Kinzen's Weekly Wrap - February 19, 2021

One of the biggest stories of the week has been the Australian “link tax” kerfuffle with Google and, particularly, Facebook. 

I’m not going to get into who’s right or who’s wrong here. There’s been plenty of that debate already. But I did want to touch on how it shows the important role of publishers and fact checkers.

In case you’re not familiar with the story, Facebook has responded to the Australian government by removing the ability for news publishers there to post their content on the platform. Users are not able to post links to Australian news sites either. 

The BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh showed that, since the controversial move, stories promoting anti-vaccine conspiracies have been at the top of the engagement charts. His comparison (check it out here) offers a useful reminder that the work of quality publishers and fact checkers is critical in combating harmful disinformation. 

Sometimes we are at risk of forgetting the truly public service that journalism offers to society. Often detractors suggest that fact checking won’t stop disinformation. True. But maybe an example like this can remind us that, without them, we’d be in a far worse place. 

Recommended Articles: From the Kinzen Slack channels

No book section this week, but plenty of good reads:

The New Yorker. Who Should Stop Unethical AI?

A common theme throughout this weekly missive has been unintended consequences from startling developments in technology. So often, many of those outcomes could have been avoided if engineers were working with and listening to sociologists, historians, artists, legal scholars, and others. This serves as another useful insight to this area. 

Forbes. The Curious Case Of Brad Pitt On Clubhouse

Spoiler alert: Brad Pitt wasn’t chatting with fans on Clubhouse. It was an imposter. These are the kinds of challenges facing platforms with little moderation. Incidents like this could significantly impact their “trust metrics”, and cause long term damage to the brand.

The Washington Post. On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith

Elizabeth Dwoskin dives into the world of “extreme faith” and comes back with some alarming examples. This will ring true for anyone who has been monitoring the development of COVID narratives from the beginning. 

BBC. Covid analysis: Anti-vaccination accounts surge online during pandemic

Earlier in the week the BBC’s Marianna Spring had a must-watch special on Panorama about disinformation associated with the COVID vaccines. The BBC’s Monitoring team had an accompanying piece diving into the detail around the growth of anti-vaccine groups on social media.