Local news stations across the U.S. aired a segment produced and scripted by Amazon which touts the company’s role in delivering essential groceries and cleaning products during the COVID-19 pandemic, and its ability to do so while “keeping its employees safe and healthy.”
The segment, which was aired by at least 11 local TV stations, and which was introduced with a script written by Amazon and recited verbatim by news anchors, presents a fawning picture of Amazon, which has struggled to deliver essential items during the pandemic, support the sellers that rely on its platform, and provide its workers with the necessary protective equipment. Each anchor introduces the script then throws to an Amazon-produced look “inside” an Amazon fulfillment center, which is narrated by Amazon spokesperson Todd Walker:
Timely and widespread dissemination of resources and information related to pathogenic threats plays a critical role in outbreak recognition, research, containment, and mitigation (1, 2), as stakeholders from government, public health (PH), industry, and academia seek to implement interventions and develop vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs (3). But there are persistent barriers to sharing and cooperative research and development (R&D) in the context of epidemics, rooted in a lack of trust in confidentiality and reciprocity (4, 5), ambiguity over resource ownership (6), and conflicting public, private, and academic incentives (2–4, 6). Here, we suggest how recent advances in blockchain and related technologies can enable decentralized mechanisms to help break down these systemic and largely nontechnological barriers. These mechanisms resolve scalability, energy consumption, and security concerns of early blockchain models and may be applied to underpin and interconnect, rather than supersede or conflict with existing, well-established systems and practices for storing, sharing, and governing resources.
Rebekah Jones said in an email to CBS12 News that her removal was “not voluntary” and that she was removed from her position because she was ordered to censor some data, but refused to “manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen.”
The researchers also found anti-vaccination communities offer more diverse narratives around vaccines and other established health treatments—promoting safety concerns, conspiracy theories or individual choice, for example—that can appeal to more of Facebook’s approximately 3 billion users, thus increasing the chances of influencing individuals in undecided communities. Pro-vaccination communities, on the other hand, mostly offered monothematic messaging typically focused on the established public health benefits of vaccinations. The GW researchers noted that individuals in these undecided communities, far from being passive bystanders, were actively engaging with vaccine content.
“We thought we would see major public health entities and state-run health departments at the center of this online battle, but we found the opposite. They were fighting off to one side, in the wrong place,” Dr. Johnson said.
As scientists around the world scramble to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the spread of health disinformation and misinformation has important public health implications, especially on social media, which often serves as an amplifier and information equalizer. In their study, the GW researchers proposed several different strategies to fight against online disinformation, including influencing the heterogeneity of individual communities to delay onset and decrease their growth and manipulating the links between communities in order to prevent the spread of negative views.
“Instead of playing whack-a-mole with a global network of communities that consume and produce (mis)information, public health agencies, social media platforms and governments can use a map like ours and an entirely new set of strategies to identify where the largest theaters of online activity are and engage and neutralize those communities peddling in misinformation so harmful to the public,” Dr. Johnson said.
Amazon says it’s working hard on preventing price gouging and reports having removed nearly 4,000 accounts from the marketplace. “Sellers set their own product prices in our store and we have policies to help ensure sellers are pricing their products competitively,” an Amazon spokesperson told The Markup in an email. “We actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies. We have implemented additional measures to keep prices low and our global teams are working 24/7 to monitor prices in our store.”
Based on our groundbreaking 2018 research on the public’s digital attitudes and understanding, we ran a nationally representative survey just before lockdown and focus groups shortly after it began, benchmarking the public’s appetite, understanding and tolerance towards the impacts of tech on their lives.
This year’s research finds people continue to feel the internet is better for them as individuals than for society as a whole. 81% say the internet has made life a lot or a little better for ‘people like me’ while 58% say it has had a very positive or fairly positive impact on society overall.
Our most recent Dialogues & Debates, on April 28, was titled “Trustworthy Technology in the Time of a Pandemic” and featured Berlin-based Mozilla Fellow Frederike Kaltheuner. As a Mozilla Fellow, Frederike is examining applications of AI systems that classify, judge, and evaluate people’s identities, feelings, and emotions, in order to uncover where and how such technology is currently deployed. Before joining Mozilla, Frederike was a director at Privacy International in London, where she led the organisation’s strategic work on corporate surveillance and emerging technology.
During the virtual Dialogues & Debates, Frederike answered questions on Twitter submitted by our community. Questions and answers addressed contact tracing, whether privacy and public health are a zero sum game, whether face masks thwart facial recognition tech, and far more.
House lawmakers leading an antitrust investigation into Amazon demanded Friday that CEO Jeff Bezos testify about the company’s alleged practice of gleaning financial information from third-party sellers to bolster its own private label business.
Naomi Oreskes, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, has focussed much of her career on examining distrust of science in the United States. In 2010, she and the historian Erik M. Conway published “Merchants of Doubt,” which examined the ways in which politics and big business have helped sow doubt about the scientific consensus. Her most recent book, “Why Trust Science?,” examines how our idea of the scientific method has changed over time, and how different societies went about verifying its accuracy. Her work often addresses climate change and why Americans have rejected climate-change science more than people in other countries have.