Facebook, Google, your reign may soon be over


March 26, 2018

Facebook, Google, your reign may soon be over

For Facebook: It is now about rebuilding trust

We might look back on 2017 as the last moment of unbridled faith and optimism in the technology industry. The revelations about Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data — mining more than 50 million users’ personal information — came at a time when people were already considering appropriate ways to curb the handful of tech companies that dominate not just the American economy but also, increasingly, American life.

As the information revolution took off in the 1990s, we got caught up in the excitement of the age, along with the novelty of the products and their transformative power. We were dazzled by the wealth created by nebbishy 25-year-olds, who became instant billionaires — the ultimate revenge of the nerds. And in the midst of all this, as the United States was transitioning into a digital economy, we neglected to ask: What is the role for government?

The image of technology companies springing forth from unfettered free markets was never quite accurate. Today’s digital economy rests on three major technologies: the computer chip, the Internet and GPS. All three owe their existence in large part to the federal government. The latter two were, of course, developed from scratch, owned and run by the government until they were opened up to the private sector. Most people don’t realize that GPS — the global positioning system of satellites and control centers that is so crucial to the modern economy — is, even now, owned by the U.S. government and operated by the Air Force.

And yet, as these revolutionary technologies created new industries, destroyed others and reshaped communities and cities, we simply assumed that this was the way of the world and that nothing could be done to affect it. That would have been socialist-style interference with the free market.

But the result does not seem one that a libertarian would celebrate. We now have a tech economy dominated by just a few mammoth companies that effectively create a barrier to entry for newcomers. In Silicon Valley, new start-ups don’t even pretend that they will become independent companies. Their business plan is to be acquired by Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple. The situation looks more like an oligopoly than a free market. In fact, through the age of big tech, the number of new business start-ups has been declining.

The other noticeable consequence has been the erosion of privacy, highlighted by the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal. Because technology companies now deal with billions of consumers, any individual is a speck, a tiny data point. And since for most technology companies the individual consumer is also a product, whose information is sold to others for a profit, he or she is doubly disempowered. The tech giants would surely respond that they have democratized information, created products of extraordinary power and potential, and transformed life for the better. All of this is true. So did previous innovations such as the telephone, the automobile, antibiotics and electricity. But precisely because of these products’ power and transformational impact, it was necessary for the government to play some role in protecting individuals and restraining the huge new winners in the economy.

Change is likely to come from two directions. Regulatory action in the West will give more control to the individual. The European Union has established rules, which will go into effect on May 25, that will make it much easier for people to know how their data is being used and to limit that use. It is likely that the United States will follow suit.

The second direction is even more intriguing and comes from the East. Until recently, as Indian entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani pointed out to me, there were just a handful of digital platforms with more than 1 billion users, all run by companies in the United States or China, such as Google, Facebook and Tencent. But now India has its own billion-person digital platform: the extraordinary “Aadhaar” biometric ID system, which includes almost all of the nation’s 1.3 billion residents (and whose creation Nilekani oversaw). It is the only one of these massive platforms that is publicly owned. That means it does not need to make money off user data. It’s possible to imagine that in India, it will become normal to think of data as personal property that individuals can keep or rent or sell as they wish in a very open and democratic free market. India might well become the global innovator for individuals’ data rights.

Add innovations in blockchain technology, and we are likely to see even more challenges to the current gatekeepers of the Internet in the near future.

Whether from East or West, top down or bottom up, change is coming to transform the world of technology. Properly handled, it can produce freer markets and greater individual empowerment.

Image result for Fareed Zakaria

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Day of Reckoning for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook: Rebuilding Trust


March 25, 2018

Day of Reckoning for Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook: Rebuilding Trust

Revelations about the depths of Facebook’s failure to protect our data have finally pulled back the curtain, observers say

One expert said the Cambridge Analytica revelations will finally get people to ‘pay attention not just to Facebook but the entire surveillance economy’.
One expert said the Cambridge Analytica revelations will finally get people to ‘pay attention not just to Facebook but the entire surveillance economy’. Composite: Bloomberg

“Dumb fucks.” That’s how Mark Zuckerberg described users of Facebook for trusting him with their personal data back in 2004. If the last week is anything to go by, he was right.

Since the Observer reported that the personal data of about 50 million Americans had been harvested from Facebook and improperly shared with the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, it has become increasingly apparent that the social network has been far more lax with its data sharing practices than many users realised.

As the scandal unfurled over the last seven days, Facebook’s lackluster response has highlighted a fundamental challenge for the company: how can it condemn the practice on which its business model depends?

“This is the story we have been waiting for so people will pay attention not just to Facebook but the entire surveillance economy,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.

Since Zuckerberg’s “dumb fucks” comment, Facebook has gone to great lengths to convince members of the public that it’s all about “connecting people” and “building a global community”. This pseudo-uplifting marketing speak is much easier for employees and users to stomach than the mission of “guzzling personal data so we can micro-target you with advertising”.

In the wake of the revelations that Cambridge Analytica misappropriated data collected by Dr Aleksandr Kogan under the guise of academic research, Facebook has scrambled to blame these rogue third parties for “platform abuse”. “The entire company is outraged we were deceived,” it said in a statement on Tuesday.

However in highlighting the apparent deceit, the company has been forced to shine a light on its underlying business model and years of careless data sharing practices.

Sure, the data changed hands between the researcher and Cambridge Analytica in apparent violation of Kogan’s agreement with Facebook, but everything else was above board. The amount of data Cambridge Analytica got hold of and used to deliver targeted advertising based on personality types – including activities, interests, check-ins, location, photos, religion, politics, relationship details – was not unusual in the slightest. This was a feature, not a bug.

 Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ – video

‘Extremely friendly to app developers’

There are thousands of other developers, including the makers of the dating app Tinder, games such as FarmVille, as well as consultants to Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, who slurped huge quantities of data about users and their friends – all thanks to Facebook’s overly permissive “Graph API”, the interface through which third parties could interact with Facebook’s platform.

Facebook opened up in order to attract app developers to join Facebook’s ecosystem at a time when the company was playing catch-up in shifting its business from desktops to smartphones. It was a symbiotic relationship that was critical to Facebook’s growth.

“They wanted to push as much of the conversation, ad revenue and digital activity as possible and made it extremely friendly to app developers,” said Jeff Hauser, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “Now they are complaining that the developers abused them. They wanted that. They were encouraging it. They may now regret it but they knowingly unleashed the forces that have led to this lack of trust and loss of privacy.”

The terms were updated in April 2014 to restrict the data new developers could get hold of, including people’s friends’ data, but only after four years of access to the Facebook firehose. Companies that plugged in before April 2014 had another year before access was restricted.

“There are all sorts of companies that are in possession of terabytes of information from before 2015,” said Hauser. “Facebook’s practices don’t bear up to close, informed scrutiny nearly as well as they look from the 30,000ft view, which is how people had been viewing Facebook previously.”

Cambridge Analytica claims it helped get Trump elected by using data to target voters on Facebook.
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Cambridge Analytica claims it helped get Trump elected by using data to target voters on Facebook. Photograph: Win Mcnamee/AFP/Getty Images

For too long consumers have thought about privacy on Facebook in terms of whether their ex-boyfriends or bosses could see their photos. However, as we fiddle around with our profile privacy settings, the real intrusions have been taking place elsewhere.

“In this sense, Facebook’s ‘privacy settings’ are a grand illusion. Control over post-sharing – people we share to – should really be called ‘publicity settings’,” explains Jonathan Albright, the research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. “Likewise, control over passive sharing – the information people [including third party apps] can take from us – should be called ‘privacy settings’.”

Essentially Facebook gives us privacy “busywork” to make us think we have control, while making it very difficult to truly lock down our accounts.

‘The biggest issue I’ve ever seen’

Facebook is dealing with a PR minefield. The more it talks about its advertising practices, the more the #DeleteFacebook movement grows. Even the co-founder of WhatsApp Brian Acton, who profited from Facebook’s $19bn acquisition of his app, this week said he was deleting his account.

“This is the biggest issue I’ve ever seen any technology company face in my time,” said Roger McNamee, Zuckerberg’s former mentor.

“It’s not like tech hasn’t had a lot of scandals,” he said, mentioning the Theranos fraud case and MiniScribe packing actual bricks into boxes instead of hard drives. “But no one else has played a role in undermining democracy or the persecution of minorities before. This is a whole new ball game in the tech world and it’s really, really horrible.”

Facebook first discovered that Kogan had shared data with Cambridge Analytica when a Guardian journalist contacted the company about it at the end of 2015. It asked Cambridge Analytica to delete the data and revoked Kogan’s apps’ API access. However, Facebook relied on Cambridge Analytica’s word that they had done so.

When the Observer contacted Facebook last week with testimony from a whistleblower stating that Cambridge Analytica had not deleted the data, Facebook’s reaction was to try to get ahead of the story by publishing its own disclosure late on Friday and sending a legal warning to try to prevent publication of its bombshell discoveries.

Then followed five days of virtual silence from the company, as the chorus of calls from critics grew louder, and further details of Facebook’s business dealings emerged.

A second whistleblower, the former Facebook manager Sandy Parakilas, revealed that he found Facebook’s lack of control over the data given to outside developers “utterly horrifying”. He told the Guardian that he had warned senior executives at the company that its lax approach to data protection risked a major breach, but that he was discouraged from investigating further.

At around the same time, it emerged that the co-director of the company that harvested the Facebook data before passing it to Cambridge Analytic is a current employee at Facebook. Joseph Chancellor worked alongside Kogan at Global Science Research, which exfiltrated the data using a personality app under the guise of academic research.

Brittany Kaiser, former Cambridge Analytica Director: ‘I voted for Bernie’ – video

Demand for answers

Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic called for answers. In the US, the Democratic senator Mark Warner called for regulation, describing the online political advertising market as the “wild west”.

“Whether it’s allowing Russians to purchase political ads, or extensive micro-targeting based on ill-gotten user data, it’s clear that, left unregulated, this market will continue to be prone to deception and lacking in transparency,” he said.

The Federal Trade Commission plans to examine whether the social networking site violated a 2011 data privacy agreement with the agency over its data-sharing practices.

“I think they are in a very bad situation because they have long benefited from the tech illiteracy of the political community,” said Hauser.

The backlash spooked investors, wiping almost $50bn off the valuation of the company in two days, although the stock has since rallied slightly.

On Wednesday, Zuckerberg finally broke his silence in a Facebook post acknowledging that the policies that allowed the misuse of data were a “breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it”.

The social network is facing calls for answers from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
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The social network is facing calls for answers from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

 

Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, added her own comment: “We know that this was a major violation of people’s trust, and I deeply regret that we didn’t do enough to deal with it.”

The company will investigate apps that had access to “large amounts of information” before the 2014 changes and audit thousands of apps that show “suspicious activity”. The company will also inform those whose data was “misused”, including people who were directly affected by the Kogan operation.

These actions don’t go far enough, said Vaidhyanathan. “Facebook has a history of putting on that innocent little boy voice: ‘Oh I didn’t know that I shouldn’t hold the cat by its tail,’” he said. “I think we’re tired of it at this point.”

These problems were pointed out by scholars years ago, said Robyn Caplan, a researcher at Data & Society, but Facebook’s response was slow and insufficient.

“They have been trying to put out a lot of little fires but we need them to build a fire department,” she said.

Cambridge Analytica and Our Lives Inside the Surveillance Machine


March 23, 2018

Cambridge Analytica and Our Lives Inside the Surveillance Machine

 

In 2006, a local pollster in Nepal was kidnapped by Maoist rebels while conducting opinion surveys on behalf of the American political strategist Stan Greenberg. The Maoists, who had been waging a long-running insurgency against the government, did not issue their typical ransom demands—money or weapons in exchange for the prisoner. No, they wanted the polling data that Greenberg’s team had collected, evidently to gauge the political climate in the country for themselves.

Alexander Nix, pictured here in 2016, was recently suspended from his position as the C.E.O. of Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the center of a data-mining scandal involving Facebook.Photograph by Joshua Bright / The Washington Post / Getty

 

The researchers eventually handed it over. In his book “Alpha Dogs,” the British journalist James Harding cites this story as an example of how the business of political campaigning is being remade, across the globe, by a profusion of fine-grained data about voters and their habits. Where the consultants of the nineteen-sixties and seventies obsessed over how to use television to beam ideal images of their clients into voters’ homes, today’s spinmasters hope that big data will allow them to manipulate voters’ deepest hopes and fears. “What’s the currency of the world now?” one of Greenberg’s partners asks Harding. “It’s not gold, it’s data. It’s the information.”

Twelve years later, the fixation on data as the key to political persuasion has exploded into scandal. For the past several days, the Internet has been enveloped in outrage over Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, the shadowy firm that supposedly helped Donald Trump win the White House. As with the Maoist rebels, this appears to be a tale of data-lust gone bad. In order to fulfill the promises that Cambridge Analytica made to its clients—it claimed to possess cutting-edge “psychographic profiles” that could judge voters’ personalities better than their own friends could—the company had to harvest huge amounts of information. It did this in an ethically suspicious way, by contracting with Aleksandr Kogan, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, who built an app that collected demographic data on tens of millions of Facebook users, largely without their knowledge. “This was a scam—and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, Facebook’s deputy general counsel, told the Times over the weekend. Kogan has said that he was assured by Cambridge Analytica that the data collection was “perfectly legal and within the limits of the terms of service.

Despite Facebook’s performance of victimization, it has endured a good deal of blowback and blame. Even before the story broke, Trump’s critics frequently railed at the company for contributing to his victory by failing to rein in fake news and Russian propaganda. To them, the Cambridge Analytica story was another example of Facebook’s inability, or unwillingness, to control its platform, which allowed bad actors to exploit people on behalf of authoritarian populism. Democrats have demanded that Mark Zuckerberg, the C.E.O. of Facebook, testify before Congress. Antonio Tajani, the President of the European Parliament, wants to talk to him, too. “Facebook needs to clarify before the representatives of five hundred million Europeans that personal data is not being used to manipulate democracy,” he said. On Wednesday afternoon, after remaining conspicuously silent since Friday night, Zuckerberg pledged to restrict third-party access to Facebook data in an effort to win back user trust. “We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” he wrote on Facebook.

But, as some have noted, the furor over Cambridge Analytica is complicated by the fact that what the firm did wasn’t unique or all that new. In 2012, Barack Obama’s reëlection campaign used a Facebook app to target users for outreach, giving supporters the option to share their friend lists with the campaign. These efforts, compared with those of Kogan and Cambridge Analytica, were relatively transparent, but users who never gave their consent had their information sucked up anyway. (Facebook has since changed its policies.) As the sociologist Zeynep Tufekci has written, Facebook itself is a giant “surveillance machine”: its business model demands that it gather as much data about its users as possible, then allow advertisers to exploit the information through a system so complex and opaque that misuse is almost guaranteed.

Just because something isn’t new doesn’t mean that it’s not outrageous. It is unquestionably a bad thing that we carry out much of our online lives within a data-mining apparatus that sells influence to the highest bidder. My initial reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, though, was jaded; the feeling came from having seen how often, in the past, major public outcries about online privacy led nowhere. In most cases, after the calls to delete Facebook die down and the sternly worded congressional letters stop being written, things pretty much go back to normal. Too often, privacy scandals boil down to a superficial fix to some specific breach or leak, without addressing how the entire system undermines the possibility of control. What exciting big-data technique will be revealed, six years from now, as a democracy-shattering mind-control tool?

Yet I eventually found reason to be genuinely repulsed by the story. On Monday, the U.K.’s Channel 4 published video footage of an undercover sting operation that it had conducted against Cambridge Analytica. A man working for the channel, posing as a political operative from Sri Lanka, met with the firm’s representatives to discuss hiring them for a campaign. On camera, over three meetings in various swanky hotels around London, C.A.’s employees offer an increasingly sordid account of their methods and capabilities. The most unseemly revelation—and, in the context of the sting, the most ironic—comes when Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica’s C.E.O., seems to offer to entrap the client’s political rivals with secretly videotaped bribes and rendezvous with sex workers. (Nix was suspended on Tuesday.)

Like much of the best investigative journalism, the Channel 4 video gives viewers the queasy sense of a rock being overturned and sinister things being exposed to the light. It is difficult to watch the video without becoming at least a little suspicious of the entire business of democracy, given how large a role political consultants such as Nix play in it these days. Perhaps it is naïve to be scandalized by the cravenness of political consultants in the age of Paul Manafort, whose global democratic-perversion tour took him from buffing the image of the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, in the nineteen-eighties, to running Trump’s campaign, or to fighting a fraud case for allegedly laundering his fees from the Ukrainian kleptocrat Viktor Yanukovych. But there was something shocking about the stark double identity of this posh “Old Etonian,” as all the British papers call Nix, who presented himself as a big-data wizard at marketing events but proposed basic gangsterism to clients in private. And in the same spiffy suit.

Watching the video makes you understand that the ethical difference between outright electoral corruption and psychographics is largely a matter of degree. Both are shortcuts that warp the process into something small and dirty. You don’t need to believe Cambridge Analytica’s own hype about the persuasive power of its methods to worry about how data-obsessed political marketing can undermine democracy. The model of the voter as a bundle of psychological vulnerabilities to be carefully exploited reduces people to mathematical inputs. The big debates about values and policies that campaigns are supposed to facilitate and take part in are replaced by psychographically derived messages targeted to ever-tinier slivers of voters who are deemed by an algorithm to be persuadable. The organization of all of online life by data-mining operations makes this goal seem attainable, while an industry of data scientists and pollsters pitch it as inevitable. Candidates, voters, and pundits, enthralled with the geek’s promise of omniscience, rush to buy in—at least until it’s used by someone they don’t like. Cambridge Analytica is as much a symptom of democracy’s sickness as its cause.

  • Adrian Chen joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2016.

 

Malaysiakini says Thank You for Your Support–Mission Accomplished


January 25, 2018

Malaysiakini says Thank You for Your Support–Mission Accomplished

by Steven and Premesh Chandran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

COMMENT | Mission accomplished – we have finally hit the target of raising RM350,000!

Image result for Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran

That milestone was reached yesterday (January 23) – 12 days after we launched the Defend Malaysiakini Fund following the Court of Appeal’s decision on January 11 which reversed the High Court judgment.

The decision was a major blow to Malaysiakini – it was ordered to pay RM200,000 in damages and RM150,000 in legal costs to Raub Australian Gold Mine (RAGM) for publishing three articles and two video clips on health concerns expressed by villagers regarding mining activities near their village at Bukit Koman in Raub, Pahang.

Image result for raub australian gold mining sdn bhd

 

To raise such a huge sum within two weeks is indeed a feat of great proportions. But it couldn’t have been accomplished without YOU. A big thank you to all those who have participated in the effort.

Some of you have asked why we needed to reach out to Malaysians to raise the money. Here’s why:

Malaysiakini’s annual budget is RM6.5 million. This goes towards funding the operation of four of the country’s top news websites in English, Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese as well as KiniTV. In addition, we serve 4.3 million Facebook fans and 1.3 million Twitter followers. Apart from journalists and editors, we have a team of advertising executives under our sister company FG Media, another team to handle technology and of course, the subscriptions and administrative department.

Our aim for each financial year is simple – to make sure that we earn enough to cover our expenses. And we have been doing that over the past 18 years. Yes, there were good years and there were bad years. In good years, we reinvest much of our profit back into the company. In bad years, we tighten our belts.

Our major income comes from advertising and subscriptions. However, as most online news portals have discovered, earning money from advertising is extremely tough.

While online advertising has grown by leaps and bounds, those who benefit most from it are not content providers; they are the big technology companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Twitter, to name a few. Search engines alone control almost 50 percent of the market.

Websites such as Malaysiakini are competing not just with other local brands for advertising but with super companies, the likes of Google. Moreover, online advertising does not bring in the kind of top dollar that print or broadcast advertising once commanded.

Old media may earn, say, about RM100 in advertisement revenue for every reader. News websites earn just RM1 per reader, per year. That’s 100 times less than what the print media used to earn. So advertising alone cannot support a news website like Malaysiakini.

Our saviour is our paywall. Income from subscriptions is more stable and predictable than advertising, which is tied to the health of the economy since companies spend more in good times. Without the income from subscriptions, Malaysiakini would have folded up a long time ago.

And to maintain this hand-to-mouth existence, we have kept a tight rein on our expenses, in particular salaries, which is our biggest outlay. Many of those who work for Malaysiakini get lower than what the market pays.

Indeed, those in senior management earn almost half of those in similar positions elsewhere. Clearly, everyone in Malaysiakini is making tremendous sacrifices to keep the operation going.

We are not complaining. It is a sacrifice we are willing to make. We embarked on this journey with our eyes wide open. We knew there would be little money to make. We knew there would be harassment, arrests and attacks.

Image result for Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran

Malaysia’s notorious couple: Najib Razak and Big Momma, Rosmah Mansor

Image result for din merican

I enjoyed my attachment with Malaysiakini as a SEACEM Fellow some years ago during which I got to know Steven Gan and Premesh Chandran and their team of some of the most outstanding journalists at close range. I cherished every moment I spent with them. The experience made me a better Malaysian. I learned how hard it was to  be a journalist in an increasingly repressive Malaysia. Congrats, Guys, thank you for your sterling public service. I urge you to keep on going because we all can individually and collectively make a difference.–Din Merican

And it was difficult for us to hire good people with the salaries we offered. However, we believed that if we trained those who were a little wet behind their ears, they would one day be among the giants in the industry.

 

Other legal battles

So, this is why we had to raise money from the public. We don’t have a contingency for such unexpected off-budget items. Our legal battles are mostly fought by lawyers who represent us pro-bono.

The last time we went to the ground to raise funds was four years ago – the ‘Buy a Brick’ campaign which raised RM1.7 million for our new building in Petaling Jaya. We hope we don’t have to do this very often.

And yes, there are other legal battles – the National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) lawsuit which we won in the High Court and has now gone up to the Court of Appeal. There is also the lawsuit by Deputy Agro-Based Industries Minister Tajuddin Abdul Rahman over our reports on the fracas at Parliament grounds. That has yet to be heard in the High Court.

And there is the big one – the lawsuit by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak over comments by our readers. Again, this has yet to be heard by the High Court as our lawyers are filing constitutional challenges.

On top of that, both of us have to fight criminal charges over the KiniTV video which has upset Attorney-General Mohamed Apandi Ali. That will soon be heard in the Cyber Court.

We are confident that we will prevail in these court battles. And we are confident, perhaps more so now, that you will stand by us again should the law fail us.

More than 2,175 supporters have contributed to the Defend Malaysiakini Fund in the past two weeks. Almost all are small amounts, the biggest being RM3,500. The Bukit Koman villagers also helped to chip in as well. And some of you even contributed more than once.

There were no tycoons, no corporate sponsorship. Only people like you – wage earners, the self-employed, retirees – giving their hard-earned money to the fund. It is this spirit which we promote among those who work in Malaysiakini. And it is this spirit that we want to see among our supporters and among all Malaysians.

The power of one, working alone, can achieve the extraordinary; but the power of many, working together, can achieve the impossible.

For that, we tip our hats to each and every one of you. Thank you!


STEVEN GAN and PREMESH CHANDRAN are co-founders of Malaysiakini and editor-in-chief and chief executive officer respectively.

While Malaysiakini is officially ending the RM350,000 campaign, those who want to contribute can continue to do so, as any additional money will go into Malaysiakini’s legal defence fund for future cases.

Those wishing to contribute can bank in their donations to the following account:

Account name: Mkini Dotcom Sdn Bhd

Account no: 514253516714 (Maybank)

Swift Code: MBBEMYKL

Branch address: Dataran Maybank, Level 1 Tower A, Dataran Maybank, 59000 Kuala Lumpur.

Donations can also be made through credit card by calling +603 7770 0017 or via PayPal.

 

The State of Mainstream Journalism and Integrity of Malaysian Ministers


November 13, 2017

The State of Mainstream Journalism and Integrity of Malaysian Ministers

by R. Nadeswaran

http://www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for Tengku Adnan MansorNajib Razak and Tengku Adnan Mansor– Chickens of the same feather

COMMENT | It will not be the first time a minister has put his foot in the mouth without even realising it. It will not be the last either. The quality of people who are addressed as “YB Menteri” has certainly deteriorated.

Whenever this comes about, many will rush to the cause – to defend the faux pas or in most cases, words, phrases and views uttered that had caused more damage to reputation and status.

Usually, the common cry is “I have been misquoted” or “my words have been taken out of context”. They never admit that they uttered those offending statements and explain their reasons or justify the stand they had taken.

But when the Almighty is dragged into the defence and punishment in the after-life is offered as a threat, the whole issue takes a different dimension.

Suddenly, the journalist and media outlets are told that they have to answer to God – not the laws of the land or the Home Ministry, which has the power to revoke licences, suspend licences and block websites.

Speaking at a press conference after attending a public transport ceremony in Putrajaya yesterday, Federal Territories Minister Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor entered the fray and said journalists have to be responsible for their reporting.

“I believe, after this, I will be (at fault), just like what Hamzah (Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hamzah Zainudin) faced when he mentioned (the government’s) effort to reduce the cost of living in his speech, which was later spun to mean something else.

“I don’t know what will happen to this world, especially (to) all of you journalists. You are all responsible, what you are doing is… Remember, you all are going to see God and we will accuse you of lying and slandering towards the community, just to help some people gain success,” Malaysiakini quoted him as saying.

 

A Fake Hadith ?–Economics is Adam Smith’s and Adam Smith is a Man. The Prophet pbuh was  a merchant who understood Islamic Economics.

Hamzah (photo) had said the rise in living costs is God’s will, and quoted a saying, or hadith, attributed to Prophet Muhammad which states: “Verily, it is God who sets prices, who makes things hard, easy and gives out blessings”.)

Having read what Hamzah said and what was reported, why is Tengku Adnan taking umbrage? In the first place, what is the co-relation between God and food prices? What mortal sin have the journalists committed to face the wrath of God?

These are not problems but self-inflicted damage because most politicians open their mouths without engaging their brains in gear. When their words sometimes border on the ridiculous and ludicrous, they think they have found the escape hatch – blame the journalist and the media.

No journalist worth his salt wants to be labelled as a purveyor of fake or false news. Neither does he want to be accused of “manufacturing”, “creating” or attributing quotes which have been picked from thin air.

Editors who re-write to slant news

In some sections of the mainstream media, journalists have complained that their copy had been re-written by editors and seniors to slant towards certain parties and individuals. The editor has the final say and when he exercises his power, the only recourse the journalist has is: “I don’t want a byline as I don’t want to be associated with this article.”

There are few who take such courageous steps while many remain silent as they too become tools of the editor, usually a political appointee.

At a World Press Freedom day seminar a few years ago, I remarked that journalists first need “freedom from their editors” before even talking about anything else. The in-house censorship, the re-write desk and those politically connected have and will continue to change the course of events.

When was the last time you came across “1MDB” in the mainstream newspapers? Last week, US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions described 1MDB as “kleptocracy at its worst” in practice. That is how our country was described. It was not fake news. It was from a man in authority speaking of an organisation which was set up with taxpayers’ funds and has incurred billions of ringgit in borrowings. Aren’t we, as Malaysians, entitled to know about a Malaysian-owned government company?

Did you read about it in your daily newspaper or did you hear it on our news channels? Was it not news worthy to be shared with fellow Malaysians? Herein are the problem and a big difference. Some editors are professional and decide what is good for the country while there are those who decide what is not good for the government and its leaders.

Many believe that the “government censors news” but it is far from the truth. No government official is present when the newspaper is put to bed. It is the editor who decides what you should read.

Having said that, editors have a role to play in ensuring journalists don’t get carried away by taking all and sundry presented to them as gifts. Attempts will be made to feed information by one party which is detrimental to another. They have to ensure that the organisation and individuals do not become tools of certain people.

But to harass journalists for reporting what was said is certainly unacceptable. Having suddenly realised what had been said sounded idiotic, don’t blame the journalists.

They should not be allowed to be bullied by the likes of Tengku Adnan. If this minister and his colleague are aggrieved by what has been written, there are proper channels. Journalists, who now have recording equipment, cameras and mobile phones as tools of their trade, will be able to substantiate what they had written. Therefore, the likelihood of journalists misquoting anyone has been minimised.

It is rather surprising that no one has come to the defence of the journalists. Editors should not succumb to threats. They must be able to draw a thick line between the citizen’s right to know and officialdom’s attempt to cover wrongdoings.

So, let journalists do their jobs without outbursts, threats or invoking the name of the Almighty at the drop of a hat. We are doing them a service in educating, entertaining and informing our fellow citizens on issues that affect all of us. If that cannot be done, then the government will have to replicate the Pravda, a relic of what used to be the Soviet Union. Surely, we can’t come down so low.


R NADESWARAN is passionate about journalism and says freedom of expression and free speech must be encouraged and practised for democracy to thrive. Comments: citizen.nades22@gmail.com

Looking Back in Time–Zunar the Cartoonist Par Excellence


October 1, 2017

Looking Back in Time–Zunar the Cartoonist Par Excellence

Malaysia’s Embattled Cartoonist Zunar Wins Freedom Award

by Asiasentinel Correspondent

Embattled Cartoonist Zunar Wins Freedom Award

Despite the threat of nine counts of sedition and 42 years in prison, cartoonist continues to zing Prime Minister.

Zunar earlier this month became the first full-time cartoonist to receive the International Press Freedom Award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.  In his acceptance speech in New York, Zunar said it is “both my responsibility and my right as a citizen to expose corruption, wrongdoing and injustice.” His mission, he said, is to fight through cartoons. “I will keep drawing until the last drop of my ink.”

berthelsen zunar 113015-1

If it is sedition to make serious fun of a demonstrably corrupt prime minister and his money-grubbing wife, we are with sedition all the way.  In support of a courageous and daring individual, supported by an equally courageous news organization, we present a selection of Zunar’s cartoons.