Info-Distortion: Suddenly People Understand

November 16, 2016

I have watched the flood of stories about misinformation, false news, popular online services’ statements about dealing with the issue, and denials that disinformation influence anything. Sigh.

I have refrained from commenting after reading write ups in the New York Times, assorted blogs, and wild and crazy posts on Reddit.

A handful of observations/factoids from rural Kentucky:

  • Detection of weaponized information is a non trivial task
  • Online systems can be manipulated by exploiting tendencies within the procedures of very popular algorithms; most online search systems rely on workhorse algorithms that know their way to the barn. Their predictability makes manipulation easy
  • Textual information which certain specific attributes will usually pass undetected by humans who have to then figure out a way to interrelate a sequence of messages distributed via different outlets

There is some information about the method at my site. The flaws in “smart” indexing systems have been known for years and have been exploited by individual actors as well as nation states. The likelihood of identifying and eliminating weaponized information will be an interesting challenge. Yep, I know a team of whiz kids figured out how to solve Facebook’s problem in a short period of time. I just don’t believe the approach applies to some of the methods in use by certain government actors. How do you know an “authority” is not a legend?

Stephen E Arnold, November 16, 2016


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