The YouTubers Who Changed the Landscape for #NaturalHair

“Oh, you are gonna want to do jojoba and sweet almond oil instead of castor,” Whitney White, one of YouTube’s most famous black beauty vloggers, told me over the phone last month. The changing of the seasons was making my hair flake a bit and the castor oil I’d been massaging into my scalp was weighing my hair down. “Add in some aloe,” she says. It was a revelation.

Collier Meyerson is an Ideas contributor at WIRED. She was awarded an Emmy for her work on MSNBC’s All In With Chris Hayes and two awards for her reporting from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a contributing editor at New York magazine and maintains the Nobler Fellowship at the Nation Institute.

As a young child, the bath was my least favorite time of day because I knew what was coming next: getting my hair combed out. My mother would plop me in front of Jeopardy!, lather a popular pink lotion in my hair, and start in on detangling my tight curls with a wide-toothed comb. When I’d sit down in front of her, she’d say, “I’m ready to fight,” addressing my hair. My mother, who is black, wears her hair naturally and cropped close to her head, but it has a different texture than mine. Each time she combed out my hair, she tried to be gentle at first, but by the end of the show I’d always end up in tears and she’d be calling me tender-headed. [...]  read more

How Ava DuVernay Made Sure the Central Park Five Were Finally ‘Seen’

The Netflix miniseries When They See Us from Ava DuVernay is excruciating to watch—an unflinching look at the human wreckage left behind after New York City’s police, prosecutors, courts, and news media insisted that five young Harlem residents pay the price for a crime they didn’t commit: the rape and near-murder of a jogger in Central Park in the spring of 1989.

I was tempted to turn off the TV about 15 minutes in—and might have if my wife, an immigrant committed to under­standing our country for what it is, hadn’t insisted on continuing. Many of my friends stopped early on or never started to begin with.

Noam Cohen

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Noam Cohen is a journalist and author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball, which uses the history of computer science and Stanford University to understand the libertarian ideas promoted by tech leaders. While working for The New York Times, Cohen wrote some of the earliest articles about Wikipedia, bitcoin, Wikileaks, and Twitter. He lives with his family in Brooklyn.

That title, When They See Us, was a conscious decision by DuVernay not to use the familiar shorthand for the case, “the Central Park Five.” That was the name of a 2012 documentary that described [...]  read more

Are Facebook Ads Discriminatory? It’s Complicated

The Facebook media cycle took a head-whipping quadruple turn over the past few weeks. First, in a surprise move by the Trump administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development sued the company for violations of the Fair Housing Act, alleging it engaged in discriminatory advertising practices for housing ads.

Within days, researchers at Northeastern University published a preview of a paper describing an interesting set of advertising experiments showing that, indeed, Facebook was differentially showing ads for housing and jobs by gender and race. Lastly, in April the Algorithmic Accountability Act—AAA, naturally—was introduced in both the House and Senate, requiring large tech companies to test for evidence of discriminatory bias in the artificial intelligence that runs platforms like Facebook and Google.

This drama comes on the heels a bevy of other lawsuits alleging [...]  read more

It’s OK That Amazon Will (Likely) Get the .amazon Domain

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. —Winston Churchill I was on the board of the International Corporation for Names and Numbers (ICANN) from 2004 to 2007. This was a thankless task that I viewed as something like being on jury duty in exchange for being permitted to use the internet, upon which much of my life was built. Maybe people hate ICANN because it seems so bureaucratic, slow, and political, but I will always defend it as the best possible solution to something that is really hard—resolving the problem of allocating names and numbers for the internet when every country and every sector in the world has reasons for believing that they deserve a particular range of IP addresses or the rights to a domain name.

I view the early architecture of the internet as the most successful experiment in decentralized governance. The internet service providers and the people who ran the servers didn’t need to know how the whole thing ran, they just needed to make sure that their corner of the internet was working properly and that people’s email and packets magically found their way around the internet to the right places. Almost everything was decentralized except one piece—the determination of the unique names and numbers that identified every single unique thing connected to the internet. So it makes sense that this is the thing that was the hardest thing to do for the open and decentralized idealists there.

After Reuters picked up the news on May 20 that ICANN handed over the top level domain (TLD) .amazon [...]  read more

Transhumanism Is Tempting—Until You Remember Inspector Gadget

Imagine a man with a Swiss Army knife for a body. His arms and legs can extend in any direction, bend into any shape, and move at extraordinary speeds. His spine can elongate into a helicopter, his hands can turn into an almost unlimited number of tools, and his feet can turn into ice skates, roller blades, and more.

This is some transhumanists’ dream, a future where we can completely trick out our bodies and transcend the limitations of human biology. It’s also a description of what the title character from the 1983 cartoon Inspector Gadget can do.

Rose Eveleth is an Ideas contributor at WIRED and the creator and host of Flash Forward, a podcast about possible (and not so possible) futures.

For those who aren’t familiar with the cartoon, the premise is simple: Inspector Gadget is, as his name implies, an inspector, or detective. He’s also a walking gadget, who can turn his body into nearly anything. And yet, with all that power, Gadget can’t solve a single mystery. Every episode Gadget is called upon by his boss Chief Quimby to help solve a crime, nearly all of which are perpetrated by the villain Dr. Claw. For some reason or another, Gadget is always accompanied by his 10-year-old niece, Penny, and her dog Brain. And despite being equipped with every tool he could possibly need, it’s [...]  read more

What the College Scandal Shallowfakes Reveal About the Rich

Photoshop played an outsize role in the odious college admissions scandal that broke earlier this year. Rick Singer, the concierge to the stars who pleaded guilty in March to money laundering and racketeering in a scheme to get rich children into luxury-brand colleges, used the software to graft the heads of teens onto the muscled bodies of elite athletes. With the Photoshopped water polo image in particular, the one that helped an undistinguished high schooler get recruited by USC, Singer seems to have created a mythological creature—a Ceto for the digital age. Call them the Collegiae: They’ve got the heads of princesses and the bodies of serpents. To mark the moment, a Twitter friend, Peter Mohan, ginned up an image of me as a Collegiae. At first it didn’t compute. But then there she was: my own partial profile awkwardly under a deadly serious [...]  read more

Chris Hughes Is Right: We Should Dismantle Facebook

The opening to Chris Hughes’ much-publicized New York Times essay yesterday—attacking the company that made him vastly wealthy—was almost Shakespearean in its drama. After describing his last personal meeting with the Zuckerbergs—in their house, sharing a hug in parting with Mark’s wife, Priscilla—he lays out in 6,000-word detail how the empire Mark Zuckerberg built should be systematically dismantled and regulated for the good of us all.

Such proposals have been made before, by Elizabeth Warren, myself, and many others, but Hughes’ standing is something else altogether. His history with Zuckerberg and Facebook goes back a decade and a half. As Hughes described in this morning’s The Daily podcast, he actually shared a dorm room with a young Zuckerberg in their sophomore year at Harvard, back when the titan-to-be seemed little different than any other undergrad, worrying about dates and tidying up his room.

Antonio García [...]  read more

Portland Is Again Blazing Trails for Open Internet Access

Net neutrality” still gets people mad. Millions have the vague sense that the high prices, frustration over sheer unavailability, awful customer service, and feeling of helplessness associated with internet access in America would be fixed if only net neutrality were the law of the land. As I’ve written here in the past, that’s not exactly true: Without classifying high-speed internet access as a utility and taking meaningful policy steps to ensure publicly overseen, open, reasonably priced, last-mile fiber is in place everywhere, we’ll be stuck with the service we’ve got. A rule guaranteeing net neutrality–which would cover only how network providers treat content going over their lines–won’t solve the larger, structural issues of noncompetitive, high-priced access.


p class=”paywall”>To keep moving toward better policy, though, we’ll need to keep internet access on the radar screen leading up to the 2020 election. At the moment, [...]  read more

The Rise and Fall of Facebook’s Memory Economy

Facebook’s Memories feature—where it shows you pictures and posts from a day in the recent or far-gone past—used to be my favorite thing about the platform. I mean, I have posted some hilarious things that my son said when he was little, and that time I went on a reporting trip to Area 51 was seriously cool. Heck, I’ve reposted it three years in a row.

Now, though, I think Memories is the platform’s most cynical element. It’s a cheap ploy to keep us creating new posts, keep us interested, at a time when our interest is starting to drift away.

Molly Wood (@mollywood) is an Ideas contributor at WIRED and the host and senior editor of Marketplace Tech, a daily national radio broadcast covering the business of technology. She has covered the tech industry at CNET, The New York Times, and in various print, television, digital and audio formats for nearly 20 years. (Ouch.)

And my regular reposting introduces a bit of a plot twist, here. The “Memories” feature might work in the short term to keep us coming back, to keep us reposting, to keep retraining its algorithm as to what memories we really value, but long term, it’s Facebook’s Ouruboros—the snake that eats its own tail.

If at some point, when we stop posting anything new, Facebook will inevitably hit Peak Memory, and the site’s News Feed will collapse upon itself, a heap [...]  read more

Like Guns, Social Media Is a Weapon That Should Be Regulated

The decision by the Sri Lankan government this week to shut down the big social networks—including Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, and Snapchat—in the aftermath of an Easter day terrorist attack on three Catholic churches and three upscale hotels feels like a turning point in our relationship with these platforms. A Gordian knot moment, if you will, where instead of agonizing over how to untangle the social media mess you just pull out a sword and cut.

The coordinated attacks, which took place in three Sri Lankan cities and killed more than 300 people, were designed to foment religious strife in a country that has been slowly recovering from a quarter-century-long civil war. On the 10-year path to peace and stability, there have been occasional flareups of religious violence, such as the anti-Muslim riots in March 2018 that left two people dead. In that case, too, the Sri Lankan government temporarily blocked the social networks to contain the violence’s spread.

One [...]  read more