Hate on the Internet

Talk about your unintended consequences!  At least I don’t think “social networking” on the Internet was envisioned as creating a platform for hate groups and terrorists in the U.S.  Unfortunately this has come to pass before our very eyes in the deadly confrontations in Charlottesville last weekend.   Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that such groups are also able to raise funds for their reprehensible intentions to spread hatred for blacks, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, feminist activists, etc., thanks, in some measure to “funding” sites that solicit contributions online.  The sites themselves are not the culprits, but the hate groups that use them for such purposes must be stopped.  PayPal, for example, has already agreed to remove at least 34 organizations that include companies that are selling gun accessories explicitly explicitly for killing Muslims!

Silicon Valley firms may be ill-prepared to manage such a large societal role.  These companies have limited experience handling these issues.  They must answer to share-holders and demonstrate growth in users and profits – weighing in on free speech matters risks alienating large groups of customers across the political spectrum.  These platforms are so massive – Facebook, for example, counts a third of the world’s population in its monthly user base:  GoDaddy hosts and registers 71 million websites – it may actually be impossible for them to enforce their policies consistently.  But tech companies are reportedly forging ahead.  At this point it appears to be an industry-lead initiative that has been decried by some “alt-right” leaders as intrusive censorship that could lead to increased government “”meddling.”

Spewing hatred on the Internet, to my mind, is not exercising free speech.  We are constantly being reminded that “words have consequences” in our daily political discourse.  Freedom of speech demands that we use words to ensure a freedom of expression that does not foment hatred.

Ray Myers



The Internet Knows Who You Are!

Who really were all those crazy white men who came to Charlottesville last weekend?  It seems like most of them were NOT from Charlottesville at all.  Thanks to the Internet they were able to spread their poisonous rhetoric far and near.  And thanks to the Internet we are also able to find out who they are, and hopefully never let this happen again.  But I am being overly optimistic, and as long as Trump is in the White House it looks like we are in for a lot more hatred and potentially violent episodes in the days ahead.

So it is not all about cable news stoking Trump’s bigotry and paranoia as I wrote earlier this week. The Internet also still seems a powerful force when used to coalesce and connect those who wish to do others harm.  Fortunately, it can also be used to call out those who are hate mongers.  “The mostly male crowd that participated in Friday night’s tiki-torch-lit rally did not cover their faces, and they were widely photographed.  A Twitter account, @YesYoureRacist, began posting photographs of participants and uncovering their identities.  .  .  The account would soon identify students enrolled at the University of Nevada and Washington State University, leading both of  the schools to issue statements condemning racism.(Washington Post, 8/15/17).”

Remember the days of “Make Love, Not War.” A distant memory for many of us who attended college in the sixties.  Many now seem to prefer Hate to Love.

Ray Myers

Summer Rerun – Tweeting Away at the National Conventions in U.S.  (Originally posted on July 13, 2016)

You too can be commenting on the activities at the national conventions thie election year. Now people around the world can “experience democracy in action.” What a concept! And Twitter is making this all possible. Social media can now become political media. I guess we already have some of that on PBS when they broadcast the proceedings from the House and Senate floors. But let’s be honest, most of the time all we see are politicians milling around on their chambers’ floors while some random tweets are scrolling on the bottom half of the TV screen. I guess the conventions will be a lot livelier, but who knows?

Watching Donald Trump has been a lot more entertaining when compared to Republican candidates of prior campaigns, but I think the TV networks recognized his entertainment value to the detriment of his political rivals. “The Donald” probably knew this too, and now that he has succeeded in securing the nomination may decide not to run at all! What a country! What are we doing? We would rather be entertained than challenged to make a choice about what direction the country should go. And the most successful candidate may be the one who best panders to all our fears and prejudices. My biggest worry is that political intolerance will grow in this country, and tuhat our thirst for demagogary will increase at the expense of substantive debate (remember those Republican debates!)

In the meantime, let’s keep tweeting while “Rome burns.” Twitter may help us better follow the machinations at the upcoming political conventions, but realistically, they are currently treading water in an ocean of social media. Their stock price has fallen by over half in the last 12 months, and user growth has stagnated at roughly 310 million regular monthly visitors. Everybody wants to be on Facebook. Maybe Mark Zuckerberg can help us with the election process four years from now?

Ray Myers

Nose in Books, Eyes on the Screen

So what’s really wrong with walking around with your eyes on your mobile phones while passerbys navigate their way around you?  More dangerous is the practice of driving while texting in terms of disregard for your own safety and that of others.  In the past the only similar practice I can recall that was seen as more of an anti-social behavior than a hazard to your own safety and others was keeping your “nose in a book.”  But I don’t recall seeing many people driving while reading an old-fashioned “hardbound” or paperback text.  At least I don’t think there were many car collisions attributed to people reading paperbacks while driving.

More disconcerting or hazardous (at least to me) are the anti-social implications of keeping your head down at social gatherings and not meeting or conversing with old friends and new acquaintances.  Being online there are always friends and family you can chose to be connected with and never be “out of touch.”  While you may chose to never have your head “in the clouds” again, you may also find yourself trapped in the world of social media to the detriment of having a real time “social life.”  I know I am portraying the extremes of a social media obsession, and that my observations are not scientifically based, but please take a look at your own social media life.  There may also be a generational gap here, and a personal preference for what constitutes a broader social life.  It still remains your own personal choice in terms of what “worlds” we chose to habitate and to what degree.

So now let’s look up and smell and see the roses!

Ray Myers


Summer Rerun: Trump is the Darling of the Heartland – Changing the Media Landscape (Originallly posted on December 19, 2016)

Trump knew where his message would have the most appeal, Heartland, U.S.A. And please don’t try to sell subscriptions to the “New York Times” or “Washington Post” of you are traveling there. No one is buying anyway. Now these media mainstay publications, along with others, have been looking for an Internet age strategy, but “nobody has found it.” Why browse through a newspaper when you can just “order up” the news you want to read online and forget about the rest. That seems to be what most of middle America has been doing this election year. Just get on the Internet and find something you like (it takes so long to read those old print news articles anyway.


I guess the proof is in the fact that he won the Presidential election with the overwhelming support of midwestern Americans. They elected a man who has rarely traveled west of the Hudson River his entire life (well, okay, New Jersey and Philadelphia to broaden his world view :). One adventuresome online news service based in New York City, ProPublica, is now trying to establish some Midwest roots. It is expanding into Illinois with a 10-person editorial team – laudable to be sure, but it can’t begin to make up for vibrant local papers with dozens of beat reporters, statehouse bureaus and investigative teams. Even with a move to the Midwest, “many in the news media believe that news organizations must rebuild relationships of trust with citizens, even Trump supporters.” Now if only I am able to figure out how that trust was lost? Is that really what happened?

So the suggested strategy is for the Democratic Party to change the media landscape (good luck with that). I think in most cases, people will read what reinforces or confirms their perspectives on the world in general. To learn more about your world takes more than just reading your favorite newspapers or listening to your favorite newscasts.

Ray Myers

Summer Reruns – Trump’s the One:  “Twitter King of Insults is Now President of the United States” (Originally Posted on November 11, 2016)

Ain’t democracy great?   You too can become President of the United States.  Just get yourself a Twitter account and start hurling insults at whomever you like and, if you are running for President, just direct most of them at your opponents and see what happens.   If you saw my Twitter/blog post of October 26th, you may remember my commentary on the two pages of the “A” section of The NY Times that was devoted to cataloging some of Mr. Trump’s insults/lies directed at political opponents.  Of course, Hillary was his primary target, almost exclusively during the last two months of the campaign.   Why spend all that money on political campaigning?    Twitter can help you “reach out” to all of your eager followers.  Tech has made it so.

Is this what technology is all about?   The ability to say anything you want in 140 characters, and not worry about the accuracy or veracity of what you say.  Someone else can do that if they want, but maybe that is the most dangerous part of all.  Why take the time?  Tell your followers what they want to hear, and make it quick.   And the more you tweet, the more they want to hear.  I also think it has a very addictive appeal.  They can take a glance at their mobile devices, and get a quick fix of pithy put-downs of any opposing view or person.  In this case, go on the attack against your political rival who is trying to explain her future plans and priorities as President of the United States in a more comprehensive (traditional) way.

May we never see a campaign like this again.   But maybe it’s all about free speech, but I don’t think so.  We all have a reponsibilty to be truthful in whatever communication mode we choose.   And that includes messages of 140 characters on your Twitter account.

Ray Myers

P.S.   I will be posting “Summer Reruns” through the remainder of the summer months.  And if you are a big fan of the so-called President and his family, please continue to follow.  I also think that the “real or fake news” (take your pick) about the Trump family will be very interesting over the next few months.


Trump Bump or Trump Bust?

I’m just not sure who to believe any more?  One day the papers report (yes, I still read old time print news) that that the U.S. economy is not meeting grow the expectations, and the next day I discover that more jobs have been created than expected.  The “devil may be in the details” here, since the key question seems to be “what kind of jobs?”  Recent growth  statistics may be the most telling.   Over the second quarter in the U.S. a predicted growth rate of 2 percent is a far cry from the 4 percent that the so-called president pledged.  Using Twitter, Trump will probably be the first person to dispute these numbers and predict even bigger growth rates in the future.

Please don’t accept the Trump tweets as factual or even as “alternative facts.”  I often think of Trump’s obsession with tweeting as a modern day equivalent of Nero fiddling while Rome burns.  Many expert economists note that so far the economy’s trajectory remains the same as it did under President Obama.  Furthermore, without a meaningful change in government policies – greater infrastructure investment, an overhaul of the corporate tax code, a new commitment to improve the skills of American workers – there is no reason to expect the domestic outlook to change.  “The safe bet is to expect more of the same.  Unless we do things to boost productivity, this is the economy that we are going to see.”

So far, we have not seen these meaningful changes.  Time to put down “Nero’s fiddle,” take away Trump’s Twitter account and make him do something Presidential.  I don’t think he can really help himself.

Ray Myers


Amazing Massive Amazon

What’s not to like about one-stop online shopping?  The only thing you might have to worry about is that in the future you will not have any shopping centers, strip malls or corner stores where “everybody knows your name.”  Gone will be the “social network” of shopping that involves interacting with real people in real time and space (bricks and mortar).  From some economists and business experts, there is a growing concern that Amazon’s tremendous growth and market dominance could increasingly stifle competition and erode jobs.  This is the real threat that Amazon poses as viewed by business researchers and analysts.

“To consumers whose seeming every wish can be fulfilled by the more than 400 million products available for sale on the site, its scope can seem enormous.  Amazon sells 52% of all books (print, electronic and audio) in the United States.  Forty-three percent of all online commerce goes through Amazon.  It’s got 45% of the cloud computing market, meaning it’s the single largest provider of infrastructure that runs thousands of popular websites.  It’s not in banking and insurance, though analysts say that wouldn’t be a stretch.”  Consumers enjoy low prices, while suppliers get squeezed.

And you always thought that people with their heads in the clouds were out of touch.  Seems like that might be a good place to be these days if you are in business.

Ray Myers

How to Catch an Extremist?

Facebook used to be a fun place.  As we all well know, that is not necessarily the case today.  Unfortunately it has also provided a means for terrorist networking.  I know this is not the happy “talk” that I like to post on this site, but we can not afford to be naive in how social networking is being used.  But do you really think artificial intelligence will save us from this blight of hatred and terrorism in which Facebook seems to play a large part?  I am not very reassured from what I read on both sides of the equation.

Facebook representatives have said they were hopeful that the new artificial intelligence technology could be used to counter any form of extremism that violated the company’s terms of use, although for the time being it will be “narrowly focused.”  Representatives from the international freedom of expression group at the Electronic Frontier Foundation wonder if Facebook’s action will be effective or will it be overreach.  “Are they trying to discourage people from joining terrorist groups to begin with, or to discourage them from from posting about terrorism on Facebook.”  I guess the answer could be “both,” but I think that Facebook is still trying to minimize the use of its platform as a terrorist “social network.”

Let’s start somewhere.  This is a needed form of network censorship.

Ray Myers

The Strong Silent Type – Even When Texting or Not?

Okay men, maybe it’s time to break some of those old male stereotypes in the digital age of the twenty first century.  Some women, you know who you are, may say it is a hopeless cause.  All men really want is someone to listen to them and go easy on the advice.  It seems like the most preferred female response is a simple, “Mm hmmm.”  But now that we are in the digital age, men may finally find that they can open up more freely through texting and other social media, expressing their most innermost thoughts.  Well, as they say, “good luck with that.”  Even in the case of the youngest social media users, sex may be be the key determinant in how they choose to express themselves (or not) online.

I am not sure that this online behavior has been scientifically documented, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal data to suggest some behavioral differences in this regard.  Here is one writer’s experience:  “A few months ago . . . my nephew, now seven years old, got his first cellphone.  There was his number on our family group text, a long message chain that my sisters and I use as a place to deposit our complaints about the day and his puns.  So far, his contributions have been a string of plane and car emojis.  Excited though, to have this new way to talk to him, I sent him a message.  I saw the flickering bubbles that showed he was typing back.  Then nothing.  For the next twelve hours, his side of the conversation was blank.  Finally, a day later, a single response:  ‘Hey.'”

In defense of our seven year old “brother,” it may just be overwhelming to keep up with older aunts whether they are conversing online or in person.  Be strong, young man!  Maybe not so silent.

Ray Myers

Trump’s Twitter Shutdown

Sometimes it’s just good to say (or tweet) nothing, and I think yesterday was a good time for the so-called President to do just that.  But I have a feeling he will be back.  How can he not?  Let’s just call it an “obsession” to be polite.  Don’t we all want to know what he thinks about everything?  Or whom he wants to attack or harangue at any given time?  Oh, for those of you who may have been otherwise preoccupied yesterday, Jim Comey, the former FBI DIrector fired by Trump, testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee about alleged lies (obstruction of justice) that Trump has made publicly and in private.  They cover a wide variety of topics, but the majority seem focused on inquiries over contacts with Russian officials.

All day Thursday, Trump had nothing to say – on his preferred medium of Twitter or anywhere else.  He let others do his talking.  A president who earlier in the week had been spoiling for a fight with Comey – and who sees his Twitter feed as both megaphone and weapon – was convinced by others to lie low according to about a dozen White House officials and other Republicans close to him.  As Representative Peter King advised: ” . . . avoid any temptation to respond to what the Democrats are saying . . . there was no reason to say anything, to get bogged down in the swamp.  Be presidential, go out and do the job, and don’t take the bait.”  Good advice from a seasoned politician wouldn’t you say?

But who knows what Trump will do?  It might sound too much like hard work.  When would he have time to golf, fly down to Mar-a-Lago?

Ray Myers

Where Everybody Knows Your Name – Maybe Online, But Not in Real Time

Before there was Facebook and Twitter (I do remember), people would actually talk to each other face-to-face.  They were not as concerned about the number of retweets or likes they received on social media (there was none).  Maybe they just wanted to have a few close friends or family members that they could always count on to be around whenever they needed them, or just wanted to enjoy each other’s company.  In our virtual world of today when can choose to be connected to our friends and family whenever, and in whatever ways we choose.  But living in the virtual world full time may actually deprive us of having a longer life.  Feeling isolated and disconnected from the real world can actually make us sick.

Recent  research suggests that being unpopular (in the real world) can be hazardous to our health.  In fact, it might even kill us.  Yet most don’t realize that there’s more than one type of popularity and social media may not supply the one that makes us feel good.  This same research also reveals that there is more than one type of popularity, and most of us may be investing in the wrong kind.  We can be popular by simply being likeable.  Likeability reflects kindness, benevolent leadership and selfless, prosocial behavior.  This same research suggests that this form of popularity offers lifelong advantages, and leads to relationships that confer the greatest health benefits.  We may be built by evolution to care deeply about popularity, but it’s up to us to chose the nature of the relationships we want with our peers.  It may also mean that we step away from Twitter once in a while.

May we all live long and prosper in real time.  🖖

Ray Myers

Messages of Love and Hate – Can Twitter Save Us?

Just two days ago, I wrote about how Twitter was being used as a online messenger of love, particularly when you can Direct Message your beloved.  Unfortunately, it seems that it also can be used as a messenger of hate, as recently witnessed in Europe. Twitter has been cited as failing to meet European standards for removing hate speech online.  The battle betweeen European policy makers and tech companies over what should be permitted online has pitted freedom of speech campaigners against those who say hate speech – in whatever form – has no place on the Internet.

Twitter has said that it had invested in new reporting procedures to allow individuals to flag problems with hate speech, and it was striving to balance people’s right to freedom of expression with the need to police material on its network.  The European Union members are particularly concerned over the increases in terrorist attacks on their soil.  After the recent attacks in Manchester, England, Theresa May, the country’s Prime Minister, called on tech companies to strengthen their monitoring of extremist speech online.  And in Germany, lawmakers are planning new legislation that could lead to fines of up to $50 million of companies do not act quickly in policing harmful material on their digital services.

Maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about Europe anymore.  So-called President Donald Trump certainly doesn’t seem to care, particularly when they talk about climate change and NATO defenses.  We have friends in Russia.

Ray Myers

My Heart’s aTwitter with Your Tweets

More than any other social media, Twitter is rapidly becoming the preferred “love” media.  From finding a date to proposing marriage, this is like sailing on the digital “Love Boat,” if you are old enough to remember that TV series.  So many new technologies, to use, so little time.  Somehow Twitter has become the preferred love connection.  Don’t forget the Direct Message (DM) feature when things start to become more intimate.  Twitter doesn’t maintain statistics on how many of its users met through the site, but it does actively crowdsource and feature stories from people who have used the app to “kindle” a romance.”

Here is an unsolicited testimonial from one happy lady, now wife and mother.  “She admits to having met previous dates on MySpace and Craigslist but insists that Twitter is an ideal platform to connect with potential mates – as long as users switch from public replies to direct messaging fairly quickly.  Ultimately, asking someone out on Twitter, there is still that fear of rejection that exists.  But it’s super possible.  It all goes down in the DMs.”

Okay, all you lonely hearts out there.  Brush up on your DM skills to give Cupid a hand!

Ray Myers

Faked Out by Fake News

Oh, those automated algorithms!  One day they are riding high as our anointed saviors from being duped by fake news and exposed to gory live streaming, and the next day we are not quite so sure (see my post on May 3).  So what is Mark Zuckerberg and others to do?  I guess they will have to hire more humans or, as they are called in the business, “screeners.”  So how many for how long?  And why are we so gullible, and so intrigued by gory spectacles we can watch on demand.  Sounds like the old days of the Roman Empire when they threw the Christians to the lions.  Only now you can watch it at any time and any place thanks to technology.  Not to mention reading the fake news to fill in your spare time.  Can Mark Zuckerberg or anybody really solve this problem

Despite Zuckerberg’s pledge to do a better job in screening content, many Facebook users did not seem to believe that much would change.  Hundreds of commenters on his post related personal experiences of reporting inappropriate content to Facebook that the company declined to remove.  So who are these reviewers and what standards do they apply?  Most of them are low-paid contractors overseas who spend an average of just a few seconds on each post.  A National Public Radio investigation last year found that they inconsistently apply Facebook’s standards, echoing previous  research by other outlets.  Hmmmm, I wonder if some of these same people work in those famous “call centers” that American companies have established abroad?

Sounds to me that we may be “faked out” for a long time to come.

Ray Myers

P.S.  I will not be posting on Friday.  Busy weekend ahead.  Enjoy yours.  Back on Monday.



Let Your Fingers Do the Walking – Shop/Search Online

Remember the Yellow Pages?  I know I am walking down memory lane a lot lately, but things are changing so quickly.  I often like to think about life before tech because it has certainly changed the way we do just about everything.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that!  What would we do now without Amazon or Google?  As long as you are near a computer screen in whatever form you prefer, you can probably survive living alone on an island provided there is connectivity and free home delivery.

Here is what one NY Times reporter noted recently: “When the kids were born, it (Amazon) become my household Costco – supplier of diapers and other baby gear.  Then it began a services designed to remove any decision-making from shopping:  My toilet paper, paper towels and other consumables now come to my house on schedule, no thinking required.  Then Amazon moves into media, and I was more hooked:  It had me for packaged goods, so why not movies and TV shows too?”  And now there is even more.  Amazon gave us Echo, the company’s talking computer which speaks through a persona known as Alexa, and which has now infected American families like a happy virus.

But if it’s not Amazon for you, it’ll be one of other tech giants:  Alphabet (Google), Apple, Facebook, or Microsoft.  It’s too late to escape.

Ray Myers


How About a Coffee Break – Skip the Wi-Fi, Skip Trump

Now why would you want to make your coffeee shop wi-fi free?  It may seem a bit nostalgic, but some cafe owners would like to bring back the art of the conversation in their shops.  What a concept!  You can actually sit at a table and converse with friends, colleagues, or perhaps even strangers, as you sip your coffee and discuss all the latest news and/or gossip.  Just think, you can actually create your own Trump-free spaces where you can choose NOT to hear or see all the breaking news about his latest tweets and antics.  I know that keeping up with him can be addictive, and unfortunately, he loves to keep you hooked.

Back to the coffee shop.  Without wi-fi, these shops may soon become our oasis in the desert of social networking and instant communication on any topic at any time.  Some shop owners do not see the wi-fi restriction as revolutionary but as a response to society’s deep immersion into all things digital that leads people to seldom communicate face to face.  To promote conviviality, some shops have adopted a no wi-fi policy and gone a step further: doing away with some comfy furniture and narrowing counters to make them less accommodating for laptops.

So maybe we could all use a little more face time (not FaceTime) to actually talk about what is happening in this age of Trump.  He may be addicted to always being in the news, but we should not be addicted to him.   He is Not Making America Great Again.

Ray Myers

“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over” – Twitter President Fires FBI Director Comey

Thank you , Yogi Berra.  I find these words very comforting in the age of Trump.  It’s only been a little over a hundred days of his tenure in the White House, but who’s counting (I am!)?  So-called President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey yesterday, based on the recommendations of his so-called Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General.  It seems like he is still fuming about how he actually lost the popular vote in last year’s election, tweeting last week that “FBI Director Comey was the best thing that ever happened to Hillary Clinton in that he gave her a free pass for many bad deeds!”  

Trump sent Comey a very short, self-serving letter which could also be interpreted as a awkward attempt to pardon himself from any transgressions that he may have committed.  Here it is: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau.”  Oh yes, Trump did add that he wished him the best in his future endeavors. 

So, what’s next?  Maybe we will have a return to days of Watergate-like scandals and true investigative reporting by “real news” journalists.  

Ray Myers

Tech Tackles Fake News

What’s all this about fake news? (remember Rosenne Rosanadana, TV’s Saturday Night Live).  I just read the other day that computer experts are using sophisticated algorithms and online data to spot misinformation.  So now it seems that we have “machine learning” tools that use artificial intelligence to combat fake news.  A growing number of technology experts worldwide are now harnessing their skills to tackle misinformation online.  Calls for combating fake news have focused on some of the biggest online players, including American giants like Facebook and Google.  Why did we have to wait for this call until after a U.S. Presidential election?  Does fake news really have more readers than real news?

I am not really a conspiracy theorist, and maybe the technology and needed algorithms were not fully developed in time for last year’s election, but perhaps it’s just another example of “timing being everything.”  Technology still seems to hold a revered place as our best hope for discerning fact from fiction.  But many Europeans are not so optimistic.  With fake news already swirling around their forthcoming elections, analysts also worry that technology on its on may not be enough to combat the threat.  

Remember the old adage, “All I know is what I read in the newspapers.”  I guess it’s time to rethink that old saw, or maybe we should literally start reading (and listening) again with a more critical perspective.  We must never think that technology can do all this for us.

Ray Myers