My Five #304

This week, we question the ethics behind Google’s Dragonfly search engine and discover how a video game is destroying marriages in the UK.

You are reading: My Five #304

Five things worth sharing from the last week or so, brought to you by a different member of the Browser Media team every Friday.

This week’s My Five is by Mollie.

1. Google’s Dragonfly has got activists all fired up

Activists and external digital rights organisations are outraged at the news that Google is developing a censored search engine intended for the Chinese market.

The revelation comes just months after Google quietly removed the ‘don’t be evil’ instruction from their code of conduct (ironic much) and has generated hostility from within the company too; senior research scientist Jack Poulson walked away from his position at Google last month, writing “I’m forced to resign in order to avoid contributing to, or profiting from, the erosion of protection for dissidents” as his reason for resigning.

There may well be a legitimate purpose behind the project – named Dragonfly – however, with information coming to light that the search engine can link searches made on mobiles to the devices’ phone numbers, it’s easy to see how Google users in China could find themselves in trouble if they’re found searching topics the government has prohibited.

It’s believed that the search app will also “blacklist sensitive queries” meaning that no results will be shown at all when users include certain words or phrases in their search.

With little communication from anyone at Google and the fact that the last Chinese censored search engine by the company was pulled due to government attempts to restrict free speech, it does look like Google is reneging on one of their company’s key values in order to appease the Chinese powers that be.

2. Fortnite is becoming the new home-wrecker

Fortnite is one of the most popular video games of all time. The survival game has over 125 million players worldwide and is on track to make an eye-watering $2billion this year alone, however it’s not all good news. According to Divorce Online, Fortnite has been cited as one of the deciding factors in 200 UK divorce proceedings so far this year.

Video games such as Fortnite are being cited as reasons for divorce in UK
Image via biblicalgenderroles.com

It might sound ridiculous to end a marriage over a video game, but in June this year the World Health Organisation listed ‘gaming disorder’ as an officially recognised mental health condition highlighting the societal impact of the digital gaming world.

It’s not just Fortnite that’s to blame; a spokesperson from Divorce Online stated that digital addictions which “now include online pornography, online gaming and social media… equate to roughly 5% of the 4,665 petitions we have handled since the beginning of the year…”.

Perhaps it’s time Kirsty Allsopp considered a career change into marriage counselling.

3. Blewbury pies off Silicon Valley with their own social media app

The small village of Blewbury, near Didcot, made the papers this week by becoming the first UK village to launch its own community social media network.

The Blewbury app was invented by entrepreneur and Blewbury resident, Matt Phillips, as an alternative platform to Facebook, which Phillips feels “is designed for advertisers, not communities”. The platform enables people to share local news updates and message each other, without the data privacy concerns or interruptions from adverts associated with Facebook.

Initial costs have been funded by various people living within the village, and with almost 10% of the Brewsbury population signing up to it in just the first week, it looks like a promising start. While the app is intended to remain purely for the residents of Blewbury, Phillips hopes the project will inspire other villages to follow suit and develop their own app with local community as the focus.

4. OCBC Bank make interesting Director choice for ad campaign

The Mighty Savers programme by Singapore-based bank OCBC is a saver’s programme aimed at teaching children the importance of saving from a young age.

Dennis Tan, head of consumer financial services for Singapore at OCBC describes how by “combining play with financial literacy, [OCBC is] able to impart key lessons from budgeting to distinguishing between needs and wants through effective, fun-filled ways” in a culture where there is strong competition between adolescents and pressure to excel academically.

The programme’s latest campaign activity is equally as innovative in its approach. For example, the animated commercial ‘Princess Koryn and the Bear’ that was conceptualised and directed by Zemily Leaw, an adorable six-year-old girl… because who better to direct an ad aimed at children than a child?

Zemily has featured in previous campaign material for the Mighty Savers programme but this time OCBC took a huge risk and gave Zelimy the reins on this commercial project… and it totally paid off.

The commercial (shown below) and video series of behind-the-scenes footage documenting Zemily’s journey as she “expands her creativity during playtime and learns how to develop a commercial from scratch” are available on the bank’s Youtube channel ‘channelocbc’.

… See, I told you she’s adorable.

5. Channel 4’s The Circle “is everything Black Mirror warned us about”

Not to be confused with the Dave Eggers novel-turned-film of the same title (and equally Orwellian plotline), Channel 4’s new social media based reality show has already been dubbed “everything Black Mirror warned us about”.

The eight players will spend the next three weeks living in separate flats within the same apartment block and have to win the popularity of the other contestants through a constructed social media platform.

In the final episode, the most-liked player will be crowned the winner and receive a £50,000 cash prize. This will also be the first time the players will meet each other face to face, and there’ll be shocks aplenty as some players have been less than honest about their true identity; contestant Alex is using photos of his (let’s face it, much more attractive and interesting) girlfriend to catfish the other players into liking him more, and another is claiming to be a life-saving child oncologist in a warped attempt to win favour… spoiler alert: she’s not.

While the series could be an effective way of highlighting the trickery and deception that occurs on social media, it may also just be another dose of reality TV trash, stewing our brains and churning out more fame hungry z-list celebrities. I hope I’m wrong… spoiler alert: I’m probably not.

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