Sunday, June 16, 2013

Click-bait journalism means never having to admit you screwed up

So last night CNet's Declan McCullugh posted a story with the red siren hed, "NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants — National Security Agency." You'll be shocked to learn, by this morning Declan's sloppy click-baiting turned out to be pretty much false, apparently based on his misinterpretation of a stray comment by Congressman Jerrold Nadler at some hearing.

Congressman Nadler corrected the misreporting today. [Transcript of the full convo at the link.] As The Atlantic notes in their piece the NSA click-baiting is even bigger than just this one point.
Seeing the full conversation reveals a slightly different picture than McCullugh was trying push forward. The FBI director testified that PRISM mostly works exactly like we've been told in the weeks since this scandal broke. An unclassified document obtained by Reuters claimed NSA officials looked at raw information for fewer than 300 telephone numbers in 2012. On Saturday, the Associated Press reported any domestic phone information collected by PRISM is stored in a secure server that requires a special warrant to access, supporting Mueller's testimony.
None of this is to say we should take the government's word for anything without a speck of skepticism either, but's it equally clear we can no longer trust the media to give us the real story either. As long as boosting traffic is the prime objective of the new journalistic order, we are mostly without reliable sources for actual facts.

The worst part is Declan's false info is still spreading. The twitter tells me his inaccurate version has 54K likes on Facebook and it's still spreading. Boing Boing picked it up this afternoon. And while Declan did correct some of the disinfo in the piece, he merely changed the headline slightly, disguising but not really refuting his original sensational claims, added a bit to the body of the piece, and then buried his admission of guilt at the very end of the post.

This is a big problem because, the majority of readers don't get past the headline and a very few make it all to the end of any given post of any length. All that gets passed through the social media is the sensational -- and false -- claims. Great for generating hysteria. Horrible for finding solutions to the surveillance state.

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home