Showing posts from 2018

Desperately Seeking Digital Salvation

Our love affair with the internet is ending. It is as if we have discovered a long standing lover has  hidden being arrested numerous times for DWI and then says "it's nothing to worry about."

The US only woke up to the cultural infidelities of the internet when it threatened democracy. It seems abusing blacks, women, Jews, Muslims, LBGTQ or the physically challenged for the past 10 years wasn't really considered much of a problem. The companies were glad to let it go and the US public defended the digital industry's free speech assertion. But the Europeans were far less sympathetic and, it seems, basically correct.

Abuse and exploitation by hate groups, extremists, foreign antagonists and a variety of malcontents has certainly taken the shine off the internet. When you add toxic online social and gaming environments, over-reaching data mining and user activity tracking, the entire picture looks bad. While testifying in Europe and Washington D.C. everyone from I…

The Internet is Gone

The Internet you think exists, or thought exists, is gone. Been gone awhile. It was damaged beyond repair while you watched. Most people did not notice. This was not done by the right-wing, the left-wing, the media, the politicians or users alone. The ultimate attack against the internet was led by the very people who created it.

Yes, the internet has helped many people, but when it started helping the worst of people with the most malicious agendas Jack, Mark, Sergey, Jerry, Jeff  and most others, did as little as possible. At the same time racists, misogynists, extremists, elitists, abusers and malefactors of every stripe did as much as possible to erode the foundation of higher principals it aspired to foster.

There was plenty of warning.

Under the thinly veiled disguise of anonymous rumors, alternative news, suppressed facts and conspiracies an increasingly subjective definition of what are facts and truth emerged. Much of this activity centered on targeting religious groups, min…

The New Slave Economy

It's just like the old movie Soylent Green. Just like the slave trade. You are the product. You are what is being consumed, and you have no control, no say and in some cases, you don't even know it's happening.

The internet economy is made of people. It is consuming us as data. Without our permission, explanation or compensation.

Prevailing wisdom by the companies is that the data is aggregate, each person's data is indistinguishable in the larger structure. True and not true.  In a stew you don't know if, at any moment, you are eating the first carrot you put in or last.  The untruth is that the stew you are included in is also used to target you, because the stew always needs more carrots.. "Oh, you're a carrot? How about joining our nice stew? Many carrots here."

We have all experienced doing a web-search for a vacation, or a product, and then being bombarded with ads for those very same places or products. Or how about a major online vendor who of…

Keeping One of Hitler’s Promises

Seems insane to be writing that something Hitler said has value. The historic value in the totality of what he said is about how deep the darkness of humanity can actually become and how seductive it can be. The single thing Hitler said that has true value ultimately has nothing to do with what he meant. Delusional rantings often work that way. 
The promise of a Thousand Year Reich (Thousand Year Realm, Kingdom) was uplifting to his followers and chilling to his enemies. It was Hitler’s attempt to usurp the legacy and legitimacy of the Holy Roman Empire (800-1806 AD) which has been called “The First Realm” or First Reich. Now, mere decades after Hitler's promise of the Thousand Year Reich has been destroyed, we are faced with the sad reality that most of the world has forgotten how close we came to seeing that promise fulfilled. And so the problem – to ultimately defeat Hitler’s Reich and insure its like never returns, we must keep the truth, the reality, the nightmare alive - how…

Would You Stop Hate Online If You Could?

If you could stop most of the hate on the web, why wouldn't you? I know who you can ask.

Most hate online does not start on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, but that is where it finds its legs. I am not just talking about sexism, racism, ableism or other hates, but instead the ability to casually create and stigmatize any "other".

If the major platforms had put as much effort into user safety as they did into revenue streams, things might be very different.

I have seen the worst of online hate over the last decade in the Western World. It's my job. The calls for an uprising against the enemies of "civilization" (e.g. the world of white European descent) is nothing new. That a critical rhetorical mass has been reached which emboldens such things to action, that is new. It was also inevitable.

The platforms were well aware of the phenomenon of hate speech, but elected to let it remain in order to spur dynamic and heated exchanges on their services. Saf…

Cyberhate - An endless fight that must never be lost

There was a time Cyberhate manifest itself almost exclusively on a limited number of marginal websites, a laughably small number by today’s standards. Largely insignificant websites, even in their own time.None-the-less, it was there from the first days of the internet.

Extremists and malcontents realized immediately that the new medium was like a fertile plot of soil waiting for weeds to take hold. They invested the time and energy to explore all of the possible ways they could make the best of an unregulated and unsupervised communication channel. 
In that way, little has changed, but everything else has.
There have always been dedicated haters. There always will be racists and xenophobes who reflexively hate what they don’t understand. They permeate human history. Their raw, unbridled hate may be easy to recognize for the desperate destructive thrashing about it is, but that does not mean it is easy to control.
More and more we are seeing agenda based hate. Where, for example  som…

Anything online, left alone long enough, will be abused.

Mark Zuckerberg is not the devil. I don't believe he has a malicious bone in his body. That is his problem.

If he had even the slightest inclination to abuse people with his creation,  he wouldn't have his current problem, and we wouldn't have ours. The same goes for Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and most of the other apps and platforms. All were convinced in the blissful ignorance that a grand idea empowering people would allow the best in society to prevail. They didn't see that the deck was stacked against them from the start.

There was internet before Facebook. It was all founded on the same boundless optimism. That electronic Garden of Eden started growing weeds on day one.  In 1995, when the commercial internet was launched, we got Amazon, eBay and Craigslist. It also brought us websites from the Klu Klux Klan and Stormfront (the grand daddy of all hate websites), followed soon after by the National Socialist Movement, white supremacist and violent extremist grou…

The Justified Banning of Klan Ken

Lessons of hate just keep on giving.

Ken is currently dressed in full KKK regalia and locked in storage closet. He is named Ken because that is what is molded into the back of his plastic head. He is a six foot tall mannequin.  His job is to model one of the ADL's civil rights artifacts, a full set of KKK robes. It is an important thing for people to see.  We knew using Ken to present the Klan robes would be powerful.

We had no idea.

Ken's Klan robes are the real deal, not some costume or idealized Hollywood version. Despite Ken's blank expression, the malice he emits is palpable. There is horror in the history of those robes which transcends my experience. Although perfectly clean, the robes are unmistakably stained with history.

I have no direct experience with the Klan. I have certainly had interactions with other extremists and I am fairly thick skinned in my own right.  I expected to have no problem managing my feelings about Ken. Sorry Ken, you are awful and shocking…

Six Months Later: White Supremacists After Charlottesville


On August 11, 2017, the world watched in horror as hundreds of torch-wielding white supremacists descended on the University of Virginia’s bucolic campus, chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” The next day, the streets of Charlottesville exploded in violence, ringing with the hateful, racist shouts of the neo-Nazis, Klan members and alt right agitators who put aside their internecine differences to gather in an unprecedented show of unity. Their stated common cause: To protest the removal of a 

Confederate statue from a local park. Their true purpose: The preservation and celebration of the white race, at any cost.
The promise of Unite the Right brought white supremacists of all stripes together for a weekend of protest that turned to deadly violence, and left counter-protester Heather Heyer dead. The rally itself, which was organized primarily by Jason Kessler, an alt right activist with ties to notorious…

Drivers of hate in the US have distinct regional differences

In a new study, University of Utah geographers sought to understand the factors fueling hate across space. Their findings paint a rather grim reality of America; hate is a national phenomenon, and more complicated than they imagined. The researchers mapped the patterns of active hate groups in every U.S. county in the year 2014, and analyzed their potential socioeconomic and ideological drivers. They found that in all U.S. regions, less education, population change, and ethnic diversity correlated with more hate groups, as did areas with higher poverty rates and more conservative political affiliation. The magnitude of the drivers had regional differences, however. The regional variation of the proposed drivers of hate may be a result of diverse ethnic and cultural histories. One surprising finding is that the geographical region seemed to determine whether religion has a positive or negative relative effect on…

Internet History Reviewed - We Screwed Up

I'm from New York, but I have lived online since dial-up networks, and continuously and deeply for over 15 years. I know my neighborhood. I know where to get good pizza and bad sushi. I know the internet that way too.

In the early days of the internet, and especially Web 2.0, we were optimistic, energized, enthused, and mostly wrong.

We were convinced we had ideas that would revolutionize the world and allow the best, strongest and most inspired human ideas and aspirations to become the predominant ethos of our world. 

Everyone was desperately protective of their products, ideas and companies. Each company built barriers, supremely convinced their idea was unique and needed to be secured. But we also built isolation.

In our optimism we forgot basic philosophy, that inescapable yin and yang of reality; good cannot exist without evil.  Within all good resides some bad.

With the lurking evil summarily ignored, we happily moved on.  More than 10 years later, the mantra that the best …