Seek opinions opposite of mine and honestly evaluate them. Modify my own opinions when others make more sense. After the 2020 election, I poured time into both Fox News and CNN coverage, and print articles from the Washington Post, NY Times, NY Post, and other liberal and conservative publications. I found both sides bias their coverage to match their points of view. So I need to all sides to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth.
As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Greg Scott.
Greg Scott is a long-time technology and cybersecurity professional and published author. He spends his daytime hours helping the world’s largest open-source software company support the world’s largest telecom companies. Nights and weekends, he studies how attackers use the internet to plunder people in their homes and businesses. Sometimes he gets into long electronic water-cooler discussions about politics. He lives in Minnesota with his wife, daughter, two grandsons, one dog, two cats, and an assortment of fish and hissing cockroaches his grandsons love. Find more about Greg at his website at https://www.dgregscott.com.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Dysfunctional might be the best summary of my childhood backstory. Some people say it’s a miracle I’m still alive.
My mom married Joe Gent on Friday, June 13, 1969 at the Camelback Inn in Phoenix, Arizona. He was her fourth husband. I was two months away from my twelfth birthday.
Joe said he had been sober for three years. He gave me a copy of the AA book. I read it cover to cover. It said alcohol is poison to alcoholics, because one drink leads to the next, and the next after that, and before long, it’s right back in the gutter. But on their wedding night, Mom and Joe drank happy toasts and promised everything would be okay. Joe wasn’t really an alcoholic, he just liked to drink. The AA book called that a rationalization. I had a bad feeling that night.
We moved to Minnesota shortly after the wedding, and over the next several years, life at home descended into a private hell as alcohol addiction claimed my family. Drunken drama became part of day-to-day life and I needed a way to cope with the insanity around me.
A Twin Cities computer timesharing firm processed grades for local school districts and offered capacity on their systems for students interested in computers. I took full advantage. I spent hours every day holed up in a little room at school with an ASR33 Teletype, an acoustic coupler, and a phone, exploring everything this computer system had to offer.
One time, I found a golf simulation program and it piqued my curiosity. Computers in 1971 were the size of refrigerators and terminals were not portable, but I wanted to play golf at home. And so, I printed a copy of the program, brought the listing home, and followed the program instructions by hand. I used a paper notebook and pencil to track all the variables.
It took a whole weekend to play two holes of computer golf, but I got to know that program intimately, and that helped me learn how to write my own programs. In ninth grade, I wrote a program to help conjugate Spanish verbs. I wrote another program to give odds on upcoming football games and fine-tuned it in high school. I could have started my own gambling operation.
A professor from the University of Wisconsin at River Falls visited our Minnesota high school, and he dialed into his system to show us something. That was a mistake. I looked over his shoulder as he typed his login credentials, and shortly after he left, we dialed into his system and impersonated him. We found a chat room with a thriving underground market for login credentials for systems all over the upper Midwest, and we leveraged that professor’s credentials to gain credentials for lots of other systems. We explored everything we could find. Today, we would have gotten in big trouble for what we did, but we were pioneers in 1974.
One day, I’ll write a memoir with lessons about overcoming my family circumstances. But for now, here is more about my mom.
Here is more about my biological dad, Doug Bean. I reconnected with him when I was a young adult. I’m glad I did.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
Computers fascinated me, starting in the eighth grade in 1970 when a local timesharing bureau contracted with school districts to put a teletype, modem, and acoustic coupler at our school to expose us to computer technology of the day. My Math teacher, Mr. Pederson, gave us our first lessons. For me, learning about computers was more than an escape from the alcoholic insanity at home; it was also my ticket to a good future as an adult. It hooked me from day one.
I pursued computer technology through high school and college, and then ran into the real world of job applications. The only place that would hire me was an engineering college in Terre Haute, Indiana, at a salary of 14,400 dollars per year. Which wasn’t much, even in 1979 dollars. I spent two years there, and then moved to the Chicago area to work for a then up-and-coming technology company named Digital Equipment Corporation.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am an author and I like stories where ordinary people with no superpowers step up when called. I’m working on my third novel, a story about a bank fraud analyst who fights a human trafficking ring. Jesse Jonsen will pay a price to answer her call. Here’s a story about where she came from.
I want to entertain readers and help people realize how easily we fall victim to viral lies and manipulation over the internet.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I owe Mrs. Will, my fourth-grade teacher, a debt of gratitude. In the summer of 1966, Mom said we were not homeless, we were bohemians. But after GMAC repossessed her car in Albuquerque, NM at the end of that summer, we were about to become bohemians on the street.
Mom found a job and an apartment near an elementary school where I started fourth grade. Mrs. Will paid special attention to me during my two months at that school. She told me she had watched me adapt to my new situation, and when we left in November that year, she told me I would also adapt to my next new situation. Her words helped carry me through dark times as a teenager, learning to adapt to the alcoholic insanity in my home.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
In 2013, I made a mistake that could have shut down a small business, ruined my career, and bankrupted me. I earned my living as an independent contractor and computer reseller and found a computer storage vendor with a promising product. I sold a system to my best customer. It failed one day, and so I logged what should have been a routine warranty call. And then I spent an afternoon twiddling my thumbs in a hot room, waiting on a callback.
The callback finally came. It was the sales rep, who wanted 5000 dollars for technical support services. That was when I realized I’d made a terrible choice. We eventually got the customer back up and running, but I had a bigger problem. This storage vendor was trouble, and I had put my customer and friend in the middle of it.
I had a heart-to-heart talk with my customer, and we replaced all that storage with a different system. I sold the replacement system at my cost and did the installation and migration for free. It cost the customer 15,000 dollars in unplanned expense and cost me several weeks of time. That original storage vendor went bankrupt a few months later.
The lesson is, when you make a mistake, own up to it and face the consequences. Because the consequences of covering it up will probably be worse.
That customer and I are still friends to this day.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
The AA book Joe Gent gave me in 1969 had stories of alcoholics from the 1930s who fell into the gutter but eventually recovered. It taught me that people can recover from the lowest of the low, but also convinced me that alcohol is poison for me. And so today, I mostly stay away from alcohol.
“2001 A Space Odyssey,” by Arthur C Clarke left an impression. It was the first story I read speculating that aliens helped early humans develop and it opened a whole science-fiction world for me to explore. Ray Bradbury also resonated with me. “Fahrenheit 451” has firemen who burn taboo books. And from “The Martian Chronicles,” to this very day, I see an image of Mom and Pop in a rockin’ chair on their wooden porch, while their son flies overhead in a rocket on the way to Mars.
“John Adams” by David McCullough and other biographies of our founding fathers also left a mark. Those guys had no superpowers and they were just as fallible as me. They were ordinary people who stepped up when called, and that’s what made them superheroes.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I don’t know if anyone famous said, “Embrace failure,” but I am a failure in more ways than I can count. Sometimes, I failed multiple times. Sometimes, I found creative ways to fail that nobody had ever heard of. There’s no sense getting embarrassed about it because failure and I are frequent companions. I may as well embrace it.
For me, success comes from failure, learning, adjusting, and repeating. People call me stubborn, but one day when book sales take off, they’ll call me persistent. Or I’ll die trying.
I have plenty of failure stories. I shared my story about the failed storage earlier. Here’s another one.
My first professional job after college was Assistant Director of the Computing Center at an engineering college in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was an important sounding title, but reality was, I was the number two person in a two-person IT shop, with a salary that wasn’t enough to pay the bills. A friend sponsored me as an Amway distributor, and I drank the Kool-Aid.
I spent hours and hours and hours listening to tapes about success and failure and the power of positive thinking. And they really were tapes. MP3 downloads weren’t invented yet. But despite all that good advice, for which I paid 4.99 dollars per tape, I never made any money as an Amway distributor. I failed.
Failure was a bad word in Amway circles. Failure was for losers and good Amway distributors were winners. Anyone who failed was either lazy or didn’t believe enough in themselves to dig deep enough for success.
What a load of hogwash. But what a learning experience.
While failing as an Amway distributor, I learned not to fear rejection, I learned to approach people higher-up than me who had something I needed, I learned how to eat crackers for dinner at a Denny’s Restaurant in Terre Haute, Indiana, because I couldn’t afford to buy anything from the menu, and I learned how to make tough decisions.
It took me a long time to figure out that failures really are learning opportunities. And not fearing rejection came in handy when 110 potential agents either rejected “Virus Bomb” with form letters, or didn’t bother to respond to my queries. It also came in handy when I pitched radio interviews. It took more than two years to get my first radio interview. By now, I have dozens of them. Recordings are on my website.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
The best definition for leadership came from The Balance Small Business. Leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common objective.
I want my family to prosper and my grandsons to grow into healthy men. To motivate my family to achieve those common objectives, I need to model the behavior I want my grandsons and other family members to practice. It’s a big responsibility because I’m the only male role model my grandsons have. If I succeed in my leadership role, my family members have a chance to succeed. But if I fail, my family will find out and I’ll have to took them in the eye and justify myself. That will hurt their respect for me, their respect for themselves, and probably plunge our family into chaos.
The same stakes apply on a national and global scale. The United States spent 240 years showing the world the great things democracy can accomplish. And then poor leadership led us into chaos after the 2016 election while millions of Americans rationalized away sex scandals, payoffs, lies, and dozens of interrelated conspiracy theories about QAnon, COVID, and the 2020 election. Poor leadership created the conditions for a mob hell-bent on murder to invade the US Capitol to stop Congress from counting the electoral votes on January 6, 2021, and more mobs like that could be our downfall unless we demand better from our leaders.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The short answer is, viral lies. Academic studies show that lies tend to fly farther and faster than truth. The studies are easy to find. Here is a study from MIT. Here is another study published in Scientific American. I lived it first-hand in 2019.
Back when ISIS and other Middle-East terror groups were strong, and we read story after story about yet another young person abandoning their country to support terrorist insanity, we had a hard time understanding how anyone could fall for such radical lies spread over social media.
But then, millions of Americans fell for other radical lies fueled by social media. The whole world saw it with Pizzagate, QAnon, COVID-19, and the 2020 election. And we all watched the consequences when a mob attacked the US Capitol.
It’s an ugly story going back to 2011 and earlier.
On Nov. 20, 2011, 60 Minutes ran an interview with Grover Norquist, founder of a group named Americans for Tax Reform, ATR. ATR donated money and marketing expertise to Republican candidates who signed a pledge to never support raising taxes. Republican candidates who refused found themselves starved for campaign resources and out of office.
Americans don’t like behind-the-scenes kingmakers pulling strings. And so, just like Hitler exploited German anger after WWI, 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump exploited American anger about perceptions of elitism, political correctness run amok, weak leadership, Middle-East terrorists operating with impunity, long-term standard of living declines, corruption, government intrusion into daily life, and a sense of hopelessness. Trump promised to drain the swamp and marketed himself as a populist. He won the Republican nomination and beat Hilary Clinton in the election.
The infamous Access Hollywood hot mic video appeared late in the 2016 election cycle. In that 2005 video, Trump claimed he could get away with anything because he was a celebrity. He tested that during his term in office and found he was right. Through scandal after scandal, Trump supporters stuck with him like diehard sports fans while Trump blanketed his 88 million Twitter followers and friendly media outlets with messaging.
The personality cult, nurtured by QAnon, Twitter, Fox News, and alternate right wing media outlets, took root.
Russia, Pizzagate, and QAnon
Although Trump won the electoral college in 2016, he claimed the election was rigged because Clinton won more popular votes. Vice President Pence chaired a committee to look into 2016 election irregularities and found nothing of substance. But Trump supporters paid more attention to Trump tweets and ignored the Pence committee findings.
American intelligence agencies believe Russia interfered with the 2016 elections by using fake social media profiles to create turmoil. Social media companies responded by cracking down on fake profiles. Trump denied Russian interference and tweeted his messages day and night to millions of followers.
During the 2016 election season, a false rumor flew around the internet that Hilary Clinton and other Democrats operated a child sex ring from the Comet Ping Pong pizza parlor in Washington, DC. Alex Jones gave it prominence on his internet platform, Infowars. Jack Posobiec livestreamed a children’s birthday party, telling his viewers he was exposing evil. The publicity incited Edgar Welch to drive from North Carolina to Washington DC and enter the pizzeria with guns drawn to rescue nonexistent child sex slaves from nonexistent masters. Welch surrendered to police when he realized he was on a fool’s errand. This Washington Post Pizzagate article chronicles the story in detail. In case the link goes bad, here is a PDF.
Alex Jones eventually apologized. But Infowars still continues. On Jan. 18, 2021, Infowars ran a story with headline, “Elite Plan Satanic Ritual for Joe Biden Inauguration as Democrats Commit Open Insurrection.” Jack Posobiec went on to become a top reporter for One America News Network, OANN.
Pizzagate should have alarmed the public about viral lies flying around the internet. But Pizzagate was just a preview.
A few months later, in 2017, the mysterious Q started posting dire warnings in obscure internet forums. The narrative is classic American conspiracy theory mixed with bastardized predictions derived from Christian prophesy. A small group of powerful people who control all major media outlets are secretly plotting to take over the world. This group commits unspeakable acts against children, and only Donald Trump stands in their way. A huge battle is coming where the forces of good, led by Trump, will defeat the deep state forces of evil. Nothing can stop it. Stick to the plan.
A small army of conspiracy theorists and hucksters spread the anonymous Q message to Reddit, Youtube, and other platforms. Within a few months, millions of Americans converted to QAnon true believers.
COVID Conspiracy Theories
The COVID-19 pandemic brought conspiracy theories into the mainstream. Millions of people still embrace them.
- COVID-19 was a Chinese genetic engineering experiment gone bad.
- Deep state people with the FDA and other government agencies engineered COVID-19 to make money from a cure.
- Hydroxychloroquine is a cure, but deep state people who control patents on competing drugs block it.
- COVID-19 is part of an evil plot by Bill Gates, George Soros, and the deep state to take over the world.
- 5G cell phone technology causes COVID-19.
- COVID-19 vaccines have nanobots so the government can control our minds.
- Masks and social distancing are excuses for the deep state to control our lives.
Millions believed the Judy Mikovits Plandemic video, rocketing her book to the Amazon best seller list. Millions more viewed videos with Stella Immanuel, where she claimed hydroxychloroquine cures COVID-19. President Trump retweeted her tweets in a PR battle with his own Coronavirus Task Force.
2020 Election Conspiracy Theories
Meanwhile, leading up to the 2020 election, President Trump used his Twitter platform and friendly media outlets to tell the public over and over that absentee ballots would invalidate the upcoming election. In tweet after tweet, media story after media story, rally after rally, he presented his case. Millions of Americans listened. And believed.
After Trump lost the election, his team doubled-down on rigged election claims.
- In the middle of the night, deep state election officials fed fake ballots into voting machines to taint vote counts.
- Venezuelans tainted American voting machines.
- A German company tainted American voting machines.
- An Italian defense contractor used a supercomputer and satellites to taint American voting machines.
- Deep state American election officials conspired with the Chinese and Venezuelans to taint voting machines.
- Deep state election officials kicked Republican poll watchers out of vote counting centers.
- US Postal Service employees backdated late Biden ballots and destroyed Trump ballots.
- The Chinese bribed election officials to look the other way.
- Somebody flew in fake paper ballots from Mexico.
- Somebody flew fake paper ballots into Pennsylvania from New York.
- Crooks in Spain, Mexico, and Germany counted ballots.
- Dead people voted.
- Live people voted for Biden more than once.
- And more.
Trump bombarded Twitter with election fraud claims. Fox News, OANN, the Epoch Times, and others inundated the public with more fraud claims mixed with QAnon and COVID conspiracy messages. It was information warfare over the internet on an unprecedented scale.
None of the election fraud allegations stood up to scrutiny, but tidal waves of lies to QAnon devotees and millions of Trump supporters drowned the truth. Here is one of many social media exchanges.
Everyone who debunked a Trump conspiracy theory was a deep state sympathizer. Every judge who ruled against a Trump lawsuit was either a Communist, or a traitor in cahoots with the Chinese, or just gutless.
The information war continues, even into February, 2021, with a Mike Lindell “Absolute Proof” video regurgitating the same 2020 election fraud lies. The difference — by Feb. 2021, social media no longer amplifies 2020 election lies as much as a few months earlier. And so the Lindell video only had 1700 likes, 2700 comments, and 30K views, nowhere near the scale of earlier videos. But the commenters are fervent believers.
I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?
I’ve been vocal in blog posts and social media condemning President Trump’s words and actions, especially after the 2020 election. After I called Trump a false prophet and quoted Matthew 24, verses 4 through 8 in December, 2020, one of my Christian friends called me a heretic. A few weeks later, she also told me I was full of hate after I condemned the January 6 2021 Capitol riot and the lies leading up to it.
Many people I know from church and authors’ groups no longer engage with me because we disagree on the election outcome, COVID-19 leadership, and QAnon conspiracy theories.
And now, with the benefit of months to think about it, and after reviewing what I said earlier, I like what I said even more now than when I said it. In any social media thread, I have rules to stick to the issues, keep profanity out the conversation, and avoid personal insults. Looking back, even when people call me names, I mostly kept my rules.
One time, I asked an annoying heckler trying to defend an election conspiracy theory to ask Elvis to autograph a record for me. It was a clever quip, but I need to do better. My goal should be to persuade, not alienate.
In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?
Back in 2019, my oldest grandson played in a park wearing a costume and mask. Somebody thought he was an adult predator, and that started a social media firestorm with thousands of comments and hundreds of shares. The local police posted the predator story on Facebook and the story even made to local TV websites. My daughter figured out the “predator” was my then-eleven-year-old, four-foot, eight-inch, grandson. She reported this to police, who updated the social media posting to say it was a prankster. This triggered even more social media madness. And then, Dakota County, Minnesota, charged my oldest grandson with 5th Degree Assault. One possible penalty for 5th Degree Assault is removal of the child from the home and placement with foster care.
We hired an attorney, went to court, and won the trial. Here is a blog post with details. My blog post also has links to articles in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and an extended radio interview about the ordeal.
I’ve seen what viral lies can do, up close and personal. Now, we all face the same question on a bigger scale. Trump’s words and actions, especially after the election, were wrong, and when I see friends, family, and millions of Americans willing to follow him right off a cliff, I cannot stay silent.
My words come with consequences. Some friends and family say I am brainwashed by the MSM — mainstream media. Somebody called me a communist Nazi. I mentioned above that one friend called me a heretic and a hater. My wife’s cousin said I have no right to speak out because I never served in the military. I’m just an IT guy. I should stick to cleaning computer viruses.
It would be easy to stay silent. Who do I think I am anyway? But I told my grandsons, you don’t back down to bullies, not on the playground, and not when they wear nice suits and work for the government. Now it’s my turn. I have to look my grandsons in the eye and account for my choices. Given what I know about viral lies, both personally and professionally, if I don’t speak out, who will?
I bridge the divide by offering people with an opposite point of view a chance to air their views. I challenge them with facts, but I work hard to avoid hurling personal insults. If people want to call me names, that’s their problem.
How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?
A long time ago when I started my first IT consulting company, my wife challenged me to put my then-new Christian beliefs into action. Did I stand for something or not? And if I stood for something, what about the company with my name on it?
Scott Consulting has come and gone, but my wife’s words are as true today as they were in 1994. Do I stand for something or not?
Shortly after the 2016 election, one person at work posted internally that anyone who voted for Trump in 2016 was a bigot. I took exception to that and said I voted for Trump in 2016 because Trump promised to nominate Supreme Court justices likely to overturn Rove vs. Wade. I said bigotry is fixable, but once somebody murders an unborn baby, that baby is dead forever.
I set off a firestorm with the word, murder. Numerous people reminded me that since the Supreme Court ruled abortions are legal, then abortion cannot be murder. They were right. “Murder” is a legal term, which means abortion in the United States is not murder. Abortion is still wrong, even if the Supreme Court says it’s okay. The Supreme Court also ruled slavery was okay, but now we universally acknowledge slavery is wrong. The controversy eventually quieted. I found I consumed a bunch of work time with little of value to show for it. A few people at work still called me a bigot.
My employer pays me to be a Technical Account Manager, not a politician, and so I don’t go looking for political conflict at work. But I don’t hide my views either, and many people at work know about my blog and contribute to my social media posts. Most people at work agree with me about the 2020 election. Many disagree with me about abortion.
I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?
I self-identify as a middle-aged, bald-headed, IT guy from Minnesota, looking for an audience for my novels. I am also a Christian.
President Trump claimed to support policies dear to us Christians, and so we looked the other way while he violated his oath of office, especially after the 2020 election. We Christians must hold ourselves accountable for our role in what happened in our country recently. If we honestly face up to the consequences of our choices, much of the wrath around us will dissipate. But if we don’t, then all that anger from all those conspiracy theories will lie dormant until the next time somebody with an audience exploits it.
Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?
The basis for this question is wrong. Social media companies do not make money from creating a split in our society. They make money from keeping the public engaged with them. Unfortunately, the algorithms amplify postings with lots of shares at the expense of follow-on fact checks. And so, viral lies spread far and wide, while truth doesn’t have a chance. Social media companies need to tune their algorithms to give truth a chance to compete, because civil war, fueled by viral lies, is bad for business.
But we must also practice individual personal responsibility when we consume social media. When we see a post for one point of view, before making a decision on whether we agree, we need to familiarize ourselves with the opposite point of view, so we can make an informed choice.
What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?
We need to seek partisan media pundits with the opposite point of view from our own. At minimum, this will give us ammunition to counter the other side’s dumb arguments. But maybe it will modify our opinions. Maybe the other side is not as evil as we first thought.
Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?
We really are on the front lines of the biggest information war the world has ever seen, and we need to find the most powerful person on the planet to stop it. Hold up a mirror and have a conversation with the person who looks back. Appeal to that person’s critical thinking skills.
People died from the insanity on Jan. 6, 2021, all because of viral lies and conspiracy theories gone nuts. Unless we wake up, many more will die.
Lies spread faster than truth because it’s easy to lie and hard to respond with truth. Before anyone can respond to a viral lie, millions of people have already seen it and repeated it. But social media algorithms don’t amplify the response, and so only a few people see responses. And after lies travel around the world over and over, they accumulate an audience of diehard fans and truth never has a chance to break through.
If social media companies keep censoring controversial content on an ad-hoc basis, then sooner or later, they will alienate significant portions of their audience and die. Instead of knee-jerk censoring, what if social media companies adopt circuit breakers, similar to stock market circuit breakers? The idea is, when sharing about an event or idea exceeds a certain threshold, temporarily slow the sharing to give responses time to catch up.
Combined with circuit-breakers, what if social media companies fight lies by also amplifying opposing points of view? One pillar of free speech is, let the public choose from a free marketplace of ideas. But social media algorithms bias that marketplace in favor of lies. How about tuning the algorithms to give the same weight to opposing viewpoints?
After 2016 Russian election trolling, social media companies learned to spot fake accounts and remove them. After the 2020 election, social media companies must adjust again.
The cybersecurity community also needs to step up. We need to educate the public about social media companies’ business models and how lies travel faster than truth. Perhaps social media companies can partner with the cybersecurity community to teach how to consume digital media responsibly.
But no matter what policies or technology social media companies adopt, individual personal responsibility is still the last and best tool to combat viral lies. People must learn to think twice before posting. Explore opposite points of view, dig for facts, sleep on it, and make wise decisions.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
As a cybersecurity professional, I use internet con-jobs as raw material for my published novels. And that leads to five things **I** can do to help unite our polarized society. Anyone who wants to join me is welcome.
Here is a video:
- Invest time every day into learning more about what’s going on in the world around me.
- Demand truth from myself and everyone.
- Seek opinions opposite of mine and honestly evaluate them. Modify my own opinions when others make more sense. After the 2020 election, I poured time into both Fox News and CNN coverage, and print articles from the Washington Post, NY Times, NY Post, and other liberal and conservative publications. I found both sides bias their coverage to match their points of view. So I need to all sides to figure out who is lying and who is telling the truth.
- Embrace open. Share what I learn liberally. Especially my mistakes and lessons learned. Expect everyone else to also share what they learn. I have a presentation and blog post about this from a cybersecurity point of view. But the concept applies universally. Transparency is good.
- Think twice. With everything I post on social media, ask myself if it informs, inspires, educates, or entertains.
Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?
As I watched the joint session of Congress count the Electoral College ballots, I noticed everyone followed a ritual. I also noticed rituals in in the Senate impeachment trial. And then I remembered, representatives and senators always follow a protocol when addressing each other in session. Sometimes, this protocol masks seething feelings, but they still follow it because experience teaches that the protocol dampens conflict and encourages participants to stick to the issues.
In day to day life, and especially on social media, follow a similar protocol. Stick to the issue, avoid name-calling, keep the language clean, be human, and acknowledge the other person is also human.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
If we’re watching Bible prophecies come alive, then we are hurtling into seven years of the worst times humanity will ever see. But at the end of this tribulation period, Jesus will come again and Christians will celebrate.
But if today’s rough period is just history as usual, then we need to take stock of where we’re heading and make adjustments. Because without Jesus coming back soon, living in a world with a broken United States and a global power vacuum is unthinkable.
If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?
The world is what we make it, and the mob that invaded the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 exposed our ugly side. If young people don’t want that kind of ugliness to become a normal part of day-to-day life, then try to change their part of the world for the better. If they don’t step up, then who will?
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
By early 2021, I’ve written two novels, with more on the way. I write because I have important things to say and I want people to read them. If somebody out there has influence with lots of readers and they want to share a breakfast or lunch with me, count me in.
Back in 2015, I attended an IT industry conference in Las Vegas and found out Robert Herjavec of Shark Tank fame was on a presentation panel. I had just published my first novel, “Bullseye Breach.” It has a cybersecurity theme, and an endorsement from a celebrated cybersecurity entrepreneur such as Robert Herjavec would have been a boon for sales. And so, I bent the conference rules and finagled a way to get a book into his hands. Nothing came of it. Not even a thank you. For all I know, he may have thrown my book in the trash.
That cured me of chasing celebrities.
Maybe I’ll have a private breakfast or lunch with my wife. She says I spend too much time on work and not enough with family.
How can our readers follow you online?
The easiest way is via my website at https://www.dgregscott.com.
This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!