Digital Smarts Blog

You are here


Facebook Maybe Losing the War on Hate Speech

Can Facebook actually keep up with the hate speech and misinformation that pores through the portal? Facebook seems to be working on the misinformation side. But even that is coming in fits and starts. Facebook had to retreat from using red flags that signal articles are fake news after discovering the flags instead spurred people to click on them or share them and has gone instead to listing links below the article to related articles with a more balanced view.


Now a new investigation from ProPublica shows that Facebook’s policy regarding hate speech is also having issues. In an analysis of almost 1,000 crowd-sourced posts, reporters at ProPublica found that Facebook fails to evenly enforce its own community standards. A sample of 49 of the 900 posts were sent directly to Facebook, which admitted that in 22 cases its human reviewers had erred, mistakenly flagging frank conversations about sexism or racism as hate speech. The problem is that the company also does not offer a formal appeal process for decisions its users disagree with so seemingly innocent outbursts may also get caught up in the reviewer’s net.


It is definitely a tough issue and this year Germany will enforce a law requiring social-media sites—including Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, but also more broadly applying to Web sites like Tumblr, Reddit, and Vimeo—to act within 24 hours to remove illegal material, hate speech, and misinformation. Failure to do so could lead to fines of up to 50 million euros, or about $60 million. Is this this what should be done here in the US or is that too strict? Perhaps the topic of policing content is a good dinner table discussion to have with your teens?


Cutting Back on the Archiving of Tweets

The Library of Congress has announced it will stop archiving every tweet on Twitter beginning Jan. 1. The current archives go back to when Twitter was started in 2006. Officials said the volume of tweets has increased dramatically since the Library of Congress began archiving – currently at half a billion a day  - but going forward, it will archive only selected tweets.


Codeswitching – Picking the Right Style of Writing for the Situation

Kids today have to learn to write differently for different situations – basically learn how to “code switch.” That’s the premise of a blog entry written by a seventh grade English teacher on the MiddleWeb site who feels that both parents and teachers need to understand the different contexts (school, eventually work and personal) where kids do or will communicate and help them explore those differences so they can make the right choices for each contextual situation. Without actually examining “code switching,” and practicing what is and isn’t acceptable in each situation, kids are robbed of the opportunity to understand completely why and when they need to make the switch from informal to more formal language or vice versa, a skill that they will need as they progress in their educational career. A common sense suggestion, perhaps, but as kids’ digital lives become so tightly intermingled with reality, it is very important to not only point out the differences between formal and informal writing, but make a case for each kind of writing and practice and even translate it – a bit like learning a foreign language.


The Essential Apps Guide

Did you or your children get a new digital device of the Apple, Android or Kindle variety? Whether you are looking for apps to enhance learning, games, or ways to help keep you organized, a great place to start your search is the Essential Apps Guide on the Common Sense Media site. You can even sign up to get app updates by email.


The Dangers of Connected Toys

Did your kids get any “connected digital toys” as holiday gifts? If so you might want to take a look at the Federal Bureau of Investigation notice on the privacy and unapproved contact concerns that such toys can pose. You might also want to take a look at the article A Cute Toy Just Brought a Hacker Into Your Home for some of the safety concerns about the latest toy releases. This includes the Q50 smart watch for kids, the Furby Connect doll, and even the BB-8 droid, which was released with “The Last Jedi” this past month, which some testing services found had an insecure Bluetooth connection.


Some Tech Related New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make some tech related New Year’s resolutions this year? Brian Chen, of The New York Times Tech Fix blog has some suggestions of things to add or to start your list. Cybersecurity is his major theme this year and his list includes things like updating your software, reading privacy policies, deleting unnecessary apps that may be monitoring your data or location and ideas for protecting you hardware.


No More Red Flags on Facebook

Facebook is getting rid of the red flags that signal articles are fake news after discovering the flags instead spurred people to click on them or share them. The company is instead including related links under such articles that will provide more trustworthy sources reporting on the topic. The “related articles” effort is something Facebook started testing earlier this year. By the way, if you do try to share posts with contentious content, a message will pop up telling you that you may out to check out other sources before you do so. Or in other words, you won’t be able to use the excuse that you had ‘no idea” that article you passed on might have false or unproven content.


I Didn’t Know Netflix Could Do That

In the spirit of getting organized for the New Year, take a gander at this article on Netflix tricks to get more out of your subscription this year. Did you know that you get better quality video at off peak hours? How about trying your hand at Netflix Roulette to pick out something at random for you to watch? Want to delete the shows that embarrass you from your activity list? Take a look at the list of hacks.


Twitter Expands Hate Speech Rules

Twitter recently has said that it will begin to enforce new rules related to how it handles hateful conduct and abusive behavior taking place on the platform. New guidelines will address hateful images or symbols, including those attached to user’s profiles. The announcement is Twitter's latest attempt, in a difficult year for the company, to clamp down on what many people consider its most pressing issue: disgusting behavior from a significant number of users. Many of the problems on Twitter came into focus after President Trump retweeted videos from a far right group in Britain.


The Use of Artificial Intelligence in Schools is Growing

The presence of artificial intelligence in schools is expected to grow, with some reports predicting 47.5% growth by 2021. Schools already are using the technology in various ways, such as identifying what math students know and then providing tailored assignments. Experts say this should offer teachers deeper insight in how to help struggling students, but this development does not signal that teachers are going to be replaced by machines.


Former President Obama Talks to Prince Harry About Social Media

Former President Barack Obama and the United Kingdom's Prince Harry took to the airwaves for a recent BBC interview where they discussed the potential dangers of social media and how it should be used to promote diversity and find common ground. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases," Obama stated. The former president also echoed something that parents concerned about their kids growing up in a Digital Age try to communicate to their children reiterating that " the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated." Perhaps, something every cyberbully should remember?


Making Digital Communications More Accessible

While written for educators, the article Making Digital Communications Accessible on the Edutopia site is also useful to parents who may need schools (or parent/teacher associations) to use some accommodations to make sure the information they provide is accessible. By adding captions to Facebook pictures or turning on image descriptions in Twitter, communication improves. Adding captions to videos and posting transcripts of podcasts and videos by using transcription software can also make it easier for those with hearing or vision issues. And why bother? Accessibility is a matter of civil rights and can also be a legal issue. There are several districts across the country`` that are currently under investigation for issues related to website accessibility. 


Online Tools Implemented for Reporting Bullying

Several states, including Nevada and Colorado, have opened online systems that allow students and others to report bullying incidents. New York City is spending 8 million dollars on a similar system set to launch in 2019. Daniel Kelley, president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, says online options can make it easier for students to report bullying that occurs in and out of school. Right now most schools have a paper based reporting system that has created issues because of the stigma attached to being seen filling out this kind of form. Schools are finding that it is very important to document bullying incident reports otherwise parents may allege that administrators did not address an incident adequately.


Why Kids Need to Learn How to Code

Is your school considering teaching students how to code? Do you understand the reasons why? For some interesting insights take a look at The Future of Coding in Schools on the Edutopia site. Mitch Resnick, who is one of the creators of the popular programming languages for kids called Scratch, outlines why he think that learning to code is akin to learning to write.


France to Ban Cellphones in Schools

Primary- and secondary-school students (up to age 15) in France will not be permitted to use cellphones on campus beginning in September 2018. The country already bans the devices in classrooms, but the total ban will include use during breaks and outside of the classroom. French educators note that 40 percent of punishments in French schools are related to mobile devices and hope the move will be a way to cut down on cyberbullying. However, parents are skeptical that the schools can pull it off. Emmanuel Macron spelled out his intention to ban mobile phones in schools in his campaign platform before his election as French president in May 2017.


Young Americans Favor YouTube

Ninety-six percent of Americans between ages 12 and 17 use YouTube, and nearly 70% use Instagram and Snapchat. However, Facebook's share has stagnated according to a Forrester research report. The study also reveals that 51% of 12- and 13-year-olds say it's “cool” to be associated with brands on social sites. Another major takeaway from the study is that young Americans prefer social platforms geared toward video and visual content.


An Around the World Look At When Kid’s Get Cellphones/Smartphones

While no one seems to know when the best age to give a child a cellphone/smartphone is, a recent article entitled When kids get their first cell phones around the world takes a snapshot of how parents in different countries seem to have answered the question. Cost certainly plays a big factor, but US parents seem to be more willing to give their children phones at an earlier age, starting at age 6. If you are not familiar with the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics on media use, you can find a write up on their site.


Facebook Offers Messenger App For Children

As a parent you want to control who your children talk to online, so you can step in if anything becomes a problem. But, how do you do that? Facebook is now offering a solution by developing a messaging program for children younger than age 13 called Messenger Kids. Parents are able to use their own Facebook accounts to create Messenger profiles for their kids. These profiles have most of the features of full-blown Facebook Messenger, but messages are sent and received exclusively from a smartphone, tablet, or web-connected device (only on the Apple platform currently) and are controlled by parents.


Control is the key to Messenger Kids. Kids’ names don’t show up in searches of Messenger users. Once parents create an account, they get to decide whom their children are able to talk to. Parents can add friends and family they’re personally connected with–and those users’ kids, if they’re on Messenger Kids–to their offspring’s list of approved chat friends. 


Conversations within Messenger Kids are monitored, and should the app’s artificial intelligence detect an inappropriate word or image it won’t be sent. Kids can also report activity they find inappropriate or hurtful, a move that will also send a note to parents letting them know there was an incident such as “Sally reported Bobby.”


Brain Changes Found in Teens with Fixated with Smartphones

Teens overly attached to their smartphones show higher levels of a neurotransmitter that slows down brain signals, South Korean researchers reported at the recent meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. The research linked the impact on the brain signals to increased levels of addiction, anxiety and depression, one radiology professor said.