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Reading: How Facebook’s Ad Technology Helps Trump Win – The Atlantic

From How Facebook’s Ad Technology Helps Trump Win – The Atlantic

Bogost and Madrigal in The Atlantic, from 18 April 2020. A digital rhetorician looks at how Facebook’s AI handles trump’s branding. A look at how the FB algorithm operates meets and the changes in Advertising and Marketing 101. Rhetoric mechanized.

His campaign did so via pure, blunt constancy, using Facebook in exactly the way the tech giant intended: pouring heaps of money and data into Facebook’s automated advertising system.

This is tech used as it was designed: to make pots of money by offering constant exposure.

A “Facebook ad” is less an ad and more a machine for producing ads. Instead of paying to put particular media in front of a specific audience, an advertiser now pays Facebook to deliver a selected outcome from a certain stripe of people.

Trump’s interest in FB is the same as any other advertiser on FB. He’s in the FB ad-machine. His ads feed into the algorithm that targets viewers: and once your’e in, you can’t get out.

This is a look at both how the FB ad machine works, and how trump’s campaign interacts with it. As in

People have marveled that Trump never stopped running Facebook-ad campaigns. And the reason is, he couldn’t. The whole point is that the campaign has to keep fresh data flowing through the system. Most of the time, it can optimize for the cost of acquisitions, hoovering up money and data from the Facebook users it targets. Then, at strategic moments, the team reverses the machine, spending whatever money is required to get the highest penetration and the widest reach among their people.

It’s a matter of a campaign ceding control to the FB AI. On both ends.

Users—who are also citizens—similarly have no way out. Letting Facebook do its thing has become a requirement for electoral politics, and democracy’s future is entwined with the results.

The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.

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Reading: Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over

From Fire, pestilence and a country at war with itself: the Trump presidency is over

Robert Reich, in The Guardian, on trump’s lack of action:

He tweets bogus threats that he has no power to carry out – withholding funds from states that expand absentee voting, “overruling” governors who don’t allow places of worship to reopen “right away”, and punishing Twitter for factchecking him.

And he lies incessantly.

In reality, Donald Trump doesn’t run the government of the United States. He doesn’t manage anything. He doesn’t organize anyone. He doesn’t administer or oversee or supervise. He doesn’t read memos. He hates meetings. He has no patience for briefings. His White House is in perpetual chaos.

Trump’s nonfeasance goes far beyond an absence of leadership or inattention to traditional norms and roles. In a time of national trauma, he has relinquished the core duties and responsibilities of the presidency.

He is no longer president. The sooner we stop treating him as if he were, the better.

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Reading: Let’s go through Trump’s terrible internet censorship order, line by line – The Verge

From Let’s go through Trump’s terrible internet censorship order, line by line – The Verge

Over at The Verge, Adi Robertson does a close read of trump’s executive order. Even if it is rejected by the Supreme Court, the order is unnecessary and scary. Roberson’s analysis is a lesson in First Amendment law.

It’s hard to capture just how badly this order mangles free speech and the entire legislative process. But one of its worst flaws is a common one: making rules that assume every website is Facebook. We’ve said over and over that Section 230 is not “a gift to big tech companies.” It’s a gift to the internet. Trump’s order makes that clearer than ever — because unlike even a fairly similar proposal from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), its “online platform” definition explicitly targets all websites, not just the biggest by users or revenue.

I wasn’t kidding about the birdwatching forum.

If you take this order seriously, every website with a comment section — and possibly even cloud storage services or online creative tools — is going to be covered by a convoluted set of probably unconstitutional regulations designed to stop Donald Trump from getting fact-checked on Twitter.

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Reading: Made-up murder claims, threats to kill Twitter, rants about NSA spying – anything but mention 100,000 US virus deaths, right, Mr President?

From Made-up murder claims, threats to kill Twitter, rants about NSA spying – anything but mention 100,000 US virus deaths, right, Mr President?

A visit to the monkey house.

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Reading: White House organizes harassment of Twitter employee as Trump threatens company – The Verge

From White House organizes harassment of Twitter employee as Trump threatens company – The Verge

Frightening tactic: harassment.

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Reading: Reopening Indiana University? Troubled Reflections of a Wayward Professor

From Reopening Indiana University? Troubled Reflections of a Wayward Professor

Very complete and compelling analysis of IU’s re-opening plan by Jeffrey Isaac, a professor of Political Science at the university. Brings a much-missing public policy perspective to the discussion. Brings, also, the much-needed insider knowledge of how state university system admins make and affirm decisions with limited input and administrative blinders – in this case, a report that assumes comprehensiveness by limiting its scope. A close reading that ought to be taken to all university re-opening plans.

These [pedagogical and financial questions] are the serious questions that IU strategic planning ought to be considering, through a serious deliberative process that incorporates the full range of relevant knowledge in the institution and that is transparent.

Most of the top administrators at IU are also colleagues, fellow humans who once experienced life on campus the way their employees do, and who truly care about the moral issues at stake.

I know that they face great pressure to reopen.

And I hope that they listen to their colleagues, like me, who are asking them to resist this pressure, and to do the right thing, and come up with a feasible plan to keep IU running as a viable and serious educational institution over the coming year without a premature reopening of campus, so that we can reopen at a later and a safer date in a way that is true to the university’s mission as a public institution of higher learning and safe and autonomous human flourishing.

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Reading: A US passport used to be an asset. Under Trump it has become a liability

From A US passport used to be an asset. Under Trump it has become a liability

Wanna see my evidence?

It’s not just a trip to the US that looks unappealing right now; it seems many countries aren’t exactly salivating at the prospect of hosting American visitors in the near future. The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, for example, called the border with the US a clear “vulnerability” for Canada in terms of infections; the US-Canada border has been closed since March, and will remain closed to nonessential travel until at least 21 June.

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Reading: The truth about why Cummings hasn’t gone: Johnson is too terrified to sack him

From The truth about why Cummings hasn’t gone: Johnson is too terrified to sack him

Bad Family

But if Cummings and his wife didn’t know what they’d done was wrong, why would they choose to write a lengthy article last month about their virus experience – full of personal family information – which omitted all of these dramas, all of these material facts. Or as Cummings addressed these questions of what is unredeemable in the rose garden: “I stress to people that they should not believe everything in the newspapers.” And I stress to people that by far the most inaccurate account of the period in question was in the Spectator, bylined Mary Wakefield and Dominic Cummings. As for his querulous domestic exceptionalism, you’d think they were the first parents ever to get properly ill in possession of children. Or child, in this case. God knows, it’s not much fun. But, dare millions of us say, it is kind of what you sign up for – a reality not lost on the ICU nurse couple I heard on the radio, explaining about both of them being hard hit by Covid-19, and having to isolate with their own three children without help.

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Reading: Dominic Cummings surely knew he was exploiting a rule meant for abuse victims

From Dominic Cummings surely knew he was exploiting a rule meant for abuse victims

Uh oh. Riding on the tails of the vulnerable risks exposing your ideology, Dom.

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Reading: Why are people who cite videos always wrong? From Techcrunch

From Why are people who cite videos always wrong? From Techcrunch

Observed.

It’s not an inherent law of the universe that if you have to cite a 30-minute video, it means you don’t actually have any cogent arguments. But it does seem to be a law of the Internet. Perhaps that’s for the best, though; it means when the deepfakes arrive en masse, we — or, at least, the critical thinkers among us — will be suspicious already. Let’s hope automatic skepticism of videos spreads before then.

My guess is that the citer is passing on the video because they found it persuasive (it’s usually accompanied with, “You have to watch the whole thing!”), not because it would persuade anyone else or because it illustrates some significant point to consider. It’s a litmus test for community: “I was persuaded by this! You should be too.” I would also suggest that the citer would not claim the video was “persuasive” (they wouldn’t use that term) but “the truth.” At that point, bring in McLuhan. There’s a dissertation lurking here.