WeeklyTech #111

Is Facebook discipling your church members?

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of concerning reports about how social media — Facebook, in particular — is having extremely negative effects on our society, especially among teenagers and even shaping the content that Christians are exposed to on the platform as well. According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, the issues range from certain high profile accounts being shielded from standard content guidelines to how the company has long known that Instagram is toxic for many teenage girls even as it continues with plans for a kid’s version of the popular photo app. The Wall Street Journal also reported that in 2018 the company tweaked its content algorithms, which drive our news feeds, in hopes of fostering greater community and user engagement, but the effects were more dangerous than initially thought. The report shows that these changes actually exacerbated tensions and divisions with more inflammatory and objectionable content being highlighted for users, yet leadership failed to act.

On top of these reports from the Wall Street Journal, which were gleaned from various internal research reports, online employee discussions, and draft presentations to senior management, MIT Technology Review recently showed that troll farms had reached over 140 million users on Facebook before the 2020 election. A troll farm is an organized group of users (or even bots) who craft content intentionally to exploit division and sow discord in society. Of particular interest to Christians is the fact that these troll farms — often based in Eastern Europe — operated all 15 of the top Christian American pages on Facebook in October 2019. The largest of the Christian pages on the platform reached 75 million U.S. users monthly. 95% of that engagement came from users who never chose to follow the pages but nevertheless were exposed to this content crafted by these non-Christian groups.

The Rundown

Troll farms reached 140 million Americans a month on Facebook before 2020 election, internal report shows – Karen Hao | MIT Tech Review

In the run-up to the 2020 election, the most highly contested in US history, Facebook’s most popular pages for Christian and Black American content were being run by Eastern European troll farms. These pages were part of a larger network that collectively reached nearly half of all Americans, according to an internal company report, and achieved that reach not through user choice but primarily as a result of Facebook’s own platform design and engagement-hungry algorithm.

Police Are Giving Amazon Ring Cameras to Survivors of Domestic Violence. Is It Helping? – Eileen Guo | Consumer Reports

When Ring launched eight years ago with a crowdfunding campaign, the market for home surveillance cameras and video doorbells barely existed. Now Ring has it cornered: In 2020, the company sold an estimated 1.4 million devices globally—as much as the next four competitors combined, according to a report by the business intelligence company Strategy Analytics.

New report shows kids see COVID-19 misinfo on TikTok in minutes – Issie Lapowsky | Protocol

TikTok is pushing COVID-19 misinformation to children and teens within minutes of creating a new account, whether they actively engage with videos on the platform or not, a new report has found.

The EU is proposing mandatory USB-C charging for all devices – David Pierce | Protocol

The European Commission is proposing a revised “Radio Equipment Directive” that would make USB-C “the standard port for all smartphones, tablets, cameras, headphones, portable speakers and handheld videogame consoles.” In other words, pretty much everything. The Commission also wants to prevent chargers from being included in the box with those devices.

Google’s ban on pro-life ads biased, divisive, SBC tech ethicist says – Tom Strode | Baptist Press

Google’s ban of ads by a pro-life organization reflects the frequent bias in the abortion debate and the deepening divisions in the culture, a Southern Baptist specialist in technology ethics said.