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Splice News Trends: China boosts AI, SPH closes Asia One and Twitter clamps down on abuse

As a leading light of the commentariat in Asia, newsroom consultant and former alumnus of Yahoo, CNBC and Bloomberg, Alan Soon knows a thing or two about the media. Here is his roundup of developments inside the bubble this week

Governments

China made global dominance in technology a matter of national security. While democracies cringe at the thought of governance-by-algorithm, China has AI at the centre of its plans.

China tightened rules on online media as part of the ongoing Party congress this week. WeChat is reportedly preventing its users from changing their usernames, profile photos or taglines to curb misinformation.

While the U.S. confronts the role of social media in influencing elections, China feels vindicated in its ability to control the internet. “It doesn’t matter how efficient the internet is. It won’t work without security.

The Atlantic has a fantastic piece explaining how Facebook’s algos changed voter perceptions — and why it was so hard for anyone to see it coming. “These social platforms are all invented by very liberal people. And we figure out how to use it to push conservative values.”

Myanmar’s journalists covering the Rohingya crisis say they’re getting harassed if they don’t toe the government line — ie., there’s no genocide, it’s just terrorism. “We had to be silent, we almost don’t cover it because we have to be very careful.

Trends

The New York Times released new guidelines on what its staff can and can’t post on social media. In a nutshell, it errs on “objectivity” — telling employees that they can’t take a stand on political issues. But we’re confusing objectivity with independence. You can be fair and independent, but that shouldn’t stop you from telling the truth in describing what you’re seeing as a journalist. In a time of misinformation, we need more journalists to provide context and a point of view. Not less.

Politico is trying out pop-up newsletters as a way to test new markets in Europe. Its Global Policy Lab, sponsored by GE, runs in 5-week bursts in Germany, France and the UK.

Facebook bought TBH, which you may never have heard of if you’re not in high school. It’s an anonymous social app which Facebook hopes will help it stay relevant among teens.

Platforms

Twitter is changing its internal processes to respond faster to abuse on the platform. They will also hide hate symbols behind a “sensitive image” warning. “We would rather error [sic] on the side of protecting victims.”

But the social media giant has been accused being “apathetic” by targets of online hate in India. Delhi Police said “…compared to Facebook or Google, the response of Twitter to Indian law enforcement is quite poor.” Twitter said “Our rules are our rules and we take action when appropriate.”

What does Facebook consider hate speech? Here’s a little quiz that will help you understand how FB looks at abuse.

Transformations

Singapore Press Holding will shut its Asia One aggregator site as part of its ongoing restructuring. AsiaOne was rebranded only months ago with a new logo. Its staff of about 10 will be absorbed into the Straits Times digital team.

Hearst bought Rodale, the publisher of magazines like Men’s Health and Runner’s World. There’s apparently some value left in some parts of print.

Design

We’re savouring Quartz at Work, Quartz’s brand new edition.The content has well-structured hierarchy, with elegant photo duotones, full-bodied page titles, and a taut illustrative style. Plus, that whispery wavy background pattern is as crisp as a fresh banknote.

The American Press Institute took a look at the physical designs of newsrooms to understand how that affects digital workflows. “Space and behaviour go hand in hand.

Tools

I’ve been trying out Castbox (a 4.7 out of 5 star rating on Google) as my podcast app on Android this past week. It’s got a fresh approach to making podcasts more discoverable. Bloomberg profiled Wang Xiaoyu, an ex-Googler in China, who sold her house and sleeps in the office to work full time on the app. “She’s got a strategy for trying new things, a good strategy for exploring new things and a passion that attracts talent.”
Quote of the week

“I can’t think of something more patriotic to do than to try to get to get this moron out of office.” — Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, who took out a full-page ad offering $10 million to anyone with info leading to Trump’s impeachment.

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