I tried to quit Facebook, but couldn't, not really, not yet. We know that in some respects we can't quit, because it keeps profiles on everyone anyway, but there's more to it than that. It's got its hooks deep into our relationships with friends and families. As Sarah Jeong writes, it performs work for us.
Facebook had replaced much of the emotional labor of social networking that consumed previous generations. We have forgotten (or perhaps never noticed) how many hours our parents spent keeping their address books up to date, knocking on doors to make sure everyone in the neighborhood was invited to the weekend BBQ, doing the rounds of phone calls with relatives, clipping out interesting newspaper articles and mailing them to a friend, putting together the cards for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and more. We don’t think about what it’s like to carefully file business cards alphabetically in a Rolodex. People spent a lot of time on these sorts of things, once, because the less of that work you did, the less of a social network you had. ...
It’s hard to pin down what Facebook is because the platform replaces labor that was previously invisible. We have a hard time figuring out what Facebook actually is because we have a hard time admitting that at least part of what it supplanted is emotional labor — hard and valuable work that no one wants to admit was work to begin with.
To leave Facebook is to create work for friends and family. Read the rest
Judge William Alsup in San Francisco is presiding over a case in which California cities are suing the big oil companies over the climate-related disasters they're experiencing; Judge Alsup asked for a "tutorial" session in which experts for both sides would be asked to explain the underlying science, something he's done in earlier cases that turned on technical questions, including a DACA case and a case on lidar and self-driving cars.
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Maciej Ceglowski (previously) is one of Silicon Valley's sharpest critics, admonishing technologists for failing to consider ethics as they build and deploy products; one of his post-Trump initiatives is the Great Slate, a fundraising effort that urges techies to contribute to the campaigns of Democratic hopefuls in "less-affluent, often rural Republican-leaning districts," where the DCCC won't direct resources because candidates can't raise money of their own.
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Pundits suggest the "Weinstein moment" — a broader, deeper awareness of abusive conduct, sexual harassment and criminal sexuality — is already fading without significant change. Few of the offenders face consequences worse than losing a gig, and yesterday we learned The New York Times isn't even up to that, letting its celebrity groper keep his job and trotting out Executive Editor Dean Baquet to dismiss his admitted behavior as merely "offensive." Sarah Jeong looks at another example: the hacker community, which did a surprisingly good job of outing its "missing stairs" but has trouble banishing them for good.
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In information security, as in many other industries where the accused is a prominent figure, accusations can turn into a competition of social capital, and the accused almost always wins out over their accusers. But in this community, giving an accused rapist a pass has often been framed as a moral imperative with four words: “He does good work.” The assumption is that talent is scarce and sexual misconduct must be tolerated for the good of society. Little to no consideration is given to what we lose from disbelieving victims — their technical and social contributions, any future contributions by people who quite reasonably decide to avoid a toxic culture, and even beyond that, the quiet erosion of trust among bystanders. Complicity leaves a stain on us all.
Sarah Jeong is right (as usual): Rogue One is about internet freedom, a movie about the struggle to upload a large file under time-constraint in a post-Net-Neutrality dystopia where Dropbox is a distant memory and you can't just email a file to yourself for later reference.
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The Motherboard Guide To Not Getting Hacked is an excellent adjunct to existing guides (I like EFF's Surveillance Self-Defense and The Cryptoparty Handbook) to defending yourself against criminals, stalkers, cops, and other potential intruders into your digital life.
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Sarah Jeong of Motherboard says Mastodon is a "kinder, nicer, decentralized open source version of Twitter." I hope she's right! (I'm frauenfelder at Mastodon.cloud.)
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Privacy settings are more flexible than they are on Twitter—privacy is set on a per-post basis, a little similar to how it is on Facebook.
I could make it so all of my posts are private by default, but I don't have to choose between having a public or a private account.
The really interesting nuance here is between "Public" and "Unlisted." An unlisted post is viewable to the public, but it doesn't post to the local or federated timelines.
President Donald Trump went full Alex Jones Infowars conspiracy theory wingnut today, saying the American news media are conspiring to cover up a vast series of Islamic terrorist attacks in which innocent God-fearin' Americans have been killed.
Statements like this from authoritarian leaders are the sort of thing you hear when a regime is preparing to institute martial law. Perhaps that is where America is now headed. Hope not.
Today's wackadoodle Trump camp statement was yet another nutty lie, just like Trump's long-running racist birther campaign against President Barack Obama, whom we miss terribly, please for the love of God make this descent into national insanity stop. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong continues her brilliant, obsessive tear through the Star Wars canon (here's yesterday's post on the difficulties of the Warsverse's storage media and IT systems), this time looking at the outsized role that the lack of obstetric care plays in the collapse of the Old Republic and the rise of the Empire. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong's long, terrifyingly thorough analysis of the data-formats in the Star Wars universe is both hilarious and insightful, and illustrates the difference between the burgeoning technological realism of shows like Mr Robot and the long tradition of science fiction media to treat computers as plot devices, rather than things that audiences are familiar with. Read the rest
Project Include -- a "group effort to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry" -- has announced that it will no longer work with the Y Combinator accelerator because of its ties to Peter Thiel, the billionaire Facebook investor who has backed Donald Trump and donated $1.25M to his campaign. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong continues her excellent series of critical perspectives on technology with a piece on the way that technology is being used to let computers control their users, on behalf of the corporations who make and sell these tools. Read the rest
On Wednesday, former Reuters.com social media editor Matthew Keys received a two year prison sentence for computer hacking. That's a sentence of 24 months, for a website defacement that lasted only 40 minutes, which Keys himself didn't even execute.
Earlier today in an unrelated high-profile case, the "affluenza teen" who actually murdered people also got two years in jail. Read the rest
The Atlantic had the excellent idea of commissioning Sarah Jeong, one of the most astute technology commentators on the Internet (previously), to write a series of articles about the social implications of technological change: first up is an excellent, thoughtful, thorough story on the ways that the "cashless society" is being designed to force all transactions through a small number of bottlenecks that states can use to control behavior and censor unpopular political views. Read the rest
Microsoft Research deployed a tween-simulating chatbot this week, only to recall it a few hours later because it had turned into a neo-Nazi, and the next day, they published a bewildered apology that expressed shock that it had been so easy for trolls to corrupt their creation. Read the rest