Sisi here. As the year winds down and our holiday break approaches, I wanted to share three essential stories highlighting the people at the center of our reporting.
They’re the stories of people for whom The Markup’s investigations are not theoretical, they’re real life: two Black high school students in Wisconsin, a Black homeowner in Los Angeles, and a Vietnamese grandmother in San Jose, Calif.
First, meet Maurice Newton and Mia Townsend, two high school seniors from Wisconsin. Markup reporter Todd Feathers first interviewed Mia and Maurice when he was investigating an algorithm Wisconsin was using to predict how likely students would be to drop out of high school. A few months after our investigation was published, Wisconsin’s Department of Public Instruction said it was considering changes to its early warning systems, and in October, it removed the predictions from school dashboards. This week, Mia and Maurice shared in their own words how shocking it was to learn about the predictions, what it’s been like to navigate the Wisconsin public school system as Black students, and how they’ve worked together to combat racism at school.
Second, meet Dana Amihere. Dana is a data-driven investigative reporter in her own right, but this week, Dana shared what it’s like to be a Black woman and homeowner in South Los Angeles. She and her husband moved to L.A. from Texas five years ago. In August, Markup reporter Lam Thuy Vo found that the social platform connected to Amazon Ring cameras funnels suspicions from residents in Whiter and wealthier areas of Los Angeles directly to police. The story resonated with Dana—she owns five doorbell cameras, which are all installed to help her monitor the entry points to her home. Yesterday, Dana wrote about how she and many of her neighbors own these cameras partly because they can’t rely on the police to show up.
Languages of Misinformation
Meet the Vietnamese Grandmother Fighting Misinformation One YouTube Video at a Time
“I don't think the Vietnamese people in the U.S. get enough credible news. And I don't know how to help them get credible news, except that I do the best I can with my videos.”
Finally, meet Bùi Như Mai, a 67-year-old Vietnamese grandmother who is also a YouTube influencer. In June, our reporter Lam broke a story about Sonia Ohlala, a Vietnamese YouTuber who was translating Newsmax and Brietbart in Vietnamese and was gaining a following among Vietnamese immigrants in the United States. After the story came out, Mai reached out to Lam and shared her story: After seeing YouTubers spreading right-wing misinformation in Vietnamese, Mai wanted to make more mainstream news available in her native language. So she began translating articles from outlets like Politico and The Atlantic. Last month, we translated Mai’s oral history of how she started broadcasting on YouTube, and how translating articles into Vietnamese has resulted in her receiving threats, as well as receiving gratitude. In the new year, we’ll also be publishing her story in Vietnamese, so be on the lookout.
Part of our job as data-driven investigative journalists is to take a quantitative approach to our work. An equally important part is making sure the communities centered in and affected by our work get to tell their stories. At the end of the day, covering technology is really about covering people, the choices they make, and the choices being made for them.
If these stories resonate with you, and if our investigations into the real impact of technology and automated decision-making is meaningful to you, consider a donation to The Markup. By doing so, you’ll be helping us dig into more investigations, build more tools, and amplify more people’s stories, at a time when holding technology companies and decision-makers accountable is more important than ever.
P.S. We’re closing our offices next week so The Markup team can truly disconnect from work and rest. Anything that we publish during that time will have been pre-scheduled. We’ll be back in your inboxes on Jan. 6, 2024.