Category : –Social Networking

(MIT News) Why social media has changed the world — and how to fix it

The numbers make this clear. In 2005, about 7 percent of American adults used social media. But by 2017, 80 percent of American adults used Facebook alone. About 3.5 billion people on the planet, out of 7.7 billion, are active social media participants. Globally, during a typical day, people post 500 million tweets, share over 10 billion pieces of Facebook content, and watch over a billion hours of YouTube video.

As social media platforms have grown, though, the once-prevalent, gauzy utopian vision of online community has disappeared. Along with the benefits of easy connectivity and increased information, social media has also become a vehicle for disinformation and political attacks from beyond sovereign borders.

“Social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health,” says Aral, who is the David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Now Aral has written a book about it. In “The Hype Machine,” published this month by Currency, a Random House imprint, Aral details why social media platforms have become so successful yet so problematic, and suggests ways to improve them.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Science & Technology

(Church Times) National Church Survey: respondents bored, but prayerful during lockdown

What did the laity experience?

Throughout the lockdown, most laity felt well supported by their clergy (51%) and by the members of their church (49%). A high proportion accessed services online (91%), but this figure needs to be read against the fact that these were people also responding to an online survey.

Among those who attended online services, the sense of participation was not as high as may have been expected. About two-fifths reported that during online services they actually prayed (40%) or recited the liturgy (36%), but fewer reported that they joined in singing (27%).

Privatising holy communion

The lockdown brought into sharp focus questions about celebrating and receiving communion. The survey revealed some significant differences between the views of those giving ministry and those receiving ministry. Whereas 41% of laity agreed that it was right for clergy to celebrate holy communion in their own homes without broadcasting the service to others, only 31% of ministers did so.

Similarly, 43% of laity argued that it was right for people at home to receive communion from their own bread and wine as part of an online communion service, compared with 34% of clergy.

The survey also revealed divided opinion between people from different traditions: 49% of Anglo-Catholics agreed that it was right for clergy to celebrate communion in their homes without broadcasting the service to others, compared with only 25% of Evangelicals.

Conversely, only 23% of Anglo-Catholics argued that it was right for people at home to receive communion from their own bread and wine as part of an online communion service, compared with 55% of Evangelicals.

Read it all.

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

(CT’s The Exchange) On Christians Spreading Corona Conspiracies: Gullibility is not a Spiritual Gift

Sadly, Christians seem to be disproportionately fooled by conspiracy theories. I’ve also said before that when Christians spread lies, they need to repent of those lies. Sharing fake news makes us look foolish and harms our witness.

We saw this in the last election when some of the troll factories focused on conservative, evangelical Christians. Here we go again.

What now?

First, we need to speak up— particularly to those fooled yet again— and lovingly say, “You need to go to trusted sources.” Social media news feeds are not a trusted source. That’s why we created coronavirusandthechurch.com, to provide credible information for pastors. But, there are plenty of credible news sources— generally from outlets that do not have a track record of conspiracy peddling.

Second, God has not called us to be easily fooled. Gullibility is not a Christian virtue. Believing and sharing conspiracies does not honor the Lord. It may make you feel better, like you are in the know, but it can end up harming others and it can hurt your witness.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Media, Politics in General, Theology

(NPR) Psychiatrists Lean Hard On Teletherapy To Reach Isolated Patients In Emotional Pain

Psychiatrist Philip Muskin is quarantined at home in New York City because he’s been feeling a little under the weather and doesn’t want to expose anyone to whatever he has. But he continues to see his patients the only way he can: over the phone.

“I’ve been a psychiatrist for more than 40 years; I have never FaceTimed a patient in my entire career,” says Muskin, who works at Columbia University Medical Center, treating outpatients in his clinical practice, as well as people who have been hospitalized. Normally, he says he walks patients to the door, shakes their hand or touches their arm or shoulder to reassure them. “Now I’m not doing that, and that’s weird to me. So it’s a whole new, very unpleasant world.”

The pandemic has already robbed many of his patients of their livelihood, or at least their sense of safety. People literally feel trapped, he says.

That, in turn, is leading to a spike in anxiety, depression and addiction — not just among Muskin’s patients, but across the U.S. To try to address those needs, physicians of all kinds are adopting the techniques and technology of telemedicine, which had been only slowly gaining wide acceptance — until the pandemic forced everyone to isolate themselves, mostly at home. The recent demand for telecounseling, as well as for other types of online medical visits, is causing backlogs of care for many providers who offer it.

There are now also even fewer in-person treatment options for some of the most acutely mentally ill in New York, Muskin says; the psychiatric wards at Columbia, where Muskin normally works, have all been converted to beds for COVID-19 patients.

“That means,” he says, “we have no place to send patients who need admission.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(NYT Op-ed) Ross Douthat–In the Fog of Coronavirus, There Are No Experts

p class=”css-exrw3m evys1bk0″>The official experts, under such conditions, are most trustworthy insofar as their admonitions track with nonexpert common sense. The approach that most experts are currently urging, for instance, is not some complicated high-science approach to disease management, but the most basic pre-modern method of disease control, as obvious to 15th-century Florentines as to 21st-century New Yorkers — shut things down, quarantine the sick and hope for the best.

Whereas the more specific and granular the experts get, the more the fluidity and chaos of the situation makes their pronouncements dubious. It’s good that we’re modeling the arc of the pandemic, but that doesn’t make any of the models trustworthy. It’s good that we’re trying to figure out how the disease spreads, but none of the claims so far about how you’re most likely to get it (from air, surfaces or otherwise) or who is most at risk (whether from viral load or pre-existing conditions) can be considered at all definitive. It’s good that we’re practicing social distancing, but all of the rules we’re implementing are just rough and ready guesstimates.

And you don’t want to overweight the pronouncements of official science in a situation that requires experimentation and adaptation and a certain amount of gambling. Yes, you should trust Anthony Fauci more than Donald Trump when it comes to the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine. But the exigencies of the crisis require that experiments outrun the confidence of expert conclusions and the pace of bureaucratic certainty. So if you’re a doctor on the front lines trying to keep your patients from ending up on a ventilator, Dr. Fauci’s level of caution can’t be yours, and you shouldn’t be waiting for the double-blind control trial to experiment with off-label drugs that Spanish and Chinese doctors claim are helping patients.

The same logic applies for policymakers, for whom there is never going to be a definitive, one-size-fits-all blueprint telling them how and when to reopen cities or communities. Every single reopening will be its own unique experiment, with confounding variables of climate, density, age and genetics that are nearly impossible to model, and the advice of epidemiologists will only go so far. Governors and mayors will have to act like scientists themselves, acting and re-acting, adapting and experimenting, with expert advisers at their shoulders but no sure answers till the experiment begins.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Paul R. Hinlicky–Why Virtual Communion Is Not Nearly Radical Enough

Now to return to virtual communion and the recommendation for Eucharistic fasting during this divine judgment on our social greed. Let’s take an exemplary proponent, Lutheran theologian Prof. Deanna Thompson, who is now at St. Olaf College. She is a personally credible interlocutor on the question of “virtual” ministry, as she writes out of her excruciating experience of life-threatening cancer in the prime of life. She’s published a book, The Virtual Body of Christ, in which she makes the case for employing the new social media technologies just as the Lutheran Reformation employed the Gutenberg press. I agree with much of this, as I said above. Nevertheless, I respectfully and yet sharply disagree with her urging in the present pandemic crisis that people at home should set up bread and wine, as if to participate via the Internet in the live streaming of the Lord’s Supper liturgy. As I’ve listened and pondered the arguments being made in favor of this proposal, I have come to a certain realization which I would like briefly to argue here.

Let me begin, by affirming that Christ is “really” in the preached word which can be conveyed through these media. He is really present to offer himself in his righteousness, life and peace for the auditor’s sin, death and disease. Long ago, however, I discovered that in the Lutheran confessional writings what was at stake was never this so-called “real” presence but rather the “bodily” presence of Jesus Christ according to his word and promise. What difference does this apparently subtle distinction make? Answer: historically it excluded the so-called “spiritual” (or “real”) presence as the specific blessing or benefit of the Lord’s Supper just as it excludes notions of “invisible” church as the “real” church as opposed to the visible assembly gathered around Word and sacrament. By the Holy Spirit the word of the gospel awakens faith and if we want to speak of “spiritual presence,” we are talking about this ministry of the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus Christ “real” to us. But what differentiates the Lord’s Supper is the promised presence of Jesus Christ personally in his own body-and-blood, so that the blessing is not merely privative, the forgiveness of sins, but also positive: life and salvation on account of this specific union with Christ that consists in physical eating and drinking in the common meal of the Lord.

Why does this specificity of Jesus’ bodily presence matter? For one thing, it concerns the identity of Jesus Christ as the very body born of Mary and crucified under Pontius Pilate but vindicated and exalted to be present in his glorified body for the gathering of his faithful. This act of identification is precisely what the Lord’s Supper liturgy depends on, the specific act in the gathering as the church when a specific loaf is picked out with the words, “this is my body given for you….”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sacramental Theology, Science & Technology

(CT) Most Pastors Bracing for Months of Socially Distant Ministry

A new survey by Barna Research found over the course of just a week, most church leaders went from thinking they’d be back to meeting as usual in late or March or April (52%), to projecting the changes would extend to May or longer (68%).

“There is this realism that’s setting in,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president.

But while most pastors are realistic, they’re also optimistic, according to Kinnaman. “One of the cool things about pastors we’ve learned over the years is that they are by job description and by disposition more upbeat, positive, hope-filled people,” he said. “So they are often pretty capable of putting a good face in a tough situation, and they, like other leaders, are going to face a lot of tough decisions in the coming weeks as the crisis continues.”

Though most had already called off normal activities at church, pastors also implemented swift changes in policies around smaller group meetings over the past several days.

The percentage who still allow the church building to be used for “small meetings and gatherings” has dropped by about half (from 18% to 8%), according to Barna’s Church Pulse survey, hearing from 434 Protestant senior pastors and executive pastors in the US. A plurality say the church staff will be working remotely for the foreseeable future (up from 25% to 40%).

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT) Coronavirus Weakens China’s Powerful Propaganda Machine

Exhausted medical workers with faces lined from hours of wearing goggles and surgical masks. Women with shaved heads, a gesture of devotion. Retirees who donate their life savings anonymously in government offices.

Beijing is tapping its old propaganda playbook as it battles the relentless coronavirus outbreak, the biggest challenge to its legitimacy in decades. State media is filling smartphones and airwaves with images and tales of unity and sacrifice aimed at uniting the people behind Beijing’s rule. It even briefly offered up cartoon mascots named Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man, characters meant to stir patriotic feelings among the young during the crisis.

The problem for China’s leaders: This time, it isn’t working so well.

Online, people are openly criticizing state media. They have harshly condemned stories of individual sacrifice when front-line medical personnel still lack basic supplies like masks. They shouted down Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man. They have heaped scorn on images of the women with shaved heads, asking whether the women were pressured to do it and wondering why similar images of men weren’t appearing.

One critical blog post was titled “News Coverage Should Stop Turning a Funeral Into a Wedding.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Media, Politics in General

(PS) Shoshana Zuboff–Surveillance Capitalism

As we enter a new decade, we are also entering a new era of political economy. Over the centuries, capitalism has evolved through a number of stages, from industrial to managerial to financial capitalism. Now we are entering the age of “surveillance capitalism.”

Under surveillance capitalism, people’s lived experiences are unilaterally claimed by private companies and translated into proprietary data flows. Some of these data are used to improve products and services. The rest are considered a “behavioral surplus” and valued for their rich predictive signals.

These predictive data are shipped to new-age factories of machine intelligence where they are computed into highly profitable prediction products that anticipate your current and future choices. Prediction products are then traded in what I call “behavioral futures markets,” where surveillance capitalists sell certainty to their business customers.

Google’s “clickthrough rate” was the first globally successful prediction product, and its ad markets were the first to trade in human futures. Already, surveillance capitalists have grown immensely wealthy from these trading operations, and ever more companies across nearly every economic sector have shown an eagerness to lay bets on our future behavior.

The competitive dynamics of these new markets reveal surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives.

First, machine intelligence demands a lot of data: economies of scale.

Second, the best predictions also require varieties of data: economies of scope. This drove the extension of surplus capture beyond likes and clicks into the offline world: your jogging gait and pace; your breakfast conversation; your hunt for a parking space; your face, voice, personality, and emotions.

In a third phase of competitive intensity, surveillance capitalists discovered that the most predictive data come from intervening in human action to coax, tune, herd, and modify behavior in the direction of guaranteed outcomes.

Read it all.

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

(FT) Religions show faith in power of technology

The Vatican is praying that this year’s must-have Christmas gadget will not be an Apple Watch or Kindle, but rather its eRosary device.

The £99 bracelet, which is activated by making the sign of the cross with it, is aimed at tracking a devotee’s progress through a range of prayers and is accessed using an app called Click to Pray. It even doubles as a fitness monitor, tracking the wearer’s steps, location and calories burnt.

In increasingly secular western societies, technology and religion may seem at odds. Since 1993, for example, the number of Britons who think “we believe too often in science and not enough in feelings and faith” has fallen from 43 per cent to 27 per cent, according to the British Social Attitudes annual survey.

Some organised religions, however, are using technology to interact with communities in an attempt to forge connections between devotees and fuel engagement. Religious education, relationships, habits and knowledge are being transformed as social media allows laypeople to network with clerics and other religious figures.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

([London] Times) A Profile of a Married vicar whose (theology? or) good looks has won him 116,500 Instagram followers

With 116,500 Instagram followers, many more than the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rev Chris Lee has built a cult following with his “60-second sermons”, short selfie videos in which he chats about the Bible and his faith.

He insists fans are drawn more to the power of the gospels than to his good looks, but Mr Lee, 36, who is married and has two young daughters, has been sent messages saying “I love you” by adoring fans. He said: “It’s never a horrible thing to be told you’re good-looking, but I think most people follow me because of my content, because I speak to them on a deeper level.”

Read it all (requires subscription). You may find out more about the parish in which he serves there.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

(CNBC) As the cost of dying rises, more families try crowdfunding for funerals

At 2 a.m. on Oct. 17, Helen Ramos tried to wake up her son, Michael Bowen. Something about the 37-year-old looked strange.

Ramos, 65, uses a wheelchair, and running errands can be a struggle. The day before, Bowen had gone grocery shopping for her. Later, Ramos pleaded with him to spend the night at her house in Milford, Connecticut. It was raining heavily and she wanted him to be safe, but now she couldn’t get him to rise.

Bowen had died in his sleep, from either medical or drug complications. He had suffered from drug addiction since he was 13.

Bowen’s death threw his family into grief — and a financial problem. Neither his four older siblings nor his parents had enough savings to come up with the $10,000 it would cost for a funeral and burial at Keenan Funeral Home in West Haven, Connecticut.

Read it all.

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

(Slate Star Codex) Scott Alexander–New Atheism: The Godlessness That Failed

Most movement atheists weren’t in it for the religion. They were in it for the hamartiology. Once they got the message that the culture-at-large had settled on a different, better hamartiology, there was no psychological impediment to switching over. We woke up one morning and the atheist bloggers had all quietly became social justice bloggers. Nothing else had changed because nothing else had to; the underlying itch being scratched was the same. They just had to CTRL+F and replace a couple of keywords.

Eventually, things came full circle. I started this essay with a memory of noticing that my favorite early-2000s-era website had two off-topic forums: one for religion vs. atheism, and one for everything else. Earlier this year, SSC’s subreddit split in two: one for “culture war” discussions mostly about race and gender, the other for everything else.

Where do we go from here? I’m not sure. The socialist wing of the Democratic Party seems to be working off a model kind of like this, but hoping to change the hamartiology from race/gender to class. Maybe they’ll succeed, and one day talking too much about racism will seem as out-of-touch as talking too much about atheism does now; maybe the rise of terms like “woke capitalism” is already part of this process.

I’ve lost the exact quote, but a famous historian once said that we learn history to keep us from taking the present too seriously. This isn’t to say the problems of the present aren’t serious. Just that history helps us avoid getting too dazzled by current trends, or too swept away by any particular narrative.

If this is true, we might do well to study the history of New Atheism a little more seriously.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(ES) Jonathan Haidt: ‘Many people will soon find themselves mired in perpetual conflict over words’

“When the article came out we were braced for an enormous pushback. It was an explosive time, and things were beginning to get very strange politically in ways we’re only beginning to understand,” he says. “But the climate changed in early 2016, when the number of shutdowns and disinvitations grew, and everything got worse. Things were changing in ways that are really bad for what we do, so Greg and I decided we had to turn it into a book.”

Between the article and the book, which came out last year, Haidt’s research revealed a strong connection between Gen Z’s soaring rates of anxiety and depression (especially among girls), their emotional fragility and their upbringing . “Originally, we didn’t see how it all linked to childhood trends, such as fearful parenting and the decline of play. We also didn’t know, until research was published last year, that there was a sudden radicalisation among white progressives in 2014 about different types of inequality: feminism, racism, misogyny, white privilege, or any other term from the woke vocabulary.

“Another big shift came from changes in social media after 2012, through Twitter and Instagram. This new configuration has been much more effective at spreading outrage, because almost anything can be taken as an example of how awful the other side is if you strip it of context and put it out there.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology, Young Adults

(Techcrunch) Twitter updates hate speech rules to include dehumanizing speech around religion

Against a backdrop of rising violence against religious minorities around the world, Twitter today said that it would update its hateful conduct rules to include dehumanizing speech against religious groups.

“After months of conversations and feedback from the public, external experts and our own teams, we’re expanding our rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion,” the company wrote on its Twitter Safety blog.

The company said it will require tweets that target specific religious groups to be removed as violations of the company’s code of conduct.

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Consumer/consumer spending, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

Archbishops of Canterbury and York launch Church of England’s first ever social media guidelines and charter

The Church of England has published social media advice aimed at tackling offensive behaviour and misleading content and encouraging a positive atmosphere for online conversations.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, unveiled the Church’s first ever social media guidelines at Facebook today. The guidelines encourage positive engagement across all national social media accounts run by the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York.

At the same time the Church is urging Christians and others to sign up to a voluntary digital charter aimed at fostering a more positive atmosphere online.

As part of a live Q&A at Facebook UK’s Headquarters, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, launched the digital charter and guidelines and encouraged Christians and others to sign up to it.

The charter is centred on the five principles of: truth, kindness, welcome, inspiration and togetherness, and the opportunity for people to sign-up to show they support the principles.

It is hoped that people of all faiths and none will use the charter to consider how their own online interactions can affect others, both for good and bad.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) Julie Jargon–How 13 Became the Internet’s Age of Adulthood–The inside story of COPPA, a law from the early days of e-commerce that is shaping a generation and creating a parental minefield

At 13, kids are still more than a decade from having a fully developed prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in decision-making and impulse control. And yet parents and educators unleash them on the internet at that age—if not before—because they’re told children in the U.S. must be at least 13 to download certain apps, create email accounts and sign up for social media.

Parents might think of the age-13 requirement as a PG-13 movie rating: Kids might encounter a bit more violence and foul language but nothing that will scar them for life. But this isn’t an age restriction based on content. Tech companies are just abiding by a 1998 law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which was intended to protect the privacy of children ages 12 or under. It’s meant to keep companies from collecting and disseminating children’s personal information. But it has inadvertently caused 13 to become imprinted on many parents’ psyches as an acceptable age of internet adulthood.

Researchers at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society interviewed families around the country over five years and found that they believed that websites’ age requirement was a safety warning.

“Across the board, parents and youth misinterpret the age requirements that emerged from the implementation of COPPA,” the researchers wrote. “Except for the most educated and technologically savvy, they are completely unaware that these restrictions have anything to do with privacy.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Children, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Politics in General, Teens / Youth

(NYT Fashion) Honeymoon Hashtag Hell

“History suggests the honeymoon began in England in the 19th century when couples would travel the country visiting family and friends who couldn’t make it to their ceremony,” said Kara Bebell, who owns and operates the Travel Siblings, with her brother, Harlan deBell. (The New York-based company specializes in romantic getaways.)

Then the honeymoon evolved into the first time a couple got any prolonged alone time or to consummate the marriage. The modern honeymoon became more of an opportunity for newlyweds to celebrate alone and reconnect after the stress of a wedding.

In recent years, honeymoons have regressed, Ms. Bebell said. “Couples want validation from followers and friends,” she said, and oftentimes they do that with photos and hashtags.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Men, Pastoral Theology, Photos/Photography, Psychology, Theology, Women, Young Adults

An Important 2018 revisit–(NYT) Is the Algorithmification of the Human Experience a Good Thing?

Those sorts of edge cases are worrying, but at least in theory, they can be solved by tweaking the algorithms. In some ways, the harder question is what it means for kids’ experiences and development when the algorithm works correctly. Is it all basically fine?

The way YouTube treats videos for grown-ups gives some reason to worry. Guillaume Chaslot, a former Google engineer, recently conducted an experiment tracing YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. He found that, during the 2016 presidential campaign in the United States, users who viewed political videos were routinely steered toward ideologically extreme content and conspiracy theories.

Zeynep Tufekci, a University of North Carolina researcher, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed article that Mr. Chaslot’s research suggested that YouTube could be “one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

Is that true? We don’t have empirical proof that it is. But we also can’t know for sure that it isn’t true, in part because companies like YouTube and Facebook tend to be pretty guarded with data that could be used to estimate the impact of their platforms. Facebook, to its credit, is bringing on social scientists and sponsoring research.

Still, it’s telling that companies like Facebook are only beginning to understand, much less manage, any harm caused by their decision to divert an ever-growing share of human social relations through algorithms. Whether they set out to or not, these companies are conducting what is arguably the largest social re-engineering experiment in human history and no one has the slightest clue what the consequences are.

Read it all.

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

([London] Times) Jessikka Aro, the journalist who took on Russian trolls

“This has nothing to do with freedom of speech,” says Aro. “This is not normal political discussion. Saying, ‘Jessikka is a crack whore who needs to be killed’ is a crime in many different countries.”

Confident, passionate and highly articulate, Aro speaks fluent English and Russian. She has tried reporting her abusers to Facebook and YouTube, but mostly receives an automated reply saying that they haven’t violated community standards. The reality of moderating, she argues, can be too complex for an algorithm, and requires human brains. “In fact, some of this content violates both their own community standards and Finnish legislation. By not removing it, they are enabling state-sponsored Russian troll operations.”

She accuses the companies of putting profit before anything else. Facebook has even profited from the trolls, she claims, because they pay for visibility and sponsored posts to attack her.

“Their moderation and security guarantee goes against their business model, basically. But if they’re going to do business in our countries, if they’re going to take our data and use it to make money, then they should also take some responsibility. It’s wrong, and illegal, to send death threats to anyone. They should have put an end to this years ago, but it’s still going on. They don’t seem interested in investigating it voluntarily, unless the US Senate or special counsel Robert Mueller demands that they do.”

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Science & Technology

(SWNS) Why the average American hasn’t made a new friend in 5 years

Forty-five percent of adults say they find it difficult to make new friends, according to new research.

A new study into the social dynamics of 2,000 Americans revealed that the average American hasn’t made a new friend in five years.

In fact, it seems for many that popularity hits its peak at age 23, and for 36 percent, it peaks even before age 21.

Read it all.

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

(1st Things) Josh Hawley–The Big Tech Threat

My thesis is that the evidence strongly suggests there is something deeply troubling, maybe even deeply wrong, with the entire social media economy. My thesis is that it does not represent a source of strength for America’s tomorrow, but is rather a source of peril. Consider for a moment the basic business model of the dominant social media platforms. You are familiar with them. You might think of it as akin to financial arbitrage. Maybe we’ll call it attention arbitrage. Users’ attention is bought by tech giants and then immediately sold to advertisers for the highest price.

Now arbitrage opportunities, as those of you familiar with markets know, are supposed to close. The market eventually determines that something is off. So how is it that this attention arbitrage in the social media market is preserved and renewed over and over again? That’s where things get really scary, because it’s preserved by hijacking users’ neural circuitry to prevent rational decision-making about what to click and how to spend time. Or, to simplify that a little bit, it’s preserved through addiction.

Social media only works as a business model if it consumes users’ time and attention day after day after day. It needs to replace the various activities we did perfectly well without social media, for the entire known history of the human race, with itself. It needs to replace those activities with time spent on social media. Addiction is actually the point. That’s what social media shareholders are investing in: the addiction of users.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

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

(NYT Dealbook) To Purge Some of Social Media’s Ugliness, an Unlikely Lesson From Wall Street

Although it won’t address all of Big Tech’s problems, a simple rule that bolsters the banking system could do a lot to clean up some of the uglier aspects of social media that Mr. Zuckerberg felt compelled to apologize for.

The concept is “know your customer” — or KYC, as it’s called on Wall Street — and it’s straightforward: Given concerns about privacy, security and fraud when it comes to money, no bank is allowed to take on a new customer without verifying its existence and vetting its background.

The idea of applying such a rule to social media has been floated before, but it has so far failed to take hold. Now may be the right time.

Consider this: Facebook has said it shut down over 1.5 billion fake accounts from April through September last year (yes, that’s a “B” in billion). That was up from the 1.3 billion such accounts it eliminated in the six previous months. To put those numbers in context, Facebook has a reported user base of 2.3 billion.

What if social media companies had to verify their users the same way banks do? You’d probably feel more confident that you were interacting with real people and were not just a target for malicious bots.

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

(Terry Mattingly) Busy pastors and the dumpster fire of social media

“People can create online personalities that are simply not real. … A lot of what they say in social media has little to do with who they really are and all the fleshy, real stuff that’s in their lives,” said the Rev. John Jay Alvaro of First Baptist Church in Pasadena, California.

Thus, Alvaro and the church’s other clergy are committed to this strategy: Always move “one step closer” to human contact. “What we want is coffee cups and face-to-face meetings across a table. … You have to get past all the texts and emails and Facebook,” he said.

In fact, Alvaro is convinced that online life has become so toxic that it’s time for pastors to detox. Thus, he recently wrote an essay for Baptist News Global with this blunt headline: “Pastors and other church leaders: Give up social media. Not for Lent, but forever.” His thesis is that the “dumpster fire” of social media life is making it harder for pastors to love real people.

To quote one of Alvaro’s Duke Divinity School mentors — theologian Stanley Hauerwas — today’s plugged-in pastor has become “a quivering mass of availability.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Church of England bishops welcome introduction of online safety laws

Church of England bishops today welcomed the publication of a Government White Paper including plans to impose substantial fines against social media companies that breach their duty of care towards the vulnerable.

The Bishop of Gloucester, Rachel Treweek, who in 2016 launched a campaign (#liedentity) to encourage a safer online environment, said: “The new plans unveiled today are an encouraging sign that the online world will start to be regulated to protect people like Molly Russell, 14, who tragically took her own life. We know that her family believe that social media was partly responsible for their daughter’s death.

“Research tells us that 4 in 10 people feel that tech firms fail to take their concerns seriously when they complain.

“It’s about time that social media companies are held responsible for their content and are accountable for their actions. No other organisation in the ‘real’ world has that freedom. We manage to regulate electricity, water companies, broadcasters, shops etc through consumer bodies, yet for years social media companies have been allowed to self-regulate. These new clear standards, backed up by enforcement powers will hopefully be the step change to start really protecting our children and young people online.”

The White Paper, which includes plans to hold individual executives personally liable for failings, follows the publication of a House of Lords Select Committee report on Communication.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Corporations/Corporate Life, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NBC) Poll: Americans give social media a clear thumbs-down

The American public holds negative views of social-media giants like Facebook and Twitter, with sizable majorities saying these sites do more to divide the country than unite it and spread falsehoods rather than news, according to results from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

What’s more, six in 10 Americans say they don’t trust Facebook at all to protect their personal information, the poll finds.

But the public also believes that technology in general has more benefits than drawbacks on the economy, and respondents are split about whether the federal government should break up the largest tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook.

“Social media — and Facebook, in particular — have some serious issues in this poll,” said Micah Roberts, a pollster at the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted this survey with the Democratic firm Hart Research Associates.

“If America was giving social media a Yelp review, a majority would give it zero stars,” Roberts added.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

(Economist Erasmus Blog) Finding a new equilibrium after Christchurch won’t be easy

In response to all this, Muslim representatives frequently stress that the problem of Islamophobia (a term that remains contentious in many countries) is by no means confined to a far-rightist fringe. They insist that an anti-Muslim climate has been created by politicians much closer to the respectable centre-right, or in the French case by zealous advocates of the century-old doctrine of laïcité, or strict secularism.

At Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the leading places of Islamic worship in Britain, the initial reaction to New Zealand’s horror was one of inter-faith solidarity. Representatives of all local creeds gathered to offer sympathy and support. But mosque leaders say their people live daily with abuse, spitting, jostling and in the case of women, attempts to grab their scarves. Nassar Mahmood, a mosque trustee, says social peace in the city is challenged on many fronts. Reduced levels of policing (because of budget cuts) lead to a rise in petty crime that, he fears, may be blamed on Muslims. “We could very easily face attacks similar to those in New Zealand that would destabilise our social harmony,” he says. In the early hours of March 21st, five mosques in Birmingham were attacked with sledgehammers.

Salma Yaqoob, a local politician of the left who may be Birmingham’s best-known Muslim woman, has been adamant that the problem goes far beyond an extremist white-nationalist fringe. Her response to the New Zealand massacre was to “call out” mainstream Tory politicians who in her view played to the gallery with anti-Muslim innuendos.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Australia / NZ, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Violence

Jay Sklar–How To Repent Of Slander In A Digital Age

…everything is different now. With one slanderous blogpost or tweet, we can destroy someone’s reputation in the eyes of thousands—all within a few hours. And because we do it from the privacy of our home, any reproof from the community comes too late. Once the bell of slander has been rung, it cannot be unheard. Some people will never look at the slandered person in the same way. The acid of slander has permanently marred them.

How to repent of slandering

But what happens if we have slandered someone publicly and want to repent? What does true repentance look like?

The Lord does not leave us to guess, and the answer comes from a place we might not expect: the book of Leviticus. In Leviticus 6:1-7, we find a law that describes what a person is to do when caught sinning against another. In this case, the guilty party has defrauded someone by means of lying, and the repentance the Lord requires is that they confess their wrong (cf. 5:5 and Matt 5:23-24), repay what they have stolen, and then add 20% on top for damages. In other words, true repentance is characterized by three actions:

  1. Acknowledging and repenting of your sin to the person you have wronged.
  2. Correcting the wrong where possible.
  3. Paying damages on top.

What does this type of repentance look like in the case of public slander? First, it means directly contacting the person you have slandered, confessing your wrong and asking forgiveness. The more directly we know the person we have slandered, the more personally we should reach out to them. Someone in our immediate circle deserves a phone call or face to face conversation. In other cases, where we might not have ever met the person, it may be okay to send an email. The key is that the slanderer repents to the person he or she wronged.

Second, we must correct the wrong by setting the record straight in as public a way as our original act of slander. In the case of slander done on social media, this does not mean simply taking down the blogpost or tweet.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Theology

Archbp Foley Beach–A Christian Code of Ethics for Using Social Media

Most of us have done it!! We have posted something on the Internet when we had thought, incorrectly, that we had heard all the facts. Or we have written something slamming a brother or sister in Christ personally without talking to them in person first. Or we have written something when we were in the flesh and not in the Holy Spirit that caused heartache and pain to some innocent victim of our written words. Or we have spoken prophetically only later to have wished we had shared the comments in person.

The following is a simple code of ethics (5 Questions) for the follower of Jesus to consider before one clicks the “enter” button. It is intended for the follower of Jesus to remember that even in cyber-space we are witnesses (either for good or for bad) for Jesus Christ modeling a life which is supposed to emulate him….

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology

(FA) Peter Bergen and David Sterman–The Real Terrorist Threat in America

Broader trends also raise the stakes. Trump has turned a blind eye to far-right terrorism, while some of his most prominent supporters such as Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter have denied the existence of a right-wing threat. Right-wing media personalities and activists, including Candace Owens and even the president’s son Donald Trump, Jr., have peddled conspiracy theories regarding recent attacks. At the same time, politics, particularly on the right, is shifting into a more radical register. Recent public marches organized by the far right have resulted in violence, including the vehicular ramming that killed Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally last year.

This new terrorist threat cannot be addressed with an overwhelming focus on jihadist ideology. Nor will a travel ban address a threat rooted in domestic politics and the Internet’s conveyance of global issues into American homes. Instead, today’s terrorist threat requires effective law enforcement, a real discussion of the dangers of lax gun laws, policies to regulate the ways social media has helped spread violence, community resilience, and a reckoning with the forces driving U.S. and global politics increasingly toward radicalism.

Since 9/11, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily successful in disrupting foreign terrorist organizations’ ability to strike the United States. But the task of renewing and strengthening American society to face down the new terrorist threat could be even more difficult.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Globalization, Terrorism