The power of website censorship presents a threat to whistleblowers

Does the Internet make it harder to be a whistleblower? In the case of journalist Matthew Lee, being a whistleblower in an industry where the government has so much regulation pushes you to fight even harder for the stories you want to tell.

Lee, editor-in-chief, webmaster and reporter for the Inner City Press, has been posting stories almost daily regarding corruption within the United Nations. Of course, his whistleblower reports about the inner workings of the U.N. have led to Google “de-listing” his presence on the Internet. In other words, as of February 13, Google users can no longer find articles from the Inner City Press online.

Although Google cites reasons like user complaints behind the de-listing of Lee’s stories, Lee could not help but think the true reason is that someone at the United Nations Development Programme pressured someone from Google News to de-list him.

As a result, I can’t help but wonder if higher authority, such as the government, is the true threat to whistleblowers in the United States. Sure, whistleblowers can break investigative and impactful stories that no other media corporation ever would, but whistleblowers also get a bad rep for being, well, an investigative journalist.

In the case of Guo Quan, a former Chinese university professor who declared he was the chairman of the underground New People’s Party, there comes the question of whether website censorship in the United States affects other foreign countries’ censorship. Quan, who sued Yahoo! and Google for blocking his name from search results in China, said he blocking his name from search engines in China is a violation of his political rights.

In China, search engines like Yahoo! and Google have no legal identity, and as a result, Quan had no choice but to sue both parent companies located in the U.S. While it is understandable for the Chinese government to block his name, he said it he could not accept foreign companies following suit.

Does Quan’s case reflect the power of website censorship outside of the United States? For major companies like Google, following the censorship demands of a large nation, such as China, is crucial for its growth in the industry. Perhaps Google’s ability to stay present in China reflects the influence that foreign nations have on U.S. Internet regulations.

With cases like Lee and Quan and their disappearance from Google News, I can’t help but wonder about the regulations and ethics behind website censorship. Some say web censorship is necessary while others consider it to be an invasion of privacy. But I mean, after all, don’t we all have the right to the Freedom of Speech?

Advertisements

The “accidental blogger”: one blogger’s experience with the blogosphere

I felt that it was interesting to hear from William Jacobson, a conservative political blogger and law professor at Cornell University, about his experiences as a blogger and founder of “Legal Insurrection.”

Jacobson described his experience with blogging as an accidental encounter; for, he began blogging on Google blogger as a hobby without thinking about the idea of entering a larger blogosphere.

What really caught my attention was his comment on how he transitioned from Google blogger to a larger, purchased domain. Within one year, he had smoothly transitioned from an amateur blogging website to a professional blog that received over one million visits. As a blogger myself, I found this statistic particularly astonishing and interesting, especially to hear about the work that he has done to create a strong presence in the online blogosphere.

One fact that made me think about my own blog, The Carousel of Opportunities, is the idea that bloggers should focus on improving the number of page views rather than page visits simply because page views are more accurate in counting who reads your blog. Jacobson said the influence of a blog is greater with page views than with page visits. I think that it was worthwhile to hear from Jacobson because his blog is pro-am, meaning he hires full-time contributing writers as well as works with part-time volunteer writers. Currently, his writers work with him to provide content for the blog and helps him manage the website. With a small staff and little revenue generating, “Legal Insurrections” has 45,000 page views per day.

Jacobson’s status as an “accidental blogger” helped me realize that blogging isn’t just for journalists, it is for everyone and anyone. One way Jacobson said he garners 45,000 page views is through the use of Facebook for his blog. He said Facebook is a prime driver of his website visits and contributes greatly to the daily traffic he receives. This fact emphasizes the importance of social media for advertising and promotions. Without social media like Facebook and Twitter, who knows how successful it would be to drive traffic to a website? With that, Jacobson could easily generate around $60,000 in revenue for his blog and make blogging into a full time career. On average, Jacobson said he tries to blog about two to three times per day, which he could easily turn into a career if he wanted to.

I really enjoyed listening to the experiences of Jacobson because I think blogging is a tool that is up and coming in the field of communications. Although it is clear that some bloggers have turned their hobby into a career, such as Glenn Greenwald, it is also important to note that blogs can serve as a space to share one’s ideas and thoughts on a topic of interest. For Jacobson, his conservative, political thoughts translated to his blog, “Legal Insurrections,” and I think with 45,000 page views per day, that is quite an impressive result of showing how a hobby can have a larger value.

Independent media redefine journalism

Critics would argue that independent journalism isn’t really journalism while advocates would praise independent media for not shying away from the root causes of certain issues.

Journalists such as I.F. Stone and George Seldes did just that: investigate core issues and dig for something deeper within a story. For Stone and Seldes, journalism wasn’t about fame or popularity, it was about investigation and utilizing their right to freedom of the press.

Audiences should give more credit to journalists such as Stone and Seldes, as well as independent media outlets, because it takes courage and determination to release a story that has never been exposed by mainstream media before. Stone, for example, often reported on controversial political figureheads like Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover. As a radical and as someone who became a member of the socialist party, Stone was an “independent newspaperman, standing alone, without organizational or party backing, beholden to no one but good readers (“http://www.ifstone.org/biography.php). Stone is a journalist worthy of learning about, whether in classes or during free time, simply because he is not associated with a major corporation, believes mainstream media’s sole purpose is advertising, and looks for stories beyond the average “event coverage” or “interview”. He has redefined the meaning of journalism and I think there is a lot to learn from him in that respect.

Seldes, similar to Stone, was an iconic press critic in the world of independent media. Seldes was a reporter known for being courageous as a result of his coverage of European fascism and world wars. He even reported on historical figures, including Mussolini and Lenin. Seldes is remembered as being one of the bravest reporters of his time simply due to the dangerous situations he put himself in; for, often, “Seldes offended dictators and demagogues, press moguls and industrialists” (http://www.jeffcohen.org/docs/mbeat19950712.html). As aspiring journalists, it is important to learn about Seldes’ legacy because he reminds us of what it means to have passion and dedication. He has taught us that good journalism lies in the battles that we face when we report on a story, so with courage and bravery, it is important to be persistent as a journalist. It is almost as if he is telling us that the bravest journalists fight the toughest battles for the best stories.

Asian Americans are #onlyonepercent

Amid the social media trend #OscarsSoWhite, a new hashtag is now trending as a result of Sunday’s Academy Awards. Despite the positive reviews for Chris Rock, host of Sunday’s Academy Awards, he is receiving backlash for his Asian jokes in which he brought up three children of Asian descent to the stage dressed as the stereotypical “hard worker who excels at math and science.”

Upon the visual representation of the joke, Rock preceded to take a jab at a joke that clearly referenced child labor in Asia by stating, “If anybody’s upset about that joke, just tweet about it on your phone that was also made by these kids.”

In response to Rock’s Asian jokes, writer Jaya Sundaresh created a social media movement, #onlyonepercent, to indicate the statistic that only one percent of Asian Americans have received Oscar nominations in history.

The media coverage of #OscarsSoWhite, now trending for the second year in a row, forgets to include Asian Americans. Rather, it only focuses on the divide between black and white. Asians are not very well represented at the Oscars, nonetheless, the media industry; for, many Asian characters in Hollywood films are played by Caucasian actors and actresses. Emma Stone, for instance, received a lot of criticism when she played a partially-Asian character in the movie, Aloha. 

As Asians are often “whitewashed” in Hollywood films and television shows, it brings up the question of whether Hollywood is truly the place for Asians, and if it is not, how Hollywood can change the way Asians are represented or casted.

I think one way to bring more Asians representation in Hollywood is to analyze and pay attention to the way we hold casting auditions. Should producers and directors be looking at the individual during casting auditions? What if the casting process were blind auditions? Would this make a difference?

Blind casting would allow for producers and directors to focus on an actor’s or actress’ voice and non-physical appearance, resulting in a cast that is chosen based on talent not physical appearance. Through this process, producers and directors would not look at the names of those who audition, but focus more on the talent presented in front of them.

On the other hand, is blind casting really possible in the film industry? I mean, aren’t directors and producers seeking talent that is compatible with the camera?

Perhaps that is the issue in itself.