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What Black Lives Matter Activists Can Teach Us About The Pitfalls And Potential Of Digital Organizing

According to a recent Economist article, police monitoring of social media as a way of surveilling activists is now commonplace. Given the publicly accessible nature of social media, that should come as no surprise. However, it raises clear questions about the effectiveness of using digital platforms as primary organizing spaces, even while social media has provided important platforms for activists to broaden their reach and impact. As researchers exploring the potential of social movements to scale the impact of their work...

Worshiping The Electronic Image

Donald Trump, like much of the American public, is entranced by electronic images. He interprets reality through the distortions of digital media. His decisions, opinions, political positions, prejudices and sense of self are reflected back to him on screens. He views himself and the world around him as a vast television show with himself as the star. His primary concerns as president are his ratings, his popularity and his image. He is a creature—maybe the poster child—of the modern, post-literate culture, a culture that critics such as Marshall McLuhan, Daniel Boorstin, James W. Carey and Neil Postman warned us about.

Facebook’s Leaked Content Moderation Documents Reveal Serious Problems

Facebook's thousands of content moderators worldwide rely on a bunch of unorganised PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets to decide what content to allow on the social network, revealed a report. These guidelines, which are used to monitor billions of posts every day, are apparently filled with numerous gaps, biases, and outright errors. The unnamed Facebook employee, who leaked these documents, reportedly feared that the social network was using too much power with too little oversight and making too many mistakes.

Bitcoin, Blockchain, And Local Currencies

The world is on fire lately with the exponential growth of Bitcoin and other electronic cryptocurrencies. While some see these as speculative bubbles that are tied to nothing, used on the dark web to ransom hacked computers, and profligate users of electricity, others see Bitcoin and its ilk as our liberation from nation states and their central banks. Both could be true. Perhaps more important is that the platform underpinning Bitcoin, called blockchain technology, and later advances such as Ethereum, have the potential to completely transform the way that the world operates. Many people see the rise in Bitcoin as the result of a growing distrust in governments, official/artificial fiat currencies, corporations, institutions, and other people.

Google Admits Political Censorship Of Search Results

By Niles Niemuth for WSWS - Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, confirmed this weekend that the world’s largest Internet company is, in close coordination with the state, manipulating search results to censor sites critical of the US government. Responding to a question about the “manipulation of information” on the Internet during an appearance at the Halifax International Security Forum, Schmidt announced that Google is working on algorithms that will “de-rank” Russian-based news websites RT and Sputnik from its Google News services, effectively blocking users’ access to either site. Schmidt’s remarks at the gathering of military and national security officials confirm the World Socialist Web Site’s charges that Google has been deliberately altering its search algorithms and taking other steps to prevent people from accessing certain information and specific websites through its search engines. The WSWS has itself been a principal target of these efforts. The statements expose as lies the company’s previous claim that changes to its search engine were aimed at “improving search results” and that these changes were politically unbiased. Google’s efforts are just one part of a much wider government-corporate drive to assert control over the flow of information over the Internet, involving Amazon, Twitter and Facebook, as well as Internet service providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon and AT&T.

Who Will Save The World From Digital Colonialism?

By Staff of Media Diversified - UN Sustainable Development Goal 9: strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020. Internet for everyone, and more internet in each of our lives, have become near universally accepted objectives. It might initially have seemed like we were getting everything for free but now we’re starting to realise it’s not the case; instead of paying in money we’re paying in data about us. What is the nature of the internet that is being proliferated as a social good? Is it a surveillance network for governments and advertisers to share? A tool of Western economic, social and cultural hegemony? A new sphere for the harassment of women, now with added reach and tracking abilities! Or are these just ethnocentric criticisms that fail to understand the multifarious internets of Southern societies, and how communities make use of them differently? What does digital colonialism mean? Does the combination of the digital and the colonial create something novel? Is it an extension of the colonialism of old using different tools? These were the questions that I asked experts, campaigners and researchers at this year’s Mozilla Festival, an annual London-based event that brings together those interested in an open internet.

Journalists Who Want Online Privacy Need To Read This Guide

By Chris Paulus for Occupy - We live in a time of journalistic prosecution, as investigative journalists get increasingly targeted for simply doing their job. The Obama Administration prosecuted more individuals under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined; in fact, it used the law to prosecute journalists almost exclusively. It is imperative that journalists protect themselves as they continue to pursue their important work in the face of growing government control. That is why Michael Dagan, a former deputy editor of the Israeli newspaper Haaertz, and Ariel Hochstadt, a former security expert as well as a marketing expert for Google, have created a guide, Online Privacy for Journalists, to help journalists protect both themselves and their sources. “Many journalists whom I have spoken with recently expressed concern for whatever lies ahead for the freedom of the press. All encryption systems can be compromised, if someone has the perseverance to track them,” writes Dagan in an introductory paragraph. “The good news is that it is nevertheless possible to make it difficult for anyone to try and intercept your emails, the text messages you’re sending or your phone calls.” One may be surprised by the extreme measures the guide suggests are necessary as preventive steps to ensure the highest likelihood of a journalist maintaining privacy.

Reclaim Online Privacy: Alternatives To Facebook, Twitter & Google

By Kit O’Connell and Eleanor Goldfield for Act Out! - Moving on to our main story today … Imagine a police state so bent on repressing dissent that people were targeted by the government just for visiting a web page or liking a page on Facebook? This dystopian scenario isn’t science fiction, and it isn’t something happening in a far off country — it’s happening in the United States. No really, let’s take a look at a recent example: On an auspicious Friday the 13th in October, the federal government dropped its demand that Facebook turn over information about anyone who had simply “liked” a page dedicated to protesting Donald Trump’s inauguration. In this case, Three warrants were served that demand Facebook provide the US government with all information from the accounts of two activists and a page affiliated with massive protests against right-wing President Donald Trump‘s inauguration on January 20. The requested information includes the entirety of photos, videos, posts, private messages, video calls, billing information and other data between November 1, 2016, and February 9. … If successful, the warrant for Disrupt J20 could result in some 6,000 visitors to that page having their names and public and private activity on and with the page passed on to the government.

Digital Denied: Systemic Discrimination Keeps Communities Offline

By Dana Floberg for Freepress - Internet access is a necessity for engaging in our communities, searching for employment and seeking out educational opportunities — but too many people are still stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide. And that divide disproportionately impacts people of color. Indeed, the racial divide in home-internet adoption — including both wired and wireless service — leaves people of color behind the digital curve. People of color comprise 32 million of the 69 million people in the United States who lack any form of home-internet access. On Tuesday, Free Press released a new report, Digital Denied, which exposes this undeniable gap and explains how structural racial discrimination contributes to it. Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner authored the study. Systemic discrimination creates serious income inequality in this country. Whites have far higher average incomes than Blacks or Latinos. Low-income families are less able and willing to buy internet subscriptions. And many families who are willing to pay for service find they can’t due to racially biased barriers like credit scoring. Given how stark racial and ethnic income discrepancies are, it’s no surprise that people of color lag behind in internet adoption.

How These Librarians Are Changing How We Think About Digital Privacy

By Eoin O'Carroll for The Christian Science Monitor - In August, New York University and the Library Freedom Project – an organization that trains librarians on using privacy tools to protect intellectual freedom – received a $250,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal agency. Its purpose: to train librarians to implement secure protocols on their own web services, and to teach members of the community to evade the prying eyes of governments, corporations, and criminal hackers. According to the Library Freedom Project’s website, the group aims to create what it calls “a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the communities they serve.” As society’s sole public space dedicated to collecting and sharing information, public libraries have long been a flashpoint for conflicts over censorship, surveillance, and secrecy. The digital age has accelerated these conflicts, placing librarians squarely between the government’s and corporations’ desire to pursue their interests and the public’s desire to learn how to seek information in private. “Libraries teaching this stuff can really have a big effect on getting them into wider adoption,” says Alison Macrina, the project’s founder and director. “There are a lot of libraries. They reach a lot of people. They are a place where a lot of people already get introduced to new technologies.”

Empower Communities Through Stories And Mobile Journalism

By Staff of Law at the Margins - Join Law at the Margins in collaboration with Evrybit, veteran journalists and social justice innovators as we discuss how mobile journalism can strengthen marginalized communities by amplifying voices, stories and images that are often underrepresented, misrepresented or ignored. Mobile journalism—where reporters use portable technologies to gather news—provides a unique opportunity to share stories from local communities in the United States and around the world. Can these tools be used to help strengthen historically marginalized communities? Law at the Margins in collaboration with the Evrybit mobile storytelling platform, veteran journalists, and social justice innovators will discuss existing tools that residents can use to document what's happening in their neighborhoods and become their own trusted news source.

Digital Media Companies: Net Neutrality Rules Help Us Compete

By Sara Fischer for Axios - Why it matters: Many news publishers believe the current net neutrality rules help them survive in an economic environment that already favors tech and telecom companies that distribute content over media companies that create it. In comments to the FCC, Digital Content Next CEO Jason Kint argues on behalf of nearly 80 online publishers that the rule prohibiting internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast from blocking a consumer's ability to access lawful content should remain clearly intact. He also argues that the regulation banning those providers from striking financial deals to give priority to certain content on their networks should remain intact. DCN's position that the rules ensure that all types of content can get to consumers is generally echoed by the Internet Association, which represents tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix. Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast support the FCC's efforts to roll back the rules, saying the current rules went beyond the agency's authority.

Net Neutrality And The Unfortunate Politics Of Digital

By Steve Andriole for Forbes - Net neutrality is important to all things digital because it speaks directly to the governance and control of the world’s most important platform for communication, commerce, entertainment and education. The timing of the debate about net neutrality is especially important because of the explosion in the number of devices connected to the Internet through the so-called “Internet-of-Things” and “Internet-of-Everything.” Once everything is (more or less) connected, the world will change. The management of the platform and the applications will define life in the mid- to late 21st century. The Open Internet Order passed in 2015 with support from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The Resistance Must Be Digitized

By Joseph Torres for Freepress - Over the past two months, millions of people have taken to the streets to challenge our nation’s authoritarian new president. From the women’s marches that took place across the country and around the world to the mass protests against the Muslim ban and immigration raids, people are resisting the neo-fascist agenda President Trump is unleashing on our nation. A primary reason why millions have been able to mobilize so quickly is because they have the ability to use the open internet to communicate to the masses and organize a resistance. That’s why protecting the Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet open is more critical than ever. As authoritarianism rises...

Trump’s Threat To Internet Freedom & Digital Media

By Charles Ferguson for The Guardian - In one of the most jaw-dropping press conferences of all time, this month President Trump declared war on the entire news media, except Fox News and Alex Jones of InfoWars. Last week he doubled down with his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, on the same day that the Guardian, New York Times, BBC and CNN were among news organisations barred from a press briefing. All of this is occurring at a time of unprecedented financial pressure on the news media. For newspapers and magazines, both advertising and readership are shifting rapidly from print to the internet. Print advertising and circulation revenues are declining sharply. Furthermore, as readership shifts to the internet, digital advertising revenues are shifting even more sharply away from the news publications themselves to the small number of technology companies that send them traffic. Facebook and Google now capture the overwhelming majority of digital advertising revenues.
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