Journalism, normative

Civil

We build tools to help readers discover and support trusted journalists around the world on a decentralized platform.

One of these tools is a blockchain instrument to publish, preserve and… judge(?) journalists.

Erasurebay comes from the other direction. They are a blockchain company who wants to move into information brokerage business. Their explanation is characteristically abstruse nerdview so I can’t imagine this going far until they hire someone with a communications degree to produce comprehensible prose for them.

Ethan Zuckerman, The Case for Digital Public Infrastructure

Harnessing past successes in public broadcasting to build community-oriented digital tool

Not a complete solution, but there are some interesting ideas in scroll which bundles ad-less subscriptions to online media for readers.

The latest case study in media analysis is the COVID-19 media response. This was especially bad in the US. Adam Elkus, The Fish rots from the head has a roundup.

It is an exaggeration to say that fringe weirdos on social media often were more well-informed than people that exclusively evaluated mainstream sources, but not that much of an exaggeration as most would think. And that is not accidental. As Ben Thompson noted, the global COVID-19 response depended on an enormous amount of information developed and shared often in defiance of traditional media (which underrated and even mocked concern about the crisis) and even the Center for Disease Control (which attempted to suppress the critical Seattle Flu Study). The response still depends primarily on transnational networks and often must operate around rather than through official channels.

Taken together, all of this is astounding in both its scope and simultaneity. And it makes a mockery out of the cottage industry developed over the last few years to preserve our collective epistemic health.

Analysts obsessed for years and years over the threat of Russian bots and trolls and Macedonian teenagers to democratic institutions and public life, arguing that misinformation and propaganda spread via social networks would perturb the very fabric of reality and destroy the trust and cohesion necessary for liberal democracy to survive. This concern was responsive to the surface elements of deeper psychological and cultural changes, but it often was hindered by its emphasis on top-down control of computational platforms that eluded control at subjectively appropriate cost. Nonetheless, reasonable people could disagree about the response to the problem but not the actual implicit diagnosis. The diagnosis being that the unraveling of legacy institutions and their capacity to enforce at least the fiction of consensus over underlying facts and values about democratic authority was dangerous and no effort should be spared to fight it.

But as we have seen, these institutions are perfectly capable of unraveling themselves without much help from Russian bots and trolls and Macedonian teenagers. And if the fish rots from the head, then the counter-disinformation effort becomes actively harmful. It seeks to gentrify information networks that could offer layers of redundancy in the face of failures from legacy institutions. It is reliant on blunt and context-indifferent collections of bureaucratic and mechanical tools to do so. It leaves us with a situation in which complicated computer programs on enormous systems and overworked and overburdened human moderators censor information if it runs afoul of generalized filters but malicious politicians and malfunctioning institutions can circulate misleading or outright false information unimpeded. And as large content platforms are being instrumentalized by these same political and institutional entities to combat "fraud and misinformation," this basic contradiction will continue to be heightened.