Facebook and Google have sharply restricted the ways that advertisers can tailor messages to minors on their sites. In a video from The New York Times Opinion section, journalists made the case that Congress should copy the British regulations. Children’s advocates are mostly over the moon about it. lawmakers are debating updated laws to protect kids online and scolding the head of Instagram, as they did on Wednesday, the horse has partly left the barn. “I think they can see the writing on the wall,” Sonia Livingstone, a professor at the London School of Economics who studies children’s digital rights, told Wired this year. law for comprehensive online child protection, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. “Why not here?” Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, asked at Wednesday’s hearing Involving the head of Instagram Adam Mosseri in his and Meta’s plan to create Instagram for Kids while referencing the British code. Some of the guidelines are vague, partly by design, and that’s one reason the technology industry said it fought the British code. To comply with the British code, Facebook, Google and other companies could have changed features only for kids who live in that country. The British regulations are effectively here already, but without the force of U.S. Among other guidelines, the code requires websites and apps to turn on the highest possible privacy settings by default for people under 18, and to turn off features that track children’s locations. The idea behind the Children’s Code is that companies must build products with the best interests of children in mind, and it makes companies accountable to protect them. The regulations don’t take all control and responsibility from parents and caregivers, but they are a backstop for families. As in the examples above, the British regulations – formally called the Age-Appropriate Design Code or the Children’s Code – are also changing the internet experience for kids and families in the U.S. Although the breaking up tech companies seems to still be a far-off hope to protect children from damaging internet structure seems to be picking up momentum
Author: Rachel Branco
Are Birds Even Real Anymore?
If you thought the flat earth conspiracy was outlandish, you might want to sit down while I break down the very real group who is trying to bring down the “bird-geoisie.” “The Bird aren’t Real” movement was created by Peter McIndoe a college dropout in Memphis in 2017 for media performance reasons. The movement believes that birds are no longer real bird organisms rather drone-like machines mimicking this particular life form, for government surveillance use. Birds are Real, has seen a significant rise over the last few years on platforms like Instagram Twitter and Tik Tok, possibly due to the normalization of misinformation and citizen reporting. Just last month the group organized in protest outside Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, in order to get the company to change their logo andmascott. What truly baffled me about researching this topic is the statements from key members of the movement stating they know the message is a joke but still fervently believe in the spreading of their message. Some members describe this phenomenon as a parody social movement, knowing that their particular claim is false but there overarching distrust in the government’s ability to handle survivance equipment to be the underlying and border issue. However, the contextualization to make this conspiracy theory real is anything but a joke. Leader Peter McIndoe, hired an actor to portray a former C.I.A. agent who confessed to working on bird drone surveillance. Although a lie the video has more than 20 million views on TikTok.He also hired multiple actors to play “adult bird truthers” in videos to boost support over Instagram. McIndoe, has gone as far as to create merch for the movement which he projects off over in order to pay for living expenses.
Although the idea of birds we see every day being mini gadgets to supply the government sounds like a laughable youtube video, this movement has proved the virality of misinformation. It will be interesting to see if they clout-chasing cults will become a new modern phenomenon or die off with the advancements of healthier news cycles.
How the Supply Chain ruined Christmas
The disruption in supply change and the global chip shortage, caused by the pandemic is continuing to affect society as the holidays roll around. With the season filled with gift giving just upon us, Christmas shopping might be more of a headache this year with shipping timeline buying delayed and inventory maintenance at an all time low. People looking to buy high tech gifts better plan early, experts say, such as Patrick Moorhead, chief executive of Moor Insights, a tech research firm. The top products on top of people’s Christmas list this year are Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Nintendo’s new Switch. For most parents getting their hands on their devices through instore retail has been out of the question with supplies being minimal. Online has not been much better with online retailers such as Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon and more selling out in minutes and in some cases seconds. Some tech savvy individuals have turned to set up bots that are set up to launch when drops happen and check out for you in seconds. Some bots have proven to be scams however, so make sure it is not buying products directly from users. Other strategies have been utilizing Twitter to sound off notification from certain accounts that give early announcements to product release and deals. Most modern big business ecommerce sites have the power to preload account information, which is a good idea in this instance so check out is as fast as possible.
Headphones, phones and computers have also been popular items for the holiday season but disruption of them has been disrupted by the chip shortage. Analog chips specifically, the circuits that gadgets rely on to manage power. speakers and earphones have been out of commission. Unfortunately companies like Apple and Sony have developed their own chips for audio gear, making their products top of line. Cheaper computer models are also taking a hit this year with the lack of USB chip controllers supplying effective manufacturing numbers. Again the more expensive big business computers such as apple, Macs are not experiencing this type of supply chain issues because they have their own USB hardwear. These effects in the supply chain have been predicted by certain tech professionals to last upwards of December 2022. For the national population the advice I gathered from experts was to shop early, plan big purchases and think creatively about gift giving, if not expect to be giving out a lot of I owe U’s.
With podcast media on the rise, it seems everyone with an opinion and enough money for audio equipment has the platform to reach thousands of listeners. Rick Wiles is a pastor, and a self-described, “prophet and citizen reporter.” Based out of Florida, he is the host of “The End Times” and survivalist themed radio program “Trunews.” His podcast is available on the platform iHeartMedia which reaches 90% of Americans each month. The conservative Christian is being popularized in the last week for his spewing comments such as, “Covid-19 vaccines were the product of a Global coup d’état by the most evil cabal of people in the history of mankind.” The rightist conspirators are unfortunate all over popular media, with high followerships on Spotify and Apple music. The “citizen reporters” in this case, primary focus is spreading misleading propaganda of information surrounding Covid-19 and effective treatments for it. The research done by the article provides that iHeart radio does now have a section in their content guidelines about promoting misleading or false states regarding Covid-19. Apple’s content guidelines were also very broad, not covering this new avenue of content. Spotify on the other hand specifically spells out their stance on misleading and false statements made about Covid-19 as well a swift removal process. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has not taken charge yet on this issue but could begin to investigate given the rise in public disapproval of other digital media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Youtube for topics similar. The FCC proclaims that since podcasts are not a part of public airwaves then it is not in the jurisdiction to take charge. As for the tech giants some have taken the negative media attention seriously and made changes to the content guideline and libraries. Youtube just in September of 2021 banned accounts of popular anti-vaccine activists, following suit. Twitter went as far as scrubbing all of their ad placements to not have any anti-vaccine promotions after the Facebook trials in 2019. There seems to be a lack of government interest and a level of liability to fix this problem. Due to the rise of these “independent journalists” movement around media companies, it is hard to pin them down for fines and offenses due to the first amendment and fear of retaliation from the fervent supporters. The best it seems we can do for the moment, is keep the public warry on the source and media choices they are using, while promoting more holistic research practices.
Why Care About The Right to Repair Movement?
Just this month Apple has announced a new initiative to release manuals, part lists and tools to allow consumers and third party repair shops to have access to Apple property. This follows the ongoing “right to repair” movement that reached a height last summer. According to IBIS World, from 2014 to 2018, increased smartphone and tablet usage resulted in a 4.4% growth in the cell phone repair industry. Breaking cell phones nowadays is an unfortunate anomaly in the United States, due to the inflation of bigger and better technology for a higher price tag made with cheaper parts than last year. Most consumers find that it is usually cheaper or the same cost to buy a brand new phone than fix their older models. Some repairs cost upwards of $250 without insurance which a small percentage of Americans can afford especially after the pandemic. During July of this year President Biden has made several executive orders to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as well as individual tech companies to consider the repair market as a new consumer norm, helping reduce tech waste and improve consumer tech knowledge.
Apple has been one of the first to give up the battle by releasing classified documents on parts, assembly manuals and unique tools within the industry. Apple has been under fire in the past years for raising prices without fixing problems circulating battery life and sleek but poor functional design, which competitors like samsung often point out in advertising schemes. This newly released information will not only be in direct use for the consumer but also third party repair shops who were used to using backdoor strategies to begin with. The hope is that this type of open market will help reduce the price for cell phones, making them again an affordable and crucial part of an individual’s 21st-century life. Expanding the market, allows people choices to make decisions based on their budget ; evidentially making what is first world custom to owning a cellphone still realties for the people financially struggling in this country by the effect of the global pandemic. Long term, the people behind the movement hope that everyday people develop more of a relationship with the parts and processes that make up the phone they hold everyday and will become better advocates for the new models released in the future.
Chen, B. X. (2021, November 17). What Apple’s new Repair Program means for you (and your iphone). The New York Times. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/17/technology/personaltech/apple-iphone-self-repair.html.
Duffy, C. (2021, July 14). Biden’s executive order takes on right-to-repair. it could make fixing your smartphone easier. CNN. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/14/tech/right-to-repair-biden-executive-order/index.html. Lawrence, L., & Brody, B. (2021, November 18). Why is Apple letting customers fix their iphones? Protocol. Retrieved November 24, 2021, from https://www.protocol.com/policy/apple-right-to-repair-ftc.
Can Americans Still Afford Cellphones?
Leaving the house nowadays, the running list seems to consist of keys, this year face masks but mostly phones. Living without a phone for more than a few days is virtually impossible. Making calls, organizing transportation, navigation all require a little help from the internet. These small smart computers in our pockets, guide us through much of life, making it a valuable item. My question is are smartphones becoming unaffordable, especially in a fast paced upgrading society? In the New York Times article, The True Cost of Upgrading Your Phone, the equates a new 1,000 Iphone to almost 2,500 cups of coffee or $17,000 in interest in 30 years.(Chen, 2021) Most Americans still prefer to go on cell phone plans hosted by companies like Sprint, Verizon or Metro but breaching a contract for a new phone can cost hundreds of dollars, especially if your old phone is broken and untradeable. Pew researchers estimate that 23% of American adults have enough savings set aside to cover three months of emergency expenses from a study from 2020. (Parker et al., 2020) The Pandemic continues to create problems for the economy, from industry ranging from supply chain to restaurants, the list goes on affecting people’s livelihood but the advancement of interconnected technology like smartphones continues at a rapid rate. The American public has a conflicted relationship with this particular device because of its power to put us at the center of the tech ecosystem which scientifically produces serotonin and dopamine but on the other hand do not retain no long term value, much like a car depreciates with time. Apple phones specifically are manufactured in less expensive ways than they were before, making them a less durable phone, not to mention all of the charger pairing issues. Samsung, does brag about their design taking in durability concerns but has unfamiliar internet highways for loyal apple users. The United States population alone has doubled its smartphone ownership by 50%.“Only 35 percent of all U.S. adults owned a smartphone in 2011, compared to 85 percent of adults who own a smartphone, as of February 2021.” ( S.R.T., 2021) The rate of cell phone users will only continue to grow as the technology data can be relied on at more high speed rates and digitization becomes more immersive. As a society we need to find ways to make these devices in a more sustainable way that decreases the rate of purchase while allowing citizens to still connect to the world’s information at an affordable rate. I’m not saying that cellphones should be added as an unalienable right but be more conscious of the present day consumer and the cost of living. Once again, I find myself at the mercy of another technological device hoping I can keep them from harm’s way long enough not to make a human error of dropping, losing or spilling something on it.
Paypal Looks to Buy Out Pinterest
Paypal is looking to acquire the digital Image library, Pinterest, in order to make online shopping easier with a more seamless payment process and interface, almost mimicking the concept of Amazon. The deal, which is valued at 45 billion, would be the most expensive buy out of this decade’s internet company exchanges. For comparison, the LinkedIn buyout only cost Microsoft $26 billion. Paypal is willing to put a hefty price tag on this social network because of its investment in e-commerce. The concept of “buyable pins” on Pinterest is its most attractive feature at the moment. It connects the customers with a visual experience of planning and conception to having an immediate call to action which leads to revenue. Pinterest is most commonly used by women but has a vast user base that has a common thread to organization and creativity. In the older generations, Pinterest is used for home decor/improvements, wedding planning, and hundreds of styles of cooking. Younger users are quickly filling the app with fashion photos, editorial homemade shoots, and tutorials for everyday uses. The app is very versatile in content and usually serves as a portfolio-type landing space which provokes the idea for more e-commerce and shopping features. This particular deal is after a wave of social media restructuring to promote “shop” and revenue “in-house.” Facebook and Instagram have both added various shop elements to connect consumers to the physical products there selling on-screen. This intern only further solidifies the notion of micro consumers, informing their follower base of which digital platforms to buy from. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what Pinterest’s response is to this offer and how they might possibly seek a new platform structuring.
Facebook’s New Smart Sunglasses
September 9th Facebook entered a new market releasing its first physical product, Smart sunglasses. The company collaborated with Ray Bands, a widely known and adored eyeglass brand. Taking videos and pictures at eye level, listening to music and answering phone calls hands free are just some of the attractive features of the new wearable smart eyewear. The technology features technology from Oculus, an augmented reality company Facebook bought, back in March 2014. The price point is relatively low given the expansive technology starting at $299. Facebook is not the first company to bring smart sunglasses to popular consumption. Google was the first to launch Google Glass back in 2013, with Snapchat following Snap’s Spectacles in 2016. Both brands lacked pairing technology with wearability.Almost a decade later Facebook is expanding its brand to fit the digital timeline heading to become a metaverse company that specializes in the human experience in terms of the social and augmented realities. Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, elaborated on the brand shift in focus as, “Creation, avatars, and digital objects are going to be central to how we express ourselves, and this is going to lead to entirely new experiences and economic opportunities.”
Zuckerberg’s next endeavors seek to bring augmented reality to the experience of the glasses allowing you to play games and video chat with someone digital copy. Critics have raised concerns talking about its intrusive video ability which lacks a signal of consent from social cues. A smaller critique of the smart sunglasses was the experience of listening to music felt quite awkward and almost distant from the New York Time article Smart Glasses Made Google Look Dumb. Now Facebook Is Giving Them a Try by Mike Isaac. It will be interesting to see how the smart sunglasses do with the holiday season quickly approaching.
Facebook and the Whistleblower
Facebook is yet again being tangled into a government and media squabble when a whistleblower based in research, shared her findings that Facebook was trying to keep hidden from the public. Francis Haugen is a data engineer who worked at Facebook from 2019 to 2021. On Tuesday, she testified before a group from the Senate Commerce Committee about how decisions were made at the biggest social media platform in the world. The findings range from many topics but have common themes of misinformation, determinants to our mental health and attention span, and the algorithmic spreading of hate.
Since the late 2000s when the first social medias were just in their infancy, as a society we noticed a distinct change of not only how we the people manipulate and use these platforms but more importantly how they manipulate us. Fast forward to 2021 where Facebook is on top of the social networking market, having absorbed “Whatsapp” and “Instagram” and most recently “Oculus” an augmented reality company. The United States Government and Federal Trade Commission are now questioning the notion of Facebook being a monopoly. Although they do face competitors like Linkedin, Twitter, Tik Tok, and Youtube even, there is something to be said in owning the most personal of platforms, for people to express who “they are.” as mentioned by the new head of the FTC Lena Khan. With this responsibility and power comes massive control of personal data which is the reason Facebook is getting caught in hot water.
The data that Francis Haugen and her team of researchers collected highlights that Facebook’s algorithm tees up content for each individual person that keeps their attention and leads us into further filter bubbles of reactive content. Andrew Morass, a New Yorker staff member, described this feature as “meaningful interaction”. He explains that the feed you’re seeing is no longer in chronological order, but teed up in a way that maximizes your engagement with said content, reupdating every few seconds. Morass uses the example of ex-boyfriends’ wedding photos, which make sense if you have been actively looking at that person’s page for the last several months/years. This also happens with opposing political views that are presented to you due to the language of the comment section touching on keywords that have relation to your beliefs and have been shown to get your engagement. Negative reactions create such a back and forth behavior between people that generates even more engagement as more people from opposite sides of the table join in. This has in turn caused a polarization of views on politics, human rights movements, and Covid-19 legitimacy.
What is even more frightening is what Francis Haugen describes as the “toggling on/off of hate speech” and censored content relating to the election during the end of 2020. Facebook was ordered by government agencies to regulate political speech in terms of misinformation and hate speech due to the problems that were faced in the last election surrounding Russia’s involvement. However, the minute the election was over the censored content settings were toggled off allowing a huge boil over of content that was extremist on both sides of the political coin. On January 6th a vast mob of Trump supporters gathered through the use of social media at the Capitol Building and sought out to overturn the decision of the 2020 election.
Mark Zuckerberg has denied Facebook responsibility in this situation as well as the accusation brought to the FTC’s attention by Francis Haugen. In the past, he has apologized for the imperfections of the platform and agreed to create teams and initiatives to fix the hate speech on the platform. Haugen teams’ research from just this year found that Facebook only decreased hate speech by 2 percent, and decreased speech surrounding violence and incitement about six-tenths of a percent, despite being “[T]he best in the world at it…”, to quote Mark himself. After the latest round of questioning from the government, Facebook is taking a more defensive approach, saying the claims of Haugen are illogical and are taken out of context to Facebook’s wide portfolio.
What’s the Solution?
From researchers, media experts, and regular everyday users, the question lingering seems to be how do we fix this problem that seems too far gone? Asking users to stay off a platform when loneliness and the need for information and connection are at an all-time high, seems to be impossible. The next option would be some government agency stepping in to monitor even closer about what people are posting and saying online. This however seems to be an unlikely choice given the constitutional right of our Freedom of Speech given to us by the first amendment.
We could hope that the FTC sees the true effect social media platforms (specifically Facebook and Instagram) have on our mental health, polarizing political system, and overall literacy communication and decide that the companies need to be broken up. The problem with this notion is that the FTC does not like to break up companies that have no concrete evidence of inflation of prices or monopolizing a single market.
On paper, the overarching brand of Facebook is not doing either by being a free public platform and not acquiring every social media platform out there. At this point, relying on Mark Zuckerberg to prioritize safety over monetization seems like a stretch given what we know about the Harvard grad and his humble beginnings, hacking Harvard’s class directory just to rate the attractiveness of his female classmates. As a society, we are left to try to make a cultural shift in invoking a sense of reality where we can admit that these platforms are stronger and smarter than our human weaknesses such as jealousy, impulsive anger, and envy to name a few. The citizens of this country need to have more media literacy, creating an all-encompassing curriculum or online resource on how social media platforms started, how they operate and thrive, and what effects they have on our innate human psyche. Considering that in the U.S. we can not even get every state to teach basic human reproductive systems and protection, this type of tech education might be years out.