FryUp: Bloggers bite back

MV Liberte repels the blogger hordes and is an explanation needed, Mr Joyce?

SJD rocks the ASCII

As directed by the Taylor Bros and rather nice it is too. ASCII art

Bazza bites bloggers; bloggers bite back

Aboard the luxurious battle cruiser MV Liberté, NBR Commander Colman has fired a devastating broadside against the huge band of amateur, unqualified bloggers, swarming over the internet, pouring out unsubstantiated facts and hysterical opinion. Far from holing the vessels of bloggers though, the shells seem to be ricocheting back. Naturally enough, outraged bloggers take umbrage being smeared as merchants of unsubstantiated opinion and hysterical facts when the NBR and other traditional media goes fishing in those waters for story leads and quotes. More often than not, stories originating from blogs do not have their sources attributed by said traditional media, as if there’s a collective sense of embarrassment in doing so. Colman’s statement seems to have caused some dissension amongst his troops, who have fought hard to make the NBR website more than just reformatted file server with its Internet connection re-enabled. What Colman’s latest missive means for his merry band of bloggers such as David Farrar and Chris Keall remains to be seen; if it stops the nonsense of publishing columns in blog drag, he’s got our full support. NBR’s one-fifth paywall probably won’t work however. Very few internet publications have pulled off the paywall feat, and at $149 for six months or $298 a year (there’s an introductory offer of $89/6 months currently) NBR is on the expensive side. In many ways, it would be great if Colman succeeded selling stories like the one behind the paywall about Suzanne Paul of Natural Glow fame being ordered by the High Court to provide $30,000 security. He’s correct in saying that firing journalists to cut costs is a route to oblivion for newspapers. This leads to “churnalism” and mindless content mongering, with unquestioning reporting and unedited press releases being published without any attempt at adding understanding for readers who might as well read blogs in that case. NBR to lock down 20% of content NBR introduces paywall - and blaming bloggers Colman blasts Farrar The NBR’s cheeky online offer ‘Hi, you’re hysterical and biased, please subscribe to the NBR’

First stone in the wall

Minister Steven Joyce owes the New Zealand public an explanation, it seems, seeing that we now have “voluntary” Internet censorship despite his assurances that the government wasn’t planning on introducing such filtering. "We have been following the internet filtering debate in Australia but have no plans to introduce something similar here," communications and IT minister Steven Joyce told NBR.

"The technology for internet filtering causes delays for all internet users. And unfortunately those who are determined to get around any filter will find a way to do so. Our view is that educating kids and parents about being safe on the internet is the best way of tackling the problem."

Despite that, the Department of Internal Affairs has been running a web filtering trial since 2007. This is now being introduced on a “voluntary” basis to screen out child sex images and there’s $150,000 allocated for the software by the DIA. How did Joyce miss this? Joyce may say that the difference is that the New Zealand filter is voluntary. But its voluntary for ISPs. If you are, for instance, a TelstraClear customer and you object to filtering, you will have to find another service provider.

And what if they then decide to introduce filtering?

The filter itself isn’t likely to work any better than others tried overseas. Martin Cocker of Netsafe points out, it could filter out the wrong stuff and slow down internet performance. He is right that it might create a sense of false security too. At the same time, it was inevitable: what it screens out is illegal, and it’s hard to imagine any reason why it shouldn’t be. Government logic dictates it has to act in some form no matter what the consequences might be. Obviously, an open and transparent process, where the populace participates and shows some responsibility, wasn’t what Labour and National wanted, and a token technology solution was picked instead. It’s a safe bet the filter will be used to drop other material too at some point, unless law is enacted to specifically prevent it from doing so and circumscribing it’s use. The chances of any politician wanting to limit the apparent power of a censorship device in such a fashion are pretty slim, however. One thing’s for sure: InternetNZ is caught between a rock and hard place on this one, and may very well end up having to drop its “open and uncapturable internet” stance. Questions asked over InternetNZ's censorship stance DIA and the child porn filter Internet users take issue with child-porn filter Thomas Beagle on NZ Internet censorship No Great Firewall seen for New Zealand




Robert X Cringely

Twitter vs. TechCrunch: Heads in the clouds... and elsewhere. When a hacker steals corporate information, is it ethical for a news site to post it? That's today's kerfuffle engulfing Twitter and TechCrunch. Cringe has a few thoughts

Whenever Michael Arrington posts anything on TechCrunch with a theme of "Ethics 101," you know you're in for some unintentional high comedy. Such was the case today when someone calling himself "Hacker Croll" dumped a carton of internal Twitter documents on TechCrunch's doorstep.

Apparently Twitter keeps all its corporate docs in a Google cloud, and some hacker with a lot of time on his hands was able to use Google's password recovery tools to gain access to the goods. But Croll didn't just grab official Twitter memos; he (she?) managed to hack Twitter founder Evan Williams' PayPal, Amazon, Apple, and AT&T accounts, as well personal information for other Twitter employees and the names of people who've interviewed for jobs there.

In a blog post, Captain Crunch publicly debated whether to post some of the documents, many of which were of a highly personal nature. Then he decided to publish some of them anyway (though he says he would not publish overtly personal information).

The funny thing is, lots of TechCrunch readers — most of whom are loyal to Arrington in a way unmatched by anybody this side of Rush Limbaugh fans — didn't want him to publish any of it. The Guardian's Charles Arthur puts it nicely:

"His readers were less impressed — and if TechCrunch's readers aren't impressed, you can bet that what has been done is really unimpressive."

In a Twitpoll (yes, there really is such a thing) posted by Felipe Coimbra, roughly 54 percent of Twitter responders said publishing the docs would be unethical. Only a third supported putting the docs online.

Yet did that deter the Arringtard? Not a bit. In a response to the responses, he wrote:

"We publish confidential information almost every day on TechCrunch. This is stuff that is also 'stolen', usually leaked by an employee or someone else close to the company, and the company is very much opposed to its publication. In the past we've received comments that this is unethical. ...But on our end, it's simply news.

"If you disagree with that, OK. But then you also have to disagree with the entire history of the news industry. "News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising," is something Lord Northcliffe, a newspaper magnate, supposedly said. I agree wholeheartedly."

Alrighty then. Let's say I suddenly came into the possession of nude photos of Mr Arrington. One would assume somebody would want to suppress those photos, if not Captain Crunch himself. Useful for frightening small children? Certainly. Newsworthy? Probably not, unless he's got his private portfolio data tattooed on his nether bits.

The real test here is not "Does somebody want to suppress this?" or "Do we have information no other news outlet has?" or "Will this get us a lot of attention and/or traffic?" The real test is, Does releasing this information serve the public good? If not, then the rest doesn't matter. Of course, that means exercising good judgement, something that appears to be in short supply over in Crunchville.

As I write this, TechCrunch has only published an arguably newsworthy document — a pitch for a ridiculous TV show involving Twitter. That's a perfectly legit use of a leak, I think. Let's hope they stop there.

You can buy a badge, a gun, and a dozen donuts, but that doesn't make you a cop. You can publish a website and hire reporters and even get syndicated by the Washington Post, but that doesn't make you a journalist, let alone an expert on journalistic ethics.

There is a real story here, and it's about the wisdom of running your business inside a leaky cloud and whether Google needs to do a serious rethink about its password recovery tech.

Twitter has its head in the clouds. Arrington's is stuck in a somewhat more earthbound extremity. I'm pretty confident Twitter will do something to address this problem quickly, if it hasn't already. Arrington, though? Don't hold your breath.

Should confidential corporate info remain confidential? If not, who gets to decide? Post your thoughts below or e-mail me:

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