Archive for the 'News' Category

Media Bias

I’ve written about the dangers of believing everything you read and here I go again.

Matti Friedman was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of Associated Press who now exposes a particularly pernicious bias within the established news media. The article is entitled, An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth, and it exposes the news media’s bias against Israel. While I don’t agree with everything Friedman says in the article, my experience tells me that he is right that “the old comfort of parsing the moral failures of Jews, and the feeling of superiority this brings” is alive and well in the news media.

For over 20 years, I have had to sort through bias, prejudice, propaganda, and stupidity from the semblance of fact presented in news articles. Friedman’s article illustrates only one underlying narrative that distorts what passes for news reporting these days. If you must resort to searching for “facts” in news articles, then I urge you to read Friedman’s article.

Propaganda War

Shooting down a passenger jet has exposed some good old-fashioned Soviet-style propaganda. It’s not as good as some of Putin’s efforts, but it’s interesting to watch.

The Wayback Machine has captured some very interesting evidence that Russian-backed terrorists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. In a post by Igor Girkin on Vkontakte, Russia’s Facebook clone, the Ukrainian terrorist leader who is also known as Strelkov, claimed his forces downed what he thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane.

The Russian-backed terrorist claims he shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was caught by the Wayback Machine and publicized on their Twitter account, @InternetArchive ( See The Christian Science Monitor article that translates the content and provides a timeline of the attempts by the terrorists to hide this and blame the Ukraine government.

Meanwhile over at Wikipedia, the Twitter account @RuGovEdits monitors Wikipedia edits by the Russian government. It reveals Russia’s efforts to shift the blame to the Ukrainian government. Putin’s office and Russian media outlets made multiple edits to the page for the murder of the MH17 passengers to blame the “Ukrainian military”. @RuGovEdits should be trustworthy as the Wiki-twitterbot code is widely available on Github.

Trolling RSS Feeds

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, blogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

I have written quite a lot about RSS in the past. The following are my choices for both installation on a PC and for a web-based reader.


RSSOwl is cross-platform as it’s Java-based. It handles RSS, Atom and RDF in terms of feed formats. You must have Java installed, no matter where you run it. It cooperates with Firefox to add feeds to RSSOwl from the browser. Just go to the feed and copy the URL then go to RSSOwl and click on add feed and it knows where to find the feed. You can also drag and drop Feeds from Firefox into RSSOwl. RSS Owl has an embedded web browser, so you don’t have to open up a separate browser window to view links or to view the full version of feed items that are shortened. You do have to set this up under “Browser” in the Preferences menu option. Choose to Default to the Embedded Browser. To get the RSSOwl embedded browser to work properly with OneNote so that it includes the URL in pasted items, you must enable Java Script. I do not recommend doing this except on an isolated machine otherwise, malicious Java Script code could cause serious problems.


When I need to collect video and podcasts from RSS feeds, I turn to RssBandit. The embedded browser is MS Internet Explorer, therefore, it includes the pertinent URL when you copy to OneNote as the embedded browser is the same.

This is my favorite RSS reader overall, though, I have experienced occasional problems with exporting feeds for another implementation of the reader. This problem seems to stem from differences in the underlying OS on the importing computer. It can be an irritation when starting a project with tight deadlines.

RSSOwl has an edge for a group of researching working in a collaborative environment as it is easier to set-up and distribute to the group.

Web-based RSS Reader

The two most popular seem to be Feedly and Inoreader readers that offers similar features and options.

Inoreader offers secure HTTPS access and over 40 different customization options. If I must use a web-based reader this is the one.

I refuse to use Feedly because extensions like NoScript, Adblock, HTTPS Everywhere, etc. prevent the site from loading. I never use sites infested with stuff that my normal suite of extensions prevents from loading. You only have to encounter one ad with malicious code to cost you many hours of work to purge the problem code from your machine.

Social Media Monitoring for Security Departments

A client that operates a security guard company called recently to ask a question spawned by a structure fire near one of the buildings his company guarded. He wanted to know if his guard posts could monitor the news and social media for events near the sites that they guard. All these sites have high-speed internet access. Continue reading ‘Social Media Monitoring for Security Departments’

Edit-for-Cash at Wikipedia

Sarah Stierch, a senior staffer at Wikipedia, was fired for taking cash for edits to the popular encyclopedia site. Stierch offered her services as a “long time Wikipedian, curator, researcher and outreach coordinator” on a job board. Paid editing is a persistent problem on Wikipedia.

ICANN Wants to Close Whois

A working group for Internet regulators at ICANN wants to close all Whois databases. They what to force anybody needing this data to grovel before them before granting access. They are trying to centralize global control over a key component of the Internet. WHOIS allows you to find out who owns a domain name. Without this data, fraud and other crimes will become easier to commit and harder to solve.

Tim Horton’s & Investigative Internet Research

An article titled, Tim Hortons apologizes for blocking gay and lesbian news website by The Canadian Press on Friday, July 19, 2013 caught my attention. Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian coffee shop chain.

The online site of a popular paper that caters to the gay community was blocked by the coffee shop chain as “not appropriate for all ages viewing in a public environment.”. Once the outrage got going, Tim Hortons relented and changed its WiFi network policy.

What has all this got to do with Investigative Internet Research (IIR), you ask? Well, think about it. We often work while on the road and that means doing some aspects of IIR in places like coffee shops.

When you do IIR outside your normal work environment, different rules apply. How do you know what the WiFi network allows and what it doesn’t? How do you know if some things are censored and others are not? How do you know that your results are complete?

Now do you understand the dangers that doing this presents? I haven’t even mentioned the security issues.

Google Reader is Gone

Canada Day (1 Jul 13) has come and gone, and so has Google Reader. You have until 15 July to get your data out of Google Reader.

Now what? Do I need an RSS reader? Where do I get a web-based RSS reader? Have Twitter lists (which you may divide into different topics that focus on blog sources, news feeds and individuals) supplanted RSS? So many questions! So many decisions to make!

The RSS sky isn’t falling quite yet. There are alternatives and choosing one is a good reason to do some digital housecleaning. Alternative readers offer versions for Web browsers, mobile devices running iOS and Android, and cloud-based service. Hopefully, we will see innovation and competition in RSS apps and platforms.

Certainly, social media offers a human element that isn’t present in RSS feeds. However, RSS usually offers focused technical or industry information, the details of which social media usually omits. In the short-term, using  Reeder and Feedly as a front-end for RSS won’t work as these relied on Google Reader. I’m sure that will change very quickly, if it hasn’t already. (I don’t use either of these.) Twitter and Flipboard won’t replace an RSS reader for the information worker. The passing of Google Reader will only affect the ‘normal’ user who relied upon it.

The demise of Google Reader hasn’t changed how we deal with RSS feeds while doing Investigative Internet Research (IIR).  For a detailed explanation of how to handle RSS feeds while doing IIR get my new book, Sources & Methods for Investigative Internet Research, which is scheduled for publication in September.

Addition: Here’s How You Can Extract All Your Google Reader Data


If you haven’t heard, the Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford, supposedly appears in a video smoking crack. Gawker wants donations to buy the video for $200,000. Well this seems like a 80/20 situation. 80% of the damage done in 20% of the time that this goes on.

Here are some things to consider about this strange news item:

1. If they don’t get enough money to buy this video, then we don’t know if it really exists, but the damage is done.

2. If they buy it, then they are paying-off criminals. After all they are self-professed crack dealers. They are the gangsters that bring about most of the shootings and murders in Toronto.

3. If they buy it, they need to buy the device that recorded the video or we can’t tell if it was altered.

4. It will take a long time to analyze the video to determine if it is likely unaltered. If it is altered or fake, it doesn’t matter, the damage is done.

5. While the video may be unaltered, we might not ever know if it was a continuous recording or one that was recorded selectively for some desired effect.

6. No matter what happens, the damage is done — damage that goes far beyond one mayor or city. Welcome to the brave new journalism.

What’s on Your Wishlist?

The Boston Marathon incident is somewhat instructive from an Investigative Internet Research (IIR) perspective.

News reporters are skilled at IIR — some to the exclusion of real journalistic skills if the preponderance of churnalism in the popular media is any measure. However, one instance of a reporter finding the terrorist’s Amazon Wish List is interesting. The reporter was drawing conclusions about the terrorist from the contents of the wish list.

The default Amazon Wish List setting is ‘Public’. The other settings are ‘Shared’ and ‘Private’ which seems to defeat the purpose. The default setting is the most common.


The Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act comes into full force on March 11, 2013. The act may be found at and some background on the act may be found at

The Canada Gazette entry regarding the act coming into effect may be found at

The Dangers of a Bad Pretext

The Daily Mail newspaper in the UK reports that the receptionist who was subjected to a pretext call by two Australian DJs may have committed suicide.

In the call at 5.30am on Tuesday impersonating the Queen, Miss Greig said: ‘Oh, hello there. Could I please speak to Kate please, my granddaughter?’

Thinking she was speaking to the Queen, the receptionist replied: ‘Oh yes, just hold on ma’am’.

She then put the presenters through to one of the nurses who was caring for the Duchess.

The nurse also believed she was speaking to the Queen and went on to make a number of deeply personal observations about Kate’s health.

This prank/pretext was bragged about by the two Australian DJs. This no doubt subjected the receptionist to a lot of ridicule.

The Australian DJs violated two of the three rules for doing pretext calls.

The three rules:

  1. Do not personate a living person.
  2. Do not personate a representative of any existing company (or business) or anything to do with government.
  3. Do not cause anybody to be concerned for their own safety or the wellbeing of any person, business, company, or property.

Searching TV News Broadcasts

The Internet Archive now has a searchable “lending library” of major television news broadcasts back to 2009. TV News Search & Borrow allows searching the closed caption transcripts of these broadcasts. However, these transcripts are rife with spelling errors and phonetic spellings because the caption writers work in real time and type what they’re hearing in a live newscast.

The more/borrow button leads to a collection of short clips that comprise the whole show rather than a continuous video of the whole show, while the Share Clip button brings up the URL of the video.

Their loan fees for DVDs begin at $50 and include shipping charges.

The Vanderbilt University’s Television News Archive contains copies of network news back to 1968 and now contains more than one million records. Their fee schedule can be found at


Do you carry a pocketknife?

“Without a pocketknife, a man isn’t properly dressed.”
- My Father.

According to the Los Angeles Times, an 11-month-old girl died in a burning car 28 Aug 11 because no one on the scene had a knife to cut her out of a car seat. The article clearly illustrates that a knife would have saved the child’s life while another article illustrates just the opposite result:  Father’s Day knife saves accident victim’s life.

I wonder how many times events like this happen without comment in the accident report or news media?


AIIP Connections Article

I have been a member of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP) for about 20 years. Norma Goldsmith prodded me into collaborating on an article for the association’s newsletter, Connections. This was my first article for Connections. and my first collaboration. The article, Alert Services: Keeping Current, appears in the September 2012 issue.