for W3c validation
Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.
‘The Social Dilemma’ – a must watch documentary
Anne says: Nextflix released its latest documentary-drama a couple of weeks ago that reports on how social media is manipulating our behaviour. Sounds like a big claim? It’s not new – led by Tristan Harris, ex-Google Design Ethicist and one of the founders of the Center for Humane Technology, we’ve been writing about Tristan’s work since 2017 (here, here, and here). For me, this documentary was supported by a range of concerned individuals, who are not disgruntled employees whose views can be easily brushed aside, they are senior executive from popular social media companies that can no longer support the strategies being deployed to influence our behaviours.
Why is this important now? It’s always been important, however, as we hurtle towards a US Presidential election, where there are warnings from the FBI of meddling by foreign players, understanding how this is implemented and how we’re completely unaware of how it’s used to influence us – this is important! In an era of #fakenews, overwhelming amounts of misinformation, and COVID-conspiracy stories, wading our way through what’s real and what’s not is very important! Now it’s not just a matter of trying to determine the authenticity of content, it’s being aware that social media algorithms may be distorting our perceptions entirely.
One aspect of the documentary I found particularly valuable was the dramatisation of how this plays out in our daily lives. The story follows a family and their use of social media, including an imaginary panel of programmers who represent the algorithms that manipulate the family’s behaviours. However, like some of the reviewers, I came away disturbed yet dissatisfied. What are we going to do about this? There were no real answers, nothing particularly tangible that we could implement as most of the time we wouldn’t even be aware of the manipulation. Disconnect from all social media? Perhaps – but not likely. Try to verify the authenticity of content – sure, but who’s got time to fact-check everything?
The three reviews of the film I’m sharing today highlight some of the key elements, all of them picking up on the severity of the issues. Overall, they agree that the documentary left the issues unanswered. But that’s not a reason not to watch this – if you’re not familiar with Tristan Harris’ work, you must watch it. If you are, then watch it anyway, it further develops the argument, even if it doesn’t offer solutions.
Some pertinent comments from Wired:
Social media itself is not the existential threat. Rather, it’s the way that social media surfaces and amplifies the worst of humanity…What are we supposed to do about it? Responsibly, the producers ask that very question towards the end of the documentary. The technologists throw out a few ideas: Tweak the design. Change the business model. Make new regulations. Shut down the companies altogether. Mostly, though, they answer with blank stares.
The Guardian says:
The new Netflix docudrama is a valiant if flawed attempt to address our complacency about surveillance capitalism. Where the movie fails is in its inability to accurately explain the engine driving this industry that harnesses applied psychology to exploit human weaknesses and vulnerabilities. And the great mystery is why we continue to allow it to do so.”
The Wall Street Journal asks the question:
The most urgent question posed by “The Social Dilemma” is whether democracy can survive the social networks’ blurring of fact and fiction. “Imagine a world where no one believes what’s true,” Mr. Harris says. It’s possible, of course, that the film itself is a conspiracy cooked up by chronic malcontents, but it has the ringtone of truth.
If you’re not a Netflix subscriber, the articles will provide a good overview and you can explore the links to other works from Tristan Harris at the Center for Humane Technology. Even if there aren’t immediate answers, awareness and understanding of how algorithms are manipulating and shaping our perceptions and opinions can be an initial step in the right direction.
Mark in the Middle
Jakkii says: This week, I watched The Social Dilemma, which Anne writes about above. I have thoughts, but I’m keen to rewatch it and spend some more time thinking about it before sharing them so watch out for my post on that next week. Hopefully, too, that will give you a chance to have read Anne’s comments and the reviews Anne’s shared above, watch the documentary-drama yourself (if you have access to Netflix), and then formulate some of your own thinking about it before we dive in to round two of chatting about it.
Instead, and sort of relatedly, my piece this week is about Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook. It’s a long read, so this is a good one to set aside to read over your breakfast & a coffee on the weekend (or whenever & wherever you prefer to read!). It takes a look at some ‘leaked’ recordings and memos regarding, effectively, internal discussions and politics at Facebook vs the politics of the user base of Facebook and the world at large – and the struggle as CEO to walk the line between the two.
There’s so much going on in this article that I haven’t absorbed it all myself (see paragraph 1!), so I don’t want to say too much lest I misrepresent the piece. However, I think some of the tension the article seeks to explore is illustrated quite well early on:
“What we do is really try to not take a point of view,” the company’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, told interns during a Q&A on July 7th. “I have a very strong point of view on this president. It’s a personal point of view. It’s one I hold deeply. It’s not one that should enter into my judgments when I’m doing policy changes. … We have to be a neutral platform, and make those decisions coming from a place of rules and principles.”
But that same day, during an all-hands meeting on the release of a multiyear civil rights audit of Facebook, the company’s director of public policy for trust and safety, Neil Potts, told employees just the opposite.
“I don’t think we’re necessarily neutral,” Potts told employees, in response to a question about whether Facebook’s posture of neutrality was “incompatible” with “racial progress.”
Things only get more complex from there, too, particularly as the US gears up towards the Presidential election in November. Between balancing politics, being “neutral” (or not), and trying to manage issues on the platform like misinformation, active disinformation, propaganda, manipulated video & audio, conspiracy theories and – let’s just be honest – blatant lies, the task for Facebook isn’t an easy one in a role that’s immediately apparent and yet murky and unclear.
It’s well worth a read and there’s plenty of reflection to be done as well – particularly when combined with a viewing of The Social Dilemma and a read through the reviews Anne’s shared. As mentioned, I’ll be back with some more thoughts on social media in next week’s Friday Faves.
Around the house
THE NARRATION😭😭☠️ pic.twitter.com/m2EFRnstMN
— 🇧🇧 (@rahm3sh) September 22, 2020
Make sure you have the sound on with that one! One you can try at home, perhaps, but which will you be – the narrator or the chef?
- Ponder the weirdness of the English language with this flipboard from Mental Floss
- Prepare for those times you get to leave the house to go out to eat with this pandemic eating out etiquette guide
- Working from home? Lift your head and lower your arms — you might just feel better
- ‘It Gets Better’: Learn more about how a viral video fuelled a movement for LGBTQ youth
- For reflection: Now’s the time to bring back away messages
- Is it time for an upgrade? An old TV caused internet outages for an entire British village… for 18 months
- Missing commuting? (Why???) Microsoft’s ‘virtual commute’ in Teams has got you covered
iOS 14 let’s you re-do app icons so naturally remade them all much worse in MS paint style
Sorry to all app icon designers that spent years making them nice pic.twitter.com/bsa0E5VvSy
— Thomas Reisenegger.gif (@Olima) September 20, 2020
Misinformation Friday Five
- How to guard your social feeds against election misinformation
- Facebook takes down fake pages created in China aimed at influencing U.S. election
- Facebook tries to make it harder to find an anti-vax group
- How Facebook can slow QAnon for real, while Reddit squashed QAnon by accident
- YouTube reverts to human moderators in fight against misinformation
COVID-19 Friday Five
- Opinion: There will be no return to a pre-COVID world; it has changed forever
- US: The workplace lawsuits have begun
- The hell that is remote learning, explained in a comic
- How and when will we know that a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective?
- Alitalia airline offering ‘Covid-tested’ flights
Work Friday Five
- Why community belongs at the center of today’s remote work strategies
- Digital Placemaking as a blueprint for the future of work
- The workplace awakening has arrived
- People first: Creating a human-centered work environment
- New tools can help boost wellbeing and soothe unexpected stresses of working from home
Tech Friday Five
My daughter refuses to fill this out, pointing out the many fields that prove that her teacher is trying to steal her identity pic.twitter.com/rat7QEADt0
— Judge Jessica🧂 (@jessicashortall) September 16, 2020
- Section 230, the internet free speech law Trump wants to change, explained
- When you browse Instagram and find former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s passport number
- It’s easier than ever to find out how your favorite websites are tracking you
- Why Twitter’s image cropping algorithm appears to have white bias
- Uber might never get its London operating license after security flaw coverup
Things they didn’t teach me when I got a community manager job:
– all CMs yell at each other to stop checking social & take a proper vacation but never follow their own advice
– the angriest ppl are the ones who did’t pay for the game/got it on sale for 90% off
– career.. pAtH?
— Victoria Tran 🌱 (@TheVTran) September 23, 2020
- Visual highlights from SWARM 2020 – Australia’s largest community conference
- Former YouTube content moderator sues the company after developing symptoms of PTSD
- Pandemic-proof happiness exists in a weird corner of Facebook where strangers buy each other gifts from Amazon
- Online community connects under-represented communities amid pandemic
- Unsent Letters: an online community filled with surprising and moving correspondence
Trump vs TikTok, WeChat and China
- Everything we know about the US TikTok deal so far
- TikTok: Trump questions Oracle deal if ByteDance keeps stake (update: Donald Trump changes tune and now backs TikTok deal)
- Kevin Systrom probably won’t take over TikTok, but it’s fun to dream
- ‘I will be cut off’: Chinese Americans feel targeted by Trump’s WeChat order
- Judge blocks US ban on WeChat that was set to go into effect today
Social Media Friday Five
- Inside the Biden campaign’s surprising influencer strategy
- What can we learn about people from their social media?
- Top 10 books about social media
- YouTube’s new AI will block videos that are inappropriate for kids
- Facebook will let people claim ownership of images and issue takedown requests
Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast
This week: in a special on social commerce in China, we talk to our guest Kishi Pan about the unique experience of Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book.
Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.
The stories this week
Other stories we bring up