One of my problems with "The Social Dilemma" is that it makes the same mistake a lot of tech observers are making: it treats social media as if its cigarettes -- something that's addictive and bad with no value at all. The Internet is more like sex, drugs and rock & roll (thread)
Done wrong, it can be harmful, unhealthy, addictive, violating and corrosive. But done right it can be liberating, mind-expanding, transformative, and fun as hell. The problem with ignoring this is that it leads us toward "solutions" to Big Tech that do more harm than good.
We can't, and shouldn't, call for regulation of social media companies without acknowledging the fact that the Internet, and specifically the ability for user-generated content on the Internet to go viral, has transformed and revolutionized our society in profoundly good ways.
Social media has given more people a voice in our democracy than ever before in history. It's led to a rapid mainstreaming of historically marginalized voices and ideas. There are some extreme examples where this is really bad, but I would argue on the whole that its really good.
It's true social media has allowed hateful ideologies and lies to proliferate & harmful fringe ideas to gain mainstream attention. But it's also helped mainstream really good ideas (like defunding police & abolishing ICE) that were previously WAY outside the overton window.
The Social Dilemma wants us to believe the world is a worse place for, say, teenage girls now that Tik Tok & Instagram exist than it was before. I'm pretty sure that's not true. It's definitely not true for trans and gender nonconforming youth in rural areas, for example.
None of this is to say that there aren't HUGE problems with Big Tech social media companies like Facebook and Google. There are. In fact, their business models are fundamentally incompatible with basic human rights and democracy. But no one wants to address the business model.
Over & over we see narratives like this about how social media is harmful and addictive, and then the "solutions" we are offered basically fall into two categories: individual choice (limit your & your kids screentime) or corporate pressure campaigns (beg FB to censor more stuff)
The reality is that the harms we are seeing amplified by social media are systemic. Facebook didn't create conspiracy theories any more than video games created violence. We can and should demand policies that address the harms done by surveillance capitalist business models.
Things like banning microtargeted advertising and nontransparent algorithmic amplification that's maximized for engagement (Facebook's so-called "rage machine" that artificially makes some of the worst stuff on the Internet go viral.) And strong Federal data privacy legislation.
But the reality is that since the Internet was created, there have been powerful elites who are terrified by the way it democratizes communications infrastructure, our economy, and politics, and who would love nothing more than to lock it down and turn the Internet into Cable TV.
If we fall into the trap of framing the Internet as cigarettes, rather than recognizing its complexity as more like sex, drugs, and rock and roll, then we're playing into the hands of those who would love to see our voices censored and a return to traditional power structures.
And perhaps more importantly, we'll never actually address the very real harms caused by surveillance capitalism, because we'll be missing the point and asking the wrong questions over and over again.

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More from @evan_greer

15 Sep
Face ID is trending so I suppose now is a good moment to tell people not to use it.

1) normalizes biometric surveillance

2) weaker security than a passcode

3) there is legal precedent that cops can't force you to give you password, but can unlock using Face ID or thumbprint
Apple (ostensibly) stores your biometric data directly on your device, which makes it much more secure than, for example, a cloud based banking service with a facial recognition login, but in the end it's still normalizing the practice of letting corporations scan your face.
But to me this is less of a tech security issue and more of a basic common sense issue. If your stalker, or a cop, or your boss, or your neighbor's kid grabs your phone from you do you want them to be able to unlock it just by holding it up to your face? How is that security?
Read 4 tweets
9 Sep
BREAKING: Portland, OR just became the first city in the US (possibly the world?) to ban both government and corporate use of #FacialRecognition surveillance technology. Every city council should follow suit!
The city council and mayor unanimously approved two ordinances. The first is similar to those passed in Boston, San Francisco, etc. it bans all government use of facial recognition including use by police, schools, etc. notably this also includes use by TSA or airlines at PDX
The second ordinance is historic. It bans private businesses from using facial recognition in places of “public accommodation” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. That means stores can’t use it on their customers, or on people walking by. It’s a huge deal.
Read 6 tweets
31 Aug
wow. i shouldn't be surprised by this, but I am. AT&T will throw its weight behind Trump's absolutely absurd Executive Order that would gut Section 230 & enable widespread Internet censorship. And they're doing it just to confuse ppl about #netneutrality.…
this is perfectly in line with Big Telecom strategies over the last few years. AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are some of the worst perpetrators of privacy violations and they routinely abuse their monopoly power. But they wave their hands and say "look over there at Facebook!"
Which works pretty well, because Facebook and other Big Tech companies are also doing terrible shit, and also have surveillance capitalist business models that are fundamentally at odds with basic rights and democracy. But AT&T wants us to think that you can only fix one of these
Read 11 tweets
16 Jun
URGENT: The FBI are actively "visiting" people across the country right now gathering information about their political beliefs and associations, as a direct form of harassment and intimidation to crack down on the powerful protests of the last few weeks. DO NOT SAY A WORD.
This is not a new phenomenon, so take a minute to learn from social movements of the past that have faced FBI repression. You cannot "outsmart" the FBI. Lying to them is a crime. If an FBI agent comes to your door, do not let them in. Do not answer questions. Call the @NLGnews
Tell the agents to slide their card under the door in order to identify themselves. Otherwise SAY NOTHING. Even seemingly innocuous things you say could be used to target or harm other people, or could be used against you by agents in bad faith. These ppl are not your friends.
Read 14 tweets
31 May
THREAD: trying to figure out how i can be helpful. Here's one thing: it's clear the government is bringing the full force of the surveillance state to monitor these uprisings. Here are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones if you're in the streets.
First, this thread will not be comprehensive. So if you are particularly vulnerable, or if you're involved in something particularly sensitive, DO NOT assume that these practices will be 100% fail safe. Get expert help and be super careful. Start here
Ok, disclaimers aside, the first and most important thing to understand is that your phone and the information on it is the cops' best friend, and that's the most important thing to protect. Make sure you have a LONG password with letters & numbers, not a thumb print, not Face ID
Read 15 tweets
28 May
I just want to be extremely clear that right now Nancy Pelosi the so-called leader of "The Resistance" is actively trying to gut a bipartisan amendment that specifically protects journalists & religious groups from abusive surveillance, so she can reauthorize FISA & Patriot Act
Here's what's happening: late last night @SpeakerPelosi attempted to ram through a reauthorization of #FISA and #PatriotAct surveillance authorities. But she had to cancel the vote at the last minute when it became clear she didn't have even close to enough votes to pass it.
She's trying to blame that on Trump tweeting about it, but the reality is that the vote was going to fail anyway because the entire Congressional Progressive Caucus (nearly 100 member of the House) came out against the bill after Pelosi let @RepAdamSchiff gut a privacy amendment
Read 7 tweets

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