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🐦 Disinformation and abnormal influence is big money on social media 💵
If you think things are mostly the usual, or will just blow over in a bit on Twitter, I want you to look up the term “normalcy bias” now.
Normalcy bias might keep things going a bit, but I think it’s going to be more difficult to force normal in the current Twitter environment. Heads up to those with lots of followers - I have the distinct impression people with large amounts of followers seem to less notice the obvious changes taking place, perhaps because the more followers the more noisy feedback. But most of us have noticed we’re now seeing tweets from people we followed a decade ago, likely because with less tweets, the algorithms let less well matched content rise to the front. There’s been another distinct surge in people joining Discord servers I’m in. And I’ve heard also another surge to Mastodon. But Twitter has even blocked links to major Mastodon servers, which I think is pretty unprecedented.
Pandemic disinformation is now allowed on Twitter. Multiple reporters have had their accounts banned, while a bunch of disinformation purveyors and violence promoters have been reinstated on the platform. Morning Joe remarked that Elon Musk banned even a Mashable journalist. Matt Binder’s day job is as a journalist at Mashable.com - what many would describe as a pop culture tech news. He did a story December 12th titled “Elon Musk gets drowned out by boos at Dave Chappelle's live show” and on December 15th he was banned on Twitter. While under the twitter ban, he said on Majority Report, somehow the app let him join the audio function called Twitter Spaces, in a session with reporters where Elon Musk was present - and even let the banned Matt Binder speak in this venue. Shortly after that, Musk left the session and Twitter Spaces was disabled on the entire app.
I think it’s more interesting that Matt Binder is also an active youtuber with podcasts called DOOMED and The Scam Economy. He has long focused on political disinformation, and now his focus is on covering cryptocurrency scams. Matt Binder is more than a tech critic who lambastes a billionaire - he's an investigative reporter covering some of the most lucrative and influential political propaganda and cryptocurrency financial scams. In March 2021, Matt Binder’s podcast was the first place I learned about his report on “The Anti-Vaxxer Disinformation Dozen” in his podcast interview with Imran Ahmed, the founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate — about their research which found 12 influencers were causing most of the vaccine lies on social media including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I kept telling people about this at the time, and was frustrated that it took another couple months before major media outlets like NPR really picked up on the story. Later that I found out that PBS News Hour had mentioned the research findings briefly in February 2021 when they did a segment on the wellness influencers and vaccine misinformation which focused on Qanon, fresh in minds at the time because of the January 6th insurrection. PBS included in the report Derek Beres, a co-host of Conspirituality, a podcast debunking wellness grift and new age cults.
Codastory.com had a report in June 2021 that, “the global anti-vaccination industry, including influencers and followers, generates up to $1.1 billion in annual revenue for social media giants” and in December 2021, Walker Bragman & Alex Kotch published an article on “How The Koch Network Hijacked The War On COVID” by spending millions on pandemic misinformation pushing. The Koch network and other right-wing big money is also behind the bizarre push to remove safety measures in schools. Those wacky scenes at school board meetings with people screaming about CRT, trans kids, vaccines and masks, appear to be fully funded and propelled by right-wing think tank money. The State Government Leadership Foundation themselves announced on twitter in February 2022 that they were paying to run an anti-mask ad campaign targeting liberals — to convince liberals to unmask and expose themselves — based on lies.
You might not even know that the person pushing “information” and “opinion” is actually paid to promote something. The influencers paid to push these things are sometimes not even disclosing it even if they’re required to by law. If Kim Kardashian didn’t disclose she was paid for promoting a cryptocurrency - imagine how many small fry twitter randos actually get away with not disclosing because they don’t draw the attention of the SEC.
Elon Musk made a bizarre comment on his Twitter feed using the pandemic denier troll attack insult: “Branch Covidians” - a term Bruce Y. Lee explains in Forbes as: “a play on the “Branch Davidians” name of the cult that was led by David Koresh.” This sounds like a case of DARVO tactic, since it’s the anti-maskers who seem to have a cult-like devotion to mask phobia and proselytizing against the vaccines to every stranger on which they can force their anti-science evangelism. The disabled have been enduring repeated and sustained attacks on social media, accounts who relentlessly work at trying to shame people into unmasking and dying as a sacrifice to The Economy, using all types of trolling strategies in an attempt to mock sensible attempts to avoid illness. The people doing this appear to have a lot of time on their hands - so much so that one wonders what their job might be?? Perhaps this is their day job - that they are in fact on the job as paid trolls? Professional trolling is a big business. Sometimes the job of a paid troll is to just make a forum “so stinky that normal people won’t want to touch it” according to Leonid Volkov quoted in The New Yorker.
At one time Twitter had banned most cryptocurrency advertising, but by November 2021 the door was opened again. Nowadays you could not take a peek at the list of Twitters Spaces without seeing that most of these audio sessions happening or scheduled were mostly cryptocurrency related. Spam direct messages and spam replies often contain crypto related ads.
It’s all connected, and part of the same big money influence machine. Anti-science, anti-mask, anti-vax, anti-worker, anti-teacher, qanon, pro-fossil fuel, cryptocurrency, racists, anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-union, nazis, anti-semitism, insurrectionists, anti-environment, pro-gun, anti public school, election deniers, pandemic deniers, climate deniers. It’s all a manipulative power grab against the common good. And it’s not a good idea to ignore this.
Matt Binder is at the nexus trying to cover these topics. He had a live event this year called: Bitcoin Nazis, Ethereum Grifters: A Tale of 2 Communities (Scam Economy LIVE w/ Michael Edison Hayden of the Southern Poverty Law Center).
Mere exposure effect means people become desensitized to bad things and start to believe wrong information, even if undesired. So going forward, will Twitter be palatable, or even safe, for people who want to protect themselves or discuss science? As it slides well into a group risky shift, even the people trying to put out good information often drop the ball into communication pitfalls. We must do more and do better.