The 50th Block: Who let the fox guard the henhouse?

One day chicken and the next day feathers.

This week…

A shot of the ground with a yellow tape to make the start of the queue line and a yellow rhombus with the phrase "Wait here" in English and French.
There was not a lot of waiting for my PR card, health insurance and social insurance to be processed despite a reduction in the number of service counters.

About a month after relocation, I have my health and social insurances sorted out, just before the province issued stricter public health measures. The stay-at-home order is put in place until mid-May, so I’m happy to put together a small desk for my home office. Everything else is on hold now, but I think everything about The Starting Block Interviews is proceeding on schedule, and I hope to launch on the first year anniversary of this newsletter. Here is the form once again, if you’re interested to be part of the conversation!

Let's chat

Google blocks advertisers from targeting Black Lives Matter YouTube videos

In a two-parter about Youtube’s keyword blocklists, Leon Yin and Aaron Sankin investigate for The Markup:

Google spokesperson Christopher Lawton declined to answer any questions for this story but took no issue with our investigation or findings. After reviewing them, the company did not lift its ban on the social and racial justice terms we shared, but it did block the hate terms that we had pointed out were in contradiction with them, including “White lives matter” and “White power.”

The company also responded by blocking even more of the 62 social and racial justice terms on our list. When we began our investigation, Google Ads only blocked a third of them for searches. Now it blocks more than 80 percent, adding dozens of terms to its blocklist, including “Black in Tech,” “Black excellence,” and “antiracism.”

Read part one and part two, and find out the methodology here and here, with a link to the data collection.

For Big Tech whistleblowers, there’s no such thing as ‘moving on’

Issie Lapowsky for Protocol:

At a time of unprecedented worker activism in tech and increased scrutiny on the industry, tech whistleblowers’ stories have recently been met with public praise and admiration from fellow tech workers and tech critics who want to see powerful tech companies held accountable for their actions. But that early outpouring of support can mask a litany of costs tech whistleblowers bear: the struggles with anxiety, the unending legal battles, the nine-hour depositions, the online trolls and the interviews with journalists (myself included) that can often resurface traumatic memories. There are literal costs, too: the dwindling savings accounts, the loss of health insurance, the risk of being sued for violating an NDA. 

Block Club Chicago offered two versions of the same story — with and without a horrifying video

Readers said “they appreciated the option to read an article omitting graphic video and images of 13-year-old Adam Toledo’s death,” writes Sarah Scire for Nieman Lab.

There have long been newsroom debates over whether certain violent or graphic images are too disturbing to publish or too important to ignore. Between widespread smart phone usage in the general public and body cameras in law enforcement, editors are being asked to weigh an image or video’s newsworthiness against its ability to distress and traumatize an audience more often than ever.

The pair of stories about Toledo’s death marks the first time Block Club Chicago has made an alternate version of a breaking news story to give readers the option of avoiding distressing content. A few hours after the stories were published on Thursday, the version with the graphic video had more page views (182,000 compared to 50,000 page views on the non-video version) but traffic to the non-video version was climbing as it was shared widely on social media.

What I read, watch and listen to…

  • I’m reading Every Journalist’s Worst Nightmare: CNN’s Myanmar Misadventure by Aye Min Thant for New Naratif:

    “Myanmar people know that the world does not often listen to the story of brown people until it has been repackaged by a white saviour. Clarissa Ward’s shallow coverage, her endangerment of her sources and her embarrassing rationalisations only reinforced this bleak reality.”

  • I’m listening to the audio version of William Turton and Joshua Brustein’s report for Bloomberg Businessweek about Nick Lim, the 23-year-old who keeps the far-right online:

    Although small, the operation serves clients including the Daily Stormer […] and 8kun […] whose adherents were heavily involved in the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Lim exists in a singularly odd corner of the business world. He says he’s not an extremist, just an entrepreneur with a maximalist view of free speech. “There needs to be a me, right?” he says.

  • I’m making an L-shape desk with a hutch for my home office.

Chart of the week

I thought, perhaps, for a break, we could do with a little bit of humour courtesy of Meanwhile in Canada. I don’t have a toddler, but I have a dog, which is the same.

The Starting Block is a weekly collection of notes on science and society with an emphasis on data, democracy, and disinformation. Read the archives. Find me on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin. Send questions, corrections and suggestions to