It’s been a red letter week for the anti-misinformation outlet Kinzen with the company’s sale to the multimedia giant Spotify for an undisclosed sum.
Inaugurated with as much media ballyhoo and brown nosing as could be expected by RTÉ goldenboy Mark Little and Aine Kerr (wife of Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin), Kinzen was marked as one to watch by this publication when it emerged due to its implicit anti-populist raison d’etre combating online misinformation as well as voluminous political and corporate connections.
Designing business focused solutions for detecting and curtailing harmful online material, Kinzen boasts of its extensive network of global expertise in its various corporate pitches. Beginning work with Spotify in 2020 in the moderation of content, it is expected Kinzen will be a voice at the table for the way the platform will handle US elections in 2024.
Harnessing a mix of machine learning and human insight, the company benefited from grants given to it by Enterprise Ireland aiming to help with anything from election management to fighting hate speech with its major partners.
Ostensibly providing tools to combat the spread of misinformation, serious egg on face was experienced when Gript uncovered a rather shoddy tendering arrangement between the HSE and Kinzen over monitoring services on anti-government speech during the lockdown period.
In essence, and to much cost to the taxpayer-€110,000 to be exact-Kinzen was paid to compile a few hundred words on the day to day on Twitter goings on of Ireland under covid and those opposing lockdown. Hardly splitting the atom for a cutting edge new media company.
Noting anything from anti-lockdown influencers to the machinations of anti-government parties for the Dublin Bay South byelection, it was remarkable the extent to which Kinzen was able to ratchet up costs even for the usual cronyism expected with such arrangements.
The revelations which no doubt contributed to a brisk decision to terminate the relationship last October by the HSE has failed to dent Kinzen’s shine in the media glare.
Smacking of friends in high places rather than serious journalistic work, the saga strangely enough went under the radar of the Irish mainstream,despite the best efforts of Gript’s Gary Kavanahgh as well as the parliamentary questions brought by Carol Nolan TD.
Losing and then surreptitiously finding important paperwork, the temporary loss of material was initially pinned on the HSE cyberattack. All rather strange.
For Spotify the purchase can be seen as not just part of a wider business strategy to atone for their indulgence of the increasingly errant Joe Rogan. Gearing up for a potentially catastrophic American election cycle in 2024, the audio streamer has taken a renewed attitude to fighting hate speech following the black mark it earned among elites for embracing Rogan.
Should the American election go sour in 2024 expect Kinzen to be in a very important hot seat similar to the trendsetting role Storyful was in when launched in the 2010s. With 433 million active users, Spotify is no small change when it comes to media giants and management of information.
Speaking in relation to the acquisition, Spotify officials were keen to stress the prime of place role Kinzen will play in their anti-hate speech offensive.
Storming to start up fame with the creation of Storyful, as The Burkean pointed out when looking into old TCDSU yearbooks it’s a long way away from Little’s original stomping ground as a TCD communist and posh boy background.
The Kinzen model brings with it firm relationships between the world of academia, tech and the state making Little one of the lowkey Irish powerbrokers of our time.
The manner in which Kinzen has dodged serious repercussions regarding the HSE contracting debacle speaks to a rather privileged position they hold when dealing with the state and world of journalism.
Nevertheless the booming anti-misinformation industry attests to an evolving ecosystem in which Ireland is placed dead centre where many individuals and entities are primed to make a killing, Kinzen chief among them.