Hero photograph
Cover: Shouting Zeros and Ones
Photo by Bridget Williams books

Shouting Zeros and Ones: Digital Technology, Ethics and Policy in New Zealand

Peter Hassan —

edited by Andrew Chen. Published by Bridget Williams Books, 2020. Reviewed by Peter Hassan

Shouting Zeros and Ones shines critical light on the impacts of digital technology. I found this book readable and also relevant in this year of elections.

The authors cover some disturbing realities of the digital age, such as algorithms capable of inventing and disseminating lies for political ends or exploitation of the vulnerable. We could all find examples of the lies it defines: “disinformation”, as knowingly-posted lies designed to manipulate opinion; “malinformation”, as truth presented out of context; and “misinformation”, as inaccuracies spread by well-meaning but ignorant people.

Reading that most of New Zealand’s internet usage is hosted by coal-powered Australian data centres was a shock for me. Also disturbing was how easily social media can be used to promote violent and extremist world views.

The book offers positive ways forward, such as the “Christchurch Principles” focused on “reducing the impacts of harmful online content”. It also presents ways of using data to improve medical and penal outcomes. The last chapter explores an epidemiological model for exposing and countering online fascist movements.

Shouting Zeros and Ones offers a valuable start for anyone wanting to become more informed about the digital world. It presents useful ideas for ensuring “zeros and ones” serve the common good.

Tui Motu Magazine. Issue 255 December: 27