Digitally Literate #235

Truth and Falsehoods
Digitally Lit #235 – 2/29/2020**

Hi all, welcome to issue #235 of Digitally Literate.

I posted and shared the following this week:

  • Co-Constructing Digital Futures – Several members of the Screentime Research Group have been conducting research on the challenges and opportunities that exist as children grow up in an world that is increasingly dictated by algorithms. You can review the submitted manuscript here.
  • Overcoming Fear & Developing Vigilance – This episode of the Technopanic Podcast is part of the research piece I linked above. In this I (Ian O’Byrne) reflect on the research being conducted.
  • Raising Media-Savvy Kids – We released another episode of the Technopanic Podcast this week. This episode is a discussion with Megan Herbst, a fact-checker & contributor at Wired Magazine. We discuss media literacy & how parents can help children to be more critical consumers of information.
  • Web Literate Educator – I have been slowing revising the open educational resource (OER) for the technology classes I teach. You can follow along here on the Google Site.

If you haven’t already, please subscribe if you would like this newsletter to show up in your inbox. Feel free to reach out and let me know what you think of this work at


It’s time to ban facial recognition from campus (1:33)

We all read Orwell’s 1984 in high school, but some people didn’t get the warning—facial recognition surveillance is spreading. If we don’t speak out, soon every campus could be equipped with invasive technology that monitors everything we do, including who students hang out with, and what they do outside of class. It’s time to stop facial recognition on campus before we have no liberties left!

On March 2, student groups across the country are coming together to protest the erosion of privacy and rights that Facial Recognition represents. Protest resources, including a facial recognition makeup video are now available.

Read more in this op-ed from Evan Greer and Evan Selinger on how facial recognition tech could change college campuses.


Preparing for Coronavirus to Strike the U.S.

As the new human coronavirus spreads around the world, individuals and families should prepare—but are we? The Centers for Disease Control has already said that it expects community transmission in the United States, and asked families to be ready for the possibility of a “significant disruption to our lives.”

This post by Zeynep Tufekci is a short, practical guide on why and how you should prepare for COVID-19.

I recommend reviewing this Twitter thread by Tufekci as you learn more & prepare. One of the key resources Zeynep shares is this one-page guide for the layperson.

Sifting Through the Coronavirus Outbreak

There’s a lot of bad information out there about the recent coronavirus outbreak. At the same time, just tuning out is not an option. Whether it’s currently an epidemic or a pandemic, it’s serious business.

In this resource from Mike Caulfield, you can learn the skills that will make a dramatic difference in your ability to sort fact from fiction on the web (and everything in between).

It is important to understand that history has shown us that epidemics are also a media & information literacy problem.

How hard will the robots make us work?

enter image description hereAs we think about the future of jobs, and automation, we often do not think about the data and automation that dictate how we work. There are many factors behind it, but one is the digitization of the economy and the new ways of organizing work it enables.

Facial-Recognition Company That Works With Law Enforcement Says Entire Client List Was Stolen

As a regular reader of Digitally Literate, you’ve already learned a lot about Clearview AI, the controversial facial recognition company that has been gobbling up all of the information about you online and selling it to its clients.

Well…the startup disclosed this week that an intruder gained unauthorized access to its list of customers, the number of user accounts those customers had set up, and the number of searches its customers have conducted.

If you live in California, or an area that provides some robust consumer privacy protections, you can see what Clearview has gathered about you.

How to Dox Yourself on the Internet

A step-by-step guide to finding and removing your personal information from the Internet.

Doxxing (also sometimes called “doxing”) is a low-level tactic with a high-impact outcome: it often does not require much time or many resources, but it can cause significant damage to the person targeted. Once sensitive information — such as home address, phone number, names of family members or email addresses — about a targeted individual is posted to public forums, it can be used by others for further targeting.


Setting Up Your Webcam, Lights, and Audio for Remote Work, Podcasting, Videos, and Streaming

The modern internet is optimized to be as distracting as possible. Social networks and other websites are built by some of the smartest software engineers who have ever lived, and often the objective is to take up as much of your time as possible.

Here’s how to take control of this useful tool.



Truth and falsehood are arbitrary terms….The force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters very little if it is true or false.

Adviser to President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information

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Digitally Literate is a weekly review of the news, notes, tips, and tricks from the week that resonated with me. I leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs as I read online. Some of this I share on my social networks…much more I do not. At the end of the week, I review my notes and write up this newsletter.

I’ve been enjoying Martin Weller’s book on 25 Years of Ed Tech. In this text, Weller examines the history of innovation and effective implementation of ed tech across higher education. You can download the PDF for free under a Creative Commons license.

Feel free to connect at or on the social network of your choice.


  1. Aaron Davis
    March 2, 2020 at 5:45 am

    Ian, I really enjoyed your piece on digital futures. In particular, I liked the notion of ‘media mentorship’:

    During these conversations, parents can provide media mentorship, or a guide that can help youth navigate the digital world while working to translate these experiences into positive and productive lifelong learning skills (Haines, Campbell and ALSC 2016).

    It was interesting reading this after Troy Hunt’s piece for Safer Internet Day, in which he suggests:

    Tech is fun. Understand how it works, set boundaries, find a healthy balance and have a laugh with your kids.

    • wiobyrne
      March 3, 2020 at 9:11 am

      Thanks for the feedback Aaron. It has been interesting to think through these concepts as a parent, researcher, and educator. More to come soon.

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