Saturday 06 Mar 2021 | 15:18 | SYDNEY
What's happening on
  • 5 Mar 2021 11:00

    Her brilliant career

    An entertaining and informative memoir about a woman’s career through a deeply patriarchal profession in diplomacy.

  • 5 Mar 2021 06:00

    Vaccine hesitancy and the risks in rural Papua New Guinea

    Another vaccine drive could cause resentment among those who feel they don’t need it because “they are not sick”.

  • 4 Mar 2021 14:00

    An endless game of whack-a-mole?

    The efficacy of proscribing extreme-right groups is debated. How to keep ahead of their evolution is also challenging.

Technology

India’s Koo plots a digital coup

Facebook might be a social media behemoth, its reach and power made apparent when Australian users saw local news rubbed off their screens from Thursday in response to new media laws, but the platform is also just one among an ever-growing online milieu. China has WeChat, the world has Twitter, and

Why Twitter was right to dump Trump

President Donald Trump’s social media ban (aka de-platforming) has had some free speech advocates in conniptions, not just in America but across the world. In an ironic twist, China’s censored netizens have, with official support, also fancifully railed against the ban, suggesting that Weibo is

The unique power of TikTok’s algorithm

During an end of year break, The Interpreter is again featuring select articles published throughout 2020. This piece was originally published on 7 October 2020. Most people know TikTok as an entertaining app with an endless stream of snappy, addictive short videos that make them smile after a

The modern sharing of Pacific “public goods”

The Covid-19 crisis has made the importance of data sharing more urgent than ever. For the island nations of the Pacific, ensuring a ready flow of information to support decision-making is critical. Robust data-sharing systems will be instrumental in helping countries collaborate with one another,

How extremist messaging co-opts emergency events

Australia experienced two major emergency events in 2020 – the summer bushfires followed shortly after by the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout these events, social media played a critical role in providing information, facilitating social connection and public discussions. However, there

China’s online meddling goes beyond the Great Firewall

Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian posted on Twitter a fake image which portrayed an Australian soldier with a bloody knife next to a child holding a lamb. The Australian government was outraged, describing it as “disinformation”. This is just the latest episode of the

The case for going all-in on renewables

Current perceptions of renewables have been driven by the need to address climate change, a narrow view that overlooks benefits such as reducing our reliance on imported energy and creating thousands of high-tech jobs. As countries grapple with the outwardly ineffective efforts to pass climate

Gauge-changing train is no game changer for China

Railways are a natural pillar of overland transport for China’s Belt and Road Initiative, given their large capacity. But there is an obstacle to getting direct services across the borders and into neighbouring countries: different rail gauges. With the exception of North Korea, which uses

Pakistan gets on the TikTok ban wagon

Pakistan has become the second South Asian nation after India to ban Chinese video-sharing app TikTok.  The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on 9 October banned TikTok in the country after  ByteDance, the Chinese tech giant that owns TikTok, failed to “put in place effective

The many trails of Ant Group

When the last of the big four state-owned Chinese banks listed a decade ago, one could be forgiven for thinking that the age of mega Chinese financial listings was over. After all, with financial services being such a strategic sector for the Chinese Communist Party, who would have thought that the

Who’s watching the algorithms?

Just like the enigmatic algorithms behind popular social media platforms, facial recognition algorithms are unleashing their own share of social problems. Machine-learning systems, the bedrock of artificial intelligence, or AI, use data to learn who you are, where you go, what you do, and what

Understanding the full spectrum of hate

What is the relationship between online and offline extremism? What types of data should be examined in order to understand this relationship? What is the full scope of violent extremist actions? These are all key questions that extremism researchers are trying to answer. Part of the answer may

Cyber sovereignty cuts both ways

The White House's approach to managing the potential security threats posed by TikTok, WeChat and other Chinese-owned apps is hardly a model of procedural justice. Without a clear legal or regulatory framework, the Trump Administration has issued executive orders banning transactions with the

Defending Australia in a high-tech future

The recently announced $270 billion commitment to expand Australia’s military capability sets the tone for a deteriorating strategic environment. The 2020 Defence Strategic Update and Force Structure Plan are only part of the answer in aligning Australia’s response to this challenging future. It

Under the influence: Peddling conspiracy in a pandemic

Celebrity sells – it always has. But in the digital age, the boundaries of celebrity have changed. Once it was the prerogative of movie, sports or music stars to front a fashion label or promote perfume. But nowadays the marketplace is saturated with any number of online lifestyle and wellness “

Interesting times for TikTok

From Delhi to Washington to Canberra, the future of the digital economy may be heavily influenced by how one question is answered: What to do about TikTok? The popular short-video platform owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance has been at the centre of a storm of controversy. Concern

Is Huawei in the UK a canary in the coalmine?

It is not a coincidence that Britain’s turnaround on using Huawei for its 5G infrastructure happened at the height of the pandemic. Covid-19 brutally brought back the realisation that international value chains are only as strong as their weakest link. This new awareness made plain that

Social credit: The next China risk for Australian business

As China recovers from the Covid-19 crisis, the apparatus of the state is about to be devoted to a new form of social control. By the end of 2020, China plans to introduce its national social credit system. For some, this evokes dystopian visions of a surveillance state, monitoring more than a

The cost of conspiracy in muddling public health messages

A spike in coronavirus cases across Melbourne has seen local hotspot suburbs largely locked down and some 3000 people in public housing towers prevented from leaving home at all. But the sharp reminder that “This is not over” which now flashes on freeway signs across Australia’s second largest

Debt threatens Digicel’s Pacific dominance

When it comes to mobile networks in the Pacific Islands region, Digicel is dominant. More than 2.6 million subscribers mean its SIM cards power more handsets in the region than any other provider.   But the telco’s US$7 billion debt has been

China toys with a new propaganda technique: Irony

As the world struggles with the Covid-19 crisis, the US and China have been locked in a heated propaganda warfare over the handling of the virus. Hitting back at President Donald Trump’s claim that “China let it spread”, Chinese official media angrily accused the US of “groundless accusation

Playing Monopoly in space

For the first time since 2011, US astronauts have been launched aboard a US spacecraft from US soil. The flight of a SpaceX capsule to the International Space Station with two NASA crewmembers has broken a long drought for crewed spaceflight. It also reduces America’s dependence on Russian Soyuz

India’s Covid-19 tracing app: Power in the right hands?

Governments around the world are working hard to convince their populations to download the various Covid-19 infection tracing apps. As well as potentially helping to stymie the spread of the virus, the app download numbers serve another purpose: they could be read to indicate how much trust there

We’re all losers in the space arms race

Politics does make for unlikely bedfellows. Last month, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that it had signed a joint declaration with the Republic of Burundi, whereby both agreed not to be the “first” to place weapons in space. Two weeks later Russia conducted an anti-satellite missile test

Covid-19 chaos creates fertile ground for cyberattacks

Coronavirus-related cyberattacks have proliferated since the first Covid-19 cases emerged in Wuhan, China. According to a recent Microsoft analysis, every country in the world has now experienced at least one such cyberattack, with the number of successful intrusions increasing daily. In a

Information warfare in the theatre of Covid-19

Chaos is a ladder, said Littlefinger in Game of Thrones. Crisis is an opportunity, Sun Tzu didn’t say in The Art of War. Either way, in the United States, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and “infodemic”, political chaos is a clear and present danger, and an opportunity, in the covert and

Beyond the buzz: A primer on swarms

In the world of emerging technologies, few concepts evoke excitement like swarms. The power of the swarm is in its natural formation – from bees, to schooling fish and flocking birds – the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Swarms can achieve far more complex tasks than single entities

What price privacy? Contact tracing apps to combat Covid

Few in the West would have imagined two months ago that their government would consider tracking their personal mobile phones. But as Covid-19 rapidly sweeps through cities and incapacitates health systems, manual tracing of potentially infected individuals can no longer keep up. Even

Disinformation and coronavirus

The best way to prevent the novel coronavirus? Eating garlic. Or actually, try traditional Chinese medicine. In case you hadn’t heard, a vaccine already exists but the United States won’t share it. Wait a second, the coronavirus doesn’t exist at all, it’s all a conspiracy. How did I hear

The uncertain fate of .org

If you’ve used the internet, you’ve accessed a .org site. The domain is associated with civil society groups and non-government organisations ranging from the United Nations to the Lowy Institute. For almost two decades, .org has been the reliable host of websites and email services for millions

Is media literacy the magic bullet for fake news?

As online news and social media have proliferated over the last decade, a whole new category of information has entered the popular lexicon: fake news. Online disinformation has come a long way from “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog” to a place where a malicious article hatched from a

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