DataDownload: The Facebook Files, a WSJ investigative dive

DataDownload: The Facebook Files, a WSJ investigative dive A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

Hey there, welcome.

Three important things this week: 1) Facebook 2) The Summit, and 3) We’re hiring!

First, Facebook. The WSJ Facebook Files are a must read. And, in just 2 weeks, the NYC Media Lab Summit will open with a keynote conversation with
with Laura Edelson Co-Creator of the Facebook Ad Observer. Then, our second keynote with Co-Founder & CTO of OpenAI, Greg Brockman. These are both powerful and important conversations — so register here.

This week Jon Stewart is very, very serious. Climate change is now being taken more seriously. Genius has been sold for pennies to MediaLab (but not us!). And the always timely and topical Peter Kafka has a podcast with Instagram’s Adam Mosseri.

And, if you love this newsletter, and think you’ve got a knack for channeling our voice, we’re looking for a vendor or freelancer to help us with DataDownload, Innovation Monitor, and a new bit of publishing that’s our next big thing. Email us at if you’d like to give it a shot.

Oh, did I mention October 6th? See you all in our virtual world very soon.


Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab

Invitation: Purchase Tix for Summit 2021: Future Imperfect

New York City’s tech and media sectors have been fielding many curveballs. NYC Media Lab is pleased to host “Summit 2021: Future Imperfect” from October 6–7, 2021. Our two-day online conference will once again bring together 1,000+ virtual attendees from NYC Media Lab’s core community — including executives, university faculty, students, investors, and entrepreneurs — to explore the future of media and tech in New York City and beyond. Register here.

Must-Read The Facebook Files

“Time and again, the documents show, Facebook’s researchers have identified the platform’s ill effects. Time and again, despite congressional hearings, its own pledges and numerous media exposés, the company didn’t fix them.” — WSJ

In a tremendous investigative swoop, WSJ has published five features on Facebook’s internal practices — which more often than not stand in stark contrast to the company’s public persona. Here’s what to expect;

1) Facebook Says Its Rules Apply to All. In reality, millions of VIPs under the company’s “XCheck” program are exempt from normal enforcement. Read the piece here.

2) Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Many Teen Girls. Instagram has repeatedly found how the platform harms young users — particularly teenage girls. Facebook hasn’t made the research public. Read the story here.

3) Facebook Tried to Make Its Platform a Healthier Place. A 2018 algorithm change was supposed to improve the site’s experience. Internally, employees warned the change made users angrier. Read more here.

4) Facebook Employees Flag Drug Cartels and Human Traffickers. Yet the company’s response is usually inadequate… or completely absent. Read about it here.

5) How Facebook Hobbled Mark Zuckerberg’s Bid to Get America Vaccinated. The outcome is familiar to most of us — activist groups injected doubt and misinformation around the pandemic and vaccination. Read it here.

WSJ / 4 min read

Read more Jon Stewart Isn’t Laughing

Jon Stewart’s follow-up to The Daily Show was supposed to be an animated HBO series, but that eventually got scrapped. Instead, the The Problem With Jon Stewart was born, a more “complete” — Stewart’s word — and inclusive show. Applicants for the Apple show self-submitted their applications, circumventing Hollywood representation — and Stewart says he was shocked with the results: “The process created exactly what we were looking for, which is a varied staff, certainly varied perspectives and life experiences.” Stewart discusses the show with Hollywood Reporter executive editor Lacey Rose. We know you’re curious about that missing apostrophe in the title…

“Jon: Oh yeah, there’s a meeting about punctuation. We’re all talking about, like, ‘OK, well, what do you think about a comma?’ It’s the thing that I love exposing with politics, which is, everything you see is an intention, somebody built it, somebody made a decision. Like, in the Iraq War, that whole, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud,” that came from a meeting. That was a PR guy, and they had meetings every week to talk about the best way to talk about going to war. And that same meeting is the one that we had to figure out what to call this fucking show. That’s what I love.”

The Hollywood Reporter / 26 min read Read More Tech+Media Social Media Influencer/Model Created From Artificial Intelligence Lands 100 Sponsorships

In just a few years, virtual influencer Miquela has become an Instagram staple. What started out as an experiment by studio Brud (which finally changed their Google Doc home page), has now become a veritable brand, the digital Miquela posing with celebrities, making music videos, and sporting sponsored digital wear from the world’s most exclusive brands.

Another rising star is Sidus Studio X’s Rozy, a 22-year-old virtual influencer with over 100 sponsorships in queue. “[Sidus] CEO Baek Seung Yeop also shared Rozy’s future plans… the company plans to expand Rozy’s scope of activities, moving on to movies, dramas, and entertainment shows.”

allkpop / 2 min read Read More Globally, Climate Change Drives a Willingness to Change Lifestyles

The ramp-up in climate-related disasters this year has likely made the global population more concerned about climate change than any year past — and maybe more willing to change their habits. Though one of the most comprehensive surveys on the subject — from Pew Research Center — was done in February, after a year of extreme rainfall, hurricanes, and confligrations, one can imagine sentiment has shifted further towards caution. Here are some key stats from Pew’s global survey:

  • “Seventy-two percent of those surveyed were somewhat or very concerned that they’ll experience personal harm due to climate change. And an even higher percentage (80 percent) were willing to make changes in their lifestyles to limit the impacts of climate change.”
  • “Only 56 percent feeling that we’re doing a good job and 52 percent lacking confidence that we’ll end up doing as much as we need to.”
  • “Germany saw the highest growth of concern about the climate (up 19 points), and all other EU countries where data was available also saw growth. By contrast, the concern that you’ll be personally affected dropped in the US and Japan, although only slightly.”

Ars Technica / 6 min read Read More Former Startup Darling Genius Sells Assets for $80M

Genius, the music annotating startup that raised nearly $80M, has been sold to MediaLab.Ai Inc (confusingly, the domain is actually MediaLab.LA) for… $80M. MediaLab is “restructuring the way in which original content is produced at Genius and as part of that some very talented individuals on the content and production teams were let go.” That doesn’t include cuts to sales, product, or engineering: “The scale of the community platform is what attracted us to Genius and this is where we will be heavily investing going forward, with a renewed focus on emerging artists,” noted MediaLab.

Bloomberg / 1 min read

Read More What We’re Watching How Apple and Nike Have Branded Your Brain

“When reacting to good or bad news about the brand, Samsung users didn’t have positive or negative brain responses, yet they did have ‘reverse empathy’ for bad news about Apple. Meanwhile, Apple users showed a ‘brain empathy response for Apple that was exactly what you’d see in the way you would respond to somebody in your family.’”

Big Think (YouTube) / 5 min watch

Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: Recode Media With Instagram Head Adam Mosseri

“Instagram boss Adam Mosseri on teenagers, Tik-Tok and paying creators. Plus, Puck co-founder Jon Kelly on his news site’s recent launch.”


Listen Now Virtual Events Interested in writing for DataDownload? The NYC Media Lab publishes two weekly newsletters, DataDownload and Innovation Monitor. You can read them here.

The newsletters have an informative, timely, and thought-provoking tone. Our team members write the “topper” introduction, and our Newsletter partner gathers the links, and after approval, writes the narrative copy. Then it is placed in MailChimp, and scheduled for distribution.

We’d like our writer to be conversant in emerging technology, and able to search from a list of sources to find topics and articles that are topical and timely.

If you’d be interested in working with us on our Newsletters, or know someone who would be perfect, please email

Free Event: Black is Tech 2021
Date: September 20–24
The Black is Tech Conference is back again this year with another virtual experience: “Come listen to sessions from the very best black and LatinX thought leaders in the industry, attend workshops, round-table discussions and more.” Register Here. A Deeper Look How AI Will Completely Change the Way We Live in the Next 20 Years

AI luminary Kai-Fu Lee is a believer. In the near future, AI won’t turn out inherently good or evil, but will “produce more positive than negative impacts in our society.” Lee came to this conclusion through a grand thought experiment — how will AI impact the world in the next two decades? His vision is the basis of a new book, AI 2041.

The general outlook is that, eventually, AI will know us more than we know ourselves: “Websites, apps, and other digital devices will know our psyche and motivations through not only every click, purchase, and pause (which are captured today) but every action, movement, and speech (which will be captured in the future, in a secure way that protects our privacy).”

AI at work: “In twenty years, nearly all data will become digitized, making it possible to use AI for decision-making and optimization…. Houses and apartment buildings will be designed by AI and use pre­fabricated modules that are put together like Lego blocks…. 3D printers will make sophisticated or customized goods (like dentures and prosthetics) to be produced for minimal cost.”

AI in healthcare: “This revolution will start with radiology, pathology and drug discovery. For the latter in particular, AI will help human scientists invent many drugs at much lower costs, thereby finding cures for rare diseases. AI will empower the field of ‘precision medicine,’ an area of applied science that tailors individualized treatments for a given patient, instead of treating with blockbuster, one-size-fits-all drugs.”

TIME / 11 min read

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