Vaguebook: Kind of, sort of, maybe up front about moderation.

It needs to be remembered above all else that moderation is, in the case of Facebook, a job performed by real people and that they can be greatly effected by the sinister things they see in order to do their jobs. “Pedophelia, Necrophelia, Beheadings, Suicides, etc,” he remembered. “I left [because] I value my mental sanity” one such ex-Facebook moderator told Jim Cooke in 2012.

If it wasn’t for people like that moderator and others, like Amine Derkaoui, we would have little clue about Facebook’s moderation policies. Their Community Standards are certainly vague enough to ensure us avid users that yes, Facebook is keeping the nasties away, but doesn’t say how exactly it is doing so. Derkaoui was once a moderator for Facebook and for way less then minimum wage (the base rate is $1 US an hour) it was his job to look for and delete anything that was seen as a breach of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

“Facebook has fashioned itself the clean, well-lit alternative to the scary open Internet for both users and advertisers” -Chen 2012

So what guidelines did Derkaoui have to follow to keep up this squeaky clean image? Some really, really strict ones as it turns out.

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Now some of these are, one would hope, quite self explanatory. No tolerance of serious issues such as child pornography and racial slurs are to be expected and, by most, welcomed. Some of the other guidelines, however, are more ambiguous. Digital/cartoon nudity is not allowed but ‘art nudity’ is, deep flesh wounds are “ok” to show, as is excessive blood.

What I personally don’t understand about these ‘violations’ is that “sleeping people with things drawn on their faces” is not allowed, nor is female nipples, but crushed heads and limbs are perfectly fine. For a website striving to appear PG-13 in terms of content, their leniency on gory images is perplexing.

References:

Image Credit.

Chen, A 2012. “Facebook Releases New Content Guidelines, Now Allows Bodily Fluids.” Gawker, 16 Feb. 2012. <http://gawker.com/5885836/> (accessed 14 May 2015).

Chen, A 2012. “Inside Facebook’s Outsourced Anti-Porn and Gore Brigade, where ‘Camel Toes’ are More Offensive than ‘Crushed Heads.’” Gawker, 16 Feb. 2012. <http://gawker.com/5885714/ >(accessed 14 May 2015).

Lynskey, J 2013. “The Real Story Behind Facebook Moderation and Your Petty Reports”, The Internet Offends Me, April 9 2013. <https://theinternetoffendsme.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/the-real-story-behind-facebook-moderation-and-your-petty-reports/> (accessed 14 May 2015).

Big Boss-er is Watching.

If you, like myself, find the term “discourse hybridity” utterly perplexing then give this article a read and pop back to my blog, okay?

Hi! Welcome back. I find that article so fascinating because, although it was written in 2008, the examples and concepts are more relevant today than ever before. Participatory Media Content (like Wikipedia!); the ability individuals have to “by-pass old media institutions like publishers or network television producers and offer their vernacular creations to Internet audiences” (Howard 2008), is not a new concept to our generation. Most of us have been keeping Social Media profiles, writing blogs and creating content since High School.

This does not mean, however, that we are experts, much of consumer-created content is fun, amateur and, in our eyes, personal. Most people view social media as content created for ourselves, our friends and family.

This is where the trouble begins.

Do you think that the gentlemen would have foreseen that their fun video at work would go viral and lead to 15 of them being fired? Many people, particularly those who are not Digital Natives, do not understand that what we post online will have real world effects. This was pretty much Glen Stutsel’s argument in an unfair dismissal case against Linfox in 2009. He claimed that his wife and daughter had set up his Facebook page and he had no idea who could see what he was posting (Fair Work Commission Decisions 2010-12). As our world becomes more digitized, however, I don’t think that sort of defense will be enough.

Large employers like Cisco and The NSW Police Force have strong Social Media Guidelines and Policies that employees can follow to ensure that they won’t inadvertently cause a social media controversy, keeping themselves and those around them safe. Some smaller organisations still don’t though and I think this is when common sense needs to step in; think of Social Media as a soapbox, get help with the privacy setting so you know exactly who you’re posting to and only share and create content you’d be comfortable with your boss seeing. Above all, like most things, when in doubt just don’t do it.

References:

Degraff, J, “Digital Natives Vs. Digital Immigrants”, The Huffington Post, 16 June 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-degraff/digital-natives-vs-digita_b_5499606.html>

Howard, R G 2008, “The Vernacular Web of Participatory Media.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol 25, iss 5, p490-513. <http://iii.library.uow.edu.au/?mainmenu-searchoptions=0>

Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel–appeal in 2012 against a decision overturning a finding of unfair dismissal. <https://moodle.uowplatform.edu.au/pluginfile.php/353898/mod_folder/content/0/Linfox%20vs%20Stutsel%202012.pdf?forcedownload=1>

Validakis, V, “Sacked Harlem Shake miners split social media”, Australian Mining, 5 March 2013, <http://www.miningaustralia.com.au/news/sacked-harlem-shake-miners-splits-social-media>

Trolls; the worst of humanity online?

Internet trolls have a reputation for being the worst kind of people on the internet and it really isn’t hard to determine why this reputation is held. One of the darker sides of the trolling community is lurked by the ‘RIP trolls’ who have self-assigned themselves the task of spamming memorial pages and harassing those grieving for loved ones online.

On the most basic level this seems distasteful, inappropriate and disturbed. Posting “Help me mummy, it’s hot in hell” on a deceased childs Facebook page on Mother’s Day landed a UK troll in jail (BBC 2011), but these RIP trolls can and have justified their actions by claiming that they are simply attempting to shake up the false notion of the internet being a safe haven for somebody’s emotions (Phillips 2011). More crudely, they are trying to call out those using online forums because of a “pathological need for attention masquerading as grief.” (Paulie in Phillips 2011).

Trolls are also widely known for their ‘ruin life’ campaigns (Coleman 2014, p21). The concept is self-explanatory – they simply chose a target and spread rumours and humiliating stories about them online, regardless of the truth. This attack is usually coupled with the hacking and release of the target’s personal details like their social security number, banking details and phone numbers. The psychological effects and real life ramifications can be terrifyingly long lasting. Zoe Quinn, a victim of the #gamergate scandal last year, had to move house because of rape and death threats from trolls (Sanghani 2015).

Despite these nasty forms of trolls, trolling can also be utilised in an important, insightful way. Activists and groups such as Anonymous have used trolling to shine a light on important issues that legacy media don’t touch, disrupt the powerful and exercise what they see as their right to complete freedom on the internet (Miller 2013).

Trolling can be a powerful, useful tool online but it is mostly known for it’s effectiveness in destroying lives and exploiting vulnerable people. As the internet, and the trolling that comes with it, is a relatively new phenomenon, there is very little in the way of laws or etiquette in place regarding trolls and that is where the problem lies. Perhaps we should all just strive to be civil in our digital lives.

References:

Coleman, Gabrielle. (2014). Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy. The Many Faces of Anonymous, Verso London.

Miller, Ryan M. (2013). Hacking the Social: Internet Memes, Identity Antagonism, and the Logic of Lulz, The Fibreculture Journal, 22: p. 89.

Phillips, Whitney. (2011). ‘LOLing at tragedy: Facebook trolls, memorial pages and resistance to grief online’, First Monday, Vol. 16, Iss.12, 5 December 2011. Accessed at <http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/3168/3115> on 29/04/15.

Sanghani, Radhika, ‘Zoe Quinn: ‘#Gamergate has ruined my life. But I won’t quit’, The UK Telegraph, 30 Jan 2015. Accessed at <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11377748/Zoe-Quinn-Twitter-Gamergate-has-ruined-my-life.html> on 29/04/15

Forget the movie, Johnny Mnemonic is more realistic than you’d think.

I’m going to be talking a lot about William Gibson so, if you want to read some background, follow my blog here.

Reading William Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic for the first time is, frankly, a daunting experience. His sweeping language and detailed, rich descriptions of a world that is, on the surface, so different from our own is a little overwhelming to read and decipher. But if you take a deeper look at the society that Gibson has crafted it becomes evident that there are many parallels between Johnny Mnemonic and ours today. There are also a bunch of things that are not even close to reality because, after all, science fiction has it’s name for a reason.

The first, and most glaring similarity for me, is that Johnny’s world is an information economy, just like our own. Gibson predicted, all the way back in 1984, that our records and actions would become so digitized they would be permanently archived and relatively easy enough for anybody to access.

“We’re an information economy, they teach you that in school. What they don’t tell you is that it’s impossible to move, to live, to operate at any level without leaving traces, bits, seemingly meaningless fragments of personal information. Fragments that can be retrieved, amplified…”

Now, perhaps not the Yakuza, but “industrial espionage” is something that happens in today’s society as well. Hacking groups can hack a company’s system and hold their websites and confidential information for ransom (an example of this is Ransomware). With enough know-how anybody can, like WikiLeaks, dump the most secret of information onto the internet.  “Information is a new form of blood in this post-industrial cyborg world … that sustains multinational corporations” (Tomas, 2000).

We don’t have cyborg dolphin’s addicted to crack or plucky young women with wolverine-style claws, but cyborg’s are, in a way, becoming a reality. In a similiar way, Gibson’s description of cyberspace – as “A crowded matrix…where the only stars are dense concentrations of information, and high above it all burn corporate galaxies and the cold spiral arms of military systems” (Gibson, 1984 cited in Tomas, 2000) is a pretty succinct description of the World Wide Web. Actually, it’s hard not to draw parallels in most of the major themes in Gibson’s work. The guy is a genius.

References:

Gibson, W.   “Johnny Mnemonic.”  Burning Chrome (1984).

Tomas, D.  “The Technophilic Body: On Technicity in William Gibson’s Cyborg Culture.” The Cybercultures Reader. David Bell and Barbara Kennedy.  London: Routledge, 2000.  175-89.

Raja, T 2014. “William Gibson: The Future Will View Us “As a Joke”. <http://www.motherjones.com/media/2014/10/william-gibson-peripheral-vision-time-travel-interview&gt;

Vannevar Bush; As He May Think.

The term ‘visionary’ is one that can be overused – average people with no foresight or inspiration can get wrongly attached to the label all too easily. But Dr. Vannevar Bush, I think, is a true visionary. Bush wrote As We May Think in July 1945, at the conclusion of the Second World War to encourage US scientists to continue their pursuit of knowledge now wartime was over. The essay ends up, however, revealing just how ingenious Bush is. In one form or another he predicts digital photography, the compression of information onto discs, machines that respond when spoken to (Siri), the modern day calculator, search engines and the complete overhaul of payment systems (EFTPOS). The most inspired idea though has to be the Memex – a name coined by Bush to refer to his invention of “a device in which an individual stores all his books, records, and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility”. This idea, which can be seen in delightfully retro fashion here, inspired greats like Douglas Engelbert – who created the mouse – and Ted Jensen – who came up with Hypertext and Hypermedia. Without As We May Think and Bush’s ideas our technological landscape may look very different.

This suave fellow is the reason you internet how you internet.

The thing I find most fascinating about the Memex is that, in a way, it has been realized. Bush states that compressing our wealth of libraries and knowledge onto discs is not enough, that “one needs not only to make and store a record but also be able to consult it” and that’s what we have online databases, search engines and libraries for, isn’t it? These digital libraries have completely changed the way we gather information, with the so-called ‘Google Generation‘ skimming information and bouncing between articles. Is that not what Bush envisioned? A system so advanced and complex we can flick between articles and information, annotating pieces for ourselves and squirreling away or knowledge.

Dr. Bush died in 1974 and never got to see the internet explosion but it cannot be disputed that he – and those he inspired – had a ridiculously significant on the tech world we know today.