Parks and Rekt

I was kinda hoping to go Trump-free for at least a while, but here we are. Within days of taking office Donald Trump's administration has ordered a bevy of federal agencies to stop disseminating information without direct approval. In response, yesterday the Twitter account of Badlands National Park started tweeting out facts about climate change.

Donald Trump famously believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Most of the rest of the world in contrast know that climate change is perhaps the biggest crisis facing humanity today.

The tweets didn't last long before being deleted. According to a Buzzfeed reporter the tweets were made by a former employee. Kudos to the former employee. For their sake I hope they were former before the tweets and not after.

There are a few lessons I think we can take away from this on a practical level.

  1. Change your passwords whenever someone who has access to your social media (or CMS or whatever) leaves. It's a pain in the ass but otherwise you're just depending on their good nature to not fuck you over.
  2. Treat your social media people with some respect. Chances are they're young, passionate, underpaid, and wield a disproportionate amount of power. In a world that loves a good social media fueled controversy, and where Twitter and Facebook are the face of your organization, they wield the power to wreck you.

EDIT: a few alternate unoffical National Park Services Twitter accounts have sprung up in the wake of this - @BadHombreNPS and @AltNatParkSer, which has 379k+ followers!

via CBS News

The Internet Archive allows you to overdose on Trump

The Internet Archive has launched a huge archive of everything that Donald Trump has said on video. At least in news interviews, rallies, etc. since 2009. You may have noticed he has a habit of denying things said before. As of this writing it's just shy of 800 videos and what I can only assume is hundreds of hours of bloviating.

I find this really interesting as, in a bit of synchronicity, I've been reading The Daily Show (The Book), which is an oral history of the show. This cataloguing of what politicians say is something that, surprisingly, The Daily Show pioneered back in the day. Or at least they were the ones to actually make use of contrasting footage.

A fair bit of time in the book is dedicated to the logistics necessary to be able to juxtapose clips of politicians contradicting themselves. What they had to do with a team of interns and researchers and more DVRs than anyone should own, we can now do with just an internet connection.

via Nieman Lab

Facebook, fake news, internet bubbles, and the sins of web 2.0

Our new post-apocalyptic 2016 hellscape has seen a lot of ink spilled over the spread of fake news on social media. I'm not sure I have much of substance to add to the conversation, but I think it's worthwhile to point out some good writing on the topic.

Ars Technica has, perhaps, the most comprehensive take on the issue and the background.

Facebook wants to have it both ways, both ethically and legally. The company wants to be seen as a source of news. The company offers media outlets a chance to use Facebook Instant, because having native content from the New York Times enhances Facebook’s credibility. And yet it also wants to retreat into the safe harbor of being a mere intermediary that does not distinguish between Uncle Tommy’s rants and a Washington Post investigation. That’s why Zuckerberg has responded to criticisms of fake news by saying Facebook’s job is not to determine what’s true.

The Wall Street Journal has a great infographic showing how issues look on Facebook on either side of the political divide. That's not an issue of fake news so much as spun news but it's related none the less.

Melissa Zimdars, a professor at Merrimack College, has created a Google Doc listing "news" sites that distribute false or misleading information.

The Washington Post has an interview with someone who created a lot of the fake news over the past few months. It's interesting if depressing. Side note: satire needs to be recognizable as such. You're not speaking truth to power if people don't recognize it as such.

Buzzfeed showed that fake news outperformed real news on Facebook. Propaganda has never been easier it looks like.

At some point we're going to need to have a discussion about just what a media company is in the digital age because like it or not it's looking more and more like Facebook.

Over on Medium, Geoff Lewis has an interesting take on reality TV, the social media bubble and where we are today.

Finally, I'll toss out one random thought of my own; the rise of fake news is a consequence of the democratization of media that we heralded with web 2.0. The fact that anyone can become a media outlet means that anyone can become a media outlet. By tearing down the barriers to publishing we also tore down the protections (and some would argue corruption) those barriers provided. That's not inherently good or bad. It just is.

We need to be better consumers of media. New media companies (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, etc.) seem to be terrified of appearing anything but neutral. Even when that means that they have to decidedly favour one side to maintain that appearance. We can't and shouldn't depend on them.