Global collaboration is a success story for journalism, whatever its impact

International Media Collaboration

|JON ALLSOP, CJR|AIWA! NO!|The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists broke its latest big story over the weekend. Bringing together more than 250 reporters from 36 countries and 59 news organizations—including the BBC, NBC News, the AP, Le Monde, and Süddeutsche Zeitung—the group has started to unveil massive problems plaguing the global medical devices industry. ICIJ and its partners flagged more than 1.7 million injuries and 83,000 deaths linked to implants such as pacemakers, breast implants, and spinal cord stimulators, which manufacturers move around the world as regulators flounder and patients and doctors are left in the dark.
 
The devices investigation was born out of the work of Jet Schouten, a Dutch reporter who, in 2014, asked European regulators to approve what she claimed was a vaginal mesh, but was actually the netting used to hold mandarin oranges at the grocery store. (None of the three bodies Schouten approached took serious issue with her fake product.) Late last year, based on this reporting and years of arduous follow-up work, ICIJ approved a global look at the devices industry. For the past five months, I sat inside its investigation for CJR, hanging out on conference calls, interviewing partner journalists in 11 countries, and spending time with Schouten in the Netherlands.
 
The operation I observed was flush with confidence and camaraderie, and deeply impressive. That should not be surprising: ICIJ and the collaborative model it pioneered are having a moment. Two years ago, the group dropped the Panama Papers, a massive leak of offshore tax documents that exposed the accounting tricks of the rich and powerful and landed with a big global splash, implicating a succession of world leaders. The effort sparked the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister, then won a Pulitzer, then inspired a nascent Netflix movie that is set to star Meryl Streep. Last year, ICIJ followed up with the Paradise Papers, a second leaks story drawing on 13 million more offshore records.
 
ICIJ has been around for 21 years, during which it has worked on many different types of story. The medical devices project was nonetheless a departure from its acclaimed recent work, and thus a fresh test of its model. Could a collaboration based on painstaking (and often frustrating) shoe-leather reporting and public-records analysis work at the same grand scale as an investigation rooted in a single, centralized leak? And could a consumer affairs-facing story have the same impact as the salacious secrets of the world’s super-rich?
 
While every indication suggests the project navigated its technical complexities smoothly, the impact question remains open. Industry and regulators are already paying attention to ICIJ’s findings: yesterday, the US Food and Drug Administration promised to overhaul its device approval rules. Change, however, comes more easily in some countries than in others. As Lebanese journalist Alia Ibrahim told me, while many ICIJ partners were “waiting for the earthquakes that are going to happen once they publish,” in Lebanon, “I could give you 100 examples of how investigations proving corruption, proving malpractice, didn’t lead to anybody being held accountable.” And, globally speaking, ICIJ only deals with regulatory failures that are both widespread and entrenched—and, therefore, likely to be persistent.
 
As splashy as the Panama Papers were, efforts to overhaul global tax architecture in the time since have largely failed. ICIJ can’t force change, no matter how many journalists it might corral behind its work. But that isn’t the point of the organization. ICIJ is like any top-class individual newsroom, only much bigger. Its model empowers news organizations the world over to shine a spotlight into deep darkness, then joins those spotlights together to make a powerful single beam.
 
Below, more on ICIJ’s latest investigation: 

  • The Implant Files: You can find all ICIJ’s stories here, its overview of the global medical-devices industry here, and a full list of partners here.
     
  • Under the skin: In my piece for CJR, I go into much more detail about how ICIJ followed through on the project, and what it means for the organization going forward.
     
  • In the US: For the AP, Meghan Hoyer looks at problems with breast implants, and Mitch Weiss and Holbrook Mohr lay out how spinal cord stimulators have left some patients with agonizing injuries. For NBC News, meanwhile, Andrew W. Lehren, Emily R. Siegel, and Sarah Fitzpatrick track how US-made devices export pain overseas, and, conversely, how devices withdrawn from the market overseas can remain on sale in the US.  
     
  • “All Meshed Up”: Watch Schouten and her colleagues at Dutch public broadcaster AVROTROS pass off mandarin orange netting as a vaginal mesh here.

NASA spacecraft lands on Mars after six-month journey

By MARCIA DUNN AP Aerospace Writer|AIWA! NO!|CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. –A NASA spacecraft designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile (482 million-kilometer) journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.


Watch the NASA team react as the spacecraft InSight lands on Mars

After waiting in white-knuckle suspense for confirmation to arrive from space, flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in that the three-legged InSight spacecraft had successfully touched down.

NASA team reacts as InSight sends back the first image from Mars after landing

People hugged, shook hands, exchanged high-fives, pumped their fists, wiped away tears and danced in the aisles.

“Flawless,” declared JPL’s chief engineer, Rob Manning.

“This is what we really hoped and imagined in our mind’s eye,” he said. “Sometimes things work out in your favor.”

A pair of mini satellites trailing InSight since their May liftoff provided practically real-time updates of the spacecraft’s supersonic descent through the reddish skies. The satellite also shot back a quick photo from Mars’ surface.

The image was marred by specks of debris on the camera cover. But the quick look at the vista showed a flat surface with few if any rocks – just what scientists were hoping for. Much better pictures will arrive in the hours and days ahead.

“What a relief,” Manning said. “This is really fantastic.” He added: “Wow! This never gets old.”

RELATED: NASA finds more evidence that Mars could have once supported life

InSight, a $1 billion international venture, reached the surface after going from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat, using a parachute and braking engines. Radio signals confirming the landing took more than eight minutes to cross the nearly 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York’s Times Square.

NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover.

“Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration,” InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt, said before Monday’s success. “It’s such a difficult thing, it’s such a dangerous thing that there’s always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong.”

Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions. Up to now, the success rate at the red planet was only 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the U.S., Russia and other countries since 1960.

The U.S., however, has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades, not counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown. No other country has managed to set and operate a spacecraft on the dusty surface.

InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas.

RELATED: NASA’s Curiosity rover takes ‘selfie’ during Mars dust storm

The stationary 800-pound (360-kilogram) lander will use its 6-foot (1.8-meter) robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet’s internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

No lander has dug deeper on Mars than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on the planet.

Germany is in charge of InSight’s mole, while France is in charge of the seismometer.

An ecstatic Philippe Laudet, the French Space Agency’s project manager, said at JPL that now that the seismometer is on Mars, a “new adventure” is beginning.

By examining the interior of Mars, scientists hope to understand how our solar system’s rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they turned out so different – Mars cold and dry, Venus and Mercury burning hot, and Earth hospitable to life.

InSight has no life-detecting capability, however. That will be left to future rovers, such as NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which will collect rocks that will eventually be brought back to Earth and analyzed for evidence of ancient life.

LONDON Mayor Pledges £1.3m To Help Businesses Launch 2,000 New Apprenticeships

Clayton Sullivan-Webb, managing director of Grundon Waste Management and Lisa Dixon, managing director of JLD Driver Training (pictured right), celebrate being shortlisted for the  Apprenticeships 4 England Employer Awards 2016 with some of Grundon's apprentices.

Grundon’s entry focused on its driver training programme, which currently has 17 drivers studying for their Level Two Apprenticeship in driving a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV). A further three apprentice technicians are also undertaking training.

Clayton Sullivan-Webb, managing director of Grundon Waste Management and Lisa Dixon, managing director of JLD Driver Training (pictured right), celebrate being shortlisted for the  Apprenticeships 4 England Employer Awards with some of Grundon’s apprentices.
Grundon’s entry focused on its driver training programme, which currently has 17 drivers studying for their Level Two Apprenticeship in driving a Large Goods Vehicle (LGV). A further three apprentice technicians are also undertaking training.

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Apprenticeships4England|Sadiq Khan confirms his pro-business credentials as he pledges £1.3m boost to London schemes for young people
•New apprenticeships to be created in retail, hospitality and construction
•Sadiq calls on Ministers to devolve adult careers provision to City Hall

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who campaigned to be London’s most pro-business Mayor ever has today reaffirmed his commitment to delivering skills and training for London’s young people by announcing £1.3 million in funding to help businesses create 2,000 new apprenticeships.

In the UK, apprenticeships are funded through a levy that is paid by all businesses with an annual pay bill in excess of £3 million. However, apprenticeship starts in London have fallen by 21 per cent since the Government introduced the levy in April 2017. London’s businesses contribute more to the apprenticeship levy than any other region – but two in five of these businesses don’t spend any of the available levy funds, and a further two in five spend less than half.

This means that money is being returned to the Treasury, rather than being invested in young Londoners, with retail, hospitality and construction among the most affected sectors.

Speaking today at Skills London, the capital’s largest careers fair, Sadiq announced that he is investing £1.3m in pilot projects designed to help employers spend their levy funds on high quality apprenticeships, or else transfer the money down the supply chain to smaller business, to keep the benefits of the funding in the capital. Through this process, the Mayor expects to boost his credentials as the pro-business Mayor and help businesses create 2000 new training opportunities for London’s young people, with a particular focus on retail, hospitality and construction industries.

The Mayor is calling on apprenticeship funding to be devolved to London alongside funding and responsibility for adult careers services. This would include the devolution of the London area-based delivery of the National Careers Service. He also wants to see London’s share of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace valuable European funds following Brexit, to be fully devolved to London.

Sadiq is already working hard to help young Londoners succeed. He has set up his Construction Academy to improve construction skills. He has also expanded the London Enterprise Adviser Network and is investing £114m in new buildings and equipment for skills training across London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “From biotech, engineering and construction to retail, hospitality and healthcare, London needs workers with the skills to support the rich variety of our economy.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, ensuring a better and more responsive skills network – as well as continued access to global talent – is more important than ever.

“Apprenticeships are a key part of my commitment to being London’s most pro-business Mayor and giving young Londoners the skills they need to succeed – they benefit individuals, businesses and the whole London economy – so I’m delighted to be able to announce further funding to unlock more opportunities across the capital.

“Now we need the government to recognise our success and devolve adult careers services provision to City Hall.”

London has a strong, dynamic, global economy, but the region’s employment rate has lagged-behind the national average for three decades. More than 230,000 working-age Londoners are unemployed, with particularly high rates of youth unemployment. Ensuring an effective and responsive skills system is critical to tackling this issue.

Sadiq believes that an effective skills system is critical to meeting the needs of London’s businesses. Employers repeatedly report skills shortage vacancies and skills gaps in their workforce, impacting on growth and productivity.

London First Chief Executive, Jasmine Whitbread said: “Every young Londoner should have the chance to be a part of our capital’s success. Skills London will bring together more than 200 employers, 35,000 youngsters, and a record 55,000 career opportunities – including apprenticeships and on-the-job training.

“We’re delighted the Mayor is taking action to boost apprenticeship numbers in the capital, particularly in the construction sector, which is facing chronic skills shortages.

“London fares best when in charge of its own destiny, so it’s good news the Mayor will take control of the adult education budget. This should be extended to the National Careers Service to ensure business, educators and civic leaders are working together to give our young people the very best start in the world of work.”

Anthony Impey, Chief Executive of IT and telecoms business Optimity and chair of the GLA Apprenticeship Group said: “The Mayor’s announcement comes at a critical time for London’s businesses, who are already struggling to recruit the people they need, even before the full impact of Brexit. Never has the need been greater for companies to develop their own talent, and apprenticeships provide an excellent way to do this.

“I have first-hand experience of the immense benefits apprenticeships can provide organisations of any size, not least their return on investment. I’ve also seen the huge impact that it can have on young Londoners, by supercharging the start of their careers and giving them access to some of London’s most exciting sectors. The Mayor’s support is vital to ensure that these advantages are available to as many as possible.

“London’s global competitive advantage rests on its ability to be a world-class place to recruit and develop talent, and the Mayor’s ambition for apprenticeship plays a key role in achieving this.”

Mary Vine-Morris, London Director of the Association of Colleges said: “London is a city open for business – the Mayor’s new investment in apprenticeships makes that clear.

To continue to be one of the best cities in the world to work and to live, it is vital that London works with employers to ensure a strong pipeline of skilled workers.

For too long there has been too little investment, politically as well as financially in London’s apprenticeship offer. That is why we welcome the drive to make better use of London’s levy spend. Rather than it going back to treasury unspent, it would be better being used to create more meaningful opportunities for London’s young people to get into work and to get on in life.”

Sarah Beale, CITB Chief Executive said: “Construction apprenticeships offer huge opportunities to young people, enabling them to earn as they learn, avoid the debt of student loans and gain the practical skills experience employers want.

“CITB estimates that London will require an estimated 10,000 construction workers between now and 2022 with plant operatives, civil engineers and scaffolders among the most in-demand roles. Creating new, high quality construction apprenticeships to help young people fill these job roles is welcome news.

“CITB is supporting the development of the Mayor of London’s new Construction Academy. We look forward to working with the Mayor and partners across industry to give London’s young people the best possible chance of starting rewarding construction careers.”

With the Adult Education Budget set to be devolved to City Hall from 2019/20, the Mayor will have £311 million to provide the targeted, high quality skills training Londoners require.

This will be supplemented by £71 million from the European Social Fund. This money will be used to help young people and adults who may have missed out on opportunities due to circumstances beyond their control and now need a second chance to access education, training and employment.

Sam Gurney, TUC Regional Secretary, London, East and South East, said: “It is crucial that young Londoners have access to quality apprenticeships, which provide genuine training and pay a fair rate for the job.

“We welcome the Mayor’s new funding and hope that it will support Londoners to gain the skills our city needs.

“In particular we welcome work to increase the number of women, BME and disabled people taking up apprenticeships in areas like construction and engineering where they are seriously underrepresented.”

Apprenticeshipsapp4womenapprenticeshipsdirectory

LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS -Tackling the Information Crisis, A new Report


By Professor Charlie Beckett, CJR|AIWA! NO!|What kind of information society do you want? How should we reduce the amount of misinformation? How can we protect democracy from digital damage? How can we help people make the most of the extraordinary opportunities of the Internet while avoiding the harm it can cause?


India’s unprecedented news and information crisis


India’s unprecedented news and information crisis

For a year the LSE Truth, Trust and Technology Commission (T3) has been grappling with these key questions. Sparked by the anxieties caused by so-called fake news, the Commission has now come up with a policy agenda for tackling the information crisis.

Working with politicians, technologists, journalists, academics and others from a range of sectors and the general public, we have published this report that sets out a wide-ranging strategy to build a more resilient media system fit for the information ecosystem in the UK.


India’s unprecedented news and information crisis
Read the full report

The key proposal is for an Independent Platform Agency (IPA) that would be a watchdog – rather than a regulator – which evaluates the effectiveness of platform self-regulation and the development of quality journalism, reporting to Parliament and offering policy advice. It should be funded by a new levy on UK social media and search advertising revenue. The Agency should be a permanent forum for monitoring and reviewing the behaviour of online platforms and provide annual reviews of ‘the state of disinformation’.

The report also suggests ways to support the traditional news industry to develop innovative ways to combat the information crisis.

The report calls on the Government to mobilise and coordinate an integrated, new programme in media literacy. This should focus on children in schools – for example, a compulsory media literacy module in citizenship classes – but also on adults in further and vocational education.

The report also addresses the recent problems around media and elections in the UK. It recommends that Parliament urgently brings forward legislation to introduce a statutory code on political advertising, as recommended by the Information Commissioner.

The central message from this report is that the information crisis is causing real problems – in health for example, as well as politics. Any approach to deal with it must be structural because this is a systematic problem that needs a coordinated, comprehensive response.

This is a rapidly evolving set of issues so any policies must also be flexible. Above all, they must avoid causing any damage to the diversity and openness of debate and freedom of expression.

Prof Charlie Beckett, Director of the LSE Truth, Trust and Technology Commission

The LSE T3 Commission will continue its work on this and welcomes your input.

You can access the background papers and a range of online resources at our website.

Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #LSEt3

There will be a public event to discuss the report on Tuesday 20th November at the LSE

International Declaration on Information and Democracy: governments need to open information and communication space. And more …

– International Declaration on Information and Democracy –

In a historic step in the context of the Paris Peace Forum today, 12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – a process based on the declaration issued last week by an independent commission that was created at the initiative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

|JAVIER PALLERO, accessnow|AIWA! NO!|On November 2, an independent commission set up by Reporters Without Borders published a new declaration on issues relevant for human rights in the digital era. The “International Declaration on Information and Democracy: principles for the global information and communication space“ addresses difficult and pressing issues such as misinformation, privacy, and the role of tech intermediaries in ensuring freedom of expression.

The declaration, endorsed by a number of important figures in journalism and human rights, has valuable references to freedom of the press and the protection of journalists, and it calls for a better technological ecosystem for information exchange. Today at the Paris Peace Forum,12 countries launched a political process aimed at providing democratic guarantees for news and information and freedom of opinion – an initiative based on the declaration.

While we share that goal, our analysis offers a word of caution with regard to the recommendations on the role of internet information intermediaries. We explain why this part of the declaration may be problematic for the freedom of expression online if poorly implemented or interpreted by decision-makers.

A necessary call for better conditions for journalism

At the request of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Eiffel Tower’s lights were turned off for a minute at 6:30 p.m. today on the eve of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists to pay tribute to Saudi newspaper columnist Jamal Khashoggi and all the other journalists in the world whose murders have so far gone unpunished.

The declaration takes stock of the current challenges for the free press, which are shared by traditional and digital journalism. It reinforces the key role that journalists play in democratic societies, and makes a call to increase their safety. From our point of view, this clearly includes strengthening digital security, a challenge that journalists face in light of the illegal eavesdropping by both governments and private actors. Journalists need to be able to rely on technology that works for them and protects their sources. That’s why we view the protection of strong encryption as fundamental for the work of journalists, and we commend the declaration’s call for privacy for those participating in the public debate.

Privacy facilitates the exercise of the freedom of expression, which comprises the right to impart and receive information. Both technology and the press play an important role in facilitating our access to information in the public interest. The declaration recognizes this and stresses the social function of the press. We add that our ability to access the internet in times of political and social unrest is also essential in fulfilment of that role. Therefore, states should abstain from ordering internet shutdowns or blocking applications. Despite growing public awareness of such network interference, this dangerous trend is nevertheless escalating, as we recently indicated in a joint report to the United Nations Human Rights Council. We also call for increased attention to the wave of repressive legislation that is targeting online expression and putting journalists’ work and lives at risk.

Another laudable inclusion in the declaration is its call for further transparency. This includes transparency as a means of improving the quality of information but also as a way to understand more about how the content curation algorithms in digital platforms work.

Cautions and considerations regarding free expression

The declaration raises concerns about issues including liability for content dissemination, bias in digital platforms, and the proliferation of misinformation on the internet. We acknowledge and share those concerns. However, we worry that some parts of the declaration may be misinterpreted by decision-makers to adopt solutions that, without further analysis, could harm free expression.

Liability for expression — some important distinctions

The declaration makes note of liability for those participating in the public debate, particularly for content they disseminate or “help to disseminate.” There are critically important distinctions to be made in this area in order to avoid ill-informed implementations of this idea. First, there are technical intermediaries on the internet that help disseminate content, but, as a general rule, should not be held liable for third-party expressions. That is the case with regard to hosting and domain name providers, for instance, which do not participate in the curation or prioritization of content and merely provide technical infrastructure to web pages and apps to function. Legal sanctions for these intermediaries for the content they host would represent a disproportionate measure at odds with internationally recognized human rights principles.

When we consider social media platforms, there is no clear solution and any efforts in the area must be evidence-based. When platforms use algorithmic curation of content, it implies making a decision about the dissemination of information, but that decision is typically informed not only by the creators of the algorithm but also by the conduct of users. Further, design choices and decision-making for curation that rewards user engagement may create an incentive for companies that use these platforms for advertising to track and surveil users, which implicates other rights. The bottom line is that we need more information to understand how content consumption and dissemination really works. Before we engage in any public policy consideration of liability for digital intermediaries on content, which raises clear and significant risks for free expression, we must have clarity on the extent to which different actors in the information ecosystem exert influence over content creation and dissemination.

Neutrality — what kind?

The declaration also calls for “political, religious, and ideological neutrality.” It states that platforms should be neutral on those issues when “structuring the information space.” While we understand the concerns regarding possible bias in the curation of content, public policy actions based on the call for neutrality in the ”structuring” of the information space may leave room for abuse if important questions are not answered first. There is no doubt that arbitrary discrimination is an obstacle for the exercise of free expression. But, what could neutrality mean in the digital information context? Would that mean equal treatment for different kinds of information that are fed into a curation algorithm? Or would that mean striving for an ideal of a balanced output in search results or social media feeds? The definition of neutrality, as we can see, can be tricky. It implies a neutrality of information input, treatment, and output that is hard to achieve across diverse information systems. Take a search engine, for instance, and compare it with a social media service. A search engine indexes a broader range of information not directly influenced by the user, but its processing and presentation of search results is indirectly influenced by user behavior. That’s how search services offer personalized results. Should a search engine’s neutrality efforts be focused on non-discriminatory crawling of sources? Or should it be non-discriminatory in the processing and presentation of results? How is neutrality in a search engine compatible with user personalization? If this is a matter of degree, how much personalization or neutrality is enough, and who gets to decide that?

The question of “neutrality” for social media platforms is perhaps even more complicated. Users themselves input content, and users tend to follow the people and pages that they like. The choices they make reflect their own ideas, religious beliefs, and more. Should companies or governments intervene in the choices of users? To what degree? Should some content or user posts be sponsored to promote “neutrality” or diversity of opinion? Who makes that decision?

The information ecosystem today has characteristics that appear to be promoting polarization and reactivity, which in turn can have a negative effect in democracy. However, confronting this challenge will take much more than asking companies for “neutrality.” It requires addressing business models, information literacy, design for user choice, and social and educational problems. Consider the reports about the use of WhatsApp, a closed communication channel, to spread misinformation in Brazil before the recent elections. This could be considered a “neutral” channel since there is no algorithmic prioritization of the messages that run through the platform. Yet in the broader context of the information ecosystem in Brazil, including the dominance of this channel because WhatsApp is often “zero-rated” and therefore free to use, its use may also have increased the challenges for information diversity and fact-checking.

We agree with the declaration’s emphasis on the idea that with the greater influence, there is more responsibility and a corresponding need for increased transparency. However, given the considerations outlined above, assigning editorial responsibility or possible liability may not be an appropriate answer in all cases. Platforms should, instead, provide users with effective tools to exert the maximum amount of control over their information experience. By default. This could include options such as giving users the capacity to turn off prioritization in a news feed, or adjust it with their own preferences, for example, or to disable tracking and behavioral advertisements. This might represent the type of “neutrality” for platforms that would benefit users.

“Reliable” information — a difficult quest in the digital space

Finally, the declaration’s call for platforms to favor reliable information also raises complex issues for free expression. The declaration recommends as tools in this endeavor transparency, editorial independence, verification methods, and journalistic ethics. In addition to the challenges we explore above related to editorial responsibility, there are also challenges when it comes to a platform’s use of verification methods and journalistic ethics. The expression of opinion is protected as a fundamental human right, and opinion pieces are not necessarily “verifiable.” Speculation, theorizing, satire, and opinion present challenges to fact checking, online or off. It is also vital that neither states nor companies define journalistic ethics. On a number of social media platforms, one’s news feed contains a mix of personal opinion, news items, editorials, and advertising. Although journalistic ethics could play a role in the design of a news feed or help inform the development of a content curation algorithm, independent and human rights based human intervention is essential to mitigate the spread of misinformation on communication platforms.

Conclusion: in assigning responsibility, take care not to deputize platforms as guardians of truth or neutrality

All the issues we have explored are difficult, and a thorough analysis of all their implications would exceed the bounds of this post. The challenges the declaration seeks to address are only starting to be adequately researched and there is a need for more information from internet platforms.

However, we can start with one initial recommendation to those seeking to apply the content of the declaration to public policy decisions: avoid deputizing social media companies or any internet intermediary as a guardian of the truth or neutrality, as this risks consequences for free expression and other protected human rights. Social media platforms, and the dominant players in particular, must take heed of their responsibility to consider the human rights impacts of their products. If by encouraging them to take more responsibility, we also make them the arbiters of truth, however, we put those same rights at risk. And we transfer even more power from the people to dominant platforms.

Today, people access, create, share, comment on, and react to information in complex ways. In the challenges that this poses for our democracies, we must find solutions that empower us to deal with information in a constructive, but also fundamentally free way. This means putting users in control, by giving them more options for how they find, consume, and share content free from manipulation. It also means providing more transparency, especially with regard to ads, including political advertising. Finally, it means looking at the bigger picture and developing business models that do not reward poor quality information that increases “engagement” by playing on basic human instincts of fear, alarm and discord.

Continue reading International Declaration on Information and Democracy: governments need to open information and communication space. And more …

Google overhauls its sexual harassment policies after employee walkouts against workplace culture

The company will end its policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, enabling lawsuits in these matters.

|SCROLL -IN|AIWA! NO!|Google on Thursday announced a number of changes to its sexual harassment policies a week after thousands of employees walked out of their offices as part of protests against the company’s treatment of women.

“We recognise that we have not always gotten everything right in the past and we are sincerely sorry for that,” Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai said in an email to employees that was published on its blog. “It’s clear we need to make some changes.”

Pichai said the company will end its policy of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims, enabling lawsuits in these matters. Google will provided enhanced care and resources, including counselling and career support, for complainants and will also dock performance reviews for employees who fail to complete the mandatory sexual harassment training. The company will also provide more details and clarity about the outcome of sexual harassment allegations.

Ending forced arbitration was one of the several key changes that employees had sought. Their other demands included equal pay and opportunity for all, a publicly disclosed sexual harassment transparency report, and a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously.

Alcohol consumption was one of the most common factors among the harassment complaints and the note said that “harassment is never acceptable and alcohol is never an excuse”. Leaders at the company are “expected to create teams, events, offsites and environments in which excessive alcohol consumption is strongly discouraged”, it said.

The protests on November 1 began at 11.10 am from Google’s Tokyo office and were organised under the #GoogleWalkout. Employees walked out of their offices in several places including London, Dublin, Singapore, Berlin, Haifa in Israel, and Zurich.

They were organised days after a report published in The New York Times claimed that Android creator Andy Rubin received a $90 million (Rs 660.19 crore at current exchange rate) exit package in 2014 despite facing sexual misconduct allegations. It also alleged that Google protected two other unnamed executives accused of sexual misconduct, removing one with a severance package while retaining another.

While #GoogleWalkout organisers commended the progress, they expressed disappointment that the company had ignored other core demands, including elevating the diversity officer and employee representation on board.

“We demand a truly equitable culture, and Google leadership can achieve this by putting employee representation on the board and giving full rights and protections to contract workers, our most vulnerable workers, many of whom are black and brown women,” organiser Stephanie Parker said in a statement.

The company should also address issues of systemic racism and discrimination, including pay equity and rates of promotion, and not just sexual harassment. “They all have the same root cause, which is a concentration of power and a lack of accountability at the top,” Parker said.

Jamie Oliver Closes Restaurants, Jumps On Financial Tech

Jamie Oliver Closes Restaurants, Joins Financial Tech

Jamie Oliver makes his biggest investment

Chef & Restaurateur – Jamie Oliver, has announced his 100 million dollar investment in Bitcoin Revolution and, he is expecting double the value of investment in just half an year. If you haven’t heard of bitcoin yet, then this is something for you – Bitcoin Revolution.

Before we go into details of Bitcoin Revolution, let us explain who Jamie Oliver exactly is. Jamie Oliver is a visionary chef and businessman, some call him the smartest entrepreneurial chef of our century. He’s a large personality as well and his businesses have amassed him a net worth of over £235 million. Oliver is proving them wrong year after year. He has made it his agenda to nosedive into the financial sector diversifying his businesses. While being a famous chef, he has found his passion in a unique industry, a new one powered by Financial Technology. Bitcoin Revolution is his latest project. ”I want people to acheive financial independence and not be slaves of economy crises” Oliver announced in TEDx talk.

But now, Oliver has decided to close down Barbecoa and Fifteen Restaurant in order to literally take over the bitcoin market. He’s teamed up with Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group to change the definition of money. That’s why they acquired Bitcoin Revolution.

What exactly is Bitcoin RevolutionBitcoin Revolution is a financial technology with the plan to redistribute world wealth. Basically – take from the top 0.1% and give back to 99.9%. Oliver and Branson believe wealth is not distributed well in our age, and although there always will be someone richer and someone poorer, the current situation is not acceptable, where top 0.1% controls almost 90% of world wealth. Oliver believes he can cut that down to around 20% without causing world-wide financial crisis, Oliver goes even further. So what exactly does that mean to you, the regular middle or lower class person? This means you will become 2 – 3 times wealthier, and no one except the super-wealthy will take a hit. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Ok, the theory is there, but how will it work you might ask? Overall, the idea is easy. The top 0.1% keep their wealth invested in stocks, and Wall Street brokers trade these stocks for them. The idea is to beat the Wall Street traders in their own game – make winning trades so Wall Street with their hoards of wealth slowly but surely starts losing money. Just like a poker game, where a new player comes along on the high-stakes table and starts winning.

In order to do this you would need a better stock movement predictions than the Wall Street has. That is Where Bitcoin comes in. With the help of cloud computing, it can be done, and it’s actualy being done now as Bitcoin Revolution has showed! This is exactly the reason why Oliver and Branson jumped on this technology as soon as he heard about it. It’s revolutionary.

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