Timing out.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a quick visit to social media. Be it Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, it is never just a quick look, is it?

I can be busy with an online project, taking five to gather my thoughts and have a cuppa, figuring that I might spend a few minutes checking my Facebook pages and then get back to work with a fresh approach… And that would have to be the most ridiculous example of self deception there is,  because it is Never just a few minutes.

I know this for a fact because my last thingy of just a few minutes on Facebook turned into one hour and forty-five minutes! How could I have spend so much time checking my notifications, scrolling through my newsfeed, commenting and Liking/Loving/Caring/Wowing/Sad Facing/Angry Facing? Where did one whole hour and forty-five minutes go? It seemed like only two or three minutes ago I put the kettle on! What the hey?

And that’s what happens.  If time allegedly flies when you’re having fun, I must be having an absolute ball on Facebook! It doesn’t feel like I am in seventh heaven exactly, but I must be if that much time can elapse and I don’t even notice it.

I think it might be the scrolling. That newsfeed page seems to be never ending and it’s possible I become a little mesmerised by the constantly changing images and the need to see what the next one will be, and the next one and so on.  Plus all the news and shared posts from family and friends. They post a lot, they share a lot and I have to ensure I read the lot! And then comment and/or Love/Like/Care… etc, etc. It’s almost impossible to not respond in some way because I feel I am being remiss if I don’t. What if they think I missed it? Or worse, I saw it and I’m ignoring them? Okay, so chances are they wouldn’t think that at all, but you never know.

Thing is, I can be researching material, a lot of it, and making notes, editing things, cross referencing and writing and it can seem like I must have spent a   longer than one hour and forty-five minutes doing that but it’s actually only been forty minutes when I look at the clock.  Sure, I like what I do, and enjoy getting my teeth into a good lead, feature or news item, but I must love it to bits if I can get so much done in a shorter amount of time than I think I’ve spent on it. Either that, or I am a ridiculously fast worker.  Or it could be that when I’m onto something I can work through coffee breaks and meal times without really noticing. I’ve done that a few times.

So why does it take me so long to go through my social media pages and why does it feel like I’ve only been doing so for five minutes or something?  Maybe there’s subliminal text buried in the images that says “Don’t log out yet. You’ve only just got here.” and my brain says “Sure, no worries. I’m not going anywhere…”

Sounds feasible to me. As we are all aware weird stuff can happen online and maybe we’re all being quietly brainwashed into locking onto eternal loops of social media posts…and then we can’t unlock until acute hunger or a throbbing bladder snaps us out of it and we find it’s been, like, five hours! Well yes, I have to admit that sounds a bit too much like a conspiracy theory, and a silly one at that. As if that would really happen.

But on the other hand…



SocialTrash Media

Tired of Facebook blocking your posts and/or flagging what you’re posting with their fact checks? Has the social media giant dumped you in “gaol” because you failed to get the message about the content of some of your posts? Are you sick of having your content censored? Then you are probably looking for somewhere else to spout your spleen and your deliberate and damaging misinformation. Therefore, what you really really want is another social media site where you can feel right at home amongst like-minded individuals who are as mouthy as you are.

And I’m not talking about a healthy differing of opinions here, I’m talking about the deliberate promotion of rabidly inaccurate inflammatory trash.

Therefore…welcome to MeWe and Parler! Both these alternative social media networking sites will be right up your alley because you can say what’s really on your mind, no matter how nonsensical it is, with very little (if any) censorship on what you’re posting, and where you can interact with others of the same ilk. If you believe it, you can post about it any old how you want.

MeWe calls itself the “next gen social network” and is owned by a company called Sgrouples, which was founded by a guy named Mark Weinstein, who thinks he has the potential to be the next Mark Zuckerberg. Well, in 1988, Mark Weinstein did create a very early social network type site called SuperGroups, but it only lasted three years because the site’s investors shut it down in 2001. Okay then, not quite in Mr Zuckerberg’s league yet…

Both MeWe and Parler have become very attractive, however, with Donald Trump’s supporters over the last twelve months or so, as well as with a motley crew of anti-vaxxers, racist types, QAnon and various other extremists since Facebook and Twitter started coming down on those spreading damaging misinformation (anti-vaxxers mainly) and bile (Trump supporters mainly) via their stance on blocking  posts where the content is blatantly wrong or deliberately misleading, and if you are one of those who posts that type of content then that would definitely pee you off, because how can you stir up controversy if no one can read your rubbish?

Anyway, as well as those who sign up to MeWe as members, any random individual can set up an account on the network and pretend to be an official outlet for various genuine individuals or groups and, naturally, this appeals to MeWe as it makes the site appear to be attracting more active growth than it actually is. What makes it so attractive to those with nonsense to share though, is that there are no filters regarding fake news items and information that is just plain wrong. The site prefers to view posts such as these as “opinions” which apparently make them okay. Could be why there is so much QAnon content on MeWe.

The type of users MeWe has been attracting lately though are making it look an awful lot like Parler. Like MeWe, Parler is based in America and is another site which has become very popular with Trump supporters, right wing extremists,  anyone into antisemitism, QAnon, and those who live and breathe conspiracy theories and generally see Big Brother everywhere they look.

So what is Parler? Parler is also a social media platform which resembles Twitter in many ways and was first launched in 2018. It has become the go-to site for those who have been banned from mainstream social media networks because of their rabidly over-the-top and/or potentially dangerous posts. The site markets itself as a “free speech” unbiased alternative to the other mainstream social networks, and yet it censors conservatives.  So I’m guessing “free speech” only applies if you are spewing the same trash as all  the  other OTT types Parler appears to attract. Talk sense and you’re outta there, hon.

So why would any normal person want to go there? Well that’s just it, normal people don’t. It’s the other lot which find MeWe and Parler so attractive and what could be worrying is the growing number of members drawn to these two sites, and their dogged belief in the content they see there. With luck, the lot of them are simply all talk and no action.

With luck…

Calling-out Cancel Culture

So how did cancel culture manage to get such a big foot in the door?

Also know as “call-out culture” cancel culture is the current Big Thing for those always on the look-out for something to get stuck into, whether they fully understand who, what, or why they are calling it out or not, because in most cases they haven’t really checked for authenticity, yet will blindly compound it by “cancelling” him, her or whatever anyway, and then it turns into a thing and the rest follow suit. Very unfair.

But initially cancel culture was only about catching out an individual, or an organisation, doing something confirmed legally or morally wrong and then publicly exposing them for their actions. Especially if the person/organisation was still doing it. The idea was to inform others, who could then choose to boycott that person or organisation if they so wished. But like with anything along these lines, social movements tend to attract all kinds, which is how we have ended up with a new wave of cancel culture hell bent on exposing someone, anyone really, on anything the movement can dredge up, no matter how far back they have to trawl to find something. Assuming they do. Find something, that is.

It is a breeding ground for toxicity, a hate culture hellbent on ruining free speech, reputations and livelihoods, while hiding behind a facade of holier-than-thou moral righteousness, and on social media it is mob mentality at its worst. Especially on Twitter, where anyone can be called-out and cancelled over just about anything. It only takes one person to get the ball rolling and before the day is done, a horde will be kicking it along because their followers will have mindlessly jumped onto it. The “offending” party may only have had an original thought, an opinion that differed and then expressed it, but more often than not, that is all it takes.

Those into cancel culture are very easily offended. Even when they cannot define why they’re offended, other than that everyone else in their group is offended. But they have become a shouty and annoying subset of our society who have taken it upon themselves to call-out every single wrong thing, no matter how minor or how long ago, committed by anyone and everyone, at any time in their life, and turned it into a major offence against the world and humanity. They jump to  conclusions, post rants on social media that take it out of proportion and context, and then vehemently call whoever they have targeted out, cancelling the person/business over whatever the perceived “breach” of their woke moral high ground was. Targets are often celebrities or other public figures who have offered an opinion that doesn’t gel with the mob. But sometimes it’s just an ordinary individual. Whatever, the mob gets offended and once that happens, it’s open slather. The cancel culture crews will find a way into the minutiae of that person’s life and use anything they find, no matter how insignificant, to ruin them.

Which is where the threat to free speech and the right to have and voice an opinion is being wrought. And I’m not talking about the genuinely rude and offensive here. I am talking about an individual’s right to express a different take on things (which excludes those into cancel culture because they don’t have opinions, only unsubstantiated rants). None of us think alike on everything, nor are we all perfect. No one is, and many of us will have said or done something in the past that came across in the wrong way. Even the best of us. But does that give someone the right to dig it up and put it out there to discredit someone, ruin their career or even their life? No it doesn’t. Like I said, I am not talking about genuinely morally wrong or criminal speech or behaviour, I’m talking about the everyday things and the faux pas and the nonsense we were all guilty of in out teens, when we all thought we knew everything. What gives the cancel culture movement the right to go looking for something and then use it out of context to destroy someone? But that’s what cancel culture has become and people are almost afraid to open their mouths these days, let alone post a comment somewhere, and that is wrong.

I think it’s time to cease playing into this type of extreme cancel culture. We don’t have to follow the trend and we shouldn’t if we don’t have a shred of evidence to back a “cancel” up. A difference of opinion is not enough to warrant a torrent of abuse or a “cancelled” status from a bloodthirsty mob. Save the drama for something we know is really wrong and cancel the rest.

I’m calling it out.


Beware What You Share

Despite the popular trend to share selfies and all sorts of personal information on social media, it is something I have never done, because in the back of my mind was a little niggle that made me pause, and then opt Not to plaster my Facebook page with pics of myself, posts about where I am at any particular time, or any personal information or issues on what I am doing or experiencing. If anything, I have kept it really light.

And now I am soooo glad I did that. Why? Because of Hoan Ton-That (born Cam-Hoan Ton-That) and his company, Clearview AI.

A very clever boy, Hoan Ton-That grew up in Lyneham, Canberra, where he attended Lyneham High School, finishing Year 10 in 2003. He completed Years 11 and 12 at Hawker College and from there went on to the Australian National University (ANU) to study for his Bachelor of Information Technology degree. Ton-That registered a company in 2006 named Software for Mom Pty Ltd and appeared to be on his way to a bright future. Then he dropped out of university in 2007, before finishing his studies, and took himself off to Silicon Valley.

The first hiccup in what appeared to be the start of a promising career was the accusation that surfaced in America in 2009, which alleged Hoan Ton-That was behind two phishing scams, and in a court case currently running in the US against CLearview AI, it has been alleged that Ton-Than was also involved in other companies, including ViddyHo.com (another alleged phishing site which conned users into sharing access to their gmail accounts, which allowed the site to then generate spam to those on the users’ contact list). Not good.

The other alleged phishing site apparently connected to Ton-That was Fastforwarded.com, which attempted to extract passwords from users by fraudulent means. Also not good.

And then there’s Clearview AI. This company was founded in 2017, initially under the name Smartcheckr, and is a powerful facial recognition technology which sells access to the site to various law enforcement agencies, commercial businesses and a number of government agencies who can then upload images and, with the aid of artificial intelligence, make comparisons to the huge store of photographs in Ton-That’s database. If they find any matches, the database will then provide all the information it has available on those people; information that has been mainly accessed from their social media accounts.

But according to Clearview AI’s lawyer, Tor Ekeland, it is all above board and Clearview AI’s primary purpose is “focused on providing it’s groundbreaking and effective technology to assist law enforcement in the US in identifying perpetrators of horrific crimes such as trafficking and child abuse…”. He goes on to say more of the same but disputing that, I suppose, would be the class action Clearview AI is also facing in Illinois for breaching privacy provisions, a similar action in Virginia also and as a result, the police force in New Jersey has been advised to stop using it.

Here in Australia, it has surfaced that police officers in Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have also held a number of registered accounts with Clearview AI. The Federal Police have too. So how did they get onto it? Clearview AI did offer a free pilot trial and the belief is that most of the officers with access had signed up for the freebie, as opposed to signing up for an account, which comes with a very expensive yearly fee.

An investigation into Clearview AI has been launched by The Australian Information Commissioner and the site has been disabled in Australia. That’s good news, but what isn’t all that great is that Hoan Ton-That has already built a database of over three billion photographs, almost all of which have been “scraped” from social media accounts via computer programs more commonly known as spiders, or web crawlers. Many Australians were scraped. Twitter, Google and Facebook have apparently served the company with “cease and desist” communications and Apple has also blocked the app from its store.

But that’s a bit like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, isn’t it? Ton-That already has that enormous database and most of it was obtained with neither the knowledge, nor the permission of those he scraped, and he is happy to sell that information to the highest bidder. The photos and accompanying information were scraped intentionally and unfortunately, anyone who is good for the fee could get access to it, not just legitimate law enforcement agencies. Private commercial facial recognition databases are not bound by the same laws that apply to similar programs under government control and that leaves the door wide open to undesirables getting a hold of it, and once they have it… Fortunately, I am highly unlikely to be an attractive candidate for this site because of the lack of pics and info, but unfortunately I can’t say the same with any real assurance about some of my online friends and family members and that’s a concern.

So just be careful what you post, because there is probably another Hoan Ton-That out there somewhere. Possibly more than one.

And they’re looking for someone just like you.