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Discernment - Detox your Internet
I am doing a detox and it feels as if this is a good analogy for dealing with the internet - it could of course just be detox delusions, akin to flu delusions. Why detox? The system we live in causes toxins to build up in our bodies. Our livers are designed to detox but they have too much work to do, and every so often we need to give it a chance to clean itself out.
I am still not sure about the analogy but here goes. We can choose where we go on the internet so where are we controlled? Primarily through the tech giants of Google, Facebook and Twitter. I still find it hard to understand why their data controls our lives as I have never bought anything through their links - or through spam - BY INTENTION. I very rarely do click bait, and will never click on an online advert. Facebook offers me sponsored links which I never click, if tempted I would find another way to access the site. I don't see adverts on twitter so again I am not sure how they monetise but they clearly do. The above approach is a way of keeping your system free of toxins.
I began thinking about this when I saw this Occupy article about youtube. The other day I told a right-wing acquaintance I never use youtube. This is not true but politically I never use it. My reasoning is based on the Dark Money Network, personally I have seen incredible bias to the right on youtube - not now.
"I never use it politically" is of course clearly untrue as my blogs often link to youtube clips but politically youtube never uses me. It appears that the youtube model wants you to "just keep watching". I do that with comedy shows but I will not do it with politics or interest groups. If I got a clip from an article or blog, at first I noticed that what starts as a left-wing clip moved to the right as you go down the list. My interests were left-wing so there was no way I clicked on them. This has helped.
If I go to a website I have doubts about, I always read "about". You can usually see that the website is funded but there are clues. From Turning Point USA, there is right-wing money trying to influence campuses particularly with their nasty "professor watchlist". "The organization's mission is to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government" [here]. I have always seen independent, business-oriented and things like "financially sound" as right-wing indicators. All of these values I would love to see. Genuine freedom for all based on compassion - freedom from suffering for all, not the MAWP freedom of ego-driven selfishness. I want free markets where there are no tariffs, cartels, price-fixing, market mechanisms, no foreign intervention politically or diplomatically, no cash crops, no neocolonial deals brokered by governments, IMF, World Bank, GATT or whatever conquistadores now do the bidding of the 1%, just free trade, supply and demand as you get at your local market. The free markets these right-wingers want is the high level control (such as market mechanisms) without regulations to limit their resourcing and market control. The only government I want to see is the government that helps the unfortunate, helps those who can't help themselves, using whatever they need to do as a government to ensure this, such as taxing the rich and not the poor, paying for better schools, universal health care etc.
Business-oriented and financially sound are concerned with maintaining neoliberalism. They mean "only profits matter", and have nothing to do with genuine free trade.
Independent has come to be a particularly distasteful word for me now with regards to the internet. It basically means "Dark Money Network"-funded.
"[I]t becomes clear to even the casual observer that politically YouTube now belongs to the far-right - just like Twitter largely, with one notable presidential exception, belongs to the left," [here]. In the same article it quoted a Guardian analysis which asserted that the youtube algorithm distorted towards the right - Guardian clip. Knowledge of the algorithm came from an ex-Google worker, Guillaume Chaslot. Here is an article that casts doubt on Chaslot, Chaslot could be sour grapes - not sure about offguardian either. I just don't know enough.
I am forced away from the facts as usual. But I did find a plausible explanation for the you-tube and google search bias, watch this. It is taken from a TED talk by Berit Anderson. In another clip she pinpointed Robert Mercer as a bad actor. It would make sense that Robert Mercer could do this. As my short clip shows he has backed Trump (Real News Network says this as well), was involved with Cambridge Analytica and Breitbart, and most importantly he has the AI skills and interest. Berit Anderson quotes Jonathan Albright, a respected academic, and she also talks about Sam Woolley and computational propaganda. As for Berit herself, she is a liberal promoting her business, so there is a question of compromise. As I said above this is a plausible explanation, but I personally cannot be 100% about it. Judge for yourself.
So let's consider analysis. There is a proliferation of right-wing think tanks - money, independent right-wing websites with videos - money, and my initial observation. This is too flimsy. I have a personal observation. Two MAWPs I know spend a lot of time on youtube, down a rabbit-hole of right-wing bilge. Again flimsy.
I go back to the Occupy article "it becomes clear to even the casual observer that politically YouTube now belongs to the far-right - just like Twitter largely, with one notable presidential exception, belongs to the left," [here], the plausible explanation I gave above, and my own subjective opinion. I am satisfied but I have not offered proof - and it is not an issue of insight.
There is more. Go here to download a report about media manipulation. It discusses an Alternative Influence Network (AIN) which is a broader Intellectual Dark Web which I have discussed previously; this AIN is probably Berit's "shadow net". As with the IDWeb the AIN is useful to know as people who are presenting right-wing bias.
Going back to my position I personally know that youtube is biassed right. Unfortunately that youtube bias has developed into a populist following so that AIN (IDWeb) could now argue that they are a response.
I have a question about youtube, how do they escape censorship? Why don't the people attacking torrents attack youtube who are clearly flaunting censorship? Google is 1%, is that protecting them or is money going into Google to promote this alt-right? If so how? This is me being "Alex Jones".
I have looked at Google's search engine before and how people have studied this and shown it to be racist - Racist AI. I ascribed that to the nature of business and profit-making but is there more to it? Am I being too conspiracy in suggesting that Google is financed by the 1% to promote alt-right subtly?
However my plausible explanation above and the "Data and Society" report are both strong indicators that the algorithms are probably being manipulated.
But neither this nor my Alex Jones matters, what matters is discernment. However Google's algorithms work there is strong evidence they effectively go right. Therefore discernment dictates being circumspect about use of Google Search. To learn about Hillary Clinton's politics a Google search of "Hillary Clinton" will move rightwards, "democratic view of Hillary Clinton's policies" or "left-wing analysis of Hillary Clinton's policies" will give more truth. Discernment in this day and age has to be focussed because the internet is now controlled - controlling the internet was a strategy described by Hillary in her policy statement to the CFR seven years back (find her talk here and within find reference to controlling the internet).
As for youtube, link to it only from blogs, articles or recommendations you trust otherwise I contend their algorithm will move you to the right because of manipulation.
There is a lack of discernment built into the models of both facebook and twitter - lack of quality. It is the quantity of likes, followers and subscribers that matters. Now clearly this matters if you are using facebook to monetise or build an audience, but it matters less so on a personal level. In terms of facebook's newsfeed this quantity of followers matters because it is then easier to slip in a "sponsored feed". On the right of the facebook page is advertising but there is also the advertising of the sponsored feeds, this is the advertising that Cambridge Analytica used in its microtargeting. They use an advertising technique. Now the purpose of advertising is to create a need to buy where previously there wasn't one, if you bought this maybe you want to buy this - look at the pretty girl. With political microtargeting, the right wing (could be Democrat/Labour of course) finds a particular interest and then shows how that interest would be served by voting right. Because it is in your newsfeed (as a sponsored link), if you have many friends you don't notice that it is advertising - potentially political advertising. If you limit friends or you discerningly refuse to read sponsored links, then this does not work. Be discerning.
In general recognise that the internet is not neutral, and that you must approach it with discernment. Clips are easier - watching is much easier than reading, but you have to read. There are no costs in writing a blog, making a video-clip other than a smartphone requires money; where there is money there is bias. Whilst the internet can be a learning tool, when it comes to understanding politics power and influence it cannot be relied on. Treat the internet the way you treat conversation. Listen to those people (real friends) you trust. Don't seek political info from the internet as you cannot be sure of its bias. If you want to know what Corbyn says, listen to Corbyn and not all the people who put words in his mouth. But maybe Corbyn is lieing - judge for yourself or trusted friends. If you are in an interest group at the time of elections, be aware that they could be manipulated - only read the views of people you know. But when you decide about politics (or anything) be discerning, rely on yourself, rely on your own understanding, and generally do not believe anything unless you know the source. Discernment. When you choose friends you must be discerning, they are your choice. It is your responsibility to choose friends wisely offline. It is not society's responsibility to ensure that your friends are good people. This applies to internet contacts as well. The internet is open to all kinds of manipulations, be aware of this and be discerning. Don't speak to internet strangers.
So I have in the end detoxed my internet .... eventually after giving up. Discernment is the mind's liver function .... to detox what you hear, what you read, what you see .... Must read that report.
PS Far from being a detox delusion I have now discovered a Data Detox Kit to hep you look at your online presence.
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