement Posts on Facebook, Oh My!

Not to worry, Facebook has already removed these nearly 3 million posts – including videos, ads and other forms of content from its services during the first half of 2017 after complaints about copyright and trademark infringement. Now I am really curious about why it has been so difficult for Facebook to account for all those Russian-based posts during the last Presidential election that were basically falsehoods or propaganda intended to enhance Mr. Trump’s chances and defame candidate Clinton? I don’t think these were ever taken down en masse but were “reviewed” individually and removed or retained in a very sluggish (and arbitrary?) manner.

The global data on intellectual-property-related takedowns is a new disclosure for Facebook as part of its biannual “Transparency Report.” Aggregate data shows that Facebook received about 377,400 complaints from January through June, with many referencing multiple posts. About 60 percent of the reports related to suspected copyright violations on Facebook. Determination of copyright infringement, of course, can result in the awarding of monetary compensation for damages.

So we can all rest assure now that American (global?) commercial interests have been protected by our courts where even Facebook has to be judged for its transparency. But please still don’t believe everything you see or read there, comrade!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests and You in the Age of Trump

Don’t expect any rapid responses to any of your recent FOIA requests during these Trump Administration years., particularly if you are interested in the activities of the Department of Interior or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You would think that in our digitally-advanced age that this process would now be expedited in a way that would make information and data retrieval much simpler and more efficient in responding to Americans’ inquiries. Back in “text-based” days this search and retrieval process often meant digging through cumbersome file cabinets, or motorized storage receptacles that would occupy vast government office spaces. It would often take work days or hours.

So now we can literally say that information is at our “fingertips” in our digital age. But in the case of retrieving information about some of the activities at the Department of Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency, we are still living in the pre-digital age. Or maybe it’s not really all about the efficiency of the digitally-enhanced process, but more political in nature. “The result is that some high-level officials at EPA and Interior are keeping closer tabs on these FOIA requests, while at least at the EPA- according to those who have filed such requests – bureaus drag their feet when responding.” (Washington Post, December 18).

Oh, and by the way, please don’t worry about global warming. There seems to be a lot of information out there, from both governmental and non-governmental sources, just don’t believe it!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

No More Net Neutrality and, From Russia with Love

So it’s just that kind of day.

I’m not sure what more I can say.

FCC puts the Internet up for sale.

Putin and Trump are best friends forever. (“Hacking Democracy,” Washington Post, 12/15)

Ray Myers

P.S. For a diversion from the present state of world power politics and Internet control, please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

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

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

High Rollin’ Online and Presidential Profits

I just made a quick visit to the Garden State (that’s New Jersey for the uninitiated) and I can happily report that the casinos and online gambling sites are alive and well.   So how come Donald Trump’s casinos and hotels have gone bankrupt and are shutting down, i.e., his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ?  Maybe it was just more profitable for HIM since he has a better deal now as the president.  And he and his entire family are on the government payroll and don’t pay a nickel for anything they may need.  He just sends the bills to Uncle Sam (that’s you and me).  

FYI.  New Jersey is now joining Nevada and Delaware in an online poker pact.  Figures released last Thursday by the New Jersey Division of GamingEnforcement showed Atlantic City’s seven casinos and online gambling outlets won $235.8 million in September, an increase of 4.1 percent compared with September 2016.  That included $20.4 million last month from online gambling, up 25 percent over last year.

Maybe we will eventually see how the president is faring financially when he finally releases his tax returns, whenever or whether that will ever be?

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.