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Gaza War of Hashtags, #IDF vs #Hamas November 18, 2012

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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 by Joanne KY Teoh
Is social media the new weapon of mass destruction? It sure looks that way as Israel and Hamas take their battle to the micro-blogging world in the most explicit example yet of how Twitterblogs, Facebook, FlickrPinterest and YouTube can be used as weapons of war. And we’re not talking about flame wars.

Waging its war on the streets and online, the Israeli Defense Force is bombing “terror targets” in Gaza and Webcasting details of its attack with hashtags, online taunts and multimedia claims of destruction. Here is that first tweet announcing the operation:

Bragging next about killing the head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed Al-Jabari via its live-blog, Twitter  and Youtube,  the IDF then literally warned the enemy to run and hide via a tweet that has been retweeted 2000 times: “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

Then it gets surreal. In their usual florid prose, Al Qassam Brigades the military wing of Hamas tweeted about martyrdom and  fires of hell.: “Assassination of the great leader Ahmed al Jabari is the beginning of liberation war and ominous harbinger on sons of Zion”:

The IDF also created an official Tumblr, uploading graphics that highlight attacks on Israeli citizens by militant Palestinians. To be sure, war always has its propaganda machine. But this coordinated cacophony in the midst of battle opens a new front.

Never before has spin on military action been touted like this on social media, in real time. Even the hashtags created by both groups to document the violence are spun to milk public sympathy – the IDF tweeting with #PillarOfDefense and Hamas using #GazaUnderAttack.

War is not a game, but gaming features let visitors to the IDF war blog to earn “points” and win badges for sharing as the blog tracks the progress of the conflict. An ID Youtube clip  introduces game dynamics, remixing war footage with a music score that could have come from a video game. Other videos sport motion graphics, complete with gaming sound effects:

It’s not clear who’s running the Al Qassam Brigades twitter feed, but in Israel, the IDF social media operation is run by a 26-year-old immigrant from Belgium named Sacha Dratwa. Social networking sites have been used to energize political campaigns, raise awareness and galvanize the popular revolutions of the Arab Spring. This may be the first war declared via Twitter. It remains to be seen whether Twitter intervenes.

The use of Twitter to announce and comment on military operations is a significant departure for the social networking platform. It potentially brings the feuding groups into conflict with Twitter’s own rules, which state: “Violence and Threats: You may not publish or post direct, specific threats of violence against others.” That did not stop the IDF.

The IDF Twitter account invites followers to “read up” on Jabari to understand why the Israeli military killed him and is sending out links to video and articles about Hamas’s past attacks on Israel. It also uploaded the military intelligence it used for targeting to its blog, including photos of sites targeted and video allegedly showing Hamas hiding rockets at one of the sites.

There are merits to this level of transparency. The video (below) of the killing of Jabari shows Israeli forces took care to minimize casualties—and also  made it next to impossible for Hamas to deny his death:

Apparently, the IDF want to save Wikileaks the trouble of digging the footage up and ensure that the news will come straight from the government’s mouth, without the interference of the fourth estate. Time will tell if other nations will adopt similar approaches and boast of assasinations via Twitter, but Gaza is a conflict ideal for social media:

On both sides there’s significant knowledge of English, so this is something that can really be played out in front of the world’s media and on the world stage. … This is an issue that is very visible, an issue where there are significant supporters for both sides all over the world, and it can be explained to a world audience in a language they’ll understand so it’s probably quite likely to be taken up by lots of people via social media.

Axel Bruns, Queensland University of Technology

Israel also finds itself  in a singular position, geopolitically. Its most consistent ally in the region, the Mubarak regime in Cairo, was overthrown last year and replaced by an Islamist government. Relations with Jerusalem’s most important partner, the United States, were tested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s all-but-open support of Barack Obama’s rival Mitt Romney in the recent American presidential elections. The need to shape international opinion and rally supporters internationally is acute.

Noah Shachtman at Wired

Unlike the usual war propaganda tactics of leaflets, state-sponsored radio, press conferences and spokesmen, social media campaigns embed themselves into the media that audiences are already consuming. Users are implicitly participating in the cross-fire by retweeting, liking and sharing the social media content.

Gaza is a modern conflict with significant supporters on both sides who are digital natives and who understand English. It is a war ripe for playing out on the global virtual stage with social media and the new ubiquitous online vernacular – video. Audiences are ready.

One week into this war of words, which side is winning the clash of tweets? As crass as it is to measure the unfolding violence in terms of hashtags, the IDF’s stream of ultra-shareable posts, with more multimedia and calls for retweets than a 2.0 best-practice class appears to be getting heard wider. But Gaza’s more muted plaintive cause appears to sound louder.

Related reads

#IDF vs# Hamas: the new Gaza war in 140 characters or less
Military strikes go viral: Israel is live-tweeting its own offensive into Gaza
Operation Pillar of Defense: The First Social Media War
The Kids Behind IDF’s Media

Advocacy, Viral Videos and Web Memes November 5, 2012

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, Online Video, Social Media, Web Video, YouTube.
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by Joanne KY Teoh (first published in ThinkBrigade)
Memes aren’t just about extracting a laugh anymore – they make political points too and sway opinion. Once relegated to obscure online communities and subcultures, memes have penetrated the public psyche to become part of Web pop culture.

The US presidential election is fertile ground for spawning Web memes. The TV debates give voters not just a glimpse of the candidates, but fodder to turn political discourse into mimetic entertainment. After two TV debates, “Big Bird” along with “horses and bayonets” have stormed the internet.

“Binders Full of Women” has become an instant internet meme after Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s telling remark during a debate with President Barack Obama to demonstrate his past attempts to fight for women’s equality.

Memes predate the internet. They take the form of ideas, images, styles, catchphrases and videos that people find compelling enough to copy and imitate within a culture. The term meme is derived from genetics, describing the evolution of ideas and cultural phenomena by natural selection.

One can even “songify” TV sound bites for the Web. The Gregory Brothers have turned the third presidential TV encounter into a musical meme, with Romney and Obama engaging in a mellifluous battle for votes. The video is part of The New York Times Op-Doc series.

Could a neo-activism driven by viral videos and Web memes save the environment? Would the “songification” and “meme-ification” of abstract policy debates on climate change, melting icecaps and species extinction generate virtual memes, inspire local action, focus global attention and trigger social change?

Environmental memes are in a class of their own. They inform our view of nature – think Gaia, Pachamama and Mother Earth. Today, environmentalists have added viral videos and social media to their arsenal of advocacy and protest tools.

The slick video (below) by Greenpeace that purportedly showed a Royal Dutch Shell event going horribly wrong sparked a media firestorm in June this year:

Another video on The Great Pacific Garbage Patch went viral long before ending plastic pollution in the world’s oceans became one of the top 10 priorities of the Rio+20 conference.

The simple narrative of this video (below) struck a chord, spurring eco-blogs and green groups to tap information from the clip to start campaigns to “Take the Plastic Water Bottle Challenge” and ban plastic bags:

The startling spread of the Kony meme raises interesting questions for the future of green neo-activism online. Kony 2012, the viral campaign against Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, is an infectious idea that transfixed a generation who use Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.

The 30-minute video made by the US-based campaigning group Invisible Children has been lambasted by media scholars for ideological bias and its simplistic portrayal of a complex issue. But this is the way to reach and rouse a generation of multi-screening multi-taskers, native of the visual language of LOL cats.

Complex and multi-faceted, green issues were once given short shrift in mainstream media. But mainstreaming these issues is not enough. We need more green memes that catch fire online and the imagination of youth on the ground.

So-called MemeGenerators are enabling the meme-fication of issues. Properly exploited, memes and viral videos can be passed along via Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter to ignite social change.

If the intentions are good, the simplification of complexity is a powerful narrative tactic to spur web natives to start viral conversations using 140 characters or less. The seminal paper by Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter on the power of “weak ties” in networks posits that links among people who are not closely bonded are critical for spreading ideas and helping groups coalesce for action.

It is premature to assert that the era of network power has arrived. But with one in three people in the world now using the internet, online video could in time reach these folks and prove a game changer. And when mashups of funny online content inspire a flood of parodies, viral videos and internet memes might just save Mother Nature.

Designing Games for Civic Action December 10, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, MIT5, Social Media, Trends.
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Some food for thought for designers, theorists, and activists on game design as insights, tools, and practices from gaming are increasingly integrated across different areas of life, leading to talk of the ‘gamification’ of everything – including civic media.

What are the possibilities of and challenges for civic games? Independent game designers, networks like Games for Change, and perhaps even major industry players are moving towards linking gameplay with realworld civic actions.

What is the state of play, and what is coming just over the horizon? In theorizing and developing civic games, what can we learn from games with civic content – as texts, processes, and points of community engagement? How can we understand game design itself as civic engagement, as communities become not only game players but increasingly also design, mod, develop, and critique games?

The age of e-mail is ending. A recent PEW study found that email is now the least used form of digital communication for young people, with 11% of teens engaging in daily email use. On the other hand, as of 2009, over half of teens were communicating daily via SMS, up almost 50% from 2006. For civic organizations, SMS open rates of texts are near 100%, whereas email open rates often hover between 5 – 15%.

Moving forward, organizations wishing to communicate effectively, especially with young people, must develop mobile strategies. What are the opportunities and limitations of SMS as a communication tool, particularly for driving user behavior?

This lunch talk at MIT will discuss learnings from some initial experiments designed to maximize engagement via SMS, as well as provide their insights into trends to watch for the coming years.

Egypt: Web Videos Spur Facebook Revolt February 12, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video, YouTube.
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Amid euphoric scenes on the streets of Egypt, it is clear that the Web is a potent catalyst of political change. As befits a revolution galvanized by social networking, the feeling on the streets is one of individual and collective empowerment as citizen videos show the historic moment, when Mubarak’s resignation as President of Egypt was announced at the hour of evening prayer.

This video shared by YouTube’s Citizen Tube through Twitter shows people at prayer in Tahrir Square holding off the celebration until it is finished before breaking into cheers.

Even though Mubarak has stepped down, the story of Egypt is not over, and neither is the work of cyber-activists. With the military now running the country, it is uncertain what level of digital freedom or online surveillance lies ahead.

Asmaa Mahfouz, a 26-year old Egyptian woman who began online political activism in 2008, is now credited for launching the video call that sparked the revolution. Mahfouz recorded the video below on January 18th, uploaded it to YouTube, and shared it on her Facebook. Within days, the video went viral:

Young people forwarded it on mobile phones – a communications tool that some 65 million Egyptians use. Soon after, the government blocked all mobile phone networks. This was not the first time a young activist used the Internet to mobilize, but it departed from the convenient anonymity of online activism.

Mahfouz is one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group of young, Internet-savvy activists. Time will judge whether it is accurate to credit this one video and young woman with catalyzing the Egypt revolt. At the very least, her video advocacy captures the zeigeist of an important moment in history:

If Asmaa Mahfouz’s Web video captures the spirit of the political times, Egypt’s anti-Mubarak street movement found a hero to rally around in Wael Ghonim. The 30-year old Google marketing executive created an anonymous Facebook page, “We Are All Khaled Said” named in honor of a blogger beaten to death by police last summer.

The page, launched over six months ago, became a rallying point for demonstrations. What started as a campaign against police brutality grew into an online hub for young Egyptians to share their frustrations over the abuses of the Mubarak regime. Ghonim was detained for 10 days after starting the Facebook page.

The online organizing through Facebook, e-mail list serves and Google Docs that sprung out of it catalyzed cyber activists to collaborate on a kind of movement wiki that is being continually re-edited and improved upon by an expanding Web of contributors.

This is the revolution of the youth of the internet, which became the revolution of the youth of Egypt, then the revolution of Egypt itself.

Wael Ghonim

The Facebook page that Ghonim ran sounded the call for the initial protest on Jan. 25. As the page’s following approached 400,000 people, and word of the event spread, it hosted a constant stream of news, photos, and videos, downloadable fliers, and emotional entreaties for all Egyptians to join the push.

The active early participants in the “We Are All Khaled Said” community were young activists and dissident bloggers, many of whom knew one another and had been organizing against Mubarak’s policies for years. Emboldened by their cyber-purpose, activists took their collective confidence to the streets, giving each other the sense that they just might bend history on the ground.

Web Users Counter Egypt Net Blackout January 30, 2011

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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In an action unprecedented in Web history, the Egyptian government on 27 Jan ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet after blocking access to Facebook and Twitter earlier in the week. Some countries routinely block access to specific Websites, but this is the first time a country has voluntarily cut its own Web connection.

Internet intelligence authority Renesys confirmed the blackout soon after the outages occurred. The Egyptian authorities’ efforts to limit communications within the country has triggered a wave of activism from a group of free speech activists on the Web called Telecomix.

Organizing using chat rooms, wikis, and collaborative writing tools, this largely anonymous group is working to inform Egyptians about their communications options while receiving incoming messages from them. Egypt has been identified as a “top priority” for Telecomix on one of its network sites, We Re-Build. It has a wiki set up as a one-stop shop with the latest chat rooms and resources.

Telecomix has worked on free speech efforts in Tunisia, Iran, China and other countries which have tried to censor or block parts of the Web. Chat administrator Christopher Kullenberg from Sweden, likens Telecomix to “an ever growing bunch of friends that do things together.”

Graph visualizing sudden halt of Web traffic in Egypt, based on data from 80 global carriers:

Timeline of recent events for Telecomix:

When Web and mobile services were cut off in Egypt on 27 Jan, though landlines were operational, members immediately got to work to send information to Egyptian fax numbers. Searching for a common string of characters found in Egyptian fax machines numbers on Google, they discovered a large amount of numbers.

At first, they sent out Wikileaks cables to these numbers, but then they determined the Egyptians didn’t need additional motivation. Instead, they were interested in information on how to communicate with each other and the outside world. The activists thus began providing instructions for using dial-up modems and amateur radios, known as Ham radios, which the Egyptian people could use to communicate.

The group says it’s also worked on receiving and decoding amateur radio messages, sent on frequencies recommended by the group of activists. While these groups have only been able to receive a small amount of messages of a short length with an unknown source, the Egyptian people’s use of amateur radio to transmit messages represents an interesting utilization of old-fashioned technology to circumvent government restrictions.

Source: Huffington Post

Besides Telecomix, other Web groups have assisted, including “Anonymous,” which has helped by sending out large amounts of faxes into Egypt. “Anonymous” was also involved in denial of service operations against organizations who took actions against Wikileaks.

Egyptian ISP Noor stayed online largely because it connects the country’s Stock Exchange and many Western companies to the outside world. Many people and businesses who are signed up to Noor have removed the passwords from their wi-fi routers so others can piggy-back on their connection.

Some users could get at websites such as Google, Twitter and Facebook by using the numeric addresses for the sites rather than the English language name. A crowd-sourced document, 20 Ways to Circumvent the Egyptians Governments’ Internet Block has compiled the best ways for Egyptians to keep communicating.

Related reads
Egypt Internet Blackout Teaches Important Lesson
WikiLeaks: A Case Study in Web Survivability
Support for the Disconnected of Egypt

Wikileaks Iraq War Logs October 24, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Web Video.
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Whistle blowing Website WikiLeaks has released nearly 400,000 pages of classified military logs chronicling the Iraq War, despite attempts by the Pentagon to stop the document dump. In the largest leak of its kind in US military history, the logs offer an incomplete, yet graphic portrait of one of the most contentious issues in the Iraq war — how many Iraqi civilians have been killed and by whom.

The documents themselves are known at the Pentagon as ‘SIGACTs,’ raw field reports chronicling “Significant Action” in the conflict as seen by U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq. The archive is the second cache obtained by Wikileaks and made available to news organizations.

Shedding new light on the war, the secret logs allegedly show the US ignored systemic abuse, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers, according to news reports. Der Spiegel, Al-Jazeera News, The Guardian and Le Monde have been collaborating with WikiLeaks on the latest leak.

To search the Iraq documents, click here.
To view documents in an interactive map click here.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is ‘a hacker fighting for the freedom of information.’ At 39, the former journalist has built his life around an uncompromising quest for information. He has no home and travels the world with one bag containing his clothes, and another holding his computer. The Iraq papers is the latest stage in a life of action against vested interest.

Wikileaks’ operators and volunteers – five full-timers, and another 1,000 on call – are almost all anonymous. The intentions are laudable – to “allow whistleblowers and journalists who have been censored to get material out to the public.” Who will watch the watchdogs? The Web has its own wisdom, and the crowds will provide the needed context, analysis and background.

Wikileaks’ most high-profile previous success came with the release of a helicopter cockpit video that showed civilians shot in Baghdad. The publicity from video added US$1m to the group’s coffers and prompted more people to come forward with leaks of their own. Read more.

Related reads:
Iraq war logs: WikiLeaks v Washington
Wanted by the CIA: Julian Assange – Wikileaks founder
Wikileaks: How website shines light on world’s darkest secrets
Wikileaks: Web Censorship Won’t Work

Open Video Under Threat October 23, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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Ex-Obama advisor Susan Crawford points to the threats to the Web from increasing monopolization of broadband supply in the US.

Building Solutions for Human Rights Video October 8, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Web Video, YouTube.
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Webs@Work participated in a “ hack day ” at the 2010 Open Video Conference in New York City. We gathered t at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) on Sunday Oct 3 for an all-day open space gathering of innovators, HTML5 developers and transmedia storytelling experts. Some of the stuff we did:

- Make interactive HTML5 video with WebMadeMovies tech like popcorn.js
– Map a transmedia strategy for content
– Build a custom HTML5 player for Websites
– Create robust video sites with Kaltura CE 2.0 self-hosted software stack.

The hack lab was a follow up from the previous day’s workshop where we came up with three areas to cover: 1) Safety and Security 2) Distribution (including low/no bandwidth) 3) Data Driven Storytelling. Taking the ideas from the brainstorming, we sought to build prototyped mobile video solutions in response.

Nathan Freitas of the Guardian Project led the really geeky part, using the built in facial recognition libraries in the Android platform to build a prototype of a mobile video tool for advocacy activists.

http://www.engagemedia.org/Members/ricoloco/videos/em-in-ny-geeking-out-with-nathan/embed_view

Open Video Documentary Movement September 18, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Web Video.
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by Joanne KY Teoh

Check out Open Video Conference in New York City. – a summit/festival of ideas and activism by journalists, filmmakers, lawyers, academics, artists and entrepreneurs to explore the future of video on the web.

I’m leading a workshop Rapid Media Creation in Crisis, showcasing grassroots video advocacy at ground zero of the Asia tsunami, cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the Sichuan earthquake. My presentation draws on reportage, Beyond the Disaster News Template, that began with the Asian tsunami.

Open video is the idea that the moving image should belong to everyone. This vision requires not only free and open video technologies, but also that viewers are empowered to go beyond just watching–creating, sharing, and engaging in the multimedia public sphere they now inhabit.

The first Open Video Conference was host to over 800 guests, including 150 workshop leaders, panelists and speakers. Over 8,000 viewers tuned in from home to watch the live broadcast. The event earned coverage in WIRED, NewTeeVee, BBC News, Filmmaker Magazine, and The New Yorker.

This year, OVC is expanding. In addition to highlighting industry progress toward open video, OVC2010 will feature inspiring talks, hands-on workshops, technology working groups, film screenings, and much more. It is as much about the underlying technologies as the people and projects who use them.

A session to check out – Wendy Levy of Bay Area Video Coalition Director of Creative Programming hosts: The New Story-makers: Open Video Documentary Movement.

Synopsis:
More than ever before, international communities are empowered by DIY storytelling and the collective interest of a global public. Long form documentaries and investigative journalism provide a much-needed context for new story-driven technologies that directly support on-the ground movements.

Collaborative editing, crowd-sourced microfinancing, live video channels, robust mobile tools, hyperlocal citizen journalism, interactive data mapping and media-rich data archiving, augmented and virtual reality are all just a small part of an ongoing, realtime conversation that has transformed storytelling into open and collaborative storyMAKING. The process includes filmmakers, technologists, NGO leaders, advocates, journalists, philanthropists, bloggers, social entrepreneurs, and a diverse audience of authors.

In this session, you will hear from independent media makers, activists, and curators working on new projects at the core of this cultural and creative movement. It’s all on the table as we discuss exciting new directions and models for documentary and public media, changing roles for filmmakers, emerging tools for real impact, creative pathways to engage and collaborate with audiences.

Can these innovative projects that are leveraging emerging and participatory digital media technologies actually make a difference in the world? Is the new documentary movement, fueled by the digital revolution, empowering a generation of storytellers who don’t know their past?

News 2.0 the Facebook Way July 31, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Facebook has outlined best practices on how news organizations can connect with its user base as part of their social media strategies. The findings are the result of a study that examined Facebook use at news organizations such as CNN, The New York Times, and Univision.

After implementing various combinations of Facebook tools on their sites, referral traffic at ABC News jumped 190 percent. Referrals at Life were up by 130 percent, Scribd’s user registrations went up by 50 percent, and Dailymotion saw as many as 250,000 users engaged with a single video.

Facebook boasts 500 million active monthly users with average monthly time-on-site of seven hours. So integrating Facebook into your news site could translate into lots more traffic. Tools like Like buttons, Activity Streams and LiveStream can keep users clicking through stories on a site. And the Insights analytics tool provides valuable demographic information.

For a Facebook strategy customised to your news organization, contact the team at Sapphire Studios. Journalists can learn more about the techniques and discuss how to improve upon them at facebook.com/media. Here’s a snapshot of what you can do to merge news with social media:

Optimize the Like button

There’s a lot of power in those little Like buttons, both on the Facebook site and off. When a user clicks Like, that gesture is broadcast to all of his friends — on average, 130 people. Depending on how a site implements the button, clicking the like button may add a link to the user’s profile page and make the liked page discoverable in Facebook’s search system.

Anything on the Web is potentially Likable: a news story, an organization, or even a reporter. Crucially, once a user Likes a Facebook Page, the administrator of that Page gains the ability to push new content to that user’s Activity Stream. In essence, that single click is all that’s needed for users to opt-in to future messages — and if they don’t like your content, to opt back out.

Like buttons are easy to make and come in a variety of features and sizes, from tiny rectangles to full-featured iframes that include profile pictures and comment boxes. Facebook has found that “Like” buttons do best when they’re close to content that is both visually engaging and emotionally resonant, such as video.

In addition, full-featured Like buttons tend to do better than smaller ones. Adding faces of other Likers to the button and including Facebook comments increased the clickthrough rate from as low as zero up to 0.2 percent — comparable to the click-through rate of a banner ad. Because Facebook delivers this content to publishers’ sites through an iframe, only a small amount of code is necessary to implement the “deluxe model” Like buttons.

Tailor content specifically for Facebook users

Content matters on Facebook. Touching, emotional stories earned 2 to 3 times as many Likes as other stories, as did provocative debates. Sports stories tend to perform particularly well, with 1.5 to 2 times more engagement than the average.

With that knowledge, news organizations can identify stories likely to perform well on Facebook and push those stories through social channels such as Facebook Pages and Twitter. Publishers can even strategize around when they push this content. There’s a spike in Likes at 9 a.m. and 8 p.m., so having fresh content at those times is crucial.

Deploy activity plugins on every page

Increasingly, news site home pages will be customized to users’ tastes and networks. On CNN’s home page, for example, an Activity Feed plugin shows users what their friends have Liked on the site. Publishers should set aside real estate on every page on their site for the Activity Feed and Recommendations plugins, which suggest relevant content to users.

Sites that placed the Activity Feed on both the front and content pages received 2-10x more clicks per user than sites with the plugins on the front page alone. Sites could use Facebook’s LiveStream plugin, a real-time chat box that gathers users in a conversation about live, breaking news. The plugin could be seen as a competitor to live-tweeting and live-blogging tools like CoverItLive.

Create separate pages for major events

For major stories that break over several days, some organizations increased engagement by creating a dedicated Facebook Page for that event. Stories published from a World Cup-focused Page of one major media company had 5x the engagement rate per user than stories from the company’s main Page.

Of course, that technique isn’t without some degree of risk. Publishers might worry about fragmenting their audience and losing viewers when an event is over. For example, after a flurry of wall posts, ESPN’s World Cup Page abruptly stopped posting on July 15. The 636,000 or so fans have continued to post to the wall, but with no response from ESPN, they are likely to lose interest.

Manage your many pages

Depending on the type of item that a user Likes (a person, a show, an article, and so forth), almost every Like button generates a new Page on Facebook. As more people click “Like,” publishers will need to organize and manage an ever-growing volume of Pages — some of which aren’t even visible to most users.

Facebook uses what are called “Dark Pages” to connect publishers to users. Invisible to everyone but administrators, Dark Pages represent pages on the Web that have been Liked but do not have a publicly visible Page on Facebook — for example, a single news article.

Publishers must place the Open Graph and Facebook tags such as and on each page of their site to identify the content. Then, once a publisher has claimed its page (dark or otherwise), it can publish new content to the Activity Streams of their Likers and examine Insights to learn more about their users’ demographics.

Publishers could wind up with thousands of Pages to monitor. There’s not a perfect method to manage that onslaught of Likable content, Kelly said, but he expected that solutions would emerge from Facebook’s outreach to publishers.

Turn status updates into infographics with the streamlined API

Just as newspapers invested in printing presses, online news divisions must now invest in software development. Facebook recognized that developing social tools can be confusing and resource-intensive, so the company recently streamlined its API – the clean, comprehensible data that developers can access from simple URLs such as http://graph.facebook.com/markzuckerberg.

Facebook’s new API is structured around objects and connections, just like the user experience on the site itself. It can be used to generate innovative visualizations like the New York Times’ visualization of soccer players’ popularity. In addition, Facebook has developed a more robust search tool, which can be used to find content from public status updates, not just people. Journalists could use the tool to gauge community interest in a story or to find new sources.

Facebook has also streamlined its authorization process, implementing OAUTH 2.0, which offers improved scalability and ease-of-use. For users, authorizing applications is now a single-click process, rather than having to click through one dialogue after another. For publishers, that translates into smoother engagement with users.

Social networks — particularly Facebook — are quickly becoming a key way to learn about breaking news, a phenomenon that Facebook is only too happy to embrace. The recently released research is just a foundation for what Osofsky hopes will be a long-term collaboration with media partners.

Anyone involved with news — journalists, editors, software developers – do visit facebook.com/media to learn about Facebook’s engagement with the news industry, to share ideas, and to contribute to the emerging practice of integrating social tools with journalism.

Excerpted from findings by Facebook Developer Network engineers Justin Osofsky and Matt Kelly at a Hacks/Hackers meetup.

DVB Video Reveals Burma’s Nuke Ambitions June 10, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Journalism, News, Social Media, Web Video.
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An investigative documentary produced by Norwegian-based news group, The Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) offers groundbreaking information that shows Burma’s authorities have started a program to build nuclear weapons. Now posted on the Web, the documentary for the first time provides proof Burma has been pursuing a nuclear program.

Burma’s Nuclear Ambitions from DVBTV English on Vimeo.

The film shows the nature of the junta’s intent through a combination of photographs taken from the military’s top secret files, expert analysis and witness accounts collected by DVB over five years. It reveals the junta is trying to develop long-range missiles and dig a series of military bunkers. Experts doubt Burma is near to achieving its nuclear goals, but caution the intent to acquire nuclear weapons should not be dismissed.

The investigation by DVB is centered around Sai Thein Win, a former defense engineer who worked in factories in Burma where he was tasked to make prototype components for missile and nuclear programs. Sai contacted DVB after learning of its investigation into Burma’s military programmes, and supplied documents and photographs of equipment built inside the factories.

Elections later this year are aimed at convincing the world that Burma is moving towards democracy, but in reality, fearing attack from the United States and an uprising by their own people, Burma is trying to become the next nuclear-armed North Korea.

Burma’s Nuclear Ambitions

Directed by Evan Williams, ‘Burma’s Nuclear Ambitions’ was broadcast on Al-Jazeera in June 2010. After the screening, Burmese authorities announced a reward of USD5000 for anyone who can name DVB journalists who work in Burma.

DVB’s network of video journalists in Burma filmed most of the material in the film ’Burma VJ’, which received an Oscar nomination for best documentary in 2010. They also produced film material for ’Orphans of Burma’s Cyclone’, directed by Williams. Two DVB video journalists received Rory Peck Awards in 2009 for the coverage.

Pulitzer first for Web Journalism May 5, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Web news organisations have for the first time won Pulitzer Prizes, one of journalism’s most prestigious awards.

A journalist writing in a collaboration between non-profit online news service ProPublica and the New York Times magazine won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting. The report was about the urgent life-and-death decisions made by doctors at a New Orleans hospital in the days after Hurricane Katrina.

jo_propublica

ProPublica is funded by charitable foundations, staffed by veteran journalists, and focuses on investigative journalism many newspapers have found too expensive. It offers its stories to traditional news organizations, free.

ProPublica’s model represents a mode of journalism that will become increasingly influential, as fewer resources for investigative journalism remain available at the disposal of news outlets.

Sig Gissler, Pulitzer Prize administrator

An entirely online entry won in the category of cartooning for the first time. The Pulitzer was given to Mark Fiore, for his self-syndicated animated cartoons that appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle website. His cartoons can be seen on his Website here.

Fiore’s biting wit, extensive research and ability to distill complex issues set a high standard for an emerging form of commentary.

Pulitzer Prize board

The Pulitzer Board also recognized the way newspapers are branching out with new media. The Seattle Times employed Twitter and e-mail alerts to help inform readers about a deadly shooting, and used the social media tool Google Wave to encourage reader participation.

The Washington Post won the most Pulitzers, amassing four for its work in Feature Writing, Commentary, Criticism, and International Reporting.

Pulitzer Prizes are awarded annually by Colombia University to honour the best in US literature, journalism and music.

Facebook? Oh Puhleeze May 1, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Reviews, Social Media, Trends.
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I’ve been tracking Facebook, not that my sense of self worth hinges on how many strangers “friend” me. People react with incredulity when I say I don’t Facebook. There are many things I like, but few are on this $800 million a year business that makes its money from advertising.

It’s easy to support the movements forming against this social network because I’ve no emotional investment in this Web superpower where people broadcast their lives in orgies of sharing and over-sharing. Now that Facebook has made the cover of Time and Zuckerberg-alikes are cashing in on those opting out, I’m glad I was never in.

Now that user confidence is being eroded by privacy blunders, phishing scams and controversy around instant personalization and the exodus of angry users, Facebook must give me control options less complicated than these. Like, let me opt-in rather than opt-out of instant personalization, the feature that hands my publicly available Facebook info to selected Websites I visited.

Facebook privacy came to a head in May, when 15 organizations filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and users started a “Quit Facebook Day” campaign. Although the campaign wasn’t universally embraced, Facebook changed its privacy settings, making it easier to keep personal information from going public.

Privacy is a personal responsibility. Information has no walls and it’s time we realise the Web cannot protect information posted online even as it makes the transmission easier than ever. For those in a social coma, how many hacked accounts will be sold before they wake up and make privacy a personal responsibility?

The Web has meshed with our lives. Facebook is not the enemy in this new world. If you want to give the world a front row seat into your life, don’t expect privacy controls and security settings to protect you online. If you want to keep a secret, don’t talk about it or quit Facebook puhleeze.

Will Journalism Survive? April 14, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, MIT5, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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While not dead, the news industry in the US is severely depleted and likely to diminish further, an MIT panel agree. But they also believe something vibrant and enduring might emerge from this period of digital disruption.

The key to survival in the digital age will involve using new tools to engage the many different publics, especially those who might have been alienated by a partisan or compliant media. There is a hunger for understanding the world around, and one way is to engage different audiences through a “partnership model,” where users inform the journalistic process.

Wikileaks Collateral Murder Video April 11, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Web Video, YouTube.
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Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a US Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows a Reuters journalist and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad.

They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well.

The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and said the US military did not know how the deaths occurred. So far there has been no official Pentagon response to the Wkileaks video..

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. Wikileaks released this 39-minute video with transcripts and supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on the site Collateral Murder.

The website’s organisers say they were given the footage, which they say comes from cameras on US Apache helicopters. They say they decrypted it, but would not reveal who gave it to them.

The Wikileaks site campaigns for freedom of information and allows people to anonymously post leaked documents on the Web, saying its aim is to promote transparency. It was created in 2006 by dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

The website’s organisers complained recently of coming under surveillance by the US government, and of harassment by other governments, ostensibly for their role in posting leaked documents on sensitive subjects.

Related read
Welcome to a new age of whistle-blowing
Wikileaks: Web censorship won’t work
What the WikiLeaks Media Blitz Has Revealed About WikiLeaks

An Offshore Journalism Haven? February 15, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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As powerful groups around the world seek to smother the journalistic freedom to reveal information, the business of “refugee hosting” is an idea whose Web time has come. An emerging class of refugees could be publishers like those behind Malaysia Today, which is no longer published in Malaysia but hosted in neighbouring Singapore.

Iceland may become an offshore “journalism and transparency haven” for leakers and investigators. Under a “Modern Media Initiative,” Iceland intends to become a bastion for global press freedom and a global haven for investigative journalism.

The package of laws, launched with the help of Wikileaks, the online whistleblowing site, seeks to defend freedom of speech and protect sources and fight libel tourism. The idea is to reform Iceland’s media law to be an attractive jurisdiction for investigative journalists.

The media law mix could go like this:

Source protection laws from Sweden
First Amendment from the United States
Belgian protection laws for journalists

With a population of 320,000, Iceland is seeking to transform itself from a country dependent on fishing into a destination relevant to knowledge-based enterprises.

By positioning itself as the first jurisdiction to offer the necessities of an information society, the hope is that journalist-friendly laws will encourage media businesses to move to Iceland.

The idea is akin to the offshore financial havens that corporations use to avoid government tax regimes – only for free speech. Could global news organizations with a home office in Reykjavík soon be as common as Delaware corporations or Cayman Islands assets?

The IMMI aims to pull together good practice from around the world and incorporate it into a single body of law. The proposal will come before the Icelandic parliament tomorrow in the first step towards turning the idea into law. The people behind Wikileaks have been involved in drafting the law.

Indeed, a haven for free expression would help counter the growing practice of libel tourism. British courts in particular, have become a favoured destination for complainants seeking to take advantage of the UK’s plaintiff-friendly libel laws.

The House of Lords recently established a government panel to look into the possibility of amending its laws to make it tougher for foreigners to bring defamation suits in Britain, amid fears that current British law was having a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression.

We’ve become good at fending off many legal attacks, and never lost a case, or a source, but we can’t expect everyone to go through the extraordinary efforts what we do.

Large newspapers are routinely censored by legal costs. It is time this stopped. It is time a country said, enough is enough, justice must be seen, history must be preserved, and we will give shelter from the storm.

Julian Assange, Wikileaks editor

Wikileaks is a non-profit website that has established a reputation for publishing leaked material. It recently had to suspend operations because of a lack of funding. The website says it will resume once operational costs have been covered.

Wikileaks has succeeded in bringing sensitive materials to light through a combination of technical and legal means. Submissions are anonymized and routed through countries with comprehensive journalistic source protection laws.

High-profile documents hosted on the site include a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures for Camp Delta, a document that detailed restrictions placed on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

When the Guardian was prevented from publishing documents on the alleged dumping of 400 tonnes of toxic waste on behalf of the global commodities trader Trafigura because of a super-injunction, the material ended up on Wikileaks days later.

The site played a role in Iceland’s financial crisis last summer when a national TV broadcaster was blocked from revealing a list of creditors in the country’s banking debacle. The broadcaster ran the url for the Wikileaks disclosure instead.

Following that, Wikileaks editor Julian Assange went to Iceland to discuss their idea for a journalism publishing haven on a talk show, then in a more detailed presentation at Reykjavík University.

The idea of a journalism haven is nice, but in practice it might be too complex to distinguish what is deemed ‘right’ comment from what is obviously wrong.

Protected from prosecution or libel by this ‘free press’ law, we can almost see media titles from China, Venezuela, Malaysia and Singapore publishing in Iceland, the new tower from which anyone can spout comment intolerable elsewhere.

Legal resiliency is in some ways the reverse of “libel tourism,” where plaintiffs file suit in a jurisdiction likely to give a favorable result. One famous case involves a suit filed in London by a Saudi billionaire against the Wall Street Journal Europe in Brussels, for a story originally published in the Wall Street Journal in New York.

Some courts have ruled that placing an article online counts as publication if it is accessible from their jurisdiction, which would mean that a web story could be declared libelous anywhere in the world.

In the video below, Julian Assange and Daniel Schmitt of Wikileaks discuss their vision of the information society, and the role of the whistle-blowing website in it. It was given at the Chaos Communications Congress hacker conference in Berlin on Dec. 27.em>

Further reading
Wikileaks: Web Censorship Won’t Work
WikiLeaks editor: why I’m excited about Iceland’s plans for journalism

Clinton Urges Web Freedom January 22, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Essays, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends, YouTube.
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Boo China, yay Web neutrality! Fasten your belts for the “next great global battle of ideas!” Depending on which side of the great firewall you’re on, the “iconic infrastructure of our age” will be the site for a cyber showdown.

And that’s to ensure that the Web remains “a tool of openness, opportunity, expression, and possibility rather than of one of control, surveillance, suppression.”

American State Secretary Hillary Clinton underlined that reality when she called for an unfettered Internet and delivered a tongue lashing to China in an impassioned policy speech at the Newseum journalism museum in Washington.

Read entire transcript of Clinton’s speech here. The virtual volleys have begun, with China slamming the speech as “information imperialism.” Read the rebuff on China’s foreign ministry Website here.

We are also supporting the development of new tools that enable citizens to exercise their rights of free expression by circumventing politically motivated censorship.

We are providing funds to groups around the world to make sure that those tools get to the people who need them in local languages, and with the training they need to access the internet safely.

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

That America’s top diplomat champions “freedom to connect” as a basic human right is a huge stake, especially when the US State Department is funding the development of tools to help Web users circumvent government censorship online.

Poised to be the Web’s first diplomat, Hillary Clinton has jumped right into the fray of the Google vs China spat, calling Web curbs the modern equivalent of the Berlin Wall and warning of a new information curtain descending on the world.

It’s fascinating how Google’s corporate move has turned into an international incident. Web freedom has joined trade imbalances, currency values, human rights and Tibet among the quarrels straining ties between the world’s biggest and third-biggest economies.

Clinton’s call for global condemnation of those who conduct cyber attacks is an important opportunity to counter governments who want to censor and conduct surveillance on individuals. The challenge is how the State Department will walk the talk by incorporating Web freedom into diplomacy, trade policy, and meaningful pressure on companies to act responsibly.

The speech is a huge stake in net neutrality and its meaning cannot be overstated. The Web was born and nurtured in America, with input from other countries. Now a top US official and arguably the most prominent female political figure is seeking to shape the Web’s evolving ethos and guiding principles.

In parts of the Middle East, women are beaten and killed in “honor” beatings by relatives who find out they are using sites like Twitter and Facebook. China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are among countries that censor the Web or harass bloggers. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked in China.

Early in her primary campaign, Clinton was considered less Web-savvy than Barack Obama and online attack ad that spread on YouTube foreshadowed the narrative of her fight for the Democratic nomination, portraying Clinton as the old PC and Obama as the shiny new Mac.


The YouTube video, which mashes up Apple’s 1984 ad with Hillary Clinton’s own campaign imagery.

Clinton is now leading the way within the Obama administration in recognizing the transformational opportunities of the Internet. Speaking in broad strokes and finer details, she outlined what she called the five key freedoms of the Internet age: Freedom to connect online anywhere. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Freedom from fear of cyber attacks.

Of course that didn’t sit well with the “What Internet censorship?” crowd on the other side of the planet. There’s an argument that the technical architecture of the Web is different from the values of people who use it. If parents can limit what teenagers can see, then governments can limit what citizens see. If citizens can circumvent governments, teenagers will be able to circumvent parents.

But we’re talking about a generation of citizens who have never typed the words “Falun Gong,” “Dalai Lama,” or “Tiananmen Square massacre” into their search engines. Information openness for them is just a crack in a dark room without electricity.


A Chinese flag flutters near the Google logo on top of Google’s China headquarters in Beijing.

The blowback against Google’s announcement that it was hacked by Chinese cyber agents – and in response would be lifting the restrictions that keep users of its Chinese search engine in the dark – has been fascinating. Clinton upped the ante by calling for global Internet freedom.

When Google threw down the gauntlet to China’s Web censors, it also challenged the loyalties of the nation’s wired generation. Tech-savvy Chinese in their 20s and 30s grew up in greater affluence and openness than their parents. Many are pulled between patriotic pride and a yearning for more say over their own lives.

The Google dispute may become a telling test of how China’s wired generation balance loyalties to their country with their desire for free expression and access to information, and this response could shape how Beijing handles the dispute.

The Obama administration has shown it wants to court this emerging generation of connected Chinese. China’s latest survey of Web use found 60 percent of the nation’s online population of 384 million was aged 10 to 29.

Despite censorship, China’s Internet can be a potent public forum, with bloggers and amorphous online groups hectoring the government over pollution and corruption. Last year, the government abruptly abandoned a plan to force all new personal computers to come with a copy of “Green Dam” Internet-filtering software that had been derided by online critics as intrusive and ineffective.

Related reads
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are Tools for Diplomacy.
China Slam’s Clinton’s Internet Speech as Information Imperialism
China rebuffs US Internet demands
Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC?

Google Stands up To China January 16, 2010

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, News, Social Media, Trends, Web Video.
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At last Google is taking on Beijing. The search giant is “phasing out” censoring the results in google.cn, the Chinese-language version of its famed search engine.

In a post in The Future of the Internet, Jonathan Zittrain notes that the announcement of “A new approach to China” is a stunning move both in its fact and execution. It includes a link to the story of GhostNet, discovered by fellow ONI researchers when the Dalai Lama gave them his oddly-acting laptop to examine.

Companies rarely share information about the cyberattacks they experience — conventional wisdom has it that it makes the company appear vulnerable, and drives customers away. Here Google is open about the attacks, and links them to a lessening of enthusiasm for doing business in China. Eliminating censorship in google.cn is only mentioned after that.

Suppose the Chinese government acts as expected and tells Google that it may no longer operate in China. Google.cn might vanish as a domain name, since it’s hosted under the Chinese country-code TLD of .cn, ultimately controllable by the Chinese government.

But the search engine found they could of course keep operating from a different location, like cn.google.com. Suppose then that China attempts to filter out traffic to and from that new location — and to and from google.com for good measure, as it has done from time to time, especially before the advent of google.cn and its agreement to censor.

Google engineers who might have been a bit halfhearted about implementing censorship mandates in google.cn could be full-throttle in coming up with ways for Google to be viewed despite any network interruptions between site and user.

There are lots of unexplored options here. They’re unexplored not because they’re infeasible, but because most sites would rather not provoke a government that filters. So they don’t undertake to get information out in ways that might evade blockages.

But then, the difference between values and technology is it works for citizens in China seeking human rights, it works for teenagers in America seeking porn.

Here, Google would have nothing more to lose, so could pioneer some new approaches. Circumvention of filtering (or other blockages, for that matter) tends to happen on the user side of things, seeking out proxies like the Tor network, or anonymizer.com.

The larger benefits of operating in China originally cited by Google four years ago — exposing the citizenry to services beyond those locally grown and monitored; engaging them beyond the “China Wide Web” to which some government officials aspire to limit them; and gaining market share that can create momentum and support for later loosening of restrictions — may attenuate.

Google.cn is less known and used than, say, the local Baidu search engine, which boasts about 60% market share. That share is about to get even bigger.

But drawing a line is both the right move and a brilliant one. It helps realign Google’s business with its ethos, and masterfully recasts the firm in a place it will feel more comfortable: supporting the free and open dissemination of information rather than metering it out according to undesirable (and capricious) government standards.

Polanski Wiki Page in Edit War September 29, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media.
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Roman Polanski is in the news these days more for his sex crime than for his artistic accomplishments. The Web is so abuzz with The Affaire Polanski that a Wikipedia page devoted to the filmmaker has been locked due to a tug-of-war between editors convinced it should stress his film career and those who think his sex crime should define his life.

Let me weigh in on the ruckus here first. I say, give the old man all the accolades he deserves for his art, but make him serve time for his crime. No artist however big-time, should be able to use his cash and connections to live a charmed life and enjoy immunity from transgressions for which the less accomplished (and the rest of us) would be condemned.

The 76-year-old Polish-French film maker was arrested on decades-old charges of having sex with an underaged girl after he flew in to Zurich to collect a lifetime achievement award. He left the US in 1978 before he could be sentenced and has not returned to the country since.

Wikipedia administrators blocked the filmmaker’s Wikipedia page from being changed after an ‘edit war’ broke out following the news of the arrest.

Polanski’s Wikipedia page
has a note at the top alerting users, “This page is currently protected from editing until September 28, 2009 or until disputes have been resolved.” Increasing the protection level of an entry means that only Wikipedia administrators can make edits to the page.

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Discussion on the free encyclopedia’s forum indicates that there was disagreement about whether Polanski’s sexual exploitation of a 13-year-old girl should be given more prominence than his professional achievements.

230px-PolanskiIFFKV

A Wikipedia editor wrote in a forum that the fact Polanski is a rapist ought to be the first thing the reader sees in the article. Another argued Polanski is notable for his films and without those accomplishments he would not make news.

One contributor said Wikipedia breached its commitment to neutrality by describing Polanski only as a “Polish-French film director, producer, writer and actor” in the entry, because “he’s just as well known as a child molester as he’s known as a writer.”

After one contributor deleted a reference to the initial charges, another tried to get them reinstated, writing: “I’m very concerned by the attempt to remove this information from the article. After all, this is what the whole case is about.”

In the past, WIkipedia has locked other controversial entries from being edited because of the disputes over their content. In May this year, members of the Church of Scientology were banned from editing articles about their church. Wikipedia has also been used by Palestinian and pro-Israeli groups to push their attempts to correct historical “errors.”

Wikipedia has acted to improve the accuracy of its articles in recent years, after criticism that its commitment to collaborative editing can produce unreliable and biased entries. It frequently increases the “protection” level of controversial entries of people involved in running news stories.

Wikipedia Rolls Out Page Controls August 25, 2009

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Civic Media, Convergence, Journalism, News, Social Media, Trends.
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Wikipedia, the site which ostensibly allows anyone to make changes to almost any entry, will launch page controls. In a major revamp to how people contribute to some of its 3m pages, the online encyclopedia will now insist that any changes made to pages about living people and a number of organisations will have to be checked and given the go ahead by an editor.

This marks a major change for the site which is known for allowing anyone to add changes. The changes will be discussed in Buenos Aires this week at the annual Wikimania conference

200px-Wikimanía-2009-Logo-A.svg

The proposal was first outlined by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales in January this year and will be rolled out in the coming weeks. It was met by a storm of protests from Wikipedia users who claimed the system had been poorly thought out or would create extra work.

The system has already been in operation on the German version of Wikipedia for more than a year. The two-month trial will be carried out on Wikipedia’s English-language site and means a new user or a user not known to the site will be unable to make any changes to entries without an editor checking the content first.

Whilst the changes are being mulled over, readers will be directed to earlier versions of the article. The system is “essentially a buffer, to reduce the visibility and impact of vandalism on these articles”.

There have been several high-profile edits to Wikipedia pages that have given false or misleading information about a person. In January this year the page of US Senator Robert Byrd falsely reported that he had died.

If a page has a number of controversial edits or is repeatedly vandalised, editors can lock a page, so that it cannot be edited by everyone. For example, following initial reports of the death of Michael Jackson, editors had to lock down two pages to stop speculation about what had caused his death.

The focus is on pages of living people because they have the highest probability of causing harm. The trial may also be extended to organizations.

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