We at HASTAC were honored recently to be featured in an article in Inside Higher Ed by technology journalist Lindsay McKenzie, “The Ethical Social Network” (April 2, 2018).
The article discusses HASTAC’s origins in 2002 as one of the world’s “oldest academic social networks” and its commitments to user privacy and transparency—particularly in contrast to Facebook and the flagrant misuse of users’ data. McKenzie writes:
“In the early 2000s, when HASTAC was founded, Davidson said, many academics were concerned about how ed-tech companies like Blackboard could use student data for the purposes of ‘surveillance, rather than collaboration.’ HASTAC set out to do things differently — applying humanistic principles to its decision making, and approaching ethical issues with academic rigor.”
This attention to the ethical and humanistic principles of the network is manifest to users through HASTAC’s policies and its functionality. For instance, there is a fine balance between privacy and openness; anyone is welcome to register for an account on the site—under a real name or an alias, if desired—but the account registration will also be monitored and approved by HASTAC staff to ensure that spammers and bots are not inadvertently authenticated as users. Once approved, members also have the opportunity to select the visibility of their posts—whether fully public, visible to a smaller group of users, or private only to the author.