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Category Archives: Communications

Facebook fills George Orwell’s plot line

When you hold up terms such as ‘fake news‘ and ‘alternative facts‘ to the Orwellian mirror, things become a lot more clear.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four the government’s Ministry of Truth, or ‘Minitrue,’ produces distorted information through an assembly line of sorts. Importantly, though it’s managed by humans, not machines. Today we call these folks trolls, and the assembly line is the Internet.

In that fictitious dystopia, truth gets thrown down a memory hole. And citizens like Winston Smith who work for Minitrue, are tasked with creating alternative versions of history for ‘tele-screens’ and other media. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

There’s a telling piece in Fortune  and Chicago Tribune, journalists appear to have interviewed a Russian troll. In fact he worked with other trolls in a ‘Facebook Department.’

Did the social network know about this? In 2016 Facebook was reportedly working on a global ‘counter speech’ effort. It’s a big deal to them, even in Europe. Social networks must surely be bracing themselves for the legal consequences of sleeping at the wheel, while being compromised.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2018 in Communications, Media, Social Media

 

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Filters needed now, says Isura Silva!

My friend Isura Silva, writes about topics similar to what you find here. One of his recent posts touches on the death of attention, as a result of our proximity to screens. You should read his post to get his slant on it.

The issues we face as parents and teachers is not just screen addiction, but device distraction. Attention spans are in a serious free-fall. I flippantly wrote about this in an article on ‘FOMO’ (for LMD magazine). But it’s a lot more serious than this.

Which brings me back to Isura. He was on a UNICEF panel on Tuesday, discussing child safety online. The panel discussed the study just released, on how adolescents in Sri Lanka use the Internet. To give you a snapshot of it, the press release states that:

“While digital access exposes children to a wealth of benefits and opportunities, it can also unlock a host of risks including the misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying …whilst children and adolescents are increasingly going online, they are doing so without adult oversight or supervision.”

Next week is Digital Learning Day across the world. Here at my school, I’m bringing in two speakers to address this dire need for digital literacy. Different cultures, different demographics, all feeling the same need.

 

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“Negotiating with Jell-O” and other zingers

Sometimes a zinger in a speech captures the essence of all the other verbiage put together.

Consider these:

“I get it, I get it. We’ve got to address the elephant that’s not in the room.”

(Hasan Minhaj, host of the White House Correspondent’s dinner this year.

It got better, especially with the rest of the thought aimed at president Trump who did not attend:

“The leader of our country is not here. And that’s because he lives in Moscow. It is a very long flight.  

 

“I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”                  

                                                                                                             Lloyd Bentsen

The context was the VP debates; Dan Qayle had  likened himself to JFK and was treated to a delicious zinger by  Bensten.

Negotiating with Trump ‘like negotiating with Jell-O’

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer

 

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2018 in Communications, Media

 

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Do you trust Apple? Or buy it’s half-baked PR?

Many, many years ago I decided I would no longer support or use Apple products, however ‘convenient’ and cool they were. Most iPhones and Macs before that were overpriced; we as a family decided against them. (My first PC was an Mac. Today I could by three fast PCs for the price of that Mac I owned up to 1996.)

So now, as Apple products come under withering scrutiny, such as the ‘speed throttling’ or battery issue, I wonder why people still put up with a terribly unethical company. There have been plenty of scandals that signaled to customers something was awry  – from the iPad Chinese scandal, to the more recent one that smells of ‘Planned Obsolescence’ (an old marketing ruse).

Transparency is not its strong suit – secrecy is is built into its DNA after all. Including workplace secrecy. But Apple seems to understand human psychology, and knows that a shiny new object is enough to deflect bad business practice. If you read the company’s disingenuous apology, it sounds like it was hammered out by a group of ghost-writers in a tavern filled with corporate lawyers. So while there will be lawsuits and pressure from governments, it could ride this out.

So my question is, if you’re an Apple user do you ‘like‘ the company, and distrust the brand? Or is it the other way around?

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2018 in Communications, Technology

 

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Fake news – Old model recycled for digital age

Before we called it Fake News, it was called propaganda. Or just plain dirt.

The New York Times has a great story on the roots of Fake News. (I’ve always disliked the term; it suggests there is such a thing as ‘authentic news.’) When information is manipulated, and planted, and spread, it is not just fake but spurious. The Rand Corporation calls this the ‘Firehose of Falsehood‘ propaganda model.

It’s features are:

  • High-volume and multichannel
  • Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
  • Lacks commitment to objective reality
  • Lacks commitment to consistency.

The firehose brings in information from so many sources that it tends to consume and compromise the bandwidth of attention we have to process the information.

But while we pay attention to malicious actors who spread falsehoods, let’s not be blinded to other ways fake news, falsehoods and propaganda spread. In a much older analysis of news and propaganda (Manufacturing of Consent, 1998) Noam Chomsky revealed how systemic propaganda is part of the business model of newsmaking. He identified ‘filters’ in the media embed propaganda and bias.

Fake news is just a new digital iteration of what we’ve had, and blissfully ignored before. Everything old is new again!

 

 

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Targeting 6-year olds. Facebook, how low could you go?

It’s shocking –but no surprise– to see how young children are being sought after as social media customers.

“Today, in the US, we’re rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”

Sure Facebook’s release is sprinkled with words like ‘safer,’ ‘standalone’ and ‘controlled.’ It probably went through many, many iterations to make sure it addressed the hot-button issues. But let’s not be fooled as to what the real deal is: To groom younger customers to expand and dominate the base.
We like to see the research that they lean on, which they say led them to fill the need to allow kids to connect.
Facebook, if you want to have ‘thought-provoking conversations’ with parents, talk to any Montessori school, and they will tell you how and why their kids are becoming disconnected. (I am cross posting this from my wife’s Montessori school website.)

Gifs, masks, drawing tools, and stickers don’t constitute social media. Nor do they nurture connections!

C’mon, Facebook!

Read what others have to say:
 
 

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Typos aside, should they ignore his tweets?

Have you wondered if the media is unable or unwilling to ignore Donald Trump’s puerile tweets?

I’m willing to bet that if the major news organizations had stopped covering the ridiculous things he unloads in a Twitter storm, he wouldn’t have got to this point. Of course he’s gaming the system, knowing they are gleefully waiting each morning for a ‘story’ or controversy.

His latest blunder, addressing the wrong Twitter handle of Theresa May is just another one that will be drowned by others in a few weeks.

Remember the last time they messed up the British PM’s name? Thought so! In January when she visited the US, the White House misspelled her name as ‘Teresa’ several times – it was spelled without the ‘h’ in the introduction to the daily guidance.

I suppose it’s impossible to not find a story in his tweets, when it causes a diplomatic flare-up. In response to his broadside against her, the right Theresa was blunt in her rebuke. (Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour leader put it best, when he advised Trump to “hold yourself back” and “restrict yourself to two or three tweets a day”.)

Many years ago, probably before the president stumbled upon micro-blogging, people actually conducted training programs for those in governance and management. It’s too late to send someone back to social media 101 classes. Itchy fingers will continue to produce clumsy tweets  as I have said before.

But perhaps a temporary blackout might help the poor chap. And our republic.

 

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