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UW Professor: The Information War Is Real, and We're Losing It (seattletimes.com) 444

An anonymous reader writes: It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange. Too strange for a university professor to take seriously. "There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing," Starbird told me the other day in her office. "It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it." Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by "crisis actors" for political purposes. "After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity," Starbird says. "It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it. "That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it." Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these "strange clusters" of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach. There are dozens of conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots. Starbird is in the UW's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering -- the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as "false flag" and "crisis actor," web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying? Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we've built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor. "Your brain tells you 'Hey, I got this from three different sources,'" Starbird says. "But you don't realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn't know how to vaccinate for it." The report goes on to say that "Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward 'the menace of unreality -- which is that nobody believes anything anymore.'"
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UW Professor: The Information War Is Real, and We're Losing It

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  • Headed there? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hbean ( 144582 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:06AM (#54142103)
    Really? We are there.
    • Re:Headed there? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:20AM (#54142227) Journal

      We're past there. Bullshit has won the information war and pissed on the grave of truth. Posts in this discussion [slashdot.org] already show it. [slashdot.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Your second link doesn't support your assertion. MSM spins and spins and spins. And I'm not picking on liberal media sources, I'm picking on all of them. I've given up on most of them because I can't name how many times I'll open an article on the BBC read it and notice how they leave out a whole slew of facts. Recently was one on Trumps supposed crack down on H1B visas. No where in the article did they so much as mention that the reason why was due to alleged abuse of the system. They painted it stri

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          Some parts of the media print bullshit. But some of it does high quality reporting and issues corrections when necessary. By talking about the "MSM" as a homogeneous group, all equally bad, you are pushing the idea that you can pick your own alternative facts and make your own truth.

          Your claim about the BBC is pure bullshit. Your whole argument looks copy/pasted from a post-truth talking points memo, to be honest.

          http://www.bbc.com/news/world-... [bbc.com]

          The bill says the visa programme "has allowed replacement of American workers by outsourcing companies with cheaper H-1B workers" and aims to end the "abuse" of the programme.
          "My legislation refocuses the H-1B programme to its original intent - to seek out and find the best and brightest from around the world, and to supplement the US workforce with talented, highly paid, and highly skilled workers who help create jobs here in America, not replace them," Rep Lofgren said on her website.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The worrying part is that what has so often been labeled as "bullshit" ends up being true.

        Ten or twenty years ago, anyone claiming that mass monitoring/recording of communications was taking place was labeled as a "kook", a "crazy", and "conspiracy theorist", or what have you.

        Then we have the Snowden and Assange revelations which verify what was claimed by these supposed "kooks", and in some ways go beyond what was originally believed.

        I'm sure you can fall back on the "a broken clock is right twice a day" i

        • Those were mostly rumors at the time, there was no hard evidence that it was bullshit or not. If you want to lump it in with other conspiracy nonsense then the broken clock analogy is the correct one. There should be no merit in being accidentally right with no evidence.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Well, the thing is, if you were either working in the telecom industry back then, or for the military, you already got more than a passing inkling that said pervasive monitoring claims were at least not total bullshit. But corporate and military secrecy made sure that hardly anyone at the time was able to walk out of the building they worked in, and had anything actionable to show to anybody. Besides, in the era before the internet, it was much harder to actually spread information so quickly that the genie

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Not only that. We have a political appointee from the Obama-era Department of Defense who pretty much admitted on MSNBC that surveillance on "team Trump" was true.

          http://www.foxnews.com/politic... [foxnews.com]

          No tinfoil hat required.

        • by skids ( 119237 )

          But the focus shouldn't be on the alleged "kooks" and their claims; it should be on how the truth was wrongly labeled as "bullshit".

          False dichotomy. There is room to focus both on the small number of cases where something that is not kookery is labeled as such, and also on the surging level of seemingly coordinated and organized kookery.

        • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:43AM (#54142985) Homepage Journal

          That's part of the flip side. People have realized that the "trustworthy" major news sources quit doing their job years ago. They used to take pride in angry politicians calling security on their reporters. Now they're very careful not to offend anyone.

          Without a baseline, it is hard to filter the crap from the truth. Related to that, when the truth is batshit insane, lies are easy to believe.

      • Major media has not yet learned all the lessons of this.

        TFA makes a point that people consider the information credible if it comes from multiple sources. But the multiple sources might all trace back to a single source. Imagine if FoxNews could be clever enough to create several different major cable news channels that all propagated the same lies. Now people are hearing those lies from multiple sources. That turns climate change denial from a nutjob conspiracy theory into an alternate fact.

        If peo
      • Re:Headed there? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:59AM (#54142589)

        We're past there. Bullshit has won the information war and pissed on the grave of truth.

        There has always been a lunatic fringe. And yes, there is some of that in the reply posts here.

        But the alt-universe posts are really pretty easy to spot. As an example, why on earth would the Navy have a Seal team perform the Boston Marathon incident? That's batshit crazy, and th eonly people who would believe that are likewise batshit crazy.

        So what's a normal person to do? cynical? Believing nothing?

        I've never found a healthy dose of skepticism to be a bad thing. You consider the source. Even then, you should get your news from a number of different sources. If BBC and NPR are reporting the same thing, it is pretty likely to be true. If the rest of the mainstream media concurs, you are getting good intel. If the politically motivated quasi-mainstream media concurs, you're probably as close to the truth as you're going to get. The alt-universe sites get no veracity at all. They are the noise part of the signal to noise ratio of news reporting.

        To deny this sort of correlation takes the ability to think there is a group of Illuminati setting around a table in some fortress of magnitude, and having all the members of the press being likewise members. More tinfoil hat stuff for the alt-universe.

      • by Kohath ( 38547 )

        "Truth" being what? Russia "hacked the election"? "If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your health care plan"? "Children just aren’t going to know what snow is"? Where do we go for this "truth"?

      • I think the bullshit was always there, it just spreads faster now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:12AM (#54142151)

    Next they will be saying that Bowling Green was a fake.

  • Yep :/ (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:13AM (#54142167)

    Your brain tells you 'Hey, I got this from three different sources,'" Starbird says. "But you don't realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn't know how to vaccinate for it." The report goes on to say that "Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward 'the menace of unreality -- which is that nobody believes anything anymore.

    Over the past 20 years I've felt this as well. It's scary, because for those of us used to seeking out signal in the noise, it just encourages apathy. We look around and feel like we're surrounded by idiots, when it may only in fact be just a bunch of bots propagating a single crazy person's mindless steam of consciousness.

    Rational, fact/observation-based debate becomes just exhausting, and we say "whatever." That's not good.

    • Re:Yep :/ (Score:5, Insightful)

      by onepoint ( 301486 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:28AM (#54142297) Homepage Journal

      While I like her study, there was another study and reported here in /. back in 2000 - 2004
      about AOL chat groups and how people and groups of people whom are on the fringes of
      behavior. the study presented that people when encountering like-minded people seem
      to see the fringe behaviour as socially acceptable.

      real interesting, figured that everyone knew this by now, but like the lady said, " it was laughed off "

    • My brother thinks all news outlets are pushing an agenda of some kind, so ever since the rise of the smart phone he get's his news by finding video people have posted.

      I would say that I'm not the least bit surprised when he finds stories that aren't reported anywhere but posts of video from onlookers cell phones or multiple video sources that do not go along with the story reported by main stream media.

  • I think that those conspiracy theories that are propagated by more than the usual crackpots may be a result of people realizing just how much fake news, biased news and "opinion pieces" there are in the mainstream media.
    They overshoot the goal and now see fake news everywhere even when in some cases there are none.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think that those conspiracy theories that are propagated by more than the usual crackpots may be a result of people realizing just how much fake news, biased news and "opinion pieces" there are in the mainstream media.
      They overshoot the goal and now see fake news everywhere even when in some cases there are none.

      In fairness, a good many conspiracies have turned out not to be crackpot ramblings, but real conspiracies. /r/conspiracy [reddit.com] has a nice list of confirmed conspiracies [reddit.com]. You don't need to go through that whole list to understand why the country and it's controlled media are not trusted. I'll give one extremely concrete example of why the majority of young adults learn that the prevailing narrative in this country is complete, made up, biased bullshit: marijuana. Truth is not available for most of these occurrence

      • by Vlad_the_Inhaler ( 32958 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:14AM (#54142733) Homepage

        I remember the Reagan presidency. Something "bad" would happen and the official White House spokesman would come up with an explanation which fit the known facts. Then more facts would be revealed which totally discredited the spokesman's line - new explanation. Then even more facts . . .

        The example I remember best because I was working in the airline business at the time was the shooting down of an Iranian passenger airbus (IR 655) by an American warship - USS Vincennes. It was claimed at various times that IR 655 was descending towards the Vincennes, it was off course, that the Vincennes was in international waters and that the airline pilot had ignored communication attempts. The first three of those claims were outright lies and the fourth irrelevant because communication attempts were on military frequencies, not civilian ones. Captain Will Rogers had taken his ship into Iranian waters in an attempt to stir up trouble. When a scheduled flight went over his head he panicked, decided it was an F-14 and had it shot down.

        I drew my own conclusions about the veracity of White House spokesmen and the Reagan Administration that day.

        • by Altus ( 1034 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @11:49AM (#54143605) Homepage

          The thing is though, thats an example of the media doing its exact job. They didn't jump to the conspriacy theorists conclusion, they reported the facts they had, they reported the statements by the administration and then they started to dig into them... they turned up facts and presented them, the administration made new claims and the media dug deeper. Thats how it should work.

          These days its "hey look at this picture of 2 kids eating pizza in a leaked dump of emails, clearly the democrats are running a pedofile ring out of a pizza joint." No digging, no facts, just conspiracy.

          Yes, sometimes the official line from the government is bullshit but thats exactly why the media exists. Its their job to figure that out.

      • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmhNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:59AM (#54143145) Journal

        That list is a joke in itself. The listing for HAARP, for example, suggests that the conspiracy theories of weather control are true which is a bunch of nonsense. It says the NWO conspiracy is real because one guy said it is. The "7th floor group" shadow government is listed as real, even though the only suggesting that it exists is one brief mention from an anonymous source. And it doesn't mention the climate denialism conspiracy or the false STEM shortage conspiracy anywhere.

        If we define a confirmed conspiracy to be one that was found to be real even when the companies or governments involved attempted to cover them up, and was suspected to exist while being covered up, there have been probably less than 20 in the Western world since 1900.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:38AM (#54142379)

      That's the lie that people keep telling themselves to keep the delusions coming.

      The truth is that overall the major media outlets (sorry, MSM is a conspiracy community term) do a pretty good job. They don't always get it right, and they can also be misled, but that is not the same thing as fake news.

      Fake news is what you get when you remove all consideration for truth or ethics.

    • by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:41AM (#54142397) Journal

      I think that those conspiracy theories that are propagated by more than the usual crackpots may be a result of people realizing just how much fake news, biased news and "opinion pieces" there are in the mainstream media.

      I don't worry about conspiracy theories. I think what the government is doing out in the open is bad enough.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:42AM (#54142405)

      The word "MSM" was invented and propagated by the alt right and conspiracy theorists in an attempt to marginalize *all* professional journalists.

      It's like if offshore coding providers started calling developers in the West "the IT establishment" and positioned themselves as more forward-looking and up-to-date. And they used that to ridicule any platform or technique they didn't like. You'd laugh it off at first, but what if these people repeated that 1,000,000 times and started gaining traction on Internet forums?

      Then you'd be facing "MSM" in your own career. It's the revenge of the stupid people.

      • Except for the fact the media in the US has become increasingly consolidated, and further intertwined with other powerful corporations. Hence, why CNN almost never talks about climate change, and when it does, it often acts as if there is a reasonable argument both for and against its existence.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      It's more like this. People think, not entirely incorrectly, that politicians lie all the time. At the very least, they cherry pick facts and statistics to suit their position. So given that for every fact you can find an opposing one and everyone else just seems to pick the ones they prefer, why not do the same yourself?

      That's where alternate facts come from. She wasn't supposed to use that phrase publicly, but that's where we are at. The truth is the set of facts you cherry pick.

  • by Elfich47 ( 703900 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:17AM (#54142201)
    Without critical thought people will accept many things that are just shoveled at them. Admittedly critical thought requires practice and is hard.
    • We don't do hard work anymore - so it's not a surprise that the number of critical thinkers is falling rapidly.

      An undergraduate history degree did wonders for my ability to spot BS, but it's always hard work. The best historical evidence is the stuff that is circumstantial to the main thrust of the story being told - because it's least likely to be deliberately manipulated. John Wesley's letters to the editor of a Bristol newspaper about brewing beer torpedo 19th century Methodism adoption of teetotalism, f

    • by Rob Riggs ( 6418 )

      P.T. Barnum's maxim exists because people do not think critically. Never have, never will. A person may think critically. But people do not. And that is where the danger to society lies.

      A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it. -- Agent K; Men in Black

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:18AM (#54142213)

    It makes you look dumb, but it makes you feel smart.

    If you earnestly believe one of these ridiculous conspiracies, like the flat earth guys or something, then you feel like you're in on this big secret that nobody knows about. All those fools running around in their daily lives have no idea that the sun above their head is hanging from a string, but I do! I'm so much smarter than all of them!

    It makes you feel as though you are smarter than everyone around you. And some people DESPERATELY want to feel that they are smarter than everyone around them.

    But not badly enough that they'll go out & actually learn things. No, that takes effort.

  • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:20AM (#54142233) Journal

    Yes, the example stories provided are crazy and no one should believe them. So what should we believe? Not the government, which lies about really, really big important things like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, etc. Not the news media (owned by the same conglomerates that own the politicians) which thinks "unnamed sources believe Trump may or may not have had contact with someone who might have bought one of those silly Russian fur hats once" is worth a 10 minute segment with 5 panelists yapping. And who also repeatedly told us about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    So, yes, there are bad people lying or crazy people hallucinating all kinds of nutty things. But they'd have no purchase if the "trustworthy" people in media and government weren't already doing the same thing.

    This reminds of the joke "don't steal! The government hates the competition." Don't lie! The government hates the competition.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But they'd have no purchase if the "trustworthy" people in media and government weren't already doing the same thing.

      Ugh. This is the failure of binary thinking. It is not even close to the "same thing." You've got institutions that make a concerted effort to find and report truth and because they are human they screw up. Then you've got people who don't care about truth, only tribe. They make only a cursory effort to sound plausible as they write stories whose primary function is to advance their tribe regardless of truth.

      The two are very different things, but equating them is itself a tactic of the later. If you h

    • Yes, the example stories provided are crazy and no one should believe them. So what should we believe? Not the government, which lies about really, really big important things like weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, etc.

      I see. You take specific incidents, and turn that into the case in all cases. You're providing the exact description of the alt-universe's raison d'etre.

      This is how some people will believe that former president Bush had the planes fly into the World Trade Center, because Gulf of Tonkin! Or that certifiably insane idea that the Navy Seals were responsible for the Boston incident.

      One does not make the other true.

      And not that I would ever try to undertake a Quixotic task of changing your mind. It's ju

    • Journalists are professionals who are dedicated to finding and making public the truth. When you paint them all as coopted minions of some corporate media, you are discounting their own personal motivation and pride and the power of their professional institutions and of the public as a whole. Generally, large newspapers separate editorial content -- which is argument -- from news, which presents sourced information about current events (like Wikipedia!). The news is generally accurate -- when it indicat
      • "Journalists are professionals who are dedicated to finding and making public the truth."

        Mod parent as +1 funny or +1 not from this planet.
  • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:42AM (#54142411)

    Part of the issue here is that people have become aware of the manipulation of public opinion by intelligence agencies. We have things like Operation Gladio, in which the CIA teamed up with people on post-war Europe to clandestinely fight the Soviets, which included bombings and assassinations which were blamed on the communists. We have the revelation of Operation Northwoods, approved by the then Joint Chiefs of Staff, that would have blown up dummy airplanes and blamed it on Cuba. The plan was squashed by Kennedy and McNamara, but the fact that it existed and was approved is concerning. We have the revelations of the Church Committee, which among other things revealed that the CIA had operatives working at all major news networks. They claim to have ceased that type of thing. But does anyone really believe we have effective and complete oversight of the CIA?

    None of this justifies thinking that any given event, like the Boston Marathon bombing, or the Sandy Hook shootings are false flag operations, or anything other than what they seem. But once you realize that it is possible that there is a plan in place to manipulate public opinion, it can be hard to know what to believe anymore. And once you don't really trust the mainstream news sources, you start to look for alternatives. Many of those alternatives are not very good! But where do you go when you suspect that ABC (for example) might just be telling you what those in power want you to believe? Couple that with that fact that most news organizations rely solely on "official sources" and don't do much actual investigating, and you realize that such manipulation is quite possible. It can be very disconcerting and confusing.

    I think there are a number of factors in play with this issue. Part of it is gullibility and paranoia. But it also stems from the fact that covert actors have used trusted news sources for propaganda and manipulation, and in doing so have damaged the reputation and trustworthiness of those outlets.

    • Truth is always in the eye of the beholder, and it's based on how well you trust the source of information. If you trust your information source then their info becomes "truth". Unfortunately we have no real metric for trust. We need to figure out ways to rate information sources based on their trustworthiness in aggregate across the population. In the past, people were only exposed to a handful of information sources, but now there are millions, all accessible at the click of a button. This is a big proble
  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:44AM (#54142433)

    It wasn't enough to simply report the news - to fill 24 hours of programming "news" agencies had to throw their opinions into the mix as well.

    Opinions, by their very nature cause division. Eventually you will push enough people away from your narrative and you will lose the information war.

    If the mainstream media is honestly and truly concerned with winning the information war they need to bring back old school journalism. Only publish if you can get two reliable sources to corroborate a story and NEVER give your own damn opinion on the matter. Do that for the next 5 years and you might just get the respect you once had.

    This last election cycle turned me away from all national TV news. Local news is as close as you can get to unbiased news and even then you need to be skeptical.

    • That won't be enough. Opinion might be an issue for people confusing commentary for news, but the reporting itself can be at fault. They can omit certain things, misrepresent statistics, and stir up fear and emotion by reporting on one thing all day every day for days at a time. When the Boston Bombing occurred, and the surviving perpetrator was caught, I have no doubt that everything they said about the man was true. But I also have no doubt that they talked way too much about him, and not enough about the

    • This last election cycle turned me away from all national TV news. Local news is as close as you can get to unbiased news and even then you need to be skeptical.

      At this point, I don't even trust the local news. I haven't caught them in actual lies (either commission or, as often happens, omission), but I've often caught them making errors that a little research would have found. Mostly minor, but how much can I trust them with the big stuff when they screw up the small stuff?

  • Old is new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ugen ( 93902 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:45AM (#54142441)

    The concept of rumors and false information disseminated across the world isn't new ("I've heard she's a witch"). The concept of false narrative driving major social and political decisions isn't new (the entire religion thing anywhere, basically). Technology simply makes it more convenient by giving voice to millions of idiots who theretofore were limited to only their immediate surroundings.

    • I am not sure it is giving voice to the millions, it is allowing them to parrot the voice of the original conspiracy theorist. He's the pastor of the church and your drunk uncle on Facebook is merely sharing the sermon. Just now it gets further than the backwoods revival tent.
    • "giving voice to millions of idiots..."

      ...who now can find validation, affirmation and encouragement for literally any delusional thinking they may have.
  • How is this different than advertising? Coke and Pepsi for example both try to convince you should buy their product over the other's. They attack from multiple fronts, pay for commercials and product placement, sponsor major sporting events, are active on multiple forms of social media, etc. All with the goal of swaying public opinion and convincing you that you should so something that you probably should not (drink stuff that generally isn't health for you).
    • How is this different than advertising? Coke and Pepsi for example both try to convince you should buy their product over the other's. They attack from multiple fronts, pay for commercials and product placement, sponsor major sporting events, are active on multiple forms of social media, etc. All with the goal of swaying public opinion and convincing you that you should so something that you probably should not (drink stuff that generally isn't health for you).

      Swaying public opinion between soft drinks is not exactly on the same scale of impact as swaying public opinion to influence an election.

      And if you wanted to attack an entity that truly causes an impact selling a product, then question why governments allow tobacco to remain a legal product as it kills millions of humans every year. The overwhelming majority of other "deadly" issues can't even hold a fucking candle to this.

      • by Lennie ( 16154 )

        It does show us again, how tools used and honed for commercial reasons can be used for other purposes.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @09:55AM (#54142541) Journal
    Fraudsters and rumor mongers are always more agile than the rest and the exploit every new development faster than the governments and societies can react.

    I remember how frustrating it was back when Microsoft was ruling the OS/Office world. Top executives of most companies were easily fooled into buying "microsoft compatibility" when what they should have asked for was "interoperability". It was fudged, enough shills played along, fake studies showing retraining costs etc etc. It really was frustrating. It nearly peaked at the time Microsoft added ASCII tags around binary blobs and called it OOXML, specifically to confuse it open office. Microsoft argued there must be competition among standards themselves. If the Fortune 500 companies alone invested 1% of the license cost they were paying to Microsoft pooled the money and funded program to define and certify interoperability standards, (like for example SAE defining socket wrench definitions and oil properties like 10w-40) they would have benefited enormously. But no such thing happened and it looked like all was lost.

    Then came up a new generation of executives who grew up with computers, and were not afraid of retraining boogeyman. Other products came in, and top executives buying the cool Macbook did more to force Microsoft to be standard compliant than most of our shouting. Active Directory must be able to authenticate Apple products, iphones,and then androids. Open Office trying match bell for bell and whistle for whistle had such tough time. Google docs with one new feature, collaborative editing across network with latencies, made it compelling. Docs, even now, can only do a fraction of MsOffice or OpenOffice, but it meets the need of 90% of the people all the time, and the rest 90% of the time.That was enough to counter Microsofts attempts to skew the playing field.

    This fake news etc are frustrating for us older generation to understand and fight. But the younger generation growing up with twitter and snapchat all the time, with fragmented clusters in facebook, will develop their own ways of adjusting credibility and their own ways of authenticating and calibrating the information sources. So I think, and hope, and pray, it is overblown.

  • Our beloved government joins the ranks of... well, most of them really, in having engaged in false flag operations. Given that the government is run by a bunch of unscrupulous fucks to whom things like responsibility and honesty are merely aspects of mythology, how do you expect this kind of bullshit not to go around?

    • by tobiah ( 308208 )

      And sometimes it takes a few decades for the truth to come out. Look at the Gulf of Tonkin Incident
      http://fair.org/media-beat-col... [fair.org] ..or Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Two wars based on lies.

      Immoral government and compliant media makes everything they say questionable.
      "Fraud vitiates everything"

  • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:06AM (#54142653)

    Our society rewards clicks no matter what information is behind it. Go fucking figure people starting perpetuating hype and bullshit when that kind of capitalistic model is presented.

    This is the same reason you find mainstream news outlets perpetuating fake news. This is the same reason banking institutions purposely break laws and perpetuate unethical activity for monetary gain. The crime of manipulation is worth it.

    STOP fucking rewarding the behavior that perpetuates this shit. Otherwise the proverbial global database of information will become worthless, tainted with lies and doubt.

  • by gosand ( 234100 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:07AM (#54142659)

    Just Don't Look [youtube.com]

    Really. Seriously. I have spent the last couple of years really cutting back on my news. I haven't watched the nightly news for 4 years. I only catch a little bit of TV news in the breakroom at work because its on. I check the BBC website on occasion. That's really about it. I ditched Instagram, I don't do Facebook.

    You'd be surprised how much most of it really doesn't matter.
    To paraphrase a great quote:
    If you don't watch the news, you're uninformed. If you do watch the news, you're misinformed.

    • by Lennie ( 16154 )

      While I kind of agree with your idea.

      I life in a country where voting still seems to matter, to some degree. If I don't look at all I find it hard to make an informed decision.

      Still Facebook is something everyone should quit.

  • Post-Modern Sources (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PineHall ( 206441 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:13AM (#54142723)

    Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward 'the menace of unreality -- which is that nobody believes anything anymore."

    I believe that the "nobody believes anything" is somewhat here today. To determine what is true, we rely on family and friends to help us. There is no longer any authority that we trust to tell us the truth. This puts us into bubbles where we only believe news that confirms our bias. We are suspicious of any news source that deviates from what we believe to be true. The internet makes it easy to confirm our bias and stay in our bubble. We need to listen to the alternate viewpoints even if we disagree. This will give us a broad background to help us think critically and help us break out of our bubbles.

  • This all seems to follow the same simple formula. 1) Create crazy sensationalist click bait headline (and article) 2) Funnel to ad-supported web site 3) Profit! If there wasn't serious money to be made doing this technique, then I am guessing the number of conspiracy theorist crackpots spreading garbage would be a lot lower. Wasn't there a story just a few months ago about Macedonian teens are making thousands of dollars creating outrageous news sites filled with political BS?
  • Who is 'we'? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jenningsthecat ( 1525947 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:19AM (#54142777)

    Just who is losing this alleged war? Everybody and his dog these days seems to be serving up some manner of self-serving propaganda. And if the 'we' she's talking about is all of society, then of course she's correct, because any entity that goes to war with itself loses. But this is not news; I'm pretty sure 'broken telephone' was a thing millennia before telephones even existed, and I'm virtually certain that much of the 'breakage' was an intentional part of advancing a variety of agendas.

    The same news seeming to come from multiple independent sources is not a recent phenomenon. Even the Internet represents only a difference of degree, and not of kind, in that both information and disinformation travel faster and more broadly. The real difference between now and centuries ago, is the success of a public education regime founded specifically to create followers rather than leaders. As a result, most of society is both stupid, and addicted to novelty and spectacle. A lack of critical faculties and a need for ongoing distraction does NOT produce any effective immune response to the 'virus' of fake news.

    I know I may sound like one of those Infowars conspiracy nuts; but if you read some John Taylor Gatto, and look at a few of the sources he quotes, you may realize that I'm really not foaming at the mouth and muttering about the sky falling. Alternatively, read a short story called Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut Jr, and ask yourself if there isn't a sharp, hard grain of truth in his satire.

  • A thousand years ago, entertainment was more truth than fiction. Hear the adventure tell his story of what he saw, where he went. Told "well", sure, but still "based on a true story". Fiction was for children's bed-time, and even they were "how the beaver got its tale" legends.

    Today, most entertainment is fiction -- sit coms, action movies, etc. We even have the greatest oxymoron of all: "reality" shows -- where the fiction is "told" live through artificial scenarios and fabricated editing.

    So, in a mode

  • by Salgak1 ( 20136 ) <salgak@@@speakeasy...net> on Thursday March 30, 2017 @10:38AM (#54142943) Homepage

    is entirely too difficult to implement.

    And that would be rating sources and reporters with a measure of how objectively truthful they are. Because just agreeing on objective reality is difficult enough in today's culture. But imagine a rating, on every byline and broadcast. You'd KNOW whether the reporter or writer generally reports the facts on the ground, what their typical slant is, and how much is opinion.

    Unfortunately, most will ignore it, and go with their tribal reporters. . .

  • by trevc ( 1471197 ) on Thursday March 30, 2017 @11:40AM (#54143543)
    Wag The Dog was released in 1997. The growth in internet usage has just made it a lot easier.

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