Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Liberty Report and RonPaulInstitute.org
SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=26318
Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Liberty Report and RonPaulInstitute.org
SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=26318
Boycott everything Israeli! Relocate Israel to Florida!
Last month, Sarah Silverman, a well-known Jewish American comic and actor, tweeted a link to an Amnesty International petition that calls upon Israel to release the 17-year-old Palestinian girl, Ahed Tamimi, who is being detained, alongside several of her family members, for slapping an Israeli soldier.
Tamimi was reacting after Israeli soldiers shot her cousin, Mohammed al-Tamimi, on 15 December while he was protesting US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Silverman attached her own words to the tweet, posting, “Jews have to stand up EVEN when – ESPECIALLY when – the wrongdoing is BY Jews/the Israeli government.”
Despite receiving more than 1,600 replies, a majority of which expressed condemnation of her righteous tweet, Silverman remain undeterred in her expressed commitment to speak for injustices carried out by the state of Israel, fighting back against those who attacked her online, explaining in clear detail why she posted that tweet.
When pro-Israel activist Chloe Valdary accused Tamimi of belonging to a “notorious terrorist-supporting family”, Silverman replied: “Ok, friend. But may I ask, do you wonder why she has done this? And where her rage comes from? And might we see ourselves in her in any way?”
Palestinian human rights defenders and activists praised Silverman for her brave and defiant stand against those who seek only to whitewash Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. I wish that was the end of the story but sadly it isn’t.
Through intimidation and harassment, Israel’s army of online trolls succeeded in pushing Silverman back into a corner. Three days after expressing solidarity with Tamimi, and imploring Jewish Americans to stand up against Israel’s crimes, Silverman recanted, withdrawing to the safety of false equivocation.
“The more I learn the less I feel I know I’m going to RT [retweet] conflicting pieces on the Israel/Palestine from people who R there & believe w every fiber they know who is right & who is wrong. Both are very convincing. Both may even be right,” tweeted Silverman on 18 February.
Her capitulation came the following day when she posted: “Dear Palestinians/Jews/Israelis/and everyone w an opinion: I can only speak for me & all I care about is what is true, & what is just. Unfortunately, from what I see, those things seem to be wildly subjective. Only God/Allah/Hashem/Mr. Rogers knows….”
Score another victory for Israel’s army of online trolls! They’ve succeeded yet again in pressuring a prominent public figure into retracting his/her criticism of the apartheid Israeli state.
This is how Israel’s trolls operate: the more prominent or well-known the person who posts something in favour of Palestinian human rights, the harder that person is hit with a tsunami of pro-Israel online trolls, who threaten and harass the account holder until either the post is removed or apologised for.
It’s a tactic that works all too well, as these pro-Israel trolls not only work hand-in-hand with right-wing media publications, but also prey on people’s fears of being falsely branded an anti-Semite.
Israel’s effort to silence its critics has become both desperate and deranged, going so far to weaponise social media in order to “wage a propaganda war” against those who threaten or promise to boycott it until it ends its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories.
“Israel aims to recruit a mob of slacktivists and trolls to join their war against the most insidious forms of violence: pro-Palestinian tweets and Facebook posts,” observes Michael Bueckert.
Israel’s effort to silence its critics has become both desperate and deranged, going so far to weaponise social media in order to “wage a propaganda war” against those who threaten or promise to boycott it
A 2017 study found that an Israeli threatens or insults a Palestinian online every 71 seconds, usually inciting or threatening violence, while using disparaging words such as “garbage”, “whore”, “dog”, and “burn”, which provides one with a little insight into what it’s like to be on the receiving end of this kind of harassment.
Dang it, no more trolling on the internets.
The internet is, by nature, plural. When entering it, we know that we’re bound to encounter many ideas, some of which we will not share. Especially in religious matters, it is important to respect others, and simply move on when encountering a post with which we disagree.
If we feel the urgency to offer a negative comment, what is the source of that feeling? Do we really want to help? Do we need to correct another’s ignorance? When we assume the role of custodian of orthodoxy, we proclaim that our understanding is superior to everyone else’s.
We are not on the internet to impose our views, but to share them freely with those of similar inclinations.
The objective of argument is victory, not truth.
Nothing new here but we need to be reminded that we are being monitored and controlled.
The CIA have expanded their program that facilitates fake propaganda stories by using agents to troll internet forums, social media and alternative website in a huge attack on Alternative Media.
Americanintelligencereport.com reports: According to RT news, agents have up to “10 fake shill accounts” used to troll and create the illusion of having a genuine network of friends.
“They will defend current administration decisions with a relentless irrational stubbornness that one can only be paid to do.
Abby Martin, from RT’s “Breaking the Set,” reported on an up to date Operation Mockingbird with the sole purpose of misleading the public on-line.
In the congressional hearing from 1976 (below) listen to how many agents are in the media to write false stories.
According to the Congress report published in 1976:
“The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda.
“These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”
By the year 1953 Operation Mockingbird dictated information in over 25 newspapers and wire agencies.
These organizations were run by people with well-known right-wing views such as William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time and Life Magazine), Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times), Alfred Friendly (managing editor of the Washington Post), Jerry O’Leary (Washington Star), Hal Hendrix (Miami News), Barry Bingham, Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal), James Copley (Copley News Services) and Joseph Harrison (Christian Science Monitor).
Even Rolling Stone claimed that journalist Joseph Alsop was under the control of Operation Mockingbird in 1977.
His articles appeared in over 300 different newspapers.
Other journalists alleged by Rolling Stone Magazine to have been willing to promote the views of the CIA included Stewart Alsop (New York Herald Tribune), Ben Bradlee (Newsweek), James Reston (New York Times), Charles Douglas Jackson (Time Magazine), Walter Pincus (Washington Post), William C. Baggs (The Miami News), Herb Gold (The Miami News) and Charles Bartlett (Chattanooga Times).
According to Nina Burleigh (A Very Private Woman), these journalists sometimes wrote articles that were commissioned by Frank Wisner, creator of the program.
The CIA also provided them with classified information to help them with their work.
SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=22712
New court documents allege that Monsanto is employing an army of internet trolls to literally “Let Nothing Go”–no article, no comment, no social media post is to be left unanswered by these third party proxies. Find out about the court case from which these documents have emerged, the history and context of the accusations, and what it all means in today’s thought for the day.
With permission from
Paul Craig Roberts
May 6, 2017
Dear Readers: I very much appreciate the support you show for me in your emails. I seldom receive a rude email from you, and when I do it is usually something off subject, such as a reader angry with Israel and unloading on me with an accusation that I am a coward and a “Jew-lover” because I don’t do enough to expose the crimes of the Jews.
This accusation always amuses me as the ADL lists me as an anti-Semite because I occasionally make an entirely justified criticism of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians and excessive influence over US foreign policy, as have many outstanding scholars, such as John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and many Jews themselves.
My friends find my designation by the ADL as an anti-Semite hilarious. The person whom I selected as my principal deputy in the US Treasury is a Jew. David Meiselman, my friend and co-author with me of an important study of the Congressional Budget Office, is a Jew (deceased). I went to Oxford for the express purpose of studying under Michael Polanyi, a Jew who had to leave his scientific post in Germany to escape the Nazis. Milton Friedman, an early supporter of the Institute for Political Economy, is a Jew (deceased). When my book (1971) on the Soviet economy was republished in 1990 without a word changed, it was a Jew who wrote the Introduction. He asked, “Why did only Roberts get it right?”
I have had Israelis as house guests.
And the ADL labels me an anti-Semite. Clearly, the term no longer means anything.
I hold Israel and the Israel Lobby accountable, just as I held accountable the Reagan administration, the George H.W. Bush administration, the Clinton regime, the George W. Bush regime, the Obama regime, and the Trump regime. (I differentiate between administration and regime on the basis of whether the president actually had meaningful control over the government. If the president has some control, he has an administration.)
According to the ADL’s logic, I am both anti-Reagan and anti-American. But readers see me as a true patriot, and Reagan-haters see me as a Reagan-apologist. Clearly, something is wrong with the ADL’s logic.
Obviously, the Israel Lobby has destroyed the meaning of anti-Semite. In its effort to control the explanation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Israel Lobby has made “anti-Semite” into a badge of honor.
Control over explanations is important to Zionist Israel. If Americans can be convinced, as many have been, that Palestinians are terrorists out to kill all Jews, Israel’s theft of Palestine and mistreatment of Palestinians is not the issue that it would otherwise be. The Israel Lobby also works hard to control which voices are acceptable and which are not. For example, no one is permitted to investigate the Holocaust. Some European countries have a law against Holocaust investigation, and historians have been sent to prison for challenging the official explanation, which it is mandatory to believe.
In the US the Israel Lobby can even overturn decisions on academic tenure. For example, the outstanding scholar, Norman Finkelstein, a Jew and a critic of Israel, was denied tenure at a Catholic University solely on the basis of objection from the Israel Lobby. I find it extraordinary that not even Catholic Universities can stand up to the power of the Israel Lobby. The tenure committee and the faculty voted Finkelstein’s tenure, and the Israel Lobby interceded with the university president and blocked it.
Similarly, Steven Salaita was offered a tenure appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, accepted it, resigned his tenure at Virginia Tech, sold his house and moved his family to Illinois only to have the president of the University of Illinois illegally cancel his appointment, apparently on orders from the Israel Lobby. Salaita’s attitude toward Israel was not acceptable to Israel.
The Israel Lobby succeeded in eliminating two outstanding scholars from American academic life, thereby extending Zionist control of the Israeli/Palestinian explanation by eliminating alternative explanations. As far as I can ascertain, neither scholar has been able to overcome the slander and obtain an academic appointment, a great loss to students and scholarship.
If a writer so much as reports these factual events, the writer is branded an anti-Semite by the Israel Lobby. In former times, an anti-Semite meant a person who hated Jews. But today it means anyone who makes even a mild criticism of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians whose lands Israel occupies and is stealing. Indeed, practically nothing is left of Palestine except the Gaza ghetto that is totally controlled by Israel. All movements of supplies and people in and out are controlled by Israel. Essentially, Gaza is the Warsaw Ghetto.
These are simple irrefutable facts. Every aware person knows this, but if you say it or write it, you are a “Jew-hater.”
Many Jews have been conditioned to believe that any criticism of Israel, no matter how justified, is anti-Semitic. Even Israel’s friend, former US President Jimmy Carter, is reviled by the Israel Lobby as an anti-Semite. Carter cautioned Israel against mistreatment of the Palestinians and was instantly branded a “Jew-hater.” The Jews on the board of the Carter Center resigned.
How do we account for the vast power of the lobby of a foreign power whose entire consequence in the world depends solely on Washington’s support? How does a dependent country control, or if control is too strong, so heavily influence, Washington’s policy in the Middle East, resulting in millions of deaths of Muslims and the destruction of entire countries, and also overturn the tenure decisions of US Catholic and state universities? If the US is a superpower, clearly Israel is the Hyperpower.
Israel owes much of its influence to the billions of US taxpayers’ dollars that Washington gives each year to Israel. Money is fungible, and it comes back to the US in the form of political campaign contributions to support Israel’s friends and defeat Israel’s critics. It come back in support for friendly media, academics, and university administrations. It influences entertainment and some say court cases, not by paying off judges, but by influencing the explanation of the case. And so on. In other words, US taxpayers’ money is used to give a foreign government more control over the US than US citizens have.
There is a great deal of hostility toward the Zionist government among European populations and Muslims. But this hostility does not transfer to all Jews. People are capable of differentiating the responsible from the powerless.
All Jews are not Israelis and all Israelis are not Zionists. Some Israelis complain that the Zionist government is squeezing morality out of the Israeli population, and they pay a price for saying so. Israelis who organize in protest to the Zionist policies against the Palestinians, such as Jeff Halper, coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, are branded “self-hating Jews” by the Zionist government.
Few Americans know that the Israeli government confiscates entire Palestinian villages and demolishes Palestinians’ homes, using specially built equipment by the American corporation, Caterpillar, and constructs housing for Israelis. The Israel Lobby will deny this despite the fact that Israeli citizens have formed an organization that seeks to use law and Israeli courts to prevent it. Western governments and presstitutes are not interested in what becomes of the dispossessed Palestinians.
Halper is Jewish, but the Palestinians do not hate him. He can go to Gaza without any danger from the Muslims. The only danger he faces is from the Israeli government who arrested him for going to Gaza. Indeed, distinguished Israelis, such as Gilad Atzmon and Ilan Pappe have left Israel for safety in Europe. Both are demonized by the Israel Lobby. If you care to understand Zionist Israel, read Atzmon’s book, The Wandering Who? For Palestine, read Pappe’s books.
Think about this more generally. As Muslims have been under foreign occupation for a very long time, they are aware that they have no control over “their” governments. Some of them are aware that Europeans and Americans also have no control over their governments. Just as Muslims in Palestine do not hold Halper responsible for Israel’s murderous policies toward Palestinians, what sense does it make for Muslims to hold hapless Europeans and Americans responsible for the evil policies of the US and European governments?
If you think about this, you can see why it is suspicious that “Muslim terrorism” commits acts only against innocents, who have no influence over government policy, and not against the responsible government officials.
If Muslim terrorists are so sophisticated that they can pull off events such as 9/11 and the Nice truck attack, they are sufficiently sophisticated to understand who their real enemies are. They know that the enemy is not Frenchmen enjoying an evening on French streets.
As I have previously observed, the main neoconservatives are well known from their high positions in the George W. Bush and Obama regimes. Their responsibility for the years of US invasions, bombings, and destruction of millions of Muslim peoples is known. None of the neoconservatives have any protection. Yet there has never been a terrorist attack against any of them.
Considering that the alleged Muslim terrorists are so inconsiderate of their own lives, they could easily take out former VP Dick Cheney, who has only minimal protection. Consider that there have been no Muslim terror attacks on unprotected US Senators and Representatives and presstitutes who have fervently supported two decades of murderous warfare against Muslims. Consider that the US and Europe are now full of Muslim refugees from Washington’s wars, and terrorist events (which are probably false flag events) are rare.
In a real democracy with a real media and real opposition parties, these questions would be investigated and part of public debate, not dismissed as “conspiracy theory.” As I reported in a previous column, CIA documents were discovered that show that the CIA invented the use of “conspiracy theory” to prevent a real investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2016/08/31/are-you-a-mind-controlled-cia-stooge-paul-craig-roberts/
To return to the purpose of this missive, which is to thank you for your support, I agree with the numerous readers who wrote to tell me that they do not waste time reading comment sections in which the majority of comments are the work of narcissistic idiots and paid trolls, and in which anonymous commentators slander not only the columnist but also one another. Readers advise me to treat the comments as water off the duck’s back.
I did not protest because of thin skin. As I understand it, many governments, agencies of governments, and private interest groups and individuals with agendas, such as Monsanto and George Soros, finance trolls to attack Internet writers who are critical of their agendas. Other reports say that Google is cooperating with the government’s control over explanations by making it more difficult to find truth-tellers online. Other reports say that Twitter and Facebook are censoring what can be posted.
The process of discrediting truth-tellers works as follows: A writer provides an explanation that differs from the official explanation. He or she is set upon both by narcissists full of themselves and by trolls.
His or her argument is mischaracterized. He or she is branded a “conspiracy theorist,” a “Putin dupe” or “Russian agent,” an “anti-Semite,” an “anti-American,” a “Reagan apologist.” Once these comments are posted, the troll network spreads them into social media, with the intention of discrediting the writer and creating suspicion about his or her motives and sanity. As most people are poorly informed and have difficulty differentiating The Matrix from The Reality, the trolls succeed in limiting the writer’s audience.
It is not “thin skinned” to object to a process that discredits those who provide real information when the purpose of the discrediting is to protect the official disinformation used to control explanations.
Readers continually ask me what can be done to regain control over the government. My answer is that the people cannot do anything until they understand the situation. Without good information, they cannot understand the situation. Narcissists and trolls work to keep people confused about legitimate sources.
If comment sections required real names and real email addresses, comments would be less damaging to the truth as commentators would be less inclined toward irresponsibility and malice.
Everywhere in the Western World, and this includes the Asian provinces of the American Empire, it is close to impossible to acquire accurate information. The only purpose of information from Washington and from the print and TV media and NPR is to get the captive populations to accept the official explanation that serves the ruling agenda. Those who provide real news, such as RT, are attacked as fonts of “fake news.” In other words, for Washington truth is an enemy. As George Orwell said, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
The Saker says that the agenda most in need of our attention is the “anglo-zionist agenda” of US/Israeli domination. The overriding fact of our time is that any country or person in the way of US/Israeli domination is destined for destruction.
That is our reality.
Russia and China have finally caught on that the democratic rhetoric issuing from Washington is a cloak for the evil that is the operating force of the US government.
Will Russia and China accept the hegemony of this evil or will they not? It is a very serious matter that Washington has convinced the Russian and Chinese governments that Washington is preparing a preemptive nuclear strike against them. This is extremely serious, not something for narcissists and trolls to play with.
For all who ask what to do, the answer is to speak out strongly against Washington for risking all life by convincing Russia and China that Washington is preparing to nuke them. To understand how dire the situation is, ask yourself why you hear no protests against such provocation of Russia and China from the West’s print and TV media, from the US Senate, from the House of Representatives, from European political leaders, from hardly anyone.
The absence of protest tells the Russians and Chinese that the American Empire is OK with the preemptive attack. Where is Merkel’s voice? Where is May’s? Where is any leader’s voice?
The absence of protest voices tells Russia and China that the die is cast.
” I seldom see an intelligent comment on websites that have comment sections. Most comments come from people too ashamed to speak in their real names and who are unwilling to provide their real email addresses. Almost all comments come from narcistic ignorant fools hiding behind fake names and fake email addresses and from paid trolls.”
With permission from
Paul Craig Roberts
May 3, 2017
The North Korean “crisis” is a Washington orchestration. North Korea was last at war 1950-53. N. Korea has not attacked or invaded anyone in 64 years. N. Korea lacks the military strength to attack any country, such as South Korea and Japan, that is protected by the US. Moreover, China would not permit N. Korea to start a war.
So what is the demonization of N. Korea by the presstitutes and Trump administration about?
It is about the same thing that the demonization of Iran was about. The “Iranian threat” was an orchestration that was used as cover to put US anti-ballistic missile bases on Russia’s borders. An anti-ballistic missile (ABM) is intended to intercept and destroy nuclear-armed ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and prevent them from reaching their targets.
Washington claimed that the anti-ABM bases were not directed at Russia, but were for the protection of Europe against Iran’s nuclear ICBMs. Insouciant Americans might have believed this, but the Russians surely did not as Iran has neither ICBMs nor nuclear weapons. The Russian government has made it clear that Russia understands the US bases are directed at preventing a Russian retalliation against a Washington first strike.
The Chinese government also is not stupid. The Chinese leadership understands that the reason for the N. Korean “crisis” is to provide cover for Washington to put anti-ballistic missile sites near China’s border.
In other words, Washington is creating a shield against nuclear retalliation from both Russia and China from a US nuclear strike against both countries.
China has been more forceful in its reply to Washington’s efforts than have the Russians. China has demanded an immediate halt to the US deployment of missiles in South Korea. https://www.rt.com/news/386828-china-thaad-south-korea/
In order to keep Americans confused, Washington now calls anti-ABMs THAAD, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. China understands that THAAD has nothing whatsoever to do with N. Korea, which borders S. Korea, making it pointless for N. Korea to attack S. Korea with ICBMs.
THAAD in S. Korea is directed against China’s retaliatory forces. It is part of Washington’s preparations to nuke both Russia and China with minimal consequence to the US, although Europe would certainly be completely destroyed as THAAD or anti-ABMs are useless against Russian nuclear cruise missiles and the Russian air force.
But no Empire has ever cared about the fate of its vassals, and Washington is uninterested in Europe’s fate. Washington is interested only in its hegemony over the world.
The question is: now that Russia and China understand that Washington is preparing for a preemptive nuclear strike against them in order to remove the two constraints on Washington’s unilateral behavior, will the two countries sit there and wait for the strike?
What would you do?
On April 27 I posted on this website a column, “Washington Plans to Nuke Russia and China.” My column was a report that this was the conclusion of the Russians and Chinese themselves. I quoted Russian Lt. Gen. Viktor Poznikhir, Deputy Head of Operations of the Russian General Staff and provided links for his expression of concern such as: https://www.rt.com/news/386276-us-missile-shield-russia-strike/
As the readers of my website are a self-selected group of intelligent and concerned people who want to know what is the reality as opposed to what is The Matrix, I was somewhat taken aback when several wrote to me that they disagreed with me that Washington planned to nuke Russia and China. I write clearly; yet here were several readers who mistook my report on the conclusion of the Russian general staff for my opinion! I was also amazed that the readers thought that it mattered what they think or what I think. All that matters is what the Russian and Chinese leadership think.
I then looked at the comment sections on other sites that repost my columns, and there were the trolls hired by the CIA, Mossad, National Endowment for Democracy, George Soros, NATO, US State Department, and others denouncing me for promoting nuclear war. Of course, it is Washington that is promoting nuclear war, and it is Washington that has convinced Russia and China that a preemptive nuclear strike is in their future.
Washington, being full of hubris, thinks that this will scare Russia and China and that the two governments will submit to Washington.
Possibly they will, but I would not bet the life of the planet on it.
It is conceiveable that education in the US and throughout the Western world is so poorly done that readers educated in recent decades simply cannot comprehend what they are reading. How else to explain the mischaracterizations of my report on the conclusion of the Russian General Staff? The only other explanation is that websites that have comment sections provide the opportunity for the ruling elites to hire the slander of truth-tellers.
I seldom see an intelligent comment on websites that have comment sections. Most comments come from people too ashamed to speak in their real names and who are unwilling to provide their real email addresses. Almost all comments come from narcistic ignorant fools hiding behind fake names and fake email addresses and from paid trolls.
I don’t write in order to be slandered by paid trolls and ignorant narcistic fools. I regard it as highly irresponsible for websites to undercut their writers with anonymous accusations and slander from no one knows who. There should be no comment sections unless there is a firm check on the commentator’s real name and real email address.
Sites that do not have this requirement no longer have my permission to repost my columns.
Washington, as the Russian and Chinese governments comprehend, has placed life on earth under dire threat. This is serious business. There is no space for ignorant narcistic idiots and paid trolls to be using the Internet to attack the few who truthfully report the dire threat that all life faces from Washington’s drive for world hegemony.
500m posts are made daily on Twitter alone. Policing them is no easy task.
Research Fellow in Informatics, University of Sussex
July 27, 2016
Leslie Jones, the actress and comedian who plays Patty Tolan in the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters, has become the latest celebrity on Twitter to be subjected to torrents of abuse. Her ordeal is yet another in a long list of people, overwhelmingly women, who have been abused online. Yet again attention has turned to focus on what steps Twitter is taking to tackle abusive trolling.
Sifting abusive posts from the roughly 500m sent per day on Twitter alone is quite a task. The hope is that the computers and software underpinning the platforms that allow us to communicate, share information and have information recommended to us based on our preferences will also help us keep the trolls at bay. Over the past 20 years, increasingly sophisticated algorithms have been developed to identify unwanted and abusive messages. Originally developed to combat spam email, the same techniques are being deployed against abusive messages.
These pattern-detecting algorithms are often referred to as “machine learning” because the software is fed examples from which it learns to identify similar messages. During a training phase the machine learns which features of any text are undesirable (however that is defined) and which features are acceptable. A piece of text will typically contain a set of such features. Once the machine has been trained, it is able to form a judgement when shown a new piece of text based on the accumulated evidence it has seen before.
These algorithms can be used to filter unwanted messages before we see them, and before they cause hurt or alarm. The hard part is defining the underlying learning model, figuring out what the features to identify should be, and determining how that evidence is to be accumulated and scored. How tricky this can be was excellently demonstrated by Microsoft, whose Twitter chatbot went rogue after pranksters subverted the machine learning process by teaching it to swear and make abusive remarks.
There are a number of approaches available to developers. This is a very active research area as machine-learning algorithms can be applied across many types of tasks, from helping computer vision make sense of what it’s seeing, to assisting robotic movements or bulk text analysis.
Commonly used approaches include Naive Bayes classifiers, logistic regression classifiers, perceptrons, support vector machines, and various kinds of multi-layered neural networks (MLNNs). MLNNs are causing the most excitement at present, not least because they roughly simulate the way in which real-life brains might be working, but also because successfully trained neural nets presently are the highest performers for many of these tasks. However, all of these approaches have their niches that depend on the precise task, the amount of training data available for learning, the time available for training, and the hardware requirements.
When it comes to intercepting trolls, machines currently can do a reasonably good job at spotting the obvious. They can spot typical patterns of insult. They might even do a reasonable job at differentiating between, for example, a message containing an out-and-out racial insult and a message that employs racial slur words in an (arguably) benign manner. For example, many short messages contain racial slur words that are being used not as an insult but as slang terms used by members within a particular social group.
But language use is subtle, and the current generation of systems struggle to identify sarcasm, reading-between-the-lines implication, or some other linguistic sleight of hand. The problem is that machines are simple-minded, based only on the form of words rather than on their underlying meanings (however they are defined).
Nonetheless, given the current state-of-the-art why is there still so much blatant abuse online? Ultimately, this is down to the choices we make rather than limitations of technology. While the virtual spaces we inhabit feel public, all are in fact someone else’s private virtual real estate. The computer servers upon which websites reside might be anywhere in the world, with what is allowed defined by legal contexts that differ depending on the country. Within those quite broad limits, the owner may define further restrictions. Ultimately, some site operators feel the benefits of free speech outweigh the benefits of a life free from abuse.
Of course, to remain popular the owners of these services need to be mindful of their users’ views, but for many domains only the tolerant and thick skinned need apply. The racist remarks, harassment and abuse directed towards Leslie Jones demonstrate how social media can degenerate into an echo chamber of hateful outbursts.
Ultimately, we need to make choices about how we behave to each other online. In the meantime, technologists will continue to develop algorithms and gradually improve machines’ ability to analyse, filter, and protect us from some of the worst aspects of ourselves.
Funny, sad, interesting, a glimpse of a new character in our internet culture: the fake person, the new agent provocateur, the troll.
You know you’ll have to at some point.
By Seb FoxAllen
He is hungry. Image via Flickr user Jan Hammershaug
Over the past few days we’ve been trying to find a better way forward from the acrid pile of burning trash that was 2015. We’ve dealt with the environment, terrorism, drug-taking, and more, but perhaps the area with the most room for achievable improvement is in the dank wasteland of the internet.
In 2015 your online friends grew more and more insufferable. All news was bad and the coverage of it worse. People you like argued ad nauseum, and ungodly promoted content took over your carefully curated Instagram feeds. One of your exes got married (lol); another got gout (lol?).
If you were a woman, an incessant stream of dudes yelled sexist shit at you from behind Twitter eggs and Solid Snake avatars. Anonymous threats of sexual violence weren’t so much lobbed in your direction as skillfully targeted at you and your platforms.
If you weren’t white, dismissals of your experiences clogged up your notifications even when you were just trying to crowdsource a substitute for honey in your homemade energy bar recipe.
If you identify as anything less heteronormative than Tim Allen, your very personhood was up for constant debate from people you didn’t know and, more jarringly, in small, subtle ways from some you thought you did.
If you belong to more than one of those groups, you might be commended for even mustering the courage to hang out online this year at all.
Will 2016 be better? Who knows! There is certainly a chance that it will be even worse. But here are a few things that could, if even fleetingly, start to make being online a bit more bearable over the next 12 months.
Trolling is a magical and valuable tactic of the internet. It uses the language and conventions of a group to coax out hypocrisy or frustration from its members. It catches the status quo in all its pomp and silliness. But trolling is also a word we use to minimize the impact of online behavior that would be criminal if it happened on the street.
Harassment online—whether it’s threats of violence, or persistent unwanted contact—is harassment, and should be described that way. Whether laws are currently equipped to deal with it or not, harassment on the internet has consistently led to offline consequences.
Language is never the be all and end all, but not trivializing harassment that happens on the internet as “trolling” (or, say, “cyberbullying”) helps people who are targeted feel heard and believed. That’s a small, good thing.
Trolls aren’t inherently bad and neither is trolling, so long as they punch up at power and privilege.
The most famous troll of 2015 was Donald Trump. His campaign for the Republican nomination for president has consistently (and sometimes spectacularly) frustrated and embarrassed the big-spending political establishment that is used to picking presidents. He engages the political system with such transparent contempt that he has proven incredibly difficult to pander against, forcing both his opponents and the Republican National Committee to respond to his silliness with a seriousness that ends up reading as even sillier.
Better examples are the South Carolina State Representative who introduced a bill forcing doctors prescribing Viagra to jump through the same ridiculous hoops that her colleagues had legislated for abortion procedures, the Australians using an iMessage loophole to hassle politicians over new cybersecurity laws, or that fake Campbell’s Soup customer service account that made fun of homophobes threatening to boycott the company on Facebook.
The difference between being a troll and being a dick all comes down to who you set your sights on.
Being told “Don’t feed the trolls” is about as useful as being told “Just get over it.” Some people process online harassment by shrugging it off, others need to hold it up to the world and light it on fire. Most use a combination of the two, but either way it comes with new consequences that obviously shouldn’t be necessary in the first place.
Feed trolls when it works for you, don’t engage with them when it doesn’t. But don’t accept that either response means you, or someone else, is asking to be targeted.
The internet, or at least the parts of it most of us use, isn’t a public space.
Hanging out on Twitter isn’t like standing on a street corner, it’s like standing in a McDonald’s. It’s a corporately-governed space that can impose rules and restrictions on what its users can say or do.
Social media companies have struggled to find meaningful ways to juggle free speech and user safety on their platforms. Twitter in particular has faced years of criticism for its unwillingness to adopt clear, useful mechanisms to protect users from serial harassment.
The same goes for other types of platforms where people are subjected to online harassment, from personal websites, to comment sections, to email clients.
For 2016, Twitter introduced changes that more concretely shape what kind of language it will allow, tackling both personal abuse and more general speech from places like the estimated 50,000 accounts linked to the Islamic State. It’s a step in the right direction, but functions like better blocking and reporting may need more attention before users really have the agency they need to use the platform safely.
What should be clear is that restrictions platforms like Twitter seem increasingly willing to entertain aren’t an affront to free speech, but rather a clear system of consequences to violating the rules its users opt in to. If we’re going to live in a corporate internet, we can insist that platforms keep up with what we want from them.
Comments are bad. All of them. They are peep shows of morbid curiosity at best, and magnets for the most pompous type of ideological grandstanding at worst.
If you scroll to the bottom of this article, you are likely to find two types of comments: (a) those you already completely agree with; and (b) those you would absolutely never agree with. They’re relics from a time when there was a genuine lack of places someone could publicly express an opinion on the news of the day. That isn’t the case anymore.
Canada’s public broadcaster closed out 2015 by announcing it would disable comments on articles about Indigenous people, which had for years attracted only the worst types of colonial backwash. In the US, major publishers like Bloomberg, The Verge, and VICE’s very own Motherboard all dropped their comments sections last year.
If someone feels a need to add comment—constructive or otherwise—to an article on your website, they have adequate means to do so across thousands of public channels. “Don’t read the comments” was 2014. In 2016, more publishers will choose not to host them.
We get it. You’re callous. You’re brash. You take no prisoners. You understand evolution and free markets and Serena Williams’s sinister agenda better than anyone. You’ve memorized all the most scathing Richard Dawkins quotes, and what you’ve read about ExxonMobil would throw people into open revolt if they only knew.
You’re a rationalist: people should be able to explain anything they say using the square equivalencies of Reason, anytime you ask them to, regardless of whether they’re busy, or don’t know you, or just don’t want to. It’s all about a free exchange of ideas, can’t everyone just realize that?
After all, you’re just asking questions. Like seven of them, one after the other. Maybe the last one was less a question and more a suggestion that that person who tweeted about salted vs. unsalted butter is a dumb bitch who probably doesn’t even like butter. All you wanted was for them to acknowledge that unsalted butter is clearly more versatile because you can always just add salt to it. It’s just logical: but they couldn’t confront the truth.
You’re no hero. You’re just acting out an age-old performance of power, maybe one you feel less and less comfortable doing out in the world these days. Those tiny cracks the Social Justice Warriors and PC Police keep carving into patriarchy and white supremacy seem like chasms from where you sit, jagged expanding holes in the way the world is, or was, or should be.
The internet of 2015, like the internet you’re reading this on today, carried all the same awfulness and injustice that persists offline, except instantly searchable and pinging you 24/7.
But you need to use it. To work, to communicate, to lulz, to connect.
Maybe all you can really do to wade through it are the same things you’ve learned to do offline: keep networks that you trust, pick fights that are worth your time and try to sidestep those that aren’t. Do what you have to do to feel safe, support others when they don’t, and keep chipping away at the structures that make any of this necessary at all.
2016, as ever.
Follow Seb FoxAllen on Twitter.