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Hullabaloo


Thursday, May 17, 2018

 
Wingnut Propaganda FTW

by digby




I have noticed a lot more wingnut propaganda on YouTube lately and I guess this is why:

A network of dozens of automated, robot-driven YouTube channels are pumping out thousands of right-wing propaganda videos that have racked up hundreds of millions of views — and it seems Google isn’t doing anything to stop it.

With the November midterms looming and worries growing that disinformation campaigns will undermine the outcome of the elections, channels with names like World Broadcast, Breaking News Today, Latest News Today, Breaking News 24h, Hot News Today 365, USA News Feeder, or simply Hot News are popping up all over YouTube, with one clear strategy: to turn fringe right-wing blog posts into machine-narrated videos they can promote as breaking news.


“They upload thousands of new videos every month and are getting tens of millions of views each month,” said Christoph Burseg, an online marketing expert who specializes in video trends on YouTube.

For years, YouTube has been plagued with conspiracy theories and fake news, but these automated accounts that pump out pro-Trump propaganda present a new problem for the company — and it appears there’s little they can do about it.

Some of the channels VICE News reviewed have been operating for over a year, churning out hundreds of poorly produced robot videos every day, racking up hundreds of millions of views. Instead of earning ad dollars, the primary aim of these channels appears to be winning subscribers and funneling traffic to conservative blogs like Right Wing News and Truthfeed News.

“This is a new frontier of repurposing content, via a spoken audio API, where the lines get pretty blurred.”

Jonathan Albright, research director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, said that while the current network of channels don’t appear to be nefarious in nature, their very presence shows just how easily YouTube can be weaponized. “This is a new frontier of repurposing content, via a spoken audio API, where the lines get pretty blurred,” Albright told VICE News, adding: “YouTube is becoming a really interesting battleground right now.”

The operators of the channels are anonymous, but they seem to be well-versed in SEO marketing and understand intimately how the YouTube algorithm works. The result is explosive growth at virtually no cost to the creators.

“These channels are getting an 8-digit number of YouTube views every month, and they are designed to stir up outrage, to feed existing worldviews, and to amplify fears,” Burseg said.

While videos from popular YouTube channels like Jake Paul and PewDiePie regularly rack up millions of views, that is not the case for the typical bot-driven channel. An investigation last year by Albright of a network of 19 channels producing AI-generated content, found almost 70,000 videos with just a few hundred views a piece — highlighting just how surprisingly successful this new network has been at getting eyeballs on pro-Trump content.

"We've tried to report it to YouTube, but they tell us it’s not in any violation.”

The channels promise “24-hour,” “impartial,” “comprehensive” information on politics and world news, but in reality they’ve uploaded thousands of videos with a pro-Trump or anti-Democrat stance since 2016, racking up millions of views and tens of thousands of subscribers along the way. Breaking News Today, which even has a verified tick from YouTube, alone has netted almost 150 million views since 2016.

Burseg first spotted the phenomenon using his own YouTube analytics tool to search for Trump-focused channels. He quickly realized that a number of these channels were producing very similar content that was being uploaded in large numbers. Burseg believes that the similarities among these channels and how their content is posted suggests this is a small, fairly centralized operation. “I would not be surprised if it was only a couple of people running all these channels,” he said.

The scripts for the videos are typically sourced from fringe right-wing online publications like Truthfeed, Mad World News, Right Wing Tribune, and Right Wing News.

Breaking News Today is the most prolific of the channels with titles like “Trump Laughs As Obama Finds Out Exactly How John Kerry Helped Kill The Iran Deal” and “Clint Eastwood Had Enough, Blows Up On Hillary And Obama… Liberals Are Furious.”

I watched a Trump voter focus group on MSNBC the other day and it was clear that they are completely 100% deluded. Either that or they are excellent liars. Either way, they are clearly inundated with this kind of lunacy.

This is a bigger problem than people want to admit. Those everyday Americans are living in an alternate universe.

MATTHEWS: Welcome back to HARDBALL.

In a focus group in Wisconsin held by Emory University and pollster Peter Hart, Trump voters echoed many
of the president`s talking points.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call it a farce by – created by the deep state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe it was a witch hunt to overturn an
election. He actually is there finding stuff that should be investigated
on the Democratic Party`s side and all of this stuff that they say that
Trump did they`re finding out that the Democrats did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s been going on for a year and a half. They`ve
found nothing. They told, oh, there`s something, there`s something. We`ll
find it, we`ll find it. There`s nothing.

When Hillary was secretary of state, she made a deal with uranium
enrichment selling it to the Russians. That`s known. But they`re still
looking for stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: And here`s how they described special counsel Robert Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Desperate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unethical.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Liar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Partisan.

Just remember, you are required to respect them.

.