Older People Are Worse at Telling Fact From Opinion

Americans over 50 are worse than younger people at telling facts from opinions, according to a new study by Pew Research Center.

Given 10 statements, five each of fact and opinion, younger Americans correctly identified both the facts and the opinions at higher rates than older Americans did. Forty-four percent of younger people identified all five opinions as opinions, while only 26 percent of older people did. And 18-to-29-year-olds performed more than twice as well as the 65+ set. Of the latter group, only 17 percent classified all five facts as factual statements.

The research tacks against the idea that younger people who are extremely online (or “digitally savvy,” in Pew’s terms) might be more exposed and/or more susceptible to misinformation. But the real correlation with poor performance is exposure to television news, which has fallen off among young people but remains very high among older people. This shouldn’t be surprising if we consider the evolution of American media over the past 60 years. Someone born in 1958, now 60, witnessed two revolutions in media before the internet: talk radio and 24-hour cable news. Both blended facts and opinions in new and unprecedented ways, and they matured with the cohort of Americans who are now over the age of 50.

The internet, of course, became like the previous iterations of the media, but more so. While the bulk of coverage is close to the political center, the far-right media grew to serve ever-larger numbers of older Americans, mostly with the same undifferentiated mix of fact and opinion that talk radio pioneered. “Our own study of over 1.25 million stories published online between April 1, 2015 and Election Day [2016] shows that a right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart developed as a distinct and insulated media system,” wrote a team of Harvard scholars, “using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world.”

In short, for decades now, older people, especially conservatives, have experienced an erosion of the line between fact and opinion in every media form. The only surprising thing about the new research’s results is that every group’s performance was not worse.

Read the complete article on The Atlantic here.

New report shows NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

XKeyscore map

XKeyscore is a top secret National Security Agency program which allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in The Guardian.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.

KS1

KS2

KS55edit

Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

Social networking sites and our lives. PewResearch Report.

Questions have been raised about the social impact of widespread use of social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter. Do these technologies isolate people and truncate their relationships? Or are there benefits associated with being connected to others in this way? The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project decided to examine social networking sites in a survey that explored people’s overall social networks and how use of these technologies is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement.

The findings presented here paint a rich and complex picture of the role that digital technology plays in people’s social worlds. Wherever possible, we seek to disentangle whether people’s varying social behaviors and attitudes are related to the different ways they use social networking sites, or to other relevant demographic characteristics, such as age, gender and social class.

Download the Pew report in PDF here.

Chris Brashear and her publishing lawsuit

On April 7, 2008, Chrissy Brashear filed suit against Ellora’s Cave alleging that she was entitled to a distribution of profits from 2005 until the date at which defendants bought out her 5% shares.   EC’s response to the litigation was to not participate.

The trial brief also asserts that Ellora’s Cave is diverting assets away from the company.  First, by borrowing money through commercial lines of credit and loans in EC’s name and then transferring those loan funds to Engler, Marks, and others at substantially lower interest rates.  Second, EC is paying above market rate rent to its landlord (who happens to be Tina Engler).  For example, in 2009, the market rent is around $40,131, and EC was paying to Engler $97,200 in rent.

All told, Brashears claimed about $350,000 in actual economic damages as well as damages for defamation and punitive damages (designed to “punish” the wrongdoer as opposed to “compensatory” damages that are designed to make the plaintiff “whole”) and attorneys’ fees.

Full story here.

Internet penetration and freedom

Over the past decade, and particularly in the last few years, the influence of the internet as a means to spread information and challenge government-imposed media controls has steadily expanded.

This mounting influence directly corresponds to the growth in the number of users around the world: over two billion people now have access to the internet, and the figure has more than doubled in the past five years. However, as more people use the internet to communicate, obtain information, socialize, and conduct commerce, governments have stepped up efforts to regulate, and in some instances tightly control, the new medium. Reports of website blocking and filtering, content manipulation, attacks on and imprisonment of bloggers, and cyberattacks have all increased sharply in recent years.

On April 18th, Freedom House, which assigns countries an internet freedom score, published its 2011 report. Nine of the 15 countries that the Washington-based think-tank assessed in 2009 fared worse this year, among them Iran, Tunisia and China.

Full report, in PDF format …. FOTN2011

"Internet Penetration and Freedom"

Graph from The Economist magazine article here.