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m_ke said 8 months ago:

It's crazy to me that we allow politicians to run targeted ad campaigns.

I randomly looked up Andrew Yang on good a few days ago on my phone and had ads from two billionaires take up my whole screen.


Without campaign finance regulation majority of the billions donated to campaigns is going directly into pockets of Google, Facebook and cable monopolies. We're letting billionaires buy the election.

> What has Bloomberg been spending on? Per the Federal Elections Commission data through the end of 2019, the two biggest costs have been television advertising ($132 million) and digital outreach ($20 million). Some of the costs reflect a late entry to the campaign—buying lists of voters to contact ($3.2 million), hiring people to gather signatures to get his name on the ballot ($373,441), and hiring recruiters to bring onboard staff ($107,000).


How are we supposed to trust the media when they're on track to get a billion dollars from a single candidate?

Reedx said 7 months ago:

Andrew Yang was getting pushed out and ignored the whole time. There are many egregious examples of how he was being excluded: https://vocal.media/theSwamp/a-visual-history-of-the-yang-me...

We couldn't trust the media already, Bloomberg will just be another example making this clearer.

AareyBaba said 7 months ago:

At townhalls in Iowa and NH ordinary citizens would ask questions like "What are your plans to help with student loan debt ?", "Healthcare costs are out of control - what are your plans to fix the system ?", "Will your Freedom Dividend cause inflation ?" etc.

On the other hand, MSNBC, ABC would ask questions like "Some people say you make fun of asian sterotypes, what do you have to say to that ? " or "Some white supremacists are coming out in support of your campaign - why do you think that is the case ?", "When you lose, are you going to support whoever is the democratic nominee?"

The media bias was frustrating to watch. The best sources for information in this cycle seem to be youtube podcasts like Joe Rogan or the Breakfast club.

Reedx said 7 months ago:

> The best sources for information in this cycle seem to be youtube podcasts

I'd love to see long form become the dominant format in future cycles. It's so much better, allowing for nuance and depth. It's more real and human.

The format of TV interviews and debates are truly terrible. Largely devoid of substance, they reward/incentivize soundbites, shallow quips and drama. Yang wasn't playing that game and not well suited for it (perhaps part of why he was consistently given the least time), whereas he really shined in long form.

filoeleven said 7 months ago:

> The format of TV interviews and debates are truly terrible

I would love to see a debate that had no live audience, and took place around a table rather than a row of podiums.

lowdose said 7 months ago:

I really liked Tulsi Gabbar at Joe Rogan, she had similar experiences and even Google blocking her advertisement account.

bustadjustme said 7 months ago:

While this does kinda suck, note that Marianne Williamson is excluded from many (if not all) of these same examples, while having announced her candidacy well before (and even making it into the televised debates as well). Politics aside, my guess is this is more than anything else a symptom of not knowing what to do with candidates who don't already hold an elected position.

AlexCoventry said 7 months ago:

Marianne Williamson seems like a lovely person, but she's not even close to being a serious candidate. I can't blame people for not being interested in her campaign.

minikites said 7 months ago:

What criteria makes Andrew Yang a serious candidate compared to Marianne Williamson?

chillacy said 7 months ago:

I’ve seen the two talk in long form on YouTube and Yang definitely had a more comprehensive platform and policies. What Marianne Williamson was onto was not trivial either, I think there is a lot of of truth to what she’s said about healthcare “sickcare”, Loss of meaning, and unity. But Yang had a lot of very well though out positions that never really came out in 30 second soundbites.

throwaway34241 said 7 months ago:

Usually I'd see his supporters point out polling averages and/or fundraising which seems reasonable. He'd often be omitted from groups that included people with much worse metrics on both.

nl said 7 months ago:

I don't think mass media is justified to some degree basing their coverage off polling until the primaries start.

There's always a bunch of candidates who seem credible but can't get enough support, and others who do.

Compare Yang, Williamson, Klobuchar and Buttigieg and a bunch of other candidates. Buttigieg started polling well, which justified coverage. Klobuchar didn't get any coverage until her outstanding debate performance and then her polls picked up.

The others just never polled high enough for anyone to consider them credibly able to be nominated.

Chathamization said 7 months ago:

Buttigieg's positive coverage started when he was polling below 2% (even when he was polling below 1%). A lot of it had to do with having the right establishment connections[1]. His success in the polls seems to be the result of the media deciding to give him a lot of positive coverage, not vice versa. The same seems to be true of other candidates this cycle (like Klobuchar and Warren).

[1] https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2019/04/29/lis-smith...

dragonwriter said 7 months ago:

> Klobuchar didn't get any coverage until her outstanding debate performance and then her polls picked up.

Klobuchar was getting lots of coverage, including major media endorsements (like the NY Times, which did a weird split endorsement of her and Warren), before the debate performance, and even after she's still barely registering in the polls nationally, polling at around 5% on average

nl said 7 months ago:

I think after the primaries start performance in the primaries (especially unexpected performance) is a better indicator of expected media coverage.

DataWorker said 7 months ago:

PBS also seemed to like klobuchar long before anyone else knew the name.

arthurcolle said 7 months ago:
pcbro141 said 7 months ago:

President Trump's been tweeting crazy conspiracy nut things for years, like having 'extremely credible sources' saying President Obama is from Africa. Clearly tweeting crazy things doesn't disqualify one from becoming President.

IAmEveryone said 7 months ago:

It does disqualify one from becoming a Democratic President, though.

throwaway9980 said 7 months ago:

But it should. Trump got through a filtering processes that should have prevented him from becoming president. This is not evidence that we should not filter crazy people out of the electoral process. If anything it’s evidence that the filter needs some work.

DataWorker said 7 months ago:

I think gender is the obvious difference.

IAmEveryone said 7 months ago:

Voter support, as measured by contributions and surveys.

And why do voters feel as they do? Because his weirdness is possibly the result of underlying genius, while for her weirdness it’s more likely to be mental illness.

animalnewbie said 7 months ago:

Same was said for trump and yet he managed to cancel tpp, renegotiate NAFTA, and a new trade deal with Chinese. Three of Sanders's biggest talking points.

He also made enough political changes so that Sanders went from "open borders are a Koch brothers idea , bad for the nation", to "free healthcare for illegals"

filoleg said 7 months ago:

Thanks for sharing this article. I had a gut feeling that Yang was blacked out pretty badly, but I wrote it off as just me being biased and upset that my first choice candidate isn't getting as much screen time as I would have liked. After seeing this article with all the clear-cut examples, I don't think that it was just me being biased anymore.

elihu said 7 months ago:

I didn't scroll all the way to the bottom, but I couldn't help but notice that all the examples given seem to be from MSNBC.

IAmEveryone said 7 months ago:


He got into the debates, which is far more than anyone without any party credentials could have had hoped for in previous primaries. The debates were already too large. Far too much money is spent on the primary. And whoever the nominee will be, they won’t have gotten much use out of this time of being one voice among too many.

So this primary is arguably not within the typical parameters of optimizing chances in the general. That’s because it’s basically mob rule, now: they are completely paranoid of a repeat of the collective pettiness of Bernie supporters, mistaking the slightest advantage HRC may have gotten out of 40 years of laughing at the unfunny jokes made by the Democratic mayor of East Westnowhere.

Yang had enough presence that he could have caught on. Buttigeg shows it’s possible for an unknown, Bernie has shown it’s possible for an outsider, and that guy from Texas has shown it’s possible for a weirdo. Also Trump.

It’s perfectly fine to afford the 5%-candidate less time than the 25%-candidates in a debate. And the print media would love to have a coming-from-behind story-arc. He just didn’t catch on.

wolco said 8 months ago:

You are not suppose to trust the media. We only think we should because they tell us to.

Logically why do we think they have our best interest at heart. Why do we think they are neutral and what they say is a fact? Why do we divide them into news and fake news (the labels change based on the view as to who is who)?

threeseed said 8 months ago:

There is very much a difference between news organisations that attempt to present the facts e.g. NPR, PBS, DV, BBC, ABC AU and those that seek to divide and target specific demographics for profit e.g. Fox News, The Sun.

There are facts in this world. And our collective belief in them is what holds the world together. Reckless and intellectually lazy comments like yours are what is responsible for so many of the problems in politics in the last decade or so.

Seek out facts instead of pretending they don't exist.

caseysoftware said 7 months ago:

> Seek out facts instead of pretending they don't exist.

Yes, what a given news organization chooses to cover is often as important as how they cover what they do.

We saw it in 2016 when Rand Paul and Bernie were repeatedly left out of discussion of the polls - despite ranking higher than others that were covered - and we're seeing it again with Bernie and Yang this time around.

The memory hole is a real thing.

keiferski said 8 months ago:

If you think media organizations, any media organization, don’t have an agenda and a biased point of view, it’s likely that you only read media that agrees with your worldview.

threeseed said 8 months ago:

Of course media organisations will have a biased point of view. It is comprised of humans who by our nature will have biases. But there is a world of difference between news organisations who seek to present facts and those that seek to intentionally deceive.

And it has been taught to many kids for years how to deal with bias in media. You simply consume many different types. The problem is most people don't do this.

proximitysauce said 7 months ago:

I think you should reconsider including the BBC. They most definitely intentionally deceived people for a very long time with regard to Jimmy Savile:


sjy said 7 months ago:

This was a huge scandal which led not only to a public inquiry into the BBC’s conduct, but also a national inquiry into child sexual abuse. It doesn’t undermine the grandparent’s point that the BBC is a different kind of organisation to Fox News.

proximitysauce said 7 months ago:

> It doesn’t undermine the grandparent’s point that the BBC is a different kind of organisation to Fox News.

I guess that depends on if you think making one of the worst pedophiles in history a network star for decades is "better" than FOX. I don't think it is, both networks are not trustworthy.

BrandonMarc said 7 months ago:

... and that's merely a recent example.

VRay said 7 months ago:

I dunno if consuming many types of garbage data is going to help you zero in on the truth

paulgb said 8 months ago:

News is reported by humans and humans have bias, nobody doubts that. A responsible consumer of the news should know that, and take it into account, but it's not in and of itself an excuse for throwing out the fact-finding that journalists do.

One of the publications I trust the most (WSJ) is one that is editorially least aligned with my own biases. It doesn't make me doubt their factual reporting.

keiferski said 8 months ago:

The thing is - reporting “the facts” means different things to different people. It’s very possible to write two contradictory articles that each contains only facts.

The trick is to only select certain facts that support your point of view and omit facts that don’t. Lying by omission isn’t really a detectable or punishable offense. It gets even more complex when “the facts” are based on a previous narrative which itself isn’t investigated for truthfulness.

This phenomenon is easy to see if you compare two ideologically opposite media websites, like Vox and Fox. I’m not sure if there is any solution other than to read multiple news sources, which unfortunately just feeds the media machine even more.

paulgb said 8 months ago:

I mostly get my news from paywalled sites, which I find less pushy on their own biases than Vox and Fox and other free sites. The bias is never completely gone, but it seems that sites that don't have to compete for social media shares are better incentivized to find the truth instead of creating it.

keiferski said 8 months ago:

That is probably true. WSJ does have its biases of course, but I have also found them to be reasonably fair with most things, probably because there are legitimate business interests and real money relying on their information, rather than just clicks and “influence.”

paulgb said 8 months ago:

I think what's most telling is the twin study of WSJ and Fox. They both feed up into News Corp, so the top-down institutional biases are the same, and yet one is respected and the other is not.

big_chungus said 7 months ago:

WSJ isn't biased overall: https://www.allsides.com/news-source/wall-street-journal-med...

The editorials are sometimes right-leaning, but mostly fiscally so.

reaperducer said 7 months ago:

If you think media organizations, any media organization, don’t have an agenda and a biased point of view, it’s likely that you only read media that agrees with your worldview.

If you believe that every media organization has an agenda and a biased point of view, you may be listening to people on the internet who wear tinfoil hats and agree with your worldview.

I've worked in over a dozen newsrooms from coast to coast, in big markets and small. I know how they operate.

A big part of the problem is that the people consuming the product don't know the difference between news and opinion. Many newspaper readers don't know the Opinion section is not the same as the National section. And I've heard more than once people who don't know the difference between Wendy Williams and their local news.

There are problems on the production side of the media, but the problem is just as big on the consumer side.

keiferski said 7 months ago:

Insinuating that people who don’t agree with you are conspiracy theorists really isn’t any way to make an argument.

It is media theory and philosophy 101 that people, and by extension organizations, are not some kind of objective entities that exist outside of the real world. The media is not a mirror that accurately reflects reality. Everyone has a viewpoint and a worldview. This is not some controversial tin-foil hat opinion, it’s a basic description of human psychology.

dntbnmpls said 7 months ago:

> There is very much a difference between news organisations that attempt to present the facts e.g. NPR, PBS, DV, BBC, ABC AU and those that seek to divide and target specific demographics for profit e.g. Fox News, The Sun.

You believe this because of your bias. There are a significant amount of people with another set of biases who think Fox News, The Sun, etc are presenting facts. Both you of guys are wrong.

> There are facts in this world.

Yes. And the job of the news industry is to spin facts for their employers'/elites' interests. If you think the news industry is in the business of facts and truth then you really have fallen prey to their marketing. Every major newspaper was created to push a political agenda - including the oldest newspaper ( The NY Post ) which was founded by alexander hamilton to push his federalist agenda.

> Reckless and intellectually lazy comments like yours are what is responsible for so many of the problems in politics in the last decade or so.

You need to expand your view. The news industry has been lying forever. Problems of politics has existed forever.

"Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day."

                                                                              -- Thomas Jefferson ( one of the people who gave us free press )
If you think this period is new, then go check out some george carlin clips where he talks about censorship, disinformation, etc. This issue is something we've had since the founding of the nations and has existed in our parents' time and will exist in the future.

> Seek out facts instead of pretending they don't exist.

Agreed. But I'll add an addendum. Stop pretending the news is about facts and not politics/opinion/agenda/etc. I'll add a second addendum - "fact" checking organizations are even more biased.

Try this. Ask a fox news fan why they like fox news and what will they say? They'll say that it is because fox news is factual and accurate. I know because I've asked. But we aren't idiots, we know that's bullshit and they like fox news because they like fox news' opinions.

Now ask a "NPR, PBS, DV, BBC, ABC AU" fan why they like "NPR, PBS, DV, BBC, ABC AU". You know what they will say? The exact same thing as fox news watchers. I know because I've asked.

throwaway34241 said 7 months ago:

On the one hand, it's definitely possible for news media of any ideological bent to be biased and terrible.

On the other hand if you listen to them, there are large quality differences between average reporting quality of different news sources, and painting them with a broad brush and treating them like they are all equivalent I don't think is helpful.

While the GP post picked left-leaning/right-leaning examples, it's still probably not an accident that they left out MSNBC/CNN from their "good" examples and the WSJ from their "bad" ones.

I find the better reporting, like a good documentary, tends to focus on getting access to highly knowledgeable original sources from a variety of perspectives (ideally including people directly involved), letting them speak to the audience directly without filtering much (except to condense down the length and provide background), and is comfortable with presenting conflicting narratives.

Low quality reporting, which seems to be most of it, is often a non-expert providing their own interpretation of the facts (with their chosen emphasis) in a way that matches their target audience's desired ideological bias (and maybe with some extra sensationalism to get clicks).

I think low quality is more common because that's what most people want (at least, as determined by their purchasing behavior). It's also probably much quicker and easier to produce. But IMO there is definitely a quality axis in addition to a right/left bias axis, and I'd rather read high quality stuff that leans away from my own ideological viewpoint than low quality stuff (which I don't think is helpful much for being informed, although maybe it is delivering entertainment value).

troughway said 7 months ago:

Underrated post. This should be the thinking process whether it’s a candidate (or news) we like or don’t.

Sadly HN for all its intellectual brow beating is just as susceptible to basic psychological manipulation as everyone else.

dang said 7 months ago:

Basic psychological manipulation, if it works, works because of human nature. I try not to lose sleep over aspects of HN that are true of humans in general.

sjy said 7 months ago:

If NPR and the BBC are just as bad as Fox News, and “fact checking organisations” (what, like Snopes?) are even worse, how exactly do you suggest that we “seek out facts”? All news sources are limited and flawed, but some really are worse than others. Dismissing them all as “bullshit” is not critical thinking, it’s whataboutism.

pnutjam said 7 months ago:

It's easy to say both sides are bad, but you know they are not comparable. We all know that rascists and deplorables use language intended to deceive.

darkerside said 7 months ago:

> language intended to deceive

For example, "racist" and "deplorable"

thowayheyhey said 8 months ago:

> There are facts in this world. And our collective belief in them is what holds the world together.

You say this like there's someone in charge. As if the chaotic nature of evolution isn't the sole reason for our tribal monkey brains. Instead of acknowledging that facts can be misleading (clickbait anyone?) you double down on your tribal tendencies of trusting those who are similar to you. Instead of seeking facts seek understanding. I don't think understanding and comprehending is very easy. If it is easy maybe you could write a script and I'll unit test it :P

GavinMcG said 8 months ago:

The presentation of facts can be misleading, and you're right that comprehending the world isn't easy. But that doesn't mean we reject truth or stop aiming for a true view of the world.

The commenter didn't say our collective belief in something holds the world together – they said our collective being in facts (i.e. not fictions). You're failing to comprehend, yourself, and writing as though the comment endorsed tribalism when it did the opposite.

thowayheyhey said 8 months ago:

I'm not saying parent endorsed tribalism, but that his reasoning is the result of tribalism. Using reason and objectivity is what most people call "science" and people who engage in it are "scientists". Confusing scientists with reporters is a silly mistake to make, and I think parent is able to do so because of our monkey brain induced cognitive dissonance.

r00fus said 7 months ago:

NYT helped sell the 2003 Iraq War based on lies. IIRC, NPR and BBC and Fox were also magnifiers of the lies.

Bloomberg pushed a story about Apple/Supermicro that was entirely not true and pushed a conspiracy theory that heavily impacted stock.

None of these "responsible actors" have issued retractions for their stories that were later held to be factually untrue.

sjy said 7 months ago:

The NYT published a mea culpa about its reporting on Iraq. https://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/world/from-the-editors-th...

schrodinger said 7 months ago:

Wow, that’s actually pretty self-critical; I’m impressed.

JackRabbitSlim said 8 months ago:

Every "good" example you cite is a publicly funded entity except DV which caused a teacher to kill himself in 2006 with an unverified story about child abuse[0].

I think you may have inadvertently bolstered OPs claim.


fcsp said 7 months ago:

Facts by themselves are not valuable. Suppose there is a fact that "1000 people die of terrorism per year". What does this fact actually mean in the grand scheme of things? How does it compare to other causes of death? Why do we even have terrorism? Etc etc.

The lack of willingness to value good journalism by paying for it and therefore reinforcing the already opportunistic selection of topics blessed with media coverage fueled by ad revenue will drive us all into the ground, combined with a select few big media corps controlling public opinion.

That being said regarding your snarky comments on being intellectually lazy I'd personally recommend to go through life in a humble fashion, since it might turn out at some point that your supposedly intellectually superior ways had flaws as well...

sidlls said 7 months ago:

NPR and PBS don’t belong on that list. Their coverage of news is very much biased toward corporate interests. It’s not as naked or extreme as, say, Fox’s partisanship, and some programs are better than others, but generally they lean toward advancing the interests of the wealthy and connected.

proximitysauce said 7 months ago:

BBC doesn't belong on that list either. They covered for Jimmy Savile's pedophilia for decades. Fun fact: the head of the BBC left as their cover-up came to light after Savile's death. He is now the CEO of The New York Times, which has its own history with Jeffery Epstein (Ito on the board...).

lenkite said 7 months ago:

Huh, NPR has a well-established bias which targets specific demographics - as admitted by former NPR CEO


52-6F-62 said 8 months ago:

You're entering into a bit of circular logic, there. Why should someone trust you in this case? How would anyone know you have their best interests at heart? Journalists have more accountability than a hardline online BB commenter.

Where's the line?

wernercd said 8 months ago:

"Journalists have more accountability"

Recent history shows otherwise. All you have to do is look at the many hoaxes and lies that have been allowed to dominate the airwaves on... any... major news site. CNN? Check. Smollett, Covington, etc. Fox? Check. tons of examples exists there.

You brag of accountability when, if you pick a news source, we can find more than a handful of examples of bias, lies and misinformation.

awinder said 7 months ago:

I really get irked by this attitude. Think of how much news is produced by the nature of how big the world is and how fast it can move. How many screwups do you think there are proportionately to that universe?

If we are gonna judge the news that harshly, then we should actually talk about how horrific a job they’re doing at their whole world order controlling thing. Because they’re leaving a lot of better opportunities to waste out there.

proximitysauce said 7 months ago:

Is there a downside to recognizing when the media deliberately deceives their audience? We should do more of that, not less. These media companies do not have your best interest at heart.

threeseed said 8 months ago:

Journalists are human. They will make mistakes. They will by default trust people e.g. Smollett who may then turn out to be liars. But as a profession they do seek to be accountable e.g. multiple sources and ethical e.g. protecting sources at all cost.

Should we also not trust doctors, pilots, engineers, programmers etc because they also are infallible. What exactly do you want here ?

manfredo said 7 months ago:

The problem is when journalist make "mistakes" and are subsequently promoted. When Bloomberg made one of the biggest hacking accusations of the decade and failed to even remotely substantiate their claim that Apple and others were victims of a supply chain hack the journalists who wrote this story didn't get fired or disciplined. In fact one of the co-authors, Michael Riley, was promoted to be in charge of all of Bloomberg's technology security reporting.

BrandonMarc said 7 months ago:

mistakes != agenda

paulgb said 8 months ago:

With a few exceptions, I find news to be an area where you get what you pay for. The incentives are far better at publications that make money from monthly subscriptions than channels that are incentivized by clicks and Neilson ratings.

mchaynes said 8 months ago:

I think it’s probably just a matter of looking at people’s/organization’s incentive structures. If incentives are aligned, things are _probably_ ok.

“The media” is incentivized to either have the largest amount of traffic (ad revenue) or the most amount of money coming in from subscriptions.

Both those incentive models encourage sensationalized media, since that causes people to feel they “need to keep tabs on what’s going on”

52-6F-62 said 8 months ago:

In my experience, it's sales and audience retention who are concerned with those figures. Editorial is concerned with the content. They may A/B headlines, but not stories (let alone facts).

It's important to note what outlets classify themselves as entertainment versus journalism when pressed on an inaccuracy.

sjy said 7 months ago:

Editors are absolutely looking at page view metrics, “resulting in the creation and promotion of content that does little to augment informed discourse and is glaringly lacking in news value.” https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21670811.2018.1...

52-6F-62 said 7 months ago:

I think you’re arguing against something I didn’t say.

Editorial doesn’t live in a hole where metrics are unknown to them, but their primary focus is the content.

I had a look at your linked paper. It was a lot of opinion and questionable experience.

There is an enormous amount of context missing and the paper seems to have been written looking for a problem and attempting to prove it versus an observation that was derived purely out of experience.

It’s my birthday this weekend and I’m meeting family soon so I don’t have the time to do a deep dive right now, but there are many factors I’d like to point out that may help provide context for that paper.

One is the consolidation of media in Canada. The National Post is an outlet founded by the infamous Conrad Black after the Financial Post to legitimize his further right-wing viewpoints as well as provide a national voice for them. It’s traditionally been known for being factually accurate in its news reporting, but has increasingly become polarizing and filled with shock writers and hardline opinion columns as one of its early goals was to insert a new, further right political voice in Canadian media and to convert readership to that viewpoint.

As part of that mission the Postmedia group (National Post’s parent organization) has been purchasing small town and city news outlets including the Hamilton Spectator central to the paper. The purchased newsrooms have been reduced in size and much of the papers’ content is syndicated from the parent source. The approach is eerily similar to that of Sinclair Media in the United States.the parent company is also known for its less scrupulous business practices.

One outlets practices does not make an industry or profession, no matter the country or region that the article focuses on.

The article you linked also contains this:

> “Journalists in the past were far removed from what was happening on sales etc. but now a journalist’s story is linked to things like Google links, social media platforms – and when there is no readership a journalist would have failed the organization” (interviewee, Tiso Black Star Group, 11 April 2017)

The first part of that seeming crucible is exactly what I noted. The second has never been untrue. Those journalists are not typically fired for their stories not driving readership, they’d be reassigned. Publishing has always been about readership. I’m not sure where the shock comes from there. Journalists still don’t sit staring at the monitors.

At least in my experience they have too bloody much to do because they’re short-staffed as corporate holders are looking to save money because owning a media outlet isn’t the hot “asset de la mode” it was in the 90s.

m_ke said 8 months ago:

I don't

heartbeats said 8 months ago:

Why shouldn't it be allowed?

Either people are capable of independent thought, in which case this doesn't matter. Or they are too stupid to form their own decisions, in which case democracy is a sham anyway.

It's like the people claiming the Brexit vote was illegitimate because people didn't know what they were voting for. If that's the case, why not put Elizabeth in charge and save on admin?

jfengel said 8 months ago:

Voters are too stupid to form their own decisions, but oddly, that doesn't mean democracy is a sham.

Democracy exists because voters are too stupid to form their own decisions. It relies on the hope that stupid decisions are largely random, while informed decisions will all tend in the same direction. It takes only a small minority of people to know what they're doing, if the uninformed ones can be counted on to mostly cancel each other out.

That's obviously a fraught assumption, but mass media puts an increasingly large wrinkle in it. It takes only a small thumb on the scale of uninformed votes to overpower a minority of informed voters, and new techniques increasingly enable people with a lot of money to apply that thumb. If only 1% of voters are informed, and a misinformation campaign can sway 2% of otherwise evenly-divided voters, it becomes the dominant factor -- even if the informed voters are unswayed.

Buttons840 said 7 months ago:

Thought provoking.

Why attract the signal when you can attract the noise?

Mass media has been with us for a long time though. What's different about it now? Are people focusing on fewer media sources as time passes, or more media sources? If we're focusing on more media sources, wouldn't that play well in your idea that dumb votes will cancel out?

jfengel said 7 months ago:

What's different now is the pervasiveness and precision of mass media. News used to be kind of restricted: a newspaper in the morning, maybe an hour of TV news at night. You might discuss it at the water cooler or family gatherings.

This changed in the 90s with the 24 hour news cycle, which shifted the news from a duty you performed as a citizen, to entertainment for hours a day. Then social media meant you could argue about it all day long -- again, for entertainment. People have always been susceptible to media manipulation, but they've never spent as much time willingly exposing themselves to it and reinforcing it on each other.

I don't believe the number of media sources is an issue. The truth is readily accessible. It's hard to be genuinely informed on a matter involving expertise, but that just leads to the conventional dumb votes. Now, people are seeking out misinformation, which is different from ordinary ignorance. It used to be hard to target people for actively disinforming them, but techniques for that have been improving for decades.

sjy said 7 months ago:

In the last 15 years, campaign spending doubled in real terms, advertising moved to new digital media which are more targeted and harder to regulate, and the Supreme Court gutted Congress’s ability to address these problems with legislation.

heartbeats said 8 months ago:

But we've had mass media for a long time, whereas social media advertising is a rare concept. The former probably has a much greater effect.

The only reason people are concerned now is because Trump manipulated the electorate in a different way than politicians usually do, and this is a great violation of tradition.

jfengel said 8 months ago:

People have been concerned for a while. Even before social media, there was a shift from what was widely perceived as a roughly balanced TV news media, to major news channels run by party donors and being quite clear that they were skewing the news for their benefit. These, along with even more obviously ideological web sites and social media bubbles, were causing "epistemic closure" that helped people believe even the most obvious falsehoods.

It's true that this ratcheted up to 11 in the last major election, and was co-opted by somebody outside of the establishment. In the end, the establishment pivoted, and are getting nearly all of their goals met. More, in fact, than under their own plans. So they're pretty happy about it, and see it more as an innovation for their benefit than as a violation.

I don't mean to be picking sides here. In theory, the same tools are available to their opponents, and I'm sure they're trying to. In practice, I suspect that they will not fare as well using the same techniques. They'll continue to develop others, just as they had used social media innovatively in the past two.

beepboopbeep said 8 months ago:

The world does not exist as a series of binary choices.

heartbeats said 8 months ago:

So why don't we make it illegal for politicians to lie? It seems much fairer. After all, corporations aren't allowed to put out misleading ads, so why should politicians?

It's a smaller harm if I buy diet products that don't work than if I vote for a politician who does the exact opposite of what he promised. Yet only the former is illegal.

Here we have Donald Trump's 'Contract with the American Voter': https://assets.donaldjtrump.com/_landings/contract/O-TRU-102.... How much of this did he accomplish?

ianleeclark said 8 months ago:

> So why don't we make it illegal for politicians to lie?

Lying, especially when Politicians do it, isn't a binary. There are varying degrees of truth, deliberate omissions, and a difficult to discern intent. So it would be incredibly difficult to enforce.

heartbeats said 7 months ago:

So your only qualm is that it would be difficult to enforce? After all, this does not seem to be a problem with false marketing.

ianleeclark said 7 months ago:

My qualm is that it would be impossible to enforce. And I don't really think that false marketing is as big of a problem as most people think because marketing tends to sell simulations, not promises of reality. When you see most advertisements, they're promising simulacrum: a hatchback filled with happy-looking, outdoorsy people; axe body spray being insatiable to women; someone actually drinking diet Pepsi (editorializing a bit on this last one). You don't need to make marketing claims if you just imitate the idealized form. This seems to echo many American politician's rhetoric: the entire Democratic field is representing an idealized form wherein their presidency could somehow overcome the blockade of the Senate.

sjy said 7 months ago:

In the United States, making it illegal for politicians to lie is usually regarded as inconsistent with the First Amendment.

GaryNumanVevo said 8 months ago:

A first big step would be to severely limit campaign spending on advertisement, including SuperPAC money. If you mention your candidate's name, that ad will count towards a hard cap on ad spending.

sokoloff said 8 months ago:

My prediction is that you'd see ads for "Universal Basic Income", "2 cent tax on $50 millionaires", "a Senator who can't be bought", or "an experienced White House operator", or whatever else was 1 inch inside the boundary and could fairly clearly be linked to the preferred candidate without "counting".

dv_dt said 8 months ago:

This could still have a beneficial effect of pushing political discussion towards issues instead of personalities.

m_ke said 8 months ago:

Ideally we'd get rid of the presidency and vote for people at the cabinet level instead.

jaywalk said 8 months ago:

Ideally? Sounds like a clusterf- waiting to happen, far worse than anything we've got now.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

The president's personality is by far more important than his/her political views given that their views do not matter when it comes to legislation if Congress is aligned.

pc86 said 7 months ago:

> or whatever else was 1 inch inside the boundary and could fairly clearly be linked to the preferred candidate without "counting"

That is generally how laws work, yes. You explicitly define the exact boundaries within which people/organizations/smaller governments may operate. And they operate exactly within those boundaries.

This is why law is complicated and good lawyers make good money. Not because the system is corrupt (it might be) but because you need to draw these explicit boundaries, and then you will have people/organizations/smaller governments try to get around the spirit but follow the letter.

munk-a said 7 months ago:

Boundary pushing is also risky business. There are two kinds of murky areas that exist - ones that are specifically carved out due to the letter of the law and ones that lie between the restricted and the allowed. The former case is where lawyers make really good money - the latter case is where judges reign and precedents are set... If there were a 1964 law that read something like "Sale of consulting services on the topic of banking via remote communication methods (radio, phone, television, or vision-phone) is prohibited when such communication would necessitate crossing a state boundary" then it's extremely likely that a judge would uphold the law as preventing such communication via VOIP if a tech company tried to offer such a service.

munk-a said 7 months ago:

If the FEC had teeth they could come down on candidates skirting the law like this forcefully - being technically within the law but outside the spirit of it is something all branches of law currently deal with in a sane manner - there's always "clearly wrong" and "clearly okay" where they meet always has somewhat of a grey area (or areas) and that's where judges rule.

I don't think this is a legitimate concern, we've solved it elsewhere - even in extremely sensitive areas. And, at worst, it'll force Ads to be more indirect and, if that proliferates, we can expand the powers of the law as needed.

quotemstr said 7 months ago:

If someone has broken the law, he's broken the law. If he hasn't broken the law but you wish there were laws against his actions, that person still hasn't broken the law. Convicting people for random things you feel should be illegal but aren't is tyranny. Punishing people for violating the

munk-a said 7 months ago:

The law is not a strict list of all possible actions, activist judges are certainly an issue but they are uncommon and extremely rare at higher courts. Laws always contain grey areas and usually when a case actually gets before a circuit or higher court it's because a dispute has fallen into a grey area (or someone made an error and those are usually quick judgements). It's that grey area I'm talking about where decisions need to be made in accordance with legal intent.

Uneven application of the law is certainly an issue, and an overly wide application of the law usually falls under ex post facto laws which are seen as illegal by pretty much everyone. There are very sane people who can judge challenges to the law - we can lean on these people heavily.

sokoloff said 7 months ago:

Isn't the entire controversy over global corporate activity structuring that has the effect of optimizing taxes within the letter of the law evidence against this as a "solved problem"?

munk-a said 7 months ago:

Once a law is clarified and precedence is set it's capricious and arbitrary to change it - tax laws don't have "loopholes" for corporations in the classical sense - they have been crafted (and reaffirmed) in a manner that benefits corporations.

A real loophole is something that gets closed once noticed, and there are accountants that thread the needle on these - a good, and rather widespread, example might be SUVs qualifying as farm equipment. This combined with loose agricultural qualifications in some states (like florida) led to widespread claims against luxury auto taxes for some pretty bizarre cases - then that loophole was closed.

The US has the absolute authority to solve the loophole, other countries can't do much about it but since the US is the ultimate destination for these goods the government can demand that manufacturing steps have paid proper minimums on VAT taxes and force tariffs on goods equivalent to the lost tax potential when goods enter the US - since the US is a huge consumer market that'll cover a whole lot of items... Additionally, as soon as the US starts collecting the taxes that the Bahamas voluntarily let go unpaid people won't ship goods there to dodge the VAT - then the Bahamas will have no continued reason to decline to charge VAT and likely institute a sane VAT just to acquire what income they can (since not doing so is essentially leaving money on the table).

Honestly, corporate tax laws are how they are because corporations hold a lot of political power - not because nobody notices what's going on or because no one can actually address the situation.

BrandonMarc said 7 months ago:

Who could trust the FEC to fairly adjudicate? Whoever is in power, or whoever placed the officials, the other side will happily claim foul play.

munk-a said 7 months ago:

This is the role of the government, there are occasional scandals, and occasional attempts to make scandals out of nothing - but all government departments have this power. And they would be held to account very quickly for uneven application of the law - whenever one company's competitor is getting a sweet deal they'll pursue that all the way to the courts - and the courts should (ideally) be neutral.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

This election make sure to cast your vote for any candidate with an orange spray tan. This message brought to you by the 'more orange men in politics PAC'.

MR4D said 8 months ago:

The problem is that you can't have that and also have the first Amendment. Of all speech to be protected, the most important speech is political speech.

But aside from that, what happens if my spouse runs and ad naming my opponent?

Or my neighbor does?

Or CNN does - perhaps in an ad for a personal interview to be televised in prime time ?

There is no practical way to stop this. There will always be ways around it.

But first, that Amendment thing...

If you lock down political speech, you no longer have a democracy (yes, I know we are a republic). Because then the government gets to control what is or is not allowed. And I guarantee that whichever party is in power at the moment will use that to try to stay in power. And it's dominoes falling after that.

HappySweeney said 7 months ago:

In Canada, we ban all political advertising within the official election period for anyone other than the politicians themselves, and only individuals are allowed to make donations limited to $1600. It keeps things sane. Our elections are measured in single-digit weeks rather than double-digit months, though.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

Canada (or any westminster system) has no absolute guarantee of free speech. Parliamentary democracy is based on the principle of absolute parliamentary sovereignty. The political system is incomparable. Parliament is not even anywhere near the same thing as Congress (or vice versa). The Congress of the United States and the Congress of the individual states are completely subject to a higher law. There is nothing similar in Canadian politics. Even the Canadian constitution is another Act of Parliament, no special consideration required. That is to say, the Canadian Constitution (as expressed in the Constitution act of 1982) is such because parliament says it is so. On the other hand, the Constitution of the United States of America exists because it says it does, and Congress is subject to it and cannot change it on its own.

In order to amend the Canadian constitution, Parliament must amend it. On the other hand, Congress can become subject to changes in the constitution even without its consent, as was seen in the passage of the most recent amendment.

In the 1980s a university student decided to change the constitution against Congress's wishes and was able to do so, by getting the states to change the laws to which Congress is subject. Try doing that in Canada.

sjy said 7 months ago:

This hasn’t been true since 1982. If anything, the guarantee of free speech in the Canadian constitution is procedurally stronger than that in the United States, since it can only be removed with the support of both houses of Parliament and a supermajority of provinces.

int_19h said 7 months ago:

Free speech in Canada - like most other fundamental rights - is gutted by the "notwithstanding clause" in the Charter.

said 7 months ago:
shkkmo said 7 months ago:

> Because then the government gets to control what is or is not allowed. And I guarantee that whichever party is in power at the moment will use that to try to stay in power.

The BCRA (McCain–Feingold) was a fairly balanced piece of legislation with reasonable and practical limits that was passed in a bipartisan manner.


I see no reason why limiting corporate financing of electioneering means we are on a slippery slope to a loss of individual political speech.

SpicyLemonZest said 7 months ago:

The Citizens United case showed the slippery slope we were on. Michael Moore was allowed to release a movie about how a particular presidential candidate was bad just before the 2004 election. But when Citizens United tried to do the same thing in 2008, the FEC said it was a campaign ad and stopped them. If the law had been allowed to stand that way, we would have ended up in a world where popular media figures have special speech privileges you or I don't get.

shkkmo said 7 months ago:

I don't think your facts are correct.

Farenheit 9/11 was released 4 months prior to the 2004 election and is thus outside the 60 day window and not prohibited by Mcain-Feingold.

I would have wholeheartedly supported that movie being blocked as electioneering inside the 60 day window.

Edit: Specifically, Citizens United was prohibited for paying to show or advertise within 30 days of the democratic primaries.

> The United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that §203 of BCRA applied and prohibited Citizens United from advertising the film Hillary: The Movie in broadcasts or paying to have it shown on television within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries. [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC

alexpetralia said 7 months ago:

Removing campaign finance would not impair the content of free political speech, but merely its magnitude to the extent it is amplified by money.

harryh said 7 months ago:

Reducing the ability of someone to broadcast their speech is an impairment.

What you have said is akin to saying that if the government banned the publishing of certain books that wouldn't be an impairment on the written word because people would still be free to write whatever they wanted down in their own personal notebooks.

Seenso said 7 months ago:

>> Removing campaign finance would not impair the content of free political speech, but merely its magnitude to the extent it is amplified by money.

> Reducing the ability of someone to broadcast their speech is an impairment.

Not necessarily; it all depends on perspective. Campaign finance restrictions would (relatively) enhance the ability of a not-so-wealthy person to broadcast their speech, because their message wouldn't be so drowned out by the broadcasts of the wealthy.

harryh said 7 months ago:

The first amendment doesn't say anything about ensuring any sort of level playing field for speech from different parties. It says that the government can't make any laws "abridging the freedom of speech."

The amendment says that the government has to stay out of the way.

Seenso said 7 months ago:

> The first amendment doesn't say anything about ensuring any sort of level playing field for speech from different parties. It says that the government can't make any laws "abridging the freedom of speech."

The First Amendment isn't the sum total of American law. I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but I'm pretty sure there are constitutional powers meant to provide effective democratic elections.

The tension here is between those two interests. I think it's worth considering the idea that a too-absolutist interpretation of the First Amendment (in regards to spending) may interfere with the nation's ability to provide effective democratic elections. Both are important priorities.

Also, it's not like the Constitution is perfect, timeless document. If it doesn't do enough to ensure effective democratic elections in light of its other provisions, then changes should be considered to fix that oversight.

Seenso said 7 months ago:

> If you lock down political speech, you no longer have a democracy (yes, I know we are a republic). Because then the government gets to control what is or is not allowed.

Political speech is already locked down in many ways by the government. For instance: neither you nor I can go to a polling station and harangue the people waiting to vote. We're also not permitted to force our way into schools or private homes to do the same. If we violate those rules, some people in blue uniforms will come and haul us away.

No one has an unrestricted right to go out and literally speak, as that right to do that is balanced against other rights and considerations. What's so different about the right to spend? Why can't that right be balanced against other rights and considerations, too?

manfredo said 7 months ago:

Quite the opposite: political speech is one of the most protected forms of speech. Your example for polling stations is a very narrow case where the integrity of the election takes priority. Your second case is effectively just pointing out that trespassing laws exist.

> No one has an unrestricted right to go out and literally speak, as that right to do that is balanced against other rights and considerations. What's so different about the right to spend? Why can't that right be balanced against other rights and considerations, too?

You're right: spending is not treated very much differently than speech. Can a state pass a law that says people are limited to 30 political posts on social media per week? Can the government enforce a rule saying "people are limited to 30 hours of political activity per month"?

Campaign spending - that is, money that is being given directly to candidates - is already limited. Citizens United did not change this. What is unlimited is spending on activism unrelated to any particular campaign. Say you and some of your friends are worried about climate change, and put together some money to run ads or billboards not promoting any politician in particular but encouraging more work on preventing climate change. Can the government swoop in and say, "sorry you've reached your spending limit for climate activism"?

The courts decided no. Putting caps on this sort of activity is an infringement on people's right to free speech.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

> We're also not permitted to force our way into schools or private homes to do the same

Actually, you are allowed to protest on public property within earshot of private homes.

You cannot enter a private home because someone else's property and liberty trump your right to free speech on their property. In so far as their property includes the sidewalk (typically). You have every right to speak there. You can even protest there if you want.

> No one has an unrestricted right to go out and literally speak,

Yes, you do have every right to go out on public property and literally speak. That is literally the right you have that many have died for and the ACLU and other orgs have fought for. Try it right now! Have fun. There is literally no restriction as long as you are not physically harassing or verbally abusing someone, and you are not physically preventing anyone from passing you.

Seenso said 7 months ago:

>> No one has an unrestricted right to go out and literally speak...

> Yes, you do have every right to go out on public property and literally speak.

No, you don't. Most states have laws that prevent you from doing that at a polling place on election day:

For example:


> During the hours the polls are open, a person who is in the polling place or within 200 feet of any entrance to the polling place may not attempt to persuade a person to vote for or against a candidate, proposition, or question.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

These all have distance limitations meant to allow people to access the facility. Outside of those places on public property, you have every right.

This is like saying laws meant to keep stairways clear are restricting your free speech. You are absolutely allowed to protest near an election center within reasonable limits.

To point out how ridiculous these selections of laws are as a proof that free speech is being abridged, I'll point out that Alabama restricts protests to be at least 30 feet away from the site. If 30 feet means you can't get your message across in a public enough forum, I'm not sure what to say.

Also, a lot of those laws are subject to pending legislation.

sjy said 7 months ago:

Sounds like you are in complete agreement with the original claim that “no one has an unrestricted right to go out and literally speak.”

pc86 said 7 months ago:

Interfering with someone voting and breaking and entering are not speech.

Seenso said 7 months ago:

> breaking and entering are not speech.

That's kinda my point. You're not allowed to trespass in order to exercise free speech rights, because private property rights are balanced against free speech rights.

The to quote the First Amendment:

> Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech...

> Interfering with someone voting [is] not speech.

That's true, but you could still harangue voters waiting in line at the polls without interfering with any aspect of the voting procedures. Yet that exercise of free speech still isn't permitted, because its balanced against needs for running elections.

orangecat said 7 months ago:

What's so different about the right to spend?

There's very little you can do without spending, whether directly or indirectly. How would pro-choice advocates like it if abortion was explicitly legal, but it was illegal to spend money to obtain or provide abortion procedures?

said 8 months ago:
dd36 said 7 months ago:

We are a representative democracy and a republic. And in some ways a direct democracy. The “we’re a republic” “point” is usually made by the least informed among us.

Consultant32452 said 8 months ago:

The problem is "news" organizations have unlimited "spending". So they are free to talk about how great everyone but Bernie/Yang/Tulsi is. They're free to leave them off polling results, exclude them from debates, etc. The marketing value of this type of thing is larger than the combined ad spend by the campaigns or superpacs.

Someone did a pretty good job of cataloging this phenomenon for Yang. Bear in mind, this is just the most blatant visual removal of him from conversation and doesn't include the way they frame discussions verbally.


If you're going to restrict campaigns, you must also control corporate press lest they just be given all the power to choose our leaders.

hfdh434535 said 7 months ago:

I'm sorry - why is Yang entitled to a place in the conversation? I wish his campaign got more attention too. But the lack of coverage he's getting seems related to the fact that he is not well known, he is not as popular as the other candidates, and his ideas are not yet part of the mainstream discourse. You're not entitled to equal time in media coverage because you declared your candidacy.

Ideally, journalists would cover the topics they think are important to their audiences. We know this doesn't play out in practice. But even in an ideal world, I don't see Yang getting more coverage.

filoleg said 7 months ago:

>I'm sorry - why is Yang entitled to a place in the conversation?

Overall, he isn't entitled to a place in the conversation, but omitting him from certain parts of the conversation seems very disingenuous.

For a real life example, if they show a list of "all" candidates on screen (including 7 that poll lower than Yang), but exclude Yang from that list, this is not cool at all (which is exactly what happened multiple times, as evidenced by the article the parent comment linked). Same goes for debates, where some candidates got a ton of questions asked, while Andrew got way fewer questions.

Consultant32452 said 7 months ago:

This phenomenon is not unique to Yang. In 2016 they did the same kinds of things to Bernie, the highest rated senator in the country by polling. I just don't have a Bernie version of that website showing the corporate media putting their favored candidates in front of candidates that are polling higher. But even if you don't think any of that is true, I think it should be obvious that the corporate press will have an oligopoly over our elections.

Consider the economic value to the Trump campaign that comes from how Fox News talks about him. Consider the economic value the Dem candidate will get based on how MSNBC talks about them compared to Trump. It's a huge campaign contributions that aren't accounted for by the FEC but are surely an important part of campaigns.

hfdh434535 said 7 months ago:

During the 2016 primary, I'd argue Bernie Sanders got more coverage than normal. He was behind in polling and in delegate count. He should have been getting none. But he got more than what I think his candidacy deserved, since a horse race is good for ratings, and the story of him vs Clinton made for the perfect one. This is all based on my observations, and no empirical data however.

I do think Sanders was shortchanged of some press coverage in this primary. I think that's changing as his chances of winning go up. I hope he's covered extensively, because I don't think most people are aware of some of his negatives, and as a front funner, his candidacy deserves our scrutiny.

You make a good point that there is an oligopoly of corporate press. I think that's something harmful to our democracy, and something we should be concerned about. I'm not sure what the solution is. For now, I just donate to public radio.

icebraining said 7 months ago:

> He was behind in polling and in delegate count. He should have been getting none.

So only the top candidate should get any coverage?!

said 7 months ago:
ummonk said 8 months ago:

Can I DoS a candidate by spending a ton on a crappy ad that mentions them? Or heck, even an attack ad against them would count towards the hard cap.

mtmail said 8 months ago:

It's hard to outspend billionaire, they'll just increase the bids on the ads.

shkkmo said 7 months ago:

This isn't an unsolvable problem, There were existing solutions that solved these concerns that were struck down.

mc32 said 8 months ago:

What do you do about endorsements, newspapers with profiles on politicians, unions telling their members to vote for one or the other.

If no/few ads are allowed we’d likely get famous or infamous people running and winning on name recognition mostly.

ajross said 8 months ago:

The point is NOT that "famous" people have opinions. Of course they do, for the same reason that nobodies like us have opinions. The Wall Street Journal is absolutely welcome to tell you to vote for Trump if you happen to be reading its editorial page. Your union leadership is welcome to tell you they think Warren is great and endorse her; you voted for them and presumably you care about their opinions. Taylor Swift has been known to endorse the occasional candidate too. Shaping our opinions based on those of people we trust is the way things are supposed to work.

The problem with paid advertising is that this breaks down. Now it's not the "people" we trust that are telling us this stuff, it's the "places" we go to find those people. There's a difference between Zukerberg telling us who to vote for and Facebook taking money to plaster our feed with Bloomberg ads. So people who are likely to "trust" their Facebook feed (which is most people) are now at the mercy of whoever is willing to pay Facebook the most money.

mc32 said 8 months ago:

I don’t see a clear difference between Swift/WSJ telling you something and your FB feed telling you something. I think Gervais had some truth to what he was saying. Famous people have much more gravitas than they deserve (given any expertise on any particular subject they feel is worthy of advancing). I hope you appreciate the irony in this quip.

icebraining said 7 months ago:

I think ajross is OK with Facebook telling you, just on their blog or something, not on ads.

RcouF1uZ4gsC said 8 months ago:

You would need to also ban all mentions of the candidate's name in media. Otherwise, a billionaire could get around this by buying a newspaper or tv or radiostation and run programs praising the candidate and maligning the opposition.

rchaud said 8 months ago:

It's already happening. The Bezos-owned Washington Post's Opinions section has been, shall we say, skeptical of the Democratic front-runner in the two primaries/caucuses so far, resulting in this humorous juxtaposition of two stories written by the same columnist:


munk-a said 7 months ago:

A billionaire would need to direct the newspaper to carry out such actions - if they were directing the newspaper in such a manner it would be a campaign donation, giving a candidate a ferrari counts as a donation since you're giving them something of value, even if the campaign didn't actively solicit the donation - in theory these sorts of media tricks already fall under unrecorded campaign donations that the FEC should be going after, in practice the FEC has no teeth.

said 8 months ago:
ksdale said 8 months ago:

SlateStarCodex has a relevant post on money in politics - https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/18/too-much-dark-money-in...

tomp said 8 months ago:

TL;DR - there is surprisingly little money in politics. Even the "low billionaires" like Elon Musk (who has like 10 times less money than Gates, Buffet, Bezos, Bloomberg) could easily overspend all other candidates together.

ksdale said 8 months ago:

Also, corporations spend surprisingly little, like, a rounding error compared to how much they could spend.

And there's a cynical response that they are gaining influence in other ways, but it's not like we usually model corporations as agents of great restraint, so why wouldn't they also do way more political spending?

icebraining said 7 months ago:

Why would they spend more? They're already getting the outcomes they want.

ksdale said 7 months ago:

Why do they lobby as much as they do if they’re getting everything they want?

icebraining said 7 months ago:

They are getting what they want because they lobby as much as they do, not in spite of them.

ksdale said 7 months ago:

That sounds like a just so story to me, though. They could spend way more on lobbying, and get more - more subsidies, more tax incentives, etc. but they don't. It seems very unlikely to me that they get everything they could possibly want for such a tiny fraction of what they could spend, given that most everything at the Fortune 500 level is a race to the bottom.

MR4D said 8 months ago:

FYI, Elon Musk is worth dozens of billions. Not sure I'd call that "low". [0]

[0] - https://www.forbes.com/profile/elon-musk/#44fcf3a7999b

tomp said 7 months ago:

I heavily discount the market value of SpaceX, which is a private company (recent events have taught us that such thinking is prudent...).

zaroth said 7 months ago:

To be fair, at least one of those notional "dozens of billions" came in just the last few weeks.

said 7 months ago:
OscarCunningham said 7 months ago:

So I just spend ten times over the limit, win, and then I can't be prosecuted.

quotemstr said 7 months ago:

> It's crazy to me that we allow politicians to run targeted ad campaigns.

No more so than anyone else running targeted ad campaigns. How can you argue that targeted ads for a politician are evil but not think the same way about targeted ads for, say, highly addictive junk food, optimizing ad spend for those most likely to overeat? Either you approve of targeting or you don't. I've never seen any argument for treating political ads specially.

> Without campaign finance regulation majority of the billions donated to campaigns is going directly into pockets of Google, Facebook and cable monopolies. We're letting billionaires buy the election.

People made the same arguments decades ago, except without the "Google" and "Facebook" parts. The world didn't end. Why would it now?

dcolkitt said 8 months ago:

* Free speech

* Private property

* Preventing small interest groups from having outsized influence

Choose two. Or maybe 2.5 at the most. But the problem is there's no clear delineation between "money" and "speech". At some point you either impose restrictions on free speech, prevent the unlimited accumulation of wealth, or accept that billionaires are just always going to have more political influence than Joe Sixpack.

For as much as people like to shit on it, very few people have actually read the body of Citizens United. If you haven't, I highly suggest doing so. Because it really brings up deep paradoxes that suggest that the First Amendment is fundamentally incompatible with campaign finance restrictions. European countries manage to keep money out of politics, simply by not sharing America's Constitutional guarantee of absolute free speech.

There's no logically consistent way to regulate "money in politics" in a way that doesn't also restrict "speech in politics". Consider all of the below scenarios and tell me at what point "money" ends and "speech" begins:

* A wealthy person makes huge campaign donations to his favored candidate.

* A wealthy person runs for office, and uses his personal wealth to buy campaign ads.

* A wealthy person buys a media conglomerate, and uses his editorial control to favor his preferred positions.

* A wealthy person buys a media conglomerate, doesn't exert direct editorial control, but only hires journalists who share his opinion.

* A wealthy person uses his money to fund movies with no political message. However he becomes famous from starring in his own subsidized movies. He uses his fame to spread his message without directly buying access.

* A wealthy person hires people to attend protests in favor of his position.

* A wealthy person finds people who genuinely wants to attend his protests, but subsidizes their transportation, signs, organization, etc.

* A wealthy person buys nice clothes and speaking lessons for people that share his positions so they become more persuasive.

* A wealthy person buys a chain of sports bars and makes sure that the TVs only play his preferred cable news channel.

* A wealthy person biases hiring to favor like-minded people. On net that raises the status and influence of people like him.

* A wealthy person biases his firm to doing business with firms run by ideologically like-minded CEOs. That makes people who share his views wealthier, and hence gives them more influence.

* A wealthy person is unbiased when hiring, but locates all his offices in areas that share his views so that hiring naturally biases towards like-minded people.

* A wealthy person uses his money to attract a very famous and attractive movie star. Once married he influences her to his political positions, then that movie star uses her famous and status to influence her fans.

* A wealthy person uses his money to throw big, fancy parties. He invites anyone regardless of views. However at the beginning of the party, when people are enjoying the free cocktails and hours d'oevrues his always gives a toast that gently nudges the partygoers in favor of his views.

BryantD said 8 months ago:

Thanks -- this prompted me to actually read Citizens United, that's a really good call out.

Here's another one for you:

Bloomberg is hiring campaign workers at a reported $6K a month with three catered meals a day. As a result, other campaigns are having trouble hiring enough people in every state, because there are only so many idealists in the world.

zaroth said 7 months ago:

The world's supply of idealists has been totally exhausted by offering a job that feeds you and pays a living wage. That's the funniest thing I've read today, thank you for that!

hypersoar said 7 months ago:

You're asking to draw the wrong line. Your wealthy person can spend his money on whatever political causes he likes. The court ruled in Citizens United that no limits can be placed on election spending by corporations, including for-profit corporations. I don't see how that's a difficult distinction to make. Before the decision, all the stakeholders of a corporation, from shareholders to employees, were still free to express political views and spend money doing so.

harryh said 7 months ago:

It's worth remembering the specific issue in the Citizens United case: "Citizens United, a conservative non-profit organization, sought to air and advertise a film critical of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton shortly before the 2008 Democratic primary elections"[1].

Individual citizens banding together in a non profit to express their political point of view is at the very heart of what it means to have a democratic process. You can't just say "well they could have done the same thing as individuals" because in many cases this isn't possible. You need the organization of a corporation to do projects like this at scale.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC

hypersoar said 7 months ago:

Obviously, there's more to it than I said in my comment. The decision is 57 pages, and Stevens' dissent is 90.

Before Citizens United, "individual citizens banding together in a non profit to express their political point of view" could absolutely do so. When I say that stakeholders can spend their own money, this includes giving money to PACs. Citizens United was just a PAC that didn't want to obey a particular restriction on PAC spending. Namely, they wanted to run ads within 30 days of the election. Quoting from the beginning of Stevens's dissent[1, p.80 of the PDF]:

Under the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), it could have used those assets to televise and promote Hillary: The Movie wherever and whenever it wanted to. It also could have spent unrestricted sums to broadcast Hillary at any time other than the 30 days before the last primary election. Neither Citizens United’s nor any other corporation’s speech has been “banned,” ante, at 1. All that the parties dispute is whether Citizens United had a right to use the funds in its general treasury to pay for broadcasts during the 30-day period.

I think this also indicates just how broad the ruling was. At first, Citizens United wasn't even asking for such a ruling. They posed much narrower questions to the Supreme Court, who then asked them to brief on the broader question. This goes against their usual principle on deciding cases on the narrowest possible grounds.


(edited to add link to decision)

krrrh said 7 months ago:

> I don't see how that's a difficult distinction to make.

Citizens United is a non-profit that produces documentaries, and sought to distribute a documentary about Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primaries. It was sharply critical of her.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was a documentary produced and distributed by a for profit company called Dog Eat Dog Films, sharply critical of George Bush, and released in the summer preceding the 2004 election. The director, Michael Moore, was open about his hope that this film would impact the election.

You can watch both documentaries online now if you want to judge them on their merits and whether you consider each to be good political speech, or bad political speech. The idea that the FEC should be able to decide on your behalf is what the Citizens United decision was about.

hypersoar said 7 months ago:

This is completely irrelevant to my point.

It has nothing to do with "god" or "bad" political speech. Before their court challenge, Citizens United was free to make their documentary. They were free to show and distribute their documentary. They were free to advertise their documentary. What they weren't free to do was to spend money to advertise it within 30 days of the primary election. Citizens United asked for that part of McCain-Feingold to be overturned. They didn't even ask for anything nearly as broad as what the court ended up doing.

The choice between completely forbidding or completely allowing the government to put restrictions on political speech is a false dichotomy. The slippery slope argument here is not a serious one. It's not even the one made by the majority in Citizens United.

krrrh said 7 months ago:

Serious question which didn’t escape the lawyers arguing the case, given that the primaries started in January, and the convention wasn’t until the end of July, how can it be said that their speech rights weren’t unduly restricted for an entire year, given that they would also have been restricted for 60 days prior to the general election (assuming that Hillary would have beat Obama)?


And it is relevant, because the right to advertise Fahrenheit 9/11 was never restricted in this way, because the FEC decided that it was a different sort of documentary. Citizens United even sought to clarify this in 2004.


The majority did decide on broader free speech grounds, on the urging of civil liberty groups like the ACLU, because they recognized that officials in the legislative and executive branches should not have the power to decide that some corporations (like Moore’s) were engaged in legitimate speech while others should be restricted. Or to decide which organizations were legitimate media orgs, and which were political activists, essentially making an artistic determination. Summarized in Wikipedia:

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, however, the majority argued that the First Amendment purposefully keeps the government from interfering in the "marketplace of ideas" and "rationing" speech, and it is not up to the legislatures or the courts to create a sense of "fairness" by restricting speech.

The facts I referenced about the distinction in treatment of the two films are referenced in the annotation of the decision from the court here:


Of note from Kennedy's decision:

Yet, the FEC has created a regime that allows it to select what political speech is safe for public consumption by applying ambiguous tests. If parties want to avoid litigation and the possibility of civil and criminal penalties, they must either refrain from speaking or ask the FEC to issue an advisory opinion approving of the political speech in question. Government officials pore over each word of a text to see if, in their judgment, it accords with the 11-factor test they have promulgated. This is an unprecedented governmental intervention into the realm of speech.


The law before us is an outright ban, backed by criminal sanctions. Section 441b makes it a felony for all corporations—including nonprofit advocacy corporations—either to expressly advocate the election or defeat of candidates or to broadcast electioneering communications within 30 days of a primary election and 60 days of a general election. Thus, the following acts would all be felonies under §441b: The Sierra Club runs an ad, within the crucial phase of 60 days before the general election, that exhorts the public to disapprove of a Congressman who favors logging in national forests; the National Rifle Association publishes a book urging the public to vote for the challenger because the incumbent U. S. Senator supports a handgun ban; and the American Civil Liberties Union creates a Web site telling the public to vote for a Presidential candidate in light of that candidate’s defense of free speech. These prohibitions are classic examples of censorship.

edit: noted the 60-day rule for general election, and added reference to decision.

munk-a said 8 months ago:

I think there are a few legitimate work-arounds that can be pursued. There are sort of two points that need to be controlled:

1. Name recognition, if nobody knows who you are nobody will vote for you - this can be countered (or effectively reduced) by just super charging public information sources on all candidates, and some of the equal airtime laws (repealed under clinton urgh) helped with this issue.

2. Policy clarity, reduction of misinformation allowing publicly funded debates for candidates to self-advocate for positions and making sure the media is subsidized for covering those debates and fact checking helps inform the public.

If we move over to public funded elections, reinstate equal airtime and subsidize national debates we'll be in a good place - then arm the FEC and let them come down on a hammer on anyone trying to skirt the rules by trying to utilize either their own or their friends assets to give that person a bump. I think there is an assumption in the US that telephoning for a candidate is a valid and natural donation of time and support, and we need to break that because telephoning is already well onto the slippery slope. Lastly, Canada has an advantage here that the season is intensely short for campaigning, so it limits how much shady stuff you can actually pull off.

jfengel said 8 months ago:

I don't believe that the "airtime" laws will do as much good as you hope. They applied only to a very specific kind of air, namely the public bandwidth used for broadcast radio and TV. These were limited resources that justified some restrictions on their usage.

They never applied to the Internet, cable TV, or cell phone bandwidth. And those have become the dominant forms of communication. Only around 15% of people get over-the-air TV. And while the numbers for radio are somewhat higher, it's competing against much more targeted messaging on social media and web advertising -- both of which are unregulated.

So even if you reinstated airtime laws, and actually enforced them, I don't think it would make much difference. It's not the loss of equal time that allows obviously-biased mass media TV "news" channels to exist, but the fact that they're not broadcast over the air.

Amending the laws to cover those would almost certainly run you afoul of the first amendment, since the equal time doctrines were only legal because the bandwidth was so restricted. The unrestricted bandwidth of the Internet will make it much harder to justify.

munk-a said 8 months ago:

There is nothing forcing the allowance of campaign season debate on these platforms, I think it's reasonable to put our society above the health of these platforms and allow formal debate to only happen on the mainstream platforms - people can talk on other streams, but campaigns funding (either directly or through friends) discussion on those platforms can be pursued.

Bear in mind, it's not like we have no control over debate platforms now - the rule enforcement has been lacking but foreign money in campaigns is strictly verbotten, free speech has some limits.

foldr said 8 months ago:

>tell me at what point "money" ends and "speech" begins:

But these sorts of fuzzy lines have to be drawn in other areas in relation to the First Amendment. Libel, illegal images, threats to assassinate the President, etc. etc. Just because there's no logically compelling cut off point doesn't mean that a court can't draw the line somewhere. The First Amendment isn't absolute.

throwawayPYy4 said 8 months ago:

The libel(etc)-cutoff is orthogonal to the money/speech-cutoff scenarios above.

foldr said 8 months ago:

Yes, of course. My point is just that there is also no obvious logical point at which to make the cutoffs in those cases either.

throwawayPYy4 said 7 months ago:

Yes. My point is that it is a category mistake to make the analogy between the two types of cutoffs. Just because a line can be drawn on the content of speech does not mean that a line can be drawn between money and speech.

foldr said 7 months ago:

The point is that the mere fuzziness of a given line is not a reason to doubt that a legal distinction can be drawn. All OP did was to show that the line is fuzzy. I was criticizing OP's argument, not presenting a positive argument by analogy. Perhaps a legal line can't be drawn between money and speech, but if so, this can't be the case merely because the logical boundary between the two is fuzzy.

In fact, any disanalogy only lends further support to my point. If the First Amendment doesn't even permit you to say anything you like, then it surely doesn't permit you to spend money any way you like!

If it were really impossible to draw a line between money and speech, then the First Amendment would protect all kinds of dubious financial schemes. It doesn't.

tomp said 8 months ago:

* A wealthy person pays a senator to vote in his favor.


* A wealthy person is unbiased when hiring, but locates all his offices in buildings owned by a senator to make him/her vote in his favor.

humanrebar said 7 months ago:

> Without campaign finance regulation...

Bloomberg is self funding. There is no "campaign finance" involved. It's personal finance.

baddox said 7 months ago:

It's not at all crazy to imagine laws that simply limit the total amount of money spent on a campaign, regardless of where it comes from.

humanrebar said 7 months ago:

What if he just makes a feature film about himself and gives out free tickets? I don't see that there is such a clear distinction between a campaign and other speech.

baddox said 7 months ago:

Well, answering those questions is precisely the goal of campaign finance regulation.

smnrchrds said 7 months ago:

In Canada, campaign finance rules put limits on how much one can spend on their own campaign. The limit is higher than the limit for donating to other people's campaigns, but at 25k CAD, it is nowhere near enough to enable billionaires to buy elections or have unfair advantage. When a Canadian multi-millionaire reality TV star ran for conservative party leadership position, this happened:


One would assume that any comprehensive campaign finance rule would have similar provisions.

toomuchtodo said 7 months ago:

For a candidate, I can only donate $2800 towards primary election efforts, and $2800 towards a general election effort. Bloomberg, any candidate, should be prohibited from spending any more than that on their own campaign, billionaire or not.

SmirkingRevenge said 7 months ago:

One of the downsides to that rule, is that it heavily favors incumbents who have big donor networks in place. And it imposes a big cost on the new players, just to get the donor networks.

It's one contributing reason why it often takes a self-funded millionaire/billionaire to unseat them - or get real traction in a campaign.

toomuchtodo said 7 months ago:

Hence why public funding for candidates is so important.

humanrebar said 7 months ago:

What counts as a campaign expense? If he buys a new suit for an event he just committed a felony?

toomuchtodo said 7 months ago:

No. But if he pays for an entire tech team in Manhattan to run his campaign, he should (under campaign finance regulations). I did a phone interview as a potential candidate with someone on that team because I was curious about their capabilities. Such a team should not exist for a self-funded candidate.

downerending said 7 months ago:

I'll take paid ads over "Correct The Record" scheming (i.e., paid astroturfing) any day of the week.

catalogia said 7 months ago:

I expect we'll all be subjected to both.

zaidf said 7 months ago:

“We're letting billionaires buy the election“

If anything, I think Bloomberg may prove you can’t literally buy an election.

aportela said 7 months ago:


apologies for this comment which is completely unrelated to your post - was just trying to figure out a way to get in touch with you.

I just moved to Durham from NYC for work, and was looking through HN to see if there were any ongoing meetups, etc. in the area. Saw your comment about an RTP meetup (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1512702) here, so figured you might still be in the area.

Would love any tips you might have for meeting new people / getting involved in the tech community around here. Or even meeting up in person just to chat!

cmurf said 7 months ago:

Supreme Court has ruled money is free speech. It will take a constitutional amendment to change this. And the two party system is one of the most effective money machines, they have only ever proposed mitigations for the most heinous activities. On what mitigation could they possibly agree on that doesn't run afoul of Buckley v. Valeo, et al?

It takes money to broadcast, print, and distribute anything, so if you believe in free speech you'd necessarily have to agree there should be no limit on distribution, as well as no public subsidy of it. And therefore no limit on the private expenditure that enables its distribution.

stevehawk said 7 months ago:

Technically, the Supreme Court ruled that a law that the legislative branch voted for and executive branch did not veto was not unconstitutional, thus causing the "Supreme Court says money is speech" situation. All we have to do is update the law or pass a constitutional amendment but no one is ever going to do that.

manfredo said 7 months ago:

> Supreme Court has ruled money is free speech. It will take a constitutional amendment to change this.

This is a massive oversimplification. There are still set limits on donating money to candidates, and to political parties. The "money is free speech" phrase comes from Citizens United, which removed limits on spending unrelated to electioneering.

So you can't just go donate a million dollars to your favored candidate or political party. You can, however, run ads broadly advocating e.g. for or against gun control, climate change, etc.

baddox said 7 months ago:

> Supreme Court has ruled money is free speech. It will take a constitutional amendment to change this.

It's clearly not that simple, because there are a lot of laws about campaign finance in the United States. The court ruling that money is speech obviously doesn't mean that there are no restrictions on how money can be used in campaigns, and it doesn't mean those restrictions can't be changed with laws.

m0zg said 7 months ago:

>> How are we supposed to trust the media

You aren't supposed to trust it. You are supposed to learn to read between the lines like we read Pravda in the Soviet Union.

Most of the "free" press in this country is owned by 5 billionaires. Most of it is also losing money hand over fist, so they have other motivations for keeping it around. It's just that this time these motivations are becoming obvious even to the democrats - the beneficiaries of the media bias. The reason for this are independent channels the "free" press can't control. If there was no FB or Twitter, you wouldn't even know Yang existed. Now imagine what Republicans, and Trump supporters especially think of this propaganda machine and how little trust they have in it.

The press in this country (or in any other country, really) exists for one reason only: to manufacture consent for whatever the ruling class wants to shove down your throat next. FB and Twitter get in the way of that in a pretty fatal way, if they aren't controlled by the same cabal.

fzeroracer said 7 months ago:

>Now imagine what Republicans, and Trump supporters especially think of this propaganda machine and how little trust they have in it

I'm really not sure this statement holds. They don't trust certain parts of the media propaganda machine, but they place unwavering faith in other propaganda outlets which are arguably far worse in pushing conspiracy. FB and Twitter are both far from free channels and the fact that people think they're somehow better than another propaganda machine just means you agree with that bias, not that they're somehow more trustworthy.

A healthy dose of skepticism is always a good thing, but when you go too far you fall prey to things that slip between the cracks of skepticism to feed fears.

m0zg said 7 months ago:

I don't think they place much trust in any of it. Which is the way media should be consumed. The blatant bias and lack of integrity of media was pretty stark in the runup to the 2016 election, and has only become worse after it.

Litmus test for you: do you believe that "both sides" comment by Trump was referring to neo-nazis? If you do, you've been lied to, and you need to read the full transcript. If you read it, you will see that he was referring to people for and against taking down the statues, and condemned the nazis immediately thereafter.

To this day the articles have not been retracted, and are routinely used by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden to attack the president. They know full well it's a lie, but keep using it anyway.


And this is just one example. You wouldn't believe how quickly Yang would become a depraved maniac and literally Hitler if he had any chance of winning the nomination, instead of the "preferred" candidate. Don't believe me? Watch some interviews with Trump before he ran - they're still on YouTube. Beloved public persona, national icon, can do no wrong.

fzeroracer said 7 months ago:

I mean for someone who says they don't place any trust in the media, why are you placing your faith in Trump? He runs one of the biggest media empires in the world.

I've read the transcript and watched it live. it was obvious what he said. I'll leave the argument at that.

m0zg said 7 months ago:

But you don't get to "leave the argument at that", not this time. Here's the unredacted transcript.


There's no room for ambiguity in it at all. Anyone who calls Trump a Nazi apologist based on this lie is either deliberately misled by the "free press", or a liar him/herself. You get to pick which one of these you are.

taurath said 7 months ago:

> How are we supposed to trust the media when they're on track to get a billion dollars from a single candidate?

We're not, but unfortunately there are extremely few reliable sources or institutions to accurately frame this problem for people. The Trumpites were CORRECT in that there's an inherent bias in the media. They're just incorrect in what that bias is, which is the status quo/pro corporate/pro "stability" line.

Bernie Sander's supporters are sitting watching MSNBC wondering what the hell all of their anchors and commentators are doing - he, like Trump (at least when Trump was running for election), is a true anti-corporate candidate in the race.

That we have several full on billionaires literally buying their way to 2nd place in a primary is the largest example of the wealth inequality gap being used in full force of the public. Its going to be quite a show.

Eric_WVGG said 7 months ago:

I see Bloomberg there, who was the second billionaire?

root_axis said 7 months ago:

Are campaign finance laws really the answer? Seems to me like they are regularly ignored without consequence.

SmirkingRevenge said 7 months ago:

The only campaign finance reform we're ever likely to get except in the rare case, is reform that gives advantage to those currently holding office.

eej71 said 7 months ago:

Billionaires aren't buying any election.

Bloomberg will spend a considerable amount of money, but will not get very far. It's a lot of money to burn. But it won't net him anything.

Trump, to the extent that one can consider him a billionaire, did not spend his way into winning. Like it or not, he crafted a message that resonated with many voters while also receiving a substantial amount of of free air time in the form of endless ridicule from national pundits.

olivermarks said 7 months ago:

Trump's team's genius was and is their brilliant tabloid headline and subhead style Twitter flow. It circumvents the corporate media and targets voters while alienating and enraging their opposition, further defining his appeal. It's essentially real time tabloid and is in full effect again right now as he lampoons Bloomberg (MiniMike has to stand on a box to see over the podium is vintage Murdoch tabloid - the Sun, NY Post etc). Meanwhile Trump is spending even more time on the golf course than Obama did. I've often wondered how large his highly tactical Twitter team is...

SpicyLemonZest said 8 months ago:

It'd be pretty weird to have a rule that Mike Bloomberg can't spend a billion dollars telling you why he should be president, when Coca-Cola is allowed to spend a billion dollars every year sending you the much less important message to drink Coke.

inetknght said 8 months ago:

> Coca-Cola is allowed to spend a billion dollars every year sending you the much less important message to drink Coke

Perhaps Coca-Cola shouldn't be permitted to spend so much money on advertising an unhealthy product...

SpicyLemonZest said 8 months ago:

I'd certainly prefer if they didn't. But I can't be in favor of a rule reducing to "you've gotta jump through hoops if you want to publish an unpopular message".

three_seagrass said 8 months ago:

Advertising restrictions are put on pharmaceuticals, tobacco, and alcohol at least.

A more innocuous example would be Proctor & Gamble promoting soap.

coldpie said 8 months ago:

Consider installing an ad blocker.

organsnyder said 8 months ago:

The ad blockers on my devices don't prevent my in-laws, grandparents, etc. from seeing all of the misleading political ads that are out there (and I'm not about to take on sysadmin responsibilities for them, either).

My mother-in-law was shocked to learn that the Facebook ads she sees are different than the ones we see. She got us this mop for Christmas and couldn't understand how we had never heard of the brand before.

m_ke said 8 months ago:

I've always used one on my desktop so was actually surprised to see those ads when I did the search on my phone. Those were the first political ads that I've seen because I don't watch TV and don't use social networks.

michaelmrose said 8 months ago:

Firefox for android has addons including ublock origin. There ARE adblockers that work on the system level and block ads in apps but

- You can't selectively turn it off for a certain page

- You have to root the phone

- It's easier just to never install apps with in app ads.

taborj said 8 months ago:

> You have to root the phone

Allow me to introduce you to Blokada: https://f-droid.org/en/packages/org.blokada.alarm/

Zenbit_UX said 7 months ago:

Allow me to introduce you to nextdns.io. Simple DNS level blocking on any device... (not affiliated, just a fan)

taborj said 7 months ago:

Yup. My point is, you don't need to have a rooted phone to get ad blocking.

oefrha said 8 months ago:

I see political ads a hell lot when I use the YouTube iOS client. No need to watch TV or use social networks.

m_ke said 8 months ago:

YouTube premium has no ads, which comes with a paid YouTube music plan.

scohesc said 8 months ago:

Is it against the rules here to recommend anybody with an android phone to get ahold of Youtube Vanced? Someone took the youtube APK, and gutted out all the ads and unlocked youtube premium features for free if you're willing to sideload it.

usui said 8 months ago:

I will second this. Vanced is a great tweaked YouTube app that I am grateful people put the time to make. Getting it to act like the normal YouTube app required tinkering. I noticed that web links used the default app even after setting Vanced as the default. To fix this, I had to remove the original YouTube app and stop it from auto-updating.

oefrha said 8 months ago:

Well, I don’t watch enough YouTube these days to justify a subscription, and I already have a separate music streaming subscription.

WrtCdEvrydy said 8 months ago:

Use lockdown on your iPhone... and uBlock on Firefox on Android.

throwawayhhakdl said 8 months ago:

Agreed. Democracy doesn’t work when you can send different messages to different people, and pretend that your platform is specialized to each case. Big data targeting helps them do this, but even regional targeting is probably fine.

I should know if you’re telling ____ he can have X before I vote for you to represent me.

That being said, so many people are adverse to critical thinking (on both sides of the American political split) that this feels like a non issue to begin with. So whatever.

gambler said 8 months ago:

It was blatantly obvious that social networks are ideal tools for corporate and political propaganda. It was obvious from the very beginning, where people sung praises to Web 2.0 and "collective intelligence". Moreover, real technologists wrote about it, extensively, at the time:


If some "technologist" acts surprised by this turn of events now, I see only two possibilities:

1. They are genuine, but absolutely suck at analyzing how technology actually works in society.

2. They are liars who knew the dangers of such systems, but didn't find them objectionable because it suited their goals at the time.

What seriously disturbs me is that almost everyone from academia or big tech who engage in public discourse on this issue right now - almost all of them do act surprised.

saghm said 8 months ago:

The article you linked to is from 2006; if a 30 year old technologist today is surprised by this, I don't think it's fair to say that they're either bad at understanding how technology affects society or liars because they weren't writing articles when they were 16.

More generally, people can grow, learn, and change a lot in a decade and a half, even if they were already adults at the beginning of the period. I don't think it's particularly effective to dismiss all current viewpoints of someone just because they happened to disagree with you on something 14 years ago.

vertig0h said 8 months ago:

Of course the answer is #2. When Obama ran in 2008 and 2012, media, academics and technologists fawned over his campaign's then novel use of technology and Facebook advertising.

I remember clear as day reading articles and analysis about his campaign methods without noting a single hint of concern or animus.

I've lost a significant amount of faith in people's integrity since 2016 not because of Trump, but because of people's responses to Trump.

Phanyxx said 8 months ago:

Very good point. Social media platforms were held up a shining example because Obama's message was largely positive, but few stopped to think about the flip side of the scenario... until 2016.

vertig0h said 8 months ago:


That's subjective. Something that sounds nice and upliftung may not actually be positive in the long run while something that sounds negative may indeed be necessary.

Which proves the point that opposition to online political advertising is not rooted in some deep and profound moral principle, but is merely a response to one's favored "side" being outmaneuvered by opposition candidates' deft use of online tools and advertising.

Moral shallowness is masquerading as righteousness on the Left, but many have convinced themselves that the masquerade is genuine.

Joe-Z said 7 months ago:

Greed and hubris is masquerading as reason and „telling it like it is“ on the Right but many have convinced themselves that the masquerade is genuine.

Just doing some balancing here.

vertig0h said 7 months ago:

I don't disagree with you.

giantrobot said 7 months ago:

Facebook and the Internet were a bit different in 2008 than they were in 2016. Facebook had fewer than 150m active users and they skewed young. The "news" feed was actually stuff your friends posted and using social media for a political campaign was novel.

Fast forward to 2016 where Facebook has two billion active users, a majority of whom use their location/behavior tracking app. They also have 12 years of user extremely detailed user graphs and own a significant percentage of online advertising (tracking). Their business model has also changed to specifically sell microtargeted ads. They've also resisted all types of regulation of political advertising.

There were misgivings about social media political advertising in 2008 but up to that point social media was just crowd sourcing of bullshit. Since 2008 it's become far less social and really just become a big advertising vector. Whatever misgivings anyone had about it would have vastly underestimated its impact.

knzhou said 8 months ago:

Thanks. I have to make this point on HN just about every time Facebook ads come up. It absolutely blows my mind that something so prominent can be intentionally forgotten so quickly. I was very young in 2008 and even then I easily noticed this.

3pt14159 said 7 months ago:

I remember that era. I remember reading what, at the time, I considered to be fringe ideas. I couldn't find a fault in their reasoning but it wasn't like the New York Times was taking them seriously so I always took it with a grain of salt.

Stuxnet changed the way I looked at the world. I always wondered "how the fuck is everything not burning?" Afterwards I concluded that it takes someone to actually set the match and before someone does the press doesn't see it as legitimate and they certainly don't go back into their archives and try to figure out who actually warned them that these types of attacks were possible ten years prior. I've actually dated an award winning journalist and this was one of the first things she told me about journalism that blew my mind. It's unlike science. It's present-focussed to a degree that I find unfathomable.

Imagine fifteen years from now when a update server at Tesla or Microsoft gets hacked do you think the press is going to go back to Bruce Schneier and talk about his book Click Here to Kill Everybody? No. They're going to talk about how shocking this event is just like they did in 2008 during the financial crisis despite the fact that the June 2005 Economist cover had "after the fall" as its cover with a literal brick with "housing prices" stamped onto it.

This is one of the reasons I don't just blindly hold index funds. It's fairly simple to identify unsustainable trends and dodge them or to identify truly transformative technologies and buy into them.

throwaway122378 said 7 months ago:

Wasn’t the concept of social networks and even Facebook itself a product of the government run DARPA

nl said 7 months ago:


ryanschneider said 8 months ago:

I was personally a fan of Yang’s platform position where every citizen received an annual $100 credit that could be transferred to candidates. Instead of trying to restrict what can and can’t be said, give the citizens enough aggregate buying power to over shadow the lobbyists.


0x5f3759df-i said 7 months ago:

Seattle has implemented this with their "democracy vouchers" program that has had some seemingly positive results so far.


w-ll said 8 months ago:

Isn't this like voting, but with more steps?

tfehring said 7 months ago:

Money is more fungible than votes. If you live in a very red or very blue state, it's probably more impactful to buy $100 worth of political advertising for your candidate of choice in swing states than it is to actually vote in a nationwide general election. (For what it's worth, I'd bet this is still true if you replace $100 with $1.)

cfors said 8 months ago:

Yes, with the added bonus of tax money going into advertiser’s pockets!

kamikaz1k said 8 months ago:

It is like voting, maybe with more steps, but with way more normalizing power because you can be very flexible in how you vote. As opposed to voting where you have to have the ability to actually exercise that right in a very narrow time constraint. And on top of that you're diminishing* the influence of people with much more money, since you're playing the game with the same tools.

*and I do mean diminish, not eliminate.

boublepop said 7 months ago:

Voting decides who wins, this would be helping to decide who gets to play.

0x5f3759df-i said 7 months ago:

Politicians often work in the interests of their donors, not just their voters. It's a way to adjust the system so that the voters are also the donors.

chillacy said 7 months ago:

Probably the next step is a complete ban on all other large donations and self donations, so that elections are completely publicly funded (through a mechanism like democracy dollars which reflects voter support as opposed to the depth of your supporters pockets)

papreclip said 7 months ago:

how about $1 each? i don't want $100 worth of ad impressions (pennies each) blasted at me over the course of a campaign season

dpix said 8 months ago:

Why is it that paying influencers to push agendas (business or political) not considered advertising. I can understand that facebook shouldn't be held accountable for legitimacy of this type of advertising but if an instagram or facebook account has a large enough following they should be treated as advertisers themselves and scrutinized accordingly

zaroth said 7 months ago:

The issue is not about restricting people from making a political statement, or even restricting people from being paid to make a political statement.

But if you are being paid to make an advertising or political statement, you should be required to disclose that you were paid to make the statement.

Not surprisingly, we already have laws which require this for advertisements through FTC regulation. The FEC is working on something similar for political ads, and there's even a bipartisan bill from Klobuchar and Graham no less;

> Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the 2019 Honest Ads Act, which would mandate disclosure of those paying for online political ads and create a publicly available database of political ads that appear on major online platforms such as Facebook, Google, Amazon, Snapchat and Twitter.


sdoering said 8 months ago:

At least in Germany we have regulations in place that state that ads like this need to be clearly marked as advertising.

AndrewKemendo said 7 months ago:

Advertising is absolutely a malignant tumor on society. It's unstoppable and impossible to know where it's going to show up and how.

Legitimately creative geniuses will find every possible way to try and influence you to buy their thing or vote for their person, and I really don't know if it's possible to stop it.

pier25 said 8 months ago:

What's the difference between a 'paid message' and an 'ad'?

penagwin said 7 months ago:

I'd say an "advertisement" is a form of a "paid message". For example I can pay Facebook to put "I LOVE PENGUINS" on everyone's screen - it's not technically an advertisement, just a statement or message.

But yeah in the case of political campaigns they're effectively the same thing IMO.

said 7 months ago:
appleflaxen said 8 months ago:

It's increasingly clear that Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp are applications that every technologist should shun, and advocate against in their personal lives and in their workplace based on the actions of the corporation that owns them.

Marsymars said 8 months ago:

The problem with getting rid of WhatsApp, for me, is that in many cases the choice is between E2E encryption and a desktop app, or SMS.

As long as the app remains ad-free and E2E encrypted, it's not clear to me that WhatsApp is yet worse than plain SMS.

htsh said 8 months ago:

signal? the desktop apps are available now on mac/windows/linux and are pretty good.

the tougher thing for me has been the network effect and getting folks to make the jump since _everyone_ is on whatsapp.

Marsymars said 7 months ago:

Yes, Signal is my preferred messaging app. I'm saying that in many cases, due to the network effect, if I don't use WhatsApp, I'll be communicating to people via SMS.

coldpie said 8 months ago:

I deleted my FB account a while back. I still use Instagram though, I find it genuinely useful and interesting. I have never seen any political or controversial content on there, including ads. I have mixed feelings about supporting FB by using Instagram, but it feels to me like a healthier ecosystem, so I haven't stopped using it (yet).

sedachv said 8 months ago:

> I have never seen any political or controversial content on there, including ads.

One of the reasons I deleted my Instagram account in 2017 was that their recommendation algorithm started showing me neo-Nazi posts. I suspect this was because I followed a bunch of motorcycle and custom/vintage truck hobbyist accounts. Turns out a lot of these IG bikers and truck bros were neo-Nazis. Definitely not something I want from my hobbies.

SlowRobotAhead said 7 months ago:

> recommendation algorithm started showing me neo-Nazi posts

Really? That seems... unlikely. Is it possible that your bar for “Nazi” is screwed to include things someone right of center would think are just normal values? Because I’m guessing you saw BUILD THAT WALL posts and AR-15 Competition pictures and not swasticas and lynched black men.

sedachv said 7 months ago:

Sounds like you just got triggered. Sorry about that.

I saw some of the symbols featured on this page:


And some symbols on this page:


A lot of it was from European neo-Nazis about European issues (threats directed towards refugees, Muslims, Communists).

SlowRobotAhead said 7 months ago:

Not triggered at all. Called you out on your likely “everything i don’t like is a Nazi” and you post from a literal hate group as proof. SPLC is a bad org.

duhi88 said 8 months ago:

I use the web app version of Instagram, and I see no ads whatsoever, and I spend less time on it overall.

starpilot said 8 months ago:

But I have friends who work at those companies. They're brilliant, they post here on HN, and have families that they take care of. They are active in their local communities. Are you saying they're the bad guys? Should I distance myself from them?

mft_ said 8 months ago:

Was everyone in history who ended up doing something bad, or working for a bad organisation, fundamentally evil in some way? Of course not: good people can wind up in bad places.

And (while I’m not necessarily saying that Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp are fundamentally bad) the way history might judge people (such as your friends) would be in their response to finding themselves working at companies which could be considered morally dubious.

starpilot said 7 months ago:

Yann Lecun?

appleflaxen said 7 months ago:

How do you look at people who spent a career at Exxon?

Do they deserve to be judged in 2020 for decisions they made 30 years before the clear effects of global warming were visible?

I would argue that yes, they do.

iamaelephant said 8 months ago:

Yes, absolutely.

Frondo said 7 months ago:

I would like to expand on this, because I think it's a nice quip but the answer should be more nuanced.

If Facebook is generally considered harmful (i.e. to society), and if they know that it's considered harmful, and they continue to work there, putting their limited time on earth to growing, enhancing, improving a service that is harmful, then they are bad people.

They can be good family people, good for their communities, but bad for society at large. Being good mothers and fathers, volunteering for neighborhood garbage cleanups, helping out in their church or mosque, that doesn't make their day job work not bad, or make them not bad for doing the harmful day job work. They can be both.

I for one couldn't look my children in the eye each night and say, "I did something harmful for society today, that is what afforded you a new Switch."

iamaelephant said 7 months ago:

> the answer should be more nuanced.

Not it shouldn't. We know that these companies are morally corrupt. When you sell your time to help grow these companies you are also morally corrupt. Simples.

Frondo said 7 months ago:

I agree they're corrupt, I was trying to explain that you can be a good family man, a nice volunteer in your local soup kitchen, whatever, and still be a Bad Person for supporting a that's bad for society.

Frondo said 7 months ago:

I'd like to know how the down voter would argue against this. I'd like to know how this position is somehow wrong.

starpilot said 7 months ago:

I upvoted you.

I still wonder if AI giants like Yann LeCun and John Carmack should be considered evil cogs in the machine.

starpilot said 7 months ago:

Does that include Yann LeCun?

chillacy said 7 months ago:

Or John Carmack as of a few months ago

standardUser said 7 months ago:

"...based on the actions of the corporation that owns them"

By that metric, there are several thousand other companies that are more worthy of our boycott, by virtue of literally ravaging the planet, poisoning human beings and propping up brutal dictatorships.

appleflaxen said 7 months ago:

Yes, I agree.

tathougies said 8 months ago:

It's not increasingly clear at all. Why is it wrong for someone running for elected office to put their message out?

EDIT: By the lack of responses and the litany of downvotes, I'm guessing no one can actually articulate a response, but it's just bad because feel feels.

Barrin92 said 7 months ago:

>Why is it wrong for someone running for elected office to put their message out?

because it undermines the democratic principle of one person having one vote. Money is speech in the US and Bloomberg has more of it than a lot of people combined. He's not even participating in civic discourse or debates, politics is not any more about debating ideas or running on a positive vision, it's two New York oligarchs having a personal feud on twitter with one calling the other short and the other one making gingerbread man memes.

If I'm not mistaken the ideal of American democracy was that ordinary people can take control of their own lives and govern themselves, not that increasingly bizarre celebrities and public figures control media and government because they have more money to spend on influencers on instagram and television ads.

This isn't politics any more where people get together to deliberate how they want to organise their social life, it's a giant circus in which tech companies, the media and a whole array of grifters use for to make money or amuse themselves.

scarejunba said 7 months ago:

One person does not have one vote, mate. There's a complex system of primaries, the electoral college, etc.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

What nonsense. You have exactly the vote written on the ballot. People elect representatives who vote on their behalf on matters of national importance. That is true for Senators, congresspeople, and electors of the electoral college which are the three elected federal executive offices. Primaries are to decide amongst like minded voters who they want to stand but no one is barred from standing due to a primary.

franga2000 said 7 months ago:

The whole idea of voting for someone to vote for someone on your behalf is stupid and unnecessary. The electoral college system and the district voting system are designed to allow gerrymandering and other unfair practices that all together result in the very obvious fact that 1 vote != 1 vote.

scarejunba said 7 months ago:

Well that's just window dressing around "it's not one person one vote".

salawat said 8 months ago:

No one is really arguing that it is. What people object to is the proposition that it is a tenable state of affairs to allow finances to act as a proxy for outreach via disparity in the accessibility of cash.

Get your message out by all means, however, our government is too important to be left to the whims of the free market in terms of deciding who amongst us is going to be running it.

There cannot be an equal opportunity platform when everything degenerates to "the richest guy wins the contest for mindshare". If everyone were working out of the same pool, and using the same avenues for outreach, you'd have a much easier time of it regulating the current wild west of mass media outreach for political purposes, and purportedly a much more effective one-stop shop where people could actually go to become informed on what can auditable be sourced to a campaign.

Least that's the drift I'm picking up.

tathougies said 7 months ago:

> There cannot be an equal opportunity platform when everything degenerates to "the richest guy wins the contest for mindshare"

I mean there are all kinds of disparities in terms of likeability and attractiveness. Certainly, those who are rich have an easy way to advertise -- by spending money -- and thus to be seen. However, some people are naturally louder than others. Some, more outgoing. Some are extroverts. Some not, etc. Our government is formed from people who are able to convince others to vote for them. This is not about ideas, or the 'best ideology'. It is ultimately about likeability, which differs already from person to person. I don't understand why money makes a difference.

Anyway, as we've seen money doesn't make a difference. In the last election, it bought Clinton only a narrow margin in the popular vote despite spending twice as much. And of course it cost her the election.

I don't see much indication that -- at the highest levels of office -- money makes much difference. Perhaps it can at a local level, and of course buying votes outright should be outlawed, as it is. But I do not understand the moral outrage here.

ip26 said 7 months ago:
reaperducer said 7 months ago:

It's not increasingly clear at all. Why is it wrong for someone running for elected office to put their message out?

Actually talk to actual voters? Like American politicians did for 200 years before the internet?

tathougies said 7 months ago:

> Actually talk to actual voters? Like American politicians did for 200 years before the internet?

I dunno. Lincoln's campaigns look quite commercial and media savvy: https://clickamericana.com/topics/politics/abraham-lincolns-...

leppr said 7 months ago:

Talking with 200 million people spread over an area the size of a continent will cost a lot of money, whichever way you go at it.

Electing the ruler to an effective empire is a very different process to electing a local mayor.

lghh said 7 months ago:

Isn't that what this is though?

tschellenbach said 7 months ago:

Most complaints addressed to those 3 sites also apply to the internet as a whole.

takeda said 7 months ago:

Those 3 sites are the same company. Twitter for example did the right thing and simply ban all political ads.

MadWombat said 8 months ago:

I looked at other options a few times. I do not see how I can convince my whole social circle to use anything else. Especially in the absence of any feature complete alternative.

raz32dust said 8 months ago:

Ok, so you're a "technologist" I guess. What is your solution?

munk-a said 8 months ago:

Maybe just send your buddies an email every once in a while? Before the modern era we got by on letters and phone calls.

standardUser said 7 months ago:

And maybe just ride a horse when you wan to go visit your grandmother, who by the way is dying of smallpox.

krn said 7 months ago:

> Facebook said it is asking the influencer accounts that posted the Bloomberg memes to retroactively use the tool meant for such posts. After this happens, the posts will be labeled as a "paid partnership" with Bloomberg.

> Campaigns that avoid using the tool, as Bloomberg had, risk having their accounts suspended.

I don't see how this is a bad thing. Facebook made the right decision here.

takeda said 7 months ago:

The thing is that they only make the "right decision" when it benefit one party, those things aren't issues for them when it benefits the other side.

djrogers said 8 months ago:

Very misleading headline - they are allowing ads, they're just not ads that Facebook is being paid for. An Instagram influencer being paid to say something nice about a politician is an ad - full stop.

jshowa3 said 8 months ago:

Anyone who has done a social media ad for Bloomberg has some serious integrity issues to sort out.

giarc said 7 months ago:

Please explain? Facebook has said politicians can run ads that are false, I'm not sure why paying influencers is all of a sudden a problem.

jshowa3 said 7 months ago:

There's a lot of problems. You may be advertising for a candidate you don't support just for the money. Most of the advertising has nothing to do with policy positions. The money paid isn't disclosed. It manipulates people easily because it's fad chasing and the candidate often isn't even in it. It promotes rampant consumerism, validation, and group pressure. Then again, there's a big problem with Facebook in general. But that's a whole other can of worms.

cortesoft said 7 months ago:

Do you feel that all the people who work at Facebook have the same integrity problem? Anyone who works for a company that either makes money from or provides services to companies who make money from advertising?

jshowa3 said 7 months ago:

I believe it is some of the people that work there not all obviously, but it's mostly the system that's the problem. Ads nowadays are specifically designed to track you and harvest personal data about you at zero expense to you. They are often deceptive in that they advertise a product always as a cure all for everything and they use proven psychologically manipulative tactics to get you to buy the product instead of demonstrating what the product can do. Obviously, Facebook has skin in the game to keep this system going. Which is why they're doing a poor job of fact checking ads and would rather not do them at all.

gowld said 8 months ago:

Interesting case. Is Facebook or any platform expected to be the police of all their users' private contracts? That the legitimacy of content is based on how profitable is for the poster and who paid them?

kraig said 8 months ago:

setting a policy and policing that policy are very different things, this argument assumes that their users will deliberately break their advertising rules

ajoy said 8 months ago:

We have build a chrome extension that block political ads on facebook (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/the-factual-news-e...). The extension also rates credibility of news articles you read.

Facebook should stop allowing micro-targeting for political ads. Period.

firethief said 8 months ago:

> The extension also rates credibility of news articles you read.

So we can just meta-trust "The Factual" (and its what, neural net?) to tell us what's true? I don't see anything about transparency on the website. Granting that you have the best intentions to begin with, isn't that a massive moral hazard once you get popular?

ajoy said 7 months ago:

https://www.thefactual.com/static/extfaq.html We try to be transparent. You should form your own opinion. We provide a tool. Use this tool as just another data pt.

Posting here so people don't have to click away:

* Why should I trust The Factual Credibility grade for articles?

The Factual automatically calculates the probability that an individual article is credible. This is based on four factors:

- The diversity and quality of its sources

- The factual tone of the article's writing style

- The expertise of the journalist on the topic based on their article history

- The site reputation based on historical scores of every article on the site

Because the calculation is automated and devoid of human involvement, criteria are consistently applied across articles and sources.

Also, because grades are specific to an article and not a publication, scores vary within a publication.

Our algo/tech can tell if something is good, rather than saying if something is surely bad. Check out our news site that we built using our rating system, if you have time: https://www.thefactual.com/news

More relevant to the thread : https://story.thefactual.com/news/story/229376-Mike-Bloomber...

tqi said 7 months ago:

"Because the calculation is automated and devoid of human involvement, criteria are consistently applied across articles and sources."

How is the training data generated?

ajoy said 7 months ago:

For the tone of voice analysis, our training data was a large set of articles from Reuters and Associated Press - both wire services that are used by most news outlets. We supplemented this with a dictionary of emotional weights for words and some other heuristics.

For author expertise, we classify every article into one of 1000 different topics based on the IPTC taxonomy. We’ve now evaluated about 7M articles creating an expertise database on 50,000 journalists, i.e. what topics have they written on in the past and how much do they focus on that.

tln said 7 months ago:

Nice! I agree, the targetting for political ads is a big issue.

raz32dust said 8 months ago:

I think that is ok, as long as it is not promoted to the top. The problem with ads is (a) the extreme targeting, and (b) too much incentive for the publishing platform to show more of them. This whole problem would be way more manageable if they did not allow political ads, or at least disallow specific targeting other than coarse-grained ones like may be zip code.

Eire_Banshee said 8 months ago:

Uh, isn't a "paid message" just a politically correct way to refer to an Ad?

scarejunba said 8 months ago:

Say I pay you to walk into a pub and tell your friends about my favourite candidate. Your pub generally disallows advertising. But they can't really detect this. So they don't actively do anything about it the way they do some guy walking in with a sign. That's the situation.

m_ke said 8 months ago:

Solution: As a pub you have users sign a terms of service before letting them in, stating that you don't allow this type of behavior and reserve the right to ban the advertiser and the messenger from entering the establishment.

Then you make it easy to report solicitation of any activity that's against your terms.

A single person might be able to slip by, but anyone trying to brainwash your patrons at scale is very likely to get caught.

kaibee said 8 months ago:

> A single person might be able to slip by, but anyone trying to brainwash your patrons at scale is very likely to get caught.

Sure, but a slight correction here. You're implying that once they're caught, they lose. But that's not what happens. To continue the bar analogy, the bartender now has to start banning his customers. He can't do anything to the guy that's bribing them.

Bloomberg got "caught" but that doesn't matter at all to him.

m_ke said 8 months ago:

In this case the guy bribing people is also a regular at the only two pubs in town and getting kicked out of one of them would tank his venture because it's a source of a large portion of his audience.

Bloomberg getting kicked off of the Facebook ad platform would be a huge blow to his campaign. Facebook is huge for political campaigns because it allows them to micro target their audience and spam them with ads without any intent on the receiving end.

EDIT: Anyways, my main point is, if Facebook wanted to solve this problem they would.

said 8 months ago:
scarejunba said 8 months ago:

If they cared about this problem to the exclusion of all else, sure. But Facebook doesn't want to ban all mention of Michael Bloomberg since Facebook users want to talk about him.

raverbashing said 8 months ago:

This will probably run afoul of some advertisement regulations in some countries (not that fb cares, of course).

(for those who didn't RTFA - it's referring to "sponsored posts" or "branded content")

dieselerator said 8 months ago:


my read is:

Rather than paying for direct ads candidate Bloomberg paid "social media influencers" to post his message. Apparently it would be difficult to enforce a rule preventing that, so Facebook has decided to allow it.

huherto said 8 months ago:

Thanks for the tl;dr

Probably candidates and influencers should disclose if they are being paid. After all once you are getting paid, you ARE in the advertisement business.

mc32 said 8 months ago:

I think that’s fair. But they should do that for all their peddling.

luckylion said 8 months ago:

We kind of have that in Germany regarding Youtube and promotional content ("Schleichwerbung" in German, literally "sneaky/sneaking ads"). The problem is that rules are vague so you get endless "this video contains ads"-infos even for those that don't because producers want to be on the safe side when they talk about or show a product. That diminishes the value of the message, because "it's on every video, whatever", just like people react to cookie consent banners.

If you make it too narrow, he'll gift them plane tickets, if you make it to wide, is google giving you free hosting on blogger already something you need to disclose on every post?

mc32 said 8 months ago:

I guess the old adage “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” applies...

firethief said 8 months ago:

Ah yes, the California Bind.

giarc said 7 months ago:

The influencers did say it was sponsored by Bloomberg. Most IG people will use the #ad to indicate it's an ad. Some don't.

dmode said 7 months ago:

It is nuts that two 100 year old billionaires are trying to become president by out-meming each other. Can’t wait to wake up from this alternate reality

said 8 months ago:
demadog said 7 months ago:

Could actually be a way to avoid Russian influence since we know they don’t know how to create English ads with a sense of humor.

said 8 months ago:
said 7 months ago:
umeshunni said 8 months ago:

Ok boomer

themagician said 8 months ago:

Boomers are the majority on Facebook now.

You’ve got it kind of backwards. Nice try though.

golemiprague said 8 months ago:

I don't understand this appeal for facebook to be politics babysitter, if anything I would want them not to do anything or interfere in any way. Let people speak their minds and leave me alone to decide.

toberemoved11 said 7 months ago:

People don't realize that this very platform is controlling your discussion.

I'll be auto deleted by the wise HN algo it 'impartial' and godly mods

sys_64738 said 8 months ago:

Ban all political ads. Simple as.

vertig0h said 8 months ago:

Bloomberg has little organic support compared to the hundreds of millions he is spending. 2016 was clear evidence that money does not buy elections (Clinton outspent Trump 2:1) and this election cycle will demonstrate the same as Bloomberg loses the primary.

behringer said 8 months ago:

If history demonstrates anything, it's that money can buy you the democratic nomination. Bloomerg may well ruin the party and allow Trump to win the election.

tathougies said 8 months ago:

It is neither the job of Facebook nor the government to ensure the continued survival or viability of the Democratic or any party

vertig0h said 8 months ago:

Unfortunately Facebook and other tech companies have strong incentives to do just that, given the politics of the large majority of their employees and the power they have over information and elections by extension.

raister said 8 months ago:

money money money, money!

lyrics to their ears

to hell with doing the good to the people, let's get rich first!

Seenso said 8 months ago:

> to hell with doing the good to the people, let's get rich first!

The real sad thing is that some people don't seem to know the difference. They've convinced themselves that whatever they do to make money means they must be doing good, otherwise the "market" wouldn't reward it.

raister said 7 months ago:

where is my post that was here?

Zenst said 8 months ago:

Who knew 1984 was a business model.

tathougies said 8 months ago:

This is literally the opposite of 1984 because it lets anyone put a political message up, rather than just the governing party. 1984 would be Facebook disallowing paid ads and thus the only organization with enough reach to spread its message would be the government, which would end up meaning the executive branch

KoftaBob said 8 months ago:

This isn't directly related to political ads on social media, but I think it's absurd we ever created a system where elections became a fundraising arms race. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that system inevitably leads to bad incentives.

Every election in the US should require a publicly funded pool that's equally divided between the top ____ candidates using polling numbers to determine who those are. Any funding outside of that public fund should be banned.

This way, candidates focus their time and energy on catering to the largest number of voters, not the largest sources of donations. No donations whatsoever should be allowed, full stop.