Facebook and Google pose ‘clear and present threat’ to civil society

Updated December 01, 2017 18:00:51

The chairman of Britain’s largest commercial television company has warned that internet giants Facebook and Google pose a “clear and present danger” to civil society.

ITV’s Sir Peter Bazalgette told a broadcasting conference in London that large technology companies do not consider the ethical impact of what they do and should face tighter regulation.

“We are being influenced and in some cases you could say even governed by people who are not in this country,” Sir Peter said.

“Engineers [working at big tech companies] are very fine folk, but they don’t necessarily, unless they take an interest in it, think about the ethics of society.”

Sir Peter accused politicians of failing to appreciate the impacts of large digital companies, dismissing their claim to be platforms rather than publishers as “frankly unsustainable”.

But the ITV chairman stopped short of agreeing with News Corp CEO Robert Thompson’s assessment of companies like Google as the “parasites” of the internet.

“I wouldn’t use that word, I think that’s a rather unpleasant word. I could think of some other unpleasant words for them instead,” he said.

“If you look at what Google does, it does some very good things too and it does some pro-social things.

“But the overall challenge of the internet and the internet giants, of whom there are now four or five, that is a very serious economic, cultural and democratic issue and we haven’t begun to tackle it.”

‘Mass media is at fault’

Sir Peter also identified the increasing shift of advertising revenue to tech companies as a key area needing attention.

This year Google and Facebook are expected to take in half of all digital advertising revenue worldwide and around one fifth of total advertising revenue.

“In some countries, Google has a market share of 80 to 90 per cent in search advertising,” Sir Peter said. “That’s an extraordinary monopoly.”

But Jeff Jarvis, a professor of journalism at the City University of New York, said legacy media companies were themselves to blame for their decline in advertising revenue in recent years.

“We tried to hold on to and preserve and protect our old models, we didn’t innovate. That is our own damned fault,” Professor Jarvis said.

“What Facebook and Google did was offer our customers, our advertisers, a better deal because they no longer treated the public as a mass, all the same to be treated to single messages.”

Professor Jarvis disagrees that technology companies need further regulation, describing the idea as a “techno-panic”.

“It’s a luddite view which says technology is at fault for society’s problems,” he said.

“Mass media is to fault for many of the problems we have in society today [like] cats, Kardashians and Donald Trump.”

“Mass media gives us a business model that leads to these ills. Mass media is at fault.”

Topics: social-media, television, internet-technology, united-kingdom

First posted December 01, 2017 17:31:56

First rule of Boys Club — don’t mention sexual harassment

By Tracey Spicer

Posted December 01, 2017 10:29:12

“I didn’t see a thing. Anyway, what about all of the women who sexually harass men. Are you doing a story on that?”

This is the response from one of the dozens of men who worked for decades with Don Burke.

Our conversations over the past month provided extraordinary insights into the gendered responses to allegations of indecent assault.

Most took the opportunity to unload after decades of bullying.

“He set out to destroy people,” one man said.

“Psychopathic or sociopathic, not sure which,” according to a former manager.

“Well, he hit me once over the head, really hard,” a sound assistant said. “But he was worse with women. He was a monster.”

Many regretted their years of inaction. But not one would go on the record.

“I’ve got a family to feed,” was the common refrain. (To which my reply was, “What about the women who’ve spoken out. Don’t they need to eat, as well?”)

Perhaps the most telling responses came from the camera and sound operators who’d spent decades on the road with the show.

I’ve been wondering whether they were victims or enablers. Or was going along with it all simply a symptom of the Boys Club?

Dr Michael Flood from the Queensland University of Technology says men tend to overestimate other men’s comfort with sexual harassment.

“Men are less likely than women to recognise it as a problem: they define harassment more narrowly than women, see harassing behaviour as ‘normal’ or ‘harmless’ or ‘fun’, are more tolerant of unwanted sexual behaviour, blame victims more, and fail to recognise harassment’s impact on victims,” he writes.

Consequently, they fear how other men would react if they intervened.

In other words, they don’t want to upset the codes of mateship.

Sexual harassment ‘normalised’

Years later, Burke’s long-time camera operator is a broken man. He was teary on the phone this week talking about Bridget Ninness, who reached a settlement with Burke’s production company after claiming she was bullied relentlessly.

Still, he refuses to speak on camera about what he saw.

Interestingly, a longtime colleague of Burke opted for fight instead of flight, offering the quote at the top of this story.

According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, female harassment of men accounts for only 14 per cent of all cases.

Yet this was his line of defence.

“I’d be interested in covering such stories if you could share them with me,” I replied, after taking a deep breath.

“Er, well, I don’t know any,” he said. “But women can be bullies, too. And, you know, not all men are sexual harassers.”

UTS academic Jenna Price says this reeks of deflection.

“Every time we say ‘not all men, not all women’, we deflect from the seriousness and the prevalence of sexual harassment, which has now been normalised,” she says.

“Whatever your experience, acknowledge the experience of others, particularly those who have been hurt and damaged.”

Men socialised to see women as objects

It’s too simplistic to categorise these men as victims or enablers. They worked in an environment of toxic masculinity, the dog-eat-dog world of commercial television. And they were socialised to see women as objects.

But there are actions they could have taken.

“This means calling out sexist attitudes and behaviours with your mates, colleagues or family,” CEO of Our Watch, Mary Barry, says.

“It may be a little awkward, yes. But if your actions save even one woman from being sexually harassed or assaulted, it’s an uncomfortable minute well spent.”

These are also important messages for our sons.

“We need to teach young men that they don’t need to conform to antiquated models of masculinity,” Dannielle Miller, the founder of Goodfellas, writes.

“What’s interesting is that when we unpack these models (by discussing men and emotion, what defines real strength, how they can be ethical bystanders when they see acts of violence or harassment etc.), they show an obvious sense of relief.”

Perhaps it would also improve their eyesight, as well as their insight.

Since our discussion a month ago, the aforementioned colleague suddenly remembers seeing Burke’s behaviour.

“It really was as bad as they’re saying in the papers,” he’s telling colleagues. “Dunno how I worked in that environment for so long.”

He’s not alone.

Tracey Spicer is a journalist and author.

Topics: sexual-offences, sexuality, work, women, social-media, media, television, australia

Shades of Wag the Dog in fake news trick on Washington Post

By Micheline Maynard

Updated November 30, 2017 11:41:50

Twenty years ago, with a real sex scandal blazing in the White House, Hollywood came up with a dramatic solution to distract attention that seemed just a little far fetched at the time.

A fictional White House adviser and a fictional spin doctor concocted a plan to broadcast a fictional war. Patriotic fever sweeps America. The president’s problems are forgotten. And he wins re-election.

All because of what we would now call fake news.

That was the plot of the 1997 movie, Wag The Dog, starring Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman. It was wildly entertaining, and unsettling to think it might be possible.

But in those days before the web was widespread, and editing video was a cumbersome task, it was easy to ask, “Who would ever believe it?”

Fast-forward two decades and a similar scenario has just played out in Washington, amid the all too real sexual harassment scandals that are sweeping the United States.

Project Veritas, an organisation that targets the mainstream media and left-leaning groups, set up a clunky undercover effort to trick The Washington Post into reporting fake news.

In this case, the group allegedly hired a woman to claim that she had become pregnant as a teenager by Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for US Senate in Alabama who has been accused of sexual harassment.

During two weeks of interviews, the woman insisted to the Post that she had a sexual relationship with Moore that led to an abortion when she was 15.

As the Post recounted, she also tried to get the reporters investigating her story to share opinions about what might happen to Mr Moore’s candidacy if she went public with her story.

To the good fortune of its readers, the Post reporters paid attention to an old adage in American journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

They shadowed the woman and spotted her walking into Project Veritas’ New York offices.

The Post then confronted James O’Keefe, founder of the project, who declined to answer questions about the alleged sting.

To quote another old saying in journalism, the whole situation simply didn’t pass the smell test.

But, the lengths to which Project Veritas went to try to trick The Washington Post show that there’s a war going on out there — not a fabricated one, as in Wag the Dog, but a real one to try to sully journalists’ reputations.

Media layoffs create opening for fake news

The timing actually couldn’t be worse. There have been vast job reductions and closings across the journalist landscape, with more layoffs announced just this week at sports network ESPN and The Detroit News, one of the city’s two papers.

That’s created an opening for groups like Project Veritas. As veteran journalists leave or are fired, some are being replaced by younger journalists trained in a completely different era than their elders, who wore scepticism the way previous generations donned fedoras.

Many of these digital natives are judged on output and speed, on being first to post something to the web, on the “buzziness” of their stories and how many readers share them on Facebook or tweet them to their followers.

While there are many talented newer reporters who are careful at their craft, some who are under the pressure to perform might conceivably had believed the woman from Project Veritas, and published or broadcast her account without digging deeper.

Across journalism, there was a tendency this week to congratulate the Post on its caution. But I am also petrified that many journalists are just sitting ducks, and that we are this close to a mishap.

Trump attacks NYT, uses Fox as propaganda arm

President Donald Trump is feeding into this with his constant accusations of “fake news”.

He has attacked numerous news organisations, from CNN to NBC and The New York Times, while praising Fox News, seemingly his propaganda arm.

His press secretaries have freely given false information at their regular news briefings, creating work for fact checkers and headaches for everyone else.

It’s exhausting, and it’s also the way that things simply are now. Journalists can’t just complain that someone like Project Veritas is out to trick us. We have to be extra vigilant about the way we do our jobs — and make sure that the public is on our side.

Wesley Lowry, a reporter at the Post, summed it up on Twitter, suggesting the problem partly lay with media professionals’ misguided assumptions about how audiences viewed them.

Reporters often think that readers and viewers know more than they do about us.

Journalists have been depicted on screen in a variety of ways, most recently in the Academy Award winning film Spotlight.

It painted a special reports team from The Boston Globe as dogged pursuers of justice, willing to spend months painstakingly interviewing victims of sexual assault in order to paint the bigger picture about the Catholic Church that their editor, Martin Baron, insisted they unearth.

When I saw that movie, I burst into tears recognising the many times I had followed leads that became dead ends, only to make one more call and do one more interview.

The real Baron, now the editor of the Post, smiled at me kindly when I babbled my admiration for the work his journalists had done.

But the next movie may not depict us in such a favourable light.

Project Veritas easily could learn from its mistakes with the Post this time, and attempt a more-sophisticated sting of someone else next time.

The sexual harassment scandals that we’ve been investigating could become our own scandals, if the public loses faith in us, and we fail to be as careful as the Post reporters and those at the Globe.

It means checking out every wisp of information, even if we think it seems believable.

Hopefully, our mothers will understand.

Micheline Maynard has worked as a journalist at The New York Times, NPR and Forbes, among other major American media outlets.

Topics: media, social-media, print-media, donald-trump, film-movies, united-states

First posted November 30, 2017 10:33:36

How to respond if a friend is accused of sexual misconduct

By Micheline Maynard

Updated November 20, 2017 16:46:49

Yet another prominent person that I’ve met has been accused of sexual misconduct. As more revelations come out, it’s raising some uncomfortable questions of etiquette.

Recently, I wrote on Medium of my fury at the harassment allegedly endured by women who came in contact with Michael Oreskes, the former vice president of news at NPR. The incidents took place there and at the New York Times.

This time, it was the comedian and politician Al Franken, on whose radio show I appeared before he was elected to the US Senate.

Reactions vary

As stories continue to come out, the reactions vary.

Some, like actress and author Lena Dunham, have come flat out in support of their accused pals. Dunham’s original defence of writer/producer Murray Miller was based on her confidence that the accusation is one of three percent a year that are erroneous, and because Miller “filled my world with love.”

Some, like commentator Howard Fineman, took the “he’s a great guy and would never” approach about Franken, although Fineman was not on the USO trip where Franken’s assault on a sleeping television newswoman took place.

Others, like Olympian Gabby Douglas, seemed to be blaming the victim, in this case, her teammate Aly Raisman. After saying it is women’s responsibility to “dress modestly and be classy” since “dressing in a provocative/sexual way entices the wrong crowd,” Douglas apologised.

The response that all three of them received shows that this is an extremely delicate subject. If you are too supportive of your friend, or too critical of someone who was harmed, it’s going to come off as an insult to the accuser, and beyond that, to all women.

In fact, on Saturday night, Dunham issued a revised statement including an apology “to any women who have been disappointed.”

Some dos and don’ts may be in order. (Nothing here is meant to be snide or snarky.)

Dos and don’ts

DO reach out to your friend privately, as soon as you wish. If you really feel they’re being unjustly accused, tell them first, before going on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Anyone who’s been in trouble knows that nasty feeling of seeing people they thought were their friends vanish into thin air, so reaching out most likely will be appreciated.

DON’T immediately pronounce your friend to be completely innocent and the accuser to be lying, because there is no way you can be absolutely sure.

As we’ve seen, a pattern has emerged in this morass. The initial “I don’t remember” or “I don’t remember it that way” comment has often been followed by a longer and more contrite, “I acted like an idiot” admission.

It’s very possible that your friend will confess to something, and then you have to walk back your defence, too.

DO think about whether you’ve actually known it all these years, and didn’t want to admit it.

Did you ever speak phrases such as, “Well, that’s how he is” or “I’m not sure why he keeps getting away with it” or “I feel so sorry for his wife/significant other” or “I wouldn’t be alone in a room with him”? If so, you knew.

DON’T automatically shame the accuser, because you may see more accusers come forward, and then you will just have to shame all of them to be consistent.

Some of those accusers might be people you’ve worked with and/or admire. Are you really that devoted to your friend that you want to put everyone who accuses them in the same toxic barrel?

DO tell your friend that you hope he gets help and when he gets back from getting help, you’ll be there for him.

DON’T say this unless you actually mean it. You’ll have to explain to your spouse, friends, and family why you’re still friends with him. Some of them might not understand.

DO examine your own behaviour. Have you acted in the same way as your friend? Has this situation caused you to wonder if there’s someone out there who could come forward with a story about you? If so, make a list and start apologizing. If you’re lucky, they won’t go public.

DON’T pretend that if nobody talks about it, this will all just go away. That’s tempting, because this is uncomfortable and is causing people to pick sides. It has really made women wonder whether, to borrow a phrase from comedian Adam Felber, “all men are pigs.”

DO be patient about the flood of stories that are likely to continue to come out. Read them. Notice the patterns.

DON’T suddenly declare yourself to be a feminist, if you’ve never given support for women much thought before.

Although women want allies, they also want authentic ones. If you’ve been a shoulder squeezer who always stood a hair too close, and you suddenly put on a pussy hat, you won’t have much credibility in the office kitchen.

Above all, DO listen to the women in your life. Learn. And understand that while you might want to support your friend in the face of everything, he may not deserve it.

Micheline Maynard is a journalist and author. This piece first appeared on Medium.

Topics: sexual-offences, arts-and-entertainment, social-media, community-and-society, united-states

First posted November 20, 2017 16:28:37

‘Way to go Australia’: Stars applaud same-sex marriage survey result

Posted November 16, 2017 00:21:19

The same-sex marriage survey’s Yes result has been celebrated outside of Australia too — with dozens of celebrities welcoming the news overseas.

Actors, musicians, comedians, politicians and chief executives of global companies took to social media to applaud the result.

US rapper Macklemore, whose performance of pro-same-sex marriage song Same Love at the NRL grand final attracted controversy, was among them.

Prominent LGBTI celebrities posted their celebrations

Some famous Australians living abroad also weighed in

Leaders from around the world congratulated Australia on the result too

Topics: government-and-politics, community-and-society, gays-and-lesbians, arts-and-entertainment, internet-culture, social-media, australia, united-kingdom, united-states

Powerful portraits empower bullying victims

Updated October 06, 2017 09:20:02

After being bullied for years for her red hair and freckles, Ali Roebuck found it hard to love the features that made her stand out.

But the 12-year-old’s self-esteem has skyrocketed since she took part in an empowering project led by a far north Queensland photographer.

How to tackle cyberbullying:

  • Take responsibility for staying safe online. Engage positively and choose consciously and make sure you pause before posting
  • Learn about and apply privacy controls. Keep passwords safe and do not share them. Set privacy settings and security settings on websites to your comfort level for information sharing
  • Ignore and resist the temptation to retaliate. Do not respond directly to the bully and do not forward them messages
  • Block the person who is bullying
  • Seek help from friends, family, Kid’s Helpline on 1800 55 1800, eHeadspace or Lifeline on 13 11 14

Kate Stoter started the ‘It’s cool to be kind’ project after being bullied herself as a child and seeing her children’s friends going through the same traumatic experience.

The photographer takes powerful, positive images of bullying victims like Ali and shares them online.

“I have strawberry blonde hair and freckles and [bullies would] call me freckle face or ‘ranga’ ever since I started schooling,” Ali said.

“In primary school, I was very insecure about my freckles and my looks and in high school I got bullied about them but the photoshoot made me more confident and made me love my freckles.

“I think it’s good to see something positive on Facebook.”

Ali’s mum Kathy O’Sullivan described the experience as “fantastic” for her daughter.

“Ali is a beautiful child, she’s absolutely beautiful and her resilience astounds me,” she said.

“She’s had days where [bullying has] really gotten her down but she bounces back. I’ve definitely seen a change in her since the photoshoot.”

Teens see themselves in different light

Ali was the catalyst for the anti-bullying campaign, which is gaining momentum on social media.

“I wanted to do portraits of teenagers [being bullied] to make them feel better about themselves,” Ms Stoter said.

“It’s been so great for Ali. A lot of women have [commented on her photo] saying that it reminds them of when they were bullied because of their freckles.”

One young teenager has even taken up modelling since the shoot.

“The girl is 14 in the photos. She was very shy with low self-esteem,” Ms Stoter said.

“I posted them on Facebook and everyone was commenting how beautiful she was.

“Her mum said she was feeling so much better about herself and she has [since] been on the catwalk so I think she will go far.”

The far north Queensland photographer keeps the images as natural as possible.

They are all shot outdoors and she doesn’t go near photoshop.

“This is a young girl from Yarrabah,” she said.

“This girl is incredible, she wants all the other young girls [in the small Aboriginal community] to get out there.

“She is a really good role model for the other young girls there.”

Battling bulling with technology and social media

Bullying expert Dr Margaret Carter from James Cook University said bringing positivity to the online sphere with projects like photographer Kate Stoter’s was important.

“The rise in use of digital communications has increased the potential damage that can be done to an individual’s reputation, career prospects and sense of self-worth,” she said.

“For all the damage a negative digital reputation can do, it is equally true that positive, respectful posts, pictures and participation can enhance reputation.”

She said it was difficult to know whether social media and developing technology was worsening the problem of harassment in schools.

“The seriousness of cyberbullying cannot be underestimated,” she said.

“The literature reports grave consequences in some cases including victims experiencing a sense of fear, self-blame, hopelessness, sadness, anger, embarrassment, and humiliation.

“When the identity of the cyberbully is unknown, as is often the case in online contexts, the sense of vulnerability and bleakness associated with the bullying event is often escalated.”

It’s cool to be kind, to everyone

Ms Stoter suffered trauma from being bullied herself as a child and it was one moment that sparked her interest in helping young people as an adult.

“I was in Year 8 at school and a girl in Year 11 wanted to beat me up outside the tuckshop,” she said.

“I was terrified and I still remember it to this day.

“I was in a pub recently and this [same] girl came up to me and asked how I was and was really friendly.

“I asked her not to talk to me and she started crying. She apologised and apologised and said she was going through a tough time with abuse when we were kids.”

The mother of three said that’s why she wants to reach both victims and perpetrators of bullying with her images.

“I think teaching kids to be kind to those getting bullied and the bullies [is important],” she said.

“It goes deeper. Usually those bullies have something horrible going on at home so that’s what I teach my kids — to feel sorry for them because they are probably going through something tough.”

Topics: bullying, education, social-media, internet-culture, photography, human-interest, cairns-4870

First posted October 06, 2017 08:48:30

Celebrities share awkward teen photos to raise funds for hurricane relief

Posted September 30, 2017 16:36:06

Celebrities have shared photos of their awkward teenage stage on social media to raise thousands of dollars for Puerto Rico’s hurricane relief efforts.

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, US actor Nick Kroll put out the call for throwback photos.

Host Colbert said he then decided “right on the spur of the moment” to donate money from his Americone Dream Fund to the One America Appeal for every celebrity post using #PuberMe and #PuertoRicoRelief.

He asked Kroll how much he should donate per post. Kroll suggested $1,000, and, after checking the fund’s account, Colbert agreed.

“I want to see bowl-cuts, I want to see brace-faces, a constellation of acne across your T-zone,” he said.

But who counts as a celebrity? Colbert said: “I get to determine.”

So far, photos of varying awkwardness have been shared by celebrities including Reese Witherspoon, Mike Bloomberg, Jimmy Fallon, Debbie Harry, Al Yankovic, John Oliver, Sarah Michelle Gellar and the Backstreet Boys.

Topics: storm-disaster, disasters-and-accidents, television, social-media, actor, arts-and-entertainment, united-states, puerto-rico