Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Fact-Free Reporting on Kaspersky Lab – Stealing NSA Software Tip

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

I tweeted:

@thegrugq Israelis they hacked Kerspersky, saw Russians there, tell NSA, lots of he, they, we say, few facts.

[T]the grugq‏ @thegrugq responded with the best question on the Kaspersky story:

What would count as a fact here? Kaspersky publicised the hack when it happened. Does that count as a fact?

What counts as a fact is central to my claim that thus far, all we have seen is fact-free reporting on the alleged use of Kaspersky Lab software to obtain NSA tools.

Opinions are reported but not facts you could give to an expert like Bruce Schneier ask for an opinion.

What would I think of as “facts” in this case?

What did Israeli intelligence allegedly see when it hacked into Kaspersky Lab?

Not some of the data, not part of the data, but a record of all the data seen upon which they then concluded the Russians were using it to search for NSA software.

To the automatic objection this was a “secret intelligence operation,” let me point out that without that evidence, the NSA and anyone else further down the chain of distribution of the Israeli opinion, were being manipulated by that opinion in the absence of facts.

Just as the NSA wants to foist its opinion on the public, through unnamed sources, without any evidence for the public to form its own opinion based on facts.

The prevention of contrary opinions or avoiding questioning of an opinion, can only be achieved by blocking access to the alleged evidence that “supports” the opinion.

Without any “facts” to speak of, the Department of Homeland Security, is attempting to govern all federal agencies and their use of Kaspersky security software.

Stating the converse, how do you dispute claims made by unnamed sources that say the Israelis saw the Russians using Kaspersky Lab software to look for NSA software?

The obvious answer is that you can’t. There are no facts to check, no data to examine, and that, in my opinion, is intentional.

PS: If you want to steal NSA software, history says the easiest route is to become an NSA contractor. Much simpler than hacking anti-virus software, then using it to identify likely computers, then hacking identified computers. Plus, you paid vacation every year until you are caught. Who can argue with that?

Online Verification Course (First Draft) [Open To Public – January 2018]

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

First Draft launches its online verification training course

From the post:

Journalists strive to get the story right, but as we are bombarded by far more information than ever before, the tools and skills crucial to telling the whole story are undergoing a profound change. Understanding who took the photo or video, who created the website and why, enables journalists to meet these challenges. Verification training, up until now, has largely been done on the job and as needed. But today, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our online verification course.

In this course, we teach you the steps involved in verifying the eyewitness media, fabricated websites, visual memes and manipulated videos that emerge on social media. The course is designed so that anyone can take the course from start to finish online, or educators can take elements and integrate into existing classroom teaching. For newsroom training managers, we hope the you can encourage your staff to take the course online, or you can take individual videos and tutorials and use during brown-bag lunches. We provide relevant and topical examples — from events such as Hurricane Irma and the conflict in Syria — to show how these skills and techniques are put into practice.

The course is open only to First Draft partners until January 2018, so consider that as an incentive for your organization to become a First Draft partner!

I haven’t seen the course material but the video introduction:

and the high quality of all other First Draft materials, sets high expectations for the verification course.

Looking forward to a First Draft course on skepticism for journalists, which uses the recent Wall Street Journal repetition of government slanders about Kerspersky Lab, which is subsequently discovered to be: “we (Israel) broke into the Kerpersky house and while robbing the place saw another burglar (Russia) there and they were looking for NSA software, so we alerted the NSA.” How Israel Caught Russian Hackers Scouring the World for U.S. Secrets

Only an editor suffering from nationalism to the point being a mental disorder would publish such a story without independent verification. Could well all be true but when all the sources are known liars, something more is necessary before reporting it as “fact.”

Busting Fake Tweeters

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

The ultimate guide to bust fake tweeters: A video toolkit in 10 steps by Henk van Ess.

From the post:

Twitter is full of false information. Even Twitter co-founder Ev Williams recognizes that there is a “junk information epidemic going on,” as “[ad-driven platforms] are benefiting from people generating attention at pretty much any cost.”

This video toolkit is intended to help you debunk dubious tweets. It was first developed in research by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue and the Arena Program at the London School of Economics to detect Russian social media influence during the German elections. It was also the basis for a related BuzzFeed article on a Russian bot farm and tweets about the AfD  — the far-right party that will enter the German parliament for the first time.

This is an excellence resource for teaching users skepticism about Twitter accounts.

For your use in creating a personal cheatsheet (read van Ess for the links):

  1. Find the exact minute of birth
  2. Find the first words
  3. Check the followers
  4. Find Twitter users in Facebook
  5. Find suspicious words in tweets
  6. Searching in big data
  7. Connect a made up Twitter handle to a real social media account
  8. Find a social score
  9. How alive is the bot?
  10. When (and how) is your bot tweeting?

Deciding that a Twitter account maybe a legitimate is only the first step in evaluating tweeted content.

The @WSJ account belongs to the Wall Street Journal, but it doesn’t follow their tweets are accurate or even true. Witness their repetition of government rumors about Kerpersky Lab for example. Not one shred of evidence, but WSJ repeats it.

Be skeptical of all Tweets, not just ones attributed to the “enemy of the day.”

OnionShare – Safely Sharing Email Leaks – 394 Days To Mid-terms

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

FiveThirtyEight concludes Clinton’s leaked emails had some impact on the 2016 presidential election, but can’t say how much. How Much Did WikiLeaks Hurt Hillary Clinton?

Had leaked emails been less boring and non-consequential, “smoking gun” sort of emails, their impact could have been substantial.

The lesson being the impact of campaign/candidate/party emails is impossible to judge until they have been leaked. Even then the impact may be uncertain.

“Leaked emails” presumes someone has leaked the emails, which in light of the 2016 presidential election, is a near certainty for the 2018 congressional mid-term elections.

Should you find yourself in possession of leaked emails, you may want a way to share them with others. My preference for public posting without edits or deletions, but not everyone shares my confidence in the public.

One way to share files securely and anonymously with specific people is OnionShare.

From the wiki page:

What is OnionShare?

OnionShare lets you securely and anonymously share files of any size. It works by starting a web server, making it accessible as a Tor onion service, and generating an unguessable URL to access and download the files. It doesn’t require setting up a server on the internet somewhere or using a third party filesharing service. You host the file on your own computer and use a Tor onion service to make it temporarily accessible over the internet. The other user just needs to use Tor Browser to download the file from you.

How to Use

http://asxmi4q6i7pajg2b.onion/egg-cain. This is the secret URL that can be used to download the file you’re sharing.

Send this URL to the person you’re sending the files to. If the files you’re sending aren’t secret, you can use normal means of sending the URL, like by emailing it, or sending it in a Facebook or Twitter private message. If you’re sending secret files then it’s important to send this URL securely.

The person who is receiving the files doesn’t need OnionShare. All they need is to open the URL you send them in Tor Browser to be able to download the file.
(emphasis in original)

Download OnionShare 1.1. Versions are available for Windows, Mac OS X, with instructions for Ubuntu, Fedora and other flavors of Linux.

Caveat: If you are sending a secret URL to leaked emails or other leaked data, use ordinary mail, no return address, standard envelope from a package of them you discard, on the back of a blank counter deposit slip, with letters from a newspaper, taped in the correct order, sent to the intended recipient. (No licking, it leaves trace DNA.)

Those are the obvious security points about delivering a secret URL. Take that as a starting point.

PS: I would never contact the person chosen for sharing about shared emails. They can be verified separate and apart from you as the source. Every additional contact puts you in increased danger of becoming part of a public story. What they don’t know, they can’t tell.

TruthBuzz: Announcing the winners! [Does Fake/False News Spread Differently?]

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

TruthBuzz: Announcing the winners! by Oren Levine.

From the post:

Caricatures of politicians, time-lapse videos and an app modeled on a classic video game were among the winners of TruthBuzz, the Viral Fact-Checking Challenge.

Organized by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) with support from the Craig Newmark Foundation, the TruthBuzz contest aimed to find new ways to help verified facts reach the widest possible audience. The competition sought creative solutions to take fact-checking beyond long-form explanations and bullet points.

The goal of the contest was to “…make the truth go viral…,” which the winners did with style.

Except no distinction is offered between the spread of fake/false news and “truth.”

Enjoy reading about the winners but then ask yourself:

Could these same techniques be used to spread fake/false news?

My answer is yes.

What’s yours?

PS: My answer to why fake/false news spreads unchecked? There are fewer ad dollars in corrections than headline stories. You?

BuzzFeed News Animates Jewish Folktale

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Zahra Hirji and Lam Thuy Vo team up in Here’s Why Debunking Viral Climate Myths Is Almost Impossible, In One Animated Chart to animate a Jewish folktale, A Pillow Full of Feathers (as retold by Shoshannah Brombacher).

In the folktale, a businessman repeats all the gossip he hears, enjoying the attention it brings. One day his repeating of gossip brings real harm to another. The businessman asks his rabbi what he can do to undo his deed. At the direction of the rabbi, he cuts into a feather pillow, which scatters feathers all over the room, some fly out the window, etc. Now the rabbi commands him to recover every feather that came from the pillow.

The businessman protests it is impossible to recover all the feathers and the rabbi points out the same is true for undoing his gossip. He can’t ever reach everyone who heard his gossip. (Brombacher’s retelling is much better than mine so see his version. Please.)

Hirji and Vo are concerned with a story published on February 4 (2017) and admitted to be false on September 16 (2017). They write:

When a British newspaper published an exposé in February alleging proof that US government scientists had used flawed data to show recent global warming and rushed to publish their research to sway the Paris climate talks, conservative media was lit.

“The latest example of misinformation from the left comes directly from the federal government,” SarahPalin.com said about the article, published in Britain’s Mail on Sunday. It was a “bombshell,” according to the climate skeptic blog Watts Up With That, and “explosive,” according to The Federalist Papers Project. “BUSTED: NOAA Lied About Climate Change Data to Manipulate World Leaders,” blared the website Louder with Crowder.

The story centered on a two-year-old Science study showing that the rise in global temperatures had not recently stalled, as previous data had suggested. The Science paper had repeatedly been attacked by climate skeptics, including House Science Committee chair Lamar Smith (R-Tex.). After the Mail on Sunday’s piece, Smith demanded, for at least the sixth time, that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration turn over its correspondence about the Science data.

Now, some seven months later, the Mail on Sunday has begrudgingly admitted its story was wrong. But will this update change anyone’s minds?

That seems unlikely, based on a BuzzFeed News review of how widely the article was shared across social media compared to early attempts to debunk it.

Hirji and Vo have a great visualization of the rapid spread of Daily Mail story by the Internet. BTW, they reach the same conclusion as the businessman and the rabbi on undoing fake news once it spreads.

Pillow Full of Feathers differs from this account of the spread of a climate myth in the following exchange:


When the nice man with the nasty problem heard from the rabbi how devastated his colleague was, he felt truly sorry. He honestly had not considered it such a big deal to tell this story, because it was true; the rabbi could check it out if he wanted. The rabbi sighed.

True, not true, that really makes no difference! You just cannot tell stories about people. This is all lashon hara, slander, and it’s like murder—you kill a person’s reputation.” He said a lot more, and the man who started the rumor now felt really bad and sorry. “What can I do to make it undone?” he sobbed. “I will do anything you say!”
… (emphasis added)

It’s popular to talk about the spread of false or mis-leading news, but the mechanisms for spreading true and false news are the same.

The emphasis on false or mis-leading news has a hidden assumption that we have correctly identified false or mis-leading news.

That’s certainly not my presumption when I hear the management at Facebook, Twitter, Google or any of the other common suspects discussing false or mis-leading news.

What about you?

Female Journalists Fight Online Harrassment [An Anti-Censorship Response]

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

(Before you tweet, pro or con, I take everything Ricchiari reports as true and harassment of women as an issue that must be addressed.)

Female Journalists Fight Online Harrassment by Sherry Ricchiardi.

From the post:

Online tormentors have called Swedish broadcaster Alexandra Pascalidou a “dirty whore,” a “Greek parasite” (a reference to her ethnic heritage), a “stupid psycho,” “ugly liar” and “biased hater.” They have threatened her with gang rape and sexual torture in hideous detail.

But Pascalidou has chosen to fight back by speaking out publicly, as often as she can, against the online harassment faced by female journalists. In November 2016, she testified before a European commission about the impact of gender-based trolling. “(The perpetrators’) goal is our silence,” she told the commission. “It’s censorship hidden behind the veil of freedom of speech. Their freedom becomes our prison.”

In April 2017, Pascalidou appeared on a panel at the International Journalism Festival in Italy, discussing how to handle sexist attacks online. She described the vitriol and threats as “low-intense, constant warfare.”

“Some say switch it off, it’s just online,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It doesn’t count. But it does count, and it’s having a real impact on our lives. Hate hurts. And it often fuels action IRL (in real life).”

Other media watchdogs have taken notice. International News Safety Institute director Hannah Storm has called online harassment “the scourge of the moment in our profession” and a “major threat to the safety and security of women journalists.”

“When women journalists are the target, online harassment quickly descends into sexualized hate or threats more often than with men,” she added. “Women are more likely to be subjected to graphic sexual and physical violence.”

You will be hard pressed to find a more radical supporter of free speech than myself. I don’t accept the need for censorship of any content, for any reason, by any public or private entity.

Having said that, users should be enabled to robustly filter speech they encounter, so as to avoid harassment, threats, etc. But they are filtering their information streams and not mine. There’s a difference.

Online harassment is consistent with the treatment of women IRL (in real life). Cultural details will vary but the all encompassing abuse described in Woman at point zero by Nawāl Saʻdāwī can be found in any culture.

The big answer is to change the treatment of women in society, which in turn will reduce online harassment. But big answers don’t provide relief to women who are suffering online now. Ricchiardi lists a number of medium answers, the success of which will vary from one newsroom to another.

I have a small answer that isn’t seeking a global, boil-the-ocean answer.

Follow female journalists on Twitter and other social media. Don’t be silent in the face of public harassment.

You can consider one or more of the journalists from Leading women journalists – A public list by Ellie Van Houtte.

Personally I’m looking for local or not-yet-leading female journalists to follow. A different perspective on the news than my usual feed plus an opportunity to be supportive in a hostile environment.

Being supportive requires no censorship and supplies aid where it is needed the most.

Yes?

@niccdias and @cward1e on Mis- and Dis-information [Additional Questions]

Friday, September 29th, 2017

10 questions to ask before covering mis- and dis-information by Nic Dias and Claire Wardle.

From the post:

Can silence be the best response to mis- and dis-information?

First Draft has been asking ourselves this question since the French election, when we had to make difficult decisions about what information to publicly debunk for CrossCheck. We became worried that – in cases where rumours, misleading articles or fabricated visuals were confined to niche communities – addressing the content might actually help to spread it farther.

As Alice Marwick and Rebecca Lewis noted in their 2017 report, Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online, “[F]or manipulators, it doesn’t matter if the media is reporting on a story in order to debunk or dismiss it; the important thing is getting it covered in the first place.” Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick seemed to confirm our concerns when, on the weekend of the #MacronLeaks trend, he tweeted that 4channers were celebrating news stories about the leaks as a “form of engagement.”

We have since faced the same challenges in the UK and German elections. Our work convinced us that journalists, fact-checkers and civil society urgently need to discuss when, how and why we report on examples of mis- and dis-information and the automated campaigns often used to promote them. Of particular importance is defining a “tipping point” at which mis- and dis-information becomes beneficial to address. We offer 10 questions below to spark such a discussion.

Before that, though, it’s worth briefly mentioning the other ways that coverage can go wrong. Many research studies examine how corrections can be counterproductive by ingraining falsehoods in memory or making them more familiar. Ultimately, the impact of a correction depends on complex interactions between factors like subject, format and audience ideology.

Reports of disinformation campaigns, amplified through the use of bots and cyborgs, can also be problematic. Experiments suggest that conspiracy-like stories can inspire feelings of powerlessness and lead people to report lower likelihoods to engage politically. Moreover, descriptions of how bots and cyborgs were found give their operators the opportunity to change strategies and better evade detection. In a month awash with revelations about Russia’s involvement in the US election, it’s more important than ever to discuss the implications of reporting on these kinds of activities.

Following the French election, First Draft has switched from the public-facing model of CrossCheck to a model where we primarily distribute our findings via email to newsroom subscribers. Our election teams now focus on stories that are predicted (by NewsWhip’s “Predicted Interactions” algorithm) to be shared widely. We also commissioned research on the effectiveness of the CrossCheck debunks and are awaiting its results to evaluate our methods.

The ten questions (see the post) should provoke useful discussions in newsrooms around the world.

I have three additional questions that round Nic Dias and Claire Wardle‘s list to a baker’s dozen:

  1. How do you define mis- or dis-information?
  2. How do you evaluate information to classify it as mis- or dis-information?
  3. Are your evaluations of specific information as mis- or dis-information public?

Defining dis- or mis-information

The standard definitions (Merriam Webster) for:

disinformation: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth

misinformation: incorrect or misleading information

would find nodding agreement from Al Jazeera and the CIA, to the European Union and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

However, what is or is not disinformation or misinformation would vary from one of those parties to another.

Before reaching the ten questions of Nic Dias and Claire Wardle, define what you mean by disinformation or misinformation. Hopefully with numerous examples, especially ones that are close to the boundaries of your definitions.

Otherwise, all your readers know is that on the basis of some definition of disinformation/misinformation known only to you, information has been determined to be untrustworthy.

Documenting your process to classify as dis- or mis-information

Assuming you do arrive at a common definition of misinformation or disinformation, what process do you use to classify information according to those definitions? Ask your editor? That seems like a poor choice but no doubt it happens.

Do you consult and abide by an opinion found on Snopes? Or Politifact? Or FactCheck.org? Do all three have to agree for a judgement of misinformation or disinformation? What about other sources?

What sources do you consider definitive on the question of mis- or disinformation? Do you keep that list updated? How did you choose those sources over others?

Documenting your evaluation of information as dis- or mis-information

Having a process for evaluating information is great.

But have you followed that process? If challenged, how would you establish the process was followed for a particular piece of information?

Is your documentation office “lore,” or something more substantial?

An online form that captures the information, its source, the check fact source consulted with date, decision and person making the decision would take only seconds to populate. In addition to documenting the decision, you can build up a record of a source’s reliability.

Conclusion

Vagueness makes discussion and condemnation of mis- or dis-information easy to do and difficult to have a process for evaluating information, a common ground for classifying that information, to say nothing of documenting your decision on specific information.

Don’t be the black box of whim and caprice users experience at Twitter, Facebook and Google. You can do better than that.

Tails 3.2 Out! [Questions for Journalists]

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Tails 3.2 is out

From the about page:

Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

It is a complete operating system designed to be used from a USB stick or a DVD independently of the computer’s original operating system. It is Free Software and based on Debian GNU/Linux.

Tails comes with several built-in applications pre-configured with security in mind: web browser, instant messaging client, email client, office suite, image and sound editor, etc.

Does your editor keep all reporters supplied with a current version of Tails?

Are reporters trained on a regular basis in the use of Tails?

If your answer to either question is no, you should be looking for another employer.

571 threats to press freedom in first half of 2017 [Hiding the Perpetrators?]

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Mapping Media Freedom verifies 571 threats to press freedom in first half of 2017

First Limit on Coverage

When reading this report, which is excellent coverage of assaults on press freedom, bear in mind the following limitation:

Mapping Media Freedom identifies threats, violations and limitations faced by members of the press throughout European Union member states, candidates for entry and neighbouring countries.

You will not read about US-based and other threats to press freedom that fall outside the purview of Mapping Media Freedom.

From the post:

Index on Censorship’s database tracking violations of press freedom recorded 571 verified threats and limitations to media freedom during the first two quarters of 2017.

During the first six months of the year: three journalists were murdered in Russia; 155 media workers were detained or arrested; 78 journalists were assaulted; 188 incidents of intimidation, which includes psychological abuse, sexual harassment, trolling/cyberbullying and defamation, were documented; 91 criminal charges and civil lawsuits were filed; journalists and media outlets were blocked from reporting 91 times; 55 legal measures were passed that could curtail press freedom; and 43 pieces of content were censored or altered.

“The incidents reported to the Mapping Media Freedom in the first half of 2017 tell us that the task of keeping the public informed is becoming much harder and more dangerous for journalists. Even in countries with a tradition of press freedom journalists have been harassed and targeted by actors from across the political spectrum. Governments and law enforcement must redouble efforts to battle impunity and ensure fair treatment of journalists,” Hannah Machlin, Mapping Media Freedom project manager, said.

This is a study of threats, violations and limitations to media freedom throughout Europe as submitted to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform. It is made up of two reports, one focusing on Q1 2017 and the other on Q2 2017.

You can obtain the report in PDF format.

Second Limit on Coverage

As I read about incident after incident, following the links, I only see “the prosecutor,” “the police,” “traffic police,” “its publisher,” “the publisher of the channel,” and similar opaque prose.

Surely “the prosecutor” and “the publisher” was known to the person reporting the incident. If that is the case, then why hide the perpetrators? What does that gain for freedom of the press?

Am I missing some unwritten rule that requires members of the press to be perpetual victims?

Exposing the perpetrators to the bright light of public scrutiny, enables local and remote defenders of press freedom to join in defense of the press.

Yes?

Evidence of Government Surveillance in Mexico Continues to Mount [Is This News?]

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Evidence of Government Surveillance in Mexico Continues to Mount by Giovanna Salazar, translated by Omar Ocampo.

From the post:

In early September, further attempts to spy on activists in Mexico were confirmed. The president of Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI), an organization dedicated to investigative journalism, received several SMS messages that were intended to infect his mobile device with malicious software.

According to The New York Times, Claudio X. González Guajardo was threatened with Pegasus, a sophisticated espionage tool or “spyware” sold exclusively to governments that was acquired by the Mexican government in 2014 and 2015, with the alleged intention of combating organized crime. Once installed, Pegasus spyware allows the sender or attacker to access files on the targeted device, such as text messages, emails, passwords, contacts list, calendars, videos and photographs. It even allows the microphone and camera to activate at any time, inadvertently, on the infected device.

Salazar’s careful analysis of the evidence leaves little doubt:

these intrusive technologies are being used to intimidate and silence dissent.

But is this news?

I ask because my starting assumption is that governments buy surveillance technologies to invade the privacy of their citizens. The other reason would be?

You may think some targets merit surveillance, such as drug dealers, corrupt officials, but once you put surveillance tools in the hands of government, all citizens are living in the same goldfish bowl. Whether we are guilty of any crime or not.

The use of surveillance “to intimidate and silence dissent” is as natural to government as corruption.

The saddest part of Salazar’s report is that Pegasus is sold exclusively to governments.

Citizens need a free, open source edition of Pegasus Next Generation with which to spy on governments, businesses, banks, etc.

A way to invite them into the goldfish bowl in which ordinary citizens already live.

The ordinary citizen has no privacy left to lose.

The question is when current spy masters will lose theirs as well?

Behind the First Arab Data Journalists’ Network – Open For Collaborations!

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

Behind the First Arab Data Journalists’ Network

From the post:

When it comes to data journalism in the Middle East, one name stands out. Amr Eleraqi is the data journalist spreading data journalism to the Middle East. In 2012, he launched infotimes.org, the first Arabic website specializing in data journalism in the region. Since then, Eleraqi and his organization have both been nominated for GEN Data Journalism Awards — once in 2015 as an individual, and the second in 2016 for the best data visualization website of the year.

His goal: to introduce Arab journalists to the concept of data visualization as a new tool for storytelling. It worked. As the site grew so did the interest of Arab journalists in the field of data journalism. So he and a team of nine recently launched the first Arab Data Journalists’ Network. Advocacy Assembly spoke with Eleraqi to learn more about the network and how it’s changing the scene for Arab journalists.

The website, Arab Data Journalists’ Network, is available in three languages (Arabic, English, French) and is focused on educational material for Arab journalists in Arabic.

The tweet from @gijn where I saw this says contact @arabdjn or @aeleraqi for collaborations!

Excellent opportunity to expand your news awareness and data journalism contacts.

Leaky Media Paywalls!

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

In paywall age, free content remains king for newspaper sites by Ariel Stulberg.

From the post:

THE MAJORITY OF AMERICA’S largest newspapers continue to employ digital subscription strategies that prioritize traffic, ad revenues, and promotion—despite the ongoing collapse of display ad rates.

Even as they’ve added paying Web subscribers by the hundreds of thousands, daily newspapers have decisively rejected an all-in approach featuring “hard” website paywalls that mimic their print business models. Instead, most are employing either “leaky” paywalls with unlimited “side doors” for non-subscribers or no paywalls at all, according to a CJR analysis of the nation’s 25 most-visited daily newspaper sites.

There was little agreement on a paywall strategy and certainly no consensus solution to the problem of the “ideal” newspaper paywall. The paywalled news sites, 15 in total, diverged widely in the cost of their subscriptions, the number of free articles dispensed, the specific combination of “side door” exceptions employed, and whether they operated via one flagship website or two—one free and one for subscribers.

Despite what seems like widespread optimism about the prospect of digital subscriptions buttressing the industry, a full 10 sites, 40 percent of the outlets we looked at, focused on ad revenue exclusively, eschewing paywalls.

News executives who spoke with CJR expressed confidence in their company’s approach and cited their favorite figures to back it up. But without examining internal data, the best way to gauge whether they were right will be to check back in a few years and see whether each is sticking with their approach. No matter the format, the prospect of news organizations relying on paywalls as primary drivers of revenue still seems remote.
… (emphasis in original)

As you might imagine, Stulberg finds the evidence is mixed on the use of paywalls, non-use of paywalls and leaky paywalls in between. Each approach has some advocates but there’s not enough accessible and representative data to reach any hard conclusions.

Still, the post provides you with a handy list of “leaky paywalls” to enjoy as part of your media experience. Just in time for the weekend as well.

Enjoy!

PS: Drop by the Donate page for the Columbia Journalism Review to support quality writing on journalism.

Self-Censorship and Privilege on the Internet

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Sloppy U.S. Spies Misused A Covert Network For Personal Shopping — And Other Stories From Internal NSA Documents by Micah Lee, Margot Williams, Talya Cooper.

From the post:

NSA agents successfully targeted “the entire business chain” connecting foreign cafes to the internet, bragged about an “all-out effort” to spy on liberated Iraq, and began systematically trying to break into virtual private networks, according to a set of internal agency news reports dating to the first half of 2005.

British spies, meanwhile, were made to begin providing new details about their informants via a system of “Intelligence Source Descriptors” created in response to intelligence failures in Iraq. Hungary and the Czech Republic pulled closer to the National Security Agency.

And future Intercept backer Pierre Omidyar visited NSA headquarters for an internal conference panel on “human networking” and open-source intelligence.

These stories and more are contained in a batch of 294 articles from SIDtoday, the internal news website of the NSA’s core Signals Intelligence Directorate. The Intercept is publishing the articles in redacted form as part of an ongoing project to release material from the files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

In addition to the aforementioned highlights, summarized in further detail below, the documents show how the NSA greatly expanded a secret eavesdropping partnership with Ethiopia’s draconian security forces in the Horn of Africa, as detailed in an investigation by longtime Intercept contributor Nick Turse. They describe the NSA’s operations at a base in Digby, England, where the agency worked with its British counterpart GCHQ to help direct drones in the Middle East and tap into communications through the Arab Spring uprisings, according to a separate article by Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher. And they show how the NSA and GCHQ thwarted encryption systems used to protect peer-to-peer file sharing through the apps Kazaa and eDonkey, as explained here by Intercept technologist Micah Lee.

NSA did not comment for this article.

If you are interested in reporting based on redacted versions of twelve year old news (last half of 2005), this is the article for you.

The authors proclaim self-censorship and privilege saying:


The Intercept is publishing the articles in redacted form as part of an ongoing project to release material from the files provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

These authors can milk their treasure trove of unredacted SIDreports, giving them an obvious advantage over other journalists.

Not as great an advantage as being white and male but it is a privilege unrelated to merit, one violates any concept of equal access.

Other reporters or members of the public notice connections unseen by the Intercept authors.

We won’t ever know since the Intercept, along with other media outlets, is quick to call foul on the privileges of others while clinging to its own.

PS: The lack of efforts by intelligence agencies to stop the SIDtoday series is silent testimony to its lack of importance. The SIDtoday series is little better than dated office gossip and not a complete (redacted) account of the same.

Meaningful intelligence reporting derails initiatives, operations, exposes criminal excesses with named defendants and holds the intelligence community accountable to the public. Not to be confused with the SIDtoday series and its like.

New Anti-Leak Program (leaked of course)

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Trump Administration Launches Broad New Anti-Leak Program by Chris Geidner.

From the post:

The top US national security official has directed government departments and agencies to warn employees across the entire federal government next week about the dangers and consequences of leaking even unclassified information.

The Trump administration has already promised an aggressive crackdown on anyone who leaks classified information. The latest move is a dramatic step that could greatly expand what type of leaks are under scrutiny and who will be scrutinized.

In the memo about leaks that was subsequently obtained by BuzzFeed News, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster details a request that “every Federal Government department and agency” hold a one-hour training next week on “unauthorized disclosures” — of classified and certain unclassified information.

I’m guessing that since BuzzFeed News got the memo leaked before next week, then this didn’t count as as a leak under the new anti-leak program. Yes?

If “next week” means ending 24 September 2017, then leaks on or after 25 September 2017 count as leaks under the new program.

Journalists should include “leak” in all stories based on leaked information to assist researchers in tracking the rate of leaking under the new anti-leaking program.

Every leak is a step towards transparency and accountability.

Guide to Investigative Web Research (Populating A Topic Map)

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Guide to Investigative Web Research

From the webpage:

We’ve just finished working with a partner to create an introductory guide to investigative web research.

As part of our aim to encourage shared, open documentation about the use of technology in social change, we’re publishing it so that other people can use it too.

The guide is designed for researchers, activists and journalists who need to collect online information about people, entities or events and use it for investigative research or advocacy. If you’re tracking corporate ownership, monitoring corruption or mapping political influence, this guide is for you.

Read our guide to investigative web research

It’s designed to be practical and straightforward, pointing you to more detailed resources and giving you the context to decide what tools you might need.

As part of our philosophy of reuse and replication, we publish all our research and guides in the same open format on our Library. The Library aims to help build our collective knowledge of how technology can help activists and organisations. It has guides in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Bahasa and English, is responsive (unlike a PDF), and is designed to let people find and reuse content quickly and easily. Topics range from drones and messaging apps to participatory budgeting – and there are more guides coming soon!

Check out more guides from The Engine Room’s Library

The Library code is available on Github, and all the content is Creative Commons-licensed. We’ll keep you updated whenever new guides are added. If you’d like to chat about investigative web research techniques and how they could help your work, get in touch.

Once you decide to author a topic map, the really hard work comes in populating it with information. At least, if you want information that can be traced to verifiable sources (unlike presidential press releases these days).

The Investigative Web Research guide is a useful starting point, especially if you aren’t a seasoned web user. The more web experience you have, the less useful it will become.

There are a number of links to other resources, which is useful, but collections of links can only take the reader so far.

I had to smile when I read:

A key difference between hacking and web scraping is respect for legitimate legal barriers.

“…[L]egitimate legal barriers” support illegitimate, oppressive, patriarchal and discriminatory regimes, along with more just ones. Consider legal barriers for your own personal safety, but nothing more. Legal barriers are the carriers (in the sense of infection) of privilege in a society. Act accordingly.

GIJN’s Complete Global Guide to Freedom of Information (Attn: Activists/Journalists)

Monday, September 4th, 2017

Unlocking Laws to Set Information Free: GIJN’s New Global Guide by Toby McIntosh.

From the post:

More than 115 countries worldwide have laws that require officials to turn over public records. Of course, even in the countries that have no laws it never hurts to ask. But there’s an advantage to using an access law — variously called freedom of information laws, access to information laws, right to information and right to know laws.

There are many resources for journalists seeking to file records requests in countries with laws governing access to information. To help exploit these legal tools, we’ve lined up GIJN’s Complete Global Guide to Freedom of Information, a resource with three sections:

  • Tips and Tricks: A collection of the best advice on how to use access laws.
  • Inspirational FOI: Ideas of what to ask for and stories about journalists active in using FOI.
  • Global Resources: Country-by-country guidance and links to national resources.

Government information can be obtained by:

  • liberating government information
  • insiders leaking government information
  • “laws governing access to information”

Assuming you place credence in information a government disgorges voluntarily, this is a great resource for activists and journalists around the world.

If you like these resources, be sure to visit/support freedominfo.org.

FCC Supports Malware Distribution!

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Well, not intentionally.

FCC “apology” shows anything can be posted to agency site using insecure API by Sean Gallagher

Gallagher reports that with an API key (use gmail account) you can post malicious Word documents to the FCC site.

Not formal support for malware distribution but then next best thing.

The FCC has been given notice so this is probably a time limited opportunity.

Don’t despair!

Knowing what to look for, you can begin scanning other government websites for a similar weakness.

Journalist tip: As APIs with this weakness are uncovered, trace them back to the contractors who built them. Then run forward to see who the contractors are afflicting now.

Hacking For Government Transparency

Monday, August 28th, 2017

The 2017 U.S. State and Federal Government Cybersecurity Report by SecurityScorecard lacks details of specific vulnerabilities for identified government units, but paints an encouraging picture for hackers seeking government transparency.

Coverage of the report:


In August 2017, SecurityScorecard leveraged its proprietary platform to analyze and grade the current security postures of 552 local, state, and federal government organizations, each with more than 100 public-facing IP addresses, to determine the strongest and weakest security standards based on security hygiene and security reaction time compared to their peers.

Security Rankings by Industry

Out of eighteen (18) ranked industries, best to worst security, government comes in at a tempting number sixteen (16):

Financial services, with the fifth (5th) best security, is routinely breached, making it curious the government (#16) has any secrets at all.

Why Any Government Has Secrets

Possible reasons any government has secrets:

  • 1. Lack of interest?
  • 2. Lack of effort by the news media?
  • 3. Habituation to press conferences?
  • 4. Habituation to “leaks?”
  • N. Cybersecurity?

You can wait for governments to embarrass themselves (FOIA and its equivalents), wait for leakers to take a risk for your benefit, or, you could take the initiative in obtaining government secrets.

The SecurityScorecard report makes it clear the odds are in your favor. Your call.

58 Newsletters About Journalism

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

An incomplete list of newsletters about journalism (Compiled by Joseph Lichterman, Lenfest Institiute for Journalism, joseph@lenfestinstitute.org)

Fifty-eight (58) newsletters as of today.

Some you will recognize, some you won’t.

Anything you see missing?

BuzzFeed News Searches For Hidden Spy Planes

Monday, August 7th, 2017

BuzzFeed News Trained A Computer To Search For Hidden Spy Planes. This Is What We Found.

From the post:

Data and R code for the analysis supporting this August 7, 2017 BuzzFeed News post on identifying potential surveillance aircraft. Supporting files are in this GitHub repository.

Awesome! This is what data journalism is about!

While Musk and others are wringing their hands over AI, BuzzFeed uses machine learning to out government spy planes. How cool is that?

So, what are some of the headlines from The New York Times today?

  1. Scientists Fear Trump Will Dismiss Climate Change Report
  2. What Music Do Americans Love the Most? 50 Detailed Fan Maps
  3. Partisan C.I.A. Chief Heartens Trump and Worries the Agency
  4. North Korea Warns U.S. of Retaliation Over Sanctions
  5. Industries Are Left in the Lurch by Trump’s Stalled Trade Plans
  6. White House Won’t Say Who Is on Its Deregulation Teams
  7. Wells Fargo Faces New Inquiry Over Insurance Refunds
  8. Take the Generic, Patients Are Told. Until They Are Not.
  9. $78,000 of Debt for a Harvard Theater Degree
  10. Investigators in Israel Turn Up the Heat on Netanyahu

Four out of ten stories are about our accidental president (1, 3, 5, 6) The other six (2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10), offer no actionable information.

Not a word about government spy planes.

Why isn’t The New York Times pressing the government hard?

Or perhaps the easier question: Why are you still reading The New York Times?

New spearphishing technique – Phishing for Leaks

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Timo Steffens tweeted:

New spearphishing technique: Targeted mail contains no links or exploits, but mentions report title. Googling title leads to exploit site.

Good news for wannabe government/industry leakers.

This spearphishing technique avoids question about your cybersecurity competence in evaluating links in a phishing email.

You did a search relevant to your position/task and Google delivered an exploit site.

Hard to fault you for that!

The success of phishing for leaks depends on non-leak/spoon-fed journalists.

No Fault Leaking (Public Wi-Fi, File Sharing)

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Attorney General Sessions and his League of Small Minds (LSM) seek to intimidate potential leakers into silence. Leakers who are responsible for what transparency exists for unfavorable information about current government policies and actions.

FOIA requests can and do uncover unfavorable information about government policies and actions, but far too often after the principals have sought the safety of the grave.

It’s far better to expose and stop ill-considered, even criminal activities in real time, before government adds more blighted lives and deaths to its record.

Traditional leaking involves a leaker, perhaps you, delivering physical or digital copies of data/documents to a reporter. That is it requires some act on your part, copying, email, smail, etc., which offers the potential to trace the leak back to you.

Have you considered No Fault Leaking? (NFL)

No Fault Leaking requires only a public Wi-Fi and appropriate file sharing permissions on your phone, laptop, tablet.

Public Wi-Fi: Potential Washington, DC based leakers can consult Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Locations in Washington, DC by Rachel Cooper, updated 7/28/2017. Similar listings exist for other locations.

File Sharing Permissions: Even non-techies should be able to follow the screen shots in One mistake people make using public Wi-Fi that lets everyone see their files by Francis Navarro. (Pro tip: Don’t view this article on your device or save a copy there. Memorize the process of turning file sharing on and off.)

After arriving at a Public Wi-Fi location, turn file sharing on. It’s as simple as that. You don’t know who if anyone has copied any files. Before you leave the location, turn file sharing off. (This works best if you have legitimate reasons to have the files in question on your laptop, etc.)

No Fault Leaking changes the role of the media from spoon-fed recipients of data/documents into more active participants in the leaking process.

To that end, ask yourself: Am I a fair weather (no risk) advocate of press freedom or something more?

Weaponry on the Dark Web – Read The Fine Print

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

The NextGov headline screaming: 3D-Printed Gun Designs Are Selling For $12 On The Dark Web is followed by this pic:

But the fine print in the caption reads:

The additive-manufactured RAMBO system includes an NSRDEC-designed standalone kit with printed adjustable buttstock, mounts, grips and other modifications—modifications made possible by the quick turnaround time afforded by 3D printing. // US Army

So….

  1. This is NOT a printable gun from the Dark Web
  2. Printable parts ARE buttstock, mounts, grips, not the gun itself

Just so you know, the RAND paper doesn’t include this image. 😉

In fact, Behind the curtain: The illicit trade of firearms, explosives and ammunition on the dark web by Giacomo Persi Paoli, Judith Aldridge, Nathan Ryan, Richard Warnes, concede trading of weapons on the Dark Web is quite small beside non-Dark Web trafficking.

Missing in the discussion of 3-D weapons plans is a comparison of the danger they pose relative to other technologies.

The Cal Fire map leaves no doubt that $12 or less in gasoline and matches can produce far more damage than any 3-D printed weapon. Without the need for a 3-D printer.

Yes?

All weapons pose some danger. Decisions makers need to know the relative dangers of weapons vis-a-vis each other.

A RAND report on the comparative danger of weapons would be far more useful than reports on weapons and their sources in isolation.

Media Verification Assistant + Tweet Verification Assistant

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Media Verification Assistant

From the welcome screen:

Who

We are a joint team of engineers and investigators from CERTH-ITI and Deutsche Welle, aiming to build a comprehensive tool for image verification on the Web.

Features

The Media Verification Assistant features a multitude of image tampering detection algorithms plus metadata analysis, GPS Geolocation, EXIF Thumbnail extraction and integration with Google reverse image search.

Alpha

It is constantly being developed, expanded and upgraded -our ambition is to include most state-of-the-art verification technologies currently available on the Web, plus unique implementations of numerous experimental algorithms from the research literature. As the platform is currently in its Alpha stage, errors may occur and some algorithms may not operate as expected.

Feedback

For comments, suggestions and error reports, please contact verifymedia@iti.gr.

Sharing

The source code of the Java back-end is freely distributed at GitHub.

Even in alpha, this is a great project!

Even though images can be easily altered, Photoshop and Gimp, they continue to be admissible in court, so long as a witness testifies the image
is a fair and accurate representation of the subject matter.

This project has spawned a related project: Tweet Verification Assistant, which leverages the image algorithms to verify tweets with an image or video.

Another first stop before retweeting or re-publishing an image with a story.

New York Times, Fact Checking and Dacosta’s First OpEd

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Cutbacks on editors/fact-checking at the New York Times came at an unfortunate time for Marc Dacosta‘s first OpEd, The President Wants to Keep Us in the Dark (New York Times, 28 June 2017).

DaCosta decries the lack of TV cameras at several recent White House press briefings. Any proof the lack of TV cameras altered the information available to reporters covering the briefings? Here’s DaCosta on that point:


But the truth is that the decision to prevent the press secretary’s comments on the day’s most pressing matters from being televised is an affront to the spirit of an open and participatory government. It’s especially chilling in a country governed by a Constitution whose very First Amendment protects the freedom of the press.

Unfortunately, the slow death of the daily press briefing is only part of a larger assault by the Trump administration on a precious public resource: information.

DaCosta’s implied answer is no, a lack of TV cameras resulted in no diminishing of information from the press conference. But, his hyperbole gland kicks in, then he cites disjointed events claimed to diminish public access to information.

For example, Trump’s non-publication of visitor records:


Immediately after Mr. Trump took office, the administration stopped publishing daily White House visitor records, reversing a practice established by President Obama detailing the six million appointments he and administration officials took at the White House during his eight years in office. Who is Mr. Trump meeting with today? What about Mr. Bannon? Good luck finding out.

Really? Mark J. Rozell summarizes the “detailing the six million appointments he and administration officials took…” this way:


Obama’s action clearly violated his own pledge of transparency and an outpouring of criticism of his action somewhat made a difference. He later reversed his position when he announced that indeed the White House visitor logs would be made public after all.

Unfortunately, the president decided only to release lengthy lists of names, with no mention of the purpose of White House visits or even differentiation between tourists and people consulted on policy development.

This action enabled the Obama White House to appear to be promoting openness while providing no substantively useful information. If the visitor log listed “Michael Jordan,” there was no way to tell if the basketball great or a same-named industry lobbyist was the person at the White House that day and the layers of inquiry required to get that information were onerous. But largely because the president had appeared to have reversed himself in reaction to criticism for lack of transparency, the controversy died down, though it should not have.

Much of the current reaction to President Trump’s decision has contrasted that with the action of his predecessor, and claimed that Obama had set the proper standard by opening the books. The reality is different though, as Obama’s action set no standard at all for transparency.
…(Trump should open White House visitor logs, but don’t flatter Obama, The Hill, 18 April 2017)

That last line on White House visitor records under Obama is worth repeating:

The reality is different though, as Obama’s action set no standard at all for transparency.

Obama-style opaqueness would not answer the questions:

Who is Mr. Trump meeting with today? What about Mr. Bannon? [Questions by DaCosta.]

A fact-checker and/or editor at the New York Times knew that answer (hint to NYT management).

Even more disappointing is the failure of DaCosta, as the co-founder of Engima, to bring any data to a claim that White House press briefings are of value.

One way to test the value of White House press briefings is to extract the “facts” announced during the briefing and compare those to media reports in the prior twenty-four hours.

If DaCosta thought of such a test, the reason it went unperformed isn’t hard to guess:


The Senate had just released details of a health care plan that would deprive 22 million Americans of health insurance, and President Trump announced that he did not, as he had previously hinted, surreptitiously record his conversations with James Comey, the former F.B.I. director.
… (DaCosta)

First, a presidential press briefing isn’t an organ for the US Senate and second, Trump had already tweeted the news about not recording his conversations with James Comey. None of those “facts” broke at the presidential press briefing.

DaCosta is 0 for 2 for new facts at that press conference.

I offer no defense for the current administration’s lack of transparency, but fact-free and factually wrong claims against it don’t advance DaCosta’s cause:


Differences of belief and opinion are inseparable from the democratic process, but when the facts are in dispute or, worse, erased altogether, public debate risks breaking down. To have a free and democratic society we all need a common and shared context of facts to draw from. Facts or data will themselves never solve any problem. But without them, finding solutions to our common problems is impossible.

We should all expect better of President Trump, the New York Times and Marc DaCosta (@marc_dacosta).

Full Fact is developing two new tools for automated fact-checking

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Full Fact is developing two new tools for automated fact-checking by Mădălina Ciobanu.

From the post:

The first tool, Live, is based on the assumption that people, especially politicians, repeat themselves, Babakar explained, so a claim that is knowingly or unknowingly false or inaccurate is likely to be said more than once by different people.

Once Full Fact has fact-checked a claim, it becomes part of their database, and the next step is making sure that data is available every time the same assertion is being made, whether on TV or at a press conference. “That’s when it gets interesting – how can you scale the fact check so that it can be distributed in a much grander way?”

Live will be able to monitor live TV subtitles and eventually perform speech-to-text analysis, taking a live transcript from a radio programme or a press conference and matching it against Full Fact’s database.

The second tool Full Fact is building is called Trends, and it aims to record every time a wrong or false claim is repeated, and by whom, to enable fact-checkers to track who or what is “putting misleading claims out into the world”.

Because part of Full Fact’s remit is also to get corrections on claims they verify, the team wants to be able to measure the work of their impact, by looking at whether a claim has been said again once they have fact-checked it and requested a correction for it.

The work on Live and Trends has just been funded and the tools are scheduled to appear in 2018.

They are hiring, by the way: Automated Factchecking at Full Fact. Full Fact is also a charity, in case you want to donate to support this work.

I wonder how Full Fact rate stories such as Crowdstrike‘s, a security firm that lives in the back pocket of the Democratic Party (US), report claiming Russian hacks of the DNC? A report it later revised.

Personally since the claims were “confirmed” by a known liar, James Capper, former Director of National Intelligence, I would downgrade such reports and repetitions by others to latrine gossip.

In case you haven’t read in detail the various reports, there have been no records produced, but much looks like, “in our experience,” etc., but a positive dearth of facts. That interested “experts” say it is so, in the absence of evidence, doesn’t make their claims facts.

Looking forward to news on these projects as they develop!

The State of Automated Factchecking

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

The State of Automated Factchecking by Mevan Babakar and Will Moy.

From the webpage:

The State of Automated Factchecking is an in-depth report looking at where we are with automated factchecking globally, and where we could get to with the necessary funding.

It sets out Full Fact’s roadmap for our own work on automated factchecking, and our design principles for the tools we are building.

We propose principles of collaboration for factchecking organisations, researchers and computer scientists around the world.

We hope that it will be the beginning of many fruitful conversations.

It’s split into two parts:

Part One: A roadmap for automated factchecking
Part Two: What we can do now and what remains to be done

Summary

  • We can scale up and speed up factchecking dramatically using technology that exists now.
  • We are months—and relatively small amounts of money—away from handing practical automated tools to factcheckers and journalists. This is not the horizon of artificial intelligence; it is simply the application of existing technology to factchecking.
  • Automated factchecking projects are taking place across the world, but they are fragmented. This means factcheckers and researchers are wasting time and money reinventing the wheel.
  • We propose open standards. Automated factchecking will come to fruition in a more coherent and efficient way if key players think in terms of similar questions and design principles, learn from existing language processing tasks, and build shared infrastructure.
  • International collaboration is vital so that the system works in several languages and countries.
  • Research into machine learning must continue, but we can make serious progress harnessing other technologies in the meantime.

Read the full report

Read The State of Automated Factchecking (pdf, 6Mb) and sign up below to keep up with the latest.

Stay up to date

To stay updated on our progress subscribe to our automated factchecking mailing list, or for any specific questions email Mevan Babakar at mevan@fullfact.org

I mention this report as background reading for the latest efforts by Full Fact to develop automated fact-checking tools.

Enjoy!

Media outrage on threatened violence against Assange?

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

Assange Compiles Media Figures, Establishment Democrats Calling For His Death by Elizabeth Vos.

From the post:

Wikileaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange tweeted extensively overnight regarding what he labeled tolerant liberals who have called for his assassination and torture. Assange called such media figures “blue-ticks.” It is not clear at this time what may have prompted the series of tweets. Assange also referenced the torture and murder of what he called “alleged sources” during the series of tweets. He also implicated Hillary Clinton in some of the references. Some understood this to be a reference to the upcoming anniversary of Seth Rich’s murder, but it is not clear at this time who Assange may have been specifically referring to.

I won’t repeat the latest dust-up between the US media and the village idiot they helped elect with their fascination for “man bites dog” type news. Candidate X said Y or did outrageous act Z, so, why is that news? The “media” that reports meetings between US presidents and aliens in the Rose Garden needs something to print. Could have left such stories to them.

Now, however, the candidate they favored with $millions if not $billions in free coverage, is rough-housing with the media. Oh, my!

When you think about reporters in other countries who die on a regular basis, year in and year out, a little harsh talk pales by comparison.

Not to mention the hypocrisy of the US media that reacts to every unkind twitch of the current Whitehouse, but blandly reports calls for the murder of Julian Assange.

I disagree with Assange’s partial leaks*, but even with partial leaks, Assange has empowered public discussion of vital issues for years. You need to ask yourself why in the face of that history, he is not attracting support from mainstream media. Or outrage at calls for violence, explicit calls, against him. (Care to comment New York Times, Washington Post?)

* I disagree on partial leaks because full leaks are likely to be more damaging to those responsible for immoral and/or illegal activity. To that end, those harmed by leaks should have made better choices.

.Rddj (data journalism with R)

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

.Rddj Hand-curated, high quality resources for doing data journalism with R by Timo Grossenbacher.

From the webpage:

The R Project is a great software environment for doing all sorts of data-driven journalism. It can be used for any of the stages of a typical data project: data collection, cleaning, analysis and even (interactive) visualization. And it’s all reproducible and transparent! Sure, it requires a fair amount of scripting, yet…

Do not fear! With this hand-curated (and opinionated) list of resources, you will be guided through the thick jungle of countless R packages, from learning the basics of R’s syntax, to scraping HTML tables, to a guide on how to make your work comprehensible and reproducible.

Now, enjoy your journey.

Some more efforts at persuasion: As I work in the media, I know how a lot of journalists are turned off by everything that doesn’t have a graphical interface with buttons to click on. However, you don’t need to spend days studying programming concepts in order to get started with R, as most operations can be carried out without applying scary things such as loops or conditionals – and, nowadays, high-level abstrations like dplyr make working with data a breeze. My advice if you’re new to data journalism or data processing in general: Better learn R than Excel, ’cause getting to know Excel (and the countless other tools that each do a single thing) doesn’t come for free, either.

This list is (partially) inspired by R for Journalists by Ed Borasky, which is another great resource for getting to know R.

… (emphasis in original)

The topics are familiar:

  • RStudio
  • Syntax and basic R programming
  • Collecting Data (from the Web)
  • Data cleaning and manipulation
  • Text mining / natural language processing
  • Exploratory data analysis and plotting
  • Interactive data visualization
  • Publication-quality graphics
  • Reproducibility
  • Examples of using R in (data) journalism
  • What makes this list of resources different from search results?

    Hand curation.

    How much of a difference?

    Compare the search results of “R” + any of these categories to the resources here.

    Bookmark .Rddj for data journalism and R, then ping me with the hand curated list of resources you are creating.

    Save yourself and the rest of us from search. Thanks!