prof. e.

Mass Communication, [multi]media, methodology and much, much more!

Archive for August, 2014

Hello! It’s a Joke!

Posted by prof e on August 18, 2014

According to a report from Mashable, Facebook is considering adding a “satire” tag to links to stories from fake news sites, e.g. The Onion and The Daily Currant. Apparently the move is a response to requests from Facebook users who want help identifying fake news and distinguishing it from real news. Somewhat ironically, the staff of the Washington Post newspaper could also use a little help. Politico reported that a WP reporter was duped by a fake news report about Sarah Palin joining Al Jazeera.

I have witnessed, on several occasions, Facebook friends re-posting outrageous stories from fake news sites, and on one occasion (that I know of), I’ve done it myself. So I’m not suggesting that the idea of a “satire” tag is unnecessary or silly. However, let’s not assume that the satire tag will somehow eliminate the need for critical thinking on the part of media consumers. Any time that you off-load responsibility for critical thinking on someone (or some algorithm), you risk becoming a victim of that person’s (or algorithm’s) biases.

And there’s another potential downside. If the satire tag works we may have fewer opportunities to have a laugh at the expense of those who believe fake news is real, e.g. the website Literally Unbelievable. Here’s an example from their website:



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Copyright Monkeybusiness

Posted by prof e on August 9, 2014

Macaque-Selfie-finalPerhaps you’ve seen this picture of a female Celebes crested macaque. The picture is unusual in several ways. First, the expression is priceless. To peer into the soul of a subject and capture it on film in such a powerful way is truly amazing.

But that brings us to the second way in which this photo is unusual. It is a selfie. That’s right, the photo was taken by the subject. According to an article on the Mashable website, the photographer David Slater was on a trip through the jungles of the Indonesian island Sulawesi in 2011 when he had his camera swiped by the macaque who then turned the camera on herself.

Okay, pretty interesting story so far, but it gets better. Several years later someone uploaded the photo to Wikimedia Commons. Slater, who claims copyright on the photo, asked Wikimedia to remove the photo. Wikimedia denied Slater’s request claiming that Slater did not own the photo since he didn’t take it.

Alex Magdaleno, writing for Mashable, continues…

according to Wikimedia’s licensing report, it remains in the public domain “because as the work of a non-human animal, it has no human author in whom copyright is vested.”

There you have it. Once the courts settle this case we’ll know whether animal selfies enjoy the protection of copyright. And what if the courts say that the copyright belongs to the critter who pressed the shutter? In the US, copyright is awarded for the life of the author plus 70 years. If a Giant Galapagos tortoises snaps a selfie it could remain under copyright for upwards of 250 years!

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