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Next week I’m starting an experiment: public office hours. Every Tuesday evening I’ll be hosting a one-hour session where I’ll take questions, help you debug your code, and make chit-chat about the implications of software. I hope it’ll be a fun way to interact with our audience in a more personal way, but that’s not the only reason…

One of the main complaints I hear from people studying programming on their own is that when they get stuck, they don’t have anyone to ask for help. As creators of a lot of self-study content, we want to address that need.

I also run a lot of classes concurrently through a lot of different partners. …


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Photo by Finan Akbar on Unsplash

In July, Facebook announced they had removed four networks of accounts for “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” It was the latest battle in the long running — and ever escalating — propaganda arms race. The tactics of “inauthenticity” exploded into the American political conversation following the Cambridge Analytica and Russian interference scandals. These two stories are obviously relevant, but their prominence has centered the conversation about digital disinformation narrowly around election interference which, unfortunately, misses the forest for the trees.

“Inauthentic behavior” is not limited to political content online, it’s everywhere — it is the water of our digital ocean. Influencers are masquerading as your friends. Corporations are astroturfing forums and social media. China has created a literal army of censors and information manipulators who deploy battalions of bots to derail untoward threads and amplify their favored ideas, including operations to incite genocide on Facebook. Disinformation campaigns have similarly fueled violence in India. Someone (or ones) cooked up the QAnon conspiracy. State sponsored hackers have even broken into legitimate news sites and planted fake news stories with all the trappings of legitimacy, including the URL and IP address of well-respected brands. …


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Photo by Hanson Lu on Unsplash

When Facebook launched in 2004 I never would have guessed it (and its successors) would be the subject of international diplomacy. In part that’s because I was only 15, but it’s also because the idea that any government should care about “the new MySpace” just sounded silly. Now, after sixteen years, the consumer software ecosystem has metastasized into what we now recognize as the “Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” and government’s can’t ignore the wide ranging implications.

As proof consumer software’s unignorability, India has banned 59 Chinese made apps including TikTok. The stated reason for India’s ban is that these apps are “prejudicial to [the] sovereignty” of India, noting that these apps are “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.” The ban comes after a military skirmish along the China/India border with casualties on both sides, and should probably be seen as — at least in part — retaliation for that clash. …

About

Tyler Elliot Bettilyon

A curious human on a quest to watch the world learn. I teach computer programming and write about software’s overlap with society and politics. www.tebs-lab.com

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