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misteraven

Weigh In: Has the social media revolution devolved conversation?

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Lol, phone by day, laptop by night when I do all my reading (reading long pieces on a phone sucks too)

 

 

 

 

2.2bn accounts in the space of a couple of months??! Could that be a typo? There's only 1bn FB users worldwide.

 

Facebook removed 'coordinated inauthentic behaviour' during Australian election

Social media giant rejects criticism it didn’t do enough to take down false content and doesn’t want to be ‘arbiter of truth’

Katharine Murphy Political editor

Wed 23 Oct 2019 13.56 AEDT Last modified on Wed 23 Oct 2019 14.54 AEDT

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/oct/23/facebook-removed-coordinated-inauthentic-behaviour-during-australian-election?CMP=share_btn_tw

 

Facebook has revealed it removed two instances of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” on its platform during the Australian federal election in May, but insists it does not want to be the arbiter of truth, or to “referee political debates”.

 

The social media giant has used its submission to the joint committee on electoral matters to stoutly defend its role in the 2019 election campaign after Labor has appealed to the same committee to investigate whether the digital behemoths are having a negative impact on Australian democracy.

 

The joint parliamentary committee on electoral matters examines the conduct of every federal election. Facebook argues in its submission it took action to remove “coordinated inauthentic behaviour, the term we use to describe groups of pages or people that work together to mislead others about who they are or what they are doing”. It confirmed it removed two instances of such activity during the Australian election.

 

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But it has rejected arguments from Labor and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that it didn’t do enough to remove death tax content – claims proliferating on the platform that Bill Shorten would introduce a death tax if Labor won. The content was deemed false by the platform’s third-party factcheckers, and demoted in the newsfeed, but not removed.

 

Facebook says most of the discussion about inheritance taxes during the election came from “ordinary Australians expressing their personal opinions or from elected politicians or political parties”.

 

“Facebook does not believe that it’s an appropriate role for us to be the arbiter of truth over content shared by ordinary Australians or to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny.”

 

While arguing it does not want to exercise the traditional editorial responsibility of a publisher, it contends it is committed to taking action against misinformation. “We are committed to fighting the spread of misinformation and we have adopted an approach that aims to address misinformation, while encouraging free expression.”

 

The platform says as part of efforts to combat foreign interference in the Australian contest, it temporarily restricted political or electoral ads purchased from outside Australia ahead of the election in April and May. “As part of this ban, we did not allow foreign ads that include political slogans and party logos.”

 

It also told the committee it removed 2.2bn fake accounts between January and March 2019, and “the majority of these accounts were caught within minutes of registration”.

 

Guardian Australia revealed last month the ALP has used its post-election submission to the committee to call for an examination of whether Australian elections are vulnerable to influence by “malinformation” – a term invoked by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in its landmark digital platforms review.

 

In an interview with Guardian Australia in August, the ACCC chairman, Rod Sims, blasted Facebook’s practices, and said the social media giant should have removed the bogus death tax claims given its own independent factchecking processes had found the material to be false.

 

Sims said Facebook had the capability to deal with the proliferation of fake news on the platform, but the social media behemoth is instead “palming off responsibility” to protect its bottom line.

 

The industry body representing Google, Facebook and Twitter has already rejected the ACCC’s proposal for an industry code of conduct to fight fake news, warning that the recommendation would turn Australia’s media regulator into the truth police.

 

The Liberal party doesn’t reference the debate about digital misinformation in its submission to the parliamentary committee, but it does flag irregularities with voting.

The submission from the Liberal party’s federal director, Andrew Hirst, notes there has been a practice of people being marked off the electoral roll more than once. Hirst calls on the committee to consider measures to ensure “the highest levels of integrity in our elections, including requirements for voter identification”.

 

The Liberals are also troubled by the increase in pre-poll voting, and Hirst calls for it to be wound back. Hirst says Australians are now being “incentivised to vote early” and asks the committee to consider the reality that Australia now has a “voting period”, as opposed to an “election day”.

 

1129.jpg?width=460&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=b32e75d59f1305546c9c999dbf831b6b

“Millions of Australians are now voting when many key aspects of an Australian election campaign – such as the release of major policies, campaign launches, leaders’ debates, and ‘free-time’ election broadcasts – have not yet taken place.”

 

Hirst recommends limiting voting at pre-poll voting centres to a two-week period and returning the number of the pre-poll voting centres to 2013 levels.

 

He also condemns “appalling and illegal behaviour that took place during the election campaign, including damage to property and abuse being directed towards parliamentarians, candidates, campaign staff and party volunteers”.

 

“The most extreme examples included anti-Semitic vandalism directed towards the member for Berowra and the federal treasurer, damage to Liberal Party vehicles, obscene personal abuse directed towards the former prime minister Tony Abbott, and a campaign volunteer being stabbed with a corkscrew.”

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On 9/14/2019 at 8:47 AM, misteraven said:

Not to keep flogging a dead horse but... Reading a book recently put out by Bobby Hundreds (TheHundreds) and seems everyone sees it...

 

9CB41F8E-B730-44A9-B837-E04EAF75F412.thumb.jpeg.6890d966c41a45477df4bb369d31b863.jpeg

 

This Is Not a T-Shirt: A Brand, a Culture, a Community--a Life in Streetwear

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0374275793/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_AQqFDbJE7164W

I was at the comedy store one night and the stand up asked the crowd what they liked about Facebook. An older guy in the audience yelled back “it gives everyone a voice”. The stand up was expecting this and replied “that’s exactly what’s wrong with it”. 

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On 10/10/2019 at 7:07 AM, misteraven said:

Damn, was really curious what honeybooty404077777 looked like.

 

9264BE04-074B-443B-B4A3-0D3C6B80BD39.gif

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Saw this posted to the Hypebeast feed and thought it was super interesting. Not so much what it said, but what seemed glaringly missing, in my mind. Apparently the US Government is hugely concerned about the social network TikTok due to the fact that its owned by the Chinese and can be used to data mine the habits of Americans on that platform. That statement all but acknowledges that social networks are used to data mine its users, but the concern isn't whether ti can happen, but that instead its their 'competition' is doing it instead.

 

IMG_7876.thumb.PNG.98323225ac04b987d3ec4479d64ab325.PNG

 

Maybe I'll see if I can dig up an article on it somewhere online so we can read the official statement, but I don't doubt the validity of it.

 

Also going to link you to a very awesome Podcast episode I recently caught that very much relates to this subject. Very much worth a listen.

 

Link: https://www.jrepodcast.com/episode/joe-rogan-experience-1368-edward-snowden/

 

 

 

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It's like anything else in life. It's how you use it and your perspective. I don't remember conversation being any more brilliant before to be honest. For me I was always that guy who wouldn't stop talking politics.  So for me the normal conversations people had were whack.. Before the Kards, it was royalty that dumb asses wanted to be like. Shit don't change but the materials and tools do. I think we tend to idealise everything to the point of delusion at times.  

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This is pretty interesting in regards to how the social media platforms are looking to evolve and how the retweet/share button enabled pile ons and 'harassment' campaigns. Not sure if you're all aware of the gamergate phenomenon but it was the first time that a broad and organically organised social media campaign emerged to the point that not only did it have IRL consequences but it influenced everything from online marketing to political campaigns (think Roger Stone, he actually hired some of those guys for what they did in terms of whipping up a frenzy).

 

I think that limiting the number of retweets a user can do in the space of 24hrs might assist but it will only stop the casual retweeters from being carefree, it won't stop the organised campaigns.

 

Interesting article, worth a scan read:

 

 

The Man Who Built The Retweet: “We Handed A Loaded Weapon To 4-Year-Olds”

The button that ruined the internet — and how to fix it.

Posted on July 23, 2019, at 4:05 p.m. ET

 

Developer Chris Wetherell built Twitter’s retweet button. And he regrets what he did to this day.

“We might have just handed a 4-year-old a loaded weapon,” Wetherell recalled thinking as he watched the first Twitter mob use the tool he created. “That’s what I think we actually did.”

Wetherell, a veteran tech developer, led the Twitter team that built the retweet button in 2009. The button is now a fundamental feature of the platform, and has been for a decade — to the point of innocuousness. But as Wetherell, now cofounder of a yet-unannounced startup, made clear in a candid interview, it’s time to fix it. Because social media is broken. And the retweet is a big reason why.

 

He’s not the only one reexamining the retweet. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told BuzzFeed News he is too: “Definitely thinking about the incentives and ramifications of all actions, including retweet,” he said. “Retweet with comment for instance might encourage more consideration before spread.”

 

Yet emphasizing that retweet with comment won’t necessarily solve Twitter’s ills. Jason Goldman, the head of product when Wetherell built the retweet, said it’s a key source of Twitter’s problems today. “The biggest problem is the quote retweet,” Goldman told BuzzFeed News. “Quote retweet allows for the dunk. It’s the dunk mechanism.”

 

Wetherell’s story begins 10 years ago. He joined Twitter in 2009 as a contractor fresh off a run at Google, where he built Google Reader, a once-beloved RSS aggregator the company has since discontinued. In working on Reader, Wetherell immersed himself in the study of how information spreads online, and built a reputation in Silicon Valley for his expertise. So when Evan Williams, then the CEO of Twitter, wanted to build a retweet button, he called Wetherell.

“I was very excited about the opportunity that Twitter represented,” Wetherell said, noting that he initially felt the retweet button would elevate voices from underrepresented communities.

Before Wetherell joined Twitter, people had to manually retweet each other — copying text, pasting it into a new compose window, typing “RT” and the original tweeter’s handle, and hitting send. With the retweet button, Twitter wanted to build this behavior into its product — a standard practice in tech that, at the time, was performed without much thought.

 

“Only two or three times did someone ask a broader and more interesting social question, which was, ‘What is getting shared?’” Wetherell said. “That almost never came up.”

After the retweet button debuted, Wetherell was struck by how effectively it spread information. “It did a lot of what it was designed to do,” he said. “It had a force multiplier that other things didn’t have.”

“We would talk about earthquakes,” Wetherell said. “We talked about these first response situations that were always a positive and showed where humanity was in its best light.”

But the button also changed Twitter in a way Wetherell and his colleagues didn’t anticipate. Copying and pasting made people look at what they shared, and think about it, at least for a moment. When the retweet button debuted, that friction diminished. Impulse superseded the at-least-minimal degree of thoughtfulness once baked into sharing. Before the retweet, Twitter was largely a convivial place. After, all hell broke loose — and spread.

 

Chaos Spreads

In the early 2010s, Facebook's leadership was looking for ways to drive up engagement. Having previously failed to acquire Twitter, they looked to its product for inspiration.

The allure of going viral via the retweet had drawn publications, journalists, and politicians to Twitter en masse. And their presence shined most prominently during the 2012 election, a big moment for Twitter and a relative dud for Facebook. So Facebook, in a now all too familiar move copied Twitter, adding a trending column, hashtags, and a retweet clone.

“Facebook was doing really well with getting photos of your friends and family, and was looking outward and was saying, ‘What else can we be?’” Josh Miller, a former Facebook product manager, told BuzzFeed News. “Twitter was obviously at its peak, and it was natural for the company to look and say: ‘Wait a minute, the News Feed is about being your newspaper, and it should probably include updates from public discourse, news, personalities, and leaders.’ Facebook didn’t have that in a lot of its content, and Twitter did.”

Eight days after the 2012 election, Facebook introduced its version of the retweet — the mobile share button. And at around the same time, Facebook upped the number of links in its News Feed to encourage more sharing of public content. “It’s kind of an implicit message to people who use Facebook, which is, ‘Hey, News Feed is for links,’” Miller said.

 

An Offensive Conduit

In 2014, Wetherell realized the retweet button was going to be a major problem when the phrase “ethics in game journalism” started pouring into a saved search for “journalism” he had on Twitter. The phrase was a rallying cry for Gamergate — a harassment campaign against women in the game industry — and Wetherell, after seeing that first batch of tweets, watched it closely.

As Gamergate unfolded, Wetherell noticed its participants were using the retweet to “brigade,” or coordinate their attacks against their targets, disseminating misinformation and outrage at a pace that made it difficult to fight back. The retweet button propelled Gamergate, according to an analysis by the technologist and blogger Andy Baio. In his study of 316,669 Gamergate tweets sent over 72 hours, 217,384 were retweets, or about 69%.

Watching the Gamergate tweets pour in, Wetherell brought up his concerns in therapy and then discussed them with a small circle of engineers working in social media at the time. “This is not something we need to think about,” he recalled one saying.

 
"It dawned on me that this was not some small subset of people acting aberrantly. This might be how people behave. And that scared me to death.”
 

“It was very easy for them to brigade reputational harm on someone they didn't like,” Wetherell said, of the Gamergaters. “Ask any of the people who were targets at that time, retweeting helped them get a false picture of a person out there faster than they could respond. We didn't build a defense for that. We only built an offensive conduit.”

Gamergate was a "creeping horror story for me," Wetherell said. "It dawned on me that this was not some small subset of people acting aberrantly. This might be how people behave. And that scared me to death.”

Twitter, from that moment, became an “anger video game.” Retweets were the points.

The game took another dark turn during the 2016 presidential campaign, when impulse-sparked sharing caused outrage and disinformation to flourish on both Twitter and Facebook. It’s one thing to copy and paste a link that says Hillary Clinton is running a pedophile ring in the basement of a pizza shop — and share it under your own name. It’s another to see someone else post it, remember that you don’t like Hillary Clinton, and impulsively hit the share or retweet button.

“We have some evidence that people who are more likely to stop and think are better at telling true from false,” David Rand, an associate professor at MIT who studies misinformation, told BuzzFeed News. “Even for stuff that they are motivated to believe, people who stop and think more are less likely to believe the false stuff.”

It wasn’t only politicians and foreign entities that geared their messaging to stoke outrage-sparked sharing, but the press, too. In the rush to get stories that would be retweeted and shared, they disregarded speed bumps that might otherwise cause them to hold on a story, such as in the case of Jussie Smollett, the actor who police say staged a hate crime earlier this year.

The benefits of creating such content accrued disproportionately to the fringe. When someone retweets something, they’re sharing the content with their followers, but also sending a signal to the person they’re amplifying, said Anil Dash, a blogger and tech entrepreneur. The more fringe the original tweeter, the more valuable the retweet.

“If I retweet the New York Times, they don’t care,” Dash said. “But extreme content comes from people who are trying to be voices, who are trying to be influential in culture, and so it has meaning to them, and so it earns me status with them.”

The pursuit of that status has driven many Twitter users to write outrageous tweets in the hope of being retweeted by fringe power users. And when they do get retweeted, it sometimes lends a certain credibility to their radical positions.

The retweet and share, in other words, incentivize extreme, polarizing, and outrage-inducing content.

 

Undo Retweet

After a brutal 2016 election season, Facebook and Twitter reformed their policies. But as a new presidential election approaches, their services remain filled with harassment, outrage, and sensationalized news — because the companies have barely touched the machinery itself.

Advertising revenue keeps the system in place. For every dollar an advertiser spends pumping up a piece of sponsored content, it can count on some amount of shares and retweets to expand its audience organically.

“The more users see information that interests them, the more time they’ll spend on the platform; more views will be generated, and this creates the potential for greater advertising revenue,” said John Montgomery, the global executive vice president for brand safety at GroupM, a major media buyer. Without a retweet button, Wetherell said, brands “would certainly be less inclined to have a financial relationship with [a platform]. And when you're Twitter and that's vastly your primary source of income, that might be a challenge.”

A full rollback of the share and retweet buttons is unrealistic, and Wetherell doesn’t believe it’s a good idea. Were these buttons universally disabled, he said, people could pay users with large audiences to get their message out, giving them disproportionate power.

 
"Oh no, we put power into the hands of people.”
 

To rein in the excesses of the retweet, Wetherell suggested the social media companies turn their attention toward audiences. When thousands of people retweet or share the same tweet or post, they become part of an audience. A platform could revoke or suspend the retweet ability from audiences that regularly amplify awful posts, said Wetherell. “Curation of individuals is way too hard, as YouTube could attest,” Wetherell said. “But curation of audiences is a lot easier.”

Another solution might be to limit on the number of times a tweet can be retweeted. Facebook is experimenting with an approach of this nature, although not in its main product. Earlier this year, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, limited the number of people to which a message could be forwarded to five at a time, in response to quick-spreading rumors and disinformation. “The forward limit significantly reduced forwarded messages around the world,” WhatsApp said in a blog post. “We'll continue to listen to user feedback about their experience, and over time, look for new ways of addressing viral content.”

MIT’s Rand suggested another idea: preventing people from retweeting an article if they haven’t clicked on the link. “That could make people slow down,” he said. “But even more than that, it could make people realize the problematic nature of sharing content without having actually read it.”

Whatever the solution, Wetherell looks at the retweet very differently than he once did — a lesson that he thinks has broader implications. “I remember specifically one day thinking of that phrase: We put power in the hands of people,” he said. “But now, what if you just say it slightly differently: Oh no, we put power into the hands of people.” ●

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@misteraven

 

Wow man. I can tell you that I 100% took this entire project for granted. I never gave a single thought to the time or money invested in making this place. 

 

For the past 17 years I have been stranded in  an artistically void black hole of shit. There is no graff scene here, there are no open mic freestyle battles, there's nothing. It's all military salute murals and beach themed arts and crafts projects for tourists. 

 

I was really feeling shitty about this and how I had put art on the back burner for the better part of the past 15 years. So I decided I would stop by and see who the new NightOwls were or what the new wonk saggin was on the way to check out the art side of the forums. What I found reminded me of a night out with 2 of my crew from over 20 years ago.

 

We were out walking the city late night catching ups on everything in our way. We must have walked about 30 blocks before our mops ran dry and our paint was out. We doubled back to revel in our mayhem and noticed it was all gone. It was like the buff was a few blocks behind us the entire night. Everything we had done was gone. 

 

It never occured to me that our shit would catch the buff that quickly, I never imagined a world where 12oz wasnt in full swing.

 

That being said; I stopped checking my facebook a year ago, Ive never had an IG, I could never make sense of twitter and I dabble in reddit. Also, reading a lot of the original comments in this thread I found myself to be guilty of just about every one of these social media flaws. I did catch myself in full on fuckboy mode and it was so personally embarrassing; I made the decision to unplug completely.

 

But I digress. Im obviously in favor of 12oz because here I am 20 years later, unpromted and excited for the next chapter.

 

 

 

 

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@MISTER YUCKgreat to see you back man. The community is obviously smaller than it was, but it’s as tight knit as ever and has been steadily growing. No doubt people will complain it’s too big again before we know it. Amazing to see how many OGs stumble back through and occasionally we see some stick around pretty regularly. 
 

Again, if nothing else, 12oz is already more satisfying than social media ever was. I’m sure it’ll only get better as we grow the community and evolve things forward. 
 

In any case, Shoot me a message if you want me to recover your old account. 

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Twitter Suspends 90,000 Accounts Used to Spread Saudi Spam

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-12-20/twitter-suspends-90-000-accounts-used-to-spread-saudi-spam

 

The accounts were “amplifying messages favorable to Saudi authorities” by using their large volume to aggressively like, retweet and reply to tweets related to local and western politics, Twitter said Friday in a blog post. The messaging specifically targeted discussions around Iranian sanctions and the murder of Saudi national and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said Renee DiResta, research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, which analyzed the tweets.

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This isn't the most hard-hitting thing you'll read but it shows the initial steps that have been taken on 'online influencers' for setting up channels that look innocuous at first but slowly switch over to political content once they've cultivated an audience. It's the way FB, IG, YT and Twitter have been used in the past.

 

This is the first time I've seen a company like this do it, though.

 

That this is the 3rd most viewed organisation but have only been around for 3 years is jaw dropping. Clearly the Russian operations to influence the US are not over, they're getting bigger.

 

 

 

 

The Biggest Social Media Operation You’ve Never Heard of Is Run Out of Cyprus by Russians

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.35.2
A still from a YouTube video by TheSoul Publishing, showing Russia expanded to include Europe and much of Asia.
 

What the heck is TheSoul Publishing? I’m still honestly not sure.

 

Here’s what I do know: Measured in terms of views and subscribers, it had the third-largest reach of any group of entertainment channels on YouTube in November—outranked only by Disney and WarnerMedia. It is run by Russian nationals and based in and managed from Cyprus, with U.S. operations housed in a shared work space in New York. It funds itself with ad revenues from YouTube and Google worth tens of millions of dollars. And in 2018, it purchased a small suite of Facebook advertisements targeting U.S. citizens on political issues—and it made those purchases in rubles.

 

Asked detailed written questions about the company, a spokesman for TheSoul Publishing responded with a statement and provided background information, which is reflected throughout. The spokesman stated: “Simply because a company has roots, international offices, and/or diverse global employees outside of the U.S., one should not jump to conclusions or automatically make assumptions that there is a hidden agenda. To be clear, TheSoul Publishing creates fun, non-political oriented content that is enjoyed by an incredible amount of fans globally.”

 

Indeed, TheSoul Publishing does create nonpolitical (and apparently lucrative) craft videos, reaching worldwide audiences. But it also creates political content, including pro-Russian versions of histories that contain inaccurate information. The social media platforms, which I made aware of TheSoul’s activities, have not taken action against the company—apparently having concluded that its activities do not violate their policies.

 

I researched the company without special access to data and using only publicly available information from sources such as the front-end data on the social media platforms, public records and interviews. Here is what I learned.

 

TheSoul is a web publishing company that distributes its content across a range of YouTube channels. The more popular channels—like 5-Minute CraftsBright Side5-Minute Crafts Kids5-Minute Crafts Girly7-Second Riddles and 5-Minute Magic—post multiple times a day and, according to publicly available information found on YouTube, have uploaded more than 1,000 videos each since their creation. The company’s website boasts 140 YouTube channels and 70 Facebook pages. I have been able to identify 35 YouTube channels and 25 Facebook pages that identify connections with TheSoul Publishing. Asked about the discrepancy, a representative of the company confirms that these are all of the English-language sites but says the company also runs channels in several other languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Korean and Japanese. The oldest of the YouTube channels I have seen was created in 2016; the oldest Facebook page dates from 2015.

 

TheSoul’s numbers are undeniably impressive. Its largest channels have millions of subscribers and billions of views, according to information publicly available on the YouTube channels themselves. As of Dec. 16, 2019, 5-Minute Crafts had more than 62.8 million subscribers, and a total of 16,648,886,677 views; Bright Side had more than 32.3 million subscribers and 6,286,157,368 views.

 

According to Tubular Labs, a company that provides insights into metrics for each brand creator, in November 2019, TheSoul Publishing had the third most views of any media and entertainment creator on YouTube and Facebook, behind only the Walt Disney Company and WarnerMedia. In October, it was fourth. And in November, 5-Minute Crafts was the second most viewed of any media and entertainment channel.

 

This is all especially impressive because I have been unable to identify any YouTube channels associated with TheSoul Publishing that were created before 2016. According to the information found on its various YouTube channels, 5-Minute Crafts began Nov. 15, 2016, while Bright Side began March 15, 2017. The majority of TheSoul Publishing’s channels were created in 2018 and 2019, according to an examination of 35 of its sites.

 

TheSoul isn’t only on YouTube. It has also built an enormous Facebook presence—which is impressive given that the pages I have examined were all developed after 2015 and thus have had only a few years to attract an audience. For example, Bright Side, whose Facebook presence claims to have begun in June 2004—Facebook’s transparency measures put the start date on July 2, 2015—has more than 44 million followers. By contrast, the New York Times’s Facebook page has a comparatively paltry 16 million followers. Lawfare’s meager Facebook page has just over 24,000 followers.

 

In my interactions with the social media platforms, I developed no information to suggest that TheSoul’s traffic was inauthentic.

 

As a spokesperson from the company put it, “Our impressive organic growth and positive viewer reception is very exciting. As we continue to produce entertaining videos, our fans can look forward to even more likable content that they’ve come to highly enjoy.”

 

If you’ve never heard of TheSoul, you’re not alone. The company has built its online empire in relative obscurity. Public coverage of the company in English has been sporadic. In September 2019, Time magazine raved over the company’s traffic and described the “bizarre” content posted by 5-Minute Crafts. Vox likewise posted an article in November 2018 characterizing the channel’s content as “cringey” and “peculiar.” Forbes has noted the lightning-fast rise of TheSoul Publishing and its remarkable traffic, contrasting the apparently anodyne videos with dire-sounding concerns over Russian election interference: “So just what are those Trump loving, Hillary hating Russians promoting ad nauseam on Facebook to fool Americans into voting the way Vladimir Putin wants?” the Forbes article asks, before showing a lengthy video compilation of TheSoul’s crafting suggestions.

 

TheSoul Publishing grew out of a company called AdMe, the company confirms, which began in 2004 in Kazan, Russia. AdMe was focused on digital advertising and content distribution. In 2016, its founders moved operations to Cyprus. In the summer of 2018, TheSoul opened a U.S.-based entity and a U.K. entity, which is currently managed from Cyprus. Earlier this year, the company incorporated another U.K. entity, the company confirms. The Cyprus headquarters owns and manages all of TheSoul Publishing’s operations worldwide, the company says, and any legal entity that has been set up elsewhere is simply created to support the overall business.

 

TheSoul Publishing primarily makes videos, many of which use the same actors and clips. A lot of the content provides “tips” that seem strange or even useless, like rubbing a candle on shoes before hiking to make the shoes fully waterproof. One video shows a variety of “water tricks to live up your day,” including how to make a density column by mixing together a range of different liquids and beverages with detergent:

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.30.1

Most of TheSoul’s videos are clickbait with instructions for do-it-yourself projects, and TheSoul’s channels range in success. Some are less active than others. Of the 35 channels I examined, nine have stopped posting in the past year, and a handful (5-Minute WorkoutsHealth Is Wealth, Health Digest, Dark Side and Zodiac Maniac) have not posted new content in the past 11 months. You’re Gorgeous, The Story Behind and Stickman have all stopped posting new content within the past six months. However, the most popular channels—Bright Side and 5-Minute Crafts—appear to be active and growing. From August 2019 to December 2019, according to examinations of the data in both periods, Bright Side gained nearly 3.5 million subscribers and 1 billion views, and 5-Minute Crafts gained more than 3 million subscribers and 1.5 billion views.

 

The vast majority of the company’s content is apolitical—and that is certainly the way the company portrays itself. A spokesperson for TheSoul Publishing commented that “[w]e are very proud of our highly popular videos enjoyed by millions around the world. From do-it-yourself craft to charming animation to riddle and puzzle videos, TheSoul Publishing showcases a portfolio of lighthearted content watched across major social platforms.”

 

But here’s the thing: TheSoul Publishing also posts history videos with a strong political tinge. Many of these videos are overtly pro-Russian. One video posted on Feb. 17, 2019, on the channel Smart Banana, which typically posts listicles and history videos, claims that Ukraine is part of Russia. (The video has since been removed.) The video opens:

Mr. Banana wants to know what you think about when you hear the word Russia. Do you think of a bear with a bottle of vodka and a balalaika in his paw, or maybe you think about President Putin and the Red Square in Moscow. Let’s have a look at the history of the biggest country in the world.

At one point, the video gives a heavily sanitized version of Josef Stalin’s time in power and, bizarrely, suggests that Alaska was given to the United States by Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev:

The second leader after Lenin’s death was Josef Stalin. He started to recover the country after the revolution. Josef reformed the country. He took the wealth from rich people and the property from the middle class and united all of these people with poor ones in the collective farm and the collective property. Russian Robin Hood—bang! Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941. It was the beginning of the second World War. Russia was not ready for any wars at the moment, so Hitler hoped to conquer Russia in four months. As naive as Napoleon. The USSR joined the allies. The Soviet Union militaries came to Berlin and beat it. The facism of Hitler was defeated on the second of May 1945 during four years of war, the Soviet Union officially lost twenty-seven million people. Many cities were destroyed. Recovery from the war was very difficult for both people and the country. By 1960, the Soviet Union succeeded, in 1957 the rent of Alaska was over and the country’s leader at the time, Nikita Khrushchev, gifted Alaska to the USA. That’s when Alaska became the 49th state of the US.

(The United States in fact purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. The territory was admitted to the U.S. as a state in 1959.) Smart Banana has 1.75 million subscribers, and the video in question has been viewed more than 283,000 times, according to YouTube data.

The video ends by displaying a future vision of Russian expansion that includes most of Europe (notably not Turkey), the Middle East and Asia:

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.35.2

Following initial publication of this article and subsequently publicity Friday on The Rachel Maddow Show, TheSoul Publishing removed this video, along with a number of others. A spokesman for the company issued the following statement: “The attention garnered this week around a handful of history focused videos made us pause and take a closer look at this content. We acknowledge that there were factual mistakes and we take pride in getting information correct for our audiences. We have taken down the videos in question and are currently reviewing our internal fact-checking process.”

 

In another video on Smart Banana, which has more than 1 million views, the titular banana speculates on “12 Countries That May Not Survive the Next 20 Years”—including the United States, which the video argues may collapse because of political infighting and diverse political viewpoints. (This video has also since been removed; relevant screenshots which were captured on September 8, 2019 are presented below.)

y_j7fsM6u_0ILZdRoq-iXMTG_L_rltMBCUZsBBKw-oYyOljqOv-ub0tAf3ReP4fVPcwAlZ8-vqTRN_Wu3cc8thTMvc2Vq7QGvuBlwaRcj7QsahkiJiueXl3TigWdVSg5V3Lt5pPAx-C9UyCy1l9MVXOwbLeSFWElKpmaDe1mnQF1z_VGagk-xELh5ZsJN3Wqka99ItBT3CExNs-vmUB9-nwEoC3KT7nzG5beXffM9wOSEAGs17z-ibFeIos5BC9bzQmiNCDhDy3FIx-X

oW9GVVaSBn4lPFAUEpupe33Kydzk_FylX-u6CpDCanvJmB0__SsWR45uEocfFIvVYrJJKspzIp0jcClW_WoZNU_oa7uq8yMzJR_Po6utHynolcq5VO23XNn8cv7s4mQIhTcFUk9n

Another TheSoul Publishing channel, Easy Peasy, posts political histories alongside animated listicle videos and informative takes on why girls like “bad boys.” One video promises to tell the story of how the USA came to be the country of Hollywood, McDonald’s and Donald Trump. The rest of the video tells the history of the U.S. as the stories of Christopher Columbus, slavery, the Trail of Tears, World Wars I and II, 9/11 and the war on terror. (The video has since been removed; relevant screenshots are captured below.) :

wg13JQMKdyM0as_GAb6d2slFeUHb3lsZIQ80UzEo-yp5FSdoeSkIXDtU_wafMvuW8HDEI47PEVUkNf4u9FuF1CVq4uo4_zZjK5e9lmc01UjklKyFH1NysRbDZGou4r6zMrYRczYK

ZkFjh8E6TLgurV1GdQELoGkWBmKjevZzO8kB24twtKX5YchXrZyECqQqFbSq4gtpaY8FdC9w_FbmAmghHz3DLy5c2rygEwDHzhXHQG9jvEMFYv33jvnMlw4cBurjungMIUJNJwO6

The discussion of 9/11 includes the assertion that President Obama “officially ended the combat mission” in the war on terror and “promised to withdraw all American troops by 2016”—showing a man with his fingers crossed behind his back.

TheSoul%203.jpg

So where is all this content coming from? According to publicly available information from the YouTube channels themselves—information provided to YouTube by the people who set up and operate the channels at TheSoul Publishing—as of August 2019, 21 of the 35 channels connected to TheSoul Publishing claim to be based in the U.S. Ten of the channels had no country listed. Zodiac Maniac was registered in the U.K, though TheSoul Publishing emphasizes that all of its operations are run out of Cyprus.

 

Most of the views for this channel come from Europe. Now I’ve Seen Everything was the only channel registered in the Russian Federation. That channel has more than 400 million views, which, according to the analytics tool Nox Influencer, come from a range of countries, including Russia and Eastern European and Central Asian countries—despite being an English-language channel.

 

Asked about TheSoul’s operations on its platform, a spokesperson for YouTube said, “All content on YouTube is subject to our Community Guidelines, which we enforce consistently regardless of the channel. We have additional policies for any videos that are showing ads, including against content that misstates information about the creator, such as where they’re located. We have found no evidence of abuse on any of the channels mentioned here. If we find violations of our policies, we take appropriate action, including striking videos, removing ads or terminating accounts.”

 

TheSoul Publishing’s Facebook pages follow patterns similar to those of the YouTube channels. Certain channels, such as 5-Minute Crafts and 5-Minute Crafts Kids, post similar or the same videos at different intervals. They act in a coordinated manner, either posting original videos within Facebook or driving content to brightside.me, a webpage registered in Germany on GoDaddy, which itself is made up of clickbait articles.

 

Data acquired using Facebook’s transparency measures identifies none of the account administrators for these pages as based in the United States. Instead, by and large, across all pages, most administrators are listed as residing in Cyprus or Russia, with some located in a smattering of other countries—including former Soviet bloc countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Georgia, Romania and Ukraine, as well as incongruous locales such as El Salvador.

Chart

There’s a mystery here, though. What, exactly, is TheSoul doing on Facebook?

 

As relates to its YouTube presence, the answer is simple: making money. YouTube pays content creators to make videos. Every time an advertiser creates a campaign and sets a budget against its advertisement, YouTube’s algorithms will place advertisements on content to help advertisers reach their audience. Some of the funds are kept by YouTube, and some are sent to the content creator. Open-source estimates on TheSoul Publishing’s revenue from Nox Influencer suggest that the business is lucrative: According to Nox Influencer, Bright Side alone is earning between $314,010 and 971,950 monthly, and 5-Minute Crafts is earning between $576,640 and $1,780,000 monthly through YouTube partner earning estimates. As a privately held company, TheSoul Publishing doesn’t have to disclose its earnings. But all the Cypriot-managed company has to do to earn money from YouTube is meet viewing thresholds and have an AdSense account. AdSense, a Google product, just requires that a company have a bank account, an email address and a phone number. To monetize to this magnitude of revenue, YouTube may have also collected tax information, if TheSoul Publishing organization is conducting what it defines as “U.S. activities.” It’s also possible that YouTube verified a physical address by sending a pin mailer.

 

By contrast, Facebook pages are not a direct way to increase profit unless a company is actively marketing merchandise or sales, which TheSoul Publishing does not appear to do. The pages coordinate posting, so one post will often appear on a number of different pages. To a digital advertiser, this makes perfect sense as a way to increase relevance and visibility, but it’s far from obvious what TheSoul Publishing might be advertising. Likewise, there’s no obvious financial benefit to posting original videos within Facebook. The company did not meaningfully clarify its Facebook strategy in response to questions on the subject.

 

Below are examples of coordinated behavior on Facebook. Without disclosing their affiliation with one another, the pages appear to be posting in a coordinated manner: the same articles, which drive traffic to brightside.me, with the same copy.

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.39.2

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.52.4

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.50.4

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.40.5

Facebook forbids what it describes as “coordinated inauthentic behavior,” as its head of cybersecurity describes in this video. While TheSoul’s Publishing’s behavior is clearly coordinated, it is unclear that any of its behavior is inauthentic based on information I have reviewed.

 

One thing that TheSoul is definitely doing on Facebook, however, is buying ads—and, at least sometimes, it’s doing so in rubles on issues of national importance, targeting audiences in the United States. The page Bright Side has 44 million followers and currently lists no account administrators located in the United States, but as of Aug. 8, 2019, it had them in Cyprus, Russia, the United Kingdom, El Salvador, India, Ukraine and in locations “Not Available.” It used Facebook to post six political advertisements paid for in the Russian currency.

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%208.44.0

TheSoul may have purchased nonpolitical ads as well, but Facebook’s transparency measures make information public only on political ad buys, and Facebook does not provide information outside of what’s available in the political content ad library.

 

All six of the publicly available political content ads were purchased during the summer of 2018, when Facebook rolled out additional security measures requiring that advertisers promoting political content undergo identity verification by the company—a process that involves the purchaser submitting photo ID, a home mailing address at which to receive a code to be entered by the user, and a Social Security number. Enforcement of this measure began on May 24, 2018. Facebook has since implemented additional transparency measures that require advertisers to be able to provide an employer identification number, a website, an email address that matches the company’s domain and some other form of authentication.

 

TheSoul Publishing’s political advertisements, which Facebook defines as being related to a candidate or an issue of national importance, have targeted those in the United States. The data show that the company specifically targeted individuals over the age of 18.

 

The ad buy was very small. TheSoul Publishing spent around $5.00 across six political ads. Each advertisement had a small reach—fewer than 1,000 “impressions,” Facebook’s metric for evaluating content distribution, attributed to the paid advertising. (This figure does not include impressions from Facebook users who would be shown the post organically based on Facebook’s newsfeed algorithms or individual sharing.)

 

By comparison, BuzzFeed, which also posts light, fun articles (in addition to having highly reputable journalists who are regularly reporting the news and undergo editorial review) has an international team and spent $40,361 on more than 20 times the amount of political advertising TheSoul Publishing has posted.

 

So the point here is not that the ad buy is significant in and of itself. The point, rather, is that the company has developed a massive social media following and has a history of at least experimenting with distributing both pro-Russian and paid political content to that following.

 

TheSoul’s political ads included the one below. The advertisement pushes viewers to an article about how “wonderful [it is] that Donald Trump earns less in a year than you do in a month.” The advertisement reached men, women, and people of unknown genders over the ages of 18, and began running on May 15, 2018. TheSoul Publishing spent less than a dollar on this advertisement, raising the question: why bother advertising at all?

Untitled%203-min.jpg

There was also an accompanying YouTube video that describes the article in the advertisement above, which as of Dec. 16, 2019, had 2,935,194 views. (The video has since been removed.):

 

The next two ads contain an image of President Trump yelling on the cover of Der Tasspiegel, a German newspaper, juxtaposed with a second incongruous image that varies between ads. A common advertising test is called A/B testing, where an advertiser tests two advertisements for conversion by running them against each other to see which one performs better.

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%2011.47.Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%2011.49.

The below three advertisements apparently focused on raising awareness about environmental issues and human trafficking. Facebook has a feature for testing messaging on different audiences, as a way to understand which audiences your advertisement resonates with the most.

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%2011.50.

Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%2011.51.Screen%20Shot%202019-12-18%20at%2011.51.

Facebook gives rough statistics about who viewed each advertisement, as shown above. But while Facebook advertisers are able to target individuals with some level of granularity based on their preferences, jobs, family situations and other information, the data provided by the platform doesn’t show specifically who each advertisement targeted and why.

 

TheSoul Publishing also has an app available for download—if you dare.

 

Sophie Lawton contributed to this report.

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Just went ahead and deleted thousands of posts on the 12ozProphet Instagram account. It’s now sitting at 395. Likely will delete most of those by the time I’m done. 

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1 hour ago, misteraven said:

Just went ahead and deleted thousands of posts on the 12ozProphet Instagram account. It’s now sitting at 395. Likely will delete most of those by the time I’m done. 

 

tenor.gif

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This is super-interesting as it follows an agenda driven group aiming to take down the Chinese Communist Party intersecting with the pro-Trump crowd and utilising social media manipulation in the process (the AI stuff might be a bit of a beat up)

 

Epoch Times is a global news group created by Falun Gong folk to attack the CCP. It sees Trump as a likely candidate to take the CCP out, so they've gone full MAGAtard in the last 12 months or so. Now they've taken it a step further into the fake news/social media manipulation field in order to achieve their goals (both secondary in supporting Trump and primary in attacking CCP).

 

In a troubling first, AI employed in mass online influence campaign

Washington: Facebook and Twitter on Friday disabled a global network of hundreds of fake accounts that pushed pro-Trump messages and covered its tracks using inauthentic photos generated with the aid of artificial intelligence.

The use of AI to trick social media companies, deceive unsuspecting users and essentially create people who do not exist marked a major, troubling new development, according to disinformation researchers, who expressed fresh alarm that such tactics could have implications for the 2020 presidential election.

 

The tech giants' takedown targeted the BL, a US-based media company that Facebook linked to Epoch Media Group. The organisation has criticised the Chinese government, and it has ties to the Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual movement.

 

It also has vociferously supported the reelection of President Trump, who was this week impeached by the House of Representatives.

The researchers with whom Facebook shared data about the BL and Epoch Media Group described the operation in a report as "a large-scale artificial amplification factory."
 

Facebook in particular said the BL was linked to hundreds of fake accounts spread across its services, which posted political messages at high frequencies, often in an attempt to direct traffic back to their websites. The social media companies signalled they did not take action because of the content of those posts, but rather the tactics deployed by those who engaged in them, such as the use of AI-generated images, which violated rules prohibiting spam, misrepresentation and coordinated inauthentic behaviour.

 

Disinformation experts at Graphika and the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensic Research Lab - which were given access to Facebook data in advance of the takedown announced Friday - said it marked the "first time" they had seen "AI-generated pictures deployed at scale to generate a mass collection of fake profile pictures deployed in a social media campaign."

 

"The BL is now banned from Facebook," said Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy at the company. "We are continuing to investigate all linked networks, and will take action as appropriate if we determine they are engaged in deceptive behaviour."

 

On Facebook, the network it disabled encompassed more than 600 accounts, with dozens of pages and groups that purchased $US9 million ($13 million) in ads. Roughly 55 million users on Facebook followed at least one of the pages tied to the operation, though the company did not specify how many of those people were based in the United States.

 

Twitter, for its part, confirmed it had suspended 700 accounts linked to that same network for violating "rules around platform manipulation - specifically fake accounts and spam." Google did not respond to a request for comment.

The removals announced on Friday illustrate the fast-evolving, increasingly complicated task social media giants face in battling back viral falsehoods, fake accounts and other troublesome content on the Web.

More malicious actors now seek to manipulate conversation online using new, sophisticated techniques just four years after Russian agents weaponised Facebook, Google and Twitter to undermine the 2016 presidential race.

 

To that end, Facebook and Twitter announced a slew of additional enforcement actions on Friday targeting coordinated, inauthentic behaviour originating out of countries such as Georgia and Saudi Arabia.

 

"We are making progress rooting out this abuse," Facebook's Gleicher said. "But as we've said before, it's an ongoing challenge."

 

News outlets and researchers had raised alarms about the BL for months, pointing to its suspicious tactics and the possibility it had created fake accounts to amplify pro-Trump messages. Snopes, in particular, linked the organisation with the Trump-leaning Epoch Media Group, though officials there at the time denied it. Facebook on Friday affirmed the connection.

 

Pages tied to the BL posted a wide array of content, experts said, including clickbait about animals and politically hostile posts about the Chinese government.

 

But English-language pages associated with the organisation "focused heavily on positive coverage" of Trump, while attacking his critics, as well as the researchers at Graphika and DFR Lab. Fake accounts ran many of the pages and initiated many of the engagements with the posts, photos and other content.

 

Some of those fake accounts relied on AI tools and technology to create pictures of people who do not exist - fake photos that, while believable, still contained quirks that helped Facebook and its researchers spot them. Others blatantly stole photos from real users, researchers said. And the fake accounts may have relied on publicly available technology to publish their posts, tweets and other content in batches, amplifying their reach.

 

Before imposing the ban Friday, Facebook had started taking action against the network's advertising: Over the summer, for example, it removed an ad that included a video of Trump decrying "fake news" and asking users to text "MAGA" to a listed number to get "FREE real news."

 

But limiting the group's advertising did little to arrest the circulation of its content on social media.

 

The "About us" page for the BL - short for "The Beauty of Life" - offered insight into how the site presented itself to Facebook users. It said the group's mission was to "present to the world the most beautiful aspects of life." And it presented itself as a bulwark of trust in a moment of suspicion about information and how it is consumed.

 

"Inaccurate and degenerate information can be easily channelled toward vulnerable or uninformed people," its since-disabled page read, "creating a vicious cycle of misinformation."

 

 

 

 

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I've grown to not like Arstechnica.  It used to be one of my favorite news sites but now, over the past few years, I've noticed they're very political and lean to the typical direction you'd expect a news org to lean.  I can hardly read their bullshit anymore and most headlines I skip right past because I can already tell they're just loaded with opinion passed on as fact.  The average intelligence of people reading Ars is actually kinda high, and that's the concerning thing.... I think it's creating a snowball effect of people that read news and think that because they've read news from an online publication that they are now better equipped to have a discussion in the world.... when really they're just parroting an opinion piece written by a fresh college grad (of which has no real life experience), or from a crusty ass editor that has tunnel vision and thinks they're a creative genius.  I digress.... kinda.

 

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/12/theyre-abysmal-students-are-cell-phones-destroying-the-college-classroom/

 

Don't forget to read the moron with a PhD's "top voted" comment at the bottom of the article.  What a self righteous indignant dip shit that thinks he's smart.  So tired of people that are like this, they go through college and think they're smart.  I think college requires a combination of working hard and being smart, but mostly working hard.  Even dumb students can pass courses and tests if they just study harder than the smarter students do.  Getting a degree doesn't automatically make you an authority on anything other than studying your way through written material and showing up for class.  This may prepare you for life, but it may also set you up for difficulty in life.

 

The thing that really rubs me wrong about the comment at the bottom of the article saying that social study related degrees can "be lucrative" is that I just don't see how..... at all.  There are only a few things you can do in this world that are truly going to make you filthy rich and lesbian dance class major is not one of them.  Period, the end.  Why would someone with a PhD suggest this "with authority"?  My only guess is that they are far stupider than they think they are, and that's an incredibly dangerous situation.  It's like having cancer and not knowing it, and just continuing to live life until it's too late.  The person that knows they're sick at least can work on getting better, but there is no hope for fucktards that think they're smart and don't realize that they're not as smart as they are giving themselves credit for.  None, no hope, not a snowball's chance in hell.

 

In reference to people not being able to take a break from their phones/online "life":

 

Quote

"I have a real fondness for my students as people. But they’re abysmal students; or rather, they aren’t really students at all, at least not in my class. On any given day, 70% of them are sitting before me shopping, texting, completing assignments, watching videos, or otherwise occupying themselves. Even the 'good' students do this. No one’s even trying to conceal the activity, the way students did before. This is just what they do."

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1 hour ago, Dirty_habiT said:

when really they're just parroting an opinion piece written by a fresh college grad

 

I've worked for and with a number o the high-profile consulting firms (KPMG, PwC, RAND, Eurasia, etc.) and you'd be shocked how even in these types of leading firms the above is true. There's usually oversight from more senior people but they're always working off the research and ground work of very recent and young grads who've not had a lot of experience in life.

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Please remove this into its own thread if you think I'm taking away from this OG thread, but I wasn't sure if worthy of its own thread. 

 

As part of my new year resolution, I've decided to remove myself from social media starting with FB. What's kept me there are Events and Messenger. I'm keen to remove both FB and Messenger this year. 

 

I'm wondering if others have done this and how you went about convincing your friends, family and network to accept this but to give them an alternative ways of contacting you? Basically I'd like to be contactable and invitable to things, and this can prove difficult when everyone you know uses FB apps.

 

I'm also wondering if anyone has done this in a group setting, where all your friends, groups or family remove themselves at the same time to use alternatives?

 

I understand that the world existed before FB etc and that people could still text message or call me, but just because I yearn for a simpler existence doesn't mean those around me are willing to do so.

 

Any tips/thoughts welcome .

 

 

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