Stop trying to make convoys happen
Read to the end for a Wikipedia article that you absolutely need to read the last line of
Convoy Content Is Not Actually Doing Very Well On Facebook
There have been several great investigations in the last week exposing high levels of “inauthentic behavior” around the Freedom Convoy Facebook communities. Most notably, Grid News discovered that several huge convoy groups were all run by the same account, which used to belong to a woman in Missouri before it was hacked and she lost access to it. And then NBC News dropped a bombshell over the weekend that fake accounts run by users based in countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh were also running convoy pages.
What’s interesting about all of this though is that I think it actually says more about the sorry state of Facebook currently, as a social network, than it does anything about whether or not the Freedom Convoy is real or not real.
Last week, I took a spin through the metrics around the Freedom Convoy movement on Facebook. Using two platforms, Buzzsumo and CrowdTangle, I was able to get a pretty good look at what kinds of content users are actually sharing about the convoy protests in Ottawa. According to the third-party links that convoy protest supporters are engaging with, the bulk of of it is coming from YouTube, Daily Wire, and Rumble, a right-wing video platform. From what I can see, there are plenty of real-looking users engaging with content about the convoys, even if it’s also quickly become a honeypot for scammers and sketchy content farms.
In the last month, Fox News has dedicated over 8 hours to programming about the convoys. So you’d be forgiven for thinking this was a big thing! But what is missing from a lot of the reports that have been coming out about the Freedom Convoy is that, by all accounts, it’s not actually that big on Facebook. Or, at least, it’s not as big as previous Facebook movements like this.
After my initial analysis, I set a bunch of alerts for convoy content and spent the weekend keeping an eye on what people were sharing. The top convoy-related story on Facebook in the last seven days was a Daily Wire story published at the end of last week, titled, “Going Global: French Freedom Convoy Begins, Already Banned From Paris By Police,” which claims freedom convoys are spreading around the world à la the Yellow Vests. (By all accounts, freedom convoys are not spreading — yet.)
When opening up the CrowdTangle data for the Daily Wire’s story, at first glance, it looks pretty viral! Except, if you actually look at what pages and groups are sharing it and the interactions per post, you quickly notice that this really isn’t the populist groundswell you’re meant to believe it is. In fact, the top pages sharing the Daily Wire story are all actually just Daily Wire-affiliated pages. The top three sources for the story are Ben Shapiro, the site’s founder, Michael Knowles, a commentator for the site, and the Daily Wire’s page, itself. The Daily Wire team needed 66 pages sharing it within the span of two days to get the total interactions over 100,000 and if you scroll further down CrowdTangle’s list of shares, you’ll find even more Daily Wire pages pushing the post. Sad!
The single most-engaged-with Facebook post in the last week linking out to a story about the convoys was this one posted on February 10th by Ben Shapiro’s page. It has 3,800 shares and 1,000 comments. Which sounds impressive until you remember that Shapiro’s page has 8.4 million followers! Media companies — that aren’t fueled by Republican dark money — running a page of this size would absolutely be looking at layoffs if they started getting this little engagement. But it’s not just the Daily Wire clique that’s really having to push this stuff hard to make a splash.
There’s a lot that’s been written about conservative commentators’ total domination of Facebook over the last few years. If you follow the Facebook’s Top 10 Twitter page, you’ll see a never-ending feed of tweets showing Ben Shapiro’s universe of Facebook pages as the biggest publishing network on the platform. But what the Facebook’s Top 10 account doesn’t show is how low the engagement is on these posts.
The third most popular third-party link about the convoys from the weekend was a Rumble video by Dan Bongino titled, “LOL: The Media Is LOSING IT Over the Freedom Convoy”. It’s a supercut of people on CNN being upset about the protests. Pretty standard stuff. According to CrowdTangle it has 95,422 interactions, which, once again, sounds like a lot! Only, it was shared to Facebook 51 times since February 9th and five of those shares were on Bongino’s pages.
Clicking in on the most shared post to link to the Rumble video, it has 2,000 comments and 2,000 shares. And the page it was shared to, Dan Bongino’s personal page, has 4.9 million followers! The gross food magicians are doing better than these pages and it’s not even close.
Here’s where I say that this is really only the tip of the iceberg. Facebook content is notoriously difficult to track and many right-wing internet communities, like all internet communities, communicate via memes and dense in-group speak that isn’t going to easily surface with a search for the keyword “convoy”. That said, of what we can see, it’s not exactly thriving.
What I’ve seen in small doses poking around convoy posts actually lines up with new findings which were partially published by group of researchers last week in The Atlantic: It’s looking more and more likely that a huge bulky of Facebook’s content in America is being created by an incredibly small pocket of absolutely deranged power users who spend their days fantasizing about political violence in the comments of conservative Facebook pages. And the researchers in The Atlantic zeroed in on Shapiro’s page as a hotbed for this exact kind of activity.
But, most importantly of all, I’m not even sure you can define this as “viral”. There may be real people engaging with these stories, but they aren’t spreading in any meaningful way beyond the handful of giant pages pushing them. And those pages are getting much less engagement compared to where they were two or three years ago. Instead, I think it’s probably time to call this what it is: a fringe Canadian protest movement being promoted by a glorified tweetdecking operation run by a bunch of American influencers as a desperate attempt to keep their accounts relevant.
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A Good Tweet
Please Don’t Scan Random QR Codes On Your Television
Coinbase, the Facebook of crypto trading apps, was one of the many crypto-related companies that had an ad during the Super Bowl last night. During the Coinbase ad, there was a QR code that you could scan that would deposit $15 of Bitcoin in your Coinbase wallet. It was scanned so many times that it crashed Coinbase at one point last night. Hey, that’s cool that this particular QR code gave people $15, but, holy shit, what is wrong with everyone? Do not, under any circumstances, just scan random QR codes you see on TV!! In fact, if you can avoid, just don’t scan them at all!!!
Web3, Still Very Sketchy
Speaking of weird crypto stuff to avoid. A Twitter user over the weekend shared a story about being targeted by hackers in his DAO.
It’s a crazy story worth clicking into and reading the entirety of. The TL;DR is that @thomasg.eth claims that users infiltrated his DAO’s Discord and spent weeks trying to gain his trust in an attempt to hack him.
Meanwhile, Dirty Bubble Media, a Substack publication looking at crypto scams, published an investigation into the user that spent $24 million recently on a CryptoPunk NFT. What did they discover? Well, it appears to have been purchased by the CEO of a Web3 company called Chain. But you should head over to the article and read the whole thing, because it seems as if Chain’s CEO is transferring huge sums of money between multiple crypto wallets and then using them to buy flashy NFTs as a way to promote his own crypto token, the bulk of which is stored in ghost wallets that are secretly owned by his own company. You know, if I’m understanding it correctly…
This is so frustrating! But also it’s incredibly fun. It’s Wordle, but for the world. Worldle, get it? You get a country shape, you guess what it is, it gives you the distance you are away from it and the direction. I can’t believe I missed Czechia!
More A.I Pokémon
Nokemon is a project that generates fake Pokémon based on their name or their type. So in the screenshot above, I picked Bulbasaur and it tried to generate a Pokémon that looks kind of similar to Bulbasaur. I’d say it did a pretty decent job. Nokemon was created by Liam D. Eloie, a machine learning engineer from the UK.
A Final SFT Update
Over the weekend, the Super Fungible Token crossed over 30,000 uploads. If you don’t remember what this is, let me catch back up to speed. Back in January, the digital literacy collective I work with, Digital Void, released a web app with internet artist Morris Kolman and developer Alex Petros. It’s an NFT that anyone can change the image of. We minted it for 30 cents on the most carbon neutral platform we could find, Algogems, and then we threw away the keys to the wallet that owned. Which means no one can ever buy it.
The project was meant to do a couple things. First, and most importantly, it’s funny. You can copy someone’s NFT and then make it our NFT. But it’s also a fun way to teach people what NFTs actually are — not the image, but the destination for the receipt for the sale of the NFT. Lastly, and this definitely caused a lot of confused reactions from the crypto community, but the SFT inverts how we think about Web3. Right now, most Web3 projects use financial transactions as the pretext for engagement. As in, you buy the NFT to engage with it or you buy into a DAO to join it. Most of Web3 is experienced via a crypto wallet first. The SFT flips this on its head. You can engage with it, but never buy it. And a lot of crypto guys begged us to sell it because I assume the thought of having fun online without exchanging any money makes them existentially uncomfortable.
Anyways, thank you all for playing around with it! The last update I have you: We broke Algogems, it seems. The marketplace is no longer updating our listing. It’s been stuck on the same picture of Weird Al for like a week now.
A Good Meme
This was dropped in the Garbage Day Discord by my virtual life coach Mitch.
A Lot Of People Are Angry About The New Machine Gun Kelly Song
So the backlash against one-man-Blink-182-cover-band Machine Gun Kelly has been building for a while. Though, I, personally, think it’s nice that we’re back in an era where musicians have big loud public beefs with each other. In fact, it seems as though due to his proximity to Pete Davidson, MGK is now part of the big Kanye West feud. Good for him, definitely a step up from getting in a big fight with the dude from Slipknot. (Though, I find everything about Kanye’s whole thing right now actually very troubling.)
Anyways, what’s been impressive about Machine Gun Kelly’s pop punk phase is that, for the most part, people haven’t really been dunking on the former rapper’s new music. I assume this is because Travis Barker, who produces MGK, has earned a lot of love over the years and most people have agreed that pop punk is harmless.
But Machine Gun Kelly’s newest song, “Emo Girl” seems to be a turning point. My Twitter timeline and YouTube recs are full of people ragging on it. So what’s the deal? Why is this song the breaking point for people who, up until now, were at least not focusing specifically on the content of Machine Gun Kelly’s music? My theory is that his newest song, which is titled, “emo girl,” has violated the most important rule of scene music. Which is you’re never allowed to acknowledge the existence of emo! Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, even older more legit bands like American Football or The Promise Ring, you know what they never, ever did? Admit they were emo! Or even say the word out loud! It’s basically been the one main rule for this kind of music since it was invented. And now Machine Gun Kelly has broken that rule.
And this is actually a terrific set-up for our next item…
Invader Zim artist Jhonen Vasquez Responds To A Dril Tweet
Look, this is a very niche thing, so if you don’t know what any of this means or why it’s interesting, that’s ok, but I promise you, there is a demographic of people out there who think this is a very big deal! I swear.