Belfast riots and a Facebook loophole – inside the 16 April Guardian Weekly

Will Dean
·2 min read

Over the past couple of weeks, there have been scenes in the streets of Belfast that almost everyone with a stake in Northern Ireland hoped had been confined to the history books. Last Thursday, crowds clashed in west Belfast and rioters were dispersed with water cannon after nights of unrest in loyalist areas. Our Ireland correspondent Rory Carroll has been making sense of this latest surge in anger – fuelled by fears old and new about the changing nature of Northern Ireland.

In 1947, the Observer approved of a “gallant mariner” and his engagement to Princess Elizabeth. After the Duke of Edinburgh’s death last Friday just shy of his 100th birthday, Tim Adams reflects on Prince Philip’s many facets: stalwart husband, family confidant, poetry lover, mentor to the young and, above all, a loyal servant of the crown.

Just how big an effect does Facebook have on politics around the world? It was a question that became pressing in the wake of the 2016 US election and one that continues to plague the social media giant. In the first of a series of investigations, our US tech reporter Julia Carrie Wong speaks to a former Facebook employee who reveals the incredibly simple loophole that allows bad faith actors in smaller, poorer countries to create fake online engagement in their nations that can be used to silence critics.

Kate Clanchy’s elderly parents had a simple wish: to be allowed to die in dignity, without last-gasp medical interventions. But when the pandemic struck, the poet faced a battle to honour their request. Her account of grief and bureaucracy is a challenging but beautiful read.

Elsewhere in the magazine, Larry Elliott looks at how the economic response to the Covid crash is so different from how governments dealt with the carnage of 2008; Simon Tisdall considers if growing tensions between the US, Russia and China are leading us to an 1984-style battle of three-competing powers and Simon Hattenstone talks to the Jacksons about Michael, their father and politics.