Bad faith outrage and the real threat it poses to free speech; how Facebook's algorithm hijacked a company to sell leashes for hamsters; and more.

  • Media matters: Jeet Heer of the New Republic explains how “weaponized outrage” is becoming a threat to free speech. Especially when top media executives don’t understand how social media works.
  • Data & Society founder (and Civic Hall friend) danah boyd tells Miranda Katz of Wired that instead of blaming tech for accentuating polarization and distrust and expecting tech to solve those problems, we need to “reknit society.” To wit:

    We have to make a concerted effort to create social ties, social relationships, social networks in the classic sense that allow for strategic bridges across the polis so that people can see themselves as one. And one of the things we don’t account for in our history as a country is that we did a lot of this instinctively. The creation of the US military was actually a very specific strategic networked part of America’s fabric. It allowed you meet people across every line. The way in which we’ve done higher ed historically has actually created an unbelievable network. Missionary work is another one. Part of what is really collapsing here is that the networks have become too fragmented and too polarized. Technology doesn’t help; it simply magnifies the poles.

  • Battle for the net: Karl Bode points out in Motherboard the false claims FCC chair Ajit Pai keeps making about how his “Restoring Internet Freedom” (aka, Kill Net Neutrality) proposal will help people who’re sick and disabled.
  • This is civic tech: New York City’s Planning Labs has released ZoLa, its new Zoning and Land Use mapping app.
  • Internet of shit: Bitcoin could cost us our clean energy future, writes Eric Holthaus for Grist. More than 150 countries use less energy annually that the bitcoin network, he notes.
  • Life in Facebookistan: Because Facebook’s algorithm rewards high levels of engagement, users are seeing tons of ads for weird products like hamster leashes, cat blindfolds, and USB stick pregnancy tests from Wish, one of its biggest advertisers, Taylor Lorenz reports for The Daily Beast. Peter Szulczewski, Wish’s CEO and founder, says “No one is going to busy a plastic tongue thing. “It’s a consequence of Facebook’s ad system. It’s basically rewarding high shock value items that people will click on. (h/t Maciej Ceglowski)
  • Apply: The MIT Center for Civic Media is looking to hire a Media Cloud Collections Curator.