In a letter to an Anglican bishop in the late 19th century, English Catholic Baron John Dalberg-Acton would drop what would become one of the most popular aphorisms about the nature of man: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” For a hundred some years post-Acton, the bulk of scientific research supported this ubiquitous idea, with countless studies revealing that when humans are handed power, they become more self-serving and ruthless. Read more about Truth and Power »
Representatives from three of Silicon Valley’s most powerful tech firms—Facebook, Google, and Twitter—trooped up to Capitol Hill last week and told senators they were really, really sorry the Russians hacked their platforms and may even have influenced the recent presidential election. But their contrition wasn’t followed by substantive plans to remedy the situation. Read more about We Know Russia Used Big Tech to Meddle In the Election. Now What? »
Posted on November 9, 2017 - 3:11pm
For criminal investigators, seeing is not believing. The keys to their work are skepticism, multiple hypotheses, and guarding against bias. It takes specialized training to apply that mindset in the digital world where yearly, a trillion photographs and videos are uploaded. Teaching students how to rigorously verify open source material found on social media is the mission of the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center’s Investigation Lab at Berkeley Law. Read more about Antidote to Fake News: The Investigations Lab Teaches Digital Skepticism »
Posted on October 18, 2017 - 1:55pm
As a 10-year-old growing up in Shanghai, Jun-Yan Zhu often avoided homework with furtive doodling. He’d sketch comics or movie characters in pencil, then erase the evidence before his mother saw it. Much as he loved drawing, however, he wasn’t very good at it. He dreamed of a world where everyone, even those who lacked the talent, could easily communicate in pictures. Read more about Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged »
Democrats are still stumbling around in the smoldering rubble of the 2016 presidential election, struggling to identify just what went wrong for them. Several theories are vying for primacy: voting fraud (or at least, inaccurate ballot counting), the Democratic Party’s disconnect with white working class voters, Trump’s bonding with the same, Trump’s uncanny tapping of surging nativist and xenophobic sentiment, the American susceptibility to celebrity, and Clinton’s bedrock weakness as a candidate. Read more about Bye-Bye Balance: Skewed and False News Is on the Rise »
Posted on November 28, 2016 - 3:59pm
If you shared Facebook’s “I’m A Voter” app in a recent election, you might have become a nice data point for the social media giant and a couple of resourceful political scientists. In the 2010 midterms, the graphic was pinned to 61 million newsfeeds and it turned out that users who saw that their friends were voting were .4 percent more likely to vote than those in the control group (the people without the app). Apparently, this social pressure added 340,000 new voters to the 2010 election cycle. Read more about Step Right Up: I'm a Voter and a Lab-Rat »
Not long ago, they were the pulse of the American political campaign: Mom and Dad, sitting in front of the nightly news broadcast on TV, armed with a dog-eared copy of the daily newspaper. The ads, the daily coverage and editorials, televised debates, polls and TV ratings—over dinner-table discourse, it all mattered. Read more about The Revolution Will Be Tweeted: In Politics, TV Still Matters, but Social Media Matters More and More »
In the Internet age, saying “I don’t know” about a political issue is considered socially unacceptable. After all, if we have all this information at our fingertips, the least we can do is a quick Google search. Like, really. It’s the least we can do. And the least is what most people do.
It’s hard to take a long look in the mirror and see blatant indecision staring back at you. So to avoid this self-reflection, there are ways to fake political knowledge. You know you don’t know anything about politics, but nobody else has to know that. Read more about Step Right Up: How to Feign Political Competence in Your 20s »
Tales of internship compensation are typically depressing, in that there is, all too often, no compensation. But in the spirit of misery loving herself some company, recent findings by a UC Berkeley student revealed how much students are being offered for summer internships at top U.S. tech companies—finally giving people with “real jobs” a turn to feel sad and underappreciated. Read more about Are You Paid Less Than a Tech Intern? Cal Student Conducts Eye-Opening Survey »
Posted on April 28, 2016 - 5:07pm
Consider it a coincidental cosmic intersection of two newsworthy items out of UC Berkeley. Read more about As Twitter Blows the Whistle on Trolls, A Cal Scholar's Celebrity Makes Her a Target »
Posted on February 25, 2016 - 3:53pm
For a brief moment, back when the tech revolution was young, I was an early adopter.
I was sucked in by that 1984 Apple ad that ran during the Super Bowl. I can’t recall a thing about the game, but I remember every detail of that ad: the woman running in her tank top one step ahead of the goons; the rows of corporate weirdos staring in open-mouthed horror; the hammer sailing toward the giant screen, smashing the Big Brother cult. Read more about Confessions of a Tech Reporter: Like Other Freethinkers, I Did What Steve Jobs Wanted »
In the fall of 1994, when I was a young reporter struggling to pay the rent, I wrote a cover story for the San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Plugging In: An Idiot’s Guide to the Internet.” I explained why a 14.4 baud modem was a great deal, and reported that the Internet was a fantastic resource because “all kinds of information are available.”
The keynote speaker at the 2014 commencement of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism—an elite institution that prepares students for a profession in which the prospects are, let’s face it, a little touch-and-go at the moment— was a former small-time drug dealer and heavy-duty coke addict who had been in and out of rehab five times, a “fat thug” (in his own words) who’d been known to beat women and wave a gun around on occasion. Read more about Are Journalism Schools Just Whistling Past the Graveyard—or Resuscitating the News Biz? »
Think people know when you’re being sarcastic? Yeah, right.
Studies show that most of us believe we are much better at communicating than we actually are, especially when interacting online. For instance, a 2005 study found that recipients correctly identified the sarcasm behind email statements only 56 percent of the time. Furthermore, the participants remained confident they were being understood even when their actual ability to convey sarcasm varied significantly between email and verbal communication. Read more about Say What? Scientists Devise an Algorithm That Detects Sarcasm Better Than Humans Can »
Silicon Valley companies have long been under fire for lacking diversity in their workforce—the stereotype being the nerdy white or Asian programmer. But there was little data to back up that contention, until recently.
This summer, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo, and Twitter released the ethnic and gender breakdowns of their U.S. workforce. All five companies revealed around 90 percent of employees to be white or Asian. The overall female employment rate averaged at about one-third, dropping significantly for women in leadership and tech-specific roles. Read more about Silicon Valley's Disruptive Influence: Researching Effect on Workers, Community »