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Weekly Digest: Impact of Technology

Welcome to The Fix’s weekly news digest! Every week, we bring you important news stories from the world of media – and try to put them in a wider context.

On Monday, Apple held its annual Worldwide Developers Conference. The company presented iOS 15, the latest version of the iPhone operating system, unveiling a set of new privacy features that could visibly impact news media.

Newsletters seem to take the biggest hit, with a new feature likely to make open rate, a cornerstone newsletter metric, largely irrelevant. According to Apple’s press release, “in the Mail app, Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email.” 

Other changes, according to a roundup by Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton, include potential challenges in getting iPhone users to see story notifications. On a more positive side, the new operating system brings more ways to share news and more technical tools for reporters (as well as non-reporters). 

Early Tuesday morning, numerous popular sites went down for about an hour, including some major news publishers like The New York Times and BBC. The reason was a technical problem with Fastly, a company that provides cloud computing services. 

The incident “has once again highlighted how many of the world’s most popular online services rely on a relatively small number of cloud computing platforms,” in the words of Financial Times that itself suffered from the outage. (Interestingly, Fastly’s shares rose after the incident, perhaps in part because investors realised the scope of the company’s impact).

The Guardian’s editorial emphasises that “[this] disappearance of hugely popular sites is a reminder that we need to improve our approach to critical infrastructure.”

This week, Nigeria doubled down on its Twitter ban. The block was imposed last week after the platform had deleted a tweet by the country’s president. 

On Monday, the government showed its unwillingness to back down as it ordered broadcasters to stop even gathering news on Twitter, as well as “foreign minister summoning Western ambassadors whose countries criticized the ban.”

Further, Nigeria demanded that other social media receive a local license to continue operating in the country. Given that Nigeria is Africa’s most populated country, this crackdown is a major blow to freedom of information.

More from The Fix: The power and perils of Twitter

This week saw two high-profile journalism leaders announce leaving their jobs.

On Wednesday, Joel Simon announced he would leave his position as the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). After having served for 15 years, he will step down by the end of 2021. 

According to CPJ’s press release, “Simon has led CPJ through a period of significant expansion, growing its global staff to 40, creating a North America program focused on press freedom advocacy in the United States, and helping to develop an Emergencies team that provides life-saving support to journalists and media support staff.”

The New York Times notes that the end of Simon’s tenure coincides with the growing assault on media freedom across the world, including a record number of journalist jailing.

Also, Wednesday saw the announcement of Annette Thomas‘s departure from Guardian Media Group. Thomas joined the company as chief executive early last year. According to Financial Times, she “has quit the publishing group after an internal battle with the Guardian editor Katharine Viner” over control of the group and its strategy.

One of the main points of disagreement between Thomas and Viner have been strategies for raising money from readers. Guardian’s “unique structure” with two boards and high degree of the editor’s independence contributed to the conflict.

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Photo by Yue Iris on Unsplash

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