Is Elizabeth Warren an agitator


The political right has better understood how social media works

“Ideologically homogeneous discourse spaces lead to the radicalization of opinions and positions“, Writes Florian Schmidt from the Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research. For the American sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, YouTube is "one of the most powerful radicalization tools " (Quoted from Marcel Weiß, of March 14, 2018). The Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) at Bielefeld University, formerly headed by Wilhelm Heitmeyer, or the "Mitte" studies of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES-Mitte Studies) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation Leipzig Authoritarianism Study In 2018, for years, around 15 to 20 percent of the population's xenophobic potential would have been raised, but the rise of the AfD as a party would probably not have happened so quickly without the medium of the Internet (Justus Bender, AfD's double strategy will take revenge, SWR 2)

One month before the European elections, 85% of all contributions by German parties that were circulated on the Internet came from the AfD. The CDU and SPD were only represented with two to three percent of the contributions shared. In March 2019, AfD contributions were shared 1.8 million times. The SPD, Greens, FDP, Left and Union shared just 15% of the shares. Der Spiegel had evaluated a study by the American media scientist Trevor Davis (George Washington University). Trevor Davis, a professor at George Washington University, has identified tens of thousands of (conspicuous, possibly fake) Facebook accounts that they claim are located around the world and distribute AfD content.

Compared to the AfD, other parties were also involved in the 2017 online election campaign "far behind“, Says Lisa-Maria Neudert from the Oxford Internet Institute. The “AfD made up 30 percent of the social media traffic” Deutschlandfunk Kultur). The Facebook ranking for individual politicians is led by the AfD co-group leader in the Bundestag, Alice Weidel. It comes to a total of 421,400 reactions. This means that she has collected almost 100,000 more reactions than her party colleague Jörg Meuthen (329,500), followed by left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht (314,400) in third place. Chancellor Angela Merkel followed in fifth place, with 94,600 responses over the same period. Merkel is the only representative of her party among the top ten, and there is no SPD politician among them (Lukas Praller, in of March 17, 2019). So far, a maximum of twenty to twenty-five thousand so-called “walkers” have gathered at Pegida demonstrations, but the Pegida site on Facebook has over 200,000 “likes” (Fabian Warislohner of February 5, 2016). "No matter how clumsy or misanthropic it looks or is - the right-wing have understood much better how social media works ", writes the internet consultant Sascha Lobo (Spiegel dated November 16, 2016).

Trump may have used many exaggerations in his election campaign and even spread outright lies, but one of his statements should be taken really seriously: He owes his success to Facebook and Twitter, and even more: "I believe that social media have more power than advertising money". TNW, Nov. 14, 2016 “The fact that I have such power in terms of numbers with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera… I think that social media has more power than the money [Clinton's campaign team] spent, and I think maybe to a certain extent, I proved that ". Trump occupies a lonely top position among the fake followers in the USA (Ana Campoy QUARTZ, October 12, 2018).

The influence of fake news on the result of the presidential election in the USA is, however, questioned (Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow, Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, Journal of Economic Perspectives - Volume 31, Number 2 - Spring 2017, p . 211ff). Whether the use of the now insolvent data analysis company "Cambridge Analytica", which offered personalized or target group-oriented advertising based on data collected online, actually paid off for Trump's election campaign, or whether the headlines that caused the sensation was rather self-promotion by the British company managers controversial (Hannes Grassegger / Mikael Krogerus, March 17, 2019). Whether Russian hackers or “trolls” controlled by Russia had an influence on the election result in favor of Trump will also only be able to be judged when more precise information about the “how” of such alleged cyber campaigns is made public. However, one is not wrong to assume that Trump's campaign style has found a particularly suitable means of communication in social media.

Donald Trump proves to us almost every day how much the classic media can be pushed to the wall. He can curse journalists as "enemies of the people" and he is able to demonstrate their helplessness by very rarely calling press conferences or only giving interviews to selected media, and essentially speaking via Twitter - and that means without a "journalistic filter" the public turns. Original sound Trump: "The press is so dishonest about me - so dishonest - that I speak out on Twitter ... and they publish it as soon as I tweet it ... ". Picture from January 16, 2017 p. 3 And in the absence of alternatives, these Internet messages also have to be picked up by the traditional media. The British historian Niall Ferguson takes the view that without Facebook and Google there would be neither a Trump nor a Brexit ( of 5.1.2019).

The Internet as a gateway for manipulators

The fact that Internet services are data providers about their users and know better about a situation based on search and usage behavior than one knows about oneself - at least than one realizes - cannot only be used by goods or service providers but are also exploited by opinion leaders in general and specifically by (foreign) governments, social interest groups or parties that consciously want to advance a political mission. The Internet can thus become a gateway for manipulators and opinion influencers - it is not without reason that we speak of “influencers”.

A rather harmless variant of such a mood is the relatively inexpensive one Purchase of “Likes" on Facebook .

In addition to so-called "Trolls " - So problematic individual network participants, Benedikt Fuest, welt v. 02/12/2017 who interfere in discussion forums, newsgroups, chat rooms, mailing lists or blogs and disturbing, provoking, stirring up hatred or trying to steer it in a certain (political) direction are now also on the Internet professional troll activities to watch the massive propaganda.

There are automated “trolls”, artificial identities (so-called robots) generated by computers that simulate mass approval or rejection of opinions in networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Paid trolls are now also being replaced by “chatbots” (a text-based dialogue system).

"Robots" or "Bots" for short "Can determine social debates through their sheer mass and steer them in a desired direction," says Simon Hegelich, Professor of Political Data Science at the University of Politics in Munich (Netzpiloten Magazin 02/17/2016). The Social Media Forensics Team at the University of Siegen has unmasked a whole network of bots and trolls that distributed massive bot reports every day during the Ukraine crisis. In one day, around 15,000 false Twitter profiles could spread up to 60,000 fake posts. Netzpiloten Magazin ibid. The Berlin-based company Botswatch assumes that 28 percent of all German-language tweets in the debate about the “migration pact” came from social bots. FAZ v. December 28, 2018 p. 15

The influence of bots in the last federal election campaign is controversial. Fabian Pfaffenberger (University of Erlangen) thinks that there are strong indications that bots were more in use than previously assumed (Stephan Russ-Mohl, the Tagesspiegel v. 02.12.2018). Have against it Tobias Keller (University of Zurich) and Ulrike Klinger (FU Berlin) determined for the run-up to the federal election that although bots were in action, their share on Twitter only rose from 7 to 9.9 percent in the hot election campaign phase and the AfD, contrary to what is often assumed, was not noticed by excessive bot use (ResearchGate Nov. 2018).

However, in a virtual experiment on the influence of software robots in social media, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Duisburg-Essen (UDE) found that even a small number of two to four percent bots are enough that users prefer to remain silent in a controversial discussion are. This increases the probability from 50 percent to two thirds that the opinion supported by the robots will prevail and that a wrong impression will arise about a mood (University of Duisburg-Essen of February 11, 2019).

An American research group even sees the massive spread of false digital information through “social bots” as a threat to democracy. They showed that bots play a disproportionate role in the dissemination of sources that are not very credible. Bots duplicated such content early on and before an article went viral. They targeted users with a large number of followers and made so many others vulnerable to such manipulation. "We find evidence that social bots played a disproportionate role in spreading articles from low-credibility sources. Bots amplify such content in the early spreading moments, before an article goes viral. They also target users with many followers through replies and mentions. Humans are vulnerable to this manipulation, resharing content posted by bots. Successful low-credibility sources are heavily supported by social bots. These results suggest that curbing social bots may be an effective strategy for mitigating the spread of online misinformation. "

And it is by no means - as is often said - only Russian secret services, but also the secret services of the USA, the British, the Israelis who use bots or troll factories, even the self-proclaimed "Islamic State".

At their summit in March 2015, the heads of government of the EU decided on an "East StratCom Taskforce" to - as it was called - "Counter Russia's ongoing disinformation campaigns“(Daniel Brössler, Süddeutsche Zeitung January 24, 2017). NATO has also set up a “Cyber ​​Security Operations Center” in Mons, Belgium to fend off hackers who - as Secretary General Stoltenberg fears - intervene in national election campaigns and “undermine democracy“(Christoph B. Schiltz, welt of 02/28/2017). The Federal Government also shares fears that the unmarked use of “social bots” can pose a threat to the functioning of the democratic opinion-forming process (Media and Communication Report of the Federal Government 2018, p. 39). Sandro Gaycken, Director of the Digital Society Institute (ESMT Berlin), emphasized that social networks are demonstrably used by foreign powers for manipulation. "An important point is that disinformation campaigns are cheap to run". Today in the Bundestag No. 497 BC 04/11/2019

The European Union warns of "hybrid threats" and "Mass information campaigns on the Internet"In the European elections and she proposes a code of conduct for platform operators with"clear labeling rules and systems for bots " before (Dana Heide, Eva Fischer, Till Hoppe, Handelsblatt of December 3, 2018). And at this year's Munich Security Conference, a declaration by the “Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity” was discussed and many candidates have already committed to refrain from using disinformation, deep fakes and undeclared campaign donations (Monika Ermert, heise online). If you think of some of the initiators of this voluntary commitment - such as the former head of the US Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff or the ex-NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen - the question arises as to whether this was not thrown out of the glass house with stones becomes.

Radicalization on the net as a result of the attention economy

The currency of the internet is attention. Among other things, Facebook's algorithm works in such a way that posts that trigger interactions in the first few minutes run well. It's about rhetorical exaggeration and about generating the greatest possible approval or disapproval, preferably both at the same time. It is about - as it is called in the jargon - "engagement", i.e. triggering reactions from users, i.e. about "liking", "commenting", clicking on links or "sharing". This “engagement” multiplies the reach of the posts and this reach is sold by the commercial platforms to advertisers. Primarily those contributions with visibility in the news stream are rewarded, which have the greatest prospect of further dissemination and thus promise not only attention but also advertising income.This radical decoupling of the quality and popularity of political news explains why targeted hoaxes are often the most widespread on social media, " writes Jeanette Hofmann. Democracy in Data Capitalism, WZB Mitteilungen Issue 155 March 2017 p. 14ff., P. 15 The interest in profit leads to "user tracking", ie the services have an interest in the users delivering their data to the network as often and as long as possible . Contrary to the assertion that people communicate with each other, i.e. ask questions and negotiate problems in order to create orientation, communication is reduced to a stimulus-response scheme (Felix Stalder, Le Monde diplomatique, March 2019, p. 3 a.o.).Social media follow a profit-driven attention economy and not a common good of open and democratic opinion-forming. The exciting and sensational is more popular than the factual and nuanced. It's about "clickbaiting", ie sensational headlines or "teasers" to increase the number of hits, classic journalistic virtues - objectivity, neutrality and depth of research - are rather detrimental to the "engagement" factor (Stefan Herwig, FAZ of 02.03.2019 ).

The ex-advisor to the US President, Steve Bannon, yes Trump himself - consciously or unconsciously also the AfD or other populist movements such as the "Five Stars" in Italy - apply this logic of social media to their politics. You look for topics that make people angry or scared or you provoke them and thus initiate a public debate. This is why populist senders have an advantage on social media. Giuliano da Empoli, Manipulation im Netz, in FR May 17, 2019 p. 2f.

In the competition for attention, the postings also have to outdo each other in terms of linguistic harshness, scandalous tone and aggressiveness. Hatred brings click numbers and thus advertising income(Hate Speech - Hass im Netz Landesanstalt für Medien NRW, 2019).

An MIT study published in March 2018 examined the prevalence of verified true and false messages sent via Twitter from 2006 to 2017 and found that Fake news (however fuzzy the term may be) spread further, faster, more intensively and broadly than information classified as true (significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information). False reports are shared twice as often and have a 70% greater chance of spreading than normal news (Science 3/9/2018).

An indication of this finding is that the most successful false news of 2018 on Facebook, according to an analysis by the media company BuzzFeed, was an article on the Russian-registered website The post under the heading "State pays Harem 7500 euros a month: Syrians now live with 2 wives and 8 children in Germany" generated a total of 148,000 Facebook interactions. Only an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that raised the question of whether one should rescue people from distress at sea or rather let them die (Wolfgang Leif, Der Untergang, SZ Magazin of July 5th, 2018) generated more interactions on Facebook. No other of the 50 most-read German news sites - not Bild, Spiegel, Focus, Welt or Stern - had an article with so many interactions on Facebook in the same year.The eight most successful false reports had more Facebook interactions than almost all articles on the largest news sites in Germany. The main spreaders of this false news were the AfD and the former CDU politician Erika Steinbach (Karsten Schmehl, BuzzFeed.News of December 18, 2018)

However, the Reuters Institute at Oxford University has measured that, in relation to the total population, at least in France and Italy, false reports have a lower reach than the websites of Le Figaro or La Republica (Reuters Institute, February 2018), regardless of how assess the scope of false reports, Disinformation creates insecurity and uncertainty feeds doubts about everything and everyone that is not part of one's own perceived reality. Without a consensus in society for the differentiation of true and untrue as well as of facts and opinions, however, it is "hardly possible to constructively lead a discussion based on arguments in the political opinion struggle."Bernd Holznagel, Democracy Commission of the public broadcaster, in: The Order: Democracy, Public Value Study of the ORF, 2018, p. 5ff., (P.9)

A general suspicion against “the” media and “the” politics feeds the belief in simple solutions or conspiracy theories. Torben Lütjen, FAZ 7.1.2019 p. 6 “Derailed Enlightenment” This may explain why right-wing extremist positions on the Internet are so widespread: “These bubbles that form around fake news are milieus of people who would like to believe this because they can cultivate this fake news as an objection to a world that they can no longer understand and also no longer want to understand“, Writes the sociologist Dirk Baecker (Deutschlandfunk Kultur of October 28, 2018).

The sarcastic joke about Trump sums up this phenomenon aptly: "Regardless of whether Trump is lying or not, the main thing is that he is right".

Ideologically homogeneous discourse spaces lead to the radicalization of opinions and ideological positions (Florian Schmidt, Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research). This can lead to a us-versus-them stance that can sow hatred and create a breeding ground for political radicalization. This may at least partly explain how inconspicuous young men can become hateful warriors of God within a few months via the Internet (radicalization of young people via the Internet, Ein Literaturüberblick, DIVISI 2016).

Game platforms such as Steam or imageboard websites such as 4chan or 8chan have developed into the rallying point for recruiting hatred and violence (Anna Schughart, Jan Sternberg, Online-Chats - the game with hatred, Dresdner Latest News of 04/04/2019) . The jihadist attackers in Paris exchanged ideas via the Playstation chat and Christchurch and the Munich attacker Davi Sonbyly networked in the chats of computer games (Andreas Zick, Institute for Conflict and Violence Research at Bielefeld University, Frankfurter Rundschau of 04.04 .2019 p. 3).

Brutalizing language in public discourse

Regardless of how one assesses the effect of Internet communication, one fact cannot be overlooked: on the Internet, a brutalization, and sometimes even a poisoning of the language in public discourse can be recognized. The brutalization of the political-public discourse is often closely connected with an excessive emotionalization, a victim attitude, a blanket anti-elitism, a general skepticism, with homophobia and xenophobia, with nationalism, racism up to the demands for violent intervention. "For many, the Internet serves as an outlet for feelings of powerlessness, fear of loss or unanswered questions about the future and allows a noisy minority to react without boundaries and verbal derailments " (Thomas Leif, Die Zeit of December 31, 2016).

In order to observe this one only needs to look at the comment functions of the classic media or also of the internet media. This has prompted the Neue Züricher Zeitung (NZZ), for example, to "rebuild" its comment column. In a statement it said: Where readers used to have controversial discussions with one another, they abuse each other more and more often. We are increasingly being referred to as “system press” or “propaganda hurlers” instead of being made aware of errors in content. In many comments, information is no longer exchanged, but lectured in an absolute manner that excludes others per se"(NZZ of February 4th, 2017)

85 percent of 14 to 24 year olds have already been confronted with "hate speech" on social media (State Institute for Media NRW, special hate speech study). The increasing hate speech on the Internet not only has negative effects on the groups and individuals against whom it is directed, but also on those who stand up for a free democratic society, for tolerance or against discrimination against ethnic and other social minorities.

It's not just about speaking: physical attacks are now part of everyday professional life, e.g. for journalists (see a survey by the Institute for Interdisciplinary Conflict Research (IKG) at Bielefeld University of 780 journalists). People, mostly migrants, are physically attacked and persecuted. By November 2018, a total of 19,105 crimes with a politically right-wing motivated background had been reported, including 1,072 acts of violence (response of the federal government to a small question of February 14, 2019 BT-Print. 19/7772).

Increased by the refugee movements of the last few years, “social media” are closed to a considerable extent anti-social media degenerate. The internet has become a rallying point for xenophobic agitation. And the hatred extends far beyond the right-wing extremist spectrum (Johannes Baldauf from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation)."Nowhere else can such high numbers of openly xenophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic agitation be found" like on the internet. It says in the 2014 report on the protection of the constitution (p.42), (see also anti-Semitism 2.0 and the net culture of hatred)

Many people, especially young people, are confronted with "cyber-bullying", "cyber-rooming" (i.e. approaching children) or "sexting" (i.e. exchanging and misusing erotic photos). In the age group of 12 to 19 year olds, 42 percent of the girls and one third of the boys state that someone in their circle of acquaintances has already been beaten up on the Internet or by mobile phone (Medienpädagogischer Forschungsverbund Südwest JIM study 2017)

The economic and communicative power of the Internet oligopolies

The Google parent Alphabet had a turnover of 136.8 billion dollars and a surplus of 30.7 billion dollars in the 2018 financial year. Apple has a turnover of 266 billion and an annual profit of around 59.5 billion dollars (statista). Facebook Inc., to which Instagram, WhatsApp belong, had a turnover of 55.84 billion dollars and a profit of around 22 billion dollars in the same year (statista). These communications oligopolies are among the top 10 most profitable companies in the world. At the same time, these digital corporations manage to minimize their tax liability through clever constructions of branch offices, licenses and operating expenses. The tax rates in Europe are sometimes below 1%. Google is one of the most active lobbyists in the EU. The group has had over 200 meetings with EU politicians in the past few years (Ranga Yogeshwar, WDR print, April 2019 p. 20ff.) A 3% European digital tax on corporate turnover was imposed by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz out of fear of defensive taxes the USA with the reference that a global solution is needed, has so far been prevented.

But it is not just the sheer economic power of the tech giants that worries not only antitrust authorities, even more problematic are the markets from which they derive their profits, namely from the collection and sale of data from their users. Much of the value in today's economy is no longer created by work, but rather by data derived from human activity. The Harvard economist Soshana Zuboff used the term “Surveillance capitalism" introduced. “Surveillance capitalism, harnessing the invasive powers of the internet as a source of capital formation and wealth creation, is now about to transform business practices in the real world as well. Surveillance capitalism uses a dependent population for its purposes, whose members are neither its customers nor its workers and to whom its methods remain largely unknown. " (Soshana Zuboff, How we became Google's slaves, FAZ of March 5, 2016). It is an unprecedented form of market that is rooted and thriving in a legal vacuum. In the digital economy, the textbook model of the perfect market with full competition is finally becoming fictionMathias Binswanger rightly writes (Mathias Binswanger Zeit Online from 13.06.2017). Even in the economically liberal United States, the breaking up of the oligopoly is being discussed. Konstantin Kakaes, Why Facebook has to be smashed (heise online of March 8th, 2019), (see also Paul Krugman, The Economics of Evil Google, New York Times of March 23rd, 2013). The Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has announced that "Smashing the tech giants“Make it a central theme of her campaign to make next year's presidential nomination.

Recently, the Federal Cartel Office prohibited Facebook from using the User data of these services in Germany without explicit consent the user is allowed to merge. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Verstager wants to forbid operators to offer their own products on their platforms and also suggests giving third parties access to the data on dominant platforms. FAZ April 15, 2019 p. 15

Antitrust regulation is not enough, a group of scientists around Jaron Lanier and Glen Weyl suggests classifying the data provided by users as “work” and, as in the traditional labor markets, to set up unions and thus a share of the data created by their data Demand values ​​(Ibarra, Goff, Hernández, Lanier, Weyl, Should We Treat Data as Labor). As data and artificial intelligence make up an ever larger part of our economy, it is important to get back on track Balance between business and users To create that provide the data, one has to find a mechanism to redistribute the "new oil", namely the accumulation of data. Karin Petterson, Chair of the World Association of Newspapers and News Media (WAN-IFRA), The Digital Class Struggle, International Politics and Society (IPG)).

In principle, Evgeny Morozov questions that the networks are in private hands. Why - he asks - shouldn't the “public”, which has been mostly in private hands up to now on the Internet assigned to the public become? A technocratic or economist solution is not expedient and he propagates a "radical democratic transformation" in a "just, fair and egalitarian“Digital future Evgeny Morozov, Süddeutsche Zeitung of March 2, 2019, p. 15; Thomas Wagner also argues in the same direction, Das Netz in Unser Hand, p. 151 ff. on this also “Data in Citizen Hand”).

However, it is not just about the exploitation of users and the accumulation of wealth, but driven by the trade in data and personalized online advertising and with algorithmic monitoring techniques geared towards this, the globally operating oligopolists direct and control Internet access, social media and streaming services beyond the streams of news and the flow of information of billions of people. We still know little about the connection between economic size and the communicative power of the oligopolies on public change and democratic culture. Jeanette Hofmann, op. Cit. One does not have to suspect a “world conspiracy” - like Adrian Lobe - behind the merger of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook and behind the pathos in Zuckerberg's manifesto “Building Global Community”, sect or world conspiracy, Süddeutsche Zeitung, p. 10 v. 02/25/2019; see also Oiiver Nachtwey, Die Theologie des Silicon Valley, FAZ v. 5.5.2019 p. 24 but the The question of the communicative power of the big internet players is of central importance for democracy, which is based on the free political will of the people and free elections.

The political mobilization power these oligopolists can exercise through their services was shown by the example of a video appeal by YouTube boss Susan Wojcicki against the adoption of a “Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on copyright in the digital single market”, specifically against Art. 13 (most recently Art. 17). In essence, this guideline was about the question of who should be liable for the network content, namely either the users who, for example, upload content to YouTube - as before - or the services on which the content is distributed. Should the directive become legally binding in European countries, the service operators would have to be liable for works protected by copyright. In order to minimize their liability risk, they are - and rightly feared - forced to use so-called upload filters, i.e. automated technical filters that check whether copyrights have been infringed as soon as the content is uploaded. In this case, the service provider would have to block the content or pay license fees. Wojcicki's post on YouTube "Why there won't be YouTube any more next year“Had over 4 million views and was picked up by hundreds of YouTubers and network activists and a powerful campaign against the use of so-called upload filters was launched not only online but also on the street. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which is closely linked to Google and one of the most visited websites, also ceased its service for twenty-four hours on March 21, 2019 (although not affected by the directive) to support this political campaign by calling on its visitors to protest to their respective MEPs in the European Parliament.

For many, this campaign is - regardless of what you think about Art. 13 or, in the new version, Art. 17 of this guideline. Joe McNamee, Is Article 13 really the end of the free Internet ( v. 19.03.2019) an example of the "uncanny power" (Wirtschaftswoche) of the Internet oligopolists.

Image source: Pixabay, FunkyFocus, Pixabay License

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Wolfgang Lieb is a German lawyer and publicist. After studying politics and law at the Free University of Berlin, in Bonn and in Cologne, he worked in the planning department of the Chancellery in Bonn (Helmut Schmidt was Chancellor), switched to the policy department of the NRW State Representation in Bonn, and was government spokesman for Prime Minister Johannes Rau and State Secretary in the NRW Ministry of Science. Together with Albrecht Müller, Lieb was co-editor and author of the political website "NachDenkSeiten" and was awarded the Alternative Media Prize. In 2015 he gave up his co-editorship due to irreconcilable differences of opinion with Müller about the editorial line of the blog. Today Wolfgang Lieb works as a freelance author.