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Tag Archives: Internet

The Lines of Code That Changed Everything

Back in 2009, Facebook launched a world-changing piece of code—the “like” button. “Like” was the brainchild of several programmers and designers, including Leah Pearlman and Justin Rosenstein. They’d hypothesized that Facebook users were often too busy to leave comments on their friends’ posts—but if there were a simple button to push, boom: It would unlock a ton of uplifting affirmations. “Friends could validate each other with that much more frequency and ease,” as Pearlman later said.

It worked—maybe a little too well. By making “like” a frictionless gesture, by 2012 we’d mashed it more than 1 trillion times, and it really did unlock a flood of validation. But it had unsettling side effects, too. We’d post a photo, then sit there refreshing the page anxiously, waiting for the “likes” to increase. We’d wonder why someone else was getting more likes. So we began amping up the voltage in our daily online behavior: trying to be funnier, more caustic, more glamorous, more extreme.

Code shapes our lives. As the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen has written, “software is eating the world,” though at this point it’s probably more accurate to say software is digesting it.

https://slate.com/technology/2019/10/consequential-computer-code-software-history.html

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2020 in Reportages

 

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Four Days Trapped at Sea With Crypto’s Nouveau Riche

Draw me your map of utopia and I’ll tell you your tragic flaw. In 10 years of political reporting I’ve met a lot of intense, oddly dressed people with very specific ideas about what the perfect world would look like, some of them in elected office—but none quite so strange as the ideological soup of starry-eyed techno-utopians and sketchy-ass crypto-grifters on the 2018 CoinsBank Blockchain Cruise.

It happened like this.

Two months ago, an editor from BREAKER called and asked if I wanted to go on a four-day Mediterranean cruise with hundreds of crypto-crazed investors and evangelists. We’ll cover the travel, he said. Write something long about whatever you find, he said. It was 2 a.m. and I was over-caffeinated. I remember explaining that I know almost nothing about either cruises or blockchain, in the way that Sir Ian McKellen, in the criminally underrated series Extras, explains that he is not actually a wizard. Five days later I was at the port of Barcelona, boarding a ship. By which point it was way too late to wonder for the umpteenth time about my life choices.

I knew about bitcoin only as an investment vehicle favored by several essentially sweet nerds close to my heart—and I knew, too, that cryptocurrencies are the pet untraceable funding model of the far-right. I was told there would be an overall “Burning Man theme” to the adventure, guaranteed by the presence of Brock Pierce, the cryptocurrency mogul, former child actor, and one-man art installation about peer pressure. (More about him later.) I was anticipating evenings spent listening to crypto-hippies describe the angel-faced space elves they met when they took DMT. I was expecting to fetch water and painkillers for half-conscious corporate executives with dust in their perfect hair and no idea how to get home. I was expecting to get a bit carried away and end up shouting about the government and chalking poetry all over the walls. I was expecting to hear very rich men talk without blinking about tax planning and sacred geometry. I was expecting corporate-branded swimwear. I was expecting to meet smug Californian polyamorists, about whom smug European polyamorists like me are relentlessly judgy. Reader, all of these things transpired, but by the time they did they were a blessed relief.

https://breakermag.com/trapped-at-sea-with-cryptos-nouveau-riche/

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2020 in Reportages

 

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Southeast Asia leaps ahead in high-tech financial services

Bank customers in Asia are swapping their wallets for smartphones, using apps for everything from buying groceries to sending money home from abroad to investing.

Need a loan? Forget filling out paperwork and waiting in line for a bank teller. Now you can apply for credit on your phone and receive an answer almost immediately, thanks to screening that uses artificial intelligence. Financial services are increasingly available anytime, anywhere.

Emerging economies, where many people still do not have access to banking services, are “leapfrogging” the traditional style of retail banking and jumping straight to digitized financial services. For a growing number of people, a visit to a brick-and-mortar bank seems old fashioned.

“I put 70% of my salary into my electronic money account,” said Bayu Wicaksono, a 23-year-old engineer living in Jakarta. Most of the things he buys he pays for with e-money from Ovo using his smartphone.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Banking-Finance/Southeast-Asia-leaps-ahead-in-high-tech-financial-services

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2019 in Asia, Economy, Uncategorized

 

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Dear Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook Is an Engine of Anti-Muslim Hate the World Over. Don’t You Care?

Dear Mark Zuckerberg,

What happened to you?

Back in December 2015, you spoke out loudly and proudly against anti-Muslim hatred. “I want to add my voice in support of Muslims in our community and around the world,” you wrote in a post on Facebook, two days after then Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump announced his plan for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the country. “After the Paris attacks and hate this week,” you added, “I can only imagine the fear Muslims feel that they will be persecuted for the actions of others.”

The headline in the New York Times? “Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook Reassures Muslim Users.”

https://theintercept.com/2019/12/07/facebook-mark-zuckerberg-muslims-islamophobia/

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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There’s only one way to take on big tech: by reining in big money and big state

2019 was a year we talked – a lot – about big tech. Alas, the much-expected “techlash” has not materialized: Silicon Valley still stands unscathed.

This might, of course, change in 2020, especially under a president like Elizabeth Warren. It’s easy to mistake her populist stance – let’s just break up the tech giants! – for some kind of leftism; it isn’t. Hers is a mere repetition of the (neo)liberal creed that well-policed, competitive markets will yield prosperity.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/28/big-tech-populist-stance-big-money-big-state

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2019 in North America

 

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Can the US government stem the tide of ‘fake news’ in a postmodern world?

Three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the moral panic over “fake news” and “post-truth” has not abated. If anything, it has now blossomed into a full-blown culture war. Conservatives insist that their views are suppressed by Facebook and Twitter; progressives accuse the same platforms of not doing enough to crack down on hate speech and foreign manipulation of elections.

Mark Zuckerberg’s recent testimony in US Congress – where politicians competed to deal him the lethal rhetorical blow – doesn’t bode well for Silicon Valley. The Valley’s only savior, at this point, is the Communist Party of China. Only indefinite trade war with China will prevent US lawmakers from regulating the “strategic” tech sector; to break up the industry would weaken Washington’s global standing. The Trump administration is not blind to these risks.

https://www.theguardian.com/global/commentisfree/2019/oct/31/can-the-us-government-stem-the-tide-of-fake-news-in-a-postmodern-world

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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How the pursuit of leisure drives internet use

THE CHIEF of Madhogarh, a picturesque village nestled beneath a 17th-century fortified palace in the heart of Rajasthan, came to Indra Sharma three years ago to ask if she would attend a workshop. “Something about the internet,” Ms Sharma, a 40-year-old child-care worker, recalls. She had no particular interest in this internet thing. But she liked the idea of learning something new, so she went along. She and a handful of women from nearby villages were all given a smartphone and some basic lessons in how to use it.

“First we had to learn how to turn it on and off,” says Santosh Sharma (no relation), a 24-year-old schoolteacher from the neighbouring village. Once they had mastered that, they got down to the essentials: “How to take a selfie, WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube, how to search.”

https://www.economist.com/briefing/2019/06/08/how-the-pursuit-of-leisure-drives-internet-use

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Africa, Asia, Reportages

 

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Destroyer of worlds

On 27 April, before he burst into a San Diego synagogue and opened fire, killing one worshipper and injuring three more, the gunman said goodbye to the community that radicalised him. “It’s been real dudes,” he posted on the far-right politics board, /pol/, on the image-posting site 8chan. “I’ve only been lurking for a year and a half, yet what I’ve learned here is priceless.”

Why this story?
There’s no room for argument about whether hate-filled internet message boards encourage real-world violence: they do, and none more so than 8chan. It normalises racism, misogyny, and extremism – and helps turn nightmarish, loud-mouthed talk of action into reality. What kind of person would set up a site like 8chan?

The question matters if we’re serious about trying to regulate it, or prevent similar sites coming into being. We might assume that the brains behind 8chan would belong to a committed, hard-line ideologue; someone, perhaps, we could identify and deal with. But what if other impulses are in play? How do we deal with the motivating power of poverty, disability, anger and self-loathing? Meet Fredrick Brennan. Ceri Thomas, editor
The story was familiar. Six weeks earlier, a 28-year-old had killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Before starting his attack, he, too, had posted on 8chan’s /pol/ board. “It’s been a long ride,” he had written. He signed off his post: “Meme magic is real.” The first response from an anonymous 8chan user urged him to “get the high score”.

From its effect on the world, 8chan could be ranked as one of the internet’s most dangerous sites. Some have even compared it to terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda or ISIS. The pattern is similar: men – and it is always men – find their way there, and get radicalised into an extreme ideology which drives some of them to violence.

Ahmed Al-Mahmoud, centre, survived the attack on the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch. The perpetrator posted on 8chan /pol/ beforehand

https://members.tortoisemedia.com/2019/06/29/8chan/content.html

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2019 in Reportages

 

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On YouTube’s Digital Playground, an Open Gate for Pedophiles

Christiane C. didn’t think anything of it when her 10-year-old daughter and a friend
uploaded a video of themselves playing in a backyard pool.

“The video is innocent, it’s not a big deal,” said Christiane, who lives in a Rio de Janeiro suburb.

A
few days later, her daughter shared exciting news: The video had
thousands of views. Before long, it had ticked up to 400,000 — a
staggering number for a video of a child in a two-piece bathing suit
with her friend.

“I saw the video again and I got scared by the number of views,” Christiane said.

She had reason to be.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/03/world/americas/youtube-pedophiles.html

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2019 in Reportages

 

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Something is wrong on the internet

https://medium.com/@jamesbridle/something-is-wrong-on-the-internet-c39c471271d2

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2019 in Reportages

 

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