Team Wikipedia: 'Global News Police'
WIll the front page look like GeoCities, but when you click through everything is the latest HTML5? And will there be diversionary gratuitous extreme obscenity?
When Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize against the backdrop of the US Air Force's secret bombings in Cambodia, the satirist Tom Lehrer declared that satire had become obsolete. If satire died that day, then Jimmy Wales has dug it up, exhumed the corpse, and is giving it a state funeral. The Wikipedia co-founder …
After going to take some tablets to combat the violent reaction to the word 'thinkfluencers', I do have a problem with the news as it stands now. On websites anyway. I am not a fan of the BBC news website, which at one time I trusted on the M0rt Trust Scale of about an 8, it is now about a 4. And the quality of the articles is, well, awful. Just updated for the sake of it, by multiple people at different times. Sometimes even several articles about the same piece.
The only reason that I welcome the Wikidropthedeaddonkey parody, is that it brings to the forefront that the news as a whole needs a new benchmark of 'The News'.
So, El Reg, how about forming a news website for the masses? Not the tech(il)literate?
"So, El Reg, how about forming a news website for the masses? Not the tech(il)literate?"
I can't for one moment imagine that El Reg would ever want to sully it's current sublime state of being by also becoming a mere peddler of News.
Apart from anything else, there isn't actually that much News to publish anyway, just a lot of opinions flying around the place. For example, the News surrounding the General Election is simple: i) there will be a General Election, and ii) the result is <insert inevitable Tory landslide here>. Everything else is just people squabbling, most unedifying.
The idea of WikiWales casting himself into the role of the World's News Gatekeeper is appalling. Just another Yank + favoured cronies seeking to push their view of the world onto everyone else. What we'll be seeing isn't so much reporting of events (there aren't so many of those), but reporting of opinions that fit their own World View, and disparagement of those that don't. <sarcasm>Terrific. Just what we need</sarcasm> (tags for the avoidance of doubt). I hope they've been paying attention to the new laws in Germany, lest they cop a €50m fine or two. And all this from what is supposed to be a charitably funded foundation?
Journalism, especially political and investigative, is a serious, serious business, and it needs to be done properly. A bunch of self appointed pseudo-dudes being journalistic "gatekeepers" is going to do us all no good whatsoever.
Here in the UK broadcast News has, by Law, to be politically impartial (just as well given the well known political biases amongst the people who own / run the broadcasters in the UK). It's about time the same applied to online "News", especially the free outlets (Google, Facebook, this new thing from Jim, etc).
"Apart from anything else, there isn't actually that much News to publish anyway, just a lot of opinions flying around the place. "
So El Reg could, I suppose, create a new tag like Bootnotes, Storage, etc.
I suggest 'Non-fake news'
Shouldn't take up a lot then really, if opinions are avoided.
"Stuff happened in London, today. In other news, Google are evil bastards"
I think they should expand. I have often wished for a governmental worker/advisor/MP get grilled by Orlowski/Lettuce on policy.
Never MLF though. Never her. Althought a parody opinion piece by Margaret Road-Kill would be welcomed...
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So if a member of Hezbollah blow up a bus of Israeli soldiers a terrorist attack?
If the Israeli armed forces bombs a civilian building in Palestine, is that a terrorist attack?
If North Korea threatens to nuke the US if attacked, is that an aggressive threat?
If the US threatens to nuke NK if they are attacked, is that an aggressive threat?
One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.
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I think that you have the wrong handle on this. The US sending a carrier group to the vicinity of the Korean peninsula may be an aggression or a measured response. Fox News announcing last week that a carrier group was then approaching North Korea was flat wrong, "fake news" if you will.
"So if a member of Hezbollah blow up a bus of Israeli soldiers a terrorist attack?"
And the answer is that it just doesn't matter. The important bit is knowing that yes, "Bomb going off on bus full of Israeli soldiers" did indeed happen. All the rest of qualifying can be done by each to his/her taste - it isn't that part that creates the "fake" in fake news.
@ DropBear, that is the one thing that no longer happens in any media, mainstream, alternative or any of the trendy outlets that claim to be reporting news.
Nobody simply reports what happened, it has to be dramatised or slanted to suit some bias, there are probably no more reporters on the planet than you can count on the fingers of one hand, the rest are journalists.
Having news organisations with known biases has its advantages. If you read a left-leaning or right-leaning newspaper, you know what to expect. You can read both sides and can mentally compensate for the bias of each. Having named journalists with established track records and known stances on various issues is similarly useful. You know where they're coming from.
In a semi-crowdsourced news organisation this becomes a lot more difficult. It will be hard to know, for any given contentious issue, which "side" has discovered Wales' new project first, shaping the site's reporting in its own image.
Wikipedia, at any rate, has more than its fair share of political activists, PR people and social entrepreneurs who studiously keep their identity and affiliations secret, shaping public perceptions under the cover of anonymity (or at least trying to).
I wonder whether WikiTribune's "volunteers" will protect their identities and affiliations as zealously as Wikipedia's contributors do, and whether the articles will have bylines providing author names like "Darklord" or "Rocketman12".
News bias stems from nationalism. It comes from the before time, I saw this in the 1960s/1970s, when a global event happened then the information is altered to make it "more relevant" or localized. Like a plane would crash somewhere other than the US and it had to be qualified with "how many Americans were aboard." Never mind the overall loss, "how does it effect me" seems to be the message. And when it does not effect "me" the Mes turn the channel, and the news outlets respond by giving the mass of idiots what they want. So, in effect, the shittiness of the news is a direct result of responding to the squeaky wheels and advertisers of the world. Two batches of crap humans who are not a source of any real information worth noting, but they keep the money coming in.
No, we must weed though the garbage to find the donuts. Unless garbage is all you know, then watching Fox News or other wildly biased nut-news is just the thing. In those cases, you can see the influence of advertising, thriving in a feed of nonsense stories to make morons feel good about themselves. The real information of the world is not easily obtained or packaged neatly, or so it seems. And if you only watch TV news, rather than read articles longer than a tweet, you are part of a larger problem.
You don't have to click through to a fake news story to be influenced by it. We're more subconsciously susceptible than we think. Don't discount the cumulative effect of half-forgotten headlines.
After skimming my favourite news sites at breakfast I usually consider myself updated on quite a few current events just from having read the home page.
I would suggest that regardless of whether people can be influenced to *change* their beliefs and biases by news, fake or real, they can be influenced to *reinforce* their beliefs and biases.
Indeed, I would go further, and say that people often seek out opportunities to reinforce their beliefs, and if that means following a click-bait fake news link, well, that's what they do.
Jimmy Wales personally decided that my Wikipedia Bio would be deleted, and that no mention of my work should ever appear on Wikipedia. Jimmy himself decided I was not a good scientist, and that was that. This is despite a dozen peer-reviewed papers in PubMed.
If Jimmy uses the same (lack of) judgement setting up this effort, we will have News, Fake News, And Jimmy's News (which will likely oscillate between the former two as edits proceed)...
It removes from us the option of peer reviewing his comment and his work and therefore being able to judge for ourselves if we agree with Jimmy Wales, or not. It accuses Wales with no means of verifying so the only thing we can safely do in this is to dismiss the claim; unless it agrees with our own opinions and prejudices.
Fullfact.org - UK independent and charitably funded. Generally working on the numbers you hear political parties (and UKIP) use in their policies. Reminds me of a written version of BBC Radio 4 More or Less.
In the US, factcheck.org seems to be doing similar.
Radio 4's More of Less is superb. It's a shame that BBC telly current affairs can't/won't do stuff like that.
If handled right, news doesn't need to be boring, depressing or without humour. I remember when Radio 5 started Vincent Hanna (of Blackadder the Third election fame) had a 2 hour show late in the evening. He covered news, but a lot of his show was done as long form interviews/discussions with people. Not the kind of Humphreys and Paxman showing off bollocks, but proper interviews where you allow the politicians the time and space to express themselves properly, before questioning them. From which you actually really learn about them and their beliefs and policies. I learnt a lot about Northern Irish politics from him. And there was always time for a bit of humour. As well as time to reflect and be a lot less partisan.
Andrew Neil's 'This Week' sometimes manages it, but mostly the show tries to do too much in too short a time, and too often becomes partisan - rather than taking a step back. You often need ex-politicians around to help with this - as they don't feel forced to resort to the approved soundbites - and also won't get jumped on by the press for any slip - which can be quoted wildly out of context.
...the moment I first heard about it.
But, the fact is, it's an attempt to fix a big problem. It may fail, but at least he's trying.
You mention some attempts that publishers could/should try to move away from the "clickbait" problem, but here's the thing... consumers do not trust publishers to do what's best for consumers.
Indeed. I think I said at the time "I wonder what Andrew Orlowski will have to say about this, assuming he survives his apoplectic stroke."
So my understanding is that "proper journalists" check their sources, verify their facts before their editors let them run the story. That's how it was supposed to work, at least. Then along comes the internet, and suddenly every angry basement dweller can publish an opinion as fact and fairly rapidly it all goes to shit. And now, the solution for this is - more opinions from basement dwellers? I suppose if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
I don't agree with the original, but I will answer this one: "AC why exactly?"
Because it's there. After I leave my text poopings, I just walk away and I am onto the next thing. I don't care what replies are left, I am not looking to meet new people, I don't care what color my vulture is. I read a tech story, I make a funny/relevant/smartass comment, and I don't ever want to be bothered by random people of the Internet ever. I don't care what up/down votes are cast on my text-crap, and I am not here to make my moniker attract likes, but I do participate in giving out votes, if that makes you feel better about what you write. My Python code does my real talking. This is just pooptext. Pay no never mind to it no how, 10-4 good buddy. I'm onto the next thing already.
I may look at Wikipedia sometimes, but I usually look for other sources too because of the BS which has-been/is allowed in there via incompetence or dishonesty.
Choosing Lily Cole, given her past idiotic female/r-type behaviour, does not inspire trust!
The panicked (because danger alarmed K-types are making their presence felt) and quite blatantly hypocritical r-type, 'fake news' anti-K-type censorship by various media (and other) organisations will only push them towards further irrelevance.
r-types can only be promiscuous gluttons on K-type provided excess resources (e.g. post WW2 to the 1960's) then use dishonesty, fraud and pillage to obscure resource constraints for limited periods, until significant pro-K-type stresses kick back in e.g. this is what really caused the fall of the Roman empire and Nazi Germany, and could/is now cause disaster in (previously majority K-type) developed countries!
> There's nothing wrong with the spelling. The grammar, on the other hand, could do with a bit of work.
No, in this case it is likely a spelling error ("possible" instead of "possibly"). I have little doubt that, as an educated native speaker, Andrew has used an adverb--it just happens that he misspelled it in a way that results in a common adjective.
So “fake” news is real enough, although its influence is much more doubtful. It presupposes that the voter is so easily and directly influenced
One advantage¹ of working in the emergency services is that you get to see a wide cross-section of society, well beyond what most people are even aware exists. This is because everyone falls ill, has accidents, or needs some other kind of assistance at one point or another. You may be at a diplomat's residence one moment and at a slum a couple hours latter, and everywhere in between. You tend not to meet people in their finest moments, that is true, but over time you do develop a pretty rich picture of what the whole of our society looks like.
And based on that, I have to say that yes, there actually are huge amounts of people who are "so easily and directly influenced". Political campaign directors should be able to give you some actual numbers, given that campaigning is largely a market study exercise these days, as opposed to back when parties were driven by their faith on whatever political theories they espoused.
¹ From an anthropological point of view.
As much as I want to disagree, I think you're bang-on. I think we have largely become conditioned to feeding our minds with the information equivalent of junk food (present site excepted, of course). Click link, process info tidbits, repeat. The lazy will accept what is offered without much critical thought. Even the diligent can fall prey to fallacy, especially if misinformation (such as the hoaxes mentioned in the article) have been repeated to the point of reaching a critical mass that eclipses factual sources. Still, I don't consider misinformation to be the larger danger.
"Information wants to be free" used to be an honored phrase in our global village. Sadly, that does not seem to be the case anymore. I have an immediate distrust of any person or organization that would seek to limit the free expression of ideas. I take such efforts to explicitly or implicitly mean that these gatekeepers believe they know better than I how to perceive and interpret my world. The arrogance of such as stance is outweighed only by the danger it poses to a free-thinking people.
add to this echo chamber effect tunnels.
Once sucked into the tunnel, the concept of "Does not agree" becomes "That is offensive1", rather than something the subject will want to consider rationally, even when the subject may well have the capacity to do so.
1. which ranges from offensive to Q#$%@#% B*llsh*t rants
In the US there are two sides filled with hardliners (about 25% each) who only believe that which agrees with their preconceived notions. No amount of evidence will ever change their minds, the only thing that will is if they are told to change their mind by their political authorities (i.e. Bernie, Trump, Huffpo, Breitbart etc.)
There's a third side in the middle who while they may lean to one side or another can still be influenced with evidence. However that half who are going to evaluate 'facts' through their own biases, with any partisan 'fact' automatically dismissed by the quarter who find it inconvenient to their politics, are an unsolvable problem.
It wouldn't matter if Jesus rose and ran the fact checking site, both hardline liberals and hardline conservatives would easily find reasons to justify their dismissal of him if he went against them on abortion, global warming, or whatever.
I don't see how Wales is the global gatekeeper or policeman of news. If he were then he would be supplanting all other news outlets or attempting to. He is setting up yet another news outlet in competition with the rest of them and we are free to ignore or read it, perhaps in conjunction with other sites, as we wish.
Labeling him thus is using sinister terms to colour our image of him, and influence our reactions to him and his new project.
Also, dismissing Wikipedia completely because of its inaccuracies risks falling into the trap of insisting that something you dislike be perfect all of the time while failing to see the faults in that which you do like. Medical matters comes to mind as an example. Alternative medicine (whatever you or I think of it) cannot fail, even once, without demands being raised that it be expunged, while regular medicine fails all the time and makes mistakes and is allowed a pass (lawyers not with standing).
I like Wikipedia but if its a contentious issue, or somehow important that I get it right, then other sources will always be taken into account. If this new venture works then great, if not then, so what? All the other news is still there, good and bad. To write it off before its even public seems a bit churlish.
On your example of medicine, that's Whataboutism in action.
Alternative medicine doesn't work (otherwise it'd already be incorporated into 'medicine') and apart from being directly dangerous (intravenous turmeric extracts, homeopathic 'vaccination' etc) resorting to alternative medicine woo generally means not using actual Western medicine.
That said, modern medicine is subject to criticism, mal practice (wrong side amputation, missed cancer diagnoses,) is often in the papers.
Here endeth the lesson.
I knew I was making a mistake when I couldn't think of a concrete example off the top of my head, so pulled that generic one out of my bum instead, based on some vague memory of an example that may even be a phantom memory implanted by some other poop comment. Withdrawn example.
I feel as if there aught to be a name for the thing I was trying to illustrate, where one ignores faults in a beloved while criticising a hated in similar terms. Perhaps I should look on Wikipedia...
It should be perfectly possible for a computer algorithm to trawl through various online profiles and habits, then dish up a version of "the News" that each person would prefer to hear. After an election for example, we could tell Labour supporters that Corbyn is the Prime Minister, Conservatives that May remains the PM, etc. Thereafter the same algorithm substitutes the appropriate name before dishing up any article that refers to the PM.
Poor people could be told that the rich are being taxed more, employed people could be told that unemployment benefit has been cut, etc. I could be fed a story that Tony Blair has been arrested and extradited to Iran for trial where he faces the death penalty if convicted.
It won't make the slightest difference to our day to day lives, but we'll all feel a lot better having our own version of the reality that exists outside of the minute sphere of what we personally see, hear and experience. After all, the probability of me bumping into Tony Blair at my local Tescos and so discovering the lie is small enough to be discounted, and Tony Blair is not going to be in any way inconvenienced or discomforted by the fact that I believe he is languishing in a hell-hole prison.
I would agree that it's inescapable and would add that ideally you always want something biased-- that is, extremely biased toward relaying only the truth... as my own wetware isn't trained quite well enough to do, not yet anyway. I'm biased in a way toward believing that truth itself can be a [super]natural resource that gets used and wasted and contaminated like anything else.
Setting aside Orlowski's kneejerk response to anything Wiki - I'd say, wait and see.
There can be little doubt that 'professional' journalism is approaching its lowest point (it was never a respectable profession at the best of times). Any efforts to to counteract this decline should be given a fair chance.
But there are two factors which need consideration; one is that the most egregious bias is shown in what is not reported at all, rather than the way in which the subjects which are reported are covered. 'Professional' outlets select their items according to the picture they wish to paint. I can't see anything in Wales' approach which will address this.
The second factor is the overwhelming laziness of most journalists. They hate writing a new story, when they can re-write an old one. Never write their own story if they can steal someone else's. Run away from stories where they can't rely on a pre-digested view of good v. bad.
Remember CiviliNation? That was Jimbo's attempt with his girlfriend Andrea Weckerle to "fix" the "broken" world of mean and nasty Internet comments.
Let's be clear... the president of CiviliNation, Andrea Weckerle, was definitely Jimmy's girlfriend:
Further, a couple of days ago on Reddit, Jimbo asserted that he was the "primary funder" of CiviliNation. It can be deduced that at least part of the CiviliNation scheme was to bankroll a girlfriend in a tax-deductible way. How charitable. But where are the facts?
Let's see... 2010 Form 990: $25,420 in contributions; 2011: $12,240; 2012: $15,500; 2013: $24,568; 2014: $4,700. All summarized here:
That's a total of $82,428.
If Jimbo was the "primary funder", let's say that's at least 50% of collected donations, or $41,215. During that period, Weckerle took $63,228 in salary, on total contributions of $82,428. Thus, Jimbo is saying that he basically bankrolled most of Andrea Weckerle's personal income from CiviliNation, which accomplished what? CiviliNation.org is barely a functioning website any more -- their blog hasn't been updated in over 13 months. And this proves what? That Jimbo was so charitably inept that he forked over -- at a minimum -- $41,215 to a failed attempt to "fix" online civility that ultimately accomplished not much more than keeping his girlfriend Andrea in food, clothes, and shelter for a few years. With tax-deductible dollars, no less! And now he's asking the community of gullible WikiLovers to fund his for-profit plan to "fix" journalism?
It's just sad. And pathetic.
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