Social media can strengthen families

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With all the awful stuff I write about, readers may wonder why I love social media the way I do.

Here’s one reason: They can help people stay in touch better than any other device invented by human ingenuity. For the right reasons or the wrong reasons.

Right now, I want to talk about one of the right reasons: Helping families stay connected. I’ve experienced that and am grateful.

In the last century, many families around the world have had to migrate.

Mine did. I was born in a farming province of central Canada, Saskatchewan, just after mechanization hit, in 1950. No longer needed on the farm, most of the young… click here to read whole article and make comments



The internet: Privacy fights back

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Who is David Chaum, and what is the crypto-war he started all about?

Listen, it matters.

Chaum is a pioneer encryption expert, described in Wired as the "father of online anonymity." Steven Levy, editor of internet techmag Backchannel and author of Crypto (2001), calls Chaum “one of the fiercest advocates of privacy I’ve ever met, as well as someone exceedingly skeptical of government encroachment.”

At Backchannel, Chaum explains why our communications are not nearly as anonymous as we think. Much of his account will interest only the specialist, but here is the skinny:

If surveillance agencies can get hold of “metadata” or “traffic analysis,” that is,… click here to read whole article and make comments



Do you know who your teens meet on social media?

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Maybe they don’t either. Maybe you should both find out.

Salvo Magazine has begun to offer weekly “Salvos” on cultural trends, all worth heeding, and many disturbing. (Thanks, Jerry Janquart!) The current one alerts us to a theme covered at Connecting, of teen exposure to much more damaged and damaging people via the internet than they would necessarily find on their own in their real world communities:

Only 61% of the parents surveyed say they check the websites their teens visit, or look at their social media profiles. Only a little more than half of parents have "friended" their teens on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Less than half look at their… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is the internet losing freedom of speech?

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Policy analyst Kaleev Leetaru laments,

Over the last two months I have written extensively on the many ways in which the evolving and globalizing world of the Internet is shifting away from being the flag bearer of free-for-all freedom of speech and towards a moderated commercial enterprise that must mediate among conflicting global standards on acceptable speech and online conduct. What does this mean for the future of the Internet?

He offers decade-old Twitter as an example with its new rules against giving offense—rules, one might add, that can only be enforced selectively and unfairly in a global world.

Leetaru adds,

The question of parody is often… click here to read whole article and make comments



Ethics for the citizen journalist

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If you write for online publications today, you are a citizen journalist. There are probably 150 million blogs out there, to say nothing of news Web sites. So you are not alone.

With caution, I am going to recommend a resource: Journalism Ethics in the Digital Age: A Model/Open Source Syllabus, which offers many articles that might be of value. For example, from one module:

Class 1: Cases of misconduct


Sheila Cornel, Steve Coll, Derek Kravitz, “Rolling Stone and UVA: The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism Report,” April 2015.

Janet Cooke, “Jimmy’s World” (fabrication, retracted), Washington Post, 1980; Richard Prince, “Janet Cooke’s… click here to read whole article and make comments



Could the internet outlive humanity?

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That seems like a strange question, but there is a background to it.

Marvin Minsky, artificial intellignce pioneer, died on Sunday at the age of 88:

Professor Minsky, in 1959, co-founded the M.I.T. Artificial Intelligence Project (later the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) with his colleague John McCarthy, who is credited with coining the term “artificial intelligence.”

Beyond its artificial intelligence charter, however, the lab would have a profound impact on the modern computing industry, helping to impassion a culture of computer and software design. It planted the seed for the idea that digital information should be shared freely, a notion that would shape the so-called open-source software movement, and it was a… click here to read whole article and make comments



Tweet!: Canadian cleared of harassment charges

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In Toronto, Canada, Gregory Alan Elliot, accused of harassing two women’s rights activists via social media, was found not guilty today. Ontario Court Justice Brent Knazan noted, “One cannot understand this case without understanding Twitter.”

Freedom of speech advocates consider it the first test of how Canadian courts will handle accusations of harassment on social media. The Toronto Star blandly reports:

The case, possibly the first where alleged criminal harassment occurred entirely through Twitter, has raised questions about what constitutes criminal behaviour online and where the law should intervene.

Essentially, Elliot became obsessed with the Twitter feeds of Stephanie Guthrie and Heather Reilly in 2012. Though he wrote in a hostile… click here to read whole article and make comments



Print media are now officially a coffee table item

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In “Print is the new ‘new media’” (Columbia Journalism Review, December 7, 2015), we are told that print journalism is alive and well and even coming back:

Now, 20 years into the digital revolution, print is making something of a comeback. Tablet, Politico, and The Pitchfork Review are among the successful digital publications that have ventured into print. Nautilus, Kinfolk, and California Sunday Magazine have launched in print in the last few years, and their audiences are passionate and growing.

This doesn’t sound like the whole story to me. The hard numbers tell a different tale, for example:

Consumer magazine revenue will return to growth in 2016. After a… click here to read whole article and make comments



Could Google sway an election? If so, how?

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American psychologist Robert Epstein explains how search engine rankings can be manipulated. From Wired:

Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.

One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than… click here to read whole article and make comments



Killed in Mexico’s drug wars: Honest reporting

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Image: Photo exhibition, 'The Silenced: Fighting for Press Freedom in Mexico' 2012. CAFOD


Recently, Marcus Roberts wrote about the violence associated with Mexico’s war on drugs. When media are afraid to report the news, there’s another casualty: Informed decision-making and voting. As Dana Priest put it at The Independent, “Readers are unaware of the life-and-death decisions editors make every day not to anger different local cartels”:

As deadline descended on El Mañana’s newsroom and reporters rushed to file their stories, someone in the employ of a local drug cartel called with a demand from his crime boss.

That “someone” was a journalist at another paper, who was known… 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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