Coda Story

Five Coda stories you definitely should not miss

Here are some of the stories we did this year that deserve your attention if you'd like to understand the world of authoritarian technology and disinformation

From the ways misinformation can destroy our most intimate relationships to how surveillance technology is changing borders, this past year we’ve investigated the currents that shape our world. Here are some of the stories we covered we think are especially impactful. 

1. Pakistan’s centralized biometric ID scheme has been praised on a global stage. But as we highlighted in our series in November, it is excluding hundreds of thousands of people from essential services including state-subsidized medicines, food rations and even access to cell phones. Women, working-class people and ethnic, sexual and religious minorities are disproportionately affected. Alizeh Kohari, Coda Story’s inaugural Bruno fellow, tells the stories of people and their families who are already on the margins of society but are pushed even more to the side by the flawed digitized system that is increasingly being replicated across the world.

2. What would you do if the love of your life got wrapped up in the biggest conspiracy theory of the moment? Our short animated documentary, produced in partnership with Newsy, shows how QAnon is tearing families apart. Listen to three people from Colorado, Ohio and Utah as they take us through their love stories and explore how QAnon upended them.

3. In 2013, OrgCode, a consulting firm working on homelessness issues, designed an algorithm intended to help local social services to provide people experiencing homelessness with housing that would suit their needs. But as states across the U.S. started adopting similar systems, opaque algorithms became a tool for the local authorities to decide who gets housing and who does not. Coda reporter Caitlin Thompson traveled to San Francisco and investigated what life is like when a single number generated by an algorithm decides who is vulnerable enough to get home.

4. This summer, Erica Hellerstein went to Arizona to investigate how the U.S. government’s pivot to “smart” border surveillance to curb immigration is benefiting private companies with lucrative government contracts while putting migrants at even greater risk. The corridor of surveillance, equipped with monitoring towers, underground motion detectors and facial recognition cameras, is forcing migrants to take potentially lethal routes. 

5. In November, Isobel Cockerell reported on how surveillance is changing migration across the Atlantic Ocean. Cockerell went to Calais, a town at the narrowest point in the English Channel. As the closest French town to England, Calais is a stopping point for migrants seeking to reach the U.K. Governments on both sides of the Channel are spending millions on technology to stop dangerous migrant crossings that often result in death. But as Cockerell reports, it is not working.

The story you just read is a small piece of a complex and an ever-changing storyline that Coda covers relentlessly and with singular focus. But we can’t do it without your help. Show your support for journalism that stays on the story by becoming a member today. Coda Story is a 501(c)3 U.S. non-profit. Your contribution to Coda Story is tax deductible.

Support Coda

The Big Idea

Shifting Borders

Borders are liminal, notional spaces made more unstable by unparalleled migration, geopolitical ambition and the use of technology to transcend and, conversely, reinforce borders. Perhaps the most urgent contemporary question is how we now imagine and conceptualize boundaries. And, as a result, how we think about community. In this special issue are stories of postcolonial maps, of dissidents tracked in places of refuge, of migrants whose bodies become the borderline, and of frontier management outsourced by rich countries to much poorer ones.
Read more