Digitally Literate #196

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Dark, toxic corners of the Internet
Digitally Lit #196 – 5/4/2019

Hi all, my name is Ian O’Byrne and welcome to Digitally Literate. In this newsletter, I try to synthesize what happened this week so you can be digitally literate as well.

I posted a couple of things this week:


The Future of Work – Jobs and automation in Estonia (5:58)

A little over a year ago, I met Marina Kaljurand, a former Ambassador of Estonia and the current chair of the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace. We spoke quite a bit about education and the role of technology in the future of children’s lives.

Kaljurand offered me a visit to Estonia to see it for myself. After seeing this video…I just might take her up on it.


Think you’re discreet online? Think again

Zeynep Tufekci talking about the digital residue we leave behind as we use digital tools and spaces.

There is the narrative that “as long as you’re careful online” you’ll be okay. As Tufekci indicates, there is no longer any chance of “opting out” of challenges in these spaces.

My key takeaway from this piece was the concept of “computational inferencing.” This is the modern equivalent of “data inferencing” in which a group can make inferences about you based on a series of data points…like magazines and newspapers you subscribe to.

The Devastating Consequences of Being Poor in the Digital Age

Mary Madden discussing the privacy and security violations that occur in our increasingly digitized society. This is increasingly true for marginalized and vulnerable populations.

The poor experience these two extremes — hypervisibility and invisibility — while often lacking the agency or resources to challenge unfair outcomes.

The existential crisis plaguing online extremism researchers

Paris Martineau with an insightful piece on the current state of truth and morality research on the Internet. Martineau speaks with several researchers in this area, and finds feelings of futility and depression.

These individuals regularly see the increase in online extremism and disinformation. They are also often the target of hate as they try to speak out, or at least inform us about current trends.

The fact that they are losing hope should concern us all.

Facebook and Instagram bans Alex Jones, and other extremists, but not as planned

This week Facebook indicated that, in order to contain some of the misinformation and extremism that permeates their (and other) networks, they were banning (and removing content) from especially toxic, conspiracy theorist organizations.

As detailed by the lead to this segment…they didn’t actually do this. Facebook and Instagram made a giant announcement, and then hours later they started removing the pages and content. Those of you that have worked with adolescents know exactly what happened next.

Many of these groups quickly informed their audience of the impending ban, and directed them to other networks and channels for more info. They then started spawning unofficial accounts and pages for their content to keep the stream flowing. The media noticed this, and amplified the message of this exodus, thereby extending the reach of the message.

Finally, Facebook indicated that they told the organizations they were being banned, to give them notice so they didn’t need to read it in the news…but when they started scrubbing their sites for the hateful speech, they realized this is hard work, and that caused the delay.

Earlier this week, a shooting occurred in a California synagogue in which a woman was killed, and three others injured. This attack highlights a growing link between online radicalization and terroristic violence offline.

This post from the Southern Poverty Law Center connects the dots between the online spaces where this hateful radicalization breeds, and the response to these events. For a deeper dive, this post from Vox describes 8chan, the nexus for much of this community.


It’s Now Even Easier To Spot the Surveillance With Updates to EFF’s VR App

It’s now even easier to identify surveillance out in the wild. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released version 1.2 of their Spot the Surveillance app. Head here for the Spanish version.

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Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.

Anne Frank

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I listened to this talk about algorithmic culture by danah boyd as I finalized this week’s issue.

Digitally Literate is a summary of all the great stuff from the Internet this week in technology, education, & literacy. Follow along here.

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