Why is the Beeb buying the UN’s hysteria over ‘cyber violence against women’?

You might recall that way back in, er, October the United Nations published a report on Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls.

Two things happened. First much of the media regurgitated its claims without question, and then a few bloggers started pulling apart the report, which was replete with errors, phoney assertions and even a citation that linked to the author’s C Drive.

The whole saga was catalogued by the feminist writer Christina Hoff Sommers, who debunked the stats and slammed the “totalitarian” recommendations of the report.

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Podcast Ep. 22: Remembrance Poppies, Essena O’Neill’s ragequit and Justin Trudeau cabinet

RD E22, Justin Trudeau, Remembrance Poppies, Essena O'Neill

A beleaguered Right Dishonourable returns this week to discuss the latest in current affairs, social issues and whatever, with John joining Jazza and Jimmy once again.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn starts vlogging after an ‘eventful week’

Jeremy Corbyn, No More War, August 2014 by Garry Knight

Given the role that social media played in electing him to the top of the Labour Party, perhaps it was unsurprising that Jeremy Corbyn would make a foray into the murky world of YouTube vlogs on Friday.

Speaking in a single take, Corbo rambled on the topics of Islington, prime minister’s questions, and the various rallies and events he has been going to or plans to attend.

Clearly the Labour leader is still invested in the sort of grass roots campaigning that has defined most of his political life, but when he describes an obscure campaigner as “legendary” is only serves to highlight his distance from most Britons.

Judging by the video title there is also a rather dismal lack of understanding about search engine optimisation in the Labour camp. Should this turn out to be a long-term play perhaps they will put out an advert for someone who can drop a decent hashtag…

Image Credit – Jeremy Corbyn, No More War, August 2014 by Garry Knight

Facebook’s ‘real name’ dilemma is just part of the battle for a public commons Internet

The Demise of Facebook, March 2013 by mkhmarketing

It is worth remembering that the explosion of the Internet was in part prompted by a donation from one Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist who decided that the World Wide Web would be gifted to humanity – a decision that cost him uncounted billions in profits he might have made by selling it.

I mention this a year after a furore broke out over Facebook’s decision to demand that users register with their “authentic identity” on the social network, by which the company meant your legal name.

This was and continues to be a problem for those wanting to use the social network under an assumed name, a group that includes victims of violence, political campaigners and transgender people. Apparently it also affects certain ethnic groups whose naming conventions don’t match up with the standards Facebook has set.

As such a so-called Nameless Coalition is campaigning to convince the social network to reverse its policy. Writing in an open letter online, the group said:

“Facebook maintains a system that disregards the circumstances of users in non-western countries, exposes its users to danger, disrespects the identities of its users, and curtails free speech.”

For its part the social network claims that the measure is necessary for security reasons. In a statement to the press an aptly nameless spokesperson for the company said:

“While we know not everyone likes this approach, our policy against fake names helps make Facebook a safer place by enabling us to detect accounts created for malicious purposes. It makes it harder, for example, for terrorist organizations to hide behind fake profiles, school bullies to anonymously smear the reputations of others, or anyone else to use an anonymous name to harass, scam or engage in criminal behaviour.”

Of course Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are under considerable pressure from governments as a potent comms channel for miscreants. Over the last year security forces in Britain and the United States have been open in criticising Silicon Valley for its adoption of encryption, the boffins being more concerned about user’s privacy than spooks’ ability to pry.

Whether drag queens are a genuine security risk is a matter readers will be able to consider for themselves. But Facebook’s dominance on social media (its users number 1.5bn) is now exposing them to a regulatory quandary – when does a privately developed technology become so essential to life that it falls into the public realm?

That sense that Facebook is a public good was recently captured by Lil Miss Hot Mess, a drag queen from San Francisco, who wrote on the Huffington Post:

“Yesterday I received an email from a mother who is a survivor of domestic violence and prefers to use a pseudonym to safely avoid her ex; she told me she uses Facebook primarily as a means of connecting with other parents whose children have disabilities and have endured abuse. After trying to explain her situation to Facebook’s bot-like customer-service team, she – like thousands of others – is now cut off from very vital support systems.”

As Lil Miss Hot Mess goes on to say, Facebook is a corporation, and ultimately concerned about the bottom line. It’s inaccurate to say that the social network is “monopolistic” – indeed, its competitors are the likes of Twitter and Google – but demands that social networks have a public responsibility will only rise as people increasingly use them.

Silicon Valley is not without a sense of public duty. But it is also full of ambitious people wanting to make big bucks and maintain control of their babies. Reconciling these impulses will be a key political battle of this century. And for my part, I’m hoping more people will fall in line with Berners-Lee.

Image Credit – The Demise of Facebook, March 2013 by mkhmarketing

On ‘Damonsplaining’: Why I think Matt Damon had a point about diversity in art

Image Credit – Matt Damon and Effie Brown on "Project Greenlight" by HBO

The media and Twittersphere have loved discussing Matt Damon’s views on diversity ever since the now-famous incident on HBO’s Project Greenlight. But there’s a crucial nuance to Damon’s argument that I fear many have missed.

Damon, I wholeheartedly believe, was talking about creative freedoms.

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