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Member since: Wed Feb 23, 2005, 03:32 PM
Number of posts: 6,887

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82% of the most influential pro-Reopening Twitter feeds are bots.


Russia’s 2016 campaign in support of Donald Trump included many different means of inserting false information into the national conversation. It featured ads on radio stations in key cities intended to suppress Black support for Hillary Clinton, faux local news sites filled with fabricated stories supporting Trump, and fake Black Lives Matters sites on Facebook meant to increase the fear of rural white voters. There were targeted ads that leveraged online tools to plant false stories directly into critical districts, and direct intrusion into voter databases that did … who knows what. But one key component of the 2016 campaign was a vast army of ‘bot’ accounts, managed by a team of Russian military hackers. That effort filled Twitter, Facebook, and other sites—and in the process became some of the most influential accounts in social media.

Now it appears that it’s happened again. A new study shows that when it comes to forcing workers to go back into offices, stores, and factories, almost half the online voices shouting for the “reopening of America” were, and are, bot accounts. Of the accounts that have tweeted most on this topic, more than half are bots. Of the most influential, almost all are bots. And behind the bots … is someone still unknown.

The report comes out of Carnegie Mellon University. Digging through over 200 million tweets discussing COVID-19 or the novel coronavirus, researchers focused in on the most influential accounts—those most active, most retweeted, and most liked. Out of the top 1,000 accounts, 62% are bots. Perhaps even more amazing: of the 50 most influential accounts on this topic, 82% are bots.

The bots may be numerous, but their message isn’t varied. They’re not being used to pass along accurate news about COVID-19, to encourage social distancing, or to support state government calls for preventive measures. In addition to pushing false cures, like Trump’s much-pushed hydroxychloroquine, and spreading general false information about the dangers of COVID-19, there’s one point where bots are driving the whole of social media. According to the report, they are “dominating conversations about ending stay-at-home orders and ‘reopening America.’”

I had to listen to a truly Ignorant conversation at work on Friday.

Three reasonably intelligent women chatting on about the 'Hoax'. "All the numbers are inflated, all the deaths are for other reasons, the danger has already passed, the hospitals are empty, we should have a right to congregate and shop and not wear masks if we want to," blah blah blah.

These are not Trumpanzees. My boss is not a wise person, but is indeed technically skilled with a college degree. She's about to marry a man with four children (when she admits she hates children), and although she opposes Trump her fiancee is a right-wing libertarian with a PhD working in the medical device business who believes Covid 19 is a creation of the Chinese, so she kind of leans that way now. It's sad to watch her take this path.

My other two coworkers are both low-information, confused mothers of young children. Friday afternoon I was working hard while trying not to listen to the most bizarre display of superstitious ignorance I've been exposed to in awhile. It reminded me of people I heard in my childhood talking about blacks and women and gay people -- the wholly fact-free innocence of bookless, ahistorical nonsense.

They might as well have been three women from the 1300's blaming the bubonic plague on the Jews -- there was not a single bit of wisdom between them, and the confidence with which they spoke so openly in an ostensibly professional environment was the icing on the crap-cake.

After awhile I couldn't stand any more of the drivel being spewed across the cubicle wall, and so I put in my headphones and blazed away at the task before me. At the end of the afternoon, a coworker approached me and asked if we could walk out together.

He'd heard what I'd heard, and was as traumatized as I was by it. It made us both feel hopeless, although it was just an anecdotal bit of life -- the polls say differently, and I think most Americans are becoming quite Woke. But it was shocking to hear it actually said out loud in person. There was no recourse to respond -- they were too deep into utter idiocy, and it would have driven them further in instead of helping enlighten in any way.

This happened just a few days after a former business associate of mine (a CEO from the Bronx) called me and told me he'd gone through Covid in March. He described the symptoms in gruesome detail -- fourteen days, during four of which he was certain he was going to die. The hospital told him to stay home, nothing to be done for him. His wife and children were asymptomatic, but he had a bleeding rash, a feeling of drowning, racking body aches and cramps that would not let go. He's permanently marked by the experience.

This is a man who ran five miles a day before he caught it -- now he can't make it to the end of the block without wheezing. His doctor says he won't fully recover for a year or more.

Darwin haunts this nation now. Information is the coin of survival. And those who possess the ability to critically think and study the science, and to act rationally and remain balanced in the chaos will have a much higher chance to emerge unscathed.

But those three women with children they are responsible for -- and all the other people who think this is so much media hype, overblown political rhetoric, baseless fear -- risk their lives and their children's lives, and to a certain extent, all of our lives.

The GOP's war on education for the past fifty years is going to kill more Americans than any other force in our history. It may be a difficult and seemingly intangible link to make, but it seems like plain fact to me -- purposefully spreading ignorance for power's sake has never been a long-term strategy for survival for any culture in human history.

Quite the opposite.


Villain[ vil-uhn ]


1) a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel.

2) a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.

History that actually gets read is written by historians; no one bothers to read history written by villains.

History will judge them as villains all. Villains Forever.

Struggle though they certainly will.

20% of colonists supported the British during the Revolutionary War.

Now more than 40% embrace the cause of white supremacist fascism and Russia, and the unraveling of all that makes us American.

Heavy lift. We've been manipulated, betrayed, weakened in all respects -- and that 40% reflects ignorance, fear, stupidity and small-minded cruelty brought about by the purposeful destruction of public education and the malignant twisting of the founding concepts of the nation for power and profit. Most of them know not what they do.

I will never give up. And I look forward to the turning of the tide. May we learn from this naked display of darkness to forever drive money from politics, conservative piracy from the marketplace, and primitivism from the halls of wisdom.

May we never again forget what the cost of relaxing vigilance in all of these these things means.
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