Zeynep Tufekci offers insights in Wired and Scientific American as other publications note her influence

January 30, 2019

UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) Associate Professor Zeynep Tufekci discusses the lack of a functioning digital micropayment system on the internet and the vulnerabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT) in her latest articles published in Wired and Scientific American. Her book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, was highlighted in Vox as well as The New York Review of Books.

In the Wired article, “Shouldn’t We All Have Seamless Micropayments by Now,” Tufekci highlights the lack of a digital micropayment system that allows frictionless, integrated ways of exchanging money online. Currently, online payments require buyers to sign up and provide their credit card information, billing address, and email each time, making their data more vulnerable to hackers as their information is stored in multiple databases. Tufekci also mentions how content creators are losing in the digital ad economy, having to rely on advertising to support themselves in the absence of this micropayment system.

Tufekci believes that it’s possible to build a digital infrastructure that rewards creativity and protects privacy. “Whatever the solution is, we just need a combination of vision, smart regulation, and true innovation to advance it,” she writes.

Read the full article at https://www.wired.com/story/shouldnt-we-all-have-seamless-micropayments-by-now/.

In “Attack of the Zombie Baby Monitors,” published in Scientific American, Tufekci explains how IoT devices are vulnerable against a program called Mirai, which scans the internet for products that use simple and widely known usernames and passwords. The program has the ability to chain millions of affected devices into a botnet, a network of infected computers, which can then target a website and render it inaccessible. With the source code of Mirai available on the internet, people with little coding skill can assemble their own botnet. With no way to update the software of most IoT devices, Tufekci thinks the only practical solution is to wait for them to degrade, but hopes manufacturers will incorporate more advanced security protocols in the future, either voluntarily or under threat of penalty.

“The Internet of Things promised us great wonders, but I'd like them to be less exciting. It's time to make baby monitors boring again—and go back to worrying about the little one's teething rather than his or her security camera joining a zombie botnet and wreaking havoc across the globe,” Tufekci writes.

Read the full article at https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/attack-of-the-zombie-baby-monitors/.

Vox’s piece, “The 9 thinkers who made sense of 2018’s chaos,” lists Tufekci as someone who helped us make sense of social media in 2018, its influence, problems, and related controversies. She is praised for her sharpness in interrogating social media’s impact on democracy as well as her insights in Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, which examined how social media enabled protest organizing and how states manipulated these technologies to garner power.

“Tufekci’s work offers a kind of master theory of what went wrong for social media — why what was once seen as America’s most innovative industry has now become one of its most hated,” the article’s author Zack Beauchamp writes.

Read the full article at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/12/27/18136625/2018-new-year-2019-scholars-experts

Her book is also lauded in The New York Review of Books in “The Path of Greatest Resistance,” its analysis of social activism in the era of the internet. In the past, major demonstrations required years to organize, but today, they can be launched in the matter of weeks, thus making it a less meaningful indicator of a movement’s influence than it once was, according to Twitter and Teargas.

Despite being written before the revelation of the Russian interference in the presidential campaign, the review notes that Tufekci’s book was prescient in describing how Donald Trump and his allies utilized social media in their campaign tactics.

Click here to read the full article.

Summary by Vi Le, SILS Communications and Marketing Assistant