Saturday, October 31, 2020

Buzzmag.live

Buzzmag.live is a website that copies-and-pastes articles, and then changes a few words in each paragraph.  

Here's an article from October 14, 2020, titled "Cristiano Ronaldo Falls Victim To The Coronavirus."


Here's a Reuters article from October 13, 2020, titled "Cristiano Ronaldo tests positive for COVID-19"


Sample text from the Buzzmag.live article:

The 35-year-old forward is asymptomatic and is most likely to miss Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League game against Sweden as he self-isolates.

The federation added that the rest of the Portugal team had undergone tests as a result of Ronaldo testing positive, but they claimed that all tested negative and would be available for the Sweden match.
Sample text from the Reuters article:

The 35-year-old Juventus forward is asymptomatic and will miss Wednesday’s UEFA Nations League game against Sweden as he self-isolates.

The federation added that the rest of the Portugal squad had undergone tests as a result of Ronaldo’s positive, but that they had all tested negative and would be available for the Sweden match.
The homepage and articles on Buzzmag.live contain AdSense ads.  

Some users on Reddit are spamming the site, but I didn't notice any of them gaining much traction.  Here's user /u/Samanthabadra.  The WHOIS page for buzzmag.ive indicates the registrant is from Gampaha, Sri Lanka.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Tim Pool keeps using the same bad argument to criticize journalists

Tim Pool was criticizing the media this week for spreading what he called "unhinged conspiracy theories" about Donald Trump's visit to Walter Reed.  The main conspiracy theory he focused on concerned the EXIF data of these two photographs released by the White House:

Twitter users, most notably Jon Ostrower, looked at the EXIF data and saw the timestamps were only spaced 10 minutes apart.  If the timestamps are legit, it gives the photos a certain staged quality, suggesting perhaps Donald Trump wasn't working as hard as he'd want the American public to believe:

Tim Pool found this allegation ridiculous.  "Let me explain why these people are insane," he says in his video (which, incidentally, has over 250,000 views).  He explains that the timestamps in the EXIF data were probably created at the end of the day when the AP photographer (referring to Joyce N. Boghosian) finally had the chance to file and edit her photos.  Thus, the timestamps didn't actually correspond to when the two photographs were originally shot.  


Tim concludes:  "These journalists don't do any work at all.  None!  None whatsoever.  It's incredible.  The no work.  No Google search."

Tim has taken this approach before.  I'm talking specifically about the videos he made following the Toronto Van Attack.  On April 23rd, 2018, a man named Alek Minassian drove a van onto a crowded Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 16 others.  In the hours after the attack, people began sharing copies of a Facebook post supposedly written by Alek Minassian that referenced an Incel Rebellion  The post said:

Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161.  The Incel Rebellion has already begun!  We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!  All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!

Journalists reached out to Facebook and got confirmation the post was real, and Alek Minassian was labeled an incel terrorist by the media.  Tim Pool was pissed off about this, for some reason.  He did some digging and he concluded the Facebook post was a hoax, which meant there was no evidence Alek Minassian was an incel.  In four different YouTube videos, Tim Pool asserted his belief that the Facebook profile was fake, and he also said the journalists spreading this type of hoax were "evil."  Here's a sample diatribe:

This is fake news....I bet everything, I bet my car, that this incels thing is fake news....Somebody made a Facebook profile and then added a post...We have no reason to believe it's true.  There's no confirmation. Yet it will go down in history that this man was an incel like many of these other shooters, like Elliot Rodger....When the New York Times runs a story where they say Alek Minassian was an incel, that's not the truth....A fake profile is not proof.

However, it turned out the Facebook post was real.  Alek Minassian wrote it, he posted it on his personal Facebook account, and he identified as an incel.  I reviewed Tim's arguments in a blog post last year, and I examined in painstaking detail all the facts surrounding the Facebook post, and I concluded with roughly 99.99% certainty it was legitimate.  There was a tiny smidge of uncertainty, but this doubt was removed when Toronto authorities released footage last year of an interview between Alek Minassian and a police detective:

Minassian talks at length about being an incel, about 4chan and Eliot Rodger.  At the 2:01:07 mark, he says:

I did post a Facebook message right before the attack stating that the Incel Rebellion has already begun.  

So there's the definitive proof.

Now it would be easy to say, "Hey look, Tim Pool got it wrong!"  But I wanted to understand why he got it wrong, and there were a few reasons I picked up on as to why Tim Pool thought the Facebook post was a hoax.  He thought the timestamp on the Facebook post might not match up with the minute-by-minute timeline of the attack, and he also thought the post might've been edited after the attack took place.  I explained in my blog why neither of those theories made sense.  I know how Facebook works, and I could tell when Tim Pool was barking up the wrong tree.

It's harder for me to pinpoint where Tim might be going wrong with regards to the EXIF data.  When he mentioned Adobe Premiere, and talked about his experience rendering photos, I found myself thinking, "Maybe he really knows what he's talking about this time."  And I realized I was starting to fall under what Michael Crichton called the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.  This pertains to how we consume the news, and how we forget to be skeptical sometimes.  Crichton said:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

I myself don't know anything about photography or how EXIF if data is generated.  However, I recognize that the argument Tim made about EXIF data is the exact same goddamn argument he made about Alek Minassian's Facebook post:  He's saying journalists got it wrong because the timestamps can be edited.  That's his one argument.  The last time I analyzed one of these arguments, it turned out to be bullshit.  Since I couldn't pass my own judgment on this specific topic, I looked at what different news and photography websites said about the EXIF data.

Allen Murabayashi wrote a blog post and recorded a podcast for PhotoShelter.com, and he used forensic tools to examine the two pictures.  He drew a critical eye to certain claims, such as the claim Donald Trump was signing a blank piece of paper.  At no point did Allen suggest the timestamps in the EXIF data were misleading.

Patrick Hall of Fstoppers.com tried to track down the original photos so he could examine the EXIF data himself.  Patrick's article took a more cautious approach.  He wrote: "Some might ask if someone simply could have made up fake EXIF data and pushed them online to a mob of people foaming at the mouth to discredit the president? That doesn't seem to be the case since the times match from images anyone can download off the AP's website."

Jane Lytvynenko of BuzzFeed News complied a list of false claims and misinformation being spread about Donald Trump's stay at Walter Reed.  In regards to the EXIF data, she wrote: "Yes, metadata really does show these two photos of Trump being taken minutes apart. (The date relies on the camera's internal clock, which may be out of date or inaccurate.)"

Allen Murabayashi and Patrick Hall are photographers, and Jane Lytvynenko debunks misinformation for a living.  None of them brought up the same point Tim Pool had harped on.  None of them suggested the timestamps in the EXIF data were generated or edited when the photos were filed at the end of the day.  Tim Pool was acting as though Jon Ostrower and other Twitter users had made the most obvious mistake in the world.  Yet I couldn't find anyone else echoing Tim's thoughts.

Maybe there's a reason for that.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Breitbart makes a faulty "fact check" about Biden

You won't believe it, but this fact check from Breitbart is faulty.  Here's the claim they're supposedly fact-checking, from the NBC town hall with Joe Biden:

CLAIM: For the umpteenth time, Joe Biden claimed that President Donald Trump called neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, “very fine people.” 

Except Joe Biden didn't make that claim.  Biden simply quoted Donald Trump's line about how there were "very fine people" on both sides in Charlottesville and said it was a dog whistle. Breitbart is upset because Joe Biden called Trump's line a dog whistle, and they don't have a good way to counter that.  So Breitbart made something up, and then fact-checked what they made up.      

I know Donald Trump didn't specifically say during his press conference that Neo-Nazis were "fine people."  I know he said White Supremacists should be condemned.  But he definitely said there were "very fine people" on both sides.  That's a quote.  From there, interpretations begin to split.  Is it possible to be on the same side as Neo-Nazis, and march alongside White Supremacists, and also be a fine person?  Were there Average Joes who attended the Unite The Right rally out of curiosity, got swept up in the march, and didn't realize until later that the people shouting "Jews will not replace us!" were bad hombres?  That's the argument the "fine people" truthers are making, and I don't think most people are buying the argument, which is why Joe Biden keeps bringing up the quote. 

Biden didn't say that Trump called Neo-Nazis or White Supremacists "fine people."  His wording was more careful, as you can see in this transcript: 

Again, I give you my word, after my son passed, I wasn’t going to run again. But when I saw those people coming out of the woods, literally, the fields, carrying torches in Charlottesville screeching at — if you close your eyes, remember what you saw. Their veins bulging, preaching antisemitic hate. The same exact language used in Germany in the thirties, accompanied by the Ku Klux Klan. And when a woman was innocently killed, what was the question asked of the president? “What do you think?” He said there were “very fine people on both sides.” No president has ever said anything remotely like that. There’s this constant dog whistle.

I don't detect any lies in what he said.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Why is this Facebook voting ad so spooky?

A few nights ago I was watching TV when this jarring commercial aired:

The point is to encourage Facebook users to learn about the 2020 voting process.  But the ad makes voting seem like it's some ominous endeavor.  Here are some highlights: 

0:00:  Spooky piano music plays.  An old woman stares out the window.  A girl in a darkened room gets ready to blow out her birthday candles, possibly for the last time.  A despondent man sits in the woods.  A mailman has a concerned look on his face while holding an envelope.  Some dude in a bathroom is stunned while reading a Facebook update about a dog.

0:17: A beleaguered mother of two tries to type something into her phone, and fails.

0:27: Close-up shot of a tongue.  

0:33:  The spooky piano music plays again.  The elderly woman asks her friend, "You'll be safe, right?"  (This is the LAST thing you'd ever want to ask someone in a horror movie.)  Two women in masks douse a voting area with spray and goo.  

0:49:  The ghostly sound of a child's laughter is heard.  

0:52:  A guy goes "Whoo!" in the voting booth.  (This isn't  scary, but the guy seems obnoxious.  I think he's wearing a fedora.)

0:56:  A plug for the website: www.fb.com/votinginfocenter.  This is the thing being advertised, believe it or not.  

With all that said, the actual FB website seems useful, and I was able to check my registration status in about 45 seconds.  However, I would have never thought to visit the website if I weren't poring over this spooky ad in preparation for writing a blog post.  The whole presentation reminded me of that infamous ad for the electric car.  You know, the one which made it seem like anyone who bought an electric car was doomed:

Friday, October 2, 2020

TheUnionJournal.com

TheUnionJournal.com is another site which plagiarizes content.

Here is an article from September 4th, 2020, with the byline Turan Gafarli, titled: "Amazon deletes 20,000 reviews after evidence of profits for posts."

The text is copied entirely from an FT.com article from September 4th, 2020, written by David Lee, titled: "Amazon deletes 20,000 reviews after evidence of profits for posts"

The Union Journal has a Twitter account with 1,987 followers and a Facebook page with 495 likes.  The Transparency section on the Facebook page lists the owner as Rottweiler Life(?) and it lists Egypt as the location of the three page managers.  A few posts from The Union Journal have done well on Reddit; a submission in /r/WorldNews linking to the story about Amazon reviews received over 63,000 upvotes.

The articles on TheUnionJournal.com display AdSense ads and contain internet chum.

As of October 2nd, the homepage of TheUnionJournal.com contains two additional outbound links:  One link leads to DigitalMarketNews.com.  Another leads to Reporter.am (The Armenian Reporter), which is listed as a "partner."  Both sites have a similar website layout at TheUnionJournal.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

TheDailyNY.com

 Here's a news website which doesn't serve any purpose:  

www.TheDailyNY.com

The About page says:

The Daily New York is an online newspaper that brings you all the latest updates regarding Politics, Business, Tech, Entertainment, Health, Sports, Style, Travel and More.

We are truth hunters and narrators. We are writers, planners and technologists, joined by a strategic vision to empower the world. We demonstrate the veracity of history as it unfurls and clarify what occurred, why it did, and what it means to you.

Our items and stages take you to the farthest corners of the world, and they carry the world to you, conveying materials and stories that improve your lives, your families and your networks.

We are accessible on a larger number of screens in a larger number of spots than some other news source. We represent greatness in our news coverage and our items. We are focused on serving you

You should've realized something was off by the time you reached "Our items and stages take you to the farthest corners of the world."  The homepage has a Statue of Liberty graphic, and the header has links for "World," "Business," "Opinion," "Sports," etc... 

The site has lots of articles, most which are two paragraphs long.  The articles don't seem to be plagiarized, but the grammar is janky.  The only byline I saw was "Chris Norton," and clicking on the byline takes you to:  https://thedailyny.com/author/thedailynyofficial/.  I opened some stories in an incognito tab, and there weren't any ads.  The Contact page just contains a submission form.  The domain was registered on July 24, 2020.  

Here's a sample story titled "Serena Williams pulled out of French Open with Achilles injury ahead of her match against Tsvetana Pironkova":  https://archive.is/npT3t

TheDailyNY has a Twitter account with 612 tweets and 2 followers, and a Facebook page with 2 "likes."  This could all simply be some dude's personal project.  I'm not really sure.

A reddit account named /u/Ali_Sands has been spamming the domain.  Ali_Sands was also spamming another site a couple months ago called 365gamez.com, and he promoted some sort of "Song Quiz" app, which you can see in the Google Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.artonstudios.songquiz.  It's from Arton Studios.