Not All Influencers Are Celebrities on YouTube

[NB: Note the byline. ~Rayne]

There’s something hinky going on with news curation in Twitter. The story at the top of the Moments/Trends yesterday in the mobile app was this one:

We now know the GOP anticipated additional accusers when the story above was published. This morning the story at the top of Twitter’s mobile U.S. news feed is this one:

Which seems really odd that both of these stories push the White House/GOP angle promoting the troubled nomination of Brett Kavanaugh by attacking accuser Christine Blasey Ford’s credibility.*

Meanwhile, the New Yorker story by Jane Mayer and Ronan Farrow about a second victim alleging an assault by Kavanaugh published last evening set Twitter timelines ablaze immediately and overnight. Yet that story isn’t the one at the top of Twitter’s US News this morning.

Is this an example of poor or biased curation by Twitter? Or is this the effect of a public relations campaign (by a firm like CRC for which Ed Whelan has worked) paying to promote a news article without any indication to the public that this elevation has happened?

Would such a PR-elevated piece written by a news outlet ever fall under the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission as YouTube influencers’ embedded promotions have recently? Or would it slip by without the public’s awareness because it’s First Amendment-protected content?

The Federal Communications Commission won’t want to touch this subject because its chair Ajit Pai won’t want to open up a can of worms about the internet and its content as a regulated commodity like broadcast radio and television.

The Federal Election Commission hasn’t looked at news-as-campaign-ads when such content is produced in the U.S. related to an unelected/appointed official position.

Google News is a little better this morning:

Note the position of the New Yorker piece in the feed. But it’s not clear how any of the news related to Kavanaugh surfaces to the top of Google’s news feed due to a lack of transparency let alone a particular story. The public doesn’t know if there have been any attempts to manipulate the elevation/submersion of a news story favorable/unfavorable to any subject including unelected/appointed officials.

As a majority of Americans increasingly obtain their news online instead of by broadcast or print media, we’re going to need more clarity about social media’s role as a publishing platform and whether social media giants are still being used to manipulate public opinion.


* First image is the expanded version as I didn’t realize at time of screenshot there would be a relationship between top of Twitter news feed on September 23 and this morning’s top of news feed. All images in this story are used under Fair Use for purposes of media criticism

39 replies
    • Peterr says:

      Very good stuff. I assume the disclaimer at the top of the interview (“Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length”) also covers removal of certain colorful words from the printed text.

      I’m not typically a believer in capital punishment, but Marcy does make a very strong case for its application in certain extreme circumstances.

    • Charles says:

      Stay with it to the very end.

      Worth the wait.

      “Analyst” is a respectable term. Marcy does essentially (mostly) open source intelligence analysis, and does it better than many of the professionals. “Journalist” has come to mean anything from James Risen to Sean Hannity–from someone who has faced down the Feds over the sanctity of sources to someone who despises the First Amendment. I feel better calling Marcy an analyst than I would calling her a journalist.

      Nice interview!

    • Eureka says:

      Nice interview, thank you.  I want to add re:  Marcy’s comments about her new Russia-related audience (as that is how I happened to find her):

      I’d stay for her bread-and-butter natsec/privacy work, too.  I’ve wondered, too, if I may have read her elsewhere on these topics many moons ago.

      I’m glad I found you all here, beyond the current crisis.

    • Drew says:

      Did Marcy actually use the word “collusion” to describe Trump’s exposure 4 times in that interview, or was that the interviewer’s “clarification?”

  1. orionATL says:

    could this elevation be the result of a social media jamming campaign by the white house.

    similarly, i sometimes find these days that when i enter hot political subjects in the search line there are dozens of rightwing sites cited before i can even find a wapo or a wall street journal, or a bloomburg, etc. it appears they are swarming the topic. it is annoying,  but far more importantly it closes off  variety of  choice in reading for someone who is curious but not particularly saavy about how these ratfukrs operate.

    • Rayne says:

      Not impossible. Quite likely there were some bots employed but some focal point must kick off the swarm – a PR firm specializing in crisis management could do this.

      • orionATL says:

        oh, yes. it has to be requested or commanded. i would bet on the white house social media honchos with help from a p.r. firm.

        i also confess to wondering if google, or bing, or duck-duck-go, et al ever accept a bit of baksheesh. you would think that would be too difficult to coordinate and too risky for their image, but …

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes beyond the White House. It’s possible the Fed Soc funders are in the driver’s seat and the GOP politicians at this point are just following their directions.

          • Eureka says:

            I’ve noticed Judicial Crisis Network ramping up their TV ads both in the wake of Blasey Ford’s allegations, and again after Ramirez came forward and the ‘teacher and coach’ (Louisa Garry) withdrew her support. (To be clear, these ads feature Garry extolling Kavanugh’s virtues).

            Between those upcycles, new 45 Committee ads started, sparsely.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The FedSock seems to have done a lot of homework to prepare to defend Kavanaugh over allegations of sexual improprieties and/or crimes. Kavanaugh must have, too, given how much he wants that brass ring, how readily he had those decades old diaries to hand, and how much he appears to have the odd skeleton in his many-closeted room.

    Routine preparedness this might be, ironically so, given Kavanaugh’s history with the Clinton’s. But it would seem a spectacular waste of time unless there were fire beneath that growing column of smoke.

    There are lots of reasons to oppose raising Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The Dems would be wise to keep them all on the front burner, because K might share only some of them with any nominee named in his stead.

    • Rayne says:

      I noted when the Ed Whelan self-own via defamation began to die down with the submission of his unaccepted resignation from PR firm CRC that nowhere did it say that CRC had quit the Kavanaugh project — only that CRC put Whelan on leave.

      Was CRC working for GOP ~and~ FedSoc?

    • orionATL says:

      though i can’t place it, somewhere in the back of my mind is an impression of the diary gambit having beeen used before, and of the entries of interest being just ambibiguous enough to provide cover.

      personally, i want to see the diary and its pertinent entry. i bet it’s turns out either not to exist, or not to be not as relevant in the flesh :)

      “after the chemistry exam mark and i went for a ride, had a beer, and planned a fishing trip”

      but come to think of it, how could a diary entry ever be relevant? diaries are always written post hoc. not even a superprivileged teenage brat is going to write up his drunken sex exploits.

      but you might write in “mark and i decided to go to the home to visit with grandma” after attending the party at question and behaving as alleged.

  3. pseudonymous in nc says:

    I honestly think it’s the broad trend that “the algos” reward clickbait — or at very least, second- and third-hand summaries of longer pieces with punchier, more like-and-retweetable headlines — over the original pieces. It’s a symbiotic relationship and the New Yorker mostly doesn’t play that game (aside from Borowitz, which creates its own problems.)

    Of course, “the algos” are made by people, and the stories that feed them are made by people as well. But it’s a long way away from the original Google PageRank model.

  4. chuck says:

    This could be paid promotion outside of Twitter. In other words using troll farms (Russian or otherwise) to amplify places where there Twitter news algo culls its rankings. Google has long seat with this type of manipulation so it’s better at handling it as you noted. A business like Twitter or FB that is constantly promoting user count looks the other way on how real those users may or may not be.

    • Rayne says:

      Someone else in thread here has mentioned this possibility, and yes, I agree. But…a swarm of bots from offshore boosting traffic for a particular link should run up a flag to Twitter.

      Amplification could be an on-shore effort within the conservative blogging community pushing a particular article. It wouldn’t take much to do that especially with the long relationships some of the right-wing crisis management teams have across the blogosphere.

      CRC goes back a long ways, has many links to Heritage Foundation, Townhall, other conservative network members. They or another firm like them could easily push traffic, not unlike Bozell did with Parents Television Council in wake of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl costume failure circa 2004. (Worth looking at that episode all over again given what we’ve recently learned about then-Viacom’s Les Moonves’ efforts to crush Jackson’s career — did the costume fail come before or as a result of Moonves’ initiative? Was Bozell and PTC the crisis management effort, directing a swarm of 90K angry parents’ phonecalls to FCC and CBS?)

      • Bruce Olsen says:

        It’s trivially easy to write bots that look like they’re in one geography but are actually located in another. Twitter would have no visibility into their true location.

        • Rayne says:

          Is it trivially easy to provide a non-sequential phone number for each account tied to the same location as the spoofed IP AND avoid a pattern of tweeting which appears mechanical across a swarm constructed of identities which are sufficiently unalike to appear American and not Uncanny Valley?

          Pretty sure this is why Twitter has been able to pick off large swaths of Russian and Iranian troll bot swarms.

      • chuck says:


        ”With an unwitting media…” Trump pushed views and clicks so that’s what people got, amplified even more by the state-sponsored bad actors.

        Not to say Twitter isn’t in cahoots on this one based on their track record and need for payola, but all the orgs you’ve losted above have been in the herding business for a long time and now amplify as well.

  5. harpie says:

    O/T but Kavana-Nevah related:
    From zedster @z3dster via RVAwonk:
    [quote] 12:29 PM – 24 Sep 2018 A quick thread about two of the letter from women in support #Kavanaugh and what the lack of metadata on them on their file names reveal / I was looking back through the letters in support of #kavanaugh and noticed something odd about two of them. / When  you create a PDF metadata, the date, subject, author, etc… often gets  included, the Judiciary’s system doesn’t clear them so they stay on / Two of the documents submitted in support of Kavanaugh, the letter from Yale College Women that knew him and the letter from 65 Women Who Knew Him from HS had had the metadata removed, which many people do before submitting documents, however both letter have the exact same / naming convention and format, which doesn’t appear to be random. We can surmise that the same group sought out and created both letters and the narrative around the 65 women letter being organic is simply AstroTurfing [see screenshots] [end quote]

    • orionATL says:

      one obvious question. has there been a thorough check on each of the signatures for both petitions?

      just to get “granular”: “65 women who knew him from high school” seems obviously suspicious. if interviewed, would they all have had reason to be at parties of a certain type with kavanaugh? same with yale women. there is a big difference between behavior in many social contexts and behavior at parties where serious drunkeness was acceptable.

  6. Derek Bailey says:

    It seems to be related to something called link laundering. It can be set up to be automated and only requires multiple accounts for sourcing. If there is enough cover between original source and second/third tier sources, bots can spam the third tiers to push up the relevance of original article. Don’t ask me how I know, but I’m told $100 buys a lot of SPAM in the former Soviet Union countries.

  7. oldoilfieldhand says:

    Who or what is Marcy Wheeler?
    Internet Troll Slayer?
    Legendary Potty Mouth Blogger?
    Tri-Lingual Defender of Democracy who actually spoke the words “blow job” on live television?
    Truth Goddess!

  8. Doctor My Eyes says:

    I’ve been wanting to mention the following disturbing episode somewhere since the infinitely brave Deborah Ramirez has stepped forward. I believe that even those who have acknowledged problematic sexuality at Yale have downplayed the extent. I believe this because of what I saw with my own eyes in a documentary a couple of years ago. It was about rape in our country with a focus on college campuses. Yale earned special distinction in this film. Whatever else may be true in all of the current allegations and threats, I know that I saw the following. It was videoed, surely fearfully, by a freshman woman/girl through her barely cracked curtain. It is the first week of freshman orientation; the male freshmen are parading in file outside the dorms at night shouting in unison, “‘No’ means ‘yes’, ‘yes’ means ‘anal’.” This was a direct message to the female students up in their rooms. I still have trouble believing I saw that. I can’t imagine how those bright, hopeful young girls must have felt.

    Sorry for the disturbing image, but these things must be discussed.

  9. James Hester says:

    Despite all these courageous women taking a chance of insults and accused of lying, I have full confidence in Democrats for a grand screw up. Remember sleazy Joe (Biden) what he did to other women witnesses during Long Dong Silver confirmation. It may happen again.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Useful comparative anecdote.  LSE Anthropologist David Graeber (coincidentially, a former Yale associate professor, 1998-2006), in Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011), has written about the high percentage of UK university student women who have had to sell sexual favors to pay their bills.  He reports it as being well into double digits.

    American colleges and universities are even more expensive.  It would be useful to know the percentage in the US, unless for some reason the issue has never been properly studied.

  11. johno says:

    Re the aforementioned Columbia Journalism Review

    ” Stay with it to the very end.”

    Yes, if you want a hard LOL like I got.

  12. orionATL says:

    you can count it any way you want to.

    i call it serious allegation number 3:

    don’t give me this “teenage behavior” crap. this is monstrous behavior – writing on the stall walls behavior. where were the teachers and yearbook sponsor at dear old georgetown prep? this is writing on the stall walls. this piece of white trash is now going to become a supreme court justice.

    read the article and read what former student sean …  had to say about the boys.

  13. Doctor My Eyes says:

    Well look, students at Yale are indeed speaking out about Yale complicity.

    The YLS faculty have sent a letter to the SJC calling for a fair process and a full investigation of Ford’s claims. Several classes were canceled because of protests. Signs are appearing accusing Yale of prioritizing “proximity to power and prestige” above all else and calling YLS a “model of complicity”.

    When asked to describe the sentiment on campus today, YLS student Scott Stern said that “students are monumentally pissed off” — and not just those who he considers to be especially political.

    “It’s hard to overstate just how destabilizing this is for the law school,” he continued. “Chua and Rubenfeld walked around here like gods. They were among the two most powerful, best-connected professors at the school … So to learn just how complicit they were in steering us toward known predators has people very upset and freaked out.”

    Over 1500 (and growing) Yale alumnae have signed an open letter of support for Ramirez.

    Incidentally, I’ve learned that Kavanaugh was, of course, a member of the same fraternity that was later banned from campus for the misogynistic chant I mentioned above, a chant that threatens rape and taunts that no matter how a woman feels about sex, sex with those men will be only about power.

    Am I being naive in thinking that there has been a sea change in the country, at least on the issue of rape culture? Am I living in a bubble?  Things seem different.  It seems that people are well and truly fed up.

  14. orionATL says:

    the gang that couldn’t shoot straight

    or should that be the hole in the head gang:



    what a bunch of idiots. they did not realize folks are getting wise to this crap after having been fooled by it for 20 years.

    seems to me there is a very good chance that sen. orin hatch was responsible for laying this egg. this possibility demands serious journalistic investigation.

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