• Law, Policy -- and IT?

    Tracy Mitrano explores the intersection where higher education, the Internet and the world meet (and sometimes collide).


Five Post-Election Lessons

A call to action for higher education.

November 20, 2016

1. Politics is dirty business. With Bannon as the president-elect’s chief strategist, it is bound to get dirtier yet.  Legal scholars, historians and political scientists, get in the game. We need your perspective to help us understand how to deal with its particular brand of dirtiness in a manner that preserves Constitutional values and at least a modicum of integrity of both politicians and the political process.

2.  Fake news is a serious threat to our democracy and a challenge to the culture of the internet. Obama knows it, Zuckerberg better learn it quick.  Investigative journalists should be pounding the virtual pavement to find out who initiated the fake news reports that circulated on social media and that adversely animated our election.  Computer scientists should not rely on internet companies to do research.  Legal scholars and social scientists should be working this human-computer interaction aspect with studious passion. There is a lot we need to know to address this malignant phenomenon.

3. Cybersecurity education just became even more important. If the call to step up our game in the U.S. to encourage education from middle school through post-doctoral work in cyber was sounding before the election, it is howling now.  The most adverse “out of band” external threat that Clinton faced was the WikiLeaks release of the DNC emails. Not because there was anything illegal or outrageous in them; pols don’t talk in kaons. But the exposure of one party’s frank talk without the other demonstrated an unequivocally intention to tilt the election. That plan proved effective. It would not surprise this blogger if investigations into the propagation of fake news leads to sources aligned with the cyberattacks that hacked the DNC. Now with the victor in office, and the nomination of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn for National Security Advisory, it is not clear that we can rely on the U.S. government to have the political motivation to get to the bottom on these acts.  Edward Snowden’s revelations surprised us not only with what the NSA was doing but the sophistication of its methods. That agency came a long way since 9/11. In a democratic republic, should the citizenry abdicate such tremendous power almost solely to the government (with secret courts to legitimate its efforts)?

4. Librarians and teachers and everyone involved in the activities of information literacy, unite!  Much of what I teach is a comparison and contrast of what is new and not in a world influenced by the internet. Is critical inquiry important to education from pre-school right on up to what makes a Nobel Laureate? Of course, its skills are essential to every walk of life. But in the twenty-first century, critical inquiry skills divorced from the internet is not enough to equip the citizenry with what it needs to navigate contemporary politics. Critical inquiry pursuits must integrate a deep understanding of the internet in all of its aspects (technology, law, market and social norms) to be appropriately relevant to e-commerce, culture and government.

5. Think of education as a Second Amendment advocate would a gun.  Be possessive, be protective, be aggressive about it. Imagine that someone is  trying to take it away from you and your children. That you won’t be able to protect yourself in this world without it. And that you have a divine right to have it.


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