It has been confirmed that Kinzen, a company specialising in monitoring ‘disinformation campaigns’ and ‘dangerous content’, is no longer working with the Department of Health, after an exposé into the HSE’s flagging of covid-related content was published by Gript.

The exposé, penned by Gript’s Gary Kavanagh, showed how the HSE falsely flagged a wide variety of posts on Twitter with the social media giant as containing misinformation.

His article also showed that some of the flagged posts seemed to have originally been flagged by Kinzen, as evidenced by the nature of some of the URLs present in the material released to journalist Ken Foxe.

Four days after the publishing of Mr Kavanagh’s damning report, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly confirmed in a response to a parliamentary question that the Department was no longer working with the firm.

No reason has yet been given for why the partnership ended.

Kinzen was founded by Mark Little, Áine Kerr, and Paul Watson, all three of whom are veterans of ‘social media intelligence agency’ Storyful, with Little being the original founder of the organization. Paul Watson is no longer involved in the company.

Mark Little, of RTÉ fame, started his political career off as a notoriously left-wing President of Trinity College Dublin’s Student Union, before moving on to have a much celebrated career in journalism at RTÉ. However, Little had a bit of a career change, moving to Twitter in 2015, eventually becoming the managing director of the social media platform in Ireland.

Áine Kerr, wife of Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, also cut her teeth in journalism before, like Little, moving on to a massive social media multinational, joining Facebook in 2016.

Both Kinzen and Storyful have come to this publication’s attention in the past.

Kinzen’s war on ‘disinformation’ has raised cause for serious concern even before this recent incident documented by Gript. A company using what appear to be rather powerful tools of digital mass surveillance, it is headed up by a man with history in a variety of organizations who have been hostile to freedom of speech in the past, such as TCDSU and Twitter.

Meanwhile, Storyful since Little’s departure has also been up to questionable antics. This publication, during an undercover investigation into militant antifascism in Ireland, uncovered the underhanded techniques used by then Storyful journalist Aoife Gallagher to discredit the nascent Irish Right, such as labelling them as conspiracy theorists.

The Kinzen element of the HSE scandal is ultimately a small one, but its importance should not be understated. While it is ultimately unclear what role Kinzen had in the flagging of information by the state body, what is certain is that the outsourcing of state power to private tech companies and NGOs is a growing trend in Ireland.

This growth is occurring despite the fact that these organisations can often have interests running contrary to those of the state which contracts them. 

Such conflict, if current trends continue, will ultimately lead to negative outcomes for Ireland as a nation-state, as well as her citizenry.

This recent debacle involving Kinzen, while embarrassing for the Irish State as a whole, seems unlikely to impede such a trend in any way.

Above image taken from here for reporting purposes.

Posted by Daithí O'Duibhne

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