I’ve been thinking a lot about Jeremy Bentham’s concept of a panopticon over the past few weeks, as the revelations from Facebook/Cambridge Analytica show just how little those particular corporations value our privacy and how the lack of diversity at the highest levels in Silicon Valley tech firms means that the tools we have come to rely upon for so many things were created by people who aren’t vulnerable in the same way that women, people of color, queer people, and other marginalized communities are.
One of the first things I did when I got online around 1994 was to start exploring with gopher. It was through gopher that I managed to make my way to a small bbs that a guy was running out of his dorm room. I’m actually still friendly with a handful of the people I met there, but most of the people were pretty gross in what they thought of and how they treated women and other marginalized people. I know that some of those people went on to work in the tech industry.
I think about that a lot and about how whenever I spoke up about it I was told that I just shouldn’t be online–and how people are still told that when they complain about abuse online. Even though you need to be online to do an awful lot of things these days, so the suggestion that getting offline altogether is the answer is, essentially, a suggestion that you remove yourself from public life. And that’s unacceptable.
- Palantir knows everything about you. Just when you thought it wasn’t possible for Peter Thiel to become any creepier…
- Democracy in the age of Information. Fascinating interview with writer Malka Older about her book Infomocracy but also about democracy in general. She quite rightly makes the point that democracy just isn’t about people showing up to vote every so many years but that it’s also about being an educated voter.
- How Russian Facebook ads divided and targeted US voters. Researcher Young Mie Kim was pulling data from Facebook (with users’ informed consent!) in order to document the way dark money groups usually run divisive ads during election seasons. And what she’s discovered over the last 18 months is that a significant proportion of these groups purchasing ads on Facebook had ties to Russia and were targeting swing states. So that’s a thing.
- One Direction, fake babies and the problem with celebrity conspiracy theories. Using tinhat fandom as the entry point, this is actually about how attaching yourself a “conspiracy worldview” can alter how you interact with others in negative ways.
- I was one of the first people on Facebook. I shouldn’t have trusted Mark Zuckerberg. “Watching him [Zuckerberg] dissemble in front of Congress, I couldn’t help but see him as one of those fresh-faced boys at Harvard who transitioned seamlessly from their New England prep schools to the Ivy League, and excelled at maintaining steady eye contact with the professor while they opined about books they hadn’t read.”
- Oregon Trail is changing so that we share less of your private dysentery information.