Chinese Censorship Agency Declares All News Online Must Be Verified

January 12, 2017

The heavy hand of Chinese censorship has just gotten heavier. The South China Morning Post reports, “All News Stories Must Be Verified, China’s Internet Censor Decrees as it Tightens Grip on Online Media.” The censorship agency now warns websites not to publish news without “proper verification.” Of course, to hear the government tell it, they just wants to cut down on fake news and false information. Reporter Choi Chi-yuk  writes:

The instruction, issued by the Cyberspace Administration of China, came only a few days after Xu Lin, formerly the deputy head of the organisation, replaced his boss, Lu Wei, as the top gatekeeper of Chinese internet affairs. Xu is regarded as one of President Xi Jinping’s key supporters.

The cyberspace watchdog said online media could not report any news taken from social media websites without approval. ‘All websites should bear the key responsibility to further streamline the course of reporting and publishing of news, and set up a sound internal monitoring mechanism among all mobile news portals [and the social media chat websites] Weibo or WeChat,’ Xinhua reported the directive as saying. ‘It is forbidden to use hearsay to create news or use conjecture and imagination to distort the facts,’ it said.

We’re told the central agency has directed regional offices to aggressively monitor content and “severely” punish those who post what they consider false news. They also insist that sources be named within posts. Apparently, several popular news portals have been rebuked under the policy, including,,, and

Cynthia Murrell, January 12, 2017

Quote to Note: Professional Publishers Wonder What Is Going On

January 6, 2017

Ah, professional publishers, the show dogs of the information world. Show dogs are expensive. Grooming, brushing, vet bills, gourmet dog food. What happens when the folks who love dogs don’t go to the show? Even worse what happens when no one buys expensive puppies? Crisis? Yep.

I read “Scientists in Germany, Peru and Taiwan to Lose Access to Elsevier Journals.” The passage I highlighted in greed green was:

Universities regularly complain about the rising costs of academic journals, and sometimes threaten to cancel their subscriptions. But negotiators usually strike a deal to avoid cutting researchers off.

And the quote to note:

“Publishers must understand that the route to open-access publishing at an affordable price is irreversible.”

Professional publishers will not understand. Libraries pay to get the Elsevier journals. Keep in mind that universities pay faculty who write these articles. Then there may be more fees for the lucky authors.

Researchers then recycle the information contained in for fee versions of the academics’ work. When the money is not there, tenure goes to the dogs.

The researchers will get their scholarly canines from the pound. RIFed publisher staff can work at Uber.


Stephen E Arnold, January 6, 2017


Shorter Content Means Death for Scientific Articles

December 26, 2016

The digital age is a culture that subsists on digesting quick bits of information before moving onto the next.  Scientific journals are hardly the herald of popular trends, but in order to maintain relevancy with audiences the journals are pushing for shorter articles.  The shorter articles, however, presents a problem for the authors says Ars Technica in the, “Scientific Publishers Are Killing Research Papers.”

Shorter articles are also pushed because scientific journals have limited pages to print.  The journals are also pressured to include results and conclusions over methods to keep the articles short.  The methods, in fact, are usually published in another publication labeled supplementary information:

Supplementary information doesn’t come in the print version of journals, so good luck understanding a paper if you like reading the hard copy. Neither is it attached to the paper if you download it for reading later—supplementary information is typically a separate download, sometimes much larger than the paper itself, and often paywalled. So if you want to download a study’s methods, you have to be on a campus with access to the journal, use your institutional proxy, or jump through whatever hoops are required.

The lack of methodical information can hurt researchers who rely on the extra facts to see if it is relevant to their own work.  The shortened articles also reference the supplementary materials and without them it can be hard to understand the published results.  The shorter scientific articles may be better for general interest, but if they lack significant information than how can general audiences understand them?

In short, the supplementary material should be included online and should be easily accessed.

Whitney Grace, December 26, 2016

Oh, Canada: Censorship Means If It Is Not Indexed, Information Does Not Exist

December 8, 2016

I read “Activists Back Google’s Appeal against Canadian Order to Censor Search Results.” The write up appears in a “real” journalistic endeavor, a newspaper in fact. (Note that newspapers are facing an ad revenue Armageddon if the information in “By 2020 More Money Will Be Spent on Online Ads Than on Radio or Newspapers” is accurate.)

The point of the “real” journalistic endeavor’s write up is to point out that censorship could get a bit of a turbo boost. I highlighted this passage:

In an appeal heard on Tuesday [December 6, 2016] in the supreme court of Canada, Google Inc took aim at a 2015 court decision that sought to censor search results beyond Canada’s borders.

If the appeal goes south, a government could instruct the Google and presumably any other indexing outfit to delete pointers to content. If one cannot find online information, that information may cease to be findable. Ergo. The information does not exist for one of the search savvy wizards holding a mobile phone or struggling to locate a US government document.

The “real” journalistic endeavor offers:

A court order to remove worldwide search results could threaten free expression if it catches on globally – where it would then be subject to wildly divergent standards on freedom of speech.

It is apparently okay for a “real” journalistic endeavor to prevent information from appearing in its information flows as long as the newspaper is doing the deciding. But when a third party like a mere government makes the decision, the omission is a very bad thing.

I don’t have a dog in this fight because I live in rural Kentucky, am an actual addled goose (honk!), and find that so many folks are now realizing the implications of indexing digital content. Let’s see. Online Web indexes have been around and free for 20, maybe 30 years.

There is nothing like the howls of an animal caught in a trap. The animal wandered into or was lured into the trap. Let’s howl.

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2016

Europe and Disinformation: Denmark? Denmark.

December 7, 2016

If you want to catch up on what “Europe” is doing about disinformation, you will want to read “European Union Efforts to Counter Disinformation.” After you have worked through the short document, do a couple of queries on Bing, Google, Inxight, and Yandex for Copenhagen protests. With a bit of work, you will locate a December 4, 2016, write up from the estimable Express newspaper Web site. The story is “WAR ON DENMARK’S STREETS: Migrant Chaos Sparks Clashes between Police and Protestors.” Disinformation, misinformation, and reformation of information are different facets of this issue. However, a growing problem is the absence of information. Locating semi accurate “factoids” is a tough job. “Real” journalists prefer to recycle old information or just take what pops into their mobile phone’s browser. Hey, finding out things is really hard. People are really busy with the Facebook thing. Are you planning a holiday in Denmark where a policeman was shot in the head on December 6, 2016? No quotes because the source is the outstanding Associated Press. That outfit does not want people like me to recycle their factoids. Hey, where’s the story about the car burnings which have been increasing this year? Oh, never mind. If the information is not in Google, it does not exist. Convenient? You bet.

Stephen E Arnold, December 7, 2016

Want to Get Published in a Science Journal? Just Dole out Some Cash

December 7, 2016

A Canadian, Tom Spears has managed to publish a heavily plagiarized paper in a science journal by paying some cash. Getting published in a scientific and medical journal helps in advancing the career. ‘

In an article published by SlashDot titled Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash, the author says:

In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote “the world’s worst science research paper…a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble” — then got it accepted by eight different journals. He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, “a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate.

This is akin to students enlisting services of hackers over Dark Web to manipulate their grades and attendance records. However, in this case, there is no need of Dark Web or Tor browser. Paying some cash is sufficient.

The root of the problem can be traced to OMICS International, an India-based publishing firm that is buying publication companies of these medical journals and publishing whatever is sent to them for cash. In standard practice, the paper needs to be peer-reviewed and also checked for plagiarism before it is published. As written earlier, the separation line between the Dark and Open web seems to be thinning and one day will disappear altogether.

Vishal Ingole, December 7, 2016


Bezos Paper Research Item: Report Has Disappeared

December 6, 2016

I read a weird, sort of out-of-time write up from the “real” journalistic outfit the Washington Post. The story is “Pentagon Buries Evidence of $125 Billion in Bureaucratic Waste.” The days of the fun Golden Fleece Award have passed us by. The Washington Post is apparently trying to revivify an interesting series of announcements about expensive, inefficient US government processes. I know the US government is a paragon of efficiency, so I was curious about the hot news which I read on December 5, 2016. If the url doesn’t work, you may have to pay to view the Bezos paper’s content. Don’t hassle me. Contact the big guy at the digital Wal-Mart.

The “news” in the story is that a 2015 report HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WEB SITE. The capital letters are necessary because the investigative team at the Bezos paper has discovered that a white hot report is no longer findable.

signpost fixed

Guidepost for some real journalists. Helpful and apparently accurate.

Okay, that’s just not true.

The report “Transforming DoD’s Core Business Processes for Revolutionary Change” is available. Just click this DTIC link for the short version and this link for the 140+ page version. Dive into the document which was in preparation for more than a year. The reports appeared in January 2015. It took me exactly 20 seconds to navigate to, enter the title of the report, and identify the document in the result list. Sure, the search relevance thing is not too good, but the document is indeed online from a unit of the Department of Defense. (I wonder if the intrepid Bezos paper researchers have sought ZPIC and RAC contract information on the US government’s fraud related Web sites. There’s a story there.)

This report was assembled in 2014 and made available in 2015. The Bezos paper rolled out the “Pentagon Buries…” write up on December 5, 2016. That’s a bit like reporting that in 2014 Wiz Khalifa’s “We Dem Boyz was a reasonably popular rap song. Run the story today and you have a real timely report. That’s “real” journalism.

The DoD fiddles with its Web site frequently. Try and locate details of the 2015 DCGS meeting in Virginia. The information is online, but due to the spiffing up of US government Web sites, content seems to disappear. In some cases like the MIC, RAC, and ZPIC information, a contractor or a clever government Web master moves content from a public folder to a non-public folder. Some bureaucrats are not completely ditzy.

The DoD, however, is another kettle of fish. The agency has to deal with the tanks it does not want yet it continues to receive, the F-35 thing, and the stealth ship which is neither stealthy or ready to take a quick spin to Jeju this afternoon. These expensive projects are difficult to hide. Notice I did not mention my fave US government project, the Distributed Common Ground System available (sort of) in Air Force and Army flavors.

My point is that “investigations” implies something substantive, reasonably new, and not widely known. The “Pentagon Buries…” write up is not new. Its information is widely known even here in rural Kentucky, and I would presume by legions of Beltway Bandits who wonder what the Trumpeteers will do to their highly polished apple carts used to ferry proposals and invoices to the the Department of Defense and assorted sub entities.

In an era during which real journalists at outfits like the Guardian REALIZE THAT FREE WEB SEARCH IS NOT WHAT IT SEEMS, I conclude that the “real” journalists prefer old news to tracking down something of substance which is current. Even my comment about MIC, RAC, and ZPIC contracts is old news. I keep the juicy new stuff to myself.

Because I am not a “real” journalist, I sell information because I am a semi retired consultant. Watch for “Dark Web Notebook.” The monograph contains information not previously collected. Some of the information is “actual factual” just like the podcast by three millennials. Perhaps the Bezos paper will buy a copy? I know better than to put the study on Amazon. I watched the horror of the Schubmehl thing, which tried to hawk eight pages of my research for $3,500 on the digital Wal-Mart. What was that “wizard” thinking? Maybe he could work at the Bezos paper? Might be a good fit.

Stephen E Arnold, December 6, 2016

How Real Journalists Do Research

November 8, 2016

I read “Search & Owned Media Most Used by Journalists.” The highlight of the write up was a table created by Businesswire. The “Media Survey” revealed “Where the Media Look When Researching an Organization.” Businesswire is a news release outfit. Organizations pay to have a write up sent to “real” journalists.

Let’s look at the data in the write up.

The top five ways “real” journalists obtain information is summarized in the table below. I don’t know the sample size, the methodology, or the method of selecting the sample. My hunch is that the people responding have signed up for Businesswire information or have some other connection with the company.

Most Used Method Percent Using
Google 89%
Organization Web site 88%
Organization’s online newsroom 75%
Social media postings 54%
Government records 53%

Now what about the five least used methods for research:

Least Used Method Percent Using
Organization PR spokesperson 39%
News release boilerplate 33%
Bing 8%
Yahoo 7%
Other (sorry but no details) 6%

Now what about the research methods in between these two extremes of most and least used:

No Man’s Land Methods Percent Using
Talk to humans 51%
Trade publication Web sites 44%
Local newspapers 43%
Wikipedia 40%
Organization’s blog 39%

Several observations flapped across the minds of the goslings in Harrod’s Creek.

  1. Yahoo and Bing may want to reach out to “real” journalists and explain how darned good their search systems are for “real” information. If the data are accurate, Google is THE source for “real” journalists’ core or baseline information
  2. The popularity of social media and government information is a dead heat. I am not sure whether this means social media information is wonderful or if government information is not up to the standards of social media like Facebook or Twitter
  3. Talking to humans, which I assume was the go to method for information, is useful to half the “real” journalists. This suggests that half of the “real” news churned out by “real” journalists may be second hand, recycled and transformed, or tough to verify. The notion of “good enough” enters at this point
  4. Love that Wikipedia because 40 percent of “real” journalists rely on it for some or maybe a significant portion of the information in a “real” news story.

It comes as no surprise that news releases creep into the results list via Google’s indexing of “real” news, the organization’s online newsroom, the organization’s tweets and Facebook posts, trade publications which are first class recyclers of news releases, and the organization’s blog.

Interesting. Echo chamber, filter bubble, disinformation—Do any of these terms resonate with you?

Stephen E Arnold, November 8, 2016


Computerworld Becomes ComputerWatson

October 22, 2016

I followed a series of links to three articles about IBM Watson. Here are the stories I read:

The publication running these three write ups is Computerworld, which I translated as “ComputerWatson.”

Intrigued by the notion of “news,” I learned:

Watson uses some 50 technologies today, tapping artificial-intelligence techniques such as machine learning, deep learning, neural networks, natural language processing, computer vision, speech recognition and sentiment analysis.

But IBM does not like the idea of artificial intelligence even though I have spotted such synonyms in other “real” news write ups; for example, “augmented intelligence.”

There are factoids like “Watson can read more than 800 pages a second.” Figure 125 words per “page” and that works out to 100,000 words per second which is a nice round number. Does Watson perform this magic on a basic laptop? Probably not. What are the bandwidth and storage requirements? Oh,not a peep.

Computerworld—I mean ComputerWatson—provides a complete timeline of the technology too. The future begins in 1997. Imagine that. Boom. Watson wins at chess.

The “history” of Watson is embellished with a fanciful account of how IBM trained via humans assembling information. How much does corpus assembly cost? ComputerWatson—oh, I meant “Computerworld”—does not dive into investment.

To make Watson’s inner workings clear, the “real” news write up provides a link to an IBM video. Here’s an example of the cartoonish presentation:


These three write ups strike me as a public relations exercise. If IBM paid Computerworld to write and run these stories, the three articles are advertising. Who wrote these “news stories”? The byline is Katherine Noyes, who describes herself as “an ardent geek.” Her beat? Enterprise software, cloud computing, big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence.

Remarkable stuff but I had several thoughts:

  1. Not much “news” is included in the articles. It seems to me that the information has appeared in other writings.
  2. IBM Watson is working overtime to be recognized as the leader in the smart software game. That’s okay, but IBM seems to be pushing big markets with no easy way to monetize its efforts; for example, education, cancer, and game show participation.
  3. The Computerworld IBM Watson content party strikes me as eroding the credibility of both outfits.

Oh, I remember. Dave Schubmehl, the fellow who tried to sell on Amazon reports containing my research without my consent, was hooked up with IDG. I have lost track of the wizard, but I do recall the connection. More information is here.

Yep, credibility for possible content marketing and possible presentation of “news” as marketing collateral. Fascinating. Perhaps I should ask Watson: “What’s up?”

Stephen E Arnold, October 22, 2016

The Thrill of Rising Yahoo Traffic

October 21, 2016

I love the Gray Lady. The Bits column is chock full of technology items which inspire, excite, and sometimes implant silly ideas in readers’ minds. That’s real journalism.

Navigate to “Daily Report: Explaining Yahoo’s Unexpected Rise in Traffic.”

The write up pivots on the idea that Internet traffic can be monitored in a way that is accurate and makes sense. A click is a click. A packet is a packet. Makes sense. The are the “minor” points of figuring out which clicks are from humans and which clicks are from automated scripts performing some function like probing for soft spots. There are outfits which generate clicks for various reasons including running down a company’s advertising “checkbook.” There are clicks which ask such questions as, “Are you alive?” or “What’s the response time?” You get the idea because you have a bit of doubt about traffic generated by a landing page, a Web site, or even an ad. The counting thing is difficult.

The write up in the Gray Lady assumes that these “minor” points are irrelevant in the Yahoo scheme of themes; for example:

an increased number of people were drawn to Yahoo in September. The reason may have been Yahoo’s disclosure that month that hackers stole data on 500 million users in 2014.

“People”? How do we know that the traffic is people?

The Gray Lady states:

Yahoo’s traffic has been declining for a long time, overtaken by more adept, varied and apparently secure places to stay on the internet.

Let’s think about this. We don’t know if the traffic data are counting humans, software scripts, or utility functions. We do know that Yahoo has been on a glide path to a green field without rocks and ruts. We know that Yahoo is a bit of a hoot in terms of management.

My hunch is that Yahoo’s traffic is pretty much what it has been; that is, oscillating a bit but heading in for a landing, either hard or soft.

Suggesting that Yahoo may be growing is interesting but unfounded. That traffic stuff is mushy. What’s the traffic to the New York Times’s pay walled subsite? How does the Times know that a click is a human from a “partner” and not a third party scraping content?

And maybe the traffic spike is a result of disenchanted Yahoo users logging in to change their password or cancel their accounts.

Stephen E Arnold, October 21, 2016

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