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Category Archives: Social Media

Fake news – Old model recycled for digital age

Before we called it Fake News, it was called propaganda. Or just plain dirt.

The New York Times has a great story on the roots of Fake News. (I’ve always disliked the term; it suggests there is such a thing as ‘authentic news.’) When information is manipulated, and planted, and spread, it is not just fake but spurious. The Rand Corporation calls this the ‘Firehose of Falsehood‘ propaganda model.

It’s features are:

  • High-volume and multichannel
  • Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
  • Lacks commitment to objective reality
  • Lacks commitment to consistency.

The firehose brings in information from so many sources that it tends to consume and compromise the bandwidth of attention we have to process the information.

But while we pay attention to malicious actors who spread falsehoods, let’s not be blinded to other ways fake news, falsehoods and propaganda spread. In a much older analysis of news and propaganda (Manufacturing of Consent, 1998) Noam Chomsky revealed how systemic propaganda is part of the business model of newsmaking. He identified ‘filters’ in the media embed propaganda and bias.

Fake news is just a new digital iteration of what we’ve had, and blissfully ignored before. Everything old is new again!

 

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Social media warning – This time from former Facebook exec

Didn’t you suspect the backlash was coming? Is Chamath Palihapitiya right?

The former Facebooker (someone I’ve featured before) gets to the heart of the matter. Calling out the addictive nature of social media –what he calls the “dopamine-driven feedback loops.” He doesn’t mince his words. Listen to his interview and see what you think.

A few days ago I expressed my disgust:

Indeed, we need to call out social media when it is not social, and in fact becoming thoroughly anti-social. We need to aggressively educate our younger generation before they climb on board this seductive train.

Or as Chamath says, we need a ‘hard break‘ from these tools.

 

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Targeting 6-year olds. Facebook, how low could you go?

It’s shocking –but no surprise– to see how young children are being sought after as social media customers.

“Today, in the US, we’re rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”

Sure Facebook’s release is sprinkled with words like ‘safer,’ ‘standalone’ and ‘controlled.’ It probably went through many, many iterations to make sure it addressed the hot-button issues. But let’s not be fooled as to what the real deal is: To groom younger customers to expand and dominate the base.
We like to see the research that they lean on, which they say led them to fill the need to allow kids to connect.
Facebook, if you want to have ‘thought-provoking conversations’ with parents, talk to any Montessori school, and they will tell you how and why their kids are becoming disconnected. (I am cross posting this from my wife’s Montessori school website.)

Gifs, masks, drawing tools, and stickers don’t constitute social media. Nor do they nurture connections!

C’mon, Facebook!

Read what others have to say:
 

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Typos aside, should they ignore his tweets?

Have you wondered if the media is unable or unwilling to ignore Donald Trump’s puerile tweets?

I’m willing to bet that if the major news organizations had stopped covering the ridiculous things he unloads in a Twitter storm, he wouldn’t have got to this point. Of course he’s gaming the system, knowing they are gleefully waiting each morning for a ‘story’ or controversy.

His latest blunder, addressing the wrong Twitter handle of Theresa May is just another one that will be drowned by others in a few weeks.

Remember the last time they messed up the British PM’s name? Thought so! In January when she visited the US, the White House misspelled her name as ‘Teresa’ several times – it was spelled without the ‘h’ in the introduction to the daily guidance.

I suppose it’s impossible to not find a story in his tweets, when it causes a diplomatic flare-up. In response to his broadside against her, the right Theresa was blunt in her rebuke. (Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour leader put it best, when he advised Trump to “hold yourself back” and “restrict yourself to two or three tweets a day”.)

Many years ago, probably before the president stumbled upon micro-blogging, people actually conducted training programs for those in governance and management. It’s too late to send someone back to social media 101 classes. Itchy fingers will continue to produce clumsy tweets  as I have said before.

But perhaps a temporary blackout might help the poor chap. And our republic.

 

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Dire warning: Teens and Smart Phones

This recent study reports on something that anyone with a teenager ought to read.

It’s odd for me to be sounding the alarm bells about social media, following my optimistic book on the subject. (Hey, that was 4 years ago!)

Jean M. Twenge, writing in The Atlantic sounds a dire warning to parents. It’s worth a read. She says that there’s “compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are… making them seriously unhappy. “

Seriously unhappy? Coming from a researcher that must mean a lot. She says:

 “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives.”

She refers to changes in their social interactions, and also, their mental health.

Read it here.

 

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Nalaka’s take on responding to ‘fake news’

At a forum on Media and Development in Berlin yesterday, my friend Nalaka Gunewardena (who moderated a discussion) brought on a fresh perspective to the problem. It’s not about the tools per se that we could use to fight Fake News. It’s also about education, alliances and policy reform, .

We must also look for the symptoms in the loss of trust in journalism, he said. The need is to build structures that enhance and nurture quality journalism. In other words, create trustworthy messengers before trying to fix (or block) the pipes through which the messages flow. Plus the need to influence policy and literacy.

This is a lot more nuanced than just clamping down on media platforms or discrediting the sources – reactive steps.

So let’s get pro-active about a problem that didn’t arrive yesterday, and won’t go away soon.

I encourage you to read Nalaka’s post about this.

 

 

 

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Trolls, bots, and memes become parents’ new nightmare. So what’s the solution?

A friend recently asked me if someone should be putting together a source for parents who have to address so much in the lives of their digital natives. I have a few go-to websites that we use as teachers, but was struggling to find a good hand book.

First two of the best web-based resources I recommend.

COMMON SENSE MEDIA – This is a wonderful, deep trove of information that is updated with plenty of topics (plus short videos) on such from phone addiction, and fake news, to privacy tips and how to navigate the difficult world of plagiarism, copyright, password protection, oversharing etc.

EDUTOPIAAnother great place for articles on technology skills such as coding, academic skills being taught such as note-taking, problem-solving, state standards, digital citizenship etc.

But the reality is that almost every week, children are bombarded and confused by new issues. One week it’s plagiarism, the next it is memes, and add to that the constant misinformation through bots and trolls, followed by the news related to cyber-bullying or inappropriate behavior that pops up on TV or their social media feeds. The search engines and social media platforms are often gamed by bots, and tricked by pranksters, but who has time to inform the kids about these fast-moving events?

So the sad thing, as I had to tell my friend, was there is no handbook. Just like there was no user-guide when we first got onto the early Internet. However that Internet was a place we went to, consciously logging in to it, or “dialing up” to it. Today, that place isn’t somewhere we visit – it visits us. Students who grow up with it have to navigate it on their own. It’s like giving them the keys to the car, before they go to driving school, expecting things to be alright on the road.

But of course there is one user-guide. It’s unpublished. It’s called Parenting.

 

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