Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

FBI gets it wrong about N Korea and the Sony hack – deliberately?

December 19, 2014

I was listening to Sean Sullivan of F Secure on BBC radio today and I find his arguments that the FBI has got it wrong quite convincing. The FBI, it would seem, has less evidence of a N Korea connection than the US intelligence services ever had of WMD in Iraq! But they have now stated categorically that it was N Korea and the perpetrators would be hunted down. Unless of course Obama is looking to initiate his own war in his own name while he is still in office. In which case the FBI could have been tasked with getting the evidence to prove the desired conclusion. A simple act of extortion was followed by reference to the movie only after the Press brought it up. 

Industry experts have more credibility for me than the FBI in this case.

Kim hacking


Many computer-security experts doubt the validity of the claim that North Korea is behind the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, citing a lack of strong evidence and the possibility of alternate scenarios.

“There’s no direct, hard evidence that implicates North Korea,” Sean Sullivan, a security researcher at Finnish security firm F-Secure, told Tom’s Guide. “There is evidence of extortion (the Nov. 21 email [to Sony executives which demanded money]) and the hackers only mentioned [the movie] The Interview after it was brought up in the press, which they then used to their advantage.”

“Is North Korea responsible for the Sony breach?” wrote Jeffrey Carr, founder and CEO of Seattle cybersecurity consulting firm Taia Global. “I can’t imagine a more unlikely.

Others also find the FBI evidence very flimsy. It seems that the N Korea narrative is essentially led by the media rather than by the evidence:

 Wired: ….. Despite all of this, media outlets won’t let the North Korea narrative go and don’t seem to want to consider other options. If there’s anything years of Law and Order reruns should tell us, it’s that focusing on a single suspect can lead to exclusionary bias where clues that contradict the favored theory get ignored.

Initial and hasty media reports about the attackers pointed to cyberwarriors from North Korea, bent on seeking revenge for the Sony movie The Interview. This was based on a complaint North Korea made to the United Nations last July about the Seth Rogen and James Franco flick, which was originally slated to be released in October before being changed to Christmas Day. 

But in their initial public statement, whoever hacked Sony made no mention of North Korea or the film. And in an email sent to Sony by the hackers, found in documents they leaked, there is also no mention of North Korea or the film. The email was sent to Sony executives on Nov. 21, a few days before the hack went public. Addressed to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, Chairwoman Amy Pascal and other executives, it appears to be an attempt at extortion, not an expression of political outrage or a threat of war.

“[M]onetary compensation we want,” the email read. “Pay the damage, or Sony Pictures will be bombarded as a whole. You know us very well. We never wait long. You’d better behave wisely.”

To make matters confusing, however, the email wasn’t signed by GOP or Guardians of Peace, who have taken credit for the hack, but by “God’sApstls,” a reference that also appeared in one of the malicious files used in the Sony hack.

I note that John McCain has declared that this is an Act of War by N Korea. A bi-partisan approach to attack N Korea could be forged. He is already calling for the US to conduct a cyber attack on N Korea (which has the lowest internet usage of any country). When the cyberwar fails, the logical next step would be to bomb Pyongyang and then mount a US-led, coalition invasion from Okinawa. George Clooney and Angelina Jolie could organise a petition from Hollywood supporting such action. All of Hollywood would surely support such decisive action. The coalition could consist of Japan and S Korea at least. Maybe Cuba could be persuaded to join. Sony could have cameras embedded in every military unit.  Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert could make sure that the liberal population of the US could – for once – support the national pastime of going to war. James Franco and Seth Rogen clearly need special positions; perhaps they could orchestrate the invasion.

I see that the UN General Assembly has already passed a motion for the North Koreans to be referred to the International Criminal Court. The next step would be for the US to call for a special sitting of the Security Council. They could make a PowerPoint show a la Colin Powell, to show the world the evidence they have manufactured, and to get a suitable war resolution passed.

The entire N Korea narrative is probably nothing more than a media inspired narrative.


Not much sympathy for Sony(Goliath) in their war against GoP (David)

December 17, 2014

I know I am supposed to be against the evil hackers.

But I’m afraid I am only amused by Sony’s predicament in their battle against the “Guardians of Peace” hackers. Sony’s heavy handed approach and their legal threats to those who might disseminate the stolen material only makes them look even more foolish. The battle has a David and Goliath feel about it and David is winning. The indignant squeals of Hollywood celebrities at having their dirty underbellies revealed only adds to the amusement. When Aaron Sorkin (he who does not think much of actresses) takes as much space in the NYT to attack the hackers as the mass massacre of children by the Taliban gets, he only reduces any sympathy one might feel for the “hacked”.


The New York premiere of “The Interview”, a Sony Pictures comedy about the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, has been canceled and a source said one theater chain had scrapped plans to show it, after threats from a hacking group.

The hackers, who said they were also responsible for seizing control of Sony Corp’s computer system last month, on Tuesday warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film starring James Franco and Seth Rogen, and darkly reminded moviegoers of the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United States in 2001.

“We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time,” the hackers wrote. “(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

Hollywood celebrities exploited their media access to whinge and whine:

The Guardian:

Various Hollywood figures, including Brad Pitt, Aaron Sorkin and Seth Rogen, have publicly criticised the media for publishing stories based on information hacked from Sony Pictures.

The hack by the group Guardians of Peace revealed email conversations between Sony executives and actors, discussing the likes of Pitt’s wife Angelina Jolie, who was described as a “minimally talented spoiled brat” by producer Scott Rudin. ……. 

Seth Rogen meanwhile, whose North Korea-baiting film The Interview was cited as a catalyst for the hacks by Guardians of Peace, said in an interview that “everyone is doing exactly what these criminals want… It’s stolen information that media outlets are directly profiting from.”

Aaron Sorkin, whose screenplay for an upcoming Steve Jobs biopic was at the heart of one set of hacked emails, has penned a New York Times opinion piece where he asserts that the media is “giving material aid to criminals… the minor insults that were revealed are such small potatoes compared to the fact that they were revealed. Not by the hackers, but by American journalists helping them. …… 

Guardians of Peace have threatened to release another batch of files as a “Christmas gift”, leading to pre-emptive manoeuvres by Sony staff. Co-chair Amy Pascal, whose correspondence has frequently been featured in the hacked emails, has contacted the likes of producer Harvey Weinstein to apologise if any disparaging remarks are leaked, according to Variety.

Any moral or ethics issues over the “stealing” of the information are overridden by the massive embarrassment for Sony in spite of the triviality of the titillating information released. That an electronics and entertainment giant such as Sony could be hacked so easily smacks of incompetence. That overpaid, under-employed Sony executives are having their positions threatened (for their own incompetence) arouses little sympathy.

Sorry – but I don’t perceive any great moral issues here.

“Go GoP”!

Did one false report in Swedish newspaper cause the submarine fiasco?

October 28, 2014

I have posted earlier about the “Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago” hysteria which gripped the Swedish media and – apparently – the Swedish military for 6 days. (Though my perception is that the hysteria was with the media and the military and not with the general public. It did not cause much general alarm but it did provide another subject for after-dinner conversation and for wild speculation in the bars).The hunt is now over and there is plenty of egg on many faces. The Russian press and social media are having a field day with Swedish military alarmism.

But all of it may have originated from just one false article in the right-leaning Svenska Dagbladet. Of course it was compounded by further false sightings. This is a report from the left-leaning Dagens Nyheter (the nearest media competitor to the Svenska Dagbladet).

Dagens Nyheter: The operation carried out by the Swedish armed forces in the Stockholm archipelago was not triggered by one emergency call in Russian. So says Naval Intelligence to DN.

On Saturday, October 18th the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet revealed that an emergency call in Russian set off the alarm and started the hunt for a damaged Russian submarine in the Stockholm archipelago. The newspaper also said that there had been encrypted radio traffic between a transmitter in the archipelago and one transmitter located in Kaliningrad where large parts of the Russian Baltic Fleet is located. This news was reproduced by virtually all Swedish media, including DN. The disclosure also received international attention.

Already in last Friday’s paper newspaper DN revealed that no radio communications between the field of operation and Kaliningrad were intercepted during the six-day operation.

DN has now with the support of Freedom of Information rules obtained a copy of the transcript from the Armed Forces and has had the transcript translated.
Documents relating to military operations are usually completely or partly exempt under secrecy rules. When documents are denied the authorities are required to disclose an “Incident Report”.  Those denied documents can then appeal the decision. But no Russian emergency traffic ever occurred according to the military’s own investigation reported DN’s intelligence source. The documents just do not exist, according to the military.

“I thought it was exciting to read about the Russian emergency call you reported. But there is no such thing – the information is incorrect” says a source in Navy intelligence.

Has there been any radio traffic from Stockholm archipelago to and from Kaliningrad?

“There is traffic from Kaliningrad constantly, 24 hours a day. This is nothing strange. It’s just like any of our radio stations everywhere in Sweden – they transmit all the time” says DN’s source.

And if all the fuss was triggered by just one false report in the Svenska Dagbladet, it begs the question as to whether it was just bad journalism or whether there was another motive and a hidden agenda? And why did the Swedish military react so hysterically to just one bad media report?

Shy people get depressed (courtesy Facebook)

September 9, 2014

Two articles today about research on Facebook usage.

Shy People Use Facebook More [Research]

Shy and introvert people spend more time on Facebook but disclose little information with friends and acquaintances, said Pavica Sheldon, assistant professor at The University of Alabama in Huntsville’s communications arts department.

Facebook addicts at a risk of developing depression

Facebook users spending a lot of time on the social networking site, might be feeling down, lonely and even depressed, claims a new report.

A recent study has revealed a link between a Facebook and the dampened mood of active users who feel they have “wasted time on doing” what they call “meaningless activity.”

Which in turn suggests that shy people use Facebook longer, are more likely to be addicted and therefore more likely to be depressed.

But I would have thought that shy people are more likely to be lonely and more likely to be depressed – anyway.


A cardiology journal not to be published in (unless you cannot publish anywhere else)

August 26, 2014

Predatory on-line journals are stretching the envelope of creative and lucrative ways of making money from the web. And researchers desperate to get something published are their willing victims. At $1200 a paper it is now possible to bypass the irritations of referees and peer-review and copy editing and a long delay between submission and publication!

Ottawa Citizen:

Important notice

A respected Canadian medical journal that was sold to offshore owners last year is now printing scientific junk for hire, but still trading on its original good name.

Experimental & Clinical Cardiology was published in Oakville, Ont., for 17 years and had a solid reputation for printing original medical research. It was sold in 2013, and its new owners say they are in Switzerland, but do their banking in Turks and Caicos.

And for $1,200 U.S. they’ll print anything — even a garbled blend of fake cardiology, Latin grammar and missing graphs submitted by the Citizen.

Experimental And Clinical Cardiology

The journal was flagged last month by Jeffrey Beall, a university librarian in Colorado who compiles a widely-followed list of “predatory” publishers. These are in the business of printing research that isn’t good enough for real science journals. They make it look legitimate, charging a fee to authors desperate to boost their careers.

Now this one has a special Canadian connection. As well, it is demonstrating a new and wildly profitable model for predatory journals.

Instead of running a cheap startup website and hunting for clients, it took over the identity — and readership — of an established business. 

This is paying off spectacularly. Experimental & Clinical Cardiology published 142 articles in July alone, worth a total of $170,000 U.S. for one month. It operates online only and doesn’t bother with editing, so it has almost no costs.

The result is sloppy, or worse. Some articles are called “Enter Paper Title” — the layout instructions instead of the intended title. One is filled with visible paragraph markers (). Some authors’ names are missing.

Scientists are worried because academic journals do more than print research. They also screen it by sending it to independent reviewers — experts in the field who can weed out low-quality work.

But the “predatory” journals skip this step. They accept everything verbatim, making it appear that experts have approved it. ……. 

Experimental and Clinical Cardiology

Open access publishing is not without costs. Experimental & Clinical Cardiology therefore levies an article-processing charge USD1200 for each article accepted for publication.

It is all perfectly legal and they probably accept all publications providing the $1200 is forthcoming.

Why so much fuss that Facebook “manipulated” emotions?

July 8, 2014

There has been a lot of fuss lately about an internal Facebook study which managed to be published in a scientific journal as I noted in passing about 3 weeks ago.

Emotional contagion by Facebook could be a new disease. A case of the medium creating the new disease! Heightened emotions can apparently be transmitted by Facebook. The researchers find that“emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness”. And emotional contagion is what turns a crowd into a mob. And as this work from MIT shows, “Good people can do bad things. Belonging to a group makes people more likely to harm others outside the group.”

The research consisted of manipulating Facebook feeds and seeing what happened. The paper, the journal, Facebook and Cornell University have been heavily criticised for their “lack of ethics” and many are back-tracking in CYA exercises. Retraction Watch writes:

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) is subjecting a much-criticized study involving Facebook that it published just two weeks ago to an Expression of Concern. …. Critics — and there were many online — said the study violated ethical norms because it did not alert participants that they were taking part.

…… Here’s the Expression of Concern, signed by editor-in-chief Inder Verma:

……. When the authors prepared their paper for publication in PNAS, they stated that: “Because this experiment was conducted by Facebook, Inc. for internal purposes, the Cornell University IRB [Institutional Review Board] determined that the project did not fall under Cornell’s Human Research Protection Program.” This statement has since been confirmed by Cornell University. ……

But I find all the fuss a little hypocritical. Manipulation of the behaviour of others is the norm and the bed-rock for all human social intercourse.

Politicians manipulate – or try to – their voters. Demagogues manipulate individuals to create a mob. Artists and authors try to arouse emotions. Scientists try to influence their grant panels. We manipulate our friends and our family members. A leader manipulates his followers. Followers try to influence their leaders. All human cooperation is built on manipulation of behaviour. We try to manipulate our enemies. When we call it “manipulation” we disapprove but when we call it “motivation” it is to be admired. Obama tries to motivate Netanyahu but Bibi usually manages to manipulate Barack. Manipulation of behaviour by persuasion is fine but manipulation by coercion is frowned upon. Any advertisement – by definition – plays with the emotions of its target audience and tries to manipulate their behaviour.

So what is wrong then when a Facebook or a Google or a Twitter  – whose business model depends on placing advertisements accurately and effectively – tries to employ “emotional contagion” to maximise their revenues? I closed my Facebook and Twitter accounts some time ago partly because I did not like their intrusive nature. But that was because I felt that my personal space was being encroached on – and beyond the level I felt comfortable with. But I certainly did not feel they were doing anything unethical. In this case I find the criticism confused and a little inane. Was it unethical for Facebook to have conducted an “internal” study. I don’t think so. Was it unethical for PNAS to have published the paper? Not really.

If it is unethical for internet sites or social media to target advertisements then it is unethical for any advertisement to be targeted towards anyone.

The onus I think lies with the individual.



A “right” to be remembered

July 6, 2014

We shall all die and we shall all be forgotten. And if our works have not been captured on tablets of stone or our images as cave paintings then the “forgetting” will not take very long. While stone tablets and cave walls have a life of tens of thousands of years, the life of parchment is at most about two thousand and paper is unlikely to survive more than a thousand years. Media for the storage of electronic data can live for probably no more than a few decades – at best. And with the internet the medium is getting ever more ephemeral.

History does not change. But the historical record depends on who recorded it and with how much bias, on what medium and who rewrote it before the medium died. Data corruption and plagiarism were not of great concern in the days of stone tablets. The ease of corrupting data has increased with the ease of recording data and the lifetime of the recording media have decreased.

David Mitchell writes in The Observer:

These days thousands are campaigning for “the right to die” and “the right to be forgotten as if they’re genuinely worried it might otherwise not happen.

What will our descendants think of it? “Bloody hell, those guys were a bit glass-half-empty! What else did they want? ‘The right to self-harm’? ‘The right to feel humiliated’? ‘The right to decompose’? ‘The right to have someone you hate turn up at your funeral and claim you liked them’?” Historians of future ages could be forgiven for concluding that this whole era was clinically depressed. ……… 

The only thing I ever liked about the internet was that I thought it would help historians – that, assuming there wasn’t an all-data-destroying power surge, millions of searchable written sources would be left to posterity. Without that, it’s all just grooming and bookshop closures and mind-blowing opportunities for fraud. So this news that Ozymandias can apply to have records of his works suppressed in case they invoke too much despair in the Mighty – ie prospective employers – is a real blow.

You may say that Ozymandias is dead – or rather fictional but, even in the fiction, dead – so couldn’t apply to have his virtual trunkless legs buried in the unsearchable sand (I will retain control of this metaphor). The internet can still be accurate about the deceased, you might think. I don’t. They’re the very people you can say anything about, true or false, because they cannot be libelled. Only the living have legal recourse to ensure accuracy, but why would anyone bother to get things corrected if they can effectively just delete anything written about them that they’re not keen on?

People’s right to suppress unpleasant lies which are publicly told is being extended to unpleasant truths – until they die when it’s suddenly open season on slander. The internet will become constructed entirely of two different sorts of untruth: contemporaneous unalloyed praise and posthumous defamatory hearsay.

We are 7 billion today and all the humans who ever lived (as Anatomically Modern Humans since about 200,000 years ago) probably number around 110 billion. Being forgotten is is the norm.

I want the “right” to be remembered – but not for those things I don’t want to be remembered for! But I will be long gone, long forgotten, and will have little interest in any “rights” by then.

Peer review as the erroneous comments of anonymous experts

May 28, 2014

There is a presumed halo around peer review which is quite unjustified. And when a publish or perish attitude prevails in academia it is inevitable that political correctness – as defined by the “peers” – colours whatever gets published. And “political correctness”  in science leads to a stamp of approval for what fits with the “consensus”. Nothing revolutionary can get through. Anything which smacks of being “heretical” has little chance of passing “peer review”.

 In 1936, Albert Einstein—who was used to people like Planck making decisions about his papers without outside opinions—was incensed when the American journal Physical Review sent his submission to another physicist for evaluation. In a terse note to the editor, Einstein wrote: “I see no reason to address the—in any case erroneous—comments of your anonymous expert. On the basis of this incident I prefer to publish the paper elsewhere.”

Melinda Baldwin considers the question “Did Isaac Newton need peer review

Peer review at scholarly journals involves recruiting experts to evaluate a paper before it is approved for publication. When a paper is submitted, the editors send it to two or three reviewers who are considered knowledgeable about the topic. The reviewers and the authors, in theory, do not know each others’ identities. If the reviewers raise objections to the methods or conclusions, the authors must revise the paper before it will be accepted for publication. If the objections are significant, the paper is rejected.

Most observers regard non-peer-reviewed results as, at best, preliminary. Instinctively, this makes sense. When a paper is printed in a scientific journal, it acquires the “imprimatur of scientific authenticity” (to quote the physicist John Ziman) and many observers consider its findings to be established scientific facts. It seems like a good idea to subject a paper to expert scrutiny before granting it that sort of status.

But it turns out that peer review is only the scientific community’s most recent method of providing this scrutiny—and it’s worth asking if science is, in fact, “real” only if it’s been approved by anonymous referees.

…. Nature published some papers without peer review up until 1973. In fact, many of the most influential texts in the history of science were never put through the peer review process, including Isaac Newton’s 1687 Principia Mathematica, Albert Einstein’s 1905 paper on relativity, and James Watson and Francis Crick’s 1953 Nature paper on the structure of DNA. ….

……… Peer review’s history is of particular interest now because there is an increasing sense in the scientific community that all is not well with the peer review process. In recent years, high-profile papers have passed peer review only to be heavily criticized after publication (such as the 2011 “arsenic DNA” paper in Science that claimed a particular bacterium could incorporate arsenic into its DNA—a finding most biologists have since rejected). Others have been retracted amid allegations of fraud (consider the now-infamous 1998 Lancet paper claiming a link between vaccines and autism). Many scientists worry that requiring approval from colleagues makes it less likely that new or controversial ideas will be published. Nature’s former editor John Maddox was fond of saying that the groundbreaking 1953 DNA paper would never have made it past modern peer review because it was too speculative. ….

“Peers” – and especially since they have to be knowledgeable in the field – always have some vested interest. It could be to defend their own work, or to publicise their own work, or to gain support for their own funding, to help young researchers get published, or to hinder others. Careers can be enhanced or destroyed by aiding or preventing publication. Anonymity also means that there is no accountability for the consequences of the reviewer’s views. Inevitably nothing revolutionary that may be attacked by an influential reviewer can even be submitted for publication. And therein lies the problem with “politically correct” science.

Now with the ease of on-line publication increasing, pre-publication, anonymous peer review is obsolete and has to give way to post-publication, attributable review.

Paid news and media extortion

May 18, 2014

The media like to portray themselves as a vital and necessary force for democracy. Attacks on the press – in any form – are considered fundamentally a strike against democracy and press freedom. If they break the law and get arrested they claim they were doing it for the greater good. They believe they are entitled to some form of press immunity.

But the reality is that “press freedom” is far too often used as an excuse for justifying criminal behaviour and  bad journalism. Accountability is not of any great concern.

But the media (print and broadcast and on the internet) are not averse to being paid for presenting what is essentially advertising as “news”. And even being paid for not publishing negative stories!!

The Election Commission in India are basking in the soft glow of having successfully conducted the massive, 10 phase voting by 550 million of an electorate of over 800 million over a 6 week period. They have the task of maintaining a “free and fair” election and have not been slow to pull up politicians who are transgressing. They have detected nearly 700 cases of the media transgressing the bounds of propriety.

But they have no authority over the media and the media – in their own judgement – can do no wrong.


As many as 694 cases of paid news – or news for which the media organisations took money to publish or broadcast – were detected by the Election Commission in this election, official said.

By the time the 10 phases of the polls ended to form the 16th parliament on May 12, thousands of cases of paid news were reported, according to EC officials. In 3,053 cases, notice was issued by the EC suspecting a foul play, an official said. 

“We served 3,053 notices, 694 of which were found to be genuine cases of paid news by our Media Certification and Monitoring Committee,” EC Director General Akshay Rout told IANS. “We define paid news as those items which are published as news but are advertisement in nature,” he added.

“There is no accountability in the media. While some candidates willingly pay for positive coverage, in most other cases candidates have to pay to prevent negative coverage. The media is getting increasingly criminalised, and acting as extortionist,” noted columnist and commentator Swapan Das Gupta told IANS. He added that media is acting as a reckless body, violating every known tenet of ethics.

… The Election Commission …. said it was not obliged to act against the TV news channels or print media indulging in such practices. “The media houses or publications are beyond the EC’s purview. We simply forward the cases of paid news to the PCI and the News Broadcasting Standards Association,” Dhirendra Ojha, Director in the EC, told IANS.

The shape of ads to come

March 23, 2014

Using augmented reality in advertisements.


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