Tag Archives: journalism

California Considers Monitoring Online Speech

Editor’s Note: California may set the tone for a national conversation and perhaps even set of laws addressing what the state’s lawmakers deem “false information … spread online.” Since political motivation and ideology often underly what one deems “fake news” this proposed move should be especially concerning for those who truly cherish free thought and expression. As the article below suggests, Facebook’s recent nod to corporate media outlets as an antithesis to “fake news” has demonstrated how such an effort is likely to be instituted in California and elsewhere. The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that the law is dangerous because it places the governing body in a position to determine what is true and false.

The proposed speech legislation was introduced by California State Senator Richard Pan, a practicing pediatrician and the principal lawmaker behind SB277, the state’s mandatory vaccination law. A voter-driven campaign in 2015 to have Pan ousted from office was not successful.

California State Senator Richard Pan. Image Credit: Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

CBS13 Sacramento reports:

California is considering creating a “fake news” advisory group in order to monitor information posted and spread on social media.

Senate Bill 1424 would require the California Attorney General to create the advisory committee by April 1, 2019. It would need to consist of at least one person from the Department of Justice, representatives from social media providers, civil liberties advocates, and First Amendment scholars.

The advisory group would be required to study how false information is spread online and come up with a plan for social media platforms to fix the problem. The Attorney General would then need to present that plan to the Legislature by December 31, 2019. The group would also need to come up with criteria establishing what is “fake news” versus what is inflammatory or one-sided.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation opposes the bill, calling it “flawed” and “misguided.” The group argues the measure would make the government and advisory group responsible for deciding what is true or false. It also points out the First Amendment prevents content-based restrictions, even if the statements of “admittedly false.”

A recent study by Massachusetts-based MindEdge Learning was conducted with 1,000 young adults, ages 18 to 31-years-old. According to MindEdge’s nine-question survey, 52 percent of the respondents incorrectly answered at least four questions and received a failing grade. The number of young adults who could detect false information on the internet went down by all of the group’s measures. Only 19 percent of the college students and grads scored an “A” by getting eight or nine questions correct. That number is down from 24 percent in last year’s survey.

Facebook recently did away with its “Trending News” section – calling it outdated and unpopular. That section was criticized in the past after reports came out claiming the human editors were biased against conservatives. After Facebook fired those editors, the algorithms it replaced them with couldn’t always distinguish real news from fake.

After the 2016 election, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg denied that fake news spread on the social site he oversees influenced the outcome- calling the idea “crazy.”

A previous bill, AB 155, would have required schools to teach students the difference between “fake news” and “real news.” It died in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.

The current bill SB 1424 was authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan. It passed the Senate on May 30, 2018 by a vote of 25-11. It will be heard by the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, tourism, and Internet Media Committee on Tuesday.

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Four Years Later: An Open Letter to Anderson Cooper

Editor’s Note: On June 15 2015 James Tracy sent the correspondence below to Anderson Cooper inviting the longtime CNN anchor to Newtown Connecticut in order to conduct a true journalistic investigation of the Sandy Hook massacre event. Four years later Mr. Cooper has yet to take Tracy up in his quest. 

Since the US corporate news media’s presentation of Sandy Hook solely involved parroting the official government narrative, still leaving so many questions unanswered and information overlooked, we’re hoping that Cooper will finally do the right thing. 

By James F. Tracy

June 15, 2014

Anderson Cooper
C/O CNN
10 Columbus Circle
New York, New York 10019

Dear Mr. Cooper,

Seventeen months have passed since you featured me on your AC 360° program on consecutive evenings to call attention to my commentary and analysis of the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. As you may recall, in the prelude to those January 11th and 14th 2013 broadcasts you sent a production crew to my place of employment that proceeded to pursue staff and administrators on my whereabouts.

[The record of Anderson Cooper’s January 2013 on-air attack of former FAU Professor James Tracy has been expunged from YouTube. The clip below is provided as a replacement of that video.]

Your staff then repeatedly telephoned my residence, later filming in front of my home and disclosing my address to a national audience without my knowledge or consent. This behavior jeopardized my family’s safety and peace of mind, and included a flurry of threatening and abusive communications directed at me. Further, some observers presumed that CNN and other national news media sought to create sufficient controversy that would lead to the termination of my employment. On the other hand, I understand how you may have perceived this as an act of due journalistic diligence rather than coercion.

Further, if at the time ample proof existed that the Sandy Hook massacre was genuine I think you may have been at least partially justified in such activity. Yet in the time since little evidence has emerged to uphold the notion that the event took place as it had been reported by CNN and other news outlets. In fact, the opinion of many independent experts and a wealth of data point to highly questionable elements of the Sandy Hook narrative that require rigorous interrogation through the intrepid investigative reportage of journalists such as you.

Anderson (if I may), that’s why I challenge you to join me on a reportorial quest to Newtown and Sandy Hook in order to revisit and rigorously question the painful affair that still rests so uneasily on the public conscience—one that is called up in memory with each report of another school shooting. Together let us ferret out and present the relevant information, interview the necessary parties, and get to the bottom of what transpired so that we can put the conspiracy theories to rest!

Anderson (again, if I may), this could very well be a landmark event in investigative journalism. If after a thorough investigation we prove that the event in fact took place as CNN and other major media reported, I will concede that you were in fact correct and seriously consider resigning my post in academe.

On the other hand, if we find holes in the official narrative this may in fact be a scandal requiring journalistic performance on par with the paragon set by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein over 40 years ago. It will call for—indeed require—the public service of news professionals like you to find out what really happened and bring the culprits to justice! Anderson, at the end of the day it’s just like you say each evening: we truly need to “keep them honest.”

Yet there are some who say that CNN and, I’m sorry to say, even you may have been in on what they call a “hoax.” These suspicious minds say that some of your reportage from Newtown in the wake of the shooting was “greenscreened.” Others point to the time you spent in the Central Intelligence Agency and subsequent involvement in student and activist groups of several foreign countries. Still others bring up CNN’s sometime questionable coverage of major historical events, such as the Persian Gulf and Iraq Wars.

I say “Hooey!” There are many fine young men from extraordinary wealth and privilege yet limited experience or career prospects who serve in our national intelligence services. These include the nation’s 41st president, George H. W. Bush, in addition to littérateurs such as Cord Meyer. In fact, for over fifty years some of our nation’s finest journalists and political leaders have either served overtly with or maintained ties to the intelligence community. Anderson, both you and I know that serving your country is nothing to be ashamed of.

I think you’ll agree that it’s time to put these Sandy Hook “truthers” to rest for good, thereby allowing the Sandy Hook victims’ families to find comfort in the millions of dollars in donations they have received from sincere and goodhearted Americans.

Anderson, let’s reexamine Sandy Hook together to confirm our own professional integrity, while at the same time striking a potential blow at corruption and deceit. Our conscience requires it. Our nation demands it. Won’t you join me?

Yours,

(signed)

James F. Tracy

SENT USPS CERTIFIED MAIL 7013 2250 0002 2334 3915

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DHS Moving to Police Journalists, Bloggers, ‘Media Influencers’

Chuck Frank
PPJ Gazette

Journalists are now on the chopping block as the Feds and Homeland Security are planning to make lists and spy on websites, news outlets, articles, blogs and whistleblower sites.  Not in America? Yes, in America,, the land of the First Amendment and free expression. Essentially, this “Big Brother” agenda is a hydrogen bomb that is set to explode and  we the people must stop it before it happens.

As World Net Daily reports,

“The DHS is looking for a contractor and has just announced that it intends to compile a comprehensive list of hundreds of thousands of ‘journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.’, and collect any ‘information that could be relevant’ about them.”  

This is unimaginable.  Now, consider this.  If the agenda is there to combat terrorist leaning news and also fake news,  but how much credible journalism is going to go down with the ship while the deck is shuffled and what price will a journalist pay for uncovering such stories which may be related to, let’s say, the “deep state and internal corruption?”  That’s just one example of censorship though a massive campaign to control mass communications and also hide wrong doing in government.

The First Amendment was primarily made for this very reason. Fact check.  Just when “alternative news” is making headway, those associated with the mainstream news and the New World Order are on a mission to destroy investigative journalism,, alternative news, and accurate reporting.  And now the Ministry of Truth, or is it the Ministry of Deception, AKA, the DHS who has spoken?   They will offer the people broad “protection” of the written word?  Where was the people’s protection during 9/11?  Were we told the whole story and truth about the event?  Will Wikileaks be banned?

 “Freedom of the press was one of the most sacred provisions within the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment.”  With the DHS ready to start policing and tracking hundreds of thousands of persons associated with journalism and compiling a database likened to North Korea, then one must ask the question,  who is really behind this and where does Congress stand on the issue?  

 I will paraphrase part of the First Amendment here with regard to journalism.   

 “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or the press…”  The dictionary meaning of abridge is to “reduce in scope.”  Therefore, the DHS and its chosen hit men could very well either place pressure on companies or individuals that do not “conform” to “their” definition of “credible journalism.”  “Did you tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

  Who can trust the DHS when it is already known that our own government has sponsored fake news and censorship for many years. 

See more on this topic in…     House of Lords: America in the Balance; Chapter 3, “Freedom of the Press”,   page 29 .  Charles W. Frank.  See the author’s page.   Available by request.

Be assured, preserving the freedom of the press and  of expression is paramount in in this day  and age because the world is already spiraling out of control.

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Fixing the News: Blockchain-Powered Solutions for Media in Crisis

Editor’s Note: Does blockchain technology offer a potential solution to often misleading, censorial, and even fraudulent corporate news media that plagues the Western world? As the author notes in his conclusion, such projects may seem far-fetched at present, yet it was not that long ago that few believed Wikipedia would ever gain traction. Today’s real news and analyses are coming from citizen journalists who remain vulnerable to YouTube, Google, and social media gatekeepers. What if they were given the means to form their own “ecosystems” for news and commentary?

“Creating comprehensive community-powered marketplaces for production, distribution, and verification of news”

Kirill Bryanov
CoinTelegraph
(May 19, 2018)

In the US and around the world, quality journalism is going through difficult times. Against the backdrop of steadily declining trust in the mainstream press, systemic issues like the ever-intensifying political polarization of the media, proliferation of fake news, and asymmetric power relations between platforms and publishers, among others, stand in the way of the press striving to fulfill its crucial societal functions. The central role of the media in the society is, at least normatively, to provide the public with essential knowledge of the state of the world that would enable people to make informed choices. In a democracy, both institutional and social media are also supposed to facilitate an open arena for public discussion and deliberation where the wide array of voices and ideas are represented. However, the reality seems to be drifting away from this ideal in dramatic ways.

A longstanding critical tradition has an extensive list of claims to lay to the US media system’s structural deficiencies. Even in the pre-digital era, some scholars of communication were uneasy with the growing concentration of corporate ownership in media industries, seeing this trend as threatening the democratic process. Proponents of this intellectual current advocated for as wide a distribution of communication power as possible as a safeguard against power abuse at the hands of big corporate and state actors. The advent of digital news has seen yet another wave of similar criticisms, as it had soon become apparent that, contrary to early internet enthusiasts’ expectations, the new media ecosystem does not quite eliminate the disparities in communication power. Instead, it seemed to be reproducing the old patterns of power concentration, as well as giving rise to some new problematic trends.

Most of the contemporary media criticisms converge around one point: the digital news economy. The ad-based online business model often proves to be inadequate for sustaining certain forms of journalism that rely on specific and narrow audiences for financial backing. These forms happen to be the ones of social importance, like local news or investigative and issue reporting. Labelled the “attention economy,” the incentive system that social media news feeds have engendered rewards content that attracts eyeballs and generates clicks. Facebook and Google, which derive the bulk of their profits from selling targeted ads, have apparent reasons to stimulate as long user engagement with content as possible. Here’s where algorithmic newsfeeds come in handy, facilitating users’ selective exposure to content they will likely enjoy. Extrapolated to the political arena, this logic results in people getting locked up in ideological information bubbles, where partisan views become amplified and biases get confirmed. These bubbles also provide fertile soil for the spread of politically charged misinformation.

Aspiring media reformers have proposed multiple cures to these maladies. Among alternative models are philanthropic foundation-supported nonprofits, issue-specific donation-funded media outlets, and various forms of collaborative citizen journalism. Albeit sustainable in certain contexts, such solutions have so far failed to demonstrate flexibility and scalability needed to achieve any degree of mainstream adoption. Besides, these models mainly rely on goodwill of those people whose motivations are purely altruistic, which makes it difficult to ensure a steady flow of contributions.

A handful of blockchain-driven media startups that aspire to revolutionize the news economy are different in this important sense. They hope to not just draw in people longing for good journalism, but also provide them with economic incentives to contribute their efforts to sustaining the ecosystem for substantive news. Using the versatile incentive-building tools made available by crypto economy, combined with game-theoretic behavioral modelling and principles of decentralized governance, these projects aim at nothing less than creating comprehensive community-powered marketplaces for production, distribution, and verification of news.

A defining feature of each of these platforms is that they are all powered by the principles of the token economy. Unlike traditional fiat currencies or even a general-purpose cryptocurrency that could be used for any manner of transaction, crypto tokens are usually designed in a way that programmatically restricts the range of their uses to a certain set of roles and functions within a given system. Tokens therefore reflect the purposes and values of a certain platform, and can be used in order to align the economic interests of its individual users with the interests of the community at large. As a vehicle for transactions, such tokens are no longer a content-neutral instrument that simply enables transmission of information or value; rather, they entail the shared interests and values of those who subscribed to use them within a specific economic ecosystem.

Within the broader ecosystem of emerging blockchain-powered media startups, there is a wealth of platforms that use crypto-economic models to redefine the system of monetary exchanges between creators and consumers of information goods. The most common focus is on user-generated content and the ways in which regular folks in social media contexts are rewarded for their work: some examples include Steemit, Sapien, or Po.et, to name a few. The following review, however, focuses on a more specific set of projects, which explicitly address some problematic institutional aspects of the current news media system. As such, the projects in the list recognize the independent social value of news, and offer fixes that are designed to produce a better informed public.

More…

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Corporate Media Promote “World Press Freedom Day”

“Read and Watch” Mainstream Peers

Several corporate news media recognized the “World Press Freedom Day” on May 3 with promotional messages in the pages of their respective publications and via social media.

The occasion is in fact sponsored by the United Nations Environmental, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a vital arm of the UN that has overseen a multitude of social engineering projects since its founding in 1948 by individuals including eugenicist Julian Huxley.

From UNESCO’s site,

In 2018, UNESCO will lead the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day. The main event, jointly organized by UNESCO and the Government of the Republic of Ghana, will take place in Accra, Ghana on 2 – 3 May. This year’s global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’, and will cover issues of media and the transparency of the political process, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public. The Day will also examine contemporary challenges of ensuring press freedom online. (Emphases retained)

In celebration of UNESCO’s observation the New York Times, which has had a historic information-sharing and censorial relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency instructs its audience on examples of the vaunted Western “free press.”

The fact that such entities are promoting “Press Freedom” is especially noteworthy in the wake of the recent court decision that legally codifies the CIA practice of selectively disclosing select information to journalists and news outlets of its choosing.

IMG_3623.jpg

"Don’t just read The New York Times." Look at the front page of NYT today! #WorldPressFreedomDay from Journalism

The event is also recognized by US Senator Diane Feinstein, who encourages her followers to “fight fake news” by reading quality journalism. In 2013 Feinstein proposed legislation that would effectively define “journalism” as being only something practiced by individuals drawing a salary, thus eliminating a broad array of independent, citizen journalists from the information gathering, sharing, and analyzing equation.

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The CIA and the Media: Historical Fact #88

In a significant April 2018 freedom of information decision in favor of government censorship Judge Colleen McMahon of the Southern District of New York ruled that the CIA has full discretion to provide classified information to journalists and news organizations of its choosing while withholding the identical information from other reporters or the broader public when the same information is requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

In 2017 free lance journalist Adam Johnson filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the CIA, citing a 2012 FOIA request to the Agency by Gawker journalist John Cook for exchanges between the CIA and several prominent journalists. In many of the documents CIA produced the responses to journalists were redacted. Johnson was concerned with the preferential treatment meted out by the Agency while the same information was granted to others.

All of the journalists in question had strong rapports with the CIA and worked for corporate-controlled news media: Jo Becker and Scott Shane of the New York Times; David Ignatius of the Washington Post; Ken Dilanian and Brian Bennett of the Los Angeles Times; Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman of the Associated Press; and Siobhan Gorman and Evan Perez of the Wall Street Journal.

One example from Johnson’s suit cites the Wall Street Journal’s Gorman, who inquired of the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs,

I’m told that on runs, Director Petraeus’s security detail hands him bottles of water, relay-style, so as not to slow him down. And you mentioned the director’s running a 6-minute mile, but I was told that the agency-wide invitation was that if you could run a 7-minute mile, you can come run with the director. I wanted to make sure both are is [sic] accurate. On the chart, it’s accurate to say that the congressional gym and the Pentagon gym ranked high, right? And I was just told that the facilities at the black sites were better than the ones at CIA. Don’t know whether that’s something you want to weigh in on, but I thought I’d see if you did.

The CIA’s response came just hours later: “Siobhan …” The body of the response is redacted. The CIA’s closing reads, “We can chat more on Monday, hope this helps.” That’s it. The entire response was regarded as too sensitive for the FOIA requester and broader public, but permissible for Siobhan Gorman, who replied, “Thanks for the help. I hope I wasn’t the cause of your dental appointment delay. This is very helpful as I try to tie up loose ends on this story. Sometimes ‘fun’ stories take as much work as their ‘less fun’ brethren. Sorry for all the qus [sic].”

Citing the National Security Act of 1947, the CIA contended that “limited, selective disclosures of classified information to journalists are perfectly legal,” CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou observes. “The National Security Act of 1947, they said, only requires protection of intelligence sources and methods from “unauthorized” disclosure, not from authorized disclosure. And because the disclosures at issue were actually intended to protect intelligence sources and methods, they were fully authorized.”

John Kiriakou, “Why Does the CIA Prefer Corporate Media?” Reader Supported News, February 23, 2018.

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CIA Communications to Corporate News Media Deemed Classified

In Key FOIA Case Judge Grants Agency Broad Discretion in Leaking Info to Select Journalists, News Organizations

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