TV news highlights: visitor logs, voter turnout, China, North Korea, United Airlines

By Katie Dahl

In this week’s look back at TV news highlights that have been fact-checked by our partners, we get a history of the White House policy on releasing visitor logs; a look at how 2016 voter turnout compared to other elections; an examination of whether United Airlines was contractually obliged against removing a ticketed passenger; a comparison of U.S. vs. China on their polluting record; and an analysis of how positively China regards Trump’s recent actions on North Korea.

Claim: In not releasing visitor logs to the public, the White House is following the same policy as every U.S. administration “from the beginning of time” except Obama (true)

Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the White Houses’s announcement it would not be releasing names of White House visitors to the public, saying, “I think as was noted on Friday, we’re following the same policy that every administration from the beginning of time has used with respect to visitor logs.” Later in that daily press briefing, he refined his statement: “[I]t’s the same policy that every administration had up until the Obama administration.”

Former President Barack Obama’s decision to make visitor logs public was done in the name of transparency–although only after pressure from outside groups, explained Louis Jacobson for PolitiFact. But Spicer is correct that “[h]istorically speaking, the policy under Obama was the exception, rather than the rule.”

Claim: Voter turnout for the 2016 presidential race was the lowest in 20 years (false)

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, D., Vt., talked about his national tour to increase civic participation, citing a statistic on voting turnout: “So many of our people are giving up on the political process. It is very frightening. In the last presidential election, when Trump won, we had the lowest voter turnout over — in 20 years. And in the previous two years before that, in the midterm election, we had the lowest voter turnout in 70 years.”

“In fact, turnout was higher than it was in 2012,” according to Eugene Kiely at FactCheck.org. PolitiFact’s Jacobson confirmed that Sanders was wrong on the claim that 2016 had the “lowest turnout” in the last 20 years, but correct that 2014 saw the lowest turnout in 70 years. Both reporters cited the work of Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida.

Claim: United Airlines passenger had a right to stay on the plane (false)

After United Airlines violently removed paying passenger David Dao from a plane to make room for employees, syndicated columnist Andrew Napolitano said on Fox News: “By dislodging this passenger against his will, United violated its contractual obligation. He paid for the ticket, he bought the ticket, he passed the TSA, he was in his seat, he has every right to stay there.”

“False,” wrote Joshua Gillan forPunditFact, a project of PolitiFact. “Napolitano’s blanket assertion is incorrect. Experts told us that airlines, including United, outline dozens of reasons why they might remove a passenger after he has already boarded.”

Claim: China and India pollute more than the United States (four Pinocchios)

During a recent TV interview, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said, “China and India had no obligations under the [Paris Accord] agreement until 2030.” He also claimed that “[Europe, China, India] are polluting way more than we are.”

“[B]oth countries pledge to reach these goals by 2030, meaning they are taking steps now to meet their commitments,” reported Glenn Kessler for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker. “China (but not India) does produce more carbon dioxide than the United States, but it has nearly 1.4 billion people compared to 325 million for the United States. So, on a per capita basis, the United States in 2015 produced more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China — and eight times more than India.”

Claim: Trump on North Korea: “We’ve never seen such a positive response on our behalf from China” (half true)

Defending his decision to step back from labeling China a currency manipulator, President Donald Trump said he is working with China on a “bigger problem,” North Korea, and that the result is good, claiming, “[N]obody has ever seen such a positive response on our behalf from China.”

PolitiFact’s Jon Greenberg shared results of interviews with several experts as support for his rating of “half true” for the claim: “It is difficult to quantify a ‘positive response.’ Whether the latest moves represent a sea shift that ‘no one has ever seen,’ or the logical conclusion of a longer pattern, probably lies in the eye of the beholder.”

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Find O’Reilly Factor clips on TV News Archive

With yesterday’s announcement Fox News had ousted Bill O’Reilly from the helm of “The O’Reilly Factor,” following mounting complaints of sexual harassment, the pugilistic host’s reign as the “king of cable news” passes into history.

However, a good portion of that American political history is preserved for posterity as part of the TV News Archive, the Internet Archive’s searchable collection of television news. We’ve got some 3,000 hours of “The O’Reilly Factor” dating back to 2009,  including at least 20 segments that have been fact-checked by PolitiFact.

Perhaps O’Reilly described his mission best with his response to a viewer, who urged him in October 2016, “Stick to the facts, not your personal opinion.” Said O’Reilly: “The O’Reilly factor is built around my personal opinions, sir. Twenty years…thus the name: ‘The O’Reilly Factor.'”

Here are several fact-checked O’Reilly highlights from recent years:

Guns.  O’Reilly claimed that  Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland “voted, so the folks know, in Washington, D.C., to keep guns away from private citizens.” PunditFact: “False….Garland didn’t vote on this case at all.” (March 2016.)

Crime. From 2014 to 2015, said O’Reilly in October 2015, Austin’s “murder rate is up a whopping 83 percent.” PolitiFact Texas: Mostly False. “[I]f O’Reilly had pulled back the camera, so to speak, he could have determined that Austin appears on pace to have a lower murder rate in 2015 than in 2014.”

Iran, China, and Russia. O’Reilly: Russia and China “absolutely said pretty clearly” they would not keep economic sanctions on Iran if the United States “walked away from the deal.” This time O’Reilly earned a “Mostly True,” from PolitiFact: “O’Reilly is pushing the envelope when he said “absolutely” clear, as they haven’t issued formal statements. But all of their actions indicate that what O’Reilly said is substantially accurate.”

Muslims cheering 9-11. “Thousands of Muslims, regular folks, celebrated in the streets… . these people are a minority but they were not called out in any official way by Muslim nations around the world.” PolitiFact: “Half True.” “So far as we can tell, there was no official condemnation of people celebrating the 9/11 attacks. However, Muslim governments, and religious leaders, condemned the attacks themselves, as did many average Muslims.”

There’s more! Popcorn fact-check annotation experiment

For a reel of fact-checks of O’Reilly statements over the years, check out this compilation created with a recent version of Mozilla’s Popcorn editor by TV News Archive Director Roger Macdonald.

Popcorn allows viewers to feed TV News Archive video into an editor and mix it up with other videos, add text annotations, hyperlinks, and more. We believe this is a glimpse of the future: giving people the tools to put the messages that bombard them in context, rather than being passive viewers.

Mozilla launched the innovative tool in 2012; while they no longer support it, the source code is open for others to improve. Please be patient with occasional buffering glitches.  Try clicking on some of the text for links and the orange quote icon link to citations.  And, if you want to go wild, click the arrows triangle icon and try your hand at remixing.

If impatient with problems playing the Popcorn version, here is a plain-old mp4.  No embedded links or remix options.

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DRM for the Web is a Bad Idea

The W3C has been considering a new standard: Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).

I asked our crawler folks what the impact of the EME proposal could be to us, and what they came back with seems well reasoned but strongly negative to our mission.

I have posted the analysis below for the public to consider.

-brewster

At your request we have assessed what the possible effects of the Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) as a W3C recommendation would be.

We believe it will be dangerous to the open web unless protections are put in place for those who engage in activities, such as archiving, that are threatened by the legal regime governing the standard.

One major issue is that people who bypass EME, even for legitimate reasons, have reason to fear retaliation under section 1201 of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and laws like it around the world, such as Article 6 of the European Union Copyright Directive, which indiscriminately bar circumvention even for lawful purposes. Locking up standards-defined video streams with DRM could put our archiving activities at serious risk. Moreover, EME opens the possibility that DRM could spread to non-video content such as typography or images, which poses an even more existential threat. Web archiving and the Wayback Machine would suffer.

Archiving is not the only activity endangered by anti-circumvention laws and EME: from accessibility adaptation to security research to the kinds of legitimate innovative activities that you began your career with — inventing the first search engines — the normal course of the open, standards-defined internet is incompatible with the anti-circumvention regime that comes into play if the W3C publishes EME as a recommendation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has proposed a sensible and simple compromise: binding W3C members not to invoke anti-circumvention laws unless there is some other cause of action. This preserves the legitimate interests of rightsholders against those who trespass on their copyrights, trade secrets and contractual obligations, without turning the W3C standards process into a backdoor to creating new legal rights to prevent legitimate, vital activities.

Every organization involved in creating and preserving the open web is facing unprecedented challenges and pressures today. It is up to the guardians of the open web to meet those challenges with an unwavering commitment to our core principles: that the web must be free for anyone to write, to read, to connect to, to adapt, to archive and to preserve. As such, I recommend that we object to the publication of EME as a W3C specification without safeguarding these foundational principles of the open web.

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Robots.txt meant for search engines don’t work well for web archives

Robots.txt files were invented 20+ years ago to help advise “robots,” mostly search engine web crawlers, which sections of a web site should be crawled and indexed for search.

Many sites use their robots.txt files to improve their SEO (search engine optimization) by excluding duplicate content like print versions of recipes, excluding search result pages, excluding large files from crawling to save on hosting costs, or “hiding” sensitive areas of the site like administrative pages. (Of course, over the years malicious actors have also used robots.txt files to identify those same sensitive areas!)  Some crawlers, like Google, pay attention to robots.txt directives, while others do not.

Over time we have observed that the robots.txt files that are geared toward search engine crawlers do not necessarily serve our archival purposes.  Internet Archive’s goal is to create complete “snapshots” of web pages, including the duplicate content and the large versions of files.  We have also seen an upsurge of the use of robots.txt files to remove entire domains from search engines when they transition from a live web site into a parked domain, which has historically also removed the entire domain from view in the Wayback Machine.  In other words, a site goes out of business and then the parked domain is “blocked” from search engines and no one can look at the history of that site in the Wayback Machine anymore.  We receive inquiries and complaints on these “disappeared” sites almost daily.

A few months ago we stopped referring to robots.txt files on U.S. government and military web sites for both crawling and displaying web pages (though we respond to removal requests sent to info@archive.org). As we have moved towards broader access it has not caused problems, which we take as a good sign.  We are now looking to do this more broadly.  

We see the future of web archiving relying less on robots.txt file declarations geared toward search engines, and more on representing the web as it really was, and is, from a user’s perspective.

Posted in Announcements, News | 4 Comments

A Few Advanced Search Tips

The Internet Archive’s search engine is based on Elastic Search and implemented by Aaron Ximm.  Learning how to use the search engine can help using the website, but also using the command line tools for working with the Internet Archive.  Here are some tips.

It is capable of searching in just one collection:
https://archive.org/search.php?query=Casey%20Jones%20AND%20collection%3AGratefulDead

or with a particular field set, like just searching for Patsy Montana in the 78rpm collection:
https://archive.org/details/78rpm?and[]=creator:%22patsy%20montana%22

There is title, creator, date, year, description, and many other metadata fields that can be found by looking at a particular item’s metadata like so:
https://archive.org/metadata/78_give-me-a-home-in-montana_patsy-montana-the-prairie-ramblers_gbia0005195b/metadata

Searching for external-identifiers is tricky because of dealing with the embedded colons, which can throw off the parsing of the search string. If you’re looking for a specific full external-identifier, you can “escape” the colons by enclosing the target value in double quotes, like this:

https://archive.org/details/georgeblood?&and[]=external-identifier%3A%22urn%3Apubcat%3Ano-publisher%3A39981%22

but if you want to use a wildcard, you have to drop the double quotes. in that case, you need to remove any embedded colons by replacing them with `*`, like this:

https://archive.org/details/georgeblood?&and[]=external-identifier:urn*pubcat*no-publisher*399*

ISBN Searching: https://archive.org/search.php?query=isbn%3A9780964015319 but they can also be in related-external-identifiers if you want to find different editions that are fundamentally the same (thank you to oclc’s xisbn service for the help there).

LCCN searching: https://archive.org/search.php?query=lccn%3A94072390

OCLC numbers are in two places, but mostly: https://archive.org/search.php?query=oclc-id%3A31773958

Dates: If you want to find a book with a particular date in the date field: https://archive.org/details/Boston_College_Library?&and[]=date:1914

If you want to find all books that have a date in the date field: https://archive.org/details/Boston_College_Library?&and[]=date:*

All books that do not have any date field: https://archive.org/details/Boston_College_Library?&and[]=NOT%20date:*

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Early Macintosh Emulation Comes to the Archive

After offering in-browser emulation of console games, arcade machines, and a range of other home computers, the Internet Archive can now emulate the early models of the Apple Macintosh, the black-and-white, mouse driven computer that radically shifted the future of home computing in 1984.

While there are certainly predecessors to the computer desktop paradigm, the introduction of the Macintosh brought it to a mass market and in the 30 years since, it has been steadily adapted by every major computing platform and operating system.

The first set of emulated Macintosh software is located in this collection. This is a curated presentation of applications, games, and operating systems from 1984-1989.

If you’ve not experienced the original operating system for the Macintosh family of computers, it’s an interesting combination of well-worn conventions in the modern world, along with choices that might seem strange or off-the-mark. At the time the machine was released, however, they landed new ideas in the hands of a worldwide audience and gained significant fans and followers almost immediately.

The story of the creation of the operating system and the Macintosh itself are covered in many collections at the Archive, including this complete run of Macworld magazine and these deep-dive Macintosh books.

As for the programs currently presented, they are in many cases applications that have survived to the present day in various forms, or are the direct ancestors.

While it is a (warning) 40 megabyte download, this compilation of System 7.0.1 includes a large variety of software programs and a rather rich recreation of the MacOS experience of 1991.

Enjoy this (9-inch, black and white) window into computer history!

Many people worked very hard to bring this emulation system to bear: Hampa Hug created PCE (the original Macintosh emulator program). Experiments and work by James Friend (PCE.js) and Marcio T. (Retroweb) ported PCE to javascript via Emscripten. They all provided continued assistance as the Emularity team approached refining the emulator to work within the Archive’s framework. Much work was done by Daniel Brooks, Phil-el, James Baicoianu, and Vitorio Miliano, with Daniel Brooks putting in multiple weeks of refinement.

Posted in Emulation, News, Software Archive | 15 Comments

From Spicer to wiretapping to Sweden: does TV news fuel political rhetoric?

Cross posted from MediaShift.

A few hours after after Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, compared Syrian President Bashar Assad to Adolf Hitler, saying, “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II…You had … someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” the media speculation began. Where did Spicer get the idea to compare Assad to Hitler?

On Twitter, a liberal blogger named Yashar Ali pointed to a Fox News segment that had aired on April 10, featuring a Skype interview with Kassim Eid, a Syrian activist who has written about surviving an earlier gas attack, seen below on the TV News Archive. Eid said, “He displaced half of the country. He destroyed the country. He gassed women and children. Who can be worse than him? He’s worse than Hitler.”

Ali’s tweet was picked up later that afternoon by NJ.com in a report about the social media criticism following Spicer’s statement. At 4:50 p.m., Charlie Warzel, a reporter for BuzzFeed, posted a piece hypothesizing that the Fox Business News interview might have been the inspiration for Spicer’s statement.

Of course only Spicer himself knows if the Fox News report inspired his statement, which he eventually apologized for after several hours of harsh criticism. After all, he is certainly not the first public official to run into trouble when making statements about Hitler.
In an era where news no longer solely arrives on newsprint on front doorsteps, tracing the provenance of a statement, idea, story, or report across media platforms–social media, television, news websites–has become a common pursuit. This has been, perhaps, fueled by the president, who has made such references himself.

As a library, the Internet Archive can help. Our Wayback Machine preserves websites online, with more than 286 million websites saved overtime. And our TV News Archive provides an online, public library with 1.3 million shows and counting. Here we have the original source for many types of statements by public officials: news conferences, appearances before congressional committees, appearances on TV news shows, and more. The 60-second segment format allows for editing your own clips up to three minutes long and makes them shareable on social media and embeddable on websites.

For example, in February, Trump made a reference at a Florida rally about Sweden: “Look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible.” Fact- checkers reported that nothing had happened in Sweden the night before.

Trump later tweeted, however, that his statement about Swedish problems was inspired by Fox News report.

In that report, Fox showed an interview by a Swedish film maker, Ami Horowitz, who asserts that refugees are responsible for “an absolute surge in both gun violence and rape in Sweden once they began this open door policy.”

Robert Farley, a reporter for FactCheck.org, wrote that this claim is contested by “Swedish authorities and criminologists.”

Several weeks later, Trump credited a “talented legal mind” on Fox news as the source for his March 2017 tweet accusing former President Barack Obama ordering wiretapping of Trump tower during the presidential election.

Following Trump’s statement, Shepard Smith, chief news anchor for Fox News, said that “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napalitano’s commentary. Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the president of the united states was surveilled at any time in any way, full stop.”

The question of how political rhetoric travels across media platforms goes far beyond the Trump administration. Media researchers are developing methodologies to track messages and stories as they travel across the news ecosphere. Understanding these phenomenon is essential in figuring out effective ways to improve overall media literacy and fight the spread of misinformation.

As an early experiment in making such research easier, we’ve been developing hand-curated collections of statements by public officials, starting with the Trump Archive and now branching out to creating archives (still in development) for the congressional leadership on both sides of the party aisle: Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R., Ky.; Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D., N.Y.; House Speaker Paul Ryan, R., Wis., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif.

We’re working now to develop partnerships to use machine learning approaches, such as speaker identification and natural language processing, to make our resources more useful for researchers. Ultimately, we’ll improve search to make it simpler to search across our different collections and types of media.

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TV News highlights: Hitler, Syria, NATO, and more

By Katie Dahl

This week our round up of fact-checks of TV appearances by public officials includes: White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s claim that Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people; how President Donald Trump’s strategy on Syrian airstrikes varies from former President Barack Obama’s; the increased use by the U.S. Senate of the filibuster; whether NATO has been fighting terrorism; and the state of Social Security disability insurance.

Claim: Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on his own people (pants on fire)

In a White House press briefing on Tuesday, April 11, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer defended the U.S. airstrikes on Syria, saying, “someone as despicable as Hitler, who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Later in the same briefing, a reporter asked him to clarify his comment. He said, “I think when you come to sarin gas, there was no … he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing. I mean, there was clearly … there was not — in the — he brought them into the Holocaust center, I understand that.”

For PolitiFact, Jon Greenberg labeled the statement “pants on fire.” He reported that Hitler did use chemical weapons during World War II, “they pumped hydrogen cyanide gas into the killing rooms packed with Jews, Roma, and others singled out for extermination by Nazi leaders. At concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Mauthausen and Sachsenhausen, Jews were taken from cattle cars and forced into ‘showers,’ where guards released the gas.” Greenberg went on to write, “Spicer appears to be trying to limit his definition of chemical weapons to those dropped from planes or fired through cannons, as Assad has been alleged to have done. That sells short the definition in the Chemical Weapons Convention…” He also noted: “… Spicer’s qualification that Hitler didn’t use them on his “own people,” overlooks that German Jews were full citizens until they had their rights stripped away by Hitler’s totalitarian regime.”

At FactCheck.org, Robert Farley and Lori Robertson reported that the Nazis stockpiled chemical weapons: “[W]hile Hitler never employed them in battle, historians say that was largely for tactical reasons.” Farley and Robertson also detailed how Spicer’s comment inspired a series of online fake news reports, including several manufactured Spicer quotes.

Since the briefing, Spicer has apologized on CNN, Fox, and twice on MSNBC.

Claim:  Obama’s proposed Syrian airstrike was different from Trump’s actual airstrike (false)

Asked by a reporter how the Syrian airstrike was different than the one former President Barack Obama proposed in 2013 after a chemical attack, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R., Ky., said,“Secretary Kerry… said it would sort of be like a pinprick… this was a strike that was well-planned, well-executed, went right to the heart of the matter, which is using chemical weapons.” Sen. Marco Rubio, R., Fla., made a similar claim, saying Obama “had no clear objective.”

Robert Farley reported “what Obama proposed to Congress back in 2013 was very similar in scope to the attack on Syria undertaken by Trump. In a televised address, Obama called for ‘a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons and degrading Assad’s capabilities.’”

Lauren Carroll reported for PolitiFact that there are plenty of similarities: “Both [Barack and Trump] describe sending a message to Assad that chemical weapons use is unacceptable. Both involve a targeted attack plan designed to degrade Assad’s chemical weapon capabilities by taking out related facilities and resources.”

Claim: there were more filibusters for Obama nominees than in all U.S. history (half true)

Asked about Democrats’ role in increasing use of filibusters, Sen. Ben Cardin, D., Md., said “We’ve seen more filibusters on judicial nominees by the Republicans under President Obama than we saw in the whole history of the United States Senate. Both sides have blame here.”

Allison Graves reported for PolitiFact: “[M]easuring filibusters is troublesome, experts say, because it has an overly broad meaning. Senators tend to consider any type of obstruction to scheduling a nomination or measure as a filibuster, said Steven Smith, a political scientist at Washington University in St. Louis.” According to the Congressional Research Service, Graves concluded “Cardin is off.” But Graves also wrote that Cardin has a point: “Less than one nominee per year was subject to a cloture filing in the 40 years before Obama took office. From 2009-13, the number of nominees subject to a cloture filing jumped to over seven per year.”

Claim: NATO didn’t fight terrorism, now it does (factually incorrect)

At a press conference on April 12 with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Trump said,”The secretary general and I had a productive conversation about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago, and they made a change. Now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported that “NATO has been involved in counterterrorism since 1980, and especially since 9/11.”

Lauren Carroll wrote for PolitiFact that “the premise leading to Trump’s change of heart — the idea that he prompted NATO to start fighting terrorism — is false.” She described NATO’s involvement in fighting terrorism this way, “NATO has been actively dealing with terrorism since the 1980s. And since 9/11, it has played a significant role in the War on Terror, including deploying troops in Afghanistan for more than a decade.”

Claim: Social Security disability insurance grew under Obama, is wasteful (three Pinocchios)

Asked whether the president was “revising his thinking” on Medicare and Social Security, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said, “Let me ask you a question: Do you really think that Social Security disability insurance is part of what people think of when they think of Social Security? I don’t think so. It’s the fastest growing program. It grew tremendously under President Obama. It’s a very wasteful program and we want to try and fix that.”

For The Washington Post’s Fact Checker, Lee reported that pointing to the growth in Social Security disability insurance under Obama is “misleading.” She noted, “The program did grow since 1996, but a lot of that had to do with the shifting demographics of Americans who rely on the program.” She also reported that it’s a “stretch” to call the program wasteful: “overpayments represented less than 1 percent of total disability outlays [from 2011 to 2015].”

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Who Blocked the Archive in Jordan?

A new article at the Jordanian news site 7iber.com by Reem Al-Masri tells the story of how the Archive was blocked in the country of Jordan last year and came to be unblocked. Al-Masri highlights many of the problems inherent in the general Jordanian legal approach to censoring sites. Indeed, government censorship is an extremely worrisome issue in and of itself. But, the specific instance of archive.org’s block is all the more extraordinary because it appears to have been enacted outside of the established Jordanian legal process.

Jordanian law currently empowers a single body to issue a block order, the Jordanian Media Commission. Based on evidence from the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab and various user reports, it’s clear that archive.org was blocked some time in 2016. However, the Media Commission denies ever issuing a block order for archive.org or knowing why it was blocked. Fortunately, the block was lifted not long after we contacted the Media Commission (again, we don’t know how or why as the Commission has not responded to our inquiries on these points).

But if the Commission didn’t block us, is there another entity in the Jordanian government that did so extralegally? And what was the reason for the block? Right now we are in the dark, but as Al-Masri sums up in her article: “what we know is that there is a parallel window for blocking websites, through which an ‘invisible hand’ practices its authority and draws for us the Internet that it wants us to use, without any accountability.”

We hope this incident will help increase awareness of online censorship in Jordan and everywhere it occurs and how it often leads to the blocking not only specific content, but entire websites (or in our case, an entire library) with no notification or explanation. It also serves as an example of how the practical limits of authority to block sites may not always end where we are told that they will by the law and politician’s proposals.

We want to thank Reem Al-Masri, 7iber, Citizen Lab and everyone who helped us identify, investigate, and draw attention to the block.

Posted in Announcements, News | 3 Comments

TV News highlights: stimulus package, global food demand, carbon emissions, and more

By Katie Dahl

In this week’s TV News highlight reel, fact-checkers looked into claims about construction projects resulting from former President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, global food demand, carbon emissions, a state law that may seem counter to federal law on health care protections, and how the unemployment rate is actually calculated.

Claim: Nothing was built as a result of the stimulus package (mostly false)

In a town hall for CEOs at the White House, President Donald Trump made these comments about former President Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. “You know, there was a very large infrastructure bill that was approved during the Obama administration, a trillion dollars. Nobody ever saw anything being built. I mean, to this day, I haven’t heard of anything that’s been built. They used most of that money—it went and they used it on social programs and we want this to be on infrastructure.”

FactCheck.org’s Robert Farley reported that “Trump distorted the facts about President Obama’s stimulus package,” of which infrastructure projects was just one part: “[T]he overriding goal…which Trump praised at the time—was to jump-start the economy through a combination of tax cuts to spur spending, federal contracts and grants to create private-sector jobs, and federal aid to local and state governments to ease the effects of the Great Recession.”

Jon Greenberg and Louis Jacobson wrote for PolitiFact, “the idea that nothing was built is wrong. Among many other projects, the Recovery Act helped push to completion the $1 billion DFW Connector highway in Dallas-Fort Worth; a $650 million elevated truck route to the Port of Tampa; a new Cleveland Interbelt Bridge; a tunnel connecting Oakland and Contra Costa County, Calif.; a veterans’ facility at Fort Bliss in Texas; and new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard.”

Claim: Global food demand is expected to increase by 50-90 percent by 2050 (mostly true)

On March 21, National Agriculture Day, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that exports from “farm production have been declining due to unwise trade policies.” He juxtaposed that with a prediction, “Global food demand is expected to increase by 50 to 97 percent by 2050.”

Gabrielle Healy reported for PolitiFact, “Both the data the White House showed us and research we found supports the claim that food demand will increase in the coming decades. Yet estimates vary surrounding the level to which it will increase.” A study in the journal Agricultural Economics, as reported by Healy, “stated food demand might increase by 59 percent to 98 percent between 2005 and 2050.” She reported on another study connected with National Academy of Sciences, which said “crop demand might rise by 100 to 110 percent between 2005 and 2050.”

Claim: Fracking helped reduce carbon emissions (yes, and)

On a Sunday program on Fox NEWS, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt said about carbon emissions, “we are pre-1994 levels, and do you know why? Largely because of innovation and technology, hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, because there’s been a conversion to natural gas in the generation of electricity.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker confirmed Pruitt’s claim about overall emissions levels being at pre-1994 levels, but pointed out these are not only due to greater reliance on natural gas and fracking: “The [Energy Information Administration] attributes reduction in coal emissions to the switch from coal-powered plants to more efficient natural-gas-powered plants, and the growth in renewable energy (especially wind and solar).”

Claim: In NY you can’t be charged more for health care because of your age (true)

On CNN, discussing a key element of the failed American Health Care Act plan, Rep. Chris Collins, R., N.Y., asserted, “In New York under our state insurance commissioner, we have what we call a one to one. You cannot charge an older person even one dollar more than a younger person.”

Dan Clark reported for PoltiFact, “New York state has had what’s called a ‘community rating’ model of health insurance since 1993. It requires health insurance companies to charge the same price for coverage in select regions regardless of age, gender, occupation or health status.”

Clark also examined whether federal law could override this state law. According to Rachel Morgan of the National Conference of State Legislatures, “Federal law preempts state law, but sometimes it creates a floor instead of a ceiling for actions that can be taken by the states…” Clark concluded, “The floor, in this case, is the federal cap on age-based health care premiums. New York state’s law stands because its added restriction does not change federal law but supplements it.”

Claim: When you give up looking for a job, you’re statistically considered employed (false)

Again speaking at the town hall for CEOs, President Trump said, “When you look for a job, you can’t find it and you give up, you are now considered statistically employed. But I don’t consider those people employed.”

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker Glenn Kessler explained, “In the most common unemployment rate, known as the U-3, you are considered unemployed only if you are actively looking for a job.” But goes on to report, “You are not considered ‘statistically employed’” if you have given up looking, but still want to be working. “[Y]ou are considered not in the labor force.”

Greenberg and Jacobson added, “There is an official statistical category for people who want and look for a job but then give up: They are called ‘discouraged workers.’ Specifically, these people ‘want and are available for a job and who have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months’ but are ‘not currently looking because they believe there are no jobs available or there are none for which they would qualify.’” This subset of people who want jobs and have stopped looking make up “only about one-half of 1 percent of the ‘out of work’ Americans Trump seems to have been referring to.”

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