The Microsoft Vision: Agent-Intermediated Computing

February 9, 2023

Not one single input from smart software. — Editor

[Mise en scène] Googzilla is towering over advertisers, hissing and brandishing its long talons. Then the creature turns its head. It tiny ear slits twitch. He hears a sound like “boink” or “thunk.” Distracted, the 25 year-old terror looks from the cowering advertisers and fixes his maroon-hued eyes on a almost insignificant figure. That entity is Satya Nadella, who has just ruing Sundar’s and Prabhakar’s high school reunion. The fear of answering the question “Hey, how did you guys miss this ChatGPT – Microsoft thing” is terrifying. Googzilla emits a plaintive “welp.” The advertisers back away and start walking toward Redmond. [Fade to black]

The shoe has dropped. Boink or thunk, depending on your perceptual equipment. “Microsoft’s AI-Powered Bing Will Challenge Google Search” reports “Microsoft may finally have figured out how to get you to use Bing.” The article adds a quote directly from the champion of high school reunions in India:

“All computer interaction is going to be mediated with an agent helping,” Chief Executive Satya Nadella said at a launch event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington. “We’re going to have this notion of a co-pilot that’s going to be there across every application.”

I won’t point out that “all” is a logical impossibility when it comes to humanoids and computer systems. But I will let that slide… because ChatGPT.

Kudos to Microsoft for pulling off the marketing play of the year. I know it is only early February 2023, but it may take something truly special to tap into the brush fires ignited by ChatGPT. Will Bing be better? Maybe? Will the ChatGPT thing frighten the allegedly monopolistic Google? I think it has.

There are several examples that illustrate the disarray of the Google radar system. First, the search beacon missed the incoming ChatGPT balloon. Hello, Prabhakar. Isn’t and maybe wasn’t that your job?

Then there was the startling Code Red. Yeah, that’s professional. OpenAI has been around six or seven years. Now it is Code Red. Situational awareness seems to be lacking where Googzilla hunts. This is a flaw in an apex predator, is it not?

The dollop of whipped cream on this torched cupcake was asking the former head chefs of data hoovering and search engine optimization as an spur to buying advertising to return to the wizard lair. Yep, Sundar asked Sergey and Larry to help out with the Code Red thing. Okay, but let’s recall the origin of the Google money machine. Wasn’t it Yahoo-Overture-GoTo? Yeah, I think it was and there was a legal hassle and a billion dollar sentiment to make the GOOG gleam like a sprightly young Googzilla.

The actions that cement the frenzy in the House of Google is the steady flow of “it’s coming,” “yes, it’s a demo,” and “okay, we bought an outfit that Sam Bankman Fried found interesting.” The problem is that “to be” does not close the gap with the ChatGPT riding its hyper-drive electronic motorcycle on Google’s private motorways.

Several observations:

  1. Will the OpenAI and ChatGPT thing help Microsoft address the security of its existing software and services? When?
  2. Will Microsoft milk the marketing buzz and return to business as usual: Killing printers, interfaces that baffle, and features that disrupt one’s activity on a Windows enabled system?
  3. Will Microsoft have an answer to those who would claim that smart software violates fair use of intellectual property?
  4. Will Microsoft be able to handle bias and outputs which lead to interesting but harmful outcomes like a student getting expelled after mommy and daddy paid $135,000 for tuition?

But for now. The payoff for Microsoft is the thrill of watching Googzilla squirm. And the “all” word? That’s just an illustration of the imprecision of Microsoftie speech.

Stephen E Arnold, February 9, 2023

Doom: An Interesting Prediction from a Xoogler

January 31, 2023

I spotted an interesting prediction about Google or what I call Googzilla. The comment appeared in “Gmail Creator Says ChatGPT Will Destroy Google’s Business in Two Years.”

Google may be only a year or two away from total disruption. AI will eliminate the Search Engine Result Page, which is where they make most of their money. Even if they catch up on AI, they can’t fully deploy it without destroying the most valuable part of their business!

The alleged Xoogler posting the provocative comment was Paul Buchheit. (Once I heard that it was he who turned the phrase, “Don’t be evil.) Mr. Buchheit is attributed with “inventing” Gmail.

The article stated:

The company has built its business largely around its most successful product; the search engine could soon face a crisis… Google charges advertisers a fee for displaying their products and services right next to the search results, increasing the likelihood of the provider being found. In 2021, the company raked in over $250 billion in revenue, its best-ever income in its nearly 25-year-old existence.

Let’s think about ways Google could recover this predicted loss. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Stop paying vendors like Apple to feature Google search results. (A billion here and a billion there could add up.)
  2. Create new services and charge users for them. (I know Google tried to cook up a way to sell Loon balloons and a nifty early stab at the metaverse, but maybe the company will find a way to innovate without me toos.)
  3. Raise prices for consumer services. (That might cause a problem because companies with diversified revenue may lower the already low, low prices for video chat, online word processing, and email. One trick ponies by definition may have difficulty learning another trick or three.)

Will ChatGPT kill the Google? My thought is that even Xooglers feel that the Googzilla is getting arthritic and showing off its middle age spread. Nevertheless, Google’s Sundar and Raghavan management act will have to demonstrate some Fancy Dancing. The ChatGPT may output content that seems okay but tucks errors in its nouns and verbs. But there is the historical precedent of the Sony Betamax to keep in mind. ChatGPT may be flawed but people bought Pintos, and some of these could explode when rear ended. Ouch!

Why are former Google employees pointing out issues? That’s interesting apart from ChatGPT Code Red silliness.

Stephen E Arnold, January 31, 2023

Another Betamax Battle: An Intellectual Spat

January 30, 2023

The AI search fight is officially underway. True, the Baidu AI won’t be available until March 2023, but the trumpet has sounded.

chatgpt fight small

The illustration of two AI mud wrestlers engaging in a contest was produced by Craiyon. I assume that the Craiyon crowd has the © because I can’t draw worth a lick. 

The fighters are making their way from the changing room to the pit. In the stands are dozens of AI infused applications. You.com provided a glimpse of its capabilities during its warm up. The somewhat unsteady Googzilla is late. Microsoft has been in the ring waiting for what seems to be a dozen or more news cycles. More spectators are showing up. Look. Baidu is here.

However, there is a spectator with a different point of view from the verdant groves and pizza joints of Princeton University. This Merlin is named Arvind Narayanan, who according to “Decoding the Hype About AI”, once gave a lecture called “How to Recognize AI Snake Oil.” That talk is going to be a book called “AI Snake Oil.” Yep, snake oil: A product of no real worth. No worth. Sharp point: Worth versus no worth. What’s worth?

Please, read the article which is an interview with a person who wants to slow the clapping and stomping of the attendees. Here’s a quote from Dr. Arvind Narayanan’s interview:

Even with something as profound as the internet or search engines or smartphones, it’s turned out to be an adaptation, where we maximize the benefits and try to minimize the risks, rather than some kind of revolution. I don’t think large language models are even on that scale. There can potentially be massive shifts, benefits, and risks in many industries, but I cannot see a scenario where this is a “sky is falling” kind of issue.

Okay, the observations:

  1. Google and its Code Red suggest that Dr. Narayanan is way off base for the Google search brain trust. Maybe Facebook and its “meh” response are better? Microsoft’s bet on OpenAI is going with the adaptation approach. Smart Word may be better than Clippy plus it may sell software licenses to big companies, marketers, and students who need essay writing help
  2. If ChatGPT is snake oil, what’s the fuss? Could it be that some people who are exposed to ChatGPT perceive the smart software as new, exciting, promising, and an opportunity? That seems a reasonable statement at this time.
  3. The split between the believers (Microsoft, et al) and the haters (Google, et al) surfaced with the Timnit Gebru incident at Google. More intellectual warfare is likely: Bias, incorrect output pretending to be correct, copyright issues, etc.

Is technology exciting again? Finally.

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2023

Does Google Have the Sony Betamax of Smart Software?

January 30, 2023

Does Google have the Sony Betamax of smart software? If you cannot answer this question as well as ChatGPT, you can take a look at “VHS or Beta? A Look Back at Betamax, and How Sony Lost the VCR Format War to VHS Recorders.” Boiling down the problem Sony faced, let me suggest better did not win. Maybe adult content outfits tipped the scales? Maybe not? The best technology does not automatically dominate the market.

googzilla betamax fixed

Flash forward from the anguish of Sony in the 1970s and the even more excruciating early 1980s to today. Facebook dismisses ChatGPT as not too sophisticated. I heard one of the big wizards at the Zuckbook say this to a Sillycon Alley journalist on a podcast called Big Technology. The name says it all. Big technology, just not great technology. That’s what the Zuckbooker suggested everyone’s favorite social media company has.

The Google has emitted a number of marketing statements about more than a dozen amazing smart software apps. These, please, note, will be forthcoming. The most recent application of the Google’s advanced, protein folding, Go winning system is explained in words—presumably output by a real journalist—in “Google AI Can Create Music in Any Genre from a Text Description.” One can visualize the three exclamation points that a human wanted to insert in this headline. Amazing, right. That too is forthcoming. The article quickly asserts something that could have been crafted by one of Googzilla’s non-terminated executives believes:

MusicLM is surprisingly talented.

The GOOG has talent for sure.

What the Google does not have is the momentum of consumer craziness. Whether it the buzz among some high school and college students that ChatGPT can write or help write term papers or the in-touch outfit Buzzfeed which will use ChatGPT to create listicles — the indomitable Alphabet is not in the information flow.

But the Google technology is better.  That sounds like a statement I heard from a former wizard at RCA who was interviewing for a job at the blue chip consulting firm for which I worked when I was a wee lad. That fellow invented some type of disc storage system, maybe a laser-centric system. I don’t know. His statement still resonates with me today:

The Sony technology was better.

The flaw is that the better technology can win. The inventors of the better technology or the cobblers who glue together other innovations to create a “better” technology never give up their convictions. How can a low resolution, cheaper recording solution win? The champions of Sony’s technology complained about fairness a superior resolution for the recorded information.

I jotted down this morning (January28, 2023), why Googzilla may be facing, like the Zuckbook, a Sony Betamax moment:

  1. The demonstrations of the excellence of the Google smart capabilities are esoteric and mean essentially zero outside of the Ivory Tower worlds of specialists. Yes, I am including the fans of Go and whatever other game DeepMind can win. Fan frenzy is not broad consumer uptake and excitement.
  2. Applications which ordinary Google search users can examine are essentially vaporware. The Dall-E and ChatGPT apps are coming fast and furious. I saw a database of AI apps based on these here-and-now systems, and I had no idea so many clever people were embracing the meh-approach of OpenAI. “Meh,” obviously may not square with what consumers perceive or experience. Remember those baffled professors or the Luddite lawyers who find smart software a bit of a threat.
  3. OpenAI has hit a marketing home run. Forget the Sillycon Alley journalists. Think about the buzz among the artists about their potential customers typing into a search box and getting an okay image. Take a look at Googzilla trying to comprehend the Betamax device.

Toss in the fact that Google’s ad business is going to have some opportunities to explain why owning the bar, the stuff on the shelves, the real estate, and the payment system is a net gain for humanity. Yeah, that will be a slam dunk, won’t it?

Perhaps more significantly, in the post-Covid crazy world in which those who use computers reside, the ChatGPT and OpenAI have caught a big wave. That wave can swamp some very sophisticated, cutting edge boats in a short time.

Here’s a question for you (the last one in this essay I promise): Can the Google swim?

Stephen E Arnold, January 30, 2023

Google PR: An Explainer about Smart Software

January 19, 2023

One of Google’s big wizards packs a brain with the impact of MK 7 16? 50 caliber gun. Boom. Boom. Boom.

image

Google does “novel” cats. What does Chess.com’s Mittens have to say about these felines? Perhaps, Mittens makes humans move. Google makes “novel” cats sort of move. © Google, 2023.

Jeff Dean has trained his intellectual weapons on a certain viral star in the smart software universe. “Google Research, 2022 & Beyond: Language, Vision and Generative Models.” The main point of the essay / blog post / PR salvo is that Google has made transformational advances. Great things are coming from the Google.

The explanation of the hows of the great things consume about 7,000 words. For Google, that’s the equivalent of a digital War and Peace with a preface written by Henry James.

Here’s a passage which I circled in three different Googley colors:

We are working towards being able to create a single model that can understand many different modalities fluidly — understanding what each modality represents in context — and then actually generate different modes in that context. We’re excited by progress towards this goal! For example, we introduced a unified language model that can perform vision, language, question answering and object detection tasks in over 100 languages with state-of-the-art results across various benchmarks. In future applications, people can engage more senses to get computers to do what they want — e.g., “Describe this image in Swahili.” We’ve shown that on-device multi-modal models can make interacting with Google Assistant more natural. And we’ve demonstrated models that can, in various combinations, generate images, video, and audio controlled by natural language, images, and audio. More exciting things to come in this space!

Notice the phrase “progress towards this goal.” Notice the example “Describe this image in Swahili.” Notice the exclamation mark. Google is excited.

The write up includes Google’s jargonized charts and graphs; for example, “Preferred Metric Delta” and “SuperGLUE Score.” There is a graphic explaining multi-axis attention mechanism. And more.

Enough “catty” meta-commentary.

Here are several observations:

  1. Artificial intelligence is a fruit basket of methods, math, and malarkey. The fact that Google wants to pursue AI responsibly sounds good. What’s “responsible” mean? What’s artificial intelligence? These are difficult questions, and ones that are not addressed in the quasi-academic blog essay. Google has to sell advertising to keep the lights on and the plumbing in tip top shape… mostly. Seven thousand words is public relations, content marketing, and a response to the wild and crazy hyperbole about OpenAI changing the world. Okay, maybe after the lawyers, the regulators, the content copyright holders have figured out what is going on  inside the allegedly open black boxes.
  2. If the reports from Davos are semi-accurate, Microsoft’s tie up with OpenAI and the idea of putting ChatGPT in Word makes me wonder if Microsoft Bob and Microsoft Clippy will return, allegedly smarter than before. Microsoft is riding a marketing wave and hoping to make money.
  3. Google is burdened with the albatross of Dr. Timnit Gebru and others who were transformed into former Googlers. What about Dr. Gebru’s legitimate concerns about baked in bias. When one sucks in content, the system does not know that content objects are more or less “better,” “right,” or distorted due to a spidering time out due to latency. The fact remains that Google terminated people who attempted to point out some foundational flaws in what the Google was doing.

Net net: The write up does not talk about Forward Forward methods. The write up does not talk about the likelihood that regulators in the European Union will be interested in what and how Google moves forward. Google is in the regulatory spot light. Will those regulators believe that Google can change its spots like the “novel” cats in the illustration? ChatGPT is something to get venture funders, entrepreneurs, and Davos executives to think positive thoughts. That does not mean the system will deliver. What about Mr. Brin’s self driving car prediction or the clever idea of solving death? Google may have to emulate in part Tesla, a company which allegedly faked the hands-off, full self-driving demo of its smart software. Seven thousand words means one thing to me:

‘The Google doth protest too much, methinks.’ Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2. (I think Shakespeare put Google in a foul paper and some busybody inserted the name Gertrude.)

Boom, boom, boom.

Stephen E Arnold, January 19, 2023

Google, Take Two Aspirin and One AlkaSeltzer: It Is Buzz Time for ChatGPT

January 17, 2023

What do you do when the “trust” outfit Thomson Reuters runs a story with this headline? “Davos 2023: CEOs Buzz about ChatGPT-Style AI at World Economic Forum.” If you are like me, you think, “Meh.”

But what if you are a Google / DeepMind wizard?

Now consider this headline: “Google’s Muse Model Could Be the Next Big Thing for Generative AI.” If you are like me, you think, “Sillycon Valley PR.”

But what if you are an OpenAI or Microsoft brainiac?

In terms of reach, I think the Reuters’ story will be diffused to a broader business audience. The subject is something perceived as magnetic. Any carpetlander can get an associate to demonstrate ChatGPT outputting a search result via You.com or some other knowledge product from the numerous demos available with a mouse click.

But to see the Google Muse story, one has to follow a small number of Sillycon Valley outlets. And what if the carpetlander wants to see a demonstration of the magical, super effective Muse? Yeah, use your imagination.

Perhaps Google and its ineffable search team may want to crunch on another couple of aspirin and get some of that chewable antacid stuff. It is going to be a long PR day at Davos.

One doesn’t have to be a business maven to understand that ChatGPT is a nice subject when the options at Davos are war, plummeting demand for some big buck commodities, Germany’s burning lignite, China’s Covid and Taiwan fixation, and similar economically interesting topics.

What will CEO and Davos attendees take away from the ChatGPT buzz? My experience suggests some sort of action, even it is nothing more than investigating whether the technology can deal with pesky customer support inquiries.

And where is Google amidst this buzz? Google has the forward forward, next big thing. Google has academic papers which point out the weaknesses of non Google methods. Google has Muse or at least a news release story about Muse.

Will OpenAI and ChatGPT have legs? Who knows. Good bad or indifferent, ChatGPT has buzz, lots of it. I know because the “trust” outfit says ChatGPT will “transform” the security minded Microsoft. Who knew?

Thus, at this moment in time, Google may become a good customer for over-the-counter headache remedies and AlkaSeltzer. Remember that jingle’s lyrics?

Plop plop, fizz fizz

Oh, what a relief it is.

Maybe ChatGPT will just fade away like hangover or the tummy ache from eating the whole thing? Is it my imagination or is Microsoft chowing down on croissants whilst explaining what ChatGPT will do for its enterprise customers?

I will consult my “muse.” Oh, sorry, not available.

Stephen E Arnold, January 17, 2023

Smart Software KN Handle This Query for Kia

January 16, 2023

I read “People Can’t Read New Kia Logo, Resulting in 30,000 Monthly Searches for “KN Car“. The issue seems to be a new logo which when viewed by me seems to read the letter K and the letter N. Since I am a dinobaby, I assumed that I was at fault. But, no. The write up states:

All told, just 56% of the 1,062 survey participants nailed it, while 44% could not correctly identify the letters. Furthermore, 26% of respondents guessed it says “KN”—which results in roughly 30,000 online searches for “KN car” a month, according to Rerev.

I think this means that even the sharp eyed devils (my classification phrase for those in the GenX, GenY, and Millennial cohorts) cannot figure out the logo either.

I conjured up some of the marketing speak used to sell this new design to the Kia deciders:

  • “Daddy, I know you hired me, and I like my new logo. You must make it happen. Okay, daddy.” — A person hired via nepotism
  • “The dynamic lines make a bold statement about the thrust of the entire Kia line.” — From a bright eyed college graduate with a degree in business who is walking through the design’s advantages
  • Okay. Modern?” — The statement by the Song Ho-sung after listening to everyone in the logo meeting.

To me, just change the name Kia to KM. BYD Auto may be a bigger problem than a KN logo.

Stephen E Arnold, January 16, 2023

Loving Tablets and Chromebooks: Sure, Like Going to the Dentist

December 29, 2022

Might smartphones make some devices irrelevant? We learn from The Register that “Tablet, Chromebook Shipments Come Crashing Down.” The article examines IDC’s report of third-quarter shipments. It states a mere 38.6 million tablets were shipped between July 01 and September 30, a decline of almost 9% since the previous year. Only Huawei grew its sales as demand escalated in China and Russia, where sanctions barred the way for Western tech. Writer Paul Kunert reports:

“Apple saw sales decline 1.1 percent to 14.5 million, according to IDC estimates. Samsung was down 4 percent to 7.1 million, Amazon fell 8.1 percent to 4.3 million, Lenovo shipments dropped 36.6 percent to 2.7 million, and Huawei grew 2 percent to 2.4 million. In its results filed late last week, Apple said iPad sales to end users were up 21 percent to $8.3 billion in Q4 of its fiscal ’22 ended 30 September despite supply constraints. IDC tracks sales into the channel, hence the difference in the figures. Chromebook shipments fell at a far faster rate, down 34.4 percent year-on-year to 4.3 million devices. This was the fifth straight decline for this sector of the PC industry. The downward trajectory began in the US, which accounted for 70 percent of global shipments. … IDC placed Acer as market leader with shipments of 1 million, albeit down 23.8 percent on a year ago. Dell shrank 19.9 percent to 900,000 units, HP was down 26.8 percent to 800,000, Lenovo plunged 54.8 percent to 700,000, and Samsung was down 37 percent to 300,000.”

Researchers point out Chromebook sales spiked during the pandemic as students connected from home, so its decline is simply a return to normal levels. As for the rest, a tough economy was likely at play. Apparently one can endure a slightly smaller small screen when fuel and groceries are difficult to afford.

The Arnold IT team has a different set of conclusions:

  1. Tablets and Chromebooks are like wearing clothing two sizes to small. Think discomfort.
  2. The promoters of tablets and Chromebooks are likely to use laptops to do “real” work.
  3. Tablets and Chromebooks make routine tasks difficult; for example, keeping an Internet connection in Buenos Aires during the World Cup Parade and finding a dongle in Hermanus.

Money and power allow some outfits to sell unusual stuff. Why not advertise these products on cable at 3 am?

Cynthia Murrell, December 29, 2022

Cyber Security: Is It Time for a Brazen Bull?

December 28, 2022

The cyber security industry has weathered Covid, mergers, acquisitions, system failures, and — excuse the lousy pun — solar winds. The flow of exploits with increasingly poetic names continues; for example, Azov, Zerobot, Killnet, etc. However, the cyber defense systems suffer from what one might call a slight misalignment. Bad actors find ways to compromise [a] humans to get user names and passwords, [b] exploit what is now the industry standard for excellence (MVP or minimal viable product, good enough engineering, and close-enough-for-horseshows technology), any gizmo or process connected to something connected to a public-facing network. The list of “bad” actors is a lengthy one. It includes bird-owning individuals in the UK, assorted government agencies hostile to the US, students in computer science class or hanging out in a coffee shop, and double agents with computing know how.

To add to the pain of cyber security, there are organizations which do great marketing but less great systems. “What’s in a PR Statement: LastPass Breach Explained” discusses a serious problem which underscores a number of issues.

LastPass is a product with a past reaching backwards more than a decade. The software made it easier for a user to keep track of what user name and password was whipped up to log into an online service or software. Over the years, PC Magazine found the password manager excellent. (Software can be excellent? Who knew?) Wikipedia has a list of “issues” the security software faced over the years. You can find that information here. More amusing is security expert Steve Gibson’s positive review of LastPass. Should you have the time, you can read about that expert’s conclusions in 2010 here.

But what does the PR statement article say? Here are a couple of snippets from the cited December 26, 2022, essay:

Snippet 1: Right before the holiday season, LastPass published an update on their breach. As people have speculated, this timing was likely not coincidental but rather intentional to keep the news coverage low. …Their statement is also full of omissions, half-truths and outright lies.

Harsh.

Snippet 2: Again, it seems that LastPass attempts to minimize the risk of litigation (hence alerting businesses) while also trying to prevent a public outcry (so not notifying the general public). Priorities…

My take on LastPass is that the company is doing what other cyber security firms do: Manage information about problems.

Let’s talk about cyber security on a larger stage. How does a global scale sound?

First, security is defined by [a] what bad actors have been discovered to do and [b] marketing. A breach occurs. A fix — ideally one enabled by artificial intelligence and chock full of predictive analytics — is created and marketed. Does the fix work? How about those Exchange Server exploits or those 24×7 phishing attacks? The point for me is that cyber security seems to be reactive; that is, dictated by what bad actors do.

Second, the “fix” is verified by whom and what? In the US there are Federal cyber groups. There are state cyber groups. There are cyber associations. There are specialty labs in fun places like Quantico. For a LastPass incident, which cowpoke moves the cow along? The point: Bureaucracy, friction, artificial barriers, time, expertise, money, and more.

Third, technical layoffs and time mean that cyber crime may be an attractive business opportunity for some.

Considering these three points, I want to hazard several observations:

  1. Cyber security may be an oxymoron
  2. Bad actors have the advantages granted by good enough software and systems, tools, talent, and time
  3. Users and customers who purchase security may be faced with a continual flow of surprises

What’s the fix? May I suggest that we consider bringing back the Bull of Phalaris aka the brazen bull.

The “bull” is fabricated of a suitable metal; for example, bronze. The inside of the bull is hollow. A trapdoor allows access to the interior space. When the trapdoor is closed, there is an opening from the interior to the bull’s nose. The malefactor — let’s say a venture firm’s managing director who is rolling up cyber security companies with flawed software — is placed inside the bull. A fire is built beneath the bull and the shouts and possible other noises are emitted from the opening in the bull’s head.

The use of the brazen bull for software developers pumping out “good enough” cyber security solutions can be an option as well. Once law enforcement snags the head of a notorious hacking gang, the bull will be pressed into duty. Keep in mind that Microsoft blamed 1,000 cyber warriors working in a country hostile to the US for the SolarWinds’ misstep. This would necessitate more bulls which would provide meaningful work to some.

I would advocate that marketer types who sell cyber security systems which don’t work be included in the list of individuals who can experience the thrill of the brazen bull.

My thought is that the use of the brazen bull with clips released as short videos would capture some attention.

What’s is going on now is not getting through? More robust measures are necessary. No bull.

Stephen E Arnold, December 28, 2022

Want Clicks? Put War Videos on TikTok

December 20, 2022

Here is another story about the importance of click-throughs to social media companies, repercussions be damned. BBC News reports, “Russian Mercenary Videos ‘Top 1 Bn Views’ on TikTok.” The mercenary band in these videos, known as the Wagner Group, is helping Russia fight its war against Ukraine. Writer Alexandra Fouché cites a recent report from NewsGuard as she reveals:

“NewsGuard said it had identified 160 videos on the short-video platform that ‘allude to, show, or glorify acts of violence’ by the mercenary group, founded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin. Fourteen of those videos showed full or partial footage of the apparent killing of former Russian mercenary Yevgeny Nuzhin which saw high engagement within days of being uploaded last month, it said.”

That brutal murder, which was performed with a sledgehammer, was viewed over 900,000 times on TikTok before ByteDance took it down. Nuzhin was apparently killed because he switched sides and denounced the Wagner Group. Sadly but surely, there are many viewers who would seek out such footage; why blame TikTok for its spread? The article continues:

“NewsGuard found that TikTok’s algorithm appeared to push users towards violent Wagner Group content. When an analyst searched for the term ‘Wagner’, TikTok’s search bar suggested searches for ‘Wagner execution’ and ‘Wagner sledgehammer’. The same search in Russian resulted in the suggestions ‘Wagner PMC’, ‘Wagner sledgehammer’ and ‘Wagner orchestra’. Wagner refers to its fighters as ‘musicians’. NewsGuard also found that videos could be found on TikTok showing another Wagner murder involving an army deserter in Syria in 2017 and that they had reached millions of users.

The online analysis group said it had also identified other music videos on the platform that advocated violence against Ukrainians, including calls to kill Ukrainians claiming they were ‘Nazis’.

Funny, when I searched Google for “Wagner,” the first three results my filter bubble turned up were composer Richard Wagner’s Wikipedia page, Wagner paint sprayer’s home page, and Staten Island’s Wagner College. Some actual news articles about the Wagner Group followed, but nary a violence glorification video in sight. TikTok certainly knows how to generate clicks. But what about China’s “reeducation” camps? The Chinese company is not circulating videos of those, is it? It seems the platform can be somewhat selective, after all.

Cynthia Murrell, December 20, 2022

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