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Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer is an Internet enthusiast based in Troy, NY

Solidarity from NYC

Yesterday’s protests at JFK airport were loud and angry and make me hopeful. Photo by Ellie Irons.

Decided to publish this message I just sent to a friend in Atlanta who emailed asking about how to find out when and where the protests are happening.

Thanks for the link, I’ll give that a read. It’s interesting how these dynamics of oppression seem to fit so neatly into historical precedent. How is it that us Americans think of ourselves as somehow immune to all of this?

We were out at JFK yesterday and it was a really great experience. Loud and angry, with overwhelming turnout. But honestly the smaller protests in lower-profile places in the world continue to be the ones that give me the most inspiration. It takes a lot more guts to show up for a tiny demonstration where you’re easily picked out of a crowd, or where small town dynamics make anonymous protest impossible.

BTW, I saw that Rep. John Lewis was out at ATL, just hanging out in the terminal until he got some answers. So awesome.

I feel like getting information about a protest is an ongoing challenge, especially at events that aren’t officially permitted by local government. There’s a kind of fine line to walk—organizers want to get the word out, for news of an event to spread. But if it’s technically an illegal gathering, it may be difficult to find “official” or consistent sources of good info. And this is where social media is helpful.

It’s a good time to get into Twitter I think, but the trick is in knowing who to follow and how to avoid feeling overwhelmed. My advice would be to find out people you know who went to protests in Atlanta, and just ask them to ping you next time they hear about something. For my part, I first heard about the JFK demonstration via Facebook Messenger (which I hate, but shit like this keeps me on it) from a friend who lives in LA, and then a couple hours later I got a mass email from an immigrant rights org. So maybe sign up for some email lists for local advocacy groups.

Anyway, good to know you’re thinking about this stuff! I am hopeful that we’ll continue to exercise our right to free assembly before things get even worse and it becomes too dangerous to protest (from police violence or stiffer court penalties). So in the interim, let’s go and put our various privileges to productive use while we can.

Solidarity from NYC,
Dan

Addendum

Good point from Paul, basically Facebook is still where things are happening.

Also, if you want to get out and protest today in New York City, go to Battery Park at 2pm.

How to look at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiativemedium.com

Anil Dash wrote a very coherent critique of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s initiative to use their wealth for good.

I do believe that Mark and Priscilla want to have a meaningful positive impact on the world, and I am unapologetically enthusiastic about the fact they’re articulating that vision in a way that will lead others. I am also grievously concerned about the greatest threat to those intentions: The culture of Silicon Valley. Many of the loudest, most prominent voices within the tech industry, people who have Zuckerberg’s ear, are already thoughtlessly describing smart critique of the Initiative as “hating”, absurdly dismissing legitimate concerns as jealousy.

Here’s the truth: No matter how good their intentions, the net result of most such efforts has typically been neutral at best, and can sometimes be deeply destructive. The most valuable path may well be to simply invest this enormous pool of resources in the people and institutions that are already doing this work (including, yes, public institutions funded by tax dollars) and trust that they know their domains better than someone who’s already got a pretty demanding day job.

As Anil said on Twitter, “the best thing they could do is listen to critics.”

See also: Zuckerberg: give your stocks to Facebook users, and from NY Times Dealbook, How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself

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Zuckerberg: give your stocks to Facebook usersamericamagazine.org

You may have heard Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, has promised to donate 99% of his stock in the company “to charity.” (It’s unclear what “charity” means precisely at this point, but one might want to look in the direction of Newark.)

Here is an interesting suggestion from Nathan Schneider, published today in America Magazine:

First, the stock could go back to the Facebook users who made it valuable in the first place. As I have noted here before, Facebook’s business model depends on gathering, mining and selling the personal information that its users post on the platform. That includes our networks of relationships, our photos, our worries, our milestones, our passions and our preferences. It’s barely understood what exactly Facebook knows about us and how, except that it’s a lot. This is part of what has made Mr. Zuckerberg so controversial, and rightly so; early on, he referred to his users as “dumb” (followed by a word even more insulting) for trusting him with such data. What if, rather than papering over that controversy, he could resolve it at the root?

Consider what it would mean if a substantial portion of Facebook stock were held in a trust that acts on behalf of the platform’s users. (This is a model I’m borrowing from the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership in the United Kingdom, explained in Marjorie Kelly’s extraordinary book Owning Our Future.) Users could then vote on what positions the trust should hold at shareholder meetings, and it could distribute dividends based on the stock’s value back to users, or reinvest them by buying more ownership in the company. The trust, therefore, would have a dual incentive: to protect user interests and privacy in Facebook’s business model, and to ensure that the company remains solvent.

The other suggestion, to sell the stocks and distribute the proceeds to every person alive, is also noteworthy, effectively saying: “Do you really know better what to do with all that money than the collective wisdom of everyone on Earth combined?”

Link via Caroline

On Facebook’s Safety Checkwww.theatlantic.com

Facebook’s Safety Check lets you notify friends and family that you’re safe after a natural disaster or “human disaster.” Robinson Meyer wrote about it in the Atlantic.

To know, within an hour or two of an event, that someone is safe: It’s so valuable, so emotionally practical, as to be almost priceless. It is anti-terror, in a way: It says, be not afraid. And in the three places where it was first deployed—Afghanistan, Chile, and Nepal, all three after major earthquakes—its activation made a lot of sense, because earthquakes are events which by their nature can affect millions over huge swaths of territory.

But earthquakes and cyclones are not themselves public-facing events. Terrorist attacks are. As Brian Jenkins, a terrorism scholar at the RAND Corporation, writes, “terrorism is aimed at the people watching.” Terrorism is a public-relations campaign with guns and bombs. It weaponizes culture, and it exploits journalistic concern for heinous violence to grab media attention and get pathology taken instead as politics.

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Facebook M is made out of contractorswww.buzzfeed.com

BuzzFeed’s Mat Honan decided to try out Facebook’s new Messenger-based digital assistant, M.

Facebook M is just a person with a phone.
Facebook M is just a person with a phone.

And what do you know, sending parrots via mobile phone is a thing that you can do in 2015.

Honan talked to a woman from the parrot-renting company, Happy Birds, about what it’s like to receive a request from M. Turns out it’s just a person with a phone.

“She said, ‘I’m doing it for someone else.’ She said ‘well, it’s for my boss’ friend.’”

There was another indicator, however, that this was a legitimate request. Just after the woman claiming to be M called Happy Birds, the company received an identical request through GigSalad — an online platform where performers and event services can connect with interested clients.

This wasn’t the only time I saw evidence of M turning to independent contractors on other platforms to execute requests. When I tried to get it to send a Minion to my colleague Katie Notopolous (she loves Minions) it helpfully offered that “I am able to set up a Tasker with Task Rabbit to go purchase a minion costume and can come interact and entertain for 20-30 min at a rate of $150 for the hour.” (I deemed this too expensive.)

In fact, much of M’s real-word efforts seem to run on contractors. Facebook confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the trainers are all independent contractors. Which to some extent answers the question of how Facebook can scale this up, before M becomes fully automated. It will take an army of humans, each doing small tasks. Simply put, before Facebook can make its robot act like lots of humans, it needs a lot of humans to act like robots.

See also: The Weird Robot Hotel

Link via Casey

Could a Bank Deny Your Loan Based on Your Facebook Friends?www.theatlantic.com

Facebook recently filed a rather unsettling patent application describing (among other things) a hypothetical social-graph-based credit scoring system. What level of freaked out would be an appropriate response?

Facebook makes its money by encouraging people to have large friend networks and create lots of content for it to show ads against. And given that that’s the primary profit driver for Facebook, as a practical manner, it would really surprise me if they decided to get into the credit-scoring business, just because I think that’s going to make people feel panicked and uncomfortable. If I were them, I would not be in a giant rush to do that.

This makes me wonder if a lot of people suddenly started blocking ads, would companies like Facebook move quickly to adopt more dystopian business models? Or would they be more likely to start embracing those business models much earlier—quietly, secretly, mischievously—in anticipation?

Link via Ingrid

Gizmodo will pay you for photos of Mark Zuckerberggizmodo.com

Mat Honan:

Two years ago, Mark Zuckerberg told startup publicist Mike Arrington that “people have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

Facebook has evolved over time too. No longer privately held, it is itself a public company, with a public CEO. We think it’s time he evolves along with his company. In short, it’s time for Mark to go public too.

Here’s the deal: We’re going to pay for photos and videos of Mark Zuckerberg taken between now and Labor Day. Snap a photo or shoot some video of Mark. At a bar, after a conference, on the street. Totally great. We want pictures of him that he isn’t expecting to have made. If we run it, we’ll send you a cool $20.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say $20 is low compared to standard paparazzi rates. This reminds me a little of Rob Cockerham’s paparazzi contest, which was great fun to participate in.

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Leaving Facebookistanwww.newyorker.com

Steve Coll in The New Yorker’s Daily Comment:

Through its bedrock appeals to friendship, community, public identity, and activism—and its commercial exploitation of these values—Facebook is an unprecedented synthesis of corporate and public spaces. The corporation’s social contract with users is ambitious, yet neither its governance system nor its young ruler seem trustworthy.

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