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Facebook inches closer to its big brother ambition to control news flow and information

Facebook is pushing hard to control news content and news flow. The social network has been holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their news content inside Facebook, rather than making users visit the news web site.

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Post originally appeared on the Liberty Blitzkrieg blog by Mike Krieger.

In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic — a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors’, and over time readers might avoid those sites.

– From the New York Times article: Facebook May Host News Sites’ Content

Last week, I came across an incredibly important article from the New York Times, which described Facebook’s plan to provide direct access to other websites’ content in exchange for some sort of advertising partnership. The implications of this are so huge that at this point I have far more questions than answers.

Let’s start with a few excerpts from the article:

With 1.4 billion users, the social media site has become a vital source of traffic for publishers looking to reach an increasingly fragmented audience glued to smartphones. In recent months, Facebook has been quietly holding talks with at least half a dozen media companies about hosting their content inside Facebook rather than making users tap a link to go to an external site.

Such a plan would represent a leap of faith for news organizations accustomed to keeping their readers within their own ecosystems, as well as accumulating valuable data on them. Facebook has been trying to allay their fears, according to several of the people briefed on the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were bound by nondisclosure agreements.

Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.

Facebook has said publicly that it wants to make the experience of consuming content online more seamless. News articles on Facebook are currently linked to the publisher’s own website, and open in a web browser, typically taking about eight seconds to load. Facebook thinks that this is too much time, especially on a mobile device, and that when it comes to catching the roving eyeballs of readers, milliseconds matter.

The Huffington Post and the business and economics website Quartz were also approached. Both also declined to discuss their involvement.

Facebook declined to comment on its specific discussions with publishers. But the company noted that it had provided features to help publishers get better traction on Facebook, including tools unveiled in December that let them target their articles to specific groups of Facebook users, such as young women living in New York who like to travel.

The new proposal by Facebook carries another risk for publishers: the loss of valuable consumer data. When readers click on an article, an array of tracking tools allow the host site to collect valuable information on who they are, how often they visit and what else they have done on the web.

And if Facebook pushes beyond the experimental stage and makes content hosted on the site commonplace, those who do not participate in the program could lose substantial traffic — a factor that has played into the thinking of some publishers. Their articles might load more slowly than their competitors’, and over time readers might avoid those sites.

And just as Facebook has changed its news feed to automatically play videos hosted directly on the site, giving them an advantage compared with videos hosted on YouTube, it could change the feed to give priority to articles hosted directly on its site.

Let me try to address this the best I can from several different angles. First off, what’s the big picture plan here? As the number two ranked website in the world with 1.4 billion users, Facebook itself is already something like an alternative internet where a disturbing number of individuals spend a disproportionate amount of their time. The only thing that seems to make many of its users click away is content hosted on other people’s websites linked to from Facebook users. Other than this outside content, many FB users might never leave the site.

While this is scary to someone like me, to Facebook it is an abomination. The company doesn’t want people to leave their site ever — for any reason. Hence the aggressive push to carry outside news content, and create a better positioned alternative web centrally controlled by it. This is a huge power play move.

Second, the New York Times righty asks the question concerning what will publishers get from Facebook for allowing their content to appear on the site seamlessly. Some sort of revenue share from advertisers seems to be an obvious angle, but perhaps there’s more.

While Facebook isn’t a huge traffic driver for Liberty Blitzkrieg, it isn’t totally irrelevant either. For example, FB provided about 3% of the site’s traffic over the past 12 months. This is despite the fact that LBK doesn’t even have a Facebook page, and I’ve never shared a link through it. Even more impressive, Facebook drove more traffic to LBK over the same time period than Twitter, and I am very active on that platform. So I can only imagine how important FB is to website editors who actually use it.

This brings me to a key point about leverage. It seems to me that Facebook has all the leverage in negotiations with content providers. If you’re a news website that refuses to join in this program, over time you might see your traffic evaporate compared to your competitors whose content will load seamlessly and be promoted by the FB algorithm. If a large percentage of your traffic is being generated by Facebook, can you really afford to lose this?

One thing that FB might be willing to offer publishers in return other than advertising dollars, is increased access to their fan base. For example, when I try to figure out through Google analytics who specifically (or what page) on Facebook is sharing my work, I can’t easily do so. Clearly this information could prove very useful for networking purposes and could be quite valuable.

Looking for some additional insight and words of wisdom, I asked the smartest tech/internet person I know for his opinion. It was more optimistic than I thought:

This could be a huge shaper of news on the internet. or it could turn out to be nothing.

Other than saying that I don’t really know how to predict what might or might not happen, and I sort of don’t care much because it is in the realm (for now at least) of stuff that I don’t read (mainstream news), on a site that I never see (Facebook). However, the one thing I wonder in terms of the viability of this is whether in the end it may drive people away from FB.

Back in the day, probably when you weren’t so aware of the nascent net, there were two giant “services” on the Internet called Compuserve and America Online. They were each what you are thinking that Facebook is heading toward; exclusive, centralized portals to the whole net. They were also giant and successful at the time. Then people outside of them started doing things that were so much more creative and interesting. At the same time, in order to make everything fit inside their proprietary boxes and categories, they were making everything ever more standardized and boring. Then they just abruptly died.

Given the enormity of what Facebook is trying to achieve, I have some obvious concerns. First, since all of the leverage seems to reside with Facebook, I fear they are likely to get the better part of any deal by wide margin. Second, if they succeed in this push, this single company’s ability to control access to news and what is trending and deemed important by a huge section of humanity will be extraordinary.

References:

http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2015/03/24/facebook-reveals-its-master-plan-control-all-news-flow/

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Is Silicon Valley Morphing Into The Morality Police?

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

The Duran

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Authored by Adrian Cohen via Creators.com:


Silicon Valley used to be technology companies. But it has become the “morality police,” controlling free speech on its platforms.

What could go wrong?

In a speech Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“Hate tries to make its headquarters in the digital world. At Apple, we believe that technology needs to have a clear point of view on this challenge. There is no time to get tied up in knots. That’s why we only have one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence: You have no place on our platforms.”

Here’s the goliath problem:

Who gets to define what words and phrases protected under the First Amendment constitute hate — a catchall word that is often ascribed to any offensive speech someone simply doesn’t like?

Will Christians who don’t support abortion rights or having their tax dollars go toward Planned Parenthood be considered purveyors of hate for denying women the right to choose? Will millions of Americans who support legal immigration, as opposed to illegal immigration, be labeled xenophobes or racists and be banned from the digital world?

Yes and yes. How do we know? It’s already happening, as scores of conservatives nationwide are being shadow banned and/or censored on social media, YouTube, Google and beyond.

Their crime?

Running afoul of leftist Silicon Valley executives who demand conformity of thought and simply won’t tolerate any viewpoint that strays from their rigid political orthodoxy.

For context, consider that in oppressive Islamist regimes throughout the Middle East, the “morality police” take it upon themselves to judge women’s appearance, and if a woman doesn’t conform with their mandatory and highly restrictive dress code — e.g., wearing an identity-cloaking burqa — she could be publicly shamed, arrested or even stoned in the town square.

In modern-day America, powerful technology companies are actively taking the role of the de facto morality police — not when it comes to dress but when it comes to speech — affecting millions. Yes, to date, those affected are not getting stoned, but they are being blocked in the digital town square, where billions around the globe do their business, cultivate their livelihoods, connect with others and get news.

That is a powerful cudgel to levy against individuals and groups of people. Wouldn’t you say?

Right now, unelected tech billionaires living in a bubble in Palo Alto — when they’re not flying private to cushy climate summits in Davos — are deciding who gets to enjoy the freedom of speech enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and who does not based on whether they agree with people’s political views and opinions or not.

You see how dangerous this can get — real fast — as partisan liberal elites running Twitter, Facebook, Google (including YouTube), Apple and the like are now dictating to Americans what they can and cannot say online.

In communist regimes, these types of folks are known as central planners.

The election of Donald Trump was supposed to safeguard our freedoms, especially regarding speech — a foundational pillar of a democracy. It’s disappointing that hasn’t happened, as the censorship of conservative thought online has gotten so extreme and out of control many are simply logging off for good.

A failure to address this mammoth issue could cost Trump in 2020. If his supporters are blocked online — where most voters get their news — he’ll be a one-term president.

It’s time for Congress to act before the morality police use political correctness as a Trojan horse to decide our next election.

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Paul Craig Roberts: The Disintegration of Western Society

Feminists brought this madness onto themselves.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Authored by Paul Craig Roberts:


Radical feminists are now being banned by Twitter not because they hate men, which is perfectly OK as far as Twitter is concerned, but because they object to “transwomen.”

What is a “transwoman?” As far as I can understand, a “transwoman” is a male with a penis who declares himself to be a women and demands his right to use women’s toilette facilities along with the women who are using them.

The feminist, Meghan Murphy, twittered a statement and a question:

“Men are not women.”

“How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between men and transwomen?”

Twitter described this as “hateful conduct” and banned Meghan Murphy. https://quillette.com/2018/11/28/twitters-trans-activist-decree/

There you have it. Yesterday it was feminists who were exercising their special society-bestowed privileges to censor. Today it is the feminists who are being censored. As this insanity of “Western Civilization” continues, tomorrow it will be the transwomen who are censored and banned.

What precisely is afoot?

My readers, who have partially and some wholly escaped from The Matrix, understand that this is the further fragmentation of American society. Identity Politics has set men, women, blacks, Jews, Asians, Hispanics, and white people against one another. Identity Politics is the essence of the Democratic Party and the American liberal/progressive/left. Now, with the creation of “new” but otherwise nonexistent “genders,” although they are honored as real by the controlled whores who masquerade as a “Western media,” we witness radical feminists being silenced by men pretending to be women.

I sympathize with Meghan Murphy, but she brought this on herself and on the rest of us by accepting Identity Politics. Identity Politics gave Meghan a justification for hating men even, as she failed to realize, it provided the basis for moving her into the exploitative class that must be censored.

Where does this end?

It has already gone far enough that the American population is so divided and mutually hostile that there is no restraint by “the American people” on government and the elite oligarchs that rule. “The American people” are no longer a reality but a mythical creature like the unicorn.

The film, The Matrix, is the greatest film of out lifetime. Why? Because it shows that there are two realities. A real one of which only a few people are aware, and a virtual one in which eveyone else lives.

In the United States today, and throughout “Western Brainwashed Civilization,” only a handful of people exist who are capable of differentiating the real from the created reality in which all explanations are controlled and kept as far away from the truth as possible. Everything that every Western government and “news” organization says is a lie to control the explanations that we are fed in order to keep us locked in The Matrix.

The ability to control people’s understandings is so extraordinary that, despite massive evidence to the contrary, Americans believe that Oswald, acting alone, was the best shot in human history and using magic bullets killed President John F. Kenndy; that a handful of Saudi Arabians who demonstratively could not fly airplanes outwitted the American national security state and brought down 3 World Trade Center skyscrapers and part of the Pentagon; that Saddam Hussein had and was going to use on the US “weapons of mass destruction;” that Assad “used chemical weapons” against “his own people;” that Libya’s Gaddifi gave his soldiers Viagra so they could better rape Libyan women; that Russia “invaded Ukraine;” that Trump and Putin stole the presidential election from Hillary.

The construction of a make-believe reality guarantees the US military/security complex’s annual budget of $1,000 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money even as Congress debates cutting Social Security in order to divert more largess to the pockets of the corrupt military/security complex.

Readers ask me what they can do about it. Nothing, except revolt and cleanse the system, precisely as Founding Father Thomas Jefferson said.

Is Thomas Jefferson Alive and Well In Paris?

If this report is correct, pray the revolt spreads to the US.

https://www.infowars.com/video-french-police-remove-helmets-in-solidarity-with-yellow-vest-protesters/

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Google Employees debated burying conservative media in search

Google engineer Scott Byer falsely labeled The Daily Caller and Breitbart as “opinion blogs” and urged his coworkers to reduce their visibility in search results.

The Daily Caller

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Via The Daily Caller


  • Google employees debated whether to bury The Daily Caller and other conservative media outlets in the company’s search function as a response to President Donald Trump’s election
  • “Let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years,” one engineer wrote in a thread that included a Google vice president
  • Google employees similarly sought to manipulate search results to combat Trump’s travel ban

Google employees debated whether to bury conservative media outlets in the company’s search function as a response to President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, internal Google communications obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation reveal.

The Daily Caller and Breitbart were specifically singled out as outlets to potentially bury, the communications reveal.

Trump’s election in 2016 shocked many Google employees, who had been counting on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to win.

Communications obtained by TheDCNF show that internal Google discussions went beyond expressing remorse over Clinton’s loss to actually discussing ways Google could prevent Trump from winning again.

“This was an election of false equivalencies, and Google, sadly, had a hand in it,” Google engineer Scott Byer wrote in a Nov. 9, 2016, post reviewed by TheDCNF.

Byer falsely labeled The Daily Caller and Breitbart as “opinion blogs” and urged his coworkers to reduce their visibility in search results.

“How many times did you see the Election now card with items from opinion blogs (Breitbart, Daily Caller) elevated next to legitimate news organizations? That’s something that can and should be fixed,” Byer wrote.

“I think we have a responsibility to expose the quality and truthfulness of sources – because not doing so hides real information under loud noises,” he continued.

“Beyond that, let’s concentrate on teaching critical thinking. A little bit of that would go a long way. Let’s make sure that we reverse things in four years – demographics will be on our side.”

Some of Byer’s colleagues expressed concern that manipulating search results could backfire and suggested alternative measures

One Google engineer, Uri Dekel, identified himself as a Clinton supporter but argued that manipulating search results was the wrong route to take.

“Thinking that Breitbart, Drudge, etc. are not ‘legitimate news sources’ is contrary to the beliefs of a major portion of our user base is partially what got us to this mess. MSNBC is not more legit than Drudge just because Rachel Maddow may be more educated / less deplorable / closer to our views, than, say Sean Hannity,” Dekel wrote in a reply to Byer.

“I follow a lot of right wing folks on social networks you could tell something was brewing. We laughed off Drudge’s Instant Polls and all that stuff, but in the end, people go to those sources because they believe that the media doesn’t do it’s job. I’m a Hillary supporter and let’s admit it, the media avoided dealing with the hard questions and issues, which didn’t pay off. By ranking ‘legitimacy’ you’ll just introduce more conspiracy theories,” Dekel added.

“Too many times, Breitbart is just echoing a demonstrably made up story,” Byer wrote in a reply to his original post. He did not cite any examples.

“That happens at MSNBC, too. I don’t want a political judgement. The desire is to break the myth feedback loop, the false equivalency, instead of the current amplification of it,” Byer added.

“What I believe we can do, technically, that avoids the accusations of conspiracy or bias from people who ultimately have a right and obligation to decide what they want to believe, is to get better at displaying the ‘ripples’ and copy-pasta, to trace information to its source, to link to critiques of those sources, and let people decide what sources they believe,” another Google engineer, Mike Brauwerman, suggested.

“Give people a comprehensive but effectively summarized view of the information, not context-free rage-inducing sound-bytes,” he added.

“We’re working on providing users with context around stories so that they can know the bigger picture,” chimed in David Besbris, vice president of engineering at Google.

“We can play a role in providing the full story and educate them about all sides. This doesn’t have to be filtering and can be useful to everyone,” he wrote.

Other employees similarly advocated providing contextual information about media sources in search results, and the company later did so with a short-lived fact check at the end of 2017.

Not only did the fact-check feature target conservative outlets almost exclusively, it was also blatantly wrong. Google’s fact check repeatedly attributed false claims to those outlets, even though they demonstrably never made those claims.

Google pulled the faulty fact-check program in January, crediting TheDCNF’s investigation for the decision.

A Google spokeswoman said that the conversation did not lead to manipulation of search results for political purposes.

“This post shows that far from suppressing Breitbart and Daily Caller, we surfaced these sites regularly in our products. Furthermore, it shows that we value providing people with the full view on stories from a variety of sources,” the spokeswoman told TheDCNF in an email.

“Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology. Our processes and policies do not allow for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies.”

The discussion about whether to bury conservative media outlets isn’t the first evidence that some Google employees have sought to manipulate search results for political ends.

After Trump announced his initial travel ban in January 2017, Google employees discussed ways to manipulate search results in order to push back against the president’s order.

A group of employees brainstormed ways to counter “islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc,” as well as “prejudiced, algorithmically biased search results from search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”

WATCH:

Trump speculated to The Daily Caller in September that Google and Facebook are trying to affect election outcomes.

“I think they already have,” Trump said, responding to questions about potential election interference by Google and Facebook.

“I mean the true interference in the last election was that — if you look at all, virtually all of those companies are super liberal companies in favor of Hillary Clinton,” he added.

“Maybe I did a better job because I’m good with the Twitter and I’m good at social media, but the truth is they were all on Hillary Clinton’s side, and if you look at what was going on with Facebook and with Google and all of it, they were very much on her side,” Trump continued.

Google this month corrected a “knowledge panel” about a Republican women’s group that labeled them “enablers.”

Google cited Wikipedia for the disparaging description, though a similar change made to Wikipedia’s page for the women’s group was corrected almost immediately. Google left up the digital vandalism for three weeks.

Google apologized in May after search results for the California Republican Party falsely listed “Nazism” as one of the state party’s ideologies.

Then, too, Google blamed manipulation of the party’s Wikipedia page for the inaccurate and disparaging description.

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