Sunday, March 18, 2018

How the maintream media just discovered old news about elections and Facebook responded meaninglessly and you "liked" it adding to the data

Yesterday's New York Times with great fanfare offers us yesterday's, years old... news. It appears they spent lots of money on reporter and editorial time finding out about something they could have learned from other news sources in 2016, or even as far back as 2013. And of course the rest of the mainstream media which apparently was equally ignorant has picked it up.

A little over a year ago, I wrote the post Why you should fear Trumpism's Steve Bannon: war with China within 8 years and other reasons.

I said: "If you're interested in how the world was radically changed by a young PhD candidate Michal Kosinski beginning in 2008 read The Data That Turned the World Upside Down...." Further elaborations were include, but that linked article published in 2016 by the Millennial news site Vice Motherboard included everything Americans needed to know about the use of Facebook member data and other data sources to steal from and mislead those Facebook members.

I also referenced a post-election Forbes piece Why Big Data Wasn't Trump's Achilles Heel After All which was a mea culpa by Bernard Marr, an expert on big data, analytics, and metrics who has worked with many of the world’s leading companies and governments on how to answer their most critical business questions using data and metrics. He acknowledges that an article he'd written in June 2016 about Trump's lack of data use was based on his own lack of information.

After telling you that this experimental voter manipulation was going on in the 2014 mid-term election, the New York Times article notes:

    An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
    Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”
    They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

What is troublesome here is that neither the government of the Obama Administration nor any of the 50 state governments including tech fumbling California had a clue after 2014.

And the big mainstream press, which the Democratic establishment relies upon, reported this as news yesterday and today.

Besides the fact that the old establishment ignores the Vice news sources because, hey, the Vice folks are just kids, the truth is the old political establishment, which still can't technically relate to the internet as more than "pipes" and still can't secure their smart phones, needed to step aside before 2014 for people who can tell the important modern technology from consumer technology like safer autos and more reliable refrigerators.

Perhaps the time has come for some people to accept the fact that timely important news is not going to appear in the mainstream media because the mainstream media relies upon "important" people in New York and Washington. If you don't check the sources to listed to the right, or some similar source not dependent upon people over 60 talking to each other, you're likely uninformed about many, many important stories that will startle the Democrats in 2020.

The fact that Michal Kosinski's work with two other Cambridge researchers - David Stillwell and Thore Graepel - has been available online in PDF format since 2013 should trouble the Democratic establishment. It was in the news in 2013. Rebecca J. Rosen, now a senior editor at The Atlantic, who oversees the Business Channel, at about age 29 in 2013 wrote:

    With remarkable accuracy, researchers from the University of Cambridge and Microsoft have been able to discern people's gender, sexuality, age, race, and political affiliation, based solely on their Facebook likes. With significantly less accuracy, they've also tried to predict certain personality traits.... It's possible to see how, with a much larger corpus, even certain subtleties of personality could be recognized deep within the idiosyncratic data of Facebook likes.
    ...Just as we humans can make judgments about another person's intelligence, sexuality, or political leanings based on a scattershot set of clues -- entertainment preferences we know them to have or opinions we know them to hold -- a computer can do much the same. Its inputs may come by way of Facebook likes, but its process is familiar.

And from The Telegraph 2013 article 'Like' curly fries on Facebook? Then you're clever written by a similarly young journalist alert Neoliberals learned:

    Now researchers at Cambridge’s Psychometric Centre have joined forces with Microsoft to analyse more than nine million ‘likes’.
    Michal Kosinski, its operations director, said ‘liking’ curly fries was a very strong predictor for high intelligence.
    Kosinski, an internet entrepreneur, said they hoped to commercialise the analytic technology they had developed.

But it did not turn out be Kosinski who made the system commercially successful.

It was the privately held firm Cambridge Analytica. The father-daughter billionaire family team of Robert and Rebekah Mercer hold a significant stake in the company. The Mercer's are "card-carrying" Neoliberals who in addition to The Mercer Family Foundation, run by Rebekah, donate to the Heritage Foundation (Rebekah is a board member), the Cato Institute, the Media Research Center, the Club for Growth, American Crossroads, Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Goldwater Institute, and numerous other Neoliberal political organizations.

They were key financial benefactors for Breitbart News and were the ones who first introduced Steve Bannon to Donald Trump. Steve Bannon, of course, was on the Cambridge Analytica Board of Directors at its founding.

The fact that the members of Neoliberal community are technologically aware and curious seems to indicate they're wise in a time when wisdom about the 21st Century should be valued, a wisdom that is lacking in other American political communities. For instance, Democrats spend their time in Hollywood with people whose skills will be replaced by computers by mid-century.

In the meantime, with a loud hurumph Facebook just suspended Cambridge Analytica and its parent company SCL Group. Outstanding! Consider this from The Data That Turned the World Upside Down:

Kosinski and his team tirelessly refined their models. In 2012, Kosinski proved that on the basis of an average of 68 Facebook "likes" by a user, it was possible to predict their skin color (with 95 percent accuracy), their sexual orientation (88 percent accuracy), and their affiliation to the Democratic or Republican party (85 percent). But it didn't stop there. Intelligence, religious affiliation, as well as alcohol, cigarette and drug use, could all be determined. From the data it was even possible to deduce whether someone's parents were divorced.

The strength of their modeling was illustrated by how well it could predict a subject's answers. Kosinski continued to work on the models incessantly: before long, he was able to evaluate a person better than the average work colleague, merely on the basis of ten Facebook "likes." Seventy "likes" were enough to outdo what a person's friends knew, 150 what their parents knew, and 300 "likes" what their partner knew. More "likes" could even surpass what a person thought they knew about themselves. On the day that Kosinski published these findings, he received two phone calls. The threat of a lawsuit and a job offer. Both from Facebook.

In other words, Facebook knew what was going on six years ago. But Facebook is quintessential American company admired by most Americans.  And six years ago Facebook held its initial public offering and, at that time, it was the largest technology IPO in U.S. history. Facebook offered 421,233,615 shares at a price of $38 per share and raised $16.007 billion through that offering. Let's see, make $16 billion or protect America? No red-blooded American would criticize the choice to take the money.

So whoopee today that Facebook suspended companies that a half a decade ago laid the groundwork for the rich to get richer with the support of foolishly stupid Americans.

The fact is that much of the current important news cannot be found in the mainstream or Alt-Right or social media. As in the past, today much of the significant news first appears in narrowly-focused or technical media. "Back then" only a few specialized professionals could read it. But since the beginning of the 21st Century it has been immediately available to us all. And those who can use that knowledge will find it more rapidly than in decades past.

The Neoliberals read about the research in 2013 and were experimenting with it in 2014. The Democratic power structure was reading movie reviews.

In other words, if unlike Hillary and her campaign staff, you actually know both how to secure and to use use your phones and computers on the internet, then you pick up news about new ways to use data to manipulate groups of people for commercial or political ends. You understand that generally the public couldn't give a crap about the details of your policy proposals.

Right now the Republican and Democratic Parties are struggling with the 2018 midterm elections. That's their jobs.

Also, the Neoliberals are planning 2020 election strategy using 2018 to experiment. I wonder what new tools they've refined.

And the group opposing them ...wait, there isn't any group working to oppose the Neoliberals in the 2020 election just like no such national group of progressive organizations existed to work in 2014 on the 2016 election. In fact, there are no center or left-of-center groups comparable, much less hundreds of them financed by billionaires.

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