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A Positive Side to CISPA?


CISPA - The solution is the problem

CISPA – The solution is the problem (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

In an opinion article for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts, points out some positive information( in his opinion) about the passing of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.  His article, Five things everyone needs to know about CISPAstates that specific amendments made prior to the passing by the House, have actually improved the bill.Couts says these are the five things people should be aware of.

1.  CISPA has nothing to do with SOPA.

2.  CISPA got better with amendments.3.  …But it’s still fundamentally broken.

4.  CISPA is not the only cybersecurity bill in Congress.

5.  CISPA likely won’t pass the Senate. (unchanged)

The first point Couts makes is this, “CISPA has to do with privacy. SOPA dealt with censorship. CISPA threatens our Fourth Amendment rights — the right against “unreasonable searches and seizures” — because it allows businesses to hand over a staggering amount of information about us to the federal government with impunity. SOPA threatened our First Amendment rights — the right to free speech — because it would have allowed the federal government to block access to websites using the same practices employed in oppressive regimes, like Iran and China.”

His second point?  “A total of 11 amendments were added to the bill, some of which made positive changes to the types of information that may be shared, and how the government may legally use that information.”  He continues on to list some of the major changes made in the bill and discusses the most notable change, the Quayle amendment that he summarizes in his article.

“One added provision, known as the Quayle amendment, has raised the most number of eyebrows. It outlines the purposes for which the government may use information collected from businesses. They are as follows:

  1. cybersecurity;
  2. investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes;
  3. protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury;
  4. protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and
  5. protection of the national security of the United States

Couts goes on to discuss why he thinks the bill is still flawed and said, “For starters, the bill still does not provide any limits on the information shared under CISPA to be passed along to shadowy organizations, like the National Security Agency, which has essentially no public oversight. Furthermore, CISPA still allows data collected under the bill to be used for vague purposes of “national security,” a term that could mean almost anything.”

He also informs his readers that there are two other bills currently in Congress, one brought forth by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called SECURE IT Act or S. 2151.  The other bill is presented by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), called Cybersecurity Act of 2012 or S. 2105.  Couts explains that both other bills share the problem of broad language like CISPA and that it’s possible in the end that CISPA could be combined with one of the two bills.  Couts reports that currently, Lieberman’s bill has the support of the White House and Senate Democrats.  This is significant since the President has threatened to veto CISPA if certain changes do not take place.

The veto issue is also part of Couts last point, that CISPA will not likely pass in the Senate.  He includes the caveat of change.  If certain requirements outlined by the President take place, and the bill can be hashed out to everyone’s liking, it may pass into law.  Considering the track record, of the two major political parties agreeing on anything, as being less than stellar, I’m personally not going to hold my breath.  That doesn’t mean I’m not deeply concerned about the bill.  After all, it did pass the House with a 248-168 vote and had over 100 cosponsors, which is cause for serious concern for all those who use the internet, and more specifically, investigative journalists.

Overall, I don’t see any real positive change in the language of the bill.  I’m concerned for investigative journalists for a very good reason.  The nature of their work.  The “watchdogs” of government may have to begin re-thinking the methods they use to get information online.  I’m skeptical that should the government get wind of an investigation through the abilities provided by the CISPA bill, they would just let journalists go about their job undeterred.  We may end up seeing more instances like what happened to the two journalists working for USA Today.  You can read more about their story here.

So what’s the take-away?  Well, as Couts points out, it’s a long process and we should all be willing to accept that fact, and keep paying attention no matter how long it takes for a decision to be made on CISPA.  Journalists especially, should be paying close attention.  If you thought there were problems with the use of anonymity before, just wait and see what happens when the government, at will, snoops around your information and starts to monitor you under the guise of national security.  (Especially if your story targets the government.)  As a computer scientist friend of mine casually suggested recently, getting to know the ins-and-outs of encryption might become a valuable investment in your career.

Pulitzer Prize Winners Give Back


The Six Ws of Journalism and Police Investigations

The Six Ws of Journalism and Police Investigations (Photo credit: Image Editor)

Mark Horvit, for the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization, published a blog post on Monday about two Pulitzer Prize winners doing something rare and positive for the journalism industry.

Besides writing an award-winning piece that gained national recognition and awards, Michael Berens and Ken Armstrong decided to give back.  They took their $10,000 prize money and paid for IRE training for their colleagues at The Seattle Times.

Horvit quotes Manny Garcia, the IRE Board President, “Mike and Ken have always been unselfish with their time and talent,” Garcia said. “They both exemplify what IRE is all about: equipping and training journalists world-wide to produce important investigative work. It speaks to their character and the quality news organization that is The Seattle Times.”

According to Horvit’s article, these two men are the second major award winners to do this sort of philanthropic work in the last few years.

This is important news to include these days. Why?  The news about the news doesn’t always have to be critical, or negative or controversial.  Gestures like this will keep journalism moving forward, steadily toward improvement.  Reporting, writing and investigating are skills that can always be improved upon.  I’ve re-discovered that just by keeping this blog.   These two men, decided to invest in the important work that investigative journalists do every day.  Honing their skills, and now making that practice available to others in the business through this training, is invaluable to the industry.

Journalism is not only learning about what we report, but how and why we report.

There is a quote by Thomas Griffith, a former editor for Time, Inc., “Journalism is in fact history on the run.”   That would be something difficult to chase without the necessary skills.  Berens and Armstrong are setting a good example in this industry and they are providing those skills to their fellow staffers.  Kudos to them.

The Story is Just Not Enough Anymore


Image representing Knight Foundation as depict...

Image via CrunchBase

Mona Zhang wrote an article on Thursday for Media Bistro called, “Newton to Journalists:  Focusing on the Story Just Isn’t Enough Anymore”.

According to her article, the distrust of the media by Americans is at an all time high.  She writes, “In the digital age, journalists are required to don different hats; from multimedia to social media, there is an increasing amount of tools available for telling the story and sharing it. Still, it may not be enough.”

Zhang also mentions that Eric Newton, the senior adviser to the president of the Knight Foundation, spoke at the Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting.  Newton told the group of investigative reporters that just telling the story is not enough.  Zhang says,

“…he [Newton] has spent his entire life worshiping the mantra, “The story is all that really matters.”  Until now. “The story is not the only thing that matters,” he said. “A story by itself does not change the world. Someone must absorb it, share it, act on it and yes, even pay for it.” In order for stories to truly matter, he argues, news literacy is key, as is transparency, which can help facilitate dialogue and understanding within communities. “Sixty nine percent of America believes that if local newspapers no longer existed, it would be no big deal,” he said, which is why now, more than ever, journalists have an obligation not just to say, “Hey! Listen to this story!” but “Hey! This is why you should listen to this story!”

Newton, I believe is on to something.  News literacy is a crucial part in today’s news industry.  With so much information at our finger tips, most people have no idea how or where to begin gathering news.  Many news consumers have no idea what the difference between propaganda, opinion and hard fact-based news truly looks like.  I’ve said this in earlier posts, so many news organizations present information that is not truly news, as news.  With this behavior becoming a growing trend, the news consumer hasn’t got a chance.  Not to mention the impact of, yes I know…this again, social media.  Information is at our very fingertips accessible twenty-four hours a day.  Not just on the computer, but on our television screens, our tablets, and our mobile phones.

News consumers need the tools that news literacy provides.  And now, it is the responsibility of  journalists to give you the information you need, but also to inform you of the reasons why you should read the story and why it has relevance in your life.

Yes, as Zhang points out, we journalists wear many hats, and educating our news consumers about why they should read our stories, is just as important.