Week Eight

Privacy and Security in the Digital Age

Photo by Domenico Loia on Unsplash

In a world where our entire lives are quickly becoming digitized, privacy and security are now essential to being responsible media users and creators. Everything from our finances to our most intimate conversations is vulnerable to being hacked, surveilled, and even sold to the highest bidder.

In recent memory, I can think of two specific, yet different, instances where my security was compromised. Like most people, I no longer carry cash, which means that my primary way of paying for things like gas is through my debit card. Unfortunately, a stop through an unfamiliar gas station while I was traveling led to my debit card being skimmed. I was unaware of just how common these skimming scams are at gas stations, and it left me with the headache of cleaning up the mess after almost $1,000 was stolen from my account.

Another recent example of my security being compromised happened when hackers tried to gain access to my Google account. I received a text message with a verification code from Google out of the blue, which was shortly followed by a second text. This message said that it was Google, and they needed me to text them the verification code I just received. Thankfully I’m pretty skeptical of messages like this and recognized the red flags right away — this was someone trying to fool me into allowing them access to my account.

While our modern devices and internet applications certainly provide us with many useful conveniences, if we’re not careful, we can leave ourselves susceptible to compromise. I’ve learned from my personal experience just how important it is to take responsibility for our security and privacy.

In the past, I have been notoriously awful at remembering to update my current software. One of the changes I’ve been making in my habits is to set auto-updates whenever possible. Keeping my iPhone up to date with the latest iOS, my Mac running on the newest operating system, and even keeping the apps on my phone up to date, setting everything to auto-install any time there’s an update keeps my information safe without the inconvenience of dealing with installation.

Another way that I work to keep my account secure is by using two-factor verification for my passwords. After watching one of my favorite thought leaders lose access to her Instagram to hackers, I finally recognized the need to secure my accounts using two-factor verification. I use the Duo app, which helps me keep track of all my accounts and makes sure they’re safe and secure.

There was an essential lesson in our lecture from Professor Gillmor this week: the internet belongs to the people first and foremost — not to big tech companies like Google or Facebook, and not to the big governments in the world like ours here in the US. The internet belongs to humanity, and we should do everything in our power to keep it safe, secure, and in our own hands.

Week Seven

The Cost of Privacy and Free Speech

When I think of media laws, the first thing that comes to mind is the lengthy jargon contained in the seemingly endless terms and conditions of our favorite social networks and websites.

The act of ignoring all of the legalese and scrolling down to hit that “agree” button is so ubiquitous that it’s often been meme-ified. To many, it’s just another post-modern joke about how complicated the digital landscape has become.

via imgflip

In one of this week’s articles on privacy, Jeffrey Toobin was referenced as saying, “In Europe, the right to privacy trumps freedom of speech; the reverse is true in the United States.”

While we live in a world where data, not oil, is our most valuable resource, many Americans continue to trade their privacy to places like Facebook for the sake of using their platform to exercise their right to free speech. The implications of this reality, however, are profound.

The Netflix documentary, The Great Hack, provides a look into the delicate balance of privacy and freedom of speech. The film dives into the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and features David Carroll, a college professor who filed a suit to gain access to his data used by the firm.

Spoiler alert: he doesn’t get his data back.

Both the scandal itself and the fact that private data like this is so heavily guarded by companies like Facebook allow us to glimpse the consequences of sacrificing our privacy on the altar of the first amendment.

Unfortunately, allowing privacy to trump free speech is also equally as troubling in many ways. While the circulation of genuinely fake news that perpetuates falsehoods is troubling, proposing legal consequences for fake news is just as concerning. As we discussed in our lecture this week, just because something is offensive or wrong doesn’t mean it should be illegal.

While some are calling for censorship of this type of content, we must take into account the fact that norms and laws are not the same. While “fake news” may not be illegal, there may still be social consequences. Just as it’s not illegal to tell off your boss, you still have to endure the result of being fired.

As I’ve become increasingly more aware of the complexities of how the law impacts media, I’ve also changed many of my online behaviors, particularly on social networks. One primary example of this is a decision my husband and I have made regarding our future children.

While many parents use Facebook and Instagram to share photos of their children on the internet, we have decided that when we have children, we won’t post pictures of their faces for the world to see. This is certainly out of the ordinary, though we want to give our children the ability to craft and curate their reputations online once they’re old enough to do so rather than be handed an online presence that’s been in existence since before they were old enough to consent.

As Professor Gillmor stated in our lecture this week, everything on the internet is permanent. As our society struggles with the balance between privacy and freedom of speech, I hope that we can keep this truth at the forefront of our minds.

Week Six

Becoming a Wikipedia Editor

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

As someone who spends the vast majority of their waking time engaged on the internet in some capacity, I am also an avid user of Wikipedia. The rest of the world also seems to rely heavily on Wikipedia, as it’s the second most visited site in the US, with higher traffic than even Facebook and Amazon.

While Wikipedia is a staple in my online habits, I’ve never really considered editing an article before.  While I enjoy learning and consider myself knowledgable on many subjects, the idea of contributing to Wikipedia has been a bit intimidating. When I saw that we would be required to edit an article and document the experience for this course, I was both excited to learn and also a bit nervous.

I found the Wikipedia training modules to be very helpful in learning to navigate the platform. The tutorials, in particular, were useful in teaching best practices for editing.

Once I felt I had a thorough understanding of Wikipedia’s policies and how to contribute to an article, I started my search for a notable topic that I was familiar with but had an underdeveloped page. After researching a few options, I decided on my hometown’s Wikipedia page — Clermont, Florida.

My brief post to the “talk” page detailing my editing plans

Scrolling through the page, I noticed that the “places” section of the article lacked information on the downtown area, as well as a historic village that’s a part of the city. Once I decided that I would contribute a few sentences expanding on this, I went over to the “talk” page and shared my plan for the edits. I wasn’t surprised to see that my post did not receive a response, as the “talk” page did not seem to be active.

Once I had posted up my plan and gathered my sources, I composed a few short sentences on the downtown area and historic village to add to the page. You can see the edits I made, which are still active, in the image below.

The first two paragraphs of the “places” section detail my edits

Overall, contributing to a Wikipedia page was a relatively smooth and uneventful process. Because I chose a page that does not seem to be regularly edited, I did not receive any pushback from other users. After learning the ins and outs of the editing process, however, I can see how adding content to a more popular page can be a rigorous, collaborative process.

Week Six

Climate Change and the Grandmother Problem

Photo by Tim Bennett on Unsplash

As I have been diving into the wide swath of media coverage around climate change over these past several weeks, I have also been thinking deeply about just how divisive this issue can be for many people. Like gun control or immigration, the conversation around climate change is messy and full of emotion for many people. While the reality of climate change is based entirely on science, human beings are driven by passion, mainly when it concerns our own lives; and this passion inevitably makes its way into even seemingly straightforward conversations about concrete facts.

We live in a world where both climate change and the predicament of “fake news” both exist. This perpetuation of false narratives stems is known as “The Grandmother Problem,” where many people, particularly those from older generations, often have trouble distinguishing truth from fiction when it comes to news stories.

Social media has created an environment where it’s easier than ever to share and receive information, even when it’s false. Whether this is from a desire to confirm their own biases or merely a lack of education, we all hold a responsibility to educate one another on the basics of media literacy.

While it can seem awkward and even intimidating to help those in our friend networks identify “fake news,” especially when they’re the ones sharing it, there are tactful ways to educate them. As I’ve been engaging with my own newsfeed these past few weeks, I’ve taken a page out of BuzzFeed News’ book and started to implement a few rules of thumb for dealing with these situations.

Make it a positive interaction

Maintaining a warm and positive tone communicates that you’re not just trying to “troll.” Your purpose is to engage in a personal conversation on the truth of the topic itself rather than argue about partisan opinions.

Provide a reputable source

When someone shares a piece of false information on social media, we should give them the benefit of the doubt. They may not realize that they’re shared something from a fake news publication. Instead of reprimanding them, we should point them in the direction of a more credible source on the topic by providing an alternative article.

Older generations didn’t have to question whether or not to trust Walter Cronkite as he came into their living rooms to deliver the nightly news. Transitioning away from this “trust first” way of thinking has meant difficulty adjusting to a new reality filled with false narratives and deception for many.

While we live in a world dominated by social media where ambiguity is king, we can all do our part to educate one another, and hopefully, point our world in the direction of truth.

Week Five

The Media on Presidential Candidates and Climate Change, Curated

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The conversation around climate change is heating up, and this week has been no exception. With a second climate change forum hosted by MSNBC and a global climate strike led by students, the climate crisis is front and center among both Presidential candidates and the media.

This curation of articles reflects a variety of perspectives and mediums, including video and a text message-style interview, that provide a well-rounded glimpse into the conversation on climate change.

‘Hit them where it hurts’: Several 2020 Democrats want a carbon tax on corporations — CNBC, 9/20/2019

During the MSNBC Climate Change Forum last week, many candidates discussed their plans to combat climate change, including imposing a strict carbon tax on corporations.

“If you want companies to move in the right direction on climate change, you have to hit them where it hurts — in their wallet.” — Andrew Yang

Texts With Jay Inslee: The Climate Candidate Likes Elizabeth Warren’s Plan — BuzzFeed News, 9/19/2019

This article features a text message style interview with Governor Jay Inslee, who recently dropped out of the race for president. He discusses his thoughts on candidates’ climate change proposals and shares a glimpse into the renewable energy sources already being used in his own state.

“We all ought to assess who actually is willing to invest the political capital required to get this job done.” — Governor Jay Inslee

Paris Marx: Bernie Sanders’ climate change plan is radical and expensive — which is why it could work — NBC News, 9/21/2019

In this “hot take,” Paris Marx dives into Bernie Sanders’ proposed climate change plan and whether his proposal is enough to combat the climate crisis.

“In an ambitious, 13,000-word essay, Sanders’ campaign called the climate crisis “a global emergency” that would disproportionately impact the poor, the working class and people of color. Fighting back will require a mobilization not seen since World War II to radically transform U.S. society in less than 11 years — the deadline scientists have given before global warming in excess of 1.5º C can no longer be avoided.”

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi on why cable news is suddenly talking so much about climate change — Vox, 9/18/2019

MSNBC’s Ali Velshi sits down with Vox to discuss the importance of climate change in this election cycle and why networks like MSNBC and CNN are leading the conversation about climate change.

“So you’re doing this as a public service?” — Umair Irfan

“I think it’s got to do with what I often say are the two basic callings of journalism: Bearing witness and holding power to account. Putting ratings aside, we are journalists. And if we don’t do the basic things that journalism is meant to do, then we’re not taking our responsibility seriously.” — Ali Velshi

Millions stage global strike to protest climate change — MSNBC, 9/20/2019

Communities all over the world, including cities across the U.S., held protests to demand climate change action from political leaders. Varshini Prakash, co-founder and executive director of the Sunrise Movement, speaks about the significance of this protest and its potential impact on the 2020 election.

“We need to ensure that come 2020, politicians win or lose based off their position on this issue.” — Varshini Prakash

Week Four

Vox on Democratic Candidates’ Climate Proposals — An Analysis

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Photo by Caleb Perez on Unsplash

In a world that seems to be moving a million miles a minute, prioritizing facts over rumor is of the utmost importance. This is especially true when considering our ever-changing news cycle and reporting around another whirlwind election season.

One of the issues that many voters are taking into account while considering which Democratic candidate to support for President is climate change. Because of the high level of interest around this issue, candidates are making climate change a crucial point of conversation.

The media is also taking notice of the emphasis on climate change, which is reflected in articles covering things like Kamala Harris calling for an end to the filibuster and Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal.

While there is a high quantity of stories being published on climate change, finding articles that reflect a high quality of reporting on the issue is essential. For this blog post, I’ll be doing an in-depth analysis of this article published by Vox, paying particular attention to the overall quality of the story:

A guide to how 2020 Democrats plan to fight climate change: Tactics include taxing carbon, prosecuting polluters, space mirrors, and trillions of dollars in investment.

The overall purpose of this article is to provide a thorough, high-level overview of each of the leading Democratic presidential candidates’ climate change plans. Many of the candidates have published lengthy proposals, which is an overwhelming amount of information for the average voter to take into account. Articles like this one published by Vox help to boil the details down to the main points that are much easier for people to swallow.

One of the first noticeable things about this story is the fact that there is an abundance of links and subsequent sources that the journalist references. In the opening section of the article, there are links to a Pew Research study on Americans concerned about climate change, verifying the claim that voters consider it to be a vital issue. Also, there are internal links to other Vox articles, including stories about the third Democratic debate, the Sunshine movement, nuclear power, among others.

Getting into the meat of the article which discusses the individual proposals, many of the links and sources refer to the specific plans that were published on each of the candidates’ websites. While the writer breaks down the specifics of each plan, linking to the outside sources, as well as additional news articles published by Vox, allows readers to do their own research.

One noticeable omission in this article is the fact that the reporter failed to address several candidates who are still currently in the race. While it may be because these candidates have yet to publish their climate change proposals, I would have preferred to see this fact referenced rather than omitted altogether. Candidates that the article failed to mention include Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, among others. The reporter did, however, reference Gov. Jay Inslee and his campaign’s focus on climate change even though he is no longer in the running.

Taking all of these details into account, this article earns a solid “B” from my perspective.

Overall, this article did a thorough job analyzing the vast amount of details surrounding each of the candidates’ climate change plans. It did a great job of boiling down the intricate details into concrete terms that give voters a high-level understanding of where each of the candidates stands.

However, the fact that the vast majority of the links included in the article were internal links to other Vox articles rather than independent sources, as well as the reporters’ omission of any information on other candidates takes away from the overall quality of the article — thus, earning it the final letter grade of “B.”

Week Three

Dems and Climate Change: News, Opinion, & Analysis

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

While the 2020 election is, in many ways, barely getting started, coverage of the current Democratic candidates is already dominating every news cycle. As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, many Americans consider climate change to be a significant issue that needs addressing in this upcoming election.

This focus on climate change is already having an impact on how candidates are campaigning. While the DNC rejected a proposal to host a debate solely on climate change, media outlets such as CNN are hosting climate change town halls with leading candidates to continue the conversation in more informal ways.

Just as the threat of climate change isn’t going anywhere, neither is the conversation. Media publications such as the New York Times and The Washington Post are regularly sharing both news and opinion/analyses on climate change and the Democratic presidential candidates’ plans to combat it.

Opinion: Do We Need the Green New Deal? — The New York Times

This opinion editorial speaks into the debate around a specific question:

Is the Green New Deal a left-wing wish list, a catalyst for crucial dialogue or our best hope for averting catastrophe?

Providing a thorough background on the issue, Bokat-Lindell breaks down the fears that were taken into account when the Paris Climate Accord was signed, as well as the details around the Green New Deal. While the author cites facts, he does so with the purpose to share an opinion on the matter.

Specifically, he argues that the Green New Deal may not be the answer to solving climate change, but rather is a political strategy. Citing the thoughts of other journalists, as well as solutions that people like Bill Gates have endorsed, Bokat-Lindell remains adamant that the Green New Deal has its flaws. He closes by stating that whatever the answer to the climate change crisis may be, the current presidential candidates certainly have their work cut out for them.

Analysis: The Energy 202: Bernie Sanders announces a $16.3 trillion Green New Deal — The Washington Post

Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal has been the topic of many news stories, analyses, and opinions alike. In this particular instance, Dino Grandoni dissects the details of Bernie’s plan through a critical analysis piece.

Grandoni addresses specifics such as the high price tag of $16.3 trillion and calls out the fact that under Sanders’ plan, many in the oil and coal industries will lose their job. Because of some of these hard to swallow realities, Grandoni even argues that this plan “has virtually no shot of being passed by a Republican-controlled Senate.” He does share, however, that the plan shows Sanders’ willingness to address the issue head-on through executive action.

News: Kamala Harris says she’d eliminate filibuster to pass Green New Deal — The Washington Post

This news article from The Washington Post reports on Harris’ call to end the Senate filibuster to address climate change.

Rather than offering an opinion on whether Harris was right or wrong, or even what implications her statement may have, this article is merely reporting on an event that occurred. In addition, it also goes on to share additional news of other candidates’ recent release of their climate change plans ahead of CNN’s town hall event.

While the previous two articles focused on opinions and analyses regarding the Democratic presidential candidates’ climate change plans, this story sticks solely to the facts.

News: Democrats Propose Trillions in Spending on Climate-Focused Plans to Restructure Economy — The Wall Street Journal

Climate change plans have been a major topic of coverage this past week, and this news article from The Wall Street Journal is no exception. Specifically focusing on Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, this story outlines these candidates’ newly released plans to address the climate change crisis.

Similar to the previous Washington Post article, this story from The Wall Street Journal focuses specifically on a high-level view of the details around each of the candidates’ plans. This article’s thorough overview provides simple facts without bias that ultimately can help educate voters and help them make an informed decision on which candidate to support.

Week Two

Becoming a Media Critic: Democratic Presidential Candidates’ Plans for Climate Change

Photo by Bob Blob on Unsplash

Growing up, I was known as the “tree hugger” in my friend group, a title I proudly embraced. I asked for the DVD of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” for Christmas back in 2006 when I was 13 years old. I remember the anger I’d feel while hearing the news of another shrinking glacier and would talk about the dangers of climate change with anyone who would listen. Even while I was young, I was acutely aware of just how important caring for our climate is.

Fast forward to today. We’re quickly approaching another Democratic presidential primary and subsequent general election. Despite President Trump’s continued attempts to deny the reality of climate change and its imminent threat, Democratic candidates are building their platforms on issues like climate change.

For many Americans, including myself, the climate change crisis is an important issue that must be addressed by 2020 candidates. However, with 20 candidates still in the race as of today, digesting all of their individual climate change plans can be daunting.

Because of the significant role it will play in the upcoming election, I’ve chosen to explore the top 5 Democratic presidential candidates’ plans for combatting climate change.

I will dive into the outlines featured on their websites (such as Bernie Sanders’ Green New Deal) and will evaluate their responses to questions on climate change during upcoming debates. By the end of my research, I hope to gain a thorough understanding of the top candidates’ climate change proposals, and hopefully, a little hope for the future of our environment.

Week One

24-Hour Media Diet

Photo by Paul Hanaoka on Unsplash

Over the past few months, I’ve realized just how much of an impact excessive media usage has had on my life. As a result, I’ve been making efforts to be more intentional about the media I’m consuming. Because of this, I was excited to audit 24 hours to see how my media diet looks. I should note that I completed this audit on a Saturday, so my consumption was a bit lighter than it would be on a typical weekday.

9:30 AM — I was up late last night doing homework and reading for the classes I’m taking this term, which meant I slept in a bit this morning. Because I sleep with my phone plugged in on my nightstand, I have a bad habit of reaching for it first thing in the morning.

Like most days, I scan my email, flag important messages, and delete/unsubscribe from others. Spending a few minutes deleting and unsubscribing has helped me keep my inbox manageable.

Then I spend a few minutes checking Facebook. I am in the middle of preparing for a big move cross-country, which has meant selling off the vast majority of my furniture through the Facebook Marketplace. I have two people picking items up around noon, so I open Facebook Messenger to shoot off a confirmation that we’ll still be meeting.

11:00 AM — After getting ready for the day, I begin taking a peek at some of today’s news headlines. I read a few articles, including “Amazon Has Ceded Control of Its Site. The Result: Thousands of Banned, Unsafe, or Mislabeled Products” from The Wall Street Journal, and “With the global economy slowing and the U.S.-China trade war escalating, Trump arrives at G-7 with a list of grievances” from The Washington Post.

I’m always looking for ways to “hack” how I consume news. I’ve found that using Apple’s News app helps me reference a wider variety of sources and thus, different perspectives. I was using individual apps like CNN and the New York Times for a little while but realized that I was missing out on many other publications and subsequently, different perspectives.

11:30 AM — I sit down, open my computer, and pull up Google Drive, which is where I keep the majority of my school-related documents. I am also using Google Docs to write the initial draft of this blog post. I spend about 45 minutes setting up the document and writing down my media usage so far this morning. After a while, I’m interrupted by a Marketplace buyer stopping by to pick up an area rug.

1:30 PM — I decide to take a short break from packing and sit down with my iPhone. I click on my “social media” folder of apps and open up LinkedIn. Because I’m in the middle of a job hunt, I’ve been trying to be more active on the platform. I scroll through my feed and stop to read a few posts from Fortune and Refinery29.

3:00 PM — My husband and I head out to run an errand, and I wait in the car while he deals with return our cable box and canceling our internet. While waiting, I put on the new Taylor Swift album and listen to a few songs while scrolling through Instagram. I like several photos and then tap through Stories for a few minutes. My husband, while waiting in line inside, tags me in a post about the new Star Wars poster that dropped today. We’re both huge pop culture enthusiasts and often send each other posts like this one.

4:00 PM — Back home, I make myself an afternoon snack and open Facebook. I spend a few minutes scrolling through the Facebook page for Disney’s fan club, D23. There is an expo happening this weekend, which has meant announcements on upcoming movies (like Star Wars) and their new streaming platform, Disney+. I watch a trailer for Lady & The Tramp, the new Mandalorian series coming to Disney+, and read a post about a new ride at Walt Disney World’s Epcot.

As we were sitting on the couch, my husband asked if I was familiar with the “Wilhelm Scream,” which is a stock sound effect used in over 416 films. This led us down the rabbit hole of watching a four-minute compilation on YouTube of the scream in various movies.

10:00 PM — After a long few hours of cleaning and packing, it’s finally time to relax. The television’s been on throughout the evening, mostly playing several episodes of How I Met Your Mother streamed through Hulu. We subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime and usually choose a show or movie from one of these platforms to end our nights.

10:30 PM — I lay down in bed with my laptop and scroll through Twitter for a few minutes, though nothing exciting catches my eye enough to engage with or retweet. While another episode of HIMYM comes on, I open Google Drive to finish writing down the rest of today’s media usage for this blog post before calling it a night. I pick up a copy of In the Woods by Tara French to wind down before going to sleep.

Over the day, I read articles from four news sources. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the least trusted and 10 being the most trusted, each of the sources has varying levels of credibility.

The Washington Post — 10/10: I find myself reading news from The Washington Post on almost a daily basis. From my perspective, their stories are thorough and in-depth.

The Wall Street Journal — 10/10: The WSJ is another publication that I regularly refer to when it comes to my daily consumption of news. Similar to The Washington Post, the WSJ’s stories appear highly accurate and thorough. This is a source that friends and family often read and reference, regardless of their specific political leanings, which shows that it’s overall a trusted source.

Fortune — 7/10: Fortune focuses specifically on business news and industry trends. The reason this publication did not score higher is that it often features opinion pieces and does not distinguish between news and editorials.

Refinery29 — 5/10: Refinery29 mostly publishes opinions and lifestyle pieces rather than reporting on general news or industry-specific updates. I mostly read posts that are pop-culture centric or diary-like stories about the lives of women.


Alyssa’s First Post — MCO 425 Blog

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