Just two weeks into the new year, 2021 has already proven to be a catalyst year for the governance of big tech and regulation of online content hosted by online platforms.
The federal government announced on January 4th that it is working on new legislation
to get companies to better police hate speech, radicalization, child exploitation, and other illegal content posted on their platforms. That same day, a group of 225 employees at Google formed the Alphabet Workers Union
, the first workers’ union to emerge from a big tech company to date.
Before the new year, in December 2020, Facebook established new rules for targeted advertising
to prevent discrimination in job, housing, and credit services ads. For these kinds of ads, advertisers will no longer be able to target audiences based on age, gender, postal code, and other protected criteria.
One week later, social media company Twitter established new rules
to require the removal of tweets with false or misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, including those “used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations” or “invoke a deliberate conspiracy.”
Following 2020 trends, the new year kicked off with continued reliance on virtual education and online learning tools for K-12 educational institutions.
To slow down rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Québec have returned to online-only learning
following the winter break. The return has resurfaced challenges associated with at home learning for students and parents, including disparities in technology access and gendered impacts on the labour force.
Meanwhile, Bow Valley College in Calgary, Alberta is seeing the benefits
of its virtual reality nursing training program, which it began six months prior to the pandemic. The school is looking into adapting the program for desktop computers so that more nursing students can learn from home.
As pandemic-related closures and restrictions continue, computer-generated, virtual influencers are seeing increased followers and attention on social media; and have even begun landing advertising deals with big-name companies.
According to social media analytics firm Hype Auditor
, virtual influencers “have almost three times the engagement rate of real influencers.” - Mairead Matthews