If broadcast TV was an opiate of the masses, is social media an amphetamine?

This is an abridged version of a longer piece. For an audio reading, see my podcast).

Is it possible that social media plays a role in amplifying our divides and increasing political polarization?

Much of the thinking around this idea has focused on specific product features, like the use of addictive UI design (as examined in The Social Dilemma), or content-recommendation algorithms that show people increasingly extreme content, or Facebook using private data for political advertising (as examined in The Great Hack).

But what if the focus on product feature choices distracts us from something more fundamental? What if most…


This will be a place where I examine indicators of videos being deceptive or staged. There’s only one here now but I will add to this over time. If you have ideas for interesting videos to examine, send them my way and I’d appreciate it.

My experience and interest in fake/staged videos

To skip to the video analyses, keep scrolling down. First I’ll explain a little about my interest in deceptive videos and my experience in that area:

  • I have a video/film degree, and have worked in various video production jobs (writer, director, producer). …


If broadcast TV was an opiate of the masses, is social media an amphetamine?

I have an abridged, easier-to-read version of this here, which I recommend. For an audio reading, see my podcast.

Does it feel like everyone is becoming more angry? It’s not your imagination, and it’s not confined to the United States. Across the world, democracies are crumbling and the main driver seems to be a widespread increase in political animosity.

Is it possible that the internet and social media play a role in this?

A lot of the work around the divisive nature of social media has focused on specific product features, whether it’s the use of addictive features to keep…


From NYPost.com

The following is a transcript from an episode of my podcast, People Who Read People, where I interview a Portland, Oregon antifa/BLM protester who intellectually defends the violent, militant aspects of the Portland protests and riots, and who talks about reasons for physically fighting with rightwing groups.

For more info about the topics discussed, and for links to the episode on podcast platforms, see the episode’s page on my site. If you enjoy this episode, you may also enjoy this follow-up episode: an interview with Omar Wasow, who’s done research on the effects of violent protests and riots.

Transcript with timestamps:

Zach Elwood…


I’m using this page as a place to compile work that I’ve done related to researching and investigating deceptive online activity, including fake news and fake accounts.

Who am I?

My name is Zachary Elwood. My main claim to fame is that I’ve written some books on poker behavior (aka “poker tells”). You can find me on Twitter at @apokerplayer or at Facebook.com/zachelwoodbehavior. I also have a psychology-themed podcast called People Who Read People (summaries and links here).

I’ve also done some research into online deception, fake news, and fake accounts. Some of my work has been featured in major news outlets like…


This will be a compilation and analysis of the best and most logical anti-vegan arguments. The arguments examined are:

A couple upfront clarifications:

  • In this piece, I’ll use ‘veganism’ to mean: “a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is practically possible, exploitation of animals for food…


Note: spoilers exist for both “Joker” and “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”

I’ve read quite a few reviews of Todd Phillips’ Joker movie and none of them talked about what I saw as the most important elements of the movie — the things that made the movie thought-provoking and emotionally affecting.

The first level of basic misunderstanding about Joker: many people seem to think it’s a superhero story or a villain-origin story, when it’s clearly not. To me, the movie is subversive. One could call it an “anti-superhero movie”; it seems to mock our cultural pre-occupation with twisted villains…


An example of the approach I propose in this piece: going into pro-Trump Facebook groups and educating them about the fake, foreign-origin news/posts they’re reacting to.

Many people are looking for ways they can help fight the lies, propaganda, and fake news that enable people like Trump to gain power and find support. This piece will be about some ideas for ways that anyone, anywhere, can help combat these lies.

First, a little about me: I’m Zachary Elwood. I’ve written some books on poker tells and psychology, and I’ve also done some independent research into fake/deceptive social media accounts and propaganda. My work on these subjects has been featured in major news outlets, include the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Buzzfeed.

Summary of idea: Talking one-on-one with Trump supporters on Facebook

So here’s a…


This piece proposes ideas for solving these two problems:

  • How can someone, as an individual doing online fundraising (or some other person-to-person transaction) fairly easily establish their credibility?
  • How can someone, who is considering donating to an individual’s online fundraiser (or considering some other person-to-person financial transaction) feel more comfortable that that transaction is legitimate?

These are questions I’ve pondered a good amount over the last few years. I thought about it when I was writing my own GoFundMe (for time spent investigating a prominent fake news creator) and also when I’ve been asked to donate to fundraisers of people…


In this piece I’ll examine the almost-certainly deceptive conservative Twitter account @emilia_suze, who claims to have a PhD and be an “AI tech inventor” and who, I assert, uses a fake name and fake photo. Not only does this account have a pretty sizable Twitter following (31.7K at time of writing), her tweets were also featured in three separate news/opinion pieces (more on that later).

I’ve spent a good amount of my free time studying fake and deceptive social media accounts. A couple of the more prominent things I’ve worked on:

Zachary Elwood

Have psych podcast “People Who Read People.” My research into online deception featured in NYT, WaPo, more. Wrote books on poker tells (translated 8 languages).

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