It’s hard to talk about what we talk about on Twitter these days without mentioning the National Security Agency or the current status of Congressional votes on whether the U.S. should stage a military strike on Syria. Above all, these are the two topics that dominated the public discourse I saw unfold on Twitter this week.
Since the first of many Guardian reports documenting leaks from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden came out in early June, my Twitter stream has been filled with running commentary on the state of digital privacy and the potential dangers of government overreach. NSA whistleblowers tweeted with renewed vigor this week after a new joint report from the New York Times, ProPublica, and the Guardian revealed the NSA has either cracked or found ways around most of the encryption methods that protect sensitive information on the Internet (think emails, passwords, medical records, and banking and commerce systems.)
The activist Sean Bonner voiced a reaction echoed by many of the people I follow on Twitter:
As did Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who broke the Guardian‘s first exposé on the NSA:
"Hi, I'm a journalist and I really wish I & everyone else were staying ignorant about what the NSA is doing. It'd be better that way."
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 5, 2013
Amidst the noise, however, was at least one optimist: the journalist Quinn Norton, who writes about the Internet and hacker culture, and who this week published a Medium post that contemplates America’s reaction to former U.S. Army soldier and WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning:
Stop being all dour, you sourpusses. This is where it gets interesting. This is where we get to fight back and claim our futures.
— Quinn's internet ???? (@quinnnorton) September 5, 2013
As the country waits on members of Congress to cast their votes on a potential U.S. military strike on Syria, the Twitter community has responded with a mixture of opinions. (For a good cheat sheet on Syria, start with the Washington Post‘s.)
I’ve found Human Rights Watch special advisor Fred Abrahams to be a useful resource for informative and factual information:
— Fred Abrahams (@fredabrahams) September 6, 2013
And both the hip-hop and politics reporter Davey D and Internet guru Clay Shirky reminded us even though Syria may have dominated this week’s headlines, the crisis there is reminiscent of other examples in recent history:
— Davey D (@mrdaveyd) September 3, 2013
Syria is so complicated! If only there were recent examples of the US going to war in the Mid-East we could learn from…
— Clay Shirky (@cshirky) August 31, 2013
We need to talk about Yahoo’s new logo. The purpletastic confection, unveiled Wednesday, marks the end of a monthlong marketing experiment in which the tech company introduced one new logo each day for 30 days. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote a lengthy post on her Tumblr commending the logo for being “whimsical, yet sophisticated.” But from what I could tell, the majority of the (vehement) reaction on Twitter could be embodied by one word: “Yuck.”
The Guardian‘s Heidi N. Moore pointed to this Atlantic story about why we can’t help but feel deeply about things that don’t matter, and elegantly reminded us there are more important things to concern ourselves with:
Always surreal for me on Twitter: reading summary of stage 3 "intense outrage" over a thing you didn't know existed. http://t.co/kgiTcpaHb0
— Heidi N Moore (@moorehn) September 5, 2013
As a tech reporter and a person with a bank account, I often think about industries in which technology hasn’t yet caught up to the needs of consumers, which is why this tweet from Time editor-at-large Harry McCracken made me laugh:
If Flickr can afford to host 1TB of my photos, why is Wells Fargo unable to store more than 18 months of my banking transactions?
— Harry McCracken ???????? (@harrymccracken) September 6, 2013
And if you’re geeking out over the New York City mayoral race, as many of us at Fast Company are, you might consider following political strategist and This Week In Blackness host L. Joy Williams, who has been closely following the race and adding smart commentary of her own:
That is a question I'm ggoing to ask candidates at our debate. "How would you expand voting in NYC?" #nyc2013
— L. Joy Williams (@ljoywilliams) September 3, 2013
Lastly, as we head into the weekend, I’m thinking about the movies I’ll be streaming on Netflix, the music I’ll be listening to on Spotify, and the books I’ll be reading on Oyster, the new e-books subscription service I reported on this week for Fast Company.
Although he wasn’t referring to Netflix, Spotify, or Oyster by name, the humorist John Hodgman made me think about a potentially negative effect of media subscription services:
I think the what I want/when I want/and mostly for free aspect of new media= a net good for culture… cont'd
— John Hodgman (@hodgman) August 30, 2013
…but it does seem to encourage people to forget that culture is still made by humans who need to live, change, grow, and eat.
— John Hodgman (@hodgman) August 30, 2013
Of course this list, like any list attempting comprehensiveness in scope, could be much, much longer–these are just a few of the smart, provocative, and entertaining tweets that caught my attention this week. And now, I want to ask you: Who were the smartest people you followed on Twitter this week? Let me know in the comments section below so I can follow them, too.
[Image: Flickr user Garry Knight]