Facing up to social media bias

An interesting thing is happening on the major sharing and information sites like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and others. In what is supposed to be an open and free environment, political editing bias is starting to creep in. The local phenomenon that started in the US has started to pervade the global system. This is not the direct political editing that occurs in places such as China but that of one group’s opinions suppressing another side’s. It is not an issue if the views being suppressed are demonstrably incorrect but in some cases the factual and data based views are those being suppressed in favour of the unsupportable “politically correct” ones of small but outspoken groups.

In light of the recent terror attacks in the UK, a simple example comes to mind. Commentary from groups and individuals directly citing the religious texts and quotes from current spiritual leaders to show that jihad and the actions carried out are supported by the ideology are being edited and removed in favour of the politically correct but factually incorrect opinions. These actions are being taken by the gatekeepers of the online service providers, not the users themselves, as is the case in say Wikipedia. In one example on Facebook, over 1.5 million followers of a news blog were blocked, one I also happen to subscribe to, which is how I found out this was occurring.

Regardless of who may or may not be correct in these cases, the providers of what should be an open service across the board, and indeed ones that started out touting that they were open, are now the editors, imposing their own views and beliefs onto their services. This is a serious issue for the future. There are two solutions here. People wake up to this and simply stop using the biased services allowing others more free and open to emerge, or the providers will realise their error and reopen their services and return to a more balanced global presence. Time will tell.

The other topic of the moment is user security versus country security. Companies such as Apple, based on a recent interview with Tim Cook at least, are primarily focused on providing strong security and encryption for their users. While they have some concerns that this will be used by say terrorists, their users come first. This is becoming a common attitude across the industry and I can see both sides of the argument, as covered in an earlier article.

In part two of travel connectivity, we look at Europe and South Africa. Connectivity on a cruise ship depends on how much you are willing to pay the cruise line or nearness to a land based signal. If you have the latter, this can work out a lot cheaper depending on your roaming plan. As of right now, the Vodaphone one I have been using is excellent and they appear to be everywhere I have travelled so far. Most stores and restaurants in both Europe and South Africa have Wi-Fi these days and if you are patient you can often find a free signal without buying something. Airports in Europe also provide a decent service but in Johannesburg you need to fill in a form and then respond with the SMS provided code. This makes no sense for those with no roaming service so marks down for them. All in all, so far connectivity has been easy and in many cases provides a fast connection, with this article being written miles from a major centre on Safari.

This year’s phoenix rising from the ashes will be the Samsung Note 8. Apart from the whole bursting into flames problem, the Note 7 was actually a very nice piece of hardware. We know for sure there will be a Note 8 this year and perhaps as soon as August to beat out the iPhone 8 but more likely in October to allow for a full range of safety checks to be carried out first. As for specs, we can only speculate. A full 4K resolution screen with a 6.2-inch or even as big as a 6.4-inch screen in the “infinity” display format, with little or no bezel, is most likely. There is even a rumour of a folding screen which would be interesting but is more likely to be a prototype device. The new screen could be pressure driven, displaying different things based on the amount of pressure applied. An in-screen fingerprint reader may not make it this time but a new, safer iris scanner will. The camera may have a dual lens supporting 3x optical zoom with a wide angle and telephoto lenses. Samsung is due for a new camera upgrade. The big question is battery size: 3,500mAh is too small but the Asus 5,000 mAh size may scare people away. So, in summary expect an S8 Plus — Plus with a stylus and a high price tag.

Lastly this week, Microsoft has a new Windows 10 preview with a prettier interface, an updated Edge and a bunch of other nice changes that I will cover closer to a release date.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years’ standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com.