18-17 Segment 1: Our Right to Privacy in the Social Media Age

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With the increased use of advanced technology and constant access to social media, many people have started to question their right to privacy, and what that even means, when all their personal information has become public. Jennifer E. Rothman, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, explains that in recent years, people have become more willing to put their information on social media accounts that are accessible to the public. However, this does not mean that people do not want to have control over the information. Rothman states that many social media sites take the information and pictures posted by the users and sell it. While this seems like it would be illegal, users often consent to this when they agree to the terms and conditions. There are many laws out there working to protect social media users from having their information used by the sites, but many people do not know how these laws works.

In today’s digital age, Rothman believes that we should be most worried about the right of publicity which grants a person control over the commercial use of their identity. She explains three aspects in particular that can most affect us. The first is transferability which articulates that by making something into a piece of intellectual property, the rights can be taken away from the individual. Another important aspect to note is the impact on free speech which can hinder the ability to produce or limit stories and information about real people. Finally, she expresses the conflict with copyright laws. It is important to understand the ways in which these laws work in order to be better prepared to navigate social media and understand how these sites use the information provided to them.

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18-17 Segment 2: Religion in America’s Prisons

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When the first prisons were created years ago, they were found on religious beliefs, and many prisons today still embody religion as central to their operations. While inmates are not required to practice a religion, many of them have benefitted over time from religious programs that are provided in prison. Why were prisons found on religious beliefs? And, what is religion’s role in the prison system today?

Tanya Erzen, author of God In Captivity: The Rise of Faith-Based Prison Ministries in the Age of Mass Incarceration, explains that the first prisons in our country were created by religious reformers who thought that prisons would exhibit more tolerance than the current methods of sanctioning criminals. They hoped that through prayer and reflection criminals could be rehabilitated and would no longer commit crimes. Today, almost all prisons in the United States, state and federal, offer religious programs to their inmates. Erzen explains that in the event that a prison is unable to fund religious programs, they will provide other programs, such as drug addiction and education courses, that are likely to be taught by religious individuals. While the different programs provided do vary, inmates believe these groups have been particularly helpful for them because it allows them to receive an education and gives a sense of meaning to people with longer prison sentences. Prison can be dehumanizing, but providing inmates with religious programs that give them hope can make the daunting aspects of prison a little more bearable.

While these programs are helpful for many inmates, some do not believe that these programs are fair, particularly inmates who are not Christian. While these programs call themselves “faith-based,” most are based off of Christianity. Erzen talks about a prisoner who was Muslim that felt that these groups were his only option to receive an education, so he attended the groups despite having different religious views. Furthermore, these religious programs also endorse favoritism in prisons. Erzen explains another instance in which prisoners who attended church on Sunday were more likely to receive things they needed because the warden was religious. He would attend these services and the inmates could hand him slips of paper with a request, and they knew that by the end of the day this request was being processed. While these flaws within religious programs should be addressed, they do not deter from the overwhelming amount of good that they can create.

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  • Tanya Erzen, author of God in Captivity: The Rise of Faith-Based Prison Ministries in the Age of Mass Incarceration

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Culture Crash 18-17: Netflix’s Battle Against Film Traditionalists

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Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture.  What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

In recent years, Netflix has become a major player in the film  industry. They have used festivals as the launching pad for their buzzier titles like the animal-rights movie Okja and Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerwitz Stories. Last year, Netflix also made a big splash by acquiring one of Sundance’s biggest hits, Mudbound, which was eventually nominated for four Oscars.

But now comes the pushback: This year, the Cannes film festival announced Netflix films wouldn’t be considered for the fest’s top prize. Director Steven Spielberg said he considers Netflix movies to be made-for-TV and nothing more.

And now, the battle is on. Shortly after the Cannes announcement, Netflix announced they wouldn’t bother to bring any movies to the festival if they aren’t in contention for the highest honors. Since that announcement, film lovers have been thrown in the middle of the Video-On-Demand vs. Theater debate.

Does a movie lose merit if it doesn’t run in theaters around the country? Is a Netflix-release good for consumers, since they can watch, say, Will Smith’s latest film, Bright, in the comfort of their own homes? Or is it bad, since it loses some of that essential community feeling that comes with seeing a smash hit movie like last year’s Get Out or this year’s A Quiet Place with a packed audience?

Right now, it seems opinion is split. Of course, seeing a movie in a theater can be a transformative experience. The screen is huge, the sound is turned all the way up, and that means more immersion in the spectacle. But as theaters have gotten more and more expensive, you can also understand why many people prefer catching the latest releases on their couch. Plus, Netflix’s model has opened the doors for filmmakers who wouldn’t have a place at the big-budget-mega-studios.

Ultimately, the battle has only really just begun. It’s Netflix vs. film traditionalists and as for which side will win out in the end? Well, only time will tell.

I’m Evan Rook.