Zeynep Tufekci discusses the Gamestop short squeeze in “It's All Rigged”

February 23, 2021

Zeynep Tufekci, Associate Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), addresses the Gamestop short squeeze scandal in her recent column for The Atlantic, titled “It’s All Rigged: What Robinhood and Facebook have in Common.”

Tufecki explains the mechanisms that allowed small investors, coordinating through the subreddit r/WallStreetBets, to drive up stock prices in a way that endangered the bottom lines of several prominent hedge funds.

Snapshot of Zeynep Tufekci
Zeynep Tufekci on a 2020 research trip to Sri Lanka. 

The phenomena and the related media frenzy, Tufecki says, are the latest indicators that many people still believe “that the internet is a game, that the virtual world is something distinct from the real one.”

Tufekci explains how longstanding social power dynamics factor into this latest scenario, and highlights the similarities between the business models used by the trading platform Robinhood and social media platforms, like Facebook. “It’s always important to pay attention to a company’s incentives, and especially how it makes money,” she advises.

A principal researcher with Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP), Tufekci has been a contributing writer with The Atlantic since 2019. She also publishes a newsletter at zeynep.substack.com.

Tufekci continues to garner praise for using her writing and influence to help improve the public’s understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was recently named Tar Heel of the Month by the News & Observer and featured in Carolina’s The Well.

Keying off last fall’s New York Times article that lauded her for “getting the big things right” on the pandemic and many other issues, The Ezra Klein Show released the podcast “How to Think Like Zeynep Tufekci” on Feb. 2.

According to the summary on Podchaser, Klein and Tufekci discuss “why public health experts were slow to change guidance on disruptive measures like masking and travel bans, the logic of authoritarian regimes, why Asian countries so decisively outperformed Western Europe and America in containing coronavirus, why Tufekci thinks media coverage of the vaccines is too pessimistic, the crisis of American democracy, whether a more competent demagogue will succeed Donald Trump, and much more.”