"I am really pleased to see different sites deciding not to privilege aggressors' speech over their targets'," Phillips said. "That tends to be the default position in so many online 'free speech' debates which suggest that if you restrict aggressors' speech, you're doing a disservice to America—a position that doesn't take into account the fact that antagonistic speech infringes on the speech of those who are silenced by that kind of abuse." ❧
New Data & Society report recommends editorial “better practices” for reporting on online bigots and manipulators; interviews journalists on accidental amplification of extreme agendas
This report draws on in-depth interviews by scholar Whitney Phillips to showcase how news media was hijacked from 2016 to 2018 to amplify the messages of hate groups.
Offering extremely candid comments from mainstream journalists, the report provides a snapshot of an industry caught between the pressure to deliver page views, the impulse to cover manipulators and “trolls,” and the disgust (expressed in interviewees’ own words) of accidentally propagating extremist ideology.
After reviewing common methods of “information laundering” of radical and racist messages through the press, Phillips uses journalists’ own words to propose a set of editorial “better practices” intended to reduce manipulation and harm.
As social and digital media are leveraged to reconfigure the information landscape, Phillips argues that this new domain requires journalists to take what they know about abuses of power and media manipulation in traditional information ecosystems; and apply and adapt that knowledge to networked actors, such as white nationalist networks online.
This work is the first practitioner-focused report from Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, which examines how groups use the participatory culture of the internet to turn the strengths of a free society into vulnerabilities.
Why the troll problem is actually a culture problem: how online trolling fits comfortably within today's media landscape.
Internet trolls live to upset as many people as possible, using all the technical and psychological tools at their disposal. They gleefully whip the media into a frenzy over a fake teen drug crisis; they post offensive messages on Facebook memorial pages, traumatizing grief-stricken friends and family; they use unabashedly racist language and images. They take pleasure in ruining a complete stranger's day and find amusement in their victim's anguish. In short, trolling is the obstacle to a kinder, gentler Internet. To quote a famous Internet meme, trolling is why we can't have nice things online. Or at least that's what we have been led to believe. In this provocative book, Whitney Phillips argues that trolling, widely condemned as obscene and deviant, actually fits comfortably within the contemporary media landscape. Trolling may be obscene, but, Phillips argues, it isn't all that deviant. Trolls' actions are born of and fueled by culturally sanctioned impulses—which are just as damaging as the trolls' most disruptive behaviors.
Phillips describes, for example, the relationship between trolling and sensationalist corporate media—pointing out that for trolls, exploitation is a leisure activity; for media, it's a business strategy. She shows how trolls, “the grimacing poster children for a socially networked world,” align with social media. And she documents how trolls, in addition to parroting media tropes, also offer a grotesque pantomime of dominant cultural tropes, including gendered notions of dominance and success and an ideology of entitlement. We don't just have a trolling problem, Phillips argues; we have a culture problem. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things isn't only about trolls; it's about a culture in which trolls thrive.
This book explores the weird and mean and in-between that characterize everyday expression online, from absurdist photoshops to antagonistic Twitter hashtags to deceptive identity play.
Whitney Phillips and Ryan M. Milner focus especially on the ambivalence of this expression: the fact that it is too unwieldy, too variable across cases, to be essentialized as old or new, vernacular or institutional, generative or destructive. Online expression is, instead, all of the above. This ambivalence, the authors argue, hinges on available digital tools. That said, there is nothing unexpected or surprising about even the strangest online behavior. Ours is a brave new world, and there is nothing new under the sun – a point necessary to understanding not just that online spaces are rife with oddity, mischief, and antagonism, but why these behaviors matter.
The Ambivalent Internet is essential reading for students and scholars of digital media and related fields across the humanities, as well as anyone interested in mediated culture and expression.
The "controversy" over hiring tech journalist Sarah Jeong, explained.
I was just thinking about the Quinn Norton episode the other day, and along comes this nice follow up. It’s nice to see that big institutions are coming to understand the trolling- (and some might say bot-) culture and making more clear-headed distinctions.
Another related case can potentially be found with Kevin Williamson at The Atlantic.
I saw the internet create and destroy a bizarro version of myself.
I’ve been reading some pieces from my archive on context collapse and people losing jobs/opportunities as the result of online bullies digging up old social media posts which has become a bigger issue as of late. Many people have been wanting to leave social media platforms for their toxic cultures, and this seems to be a subset of that in that it has people going back and deleting old social posts for fear of implications in the present.
Quinn Norton has some relatively sage advice about the internet in this piece. Of course it’s no coincidence that The New York Times editorial board wanted to hire her.
Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia
History doesn’t ask you if you want to be born in a time of upheaval, it just tells you when you are. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:00AM
I have a teenage daughter, and I have told her all her life that all the grown-ups are making it up as they go along. I have also waggled my eyebrows suggestively while saying it, to make it clear to her that I mean me, too. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:00AM
This taught me that not everyone worthy of love is worthy of emulation. It also taught me that being given terrible ideas is not a destiny, and that intervention can change lives. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:02AM
Not everyone believes loving engagement is the best way to fight evil beliefs, but it has a good track record. Not everyone is in a position to engage safely with racists, sexists, anti-Semites, and homophobes, but for those who are, it’s a powerful tool. Engagement is not the one true answer to the societal problems destabilizing America today, but there is no one true answer. The way forward is as multifarious and diverse as America is, and a method of nonviolent confrontation and accountability, arising from my pacifism, is what I can bring to helping my society. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:03AM
I am not immune from these mistakes, for mistaking a limited snapshot of something for what it is in its entirety. I have been on the other side. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:04AM
I had been a victim of something the sociologists Alice Marwick and danah boyd call context collapse, where people create online culture meant for one in-group, but exposed to any number of out-groups without its original context by social-media platforms, where it can be recontextualized easily and accidentally. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:05AM
I had even written about context collapse myself, but that hadn’t saved me from falling into it, and then hurting other people I didn’t mean to hurt. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:06AM
It helped me learn a lesson: Be damn sure when you make angry statements. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:07AM
Don’t internet angry. If you’re angry, internet later. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:07AM
Context collapse is our constant companion online. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:07AM
I used to think that showing someone how wrong they were on the internet could fix the world. I said a lot of stupid things when I believed that. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:08AM
I am not, and will never be, a simple writer. I have sought to convict, accuse, comfort, and plead with my readers. I’m leaving the majority of my flaws online: Go for it, you can find them if you want. It’s a choice I made long ago. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:09AM
If you look long enough you can find my early terrible writing. You can find blog posts in which I am an idiot. I’ve had a lot of uninformed and passionate opinions on geopolitical issues from Ireland to Israel. You can find tweets I thought were witty, but think are stupid now. You can find opinions I still hold that you disagree with. I’m going to leave most of that stuff up. In doing so, I’m telling you that you have to look for context if you are seeking to understand me. You don’t have to try, I’m not particularly important, but I am complicated. When I die, I’m going to instruct my executors to burn nothing. Leave the crap there, because it’s part of my journey, and that journey has a value. People who came from where I did, and who were given the thoughts I was given, should know that the future can be different from the past. ❧
August 03, 2018 at 08:13AM
“Block with abandon.” That’s Andy Baio’s New Year’s Resolution. “I spent far too many emotional cycles last year on people arguing with me in bad faith, diving i...