This week’s theme focused on how the internet can be used to foment hate and maliciously spread false information. The infographic linked in our content page described the pathways users can take to maliciously use the internet to harm others. One pathway that caught my attention was the “Marketing to Kids” pathway. I find that many of my students are fans of various “Youtubers” and look up to these people as role models. When I watched some of the content creators my 9th grade students talk about, I found some concerning things. One creator’s videos focused predominantly on selling merchandise to his audience. The video was a Christmas themed musical where the hook is literally “Buy that merch” (Paul, 2017). Adult viewers can identify this as an advertisement, but I’m not sure my students can. The video suggests that you aren’t an interesting person if you don’t buy the branded merchandise. It is very unethical for an internet personality to capitalize on young kids’ insecurities. There are certainly more damaging ways to use the internet, but preying on kids is one malicious way that stood out to me.
The interconnectedness of the internet age has worked to bring people together in ways that were impossible a short time ago. Participants can connect with friends, family, and people with similar interests around the world almost instantly. This resource has been largely beneficial, but there is an undeniably dark side to internet culture. In a 2018 article for the New York Times, Frenkel, Isaac and Conger described the use of social media to foster and spread hate. Users are using platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to spread false information and hate speech. With a wide-reaching audience, this dangerous media is quickly and easily spread to thousands. The article writes that employees of Twitter are concerned that the platform is complicit in spreading hate speech as they are slow to address it. While posts on social media may seem insignificant in the “real world”, we have seen the impact of it in our politics. While I do not understand the nuances of free speech on the internet, I do feel it is the responsibility of the social media platforms to set clear guidelines for what their platform should represent.
The 2018 blog post by Haiken brought up a frightening example of hateful internet participation. The instructor had an anonymous user infiltrate her class’ Twitter discussions with anti-semitic and homophobic hate speech. Twitter banned the user several times, but the hate speech did not stop until the FBI was involved and the anonymous user was exposed. The user ended up being a student at the school where Haiken teaches. This example reinforces the idea that we need to teach our students how to use the internet in an appropriate manner. Obviously, students need to be taught empathy and compassion but the internet creates an environment where in-person kindness skills can go awry. I think it is important to teach empathy in the context of the internet. As evidenced by the amount of hate speech found on social media platforms in the New York Times article, it is clear that the internet provides a platform that can easily be used for evil (2018).
Frenkel, S., Isaac, M., & Conger, K. (2018, October 29). On Instagram, 11,696 Examples of How Hate Thrives on Social Media. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/29/technology/hate-on-social-media.html
Haiken, M. (2018, November 07). Teaching Digital Responsibility in the Age of Online Hate. Retrieved from https://theteachingfactor.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/teaching-digital-responsibility-in-the-age-of-online-hate/
Issues with digital citizenship. Retrieved from https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/blackboard.learn.xythos.prod/5a3433a4d61df/1039819?response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%2A%3DUTF-8%27%27Issues_with_Digital_Citizenship.pdf&response-content-type=application%2Fpdf&X-Amz-Algorithm=AWS4-HMAC-SHA256&X-Amz-Date=20190210T200337Z&X-Amz-SignedHeaders=host&X-Amz-Expires=21600&X-Amz-Credential=AKIAIL7WQYDOOHAZJGWQ%2F20190210%2Fus-east-1%2Fs3%2Faws4_request&X-Amz-Signature=77cce5467799129f5d69de6a6ffe09fd739e43f9a700f90fd88aa314bae4cada
Paul, J. (2017, December 05). Jake Paul – All I Want For Christmas (Official Music Video). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvYbhJ6pryA