Saturday, May 23, 2020

Most Americans Say Re-Opening Is Very Dangerous-- But Trump And His Cronies Are Trying To Manipulate The Public... Here's How


Polling has consistently shown that the vast majority of Americans-- even Republicans-- think that opening slowly and safely trumps the problems with a failing economy. The NY Times reported that "Americans are generally uninterested in returning to normal, and they tend to believe federal health experts, who continue to warn against a swift reopening of the economy... [M]ore than two-thirds of respondents said in a Pew Research Center poll out Thursday that they were more concerned that state governments would reopen their economies too quickly than that they might take too long-- roughly on par with past responses to the same question."

It was the same when NORC did a poll for the Associated Press in April-- 68% of Americans "said they had a great deal of trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide them with reliable information about the pandemic. That’s three times as much as the dismal 23 percent who said they definitely trusted Mr. Trump’s statements on the virus."

So how are Trump, his cronies and his (America-hating) foreign allies fighting back and trying to sway the public? Well... this is interesting. Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science announced last week that they've discovered that about half the twitter accounts advocating "reopening America" are not people at all-- just bots.
Scrolling through your Twitter feed, it may not be obvious when you come upon a bot account-- something that is more likely to occur in the era of COVID-19. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have discovered that much of the discussion around the pandemic and stay-at-home orders is being fueled by misinformation campaigns that use convincing bots.

To analyze bot activity around the pandemic, CMU researchers since January have collected more than 200 million tweets discussing coronavirus or COVID-19. Of the top 50 influential retweeters, 82% are bots, they found. Of the top 1,000 retweeters, 62% are bots.

The monitoring of tweets is ongoing and collections from Facebook, Reddit and YouTube have been added to the research.

"We're seeing up to two times as much bot activity as we'd predicted based on previous natural disasters, crises and elections," said Kathleen Carley, a professor in the School of Computer Science’s Institute for Software Research and director of the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS) and Center for Informed Democracy & Social-- Cybersecurity (IDeaS.)

Carley said multiple factors contribute to the surge. First, more individuals have time on their hands to create do-it-yourself bots. But the number of sophisticated groups that hire firms to run bot accounts also has increased. The nature of the pandemic matters, too. "Because it’s global, it’s being used by various countries and interest groups as an opportunity to meet political agendas," she said.

Carley's research team uses multiple methods to determine who is or isn't a bot. Artificial intelligence processes account information and looks at things such as the number of followers, frequency of tweeting and an account's mentions network.

"Tweeting more frequently than is humanly possible or appearing to be in one country and then another a few hours later is indicative of a bot," Carley said.

More than 100 types of inaccurate COVID-19 stories have been identified, such as those about potential cures. But bots are also dominating conversations about ending stay-at-home orders and "reopening America."

Many factors of the online discussions about “reopening America” suggest that bot activity is orchestrated. One indicator is the large number of bots, many of which are accounts that were recently created. Accounts that are possibly humans with bot assistants generate 66% of the tweets. Accounts that are definitely bots generate 34% of the tweets.

"When we see a whole bunch of tweets at the same time or back to back, it's like they're timed," Carley said. "We also look for use of the same exact hashtag, or messaging that appears to be copied and pasted from one bot to the next."

A subset of tweets about "reopening America" reference conspiracy theories, such as hospitals being filled with mannequins or the coronavirus being linked to 5G towers.

"Conspiracy theories increase polarization in groups. It’s what many misinformation campaigns aim to do," Carley said. "People have real concerns about health and the economy, and people are preying on that to create divides."

Carley said that spreading conspiracy theories leads to more extreme opinions, which can in turn lead to more extreme behavior and less rational thinking.

"Increased polarization will have a variety of real-world consequences, and play out in things like voting behavior and hostility towards ethnic groups," Carley said.

The research team cannot point to specific entities behind the orchestrated attempts to influence online conversations. "We do know that it looks like it's a propaganda machine, and it definitely matches the Russian and Chinese playbooks, but it would take a tremendous amount of resources to substantiate that," Carley said.

Carley adds that not enough is known to develop a counter measure. Blocked accounts can resurface, and the nature of the network is such that you can’t just attack at individual points.

But she said average users can do a lot to help protect themselves from bot influence. There is no guarantee, but closely examining an account can offer indications of a bot, such as sharing links with subtle typos, many tweets coming out very quickly, or a user name and profile image that don’t seem to match up.

"Even if someone appears to be from your community, if you don't know them personally, take a closer look, and always go to authoritative or trusted sources for information," Carley said. "Just be very vigilant."

Last night, the Washington Post reported that 24 states, according to Imperial College researchers, have uncontrolled coronavirus spread. The research "shows potentially ominous scenarios if people move around as they did previously and do so without taking precautions. In California and Florida, the death rate could spike to roughly 1,000 a day by July without efforts to mitigate the spread." These are the states, from most serious to less serious, I would want to be especially vigilant in (at least according to this study):
New Mexico
South Carolina
North Carolina
The "safest" states according to their model: Montana, Hawaii, Wyoming, Alaska, West Virginia, Vermont and Idaho.

Show this graph to your Trump-loving in-laws-- and then explain it to them

Labels: , ,


At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The media, especially television, are pushing so many reopen segments that there isn't time for any real news. We are to go to work and make our employers wealthier no matter how many lives are lost in the process.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's also instructive how large media corporations play up the stories about a few dozen people with guns showing up at state houses or with signs, while largely ignoring the over 200 strikes since March 1st. There was initially some coverage of strikes at Amazon, but not much since March. There may be some passing mention of mass outbreaks or deaths of workers at slaughterhouses too, but it's not a central focus. There's been a failure as well to focus on the kind of stuff that retail workers are having to deal with in some of these states from customers (and the failure of companies to back up their workers).

I'm not sure if this will follow the course of the 1918-1919 flu pandemic. History never really repeats, even if it rhymes. However, a second wave, or simply a very large and continuous first wave that lasts for months, does seem likely.

Fortunately, we have someone like Joe Biden waiting in the wings (not serious of course -- I can't help but constantly remind myself that we have a guy like Donald Trump in the White House, who should lose by every standard metric and be absolutely crushed, and the Dems answer is JOE BIDEN. It's like we're in some kind of a parallel 1930s universe where the Dems answer to Hebert Hoover in 1932 is Calvin Coolidge. Even if you win, it still feels a lot like a loss. And odds are Biden will win. I'm still a least somewhat optimistic about the capacity of people to eventually figure things out, fight back, and eventually win, but in the near to mid-term it just seems like one long unfolding nightmare).

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:30, we're in the movie "Idiocracy" waiting for the guy from the past (prolly a Keynsian from the FDR era) to appear and save us from our own stupidity and evil.

funny how this was so predictable? well, not so much funny as... pathetic.

At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might as wait for Godot, 6:07. The Republicans successfully blocked funding for the necessary technology to transport the guy from the past to us = and the "Democrats" helped!


Post a Comment

<< Home