mfioretti: digital literacy*

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  1. The situation in the country is so severe that an estimated 700,000 Rohingya refugees are thought to have fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a Myanmar government crackdown that began in August. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has labeled the actions as ethnic cleansing, as has the UN.

    Tensions inflamed, Facebook has been a primary outlet for racial hatred from high-profile individuals inside Myanmar. One of them, monk Ashin Wirathu who is barred from public speaking due to past history, moved online to Facebook where he quickly found an audience. Though he had his Facebook account shuttered, he has vowed to open new ones in order to continue to amplifly his voice via the social network.

    Beyond visible figures, the platform has been ripe for anti-Muslim and anti-Rohinga memes and false new stories to go viral. UN investigators last month said Facebook has “turned into a beast” and played a key role in spreading hate.
    https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/06/mya...nch+%28TechCrunch%29&sr_share=twitter
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  2. Falsehoods almost always beat out the truth on Twitter, penetrating further, faster, and deeper into the social network than accurate information.

    And blame for this problem cannot be laid with our robotic brethren. From 2006 to 2016, Twitter bots amplified true stories as much as they amplified false ones, the study found. Fake news prospers, the authors write, “because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”

    Political scientists and social-media researchers largely praised the study, saying it gave the broadest and most rigorous look so far into the scale of the fake-news problem on social networks, though some disputed its findings about bots and questioned its definition of news.

    “This is a really interesting and impressive study, and the results around how demonstrably untrue assertions spread faster and wider than demonstrable true ones do, within the sample, seem very robust, consistent, and well supported,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, a professor of political communication at the University of Oxford, in an email.

    “I think it’s very careful, important work,” Brendan Nyhan, a professor of government at Dartmouth College, told me. “It’s excellent research of the sort that we need more of.”
    https://www.theatlantic.com/technolog...udy-ever-fake-news-mit-twitter/555104
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  3. Given the tumult of the news cycle in late 2016, it is understandable how a report put out in late November of that year by SHEG, a division within its Graduate School of Education, might have been overlooked. But anyone still self-soothing with the thought that it’s primarily adults, their brains addled by Fox, recklessly incompetent at the civic skills required to keep democracy even limping along, ought to be chastened by what the report says. “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Online Civic Reasoning” detailed the depressing results of 18 months of research into young people’s digital media literacy.

    According to the study’s authors (one of whom was Wineburg), across income levels and educational environments, in beleaguered urban school districts and well-resourced suburban ones, the ability of so-called "digital natives" to reason through the information they encounter online, “can be summed up in one word: bleak.” Eighty percent of middle-schoolers in the study could not distinguish articles from ads labeled “sponsored content.” High-schoolers, when shown an imgur photo depicting weird, double-headed daisies purporting to show the effects of a nuclear meltdown, accepted its claim at face value, with only 20 percent of respondents raising objections about the complete lack of information about the picture’s provenance. Reading the report, I was horrified but not surprised. Yes, my students would get A’s on their ability to produce cool merch promoting their YouTube channels if I graded such things, but when it comes to bringing sound judgement and a critical eye to media they consume, they are babes in the woods.

    While it is relief to me to know that fact-checkers’ online practices can be studied, taught, and learned, there is still the matter of getting these skills to children in a systematic way. I talked about this with Jennifer Higgs, a professor of Education at UC-Davis whose research focuses on digital practices in the classroom, and she emphasized that doing this will require an investment in educating teachers, who are themselves often untrained in digital media literacy. Higgs explained that, to date, most professional education for teachers around technology has been about how to use it in the classroom rather than on developing a critical framework for helping students to decipher its messages.
    https://theoutline.com/post/3448/no-o...ow-to-spot-fake-news?zd=1&zi=fn3riwbw
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  4. I started taking Latin by accident, thanks to a scheduling error in my first year, but it is the best mistake I have ever made. I now see that in today’s digital world, the language is more necessary than ever to teach us critical thinking and powerful expression.

    For centuries, Latin was at the core of western education precisely because it trains you to assess information critically, articulate ideas and convey them eloquently. As an inflected language, reading Latin involves inspecting the ending of each word to determine its syntactic function. Being able to break down and rebuild sentences — that is, being able clearly to comprehend or construct a thought — is a skill that translates well into English.

    Latin’s greatest use may lie where English fails in an age when thoughts become jumbled into 140 or 280 characters. Ideally, we would learn to think and write like the Roman authors. Julius Caesar was renowned for his clarity in writing, perhaps born out of his experience as a military general. Cicero brought down the Catiline conspiracy against the government through four extensive speeches using stirring rhetoric. Read these masters and you will discover a rich legacy of literature that makes most Twitter feeds look like cave paintings.

    It is ironic that the digital age should suffer from its own success. Language is powerful, but it has been subsumed into a revolution of liking and disliking, binary options rather than articulate responses.

    In a society in which we are increasingly unwilling to listen to each other, the classics may offer the greatest hope of recovering not merely a shared civility, but the ability to use our own language.
    https://www.ft.com/content/73f75fb4-da8f-11e7-a039-c64b1c09b482
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  5. Myanmar has been a technologically backwards authoritarian state for much of the past 50 years, with less than 1% of the country connected to the net, until 2015, when the country held its first elections in decades, a moment that was swiftly followed by a relaxation in telcoms controls and widespread access to the internet via mobile devices.

    50,000,000 people are now able to get Facebook, in other words. The net has delivered a complex basket of social changes, among them a revival of the country's ugly, murderous history of ethnic cleansing, fueled by blood libels about minority Muslims attacking the Buddhist majority. The new incitements to violence are travelling hand in hand with news about Trump and his promise to end Muslim migration into the USA. Trump's election is being used to normalize and justify ethnic cleansing movements in Myanmar ("We should do like America and do it here too. No more Muslims!").


    As was the case in earlier eras of the internet's history, these new users equate the net with the service they use the most (once it may have been "Netscape" and "the net"; then "the web" and "the net"; then "Google," etc) -- they use "Facebook" and "internet" interchangeably. This is due to increase, as Facebook has sold the carriers on its "Free Basics" system -- a net discrimination deal with the mobile carriers, who take bribes from Facebook to exempt the company (but not its rivals) from their data-caps.

    The racist extremists in Myanmar are using Facebook to forge alliances with xenophobic movements elsewhere in the world.

    Sheera Frenkel's piece on the rise of Facebook, the internet and xenophobia in Myanmar is a fascinating and detailed look at the complex and often unique circumstances of the country's high-speed entry into the networked world: from the division in the kinds of script used to represent written Burmese to the legal crackdown on parodists who attain notoriety by shooping politicians' heads onto Hollywood stars' bodies.

    Wirathu rose to prominence as part of a group of extremist monks once known as the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, and then the “969” movement. Today, they are called Ma Ba Tha, after their Burmese acronym. Since the end of military rule, monks have assumed an increasingly public role in the largely Buddhist country. Wirathu, and the Ma Ba Tha movement, have denied any role in the Buddhist lynch mobs, which, in recent years, have killed more than 200, and displaced more than 150,000 of the country’s Muslims, who make up roughly 4% of the total population. Civil society groups allege that the state’s security forces have fomented recent outbreaks of violence against the Rohingya. But there is no denying that Ma Ba Tha’s bashing of Muslims as “cruel and savage” is often repeated by those who want to see all Muslims expelled from Myanmar — and they admit that their anti-Muslim stance has gained its largest following through Facebook.

    This week, following news that Trump’s administration was being staffed with hardliners, Wirathu released a statement hailing Trump’s White House as a victory in the fight against “Islamic terrorism.”


    “May US citizens be free from jihad. May the world be free of bloodshed,” Wirathu wrote in a public statement. It was one of many Trump received from figures across the world who appeared to feel emboldened by his win.
    https://www.buzzfeed.com/sheerafrenke...orld?utm_term=.ys2Z9p7PeZ#.sewdrNl1Od
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  6. One way to think of today’s disinformation ecosystem is to picture it as a kind of gastrointestinal tract.

    At the top end — the mouth, let’s call it — enter the raw materials of propaganda: the memes cooked up by anyone who wants to manipulate what the media covers, whether political campaigns, terrorist groups, state-sponsored trolls or the homegrown provocateurs who hang out at extremist online communities.

    Then, way down at what we will politely call the “other end,” emerge the packaged narratives primed for widespread dissemination to you and everyone you know. These are the hot takes that dominate talk radio and prime-time cable news, as well as the viral Facebook posts warning you about this or that latest outrage committed by Hillary Clinton.

    How do the raw materials become the culturewide narratives and conspiracy theories? The path is variegated and flexible and often stretches across multiple media platforms. Yet in many of the biggest misinformation campaigns of the past year, Twitter played a key role.

    Specifically, Twitter often acts as the small bowel of digital news. It’s where political messaging and disinformation get digested, packaged and widely picked up for mass distribution to cable, Facebook and the rest of the world.

    This role for Twitter has seemed to grow more intense during (and since) the 2016 campaign. Twitter now functions as a clubhouse for much of the news. It’s where journalists pick up stories, meet sources, promote their work, criticize competitors’ work and workshop takes. In a more subtle way, Twitter has become a place where many journalists unconsciously build and gut-check a worldview — where they develop a sense of what’s important and merits coverage, and what doesn’t.

    This makes Twitter a prime target for manipulators: If you can get something big on Twitter, you’re almost guaranteed coverage everywhere.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/te...eed-misinformation.html?smid=tw-share
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  7. This is a technological problem. It requires us also to think realistically about how people understand and share information in the digital age: feelings are as important as facts. Identity is as much a motivation as integrity. These are not necessarily ‘bad’ things. But they are not how mainstream news media and politicians used to think about information.

    As I’ve written elsewhere, there is a commercial and technological context to fake news, but ultimately it is a political issue. We have to understand ideologies of information. For anyone dealing in information, ethics is now not an add on. It is integral to the information economy. Trust is the currency of networked media. Around fake news we have a remarkable opportunity to get it right.

    Firstly, we have to get this in perspective. I think a lot of the reaction to ‘fake news’ has been a moral panic. Much of what we – and Trump – calls fake news or post truth or filter bubbles – is simply what we disagree with or feel threatened by. I’m not sure we’d be having this debate amongst ‘liberal elites’ if Hillary had become president and the UK had voted to Remain.

    In the UK, fake news has had less purchase. Possibly because we already have a partisan media and our public is used to journalists, politicians and other communicators bending the truth to suit agendas. That’s not a bad thing if its transparent. Opening up news media to more diverse perspectives and sources allows for a more robust, diverse debate where the public has more say.

    But the best debates that produce the most sustainable policy outcomes must at some point return to reality. Democracy needs evidence for accountability. There may not be a single truth, but there are such things as facts.
    http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/polis/2017/03/...st-thing-thats-happened-to-journalism
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  8. They forgot that the world doesn’t run on information. People don’t make decisions based on truth or facts. They don’t spend their money based on data.

    The world runs on feelings.

    And when you give the average person an infinite reservoir of human wisdom, they will not Google for the higher truth that contradicts their own convictions. They will not Google for what is true yet unpleasant. Instead, most of us will Google for what is pleasant but untrue.

    Having an errant racist thought? Well, there’s a whole forum of racists two clicks away with a lot of convincing-sounding arguments as to why you shouldn’t be so ashamed to have racist leanings.

    Ex-wife leaves you and you start thinking women are inherently selfish and evil? Doesn’t take a creative Google search to find more than you would ever need to believe that women are biologically inferior.

    Think Muslims are going to stalk from school to school murdering your children? I’m sure there’s a conspiracy theory somewhere out there that’s already confirming that.

    The internet, in the end, was not designed to give people the information they need. It gives people the information they want.

    And sadly, there’s a huge difference.
    Echo chamber cartoon by David Byrne
    By David Byrne

    For instance, I badly want to believe that the Trump administration is floundering and is on the brink of collapse all but a month into its tenure. And without asking, Facebook dutifully shows me articles validating this desire every single day.

    Yet, when I force myself to visit conservative websites, to look at polling data, to dig into primary sources and look at historical analogs, I see that this probably isn’t true. That we’re not in a clown car careening off a cliff. And if we are, Trump probably isn’t the one driving it, he’s just the hood ornament.

    But the fact that I’m most easily given the information that confirms my fears and quells my insecurities—this is the problem. This same network of systems designed to make me feel good every time I open my laptop is the same network of systems that is disconnecting me—disconnecting us—from the rest of our country and often from reality itself.

    Economics 101 teaches us that when there’s an oversupply of something, people value it less. If we wake up tomorrow and there are suddenly 3 billion extra lawnmowers in the US, the price of lawnmowers will plummet. If suddenly everyone had a Louis Vuitton bag, nobody would care about Louis Vuitton anymore. People would throw them out, forget them, spill wine on them, and give them away to charities.

    What if the same is true for information? What if increasing the supply of information to the point where it’s limitless has made us value any particular piece of information less?

    The problem is, as far as I can tell, the internet and its technologies don’t deliver us from tribalism. They don’t deliver us from our baser instincts. They do the opposite. They mainline tribalism into our eyeballs. And what we’re seeing is the beginning of that terrifying impact.

    This is despite the fact that war, violent crime, and authoritarianism are at their lowest points in world history, and education, life expectancy, and income are at their highest in world history.2

    It doesn’t matter, everyone thinks the world is going to hell in a handbasket anyway.

    And if everyone is feeling this way at once, despite the realities, it can’t be because the radical left is winning or the radical right is winning or the patriarchy or communists or Muslims or anarcho-fascist-ballerinas are winning.

    It can only be because our information is losing.
    https://markmanson.net/everything-is-fucked
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  9. NESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) have launched their Five Laws of Media and Information Literacy. Their strategy aims to being together the fields of information literacy and media literacy into a combined set of knowledge, skills and attitudes required for living and working in the 21st century.
    Media and Information Literacy recognizes the primary role of information and media in our everyday lives. It lies at the core of freedom of expression and information – since it empowers citizens to understand the functions of media and other information providers, to critically evaluate their content, and to make informed decisions as users and producer of information and media content.
    http://www.informationliteracy.org.uk...ium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork
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  10. We’re losing trust in numbers, especially statistics. Their sheer volume and variety can be overwhelming. In Politico’s recent roundup of Trump’s popularity figures, for example, the approval numbers among nine polls ranged from 36 percent to 54 percent. Add the hangover that many still suffer from the misleading presidential election predictions, and it's not surprising that people are starting to tune out data altogether, or simply interpret them in ways that support their beliefs.

    I don’t know whether this will lead to a full-blown crisis of democracy, but I think it’s already fair to place at least some of the blame on big data. Algorithms developed by companies such as Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. enable partisan confirmation bias. They tailor our online environments not to the truth, but to the specific information we search for or click on. This can undermine our understanding of, and trust in, objective scientific and historical facts.

    Here’s an extreme example: Dylann Roof claimed in his manifesto that it was a Google search for “black on white crime” that led him to massacre nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015. Think about that search term. What kinds of texts will perfectly match “black on white crime," as opposed to, say, “statistics on crime rates by race?” Naturally, Roof got links to racist web sites with their own alternative facts -- just as a search for “who really killed JFK” will, more often than not, lead to conspiracy sites.

    When I typed the phrase “Was the Hol” into Google, the search engine auto-completed to “Was the Holocaust real?” Of the top six search results, four were Holocaust-denying sites.
    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articl...t-big-data-try-googling-the-holocaust
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