Today’s Untrustworthy and Unethical Social Media Platform: LinkedIn

From 2015 to 2019, LinkedIn randomly varied the proportion of weak and strong contacts suggested to users by its “People You May Know” algorithm, the company’s  system for recommending new connections to “link” to. Researchers at LinkedIn, M.I.T., Stanford and Harvard Business School then analyzed aggregate data from the tests in a study published this month in the “Science.”

In other words, users were used as virtual lab rats, subjected to changes in how the platform served their job-hunting and networking interests without their knowledge or consent. It would have been easy and ethical to alert users to this experiment and allow them to out out, but no. The New York Times, ethically inert as usual, writes, “Experts who study the societal impacts of computing said conducting long, large-scale experiments on people that could affect their job prospects, in ways that are invisible to them, raised questions about industry transparency and research oversight.”

Raised questions? What questions? Such secret experimenting is wrong, manipulative, arrogant, irresponsible and unethical. There is no uncertainty on that point. In a statement, LinkedIn now claims that it has “acted consistently with” the company’s user agreement, privacy policy and member settings. The privacy policy, while stating that LinkedIn uses members’ personal data for research purposes, does not reveal that the company will secretly play with  user’s contacts in ways that might result in career or life course changes. The company also, naturally, engaged in the now compulsory “It isn’t what it is” blather,  saying it used the latest, “non-invasive” social science techniques to answer important research questions “without any experimentation on members.”

Of course it was “experimentation on members.”

LinkedIn’s policy for outside researchers seeking to analyze company data states that those researchers will not be able to “experiment or perform tests on our members,” but no policy statement explicitly informs consumers that LinkedIn itself can experiment or perform tests on its members. “During the tests, people who clicked on the ‘People You May Know’ tool and looked at recommendations were assigned to different algorithmic paths,” the New York Times explains. ” Some of those ‘treatment variants,’ as the study called them, caused LinkedIn users to form more connections to people with whom they had only weak social ties. Other tweaks caused people to form fewer connections with weak ties.”

Then the Times adds, disingenuously, “Whether most LinkedIn members understand that they could be subject to experiments that may affect their job opportunities is unknown.” No, it’s just impossible to prove they didn’t know. LinkedIn knew damn well they didn’t know. I didn’t know, for example, not that I rely upon or trust LinkedIn in any way.

None of the social media platforms are trustworthy, and anyone who participates in them should just assume that they will abuse their power while deceiving users whenever they see profit in it. These are unethical Big Tech entities run by unethical, dishonest people. Interact with them accordingly, if you have to interact with them at all.

UPDATE! “Wait: Why Did It Take A Congressional Commission To Point Out That A KKK Plaque Wasn’t Appropriate At West Point?” Answer: Because It Was Completely Appropriate…

I don’t like to reflexively blame the news media and it biases for my blog’s misinformation and wrong turns, but in this case, it’s justified. In yesterday’s post “Wait: Why Did It Take A Congressional Commission To Point Out That A KKK Plaque Wasn’t Appropriate At West Point?”

I expressed amazement that a Congressional commission had to protest the presence of a bronze artwork apparently commemorating the Ku Klux Klan that had been hanging in a West Point building for decades. “Finding out that a Klan plaque was on display all this time at West Point is like discovering that St. Paul’s Cathedral had a statue of Satan hanging around for centuries without anyone objecting,” I wrote, endorsing the commission’s clear belief that the plaque should be taken down.

My source was the New York Times, which yesterday professed that the origins of the plaque were shrouded in mystery, and which also provided no context or explanation for why the Klan made it into halls of the academy at all. Nice reporting there, Times! Today, in the same article, this appeared:

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Hump Day Ethics Harrumphs, 8/31/2022: Fake Science, Jumped Sharks, And Failures

The Pennsylvania Senate race is an embarrassment to the state, both parties and democracy generally. One of the most important and influential states can’t do better than find two ridiculously unqualified candidates. John Fetterman, the Democrat, is obviously still suffering the after-effects of a stroke: if he had any integrity, respect for the process and sense of responsibility, he would step aside and let someone healthy and mentally able run. (Admittedly, in a nation that elected an obvious dementia sufferer as President, the temptation to shrug off a mere stroke must be strong.) Fetterman has made it clear that he’s going to avoid any debates, because the man has trouble thinking and speaking—a definite problem. Running against him is “Dr. Oz,” whose only qualification that I can detect is that he’s a Trump-endorsed celebrity. Well, he’s also not a stroke victim.

I see today that a new poll shows that Trump’s candidate Herschel Walker has pulled ahead in the Georgia Senate race. Are conservatives and Republican supposed to be excited about that? Walker is less qualified to be a Senator than Dr. Oz.

When do the parties (and the public) get serious about competent government? Or perhaps the better question is “When did they stop being serious about competent government?”

1. Pssst! Great leaders don’t have their governments fall apart apart on their watch. The news media’s lionizing of Mikhail Gorbachev is transparent and absurd. It is like celebrating the superb leadership of King Louis the XVI in France. Gorby didn’t deliberately bring down the USSR, he just never understood that the only way a Communist nation like that can stay intact is with a one-party, totalitarian system. He was a weak, naive, idealistic leader in a place that couldn’t support his ideals, and he failed. Why is he being given a hero’s send-off in the mainstream media? It is one more effort by the Left to refuse to give its detested bete noire, Ronald Reagan, a strong and successful leader, due credit for his greatest achievement.

2. Not having functioning ethics alarms and being stupid too is not a recipe for success. I guess it would also help to be literate in popular culture: seeing “A Simple Plan” or “No Country for Old Men” could be useful. Crypto.com, the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world, was supposed to send Thevamanogari Manivel of Melbourne, Australia a small refund and deposited $10.5 million in her account instead. Now, running off and spending the money is obviously dishonest and unethical; it also should be obvious that the owners of that much money aren’t just going to let it go. Nevertheless, she indeed took the windfall and started spending it. The mess is now, we are told, “before the courts.”

I have often felt that when a bank or other entity makes a mistake like this, there ought to be some routine reward, a substantial one, if the recipient reports the error rather than taking the money and heading for the metaphorical hills.

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An Abject Grovel That Explains So Much

Ethics Alarms has frequently discussed the ethical and professional deterioration of the historian profession, as it, like so many other professions and institutions, has given up integrity for ideology and political agendas. History itself is under attack as a result, with historical censorship and airbrushing increasingly being favored over objective and balanced examination that does not distort past figures and events by the viewing them through the lens of “presentism.”

In an essay on the website of the American Historical Association, the organization’s president, James Sweet, offered constructive criticism of the trend, writing in part,

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Electric Cars And The “Following The Science” Lie

Policy-makers often use science, or perhaps more accurately “science” as dishonest justification for the policies they want to inflict for ideological motives. Climate change is perhaps the most glaring example, though the handling of the Wuhan virus runs a close second. Most government experts allow their political biases to slant their application of science in their advice and recommendations, and few elected officials comprehend science and relevant research sufficiently to make competent policy consistent with the nuances of the scientific matters involved.

Let’s look at electric vehicles, for example, which are currently being encouraged by tax credits.

Ashley Nunes, Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program fellow, has pointed out that a gas guzzler may, in some circumstance, actually be better for the environment than an electric vehicle. When did you hear anyone in the Biden administration admit that?

Nunes found that many owners of electric vehicles (EVs for short), usually wealthy Americans who take advantage of  federal tax credits to purchase one as a second car, are harming the environmental because they aren’t driving enough.

Manufacturers of electric cars need lithium, and finding and mining lithium  takes a lot of energy, with more still required to make a functional car battery out of it. Creating a clean-burning EV battery creates twice as much greenhouse gases as making an internal combustion engine.
Because, as Nunes explains, “an electric car is almost always cleaner to drive per mile compared to a gasoline-powered one, you can burn off the emissions associated with manufacturing the car.” Still, it takes 28,069 miles of driving, or about 2.73 years, for the EV to overcome its initial polluting disadvantage to gain a “green lead” on a gas-powered car with its low per-mile emissions. Paradoxically, you need to get people to drive more in order to get an emissions advantage…and all of the climate change propaganda is aimed at getting Americans to drive less. And since EV purchasers tend to be wealthier people who use them as a second cars, it takes about a decade for the electric cars to produce any emissions benefit. How many wealthy household hold on to a car of any kind for ten years?

Thus, Nunes has concluded, some people are “better off driving a gas-powered car if they care about the environment.” EV owners tend to sell the vehicle before it’s reached the green break-even point in miles. 

But wait—there’s more.  Nunes’  research indicates that people who own both gas  and electric-powered vehicles choose to drive the gas-powered one most of the time. It is the  people who buy EVs secondhand, the poorer households that drive them for many miles and years as their primary vehicle, who achieve  the emissions reductions that electric vehicles are supposed to provide. But government subsidies miss this group entirely! The federal government tax credit of up to $7,500 only accrues to those who purchase new electric vehicles. Even with some states like California offering additional rebates on top of that, new electric vehicles often cost more than the average American earns in a year.

“If you’re a poor American and all you can afford is a $10,000 car, this rebate isn’t going to matter to you,” Nunes concludes. “And by and large, we find that, guess what, the person buying a $120,000 [electric vehicle] would have still gone out and bought the car without a $7,500 subsidy.” 

Policymakers’ EV hype is self-defeating, and doesn’t “follow the science,” because the politicians have a shallow understanding, to the extent that they have any at all, of al the relevant factors. 

The policies are wasteful and ineffective, no matter how smug and certain the climate-change scolds are about them. The electrical car advocates are assuming expertise and scientific justifications they simply don’t have.

It’s incompetence seasoned with dishonesty, abusing science rather than using it properly.

The Worst President Ever? Part 3.

In May, Ethics Alarms began a review of the U.S. Presidents to separate the chaff from the wheat, keeping the chaff, and assembling the finalists for the Worst U.S. President Ever competition. The issue has gained more significance of late: President Biden’s polls are now the worst of any President at a similar stage in his first term, and his own party and its propaganda minions—you know, the mainstream media and its pundits—appear to be sharpening the metaphorical long knives.  No potential finalists were found in the first ten Presidents, examined in Part 1. Among POTUSes 11-20, which EA covered in Part 2,  there were three finalists, strong candidates all: depressed and drunken Franklin Pierce, lonely and inert James Buchanan, and poor Andrew Johnson.

Let’s assess Presidents #21-28, technically eight, but really only seven, because one of them really needs a lot of exposition. The photo above is a clue…

President Chester A. Arthur, 1881-1885, who inherited the office after President Garfield’s doctors killed him, can’t be one of the worst Presidents, because he’s among the most over-achieving ones, as I’ve written about here and elsewhere.  He rose to the challenge and surprised even himself. He also, unlike some Presidents I could name, refused to be a puppet of his party’s power-brokers, and did what he thought was in the best interests of the people. This ended with him being respected by the public and shunned by his party: he wasn’t allowed to run for a second term. If Biden is blocked from the nomination, it will be the first time since Arthur that a President who hadn’t removed himself from consideration after a single term was rejected by his party.

Arthur, however, was much more popular than Joe Biden.

Disqualified. Continue reading

Well Waddya Know! Harvard Undercuts A Core Progressive Big Lie!

I can’t let this pass. I’ve been bashing my embarrassing alma mater here for years, and it finally is responsible for something that almost makes me want to hang the ol framed diploma up again, with the back of it to the wall again.

Almost.

The Harvard Crimson reports:

In the most comprehensive study to date of what motivated the Trump supporters to attack the Capitol, Shorenstein Center researchers found that 20.6 percent of the rioters, a plurality, were motivated to take part in the riot because they supported Trump. Another 20.6 percent of the rioters cited Trump’s fraudulent claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged as their primary reason for participating in the Jan. 6 riot.

The authors of the study — Joan Donovan, Kaylee Fagan, and Frances E. Lee — wrote that their analysis found that the largest proportion of defendants “were motivated, in part, to invade the US Capitol Building by Donald Trump.”

The third most common reason for attacking the Capitol: a desire to start a civil war or an armed revolution, according to the study. Almost 8 percent of defendants indicated it was their main motivation.

In an interview, Fagan said she was surprised by how frequently support for Trump and concerns about the election were cited as primary motivations for joining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“I don’t think I expected the result to be this stark,” Fagan said. “I also certainly didn’t expect those two motivations to come up nearly exactly as often as they both did.”

Though more than 800 have been federally prosecuted for their participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, the study focused on 417 defendants charged with federal crimes in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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Wikipedia Ethics, But First A Riddle: “How Is Wikipedia Like American Journalism?”

The answer is: Because its information seems accurate in inverse proportion to how much you know about the subject matter already.

A recent example from China: Yifan, a Chinese fantasy novelist, started browsing Chinese Wikipedia for inspiration for a new book. happening upon Russian medieval history, the writer learned about the great Kashin silver mine, originally owned by the Tver, an independent state from the 13th to 15th centuries, and then by the Grand Duchy of Moscow, until it closed down in the 18th century after the silver was all mined out. The Kashin silver mine, the articles revealed, were operated some 30,000 slaves and 10,000 freedmen at its peak. Wars and human drama surrounded its history, and Yifan felt this might be a fertile topic for a novel. After the Kashin information was as exhausted on Chinese Wikipedia as the silver was in the mine’s dying days, he turned to the Russian version of Wikipedia, but he was surprised to see that the Russian Wikipedia. Strangely, most of what he had read about the famous silver mine wasn’t there at all, and this was Russian history.

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When Polling Is Unethical

Gallup is both one of the oldest polling organizations and among the closest to objective, making it doubly irresponsible when it injects nonsense and ignorance into policy debates. This is what it did with two recent polls, headlined thusly: “Steady 58% of Americans Do Not Want Roe v. Wade Overturned” and ‘Pro-Choice’ Identification Rises to Near Record High in U.S.”

The immediate response here is “So what?” Abortion, at least since the misbegotten Roe v. Wade SCOTUS ruling in 1973, is matter of Constitutional law and individual rights, and neither of these are determined by popular opinion.. Nor should they be. Yet the reflex refrain of demagogues and the habitually dishonest when they are out of legitimate arguments is “the public overwhelmingly supports/opposes [fill in the blank],” a contention that inevitably depends on polling.

The threshold question Gallup asked its respondents on the abortion issue was “With respect to the abortion issue, would you consider yourself to be pro-choice or pro-life?” Useless. Did Gallup define what “pro-choice” or “pro-life” meant? Nope. Do “pro-choice” Americans believe a potential mother should be able to “choose” to kill a viable fetus right up to the moment of birth? Do they believe that abortion involves the taking of a life at any point? Ever? Do they care? Who knows? I don’t think most of those who responded that they were “pro-choice” know. It’s garbage in, garbage out: the poll results are meaningless, but they will still be cited as if they are profound.

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If The Last Post (About Emerson College Promoting Anti-White Racism) Bothered You, Samuel L. Jackson Has A Suggestion Before You Read This One…[UPDATED!]

In Illinois, Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will now require teachers to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students. Let me repeat that…

Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will now require teachers to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students.

This is called “Transformative Education Professional Development & Grading.” It’s transformative, all right. It is a great way to transform black students into societal cripples who cannot master what many behavioral scientists believe are the most crucial skills for life success, because they are given an institutional pass.

This ridiculous and divisive concept is, of course, yet another effort to eliminate persistent discrepancies between racial groups by pretending that they are caused by racism, and lowering standards so everyone has an equally low bar to clear.  OPRF will order its teachers to exclude from their grading assessments variables it says disproportionately hurt the grades of black students, like for missing class, misbehaving in school or failing to turn in  assignments. This will, you know—don’t they know?—set up black students to skip work, misbehave in other settings, and fail to complete their assigned jobs and tasks. Continue reading