'Kony 2012' 10 Years Later [Content Made Simple]
Issue #260: Weight Watchers collected kids' data, a Sri Lankan content farm mystery, and more!
TOP OF THE WEEK:
When Oprah Winfrey tweeted “Kony 2012,” its views rose from 66,000 to nine million, according to Gilad Lotan, a data scientist who compiled a visual analysis of its spread. Justin Bieber, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian shared it, too. Within a week, the video had hit 100 million — a record on YouTube at the time — and Mr. Kony had become the target of a global civilian manhunt.
Ten years on, Mr. Kony remains at large, Gavin has started high school, and Mr. Russell is still grappling with the mixed legacy of “Kony 2012.” At a time when a constant stream of videos on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter is illustrating the real-time destruction of Ukrainian cities by Russian forces, the film reads as both a relic of what experts have described as a techno-optimistic post-Arab Spring digital landscape and a precursor to an era of seemingly endless footage of violence and conflict on social media.
I remember being skeptical of “Kony 2012” as a snarky college junior, sorta feeling bad about making fun of a good-natured movement. But even then I kinda saw how silly it was to hunt down a warlord via a social media campaign. Kony is still on the loose, by the way.
HITTING THE LINKS
What a wild, wild story. A mystery solved!
So let’s put it all together: That ain’t right was a Facebook page that mainly posted engagement bait posts like a picture of a potato with the caption “pick three toppings,” designed to generate thousands of comments. Which increased its posts’ rank in Facebook’s News Feed. It was also apparently posting softcore pornography in its Stories, sharing videos from an associated That ain’t right TikTok page, and linking out to a viral content farm called virallk.com. That content farm seems to be completely run out of Sri Lanka and it currently promotes hundreds of other low-value Facebook and Instagram pages. And That ain’t right, which, again, is at least partially run by a Sri Lankan content farm, became the most widely viewed Facebook page in America between October 2021, to December 2021, before it was taken down by Facebook, most likely because of the softcore pornography it was sharing.
Your data is the product. Even worse when it’s your kids’ data that’s the product.
A complaint filed Friday by the Justice Department on behalf of the commission said that WW and its pediatric weight-loss app, Kurbo, violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which requires apps and other online services geared toward children to get parental consent before collecting data from users under 13.
“Parents have a right to know and consent before companies collect their children’s personal information,” Brian M. Boynton, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said in a statement.
WW agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty as part of a settlement, and to erase the algorithms it had derived from the user data, the F.T.C. said.
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Loyal Substack readers now have a way to keep all of their subscriptions in a dedicated place: the new Substack reader app. The app is only available on iOS for now; Android users can sign up for a waitlist.
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THE FUNNY PART
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