Tag Archives: social media

The US election as Medieval Carnival

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder, The Fight Between Carnival and Lent.

By Anastasia Denisova, University of Westminster
November, 2016

“In the 1850s, thousands of Americans proudly called themselves ‘the know-nothings’ and formed a movement against migrants for the ‘purification’ of America. They were bragging about their lack of a clue about politics and rational argument,” my academic friend sighed over a coffee in London last week.

Because they were the only Democrats in the neighbourhood, my friend’s family had moved from Alabama back to the Old World. These days, the politics of the United States has turned into a similar whirlpool of awe and ridicule – but now you don’t have to be geographically bound to the country, as the digital realm makes the flows of controversial rhetoric spill over traditional boundaries of time and space.

The campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton featured an unprecedented amount of memes, viral texts that proliferate on mutation and sharing. In my research, I look at how memes have become the fast food media of contemporary politics as well as mindbombs of political activism. They are absurd, politically incorrect, incomplete and require the knowledge of context to “get” the joke. But most importantly, they mirror public opinion and popular emotions on the subject.

Hillary Clinton’s office tried to appropriate the language of internet cultures and shape their campaign posters like memes. But they failed to detach from the composition and expression style of a traditional poster. Not bold enough for memes, not classy enough for placards, these visuals got stuck somewhere in the grey zone between the online and offline.

Donald Trump’s campaign, on the other hand, demonstrated conscientious engagement with social media. He made his presidential announcement on innovative live streaming app Periscope. His Twitter accounts gathered millions of followers – indeed, just the comparison of the main Twitter feeds of the candidates, not to mention the satellite accounts, reveals the disposition of forces: 11m followers for @HillaryClinton as opposed to 14m for @realDonaldTrump. It was probably the bold rhetoric of Trump’s statements that made them so shareable.

Into the twittersphere

Trump supporters, following their commander, ignored all the rules of political correctness, fair play and sensible campaigning, indulging in meme warfare in the viral meadows of social networks.

Not only did they coin specific memes to attack the democratic candidate for the FBI phone scandal and pro-war sentiments, but even tried to create what I call meme campaigns: chains of similarly styled provocative messages organised by a hashtag that are designed to have a certain effect.

They don’t always work – but they do reveal the mood of public opinion. Several account holders took time to persistently deploy memes accusing Hillary of a drinking problem on Twitter. But #DrunkHillary failed to engage other users. Meek dozens of “shares” and “likes” revealed that both pro- and anti-Clinton voters doubted the idea that Mrs Clinton was an alcoholic.

Another case, the #DraftOurDaughters campaign, demonstrated how memes can “bomb” unguarded minds and influence the digital crowds. This initiative looked more like professional campaigning. Many voters were concerned that Hillary’s support of military interventions abroad would result in sending female soldiers to the battlefield. In order to amplify this concern, pro-Trump users coined a range of smart fake posters that imitated the simple graphic style of authentic Clinton posters. As a result, some social media dwellers believed that the meme-looking controversial images were indeed coming from the Democratic candidate.

Trump himself was by no means safe from the meme battlefield, with social media users creating memes that engaged in a rather lethargic lambasting of the candidate’s groping practices, unorthodox hair style and lack of reason in his assertions. But these memes proliferated in a rather disconnected fashion. Criticisms of Trump were certainly in the air, yet Clinton’s supporters did not create many uniform, clearly-focused campaigns out of them.

What does it all meme?

This meme flood is demonstrative of at least two alarming trends.

First, the growing problem of attention deficit has had a significant impact on the course and outcomes of the election. The phenomenon of “attention economy” has been studied since early 2000s. In today’s environment of multitasking and media oversaturation, the scarcest resource is not money or talent, but attention. People can only concentrate on a print-size version of the text; as soon as they need to scroll down to read the rest of argument, they are most likely to close the link and move to the next tab.

According to Garry Linnell, in 1968, the average politician’s soundbite in the news was 43 seconds, by 1988 it was nine seconds, and in 2016 we barely hear them finishing a sentence. This is the attention deficit environment into which internet memes fit perfectly. Comparable to fast food, they satisfy your information hunger with glitzy, tantalising, succulent bites that have little nutritional value, yet feed you on a very superficial level, right here, right now.

The second trend that the 2016 US election highlighted is the carnivalisation of public politics. Memes have been scrutinised as instances of medieval-like carnival: it is the logic of upside down, ridicule and mockery, stupidity and opposition to any possible elites.

Originally, of course, the carnival was limited to one week before Lent. People gathered in the central marketplace to unleash their desires and let off steam. The e-carnival is dramatically different: it expands beyond the constraints of time and space. It is ever present, and here to stay. Increasingly, attention-deficit voters draw their news and opinion from the fast food media communication and then return their inputs to the same shallow realm.

The consumption of fast food media advances fast politics, the swift, screaming and scandalous sort of politics that is so tempting to share and receive “likes” for. So the real winner of this election, in fact, is the viral state of mind. This renders the future of politics yet more worrying.

As Trump realised early on, the rule of this emerging memeworld is to share or be square, no matter the content.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Anastasia Denisova is a Lecturer in Journalism, University of WestminsterThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

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Facebook Feels Heat of Controversies

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook attends a session during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook attends a session during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland January 20, 2016. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich/File Photo

By Kristina Cooke, Dan Levine and Dustin Volz 
Fall, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – After Facebook’s removal of an iconic Vietnam war photo stirred an international uproar in September, the social network’s executives quickly backtracked and cleared its publication.

But the image – showing a naked Vietnamese girl burned by napalm – had previously been used in training sessions as an example of a post that should be removed, two former Facebook employees told Reuters.

Trainers told content-monitoring staffers that the photo violated Facebook policy, despite its historical significance, because it depicted a naked child, in distress, photographed without her consent, the employees told Reuters.

The social network has taken great pains to craft rules that can be applied uniformly with minimal discretion. The reversal on the war photo, however, shows how Facebook’s top executives sometimes overrule company policy and its legions of low- and mid-level content monitors.

Facebook has often insisted that it is a technology company – not a media company – but an elite group of at least five senior executives regularly directs content policy and makes editorial judgment calls, particularly in high-profile controversies, eight current and former Facebook executives told Reuters.

One of those key decision-makers – Justin Osofsky, who runs the community operations division – wrote a Facebook post acknowledging that the removal of the war photo was a “mistake.”

“Sometimes,” he wrote, “the global and historical significance of a photo like ‘Terror of War’ outweighs the importance of keeping nudity off Facebook.”

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Facebook spokeswoman Christine Chen declined to comment on the company’s use of the photo in training sessions.

Facebook has long resisted calls to publicly detail its policies and practices on censoring postings. That approach has drawn criticism from users who have had content removed and free-speech advocates, who cite a lack of transparency and a lack of an appeals process for many content decisions.

At the same time, some governments and anti-terror groups are pressuring the company to remove more posts they consider offensive or dangerous.

HIGH-LEVEL REVIEW

Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of global policy management, is interviewed by Reuters in Washington DC February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, is interviewed by Reuters in Washington DC February 2, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron/File Photo

The current and former Facebook executives, most of them speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters in detail how complaints move through the company’s content-policing apparatus. The toughest calls, they said, rise to an elite group of executives.

Another of the key decision-makers is Global Policy Chief Monika Bickert, who helped rule on the fracas over the war photo.

“That was one we took a hard look at, and we decided it definitely belonged on the site,” said Bickert, a former federal prosecutor.

She declined to elaborate on the decision-making process.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg followed up with an apology to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who had posted the photo on her own account after Facebook removed it from others in her country.

In addition to Sandberg, Osofsky and Bickert, executives involved in sensitive content issues include Joel Kaplan, Facebook’s Washington-based government relations chief; and Elliot Schrage, the vice president for public policy and communications.

All five studied at Harvard, and four of them have both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the elite institution. All but Sandberg hold law degrees. Three of the executives have longstanding personal ties to Sandberg.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard drop-out, occasionally gets involved with content controversies, Bickert said.

These executives also weigh in on content policy changes meant to reflect shifting social context and political sensitivities around the world, current and former executives said.

Facebook officials said the five people identified by Reuters were not the only ones involved in high-level content decisions.

“Facebook has a broad, diverse and global network involved in content policy and enforcement, with different managers and senior executives being pulled in depending on the region and the issue at hand,” Chen said.

Chen declined to name any other executives who were involved in content policy.

A WAR OVER FREE EXPRESSION

The company’s reticence to explain censorship decisions has drawn criticism in many countries around the globe.

Last month, Facebook disabled the accounts of editors at two of the most widely read Palestinian online publications, Shehab News Agency and Quds. In keeping with standard company practice, Facebook didn’t publicly offer a reason for the action or pinpoint any content it considered inappropriate.

The company told Reuters that the removal was simply an error.

Some Palestinian advocacy groups and media outlets condemned the shutdowns as censorship stemming from what they described as Facebook’s improper alliance with the Israeli government.

Israel’s government has pushed Facebook to block hundreds of pages it believes incite violence against Jews, said Noam Sela, spokesman for Israeli cabinet Minister Gilad Erdan.

Sela said the Israeli government “had a connection” at Facebook to handle complaints but declined to elaborate on the relationship.

“It’s not working as well as we would like,” Sela said. “We have more work to do to get Facebook to remove these pages.”

Ezz al-Din al-Akhras, a Quds supervisor, said that Facebook’s head of policy in the Middle East had gotten in touch after the uproar over the shutdowns and that three of four suspended accounts were restored.

“We hope the Facebook campaign of suspending and removing Palestinian accounts will stop,” he said. “We do not practice incitement; we are only conveying news from Palestine to the world.”

Facebook said the restoration of the accounts was not a response to complaints. It declined to comment on whether top executives were involved.

The company has cited technological glitches in other recent cases where content was removed, then restored, including the takedown of a video that showed the aftermath of a Minneapolis police shooting.

Chen declined to explain the glitch.

She said the company was reviewing its appeals process in response to public feedback. Facebook currently allows appeals of company actions involving entire profiles set up by people or institutions, or full pages on those profiles, but not for individual posts.

THICK RULEBOOK

To manage the huge volume of content complaints – more than a million a day – the company employs a multi-layered system. It starts with automated routing of complaints to content-policing teams in Dublin, Hyderabad, Austin and Menlo Park, who make initial rulings, current and former executives said.

These low-level staffers and contractors consult a thick rulebook that interprets the comparatively spare “community standards” that Facebook customers are asked to follow. The company trains front-line monitors to follow rules and use as little discretion as possible.

When a removal sparks more complaints, regional managers function as a mid-level appeals court. Continuing controversy could then push the issue to top U.S. executives.

Senior executives also weigh in on policy updates. Osofsky and Kaplan, for instance, wrote a blog post last week, in response to “continued feedback” on content removals, explaining that the company would start weighing news value more heavily in deciding whether to block content.

In an earlier post, responding to the Napalm-girl controversy, Osofsky said Facebook’s policies usually work well, but not always.

“In many cases, there’s no clear line between an image of nudity or violence that carries global and historic significance and one that doesn’t,” Osofsky wrote.

The Vietnam war photo – depicting horrors suffered by a girl named Phan Thi Kim Phuc – was first removed from an account in Norway by a front-line monitor.

In protest, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten printed the image on its front page and posted it on Facebook, which removed it. That prompted the prime minister to post the photo – only to have Facebook remove it again.

Facebook then issued a statement defending the action, saying it was “difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.”

The next day, executives reversed the call, with Sandberg telling the prime minister: “Even with clear standards, screening millions of posts on a case-by-case basis every week is challenging.”

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joseph Menn in San Francisco, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Terje Solsvik in Oslo; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Brian Thevenot)

Related on F&O:

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race, by Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr., ProPublica

Imagine if, during America’s Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers. That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays. The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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Legislation needed in world’s newest frontier: the datasphere

By Jean-Sylvestre Bergé and Stéphane Grumbach 
October, 2016

The rise of information technologies – smartphones, sensors spread across public and private spaces, data analytics – has led to the production of considerable amounts of data on human activity and the world around us.

The quantity of data has increased exponentially, in parallel with Moore’s law, which predicted in 1965 that computers’ capacity would double every 18 months.

Scientists have had to introduce new units of measurement such as zetta, denoting thousands of billions of billions (10²¹ or 1000000000000000000000), to designate these orders of magnitude, which were known in the realm of natural sciences but, until recently, absent from the realm of human activity.

Burgeoning data has given rise to a new space – the “datasphere” – a sort of image of the physical world, with traces of real-world activities, including our position at any given moment, our exchanges, the temperature of our homes, financial movements, trading of goods or road traffic.

All of this poses a new challenge to the law, which now has to define its own relationship with this modern sphere.

Data bit

In order to be understood as a new space, the datasphere must be considered as a system formed by the whole range of digital data.

While the hydrosphere (the global mass of water, including oceans, lakes, rivers and ground water) relies on the molecule H2O, which determines its reservoirs and flows, the datasphere can be built on the data bit.

Like water, data exists under different states: open, widely accessible, or proprietary, with access restrictions. Data can be static, at rest, or in motion. As with water, a data cycle transforms little drops into large masses.

Data is generated from the activity of humans or equipment everywhere. It then flows into storage and processing centres and returns to the individual players following transformation.

Like the hydrosphere, the datasphere interacts with the global environment. It is anchored in the physical and economic worlds, while also being largely independent, much like oceans and clouds.

Its foundation is primarily physical: the datasphere rests on real infrastructure, formed of data centres, undersea cables, communication satellites, and so on. Far from negligible, this physical foundation consumes around 10% of the world’s electricity production.

Economic and legal factors

The datasphere’s foundation is also economic. It relies on major economic actors, mostly multinationals with their complex links to administrative and government institutions. Taxation and state surveillance programmes root these platforms into political territories. And their importance is growing astonishingly fast.

If, in 2010, half of the top ten market capitalisations were in the energy sector, most of them are today in the datasphere. A single oil company, Exxon, is now among six digital platforms (Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Tencent), in this reversal of trend, symptomatic of the Anthropocene.

Data firms like SimilarWeb in Tel Aviv collect millions of informations.
Baz Ratner/Reuters

The idea of the datasphere raises questions about the way the law comprehends space. It’s likely that answers must be sought through the construction of public international law, as has been done for the sea, international canals, rivers and lakes, the atmosphere and outer space.

The question is whether the datasphere requires the same “need of law”. Answers have already been given in the specific context of the internet, for instance. The image of “cyberspace” with its libertarian ambition for independence and the types of players involved, feeds a wide-ranging debate on the subject.

But, in the context of the datasphere, which can potentially encompass all human activity on the planet, the question deserves special scrutiny. Still, to the best of our knowledge, no comprehensive study identifying the datasphere as a space, potentially subject to one or more legal regimes, has been carried out.

Unlike the other spheres (such as the lithosphere, the hydrosphere or the atmosphere), the datasphere is not yet considered a specific field of human activity into which the law could intervene*.

Nevertheless, this area requires careful examination, particularly on the overall relationship between the emerging new space and its relationship with physical space and new digital territories.

New relationships

The datasphere can trigger the creation of new relationships within conventional institutions, such as states, cities, districts, or international and regional organisations.

With everything digitised, data no longer belongs to the state, or a specific city agency, or even to the individual; it is given over to the public realm, where everyone can have access to it. Because data can be shared and used widely, collaboration between different levels of government, both nationally and internationally could grow.

New relationships might also result from the massive phenomenon of transferring activities from local, regional and federal administrations into the datasphere. Take, for example, labour relations. The internationalisation of certain service-provision apps, such as Uber, has brought the applicability of local labour laws into question. While some cities have successfully banned Uber, in other places – despite mandatory minimum wages, working hours, and other rights – Uber drivers remain distinctly beyond the realm of national legislation.

There are many relevant illustrations of the law’s quest to cover human ingenuity: space law is constantly shifting, as are discussions on the regulation of the high seas and the highly debated case of the Arctic. Even the biosphere is being given legal status via the “Mother Earth” law in Bolivia.

The datasphere expands into the technosphere, which is the system formed by all human industries, from energy production to administration, from agriculture to transportation.

But the law must understand it as a new space, offering an appropriate framework to understand the new relationships emerging from all human activities.

* “La sphère des données et le droit” : nouvel espace, nouveaux rapports aux territoires” Journal du droit international (France), Issue 2016/4 – will appear also as The Datasphere and the Law: New Space, New Territories.

The ConversationCreative Commons

Jean-Sylvestre Bergé is a Law professor – Fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), Université Jean-Moulin Lyon 3 Stéphane Grumbach is a senior research scientist at ENS Lyon This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

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The Urgency of Now

Wynton Marsalis, with long time ensemble member, drummer Ali Jackson, in the background. Frank Stewart, publicity photo

Wynton Marsalis, with long time ensemble member, drummer Ali Jackson, in the background. Frank Stewart, publicity photo

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
September 12, 2016

Now and then, in the normal crazy routine of life, you get a chance to experience something special, something out of the ordinary. Something, well, real. This past Saturday night presented just that kind of opportunity.

I was in Boston for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Pulitzer Prizes, which honour the best writing in American journalism, photography, poetry, biography, history, drama and fiction. There is also a prize for music, and that was what Saturday evening was all about.

Wynton Marsalis, who won the Pulitzer in 1997 for his composition, Blood in the Fields (the first piece of jazz music to be so honoured), performed with his longtime ensemble. Listening to Marsalis play the trumpet is — for an atheist like me -– as close as you can come to believing there might be a god. Seldom have I heard a musician in live performance whose music leaves me speechless, hardly able to describe its effect on me.

Just as affecting, however, was the conversation Marsalis had with that audience throughout the performance.

The theme of the Pulitzer celebration is a reflection on “Power: Accountability and Abuse.” Marsalis talked about the creation of Blood in the Fields, the importance of jazz, why arts are so essential to the idea of America. He joked about writing a long-form piece of music at a time when our attention spans are shorter than ever. He grew more serious when talking about how music and the arts are the cornerstones of freedom and democracy. His easy-going talk was filled with witty sayings and aphorisms of other great jazz musicians or family members, but always used to drive home the point he wanted to make. He was educating us, but with us barely knowing that was what he was doing.

Several moments stuck with me. He talked about ‘the urgency of now, it’s all that’s important.” It’s all we have, he said. Now, this moment. Even when we talk about the past, it’s only to help us understand now. His other important point was authenticity. And then, putting these ideas into the musical context of the evening, he said this is what all music – and indeed all of humanity – strives to achieve: to be authentic in the now.

When musicians play in the now, there is a feeling that passes among them: they feel the music. They listen to the others, and that listening affects what they play. The authenticity of now, of being real in the moment, is what helps us find meaning. One of his band members illustrated this point by playing, but not listening to the other band members. The result was discordant and harsh.

If I can extrapolate, Marsalis made me realize that this is what is missing most from life around us at this particular moment in history – authenticity in the now.

Here in the United States, we face a presidential election in which both candidates are enormously disliked by the general public. Authenticity is almost completely absent for many Americans, who must, nevertheless, choose someone to lead the country for the next four years. Regardless of what you think of the candidates (and I’ve made my preference for Clinton know in many previous columns) it is hard not to sense a widespread feeling of resignation, a sense of “How did we come to this?” malaise.

Meanwhile, our social and journalism media struggle daily to be authentic, but more often than not fall into a black hole of tropes, conventional wisdom and clichés. More and more media seem deaf to what is really happening, some choosing to be willingly so. Authenticity is as far from their minds as the Earth is from the Sun. They don’t listen to us and, perhaps worse, we don’t listen to each other. We hear only the sound of our own voices.

Which is why, when you have the chance to experience a real sense of the urgency of now and the authenticity that flows from it, you embrace it like a man lost for days in the desert who lunges at water. It revives you. It gives you strength to move forward.

And that is what music and art do for you, Marsalis concluded. In a world that barely pays attention to authenticity, music and drama and writing and painting remain the best way for us to constantly rediscover the urgency of now.

I think that what Marsalis was trying to tell us: that the best way to hold power accountable, and to prevent abuse, is to be in the now, because that is when we are the most aware of life and the meaning of what is happening around us. That is when it is the most difficult for people to lie to us or to lead us astray.

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded only by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we need a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Visit our Subscribe page for details, or donate below. With enough supporters each paying a small amount, we will continue, and increase our original works like this.

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Weibo, the Free Market, and Censorship

Weibo, “China’s Twitter,” has begun offering shares on one of America’s free market stock exchanges. But unlike in the United States, where freedom of expression is protected, in China social media companies rely on censorship for their business model. Weibo’s regulatory disclosures reveal a company’s balancing act between censoring too much and too little.

An excerpt of the ProPublica report, in F&O’s Dispatches/Money section:

As of last week, investors can purchase shares of Weibo, sometimes called “China’s Twitter,” on NASDAQ. The company’s regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals details not previously known about Weibo’s censorship apparatus…

Weibo, like all Internet publishers and providers in China, is prohibited from letting their users display content that is obscene, fraudulent, defamatory or otherwise illegal under Chinese laws. The content prohibitions also forbid material that “impairs the national dignity of China,” “is reactionary,” “superstitious,” or “socially destabilizing.”

As required under SEC regulations, the company must list for investors potential risks that might affect its share price. Weibo is up front about the risk the Chinese government’s regulation of content poses to its ability so succeed. “Failure to [censor] may subject us to liabilities and penalties and may even result in the temporary blockage or complete shutdown of our online operations.”

Click here for the full story, Weibo IPO Reveals a Company Struggling With Censorship. (Free public access.)

 

 

 

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Scientists debunk Liberation Treatment for MS

New medical research struck a “death knell” for hopes a magic bullet could aid multiple sclerosis, a devastating disease with some 2.3 million sufferers globally, reports Facts and Opinions in a new Science story.

But curiously, Liberation Treatment is now a social-media phenomenon – and while this week’s study debunked the theory behind the controversial medical procedure, it leaves two conundrums unsolved: why some patients report benefits from it, and how science is affected by online social media that advocates for medical treatments and research.

The report, by Deborah Jones, is accessible in Dispatches with a $1 day pass for the entire site, or by subscription.

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