The bane of the futurist's existence is that almost daily you see, hear, or read something and want to scream, "I told you so." Sometimes, it's a cause for exhilaration—we got it right—and other times, it makes you angry—why didn't we do something about it earlier, why did we not heed the warning signs?
Right now, I am in the latter state. As stories of Facebook's deflection and manipulation of public opinion dominate the news cycle, I am harking back to things I and others wrote almost ten years ago, in the early days of social media. In 2010, while seeing the great promise of social production (work that involves micro-contributions from large networks of people who often receive "payment" in the form of fun, peer recognition, and a sense of belonging, i.e. social rather than monetary currencies), I started worrying about its shadow side. It seemed that many social media platforms had the potential to re-create the manor economies of the past in the digital world.
Reflecting on the lawsuit brought by bloggers who contributed free content to Huffington Post but didn't get any financial returns when the site was sold for $315 million to AOL, I saw similarities between the medieval and emerging digital manor economies:
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Just like digital manor economies today, the manorialism of feudal society in medieval Europe integrated many elements of commons production. In most manors, peasants and tenants were assigned rights to use the commons—pastures, forests, fisheries, soil—within each manor's boundaries…The dark side of manor economics, however, lay in the fact that it perpetuated huge inherited disparities in incomes.
Just days before the horrific mass murder at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue, my Institute for the Future colleagues Sam Woolley and Katie Joseff published a deeply upsetting study on how social media bots and computational propaganda are being used to instigate and amplify anti-semitism online and manipulate public opinion. From the paper:
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This report explores the ways in which online propaganda, harassment and political manipulation are affecting Jewish People in the runup to 2018 U.S. midterm elections. In the course of our research, members of this group have described a marked rise in the number of online attacks their community is experiencing. This is proving especially true during electoral contests and major political events. Correspondingly, our analyses suggests that tools like social media bots, and tactics including doxxing, disinformation, and politically-motivated threats, have been used online during the 2018 midterms to target Jewish Americans. According to interviewees, veiled human users—rather than automated accounts—often deliver the most worrisome and harmful anti-Semitic attacks.
As part of the wider paper series focused on “humanizing the effects of computational propaganda” this empirical work details the ways in which the Jewish socio-religious population in the U.S. is being disproportionately targeted with disinformation and abuse during this crucial political moment. We use a mixed methods approach in this research, deploying both qualitative and quantitative analysis in order to generate both a culturally deep and statistically broad understanding of how computational propaganda is being leveraged against this community...
Analysis of 7,512,594 tweets over a period from August 31, 2018 to September 17, 2018 shows the prevalence of political bots in these efforts and highlights groups within the U.S.
WhatsApp, the messaging application business owned by Facebook, said on Friday it is “taking immediate legal action” against companies responsible for a flood of political spam ahead of Brazil's presidential elections. Read the rest
Facebook is working very hard right now to prove it can be trusted to protect users from malicious fake news, political disinformation, and cyberattacks intended to throw the 2018 midterms. What Facebook is not doing: providing details. Read the rest
Ronald Langeveld has had enough, but realized you have to do more than simply quit: you gotta get years of your stuff out, too. He posted instructions on exfiltrating all your photos, comments and posts before ridding yourself of Facebook.
1) Log into Facebook. Don't look at any of the cancerous content on your feed and go directly into settings.
2) Click on "Your Facebook Information"
3) Click on "download your information".
4) Now you've got a whole lot of options
It's heartening to see people scrambling out of the dopamine trough, but the truth is we mostly fall back in. Drug-addiction metaphors are strained; gambling seems the better analogy. Read the rest
Poolboy nails one of the three most pernicious forms of marketing trends: the ironic self-deprecating brand run by some douchey social media manager: Read the rest
Women-hating MRAs and Incels, Holocaust Deniers, 9/11 Truthers, and snuff video fetishists on Reddit got harder to find today. An update of Reddit's “quarantine” policy was announced on Thursday, and by Friday new content disclaimers appeared a number of the sketchier “subreddits,” including four with over 100,000 subscribers each. Read the rest
Internal emails show that the Berkeley, California Police Department (BPD) talked of building a “counter-narrative” on social media against anti-fascist protesters as BPD tweeted out their names and mugshots, then boasted of retweets and “engagement” metrics when mugshots went viral. This amounts to cops doxxing protesters and high-fiving each other over it. That's creepy, and seems like an obvious abuse of power, if not also an abuse of the law. Read the rest
There will be a new Instagram app sometime soon that's all about shopping, reports The Verge. Read the rest
From the apt metaphor department, Romanian illustrator Andrei Lacatusu's series titled "Social Decay" renders 3D images of logos for social media giants as rusting derelict signs. Read the rest
Twitter's stock closed 20.5% on Friday after the company announced it lost 1 million active users. More user loss is predicted. Read the rest
A researcher reviewed 23,005 comments left on videos about science and related topics. You'll never guess what they found out about how YouTubers view women. Adrianne Jeffries, quoting Inoaka Amarasekara:
“I was quite disappointed by the time I’d gone through them,” she said. “I could see why people would not want to be on YouTube.”
The researchers found that about 14 percent of comments for female on-camera hosts were critical, compared to about six percent for male hosts.
They also found female hosts got a much larger proportion of comments about appearance (4.5 percent for women versus 1.4 percent for men) and comments that were sexist or sexual (nearly three percent of comments for women versus about a quarter-percent for men)
Imagine if, for a decade, Google left the world's largest social network to fester, allowing racial slurs, sexist abuse and any and all forms of bigotry to stand without moderation or even the slightest serious community management, all the while vigorously enforcing policies against marketing, spam and copyright infringement, making clear that nothing is there without its conscious assent. What a world that would be. Read the rest
A new Pew survey is out, and it shows that teens are losing interest in Facebook. My daughters don't have accounts and the younger one never bothered to sign up. Who can blame them? It's no fun and the user interface has been hideous since the day it launched.
From Pew's “Teens, Social Media & Technology" as reported by Fast Company:
Here are the platforms teens say they use the most in 2018:
YouTube: 85% of teens use the platform
None of the above: 3%
Compare that with the platforms teens said they used the most in 2015:
Google +: 33%
Two things: 1) Instagram is owned by Facebook, and anyone who has an Instagram account will be barraged with pleas to join Facebook. 2) I wonder if Snapchat adoption is declining. My kids said they don't like it any more and their friends have all switched over to Instagram. Read the rest
Social rating site Klout saw where society was heading with influencer marketing, but like many bad ideas that were a little ahead of their time, Klout will not live on to see the devastation they helped usher in. Read the rest
As our Cory Doctorow points out, the tools to protect yourself from non-consensual online tracking are already out there. He uses and recommends the EFF's free Privacy Badger browser plug-in to keep his online data to himself and out of the hands of creeps like Facebook, Google and Cambridge Analytica.
If you're a Firefox user who wants to keep using Facebook, but worried about the sort of nonsense that the service has been getting up to of late, Mozilla has launched a new browser extension that's designed to provide users with more control of what sort of personal data everyone's favorite social media problem child is capable of getting its hands on. It's called the Facebook Container Extension.
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This extension helps you control more of your web activity from Facebook by isolating your identity into a separate container. This makes it harder for Facebook to track your activity on other websites via third-party cookies.
Rather than stop using a service you find valuable and miss out on those adorable photos of your nephew, we think you should have tools to limit what data others can collect about you. That includes us: Mozilla does not collect data from your use of the Facebook Container extension. We only know the number of times the extension is installed or removed.
When you install this extension it will delete your Facebook cookies and log you out of Facebook. The next time you visit Facebook it will open in a new blue-colored browser tab (aka “container tab”).
Simple comedy, perfectly executed, by voice actor SungWon Cho. Here's his YouTube channel. Read the rest
Hey, remember when that dangerous orange toddler that runs America retweeted the online blather of a bunch of English facists? Good times. Today, a company that's made some hilariously poor choices in the area of user privacy, curbing spam and stomping out hate speech proved that they've got more of their shit together than the – God help us – leader of the free world.
According to The Verge, Facebook has banned U.K.-based far-right racist shit heels Britain First from their social network for "inciting hatred against minorities."
In a statement made earlier today, Facebook explained that in the past, they've tried to find a balance between free speech and decency that would allow a variety of opinions to be voiced and considered on their social network. But their patience for hateful bullshit only goes so far:
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There are times though when legitimate political speech crosses the line and becomes hate speech designed to stir up hatred against groups in our society. This is an important issue which we take very seriously and we have written about how we define hate speech and take action against it in our Hard Questions series. We have Community Standards that clearly state this sort of speech is not acceptable on Facebook and, when we become aware of it, we remove it as quickly as we can. Political parties, like individuals and all other organizations on Facebook, must abide by these standards and where a Page or person repeatedly breaks our Community Standards we remove them.