IPR Interviews Bugeja on Facebook Data Breach

Interpersonal Divide author Michael Bugeja was a guest on Iowa Public Radio’s statewide “River to River” broadcast concerning Facebook’s data breach via Cambridge Analytica.

The broadcast also included segments about Iowa Students joining “March for Our Lives” to protest gun violence.

The Bugeja interview about Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica breach begins at the 6:50 minute-mark.

“River to River” is Iowa Public Radio’s talk program focusing on news, issues and events in the state. This national award-winning program fosters conversation about public events. Its host is Ben Kieffer. The show was produced by Emily Woodbury.

Click here to order a copy of Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine.

“I Told You So”: Facebook, Your Data & Trump

“Have been thinking about you since this Cambridge Analytica case has been unfolding,” a colleague wrote Interpersonal Divide author Michael Bugeja. “Don’t you feel like telling people – I told you so!’”

Yes, and he just did.

Background: Data-mining company Cambridge Analytica obtained “likes” and other psychographic data from some 50 million Facebook users. It did so, as Interpersonal Divide has warned, by asking users to take a “personality test.”

On July 22, 2017, this website warned viewers in a post titled “Facebook Quizzes Invite Spammers and Hackers“:

Facebook quizzes often appeal to our curiosity or ego or seemingly provide entertainment during lulls in social media posts or other routine activities, using algorithms to ascertain who your secret admirers might be or what celebrity most fits your profile. You take the quiz, which asks that you log on with your Facebook credentials and then “like” the site and share with your friends. They take the quiz, too, and share with their friends, and all the while information from your smartphone is being harvested and sold to third-parties.”

The company then used the data to create a software program specifically designed to influence voters at the ballot box.

According to the Guardian newspaper, Trump supporter and donor Robert Mercer paid $15 million to Cambridge Analytica. “Mercer, who also funded the rightwing website Breitbart, was introduced to the firm by Steve Bannon,” the newspaper stated, noting that he was Trump’s election strategist.  Cambridge Analytica reportedly claimed to have contributed to Trump’s victory.

And you may have, too. The software program not only gathered your private information, if you took the personality survey; it then had access to all your friends.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine has covered Facebook’s vending of data in several chapters. In fact, some 28 pages, or 1.4 percent of the book, focuses on Facebook and fake news.

That’s not coincidence, either. Michael Bugeja, Interpersonal Divide author, was one of the first social critics to scrutinize  Facebook in a Jan. 23, 2006 expose, titled “Facing the Facebook“–published in  The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I registered on the Iowa State Facebook and noticed that the discussion groups looked a lot like direct mailing lists. Some, in fact, are the same or barely distinguishable from mailing lists compiled in The Lifestyle Market Analyst, a reference book that looks at potential audiences for advertisers. For instance, “Baseball Addicts” and “Kick Ass Conservatives” are Facebook groups while “Baseball Fanatics” and “Iowa Conservatives” are the names of commercial mailing lists. You can find “PC Gamers,” “Outdoor Enthusiasts,” and advocates for and against gun control on both Facebook and in marketing directories. Several Facebook groups resemble advertisements for products or lifestyles such as “Apple Macintosh Users,” “Avid Sweatpants Users,” or “Brunettes Having More Fun.”.”

If you visit technology hoopla in 2006, you will see that social media was supposed to introduce us to diversity and inclusion and heighten our sensitivities. Higher education bought into that completely.

It is a small step in the age of Big Data to harvest our private information and weaponize it for presidential elections. And don’t think if you didn’t support Trump that the theft of that information was harmless. It wasn’t. His campaign saved money by not contacting you, targeting those whose votes it could sway.

Iowa Public Radio has been ahead of the curve in coverage of this phenomenon, including these Bugeja interviews with hosts Charity Nebbe (Talk of Iowa) and Ben Kieffer (River to River):

Speaking of broadcasts and public radio, in an NPR interview, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was concerned about Cambridge Analytica’s data theft of millions of Facebook users to help Trump’s presidential campaign.  Facebook called it a “breach,” which she challenged:

“Well, yeah, if you break into my apartment, you can do it with a crowbar or you can do it because the manager gives you a key. The manager gave them a key.”

Oh, Sen. Klobuchar, it’s much worse than that. The manager gave the thief a key and said, “Inside you’ll find the keys of all his and her friends.”

Help yourself, and that’s exactly what happened.

I told you so in Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine, available in softcover for $19.95.

Are we Prepared for the Consequences of Technology?

Most Americans have some form of digital technology, whether it is a smartphone, tablet or laptop, within their reach 24-7.

Our dependence on these gadgets has dramatically changed how we communicate and interact, and is slowly eroding some of our core principles, said Michael Bugeja, professor and former director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. Bugeja is not advocating against technology – in fact, he relies on it for his work and personal life – but he says we need to recognize the possible ramifications before it is too late.

For the rest of the post, click here or visit: http://webnewsorder.com/2017/are-we-prepared-for-the-consequences-of-technology/

Media Literacy in the Age of the Machine

Think Like a Journalist by Michael Bugega - a news literacy guide from NewsTrust


EDITOR’S NOTE: This media literacy guide was created for NewsTrust, which promoted quality journalism in the Internet age, years before we entered the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts.” Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine dedicates several chapters to media history and literacy. “How to Think Like a Journalist” is needed now more than ever. Please copy the URL and share with your social media family and friends.

The Four Ds of Journalism

The best way to learn news literacy is to think like a journalist.

Reporters have distinct traits that either led them to the profession or that they developed while doing journalism.

The four Ds of thinking like a journalist exemplify these qualities. They are:

1. Doubt — a healthy skepticism that questions everything.
2. Detect — a “nose for news” and relentless pursuit of the truth.
3. Discern — a priority for fairness, balance and objectivity in reporting.
4. Demand — a focus on free access to information and freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly and petition.

1. Doubt — Don’t automatically believe everything you read.

If you have studied or practiced journalism, you’re probably reading this to see where, if at all, this guide goes astray. That’s part of a journalist’s profile—a healthy skepticism that questions everything, including issues in which they fervently believe.

Reporters who lack skepticism are easily hoaxed or manipulated. A hoax is a bogus story meant to embarrass the journalist and his or her media outlet.

Think about something in which you passionately believe—the truth about climate change, pro-life vs. pro-choice, liberals vs. conservatives—and then imagine a tipster confirming your worst suspicions.

A non-journalist might take the bait, asking that source easy questions; however, a seasoned reporter would interrogate the source knowing how dissemination of false information not only undermines his or her credibility, but that of the entire media outlet.

To think like a journalist, ask yourself:

  • Do I seek information or affirmation?
  • Are my beliefs and convictions coloring how I see a topic?
  • What is the difference between skepticism and pessimism?

2. Detect — Relentlessly pursue the truth to discover the “big picture.”

Journalists have a “nose for news.” They hunt down stories. They follow up on all tips and leads. They are relentless when pursuing the truth.

Reporters share a lot of character traits with detectives who assemble a puzzle piece by piece, or fact by fact, until they see the “big picture.”

Reporters also pursue sources as detectives pursue suspects, giving them their day in court—the court of public opinion, that is.

Of course, not all sources are suspects. Those who aren’t should be expert witnesses because they are either authorities on a topic or have experienced an event first-hand.

To think like a journalist, ask yourself:

  • How can I use the Internet like a detective in verifying assertions?
  • What is the difference between verification in news and assertion in a blog?
  • Does the public have a right to know the news that affects or afflicts them?

3. Discern — Think critically to find a fair balance.

Journalists think critically. They often tell sources that they will contact them again with more questions about a topic or event.

Meanwhile, they are discerning how to balance a story so that it is fair to all parties. They want their stories to be balanced so that their reports are as objective as possible.

Let’s define these terms:

Fairness means making sure all viewpoints are included in a story. Reporters discern which viewpoints are more important than others in conveying the truth about a topic or event. If some facts detract from that truth, or are unfair, ethical journalists leave them out.

Balance doesn’t mean getting two equal sides of a story. It means discerning which side is more accurate and then gathering facts to make that case by detecting motives of sources and getting expert opinion to support or refute them.

Objectivity means seeing the world as it is, not as the reporter or reader would like it to be. Reporters discern whether they have any biases that might taint a story and, if so, how they might adjust for that when filing a report.

To think like a journalist, ask yourself:

  • How do I feel when viewing news that omits a viewpoint or hypes another?
  • Is the news or opinion politically or personally motivated, slanting truth to manipulate rather than inform?
  • When I see a “hole” in a story missing viewpoints or sources how can I fill it with facts using online resources?

4. Demand — Uphold and protect the free flow of information.

The best reporters make demands—on themselves and others.

The most primary demand is for freedom of information. Reporters believe if taxpayers fund a project or function, citizens should have access to details and documents. They believe that when elected politicians meet, the public should be informed in advance, an agenda should be provided, minutes should be taken, and time for public testimony allotted.

Journalists demand that their and citizens’ Constitutional rights are protected, especially the five freedoms of the First Amendment: speech, press, religion, petition and assembly.

The best journalists demand high ethical standards in their own work and in that of others associated with such topics as:

  • Plagiarism (passing off someone else’s work as their own)
  • Invention (fabricating data and quotations in a story)
  • Good taste (deleting offensive language, slurs and stereotypes from reports)
  • Conflicts of interest (reporting on issues for personal gain)
  • The common good (doing the least harm to innocent others)

To think like a journalist, ask yourself:

  • What are the rights in the Bill of Rights?
  • How does freedom of information ensure transparency?
  • What role do media ethics play in ensuring quality journalism?

News vs. Opinion

Now that you are thinking like a journalist, one more thing to keep in mind is the difference between news and opinion:

News informs. Opinion persuades.
News is based on multiple viewpoints. Opinion is based on singular viewpoints.
News believes the facts speak for themselves. Opinion believes informed arguments do.
News is objective and impersonal. Opinion is subjective and personal.

News formats include:

  • News Report — disseminating facts the public needs to know
  • News Analysis — interpreting issues and events objectively and impersonally
  • Special Report — focusing in-depth on an issue, newsmaker or event
  • Breaking News — covering news events as they happen
  • Investigative Reporting — disclosing data, documents, and testimony
  • Poll — surveying the public about issues, newsmakers and events

Opinion formats include:

  • Opinion — a stance about an issue, newsmaker or event
  • Editorial — the voice of an entire publication, such as a newspaper or television station
  • Interview — questions and answers featuring a newsmaker or source
  • Speech — spoken remarks by a newsmaker or source
  • Comment — statement or blog post about issues, newsmakers and events

Refer to these definitions when you blog, report or read the news online. Remember to think like a journalist — so you can make more informed decisions as a citizen.

If you are interested in reporting news, you might want to buy “How-To News Writer” from the Iowa Newspaper Association. Royalties generate scholarships for journalism students at Iowa State University’s Greenlee School.

Russian fake news may target Iowa caucuses again

For video, visit KCCI television by clicking here. 

Social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and YouTube did not do enough to halt fake news in the 2016 presidential election, fomenting discord that led to indictments this week against 13 Russian operatives, Michael Bugeja, author of Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine, told KCCI.

Russians engaged in identity theft of American citizens by posing as activists and triggering division in the electorate on such hot-button issues as immigration, religion and race, according to the New York Times, which reported those indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Bugeja believes such interference will continue unless social media companies hire more human monitors to delete objectionable, racist or other divisive content. A likely target will be Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, he said.

In an article and video by reporter KCCI’s Chris Gothner, Bugeja noted that education is the key to combating fake news.

“It is too late right now for individuals to really adjust their households,” Bugeja said. “What we really need in the three regent universities [in Iowa] is a required course on media and technology literacy.

“The most important thing that anybody can do is to question their own biases,” Bugeja added, advising people to get their news from a variety of reputable sources including network and local television, national newspapers and public radio.

For the complete story and video, visit KCCI at this URL.

Unilever Tells Facebook, Google to Clean Up Act

Unilever, manufacturer of such popular products as Dove cleanser and Lipton Tea, has warned Facebook and Google that it will cut its advertising from those platforms unless they do more to halt the proliferation of fake news, hate speech and other divisive content.

Unilever is a giant advertiser, spending more than $9 billion in 2017 to market its products and services.

As reported by CNBC NewsKeith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, stated:

“We need to redefine what is responsible business in the digital age because for all of the good the tech companies are doing, there’s some unintended consequences that now need addressing. … Consumers don’t care about third party verification. They do care about fraudulent practice, fake news, and Russians influencing the U.S. election. They don’t care about good value for advertisers. But they do care when they see their brands being placed next to ads funding terror, or exploiting children.””

Weed reportedly delivered these remarks at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, blaming the social networks for fake news and illegal content that jeopardize democracy.

Google is dedicating some 10,000 employees to monitor and delete divisive content on YouTube. Facebook is using artificial intelligence to do the same.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine has covered this troubling phenomenon for several months, noting that social media are doing too little to ban racist, sexist and divisive content.

See these recent posts:

In the end, more advertisers must do as Unilever has done, threatening the bottom line of social networks to ensure a safer experience for individuals, communities and our country.

Failing that, it is up to users to make a difference, deciding whether to patronize these interactive mega-companies that earn billions each year … often at our expense.

We provide the content; they datamine the content, selling that to vendors; and then base advertisements on our algorithms.

Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine discusses that phenomenon in several chapters. Here’s an excerpt on the profits of Facebook, Google and other platforms that operate on what users post:

Users believe that they are accessing digital services for free, when they are not, because the consumer data they provide has value; moreover, users are providing free content, so the corporation doesn’t have to. … As such, billions of users worldwide may been seen as exploited workers who spend hours each day allowing their personal information to be mined and sold and who provide content that engages others and generates more data for profit-minded creators and stockholders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other popular venues.

As such, you can make a difference in what, when and why you post information about yourself and the impact of that on your life at home, school and work.

Review of Keen’s “How to Fix the Future”

  • Print Length: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date: February 6, 2018
  • To order, visit Amazon: Kindle: $14.99, Hard Cover: $16.66

This is an important “idea” book, a blueprint, really, vast in its visions as a “fix” for the future should be, and an incubator for Andrew Keen’s future works.

Keen, a British-American entrepreneur and author, and I have been on the same critical path for more than a decade in our skepticism about Internet hoopla. That era began with MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte’s 1995 work, being digital,  and reached its peak with founding WIRED executive editor Kevin Kelly’s 2010 book, What Technology Wants. Negroponte’s brave new digital world correctly prophesied our current state, with time and place dissolving into “mediumlessness,” or seamless platforms guiding our thoughts, words and deeds. Negroponte’s big mistake was a failure to see how connectedness would erode the fabled Knowledge Economy into a Consumer one. As I state in my own books, we were promised a global village, but Silicon Valley delivered a global mall.

Kelly’s book over-reaches on so many levels, lapsing into tech spiritualism at times, as in this passage:

“Technology is stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?” (p. 358).

In between those 15 years of tech hope and hyperbole, a few writers–including me, Keen, Christine Rosen, Sherry Turkle, Nicholas Carr, Jaron Lanier, Thomas de Zengotita and others–were predicting that technology would change us as people as much as our world. Whereas McLuhan’s mantra was the medium is the message; mine was the medium is the moral.

Andrew Keen and I began documenting that when doing so meant being stereotyped as Luddites, often with our truths dismissed. Keen discusses that in the intro of his book:

Having spent the last decade writing critically about the digital revolution, I’ve been called everything from  a Luddite and a curmudgeon to the ‘Antichrist of Silicon Valley.’ At first I was part of a small group of dissenting authors who challenged the conventional wisdom about the internet’s beneficial impact on society. But over the last few years, as the zeitgeist has zigged from optimism to pessimism about our technological future, more and more pundits have joined our ranks.

When Keen’s first book was published in 2007, titled The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, my 2005 book–Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age–had made many of the same arguments. I have followed Keen’s work with admiration ever since, even more so than Sherry Turkle, the best known technology critic. In a review of her widely praised 2011 book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Otherthe Huffington Post noted that its theme was expressed seven years earlier in Interpersonal Divide.

In other words, Keen and I have been around for awhile with books, lectures and predictions about the promise and limitations of technology.

Keen’s first-person style in How to Fix the Future is more journalistic than competing books, halfway between Turkle’s New Yorkerish introspective narrator and my third-person historian persona. In this new work, we accompany Keen to interviews as if on a quest, finding the solutions to what awaits us in the age of the machine.

It’s his first real optimistic tome as the book’s thesis forecasts a better virtually augmented world than I envision, although we both agree that education is key in fixing the future. We agree on so much that his book could have been called Interpersonal Divide in the Age of the Machine and mine How to Fix the Future. But we reach the same destination by very different paths.

As a journalistic work, the theme of Keen’s work is “discovery.” We accompany him not only in his travels but also in his imagination. When he thinks critically, as he does throughout the book, we share the same thoughts, often inspired by interviews laced with insight.

He begins the book with the statement of the problem:

The future, it seems, is broken. We are caught between the operating systems of two quite different civilizations. Our old twentieth-century system doesn’t work anymore, but its replacement, a supposedly upgraded twenty-first-century version, isn’t functioning properly either.

Keen believes society and, more to the point, each of us, is losing touch with “what it means to be human in an age of bewildering fast change.” The future isn’t working, he states, noting the absent revitalizing component deleted from operating systems: “Ourselves. We are forgetting about our place, the human place. … That’s where the hole is. And the future, our future, won’t be fixed until we fill it.”

In the second chapter, Keen takes us to an interview with John Borthwick, the founder and CEO of New York Cirt’s Betaworks, a tech start-up incubator. This is where Keen discovers Borthwick’s take on the future. He challenges Borthwick. “Five fixes, John. Give me five bullet points on how we can fall back in love with the future.”

After more discussion and discovery, Keen riffs on that inspiration and outlines five tools for fixing the future:

  • Regulation
  • Competitive Innovation
  • Social Responsibility
  • Worker and Consumer Choice
  • Education

Those become chapters in the book, preceded by two case studies. The first concerns how Estonia built a country without borders, offering “e-residency–an electronic passport that offers any small businessperson the right to use legitimate Estonian legal or accounting online services and digital technologies.” The other is Singapore, which bears striking digital similarities to Estonia, especially when it comes to trust in its systems and quality of education.

In essence, Keen uses these two case studies to show that each of his five aforementioned bullet points to fix the future already are in play.

The next five chapters are about each point, told with rich description, documentation, fact, interviews, and elegant writing stitching so much information in so little space. That astounds. For example, Keen notes how Europe is successfully regulating social media. Then he tackles technological automation replacing jobs. There is a fascinating interview with Nicholas Carr, author of the Pulitzer Prize-nominated book, The Shallows, in which we discover a truth that really can fix the future: “The challenge (and opportunity) for educators, then, is to teach everything that can’t be replicated buy a robot or an algorithm.”

These stylistic attributes–first-hand discovery via interviews accompanied by fact, textured description, history, philosophy, critical thinking and current events–are among the best attributes of this book and why it belongs on every tech writer’s and educator’s book shelf. What’s more, we now have an outline for Keen’s future books and a real possibility for positive change on a global scale, which distinguishes his work from others late to the determinism party.