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More treasures, more care. The old saying teaches us that success is often a poisoned chalice that carries within greater complexity and unforeseen troubling consequences. Connecting everyone in the world to the internet and democratizing access to information was once a noble and unlikely goal - before the smartphone revolution. Today, digital literacy is embedded in the more than 4 billion connected phones through social media applications and their tightening chokehold on personal communications and everyday life. And now that everyone is online, with the power to both consume and produce information, the relevant questions are no longer about access but about filtering. Not about democracy but about power, not about knowledge but about truth. Conspiracy theories and massive multiplayer games are the new public sphere - where we must now look for useful patterns, dangerous threats, emerging communities, surprising and illuminating trends.

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Jack Dorsey on Twitter’s Mistakes

on Aug 09, 2020 11:39 pm

It’s been four years since the 2016 election laid bare the powerful role that social media companies have come to play in shaping political discourse and beliefs in America.Since then, there have been growing calls to address the spread of polarization and misinformation promoted on such platforms.

While Facebook has been slower to acknowledge a need for change, Twitter has embraced the challenge, acknowledging that the company made mistakes in the past. But with three months to go until the 2020 election, these changes have been incremental, and Twitter itself is more popular than ever.Today, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s C.E.O., discusses the platform’s flaws, its polarizing potential — and his vision for the future.

How the Coronavirus Spread QAnon

on Aug 09, 2020 09:39 pm

Anecdotal examples bolster what the data shows. Internet communities that hadn’t previously done so are now associating with far-right conspiracies like QAnon, impending mass arrests of elites for running pedophile rings, and liberal megadonor George Soros’s supposed plots. Across Instagram, pseudoscience wellness influencerslifestyle influencers, anti-vaxxers, at least one contributor to Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop site, and other seemingly unrelated groups have all pivoted to spreading versions of these conspiracies that emerged on the far right.

Data compiled from social networking sites and Google and Wikipedia search trends show a broader spike in interest around QAnon among Americans after businesses started to close and various lockdowns started in mid-March in anticipation of further viral spread. Online activity around QAnon and related topics rapidly climbed to all-time highs. Interest in the search terms has yet to return to pre-COVID levels.

The Conspiracy Singularity Has Arrived

on Aug 09, 2020 08:39 pm


But it’s not just QAnon. The strain of living in this particular time, with a dragging, devastating pandemic and a global uprising against police brutality and racial injustice, crashing together at the highest speed, has accelerated something that’s been going on for years. Call it the conspiracy singularity: the place where many conspiracy communities are suddenly meeting and merging, a melting pot of unimaginable density.

The trend towards a kind of disturbing unity is distilled in the hashtag #Covid911, backed by a lot of powerful players in both anti-vaccine and QAnon circles. It holds that what we’re living through—the pandemic and the protests against police brutality alike—is all a massive hoax, designed to sway not just the 2020 elections but usher in the New World Order.

What ARGs Can Teach Us About QAnon

on Aug 09, 2020 08:39 pm

The far-right QAnon conspiracy theory is so sprawling, it’s hard to know where people join. Last week, it was 5G cell towers, this week it’s Wayfair; who knows what next week will bring? But QAnon’s followers always seem to begin their journey with the same refrain: “I’ve done my research.”

QAnon is not an ARG. It’s a dangerous conspiracy theory, and there are lots of ways of understanding conspiracy theories without ARGs. But QAnon pushes the same buttons that ARGs do, whether by intention or by coincidence. In both cases, “do your research” leads curious onlookers to a cornucopia of brain-tingling information.

In other words, maybe QAnon is… fun?

Is QAnon the Most Dangerous Conspiracy Theory of the 21st Century?

on Aug 09, 2020 08:39 pm

In 2019, the F.B.I. cited QAnon as one of the dangerous conspiracy theories posing domestic terrorist threats to the United States and cited past incitements of violence from its adherents. Despite its fringe origins, the conspiracy movement continues to grow in troubling ways.

Instagram ‘censorship’ of black model’s photo reignites claims of race bias

on Aug 09, 2020 11:39 am


Hundreds of users fought the platform last week to share the censored photos of Nicholas-Williams under the hashtag #IwanttoseeNyome, while Cameron accused Instagram of a disconnect between its positive statements over Black Lives Matter and the apparent unfair targeting of its black content creators.

The platform, with over a billion users and 15,000 people working around the world to review posts and look for banned material, has been repeatedly accused of discriminating against black people.

In June CEO Adam Mosseri acknowledged the need for Instagram to look at “algorithmic bias” and said that he was “hearing concerns about whether we suppress black voices and whether our products and policies treat everyone equally”.

Invisible Manipulators of Your Mind

on Aug 09, 2020 03:39 am

We are living in an age in which the behavioral sciences have become inescapable. The findings of social psychology and behavioral economics are being employed to determine the news we read, the products we buy, the cultural and intellectual spheres we inhabit, and the human networks, online and in real life, of which we are a part. Aspects of human societies that were formerly guided by habit and tradition, or spontaneity and whim, are now increasingly the intended or unintended consequences of decisions made on the basis of scientific theories of the human mind and human well-being.

The behavioral techniques that are being employed by governments and private corporations do not appeal to our reason; they do not seek to persuade us consciously with information and argument. Rather, these techniques change behavior by appealing to our nonrational motivations, our emotional triggers and unconscious biases. If psychologists could possess a systematic understanding of these nonrational motivations they would have the power to influence the smallest aspects of our lives and the largest aspects of our societies.

The 100-Year History of Self-Driving Cars

on Aug 09, 2020 12:39 am

The first self-driving vehicles were ships. After centuries of wrestling with wind and waves, ancient sailors devised contraptions that harnessed these forces of nature to fill in for man. They were simple but ingenious solutions, like the sheet-to-tiller system, which is still used today.

130 Degrees

on Aug 09, 2020 12:39 am

Illustration by Anders Nilsen

So now we have some sense of what it’s like: a full-on global-scale crisis, one that disrupts everything. Normal life—shopping for food, holding a wedding, going to work, seeing your parents—shifts dramatically. The world feels different, with every assumption about safety and predictability upended. Will you have a job? Will you die? Will you ever ride a subway again, or take a plane? It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

The upheaval that has been caused by Covid-19 is also very much a harbinger of global warming. Because humans have fundamentally altered the physical workings of planet Earth, this is going to be a century of crises, many of them more dangerous than what we’re living through now. The main question is whether we’ll be able to hold the rise in temperature to a point where we can, at great expense and suffering, deal with those crises coherently, or whether they will overwhelm the coping abilities of our civilization. The latter is a distinct possibility, as Mark Lynas’s new book, Our Final Warning, makes painfully clear.

TikTok and the Sorting Hat — Remains of the Day

on Aug 08, 2020 11:39 pm

How did an app designed by two guys in Shanghai managed to run circles around U.S. video apps from YouTube to Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat, becoming the most fertile source for meme origination, mutation, and dissemination in a culture so different from the one in which it was built?

The answer, I believe, has significant implications for the future of cross-border tech competition, as well as for understanding how product developers achieve product-market-fit. The rise of TikTok updated my thinking. It turns out that in some categories, a machine learning algorithm significantly responsive and accurate can pierce the veil of cultural ignorance. Today, sometimes culture can be abstracted.

The top 50 African Disruptors (41-45)

on Aug 08, 2020 11:39 pm


The Africa Report’s inaugural ranking of the top Africans who are disrupting the status quo in politics, business and the arts: from investigative journalists to world-class athletes and Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Black lives will not matter until the economy does

on Aug 06, 2020 11:39 pm

In the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police officers in the United States and the global movement for Black lives, there has been a resounding call to re-examine the relationship between society and state, particularly its use of violence.

Germany’s sex workers demand easing of Covid-19 restrictions

on Aug 06, 2020 06:39 pm


Sex workers in Germany are appealing to politicians to ease coronavirus restrictions that have prevented them from working during the pandemic.

Groups representing the more than 40,000 sex workers officially registered in Germany have said that many have been forced underground since the closure of brothels in mid-March. There are growing reports of sex workers being subjected to violence, underpayment and being forced to compromise their health because of clients’ demands during meetings in non-formal settings.

The Mask Slackers of 1918

on Aug 04, 2020 12:39 am

As the influenza pandemic swept across the United States in 1918 and 1919, masks took a role in political and cultural wars. The masks were called muzzles, germ shields and dirt traps. They gave people a “pig-like snout.” Some people snipped holes in their masks to smoke cigars.


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