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Archive by tag: Simon ParkinReturn
Sep 22, 2022

A stark warning about the extent to which Facebook et al distort our perception of reality

I joined Twitter in the apparently halcyon days of 2009, before Brexit, Sandy Hook denial, Covid-19 conspiracy-mongering, and the livestreaming of police brutality. At that time, it felt like a school playground: you larked about with like-minded individuals, made charming acquaintances and laughed at the antics of the resident show-offs. Maybe, for someone, somewhere, that version of social media still exists. But probably not. Anyone who has ignored the advice of the smugly offline to “never tweet” is aware that a successful afternoon on social media these days is one in which you somehow manage to evade harassment, racism, misogyny, videos of atrocities, or a distant family member’s radicalised rant about, say, the wokification of Waitrose.

Wading through digital sewage is the upfront cost of using these sites. Less obviously, we pay with our attention and creativity, freely providing the content that expands the fortunes of their founders. And yet social media remains an alluring prospect, especially for the lonely, the disfranchised, the frustrated and those who feel alienated from society. It offers a semblance of community, somewhere to belong, the impression of followers who appear to care about you, and, most compellingly,; a place where your views can be validated and reinforced.

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Jul 13, 2022

A fascinating study of the tech giant and its symbiotic relationship with the Chinese government

Five years ago, the Chinese tech company Tencent overtook Facebook to become the fifth largest company in the world. Though it’s still an unfamiliar name to many in the west, Tencent is a major stakeholder in tech companies and products including Spotify, Tesla, Snapchat, Monzo and Reddit, as well as the makers of video games such as Fortnite, League of Legends, Clash of Clans, and Call of Duty. The company’s interests reach, tendril-like, into the worlds of finance, cloud computing, media, messaging, video streaming and film production. And, in China, the business runs the Swiss Army knife super app WeChat – part social media platform, part digital wallet – currently used by 1.3 billion people.

That Tencent has achieved international capitalist supremacy from a communist base is astonishing, although readers of Lulu Chen’s book may be unsurprised to learn that, according to her, it has done so by maintaining close ties to the Chinese government, which values the access to the torrents of information Tencent collects daily. With few data protection laws in place, apps owned by Tencent have reportedly been used by the government to monitor, even imprison users. With Influence Empire, Chen, a reporter for Bloomberg, seeks to tell the story of arguably China’s greatest entrepreneurial success, expose the threads that link Xi Jinping’s regime to your Snapchat account, and familiarise us with the company’s reclusive, 50-year-old founder Ma Huateng, who goes by the incongruous English moniker “Pony”.

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