I’m not gonna lie, all the difficult stuff going on in the world right now has me STRESSED OUT! And when I get stressed out, I bake. 🍪🍰

Cookies. Pies. Tarts. All was going well with my stress-baking until a coworker sent me this video. It’s from YouTube baker Ann Reardon, who runs the channel How to Cook That. Cool!, I thought. Another fun recipe for me to try out. WRONG! Instead, it was Ann breaking down how one of the most viewed cooking channels on YouTube was all lies, lies, and more lies. Whaaat?! 😩 Go watch Ann’s video and then come back here because I have more to tell you. I’ll wait…


Not inclined to watch the video? Here’s a tl;dr. Baker makes good baking videos. Sketchy thing called a content farm pumps out low-quality baking videos designed to game YouTube’s algorithm for profit, but with questionable recipes. Bad content farm videos get a lot more views and subscribers than legit baker. Legit baker exposes sketchy content farm’s laughably bad recipes. Calls for people to support better baking content creators before they get pushed out of existence.

Good, you’re back. 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

This story picks up with me sitting in my kitchen, wondering what kind of world we live in where even my happy baking videos are trying to manipulate me so someone else can make money. STRESSFUL!

Look, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know not to trust everything I see on the internet. Lots of sketchy people have figured out how to game the algorithms on places like YouTube and Twitter to manipulate people. It’s a big problem all over the internet.

But my cooking videos are deceiving me?! If I can’t trust cooking videos, what can I trust? Now, rather than stress-baking, I’m stress-googling everything I can find on this topic.

The good news is, my stress is your gain. I may not be able to share my cookies and pies with you. I can share all the great things I read on this topic to help you spot and avoid online manipulation. Here is a reading list to help you start to understand the problem of online manipulation. I hope you enjoy it with a cookie or maybe even a cupcake. 🧁

What is Online Manipulation?

The Internet Knows You Better Than Your Spouse Does
Scientific American

How Does the YouTube Algorithm Work? A Guide to Getting More Views
Hootsuite Blog

Understanding Facebook’s Algorithm Could Change How You See Yourself
The New Republic

Online Manipulation: Hidden Influences in a Digital World
Susser, Roessler, & Nissenbaum, SSRN

Five Generations of Online Manipulation: The Evolution of Advanced Persistent Manipulators
Foreign Policy Research Institute

How Can Online Manipulation Personally Affect Me?

The Making of a YouTube Radical
New York Times

Dear Tech Companies: I Don’t Want to See Baby Ads After My Child was Stillborn
Washington Post

On YouTube’s Digital Playground, an Open Gate for Pedophiles
New York Times

YouTube Extremism and the Long Tail
The Atlantic

How YouTube Radicalized Brazil
New York Times

Google’s Algorithm For Detecting Hate Speech Is Racially Biased
MIT Tech Review

How Does Online Manipulation Work?

This Is How You’re Being Manipulated

How YouTube Pushes Viewers Towards Extremism

Netflix’s The Great Hack Brings Our Data Nightmare To Life

What You Don’t Know About How Facebook Uses Your Data
New York Times

Google Directing People to Extreme Content and Conspiracy Theories
Sky News

How YouTube Drives People to the Internet’s Darkest Corners
Wall Street Journal

What Are Social Media Platforms Doing About It?

The Fight for the Future of YouTube
The New Yorker

Beyond Fixing Facebook
Free Press

YouTube Executives Ignored Warnings, Letting Toxic Videos Run Rampant
Bloomberg News

YouTube Tweaked Algorithm to Appease FTC But Creators are Worried
Bloomberg News

Yes, we’re being manipulated on the internet. Yes, it’s an alarming problem. Yes, there is something you can do about it. Step One: Educate yourself. Step Two: Help educate others. Feel free to share this reading list with your friends and family.

Thank you,
Jen Caltrider, Stress Baker

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