Though many celebrated the deplatforming of Trump, we can’t forget the precedents we set in how we hold cloud platforms accountable for their neutrality.

Deplatforming, or taking away the online platform by which someone presents themselves or their brand, is an odd phenomenon on the Internet. It centers around the power of big platforms to kick people off their services, temporarily or permanently, which can cause massive damage to the person or brand being deplatformed. One can find themselves very suddenly losing thousands of fans, followers, or customers with very little recourse. Although deplatforming usually comes up in conversation about big tech like social media services suspending accounts, other types of companies with a huge reach can do it too-such as payment processors blocking…


We navigate our world with search engines, but we find bias if we don’t choose our search engine carefully.

Google alone saw at least 5.5 billion daily searches in 2016 and holds over two-thirds of the United States search market. Whatever it is we search for and on whatever search engine we choose, we expect the results we get to be relatively unbiased, ordered by their relevance to the search. Each search engine chooses and orders its results differently based on algorithms most hide from the public. A search engine, especially one the size of Google, has the power to make sites disappear into relative obscurity by listing them lower or not at all.

Sometimes, search engines get it wrong — but that’s their right

Although we might expect our…


Bots are taking the disinformation agendas of unknown actors viral on social media.

Bot activity across the political spectrum is nothing new. In a University of Southern California (USC) study, bots accounted for a fifth of political activity on Twitter in the 2016 election. Bots also accounted for 400,000 of the 2.8 million Twitter users tweeting about the election, or about 15% of the users the USC study looked at. While bots supported campaigns from all political leanings, research has shown that Trump had and continues to have a significantly higher number of supporters that are bots rather than real people.

Social media has been actively fighting the invasion of bots. Takedowns of…


Clickbait headlines are spreading, driven by a need for advertising revenue and the fact that fewer than half of people actually read articles they share.

It’s no secret that advertising revenue drives the Internet. Online advertising has surpassed 200 billion dollars and reaches nearly every corner of the Internet. Online ads make up the majority of the revenue of Internet giants including Facebook and Google and pay for many other free-to-use services and account for an estimated 25% to 40% of Internet traffic on some networks, in one study. To convince us to click, ads have evolved to be increasingly intrusive and targeted. Some sites even run ads that look like normal news articles.

The actual ads are only part of the story. Without people…


Social media connects protesters but can also act as a channel for government propaganda.

If you listen to the ways social media sites describe themselves, it’s usually a description of connecting and empowering people. If you haven’t recently read the mission statements of social media sites, Twitter’s published mission statement focuses on “giv[ing] everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers” and Facebook’s is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” While those statements aren’t false, at least at face value, operating at a global scale means that the reality isn’t quite as romantic.

Social media has indeed empowered all kinds of…


The goal is confusion and paranoia, and facts don’t matter.

Propaganda isn’t a new idea, but we’ve been witnessing its evolution into a 21st century version. Through history, propaganda wasn’t always true but it was usually believable. The word propaganda came into normal use around 1914 but the act it describes is far from new. The ancient Greeks used games, theatre, courts, and religious festivals to spread their ideas, the mass media of the time. Over time, the medium for propaganda evolved to the modern media at the time. …


Sites (and apps) are taking it upon themselves to make the Internet look like a utopia.

Censoring content — whatever the reason, be it for keeping adult content out of the hands of minors, because of manufactured outrage, or any other reason — is an interesting dilemma when it comes to digital content. Parental controls aren’t exactly new or complicated, and online services are increasingly adding “kid-friendly” restricted versions of their services. For the most part, those restrictions aren’t anything too novel as far as gated content is concerned. However, digital bans are more enforceable and certain formats of content can be modified on the fly with surgical precision. …


It’s not just you; leaving social media is hard.

Social sites appear to be genuinely addictive and human psychology has a difficult time resisting them, especially when everyone around us is using them. The effects may even be getting stronger as we find social sites part of our daily lives, carried in our pockets and increasingly, worn on our wrists.

The idea that a service could be addictive isn’t exactly new. CNN posted about Facebook addiction in 2009 and there are articles that are even older. …


We decide the worth of a web page in seconds; so websites resort to interest targeting and design tricks to keep our attention.

The Internet has a weird influence on our attention. We decide the value of a web page, and whether it’s worth reading, in seconds. Ten to twenty seconds is the average amount of time people spend on a web page (assuming it loaded reasonably quickly; waiting for a page to load drives people away). We look in a very particular pattern when we visit a page to decide what it’s about and if it’s valuable to us. …


If it’s digital, you may be buying access, not the item itself — and your access can be revoked without a refund.

On a Friday in 2009, some people discovered that copies of Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm had mysteriously vanished from their Amazon Kindle e-readers. While this wasn’t the only case of mysteriously vanishing books (copies of Harry Potter and Ayn Rand novels vanished at other times), it was interesting enough to hit the news because 1984 was involved. The disappearing books was not, of course, accidental. Amazon had intentionally taken down the books and deleted downloaded copies from Kindles due to copyright disputes. …

Nate Levesque

Software Engineer. Lover of FOSS, personal growth, learning, and the outdoors. He/him. #wow

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