Category: social media

Has This Man Unlocked The Secret To Internet Anonymity?:

I’ve met Jonathan Hirshon. I know what Jonathan Hirshon looks like. You probably don’t, and neither does Google or Facebook. That’s just how the PR professional wants it.

Hirshon is shorter than most, and balding. He wears glasses. He’s friendly, and well liked in the tech industry. Back in the late ’90s, he did in-house PR for Apple.

At 48, Hirshon was an adult well before the Internet was a mainstream tool. Though he’s a pro when it comes to getting his clients publicity, he’s dead-set against his own image being online.

It must have worked, since a Google image search for his name doesn’t return a single picture that’s actually him.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 6: Faceless

Experience: my face was stolen online:

I was clearing out an old email address a couple of years ago when I spotted a message from a woman I didn’t know. She had been talking to a man online and had become suspicious of his identity. When she did a search on his profile picture, my name came up. She sent me a link to a Google+ account that had my photo and somebody else’s name, but I couldn’t see much else. I had never been particularly strict with online privacy, so I thanked her and reported it to Google. It didn’t seem like a big deal.

Things got weirder when she invited me to join a Facebook group: 20 young women – who had all been talking online to a man called “Paul Green” – were trying to figure out his true identity. They were sharing his profile pictures and the photos he’d emailed them. They were all of me. He’d cropped my new baby niece out of a very recent photo. There was one of me from school, fooling around with a piano keyboard on my head; it was so old I’d forgotten it. It must have been from my deleted Myspace account.

He had talked to these women on teenage forums, dating sites, Facebook, Twitter, Google… and from multiple email addresses. Some had spoken to him on Skype – without video. One girl forwarded me email after email of their conversations. They had been talking for four years. They’d told each other, “I love you.” He said that – like me – he was 22. The young women ranged in age from mid-teens to early 20s. He’d talked of sending them gifts and persuaded some to send pictures back. One message read, “Thank you for those photos, my body shivered a little.” It was creepy.

He came across as intelligent. He liked poetry and literature, and spoke Spanish. He had gained their trust and some of them thought they were in a relationship with him. One said to me, “Oh, it was you we’ve been talking to.” But I had to say, “No. Not at all. These aren’t my interests. This is not me.”

I went to the police, but they weren’t interested. The law doesn’t cover you to protect your face…

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 6: Faceless

“Why Should We Hide Our Faces?” Hong Kong’s Voices on the Ground|Across the Strait|2019-09-02|web only:

Q: How often do you join the protests?

A: As a working professional, I try to go on weekends when I have time. At most legal protests, I try not to wear masks. It’s about exercising our legal right of assembly and showing our support for this movement. Why should we hide our faces?

You don’t really know if a demonstration will ultimately be legal or illegal. It might start out as a legal assembly in a designated area, but then it spills onto the street because so many people are joining. If that crowd walks down the street and deviates in any way from the original route, it can technically be interpreted as an “unlawful assembly.”

The police are supposed to inform protesters when an assembly has been declared “unlawful.” However, protesters may hardly be aware when this happens—officers may put up a sign, in a place not within our eyesight.

If the police start shooting tear gas, you will know the demonstration is now considered illegal. This is when I put on a mask. The surgical mask I carry is not a chemical mask, so it’s not effective protection against the tear gas; but when police deem things an “unlawful assembly” and charge in, it’s better not to have your photo taken.

Many protesters are concerned about photos being taken, no matter if the assembly is legal or not, since China is renowned for using face recognition technology to monitor its people. A sense of “White Terror” is increasingly felt in Hong Kong, and we are quite worried that such images could be used against you later. Look at what is happening at Cathay Pacific and TVB—staff were laid off because they posted pro-protest messages on Facebook.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 6: Faceless

Face Cages | Zach Blas:

The success of today’s booming biometrics industry resides in its promise to rapidly measure an objective, truthful, and core identity from the surface of a human body, often for a mixture of commercial, state, and military interests. Yet, feminist communications scholar Shoshana Amielle Magnet has described this neoliberal enterprise as producing “a cage of information,” a form of policing, surveillance, and structural violence that is ableist, classist, homophobic, racist, sexist, and transphobic.

Biometric machines often fail to recognize non-normative, minoritarian persons, which makes such people vulnerable to discrimination, violence, and criminalization: Asian women’s hands fail to be legible to fingerprint devices; eyes with cataracts hinder iris scans; dark skin continues to be undetectable; and non-normative formations of age, gender, and race frequently fail successful detection. These examples illustrate that the abstract, surface calculations biometrics performs on the body are gross, harmful reductions.

A visual motif in biometric facial recognition is the minimal, colorful diagrams that visualize over the face for authentication, verification, and tracking purposes. These diagrams are a kind of abstraction gone bad, a visualization of the reduction of the human to a standardized, ideological diagram. When these diagrams are extracted from the humans they cover over, they appear as harsh and sharp incongruous structures; they are, in fact, digital portraits of dehumanization.

Face Cages is a dramatization of the abstract violence of the biometric diagram. In this installation and performance work, four queer artists, including micha cárdenas, Elle Mehrmand, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, and Zach Blas, generate biometric diagrams of their faces, which are then fabricated as three-dimensional metal objects, evoking a material resonance with handcuffs, prison bars, and torture devices used during the Medieval period and slavery in the United States. The metal face cages are then worn in endurance performances for video. Face Cages is presented as an installation that features the four performance videos and four metal face cages.

The computational biometric diagram, a supposedly perfect measuring and accounting of the face, once materialized as a physical object, transforms into a cage that does not easily fit the human head, that is extremely painful to wear. These cages exaggerate and perform the irreconcilability of the biometric diagram with the materiality of the human face itself–and the violence that occurs when the two are forced to coincide.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 6: Faceless

 A stolen life – A new perspective and everything in between | Neda Soltani | TEDxRWTHAachen

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 6: Faceless

When you read the book the Theranos story, how it managed to go for so long, is just incredible. Anyway, check out in depth interview with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Careyrou.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 5: Messiah

The People Who Really, Really Love Mark Zuckerberg:

“Something funny is going on in these comments,” the NBC News reporter Ben Collins tweeted last Thursday, watching a Facebook live-stream of Mark Zuckerberg giving a speech at Georgetown University.

Zuckerberg’s talk was about the company’s commitment to “voice and free expression.” He elaborated on Facebook’s recent decision not to vet political ads for lies, before outlining the difference between Facebook’s policies and those of one of its main rivals, the Chinese company TikTok, which has been criticized repeatedly for censorship.

All the while, comments streamed down the side of the video, often so many at once it was hard to read them. They were nearly universally positive. Many were gushing. Almost all of them seemed to be about Mark Zuckerberg as a person—a great person!—and virtually none were even remotely related to the content of the speech. Not only had these people tuned in by the tens of thousands on a Thursday to watch a software company’s CEO discuss corporate policy, but they were blessing him with prayer-hand emoji and hearts, thanking him for his genius and his generous spirit, and occasionally, it seemed, trying to flirt with him.

“You’re looking very handsome and dashing …” one read, with a kissy-face emoji. “Looking very sweet and cute … Lots of love for you.” It ended with a fire emoji and a peace sign. “This man left an indelible footprint in the sands of time. Thanks a lot for this wonderful platform called FACEBOOK,” went another.

The replies to Collins’s tweet were full of suspicion. These had to be spam, or bots gravitating toward any video with sufficient engagement, or an astroturfing campaign organized by Facebook’s PR team. There could not possibly be this many people who love Mark Zuckerberg this much. Fast Company quickly published a piece that said the comments “sure look censored”; minutes later, Facebook was on the record with several outlets denying any interference. When a post or video has an extraordinarily high volume of comments, Facebook automatically sifts through them using “ranking signals” to filter out inauthentic or “low-quality” posts, a spokesperson told The Washington Post, but nothing was different for this particular stream.

Once the stream ended, it was easy to go back and find negative comments (“LIZARD,” “Liar,” “Oppressor of free will, free speech, and the king of manipulation of the weak-minded!”), as well as a fair amount of total gibberish, but it was also fairly obvious that the thousands-upon-thousands of super-positive comments were not from bots. They were too specific and strange not to be real.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 5: Messiah

Silicon Valley’s Crisis of Conscience:

Big Tech was supposed to be different. It was supposed to make the world a better place.

Then came Brexit, the 2016 election, and the Great Tech Backlash. “Donald Trump Won Because of Facebook,” a headline in New York declared. A law professor at Stanford published a paper that asked, “Can Democracy Survive the Internet?” Suddenly, a board with several Silicon Valley executives didn’t seem entirely unlike a board with several Atlantic City casino bosses. Even after it became apparent that Facebook posts were fuelling the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the company dithered for months before taking decisive action. Clearly, all was not in alignment.

Esalen seemed perfectly positioned to help. In 2017, the institute’s C.E.O. was Ben Tauber, a thirty-four-year-old former project manager at Google. “There’s a dawning consciousness emerging in Silicon Valley as people recognize that their conventional success isn’t necessarily making the world a better place,” he told the Times. “The C.E.O.s, inside they’re hurting. They can’t sleep at night.” If the tech tycoons were already going to Esalen for ethical and spiritual guidance, then perhaps Esalen could guide them toward a less rapacious business model. “How do we scale our impact as an organization?” Tauber continued. “We do it through impacting the influencers.”

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 5: Messiah

Stratford Soldiers vs. E19 Posse Beef | Famalam:

Turf wars, senseless. Cake, good. Very good.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 3 – Character Witness

What is the real impact social media is having on gang violence, turf warfare and youth identity?:

While spending time with gang members in the South Side of Chicago to conduct fieldwork for his forthcoming book, sociologist Forrest Stuart would regularly check Twitter and Instagram. He’d be surprised to find that the young men he was hanging out with, often in perfectly mundane situations, were posting pre-prepared images and videos of themselves wielding guns.

“I discovered all this flexing on social media,” he tells me over Skype. “I’d be standing right next to these guys and realise they were posting things that were nothing to do with what we were actually doing.” Some of the young men didn’t own and had never used a gun. They simply borrowed them to stockpile photos and videos of themselves holding weapons, later curating an intimidating social media profile that they would drip feed onto the internet over the coming days and weeks.

Drill artist Digga D has found a young, engaged audience through social media, despite some of his videos being banned

“I’d be driving them across town in my car, and when we’d pass a rival block they’d start taking selfies out the window, pretending they were on their way to do a drive-by,” Stuart continues. “Another time, in a cold Chicago winter, I was sat with a young man who was babysitting his little sisters. We were in his living room watching music videos on the television. But when I checked Instagram, he was on there posting photos pretending to be stood in the blizzard outside protecting his block.”

It is no secret that social media platforms are shifting human behaviours, habits and interactions all over the world. People are increasingly able to use digital profiles of themselves to extend or invert their physical realities, and thus manipulate their social, professional and moral worlds for all sorts of benefits and incentives: the prospect of meeting a new lover, the lure of branded money from sponsors, the endorphin-hit of likes and shares, and chase votes and political power.

Digital Human, Series 18, Episode 3 – Character Witness