Digitally Literate #218


Imperialistic Tech
Digitally Lit #218 – 10/19/2019

Hi all, welcome to issue #218 of Digitally Literate. My name is Ian O’Byrne.

At the last second I took a week off without alerting everyone. My family went off to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my in-laws. With travel and traffic, most of the time I had budgeted to write was quickly gobbled up.

Thank you for stopping by. Please subscribe if you would like this to show up in your email inbox.

This week I posted another episode of the Technopanic Podcast which I co-host with Kristen Turner. Subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, PocketCasts, Stitcher…or the podcast catcher of your choice. You can also review all episodes here.


Some Vermont schools are already monitoring students’ online activity (1:57)

A state task force recommended that Vermont invest in social media monitoring software, in the hopes of flagging warning signs by would-be school shooters. But whether or not officials take up the strategy on a statewide scale, plenty of districts are already using these technologies.


Mark Zuckerberg Stands for Voice and Free Expression

Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Georgetown University about the importance of protecting free expression. I’ve shared the link above with the hope that you’ll use Hypothesis to openly annotate and comment on the full text from Zuckerberg. You can use my guide to get around your use of Hypothesis to engage and connect in the discussion.

Zuckerberg has been on a “transparency tour” since the 2016 election in the U.S. Some believed that this was his attempt to run for public office. Increasingly we’re seeing that this is instead an attempt to stem the tide of bad press, questionable decisions, and obfuscation surrounding the social network.

The response to the address was generally negative, and indicated that Zuckerberg generally doesn’t understand free speech in the 21st century. This thread from David Kaye is also an excellent deep dive into the address.

There are deeper questions about this address, and the connections to Facebook’s business practices. This is important because , as we’ve discussed in great detail in this newsletter, Zuckerberg is the key factor behind all of the actions by Facebook. His reach, and the reach of the social network make him one of the most powerful individuals on the planet. His framing (or lackthereof) of these freedoms is terribly important as they slowly begin to seep into how we view individual and collective rights.

How a tweet created a costly rift between the NBA and China

In a since-deleted tweet, Daryl Morey, General Manager of the Houston Rockets expressed support for the protestors in Hong Kong.

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This tweet inserted the National Basketball Association (NBA) into the heated debate at the center of the Hong Kong protests. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced the organization from Morey’s comments, and Morey later walked back his statement. The NBA issued an initial statement that was roundly criticized by U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle for choosing financial interests over human rights.

This raises questions about whether or not high-profile personalities (or average citizens) should be able to speak out on social issues.

Blizzard, Hearthstone & the Hong Kong protests: What you need to know

As the protests continue in Hong Kong, other US companies are finding themselves caught up in the controversy.

Blizzard, the developer of Diablo and World of Warcraft among other notable games, has faced a growing backlash since it removed pro player Chung “Blitzchung” Ng Wai from a Hearthstone tournament and future events. His ban came two days after he showed support for the Hong Kong protests in a postgame interview on Oct. 6. Blizzard seems to be doubling down on this stance by automatically banning anyone that posts anything pro-Hong Kong in their chat feeds.

A number of groups and organizations have come out against these bans as they criticize the company’s decision to censor calls for freedoms in order to make money.

Apple removes app that helps Hong Kong protestors track the police

Apple removed an app from its App Store for after facing intense criticism after authorities in Hong Kong said protesters were using it to attack the police in the semiautonomous city.

Once again, this story sits at the crux of the complicated mechanics that exist as multinational businesses seek to negotiate and create a middle ground between different cultures

China and the Hypocrisy of American Speech Imperialism

Andrew Keane Woods pulls all of these threads together in this expansive post. Woods discusses the challenges that exist as we live in a globally connected marketplace.

There is no easy answer to the very difficult question of if or how American firms should do business in China. But, unfortunately, resolving this question is made harder because the debate is marred by a general lack of analytical clarity and is instead being driven by uninformed moral outrage, free speech absolutism, and American exceptionalism.

We seem to have this problem where we try to instill our own stances into the culture of other groups.

This discussion is important as we consider these multinational corporations and technology developers that are monetizing our data, and impacting the privacy and security of users globally.


Empowering students to question their data privacy

Autumn Caines and Erin Glass had a great piece in Educause Review this week that sounds the call for not only better security around student data, but also the need to empower youth to critically evaluate data privacy practices and policies.

They suggest asking the following questions as you consider your data usage:

  • What types of personal data do you think are collected through your use of digital tools for educational activities?
  • What value does your personal data have for different contexts and entities? Consider how your data might be valued by your instructor, the institution, yourself, and companies.
  • Who owns your personal data, who can sell it, and who can use it?
  • Do you have concerns about how your personal data can be used? If so, what are they?
  • Are there aspects of your identity or life that you feel would put you in a place of special vulnerability if certain data were known about you or used against you?


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You must have confidence in your competence.

Elijah Cummings

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Digitally Literate is a synthesis of the cool stuff I find as I surf, skim, & scan the Internet each week. I take notes of everything that piques my interest, and then pull together the important stuff here in a weekly digest.

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