Rise of Fake News Should Have All of Us Questioning Our Realities

January 31, 2017

The article on NBC titled Five Tips on How to Spot Fake News Online reinforces the catastrophic effects of “fake news,” or news that flat-out delivers false and misleading information. It is important to separate “fake news” from ideologically-slanted news sources and the mess of other issues dragging any semblance of journalistic integrity through the mud, but the article focuses on a key point. The absolute best practice is to take in a variety of news sources. Of course, when it comes to honest-to-goodness “fake news,” we would all be better off never reading it in the first place. The article states,

A growing number of websites are espousing misinformation or flat-out lies, raising concerns that falsehoods are going viral over social media without any mechanism to separate fact from fiction. And there is a legitimate fear that some readers can’t tell the difference. A study released by Stanford University found that 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t spot authentic news sources from ads labeled as “sponsored content.” The disconnect between true and false has been a boon for companies trying to turn a quick profit.

So how do we separate fact from fiction? Checking the web address and avoiding .lo and .co.com addresses, researching the author, differentiating between blogging and journalism, and again, relying on a variety of sources such as print, TV, and digital. In a time when even the President-to-be, a man with the best intelligence in the world at his fingerprints, chooses to spread fake news (aka nonsense) via Twitter that he won the popular vote (he did not) we all need to step up and examine the information we consume and allow to shape our worldview.

Chelsea Kerwin, January 31, 2017

Where to Sell Cyber-Centric Software and Services

January 20, 2017

The Lost Angeles Times published “A Look at the 17 Agencies That Make Up the U.S. Intelligence Community.” My hunch is that the “real” journalists thought that the list would be “real” news. I scanned the information and noted:

  • No useful urls were provided
  • Where to track funding and new project announcements was not included
  • Specific information about the objectives of each entity was omitted
  • The sub entities associated with the principal intelligence entity; for example, Strategic Capabilities Office.

What is the list? Well, if a small outfit in Orange County wants to sell its products and services to the US government’s “intelligence’ entities, the list provides a starting point for research.

The article could have been become a useful way to stimulate outfits not participating in these agencies’ projects to get the ball rolling. The write up contains one useful thing—a list of agencies which blurs the role of the Department of Defense and omits some interesting entities:

Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
Army Military Intelligence
Central Intelligence Agency
Coast Guard Intelligence
Defense Intelligence Agency
Drug Enforcement Administration, Office of National Security Intelligence
Energy Department, Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis
Marine Corp Intelligence
National Geospatial Intelligence Agency
National Reconnaissance Office
National Security Agency
Office of Naval Intelligence
Office of the Director of National Intelligence
State Department, Bureau of Intelligence and Research
Treasury Department, Office of Intelligence and Analysis

My hunch is that the “real” newspaper is revealing the vapidity of its editorial method. But, hey, I live in rural Kentucky and don’t understand the ways of the big city folks.

Stephen E Arnold, January 20, 2017

About Twitter: Kill It, Kill It Now

January 14, 2017

I am not sure what to make of “It’s Time to Kill Twitter, Before It Kills Us.”  I understand how drone swarms can kill. I grasp the notion of fungibles doing bad in airport baggage claim. But I had not considered the idea that sending short digital messages would kill “us.”

The write up explained to me:

The best thing you might say about Twitter is that it’s become the new micro press release—a way for the famous and powerful to promote, with as little effort as possible, their next project, product or random thought.

Twitter, therefore, can trigger people to do bad things. Therefore, kill Twitter.

The logic is obviously rock solid for some folks.

The write up continued:

From its founding, Twitter never had a purpose.

Okay, new media have no purpose. Interesting notion, particularly when viewed in the context of the tradition of communication methods.

But Twitter might be tough to kill. The write up pointed out:

Twitter might prove harder to get rid of than raccoons at a campsite. The company is still worth nearly $12 billion. It still has around 300 million monthly users. And it still has Trump, so if anyone tried to shutter it, he’d probably step in and classify Twitter as essential to our national security and install Ivanka to run it.

Fascinating. The question is, “Is the write up humorous like the Beyond Search weekly video news program, or is the write up making clear that certain types of communication must be stopped?”

News week or news weak?

Stephen E Arnold, January 14, 2017

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 Sina.com, Ifeng.com, Caijing.com.cn, Qq.com and 163.com.

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 USA.gov, enter the title of the report, and identify the document in the result list. Sure, the USA.gov 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

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