The Pottstown Mercury, a newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, recently started posting police mugshots of wanted criminals on Pinterest. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the novel use of a social networking site known best for nail art, cupcakes, and motivational posters with bad typography has become quite a success for local law enforcement. As you can see by scrolling through the board, users are sharing comments on where police might look for each wanted man or woman. Here's an interview with one of the paper's "Pinners," and more context on Poynter. According to an interview with police in the Pottstown Mercury, the project has resulted in a 58% increase in arrests.
Every once in a while, a new project comes along that makes you go "Hmmmmmm." Like a horror movie in which the method of terror is social media. Good news! Such a movie is now in the works! George Nolfi, who wrote and directed The Adjustment Bureau, is on board to direct XOXO, and he'll be supervising the screenplay by Mark Heyman, who co-wrote Black Swan.
Billed as "Fatal Attraction for the digital age," XOXO will follow "an engaged executive who begins a virtual relationship with a mysterious woman on Facebook," whose interactions in real life turn deadly. It obviously won't be the first movie to turn social media into a monster (see: Catfish and Hard Candy), but when you think about how effectively Scream made us jump every time the phone rang late at night, I feel like we're ready for a straight-up horror movie that will elicit the same reactions when we get a Facebook notification. (Maybe we'll spend that much less time on Facebook when we could be doing something productive.)
I think on some level, we all think social media is a little scary. Suddenly, we live in a time when people, strangers, can see and read nearly everything we're doing, because we're (oddly) trusting enough to put it all out there voluntarily. And sometimes, horrible things happen as a result of being a little too trusting. To say nothing of the paranoia, mind games, and mixed messages involved with such a passive-agressive and often anonymous form of communication. So actually, social media is a perfect part of current pop culture to turn into a psychological thriller! And that's what XOXO is going to be.
Image from ViralBlog
"Our new bird grows out of love for ornithology, design within creative constraints, and simple geometry. This bird is crafted purely from three sets of overlapping circles — similar to how your networks, interests and ideas connect and intersect with peers and friends."
Yes, it's true: The #Twitterbird had some work done.
Yesterday was Mother's Day in the US. I spent the day at home in Los Angeles, still recuperating from chemo, gearing up for the next phase of my cancer treatment. After I called my mom on the East Coast to wish her a happy Mother's Day and thank her for all she has done, I shared a few thoughts on Twitter about moms and cancer. I invited my followers to do the same.
One by one, 140-character-length tributes came in about moms who survived cancer, moms who helped their kids through cancer, and kids who lost their moms to cancer. I retweeted a few, then a few more, but—they did not stop. A flood of personal testimonies to the power of motherhood in relation to cancer followed. I read every single one, and tried to share every single one with my followers.
Josh Stearns kindly collected many of them into a Storify: Mother's Day Memories of Love, Loss and Living With Cancer. It's embedded below.
Above, a photograph of me and my mom, the day before one of my chemo infusions. I draw a lot of strength from my mom. And you need all the strength you can get to get through this thing.
She adds a tribute of her own today:
My Mom died of melanoma (skin cancer) at 54. Her doctor never knew it was cancer until the autopsy. All of us (3 girls, 3 boys) still carry her spirit in our hearts.
School-issue laptop fitted with anti-social-networking censorship/surveillance software that operates off school networks, too
Laptops issued to students by the Portland, Maine school boards will come with censorware that watches all their clicks and attempts to prevent them from visiting social media sites, even when working from home or other non-school premises, and even after school hours. Tom Bell's article in the Kennebec Journal quotes Peter Eglinton, chief operating officer, stating that this is a legal requirement. He's almost certainly incorrect; the law in question states that school networks must be filtered as a condition of receiving federal funding, but doesn't explicitly extend this to school-issued laptops used on non-school networks.
By taking this aggressive approach to censorship and surveillance of its student body, I fear that the Portland school board is compromising its students' network and media literacy, ensuring that they can't be supervised and mentored through positive use of the Internet services most widely used by their cohort. I also believe that close, continuous surveillance of students' network activity, with the concomitant prohibition on the use of privacy tools, sends absolutely the wrong message about how to manage your private information online. How can students learn to use technology to prevent their personal information from leaking out online if we spy on everything they do and punish them if they try to stop us?
There is debate nationally about whether schools should integrate social media in the classrooms, said Rebecca Randall, vice president of education programs for Common Sense Media, based in San Francisco. She said she is not aware of any school district that has blocked access to social media sites from school computers that are used at home.
She said the debate over filtering policies can be summed up into two approaches: the "walled playground" or the "open sandbox."
Her organization advocates the latter approach, allowing broad access and teaching children how to safely navigate the Internet.
"Simply shielding students from social media is not going to stop them from seeing it," she said, because teenagers will have access to unfiltered Internet on home computers and other devices, such as smartphones and tablets. "We have a saying: 'You can't always cover kids' eyes. You have to teach them how to see it.' "
While federal law requires school districts to take measures like creating an Internet safety policy and blocking sexually explicit content, there is no requirement that social media sites be blocked, said Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, based in Maryland.
Police in Essex, England have charged a 20-year-old man with "encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence" (under the 2007 Serious Crime Act) because he used Blackberry Messenger to encourage people to attend a public water fight. It's not clear whether the police were working from an informant or whether they have developed the capability to wiretap Blackberry's notionally encrypted messaging network (I'm not clear whether Blackberry has the capacity to decrypt and read messages, or whether the encryption is end-to-end.)
In 2008 there was a spate of mass water fights in British towns and cities that were organised through social networks. Most remained peaceful.This month a water fight attended by thousands of young Iranians attracted the attention of Tehran's morality police and led to a series of arrests.
Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a national censorship regime to block or filter the Internet to prevent social unrest (this despite the failure of the Chinese government to effectively manage the trick with vastly more resources and expertise and vastly fewer legal constraints). One week before this proposal, Cameron's government rejected the Digital Economy Act's provisions for censoring the Internet to prevent copyright infringement, having concluded that such censorship regimes were easy to evade and would not be effective.
The British Government’s wariness of the Internet and Blackberry Messenger – symbols of freedom of speech – is a forced reaction, which might upset the Western world. Meanwhile, the open discussion of containment of the Internet in Britain has given rise to a new opportunity for the whole world. Media in the US and Britain used to criticize developing countries for curbing freedom of speech. Britain’s new attitude will help appease the quarrels between East and West over the future management of the Internet.Riots lead to rethink of Internet freedom (Thanks, Juha!)
As for China, advocates of an unlimited development of the Internet should think twice about their original ideas.
On the Internet, there is no lack of posts and articles that incite public violence. They will cause tremendous damage once they are tweeted without control. At that time, all governments will have no other choice but to close down these websites and arrest those agitators.
(Image: General Chu Teh, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from thomasfisherlibrary's photostream and David Cameron - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2011, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from worldeconomicforum's photostream)