In many fields of research right now, scientists collect data until they see a pattern that appears statistically significant, and then they use that tightly selected data to publish a paper. Critics have come to call this p-hacking, and the practice uses a quiver of little methodological tricks that can inflate the statistical significance of a finding. As enumerated by one research group, the tricks can include:
- “conducting analyses midway through experiments to decide whether to continue collecting data,”
- “recording many response variables and deciding which to report postanalysis,”
- “deciding whether to include or drop outliers postanalyses,”
- “excluding, combining, or splitting treatment groups postanalysis,”
- “including or excluding covariates postanalysis,”
- “and stopping data exploration if an analysis yields a significant p-value.”
Add it all up, and you have a significant problem in the way our society produces knowledge.
The number of individuals in prison around the world for raising their voices online is on the rise. In 2014, the Committee to Protect Journalists found that over half of imprisoned journalists were arrested for activities conducted on the Internet. In a 2015 report, Reporters Without Borders cited 178 incidents of imprisoned “netizens” in just a selection of twelve countries. Now that individuals can speak up without the need for institutions or gatekeepers, states choose the most direct way to take away their power: incarcerating them, and taking them offline.
It’s not just those who speak out who are sent to jail. Increasingly, EFF has seen coders, designers, makers, and hackers detained or threatened with prison for their work protecting or enhancing free expression and privacy. Writers, speakers, and journalists have long been understood by those in power as dangerous elements; now “technologist” has joined the list of occupations that corrupt politicians and dictators fear.
EFF supports the principles of free expression laid out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and believes that those principles must extend online. The right “to seek, receive and impart information” includes a right to devise and share tools that enable and protect those abilities.
“Offline” showcases key cases that may not be receiving wide coverage, but we believe speak to a wider audience concerned with online freedom. Our international case advocacy is centered around awareness-raising. Over the years, we have often heard from those who have been released from detention that shining a spotlight on their case led to better treatment in prison or a speedier release. It is from this premise that we work, additionally ensuring that we have full support of an individual’s loved ones before we proceed with action.
That digital technology is disrupting the business of journalism is beyond dispute. What’s striking is how little attention has been paid to the impact that technology has had on the actual practice of journalism. The distinctive properties of the Internet—speed, immediacy, interactivity, boundless capacity, global reach—provide tremendous new opportunities for the gathering and presentation of news and information. Yet amid all the coverage of start-ups and IPOs, investments and acquisitions, little attempt has been made to evaluate the quality of Web-based journalism, despite its ever-growing influence.
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