Watch out, algorithms: Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson unveil The Markup, their plan for investigating tech’s societal impacts

Observation: Julia Angwin and Jeff Larson left their jobs at ProPublica to “start a crazy adventure.” Hypothesis: Their recently unveiled organization, The Markup, is setting up a new model for newsrooms to report on the societal effects of technology, using the scientific method (as seen, well, here in this lede). Data/evaluation/findings: TK. Angwin and Larsen, a journalist-programmer team at ProPublica, had uncovered how Facebook let users target ads at “Jew haters” and enabled advertisers to exclude certain races and ages from housing and job ads, among other investigations into how algorithms are biased. The work even earned Angwin a public shoutout from Facebook:

Aiming to attract buyers who aren’t cryptocurrency nerds, Civil is offering a way to buy its tokens with regular old cash

Depending which hyperbolic headlines you believe, blockchain journalism startup Civil is going to “save journalism,” “fix journalism,” “make journalism more inclusive,” “make honest journalism financially viable again,” or “rebuild the crumbling economy of journalism.” Or maybe it’s “reinventing newsrooms,” “reimagining the news,” or “fostering the next generation of news media.” Perhaps it’s “the future of media,” or maybe “journalism’s savior.” Or, in Civil’s own words, it’s “building the new economy for journalism” and “a bold rebuke to journalism’s status quo.” But nobody said it was going to be easy. Civil has been running its initial coin offering — think IPO for cryptocurrencies — since September 17, just over a week. In that time, it’s drawn lots of complaints about the baroque and buggy process one must go through to actually get your virtual hands on the virtual CVL tokens that are Civil’s virtual currency. John Continue reading "Aiming to attract buyers who aren’t cryptocurrency nerds, Civil is offering a way to buy its tokens with regular old cash"

Facebook’s attempts to fight fake news seem to be working. (Twitter’s? Not so much.)

The growing stream of reporting on and data about fake news, misinformation, partisan content, and news literacy is hard to keep up with. This weekly roundup offers the highlights of what you might have missed.

“The overall magnitude of the misinformation problem may have declined.” It’s fun to hate on Facebook, but credit where credit’s due: The platform’s attempts to get fake news and misinformation out of people’s feeds seem to be working, according to a new working paper from NYU’s Hunt Allcott and Stanford’s Matthew Gentzkow and Chuan Yu. Looking at the spread of stories from 570 fake news sites (the list, here, includes sites that publish 100 percent fake news and sites that publish some pure fake news along with other highly partisan/misleading stories), and using BuzzSumo to track monthly interactions (shares/​comments/​reactions/​likes/​tweets), they find that “the overall magnitude of the misinformation problem may have declined, at

Continue reading "Facebook’s attempts to fight fake news seem to be working. (Twitter’s? Not so much.)"

Public or closed? How much activity really exists? See how other news organizations’ Facebook Groups are faring

When Facebook announced its pivot to Groups in the algorithm, publishers obediently pivoted as well. Some were already there — nurturing communities around a common thread, an event, or a locality, or gathering subscribers/fans in one centralized place. Some, honestly, seem plain thirsty for the eyeballs heading to their site content. That’d been part of Facebook’s olive branch (bait carrot?) to the news industry, though Campbell Brown’s recent comments drove that stake into the heart of the traffic promise that the Page → Group algorithm preference had already wedged in. But hey, maybe these groups could be a new opportunity for news organizations to circle up with those meaningful interactions. “I do worry this news is going to make ‘pivot to groups’ the new ‘pivot to video,’” one engagement editor at a U.S. publisher told us when we reached out to dozens of audience development and social media Continue reading "Public or closed? How much activity really exists? See how other news organizations’ Facebook Groups are faring"

Here’s what the Financial Times is doing to get bossy man voice out of (okay, less prominent in) its opinion section

It’s fun to hate on newspapers’ op-ed sections (inspiring debate is kind of the point), meaning the job of editing them is not for the faint-hearted. And changing and diversifying them can be a challenge — whether you’re battling bad-faith arguments from the alt-right or just trying to get rid of a strain of [deep, booming, obviously male voice] “I want to tell you about Middle East policy.” The deep, booming “I want to tell you about Middle East policy” had been the problem with the Financial Times’ opinion section, but Brooke Masters is up to the challenge of fixing it. At the FT for more than a decade, she was the companies editor before becoming opinion and analysis editor this past spring. Her role — diversifying the 130-year-old paper’s opinion section, previously known as “Comment” and dominated by opining men — is just a piece of what the Continue reading "Here’s what the Financial Times is doing to get bossy man voice out of (okay, less prominent in) its opinion section"

How to buy into journalism’s blockchain future (in only 44 steps)

I’m pretty sure I purchased Civil tokens yesterday — literally buying into an experiment to strengthen journalism by putting some of it on the blockchain. After passing two tests, uploading my passport and driver’s license to unfamiliar websites, and plunking down a large (for me) sum for a cryptocurrency, I was cleared for token takeoff. When the sale began at 10 a.m., I indicated how many Civil tokens I wanted and sent off that valuable cryptocurrency to pay for them. And I got nothing. No tokens appeared in my digital wallet. No comforting “your tokens are being shipped” email. Not even a “Share your purchase with a friend!” button. The “purchased” area in my account was blank. But I’m actually at peace with that. I think it’s going to work out, and I’m into this journey.

My motivation

Earlier this year, my friends Manoush Zomorodi and Jen
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How the Broke in Philly collaboration is focusing local media’s attention on poverty and economic mobility

A comprehensive list of 45 affordable summer camps isn’t a typical item on Billy Penn’s website. (More standard: “Center City has fewer restaurants with sidewalk cafes but more outdoor seating overall” or “City Council pronunciation guide: How to say your elected officials’ names.”) But then again, 19 news organizations actually working together to pool their reporting on economic inequality isn’t your everyday local news market, either. “As journalists, we’re taught to be competitive and territorial. On the other hand, things are changing dramatically, so don’t assume other people in your local market don’t want to collaborate,” Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, the collaboration’s editor, said. “If you’re thinking about it, chances are they’re thinking about it too.” Billy Penn, one of the three Spirited Media sites aimed at those pesky millennials in various local areas, had joined the Inquirer/Daily News/Philly.com, WHYY, and a dozen other Philadelphia-based news Continue reading "How the Broke in Philly collaboration is focusing local media’s attention on poverty and economic mobility"