Portside aims to provide varied material of interest to people on the left that will help them to interpret the world, and to change it.
March 10, 2017
Center for Democracy & Technology
We, the undersigned coalition of human rights and civil liberties organizations and trade associations write in response to your statement at the House Homeland Security Committee hearing on February 7, 2017, that the Department of Homeland Security would consider requiring visa applicants to provide log-in information (passwords or other credentials) for their social media accounts. We urge you to reject any proposal to require anyone to provide log-in information to their online accounts as a condition of entry into the United States. Demanding log-in information is a direct assault on fundamental rights and would weaken, rather than promote, national security.
March 10, 2017
WikiLeaks published thousands of documents this week, dubbed "Vault 7," that describe CIA programs to hack into both Apple and Android cellphones, smart TVs and even cars. Some of the released documents describe tools to take over entire phones, allowing the CIA to then bypass encrypted messenger programs such as Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp. Other documents outline a CIA and British intelligence program called "Weeping Angel," through which the spy agency can hack into a Samsung smart television and turn it into a surveillance device that records audio conversations, even when it appears to be off.
By Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, and Ethan Zuckerman
March 3, 2017
Columbia Journalism Review
A right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world. This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton.
While concerns about political and media polarization online are longstanding, our study suggests that polarization was asymmetric. Pro-Clinton audiences were highly attentive to traditional media outlets, which continued to be the most prominent outlets across the public sphere, alongside more left-oriented online sites. But pro-Trump audiences paid the majority of their attention to polarized outlets that have developed recently, many of them only since the 2008 election season.
By Sarah T. Roberts
March 8, 2017
Facebook is revising how it defines its role as a platform on which people consume news. Through the tumult of the election and under heavy public pressure, the company has gone from firmly denying any status as a media company to now acknowledging (albeit vaguely) some degree of responsibility for the information people take in. “The things that are happening in our world now are all about the social world not being what people need,” Mark Zuckerberg told Recode after he published a sweeping, 6,000-word manifesto on the company’s future last month. “I felt like I had to address that.”
Missing from this evolving self-portrayal, however, has been significant mention of a distinct kind of editorial practice that Facebook and most other prominent social-media platforms are involved in. Thus far, much of the post-election discussion of social-media companies has focused on algorithms and automated mechanisms that are often assumed to undergird most content-dissemination processes online. But algorithms are not the whole story. In fact, there is a profound human aspect to this work. I call it commercial content moderation, or CCM.
By Henri Gendreau
February 25, 2017
Like its forebear “political correctness,” the protean meanings of “fake news” have made the term meaningless. It’s a rallying cry to some, a joke to others. It’s both and neither. It was born from a media frenzy bent on describing a murky reality, and it died by that, too. Mostly, it’s become a signifier of cynicism, a term feeding a public sense that maybe nothing is believable, or worth believing, anymore.
By Jon Swartz
March 11, 2017
Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, now wants to save it.
The computer scientist who wrote the blueprint for what would become the World Wide Web 28 years ago today is alarmed at what has happened to it in the past year.
When Berners-Lee submitted his original proposal for the Web, he imagined it as an open platform that would allow everyone, everywhere to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographic and cultural boundaries.
But his faith, and those of privacy advocates and cybersecurity experts, has been badly shaken by a series of high-profile hacks and the dissemination of fake news through the use of data science and armies of bots.