Staying safer while recording police activity requires different tactics depending on the situation. Bystanders witnessing police violence in a public space should keep a distance, Kelley-Chung advises—that way you can’t be accused of being a participant. If you get pulled over? Get a passenger to start filming right away, before the officer approaches your window (reaching into your pocket for your phone can also be extremely dangerous, particularly for people of color). If it’s legal in your area, a dash cam might be an alternative, Wandt suggests.
As much as a cell-phone camera offers protection, Wandt says, it’s also important to keep in mind that “once somebody takes out a camera and starts filming an arrest, it absolutely changes the nature of the situation for everybody, from the victim to the suspect to the police officer.”
“There’s the law, there’s the Constitution, and then there’s what you do when you’re face to face with the police,” says Sykes, the ACLU attorney. Figuring out exactly how much to push back against a police officer who is giving an unlawful order is “tough,” he says, especially in certain circumstances—for example, at a protest.
“There is a special flavor of risk when you’re protesting the police and the police are armed and standing feet away from you,” Sykes says.
On-the-ground experience is really the only way to read whether a situation at a protest is safe. But one thing Kelley-Chung has observed is that the presence of a camera filming an officer can protect others from misconduct.
“When you see people in a verbal dispute with police, get as close as possible,” he says. “That camera can be more protection than a tactical vest.”
In any situation, everyone we spoke to had the same caveats: Do not interfere in police operations. Comply when police tell you that you need to move, but you do not have to stop filming from a new location, even if they claim you must, as long as you are recording an officer in a public space carrying out their duties.
Cop watchers generally advise others to collect identifying information on police at the scene, and to note the time and location. You could ask for a badge number; Parriott says most officers actually just carry business cards.
A mine of misinformation
No single video is going to change how police act, and experts argue that even large numbers of videos cannot change the culture of many police departments. On the contrary, police have found ways to use video, especially body camera footage, to reinforce and control their own narrative in cases of possible violence or misconduct.
People like to think that video is simply a neutral tool for capturing information, says Jennifer Grygiel, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University—but it’s not, and how it’s released, and in what context, needs additional vetting.
“They get to set the narrative when it’s released, which controls the initial public sentiment around it and opinion. They also push it out on their social media, and their accounts are just like everybody else’s in that they grow their audience. So then they get people following them there because they’re the first to publish information,” Grygiel says. Her own research deals with how police departments use social media to bypass fact-checking by journalists: it started after she noticed how police were pushing out mugshots on local Facebook pages. “People were going in there, like an old public square, and harassing people who had been arrested,” she says.
As police become better at producing their own media, finding an audience outside of journalism, and making the most of accountability measures like body cameras, Grygiel argues, independent documentation of police officers working in public can serve as a counter to that messaging. Sometimes, as was in the case with the Floyd murder, that documentation happens spontaneously, and often amid great distress, when clear instances of police violence or misconduct are unfolding in real time.
But the capacity for police and police-affiliated organizations to spread misinformation was obvious during the protests in the summer of 2020, when police departments repeatedly promoted inaccurate information. Some of that misinformation went viral, aided by sympathetic media coverage and the right-wing internet, hell-bent on reinforcing the belief that anti-racism protests are merely a conduit for a violent war on cops.
Police unions promoted an alarming claim that Shake Shack employees had “intentionally poisoned” a group of police officers in Manhattan. The story had been dispelled by the next morning: NYPD investigators said the foul-tasting substance in the three officers’ milkshakes wasn’t “bleach,” as the unions speculated, and it wasn’t added to the drinks on purpose. Although the Police Benevolent Association and the Detectives’ Endowment Association both eventually deleted their tweets making the accusation, they had tens of thousands of retweets, and triggered a wave of credulous coverage in conservative and mainstream press. Media write-ups about the tweets got tens of thousands of shares on Facebook and continued to circulate even after the story was debunked.
And this was just one example. Last summer, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea reposted a video of police removing bins of bricks from a South Brooklyn sidewalk, claiming they were the work of “organized looters” offering protesters materials to use for violence, despite little evidence that this was actually true. The NYPD also circulated an alert to officers with images of coffee cups filled with concrete, which closely resemble concrete samples used on construction sites. In Columbus, Ohio, the police tweeted out a photo of a colorful bus that they said was supplying dangerous equipment to “rioters,” fueling already rampant national rumors of “antifa buses” descending on cities. In fact, the bus belonged to a group of circus performers, who said the equipment police cited as riot supplies included juggling clubs and kitchen utensils.
In short, police still lie despite being watched more closely than ever. There are hundreds of videos of police misconduct at the summer protests alone, some from the body cams introduced in reforms meant to hold them more accountable. But Kelley-Chung thinks there’s only so much difference any one video can make.
“I’ve seen people filming officers with their cameras out in the moment and then get tackled by police,” he says. “They know they’re on camera … and yet they still continue to abuse.”
And even after he reached his settlement with the DC police, there’s an aspect of that day he can’t stop thinking about. Kelley-Chung is Black, and his filming partner, Andrew Jasiura, is white. They were both dressed in the same T-shirt, carrying the same sort of camera equipment. Officers saw Jasiura too: “They pulled him out so they could talk to him,” says Kelley-Chung.
That’s when Jasiura told police that his partner was a journalist too. They continued to arrest him anyway.
Why can’t tech fix its gender problem?
Not competing in this Olympics, but still contributing to the industry’s success, were the thousands of women who worked in the Valley’s microchip fabrication plants and other manufacturing facilities from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Some were working-class Asian- and Mexican-Americans whose mothers and grandmothers had worked in the orchards and fruit canneries of the prewar Valley. Others were recent migrants from the East and Midwest, white and often college educated, needing income and interested in technical work.
With few other technical jobs available to them in the Valley, women would work for less. The preponderance of women on the lines helped keep the region’s factory wages among the lowest in the country. Women continue to dominate high-tech assembly lines, though now most of the factories are located thousands of miles away. In 1970, one early American-owned Mexican production line employed 600 workers, nearly 90% of whom were female. Half a century later the pattern continued: in 2019, women made up 90% of the workforce in one enormous iPhone assembly plant in India. Female production workers make up 80% of the entire tech workforce of Vietnam.
Venture: “The Boys Club”
Chipmaking’s fiercely competitive and unusually demanding managerial culture proved to be highly influential, filtering down through the millionaires of the first semiconductor generation as they deployed their wealth and managerial experience in other companies. But venture capital was where semiconductor culture cast its longest shadow.
The Valley’s original venture capitalists were a tight-knit bunch, mostly young men managing older, much richer men’s money. At first there were so few of them that they’d book a table at a San Francisco restaurant, summoning founders to pitch everyone at once. So many opportunities were flowing it didn’t much matter if a deal went to someone else. Charter members like Silicon Valley venture capitalist Reid Dennis called it “The Group.” Other observers, like journalist John W. Wilson, called it “The Boys Club.”
The venture business was expanding by the early 1970s, even though down markets made it a terrible time to raise money. But the firms founded and led by semiconductor veterans during this period became industry-defining ones. Gene Kleiner left Fairchild Semiconductor to cofound Kleiner Perkins, whose long list of hits included Genentech, Sun Microsystems, AOL, Google, and Amazon. Master intimidator Don Valentine founded Sequoia Capital, making early-stage investments in Atari and Apple, and later in Cisco, Google, Instagram, Airbnb, and many others.
Generations: “Pattern recognition”
Silicon Valley venture capitalists left their mark not only by choosing whom to invest in, but by advising and shaping the business sensibility of those they funded. They were more than bankers. They were mentors, professors, and father figures to young, inexperienced men who often knew a lot about technology and nothing about how to start and grow a business.
“This model of one generation succeeding and then turning around to offer the next generation of entrepreneurs financial support and managerial expertise,” Silicon Valley historian Leslie Berlin writes, “is one of the most important and under-recognized secrets to Silicon Valley’s ongoing success.” Tech leaders agree with Berlin’s assessment. Apple cofounder Steve Jobs—who learned most of what he knew about business from the men of the semiconductor industry—likened it to passing a baton in a relay race.
Predicting the climate bill’s effects is harder than you might think
Human decision-making can also cause models and reality to misalign. “People don’t necessarily always do what is, on paper, the most economic,” says Robbie Orvis, who leads the energy policy solutions program at Energy Innovation.
This is a common issue for consumer tax credits, like those for electric vehicles or home energy efficiency upgrades. Often people don’t have the information or funds needed to take advantage of tax credits.
Likewise, there are no assurances that credits in the power sectors will have the impact that modelers expect. Finding sites for new power projects and getting permits for them can be challenging, potentially derailing progress. Some of this friction is factored into the models, Orvis says. But there’s still potential for more challenges than modelers expect.
Putting too much stock in results from models can be problematic, says James Bushnell, an economist at the University of California, Davis. For one thing, models could overestimate how much behavior change is because of tax credits. Some of the projects that are claiming tax credits would probably have been built anyway, Bushnell says, especially solar and wind installations, which are already becoming more widespread and cheaper to build.
Still, whether or not the bill meets the expectations of the modelers, it’s a step forward in providing climate-friendly incentives, since it replaces solar- and wind-specific credits with broader clean-energy credits that will be more flexible for developers in choosing which technologies to deploy.
Another positive of the legislation is all its long-term investments, whose potential impacts aren’t fully captured in the economic models. The bill includes money for research and development of new technologies like direct air capture and clean hydrogen, which are still unproven but could have major impacts on emissions in the coming decades if they prove to be efficient and practical.
Whatever the effectiveness of the Inflation Reduction Act, however, it’s clear that more climate action is still needed to meet emissions goals in 2030 and beyond. Indeed, even if the predictions of the modelers are correct, the bill is still not sufficient for the US to meet its stated goals under the Paris agreement of cutting emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2030.
The path ahead for US climate action isn’t as certain as some might wish it were. But with the Inflation Reduction Act, the country has taken a big step. Exactly how big is still an open question.
China has censored a top health information platform
The suspension has met with a gleeful social reaction among nationalist bloggers, who accuse DXY of receiving foreign funding, bashing traditional Chinese medicine, and criticizing China’s health-care system.
DXY is one of the front-runners in China’s digital health startup scene. It hosts the largest online community Chinese doctors use to discuss professional topics and socialize. It also provides a medical news service for a general audience, and it is widely seen as the most influential popular science publication in health care.
“I think no one, as long as they are somewhat related to the medical profession, doesn’t follow these accounts [of DXY],” says Zhao Yingxi, a global health researcher and PhD candidate at Oxford University, who says he followed DXY’s accounts on WeChat too.
But in the increasingly polarized social media environment in China, health care is becoming a target for controversy. The swift conclusion that DXY’s demise was triggered by its foreign ties and critical work illustrates how politicized health topics have become.
Since its launch in 2000, DXY has raised five rounds of funding from prominent companies like Tencent and venture capital firms. But even that commercial success has caused it trouble this week. One of its major investors, Trustbridge Partners, raises funds from sources like Columbia University’s endowments and Singapore’s state holding company Temasek. After DXY’s accounts were suspended, bloggers used that fact to try to back up their claim that DXY has been under foreign influence all along.
Part of the reason the suspension is so shocking is that DXY is widely seen as one of the most trusted online sources for health education in China. During the early days of the covid-19 pandemic, it compiled case numbers and published a case map that was updated every day, becoming the go-to source for Chinese people seeking to follow covid trends in the country. DXY also made its name by taking down several high-profile fraudulent health products in China.
It also hasn’t shied away from sensitive issues. For example, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in 2019, it published the accounts of several victims of conversion therapy and argued that the practice is not backed by medical consensus.
“The article put survivors’ voices front and center and didn’t tiptoe around the disturbing reality that conversion therapy is still prevalent and even pushed by highly ranked public hospitals and academics,” says Darius Longarino, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center.