CRITICAL ZONE: Cultural journalism and social networking

Social networks can be platforms for journalism… but their usefulness depends on the knowledge of their logic…

A digital media outlet is one thing and social networks are another. That must be clear, because many people (Internet users and even operators) sometimes mix up the logic of these spaces. A digital press outlet (let’s use terms that I know are going to upset some theorists) is a newspaper, a magazine or an audiovisual news program on the internet. May it be understood: digital journalism has its distinctive features, it is not about reproducing a newspaper on the web, but social authority and responsibility are and should be the same as those of the most conventional media (although digital media are, in fact, conventional).

Social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, etc, etc…) are confluence spaces of dissimilar content and intentions. They are not a space conceived for journalism, although they can be (in fact, they are) perfectly functional platforms for the promotion of journalistic products. And even to do, propose journalism. The quality of that journalism, obviously, is not defined by the characteristics of their format. It has to do with the quality of the staff, clarity in the approaches, command of the logic of every space, and, once again on this topic, clear classification of the contents. Because you can find anything on the networks, without seemingly honoring a thematic and conceptual coherence…, what we propose should ideally be convincing.

Let’s go over our context: the cultural journalism we do in our digital media. There is a lot of cultural journalism in Cuba (we must recognize it, quality is unequal) but the presence on the social networking is not always the most adequate. And the fact that the said presence on the main networks be effective is not a minor issue, because internet users in Cuba access cultural information not mainly on the sites of those media, but on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube profiles… We won’t talk about connection difficulties, but precisely because of those difficulties it is necessary to make better use of the potential of those networks, which are very popular and offer possibilities that haven’t fully been explored yet.

There’s a lack of trained staff (networks must be managed by network professionals), it’s necessary to create collaborative networks among the different media, it’s necessary to boost contents better and stimulate interaction. Because the number of followers and “I like” is important, but not the principal thing: the main thing is that the message be conveyed, capitalized and enables a rich debate that coexists and hopefully sets the pace for other discussions that abound on the networks. Platform, showcase, display… but also spearhead, public service.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

Social Networks and the Price of Truth

While Trump was making his remarks against the possible censorship of conservative speech, the news of the hacking of Cubainformacion.tv website was disclosed on Facebook.

The president of the United States, who often says that US journalists are "the enemies of the people", because they only publish "fake news", has just declared "it is dangerous for social networks such as Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc to silence the diversity of voices on their services."

Trump's remarks, made on Monday during an interview with Reuters, come at a time when social networks are struggling to monitor foreign propaganda on their platforms.

Facebook has spent more than a year and a half trying to put an end to the "fake news demon" and recently suffered the scandal of Cambridge Analytica, a company that used, as it became known only a few months ago, its platform to obtain data of 87 million people that may have been used in the presidential elections of the United States in favor of Donald Trump’s election.

Less than three months before the November elections in the United States, Planet Facebook is determined to improve its impartial network image after, thus it is ensured, there will be revealed that Russians financed thousands of false political ads in the 2016 elections.

To do this Facebook wants to investigate people who place political advertisements in national elections and require them to confirm their names and addresses. The political ads must, according to the new rules, have a note clarifying who paid for them.

Just a few days ago, Apple Inc, YouTube and Facebook decided to remove some content published by Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the same man who claimed on the networks that the massacres caused by the Sandy Hook Elementary School and High School shootings, in Parkland, Florida, are an hoax in which the students are "used as political tools by the extreme left to boost their anti-conservative rhetoric and anti-weapon agenda."

According to the Spanish newspaper El País, Facebook said Jones's pages violated its terms of service. "We have removed it because it glorifies violence, which violates our policy on graphic violence, and uses a dehumanizing language to describe transgender, Muslim and immigrant people, thus violating our policy on hate speech and bullying."

Thus Reuters insinuates, Trump's assertions that "I'm not going to mention names, but when they take some people off Twitter or Facebook, and they're making that decision, that's really a dangerous thing, because tomorrow it can happen to you", might have to do with Jones's recent social media censorship. Trump appeared on a show produced by Infowars and hosted by Jones in December 2015, while campaigning for the White House.

Trump's fears over censorship are to some extent justified if you take into account that the president has a glass roof. A few hours after his statements, the New York governor called him "anti-American" because "he protects white supremacists, denies basic healthcare rights, discriminates people because of their sex orientation, closes doors for refugees, rips babies from their mother's arms because they want to come to this country and because he locks children in cages."

It is not the first time that users ask for the shutdown of Trump’s Twitter account because the president's tweets violate several of the rules of that social network according to which "behaviors that crosses the line into abuse are not tolerated, and that includes harassment, intimidation or the use of fear to silence other users’ voice or threatening or inciting violence."

But so far Twitter has made it clear that it does not intend to shutdown Donald Trump's account, even if the president violates its rules to combat harassment of others. The executive director of the firm Jack Dorsey told NBC in May that "it is very important to listen to the leaders directly" in order to ask for an accountability and to be able to openly address the problems, not behind closed doors. In addition, he also said that besides the presidential prominence, Trump’s account is attractive from a commercial point of view because his tweets constantly generate headlines that constitute free advertising for the company and could attract more users.

In the end, Trump continues to insult right and left in that way, as he did recently with his former adviser, Omarosa Manigault, whom he called "bitch” and nobody seems to care much about the double standard of Twitter censorship.

The same happens with Facebook and its concern over political interference in North American elections. Who has protested or questioned the role played by Cambridge Analytica in the elections of other countries?

According to data published recently by PhD in Social Communication and Sciences Rosa Miriam Elizalde: "Cambridge Analytica, the London branch of a US contractor devoted to active military operations online  for twenty-five years, has intervened in some 200 elections all over the world. "Psychological operations" were its modus operandi, its goal: to change public opinion and influence not through persuasion, but via "information control." The novelty is not the use of flyers, Radio Europa Libre or TV Martí, but rather Big Data and artificial intelligence to lock each citizen who leaves information traces on the network in an observable, parameterized and predictable bubble."

Task Force through both Facebook and Twitter, fake news and hate and bullying against Cuba dominate the scene. The same happens against countries such as Nicaragua and Venezuela. It is worth wondering. Will Facebook and other social networks take the same precautions before the political manipulation of other countries' elections or their concern over "foreign propaganda" is only exclusivity for the U.S.?

Just today, while Trump was making his remarks against the possible censorship of conservative speech, the news of the hacking of Cubainformacion.tv website, an alternative outlet online that defends the Cuban Revolution, was disclosed on Facebook. Of course no "news" agency has said anything about it and likely they never will. In this case, how much will it be necessary to pay for the news to be promoted to the largest number of people?

Does anyone know how much can truth cost in social networks?

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

 
  • Published in Specials

Twitter suspends 70mn 'fake' accounts in 2 months amid pressure from Congress & media

Some 70 million accounts, a number roughly equal to 20 percent of Twitter's monthly active users, have been yanked off of the platform in May and June, as the company opts for user 'safety' over free speech, it's been reported.

The social media company has exacerbated its crusade against the 'fake accounts' accused of spreading divisive political content in tons of messages, the Washington Post has reported on Friday.

Twitter has confirmed to the newspaper it suspended a staggering 70 million accounts within just two months, in May and June, and the purge has continued at the same pace in July.

While some have sounded the alarm that such a sweeping effort can lead to genuine accounts being wiped out from the platform along with fake ones, Twitter's Vice President for Trust and Safety Del Harvey has brushed off the concerns, telling WaPo that the campaign has not made "a ton of impact" on the overall number of the active Tweeters.

 
© SyrianGirlpartisan

 

Despite Twitter's claims that the effort is targeted, there have been reports of innocent victims of the crusade. In May, the Verge reported that many Bulgarian users, who, just like Russians, are writing in Cyrillic, complained that they have their accounts suspended for some unknown reason. The likely explanation was Twitter's 'bot' criteria, that states that having a name in Cyrillic is a fact damning enough.

The driving force behind the crackdown, Harvey has revealed,  is that the company has changed its perception of free speech, limiting the freedom of expression to make Twitter a safe space for all.

"One of the biggest shifts is in how we think about balancing free expression versus the potential for free expression to chill someone else's speech. Free expression doesn't really mean much if people don't feel safe," she said.

Another push came from the outside, sources within the company told the publication, referring to the immense pressure from US lawmakers, who demanded Twitter and Facebook act on reports of Russia-linked accounts stirring up the American public, as well as mainstream media frenzy.

In order to pluck out the so-called "Russian trolls" from hundreds of millions of Twitter profiles, the company has reportedly launched "Operation Megaphone." The project, the existence of which Harvey refused to acknowledge, saw Twitter buying suspicious accounts, deemed fake, and then sifting through their contacts to determine how the supposed fake accounts are linked with each other.

Another effort saw Twitter setting up an internal task force responsible for scrutinizing accounts believed to be operated by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a supposedly state-funded propaganda firm, dubbed the "Russian troll factory." In February, the US indicted 13 Russian nationals it said were employees of the IRA for its attempt "to conduct 'information warfare'" against the US by supporting Trump campaign and "disparaging" Hillary Clinton.

 
© Dado Ruvic

In addition to that, Twitter also covertly limits the outreach of the tweets it believes to be generated by fake accounts, without notifying the users, by not showing them in the search results. The practice, known as "shadow banning," has been criticised as a "stealth method of censorship" aimed at silencing unfavorable political opinions.

Twitter and Facebook have been under growing pressure from Congress to act against the so-called Russian-linked accounts that some lawmakers believe meddled in the US presidential elections. In one of its latest policy updates in May, Twitter rolled out new restrictive advertising policies in the US, barring users who are not actually within the country's territory from running political advertisements on the platform.

Twitter has also been warning users of their interaction with "Russian bots" as part of its "transparency" policy. Over 1.4 million people have been notified as of February.

  • Published in World
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