Franken: The pitfalls and cliffs of internet

THE INTERNET, full as it is of false and misleading information, can make people angry and frustrated (Shutterstock).

I have gotten to the point that every time my cellphone blasts its generic ringtone, I assume it’s a robocall. My algorithm favorites are the recorded voices that start out saying, “Can you hear me?” and then pause a few seconds before continuing. I’ve taken to filling that brief void with a Bronx cheer or some other obnoxious sound. Then I hang up.

Sometimes, however, when I check for messages or run into a friend, he or she might say, “I tried to call you, but all I got was you making bad-taste sounds.” Worse is when it’s a business call or a medical provider.

That is just one illustration of the perils of advancing technologies. Artificial intelligence has taken the inefficient human beings almost entirely out of telephoning, except that it also enables nefarious humans to come up with new and different ways to steal our money; for instance, scaring the daylights out of vulnerable, trusting marks who believe that the Social Security or IRS calls they get are truly official demands for payment — or else. Ironically, progress has equaled a step or steps backward.

So it is with anti-social media. Our gadgetry has enabled us to communicate with each other in all parts of the world. The problem is that we usually find that what we have to communicate is repugnant, or outright lies. A case in point is virtually everything a certain president of the United States shares with us in tweets.

Now it comes out that the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has been hacked, and for a while his account was spewing out racist mini messages and bomb threats on his monster creation. At least, he claims he was hacked.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if that same certain president, at some point, insists that he was hacked, which would be plausible because it would explain the stream of ridiculous and obnoxious content sent out in his name. The only other explanation would be ignorance, hate, lying or outright insanity.

Nevertheless, one former head of state is not hiding behind identity theft. Kim Campbell, who was Canadian prime minister for a short time in the ’90s, tweeted referring to Hurricane Dorian catastrophically threatening Florida: “I’m rooting for a direct hit on Mar a Lago!”

She apologized quickly and deleted her tweet, but the internet is forever. She’s never been a fan of Donald Trump to begin with, so one has to question the sincerity of her apology. The internet is also brings out our worst instincts, as evidenced by the cyber-debate that raged between those who condemned Campbell and those who loved the idea that Dorian might demolish Mar-a-Lago.

I hasten to emphasize that the Dorian/Mar-a-Lago snarkiness was put out by a FORMER Canadian prime minister. The present one, Justin Trudeau, is far too busy making goo-goo eyes at Melania and Ivanka Trump.

No, there’s little reason to believe that about Trudeau, other than malicious rumors, which in cyberspace are reality. If the rumors are totally made up, they are still reality. That’s how it is in the cowardly new world of technology, which is spiraling out of control. I’ll remember that the next time I smart off on a robocall. At least someone wants to talk to me, even if it is an automaton.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



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