Why I Reported Your Comment to Facebook

If you’re reading this it’s probably because I reported your comment to Facebook and I provided a link to this page to offer a more detailed explanation.

Here’s a problem I see on Facebook: a small number of people post some really offensive or just garbage content to the site. This includes spam, hate speech, bullying, and a variety of other categories of content that does more harm than good.

There was a time in my life when I thought that a real names policy would solve this. As in, if people had to post under their real names they’d surely not post racist content or associate their names with other forms of garbage content. It turns out that I was wrong.

There certainly are people who feel shame about their own thoughts. When people choose to post under fake names, my assumption is that they’re doing so because they don’t want to be held responsible for their own words. What if their friends, family, or coworkers find out how deplorable they really are? Thankfully, Facebook has a way to report fake profiles. They’re pretty slow at taking action on fake profiles by they eventually do.

Here’s a recommendation: If you decide to set up a fake profile because you’re unwilling to stand behind your own words, don’t use it to post publicly. Instead, just use your fake account as a private journal. That way you won’t have to worry about people reporting your fake account.

You may have noticed that I’m doing two things on Facebook: I’m reporting your garbage comments and posting a comment saying that I’ve reported your garbage comment.

The reason I do this is that I want you to know that your comments are not okay.

I also want everyone else who sees your comment to know that it’s not okay.

I want decent people who make the mistake of reading the comments to know that they’re not alone in their assessment of your garbage content.

And I want other people who’d consider posting garbage content to know that their content is not welcome.

Think of this as a public forum. A town hall. If you took a turn speaking at a town hall and said similar things you’d – rightly – be booed, told to sit down, asked to leave. You’d get the feedback you deserve (and, apparently, need) from people in your community.

Optimistically, I’m hoping to bring a similar level of decorum to Facebook comments. I’d like comments to be a welcoming place for members of our community to agree, disagree, and learn from each other without having to wade through hate speech, bullying, spam, and other forms of garbage like the garbage you’ve been sharing.

Longer-term, I expect that manual reporting of garbage comments will be used by Facebook as training data for machine learning systems that will auto-delete or at least auto-hide terms of service violating comments. If you have a history of posting garbage comments and post yet another comment that follows the same theme as previously posted garbage comments, it’s quite possible that your comment won’t be seen by other users.

I expect it will something similar to Twitter’s shadowbanning system where consistently deplorable users’ tweets do not appear in search results and are buried behind an extra click in responses. We already can see where this is heading based on Facebook’s default ranking of comments by relevancy.


Example of hidden comments on Facebook.

You may not realize this but your comments are already being pushed down to the bottom of comment threads due to their low quality. Facebook doesn’t have people hand-ranking comments. Instead, they’ve built programs that have looked through trillions of comments and determined that yours are among the worse their software encounters. It’s a somewhat elegant solution since it allows you to get some garbage out of your head without subjecting other people to your garbage.

Why don’t I just ignore your comments? Because I’d rather solve the problem that is you rather than ignore it. Think of it this way: at least someone’s paying attention to your garbage content.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about where I’m coming from on this.

If you happen to have read this far, and it’s not because you’re a troll, here’s something you can do to help make the web a slightly saner placer. I run a program that automatically reports hate speech on Twitter. You can chip in to help support the machine learning costs here.

Some Thoughts on Being to the Left of Biden

I write this from the Warren Bubble of the Cooper Neighborhood of Minneapolis.


Thanks for David Brauer for mapping this.

I feel like the area of Minneapolis I live in has a ton of people who work at the U at other universities, in public policy, for non-profits in leadership roles, as teachers, and other roles that come together around a candidate who understands the problems Americans face, and which candidate would be most capable of creating systemic change due to her expertise and track record. Clearly, not everyone agreed.

One way to think about presidential campaigns is like startups. You can have the perfect idea for a startup and still fail if the market for what you’re creating isn’t large enough, or you’re simply too early. Your startup can solve a real and important problem, but if there aren’t enough people willing to support the business it’s not going to survive.

Facebook was far from the first social media site. YouTube was one of many startups working on video streaming. There have been thousands of dating-related startups but few have turned into viable businesses.

It can be incredibly frustrating to be both right and too early. Or right and not be able to make a viable business out of what you’re creating.

Presidential campaigns are like this. If you’re right on the issues but your platform doesn’t resonate with enough voters, you’re screwed.

Why does this happen?

It could be that your candidate wasn’t able to connect with enough people who show up to vote to explain to them that they’d be better off in your version of the future.

If could be that the candidate’s platform would resonate with people who show up to vote but the candidate didn’t resonate with those people. This could come down to age, race, gender, and religion or other issues. In this case, age didn’t seem to be the issue.

What Should We Do?

My first choice candidate did not win the primary. Yours probably didn’t either. You’re not alone. That’s how primaries work. It’s frustrating when that happens, but what’s most important is to not give up. Even without our first choice candidate winning the nomination, we’ve moved the party toward where we’d like it to go. It’s frustrating to take baby steps instead of leading a revolution, but it still far better than the alternative.

We have some options on where to go from here. We could give up, and pretend that there is no difference between Biden and Trump. We’ve seen that play out over the past four years so we know that isn’t the best approach.

We could throw our weight behind Biden so we can at least press the reset button. Don’t sit it out. Help get the country back to a semblance of normalcy.

We could help flip US Senate seats in order to give Biden’s platform a chance of passing. The only thing worse than a moderate president is a moderate president who can’t even make moderate improvements to our country. Here’s a good list of the seats that are at play. The polling may be a bit dated but it’s still useful for figuring out where to spend time or money.

We could flip state legislatures. In Minnesota, flipping the Senate would have a huge impact on what can be done to address issues like underfunded public schools, insulin for diabetics, sensible gun legislation the majority of Minnesotans support, and civil rights for people the MN GOP continues to persecute in twenty twenty. In 2020, the MN GOP continues to have legislators who’re willing to put their names on bills that discriminate against fellow Minnesotans.

We could move county commissioners to the left. County commissioners have some of the best jobs in politics. I base that on the amount of money the control vs. the amount of public scrutiny they face. It’s way better role than being a city councilmember that hears about every pothole. We have county commissioners that are dedicated to addressing housing issues for everyone, improving the safety of major roads through urban areas, helping with employment, and helping vulnerable children, and there are county commissioners who want to build professional sports stadiums and other mega-projects to entertain wealthy white people.

We could improve our school boards. If you talk the talk on improving the lives of people at the bottom but don’t think about schools, you’re missing a big opportunity to make a difference. Granted, schools take on a HUGE burden for issues that shouldn’t fall to them. (Ex. Being measured based on student performance while the county and city fail to provide stable, affordable housing or food for students.)

Still, one of the roadblocks to public schools being more equitable is the dominance of wealthy white parents in conversations about what actions school boards should take. Minneapolis has one of the worst public school racial disparities in the country, and this needs to change. This appears to have been a socially acceptable reality until non-white students started leaving the district for adjacent districts or charter schools.

Now, things are getting real since students leaving the district cuts into the entire district’s budget. Not surprisingly, the current reaction from white families to proposed changes is to fight for the status quo (based on previous budgets) that’s worked for them but not for everyone else. #NotAllWhiteFamilies, obvs. It’s the first time in a long time that white families have been as organized as they are now, and it’s not happening because they suddenly started caring about closing the racial education gap.

A cool thing about all of those down-ballot races is that they make a tangible change today, and – in some cases – are stepping stones for people seeking higher offices in the future. Granted, it’s awesome if anyone chooses to run for any of these positions as their ultimate goal. Just be good at what you do while you’re there, no matter how long. Think about it this way: Would you like to have someone who sucks at being a county commissioner, but at least you know that they’ll run for governor someday? Of course not. Work every position on the ballot that resonates with you.

So, continue to fight to move people toward your values. You’re on the right side of history but perhaps ahead of where America is today. Don’t stop caring and don’t stop channeling your energy towards making positive change. If Biden isn’t far left enough for you to put energy into his campaign, fine. But, don’t give up.

Degrees of All Are Welcome Here

All Are Welcome Here signs are great, but not all All Are Welcome Here behavior lives up to that sentiment.

Here is a list of some examples of this.

  1. All Are Welcome Here but don’t park on the public street in front of my house.
  2. All Are Welcome Here, you can park in front of my house, but don’t block the walk.
  3. All Are Welcome Here as long as you don’t build a cookie-cutter house near homes that were purchased from the Sears catalog.
  4. All are welcome Here as long as you can afford to own a single-family home that was built with a racial covenant attached to it.
  5. All Are Welcome Here as long as you mean welcome to live directly on the bus route since it’s not true density if people willingly walk a few blocks to get to transit.
  6. All Are Welcome Here as long as any improvements you make to your home are done to make it more expensive for single families and not more affordable for multiple families.
  7. All Are Welcome Here as long as you wring your hands about gentrification.
  8. All Are Welcome here, and we mean – specifically – garbage trucks. The more the better. We welcome garbage trucks on our streets every day of the week. #stpaultrash
  9. All Are Welcome Here as long as you don’t get in the way of people driving by biking.
  10. All Are Welcome here, but please wear a reflective vest while running or walking your dog at night so your neighbors don’t need to slow down on residential streets.
  11. All Are Welcome Here. Now, please state how long you’ve lived in this neighborhood before speaking so I can determine whether your opinion is valid. Bonus if you share where you moved here from so I can use that data point to further discount your opinion.
  12. All Are Welcome Here to appreciate and not meddle with the work done by people who’ve lived here a long time, making this neighborhood what it is.
  13. All Are Welcome Here who understand that this neighborhood is a solved problem that should be preserved in amber.
  14. All Are Welcome Here but don’t ask me to do to anything about public schools losing non-white students to charter schools because they don’t feel welcome in our public schools.
  15. All Are Welcome Here including students from other neighborhoods but don’t you dare ask my kid to go to a school in that kid’s neighborhood.

What I Think I Understand About the Minneapolis Public Schools’ CDD

I’ve been having a lot of conversations with fellow and future MPS parents about the MPS Comprehensive District Design and thought I’d jot down a few takeaways here.

Note: if any of my language regarding race is outdated by 2020 standards, understand that I’m a mid-40’s white guy who’s trying to keep up. Shoot me a message or leave a comment if you have any constructive feedback about that.

The motivation for change appears to be primarily financial. If your budget is shrinking, or at least not growing as fast as costs, you clearly need to do something about that.

Why is there a budget challenge? Because fewer school-aged children in Minneapolis have been attending Minneapolis Public Schools than in the past. There are a variety of alternatives, with charter schools, nearby districts, and private schools being three common ones.

Every time a student leaves the district a lot of money leaves with them.

So, if you want to close the budget gap you have a few options. Those include cutting costs, raising additional revenue, or stopping/reversing the enrollment trend.

The latter has the largest potential to solve budget problems. Cost-cutting to address declining enrollment could exacerbate declining enrollment. Raising additional revenue through a tax levy just happened so that’s not on the table right now.

If you wanted to reverse declining enrollment what would you do? Perhaps talk to the families who are leaving the district to ask them why they’re leaving? That’s what MPS did. And they found that the families leaving are largely African American, Hispanic, and East African immigrant families. And they found that the reasons they’re choosing to leave the district are primarily:

  • Not feeling safe in the schools
  • Not feeling welcome in the schools
  • Not feeling that the schools are preparing their children for the future.

This – to me – is critical to understanding the proposed changes.

Two Different Conversations

I had a chance to attend a recent CDD meeting at Justice Page Middle School. The auditorium was packed with parents interested in hearing about the plan. Here is Justice Page’s racial breakdown:

White:49.8%
African American:25.6%
Hispanic:18.6%
Asian:3.1%
Two or more races:1.5%
American Indian:0.9%
Pacific Islander:0.4%

I note that because the attendees at the meeting were around 98% white. The questions asked were fine but none of the questions asked addressed the three bullet points I listed above. Thankfully, MPS appears to be seeking out feedback from families who don’t/won’t/can’t attend public hearings. This is great because a major flaw of public meetings is that the attendees often falsely believe that the opinions shared at the meetings reflect the opinions of all stakeholders.

The question that came closest to hitting those bullet points was something like, “How are the proposed changes going to improve the racial integration of our schools?” This is a fair question but I don’t think it’s hitting the core concerns of the families who are leaving. As I understand it, they’re not leaving because the schools they attend aren’t integrated enough, or that they (families with non-white students) aren’t attending schools with enough white students.

Increased school integration does not appear to be at the top of the list of concerns among families leaving the district. Here’s one possible scenario: a Somali family lives in a part of town where they’re not particularly impressed with their neighborhood school so they choose to put their kid on a bus across town to a school that’s known for having better results. Their kid doesn’t feel welcome at that school and comes home crying after being picked on during long bus rides. The school may be a good school on paper but the experience for that doesn’t mean that it’s a great experience for all students. So, that family looks at other options and they find a charter school that welcomes Somali families. The parents think, “This school may not be any better than where my child is going now, but at least they’ll feel welcome at school and not come home crying.”

Will White Families Leave?

The CDD is a big change and certainly disruptive and any time there’s change there will be people who reevaluate all of their school options. This includes families who are really happy with the status quo. If boundary changes will redirect your children to schools that weren’t your first choice, or a magnet school you love is being demagnetized and turned back into a neighborhood school, those are reasons for concern.

For example, if Spanish immersion is a must-have for a family and scaling back or moving Windom’s program is a deal-breaker, that could cost MPS some students. Dowling’s current environmental program was cited at the Justice Page hearing. A representative from MPS said that it polled poorly among magnet choices. There are families who love Dowling today because it has the environmental program, the Special Needs program, the large campus, the integrated student body, and the success of students in that environment. The bet the school board is making is that the white families who attend schools like Dowling will still have great academic options available for their kids.

Will this work?

I don’t know. To me, it sounds good on paper. It sounds like MPS has identified the root causes of why families are leaving and has a plan to address those concerns.

I’m concerned about whether the disruption involved in centrally locating magnets is too much. A successful magnet program needs to have a strong emphasis and a strong brand to convince families living within walking distance of good schools to put their kids on buses. We know that families will do that once they’re convinced that a program is good, but that doesn’t happen overnight. At least not without a strong market program that convinces families that the school will be a strong school on day one.

I’m concerned that charter schools are offering programs that the CDD doesn’t fully address. If, say, Somali families are leaving for Somali-specific charter schools, the CDD may not be going far enough to address those concerns. Focusing more on community schools – and, hopefully, giving those schools the resources they need to succeed – could be a step in that direction, but does it go far enough?

I’m concerned that middle/upper-class white families will defend the status quo that has served them well at the expense of change that would help underserved families and the citywide budget challenges.

I’m concerned that middle/upper-class white families underestimate how good their neighborhood schools are and will irrationally opt-out of a system that would serve their children well.

The Least Glamorous Ways to Make a Big Impact on The Environment

There are things you can do to help the environment that won’t go unnoticed, and things that are under the radar and far from glamorous. And one end of the spectrum is, say, driving a Tesla. At the other end of the spectrum from that in the transportation category would be not owning a car. Both are steps in the right direction. Some may not be realistic for people who are car-dependent for work and other reasons, and some are unrealistic due to up-front costs.

Below is a list of things I think are worth considering that aren’t high on the glamour end of the spectrum but can make a big difference.

1. Make shopping lists. We all need to shop, but we can be far more efficient at shopping if we make lists. People with long commutes tend to be better at this since forgetting one item is painful if you have a long trip back to Target or the closest hardware store. But, think about how many miles you can avoid driving if you get everything you need the first time? And, combining multiple stops into a single trip. When buying stuff online from stores like Amazon or Target, if you don’t need something right away just add it to your cart and let your cart accumulate a few more items before pulling the trigger on your order.

2. Buy more efficient appliances. There are a few things to consider here. First, not all appliances use a lot of energy so this applies most to appliances that use the most energy. Refrigerators, water heaters, AC, and space heating are the top-4. Buying a more efficient dishwasher isn’t going to change the world but it doesn’t hurt. The previous four make a big difference.

A good way to make better buying decisions is to pre-shop each of these so you know what you want when the unit you currently have dies. You have the benefit of time to properly research appropriately sized units for the size of your household, size of space that needs to be heated or cooled, and a local company that stocks and can install what you’re looking for.

This can save you a lot of money (and environmental impact) over time since products like this use a lot of energy. For example, water heaters can vary tremendously in their efficiency. The difference adds up to thousands of driving miles per year of pollution that you can avoid by making better choices.

3. Insulation. So not sexy. So effective. Now that’s it’s colder outside you may start to notice some leaks in your home. Snag a heat gun for a reality check. This one is easy to use and makes it obvious where you’re spewing heat through walls, windows, and doors. Start by sealing obvious cracks. This costs hardly anything and makes a big difference. Things like wall insulation or getting new windows or doors can obviously get expensive so it’s worth talking to someone about how to best address those issues.

4. Buying cleaner electricity. Your options will vary based on where you live, but if you have an option to buy solar, wind, or another form of renewable electricity rather than continuing to buy coal and gas, do it. It’s not uncommon for a household to create as much pollution from their electricity use as they’d create by driving a car 10,000-15,000 miles per year. Pollution from electricity use is a sleeper issue since we don’t see the pollution in our own homes. In Minnesota, we have a Community Solar program and the WindSource program that provide two ways for people to buy cleaner energy without having to buy anything upfront or put anything on their property. Putting panels on your own property is also an excellent option for people who have a suitable space and the cash or credit to do so.

5. Buy a great commuter bike. Bikes can get expensive, but even expensive bikes aren’t expensive compared to cheap cars. You’ll save money, get into better shape, get to know your neighbors better, be less likely to accidentally kill one of your neighbors, and typically be able to park closer to work, for free. Have a commute that’s slightly uncomfortable due to distance or hills? Consider an ebike. Not cheap, but way cheaper than a car.

6. Get an electric car. Here’s the coolest thing about electric cars. They create far less pollution than burning gas AND they automatically become even cleaner to drive as our energy grid becomes cleaner. An electric car doesn’t care if the electricity is generated by coal, gas, hydro, wind, or solar.

7. Electrify everything. Small gas engines tend to be surprisingly large generators of pollution. I’m referring to things like lawnmowers, snowblowers, and leaf blowers. I’m particularly happy with my electric lawnmower. It’s so much nicer than walking back and forth through a cloud of pollution. It’s also quieter. And it’s not exactly difficult to recharge the batteries before I need to use it again. Perhaps you could put the charger on a timer so it charges at a time of day/week when your local energy generation is typically greenest?

Regarding snow blowing, an investment in a quiver of top of the line shovels is cheaper than a snow blower and comes bundled with free workouts.

How to Revise the Federal Solar Tax Credit

Electrek has a post up that ranks US cities by households with solar panels. Here’s the list:

The city that stuck out to me was Seattle. Seattle? The Pacific Northwest isn’t exactly known for its sun. And, they also have quite of bit of energy generated by hydro and nuclear, so are those panels displacing carbon-emitting energy sources?

The 2016 official fuel mix statistics by the state of Washington for Seattle City Light show approximately 88% hydroelectric, 5% nuclear, 4% wind, 1% coal, 1% natural gas, 1% biogas.

Seattle – like most cities on this list – is a wealthy town, so there are plenty of people who can afford to drop $10-$20k on panels. Especially when they can tap into a 30% federal tax credit.

But, what if we adjusted the federal tax credit by taking a couple factors into consideration? Here are two to consider:

1. How dirty is the current energy sourcing in a given state? Here’s a ranking of states by how much carbon is emitted by generating electricity:

2. How much sun hits each state? Obviously, this can vary tremendously throughout states, but if we just use a state-wide average of each state we can still improve upon a nationwide average. This chart ranks states by solar irradiance where California is the baseline each state’s number show’s their relative solar irradiance relative to California.

If we combine these values, we can prioritize solar incentives based where they’ll have the largest benefit: States with the dirtiest electricity and the most sun. Here’s what that looks like:

Under this formula, Upper Midwest states would see similar tax credits to what they see today. Minnesota and Wisconsin would drop from 30% to 29%. But, things get interesting at the extremes. Subsidies would be cut in half for states that have relatively clean energy sourcing today, like Pacific Northwest and some New England states. On the other extreme, states with relatively dirty electricity generation and lots of solar energy would receive far higher incentives. The most extreme being Wyoming, where solar incentives would increase 7X. Yes, that’s right. Instead of offering a 30% tax credit or solar in Wyoming, we should be offering a 216% credit.

Someone living in Wyoming that spends $20k on solar panels would have their entire project cost covered, plus a check for $23,200 from Uncle Sam. Now that’s an incentive. Wyoming and North Dakota are the two states where we should pay more than the cost of solar panels for every household. Both states have incredibly dirty electricity today.

The incentives should be revisited on a regular basis to take into account shifting electricity sourcing in each state. It wouldn’t be all that surprising if a significant number of people in Wyoming took action to claim such a lucrative tax credit, which would lead to lower tax credits for late adopters.

Land use of Ethanol vs Solar for Vehicle Fuel

I took a stab at trying to figure out how much land it takes to power an internal combustion engine vehicle with ethanol vs what it takes to power an electric vehicle with solar energy.

The links in the embedded spreadsheet show my data sources. If any of these are inaccurate (or my calculations are wrong) please let me know.

Based on what I’m seeing, it looks like it takes a bit more than an acre of farmland dedicated to growing corn to power a single vehicle. That’s based on the amount of E85 fuel it would take, so it would also take some non-ethanol fuel to make that work.

For the electric car numbers, I used a watts/mile figure found on some Tesla forums and a land use calculation based on typical production of panels in large ground-mount systems. This came to 0.015 acres or 652 sq ft.

It seems like it’s quite a bit more efficient to convert solar energy into electricity, transfer that into car batteries, then use that power to turn an electric engine than it is to convert solar energy into plants, harvest those plants, convert those plants into ethanol, transfer that energy into car tanks, and convert that energy into small explosions to turn an internal combustion engine. If my numbers are correct, it looks like it’s around 70X more efficient from a land needed per vehicle perspective.

While this could be looked at from a “what’s the best use of farmland?” perspective, it’s obviously worth noting that solar panels can be placed on a lot of surfaces other than farmland, including places that don’t consume any land, like rooftops.

Another thing to consider: The cost to power an electric car can be significantly cheaper than what’s shown in the spreadsheet if you take advantage of electric vehicle charging and/or time of day pricing plans. Off-peak electricity rates (when your car is likely sitting in your garage) are far cheaper than standard residential rates.

But, wouldn’t that mean that you wouldn’t be using solar to charge your car? Correct. It looks like the future – at least in Minnesota – will involve powering our homes with solar & wind during the day and charging our vehicles with wind power overnight.

How Many Boomers Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?

One?

The Boomer goes to YouTube and searches for “how to change a lightbulb”:

They click on a result for a DIY video. While watching the video, they see this related video:

After watching a pre-roll ad, they learn this nugget 11 seconds into the video:

Having satisfied their curiosity about millennials and lightbulbs, they see a video from a young man offering more information about what’s wrong with millennials:

After consuming 4 minutes of content on what’s wrong with kids these days (explained by a kid these days), YouTube auto-plays a nearly 2-hour video called, “Ben Shapiro: Toughen Up Spoiled Children”.

At some point during those two hours, they notice a compelling video about illegal immigration:

After consuming some content from an ex-felon right-wing propagandist, it was time for something lighter, like a video with Jay Leno making people feel smart by cherry picking geographically challenged Americans.

After two-plus hours of consuming right-wing propaganda, they remain in the dark.

The majority of the right-wing propaganda videos that were suggested by YouTube and clicked on by the Boomer were paid for by a handful of conservative billionaires who benefit from intergenerational fights rather than watching Americans come together to realize that their common interest is to not be screwed over by billionaires who are trying to destroy our air, water, public education and healthcare systems.

The lesson: Keep your parents off YouTube.

How to Exploit Vulnerable Seniors with Twitter

There’s a special place in hell for robo-callers who exploit seniors. Bilking retirees out of their retirements through scams over the phone is downright evil.

But, at least the robo-callers have to go through the effort of finding exploitable seniors.

Social media companies make it fairly easy to identify vulnerable seniors so you can fast-track exploitations.

How? By allowing conspiracy theorists and fake news publishers to use their platforms.

Social media platforms allow garbage content to flourish on their platforms because they make money from it and/or they don’t want to be accused of censoring garbage content.

But, how does that lead to the exploitation of vulnerable seniors?

Social media platforms allow advertisers to reach very specific audiences, which can be a good thing but can also be used to cause harm. Say you want to reach everyone who lives in a specific state for political advertising, or people who follow a specific political candidate. No problem. Or, you want to advertise to people who like a certain sports team or brand of granola bars so you can attempt to sell products to that may interest people who have those interests. Great.

But, you can also run ads targeting people who follow conspiracy theorists. Why would you do that? Because you can sell anything to people who’ll believe anything. Social media platforms make that easy to do.

I’ve tried to find an example of a vulnerable senior without showcasing one in order to help explain this further. Here’s my attempt.

I searched for “contrails” to find some conspiracy theory believers and found a woman who posted a pic along with text that makes it clear that she’s a true believer that the government is spraying chemicals on Americans from planes during daylight hours. I clicked on her profile and found out that she’s a Catholic MAGA supporter. I then looked her up on Facebook to make sure that she’s a real person. She’s a grandmother living in Northern California.

She believes some crazy stuff, including this:

She’s not alone. Just look at how many people liked and retweeted that garbage.

Say you wanted to do something relatively harmless, like sell WiFi routers to conspiracy theorists by inferring that a certain WiFi router is safer than others:

I then targeted people over 50 who live in the United States who’re the kind of people who follow garbage conspiracy theory accounts on Twitter. I expanded the reach a bit by adding qanon76 as an additional Twitter conspiracy account to leverage to find dupable people.

To increase the reach of the ads further, Twitter’s brilliant programmers have figured out how to find larger lookalike audiences. Here’s who their algorithms suggest adding to my “accounts followed by people susceptible to right-wing conspiracy theories” portfolio:

Not surprisingly, it suggests including Seb Gorka, Jack Posobiec, and Dan Bogino, among others. (Imagine being a member of the House of Representatives and showing up on such a distilled list of garbage people. That would make you Rep. Jim Jordan or Rep. Devin Nunes.)

I added a few of those names to my portfolio and Twitter suggested even more garbage accounts to follow in order to increase my reach. These include one of the president’s sons, the official account of the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, and quite a few FOX News show hosts:

But, I don’t want to reach all of the followers of mainstream right-wing misinformation accounts. I just want to distill an audience of the truly dupable.

So, why can I do this? Because Twitter allows garbage to exist on their platform. Think about the advantages for social media companies compared to mainstream media sources. If you tried to put a show on the air or print content that appealed to fringe audiences like this in a mainstream media outlet you’d be laughed at, and face protests against advertisers. For example, Sleeping Giants has been quite successful at getting advertisers to stop advertising on Breitbart and many FOX News shows. But that’s largely a case of mainstream businesses running ads on relatively mainstream media platforms.

What social media advertising allows is for fringe advertisers to reach fringe groups who’ve demonstrated through their online behavior that they’ll believe anything. This is an audience that’s ripe for exploitation by nefarious businesses interested in tapping into the retirement savings of the elderly. It’s a self-service way to reach soft targets, and you don’t even need to pick up the phone.

Analyzing the anti-Minneapolis 2040 Crowd’s Petition Signatures

A group of Minneapolis residents have organized themselves in an effort to continue Minneapolis’ long history of exclusionary zoning. They, sadly, use the name Minneapolis For Everyone as their brand while lobbying to keep new multi-family developments out of their neighborhoods.

It’s a “Minneapolis is for everyone as long as they’re not too close to us” approach to welcoming new neighbors.

They have a petition. Their petition claims to have over 3,000 signatures from people in support of their preference for McMansions over multi-family housing.

I decided to take a look at their petition’s signatures. 

To do this, I copied their signatures into a Google spreadsheet.

I noticed that some people listed locations that were not only not in Minneapolis, but weren’t even in the United States of America. So I counted them.

I noticed that some of the people who signed the petition seemed to pop up more than once, so I counted how many unique signatures appear on the petition (note the lower-right corner): 

If there are fewer unique names on the petition than total signatures, there must be some duplicates, right? So I counted the duplicates and found quite a few ambitious signers:

A follower of the Minneapolis 2040 Plan debate might notice that elected official, Carol Becker, has signed the petition she’s using to influence politicians, twice.

I also noticed that a some of the redlining maintenance signers weren’t willing to attach their full name to their opinions. Here’s a list of people who’re opposed to having neighbors sharing a property enough to sign a petition but not enough to sign their full name:

  • Alfred
  • Anne
  • Anthony
  • Ashley
  • Brad
  • Brenda
  • Brianna
  • Carol
  • Cathy
  • Christina
  • cindi
  • Claire
  • ClareP
  • Craig
  • Derek
  • Diachina
  • Hallie
  • Jacob
  • Jennie
  • Jill
  • Joan
  • Joe
  • Joe
  • Joe
  • Joe
  • Joe
  • Joe
  • Jorge
  • Julie
  • kaitryne
  • Karina
  • Kathleen
  • Katy
  • Kent
  • Kerry
  • Kristin
  • laura
  • Lucy
  • Mann
  • Martin
  • Michaela
  • MRutt
  • MRutt
  • Paige
  • Ryan
  • Shea
  • Shelley
  • Tera
  • Tera
  • Tera
  • Tera
  • Tera
  • Tera
  • Terri
  • Valérie

What if we look at the most popular first names of signers? Here is a list of the most popular first names among the anti-Minneapolis 2040 crowd:

And last names:

When I think about what the future of Minneapolis looks like, I’m not sure that the Johnsons, Andersons, Larsons, Nelsons, Petersons, Hansons, Olsons, Wilsons, Masons, Bensons, Carlsons, and Christophersons fully represent our future.

Will the Marys, Johns, Susans, and Marks have a place to live? Of course. As John Edwards from Wedge Live (Wedge Live the blog, not the podcast focused on “wedge issues”) has put it, the examples above represent the spectrum of Minneapolis residents ranging from single-family homeowners with mortgages to those who’ve paid off their mortgages.

“Son of ” names are popular Mexican surnames too (ending in “-ez”). I decided to check a list of the top-10 Mexican surnames to see how often they popped up on the anti-Minneapolis 2040 petition. It turns out that they did. One of them. Once.

Last Name – Signatures

  • Hernandez – 0
  • Garcia – 0
  • Lopez – 0
  • Martìnez – 0
  • Rodrìguez – 0
  • Gonzalez – 0
  • Perez – 0
  • Sanchez – 1
  • Gomez – 0
  • Flores – 0

My hope is that our elected officials (other than Carol Becker) will find this helpful when considering the size of the anti-2040 audience along with their diversity and weigh that against what our city truly looks like today and what it will look like in the future.