Crowdfunding local news; electoral data destruction in Georgia; and more.
The wisdom of crowds: Vox Media health reporter Sarah Cliff is trying to crowdsource information about hospital emergency room bills, and the American Hospital Association is warning its members to watch out.
Speaking of journalism and crowds, here’s a good news story by Justin Ray in the Columbia Journalism Review of a local paper in Michigan that was about to go out of business until its readers heard the news and decided to crowdfunding the money to keep it afloat.
London’s mayor is embracing crowdfunding for public projects, and author Anna Minton warns in the Guardian that this is a very dangerous idea.
“The application of big tech money to the problems of local journalism is cautiously welcomed by struggling newsrooms, and ultimately necessary,” writes Emily Bell, the director of Columbia University’s Tow Center, rolling out a new report on how local news audiences view the rise of Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. “It is hard to imagine how the yawning gaps in basic coverage might be addressed unless through the transfer of wealth from platforms that have enriched themselves with local advertising while returning little to no local information producers. However, the application of big tech methodologies and tools raises a new set of questions about how these initiatives might create long term sustainability for local news.”
Tech and politics: Staffers from Facebook, Twitter and Google went far beyond promoting their company’s services while embedded inside the Trump campaign, a new academic research paper by Daniel Kreiss and Shannon McGregor concludes. Their efforts extended to “actively shaping campaign communications through their close collaboration with political staffers,” Nancy Scola reports for Politico.
Twitter has announced that it will no longer accept advertising from RT or Sputnik, two Russian propaganda organizations, and that it is donating the $1.9 million it has earned worldwide from RT since 2011 to “support external research into the use of Twitter in civic engagement and elections, including use of malicious automation and misinformation, with an initial focus on elections and automation.”
Georgia’s secretary of state has launched an investigation after learning that data was destroyed by the Center for Elections Systems at Kennesaw State University, which runs the state’s election system, after a legal complaint was filed by election transparency advocates, Greg Bluestein reports for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Men down: Writing for SplinterNews, Clio Chang breaks down the reasons why the sexist and misogynist behavior of The New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier went on for decades without reproach: the magazine was a veritable “boy’s club.” Oh, and if you are wondering why the tempest in this particular teapot is so important, recall that in the 1980s and 1990s The New Republic was considered the “in-flight magazine of Air Force One”—the whole neoliberal project was centered there.
Life in Facebookistan: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have committed $45 million from their Chan Zuckerberg Initiative LLC to groups focused on ending mass incarceration and fixing the affordable housing crisis, Alex Thompson and Noah Kulwin report for Vice News. As they point out, the specifics on who is getting how much and for what remain murky, and since CZI is an LLC it could be also funding groups or advocacy campaigns without the public knowing. But remember, Zuck is a big believer in transparency for other people (and now even is promising to disclose more about who pays for political advertising on Facebook itself).
Weekend food for thought: Sometime in the next forty years, you’re going to lose your job to a robot, and possibly much sooner, Kevin Drum writes in a cover story for Mother Jones. So it’s time to take the AI revolution seriously, he argues, and get working on policy answers now.