WeeklyTech #110

How can Christians navigate the digital public square?

My family lives just outside of a small town in Tennessee with a historic downtown district. Like many small towns throughout our nation, we have a downtown square that serves as a hub. In prior generations, these public squares were gathering places for everyone. People regularly traveled in from the outskirts of town to shop, eat, and do business. They would also come together for community events and to freely engage with one another. While many historic downtown public squares have been abandoned in light of the growth of suburbs, there is a renewed interest in revitalizing these historic neighborhoods and to provide a place for communities to gather once again — especially in a digital age that has led to increasing isolation.

These public gathering places serve as an apt metaphor for a period when much of our daily communication, commerce, and community are facilitated in the digital public square of social media and online connectivity. With the rise of the internet and various social media platforms — such as FacebookTwitter, and TikTok, and massive online retailers and internet companies like Amazon and Google — these new digital public squares promised to bring about a vibrant era of connectivity and togetherness across distances, more diverse communities, and more access to information. Many of these initial promises were made in light of oppressive regimes throughout the world that stifled free speech, suppressed human rights, violated religious freedom, and limited access to information in order to maintain control over other human beings made in the very image of God. 

The Rundown

The Facebook Files: A Wall Street Journal investigation – The Wall Street Journal

Facebook Inc. knows, in acute detail, that its platforms are riddled with flaws that cause harm, often in ways only the company fully understands. That is the central finding of a Wall Street Journal series, based on a review of internal Facebook documents, including research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management.

911’s digital makeover – Margaret Harding McGill | Axios

A next-generation 911 would allow the nation’s 6,000 911 centers to accept texts, videos and photos.

The Myth of Big Tech Competence – Shira Ovide | NY Times

What’s different about the tech giants is that those companies seem to believe in their own supreme competence — and so does much of the public. That makes their missteps more glaring, and perhaps makes the companies more reluctant to own up to their mistakes.

Google Blocks Ad for Safe and Effective Abortion-Pill Reversal – Alexandra DeSanctis | National Review

According to pro-life organization Live Action, Google has banned all of the group’s online advertising and prohibited the group from promoting its new video featuring a life-like reproduction of how an unborn baby develops in the womb.

The Insidious, Fake Intimacy of Algorithms – Chris Martin | The Gospel Coalition

The main reason it feels creepy when algorithms know us too well is that we don’t like how it functions as a mirror into our souls. When we’re disturbed by what we see in our feeds, it may be because we’re confronted with the darkest depths of our desires, which we attempt to hide from even ourselves.