Psyops in Mass Media

The Sinclair Broadcast Group owns 173 local television stations, with 60 more currently in acquisition. They have an agenda and they push it through their newscasters.

This is a good example of why humans in the Information Age must tune in to a variety of sources.

All of these “news” reporters are reading a script provided by their boss:

“This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”

 

Will Quitting Facebook Keep you Safe from Micro-Targeting?

In 2014 Cambridge Analytica began collecting people’s Facebook profiles for the purpose of influencing minds around Brexit. They were working on behalf of their client, Leave.EU, who shared how hiring Cambridge Analytica would help them “map the British electorate and what they believe in.

Facebook says it wasn’t a security breach, but instead a breach of policy.

270,000 britons were paid a few dollars each to install a personality test app. It included a provision that allowed researchers to view participants’ friend profiles, increasing the dataset to over 50 million people. To their credit, Facebook noticed and tightened their platform to disable apps from accessing profiles of friends.

The harvested data was used in micro-targeting, where ads are made and information delivered to specific groups of people based on their personality. As part of the research agreement with Facebook, personal information was forbidden from commercial use and should have been deleted. Neither requirement was followed.

In their 2016 campaign, Team Trump spent $85 million on Facebook (not including all the fake news re-shared by people who didn’t know better or the ads foisted by allies). One pro-Trump Super PAC, Make America Number 1, also hired Cambridge Analytica.

By May 2017 it was clear that a fair amount of targeted information about Brexit had been the product of psyops–a form a psychological warfare.

“Capture their minds
and their hearts and souls
will follow”

Psyops is not new. Commercials and pamphlets and misinformation have long been used to target and convince people of things that history has shown preposterous. During WWII, hundreds of families jumped off suicide cliff in Saipan because they believed the invading Americans would torture and mutilate them. The game may look different in the Information Age, but the tactics are traditional.

Since (and before) the 50 million Facebook profiles mined by Cambridge Analytica, hundreds of millions of people have been profiled through similar means, their personal info squirreled away in databases around the globe. If Cambridge Analytica has done it, others are bound to as well.

The potential for mass-breech is magnified by linked apps and games. Every online platform has an API: Application Programming Interface. An API is what allows Internet software developers to make apps that link with other apps and is, fundamentally, what makes the Web a web.

APIs allow you to email a picture from your phone, or for your Instagram posts to appear in your Facebook timeline. They make it so your news reader finds articles on topics you find pertinent. People have noticed how creepy it is when they’re shopping for something online then ads for that very thing show up in their Google or Facebook sidebar. And people have noticed how neat it is when they can view posts by people in their immediate vicinity, or play a game with friends thousands of miles away.

The beauty and danger of the web is interconnection. If you’re considering deleting your Facebook account, you might also consider deleting everything else: Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, iCloud, Amazon and nearly every other online social and shopping account including email like Yahoo, Hotmail, and of course Google.

While many folks are wary of the fine print that appears when authorizing an interconnecting app, many simply click “Accept” without pondering the risk.

The question isn’t whether we can trust these companies to keep our information private. We know that online privacy and actual personal privacy are different things. Nor is the question of which software developers linking apps with APIs are violating policy by storing, transferring, or re-using people’s data in a way they shouldn’t. It’s safe to assume there will always be some rule breakers.

And so the question is: what is your risk?

The face of privacy is changing. We want to be ourselves, and we want to be ourselves out loud. I like cute kittens and I enjoy playing Words With Friends. There, I said it.

In order to gauge risk you must ponder both the price and what you get in return. Not an easy thing to do with the pace of information technology. This is why so many people struggle with the question of whether they should #deletefacebook or even devote any time to learning how to navigate the intricacies of the Web.

There are many elements of risk in social media. Micro-targeting as part of psyops is one, and is more risky to susceptible populations in certain information-controlled environments. Identity or intellectual property theft is another risk, along with becoming a target for scams or even threats to personal safety. Other risks are less obvious: effect on career or friendships, time loss, vanity or embarrassment, and possibly most insidious: addiction to the dopamine jolt that comes from a “Like” or retweet.

Other elements of risk include the service you’re using, and how you’re accessing it. Joining public wireless from a hotel or coffee shop can be risky. Posts to Twitter are public for all the world to see. Snapchats can be saved by taking a screenshot. Posts on Facebook or Google set to a limited audience (even emails and “private” messages) pass through computers beyond your control. All of these carry an element of risk. Even the words you type and then delete in a search box could be captured and used to provide you with “better” search results. Same with the items you add to a shopping cart then remove.

The rewards are as varied as the risks. They range from general learning and improvement to community engagement; to staying in touch with distant friends and family and business contacts.

Your personal circumstances will determine your risk. It’s something only you can judge. If you’re not sure of the risk/reward for various online actions, try plotting them on a chart. Here’s a blank one you can print and put by your computer.

Fortunately there’s a general rule of thumb to guide you. Before you click the “Post” or “Submit” button, ask yourself: would I feel comfortable seeing this on the front page of the newspaper?

If the answer is anything on the scale from “OMG No!” to “mmm probably not” then you might think twice about whether or not the reward is worth the risk.

Once you put it out there, they will try to use it to sell you stuff. So you will need to be prepared to resist.

cutekitten

Google Search for Visual Learners

If you’re a visual learner, Google’s, “Images” search can be a fantastic tool. Particularly if you’re looking to define something of a concept that doesn’t fit into a single word.

For example, a creative writer starts to use the phrase “rocky enclave” but isn’t sure she’s using it correctly. The dictionary only gives her part of the picture:

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The words don’t show it to her, and so the writer might go to Google and search for “rocky enclave”:

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The 1,5 million results are all websites with words. So she clicks on Images. Now her search comes to life:

rocky_enclave_-_Google_Search.jpg

Except, she’s not interested in the Buick Enclave. So she tells Google to subtract a term from her results using the minus sign. Here’s what the Image search result for “rocky enclave -car” looks like:

rocky_enclave_-car_-_Google_Search.jpg

She’s able to see a rocky enclave is not what she pictured, and decides to use “rocky nook” instead.

How Facebook “Copy-and-Paste” Messages Are Scamming You

Recently a number of Facebook users started copy and pasting a post about how Facebook’s algorithm was unfairly treating their timeline, and how to “trick” it. The post gave some faulty information and suggested folks paste the “helpful” text so others could benefit. This, like all other copy-and-paste messages on Facebook, is a scam.

Over the years we’ve seen dozens of these types of posts. They’re often about privacy, or keeping your posts from going public, or avoiding hacking, or causes you believe in like fighting cancer.

Also known as chain posts , these generally claim one purpose but serve a different one.

Viral Experiment

If you’re asked to copy and paste something on Facebook, you may be part of a viral experiment. Hackers and those who run botnets are continually looking for ways to spread themselves and increase the breadth and depth of the target-lists they maintain. By testing the waters of what content spreads virally, they’re continually edging their knives.

Raise Your Hand if You’d Like to be Hacked

By copy and pasting a post without altering it, you are raising your hand for hackers, in effect identifying yourself as a potential target and/or a certain type of person to be added to a list for future targeting. The botnets search Facebook for the keywords from their posts, and add those people to lists for future brute force password hacks, Facebook account cloning, or targeted political advertising.

Here’s an example Google search for site:facebook.com “Do not hesitate to copy and paste on your wall” — each of those search results is someone who copy-and-pasted a message with that exact phrase in it. (It’s important to note that each of those results is from people who posted publicly. Google doesn’t see the things you limit to just friends. Do you know how to set your posts for your intended audience?)

If you ever wonder why do these kinds of things always happen to me? then this may be the reason.

Why Copy & Paste Instead of Share?

Two reasons.

1) Pasting a post hides the original author, be it Russian trolls, evil robots, or some giggling script kiddie.

2) To Facebook, shared posts aren’t ranked as highly as original posts. By copy-and-pasting you’re creating a new, original post, which tends to be seen by more of your friends than a shared post.

Best Practice

If you believe in a cause and want to spread the word about it, author a post of your own. Include a link to a legitimate website or a picture, or give it one of those cute colored backgrounds.

If you want to trick Facebook’s algorithm: don’t try. If you want a broader variety of friends’ posts in your timeline, then you need to go and like and comment on a broader variety of posts.

You’re Not Alone

If you fell for this: don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. This day-and-age it has become increasingly difficult not to be duped. Smart people–CEOs, superintendents, police chiefs–have all fallen, and the only defense is to remain skeptical.

One sure-fire act you can do before pasting, sharing, or quoting anything questionable is: Google it. EG: Copy and paste some of it into a Google search to see what others are saying.

Good luck and good posting!

copypastebatmanrobin

Gmail Settings You Should Enable

You can customize Gmail quite a bit. Here’s a list of settings I recommend you enable/configure.

First, hop over to your Settings gear and select Settings to go to, Settings:
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Scroll down the page to discover the following nifty settings…

General Settings

Maximum Page Size

I like to bump this up to 100.
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Undo Send

I know I shouldn’t do this, but sometimes I proofread emails after clicking the Send button. Bad habit, I know. Thankfully, there’s a setting for that:undosend.gif

This will give you a 20-second period after clicking Send in which you can click an “Undo Send” button:
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Stars

I use Stars to mark items in my Inbox I need to deal with. I like to include a couple different priority levels. Just drag-and-drop to customize which stars you want:
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Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the best things you can do for yourself–computing productivity-wise–is to learn how to use keyboard shortcuts. In general they allow you do to things quicker, particularly repetitive tasks. But specifically in Gmail they’re oh-so-handy.
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(Hint: once back in your inbox hit shift-? to view the list of delicious keyboard shortcuts, or click the Learn more link).

My Picture

Select a nice picture, it makes it more likely your emails will get a reply.

Signature

You can enter pretty much anything you like, but my advice is keep it simple. Also make sure to include your phone number:
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Make Sure to Save Changes

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Labs

Labs are extra/optional things you can enable to give your Gmail inbox extra power. Each lab has a description of what it does on the Labs page, so I won’t go into much detail, but here are the ones I’ve enabled.

Authentication icon for verified senders

Helps you differentiate between phishing emails from eBay and actual emails from eBay.

Google Maps previews in mail

If someone types an address in an email, this makes it easy for you to hover over the address and see a map to the location.

Pictures in Chat

Because, why not?

Unread message icon

I like being able to glance at the Gmail tab in my browser and see how many unread emails I have.

Themes

Lastly head over to Themes and you can change the whole look for your inbox. This is very important to do so that you enjoy checking your email as much as possible. You can even use one of your own photos as the background image for your theme.

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How to View Most Recent Instead of Top Stories on Facebook

Many casual Facebook users may not realize that the site is working hard to present you with stories you want to see (well, the ones *it thinks* you want to see). In a nutshell, if you click “Like” on every cat picture you see, you’ll see more and more of cat pictures.

This results in a non-chronological news feed where the things on top are things with higher activity (likes, comments). They’re also the things the Facebook algorithm thinks you’re more likely to want to see.

You can view Most Recent posts in your feed instead of Top Stories. Facebook defaults (and reverts) back to Top Stories when you visit again, but if you click Most Recent you’ll see posts based on when they were posted, and not on Facebook’s algorithm for what it thinks you want see:

FB-Most-Recent.jpg

Bonus tip: One handy thing about the Most Recent feed, is it has its own URL. Try switching between the two and notice the URL in your browser changes:
FB-Most-Recent-URL.jpg

My guess is the “h_chr” in the URL is for “chronological.” The Top Stories URL ends in “h_nor” which I’m guessing is for “normal.”

The fact the URLs are you unique is great. It means you can save yourself a direct bookmark in your browser. Me, I have one bookmark for the normal news feed, and another for the chronological:
FB-Most-Recent-Bookmarklet.jpg

 

Ryan’s OSX+Google Mastery List

Ryan’s OSX+Google Mastery List can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here.

Google and Apple both have fantastic products that can improve our productivity. Unfortunately, in many ways, the two companies are in direct competition.

They’re competing for your love, but will settle for your clicks.

Because of this silly competition, they don’t integrate as well as we’d like. For example Apple’s voice dictation works great when I’m dictating into an Apple app like Pages, but it gets glitchy when dictating into a Google Chrome window.

The objective of this OSX+Google Master List is to provide a reference skeleton of select elements of the OSX and Google environments. These elements are selected for their utility relative to similar tools available right now* and taking into consideration various factors like time-to-product, overhead, and compatibility.

* The technology will have changed by the time you finish reading this. It already has. Fortunately, a gDoc is easy to update. This one was last modernized on February 20th, 2016.

The List is meant to be mastered in a linear fashion from beginning to end. Each of the bullets you should understand and be able to make use of. As you proceed through the list, anything you encounter you’re not familiar with, stop and explore. Some information is so discreet, it is explicitly provided for you, but most bullets are keywords requiring you to discover the information and explore the concept yourself. If you get stuck refer to the Core Concepts. After you’ve been through the list once, go through it as many times necessary to review and refine your skills.

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