Archive | Freedom of the Press

You cannot and should not legislate against »fake news«

Bad journalism and propaganda have plagued publishing and governments for thousands of years. Donald Trump’s violently-adversarial relationship with facts and Vladimir Putin’s warehouses full of paid internet trolls have simply taken the conversation to an entirely new level in the internet age. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of the folks who believe they can somehow legislate this problem away may be doing more harm than good.

Techdirt: ‘Fake News’ Now Means Whatever People Want It To Mean, And Legislating It Away Is A Slippery Slope Toward Censorship »


Edward Snowden building safe communication tools for reporters

Since early last year, Snowden has quietly served as president of a small San Francisco–based nonprofit called the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Its mission: to equip the media to do its job at a time when state-­sponsored hackers and government surveillance threaten investigative reporting in ways Woodward and Bernstein never imagined. “Newsrooms don’t have the bud­get, the sophistication, or the skills to defend them­selves in the current environment,” says Snowden, who spoke to WIRED via encrypted video-chat from his home in Moscow. “We’re trying to provide a few niche tools to make the game a little more fair.”

Wired » Edward Snowden’s New Job: Protecting Reporters From Spies »


Germany going after whistleblowers

EDRi observer Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte’s (GFF) most recent Constitutional Court case in Germany concerns an anti-whistleblowing provision threatening the freedom of the press. Part-time journalists and bloggers, as well as the legal or IT experts on which journalists rely, now risk a prison sentence of up to three years for handling “leaked” data. (…)

Prohibiting the trade in stolen data may make sense for stolen credit card information or login credentials. The new law, however, is so broadly worded that it also encompasses information “leaked” by whistleblowers, which is an obvious threat to the freedom of the press that systematically relies on such information. For example, under the new law, the documents leaked by Edward Snowden arguably can no longer be legally used on German soil.

EDRi » Germany: Fighting the anti-whistleblower provision »


Apps, the next frontier of censorship

Blocking a website is like trying to stop lots of trucks from delivering a banned book; it requires an infrastructure of technical tools (things like China’s “Great Firewall”), and enterprising users can often find a way around it. Banning an app from an app store, by contrast, is like shutting down the printing press before the book is ever published. If the app isn’t in a country’s app store, it effectively doesn’t exist. The censorship is nearly total and inescapable.

NYT » Clearing Out the App Stores: Government Censorship Made Easier »


An absurd battle over free speech

As you may have heard, last week we were sued for $15 million by Shiva Ayyadurai, who claims to have invented email. We have written, at great length, about his claims and our opinion — backed up by detailed and thorough evidence — that email existed long before Ayyadurai created any software. We believe the legal claims in the lawsuit are meritless, and we intend to fight them and to win.

There is a larger point here. Defamation claims like this can force independent media companies to capitulate and shut down due to mounting legal costs. Ayyadurai’s attorney, Charles Harder, has already shown that this model can lead to exactly that result. His efforts helped put a much larger and much more well-resourced company than Techdirt completely out of business.

So, in our view, this is not a fight about who invented email. This is a fight about whether or not our legal system will silence independent publications for publishing opinions that public figures do not like.

And here’s the thing: this fight could very well be the end of Techdirt, even if we are completely on the right side of the law.

Techdirt: Techdirt’s First Amendment Fight For Its Life »


“Apple Removes New York Times Apps From Its Store in China”

Apple, complying with what it said was a request from Chinese authorities, removed news apps created by The New York Times from its app store in China late last month.

The move limits access to one of the few remaining channels for readers in mainland China to read The Times without resorting to special software. The government began blocking The Times’s websites in 2012, after a series of articles on the wealth amassed by the family of Wen Jiabao, who was then prime minister, but it had struggled in recent months to prevent readers from using the Chinese-language app.

NYT: Apple Removes New York Times Apps From Its Store in China »


Italian call for state censorship

Pitruzzella, head of the Italian competition body since 2011, said “EU countries should set up independent bodies — co-ordinated by Brussels and modeled on the system of antitrust agencies — which could quickly label fake news, remove it from circulation and impose fines if necessary.”

Zerohedge: Italy Urges Europe To Begin Censoring Free Speech On The Internet »


Fake news and the war over information

Everybody seems to be obsessed with the phenomenon of »fake news«.

But this is nothing new. If you have first-hand information, you will find that mainstream media are often wrong.

When I used to work in the European Parliament for the Swedish Pirate Party, we established the principle »right enough«. If a piece of news only had minor errors, we let go and focused on something more important. To try to correct everything journalists get wrong will be much too time-consuming.

A standard phone call from a (non-Brussels based) journalist normally started out with everything between five and 30 minutes of EU for dummies – where we had to explain who does what and how things actually work in this multinational bureaucracy. And in the end, it would to some extent end up incorrect anyway. You can only do so much.

Journalists are not rocket scientists, their insights and knowledge are normally limited, and they have a tight time frame to collect and analyze the facts. They will always get some things wrong.

And, of course, journalists and media organizations are biased – often without being aware of this fact themselves.

However, the context at the moment is not about mainstream media. It’s about the competition.

The political and media elite seems to have a strong aversion towards alternative media. Often new players don’t follow the same set of unwritten rules as journalists who are a part of the establishment. And this might be a good thing, as the latter often are more interested in cultivating their relations with people in power than reporting the actual news.

Of course, alternative media is sometimes filled with fake news, satire, propaganda, opinions, biased reporting… and often with real, important news and a qualified analysis that doesn’t make it into traditional media.

During the years 2009-14 in the European Parliament, we often used our blogs and social media networks to get the news out: Important news and first-hand information, that was not in any way covered in other media.

This was often met with irritation from the political elite and the bureaucracy – and with a scornful attitude from Big Media. There are always people who, because of various reasons, find frank reports about real matters disturbing.

Somehow, I fear that an elite of politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and media organizations are taking advantage of the fact that there is a certain degree of fake news out there – to smear all new, alternative media.

They simply don’t want others to interfere.

Now we will see Facebook in cooperation with mainstream media start labeling links as »disputed«. Germany might go all Putin and fine those who publish »incorrect« information on the Internet. It is all quite Orwellian. And it opens up for abuse, censorship, and cover-ups.

The media – new or old – rarely gets everything right. Sometimes it gets most things wrong. Usually, it has some sort of agenda. Therefore, its’ analyses should always be questioned. To get a somewhat complete picture – we need to turn to more sources, many different media organizations, and an abundance of disparate voices – not fewer.

The entire discussion over »fake news« might just be tactics in the endless war of power over information, over the agenda. Obviously, the establishment is not amused with the new competition.



The EU goes full Orwell

Earlier this week we learned that the EU has initiated a cooperation with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Microsoft to swiftly remove internet content that we are not supposed to see. Link»

And now the EU Commission would like to regulate what can be shown on tv, on-demand-services such as Netflix and possibly even Youtube.

The new suggested rule is that at least 20 percent of all on-demand content and 50 percent of all television content must be produced in Europe.

This is suggested in the revision of the EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD). Link»

In other words, in one weeks time, the EU has launched a new level of Internet censorship – and suggested new guidelines for what kind of audiovisual content the people ought to consume.

This is bad, in so many ways.

First of all, who are politicians and eurocrats to tell us what audiovisual content we are supposed to watch?

Second, it is totally absurd that the country of origin of a tv-production should decide if it is to be shown or not, rather than its subject, quality, and public demand.

Third, this is ill-conceived cultural protectionism.

Fourth, when the ruling political class tries to control what audiovisual content we can or cannot, should or should not see – society is swiftly moving in a totalitarian direction.

These suggested EU rules must be stopped.