Exploring Bias: Insights Into Facebook’s Selling of Data

Recently in class, we discussed the responsibility of news consumers when reading through articles from various outlets, as outlined in Kovach and Rosenstiel’s book Blur. The authors note that the responsibilities of news consumers can be condensed into six essential questions:

  1. What kind of content am I encountering?
  2. Is the information complete; and if not, what is missing?
  3. Who or what are the sources and why should I believe them?
  4. What evidence is presented, and how was it tested or vetted?
  5. What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?
  6. Am I learning what I need to?

By considering these basic questions, readers are able to better evaluate the content that they consume and are in turn more aware of biases and are better able to distinguish what is authentic facts within news and what is not. Through this post I will interact with a Washington Post article and evaluate it’s based on the criteria listed by Kovach and Rosenstiel. For instance, I noted that this article titled, “Facebook allegedly offered advertisers special access to users’ data and activities, according to documents released by British lawmakers”, provides insight into the content and lens that the journalist will assume while discussing this topic. Additionally, I have also noted this article to be a part of the “traditional media” or one that has “historically had a commitment to all five of the key journalistic standards” and is thus quite reputable as outlined by Alex Jones in his book Losing the News. This article portrays how Damian Collins, a chairman of a British parliamentary committee, has “led a wide-ranging investigation into (Zuckerberg and) Facebook and its dealings with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica”. The article continues by discussing how documents recently released in Britain challenge the long time claims from Facebook stating that they do not sell the data of Facebook users for profit or to advertisers. The data suspected to be sold is listed by journalists Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, and Tony Romm as users’ Facebook posts, photos, name, gender, educational and religious background, and home town. This is vital information to users and could promote an increase in the tracking of users and thus further the personalization of their online experience which could contribute to the formation of a users’ filter bubble, as noted by Praiser, that can often exist on social media sites and apps such as Facebook. The article concludes with more quotes and evidence from previous years that denounces Facebook’s innocence in the selling of users’ data.

Additionally, upon reviewing this article, I noted that the journalists writing the piece are cited following the conclusion of the article and their qualifications and backgrounds are listed which also helped in observing the authenticity and accuracy of this article. However, with regards to the backgrounds, one should also be aware and diligent when reading since these journalists could possibly be perceived as insiders with their own biases that could be unknowingly portrayed through the sources and quotes chosen and the language used to describe the event. In turn, though this is most likely not the case with this particular article, these biases could contribute to the overall formation of journalism of affirmation, or the concept that “a new political media builds loyalty less on accuracy, completeness, or verification than on affirming the beliefs of its audiences, and so tends to cherry-pick information that serves that purpose” as noted by Kovach and Rosenstiel.

From this article, a clear pattern is portrayed through the evidence, sources, quotes, and language used to convey Facebook’s guilt. Alternatively, the denials from Mark Zuckerberg are included in this article, however, have limited believability due to the surrounding evidence of communication such as emails where he acknowledges the selling of users’ data.

In conclusion, this Washington Post article, when analyzed utilizing the six basic questions outlined by Kovach and Rosenstiel, provides overwhelming evidence against the innocence of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg with regards to the selling of users’ data. Additionally, this article is primarily concerned with facts of guilt through the sources, quotes, and language used to describe this event. Furthermore, this use of particular sources, quotes, and language could be viewed as a use of journalism of affirmation. Moreover, when considering the question of what could be missing, this could include accounts from Facebook users and the effects of the suspected selling of their data had on their Facebook and overall internet usage, particularly with a focus on how an issue such as this could have impacted users’ beliefs and democracy as a whole since the selling of data was suspected to have begun.

Sources:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2018/12/05/facebook-allegedly-offered-advertisers-special-access-users-data-activities-according-documents-released-by-british-lawmakers/?utm_term=.a22d562df5ee

Jones, Alex S. Losing the News, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel “Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload” (New York, NY: Bloomsbury, 2010)

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not.

Penny Peña

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Exploring Bias: Insights Into Facebook’s Selling of Data

2nd Article Comparison: The Informational Biases of Michael Flynn’s Imprisonment or Lack Thereof

This semester we noted that information biases exist in the news and are not always constructive for democracy as outlined by Lance Bennett in his chapter “News: The Politics of Illusion”. I utilized this notion when reading two article about special council Robert Mueller’s recommendation for former Lt. General, Michael Flynn’s to not receive any prison time for his crime of perjury due to his cooperation and information on other on-going investigations. While consuming these news stories I noted that they varied greatly in their framing and coverage of Flynn’s recommended prison time or lack thereof.

For instance, the ABC News article titled, “Citing ‘substantial assistance’ to probe, Mueller recommends no prison time for former Trump adviser Michael Flynn”, begins with a quote from Robert Mueller stating his advocation for limited to no jail time for Flynn as a result of his “substantial assistance” in various investigations. Next, a brief history of Flynn’s crimes of perjury are reviewed and his impending sentencing date are also included. After this, however, the ABC News article then begins to take an increasingly different view from the New York Times article. The ABC News article begins to note that the relieved and happy reactions of Flynn’s family and quotes a source as stating that “jail time wouldn’t be a good thing for [Flynn]” which ultimately offer no real information and could be viewed as a personalization bias, or the “tendency to downplay the big social, economic or political picture in favor of the human trials, tragedies, and triumphs that sit at the surface of events”. Additionally, this personalization was noted again when the article some what unrelated to the overall content of the article includes that family and friends of Flynn were seen leading chants of “Lock her up!” at campaign rallies in 2016 and conveys that “Flynn’s downfalls has caused him deep pain, friends and family said”. This is followed by quotes from President Trump regarding Flynn’s personality and his actions. Ultimately, the article comes to a close after alluding to the fact that similar statements could be made for others such as Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen before Friday.

Contrastingly, the New York Times article titled, “Michael Flynn Was a Key Cooperator and Should Serve Little Prison Time, Mueller Says”, takes a different approach when discussing the issue of sentencing with regards to Michael Flynn. This article begins much like that of the ABC News article, including the quote from Mueller with regards to Flynn’s sentencing and his justifications for that recommendation. The New York Times article then continues by giving a brief recount of the events that led up to Flynn’s act of perjury. The New York Times article also notes that little was heard or reported on Flynn since his guilty plea was announced last December. This background provides some context that allows reminds or teaches readers about Flynn’s professional and personal history, particularly in relation to the Trump administration and the White House. This history does work to provide a greater context of this event, however, looks primarily at the events concerning Flynn from the last two to three years and are thus limited in their scope. Additionally, the remainder of the article does little to put Flynn’s acts and their consequences into a greater significance for the future. It is for this reason that I would argue that this article, although helpful for brief context, does not take into account the ways in which Flynn’s actions are truly harmful to democracy and the way in which they may impact our future and could thus be viewed as a fleeting news story utilizing dramatization, or “a news drama emphasizing crisis over continuity”, and fragmentation biases to entice readers.

Overall, though both articles cover the same breaking news story, they cover this topic in varying ways. The ABC News article views Flynn’s sentencing primarily as a single event and includes quotes from Flynn’s family and friends in response to special council Mueller’s statements. Meanwhile, the New York Times article establishes a greater overall historical context for Mueller’s investigations and Flynn’s role within them. However, could be viewed as having a slight dramatization and fragmentation bias due to the focus on various “characters” in the investigations with little regard to the greater impacts this issue may have on U.S. government and politics for the future.

Works Cited:

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/mueller-files-key-sentencing-recommendation-trump-adviser-michael/story?id=59597161

https://moodle.southwestern.edu/pluginfile.php/179074/mod_resource/content/0/Media%20and%20Politics.pdf

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not.

Penny Pena

2nd Article Comparison: The Informational Biases of Michael Flynn’s Imprisonment or Lack Thereof

Exploring Bias: The Deployment of Troops to the Border

The Fox News article, “Mattis, when asked if troop deployment to border stunt: ‘We don’t do stunts'”, by journalist Samuel Chamberlain portrays media bias and political calculus that seems to try and both fuel the fear of immigrants in the United States today and invigorate voters aligned with President Trump’s policies while also trying fuel the fear of immigrants in and migrating to the United States today.

Chamberlain is covering a particular question posed to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on October 31, 2018. This question asked if the deployment 5200 active-duty troops to the U.S.-Mexico border is a part of a political stunt to invigorate and sway voters for the midterm elections taking place next week. In response, Mattis replied that, “We don’t do stunts in this department. Thank you,”. Chamberlain’s inclusion of quotes soley from Mattis and the President on this topic are limited in their scope and thus create bias due to the exclusion of varying perspectives on this topic. Additionally, Chamberlain’s inclusion of the suggestion that “a caravan containing an estimated 4,000 Central American migrants” are on their way and an “additional 2,000 to 3,000 forces have been told to prepare to deploy if needed”. This suggestive rhetoric creates illusions that parallel U.S. troops preparing for an impending war and thus also exudes the journalist’s bias and attempt to evoke a feeling of fear and need to support and defend the U.S. from an enemy. This suggestive language further supports the polarization of citizens from immigrants and can be very influential considering the political calculus it could have with midterms approaching in one week.

In the latter half of  this brief article, Chamberlain continues with the defensive and combative language by claiming that “the White House repeatedly has warned members of the caravan that they will not be allowed into the United States” and discusses the “tent-cities” that President Trump claims will be built to house the immigrants seeking asylum. Finally, the “tail” or last paragraph of this article notes that ultimately federal law prohibits the military from actually acting as a police force in these instances and will thus be “providing helicopter support for border missions, installing concrete barriers, and maintaining vehicles…. these new troops are (also) set to include (personnel) equipped with advanced technology to help detect people at night”. This last quote reaffirms the war rhetoric utilized by Chamberlain to try and evoke fear while offering no contrasting perspectives and thus creates bias throughout the article.

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not. – Penny P.

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/mattis-when-asked-if-troop-deployment-to-border-is-a-stunt-we-dont-do-stunts

Exploring Bias: The Deployment of Troops to the Border

Article Comparison: Birthright Citizenship

On Tuesday, October 30th, 2018, President Trump revealed in an interview with Axios, his plan for an executive order to end birthright citizenship for children of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants in the United States. This news was covered by both CNN and the New York Times in two articles. While both convey what happened and the impacts this legislation could have, it is written in drastically different styles that evoke varying emotions from the readers.

The CNN article offers a straight-forward lead style which answers the typical questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how the event occurred. However, even from this initial portion of the article, bias can be seen through the language used by journalist, Kevin Liptak, as noted through his description of Trump’s claim as “dramatic, if not legally dubious” and his description of this act as a threat rather than a claim. In the body of his article, Liptak utilizes conflict framing through his citations from House Speaker Paul Ryan, democratic senator Mark Warner, and the American Civil Liberties Union as people and organizations who have denounced this claim by President Trump. In the “tail” or final part of his article, Liptik quotes President Trump noting the unconstitutional issue of his plan and notes that there have been no additional details released from the White House, notes the timing of these remarks – one week before midterm elections – suggesting political calculus on the President’s part, and refer back to the original interview from Axios on HBO.

Contrastingly, the New York Times article assumes a drastically different approach to Trump’s remarks. Journalists Caitlin Dickerson and Miriam Jordan utilize a descriptive lead that hooks the reader into a family who migrated to the United States in the 1990s from Mexico with hopes of a chance to achieve the American dream. The article continues to convey how three out of four of the children from this family were born in the US while the oldest was brought with her parents when she was only one year old and thus does not have her citizenship. Dickerson and Jordan note the hardship that have faced this oldest daughter and contrast how different her life experiences have been compared to her siblings with citizenship. The authors continue to note similar experiences from several different families and employ compassionate language to evoke feelings of empathy from their readers. Additionally, in the body of the article the authors note greater context of Trump’s claims by conveying how “the US is one of at least 30 countries that automatically grants citizenship to anyone born within its border” and thus contradict Trump’s statement that the US in the only country in the world that operates in this way. In the tail of this article, the journalists seems to portray policial calculus by offering one last attempt to appeal to the emotions of the reader – seeing as immigration policy will influence voters –  by offering a quote from a first-generation American who served in the military and now works as an immigration attorney who stated that when she was serving in the national guard following the 9/11 attacks, she felt as though she was proud to give back and defend her country. This final quote unpacking the gratitude and patriotism of many first-generation Americans and thus evoking a positive and compassionate emotion from their readers.

These two articles cover the same news event, however, they go about doing so in drastically different ways. The CNN article offers a better understanding of exactly what the facts are of the event, however, is also riddled with bias and conflict framing to pit both democrats and a lead republican against the president. Contrastingly, the New York Times article takes a descriptive journalism approach that tries to appeal to the emotions of the reader and see this event from a perspective that favors the equality and protection of first-generation Americans born from non-citizen parents.

Works Cited:

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/30/politics/donald-trump-ending-birthright-citizenship/index.html

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not. -Penny Pena

 

Article Comparison: Birthright Citizenship

Media Diary: Insight on My News Consumption

Over the last week I have taken time to reflect on the sources of my typical news consumption. Throughout this process I have come to realize how some of the news outlets I usually rely on tend to be skewed slightly to the left and thus my consumption is limited and could be improved by including news from different points of view. With that said, the news outlets I frequent include:

  1. New York Times’ podcast, “The Daily”
  2. The Daily Show podcast
  3. The Rachel Maddow Show
  4. Snapchat
  5. My family and friends

Why did I use these sources?

As a college student, I typically rely more on news outlets that are accessible for little to no costs and are readily available on my phone or laptop. It is for this reason that I turn to podcasts as my primary form of news consumption. The New York Times’ podcast, “The Daily” provides a concise explanation and analysis of political events occurring in the United States presently. While noting my news consumption this week, I came to realize that “The Daily” tended to be one of the news outlet with the least amount of bias that I subscribe to. Additionally, it is the news source that I refer to most often and make time to listen to each day. These episodes are usually only twenty to twenty-five minutes long and thus fit easily into my daily schedule. Similarly, the “Daily Show with Trevor Noah””s ears edition is the audio from the show and is typically twenty-five to thirty minutes long so it can be easily listened to during my day as well.

Slightly less often, usually once or twice a week, I will watch the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC. This is a show I was introduced to by my parents when I was in highschool. I have continued to watch the show since moving away for college through the generosity of my parents and their xfinity on demand account. Overall, I find the show to be engaging and intriguing and am also cognizant of the leftward partisan biases expressed within it. It is this shared source that typically sparks discussions with my parents on current political events, particularly since my they are avid viewers of the nightly news on channels such as CNN, MSNBC, and their local news stations as well. I also have some friends who are interest in politics, like myself, and we often times find ourselves discussing current political events and our own opinions and perceptions of these events. This is a way in which I am able to speak with people who may have different opinions than myself and I find it to be refreshing to discuss and understand perspectives that may align or vary from my own. Lastly, over the past week I found myself turning to social media, particularly snapchat, as a news source. This is an outlet that I use frequently throughout the day and have begun to utilize for their news segments as well, particularly NBC’s “Stay Tuned” segment which provides an overview into some national news stories and Vice’s news segment where they feature stories that revolve around social and political issues occurring in the U.S. today.

How might these sources reflect personal points of view or biases?

Through the examination of my news sources I have become fully aware to the leftward skew to the perspectives I hear and see on a daily basis and how that can be reflective of my own biases and ultimately be limiting to me. It can be hard to change habits and introduce new sources to my weekly news list. However, this exercise has helped me become more mindful of the outlets I typically resort to and how these are valuable to my comprehension of politics today but can be improved by including sources that provide more variety and challenge me to listen and understand varying perspectives on these same events.

I have acted with honesty and integrity in producing this work and am unaware of anyone who has not. – Penny Pena

Media Diary: Insight on My News Consumption