0:01 Hey everyone, so some of you may have seen the video I put out a few days ago debunking the electric universe. Needless to say, it pissed off a few people, most notably, this guy. Ben Davidson. He made sure to let me know how pissed off he was by email. He doesn’t seem to understand that I was debunking the preposterous fantasy led by Wal Thornhill and pals, who themselves refer to it as the “electric universe,” a phrase that is everywhere on various websites, including the URL itself.
Ever been in the comments section under a YouTube video and thought: WTF are these lunatics talking about? Chances are you’ve seen, or even taken part of, a comment thread that’s been created and curated by an Internet troll.
This blog post will focus on the impact that “sockpuppet accounts” can have on online discourse between members of the public and niche audiences led by individuals with vested interests. This is going to be an introduction to the darker side of the Internet and how sockpuppet accounts are used for trolling.
In the New Scientist article, “Sock puppet accounts unmasked by the way they write and post,” Edd Gent reports on what researcher Srijan Kumar, of the University of Maryland, said, “In the era of fake news, detecting sock puppets is important…Whenever multiple accounts are used by the same party it is harmful and it skews the discussion and fake news can be propagated very confidently” (Gent 2017).
In addition to being the home of cute puppy photos and millions of cat videos, the Internet can also be a house of horrors when someone uses it for the purpose of trolling, stalking or harassing another individual. While a crackdown on cyber-bullying using the laws that are already on the books has been gaining popularity among the public, cyber-harassment is still commonplace on YouTube, which remains the vulgar Wild West of the Web.
The fake news and pseudoscience being propagated through popular social media platforms present unique challenges to the existence of free speech on the Internet, with the old axiom attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan being as relevant as ever: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.
Taking that a step further: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to preventing another from sharing their own opinion. Cyber-harassment is intimidation that uses threats and coercion in an attempt to control/manipulate the person being targeted. On social media it’s often employed as a tactic to silence an opponent and quell damaging dissent/questions.
It’s a simple fact that a user of social media is more likely to interact with, and share content if it looks like other users are doing the same. But what we now have to consider is whether those other initial interactions are even real, or if we’re being duped into thinking we’ve found something that’s more popular than it actually is.
For the most part, people don’t want to belong to a group that is seen as “unpopular.” However, there is a way of developing support for an “unpopular” person, group or cause by creating the illusion of popularity through manipulating how social media works; this artificial popularity can garner actual support in the real world.
In this case: some of the content creators who use social media benefit from an illusion of popularity that can be created by inflating follower/subscriber counts, through the use of “follower bots,” which can translate to real popularity, actual support and financial gain over time.
My previous blog article pointed out the illegitimacy of Ben Davidson’s (Suspicious0bservers) claims of having a “peer-reviewed publication” to his name. This was done by emphasizing the criticisms made by the solar physicist behind the YouTube channel, Space Weather, about how “what Ben has done is he’s given his paper to a poor journal with no quality peers and as a result ended up with poor results and bad research” (Space Weather 2017).
This blog post is going to expand that focus to a couple of Ben Davidson’s other claims. But first, it’s important to sledge-hammer this nail on the head: there is a big difference between publishing a paper in a reputable peer-reviewed journal and publishing one in a predatory journal that is meant to mimic the peer-review process; the latter of which is pseudoscience that anyone can do, while the former is what constitutes evidence for the scientific claims made by experts.
Hello everybody, I apologize for the long absence, however, a lot has happened over the past several months!
Anyway, today’s blog post is a slow-burn introduction to two YouTube channels that are polar opposites of one another: one promotes science and the other monetizes pseudoscience.
The first channel is called, Space Weather, and it’s owned and operated by a man who has degrees in physics as well as 30+ years of experience working as a space weather forecaster. He created his YouTube channel with the purpose of correcting misinformation and making a public record to show that some of the pseudoscience circulating on social media is being challenged with real science.
Falling for conspiracy theories on the internet can destroy your life by taking a drastic toll on relationships with family and friends, leaving you isolated and vulnerable to duplicitous “online communities.” The study, “Changing Conspiracy Beliefs through Rationality and Ridiculing,” also noted that, “Conspiracy theory (CT) beliefs can be harmful” (Orosz 2016).
Researchers of this study found that both “rationality speech” and “ridiculing speech” were effective in reducing belief in conspiracy theories among a small sampling of Hungarians (Dolan 2016).
The least effective method of communication, persuasion is “empathetic speech,” emotional appeals have very little influence when it comes to changing the beliefs of a conspiracist: “Rational and ridiculing arguments were effective in reducing CT, whereas empathizing with the targets of CTs had no effect” (Orosz 2016).