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Last Week in Discourse: 100% Ghost Trends
AI enshittifies Google, Shaun King frees Palestine, and Ghost Trends on Twitter
Welcome to another week, internet gremlins. Last week was so filled with social media nonsense that it was legitimately difficult to fit it all in. This post is less organized than usual because of the sheer volume of claptrap, hogwash, and baloney, but we’re gonna jump straight into it.
Ghost Trends on Twitter
Something odd happened on Twitter last week that I haven’t seen get much mainstream attention. I spend a decent amount of time checking the ‘Trending’ tab on Twitter, because the nature of running this blog means I always want to know what’s popular or trending online. Over the last year as Elon’s been in control of Twitter, the amount of spam on popular trending topics and hashtags has increased. It usually looks like this: an unrelated post that spams a ton of popular hashtags in order to be seen by people searching those hashtags.
This video of ‘DJ Chicken’ is spammed with hashtags related to the TV show Big Brother, the Gaza conflict, BBC’s morning show and the stock market crash. This sort of spam has been making trending less useful for a while now.
But the #stockmarketcrash in there is particularly interesting. Normally these tags are stolen from real and popular topics like Gaza or fandoms. But #stockmarketcrash appears to have been an immaculate conception. There was no crash in the stock market. Nobody on Twitter was talking about a crash in the stock market. Somehow at least one or two of these spam accounts used #stockmarketcrash, and then a bunch of others noticed and also started including it in their list of spammy hashtags. Enough of them did this that #stockmarketcrash was actually trending. A pure, 100% spam, 0% content trending topic. Check it out for yourself.
I also saw ‘The End’ trend this week, which was just a series of completely unrelated posts using the banal phrase ‘the end’ in some way. Trending might be dying. Concerning! Looking into this. Might be time for me to seriously start using Threads and BlueSky more often.
AI enshittifies Google
Lots of tech commentators have been warning that the proliferation of AI content is going to spell trouble for search engines. And it looks like we’ve now had our first viral case of Google sucking up incorrect AI content and spitting out a stupid answer:
There’s more background on how this happened here. Essentially, it seems like the Kenya ‘fact’ was used as a popular example of how ChatGPT hallucinates and gets things wrong. It then spread around the web and became semi-popular and viral, at which point Google’s algorithm noticed it. Now it’s the first result for “African country that starts with K” because the algorithm is trained to put viral things with lots of links at the top, not trained to have any sense of whether the information is correct.
Big thanks to all the paid subscribers who make Infinite Scroll possible. You’re all wonderful!
This is a bit of a niche case because the Kenya example was *intended* as an example of disinformation, but expect this sort of thing to happen more often in the future.
The Real Hero of Palestine
Shaun King, aka Martin Luther Cream, aka Thurgood Partial, aka Frauderick Douglas1 is more than just an activist slash scammer with a talent for stealing funds from Tamir Rice’s mother, falsely accusing people of shooting seven year-olds, and raising money and then absconding with it.2
He’s also, apparently, a hostage negotiator!
Last week Shaun attempted to take credit for Hamas releasing hostages, stating that he was ‘working frantically behind the scenes to make this happen’ and that he had been in contact with with some of the victims and their families. This was basically just a series of wild lies that he was immediately called out for. Including by the victims and their families! I don’t understand what he thought was going to happen.
King may be the single most shameless grifter I’ve ever encountered, and I say this as someone who’s run a podcast series devoted to grifters. Take a look at this post. This is such a shameless level of self-aggrandization I almost can’t help but respect it.
Shaun’s heroism doesn’t stop at staring moodily out of windows and pretending to be a hostage negotiator. He’s also now pretending to be a war crimes investigator!
He’s a vile human being who grifts donations from the absolute dumbest people on the planet, but on some level I respect his audacity. Can’t wait for 2024 when he’s going to return democracy to Hong Kong, solve cold fusion and save the rainforest.
It’s always on Infinite Scroll first
If you want to see what mainstream outlets will be talking about two weeks from now, you need to be on Infinite Scroll. This week’s example - three weeks ago we talked about how All Wars are now Flame Wars, and now NYMag comes out with The War of the Statements about the same.
Elsewhere in ‘Westerners engage in flame wars about a conflict that has nothing to do with them’ - people are scraping LinkedIn and creating lists of who supports Palestine.
Sadly, Even more Elon
There are a lot of people writing stories about Elon Musk. Most of these people are quite skeptical or hostile to Musk, and therefore the stories often have the undertone of “Musk is a big stupid baby acting like an immature child”. But rarely do we actually get a headline where it’s just… spelled out.
This in response to a disastrous earnings call for Tesla where Musk appeared distraught and incoherent. Quoting Wall Street analyst Kevin Paffrath:
Oh, my gosh, this was terrible. I feel bad for him. Look, he’s got a lot of things going on, legal battles, custody battles for his kids now, but it doesn’t justify acting like Trump on Twitter, stonewalling the SEC or the European Union, and quite frankly turning into a little baby on the earnings call.
I mean, he was almost in tears. It showed a complete lack of leadership. Tesla’s a leadership-less company right now and it’s terrible. That’s why their CFO just left, I believe, as well.
Fun times in Elon World! It’s been one full year since Elon formally bought Twitter. Elsewhere:
Twitter rolls out voice and video calls, for some reason.
Almost all of Twitter’s metrics are down except for ‘volume of Elon Musk posts’
Links and Posts
Apparently (and I cannot fathom I am writing these words) there are pro-Palestine protests being organized in Roblox. I really need to write more about Roblox - it’s a MASSIVE game with a young player base and almost nobody over the age of 30 knows anything about it.
There’s an interesting profile of Shams Charania, the NBA’s biggest reporter/insider. NBA reporting is no longer really about traditional journalism, analytical insight or writing ability. Shams is famously a terrible writer. Instead, Shams is king because he’s online 18 hours a day, has a massive network of informants and breaks news at lightning speed. Social media!
ICE has apparently been operating a service that will search immigrants’ social media for ‘derogatory speech’ towards the US. I don’t have a lot of commentary here other than ICE sucks and this sucks.
A new ‘data poisoning tool’ lets artists poison their digital art to prevent AI from using it. Essentially, the tool takes your art, changes a bunch of pixels in a way that are invisible to the human eye but legible to AI systems. Then the outputs of AI systems trained with that image are ruined.
Nate Silver has an interesting post on what the ‘For You’ algorithm is like for people without much posting history
Spotify is eating the music industry
The most cursed influencer product yet
The internet is filled with awful things. To make you feel better, here are some fun penguinos jumping down a staircase
Aka Mos Theft, W.E.B. Du Fraud, Pale Revere, Alexander Scamilton, Snow J Simpson, Crooker T Washington, and Cream Abdul Jabbar
The full list of Shaun King scandals would be much longer, but if you want to peruse his Wikipedia page for yourself be my guest
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the most and least trustworthy institutions on the internet, I think about Elon Musk and Wikipedia. But probably not in the order than Musk wants.
I am sure Musk would not run into any problems with the famously regulation-heavy banking sector, as he is such a stalwart defender of regulatory oversight.