Let’s make sure our personal data works for us — not against us — after the pandemic 

Laura Spinney for the Guardian takes a look at how the pandemic might have “done us a favour in showing that our information can work harder for us without any erosion of democracy.”

She identifies state and social media as the two big repositories of our data and highlights that if the two can work effectively together to prevent or limit the impact of future crises, this would actually benefit citizens who normally — in stark to corporations and states as the usual beneficiaries of our data capture — have little to gain from departing with their personal data. 

As an example – Spinney highlights Taiwan’s handling of public information during Covid which was relatively successful because it was guided by a legal framework, based on a public debate on privacy, drawn up after the Sars outbreak. As a result, public trust in Taiwan’s official Covid response was ‘extremely high,’ even though trust in the government was low before the pandemic. 

Co-regulation is another example of how democratic institutions could potentially set standards that the tech giants agree to implement. Such co-regulation would be monitored by a “digital agency” staffed by lawyers, social scientists, ethicists and data scientists working in the interests of the citizen. 

It’s a good read on some hypothetical positives to come out of pandemic times. 

The next QAnon conspiracy could be created by robots

David Gilbert for Vice reports on research findings from the Centre for Security and Emerging technology (CSET) that show how advances in artificial intelligence could be used by bad actors to supercharge the spread of disinformation. 

Researchers at the centre asked GPT-3 – OpenAI's advanced language model that uses machine learning to produce human-like text – to create conspiracy theory posts in the style of QAnon leader Q.

Not only did researchers find the system could easily match the style of Q, it could create its own narratives that fit in with conspiracy theories.

Scale is the main danger here. Or as one of the researchers explains: “GPT-3’s scale enables the dispersal of many narratives, perhaps increasing the odds that one of them will go viral."

Incoming Washington Post editor Sally Buzbee eyes international expansion, reaching younger readers

Sally Buzbee, formerly of Associated Press (AP), takes over from Marty Baron on June 1 2021 following his retirement from his role as executive editor of the Washington Post. She will become the first woman to hold the company’s top editorial position. 

As Digiday highlights, Buzbee brings with her extensive experience working for AP which produces content “for over 15,000 news outlets, from around 250 locations in nearly 100 countries, including places like North Korea.”

Given The Post’s own international expansion – the company’s international footprint will soon grow from 22 to 26 locations with news hubs in cities like Seoul, Sydney and Bogatá – Buzbee’s experience is very likely to have made her an attractive candidate for the new Post role. 

Digiday reports that, “In an emailed statement, Buzbee said expanding The Post’s global footprint “will certainly be a focus for me and how we can captivate a wider global readership.” 

Billboards? Nah, just buy a media company instead

Natasha Mascarehas for Tech Crunch writes about how startups historically reached consumers versus how they do now. She attributes a rise, a few years ago, in startups advertising out of home on billboards to overcrowded digital spaces like Facebook and Instagram. She attributes the fall in outdoor advertising nowadays to the same crowded social advertising spaces, but credits the production of owned content (or as startups like to call it, ‘acquiring media companies’) as the trendy solution. 

Mascarehas recaps current moves to find new ways to reach consumers with content marketing: “Axios discovered that Coinbase is launching a media operation about cryptocurrency; Clubhouse wants to hire freelance writers, while its biggest lead investor to-date, Andreessen Horowitz, has ambitions to open up an opinion desk; The Skimm [is] exploring a potential sale and Hubspot [is] acquiring the Hustle.

Why Netflix keeps cancelling your favorite shows | WIRED Explains

As part of its Wired Explains series, Wired looks into why Netflix so brutally axes its originals, despite many of them having loyal, dedicated fan-bases.

The video sets the scene by recapping the life of the US office on NBC – from faltering to an out-and-out success that ultimately ran for nine seasons; had it been axed after its first season, it never would have seen such enduring success. But in the world of streaming, shows are rarely so lucky, dictated as they are by audience data. The video delves into Netflix’s metrics for deciding what makes a show successful and the labels it attributes to the different types of viewers. It’s a fascinating look at how our viewing behaviour dictates Netflix’s growth.