The Simone Biles incident highlights the dark design pattern which surfaces toxic takes to encourage conflict and engagement on the Internet

Simone Biles on the beam at the Rio Olympics in 2016 — Photo by Fernando Frazão from Wikimedia Commons

It’s taken a while but I think I’m finally learning not to take the bait. I’m sorry.

It’s nothing most of us haven’t done. I’m really just coming to terms with the impact of what I’m doing. What we’re doing.

I’ll use the example of Twitter, but this applies elsewhere, of course, including on Le Facebook.

After U.S. gymnast and all-round superhuman Simone Biles dropped out of the Olympics the other day, Charlie Kirk, conservative talk show host and general internet irritant weighed in with his thoughts. “We are raising a generation of weak people like Simone Biles,” he said


Periodical Cicada — Original photo by Katja Schulz on Flickr

I love the sound of cicadas

Their sharp summer shimmer

Ricocheting through the neighborhood

Even here in Brooklyn

Not as impressive as in other parts, perhaps

But nonetheless there

Ancient, cacophonous and electric

A signal cast off unceasingly from their vacillating membranes

Maybe for me it’s nostalgia

As a child their music in the bush of Australia was ubiquitous, loud, almost deafening

But also an expected and omnipresent backdrop

Ever there

So that even on a solitary walk through this hot dry land, you were never alone

Their immortal hum accompanying you from their affixed positions upon leaf, branch, stem…


Backdoors to encrypted apps are bad for privacy and undermine secure networks for everyone

Photo of Banksy’s street art reading “What are you looking at?” beside a CCTV camera on a concrete wall.
Photo of Banksy’s street art reading “What are you looking at?” beside a CCTV camera on a concrete wall.
Banksy’s street art reading “What are you looking at?” — Photo by Duca di Spinaci, Creative Commons license

Quite a mind boggling story recently: The FBI bought a fledgling encryption app called Anom about three years back and monitored criminals eager to use it for organizing various shenanigans, leading to some 800 arrests in 12 countries. The app was marketed exclusively to criminals — often by word of mouth and in person at nightclubs and similar venues. It came on a stripped down cell phone, hidden in a calculator app and was accessed via a pass code. Criminals apparently took to it like flies to cow pies. Arrests included law enforcement officers and even employees of the company…


Pursuing clean energy technology means mining for increasingly rare metals and minerals. And that doesn’t come without an environmental impact.

Photo of windfarm in unknown location
Photo of windfarm in unknown location
Wind farm. Photo by RawFilm on Unsplash

In 2020, something happened, which offered a moment of hope for supporters of green energy technologies: For the first time in the United States, electricity generated by wind and solar technology exceeded that of coal. This change lasted only days, a blip really in our history of energy use and was certainly enhanced by the pandemic lockdowns. Nonetheless, coal consumption has been trending down for most of the past decade, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that wind and solar capacity will actually surpass both coal and gas by 2024. These developments gave us a glimpse of a future…


Some Americans plan to commit fraud to ensure they have the freedom to travel

Pictured: Genuine vaccination card of the first person to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the Javits Center in March 2021. Photo by New York National Guard.
Pictured: Genuine vaccination card of the first person to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the Javits Center in March 2021. Photo by New York National Guard.
This one’s legit. Vaccine card of the first person to receive the Johnson and Johnson vaccine at the Javits Center in March 2021. Photo by New York National GuardCreative Commons

As someone who writes regularly about immigration, I’m curious about many of the Americans hoping to buy a fake vaccination card in order to travel to their business or pleasure destination of choice. Will they also sympathize with the immigrants who arrive here without documentation in the future in order to work the jobs which American businesses are offering them?

If their plans to jet around with fake papers are AOK because freedom, then surely they’ll understand why impoverished migrant workers might come here looking for work, hoping to figure out the legality part later on.

Because the market for…


Like cryptocurrency, NFTs work within a tragedy of the commons

Hashmask #15753 created by Suum Cuique Labs GmbH. The artist released the copyright for this image to the NFT token owner, who then released the image into the public domain. (Crop of original image)

Anyone remember “I Am Rich”? This essentially featureless “app” sold for $999.99 on Apple’s app store in 2008 and consisted merely of an image of a glowing red gem, which someone could easily screen cap to replicate it.


Global Climate Change and Its Impact Upon Migration and Sovereign States

The United States seen through fencing at the border of the U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico. A Border Patrol vehicle can be seen through the chain-link fence. Photo by Robert Stribley.
The United States seen through fencing at the border of the U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico. A Border Patrol vehicle can be seen through the chain-link fence. Photo by Robert Stribley.
U.S. Border Patrol vehicle seen through fencing at the border of the U.S. and Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by Robert Stribley.

“Among migrants, homo sapiens is king.” — Sonia Shah, The Next Great Migration

Climate change has always been a major motivating factor behind changes in human migration. However, the last few years have seen a backlash against climate migrants among the planet’s more advanced states, and the march of global warming and climate change will certainly exacerbate this issue. In fact, according to the widely circulated estimate by Oxford researcher and environmentalist Norman Myers, some 200 million human beings may be migrating to avoid severe climate change by 2050. Some estimates even place that number as high as 1 billion.


Venmo’s default payment options may have made the Florida Representative’s shady private life public data.

Photo of Florida Representative Matt Gaetz posing with Donald Trump for a selfie
Photo of Florida Representative Matt Gaetz posing with Donald Trump for a selfie
Matt Gaetz poses with Donald Trump for a selfie — Photo from Gaetz’s public Twitter profile

The Daily Beast reported yesterday that in May 2018, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz may have paid for the sexual services of a teenager, when he sent his friend Joel Greenberg $900 via Venmo. It seems since payments made on Venmo are public by default, reporters were able to piece together that Greenberg then passed on three payments the next day to three different women with amounts also totaling $900.

Gaetz isn’t the first person to have his alleged vices showcased for all to see via this Venmo feature, just the most famous. And it may end up contributing to his…


Critics of immigrants—particularly undocumented immigrants— point to their numbers in federal prisons. It’s meaningless as an indicator of immigrant crime rates.

Cover photo: Immigrant Make America Great — Photo by Nitisha Meena, Unsplash
Cover photo: Immigrant Make America Great — Photo by Nitisha Meena, Unsplash
Immigrant Make America Great — Original photo by Nitisha Meena, Unsplash

When you highlight the fact that crime is lower among the immigrant population—including undocumented immigrants—in the United States than in the general population, someone eventually pipes up to ask, “Then why are there so many immigrants in federal prison?”

This question hopes to serve as a “gotcha” moment. It’s calculated to provoke the fear that, if so many immigrants are in federal prison, they must be more likely to be violent criminals, mass murders and drug traffickers, etcetera. Arguably, it’s an attempt to make infamous Trump’s “murderers and rapists” slur more palatable by gussying it up as a statistic.


We’ll never know if Joan of Arc was a transgender man but she was ultimately executed (via Catholic doctrine) for refusing to adhere to the gender binary. — 1903 engraving by Albert Lynch, Figaro Illustre, Public Domain

One of the most frustrating things about interacting with transphobic people is how frankly sanctimonious they can be about their behavior. However unexamined their beliefs may be, they often express those beliefs in the tone of someone who is taking the high road, who exudes a sort of justified moral superiority, who simply defends legitimate social and moral norms—even as they are being confronted for denigrating transgender people. It’s a neatly working self-defense mechanism because it enables such people to feel self righteous about the misinformation or even the venom they’re deploying, even as their beliefs remain unexamined.

I have…

Robert A Stribley

Writer. Photographer. Interests: immigration, privacy, security, human rights, design. UX: Publicis Sapient. Teach: SVA. Student: NYU’s Global Affairs program.

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