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Big Revolution - Going deeper underground

Welcome to Tuesday's Big Revolution. It was a public holiday in the USA yesterday, so tech news from
September 4 · Issue #191 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Tuesday’s Big Revolution. It was a public holiday in the USA yesterday, so tech news from over there is thin on the ground. Still, there’s lots to discuss about the ills of online culture. That’s the thing about this newsletter – it can be very different from day to day.

Big things you need to know today
  • Samsung plans to up the specs of its mid-tier smartphones to better reflect the demands of consumers. These cheaper handsets will get some new features first. The move comes as high-end devices are priced ever higher. Expect to see the first of these new devices soon.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey reportedly personally intervened to keep InfoWars’ Alex Jones and white supremacist Richard Spencer on the service, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (non-paywalled writeup by Gizmodo here). No wonder some conclude that Dorsey himself is a ‘nazi sympathiser.’ “As large swathes of the Twitter userbase were asking Dorsey to de-platform Nazis, Dorsey allegedly felt the need to re-platform one.”
  • Amazon is ramping up its efforts in the online advertising market as it looks to steal business from Google and Facebook. The New York Times takes a look.
The big thought
Credit: Jamie Street on Unsplash
Going deeper underground
The New York Times reports on how cleanups on services like Facebook and YouTube are pushing hateful figures like InfoWars’ Alex Jones away from the public eye. People shunned from the mainstream are congregating in private Facebook Groups, WhatsApp groups, and other not-quite-so visible communities.
From the NYT:
“They’ve essentially empowered very large groups that can operate secretly without much governance and oversight,” said Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor at Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. “There may be harms and abuses that are taking place, and they can’t see.”
This should be a concern. We only need to look to India to see how the under-the-radar nature of WhatsApp can allow damaging false information to travel in an uncontrolled way. Facebook can delete an inappropriate post, but if a message is manually forwarded around between individuals and groups on a messaging platform, it’s much harder to stop.
Facebook thinks it can stop the problems occurring inside private groups:
“A Facebook spokeswoman said the company used automated tools, including machine learning algorithms, to detect potentially harmful content inside private groups and flag it for human reviewers, who make the final decisions about whether or not to take it down. The company is developing additional ways, she said, to determine if an entire group violates the company’s policies and should be taken down, rather than just its individual posts or members.”
In response to the problem of viral misinformation in India, WhatsApp has introduced some limits on how people in the country can use the forwarding feature. But technical solutions aren’t everything, and WhatsApp has had to run newspaper ads to help educate users. Children are even being taught about the problem in school.
Murders have been linked to misinformation being spread via WhatsAp in India. Given how we’ve seen more easily trackable lies on social aiding genocide in Myanmar, and leading to incidents like the Pizzagate ‘self-investigation,’ it’s clear that removing hateful content from the surface isn’t going to scrub it from the internet entirely.
As this stuff goes further underground, it becomes less of a moderation and community management problem, and more a reflection of deeper ills in society. There may not be much that technology companies can do about that.
One big read
Unpaid and abused: Moderators speak out against Reddit
There has been recent coverage of what life is like for Facebook’s paid moderators, but what about the volunteers who moderate Reddit? It turns out they get a raw deal from giving their time for free.
One big tweet
The New Yorker announced Steve Bannon would headline its upcoming festival. And then the internet kicked back and they disinvited him.
Charlie Warzel
The Bannon-New Yorker thing to me only further illustrates to me that the media *still* doesn’t really know what to do with trolls/MAGA universe. Still struggling with the important distinction btwn newsworthy coverage and just like turning folks into thought leaders
12:59 AM - 4 Sep 2018
That’s all for today...
See you tomorrow. I promise a cheerier edition then! Don’t forget to share this newsletter with a friend if you like it.
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