IRL: Online Life Is Real Life
Summary: Our online life is real life. We walk, talk, work, LOL and even love on the Internet – but we don’t always treat it like real life. Host Veronica Belmont explores this disconnect with stories from the wilds of the Web – and gets to the bottom of online issues that affect us all. Whether it’s privacy breaches, closed platforms, hacking, fake news, or cyber bullying, we the people have the power to change the course of the Internet, keeping it healthy, weird, and wonderful for everyone.
From campaign bots to conspiracy videos, it’s harder than ever to discover the truth online. In conversation with The New York Times’ Sheera Frenkel, Data For Democracy Policy Lead and Mozilla Fellow Renee DiResta, and DisInfoMedia founder Jestin Coler, we navigate the age of disinformation. It’s the season finale of IRL, recorded live in San Francisco on March 18th, 2018.
We’ve long heard that the ways the web is tailored for each user—how we search, what we’re shown, who we read and follow— reinforces walls between us. Veronica Belmont investigates how social media can create and can break our filter bubbles. Megan Phelps-Roper discusses the Westboro Baptist Church, and the bubbles that form both on and offline. B.J. May talks about the bubbles he encountered every day, in his Twitter feed, and tells us how he broke free. Rasmus Nielsen suggests social media isn’t the filter culprit we think it is. And, within the context of a divided America, DeRay McKesson argues that sometimes bubbles are what hold us together.
From Google search to Facebook news, algorithms shape our online experience. But like us, algorithms are flawed. Programmers write cultural biases into code, whether they realize it or not. Author Luke Dormehl explores the impact of algorithms, on and offline. Staci Burns and James Bridle investigate the human cost when YouTube recommendations are abused. Anthropologist Nick Seaver talks about the danger of automating the status quo. Safiya Noble looks at preventing racial bias from seeping into code. And Allegheny County’s Department of Children and Family Services shows us how a well-built algorithm can help save lives.
On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog, as the old joke goes. But does anonymity truly exist on the web anymore? And when it’s taken from us, what else do we lose? So Sad Today talks about the value of anonymity for women and self-care. Jonathan Hirshon shares his personal battle to keep his face off the Internet. New Yorker cartoonists Peter Steiner and Kaamran Hafeez discuss the evolution of memes and digital anonymity, in dog years. And Alison Macrina and Morgan Taylor reveal what’s underneath the surface of the searchable web.
From Snapchat filters to Google’s art selfies, biometric technology plays a growing role in our everyday lives. What do we actually give up when we upload our face to these apps? Steven Talley shares his experience as the victim of mistaken identity. Artist Adam Harvey investigates how racial bias seeps into big data sets. Emily Kennedy and Glynnis MacNicol talk about the power and risks of recognition for marginalized communities. Joseph Atick, a forefather of facial recognition technology, reckons with its future. And we head to China, where you’ll need your face to use the bathroom.
What does it mean to grow up online? Veronica Belmont investigates how the www is changing us: our personalities, our bodies, and our brains. A college student shares his experience at rehab for Internet addiction. Bestselling author Nir Eyal breaks down what apps borrow from gambling technology. Writer Heather Schwedel talks about taking a cue from Kanye and breaking up with Twitter. Blogger Joshua Cousins talks about the Internet as a lifeline, in the wake of recent natural disasters. And we challenge a group of brave volunteers with a no-smartphone challenge. IRL is an original podcast from Mozilla. For more on the series go to irlpodcast.org.
Most website visitors aren’t human. They’re bots. And these automated accounts are having serious, real-world impact; from the 2016 election to the FCC’s recent, controversial net neutrality vote. Veronica Belmont investigates the rise of social media bots with Lauren Kunze and Jenn Schiffer. Lisa-Maria Neudert measures how bots influence politics. Butter.ai’s Jack Hirsch talks about what happens when your profile is stolen by a political bot. Ben Nimmo teaches us how to spot and take down bot armies. And Tim Hwang explores how bots can connect us in surprising, and meaningful, new ways.
The battle for the open Internet isn’t over. In the days leading up to the FCC’s net neutrality vote, we investigate what’s next in the fight. We Rate Dogs’ Matt Nelson talks about trolling Ajit Pai with a pay-per-pupper plan. Verizon protesters share their experience on the ground. The FCC’s Mignon Clyburn weighs in on net neutrality’s road ahead, while Gizmodo’s Dell Cameron outlines how taking the fight to court could play out.
In this bonus episode, we check in on some of Season One’s stories and see how they’ve evolved. Activist Amanda Werner talks about their turn as the Monopoly Man at the Equifax hearings, and how to create visibility for victims of identity theft. Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler follows the case of hacker Marcus Hutchins, and tries to make sense of why he was arrested. Troy Hunt argues that IoT devices need warning labels. And, drumroll, we hear back from a troll we sent a cake to last season.
In our final episode of season 1, we break from our usual format to host a big conversation. Recent events like the Charlottesville, VA rally have revealed the Internet’s role in helping spread IRL threats and violence. Leaders in the tech world have represented varying positions on both protecting free speech and also reducing hate speech online. Should tech companies regulate who says what on the Internet? Brandi Collins of Color of Change, Anil Dash of Fog Creek Software and Jillian York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation address this question and more with Veronica Belmont.
What is life like without fast Internet, and how does life change once a person has it? Should Internet access be a right, rather than a luxury? Veronica Belmont explores these questions as she talks to people about joining the digital economy. Inspiring stories of access are surfaced by members of a small Minnesota community and by a Syrian refugee who found hope in Amsterdam.
We react against the idea of surveillance, but it turns out that we’ve invited it into our homes through devices like digital assistants, connected toys, and baby monitors. Are you comfortable with the idea that someone might be watching you or listening to you right now?
Trolls. You'll find them in every corner of the Internet. During this episode, explore the landscape of trolling online, its impact on individuals, and its impact on the Web. Some people are fighting back in new and tasty ways. Baked goods included.
Have you been hacked, or been the victim of malware or ransomware? Humans make the internet vibrant, but we're also the weakest link — we're predictable and often easily fooled. This episode of IRL focuses on our internet insecurity. Meet the unsung heroes fighting to keep us safe.
The Internet (at least in the US) is at a crossroads as the FCC is considering rolling back the net neutrality regulations it adopted in 2015. If net neutrality is abolished, the Internet could shift from an essential service that all consumers can access to a product that can be packaged and sold to the highest bidders. Get to know the potential winners and losers on both sides of the issue.