‘The Necessity of Credibility,’ and 6 Other Stories You Should Read

Here’s what you missed while you were realizing Jurassic Park got it all wrong

Bloomberg: It’s Like Reddit, Without the Trolls

Selected by Jordan Teicher, senior editor

The true spirit of free speech really comes down to the protection to criticize. For example, journalists should be able to report on people in power without fear of abusive retribution. But in many cases, the First Amendment is used as justification for bad humans to say bad things. It’s the shield 150,000 Reddit users hold up in defense when posting on the “fatpeoplehate” subreddit. Really what I’m saying is free speech is necessary, but the dark corners of the internet shouldn’t get off on its existence.

This week, Joel Stein caught my jaded attention with his profile of Imzy, a Reddit-esque social network that thrives on kindness. The founders, spouses who used to work for Reddit, decided to build a place that would ban the degeneracy and abuse that’s too common online. To me, the premise is fascinating: a network that sees itself as “welcoming,” but doesn’t welcome everyone. I’m all for it. Imzy earned $11 million in seed funding and has drawn in 50,000 users since going live in October.

It’s sad that a platform emphasizing basic dignity is somehow a novel premise, but we’ve got to start somewhere, right?

NBC News: Fake News: How a Partying Macedonian Teen Earns Thousands Publishing Lies

Selected by Kristen Poli, content strategy associate

Behind every internet trend is a group of teens. And right behind them is a group of journalists reporting on their every move.

When BuzzFeed and The Guardian began investigating fake news domains this past August, they traced over 100 to the small town of Veles, Macedonia. In this piece, NBC News interviews one teenager who has built a fake-news empire, setting up more than 50 domains in six months and amassing over 40 million page views—which has translated to over $60,000 in ad revenue over the past six months.

The unemployment rate in Macedonia is over five times that of the United States. When content-agnostic distribution networks promise massive profits to those otherwise “left out” of the global economy, how can we ensure that digital media companies are taking responsibility for their transactions?

Slate: Actually, Paul Ryan, the President’s Words Do Matter

Selected by Craig Davis, editorial intern

I like to picture the filter in Donald Trump’s mind as a broken traffic light. Instead of sometimes flashing red or yellow, it’s stuck on green, allowing every thought that enters his head to go straight onto his Twitter feed.

His supporters justify this behavior with explanations along the lines of “they’re just words, don’t take them literally.” But as Dahlia Lithwick and Robert L. Tsai discuss in Slate, that defense doesn’t cut it when the words come from the president-elect.

It’s not the responsibility of the media nor the American people to discern which of Trump’s words are real and “which are just the stylings of a drunk at a bar.” The issue with a post-truth society is it creates a chasm in decoding his language. You have those who look at his statements as objectively troubling, and those who feel entitled by his victory to decide after the fact which words are real and which are bluster.

“When language itself is bifurcated so that only a slice of Americans understands what is true,” Lithwick and Tsai write, “we will become a country governed by some, for some, using a version of reality reserved for a very few.”

The Atlantic: Searching for Lost Knowledge in the Age of Intelligent Machines

Selected by Ann Fabens-Lassen, communications manager

In the information overloaded world that we live in, there are more and more conversations about algorithms and the role they play in recommending information. At Contently, we’re often thinking about this in the context of our own technology or Facebook’s latest updates. This article, however, looks at algorithms as they relate to historical research—specifically the ability to find something that you don’t know you’re looking for in the first place.

The Atlantic technology reporter Adrienne LaFrance tells the story by looking at the Antikythera Mechanism, possibly the world’s oldest computer, which was discovered in a shipwreck by chance. LaFrance imagines how eventually we may no longer rely on such luck to make discoveries about the past and future.

Wired: Sorry, Donald Trump: Amazon Dominates, But It’s No Monopoly

Selected by Brian Maehl, talent development manager

Amazon owned 30 percent of all Cyber Monday sales. While more retail companies are creating an online sales presence, it’s still Amazon that’s synonymous with adding an item to your imaginary cart.

What happens, then, when Jeff Bezos’s powerhouse is criticized by the president-elect for being a monopoly? Here, Wired explores why that accusation isn’t quite true (yet), and how business dominance doesn’t necessarily mean a monopoly.

Like much of his entire campaign, Trump’s condemnation of Amazon speaks to a desire for the way things were. However, the irony is unavoidable: A businessman-turned-president-elect calls out another business for achieving unprecedented heights, rather than appreciating its foresight and strategy. Perhaps worse, he’s looking to punish this success in a time when we should be embracing technological innovations.

The Atlantic: How Can Journalists Protect Themselves During a Trump Administration?

Selected by Erin Nelson, marketing editor

Is it news anymore if Donald Trump does something outrageous to threaten our constitutional rights? In one of his hottest post-election bids, our imminent commander-in-chief has gone after journalists, promising to “open up” libel laws and maintain a blacklist of media outlets he doesn’t want to cover him. The intimidation warrants concern from a man who has a history of singling out journalists (and politicians, celebrities, etc.) who do not align with his personal and political views.

In response to this new and potentially dangerous environment for journalists, writer Kaveh Waddell encourages authors to take necessary precautions. Among them is to use end-to-end encryption tools for all online communication. This means that even the company whose software you are using cannot access your messages. Other suggestions include encrypting email through PGP, using software to create unique passwords, disabling geolocations, and turning on two-factor authentication for all services that support it—Google, Slack, Dropbox, Amazon, and so on.

Current Affairs: The Necessity of Credibility

Selected by Dillon Baker, associate editor

This is the most nuanced take on media in the post-Trump era I’ve read so far (and believe me, I’ve read way too many).

Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson lays out, with convincing evidence, the many hypocrisies of the journalism establishment, and how the media’s clickbait sensationalism, lack of transparency, and centrist-liberal bent are all partly to blame for the current crisis of misinformation.

Too often, those in the media blame everyone but themselves—yet the American people’s trust in media, at a low of 32 percent, is not just irrational hatred. Credibility has been lost. And that’s not just a partisan phenomenon: Railing against the media was a cornerstone of both Trump and Sanders’s populist campaigns.

I don’t know anyone who would disagree with the idea that cable news is a travesty, and while print journalism has many strengths, it has problems of its own. Robinson concludes his article by saying that the necessary changes likely won’t come from established institutions, but from new media outlets created specifically for our new information power structure. Let’s hope that becomes a reality.

Image by Creative Commons

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