Friday roundup: A week in tech

New Social Media

Life on modern, tech-bejewelled planet Earth – a slice:

Something happens. A bad thing; on this occasion, some human beings are horribly trapped underground, and await rescue before time runs out and they are killed.

Media arrives, bedding amidst the authorities and the rescue teams. Like bacteria around a wound, they illegally fly drones over the scene of the unfolding tragedy and tune into the emergency services’ communications channels hoping for prime cuts of horror to thatch into their salacious, sensationalist drivel – because if these people are going to die, somebody may as well make a few quid out of it, right?

Enter stage left: one of the world’s richest and most enigmatic tech luminaries – with a tiny little submarine. Then Elon Musk, for it is he, actually turns up at the scene in person, for some reason.

The internet froths in a sea of reaction: Musk is a disgrace; Musk is a hero. Elsewhere, millions share dire memes, like they do when anything happens anywhere because that is what we do now. Opinion flows like thick effluence from an ocean-bound sewage outlet pipe.

Journalists build whole stories around tweets which are about people saying things about things that other people have said about the catastrophe. Reaction. Counter-reaction. Tweet, tweet, tweet. As is the modern way. (In fact, the once reasonably respectable Independent, now reduced to a web-only husk, has a top 100 stories site that is almost entirely fuelled by tweets, the more pointless, witless and unmoored the better.)

But it’s all over! Everyone’s been saved. The digital nexuses emit a collective sigh of relief and joy. The reporters go home. Musk retreats to his lair. Hurrah for us, and all the concern and love we so thoughtfully publically exhibited!

And now it’s a new day on Earth: the divide between rich and poor continues to swell; public services crumble a little more; the bodies of the war-mangled pile up in the globe’s long-running strife spots; poverty, preventable illness, despair and prejudice power onwards and upwards.

But who cares? With keyboards, electric telephones, mini-subs, reactions and memes at the ready, we eagerly await the next super-focused micro disaster to help pass the many frivolous hours between this life and the next.

***

Facebook is to be vaguely punished for its part in the Cambridge Analytica (CA) democracy-walloping fiasco.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has promised to hit the unspeakably rich firm with a £500,000 fine, after it failed to ensure that CA had deleted users’ data.

Though it’s not a great deal of money as far as Facebook is concerned, the ICO is confident that the penalty will damage the social media network’s reputation, which, it hopes, will prove far more costly.

And maybe there’s something in that. Facebook pumped out a good news ‘we’re lovely, so love us’ TV advert during England’s World Cup semi-final with Croatia on Wednesday evening, which must have been quite expensive considering the occasion. ‘Facebook has changed,’ according to the chime of the slightly nauseating advert’s timbre.

Anyway, the BBC has a very good and detailed report all about it here which I highly recommend.

***

And now news of the other great unravelling, possibly democracy-threatening and constantly controversial shambles of a social media network, Twitter.

Apparently, the firm has deleted a very impressive 70 million accounts since May, in a gigantic purge of the fake and suspicious.

Interestingly, the enormous account massacre was revealed by the Washington Post but hasn’t exactly been officially confirmed by Twitter. No doubt this is because though executing lots of bots and trolls is on one hand very good news, it’s very bad news if it rather illustrates to advertisers and investors that a great deal of your audience are either psychotic bigots or non-existent.

And, indeed, it looks like I’m right about something for once. Twitter’s shares have fallen 8.5% in the wake of the Post’s story, in anticipation of advertisers being turned off by the firm’s plummeting user count. (Here’s the evidence, at the bottom of the story, written by proper journalists, so you can have some faith in it.)

Friday roundup: A week in tech

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