Netanyahu takes White House Fight to Social Media

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Netanyahu takes White House Fight to Social Media

– For the last few days my Facebook and Twitter have been blowing up about Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his visit to the United States. The posts and comments I have seen in regards to the event have many sides to them, some would even classify as extreme. Now I know this event, both his visit and the related social media commotion can exemplify the polar opposite opinions that exist on social media outlets. Wether you are a supporter, a protester, or a bystander, there is no denying that this is popping up in everyones news feed and twitter logs.

Zeynep Tufekci’s article “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” had me pondering on what establishes and constitutes authority online. This article also brought up the idea that transmedia revolves around the idea of social movement identity. Now, Netanyahu, as a prime minister has quite a bit of authority in his local sphere and even in the broader global political sphere. Such a title has given him authority both on land, and in cyberspace and this has established his authority online. With a presence on both Facebook and Twitter, his political campaign can be both expressed and promoted to reach masses of people. This same authority also has the ability to restrict and even hide certain types of media. Now that so much of our communication and entertainment is found online, political entities has the ability, the ‘online authority,’ to censor what they want.

An example of online authority and how ‘What Happens in #Israel Affects Israel’:

Israel to Air Speech With 5-Minute Delay Over Campaigning Concers

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– This is clear example of how what happens on social media and news/entertainment outlets affects local spheres. The online is a direct window in to the spheres of politics, of censorship, of free speech, and of activism. When you participate online in the social issues and events, either as a supporter, protester, or bystander, you impact the course of history. Now I know one voice doesn’t reach far but tools such as hashtags, blog posts, tweets, and geotags can further benefit most if not every campaign out there. I have always been told that any publicity, even bad publicity, is free publicity and in the end is good publicity. When Netanyahu tweets for support and asks others to retweet, those who participate are providing him more publicity, good or bad.

If this weeks articles taught me anything its that I shouldn’t feel bad if I am a slacktivisit, at least I am aware of things going in the world. A retweet for a campaign I believe is good publicity, and overall affects the sphere of the campaign. So, to all of you retweeters and slakctivits, now that I believe your mention is practice and benefits.

– Felipe

Can we expect of machine learning what we cannot ourselves exemplify?

While trying to look up more information on algorithmic filtering, I chanced upon the Wikipedia article for the term “filter bubble”- this refers to the process by which an algorithm “selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user”…thus “effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles”.

Based on my experience in my entrepreneurship fraternity, these filters and algorithms are part of a larger discipline called machine learning. This is a “scientific discipline that explores the construction and study of algorithms that can learn from data”. Because these algorithms operate by building a “model from example inputs and using that to make predictions or decisions”, the system attempts to learn to make human choices using precedent. This in itself is not flawed- but the way we make choices often are. We rely on our cultural background and circumstances to make choices, and these choices are often biased- the very same way that these programs are accused of unfairly functioning. But if the goal of technology is to imitate that human decision making process (however flawed), then we are in no position to say it has not achieved its aim.

However, this does warrant a more concerning inquiry regarding the way we make choices.  There seems to be a tension between equating the advancement of technology to human simulation on the one hand, and the advancement of technology to promote ideals of democracy and a globalized interconnected world of information on the other. Because people are not automatically conditioned to be impartial and all-accommodating, machine learning’s pursuit to capture the complexities of human thought will necessarily fail at upholding complete neutrality.

However, the difference in the way various social media platforms choose to formulate their algorithms shows promise for the field. Examining the difference in Facebook and Twitter feeds in the Ferguson article, it is apparent that the philosophies of each platform weigh heavily on how and how effectively information is filtered. In the case of Facebook, its way of simulating relationships and building networks is based off of a person’s life and profile. Like a customizable AI device in the movie Her, we very much customize Facebook to suit our personality. In contrast, while Twitter is very focused on what accounts you follow and the type of news you are interested in, it also keeps the big picture by alerting users to trending topics. It seems more of a conversation starter than it is a platform for you to gather information about another acquaintance’s life. Because of the etiquette and practices of each platform, we have also come to expect certain things out of each platform. We are more likely to get information about a party on Facebook, and real time updates on news issues on Twitter. These differences, and our knowledge of these differences, hopefully make us more discerning and savvy users- at least until developers figure things out on their end.

That said, at this point, I don’t think we can quite reach the assertion that net neutrality and algorithmic filtering are human rights issues. It is, however, something worth considering if/ when we are able to reconcile machine learning’s trend toward human simulation, and broader expectations that information on the web be credible and fairly filtered.


Twitter and Transmedia

This week’s readings focused on online activism, how it comes about, and whether or not this type of social movement is effective. Online activism is very present in my life, from seeing (and participating in) various hashtags on Twitter/Instagram to the use of Facebook to promote social justice causes within the UCLA community by changing cover photos, etc.

This week’s readings reminded me of a recent hashtag that trended on Twitter last month, #ChapelHillShooting. This hashtag revolved around the deaths of three Muslim students near the University of North Carolina. I remember discovering the hashtag on Twitter while I was up really late doing homework, as it was breaking news people were trying to spread awareness of the event and were also voicing their anger over the lack of coverage in mainstream media channels like CNN, ABC, NBC, etc. It was all over Twitter, so I turned on my TV and flipped through the big news channels and it was true, there was no mention of this particular breaking news. Twitter was the most active and mobile platform in which the information on this tragedy was spreading, as the online community kept spreading this hashtag until it was one of the top trends.

Another use of a hashtag, also involving discussion against religious stereotypes and backlash, is that of #Muslims4Lent. The idea behind it is to gather Muslims to show interfaith solidarity with Christians and Catholics who celebrate lent. An article on this can be found here.

These two instances, for me, relate to the idea of transmedia storytelling and transmedia organizing, as described in the Constanza-Chock reading. Both of these concepts play off each other and involve the use of multiple media platforms to create a unified story and mobilize/launch opportunities for action. The aforementioned hashtags were ways of bringing people together through online action to advance a greater social cause. They seemed to be effective in creating awareness and participation. They told specific stories through this online tool. Yet, the question still remains on whether this kind of social movement can be considered true activism. I can see and understand where the term “slacktivism” comes from, because does tweeting a hashtag really create physical change? However, is the spreading of knowledge and awareness through the use of transmedia storytelling/organizing through things like hashtags better than doing nothing at all?

Facebook sucks

So. I kind of want to go on a small rant about some things and I feel it is a little appropriate having read the #Ferguson article (which I really enjoyed) by the way. I liked the links to the “Why hasn’t #OccupyWallStreet trended in New York?” Article and it explained in greater detail why steady trends don’t ever become a an actual trend. Apparently it’s only things that burst into popularity that get to be “trending” which is how that stupid picture of that dress got to be so talked about. God that discussion made me feel so disgusted by what we have become. Honestly who could have possibly cared for more than a second. But I digress….

What I wanted to talk about was how dumbed down facebook seems to be, especially since easily likable things can trend so easily… and by easily likable, I mean pictures, things that you can see quickly and deem cool or not. I took some nice pictures at a fancy studio in hollywood and one picture got over 100 likes…. but every time I post an article that I think is meaningful and worth reading…. 0 likes.

It honestly makes me so sad.

From this “Trust Engineers” story someone posted about in the FB group I learned that FB changes questions it asks people to see what gets to best response and so small changes can have big effects in what is done and what is not done. It’s all very conditional, if one thing happens another thing happens because of it to get a certain outcome, and it’s the same with big TV channels and mass media, a lot of them tend to go for the shock factor and want to express it through their channels point of view. So in the Trust Engineer’s FB study on how different questions change responses, a lot of mass media networks claimed that Facebook was doing evil things and could have possibly killed people if they were having a bad day and somehow it made them more depressed (really FB was just trying to keep everything friendly and see which statements work when asking someone to take down a picture they didn’t like).

Anyway, that sort of reminds me of the article on immigrants and how they rather go through their own small radio stations and unite that way so they can avoid getting their perspective skewed.

Also, sorry this post has been all over the place…

I’ve been kinda bummed out about FB’s terribleness in the last few days and my mind is also…. all over the place. :/

McLuhan and Google Media Tools

Ferguson, algorithmic filtering, and net neutrality. Three major issues congested with even more problematic crossroads in between, all addressed in just a single six-minute read. As intriguing as I found Zeynep Tufekci’s story about how Ferguson’s coverage was relayed on the Internet, I was equally intrigued by how Tufekci’s own post was being portrayed. At this point I began to think about Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” in relation to this newfangled blog-posting platform. While reading through the post, I felt that the prose in which it was written seemed to me like a collection of cohesive tweets. I could envision almost each individual paragraph as a bunch of tweets on someone’s timeline. Alongside these paragraphs were subtle comment buttons where readers can add their opinion instantaneously. It was an unusual layout for me to read, but also felt extremely digestible and easy on the eyes. I’m used to reading all the commentary on the bottom only after I finished the main post. Multi-tasking and seeing that some paragraphs had more comments than others somewhat validated those particular pieces of her writing, such as the one-liner, “Algorithms have consequences.” I found this whole reading experience to be extremely meta. Here was Tufekci, someone I had no idea about just an hour ago, uncovering the message in which Ferguson was communicated through and now here I am uncovering her medium’s message about a message’s medium. Woah.

After reading the story, I looked more into this blogging tool and found that it was actually developed by Twitter’s founders! It was launched back in 2012 by Biz Stone and Evan Williams all in the name of social journalism. This is where things got even more intriguing for me. The ease and simplicity of the platform’s interface is definitely reminiscent of Twitter’s concept. Essentially, it’s a Twitter 2.0 for bigger ideas to be written and shared beyond 140 characters. The accessibility and authority that this platform delivers for its contributors is both amazing and questionable. I’m looking forward to discussing the strengths and weaknesses of social journalism in class. I actually heard today about Google’s Media Tools, a suite of “digital tools that can enhance news-gathering and exposure across television, radio, print and online.” This is yet another example of the growing movement of social journalism. The question still remains, should we embrace it?

Net Neutrality and Online Activism

I feel like this is the perfect week to discuss the topic of online activism, considering that the FCC officially passed Net Neutrality just last week. Like Tufecki said, Net Neutrality is very much a human rights issue. Without it, Internet providers could give higher speed channels and priority to institutions or organizations who could pay the highest—making only certain viewpoints, political opinions, or groups easily accessible online. ( As FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “(Net Neutrality) is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept”.

The passage of Net Neutrality is a victory for Internet users everywhere, but particularly one for minority interest and rights groups. As Costanza-Chock discusses in her book, immigrant movements avoid main media platforms because “they’re going to tell their story their way,” meaning that the dominant culture that is portrayed by the media will fit immigrants’ stories to fit their own determined narrative of who they are and what they want. With the rise of the Internet and social media activism, these immigrant and other minority groups have taken their grievances online, using it as a communication platform to rally for their cause on their own terms and in their own words. Net Neutrality maintains everyone’s access to these sites, allowing these peoples’ voices to be as accessible as the main media’s, in theory.

With this accomplishment passed, I think that the next goal online activists can work towards is learning and mastering the viral culture of the Internet. Certain groups have already done so, but it is much harder for groups whose interests do not have a direct connection to the popular media to garner attention. I wrote an magazine article this past week for Her Campus UCLA that questions our generation’s online interests, pointing out that #TheDress debate and the rogue llamas in Arizona dominated the Internet on the day that Net Neutrality was passed, stealing the spotlight from what was supposed to be huge news. ( These things that tend to go viral are seemingly so random, that it is our job as Digital Humanists to study and hopefully learn what drives certain things to go viral over others. With this knowledge, civil activists can better understand the target audience they would like to reach with their campaign, and ideally spread a viral message that can lead to real social change.

Net Neutrality and Ferguson

Prior to reading Zeynep Tufekci’s piece What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering and Ferguson I hadn’t really heard the term “net neutrality”. I realized quickly what it meant – as we had heard a little bit about the concept from Safiya Noble. On a “meta” level, the term directly manifests the tension that Digital Humanities presents. How do the digital and humanities world collide? Can they coexist? How do they affect each other. In the example of #Ferguson, net neutrality stands as a solid example of this relationship.

Safiya mentioned during her talk that as a suggestion to Apple, she would hire people in the sociology/humanities fields alongside qualified programmers. Tufekci argues this lack of sociological foresight in algorithmic filtering, in that it “controls what you seen on the Internet. Net neutrality (or lack thereof) will be yet another layer determining this. This will come on top of existing inequalities in attention, coverage and control”. It shocked me to discover that there are certain mechanisms built into algorithm filter settings like “term frequency inverse document frequency” which Tufekci explains as “as people in localities who had not been talking a lot about Ferguson started to mention it, it trended there though the national build-up n the last five days penalized Ferguson”. This technical function of Twitter, for example, most likely has some reasoning to it. But when something like this, a national/international controversy sparks, how does that fit in? It seems as though it would have trended nationally – but it didn’t (or for a very brief amount of time, according to Tufekci).

“Algorithms have consequences” writes Tufekci. Like she notes, this issue is multifaceted. It does not just have one consequence in one field. It has a multitude of implications, in a multitude of fields. One in particular that really strikes a chord for me is the issue of free speech. Algorithmic filtering stands directly in opposition to the “voiceless being heard”. Around the time that the Internet was shaping up to be what it is today, there was this idealized dream that it would be a place in which everyone could discuss anything. It was to be the most free form of communication of all time. And as with this example, it is clear to see that this ideal is not quite the case in actuality.

As Tufekci notes at the end of the article, Ferguson illuminates so many burgeoning issues in this country. “I hope that in the coming days, there will be a lot written about race in America, about militarization of police departments, lack of living wage jobs in large geographic swaths of the country. But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue”.   Not only is the issue of net neutrality coming to the surface, I think it is one of the strongest forces working against these other issues that come up with Ferguson – race, police, employment. It seems that this is the most burning and easily approachable issue to begin dealing with.

Identity in Transmedia & Editorial Control on Twitter

The idea of transmedia revolves around the idea of social movement identity.

“…it requires co-creation and collaboration across multiple social movement groups; it provides roles and actions for movement participants to take on in their daily life; it is open to participation by the social base of the movement; and it is the key strategic media form for social movements in the current media ecology,” (Constanza-Chock, 50).

But this identity changes, shifts, and moves highlighting different aspects of a particular movement whether it be protest, personal story, or reasoning.  Social media platforms have opened up a more diversified outlet for protestors and those trying to voice their opinion.  Within the last 10 years, social media has been the practical way for getting a message across to the general public.  The way the mass public can hear about a particular issue can happen within minutes  For example, not a political movement or social issue, but nonetheless, the debate of whether the dress is blue and black or white and gold sparked large debate this weekend, and just about everyone who had a computer heard about it.  The way that transmedia is successful is understanding the way in which activists know how to intentionally circulate media.  For example, the use of the hashtag# is the best way to bring up a key word or a key issue and follow it.   However, the use of social media is not the only useful asset.  The success of the Walkouts primary came from Myspace but also broadcast networks that highlighted the details of each event.


The issue of bringing political activism to social media is nothing new, if not increasing today more so than 5 years ago.  However, does our free speech within the internet get censored?  Social Media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, show this inclination of filtering in relation to Ferguson.  While twitter blew up with Ferguson hashtags, Facebook took about a week to catch on to the Ferguson case.  Coincidental? I think not. On 20 August, Dick Costolo, Twitter’s chief executive, tweeted: “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery. Thank you … ” . His tweet linked to the news that James Foley had apparently been executed, on video, by Isis. While this was to protect viewers from seeing this particular content, it was the first time that Twitter explicitly stated that they were editing content on Twitter and had judgement in relation to what is being posted.


“News is now not just outside newspapers, it is outside newsrooms. It is impossible for humans to filter efficiently the vast numbers of images, videos, tweets and updates created and shared by humans, bots and devices. By 2020, according to consultants Gartner, there will be 20bn devices connected to the internet, and they will all have something to say for themselves,” (Bell).

Politically Unconscious w/o a Twitter Feed

Zeynep Tufekci’s article “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” rang a similar bell that Dr. Noble’s guest lecture did two weeks ago. When Dr. Noble came in, I was very unfamiliar with the problems of net neutrality and algorithmic filtering, but after reading this article I feel as though it is pretty clear to me that, like the real world, the Internet is not fair. As I was first beginning to understand this, I felt somewhat overwhelmed, maybe it was because of my own naivety, but thinking about Google and these other superpower cyber-entities that rule most of the Internet (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and how powerful and manipulative they can be without consequence is quite frightening. I knew that my Facebook feed was filtered, but I haven’t noticed it much until now because I am more digitally-self-aware. Now that the problem is identified, I do not really know how to contribute to (or what exactly is) the solution. I know Dr. Noble mentioned that she stays away from Google, but after reading Tufekci’s article, are we now supposed to stay completely away from Twitter and Facebook because their algorithms aren’t as truthful as we would like them to be?

I remember when the Ferguson incident and aftermath originally happened–or actually I don’t. During the summer, I went on a retreat where I completely separated myself from social media. I stopped using Facebook, Twitter, SnapChat, and Instagram for an entire week because I was out of service, but also for meditation purposes. After this retreat, I kept up this anti-habit of not using social media very often–which was also right around when the shooting of Michael Brown occurred. I did not really understand or even hear about what happened in Ferguson until maybe a week later than when it had happened. Although this was not directly influenced by algorithmic filtering or net neutrality problems, it was a direct result from how news in this day and age travels by one route–social media and the Internet. Sure, the news still reports all the same, but it seems, at least to me, more and more people (including myself) rely on social networking for news–that’s why people follow CNN or MSNBC on Twitter. I am curious why not many people were spreading the news orally. Maybe my co-workers and friends aren’t as news-conscience. Relating this back to my original thought, it’s scary how manipulative and  these powers on the Internet can be through their filtering techniques–although it is even scarier how reliant we (including myself!) are on the Internet for our facts in the first place.

Week 9

In Tufekci’s article “What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson” she discusses the role of twitter into political movements and overall events in the world. My roommate is very active on twitter and she was very active in the #ferguson, #icantbreath, and #blacklivesmatter movement. She went to protest in the streets and she has credited Twitter as her main form of communication with other fellow activists. I have read her Twitter feed and she is having important discussions and also trying to educate people. She is posting links to articles and encourages everyone to inform themselves. I do now have Twitter anymore and primarily use Facebook as my main means of online communication. I really feel like Facebook is not a good way to inform yourself of political issues because it is heavily filtered. I am always seeing the same 20 people post on Facebook and I know I have way more friends than that.

An incident that came to mind while reading the Tufekci article is the #ChapelHillShooting. I found out about it because of the “trending” section on the side of Facebook but I feel like I found out too late. I know things circulate way faster on Twitter and if I would have had Twitter it would have came to my attention faster. That is not to say that Twitter is heavily filtered, like the article states. The #ChapelHillShooting really broke my heart because of the news outlets. I saw the shooter’s wife on the news crying and explaining how a good man he was but I did not see the deceased’s families. News outlets were weary of calling him a terrorist or racist but if it would have been a Muslim killing three individuals it the news outlets would have painted the picture very differently. Sometimes I feel like personal accounts of news via Twitter are less disheartening than the things I see on TV or formal news outlets. Everything is filtered, yes, but we have to know what we should listen to and learn from.

Even though all these hashtags annoy me, I am so happy there are spaces where important events are being discussed, especially those trying to counter the popular media. Even though Twitter + Facebook are heavily filtered, I am glad people can post articles (and I hope I can see them!) and things that should be talked about are trending!