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How Facebook manipulated voters

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Facebook co-founder, chairman, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, standing on Red Square in Moscow, Russia.

In a contentious 2016 U.S. presidential election, social media proved to be the most important factor. How important? Brad Parscale, who was Trump’s digital director for the campaign, stated that Twitter was important, and that Facebook was “100 times more important”. Why was, and is, Facebook so important? Social media allowed (and still allows, despite the obvious conflict of interest) Donald Trump to reach out to his supporters, and they reached back in the form of millions of dollars in donations. In fact, he is still using social media to get donations for his 2020 re-election PAC fund, which is currently being used to pay the dozens of lawyers for him and his staff.

Social media, Facebook in particular, also allowed “dark ads”, which are paid advertisements tailored to specific segments of account holders. For instance, if I wanted to create a Facebook advertisement promoting myself as a political candidate, I could specify that the ad would only be shown to white males on Facebook between 21 and 45 who live in the Midwest. These “dark ads” aren’t commonly known, but many of us have seen them. Many of these ads weren’t used to promote anyone, but they were used to portray people in an extremely negative fashion, and either outright lied or exaggerated the truth. Most of them depicted Hillary Clinton as a corrupt traitor who worked with foreign powers and terrorists to undermine our democracy…which, ironically, was what Donald Trump exactly did to secure the election.

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The election itself was extremely close. Hillary Clinton, despite winning the popular vote (and winning it with the second highest ever number of votes), lost to Donald Trump in electoral college points. Here in Michigan, Donald Trump only won by a little over 10,000 votes, which is an extremely small number in a presidential election.

As for Twitter, Oxford University released a study of how voters in Michigan were manipulated by “fake news” on Twitter. The researchers found out that the fake news was much more prevalent than real news, and hit its peak of manipulation one week before the election. Could this have been the difference in Michigan, where Trump only won by 10,000 votes? It certainly played an influential part.

Here is the study, in PDF format:

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Now, we have learned that “Russiagate” head investigator Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant for all Facebook ads that were linked to Russia, in particular a Kremlin-linked company called the Internet Research Agency. Facebook alone has reported over 3,000 of these ads in the past 2 years, but this number is believed to be exponentially higher. This was a mutually beneficial relationship: Facebook made extra money, and political operatives in Russia were able to manipulate people on Facebook without being traced, for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising, and they could use blatant lies that could not be easily traced to their creators.

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Here is a screenshot of Facebook explaining unpublished page post advertisements, which are also known as “dark ads”.

We have already learned of the vast manipulation that Russia had undertook to undermine the 2016 election. All U.S. intelligence agencies, and intelligence agencies across the world, have said this. In fact, the only people denying any Russian manipulation are…Russia, and Donald Trump’s administration.

Of course, these intelligence agencies (in particular, “5 Eyes”, an alliance of the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand) were already monitoring all communications that were suspected to come from Russia, long before the 2016 campaign even started. This type of social media manipulation has been going on for many years. The Cold War technically ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall, but I would argue that it never really ended. We now have a new Cold War, which is being fought with the Internet. Instead of nuclear weapons, we now have computers to fight asymmetrical warfare.

As citizens, we are only scratching the surface as to what we know about voter manipulation through social media. I would wager that within the next year, we will learn the disturbing truth: that social media and “backchannel” communications were instrumental in securing the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In fact, I already believe it.

It has been rumored that Mark Zuckerberg may actually run for president in 2020. At this rate, he will be lucky not to be charged with any crimes for his complicit actions as the head of Facebook.

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Nancy Grace leaves HLN, the internet rejoices

Nancy Grace has announced she is leaving her long-running show at Headline News (HLN). All over social media, people are rejoicing. And I don’t blame them one bit.

Grace is a mediocre interviewer and a horrible human being. How bad are her interview and humanity skills? Well, people have actually KILLED themselves after being interviewed by her! Grace has been linked to 2 separate suicides, and has settled out of court with the families, for the cases of two women who killed themselves, reportedly because of Grace bullying them on air and off air.

And this is why I hate Nancy Grace: she loves to bully people, but she withers under the spotlight when people attempt to retaliate. She is a female version of Donald Trump: where using a reductive form of narrative like Twitter hashtags (especially with the word “tot”, probably because she eats a lot of tater tots), and repetitively using ill-informed, disingenuous soundbites is the way to get ratings. She will literally do anything to gain ratings. But when Grace is actually asked questions about HER actions, she lies, gets angry, whines, and cries, as in the case of Jim Norton’s recent interview of her. I’m not exaggerating: Grace DID cry…at least she admitted as much on another one of TV’s worst shows, The View. 

I’m sure Nancy Grace will find some other marginally relevant cable network to give a show on, but until then we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, like the exonerated Duke lacrosse team in 2007.

The worst social media manager of all time?

A few days ago, Miracle Mattress in San Antonio, Texas was just another typical mattress store. Thanks to a highly ignorant commercial making fun of the 9/11 attacks, however, they are currently the most hated mattress store in the U.S. To add to the drama, the commercial was created by, and also stars, the owner’s daughter Cherise Bonanno. How ignorant is she? Well…

-She is actually the company’s social media manager. She actually gets paid a salary for what she does on social media to represent Miracle Mattress. After creating, approving, and participating in the commercial, she posted it on the Miracle Mattress Facebook page.

-Instead of taking ownership and responsibility for her actions, or instead of simply shutting up for a day or two to let the hatred die down, she is still on Facebook responding to people. Some have alleged that she has used fake FB accounts to attempt to stick up for the company. There are many vitriolic comments directed to her, most of which refer to her as a “fat stupid bitch”, but she has responded to quite a few people with derogatory and juvenile comments as well. To be clear, most of the outrage seems genuine, and seems to be mostly from family members directly impacted by the 9/11 attacks.

She didn’t have time to delete the “Twin Tower campaign” on the company Twitter page (which makes the apology on there seem VERY disingenuous)…

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But she had time to update her personal Facebook page with privacy settings and a new picture of herself…

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If I were her dad (the owner of Miracle Mattress), I would seriously consider disowning her, as she has effectively put Miracle Mattress out of business. Especially in San Antonio, which has a strong military presence. There are many things people can make fun of, but 9/11 is not one of them. Unless you are Trey Parker or a Florida Wal-Mart, of course.

UPDATE, September 10th 2016: Miracle Mattress released a statement which says that they are closing “indefinitely”.

A hoverboard that works without batteries

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Recently, the popular toy for inebriated frat boys and narcissistic celebrities has been the “hoverboard”. These hoverboards are popular, despite the minor drawbacks of not actually hovering above the ground, and the fact that the cheap wiring and battery packs are prone to catch on fire.

Archeologists in California, however, have unearthed quite a discovery. It appears to be exactly like a hoverboard, except it doesn’t require electricity. The unique 4 wheel design seems to improve stability, and they can easily be powered by kicking along the sidewalk.

Hony Tawk, one of the archeologists who made this incredible discovery, has tentatively named this contraption the “skateboard”. They are projected to be one of 2016’s hottest retro toys.

STUPID THINGS THAT SHOW UP IN MY FACEBOOK NEWSFEED

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I don’t know about the rest of you, but I tend to get sponsored advertisements in my Facebook news feed that are the complete opposite of what I would be interested in. Church ads? Nope, I’m a happy agnostic. Insurance ads? Yeah, right. Stupid t-shirts that cater to the inner trailer trash in all of us? OK, I may be interested…

This shirt is the pinnacle of stupidity, though. It is brought to us by the fine people at My Gun My Right (seriously, that is the name of the Facebook page. If these assholes could literally marry their firearms in a legal ceremony, they probably would, especially since they can’t find any willing humans to cohabit with). I literally burst out laughing when I saw this on my news feed. Then, I decided to devote 5 minutes to completely debunk the “claims” on this shirt, and explain why it is so stupid.

1. “We Love Freedom”

In the past decade, our freedom has been increasingly curtailed, through expansions of the Patriot Act and other laws designed to monitor internet and cellphone usage. All this in order to stop “the terrorists”, who I’m sure are probably smart enough to use proxy internet connections and burner phones.

2. “We Drink Beer”

This is a true statement, as is also “We Take A Piss In The Morning”, and “We Prefer Not To Think For Ourselves”. But, the actual rate of beer consumption in the U.S. has dropped slightly, and we are only the 14th highest country in per-capita beer consumption. Who is #1, you ask? The Czech Republic, of course. Those damn Commies!

3. “We Eat Meat”

Approximately 5 percent of the U.S. population claims to be vegetarian. A small number to be sure, but one that has increased considerably over the past few decades.

4. “We Own Guns”

Here is one stat where we truly do shine. The U.S. does have one of the highest rates of private gun ownership. We also have the highest rate of imprisonment in the world. Cause and correlation? Nope, not at all. Keep flashing those guns, tough guys.

5. “We Speak English”

When you go to church and start blabbering in tongues, does that still count as “English”? Sure, we speak English. We also speak dozens of other languages. Way to brag about something that people learn to do at the age of one, dipshits.

6. “If You Don’t Like That Move!”

I like to move it, move it…I like to move it, move it…

Facebook fashion: Proud to be American, even though it was made in China

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1. 2nd Amendment Supporters

Just like this guy’s daughter, the 2nd Amendment was born under a (Constitutional) hit-and-run. It was hastily added along with nine other amendments in 1791, due to the very real threat of British redcoats storming our brand new country. Nowadays, the 2nd Amendment is mostly invoked by neo-con gun nuts whose gun caliber size of their favorite firearm is higher than their IQ.

Anyway…so what exactly is the point of this shirt? This is something that members of ISIS would seemingly wear, since they actually do murder their daughters’ significant others when they disobey them. But no, us Americans are nothing like those savages! If I saw someone actually wearing this ridiculous shirt, I would laugh hysterically. “Wow, you have a beautiful daughter, a gun, AND a shovel? Well good for fucking you, buddy! Was the shovel on sale?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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                    I’m not trying to be Captain Obvious here, but if you are making a shirt, you should probably edit the design for spelling errors, especially if it only has FIVE MOTHERFUCKING WORDS. Goddamn, this is frat boy fashion at its finest! “Fucking A duuuude, check out this sweet shirt!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3.Truth T-Shirts

I’m not the smartest guy around, but if I remember correctly, vaccines don’t contain any poison at all. They contain weakened strains of the virus that they are intended to vaccinate against. Hmmm, who would wear this atrocity of a shirt? I don’t know, but if I ever saw someone wearing this, I would put on a TYVEK suit and a respirator as I slowly walk the hell away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And here’s another fun one from our antisocial friends over at 2nd Amendment Supporters! “Born, Raised, & Protected By God Guns Guts (and) Glory”? So, which one taught you to shoot a gun? Let me guess: the gun taught you to shoot a gun. And, which one gave birth to you, and raised your snot-nosed ass from a baby to your painfully awkward high school years? Spoiler alert: it wasn’t the fictional character in the sky. I’m sure there’s plenty of guts though, this is a 4XL hoodie after all!

 

Do you want to know the scariest part about all of these shirts? These all appeared in my Facebook news feed as sponsored posts, which means that their wacky algorithms seemed to think that I would actually LIKE these screenprinted pieces of shit! Hey, Zuckerberg: get it together, man! I do have a crude, juvenile sense of humor, but these are painfully stupid even for me!

Till next time…

Lazy advertising on Facebook: Part 3

Facebook is every company’s dream: (mostly) free advertising, huge exposure, and plenty of mindless morons who readily lap up their inane posts. Now, I know I shouldn’t expect too much, but some of this stuff is just plain lazy.

1. Crutchfield

Putting up simple math equations isn’t the most clever way to interact with your customer base. More and more companies do it, and it’s just lazy. If I were the conspiracy minded type, I’d wager that these companies note the people who answer these questions and get them wrong, and then overcharge them on their purchases when they buy products.

Then again, I’m no conspiracy theorist. Just an armchair copywriter.

 

 

 

2. Hot Topic

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Ahh, good old Hot Topic. The arbiter of chubby suburban faux-goth fashion. I have to take exception to this statement, however: there is NO way that ANY company likes music more than people. Music doesn’t buy XXXL Green Day hoodies, music doesn’t buy Jack Skellington halloween thongs, and music doesn’t buy overpriced vinyl.

Imagine that, though, if music could actually buy music? *mind blown*

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. The FBI

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OK, so the FBI isn’t a retail company, and this isn’t what we would call advertising in the traditional sense. Although, it is advertising for them, by somehow trying to justify the banning of encryption on cell phones. Which is ironic coming from a government department that encrypts EVERYTHING. The few things they don’t encrypt, have to be FOIA’d at enormous arbitrary fees, and when you get your documents a year or two later, they are so redacted that you can’t even read a word. James Comey is an idiot, and he gets special idiot points for actually using the teenage slang term “FOMO” in the exact same speech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Kohl’s

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Obviously, this social media intern has never exercised a day in his or her life. First off, when you exercise, you get a boost of energy, so you would technically be “strong TODAY”. As soon as the endorphins wear off, your muscles then become sore, which would usually happen the next day, so you would be “sore TOMORROW”. Although, if you’ve ever been inside of a Kohl’s, the store layout is so illogical and spread out that you probably would be sore that day trying to find whatever out-of-season clothing that you were looking for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Pearle Vision

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This is a classic attempt at “clickbait”. But, two things:

-When posting clickbait, you are supposed to put the answer in the ARTICLE, so people have to CLICK to find the answer.

-Even though they posted the answer right by the question, many people still answered wrong, thus proving that most people comment on articles without ever having read them fully. Damn, you all really DO need some glasses!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, dear companies: if you are actually going to pay money to sponsor these idiotic ads, then at least put some semblance of creativity in them. It can be done, trust me. If I wanted to see narcissistic, histrionic, lazy drivel, then I’d just read the status updates in my news feed!

Till next time…