YPP Network Description

The MacArthur Research Network on Youth and Participatory Politics (YPP) formed out of recognition that youth are critical to the future of democracy and that the digital age is introducing technological changes that are impacting how youth develop into informed, engaged, and effective actors.

  • Beyond the Vast Wasteland: briefing Congresspeople for the Aspen Institute

    by Ethan

    I was privileged to speak to a gathering of Senators and Representatives who came to MIT for an Aspen Institute event in May, 2019 titled “Internet, Big Data and Algorithms: Threats to Privacy and Freedom, or Gateway to a New Future”. It was a pleasure to share the stage with old friends Jonathan Zittrain and Cathy O’Neil as well as my student Joy Buolamwini, qnd a wonderful opportunity to share some of my thinking about the future of social media with lawmakers who could help or hinder this vision becoming a reality. This piece draws on my earlier piece “Six or Seven Things Social Media Can Do for Democracy”, as well as a speech from late 2018, “We Make the Media”. More forthcoming on this topic later this summer/early fall.
    In 1961, the newly appointed chairman of the FCC, Newt Minow, addressed the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington DC. Minow’s speech demanded that broadcasters take seriously the idea that serve the public interest – and distinguished the public interest from simply what interests the public. And Minow coined an unforgettable phrase to explain what a poor job broadcasters were doing. Challenging executives to watch a day of their own programming without anything to distract or divert them, Minow declared, “I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.”

    There have been hundreds of articles written over the past two years about social media that might have been better titled “a vast wasteland”. This flood of articles argues that social media often doesn’t work the way we think it should, that partisan manipulation of Facebook may be swaying elections, and that extremism on YouTube may be contributing to a wave of ethnonationalist violence. It’s a thoroughly appropriate moment to evaluate whether social media is making our society and our democracy stronger, or pulling it apart. From Cambridge Analytica to Comet Ping Pong to the massacre in New Zealand, alarm bells are sounding that not all is well in our online public spaces.
    But Minow’s speech didn’t end with a condemnation of the sorry state of broadcasting in 1961. Instead, Minow articulated a vision for television to inform, enlighten and entertain, a future he hoped to achieve without censorship, without replacing private companies with government entities, and mostly through voluntary compliance. And, with 1967’s Public Broadcasting Act, the founding of PBS in 1969 and NPR in 1970, a surprising amount of Minow’s vision came to pass.
    It’s important that we consider the real and potential harms linked to the rise of social media, from increasing political polarization, the spread of mis-, dis- and malinformation to trolling, bullying and online abuse. But much as television was in its teenage years in the early 1960s, social media isn’t going away any time soon. It’s essential that we have a positive vision for what social media can be as well as a critical take on mitigating its harms.
    I’m interested in what social media should do for us as citizens in a democracy. We talk about social media as a digital public sphere, invoking Habermas and coffeehouses frequented by the bourgeoisie. Before we ask whether the internet succeeds as a public sphere, we ought to ask whether that’s actually what we want it to be.
    I take my lead here from journalism scholar Michael Schudson, who took issue with a hyperbolic statement made by media critic James Carey: “journalism as a practice is unthinkable except in the context of democracy; in fact, journalism is usefully understood as another name for democracy.” For Schudson, this was a step too far. Journalism may be necessary for democracy to function well, but journalism by itself is not democracy and cannot produce democracy. Instead, we should work to understand the “Six or Seven Things News Can Do for Democracy”, the title of an incisive essay Schudson wrote to anchor his book, Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press.
    The six things Schudson sees news currently doing for democracy are presented in order of their frequency – as a result, the first three functions Schudson sees are straightforward and unsurprising. The news informs us about events, locally and globally, that we need to know about as citizens. The news investigates issues that are not immediately obvious, doing the hard work of excavating truths that someone did not want told. News provides analysis, knitting reported facts into complex possible narratives of significance and direction.
    Schudson wades into deeper waters with the next three functions. News can serve as a public forum, allowing citizens to raise their voices through letters to the editor, op-eds and (when they’re still permitted) through comments. The news can serve as a tool for social empathy, helping us feel the importance of social issues through careful storytelling, appealing to our hearts as well as our heads. Controversially, Schudson argues, news can be a force for mobilization, urging readers to take action, voting, marching, protesting, boycotting, or using any of the other tools we have access to as citizens.
    His essay closes with a seventh role that Schudson believes the news should fill, even if it has yet to embrace it. The news can be a force for the promotion of representative democracy. For Schudson, this includes the idea of protecting minority rights against the excesses of populism, and he sees a possible role for journalists in ensuring that these key protections remain in force.
    This is perhaps not an exhaustive list, nor is the news required to do all that Schudson believes it can do. Neither does the list include things that the news tries to do that aren’t necessarily connected to democracy, like providing an advertising platform for local businesses, providing revenue for publishers, or entertaining audiences. And Schudson acknowledges that these functions can come into conflict – the more a news organization engages in mobilization, the more likely it is that it will compromise their ability to inform impartially.
    In this same spirit, I’d like to suggest six or seven things social media can do for democracy. As with Schudson’s list, these functions are not exhaustive – obviously, social media entertains us, connects us with family, friends and any advertiser willing to pay for the privilege, in addition to the civic functions I outline here. Furthermore, as with news media, these civic purposes are not always mutually reinforcing and can easily come into conflict. (And because I’m much less learned than Schudson, my list may be incomplete or just plain wrong.)
    Social media can inform us.
    Many of us have heard the statistic that a majority of young people see Facebook as a primary source for news , and virtually every newsroom now considers Facebook as an important distributor of their content (sometimes to their peril.) But that’s not what’s most important in considering social media as a tool for democracy. Because social media is participatory, it is a tool people use to create and share information with friends and family, and potentially the wider world. Usually this information is of interest only to a few people – it’s what you had for lunch, or the antics of the squirrel in your backyard. But sometimes the news you see is of intense importance to the rest of the world.
    When protesters took to the streets of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia, they were visible to the world through Facebook even though the Tunisian government had prevented journalists from coming to the town. Videos from Facebook made their way to Al Jazeera through Tunisian activists in the diaspora, and Al Jazeera rebroadcast footage, helping spread the protests to Tunis and beyond. The importance of social media in informing us is that it provides a channel for those excluded by the news – whether through censorship, as in Tunisia, or through disinterest or ignorance – to have their voices and issues heard.
    Places don’t need to be as far away as Tunisia for social media to be a conduit for information – when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, many people learned of his death, the protests that unfolded in the wake, and the militarized response to those protests, via Twitter. (And as news reporters were arrested for covering events in Ferguson, they turned to Twitter to share news of their own detention.) Social media is critically important in giving voice to communities who’ve been systemically excluded from media – people of color, women, LGBTQIA people, poor people. By giving people a chance to share their under-covered perspectives with broadcast media, social media has a possible role in making the media ecosystem more inclusive and fair.
    Finally, social media may be in helping replace or augment local information, as people connect directly with their children’s schools or with community organizations. This function is increasingly important as local newspapers shed staff or close altogether, as social media may become the primary conduit for local information.
    Social media can amplify important voices and issues.
    In traditional (broadcast or newspaper) media, editors decide what topics are worth the readers’ attention. This “agenda setting” function has enormous political importance – as Max McCombs and Donald Shaw observed in 1972, the news doesn’t tell us what to think, but it’s very good at telling us what to think about.
    That agenda-setting power takes a different shape in the era of social media. Instead of a linear process from an editor’s desk through a reporter to the paper on your front porch, social media works with news media through a set of feedback loops . Readers make stories more visible by sharing them on social media (and help ensure invisibility by failing to share stories). Editors and writers respond to sharing as a signal of popularity and interest, and will often write more stories to capitalize on this interest. Readers may respond to stories by becoming authors, injecting their stories into the mix and competing with professional stories for attention and amplification.
    Amplification has become a new form of exercising political power. In 2012, we watched Invisible Children use a carefully crafted campaign, built around a manipulative video and a strategy of sharing the video with online influencers. Within an few days, roughly half of American young people had seen the video, and US funding for the Ugandan military – the goal of the campaign – was being supported by powerful people in the US Congress and military . (That the organization’s director had a nervous breakdown, leading to the group’s implosion, was not a coincidence – Invisible Children managed to amplify an issue to a level of visibility where powerful backlash was inevitable.)
    Amplification works within much smaller circles that those surrounding US foreign policy. By sharing content with small personal networks on social media, individuals signal the issues they see as most important and engage in a constant process of self-definition. In the process, they advocate for friends to pay attention to these issues as well. Essentially, social media provides an efficient mechanism for the two-step flow of communication, documented by Paul Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz , to unfold online. We are less influenced by mass media than we are by opinion leaders, who share their opinions about mass media. Social media invites all of us to become opinion leaders, at least for our circles of friends, and makes the process entertaining, gamifying our role as influencers by rewarding us with up to the second numbers on how our tweets and posts have been liked and shared by our friends.
    Social media can be a tool for connection and solidarity.
    The pre-web internet of the 1980s and 1990s was organized around topics of interest, rather than offline friendships, as social networks like Facebook organize. Some of the most long-lasting communities that emerged from the Usenet era of the internet were communities of interest that connected people who had a hard time finding each other offline: young people questioning their sexuality, religious and ethnic minorities, people with esoteric or specialized interests. The spirit of the community of interest and identity continued through Scott Hefferman’s meetup.com, which helped poodle owners or Bernie Sanders supporters in Des Moines find each other, and now surfaces again in Facebook Groups, semi-private spaces designed to allow people to connect with likeminded individuals in safe, restricted spaces.
    Social critics, notably Robert Putnam, have worried that the internet is undermining our sense of community and lessening people’s abilities to engage in civic behavior. Another possibility is that we’re forming new bonds of solidarity based on shared interests than on shared geographies. I think of Jen Brea, whose academic career at Harvard was cut short by myalgic encephalomyelitis , who used the internet to build an online community of fellow disease sufferers, a powerful documentary film that premiered at Sundance, and a powerful campaign calling attention to the ways diseases that disproportionately affect women are systemically misdiagnosed. Brea’s disease makes it difficult for her to connect with her local, physical community, but social media has made it possible to build a powerful community of interest that is working on helping people live with their disease.
    One of the major worries voiced about social media is the ways in which it can increase political polarization. Communities of solidarity can both exacerbate and combat that problem. We may end up more firmly rooted in our existing opinions, or we may create a new set of weak ties to people who we may disagree with in terms of traditional political categories, but with whom we share powerful bonds around shared interests, identities and struggles.
    Social media can be a space for mobilization
    The power of social media to raise money for candidates, recruit people to participate in marches and rallies, to organize boycotts of products or the overthrow of governments is one of the best-documented – and most debated – powers of social media. From Clay Shirky’s examination of group formation and mobilization in Here Comes Everybody to endless analyses of the power of Facebook and Twitter in mobilizing youth in Tahrir Square or Gezi Park, including Zeynep Tufekçi’s Twitter and Tear Gas, the power of social media to both recruit people to social movements and to organize actions offline has been well documented. It’s also been heartily critiqued, from Malcolm Gladwell, who believes that online connections can never be as powerful as real-world strong ties for leading people to protest, or by thinkers like Tufekçi, who readily admit that the ease of mobilizing people online is an Achilles heel, teaching leaders like Erdogan to discount the importance of citizens protesting in the streets.
    It’s worth noting that mobilization online does not have to lead to offline action to be effective. A wave of campaigns like Sleeping Giants, which has urged advertisers to pull support from Breitbart, or #metoo, where tens of thousands of women have demonstrated that sexual harassment is a pervasive condition, not just the product of a few Harvey Weinsteins, have connected primarily online action to real-world change. What’s increasingly clear is that online mobilization – like amplification – is simply a tool in the contemporary civic toolkit, alongside more traditional forms of organizing.
    Social media can be a space for deliberation and debate.
    Perhaps no promise of social media has been more disappointing than hope that social media would provide us with an inclusive public forum. Newspapers began experimenting with participatory media through open comments fora, and quickly discovered that online discourse was often mean, petty, superficial and worth ignoring. Moving debate from often anonymous comment sections onto real-name social networks like Facebook had less of a mediating effect that many hoped. While conversations less often devolve into insults and shouting, everyone who’s shared political news online has had the experience of a friend or family member ending an online friendship over controversial content. It’s likely that the increasing popularity of closed online spaces, like Facebook groups, has to do with the unwillingness of people to engage in civil deliberation and debate, and the hope that people can find affirmation and support for their views rather than experiencing conflict and tension.
    Yet it is possible to create spaces for deliberation and debate within social media. Wael Ghonim was the organizer of the We Are All Khaled Said Facebook page, one of the major groups that mobilized “Tahrir youth” to stand up to the Mubarak regime, leading to the most dramatic changes to come out of the Arab Spring. After the revolution, Ghonim was deeply involved with democratic organizing in Egypt. He became frustrated with Facebook, which was an excellent platform for rallying people and harnessing anger, but far less effective in enabling nuanced debate about political futures. Ghonim went on to build his own social network, Parlio, which focused on civility and respectful debate, featuring dialogs with intellectuals and political leaders rather than updates on what participants were eating for lunch or watching on TV. The network had difficulty scaling, but was acquired by Quora, the question-answering social network, which was attracted to Parlio’s work in building high-value conversations that went beyond questions and answers .
    Parlio suggests that the dynamics of social networks as we understand them have to do with the choices made by their founders and governing team. Facebook and Twitter can be such unpleasant places because strong emotions lead to high engagement, and engagement sells ads. Engineer a different social network around different principles, and it’s possible that the deliberation and debate we might hope from a digital public sphere could happen within a platform.
    Social media can be a tool for showing us a diversity of views and perspectives.
    Social media could serve as a tool to increase diversity of our networks
    The hope that social media could serve as a tool for introducing us to people we don’t already know – and particularly to people we don’t agree with – may seem impossibly cyberutopian. Indeed, I wrote a book, Rewire, that argues that social media tends to reinforce homophily, the tendency of birds of a feather to flock together. Given the apparent track record of social media as a space where ethnonationalism and racism thrive, skepticism that social media can introduce us to new perspectives seems eminently reasonable.
    Contemporary social networks have an enormous amount of potential diversity, but very little manifest diversity. In theory, you can connect with 2 billion people from virtually every country in the world on Facebook. In practice, you connect with a few hundred people you know offline, who tend to share your national origin, race, religion and politics. But a social network that focused explicitly on broadening your perspectives would have a tremendous foundation to build upon: networks like Facebook know a great deal about who you already pay attention to, and have a deep well of alternative content to draw from.
    Projects like FlipFeed from MIT’s Laboratory for Social Machines and gobo.social from my group at the MIT Media Lab explicitly re-engineer your social media feeds to encourage encounters with a more diverse set of perspectives. If a network like Twitter or Facebook concluded that increased diversity was a worthy metric to manage to, there’s dozens of ways to accomplish the goal, and rich questions to be solved in combining increased diversity with a user’s interests to accomplish serendipity, rather than increased randomness.
    Social media can be a model for democratically governed spaces.
    Users in social networks like Twitter and Facebook have little control over how those networks are governed, despite the great value they collectively create for platform owners. This disparity has led Rebecca MacKinnon to call for platform owners to seek Consent of the Networked, and Trebor Scholz to call us to recognize participation in social networks as Digital Labor. But some platforms have done more than others to engage their communities in governance.
    Reddit is the fourth most popular site on the US internet and sixth most popular site worldwide, as measured by Alexa Internet, and is a daily destination for at least 250 million users. The site is organized into thousands of “subreddits”, each managed by a team of uncompensated, volunteer moderators, who determine what content is allowable in each community. The result is a wildly diverse set of conversations, ranging from insightful conversations about science and politics in some communities, to ugly, racist, misogynistic, hateful speech in others. The difference in outcomes in those communities comes in large part to differences in governance and to the partipants each community attracts.
    Some Reddit communities have begun working with scholars to examine scientifically how they could govern their communities more effectively. /r/science, a community of 18 million subscribers and over a thousand volunteer moderators, has worked with communications scholar Nathan Matias to experiment with ways of enforcing their rules to maximize positive discussions and throw out fewer rulebreakers . The ability to experiment with different rules in different parts of a site and to study what rulesets best enable what kinds of conversations could have benefits for supporters of participatory democracy offline as well as online.
    Beyond the vast wasteland
    It’s fair to point out that the social media platforms we use today don’t fulfill all these functions. Few have taken steps to increase the diversity of opinions users are exposed to, and though many have tried to encourage civil discourse, very few have succeeded. It’s likely that some of these goals are incompatible with current ad supported business models. Political polarization and name-calling may well generate more pageviews than diversity and civil deliberation.
    Some of these proposed functions are likely incompatible. Communities that favor solidarity and subgroup identity, or turn that identity into mobilization, aren’t the best ones to support efforts for diversity or for dialog.
    Finally, it’s also fair to note that there’s a dark side to every democratic function I’ve listed. The tools that allow marginalized people to report their news and influence media are the same ones that allow fake news to be injected into the media ecosystem. Amplification is a technique used by everyone from Black Lives Matter to neo-Nazis, as is mobilization, and the spaces for solidarity that allow Jen Brea to manage her disease allow “incels” to push each other towards violence. While I feel comfortable advocating for respectful dialog and diverse points of view, someone will see my advocacy as an attempt to push politically correct multiculturalism down their throat, or to silence the exclusive truth of their perspectives through dialog. The bad news is that making social media work better for democracy likely means making it work better for the Nazis as well. The good news is that there’s a lot more participatory democrats than there are Nazis.
    My aim in putting forward seven things social media could do for democracy is two-fold. As we demand that Facebook, Twitter and others do better – and we should – we need to know what we’re asking for. I want Facebook to be more respectful of my personal information, more dedicated to helping me connect with my friends than marketing me to advertisers, but I also want them to be thinking about which of these democratic goals they hope to achieve.
    The most profound changes Newt Minow inspired in television happened outside of commercial broadcasting, in the new space of public broadcasting. I believe we face a similar public media moment for social media. Achieving the democratic aims for social media outlined here requires a vision of social media that is plural in purpose, public in spirit and participatory in governance. Rather than one social network that fills all our needs, we need thousands of different social networks that serve different communities, meeting their needs for conversation with different rules, norms and purposes.
    We need tools that break the silos of contemporary social media, allowing a citizen to follow conversations in dozens of different spaces with a single tool. Some of these spaces will be ad or subscription supported, while some might be run by local governments with taxpayer funds, but some subset of social media needs to consciously serve the public interest as its primary goal.
    Finally, farming the management of online spaces to invisible workers half a world away from the conversations they’re moderating isn’t a viable model for maintaining public discussions. Many of these new spaces will be experiments in participatory governance, where participants will be responsible for determining and enforcing the local rules of the road.
    We accept the importance of a free and vibrant press to the health of our democracy. It’s time to consider the importance of the spaces where we deliberate and debate that news, where we form coalitions and alliances, launch plans and provide support to each other. The free press had defenders like Thomas Jefferson, who declared that if he had to choose between “a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”.
    The health of our digital public spheres is arguably as important, and worth our creative engagement as we imagine and build spaces that help us become better citizens. Social media as a vast wasteland is not inevitable, and it should not be acceptable. Envisioning a better way in which we interact with each other online is one of the signature problems of modern democracy and one that demands the attention of anyone concerned with democracy’s health in the 21st century.

  • Democratic Candidates Compete on Criminal Justice Reform Plans

    by Youth Radio Interns

    Over the past few months, Democratic candidates have raced to release their criminal justice reform plans, hoping to show how they will fix a broken system. A number of the plans include the banning of private prisons, decriminalizing marijuana and using the powers of clemency. 

    However, some of the leading candidates like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have been criticized for their tough-on-crime pasts. Cory Booker has even gone as far as calling Biden the “architect of mass incarceration.” Over the course of the Democratic debates this year, the candidates are expected to go head-to-head on their criminal justice reform plans, as well as their pasts. 

    Here are some of the proposals.

    The candidate: Joe Biden

    The plan: “The Biden Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice” wants to shift criminal reform from “incarceration to prevention.” The plan pledges $20 billion to states, counties and cities to address the underlying factors of crime — such as child abuse, illiteracy and substance abuse. 

    The plan focuses on eliminating racial disparities, ending mandatory minimums, decriminalizing marijuana and ending private prisons. The plan would also invest $1 billion per year to juvenile justice reform and set a goal to provide housing for 100 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals upon reentry. 

    The criticism: In an article written for Jacobin Magazine, Branko Marcetic criticized Joe Biden’s past, “[E]ven if Biden has subsequently learned the error of his ways, the rank cynicism and callousness involved in his two-decade-long championing of carceral policies should be more than enough to give anyone pause about his qualities as a leader, let alone a progressive one.”

    The candidate: Kamala Harris

    The plan: Kamala Harris teamed up with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to create “The Fair Chance at Housing Act” to protect formerly incarcerated individuals from wrongful eviction. It would prohibit the “one-strike” rule, where tenants are evicted over one incident of minor criminal activity. The plan also ensures that tenants are given written notice of the reasons for eviction and the opportunity to appeal. It also increases the standard of evidence needed to deny an applicant based on their criminal record.

    The criticism: In an article in The New York Times, Lara Bazelon writes, “Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions…if Kamala Harris wants people who care about dismantling mass incarceration and correcting miscarriages of justice to vote for her, she needs to radically break with her past.”

    The candidate: Cory Booker

    The plan: Cory Booker’s plan “The Next Step Act”  would reduce harsh mandatory minimums for nonviolent drug offenses, restore voting rights for ex-offenders and provide training for law-enforcement on implicit racial bias. In a separate announcement, Booker revealed that he also plans to use presidential power to pardon and commute sentences, also known as clemency. Through clemency, he would release individuals serving “excessive sentences for nonviolent drug offenses,” which he estimates would affect 17,000 people. 

    The criticism: An article written for CNBC mentions how Booker has faced criticism about his time as mayor of Newark, New Jersey. “Booker’s tenure has been praised for the plummeting rates of violent crime in New Jersey’s largest city, but it was marked by a litany of complaints about police abuse. 

    “During Booker’s term, complaints of excessive force and stop-and-frisk policies eventually led to the intervention of the Justice Department at the request of the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.”

    The candidate: Elizabeth Warren

    The plan: Elizabeth Warren’s plan intends to ban private prisons and detention facilities and stop contractors from charging fees for essential services. She also plans to improve living conditions in prisons by creating an independent prison conditions monitor within the Department of Justice. Warren has also spoken out about the need for decriminalizing marijuana and demilitarizing police forces. 

    The criticism: Law enforcement officials from Warren’s home state of Massachusetts took issue with Warren’s statement that the criminal justice system was racist. Chief Steven Wojnar, president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, released a statement saying, “I am extremely troubled by this statement. Labeling the entire criminal justice profession as ‘racist’ spreads false and damaging information about our members.”

    The candidate: Amy Klobuchar

    The plan: Amy Klobuchar’s plan relies heavily on the presidential power to pardon prisoners. She plans to create a diverse, bipartisan “clemency advisory board” that would review clemency requests and ultimately recommendations to the president. The plan would also create federal incentives to “restore some discretion” to states for mandatory sentences for nonviolent offenders. 

    The criticism: Klobuchar has often been criticized for her past as a prosecutor. In an article written in The Appeal, law and political science professor David Schultz commented, “She runs as a tough on crime prosecutor, and she does what she says she’s going to do…Like a lot of prosecutors at the time, she bought into the broken windows theory. She was going after broken windows, graffiti, the small stuff, and asking for upward departures.”
    The post Democratic Candidates Compete on Criminal Justice Reform Plans appeared first on YR Media.

  • Play of the Day: True Skool Radio

    by Rohit Reddy

    The post Play of the Day: True Skool Radio appeared first on YR Media.

  • 5 Things You Missed in Music Business News

    by Noah

    Things are constantly changing in the music industry and it’s important to stay on top of trends and news updates, especially as an independent artist. We’ve got you covered with a weekly recap of the top stories you need to know.


    To celebrate Def Jam’s 35th anniversary, the recording label and Puma are debuting their collaborative collection featuring a new silhouette called the Clyde Courts. They are set to release on Puma.com on August 28th. If you were lucky to peep it early — they pre-released on Sunday, July 21st at ComplexCon.


    Spotify has recently launched its new hub for Disney Music Group. The hub features music from all your favorite Disney movies, TV shows and theme parks. These catalogs will be updated regularly for future films and shows.


    Kid Cudi’s upcoming album, “Entergalactic,” has been announced and it will be aligned with an upcoming Netflix series executive produced by Kenya Barris. Starring Kid Cudi himself, he will also write, and executive produce the show with Ian Edelman.


    Megan Thee Stallion recently filed a trademark for her viral catchphrase, “Hot Girl Summer.” The popular phrase has taken over summer 2019 due to the rapper’s efforts. The trademark was submitted on July 10th and Megan Thee Stallion hopes to release a “Hot Girl Summer” anthem as well as have an official “Hot Girl Summer” playlist on Spotify. 


    NBA 2K has partnered with UnitedMasters to help develop an original soundtrack as well as help scout out new talent. Independent artists are able to submit music by downloading the UnitedMasters app for a chance to have their music premiered on NBA 2K20. 
    The post 5 Things You Missed in Music Business News appeared first on YR Media.

  • Inside The Industry: HBK Jay R

    by Noah

    In this week’s Inside The Industry, we meet Jay R. Jay R is a longtime member of the Bay Area’s own HBK Gang. When the music started taking off and things got hectic, Jay R was able to step up and handle the business side of things. He was also able to step into the role of a manager/tour manager for the likes of his close friend P-LO, Kehlani, as well as Vallejo’s SOB x RBE. In this interview, Jay R gives us some insight into his experience with tour life, managing and the struggles and benefits of being on the road. He also blesses the next generation of music entrepreneurs with solid advice about coming up in the current music scene. 

    Edel: What is your job title and what do you do? 

    Jay R: My job title is artist management, tour management, road management, basically all management. For artist management, I manage P-LO. As for tour management, the main artists I work with are SOB x RBE, Kehlani, and Sage The Gemini. So on a daily basis, I get a lot of emails. You know, just communicating with people that either want to do a show or trying to set up a session and kind of being that middle ground for P-LO. More so, just being that communication factor. 

    Edel: How did you get to the position you are in now?

    Jay R: It fell in my lap really. It wasn’t expected. We had the ‘Up!’ song with Iamsu! and we didn’t have anybody to be responsible because a lot of people were calling at the time and we needed someone to take those calls, take those emails and see what people were talking about. Honestly, as weird as it sounds it really just fell into my lap. I just took the leap and I was like alright, let me be the responsible one and hold down my patnas. 

    Edel: Was it pretty hectic at first? 

    Jay R: At first I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know anything. I was literally winging it because every day it was something different. When we did our first tour they threw me to the wolves. I remember we did a tour, it was an IAMSU and Problem tour – a West Coast tour. It was probably about five shows. But yeah, they threw me to the wolves because I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to book a vehicle. I didn’t know how to get rooms for everybody. I didn’t know how to talk to a venue. So I’m in there like ‘YO….THIS IS CRAZY YO’ because I was shook. Bruh I was so shook. But I got it done at the end of the day. We ended up ordering our first truck – it was a church van, a 12-15 seater we got in Berkeley on University next to Pedro’s, the little Brazilian shack. It’s literally right there next to the college. Every time I drive past there I think about that. 

    Thinking back it was crazy. It was all about the learning because when you’re learning something it feels crazy until you really get it. Looking at myself now compared to what I was then, I’ve definitely grown a lot. 

    Edel: Can you explain how you were able to adapt? 

    Jay R: Just on the job. Like even when people tell you how to do stuff, you won’t really learn it until you’re there doing it hands-on. 

    It’s just being there. Dealing with the promoters, dealing with the production people or dealing with a label and just talking to them. You really won’t be able to fully grasp it or understand it until you’re really in the seat. You know, you’re not gonna take that jump ‘til you got that ball in your hand. You feel me? It’s just one of those things you really learn when you’re on the job.

     Edel: What was the craziest or weirdest thing that happened while you were on the job?

    Jay R: Damn what happened… We done went through a lot. We’ve seen it all. I think for me the most hectic thing I’ve experienced was when we did a show with Kehlani and she got sick. 

    People were inside the venue already, it was a sold out show in Michigan, and there were probably about 1,100 people in there. She got sick the day of as we were going into the show. We had the openers go on, we had the DJ’s go on and we were just waiting. I had promoters calling me because they were there and they’re talking to me and I’m just like, I honestly don’t know, she’s sick right now brother. 

    I think that’s probably the most recent one. I wouldn’t say it’s the most stressful, but I was like, yo man I don’t know what to do right now because obviously she’s a young lady. She was ill and I couldn’t do anything. I got these people calling me, people talking to me. They were coming up to the bus asking for me and I’m like yo, this is crazy. 

    We ended up having to cancel the show. We ended up having to come back two weeks later. Of the most recent, that was the most hectic experience I’ve had. That was probably about two or three years ago, but from then on everything has been kind of smooth. It was the Sweet Sexy Savage tour. That’s the one we did for six months. We started off in Europe and ended up back in the States. She did the Greek Theatre in Berkeley and she did the Bill Graham in San Francisco. 

    Edel: How would you define the tour life? 

    Jay R: We’ve had homies come on the bus and they can’t do it. I think you really have to be built for it. If you’ve ever toured, you know the bus is like the hub. This is where you want to be because when we were on our first tour we started in minivans. From minivans to a church van to a sprinter to a bus. That’s literally how it should really go in my eyes. But you really have to be built for it though. The thing is, you can’t shower, you can only shower when you get to your hotel rooms because there are no showers on a bus. So if you got to go number two, you have to wait until you get to the spot or you got to have the bus driver stop at a gas station because you can’t do that on a bus either. You’re living with just 12 bunks, you’re literally living with like 10 dudes or 10 coeds but, you really got to be built for it because like I keep saying we have had patnas come on the bus for like two days and damn near lose their minds. Like you really got to be built for it, touring is not for everybody. 

    Edel: How did you meet everyone? 

    Jay R: Me and P-LO been rocking for a long time. That’s how I kind of got introduced to everybody, through P-LO. The Hercules Cultural Festival. A classic event that they don’t do anymore but me and P-LO got super cool over there. We had mutual friends for a while and then he started bringing me around, then I started hanging out with Kuya, Chief, Omar, and then Su. Then we were just rockin’ ever since and at the same time the ‘Up!’ song started popping. That’s when it happened, around the same time we were all getting cool. So it’s been like a cool, going on damn near 10 years now — since 2010. That’s so crazy to think about, it’s about to be 2020 and we’re still going. We’re still trying. We’re still trying to achieve the dream. At least do something great for The Bay. We’re trying to always be in that conversation where people are like Steph Curry, M.C. Hammer, P-LO, HBK that’s always the goal. We just always want to be in the conversation 10 more years from now, you know. 

    Edel: What advice would you give to up-and-coming entrepreneurs?  

    Jay R: Patience and heart because you have to be a leader, especially being in management. I always say you have to be the responsible one but you also got to be the one that’s levelheaded like a real captain because when the ship sinks, you have to be on your ones and twos, you gotta make sure you’re putting something together to get all these people off the ship.

    You always have to have courage or be able to talk to people when it gets foggy. You always want to be able to lead people the right way. Like I said, just being a leader and kind of just having people trust in you. That’s the key. You know, your work always shows. 

    Edel: What was the best outcome for you?

    Jay R: Seeing my homies doing great stuff — like seeing P-LO sell out the UC Theatre. Just seeing your patnas be able to travel off of music or just to do all these different things off of music. I think that’s the beauty of it, just seeing the growth. 

    Seeing growth in anything is crazy, but I feel like seeing a personal friend that’s like a brother and being able to go somewhere like Wisconsin and people are like, ‘yo you P-LO?’ like that’s crazy, that’s a crazy feeling every time. We still get shocked when people say stuff like that. But I think seeing the real growth in everything from the mud to the flower that has popped out the mud is the beauty of it for sure. 

    Edel: How do you balance life with management? 

    Jay R: It’s a balance for sure. That’s a tough question. I think it’s really just depending on your lifestyle. My regular life is literally chilling at the house, cooking something and playing Fortnite . You feel me. If I could do those three things in one day then I’m good. That’s my balance. I must have a good meal and then knock out an hour of Fortnite with the boys, get a little dub and we’re good. I feel like that’s my decompressor because throughout the day I’m dealing with a lot of emails or I’m always dealing with something. The other day we just dropped “Something Light” for P-LO and we had to make sure everything was correct because at this point, we want to make sure the brand is super tight and all the T’s are crossed and all the lights are on and the I’s are dotted. So when it’s that time, it’s usually a little hectic. But if I could do those three things, I think that’s my balance honestly. Or just going to the movies or something. 

    That’s a key thing, like when we are on tour we go to the movies or we go to the mall on days off to kind of feel normal again. Because you’re just moving so much, there’s really no days off to just chill like that. So when you get those days it’s cool to appreciate them. 

    Edel: Would you say life has gotten better? 

     Jay R: Yeah, if I’m able to pay my mom’s bills or help her with her bills then I think I’m cool. Helping out the family. Not even just monetarily but to be able to just do stuff. I think that has been a cool ride. It’s been an up-and-down ride for sure. Being a manager or being anything in art always has its ups and downs and you always just gotta trust in the vision. You always gotta trust the process really. 

    Edel: What did you spend your first big check on? 

    Jay R: I bought a MacBook. The first check I got was from the Gang Forever tour. I think I made $1,100 the whole tour. I remember the first thing I did when I got back home was buy a laptop. Because everyone had laptops. I had no laptop. 

    Edel: Do you have any advice on how to deal with crazy promoters or fans?

    Jay R: Man… patience. Like you can’t ever lose your cool. You always have to be the cool, calm and collected one. I think that’s the key. 

    You don’t ever want to have people read your emotions. I think I learned that over the course of these years. You want to make sure you know when there’s something bad going on but you don’t want someone to be able to read your face and allow people to know, “Oh, he’s stressed out, let’s fuck with him or let me keep bothering him.” You want to keep that face like a stone-cold killer. I think that’s the key. 

    Edel: Beginning to end, how do you plan a show or tour? 

    Jay R: Preparation. 

    Obviously, you want to get everything done, but I would always say just be ahead of everything. You always want to make sure you’re on point. The last thing you ever want to do is procrastinate or anything because you don’t want it to be the day before something and not have everything done. If you’re two weeks out from an event and you know your heads clear you know you’re not worried about nothing you’re good. You’re crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s at that point. You’re just making sure everything’s straight and dusting everything off. Because if you have everything on point two or three weeks before the event you smoove.

    I just try not to procrastinate man because I think once you procrastinate then you’re shooting yourself in the foot. 

    Obviously, there’s so much different stuff to pay attention to — there’s production, there’s merch, there’s a setlist, there’s making sure the set is on point. It’s just so much different stuff that you gotta make sure is straight. You always have to be a quick thinker, like a real problem solver. That’s why I say procrastination is the killer. But like I say, I still do that shit. 

    I will also say a team is key to everything. So like with P-LO, it’s four of us on the team. Without the team it’s hard. It’s like trying to do a group project by yourself, it’s impossible. As far as advice, get a good team. You always want to have three other people moving in motion. You always want three other rowers with you on the boat. You’ll go quicker and you gotta trust them. So I think that’s something for sure I’ll give advice on, just having a good team that can hold you down.

     Edel: Do you think it’s a good thing that you guys are so close? 

    Jay R: Yeah it’s cool actually. It’s cool if you could separate business from your friendship because P-LO and I live with each other and our other patna Cal-A who’s also part of the management team. So all three of us live with each other and every day we’ve got a whiteboard with something written up on there, whether it’s like a task or like an idea. Then we talk about it.  But if you’re able to separate business and friendship I think that’s the key. That’s the balance. If you could do it then it’s smoove, but if you don’t know how to separate business from your friendship then it might not be for you.

    Edel: Would you say that you’re an organized person? 

    Jay R: Yeah I got OCD like crazy because of my mom. Growing up, If something wasn’t fully neat we weren’t leaving the house. So I feel like that’s stuck with me ever since and I blame my mother for that. Mom, I appreciate you. 

    When we submit our projects to iTunes or something, everything has to look a certain way. Like whether the first letter is capitalized, the second letter isn’t or both got to be capital. Like if it’s ‘Same Squad,’ those both got to be capital. You feel me? Just little stuff like that, or when I’m emailing someone and I have to make sure my signature is on point. That’s where my OCD is helpful. 

    Edel: Is P-LO independent? 

    Jay R: Were signed to Empire right now. We have a two-album deal with them and we’re on our last one right now.  We’re gonna figure out when to drop that but we just did the last one, “Prime.” We did the Prime tour with Aux Cord and Another Party Fam and ALLBLACK.

    Edel: Any shows coming up? 

    Jay R: Were doing Outside Lands in SF. I got like two more festivals with SOB. We’re doing Bumbershoot festival in Seattle. Rolling Loud L.A. with P-LO. They haven’t announced it yet, so… spoiler alert. So yea, we’re doing Rolling Loud LA. Outside Lands SF. Yeah, we just gone keep traveling.

     Edel: What’s next?

    Jay R: Man… more wins, more trophies. Just trying to get more trophies. Let’s get another plaque out in the Bay. Let’s do something for the Bay. Let’s get some more trophies for P-LO. Let’s keep touring. Let’s touch the people. Man. Let’s keep it moving. Let’s keep it mobbin’ really. 

    The post Inside The Industry: HBK Jay R appeared first on YR Media.

  • Life in Alabama as a Woman of Color

    by Rebecca Martin

    In Alabama, we have Southern hospitality. We open the door for the person behind us, say “yes ma’am” and wave our Confederate flags. We smile at our neighbors, greet everyone with a hug and sit outside clinics calling women murderers. Here in Madison County, the home of a NASA Space Flight Center, we boast innovation and education. But we have some of the most segregated schools and neighborhoods.

    This is Alabama and this is what it’s like to be a woman of color here.

    When I tell people I was born and raised in Alabama, they look shocked. I am not from China, or even the West Coast, but friendly Huntsville, Alabama. I grew up with an Indonesian mom and a white American dad. I went to school with several other Asian and mixed kids. I spent Saturdays with my dad’s family barbecuing and horseback riding and Sundays in Chinese school. I loved being a Southern Asian girl. But did other Southerners love that? Not so much. When I visited any small town in Alabama, I got looks of confusion or disdain.  People would ask me if I was “Oriental,” or tell me with a smile on their face about how immigrants are bringing crime and disease to America. Boys taunted me as I walked home yelling misogynistic insults. My classmates asked me if I ate dogs or if I “spoke Asian.” I dealt with coworkers who constantly undermined my abilities and pretended I didn’t exist. Even now that I am in college, when I sit in class and a professor mentions Asian people or international students, everyone looks at me.

    Alabama rarely makes national news for nice things. Not for our beautiful beaches, rich culture or kind-hearted people, but rather for our visceral politics and scandals. When former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore ran for Senate and was accused of sexual assault, the entire nation gawked at how there was a chance Roy Moore could be a senator (luckily he lost… but by less than 2 percent). And earlier this year, when Alabama legislators passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the country, it felt like the entire world was mocking my state. The Twitter hashtag #BoycottAlabama exploded and made me wonder, what does that mean for me as a student and a member of the workforce? How is this boycott going to affect people like me who didn’t even want this bill in the first place? This boycott has already been reported to have negative consequences for small business owners. In a state with high rates of poverty, an education system ranked last by U.S. News and World Report, and one of the highest infant mortality rates in the United States, it could be hard to imagine why anyone would choose to live here.

    Since the Alabama Senate passed HB 314, I have only heard vitriol towards my home state: we are backwards, we deserved what was coming, and that we all are racist, sexist, homophobic and married to our cousins. I have met many racists, sexists and homophobes in my state (still have yet to meet anyone married to their cousin). As deeply appalled as I am by this law, it’s not fair or correct to paint Alabama as all white, all Republican, and all bigoted.

    alabama’s punishment for making abortion illegal: pic.twitter.com/7WiWbtGLfv— pisces princess (@taylorlsantos) July 12, 2019

    I think of my best friends in high school and see a group of Honduran, Ghanian, Indian, Egyptian, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, and Latvian Alabamian girls. I think of my high school’s gay-straight alliance, the Rocket City Pride Parade, the Women’s March events that happened across the state, the annual international festival in my hometown, the 20+ Latinx English language learner (ELL) students I tutor, and the black women in the Black Belt that made a difference in keeping Roy Moore out of office in 2017.

    I think of the activists in this state who are fighting for reproductive and civil rights in a political environment that so vehemently opposes them. I think of the women of color in Alabama who are continuing to lead this state in the right direction by using their voice and running for office. I think of the loving, caring people who live in this state and the fact that they are Alabamians, too. And yes, so are the racists and the sexists and the bigots. However, in contrast to what Twitter would have you believe, Alabama is not one dimensional and our legislators do not represent all Alabamians.

    It's possible to condemn what is happening in Alabama & Georgia right now w/o falling into stereotypes of all ppl from the South. The South isn't singularly represented by the folks who voted for these bills, its population & its history are far more complex than your caricature.— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) May 16, 2019

    I have had plenty of grievances living in Alabama. When people in my community mock my mother’s English. When I watch the ELL students I tutor struggle in a school system that’s underfunded. When my abilities have been undermined. When Alabama passes a law that directly takes away my autonomy over my body. That’s when I want to hate Alabama — I really, really do.

    But just as there are people in this state who have hurt me and dismissed my abilities, there are also people who have believed in me and loved me unconditionally. That’s the Alabama I want to believe in.
    The post Life in Alabama as a Woman of Color appeared first on YR Media.

  • Announcing New YR Media Partnership: Adult ISH + Radiotopia

    by Rohit Reddy

    Today, we’re pleased to announce an exciting new podcast partnership with PRX’s Radiotopia. 

    YR Media is collaborating with Radiotopia to bring you season two of our culture and advice podcast, Adult ISH, which will drop later this summer on Thursday, August 22.

    Adult ISH—a first-of-its-kind culture and advice podcast produced by folks who are almost- adults—joins Radiotopia’s curated network of extraordinary, cutting-edge productions including 99% Invisible, Ear Hustle, and Criminal, and Song Exploder, among many others. Radiotopia empowers independent producers to do their best work, grow audience, and increase revenue while cultivating community for both listeners and makers. We’re thrilled to partner with a fellow industry innovator. 

    The second season of Adult ISH will pick up where season one left off in late 2018. Through a weekly mix of interviews, storytelling, and unfiltered advice, our co-hosts Nyge Turner and Merk Nguyen dive into topics like mental health, professional goals, identity, race, music, and relationships. In season two, expect guest appearances by almost-adults and OG adults alike including W. Kamau Bell (CNN’s United Shades of America), Peyton Elizabeth Lee (Disney’s Andi Mack), Shan Boodram (The Game of Desire), a fashion influencer, a Latinx therapist, artists, and many more.  

    Read more about our partnership with Radiotopia here.

    Stay tuned for a new trailer dropping soon and our season two launch on August 22. Thanks for listening!
    The post Announcing New YR Media Partnership: Adult ISH + Radiotopia appeared first on YR Media.

  • But How Many Are We? LGBTQ+ Stats and Stigmas

    by Lissa Soep

    In college, my school’s LGBTQ+ organization was small and mostly white. So I decided to create an underground group more inclusive of queer and trans students of color using Facebook as a platform. My secret group grew fast and inspired me to charter an “official” club on campus — and that’s when I hit a snag. 

    I needed cold hard stats to make the case for the group’s validity.  

    Turns out, I wasn’t the only one on the hunt for accurate counts of the LGBTQ+ community. Demographers with PhDs make careers in pursuit of them. 

    “[Q]uantifying the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people in the United States is a task that has been and continues to be fraught with expectations, politics, and uncertainties,” said David Deschamps and Bennett Singer, who literally wrote the book on LGBTQ Stats. 

    Many factors, from stigma to methods of inquiry, affect the numbers and how we can interpret them. I wanted to find the story behind the stats we see. 


    There are consequences to openly identifying as queer. Reports show a higher level of violence and employment discrimination directed at transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Some are concerned about maintaining and forming relationships with family and friends when deciding whether to be out. 

    “Most of us have experiences of stigma and discrimination, so we have concerns about the wrong people getting a hold of information about us, which we may view as sensitive,” said Dr. Gary Gates, a demographer focusing on the LGBTQ+ community. 

    Anonymous surveys help with the stigma problem. Many people feel freer when they can’t be identified by their data. But the downside is, anonymity doesn’t allow for follow-up, unless subjects give researchers special permission to contact them with further questions or for future surveys down the road.

    My friend Yasmine Meadows was co-president of the LGBTQ+ organization I launched on campus. She identifies as bi and has been approached a lot to participate in studies on gender and sexual identity. 

    In deciding what, if at all, to disclose to researchers, Meadows said she cares a lot about the why. Once, she felt her data was used in a negative way that reinforced stigma — trying to prove that the reason people are queer is because of sexual assault or abuse. 

    “I wouldn’t be comfortable until I knew the real reason they wanted me to do the study. But if I knew it was positive I wouldn’t necessarily mind because I feel like learning more about the community that I identify with is better for me,” Meadows said. 

    There are also specific cases where stigma may affect results. For example, people have no shortage of reasons for why they won’t date bisexual men. Biphobic and demeaning comments are made by straight women, gay men, and even bi women. I can’t help but think that charts showing bi men making up the lowest percentage of the community are impacted by negative attitudes toward bi men despite the community’s growth.


    Gates told me that beyond the stigma factor, some data is omitted because people just don’t know what to say. I had not considered this factor — that people may be figuring themselves out in a manner that is not as clear-cut as researchers would like.

    Terminology also matters. 

    Even questions like “Are you homosexual, bisexual, or heterosexual?” may throw off survey takers, Gates told me — for example, survey takers for whom English is a second language, who might not know the definitions of each of those terms.

    Also, “Heterosexuals don’t have to think about their sexual orientation or define their sexual orientation very often,” Gates said. “The word they use to describe themselves is ‘normal.’”

    What about accounting for people who aren’t out? Critics say the potential under-reporting of closeted individuals can make data like Gates’s inaccurate. 

    “My argument to that is, I wasn’t attempting to measure closeted people. I wasn’t attempting to count this broad, and quite frankly, often vague definition of what defines people as LGBT,” he said. “I’m measuring people who use the terms [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender].” 

    It was initially perplexing and a little bit annoying to me, when I read that people are two to three times more likely to report attraction to individuals of the same-sex or have had same-sex sexual experiences than they are to self-identify as LGB. It’s not a statistic that I can separate from the stigma LGB people face.

    But Deschamps and Singer maintain that framing questions based on experiences and scales, not labels, is the way to go. 

    “I think we’re living in a time where people don’t want to be put in boxes,” said Deschamps. “I think a scale is one of the best ways to look at it, because there are people who will have sex with men and it’s no big deal, and there are people who will have sex with men in situational experiences like in prison or on a ship or something like that, but wouldn’t in normal life, and personally I would consider them queer.” 

    The crowd raises their hands in support during the Capital Pride Festival (Photo: Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post via Getty Images)


    We can’t talk about growth in the queer community without factoring in the progress that has been made in decreasing stigma and negative consequences associated with being LGBTQ+. Even in the face of the lingering homophobic and transphobic attitudes in the U.S., the documented LGBT population has been increasing for years. 

    In 2015, research from YouGov found that 31% of young Americans don’t identify as exclusively heterosexual. But a different study from 2018 found that only 4.5% of the U.S. population identifies as LGBT. 

    “If you just look at a map in the U.S. that says the percentage of the population who identifies as LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual), what you will see is a map of social acceptance,” Gates said. 

    He pushed back against the notion that the large geographic differences in the queer population are driven simply by LGBT people migrating to the coasts. As a queer person who moved from Georgia to California, I was all ears. Gates theorized that in places with higher acceptance, more people are willing to openly identify as LGBT, while places with more anti-LGBT sentiment will see a repression of the LGBT identity, and not just in the numbers.

    “It’s really being driven by the willingness of people to acknowledge themselves, and when they’re in climates that are more accepting you get higher percentages. It’s very obvious in the data,” he said.


    No one knows when we’ll hit peak divulgence — but those concerned about under-counting say it’s a serious issue because if we look like a smaller group than we are, we won’t get the services and opportunities we need. Even on my campus, it was hard to get funding for a queer people of color organization because the college didn’t have numerical evidence that we existed. 

    Gates isn’t worried about that. “I could not find a single instance where my low number harmed public policy,” he said. “I could find a bazillion instances where having a number, it didn’t matter what the number was, made a positive impact. And it was simply because it made visible a group that people literally denied existed.”

    No matter how big or small we think the community is, stats matter a lot for the future of the LGBTQ+ people. 

    “Part of it is within the community, feeling a sense of solidarity and strength,” Singer said. “But I think there’s a very tangible public policy piece to it, where numbers can lead to public policy change and transform the lives of people on a day to day level.”
    The post But How Many Are We? LGBTQ+ Stats and Stigmas appeared first on YR Media.

  • Thinking in Solid

    by Ethan

    “Why does Amazon ask me to review something the day it arrives?” Amy asks. “I usually don’t know if it’s any good for a couple of weeks. They should email you again a hundred days later.”
    We’re walking the dog on the Ashuwillticook rail trail, which runs along side Cheshire Lake, a few miles from our house. When we manage to get our schedules in sync, this is one of my favorite rituals. We walk four miles in a little more than an hour. The doggo gets properly exercised and we get the chance to talk about whatever’s on our minds.

    Amy has been sewing new cushions for our patio furniture since the previous ones decayed. Her mind is on reviews of patio furniture. You have no idea if your patio furniture is any good until you’ve had it for at least one season, and it should be possible to sort reviews on Amazon and find only the ones by folks posting after they’ve owned things and lived with them for a while.

    What’s on my mind is a talk Tim Berners-Lee gave about Solid, and decentralized models for rebuilding the web. And because we’re walking the dog, these trains of thought merge on the rail trail, and we start designing a new product review site based on Solid.
    Amazon reviews work by keeping track of what products you’ve ordered and when they’ve been delivered. A day or two after Amazon believes they’ve been successfully delivered, they ask you to review the product, giving it between 1-5 stars and a short review.
    There’s all sorts of things wrong with this system. Only 3-10% of consumers rate any given purchase, and only about 40% of consumers rate at all. We’re more likely to review a product that we loved, or one we really, really hated, so reviews tend towards binary extremes – ones and fives, with very few twos, threes and fours. And while Amazon requires you to purchase an item before it will let you review it, there’s still a vast ecosystem of review fraud, in which sellers refund the cost of an item and send a bonus in exchange for five star reviews. This practice is so common that as many as one in three online reviews may be fake in some product categories (inexpensive electronics, in particular), and a group of watchdogs, including ReviewMeta and FakeSpot have sprung up to combat fake reviews. Amazon reports that it’s putting significant resources into combatting review fraud.
    These are real problems, and none of these are the problem Amy wants to fix. Amazon could implement her suggestion – it knows when you purchased outdoor cushions and could email you in 100 days and then again at 400 days for “lifetime” reviews of a product. It’s not clear whether they would. Imagine that reviews submitted months later were more negative than those made at time of purchase. Amazon needs some negative reviews – most consumers are smart enough to grow suspicious when they encounter only positive reviews – but a consistent pattern in which purchases become more disappointing over time might retard sales. Independent review sites like TrustPilot – which has its own serious review fraud problems – could build this service, but they lack key pieces of information: the date that you purchased something, and the ability to verify that you actually paid for it.
    Turns out Amy’s service is very easy to build in a Solid world. In Solid, you store data in a “pod”, a data store you control either on your own server at home, or cloud space you control. When you buy something from Amazon, you make a record in your pod of the transaction; Amazon does the same, so they can update their inventory, send you your shipment, etc. Because you have access to your transaction records, you can write a simple tool to ping you 100 days after you’ve bought something to review it. You could write the review on Amazon, TrustPilot, or a new Solid-compliant LifetimeReviews, which would allow you to keep the contents of your review in your Pod, but would include it in a search on the LifetimeReviews.solid site for reviews of patio furniture (with your permission, of course.) In fact, LifetimeReviews.solid would invite you to share a subset of the data stored in your pod so it could prompt you 100 days later about every purchase you’ve made on any different Solid-compliant platform and collect reviews on any product you were willing to evaluate. You’d own those reviews – they’d be stored on your pod – but it would provide a useful service in indexing those reviews and making them available to the rest of the web.
    Building a novel product review service in the contemporary Web can feel both impossible and futile. If it were worth building, Amazon would have a massive advantage in building it, given the amount of transactional data they already control… and they’d probably block you from using “their” (your) data to build such a service. And if you succeeded, they’ll just implement their own version of your feature, putting you out of business. And if it were widely used, it would almost certainly be filled with fraud much as Amazon’s system already is. Why bother?
    I’m trying to remember what the web felt like in the early 1990s, when there was so much left to build and such low barriers to building it. We built silly and frivolous shit all the time, and occasionally, it turned out to be useful and important. The homepage builder, the product that ultimately attracted users to Tripod, was built essentially on a lark. It took months for us to realize that it was going to be popular and years to realize it would become the heart of our business.
    I think Solid has me thinking about those early days because it promises a world of permissionless innovation. Obtaining Amazon’s permission to build a new type of review site feels essentially impossible; the idea that I might build something new – possibly cool, possibly frivolous – and only need the permission of the people who want to use it feels liberating.
    Here’s what I really want to build: a news-factchecking tool that lets me control what’s considered a reliable source, rather than giving Facebook that control. And I know how to build it. And I can’t.
    Gobo.social lets you integrate posts from different social media – Twitter, Mastodon and parts of Facebook – into a single feed, which you can sort and filter as you’d like. A team in my lab built it so we could experiment with two ideas:
    – People should have the ability to filter their newsfeeds as they choose, not as Facebook chooses.
    – We need social media browsers that let us manage our different identities, communities and preferences with a single tool, instead of through dozens of incompatible silos.
    In one sense, Gobo has been a success – it’s generated some robust discussion about how social media could work better for its users. But in another sense, it’s been an uncomfortable reminder that innovation these days is anything BUT permissionless. Thus far, Gobo has played by the rules – we’ve used the documented APIs offered by social media platforms, which has meant we have full access to Twitter and Mastodon content, but only very limited access to Facebook. The Facebook API gives us access to the Pages you follow, but not to the posts from any of your friends. (I don’t know about you, but I don’t follow a lot of pages, which tend to be run by marketing departments, not by real people.) It could be worse – we just spent six months trying to get permission from LinkedIn to access their API and were flat-out denied.
    We could – and may – integrate social media another way. We could ask you to give us your Facebook or LinkedIn username and password. Using those credentials, we could then access your unfiltered timeline, scrape it and present it to you to filter as you’d like. But that’s a terrible idea – it makes us responsible for managing your credentials, which has all sorts of dangers. (We can create a Tinder account for you, for instance…) And Facebook would demand we shut the service immediately, citing Facebook vs. Power Ventures as precedent.
    I’d love to hook Gobo up to Factmata, a very cool new company that evaluates online content and provides scores for believability based on nine different signals. Rather than giving a compound score, or a binary “fake/true” distinction, Factmata offers scores on the different signals, so we could give you – through Gobo and Factmata – the ability to filter out news it thinks is clickbait, or thinks is politically biased, insulting or sexist. Would Factmata do a perfect job of filtering out bogus news? Almost certainly not, but Facebook is extremely unlikely to do the job perfectly either, and while you’d know the ways in which Gobo and Factmata failed, the inner workings of Facebook are entirely opaque.
    Would Solid solve this problem? Not immediately, of course. In a world where Facebook, LinkedIn and everyone else chose to make their services Solid-compatible, it would be trivial to pipe these services together. But Sir Tim has made it clear that his goal is not to challenge Facebook, but to invite innovators to experiment with a new way of building websites.
    My fear is this – that we need to experiment with tools like Solid and start working to pry open Facebook at the same time. There’s immense amounts of human effort going into closed, silo’d, non-interoperable platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. I’m not comfortable ceding that accumulation of creativity to those who’ve moved fast and fenced off their corner of the web. We need to create new social media platforms, but we need to understand that 99% of what people want to do at present is communicate with friends on existing platforms, and we need tools that bridge that gap. We need the ability to innovate around huge, existing services like Amazon, if only so Amy can stop sewing couch cushions and start her new review business.

  • Video: Is Facial Recognition Racist? Yes. And Detroit Is Using It.

    by Chaz H

    As more and more cities ban the use of facial recognition software by police, Detroit residents are asking city officials to follow suit. Riley Lockett explains the issues with algorithmic bias and facial recognition AI.
    The post Video: Is Facial Recognition Racist? Yes. And Detroit Is Using It. appeared first on YR Media.