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Sweet Bobby: could any of us be catfished?

Over the course of six jaw-dropping episodes, the Sweet Bobby podcast tells the story of Kirat Assi and one of the most extraordinary examples of catfishing you’re ever likely to hear. When the investigation began, Tortoise’s Alexi Mostrous could never have predicted the twists, turns, deceptions and reveals in Kirat’s story. We don’t want to share any spoilers now, but join us for this very special ThinkIn where we’ll get into the stories behind the story of Sweet Bobby, meet some of the characters involved, and explore what this sensational story says about trust, relationships, and our online lives. editor and invited experts Liz Moseley Members Editor, Tortoise Alexi Mostrous Head of Investigations, Tortoise Amrit Maan Solicitor; founder and director, Punjab Arts; managing director of The Punjab Restaurant, Covent Garden Harkirat (Kirat) Assi Artistic director, Punjab Arts

thinkin

Sweet Bobby: could any of us be catfished?

Over the course of six jaw-dropping episodes, the Sweet Bobby podcast tells the story of Kirat Assi and one of the most extraordinary examples of catfishing you’re ever likely to hear. When the investigation began, Tortoise’s Alexi Mostrous could never have predicted the twists, turns, deceptions and reveals in Kirat’s story. We don’t want to share any spoilers now, but join us for this very special ThinkIn where we’ll get into the stories behind the story of Sweet Bobby, meet some of the characters involved, and explore what this sensational story says about trust, relationships, and our online lives. editor and invited experts Liz Moseley Members Editor, Tortoise Alexi Mostrous Head of Investigations, Tortoise Amrit Maan Solicitor; founder and director, Punjab Arts; managing director of The Punjab Restaurant, Covent Garden Harkirat (Kirat) Assi Artistic director, Punjab Arts

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The future of information: what is saved, what’s deleted and who decides?

Here’s what you need to know this week: Affairs of state: The Digital Markets Act is bringing the walls down State-by-state: Apple bought rights to an OscarMicrosoft faced renewed allegations of briberyAmazon drivers are facing a pay crisisGoogle’s Chrome had another hacking scareTencent is hosting fake news about Ukraine Affairs of state: The EU busts its tech borders Most of the tech states have spent years building barriers between their own services and everyone else’s – trying to encase users in a walled garden of apps and platforms. But migrating between the tech states may be about to become a lot easier. Last week EU legislators reached an agreement on the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is likely to reshape tech state behaviour in the US and everywhere else they operate.  After surviving a prodigious lobbying effort, the DMA and its companion bill, the Digital Services Act, will come into law next year. Central to the act is the concept of consumer choice. Its broad aim is to stop the largest technology companies from using their power to box in users and crush smaller rivals.  How exactly? The exact text of the legislation hasn’t yet been released, but it seems likely that under the DMA, Apple will have to allow alternative app stores on iPads and iPhones. Google will have to let companies bill their users directly instead of through the Play Store (not coincidentally, last week Google announced it would grant Spotify this privilege). And Meta will face limits on the number of targeted ads it can offer users without consent. That’s far from all. Meta will be required to allow Whatsapp users to send messages to Signal or Telegram. And Amazon will be barred from using data collected from third-party sellers to develop competing products. The changes apply only to “gatekeeper” platforms with at least €7.5 billion in turnover or a market valuation of €75 billion. In other words – the big tech companies. It’s hard to imagine a more impactful set of policy changes when it comes to the foreign policy of the tech states. And what’s really noticeable is how a non-US piece of legislation will likely affect US-based companies so profoundly. The DMA’s jurisdiction might not extend across the Atlantic, but in practice it’s almost as likely to affect users in New York as in Frankfurt. As Columbia University law professor Anu Bradford notes, European rules often become global standards because it’s just easier for companies to apply them across their whole operations. “Everyone is watching the Digital Markets Act, be it the leading tech companies, their rivals or foreign governments,” she said. The DMA has been welcomed for addressing well-known flaws in the big tech business model – an oligopoly of platforms with massive user populations, the use of big data to predict user behaviour, and the suppression of smaller rivals. But there are concerns too. The act raises the question of how much consumer choice is, in reality, desirable.  As Casey Newton, the tech columnist, points out, while it’s great that iMessage users will be able to text other platforms, it might be annoying if Google users receive an endless stream of popups offering them the option of searching on DuckDuckGo, or if WhatsApp has to open up to messaging platforms that take a laissez-faire approach to spam. Importantly, some experts believe the DMA’s focus on interoperability puts end-to-end encryption at risk.  We spoke to Alec Burnside, a competition lawyer at Dechert LLP who has handled complaints against Google, about the strengths and weaknesses of the act:  Problem solving. The EU has realised that it’s not enough to retrospectively go after big tech companies using existing antitrust law. As Alec puts it, “if you and your readers like a bit of Latin”, the existing system is “ex post” enforcement whereas the new legislation sets out parameters from the start and is, in the old language, “ex ante”. The Digital Markets Act will enforce behaviour meant to solve problems and abuses before they happen, not correct them after the fact. An “inflection” point, but just the beginning. The DMA is a turning point but it’s not the end of the story. As with any rules, companies want to understand the extent of their obligations and obey, but won’t seek to do more than they have to, Alec says. He pointed to the case of Google Shopping, where Google “managed to design remedies that appeared to satisfy EU requirements” but – according to rival shopping services – did not actually achieve “the level playing field” that the European Commission was hoping for. Benevolent dictatorship? Asking if consumers would be given too much choice by the DMA is a “bit like saying that the best form of government is benevolent dictatorship”, Alec told us. Choice has to be better – and innovation will help make the user experience less painful. What the European Commission and others are looking for is a level playing field, in which providers will innovate and come forward with the best service, and then consumers will choose and be free to move from one to the other. Apple: Rights to win Apple beat Netflix in the race to distribute an Oscar-winning film. In 2021, Apple paid $25 million for the worldwide rights to Coda, which won “Best Picture” at the Academy Awards this week. It also forked between $10 million (a WSJ estimate) and $20-$25 million (a NYT guess) on a campaign to promote Coda. Apple is now the first streaming service to win “Best Picture”, an accolade that Netflix have been aggressively pursuing for some time, with Roma, The Irishman, and most recently The Power of the Dog. Apple bought out the worldwide rights to Coda even though many territories had already been sold through national distribution deals.  The tech state effectively bulldozed those deals and assumed it could buy out any disputed rights. Critics of Apple’s strategy say the deal is the beginning of the end for smaller studios looking to distribute on-screen excellence. Microsoft: Alleged corruption A whistleblower has accused Microsoft of engaging in bribery all over the world. In a blog post, Yasser Elabd, who had worked for Microsoft since 1998 until being fired in 2018, alleges that “Microsoft is allowing employees to steal from its own pockets and from the governments of the countries it operates in”. The alleged bribes supposedly relied on side agreements in which discounts were offered to partner companies by Microsoft, but never passed on to the end client. Microsoft denies wrongdoing and claims to have already fired the staff involved in the alleged cases. Elabd says that investigations haven’t gone far enough and that he had “already provided documentation that [he believes] shows Microsoft is in breach” and still “practices in direct violation of US law”. Amazon: Cost of living crisis The cost of living crisis is biting hard for Amazon workers. Amazon carries more parcels in the UK than any other company and uses a network of third-party “delivery service providers” whose self-employed drivers are now facing a cost-of-living crisis without holiday, sick pay or the right to national living wage. Amazon drivers testified to the Guardian that the price of living was going up, but Amazon was actually reducing effective pay and the number of shifts they could work. Drivers reportedly received pay cuts of up to £20 per day compared to last October despite delivering 60 more orders per shift. Google: CVE-2022-1066 Google’s Chrome browser has issued its second urgent update of the year. Billions of users were exposed to a “zero-day” hack vulnerability through Chrome on Windows, macOS and Linux this week. The tech state has since issued an update to protect against the dangerous form of attack; termed CVE-2022-1096. “Zero-day” hacks are notoriously dangerous as they exploit previously unknown vulnerabilities in a system. So Google is not disclosing technical details about the hack yet, because it is “in the wild” and many of the 3.2 billion Chrome users may not have had time to update and protect themselves. If you’re reading this on a Chrome browser now, please do check you’ve updated. Tencent: Fake news An article alleging that Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, is home to a statue of Hitler has been promoted on Tencent News. The article, which also apparently shows “radical Ukrainains in German SS uniforms”’ is from a “Tencent News client” but the tech state says it does not represent the views and positions of Tencent News itself. We found that the same article had been posted across “news” sites since January 2020. Other Chinese news outlets including Guan Cha News, and Toutiao are also running content that appear to be Chinese clones of Russian media articles. Meta: Publishing hate Facebook’s platform gave the green light to ads containing hate speech against Rohingya in Myanmar. As part of an investigation conducted by Global Witness, eight different examples of hate speech (as identified by the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar) were submitted to Facebook’s ad publishing platform for approval. Despite the fact that Facebook said in 2018 that “the ethnic violence in Myanmar is horrific and we have been too slow to prevent misinformation and hate on Facebook” all of the ads were approved. Global Witness argues that the investigations shows “Facebook’s ability to detect Burmese language hate speech remain abysmally poor”. Thanks for reading, Alexi Mostrous@AlexiMostrous Luke Gbedemah@LukeGbedemah

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Digital ThinkIn – Covid.com: digital change and opportunity post-pandemic

How can digital technology be best deployed to build economic resilience and nimble government in the new era? Our daily digital ThinkIns are exclusively for Tortoise members and their guests.Try Tortoise membership free for four weeks at https://torto.se/34I3iz2 to unlock your complimentary tickets to all our digital ThinkIns.If you’re already a member and looking for your ThinkIn access code you can find it in the My Tortoise > My Membership section of the app next to ‘ThinkIn access code’.We’d love you to join us.In the midst of the crisis, we can already see a landscape of economic and governmental uncertainty stretching ahead of us. How can digital technology be best deployed to build economic resilience and nimble government in the new era?Chair: Alexi Mostrous, Editor and Partner, TortoiseThis ThinkIn is in partnership with Capita Our special guests include: Andy Start, Chief Executive Officer, Government Services, CapitaDamian Collins MP, former chair the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committeeAlexandra Mousavizadeh, Director, Tortoise IntelligenceHow does a digital ThinkIn work?A digital ThinkIn is like a video conference, hosted by a Tortoise editor, that takes place at the advertised time of the event. Digital ThinkIns are new to Tortoise. Now that our newsroom has closed due to the coronavirus outbreak, we feel it’s more important than ever that we ‘get together’ to talk about the world and what’s going on.The link to join the conversation will be emailed to you after you have registered for your ticket to attend. When you click the link, you enter the digital ThinkIn and can join a live conversation from wherever you are in the world. Members can enter their unique members’ access code to book tickets. Find yours in My Tortoise > My Membership in the Tortoise app.If you have any questions or get stuck, please read our FAQs, or get in touch with us at memberhelp@tortoisemedia.comWhat is a Tortoise ThinkIn?A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. It is a place where everyone has a seat at the (virtual) table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.How we work with partners We want to be open about the business model of our journalism, too. At Tortoise, we don’t take ads. We don’t want to chase eyeballs or sell data. We don’t want to add to the clutter of life with ever more invasive ads. We think that ads force newsrooms to produce more and more stories, more and more quickly. We want to do less, better.Our journalism is funded by our members and our partners. We are establishing Founding Partnerships with a small group of businesses willing to back a new form of journalism, enable the public debate, share their expertise and communicate their point of view. Those companies, of course, know that we are a journalistic enterprise. Our independence is non-negotiable. If we ever have to choose between the relationship and the story, we’ll always choose the story.We value the support that those partners give us to deliver original reporting, patient investigations and considered analysis.We believe in opening up journalism so we can examine issues and develop ideas for the 21st Century. We want to do this with our members and with our partners. We want to give everyone a seat at the table.

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Tortoise Breakfast ThinkIn – Do we have a right to be forgotten?

Breakfast ThinkIn: Do we have a right to be forgotten? Most people say or do things that aren’t really them. And for a long time it was easy to forget your past mistakes. But with the internet, that privilege is now a thing of the past. However, in 2018, Google lost a landmark case where a businessman fought to have a decade-old criminal conviction wiped from the internet. As privacy becomes the buzzword of the internet, and a new generation fear what potential employers find about them, will more people be demanding a right to be forgotten? And what does it mean for the future of information online? Special guests include: Carl Miller, Research Director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media (CASM), Demos Gabrielle Guillemin, Senior Legal Officer, Article 19 Iain Wilson, Managing Partner, Brett Wilson LLP – specialises in libel, privacy and harassment Gian M. Volpicelli, Journalist, WIRED Chair: Merope Mills, Editor and Partner, Tortoise What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Breakfast at 7.45am, starts promptly at 8.00am.  If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.

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Tortoise TeachIn – The 5G revolution

Humanity is on the cusp of the next communications revolution. We’re told that 5G will transform the way we work, make things, look after each other and relax. We’re also told that if we install the wrong hardware we’ll open a backdoor to spies, thieves and fraudsters. What’s real in the great 5G debate, and what’s special pleading? Should we be worried, or giddy with excitement? Special guest:Ronan Dunne, EVP and CEO, Verizon Consumer Group What is a Tortoise TeachIn? Tortoise is on a mission to open up journalism. We do this through a system of organised listeningwhere at events called ThinkIns. A ThinkIn is where we get to hear what members and their guests think and, together, come to a clear, concise point of view. If a ThinkIn is a forum for civilised disagreement, a TeachIn is more like a questions-amnesty. Because sometimes, especially with more technical topics, when we sift through what we know we find we don’t quite know enough. It’s less about listening than learning. If you’re an expert in 5G and would like to contribute to this TeachIn, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at thinkin@tortoisemedia.com Everyone is welcome at a Tortoise TeachIn  If you’re a Tortoise member, you can book a ticket to a TeachIn in the same way as you would a ThinkIn. You can find your ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership. Don’t forget, you’re welcome to share your ThinkIn ticket allocation, which is included in your membership, with friends and family if you would like to.  If you’re not a yet a member, your £25 ThinkIn ticket includes guest membership of Tortoise for 4 weeks. Boring but important information Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! This TeachIn will be filmed so we can watch it back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person.

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The internet used to be good. What happened?

It all started so promisingly but now the internet has become a place marred by misinformation, aggression and time-wasting. How did our online life get so bad – and what do we need to do to turn it around? What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise. Drinks from 6.00pm, starts promptly at 6.30pm. If you are late to a ThinkIn you can ‘SlinkIn’! If you would like to contribute to this ThinkIn, let us know by emailing thinkin@tortoisemedia.com We film our Thinkins so we can watch them back, edit the best bits and share them with members who weren’t there in person. Members can find their ThinkIn booking code in My Tortoise, under My Membership.

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The Ethics Of AI: Does the algorithm discriminate?

More and more important decisions in our lives are taken by computer programmes driven by machine learning: are we likely to commit a crime? Are we eligible for that welfare payment? Are we a good bet for probation? Well-constructed algorithms can make decisions efficiently and justly. Bad ones can damage someone’s life without any human involvement or guarantee of fairness. What is a Tortoise ThinkIn? A ThinkIn is not another panel discussion. It is a forum for civilised disagreement. Modelled on what we call a ‘leader conference’ in the UK (or an editorial board in the US), it is a place where everyone has a seat at the table. It’s where we get to hear what you think, drawn from your experience, energy and expertise. It’s where, together, we sift through what we know to come to a clear, concise point of view. It is the heart of what we do at Tortoise.  Don’t worry if you think you don’t know enough to comment – we all feel that way. So we prepare Tortoise Notes for every ThinkIn – an all you need to know guide to the subject we’re discussing. You’ll receive this ahead of the ThinkIn. And when the conversation is done, we don’t drift off. We’ll send you the Tortoise Readout – our point of view, informed by what we’ve heard.  Drinks from 17:30.

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Tortoise ThinkIn: The Rules of the Internet – Anonymity

If we choose to, we can cover ourselves online with a cloak of anonymity. But the thing that protects us can turn into a weapon in the hands of online trolls or interfering foreign governments. How do we write the rules to make sure anonymity is a blessing not a curse? A Tortoise ThinkIn is at the heart of what we do. It is not another panel discussion. It’s a forum for civilised disagreement, intended to reach a clear opinion. It’s modelled on what we call a leader conference in the UK, an editorial board in the US. We’ll have a clutch of people who live and work on the subject informing our point of view. It’s based on a system of organised listening to outside voices and a range of experience and expertise. We are inviting you into our newsroom. We want to hear what you think.  Don’t worry if you think you don’t know enough to comment – we all feel that way. So we prepare Tortoise Notes for every ThinkIn – an all you need to know guide to the subject we’re discussing. You’ll receive this ahead of the ThinkIn. And when the conversation is done, we don’t drift off. We’ll send you the Tortoise Take – our point of view, informed by what we’ve heard.