SAUDI WASHINGTON POST Journalist Murder in Turkey – Journalism Under Assault

THE DAILY Observer Editorial: Thomas Jefferson’s solemn declaration, “Where the press is free . . . all are safe?” At the rate that we are going, we are not safe, and we ought to be afraid! Very afraid …










|THe Daily Observer|AIWA!NO!|His name is Jamal Khashoggi, and he is dead. According REPORTS, he was murdered. Turkey claims to have evidence of the atrocity. Of course, the entire world, along with the poor man’s fiancé, is awaiting answers. Khashoggi was a fierce critic of the ruling Saudi Arabia family, and was essentially  ‘persona non grata’ in the desert Kingdom. In fact, he’d been living in self-imposed exile in the United States because . . . well, he spoke the truth . . . “without fear or favour, and without worrying who feel one way or another. . .” Anyway, if the reports are to be believed, Mr. Khashoggi went into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul to get some documents needed for his upcoming wedding, and never walked out. The videotape shows the good journalist entering the embassy. There is no video record of him leaving.

Hong Kong has refused to renew a work visa for the Asia news editor of the Financial Times, who is also an official of the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), a decision that shocked many in the financial hub’s international community.

The news comes two months after government officials in China and Hong Kong condemned the FCC, one of Asia’s leading press clubs, for hosting a speech by an independence activist, reigniting debate about the viability of the city’s promised freedoms.

“The Hong Kong authorities have rejected an application to renew the work visa of Victor Mallet, Asia news editor at the Financial Times,” the newspaper said in a statement. “This is the first time we have encountered this situation in Hong Kong. We have not been given a reason for the rejection,” it said.

To say that this is a bold and brazen assault on the press (Mr. Khashoggi was a columnist with the Washington Post) is putting it mildly. And if the Saudi thugs, allegedly acting at the behest of the ruling regime, are allowed to get away with this outrage, then despotic regimes all over the world, regimes that despise those that dare shine a light into the nether reaches of their corrupt governments, will be emboldened. Make no mistake!

Consider. A little more than a month ago, two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were sentenced to seven years in prison in the banana republic called Myanmar for reporting on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims who were being displaced and murdered by the despicable Myanmar government. Despite international condemnation of the initial arrest back in December of last year, and calls by “Press freedom advocates, the United Nations, the European Union and [freedom-championing] countries like the United States, Canada and Australia for the men to be acquitted . . .,” the Myanmar government basically told the world to take a hike.

Of course, while we are not surprised at the cowardly actions of the Myanmar regime and others of like ilk, we are deeply disappointed that Donald Trump, the putative leader of the free world, is a bitter and intransigent foe of the press. Indeed, he routinely refers to the distinguished NEW YORK TIMES as “The failing New York Times,” points to journalists at his press conferences and besmirches their professionalism and character by labeling them as “Dishonest.” And yes, he dismisses any press coverage that is unflattering to him as “Fake news!” In fact, he has used that phrase so often, much to the delight of dictators and tyrants, that it has become part of the worldwide authoritarian lexicon. Yes, the Russians, Chinese, Syrians and other sketchy regimes have appropriated a cue from the good president and taken to branding unfavourable reporting with his pet phrase. Way to go, Mr. President! Nice job!

No surprisingly, the Caribbean is not immune from the increasing tendency to disparage the Fourth Estate  – the press and news media. Indeed, according to Reporters Without Borders, “More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion.” For shame! And the thing is that, much like their mentor to the north, they serve up red meat to their supporters by threatening to close down opposition and independent media in their countries and chuckling and chortling at the struggles of the press to shine a light and give a voice to the voiceless and hold governments to account. Whatever happened to Thomas Jefferson’s solemn declaration, “Where the press is free . . . all are safe?” At the rate that we are going, we are not safe, and we ought to be afraid! Very afraid!

The thing though is that, notwithstanding the resolve of tyrannical regimes to shut down the press by any means necessary, media workers remain equally resolved to “Let there be light!” Just ask Algernon ’Serpent’ Watts of Observer radio’s, Serpent in the Snakepit. He has boldly declared that even if he has to broadcast from the trunk of his vehicle, he will not be silenced. Au contraire, he will forever be “Speaking truth to power!” Meanwhile, we concur with King Short Shirt when he declares in NO POWER, that no power can extinguish a people’s fight for freedom of expression!

©The Daily Observer

Trump Information-sphere – Debunking with data; Insights From Fact-checkers Around The World

CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA!NO!|EJC|Ever wondered if a politician’s claims really add up? Or perhaps you read a news story which seemed a little fishy? Armed with data, fact-checking organisations across the globe work tirelessly to help separate these facts from fiction, and any misnomers in-between.

To find out more about debunking with data, European Journalism Centre (EJC) gave subscribers to their data newsletter access to a global group of fact-checkers for an exclusive; “Ask Me Anything“.

How about starting with the most recent one; US President Trump’s UN LIE of the ‘century and centuries’ to come;  “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” line which drove the listeners into murmurs and laughter – mockery.2018-09-26

The world just laughed out loud at Donald Trump. That day, during the president’s address to the United Nations General Assembly, the audience laughed when Trump boasted that “my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.”

As soon as the words left Trump’s mouth, a ripple of laughter traveled through the crowd and grew as Trump reacted to the guffaws

An unnecessary and embarrassing spectacle at that; if you ask me. Of course the humongous CLAIM was debunked as quickly as it was uttered; by the laughter of the audience and the world; also later on; hours later if I remember correctly, by Donald Trump himself;  

On the one hand, that is a pretty even-keeled response from someone as tantrum-prone as Trump.

Reader question: Can you share some good examples or best cases where data has been successfully used for fact-checking?

Anim van Wyk, Chief Editor, Africa CheckGood data aids good fact-checking, which need to point out exactly what the data can and can’t tell you. The more limitations, the less certain the answer becomes.

For example, it’s easy to use data from the World Health Organization’s Global Ambient Air Quality database to rank cities according to their pollution levels. But the fine print shows that these entries aren’t comparable. This is due to differences in the methods and quality of measurements – and the fact that some cities suspected to be the most polluted don’t report data to the WHO.

Samar Halarnkar, Editor, Data are [we never use the singular!] the foundation of fact-checking.

One example: The Indian telecommunications minister announced that within a year of taking charge, his administration ensured that the government-run telecoms behemoth, BSNL, had turned a operating profit, after seven years of losses, and had added subscribers. After a meticulous examination of data–including right-to-information requests–we found that operating profits did not mean the company had turned profitable; indeed net losses had increased, and the minister had, conveniently, not mentioned that more subscribers left than were added.

After a new right-wing government took over in 2014, there were many reports of lynchings, especially of minorities, based on violence related to cows, considered holy by many Hindus. The ruling party and its adherents insisted these were isolated incidents, were never reported before and were not related to the extreme version on Hinduism that they promoted. A debate raged nationwide, poisoning politics and society, made worse by the absence of data–national crime records did not register crimes related to bovines. At, we created a database of each such crime from 2010 onwards, so that crime patterns could be compared with those after 2014, when the new government took office. Our database–now widely quoted in India and abroad–clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of the victims of such lynchings are minorities, in particular Muslims, and most violence has occurred in states run by India’s ruling party.

Image:’s interactive database of cow-related violence in India.

Matt Martino, Online Editor, RMIT ABC Fact Check: Politicians in Australia often like to speak about records, both when attacking opponents and spruiking their achievements. A famous example in our unit was when the ruling Coalition Foreign Minister said that when the Opposition Labor Party were last in government, they bequeathed the “worst set of financial accounts” in Australia’s history to their incoming government. This particular fact-check took several months of work sourcing data from the history books on debt and deficit. We were able to find data on federal government surpluses and deficits, plus gross debt, stretching back to 1901, and on net debt handed over to incoming governments back to the 1970s. It’s a great example of where a claimant has used the raw number in place of a percentage, which puts the figure in historical context. In this case, experts told us that these figures must be expressed as a percentage of GDP to enable historical comparisons. Ultimately, we found that the Foreign Minister’s claim was wrong, as there were far larger (as a percentage of GDP) inherited deficits recorded during WWII, far larger gross debt inherited in the same period, and far larger net debt bequeathed to a government during the 1990s.

Dinda Purnamasari, Senior Researcher, Data is the soul of fact-checking. But not just data, more importantly, the context of data itself is what makes our fact-check more reliable.

First, on 2 May 2017, Jake Van Der Kamp, an economist, shared an opinion entitled “Sorry President Widodo, GDP rankings are economists’ equivalent of fake news”. At that time, Kamp quoted a statement from President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) that Indonesia’s economic growth was third in the world, after India and China.

‘GDP is an attempt to emulate the corporate world by putting money numbers on performance but… with GDP you get no equivalents of the corporate balance sheet or profit and loss account and no notes to the accounts’“Indonesia’s economic growth is the third in the world, after India and China,” said Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

Third in the world, is it? What world is that? Within Asia alone I count 13 countries with higher reported economic growth rates than Indonesia’s latest 5.02 per cent.

They are India (7.5), Laos (7.4), Myanmar (7.3), Cambodia (7.2), Bangladesh (7.1), Philippines (6.9), China (6.7) Vietnam (6.2), Pakistan (5.7), Mongolia (5.5), Palau (5.5), Timor-Leste (5.5) and Papua New Guinea (5.4).

But of course President Widodo’s Indonesia is a very populous country with 261 million people. We cannot really compare it with pipsqueak places like Timor or Palau. Thus let’s draw the line at the 200 million people or more.

This gives us six countries across the world and, in terms of economic growth, Indonesia is in the bottom half of these six behind India, China and Pakistan. Try it at a cut-off of 100 million people or more and you still get no luck. Bottom half again.

Way to go, Joko. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. We’ll make a journalist of you yet.


After this opinion became an issue in Indonesia, decided to verify the data that had been used by Jokowi. We looked at data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and based on that we concluded that Indonesia was not in the third position using general criteria, but instead ranks third among BRICS and high populated countries.

Image: A graph from’s fact-check, showing that Indonesia is ranked third out of the BRICS countries.

Second, in early August 2018, the Vice Governor claimed that their policy of odd-even traffic limitation had reduced air pollution in Jakarta. His statement became an issue, and even some media quoted his data. We verified the data using measurements from the Indonesian Agency for Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (Badan Meteorologi, Klimatologi, dan Geofisika – BMKG) and the US Embassy. Based on those, his statement was incorrect. The average of air pollution in Jakarta was still high and did not appear to be decreasing.

Tania Roettger, Head of Fact-Checking Team, Correctiv/EchtJetzt: Fact-checking only works for statements of fact, not opinions. So ideally there is data available to verify claims. We regularly use statistics about topics like crime, HIV-rates or jobs. If there are statistics on a topic, we will consult them. Of course, statistics differ in quality depending on the topic and who gathers the data.

Earlier this year, we debunked the claim that refugees sent 4.2 Billion Euros to their home countries in 2016. Data from the German federal bank showed that the 4.2 Billion Euros in remittances actually came from all migrants working in Germany for more than a year, not specifically from refugees. Most of the money, 3.4 Billion Euros, went to European countries, followed by Asia (491 Million) and Africa (177 Million).

Image: Correctiv/EchtJetzt rated the statement as four on their seven point rating scale.

Reader question: Have you seen examples where the same data has been manipulated to support both sides of an argument? If so, how do you ensure that your way of looking at the data isn’t biased?

Anim van Wyk: At Africa Check, we’re fond of the quip that some people use statistics “as a drunken man uses lamp posts – for support rather than illumination”. Depending on what you want to prove, you can cherry-pick data which supports your argument.

An example is different stances on racial transformation in South Africa, or the lack thereof. A member of a leftist political party said in 2015 that  “whites are only 10% of the economically active population but occupy more than 60% of the top management positions.” The head of the Free Market Foundation, a liberal think-tank, then wrote: “Blacks in top management… doubled.”

Both were right – but by presenting only a specific slice of the same data source to support their argument.

Again, you need to find out what the data cannot tell you and try to triangulate by using different data sources.

Image: Africa Check’s ‘mostly correct’ verdict means that a claim contains elements of truth but is either not entirely accurate, according to the best evidence publicly available at the time, or needs clarification.

Matt Martino: A great example of this was the debate over “cuts” and “savings” to health and education during the early days of the Abbott Coalition government in Australia. The government argued that they were making a “saving” on health and education by reducing the amount spent on what the previous Labor government had budgeted to spend. Labor, now in opposition, argued that this was in fact a cut. We investigated the figures and found that the Coalition was still spending above inflation so it couldn’t be called a cut, but the projections the Coalition had made about savings were over such a long period of time that it was difficult to say whether they would come to pass. In the end we called the debate “hot air”.

How do we make sure we’re looking at the data the right way? We always rely on several experts in the field to guide our analysis and tell us the right way to interpret the data. We’re not experts in any of the topics we explore, whilst academics can spend their entire careers researching a single subject, so their advice is invaluable.

Dinda Purnamasari: In our experience, many use the right data, but the context is incorrect. Then, the data becomes incredible.

For example, reports that PT Telkom (state-owned telecommunication company in Indonesia) had provided Corporate Social Responsibility funds of around IDR 100 million to a Mosque and, in comparison, IDR 3.5 billion to a church.

We found that the numbers (IDR100 million and IDR3.5 billion) were right, but the purpose of the funding was incorrect. The 100 million was granted by PT Telkom in 2016 to pay the debt from a mosque renovation process. On the other hand, 3.5 billion was granted to renovate the old church, which also became a cultural heritage site in Nusa Tenggara Barat in 2017.

In this case, again, the context of data becomes an important thing in fact-checking. We must understand the methodology and how the data was gathered or estimated, even by double-checking on the ground, if needed.

Tania Roettger: Crime-data is a good example. In 2017 crime rates in Germany went down. But the statistic only shows the crimes that have been reported to the police. This has lead some politicians to claim that crime has not actually gone down and that the statistics are “fake news“.

When the meaning of data is debated, we consult independent experts to collect arguments about how the data can or should be interpreted. Or we look at alternative sources, for example the surveys some German states conduct with people about the crimes they experienced but did not report. (However, the validity of these surveys is disputed.)

Samar Halarnkar: In this era of fake news, data are often used to reinforce biases.

For instance, there was much self congratulation when the government claimed that India’s forests grew by 6,779 sq km over the two years to 2017. We found that this was not wrong because that is what the satellite imagery revealed. But what it did not reveal was that these new “forests” included forests converted to commercial plantations, as well as degraded and fragmented forests, and that the health of these forests was being gauged by satellite imagery with inadequate resolution. Indeed, numerous studies had recorded a steady degradation of forests over nearly a century.

Image: found that this map of forest coverage was not what it seemed. Credit: India’s state of forest report (ISFR) 2017.

Indian remote-sensing satellites produce images with a resolution of 23.5 metres per pixel, which is too coarse to unequivocally identify small-scale deforestation and cannot distinguish between old-growth forests and plantations. To make that distinction, India needs imagery with resolution of 5.8 m per pixel.

So, all data are not always what they appear. They need to be verified and cross-checked, either with studies, other databases or ground reporting.

Reader question: How do you fact-check stories or statements when data on an issue isn’t available?

Anim van Wyk: It’s really unsatisfactory to use our “unproven” verdict, but sometimes the evidence publicly available at the time “neither proves nor disproves a statement”, as we define this rating. Still, the absence of data doesn’t mean anything goes in making statements of fact about a topic. We then point out what is known and what isn’t.

Samar Halarnkar: If data are not available–or independently verified data are not available–there is only one substitute: Verification through old-fashioned, shoe-leather reporting.

For instance, India’s Prime Minister once claimed that his government had built 425,000 toilets within a year. With no independent verification, this claim was hard to dispute. Obviously, it was impossible to verify that 425,000 new toilets had indeed been built in all of India’s schools. But after sending reporters to conduct random verifications in eight Indian states, it quickly became apparent that the Prime Minister’s claim was–to put it plainly–a lie.

Matt Martino: RMIT ABC Fact Check tests the veracity of claims made by politicians and public figures in Australia. If someone is making a claim to influence policy, our position is that they should have good evidence to back it up. Lack of evidence is no excuse so we try and persevere regardless.

Sure, this often leads to less-exciting verdicts, such as “unverifiable” or “too soon to know” but the verdict is not the be-all-and-end-all of a fact-check. In these situations, we explore what data is out there; we consult experts in the field for their opinion, and we present it to the audience as best we can so they can see how we’ve come to our decision.

Video: More detail on how RMIT ABC Fact Check finds and checks claims.

Dinda Purnamasari: If the data isn’t available, we will place it as unproven, though this flag is unsatisfactory. But, before we conclude the issue as unproven, we still explain the verification steps that we undertook. This is because we want citizens to understand that, when places a claims as unproven, it means we could not find the credible source of the information.

As an example, one of our politicians stated that the LRT development cost for 1 KM was USD 8 billion. After we checked reliable and credible sources, and we couldn’t find the information, then we concluded the issue as unproven.

Tania Roettger: “Knife crime on the rise“ is a recent story, but the federal crime statistics do not list crimes committed with knives as a special category. Some states in Germany do, but among them, they differ in what they count as knife crime. That definitely does not make our work easier.

In cases like this, we source as much information for a claim as is available. If it turns out the material is not sufficient to verify or debunk the claim, we list what is known and clearly state what is missing. If there is no convincing tendency we give the rating “unproven”. But it is important to keep in mind that those making a claim also carry a burden of proof – if one makes a statement of fact, it needs to be based on evidence. This is one of the things we’re trying to show with our work.

Reader question: Are there any established guidelines for determining the reliability of a data source? How does your organisation determine which data is appropriate to use?

Samar Halarnkar: We do not have established guidelines. In general, we consider if the data source is reliable. Sometimes, it might not entirely reliable; for example, a government source, in which case we use the data but cross check with experts, independent studies and/or our own checks. Some public databases are largely reliable: for instance, government-run databases on health, farming and education. We do not consider those data that have previously proven to be compromised or are doubtful.

Matt Martino: We don’t have any hard rules around it, but generally the source should be a non-partisan organisation. In Australia, we rely heavily on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which is a government organisation which has a reputation for providing objective data on a range of issues. This is an example of a good source.

When considering a source, it’s always pertinent to ask: “what is their agenda?” If their motivations for providing data might influence the data in a partisan way, it’s best to leave it alone. As always, it’s a good idea to consult experts in the field on what is the best source to use in verifying a claim.

Dinda Purnamasari: Since we already know that every data has their own nature, such as context, methodology, etc, we have established a standard for the secondary data that is used. Our first level of the source comes from the Government Statistic Bureau, Ministry/Local Government, company financial reports and the stock exchange. As a second layer, we use world organisations, verified and credible journals, consultants and research companies, as well the national or high reputation news agencies. Although, we have this standard, we also cross-check information by consulting with experts in the field, so that we use the best sources.

Tania Roettger: When we’re investigating a claim, one task is to understand what exactly a given piece of data is able to tell. We establish how and why it was collected, what it contains and it excludes. Usually we note the shortcomings of a statistic in the article. Whenever we are uncertain about the evidence we have gathered, we discuss the issue among our team.

Anim van Wyk: There’s no way round studying the methodology by which the data is collected. This must then be discussed with experts to get their input. And all data sources, even those considered reliable, have limitations, which has to be highlighted.

Reader question: What do you think about the potential of automated fact-checking?

Samar Halarnkar: I am sure it has immense potential, but this requires coding expertise that we do not currently have.

Tania Roettger: There are several ways in which automation could help the fact-checking process: extracting fact-checkable claims from speeches or sourcing relevant statistics and documents from a data-pool, for example. But so far we have not experienced or heard of a tool that would do our work for us.

Image: An overview of out automation could aid fact-checking from Understanding the promise and limits of automated fact-checking, by Lucas Graves.

Matt Martino: It’s an interesting area, but one which is currently undercooked. Parsing language is a big part of what we do at Fact Check, and machines are not yet capable of interpreting a great deal of the nuance in language. That being said, anything that allows greater access to the facts in a debate for audiences would be a good thing.

One area where there is already enormous potential is in searching for and identifying potential claims to check and key data on government website such as Hansard and budget papers.

I think that, like a lot of AI, there’s a long way to go, and we’ll be watching this space intently.

Anim van Wyk: The tools I’ve seen are helpful in monitoring important sources for claims to fact-check, such as transcripts from parliament. But I’m quite hesitant about fact-checks without any human intervention as nuance plays such a big role. The potential of getting it completely wrong when you are the one claiming to be correcting claims is not worth the potential credibility loss, in my opinion.

Dinda Purnamasari: It is very interesting, and could make the fact-checker’s work easier. But, for us, it is still long way to go. But, more importantly, to provide the context to data that I am sure is still hard to do by machine.

Reader Question: What are some of your go-to data tools?

Anim van Wyk: You’t can beat a good old spreadsheet. For illustration purposes, we keep it simple by using Datawrapper.

Samar Halarnkar: We use Tabula for extracting tables from PDFs. For analysis, we depend on Excel/Google Sheets and Tableau depending on the size and type of the dataset. For visualisation, we work primarily with Google Sheets, Datawrapper, Infogram and Tableau. We also use Google My Maps and CartoDB for some maps.

Matt Martino: We use Excel or Google spreadsheets for simple analyses; for more complex ones I use R Studio, which is more powerful and can handle much larger datasets. It requires coding knowledge, but the training is well worth it.

In terms of visualisation, we’ve tried many different platforms throughout the years, but Tableau Public has emerged as our go-to. Its abilities in formatting, design, calculation and visualisation are pretty much unrivalled in my opinion, and we’ve been able to create really interesting and rich visualisations using the platform, like those seen here and here.

Dinda Purnamasari: For analysis, we use excel, SPSS, and other statistical tools. It really depends on the purpose, size and type of our data and analysis. For visualisation, we use adobe illustrator, datawrapper, etc.

Want to participate in future ask me anythings? Sign up to the European Journalism Centre’s data newsletter here.

THE MULTIMEDIA; NEW MEDIA – Especially TWITTER  Has Taken Journos Hostage; They Are Trapped In A Morass Of Mostly Subjective Viewpoints And Many Times Misleading Claims that are barren of rationalisation and context.  Are Journalists Up To This Task – “The Unraveling?”

TWITTER  has taken Journalists hostage; they are trapped in a morass of mostly subjective viewpoints and misleading claims most of the times.  Are Journalists up to this task – “The Unraveling“; navigating their way out; identify and discard misinformation and propaganda;  but emerge with something substantive …a highlight of happenstances that directly affect ordinary men and women on the street; in the villages; like explaining difficult concepts =inflation, trade deficit, climate change in ways that reflect their contexts and circumstances; and in their language too.


|Mathew Ingram, CJR|AIWA! NO!|Twitter may not have the same globe-spanning reach as Facebook, but one group of professional users has adopted it en masse: journalists. The lure of an always-on, news-heavy social network that includes access not just to an audience of consumers but direct input from newsmakers like Donald Trump is impossible to resist for many in the media. But is this a good thing? Journalists often say they spend too much time on Twitter, and wind up devoting more time than they should to stories that come to them via tweets. Should Twitter play such an oversized role in what the media chooses to cover and how they cover it?

A new study attempts to get at whether journalists ascribe too much importance to Twitter. Shannon McGregor of The University of Utah and Logan Molyneux of Temple University performed an experiment in which they showed about two hundred journalists—some who use Twitter heavily and some who use it only moderately—a selection of anonymous tweets that mentioned news stories, along with tweets from the Associated Press wire account with links to AP stories. They then asked the journalists to rate the newsworthiness of the tweets. The result? Journalists who said they spend a lot of time on Twitter and rely on it for their work ranked the anonymous tweets as high or higher than the AP stories (this effect declined the longer a journalist had been working in the industry).

“Our results indicate that the routinization of Twitter into news production affects news judgment,” the researchers write. “For journalists who incorporate Twitter into their reporting routines, and those with fewer years of experience, Twitter has become so normalized that tweets were deemed equally newsworthy as headlines appearing to be from the AP wire. This may have negative implications.” Among those implications, they argue, is that journalists can get caught up in a kind of pack mentality in which a story is seen as important because other journalists on Twitter are talking about it, rather than because it is newsworthy.

The researchers argue it can also distort the way a story is reported. For example, when the  photo of Chris Christie looking uncomfortable while standing behind Donald Trump in 2016 was published by the AP, Twitter exploded with jokes, and multiple news outlets wrote about it, but those familiar with Christie said there was nothing unusual about his expression. There are also more serious examples: The study notes a study of tweets posted by Russian agents working for the notorious “troll farm” known as the Internet Research Agency found more than 30 news outlets—including NPR, The Washington Post, and BuzzFeed—had embedded tweets from fake accounts in their news stories.

Although there are potential downsides to journalists relying so much on Twitter, the researchers did highlight one potential positive: The social network may be broadening the range of sources beyond traditional information gatekeepers. “To the extent that the public now constructs its own news feeds by combining traditional media, social media, and algorithmic recommendations, this power is redistributed,”they write. “The benefit, from a democratic standpoint, may be that journalists could come to rely less on official or elite sources, and begin to include a wider range of news sources coming through social media.”

Here’s more on the complex relationship between Twitter and the media:

  • Misinfo central: Despite Twitter’s recent attempts to crack down on misinformation and fake accounts, a recent study found that more than 80 percent of the users and accounts that spread misinformation during the 2016 election are still active. “Twitter has absolutely taken some measures to take some sites down, but they have not taken the vast majority of what we looked at down,” one of the researchers told Politico.
  • Likes as a weapon: In a new book entitled “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” two national security experts write about how social media is being used to expand the theater of war. “We saw how not just the definition of those war zones was expanding, but also how the very same tactics, the very same players, were popping up in other realms, from politics to news,” they told The Atlantic in a recent interview.
  • Fake news laws: A number of countries including Kenya and Egypt are either considering or have already passed legislation aimed at getting rid of “fake news,” but in Singapore, BuzzFeed News reports that there is a concern among local journalists the legislation proposed in that country could become just another tool for the government to go after journalists and media outlets they disapprove of.
  • Losing the war: Despite a crackdown by both Twitter and Facebook, some experts say we are losing the war against social-media misinformation, because the professional trolls who want to misuse those networks are changing their methods. “The fake news merchants are a step ahead, thanks to techniques that allow them to mask their location, masquerade as local activists and purchase political ads in countries’ local currencies to dodge rules against foreign influence,” a recent Politico piece argues.
  • Identify yourself: Since much of the misinformation problem seems to be driven by bots or automated accounts, California recently passed a law that requires automated accounts to identify themselves as bots. The law, whichtakes effect next year, makes it illegal for bots that are interacting with California consumers to pretend they’re human if they’re trying to sell goods, services, or to “influence a vote in an election.”
  • Watch those tweets: In the latest example of a journalist undone by their own tweets, the Washington-based correspondent for Russian news service RT is facing a “disciplinary review” after she posted tweets praising the gulag prisons set up by dictator Joseph Stalin. Sameera Khan shared two posts (which have since been deleted) arguing that the prisons weren’t as bad as liberals claim. Khan has since apologized, and RT said it “strongly condemns the posts.”

Other notable stories:

  • Forbes is partnering with Civil, the startup that is trying to build a platform for journalism using cryptocurrency and the blockchain. The magazine becomes the first traditional publisher to experiment with the platform (although Civil also has a partnership with Associated Press), which will involve simultaneously publishing some of its content on the Civil blockchain as well as on the magazine’s website. (CJR profiled Civil here.)
  • Facebook is setting up a task force that will try to prevent bad actors from influencing voters in India’s elections next year, according to a report from the news service IANS. “The team will have security specialists and content specialists, among others, who will try to understand all the possible forms of election-related abuse in India,” Facebook’s vice president of global policy solutions said during a workshop in New Delhi.
  • Amanda Darrach writes for CJR about the political polarization of the small town of Santa Clarita, California, where new owners acquired the local newspaper and turned it inexorably towards the right, to the point where a group of local residents decided to start their own competing outlet.
  • ©

SEXUAL ABUSE & Harassment In The Workplace – As Men Try To Come Back After #MeToo, Journalists Weigh The Size Of Truth

As men come back after #MeToo, journalists weigh the size of truth

|By Nausicaa Renner, CJR|AIWA! NO!|IT’S BEEN A YEAR SINCE The New York Times and The New Yorker broke news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assaults against women and the attempts he made to cover up his actions. In that time, conversations about sexual harassment, especially in the entertainment and media industries, have matured. But in journalism—which has rallied behind, and propelled, the #MeToo movement—there remains uncertainty when it comes to giving ink to men as they re-enter public life. Do we need to hear both sides, if one side is willfully regressive? How much space should journalism lend the accused?

The story of the moment is Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men and a writer on The Sopranoswho has been profiled in the November issue of Vanity Fair by Joy Press and interviewed in the Times by Kyle Buchanan. Last November, Kater Gordon, a former writer for Mad Men, alleged that Weiner said that she owed it to him to show her naked body. She did not oblige, and she wasn’t invited back for subsequent seasons. Weiner denied making the comment and said that her exit from the show was standard. Gordon’s accusation got overshadowed by other women’s accusations against other men; concerned parties seemed to move on. Weiner had a new show to focus on, The Romanoffs, for which he is now making the publicity rounds.

The question that Press and Buchanan wrestle with in their coverage is: How much should an allegation factor into coverage of a new show—which, according to Press, is full of “morally compromised characters”? In a case that has not been settled by collective opinion—Amazon, which produced The Romanoffs, evidently deemed its creator’s name unsullied—should Weiner’s alleged harassment be presented as a billboard or an asterisk?

Press’s answer is to print everything. She describes how Weiner is nervous to talk about Gordon, and he says, “I’m not hedging to say it’s not impossible that I said that, but I really don’t remember saying it.” When Press goes back to him for clarification, he claims not to remember what he said in their interview: “I know this seems weird, but I can’t imagine that I used the word ‘hedging.’” What’s a journalist to do in the face of such waffling? (How can we accept that the only thing we may know about past events is hypothesis?) Press doesn’t hold back on hype for the show—“a cavalcade of high-end actors,” “filmed in eight countries,” “it should be the victory lap of Weiner’s career”—and seems ambivalent on whether to burrow deeper into Weiner’s “difficult man” genius or his sheer difficulty. The result is an airing of Gordon’s experience juxtaposed with a Romanoffs plot summary. Her profile, unable to determine his fate, passes on to readers the angsty task of assessing his character.

The interview in the Times, too, is split between discussion of the new series and the allegations, bridged by a section about male gaze in the show. Buchanan observes, “Whenever the husband in that episode fantasizes about another woman, the camera takes his perspective and ogles the woman from head to toe.” Weiner responds by saying that the treatment of the woman onscreen reflects the character’s view: “He is projecting this onto her. She is exotic and objectified by him, but that’s in his mind. They’re at an impasse in their marriage, and it is 50/50 to me. His wife has half the story.”

Weiner’s statement here sounds like what’s traditionally known as objectivity—50 percent male gaze, 50 percent whatever the woman’s story is—and belies its failings. Is truth to be found in nuance, the nooks and crannies of male experience? Or is it in sweeping appraisals, the broad truth as told by the victims of patriarchy? The way in which men have been represented in journalism, and across writing, is the result, inevitably, of the time in which we live—polarized, in this case, between an assembly of voices and their dissenters, who point to ambiguities in survivors’ stories.

The unsorted thinking in the Weiner pieces reflects a collective unease as the straightforward message of #MeToo—don’t abuse women—begins to grow and fracture. In September, Jezebel published a piece arguing that “the next step for #MeToo is into the gray areas,” before telling the story of women being emotionally coerced into sex and gaslighted by a writer at Mic. In October, men who have come under scrutiny aimed to make space in the gray zone for themselves—John Hockenberry, in Harper’s, and Jian Ghomeshi, in The New York Review of Books. “I’ve been aware that weighing in to reclaim it and inject nuance into my story is fraught, to say the least,” Ghomeshi writes. Their (poorly written) self-defenses are presented as valuable simply for adding complication, in the form of the male account: “It is an angle on an issue that is clearly very important and that I felt had not been exposed very much,” Ian Buruma, the Review’s editor, told Slate. (He was ousted days later.)

The virtue of nuance is to challenge our feelings about right and wrong—to see that good people do bad things and bad people do good things, motivated by situation or desire. The views formed by ideologies are not always exactly right; reality is more complicated. Storytelling helps upend these false certainties. This is where the power of shows like Mad Men and The Sopranos comes from. (“Fiction,” with its “irreducible ambiguities,” “is in most ways hostile to ideology,” Joan Didion wrote in her 1972 essay, “The Women’s Movement.”) “This sort of multi-valence works beautifully in art,” Press writes in her piece. “The muddiness of real life is another story.” But what should journalism’s response be?

Those who worry about the so-called moral puritanism of #MeToo think that journalism has sided with political groupthink, leaping beyond truth and its complications. Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, nearly capsized by accusations of sexual harassment and abuse, has turned into a public debate over uncertainty itself; some in the GOP have chalked the whole thing up to an alliance between the Democrats and the press (“This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” Kavanaugh said in the Senate committee hearing).

But to understand #MeToo as an ideology imposed on women’s accounts is a failure of imagination, giving into a false dichotomy between nuance and ideology. The most important part of the movement has been the dovetailing of individual stories. It’s taken the most morally complicated moments of women’s lives and forced us to pore over them—to enter into their minds, and to compare our own experiences. The nuance is what’s been supported by journalism, and accumulated, into a series of the most authoritative and thoughtful narratives about women’s experience ever to be told.

The British Science Association; Anglia Ruskin University Host British Science Festival in 2020

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Student Hut – University of Anglia Ruskin

British Science Festival heads to Anglia Ruskin University Chelmsford Campus – 2020

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Director magazineTechnology and science is celebrated at the British Science Festival
|AIWA! NO!|Anglia Ruskin shows ‘2020 vision’ as major science event will come to Essex for first time.
The British Science Association and Anglia Ruskin University are pleased to announce that the British Science Festival in 2020 will take place on the University’s Chelmsford campus, as well as at venues across the city.
From musical innovation to climate change, contributing to the British Science Festival
Apioneering digital musician is following in the footsteps of physicist Brian Cox by being chosen to give a public lecture at the British Science Festival in Bradford (7-10 September).

Working in partnership with Anglia Ruskin, the British Science Association will bring the flagship event to the region for the first time in its 189-year history. The British Science Festival is one of Europe’s longest-established science festivals, which each year travels to a new part of the UK, bringing a vast array of events, performances and installations with a scientific twist.

Joining forces with Anglia Ruskin and other organisations across the county of Essex and beyond, the British Science Festival will shine a light on the cutting-edge innovation taking place in the region.

The announcement today coincides with the 13th anniversary of the renaming of the university to incorporate the surname of John Ruskin, who gave the inaugural address of the Cambridge School of Art back in 1858 – the college that later evolved into the university we know today.

Professor Iain Martin, Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin, said:

“We are thrilled to be selected as hosts of the 2020 British Science Festival.

“Our Chelmsford campus is home to a number of world-class research facilities, including the new £20million School of Medicine which opened earlier this month.

“We are very much looking forward to showcasing these facilities, and the brilliant staff who work within them, to fellow scientists, journalists and of course members of the public from across the UK.”

The British Science Festival moves to a different location each year, the first meeting having taken place in York in 1831, and is one of the British Science Association’s leading engagement programmes. This is the first time in the Festival’s history that the event will be hosted in the city of Chelmsford, and its first visit to the county of Essex as well.

Ivvet Modinou, Director of the British Science Festival, said:

“I am delighted that the British Science Festival will be heading to Anglia Ruskin University in 2020. The University has built a fantastic reputation for its research and scientific excellence over recent years, and it’s incredibly exciting to know that we will be working with the world-class researchers and academics based there to produce the event.”

The British Science Festival is aimed at an adult audience with a broad but non-specialist interest in science, and usually includes around 100 events, all of which are specially curated by the British Science Association in collaboration with partners and stakeholders.

World-leading academics from Anglia Ruskin and other institutions and organisations across the UK will present, discuss and debate cutting-edge science from across the scientific disciplines together with its impact on wider society, at a range of different events, talks and performances. The dates for the 2020 British Science Festival are still be announced but over the next 18 months, the British Science Association and Anglia Ruskin will work together to refine and develop the programme of events.

The Festival has been the stage for many iconic moments in history – such as the famous debate on Darwin’s controversial theory of evolution between Thomas Huxley and the Bishop of Oxford in 1860. It also saw the first use of the word ‘scientist’, in 1834. The origins of the Festival, previously known as the annual meeting, can be traced back to York, in 1831. Since then it has travelled the globe, including visits to Montreal and Australia.

Putin’s Cyber Terror Attacks Are Just ‘Pilot Projects’; Former UK National Security Adviser

‘Putin’s attacks are drills; practice’ – Diplomat

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia ( REUTERS )

|JOE MURPHY|The Evening Standard|AIWA! NO!|Russian president Vladimir Putin’s spies are mounting cyber attacks as “pilot projects” in readiness for full-blooded attempts to create chaos in the west, the Government’s former chief security adviser warned today.

Lord Ricketts, a senior former diplomat who served as UK National Security Adviser until 2012, spoke out after Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused Mr Putin’s foreign military intelligence agency, the GRU, of a wave of cyber attacks across the globe.

Mr Hunt warned of a campaign of “indiscriminate and reckless” cyber strikes targeting political institutions, businesses, media and sport.

This morning, Lord Ricketts said he believed the motives varied, but the pattern suggested some were practice runs to test out new cyber warfare  technology.

He said: “I think some of the other attacks look very random and I wonder there whether we are not looking at a kind of pilot project, a ‘proof of concept’, where they were seeing what they could do against the occasion when they want to use it more seriously.

“All of these points of the need to call it out.” The GRU is the same intelligence agency which is accused of carrying out the Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury in March.

It is said in intelligence circles to have been encouraged by Mr Putin to adopt a more aggressive approach in recent years.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre said that a number of hackers known to have launched attacks have now been identified as members of the GRU.

He added: “I think for the anti-doping agency, Russia was trying to distract from the very serious allegations about Russian athletes, so they were trying to create smoke and obfuscation at  a time when Russia was under  pressure.

“In Ukraine I think it is clear that Russia were trying to destabilize Ukraine.”

Russia cyber-plots: US, UK and Netherlands allege hacking

Netherlands Defence Intelligence and Security Service disrupts a cyber operation being carried out by a Russian military intelligence (GRU) team

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The 4 Russian intelligence officers at Schiphol Airport.

|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA|AIWA! NO!|The Netherlands Defence Intelligence and Security Service (DISS)with support from the Netherlands General Intelligence and Security Service and UK counterparts,  disrupted a cyber operation being carried out by a Russian military intelligence (GRU) team. The Russian operation had targeted the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

To conduct their operation, 4 Russian intelligence officers had set up specialised equipment in the vicinity of the OPCW offices and were preparing to hack into OPCW networks.

As host country the Netherlands bears responsibility for ensuring the organisation’s security. In order to protect the security of the OPCW it therefore pre-empted the GRU operation and escorted the Russian intelligence officers out of the country. “The cyber operation targeting the OPCW is unacceptable.

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Clearfield Progress

Our exposure of this Russian operation is intended as an unambiguous message that the Russian Federation must refrain from such actions,” said Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld in her response. “The OPCW is a respected international institution representing 193 nations around the globe and was established to rid the world of chemical weapons. The Netherlands is responsible for protecting international organisations within its borders, and that is what we have done.”


The 4 Russian intelligence officers entered the Netherlands via Schiphol Airport, travelling on diplomatic passports. They subsequently hired a car which they positioned in the parking lot of the Marriot Hotel in The Hague, which is adjacent to the OPCW offices.

Equipment was set up in the boot of the car with which the officers intended to hack into wifi networks and which was installed for the purpose of infiltrating the OPCW’s network. The antenna for this equipment lay hidden under a jacket on the rear shelf and the equipment was operational when DISS interrupted the operation.

“Digital manipulation and sabotage pose a serious threat. Today, we have shown that the ongoing threat posed by the GRU extends into the Netherlands to affect international organisations that have their offices here,” said the director of DISS, Major General Onno Eichelsheim. “It is therefore vitally important that we deflect this threat – which we did. I am proud of our intelligence personnel,” he concluded.

Further investigation revealed that one of the Russian intelligence officers operating in the Netherlands had also been active in Malaysia, targeting the investigation of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Bijleveld adds, “We had previously informed the Dutch House of Representatives of the Russian Federation’s interest in the MH17 investigation. As we stated earlier, manipulation and influencing are among the potential threats to the MH17 investigation. All of the organisations involved in the criminal investigation into the MH17 crash are aware of the digital threats that they face and have taken appropriate measures to address these threats.”

Only rarely are the findings of intelligence services brought to the attention of the public. The Cabinet has, in this case, taken the deliberate step of exposing this operation and, by extension, the Russian intelligence officers involved in it, since this will hamper any further attempts by them to operate internationally.


“Any incident in which the integrity of international organisations is undermined is unacceptable,” stresses Bijleveld. “We have therefore summoned the Russian ambassador to remind him of this.” The Netherlands shares the concerns of other international partners regarding the damaging and undermining the GRU’s actions. It supports the conclusion, presented today by the UK, that GRU cyber operations such as this one undermine the international rule of law.

Today, the US publicly brings charges against a number of Russian intelligence officers. On 6 August 2018 the US Department of Justice submitted a request for legal assistance to the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s office in connection with a criminal investigation into unauthorised Russian cyber operations. In response to this request, the Public Prosecutor supplied information based on an official report by DISS as well as launching its own investigation.

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