The Future of How I Share Links

man wearing vr goggles
Photo by Harsch Shivam on Pexels.com

There’s a whole lot happening all over social media and this is giving me a chance to really assess what I use, for what reason, and what I want to publish into the future. I’ve walked away from enough social media services to recognize it might be time for another heavy adjustment in my life.

Twitter has long been key to my work and valuable in developing a professional profile. I don’t know that this kind of engagement will be quite the same moving forward. And, if I’m honest, a lot of my Twitter usage for the past several years has been to surface and circulate interesting (often cyber- or privacy-related) links or public conversations, or to do short-form analysis of important government documents ahead of writing about them on my professional website.

The issue is that the links on Twitter then fade into the digital ether. While I’ve been using Raindrop.io for a while and really love the service, it doesn’t have the same kind of broadcast quality as Twitter.1

So what to do going forward? In theory I’d like to get back into the habit of publishing more link blogs, here, about my personal interests because I really appreciate the ones that bloggers I follow and respect produce. I’m trying to figure out the format, frequency, and topics that makes sense; I suspect I might try to bundle 4-6 thematic links and publish them as a set, but time will tell. This would mean that sometimes there might be slightly busier and slower periods, depending on my ability to ‘see’ a theme.

The challenge is going to be creating a workflow that is fast, easy, and imposes minimal friction. Here, I’m hoping that a shortcut that takes the title and URL of an article, formats it into Markdown using Text Case, and then provides a bit of space to write will do the trick. This is the format I used to rely on to create my Roundup posts, though I don’t really expect I’ll be able to return to such length link blogs.


  1. I have, nonetheless, created an RSS feed with mostly links to privacy, cyber, and national security articles. ↩︎
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2022.11.11

A whole generation of journalists and semi-public individuals (myself included) are watching one of the ways we communicated with one another, and developed as professionals, is negligently being burned down. And so a lot of electrons are being tortured into describing our collective experiences.

My question, though, is this: what is the next system or platform that younger generations will use? Will it be YouTube or TikTok or is there another, still very small or yet to be created, platform that will do the same? Will we see a recursion back to things like Tumblr or blogs and RSS more generally? Will newsletters or email become a thing?

I’m genuinely curious while, simultaneously, a bit sad that a service that I’ve very successfully used to propel my career is almost certainly in steep decline.

Link

National Security Means What, Again?

There have been any number of concerns about Elon Musk’s behaviour, and especially in the recent weeks and months. This has led some commentators to warn that his purchase of Twitter may raise national security risks. Gill and Lehrich try to make this argument in their article, “Elon Musk Owning Twitter is A National Security Threat.” They give three reasons:

First, Musk is allegedly in communication with foreign actors – including senior officials in the Kremlin and Chinese Communist Party – who could use his acquisition of Twitter to undermine American national security.

Will Musk’s foreign investors have influence over Twitter’s content moderation policies? Will the Chinese exploit their significant leverage over Musk to demand he censor criticism of the CCP, or turn the dials up for posts that sow distrust in democracy?

Finally, it’s not just America’s information ecosystem that’s at stake, it’s also the private data of American citizens.

It’s worth noting that at no point do the authors provide a definition for ‘national security’, which causes the reader to have to guess what they likely mean. More broadly, in journalistic and opinion circle communities there is a curious–and increasingly common–conjoining of national security and information security. The authors themselves make this link in the kicker paragraph of their article, when they write

It is imperative that American leaders fully understand Musk’s motives, financing, and loyalties amidst his bid to acquire Twitter – especially given the high-stakes geopolitical reality we are living in now. The fate of American national security and our information ecosystem hang in the balance.1

Information security, generally, is focused on dangers which are associated with true or false information being disseminated across a population. It is distinguished from cyber security, and which is typically focused on the digital security protocols and practices that are designed to reduce technical computer vulnerabilities. Whereas the former focuses on a public’s mind the latter attends to how their digital and physical systems are hardened from being technically exploited.

Western governments have historically resisted authoritarian governments attempts to link the concepts of information security and cyber security. The reason is that authoritarian governments want to establish international principles and norms, whereby it becomes appropriate for governments to control the information which is made available to their publics under the guise of promoting ‘cyber security’. Democratic countries that emphasise the importance of intellectual freedom, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, and other core rights have historically been opposed to promoting information security norms.

At the same time, misinformation and disinformation have become increasingly popular areas of study and commentary, especially following Donald Trump’s election as POTUS. And, in countries like the United States, Trump’s adoption of lies and misinformation was often cast as a national security issue: correct information should be communicated, and efforts to intentionally communicate false information should be blocked, prohibited, or prevented from massively circulating.

Obviously Trump’s language, actions, and behaviours were incredibly destabilising and abominable for an American president. And his presence on the world stage arguably emboldened many authoritarians around the world. But there is a real risk in using terms like ‘national security’ without definition, especially when the application of ‘national security’ starts to stray into the domain of what could be considered information security. Specifically, as everything becomes ‘national security’ it is possible for authoritarian governments to adopt the language of Western governments and intellectuals, and assert that they too are focused on ‘national security’ whereas, in fact, these authoritarian governments are using the term to justify their own censorious activities.

Now, does this mean that if we are more careful in the West about our use of language that authoritarian governments will become less censorious? No. But being more careful and thoughtful in our language, public argumentation, and positioning of our policy statements we may at least prevent those authoritarian governments from using our discourse as a justification for their own activities. We should, then, be careful and precise in what we say to avoid giving a fig leaf of cover to authoritarian activities.

And that will start by parties who use terms like ‘national security’ clearly defining what they mean, such that it is clear how national security is different from informational security. Unless, of course, authors and thinkers are in fact leaning into the conceptual apparatus of repressive governments in an effort to save democratic governance. For any author who thinks such a move is wise, however, I must admit that I harbour strong doubts of the efficacy or utility of such attempts.


  1. Emphasis not in original. ↩︎
Link

The Answer to Why Twitter Influences Canadian Politics

Elizabeth Dubois has a great episode of Wonks and War Rooms where she interviews Etienne Rainville of The Boys in Short Pants podcast, former Hill staffer, and government relations expert. They unpack how government staffers collect information, process it, and identify experts.

Broadly, the episode focuses on how the absence of significant policy expertise in government and political parties means that social media—and Twitter in particular—can play an outsized role in influencing government, and why that’s the case.

While the discussion isn’t necessarily revelatory to anyone who has dealt with some elements of government of Canada, and especially MPs and their younger staffers, it’s a good and tight conversation that could be useful for students of Canadian politics, and also helpfully distinguishes of of the differences between Canadian and American political cultures. I found the forthrightness of the conversation and the honesty of how government operates was particularly useful in clarifying why Twitter is, indeed, a place for experts in Canada to spend time if they want to be policy relevant.

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Can @Jack Save Twitter?

A long read by the author of Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal, which unpacks the return of one of Twitter’s co-founders. It’s an instructive read into the poisonous culture of Twitter and the backbiting that characterizes the company…and seemingly has meant that it’s been unable to really determine what it’s about, for whom, and how it will be profitable to investors. The end is particularly telling, insofar as Twitter is seen as having one last chance — to succeed in ‘live’ events — or else have to potentially sell to a Microsoft or equivalent staid technology company.

Link

Twitter closes off ability to track and repost politicians’ deleted tweets | Toronto Star

Twitter closes off ability to track and repost politicians’ deleted tweets:

Twitter has shut off the ability of more than two dozen accounts to track and repost tweets deleted by politicians and other officials in 30 countries around the world, including Canada.

Christopher Parsons, a fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, said Twitter’s decision shows that the company “is unwilling to have its API routinely used to monitor what people have tried to delete.

“It appears as though Twitter is saying, ‘Look we know it’s possible, but we don’t want it being done.’ ”

According to Parsons, the weekend Twitter closures may force groups to analyze the different reasons tweets are deleted, rather than posting all deletions automatically, which could change the data’s impact.

“The way in which (the information is) published can be very different, the context can be much broader, and depending on the intent of the group in question, it could be more damning,” he said.

The debate, he added, shows the impact corporations such as Twitter can have on how public figures communicate with people.

“With the American election right now and the Canadian election going on, that’s where these sorts of deletions are often most interesting to the general public,” he said.

 

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Twitter Now Has a Two-Step Solution

So, I use two factor authentication for a variety of services. It’s great for security.

It’s also a royal pain in the ass to be (re)inputting secondary authentication information all the time. That basic ‘pain point’ is sufficient to dissuade most people from setting it up. I support Twitter adopting this, and for some people it’ll be awesome. For most people it’ll just be a pain in the ass.

Quote

Social utopians like Haque, Tapscott and Jarvis are, of course, wrong. The age of networked intelligence isn’t very intelligent. The tragic truth is that getting naked, being yourself in the full public gaze of today’s digital network, doesn’t always result in the breaking down of ancient taboos. There is little evidence that networks like Facebook, Skype and Twitter are making us any more forgiving or tolerant. Indeed, if anything, these viral tools of mass exposure seem to be making society not only more prurient and voyeuristic, but also fuelling a mob culture of intolerance, schadenfreude and revengefulness.

* Andrew Keen, #digitalvertigo: how today’s online social revolution is dividing, diminishing, and disorienting us

As an early adopter I know that I’ll stumble into bugs and problems in Apple’s newest OS. The first I’m come across stems from Safari’s integration with Twitter.

Note in that in image on the left there is no ability to cancel a tweet once you click send. I suspect that I’m running into this problem because Twitter is presently (at the time of this screenshot/writing) experiencing downtime. Regardless, the inability to cancel the tweet is particularly inconvenient because the send tweet window hovers over all Safari tabs (as seen in the right-hand image).

This persistent hovering means that if integration with Twitter stalls then Safari ceases to be a useful browser until the send attempt times out. Ideally a future patch will link the ‘send to Twitter’ window with the specific tab the tweet is being sent from, as well as ensure that users can cancel tweets at all times. Hopefully we see a point upgrade soon, to iron out this and other bugs that are being reported across the ‘net.