Posts tagged ‘deception’


It feels like half of Facebook is bot

21.07.2021

Here’s a screenshot from the new members of one of my Facebook groups—actually the only public one I still have. Since Facebook lets spammers join now, we have to block them manually. Their posts don’t make it through to the group as we have safeguards there, too. But I’m not going to let them inflate, falsely, the member count, which in turn will make it harder for posts to reach group members.
   A lot of these bots—they hunt for large groups and their scripts join them—seem to hide under the guise of role-playing for the Pinoy TV series Halik, and they all chat to each other in automated fashion. As Facebook is stupid enough not to recognize the bot activity, you’d think that at least they could see the script at play here, as these accounts are often new, and they set to work joining large groups and pages.
   They don’t recognize them, or, they do recognize them and allow the bot activity to carry on with their blessing. Each one of these blocked accounts was reported, and as usual they were found to be perfectly fine.
   In this screenshot, there were five legitimate accounts. We used to keep the numbers well down because potential members had to answer basic questions, and even some legit people are too lazy to do that. Back then we would see one legit account joining after weeks or months. I think I preferred that, because it kept the spammers and bots away.
   It certainly gives the impression that bots, based on this sample (and others like it since Facebook’s pro-bot policy change arrived with this group), are running at about 50 per cent of the total, which gels with recent research that Instagram is 46 per cent fake (that is, 46 per cent of all accounts are not legit). Nevertheless, I still see far more bots than humans overall: just get yourself into the fake Halik accounts of the Smiths and Montefalcos, and now they’re branching out into other surnames like Montenegro and Buenavista. Thousands, untouched, the only consistent activity on the wasteland that is Facebook.

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Posted in business, internet, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


When New Zealand is the subject of misinformation

12.07.2021

This thread echoes what a lot of us feel in New Zealand when we see intentional misinformation on Twitter, possibly from the US. I answered back to one of these parties over the weekend, as did many, to see us all branded as ‘the left’ (I suppose if your politics are eugenics-led libertarianism, everyone is ‘the left’), while another “journalist” claimed that anyone who did so were part of a government op using taxpayer dollars (to which some of us asked, ‘Where’s my cheque?’). Folks, sometimes you just have to look at the evidence—do I believe the first-hand accounts of people I know plus what I myself observe, or the one single case you’ve hand-picked or the one single out-of-context quote you’ve intentionally misrepresented?

   While this explains what the foreign agenda are, it makes you wonder why certain media talking heads in this country, usually ones who work for foreign-owned news outlets, would be just as keen to sell us out. A lack of patriotism, a lack of perspective, a lack of ethics, or just a lack of bollocks?

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Facebook continues to give in to fake accounts, much like the UK with COVID-19

10.07.2021

At the beginning of July I noticed Facebook had changed its reporting options. Gone is the option labelled ‘Fake account’, replaced by ‘Harmful or spam’. It’s a small change that, I believe, is designed to get Facebook off the hook for failing to remove fake accounts: since you can’t report them, then you can’t say they’ve failed to take them down.

   Except, if you choose ‘Harmful or spam’, Facebook does acknowledge that your report is for a fake account:

   Of course they’re harmful. Harmful to us regular people who have to pay more and more money to reach our human supporters since the fakes command an increasing amount of fans on our pages, for instance. It isn’t harmful for Facebook’s revenue or Zuckerberg’s wealth. So it really depends how you define harmful; one would imagine that a competent court would define it from a consumer’s point of view.
   Their new group policy, where Facebook has also given up against the bot epidemic, letting fake accounts join public groups, is a disaster. As you can see, the majority of new members to one group I oversee—and where I usually get tips to new bot accounts—are fakes. They’ve used scripts to join. It’s a bit of a giveaway when there are brand-new accounts joining groups before they’ve even made friends. The legit names have been pixellated; the fakes I’ve left for you to see.

   It’s not as bad as, say, giving up on the people who elected you to run the country and letting COVID-19 do whatever it wants, killing citizens in the process. But it comes from the same dark place of putting people second and lining your pockets first—Mark Zuckerberg does it, Robert Mugabe did it, etc. Distract and plunder.
   In The Guardian:

Boris Johnson will revoke hundreds of Covid regulations and make England the most unrestricted society in Europe from 19 July despite saying new cases could soar to 50,000 a day before masks and social distancing are ditched.

   In fact, one Tweeter jokingly showed his interpretation of the UK’s COVID alert levels:

   On this, let our own Prof Michael Baker have the last word. Also in The Guardian, which I shared three days ago on Mastodon:

   Baker said public health professionals were “disturbed” by the UK’s return to allowing Covid to circulate unchecked, and that the phrase “living with it” was a “meaningless slogan” that failed to communicate the consequences of millions of infections, or the alternative options for managing the virus.
   “We often absorb a lot of our rhetoric from Europe and North America, which have really managed the pandemic very badly,” he said. “I don’t think we should necessarily follow or accept Boris Johnson and co saying: “Oh, we have to learn to live with virus.’
   “We always have to be a bit sceptical about learning lessons from countries that have failed very badly.”

   We really need to be confident of our own position on this. There are too many, especially those propelled by foreign forces with their friends in the foreign-owned media, advocating that we follow other Anglophone countries—probably because they lack either intelligence, imagination, pride, or empathy. I’ve spent a good part of my career saying, ‘Why should we follow when we can lead?’

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Remember, Facebook usually says one thing, then does the opposite

05.06.2021

Don’t take what Facebook says about Trump seriously. As Christopher Wylie reminds us:

   Based on everything that I’ve covered over the years, Facebook (a.k.a. Botville) has had more form saying one thing, then doing the opposite, than it does with following through on any statement, window-dressing or otherwise. It’s part of what has turned US democracy into an anocracy, and as long as it’s around, it’ll continue to do so.

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Facebook goes even more pro-bot with change in group policy

02.06.2021

Why are there antitrust or monopoly laws? Why is the usual interpretation of the Chicago School really, really bad for the United States? Umair Haque’s latest post spells it out pretty well, in my opinion.
   Just an idea: let’s not import any of their dangerous ideas into our society, or allow their ever-growing giants to get more of a foothold in our country (and not pay tax here either). Because we have a tendency to kiss their arses sometimes. Just ask Kim Dotcom. Things like their legal precedents are still persuasive here, and with how different their priorities are, we need to place even less weight on them. Let’s not forget the rules we play by here, and that means whomever enters this market has to play by the same.


Speaking of daft decisions on the other side of the Pacific by dishonest parties who have got too big due to what amounts to lawlessness, Facebook has removed the requirement for users to answer questions when they join a public group. These questions were our way of safeguarding the one public group I still look after there, and over 99 per cent of users (no exaggeration; if anything, an underestimate) who attempted to join were bots. I define bots as including any legitimate account running bot software, which I thought was against Facebook’s T&Cs, but not in practice. I still report a lot of them, though unlike 2014 I won’t do them all. I just can’t report thousands that I might see on a single visit.
   I can imagine why Facebook has done this. This way Facebook hides the number of bots from group moderators (as if we hadn’t known of their problems for the good part of a decade), and protects the bots as they continue their activity across the platform. This will encourage even more bots, and as I identified in an earlier post, I see more bots than humans these days on there (and I’m not even a regular user).
   I knew they were liars and shysters so I imagine this is in keeping with that. Cover up just how badly compromised the platform is by bots.
   I haven’t seen much on this change in Facebook group policy, but as changes go, this has to be the most anti-human, pro-bot move they have made in 17 years. No one ever demanded more rights for bots, but here’s Facebook giving it to them.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


How to get your Facebook ad account shut down: do something honest

05.05.2021

‘We can’t level, you crazy bastard, we’re in advertising!’—Paul Reiser as Stephen Bachman, in Crazy People (1990)


Signal

You can run ads with misinformation, and you can launch bot nets of thousands of accounts, but what can’t you do on Facebook? Buy ads that expose their tools with which you have bought their ads.
   That’s exactly what happened to Signal when it attempted to run ads on Instagram that illustrated the targeting.
   I don’t believe there’s anything in their T&Cs that disallow this, but Facebook has never been about those. You can breach them as much as you like with running scripts and creating bots, after all. One bastard streamed a massacre on March 15, 2019, which was accessible for some time afterwards; and a year later, eight copies were still on the platform. Facebook “enforces” what it wants to, and that includes disabling accounts that show just how invasive they are.
   I’ve already had a taste of this after I began deleting my ad preferences and exposing how terrible they were. And they probably didn’t like my pointing out that they were collecting those preferences long after I had opted out of their ad targeting (at a time when their own site suggested that opting out meant just that). Now that feature is gone for me.
   It’s what Facebook does. It lies, and even uses those lies to plant software on your computers that never show up in your programs’ list. And, like Google, the timing of when ad accounts are disabled is interesting: it’s not the first time this took place right after you do something that reveals some hard truths about them.
   Personally, I believe Facebook’s preferences are a joke, so Signal may have found their ad account cancelled not because they reminded everyone that the conjurer had a trick, but just how lousy the trick really was. Imagine getting one of these ads and thinking, ‘That ain’t me at all.’ That would get certain Facebook advertisers thinking twice—that is, those who give Facebook’s many bots a pass, and don’t mind that Instagram is 45 per cent bot, 55 per cent human, and don’t mind that their demographic estimates have no basis in reality. I mean, we’re already talking quite a gullible bunch who are doing an activity that’s marginally above setting fire to banknotes in terms of monetary utility, or donating to Jeb Bush’s presidential tilt in 2016.
   Facebook wants to keep as many of them as possible, and they’re taking no chances. You just never know where the tipping point is, when the masses finally decide to jump ship.

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Reduced Facebook? Australia is the lucky country

18.02.2021

Whichever side you are on with Facebook imposing a ban on Australians sharing news content, this says it all about the level of intelligence over at Menlo Park.

   In Australia, Facebook has not only de-platformed legitimate governmental bodies and non-profits, it has de-platformed itself.
   Maybe taxing these companies would have been easier, and the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, but I think most people see through Facebook’s rather pathetic tactics.
   It’s crying foul, saying it would have invested in local media in Australia, but won’t any more. But since Facebook lies about everything, I’ve no reason to believe they ever would have helped media organizations anywhere.
   And notice how quickly it was able to shut off pages, and remove an entire country’s ability to share news—yet it still struggles with removing fake content about COVID-19, extremist content and groups, bots, videos of massacres, and incitement of genocide and insurrection. It has struggled for years.
   We all know that Facebook can do as it wishes with a singular eye on its bottom line. It doesn’t want to pay Australian publishers, so it quickly acts to shut off what Australians can do. But fake content and all the rest—that makes them money, so it doesn’t act at all, other than issuing some empty PR statements.
   We all see through it, and this is probably the best thing it could have done. If people spend less time on its stress-inducing platforms, they will be healthier. And returning Facebook to what it was around 2008 when we shared what we were doing, not what the newsmedia were reporting, is really a plus.
   It’s a splendid own goal that benefits Australians, who will ingeniously find solutions pretty quickly, whether it’s telling their friends about articles via email (which is what I used to do pre-social media), finding alternative services, or, not that I advocate this, resorting to outright piracy by pasting the entire article as a Facebook status update. No news in your feed? There are services for that, like going straight to the sources, or using a news aggregator (if you don’t like Google News, the Murdoch Press actually has one in beta, called Knewz. Who would have guessed that the only organization that stepped up to my half-decade-old demand for a Google News rival would be Murdochs?).
   I doubt New Zealand will have the courage to follow suit, even though last year I wrote to the Minister of Communications to ask him to consider it.

PS.: Removing all Australian media is easy, but removing anti-vaccine pages is hard.

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The US, where big business (and others) can lie with impunity

31.12.2020

One thing about not posting to NewTumbl is I’ve nowhere convenient to put quotations I’ve found. Maybe they have to go here as well. Back when I started this blog in 2006—15 years ago, since it was in January—I did make some very short posts, so it’s not out of keeping. (I realize the timestamp is in GMT, but it’s coming up to midday on January 1, 2021 here.)
   Here’s one from Robert Reich, and I think for the most part US readers will agree, regardless of their political stripes.

In 2008, Wall Street nearly destroyed the economy. The Street got bailed out while millions of Americans lost their jobs, savings, and homes. Yet not no major Wall Street executive ever went to jail.
   In more recent years, top executives of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, along with the Sackler family, knew the dangers of OxyContin but did nothing. Executives at Wells Fargo Bank pushed bank employees to defraud customers. Executives at Boeing hid the results of tests showing its 737 Max Jetliner was unsafe. Police chiefs across America looked the other way as police under their command repeatedly killed innocent Black Americans.
   Yet here, too, those responsible have got away with it.

   I did offer these quotations with little or no commentary at NewTumbl and Tumblr.
   What came up with the above was a Twitter exchange with a netizen in the US, and how some places still touted three- to four-day shipping times when I argued that it was obvious—especially if you had been looking at the COVID positivity rates that their government officials relied on—that these were BS. And that Amazon (revenue exceeding US$100 milliard in the fourth quarter of 2020) and Apple (profit at c. US$100 milliard for the 12 months ending September 30) might just be rich enough to hire an employee to do the calculations and correlate them with delays—we are not talking particularly complicated maths here, and we have had a lot of 2020 data to go on. But they would rather save a few bob and lie to consumers: it’s a choice they have made.
   The conclusion I sadly had to draw was that businesses there can lie with impunity, because they’ve observed that there are no real consequences. The famous examples are all too clear from Reich’s quotation, where the people get a raw deal—even losing their lives.

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Why con?

07.12.2020

During the course of the 2010s, I came across two con artists. One thing that united them was they were men. But they could not have been more different: one was rather elaborate and was the subject of a Panorama documentary; the other was a rank amateur and, at least in the situation we were in, never fooled us.
   I won’t name them as I’ve no wish to add to their notoriety, but here’s the real kicker: both had the means to do well legitimately if they each followed through honestly.
   The first one was clever enough to rope in people from very different parts, essentially setting up a publishing operation. But it was a swindle, and people were left in debt and jobless.
   However, if it had been legit, it would have actually done quite well, and if the con artist’s aim was money, then he would have made some, over a long period, which would have sustained him and his lifestyle.
   The second was not clever but came to a business partner of mine with a proposal to become a shareholder. We heard him out, he proposed an amount, and we drafted a cast-iron contract that could see him get a return on his investment, and protect the original principal. The money never came, of course, and we weren’t going to alter the share register without it. He might have hoped that we would.
   Again, he would have got something from it. Maybe not as good a return as property but better than the bank.
   The first is now serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure after things caught up with him and he was extradited to where he had executed an earlier con; the second, after having had his face in the Sunday Star–Times, was last heard from in Australia where he conned his own relatives. He’s wanted by the police here.
   I don’t know where the gratification is here. And rationally, leaving honesty and morals aside (as they do), wouldn’t it be better making money regularly than swindling for a quick fix that nets you less? Is it down to laziness, making them less desirous to follow through?
   On the first case, I did have the occasion to speak to one lawyer pursuing him. I asked him about my case, since my financial loss was relatively small compared to the others taken in (namely a FedEx bill that a friend of mine helped me get a decent discount on because of her job). Where’s the con? I was told that it might not have been apparent as the con artist’s MO was to draw different strands, sometimes having them result in something, and sometimes not.
   Whatever the technique, it failed him anyway.
   And what a waste of all that energy to create something that not only looked legit (as in the TV series Hustle) but could have functioned legitimately with so many good people involved.
   That did make the 2010s rather better than the 2000s when the shady characters included a pædophile (who, to my knowledge, is also doing time), a sociopath, a forger, and a US fashion label that conned a big shipment’s payment out of us. I doubt I’d be famous enough to warrant a biography but they would make interesting stories!

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Nissan’s own documents show Carlos Ghosn’s arrest was a boardroom coup

22.06.2020

I said it a long time ago: that the Carlos Ghosn arrest was part of a boardroom coup, and that the media were used by Hiroto Saikawa and co. (which I said on Twitter at the time). It was pretty evident to me given how quickly the press conferences were set up, how rapidly there was “evidence” of wrongdoing, and, most of all, the body language and demeanour of Mr Saikawa.
   Last week emerged evidence that would give me—and, more importantly, Carlos Ghosn, who has since had the freedom to make the same allegation that he was set up—cause to utter ‘I told you so.’
   I read about it in The National, but I believe Bloomberg was the source. The headline is accurate: ‘Nissan emails reveal plot to dethrone Carlos Ghosn’; summed up by ‘The plan to take down the former chairman stemmed from opposition to deeper ties between the Japanese company and France’s Renault’.
   One highlight:

the documents and recollections of people familiar with what transpired show that a powerful group of insiders viewed his detention and prosecution as an opportunity to revamp the global automaker’s relationship with top shareholder Renault on terms more favourable to Nissan.
   A chain of email correspondence dating back to February 2018, corroborated by people who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive information, paints a picture of a methodical campaign to remove a powerful executive.

   Another:

Days before Mr Ghosn’s arrest, Mr Nada sought to broaden the allegations against Mr Ghosn, telling Mr Saikawa that Nissan should push for more serious breach-of-trust charges, according to correspondence at the time and people familiar with the discussions. There was concern that the initial allegations of underreporting compensation would be harder to explain to the public, the people said.
   The effort should be “supported by media campaign for insurance of destroying CG reputation hard enough,” Mr Nada wrote, using Mr Ghosn’s initials, as he had done several times in internal communications stretching back years.

   Finally:

The correspondence also for the first time gives more detail into how Nissan may have orchestrated [board member] Mr Kelly’s arrest by bringing him to Japan from the US for a board meeting.

   Nissan’s continuing official position, that Ghosn and Kelly are guilty until proved innocent, has never rang correctly. Unless you’re backed by plenty of people, that isn’t the typical statement you should be making, especially if it’s about your own alleged dirty laundry. You talk instead about cooperating with authorities. In this atmosphere, with Nissan, the Japanese media duped into reporting it based on powerful Nissan executives, and the hostage justice system doing its regular thing, Ghosn probably had every right to believe he would not get a fair trial. If only one of those things were in play, and not all three, he might not have reached the same conclusion.

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Posted in business, cars, culture, France, globalization, leadership, media | No Comments »