Collective Illusions

Welcome to Digitally Literate, issue #330.

I posted the following this week:

  • Student Privacy and Pandemics – I’m presenting a virtual session at #TLTCon2022 next week on the policies, practices, and procedures that schools should implement to establish trust, promote transparency, and create a culture of privacy. “Those who rule data will rule the entire world… That’s what people of the future will say.” — Masayoshi Son.

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10% of people are ruining social media. Who are they?

Social media isn’t the majority – it’s the vocal fringe.

Because of its scale and speed, social media is the great amplifier of collective illusions. The greatest strength of social media is its facilitation of diverse voices, but at the same time, it can be akin to a funhouse of mirrors. The reason for that, is because most of us assume that we are interacting with a representative sample of the population. But we’re not.

The transcript is available here.

The EU, US, and 32 other countries just announced a ‘Declaration for the Future of the Internet’

Last week I shared news of the Digital Services Act (DSA) that looks like it will be approved in the coming months. The EU particularly has taken in recent years with the DSA and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that seek to impose greater obligations for web services to remove illegal content and prevent harm to users.

This week, the United States, all European Union member states, and 32 non-EU countries have announced a “Declaration for the Future of the Internet” that lays out priorities for an “open, free, global, interoperable, reliable, and secure” internet. It highlights goals like affordability, net neutrality, and removing illegal content without curtailing free expression — although it offers few specifics for achieving them.

The three-page declaration, also summarized by the White House and the European Commission, offers a broad vision of the net as well as a mix of more specific issues for its 61 signatories. Let’s hope this is more about making the Internet more understandable for most users…and less about avoiding a “splinternet.”

Twitter Has a New Owner. Here’s What He Should Do.

Good news! Elon Musk is now the owner of Twitter!

His long-term vision for the social network may be a bit different than what you think. Unless you’re looking for a “longtermist” focus on human beings leading “happy lives” inside vast computer simulations powered by the energy output of stars.

For a somewhat different take, this post suggests that social networks play an increasingly important role in social & political discourse and have a responsibility to ensure that their decision-making is both transparent and accountable.

Is Everything Falling Apart?

A recent piece by Jonathan Haidt, titled Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid has

As a response to Haidt’s piece, Robert Wright suggests it be three things that have torn our world asunder: the like button, the share/retweet button, and the algorithms that feed on those buttons. We speak different languages so coordinating in the future will be hard.

Mental health apps have terrible privacy protections, report finds

A reminder that our data is scooped up by data brokers who would spy on your health.

As a category, mental health apps have worse privacy protections for users than most other types of apps, according to a new analysis from researchers at Mozilla. Prayer apps also had poor privacy standards, the team found.

In a related story, documents obtained by Vice News’ Motherboard revealed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention purchased access to the phone data of millions of Americans, and not just for COVID-19 tracking.

In another related story, groups have been shown to target people who walk into women’s health clinics and serve them ads for “abortion alternatives” and “adoption” that are paid for by pro-life groups.

Be careful as you use devices, apps, and digital services to perform normal actions related to your health. Just in case, y’know, anything were to become illegal, you should be aware that ads are the least of your concerns.

The growing, lightly controversial industry teaching kids crypto

I feel seen. |_・)

For some kids, school breaks mean family vacations, part-time jobs, sports and hobbies, or soaking in the general bliss of not having to do homework. For others, it means learning about NFTs.

Change Is Hard. Here’s How to Make It Less Painful

To re-wire ourselves to be more comfortable with and open to change we need to shift our mindset and move toward a hoped-for future. The authors of this post identify “the change arc.”

When change is first proposed, people want to know why this is happening, what does this mean for me, and what will it look like afterwards? People then move to viewing change as a threat, until shifting from “this change is going to be difficult, costly, and weird” to “this change could be easy, rewarding, and normal.”

There is a togetherness: it’s not me alone; there are others. I will go alone, but I will find others.

Nora Younis

Over the last six months, Rest of World spoke to more than 70 technologists, telecoms experts, activists, and journalists from around the world to track how governments’ control over the internet has grown and evolved during the past decade. Their testimony shows that the free, open, global internet is under severe threat. Please take some time to review this long form post.

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