WeeklyTech #77

How social media has aided the disintegration of our public discourse

In the midst of a crisis, such as the attempted coup at the United States Capitol, we naturally long for answers. If you are anything like me, you likely doomscrolled most of the day and night, hoping to grasp what just took place and what it means for our future as a nation. In the moments following the mob violence and rioting, many turned to blame one side or another for the rising dissension and breakdown of our public discourse. Some blame big tech for not doing enough early on to quell the spread of wild conspiracies and misinformation online. Some blame the social media tools themselves as the main culprit, arguing these tools are inherently dangerous and have no place in civil society given the violence they incite. Others will lay the blame solely at the feet of their perceived political enemies, as they attempt to explain away the sins of their own tribe and shift the blame for the disintegration of civic life to someone else.

Social media has given rise to countless benefits in our society, even the ability to know about events as they happen such as this tragic assault on our democracy and institutions that took place yesterday. But social media can also be the rocket fuel poured on the smoldering embers of malice, discontent, and dissension that have long plagued our public life. In recent years, they have ignited over the politicization of every aspect of our lives.

The Rundown

Amazon says violent posts prompted Parler shutdownAxios

In a court filing late Tuesday, Amazon said it booted right-wing social network Parler from its AWS cloud service after flagging dozens of pieces of violent content starting in November. Parler is suing Amazon, saying its expulsion violates antitrust laws.

Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin FortunesNYT

Bitcoin, which has been on an extraordinary and volatile eight-month run, has made a lot of its holders very rich in a short time, even as the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the world economy. But the cryptocurrency’s unusual nature has also meant that many people are locked out of their Bitcoin fortunes as a result of lost or forgotten keys. 

The tech industry used ‘the nuclear option’ to crack down on violent groups organizing onlineCNN

Twitter’s decision to ban President Donald Trump from its platform on Friday January 8th sent shock waves through the political and tech worlds. But a different tech crackdown that began later that night and continued through the weekend arguably has the potential to shift how people think about the internet and the companies that power it.

TikTok changes privacy settings for its youngest usersEngadget

The biggest changes affect the app’s youngest users between the ages 13 and 15, who will now have their accounts switched to  private by default. The change applies to new sign-ups as well as existing accounts that may have previously been set to public.

How Veracity Suffers in the Age of Virality The Gospel Coalition

Obsession with internet virality is idolatrous because it seeks something that isn’t God to deliver what God alone can provide. Many pursue viral fame through goofy videos or impassioned rants because they are unhappy and desperate for the luxurious lives of the influencers they follow online.

The facial-recognition app Clearview sees a spike in use after Capitol attackNew York Times

There are ample online photos and videos of rioters, many unmasked, breaching the Capitol. The F.B.I. has posted the faces of dozens of them and has requested assistance identifying them. Local police departments around the country are answering their call.