Data Journalism and the Law
Journalism today is more data-dependent than ever, as accountability reporting increasingly requires examining everything from government databases to public records. Yet while the technical tools for doing this important work continue to rapidly improve, the legal framework for using those tools has failed to keep up. Laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and new case law involving the Freedom of Information Act threaten data journalists’ ability to pursue a wide variety of stories in the public interest.
On January 29th, 2019, the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Knight First Amendment Institute will host an evening event dedicated to exploring the ways in which the current legal environment may be hampering essential journalistic work. Presented by Victoria Baranetsky, general counsel at The Center for Investigative Reporting and author of the Tow Center's recent report Data Journalism and the Law, the evening will consist of one-on-one conversations and panel discussions with prominent figures in both investigative and data-driven journalism, as well as attorneys specializing in technology and the First Amendment.
Time: Tuesday January 29, 2019, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: Brown Institute, Columbia Journalism School This event is free and open to the public, though registration is required.
Press Freedom in China in the Era of Big Tech
On Friday, February 1st the Tow Center for Digital Journalism and the Committee to Protect Journalists will host a half-day symposium to discuss the best research and guides related to digital media and press freedom in China in the era of big tech. The symposium will consist of three panel discussions on the state of digital media in China, the role of tech platforms and China's authoritarian influence on free expression around the globe, respectively. Tow Center Researchers Mia Shuang Li and Emilie Xi will present preliminary research results on the WeChat-based “self media” phenomenon and the black box news personalization algorithms of China’s leading news aggregators. Additional details—including panelist information—is available here.
Time: Friday February 1, 2019, 1:30pm - 5:00pm
Location: Brown Institute, Columbia Journalism School This event is free and open to the public, though registration is required
In the News and At Large
Pete Brown's study on push alerts was featured by our friends at Nieman Lab, who noted that alerts "featured less yelling and more thinking" in 2018. The case study, a follow-up from Brown's 2017 report, was also highlighted at MediaPost and the American Press Institute.
While discussing domestic disinformation, Mother Jones cited research by Jonathan Albright, who found that the earliest mentions of migrant caravans came from Facebook groups created by Americans.
Senior research fellow Ishaan Jhaveri's piece for Gizmodo on a 19th-century teenager who sparked a battle over who owns our faces was covered by Rochester, New York's Democrat and Chronicle.
Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center, weighed in on the popularity of less "produced" podcasts at the BBC.
In TheColumbia Journalism Review
What a report from Germany teaches us about investigating algorithms by Nicholas Diakopoulos
For CJR, Diakopoulos spoke to Patrick Stotz, a data journalist at Der Spiegel, about his year-long investigation into a closely guarded credit scoring algorithm. In partnership with two nonprofits, the paper collected data to shed light on the system's possible biases, mistakes, or misuse.
The interesting failure of rattus journalistus by Marguerite Y. Holloway
Despite a failed experiment involving New York City rats and WiFi-enabled collars, Holloway sees still sees promise and potential for journalists collecting data through sensors.
TL;DR: Spies (do not) like us by Sam Thielman, CJR
Thielman rounds up new developments in intelligence activity affecting journalists—including a recently declassified memo that revealed the FBI established a unit devoted to pursuing reports' government sources last year.
Research and Analysis of Note
The Media’s Post-Advertising Future Is Also Its Past The Atlantic
by Derek Thompson
Thompson says journalism is "headed back to the 19th century" in a piece that breaks down the discipline's current woes and its lack of a way forward without sentiment or scolding. The relentless cycles that seem to go boom and bust every few days feature prominently in his report: "it's the end times all over again," he observes wryly.
Content or Context Moderation?
Data & Society
by Robyn Caplan
Caplan's November report on the problem of developing hard rules for moderation deserves a boost in the wake of Facebook's revelation Thursday that it found yet more bad actors on its site, this time employees of Russian state news agency RT pushing anti-Ukraine propaganda. “Public oversight needs to incorporate not only the context of speech, but the organizational dynamics of platforms," Caplan writes, "to understand where new rules should be developed (for types of content) and where more resources are necessary.”
Social comparisons, social media addiction, and social interaction
The Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research
504 millennials who actively use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Snapchat participated in an online survey assessing major depression and specific social media behaviors. Individuals who were more likely to compare themselves to others better off than they were, those who indicated that they would be more bothered by being tagged in unflattering pictures, and those less likely to post pictures of themselves along with other people were more likely to meet the criteria for major depression. Interestingly, participants following more than 300 Twitter accounts were less likely to have the disorder, and those with higher scores on the Social Media Addiction scale were significantly more likely to be depressed.
Social Media Use and Adolescent Mental Health
EClinical Medicine (The Lancet)
A study of more than 10,000 14-year-olds in the United Kingdom found that "the magnitude of association between social media use and depressive symptoms was larger for girls than for boys." Both sexes experienced depression related to social media use but girls suffered more acutely; researchers observed that social media use related to online harassment, poor sleep, low self-esteem and poor body image. "In turn, these related to higher depressive symptom scores."