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In politics and pandemics, trolls use fear, anger to drive clicks

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them.”

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Facebook users flipping through their feeds in the fall of 2016 faced a minefield of targeted advertisements pitting blacks against police, southern whites against immigrants, gun owners against Obama supporters and the LGBTQ community against the conservative right.

Photo by @uck from Unsplash.com

Placed by distant Russian trolls, they didn’t aim to prop up one candidate or cause, but to turn Americans against one another.

The ads were cheaply made and full of threatening, vulgar language.

And, according to a sweeping new analysis of more than 2,500 of the ads, they were remarkably effective, eliciting clickthrough rates as much as nine times higher than what is typical in digital advertising.

“We found that fear and anger appeals work really well in getting people to engage,” said lead author Chris Vargo, an assistant professor of Advertising, Public Relations and Media Design at University of Colorado Boulder.

The study, published in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, is the first to take a comprehensive look at ads placed by the infamous Russian propaganda machine known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and ask: How effective were they? And what makes people click on them?

While focused on ads running in 2016, the study’s findings resonate in the age of COVID-19 and the run-up to the 2020 election, the authors say.

“As consumers continue to see ads that contain false claims and are intentionally designed to use their emotions to manipulate them, it’s important for them to have cool heads and understand the motives behind them,” said Vargo.

For the study, Vargo and assistant professor of advertising Toby Hopp scoured 2,517 Facebook and Instagram ads downloaded from the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence website. The committee made the ads publicly available in 2018 after concluding that the IRA had been creating fake U.S. personas, setting up fake social media pages, and using targeted paid advertising to “sow discord” among U.S. residents.

Using computational tools and manual coding, Vargo and Hopp analyzed every ad, looking for the inflammatory, obscene or threatening words and language hostile to a particular group’s ethnic, religious or sexual identity. They also looked at which groups each ad targeted, how many clicks the ad got, and how much the IRA paid.

Collectively, the IRA spent about $75,000 to generate about 40.5 million impressions with about 3.7 million users clicking on them – a clickthrough rate of 9.2%.

That compares to between .9% and 1.8% for a typical digital ad.

While ads using blatantly racist language didn’t do well, those using cuss words and inflammatory words (like “sissy,” “idiot,” “psychopath” and “terrorist”) or posing a potential threat did. Ads that evoked fear and anger did the best.

One IRA advertisement targeting users with an interest in the Black Lives Matter movement stated: “They killed an unarmed guy again! We MUST make the cops stop thinking that they are above the law!” Another shouted: “White supremacists are planning to raise the racist flag again!” Meanwhile, ads targeting people who sympathized with white conservative groups read “Take care of our vets; not illegals” or joked “If you voted for Obama: We don’t want your business because you are too stupid to own a firearm.”

Only 110 out of 2,000 mentioned Donald Trump.

“This wasn’t about electing one candidate or another,” said Vargo. “It was essentially a make-Americans-hate-each-other campaign.”

The ads were often unsophisticated, with spelling or grammatical errors and poorly photoshopped images. Yet at only a few cents to distribute, the IRA got an impressive rate of return.

“I was shocked at how effective these appeals were,” said Vargo.

The authors warn that they have no doubt such troll farms are still at it.

According to some news reports, Russian trolls are already engaged in disinformation campaigns around COVID-19.

“I think with any major story, you are going to see this kind of disinformation circulated,” said Hopp. “There are bad actors out there who have goals that are counter to the aspirational goals of American democracy, and there are plenty of opportunities for them to take advantage of the current structure of social media.”

Ultimately, the authors believe better monitoring, via both machine algorithms and human reviewers, could help stem the tide of disinformation.

“We as a society need to start seriously talking about what role the platforms and government should play in times like the 2020 election or during COVID-19 when we have a compelling need for high-quality, accurate information to be distributed,” said Hopp.

NEWSMAKERS

Tech-related jealousy is real… including LGBTQIAs

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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Photo by @nordwood from Unsplash.com

Social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults.

This is according to a Pew Research Center study (with the survey conducted in October 2019, though the study was only released recently) that found that, indeed, many people encounter tech-related struggles with their significant others.

In “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age”, Pew Research Center noted that “younger people value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life.” However, “they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.”

Twenty-three percent (23%) of adults with partners who use social media say they have felt jealous or unsure about their relationship because of the way their current spouse or partner interacts with other people on social media.

Now get this: the number is higher among those in younger age groups.

Among partnered adults whose significant other uses social media, 34% of 18- to 29-year-olds and 26% of those ages 30 to 49 say they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media. This is definitely higher than the 19% of those aged 50 to 64 who say this, and 4% of those ages 65 and up.

The insecurity is also common among those not married – i.e. 37% of unmarried adults with partners who are social media users say they have felt this way about their current partner, while only 17% of married people say the same.

Women are reportedly more likely to express displeasure with how their significant other interacts with others on social media (29% vs. 17% for men).

Meanwhile, college graduates are less likely to report having felt this way than those with some college experience or a high school degree or less.

And yes, LGBTQIA community members are no different.

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of LGB partnered adults whose significant other uses social media report that they have felt jealous or unsure in their current relationship because of how their partner interacted with others on social media (versus 22% of straight people who say this).

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NEWSMAKERS

LGB online daters report positive experiences… plus harassment

LGB online daters are more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults who use online dating sites and apps generally report that their experiences with online dating have been positive – even more than straight online daters (65% said their experience was very or somewhat positive, versus 56% of straight online daters).

This is according to a Pew Research Center survey, which found that a majority of LGB adults (55%) report that they have used an online dating site or app at some point, roughly twice the share of straight adults (28%) who say the same.

Among LGB adults who are married, living with a partner, or in a committed relationship, 28% say they met their current partner online. This is more than double when compared with 11% of partnered straight adults.

Also, among LGB people who are now single and looking for a relationship or dates, 37% are currently online dating (versus 24% of straight people who are single and looking).

However – and this is worth highlighting – LGB online daters are also more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).

More than half of LGB online daters (56%) say they have received a sexually explicit message or image they did not ask for, compared with 32% of straight online daters who say the same.

Stalking was also raised as an issue, with roughly half of LGB online daters (48%) saying that someone continued to contact them after they said they weren’t interested, compared with 35% of their straight counterparts.

About four in 10 LGB online daters (41%) say someone called them an offensive name on one of these sites or apps – 16 percentage points higher than the share of straight online daters (25%) who say the same.

Lastly, 17% of LGB online daters said that someone on a dating site or app threatened to physically harm them. This is more than twice the share of straight online daters (7%).

Perhaps not surprisingly, according to the Pew Research Center survey, LGB adults who have ever online dated are more likely than straight online daters to think harassment and bullying is a “common problem” on dating sites and apps (70%, compared to 61% of non-LGBs).

No matter the drawbacks, don’t expect online daters – LGBT or straight – to just dump it.

As per the Pew Research Center survey, even among those who experienced at least one of the asked-about forms of harassment on dating sites and apps, they still said that online dating is safe for the most part. Three-quarters of LGB people who have experienced at least one of the harassing behaviors saying it’s a very or somewhat safe way to meet someone, with 64% of straight online daters who have been harassed agreeing.

And with 78% of LGBT online daters (and 69% of their straight counterparts) still believing that dating sites and apps are a very or somewhat safe way to meet people, this trend isn’t going anywhere soon…

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Lifestyle & Culture

See all the new features that have been confirmed from ‘World of Warcraft: Shadowlands’

Here’s a look at all the details Blizzard has revealed about Shadowlands so far, so you can learn more about the changes this popular MMORPG will receive.

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World of Warcraft is the most representative MMORPG of all and throughout its long history has known how to keep its players faithful to the game, even for more than a decade. One of the main reasons for WoW’s success has been its expansions, which have known how to improve and change the World of Warcraft atmosphere. 

During BlizzCon 2019, the annual event organized by Blizzard where the next releases of this company are announced, the highlight was undoubtedly the confirmation of the much awaited Overwatch 2 and Diablo IV, but also caused quite excitement the announcement of the new expansion of World of Warcraft.

The new expansion of this emblematic MMORPG is called World of Warcraft: Shadowlands and will be launched this year. That said, here’s a look at all the details Blizzard has revealed about Shadowlands so far, so you can learn more about the changes this popular MMORPG will receive.

The inclusion of the Covenants

One of the new mechanics that Shadowlands will include is the inclusion of “Covenants”. At a certain point in the Shadowlands, the heroes will have to choose which Covenant they will join. The Covenants consist of congregations that have different objectives in the Shadowlands, which are based on achieving balance in these lands. Each of the covenants in the game will have its own tabernacle, a place where the characters will congregate.

In the tabernacles, it will be possible to accept unique missions for each pact participate in an exclusive campaign and invoke allies to carry out important missions. In addition, players will be able to learn unique abilities based on the Covenant they have selected as well as their own mount, unique skins and new skills. Blizzard is still debating whether the aforementioned unique items in each pact can be equipped on other characters or will be exclusive to the hero who unlocks them.

The new and interesting huge dungeon of Shadowlands

WoW expansions have always offered interesting raids and dungeons that always end up being a real challenge for players, and Shadowlands is no exception. This expansion will include a new dungeon that can be explored alone or by a group of up to five people, called “Torghast, the tower of the damned”. It has been confirmed that this dungeon will be huge and will be characterized by the fact that its content will be generated in a completely random way every time someone goes inside.

The most dangerous souls in the cosmos and the greatest heroes of Azeroth are confined to this tower, while the whole place is ruled by the jailer. The players must go through the different floors of this dungeon until they manage to rescue them all. As players progress through the tower, they will be unlocking more powers and unique items that will be essential to continue their lives to the end. Blizzard has also confirmed that if enough progress is made in Torghast, materials will be available that will be needed to create legendary armours and weapons along with other surprises to be discovered in the future.

The maximum level will have a new regulation

One of the first features that Shadowlands will have is confirmation of a rumor that has been around for a long time.  Since the Burning Crusade expansion, the maximum level that characters could reach has been constantly increasing with each expansion that was released, until the current Battle for Azeroth, where the maximum level reached 120, which turned out to be an unnecessarily huge amount for Blizzard, so it was decided to reduce everything by half.

That said, the new maximum level that can be reached in Shadowlands will be level 60. This change will cause all characters who are level 120 to be level 50 when they arrive at Shadowlands, where players will have to get the experience necessary to get back to the maximum level which this time is 60.

This new level regulation will be realized because Blizzard has the desire to make sense of the task of raising levels again. Currently in Battle for Azeroth, reaching level 120 takes an excessive amount of time and is usually not very rewarding. For this reason, Blizzard hopes that with this regulation, players will once again find the thrill of leveling up and that they will clearly notice the character’s improvement as they progress.

In addition to these changes, new characters will now be introduced to a new area exclusively for them, where everyone with a level from 1 to 10 will be able to explore a dungeon that will function as a tutorial on Azeroth. All characters with insufficient level to enter Shadowlands will have the freedom to enjoy any content from the previous expansion (Battle for Azeroth) or they will also be able to contact Cromi to travel to the past and be able to face the missions of Terrallende, Rasganorte, Pandaria, etc. Until they reach the required level 50.

Other interesting news

It is known that Shadowlands will be distributed in three different editions that will differ in the content they will include and in their price.

It should also be noted that in this new expansion the inhabitants of the Eternal City of Shadowlands will be able to trade anima, which will be used for in-game exchanges. This change in the economic system of WoW can have a significant influence on the parallel trades that sell WoW gold, because with this new expansion, players must take into account the anima before considering to buy WoW Gold.

So far, it has been confirmed that Shadowlands will have eight dungeons, four of which will be used to level up, while the rest will be focused on completing them with the maximum level, such as the Nathria Castle raid, which will have a total of ten final bosses to defeat.

Another very interesting aspect that Shadowlands will include is the diversity of skin colors for its characters in order to better represent reality. Although this detail is better appreciated in humans, it is also expected to be included in the other races.

Those were all the features that are known so far in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, which are quite interesting and have a lot of anticipation for its players. Having said that, we’ll just have to wait and see what big changes the unbeatable World of Warcraft will undergo.

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Shopping

Apple joins 2020’s rainbow retail with Pride-inspired watch

As June nears, expect businesses (even those that used to be anti-LGBTQIA, or at least mum about this issue until profiting from it was seen) to start using the rainbow – long considered as a symbol of LGBT Pride – to sell goods.

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As June nears, expect businesses (even those that used to be anti-LGBTQIA, or at least mum about this issue until profiting from it was seen) to start using the rainbow – long considered as a symbol of LGBT Pride to sell goods.

Among the early starters this year is Apple, which launched the artful Pride Edition Sport Band, which is joined for the first time by the new Apple Watch Nike Pride Edition Sport Band. Both are available from apple.com, the Apple Store app, and Apple stores, and pair with matching Pride Watch faces that are coming soon as a part of watchOS 6.2.5.

Fortunately (at least for Americans), Apple (and Nike) support LGBTQIA organizations doing advocacy and community-building, including GLSEN, PFLAG, The Trevor Project, Gender Spectrum, The National Center for Transgender Equality, and ILGA World.

So… as June approaches, savor the colors of the rainbow, while discussing profiteering of and within the LGBTQIA community.

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Technology

Hidden smartphone features that can make your life easier

Smartphones have some hidden but exciting features.

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We can testify that our smartphones have been doing wonders for us. Some of us have won real money at online casinos only by playing our favorite cinema casino online slots  games on our mobile devices. 

But as much as we have been winning big money at online casinos using our smartphones, there is a whole lot more that they can offer to make our life easier. Smartphones have some hidden but exciting features. For instance, are you aware that the iPhone keyboard consists of never-ending features that will surely make your life smooth-sailing? 

Without much ado, let’s take a moment to look at some of the hidden features that you didn’t know about. 

Take a Screenshot Without Using Buttons

We all take screenshots with the assistance of the two buttons. But do you know that you can simply swipe the screen with your palm on the screen to take a screenshot on the android device? This exciting feature is mostly disabled on most phones. To make use of it, you can simply go to setting, “My device”, “motions and gestures,” then enable “palm motion.”

Schedule your Smartphone’s Power on and off

This is one of the exciting features that quite a number of people are familiar with. Some just know It but they haven’t put into consideration what benefits it have for you. Well, this smartphone feature will protect you not to have smartphone addiction. And for casino games online players, it will allow you to practice responsible gambling as well.

To activate this clinical smartphone feature, simply go to settings and under the “System” section click “Schedule power on and off.” Thereafter, you can select the time to power on and power off your mobile phone device. It’s just as simple as that. 

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Lifestyle & Culture

Foolproof ways to become a star on YouTube

After you have your basics covered, you’re going to want to start getting as many viewers as you can by posting videos regularly and making them feature up to date topics.

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Ever wondered what it would be like to be a YouTube star? This question may seem like one you’d ask yourself in a daydream, but in fact people from every walk of life become new YouTuber stars all the time. If you want to start on your path to becoming an internet celebrity your first step should be to figure out a topic you’d enjoy discussing and then find a special niche for your videos within it. After you have your basics covered, you’re going to want to start getting as many viewers as you can by posting videos regularly and making them feature up to date topics. Finally, be sure to collaborate with other YouTubers or celebrities on videos to boost your exposure to potential viewers and be sure to engage your fans as much as possible to keep them interested in you. 

This video will go over 6 foolproof ways to become a star on YouTube. 

1. Start With Your Passion

The first thing you should think about before starting your own YouTube channel is what your passion is and what sort of videos you’d enjoy making. After all, would the fame really be worth it if you had to create content on subject matter that bored you? If you really like math maybe you could start an educational channel on trigonometry or maybe if you’re really into hiking maybe you can start posting videos about cool outdoor locations in your area, really the possibilities are endless. Regardless of your passion you’ll always want to ensure that you’re using high-quality video. If you want to avoid grainy webcams, click here to help create videos that are aesthetic. When you find a topic that fascinates you your energy will be visible in your videos. 

2. Collaborate With Other YouTubers

In the past few years it’s been a recent trend that separate YouTubers collaborate on certain videos to create hybrid content. If you need help figuring out how to collaborate with other YouTubers there’s a lot of information you can find on the internet to help you out. Many YouTubers may see other channels as a competition but in fact collaboration between different channels has been shown to boost both channels viewership. 

3. Find a Niche 

Once you’ve found a general topic you’d like to make videos on now it’s time to find your niche within the YouTube community. For example if you really like talking about exotic animals maybe you might want to focus on a more specific subtopic on talking about Kangaroos or maybe if you want to discuss different historical battles maybe you add other aspects to your videos like singing or dancing. Once you’ve figured out a good niche for your channel be sure to check the rest of YouTube for similar content to see what your competition looks like if it exists already.  

4. Post Multiple Times a Week

One of the best ways to get lots of attention to your channel is to post videos as regularly as possible. The more videos you post the more tags your channel will have that can bring in new viewers. Your viewers will also appreciate that you post videos frequently since they’ll have more content to consume. As a start try to post just one video a week but as your videos get more attention try to challenge yourself and post 2 – 3 videos a week. 

5. Stay Up to date

An easy way to raise your viewership is to post about recent events or trends so you can take advantage of their buzz. If there’s a viral dance post of your own version of it or if there’s currently an interesting event that just happened in world politics consider sharing your opinion on it. Be sure to try to post these types of videos as soon as possible since you don’t want to miss the wave. 

6. Engage Your Fans

One foolproof way of becoming a full-fledged YouTube star is to engage your fans as much as possible since this can help make them more loyal and share your videos with their friends. Be sure to comment on your fan’s posts as this will help make a connection with them. Another great way to help show your fans some love is to do merchandise giveaways at the end of your videos which actually helps you get your name out at the same time. 

Anyone can post videos on YouTube but if you want to become a true star within the community there are a few tips you’ll be wanting to follow. Before making any videos your first step should be to find a topic that you really like and find your own niche for your video’s content. Next, to start gaining popularity, post videos as frequently as you can and make sure your posts are on up to date topics if possible. Lastly, keep your hype up by collaborating on your videos with other YouTubers and be sure to engage your fans as much as you can. Now you have all the knowledge you need to become a Youtube star!

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