Since We Last Spoke: Facebook's Continued Growth, Harassment Online, and Social Security

Updates to past Pacific Standard print stories.
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(Photo: Sarawut Aiemsinsuk/Shutterstock)

(Photo: Sarawut Aiemsinsuk/Shutterstock)

FACEBOOK MAKES MORE FRIENDS
Facebook has been working overtime to make its policies more attuned to its users’ emotional lives. As Bonnie Tsui reported (“Friends With Benefits,” March/April 2014), the social media company is collaborating with behavioral researchers to humanize everything from the way embarrassing photos get flagged on the site to the expressiveness of the site’s emoticons. More recently, in mid-February, Facebook announced that it would allow users to identify not only as male or female, but also as most other genders, including androgynous or intersex.

In mid-February, Facebook announced that it would allow users to identify not only as male or female, but also as most other genders, including androgynous or intersex.

MINOR THREAT?
This January, Amanda Hess sparked a national conversation when she wrote about the barrage of lurid, violent threats that women receive online, and the often desultory response from law enforcement officers, who have done little more for Hess and other women than advise them to call when something “real” happens (“Women Aren’t Welcome Here,” January/February 2014). The knotty question of how to regard online threats similarly came to the fore in a February Houston Press article about Justin Carter, a teenage San Antonio drapery store clerk who sarcastically threatened to shoot up a non-specific kindergarten class on Facebook—and ended up on trial for terrorism charges.

SOCIAL SECURITY, SECURED
Last year we described how the blogger Duncan Black set out on a personal campaign to make the idea of expanding Social Security—rather than shrinking it, as deficit hawks advise—a respectable notion in Washington (“Get Serious,” November/December 2013). In early March, the state of play swung in Black’s direction when President Obama’s 2015 budget omitted an earlier administration proposal to gradually trim Social Security through a change to its cost-of-living increases. “Standing still is better than going backwards,” wrote Black dryly.

This post originally appeared in the May/June 2014 issue ofPacific Standardas “Since We Last Spoke.” For more, subscribe to our print magazine.

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