Boomers are weird and obsessive posters
Read to the end for a good collection of fried chicken sandwiches
I’m teaching a remote class about internet culture later this month! It’s cheap, like $25 for four weeks, and it’s basically a (slightly) more academic version of the kind of analysis I put in Garbage Day, but bigger. I’m conducting the course with Jamie Cohen, a cultural and media studies PhD who teaches at Queens College. Think about checking it out! It’s going to be a lot of fun.
Freedom Convoy Facebook Content Is Coming From YouTube
On Monday, I wrote about how much astroturfing appeared to be happening inside of the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” movement on Facebook. Astroturfing is what platforms call “inauthentic coordinated behavior” and in the case of the freedom convoy, according to tweets from Caroline Orr Bueno, a behavioral scientist at the University of Maryland, many of the groups and pages currently pushing the convoy were all started on the same day and basically immediately filled up with thousands of users. It’s definitely fishy, but, one of the problems with proving that astroturfing around right-wing movements is happening is that conservative internet users tend to look like bots or sock puppets from afar. (Boomers are weird and obsessive posters.)
Coloring in more details, however, Grid News published a great investigation yesterday which found that five groups with a combined 340,000 members were all administered by a same account — one belonging to a woman from Missouri who claims that someone hacked her account and is now using it to run groups involved with the right-wing Canadian truckers protest. Also, very fishy! But there really aren’t any conservative movements that don’t include hackers, security breaches, the exploitation of senior citizens, and other assorted grifters. So I decided to dig into convoy Facebook content, just to get a sense of how real this whole thing is.
I did some analysis with Buzzsumo, a social analytics dashboard that is especially good at tracking third-party links being shared on Facebook. It doesn’t give you a complete view of everything on Facebook, but combined with CrowdTangle, another social analytics dashboard which is better at monitoring the content that Facebook pages and groups are sharing, I was able to piece together exactly what convoy supporters are doing on Facebook right now. From what I can see, it’s a movement built almost entirely by sharing video links.
According to Buzzsumo, a large chunk of convoy content on Facebook is coming from the usual suspects — right-wing publishers like Breitbart, Daily Wire, and Rebel News. The most-shared piece of convoy content overall right now is a Daily Wire story titled, “DeSantis Announces Florida Will Investigate GoFundMe After Company Shut Down Freedom Convoy” published on February 5th, which has 265,000 total engagements on the platform. But, as you can see above, the bulk of the convoy content on Facebook is actually YouTube content.
YouTube links including the search term “convoy” are responsible for almost 3 million engagements over the last month. The most-shared of these links is a video titled, “Truckers Convoy: Why The Mainstream Media Blackout?!” and it’s by a little-known vlogger named… Russell Brand, the British “comedian”. It’s been viewed 1.2 million times. The second most-shared YouTube video on the list is titled, “Freedom Convoy ADDRESS TO THE NATION - Feb.6, 2022 ‘State of Emergency Update’ | IrnieracingNews” and it was posted by a YouTube user named Marcel Irnie, a “superbike racer” who vlogs. Irnie’s video was watched 1.4 million times.
Irnie’s video seemed like the more obscure piece of content of the two videos, so I fed that into CrowdTangle, hoping to get a deeper look at what kind of users are sharing this stuff. The top referral to the video was a page called “La revue de presse de J.Colin,” which is run by a right-wing French-language influencer named J.Colin who has a show on Rumble, the conservative YouTube clone that’s been trying to poach Joe Rogan from Spotify. Colin’s post that linked to Irnie’s video was a live video, which is the new algorithm hack that the gross food magicians are using, as well. For what it’s worth, Colin’s video does have a COVID misinfo warning on it, which is good, I guess. Though, it still has 1,300 comments.
The second biggest referral to Irnie’s video was Ted Nugent, so not really mystery what’s going on there, but the third biggest was from the group “Alberta Separatism,” which is a community with 43,000 members dedicated to the province of Alberta succeeding from Canada. Unhinged Canadian nonsense, sure, but also it was shared by a real person. Though, the user that shared it, a woman from Calgary named Zuzana Janosova-Den Boer, is both the admin of the group and, according to her Twitter, on the board of the directors for the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta.
But the Rumble connection with all of this wasn’t random. It turns out Colin wasn’t the only user affiliated with Rumble that’s pushing the convoy on Facebook. In fact, Rumble URLs accounted for 500,000 engagements around “convoy” content in the last month, third behind YouTube and Daily Wire links. Daily Wire content is now outperforming Rumble links but, according to Buzzsumo, right-wing media appears to have been late to this whole party actually.
When sorting “convoy”-related content by publish date, there was a massive spike in “convoy” related activity across the web between January 25th and January 28th, but it wasn’t really getting properly shared as third-party links on Facebook until last week. The right-wing media storm around the convoy doesn’t appear to have started in earnest until February 9th, when far-right influencer Tim Pool published a Rumble video about the convoys and then, later in the day, when far-right Facebook publisher Gateway Pundit published a story about them, as well. When it comes to third party content being shared on Facebook, most of the links that were posted before February 9th weren’t getting enough engagement to even show up on CrowdTangle. Which, to me, indicates a pretty sizable lag of over a week between organic Facebook posts about the convoy and media coverage.
Here are two more interesting charts Buzzsumo generated based on “convoy” mentions. Check out the jump in engagements between January and February compared to the total web views.
Based on everything I can see, here’s what I think happened over the last month:
There is a moderation gray zone that exists between Facebook and YouTube. It’s been an issue for years when it comes to radicalization and misinformation on both platforms. Facebook doesn’t take any strong action against YouTube content shared to the site because it’s not really their content. Meanwhile, YouTube doesn’t seem to take action either because it’s not actually getting that activity on their own platform, even though the content that is getting a lot of Facebook shares. And it’s these kinds of video links seem to be the content that is getting shared most regularly in right-wing and far-right Facebook Groups. Why? Well, anecdotally, I see a lot of users who share random YouTube videos about bull shit conspiracy theories as proof that the mainstream media won’t cover something. Also, think about curation in any social network. What tends to win you more points in an online community, sharing native content or sharing content from outside the platform?
But this gulf between Facebook moderation and YouTube links also seems to be giving a huge boost to Rumble links, as well. And, to make matters worse, right-wing publishers have learned how to jump on trends that start like this and, as you can see in the chart above, amplify them to absurd degrees. In the case of the convoy, engagements jumped over 250% once right-wing news sites started covering the story.
In the end, as far as I can tell, the freedom convoy, like everything else on Facebook, is a mix of tech illiterate boomers sharing garbage junk links with each other, bad community moderation, fraud, and, of course, click-hungry right-wing influencers and publishers happy to pour gasoline on the fire.
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A Good Tweet
Brazil Has Its Joe Rogan Moment
Hot off the back of Joe Rogan in the US and Jimmy Carr in the UK, Brazil has submitted their own Extremely Bad Online Man to the Terrible Guy-lympics. I’ve already written about this guy before. He’s a podcaster that goes by Monark. Back in November, he got a bunch of backlash for defending Brazil’s president, human biohazard Jair Bolsonaro, who had recently claimed that COVID-19 causes AIDS. The country’s equivalent of Seamless, iFood, ended their sponsorship of Monark’s podcast, Flow. Which then prompted a pro-Bolsonaro (or “bolsominion”) contractor working with iFood to vandalize a bunch of listings on the app.
This week, a clip went viral of Monark, real name Bruno Aiub, saying that there should be a Nazi party in Brazil. “The radical left has much more space than the radical right, in my opinion. Both have to have space,” Aiub said. “I think the nazis have to have a Nazi party recognized by law.” It’s incredible that men on podcasts saying shit like this is a problem worldwide. We need to halt the international sales of Blue Yeti mics and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interfaces until we can figure out exactly why men of all cultures react this way when given the opportunity to record themselves talking.
Also worth pointing out: On the episode where the viral clip came from, Aiub was interviewing Kim Kataguiri, a right-wing YouTuber who is sort of like the Brazilian version of Tim Pool if Tim Pool then successfully ran for congress and is now a sitting politician.
Brazilian news site Nucleo has a good rundown (in Portuguese, but translatable) of the subsequent fallout around Aiub and his show. First, Aiub claimed he was drunk during the taping and tried to argue the whole thing was just “bar chat”. That didn’t seem to fly, though. Aiub was then fired from Flow and will no longer be a host. And another member of the production company said he was in the process of buying out Aiub’s shares because he still technically owns 50% of Flow.
But what’s interesting about the Flow nazi controversy is how it has differed from the still-somehow-ongoing Joe Rogan conundrum. Flow lost a handful of sponsors, but, in a move that no one has tried with Rogan yet, previous guests on Flow are now requesting their episodes be taken down. Though, the seriousness with which mainstream Brazilian media is taking this might be also be related to how discrimination laws work in Brazil. Brazilian authorities have demanded the nazi clip be removed from YouTube and there’s even some question about whether or not Aiub broke the law. It’s illegal in Brazil to incite discrimination based on “race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin” and that includes broadcasting nazi propaganda.
Imagine if America reacted the same way a 3-minute montage of a major podcaster saying slurs?
Also, here’s was a good tweet about the whole thing. It reads, “Flow is just bar chat. The bar:”
We Gotta Talk About The Crypto Hackers, Right?
So I assume you’ve all heard about the massive crypto hacker bust this week. If you haven’t heard about this, Ilya ‘Dutch’ Lichtenstein and his wife Heather Morgan were arrested yesterday and charged with stealing 119,754 bitcoins, or, as of right now $5.2 billion. The coins were originally stolen in 2016 from crypto exchange called Bitfinex. The heist was so big that it actually caused a 20% dip in the price of bitcoin at the time.
The arrest got a lot of attention because Lichtenstein’s wife has a massive digital trail across platforms like YouTube and TikTok. A lot of it is being scrubbed from the web right now, but here’s a clip from one of her rap videos.
Many people are now currently asking why someone like Morgan, who had allegedly pocketed billions of stolen bitcoin, would spend her time posting deranged influencer content, but, honestly, that doesn’t really surprise me. All influencers are, in some degree, running elaborate scams and frauds.
The big news here for me — which was sent to me by a reader named Tom this morning — is that before Lichtenstein describes himself on his Medium account as an, “occasional magician”.
Look, guys, my dear readers, who I love, I am desperate for any proof that Lichtenstein is an actual practicing magician. I need it more than I’ve ever needed anything. If you have any evidence that this guy was a magician, please contact me. PLEASE!!!
A Redditor Has A Batman Question
Hoo boy, this is a tough one. OP’s husband wants to see the new Batman movie on opening night (to avoid spoilers, obvz), but OP is due to give birth on the exact day that the movie comes out:
He says it is important to see the movie the first day because of spoilers and that, even I end up having the baby that day while he is watching the movie, at worst he would arrived a few hours late and is not such a big deal. He says I am being irrational and emotional because of being pregnant. I am upset because I feel reprioritize by him."
The comments section on this post is solidly on the side of OP, but I did find an absolutely BONKERS interaction further down the page.
“Oh honey. My BFF went into labor. Her husband drove her to the hospital, then left to go see a movie because he already had the ticket and didn't want to waste it. He is now her ex husband. Your husband is a massive massive asshole. You are NTA,” one user wrote.
Then, another user asked what movie it was. The first user replied and there is literally no way you could ever guess what movie it was:
Haha I'm pretty sure it was a Final Fantasy movie. He was a huge gamer. Let's see, I think her son turns 21 this year so it would have been 2001.
Update: texted said BFF this morning and I was correct about the movie. She also asked me to point out that when he got back to the hospital he woke her up to tell her about the movie.......
New TERF Honeypot Dropped
Eli Erlick, a PhD candidate at UC Santa Cruz, posted on Twitter and Tumblr this week that she was approached for a documentary called the “Gender Unity Project”. Erlick said she was approached by a producer named Makenna Lynn Waters who told her that the documentary was meant to be an “educational” look at gender identity. After some digging, Erlick discovered that Makenna Lynn Waters was actually Makenna Waters, who is the producer for right-wing commentator Matt Walsh.
It looks like Erlick’s thread on the whole thing, which is worth clicking through on and checking out, was enough to get the Twitter account for Walsh’s project suspended.
Facebook Drops Below The Antitrust Market Cap Threshold
Facebook’s market cap fell below $600 million this week, which is the threshold for a lot of antitrust regulation. Also, as CNBC points out, it’s the number being used in bills being put together right now targeting big tech. Interesting that has happened in this exact way at this exact time! Peter Thiel is also leaving Meta’s board. Also interesting that has happened! And, finally, an algorithm tweak on Instagram has created a surge of low-value single-second silent videos. Once again, interesting.
All of these things sound like the actions of a healthy company!
Another Good Tweet
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good collection of fried chicken sandwiches.
BONUS GARBAGE: How To Spot A “Fed Wallet” In The Wild
We’re back with some more bonus garbage! For paying subs, this will look like just another item in the email. For free readers, you’ll be hit with a paywall before the good stuff. Sorry!
Last week, I wrote about the crypto Twitter detectives who noticed some extremely sketchy transactions leading up to Justin Bieber buying a Bored Ape NFT. In my opinion, one of the cooler things about cryptocurrency is actually how traceable it is in incidents like this. Last week, a Twitter user named @CryptoHerpesCat noticed activity on a crypto wallet that seems to line up with this week’s bust of the alleged Bitfinex hackers.
Well, I reached out to @CryptoHerpesCat who was nice enough to explain a bit about how monitoring crypto wallets works…