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Food for thought on digital media manipulation and potential impacts (think about, on how ID, theism, the gospel and gospel ethics, etc. are often perceived)

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While we of UD have but little interest as a blog in 2020 US election campaign tactics etc and endorse no candidate, the research by Dr. Robert Epstein on How Big Tech’s Algorithms Can Impact Opinions and Votes speaks far more broadly. We have cause to be concerned (and no, it’s not just Wikipedia’s notorious biases):

Let’s clip from the YT blurb, to help focus discussion:

Just what are some of the methods that tech giants like Google and Facebook can [–> and per the discussion, sometimes DO] use to shift their users’ attitudes, beliefs [–> think, worldviews and policy/cultural agendas], and even votes? How do search engine rankings impact undecided voters? [–> strongly] How powerful of an impact can search engine algorithms have on our perceptions and actions, without us even knowing? [–> because, they are perceived to be objective] And why aren’t more people researching these things? This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek. Today we sit down with Dr. Robert Epstein, the former editor-in-chief of Psychology Today. He is currently a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and a leading expert on search engine bias. We explore his meticulous research into tech giant bias, and the startling discoveries he has made . . .

This raises, again, the matter of straight vs spin as has been commonly raised here at UD:

Independent journalist Sharyl Atkisson raises further concerns (and embed refuses).

Let us ponder. END

13 Replies to “Food for thought on digital media manipulation and potential impacts (think about, on how ID, theism, the gospel and gospel ethics, etc. are often perceived)

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Food for thought on digital media manipulation and potential impacts (think about, on how ID, theism, the gospel and gospel ethics, etc. are often perceived)

  2. 2
    Fasteddious says:

    This is not just digital media: https://thopid.blogspot.com/2019/05/media-mind-control.html
    Beware what you absorb from the mainstream media!

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Robert Epstein paper on search engine bias potential impacts:

    https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/112/33/E4512.full.pdf

    The search engine manipulation effect (SEME) and its
    possible impact on the outcomes of elections
    Robert Epstein
    1
    and Ronald E. Robertson

    ABSTRACT:

    Internet search rankings have a significant impact on consumer
    choices, mainly because users trust and choose higher-ranked
    results more than lower-ranked results. Given the apparent power
    of search rankings, we asked whether they could be manipulated
    to alter the preferences of undecided voters in democratic
    elections. Here we report the results of five relevant double-blind,
    randomized controlled experiments, using a total of 4,556 un-
    decided voters representing diverse demographic characteristics
    of the voting populations of the United States and India. The fifth
    experiment is especially notable in that it was conducted with
    eligible voters throughout India in the midst of India’s 2014 Lok
    Sabha elections just before the final votes were cast. The results of
    these experiments demonstrate that (i) biased search rankings can
    shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more,
    (ii) the shift can be much higher in some demographic groups, and
    (iii) search ranking bias can be masked so that people show no
    awareness of the manipulation. We call this type of influence,
    which might be applicable to a variety of attitudes and beliefs,
    the search engine manipulation effect. Given that many elections
    are won by small margins, our results suggest that a search engine
    company has the power to influence the results of a substantial
    number of elections with impunity. The impact of such manipula-
    tions would be especially large in countries dominated by a single
    search engine company.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Food for thought indeed.

    KF

  4. 4
    vmahuna says:

    This is silly. You’re ignoring more than 99% of human history. Woodrow Wilson hated Germans as people and liked the English. So he ran for re-election on a Peace platform in 1916 and then IMMEDIATELY embarked on policies to get the USA into WW1. And The Press played along with this. And our history books play along with this.
    In past centuries it was simply impossible to locate alternative news sources. And of course anyone who disagreed with the king was gonna be hanged for “treason”.
    The only way to know what’s actually going on is to read widely. But of course once you begin to learn the Truth, you will be laughed at and called a “conspiracy nut.” So in my experience, practically NO ONE wants to know The Truth.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    FE,

    You are quite right!

    That’s why the straight vs spin grid was developed 14 years ago, and why I use the clip above as an infographic.

    Going beyond, I have pondered how do we go about setting our thinking straight, in a crooked thinking world.

    That’s why in part I have developed the unit of study here on in context:

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....u2_bld_wvu

    There, I start out by laying out how worldviews are structured [think Agrippa trilemma and comparative difficulties across sets of first plausibles], and set out to find some plumb line, self evident truths to begin to clear out a lot of crooked yardsticks serving as imposed standards of straightness, accuracy and uprightness.

    For example, E = error exists, helps us sort out radical relativism and subjectivism: try to deny, ~ E, i.e. it is an error to say E. E is undeniably, certainly true and knowable to certainty. So if your worldview imagines that truth is another word for opinion, or that truth is not knowable, it fails.

    Core first principles of right reason (and linked logic of being) soon enough allow us to have confidence in logic and reason.It may sound boring or maybe even abstruse, but such is in fact foundationally important. Let me list from the argument [which shows how we get there]:

    [a’] A distinct thing, A, is what it is (the law of identity [–> such an entity A will be its own specific self given its particular characteristics that mark it apart from anything that is non-A]);

    [b’] A distinct thing, A, cannot at once be and not-be (the law of non-contradiction);

    [c’] A distinct thing, A, is or it is not, but not both or neither (the law of the excluded middle)

    [def’n. 1, of truth:] to say that what is is, and what is not is not, is true.

    [PSR, weak (investigatory) form:] Of any particular thing A that is

    [. . . or (ii) is possible, or even (iii) is impossible],

    we may ask, why it is

    [. . . or (ii’) why it is possible, or (iii’) why it is impossible],

    and we may expect — or at least hope — to find a reasonable answer.

    [d’] if something has a beginning or may cease from being — or, generally it is contingent — it has a cause.

    [logical possibility:] there is a possible class of being that does not have a beginning, and cannot go out of existence; such necessary beings are self-sufficient, have no enabling, ON/OFF external necessary causal factors, and as such cannot be blocked from existing. And it is held that once there is a serious candidate to be such a necessary being, if the candidate is not contradictory in itself, it will be actual.

    [necessity of necessary beings:] if a candidate necessary being is possible of existence (unlike a square circle), it exists in at least one possible world W. But, if necessary, then framework to any possible world and existing on pain of contradiction (thus rendering W not possible of being). Therefore, a necessary being will be present in any given world, which as we saw lends great power to Mathematics (as just one domain pivoting on such beings).

    [Cor, God as necessary, framework being for all worlds:] IF God is a serious candidate necessary being [which is generally granted] THEN, if God is possible, he is actual. That is, the denial of the existence of God [which can be by rhetorical dismissal] in fact implies that one effectively considers God an impossible being. Atheists should note that warranting such a stringent claim entails a pretty serious intellectual responsibility.

    [e’]: from a genuine nothing — NO-Thing or non-being (As Aristotle put it: “what rocks dream of” . . . such have no dreams of course . . . ) — not matter, not energy, not space, not time, not mind etc. — nothing can or will come. That is, were there ever utter nothingness, such would forever obtain, therefore if a world now is, SOMETHING always was as a necessary, world-root being. The question is, of what nature.

    [A Philosophical Definition of God, by VJT:] By God I mean Someone, not some thing, or some state or some process. More specifically, I mean Someone (beyond space and time) Whose nature it is to know and love in a perfect and unlimited way, Whose mode of acting is simply to know, love and choose (without anything more basic underlying these acts), Who is the Creator and Conserver of the natural world, and Who is therefore capable of making anything He wishes to, provided that it’s consistent with His nature as a perfectly intelligent and loving being, and with His other choices . . . . Since God is self-explanatory, as the Ultimate Cause, He cannot possess any ad hoc features, like being a trickster. Nor can God be totally evil, since evil is a privation [–> i.e. evil has no independent existence, it is the frustration, diversion, perversion or privation of the good out of its proper end, function, role or potential], and God is an infinite and unbounded Being. Hence we are forced to suppose that God is good. As to whether God is loving in a personal sense: each and every person is an end-in-itself, and for God to treat a person in an impersonal fashion would reflect a deficiency on His part; and since we know God is free from deficiencies, it follows that He must be personal.

    We can go on from there to deal with the ethical component of worldviews and the way that mindedness is inescapably morally governed through duties to truth, right reason, prudence, sound conscience, justice etc and how this frames a natural base for law, which then extends to civil law. Not all done under colour of law is sound or just.

    From this, accountability of government and reformation are on the table.

    Also, the need to deal with God.

    From such, too, we can begin to take apart the Plato’s Cave shadow shows that have so often been imposed on us today.

    KF

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    VM, the pro’s and cons of Woodrow Wilson’s policies are a bit far afield for this thread, but the issue that sound sources are important is a serious question. Attkisson’s evaluation of what passes for news and the mainstream, is eye opening. Epstein’s evaluation of what can be done with something as seemingly innocuous as web searching with a search engine, should give us pause. BTW, he will be doing a live, tracking poll on bias in the run-up to the next election, so the results should be very interesting indeed. And yes, while the ill informed riding hobby horses is a problem, the easiest way to get rid of an unwelcome idea is to attack and discredit the source with a smear. We have some serious re-thinking to do. KF

  7. 7
    Brother Brian says:

    Social media isn’t doing anything that hasn’t been going on in other forms of information dissemination for centuries. When the presented views correspond to what your basic views are, you view them as sound and unbiased. When they do not, you view them as manipulative.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, that is a subjectivist perspective. When half truths, dubious promotions and distortions are going on, that is deceitful and manipulative, period. Yes, deceit has been going on for a long time. That does not make it right, and as Kant pointed out when things like that become dominant, they are ruinous. They are not acceptable. KF

  9. 9
    Brother Brian says:

    KF

    BB, that is a subjectivist perspective. When half truths, dubious promotions and distortions are going on, that is deceitful and manipulative,

    But who is the arbiter of truth? Certainly not you or I.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    BB, again, subjectivist or relativist — and showing how easily those succumb to the nihilist credo: might and/or manipulation make ‘truth’ ‘right’ ‘rights’ knowledge’ ‘justice’ etc. Absurd. The answer is not a WHO but WHAT. Truth accurately describes reality, and first principles of right reason tied to key facets of the logic of being are key tests to that end. The steady undermining of respect for reality, truth, sound warrant, logic etc is a key sign of the progressive suicidal breakdown of our intellectual culture. Note, from 5 above on a key test case:

    For example, E = error exists, helps us sort out radical relativism and subjectivism: try to deny, ~ E, i.e. it is an error to say E. E is undeniably, certainly true and knowable to certainty. So if your worldview imagines that truth is another word for opinion, or that truth is not knowable, it fails.

    Core first principles of right reason (and linked logic of being) soon enough allow us to have confidence in logic and reason.It may sound boring or maybe even abstruse, but such is in fact foundationally important. Let me list . . .

    KF

  11. 11
    Brother Brian says:

    KF

    BB, again, subjectivist or relativist — and showing how easily those succumb to the nihilist credo: might and/or manipulation make ‘truth’ ‘right’ ‘rights’ knowledge’ ‘justice’ etc. Absurd. The answer is not a WHO but WHAT.

    So, when the WHAT says to kill homosexuals, adulterers and women who aren’t virgins on their wedding night, we shouldn’t question those instructions? Sorry, I can’t do that.

    My morality is based on the actions that are best for myself, my family and the society I want to live in. Maybe if you can present a moral value that can’t be derived by basic reasoning, I might listen to you.

  12. 12
    ET says:

    Brother Brian:

    So, when the WHAT says to kill homosexuals, adulterers and women who aren’t virgins on their wedding night, we shouldn’t question those instructions?

    Questioning causes problems. Also, don’t go looking for men having sex together and you most likely won’t run into any that you would have to kill. The same goes for adulterers and women who aren’t virgins when they get married.

    I wonder how that may play out in Court. You swear to tell the truth on the same Bible that told you to kill the men you are on trial for murdering. Is that how dark energy is formed? Via universal contradictions? 😎

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    BB,

    It is almost amusing to see the succession of loaded, tangential distractors that move ever further away from the challenging focal facts presented in the OP: the potential for, evidence of and impacts of digital media and general media manipulation. Here, manifested through a case of ability to manipulate voting patterns in the US and India on a scale that could shift electoral outcomes dishonestly.

    This is a sobering established research result, and it is something we had better attend to as a matter of urgency, on pain of potentially seriously damaging consequences.

    We can safely take it, from the rhetoric of distractions and toxic tangents, that there is no cogent reply to the sobering but inconvenient research findings that are on the table.

    You are instead projecting and polarising through the cultural marxist oppression thesis, imagining that you are establishing moral superiority over the heritage of Christendom. As a result, you set up a rhetorical strawman caricature of what is actually on the table in reply to your putting up the Leff fallacy of the grand sez who; which strawman you proceeded to knock over — and that in further loaded ignorance of the actual balance of biblical teachings. (I will append briefly below on your loaded distortion, providing a correction to a toxic distractor that may trouble those who have not been taught sufficiently.)

    On the main focus, above I spoke to WHAT truth is, actually echoing an observation by Aristotle in Metaphysics 1011b. In so doing, I spoke to WHAT truth is, the accurate description of reality: saying of WHAT is, that it is; and of WHAT is not, that it is not. Further, I spoke to the objective knowability of truth through the brief example:

    “For example, E = error exists, helps us sort out radical relativism and subjectivism: try to deny, ~ E, i.e. it is an error to say E. E is undeniably, certainly true and knowable to certainty. So if your worldview imagines that truth is another word for opinion, or that truth is not knowable, it fails.”

    That is an extremely powerful result. Thus, I could freely proceed to my further remark: “Core first principles of right reason (and linked logic of being) soon enough allow us to have confidence in logic and reason.It may sound boring or maybe even abstruse, but such is in fact foundationally important.” I had also noted:

    Truth accurately describes reality, and first principles of right reason tied to key facets of the logic of being are key tests to that end. The steady undermining of respect for reality, truth, sound warrant, logic etc is a key sign of the progressive suicidal breakdown of our intellectual culture.

    In addition, in the already linked, more detailed discussion, I noted on the Josiah Royce proposition, error exists and its status as undeniably (not just empirically) true, as follows:

    5: So, E is true, is known to be true once we understand it and is undeniably true on pain of patent — obvious, hard to deny — self contradiction.

    6: It is therefore self evident.

    7: It is warranted as reliably true, indeed to demonstrative certainty.

    8: Where, E refers to the real world of things as such.

    9: It is a case of absolute, objective, certainly known truth; a case of certain knowledge. “Justified, true belief,” nothing less.

    10: It is also a matter of widely observed fact — starting with our first school exercises with sums and visions of red X’s — confirming the accuracy of a particular consensus of experience.

    11: So, here we have a certainly known case of truth existing as that which accurately refers to reality.

    12: Also, a case of knowledge existing as warranted, credibly true beliefs, in this case to certainty.

    13: Our ability to access truth and knowledge about the real, extra-mental world by experience, reasoning and observation is confirmed in at least one pivotal case.

    14: Contemporary worldviews — their name is Legion — that would deny, deride or dismiss such [including the point that there are such things as self evident truths that relate to the real world], are thence shown to be factually inadequate and incoherent. They are unable to explain reality.

    15: Such worldviews are, as a bloc, falsified by this one key point. They are unreasonable. (And yes, I know this may be hard to accept, but if your favoured system contradicts soundly established facts and/or truths, it is seriously defective.)

    16: Of course the truth in question is particularly humbling and a warning on the limits of our knowledge and the gap between belief and truth or even ability to formulate a logical assertion and truth.

    17: So, we need to be humble, and — contrary to assertions about how insisting on such objectivity manifests “arrogance” and potentially oppressive “intolerance” – the first principles of right reason (implicit in the above, to be drawn out below) allow us to humbly, honestly test our views so that we can identify when we have gone off the rails and to in at least some cases confirm when our confidence is well grounded.

    Were you inclined to respond on the merits, such could easily have been accessed and spoken to. And, it would be hard to find it wrong.

    It is obvious from what actually happened instead, above, that you (and many others holding similar views and similarly indoctrinated through the cultural marxist oppression thesis) have no actual, cogent answer on the merits. Instead, you reacted rhetorically through trying to pose a toxic, ill-informed scripture-twisting distractor that reflects drearily familiar obsessions.

    That sort of rhetoric is an inadvertent illustration of why I earlier noted: “[t]he steady undermining of respect for reality, truth, sound warrant, logic etc is a key sign of the progressive suicidal breakdown of our intellectual culture.”

    So, your presumption to superior rationality and rationality on matters of morality, has failed; decisively.

    I add, that the only viable worldview level frameworks for moral reasoning are those that address a root of reality that inherently fuses IS and OUGHT, TRUTH, JUSTICE, BEAUTY and more. Starting with, grounding how even our rational faculties are inescapably governed by known duties to truth, to right reason, to prudence, to sound conscience, to justice etc. I can freely add, that such point to a necessary being world root that is inherently good, utterly wise and maximally great.

    That can be elaborated elsewhere. Here, the primary focus remains that we need to understand just how vulnerable many are to manipulation, starting with how algorithms that rank search engine results are being written by dominant providers. In this case, 90% of searches, with the next competitor being but 2% of the market.

    This is a case of effective monopoly power through network economics, and of how monopolies tend to behave. An obvious solution is through exposing the difference between legitimate protections for strictly neutral providers of platform services and the responsibilities of publishers in light of tort law.

    KF

    PS: There is some selective, loaded out of context scripture allusion above, used to try to taint and distract attention from a major issue. I simply note first that the very fact that adultery was grounds for divorce (in a culture where betrothal was unconsummated marriage) shows that there was no mandatory capital sentence for such adultery. I will cite a famous case below.

    As for the issue of homosexual sin — vanishingly negligible in strict Jewish culture, but extremely common in relevant pagan cultures where for example Jupiter/Zeus the chief god was portrayed as a corrupter of boys — and its incompatibility with sound ethics (and the Christian response to same), I note the classic text of response:

    1 Cor 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous[b] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[c: The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in consensual homosexual acts . . . I add, I doubt that a 9 year old catamite can give real consent, and yes I here specifically point to Nero Caesar] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. [ESV]

    In short, spiritual transformation through the gospel, its ethics and the spiritual power from God’s Spirit is the sound answer to habitual, life dominating unrighteousness, including for cases of sexual perversities.

    As a world-famous concrete case, here is an attempt by opponents to present Jesus with a literally deadly dilemma [option A, die as a rebel against Rome; option B, be lynched as undermining the Mosaic tradition], and here is his telling response:

    John 7:53 [[They went each to his own house, 8:1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]] [ESV]

    Until your rhetoric can answer cogently and in a balanced way to these cases, it stands exposed as out of context, ill-informed hostile scripture twisting to your own potential ruin as well as that of those who are thereby misled into grave error.

    PPS: In correction to commonly promoted “my genes made me do it” myths, I again point here.

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