Truth Goggles

According to Neiman Journalism Lab:

“Dan Schultz, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab (and newly named Knight-Mozilla fellow for 2012), is devoting his thesis to automatic bullshit detection. Schultz is building what he calls truth goggles — not actual magical eyewear, alas, but software that flags suspicious claims in news articles and helps readers determine their truthiness. It’s possible because of a novel arrangement: Schultz struck a deal with fact-checker PolitiFact for access to its private APIs.”

(via Bull beware: Truth goggles sniff out suspicious sentences in news » Nieman Journalism Lab.)

It’s a fascinating idea. Imagine browsers having a plug-in that is able to fact check all sorts of data using sources such as Wikipedia. It could have a huge impact on the future of news media. Imagine reading an article on, say, climate change in The Australian, and this “truth goggles” plug-in pointing out all of the inconsistencies in their reporting.

Or imagine reading Hilary Clinton ramping up the case for invading Iran because they are weaponising uranium, but have “truth goggles” pointing out that there is no evidence to support this claim.

Of course, this process doesn’t *need* to be automated with an algorithm. Chrome extensions like “Glass” allow people to comment on websites. For example, see this screenshot of a comment I left using Glass on a story in the Brisbane Times today about News Ltd corruption allegations from former QLD senator Bill O’Chee.

Could we all use tools like Glass to subvert the ability of the mainstream media and certain blogs to spin bullshit to their readers? Of course there is always the comments section of most sites these days, but perhaps they tend to get moderated and news sites promote comments by their faithful believers. Would Glass-like tools also get corrupted by flame wars? How do we keep them clean and useful? User moderation ala Wikipedia?

 

Occupy Wall Street’s big win in one graph

 

“… the use of the term ‘income inequality,’ from less than 91 instances in the week before the occupation started to almost 500 instances last week.”

 

… writes Dylan Byers at Ben Smith’s new and expanded blog via Occupy Wall Street’s big win in one graph – The Washington Post.

 

Building awareness and discussion. Driving issues up the priority stack in the minds of the people, the media and politicians. It’s what movements like OWS can accomplish. It’s what we can do with tools such as podcasting and Twitter. Keep in mind that OWS was started (in part, at least) by Adbusters magazine (who’s CEO, Kalle Lasn, has appeared on this show in the past just BTW).

NO ILLUSIONS PODCAST 27 – ADAM SHAND

Veteran crime reporter Adam Shand joins me again on the show to talk about the TWO films being made based on his book KING OF THIEVES, as well as about diamond heists, the HELLS ANGELS,  police corruption and just how lazy the lamestream media have become.

No Illusions 23 – “Atomic” Rod Adams on Fukushima

As I mentioned on episode #22, Rod Adams (@atomicrod) is a self-professed nuclear energy “obsessive” since 1981. He writes at the Atomic Insights blog and has produced the Atomic Show podcast on TPN since 2005. He chatted with me tonight about Fukushima – why the risk to human health is extremely small, how it’s different from Chernobyl, what to do with nuclear waste (see ‘Traveling wave reactor’ below) and his theories on why we’re seeing so much hysteria about it in the mainstream media.

Shownotes:

The nuclear accident underway in Japan does not raise doubts about the safety of nuclear power, and calls to abandon it altogether are just another example of the strange irrationality that surrounds the issue. – Cosmos Magazine

Traveling wave reactor – Wikipedia

IAEA warned Japan over nuclear quake risk: WikiLeaks

Chernobyl health effects

Whatever Happens Next, Lets Think Clearly About Nuclear Risks

Japan worst-case scenario unlikely to cause catastrophic radiation release

BTW, have you seen Stitcher yet? It’s a great iPhone app that STREAMS podcasts – no need to sync with iTunes! Listen to No Illusions on Stitcher here.

The AG’s Letter

Yesterday I received this letter from the Attorney-General’s office. It was sent to my work address. It says “Thank you for your recent correspondence…” but I never sent them any correspondence. The only thing I can think of that might have spawned this mealy-mouthed reply was a tweet I sent to Julia Gillard a week or two ago, admonishing her for her pathetic lack of support for Julian Assange – an Australian citizen who is being harassed by several governments of the world although he has not been charged with any crime. And the Federal Government sends me a LETTER to my WORK as a response??

This raises a couple of interesting thoughts.

1. They are listening.
2. They know where I work.
3. Instead of tweeting a reply, the went to the trouble to send a long, nonsense letter.

I assume this is a form letter and that many of you have received one just like it?

PDF Doc: AG Dept 1

As for the content of the letter, I take issue with quite a few of Annette’s statements.

“… the large scale distribution of …. classified United States Government documents is reckless, irresponsible and potentially dangerous.”

But not illegal.

“Being informed of government related matters does not entail an automatic right to every document within the government’s possession.”

Who is talking about automatic rights? This seems like an attempt to spin the argument away from Assange and Wikileaks. Nobody has argued that anyone has automatic rights to government documents. An American whistleblower handed the documents to Wikileaks who, in turn, has published some of them. What’s that got to do with automatic rights? Either Wikileaks’ actions were illegal or not. If they were, why hasn’t Assange been charged by the USA? If not, then the Australian government should say so and speak out in his support.

“Certain information must remain confidential in order for governments to carry out their role of protecting the national interest.”

How do we know the government *is* protecting the ‘national interest’ (whatever that is?!?) if they keep what they are doing a secret? Are we supposed to trust them implicitly? That doesn’t sound like democracy to me.

“… a commitment to strengthen laws to protect whistleblowers.”

What commitments are those? In March 2010, the government intended to ‘introduce legislation implementing the Government’s response (to the report “Whistleblower protection: a comprehensive scheme for the Commonwealth public sector”) this year’ (i.e. 2010).

But did it happen? I don’t think so. I’ve been searching for any more news on it but haven’t found any.

But anyway, this isn’t about Australian laws to protect whistleblowers. This isn’t about automatic rights. This is about the Gillard government supporting an Australian citizen who, whether they agree with his work or not, has become a very high profile character on the international geopolitical stage and who has been threatened by a range of high profile American politicians and influential media personalities. As yet he hasn’t been charged with a crime and the Australian Federal Police have advised that Assange has broken no Australian laws.

So why isn’t he getting at least verbal support from the Gillard government? Is it because she is, as the diplomatic cables suggest, in bed with the US government?

Wikileaks : The Talking Points

This is a quick guide to the most recent Wikileaks news, for those people who can’t be bothered reading it in detail. I’ve discovered lately that a few friends I respect – intelligent, well-meaning people – have managed to extract the totally wrong idea about what’s going on from the deliberately spin that most of the mainstream media is indulging in.


Click Here to jump to the latest updates!

So here’s what you need to know:

1. Cablegate: 250,000 US Embassy Diplomatic Cables – On Sunday 28th November 2010, Wikileaks began publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables.

2. A number of major news outlets, including The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel, have been running in depth coverage of the cables. Every media outlet in the world is covering the news in some form, but most aren’t delving into detailed analysis, content just to smear Wikileaks and founder Julian Assange and mention a couple of the less important cables.

3. Despite most of the media’s focus on a minority of cables that highlight snarky comments made about politicians and diplomats, the cables of MAJOR importance show the extent of US spying on its allies and the UN; turning a blind eye to corruption and human rights abuse in “client states”; backroom deals with supposedly neutral countries; lobbying for US corporations; and the measures US diplomats take to advance those who have access to them.

4. Despite the media’s incessant coverage of the “rape” charges that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is facing in Sweden, the facts of the case are rarely mentioned. As far as I can gather, they seem to be that Assange had *consensual* sex with two female volunteers during his visit to Sweden in the middle of the year. However both women have since alleged that, although the sex *was* consensual, in both cases there were “condom malfunctions” – situations where the condom either broke or there wasn’t a condom present, they asked Assange to stop, and he didn’t. One of the women behind the charges gave an interview to the Swedish paper Aftonbladet in August. She stated that she was surprised to learn that the accusations were treated as a rape charge and denied that there had been any encounter with Assange involving violence or force. She suggested that the controversy had to do with Assange’s failure to use a condom during intercourse. This is the basis of the rape or “unwanted sexual conduct” charges. This is the basis of the “red notice” issued by Interpol. When was the last time Interpol issued a “red notice” for someone over a case of consensual sex? Update 02122010: According to this post about one of the accusers, Anna Ardin, she was tweeting positively about Assange for a few days after the alleged incident. Read a cached copy of her since-deleted tweets here. James Catlin has more on the story of the accusers in Crikey.

5. Of course, even if the charges of rape *are* justified, Assange’s personal life has nothing at all to do with the content of the diplomatic cables or Wikileaks’ mission. They are merely a tool the media is using to try to distract the public from the content of the leaked cables.

6. Various American and international figures are calling for the shutting down of the Wikileaks site and/or Assange’s arrest and/or assassination as well as the assassination of whoever released the cables to Wikileaks (assumed to be Bradley Manning but we don’t know for sure).

7. Of course, these same authorities aren’t calling for the shutting down of The Guardian, Der Spiegel or the New York Times’ papers and sites, or the arrest or assassination of their management. How are Wikileaks’ actions different from those of the major media outlets? Wikileaks received the cables (from sources unknown) and published them. The media outlets received them (from Wikileaks) and published them. Why the double standard?

8. The rumour is that Wikileaks is about to release some damaging information to do with the Bank Of America. Once corporations start getting attacked directly by Wikileaks, you can expect the establishment to come after him even harder than they are at the moment. Bank of America Corp experienced a 3 per cent fall on Tuesday.

Latest Updates

Quite a few people – who obviously are too lazy to actually read beyond the headlines – seem to be under the opinion that the only thing the diplomatic cables have exposed is some embarrassing snippets about diplomats. Below is a list of some of the most incriminating cables released so far.

09/12/2010

Saudi Govt controls the media to prevent dissident ideas and criticism of the royal family or SAG policy. (Where’s all the criticism of the Saudi govt then in the US media, the same as Cuba or Venezuela attracts for censoring the media?)

Revealed: Assange ‘rape’ accuser linked to notorious CIA operative

Cuban media says Anna Ardin, the primary complainant in the Swedish charges against Assange, used to work for a variety of CIA fronts.

Australian politician Mark Arbib told the USA that the PM of Australia was under a political challenge from within his own party – months before the Australian public were aware of it.

08/12/2010

American security firm, DynCorp, organized child prostitution for Afghani police recruits. (Dyncorp received funding from US taxpayers.)

07/12/2010

America used spying, threats and promises of aid to get support for Copenhagen accord

US diplomats spied on UN leadership

US Govt put pressure on Spanish Govt to stop murder trial.

Bias in Assange News Coverage

How many news orgs, in their coverage of the rape allegations against Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, mention the whole story, i.e that both the Prosecution and the Defense claims that the sex was consensual but then “condom mishaps” occurred (as explained in this Wired article)? I think this little fact is very important to how people read the story – but how many news orgs are bothering to include it? And how many reference the fact that Assange’s lawyers they have been asking for, but haven’t received, details of the claims?

Let’s see.

News.com.au – no mention.

Press TV – no mention.

NY Daily News – condom mishap mentioned.

CNN – no mention.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation – no mention.

The Telegraph – no mention.

LA Times – no mention.

Bloomberg – no mention.

Wall Street Journal – no mention.

Sydney Morning Herald – no mention.

Julian Assange at TED July 2010

Australia’s most impressive media entrepreneur, Julian Assange, explains how Wikileaks works and provides some insight into recent events, in this recent interview with Wired’s Chris Anderson at TED.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Assange is trying to use the internet to change the world. He is what Peter Ellyard would call a “Future Maker”. I’m constantly motived and inspired by Julian’s quietly bold approach to tackle world governments and corporations. He’s spot on in this interview when he says a good approach to figuring out what the most important news is, is to discover what corporations and governments are spending a lot of effort and money to keep secret.

Recently I’ve been reading ridiculous suggestions that Wikileaks is a “honey trap” for whistleblowers. The idea seems to be that Wikileaks gets potential whistleblowers to come forward, and then they are arrested, Manning’s recent arrest is taken as being a sign that something is rotten in Denmark. The only problem with this scenario is that stuff is being leaked. It would be seem a bit of a stretch to think the establishment are allowing their dirty laundry to get exposed in an effort to create a temptation for potential whistleblowers to come forwards. As Julian says at the beginning of the video, Wikileaks has released more leaks in the last couple of years than the rest of the world media COMBINED.

News Corp’s Facebook Scare Campaign

This morning I ran a quick experiment. I searched through News.com.au’s site for stories that mention Facebook in the title to see what percentage of those stories had a negative slant. My theory is that large media companies such as News are scared about the amount of traffic Facebook is getting, as it’s decreasing their own readership thereby affecting the revenue they can generate from advertising. So they are running Facebook scare campaigns.

News Corp, of course, has even more reason that other media companies to be hatin’ on the Facebook, because they own MySpace, Facebook’s biggest competitor.

So – on with the results.

NEGATIVE STORIES

Facebook pedophiles stalk TV star, 11

Police probe students’ Facebook hate group

Spook’s wife in strife over Facebook post

Pupil’s Facebook slur against teacher

Facebook affair behind murder, suicide

Teacher dies after nude Facebook photos

Facebook used to organise Auburn racial riot – police

Nicole Kidman bullied on Facebook

Teenager fired from job via Facebook

Fake police Facebook page fools users

Premier Bligh writes to Facebook boss

Facebook removes kill-a-prostitute page

Teen’s death posted on Facebook first

Parents use Facebook to trap paedophile

Facebook deal forces computer clean-up

Rail bash teen’s mates turn to Facebook

Smiling in a bikini on Facebook costs Canadian woman her insurance

POSITIVE STORIES

Facebook extended to iPhone, iPod Touch

Pure Digital Sensia radio goes on Facebook, Twitter

Orangutan photographer a Facebook hit

Thief nabbed by Facebook detectives

So… out of twenty-one stories, there are FOUR positive stories (19%) and SEVENTEEN negative stories (81%).

The question is – does this show a bias in coverage?

Discuss.