Sunlight: The Promises and Perils of Open Government

Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” as the saying goes, meaning that transparency, or openness is always preferred over the alternative. Whether in business, government, or science. It is often assumed that open information is always better, or as the hacker ethic states “information wants to be free.”

But is open by default really the best approach? Particularly in the area of government? Can we not conceive of information that really should not be freed? Whether for national security purposes, or personal privacy, or even efficiency’s sake?

Light Up The Open

“Light Up The Open”by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sunlight: The Promises and Perils of Open Government

What if finding your online community hurts others?

The beauty of participatory and social media has always been its ability to connect people. That is also the great evil of these platforms.

Social media allows what Barry Wellman calls networked individualism. In contrast to geographic or familial communities where we are brought together through accidents of fate like where or with whom we were born, networked individuals are not forced to conform to community norms to fit in. Instead, they can use network technologies to maintain their individual quirks and find others who share their unique interests and ideals in online communities. This is a beautiful and terrifying vision.

Frankenstein
“Frankenstein” by Britta Frahm is licensed under CC by 2.0

A year ago today, 10 people were killed and 16 injured when a young man rented a van and drove it onto the sidewalk. The perpetrator engaged in this action, as part of an “incel” or “involuntarily celebate” rebellion. The incel group is a group of men online who openly express misogyny and claim that they should be “given” women to have sex with. The attack targeted women. Incel communities on the internet celebrated following the attack.

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What if finding your online community hurts others?

The Private Turn

Is social media becoming less social?

In early 2018, Facebook users were stunned to learn that Cambridge Analytica had used a loophole in Facebook’s API to harvest data from millions of users who had not given free and informed consent for the use of their data. Prior to this reveal, people around the world were already growing concerned about the spread of fake news and misinformation on social media and how this information may influence elections. This event sent apprehensions into overdrive and even sparked a #DeleteFacebook online movement, of sorts.

Elon Musk backs #DeleteFacebook, and Tesla's and SpaceX's Facebook pages vanish
“Elon Musk backs #DeleteFacebook, and Tesla’s and SpaceX’s Facebook pages vanish” by marcoverch is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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The Private Turn

Language matters: The carbon tax edition

Today is the day the carbon tax takes effect in Canada, and I can’t help but notice it’s also April Fool’s day.

But the carbon tax is not a joke. Instead it’s an attempt, backed by solid economics research (article paywall), to cut greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on the burning of fossil fuels.

Shell Gas Station
“Shell Gas Station” by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC by 2.0

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Language matters: The carbon tax edition