Contributed by Masashi Crete-Nishihata. Masashi is the Associate Director of The Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto.
The Citizen Lab just published a report: Censored Contagion: How Information on the Coronavirus is Managed on Chinese Social Media, authored by Lotus Ruan, Jeffrey Knockel and Masashi Crete-Nishihata.
Among the key findings in this report, we show that YY, a popular live-stream platform based in China, began to censor keywords related to the coronavirus outbreak on December 31, 2019, only one day after doctors (including the late Dr. Li Wenliang) tried to warn the public about the then unknown virus.
Nosedive was the first episode of the third season of the British science fiction television anthology Black Mirror. In this episode, everyone has a mobile phone which, when pointed at another person, reveals his or her name and rating. Everyone has a rating, which ranges from 0 to 5. The following happens continually as you are walking down a street or along the corridor of a building. You give a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to each person you pass, based on your instantaneous impression of that person and the nature of the encounter, no matter how trivial or quick the encounter is. A ‘thumps up’ raises that person’s rating a tiny bit; a ‘thumbs down’ lowers it. The other person concurrently rates you. Ratings determine one’s status in life, and the ability to get perks such as housing and travel. Therefore, people are on a never-ending, stressful, and soul-destroying quest to raise their online ratings for real-life rewards. Heroine Lacie desires a better apartment; she has a meltdown as she deals with unsurmountable pressure in the context of her childhood best friend’s wedding.
There is still time to buy a substantive book for the thoughtful techie or concerned citizen in your life. Allow me to recommend two choices that were published in 2019. One good option is my wide-ranging textbook Computers and Society: Modern Perspectives, enough said …. But an unbiased choice is Shoshana Zuboff’s monumental The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The author signals her intentions with the book’s subtitle: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.
Zuboff, the Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita, Harvard Business School, defines and describes surveillance capitalism (p. 8):