Health Technology

Reddit decides to allow COVID-19 misinformation

A few anti-vaccine subreddits have popped up on Reddit over the past months. And in response, a selection of other subreddits are calling on Reddit [c] to remove these subreddits – which are often full of misinformation – from the platform.

Well, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman (spez) has responded [c], essentially with ‘no’:

Dissent is a part of Reddit and the foundation of democracy.

He does on to say:

Reddit is a place for open and authentic discussion and debate.

(This was said in a post which has the comments turned off.)

Censorship is always a very tricky subject. By and large I am dead against it on the web. I want it be open and free. However, rampant lies and the purposeful spreading of misinformation about something so vital as the COVID-19 vaccine does come rather close to needing some stronger vetting by Reddit, in my opinion.

Either way, Huffman’s rather blunt and heavy-handed statement was probably not the best way for Reddit to announce its decision to allow anti – and most likely wrong – COVID-19 vaccine viewpoints and I expect an updated statement for ‘clarity’ in a day or two.

Links and Notes

Links and Notes – Week 4, 2021

‘Is Substack the Media Future We Want?’ The New Yorker. (A month-old article that I’ve just got around to reading.) Random aside: I find it mildly interesting that the big three creative membership sites: Substack, OnlyFans and Patreon are all exceedingly ugly. Honestly, just grotesque. It goes to show how little a startups success often has to do with good design.

‘Twitter Acquires Revue, a Newsletter Company.’ New York Times. Will anything come of it? Probably not. As Om Malik points out they have already messed up the ownership of Periscope and Vine.

‘Twitter is opening up its full tweet archive to academic researchers for free’. The Verge. No access to any tweets from Donald Trumps banned account though.

‘How Many Microcovids Would You Spend on a Burrito?’ Wired. She did the maths.

Talking of Substack… I’ve been meaning to create some way to subscribe to I’m Left Handed via email for a while now. So if you’re not a big fan of staying updated via RSS you can now subscribe on Substack here. Have a good weekend everyone.


Author Ben Schott on COVID-19 and New York City

If it’s too soon to know the meaning of the French Revolution, it’s too soon to know the meaning of Covid-19. But since we still greet sneezes with the 14th-century Black Death prayer ‘Bless you’, it’s possible a few new norms will emerge. Some predict the decline of business travel, others the demise of handshakes. It seems more likely that every household will, from this day hence, maintain a dusty supply of hand sanitiser, paper masks, and emergency loo-rolls. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll remember just how truly essential our essential workers are. #

Link Technology

‘Why the internet didn’t break’

A nice little explanation of why the internet was always going to be just fine during the COVID-19 crisis despite the massive spike in demand.

But the main takeaway from the article is that there could be 42 million Americans without broadband. And that’s not good enough:

Three weeks ago, everyone’s point of reference for high-speed broadband networks was the one-way delivery of video services such as Netflix. Henceforth, broadband will be recognized for what it is: a critical two-way connection that can no longer be considered a luxury. #

Link Technology

‘They Were Opposed To Government Surveillance. Then The Coronavirus Pandemic Began.’

Good follow up read in BuzzFeed.News in the same vein of the Maciej Cegłowski article I linked to yesterday.

Is the coronavirus the kind of emergency that requires setting aside otherwise sacrosanct commitments to privacy and civil liberties? Or like the 9/11 attacks before it, does it mark a moment in which panicked Americans will accept new erosions on their freedoms, only to regret it when the immediate danger recedes?

Many countries have already taken creepy steps:

In South Korea, the government is mapping the movements of COVID-19 patients using data from mobile carriers, credit card companies, and the Institute of Public Health and Environment. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country’s internal security agency to tap into a previously undisclosed cache of cellphone data to trace the movements of infected persons in that country and in the West Bank. And in the Indian state of Karnataka, the government is requiring people in lockdown to send it selfies every hour to prove they are staying home.

But the real question is less about what elements of digital privacy we as a society are willing to trade in right now to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and more about wether we’ll ever get them back.

The article ends with this:

Sanchez worried that the coronavirus, like the war on terror, is an open-ended threat with no clear end — inviting opportunities for those surveillance measures to be abused long after the threat has passed. In the same week that he spoke, the US Senate voted to extend until June the FBI’s expanded powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, originally passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago.

I think it’s safe to presume that anything we lose will never be returned.

Health Link

Symptom of COVID-19 may be loss of smell

“Almost everybody who is hospitalized has this same story,” said Dr. Marco Metra, chief of the cardiology department at the main hospital in Brescia, where 700 of 1,200 inpatients have the coronavirus. “You ask about the patient’s wife or husband. And the patient says, ‘My wife has just lost her smell and taste but otherwise she is well.’ So she is likely infected, and she is spreading it with a very mild form.” […]

Hendrik Streeck, a German virologist from the University of Bonn who went from house to house in the country’s Heinsberg district to interview coronavirus patients, has said in interviews that at least two-thirds of the more than 100 he talked to with mild disease reported experiencing loss of smell and taste lasting several days. #

A UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries who had COVID-19 tweeted about not being able to smell or taste too.

More coverage.


How will coronavirus effect…

  • the recreational drug market? Will cross border drug movement increase and how will production change?
  • dog ownership? Now is a good time to have a dog. From both the human and canine perspectives.
  • people with mental health issues? Being stuck indoors is going to massively alter even the mostly mentally strong.
  • climate change? Will the world start to focus on it more?
  • travel post-virus? Will there be a boom as people take on a carpe diem attitude in the years following coronavirus?
  • the number of children born? Couples don’t have a lot else to do.
  • long term success of school children? Will being essentially home schooled be good or bad for the education and development for this current crop of children?
  • advancement of technology? Will this be the final nail in the coffin of Moore’s law?
  • music, writing and other creative outputs? How much will free time increase them?
  • gym-based exercise? Will outdoor activities like running and cycling experience more than just a short term uptake as some people discover their joys and benefits for the first time?
  • the number of people who start ‘prepping’ and off grid living? At the very least I expect the average homes pantry and freezer size to increase post-virus.
  • conflict around the world? Will more than just a brief pause happen? Will many essentially fizzle out? Or will tensions actually increase?
  • society as a whole when so many elderly are likely to die? What will we lose?
  • future preparedness? Will this be treated as a dress rehearsal for potentially more devestating pandemics in the future or will it be treated as more of a final test unlikely to happen again this century?
  • minimum wage? Will ‘unskilled’ labour be more highly valued and appreciated going forward?
  • journalism? Will their perceived value in society increase due to the large coronavirus-based output and more people reading their (digital only) work?
  • air travel? Is this the end of budget airlines? Will airports and airlines be nationalised?
  • the quality of roads? Will governments take advantage of the lack of cars on the road and rebuild and update major motorways?
  • alchohol consumption? And how many new alcoholics will be created by citizens having no work, more anxiety and little else to do? As well as the chance for nightly drinking to become a habit.
  • dating and sex? Are new relationships totally on hold, or will pen-pal and video dating take over? Will single people desperate for sex help spread coronavirus? Will goverments ban one-night stands?
  • sleep patterns? With less work to wake up for will people become more in tune with their natural circadian rhythm?
  • the price of oil? How low will the per-barrel cost go?
  • divorces? Will they increase by as much as I expect?
  • will siblings grow closer or further apart?
  • traditional broadcast television? Will every channel just air reruns as they can no longer make new programming?
  • christmas? How many less presents will be under the tree at the end of 2020?
  • endangered animals? Will their numbers start to recover? Or as those who protect them disappear into their homes will poachers risk coronavirus infection for financial reward?
  • the restaurant industry? How many can actually wait out the financial storm?
  • sport? Will this just be a year unrecorded in sports history?
  • doctors and nurses long term? With so many potentially dying will there be a massive shortage over the next decade?
  • food consumption? Will it force the move to less intensive farming? How will vegans and meat eaters be effected differently?
  • the price of chickens? If eggs are hard to come by in supermarkets will people start selling their back garden chickens for thousands of pounds?
  • the flu long-term? Will peoples potentially better hygiene habits stop the flu being as dangerous as it once was?
  • remote working? Will it bring about a great change to the average office workplace?
  • the ability for women to get abortions?
  • air quality? Will the lack of cars make a massive long term difference?
  • gardens? With so much time on their hands will people decend upon their gardens for fresh air and start to pamper them into beautiful oblivion? Or will they become essential food growing areas and become like allotments?
  • drone deliveries? Will it finally become more than just a publicity stunt and actually be a viable delivery option?
  • domestic abuse? Many sufferers are now stuck in their homes with their abusers with no where to go.
  • economies world wide? Are we entering a decade long depression? How can poorer countries survive when they can’t borrow from other wealthier countries who have taken on massive debts themselves?
  • civil unrest? Will the national lockdowns go on so long that one day the public will have enough, spill onto the streets, and riot?

I have a lot of questions. But sadly not a lot of answers. We will just have to wait and see…

Books History

Toilet Paper Shortages in 1940 and 2020

I’m currently reading The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson. It’s great (I might post some more extracts in the coming days) and it feels like a particularly appropriate read during the ongoing coronavirus crisis as the book focuses a lot on the the day-to-day realities of the Blitz, which all too often are starting to vaguely resemble what people are currently going through today. Example in point, toilet paper shortages:

Many other products, while not rationed, were nonetheless in short supply. A visiting American found that he could buy chocolate cake and a lemon meringue pie at Selfridges, but cocoa was impossible to find. Shortages made some realms of hygiene more problematic. Women found tampons increasingly difficult to acquire. At least one brand of toilet paper was also in perilously short supply, as the king himself discovered. He managed to sidestep this particular scarcity by arranging shipments direct from the British embassy in Washington, D.C. With kingly discretion, he wrote to his ambassador, “We are getting short of a certain type of paper which is made in America and is unprocurable here. A packet or two of 500 sheets at intervals would be most acceptable. You will understand this and its name begins with B!!!” The paper in question was identified by historian Andrew Roberts as Bromo soft lavatory paper.


‘Comfort food sales rise amid coronavirus self-isolation orders’

In the week that ended March 14, popcorn sales were up 48%, pretzels up 47% and potato chips up 30% compared to a year earlier, according to Nielsen data cited by the outlet.

“People are retreating back into comfort habits,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Bartashus. #

I think this is less about these items being ‘comfort food’ and more about them having a long shelf life. Lots of shops currently have very limited frozen goods and most people only have so much fridge and freezer space so buying items you can store at room temperature for a long time makes sense. I’m making sure I have plenty of nuts, tuna and tinned meats and vegetables.


‘No, coronavirus isn’t going to break the internet’

‘Some web services are facing outages but the internet is largely resilient to collapse’:

In response to concerns about networks not being able to cope with the demands being placed on them, BT has said it has “confidence” that it will be more than able to cope with people spending more time at home. The group says the highest peak its ever seen in demand hit 17.5Tb/s – during coronavirus there’s been a 35-65 per cent increase in daytime traffic but the highest peak has only been 7.5Tb/s.

And Netflix still isn’t delivering capped streams to me, by the way.