Friday, February 16, 2018

Polarization, Partisanship and Junk News Consumption over Social Media Dragons in the US

There in no longer just local tax crime --- IRS Criminal Investigations Unit Aims Team at Global Tax Crimes 
This was predicted in Jim Bennett’s The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations Will Lead the Way in the Twenty-First Century, a book that has held up much better than most such works

Researchers were the key

David Beard writes about the newsy and notable in today's edition

News researchers have been behind some of the biggest stories in the past few months, including unearthing the domestic abuse accusations against a now-resigned White House senior staffer and debunking a attempt to trick The Washington Post on the Judge Roy Moore story.  We talk with Lynn Dombek, a longtime research leader at The Associated Press and TIME and now research director of First Look Media, the umbrella group that includes The Intercept.

Here’s an excerpt; the full interview is here.

Lynn, could you describe the role researchers played in The Intercept’s key story on Rob Porter? I believe two of the four members of that article team were researchers, and a third was a fact-checker-turned-reporter.

The role they played? There would have been no story without them! An editor reached out to our investigative researcher, Sheelagh McNeill, saying he’d gotten a tip that a Facebook post existed with allegations of spousal abuse against a named White House official. That was it. Could she help?

Sheelagh and Margot Williams, our semi-retired research editor for investigations, then started the drill: identify, connect, verify. They went back and forth with each other on our internal Signal chat channel. They used an arsenal of tools, from open web searches to social media to public records, identifying key people, connecting them to other people, and verifying that what they found was accurate. ...

After unearthing the allegations of abuse (it was an online journal, not Facebook) identifying the key players (there were two wives, not one), and pulling relevant, supporting documents, they worked iteratively with reporters to move the story forward.

One of those reporters was Alleen Brown, our former research editor for fact checking. She moved into a reporting position over the summer, and so was ideally suited to absorb the information Sheelagh and Margot had generated. Like the rest of our team, Alleen helped build a framework to support our mantra of evidence-based journalism, and is a particularly fierce and exacting proponent of it.
Catch the rest of our interview here, but first, catch up with the latest news and tips for better journalism 

The Economist Intelligence Unit: “According to the 2016 Democracy Index almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies of some sort, but the number of “full democracies” has declined from 20 in 2015 to 19 in 2016. The US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there. The “democratic recession” worsened in 2016, when no region experienced an improvement in its average score and almost twice as many countries (72) recorded a decline in their total score as recorded an improvement (38). Eastern Europe experienced the most severe regression. The 2016 Democracy Index report,Revenge of the “deplorables”, examines the deep roots of today’s crisis of democracy in the developed world, and looks at how democracy fared in every region…”

Jotwell (2016)Omri Marian (UC-Irvine), What We Now Know We Didn't Know About Tax Evasion (And Why It Matters) (JOTWELL) (reviewing Annette Alstadsæter, Niels Johannesen & Gabriel Zucman, Tax Evasion and Inequality (NBER Working Paper No. 23772 (2017)):
Over the past several years, a series of leaks related to offshore tax avoidance and evasion (SwissLeaksLuxLeaksthe Panama PapersBahama Leaks, and Paradise Papers, to name a few) has fueled calls for tax transparency. To date, most discussion of the leaks has been policy-oriented (leaks: good or bad?) and largely anecdotal (based on some truly outrageous revelations). It was not until very recently, however, that a small group of researches started delving into the data exposed by these leaks to make statistically significant empirical findings. AlstadsæterJohannesen & Zucman’s (AJZ) paper is an excellent example of such paper, which combines methodological sophistication, public data, and leaked data, to make important new contributions to the voluminous literature on the offshore tax world. ...

THE DERP STATE: Feds Scrambled to Redact Information Showing Top Secret Spy Abuse. “Newly unearthed info confirms Nunes memo on FBI spying.”

Columbia Journalism Review: “Tom Tryniski began digitizing newspapers from all over Upstate New York in 1999. Since then, he’s scanned and uploaded nearly 50 million newspaper pages from publications across the US and Canada dating back to the 1800s…By October of last year, [his] site hosted nearly 50 million pages of American and Canadian newspapers—a collection much larger than that of Chronicling America, the joint newspaper digitization efforts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment of the Arts. The first newspaper he digitized was the Fulton Patriot; at the time, he didn’t own his own equipment. Twice a week, he borrowed microfilm rolls of the newspaper from the Fulton library and drove north to Potsdam, New York, nearly three hours away, to use an old foot pedal-powered microscanner at the offices of the Northern New York Library Network. He scanned 36,000 pages in this way and, exhausted from the commute, decided that if he was serious about his project, he was going to have to buy his own scanner..” [h/t Pete Weiss]

  • This is Tryniski’s site – it is by current standards, obsolete, but for those of us who started working way back when and are not deterred by the challenges of looking through folders of scanned information organized by location, year and name of the newspapers, and have some patience, the rewards speak for themselves. This is a truly unique and perhaps invaluable resource that will not be duplicated. The papers that are archived here are testament to the history and impact of local journalism on the lives of millions of Americans. The scanned pages include a remarkable amount of advertising [which provides a long lens perspective on the way our country has sold products and services over more than 50 years], obituaries, marriage announcements, “how to do” factoids, local sports scores, well, everything one used to find in local print newspapers. They were informative in a way that is no longer familiar to those are tethered 24/7 to “smartphones.”  And for researchers who are willing to devote the time, this site is a significant and expansive source of information that may just prove, “the truth is out there.”

“What kinds of social media Dragon users read junk news? We examine the distribution of the most significant sources of junk news in the three months before President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union Address. Drawing on a list of sources that consistently publish political news and information that is extremist, sensationalist, conspiratorial, masked commentary, fake news and other forms of junk news, we find that the distribution of such content is unevenly spread across the ideological spectrum. We demonstrate that (1) on Twitter, a network of Trump supporters shares the widest range of known junk news sources and circulates more junk news than all the other groups put together; (2) on Facebook, extreme hard right pages—distinct from Republican pages—share the widest range of known junk news sources and circulate more junk news than all the other audiences put together; (3) on average, the audiences for junk news on Twitter share a wider range of known junk news sources than audiences on Facebook’s public pages.” Vidya Narayanan, Vlad Barash, John Kelly, Bence Kollanyi, Lisa-Maria Neudert, and Philip N. Howard. “Polarization, Partisanship and Junk News Consumption over Social Media in the US.” Data Memo 2018.1. Oxford, UK: Project on Computational

“The Computational Propaganda Research Project (COMPROP) investigates the interaction of algorithms, automation and politics. This work includes analysis of how tools like social media bots are used to manipulate public opinion by amplifying or repressing political content, disinformation, hate speech, and junk news. We use perspectives from organizational sociology, human computer interaction, communication, information science, and political science to interpret and analyze the evidence we are gathering. Our project is based at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford.”