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Delayed Outrage Over A Censored Site; What's a Better Way To Spread News? 214

Posted by timothy
from the you-don't-like-this dept.
Bennett Haselton is back with a thought provoking essay about not just an incident of Internet censorship on an American university campus, but a proposed method of propagating news, so that relevant stories aren't buried as easily by chance or time. Bennett writes: "The real scandal in the story of Arizona State University blocking students' access to the Change.org website, is not just that it happened, but that the block persisted for two months without being mentioned in the media. As a card-carrying member of the 'outrage grapevine,' I surely think we need a way to respond faster." Read on for the rest.

This is a tale of censorship. From about December 7th until February 3rd, Arizona State University was blocking all users of its network from accessing the Change.org website, where users can create petitions and circulate them for other users to sign. (The lame excuse offered by the university was that a student had created a petition and was using the change.org site to "spam" other ASU accounts; of course, even if that had been the real reason, it would have easily been possible for ASU to block mail from the change.org servers, without blocking all students from accessing the website.) On February 3rd, after a furor of sudden media attention, the block was lifted.

But that's not the worst instance of censorship in this story. What's more disconcerting is that for the two months that the block was in place, the university's decision to block the website received no media coverage at all. This despite the fact that it was a political website being blocked, at a university with over 70,000 students — a publicly funded university, where a court would have almost certainly found that the blocking violated the First Amendment, had the case ever gone to trial.

I first heard about the original tumblr blog post describing the blocking situation, when someone posted the link on my Facebook wall. So as I went to my profile to read it, I was already predisposed to be pissed off, since almost every link that someone posts on my wall is either an outright scam, or a one-sided rant about an issue that is actually much more complicated than the author thinks it is. Well, it was a one-sided rant, all right, but it was about an issue where there was really only one side: ASU evidently got annoyed about a petition on change.org protesting tuition hikes, so they blocked the site. As I re-read the post, I kept thinking: How can this be true, if we haven't heard about it anywhere else? Perhaps an overzealous ASU network admin put the block in place, and it was reversed just a few hours later, but the tumblr post never got updated? I emailed the blog post's author, Eric Haywood, and the owners of change.org, asking how long the block had lasted before the site was un-blocked — I just assumed that the block couldn't possibly still be in place, two months later. But they confirmed that it was.

The link got blogged and re-blogged around tumblr a few times in December and January, and then, at about the same time as I was sending my emails, the issue suddenly "tipped" into public awareness as it was linked from a widely-read reddit post. Then the blocking received its first official "media" coverage in an article in the ASU student newspaper, the State Press. (Eric Haywood called the article "just ASU spreading it's own propaganda about this issue (they own, run and control the State Press)". I don't know about propaganda, but it did seem a little amateurish — the article says "The author of the original blog post is unknown", even though the guy's name, Eric Haywood, was listed in the post, along with his email address.) Then finally the story spilled over into the "real" media with an article in the Huffington Post, in which the author pointed out that the blocking likely violated the First Amendment. (A few hours after that article appeared, the university unblocked the site so that ASU students could access Change.org on their network again.)

None of the articles commented, however, on how the issue had remained buried for so long; the State Press article said only that the tumblr blog "began circulating the Internet Thursday." A reader could be forgiven for reading the articles and scratching their head and thinking: What is it that just happened? If the site has been blocked for two months, why is this only being written about now?

The answer, I think, is that most people don't realize how arbitrary the process is that determines what issues get news coverage and which ones don't. Before I got involved in a few issues that did receive media coverage (in my late teens, through Peacefire and in co-operative projects with others), I had just assumed that "the news" consisted of all stories that somebody in the media business considered to be "news-worthy." Some journalists just want to sell papers (or attract page-views), while other (better) journalists strive to tell the most important stories — but either way, surely their decision to cover something, or not, should depend on attributes of the story, right? Not on whatever else happened to be going on, or other random circumstances? But then, when I started to be involved in efforts to actually get media coverage for this or that issue, some issues ended up receiving far more coverage than even I thought they really deserved, and others received far less.

Sometimes reporters would frankly admit that they thought something was a good story, but they couldn't cover it because their plate was full that day, and even if they had time later, by that time the issue would be too "cold." Some years ago, I wrote in Slashdot about an experiment in which I sued some spammers in Small Claims court, and filed the court briefs with some of the pages stuck together with a sliver of paper. When the judges rejected the motions (as I expected, since Small Claims judges have been near-uniformly hostile to spam suits), I went to the courthouse to look at the files and found the pages still attached, indicating that the judges had rejected the motions without reading them. What I didn't mention in the original article, was that I had planned at first to give the exclusive story to a Seattle Times reporter, who came down to the courthouse to see the files and interviewed me afterwards. The paper must have thought there was a real story there, since they later sent a photographer to come down and take pictures of the files as well. But then something else landed on the reporter's desk and pushed the story back a few days, and days became weeks, and then the beat switched to a different reporter. When I eventually called to ask if they were still interested, they replied, essentially, that without a current "hook", they couldn't write the story, because now it would look like they weren't doing their jobs for the long intervening period when they didn't write about it, so it was better now to drop it entirely.

Traditional media seems hamstrung by two limitations here: (1) an inefficiency at finding the most important stories that most "deserve" to be written about; and (2) a convention that you can't cover something that's more than a few days old, because then the story looks "dated." The Internet doesn't seem to suffer from limitation #2, as demonstrated by the fact that the blocking of change.org at ASU on December 7th was still able to ignite a controversy on February 3rd. But it does still suffer from limitation #1, as illustrated by the Internet's near-total silence on the issue from December 7th through February 2nd.

Many other people have a pet issue that they think is being "suppressed" by the "liberal media" or the "corporate-owned media" (depending on which side they're on), but the evidence suggests that no conspiracy is necessary to keep an important story from being written about. Sometimes arbitrariness and chance is enough.

My naive earlier assumption — that stories received media coverage because of some combination of attributes of those stories — seems to be a specific instance of a cognitive fallacy, where if you observe that some group of things achieved some end result Z, and all of those things started out possessing some attribute X, then you think that attribute X caused the achievement of result Z. In this case, because we observe that most stories which receive news coverage are important and interesting (with obvious exceptions), we assume that most interesting and important news stories will receive news coverage. Thus, it's frustrating and counterintuitive when we find out about an issue that cries out to be written about, but was ignored by the media. The truth is more likely to be that for every important and interesting story that gets coverage, there are likely to be many other equally important and interesting stories that never make it into the news.

(By the way, I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z. It's not the same as the "post hoc fallacy" or the mistaken belief that "correlation equals causation," because both of those are about the illusion of causation. I'm talking about the correlation being an illusion in the first place — where people come to believe that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving result Z, ignoring the fact that there may be enormous numbers of cases where attribute X is true, but which never go on to achieve result Z. If you know the exact name of that fallacy, shoot me an email and submit a comment below.)

In an earlier article, I proposed a system that would eliminate the arbitrariness in determining which pieces of content are selected to be "the best" and broadcast to a larger audience. I suggested using the algorithm to determine which songs could be pushed out to listeners of a streaming music system, but it could be modified to select which news stories would be considered "important" enough to push out to readers of a news site. (The gist of the idea is that you have each piece of content rated by a random sample of users chosen from the system, and if their average rating is high enough, it gets pushed out to everyone else. If the random sample size is large enough, their average rating will be non-arbitrary, and will be determined by the attributes of the content itself.)

Maybe that algorithm is flawed or maybe someone could find a better one, but the more important thing to realize is that we don't live in that world now, where the attention given to an event is determined by attributes of that event. In the world we actually live in, it's safe to assume that many events take place every day that would have been covered by the news, if it hadn't been for a reporter's missed phone call or some other random happenstance. I have no doubt that the blocking of Change.org on ASU's network could have been a front-page story on CNN, under the right circumstances. I just think that in an ideal world, it should have ended up as a front-page story on CNN regardless of the "circumstances" — but real life, no favorable circumstances means no CNN story.

That might seem like a lot to read into a single case of media silence about a political website being censored at a state university. But while Change.org is no longer blocked at ASU, the inefficient and arbitrary means by which news "events" are discovered and distributed to a wide audience will be with us for a long time.

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Delayed Outrage Over A Censored Site; What's a Better Way To Spread News?

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  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:02PM (#38956707)
    Just start a petition on change.org to demand faster response to change.org being blocked!
    • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

      Or in the student newspaper. Or the local newspaper. It's in a pretty big city, it may have more than one paper. Or pretty much anywhere else that someone might give a damn about it. Here, not so much.

      Or submit it to a news aggregator site, so people who like to read random news can read about it, or ignore it, and people who like their news cheery picked and hand fed can remain blissfully ignorant.

      Here's the thing about censorship. If someone wants to cover something up, you have to try at least that

  • by theArtificial (613980) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:05PM (#38956753)
    My workplace blocks websites, where is the media?
    • Are you paying your workplace $15-$40k a year to teach/educate/house you?

      • They're paying me more than that. I also have the concept of an acceptable use policy which I signed at employment much like what the students do and understand the internet is a series of private networks with various terms and conditions. You're not one of those silly people who thinks you have a right to use private property are you? Granted I guess you could consider this "government" censorship since it's the school system, but my comment is from the employment slide of things.
        • by forkfail (228161)

          If you don't see the difference between your employee paying you and the students paying the university when it comes to what is available on the network, then there is no point in arguing with you at all.

          • It's still early and I completely misread that as "is your workplace."

            So if they pay their inflated tuition to this school, regardless of the network usage policy they signed before they use it, they should get unfettered access?
            • by tbannist (230135)

              I doubt the network usage policy includes a clause "you agree not to discuss or complain about arbitrary tuition increases online". It looks like the "spam" was a notification that someone sent out about a petition against the University raising tuition, and being the good business people that they are, they figured the simplest solution was to prevent anyone on campus from being able to see the petition (and the site it was hosted on).

              That goes well beyond "according to the network usage policy".

              • So, the 'spam' was actual spam. The sight got blocked as normal.

                The only thing wrong was, after it was all sorted, the original spammer should have had his/her kneecaps broken. Him or her is the only villain I see.

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            and the students paying the university

            The students aren't paying the University for the internet. They pay class fees, and room and board fees, and a "technology fee" which goes to provide classroom technology and improve the on-campus wireless, but the University isn't their ISP.

        • Re:"Censorship" (Score:4, Insightful)

          by spire3661 (1038968) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:39PM (#38957341) Journal
          Here is the crux of the issue.: Publicly funded (i.e. they take taxpayer money) universities dont have the luxury of interfering in this manner. Either stop taking taxpayer funds or stop blocking political websites. Period, full stop.
          • I'm not disagreeing with that, in fact I addressed that in another comment before you posted your comment citing that I'm also ignorant of the schools funding sources (I mentioned this here, 10 minutes before you posted this [slashdot.org])
          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            Publicly funded (i.e. they take taxpayer money) universities dont have the luxury of interfering in this manner.

            Yes, they do. They have every right to block traffic that interferes with the operation of the educational network they are allowing the students to access. Public universities are not ISPs, they are providing network access for school use.

            It is not unheard of for a Uni to block access to file sharing sites when the students are using 100% of the bandwidth of the outside connection for file sharing. Our local Uni had a nitwit student who was using his dorm internet access to run a commercial business, whi

            • If he was blocking legitimate normal amounts of mail not because of the volume but because of their content, then YES its an issue. If hes blocking spam, thats something else entirely. Change.org was politically censored, not blocked for technical reasons.
              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                If he

                Who is "he"? This is a university you're talking about.

                legitimate normal amounts of mail

                Define "legitimate". "a significant number of ASU email addresses, which he used to send unsolicited, unwanted email, which is the definition of spam".

                but because of their content,

                "a significant number of ASU email addresses, which he used to send unsolicited, unwanted email, which is the definition of spam". No content was mentioned.

                If hes blocking spam, thats something else entirely.

                Ok.

                Change.org was politically censored, not blocked for technical reasons.

                According to you. According to the Uni, you're wrong.

                "However, we must reserve the right to protect the use of our limited and valuable netw

                • It was politically motivated, not technologically. Can you not see the fundamental difference? The university has NO BUSINESS deciding what political sites should be visitable on political grounds alone. That is not their function and to allow them to operate in such a manner should be incompatible with the taking of taxpayer money.
                  • by Obfuscant (592200)

                    It was politically motivated, not technologically.

                    And your proof is what? The rant of someone who admits he was ready to be outraged about something? "So as I went to my profile to read it, I was already predisposed to be pissed off, ...".

                    That is not their function

                    Their function is to provide network services for academic and research uses. They aren't a general purpose ISP. You want unlimited bandwidth for unlimited purposes, find an ISP and pay them for it. Get a smartphone or a modem.

                    and to allow them to operate in such a manner should be incompatible with the taking of taxpayer money.

                    To demand they provide open-ended unlimited service to anyone who wants it would be a violat

            • by xeno314 (661565)
              Disclaimer: I am a lawyer, and I am also in IT administration at a public university.

              ASU may or may not have such rights. Public universities occupy a broad role, in that they are generally considered agents of the government, and as such are subject to all of the legal issues that entails, including 1st amendment issues.

              Also, public universities *are* ISPs. They are not traditional commercial ISPs, but most provide network access for a large group of residents, and provide other network services for

          • by AK Marc (707885)

            Publicly funded (i.e. they take taxpayer money) universities dont have the luxury of interfering in this manner.

            Private universities receive a vast majority of their funding from the government. Public universities are ones that, in addition to being publicly funded like the private universities, are also linked to the government in some manner. But if the question is simply one of receiving public funds, that's all of them, not just "public universities."

        • by AK Marc (707885)

          You're not one of those silly people who thinks you have a right to use private property are you?

          "Private property" like the public university you paid for in taxes and by tuition?

          my comment is from the employment slide of things.

          The difference is nobody has claimed that work is required to provide open access. The issue is, can a public university (an organization not just a private company who subsists primarily on public funds, like the Ivy League, but an organization owned by one of the states of the United States) block a web site because someone started an embarrassing petition on that web site?

      • I sometimes fee like I'm paying $15-$40k a year to educate them.

        (Of course, that's the equivalent in Roubles)

    • by thomasa (17495)

      Are you a state university paid for by taxes? Private corporations can do what they want - unfortunately.

      • No, they can't. Maybe legally they can do what they want, but we as a society can hold them to a high standard of ethical behavior in a number of legal ways. We can pass laws regulating them - prohibiting blatant censorship. We can start a campaign to damage their brand and their uptake of new students by casting light on their censorship and its implications. We can work to cut off the corporate and community partnerships they form to drive and maintain their business. A corporation misbehaving does n
        • No, they can't. Maybe legally they can do what they want, but we as a society can hold them to a high standard of ethical behavior in a number of legal ways. We can pass laws regulating them - prohibiting blatant censorship. We can start a campaign to damage their brand and their uptake of new students by casting light on their censorship and its implications. We can work to cut off the corporate and community partnerships they form to drive and maintain their business. A corporation misbehaving does not render us powerless or without the right to respond. We have power (even in situations where they have far far more), and we have the right to fight.

          So your "No, they can't." should really be "Yes, they can, but I don't like it."?

          • Being able to get away with something legally doesn't free you from social responsibility. So its more of "even if the laws of the land fall short, our social conscience can give us the will to use the tools of the market to fight back".
            • Being able to get away with something legally doesn't free you from social responsibility. So its more of "even if the laws of the land fall short, our social conscience can give us the will to use the tools of the market to fight back".

              Except that doesn't happen, ever.
              Are you 14? Did your teacher just tell you about the "social contract" people agree to in order to participate in society?

              • Are you 14?

                You might well ask yourself the same question. And 14 might be a bit generous, as your determination to cut yourself off at the knees (and the rest of us along with you) comes off as nothing more than the "I can't have my way all the time so nobody can have their way any of the time" I occasionally get from my 8-year-old daughter.

          • by sjames (1099)

            More like yes, they can but I don't like it and in the most extreme cases there may be social consequences.

      • No. If I was an institution that didn't want other people's say in things I wouldn't want any part of government funding even if it's the smallest amount because the money comes with so many strings attached concerning policy. Look at what is happening to Catholic organizations regarding birth control. Please don't misconstrue this as support of censorship, simply private network rules. I cede the point to the paid by taxes part as I'm ignorant of the funding sources.
        • by HiThere (15173)

          Catholic organizations, as a consequent of their tax exempt status, SHOULD have strings attached to what they can do, regardless of whether they take government money. Othe tax exempt organizations do, why not the churches?

          If you (voluntarily) get unusual benefits from the government, you should have unusual requirements. And you don't have the right to complain that you didn't want those requirements unless you first stop takeing the advantage.

          • Catholic organizations, as a consequent of their tax exempt status, SHOULD have strings attached to what they can do, regardless of whether they take government money. Othe tax exempt organizations do, why not the churche

            Why just the Catholics, why not all tax exempt religious organizations i.e. Buddhists, Mormons etc.? I think a better question might be, why does the church fill such a massive role in taking care of people? Why does the system depend so much on these 3rd parties? Yesterday I heard numbers as high as 1 in 9 are treated at a Catholic funded facility.

            If you (voluntarily) get unusual benefits from the government, you should have unusual requirements. And you don't have the right to complain that you didn't want those requirements unless you first stop takeing the advantage.

            I think you're mistaking the last sentence of my comment "I cede the point to the paid by taxes part as I'm ignorant of the funding sources." I'm referring to th

    • by bky1701 (979071)
      Because a place of higher education blocking sites for political reasons is identical to McDonalds blocking your twitter, right?
      • Sites get blocked for a variety of reasons, see bomb making, porn, file sharing. I made no mention of twitter, are you projecting again?
    • Do you work at a school? The idea of a school censoring the web is a lot more disturbing than a private business...
      • by w_dragon (1802458)

        The idea of a school censoring the web is a lot more disturbing than a private business...

        In the US is there a difference between a school and a private business?

        • The idea of a school censoring the web is a lot more disturbing than a private business...

          In the US is there a difference between a school and a private business?

          Yes. Even "private" schools have certain legal standards they must abide by.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Do you work for a government agency?

      • Do you work for a government agency?

        No, but his sig is Swedish for, "I'm getting tired of going round doing nothing", take that as you will.

  • by na1led (1030470) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:16PM (#38956921)
    not for political reasons. Most schools or universities will filter Internet content, this is nothing new, and usually it's for security reasons. I would like to know if their Content Filter picked up “change.org” by accident, or was it intentional. I'm not sure if there is anything that can be done though, since the Internet on campus is a privilege. It's no different than a Cyber Cafe, or Motel blocking access to some websites, it's their decision how they want to control their Internet.
    • by willaien (2494962)

      Don't forget, as a publicly funded institution, they have to preserve their students' free speech rights as much as they are reasonably able. Arbitrarily blocking websites because they might be critical of the institution treads into censorship for the sake of censorship and likely violates their free speech rights.

  • by qwertphobia (825473) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @01:27PM (#38957133)

    I agree in general, change.org and sites like it should not be blocked for their content. If the site was being used maliciously, perhaps the block was appropriate. I don't know. If access is a privilege, perhaps the privilege was lost through bad behavior.

    I'm more concerned (as I'm a college IT administrator myself) on the question of censorship. From what I understand censorship is only a First Amendment issue when the government is doing the censorship. Is this an appropriate viewpoint? At what point am I as an IT administrator, or the system I manage, infringing on the first amendment rights of a member of the college community? Does it only apply to state schools, or to any school which accepts government funding? Some college administrators are state employees. Does it only count as government censorship if a state employee (or a system managed by said employee) blocks a specific web site?

    From a technical viewpoint, IT Administrators have an obligation to protect their infrastructure and their community members from threats, both perceived and actual. Consider for a moment the viewpoint that the messages from change.org were deceptive, harrassing, or threatening in some way, either politcally or technically. If so, was it correct to block change.org?

    • by tomhath (637240)

      I'm more concerned (as I'm a college IT administrator myself) on the question of censorship. From what I understand censorship is only a First Amendment issue when the government is doing the censorship.

      I agree that this doesn't seem to be a First Amendment/Free Speech issue. But it would be interesting to see what other sites are blocked by the university. If they routinely blacklist sites that are spamming students there's nothing to see here. Otherwise this appears to be a bit petty on their part; although using the university's network/email to mount a protest against the university seems like a plan that needs to be thought through a bit more.

    • To answer your question, any school that receives public tax money should be held to the same standard. From a funding point of view, school IT administrators have an obligation to follow the law as well as secure IT policy. Here's a tip, there is no network without funding.....
    • From what I understand censorship is only a First Amendment issue when the government is doing the censorship. Is this an appropriate viewpoint? At what point am I as an IT administrator, or the system I manage, infringing on the first amendment rights of a member of the college community? Does it only apply to state schools, or to any school which accepts government funding? Some college administrators are state employees.

      It certainly applies to public universities. Government funding would probably also apply, but I can see it going either way and, most importantly, IANAL. At least I can't see how it would be legal for the government to fund an organization that performs any type of censorship.

      From a technical viewpoint, IT Administrators have an obligation to protect their infrastructure and their community members from threats, both perceived and actual. Consider for a moment the viewpoint that the messages from change.org were deceptive, harrassing, or threatening in some way, either politcally or technically. If so, was it correct to block change.org?

      Obviously, if it's a private university, IT's job is whatever they are told their job is. As far as my personal beliefs go, and as far as I think it *should* apply to public universities, IT's job is to protect their infrastructure

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Yes, this is censorship. The university is an arm of the government.

      Now whether it's illegal depends on a couple of things. One is whether taking federal money should mean that you are constrained to do nothing that the US constitution doesn't permit the government to do. The other is whether the State constitution prohibits the State from abridging the citizens freedom of speech. (I'm assuming here that this is a state university.)

      In *my* opinion taking federal grants should mean that you are acting as

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      From a technical viewpoint, IT Administrators have an obligation to protect their infrastructure and their community members from threats, both perceived and actual. Consider for a moment the viewpoint that the messages from change.org were deceptive, harrassing, or threatening in some way, either politcally or technically. If so, was it correct to block change.org?

      Yes it was.

      I don't really know what was going on because I just couldn't finish that wall of text from Bennett Haselton (and I read books like "The Brothers Karamazov" and "War and Peace" for enjoyment). However, here's my viewpoint.

      Your job is to provide an effective computer environment for students to use in the pursuit of education. That means they've got to work when a student needs to run a prescribed application, develop code for a computer science course, do research on sites like Lexis-Nexis or Pro

  • by Anonymous Coward
    ... is the best method of censorship
  • by t4ng* (1092951)
    If you want to get your message across, learn to edit yourself.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    .. herd moderation up or down here on Slashdot. It's a property of memes working in chaotic crowds that some memes propagate more, some less, and if it passes a central node, it gets to more people. For every example of Streisand Effect, there are many unknown successful censorings happening all the time. Journalists are people with families and personal interests outside of their work and they are human.

    Google News could be said to be partially a way around the complete dependence on human judgement and er

  • By the way, I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z. It's not the same as the "post hoc fallacy" or the mistaken belief that "correlation equals causation,"

    No, it really is just "correlation equals causation". Simply realise that "being a good predictor" is what's been fallaciously caused by the correlation.

    Sometimes it's acceptable to be verbose. You're trying to remove an upper layer of indirection to create more concise language, the term for this is: HD, ie High Definition (especially if stoned).

  • Wait two months and post it on slashdot, apparently.

    And it'll still be more topical than most of the other stories.

    TYIHAWTTNS

  • The answer, I think, is that most people don't realize how arbitrary the process is that determines what issues get news coverage and which ones don't.

    People know the selection of news is biased, sloppy, influenced by money and other media. They may not understand the particular mechanisms, like press releases or that newspapers follow the N.Y. Times, but they know it isn't some fair and balanced selection process. Why do newspapers have a business section and not a labor section?

    In an earlier article, I proposed a system that would eliminate the arbitrariness in determining which pieces of content are selected to be "the best" and broadcast to a larger audience. I suggested using the algorithm to determine which songs could be pushed out to listeners of a streaming music system, but it could be modified to select which news stories would be considered "important" enough to push out to readers of a news site.

    Instead of making an algorithm, you should try to create a framework that replaces the existing system in a more open manner. Otherwise you're just trying to make a better newspa

  • Your mistaken assumption is that they are supposed to report the news. That is not their primary function. It is to get ratings, sell newspapers, magazines, or get people to click on ads at their website.

    To this end, they would rather run stories about Snookie or Kim Kardsahian.

    YOU are not relevant. Unless of course, you're willing to appear in a bikini, have a reality show or sex tape, and boobies. In that case, you matter. Otherwise, get lost.

    The American public couldn't care less about censorship. Their

    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      And Please.... Censorship in Arizona?? This is a state that refuses to recognize daylight savings time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's holiday, and issues a gun license to a known psychopath. Censorship doesn't even rate very high in their list of crimes as a state.

      "Arizona - we're so badass that we ignore the orders from Washington to change our clocks twice a year"

      They should totally change their state motto to something like that. Is that how you think daylight savings time works or something? lol

  • seriously.... there is a problem here of a U.S. based university to censor a democratic process.

    It's a no brainer, you don't need a college education to know this.

  • (By the way, I've been unable to find a precise name for the cognitive fallacy wherein if you observe that all things which achieve goal Z have attribute X, then you come to think that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving goal Z. It's not the same as the "post hoc fallacy" or the mistaken belief that "correlation equals causation," because both of those are about the illusion of causation. I'm talking about the correlation being an illusion in the first place â" where people come to believe that attribute X is a good predictor of achieving result Z, ignoring the fact that there may be enormous numbers of cases where attribute X is true, but which never go on to achieve result Z. If you know the exact name of that fallacy, shoot me an email and submit a comment below.)

    Sounds kinda like the base rate fallacy [wikipedia.org] to me.

  • by chill (34294)

    Is Bennett Haselton is he a student at ASU, a parent paying for a student at ASU or a Citizen of Arizona?

    If not then he has no dog in the fight and thus no right to expect this to be high on his radar. Not every little thing is, nor should be, national news.

    How can we "respond faster"? Simple. Pay attention to what is going on around you, instead of looking all over the Internet and back for something to be outraged about.

    Get involved in local issues, learn your neighbor's names and just in general stop thi

  • It seems you presume the media is, after exercising self-interest, promotion, and the profit-seeking actions necessary to perpetuate themselves, essentially agnostic about the news it gathers and distributes.

    I haven't believed that for my entire adult life.

    The media, being made up of opinionated members, certainly does have a point of view, and filtering the news is one way to both express that point of view and promote that view.

    Since many universities are resoundingly leftist, even the administrations of

  • Good article, BTW.

    The fallacy could be a faulty generalization [wikipedia.org] fallacy, specifically a hasty generalization. That is, given:

    If A then Z.
    If B then Z.
    If C then Z.

    A = X and (other things).
    B = X and (other things).
    C = X and (other things).

    We faultily conclude, therefore, that for all D = X and (other things), the statement "D then Z" is true.

  • by superdude72 (322167) on Tuesday February 07, 2012 @04:49PM (#38960077)

    From the submitter:
    The lame excuse offered by the university was that a student had created a petition and was using the change.org site to "spam" other ASU accounts; of course, even if that had been the real reason, it would have easily been possible for ASU to block mail from the change.org servers, without blocking all students from accessing the website.

    Actually this "lame" excuse is completely plausible. Perhaps there was a less ham-handed way to stop the spam, but that would have taken up an IT person's time, and there are 70-heptillion other sites on the Internet to be whacked when they start consuming too many IT resources.

    Universities should be bastions of free speech, of course. But their IT Depts. have resources and a mission more in line with a medium-sized corporation that doesn't specialize in IT. And a lot of the time, their junior positions are staffed by undergraduates who work part-time, so there's that too. I guarantee you, if the IT Dept. at the company where you worked noticed a lot of resources being consumed by a site employees don't need to do their jobs, they'd block it too. Ideology has nothing to do with it.

    This reminds me of a debate when I was in college, and the university decided to stop distributing alt.binaries.* Usenet groups (Get off my lawn!) "Censorship!" the (mostly male) undergraduates cried. Dude, nobody at the university cared whether you were looking at titties. Alt.binaries was sucking up like 90% of the school's bandwidth. The right to free porn is not without limits.

  • It sounds like even the university students can't be bothered to generate more than a tepid response to this matter. What if... instead of there being a conspiracy of silence on the matter... What if maybe, just maybe, it's not really all that outrageous?
    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      It sounds like even the university students can't be bothered to generate more than a tepid response to this matter. What if... instead of there being a conspiracy of silence on the matter... What if maybe, just maybe, it's not really all that outrageous?

      Yeah... that was my first thought. The deafening sound of silence you heard was everyone not caring. Or rather, thinking, "yeah, the explanation offered by the University sounded reasonable, actually." Granted, there are plenty of people here on Slashdot perfectly willing to get outraged. They care enough to write a post flaming the University without every really digging deeper, but that's about as far as it goes.

      Honestly, I think it's far more productive to save our outrage for cases where it really m

  • Is as even the most delusional, flag waving, inbred, illiterate blockhead with 90/IQ's will attest, just so much BULLSHIT!

    The corporate "news" doesn't exist to report the (NEWS) it exists to sell advertising time!
    Watch/read foreign (non US) news.

  • Find the reporters who have covered similar stories and contact them directly via e-mail, twitter or phone. Targeting reporters who have covered something similar will greatly increase your chances of coverage.

    Reporters have beats -- we all love scoops, but it has to fit in our limited scope or most won't touch it (even if we find it personally interesting). Also note we get hit with 100+ PR pitches per day, so don't make your pitch sound like it's coming from a PR person (If an e-mail, in the subject line

  • Umm, the reason people may not have noticed and made a big deal about it is that the outage appears to have occurred during winter break.

    (Apologies if this is redundant. I tried to look for an existing thread on the issue to no avail.)

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