I am currently writing the 2nd Edition of Sources and Methods for Investigative Internet Research. This is a lot more work than you might expect and it is occupying time I would normally spend writing blog articles.
Please bear with me. When I get to the editing stage of this project I will again have time to write more blog articles. However, I am still posting interesting articles, sources, and methods on my Confidential Resource Twitter feed @LocusCommunis.
The first of my 6 articles about maintaining operational security for the security intelligence function in the private sector is now online at Canadian Security Magazine.
Ontario wants to launch the Administrative Monetary Penalty (AMP) system. It’s a cute name for an extortion racket.
AMP will treat Highway Traffic Act (HTA) offences as a tax that you must pay. The accused cannot contest the charge; only discuss the amount of the penalty or perhaps the number of demerit points. This discussion will occur online with an ‘independent arbiter’.
The arbiter isn’t there to provide justice. You’re already guilty—you can only discuss the amount of the penalty. The money goes to the municipality and the municipality employs the so-called ‘independent arbiter’. The independence is a fiction.
The entire thing is an effort to bilk drivers. The government knows we must drive vehicles to exist in Ontario. Economists call this an inelastic demand. In such a demand, the quantity demanded is the same at any price because we must have it, and therefore, it may be taxed at any rate. The provincial government creates this tax by replacing the judicial process with automatic convictions and arbiters with a quota to meet—true government efficiency at last!
In 2011, the Law Society of Upper Canada specifically told the Law Commission of Ontario that AMP was not appropriate for HTA offences. The Ontario Para Legal Association rightly calls this an egregious violation of our legal rights. In rebuttal, the Ontario government imperiously states that there was a six-week public consultation about AMP that ended a couple of months ago, but I never heard of it and I haven’t found anybody else who heard about it either–some public consultation that was.
This will cause a drastic increase in the cost of insurance for residents of rent-seeking municipalities, as they will acquire artificially bad driver’s records. The term rent-seeking isn’t typically applied to government but I don’t see any alternative. Rent-seeking is seeking to increase your share of existing wealth by using the political process while not creating any new wealth. A rent-seeking government uses its discretionary and legislated authority to extract ‘rent’ for its own benefit.
What economists might call ‘rent-seeking’ is a coercive extortion racket, plain and simple. King John would feel a deep kinship with today’s Ontario government, since this type of behaviour brought about the Magna Carta eight hundred years ago.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/AnnualStatutes/2012_9/FullText.html and some background on the act may be found at http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2012/doc_32762.html.
The Canada Gazette entry regarding the act coming into effect may be found at http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2013/2013-02-13/html/si-tr5-eng.html.
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:
- Do not personate a living person.
- Do not personate a representative of any existing company (or business) or anything to do with government.
- Do not cause anybody to be concerned for their own safety or the wellbeing of any person, business, company, or property.