Category : –Social Networking

(WSJ) Egyptian Legislation treats social-media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution

Egypt’s parliament passed a law giving the government sweeping powers to regulate traditional and social media, a move critics say will boost the Sisi regime’s ability to crack down on free speech and dissent.

The measure allows authorities to penalize traditional media like television and newspapers for spreading what the government terms fake news. It also treats social-media accounts with more than 5,000 followers as media outlets, opening Twitter and Facebook users to prosecution on vague charges including defaming religion and inciting hatred.

Most prominent media outlets in Egypt are pro-government, and some analysts and rights groups see the law as an aggressive attempt to restrict social media, which remains one of the few remaining arenas of free expression in a country where independent news websites are often blocked and unauthorized street protests banned.

“These laws would legalize this mass censorship and step up the assault on the right to freedom of expression in Egypt,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International, commenting on the law and related legislation ahead of the vote.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East

(Church Times) Tim Wyatt asks some of the C of E’s most prolific users of Twitter and Facebook what they think about social media

It is not hard to find a bad news story featuring social media. From allegations of data misuse and interference in elections to the opprobrium heaped on those guilty of ill-judged Twitter posts, and concerns about the impact on social cohesion and attention spans, it seems that we might be falling out of love with the medium.

In the halcyon days of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the rest, the Church of England, like the rest of the world, appeared enraptured. There was widespread enthusiasm about the opportunities for mission and communication.

The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, captured much of the optimistic mood in a column for the Church Times in 2011: “Christians have much to say using social media because churches contain many ordinary people with engaging stories to tell. The more they get out there and speak freely, the richer a view of Christianity the world will get” (Comment, 6 May 2011).

Bloggers such as Church Mouse (16,500 followers) and the “digital nun” Sister Catherine Wybourne (19,500 followers) shot to prominence, while a thousand Facebook groups sprang up as believers coalesced online around their various interests and traditions.

One blogging priest, the Revd Peter Ould, even co-ordinated early efforts on Twitter into a website, the Twurch of England, which collated every tweet from Church of England bishops and priests into a single live feed. Asked in an interview whether he was excited by the possibilities, he replied: “Absolutely — and we’re only just beginning to see the potential.”

While these early experiments are often remembered fondly, the pitfalls were soon encountered….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Church Times) Want to know about God? Just ask Alexa

The Church of England has launched an “Alexa skill” that provides answers to questions about faith and prayer, and can find a church to attend on the basis of the user’s location.

Launched on Wednesday night, the skill is compatible with all Amazon Echo and Alexa devices. Users can ask questions such as “Who is God?” and “How do I become a Christian?” besides making the device read specific prayers or prayers for different situations or periods of the day.

The skill is similar to an app on a smartphone or tablet, and is one of the “first significant faith-based resources” for Alexa, the C of E’s head of digital, Adrian Harris, says.

It works alongside the website A Church Near You to help users find their nearest church events and services.

Users can launch the C of E skill on Alexa by saying “Alexa, open the Church of England.” A full list of commands is available online.

 

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Teddy Wane–Are My Friends Really My Friends?

…digital media channels “don’t distinguish between quality of relationships,” he said. “They allow you to maintain relationships that would otherwise decay. Our data shows that if you don’t meet people at the requisite frequencies, you’ll drop down through the layers until eventually you drop out of the 150 and become ‘somebody you once knew.’ What we think is happening is that, if you don’t meet sometime face to face, social media is slowing down the rate of decay.”

The result, then, can be a glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships.

“Your available social time is limited, and you can either spend it face to face or on the internet,” Dr. Dunbar said. If it’s spent with people who are “remote,” whether geographically or just because they’re represented digitally, “you don’t have time to invest in new relationships where you are.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Recode) Facebook is launching a new dating service

Facebook is getting into the dating game.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday morning that Facebook is building a dating product to “help people find partners.” Zuckerberg says there are 200 million users on Facebook who list their relationship status as “single.”

“If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all,” Zuckerberg said.

“This is going to be for building real long-term relationships,” he added, “not just for hookups.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Men, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Women

NYMag talks to VR pioneer Jaron Lanier on Silicon Valley–‘One Has This Feeling of Having Contributed to Something That’s Gone Very Wrong’

In November, you told Maureen Dowd that it’s scary and awful how out of touch Silicon Valley people have become. It’s a pretty forward remark. I’m kind of curious what you mean by that.

To me, one of the patterns we see that makes the world go wrong is when somebody acts as if they aren’t powerful when they actually are powerful. So if you’re still reacting against whatever you used to struggle for, but actually you’re in control, then you end up creating great damage in the world. Like, oh, I don’t know, I could give you many examples. But let’s say like Russia’s still acting as if it’s being destroyed when it isn’t, and it’s creating great damage in the world. And Silicon Valley’s kind of like that.

We used to be kind of rebels, like, if you go back to the origins of Silicon Valley culture, there were these big traditional companies like IBM that seemed to be impenetrable fortresses. And we had to create our own world. To us, we were the underdogs and we had to struggle. And we’ve won. I mean, we have just totally won. We run everything. We are the conduit of everything else happening in the world. We’ve disrupted absolutely everything. Politics, finance, education, media, relationships — family relationships, romantic relationships — we’ve put ourselves in the middle of everything, we’ve absolutely won. But we don’t act like it.

We have no sense of balance or modesty or graciousness having won. We’re still acting as if we’re in trouble and we have to defend ourselves, which is preposterous. And so in doing that we really kind of turn into assholes, you know?

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook Is a Match

As Facebook pushes into developing countries, it tends to be initially received as a force for good.

In Sri Lanka, it keeps families in touch even as many work abroad. It provides for unprecedented open expression and access to information. Government officials say it was essential for the democratic transition that swept them into office in 2015.

But where institutions are weak or undeveloped, Facebook’s newsfeed can inadvertently amplify dangerous tendencies. Designed to maximize user time on site, it promotes whatever wins the most attention. Posts that tap into negative, primal emotions like anger or fear, studies have found, produce the highest engagement, and so proliferate.

In the Western countries for which Facebook was designed, this leads to online arguments, angry identity politics and polarization. But in developing countries, Facebook is often perceived as synonymous with the internet and reputable sources are scarce, allowing emotionally charged rumors to run rampant. Shared among trusted friends and family members, they can become conventional wisdom.

And where people do not feel they can rely on the police or courts to keep them safe, research shows, panic over a perceived threat can lead some to take matters into their own hands — to lynch.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Buddhism, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Sri Lanka

Rod Dreher–Is Christianity Too Violent For Facebook?

Let’s give Facebook’s nameless content editor credit: he or she may well understand the Crucifixion more truly than do Christians for whom the murder of the incarnate God on a cross has gone from being a scandal to a banality. Facebook is right: the image is shocking, sensational, and excessively violent, because that’s what a crucifixion is! Yesterday in his Palm Sunday sermon (we Orthodox Christians observe Easter a week later this year), my priest said, “We don’t spend this week saying, ‘Those Jews did that to Our Lord.’ We spend it accusing ourselves. We did it to Christ. Every time we sin, we crucify Him. This is on us.” He’s right about that. It’s not a bad thing to be reminded how much He suffered in His body to liberate us from death. What the San Damiano Cross depicts is a murder. But for Christians, it also depicts the defeat of all murder and death, and the necessary prelude to eternal life for all. As we Orthodox sing on Pascha (Easter): “Christ is risen from the dead/Trampling down death by death/And upon those in the tombs bestowing life.”

A Christian culture would know that for the people who revere this symbol, they are looking at an image of death’s defeat, and of eternal life.

But we are no longer a Christian culture, and are becoming less so by the day.

This incident is alarming because of what it reveals about the kind of world that Christians are going to live in. Facebook is one of the most powerful media companies on the planet. If it decides that it will not approve Christian content because it finds that content violent, bigoted, or what have you, then that will have a tremendous potential effect, not only on the ability of Christians to communicate, but (more importantly) on shaping the way the Christian faith is regarded widely in this post-Christian culture.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Independent) How the world of death and funerals has become fashionable through digital culture

It’s one of the more blood-curdling things about Facebook – the social media death notice. You know the score: the recently deceased star of Top of the Pops, sitcom or stage is commemorated by way of a YouTube video and a deluge of weepy RIPs and “part of my life” eulogies, a phenomenon derided as “tearleading”. The high-water mark for this was who “taught us how to live, then taught us how to die” two years ago.

Of course, entrepreneurs have noticed this spectacle, which writer and psychologist Elaine Kasket brackets as “the data of the dead”. It’s part of a digital-led revolution in dying and death and it’s changing the way we see people pass into the ineffable digital afterlife. “We’re developing an entirely new mentality about death and dying,” she says.

​Kasket (yes, she knows) is the author of an upcoming book about digital death called All the Ghosts in the Machine, and has observed a huge rise of interest. “I was at a recent SXSW festival and was introduced to someone who put on a super-serious voice and told me: ‘I’m in the death-tech space’.” As a subject, dying has become fashionable, with investors pouring money into startups, bolstering thought leadership and inspirational TED Talks on “new ways to think about death”.

There are so many new death-tech sites that they break up into different types….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Death / Burial / Funerals, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Boston Globe) Niall Ferguson–George Orwell would be awed by Facebook’s Surveillance Tools

As with Google, it was advertising that made Facebook money. The crucial difference was that Google simply helped people find the things they had already decided to buy, whereas Facebook enabled advertisers to deliver targeted messages to users, tailored to meet the preferences they had already revealed through their Facebook activity. Once ads were seamlessly inserted into users’ News Feeds on the Facebook mobile phone app, the company was on the path to vast profits, propelled forward by the explosion of smartphone usage.

The smartphone is our telescreen. And, thanks to it, Big Zucker is watching you — night and day, wherever you go. Unlike the telescreen, your phone is always with you. Unlike the telescreen, it can read your thoughts, predicting your actions before you even carry them out. It’s just that Big Zucker’s 24/7 surveillance isn’t designed to maintain a repressive regime. It’s just designed to make money.

The only law of history is the law of unintended consequences. Is anyone — apart from Zuckerberg, that is — really surprised that, during the seven-year period when app developers had free access to Facebook users’ data, unscrupulous people downloaded as much as they could? Do we seriously believe that Cambridge Analytica are the only people who did this? Can you give me one good reason why, after Barack Obama and his minions smugly boasted about their use of Facebook in his 2012 reelection campaign, Donald Trump’s campaign was not entitled to try similar methods four years later?

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) John Waters on the #MeToo Movement–Summer’s Last Sting

…this is true of the #MeToo movement. It is a quasi-voluntary response to the drift of things, from deep in the conscience of society. It is, fundamentally, a cultural adjustment, necessary and inevitable though not overtly willed. And, although for the moment quite sincerely explaining itself in other terms, it is the bust to end the 1960s boom in sexual permissiveness.

Sixties libertinism is now more problematic for our societies than even ELP’s noodlings were in ’76. Together with its cultural offshoots—industrial abortion, fatherlessness, the evisceration of marriage—it is, beneath the radar of conventional mainstream discourse, the cause of immense damage. And yet, to speak against it publicly is still to announce oneself a puritan. With such double-binds in play, cultures subject to the laws of evolution find roundabout ways of introducing necessary ameliorations.

Rarely has a generation of ideologues been less honest about the consequences of its agenda than the 1960s Peace & Love generation, which sold its prescriptions as the apogee of freedom and attributed all inadequacies and negative side-effects to a surfeit of false shame or overdeveloped user-conscience. Sexual licentiousness was presented as liberty, cost-free fun, the surrogate of the infinite, as though the human body were a complimentary resource, adrift from its situation in the humanity of the ensouled being. The wastages and casualties of this misunderstanding were swept up by psychotherapists and placed in the bin marked “indeterminate symptoms.”

The agenda had been inadequately measured against life’s iron law that the pursuit of selfish desires leads to chaos and grief, first for those misused in the pursuit of reductive desires—and ultimately for the misuser. Privately, individually, the children of the 1960s found that their pursuit of the chimera of freedom did not deliver as promised, but they had invested too much of themselves in the project to admit as much publicly. Thus was the revolution allowed to persist beyond logical limits and appear to render naturalistic a degree of license that was self-evidently unsustainable.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Politics in General, Psychology, Sexuality, Theology, Violence, Women

(CEN) Church Chatbot on the Way

A Chatbot and a new site to share digital resources with lay people and clergy were the two winners of the Church of England’s ‘Digital Labs’ this week.

The event brought together Christian coders, techies and creatives to present their best ideas for helping the Church develop its technology.

One idea to win was Ask the Church, a chatbot to enable people enquiring about faith to ask the Church questions through Facebook Messenger, Twitter and the new www.churchofengland.org website and, in future phases, Alexa, Google Home and Siri.

Meanwhile CofE House will be a site to allow the sharing of high quality new and existing resources and digital assets, to support lay leaders and clergy across the Church.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), Media, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

The New technology that allows for the Creation of Fake Videos(II)–yesterday’s New York Times

The video, which appeared on the online forum Reddit, was what’s known as a “deepfake” — an ultrarealistic fake video made with artificial intelligence software. It was created using a program called FakeApp, which superimposed Mrs. Obama’s face onto the body of a pornographic film actress. The hybrid was uncanny — if you didn’t know better, you might have thought it was really her.

Until recently, realistic computer-generated video was a laborious pursuit available only to big-budget Hollywood productions or cutting-edge researchers. Social media apps like Snapchat include some rudimentary face-morphing technology.

But in recent months, a community of hobbyists has begun experimenting with more powerful tools, including FakeApp — a program that was built by an anonymous developer using open-source software written by Google. FakeApp makes it free and relatively easy to create realistic face swaps and leave few traces of manipulation. Since a version of the app appeared on Reddit in January, it has been downloaded more than 120,000 times, according to its creator.

Deepfakes are one of the newest forms of digital media manipulation, and one of the most obviously mischief-prone.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Science & Technology

The New technology that allows for the Creation of Fake Videos(I)–a Radiolab Podcast from last summer

Simon Adler takes us down a technological rabbit hole of strangely contorted faces and words made out of thin air. And a wonderland full of computer scientists, journalists, and digital detectives forces us to rethink even the things we see with our very own eyes.

Oh, and by the way, we decided to put the dark secrets we learned into action, and unleash this on the internet.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Media, Science & Technology

(Nieman Lab) Disinformation spread online is so disorienting that it’s messing with the researchers who study it

This week I got to hear Kate Starbird, assistant professor at the University of Washington and director of its Emerging Capacities of Mass Participation (emCOMP) Laboratory, speak about her research into how online disinformation spreads during crisis events (like shootings and terrorist attacks) and what she’s learned about the networks spreading this information and the tactics that they use.

A few of the intriguing bits from Starbird’s talk:

— She and her team have looked a lot at the language that conspiracy theorists use both in tweets and on sites like 21stCenturyWire.com. This is “question-mark language,” Starbird said. “‘I’m not gonna tell you what to think, I’m just gonna put the evidence out there and you can make up your mind yourself’ — this way of talking persists across different events” from Sandy Hook to the Boston Marathon bombing to the Orlando shooting.

— Starbird spent a lot of the time reading the sites that were spreading these conspiracy theory posts — the sites behind the links being tweeted out. (“I do not recommend this.) Stuff she looked at: Homepages, about pages, ownership, authors, common themes and stories. She developed coding schemes for theme, political view, and so on. Common themes: “aliens, anti-big pharma, chemtrails, anti-corporate media, geo-engineering, George Soros, anti-globalist, anti-GMO, Flat Earth, Illuminati, Koch Brothers, anti-media, 9-11 truth, New World Order Cabal, nutritional supplements, pedophile rings, Rothschilds, anti-vaccine, anti-Zionist.” (On the subject of GMOs, by the way, please read this tweet thread, which is not about conspiracy theories but is really interesting to keep in mind as you read about Starbird’s work.)

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology