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Old tricks in new apps

There are probably few workplaces where you can walk straight into a passionate exchange as to whether ‘post-truth’ politics is actually a thing – but I blame myself for that one.

What was being discussed is the effectiveness (or otherwise) of an approach where debate focuses on emotion and repetition rather than facts.

My professional view is that there’s nothing new in the methodology but it’s the advent of online influence that has changed the game dramatically.

Members of a US Senate committee recently heard how reports of ‘unbridled islamification’ back in May last year provoked an angry crowd in one state to take to the streets in protest.

The event was arranged via social media by a group called ‘Heart of Texas’ but who have since been traced back to Kremlin sources.

Facebook have conceded that as probably many as 126 million people could have been on the receiving end of Russian propaganda efforts. That admission is a bit of a slap for owner Mark Zuckerberg who earlier dismissed the idea that massive postings could have swayed the US election.

No such signs of contrition from Donald Trump however who must be greatly enjoying the irony of how the loudest condemner of fake news appears to be one of its primary beneficiaries.

I accept that there are those in the industry who claim election interference on social media is overstated, but show me someone who dismisses the power of the algorithm in reaching the punters and I’ll show you a loser.

Of course, we manage to help things along ourselves by readily sharing our personal preferences; where we are, what we’re doing and who we’re doing it with. Anyone behind a campaign - malicious or otherwise - can include or discard us from the target group faster than you can say “wish-list”.

The numbers involved are just as scary. Facebook has 2 billion users worldwide (if you include Messenger subscriptions) whilst Instagram and Twitter have a measly 400m and 320m respectively.

It consistently bothers those in authority that the WhatsApp messenger service has a billion users talking, texting and sending stuff on a fully encrypted network. I understand the concerns.

I’m just speaking for myself though in thinking I’d be equally worried about the online activities of other ‘democratic’ nations too.

Stadium needs a leap of faith

Recent events have highlighted the pitfalls to be found in public life. It’s a tough game and there are times when the choices don’t make much sense.

That said, the move by Swansea Council to lease out Liberty Stadium is the right one.

You can’t expand a stadium if you don’t own it – or least have a viable long-term lease. And while there are those who question the motives of the new club owners, my view is that you seldom take on that kind of liability unless you’re serious about the future.

I also hear comments as to whether expansion is sensible when the club seems to be headed implacably towards Championship football.

I’m probably that last one to ask for an objective assessment. After all, I helped secure the £27m needed to build the place when the Swans were three games away from dropping out of the league altogether. Talk about sleepless nights.

Sometimes you need a leap of faith.

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