Grandma’s Retweets: How Suburban Seniors Spread Disinformation

from the get-the-karens-to-log-out dept

In recent years, there have been concerns about social media and disinformation. The narrative has three dominant threads: (1) foreign troll farms pushing disinfo, (2) grifter “influencers” pushing disinfo, and (3) the poor kids these days suckered in by disinformation.
A new study in Science suggests that instead of the kids or the trolls, perhaps we should be concerned about suburban moms. We discussed this on the most recent Ctrl-Alt-Speech episode, but let’s look more closely at the details.
The authors of the report got access to data on over 600,000 registered voters on Twitter (back when it was still Twitter), looking at data shared during the 2020 election. They found a small number of “supersharers” of false information, who were older suburban Republican women.
The researchers found that although the number of supersharers seemed low, they had a decent following. It’s not surprising, as people are more likely to follow those who share “useful” links (though, obviously it depends on what people consider “useful”).
None of this is to say that there aren’t Democrats who share fake news (there are) or men (obviously, there are) or young people (again, duh). But there appears to be a cluster of older Republican women who do so at a ridiculous pace. This chart below is fairly damning. Even as the panel had a higher Democratic component, Democrats were much more likely to share “non-fake” news (“SS-NF”) as compared to fake news or, and much less likely to be “supersharers.”
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The age distribution is also pretty notable as well:
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Basically, the further you go down the spreading false info chart, the likely you are to be older.
This isn’t wholly surprising. It’s been said that the worst misinfo spreaders are boomers on social media who lack media literacy to understand that Turducken301384 isn’t reliable source. But it’s nice to see a study backing that up.
What will be more interesting is to see what happens over time. Will the issue of disinformation and misinformation diminish as younger, internet-savvy generations grow up, or will new issues arise?
My sense is that part of this is just the “adjustment” period to a new communication medium. A decade and a half ago, Clay Shirky talked about the generational divide over new technologies, and how it took more or less a century of upheaval before people became comfortable with the printing press existing and able to produce things that (*gasp*) everyone might read.
It feels like we might be going through something similar with the internet. Though it’s frustrating that the policy discussion is mostly dominated by some of that older generation who really, really, really wants to blame the tools and the young people, rather than maybe taking a harder look at themselves.
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from the caveats-apply dept

Kind of an odd bit of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence here, given all the factors. (h/t
Obviously, some conversations have an expectation of privacy, even when they’re held in police interrogation rooms. Those would be ones between the suspect and their legal representation. But that’s not really a Fourth Amendment issue as it is about privileged communications. The government isn’t allowed to eavesdrop on suspects as they work on a legal defense and/or make statements to their lawyer.
Then there’s the assumption that pretty much everything a cop would like to listen to is recorded, starting with anything said in interrogation rooms (minus attorney-client communications) and ending with phone calls placed from jail phones. (On the other hand, if a cop doesn’t want anyone to hear the conversation, recordings in interrogation rooms just disappear, or never spring into existence.)
That’s one assumption of the expectation of privacy: there isn’t one. But, as this decision [PDF] from the Supreme Court of Rhode Island points out, there can be an expectation of privacy in interrogation room conversations with people who aren’t cops. It won’t work for everyone. There are a lot of things that need to happen, beginning with a solid invocation of rights by the person being interrogated.
It began this way:
The usual coercion didn’t work. Marklyn Brown steadfastly refused to talk to the police officers. He repeatedly expressed his willingness to speak to only one person: his mother. This statement — along with all his refusals to talk to the officers — was captured by the PD’s recording devices.
Despite explicitly acknowledging the facts that Brown would not talk to them and only wanted to talk to his mom, the officers continued interrogating him for another three hours. Detective Michael’s promise to “get on” that phone call to Brown’s mom was apparently just another of those famous cop conversational tactics. You know: a lie.
Finally, the officers did bring in Brown’s mom to talk with him. The officers then implied he was being left alone to have a private conversation.
The detectives then physically left the room to give Brown the privacy they insinuated they were providing him with. But they didn’t shut off their recording devices. They listened in on this “private” conversation, interrogated Brown for three more hours, and then finally allowed him to return to his cell.
This led to the trial court suppressing the evidence the cops had obtained by eavesdropping:
The government appealed this decision, arguing that there’s no expectation of privacy in conversations held in interrogation rooms where cops have access to recording devices. But that’s simply not true, says the court. And the Rhode Island State Constitution. And the US Constitution.
Brown had made it exceedingly clear he was going to exercise his right to remain silent by refusing to talk to the officers. He also made it clear he only wished to speak to one person, who definitely wasn’t a cop. The cops led him to believe this conversation would be private. They made the same insinuation to his mother when she was allowed to speak to him.
It was only after they’d already violated the Constitution that they went in and made it clear to Mr. Brown that they’d done exactly that. Unbelievably, it’s this unforced error the government thinks should have waived any privacy expectations Brown might have had.
Aha! said the government. He did know his “private” conversation was being recorded, ipso facto no expectation of privacy.
But that’s not how this works, says the court. Not under the Constitution, whether it’s the one put together by the federal government or the one we’ve erected in Rhode Island.
And arguing that Brown should have assumed any conversation he had in this room would be listened to by cops misses the point, as well. Just because it might be reasonable to assume this doesn’t mean a reasonable expectation of privacy in conversations with non-cops simply doesn’t exist. Especially not when a suspect has already invoked (even indirectly) the right to remain silent by making it clear they will not talk to cops. That all of this occurred in the confines of a police interrogation room changes nothing.
That’s the key part there: because he had invoked his right to remain silent, even without a recognized expectation of privacy, the officers would have still been denied access to this evidence because it was obtained by someone else and never offered directly to the officers by the person on the other end of the conversation.
Of course, this just means the cops are free to try to sweat down the other end of the conversation. But since they’re not suspected of any criminal acts, they’ve got more options, including a flat refusal to discuss the conversation. And if the only reason officers are interested in this person because they eavesdropped on a conversation the conversants assumed would be private, they can’t even use this illicit information gain as leverage against the non-suspect.
So, it is held: there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy in some conversations occurring in cop sweat boxes, but probably only in cases where rights have been invoked and cops have been dumb enough to ensure people their conversation would be private shortly before they all put their headphones on and started listening in.
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from the death-and-video-games dept

In my basement at home, I have a handful of old gaming consoles that were left to our family after other family members either got too old to want them any longer or after they passed away. Coming along with them are a handful of games for those consoles. As a result of the physical nature of those products, my young kids at home have been able to play those games on their old consoles and using old controllers.
But if those games had been bought digitally, none of that would have happened. Ars Technica has a short but interesting post about what happens to your PC gaming library after you die. And the answer is essentially this: those games just go away.
Now, there are obviously workarounds for this sort of thing. I could very easily go into the will we have setup for our family and just jot down my Steam login and password. But that’s not really the same thing, nor does it address the overall issue that exists with the ownership of the digital game library I have. And from a purely logical standpoint, there is little reason why I should be able to will a boxed copy of a game I bought to a family member, but I cannot do the same for the exact same game I bought for the exact same price if it’s digital.
And these same ownership and transferability questions are present not just in matters of our own corporeal existence, but on matters of game preservation as well.
There are obviously differences between a digital and physical product. But game publishers mostly ignore those differences entirely. A physical copy of a game typically costs exactly the same dollar amount as a digital copy, despite the lack of a need to pay for the physical medium and packaging costs. Copyright laws apply to both equally.
So why aren’t customer rights around ownership and first sale doctrines likewise still applied to this content that has been “bought,” at least such that my kids or a charity of my choice can inherit my game library in the event that I get run over by a car?