by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 28th 2015 3:20am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 24th 2015 7:39pm
from the editorial-independence? dept
Earlier this month, we noted that the Hollywood studios were all resisting subpoenas from Google concerning their super cozy relationship with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, whose highly questionable "investigation" of Google appeared to actually be run by the MPAA and the studios themselves. The entire "investigation" seemed to clearly be an attempt to mislead the public into believing that it was somehow illegal for Google's search engine to find stuff that people didn't like online. A court has already ruled that Hood pretty clearly acted in bad faith to deprive Google of its First Amendment rights. As the case has continued, Google has sought much more detail on just how much of the investigation was run by the MPAA and the studios -- and Hollywood has vigorously resisted, claiming that they really had nothing to do with all of this, which was a laughable assertion.
However, in a filing on Thursday, Google revealed one of the few emails that they have been able to get access to so far, and it's stunning. It's an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood's top lawyers in the Mississippi AG's office, discussing the big plan to "hurt" Google. Beyond influencing other Attorneys General (using misleading fake "setups" of searches for "bad" material) and paying for fake anti-Google research, the lawyers from Hood's office flat out admit that they're expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories:
Media: We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The "live buys" should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google's stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed.In other words, Jim Hood and the MPAA were out and out planning a coordinated media attack on Google using the editorial properties that supposedly claim to have editorial independence from the business side. Notice that with the WSJ piece, they flat out admit that the editorial will be based on the ideas that "we" have developed. If you work for the WSJ, your editorial independence just got shot down. Remember when CBS stepped in and interfered editorially with CNET for giving an award to Dish at the same time that CBS was in a legal fight over that same device? That resulted in reporters quitting.
This is worse.
This is an out and out case where the MPAA is admitting to a plan whereby it will use mainstream media properties to run bogus and misleading stories to "attack" Google, to further the MPAA's (believed, but misleadingly so) business interests. Is this really how the Today Show and the WSJ pick their editorial topics?
The "plan" goes even further after that, getting the MPAA to find (and almost certainly pay for) a lawyer to work with the "shareholder" previously identified to file legal filings against Google.
Following the media blitz, you want Bill Guidera and Rick Smotkin to work with the PR firm to identify a lawyer specializing in SEC matters to work with a stockholder. This lawyer should be able to the [sic] identify the appropriate regulatory filing to be made against Google.As Google notes in its legal filing about this email, the "plan" states that if this effort fails, then the next step will be to file the subpoena (technically a CID or "civil investigatory demand") on Google, written by the MPAA but signed by Hood. As Google points out, this makes it pretty clear (1) that the MPAA, studios and Hood were working hand in hand in all of this and (2) that the subpoena had no legitimate purpose behind it, but rather was the final step in a coordinated media campaign to pressure Google to change the way its search engine works. It's pretty damning:
The document thus shows that the CID was not the foundation of a legitimate investigation—rather, it was a “final step” that would be issued only “if necessary” to further pressure Google to capitulate to the demands of AG Hood and his supporters.The court has yet to rule on what else Hollywood needs to turn over, but just from what's coming out already, serious questions are being raised (1) about Jim Hood and his office and what they were up to as well as (2) the editorial independence of the media arms of the MPAA studios, including both NBCUniversal ("the Today Show") and NewsCorp. (the Wall Street Journal).
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 15th 2015 1:44pm
from the not-this-again dept
“I would be shocked if … my sources would talk to [Hersh], given their politics and given the sensitivity that the administration had toward this story.”She notes that after her original post, she was strongly pressured to shut up about the issue, and did so (though she didn't delete her post or tweet).
Either way, in a new post, she seems pissed off that Hersh is getting credit for the story, saying that it's "plagiarism."
Seymour Hersh's story, "The Killing of Bin Laden," in the London Review of Books has a fundamental problem: it's either plagiarism or unoriginal.That's silly. First of all, it's not plagiarism, even if it's not true. Just because he heard the same thing from other sources, that wouldn't make it plagiarism. As for the "not original" claim -- well, who really cares? There's this weird obsession some people have with who "broke" a particular story. But the fact is that the story itself happened to others before whoever reported it learned about it. Yes, breaking a story is a nice thing, but it's weird how some people seem to want to claim "ownership" over a story just because they were the first ones to write about it.
If it's fiction--as some have implied, it's plagiarism. If it's true, it's not original. The story was broken here on The Spy Who Billed Me four years ago, in August 2011
Yes, it's interesting that Hillhouse had a very similar story a few years ago -- which may lend some additional credence to Hersh's story -- but being first isn't always the most important thing. Getting the story widely spread seems a lot more important, which is evidenced by the fact that the story is only now "news" -- whereas Hillhouse's version more or less faded away. It seems like yet another case in which people overvalue being "first" as opposed to actually getting something more widely accepted and understood.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Apr 2nd 2015 2:48pm
from the embrace-it dept
...what we actually sell is what I like to call the feeling of being informed when you get to the very end. So we sell the antidote to information overload — we sell a finite, finishable, very tightly curated bundle of content. And we did that initially as a weekly print product. Then it turns out you can take that same content and deliver it through an app.And as for links:
The “you’ve got to the end and now you’ve got permission to go do something else” is something you never get. You can never finish the Internet, you can never finish Twitter, and you can never really finish The New York Times, to be honest. So at its heart is that we have this very high density of information, and the promise we make to the reader is that if you trust us to filter and distill the news, and if you give us an hour and a half of your time — which is roughly how long people spend reading The Economist each week — then we’ll tell you what matters in the world and what’s going on. And if you only read one thing, we want to be the desert-island magazine. And our readers, that’s what they say.
Another aspect of it is — and I get all the morning briefings, Sentences, the FT one, and Quartz’s, and the rest of them — is that we don’t do links. The reason that we don’t do links, again, if you want to get links you can get them from other people. You can go on Twitter and get as many as you like. But the idea was everything that you need to know is distilled into this thing that you can get to the end of, and you can get to the end of it without worrying that you should’ve clicked on those links in case there was something interesting. So we’ve clicked on the links already and we’ve decided what’s interesting, and we’ve put it in Espresso.Mathew Ingram rightly calls this view of things selling an illusion. He notes that such an illusion can be very powerful -- and even very satisfying and appealing. But it's still an illusion.
That’s the same that we do in the weekly as well — we’re not big on linking out. And it’s not because we’re luddites, or not because we don’t want to send traffic to other people. It’s that we don’t want to undermine the reassuring impression that if you want to understand Subject X, here’s an Economist article on it — read it and that’s what you need to know. And it’s not covered in links that invite you to go elsewhere.
To me, it's also a version of denial -- a somewhat hubristic denial that actually says (loudly) that the Economist thinks it's much, much smarter than its readers. That seems like a pretty big mistake in the internet age, where (quite frequently) your readers are much smarter. In many ways, we at Techdirt have always taken the opposite approach. We link aggressively outward to source material, knowing that it will help people explore the subject more deeply. We encourage discussion and conversation in our comments, knowing that many of our readers are more knowledgeable on these subjects than we are.
The Economist is obviously super successful, but as we've stated before, the way people consume the news these days is changing. The kind of people who want to just sit down, consume one thing and feel that they're "informed" are going away. That's just not how people consume news these days, and young people especially don't want to consume news that way. They want to explore and dig and share and discuss. The ability to truly interact with the news, research things yourself, share your thoughts and actually be a part of the effort is what's appealing to so many people.
Maybe the Economist's view of things works for people who are scared of the internet and don't like the endless firehose of information that's available, but I'm betting that's a population that will be progressively shrinking, rather than growing.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Mar 25th 2015 10:40am
from the fix-this,-google dept
After that story was posted, we heard from people inside Google who insisted that they were pushing the AdSense team to deal with similar situations in a much smarter way: such as simply turning off the ads on those individual pages rather than killing entire accounts. But, frankly, even that is pretty pointless. Why not fix AdSense's terms so that having ads appear on a news story about such content doesn't trigger the threat to shut down AdSense altogether?
It appears that the AdSense morality police still haven't figured this out. Last week a similar kerfuffle arose when the AdSense team threatened antiwar.com because it had an article (from a while back) that posted the infamous photos of US soldiers mistreating prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Those photos are famous for their newsworthiness, and yet Google AdSense said they were a terms of service violation for being "violent or disturbing content, including sites with gory text or images."
After that story started to get some press attention, Google backed down... but only for a few hours, before coming back and complaining about another article on Antiwar's site, showing images of people killed in Ukraine.
As with the threat to kill our own AdSense account, this is simply idiotic. Yes, Google can set whatever terms and conditions it wants for sites to use AdSense, but acting as morality police -- especially over newsworthy content on news websites -- is profoundly stupid and shortsighted. We had hoped that our experience with a similarly ridiculous policy decision by Google last year would convince the company to fix its policies. Unfortunately, it appears that Google is still playing morality police and trying to dictate editorial choices.
Fri, Feb 13th 2015 11:37am
from the celebrating-fair-use dept
Jon Stewart's announcement on February 10 that he will be retiring from The Daily Show later this year has been met with tributes to his comic genius and his impact on political discourse. But these tributes have overlooked the legal doctrine that has enabled Stewart to be so effective: fair use. (This is my second post this week about the importance of fair use to popular culture; on Tuesday I wrote about how the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was first written as fair use-dependent fan fiction based on the Twilight vampire series.)
Stewart's most powerful critiques result from his juxtaposing clips of politicians and commentators on news broadcasts to demonstrate their hypocrisy. He'll contrast a clip of a Fox News commentator expressing outrage at President Obama taking a particular action with a clip of the same commentator praising President Bush for taking a similar same action. Stewart also uses montages of clips from CNN and other news networks to demonstrate their simultaneously sensationalistic and superficial coverage of disasters and trials. But for fair use, Stewart's rebroadcast of these clips would be willful copyright infringement, subject to statutory damages of up to $150,000 per clip.
Jon Stewart's heavy use of clips for the purpose of humorous political criticism has inspired other comedians to emulate him, most notably his former "correspondents" Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report and John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. Stewart's reliance on clips no doubt has also encouraged the growth of the remix culture online, where individuals combine clips of preexisting works for the purpose of political or artistic expression.
Stewart's reliance on fair use likely made him progressive on other copyright matters. He supported fans distributing excerpts of The Daily Show online, he questioned the position of Viacom (the owner of Comedy Central, the channel that carries The Daily Show) in its litigation with YouTube, and he opposed SOPA.
Additionally, Jon Stewart's fair use of clips has had a positive impact on policymakers. The Daily Show is perhaps the easiest example to give lawmakers and their staffs of the importance of fair use. A reference to The Daily Show makes them instantly understand how fair use functions, in Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's words, as one of the copyright law's built-in accommodations to the First Amendment. Further, The Daily Show demonstrates clearly that large media companies (e.g., Viacom) rely on fair use.
Jon Stewart has not announced what he will do after he leaves The Daily Show. But it is hard to imagine that the greatest practitioner of fair use in this generation will not at some point embark on another venture that employs fair use.
Reposted from the Disruptive Competition Project
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 8th 2014 9:02pm
from the hot-news? dept
While some who don't follow the details and don't understand the nature of a default judgment may make a bigger deal of this, the ruling is kind of meaningless since there was no actual adversarial process here. But, really, the bigger issue is that hot news is just a concept that needs to go away. In an age of social media sharing, retweeting, forwarding, reposting, etc., the idea that someone can claim some sort of exclusive ownership over "breaking" news is just silly and pointless. If your entire value is wrapped up in being a few minutes ahead of the competition, and you can't stand someone repeating the news that you were still first in getting out, you've got other, much more serious problems with your business model.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 2nd 2014 12:59pm
from the institutionalized-streisanding dept
It appears that, as part of its transparency efforts, Google is also telling the websites who are being delinked that they are being delinked over this, because both the BBC and the Guardian have stories up today about how they've had stories removed from Google thanks to the "right to be forgotten" efforts. And, guess what? Both articles dig into what original articles have been removed, making it fairly easy to determine just who was so embarrassed and is now seeking to have that embarrassing past deleted. And, of course, by asking for the content to be removed, these brilliant individuals with embarrassing histories have made both the removal attempt and the original story newsworthy all over again.
First up, is the BBC, which received a notice about one of its articles being removed from search. That article is all about Merrill Lynch chairman Stan O'Neal losing his job. In fact, the only person named in the article is... Stan O'Neal. Take a wild guess what thin-skinned former top executive to a major US financial firm must have issued a "please forget me" request to Google? The BBC's Robert Preston -- author of both articles -- questions why this should be forgotten:
My column describes how O'Neal was forced out of Merrill after the investment bank suffered colossal losses on reckless investments it had made.In other words, welcome to the new world in Europe, where all sorts of important, truthful and relevant information gets deleted.
Is the data in it "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant"?
Most people would argue that it is highly relevant for the track record, good or bad, of a business leader to remain on the public record - especially someone widely seen as having played an important role in the worst financial crisis in living memory (Merrill went to the brink of collapse the following year, and was rescued by Bank of America).
Over at the Guardian, they've found out that six articles from their website have been memory-holed by Google. And again, it quickly becomes clear who's involved:
Three of the articles, dating from 2010, relate to a now-retired Scottish Premier League referee, Dougie McDonald, who was found to have lied about his reasons for granting a penalty in a Celtic v Dundee United match, the backlash to which prompted his resignation.The Guardian does searches for McDonald on both the US and UK versions of Google and finds that McDonald's lie is wiped from history over in the UK, while we Americans can still find it, no problem.
The other disappeared articles – the Guardian isn't given any reason for the deletions – are a 2011 piece on French office workers making post-it art, a 2002 piece about a solicitor facing a fraud trial standing for a seat on the Law Society's ruling body and an index of an entire week of pieces by Guardian media commentator Roy Greenslade.It's pretty likely that Paul Baxendale-Walker is the person complaining about that second article, since he's the main subject of that article. The other two... are not clear at all. The Post-It wars story names three individuals: Julien Berissi, Stephane Heude and Emilie Cozette. But none of them are portrayed in any way that would seem negative. It just shows them having some fun by making giant post-it artwork. And the other one is just weird because it's not an actual story, but an index page showing a week of story headlines and opening blurbs -- but apparently whichever article in the list caused the request wasn't directly included itself -- suggesting whoever sent in the request did a pretty bad job of figuring out what to censor.
Either way, both the Guardian and the BBC point out how ridiculous this is. Preston, at the BBC, says this is "confirming the fears of many in the industry" that this will be used "to curb freedom of expression and to suppress legitimate journalism that is in the public interest." Meanwhile, James Ball at the Guardian, notes how troubling this is, and starts to think of ways to deal with it, including highlighting every "deleted" article:
But this isn't enough. The Guardian, like the rest of the media, regularly writes about things people have done which might not be illegal but raise serious political, moral or ethical questions – tax avoidance, for example. These should not be allowed to disappear: to do so is a huge, if indirect, challenge to press freedom. The ruling has created a stopwatch on free expression – our journalism can be found only until someone asks for it to be hidden.Preston has asked Google how the BBC can appeal, while Ball says the Guardian doesn't believe there's any official appeals process. Either way, it's safe to say that (1) this process is a mess and leading to the censorship of legitimate content and (2) people like Stan O'Neal and Dougie McDonald who thought that they could hide their embarrassing pasts under this ruling may not end up being very happy in the long term.
Publishers can and should do more to fight back. One route may be legal action. Others may be looking for search tools and engines outside the EU. Quicker than that is a direct innovation: how about any time a news outlet gets a notification, it tweets a link to the article that's just been disappeared. Would you follow @GdnVanished?
Wed, Oct 30th 2013 7:53pm
from the BFGs dept
And now we can add China to the list, given that they're piss-poor attempt at manipulating a photo to look like leaders visited a really old women somewhere resulted in the insinuation that Chinese men have been eating their Wheaties and have turned into big, smiling giant-folk.
According to China News (via HugChina), the above photo supposedly features the vice mayor of Ningguo county and other officials "visiting" a 100-year-old woman—a very small one hundred year old woman, surrounded by a halo and giants.Quick, someone save that happy old lady from the uber-men surrounding her! And these aren't even your ordinary, run-of-the-mill Chinese mega-men, either. They're ghost giants, as evidenced by that last guy on the right how appears to be made of a non-corporeal substance the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Ghostbusters were still employed!
Now, the image and the report have reportedly been taken down to ensure the Chinese people don't fly into a panic about the ensuing gigantic dominance, but wouldn't it be easier for the Chinese government to have actually visited this sweet old lady rather than parry the ensuing laughter over this poor propaganda attempt?
by Michael Ho
Thu, Oct 24th 2013 5:00pm
from the urls-we-dig-up dept
- Pierre Omidyar is the latest billionaire to invest in a journalistic enterprise and create a new kind of sustainable journalism. Omidyar was considering buying the Washington Post, but he decided to start from scratch, so he'll find out whether his millions would have been better spent on an existing news organization. [url]
- Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million, and everyone will be watching the natural experiment of how the Washington Post evolves, compared to Omidyar's new media startup. Will any Washington Post journalists cover this story? [url]
- Chris Hughes bought The New Republic last year, and he wasn't the first billionaire to buy a media outlet -- but he might be one of the youngest. TNR has re-designed its layout, and Hughes thinks editorial decisions can't be isolated from the business side of his magazine. Hughes aims to make the company profitable in the next few years.... [url]