Episode #013: Fighting the Misinfodemic, Employee Surveillance, and AI for Content Production

Duration: 11 min, 17 sec.


 • “Content Management in the Age of Misinformation: Fighting the Misinfodemic” by Andrea Malick

 • “Somebody’s watching you: Has employee surveillance gone too far?” by Kattie Thorndyke

 • “From Insta captions to blog posts, AI is now crunching copy for brands” by Ryan  Barwick


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Links from this episode:

 • Misinformation and the Content Management Professional (cmswire.com)

 • Somebody’s watching you: Has employee surveillance gone too far? (theladders.com)

 • From Insta captions to blog posts, AI is now crunching copy for brands (morningbrew.com)

Rough Transcript:

This week’s three topics:

Content Management in the Age of Misinformation

Has employee surveillance gone too far?

And AI is coming for your job PR-people, it’s now crunching copy for brands

The date is Sunday, August 22nd, 2021, the time is 2200 hours, and you’re listening to Episode #13 of Communicate For Effect.

Segment 1

A good Sunday evening to everyone out there.

I’m Mike Nicholson.

I’m going to start with an article by Andrea Malick on fighting the “misinfodemic.”

That misinformation, it’s a heck-of-a-drug.

Right now, 2,000 people a week in the U.S. are dying from COVID and 99% of them are those who did not get a vaccine.

MIT did a study that said false news spreads more rapidly on Twitter than real news does – no surprise there.

So how do you fix it?

She identifies three areas to look at:

First, the social media platforms.

It’s their algorithm, their platform, they have a huge part to play in this.

Second, subject matter experts need to craft clear messages and advise the public on how to detect bad information.

Let me add those subject matter experts, in my experience, really need someone, a good communicator, to help them craft their messages.

You can have some really intelligent people that have a great depth of knowledge on their topic, but…they are not very good at communicating what they know to the average person.

Third, she says, is consumers.

Media experts and social scientists are advising public consumers to limit their exposure to media, to be more discerning about what they’re consuming, and reflect on its potential value or damage.

I found it interesting that for-profit, cable news channels were not one of the three areas she identified.

So what are the implications for content management professionals?

She identifies three things:

1) Engage in the discussion to find the right balance between open discourse and censorship.

2) The truthfulness of content within our stewardship is a dimension of quality.

3) For those who argue that identifying and controlling misinformation is a threat to their freedom of expression, that freedom is already measured by its impact on the public welfare even on privately owned platforms, for example, hate speech, incitement to violence.

She likens this one to safety inspectors who are welcome to inspect food and water, so why not oversight for our information safety?

At the end of the article though, she has a section called, “A Framework for Managing Misinformation” but it’s not really a framework, is just a couple of questions to ask.

Who is in the best position to identify misinformation, or who should tech giants hire third-party fact-checkers?

What are the triggers for a response by social media platforms, or when a story goes viral and draws complaints?

Honestly, this article seemed a little incomplete to me.

It talked of policymakers calling for a coordinated response to misinformation, the high cost of misinformation – yep, we get it – I think it didn’t really go beyond a very simplistic overview of the problem, missed some contributors to misinformation, and didn’t really provide a framework to manage it at the end of the article.

If you’re telling me you have a framework, I’m looking for something that a practitioner would use, a series of steps, tools, a process to go through as a content manager.

Segment 2

Kattie Thorndyke wrote an article about employee surveillance.

The fact that an employer is watching your keystrokes, to me, is not that shocking, but I’ve worked in the military and government my whole life.

But, some info to kick this one off.

Since the beginning of the pandemic surveillance software has tripled to keep an eye on remote workers

Nearly 50% of employees would rather take a pay cut than deal with being watched by their employer

Many workers think their employers have crossed an ethical line when it comes to surveillance in remote workspaces.

Sales of employee surveillance software have tripled during the pandemic, I assume because many of us have gone to telework and the employer is probably wanting to make sure that they’re paying their employee to work as opposed to just jumping on the daily office Zoom calls and skipping the rest of the workday.

If that’s the case, you probably have a hiring problem and that seems valid because there’s a survey in here that says 57% of bosses said they don’t trust their people to work without in-person supervision.

How do employers monitor employees?

They monitor keystrokes.

They record you through your laptop which I think is common practice for Microsoft Teams and Zoom calls, but there’s also a video conference platform Sneek that takes photos of employees every 1 to 5 minutes.

And monitoring your social media accounts.

Microsoft Teams received some bad press maybe 5-6 months ago over their surveillance settings.

In addition to what was mentioned previously, they were measuring privacy settings, device types, time stamps, the number of messages a user posted in a private chat.

They were doing it for “health benefits” and to ensure employees weren’t getting burned out, so they said, but those employees using Teams didn’t like it much when these features were introduced.

So what is legal and ethical in the workplace?

“As a general rule, employees have little expectation of privacy while on company grounds or using company equipment, including company computers and vehicles,” said Matt C. Pinsker, adjunct professor of homeland security and criminal justice at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The article says what they found is that a lot of organizations don’t actually tell employees that they’re being monitored, and if they’re being monitored, they don’t tell them when, how, or in what context they’re being monitored.

So my takeaway from this

1) if you’re an employer, first you need to look at your hiring practices if you don’t trust your employees, and

2) you need to tell your employees if you are monitoring them someway.

Be open, be transparent, if you’re not, you could have an internal issue that could quickly turn to an external perception issue when those disgruntled employees take to social media to vent and complain.

Segment 3

Finally, AI is being used to produce everything from Instagram captions to blog posts.

Ryan Barwick talks with Copy.ai cofounder and chief technology officer Chris Lu about their product.

Copy.ai and other AI-enabled copywriting companies like Jarvis and Copysmith are built upon OpenAI’s GPT-3.

This is one of the most advanced language models there is.

I’ve given some of these AI sites a test drive and they are quite impressive actually.

Chirs Lu is quoted saying, “We try to give you the first draft. Content creation is a treadmill. You’ve got to make a lot of it, it has to be relevant, and it has to be on-brand.”

They asked the software to make a few Facebook headlines and posts for a made-up brand called Ryan’s Lemonade.

They provided the keywords “lemonade, sweet, tart, fresh” and this is what the AI produced:

  • It’s So Good You’ll Want Seconds: With a history of providing quality fruit drinks, Ryan’s continues on with their new line of lemonades. From sweet and tart to a hint of fresh, Ryan’s is bound to quench any thirst.
  • Cool, Refreshing: Pure and natural lemonade sweetened only with real sugar, not high fructose corn syrup.
  • Nothing is as refreshing as Ryan’s: Have you ever felt like you were in paradise? Everyday life is a bit harder than we wish it to be. Lemon Ryan’s is the perfect amount of all things good, made by real people in the sun-drenched hills of California. $5 for a gallon? No… lets make that two!

If you are writing content, I would take a look at some of the AI software that is available right now.

They’re not that expensive and they’re pretty good.

Wrap Up

So that’s a wrap for #13.

If you have any questions or comments for me, just go to 46alpha.com and shoot me a note.

You can subscribe to the Last 24 daily news summaries, or follow my FlipBoard magazine if you want to read more articles that I find interesting on digital comms, marketing, and technology.

I’m Mike Nicholson, lets do this again next week.


Mike Nicholson

I've spent my career working in a variety of Strategic Communications, Public Relations, Public Affairs, Information Operations, and Executive Outreach positions. With a history of planning, preparing, executing, and assessing communication strategies in the U.S. and abroad, I use this site to write, think and share lessons learned on organizational communications.

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