Censorship map of the world


The Financial Times has published an interesting interactive map outlining growing censorship of the Internet in the world. Belarus, Turkey, Thailand and Iran (in that order) have the highest Internet penetration of all the countries described.

Also, check out GreatFirewallofChina.org, which purports to test whether your domain is blocked in China. Yes my friends, this esteemed online publication appears to be blocked, right alongside ChinaIsEvil.com. I suppose China doesn’t need MY insights. However, WormBase, a guide to “the Biology and Genome of C. Elagans” seems good to go.

Frightening what one’s mind puts forth when randomly thinking of something to search…

When the machines edit your life

It’s like a horrific scene out of EPIC 2014.

best dating app in sydney highlights the story of Nino Ceritano, a restaurateur whose top Google search was most popular dating app by state about a murder suspect who worked in his restaurant.

“What do you think when you put in a restaurant [into Google] and a killer comes up?” he asked the Times. [UPDATE: Roanoke Times online editor John Jackson todays hijri date today.]

Nino, I think you’re the victim of editing by machine. It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately while crunching through Database Nation by Simpson Garfinkel (per the recommendation of Adrian Holovaty). One of the basic premises of the book is that much of your personal information is being held largely by third parties over which you have little to no control.

While a news story about a murder is double-plus public information, is it something that a human editor would choose to highlight as the most relevant thing about this particular establishment? Perhaps. Or perhaps not. Is it fair to Ceritano? Is it more important than the amazing Pizza al Pollo? More importantly, if he were to contact Google, would they do anything about it?

It’s possible that they did. The official Web site of the restaurant is now the number one Google search result. Did someone at Google have mercy on Ceritano?

Let’s also take a look at when Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales tried to exercise some control over the information about himself when he altered his own Wikipedia entry. The crowds were incensed. You can read about the controversy on …well… his own Wikipedia entry!

Whether it’s an algorithm run by a computer or crowds of faceless contributors doing the editing, we must acknowledge that there are some dangers associated with becoming too automated. Crowdsourcing can be a beautiful thing, but we must make sure as journalists that we retain the ability to present information with care and humanity.

And on that note, Nino, here’s some keyworded link love for Ceritano’s restaurant.

[CORRECTION: I previously misstated the nature of the incident at Ceritano’s. Thanks Amy.]

Microsoft offered cash for Wikipedia alterations

Microsoft got its hand slapped by Wikipedia after it was revealed that Microsoft attempted to pay writer Rick Jelliffe for altering Microsoft’s Wikipedia entry, according to an Associated Press report.

From the report:

Microsoft acknowledged it had approached the writer and offered to pay him for the time it would take to correct what the company was sure were inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles on an open-source document standard and a rival format put forward by Microsoft.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but perhaps it’s only a matter of time until some media organization gets caught paying off a prominent Digg or Newsvine user. Maybe they’ll even call that person an “Outreach Editor.” Of course, some organizations are already buying search ads on Google for news articles…

British newspapers paying Google for headline placement

Do I hear $10 for “Saddam Hussein hanging?” $15?

PaidContent highlights a Wall Street Journal report on the growing trend in the U.K. toward newspapers bidding on sponsored links on Google for news events. Some American newspapers have gotten in on the act too, including the New York Times, Washington Post and USAToday, according to the article.

I have no qualms about training journalists to write search-engine friendly headlines. Those headlines tend to work better on the Web anyway, and Google is the biggest driver of traffic just about anywhere.

Nevertheless, the question is: If this trend explodes here in the United States, will even mid-size and small news sites have any other choice but to join the auction?

Top Digg users banned for itchy palms

digg.gifA couple of Digg‘s most loyal users have been banned because they’ve apparently taken money for posting articles. Along with instances of phony articles appearing, it seems as if Digg has had its hands full containing some of the mayhem that comes along with having a substantial effect on a site’s ad revenue.

While many users are well-intentioned, one must always be on the lookout for people taking advantage of an open social network, especially if the reputation of your publication is involved.
Here are links to Digg’s top users and to their terms of service.

Where’s the link?

foley.jpgThe Sarasota Herald-Tribune published a whopper of a story today, revealing the identity of the priest who says he had an inappropriate relationship with a young, now-disgraced Rep. Mark Foley.

As the national media picked up the story, it’s appalling that hardly anyone has actually linked to the Herald-Tribune‘s story.

A WashingtonPost.com story refers to the Herald-Tribune six times in different ways without a link. But I’m picking on the Post since it’s a staff-created story. CNN, MSNBC, the Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, ABC News and Yahoo! News are all guilty as well. Granted, some of these stories are automatically generated by AP, sans link. Still, that’s a pretty important link.

And to add insult to injury, Google News’s algorithm ranks the Herald-Tribune story as the 10th most-important story (at least when I checked at 11:20 a.m.).

I’m far from the first to say it, but we should really be re-examining our linking practices. Saying “so-and-so reported” without the link –especially on such a big story– just doesn’t make sense online, nor is it fair.

Ethics for the Web, Poynter style

The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. is attempting to spearhead an effort to create a set of guidelines for online news ethics.

For a long time, I’ve been appalled by the lack of consistency in newspapers’ online correction policies (Ombuds take note: free column idea). Sometimes corrections are made on the fly without a note. Other times, corrections never make it into the archive. Or, one version of a story gets corrected while another version sits in a section untouched.

It’s enough to make a researcher want to scream.

Nevertheless, the discussion at Poynter revolved around three main topics: linking, revenue and content, and user-generated content. The story about the meeting, written by Rick Edmonds, doesn’t really state much in regards to concrete details or best practices. It seems to simply state, “Hey, these issues are important.” And that’s fine for now.

One particular statement that struck me was when Edmonds writes:

“A complicating factor is that the newness of the Web and frequent site redesigns have created publishing formats without the physical and visual boundaries that are fairly obvious in a printed edition. In other words, it may not be clear, just by looking, what is editorial, what is advertising and what is some sort of hybrid.

The draft guidelines offered a nod to the notion that “the enterprise needs to make money to sustain itself.” But a Wild West leniency on ad placements and sponsorships could undermine the consumer experience and credibility of the brand. The guidelines called for “a defined process for decision-making” to revolve disputes between news and advertising. “

And is there a difference between in-house marketing and advertising? Is it okay to mix branding for a newspaper promotion with editorial content?
Our credibility has always been crucial, but I am of the mind that it is even more important online. Newspapers have many more critics and competitors today than they did in the days before online news. On the web, media outlets with vastly fewer resources (and –arguably– inferior quality) can be indistinguishable from a full-blown newsroom staff.
To that end, the work Poynter is doing in this area bears much watching. While I believe mainstream online publications will never adhere to one set of defined rules, I do think we need to take pains to distinguish ourselves from the firebrands and reactionaries that are prolific online, though we all have a part to play in the public discourse.

In the end, the best way to maintain our readership for generations to come is to be as accurate and ethical as humanly possible in all our work.