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Stars on the digital Walk of Infamy are being awarded to world leaders. Former US President Donald Trump, current Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro have each received one. They have been admonished by Twitter and Facebook for posts that violate public interest policies and rules about misleading information.

Public safety and national security are two advantages of facial recognition technology. Law enforcement agencies use the technology to identify known criminals and to find missing children or seniors. Airports are increasingly adding facial recognition technology to security checkpoints. Unsurprisingly, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security predicts that by 2023 97% of travellers will be subjected to facial recognition.

Using smartphones to track and trace during the Covid-19 epidemic creates a smokescreen for wider surveillance measures that may infringe people’s right to privacy. Human rights activists are concerned that such data can be used to discriminate against migrants, refugees, and on racial grounds.

The antics of the outgoing US president have raised profound questions about the role of mass and social media in society today. How do public interest media – the kind that publish information and points of view on important issues that affect policies, lives, and livelihoods – stay independent?

People the world over are willing – some are even praying for – a free and fair election in the USA on November 3. In ordinary times, for that to happen the media must also be free and fair. But these have not been ordinary times. Until very recently, the news media have been hobbled and fettered.

October 19, 2020 — Covid-19, migrants, and the climate crisis apart, public interest media is today’s hot topic. In the USA, Hungary, and the Philippines – to cite just three countries – some politicians have labelled media outlets critical of their policies and actions “fake media” or “fake news”. Among others, Russia, Turkey and China openly censor and supress what might be called media dissent or media activism: holding governments, corporations, and their leaders to account.