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.

Article continues:

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 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.’

Article continues:

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.


Article continues:

Brexit Is Sending Markets Diving. Twitter Could Be Making It Worse – ISSIE LAPOWSKY 06.24.16 1:17 PM

After the stock market crash of 2008, Bollen analyzed nearly 10 million tweets from that year. He found that when the level of panic rose on Twitter, the Dow would drop three or four days later.

The fate of the global economy is in doubt today following the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union. Last night the British pound fell to a 30-year low. Prime Minister David Cameron is resigning. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, called the referendum “the most significant, near-term domestic risk to financial stability.” This morning, within the first five minutes of trading, the Dow fell more than 500 points.

But long before all the votes were tallied—and years before officials finish negotiating the terms of the UK’s departure—Twitter had reached a consenus on the Brexit: This is a disaster.

And the consequences may well be that bad. Uncertainty has never been a friend to global markets, and uncertainty is just what Brexit creates in heaps, particularly for the British economy. But like never before, social media has the ability to amplify the angst that uncertainty creates. And the markets may well be responding to that enhanced anxiety.

There is a very real phenomenon of so-called ‘mood contagion’ that happens online.

To be clear, the social media masses aren’t the only ones predicting economic doom as a result of the Brexit. In an op-ed unsubtly headlined “The Brexit crash will make all of you poorer—be warned,” billionaire George Soros argued that a plunging British pound would make the country far more vulnerable to an economic crash than it was at the time of the global recession in 2008.

The markets are certainly responding to such admonitions. But mounting research shows that a feedback loop does exist between social media and the stock markets, in which online anxieties about the market’s response may feed into the response itself.

Article continues:

Food Has Eaten the Internet and It Tastes Like a Vampire Taco – JULIA GREENBERG. 05.30.16. 7:00 AM

On a lazy Friday afternoon, I fell down a hole filled with food.

I was supposed to be writing. Instead I found myself in a waking Facebook dream of cheesy French pull-apart bread and whiskey iced tea, ice cream donut holes and pulled pork porchetta sandwiches. Easy-bake artichokes zipped past; honey BBQ chicken wings and strawberry cotton candy cocktails beckoned. As for the deliciously greasy-looking vampire tacos, I’m still not sure why they’re called that.

It doesn’t matter. What’s important is I watched clip after clip of anonymous hands crafting perfectly plated dishes. I wasn’t particularly hungry. I wasn’t particularly bored. And I definitely won’t be making any of them myself. But none of that mattered. I was captivated—and so is the Internet.

Food videos have taken over the web and rule social media. Like dirty bowls in your kitchen after baking, they are everywhere, chalking up billions of views each month. A chef on YouTube prepares an entire bacon-and-egg breakfast tart with one pot. A cook on digital food network Tastemade whips up kale chips (“raw, vegan, not gross”). On Vine, you can watch a culinary artist spin together seafood pasta in just six seconds (#foodporn).

Article continues:

Palestinian Social Media Uprising: Digital Intifada (Part 1) – Vice News Published on Mar 22, 2016

Leaderless Palestinian youth, inspired by instructional videos and photos on social media encouraging people to “Stab a Jew,” are thought to be behind a new wave of violence in Israel and the West Bank. Uncoordinated and spontaneous attacks by individual young Palestinians, mostly under the age of 25, started to occur almost daily from October 2015, with assailants often using a household weapon — a knife, axe, meat cleaver, screwdriver — before being fired upon by nearby Israeli security forces. So far, the bloodshed has claimed the lives of at least 28 Israelis and 189 Palestinians, 128 of whom Israel says were assailants.

Israelis believe that Palestinian Muslim youth are being radicalized by Islamic groups through online incitement campaigns. Micah Avni, the son of Richard Lakin who was killed in an attack on a public bus in East Jerusalem in October, has filed a civil action lawsuit against Facebook. He and 20,000 other Israelis are suing the platform CEO.

In part one of a two-part series, VICE News travels to Israel and the West Bank to talk to young Palestinians about their use of social media, and to Israelis who fear it’s inspiring a Third Intifada.

Watch “Europe’s Jewish Exodus (Full Length)” – http://bit.ly/1pEVs3r