The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013

(Not the Boston Marathon bombers, for the record; just a prime example of media error in 2013)

Here are two trends in media-related errors for 2013:

Breaking-News Errors — Labeling this a trend is admittedly problematic, in that breaking-news errors are as old as breaking news. Events such as natural disasters or crisis situations strike suddenly, and confusion is a natural byproduct. (Related: I’m editing a free Verification Handbook aimed at helping journalists and humanitarian agencies deal with emergency and crisis situations. Sign up to get a free copy early next year.)

Last year’s error of the year was the breaking-news breakdowns by CNN and Fox News in their coverage of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) decision. This year, breaking-news mistakes warrant a collective mention because they happened again and again. There were mistakes made during the initial coverage of the Boston bombings, the Navy Yard shootings, the shooting at LAX (which included a Canadian newspaper falling for a hoax tweet claimed the former head of the NSA was dead), the crash landing of a Korean Air flight in San Francisco (see Best Naming Error below)… and on and on.

It’s become such an expected scenario, with similar mistakes being made over and over again, that I decided to write a template article with lessons and advice, “This is my story about the breaking news errors that just happened.”

High-Profile Journalists Dumped for Inaccuracy — AP fired three journalists after they played a role in publishing a report that falsely accused current Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe of lying to federal investigators. (The accusation was published shortly before the election, thereby possibly affecting the outcome.) Reporter Bob Lewis, who wrote the erroneous story, was fired along with editors Norman Gomlak and Dena Potter. I noted at the time how surprising it was to see three staffers dismissed, especially the long-tenured Lewis, who hadn’t been party to a big error before. I also listed other recent firings to highlight how inconsistently punishment is applied by news organizations.

Foe more errors and corrections, see The best and worst media errors and corrections in 2013 | Poynter..

Internet Monitor 2013 Now Available (an Annual Report from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society)

Internet Monitor is delighted to announce the publication of Internet Monitor 2013: Reflections on the Digital World, our first-ever annual report. The report—a collection of essays from roughly two dozen experts around the world, including Ron Deibert, Malavika Jayaram, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Molly Sauter, Bruce Schneier, Ashkan Soltani, and Zeynep Tufekci, among others—highlights key events and recent trends in the digital space


The full report and individual chapters are available for download from the Internet Monitor website.

An interactive, full text version of the report is available on H2O, where you can remix, share, excerpt, and comment on each essay: H2O: Internet Monitor 2013.

About Internet Monitor
Internet Monitor, based at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is a research project to evaluate, describe, and summarize the means, mechanisms, and extent of Internet content controls and Internet activity around the world. The project compiles and curates data from multiple sources, including primary data collected by the Berkman Center and our partners, as well as relevant secondary data. Internet Monitor will create a freely available online fact base that will give policy makers, digital activists, and user communities an authoritative, independent, and multi-faceted set of quantitative data on the state of the global Internet. The project also produces annual reports that compile this information and provides expert analysis on the state of the global Internet.

Annual Report | Internet Monitor.

EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist

EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist

As we did last year and the year before, EFF welcomes the winter season with a new wishlist of some things we’d love to have happen for the holidays—for us and for all Internet users. These are some of the actions we’d most like to see from companies, governments, organizations, and individuals in the new year.

  • Citizens, organizations, privacy officials, and governments should unite around the International Principles on the Application of Human Rights to Communications Surveillance and add their voices to declare that mass surveillance violates international human rights.
  • The U.S. Congress should create a new Church Committee to find out what intelligence agencies are actually doing; since mass surveillance is a global problem, we also need parliamentary commissions of inquiry around the world to look into the same question.
  • Congress should pass meaningful reform to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
  • The Department of Justice should notify everyone who’s been convicted of a crime using evidence derived—directly or indirectly—from warrantless surveillance programs (not just a cherry-picked handful of defendants).
  • All communications companies should publish transparency reports showing the scope and nature of government requests for user information. The Internet industry, led by Google, has made this a standard for corporate transparency, but telecom companies are still totally missing in action.
  • All Internet sites should adopt cryptographic best practices for every connection, every time, including PFS, STARTTLS, HSTS, and encrypted traffic between data centers.
  • In 2014, every certificate authority and web browser should commit to adopt Google’s Certificate Transparency system to detect and stop the issuance of fake certificates that facilitate spying on web users.
  • Companies that sell books, movies, music, or other digital media should commit to the principle that if you bought it, you own it. That means no DRM and no sneaky license agreements.
  • Every wireless device should let you change its MAC address (a hardware serial number), and no new technology standards should be designed to transmit any persistent hardware serial numbers over the air or on a network. (If your device keeps sending the same hardware serial number, like wifi devices and cell phones, among others, whoever’s at the other end or listening in can recognize you and track your location. Businesses and governments are already taking advantage of this to build massive databases of our devices.)
  • Web sites should publish historical versions of their terms of service and privacy policies, with their effective dates, to help users understand what’s changed over time. At a bare minimum, companies like Facebook should stop blocking the Internet Archive from creating and displaying a historical record of their policies.
  • Governments should come clean about how they’ve weakened computer and communications security, clean up the damage, and stop doing it.
  • Companies entering the secure communications space (as well as those that have been there a while!) should explain exactly how secure they are and why. They should get public technical audits by experts and clearly explain how they handle classic, fundamental security challenges. They should clearly and publicly explain whether and to what extent they could be compelled to record or turn over user data or to help break users’ security (including by disclosing cryptographic keys or passwords, by issuing false digital certificates, or by modifying their software).
  • The surveillance industry should take responsibility for ensuring that it’s not assisting mass surveillance and other human rights violations.


EFF’s 2013 Holiday Wishlist | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The lives and deaths of academic library staplers

The average life span for a stapler at my library’s reference desk this past semester was 15.3 days. The most common cause of stapler death was exhaustion. An exhausted stapler would staple once, and then jam, entering a state of nonresponsive “stapler shock.” After a librarian valiantly unjammed it, the stapler would muster one more staple before collapsing again. Often we were not able to intervene before a frustrated student began assaulting the jammed stapler. One should not beat a dead stapler.”