Escaping Twitter's numbers game with the Twitter Demetricator

Everyone knows about the trolls and nazis, but The New Yorker's David Zweig wrestles with the other strange pallor that descends on Twitter: the feeling that every moment is a self-conscious baring of oneself in pursuit of the metrics and measurements it applies, "a shameful interest in all those prominently displayed numbers." He installed Ben Grosser's Twitter Demetricator, which hides all that from Twitter (from yourself, if not from others.)

Twitter, perhaps even more than Facebook, runs on its users’ obsession—witting or not—with metrics. ... After three weeks of using the Demetricator, the nature of Twitter, for me, changed completely. In some ways, it became lonelier. Part of the fun had been feeling like part of a crowd, seeing a joke or an idea or an observation become something that fifty people, or fifty thousand, could share. But I’m willing to accept the loss of this superficial sense of community for all the gains. Not seeing any numbers at all made content itself the king. I came to appreciate, disconcertingly, that knowing what was popular before had not only often distorted but also sometimes completely overtaken my experience.

This was part of why I made txt.fyi, to make it easy to post things without the "ersatz quantifiers" of social capital, and is presumably why I wake up every day to requests to add user accounts and other features to it. Read the rest

Selfie addiction: the struggle is real

Junaid Ahmed takes 200 selfies a day, enough to land him on UK's Obsessed with my Body. Read the rest

The environmental costs of "safari selfies"

Everyone loves sloths, and that has led to a huge black market in their capture for use in "safari selfies," where eco-tourists travel to exotic locales and pose for social media posts with local fauna. Read the rest

Research report explains how adtech supercharges political deceit, allowing even bumblers to be master propagandists

A new report from the New America Foundation uses the current fear that Russian government elements manipulated the 2016 US election to explore the relationship between advertising technology, surveillance capitalism, and "precision propaganda," showing how the toolsuite developed for the advertising industry is readily repurposable by even modestly competent actors to spread disinformation campaigns. Read the rest

Comprehensive, open tutorial on using data analysis in social science research

Benjamin Mako Hill (previously) collaborated with colleagues involved in critical technology studies to write a textbook chapter analyzing the use of computational methods in social science and providing advice for social scientists who want to delve into data-based social science. Read the rest

The Weinstein Effect is already taking a readership toll on the lefty blogosphere

The crackdown on "influencers" engaging in undisclosed paid endorsement roiled Instagram last year, but now the crackdown on sexual misconduct on influencers is affecting readership at Mic, Upworthy, GOOD, and Slate, who quietly paid influencers like George Takei to promote their articles on their personal accounts. Read the rest

Woman who flipped off Trump got fired from government contracting firm

Last month, Juli Briskman, 50, flipped off the presidential motorcade passing her as she bicycled in Northern Virginia. A photo of Briskman's gesture went viral and last week she was fired from her job at Akima LLC, a government contracting firm. Even though she wasn't at work or wearing clothing that linked her to the company, her bosses claimed that she violated their social media policy:

“Covered Social Media Activity that contains discriminatory, obscene malicious or threatening content, is knowingly false, create [sic] a hostile work environment, or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline up to an [sic] including termination of employment.”

From the Washington Post:

It gets even more obscene.

Because Briskman was in charge of the firm’s social media presence during her six-month tenure there, she recently flagged something that did link her company to some pretty ugly stuff.

As she was monitoring Facebook this summer, she found a public comment by a senior director at the company in an otherwise civil discussion by one of his employees about Black Lives Matter.

“You’re a f------ Libtard a------,” the director injected, using his profile that clearly and repeatedly identifies himself as an employee of the firm.

In fact, the person he aimed that comment at was so offended by the intrusion into the conversation and the coarse nature of it that he challenged the director on representing Akima that way.

So Briskman flagged the exchange to senior management.

Did the man, a middle-aged executive who had been with the company for seven years, get the old “section 4.3” boot?

Read the rest

Social network tarot cards

Illustrator Jacopo Rosati of Venice, Italy has designed tarot cards based on internet culture instead of the occult. His Social Network Tarots' "major arcana" includes The Russian Hacker, Dick Pics, and Fake News, not the usuals like The Fool, Lovers, and Death.

The cards are not meant to be played it seems, as the artist only presents them as beautifully silkscreened posters. It's unclear whether Rosati is selling them but if you were interested in getting one, you could try reaching out to him through his site.

(Dangerous Minds) Read the rest

Company offers photo shoots on grounded Gulfstream jets to impress your Instagram followers

For around $250, Private Jet Studio invites you to book a two-hour photoshoot on a grounded Gulfstream jet at an airstrip in Moscow. Why? To impress people on social media with your (fake) jet-setting lifestyle. Hair stylist and makeup artist costs extra.

(Bored Panda)

Read the rest

Social bots as a threat to democracy

In The Guardian, my Institute for the Future colleagues Marina Gorbis and Sam Woolley write about social bots as a threat to democracy:

Social media platforms may be able to track and report on political advertisements from foreign entities, but will they divulge information on pervasive and personalized advertising from their domestic political clients?

This is a pressing question, because social bots are likely to continue to grow in sophistication. At a recent roundtable on the Future of AI and Democracy, several technology experts forecast that bots will become even more persuasive, more emotional and more personalized.

They will be able to not just spread information, but to truly converse and persuade their human interlocutors in order to even more effectively push the latter’s emotional buttons.

Bring together advances in neuroscience, the ability to analyze massive amounts of behavioral data and the proliferation of sensors and connectivity and you have a powerful recipe for affecting society though computational means.

"Social media bots threaten democracy. But we are not helpless" (The Guardian) Read the rest

How Facebook broke America

Alexis Madrigal describes What Facebook Did to American Democracy and why it was so hard to see it coming. Foreign exploitation of Facebook's ad system in the 2016 election was just the end result of Facebook's filter bubbles and its wildly successful efforts to get media to fill them. tl;dr: the horse was already dead before Russia flogged it.

The information systems that people use to process news have been rerouted through Facebook, and in the process, mostly broken and hidden from view. It wasn’t just liberal bias that kept the media from putting everything together. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars that was spent during the election cycle came in the form of “dark ads.”

The truth is that while many reporters knew some things that were going on on Facebook, no one knew everything that was going on on Facebook, not even Facebook.

Facebook's uncanny method is to trickle enough traffic to publishers so they chum it constantly with Facebookish content, but not so much that publishers can assimilate Facebook visitors into their own audience. Unfortunately for this clever and destructive arrangement, the new far-right sites represented such a cohesive emergent affinity group that Facebook's machinery was co-opted.

It's said (usually on Twitter) that no-one is better than Nazis at exploiting a libertarian dropout's ideological impostures. This sort of thing usually strikes me as pompous and vague, but Facebook so perfectly embodies it I'm going to need two leftist energy bars for breakfast this morning. Read the rest

Twitter from beginning to end

Mike Monteiro writes about his experience of Twitter over the years, and the growing failure of its leadership to take responsibility for what it has become.

...when companies tell you they need to be more transparent it’s generally because they’ve been caught being transparent. You accidentally saw behind the curtain. Twitter is behaving exactly as it’s been designed to behave. Twitter, at this moment, is the sum of the choices it has made. Even when the coop is covered in chickenshit, the chickens will come home to roost.

Twitter never saw Donald Trump as a problem, because they saw him as the solution.

Trump is key because his threats have long passed the nebulous, never-quite-defined point where Twitter tends to eject toxic internet celebrities. So it looks like cowardice is at hand: Twitter's brass won't take him on because they're scared of him. And the obviousness of it is unraveling the last faith anyone has in Twitter to get anything significant done about the broader problems of abuse, harassment and general addicted-to-misery behavior on the site.

I still love Twitter and think it could be fixed, and that the people in charge of it are in an "impossible" place where all options lead to pain. I hope they wake up and find the strength to deal with it. Read the rest

Will this leftist alternative to Reddit last as long as Imzy?

Right-wing clones of mainstream social media are ten-a-penny. But now the left's getting in on the action, too. Behold Raddle, a "leftist alternative to Reddit" founded after some intra-left drama spiralled out of control (plus ca change) and ended with site-wide bans. [via Metafilter] Read the rest

Instagram reactivates The Nude Blogger's account

Instagram's policy on nudity: "We know that there are times when people might want to share nude images that are artistic or creative in nature, but for a variety of reasons, we don’t allow nudity on Instagram." Read the rest

Artist Cindy Sherman took her Instagram public

Cindy Sherman is posting publicly on Instagram as _cindysherman_ after having her account set to private under a different account name. Many recent images use distortions and filters. Read the rest

Heavy social media use leads to a wider variety of news sources

Most people don't look at any news, or at one news site; using social media a lot (even without the intention of looking for news) means that sometimes you'll end up clicking a news link -- so heavy social media users, on average, are consuming a wider media diet than those who do not use social media. Read the rest

Binky: a fully automated social network that doesn't require you to be sociable

Have you ever wished you had a social media feed you could like, fave, signal boost and comment on without having to actually interact with people in any way? Binky has you covered. Read the rest

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