Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Perhaps social media doesn’t kill people, it’s governments that kill people, and Western tech firms just follow the law. But whatever else you use Facebook or Twitter for, don’t believe the hype – they’re not your friends.
 
By Robin Tudge | New Internationalist Blog

The popular uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East started with the overthrow of Tunisia’s authoritarian government. But was it a ‘Twitter revolution’ or a ‘Facebook revolution’ (or indeed a Wikileaks revolution)? Which company has the greater claim, Google cannot say. Yet, one might think it’s the greatest revolution of people power, democracy and human rights seen since the Berlin Wall fell. With uprisings razing across two continents, social media has undergone some sublime feat of corporate rebranding. Facebook and Twitter have become synonymous with the democratic aspirations and empowerment of people worldwide, wherein those millions of brave citizens risking their lives by overthrowing decades-old dictatorships have become free extras in an epic viral marketing exercise, propagated by social media.

Well, that’s when social media isn’t being used to crush opponents. Egyptian police used Facebook and Twitter to track down protesters’ names before ‘rounding them up’, and Egypt’s military never really lost control.

Elsewhere, police forces use Facebook to pettier ends. New Delhi police’s Facebook page allows tens of thousands of citizens to denounce and upload photographic evidence of traffic violations, enabling the issuing of hundreds of tickets. But social media is so easily used for remote monitoring to pre-empt dissent. Hence, British and European police forces need not spend time and money with potentially embarrassing infiltration efforts a la Mark Kennedy. Instead, under the direction of the UK’s National Policing Improvement Agency, some 3,500 police and detectives are being trained to track social networking sites for allegations of domestic violence, rape and honour crimes, as well as any political movements considered a likely danger.

Anyone can legally and freely follow a Tweet thread with all its opinions, plots and real-time updates. Indeed, the Inspectorate of His Majesty specifies that the British security forces should focus on social network surveillance as protestors use them via mobile phones to plan – and change plans – ‘in minutes… police officials in charge should plan their actions with the possibility in mind.’

And both protesters and police use social media to spread their messages. During the siege of Fortnum & Mason and the battle of Trafalgar Square, protesters’ were met tweet for tweet by the Met making its case for coshing and kettling. A more sustained campaign is the US Military’s $200 million Operation Earnest Voice. Avatars working on Facebook et al act as ‘sock puppets’ to spread positive propaganda across extremist, non-US-based networks. At first, it countered extremism in post-Saddam Iraq but has since expanded to anywhere or anyone considered to be extremist, like anti-war or anti-arms industry protestors or environmental activisits.

Up to the early 1990s, telecommunications monitoring was dominated by ECHELON, a global network dominated by the US, with support from the UK, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies. But globalisation and the Internet have enabled global monitoring to become less of a clandestine state enterprise than a privatised matter, and services from Google Alerts to http://www.buzzcapture.com enable any entity to monitor to some extent who and what is being said about certain subjects.

Meanwhile, the 2001 Patriot Act allows the US government to demand all the data that passes through the clutches of US companies working abroad. Facebook is a US firm, with nearly a tenth of the world’s population profiled. We must assume that updates and data are routinely filtered through CIA, NSA or FBI supercomputers – including not only how much you drank last night, or the last protest you attended, but everything your friends did, too, the kind of guilt by association that leads innocent Americans and Europeans to end up on No Fly Lists, and innocent Muslims to suffer Extraordinary Rendition.

Last December the US Department of Justice demanded that Twitter hand over account details – connection records, sessions, IP addresses, email and residential addresses, bank account and credit card details – of Julian Assange and Private Bradley Manning, but also those of Birgitta Jonsdottir, a former volunteer for Wikileaks and now an MP in Iceland, prompting an official complaint from the Icelandic government. As the DoJ is telling the world, anyone’s online work and identity can and will be retrieved wherever they themselves may be in the world.

Too often people disclose way too much information about themselves. However, social media firms are working hard to batter down data protection and privacy laws. Facebook is notorious for abruptly changing its privacy settings to leave profiles and data exposed to the world and its marketing algorithms, while countless apps stream out users’ data in real time.

Facebook also has dedicated lobbyists in Brussels and Washington who attempt to convince government officials to ‘understand our philosophy’and prevent them from passing laws preventing ‘the beneficial sharing of information’.

Facebook meanwhile engages in its own censorship of Christian groups, as is claimed on facebookcensorship.com, at the behest of no one in particular, but governments may still fear Facebook more than its users should. It is blocked in China, whose own state-approved version, Renren, is shortly to float on the US stock market. China’s Market Stalinism shows rampant capitalism prospers at the expense of democracy, and Western tech firms cash in. Google may have abandoned China’s billion-dollar internet market in 2010 as it refused to bow to government censors of its search filters, but this was belated, with Google having submitted to Chinese state censors since 2006, and the company’s ire was only stoked in 2009 when Beijing could or would not prevent hacking attacks on the Gmail accounts of human rights advocates outside China.

However, Bill Gates scoffed that China’s Internet censorship was ‘very limited’ and ‘easy’ to evade, before noting that ignoring a host country’s laws meant ‘you may not end up doing business there’. Gates argues that bringing the Internet to China serves the greater purpose for information sharing – but aiding a totalitarian government to crush dissent is not a step back for two gained on the road to freedom. It is simply a step back, abetting oppression for the sake of profit. Microsoft has censored the China-sourced content of its blog service Windows Live Spaces, and AOL, Skype and Yahoo! are among those that agree. In 2004, Yahoo! gave Chinese police the details of dissident journalist Shi Tao, who ended up being imprisoned for 10 years.

Google, Facebook and Twitter are not evil per se, they are just profitable firms providing a tool that is put to ends good or ill. Perhaps social media doesn’t kill people, it’s governments that kill people, and Western tech firms just follow the law. But whatever else you use Facebook or Twitter for, don’t believe the hype – they’re not your friends.

The following article is  a bit imbalanced – for example by focusing on that one individual and not highlighting the role of the major parties in creating the media billionaires in the first place, even long before that incompetent media tart Fielding appeared on the scene.

Nevertheless, his conservative presence was part of pushing further the process of demolishing freedom the press and the production of balanced information – in the same way he supported anti-gay, law and order, and zero-tolerance drug policies as well as christian indoctrination at schools.

On the other hand: he and the billionaires are just another expression of the system overall, which is not a people’s democracy, doesn’t stand for social and economic justice, doesn’t promote by example ethics of peace, harmony, equality, respect and tolerance, ravages the environment, and so on.

Having said all that: despite the article’s narrow focus it gives a good overview of how the media in Australia are concentrated in whose few hands.

By Stephen Mayne for Crikey

Steve Fielding retires from the Senate on June 30, but one of his lasting legacies will be the continuing flow of media deals triggered by John Howard’s liberalisation of foreign and cross-media ownership laws in 2005.

With Austar set to be swallowed by Foxtel, WA News now merged with Seven and Southern Cross Media consuming Austereo, it is worth reflecting on just how far the media landscape has changed since Fielding provided that key vote.

Former Fairfax Media chairman Ron Walker lead that company on a debt-funded takeover binge as it bought Rural Press and Southern Cross Broadcasting’s radio assets, wiping out two independent players. Today Fairfax is capitalised at $3 billion, although it somehow claims to have net assets worth $5.3 billion, suggesting new CEO Greg Hywood needs to ‘do a Leighton’ and take some write-downs.

WA News also joined the “no longer independent” club and foreign private equity firms enriched James Packer and Kerry Stokes beyond their wildest dreams, although both partially squandered their windfalls.

The media industry globally retains unusually high levels of family ownership and this is especially so in Australia, where billionaires remain as dominant as ever, even after considering the influx of private equity.

After factoring in Monday’s WA News vote approving the $4 billion Seven Media Group purchase and Southern Cross Media’s fully committed $471 million capital raising to fund the Austereo acquisition, this is how the 12 most valuable Australian media companies stack up in terms of market capitalisation and billionaire influence:

  1. News Corp:$44 billion; Murdoch family controls through a gerrymander which allows a $6 billion stake to translate into four family members on the 17-person board because 70% of the shares can’t vote.
  2. Telstra: $35 billion; Future Fund now under 5% and no billionaires with influence.
  3. Fairfax Media: $3 billion; Fairfax family has second largest shareholder with 10% and one board seat.
  4. Seven Group Holdings: $2.86 billion; Kerry Stokes owns 67.8% and Westrac is now a dominant asset although pay-TV investment remains.
  5. Seven West Media: $2.4 billion; Seven Group Holdings owns 29.6% which equates to a direct stake for Kerry Stokes of 20%. Kohlberg Kravis Roberts is the second largest shareholder with 13%.
  6. Seek: $2.25 billion; founding Bassat brothers’ share is down below 5% and James Packer sold out so register is wide open.
  7. REA Group: $1.78 billion; value of News Ltd’s 61% stake has just gone past $1 billion for first time.
  8. Austar: $1.7 billion; John Malone’s Liberty Media owns 55% (worth $935 million), most of which is profit.
  9. Consolidated Media Holdings: $1.6 billion; James Packer privately controls 47% and Kerry Stokes has 23% through Seven Group Holdings.
  10. Ten Network: $1.45 billion; three billionaires plus Lachlan Murdoch are sharing control with 40%.
  11. Carsales.com: $1.21 billion; CVC just sold controlling interest so register now wide open.
  12. Southern Cross Media: $1.2 billion; Macquarie Group is largest shareholder with 25% worth $350 million. They are a seller in time so control is open for any billionaire who wishes to step in.
  13. APN News & Media: $977 million; embattled Irish player Independent Newspapers still hanging on with controlling 30% stake but O’Reilly family influence has waned.

The only big player missing from all this is PBL Media, although private equity firm CVC is still hoping it can float the Nine Network and ACP later this year. Bermuda-based billionaire Bruce Gordon also has a big business in his privately owned WIN Group which owns Channel Nine in Perth and Adelaide, plus several regional affiliates. He also happens to be the largest shareholder in Ten Network Holdings, with a representative on the board despite the conflict.

Interestingly, there aren’t too many mid-cap media companies once you move beyond the 12 companies listed above.

You could try investing in Macquarie Radio (market cap $89 million) if you fancy some exposure to Alan Jones or Seven regional affiliate Prime Media, which is worth $286 million and controlled by healthcare billionaire Paul Ramsay. After that, you are looking at smaller advertising and marketing plays such as Photon, Hyro, Facilitate and STW Holdings.

Billionaires are clearly more attracted to media assets with political influence, which might explain why Carsales and Seek have wide open registers.

Online classified advertising has been hugely lucrative for those cutting the lunch of the old newspaper companies but it is neither s-xy, prestigious or powerful for those wanting influence. That said, News Ltd is now enjoying paper profits of about $900 million on its 61% stake in REA Group which more than offsets all the losses from its disastrous MySpace internet adventure.

The Murdochs remain the most powerful media family in the Australian market because News Corp owns more than 60% of Australia’s newspapers, the third biggest magazine business and has management control of Foxtel. Then you have Lachlan Murdoch who personally owns 50% of radio operator DMG and almost 10% of Ten Network Holdings, where he is making a hash of things as acting CEO.

Look no further than the resignation this morning of former Ten CEO Paul Viner, who has clearly had enough of the “buy 10% and get a board seat” billionaires club who now control Australia’s third biggest television network.

There is no such thing as objectivity in the media, and especially not when it comes to Israel’s role in Middle-East conflicts. Probably nowhere in the Western world is political interference in this context as systemic as in the US.  And it’s the US press that helps shaping the American soul and that floods the globe with the empire’s culture and ideology. No wonder we live in such a troubled world.

On June 16, Pak Alert Press reported of having done some digging on the Iran Twitter campaign after having felt suspicious about its sudden explosive occurrence on June 13. The result of the research strongly indicates that at least some of the major Twitter accounts were set up by the same source. And even more interesting, there seems to be link to the right wing Israeli newspaper, the Jerusalem Post.

Proof: Israeli Effort to Destabilize Iran Via Twitter

Right-wing Israeli interests are engaged in an all out Twitter attack with hopes of delegitimizing the Iranian election and causing political instability within Iran.

Anyone using Twitter over the past few days knows that the topic of the Iranian election has been the most popular. Thousands of tweets and retweets alleging that the election was a fraud, calling for protests in Iran, and even urging followers hack various Iranian news websites (which they did successfully). The Twitter popularity caught the eye of various blogs such as Mashable and TechCrunch and even made its way to mainstream news media sites.

BBC Caught In Mass Public Deception With Iran Propaganda

Were these legitimate Iranian people or the works of a propaganda machine? I became curious and decided to investigate the origins of the information. In doing so, I narrowed it down to a handful of people who have accounted for 30,000 Iran related  tweets in the past few days. Each of them had some striking similarities –

1.  They each created their twitter accounts on Saturday June 13th.
2.  Each had extremely high number of Tweets since creating their profiles.
3. “IranElection” was each of their most popular keyword
4.  With some very small exceptions, each were posting in ENGLISH.
5.  Half of them had the exact same profile photo
6.  Each had thousands of followers, with only a few friends. Most of their friends were EACH OTHER.

Why were these tweets in English? Why were all of these profiles OBSESSED with Iran? It became obvious that this was the work of a team of people with an interest in destabilizing Iran. The profiles are phonies and were created with the sole intention of destabilizing Iran and effecting public opinion as to the legitimacy of Iran’s election.

I narrowed the spammers down to three of the most persistent – @StopAhmadi @IranRiggedElect @Change_For_Iran

I decided to do a google search for 2 of the 3 – @StopAhmadi and @IranRiggedElect. The first page to come up was JPost (Jerusalem Post) which is a right wing newspaper pro-Israeli newspaper.

JPost actually ran a story about 3 people “who joined the social network mere hours ago have already amassed thousands of followers.” Why would a news organization post a story about 3 people who JUST JOINED TWITTER hours earlier? Is that newsworthy? Jpost was the first (and only to my knowledge) major news source that mentioned these 3 spammers.

The fact that JPost promoted these three Twitterers who went on the be the source of the IranElection Twitter bombardment is, unfortunately, evidence that this was an Israeli propaganda campaign against Iran. I must admit that I had my suspiscions. After all, Que Bono?  (latin for “Who Benefits). There’s no question that Israel perceives Iran as an enemy, more so than any other nation. Destabilizing the country would benefit them.

Further proof below

(more…)

What will the world be like a year from now? Left-wing activist group Attac publicized their ideas by printing realistic-looking copies of a prominent German newspaper — dated May 1, 2010.

14042080Attac activists distributed 150,000 copies of their faked, eight-page version of the German weekly Die Zeit in over 90 cities across the country.

With the top headline “At the end of the tunnel,” the paper presented reports the group said it thinks can become reality within 13 months.

Today’s news about the global financial crisis, world hunger and climate change leave a lot of people feeling helpless, said Attac member Jutta Sundermann.

“We fast forwarded time and wrote about the news we want to read about tomorrow — not about some distant paradise, but about concrete changes that are conceivable and attainable,” she added.

Articles describe the beginning of a “new era,” where banks have been nationalized, factories taken over by workers, the influence of lobbyists replaced with more democracy, the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging countries made seeing eye to eye, and the big polluters taken to task.

Detailed print and online imitations

Attac mimicked the weekly newspaper’s format down to the last detail, though the final version was a bit smaller. They also recreated an equally detailed online version.

Die Zeit said it would not take legal action against the group.

“Naturally, we can never endorse an imitation of Die Zeit in print or online, particularly not in quality as good as this,” said the paper’s editor-in-chief, Giovanni di Lorenzo. “But it’s not surprising that Attac chose Die Zeit for this campaign, as it’s the largest national newspaper of quality.”

The paper has a circulation of over half a million.

In a similar campaign, the American activist group Yes-Men published a false version of The New York Times.

Slightly edited version

joe_the_plumber1This can only happen in America: after having been catapulted from plumbing obscurity into the presidential election limelight, Samuel J. Wurzelbacher aka ‘Joe the plumber’, has become a war reporter – for the Israeli perspective of course. And the gems he’s sharing with the rest of the world are testimony to the depth of his understanding of the current conflict and probably also for his intellectual abilities that only allowed him to plug holes and join and fit pipes.

I’ve got nothing against plumbers – except for the high rates they charge when you need them. And there are probably some amongst them who have chosen the wrong profession in the first place; they should instead have developed their potential for becoming a terrific journalist (the same way some journalists should rather have become plumbers). Joe though is not one of them. Not with comments like this: “When someone hits me, I’m going to unload on the boy. And if the rest of the world doesn’t understand that, then I’m sorry.” He said that after apparently remarking that he is a “peace-loving man”. And it sounds awfully like George W., who also rose to world prominence despite being rather dumb (this was the man who bankrupted two oil businesses before being elected president of the United States, only to bankrupt the whole country).

Here are some other bonmots from Joe Samuel, as reported by Press TV:The people of Sderot “can’t do normal things day to day,” like get soap in their eyes in the shower, for fear of rockets, said the most famous American plumber. “I’m sure they’re taking quick showers,” he said. “I know I would.” Sounds like a profound justification for killing 1000 Palestinians. But Joe does not only contemplate the depth of his empathy for the poor souls of Sderot, he also dishes out advice: for the Israelis (“Why hasn’t Israel acted sooner?”), the foreign media (“You should be patriotic, protect your family and children, not report like you have been doing for the past two weeks since this war has started”) and people like himself (“I know if I were a citizen here, I’d be damned upset”). McCain portrayed Joe as the common American, which probably sadly hits the mark and is the reason why Israel can terrorise innocent civilians and Iraqis have died in their hundreds of thousands.

ABC iView

Posted: December 12, 2008 in media
Tags:

iview

Not really being an avid TV watcher, I so far have remained quite ignorant of the ABC’s iView service – until, of course 🙂 , Lifehacker mentioned it a few times (once wasn’t enough 😉 ). So I went to the ABC’s website to find out more about it.

ABC iView is a new way to watch TV – a free Internet broadcasting service that lets you watch ABC programs on your computer. They’ve created iView for the growing number of people with high speed Internet connections (ADSL2, ADSL Plus or other connection speeds above 1.1Mbps), who want good quality pictures and great content to watch on their computer or web-enabled TV. iView so far has six channels:

  • CatchUp (The best weekly shows from ABC1 and ABC2)
  • KaZaM (Kids’ action, adventure and animation)
  • Arts (Arts from Australia and beyond)
  • News (The latest in news and current affairs)
  • Docs (Natural history, social documentaries and factual series)
  • ABC Shop (Previews programs from the ABC Shop Download service)

To try it out I watched “Peter Greenaway In Conversation”; Greenaway being interviewed by Virginia Trioli about his body of work, and what he’s been up to since his last major film release in Australia. Excellent viewing, highly recommended!

There is a growing list of ISPs that won’t charge you for streaming this ABC service – the iView site has a complete list of them. Fortunately for me, Internode was one of the early adopters (iiNet lead the pack), and unsurprisingly greedy Telstra isn’t one of them (I can never work out why anyone actually subscribes to Bigpond, apart from being ignorant of the much better alternatives or having too much money while not caring about quality). Anyway, here’s the list as of 12.12.2008: