My New Hobbies: Fact-Checking and Filtering

terrorI really love Facebook, I really do.  Having moved away from the country I grew up in 3 years ago, and currently spending extended periods away from home, Facebook really works for me as a way to keep in touch with people back home and in Denmark while away.

This means I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook.  My boss would probably say an unfair amount 😉  I see a lot of the memes before they become very wide-spread, and I see a lot of them.  This means I get fricking tired of four things:

  1. Mindless resharing of feel-good causes
  2. Competitions
  3. “Funny” reshares
  4. People with unsympathetic political propaganda

banfacebookI’ve already posted about how I hate when people share obvious scams.  This is different, because it’s not really spam.  It’s just annoying to me.  I also share a lot of bullshit, and some will probably find my behavior spammy.  These tricks can therefore also be used against me, and feel free to do so if you support Adolph Hitler.

Bullshit Filter

Like any person in their anal stage, let’s do this from behind ((Yes, in case you didn’t get it, I just compared myself to a 2 year-old. Haw-de-haw!)).

People either have the same opinion as me or are horribly misguided.  I’m very forward that I’m liberal (in the European sense, not in the American sense, where the word has been taken over by conquest by socialists – as they are bound to do).  I do not sympathize with workers’ unions.  I think the best solution to the North Korea crisis is bombing the fuck out of them, because I’m tired of listening to the incessant bitching ((Ok, not really, but I am tired of hearing anything about them.)).  All in all, these are not necessarily mainstream opinions.  I often have to look at a lot of bullshit I don’t care about.  Right now a bunch of lazy teachers are running a huge campaign because they have to work more then 25 hours/week and have to be present at their working place.  They get a bunch of sympathy on Facebook, and I frankly find that nauseating.  I also see a lot of campaigns about how the government is taking from the unemployed and giving to the rich, while reality is that the government is taking slightly less from the average person and giving slightly less to the people not working to earn their own living.  All in all, I don’t really want to have to sift through this bullshit to get to my gossip about Britney.

Humor is individual, which means that a lot of people, usually falling into the category I dub “other people,” have unfunny humor.  If it is one dreadful joke about children being people too, or genocide not being the end-all solution to any problem, I can live with it.  If it’s 200 nerds writing scripts to repost unfunny jokes from I Fucking Love Science, it gets a bit much.  The reshare functionality means horrible jokes dubbed as science pops up in my feed half a dozen times (because I’m hard at spelling and cannot spell the word six).  Maddox wrote an insightful (he’ll probably hate to be called insightful, but there you have it) piece about that Facebook group and why it is almost as bad as social security.  The same goes for George Takei.  Dunno who the guy is, but somebody broke his funny-bone as a kid.  Nothing bad about breaking bones on kids, but please try not to whine about it on the Internet.  That’s not what the Internet is for.  It’s a sophisticated piece of self-balancing, self-repairing networking equipment designed so that even in the case of a nuclear war, American troops can at all times have easy access to pornography.  That and cute pictures of cats and gossip about Britney.  Similarly, April Fool’s is no funny.  Half the pranks are predictable and low effort.  A few are higher effort and sort-of less dull than watching paint dry (and the web-cam is even down, so that’s a very low bar), but the does not mean you’re a master of humor for sharing the 7th copy of the 13th Google AF joke made for company money by lazy people, who should rather work on further invading your privacy.

I have decided to fix problems 3 and 4 the same way.  While you can discuss humor and political standpoints, if you do not agree, chances are the discussion will just go in circles with no resolution.  Facebook allows you to block people completely (or unfriend them), but why go that far?  Instead, I just filter out the unfunny stuff, so I can still talk with people with wrong opinions about things where we don’t agree to disagree.

I’ve already previously praised Social Fixer.  It will not make you more socially adroit, but it will improve your Facebook experience.  Get it here.  Aside from making Facebook pink, the most important feature is that it supports filters.  It automatically filters applications in separate tabs, meaning you already get rid of Instagram hipster-bullshit.  For now, what we’re gonna look at is the filtering option.  First, install Social Fixer, and make Facebook pink:

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Next, let’s open up Social Fixer’s settings; go to the top-right corner and select “Social Fixer Options”:

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We want the filtering options, so select those:

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You want to make sure filtering is on.  Just keep the settings as I have them.  They’re good enough for me, so they’re definitely good enough for you.  Now let’s get filtering.  Click “Add New Filter at the Top” (red box):

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You get a bunch of fields.  You can hide content based on users (so block anybody you hate if you don’t have the balls to unfriend them) and do the same to apps.  You can to the same to move people to a special VIP area, I suppose, but that’s not why we are here.

I like to put spam away in separate tabs.  That way I can look at it and see if my filters are working perfectly.  Of course they are.  I therefore check “Move to Tab” and enter a tab name (blue box above).  You can also hide the stories or use CSS to highlight or dim them.

Finally, we have to enter the filter text.  Put it in the green box and add new filters for each.  Here’s a couple filter suggestions:

Get rid of “So and So wrote on Blah and Blah’s wall for their Birthday.”  I’ve noticed that since Facebook lists everybody’s birthday, you get a bunch of greetings from people who mechanically goes through the list of daily birthdays and write a generic “Happy birthday” comment.  This means those greetings mean nothing.  I write greetings only when I won’t see the person in the near future, and always with a personal message.  I hide my own birthday because I don’t much care for mechanical greetings.  I definitely don’t care about somebody I knew 15 years ago greeting somebody I didn’t particularly like 17 years ago.  Here’s a filter to move that bullshit away:

/wrote on .*’s timeline for h.* birthday/

Get rid of George Takei spam.  He’s no fun, and neither are you for sharing his unfunny bullshit.  Never bother with that shit anymore using:

/shared George Takei’s/

Nobody cares about North Korea.  I’d be happy if they didn’t exist, and with this filter you can make that happen:


Finally for the Danes.  Nobody cares about the teacher lockout.  They are lazy people (see this documentation in Danish and a terrible Google Translated version).  Luckily, you can get rid of that bullshit and whining as simple as:


People like sharing other people’s pictures.  Typically those photos depict kids (nobody likes other peoples’ kids), food (though the Instagram filter should get rid of that), or jokesInternet memes.  If it was actually amusing, chances are I posted it.  Secondary option: I’m already following somebody who posted it.  Alternative: I don’t care.  File all that shit at non-funny and move on with this rule:

/shared .*’s photo/

Now, I get everything nicely tabbed ad the top of my feed:

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As already mentioned, Instagram spam is auto-tabbed.  The Lærer-spam (teacher spam) is the rule from above, and so is the Korea and Birthday ones.

I can also use this feature to highlight important posts.  Everybody wants to read about Britney, so I added a nice rule for that.  Instead of tabbing important posts, I give them the CSS property “highlight” as in the red box here:

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I then go to the CSS tab (red box) and enter some CSS to give important posts a classy background (green box).  You can use any CSS, so you can make the important posts blink or whatever you want.

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Now, important posts get highlighted in my feed:

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Fact-Checking Bullshit

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do with the incessant competitions.  They are borderline spam, but I must admit I’ve participated in a few I found amusing.  Other people find the wrong things amusing, so when they participate I hate it.  Some competitions are scams or spam (read my brilliant posting about how to recognize them; tldr: check on Snopes and use common sense).

The other day, I saw a post about “Apple” giving away thousands of iPads because they “couldn’t be sold.”  Apple would never use such wording, the page sharing the competition has a couple thousand likes (where Apple’s real page has millions), and the page has a weird dot at the end.  Obvious scam.  For scams, I go and mark the post as spam.  Simply click on the little cross at the top-right of every post and select “Report/Mark as Spam”:

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For good measure, you should do the same to the publishing page.  This is done in much the same way; at the top-left of every page, under the cover photo, is a small button with a cog wheel and an arrow. Click on it, and you get a menu with the option to Report Page.  Go to town:

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I like to use this option also for competitions that annoy me or if I’m in a foul mood, so if you share something boring, this is a risk you take.

These competitions are related to the shitty feel-good campaigns.  Maddox also wrote about such campaigns.  The posting superficially talks about SOPA, but the main point holds for any cause: sharing a page online very rarely has any impact.  Yes, you hear about one or two causes where somebody took up a cause or another due to an online campaign, but more likely than not, this is not happening.

As en example, consider the Kony 2012 campaign.  Everybody shared a long boring movie on Facebook.  I doubt a lot of people actually watched the movie, but sharing is easy.  It was a campaign for or against something.  Cancer maybe.  Or T-rexes for orphans.  Something I don’t care about in any case.  It had no impact and took away from causes that actually matter, because


so people feel good and don’t have to worry about doing something real.

Another kind of online campaign is even worse.  People are directly breaking the law.  It’s the vigilante justice “catch the predators/muggers/people who stole my phone while I cleverly put it on the table and went to sleep in the middle of fucking Alcatraz” campaigns.

Here’s an example from today:

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A bunch of people allegedly from the Dutch pedo-association.  I censored the picture.  The other day I saw another picture about some old creeper allegedly chatting up a teener on an internet forum.  All very creepy people.  But here’s the thing: being creepy is not illegal, but slander and libel are.  Assuming all of these pictures are completely true, you are still passing judgement on somebody who hasn’t been sentenced.  As a matter of fact, the pedo-association in the Netherlands just won some lawsuit, and is hence a legal association.  A creepy association, but a legal one.  Even if what they do is illegal, what happened to innocent until proven guilty?  What happened to the separation of powers?  Remember, freedom of speech is not only the right of people you agree with to speak their mind, but also for people you disagree with.  What happened to Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s famous quote, misattributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”?  If you share such pictures, you implicitly pass judgement and sentence people.  Are you ok with that?  What it happened to you or somebody you love?

Let’s not spend more time defending creepers, for let’s be honest ad admit nobody likes pedos, but let’s turn to something more grave.  It is probably best summarized in this picture:


The thing is that the picture you share may not even tell the truth!  It takes all of five minutes to find a picture of more or less anybody in the world, open up Paintbrush and in the nicest Comic Sans fashion shop in the word “Pedophile” (or even more subtle, “Pedophile?”) and share it.

The picture I saw the other day was posted by a friend.  When I did a bit of research (because I’m annoying that way), I discovered the picture was half a year old.  It therefore had no relevance anymore.  Furthermore, the picture was shared from a friend of said friend.  The picture was a screen capture from an iPhone showing a Facebook post of another screen capture of an iPhone.  The poster of the shared screen shot was not friends with the original poster, so the chain of “information” goes as such: Concerned mother sees daughter chat with creeper online.  Concerned mother vigilante style decides to take down this guy, and posts a screen-shot from her phone on Facebook.  Via undocumented sources, this goes to a friend of a friend of mine.  The friend of my friend then posts the picture, and my friend half a year later shared the picture because he doesn’t like pedos.  I’m all for stopping pedos, but doesn’t this chain seem just a little bit unreliable to you?  Disregarding the fact that the Danish law clearly forbids posting pictures online without consent (punishable by up to 2 years of prison).

Even if you don’t want to take somebody down just for the hell of it, as long as you only hear one part, are you sure you know the whole truth, and don’t contribute to the problem?  A couple months ago, there was a case in Denmark.  Some jerk has a tattoo removed.  This caused a big swelling, and the person decided to put pictures online and tell people to stay clear of the shop that did it.  The pictures was shared and caused the owner of the parlor much trouble and bad reputation.  The owner want forward and said that the swelling was normal and that after a couple days the tattoo had indeed gone away as had the swelling.  Luckily, the refutal also went viral and the poor shop owner actually got cleared, but that rarely happens.  Long uninteresting story in Danish here.

All of this boils down to: sharing things online rarely amounts to anything.  Because it is so easy, everybody does it, and it dilutes any semblance of a real message.  What you are sharing may even be making you a criminal, and may hurt innocent people.  I’ve taken to fact-checking such things and informing people about this.  It is so easy to click share, it feels good because the message may seem right.  But what if it isn’t?  What if you ruin somebody innocent’s life?

New Facebook

On a lighter note, I’m fricking tired of the new notices Facebook has started spewing out about “Blahdiblah (that you don’t know) has posted about Dumtedum (that you don’t really care about but liked the page of 3 years ago due to boredom).”  Yeah, these ones:

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I don’t care about that.  If I did, I would probably have subscribed to their page.  I subscribed to Arnold because I like the politician, and some redneck fitness page interests me as much as what Christina Aguilera had for breakfast.

Yeah, I hate those posts, but unfortunately I haven’t found a way to block them just yet.  Unfortunately “/is posting about/” doesn’t work as I’d hoped.  Hopefully Matt (author of Social Fixer) will come up with a fix soon.  Until then, there’s the friendly “Report as Spam” button.

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