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Category Archives: Social Media

Facebook, just like nicotine, has no good patch

About eight years ago, I would begin a workshop with an opening line that went something like this: Facebook is the greatest, most irresistible social network ever designed.by the CIA. Not factual, or course, but it got attendees to ponder how surveillance had become so easy, with no need for wiretaps, or laws such as FISA or ECPA.

Well, it’s now normal for journalists to talk of Facebook as being the great harvesting ground of big data organizations that use it to surveil and/or target users. That includes our friends and family in our networks. Social media addiction feeds the algorithm. Here’s what Mashable’s Damon Beres just wrote that it’s time to protect yourself -and your friends –from Facebook:

“The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful. And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.”

He uses the analogy of the Marlboro Man, and the rugged cowboy appeal that continued to lure ‘users’ into a deadly nicotine habit, despite the truth which tobacco companies hid, and were reluctantly forced to admit.

So what to do? Some of my friends have quit Facebook. I haven’t yet. But I do recommend limiting data that algorithms could vacuum up: birthdays, business information, opinions related to our social causes, political rants and things we purchase online. No public displays of affection for family birthdays, anniversaries and such. (Birthday cards and letters were invented for this; despite claims to the contrary they haven’t gone out of style.) And Selfies! –unless you don’t mind feeding facial recognition algorithms now being used in many, many locations.

Deleting some of this now is a bit too late, but like the nicotine patch, it’s better than the alternatives. Unless your family and friends don’t mind the creepy second-hand smoke…

 

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Banning hate speech in Sri Lanka poses social media conundrum

The apps stopped working in Sri lanka sometime on March 7th. The blanket decision to curb the hate speech that ensued after the clashes in Kandy was both a blessing and a curse. It’s not the best strategy, but it’s often the only one left when a government is caught unprepared.

Censorship – what else could we call it?- is a curse. “Social media is a noisy and contested space,” observed Nalaka Gunawardene. After all, “many have been using the platform to counter myths, misconceptions and prejudices.” Hate speech lives here alongside the more commendable forms of social interatcion. We have seen this movie before, though. Social media companies are often unable to, or incapable of filtering out the noise. Or the conspiracy theories, or the fake news. So pulling the plug is a hard choice. But it should go with long-term preventive measures that prevent offline hate speech. Which, as has been well documented, the government has not addressed for years. Again it’s worth quoting Nalaka who observes:

We did not reach this point overnight. For many years, ultranationalists have been poisoning the public mind with racial and religious hatred. Some local language newspapers – in both Sinhala and Tamil – regularly use racially-charged language and accommodate extremist viewpoints. Privately owned TV channels, engaged in a fierce competition for ratings, have also sometimes played with fires of communalism. 

His article, a long read, is titled “Smart phones and stupid governments.”

In 1983, the outbusts of hatred and bigotry travelled over long distances with no help from phones, let alone smart phones. There was no platform to block or blame. The culprit? Politicians! People at the top of the totem pole with no crisis plan, no leadership.

 
 

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Social media self-immolation: Adults feed the beast

You know things aren’t going well in government when the folks who pass laws are caught doing things we want our children to stay away from.

  • A Texas congressman was the latest to prove that he cannot use a moble device responsibly. The details are too lewd to recount, or link to, here.
  • Then there was was the member of the House of Representative representing New York City, who resigned over a similar sexting incident involving photos on Twitter – in 2011. (There’s an entire Wikipedia entry on this.)

The list is unfortunately long and disgusting. When grown-ups taking to social media are so easily detached from their moorings, it’s no wonder young teenagers (and pre-teens!) misunderstand the fine line between private- and public-facing ‘media.’

Every time I hear a parent complain of a child who spends too much time on the phone, my response is, “So why do you continue to pay for the connection?” It’s easy to push the blame onto social media, when it’s the adult behavior that’s feeding the beast.

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2018 in Media, Social Media, Technology

 

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Are we living among Bots?

It sounds like great opening paragraph for a sci-fi novel – a rhetorical question inserted into the throughts of someone fighting off some bad karma.

Are bots occupying spaces in our lives where we least expect? Our news feeds, our social media likes, even the ‘information’ we use to make decisions on investing, purchasing, and what to read etc. A recent article in Fortune states that malicious bots account for nearly 20% of all Internet traffic. Their list of insidious bots include those scripts steal content from commercial websites, influence ad metrics and ticket prices, and infiltrate forums. The main report from Digital Trends (they put the number at nearly 30 percent) notes that  48.2 percent of all traffic was sent by humans that year. The other 51.8 percent were bots. 23 percent were form good bots.

We now hear of ‘bot farms’ that trade in followers – one can supposedly buy thousands of Instagram followers for a few thousand bucks. Oh, my! No wonder some websites’ authentication makes you click on “I am not a bot”!

To think the premise for my 2013 book was about ‘being human 1.0 in a web 2.0 world.’ 

On a related note, IABC –the International Association of Business Communicators – has a forum discussion on Trust in wake of the 2018 Trust Barometer report. The bot discussion surfaced here too. Which shows that not ject tech folk worry about and plan ho to counter such an Internet cancer. Comms folk involved the reputations of companies and the information they share have to be cognizant of living among bots. Yes there are ‘good bots’ and bad ones, and there could be a battle royale being waged on the networks we use, hidden in plain sight.

More material for that sci-fi novel, huh?

 

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Cliches don’t work after this school shooting. Students will put spin doctors out of business!

I came across an observation made by Michael Shammas, who asked us to consider what we would say if Kim Jong-un disputed international arms control treaties by adapting the cliché, “Nukes don’t kill people; people kill people!”

We would dismiss it as deranged thinking, wouldn’t we?

The events following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have created a different kind of tipping point. One that shows students’ capacity to hold up these tired clichés and talking points for scrutiny. Such as these lines spoken by a senior at that school:

“They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun: We call BS!”

“They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars: We call BS!”

These students are thoughtful, logical, vocal –the kind of non-polarized citizens a country needs. Imagine what they could accomplish when they get to voting age!

 

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Coding and Digital Learning Day, today

It’s Digital learning day across the country, today. Salt River High School is hosting Code Night, a community event to showcase week-long Hour of Code activities.

Last week, at the elementary school we focused on Digital Learning, beginning with a kick-off event featuring speakers who talked to students about social media, and coding. It’s interesting how much has changed –and how much more scrutiny we give to digital learning –since last year. Parents and educators have to deal with much more than memes, and cyber-bullying. Social media viral stunts for instance.

Coding is somehow more than a passing fad. It’s more about problem-solving than learning a new ‘language.’ Much thanks to Synapse Studios, Mel Adamaitis, Danielle Benally, and Stephanie Schull.

 

 
 

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Facebook fills George Orwell’s plot line

When you hold up terms such as ‘fake news‘ and ‘alternative facts‘ to the Orwellian mirror, things become a lot more clear.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four the government’s Ministry of Truth, or ‘Minitrue,’ produces distorted information through an assembly line of sorts. Importantly, though it’s managed by humans, not machines. Today we call these folks trolls, and the assembly line is the Internet.

In that fictitious dystopia, truth gets thrown down a memory hole. And citizens like Winston Smith who work for Minitrue, are tasked with creating alternative versions of history for ‘tele-screens’ and other media. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

There’s a telling piece in Fortune  and Chicago Tribune, journalists appear to have interviewed a Russian troll. In fact he worked with other trolls in a ‘Facebook Department.’

Did the social network know about this? In 2016 Facebook was reportedly working on a global ‘counter speech’ effort. It’s a big deal to them, even in Europe. Social networks must surely be bracing themselves for the legal consequences of sleeping at the wheel, while being compromised.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2018 in Communications, Media, Social Media

 

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