Tag: washington post

Reporter uses bots to tackle racists

Dancing Racists-2The Washington Post’s Kevin Munger used Twitter bots, one “white” and one “black” to tackle racism and appears to have worked out a strategy which reduces racist slurs.

Munger used Twitter accounts to send messages designed to remind harassers of the humanity of their victims and to reconsider the norms of online behaviour.

He sent every harasser the same message:

@[subject] Hey man, just remember that there are real people who are hurt when you harass them with that kind of language

He then used a racial slur as the search term because it was the strongest evidence that a tweet might contain racist harassment. He restricted the sample to users who had a history of using offensive language, and only included white subjects or anonymous people.

He bought followers for half of the bots — 500 followers, to be specific — and gave the remaining bots only two followers each (see screenshot above). This represents a large status difference: a Twitter user with two followers is unlikely to be taken seriously, while 500 followers is a substantial number.

Only one of the four types of bots caused a significant reduction in the subjects’ rate of tweeting slurs – the white bots with 500 followers.

Generally, though he found it is possible to cause people to use less harassing language and it is more most likely when both individuals share a social identity. Unsurprisingly, high status people are also more likely to cause a change.

Munger thinks that many are already engaged in sanctioning bad behaviour online, but they are doing it in a way that can backfire. If people call out bad behaviour in a way that emphasises the social distance between themselves and the person they’re calling out then telling people off is less likely to be effective.


Trump threatens Amazon with antitrust charges

trumpuckerComedy US presidential hopeful Donald Trump has threatened that Amazon will be facing antitrust charges if he is elected.

Trump claims that Amazon.com, the world’s biggest online retailer, has “a huge antitrust problem.” Trump also said Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, is using the newspaper to influence politicians in Washington to help Amazon on taxes.

“The Washington Post is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos, who controls Amazon. Amazon is getting away with murder tax-wise. He’s using the Washington Post for power so that the politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed,” Trump said.

“He’s using the Washington Post … for political purposes to save Amazon in terms of taxes and in terms of antitrust,” Trump said.

“He thinks I’ll go after him for antitrust. Because he’s got a huge antitrust problem because he’s controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing,” Trump said.

Clearly he does not really care that he just gave Amazon a reason to sink as much money as is reasonable into rival candidates, but then again he has a lot of money already.


Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post

Analysts claim that Jeffrey Bezos’ purchase of the Washington Post is a chance for the newspaper industry to evolve into something more relevant to the 20th century.

The Amazon founder wrote a $250 million cheque for the Washington Post and is believed to have a cunning plan to save newspapers.

In a statement, Bezos said that he is very optimistic about the future of the paper.

To many this means Bezos wants to try to change newspapers in the same way he did the book business.

The Post has seen a rapid decline in print advertising, a loss of subscribers and challenges in building up online revenue.

Bezos indicated that he wouldn’t make radical changes in editorial operations and would continue to emphasise accountability journalism.

But he said that the paper will need to “invent” and to “experiment,” focusing on the internet and tailored content, to address the changing habits of readers.

The LA Times said that this is the first time a true digital native is buying a newspaper publishing company.

It quoted Alan Mutter, a media consultant and former newspaper editor, as saying that Bezos had the means, motive and opportunity to re-envision what it means to be a newspaper in the digital era.

Bezos will own the Post outright, buying it with his own money, not Amazon’s. By taking it private, he won’t be subject to shareholders who want a quick buck. 

Washington Post hacked

Hackers have attacked the jobs section of the Washington Post’s website and managed to find 1.2 million email addresses.

According to a FAQ, a Post spokesperson said that the worst users would have to face is a series of spam emails, which should be ignored.

The face said that readers may receive some unsolicited spam as a result of this incident. It went on to trot out the usual “well, you should avoid opening suspicious or unsolicited e-mail” anyway sort of statement.

But the Post has not said how its security was clearly turned over by the hackers. It is one of the downsides of an operation that clearly harvests the personal details of its readers. The Post demanded that online readers fork over a small amount of personal information before registering on the site.

Most people assume that the data will be kept safe, in this case it clearly was not.

The fact that the attack has not been announced by any of the usual suspects means that it was not carried out by Anonymous. The whole point of these operations is to make their attacks public.

This means that the site was probably bought down by someone who was looking for data which could be used in spam or fraud.

Readers of the Post might be wondering how secure the rest the site is. 

Go Daddy tells China to go, daddio

Domain name firm Go Daddy won’t offer .cn registrations any more because the Chinese government wants to know everything about the people who register domains.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Go Daddy executive Christine Smith told a congressional panel yesterday that her firm was worried about individuals’ security.

The company’s action was hailed by politician Chris Smith who described Google as “firing a shot” around the world and Go Daddy “has answered the call” of defending Chinese people.

All was not quiet on the Eastern front yesterday. State organ the People’s Daily went for a spot of irony, saying editorials in the Washington Post implied that Google was the spirit God of the Chinese people.

Worse, perhaps for Google, is that the People’s Daily claimed 84 percent of people in China thought that Google leaving India didn’t matter, and quite a few felt repelled – or repugnant as the op-ed put it – with “Google’s menacing gesture”.

It said some German media acknowledged that Google leaving China was a political show because it had commercially failed in the PRC.

The newspaper even described Google’s move as a tentative skirmish in a cyber war.

In passing, the paper accused Google of lifting Chinese writers’ intellectual property. And then there’s this. What gives?

The Washington Post: An apology

We had a letter from an attorney at the Washington Post which we reproduce in full below. Mr Nick Farrell has apparently irritated the great and the mighty. The article was about Obama’s attitude to space, AFAIK.  We have taken down Nick Farrell’s piece, which you can’t and won’t find here anymore. And here is the letter that explains what we need to do now. Which we’ve done. We trust we’ve heard the last of this. We are the tiny TechEye, not the Great WashPost.

Mr. Magee,

Thank you for your reply and responsiveness.  We would ask that you please promptly take down Mr. Farrell’s piece and replace it with a statement explaining that you have removed the article in light of its similarity to Mr. Krauthammer’s February 12 column in The Post.  We would also ask that you provide a link to Mr. Krauthammer’s column where you reference his work.

For example, you might consider language along the lines of the following:

“We have removed the article that previously appeared on this page in light of its similarity to Charles Krauthammer’s February 12, 2010 column “Closing the new frontier” in The Washington Post.  We apologize for the inconvenience.”

As mentioned, we would ask that you hyperlink the title of Mr. Krauthammer’s column to its location on our website (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/11/AR2010021103484.html).

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about this.  We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter.


Timothy Jucovy
Associate Counsel
The Washington Post