Freedom of speech advocates are calling a new Department of Homeland Security rule “chilling,” as the department will begin collecting social media communications and data of all immigrants.
The rule, added last week to the Privacy Act of 1974, would allow the DHS to gather “social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results” of people with immigration files, as well as “publicly available information from the internet.”
Generally speaking, people can be lumped into three main categories. The first category consists of the typical apathetic, celebrity-idol worshiping citizen who watched Miley Cyrus twerk on stage at the VMA Awards in 2013 and gossiped with his or her friends for a straight week afterward. This group buys this sort of nonsense as a source of entertainment. The second category is comprised of self-proclaimed academics who wrote overly-crafted opinion pieces claiming Miley Cyrus’ twerking – as one commentator put it – either “drew criticism from feminists for degrading her sex and from some pundits for ‘picking the pocket of black culture.’”
Then you have the third category – a lone, isolated group of individuals who pay zero attention to the celebrity world and realize that at the same time Miley Cyrus’ VMA stunt took full swing in the media, the Obama administration was attempting to bomb another sovereign nation into complete submission over unfounded allegations of chemical weapons attacks. As we now know, this military strike plan actually involved taking out Syria’s air defenses and air force, a strategy that would have required approximately 70,000 U.S. troops and led to countless Syrian deaths. Continue reading →
News consumers today face a flood of fake news and information. Distinguishing between fact and fiction has become increasingly challenging.
In the past, news organizations sifted through information to try to determine its validity and veracity. Being trusted for what they reported became an important part of journalists’ reputations.
But that was then.
You are part of the problem
Now the gatekeeping role that the legacy media newspapers and network television news once played falls to all of us. Today, everyone assumes the position of publisher. Technology has democratized the process of making, or making up, news.
Journalists no longer decide what goes public. Information flows unimpeded and unchecked through the internet, filling a multitude of websites, blogs and tweets.
All of it flows through social media streams and into our laptops, tablets and smartphones. Everyone who posts, or reshares, a news story on Facebook or retweets a link takes on a role once held by only a powerful few media executives. The problem that emerges today stems from the fact that most social media “publishers” fail to consider the responsibility for what they post.
And it’s not that the old gatekeepers were infallible or consistently apolitical. But in today’s technological world, we’re in the midst of an informational perfect storm. The equation I might offer would be: Velocity + Volume = Volatility. All the news on the internet moves so fast, and assaults us with so much, that the outcome becomes unpredictably dangerous.
Some people who use social media check what they publish. Others repost or retweet information without reading it carefully, much less doing any due diligence for accuracy. That plays into what those who produce fake news hope to accomplish. While some believe they hope to deceive people, press critic Tom Rosenstiel asserts, “The goal of fake news is not to make people believe the lie. It is to make them doubt all news.”
Some may think that young people, with their social media savvy, might be better able to assess the information they consume.
A Stanford University study found it shocking that many of them couldn’t “evaluate the credibility of that information.” The study noted that more than 80 percent of middle schoolers saw “sponsored content” as actual news. High school students didn’t verify photos. Most college students failed to suspect potential bias in an activist group’s tweet.
Step up your game
So what are news consumers to do? How can they act as their own gatekeepers, intent on vigilance and verification like the best journalists and publishers of old?
Here’s how to begin.
#1. Check out the source. This may seem basic, but it’s easy to read headlines without paying attention to who wrote it. Writers and websites operate with their own perspective. Some want to offer a balanced view. Some advocate a point of view. Others hope to deceive you.
Know the “who” or the “what” of the source. Is the source, website, Twitter handle or blog familiar to you? Have you read them before? Read other work they have done. See if writers you trust link to them.
Read the “About” section of the writer/website. Use search engines to track the name. Sometimes such sites as Linkedin or Facebook turn up basic background information. The key is to know where they are coming from.
#2. Check out the information. Do other sources corroborate what you’re reading, viewing or hearing? Have you used verification sites such as Snopes, Politifact and FactCheck.org?
Dick Grefe, a senior reference librarian at Washington and Lee University, alerted me that two professors at the University of Washington have proposed teaching a course “Calling Bullshit: In the Age of Big Data.” The course would “focus on bullshit that comes clad in the trappings of scholarly discourse.” What’s fake isn’t limited to news.
#3. Be aware of your biases. Remember that we tend to read, listen to and watch news with our own built-in prejudices. We evaluate information based on whether it supports what we already believe. It can be easy to discount that which upsets or challenges our worldview. Reports about “confirmation bias” abound. As studies and writers have noted, we basically believe what we want to believe.
Battle your own confirmation bias by expanding the sources of information you seek. Be open to thinking about different points of view. Read widely. Read counterpoints. Watch for innovations from the media. For example, one recent study published on MarketWatch placed different news sources on the “truthiness” scale. Another, older piece on businessinsider.com could help you identify the ideology underlining your favorite source of news.
There’s no need to close the gate, but be sure you know what’s flowing in. It matters.
Facebook has long let users see all sorts of things the site knows about them, like whether they enjoy soccer, have recently moved, or like Melania Trump.
But the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them, including their income, the types of restaurants they frequent and even how many credit cards are in their wallets.
Since September, ProPublica has been encouraging Facebook users to share the categories of interest that the site has assigned to them. Users showed us everything from “Pretending to Text in Awkward Situations” to “Breastfeeding in Public.” In total, we collected more than 52,000 unique attributes that Facebook has used to classify users. Continue reading →
Social media accounts are “gateways into an enormous amount of [users’] online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person’s opinions, beliefs, identity, and community.” (Photo: The Hamster Factor/flickr/cc)
The U.S. government has quietly started to ask foreign travelers to hand over their social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a program that aims to spot potential terrorist threats but which civil liberties advocates have long opposed as a threat to privacy.
The program has been active since Tuesday, asking travelers arriving to the U.S. on visa waivers to voluntarily enter information associated with their online presence, including “Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites,” Politicoreports. Continue reading →
As the fallout from the elections on Tuesday continue to take place, we are observing conversations on social media that are further deepening the divide that threatens the unity of this nation.
Most of us have friends or family that may have voted opposite of how we voted, if people chose to vote at all. (Only about half the electorate chose to exercise this right in the 2016 election.) Some have described this as “urban vs. rural”; others saying “intellectual vs. uneducated” and many other descriptors that fall in-between.
What ever it is, if each of us were to take that conversation that rips through you and enhances your fears or emotions, ask them to #PutMyFaceOnIt.
Insert your photo, copy and edit the following to make it personal. Tell that “friend” that when they are talking about these things, they are talking about you.
Insert Your Photo Here
When you are talking about “those protestors,” you are talking about me.
When you are talking about “those libtards,” you are talking about me.
When you are talking about “those people,” you are talking about me.
If this is truly how you feel about ME, I can no longer look at you as a friend I can trust. I can no longer feel that you see me as equal to you; you have crucified me with the rest of “those people.” In order for us to all have a clear understanding of who my friends REALLY are, if that is how you actually feel, please “UNFRIEND” me.
One of “those” people
Embellish this as much as you can. Add every area that this has affected you. GET REAL.
As Facebook comes under fire for its alleged censorship and tracking of activists and protesters, a coalition of more than 70 groups and individuals has demanded the social media behemoth “clarify its policy on removing video and other content, especially human rights documentation, at the request of government actors.”
A letter (pdf)—whose signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), 350.org, Color of Change, and the Indigenous Environmental Network—sent Monday cites recent incidents including:
Israel and Facebook will team up to delete content the country views as inciting violence, the Associated Pressreports Monday.
“The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation,” Glenn Greenwald writes at The Intercept.
The development follows a meeting in Tel Aviv between two Israeli officials, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and a delegation of Facebook representatives. Continue reading →
File this under Another Unsettling Development: People who want to travel to the United States may soon have their Facebook profiles and other social media accounts “vetted” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before entering.
A proposed change to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and to Form I-94W posted to the government’s Federal Register last week suggests adding the following question: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” Continue reading →
The rule would allow a federal judge to issue a warrant for any target using anonymity software like Tor to browse the internet. (Photo: Ben Watkin/flickr/cc)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday quietly approved a rule change that would allow a federal magistrate judge to issue a search and seizure warrant for any target using anonymity software like Tor to browse the internet.
Absent action by U.S. Congress, the rule change (pdf) will go into effect in December. The FBI would then be able to search computers remotely—even if the bureau doesn’t know where that computer is located—if a user has anonymity software installed on it. Continue reading →