One Nation, Tracked

One search turned up more than a dozen people visiting the Playboy Mansion, some overnight. Without much effort we spotted visitors to the estates of Johnny Depp, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger, connecting the devices’ owners to the residences indefinitely.

If you lived in one of the cities the dataset covers and use apps that share your location — anything from weather apps to local news apps to coupon savers — you could be in there, too.

If you could see the full trove, you might never use your phone the same way again.

→ The New York Times

Social Media Was Made For This

It’s easy to say that the technology companies can do better. They can, and should. But ultimately, that’s not the problem. The problem is the media ecosystem they have created. The only surprise is that anyone would still be surprised that social media produce this tragic abyss, for this is what social media is supposed to do—what it was designed to do: to spread the images and messages that accelerate interest, without check, and absent concern for their consequences. It’s worth remembering that “viral” spread once referred to contagious disease, not to images and ideas. As long as technology platforms drive the spread of global information, they can’t help but carry it like a plague.

The Secret Lives of Facebook Moderators in America

That people don’t know there are human beings doing this work is, of course, by design. Facebook would rather talk about its advancements in artificial intelligence, and dangle the prospect that its reliance on human moderators will decline over time.

But given the limits of the technology, and the infinite varieties of human speech, such a day appears to be very far away. In the meantime, the call center model of content moderation is taking an ugly toll on many of its workers. As first responders on platforms with billions of users, they are performing a critical function of modern civil society, while being paid less than half as much as many others who work on the front lines. They do the work as long as they can — and when they leave, an NDA ensures that they retreat even further into the shadows.

To Facebook, it will seem as if they never worked there at all. Technically, they never did.

Be Your Selves

The internet and social media don’t create new personalities; they allow people to express sides of themselves that social norms discourage in the “real world”.

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We may come to see face-to-face conversation as the social medium that most distorts our personalities. It requires us to speak even when we don’t know what to say and forces us to be pleasant or acquiescent when we would rather not.

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Social media have turned a species used to intimacy into performers. But these perfor­mances are not necessarily false. Person­ality is who we are in front of other people. The internet, which exposes our elastic personalities to larger and more diverse groups of people, reveals the upper and lower bounds of our capacity for empathy and cruelty, anxiety and confidence.

→ 1843 Magazine

Kanye West Is A Human Being

Long life to The Outline, Joshua Topolsky’s new venture :

The pattern is by now familiar: a famous person makes a comment that inspires controversy and, in turn, sets off a public discussion about a number of serious issues. By the end, nothing is illuminated and someone has probably haphazardly apologized, publicly. It’s part of a broader flattening of the worlds of entertainment and news. In the online ecosystem where the two reside — more than 60 percent of adults in the US get their news on social media — everyone competes for attention by appealing to the same core emotions.

→ The Outline