Jamie Bartlett

How the world’s biggest crypto-scam targeted British Muslims

Back in 2016, thousands of Brits thought they’d struck gold. Word was spreading through WhatsApp and Facebook groups about an exciting new crypto-currency called OneCoin. It was rumoured to be the next Bitcoin – that strange digital currency that had been shooting up in value and minting millionaires. OneCoin’s founder, a Bulgarian-German businesswoman called Dr Ruja Ignatova had impeccable credentials – a degree from

What Rory Stewart and Donald Trump have in common

What the hell has got into Rory Stewart? The man’s everywhere, outstretched phone in hand, like an Instagram influencer on the edge, asking people to come and talk to him about Brexit. He’s at the Lewisham market by the stinky fish! No wait – now he’s on a train to Wigan. Now he’s talking Dari

How we lost to Big Brother

There is a trend in non-fiction — in fact my editor has been on to me about this lately — to reveal things. Apparently, readers like to feel they’ve got the inside track, even when there are no secrets to uncover. Perhaps this drove Yasha Levine to call his new book Surveillance Valley: The Secret

How social media turned us into a nation of pub bores

Opinions are like social media accounts: approximately 2.7 billion people have one. I’ve no problem with people having an opinion of course. Quite the reverse: a nation without opinions is one without thoughts, ideas or morals. But over the last decade something has changed. We’ve always had opinions but now we feel compelled to share

Finally, politicians have realised how to hold Facebook to account

This week, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee looking into fake news convened for a special session. For the first time since 1933, when the joint committee on Indian constitutional reform included parliamentarians from India, politicians from nine other countries joined Damian Collins and other MPs to cross-examine Facebook and others. A couple of days

Nick Clegg is perfect for Facebook

In his brilliant insider-account of his time at Facebook, Chaos Monkey, Antonio Garcia Martinez describes the process of ‘onboarding’. It’s the quasi-religious ceremony of inducting new staff into the company. “Whatever you learned at your previous job” Martinez was told, “whatever politics and bullshit you’re bringing with you, just leave all that shit behind.” I

Why Labour’s new video should worry the Tories

Last week, the Labour Party released a video called Our Town. It is a genuine piece of art, which shows that Labour takes the medium of video seriously. The Tories need to take note. It’s not impressive because of the message itself, since the message itself is familiar: we’re going to kick-start the economy, we’re

Lucy Powell’s bill is the wrong way to tackle online hate

Politicians and the internet still don’t seem to get on. Yesterday Labour’s Lucy Powell put forward a bill proposing two peculiar new suggestions for tackling online hate: first, that moderators and administrators (the people that run online groups and forums) be held legally responsible for what’s posted in their groups. Second, that the name of

It’s time to stop the digital mudracking

What do Jeremy Corbyn, Stormzy, film director James Gunn and former Gay Times editor Josh Rivers all have in common? Answer: in the last year or so, they’ve all been publicly shamed for things they’ve posted online in the past. They’ve all been victims of the lazy new political attack technique: the digital mudrack. One of

Turn off and tune out

All good non-fiction writing shares certain characteristics: consistent economy, upbeat pace and digestible ideas that logically flow. Tech writers have an additional challenge, however, of combining all this with boring technical detail. How to explain the mechanical stuff without being either too dry or too simple? What’s the reader’s likely level of knowledge? These questions

Not so fast

I’m losing my patience. Not so long ago I’d happily wait ten minutes for a bus, or even whole days for the next instalment of my favourite television programme. It didn’t seem to bother me in the slightest that my holiday photos would not be seen until I’d picked them up from the chemist. I

Ireland’s abortion vote and the wild west of online adverts

It’s sometimes hard to know who’s really behind decisions at big tech firms. It could have been the PR team (‘we don’t want more negative press’), the policy team (‘the luddites in parliament want to regulate us’) or the engineers (‘we can’t stop it’). Whoever it was, a couple of weeks back both Google and Facebook announced

The joy of GDPR

Happy GDPR week everyone! This Friday, the General Data Protection Regulation comes into force, the most ambitious data privacy ruling since, well, ever. I’m not going to go through the specifics – there are plenty of vastly overpriced seminars for that – but it’s basically about giving EU citizens more rights and control over their personal information, info on how and why it’s being collected and used,

Why politicians love to blame an algorithm

Jeremy Hunt as Home Secretary said something very important by mistake. He told the Commons in May 2018 that ‘a computer algorithm failure’ meant 450,000 patients in England missed breast cancer screenings. As many as 270 women might have had their lives shortened as a result. This point hasn’t received the analysis it deserves. Scores of women died sooner than

Big data is watching you

From the outside it all looked haphazard and frenzied. A campaign that was skidding from scandal to crisis on its way to total defeat. That’s not how it felt inside the ‘Project Alamo’ offices in San Antonio, Texas where Trump’s digital division — led by Brad Parscale, who’d worked previously with Trump’s estate division setting

Facebook’s enemies are relishing Mark Zuckerberg’s troubles

Zuck speaks! He’s finally responded to the Cambridge Analytica debacle. To be honest, I could have predicted almost word-for-word this evening’s statement: It wasn’t really our fault; it was mostly their fault; we’re a little bit responsible (‘front-up’ I can imagine a comms person insisting); and here are the steps we’ve taken. In fact, we’d already taken most of these steps in 2014,