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Media & Publishing

Any aeroplane crash is newsworthy. Media organisations, bloggers and opportunists race to publish anything, just so long as it gets picked up by major search engines within minutes. Even venerable reporting organisations fall into the trap of just getting something, anything onto their website so they don't seem to be behind. Grabbing eyeballs is the primary objective. But as the BBC found out yesterday, sometimes that rush to publish leads to questionable content....

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This is genuinely hilarious. Astro TV is supposed to be a communications company. Here's an epic fail or twenty.

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In the dying days of the parliament dominated by Malaysia's now disgraced prime minister Najib Razak and those close to him the government passed its Anti-Fake News Act 2018. Its stated aims were sensible but in a country where the government had regularly arrested and held without trial those who expressed opinions contrary to those of or critical of the government and the ruling United Malay National Organisation (UMNO), its true purpose was widely regarded as a tool to further suppress legitimate dissent. Its repeal was an election promise that has been kept.

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Ironically, the new-found press freedoms (which have not been backed by changes in legislation) have demonstrated a problem. The media, which has long had oppressive control foisted on it has learned self-censorship drawn far inside boundaries in countries with greater press freedom. Now the problem is this: domestically trained journos don't know where boundaries should be. So when an application was granted for restrictions on reporting matters subject to charges against former PM Najib Razak, there's mistaken outrage.

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In general, newspapers have taken the view that if people sit in the pub, read headlines and/or articles and then discuss them that the content of that discussion is entirely outside the responsibility of the newspaper. That has been tempered with laws, rules and regulations that cover inflammatory content of one kind or another but so long as the original article stays within the lines of the permissible (no matter how close it comes), the view has held pretty much intact for generations. But if the article is on the internet and the discussion is not within a handful of people muttering into their beer but is available to the entire connected world, and the means of making that discussion available is owned and operated and controlled by the newspaper, is that a material difference? An English court decision is opening the door for it to be so and the ultimate consequence could be full responsibility for all on-line publishers including social media.

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Not long ago, it's hours not even a day, a man drove, at high-speed a rented van along pavements and up streets in the face of incoming traffic in Toronto, Canada.The man has been arrested and is in custody. He has been named as Alek Minassian, aged 26. Whatever Minassian's motive, one thing is clear: publicity was inevitable because the choice of weapon, the fact that it's in Canada and the fact that it took place only a few kilometres from a G7 ministers meeting convened to discuss developments in terrorism and counter-terrorism. Media has provided blanket coverage around the world. It's time to think about that.

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For much of the past two weeks, BBC News has heavily featured criticism of British Labour Party and Prime Ministerial hopeful Jeremy Corbyn. The criticism has been orchestrated by some British Jews who claim that he, and some of his party, are, in their words, "anti-Semitic." The primary concern is not the treatment of Jews in the UK, but Corbyn's long and loud protests against Israel's behaviour in Palestine. Right-wing, one might argue radical, Jews in the UK are incensed. The BBC willingly provides a megaphone for them. So why has the BBC been almost silent on the subject in the past three days?

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Mark Twain has popular credit for coming up with“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes” but he didn't think it up: that was Virgil in The Ænid translated by H Rushton Fairclough, he wrote "Forthwith Rumour runs through Libya's great cities, rumour of all evils the most swift, Speed lends her strength and she wins vigour as she goes, small at first, soon she mounts up to heaven and walks the ground with head hidden in the clouds." That, research shows, is exactly what happens on Twitter...

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The entire premise of Web 2.0 was that access to content (and content services) would be free for users and that the value of web-based businesses depended on the nebulous concept of "eyeballs" and how "sticky" they could be made to be. The theory was that advertisers would flock to the busiest websites and that money could be made for click-through adverts (or adverts paid-for according to the number of times it was displayed). It was always a bad model, relying as it did on fickle "traffic" And the situation has become ever worse as those eyeballs have become harder to attract and even harder to both retain and make return.

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Today, FoxNews carries an article about badly behaved tourists being arrested during a pub crawl in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and a raucous pool party, some being accused of having pornographic images on their phones taken while participants, clothed, were "demonstrating" a variety of sex acts and positions in a villa rented for the night. But that's not the story that matters: what's important are the comments that appear, including comments that carry political messages that have no direct relation to the story, demonstrating that low-level trolling is at least as important as the bots attacking major social media websites.

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Rappler is one of the most successful news websites in The Philippines and it has reported stories critical of the government and of President Rodrigo Duterte in particular. Even so, it was a surprise when it was informed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that its company registration had been revoked in what Rappler calls a "kill order."

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Facebook is a distribution channel for child pornography but it's young Danes who are being prosecuted after Facebook identified the material, told US authorities who reported the distribution to the police in Denmark.

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Yesterday, Australian wordsmiths Macquarie Dictionary announced that "Milkshake Duck" was its word of the year. Immediately, out of Canada, a story appeared that demonstrates exactly what it means.

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Incredibly, when you look up "The Anti Money Laundering Network," on LinkedIn, there is a list of employees - which is odd, because of those listed, only one, our Group Head, has ever worked for any of the companies in the Group. We are pretty sure that the individuals concerned have not claimed to have done so which leaves only one culprit.... LinkedIn itself.

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Two days ago, the New York Post published here an article reporting that Google had demanded the removal of an article critical of its policies and then, seemingly, removed all search entries relating to it. Yesterday, we received a threat from Google to remove advertising from PleaseBeInformed.com because, they allege, an article "violates" their terms of service. But it's a dictionary listicle showing five differences between English and American terms.

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