Must read article on the state of the internet for information access. It shows how important Project SAFE is in the context of an internet that is vulnerable to many powerful centralised forces.
Silicon Valley and Journalism: Make up or Break up? by Emily Bell (This is the text of her Reuters Memorial Lecture 2014 for the Reuters Institute in Oxford on 21st November 2014.)
Emily speaks from the perspective of journalism, but points out the “editorial” control of Facebook, twitter and so on and the difficulties with corporations exercising massive editorial control across the globe.
“…the world’s most powerful news executive is Greg Marra, the product manager for the Facebook News Feed. He is 26.”
The speaker also points out that Facebook has conducted experiments which show that it can influence voter turnout at elections, giving it the power to encourage or discourage how many voters of a particular persuasion turn out, and so for Facebook to influence the outcome of elections. I doubt this could be proven because the algorithms are of course secret commercially sensitive information. In any case, I doubt it it would be deemed illegal - after all, its pretty much what newspaper proprietors have been doing forever. And is sure just what politicians are supposed to do.
She is advocating that news organisations and publishers need to stop relying on other people’s platforms (Facebook, twitter) and build their own:
The first is to build tools and services which put software in the
service of journalism rather than the other way round. We need a
platform for journalism built with the values and requirements of a free
press baked into it.
Enter the Project SAFE - a platform for journalistic tools
She could be an important ally / advocate:
Cover technology as a human rights and political issue as if it were
Parliament. Maybe even with more verve and clarity were that possible.
It is just as interesting and about ten thousand times more important.
The beats of data, privacy and algorithmic accountability currently
either don’t exist or are inadequately staffed. We have to stop coverage
of technology being about queueing for an iPhone and make it about
society and power. We need to explain these new systems of power to the
world and hold them accountable. It is after all what we do best.
All yours @nicklambert!