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Category Archives: Social Networks

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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Cyber-warfare – a new definition is overdue

Used to be that cyber war was considered actions of an adversary to take down a system using the Internet. Like crippling a financial system, hacking into and holding hostage a web site, compromising power and communication grids etc. That definition  is really old now!

As authorities uncover Russian interference – specifically the work of trolls, fake social media accounts, and even advertising piped through Facebook, Twitter and Google – we should understand that cyber warfare is more subtle, and has outgrown the old definitions. It is about disrupting the behaviors, and messing with the minds of citizens. Before we show our irritation with foreign culprits, we should be unhappy with how we citizens are easily manipulated by what is online.

The glue that holds us together appears to be easily dissolved by what passes for ‘information.’ As the Philadelphia Inquirer story reveals, we are experiencing high-tech cracks and wedges to undermine us. They worked because of a critical mass of people who unthinkingly re-tweet and share posts and sponsored content. Content that few care check where the source of the post is.

Consider this sponsored ad (featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer story). It looks so silly, and poorly crafted that you’d think any person with some common sense would not even read it, let alone pass it along to others. Variations of these include chain-letters, and memes that no one knows the origin, but often accompanies a statement like “Could I hear an amen?”

For the record I never respond with an amen, for two reasons. The word is a statement of approval or concurrence reserved for prayer. It’s not the linguistic equivalent to the Like button. Also, someone’s rant does always not require public approval to make it more valid. You can still be a friend whether or not you agree with someone’s pet peeve. And for heaven’s sake (pun intended), don’t Like or re-tweet this post unless you a read it in its entirety.

Cyber war is no longer just about attacking hardware or infrastructure. It’s about unhinging us through the things that pass through the pipes that connect our hardware. It’s not about a denial of service, but about a denial of common sense.

 

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Fighting Technoference? Buy a goldfish

I brought up the word earlier –Technoference. It’s one of those Urban Dictionary words that smacks us in the forehead but eventually creeps into our vocabulary –like ‘Dweeb,’ ‘Fudgel’ and ‘Thunking.’  So I decided to devote my Nov column in LMD magazine to it.

So what’s Technoference, you ask?

Besides having to actually read the damn column, I’m betting you already experienced it. Have you ever had a conversation with a teenager, only to have her pause you in mid-sentence and pull out a phone to fact-check something? Thought so!

Once you get off your Snapstreak, let me know your thoughts on it.

 

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As trust far as trust in media goes, funny how radio beats the Internet

Interesting how the one place we associate with up-to-the-minute information is the least trusted. While what some would call ‘old school’ media –Radio! –consistently earns people’s trust.

Among several studies looking at media trustworthiness I was fascinated by this European study. (Trust in Media, 2017 by EBU)/ Some highlights:

  • 64% of countries surveyed find radio the most trusted
  • 59% of citizens in the EU trust radio
  • Social networks are the least trusted (except in eastern Europe)
  • In 12 out of 33 countries 64% of citizens mistrust the Internet

Check these snapshots. The Internet is seeing red!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It gets worse on networks we sign up to –if only to connect with those whom we assume are trustworthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which begs the questions.

  • How did we get here?
  • Or better still, why have we – who often comprise the ‘sources’ of news on social networks –misused the resource?
 
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Posted by on September 20, 2017 in Media, New Media, Social Networks

 

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Could they be social minus the media? Dire mental health finding

If you have teenagers, you know the dilemma. How do we get them to make connections without a device?

A subset of this includes:

  • How do we keep the phone away from the dinner table?
  • At what time should all devices be off in the home?
  • Is there a good reason to allow my daughter to use Snapchat? Or Instagram?*

As someone who once conducted workshops on how to adopt social media, I feel it is my responsibility to now warn young people about the unintended consequences of trying to be ‘social’ via a screen. We don’t need research to tell us that a generation could be experiencing serious issues very soon if we thrust smart phones into their hands, and hope for the best.

This research just in: Mental health and Instagram. 

Conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, it has young people using words like ‘fake,’ ‘intimidating,’ and ‘superficial’ to describe platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. The report explains how:

  • Young people say that 4 of the 5 social media channels make their feelings of anxiety worse!
  • A phenomenon called ‘Facebook Depression‘ which involves being ‘constantly contactable’ and having unrealistic expectations of reality. I had never heard of such a phenomenon, though suspected this existed.
  • FoMo (Fear of missing out) is also a thing, and is another cause of distress, something adults are just getting to know about.
  • There are indeed opportunities, despite the dire warning this report sends out.

Not many young people realize that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. 

 

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Yes, we can be tracked! What students learned at Digital Learning Month kickoff event

Thank you, Fred von Graf for conducting a highly interactive session for our 5th grade students last afternoon. It was the kickoff to our Digital Learning Month in February.

dlday-tnTo a packed room of students and teachers, Fred asked them what social media platforms they use, and provided some cautionary stories of how to protect themselves from hackers, trolls and anyone with rudimentary search skills. He spoke of the dangerous side of oversharing, using same gamer handles and aliases across multiple platforms.

What I liked most about Fred’s presentation was that he avoided the geeky terms (no mention of Phishing or spoofing or doxxing), while explaining quite simply, how someone could find out sensitive and private information about you.

“Some people think of social media as a popularity contest,” said one student, commenting on a case of a someone grabbing information off people and posting it to his YouTube channel. Some spoke about how tagging children could reveal too much information about the family. Teachers shared their safe practices, such as not providing the location of when a picture was taken, or doing it after one leaves the location.

Overall, the room was brimming with insightful thoughts and suggestions, sparked by Fred’s topic, and style of presentation. He summed up, by bringing up oversharing, about seeking ‘Likes’ and the ‘addiction’ that could results from these self-gratifying practices. “You want that attention, and it becomes so easy to say ‘my privacy isn’t that important, let me put this out there’ ,” he said.

 

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It’s settled then: There won’t be an oxymoron in the White House

For all the debate prep, no one could have contained Donald Trump as he hurtled toward the precipice, sliding on the rocks of loose talk. In the end, despite fancy slogans, websites, and stage props, something as basic as good communication skills makes or breaks a leader.

A free, seemingly easy-to-master, tool should be handed to someone of Donald Trump’s personality with a warning: “May cause user to implode.” Just like Twitter, a microphone could also be a dangerous tool. Indeed, many before him have been dispensed into the heap of disgraced leaders and also-rans because of a hot mic, or a video capture, or even a spool of tape.

Another interesting thing about Trump was his penchant for ‘truthful hyperbole’ – a term he used in his book, The Art of the Deal, which, to be fair was ghost-written.

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But as is evident now, truthful hyperbole, a classic oxymoron, is the long fuse that led him to where he is, an outcast of the party he represents.

Citizens vote for leaders who articulate their hopes and needs. Thankfully voting for an oxymoron was not an option.

Footnote worth listening to: Nixon’s tape archive recording where he and his staff discuss ”lying to a base.’

 

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