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Delayed Outrage Over A Censored Site; What's a Better Way To Spread News?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the you-don't-like-this dept.

Censorship 214

Bennett Haselton is back with a thought provoking essay about not just an incident of Internet censorship on an American university campus, but a proposed method of propagating news, so that relevant stories aren't buried as easily by chance or time. Bennett writes: "The real scandal in the story of Arizona State University blocking students' access to the Change.org website, is not just that it happened, but that the block persisted for two months without being mentioned in the media. As a card-carrying member of the 'outrage grapevine,' I surely think we need a way to respond faster." Read on for the rest.

This is a tale of censorship. From about December 7th until February 3rd, Arizona State University was blocking all users of its network from accessing the Change.org website, where users can create petitions and circulate them for other users to sign. (The lame excuse offered by the university was that a student had created a petition and was using the change.org site to "spam" other ASU accounts; of course, even if that had been the real reason, it would have easily been possible for ASU to block mail from the change.org servers, without blocking all students from accessing the website.) On February 3rd, after a furor of sudden media attention, the block was lifted.

But that's not the worst instance of censorship in this story. What's more disconcerting is that for the two months that the block was in place, the university's decision to block the website received no media coverage at all. This despite the fact that it was a political website being blocked, at a university with over 70,000 students — a publicly funded university, where a court would have almost certainly found that the blocking violated the First Amendment, had the case ever gone to trial.

I first heard about the original tumblr blog post describing the blocking situation, when someone posted the link on my Facebook wall. So as I went to my profile to read it, I was already predisposed to be pissed off, since almost every link that someone posts on my wall is either an outright scam, or a one-sided rant about an issue that is actually much more complicated than the author thinks it is. Well, it was a one-sided rant, all right, but it was about an issue where there was really only one side: ASU evidently got annoyed about a petition on change.org protesting tuition hikes, so they blocked the site. As I re-read the post, I kept thinking: How can this be true, if we haven't heard about it anywhere else? Perhaps an overzealous ASU network admin put the block in place, and it was reversed just a few hours later, but the tumblr post never got updated? I emailed the blog post's author, Eric Haywood, and the owners of change.org, asking how long the block had lasted before the site was un-blocked — I just assumed that the block couldn't possibly still be in place, two months later. But they confirmed that it was.

The link got blogged and re-blogged around tumblr a few times in December and January, and then, at about the same time as I was sending my emails, the issue suddenly "tipped" into public awareness as it was linked from a widely-read reddit post. Then the blocking received its first official "media" coverage in an article in the ASU student newspaper, the State Press. (Eric Haywood called the article "just ASU spreading it's own propaganda about this issue (they own, run and control the State Press)". I don't know about propaganda, but it did seem a little amateurish — the article says "The author of the original blog post is unknown", even though the guy's name, Eric Haywood, was listed in the post, along with his email address.) Then finally the story spilled over into the "real" media with an article in the Huffington Post, in which the author pointed out that the blocking likely violated the First Amendment. (A few hours after that article appeared, the university unblocked the site so that ASU students could access Change.org on their network again.)

None of the articles commented, however, on how the issue had remained buried for so long; the State Press article said only that the tumblr blog "began circulating the Internet Thursday." A reader could be forgiven for reading the articles and scratching their head and thinking: What is it that just happened? If the site has been blocked for two months, why is this only being written about now?

The answer, I think, is that most people don't realize how arbitrary the process is that determines what issues get news coverage and which ones don't. Before I got involved in a few issues that did receive media coverage (in my late teens, through Peacefire and in co-operative projects with others), I had just assumed that "the news" consisted of all stories that somebody in the media business considered to be "news-worthy." Some journalists just want to sell papers (or attract page-views), while other (better) journalists strive to tell the most important stories — but either way, surely their decision to cover something, or not, should depend on attributes of the story, right? Not on whatever else happened to be going on, or other random circumstances? But then, when I started to be involved in efforts to actually get media coverage for this or that issue, some issues ended up receiving far more coverage than even I thought they really deserved, and others received far less.

Sometimes reporters would frankly admit that they thought something was a good story, but they couldn't cover it because their plate was full that day, and even if they had time later, by that time the issue would be too "cold." Some years ago, I wrote in Slashdot about an experiment in which I sued some spammers in Small Claims court, and filed the court briefs with some of the pages stuck together with a sliver of paper. When the judges rejected the motions (as I expected, since Small Claims judges have been near-uniformly hostile to spam suits), I went to the courthouse to look at the files and found the pages still attached, indicating that the judges had rejected the motions without reading them. What I didn't mention in the original article, was that I had planned at first to give the exclusive story to a Seattle Times reporter, who came down to the courthouse to see the files and interviewed me afterwards. The paper must have thought there was a real story there, since they later sent a photographer to come down and take pictures of the files as well. But then something else landed on the reporter's desk and pushed the story back a few days, and days became weeks, and then the beat switched to a different reporter. When I eventually called to ask if they were still interested, they replied, essentially, that without a current "hook", they couldn't write the story, because now it would look like they weren't doing their jobs for the long intervening period when they didn't write about it, so it was better now to drop it entirely.

Traditional media seems hamstrung by two limitations here: (1) an inefficiency at finding the most important stories that most "deserve" to be written about; and (2) a convention that you can't cover something that's more than a few days old, because then the story looks "dated." The Internet doesn't seem to suffer from limitation #2, as demonstrated by the fact that the blocking of change.org at ASU on December 7th was still able to ignite a controversy on February 3rd. But it does still suffer from limitation #1, as illustrated by the Internet's near-total silence on the issue from December 7th through February 2nd.

Many other people have a pet issue that they think is being "suppressed" by the "liberal media" or the "corporate-owned media" (depending on which side they're on), but the evidence suggests that no conspiracy is necessary to keep an important story from being written about. Sometimes arbitrariness and chance is enough.

My naive earlier assumption — that stories received media coverage because of some combination of attributes of those stories — seems to be a specific instance of a cognitive fallacy, where if you observe that some group of things achieved some end result Z, and all of those things started out possessing some attribute X, then you think that attribute X caused the achievement of result Z. In this case, because we observe that most stories which receive news coverage are important and interesting (with obvious exceptions), we assume that most interesting and important news stories will receive news coverage. Thus, it's frustrating and counterintuitive when we find out about an issue that cries out to be written about, but was ignored by the media. The truth is more likely to be that for every important and interesting story that gets coverage, there are likely to be many other equally important and interesting stories that never make it into the news.

(By the way, I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z. It's not the same as the "post hoc fallacy" or the mistaken belief that "correlation equals causation," because both of those are about the illusion of causation. I'm talking about the correlation being an illusion in the first place — where people come to believe that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving result Z, ignoring the fact that there may be enormous numbers of cases where attribute X is true, but which never go on to achieve result Z. If you know the exact name of that fallacy, shoot me an email and submit a comment below.)

In an earlier article, I proposed a system that would eliminate the arbitrariness in determining which pieces of content are selected to be "the best" and broadcast to a larger audience. I suggested using the algorithm to determine which songs could be pushed out to listeners of a streaming music system, but it could be modified to select which news stories would be considered "important" enough to push out to readers of a news site. (The gist of the idea is that you have each piece of content rated by a random sample of users chosen from the system, and if their average rating is high enough, it gets pushed out to everyone else. If the random sample size is large enough, their average rating will be non-arbitrary, and will be determined by the attributes of the content itself.)

Maybe that algorithm is flawed or maybe someone could find a better one, but the more important thing to realize is that we don't live in that world now, where the attention given to an event is determined by attributes of that event. In the world we actually live in, it's safe to assume that many events take place every day that would have been covered by the news, if it hadn't been for a reporter's missed phone call or some other random happenstance. I have no doubt that the blocking of Change.org on ASU's network could have been a front-page story on CNN, under the right circumstances. I just think that in an ideal world, it should have ended up as a front-page story on CNN regardless of the "circumstances" — but real life, no favorable circumstances means no CNN story.

That might seem like a lot to read into a single case of media silence about a political website being censored at a state university. But while Change.org is no longer blocked at ASU, the inefficient and arbitrary means by which news "events" are discovered and distributed to a wide audience will be with us for a long time.

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BEDROCK WAS A GAY COMMUNITY !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956699)

... We'll have a GAY old time

Re:BEDROCK WAS A GAY COMMUNITY !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958577)

Consider your reply censoor.

Start a petition on change.org! (5, Funny)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956707)

Just start a petition on change.org to demand faster response to change.org being blocked!

It starts with Julian... (0)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956713)

...and ends with Assange. I'm pretty sure I've seen WikiLeaks used for this before.

Dont like it? (-1, Flamebait)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956717)

Get your own damn internet service!

Re:Dont like it? (4, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956791)

Universities should not be censoring arbitrary websites on the internet.

Re:Dont like it? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956871)

If I was on ASU's campus, would I not be able to get to change.org on my smartphone? Of course I would be able to, 'cause I got my own damn Inernet service. That's why no one cares.

Re:Dont like it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958111)

Because broke as dirt students are going to favor being rectally explored by some large telecom versus hopping on the University's free (with tuition) and fast as lightning network?
Righto.

Re:Dont like it? (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38959033)

I'm guessing the University's free (with tuition) and fast as lightning network already blocks pr0n and most kinds of w4r3z, so the chances are that yes, they do.

And most students are so far in debt that dirt is actually one of their creditors. When it gets to that stage, there are two major mindsets that set in. One can be soundbit[1] as "waste not, want not", the other is "fuck it, what's a few hundred on top of 30 grand?"

[1] Yes it fucking is, I just invented it.

Re:Dont like it? (0)

hjf (703092) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956885)

And students shouldn't be warezing stuff and downloading music and movies.

Re:Dont like it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957243)

...from change.org?

Re:Dont like it? (1)

haggus71 (1051238) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957079)

Adjust your sarcasm detector

Re:Dont like it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958247)

You say this like it's an iron-clad fact.

Why not? (And go and look up the definition of "arbitrary".)

Re:Dont like it? (3, Interesting)

David Chappell (671429) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958437)

Universities should not be censoring arbitrary websites on the internet.

Chances are ten to one that this isn't censorship at all. I work in a university IT department. We have constant problems with spam, worms, password guessers. We block IP addresses all the time. Generally these are the addresses of botnet members. Since nobody wants to connect to spam bots anyway, nobody ever complains about these blocks. I suspect that a system administrator in this case saw the flow of spam, mistook change.org's e-mail server for a spam bot, and just blocked the IP address.

I believe this is a common practice. That being so, it is unlikely that the person who blocked the address even knew about the Change.org website. And who consults the university administration before blocking a spammer?

Re:Dont like it? (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957151)

They did. It's included in their tuition.

Re:Dont like it? (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957245)

"The technology fee funds technology initiatives including expanding ASU's wireless network on all of its campuses, increasing the number of technology-enabled classrooms, developing a system to allow students to access University-licensed software, reducing dependence on computing labs and expanding and improving online self-service environment."

I dont see internet in there...

Re:Dont like it? (3, Insightful)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957849)

"The technology fee funds technology initiatives including expanding ASU's wireless network on all of its campuses, increasing the number of technology-enabled classrooms, developing a system to allow students to access University-licensed software, reducing dependence on computing labs and expanding and improving online self-service environment."

I dont see internet in there...

As a public university, the internet access is funded by either tuition, government grants, or both.

No matter how you slice it, the students (and the rest of AZ taxpayers) are funding ASU's internet service.

What that has to do with a public institution breaking the law and violating the civil liberties of their students, I don't know.

Re:Dont like it? (0)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957269)

What part of PUBLICLY FUNDED UNIVERSITY do you not understand?

Re:Dont like it? (2)

afabbro (33948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958099)

...the part that says that full, free, unfettered, and unlimited access to the Internet is some kind of student right. It's not. The students are provided the Internet subject to the discretion of ASU. If ASU doesn't want them to see playboy.com, it has the right to not allow them to see it on its network, passing through its servers, on its campus, etc. ASU is not a general-purpose ISP. ASU is not required to provide any Internet access whatsoever.

Additionally, the University has responsibilities via the in loco parentis doctrine, though they may not apply in this case.

If ASU blocked this site - and I would need to be convinced this wasn't stupidity or a mistake before I'd believe it was some kind of sinister intentional plan - then they are within their rights. It may run counter to the generally accepted American anti-censorship idea of free inquiry in public universities, but let's not bleat about student rights because in this case, they have none.

Re:Dont like it? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958497)

Blocking political websites using taxpayer money is a big no-no. You are dead wrong about the students having no rights. When I was in college (not ASU), i was the liaison to the deans regarding technology and network access.

Re:Dont like it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958741)

Uh... what? First.. ASU may not be technically required to provide internet, but enrollment wouldn't be anywhere near 70k if there was no internet connectivity while on campus. Not, at least, until cellular data service gets quite a bit faster and ceases to give a shit about tethered devices.

Second.. if in loco parentis was relevant, it still wouldn't permit ASU to squelch the student body's right to free speech. Even if the actual parents of any given student could enforce the same block at home. Because yeah, the students do have rights.

Maybe someone should handwave your rights away. See how much you enjoy it. Of course, no one would hear you complain. Because nobody will bleat about your rights, since you don't have any.

Re:Dont like it? (1)

zolltron (863074) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958705)

When talking about Universities, people often tend to have this reaction that seems at home in the private world. If Starbucks doesn't want me to connect to Change.org and are providing me with free internet service, they should have the right to block that site. After all, they have no obligation to provide me with internet service in the first place, so they are free to limit the access.

As pointed out by others, the first major difference here is that ASU is partially funded by Arizona tax payers and therefore operates by different rules. But, more importantly, ASU is a *university* and universities should operate by different rules. Good universities are either government entities or non-profits with a mission to educate students with the interest of developing them into well-educated citizens. Unfettered access to different ideas is absolutely critical to that process. A university that restricts access to free speech is simply failing at its primary mission: preparing students to be active participants in a democratic society. It's not a matter of whether ASU gets government money or not, it's that ASU has a mission that they are actively thwarting.

Online Petitions are So Cute (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956743)

They never really accomplish anything.

They're actually worse than useless because they lead lazy people to believe all they need to do is go to a website, click an "I agree" button and they've fixed the world.

Its as pathetic as a "Facebook Group", if not worse.

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956911)

Online petitions real goal isn't to directly impact the outcome of a particular issue. It is to shape the opinions of those who sign.

If I can get you to agree to do the smallest thing to support issue X, I dramatically increase my chances of success when I ask you to do something much bigger in support of issue X or a related issue Y. In one study, a beighborhood was asked to put a small decal in a front window of their house supporting safe driving. Easy request, most people did it since it was no skin off their back.

A month later, these folks were asked to put a billboard in their front yard supporting safe driving. 35% agreed, more than triple the amount who weren't approached about the decal.

It is simple psychology and a way to manipulate people. Whether this is ethical or not is an exercise to the reader.

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957397)

What's a beighborhood? Is it like a bambulance or a babby?

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957549)

Thanks for your highly intelligent contribution. Now go play in traffic.

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957017)

On relatively minor issues, they can serve as a way to tell some other group generally how the people signing it feel. However, you are right that I suspect no online petition has ever made anyone do something they did not want to.

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (4, Informative)

Skapare (16644) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957393)

Bzzzzt! Wrong! Many actually do accomplish at least some things. See what Sallie Mae changed as a result here [change.org] and here [nytimes.com] .

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (5, Informative)

Pax681 (1002592) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957421)

They never really accomplish anything.

They're actually worse than useless because they lead lazy people to believe all they need to do is go to a website, click an "I agree" button and they've fixed the world.

Its as pathetic as a "Facebook Group", if not worse.

Well that's where you are wrong. An online petition along with a facebook group and other pressures helped raise awareness and created enough stink to have The Wallace Letter [bbc.co.uk] returned to Scotland to be displayed in the National museum instead of sitting in a drawer in Kew archives in London.
the petition and the facebook group helped raise awareness of the issue to a point where Members of theSociety of William Wallace [thesociety...allace.com] along with members of the Scottish government were able to negotiate it's return.
the only thing that's pathetic bud is you aloof apathy which just goes to shows your own feeling of impotence hiding behind a false assumption that you know better when there are instances which prove you wrong... this letter being one of them

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (4, Informative)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957907)

They never really accomplish anything.

"In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday's vote on the Protect IP Act," U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said in a statement two days after a wave of online protests against the bill swept the Internet.

Nope, not a damn thing.

Philistine.

Trust (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958369)

Maybe I'm just becoming more and more cynical in my old age, but how in the world can online petitions be trusted? We can't even trust electronic voting machines, purpose built through and through to be infallible (I'm not saying they are, but that the were built under that premise from the ground up). Who would actually trust the results from one of these websites? Granted, I've never used one, but what are they doing? Requiring a valid credit card number to prevent multiple signatures? Is CAPTCHA so advanced now that we can rest assured that the majority of the "signatures" aren't fake?

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958389)

President Obama has promised to actually pay attention to change.org if this anonymous Slashdot post gets to +5 Troll!

Re:Online Petitions are So Cute (1)

tmo72 (604664) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958615)

They never really accomplish anything.

Mostly true, but sometimes they work [thewirereport.ca] ... especially before an election. The regulator was eventually forced to back down [slashdot.org] by the govt.

"Censorship" (2)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956753)

My workplace blocks websites, where is the media?

Re:"Censorship" (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956821)

Are you paying your workplace $15-$40k a year to teach/educate/house you?

Re:"Censorship" (2)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957063)

They're paying me more than that. I also have the concept of an acceptable use policy which I signed at employment much like what the students do and understand the internet is a series of private networks with various terms and conditions. You're not one of those silly people who thinks you have a right to use private property are you? Granted I guess you could consider this "government" censorship since it's the school system, but my comment is from the employment slide of things.

Re:"Censorship" (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957179)

If you don't see the difference between your employee paying you and the students paying the university when it comes to what is available on the network, then there is no point in arguing with you at all.

Re:"Censorship" (1)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957759)

It's still early and I completely misread that as "is your workplace."

So if they pay their inflated tuition to this school, regardless of the network usage policy they signed before they use it, they should get unfettered access?

Re:"Censorship" (2)

tbannist (230135) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958039)

I doubt the network usage policy includes a clause "you agree not to discuss or complain about arbitrary tuition increases online". It looks like the "spam" was a notification that someone sent out about a petition against the University raising tuition, and being the good business people that they are, they figured the simplest solution was to prevent anyone on campus from being able to see the petition (and the site it was hosted on).

That goes well beyond "according to the network usage policy".

Re:"Censorship" (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958775)

So, the 'spam' was actual spam. The sight got blocked as normal.

The only thing wrong was, after it was all sorted, the original spammer should have had his/her kneecaps broken. Him or her is the only villain I see.

Re:"Censorship" (3, Insightful)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957341)

Here is the crux of the issue.: Publicly funded (i.e. they take taxpayer money) universities dont have the luxury of interfering in this manner. Either stop taking taxpayer funds or stop blocking political websites. Period, full stop.

Re:"Censorship" (1)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957843)

I'm not disagreeing with that, in fact I addressed that in another comment before you posted your comment citing that I'm also ignorant of the schools funding sources (I mentioned this here, 10 minutes before you posted this [slashdot.org] )

Re:"Censorship" (2)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957075)

I sometimes fee like I'm paying $15-$40k a year to educate them.

(Of course, that's the equivalent in Roubles)

Re:"Censorship" (2)

thomasa (17495) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956901)

Are you a state university paid for by taxes? Private corporations can do what they want - unfortunately.

Re:"Censorship" (2)

ohnocitizen (1951674) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957115)

No, they can't. Maybe legally they can do what they want, but we as a society can hold them to a high standard of ethical behavior in a number of legal ways. We can pass laws regulating them - prohibiting blatant censorship. We can start a campaign to damage their brand and their uptake of new students by casting light on their censorship and its implications. We can work to cut off the corporate and community partnerships they form to drive and maintain their business. A corporation misbehaving does not render us powerless or without the right to respond. We have power (even in situations where they have far far more), and we have the right to fight.

Re:"Censorship" (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957299)

No, they can't. Maybe legally they can do what they want, but we as a society can hold them to a high standard of ethical behavior in a number of legal ways. We can pass laws regulating them - prohibiting blatant censorship. We can start a campaign to damage their brand and their uptake of new students by casting light on their censorship and its implications. We can work to cut off the corporate and community partnerships they form to drive and maintain their business. A corporation misbehaving does not render us powerless or without the right to respond. We have power (even in situations where they have far far more), and we have the right to fight.

So your "No, they can't." should really be "Yes, they can, but I don't like it."?

Re:"Censorship" (1)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957141)

No. If I was an institution that didn't want other people's say in things I wouldn't want any part of government funding even if it's the smallest amount because the money comes with so many strings attached concerning policy. Look at what is happening to Catholic organizations regarding birth control. Please don't misconstrue this as support of censorship, simply private network rules. I cede the point to the paid by taxes part as I'm ignorant of the funding sources.

Re:"Censorship" (2)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957047)

Because a place of higher education blocking sites for political reasons is identical to McDonalds blocking your twitter, right?

Re:"Censorship" (1)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957711)

Sites get blocked for a variety of reasons, see bomb making, porn, file sharing. I made no mention of twitter, are you projecting again?

Re:"Censorship" (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957195)

Do you work at a school? The idea of a school censoring the web is a lot more disturbing than a private business...

Re:"Censorship" (1)

w_dragon (1802458) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957537)

The idea of a school censoring the web is a lot more disturbing than a private business...

In the US is there a difference between a school and a private business?

Re:"Censorship" (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957955)

The idea of a school censoring the web is a lot more disturbing than a private business...

In the US is there a difference between a school and a private business?

Yes. Even "private" schools have certain legal standards they must abide by.

There's this new thingy on the Internet ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956825)

No student at ASU could figure out how to post to Twitter?

Re:There's this new thingy on the Internet ... (2, Funny)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957967)

No student at ASU could figure out how to post to Twitter?

Well... it is ASU, after all.

First they'd have to put down the bong.

They have the right to filter the Internet - but (3, Insightful)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956921)

not for political reasons. Most schools or universities will filter Internet content, this is nothing new, and usually it's for security reasons. I would like to know if their Content Filter picked up “change.org” by accident, or was it intentional. I'm not sure if there is anything that can be done though, since the Internet on campus is a privilege. It's no different than a Cyber Cafe, or Motel blocking access to some websites, it's their decision how they want to control their Internet.

Re:They have the right to filter the Internet - bu (0)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957167)

Most schools or universities will filter Internet content, this is nothing new, and usually it's to appease social conservatives who think of the children a little too often

FTFY

Re:They have the right to filter the Internet - bu (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957589)

It isn't just social conservatives, it is also liberal elites as well. ANYTIME someone says "for the children" it is probably NOT for the children.

I've seen plenty of sites blocked because of some liberal outrage of the week. Here are some choice topics: Big Pharma, Big Oil, Tobacco, Guns and Ammo, anything deemed "not green", almost anything "too Religious" (aka hate, no kidding), sites opposed to Abortion, etc.

So, no, you did not FTFY properly.

Also, there are often ties to funds to implement some filters, and filters don't work, and are broken by design. We all know this, but that doesn't stop the people who have the money from making the rules associated with receiving that money. If you want to fix the problem learn this phrase:

"Technology doesn't solve sociological problems, it can only mask them"

Re:They have the right to filter the Internet - bu (1)

willaien (2494962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957203)

Don't forget, as a publicly funded institution, they have to preserve their students' free speech rights as much as they are reasonably able. Arbitrarily blocking websites because they might be critical of the institution treads into censorship for the sake of censorship and likely violates their free speech rights.

Re:They have the right to filter the Internet - bu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957207)

I believe Hanlon's Razor may apply here.

Re:They have the right to filter the Internet - bu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957339)

not for political reasons. Most schools or universities will filter Internet content, this is nothing new, and usually it's for security reasons. I would like to know if their Content Filter picked up “change.org” by accident, or was it intentional. I'm not sure if there is anything that can be done though, since the Internet on campus is a privilege. It's no different than a Cyber Cafe, or Motel blocking access to some websites, it's their decision how they want to control their Internet.

There is a huge difference when the government does it vs when a business does it. This was the government censoring the web site.

Re:They have the right to filter the Internet - bu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957695)

Except a university is not a private entity, and thus has no "rights." They are a government entity and are bound by the Bill of Rights. To say censoring the Internet is OK because it's a privilege is like saying censoring the campus newspaper is ok. No.

What's more important? (1)

jdastrup (1075795) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956967)

What's more disconcerting is that for the two months that the block was in place, the university's decision to block the website received no media coverage at all.

I think the fact that this author thinks the bigger issue is that the media didn't cover it is the real problem. So he really should be complaining that we need more cable news channels, more twitter-like services, more talk radios shows, and I should start getting the newspaper again, just so I can be overwhelmed with unimportant news that I don't have time to take read.

Re:What's more important? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958487)

Or we could try to make the media we already have more efficient at delivering pertinent news.

There's three problems though:
1) Some people don't care about the news and only read the sports section in the newspaper.

2) Journalists are biased. It's human, I get that. We can get around that by reading different articles, written from different view points, on the same issue. Doing that requires some wisdom and critical thinking skills but it's feasible. In fact this method is much better than if journalists could magically present unbiased opinions and we could just believe them without thinking for ourselves.
But sometimes it seems like all the journalists share the same viewpoint on a topic, which means you can't escape the bias and find the actual facts from the media. If you decide "let's listen to everyone and then I'll draw my own conclusions" you won't hear every stance on the topic because all newspapers put together don't always cover them all.
For example, the Internet has news blogs and websites that think piracy or file-sharing is not at fault for killing the music industry at all, and in fact the industry has only itself to blame for dying. But you won't find this view point in the popular press, the popular press either fully supports the industry or tries to stay neutral (e.g. "The media industry doesn't need laws to fight piracy, however piracy is still wrong"). The popular press just doesn't cover every single view point on the issue, and in order to hear what everyone has to say in this particular press you must turn to "underground" press (for example, in the case of piracy, Techdirt or Torrent Freak).
I know fully supporting piracy is an extreme (fully supporting the music industry is the other extreme). But one extreme is found sometimes in the popular press while the other is not. And remember, the idea is not to get unbiased articles, but to fight bias by hearing from every bias and then drawing your own conclusions.
What I'm trying to say is, bias is fine on the scale of an article. But bias is a problem when the entire press is biased in the same direction and doesn't represent the opinions of everyone.

3) And finally, there's the matter of deciding what is news and what isn't. I think we all agree that "Justin Bieber unfriends Katie Perry on Facebook" is not really news, at least compared to "US government repeals Habeas Corpus" yet a lot of newspapers will talk about celebrity gossip. Or sometimes, the press seems to fail to appreciate the importance of some events and gives them nearly no attention (the Wikipedia blackout gave more attention to SOPA in a few hours than the entire press ever has). I don't know if it's because news agencies are owned/bribed by political or business groups, or if it's because celebrity gossip sells more paper, but clearly events don't get coverage based on their importance and severity.

I live in Canada. Recently a story came out that a man living in Quebec was abused by the Quebec police, at the request of the US authorities, because of an innocent text message he sent to colleagues and which was interpreted (out of context and thanks to a lot of paranoia and exaggeration) as a terrorist threat. The story was on Slashdot a few days ago by the way.
This hardly made the news. Just a small article here and there briefly summing up the facts and nothing more. The articles did not seem to believe the man, every thing was "the man alleges that..." - sure, it's wrong to believe somebody without evidence, but how about, I don't know, the press trying to verify the man's claims? He's been arrested and had his home searched, there must be documents about this that the press could easily obtain. Why not do that and then tell us what the documents say (or report that no such documents could be found)?
You'd think the Canadian police becoming abusive at the request of the (kind of fascist) US authorities would be a major social and political issue for Canada. But no, the press won't investigate and will hardly ask questions or draw attention to this possible issue. On the other hand, a collision that killed 11 people got plenty of coverage in Ontario. I know 11 deaths is a tragedy, but it's not exactly a social issue (unless you want to point out that the cars involved had a serious manufacturing defect that caused the accident and will likely cause many more).

More newspapers won't help because people can't read them all. In fact people currently don't even want to read the news as and keep themselves informed about important stuff as much as they should.
I think that first, we should make society in general more aware of the importance of being involved in politics and social issues. Plenty of people hate SOPA but few ever bothered to do anything about it or to keep themselves informed. Most people expect others to deal with issues like SOPA, until these others fail. Then people complain. This is a bad attitude, if you want to have expectations about your rights and how society should function, then you need to lend a hand. If you want to sit on the side line and enjoy yourself while others worry about the problems and try hard to fix them, then don't come whining when things don't turn out the way you want them. Again, plenty of people only cared about SOPA because Wikipedia went dark. You could have told these people about SOPA and how sooner or later it would affect them, they wouldn't have cared until it actually started affecting them.
Educating people about their civic responsibilities and how they need to work for their rights is important. It can be done through school and it can be done through culture - the government promotes various arts, so instead of promoting arts that encourage people to be shallow, it could promote arts that teach people to care about the society they live in. There's a problem when people don't care about stuff like SOPA because they're too busy watching American Idol.

This will get people to focus on what matters and will help important issues get the coverage they deserve. It will also solve the problem of celebrity gossip getting more coverage just because it sells more.
And it will get shit done in society. Once people learn that they need to get involved into politics and social issues because nobody will do the work for them, problems will get solved much quicker. Plenty of people have strong opinions about lots of stuff but they just don't bother doing shit about it. Most people will say that the government is corrupt, that voting doesn't matter because of lobyists, etc. But do they try to help with this problem? No, they don't. They can't even be bothered to do a Google search for organizations who try to solve these problems. Well once we can change this attitude and make people get involved in issues they care about, society will improve.
No need to make more noise, we just need more people to listen. We won't convince every single person to get involved in social issues, but just getting more people involved than currently are is enough.

A Less Arbitrary Approach (0)

mbleasdale (2569301) | more than 2 years ago | (#38956979)

Osgeld and theArtificial have great points! I believe that we've become a culture of folks that have a pretty large entitlement complex - not "entitled to have freedom" but entitled to always be able to do whatever we want wherever we want with other people's resources. I work for an organization whose mission it is to help enable social media freedom while still protecting companies from malware, lawsuits, personal misuse of company online resources, etc. If the university had our controls in place, their blocking wouldn't be arbitrary, and their policies could be more uniform and better understood. Unfortunately users wouldn't see it that way, they would attach themselves to the Orwellian idea of it all...

Wall of text... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38956983)

TL;DR

Free Speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957093)

I think that it has now been well established that Schools, Universities, and Colleges no longer care about free speech. They care more about Zero Tolerance, preventing protests, and ensuring public funding.

Universities are supposed to be all about learning. Part of this involves the free exchange of ideas and understanding of social responsibility. This includes being able to protest against the institution itself when it does something objectionable to the students. Educated and free thinking citizens are the best defense against the erosion of freedoms. Without this, I fear that the next generation of citizens will have little understanding of their responsibility as citizens.

Is this censorship? (4, Insightful)

qwertphobia (825473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957133)

I agree in general, change.org and sites like it should not be blocked for their content. If the site was being used maliciously, perhaps the block was appropriate. I don't know. If access is a privilege, perhaps the privilege was lost through bad behavior.

I'm more concerned (as I'm a college IT administrator myself) on the question of censorship. From what I understand censorship is only a First Amendment issue when the government is doing the censorship. Is this an appropriate viewpoint? At what point am I as an IT administrator, or the system I manage, infringing on the first amendment rights of a member of the college community? Does it only apply to state schools, or to any school which accepts government funding? Some college administrators are state employees. Does it only count as government censorship if a state employee (or a system managed by said employee) blocks a specific web site?

From a technical viewpoint, IT Administrators have an obligation to protect their infrastructure and their community members from threats, both perceived and actual. Consider for a moment the viewpoint that the messages from change.org were deceptive, harrassing, or threatening in some way, either politcally or technically. If so, was it correct to block change.org?

Re:Is this censorship? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957371)

I'm more concerned (as I'm a college IT administrator myself) on the question of censorship. From what I understand censorship is only a First Amendment issue when the government is doing the censorship.

I agree that this doesn't seem to be a First Amendment/Free Speech issue. But it would be interesting to see what other sites are blocked by the university. If they routinely blacklist sites that are spamming students there's nothing to see here. Otherwise this appears to be a bit petty on their part; although using the university's network/email to mount a protest against the university seems like a plan that needs to be thought through a bit more.

Re:Is this censorship? (2)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957469)

To answer your question, any school that receives public tax money should be held to the same standard. From a funding point of view, school IT administrators have an obligation to follow the law as well as secure IT policy. Here's a tip, there is no network without funding.....

Re:Is this censorship? (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957519)

From what I understand censorship is only a First Amendment issue when the government is doing the censorship. Is this an appropriate viewpoint? At what point am I as an IT administrator, or the system I manage, infringing on the first amendment rights of a member of the college community? Does it only apply to state schools, or to any school which accepts government funding? Some college administrators are state employees.

It certainly applies to public universities. Government funding would probably also apply, but I can see it going either way and, most importantly, IANAL. At least I can't see how it would be legal for the government to fund an organization that performs any type of censorship.

From a technical viewpoint, IT Administrators have an obligation to protect their infrastructure and their community members from threats, both perceived and actual. Consider for a moment the viewpoint that the messages from change.org were deceptive, harrassing, or threatening in some way, either politcally or technically. If so, was it correct to block change.org?

Obviously, if it's a private university, IT's job is whatever they are told their job is. As far as my personal beliefs go, and as far as I think it *should* apply to public universities, IT's job is to protect their infrastructure from technical threats. If there's a virus in an e-mail, it's IT's job to filter it out. If there's a death threat in an e-mail, it's ITs job to deliver the e-mail, and the recipient can call the police who will start an investigation and go after the sender. IT stays out of that and just makes sure content is delivered, whether the content is harassment or not. So no, I don't think it was correct to block change.org.

Re:Is this censorship? (1)

justdiver (2478536) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957915)

Many universities have a technology use agreement that students and employees must agree to (whether they know it or not). http://lct.msu.edu/guidelines-policies/aup/ [msu.edu] as an example. Quote: "Use of MSU IT resources is a privilege and not a right." I know this is a completely different university but it's one that I'm more familiar with. ASU may have something similar in their student handbook, I can't say for certain, but I wasn't able to find it on their website, so take my comments with a grain of salt. Regardless, internet provided by the university wouldn't fall under the same rules and regulations as internet you buy and pay for through your local ISP. The university has their own rules and regulations regarding internet usage which must be adhered to because THEY'RE providing the service to the students. Students could have just as easily gone off campus to continue to use change.org. I don't agree with censorship nor do I think that the university was right in their actions (reprimand the student(s) that are behind the malicious behavior rather than punishing everyone may have been a better course of action) but in the same breathe I don't think they overstepped their rights to regulate the internet they provide to students and employees. It doesn't seem any different to me than going to an internet cafe and having pornographic websites blocked. You're free to do as you wish when the internet service is yours but when you're leasing the service (which is essentially what is happening on college campuses) then you must follow whatever regulations the lessor imposes. If you don't like the rules and regulations then no one is stopping you from going elsewhere.

Re:Is this censorship? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958281)

I am and was an ASU student in December 2011. I received the Change.org spam and, not surprisingly, reported it as SPAM.

Unsolicited e-mails sent in bulk from a domain = blocking that domain. It's pretty simple, and not that controversial.

Re:Is this censorship? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958677)

From a technical viewpoint, IT Administrators have an obligation to protect their infrastructure and their community members from threats, both perceived and actual.

Their infrastructure: yes. Their community members: absolutely not, and how is that a "technical viewpoint"? It's a political viewpoint, and it is wrong. IT administrators, just like telephone operators, are not supposed to listen into, filter or alterate content. If they do that is an abuse of their power.

Re:Is this censorship? (1)

qwertphobia (825473) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958957)

Are you suggesting there is no place in a public university for spam filters, antivirus on the firewalls, network intrusion systems, and such? These are specifically in place to protect the community members from threats.

Spam firewalls aren't perfect. But I will offer that my inbox would be a mess without one. About 80% of the mail entering our .edu domain is blocked by the spam firewals before it even hits the mail servers.

Or maybe you were talking about political threats only. But you didn't say that...

hohum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957225)

fart oo long

A Wall of Text... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957261)

... is the best method of censorship

2003 words about it... (1)

cellurl (906920) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957303)

$wc thisArticle.txt
31 2003 11585 thisArticle.txt

2003 words about it...

Help eliminate speeding tickets. [wikipedia.org]

tl;dr (2)

t4ng* (1092951) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957309)

If you want to get your message across, learn to edit yourself.

Feel the same way as posts are often "herd" modded (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957319)

.. herd moderation up or down here on Slashdot. It's a property of memes working in chaotic crowds that some memes propagate more, some less, and if it passes a central node, it gets to more people. For every example of Streisand Effect, there are many unknown successful censorings happening all the time. Journalists are people with families and personal interests outside of their work and they are human.

Google News could be said to be partially a way around the complete dependence on human judgement and error, but even Google depends on how many connections of what type the story has with important nodes in the information network. Reddit is a fine example of a network where a lot of stuff gets read by and voted on at least a few people - but even there, the same rules apply if only to a varying extent depending on the audience demographic.

A global anti-censorship feed would be a good starting point for this, which already has a bunch of candidates - rawstory, reddit, digg used to be, fark, delicious(used to be). Facebook being a social network with tracking is not a pure news feed. Slashdot is rather slow for developing events and focus is on discussions rather than story visibility.

Re:Feel the same way as posts are often "herd" mod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957791)

"Herd moderation" always means "waaah, my stupid post got modded down and I am angry even though it was totally deserved!"

Yep.. that was really fascinating... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957333)

tl;dr

the media sucks ass; just keep downloading until they go away...

Redefining the definition of definition. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957353)

By the way, I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z. It's not the same as the "post hoc fallacy" or the mistaken belief that "correlation equals causation,"

No, it really is just "correlation equals causation". Simply realise that "being a good predictor" is what's been fallaciously caused by the correlation.

Sometimes it's acceptable to be verbose. You're trying to remove an upper layer of indirection to create more concise language, the term for this is: HD, ie High Definition (especially if stoned).

Re:Redefining the definition of definition. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957591)

Simply realise that "being a good predictor" is what's been fallaciously caused by the correlation.

By what correlation? The whole point of the OP is that the apparent correlation is an illusion because false positives have not been taken into account.

What's a Better Way To Spread News? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957381)

Wait two months and post it on slashdot, apparently.

And it'll still be more topical than most of the other stories.

TYIHAWTTNS

Don't the students have a choice? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957403)

If Arizona State wants to block that site on their network, why should that spark outrage? If you want to see that site take your money and buy your internet elsewhere. College students should know what to expect when the get hit be the Barracuda when they try to visit sites that their employers don't want viewed on their networks.

Stop being a cry-baby.

Bias should be fought with transparency (1)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957517)

The answer, I think, is that most people don't realize how arbitrary the process is that determines what issues get news coverage and which ones don't.

People know the selection of news is biased, sloppy, influenced by money and other media. They may not understand the particular mechanisms, like press releases or that newspapers follow the N.Y. Times, but they know it isn't some fair and balanced selection process. Why do newspapers have a business section and not a labor section?

In an earlier article, I proposed a system that would eliminate the arbitrariness in determining which pieces of content are selected to be "the best" and broadcast to a larger audience. I suggested using the algorithm to determine which songs could be pushed out to listeners of a streaming music system, but it could be modified to select which news stories would be considered "important" enough to push out to readers of a news site.

Instead of making an algorithm, you should try to create a framework that replaces the existing system in a more open manner. Otherwise you're just trying to make a better newspaper. Try to create new tools and options for the people selecting stories, so they don't just review the AP wire and what the NYT printed yesterday.

If what you really want to do is promote stories you think are important, you should just do what well funded PR groups do: pre-package the stories with quotes, photos, background facts, make people available for interviews, and offer pre-written stories.

Manufacturing Consent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957521)

Read it! By Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky. On the topic of the mass media, it is the most extensive analysis available. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent [wikipedia.org]

The reality of news - it's a finite resource (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38957543)

News coverage is a finite resource put together by a finite number of people with shrinking resources. Legitimate stores are not covered every second of every day because you can only do so much - there is a necessary but subjective element of choosing what to cover and not cover.

For example, consider that the time spent covering this issue means those reporters weren't covering something else, therefore "ignoring" issues with outraged advocates of their own. In fact, just think of all the important isses that Slashdot "ignored" in order to post this one - people dying in Syria and the Congo and North Korea, legislative shenanigans of all kinds, fascinating scientific discoveries ... they're all being overlooked while we spend time with this issue.

Social media and technology are changing this, but they still face the limitation of time and attention - we all subjectively pick and choose what to read and care about.

I'm a newspaper reporter, so you can take my opinion with whatever grain of salt you think is appropriate.

The "media" isn't what it used to be (1, Insightful)

tekrat (242117) | more than 2 years ago | (#38957615)

Your mistaken assumption is that they are supposed to report the news. That is not their primary function. It is to get ratings, sell newspapers, magazines, or get people to click on ads at their website.

To this end, they would rather run stories about Snookie or Kim Kardsahian.

YOU are not relevant. Unless of course, you're willing to appear in a bikini, have a reality show or sex tape, and boobies. In that case, you matter. Otherwise, get lost.

The American public couldn't care less about censorship. Their rights have already vanished in a puff of smoke and mirrors. They are oppressed under paranoid government, but as long as they have a StupidBowl, America is Number One.

And Please.... Censorship in Arizona?? This is a state that refuses to recognize daylight savings time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's holiday, and issues a gun license to a known psychopath. Censorship doesn't even rate very high in their list of crimes as a state.

Re:The "media" isn't what it used to be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958357)

And Please.... Censorship in Arizona?? This is a state that refuses to recognize daylight savings time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's holiday, and issues a gun license to a known psychopath. Censorship doesn't even rate very high in their list of crimes as a state.

If those are your examples, then yes, censorship certainly does rate very high on their list of crimes. It's a hundred times worse than all three of those things combined.

Honestly? If Dr. King were alive today? And he saw you suggesting that the First Amendment could ever be less important than making his birthday be a holiday? He'd probably set aside that whole nonviolent resistance thing for a moment and punch you in the fucking throat.

Re:The "media" isn't what it used to be (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958931)

"issues a gun license to a known psychopath"

Who was this known psychopath?

Re:The "media" isn't what it used to be (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958603)

Arizona:
- Doesn't require a "gun license," but does require that firearms purchasers not be convicted felons, convicted of domestic abuse (any tier), be addicted to drugs or alcohol, an illegal alien, a minor, or be adjudicated mentally incompetent by a court at or prior to the time of purchase . The purchaser self-reports these affirmations on a form that is filed by the vendor. These are actually mostly Federal regulations, and a background check through local and NCIC databases is required. There are no Federal provisions for sharing medical information with NCIC, sans a court decision of fitness, in which case the subject's medical records become public. The Virginia Tech shootings might have been prevented if Federally or locally, some improved form of communication existed between the court and NCIC or local law enforcement.
- Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday was put to referendum and passed in 1992.
- Daylight Savings Time is geographically contra-indicated for AZ - there's no benefit in terms of "more light during the day" there.

There are lots of things wrong with AZ, But the examples you cite are popular stereotypes.

Start a petition against stupid censorship (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958073)

seriously.... there is a problem here of a U.S. based university to censor a democratic process.

It's a no brainer, you don't need a college education to know this.

Fallacy of not enough data (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958085)

> I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z.

Sampling bias

also, the WP:SOURCE fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958229)

Wikipedia admins routinely reject facts that haven't been reported by the mainstream media, even if reliable sources exist. For example, when the study of Pääbo et al. came out that found Neanderthal genes in Eurasian humans, I tried to have it included in the relevant article, but it was rejected as speculation. Only months later, when the news had reached the mainstream media in popsci form, someone added it to the article. (Svante Pääbo isn't some crackpot. He's the founder of paleogenetics.)

So as long as the corporate media haven't reported on something, it is outright rejected without even checking the available sources. Once it is press released, all corporate media will jump on it and copy it from each other without checking anything, and then whatever distorted version was published becomes the accepted truth.

Political bias (1)

jodido (1052890) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958275)

I think the most important factor in what gets into the newspapers is the political/social biases of editors and their bosses. For example, there's been a fair amount of coverage of the US government agent Alan Gross's imprisonment in Cuba, but practically zero about the imprisonment of five Cubans (known as the Cuban Five).

Fallacy (1)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958469)

(By the way, I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z. It's not the same as the "post hoc fallacy" or the mistaken belief that "correlation equals causation," because both of those are about the illusion of causation. I'm talking about the correlation being an illusion in the first place â" where people come to believe that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving result Z, ignoring the fact that there may be enormous numbers of cases where attribute X is true, but which never go on to achieve result Z. If you know the exact name of that fallacy, shoot me an email and submit a comment below.)

Sounds kinda like the base rate fallacy [wikipedia.org] to me.

Question (1)

chill (34294) | more than 2 years ago | (#38958575)

Is Bennett Haselton is he a student at ASU, a parent paying for a student at ASU or a Citizen of Arizona?

If not then he has no dog in the fight and thus no right to expect this to be high on his radar. Not every little thing is, nor should be, national news.

How can we "respond faster"? Simple. Pay attention to what is going on around you, instead of looking all over the Internet and back for something to be outraged about.

Get involved in local issues, learn your neighbor's names and just in general stop thinking your opinion is so damned important that you need to express it to people on the other side of the country.

In short, mind your own damned business and quit being a busybody.

Cognitive fallacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958697)

The closest term I can think of to describe the cognitive fallacy you described is within the Representativeness Heuristic, called Reverse Conditional Probability. This is where when people think that the probability of X given Y is the same as Y given X. For example, if 70% of depressed people are blond, the heuristic tells us that 70% of blond people are depressed (or to remove the confusion of percentages, if more depressed people are blond than other hair colors, then more blond people are depressed than not depressed).

Card-carrying member of the 'outrage grapevine'... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38958937)

I think all right-thinking people in this country are sick and tired of being told that ordinary, decent people are fed up in this country with being sick and tired. I'm certainly not. But I'm sick and tired of being told that I am.

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