Pandemic, War and the (il)logic of ‘methink’

Polarisation of positions, opinions formulated by ‘experts’ with no real qualifications or by people who have never dealt with a particular subject but who speak out anyway, the need to generate traffic to support the monetisation of content, a paroxysmal search for visibility at any cost, influencers’ self-referentiality pushed to the extreme, ‘moral’ indignation that prevails over the law and the principles of law… It sounds like the umpteenth indictment against the destabilising effects caused by social networks. However, in reality, it concerns the world of so-called ‘professional information, which has demonstrated macroscopically and definitively that it is affected by the same ills. By Andrea Monti – Abridged version of an article initially published in Italian by Strategikon – an Italian Tech Blog

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Privacy for Sale. Just call it ‘Right to Personal Image’

On 16 June 2009, the Italian Supreme Court made public a ruling recognising the right of the well-known plaintiff Cgt to obtain compensation for damages to his privacy and his right to image caused by the publication of photographs that had portrayed him in August 2009, in an intimate relationship with his partner Ca.El. in the park of (omissis), in the Municipality of (omissis).  The ruling does not say whom Cgt and (although not a party to the proceedings) Ca. El. are because the protagonists of the affair had asked that their respective personal details not be disclosed. However, with patience, the mystery will be revealed at the end of the text, the (understandable) curiosity satisfied and the paradox of privacy revealed by Andrea Monti – Originally published in Italian on Strategikon – an Italian Tech Blog.

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Corona Virus infection’s growth is not “exponential”

Yesterday night, Roberto Speranza, the Italian Health Minister, said to TG4 (the news programme of a National broadcaster) that the Coronavirus spreading in Italy is – or it has been -? “exponential”. As a matter of fact, this is not correct, as “exponential” has a specific mathematical meaning that does not match with the data provided by the Italian Government itself. Moreover, talking about “exponential growth” without indicating the exponent and specifying whether it is whole or fractional, does not allow the listener to understand what is the real “steepness” of the curve to which we are referring. Finally, at most, we can speak of an exponential trend in relation to a stretch of the curve, certainly not in relation to the curve itself. Unlike a mathematical function, in fact, the data on contagion are conditioned by variables? that vary (how many probes I did yesterday, how many I do today and how many I will do tomorrow, on which population I perform the analysis etc. etc.). In other words, the trend of the contagion curves (net of all the questions about the composition of the sample) has a (limited) descriptive capacity of the past, but it can hardly give indications about the future.

Raising this issue with a fellow journalist I got this answer: “stop being a semantic prick! People are not read in mathematics and they know that when we use “exponential” we do it as a synonym for “very quick and fast grow”.

Well, maybe I am a “semantic prick” – aren’t we, lawyers?  – but when hard decisions such as putting the whole Italy in quarantine have to be taken, I would expect the decision-makers to ground their assessment on solid basis rather than on a sloppy use (and understanding?) of data and information.

This is not to say that the decision to quarantine Italy is wrong (I neither have the knowledge nor the competence to judge it.) I only point out that there might not be a cause-effect relationship with a (good) decision and the reasons that backed it.

Even Thumbs Deserve Privacy

This article published by Il Fatto Quotidiano is illustrated by a photo that portrays a policeman from the mobile team of Rome and an arrested man whose image is blurred. Not, as you might think without seeing it, on the face that also has a winking expression towards the photographer, but on the hand that is shaped in the pose (the thumb raised) universally become synonymous with “I like it”.

The expression of the arrested subject is disturbing because it is no different from that of a star crossing the red carpet of a film festival or a sports champion celebrating a victory. And it reinforces the mistaken perception – further distorted by television series such as Narcos and Gomorrah – that there is an aesthetic of evil in the name of which, by committing atrocious acts, one can become famous.

This “right thumb” attached to the hand of an ordinary person accused of a crime obviously means that from the desire for a “moment of glory” experienced in film/television fiction we have moved on to the lust of a celebrity at all costs, including that of becoming a protagonist of a crime story.

I don’t know who (whether the photographer or the newspaper) has made the choice to blur the anatomical detail of the arrested, but in both cases I can’t find a reasonable explanation, except for the one that, by now, even the thumbs have a right to their privacy.