Why content moderators fall for conspiracy theories

Speaking of my story last week about the secret lives of Facebook's content moderators in the United States, interviewers often ask me how work can make workers more susceptible to conspiracy theories. In my interviews with workers at a content moderation site in Phoenix, I heard again and again how the work environment was full of people who had come to believe the marginal opinions they were reviewing. As one of them told me, regarding the consequences of the Parkland shootings:

"People really started to believe that these positions should be moderate," she says. "They were saying:" Oh, my God, they were not really there. "Watch this video of David Hogg on CNN: he's too old to be in school, people started searching on Google instead of doing their job and study conspiracy theories about them, we think, 'Guys, no, these are the crazy things that we're supposed to be moderators, what are you doing?'

Now journalists are starting to investigate the mechanisms by which which this change of opinion can occur. Today at The Verge my colleague Mary Beth Griggs talks to Mike Wood, a psychologist at the University of Winchester who studies the spread of conspiracy theories. Wood says that existing research does not evaluate the effect of repeated exposure to conspiracy opinions about people's beliefs. But research shows that people become more susceptible to marginal opinions when they experience stress, he says:

Conspiracy theories are associated with stress. Basically, research has been done that shows that when people go through a stressful life event, such as the death of a family member, divorce or a major break in their lives, conspiracy theories are more likely in that circumstance. So there are indications that psychological stress can put people in this place where they are looking for new answers or possibly trying to face the world in a new way.

We have other research showing that when someone does not feel in control of their life or in control of what is happening to them, the conspiracy theories seem more plausible, and that could have been what is happening with these people. I'm not sure what his subjective psychological experience was at that time, but there are some data that suggest that this may happen.

As I documented in my article, working as a content moderator is very stressful. Workers' time is managed until the second, Facebook's instructions on how to moderate individual publications can vary hourly, and making only a few mistakes can be enough to put a worker's job at risk. Given that level of coercion, it is fair to ask if it could not be a factor in the likelihood that workers will start to believe in conspiracy theories.

Meanwhile in One Zero the new Medium technology publication, Erin Schumaker talks to experts who talk about the power of repeated exposure to deform the human mind.

"The more often you see it, the more familiar something is and the more familiar something is, the more believable it is". says Jeff Hancock, professor of communication and founding director of the Stanford Social Media Lab.

The content of the conspiracy is designed to be persuasive. People accept these theories because they help make sense of a world that feels random; Even if they seem distant to the rest of us, they may offer some sense of comfort or security. And seeing those theories appear repeatedly in your Facebook news source "begins to undermine the feeling that they are marginal," says James Grimmelmann, a professor at Cornell Law School who studies Internet law and social networking.

What to do? The first obvious step is research. Facebook told me that it plans to conduct a survey on the "resistance" of contractors in the coming months that will allow the company to better understand the mental health of its workers. One or two questions about the content of the conspiracy could help Facebook begin to understand how widespread the problem is.

Second, Facebook could develop training materials that prepare workers for the possibility of being influenced by conspiracies. It should be disclosed to potential workers as a possible effect of doing the job, and advisors should be encouraged to discuss the issue with workers during their regular interactions.

Finally, Facebook could create a knowledge base of known conspiracy theories for moderators to review while performing their work.

One of the reasons why the company started hiring Americans is what it calls "cultural context": the idea that Americans will already be familiar with public figures, local slang and other regional idiosyncrasies. But in practice, many workers lack that cultural context. A moderator told me she was embarrassed to mistakenly remove a video from the provocative conservatives Diamond and Silk. She did not recognize them as public figures and only saw them as two women who seemed to be intimidating someone. (That someone turned out to be Ted Cruz, a senator from the United States, the moderator told me).

Although it would be impossible to establish all the relevant cultural context for moderators, giving workers some kind of guidance for popular conspiracy theories seems a positive next step. A worker who has been prepared for the possibility that she is exposed and persuaded by anti-Semitic conspiracies would probably be better equipped to handle them

And who knows? The resources developed to support the moderators may be useful elsewhere. After all, before it reached the reviewer's desk, it was lurking somewhere on Facebook, pushing someone else to the edge.

The Trauma Floor

How Roblox moves forward with its digital citizenship initiative

A disruptive virtual sexual assault on Roblox, a virtual community for children, the company is increasing moderation efforts, Dean Takahashi reports:

] Bhaumik hired Laura Higgins, an online security expert in the UK, as Roblox's first director of digital civility. in January. Higgins, who was the manager of online security operations at South West Grid for Learning, has been advising Roblox for more than 18 months. The company has more than 600 human moderators to patrol the content and behavior in the Roblox, and is devoting more resources to the task of changing online behavior.

But it is difficult to stay ahead of the problem, said Bhaumik. Children are smart and find ingenious ways to get around the rules.

Democracy

Arlington says that Amazon must meet specific office space objectives to get $ 23 million in grants

Patricia Sullivan investigates the Arlington County agreement with Amazon, which appears to be designed to minimize public opinion:

Amazon will receive staggered payments for occupying an increasing amount of office space near the National Airport, and will receive a notification of at least two days when someone requests information that it provides to Arlington County, under an agreement of incentives that the County Board will vote on March 16.

The $ 23 million deal, which was provided to The Washington Post before its public release later today, explains for the first time how many square feet the online retail giant owes fill each year to get money from the county hotel tax .

Fighting against false news: Deciphering the world & # 39; What-App & # 39; of WhatsApp

Samarth Bansal and Kiran Ga rimella studies the world full of disinformation of the closed political groups of WhatsApp:

From false lies and partially true deceptive narratives to intolerance and hatred, everything circulates in the closed encrypted world of the India's most popular messaging application, with more than 230 million active users. According to a 2017 Lokniti-CSDS survey Mood of the Nation (MOTN), around a sixth of WhatsApp users in India said they were members of a group initiated by a leader or political party.

Not all political discussions about WhatsApp are about the consumption of false news. Our data set, more than a million messages collected from politically motivated WhatsApp groups between August 1 and December 4, 2018, contains all kinds of information: long-duration text messages, infographics, political memes and videos of news. The focus of this analysis is restricted to the study of images: 36% of all messages; 9% were videos.

Google banned political announcements before federal elections, citing new transparency rules

In December, the Canadian government passed a law that required technology platforms to create a record of all political announcements and created sanctions for the Failure to do so includes fines and jail sentences. Google now says it will ban political advertising in Canada instead of complying, reports Tom Cardoso:

"We have come to the decision that the best way for Google to comply with the Elections Act in the 2019 election cycle is to leave to accept election announcements as defined by legislation, "said Colin McKay, head of public policy and government relations at Google Canada. "It's painful for us." […]

In addition to the ad registration requirements, Google also expressed concern about how it would detect ads of a partisan nature, which may not specifically mention a candidate or party by name. "The challenge for us is that that definition is extremely broad," McKay said.

Amazon's tough negotiation extends far beyond New York

Karen Weise, Manny Fernandez and John Eligon examine Amazon's brutal trading tactics with country governments:

Virtually all of the largest companies in The United States manages a difficult deal with governments, seeking benefits and financial incentives. However, Amazon often plays politics with a distinctive message: give us what we want or we will go and take our work elsewhere. The tactics help Amazon to squeeze politicians as much as possible.

"They are as murderous as they can be," said Alex Pearlstein, vice president of Market Street Services, which helps cities, including those with Amazon deposits, attract employers.

Big Tech, former sponsor of CPAC, now is his Boogeyman

Michael M. Grynbaum reports that large technology companies are no longer welcome at the annual meeting of the conservatives. Noting that reading the following excerpt may cause his eyes to fall back so hard that they fall from his head:

At last week's meeting here in a Washington suburb, the only obvious presence in Silicon Valley was in the lips of the exercised right

"Facebook, Google and Twitter are driving a social agenda of the left while exercising their marketing power to isolate the conservative voices of the US technology industry as an authoritarian hegemony. "said Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, during a prominent session with the ominous title" Blocked: this panel has been removed for conservative content. "

Elsewhere

Holdout Jeff Bezos confronted by Amazon Moms Demanding Day Attention

Spencer Soper and Rebecca Greenfield have a new story of employee activism on Amazon. These people had me in "Momazonians".

Amazon has long resisted supplications to provide a daycare benefit to support employees, although other technology companies have offered the benefit for years. Now, a group of hundreds of working mothers is launching a campaign to persuade founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, that providing help to parents facing flu outbreaks, school closings and other emergencies is not just human but good for the company.

On Amazon, a Qanon conspiracy book goes up the charts – with an algorithmic thrust

Ben Collins has a classic case of freedom of reach with this story from a Qanon book that carries the Amazon recommendation algorithm to a high place on the bestseller list:

A book that drives the Qanon conspiracy theory ranked among the top 75 books sold on Amazon in recent days, driven by the algorithmically generated recommendations page from Amazon .

"QAnon: An invitation to the great awakening", that no declared author, classified at number 56 at the time of publication, appeared in the "New releases" section generated algorithmically on the home page of Amazon books . The book claims without evidence a variety of extravagant claims that include prominent Democrats murdering and eating children and that the US government. UU He created both AIDS and the movie Monsters Inc.

Revealed: AmazonSmile helps fund groups against the vaccine

Speaking of freedom Julia Carrie Wong reports that Amazon's charity program benefits vaccine fans: [19659052] AmazonSmile's fundraising program, through which Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price of Amazon transactions from a buyer to an organization of their choice. – It is promoted on the websites of four major organizations against the vaccine: the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), Doctors for Informed Consent, Learn the Risk and Autism Age.

Many other organizations against the vaccine, including US citizens for Health Choice (ACHC), National Health Freedom Coalition, Michigan for Vaccine Choice, Texans for Vaccine Freedom, A Voice for Choice and the informed Amazon also include Consent Action Network as eligible for donations.

A comedian's fight with Barstool Sports shows how Twitter's copyright system can hurt creators

Nick Statt talks to Los Angeles writer and comedian, Honey Bredouw, about how he stole Barstool Sports content, filed a false counterclaim to his DMCA removal notice, and got away with it. Twitter has no answer for this type of behavior, and should do so. (By the way, the Honey podcast with Demi Adejuyigbe, Punch Up the Jam, is spectacular.)

Finally, when Bredouw refused to answer, Barstool Sports presented its consideration, telling Twitter that the copyright strike of Bredouw was not legitimate; Barstool had "a good faith belief that the material should not have been removed." And, apparently, Twitter bought it, according to a message he received from Twitter stating that the video would be reconnected after 10 days, unless he sought a lawyer and brought Barstool to court.

The current Twitter policy states that when it receives a notification of counter-notification, the case is no longer in the hands of the company; It has been elevated to a legal issue that only lawyers and courts are prepared to handle. But Bredouw says that the status quo allows sites like Barstool to steal the creators' work and intimidate them so they can not counterattack. "This is not the first time this has happened to me when a large account has stolen a piece of content and I submitted a DMCA and they filed a counter notification," says Bredouw. "There is a dazzling gap when you file an anti-DMCA in which you have to get a court order."

Oculus Quest Enterprise Edition Coming soon this year

Microsoft recently brought Hololens to the company, and now Janko Roettgers reports that Oculus will soon be sold to businesses as well:

Facebook is looking to launch business edition versions of its Oculus Go and Oculus Quest virtual reality (VR) headsets this year, according to a list of works published last week. The list explains broader plans to bring augmented virtual reality technology to the company, starting with dedicated business versions of the two headsets.

"From virtual reality, we are building an edition of Oculus Go and Oculus Quest Enterprise that will be launched in 2019.", reads in part. "Are you excited about how VR and AR can change the future of work? Join us to make it a reality. "

Launches

Introducing We Think Digital: New digital literacy resources to reach 1 million people in Asia Pacific by 2020

Facebook has a new effort to improve digital literacy in Asia:

Today we launched We Think Digital, an online education portal with interactive tutorials aimed at helping people think critically and share intelligently online.We designed the program in collaboration with experts from all over Asia Pacific and our goal is to train 1 million people in 8 countries of Asia Pacific by 2020, with our resources available in 6 different languages.

Asia Pacific has a rapidly growing Internet population According to the Digital Trends Report 2019 We Are Social, more than 2.21 billion people are online and 203 million new people joined the Last year, We Think Digital has been designed for new and existing Internet users of all ages to develop the skills they need to enjoy digital technology safely, including critical thinking and empathy.

Takes

Deepfake's propaganda is not a real problem

Russell Brandom says that the alarmism for deep faults is not justified:

Even with the limitations of deep filters, they could be enough to scare away to the political trolls of tactics. It is likely that the loading of an algorithmically manipulated video attracts the attention of automated filters, while the conventional film editing and the obvious lies will not. Why risk?

It is also not clear how useful deepfakes are for this type of trolls campaign. Most of the operations we have seen so far have been more to muddy the water than to produce convincing evidence of a claim. In 2016, one of the crudest examples of false news was the report fed by Facebook that Pope Francis had backed Donald Trump. It was widely shared and completely false, the perfect example of false news gets out of hand. But the fake story offered no real evidence of the claim, just a superficial article on an otherwise unknown website. It was not harmful because it was convincing; The people just wanted to believe it. If you already think that Donald Trump is leading America to the path of Christ, it will not take long to convince him that the Pope also believes it. If you are skeptical, an illustrated video from a papal address will probably not change your mind.

Why is Napalm a cautionary tale for the technological giants seeking military contracts

? How should employees of Microsoft, Amazon or other platforms? Do you think about the military contracts your bosses are looking for? Kevin Roose offers some caution rooted in the story:

Dow was not known as a defense contractor; In fact, until its contract with the Pentagon, the company was best known for manufacturing industrial chemicals and household plastics such as Saran Wrap.

In the years to come, when Americans began to see horrific images of Vietnamese children from the south with horrible napalm burns, the anti-war movement set its sights on the company.

And finally …

JetBlue asks Instagrammers to delete their photos to win a free year of flights

"Delete your account" is something fun you can tell anyone at any time, and I encourage you to do so. JetBlue is basically asking its Instagram followers to do just that, with a touch. Instead of deleting your entire account, you simply have to delete (or archive) all your photos and then post a single JetBlue promotion photo to your account, using the airline template.

On the one hand, converting Instagram into an unwanted email Wonderland to promote an airline feels like a bad result. On the other hand – free flights. The choice is yours.

Tell me

Send me suggestions, comments, questions and strategies to ignore the conspiracy theories: [email protected]

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