At the Movies: Public Health Aspects of E-Cigarettes, 10 (Or So) Thought-Provoking Videos

The Risk Bites video series is touching on many of my favorite emerging technologies topics. Every now and then, I’m hoping to take some of their topics and dig into the issues a little more. Today’s topic is e-cigs, which I’ve blogged about here before. Earlier this week, the e-cigarette panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (#APHA14) attracted a great deal of attention, including attendance from the current Surgeon General.

In addition, APHA endorsed a public call to the FDA to push forward on regulating electronic cigarettes.

20149 Regulation of electronic cigarettes — Calls on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop regulations that hold e-cigarettes to the same marketing and advertising standards as conventional tobacco cigarettes and calls for the federal funding of research on the short- and long-term health consequences of e-cigarette use. Urges the Consumer Product Safety Commission to require special packaging, including warning labels, on e-cigarette cartridges to help prevent childhood poisoning. Also calls on state and local official to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to minors as well as the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public areas and workplaces. APHA News Releases: New 2014 policy statements

This all makes this topic especially timely, and worthwhile of reviewing once more. Please note, I am NOT saying these are the reasons behind the APHA call for action, or even that there is research to support the points below. I am saying only that these are things I’ve noticed and found interesting. If there isn’t research, maybe there needs to be. If existing research doesn’t yet answer important safety questions, maybe we should act with caution until we do have those answers. It there is, then maybe I could share some in another post. I do believe that the issue of e-cigs is more nuanced than we might be led to believe by much of the public dialog around it — that there are both benefits and risks. So, with that caveat, here we go!


Electronic cigarettes and health – the basics

Primary public health perspectives mentioned in this video:
– What are the impacts of use by children?
– E-Cigs reduce toxins from smoke for regular smokers
– Are e-cigs simply an easier path to nicotine addiction?
– Aside from the intended nicotine, there may be impurities & contaminants from e-liquid solutions
– The FDA only has oversight over certain aspects of e-cigs, and there may be a lack of regulation for other potentially risky aspects of the device & liquids.

This is a truly excellent introduction in very few minutes to the most important considerations of e-cigarette use. The best quick overview I’ve seen. There are a few other issues to possibly address. See the following videos for a broader picture of public health aspects of e-cigarettes.


There have been (few, but some) reports of e-cigarette devices that were flawed in manufacture and did nasty stuff like explode in someone’s face. This is another aspect for the attention of regulators. Some of the explosions have been when on charge (as in this video), or have been modified in some way by the user (“at your own risk” becomes a very meaningful phrase). There are reports of this happening while in use and damaging the user’s face. Because this is not a medical device, these events are not being recorded in a way that allows healthcare systems to document and define the level of risk. Without that, you are basically depending on the industry to self-police manufacturing standards and error rates.

E-cigarette on charge explodes in bartender’s face: CAUGHT ON CCTV CAMERA


We live in a MAKER world. People hack their medical devices, and people hack their home devices. Why should e-cigarettes be any different? According to this video people hack their e-cig devices to make them hotter, and to have less of a draw, so they can get more vapor with less effort. According to the scientists, this changes the risks associated with the chemicals. We need to ask not only what people are already doing to hack these devices, but what else they might do with them or their components. I’m sure we have yet to imagine everything that could be done with vape pens.

Mashable: How to Hack Your Own E-Cigarettes


Vaping is a drug delivery mechanism. Nicotine is only one drug. There is talk about using vaping as a tool for delivering other medications that require inhalation, such as asthma meds. Of course, it needn’t be used solely for prescription meds, either. Vaping is also a tool for delivering street drugs, illegal drugs, and home made drugs. This, again, could be good or bad, depending on the circumstances.

How To Mix & Make Your Own E Juice Liquid DIY

SPECIAL REPORT: Teens using E-Cigs to smoke marijuana


Remember the phrase “gateway drugs”? There are recipes all over the Internet for how to make your own e-cig liquid, and those recipes include directions for how to make e-cig liquid to deliver illegal drugs. I think the genie is out of the bottle on that one, but it is certainly an issue to address in public health circles. Of course, also keep in mind that e-cigs may be a alternate way to provide medical marijuana to patients.

How To: Potent Water-Soluble Cannabis Concentrate in Glycerin


People have mentioned the issues of e-cig flavors that are clearly being marketed specifically to children, and how the devices are being marketed as cool/fun/sexy for young adults.

Do Vape Pens Trick Teens?

A Sexy View of the ECC 2014 Expo – Vape Club

It really makes it look like fun, doesn’t it? That was actually the first thing that attracted my attention to e-cigarettes. I saw so many incredibly beautiful photos streaming thru the sites marketing the devices, it seemed like there was an awful lot of money and genius being poured into the campaigns. It made me wonder why.


Recent research from the CDC reveals that e-cig use among children and teens is skyrocketing. It may take time to learn the long term outcomes of this trend.

CDC: More kids lighting up e-cigarettes

Growing Number of Youth Smoking Vaporizers


Research also seems to show that youth who start with e-cigs are more likely to convert to conventional cigarettes. This is, obviously, the reverse of using e-digs as a smoking cessation device.

Study: Youth who have used e-cigarettes are twice as likely to smoke conventional cigarettes
Study: Youth who have used e-cigarettes are twice as likely to smoke conventional cigarettes

Teenage E-Cigarette Use Likely Gateway to Smoking

Intentions to Smoke Cigarettes Among Never-Smoking U.S. Middle and High School Electronic Cigarette Users, National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011–2013


This video seems to me to be intentionally designed to scare people, BUT, despite the hyperbole and drum rolls, the content is largely factual, just framed to be extra exciting. I’m including links to the source content so you can dig into it more, and don’t have to depend on the video.

CDC Releases Negative Findings of E-Cigarettes

CDC: Youth Tobacco Prevention: Electronic Cigarettes: Key Findings: Intentions to smoke cigarettes among never-smoking U.S. middle and high school electronic cigarette users, National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2011-2013

CDC News Room: E-cigarette use more than doubles among U.S. middle and high school students from 2011-2012

CDC News Room: More than a quarter-million youth who had never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013:

CDC: Youth and Tobacco Use:

CDC Newsroom: Emerging tobacco products gaining popularity among youth; Increases in e-cigarette and hookah use show need for increased monitoring and prevention

CDC Newsroom: New CDC study finds dramatic increase in e-cigarette-related calls to poison centers; Rapid rise highlights need to monitor nicotine exposure through e-cigarette liquid and prevent future poisonings


The LONG version! An hour long lecture by Dr. Lynne Dawkins from the University of East London.

Electronic cigarettes: What we know so far

Among other issues, she points out that excessive regulation of vape pens and e-digs could lead to people making their own devices. The genie is out of the lamp — people know what these are and how they work. It isn’t going to be that hard to make your own, but it may create other kinds of risks and quality control issues. Right now, you can actually buy kits to make your own vape pen at home.

How To Make A Home Made Vaporizer Out Of House Hold Items

Just for balance, here are a couple of infographics about e-cigs and the balance of research, information, and evidence currently available.

Risk Bites Ten Thousand! (Or, The Bravery of Academic Discourse On Youtube)

"Help us unleash the Elements of Risk Song!"

I LOVE RISK BITES!!! Ok, there you have it. I confess. Here is part of why I like them so much. You see, I don’t just love Risk Bites. I love a LOT of Youtube science education channels. But of the top science channels on Youtube, the ones with a huge fan base and almost aggressive vitality, most of them are either created by kids, young adults, and hobbyists, or they are from huge big money operations. (Please see the APPENDIX at the bottom of this post for more about “What do popular science channels look like?”) What’s missing? Academics and professionals.

And why not? Why shouldn’t there be popular science video channels from academics? WHY NOT?

Yes, universities have Youtube channels and make videos highlighting research by their faculty. Typically, they don’t go viral. Look at them, and you can tell why. They’re good, but dry. They are just not going to get the eyeballs in the same way. They aren’t, well, FUN! A lot of the reason why they aren’t fun is that they’re afraid. They’re afraid of not looking academic. They’re afraid of what their peers will say. They’re afraid of taking the risk, and maybe having someone misunderstand what they said. They’re afraid of looking silly.

MLGSCA09 Cerritos: SocMed Risks - Looking Silly

Academics tend to judge other academics. They complain bitterly when the general public won’t listen to them, but on the flip side, God help any academic who does succeed in getting public attention for communicating science well. Typically, they are ridiculed and undermined by their academic peers. We, as academics, as institutions of learning, need to cut that out. When we belittle and criticize other academics for communicating effectively with the public, it makes all of us look bad. It undermines the credibility of all of science. It weakens our justification for funding, and the understanding the public has of what we do. If you have to criticize another scientist or researcher, stick to the science, and don’t blame them for “being popular.”

Risk Bites is brave. They take the risks that other academics are often afraid to take. They talk about important and sometimes controversial topics. They do so in an engaging and still accurate way, sticking to the good science, and providing more resources in the notes for people who want to explore or learn more. They engage in the conversation with people who comment. They even make videos responding to points brought up in conversation. They are building a community.

Risk Bites is the best example I know of an academic or professional voice that intentionally, purposefully, and responsibly positions itself in the space inhabited by FUN science education videos. Here is more about the background and thought behind what they are trying to do.

So, when I say I love Risk Bites, I am not just talking about the great videos, or the quality of the content, or the awesome and relevant timely selection of topics. I’m talking also about the vision, the mission, the willingness to take risks, the BRAVERY of what they are doing. And I passionately want others to notice, pay attention, and support this grand effort.

When I heard that Risk Bites has a subscription drive, I wanted to write this. I want you to stop and think about how academic science information in Youtube compares to the popular science channels. Check out Sixty Symbols, from the University of Nottingham. That is the only popular science channel I could find from an academic source. Think about why more of us aren’t there, why WE aren’t there, why YOU aren’t there.

And then I want you to do the right thing. I want you to help to get eyeballs on another strong academic science voice in Youtube. I want you to support the people who are brave enough to try. I want you to go to the Risk Bites channel, watch some of their videos, comment, ask questions, tell them what they can do better, and SUBSCRIBE!

Help us unleash the Elements of Risk Song!


VSauce 8,016,315
National Geographic 3,597,161
ASAP Science 3,146,879
VSauce2 3,096,072
Minute Physics 2,573,651
Charlie Is So Cool Like 2,402,791
SciShow 2,234,369
Smarter Every Day 2,194,233
VSauce3 2,112,344
Veritasium 1,965,852
Discovery 1,257,189
Mental Floss 1,123,990
Animal Planet 985,375
Minute Earth 918,132
NatGeoWild 649,592
PBS Idea Channel 580,887
Periodic Videos 500,874
NASA 450,711
The Verge 432,404
Sixty Symbols 426,072
Sick Science 399,926
Discovery TV 330,897
Science Channel 266,605
The Brain Scoop 248,660
SciShow Space 246,757
It’s OK to be Smart 239,810
Best0fScience 162,251
Bizarre ER 159,184
Spangler Science TV 146,369
Hard Science 131,431
New Scientist 117,609

Healthcare Risk Management (#ASHRM2014) – Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of November 10, 2014)

The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management recently had their annual conference using the hashtag #ASHRM2014 to collection conversation and nuggets of useful information. It looks like it was a lovely event.

Topics included Ebola, injections, infographics, informed consent, data security, emerging tech solutions for discharge followup, patient safety toolkits, and more! Here’s a few of the nuggets.

One thing I learned is that Magic Johnson is much taller than I had imagined.

Open Access or Not? Thoughts on Selecting Online Resources for MOOCs

Birthday: Saline Train Depot: Office - Upside Down Open

I had a very interesting pair of questions come up this week. So interesting and such excellent illustrations of issues in selecting open content for MOOCs that I wanted to share it, but will “change the names” for several reasons. That this is Open Access Week just makes this even more timely. Take this as an example, a case study or sorts, nothing more. However, I do hope that those of you with more experience in intellectual property law will please chime in to clarify any thoughts or misunderstandings I might insert inadvertently.

For background, I’ve been taking a variety of MOOCs in recent years, few of which I complete, and most of which I register for with three reasons in mind. Reason One: The content interests me, and I wish I had time to learn more about it. Reason Two: I’m curious what the bibliography and resources will contain, and hope to add those to my collection, even if I don’t have time for the class. Reason Three: I’m interested in different MOOC platforms and methodologies, and learn about these best by actually trying them out hands on. As a librarian, I have a special interest in the bibliographies, the links, the readings, and where those come from. Part of my interest is personal and part of it comes from our own institution being engaged with MOOCs through the Coursera platform, and wanting to see best practices for how to identify and select content for these types of classes.


One of the MOOCs I took included in the recommended readings a link to classic content from the 1800s, but which is included in several anthologies, both new and old. A particular anthology was recommended, and a link provided. The link was to a PDF of the entire book hosted in a site for a Slovenian high school English teacher. Meanwhile, given the importance of the work, copies are also available in several well known and highly regarded collections of open access content. These included Project Gutenberg, EServer (hosted by Iowa State University), the American Studies Project (hosted by the University of Virginia), the Internet Archive, Electronic Classics Site (hosted by Pennsylvania State University), and others, such as societies honoring the author and other academic organizations or collections.

I was alarmed to see a link to a suspect source (Slovenian high school?) provided in preference to authoritative sources which track provenance and verify rights to content posted. I dug around in the downloaded PDF and the pages linking to it, hunting for any indication that the teacher had received permission to repost the full book for his students. All I could find was a copyright statement in the PDF that the work was under copyright and that electronic conversion was not allowed, with a statement explicitly asking readers to not encourage electronic piracy. I wanted to bring this up, but did not want to cause any problems for the professor in charge of the MOOC nor for the school hosting the content. For this reason, I did not bring it up in the class forums, but instead hunted for the faculty member’s email address to send a message about the concern and alternate locations to access equivalent content, even if it is not the same anthology.

I received a note from the faculty member explaining the selection, with an interesting perspective. Briefly the logic follows this progression.

1. The contents of the anthology are all out of copyright, and in the public domain.
2. The anthology as a whole and the editorial comments would indeed fall under copyright protection, however, these were not included in the required readings for the class.
3. The professor had asked the students to read selected pages in the work, not the complete anthology nor the introductory content by the editor. The content on those specific pages is not copyrighted.
4. The professor did not himself create the PDF, nor reproduce the pages, but merely linked to them.

As the professor put it, “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.”

I find this a very intriguing justification, but incomplete and perhaps a bit of nitpicking. I suspect that if push came to shove, if the publisher of the book chose to contest the availability of the PDF online, the professor MIGHT find that his logic stands in a court of law. I suspect that the publisher (widely international, but the work scanned was from an American imprint) might find it easier to establish a suit against American use of the work than trying to take the case to Slovenia. Copyright itself is not the only concern. Additional concerns are placing at risk the institution that provides the MOOC online, the school for which the faculty member works, as potential collaborators in linking to the suspect content. If the school and organization were aware of this and chose to support the use of this link, that would be one thing, but I am not sure that they were or are aware.

Lastly, but not least, I am concerned about the example being set for the students. In my eyes, the faculty have a duty to model information use and resources following methods recommended for their students. Here at the University of Michigan there have been times when the University has elected intentionally to push the boundaries of Fair Use in order to prevent the erosion of the rights, and knowing that they might find themselves the subject of a lawsuit. The Google Book Project is a notable example of this. Google Books is a definite example of the concept the professor noted, that “the assertion of copyright is not the same as having copyright.” If the use of this Slovenian full text link was intended to explicitly test that legal provision, that would be lovely, and I would applaud the bravery and purpose of both the professor and the institutions supporting the content. If so, I would have personally appreciated having that made clear to the students. If not made clear there is the more subtle risk that students will interpret the Slovenian link to a possibly pirated work as having the approval of the professor, especially when so many other clearly open access copies of the work are available and the link is provided in preference to those open and legal copies. That is what baffles me most.


This example is almost the complete opposite of the first one! This is what makes these two such an exciting pair of examples for me to explore. In this MOOC which I took, the professor had as required readings almost entirely works which were free to the students. There were just a couple notable exceptions, for which you either had to find a print copy in a library or buy a copy. I was lucky, in that I already owned a copy, but when I accidentally stumbled on a free electronic copy online, I thought the professor would appreciate knowing about it, and that it would make life even easier for the students of that course. The professor, quite rightly, was reluctant to pursue making that link available because the author is still alive and the book still in print, making it pretty clear that the copyright is still in force. So, the question became, when is it alright to share an online copy of a copyrighted work? Ever?

The first important concept to understand is that an author may retain the right to share their work, and still keep it under copyright. Even a Creative Commons license does NOT mean that the author has given up their intellectual property rights, only that they’ve simplified the process of requesting certain types of rights. Which rights are simplified depends on which CC license was chosen. So, it is possible that an author could make the choice to permit use of their work in a specific circumstance.

The second important idea is the question of whether the author or the publisher actually owned the copyright in the selected work. Just because an author wrote a book does not mean that they have the RIGHT to make the decision about whether or not it is alright to put up a free copy online. Frankly, based on what I’ve observed, authors are more likely to choose to make a work Creative Commons than publishers. There are publishers that have chosen to make ebook versions of their backfile free when the original is out of print, but that is still more the exception than the rule. For this example, the copyright is owned by the author, se we really don’t have a clue (unless we ask them).

In this example, again, there was a complete PDF of the book, but in addition to the PDF there were also multiple file formats for different e-reader devices, including accessible formats for persons with disabilities and raw text (ASCII). The PDF was not in some distant country or on the web site for a particular local school, but was instead part of a major online collection of full text works. My first step was to look at the credibility of the provider, which is pretty similar to what I did with the first example.

While I’m not listing the specific title, I will list the collection in which it appeared: The Basic e-Learning Library (BeLL) of the Open Learning Exchange, but not the version housed at their main site, rather the BeLL collection housed in the Internet Archive. I tried first to look at the actual work as posted to see if there was any statement about the rights. I couldn’t find anything. Next I tried looking for some sort of statement on the OLE site. I couldn’t find one there either. I wanted to find out more about the OLE, what they do, and how reputable they are. Well, WOW! They are an international initiative focused on providing high quality education resources to 3rd world countries. And do they have powerful partners: UN High Council for Refugees; US Agency of International Development; US State Department; Oxfam …. And those are only a few. My gut reaction was, “They are partners with the US State Department? Well, they MUST be legitimate and responsible!”

I came very close to stopping there, placing my trust in the State Department and the United Nations to properly vet their partners. The group is doing such a good thing, and I really WANT deeply to believe in them and support this wonderful thing they are trying to do, helping low income countries. But then I tried to reverse verify this, and again ran into problems. I tried to find anything on the UN or UNHCR sites to show that they have a partnership with OLE. Hunh. I couldn’t find them listed on the UN site, but there were a couple links on the State Department site. Not anything saying they are partners, but at least people connected with the organization are presenting at State Department events. Normally, I would really not be working this hard. Normally, I would have called this credible and dropped it, which is what I had done when I made the recommendation to the faculty member. But it was starting to really bug me that I had spent so much time on their OLE site and could NOT find anything explicitly about their licensing of copyrighted content, efforts to negotiate in good faith with living authors or their representatives, or anything else. Most of the links that turned up in my searches were broken. Here is what I did find.

“Part 2: Quality Open-Source Content”
“Did we mention that all of these resources are freely available to members under the Creative Commons License?”

Now this just reads wrong. Open source applies to hardware and code, not to, well, books. Open ACCESS is the correct phrase for books, literature, articles, and other written works. And, well, if the works actually are open source, or open access, or creative commons licensed, then they are available to EVERYONE, not just members. It sounds wrong, at least to me, to even imply that the content is limited to members-only.

I kept digging. I found their Learning Toolkit page, which stated:

“The Open BeLL – Coming Soon!
Our virtual interactive library will now be available for public preview”

Preview? That again makes it sound as it, well, the content isn’t actually open. And I thought their “virtual interactive library” was already available through the Internet Archive? By this point I am so baffled, I don’t know what to think. I start asking my colleagues, one of whom actually finds the official OLE Copyright Statement. The reason I couldn’t find it was because I was looking on their web site. Now, why on earth would I expect to find their legal statements on their own web site? [sarcasm] It was instead on the Internet Archive site.

Open Resource Library - Copyright Statement
OLE Copyright Statement:

Briefly, what this says to me is that they are putting up full text of commercially available copyrighted works under a Creative Commons license with the assumption that this falls under Fair Use. Let’s take a second and look at fair use a bit more.

“Section 107 also sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair.
1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
2. The nature of the copyrighted work
3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work”
US Copyright Office, Fair Use.

I’m no expert on Fair Use. You can find more information on this from Stanford, Texas, and our own University of Michigan Copyright Office.

One of my favorite resources from these groups is the UM “Fair Use Myths.

Fair Use Myths:

The first myth states approximately that just because what you are doing is educational is not sufficient in and of itself to make it fair use. OLE says that they are putting up copyrighted content under a Fair Use claim. They don’t anywhere say that they ask permission, but instead assume it will be ok, because they are good folk. (I’m paraphrasing.) The author might have agreed with them, but there is no way for us to know. But the final of the four factors to be considered is the economic impact. If OLE did not have permission, then making a PDF and text of a complete book available for free does seem like something that might possibly have an impact on sales. For me, it seems like this would fail the “four factors” test.

As I said, I’m not a lawyer, and certainly no expert, but I am a librarian, and I tried really really hard to find any evidence to show that OLE did the right work to protect themselves and their partners. I began this post believing in them, and I ended it with an opposite view. During the days I was working on this post, the work in question, the one that sparked this inquiry, has disappeared from the Internet Archive and now gives a statement of not being available due to an enquiry into a metadata error. I am wondering if someone told the author or their publisher.


Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Just because you should doesn’t mean you can.

Who says so?

But what will the neighbors (students) think?

What We Don’t Know: Mike Tyson, the Invisible Crime, & the Risks of “Talk to the Hand”

“I fear for anyone caught between what they know and what they don’t yet know that they don’t know.” Welcome to Night Vale, Episode One: About Transcript More

A few days ago, Mike Tyson “came out” in a radio interview about having been sexually assaulted when he was 7 years old.

Mike Tyson opens up about Sexual Abuse – @OpieRadio @JimNorton

He had been snatched off the streets by “an old man,” sexually assaulted, and escaped. Male survivors of sexual assault have been called “silent victims,” and the sort of thing that happened to Mike Tyson has been called the perfect crime, because neither the victim nor the assailant will talk about it. This has resulted in a false perception that it doesn’t happen, which increases the misunderstanding and stigma associated with it.

“I don’t always remember. But, um, maybe I do, but I don’t.” Mike Tyson, on being sexually assaulted as a child.

Me, I completely understand this. There are memories so painful and raw that, even while you never forget they are there, you explicitly avoid thinking about them. It’s a kind of PTSD thing. And, guess what? If you dig deep enough, everyone has something they avoid thinking about. I was multitasking while writing something else, and listening to an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber. Towards the end of that interview, she described some of her thoughts on how some ways in which people are ‘broken’ in certain ways are perceived as sexier, more newsworthy, more eye-catching, more heroic, more popular than others. That people with those specific disabilities or conditions end up almost as a kind of sacrificial lamb, symbolically carrying the brokenness for all of us. Her conclusion was that we are all broken in some way, and that focusing on some kinds of brokenness to the exclusion of others is a disservice to both.

The other part of what Reverend Bolz-Weber said that really grabbed my attention was when she talked about the difficult connection between being broken and having appropriate boundaries. She talked about how important it is for her to be there for her congregation and not place her burdens on them. So while she talks about bad things that she’s gone through or dark places in her life, she talks about the ones that are well in the past, not the ones that trouble her deeply to this moment.

“I always try to preach from my scars, not my wounds.” Nadia Bolz-Weber |

I’m observing a necessary tension between the harm from keeping secrets and the harms from telling secrets. Since it is hard for men to bring this up, I want to spend some time on this blog, write a few posts, and collect some resources for people about the topic of male sexual trauma. That will come, but just to start, try reading this popular article about how women are taught to keep themselves safer (I can’t say “safe” because the idea is currently impossible), to avoid sexual assault. Read this once as it is written. Then read it again, remembering that rape of men and boys is far more common than you probably believe.

If We Gave Men the Same Rape Advice We Give Women, Here’s How Absurd It Would Sound

Remember, “Only With Consent” needs to become an assumption for everyone. All genders, all races, all cultures.

Only With Consent

Only With Consent

Sexual Abuse – Hashtags of the Week (HOTW): (Week of November 3, 2014)

Last week, Mike Tyson, famous boxer and convicted rapist, opened up on talk radio to having been sexually assaulted as a child. The revelation is being taken as informing his earlier statements of how a drive to fight bullying informed his abilities as a boxer.

When asked, “Did you tell anyone?”, Tyson replied, “No, it’s nobody’s business to know.” And when asked, “Did you drastically change after that day?”, he answered, “I don’t know if I did or not.” Those are not unusual responses for victims of child sexual abuse, many of whom only touch on the topic openly much later in life (Tyson is 48). I thought this might be a good opportunity to share information about the Twitter hashtag #SexAbuseChat, where people do talk, share, and provide support on a weekly basis. Also, this makes a lovely introduction to “No More Shame” November, a month long focus on sexual assault and childhood sexual abuse awareness and advocacy.

Anonymous Social Media Overview, Part Three: The Whisper Controversy & Beyond

I had said in Part Two of this series that I was waiting to talk about the Whisper Controversy because it was still unfolding so dramatically. Things are starting to wind down, and so last night I put together a Storify mapping out my perspective of the timeline of how this has all been happening.

Briefly, Whisper was trying to do a good thing, but it seemed to go wrong.
Guardian called them out on issues related to privacy & user tracking.
Story exploded.
Whisper defended themselves (mostly via Editor-in-Chief).
More explosions.
Guardian gleefully expanded on their original story.
Yada yada.
Whisper tries to regain trust (mostly via CEO).
Editorial team “laid off” pending investigation.
And now the clean up work starts.

Check the Storify for more details and specifics.

Meanwhile, Whisper is not alone. Far from it! Snapchat was hacked. Snapchat is probably the most famous anonymous social media app right now. Before they were hacked, all sorts of people were making tools (1, 2, 3) to “break” Snapchat’s rules about keeping copies of deleted pictures without permission. (The same sort of thing is happening on other ‘anonymous’ social platforms, like Tumblr with KnowAnon. And people posted private sex tapes on YikYak, which is also infamous for cyberbullying and violence and threats.) And the Federal Trade Commission is investigating some of the problems with Snapchat. People still trust and use Snapchat. And there are apps designed explicitly to, well, invade your privacy on an opt-in basis, like PeekInToo. This post has focused on the privacy issues, but violence, dishonesty, and cyberbullying remain significant issues in many online spaces. So, that’s the bad news. In the next post, I’ll look at some of the good things being done with social media.