[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.

FWIW, there was a follow-up study to the one I listed above, published in 2019, and it was equally gloomy.

On one task, students evaluated a grainy video claiming to show ballot stuffing in the 2016 Democratic primaries (the video was actually shot in Russia). Fifty-two percent believed it constituted “strong evidence” of voter fraud in the U.S. Among more than 3,000 responses, only three students tracked down the source of the video, even though a quick search turns up a variety of articles exposing the ruse.

Asked to evaluate Slate’s home page, where some tiles are news stories and other ads (set off by the words “Sponsored Content”), two-thirds of students couldn’t tell the difference.

Students displayed a troubling tendency to accept websites at face value. Ninety-six percent failed to consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen that website’s credibility. Instead of investigating who was behind the site, students focused on superficial markers of credibility: the site’s aesthetics, its top-level domain, or how it portrayed itself on the About page.

Nearly all students floundered. Ninety percent received no credit on four of six tasks.

And when I was teaching at the community college, I learned that many of my students didn’t know how many states there are in the US. I’m more concerned about lack of very basic knowledge than thinking skills. (Both are very important, but when students get a bonus question wrong on a test....There are —— states in the United States of America....and some ARGUE with me about the answer, I don’t have much hope.)

They argue? How do they insist that you're wrong about there being fifty states, and that they're right?

That CALCULUS student told me that they were taught there were more states in high school.
I hope she wasn’t accurate, but I’ve also heard dreadful things about some teachers...and seen some really bad stuff too.

In the beginning algebra courses, about half the students would get the states question wrong. The higher level students typically had a higher percentage correct, but don’t underestimate the ignorance of people.
Internet was around at this time, but it wasn’t as prevalent and students didn’t all carry cell phones yet.

Maybe they had a teacher who talked about the non-state territories the US occupies and weren’t paying close attention?

The Information Apocalypse Is Already Here, And Reality Is Losing

Two years ago, a video of former president Barack Obama calling President Donald Trump a “total and complete dipsh*t” was uploaded to YouTube.

As the shock of his comments sunk in, the video revealed the speaker was in fact Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele. The Obama deepfake, a sort of Manhattan Project for fake news, was intended to demonstrate just how easy it is to disseminate convincing disinformation by manipulating video and audio — and how much easier it would become as technology advances.

“It may sound basic," said Peele-as-Obama in the video, "but how we move forward in the age of information is going to be the difference between whether we survive or whether we become some kind of f*cked-up dystopia.”

The video, which was produced in partnership with BuzzFeed as a public service announcement, distilled a growing number of dire predictions and warnings that technological advances would soon fracture our shared sense of reality beyond repair. Writing in the Atlantic, journalist Franklin Foer said manipulated video would someday “destroy faith in our strongest remaining tether to the idea of common reality.”

He wrote: “We’ll shortly live in a world where our eyes routinely deceive us. Put differently, we’re not so far from the collapse of reality.”

We’re now living in a version of that dystopian future, where people are struggling to distinguish fact from fiction and are resistant to information from credible sources. But it’s not the result of new technology or sophisticated synthetic media. As it turns out, the tools needed to unmoor people from our shared reality already exist and are less technological than societal: a global pandemic that unleashes fear, uncertainty, and an economic catastrophe among a deeply polarized public; motivated and well-organized fringe and conspiracy groups eager to seize the moment to reach the mainstream; and seemingly authoritative sources and institutions that stoke that disagreement and fail to communicate effectively with the public.

In the end, the information apocalypse arrived a couple of weeks ago, ushered in not by some new reality-bending technology but by a disgraced scientist in a slick 26-minute video.

TikTok Teens Are Obsessed With Pizzagate


While YouTube has tried to root out the conspiracy theory about a Democratic child sex dungeon in a Washington pizzeria by attaching a warning to those searching for the topic on its site, there’s a surprising place where Pizzagate is booming. Nearly four years after it began, the conspiracy theory is popping up all over the place on the short-form video app and Gen Z hangout spot TikTok.

Pizzagate has become massive on TikTok, reaching plenty of young people right as the reality around them—thanks to the pandemic, police violence and related unrest, and a new Netflix documentary highlighting Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes—seems more and more unhinged. The #Pizzagate hashtag has earned more than 69 million views on the platform, while related hashtags have earned several millions more.

I thought about putting this in the men's feminism thread, but since it hasn't been used in almost four months this'll work too:

CNN: Fedmyster removed from OnlineTV after allegations of sexual harrassment and unwanted touching

The news of his removal from the house he shares with several other gamers emerged a week after more than 100 people, most of them women, came forward with allegations that fellow gamers in the industry had sexually harassed, abused, or discriminated against them. The industry has gained notoriety in recent years for rampant online harassment and misogyny.

"Recent years"? Like the past 25, when people started gaming together on the Internet? I mean, even Starcraft is 22 years old now.

The Conspiracy Singularity Has Arrived

A few months ago, at a time when it was still safe to have strange experiences in unusual places, I was handed a mysterious document. “ALLIANCES AND TRAITORS WITHIN THE TRUTH & UFO COMMUNITIES,” it read.

The document was a single, bright red sheet of paper, crowded with close-set black type. Different kinds of lines and arrows connected in wild formulations, linking George Soros with the Illuminati, various stars of the UFO community with their alleged handlers, the CIA with Alex Jones. The Pleidians—a race of tall, blue-eyed Nordic alien beings—connected with both Tesla and the president in ways I couldn’t quite parse.

This paper was created and handed to me by Dylan Louis Monroe, a player in the QAnon world and the creator of the Deep State Mapping Project, a one-man operation where Monroe creates dense visual maps of the supposed alliances he sees between various major players and world events. Monroe was at the New Age expo Conscious Life selling Q-branded t-shirts and promoting a YouTube show, I was there reporting, and both of us were thinking about the strange alliances and friendships that had begun to surface in various conspiracy communities.

“BE CAREFUL WHO YOU FOLLOW,” the document warned, in bold, at the bottom, just above a large black Q.

In the months that followed our chance meeting, the world buckled under the weight of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the alliances got stranger still. Conspiracy communities that have previously only brushed past each other like schools of fish borne along on different currents are suddenly, abruptly, swimming in the same direction.

Take Larry Cook, whose evolving belief system has been playing out in a remarkable way on Facebook. Cook is the man behind the largest anti-vaccine group on the platform, Stop Mandatory Vaccination, which, along with his personal Facebook page, serves as a central clearinghouse for anti-vaccine misinformation.

QAnon Has Gone Global

Shortly after Jarmo Ekman starts livestreaming his get-together, an older woman walks into view wearing something you wouldn't expect to see at a small Finnish hotel: a MAGA hat. She blows a kiss to the camera and shows off her hat like a model.

“What a beautiful hat,” Ekman says. “As you see there are a lot of Trump fans here, of course, as it is a Q meeting.”

It’s July 11 and around 50 people are meeting at a hotel in Dragsfjärd, a small community two hours west of Helsinki, for a weekend QAnon festival. While walking through the crowd, Ekman stops to speak to a man wearing a nametag made of duct tape with Bono written on it.

“This is the first Q weekend festival ever in this world,” says Bono. On his shirt are the words “QAnon Army Finland.”

“Armies” like this can be found in Germany, France, and the U.K., as well as in Canada, Japan, and Iran. All of them support QAnon, a vast conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is waging a war against the “Deep State” made up of elite families, politicians, and celebrities, which also just happens to connected a massive child sex trafficking ring and is currently using COVID-19 to entrench its power.

It’s a conspiracy that’s been able to reach new heights during the pandemic as people around the world desperately search for community and any way to make sense of the chaos. The QAnon community is welcoming to anyone as long as they believe in at least one of the many tendrils that branch out from the theory’s heart—that the world is extremely screwed because of bogeymen behind the scenes, and only those smart enough to see through the veil can fight them. While the actual details of the conspiracy are hyper-focused on the U.S., the broad strokes can be applied to almost anywhere, which helps to explain the rapid growth of QAnon across borders.

Marc-André Argentino, a PhD candidate at Concordia University who studies QAnon and similar far-right movements, recently did a data sweep of QAnon groups on social media. Based on his most recent analysis (which was taken before the Twitter crackdown last week), QAnon has had a 71 percent increase in Twitter content and a 651 percent increase on Facebook since March.

Maybe minor cases of COVID-19 cause schizophrenia?

I'm really not belittling anyone with mental illness. All the stuff I'm reading here seems very similar to the actions of a schizophrenic person. Paranoia, firm belief in conspiracy by government or other authority, extreme reaction to criticism, disorganized writing that doesn't make logical sense, hostility towards harmless people or things, disorganized speaking... The only other feature of schizophrenia I haven't really heard about with hardcore Q's is hallucination.

I'm also not trying to diagnose anyone. I'm not a doctor. I have known schizophrenic people, though, and it's a very frustrating illness.

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the "content" creators in QAnon are schizophrenic. But I think most of the followers are just powerless people grasping for an explanation of a world in chaos, and bitter that they have not reaped the promises of their privilege, while liberals and minorities, supported by the Deep State, keep taking what is rightfully theirs.

Not sure who said it on Twitter but they explained QAnon as the result of the dissonance between believing Trump would help you and him not. The fact that everything is worse than when you voted for him, must mean he is doing something more important.

Narrator: He wasn’t.

JLS wrote:

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the "content" creators in QAnon are schizophrenic. But I think most of the followers are just powerless people grasping for an explanation of a world in chaos

I'd stick with this, broadly. Not only does QAnon provide simple solutions to a seemingly out-of-control world, but it also allows its adherents to feel as is they are the "special ones" who are clued into the True Knowledge while everyone else is ignorant. And that sh*t is so powerful, it's why like 75% of all clickbait ads all say "X trick that THEY don't want you to know!"

Pretty certain I’ve mentioned them in another thread recently, but I’m going to shoutout the QAnon Anonymous podcast. The hosts can be a little edgelordy at times but they’ve done a great job of digging into QAnon and untangling all the weird branches and media personalities involved.
The unfortunately named Mike Rothschild is also a great source for QAnon and general conspiracy investigation. (Apparently getting accused of things because of his name is what got him interested in conspiracies in the first place.)

Prederick wrote:
JLS wrote:

I wouldn't be surprised if some of the "content" creators in QAnon are schizophrenic. But I think most of the followers are just powerless people grasping for an explanation of a world in chaos

I'd stick with this, broadly. Not only does QAnon provide simple solutions to a seemingly out-of-control world, but it also allows its adherents to feel as is they are the "special ones" who are clued into the True Knowledge while everyone else is ignorant. And that sh*t is so powerful, it's why like 75% of all clickbait ads all say "X trick that THEY don't want you to know!"

So it's like every other "religion."


In The Future of Violence, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum discuss a disturbing hypothetical scenario. A lone actor in Nigeria, “home to a great deal of spamming and online fraud activity,” tricks women and teenage girls into downloading malware that enables him to monitor and record their activity, for the purposes of blackmail. The real story involved a California man who the FBI eventually caught and sent to prison for six years, but if he had been elsewhere in the world he might have gotten away with it. Many countries, as Wittes and Blum note, “have neither the will nor the means to monitor cybercrime, prosecute offenders, or extradite suspects to the United States.”

Technology is, in other words, enabling criminals to target anyone anywhere and, due to democratization, increasingly at scale. Emerging bio-, nano-, and cyber-technologies are becoming more and more accessible. The political scientist Daniel Deudney has a word for what can result: “omniviolence.” The ratio of killers to killed, or “K/K ratio,” is falling. For example, computer scientist Stuart Russell has vividly described how a small group of malicious agents might engage in omniviolence: “A very, very small quadcopter, one inch in diameter can carry a one-or two-gram shaped charge,” he says. “You can order them from a drone manufacturer in China. You can program the code to say: ‘Here are thousands of photographs of the kinds of things I want to target.’ A one-gram shaped charge can punch a hole in nine millimeters of steel, so presumably you can also punch a hole in someone’s head. You can drive up I-95 with three trucks and have 10 million weapons attacking New York City. They don’t have to be very effective, only 5 or 10% of them have to find the target.” Manufacturers will be producing millions of these drones, available for purchase just as with guns now, Russell points out, “except millions of guns don’t matter unless you have a million soldiers. You need only three guys to write the program and launch.” In this scenario, the K/K ratio could be perhaps 3/1,000,000, assuming a 10-percent accuracy and only a single one-gram shaped charge per drone.

That’s completely—and horrifyingly—unprecedented. The terrorist or psychopath of the future, however, will have not just the Internet or drones—called “slaughterbots” in this video from the Future of Life Institute—but also synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and advanced AI systems at their disposal. These tools make wreaking havoc across international borders trivial, which raises the question: Will emerging technologies make the state system obsolete? It’s hard to see why not. What justifies the existence of the state, English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued, is a “social contract.” People give up certain freedoms in exchange for state-provided security, whereby the state acts as a neutral “referee” that can intervene when people get into disputes, punish people who steal and murder, and enforce contracts signed by parties with competing interests.


This could go in the Europe thread, but it's a specific case of online poisoning, so we'll throw it in here:

Coronavirus sceptics, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers protest in London

Thousands of protesters from across the UK gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Saturday afternoon to protest against coronavirus restrictions and reject mass vaccinations.

The event, which began at noon, drew a broad coalition including coronavirus sceptics, 5g conspiracy theorists and so-called “anti-vaxxers”.

Carrying placards railing against the World Health Organization, Bill Gates and the government restrictions to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the demonstrators called for an end to movement restrictions and mandatory face coverings. Many placards described the coronavirus pandemic as a “hoax” or “scam”.

A PA system set up in front of Nelson’s Column broadcast speeches by a number of speakers, who denied the reality and severity of the pandemic and accused the government of attempting to curtail civil liberties.

Among those due to speak were Piers Corbyn, the weather forecaster and older brother of the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the former newspaper columnist and health journalist Dr Vernon Coleman, and the conspiracist celebrity David Icke.

Although the demonstration focused on coronavirus restrictions, those taking part espoused anti-authoritarian grievances ranging from the lockdown to the imprisonment of Julian Assange to claims of elite child sexual abuse.

Berlin police break up 'anti-corona' protest against Covid-19 restrictions

German police have halted a march by 18,000 coronavirus sceptics in Berlin because protesters were failing to respect social distancing.

The mass protest against pandemic restrictions had been allowed to go ahead after a bitter legal battle.

But it had barely begun at the city’s Brandenburg Gate when it was forced to stop due to a police injunction.

“The minimum distancing is not being respected by most [of the demonstrators] despite repeated requests,” the police said. “There is no other option than to break up the gathering.”

After the announcement, the demonstrators shouted: “Resistance” and “We are the people”, a slogan often used by the far-right, and sang the German national anthem.

Police had vowed to turn out in force and strictly monitor compliance with mask-wearing and physical distancing at the protest.

Berlin’s police chief, Barbara Slowik, had warned that if the demonstrators did not adhere to virus safety rules, police would clear the area “very quickly”.

“We will not be able or willing to watch tens of thousands assemble and create infection risks,” she added.

Berlin city authorities had previously decided not to allow the Saturday demonstration to go ahead, fearing that the estimated 22,000 protesters would not keep a distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) apart or comply with face mask requirements.

The ban sparked outrage from organisers and their supporters, who flooded social media with angry messages vowing to protest anyway, with some even calling for violence.

Oregon Police Beg Public to Stop Calling In False Reports Blaming Antifa for Wildfires

Four police departments in parts of Oregon ravaged by wildfires are pleading with the public to stop calling 911 to pass on unfounded rumors that antifascist political activists have intentionally set the blazes.

The false claims have been spread on social networks by supporters of President Donald Trump, who has spent months pretending that antifascists in the Pacific Northwest dedicated to confronting white supremacists are members of an imaginary army of domestic terrorists called Antifa.

Primed by that fear-mongering, the president’s supporters have fallen hard for internet hoaxes falsely claiming that antifascist arsonists have been caught in the act.

Not saying he’s responsible, but hack fake journalist Andy Ngo has been reporting that Antifa were starting the fires since at least last week.

What a trash human he is. Just the worst.

Of course he was.

How Conspiracy Theories Are Shaping the 2020 Election—and Shaking the Foundation of American Democracy

Again, this could get crossposted to the politics thread, because increasingly, internet crazy is becoming real-life crazy.

And it's not going to get any better soon!

In more than seven dozen interviews conducted in Wisconsin in early September, from the suburbs around Milwaukee to the scarred streets of Kenosha in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, about 1 in 5 voters volunteered ideas that veered into the realm of conspiracy theory, ranging from QAnon to the notion that COVID-19 is a hoax. Two women in Ozaukee County calmly informed me that an evil cabal operates tunnels under the U.S. in order to rape and torture children and drink their blood. A Joe Biden supporter near a Kenosha church told me votes don’t matter, because “the elites” will decide the outcome of the election anyway. A woman on a Kenosha street corner explained that Democrats were planning to bring in U.N. troops before the election to prevent a Trump win.

It’s hard to know exactly why people believe what they believe. Some had clearly been exposed to QAnon conspiracy theorists online. Others seemed to be repeating false ideas espoused in Plandemic, a pair of conspiracy videos featuring a discredited former medical researcher that went viral, spreading the notion that COVID-19 is a hoax across social media. (COVID-19 is not a hoax.) When asked where they found their information, almost all these voters were cryptic: “Go online,” one woman said. “Dig deep,” added another. They seemed to share a collective disdain for the mainstream media–a skepticism that has only gotten stronger and deeper since 2016. The truth wasn’t reported, they said, and what was reported wasn’t true.

This matters not just because of what these voters believe but also because of what they don’t. The facts that should anchor a sense of shared reality are meaningless to them; the news developments that might ordinarily inform their vote fall on deaf ears. They will not be swayed by data on coronavirus deaths, they won’t be persuaded by job losses or stock market gains, and they won’t care if Trump called America’s fallen soldiers “losers” or “suckers,” as the Atlantic reported, because they won’t believe it. They are impervious to messaging, advertising or data. They aren’t just infected with conspiracy; they appear to be inoculated against reality.

There are few sentences I dread more these days than someone saying "I did my own research."

Exactly 0% of the time does, like, a discovery of a heretofore-undiscovered method of desalinization follow, and 100% of the time it's just insane "I saw it on Facebook/YouTube" horsesh*t.

Several local journalists were touring the evacuation zone for the Clackamas County fire and had guns pulled on them by a group of heavily armed people who had set up a “checkpoint” and were trying to stop vehicles. Other people have reported similar encounters. Apparently some of our local hate groups have bought into the Antifa narrative and decided to take matters into their own hands.

Besides, why would "Antifa" choose Portland, Oregon of all places to set fires? Isn't it supposed to be super-liberal there?

I don’t know if anyone else has been following this, but a couple weeks ago the original founder of 8chan Fredrick Brennan (who now is an outspoken advocate against Chan culture) discovered that Jim Watkins, alleged child predator and current owner of 8kun (spiritual successor of 8chan) owns the server from which the primary source of Q drops are being published, Qmap.pub. There’s been speculation for a long time that Watkins might be Q, and while this doesn’t definitively prove he is Q, it does show that Watkins is at the very least working with whoever owns the site.
The website isn’t the originator of the Qdrops, they’re still being published on 8kun first and then being republished on Qmap.pub, but this website is where the vast majority of Q adherents view the drops, and it’s the only place with a full archive of past drops.

This week that site vanished. Watkins unpublished it. No public statement has been made, but presumably he didn’t like being openly linked to it.

The website going down is leading to gems like this:

8kun was brought back just for QAnon. Watkins is working with the current “Q” if he’s not Q himself. Though there’s plenty of warranted speculation that the current Q is not the original Q. And since the original Q went out of his way to make sure no one outside of 8cham could claim to be Q, he sank himself when 8chan went down.