Berkman in the News
“A lawsuit is an awful way to sort out a situation like this one,” Computer Science and Law Professor Jonathan L. Zittrain wrote in an email Monday to The Crimson, adding that “there may be reasons to rethink how studies of this sort are done—who approves them, and who’s informed about it before, during, and after —but I don’t see any useful role for a lawsuit here, and I suspect the plaintiff’s firm is rather hoping to simply settle, banking on the University not wishing ongoing bad publicity.”
Reynol Junco of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard said social media has “definite positive effects if it is used in an educational way; positive and negative if the kids are left to their own devices.” He advocated for pulling social networks into the educational curriculum, while also warning that playing games through social media was largely a negative experience for kids.
Options for an American right to be forgotten are beginning to emerge. Jonathan Zittrain, co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, says focusing on search engines “allows for the information itself to remain public, with a question of how to narrow the indexing of it.” He also praised an experiment launched by Google years ago, allowing people quoted or mentioned in a news article to append a clarifying comment next to the article on the Google News service. The function doesn’t appear to be available any longer.
Justin Reich, a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, said the potential for a major cyber-attack is real, but the prospect of retaliation is one reason they have not occurred.“It hasn’t happened because mutually assured destruction works, or at least it has for 70 years,” Reich said.
In an expansive conversation about privacy and rebuilding trust in technology after revelations of widespread government spying, Smith talked about Microsoft’s first “sea-change” moment. It came in the year after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, when Microsoft, among other Internet companies and telcos, was asked to voluntarily share data with U.S. law enforcement.
In the heat of the moment, in 2002, “it was easy to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise do,” Smith told Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard who moderated the event.
In other words, to paraphrase Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain, the 2000 presidential election—where George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes—could have been altered by a Facebook election button.
But in order to do these kinds of experiments, Facebook has to create a control group—which means only showing the button to some users, and not to others. In 2012, Facebook said that it would make the button available to every user, as a kind-hearted effort to increase voting all around. Except that it never actually did, and instead continued the testing. As revealed by Micah Sifry in a feature at Mother Jones last week, the 2012 election button played host to many experiments:
On Tuesday, Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith spoke at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, facing an audience that included some of the loudest critics of the NSA’s activities in the US.
Leading the discussion Tuesday afternoon was Jonathan Zittrain, cyberlaw scholar, Berkman founder, and professor at Harvard Law School.
danah boyd, a professor at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for the Internet and Society, argues that teenagers closely scrutinize what they share online because it is a way for them to negotiate their changing identities. In her book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, she describes how teenagers carefully curate their feeds based on the audience they are trying to reach.This is their chance, for instance, to make a positive impression on the cool kids at school or highlight their taste in indie music to impress a person they have a crush on. In other words, the pressure to create a unique identity pushes teens to disclose things publicly that adults may choose not to.
“One of the most important things online is the reputation you build up: what you said, what you’ve done, what’s said about you. It’s really the entirety of an identity in a world where there’s no body,” says Judith Donath, a researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She specializes in online identity. “When you share a name with many other people, you start sharing, effectively, a history and reputation with them,” Donath says.
In 2005, writer Mike Sager wasn’t keen to share his name with so many other Mike Sagers.