What do Pepe the Frog, WallStreetBets and the state of democracy have in common? Meme culture. You heard a whole lot about the “meme stock mania” last week (but did you hear that Jaime Rogozinski, the WallStreetBets subreddit’s founder, just sold his life story to RatPac Entertainment?). You may not have heard of Pepe the Frog until “he” became a meme tweeted by Donald Trumps Sr. and Jr. in 2015. Now Pepe’s the subject of the important documentary about Internet culture and meme politics Feels Good Man.

Whatever we think about meme stocks and meme politics, they’re part of the…


Feast your eyes on the work and wisdom of Gen Z-ers in Homeschool Musical: Class of 2020 and a virtual conference about youth & technology

Remember that headline in The Atlantic three years ago asking whether smartphones were “destroying a generation”? I hope not. But if you do, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary — even in 2020, believe it or not. Young people are using smartphones and other technology to heal themselves and the planet. I’m going to share some beautiful anecdotal evidence with you in a moment, but let’s zoom in on the research evidence for one paragraph:

2020, youth & mental health

First, many researchers pushed back almost immediately. I cited nine scholars’ comments here, and a year later, Erin McAweeney and Mary Madden, researchers at…


Watch this non-documentary, now on Netflix, at your own risk. At the very least go into it with more than a grain of salt. Because — calculatingly, it really seems—the film triggers all the old fears and anxieties about the Internet and social media, pre- and post-Cambridge Analytica, without leaving much hope that solutions are possible.

Not that there aren’t some good and brilliant people in there asking all the questions many have been asking for a long time and saying all the same things that they’ve said elsewhere (you will probably recognize Jaron Lanier, Tristan Harris, Shoshana Zuboff, Roger…


…and therefore us (or all of us who use social media)

I’m certainly not the first to quote her, but yesterday Evelyn Douek at Harvard Law School tweeted, “Americans want platforms to be places of open expression, but also misinfo removed, but also tech companies have too much power & can’t be trusted to make content decisions, but also the gvt would be worse.”

Exactly. Making social media a safe place for everybody while protecting the freedom of expression of everybody, including those whose “free speech” spells harm to others is a little like “A Note from Your University about Its Plans for Next Semester”…

“After careful deliberation, we are pleased…


5 steps needed now, no turning back

We’re feeling the urgency, right? Maybe it’s just that we’re facing more than we ever have, amid a pandemic, nationwide protests against social injustice and a fraught election year. But all of a sudden, small, incremental, single-platform fixes seem like “band-aids,” symptom treatments.

An example is the Oversight Board that Facebook started. Now its own organization and with its first 20 members, it’s only Facebook’s brainchild, not its baby. It’s about appealing content decisions on just one (admittedly planet-spanning) social media platform. When I first heard and wrote about it, I saw it as an important social experiment. I still…


Moving away from surveillance and control and toward a child rights framework honored all over the world

For 20 years now, all around the world, governments, child advocacy groups, corporations, schools and parents have actually been trying to uphold children’s rights of protection by ignoring their participation rights online (those of expression, conscience, participation, association, access to information and being consulted on matters that concern them). I’m referring to two of the three categories of rights enshrined in the 30-year-old UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the third category being their rights of provision.

Until now. There is growing awareness of how facile, fear-driven and unethical that old approach is. We’re seeing more and more…


About a book by a 12-year-old activist (and her educator mom) who are showing us how it’s done

Olivia Van Ledtje, age 12, is a social media influencer but in a good way. A powerful way, actually. Spark Change: Making Your Mark in a Digital World — a new book she co-authored with her mom, teacher, speaker and education consultant Cynthia Merrill — explains what “powerful” means to a child and a whole lot of her peers.

Spark Change book cover
Spark Change book cover

Olivia tells the story of giving a talk two years ago in a western Massachusetts elementary school auditorium that was packed with students and teachers from 3 school communities. …


It wasn’t because of the headline — “Zuckerberg and Warren want to fix Big Tech in different ways — and neither of them will work” — that I was excited to read this article by researchers in Science, Technology & Society at Harvard. The headline itself sounded too much like more of the same reflexive punditry we’ve been hearing since the US’s Big Data wakeup call of 2018.

I was excited to see its authors saying that the solution to today’s privacy, safety and ethics concerns around “Big Tech” is not either-or. It’s neither the tech fix of the Mark…


At least 3 reasons. I’ll get to them below. But first: why the “rights framework”? Americans, whose country is the only one on the planet that hasn’t ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, may be interested to know that an international discussion about children’s digital rights has been gaining momentum. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a call for public comments to help it develop the first General Comment on the subject. The 54 articles of the convention that lay out their offline rights fall into 3 categories labeled by scholars


There’s the data privacy that has dominated the news since it made “Cambridge Analytica” a household name. Then there’s the kind of privacy that’s only just becoming an important story, with…

  • Huawei” spoken in the same sentence as “national security” (a German Foreign Ministry official just commented on how it would be hard to work with “a company that cooperates with its [country’s] national secret service,” Bloomberg.com reported.
  • WeChat surfacing in stories about Facebook consolidating its messaging services and adding digital coin and system-wide end-to-end encryption (toward creating a service in direct competition with WeChat, whose parent is China-based tech…

Anne Collier

Youth advocate; blogger, NetFamilyNews.org; founder, The Net Safety Collaborative

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