Money Power Health with Nason Maani podcast

Episode 3: Social Media with Nora Kenworthy and Marco Zenone

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to Money Power Health.

As I mentioned in the first episode, part of the goal of this podcast is to bear witness to some of the hidden forces that shape health, and the extent to which they relate to money and power. Sometimes it is hard to perceive, but everything from the quality of the air you are breathing, to the bacterial count in your tap water, or your proximity to a firearm, affects your health, and is in large part a consequence of the distribution of money and power.

And that isn’t just the case with the physical world. Many of us now also spend a large proportion of our lives and interact with others through social media. That digital world is shaped by commercial forces, just like the physical one is. The companies that produce these are sometimes incredibly large, and active political players, through funding political campaigns, co-designing and conducting research, and engaging in CSR efforts, including with UN organizations. Social media platforms are crucial conduits of information, and networks of influence, though often in highly selective and unequal ways.

These are not simply utility providers. In the case of much of social media, while the platform itself is an environment we inhabit and interact with, it is designed by a company that relies to a large extent on maximising engagement, data collection, and ad revenue, through our presence on it.

There has been increasing interest in how social media algorithms may amplify or inadequately moderate harmful content, including hate speech and misinformation, or be used by harmful product manufacturers to promote their products, or shape public discourse.

Research is now beginning to consider the ways in which social media companies, and platforms, might be regarded as commercial determinants of health, and since you probably found the podcast via social media, I thought it would be good to devote an episode to understanding some of the health implications that arise as a result of the nature, incentives, platforms and activities of social media companies, since they are responsible for an increasing portion of our social worlds.

To do this, I have invited two guests. The first is Professor Nora Kenworthy. She is an associate professor in the school of nursing and health studies at the University of Washington, who has conducted a range of research projects on the health implications of crowd-funding platforms and social media more generally. Joining her is Marco Zenone, a researcher and doctoral candidate at LSHTM who’s studies focus on the intersection of public health, misinformation and marketing on social media.

You can find an example of the work Nora referred to on crowdfunding here:

and an example of Marco's work here:

We wrote a short conceptual article on social media as a commercial determinant of health, which you can find here:

The music in this podcast was by Daniel Maani. You can check out more of his music here:

and here:

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