Kinzen's Weekly Wrap - April 2, 2021

I’m delighted this week to welcome Colm O’Donnell to the Kinzen team. He’s joining us as Senior Product Analyst and will be ensuring expert oversight of the data informing new and improved content moderation systems. He'll be collaborating with our product team and editorial experts to define and manage Kinzen’s end-to-end data capture and management strategy. We’ve so much more to talk about with this in coming weeks and months, but for today I just wanted to introduce Colm:


Can you describe what your role with Kinzen is all about?

Thanks Shane. I’m delighted to join Kinzen and help the team move towards better solutions for the “wicked” problem of disinformation. My role is influenced by the understanding that fully automated solutions to these problems don’t work, and so I’m bridging the gap between the researchers and journalists and the engineers and developers. Kinzen likes to call it the Human-In-The-Loop and I think that’s a great phrase that encompasses where previous solutions have failed. I’m going to bring my experience working with social media and digital data as a journalist and an intelligence analyst to enhance the technical solutions that we’re working on at Kinzen, while working with the editorial team to make sure that we’re thinking about those product solutions in ways that make sense to Kinzen’s ethos and mission.

What in your experience is the biggest challenge when trying to come up with solutions for disinformation?

I think that, fundamentally, we need a whole-of-society approach to raise the impact of quality information, starting with education, media literacy, and a wide range of other solutions. Clearly, however, we need to find patterns in disinformation data. This allows us to understand the tactics of engagement used by those attempting organized campaigns of malicious information that cause real harm to society. The difficulty is in the malleable and ever-shifting nature of disinformation, but it’s a challenge that I’m excited to work on here.

Finally, what’s the last good book you read?

I’m going to cheat and mention two great books. First, Custodians of the Internet by Tarleton Gillespie, a book you recently mentioned in this Weekly Wrap. It’s a great background read on the evolution of digital communities and discussion spaces, and the simultaneous growth of moderation of these spaces. The second is We Are Bellingcat by Elliot Higgins, which details some of the groundbreaking digital forensic investigations done by the Bellingcat agency over the past decade.


Recommended Articles: From the Kinzen Slack channels this week

WIRED. How To Stop Misinformation Before It Gets Shared

Renee DiResta and Tobias Rose-Stockwell argue here for the importance of friction in stifling misinformation. Lies are fast; truth is slow. "Because information is now able to leap between human minds, friction-free, we may need to rethink some of the core “truths” of the modern social web. Chief among these is the paradigm that breaking information must be posted and spread instantaneously." Slowing things down might be one of the best things we can do: “One way in which we might do this is having a system in which rapidly or broadly spreading content is temporarily throttled by platforms to allow fact-checkers time to assess it. This need not apply to all viral content; it could be tailored topics that are most likely to cause harm: politics, health, or breaking news.”

Joan Donovan et al. Mitigating Medical Misinformation: A Whole-Of-Society Approach to Countering Spam, Scams, and Hoaxes

The latest report from the Media Manipulation Casebook led by Joan Donovan offers yet more insights into ways we can suppress the spread of health misinformation. Check out the recommendations from the group. 

Scientific American. The Antiscience Movement Is Escalating, Going Global and Killing Thousands

Whether it’s about COVID now, or climate change in the months to come, this piece highlights the worrying trend in “antiscience”. The author provides some historical insights to the more recent growth of anti-vaccine communities, arguing, "We must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat" this increase in antiscience.