WeeklyTech #24

Political Ads and Social Media

What categorizes something as “political”? Answering this question has become an increasing problem for social media platforms as those who run them prepare for the upcoming election cycle and adjust to the new norm of their influential role in society. The benefits and drawbacks of political advertising are currently being debated by social media giants. The political ads run by political action committees and candidates themselves can influence public opinion like never before with the ability to microtarget messaging to a very select group of people.

This type of targeting has led some to believe that these messages are being tailored specifically to fuel outrage against opponents, often through the use of fake news and misleading messages. On the other hand, these tools have led to the rise of relatively unknown candidates and causes to national prominence. 

Those who run these social media companies have every right to change the rules of use for their platforms, deciding what type of content can be posted and how they use advertising. Yet with the enormous power these companies hold over our society, many question if the public and the government should have any role in regulating the best path forward for our civil discourse, rather than leaving this decision in the hands of companies alone.

Interesting technology stories

Here’s What’s Happening in the American Teenage BedroomThe New York Times

For years, Rowan Winch was nothing if not online. Each day his alarm went off at 6 a.m. and he would roll over in his twin bed, grab his iPhone and start looking for memes — viral images and videos — to share on Instagram.

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin relinquish control of Alphabet to CEO Sundar PichaiThe Verge

Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who have mostly stayed out of the spotlight since restructuring their company four years ago, are relinquishing control of parent company Alphabet to current Google CEO Sundar Pichai, the duo announced today in a joint letter published to Google’s public blog.

Instagram to collect ages in leap for youth safety, alcohol adsReuters

Facebook Inc’s Instagram said it will require birthdates from all new users starting on Wednesday, expanding the audience for ads for alcohol and other age-restricted products while offering new safety measures for younger users.

Homeland Security will soon have biometric data on nearly 260 million peopleQuartz

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expects to have face, fingerprint, and iris scans of at least 259 million people in its biometrics database by 2022, according to a recent presentation from the agency’s Office of Procurement Operations reviewed by Quartz.

Video Games and Online Chats Are ‘Hunting Grounds’ for Sexual PredatorsThe New York Times

When Kate’s 13-year-old son took up Minecraft and Fortnite, she did not worry. The video games were hardly Grand Theft Auto — banned in their home because it was too violent — and he played in a room where she could keep an eye on him.