Outsourcing your dirty work doesn’t make it more ethical.

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Moderators of disturbing online content are prone to mental health crises.

You’re 23 years old, just out of college. You make $37,000 a year in Austin. Your job is to spend up to five hours a day viewing the most appalling videos uploaded to YouTube — terrorist murder clips, children being sexually abused — to knock them offline before hapless surfers and kids encounter them. You feel you’re doing important work.

But you received no training in handling the stress and emotional trauma. Workplace performance pressure and restrictions remind you of Amazon warehouse stories. Your manager says you spend too much time in the bathroom. Where you go to cry.

The Terror Queue,” a lengthy exposé by The Verge reporter Casey Newton, is a 6,000-word report worth at least skimming. Newton stuffed his story with one first-person story after another by the young people, many of them immigrants fluent in Middle Eastern languages and seeking U.S. citizenship, who work demanding jobs for contracting firms to which YouTube/Google parent Alphabet outsources some of its most gruesome content moderation. …

It’s hard to keep up with the rate at which companies don’t care

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Uber’s CEO equates Saudi murder of a reporter with an auto accident: “People make mistakes.”

When I set out to write about ethics in the tech industry, I knew I’d have plenty of material. But over the holiday weekend, stories about Big Tech’s willful ignorance and arrogance stacked up so fast that I can’t cover one at a time.

Which of these three is worst depends on who you are. But all three make it clear that the winner-take-all effect of digital transformation has an unintended side effect: When you’re so big that your customers can’t dump you, you stop worrying about their take on right and wrong.

Google secretly scrapes the medical records of millions

In a large, deliberate, ongoing secret breach of consumer trust and you’re already bored so I’ll keep it short: A Wall Street Journal investigation found that Google’s secret Project Nightingale has been operating since last year to collect and analyze “the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states.” Ascension, the second-largest healthcare organization in the United States, agreed to covertly funnel patient data to Google without telling patients or doctors. At least 150 employees at Google and other companies owned by parent firm Alphabet have access to the records. …

Twitter did the right thing. Facebook should pay attention for their own good.

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I don’t always agree with Jack Dorsey, but he’s done the right thing this time. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

I’ve criticized Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey plenty, but this week he made a tough call and did the right thing, banning political ads from Twitter at least for now. It’s both the ethical choice and savvy P&M (positioning and messaging, if you don’t live in marketing meetings) for Twitter’s long-term success.

Free speech is indeed a cornerstone of American society and its politics. On the other side of the world, social media early on proved that bringing open talk among people in restrictive countries was a powerful antidote to oppressive rule.

But while I still believe in free speech, paid political advertising on social media is just that — advertising. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, all major social networks treat advertising posts differently than the free content that their members create. For most posts, social’s complicated, carefully refined algorithms deliver to each member the content to which they’re most likely to respond with a measurable action — a Like, a comment, a repost. …

AI, personal data, lying to Congress — the new season’s debut is funny but not fiction

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“You want to rein these people in. But you can’t.”

It’s like they’re screaming: Pay attention. Two minutes into the first episode of HBO comedy Silicon Valley’s new season, babe-in-the-woods startup CEO Richard Hendricks, whose company Pied Piper has grown from one software algorithm to a household brand, sits in a Congressional hearing about tech sector ethics. The allusion to Mark Zuckerberg’s tongue-tied performances before Congress is obvious. But instead of stonewalling, Richard gets up and refuses a wireless microphone. He goes analog, pacing back and forth as he spells out the state of Big Tech today:

“These people up here — you want to rein them in. But you can’t. Facebook owns 80 percent of mobile social traffic. Google owns 92 percent of search. And Amazon Web Services is bigger than their next four competitors combined. Even [Richard’s giant competitor] Hooli can’t survive these monopolies. No one can. They track our every move. They monitor every moment in our lives. And they exploit our data for profit. And you can ask them all the questions you want, but they’re not gonna change. They don’t have to. These companies are kings! And they rule over kingdoms far larger than any nation in human history. They won. …

Video propaganda is a threat they can’t dismiss as “free speech”

Deepfake videos aren’t only in the movies anymore
Deepfake videos aren’t only in the movies anymore
Minority Report saw it coming: The future where you can’t believe what you see.

Facebook is in the hotseat again, this time over political campaign ads with outright lies. But whether they ban all campaign ads (as Josh at Techcrunch argues) or keep them as a must for democracy (which Zuckerberg counter-argues), even the most brazen lie by an official campaign will soon seem old-fashioned. The real opportunity to manipulate people with misinformation is in fake videos, the deepfakes that keep getting harder to tell from an undoctored shot.

Marketers know that videos grab viewers’ attention far more effectively than text or a still image — every real-world test confirms our experience that videos are several times more effective than still images in attracting new customers, bringing in buyers, or simply getting people to click. …

TechCrunch’s founder isn’t the problem. People who kowtow to him are.

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Tony Soprano: not good look for a tech reporter.

(originally published on DigiDay)

As the head of a PR firm that represents tech startups, I’m well aware of the pressure that entrepreneurs face to get attention for their young companies. There’s no question the goal of hundreds, if not thousands, of startups is a profile in TechCrunch. It can make a company — or at least that’s the commonly held view.

But it’s also a gamble that’s often not worth taking because TechCrunch founder and editor Michael Arrington has proven he’s willing to use TechCrunch as his personal vehicle for settling scores. …

Product teams and marketing teams must work together to turn data into appealing messages.

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(originally published on TNW)

If we’re to believe the buzz around “growth hacking,” companies should totally toss traditional marketing methods out the window and simply drive growth by leveraging user data, social sharing features, and other tools. While those are important, the emphasis on “hacking” can lead companies to miss some important distinctions:

  • While growth hackers may enjoy a measure of hype now, they should prepare for a coming backlash. Social media marketing enjoys about as much hoopla, even when it isn’t always clear how it drives ROI. With growth hacking, however, the numbers (or lack thereof) cannot lie. …

Whether business owner or customer, you should always worry about the privacy of everything.

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photo: Meghan Kelly, VentureBeat

(Originally published on VentureBeat)

Depending on whom you believe, members of the troublemaking online group Anonymous, which in March released internal emails purported to be pulled from Bank of America’s private network, may be planning to “destroy Facebook”on November 5th, according to a video posted to YouTube. (Or maybe not, since not all of Anonymous agrees with that plan.)

It’s a dumb, childish idea, but whoever made the video has a point that’s worth thinking about.

The video claims that Facebook has sold users’ information to government agencies, and allows spy organizations to snoop on people around the world. There’s no proof of this, although Facebook (like other companies) is obliged to cooperate with law enforcement to the extent required by local laws. …

The founder of marketing firm AnyContext explains why ethics should be a part of every company’s product roadmap and story

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(originally published on LinkedIn)

Technology was once praised for being innovative, helping to change how we do work, get around more conveniently, and communicated with one another. It helped to make the world a much smaller and more connected place — so what happened to make us question this reality?

Over the past couple of years, scandals about technology’s use in destroying our democracy, dividing us, and erosion of our privacy have stemmed its progress. …

CEO of AnyContext on succeeding in the Silicon Valley soap opera

(originally published on Popping the Bubbl)


Vanessa Camones, CEO of AnyContext,, #LatinaGeek and boss lady extraordinaire joined us on the latest episode of Popping the Bubbl.

She realized early on a passion for writing and telling people’s stories during her college years where scored an amazing internship that got her high visibility experience with media channels like Telemundo and a number of high profile tech PR agency (Cunningham Communications) that gave her the opportunity to with Pixar, even sitting in on meeting with the Steve Jobs when he was Pixar CEO. As one of the 1st students to participate in this program, it really catapulted her into the place she is today, developing a strong consumer internet focus and participating in early online channels such as podcasting, blogging and social, which at the time were the early intersections to the online age we are in today. Beyond that, it is clear that at an early age Vanessa demonstrated an ambitious desire to learn and grow. …


Vanessa Camones

founder & ceo of marketing consulting firm @anycontext and @theMIXagency. Board Member of @BoardSeatMeet @InPlay. #latinatechrealness #LA #SF #PDX

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