How a billionaires boys’ club came to dominate the public square

The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, attacked a publication owned by the world’s third-richest man, Jeff Bezos, last month for reprinting a column published by the world’s 13th-richest man, Mike Bloomberg. The Bloomberg opinion article, posted by The Washington Post, asked whether Musk’s recent investment in Twitter would endanger freedom of speech. “WaPo always good for a laugh,” Musk wrote in a tweet, with smiling and crying emoji. The jab underscored an…

War via TikTok: Russia’s new tool for propaganda machine

“This is the way they go to war; it’s a central part of Russian doctrine,” said Jim Ludes, a former U.S. defense analyst who now directs the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University. Ludes said Russian disinformation campaigns are intended to galvanize Russian support while confusing and dividing the country’s opponents. Russia tailors its propaganda message for specific audiences. For Russians and pro-Russian separatists…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In January, 2002 I was blogging about…

A 20-something former CEO takes a fast food job The death of Astrid Lindgren (creator of Pippi Longstocking) at 94 Isadore, patron saint of web surfing (who remembers when “surfing the web” was the dominant metaphor?) Teenager created a glove to translate ASL finger positions to speech On the implausibility of the Death Star’s trash compactor The death of Hemingway’s “Old Man” at 104 Bernard Shifman, the moron spammer 11…

Delightful interview with a former Setonian editor-in-chief who’s now doing SEO

As a student journalist, Jessie totally revamped the print publications and the website, unifying them with design elements from the Sisters of Charity (the religious order that founded our school) and rounded rectangles that echoed the interface of the iPads (which were at the time a brand new part of SHU’s student technology plan). The way she blended tradition and high-tech is a product of the flexibility of a liberal…

“Link In Bio” is a slow knife

We don’t even notice it anymore — “link in bio”. It’s a pithy phrase, usually found on Instagram, which directs an audience to be aware that a pertinent web link can be found on that user’s profile. […] For a closed system, those kinds of open connections are deeply dangerous. If anyone on Instagram can just link to any old store on the web, how can Instagram — meaning Facebook,…

The YouTubers who blew the whistle on an anti-vax plot

While rational minds worry about the impact of biased cable TV channels, and as the Delta mutation spreads globally, a mysterious marketing agency is offering to pay social media influencers to post anti-vax disinformation. Mirko normally ignores offers from brands asking him to advertise their products to his more than 1.5 million subscribers. But the sponsorship offer he received in May this year was unlike any other. An influencer marketing…

Why your brain’s so bad at letting go of negative comments

Negative comments engage avoidance motivation. When you’re motivated to avoid something bad, then an important strategy is to be vigilant for more bad things in the environment to make sure that you’re aware of problems as soon as they happen. This may have been an adaptive strategy when there were people or animals out there trying to hunt you in some evolutionary environment. However, it’s a less effective strategy in…

That Class Where Stanford Profs Projected Hundreds of Zoom Students on a Video Wall

Of course, not all institutions happen to have a video wall that’s 32-feet wide and 8-feet tall. But Stanford already did, in its Wallenberg Hall. So the three professors reached out to the university’s director of classroom innovation, Bob Smith, to see what they could rig up. No matter how big your screen, Zoom can only display up to 49 people in each session. So the class was divided into…

The Internet Is Rotting

I do what I can. It’s disheartening how, in the past three or so years, several of my free instructional web pages that used to be high in the Google search results have been pushed out by predatory services that provide custom term papers (for a fee, of course). Users of social media are trained to use a flashy, well-designed app, but they don’t learn how to curate and maintain…

No, this Jeopardy! contestant was not making a white supremacist hand gesture

Conspiracy theories, knee-jerk tribal thinking and stubbornness are not confined to one end of the political spectrum, as this NYT analysis of a recent Jeopardy! conspiracy theory establishes. Mr. Donohue’s case is unusually clear-cut, and the allegation is obviously false. So the element of this story that interests me most is how the beating heart of nerdy, liberal fact-mastery can pump blood into wild social media conspiracy, and send all…

MAGA World Is Splintering: Following the riot at the Capitol, Trump supporters are having an existential crisis on Twitter.

Bryson Gray, a 29-year-old rapper and Donald Trump superfan from North Carolina, wants to make one thing clear: It was a group of the president’s most loyal supporters that rioted in the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, and nobody else. When I spoke with Gray yesterday, he said he had been “too late” to get inside the Capitol itself with the rest of the mob, which broke windows and chanted…

Apple threatens to remove Parler social networking service from App Store

Apple Inc has threatened to remove the Parler social networking service from its App Store unless the company changes its content moderation policies, Parler Chief Executive John Matze told Reuters on Friday. Parler is a social network where many supporters of President Donald Trump have migrated after being banned from services such as Twitter Inc. In a letter from Apple’s App Store review team to Parler seen by Reuters, Apple…

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Fact Check: No, an NPR story on the Trump supporters’ attempted coup dated January 6, 2021 9:33 AM ET is not a sign of a conspiracy theory

According to the Internet Archive, this is a story NPR posted at 9:33 this morning. As events developed, and the story changed, NPR updated this page — drastically. As you can see, the headline and the picture are different; though the date the page was first created is still there, the page now also includes an “Updated at 3.08pm ET” time stamp. (The blue highlighting is mine.) Conspiracy theorists are…

Fact check: You can safely ignore that “HOW TO FIGHT COVID AT HOME” meme

I noticed this meme a few days ago. I recognized the “friend of a friend who has insider knowledge” formula that makes people want to share a memes. I know better than to trust anonymous online sources that claim to have special knowledge, so I just re-read what the CDC says and moved on. Here are links to what the CDC says: Symptoms of coronavirus How to protect yourself How…

Oh, No. YouTube is Deleting Videos.

Oh no.  First YouTube institutes a “COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy” and starts deleting videos that tout fake cures or discourage people from following the medical advice of the WHO; then, YouTube takes a stand against any video that “misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.” What’s next? Will they go after videos that include the phrase  “Merry Christmas?” Or…

Cameras and Masks: Sustaining Emotional Connections with Your Students in an Age of COVID19

There are some sound pedagogical reasons for turning cameras on. Thus, I suggest sharing those reasons with the students before giving them the choice of what to do about their cameras. Explain why you are making your request. For example, being able to see students’ faces gives instructors a quick and easy way to discern whether students are finding the material engaging, at least in smaller classes. One instructor told me that “I asked students to turn their cameras on to say hi to their classmates at the beginning and end of class, and those were the best moments of the class.”