Trigger Warnings | Centre for Teaching Excellence
A trigger warning is a statement made prior to sharing potentially disturbing content. That content might include graphic references to topics such as #sexual_abuse, #self-harm, #violence, #eating_disorders, and so on, and can take the form of an #image, #video_clip, #audio_clip, or piece of #text. In an #academic_context, the #instructor delivers these messages in order to allow students to prepare emotionally for the content or to decide to forgo interacting with the content.
Proponents of trigger warnings contend that certain course content can impact the #wellbeing and #academic_performance of students who have experienced corresponding #traumas in their own lives. Such students might not yet be ready to confront a personal #trauma in an academic context. They choose to #avoid it now so that they can deal with it more effectively at a later date – perhaps after they have set up necessary #resources, #supports, or #counselling. Other students might indeed be ready to #confront a personal trauma in an academic context but will benefit from a #forewarning of certain topics so that they can brace themselves prior to (for example) participating in a #classroom discussion about it. Considered from this perspective, trigger warnings give students increased #autonomy over their learning, and are an affirmation that the instructor #cares about their wellbeing.
However, not everyone agrees that trigger warnings are #necessary or #helpful. For example, some fear that trigger warnings unnecessarily #insulate students from the often harsh #realities of the world with which academics need to engage. Others are concerned that trigger warnings establish a precedent of making instructors or universities legally #responsible for protecting students from #emotional_trauma. Still others argue that it is impossible to anticipate all the topics that might be potentially triggering for students.
Trigger warnings do not mean that students can exempt themselves from completing parts of the coursework. Ideally, a student who is genuinely concerned about being #re-traumatized by forthcoming course content would privately inform the instructor of this concern. The instructor would then accommodate the student by proposing #alternative_content or an alternative learning activity, as with an accommodation necessitated by a learning disability or physical disability.
The decision to preface potentially disturbing content with a trigger warning is ultimately up to the instructor. An instructor who does so might want to include in the course syllabus a preliminary statement (also known as a “#content_note”), such as the following:
Our classroom provides an open space for the critical and civil exchange of ideas. Some readings and other content in this course will include topics that some students may find offensive and/or traumatizing. I’ll aim to #forewarn students about potentially disturbing content and I ask all students to help to create an #atmosphere of #mutual_respect and #sensitivity.
Prior to introducing a potentially disturbing topic in class, an instructor might articulate a #verbal_trigger_warning such as the following:
Next class our discussion will probably touch on the sexual assault that is depicted in the second last chapter of The White Hotel. This content is disturbing, so I encourage you to prepare yourself emotionally beforehand. If you believe that you will find the discussion to be traumatizing, you may choose to not participate in the discussion or to leave the classroom. You will still, however, be responsible for material that you miss, so if you leave the room for a significant time, please arrange to get notes from another student or see me individually.
A version of the foregoing trigger warning might also preface written materials:
The following reading includes a discussion of the harsh treatment experienced by First Nations children in residential schools in the 1950s. This content is disturbing, so I encourage everyone to prepare themselves emotionally before proceeding. If you believe that the reading will be traumatizing for you, then you may choose to forgo it. You will still, however, be responsible for material that you miss, so please arrange to get notes from another student or see me individually.
Trigger warnings, of course, are not the only answer to disturbing content. Instructional #strategies such as the following can also help students approach challenging material:
– Give your students as much #advance_notice as possible about potentially disturbing content. A day’s notice might not be enough for a student to prepare emotionally, but two weeks might be.
– Try to “scaffold” a disturbing topic to students. For example, when beginning a history unit on the Holocaust, don’t start with graphic photographs from Auschwitz. Instead, begin by explaining the historical context, then verbally describe the conditions within the concentration camps, and then introduce the photographic record as needed. Whenever possible, allow students to progress through upsetting material at their own pace.
– Allow students to interact with disturbing material outside of class. A student might feel more vulnerable watching a documentary about sexual assault while in a classroom than in the security of his or her #home.
– Provide captions when using video materials: some content is easier to watch while reading captions than while listening to the audio.
– When necessary, provide written descriptions of graphic images as a substitute for the actual visual content.
– When disturbing content is under discussion, check in with your students from time to time: #ask them how they are doing, whether they need a #break, and so on. Let them know that you are aware that the material in question is emotionally challenging.
– Help your students understand the difference between emotional trauma and #intellectual_discomfort: the former is harmful, as is triggering it in the wrong context (such as in a classroom rather than in therapy); the latter is fundamental to a university education – it means our ideas are being challenged as we struggle to resolve cognitive dissonance.
Why Trigger Warnings Don’t Work
Fair warning labels at the beginning of movie and book reviews alert the reader that continuing may reveal critical plot points that spoil the story. The acronym NSFW alerts those reading emails or social media posts that the material is not suitable for work. The Motion Picture Association of America provides film ratings to advise about content so that moviegoers can make informed entertainment choices for themselves and their children.
Enter stage right: Trigger warning.
A trigger warning, most often found on #social_media and internet sites, alerts the reader that potentially upsetting information may follow. The words trigger warning are often followed by a subtitle such as *Trigger warning: This may be triggering to those who have struggled with _________. Fill in the blank. #Domestic_abuse. #Rape. #Body_image. #Needles. #Pregnancy.
Trigger warnings have become prevalent online since about 2012. Victim advocate Gayle Crabtree reports that they were in use as early as 1996 in chat rooms she moderated. “We used the words ‘trigger warning,’ ‘#tw,’ ‘#TW,’ and ‘trigger’ early on. …This meant the survivor could see the warning and then decide if she or he wanted to scroll down for the message or not.” Eventually, trigger warnings spread to social media sites including #Tumblr, #Twitter, and #Facebook.
The term seems to have originated from the use of the word “trigger” to indicate something that cues a #physiological_response, the way pollen may trigger an allergy attack. A trigger in a firearm is a lever that activates the sequence of firing a gun, so it is not surprising that the word was commandeered by those working in the field of #psychology to indicate objects and sensations that cause neurological firing in the brain, which in turn cause #feelings and #thoughts to occur.
Spoiler alerts allow us to enjoy the movie or book as it unfolds without being influenced by knowledge about what comes next. The NSFW label helps employees comply with workplace policies that prohibit viewing sexually explicit or profane material. Motion picture ratings enable viewers to select movies they are most likely to find entertaining. Trigger warnings, on the other hand, are “designed to prevent people who have an extremely strong and damaging emotional response… to certain subjects from encountering them unaware.”
Discussions about trigger warnings have made headlines in the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, the New Republic, and various other online and print publications. Erin Dean writes that a trigger “is not something that offends one, troubles one, or angers one; it is something that causes an extreme involuntary reaction in which the individual re-experiences past trauma.”
For those individuals, it is probably true that coming across material that reminds them of a traumatic event is going to be disturbing. Dean’s definition refers to involuntary fear and stress responses common in individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder characterized by intrusive memories, thoughts, or dreams; intense distress at cues that remind the individual of the event; and reactivity to situations, people, or objects that symbolize the event. PTSD can result from personal victimization, accidents, incarceration, natural disasters, or any unexpected injury or threat of injury or death. Research suggests that it results from a combination of genetic predisposition, fear conditioning, and neural and physiological responses that incorporate the body systems and immunological responses. Current theories suggest that PTSD represents “the failure to recover from the normal effects of trauma.” In other words, anyone would be adversely affected by trauma, but natural mechanisms for healing take place in the majority of individuals. The prevalence of PTSD ranges from 1.9 percent in Europe to 3.5 percent in the United States.
The notion that trigger warnings should be generalized to all social media sites, online journals, and discussion boards is erroneous.
Some discussions have asserted that because between one in four and one in five women have been sexually abused, trigger warnings are necessary to protect vast numbers of victims from being re-traumatized. However, research shows that the majority of trauma-exposed persons do not develop PTSD. This does not mean they aren’t affected by trauma, but that they do not develop clinically significant symptoms, distress, or impairment in daily functioning. The notion that trigger warnings should be generalized to all social media sites, online journals, and discussion boards is erroneous. Now some students are pushing for trigger warnings on college class syllabi and reading lists.
But wait, before people get all riled up, I’d like to say that yes, I have experienced trauma in my life.
I wore a skirt the first time George hit me. I know this because I remember scrunching my skirt around my waist and balancing in heels while I squatted over a hole in the concrete floor to take a piss. We were in Tijuana. The stench of excrement made my stomach queasy with too much tequila. I wanted to retch.
We returned to our hotel room. I slid out of my blouse and skirt. He stripped to nothing and lay on the double bed. He was drinking Rompope from the bottle, a kind of Mexican eggnog: strong, sweet, and marketed for its excellent spunk. It’s a thick yellow rum concoction with eggs, sugar, and almond side notes. George wanted to have sex. We bickered and argued as drunks sometimes do. I said something — I know this because I always said something — and he hit me. He grabbed me by the hair and hit me again. “We’re going dancing,” he said.
“I don’t feel like dancing — “
The world was tilting at an angle I didn’t recognize. The mathematician Matt Tweed writes that atoms are made up of almost completely empty space. To grasp the vast nothingness, he asks the reader to imagine a cat twirling a bumblebee on the end of a half-mile long string. That’s how much emptiness there is between the nucleus and the electron. There was more space than that between George and me. I remember thinking: I am in a foreign country. I don’t speak Spanish. I have no money. We went dancing.
Labeling a topic or theme is useless because of the way our brains work. The labels that we give trauma (assault, sexual abuse, rape) are not the primary source of triggers. Memories are, and not just memories, but very specific, insidious, and personally individualized details lodged in our brain at the time of the trauma encoded as memory. Details can include faces, places, sounds, smells, tastes, voices, body positions, time of day, or any other sensate qualities that were present during a traumatic incident.
If I see a particular shade of yellow or smell a sickly sweet rum drink, I’m reminded of my head being yanked by someone who held a handful of my hair in his fist. A forest green Plymouth Duster (the car we drove) will too. The word assault does not. The words domestic violence don’t either. The specificity of details seared in my mind invokes memory.
Last year a driver slammed into the back of my car on the freeway. The word tailgate is not a trigger. Nor is the word accident. The flash of another car suddenly encroaching in my rearview mirror is. In my mid-20s, I drove my younger sister (sobbing, wrapped in a bed sheet) to the hospital where two male officers explained they were going to pluck her pubic hair for a rape kit. When I see tweezers in a hospital, I flash back to that awful moment. For my sister, other things may be triggers: the moonlight shining on the edge of a knife. The shadow of a person back lit in a doorway. An Hispanic man’s accent. If we were going to insist on trigger warnings that work, they would need to look something like this:
Trigger warning: Rompope.
Trigger warning: a woman wrapped in a bed sheet.
Trigger warning: the blade of a knife.
The variability of human #perception and traumatic recall makes it impossible to provide the necessary specificity for trigger warnings to be effective. The nature of specificity is, in part, one reason that treatment for traumatic memories involves safely re-engaging with the images that populate the survivor’s memory of the event. According to Dr. Mark Beuger, an addiction psychiatrist at Deerfield Behavioral Health of Warren (PA), the goal of PTSD treatment is “to allow for processing of the traumatic experience without becoming so emotional that processing is impossible.” By creating a coherent narrative of the past event through telling and retelling the story to a clinician, survivors confront their fears and gain mastery over their thoughts and feelings.
If a survivor has had adequate clinical support, they could engage online with thoughts or ideas that previously had been avoided.
According to the National Center for Health, “#Avoidance is a maladaptive #control_strategy… resulting in maintenance of perceived current threat. In line with this, trauma-focused treatments stress the role of avoidance in the maintenance of PTSD. Prolonged exposure to safe but anxiety-provoking trauma-related stimuli is considered a treatment of choice for PTSD.” Avoidance involves distancing oneself from cues, reminders, or situations that remind one of the event that can result in increased #social_withdrawal. Trigger warnings increase social withdrawal, which contributes to feelings of #isolation. If a survivor who suffers from PTSD has had adequate clinical support, they could engage online with thoughts or ideas that previously had been avoided. The individual is in charge of each word he or she reads. At any time, one may close a book or click a screen shut on the computer. What is safer than that? Conversely, trigger warnings perpetuate avoidance. Because the intrusive memories and thoughts are internal, trigger warnings suggest, “Wait! Don’t go here. I need to protect you from yourself.”
The argument that trigger warnings help to protect those who have suffered trauma is false. Most people who have experienced trauma do not require preemptive protection. Some may argue that it would be kind to avoid causing others distress with upsetting language and images. But is it? Doesn’t it sometimes take facing the horrific images encountered in trauma to effect change in ourselves and in the world?
A few weeks ago, I came across a video about Boko Haram’s treatment of a kidnapped schoolgirl. The girl was blindfolded. A man was digging a hole in dry soil. It quickly became evident, as he ushered the girl into the hole, that this would not end well. I felt anxious as several men began shoveling soil in around her while she spoke to them in a language I could not understand. I considered clicking away as my unease and horror grew. But I also felt compelled to know what happened to this girl. In the 11-minute video, she is buried up to her neck.
All the while, she speaks to her captors, who eventually move out of the frame of the scene. Rocks begin pelting the girl’s head. One after the other strikes her as I stared, horrified, until finally, her head lay motionless at an angle that could only imply death. That video (now confirmed to be a stoning in Somalia rather than by Boko Haram) forever changed my level of concern about young girls kidnapped in other countries.
We are changed by what we #witness. Had the video contained a trigger warning about gruesome death, I would not have watched it. Weeks later, I would have been spared the rush of feelings I felt when a friend posted a photo of her daughter playfully buried by her brothers in the sand. I would have been spared knowing such horrors occur. But would the world be a better place for my not knowing? Knowledge helps us prioritize our responsibilities in the world. Don’t we want engaged, knowledgeable citizens striving for a better world?
Recently, the idea of trigger warnings has leapt the gulch between social media and academic settings. #Universities are dabbling with #policies that encourage professors to provide trigger warnings for their classes because of #complaints filed by students. Isn’t the syllabus warning enough? Can’t individual students be responsible for researching the class content and reading #materials before they enroll? One of the benefits of broad exposure to literature and art in education is Theory of Mind, the idea that human beings have the capacity to recognize and understand that other people have thoughts and desires that are different from one’s own. Do we want #higher_education to comprise solely literature and ideas that feel safe to everyone? Could we even agree on what that would be?
Art occurs at the intersection of experience and danger. It can be risky, subversive, and offensive. Literature encompasses ideas both repugnant and redemptive. News about very difficult subjects is worth sharing. As writers, don’t we want our readers to have the space to respond authentically to the story? As human beings, don’t we want others to understand that we can empathize without sharing the same points of view?
Trigger warnings fail to warn us of the very things that might cause us to remember our trauma. They insulate. They cause isolation. A trigger warning says, “Be careful. This might be too much for you.” It says, “I don’t trust you can handle it.” As a reader, that’s not a message I want to encounter. As a writer, that is not the message I want to convey.
Essay on why a professor is adding a trigger warning to his #syllabus
Trigger warnings in the classroom have been the subject of tremendous #debate in recent weeks, but it’s striking how little the discussion has contemplated what actual trigger warnings in actual classrooms might plausibly look like.
The debate began with demands for trigger warnings by student governments with no power to compel them and suggestions by #administrators (made and retracted) that #faculty consider them. From there the ball was picked up mostly by observers outside higher ed who presented various #arguments for and against, and by professors who repudiated the whole idea.
What we haven’t heard much of so far are the voices of professors who are sympathetic to the idea of such warnings talking about what they might look like and how they might operate.
As it turns out, I’m one of those professors, and I think that discussion is long overdue. I teach history at Hostos Community College of the City University of New York, and starting this summer I’m going to be including a trigger warning in my syllabus.
I’d like to say a few things about why.
An Alternative Point of View
To start off, I think it’s important to be clear about what trigger warnings are, and what purpose they’re intended to serve. Such warnings are often framed — and not just by critics — as a “you may not want to read this” notice, one that’s directed specifically at survivors of trauma. But their actual #purpose is considerably broader.
Part of the confusion arises from the word “trigger” itself. Originating in the psychological literature, the #term can be misleading in a #non-clinical context, and indeed many people who favor such warnings prefer to call them “#content_warnings” for that reason. It’s not just trauma survivors who may be distracted or derailed by shocking or troubling material, after all. It’s any of us, and a significant part of the distraction comes not from the material itself but from the context in which it’s presented.
In the original cut of the 1933 version of the film “King Kong,” there was a scene (depicting an attack by a giant spider) that was so graphic that the director removed it before release. He took it out, it’s said, not because of concerns about excessive violence, but because the intensity of the scene ruined the movie — once you saw the sailors get eaten by the spider, the rest of the film passed by you in a haze.
A similar concern provides a big part of the impetus for content warnings. These warnings prepare the reader for what’s coming, so their #attention isn’t hijacked when it arrives. Even a pleasant surprise can be #distracting, and if the surprise is unpleasant the distraction will be that much more severe.
I write quite a bit online, and I hardly ever use content warnings myself. I respect the impulse to provide them, but in my experience a well-written title and lead paragraph can usually do the job more effectively and less obtrusively.
A classroom environment is different, though, for a few reasons. First, it’s a shared space — for the 75 minutes of the class session and the 15 weeks of the semester, we’re pretty much all #stuck with one another, and that fact imposes #interpersonal_obligations on us that don’t exist between writer and reader. Second, it’s an interactive space — it’s a #conversation, not a monologue, and I have a #responsibility to encourage that conversation as best I can. Finally, it’s an unpredictable space — a lot of my students have never previously encountered some of the material we cover in my classes, or haven’t encountered it in the way it’s taught at the college level, and don’t have any clear sense of what to expect.
For all these reasons, I’ve concluded that it would be sound #pedagogy for me to give my students notice about some of the #challenging_material we’ll be covering in class — material relating to racial and sexual oppression, for instance, and to ethnic and religious conflict — as well as some information about their rights and responsibilities in responding to it. Starting with the summer semester, as a result, I’ll be discussing these issues during the first class meeting and including a notice about them in the syllabus.
My current draft of that notice reads as follows:
Course Content Note
At times this semester we will be discussing historical events that may be disturbing, even traumatizing, to some students. If you ever feel the need to step outside during one of these discussions, either for a short time or for the rest of the class session, you may always do so without academic penalty. (You will, however, be responsible for any material you miss. If you do leave the room for a significant time, please make arrangements to get notes from another student or see me individually.)
If you ever wish to discuss your personal reactions to this material, either with the class or with me afterwards, I welcome such discussion as an appropriate part of our coursework.
That’s it. That’s my content warning. That’s all it is.
I should say as well that nothing in these two paragraphs represents a change in my teaching practice. I have always assumed that if a student steps out of the classroom they’ve got a good reason, and I don’t keep tabs on them when they do. If a student is made uncomfortable by something that happens in class, I’m always glad when they come talk to me about it — I’ve found we usually both learn something from such exchanges. And of course students are still responsible for mastering all the course material, just as they’ve always been.
So why the note, if everything in it reflects the rules of my classroom as they’ve always existed? Because, again, it’s my job as a professor to facilitate class discussion.
A few years ago one of my students came to talk to me after class, distraught. She was a student teacher in a New York City junior high school, working with a social studies teacher. The teacher was white, and almost all of his students were, like my student, black. That week, she said, one of the classes had arrived at the point in the semester given over to the discussion of slavery, and at the start of the class the teacher had gotten up, buried his nose in his notes, and started into the lecture without any introduction. The students were visibly upset by what they were hearing, but the teacher just kept going until the end of the period, at which point he finished the lecture, put down his papers, and sent them on to math class.
My student was appalled. She liked these kids, and she could see that they were hurting. They were angry, they were confused, and they had been given nothing to do with their #emotions. She asked me for advice, and I had very little to offer, but I left our meeting thinking that it would have been better for the teacher to have skipped that material entirely than to have taught it the way he did.
History is often ugly. History is often troubling. History is often heartbreaking. As a professor, I have an #obligation to my students to raise those difficult subjects, but I also have an obligation to raise them in a way that provokes a productive reckoning with the material.
And that reckoning can only take place if my students know that I understand that this material is not merely academic, that they are coming to it as whole people with a wide range of experiences, and that the journey we’re going on #together may at times be #painful.
It’s not coddling them to acknowledge that. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
Mail received by a friend with Pakistani citizenship:
“I am adding a screenshot of advertising on Facebook by German government which suggest me to ’ If I would like to return my home country and don’t know how then I can contact there’ Advertising is in Urdu which means they already know who they are showing this advertisement. This is interesting that they use my personal data and target me as a refugee I guess. [...]
Screenshot is attached and the link where the advertisement leads is below.”
Trump’s Executive Order Isn’t About Twitter - The Atlantic
Par Zeynep Tufekci
In reality, Trump’s salvo on social-media companies has primarily an audience of one: Mark Zuckerberg. And it is already working. After the executive order was issued, Facebook’s CEO quickly gave an interview to Fox News in which he said, “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.” He added, “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
It’s important to pay attention to what the president is doing, but not because the legal details of this order matter at all. Trump is unlikely to repeal Section 230 or take any real action to curb the power of the major social-media companies. Instead, he wants to keep things just the way they are and make sure that the red-carpet treatment he has received so far, especially at Facebook, continues without impediment. He definitely does not want substantial changes going into the 2020 election. The secondary aim is to rile up his base against yet another alleged enemy: this time Silicon Valley, because there needs to be an endless list of targets in the midst of multiple failures.
Trump does very well on Facebook, as my colleagues Ian Bogost and Alexis Madrigal have written, because “his campaign has been willing to cede control to Facebook’s ad-buying machinery”—both now, and in 2016. The relationship is so smooth that Trump said Zuckerberg congratulated the president for being “No. 1 on Facebook” at a private dinner with him. Bloomberg has reported that Facebook’s own data-science team agreed, publishing an internal report concluding how much better Trump was in leveraging “Facebook’s ability to optimize for outcomes.” This isn’t an unusual move for Facebook and its clients. Bloomberg has reported that Facebook also offered its “white glove” services to the Philippine strongman Rodrigo Duterte, to help him “maximize the platform’s potential and use best practices.” Duterte dominated political conversation on the site the month before the Philippines’ May 2016 presidential election. And once elected, Duterte banned independent press from attending his inauguration, instead live-streaming it on Facebook—a win-win for the company, which could then collect data from and serve ads to the millions who had little choice but to turn to the site if they wanted to see their president take office. (Duterte has since been accused of extrajudicial killings, jailing political opponents, and targeting independent media.)
Playing the refs by browbeating them has long been a key move in the right-wing playbook against traditional media. The method is simple: It involves badgering them with accusations of unfairness and bias so that they bend over backwards to accommodate a “both sides” narrative even when the sides were behaving very differently, or when one side was not grounded in fact. Climate-change deniers funded by fossil-fuel companies effectively used this strategy for decades, relying on journalists’ training and instinct to equate objectivity with representing both sides of a story. This way of operating persisted even when one of the sides was mostly bankrolled by the fossil-fuel industry while the other was a near-unanimous consensus of independent experts and academics.
For Facebook, that gatekeeper is a single person, Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook’s young CEO is an emperor of information who decides rules of amplification and access to speech for billions of people, simply due to the way ownership of Facebook shares are structured: Zuckerberg personally controls 60 percent of the voting power. And just like the way people try to get on or advertise on the president’s seemingly favorite TV show, Fox & Friends, merely to reach him, Trump is clearly aiming to send a message to his one-person target.
As a consequence, Facebook became cautious of taking actions that would make it look like it was holding back right-wing information machinery. That was the environment in which the country headed into the 2016 election—five months during which all stripes of misinformation went easily viral on Facebook, including stories that falsely claimed that the pope had endorsed Donald Trump, or that Hillary Clinton had sold weapons to the Islamic State. These stories were viewed millions of times on the platform, many of them outperforming traditional news sources. The pressure to keep Facebook friendly to the Trump campaign continued unabated after the election. When Facebook appeared to be considering changes to its microtargeting rules in 2019—for example, not allowing political campaigns to use the same level of microtargeting tools that product advertisers can, a potential strike at “a major Trump ad strategy”—the Trump reelection campaign swiftly attacked the platform, and the rules were left unchanged.
Silicon Valley engineers and employees may well be overwhelmingly liberal, but Facebook is run by the algorithms they program, which optimize for the way the site makes money, rather than sifting through posts one by one. This is probably why the trending-topics controversy seemed like such a big hit: It took the one tiny section where humans had some minor input and portrayed the whole platform as working the same way. The employees may be liberal, but the consequences of how social-media companies operate are anything but. In 2016, for example, Facebook, Twitter, and Google all “embedded” staffers with both campaigns, without charge, helping them use the sites better and get more out of the many millions of dollars they spent on the platforms. However, this was especially helpful to the Trump campaign, an upstart with a bare-bones staff. Unsurprisingly, the “bulk of Silicon Valley’s hands-on campaign support went to Trump rather than to Clinton.”
Trump and his campaign understood the power of Facebook better than the Clinton campaign, and formed a mutually beneficial relationship. Trump spent $44 million on the site, compared with the Clinton campaign’s $28 million, but ad money is only part of the story. A key role of Facebook is promoting organic content: posts, not ads, written by people who may range from partisans to campaign operatives to opportunists who just want the clicks. Some of the authors of these viral pages are motivated by promoting their ideology. Others are just grifters, using Facebook to maximize their spread so that they can collect ad money from their own webpage—which probably uses Google’s industry-dominating ad infrastructure. It’s a complete circle of back-scratching that is rarely commented on or known outside of a small number of experts and industry practitioners.
The Trump campaign also made better use of Facebook’s own artificial-intelligence tools, like “lookalike audiences”—a crucial functionality that lets advertisers find many new people that Facebook predicts will act similarly to a small “custom” audience uploaded to the site. In other words, if you upload a list of a few thousand people who are open to your message, whether it is interest in a harmless hobby or incendiary claims against a political opponent, Facebook’s vast surveillance machinery, giant databases, and top-of-the line artificial-intelligence tools can help you find many, many more similar targets—which you can reach as long as you’re willing to pay Facebook. These are the kinds of advanced functions that Facebook makes easy to use, and staffers embedded with the Trump campaign would be able to explain and help with.
Qui l’eût cru ? Voilà que le réseau social en mode gazouillis incite au #fact-checking par rapport aux tweets de Donald J. Trump. Fucking Donald ! This time you’ve really pushed too hard...
Trump contre Twitter : « C’est une démonstration de force de la part du réseau social »
Le torchon brûle entre Twitter et Donald Trump. En avertissant ses utilisateurs que deux tweets du président américain étaient trompeurs, le réseau social a pour la première fois, mardi 26 mai, confronté le premier pourfendeur de « fake news » à ses propres contre-vérités.
Ca s’emballe entre Donald Trump et Twitter. Alors que le président américain a signé un décret pour le dissuader de modérer ses propos, le réseau social a ignoré ces menaces et caché un tweet évoquant l’affaire George Floyd.
Donald Trump, mis au courant, est alors intervenu sur Twitter pour déclarer qu’il « ne peut pas rester en retrait et regarder cela arriver dans une grande ville américaine, Minneapolis. Un manque total de leadership. Soit le très faible maire de la gauche radicale, Jacob Frey, se ressaisit et met la ville sous contrôle, soit j’envoie la garde nationale et je fais bien le travail », a-t-il averti.
Mais c’est le message suivant qui a été masqué, car le réseau social le juge en infraction avec ses règles : « Ces voyous déshonorent la mémoire de George Floyd, et je ne laisserai pas cela se produire. Je viens de parler au gouverneur Tim Walz pour lui dire que l’armée est avec lui quoiqu’il arrive. […] Quand les pillages commencent, les tirs commencent. Merci ! ».
A lot of communities today are taking a hard stand against sexual harassment and assault. Using social media shaming, ostracism, professional excommunication, whatever punishment is painful enough to shift the moral code by brute force. Through one incident in the Richmond, Va. hardcore music scene, we chronicle a social media callout and ask what pain can accomplish.
The Cruelty of Call-Out Culture. How not to do social change.
27.12.2018: Zuckerbergs Wohnzimmer (Tageszeitung junge Welt)
Wer heute als Linker politisch aktiv ist, kommt seit vielen Jahren um das Internet nicht mehr herum. Das ist eine Selbstverständlichkeit. Um so erstaunlicher ist die Naivität, mit der das Netz zuweilen genutzt wird. So wird noch immer viel zuwenig über die Frage diskutiert, welche Formen des Onlineaktivismus der eigenen Sache überhaupt zuträglich sind. Hier scheint ein Mythos nachzuwirken, der in den euphorischen Anfangsjahren des Netzes entstanden ist. Viele Internetidealisten dachten damals, der technische Fortschritt stehe auf ihrer Seite, und die sich scheinbar in eine basisdemokratische Richtung verändernden Kommunikationsverhältnisse im Netz würden die gesellschaftlichen Machtverhältnisse nachhaltig erschüttern.
Tatsächlich wurde die kapitalistische Herrschaft im Zuge der vom Internet und der Digitalisierung beförderten Strukturveränderungen aber nicht geschwächt, sondern weiter ausgebaut. Beispielsweise verloren zwar etablierte Medienkonzerne an Einfluss, doch an ihre Stelle traten Internetgiganten wie Twitter und Facebook. Das sind kommerzielle und hoch zentralisierte Plattformen, die auch von linken Aktivisten ausgiebig genutzt werden, um zu mobilisieren und mit den an einem Protestgeschehen nicht unmittelbar Beteiligten zu kommunizieren. Die hierin liegenden Gefahren werden meist verdrängt. »Soziale Bewegungen verwenden vor allem kommerzielle Plattformen, einschließlich und wahrscheinlich hauptsächlich Facebook, und sehen das als großartige Möglichkeit und ziehen es vor, mit all diesen Mitteln die ›kritische Masse‹ zu erreichen, anstatt ihre eigenen alternativen Medien zu schaffen«, kritisiert Stefania Milan in einem Gespräch für den Interviewband »Facebook entkommen« (2018).
Die meisten Aktivisten machten sich zuwenig Gedanken darüber, dass es sich bei den auch von ihnen gebrauchten »sozialen Netzwerken« um private Räume handele. Man könne die Vorteile ihrer Reichweite nur nutzen, indem man das »private Wohnzimmer von Mark Zuckerberg« betrete, so die Medienwissenschaftlerin von der Universität Amsterdam: »Es ist nicht wie eine öffentliche Infrastruktur, wie ein öffentlicher Park oder Platz, wo die Leute durchgehen und die Dinge durch Institutionen wie die Menschenrechte reguliert sind oder durch das Recht des jeweiligen Landes.« Wenn Zuckerberg den Nutzern seines Dienstes verbiete, keine Bilder von Brüsten zu posten, habe er das Recht dazu, weil wir uns in seinen privaten Räumen befinden. So gut wie gar nicht wird darüber reflektiert, welche dauerhaften Verhaltensveränderungen der langfristige Gebrauch von »sozialen Medien« nach sich zieht. Milan berichtet von einer Beobachtung, die sie vor ein paar Jahren in einem Occupy-Camp machte. Die behördlich angeordnete Räumung des Protestlagers durch die Polizei sei nämlich völlig reibungslos verlaufen. »Die Müllabfuhr schob alles zusammen – die Zelte, die Plakate, die ganzen schönen Dinge, die die Leute über Monate gemacht hatten –, um es wegzubringen, zu zerstören und wegzuwerfen. Und das einzige, was die Leute taten, außer ein wenig zu hüpfen, war zu fotografieren und die News über die sozialen Medien zu verbreiten. Ich dachte: Das ist wirklich seltsam. Sie versuchen nicht, mit den Cops zu reden, aber sie versuchen, über ein Publikum, das nicht einmal vor Ort ist, mit den Cops zu reden.« Zu sehen, dass die Leute auf ihre Bildschirme schauten, aber nicht auf ihre Umgebung, empfand sie als seltsam. Die Begeisterung darüber, wie die »sozialen Medien« die Leute angeblich ermächtigen, sieht sie seitdem in einem neuen Licht.
“We want to make traveling a more seamless, cultural experience using an extensive database of local knowledge.”
But Explorest is just an app-shaped version of something tourists already do: flit from attraction to attraction to take the same photos they’ve already seen of Buckingham Palace, the Golden Gate Bridge or even Brussels’ Peeing Boy. That script, staged again and again by countless visitors, reflects how photography has always shaped the travel experience—for good or bad.
Quitting Instagram : She’s one of the millions disillusioned with social media. But she also helped create it.
“In the early days, you felt your post was seen by people who cared about you and that you cared about,” said Richardson, who left Instagram in 2014 and later founded a start-up. “That feeling is completely gone for me now.”
Je me souviens très bien de cette période là, Instagram était une quasi communauté qui avait, comme le disait Bailey Richardson, l’objectif tourné vers le monde et non l’inverse. J’ai participé à des Instameet ou des instachallenge ; Exemple le #Achallenge, poster une photo avec un A dedans. Un concours avec un seul hashtag :) où le gagnant avait recueillit 3000 likes sur une semaine de jeu :D maintenant c’est le symbole d’une mauvaise communication sur Instagram. Un flop quoi. Je trouvais ça ludique, amusant, bien veillant et surtout cohérent avec la culture numérique.
When Richardson joined Instagram in February 2012, at age 26, the former art history major was drawn to what was then a fast-growing indie platform for photographers, hipsters and artistic-types who wanted to share interesting or beautiful things they discovered about the world. At that time, Instagram was “a camera that looked out into the world," said one of the company’s first engineers, "versus a camera that was all about myself, my friends, who I’m with.”
Richardson ran the start-up’s blog as well as the official @instagram account from the company’s offices in San Francisco’s South Park neighborhood. Before there were software algorithms suggesting accounts to follow, Richardson selected featured Instagrammers by hand. For the most devoted users, she organized in-person “Insta-meets” in places as far-flung as Moscow and North Korea.
“We felt like stewards of that passion,” Richardson said.https://arc-anglerfish-washpost-prod-washpost.s3.amazonaws.com/public/VWT6KVG3UAI6RC5MX7QB7TODUY.jpg
Richardson moved to New York after leaving Instagram. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post)
One of the first people she featured prominently was an early Instagrammer in Spain. The exposure Richardson gave @IsabelitaVirtual, an amateur photographer whose real name is Isabel Martinez, helped Martinez become one of the most popular Instagram users in the country and led to a career in high-end fashion photography.
Both say that type of random connection that resulted in their friendship is hardly possible in the current iteration of Instagram. Too many people to follow, too much showmanship, too many posts flickering by, they say. “I don’t even see her posts anymore,” Richardson said. Martinez told The Post that while she wouldn’t quit Instagram for professional reasons, the app has in recent years become more anxiety-producing than pleasurable for her.
Ex-Facebook president Sean Parker: site made to exploit human ’vulnerability’ | Technology | The Guardian
He explained that when Facebook was being developed the objective was: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” It was this mindset that led to the creation of features such as the “like” button that would give users “a little dopamine hit” to encourage them to upload more content.
“It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”
Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression
Andrew G Reece and Christopher M Danforth
Using Instagram data from 166 individuals, we applied machine learning tools to successfully identify markers of depression. Statistical features were computationally extracted from 43,950 participant Instagram photos, using color analysis, metadata components, and algorithmic face detection. Resulting models outperformed general practitioners’ average unassisted diagnostic success rate for depression. These results held even when the analysis was restricted to posts made before depressed individuals were first diagnosed. Human ratings of photo attributes (happy, sad, etc.) were weaker predictors of depression, and were uncorrelated with computationally-generated features. These results suggest new avenues for early screening and detection of mental illness.
The advent of social media presents a promising new opportunity for early detection and intervention in psychiatric disorders. Predictive screening methods have successfully analyzed online media to detect a number of harmful health conditions [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]. All of these studies relied on text analysis, however, and none have yet harnessed the wealth of psychological data encoded in visual social media, such as photographs posted to Instagram. In this report, we introduce a methodology for analyzing photographic data from Instagram to predictively screen for depression.
There is good reason to prioritize research into Instagram analysis for health screening. Instagram members currently contribute almost 100 million new posts per day , and Instagram’s rate of new users joining has recently outpaced Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and even Facebook . A nascent literature on depression and Instagram use has so far either yielded results that are too general or too labor-intensive to be of practical significance for predictive analytics [14, 15]. In particular, Lup et al.  only attempted to correlate Instagram usership with depressive symptoms, and Andalibi et al.  employed a time-consuming qualitative coding method which the authors acknowledged made it ‘impossible to qualitatively analyze’ Instagram data at scale (p.4). In our research, we incorporated an ensemble of computational methods from machine learning, image processing, and other data-scientific disciplines to extract useful psychological indicators from photographic data. Our goal was to successfully identify and predict markers of depression in Instagram users’ posted photographs.
Department of Homeland Security (#DHS) stated asking travellers for their social media accounts (optional)
This does not apply to US citizens, but only visitors of 38 countries (mostly european) applying for the Visa Waiver programme via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA - ▻https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta)
The U.S. government quietly began requesting that select foreign visitors provide their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a move designed to spot potential terrorist threats that drew months of opposition from tech giants and privacy hawks alike.
“The choice to hand over this information is technically voluntary,” he said. “But the process to enter the U.S. is confusing, and it’s likely that most visitors will fill out the card completely rather than risk additional questions from intimidating, uniformed officers — the same officers who will decide which of your jokes are funny and which ones make you a security risk.”
Opposition against this:
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Ghanaian Facebook Proverbs
Surely the American actress Marilyn Monroe never quoted the Akan proverb: “Never laugh at the sloppiness of your mother-in-law’s breast; your wife’s may turn out to be just like that when she grows older”; neither did a young Angela Merkel, long before becoming German Chancellor, ever retort that “Fermented sobolo never got anyone drunk” at […]
It hasn’t been totally clear how audio fits into this. “I come from the TV world, where there’s a lot of video for us to use,” Delaney Simmons, WNYC’s social media director, told me. “[In radio], we have a unique problem in that our content isn’t necessarily shareable.” After all, how do you skim a podcast or listen to an audio clip on mute?
The lions and the hunters
“Denys and Kanuthia pulled up their sleeves and while the sun rose they skinned the lions. When they took a rest we had a bottle of claret and raisins and.....
Add-ons intéressants à signaler dans ce document :
– Privacy Badger
#Facebook Politics in #Zimbabwe : Who is Baba Jukwa ?
Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, is buzzing with the arrest of Edmund Kudzayi, editor-in-chief at the Zimbabwean Sunday Mail. Together with his brother Phillip Kudzayi, the editor stood accused of administrating the faceless online personality known as “Baba Jukwa.” Since early 2013 the popular Baba Jukwa Facebook page has been posting allegations of scandals and corruption, mainly […]
In February of 2013, I made a hurried decision to head to Lagos, in an attempt to shoot a pilot season for #My_Africa_Is, an ongoing web documentary series, that aims to dispute the one dimensional portrayal of the African continent. We had been seeking funding for quite some time, and it just wasn’t […]
Nobel Laureate #Wole_Soyinka gives his opinions about social #MEDIA
‘… Let me take this opportunity to announce yet again that I do not tweet, blog or whatever goes on in this increasingly promiscuous medium. I do not run a Facebook, even though I am aware that one or two serious-minded individuals/groups have instituted some such forum on their own, for the purpose of disseminating […]
#GEJPOSE: When #Goodluck_Jonathan got the hashtag treatment
It baffles us why politicians and public agencies–especially unpopular ones–think they can still control their images in the age of social #MEDIA. Take the New York Police Department’s @NYPDNews account on Twitter to #MyNYPD campaign to solicit members of the public for photos they took with officers. Instead, Twitter users hijacked the hashtag with photos […]