by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 11th 2010 1:10pm
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 4th 2010 10:40am
from the this-is-security? dept
There are two other aspects of the story that remain in question and are somewhat troubling. The first is the issue raised by Danny Sullivan about Google's role in this effort. It came out in the early reports that both bloggers had received the notice from someone with a Gmail account. Google won't comment on whether or not it received a subpoena in this case, but it seems likely that it did. In fact, as Sullivan points out, Google -- unlike some other companies -- often seems quite willing to comply with such subpoenas without giving users a chance to protect themselves. This is the company's right, of course, but given Google's own positioning as a protector of user rights, you would think it would be a bit more aggressive on this front.
The second issue concerns reports that the TSA more or less forced Frischling to post a Twitter message, asking the guy who sent him the original email to email him again. Again, earlier reports had noted that Frischling had already deleted the email when the TSA agents had arrived. So, the suggestion is that they wanted to get him to email again. An "anonymous source" (so take it for what it's worth) is claiming that the TSA agents typed a message into Twitter asking the guy to send Frischling an email, but told Frischling to actually "send" the Twitter message, so they could deny that they had posted it.
Given all of this, it seems like there's a half decent chance that the TSA withdrew the subpoenas because it already had what it needed. It could get the guy's email from Frischling's computer after the guy emailed back -- and then could subpoena Google to find out who it was, without getting much pushback. The bigger question, though, remains why this is happening at all. The "security directive" wasn't classified. It wasn't secret and it was obvious to anyone who happened to fly into the US from a foreign country. If the TSA really thinks that keeping something like this secret somehow makes us more secure, it's even more messed up than previously thought.
And, once again, we're reminded why we should have a federal shield law to protect anyone engaged in journalism from having to reveal their sources.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Dec 28th 2009 6:14am
from the does-this-make-reuters-more-trustworthy-or-less? dept
As a news organization, all we have connecting us to our audience is our credibility. When we make mistakes, when we miss the point, when we fail to publish in a timely manner--each of these creates a little crack in that credibility. Once enough cracks form over time, the credibility is eroded and ultimately broken apart. At that point it doesn't matter how many orange dots you have swirling around your TV commercial or how intelligent you claim your information is. Once that bond is broken you're screwed.What strikes me as most interesting about this is that this Reuters post is still up. Reuters did not pull it. It does have an update link at the top to another blog that posted Reuters' denial (not even a Reuters page... which is also noteworthy). While I'm still curious about the decision to spike the story, I have to admit that the fact that a Reuters blogger was allowed to post this blog seriously questioning the integrity of Reuters management (his own bosses) lends at least some more credibility to Reuters itself. This is strengthened by the fact that the blog post has remained up as well.
Because Reuters is my company, there's a big part of me that hopes this incident has been blown out of proportion; that the blogs don't have the whole story. I fear that's not the case, however. The way it looks now is positively scandalous. And as a journalist it makes me almost physically ill to think about it.
I hope someone above me addresses the situation publicly, because lord knows not addressing it ain't working. Right now this incident is relatively contained (although it was the most viewed post on ZeroHedge as of Tuesday). But by next week, this will be all over the place--Romanesko, Drudge. From there it could get real ugly real fast.
And herein, I hope, lies a lesson for whomever killed Matt Goldstein's Steve Cohen story: When you make a decision like that, under those circumstances, the back story will get out. And the fallout from that back story will always, always be worse than the fallout from the story itself.
Compare this to the stories that went around when the Associated Press was announcing its silly and totally useless attempt to DRM the news. At the time, I heard from a few different AP reporters who thought it was a ridiculous idea that made the Associated Press look bad -- but they weren't allowed to say that publicly, and had no real outlet to do so. Reuters and the AP compete pretty directly in the newswire business, and every time I compare them to one another Reuters seems to come out ahead in recognizing where the world is heading. If it is true that Reuters spiked the Cohen story, that would be quite damning and could make me question trusting Reuters, but how it's handled this news so far, and how it's reacted to its own blogger talking about the story is impressive.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Nov 9th 2009 11:11am
from the all-in-one-package dept
In the last couple weeks, Mike Arrington, over at TechCrunch, did an amazing job calling attention to the widely known, but rarely discussed in polite company, dark underbelly to most of those business models: quite a large part of their revenue is based on scammy offers that effectively trick unsophisticated purchasers (often kids) into signing up for expensive subscriptions to things they don't want. I was at an investor "roundtable" a couple months ago, which was mostly bankers in suits, and they were laughing about just how gullible people are on these things, and it's great to see TechCrunch exposing them, and pushing the worst abusers to clean up their act. Of course, even when some, like Zynga, claim to be cleaning up their act, Arrington was able to dig up a video where Zynga's CEO proudly talked about the scammy tactics he used -- and then noted that these same scammy tactics showed right back up on Zynga, after the company promised they were gone. Those who use these kinds of tactics may find that while they "bring revenue now," it may be short-lived. Companies that focus on such abusive tactics live to regret it (just ask RealNetworks).
But, the really amazing thing, as pointed out by Dan Lyons/Fake Steve Jobs, in an amazingly un-Fake-Steve-Jobs-like rant, is to compare the series of writeups by Arrington with the love letter to Zynga and other "virtual goods" companies in the NY Times, which came out after most of Arrington's posts, and makes no mention of them at all. As Lyons/FSJ notes:
So: they walked into this shit-storm and somehow, by some miracle, managed not to notice the fecal matter flying all around them. It's like covering a football game that took place in the middle of the blizzard and neglecting to mention the weather.After which, Lyons/FSJ notes:
Now, maybe they did all the reporting before Arrington's stuff broke. In which case they should have gone back and updated their info. Or maybe, just maybe, Zynga's PR people teed up a Times story as a kind of rebuttal to what Arrington was reporting. Either way, that's what ended up happening: Zynga used the Times to deflect the bad shit flying at them from Arrington. They need good press because they're hoping to cash out by going public next year. That story in the Times will be worth millions. Many millions.
Meanwhile, Arrington, still digging, blasted again on Saturday night, reporting that sleazy ads had popped up again on Zynga, despite promises that they would be taken down.
Um, New York Times? If you guys are still wondering why people are dropping their subscriptions and getting their news from blogs instead of you -- this is why.
And to all those people who go around wringing their hands and saying what are we going to do when the "real newspapers" all die and we have to get our news from Gawker and HuffPo and TechCrunch? Friends, I think we're going to be just fine.... What really cracks me up is how often I still hear people say that bloggers are mere "aggregators" and the "real journalism" gets done at places like the Times. Because time after time, blogs are simply beating the shit out of the newspapers. They're the ones who still dare to go for the throat, while their counterparts at big newspapers just keep reaching for the shrimp cocktail.Of course, there's just a bit of irony in noting that Dan Lyons wrote one of the quintessential blog bashing articles four years ago, when he was writing for Forbes, at one point suggesting that blogger "journalists" were no different than notorious (NY Times) maker-up-of-stories, Jayson Blair. Nice to see he's coming around to recognizing things perhaps aren't so bad in the blog world.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 20th 2009 5:23am
from the hmmm... dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Oct 5th 2009 4:01pm
Did The FTC's New 'Blogger' Guidelines Just Change The Way All Book/Music Reviews Must Be Conducted?
from the just-wondering dept
The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that "material connections" (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers -- connections that consumers would not expect -- must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.Again, the concept is definitely admirable. There's long been a fear that companies are effectively bribing people with free stuff in order to get good reviews, and the FTC wants people to reveal that info. But... does that really make sense? It seems to me like this could just create a totally unnecessary minefield for anyone who blogs. And why is this focused on bloggers and word-of-mouth marketers? Almost all book and music reviews in the mainstream press involve the books and music being sent for free - and there's never been any question of impartiality of most of those reviews -- but why are they now left out of these rules? Is every blogger who reviews a book going to have to disclose where they got it? What about music? Many music bloggers are sent mp3s by the record labels. Do they need to reveal who sent them stuff? Does that really matter?
The real question, from my standpoint, is whether or not the FTC is really needed here. If someone is constantly blogging positively about stuff they get for free, they put their own credibility at risk, as people realize that the products aren't actually very good. It seems like the type of situation that sorts itself out. Those who are constantly pushing products for questionable reasons hurt themselves and soon no one trusts them. Does the FTC really need to be involved in that process? In the meantime, I'm suddenly glad that we don't do reviews on this site for the most part. I do occasionally mention or review books, but I guess I'll have to mention when I buy those books vs. when I'm sent them for free (it's about 50/50), which seems pretty pointless.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Sep 4th 2009 12:06pm
from the parasites? dept
Charles Vestal points us to another such case, but in this one, the reporter confessed and noted that it was company policy not to credit bloggers. In this case, it involved a local New York City blog that goes by the charming name NewYorkShitty.com. Last month, it reported on an illegal gym in the neighborhood. A little over a week later, the big News Corp/Rubert Murdoch-owned NY Post wrote an article covering just that story that seemed pretty obviously taken straight from the original.
So, the author of the blog post, one "Miss Heather" contacted one of the NY Post reporters, who quite openly admitted to using the blog post for his story, and then said it's against corporate policy to credit bloggers with scoops. Apparently, the same applies at the NY Daily News as well:
Post policy prevented me from crediting you in print. Allow me to do so now. You did a fantastic reporting job. All I had to do was follow your steps (and make a few extra phone calls).Now, this isn't a surprise, but how come that Washington Post reporter's claims of blogs being "parasites" got so much attention a few weeks ago, when it involved a clear case where the blog quite deliberately cited and linked to the original -- but a situation like this, where the NY Post blatantly got the story from a blog and admits it, doesn't get any attention at all?
I won't discuss at length the policy of not crediting blogs (or anyone else). I'll just briefly explain that as long as we can independently verify every bit of info, we don't credit.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 19th 2009 3:55pm
from the just-asking dept
Jones gets the implications of this story completely backwards. It's only because newspapers are large, profitable, commercial enterprises that the kind of intimidation techniques he talks about work at all. Imagine it's 2020 and the Idaho newspapers have all gone out of business, and they've been replaced by several hundred bloggers, most of them amateurs. A whistleblower discovers some evidence of wrongdoing by a prominent Mormon official. Is it easier or harder for the whistleblower to get the word out?As if to prove this very point, there were stories this week about a newspaper columnist being fired (and, yes, the newspaper disputes some of the details) for writing a column that highlighted an investigation of a major advertiser in the newspaper. Oh, and what has the fired guy done? He's gone and set up his own blog. Again, none of this is saying that professional reporters and news organizations aren't an important part of journalism -- but the idea that no one else can do what they do is just silly.
Obviously, it's easier. She can anonymously email the evidence to a dozen different bloggers. Those bloggers don't have to all prepare long "investigative journalism" write-ups; some of them can just post the raw documents for others to look at. Once they're widely available, other bloggers can link to those raw documents and provide commentary. The official being criticized has three big problems. First, taking legal action will be vastly more expensive because he'd have to sue dozens of bloggers rather than just one newspaper. Second, many of those bloggers won't have any assets to speak of, so he's unlikely to recover his legal costs even if he wins. And finally, if he foolishly presses forward, he'll discover our friend the Streisand Effect: the fact that he files the lawsuit will cause a lot more people to cover the original allegations.
Likewise, the threat of a boycott only works because newspapers are for-profit operations with significant overhead. Threatening a boycott against, a blogger who writes in a his free time is no threat at all.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Aug 19th 2009 3:53am
from the doesn't-seem-like-it dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Aug 3rd 2009 1:14pm
from the why-not? dept
And, of course, there are similarly ridiculous situations, such as Dave Zatz finding out that it will cost himself $25 to quote himself (thanks johnjac). The AP keeps making a mockery of itself.
Of course, the AP has put out a statement, basically mimicking the one it put out last year, saying that the icopyright stuff is not intended for bloggers. But then who is it intended for? Considering that the AP has threatened bloggers in the past for quoting its words, the whole thing seems bizarre. So you can rely on fair use if you're a blogger, but not... if you're something else? How does that make sense? I've read through our copyright laws more than a few times, and I don't recall the clause that says "fair use applies to bloggers, but not others."
Update: As a few people have pointed out, after all the media attention, the AP "revoked" the license. Note the language. They didn't apologize. They didn't admit error. They didn't admit awful technology and a silly policies. They "revoked" a license they had no right to sell in the first place. At least they gave him his money back.