Five things on Friday on Sunday #298

Things of note for the week ending Sunday, May 26th, 2019.

Newsletter #298: Introduction


Well hello there.

It’s ten past seven on Sunday evening and I’m booting up Mailchimp to get this thing out to you. Believe it or not my intention was to actually publish on Friday this week (no laughing at the back) alas my daughter got sick and then, of course, I did too. That was not a fun end to the week.

Sweats. Shivers. Rubbish.

Fear not though, I am feeling better. Behind on my correspondence somewhat but definitely on the up.

We even made it out of the house today. To Whipsnade. Driving back from the afternoon out with the family, windows down, the sun and breeze perfectly entwined, and Queen playing on the radio…

‘This too shall pass’ I thought.

Longtime readers will know that this is a philosophy for life that I lean into. It is so often invoked in the bad times. When things go awry. It helps you stop and take a breath. Realise this is just a moment in time, and move on. And that is right. And that is good. It helps.

“[it comes from a] fable of a powerful king who asks assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad. After deliberation the sages hand him a simple ring with the words “This too will pass” etched on it, which has the desired effect to make him happy when he is sad. It also, however, became a curse for whenever he is happy.”

However, if you believe the origin above, then to give light to these words in times of happiness then surely sadness will follow in its wake.

But that isn’t true. It does the opposite. All it does is bring that feeling of happiness into a much richer focus. An appreciation sets in. ‘I cherish days like these’ I said out loud shortly after. And I do.

You should too.

Shall we get on and do this thing?

Let’s.

1. THE BEST MEMES OF 2019 SO FAR

Yes, yes. I know we’re not even halfway through the year but there have already been some belters and this almost-mid-year list from TIME is actually alright.

In fact, more than alright.

I lol’d. Twice.

Celebrities as things could go on and on forever as far as I’m concerned.

2. POSITIVE DISOBEDIENCE

(AN UPDATE ON THE TOILET STUDY CALL TO ACTION FROM LAST WEEK)

Well, this is an update I didn’t pull together so quickly but Christ on a bike you lot are bloody lovely when you want to be.

If you missed , Thing 5 was dedicated to a thing called The Toilet Study. A look at (and comparison of) the graffiti in toilets across London.

Two sentences stood out in the study.

7% of all female messages in toilets were uplifting statements. That’s 5 times more often than from men.

I then wrote something like this:

First off, a bunch of you wrote back with suggestions on what to do next.

Why not put a hashtag on it?
Why not ask readers for more suggestions on what to write?
Instead of putting uplifting statements, why not put suggested links to sites (CALM or The Samaritans maybe)?
Why not get the statements printed off onto sticky labels and whack them up whenever you can?


ALL OF THESE ARE GREAT SUGGESTIONS.

Well, apart from the hashtag one. The jury is out on that for me. I’m still mulling on it (sorry, Shane).

I guess, and bear with me on this one, I don’t want it to become a CAMPAIGN. Campaigns are easy to spot and perhaps easier to ignore. This stuff, this stuff needs to be subtle. And individual. Something that just looks like the other stuff. It’s SUPPOSED to be wallpaper so you don’t realise what you’re reading until you’re reading it.

So yeah. Anyway, where was I?

OH.

THAT’S RIGHT.

ONE OF YOU HAS ALREADY BLOODY DONE IT AND SENT ME A BUNCH OF PHOTOS BECAUSE HOLY CRAP YOU ARE AMAZING AND I CRIED WHEN THEY ARRIVED.

There’s thing about the person who tries to do something. A thing about that person not being the mad one. The mad one is the mate stood next to them who says ‘Yeah, OK. Let’s do this’ – that person is the mad one. Without that second person to lend credibility, to give it a push, the first person is left screaming into the void.

Thank you, to the nameless individual who (as far as I know) was first off the marks with this. From the bottom of my heart. Truly.

Which leaves only a handful of things to say.

If someone has done it already that makes it easier for you to do.
If you do it, take a photo of it.
If that photo makes it to me, in whatever format, it will appear here, completely anonymously, in Five things on Friday.

What are you waiting for?

3. IGTV NOW SUPPORTS LANDSCAPE VIDEO

Ahem.

LESS THAN A YEAR SINCE…

Instagram has this week announced that its long-form portrait-only ‘TV’ platform, IGTV, will now support landscape videos.

Quote:

“Today marks yet another change for IGTV – and it once again comes from listening to our creators and viewers. We’ve heard from creators who want to upload landscape videos for IGTV. Similarly, we’ve heard from viewers who come across landscape videos in IGTV but want to watch them in a more natural way.”

A MORE NATURAL WAY. Amazing.

If only people had said something at the time (as the kids say these days: THREAD).

Fair play to Instagram. Listening to its creators (who are clearly saying: let us create once and post to many, NOT thanks for creating a new format for us to try and create for oh and what’s that, you’re not quite sure the audience is ready for it either, what?) is a good sign that it wants the platform to develop. It has a long way to go though. A very long way. I’m still COMPLETELY not sold.

Video at Facebook is great in-feed and in Stories. If you’re Facebook, do you invest more into making WATCH work, or IGTV? Well, now the latter supports for the former’s aspect ratio, it doesn’t have to make that call.

One thing is for certain, expect to see more what you might describe as traditional YouTube content on IGTV. We had the first sign of that gear change earlier this year. With this new update, those flood gates will be wide open.

PS. The dates on these two headlines absolutely kill me.

Aaand I’m done.

4. DEEP FAKES, PLATFORM POLICIES, AND THE LEGISLATION OF THE FUTURE

This happened.

From the article:

Manipulated videos of Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made it seem as if she were stumbling over and slurring her words continued to spread across social media on Friday, fueled by President Trump’s feud with the Democratic leader.

One of the videos, which showed Ms. Pelosi speaking at a conference this week, appeared to be slowed down to make her speech sound continually garbled.

The video has been viewed millions of times on Facebook and was amplified by the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who shared the video Thursday night on Twitter. “What is wrong with Nancy Pelosi?” Mr. Giuliani said in a tweet that has since been deleted. “Her speech pattern is bizarre.”

Mr. Trump himself tweeted a separate video of Ms. Pelosi on Thursday night, an edited clip from Fox Business that spliced together moments from a 20-minute news conference and emphasized points where she had stumbled on her words. “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE,” the president tweeted.

By Friday, the social media giants, already under pressure to fight online disinformation, were forced to respond.


—–

And it’s that response I’d like to examine and discuss here (repeating and expanding upon some stuff from Twitter yesterday).

Before we do, please please please spend 8mins 35secs watching this interview between CNN News Anchor, Anderson Cooper, and Facebook’s VP for Product Policy and Counterterrorism (there’s a whole other thing here about IF YOU NEED SOMEONE IN THIS JOB THEN YOU CLEARLY HAVE A PROBLEM but it’s not for now).

Watch the interview.

OK, so. I think I’ve watched this interview about ten to fifteen times now. Each time I get more and more fascinated by it.

First off, it is an astonishing marker for how the three main individual platforms (and companies) are handling this situation.

(I’m reluctant to use the term ‘deepfake‘ (we’re not yet at Hader-as-Pacino levels – a must watch, btw – we’re not far off it) but this case makes an excellent if alarming bellwether for when it happens)

YouTube (Google) has declared it is actively taking the video(s) down. OK, great.

Twitter, at the time of writing, is leaving the video up, taking no action, and is also refusing to comment on the situation. Way to go, Jack.

Facebook, on the other hand, is taking action. But not quite the action you would want. Bonus points for what is becoming absolute textbook behaviour for big blue, in doing so has made the story all about itself.

The other thing that sticks out about the interview is that it constantly refers to the videos as ‘misinformation’. This is patently false.

The dictionary defines misinformation as “false information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead.” And it describes disinformation as “deliberately misleading or biased information; manipulated narrative or facts; propaganda.”

Watch those films again and tell me where you fall down.

An interesting sidenote here is that the UK Government recently moved away from using the term ‘Fake News’ to help implement clear communication guidelines regarding misinformation vs disinformation (more on that on Page 7 of this report).

If we are in agreement that the video is disinformation, not misinformation, then that difference must be made clearer not only by the journalists reporting on it but also to those put forward to defend its presence (in this case: Monkia Bickert – whose media and legal training shines through with brilliant darkness).

Speaking of which, while I buy Facebook’s attempt at creating policy to help navigate situations like this (eg: ‘It’s not harmful, so we downgrade it instead’), Facebook will always, ALWAYS, as the interview shows, end up tying itself in knots as the line will never be clear.

‘Harmful’ is so incredibly subjective. No one is in physical immediate danger, fine, I get that. But how else do you define harmful?

Is this harmful to any one individual? Maybe.

Is it harmful to US democracy? Probably.

Is it, as argued, part of ‘political discourse’? Absolutely not.

And in fact by even bringing those two words into the conversation, Facebook is complicit in normalising doctored video as part of western politics. ‘Oh, well, this is expected now’ – No. UGH.

What I don’t understand is, per Anderson Cooper’s well-argued logic, is that if independent fact-checkers say it’s false, then why keep it up at all? Aside from to make money from ads served against it? That’s a few million people that have now seen that video. Thanks to Facebook. That’s a lot of eyeballs.

Maybe the answer is in the question.

The other thing to point out, and I think this is probably one of the most important parts of the whole exchange is that that’s a bit about halfway through the interview where Cooper rightly points out that video content works harder than any text or copy around it.

This is something Facebook pushes to brands every day.

I want to say that maybe the left-hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. The problem is, we can see both hands (and so can Mark Zuckerberg).

The defence of ‘Oh, we won’t take it down, we’ll just put some labels around it, people will see those and make their own informed choices about the video’ just doesn’t stand up against any kind of scrutiny. And that’s based on over five years of having this stuff being sold and sold and sold in, over and over again.

smh.

Which leads us to the last part.

It is almost inconceivable that we’re having this discussion about western democracy in 2019 HOWEVER what this situation has shown is that the social media platforms we rely upon simply aren’t ready for any kind of potential deep fake content attack that might happen in the next 18-24mths.

  • YouTube is almost there.

  • Facebook absolutely isn’t.

  • Twitter? Have a laugh, mate.


It’s clear that financially-orientated companies, in the main, cannot be relied upon to enact policy that is in support of a clearer, deepfake free society.

Legislation is looking consistently like the only answer.

At the start of the year, I put forward the idea that ‘The politicians are coming‘, citing the lack of trust in the companies that hold the majority of our waking time, the constant data leaks, and the potentially addictive nature of the services they offer.

It looks like I’ll need to add ‘protection against deepfakes’ to that list.

The Malicious Deep Fake Prohibition Act of 2018 is currently moving through Congress. An act that would make it illegal for Pelosi video to be made in the first place. But Congress takes time. So don’t expect it soon.

In the UK, to the best of my knowledge has nothing in place or even ready to go. If only we hadn’t spent the last three years arguing with ourselves over Europe then maybe we might be a bit more forward focused.

I give up.

The point is: everything and everyone is woefully unprepared for what happens next and it is sobering af.

Brb, I’m going to write to my MP.

Something light now? OK!

5. THE RISE OF SKYWALKER

Vanity Fair has a fantastic on-set preview of the next STAR WARS movie and they’ve only gone and got bloody ANNIE LEIBOVITZ to do the photography.

Just go and read it.

It’s gorgeous.

THE ESSENTIALS:

The Essentials are the weekly links to the #MeToo movement. Any article. Any press. Any story. Any white male firing. If it happens, it’s here.

THE BONUS SECTION OF BONUS LINKS.

THERE ARE SOME GREAT THINGS IN HERE THIS WEEK. GOOD LUCK.

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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x