Anonymous … More Harm than Good?

When I think of a traditional war, I think of one that consists of tanks and ground troops engaged in battle, which usually results in unfortunate and numerous casualties. With the current military campaign being waged against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for its terrorist acts against many Muslims, Christians and other captured hostages, there is yet another type of war being waged against them. A cyber war. The Hacker group known only as “Anonymous” started its campaign against ISIS when an Anonymous-affiliated Twitter account posted that it was declaring a full-scale cyber war on ISIS in response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting massacre in Paris, France.

Dawson Blog PhotoAnonymous has held to this claim, hacking its way into over 800 Twitter accounts, 12 Facebook pages, and more than 50 emails of ISIS terrorist members so far, according to reports. The group has also shut down various social media sites operated or affiliated with ISIS that are used to recruit volunteer fighters from the around the world. I discovered a recent YouTube video by Anonymous in which the group stated, “You [ISIS] will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure. We own the Internet.”

But I wonder about the group actually waging this cyber war. I feel that Anonymous is trying to show the world that they are fighting the battle in their own way, but to benefit their own propaganda strategy. Anonymous has been known to launch cyber-attacks on police departments across the country, one of the most recent being the Ferguson Missouri Police Department, targeted for their aggressive behavior in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown. One fact that surprised and concerned me about this case was that the group was able to hack the Ferguson Chief of Police’s cell phone and use the camera on it to watch the Chief’s son asleep at home. Anonymous has also conducted cyber-attacks on churches and other US government departments that it doesn’t agree with. Ironically, now Anonymous finds itself fighting on what they say is “America’s” side.

I believe that on one hand many would argue that Anonymous is a hero for what it’s doing to bring down ISIS. On the other, I would say that this brings up cause for concern, because not knowing the full potential and ability of Anonymous, which has worked against our government and others before, puts all of us at risk – especially as the group claims to “control the Internet.” If that’s true then the Internet, and the billions who use it, are at the mercy of a hacktivist group, even if it is working with the general public to stop a common enemy at the moment.

By Rufus Dawson, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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Spread the Word – Pediatric Cancer Concerns

Childhood CancerWhen a family learns of its child’s diagnosis with cancer, the family begins to contemplate treatment options and plan for patient care while balancing life’s regular demands. Facebook trends show that it has become increasingly popular for families to take these private cases into the public arena by posting updates on personal social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram to share updates with friends and family. While some outlets, like CaringBridge, offer password protection to a patient’s care page, some families have also decided to set up Facebook pages and websites/blogs specifically to support the pediatric patient and update family and friends. These pages often include family photos, treatment updates, travel arrangements, etc.

In theory, these public pages and updates are excellent avenues to support the family and the patient emotionally, spiritually, logistically and financially. By networking through social media, affected families can seek support and learn of new treatment opportunities and studies that could increase the odds of survival for the child. However, what aspects of privacy do these families give up by allowing their family life to be spread across various social media sites? And should these cases be treated with more care as they chronicle the journey of a minor?

In studying various Facebook pages for pediatric cancer patients, I notice a trend in that a number of a family members and friends collaborate to update the pages. And with that, there are numerous shares for various posts on said pages. Are these shares conducted by family members or family friends? And if not, is the family comfortable with the sensitive information being shared by strangers? While these well-intentioned shares could support the cause to end pediatric cancer, they could also spread private information regarding the family such as the family’s names, home address for care packages, and travel plans for treatment.

The family is mostly likely focused on the care of the child, but what considerations should be taken in updating these social media platforms? Sharing information of this nature could be cathartic to some family members, but troublesome to others, and over-sharing of information could ultimately put the family at risk. With Facebook continuing to change its privacy policies, it becomes increasingly important for each Facebook user to understand how posted information can be disseminated and who can access one’s information, whether it is meant to be shared or not.

By Erin Richardson, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University, Maryland

 

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“…There is no substitute for first-hand information…” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

We all know that broadcast media has been the main source of information dissemination for the last 90+ years. However, a fundamental shift in the way news and information are disseminated is rapidly occurring. The increased usage of the internet and social media has presented a unique opportunity for people to have a voice in the way information is being dispersed to the populous.

The evolution of technology and the popularity of social media have spawned a new age of journalism called “citizen journalism” that reports information in real time and offers an unbiased assessment of actual events.

Admittedly, some of the unedited reporting is crude and sometimes even cruel to view, especially in cases of vicious school house fights or police brutality videos that are populating the Internet. However, the bottom-up approach encourages bilateral dialogue, and authentically driven content seems to appeal to the everyday individual.

This is especially true of the millennial generation, who comprise over 35 percent of the United States population. The fact that young people can interact, maintain their anonymity and compare information sources empowers them. Young people’s use of “new media” allows them to create a continuous stream of multiple conversations, often interweaving differing media formats, that gives them a strong sense of community. According to youthnet.org, 45 percent of young people say they felt happiest when they were online; 75 percent claimed they couldn’t live without the internet; and 86 percent reported that they loved how technology afforded them the ability to communicate with people.

Digital media offers an opportunity to create content and make connections that would ordinarily be impossible to nurture. People form both loose and close bonds using Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels where they can establish relationships, build trust and form alliances.

Who in our community can we rely on to tell us the truth? In America today, many feel traditional media has become slow, unreliable, cynical, and untrustworthy. They have become too politically and financially motivated and lack the objectivity of true journalism reporting.

I can only speak for myself when I say that aside from political satirists, I get most of my information and news from the internet and social media. I enjoy reading the comment box at the end of articles where consumers voice their opinions on a specific item – that helps me see everyone’s point of view. I also like reading friends’ and followers’ comments on social media and their perception of news that has been shared or posted.

There is a negative correlation between one-way and two-way information flow platforms. No matter how people receive news, it seems to me that if they are unable to engage, their attention span is relatively low. That, in turn, directly affects their confidence in the news or information being broadcast.

Some data suggest that millennial are weary of traditional news sources and would prefer to curate their own content for public consumption. While the public’s confidence remains low in newspapers, the internet and television alike, the internet has to be given consideration for being a relatively new venue to broadcast news and information.

According to Gallup, engagement remains relatively high on social media sites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It could be that the internet, social media and citizen journalist news is more appealing than traditional news sources. It could be that too much politics is in play with traditional media. Possibly people just want to have a say about what is transpiring in their daily lives. Or maybe they would prefer to create their own content instead of being merely a projection of a sample set in the latest poll that could or couldn’t align with their personal beliefs or views on a particular issue.

Uncertainty remains about whether digital media will permanently overtake traditional media to become the primary source of obtaining news and information, but it is certainly a likely possibility. It is inherent in our genetics that we are inclined to be socially interactive, which makes the internet and social media an ideal platform for expressing ourselves by creating and curating our own content. It has given us the opportunity to engage with each other in a manner that is more aligned with our natural disposition.

By Bobby Sydnor, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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The Digital Whipping Post

Poor Scott Walker. The Wisconsin governor and probable 2016 Republican presidential candidate couldn’t have foreseen the firestorm that would erupt as a result of his inviting ex-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to speak at a Manhattan campaign event.

What began as an opportunity to mingle with members of the moneyed elite ended in Walker’s being overshadowed by Giuliani’s vitriol. Giuliani said President Obama “did not love America” and “wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

Not surprisingly, his words stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy, especially when he later doubled down­­, shrugging off criticism that his remarks were at best tone deaf and at worst racist.

Also not surprising was that the online response was immediate, immense and intense. While many confined their outrage to the barbs cited above, others took Giuliani to task for everything from his response to the 9/11 attacks to his checkered marital history and even to allegations that his father had been a bagman for the mob.

 

 

In the New York Times’ comment sections, some decried their fellow readers’ personal attacks, saying it was OK to rip Giuliani for his verbal assault on the president but unfair to mention the skeletons in his closet. One commenter, however, identified a phenomenon that’s emerged as one of the hallmarks of digital society: “In today’s neo-Puritan world, the Internet serves as a high-tech pillory. When someone says something disagreeable, we must shame him. [Giuliani], you have been hauled into the town square; let the shaming, followed by the shunning, begin.”

In some circles, this practice is called dragging. The vast informational reservoirs of the Internet ensure that long-forgotten items capable of putting someone in a less-than-positive light can be unearthed, while the mechanisms of social media ensure that such inconvenient truths will be deployed to maximum devastating and/or humiliating effect. A good dragging can elicit an apology, a retraction or, in extreme cases, the deletion of social media accounts. In Giuliani’s case, he penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal to “clarify,” but not apologize for his remarks.

The fact is the Internet and social media have replaced the dunce cap and stocks as instruments of public humiliation. And while in the past one could perhaps simply get out of Dodge to escape the shame and start fresh, today’s digital scarlet letter leaves virtually nowhere to hide.

By Erin Wright, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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John Oliver’s Impact on Net Neutrality Ruling

Net neutrality is not the first cause that comedian John Oliver has championed, and it certainly won’t be the last. Throughout his seven-plus years on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and during the first two seasons of his HBO series Last Week Tonight, Oliver has raised the profile of a number of different causes. However, it is quite possible that the biggest impact Oliver has ever had has been on the FCC’s recent ruling on net neutrality.

John Oliver photoA week ago, in an effort to protect net neutrality, the FCC adopted new regulations that have redefined broadband internet as a Title II telecommunications service under the 1934 Communications Act. This reclassification will allow the federal government to regulate the speed of broadband.

It will essentially prohibit Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like Comcast and Verizon, from being able to provide faster service–or “fast lanes”–to those who can afford to pay more. Perhaps more importantly, it will also prohibit ISPs from blocking or slowing any traffic or from striking deals with content companies–an activity known as “paid prioritization.”

While some question whether or not the FCC has overstepped its bounds, advocates for net neutrality have applauded this move and view it as a way to keep the internet free and open for small internet companies. The thing is, up until eight months ago, not many people knew what net neutrality was, and the FCC was lining up to side with ISPs in favor of “fast lanes.”

What changed? In June of last year, John Oliver went on a now-famous 13-minute comedic rant, warning of the possible negative side effects of the FCC’s decision. That rant ultimately ended up having a lasting impact online. His YouTube video accumulated over 8 million views in the lead-up to the decision. In addition, Oliver encouraged viewers to take action through contacting the FCC’s public comment website. That call-to-action crashed the FCC’s website.

Not only was John Oliver able to raise the profile of the issue of net neutrality, he was ultimately able to change the national conversation. His ability to affect political discourse and create meaningful conversation is now shaping legislation. He is undoubtedly one of the most influential comedians on television today (and probably more impactful than most modern politicians).

By Andrew Cevasco, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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Emerging Seniors, Emerging Media, Emerging Opportunities

According to the Pew Research Center’s 2010 Internet & American Life Project, there will be over 26 million seniors using the internet in the U.S. by 2015. By 2030, tech-savvy baby boomers will mature into this demographic, making nearly one in five Americans using the internet a senior citizen. However, this demographic feels largely ignored by marketers, advertisers, and providers of goods and services across the spectrum…including colleges and universities.

An article in the New York Post found that according to Nielsen ratings data, once viewers turned 55, they were not being counted, likely because they’d passed the age that appeals to advertisers. But the article found that Alpha boomers are the fastest-growing demographic in the nation, making up half the population and spending more money on goods and services — nearly $2 trillion — than any other age group. They also buy more technology and gadgets — 40 percent of the market — than any other demographic according to research.

Emerging Seniors Graphic

It’s not just advertising that isn’t capitalizing on this growing demographic. In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Barbara Vacarr suggests that traditional four-year colleges should be thinking about shifting gears to focus on this change, potentially creating programs for students in their 50s and beyond…people who also apparently have the money for and interest in these programs. It is heartening to know that the Program Goals and Learning Aims of the Emerging Media program at Loyola University Maryland address some of these issues head on, and provide a platform for analytically and ethically addressing other issues posed by the seismic change of U.S. population demographics.

By Margaret Perry, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

 

 

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Online Streaming vs. Cable — Who Will Win?

As more consumers engage in online streaming, cable will be at a risk to lose viewership. According to a recent study from Nomura Research, that decline may already be well underway.

Nomura’s February report compiles data from major cable networks that shows a year-over-year drop in ratings of 12.7 percent, a trend Nomura researcher Anthony DiClemente called “one of the worst declines we have seen since we launched coverage of these companies.”

The effect that streaming has on cable is fairly simple. Not only is streaming cheaper in most cases, but it offers the convenience of being available on most portable devices and allows users to watch programs at their convenience.

If cable is going to fall by the wayside, will it happen soon? While streaming is gaining in popularity, cable still controls a good share of the market. Last March, Consumer Reports, citing a Mintel Group study, noted that the average monthly cable bill is $154, with many customers buying bundle options that combined phone and/or Internet with their bill.

This issue is part of the net neutrality debate. Internet providers could begin slowing down or charging more for certain streaming services should net neutrality’s regulations fall. As this RT America story explains, even an entry into the marketplace from a non-cable TV provider such as Google could still lead to price increases for streaming:

There is rampant dissatisfaction with cable. According to the aforementioned Consumer Reports story, 71 percent of subscribers said they would switch cable providers should the net neutrality regulations be tossed out and lead to slower streaming speeds. However, as the Consumer Reports article points out, attempts to switch providers will be tough for most Americans, as many regions are served by just one provider.

In order for streaming to fully overtake cable, reasonable prices and constantly improving speed will have to remain in place for all users. Giving more leeway to cable companies in controlling either one of these factors would change the dynamic of this discussion. While streaming is currently on track to change the way users view television and films, cable still has a measurable influence over Internet service and could gain further control over streaming speeds, ensuring that it keeps its competition from further penetrating the marketplace.

By Zachary Spedden, Graduate Student
Master of Arts in Emerging Media
Loyola University Maryland
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