Amol Rajan: What kind of internet do you want?

The race is on to shape the internet around the globe Image copyright Getty
Image caption The race is on to shape the internet around the globe

In recent months I have been influenced by a paper on The Geopolitics of Digital Governance by two University of Southampton academics, Kieron O'Hara and Dame Wendy Hall. The paper popularised, but didn't invent, the idea of the "splinternet" - namely, that there is not one internet, but four.

These four internets are, broadly: the open, universalist version envisioned by the web's pioneers; the current, largely Californian internet dominated by a few tech giants (Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook); a more regulated, European internet; and an authoritarian, walled-garden approach, of the kind seen in China, which has its own tech giants (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent).

Most of the stories that I end up covering for BBC News chronicle various attempts to navigate from the second (Californian) internet to the third (European, regulated).

What you might call 'the Southampton argument' is based on an irresistible and irrefutable claim: that there is no one internet, applicable to all humanity, and arising in all places; rather there are several iterations of this revolutionary technology, of which the four articulated by our friends in Southampton are simply the most prominent.

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Image caption Kieron O'Hara and Dame Wendy Hall from Southampton University developed the idea of the 'splinternet'

As our species grapples with the unprecedented disruption, life-improving possibilities, and terrifying potential harms of digital technology, a battle is raging to shape the future of the internet. According to the best estimates, last year was the moment that - for the first time - more people were online than off-line.

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Why The Jeremy Kyle Show was scrapped

The precise circumstances of Steve Dymond's death are not known. But what is clear, from multiple sources, is that he was troubled and vulnerable before he participated in the show - even though he did so willingly - and that failing the lie detector test was a devastating blow.

That much was clear on Tuesday morning, when ITV said that they were minded to launch an inquiry and wait for the coroner's verdict. Yet this morning the show was taken off the air permanently.

Read full article Why The Jeremy Kyle Show was scrapped

The Jeremy Kyle Show: Guest death sees tables turn

Jeremy Kyle and Steve Symond Image copyright Getty Images and Steve Dymond/Facebook
Image caption The death of guest Steve Dymond has put The Jeremy Kyle Show under intense scrutiny

The basic question prompted by Steve Dymond's death is whether the very genre of which Jeremy Kyle is the personification has any place on our screens.

Nobody doubts it is a commercial success. In a highly competitive market, the show has delivered solid ratings for years; and the fact that it has been on air for 14 years is testament to ITV's support for it.

Read full article The Jeremy Kyle Show: Guest death sees tables turn

The children missing out on free school meals

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Media captionMany pupils lose their credit for free school meals if it is not spent on the given day.

Is it just possible that thousands of pupils eligible for free school meals are missing out on their allowance because of an unintended consequence of the policy?Missing out on free school meals? And that with a simple bit of software costing £250, schools can re-direct huge sums of money back to some of the hungriest pupils?

This is a story that is not on the media beat at all. But when I heard about it, I was intrigued.

Read full article The children missing out on free school meals

Guardian records first operating profit since 1998

The Guardian's results are a vindication of the strategy pursued by Chief Executive David Pemsel and Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner since their appointments in 2015 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Guardian's results are a vindication of the strategy pursued by Chief Executive David Pemsel and Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner since their appointments in 2015

The Guardian recorded an operating profit of £0.8m for 2018-19: its first such profit in two decades and the culmination of one of the most significant turnarounds in recent British media history.

The margin is vindication of the strategy pursued by Chief Executive David Pemsel and Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner since their appointments in 2015.

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ASMR is now mainstream

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Media captionASMR: Amol Rajan meets Whispers Red in her Tingle Shed

How many hours, roughly, do you spend each week watching - and listening to - videos of people whispering into microphones, stroking rough objects, crackling bubble-wrap and making similar sounds?

I only ask because there is a significant chance that if the answer is "not much", your answer may change once you get into ASMR.

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Frears in talks to adapt Quiz for ITV

Stephen Frears is in advanced talks to direct a forthcoming adaptation of James Graham's Quiz for ITV.

The acclaimed English director is making the show after being approached by Andy Harries, the Chief Executive of Left Bank Pictures, an independent television production company.

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Image caption Stephen Frears has been one of the most influential directors of his generation

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The constant influence of dark ads

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Media captionHow to find out which groups are behind Brexit ads on Facebook

Over the past three months, Britain's Future, a pro-Brexit group, has spent more on political advertising on Facebook than anyone - more even than the People's Vote.

So last week I called a prominent figure in the Brexit camp about it. Did he know Tim Dawson, the only person publicly associated with the group? "Yes". Did he know who was funding him? "No, but…"

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Do digital echo chambers exist?

It’s often said that social media is one of the primary causes of social divisions today - but could it be that actually it’s also a force for good? Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It’s often said that social media is one of the primary causes of social divisions today - but could it be that actually it’s also a force for good?

A common, and ostensibly common sense, assumption about the era we are living through is that social media is a primary cause of polarisation.

I have often endorsed this idea, whether explicitly or implicitly, during my time at the BBC. Twitter has generally struck me as the industrialisation of confirmation bias. Facebook, a softer version of the same. And other platforms, such as Instagram, similar.

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Tech giants write to ministers to spell out views on internet regulation

The 'Online Harms' white paper is expected to be published in March Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The 'Online Harms' white paper is expected to be published in March

The world's biggest internet companies have written to UK government ministers to outline how they believe harmful online activity should be regulated.

The digital giants, including Facebook, Google and Twitter, say the difference between illegal and harmful content must be formally recognised.

Read full article Tech giants write to ministers to spell out views on internet regulation