Personalizing Propaganda – Is the Disinformation Our Fault?

Are we creating personalized propaganda bubbles? Do you only follow news outlets that pump out the same rhetoric?

A display of crossed Israeli and Palestinian flags with the word for peace in both Arabic (Salaam/Salam السلام) and Hebrew (Shalom שלום). By Westonmr

A display of crossed Israeli and Palestinian flags with the word for peace in both Arabic (Salaam/Salam السلام) and Hebrew (Shalom שלום). By Westonmr via Wikimedia Commons

via io9:

New data visualizations give a startling picture of online activity during the latest conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. And they reveal just how much online media and social networks help us to create our own information bubbles, customized to reinforce our political beliefs.

Gilad Lotan is the chief data scientist at betaworks, which has launched high-profile companies that include SocialFlow and bitly. Looking at Lotan’s network graph of Twitter traffic from his blog i love data, I can’t help but feel that we really are living in a version of The Matrix. The media constructs our reality and we’re plugged into it 24/7. Except here, in theory, we have the freedom to make our own decisions.

In Lotan’s view, however, that’s a big part of the problem:

Not only is there much more media produced, but it is coming at us at a faster pace, from many more sources. … the landscape is much more nuanced, and highly personalized. We construct a representation of our interest by choosing to follow or like specific pages. The more we engage with certain type of content, the more similar content is made visible in our feeds.

If you’re rooting for Israel, you might have seen videos of rocket launches by Hamas adjacent to Shifa Hospital. Alternatively, if you’re pro-Palestinian, you might have seen the following report on an alleged IDF sniper who admitted (on Instagram) to murdering 13 Gazan children. Israelis and their proponents are likely to see IDF videos such as this one detailing arms and tunnels found within mosques passed around in their social media feeds, while Palestinian groups are likely to pass around images displaying the sheer destruction caused by IDF forces to Gazan mosques. One side sees videos of rockets intercepted in the Tel-Aviv skies, and other sees the lethal aftermath of a missile attack on a Gazan neighborhood.

The better we get at modeling user preferences, the more accurately we construct recommendation engines that fully capture user attention. In a way, we are building personalized propaganda engines that feed users content which makes them feel good and throws away the uncomfortable bits.

Continue reading to see the breakdown of the visual data material.

9 Comments on "Personalizing Propaganda – Is the Disinformation Our Fault?"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Aug 6, 2014 at 3:39 pm |

    You can find any information on the internet you could want, even if it’s massively wrong.

  2. BuzzCoastin | Aug 6, 2014 at 5:37 pm |

    option 3
    don’t follow any of it
    wait for it to come to you
    and then play with it

    a deep involvement with the circus maximus
    only serves the interests of the circus owners

  3. Simon Valentine | Aug 6, 2014 at 9:18 pm |

    it’s like i always said

    word is a viral gematria war

  4. It’s all bullshit and it’s all bad for you. I think George Carlin said that. Anyway, whoever said it was correct.
    I had to quit Facebook. That shit was making me nuts. Found myself compulsively checking the damn thing all the time, especially at work, when there was nothing to do, which is most of the day. I was also getting really, really pissed off about all kinds of horrible shit happening, how stupid most people are, etc, ad nauseum.

  5. ÿ embrace the tenets of Digiizophrenia™ when it comes to duh interwebz, based largely on the wisdom of St. Salvador:

    “Never Dali understand one painting of Dali… Because Dali only creates enigmas.”

    ⸘Understanding is theft‽
    ⸘Understanding is freedom‽
    ⸘Understanding is impossible‽

  6. Erik Denning | Aug 8, 2014 at 12:39 am |

    It is disheartening. I won’t divulge my views on the Israel/Palestinian conflict, but I definitely turn to the outlets and articles that appeal to my own belief system. As someone else here said, you can find support for just about anything you believe on the internet and real “truth” is harder and harder to come by. The Gaza conflict is a major public relations war for both sides.

Comments are closed.