danah boyd


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Rule #1: do no harm; rule #2: fear-mongering is harmful

This article originally appeared on scholar and researcher danah boyd’s blog and on Medium.

I believe in the enterprise of journalism, even when it lets me down in practice. The fourth estate is critically important for holding systems of power accountable. But what happens when journalists do harm?

On Sunday, a salacious article flew across numerous news channels. In print, it was given titles like “Teenagers can no longer tell the real world from the internet, study claims” (Daily Mail) and “Real world v online world: teens do not distinguish” (The Telegraph). This claim can’t even pass the basic sniff test, but it was picked up by news programs and reproduced on blogs.

The articles make reference to a “Digital Lives” study produced by Vodafone and Google, but there’s nothing in the articles themselves that even support the claims made by the headlines.… Read more

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fear

The ethics of fear and how it undermines an informed citizenry

Fear is a powerful emotion. When people are afraid, they react. It can also be put to use. When people have a vested interest in motivating other people to react, they may try to capture their attention through fear.

Thanks to the Internet, people have more access to more information at their fingertips than ever before in human history. Yet, this creates a new challenge for those who are trying to produce and disseminate information. What has emerged is an “attention economy,” where capturing people’s attention can often be challenging. Organizations that depend on people’s attention – including news media – go to great lengths to seize their focus by any means possible.

In a fast-moving information landscape, fear can sell almost as well as sex.… Read more

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