We All Work For Facebook

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Typically, we don’t think of social media use as labor. Finding your way with Google Maps seems (particularly to those of us old enough to remember planning a trip with paper maps) like a luxurious free service. Keeping up with distant friends on Facebook feels like recreation. Answering questions on Yelp about whether the library you just visited has a wheelchair ramp is like a tiny public service.

But, of course, these companies aren’t providing anything for free. In Radical Markets (2017), Eric A. Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, and E. Glen Weyl, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and visiting scholar at Princeton University, make the case that companies should pay for the information they collect from us. They point to Big Tech’s use of our data, not just to choose what ads we’ll see—or to sell to questionable political targeting operations—but also to create new technology. Facebook and Instagram (a Facebook property) use the images and videos we upload to power machine learning. That’s where new artificial intelligence products like face recognition and automated video editing come from. Translating a photo caption for your friends helps teach Google Translate how languages work. When you click the boxes on ReCAPTCHA, the ubiquitous anti-spam tool owned by Google, it helps computers learn to digitize text and—probably—improves self-driving car technology.

Information-Hungry Millennial Parents, Making It Hard on Themselves

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My mother gave me a gift when my first baby was born. When my newborn daughter was released from the hospital… The gift was this: When June stirred in her car seat and started mewling… my mother waved me back over to the table.

…Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, I had been scouring message boards and Facebook groups during June’s nursing sessions, and I had stumbled on discussions of every kind of parenting issue imaginable — things I didn’t even know were issues at all. Cord-clamping. Vitamin K shots. Chem-trails, whatever those were. And few issues were as contentious as simply “letting the baby cry,” as mom had suggested. I joined in, and soon found myself part of a forum of strongly opinionated women my age, all of them self-made experts who prided themselves on questioning authority and demanding “evidence-based” medicine. I wanted answers as well — ones backed by scrupulous, peer-reviewed research.

…Of the 10.8 million households with millennial parents at the helm, nearly all of them are frequent Internet users. Liberal, socially conscious, interconnected and peer-reliant, my segment of the millennial generation (wealthy in education and confidence, if not in our paychecks) has unprecedented access to what was once privileged information, as well as the opinions of their peers. We’ve become the experts, and as a result, we’re hyper-aware, constantly questioning, defensive. Baby boomer helicopter parents have nothing on us.

Americans Don’t Live in Information Cocoons

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In this polarized age, have citizens retreated into information cocoons of like-minded media sources?

A new Pew Research Center report found that the outlets people name as their main sources of information about news and politics are strongly correlated with their political views. Almost half of all respondents that Pew classified as consistent conservatives named Fox News as their primary news source, while consistent liberals were disproportionately likely to name National Public Radio (13 percent), MSNBC (12 percent) and The New York Times (10 percent). These results are in line with studies suggesting that people tend to select news and information that is consistent with their political preferences in controlled settings.

Wikipedia Emerges as Trusted Internet Source for Ebola Information

James Heilman, an emergency room doctor in British Columbia, leads Wikiproject Medicine, which monitors the site’s major public health articles, like Ebola Virus Disease.

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amid the fear mongering are several influential sites that are sticking to the facts about Ebola. Millions have come to rely on these sites, including those run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and Wikipedia.

Wikipedia? The online encyclopedia’s Ebola Virus Disease article has had 17 million page views in the last month, right up there with the C.D.C.’s Ebola portal and the W.H.O.’s Ebola fact sheet, as well as the Ebola coverage of prominent health care brands like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. Once the butt of jokes for being the site where visitors could find anything, true or not, Wikipedia in recent years has become a more trusted source of information — certainly for settling bar bets, but even for weighty topics like Ebola.

“It is because Wikipedia is such a recognized brand — obviously the C.D.C. is still much more authoritative than we will ever be — that people will click on that link,” said Dr. Jacob de Wolff, 37, an internist at Northwick Park Hospital in London, who founded Wikiproject Medicine in 2004 and has seen it go from obscurity to mockery to acceptance.