[News] The Internet Was a Mistake

A thread for updates on the various ways the internet is destroying everything and the undying hellsites of social media. Let's all laugh at the abyss.

On Facebook, fears of parasites push people to post pictures of feces and pursue dangerous remedies

Fears of parasites have led thousands of people to post pictures of their own feces in a private Facebook group and then pursue a range of remedies proposed by other group members that medical experts consider unsubstantiated by scientific research and potentially dangerous.

The posts are another example of the wide variety of health misinformation that can be found on Facebook, and add to the pressure on the social media giant to rein in such misinformation, if not ban it outright.

The posts in these groups follow a clear pattern: A member writes about a perceived health condition or symptoms along with any regimen they’re undergoing. Then, in the first comment, the member usually follows up with a photo of what they claim is their poop.

These people are all convinced that their bodies are littered with parasites.

“What is this? It feels like a slug. It is at least 2 inches long and it is the only thing that came out. Pic in comments,” reads a recent post in the Humaworm Parasite Removal & Natural Health Group, which has 33,000 Facebook members.

Humaworm is just one of many Facebook groups in which people come together to share and diagnose what they claim are parasitic infections. The groups also share a variety of treatments that are not backed up by science.

One private group with 1,300 members, called “Parasites cause all Disease,” promotes drinking turpentine to cure ailments.

Parasites, which are organisms that live on or in a host that also serves as its food source, are a legitimate health concern and can cause diseases such as malaria, toxoplasmosis and Chagas disease. But the claims made by Humaworm and other parasite groups — that 90 percent of Americans are hosts to parasites that are making them seriously ill — are drastically overstated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And while these groups have been under pressure from authorities, including a recent raid by federal agents on the business behind the Humaworm group, they have so far been successful in sidestepping Facebook’s broader crackdown on health misinformation in part by adapting to new rules, including the use of coded phrasing such as “fairy tales” in an attempt to portray their activities as works of fiction.

The group’s members, however, clearly take the topic seriously. Many of the posts come from parents looking for ways to treat what they believe are parasites in their children.

“What is a safe way to start a 5 year old on a parasite treatment/cleanse?” one mother posted this week.

So the Internet Didn't Turn Out the Way We Hoped. Now what?

A collection of articles about the future of ye olde internet.

Majority of anti-vaxx ads on Facebook are funded by just two organizations

The majority of Facebook ads spreading misinformation about vaccines are funded by two organizations run by well-known anti-vaccination activists, a new study in the journal Vaccine has found.

The World Mercury Project chaired by Robert F Kennedy Jr, and Stop Mandatory Vaccinations, a project of campaigner Larry Cook, bought 54% of the anti-vaccine ads shown on the platform during the study period.

“Absolutely we were surprised,” said David Broniatowski, a professor of engineering at George Washington University, one of the authors of the report. “These two individuals were generating the majority of the content.”

Cook uses crowd-funding platforms to raise money for Facebook ads and his personal expenses. The crowd-funding platform GoFundMe banned Cook’s fundraisers in March 2019. YouTube has demonetized Cook’s videos.

Kennedy is the son of the former US attorney general Bobby Kennedy. He also has a nonprofit focused on environmental causes. Kennedy’s brother, sister and niece publicly criticized his “dangerous misinformation” about vaccines in May. They called his work against vaccination, “tragically wrong”.

In fact, vaccines are one of the safest and more effective medical interventions ever developed.

The Vaccine journal study is the first to analyze anti-vaccine ads in Facebook’s advertising archive. The archive is an ad disclosure database Facebook created after the platform was criticized for spreading untraceable misinformation during the Brexit referendum and 2016 US presidential campaign.

Facebook has more than two billion users and roughly 68% of Americans get their news from the platform, the study said. In 2019, the World Health Organization named vaccine hesitancy as one of the world’s top 10 global health threats.

I thought this was fitting and worth bringing across.

(Credit to Prederick. I simply shared.)

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The Dark Psychology of Social Networks - Why it feels like everything is going haywire

Suppose that the biblical story of Creation were true: God created the universe in six days, including all the laws of physics and all the physical constants that apply throughout the universe. Now imagine that one day, in the early 21st century, God became bored and, just for fun, doubled the gravitational constant. What would it be like to live through such a change? We’d all be pulled toward the floor; many buildings would collapse; birds would fall from the sky; the Earth would move closer to the sun, reestablishing orbit in a far hotter zone.

Let’s rerun this thought experiment in the social and political world, rather than the physical one. The U.S. Constitution was an exercise in intelligent design. The Founding Fathers knew that most previous democracies had been unstable and short-lived. But they were excellent psychologists, and they strove to create institutions and procedures that would work with human nature to resist the forces that had torn apart so many other attempts at self-governance.

For example, in “Federalist No. 10,” James Madison wrote about his fear of the power of “faction,” by which he meant strong partisanship or group interest that “inflamed [men] with mutual animosity” and made them forget about the common good. He thought that the vastness of the United States might offer some protection from the ravages of factionalism, because it would be hard for anyone to spread outrage over such a large distance. Madison presumed that factious or divisive leaders “may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States.” The Constitution included mechanisms to slow things down, let passions cool, and encourage reflection and deliberation.

Madison’s design has proved durable. But what would happen to American democracy if, one day in the early 21st century, a technology appeared that—over the course of a decade—changed several fundamental parameters of social and political life? What if this technology greatly increased the amount of “mutual animosity” and the speed at which outrage spread? Might we witness the political equivalent of buildings collapsing, birds falling from the sky, and the Earth moving closer to the sun?

America may be going through such a time right now.

If the internet were the Earth of biblical times, Facebook would be our Tower of Babel. So until God smashes it down, I'm an atheist.

The most recent Behind the Bastards has the creator of 8chan on as a guest who is now an activist trying to keep 8chan down, and it is FASCINATING.

Since there's a particular current of thought that is behind a lot of the internet hate, a recent academic paper on How Deep Does the Rabbit Hole Go? The “Wonderland” of r/TheRedPill and Its Ties to White Supremacy.

And since this series of threads arose out of the context of responding to that time in 2014, I'll also stick a link to Deadspin's (rest in peace) article about Gamergame. And the NYT's recent retrospective. Though of course it by necessity of length leaves out a lot of details. Like how those damning chat logs were relessed by the Gamergaters themselves, under the delusion that they sounded reasonable.

I didn't follow Charlie Kirk, so looked at his last several tweets. What a PoS. He's just another propaganda mouthpiece for the right, yet he pretends to promote a platform of inclusivity for the GOP and shuts down white supremacists. It's a fine line to walk and appears to be backfiring.

Is Ben Shapiro next?

JeffreyLSmith wrote:

Is Ben Shapiro next?

I can but hope/dread.

Kirk is getting the brunt of it because he kicked out one of the more popular Nazi talking heads from a conservative event earlier this year, but Shapiro has been in their sites for awhile now as well... as is a number of other conservative media figures that they feel aren’t vocal enough about the power of the perfect aryan skull shape.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

I have always been so impressed with him out of character which is funny because I've been super meh on his characters. His Fresh Aire interview from years ago made me realize he was a force.

Bravo, Sacha Baron Cohen.

The writer makes some valid points but the second half of the argument loses me. Social media platforms absolutely need to be treated as publishers/broadcasters, IMO.

Meh, it's pretty disingenuous to write off what SBC gets people to do as people just trying to be friendly and accommodating, so they lost me on all points. Section 230 is good in most cases, but there needs to be a mechanism for rescinding its protection for large entities like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter when they deliberately let hate speech flourish. To avoid putting an undue burden on small entities they could have it only apply to providers with a large number of users; like how some rules for employers kick in based on how many employees a company has.

"People are just being polite!" has been around since 2006, and the last three years have been a pretty thorough evisceration of that idea.

Video Games and Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual Predators

When Kate’s 13-year-old son took up Minecraft and Fortnite, she did not worry.

The video games were hardly Grand Theft Auto — banned in their home because it was too violent — and he played in a room where she could keep an eye on him.

But about six weeks later, Kate saw something appalling pop up on the screen: a video of bestiality involving a young boy. Horrified, she scrolled through her son’s account on Discord, a platform where gamers can chat while playing. The conversations were filled with graphic language and imagery of sexual acts posted by others, she said.

Her son broke into tears when she questioned him last month.

“I think it’s a huge weight off them for somebody to step in and say, ‘Actually this is child abuse, and you’re being abused and you’re a victim here,’” said Kate, who asked not to be identified by her full name to protect her family’s privacy.

Sexual predators and other bad actors have found an easy access point into the lives of young people: They are meeting them online through multiplayer video games and chat apps, making virtual connections right in their victims’ homes.

The criminals strike up a conversation and gradually build trust. Often they pose as children, confiding in their victims with false stories of hardship or self-loathing. Their goal, typically, is to dupe children into sharing sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves — which they use as blackmail for more imagery, much of it increasingly graphic and violent.

Reports of abuse are emerging with unprecedented frequency around the country, with some perpetrators grooming hundreds and even thousands of victims, according to a review of prosecutions, court records, law enforcement reports and academic studies. Games are a common target, but predators are also finding many victims on social platforms like Instagram and Kik Messenger.

There's a picture from later in this article of the attendance at a seminar on preventing kids from being sextorted online and it is very funny, in a "Christ we're f*cked" kind of way.

A Mother’s Nightmare, Preserved Online

UTICA, New York ― Kim Devins was at Price Chopper buying milk when her iPhone dinged with a message. Someone was trying to AirDrop her photos of her teenage daughter’s dead body.

Kim’s friend snatched the phone out of her hand and hit decline before Kim saw the screen. The action was, by this point, automatic. It had been two days since Bianca Devins, 17, was found dead, and gory images of her body were going viral. As Kim staggered around grief-drunk, making funeral plans for her first-born child, online trolls taunted her with the photos. Her friends had taken to obsessively monitoring her messages and social media accounts, forming a human firewall to protect Kim from a sight she could not unsee.

Kim, 36, told me this from her living room in Utica, a former mill town in upstate New York, on a cold evening in late November. With wide-set eyes, fair skin and long caramel colored hair, she appeared closer to her daughter’s age than her own. She was 17 when she gave birth to Bianca, and the mother and daughter had, in many respects, grown up together. Kim was so used to Bianca’s presence that her abrupt absence was disorienting. Lately, she was forgetful and easily distracted. “I didn’t notice it until after Bianca passed, but I was looking at pictures and in every single picture, Bianca was sitting next to me,” she said, glancing at the couch cushion beside her. “She always sat close enough that we touched.”

Five months ago, Bianca, 17, misted herself with a rose-scented Bath & Body Works perfume and told her mother she loved her before heading off to see a concert in New York City with her friend, Brandon Clark, 21. It was July 13. She never made it home.

Clues about what happened can be gleaned from Clark’s social media accounts early the following morning. On Instagram, he directed, produced and co-starred in what appeared to be a tale of a heinous crime. In one photo, a dark road is seen, with the text, “Here comes Hell. It’s redemption, right?” In another, viewers can spot a knife. In the most graphic of the set, Bianca’s body is visible, her neck sliced open and blood covering her arms and chest. “I’m sorry Bianca,” the text reads. His final post was a selfie of his own slashed neck, as he lay on a tarp covering Bianca’s body.

Clark survived a suicide attempt and was charged with second-degree murder. He entered a not guilty plea, and his trial is scheduled to begin in February. His lawyer did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

In the hours following Bianca’s death, the horrifying images posted by Clark quickly circulated on Instagram, where they were shared and reshared and modified and shared some more. And as they spread, so did public outrage toward the social media company for its inability to do anything to stop it.

For years, tech companies have struggled with the intractable problem of how to moderate offensive and harmful content, such as terrorist recruitment videos and images of child sexual abuse. While it’s not a new phenomenon for murderers seeking fame to post images online (see this 2012 story), the growth of social media platforms and livestreams has made such content far easier to share and more likely to spread rapid-fire. Back in March, Facebook came under scrutiny after a gunman used its platform to livestream an attack on two New Zealand mosques in which he killed 49 people. While Facebook removed the video 12 minutes after it ended, the delay allowed the video to be downloaded and shared widely.

Under federal law, internet companies such as Instagram and Facebook are broadly protected from liability for what their users post. While they have general rules about what users can share, they face few consequences when those guidelines are broken. But for the families whose pain is exploited in these tragedies, the hurt lingers on and on.

The anonymity (or conversely the celebrity) of the internet in tandem with its immediacy unsettles me more with each passing week. I'm lost for words.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nyt...

Hackers sent videos and images of flashing strobe lights to thousands of Twitter followers of the Epilepsy Foundation last month in a mass cyberattack that apparently sought to trigger seizures in those with epilepsy, the foundation said on Monday.

Alienated, Alone And Angry: What The Digital Revolution Really Did To Us

In April 1997, Wired magazine published a feature with the grand and regrettable title “Birth of a Digital Nation.” It was a good time to make sweeping, sunny pronouncements about the future of the United States and technology. The US stood alone astride the globe. Its stock market was booming. Microsoft was about to become the world’s most valuable company, a first for a tech firm. A computer built by IBM was about to beat the world chess champion at his own game.

And yet, the journalist Jon Katz argued, the country was on the verge of something even greater than prosperity and progress — something that would change the course of world history. Led by the Digital Nation, “a new social class” of “young, educated, affluent” urbanites whose “business, social and cultural lives increasingly revolve around” the internet, a revolution was at hand, which would produce unprecedented levels of civic engagement and freedom.

The tools of this revolution were facts, with which the Digital Nation was obsessed, and with which they would destroy — or at least neuter — partisan politics, which were boring and suspicious.

“I saw … the formation of a new postpolitical philosophy,” Katz wrote. “This nascent ideology, fuzzy and difficult to define, suggests a blend of some of the best values rescued from the tired old dogmas — the humanism of liberalism, the economic opportunity of conservatism, plus a strong sense of personal responsibility and a passion for freedom.”

Comparing the coming changes to the Enlightenment, Katz lauded an “interactivity” that “could bring a new kind of community, new ways of holding political conversations” — “a media and political culture in which people could amass factual material, voice their perspectives, confront other points of view, and discuss issues in a rational way.” Such a sensible, iterative American public life contained, Katz wrote, “the … tantalizing … possibility that technology could fuse with politics to create a more civil society.”

Such arguments, that a rational tech vanguard would spark an emancipatory cycle of national participation, were common at the time. (Though they were not unchallenged.) Katz’s is notable for its relative restraint. “The Long Boom,” an infamous piece published in Wired just three months later, predicted the spread of digital networks “to every corner of the planet” leading to “the great cross-fertilization of ideas, the ongoing, never-ending planetary conversation” that would culminate, by 2020, in “a civilization of civilizations” that would set foot on Mars in species-wide harmony. (Instead, we got Baby Yoda.)

This evangelism had a profound influence on the next 20 years of laissez-faire policy toward and positive public opinion about the digitization of American life. A deeply felt, mostly unexamined, sense that tech would lead to a freer and more convenient existence was the midwife of our digital present. It allowed the creator of a website to rate the attractiveness of Harvard’s women students to build an advertising platform with $55 billion in annual revenue. It allowed an online shop created to sell books to build a $25.7 billion cloud computing network. It allowed a company that started as a way for rich people to summon private drivers to turn itself into $47 billion, well, whatever the hell Uber is.

Though challenged at the edges, this sense lingered. As late as 2012, even as the vast platforms that now control the internet had assumed their current shapes, the bestselling author Steven Johnson argued the glass was half full in his book Future Perfect — that “peer progressives,” enlightened digital natives, would end entrenched social and political problems through crowdsourcing.

Looking back from the shaky edge of a new decade, it’s clear that the past 10 years saw many Americans snap out of this dream, shaken awake by a brutal series of shocks and dislocations from the very changes that were supposed to "create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace.” When they opened their eyes, they did indeed see that the Digital Nation had been born. Only it hadn’t set them free. They were being ruled by it. It hadn’t tamed politics. It sent them berserk.

And it hadn’t brought people closer together.

It had alienated them.

I do wonder how much the rise of fast internet and powerful cell phones coinciding with the Great Recession influenced how the internet turned out. If these technologies had come along during a more hopeful time and the brick-and-mortar world was being disrupted during such a time, I wonder how different it would all be. Technologies that are so good at getting us to retreat from the public world came along right when the economy forced everyone to reconsider leaving the house and believing in their local physical landscape. That had to have an effect.

Funny enough, I was thinking about this today after watching Rise of Skywalker. I don't know what Trent Reznor was referring to when he named his classic album Pretty Hate Machine. But if he was referring to the computer and specifically the Internet, he was incredibly prophetic.

Vanity, judgment and confirmation bias are the (modern) pillars of the internet.

Oh and twitter (not Facebook) is our modern tower of babel.

Social Media would not be so bad if those companies did not ONLY care about the almighty dollar. (OR at least conservative dollars)

Scary stuff

Prederick wrote:

Alienated, Alone And Angry: What The Digital Revolution Really Did To Us

Although I agree with some of the content of the article, a lot of the information is presented in a rather sensationalist way and focusing on the negative to prove their point. It leads with a victimized statement and carries that on throughout. The central actors in all of the scenarios are bad people behaving bad, the internet being the tool with which they do so. Without it they'd be using something else.

Like any tool, the internets can be utilized for cruelty and isolation or love and connection. What digitalia has given us is the ability to be connected and allow discourse on a wider social stage, to see more, and to share experiences. People who abuse systems are being exposed, and that's having a negative impact on some aspects of society because it's making people less oblivious to what is going on in the rest of the world. It hasn't set politics back; it pulled back the curtain and we started to see how f*cked up it all was. Ignorance, bliss, etc.

This week I was able to screen time with families afar, surrounded by loved ones, and it was rad as hell. I have found dear friends, fell in love, moved to another country, as well as halfway across the country, because of the family I found in the internet. That's one insignificantly small positive story of one little life and there are many millions more like it. You don't see them in articles for clicks, though.

The Secretive Company That Might End Privacy as We Know It

Until recently, Hoan Ton-That’s greatest hits included an obscure iPhone game and an app that let people put Donald Trump’s distinctive yellow hair on their own photos.

Then Mr. Ton-That — an Australian techie and onetime model — did something momentous: He invented a tool that could end your ability to walk down the street anonymously, and provided it to hundreds of law enforcement agencies, ranging from local cops in Florida to the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security.

His tiny company, Clearview AI, devised a groundbreaking facial recognition app. You take a picture of a person, upload it and get to see public photos of that person, along with links to where those photos appeared. The system — whose backbone is a database of more than three billion images that Clearview claims to have scraped from Facebook, YouTube, Venmo and millions of other websites — goes far beyond anything ever constructed by the United States government or Silicon Valley giants.

Federal and state law enforcement officers said that while they had only limited knowledge of how Clearview works and who is behind it, they had used its app to help solve shoplifting, identity theft, credit card fraud, murder and child sexual exploitation cases.

Until now, technology that readily identifies everyone based on his or her face has been taboo because of its radical erosion of privacy. Tech companies capable of releasing such a tool have refrained from doing so; in 2011, Google’s chairman at the time said it was the one technology the company had held back because it could be used “in a very bad way.” Some large cities, including San Francisco, have barred police from using facial recognition technology.

But without public scrutiny, more than 600 law enforcement agencies have started using Clearview in the past year, according to the company, which declined to provide a list. The computer code underlying its app, analyzed by The New York Times, includes programming language to pair it with augmented-reality glasses; users would potentially be able to identify every person they saw. The tool could identify activists at a protest or an attractive stranger on the subway, revealing not just their names but where they lived, what they did and whom they knew.

And it’s not just law enforcement: Clearview has also licensed the app to at least a handful of companies for security purposes.

“The weaponization possibilities of this are endless,” said Eric Goldman, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University. “Imagine a rogue law enforcement officer who wants to stalk potential romantic partners, or a foreign government using this to dig up secrets about people to blackmail them or throw them in jail.”

Clearview has shrouded itself in secrecy, avoiding debate about its boundary-pushing technology. When I began looking into the company in November, its website was a bare page showing a nonexistent Manhattan address as its place of business. The company’s one employee listed on LinkedIn, a sales manager named “John Good,” turned out to be Mr. Ton-That, using a fake name. For a month, people affiliated with the company would not return my emails or phone calls.

While the company was dodging me, it was also monitoring me. At my request, a number of police officers had run my photo through the Clearview app. They soon received phone calls from company representatives asking if they were talking to the media — a sign that Clearview has the ability and, in this case, the appetite to monitor whom law enforcement is searching for.

Facial recognition technology has always been controversial. It makes people nervous about Big Brother. It has a tendency to deliver false matches for certain groups, like people of color. And some facial recognition products used by the police — including Clearview’s — haven’t been vetted by independent experts.

Clearview’s app carries extra risks because law enforcement agencies are uploading sensitive photos to the servers of a company whose ability to protect its data is untested.

The company eventually started answering my questions, saying that its earlier silence was typical of an early-stage start-up in stealth mode. Mr. Ton-That acknowledged designing a prototype for use with augmented-reality glasses but said the company had no plans to release it. And he said my photo had rung alarm bells because the app “flags possible anomalous search behavior” in order to prevent users from conducting what it deemed “inappropriate searches.”

In addition to Mr. Ton-That, Clearview was founded by Richard Schwartz — who was an aide to Rudolph W. Giuliani when he was mayor of New York — and backed financially by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist behind Facebook and Palantir.

Another early investor is a small firm called Kirenaga Partners. Its founder, David Scalzo, dismissed concerns about Clearview making the internet searchable by face, saying it’s a valuable crime-solving tool.

“I’ve come to the conclusion that because information constantly increases, there’s never going to be privacy,” Mr. Scalzo said. “Laws have to determine what’s legal, but you can’t ban technology. Sure, that might lead to a dystopian future or something, but you can’t ban it.”

karmajay wrote:

Social Media would not be so bad if those companies did not ONLY care about the almighty dollar. (OR at least conservative dollars)

I mean, that's kind of the end game of capitalism. The MySpace founder didn't care so much about money. So now MySpace is a phantom and he's living his best life. There were plenty of social networks and websites that weren't micro-focused on squeezing out every last cent from their business model. Increasingly, they're not in business any more.

What we still haven’t learned from Gamergate

We, as a community, are a lot closer to this, and it doesn't necessarily apply to quite such an extent, but that's a fascinating article.

Yep, we now live in the second-scummiest cyberpunk future.

backed financially by Peter Thiel

Correction: the scummiest.