Enemy of the Status Quo Social media isn’t bad or good—it favors outsiders, regardless of their aims. By Yascha Mounk


Supporters of Donald Trump film him on their phones as he speaks during a rally in Geneva, Ohio, on Oct. 28. Dustin Franz/Getty Images

Supporters of Donald Trump film him on their phones as he speaks during a rally in Geneva, Ohio, on Oct. 28.
Dustin Franz/Getty Images

As recently as 15 years ago, many rural parts of Africa had few phone lines or major roads. There was no rapid way for residents to communicate with metropolitan centers or to access their many benefits, from education to medical care. So when cellphones started to make their way to large swaths of the continent, they were imbued with big hopes: The greater ease of communication, economists and political scientists predicted, would stimulate growth, improve health outcomes, and reduce ethnic tensions.

The truth, political scientists Jan Pierskalla and Florian Hollenbach recently found, is more complicated. The spread of cellphones did lead to some economic growth. But it also had some striking downsides. In particular, parts of the continent where cellphone coverage improved also experienced higher levels of political strife. “The availability of cell phone coverage,” Pierskalla and Hollenbach conclude, “significantly and substantially increases the probability of violent conflict.”

This cautionary tale about technological progress fits the spirit of our times. It’s difficult to remember now, but a few short years ago, it seemed obvious that social media would make the world a better place. In countries such as Iran or Syria, its evangelists claimed, it was already toppling dictators. Even at home, Facebook and Twitter would empower ordinary citizens and deepen democracy.

Thomas Friedman offered an especially pure distillation of this boosterish view:

As the I.T. revolution and globalization have been democratized and diffused — as we’ve gone from laptops for elites to smartphones for everyone, from networking for the lucky few at Davos to Facebook for all and from only the rich heard in the halls of power to everyone being able to talk back to their leaders on Twitter — a new global political force is aborning … I call them The Square People.

They are mostly young, aspiring to a higher standard of living and more liberty, seeking either reform or revolution (depending on their existing government), connected to one another either by massing in squares or through virtual squares or both, and united less by a common program and more by a shared direction they want their societies to go.

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ACLU finds social media sites gave data to company tracking black protesters | Technology | The Guardian


ACLU revealed Tuesday that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram gave ‘special access’ to Geofeedia, a controversial social media monitoring company

Source: ACLU finds social media sites gave data to company tracking black protesters | Technology | The Guardian

Tech Giants Target Terrorist Propaganda – By SAM SCHECHNER July 31, 2016 5:41 p.m. ET


Videos on social media seek to reach potential extremists before they become radicalized

The video ‘The Bullet or the Ballot,’ a still of which appears above, was shared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as part of an experimental ‘counter-narrative’ campaign to undermine terrorist propaganda on the internet.

The video ‘The Bullet or the Ballot,’ a still of which appears above, was shared on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as part of an experimental ‘counter-narrative’ campaign to undermine terrorist propaganda on the internet. — PHOTO: AVERAGE MOHAMED

Nearly half a million teenagers and young adults who had posted content with terms like “sharia” or “mujahideen” began last fall seeing a series of animated videos pop up on their Facebook news feeds.

In one, cartoon figures with guns appear underneath an Islamic State flag. “Do not be confused by what extremists say, that you must reject the new world. You don’t need to pick,” the narrator says. “Remember, peace up. Extremist thinking out.”

The videos are part of three experiments—funded by Google parent Alphabet Inc., with help from Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc.—that explore how to use the machinery of online advertising to counterbalance the growing wave of extremist propaganda on the internet, both from Islamist radicals and far-right groups.

THE DNC SKIPS THE NETWORKS TO STREAM ALL-CLINTON 24/7 – ISSIE LAPOWSKY. 07.28.16. 4:36 PM


The cameras pointed at the tidy and tasteful set, and the host donned a mic. The ‘On Air’ sign glowed, and the studio lay silent, save for the sound of Kristen Bell. But the Veronica Mars and Frozen star wasn’t there to promote her next movie. Instead, she expounded on the importance of going to the polls in November.

“If you’re not voting and paying attention, you don’t get a right to complain,” Bell said.

Headset-wearing producers ushered more high-profile guests—Jesse Jackson, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro—from the green room to the studio. Meanwhile, on the upper balconies inside the Wells Fargo Center, two hosts waited for the director downstairs to kick it to them for a live shot of the Democratic National Convention.

The scene in many ways exactly mirrored what was happening at that same moment on the sound stages of MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, all spread throughout the arena. But while those news networks at least purport to be impartial, the producers and guests here proclaimed their allegiance openly via pins and other campaign paraphernalia: “I’m With Her.”

And they were. Welcome to Studio 2016, the content shop jointly run by the Democratic National Convention Committee and the Hillary for America campaign. For one hour every night this week, Studio 2016 has put on its own livestreamed pre-show, with guests ranging from civil rights leader and Georgia representative John Lewis to actress America Ferrara.

The production studio aims to compete with the social media and cable news spin rooms to accomplish one task and one task only: persuade people watching at home to support Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. Tonight, as Clinton prepares to take the stage at the convention, “it’s going to be all Hillary, all the time,” says Studio 2016 director Liz Hart.

‘Our whole strategy is about reaching folks who aren’t here.’

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We’ll Never Be Able to Look Away Again. Dallas and Minnesota Prove It – ISSIE LAPOWSKY 08.16. 07.0 PM


Emergency responder vehicles sit outside of the emergency room at Baylor University Medical Center, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. — TONY GUTIERREZ/AP

If you’ve logged onto Facebook over the last two days, you may well have watched someone die—possibly at the exact moment it happened. Death is now live.

Last night, the shooting deaths of five police officers in Dallas played out on every social media platform, streams that television networks picked up and re-broadcast. Real-time footage of death and violence was everywhere you turned. The night before, Diamond Reynolds livestreamed the last moments of her boyfriend Philando Castile’s life after police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota shot him during a traffic stop.

Make no mistake: This way of watching death in real time is new.

Wherever you were watching, you may well have felt helpless, and helpless in a way you hadn’t before. Yes, gruesome images have called attention to senseless acts of violence throughout American history. But never before have they been so pervasive, so direct, so accessible, and so instantaneous. Of course, it’s smartphone-equipped citizenry who are driving that change. But make no mistake: This way of watching death in real time is new.

Once, people could put down the paper or turn off the news. But today’s news of violence comes via Facebook and Periscope and push notifications, the always-on connections that define Americans’ digital lives. Anyone can now watch people die—or livestream their deaths—on the world’s most-used apps. Looking away hardly feels like an option.

In one sense, Americans have grappled with what to do about images of violence for decades or more. “The idea of graphic images as arousal is not new,” says Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University. “Neither is the idea of graphic images as a force for change.” In 1955, Jet magazine published a photo of the bloated body of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy lynched in Mississippi, to expose the horrors of Jim Crow. In 1968, Eddie Adams took a photo of Nguyen Ngoc Loan killing a Viet Cong officer; in 1972, Associated Press photographer Nick Ut photographed nine-year-old Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt running naked through the streets of Vietnam covered in napalm. Both images helped turned public opinion against the Vietnam War.

 

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