Beginning of the end

All that’s left is the exam. We will meet Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 2 p.m. for the test, which will cover material beginning Oct. 20. Similar to the first test:

  • You can expect a mix of multiple choice and short answer questions.
  • The test can cover anything from readings, lecture, or class discussion (including guest speakers). You should focus your study on the main points I’ve listed in each admin post. Those posts provide an excellent outline of our progress this semester.
  • I am available from about 3:15-5 p.m. in my office Monday for questions.
  • All you need to bring for the test is a pen or pencil. No Scantron required.

Promo rules for social media

We rolled FTC regulation forward to today, so we’ll discuss that and then begin to hear from the seven students who thought about the content they want to remember from the class.

If we have time today or Friday, we’ll look at a quiz that was published this summer to test your skill against an algorithm that predicts retweet value. On the subject of quizzes, it’s also worth testing your knowledge about the Web and digital technology.

Privacy continued and the FTC

We’ll start today by reviewing the distinction between privacy and obscurity. Facebook’s new Privacy Basics tool provides a great example to examine the types of control we’re used to. But what does that really mean when Facebook made $2.8 billion from users’ personal information in Q2 2014 (that’s $5.79 per American and Canadian user)?

Facebook was also the medium used in a First Amendment case argued before the Supreme Court this morning. Anthony Elonis of Pennsylvania said he was just venting when he posted violent rap lyrics about killing his wife, who filed a restraining order. The legal standard in determining a true threat is whether a reasonable person would interpret the statement as an intent to cause harm. Elonis argues that he didn’t intend to harm his wife, so he shouldn’t be prosecuted. SCOTUSblog has a round-up of coverage and analysis on this case.

The Federal Trade Commission

The FTC exists “to prevent business practices that are anticompetitive or deceptive or unfair to consumers,” so advertising falls under its purview. The commission’s online advertising and marketing page offers a variety of documents to help communicators determine whether their messages meet guidelines. The document “.com Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising” is the most comprehensive of the options there. It’s important for you to know that:

  • The FTC always prohibits unfair or deceptive acts or practices.
  • Advertisers should always include limitations on an offer with the announcement, not as an attachment to it.
  • Disclosures must be “clear and conspicuous.” This was the problem with the Cole Haan #WanderingSole campaign. The advertiser’s responsibilities are extensive, including a recommendation to avoid making users scroll to see a disclosure and instruction to “keep abreast of empirical research about where consumers do and do not look on a screen.”

There is no reading assignment for Wednesday. Seven students (Laura, Carolyn, Margo, Tim, Kinsey, Victoria, and Christina) will report back about the most interesting or useful thing we’ve learned in this class.

What do we want to be private?

Jeffrey Rosen’s discussion of privacy raises interesting issues.

  • Older societies dealt carefully with gossip because of the long-term effects on reputation that people faced living in the same place all of their lives. However, the American story has always included the option to remake yourself. That option is now disappearing because of the long memory of the Internet.
  • People have suggested radical solutions to our problems in things like discussion of a constitutional right to oblivion in France or a proposal that people should be able to declare “reputation bankruptcy” every decade.
  • Most people are less concerned about others posting false information about them than true information they posted about themselves.
  • We’re generally permissive of online sharing but find physical information more intrusive (think about the Hello Book and Facebook).
  • Companies offer us privacy settings, but Rosen’s main conclusion seems to be that control over settings isn’t enough; people “want control over their online reputations.”

Rosen further discusses his position in Part 1 and Part 2 of a PBS interview about the end of forgetting.

So how can we talk about privacy without everyone’s eyes glazing over? Most younger users say, “Yeah, I know I shouldn’t post anything I wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see. I know I shouldn’t share sensitive information. If I keep up with that, what’s left to talk about?”

A law professor at Samford University, Woodrow Hartzog, is an expert on privacy in the digital age, and he suggests that the difference between privacy and obscurity is important to grasp. An article that Hartzog wrote with philosophy professor Evan Selinger in The Atlantic further discusses the concept of obscurity.

Let’s think about Facebook’s new privacy policy in light of Rosen’s conclusion that people want control over reputation, not settings, and Hartzog’s argument that we all just want a little obscurity online. Facebook announced its Privacy Basics tool Nov. 13.

For Monday: We’ll talk about the latest guidelines from the Federal Trade Commission about disclosure of advertising/promotional messages in social media. Inside Counsel provides a good summary of requirements and a recent case.

Your social media audit is due by hard copy at the beginning of class on Monday.

#BlackTwitter and Ferguson

The demographics that we saw Wednesday indicated a higher percentage of black users on Twitter than on other social platforms. The Manjoo and Ellis articles that you read showed that the trend has gotten national attention since 2010 — when the pattern had already been around for several years.

Social media, Twitter in particular, provide a space for discussions among voices that haven’t been heard in the mainstream. It’s not perfect, and not all people use it the same way (as the 2010 articles pointed out), but #BlackTwitter and other interaction among black users provide a place for day-to-day conversation.

The Washington Post article offers a good summary of the role of Black Twitter: “Perhaps the most significant contribution of Black Twitter is that it increases visibility of black people online, and in doing so, dismantles the idea that white is standard and everything else is ‘other.'”

WP also points toward the activism possible because of a concentration of any group of users. Twitter communication spurred the Arab Spring lasting from late 2010 to 2012 (as a side note, check out this excellent interactive timeline from The Guardian organizing all of their coverage from that period).

Another great example is the shooting of Michael Brown and ensuring protests in Ferguson, Mo. You can see how news and discussion about Ferguson spread on Twitter in the 12 days after Brown’s shooting. At the time, many people criticized the sparse news coverage of the situation in Ferguson, but analysis showed that cable news coverage increased parallel to Twitter discussion. It’s particularly fitting that we discuss the case on a day when people are waiting to hear whether a St. Louis County grand jury will indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown.

We’ll talk about privacy on Monday. Please read The Web Means the End of Forgetting from the New York Times Magazine to prepare.

But what do they think of me? Social media and society

We’re talking about social media and society today and Friday, and today’s readings were designed to help you see who is using what with what frequency. The main points to remember from today will be the unique demographic profiles that some sites offer, the age-group stair-stepping that we see in most platforms, and how frequently many people use Facebook in particular.

The CNN article pointed out some good and bad effects on the way we relate to others, including our sharing behaviors, past relationships, emotional impact, reunions, and privacy.

We’ll look at what research tells us about how people make up their minds about us based on what they see on Facebook.

Our discussion on Friday will focus on other aspects of social media and society. Please read three brief articles:

Guest speaker Corrie Baker

Today’s guest speaker is Corrie Baker, a digital marketing specialist with Jemully Media, a local digital agency that offers social media services to clients.

Reading for Monday: