WARNING!!! This Post is Full of Sarcasm

sarcasm_big_bang_theory_signIn the weeks (oh God, I mean months, has it been that long?) since the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the former (or current depending on who you ask) CEO of The Trump Organization has set his sights and most of his breath on “defeating” one particular foe. A foe so treacherous, Trump himself has declared them on Twitter, via his preferred presidential method of communication, the “enemy of the American people.”

Of course, I am talking about the press. You know that horrible, no good group of people doing their job and not destroying or taking any lives in return. They are terrible, aren’t they? (That was sarcasm if you couldn’t tell.)

Despite Trump’s totally unbiased and not-alarming-at-all declaration (again with the sarcasm), from an outside perspective, the press is doing rather well since Trump took office early this year. It must be difficult for reporters to try and do their jobs when arguably the most powerful man in the world (not sarcasm, but, God, do I wish it was), is doing everything in his power to discredit them and their work. But luckily for the American public, journalists aren’t weaklings. Take CNN for example. Despite being labeled as ‘fake news,’ the journalists with the 24-hour news organization persevered and continued to do their work, reporting the truth in a (mostly) non-biased fashion and standing up for the American new industry as a whole.

All in all, I would say that the majority of national new organizations are doing well under the current administration, who has made it clearly that any news not in alignment with its beliefs is unequivocally false. Regarding the purposes of journalism, meaning telling the truth and informing the American public, most are progressing rather well.

Admittedly, there are a small few organizations, mainly those that lie on the extreme right and left of the political spectrum, which are more interested in tarnishing the other side than reporting truthfully and fairly. Their names are often found in the address bar on the web pages for salacious news rumors. And unfortunately, their names are also on the list of the outlets that our wise president (and the sarcasm is back!) trusts unyieldingly. Without question, these outlets would receive the grade of a D, if not an F, from any respectable journalism professor. And rightly so. Outlets such as Breitbart, InfoWars, and OccupyDemocract neglect all journalistic ethics and morals with the purpose of inflaming audiences to follow their particular biases, and this is especially true since the recent presidential election.

On the president’s blacklist of such as CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, who, while having taken a more forceful approach that before when it comes to their reporting on the President, have remained focused on their overall purpose, to let the American people know the information necessary to make them knowledgeable citizens, regardless of political affiliation. Of course, these outlets have their moments. There is a bit of smelliness regarding CNN’s reporting of a largely uncorroborated dossier regarding the President and a few of his rumored exploits while in Russia before his election. I think it is safe to safe you could comfortably grade these outlets with solid B, if not a B+, based simply on the fact that, though they are under attack, they have remained journalistically ethical and correct.

It must be noted that were someone else with stronger political feelings, one way or the other, could write this same post and come to entirely different conclusions. While I try to remain unbiased in most things, it is likely (see: definite) that some of my sympathies have affected my thoughts here. But here’s the thing, I am not a national news organization. It is not my job to be unbiased. I am simply a girl sitting behind a computer with a head full of sarcasm asking you to read this and maybe give it a think.sarcasm_big_bang_theory_signsarcasm_big_bang_theory_sign

 

The Government’s Big (Data) Deal

colbert-calculator

It is highly likely that when the terms data and the U.S. government are mentioned in the same breath, it is highly likely that most of our minds will go straight to the National Security Administration (NSA) and their wiretapping, among others, scandal which was brought to light by Edward Snowden in June 2013. Immediately, following the release, Americans divided into three groups: one, composed of those who think of Edward Snowden as a national traitor that compromised the security of our armed forces overseas and our citizens at home; two, made up of those who were outraged by the knowledge that our government was spying on us daily; and three, composed of those who fall somewhere in between. (Side note: It turns out most of us fall into group three, as John Oliver and the crew at Last Week Tonight discovered.)

For those who fall into group two, it can be easy to become completely turned off by the idea of the Government using big data, especially if you don’t realize the full scope of how the two interact with each other. Truth be told, until this week, while I wouldn’t exactly fall into this grouping of people, I, too, was unaware of many of the positive effects the derived from our government’s relationship with big data.

In his article, “6 Incredible Ways Big Data Is Used by the US Government,” big-data-specialist Bernard Marr, in an unexpected twist, recounts six ways that the Government uses big data. Some may say that these are incredible! All jokes aside, the six uses of big data have led to developments that will potentially have a huge positive impact on the future of our country, and, very likely, the world.

For example, using of big data, governmental health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) can track the spread of potentially life-threatening illnesses using social media. Additionally, national law enforcement agencies (at federal, state and county levels) uses big data to help track down anyone with outstanding warrants (via license plate recognition software), to pinpoint areas where crime may occur, and to link particular crimes to former offenders.

Certainly, we can all agree that these developments are for the better for us as a nation, and without big data, not only would they not currently exist, but it may have been many more years before we would have the technologies necessary to make even the thought of them possible. Also, keep in mind that these are just a few of the early developments to follow our country’s early exploration of the capabilities of big data. Who knows what else is to come?

So, let the jury remain out on the relationship between the U.S. government and big data. Do not condemn it because of one, admittedly shitty, aspect. Wait a little bit, and you just might be surprised where our relationship with big data made lead.

What Does a New F.C.C. Chairman Mean for Net Neutrality and the Digital Divide?

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Wikimedia Commons

Do you consider access to the Internet as a necessary utility?
If you answered no, I hate to break this to you, but the F.C.C. thinks you’re wrong. At least they did, until earlier this month.
In February 2015, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that broadband Internet is not luxury service for American, but rather an essential one that should be available to all. The ruling, which was contested in court by cable, telecom and wireless internet providers only to be upheld in 2016, seemed to be a major step to bridging the digital divide. It was taken further in March 2016 when the F.C.C. finalized a plan to subsidized Internet access for low-income households.
            But with a new President, usually, comes a new head of the F.C.C. and now, it appears, we may be, once again, stumbling backward. Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the F.C.C., stop some of these progressive efforts, stating that they were “beyond the agency’s legal authority.
            Pai, previously a commissioner of the agency since his nomination in 2012, stated that he was for a “free and open Internet” and sees the closing of the digital divide as a top priority, but disagrees with the classification of it as a utility, meaning that it will not have to be as highly regulated. The fear of net-neutrality advocates is that this decrease in regulations will result in high service prices and decreased access to certain sites. And as the digital divide regards the access to Internet, and income is one of the main social factors leading to its creation, it seems that for the digital divide to truly diminish, some aspects of net neutrality, and its regulations, must be enforced.
Only time will tell how Pai will proceed in regards to net neutrality and the digital divide. While he has remained mostly silent regarding neutrality related policies, he has, to his credit, discussed alternative ways to bring high-speed broadband access to low-income areas and stated that this initiative is his highest priority. Let us just hope it stays that way.

 

 

A Walk Through The Social Network Graveyard

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Take a second and think back to the first social networking site you ever used. Was it MySpace, Friendster, Xanga? Depending on age, the answers will vary, but unless you’re under the age of twenty, and you’ve only ever had a Facebook, it is very unlikely that the first social networking site you used is as popular as it used to be.
Social networking sites (SNS) come in and out of fashion much like clothing trends. And also like clothing trends, most of the old favorite SNSs never truly die, but rather hang about the fringe of the Internet, waiting for the moment that they become “in” again. But if you search hard enough, you may happen upon a graveyard that houses the tombs of the few SNSs and apps that have succumbed. And like a mourner, bemoaning the unexpected death of a close friend, you can’t help but ask: “why?”
As you journey through the silent hills that make up the Social Network Graveyard, laying flowers on the plots marking the dearly departed websites and apps, there are many you won’t remember. The death is likely because they served too niche a purpose to make it on the general public’s radar. Then there are those you have heard of, who graves are lined with flowers from users indulging in a bit of nostalgia. There is Friendster (which technically still exists, but not in its original form) and Yahoo360. There is Meerkat, who burned brightly for a short, sad time. And then, there is the latest casualty, Vine, whose grave is marked by a mound of freshly turned earth. Then there are those is the nursing home next door: Google+, Myspace, Xanga, Digg, and others. They are living day by day, hoping for a miracle cure and fighting off imminent death.
Every single one of them had their legion of loyal fans who proclaimed their accolades and defended their honor. They were the subjects of debates and tech articles proclaiming their genius. And then one day, something new came along (most autopsies can point to Facebook as the cause of death) and the sense of loyalty their believed their fans possessed was quickly forgotten, replaced by mesmerized dreams of new technology and better features.
It’s a sad cycle, it must be said. That something that was once so loved can be so easily disregarded because something shinier has entered the picture. But it is a cycle that will continue to be repeated. It can be argued that one day, maybe sooner than we think, the only thoughts we will spare Facebook and Twitter are those that come in a moment of nostalgia. Forever to be preceded by a “remember when.”

Fact or Fiction: How Fake News Became So Popular

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Wikimedia Commons

Fake news. For those who use the Internet or watch CNN, it seems like it is all anyone can or wants to talk about at the moment. But why the sudden interest?

Fake news is hardly, well, new. Tabloids, such as The National Inquiry and Us Weekly, have been publishing dramatic, false stories under the name of “news” for decades. Whether it’s plausible but false, celebrity break-up rumors or fanciful accounts of Elvis and aliens, we have been conditioned to meet these headlines with skepticism when we encounter them in line at the grocery store. Now, however, with the ability to share news online via Facebook and Twitter, it seems we are throwing our b.s. meters out of the window and taking everything our friend of a friend of a friend posts as fact. What changed?

With digital media still being a relatively new frontier, it seems that it’s rapid growth has outpaced society’s average level of media literacy, or the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media. While some consumers can adequately critique a piece of news that they encounter on social media, the majority are left in the dark and, thus, tend to take something online that remotely looks like news as truth. Add in the fact that it also probably aligns with their political leanings, a.k.a. inflammatory towards the party/candidate they dislike, and you have a recipe for easy shares.

And creators of fake news know this. They create domain names similar to those of news sites we know to trust (i.e. ABCNews.com.co vs. ABCNew.go.com). They utilize outlandish headlines to draw readers to immediately sharing without investigating further. They create fake authors with fake accolades that would put Robert Frost to shame. And these are just a few of the multiple techniques they employ to trick readers, reputable news organizations like CNN and FoxNews, even international governments.

Duped by fake news story, Pakistani minister threatens nuclear war with Israel

So how do we fix this? While sites like Google, Facebook and PolitiFact have taken measures to inform consumers as to whether a piece of news is likely to be found false, the best way to help combat the spread of fake news is improve consumer’s media literacy regarding social media and web articles. Like we were taught to treat the tabloids that line the grocery store check out lanes with trepidation, we need to be taught to view news we find on social media the same way and to investigate the claims we read before we swear by them. Until then, it’s probably best to take everything you read on Facebook with a grain of salt.