TikTok Weaponized? Who Knows

January 10, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

TikTok Restricts Hashtag Search Tool Used by Researchers to Assess Content on Its Platform” makes clear that transparency from a commercial entity is a work in progress or regress as the case may be. NBC reports:

TikTok has restricted one tool researchers use to analyze popular videos, a move that follows a barrage of criticism directed at the social media platform about content related to the Israel-Hamas war and a study that questioned whether the company was suppressing topics that don’t align with the interests of the Chinese government. TikTok’s Creative Center – which is available for anyone to use but is geared towards helping brands and advertisers see what’s trending on the app – no longer allows users to search for specific hashtags, including innocuous ones.


An advisor to TikTok who works at a Big Time American University tells his students that they are not permitted to view the data the mad professor has gathered as part of his consulting work for a certain company affiliated with the Middle Kingdom. The students don’t seem to care. Each is viewing TikTok videos about restaurants serving super sized burritos. Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

Does anyone really care?

Those with sympathy for the China-linked service do. The easiest way to reduce the hassling from annoying academic researchers or analysts at non-governmental organizations is to become less transparent. The method has proven its value to other firms.

Several observations can be offered:

  1. TikTok is an immensely influential online service for young people. Blocking access to data about what’s available via TikTok and who accesses certain data underscores the weakness of certain US governmental entities. TikTok does something to reduce transparency and what happens? NBC news does a report. Big whoop as one of my team likes to say.
  2. Transparency means that scrutiny becomes more difficult. That decision immediately increases my suspicion level about TikTok. The action makes clear that transparency creates unwanted scrutiny and criticism. The idea is, “Let’s kill that fast.”
  3. TikTok competitors have their work cut out for them. No longer can their analysts gather information directly. Third party firms can assemble TikTok data, but that is often slow and expensive. Competing with TikTok becomes a bit more difficult, right, Google?

To sum up, social media short form content can be weaponized. The value of a weapon is greater when its true nature is not known, right, TikTok?

Stephen E Arnold, January 10, 2024

YouTube: Personal Views, Policies, Historical Information, and Information Shaping about Statues

January 4, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I have never been one to tour ancient sites. Machu Pichu? Meh. The weird Roman temple in Nimes? When’s lunch? The bourbon trail? You must be kidding me! I have a vivid memory of visiting the US Department of Justice building for a meeting, walking through the Hall of Justice, and seeing Lady Justice covered up. I heard that the drapery cost US$8,000. I did not laugh, nor did I make any comments about cover ups at that DoJ meeting or subsequent meetings. What a hoot! Other officials have covered up statues and possibly other disturbing things.

I recall the Deputy Administrator who escorted me and my colleague to a meeting remarking, “Yeah, Mr. Ashcroft has some deeply held beliefs.” Yep, personal beliefs, propriety, not offending those entering a US government facility, and a desire to preserve certain cherished values. I got it. And I still get it. Hey, who wants to lose a government project because some sculpture artist type did not put clothes on a stone statue?


Are large technology firms in a position to control, shape, propagandize, and weaponize information? If the answer is, “Sure”, then users are little more than puppets, right? Thanks, MSFT Copilot Bing thing. Good enough.

However, there are some people who do visit historical locations. Many of these individuals scrutinize the stone work, the carvings, and the difficulty of moving a 100 ton block from Point A (a quarry 50 miles away) to Point B (a lintel in the middle of nowhere). I am also ignorant of art because I skipped Art History in college. I am clueless about ancient history. (I took another useless subject like a math class.) And many of these individuals have deep-rooted beliefs about the “right way” to present information in the form of stone carvings.

Now let’s consider a YouTuber who shoots videos in temples in southeast Asia. The individual works hard to find examples of deep meanings in the carvings beyond what the established sacred texts present. His hobby horse, as I understand the YouTuber, is that ancient aliens, fantastical machines, and amazing constructions are what many carvings are “about.” Obviously if one embraces what might be received wisdom about ancient texts from Indian and adjacent / close countries, the presentation of statues with disturbing images and even more troubling commentary is a problem. I think this is the same type of problem that a naked statue in the US Department of Justice posed.

The YouTuber allegedly is Praveen Mohan, and his most recent video is “YouTube Will Delete Praveen Mohan Channel on January 31.” Mr. Mohan’s angle is to shoot a video of an ancient carving in a temple and suggest that the stone work conveys meanings orthogonal to the generally accepted story about giant temple carvings. From my point of view, I have zero clue if Mr. Mohan is on the money with his analyses or if he is like someone who thinks that Peruvian stone masons melted granite for Cusco’s walls. The point of the video is that by taking pictures of historical sites and their carvings violates YouTube’s assorted rules, regulations, codes, mandates, and guidelines.

Mr. Mohan expresses the opinion that he will be banned, blocked, downchecked, punished, or made into a poster child for stone pornography or some similar punishment. He shows images which have been demonetized. He shows his “dashboard” with visual proof that he is in hot water with the Alphabet Google YouTube outfit. He shows proof that his videos are violating copyright. Okay. Maybe a reincarnated stone mason from ancient times has hired a lawyer, contacted Google from a quantum world, and frightened the YouTube wizards? I don’t know.

Several question arose when my team and I discussed this interesting video addressing YouTube’s actions toward Mr. Mohan. Let me share several with you:

  1. Is the alleged intentional action against Mr. Mohan motivated by Alphabet Google YouTube managers with roots in southeast Asia? Maybe a country like India? Maybe?
  2. Is YouTube going after Mr. Mohan because his making videos about religious sites, icons, and architecture is indeed a violation of copyright? I thought India was reasonably aggressive in its enforcement of its laws? Has Alphabet Google YouTube decided to help out India and other countries with ancient art by southeast Asia countries’ ancient artisans?
  3. Has Mr. Mohan created a legal problem for YouTube and the company is taking action to shore up its legal arguments should the naked statue matter end up in court?
  4. Is Mr. Mohan’s assertion about directed punishment accurate?

Obviously there are many issues in play. Should one try to obtain more clarification from Alphabet Google YouTube? That’s a great idea. Mr. Mohan may pursue it. However, will Google’s YouTube or the Alphabet senior management provide clarification about policies?

I will not hold my breath. But those statues covered up in the US Department of Justice reflected one person’s perception of what was acceptable. That’s something I won’t forget.

Stephen E Arnold, January 4, 2024

Big Tech, Big Fakes, Bigger Money: What Will AI Kill?

December 7, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I don’t read The Hollywood Reporter. I did one job for a Hollywood big wheel. That was enough for me. I don’t drink. I don’t take drugs unless prescribed by my comic book addicted medical doctor in rural Kentucky. I don’t dress up and wear skin bronzers in the hope that my mobile will buzz. I don’t stay out late. I don’t fancy doing things which make my ethical compass buzz more angrily than my mobile phone. Therefore, The Hollywood Reporter does not speak to me.

One of my research team sent me a link to “The Rise of AI-Powered Stars: Big Money and Risks.” I scanned the write up and then I went through it again. By golly, The Hollywood Reporter hit on an “AI will kill us” angle not getting as much publicity as Sam AI-Man’s minimal substance interview.


Can a techno feudalist generate new content using what looks like “stars” or “well known” people? Probably. A payoff has to be within sight. Otherwise, move on to the next next big thing. Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Good enough cartoon.

Please, read the original and complete article in The Hollywood Reporter. Here’s the passage which rang the insight bell for me:

tech firms are using the power of celebrities to introduce the underlying technology to the masses. “There’s a huge possible business there and I think that’s what YouTube and the music companies see, for better or for worse

Let’s think about these statements.

First, the idea of consumerizing AI for the masses is interesting. However, I interpret the insight as having several force vectors:

  1. Become the plumbing for the next wave of user generated content (USG)
  2. Get paid by users AND impose an advertising tax on the USG
  3. Obtain real-time data about the efficacy of specific smart generation features so that resources can be directed to maintain a “moat” from would-be attackers.

Second, by signing deals with people who to me are essentially unknown, the techno giants are digging some trenches and putting somewhat crude asparagus obstacles where the competitors are like to drive their AI machines. The benefits include:

  1. First hand experience with the stars’ ego system responds
  2. The data regarding cost of signing up a star, payouts, and selling ads against the content
  3. Determining what push back exists [a] among fans and [b] the historical middlemen who have just been put on notice that they can find their future elsewhere.

Finally, the idea of the upside and the downside for particular entities and companies is interesting. There will be winners and losers. Right now, Hollywood is a loser. TikTok is a winner. The companies identified in The Hollywood Reporter want to be winners — big winners.

I may have to start paying more attention to this publication and its stories. Good stuff. What will AI kill? The cost of some human “talent”?

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2023

A TikTok Titbit

November 20, 2023

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I am not sure if the data are spot on. Nevertheless, the alleged factoid caught my attention. There might be a germ of truth in the news item. The story “TikTok Is the Career Coach of Chice for Gen Z. Is That Really a Good Idea?” My answer to the question is, “No.?”

The write up reports:

A new survey of workers aged 21 to 40 by ResumeBuilder.com found that half of Gen Zers and millennials are getting career advice off the app. Two in three users surveyed say they’re very trusting or somewhat trusting of the advice they receive. The recent survey underscores how TikTok is increasingly dominating internet services of all kinds.

To make its point the write up includes this statement:

… Another study found that 51% of Gen Z women prefer TikTok over Google for search. It’s just as popular for news and entertainment: One in six American teens watch TikTok “almost constantly,” according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey. “We’re talking about a platform that’s shaping how a whole generation is learning to perceive the world,” Abbie Richards, a TikTok researcher, recently told the Washington Post.

Accurate? Probably close enough for horseshoes.

Stephen E Arnold, November 20, 2023

Telegram: A Super App with Features Al Capone Might Have Liked

November 1, 2023

When I mention in my law enforcement lectures that Telegram, a frisky encrypted super app for thumb typers, is “off the radar” for some analysts, I get more than a few blank looks. Consider this: The “special conflict” or whatever some in the Land of Tolstoy call it, pivots on Telegram. And why not? It allows encrypted messages, both public and private. A safety conscious user can include an image or a video snippet and post it to the Musky service with a couple of taps. Those under attack can disseminate location data to a mailing list of Telegram contacts. The app makes it possible to pay for “stuff,” often that stuff is CSAM or information about where to pick up an order containing contraband.

11 1 soldiiers foxhole

The soldier with the mobile phone says, “Hey, this hot content video content is great on Telegram.” The other soldier says, “Jump to the Spies-R-Us service. I will give you the coordinates for the drone assault. Also, order some noodle latkes to Checkpoint Grhriba at 1800 hours.” Thanks, MidJourney. WW2 cartoonists would be proud of you.

Pivot to the Israel Hamas war. Yep, Telegram is in use. Civilians, war fighters, even those in prison with mobile devices are Telegramming away. The Russian brothers who created the original app may not have anticipated its utility in war zones.

My research team has noted that some Clear Web sites discuss slippery subjects like carding. Then the “buy now” or similar action points to a Telegram “location.” What about the Dark Web? Telegram makes it possible to do “Dark Web things” without the risk and hassle of operating a Dark Web site or service. Pretty innovative, right? And what about that Dark Web traffic? Our analysis suggests that one will find Dark Web bots, law enforcement from numerous countries, and a modest number of human bad actors who cannot or have not embraced Telegram.

Now the super app is getting some enhancements, if the information in Gadgets360 article is accurate. “Telegram Update Brings Advanced Reply Options, Link Preview Customizations, Account Colors, More.” Enhancements include:

Replying to a message from one chat to another. Will this be useful for certain extremist users doing fund raising or recruiting?

  • Customize shared links. Will this be useful to CSAM purveyors?
  • Fast forward and rewind videos in Telegram messages. Winner for some video content vendors.
  • Telegram also has a special feature. Some Telegram users pay for these services. Yep, money. Subscription money.

And the encryption thing? Reasonably good. Possibly less open than the UK Covid information allegedly from WhatsApp.

Stephen E Arnold, November 1, 2023

The Murdoch Effect: Outstanding Information 24×7

October 2, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Rupert Murdoch is finally retiring and leaving his propaganda empire to his son Lachlan, who may or may not be even more right-wing than dear old dad. While other outlets ponder what this means for the future of News Corp, Gizmodo examines “All the Ways Rupert Murdoch Left his Grubby Fingerprints on Tech.” Writer Kyle Barr writes:

“You don’t become the biggest name in worldwide media without also becoming something of a major influence on tech. With his direct influence now waning, we can do a bit of an obituary on the mogul’s efforts to influence the world of tech, and how both his direct and unintended efforts have contributed to the shape of our current digital landscape. News Corp wanted to be the biggest name in digital media, and at every step it failed to compete with other big names, leaving it to rely on the bread and butter of its conservative news apparatus. Murdoch’s billions were involved in consolidating the world’s online media experience. His no-holds-barred operating philosophy would end up violating people’s privacy and setting us up for the state of current social media and content streaming. All the while, News Corp’s entities would struggle to find an actual, legitimate foothold in the digital frontier. Instead, Fox News and other Murdoch-owned brands facilitated a new media environment where disinformation ruled the day and truth was laid aside for conservative grievance.”

The write-up shares 11 indelible blotches Murdoch made on the tech landscape in slideshow form. A few key moments include buying up MySpace, thereby clearing the way for Facebook and its countless consequences; helping Mr. Trump rise to power; and buying and forwarding the decimation of one of my favorite childhood institutions, National Geographic. A couple noteworthy fumbles include investment in the fraudulent Theranos and the Dominion Lawsuit against Fox News. See the article for more of Barr’s examples. Now, we wonder, what marks will the junior Murdoch make?

Cynthia Murrell, October 2, 2023

Just TikToking Along, Folks

September 21, 2023

Beleaguered in the US, its largest market, TikTok is ready to embrace new options in its Southeast Asian advance. CNBC reports, “TikTok Shop Strikes ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ Partnership in Malaysia As Part of E-Commerce Push.” Writer Cheila Chiang reports:

“The partnership comes as TikTok looks to markets outside of the U.S. for growth. While the U.S. is the company’s largest market, TikTok faces headwinds there after Montana became the first state to ban the app. The app has also been banned in India. In recent months, TikTok Shop has been aggressively expanding into e-commerce in Southeast Asia, competing against existing players like Sea’s Shopee and Alibaba’s Lazada. TikTok’s CEO previously said the company will pour ‘billions of dollars’ into Southeast Asia over the next few years. As of April, TikTok said it has more than 325 million monthly users in Southeast Asia. In June, the company said it would invest $12.2 million to help over 120,000 small and medium-sized businesses sell online. The investment consists of cash grants, digital skills training and advertising credits for these businesses.”

What a great idea for the teenagers who are the largest cohort of TikTok users. Do they fully grasp the pay later concept and its long-term effects? Sure, no problem. Kids love to work at part time jobs, right? As long as major corporations get to expand as desired, that is apparently all that matters.

Cynthia Murrell, September 21, 2023

Disney Alleges Some Cast Are Not Decorous

September 11, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

I spotted a story which may not be 100 percent on the money. If I were not 78, I would scour online resources to determine the veracity of “Furious Disney Bosses Call in Investigators after Disgruntled Employee Shares Shocking Clips of Beloved Characters.” For the purposes of this brief essay, let’s assume that the estimable Sun is writing the Truth According to Walt, who is allegedly frozen in a cryogenic chamber with machine generated images of Minnie Mouse doing interesting things at Disneyland.

9 3 twerking mascot

A mutant character finds its way to a football game in Orlando. The egg shaped mascot shouts, “Everybody now. Twerk twerk twerk.” The Orlando Pride faithful takes off their Orlando Solar Bear’s hats and puts on official Mickey Mouse ears. Twerk twerk twerk. Walt and Roy Disney look alikes joined the fund. Thanks, MidJourney. No red alerts on my prompt. Too bad reversing the gradient descent is going to be difficult. Twerk twerk twerk.

The write up reports as “real news”:

Disney chiefs are furious over leaked videos showing theme park characters twerking. Dancing staff are also seen provocatively removing their costumes in behind-the-scenes footage.

The well paid and really content “cast” members dancing in a suggestive manner and/or removing their clothes? Come on, Sunny. Disneyland is super clean. The trash is removed and carried away via underground service tunnels. I have heard that interesting activities have taken place in those service tunnels. But my source with a retired Orlando law enforcement officer who was not a fan of the Disney outfit. I assumed he had to watch Snow White too many times while raising his two children. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to jail we go or some similar refrain is lodged in my brain, and I saw Snow White only one time. That was sufficient, right, Dopey?

The write up adds:

They [the management team presiding over the smoking crater of Disney earnings] have called in a team of investigators in a bid to root out those involved in filming the footage and those posting it. A source said: “It looks silly, but for Disney protecting the integrity of those characters is absolutely paramount. “They’ve asked top investigators to shut down the feed and try to identify those responsible, who are in breach of their employment contracts. “The last thing Disney wants is decapitated Mickey and Minnie heads going viral online and, even worse, anything that looks at all risqué or adult.

I am not sure about the “last thing” assertion. I learned while preparing for an upcoming lecture about smart software generating interesting Disney clips for those who like their anime spicy. Smart software is merely a technological enabler. It takes a human to merge a Disney character with the mentality of a ComicCon Furry meet up.

And what about Disney’s streaming tactics? Charter Spectrum and some sports fans who leave ESPN on 24×7 are not happy with the Magic Kingdom.

Okay, cast, more training will be required. For those curious about the beloved characters antics, check out TikTok.

Stephen E Arnold, September 11, 2023

YouTube Content: Are There Dark Rabbit Holes in Which Evil Lurks? Come On Now!

September 1, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Google has become a cultural touchstone. The most recent evidence is a bit of moral outrage in Popular Science. Now the venerable magazine is PopSci.com, and the Google has irritated the technology explaining staff. Navigate to “YouTube’s Extremist Rabbit Holes Are Deep But Narrow.”

8 30 shout

Google, your algorithm is creating rabbit holes. Yes, that is a technical term,” says the PopSci technology expert. Thanks for a C+ image MidJourney.

The write up asserts:

… exposure to extremist and antagonistic content was largely focused on a much smaller subset of already predisposed users. Still, the team argues the platform “continues to play a key role in facilitating exposure to content from alternative and extremist channels among dedicated audiences.” Not only that, but engagement with this content still results in advertising profits.

I think the link with popular science is the “algorithm.” But the write up seems to be more a see-Google-is-bad essay. Science? No. Popular? Maybe?

The essay concludes with this statement:

While continued work on YouTube’s recommendation system is vital and admirable, the study’s researchers echoed that, “even low levels of algorithmic amplification can have damaging consequences when extrapolated over YouTube’s vast user base and across time.” Approximately 247 million Americans regularly use the platform, according to recent reports. YouTube representatives did not respond to PopSci at the time of writing.

I find the use of the word “admirable” interesting. Also, I like the assertion that algorithms can do damage. I recall seeing a report that explained social media is good and another study pitching the idea that bad digital content does not have a big impact. Sure, I believe these studies, just not too much.

Google has a number of buns in the oven. The firm’s approach to YouTube appears to be “emulate Elon.” Content moderation will be something with a lower priority than keeping tabs on Googlers who don’t come to the office or do much Google work. My suggestion for Popular Science is to do a bit more science, and a little less quasi-MBA type writing.

Stephen E Arnold, September 1, 2023

Software Marches On: Should Actors Be Worried?

August 25, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

How AI Is Bringing Film Stars Back from the Dead” is going to raise hackles of some professionals in Hollywood. I wonder how many people alive today remember James Dean. Car enthusiasts may know about his driving skills, but not too much about his dramaturgical abilities. I must confess that I know zippo about Jimmy other than he was a driver prone to miscalculations.

8 20 angry writer

An angry human actor — recycled and improved by smart software — snarls, “I didn’t go to acting school to be replaced by software. I have a craft, and it deserves respect.” MidJourney, I only had to describe what I wanted one time. Keep on improving or recursing or whatever it is you do.

The Beeb reports:

The digital cloning of Dean also represents a significant shift in what is possible. Not only will his AI avatar be able to play a flat-screen role in Back to Eden and a series of subsequent films, but also to engage with audiences in interactive platforms including augmented reality, virtual reality and gaming. The technology goes far beyond passive digital reconstruction or deepfake technology that overlays one person’s face over someone else’s body. It raises the prospect of actors – or anyone else for that matter – achieving a kind of immortality that would have been otherwise impossible, with careers that go on long after their lives have ended.

The write up does not reference the IBM study suggesting that 40 percent of workers will require reskilling. I am not sure that a reskilled actor will be able to do. I polled my team and it came up with some Hollywood possibilities:

  1. Become an AI adept with a mastery of python, Java, and C. Code software replacing studio executives with a product called DorkMBA
  2. Channel the anger into a co-ed game of baseball and discuss enthusiastically with the umpire corrective lenses
  3. Start an anger management podcast and, like a certain Stanford professor, admit the indiscretions of one’s childhood
  4. Use MidJourney and ChatGPT to write a manga for Amazon
  5. Become a street person.

I am not sure these ideas will be acceptable to those annoyed by the BBC write up. I want to point out that smart software can do some interesting things. My hunch is that software can do endless versions of classic hits with old-time stars quickly and more economically than humanoid involved professionals.

I am not Bogarting you.

Stephen E Arnold, August 25, 2023

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