Greetings! This is my workspace for upcoming micro blogs I’ll be formally launching on my Medium etc account (still trying to decide how I feel about Medium, tbh), as well what will become my “footnotes” to posted blogs.
This is where I will be expand my roughly 150+ (it honestly could be a lot more) pages of scattered notes, consolidating them into short subtopics, which I will post in smaller articles more frequently.
So as such, those posted here won’t be marketed/promoted in any way and will be subject to rapid edits as I push the “final” products out to the public. But obviously these thoughts are polished enough to be shared/previewed to my dedicated readers.
Plus this just gives me an excuse to vent without filter! If you really love me, then please follow this actual WordPress blog as I may even extract all the topics below into separate public drafts for my dedicated readers to preview my work before formal posts. (Read: basically, giving myself the excuse to say “Hey! It’s a public draft!” as an easy way out of my more controversial though driftings).
So either way, thanks for being here! Let’s see where this goes!
Once the blogs are live, I will then gather feedback from the comments, which I will use in turn to refine each post behind the scenes: as each post is actually returned as segment to my upcoming book with the working title “The Politics of Health Misinformation”.
So rather than launching lengthy essays as I have done with Part 1 and 2 of my Misinformation series, I have (with empathy to my readers) opted to launch more palatable timely versions – in the meantime, this is my public drawing board. So keep watch of my channels and database – SO much on the way – this honestly feels like my life’s work.Notes:
1. As I wrote in Misinformation 2 (2021): “To any of my colleague readers if you are reading this and feeling personally attacked — what I am addressing here is the dangerous trend and calling it out as such — and thus I am more scathing than I would be in person (that said, there are lines, and some have been crossed — and people do need to be called out as well). I’m taking this seriously as a cult-like misinfodemic.” So if you are taking any of this personally, reflect that this is no more different than any other trend I have criticized and introduced in my previous prefaces.
2. For ease of reading (less brackets such as this one) I’m looking into adding tooltips or footnotes for my personal aside notes. And please excuse the direct tone and the use of “you”, I’m working through making the language more approachable – these are frustrating times to say the least.
Note: Linked headings below have been moved to my Medium drafts, while unlinked headings remain on this page below. And just to be clear – please keep in mind that besides the suggested “Back Reading” everything here is a public draft – please comment or contact me with your questions & feedback!
- BACK READING:
- Admitting My Biases
- TCM as Vaccinology: Illustrating a Point (Below)
- CONVOY CHAOS REVISITED
- VACCINE REDUX
- You Are Statistic (Public vs Individual Health)
- Omicron: The Unexpected Twist (Preview Below)
- Arrogance: Flipping the Script to Respect Medical Professionals
- THE POLITICS
- Hypersensitive Left in ContextBreaking the Cult of Jordan Peterson (Public Draft)The Antifa Narrative Reframed: When Violence is EthicalLate-Stage Capitalism: The Root Diagnosis (Preview Below – this will form the largest section of my book)
- Eli Parser “Zucked” (Blinkist Summary)
What more to expect?
- A complete long overdue breakdown of my lifelong direct experience and education in Capitalism vs. Socialism vs. Anarchism (the largest section of the book)
- A teardown (or perhaps shredding is the better word) of the right-wing cult onboarding of Jordan Peterson, something I have remained on the fence for long enough, and so finally spent the last couple months in a deep dive.
- My vision for a Sustainable World and my critique on anything that blocks it (which, by definition, is insanity).
- How the above topics, and my medical background are all branches of my thesis on the weaponization of Misinformation.
- But first: My final (ongoing) plea for debunking yourself in the Covid/vaccine/mandate era.
Basically: I’m tired of pulling my punches. Stay tuned!
Admitting my Biases
First: Lets share my obvious bias and motivated reasoning from the outset: it’s my professional job to protect public health (described in a blog below), as mandated by the province of Ontario’s CTCMPAO regulations. Then specifically as a TCM practitioner, it’s also my job to protect individual health. I also happen to have a sister with Down Syndrome and have an obvious interest in protecting her – a vulnerable member of society, and quite possibly a literal angel incarnate, and a Grampa who fought against Nazis/fascists in WW2. I am also a member of an active community, and always alert to how fast this virus can spread, on guard the entire pandemic for my friends and their families.
So, these facts may have given me an admittedly angled view of the pandemic. Yet – as has been obvious from the outset: My job has also been in debunking misinformation. And it would be rather hypocritical of me to not check my own blind spots, discussed below.
In many ways even above my medical interests what brings it all together is that I am a student of history: of historical methods of health, of economic systems, of the search for the roots of hierarchy and inequality that result in normalized but no less pathological internalized oppression mechanics. Of which, like the cliche “does the fish know of the water in which it swims?”, most of us are blind to, of what caused past civilizations to rise and fall and how impudence and assumed invincibility (denial) lead to their downfall.
And it is from these views that what at first may seem to be disparate topics that follow in my official entry into the blogosphere – are quite neatly and quite obviously connected. We must understand our place in history – both where we come from, and where we are our “story”… as there are many chapters to follow. Thus, these small trends point to bigger ones.
Symptoms pointing to disease.
I’m going to use big words and technically-accurate-but-still-wordy-run-on-sentences and make assumptions in baseline education here. Quite simply because in a science-based era using science-based words as we all normalize discussions of viruses, mRNA, and vaccines (now essentially a century of fact & evidence-based experience, capable of wiping out smallpox… assuming of course, that individuals participate in community preservation over self-interest – because community preservation is in the self-interest of the individual), it is critical that we equally uphold/strive for baseline levels of education and critical thinking that gave birth to these miraculous achievements.
What has changed between smallpox and today? Why are we going backwards?
In my public debates I may have at times been wrong about, for example, the specific mechanisms of vaccinology etc, but quite simply that is because I’m not a vaccine research scientist. As essentially none of us are, so I defer to those who are specialists. Do you trust your mechanic? Do you trust me with my specialized training to treat you with TCM? Then equally, let’s stop assuming we know more than my countless medical professionals and research scientist colleagues who are essentially in unanimous agreement, and has lead me to specializing in debunking misinformation as a middleman. What is more likely, more rational: the perspectives of a minority (but at times necessary) perhaps paranoid guardrail group, or the ones who literally day-in-day-out on the front lines of research & meta-analysis, or taking care of our loved ones in ICU?
I agree with Bakunin’s “in the matters of the boots we defer to the bootmaker”.
So let’s slow the f’k down and recognize how far we’ve come as a species and how to continue this progress. Or… experience another intellectually stunted, climate apocalyptic, class-divided/wealth concentrated return to aristocratic dark ages. Yes, I see these as linked. If we are all talking about sciencey things like viruses (like seriously – camman – none of us have even seen one, we *only* know they exist because of science) – then let’s level up our game when the stakes are as high as they are.
Thus, my role has always been debunking misinformation to protect public sanity, NOT convincing people to get vaccinated. And by simply launching my quest to provide accurate information, I re-established my pro-vaccine stance, as a result of the sheer nonstop amount of misinformation articles and memes I have been sent to me (nearly always in an attacking, rude manner rather than a problem-solving friendly mindset.) … (Thanks to anyone who has approached me with professional respect!). The more I debunked, the more I confirmed, the vaccines work.
This (mRNA vaccine, etc) is us improving on what we’ve learned since 1918. This is the first pandemic in a social media era. And we will do even better in the next pandemic – but no response will ever be perfect. It seems there is always a conservative (I mean that in the true sense of the word) minority resistant to change present in any group, sometimes acting as valid guardrails. But should they dictate the course of pandemic measures? Of course not. Raise your voice, but don’t expect the majority of the public to bend to your will. (For some of you – how does it feel to be a minority – quite possibly for the first time in your life? Nudge nudge.)
Let me be clear, it is not my intent to make this about partisan left/right us/them politics, it is about keeping things in context. It is an appeal to reason, to actual research, to evidence-based decisions… the lack of which currently happens to neatly overlap with the growing, violent, xenophobic “Right” that is factually far far more of an immediate threat to health and our civil future than the reactive “Left”.
It would be less of an issue if the so-called “Right” wasn’t routinely factually wrong, putting lives (and the climate, as these views are linked as you’ll see in my book) at stake for anti-science hyper-individualist partisan antiquated self-interest. Don’t tread on me, amirite?
Because yep – reality, science, healthcare, and basic human decency – factually lean left as I will be proving in my upcoming blogs, which you can take a sneak peek at in my public database. It’s time you deal with that. And you should be angry. Angry for being co-opted, used as a tool to maintain hate, unequal health & wealth distribution, and for a machine that perpetuates misinformation that is both delaying the end to this pandemic – and killing both people and planet. We all should be learning everything we can right now to stop the rise of actual Nazis, para-fascists, anti-science, vaccine distribution inequality, cronyism, disinformation, and racism.
My target audience is people on the fence, or people who “think” they might lean right – when in actuality when asked to reverse engineer their beliefs, actually do lean left – but are currently being hypnotized by the likes of misinformation peddlers.
Perhaps it’s time reorient our political spectrum with basic human decency at the centre, rather than calling it “Left”? Don’t like any of these statements? Then please challenge them. As a scientist – I want to be proven wrong. And in the literal countless pandemic debates I’ve debunked, very little has swayed me from these conclusions – not when it comes to conspiracy and vaccine science. That’s not meant to be arrogant, it’s to state that when anyone approaches anything with a debunking, problem solving mindset of a scientist until you hit the hard wall of fact as I wrote in my first essay, then you have a platform to stand on. And I don’t want to be the only one debunking. So no, I am not “too sure” – every article and video I have debunked (over and over and over and over again), has by default… lead me to these conclusions. As a consequence: not by intent.
(Seriously – directly speaking to my community – does anyone else have an *evidence based* debunking database? So maybe – just maybe, it might be worthwhile listening to the peer-reviewed majority of medical professionals who are highly trained, clinically experienced, and regulated by governing bodies designed to protect public health. (Despite the outsider appearance, the governmental regulating bodies of healthcare professionals serve the *public* not the practitioners – especially here in Canada with socialized healthcare – yanno – for the people).
I have the luxury (and neuroses) to maintain a database… front line nurses witnessing choking deaths – do not.
A debunking database rather than a bias confirming one – see the difference?
So please – as I keep literally begging: fact check yourself. Assume you don’t know what you are talking about – first. I don’t want to keep having to repeatedly linking my previous article because it should be outdated. No longer relevant. Stop keeping it relevant.
This leads me to the key factor I’ve been avoiding, compartmentalizing, intellectualizing, throughout the pandemic with my wordy posts and no-fucks-given memes:
Behind it all – all of this – I’ve been feeling SO damn much – TOO damn much, because I care SO damn much that I don’t want to see my loved ones in ICU. Because I don’t want to say, “I told you so”. Because I’ve treated both Covid – and Long Covid (of which TCM is especially adept at treating [/selfpromo]) and I don’t want my head-first, naïve, hyper-individuality focussed friend circles having as-yet-still-unexplained symptoms that last months, if not permanent damage to your “Jing”, your “True Qi”, your reserve tank of your potential. And then infecting others. Because my little sub-culture is especially social.
And who will be there to treat you, to help you, to save you, to rejuvenate you? The nurses, doctors, and scientists, who yes unanimously agree – the vaccines work (yes even in Omicron, at reducing ICU admissions & deaths) and it is only the fringe, easily debunked quack doctors and pundits (no population is immune to stupidity), who’s voices are amplified by social media algorithms (ahem capitalism), misinforming us otherwise.
So no, these highly educated but still human sectors of our species are not perfect. But our ingenuity as modern homo-scientus (I made that up, if you use it, you owe me money) … (I just looked it up – I’m not counting the Italian term because I’m English and we all know that nothing is real until the English say so)… Is to self-correct when evidence is provided. Please re-read that: The ability to self-correct when evidence is provided. To admit one was wrong in light of new evidence.
So please follow along – as I write “The Politics of Health Misinformation”…
TCM as Vaccinology: Illustrating a Point
I’m just gonna have deliberate jargony long paragraphs fun here to illustrate a point:
So, we TCM practitioners study literally from our FIRST 101 Materia Medica class: infectious disease. Herbs 101: Class One: “Cool aromatic pathogen venting” herbs (“cooing exterior releasing” meaning classified cooling natured herbs which attack TCM defined acute “warm/hot” pathogens. Think, symptoms predominantly marked by fever, headaches, irritability). Herbs which have antipathogenic or innate specific immune supportive responses to “vent” (encourage the body’s own systems) to “push” the pathogen out as dictated and defined by the terms of TCM. Unless the pathogen is either a) stronger than the “Protective/Defensive Qi” i.e. – someone in poor health with reduced immune function (which transcend and include all biomedically based immune responses. Individual specific biochemical physiology we see as irrelevant as the results outweigh understanding of precise mechanistic understandings) or b) the “Hot” pathogen is simply too severe. In either case it bypasses the first “layer” of defense, into the second or third levels with advancing technically defined disease presentations as the body mounts its responses in predicable ways – until ultimately a severe pathogen (for example – Ebola) succeeds in penetrating the “interior” cavities of the body (based on symptomatology, not literal progression of actual location of pathogen. While not entirely “terrain theory” we do hold the pathogen and the individual with their unique state of health as essentially equal in the condition – but the prevention altogether is entirely Eastern terrain defined and classified again by TCM diagnostics (say – a constitutionally Yin Deficient will experience a more severe response to a Heat pathogen than a Cold pathogen – despite the microbe being the genetically same infection that is passed onto someone else yet the next person present with different symptoms – we have millennia of expertise to explain (in our terms) WHY and WHO.
And that’s just one herb, from our 101 class.
Does that make sense to you? No? Exactly. Leave the work to the professionals who specialize in it.
Where was I…. Oh right – Now add 6-12 to even 20 more herbs more depending on the formula, with highly specified dosages – all acting synergistically – some even outright toxic to address highly deadly pathogens – just as some pharmaceuticals are toxic *when mis-prescribed or even properly prescribed*, but we then counterbalance said herb’s toxic effects on the host MIND-BODY essentially preventatively detoxed with a “mutual counteracting” herb to result in a net neutral damage to the host but a targeted delivery system of essentially mostly unknown to modern science supportive and attacking other herbs.
And in TCM these aren’t the simple “plant leaves or stems” you might be picturing – some of these are highly specific roots, barks, minerals, yes some animal tissues (most commonly insects). Nothing is off-limits in TCM (which we all know can be harmful in our modern mass-consumption economy, but as I lay out in my Primer – endangered species are a thing of the past and in my opinion may be untapped gold mines for specific constituents for isolated pharmaceutical research to identify and replicate chemically to preserve the species – as we did with aspirin, wormwood etc.) There are tens of thousands of “herbal” substances recorded in the *standard Chinese Materia Medica (not available in the West) which are essentially *never* prescribed alone, which let alone science not having funded enough research on them – let alone their synergistic actions, let alone explaining the net result when combined in advanced 10 + herb formulas which are then customized to the individual which certain herbs traditionally removed and replaces with parallel (i.e. another “warming” herb but one that specifically “warms” digestion to produce more bodily fluids, rather than “warms” already parched exhausted lungs – thus enhancing the body’s own ability to mobilize and repair itself – and that is just one of often dozens of traditionally recommended “modifications” to a centuries old antiviral formula that have been passed down for common variant presentations – which can absolutely be disregarded based on the Doctor’s clinical experience and the unique presentation of the individual.
I don’t even remember which bracket is which anymore.
And with specific regard to my incredible school – our directors set us up with extra courses and emphasis to prepare us for the real world with rational science-based thinking to defend, debunk and promote the effectiveness of a medicine SO desperately needed and SO incredibly effective (like honestly, again in my best interest to be transparent – there is maybe 2 patients I have a year that stump me, that do not progress, that I can’t seem to help – 2 out of… hundreds. Definitely not double-blind placebo controlled so PLEASE FUND US. And in both of those cases – the lack of results is *entirely due to either their lack of patience/commitment to trusting me that with time we will find that “A-ha!” moment that or simply admitting that I am inexperienced and not an old Chinese master. Skeptical? Again read this – second – come see me when you have a chronic health concern arise as you age, and the best modern medicine can do is halt its progression with medications you’ll need to take for the rest of your life – and then out of sheer frustration of “trying everything” you arrive in my clinic and learn that – it is a totally basic TCM 101 pattern with centuries of treatment options and a simple herbal formula is all it takes.
Don’t trust? Hogwash?
Exactly. LEAVE IT UP TO THE EXPERTS IN THE FIELD to debate amongst themselves, and do not take isolated examples of that debate out of context to prop up as evidence of the field itself as flawed. Quacks are quacks and plague every profession.
This is the same argument that biomedical doctors make to anti-vaxxers who have literally zero background beyond a Wikipedia reading on “mRNA”, those who completely neglecting the literal decade of training to *actually* understand the pathophysiology/pharmacodynamics of the terms used in untold contexts.
People “research” on the internet but can they themselves decode & extract mRNA with advanced technical equipment, decades of technique refinement and research, suspend it in a preserved state, study its responses in highly monitored placebo-controlled groups, to progress in stages, documenting any possible variables before large clinical trials which *must be submitted governing bodies* to confirm public safety.
And you’re basing your entire pandemic worldview around…
And the same is true for the political scientists, journalists, lawyers & legal experts, doctors, nurses, UNIONS, and all other professionals who are vocalizing views to our (as close we have to) democratically elected politicians towards what they professional community agrees to be the outcome that both minimizes lives lost – and gets us out faster because even capitalists want us back to our jerbs.
Like it or not – the vaccine is the key from ALL view angles – precisely because once again science – is apolitical.
I’m posting this Rogan thread to highlight that when you have the largest podcast during a pandemic, it is important to be responsible for the spread of misinformation that causes people to distrust the advice of *actual* medical professionals. This is the same primary thesis I made in my FIRST essay, long before this incident – that influencers must be double sure they fact check and take responsibility for misinformation which directly causes people to drink bleach and/or increases ICU admissions & deaths causing further lockdown and restrictions on us ALL. This is not cancel-culture – it is responsible-culture and if ever a time comes that deaths can be directly attributable to these personalities than all ethics dictates restrictions on their reach for public health interests – in the same way we do not tolerate hate speech. With great freedom comes great responsibility – that whole thing.
Omicron – The Unexpected Twist (PREVIEW)
TLDR: We need a new vaccine.
Omicron surprised everyone. From the immediate outset I posted evidence to be the definition of cautiously optimistic, perhaps this might be the burn-through to achieve herd immunity.
After the constant mixed messaging here in Ontario, the confusion over restrictions and colour schemes (red? first stage?) I believe it was in the government’s best interest to revert to what we know worked: lockdowns.
Because you want to see what life looks like without sufficient pandemic measures in place?
I obviously recognize the difference between densely populated Hong Kong vs sparse Canada – this is why we need better targeted zones going forward. But the fact remains: the virus is unpredictable.
Omicron appeared different so we had to be on offensive and do what we knew – was it overkill? Perhaps, perhaps not. But as I keep repeating, in a public health crisis with an unknown variant it is better to err on the side of caution as paralyzed hospitals paralyze society since healthcare affects us all no matter how old, young, rich or poor.
In either case, there would be uproar if the government was too lax, and there was uproar if the government was too restricted. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
From my view, they opted to save lives. As always, we’ll never quite know how many lives we have saved. These rules apply to literally everyone. No one wants perpetual masks and lockdowns.
But consider this: Were it not for vaccines, Omicron would have been absolutely, without a doubt the most catastrophic phase of the pandemic thus far. Hospitals would have been in complete and total chaos, and even stricter lockdowns would have been implemented, resetting the clock back to 2020.
This all comes down to thinking we are above nature.
Omicron defied what we know, thus far. That nature will behave in ways we do not understand and cannot predict. If anything, this is nature giving us a warning that we are reaching her limits and the next will be worse. (And yes, I loosely deify nature – because our indigenous populations are onto something when you treat her as a superior being. Rather than believing she is a “god”, choose to believe she is a god: meaning, superior to us not the other way around.)
And here we are – debating man made conspiracy. As if the power and reality of nature… could be once again dismissed, minimized… and taken out of the equation.
And so when hospitals clog up with unvaccinated COVID patients pushing other surgeries, beds, and lives out of the way for others then yes – the irresponsible unvaccinated are selfish. (I do acknowledge that there are actually responsible ones – but they are very very few from what I’ve seen).
This is the scientific learning process, happening once again, in real-time – our place in context of the “Pandemic Story”, of which there WILL be an end. Please take it down a notch, you are not special, we are all exhausted here. Especially nurses. And vaccinated truckers.
Blame Capitalism (PREVIEW)
“Derp – what about that phone in your hand that was made by capitalism?” Derp – no it wasn’t – it was made by dramatically underpaid workers. Fucking derp. Still waiting for that trickle-down, Reagan!
(And yes, I’m aware that many things have improved as society advances, I will be *thoroughly* expanding this section, as it is indeed the largest portion of my book draft notes.)
AS I’LL BE PROVING, THIS ISN’T CAPITALIST “CORRUPTION”, THIS *IS* CAPITALISM, IT IS INHERENT & AS CRITICAL AS THE WHEEL IS TO THE BIKE.
So if we are in agreeance that it can be argued that core reason people distrust vaccines are because they spring from a profit-based pharmaceutical system beholden less to the public and more to shareholders – then what is our solution? What is the next logical conclusion?
Socialize it. Medicine for the people, by the people. And as Cuba has *repeatedly* shown and should be case studied. This method demonstrably, scientifically – works. And outperforms. And in time, once the transition has settled (as it will surely have bumps in the road again: keep things in their historical context, we are by no means at the end of history) it will inevitably normalize and begin to deviate from its antiquated capitalist counterpart.
I argue that healthcare would be far better off if socialized world-over, medicines developed by and for the actual people, and not the bottom line, imagining a graph: I believe that over time medicines developed from such models would begin to deviate significantly in their funding and research priorities and new classes that might otherwise not be developed in the capitalist model (such as those that are entirely effective but don’t produce the dollars to make it worthwhile to the industry thus the door gets closed, I can provide citation here.)
Look at the purely capitalist healthcare model the states used, with Sanders’ socialist Medicare blocked *at every turn* by the state capitalists as the prime example. And don’t get me started on vaccines, being systematically kept from poor populations. Yes systematically, because that is how our system *functions*
While the healthcare system is socialized here in Canada – it still exists within and is beholden to a multinational/globalized distrusted capitalist pharmaceutical industry.
And so – if my conclusions prove true – then it logically follows that we ask: What else should we socialize?
And thus – you can see my progression to some of the political views I may explore, thought-experiment, and educate myself on. It began… with the desire for a healthier, more democratic, less polluted (both in our streams – and our bloodstreams) world. Ever seeking the roots to the problems we face today. The problems I see in our bulldozed plastic congested planet. The problems I see every single day in my clinical experience.
Late-stage capitalism… Has run its course, and the climate clock is ticking.
The fundamental premises of capitalism, by definition – is unsustainable. Deal with it now.
We need to be discussing and synthesizing alternatives.
- The Intercept
- The Gravel Institute
- Democracy Now
- Harbinger Media Network
- Unicorn Riot
- Ricochet Media
ZUCKED: By Eli Parser (Blinkist Summary)
Eli Pariser, president of the campaigning organization MoveOn, was one of the first to publicize the effect of filter bubbles, in a 2011 Ted Talk. Pariser noticed that, although his Facebook friends list was pretty evenly balanced between conservatives and liberals, there was nothing neutral about his newsfeed. His tendency to like, share or click on liberal content was leading Facebook to give him more of what it thought he wanted, until he never saw any conservative content at all.
As Pariser argued, this is problematic. Many people get their news and information from Facebook, and think they are receiving a balance of content. But in reality, algorithms with huge power but no civic responsibilities are feeding them a biased view of the world.
Even worse problems arise when filter-bubble effects shift users from mainstream to more extreme views. This can happen as a result of algorithms shifting users toward more emotive, outrageous content.
For example, a former YouTube employee, Guillaume Chaslot, wrote software that showed how YouTube’s algorithmic recommendations worked. It showed that, if a user watches any video on the platform about 9/11, that user will then receive recommendations for 9/11 conspiracy videos.
Despite mounting evidence, Facebook denied that Russia had used the platform until, in September 2017, it admitted that it had discovered advertising spending of around $100,000 by Russian-hosted fake accounts. Facebook would later reveal that Russian interference had reached 126 million users on the platform, and another 20 million on Instagram. Given that 137 million people voted in the election, it’s hard not to believe that Russian interference had some impact.
Russia’s tactics in the 2016 election were to rile up Trump supporters, while depressing turnout among potential democrat voters.
And the truth is, it was easy, thanks to Facebook groups, which offered Russia an easy way to target key demographics. For example, Russian operatives ran a number of groups focused on people of color, such as the group Blacktivist, apparently with the purpose of spreading disinformation that would reduce the likelihood of users voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Moreover, groups made it easy for content to get shared. We tend to trust our fellow group members – they share our interests and beliefs, after all. So we are often uncritical of where information is coming from, if it’s shared within a group with which we identify.
The author himself noticed that friends of his were sharing deeply misogynistic images of Hillary Clinton that had originated in Facebook groups supporting Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic primaries. It was almost impossible to believe that Sanders’ campaign was behind them, but they were spreading virally.
And Russia’s ability to influence through groups was vividly shown with the notorious example of the 2016 Houston mosque protests, when Facebook events controlled by Russians organized simultaneous protests both for and against Islam outside a mosque in Houston, Texas. The manipulation was part of Russia’s overall efforts to sow discord and confrontation in the United States based on anti-minority and anti-immigrant sentiment, as Russia knew that this would play into the hands of the Trump campaign.
In March 2018, a story broke that tied Facebook’s political impact to its disregard for user privacy. Cambridge Analytica, a company providing data analytics to Donald Trump’s election campaign, had harvested and misappropriated almost fifty million Facebook user profiles.
Cambridge Analytica funded a researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, to build a data set of American voters. He created a personality test on Facebook, which 270,000 people took in return for a couple of dollars. The test collected information on their personality traits.
Crucially, it also captured data about the test-takers’ Facebook friends – all 49 million of them collectively – without these friends knowing anything about it, let alone giving consent. Suddenly, the data team for a controversial presidential candidate had a trove of highly detailed personal data for about 49 million people. And while Cambridge Analytica wasn’t allowed, under Facebook’s terms of service, to use the data commercially, it did so anyway.
This was particularly controversial because, according to a whistleblower, Cambridge Analytica was able to match Facebook profiles with 30 million actual voter files. This gave the Trump campaign enormously valuable data on thirteen percent of the nation’s voters, allowing it to target propaganda at these voters with incredible precision. Remember that just three swing states, won by Trump with a combined margin of just 77,744 votes, gave him a victory in the Electoral College. It seems almost impossible that Cambridge Analytica’s targeting, based on Facebook’s data breach, didn’t influence this outcome.
As the story broke, Facebook tried to argue that it had been a victim of Cambridge Analytica’s malpractice. But Facebook’s actions suggest otherwise. When Facebook found out about the data breach, it wrote to Cambridge Analytica, asking for copies of the dataset to be destroyed. But no audit or inspection was ever carried out. Instead, Cambridge Analytica was just asked to tick a box on a form to confirm compliance. Moreover, Facebook had itself happily embedded three team members in the Trump campaign’s digital operations at the same time when Cambridge Analytica was working for Facebook.
The Cambridge Analytica story was a turning point. Many came to believe that, in the pursuit of growth and profit, Facebook had ignored its moral and societal obligations.
Facebook and other tech giants should be properly regulated to limit the harm they can do.
As the Russian interference and Cambridge Analytica scandals have shown, Facebook has not taken the need to regulate its own behavior seriously enough. Perhaps, then, the time has come to think about external regulation.
One aspect of this should be economic regulation designed to weaken the overall market power held by Facebook and other tech giants, just like the kind of regulation applied in the past to giants like Microsoft and IBM. One reason Facebook is so powerful is because it has used its financial weight simply to buy up competitors, like Instagram and WhatsApp.
This needn’t influence economic growth or overall innovation negatively, as the historical example of phone operator AT&T shows. In 1956, AT&T reached a settlement with the government to control the company’s spiraling power. It would limit itself to the landline telephone business and would license its patents at no cost so others could use them.
This turned out to be seriously good news for the US economy because, by making the AT&T’s crucial invention and patent – the transistor – freely available, this antitrust ruling essentially gave birth to Silicon Valley. Computers, video games, smartphones and the internet – all of it came from the transistor.
And crucially, the case also worked out for AT&T. Confined to a core business, it nonetheless became so successful that it was subject to another monopoly case in 1984. Applying the same kind of logic to the likes of Facebook and Google would still allow them to thrive but limit their market power and encourage more competition.
Economic regulation is one thing. But if we are truly to tackle the damaging impact of Facebook on society, we also need regulation that gets to the heart of its harmfulness.
One place to start would be to mandate the option of an unfiltered Facebook newsfeed view. With a click of a button, you could toggle your news feed from “your view” – based on Facebook’s artificial intelligence judgments of what will keep you interested the longest – to a more neutral or balanced view of what’s happening in the world.
Another positive step would be to regulate algorithms and artificial intelligence. In the US, this could be done via an equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration for technology, with responsibility for ensuring that algorithms serve, rather than exploit, humans. Mandated third-party auditing of algorithms would create sufficient transparency to avoid the worst cases of filter-bubbles and manipulation.
We accept and value regulation in many industries, using it to strike the right balance between public interest and economic freedom. At present, when it comes to tech, that balance is not being properly struck. It’s time for change.
KEEPING THE LEFT IN CONTEXT/FREE SPEECH HYPOCRISY & REALITY
- Books — No Left Turn
- US conservatives linked to rich donors wage campaign to ban books from schools | US news | The Guardian
- US libraries report spike in organised attempts to ban books in schools | Books | The Guardian
- 13 Questions for Those Who Want to Ban “Critical Race Theory”
- Fascism’s Legal Phase Has Begun
- America’s Fascists are Telling You Who They Are. Are You Listening?
- ‘Last Week Tonight’s’ John Oliver Expertly Debunks the Right’s ‘Critical Race Theory’ Panic (thedailybeast.com)
- CRT And Moral Panic Sources – Google Docs
EVICDENCE OF WHOLISM