Need to Know: Sept. 21, 2017
Fresh useful insights for people advancing quality, innovative and sustainable journalism
You might have heard: An investigation by ProPublica found that Facebook was allowing advertisers to target users who had expressed interest in offensive terms, such as “Jew hater” and “how to burn jews” (ProPublica); Facebook’s advertising policies were already under scrutiny as it revealed earlier this month that a Russian firm linked to the Kremlin bought $100,000 worth of political ads during the U.S. presidential campaign (NPR)
But did you know: Sheryl Sandberg says Facebook didn’t know about the offensive targeting terms until ProPublica brought them to their attention (Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook)
“People wrote these deeply offensive terms into the education and employer write-in fields and because these terms were used so infrequently, we did not discover this until ProPublica brought it to our attention,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says. “We never intended or anticipated this functionality being used this way – and that is on us. And we did not find it ourselves – and that is also on us.” In response, Facebook is adding more human review and oversight to its automated ad processes, as well as clarifying its ad policies and creating a program that will encourage people to report potential abuses of the ad system.
+ “Framing Facebook’s ad problems as algorithm problems suggests that they reside somewhere in the labyrinthine depths of Facebook’s proprietary code. Algorithm problems sound complicated, mysterious,” Will Oremus writes. “In fact, the problems with Facebook’s ad tool are not mysterious or complicated, and they aren’t buried in layers of machine-learning classifiers or neural nets. Rather, they’re the predictable outcome of rudimentary automation coupled with bad human behavior and a lack of careful oversight. … It’s because Facebook’s approach to advertising has been, with few exceptions, to let just about anyone advertise to whomever they want, provided the content of the ad itself passes minimal standards of decency” (Slate)
+ Twitter will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee that’s investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election next Wednesday, and says it will discuss the prevalence of bot accounts and the spread of misinformation on Twitter (Wired)
+ Noted: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is demanding that charges be dropped against Mike Faulk, a Post-Dispatch journalist who was arrested while covering the protests in St. Louis on Sunday night (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) and SPJ released a statement condemning Faulk’s arrest (KSDK); comScore data suggests that Mic’s audience is shrinking, but Mic says that data doesn’t include its social media audience, underlining an important debate in the industry (Business Insider); Medium is planning to hire an editorial team, who would “focus on the big Medium-commissioned pieces and help curate the front page for subscribers” (Fast Company); A new project at Georgetown University, funded by the Knight Foundation, will track free speech incidents across the country (Georgetown University); The National Press Foundation is taking entries for seven journalism awards: The deadline is Oct. 6 to apply for awards for coverage of Congress, federal impact on local communities, best use of technology, editorial cartooning, and innovative storytelling, and the deadline is Sept. 29 for awards for excellence in broadcasting and editor of the year (National Press Foundation)
Twitter, we just can’t quit you
“For journalists and other non-trolls, navigating Twitter can be like walking in flip-flops through a well-used dog park. Even if you don’t step in anything, it’s a tricky and odious journey that leaves you slightly nauseous. And exhausted,” API’s Jane Elizabeth writes. It’s no surprise, then, that NYT White House correspondent Glenn Thrush announced he was taking a hiatus from Twitter this week. But, what responsibility do journalists have on Twitter, given the amount of misinformation on the platform?
A step-by-step guide for a thorough and fair hiring process (Hearken, Medium)
After hiring its ninth full-time employee, Hearken is sharing the details of its hiring process — one that has been praised by its applicants, and even those who weren’t offered a job. “Applying for this position has been a delight and unlike any experience I’ve had in terms of feedback and timeline information,” one applicant said. Some highlights: Hearken creates an outreach plan for the job posting, with specific tasks and deadlines assigned for sharing the posting to specific groups; Hearken opts for an application form over a cover letter to give better signals about what in an applicant’s experience they were most interested in learning about; and applications are scored on a rubric, creating a standard for evaluating applicants across interviewers.
Turkish president Recep Erdogan claimed that jailed journalists in Turkey aren’t journalists, but terrorists (Quartz)
At the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York on Wednesday, Turkish president Recep Erdogan made a chilling claim in response to a question about why Turkey has put more journalists in jail than any other country: Erdogan said these jailed journalists aren’t journalists; they’re terrorists. “The ones who have been sentenced, who have been imprisoned, are not journalists,” Erdogan told Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait, who interviewed him on stage. “Most of them are terrorists. … Everyone else seems to think they’re journalists just because they say so.”
+ According to The Guardian, more than 2,500 journalists in Turkey have lost their jobs and more than 800 have had their press cards revoked and passports confiscated as the government closed hundreds of newspapers, magazines and radio stations (Guardian)
Google’s head of AI: Artificial intelligence isn’t going to destroy humanity (TechCrunch)
“I think there’s a huge amount of hype around AI right now. There’s a lot of people that are unreasonably concerned around the rise of general AI,” Google’s head of search and artificial intelligence John Giannandrea said at TechCrunch Disrupt SF. “Machine learning and artificial intelligence are extremely important and will revolutionize our industry. What we’re doing is building tools like the Google search engine and making you more productive.” Giannandrea went on to explain why he believes warnings of an “AI apocalypse” have been overstated.
+ How developers are taking advantage of augmented reality in iOS11: Ikea released an app that lets you visualize what its furniture would look like in a space (The Verge), while Quartz added a 3D rendering of the Cassini probe into its app (VentureBeat)
Kevin Delaney: Advertising is still a good business model for news, but it’s been done in a way that isn’t friendly to readers (Digiday)
“We still have confidence in advertising,” Quartz’s editor in chief Kevin Delaney says on the Digiday podcast. “It’s a business model that works. We think that advertising has been done in a manner that’s not super friendly to readers. Advertising will be the foundation of what Quartz will be over the next five years. Our audience is 52 percent female. It’s also younger — in their 40s, which is different from the general stuffy board rooms. This is the audience that a lot of advertisers want to reach. … The core of Quartz will always remain free. We’re focused on a specific segment, the business news. It’s a global audience, which is like the dream of a lot of marketers.”
After covering two back-to-back hurricanes, what have fact-checkers learned about covering storms? (Poynter)
After nearly four weeks of covering hurricanes, “fact-checkers across the United States are grappling with how to improve their debunking efforts during natural disasters,” Poynter’s Daniel Funke writes. Between covering Harvey, Irma and now Maria, what have fact-checkers learned about debunking misinformation around these storms? “As an individual journalist trying to do these roundups and respond rapidly in situations like this, I feel like thinking more ahead of time about how to prevent these things can be very useful,” Washington Post’s Abby Ohlheiser said. First Draft News’ Claire Wardle also suggested that fact-checkers could do a better job reaching the people who need to see fact-checks: “I think we’re really bad at connecting with community groups. I don’t think we’ve really thought through online communication channels during natural disasters and emergencies. How can we be better at putting out quality information and it reaching the people who need it?”
+ “I’m Going to Work Inside the Mayor’s Office for Exactly Ten Weeks. Then I’m Coming Back With a Story”: Seattle journalist Eli Sanders is going to work for Tim Burgess, who’s likely to be Seattle’s next mayor after Ed Murray’s resignation, and will come back to The Stranger at the end to write about what he saw and learned (The Stranger)