Yes, we need to crack down on cyberbullying

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Last month in Canada, a judge sentenced a man to six years in prison for cyberbullying:

An Ottawa man who targeted dozens of people with fake social media accounts and doctored photos in an international cyberbullying campaign has been sentenced to six years in prison.

If you think that his sentence sounds severe, it is worth knowing that he harassed one of his victims for twelve years, after working with him for a few months early in this century. So his sentence was actually half the victim’s losses…

The global reach of the Internet means we can stay in touch with people we want to stay in touch with. But as we… click here to read whole article and make comments


TUESDAY, 19 MAY 2015

Will your hologram replace you?

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At home and at work?

Hey, checking in from Canada on Victoria Day where everything is closed except garden centres.

Everybody here is out there, planting real live stuff, for better or worse.

That said,  holograms are big now. A virtual representation of anything, including oneself.

It’s got so bad that the world’s first hologram protest was held in Spain:

A protest group pulled off an undeniably futuristic stunt this weekend in Spain: they sent thousands of holograms parading past the lower house of the country’s parliament.

Stephen Hawking has a legitimate excuse, due to his physical disabilities, for claiming, via holography, that humanity needs to live in space, or else die out. But apart from problems like his, that he has… click here to read whole article and make comments



How smart is it to allow students to use phones at school?

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AFS / flickr  

How does the presence of mobile phones in schools impact student achievement? This is an ongoing debate in many countries today. Some advocate for a complete ban, while others promote the use of mobile phones as a teaching tool in classrooms. So, the question is: Should schools allow the use of mobile phones?

While views remain divided, some schools are starting to allow a restricted use of mobile phones. Most recently, New York Mayor de Blasio lifted a ten-year-ban on phones on school premises, with the chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality.

As researchers studying the economics of education, we conducted a study to find… click here to read whole article and make comments



How the Internet became a haven for tyranny

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And what we can do about the tyranny.

A number of books have been written recently about how the new online world has, no surprise, turned into a haven for tyranny. In the past, Western societies sometimes censored books thought to harm popular culture. Today, under new secular rulers, a vast variety of communication is censured or censored on university campuses because it does not reliably lead to a progressive point of view.

So, far from hearing that students are taught to engage in reasoned debate, we hear about trigger warnings, microaggressions, and very small acceptable “free speech” zones (sometimes arbitrarily removed) on university campuses. Just read this twisted explanation of why pro life ads are not allowed… click here to read whole article and make comments


MONDAY, 11 MAY 2015

Helping teens stay real in the age of virtual

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Recently, we’ve looked at a number of ways the Internet can help or harm our lives. The major harm is that in a virtual world, fakery succeeds much better than in an actual world. Our lives could be guided by artificial news, and dominated by fake friends. We could be bullied, harmed, or shamed by myriad people to whom we have no connection at all. People who are not good for us who need never have mattered to us.

While teens are often more savvy than older folk about the technology itself, they may not have the life experience needed to interpret the online frenzy. For… click here to read whole article and make comments


FRIDAY, 8 MAY 2015

Does the Internet contribute to childhood obesity?

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Obesity in children is definitely a problem today. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control tells us (April 24, 2015),

The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.

Obese children may find it hard to lose the weight that compromises their health in adolescence and adulthood. And the relationship between sedentary lifestyles, which the Internet encourages, and obesity is common sense as well as research. But to understand the problem, we need to go back a few decades.

click here to read whole article and make comments



Coping with the shamestorms of social media

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First, grow an alligator hide.

We’ve looked before at public shaming on the Internet: "Good? Bad? Think before we retweet? "One key irony is captured by commentator Ed Driscoll in the title of a recent post, “How an Internet Stuffed to the Gills with ‘Nonjudgmental’ Users Became a Shame-Storm.”

Indeed, many of the worst offenders at starting unjustifiable persecutions probably think of themselves as non-judgmental. And there are a lot of them out there, launching persecutions on a a hair trigger in many cases.

Driscoll worries that shaming harms society because it causes people to hide bad beliefs:

And you haven’t even necessarily changed what they say in a good direction, because people who are afraid of unjust attacks aren’t afraid of being punished for saying things… click here to read whole article and make comments


SUNDAY, 3 MAY 2015

Can smartphones make children borderline autistic? What about teens?

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Credit: eurobanks |


Earlier, I discussed how social media can empty relationships of significance (here). Heck, if we aren’t careful, we adults could be receiving computer-generated “posts” from a deceased cousin, in which case we have to know something is wrong.

And we noted in passing that in some cases, it might be wise to rename the smartphone the “Dumbphone,” based on a documented reduction in users’ problem-solving abilities, cue lazy thinking.

Now British psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist has warned that smartphones risk making children borderline autistic:

Children struggle to read emotions and are less empathetic than a generation ago because they spend too much time using tablets… click here to read whole article and make comments



Your fake Facebook friends and their likes probably grew up on a click farm

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Image: Remark


A while back, we noted that those social media friends and followers who think we are cool might not exist. For some people, that’s no problem. They will settle for the appearance of popularity, so they turn to a click farm. From the The Guardian:

How much do you like courgettes? According to one Facebook page devoted to them, hundreds of people find them delightful enough to click the "like" button – even with dozens of other pages about courgettes to choose from.
There's just one problem: the liking was fake, done by a team of low-paid workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, whose boss demanded just $15… click here to read whole article and make comments



Artificial news for virtual selves?

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The use of artificial intelligence in mainstream news writing is advancing rapidly, according to Caleb Garling at Wired:

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Times became the first major outlet to report on an earthquake—almost instantaneously—with a bot. Today, companies like Automated Insights and Narrative Science are powering the production of millions of auto-generated “articles,” such as personalized recaps for fantasy sports fans. A similar metrics-based formula can be used to recap a customer’s stock portfolio performance. Here’s a snippet of auto-prose from one of Narrative Science’s investment reports:
The energy sector was the main contributor to relative performance, led by stock selection in energy equipment and services companies. In terms of individual contributors,… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist. 

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