Bleats

Did Lady Gaga's Classmates Actually Run A Facebook Group Taunting Her?

Short answer: we simply don't know.

In the past few days, you may have seen a story about a Facebook group that Lady Gaga’s college classmates made in an effort to bully her.

This is just one of the many articles about it.

 

According to these stories, 12 of her classmates were members of a Facebook group titled, “Stefani Germanotta, you’ll never be famous”, where they made fun of her for performing in New York City bars and trying to make a name for herself.

Twitter user @majdgeorge98 serves as the primary source for this story, and most of the articles that repeat the story don’t provide any others.

But is it actually true? Honestly, it’s hard to know.

The original source for the story seems to be this opinion piece published by Public Radio International’s The World that dates back to January 17, 2016. It doesn’t contain any screenshots, but it does open with this:

“When I was a freshman at NYU and Facebook was only a year old and people created/joined groups like “I have dimples” and “Fake ID, please!,” I remember coming across a Facebook group that broke my heart. It’s name, something like: “Stefani Germanotta, you will never be famous.””

The entire piece is about the author’s feelings upon finding the group, upon learning that Stefani Germanotta was Lady Gaga, and upon seeing Leonardo DiCaprio’s reaction to Lady Gaga squeezing past him to collect her award at the 2016 Golden Globes.

Given the nature of the piece, the narrative of a girl who overcame bullying and proved her haters wrong is a desirable one. But whether it’s an accurate one is a different matter entirely.

Here’s what we know:

  1. The opinion piece says the author found the group when Facebook was ‘only a year old’, which would be around 2005
  2. Lady Gaga was enrolled at NYU until the second semester of the 2005 school year
  3. Facebook was initially only open to college students
  4. Facebook groups have been a feature since at least 2005some say since the summer, which would mean they didn’t exist when Gaga was still enrolled

Here’s what we also know:

  1. All Facebook groups matching the description were created in the past week
  2. A Facebook page (remember, pages are different to groups) matching the description was created the day after the opinion piece went live

Simply put, with the information that’s available, we don’t know enough to draw a conclusion either way. There’s no reason to believe the author of the opinion piece wasn’t being truthful about what she saw on Facebook that day in 2005, but all evidence has since been wiped from the internet, and without that, there’s no way to definitively know.

While fact-checking a relatively harmless story about Lady Gaga might seem pointless, the story is just one of the latest examples of how some news outlets can fall into the trap of picking up a story from social media and run with it without digging any deeper or trying to independently verify the information.

Regardless of the story’s veracity, Lady Gaga has had a fantastic awards season this year, and that should be enough cause to celebrate, mean-Facebook-group or no mean-Facebook-group.

Facebook Is On A Mission To Stop Anti-Vax Recommendations After An Outbreak Of Measles

Common sense prevails!

According to Bloomberg, Facebook has said that it is “exploring removing anti-vaccine information from software systems that recommend other things to read on its social network”.

In layman’s terms, that means that it might instruct its algorithms to stop suggesting pages or articles that are anti-vax or from anti-vax websites whenever those little ‘Suggested Pages’, ‘Articles Similar To This’, or ‘Groups You Might Like’ boxes pop up.

The move comes after Congressman Adam B. Schiff sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday, expressing concern that the Facebook and Instagram algorithms were “surfacing and recommending messages that discourage parents from vaccinating their children”.

Congressman Schiff cited the state of emergency that was declared in Washington state following a measles outbreak last month, writing that:

“There is strong evidence to suggest that at least part of the source of this trend is the degree to which medically inaccurate information about vaccines surface on the websites where many Americans get their information, among them Facebook and Instagram.”

In response, Facebook said it is “exploring additional measures to best combat the problem”, which might include “reducing or removing this type of content from recommendations, including Groups You Should Join, and demoting it in search results, while also ensuring that higher quality and more authoritative information is available.”

The congressman also contacted Google with his concerns, but the web search giant did not immediately respond to Bloomberg’s request for comment. However, Google has already been taking steps to prevent misinformation from surfacing, including adjusting the way videos are recommended on YouTube so that videos with medical misinformation will no longer be recommended to users.

That doesn’t mean misinformation is hidden from users entirely, however. If you search for videos about ‘vaccines’ on YouTube, the eighth result is a documentary called ‘The Truth About Vaccines’ that has over 1.1 million views and a description that reads, “The risks of vaccines are very real, and parents are allowed to question their safety.”

So that’s not great.

But this change, if Facebook were to implement it, would be better than nothing, and would hopefully do something to prevent more people getting sucked into the echo chamber of misinformation and hysteria so easily available to them via the lawless wasteland that is Facebook Groups.

Fingers crossed Facebook decides to go ahead and train its little robots to stop recommending anti-vax groups and pages!

Can you tell I absolutely, with 100% certainty understand how Facebook algorithms work? Good.

Facebook Plans To Merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, And Worlds Will Collide Sooner Than You Think

You'll soon be able to communicate across the three platforms.

According to The New York TimesMark Zuckerberg has plans to integrate the messaging services across all of the social media platforms he owns – that’s Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – which will enable their 2.6 billion users to communicate across the three platforms.

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean those apps are disappearing and becoming part of some FaceAppGram hybrid – they’ll still exist as standalone apps. What’s changing is the underlying infrastructure, which will be unified, enabling people to communicate across all three apps.

In addition, Zuckerberg has ordered that all of the apps incorporate end-to-end encryption, making conversations secure and only viewable by those actually involved. WhatsApp already has this feature, but Messenger and Instagram do not, although Messenger does give you the option of turning encryption on. Other secure apps include Signal, Telegram, Viber and Wickr.

In a statement, Facebook said it wanted to:

“build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private. We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks.”

As The New York Times explains, this move is designed to keep users “highly engaged inside the company’s ecosystem”.

Frankly, I just miss MSN, and none of what Facebook, Apple, or Google are offering me comes close to the joy of being able to nudge people or sign in and out twenty times in a row to get someone’s attention.

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