Thursday assorted links

1. New results about Denisovans.

2. “…the evidence suggests that electoral incentives successfully induce incumbents to exert professional effort.”  And eliminating the university Boards of Regents would be a big mistake for Arizona.

3. Who’s complacent?  The culture that is Maine.

4. China extrapolation of the day: “The famine in China 1959-61 was the single biggest in history, in terms of numbers of deaths. But in terms of long-run population trends, the impact was remarkably small.”  And Amazon might produce three seasons of The Three-Body Principle.

5. A good take on Facebook and the Zuckerberg speech.

6. I recommend the Israeli movie Foxtrot, though it is best to see it without spoilers and without reading reviews.


Big-budget TV seems like a vastly better format for Three Body Problem than individual movies, and I'm excited by the prospect, but I still think a big chunk of the books would be unfilmable.

".... but I still think a big chunk of the books would be unfilmable."

They were slow and sometimes turgid books, an adaptation to film would have to involve a complete narrative re-write.

A big chunk of the books were unreadable as well...

While all the social apps sell "people" it strikes me that Facebook was the only one who went so far in selling real actual people, not just anonymized data, or access to a certain number of anonymous eyeballs.

They were useful to political users because the data about real people can be tied to voting records and etc.

The question should be if Facebook can up their anonymizing game, while keeping their business model. I think they can, and should.

For the darkest possible take, in a parallel world where social media does not self-correct, but doubles down:

"The problem with Facebook is not *just* the loss of your privacy and the fact that it can be used as a totalitarian panopticon. The more worrying issue, in my opinion, is its use of digital information consumption as a psychological control vector. Time for a thread"

Mark said: "I think the feedback that we’ve gotten from people—not only in this episode but for years—is that people value having less access to their data above having the ability to more easily bring social experiences with their friends’ data to other places."

*bring social experiences with their friends' data to other place*

What are the analogies of this concept in the real world -- the non-zero-and-one world? That, to me, is the fundamental flaw in FB original philosophy.

Outside of "gossip" which I try to refrain from, I cannot think of a social experience where I leverage my friends' information to improve the experience or to new experiences.

".... I cannot think of a social experience where I leverage my friends’ information to improve the experience or to new experiences."

If you want to go to a popular new film, you're probably going to invite people you know that like that genre. You aren't going to call up people at random from your phones contact list. Of course that same information is highly valuable to advertisers. Advertisers want that same information that you inherently know and use.

Good example. I was thinking of like examples, but in the example you suggest and others I was thinking about, in each case, I would need to acquire their consent to join along. Furthermore, by befriending me, there will be some inherent information sharing across parties, but at no point, have either of us consented to use the information we've gathered to the benefit of mutually exclusive experiences (generally speaking).

The reason I mentioned "gossip" was the one that immediately came to mind where I'm using the persons information to better my experience (presuming I enjoy gossiping which I don't) w/o their consent to use their information.

I'm getting hung up on the term "bring ... to other places" which implies, to me, some level of transfer and potential dissemination which generally isn't captured in a movie ticket (unless purchased on fandango!)

Still, it is a good point that I would use data to determine who to invite. And, no question that this information could be valuable to third parties. Thanks JWatts for engaging the comment.

"... can be used as a totalitarian panopticon "

what do you think the NSA, DOJ and associated alphabet federal agencies have been doing for past 30 years ??

NSA directly taps into Facebook networks/data 24/7

Also, Zuckerberg freely handed his database to the Obama campaign in 2011 -- nobody seemed scared about it back then

"Also, Zuckerberg freely handed his database to the Obama campaign in 2011 — nobody seemed scared about it back then"

Sure, nor would it be nearly the scandal among the press if this had been connected to the Hillary campaign. But that's misses the point, the only time that this will get traction is when somebody on the Right potentially benefits from it. Facebook freely admitted that they went out of their way to share information with the Obama administration. Part of the scandal is that Facebook is shocked that this information helped a Republican. Closing down this kind of Data targeting helps the Right more than it does the Left, because it's a relatively non-partisan result.

Are you falling for that one Watts? Give us the link to show where Facebook gave Obama their entire "database," and did not follow rules of informed consent.

"Give us the link to show where Facebook gave Obama their entire “database,”"

Do you need to borrow some more straw?

Are you going to throw away the key distinction? Asking users for informed consent, to use their friends list for political contact, is not (clap) the (clap) same (clap) as stealing data in violation of contracts.


A former media director for the Obama campaign said Facebook allowed them to access the personal data of its users in 2011 because the social media giant was “on our side.”

“They came to our office in the days following election recruiting & were very candid that they {Facebook} allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side,” Carol Davidsen, director of data integration and media analytics for Obama for America, wrote March 18, 2018 on Twitter (NY Post 22 Mar 2018)

Recent Facebook fury exposes a massive double standard on the part of those now raising hell.
When Obama was exploiting Facebook users to help win re-election, it was an act of political genius. When Trump attempted something similar but much smaller -- it's suddenly a travesty of democracy and further evidence that somehow he stole the election.

Ted, your link confirms my story, not yours.

"They started with a list that grew to a million people who had signed into the campaign Web site through Facebook. When people opted to do so, they were met with a prompt asking to grant the campaign permission to scan their Facebook friends lists, their photos and other personal information."

You may not like that those voters gave informed consent to scan their friends list, but they did.

@ Anon 6:51 - But did their friends give consent to be scanned? Three options:

(1) I consent to something other than you scanning my friends.
(2) I consent to you scanning my friends.
(3) I, your friend, consent to being put on some third party's radar.

Isn't the differce between 1 and 2 pretty minor compared to the difference between either and 3?

I still only half-understand this story.

"Can I use your friends list" is nicer than LinkedIn or Strava just using them.

And this bit "they were met with a prompt asking to grant the campaign permission to scan their Facebook friends lists, their photos and other personal information.”

"Their" might be party of the first part all the way through?

...the massive Obama-campaign exploit of Facebook literally set off alarms at Facebook HQ because it did NOT follow the Facebook rules.
Facebook had never seen anything like it and was going to quickly shut it down -- until Facebook found out who was behind it and what the objective was. At that point Facebook enthusiastically cooperated with the Obama -campaign on this cyber tactic.

There is a difference between accessing data for the stated reason, and accessing data under a false premise in order to use it for microtargeted propaganda.

"Are you falling for that one Watts? Give us the link to show where Facebook gave Obama their entire “database,” and did not follow rules of informed consent."

Hilariously, one of the Obama campaign people has apparently claimed they did scoop up the entire data set and when it set off a Facebook alarm, Facebook just told them to stop after the election.

"The Obama campaign's extensive harvesting of social graph data triggered Facebook's internal safeguards, according to an article a year later in The New York Times Magazine. But Facebook allowed it to continue. "It was more like we blew through an alarm that their engineers hadn't planned for or knew about," Will St. Clair, a programmer for the campaign, told the magazine. "They'd sigh and say, 'You can do this as long as you stop doing it on Nov. 7.'""

""We ingested the entire U.S. social graph," Carol Davidsen, director of data integration and media analytics for Obama for America, told The Washington Post this week. "We would ask permission to basically scrape your profile, and also scrape your friends, basically anything that was available to scrape. We scraped it all.""

The article is short and well worth the read.

5. The retreat of our effete elites continues apace.

For any tentacle of our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment itself to be a news item over the course of successive news cycles would not seem to conform to Tyler's recent promise of the pending outbreak of some new Media Establishment narrative buzzing about some nebulous "return of control". No evidence for THAT hope or neo-idealism to be gleaned from the Techdirt piece.

Problem, not principle.

This 'good take' makes the questionable assumption that people care about 'controling their data'.

So perhaps Facebook should let people do anything they please with their data - as I suspect most would leave it just where it is.

Tastefully done.

Agree with both.

I worry at times I’m schizoidal and randomly submit comments as Jeff R and other Jeff R.

Or we’re all in the Matrix ?

"The retreat of our effete elites continues apace."
As opposed to, say, effete thugs whining about women not finding them attractive or, even better, #whitegenocide. Those are clearly advancing... on their knees.

Which link is that from?

Ah, I see the comment above now. I was curious as that doesn't seem like the sort of language one would expect to see in a link.

4. At one time America held the distinction of big: big economy, big land mass, big military, big corporations, even big people. We were top banana in the big department. The banana has passed to China. That's no small accomplishment. In this century China will be big in both population growth and population loss. Demographers project (and this is the mid-range projection) that China's population will continue to grow in the first half of this century and then decline by 400 million in the second half. 400 million! Now that's a big number. I can't help but wonder if China has big plans to address such a big population decline.

Seriously, Amazon is going to spend a billion dollars to acquire the rights to the books and producing 3 seasons??? A billion dollars?

This seems to be a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a marginal intellectual property. For reference Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars IP for $4 billion.

It’s not just the IP, it’s the cost of producing the series for three seasons.

I’m not disagreeing with you in the assessment that this may be a bad investment. However, how much did each GoT season cost?

GOT started at $50 or $60 a season (10 episodes), and the last six episodes will cost several times as much per episode

2. In light of the experience in Virginia with putting politicians in control of the state universities (I am specifically referring to UVA), what's Cowen's opinion about the Arizona proposal.

Perhaps Cowen does express his opinion in his reference to the link (the linked article doesn't take a position, such as that the proposal would be a "big mistake for Arizona").

Brazil has imposed a terrible defeat on Mr. Trump's Administration. President Temer has forced the American regime to withdraw unfair tariffs placed over Brazil's superior steel.

Even if the Brazilian Republic (Federative Republic of Brazil) and its government last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

WSJ today has an article noting Brazil’s trade deficit with the US in human sperm. I guess this is what they call a revealed preference?

In all seriousness, many countries require that assisted reproduction (like sperm donation) cannot be anonymous. This discourages the supply relative to the US.

The article points out that it's the reverse. The US provides far more information than Brazil, and that information is popular with purchasers.

Brazil has stringent controls on assisted reprodution and blood use.

"Even if the Brazilian Republic (Federative Republic of Brazil) and its government last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”"

File this under The Complacent Class.

Brazil's finest hour was avoiding US tariff's on steel in 2018. In 2019 the Republic of Brazil was annexed by China, in a move that President Xi classified as a consolidation of the steel industry.

No, it will never happen. Brazil fought for survival against the Castillian aggressor, against the Portuguese colonial oppressor, against the Cisplatine Province, against Argentina, against the Paraguayan invader, against Black rebellions, against the Japanese rebels, against the Kaiser, against Hitler, against the Dominican Republic.

Brazil would be China's Vietnam the same way Vietnam was China's Vietnam in the late 70's. We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! We are not a Tibet. We are bigger than the Roman Empire at its height.

This guy seems to have a different opinion.

"Thiago Ribeiro - They are buying everything they can put their hands on. Infrastructure (energy, highways, railways), ore, manufacture, agricultural land, services, niobium, logistics, oil, start-ups. So many people are invested in doing business with Red China, a powerful fifth-column has arisen in Brazil.

China controls languge departments at Brazil’s most prestigious universities, Chinese business and Brazilians working with Red China control publicity funds, which means they have great leverage with newspapers, magazines and TV channels. China is not buying the Rockfeller Center or Van Gogh’s paintings as crazy Japanese billionaires used to do. They are buying Brazil’s blood, Brazil’s voice, Brazil’s spirit itself. Brazil’s democracy is being smothed with piles of cold, hard cash.

Brazil’s independent life is at risk."

We are fighting for survival bare-handed and alone (when America fought against the Kaiser, Hitler, Mussolini, Bosch, etc., Brazil supported America; uncountable Brazilian soldiers gave the last full measure of devotion) against the biggest totalitarian regime in man's history. But, in spite of America's greed and cowardice, we will fight alone if we need. This much I promjse: we will either survive or take you with us.

Wikipedia tells me 948 Brazilian soldiers died in WW2. That's not really uncountable, is it?

@richter: for a Brazilian, perhaps

Andd it is the Federative Republic of Brazil.

2. Since faculties and administrations have turned their institutions into sandboxes, they have no legitimate complaint about any political interference.

Good point. It couldn't hurt.

I would have employed as a metaphor, "cat litter boxes." But, "sandboxes" works.

Desperately sad, desperately true.

Every time Trump and Wilbur Ross speaks on international trade they must be met with...

"Mr.Trump/Ross, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Does that need to be in quotation marks with attribution? Didn't you see that canned insult on

Yet, AFL-CIO supports Trumpian tariffs because American workers can not compete with Brazilian workers on a leveled playing field.

"Competition" in the context of a globalized labor market is closely tied to standard of living, especially when capital/factors of production are mobile. Why the hell would American labor want to "outcompete" coolie laborers living at the edge of subsistence?

5. This is better.

#3. I liked this comment: "We need to end the stigma of stigmatization" (by which I think the commenter meant "on" not "of")

Anyone explain to me: What is the real difference between what a Cambridge Analytica wanted to do with personal information harvested on Facebook, and what Facebook itself can do with that information?

The "real difference" is TRUMP!!!!! Trump Derangement Syndrome. Obama's tech operatives did something similar in the 2012 re-election campaign and the 0's campaign was awarded props for it.

Mark Z. seems to be a nice young lad. I doubt if the buyers of my personal data profited one penny.

Crooked Hillary would have been bad (far worse than Trump) for America. We didn't need CA, Facebook, or Russia to tell us.

If Obama's administration committed as many crimes as this one, you guys were really lousy at catching them. You couldn't even make Benghazi stick!

For those keeping score at home, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has either indicted or gotten guilty pleas from 19 people and 3 companies so far.

Obama and his team did not commit any crimes, just like Trump and Cambridge Analytica did not commit any crimes either. The difference is that the media is trying to change their tune now and make that into a crime (mostly because they realized that the tech can benefit their enemies).

As I say, 19 in the bag already, and we get to see where CA leads. If they knew about DNC hacking to early, all hell could break loose.

"If Obama’s administration committed as many crimes as this one, you guys were really lousy at catching them. You couldn’t even make Benghazi stick!"

Yep, just like the Trump administration. I've been hearing for months about the coming Trump impeachment. The other side is always going to whine and bitch about how criminal the current occupant of the White House is.

Jeebus. Manafort maybe going down for life, and you guys are like "I see nothing!"

It would be interesting to know how many indictments would result from a similarly partisan, resourced and open ended innvestigation of say the Mayor and city of Chicago or New York.

Mayors go down all the time, though.

lol, type "mayor indicted" into google and it gives you a handy list of query completions.

19 Americans???

Can you give us a list of people and reasons they were indicted? Not Mother Jones or Reddit, but real information from public documents about how the charges pertain to the Trump campaign ?

My understanding is that Trump is an idiot clown and hired people who were corrupt and dealing in tax evasion and hiding income. Which is exactly what you would expect from an idiot clown who dealt in tax evasion and hiding income.

And par for the course in politics but in a retarded way. Like comparing a homeless man random murder to a mob hit.

At what point are we upset at the professionalism of the dirtbaggery and not the offense?

Does the fact that it is a bundle of Russians and Americans really ruin the storyline?

Speaking of which, we know know that Guccifier 2.0 was an actual officer in Russian Intelligence.

So.........what? I'm not a Trump fan. You do not need to convince me not to like him.

I am 100% ready to believe his campaign advisors were corrupt and conducting tax evasion. He's a corrupt clown and the people he surrounds himself with are corrupt clowns. I readily accept Manafort lying to the federal government about his political payments. Throw him in prison.

That's not the issue.

The allegation is that he is a stooge of Russia, bought and paid for by Putin. That's the implication behind all of this: that he is a Manchurian candidate. I find it almost impossible to believe that this incompetent moron could orchestrate a pizza parlor, let alone a massive criminal conspiracy.

He's paying off porn stars, not selling nuclear secrets. He's Burlesconi, not Julius Rosenberg.

Potato is exactly right, he's always been Berlusconi, it's not even a question.

I think you are getting ahead of the story. It is now obvious that campaign and transition members did collude with Russians. And "we were too dumb to figure that out" will be the defense.

What then can we say about obstruction?

There is no clean way out of this for Trump.

"President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month (April 2017) that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved “great pressure” on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting."

This will be the hardest thing for Trump to explain to Mueller. If he really did say *to the Russians* that firing Comey world "reduce pressure" it sure implies that Trump and the Russians had some common knowledge.

It implies that Trump himself thought that he and the Russians had a common risk from Comey.

Good point, and much questioning on that should be done.

But Facebook does not create microtargeted political propaganda.

The famine in China 1959-61 was not famine at all; it was organized mass murder. What really has happened is the communist officials lied to the upper government about the harvests. As a result, the farmers were forced to give up most or all of their harvest. In some areas the starving farmers and their families were killed by machine gun when they tried to leave their villages.

Another interpretation is that officials were unwilling to tell Mao the scope of the problem, because it would be admitting that a problem had occurred under their watch.

In addition to the lesson of not doing forced collectivization, it's also a lesson about not creating an environment where people fear reporting a problem.

#3 This would appear to be Massachusetts

5. It's hard not to think, based on reading that article, that we're headed for some heavy-handed, European-style digital privacy laws in the very near future.

This mostly applies to Facebook, which seems to be so reactionary when it comes to these matters, but it applies to other Silicon Valley and Big Tech firms too. All of them have become so casually used to the idea that they can data mine the public's lives to incredibly granular levels and now that there's pushback they're tone deaf in responding to that idea.

#5 is naive beyond belief. No wonder the whole idea came from Cory Doctorow. Sure, FB should allow data to be managed by some other entity! Sure, that will give people more control! (Until that 3rd party company starts trying to make money on it - or are we saying users would pay to connect their free facebook account to a company that manages privacy?)

There is a reason FB is free. There is a business model, which is based on advertisement modeled after the data that is collected. If you want that to change, you want FB to become something else. You have to assume that Zuckerberg thought about that and it is simply not economical to do so.

So yeah, let's keep dreaming about eating our cakes and having that privacy too.

#5. I still find the whole thing bizarre. How many people think that their digital information is going to be used to control them? Raise your hands.
Out of you people who raised your hands, what do you think is going to happen? Someone is going to target you with advertising that is going to brainwash you into voting for Trump? Really?

From the HuffPost 2014: "Facebook Says Sorry (Not Sorry) For Brainwashing You"

People only get brainwashed if they want to be brainwashed.

I don't know if that's completely correct, but I do agree that it's absurd to consider Facebook "brainwashing". I was just pointing out that the Left has been talking about Facebook brainwashing for years at this point. There are definitely people who would raise their hand.

True. Chomsky's influence. Manufacturing consent. Not to mention Marx - false consciousness. It is sort of a staple of leftist thought that the establishment is secretly brainwashing them all the time.
Or everyone else is brainwashed, but they know the truth!

It seems possible that the reason you find it "bizarre" is a lack of imagination (or, less likely a lack of appreciation about how connected we are).
1. Having trouble with a major life event (divorce, death of loved one, job loss, etc.) ? Talk to a mental health professional. Then get on umpteen lists which prohibit you from air travel or owning fire arms or a commercial drivers license or living within 500 ft of a school. Or law school, or medical school, or the military or ...just try to use your imagination. (I am not saying any of these are highly likely, of course)
2. The FB/Amazon/Google data collective ONLY provides you with hits (all results of any web search is filtered by these guys) that their algorithms assign as "compatible" with your marketing/value/values profile. You aren't even able to access Wikipedia pages on controversial topics for which you have been inexplicably flagged. Perhaps you believe people who are prevented exposure to alternative points of view will spontaneously create them? Yeah, we don't need no stinkin education for our kids. Do you really believe information doesn't exert a significant control on our behavior?
3. I'll just note that one of the 10 Commandments is about bearing false witness and clearly using algorithms to predict interests and justify actions that 3rd parties take comes pretty close to this. I'm referring to one of the underpinnings of a "good and just society" being eroded.
4. Have you bothered to put yourself in the shoes of those who agree with (and advocated for) the European laws on privacy and, especially, the right to be forgotten? You imply that NONE of their points are valid, which is in itself a bizarre understanding of almost any political issue.
BTW, I do agree that we are not - well except for the FISA court - even close - oh, and TSA's no fly list - to those things, and →with proper controls (and checks and balances on those controls)← it does seem to be a tempest in a tea pot, but there is a there there. Constant vigilance is the price of liberty.

It could be interesting to develop this 9th Commandment aspect...

You aren’t even able to access Wikipedia pages on controversial topics for which you have been inexplicably flagged

Where did you hear this?
I imagine Wikipedia bans certain people from *editing* certain pages, for pretty good reasons, but I seriously doubt they prevent anyone from *reading* them.

a) By use of calculated black/white oppositions and other long-established means of coercive thought reform, b) tailored to a diversity of known angles which promote excessive concern about things of minimal societal relevance while surreptitiously inserting conditioned 'programming' (positive and negative stimuli) related to things of broader relevance, c) for example assisted by electromagnetically-induced thought processes which the targeted individual is unable to "turn off" in the way that you can turn off the radio or refrain from use of sites which contain microtargeted propaganda ...

The question is not "can it be done" or "should it be feared", but rather "to what extent is present action required to mitigate such risk".

assisted by electromagnetically-induced thought processes

Oooooo..... kaaaaaay........ (backs slowly away)

Magnetophosphenes were first reported in 1896, by the Paris Biology Society:

The ability to electromagnetically induce visual perception was later reported in 1910 by the Royal Society of London:

If you search on Google Scholar, you will find much more on that term, published with some regularity over the last 100 years. Regarding plausibility, MRI machines are specifically designed to eliminate both visual and auditory effects which would otherwise occur from the radiofrequency emissions required for the imaging technique.

#5: What? It's not like any political party is going to give me what I'm looking for, anyway.

Between the acquisition of data and the intelligent use of it... falls the shadow. And it's a big one.

What I find fascinating is that the left is willing to turn on the tech giants that support it.

Score another victory for Trump, that no one else could accomplish.

Yeah, from a Right point of view this will probably lead to an unexpectedly favorable outcome.

"How Obama Won the Social Media Battle in the 2012 Presidential Campaign

For example, Obama logged twice as many Facebook “Likes” and nearly 20 times as many re-tweets as Romney. With his existing social media base and spreadable content, Obama had far superior reach.

The real drivers of an effective social media campaign, however, are based on the psychology of social behaviors not the current technology. ... Social media creates multiple levels of trust based on relationships. ... In the 2012 election, 30% of online users report that they were urged to vote via social media by family, friends or other social network connections, 20% actively encouraged others and 22% posted their decision when the voted.
From social validation to familiarity that turns into acceptance, social networks and the ability to link peer to peer, supercharge the type of self-organizing movement that Obama’s campaign seeded through strategic social media use."

"The ability to collect and analyze data on a large scale allowed the Obama team to model behaviors and coordinate and target communications based. They could, for example, predict which types of people could be persuaded by which forms of contact and content. The Obama field offices ranked call lists in order of persuadability allowing them to predict donor behaviors and to mobilize volunteers to get people out to vote, particularly in the critical swing states."

Also, "This article appeared in The National Psychologist January 2013 issue. "

They were able to predict who would be the easiest to get out to vote, so they could prioritize their calling list.
Big whoop.

LOL, ok that's a fair point.

6: Small correction to Tyler's advice -- read the review so it's clear that the movie is for bigots.

The big problem with social media is not how it enables ad agencies and political campaigns to brainwash people, but how it enables people to brainwash themselves. We've been talking for the last couple of years about political polarization, the creation of online reality bubbles, and social signalling behaviors. Those things are much more pervasive and damaging than anything we're talking about regarding advertisers or politicians using people's personal data. We're sitting here arguing about Cambridge Analytica basically doing the same thing every other ad company does but we should be arguing about the mental health effects of social media use in general.

but how it enables people to brainwash themselves.

Cannot help but recall that Rachel Dolezal's shenanigans you found amusing.

Dear Hazel:

Do you like me? Yes________ No_________

From Art

Link elsewhere today (Insty?) to an article describing a college philosophy professor expressing relief that she had withdrawn from a college committee that required her to talk to conservative students, which was upsetting her. The bubble is not just social media.

Definitely an angle worth more attention.

There had been much concern about people secluding themselves into increasingly extremist forums, etc., where there was a lot of self-reinforcement that de facto operated as a sort of 'brainwashing themselves' (sometimes discussed under "echo chambers").

However, while it wouldn't be surprising for it to work at least a little bit that way 'organically' ... one should anticipate that others would intentionally set out to manipulatively alter the dynamics of the group, control or influence information that the group was exposed to for either experimental and/or brainwashing reasons, etc., and moreover that this could be powered by data on those individuals from a variety of sources including social media.

For example, if an outsider enters an echo chamber, information about what triggers the outsider (and the most likely ways they would respond) and information about what trigger insiders (and the most likely ways they would respond) could enable a provocateur to sow the seeds of conflict which would additionally contribute to polarization (causing relatively extreme views to become more entrenched and/or extreme).

I think this is a lot harder than you imagine. For instance, in most liberal forums, liberals become *immediately* suspicious when a libertarian (ahem, such as myself), starts to suggest ideas that challenge some of their underlying assumptions. I speak from experience here. Moreover, a lot of the signalling behavior online is in-group signalling that results from exactly this sort of behavior - nobody trusts anyone until they've established their bonafides as "one of us", and even then, deviating from the group's beliefs then begins to signal that one just might be some sort of spy or interloper, come to inject evil foreign ideas into their heads.

Trolling seems to be a lot easier, but in that case, is it really driving people to extremes or is it just getting people to expose themselves as having pre-existing extreme beliefs? How much is polarization and how much is mask-slippage?
Also, most of the time, trolling just ruins a forum, breaks down group cohesion and drives people away.

Hey that tweet was about a Burger King in Massachusetts, not Maine. The junkies here prefer McDonald's.

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