Ron Deibert to Deliver the 2020 Massey Lectures on Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society

08Jul20

Ronald J. Deibert is the founder and director of Citizen Lab, a research outfit based at the University of Toronto, which studies technology, surveillance and censorship. His Massey Lectures will focus on the societal impact of the internet and social media.

In the midst of a global pandemic when many of us are spending an increasing amount of time online, this year’s Massey Lectures argues that the internet, especially social media, has an increasingly toxic influence in every aspect of life.

Technology and security expert Ronald J. Deibert will deliver the series of lectures, titled Reset: Reclaiming the Internet for Civil Society. The five lectures will also be published as a book by House of Anansi Press in September.

The announcement was made Tuesday during a virtual event featuring Deibert, which was hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto.

Drawing from his work as the director of Citizen Lab, which has made headlines for its cyber espionage research, Deibert will talk about the personal, social, political, economic and ecological implications of social media.

This year’s Massey Lectures will be delivered virtually, with details to be announced later this summer. As usual, the lectures will be broadcast in the fall on CBC Radio’s IDEAS and the CBC Listen App.

In the first lecture, Deibert will explore how the economic model of social media is organized around personal data surveillance. In the second, he will discuss how social media platforms are engineered to be “addiction machines.” 

Then he will examine the role social media has played in the rise and spread of authoritarian practices worldwide. 

In lecture four, he will review the negative environmental impacts associated with social media, from electronic mining to cloud computing’s contributions to CO2 emissions and the growing problem of electronic waste. 

In the final lecture, he will explore what can be done to imagine a better world.

The Massey Lectures is an annual series of lectures delivered by distinguished writers, thinkers and scholars. Past lecturers include Margaret Atwood, Thomas King, Noam Chomsky and Northrop Frye.

The series is co-sponsored by CBC Radio, House of Anansi Press and Massey College in the University of Toronto.  (Source: https://tinyurl.com/ya54yfxt)

Reclaiming Social Media for Civil Society

Ronald Deibert

Once, it was conventional wisdom to assume that digital technologies would enable greater access to information, facilitate collective organizing, and empower civil society. Rather than facilitating unity and the emergence of a common ideology based on science, the internet and social media have proven to be vehicles used to spread falsehoods, pollute the public sphere, and subject populations to wholesale surveillance. People are also spending an unhealthy amount of time staring at their devices, “socializing” while in fact living in isolation and detached from nature. As a consequence, there are pushes to regulate social media and to encourage tech giants to be better stewards of their platforms, respect privacy, and acknowledge the role of human rights. A prerequisite of any such regulation, however, is a complete understanding of the precise nature and depth of the problems.

Technology and security expert Ronald J. Deibert examines the scope and scale of the personal, social, political, economic, and ecological implications of social media. Drawing from the cutting-edge research of the Citizen Lab (which he directs), Deibert analyzes consumer compulsion and the information economy; the disturbing rise of authoritarian practices, cyberwarfare services, and social engineering campaigns; and the negative environmental impact of digital devices, data farms, and electronic waste. Ultimately, Deibert exposes social media’s disproportionate influence in every aspect of life to the detriment of society and of our humanity — so much so that we are now in urgent need of a wholesale shift in our lifestyles, a fundamental revision of culture, work, and politics. And not just in one country, but around the world.  (https://houseofanansi.com/products/reset)

BIOGRAPHY

Ron Deibert, (PhD, University of British Columbia) is Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory focusing on research, development, and high-level strategic policy and legal engagement at the intersection of information and communication technologies, human rights, and global security. He was a co-founder and a principal investigator of the OpenNet Initiative (2003-2014) and Information Warfare Monitor (2003-2012) projects. Deibert was one of the founders and (former) VP of global policy and outreach for Psiphon, one of the world’s leading digital censorship circumvention services.

As Director of the Citizen Lab, Deibert has overseen and been a contributing author to more than 120 reports covering path-breaking research on cyber espionage, commercial spyware, Internet censorship, and human rights. See the rest of his bio at (https://tinyurl.com/ya7478za)



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