The Plug.Direct FAQ

What does Plug.Direct do?

Plug.Direct allows independent journalists to use Facebook & Google’s algorithms to target new audiences for their local or specialist news, on mobile, in a simpler pay-as-you-go, use when you want way.

Screen showing the provenance score and general performance of the user's plugged stories.

How does it work?

Users buy €5 plugs to ‘boost’ their work on Facebook & Google, in formats that load up to ten times faster on mobile networks than ordinary webpages. The articles and their authors are given a Good Practice & Provenance (GP&P) ‘quality’ score – so readers know authors are who they say they are, and why they can be considered  credible.

Can’t I do this directly on Facebook & Google?

Of course, and if you are getting 50,000 or more uniques daily, we advise you invest in the substantial technical & business resources required to do just that. But for ‘small media’, Plug.Direct is a simpler, pay-as-you-go way to plug into the vast algorithmic resources of Big Search & Social Media – as and when wanted.

Wait!  Isn’t this how ‘fake news’ happened?

Yes! We are reclaiming the methods of ‘fake news’ and putting them to honest use. That’s why articles and authors are scored. Low GP&P scoring articles and authors are kept off the platform, and users can raise their score by taking steps via the app to demonstrate their professionalism and validate their journalism.

Do users need to change their websites?

No. Just use the app to pick articles from your existing website, add your plugs and the app does the rest. You can add links to mail lists, twitter feeds or book sale pages to the boosted stories, and connect with new audiences directly on your own terms. (But a plug-in can add a GP&P ‘quality’ score to your website if you like.) The reposted stories are exported as Facebook Instant Articles and in Google friendly AMP formats but only inside the duopoly’s ecosystem; your website’s brand, design and identity is unchanged on the wider Web.

Plug.Direct tracks the general performance of the user's plugged stories. Users can add extra plugs for a fresh boost as they like.

Why only €5, and why a maximum of 20 plugs (€100) an article?

It only takes a relatively small injection of funds to find the best audience for your news articles, audiences more likely to appreciate & share your work. The app also tags Facebook & Google programmatic ads to mobile articles, adding extra buying power to each plug – you always get more ‘boost’ than you pay for.

Who does the scoring?

Firstly, an algorithm reviews texts and author records – checking use of quote attribution, copyright notices, credits, the author’s past publications, ‘digital footprint’,  social media profile and other measures for a base opening score. We are transparent about what we consider good & ethical practice and believe it should be recognised and valued.

Where’s the human input?

The GP&P score allows for human review. Using the wiki approach, we allow other plug.direct users to highlight, comment and query text via an online desktop platform. Users can then externally verify queries. The GP&P scores adjust depending on the number of queried texts and follow-up verifications by expert members of the Plug.Direct community .

Is this another of those ‘fake news’ busting fact-check sites then?

No. It’s a source-check site. We won’t leave it to algorithms or even other humans to decide what’s fake news, dis- or mis-information. The reader decides. We simply want to ensure that readers are able to judge the journalism they read on news on search and social based on a fair assessment of its author’s good practice & provenance.

When can I try it out?

Supported by the Google Digital News Initiative’s Innovation Fund, we are planning a beta test in 2018. We will invite bloggers, community news groups, media collectives and like-minded journalists online to try out the app for faster publishing on mobile, reaching new audiences and building reputations.

 

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An environmental solution to the problems of Fake News pollution

Problems like fake news, spam adverts, and ad-bot fraud are the inevitable waste products of industrial scale media ‘content’ manufacturing – foul emissions ruining political climates and poisoning journalism’s lifeblood.

It’s called Cap & Trade, the way the world’s energy giants balance the competing demands of parliaments, environmentalists and profit-hungry shareholders that they do something to reduce CO2 emissions and tackle global climate change.

The sector’s powerful lobbyists and pliant governments came up with it as an alternative to outside regulation or watching state subsidies go to business rivals producing energy with lower emissions. In theory, it offers economic incentives to reduce pollution and keeps money inside the sector to sustain technological innovation and corporate growth.

Polluters are required to hold permits in an amount equal to their CO2 emissions. Those that want to increase or sustain emission levels, or reduce them at a slower, more manageable rate, must buy permits from others willing to sell them. The result is a lively market, as low-level emitters trade their unused permits to higher emitting businesses across the energy sector.

Are there parallels with the online media sector, or even lessons for Big Search & Social to be drawn from the methods of their corporate peers in Big Energy?

During the US presidential campaign news fraudsters gamed the system to flood Facebook with pro-Trump fake-news websites. “The company’s business model, algorithms and policies,” Zeynep Tufekci wrote of Facebook, “fuel the spread of misinformation.” The market is poisoned by its own products; threatening the “information ecosystem” that sustains participatory democracy. “Information is as critical as the air we breathe,” writes Tara Susman-Peña. “Without information, people can neither understand nor effectively respond to the events that shape their world.”

All might agree that levels of such ‘pollutants’ in the media ecosystem need to be cut, but the limitations of regulation and the online sector’s deep reliance on high-earning, high-polluting content obstruct the process. The metrics that reward publishers with advertising income reward quantity over quality on Facebook and Google. Advertisers used to pay magazines and papers to line up properly targeted audiences for their ads. The grand duopoly has taken over that paying task and extracts millions from it.

Ben Thompson: “Newspapers no longer have a monopoly on advertising, can never compete with the Internet when it comes to bundling content, and news remains both valuable to society and, for the same reasons, worthless economically (reaching lots of people is inversely correlated to extracting value, and facts — both real and fake ones — spread for free).”

Cap & Trade’s biggest exponent, the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) covers some 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 30 countries and aimed to reduce emissions in 2020 to 21% below their level in 2005. It sets a cap on total emissions and energy firms are assigned allowances that add up to the cap. The ETS trade in permits is worth around $150bn annually.

Theoretically, applying the system to online media – content providers with high ‘emission’ levels of cheap content and low levels of expensive original content as a proportion of output – would have their allowances set the same way. and could ‘buy’ extra allowances from low emitters. The big two could automate the whole process, and factor it into the algorithmic calculations that govern payments based on CPM and CTR data from sites and adverts.

Not for nothing do analysts draw historical comparisons between legendary 20th century US monopolies Standard Oil and Bell Telephone and the 21st-century mega-corps Facebook and Google. The duopoly might worry about the tide of market outrageanti-trust action and prospective regulations rolling their way. National, regional & global regulation, local taxation, state subsidies to rivals and even enforced break-up are all cited as options when the scale of the online duopoly’s market heft is discussed.

Professor Leighton Andrews, a former BBC public affairs chief is among several influential figures now arguing for an enforced levy on ad receipts to support media outlets hit by their dominance of online advertising. There also needs to be effective recognition, he says, that certain internet intermediaries & online platforms are media organisations, in Ofcom’s words, ‘editorially responsible providers’, with implications for the regulation of ‘fake news’.

A future regulatory framework might require the platforms to commit to a prominent, subsidised place on their networks in the same way conventional broadcast networks can be committed to fixed levels of news and educational programming under the terms of their licences. But it would only be a small patch on the broad scale of the problem, and would still need a means of redistributing income within the system itself that would need to be open to new players and adaptable to emerging markets.

The system is not foolproof. Back in the energy sector the ETS struggles with a surplus of spare allowances as the sector tames its emissions, depressing prices – down from 29.80 euro each in July 2008 to 5.27 euro in July 2017. Efforts to reform trading practice or tweak the market to raise unit prices are blocked by disputes between democratically accountable EU member states. That’s not an obstacle to the market autocracies of Google and Facebook.

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need them, but the ETS and derivative carbon markets like it are a negotiated solution to the existential threat of global warming. It’s capitalism’s best offer of a means to meet that threat while sustaining a trade on which society relies, and without fatally compromising its commercial viability or ability to maintain capital flows or innovative practice.

Ethically it would be hard to swallow – an online media permits system to soften the effect of a cynical trade in misrepresentation for profit. But establishing some kind of derivatives market to mitigate that trade might redefine relationships between different media creators, and their collective and individual relationships with the duopoly that dominates it.

Such a redefinition might trigger a managed negotiation covering the nature of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ content, preserving capital flow into and around the media economy, while allowing proactive intervention to prevent lasting damage to the ecosystem’s key constituents, providers of validated, sourced information.

Plug.Direct: Optimising news content for independent platform publishers

plug.Direct

What is Plug.Direct, what is it for and how does it work? A brief introduction to the ideas behind the new app and how it uses the platform publishing model to amplify the voice of independent media abroad, expand the reach of small publishers at home, and promote good practice & media ethics everywhere.

The massive growth of news audiences on mobile search & social requires the independent media to produce faster loading content, optimised to exploit the audience targeting tools and ad market dominance of Facebook & Google.

Plug.Direct allows small media publishers to put the duopoly’s giant resources behind their targeted media campaigns, special investigations and audience outreach programmes on a pay-as-you-go basis, as and when needed. Publishers use the app to pick posts from their blogs and re-post them in mobile friendly code – as Instant Articles on Facebook, and in Google-friendly AMP format – ready to be promoted to targeted audiences on mobile search & social. The plugged re-posts carry call-to-action links to direct new audiences to their newsletter signups, mailing lists and online bookshops – or just back to their home blogs on WordPress, Medium or personal CMS.

Screen showing the provenance score and general performance of the user's plugged stories.
Screen showing the provenance score and general performance of the user’s plugged stories.

The service is paid for with Plugs – £5, €5 or $5 each – to cover the cost of re-posting the blogs and adding the necessary metadata to promote the re-posted stories on mobile search & social media, via Facebook & Google. The app’s dynamically valued plugs track income from the mobile adverts it attaches to the re-posts, adding bonus funds in real-time to the users’ plugs – raising their value when used, without raising their price when purchased. The app also offers use of plug.direct’s ‘GP&P’ rankings, which transparently and objectively scores the authors it plugs on their publishing records and professional working practices – without subjectively judging their content.

If you are a journalist, expert blogger or community media organisation in Europe or North America, plug.direct‘s combination of multiple services in a single publishing package is ideal.

A simpler solution

In theory Facebook and Google’s publishing and ad placement tool will quickly get your stories to the people you want to reach who want to read your work. In practice it’s a substantial commitment in tech & admin time. Also the online ad market is set to favour quantity over quality. But well-targeted audiences are focused, highly responsive and small by definition. The return on adverts rarely rewards the effort needed to join the market in the first place.

Screen showing the impact the Plug has had on the plugged story today.
Screen showing the impact the Plug has had on the plugged story today.

Plug.Direct is a simpler, ‘pay-as-you-go’ solution. The plugs are the payment. You buy a plug at €5 each and you use it to promote your story across Facebook & Google. One plug will get your story to scores of specially chosen readers, two plugs to twice as many more, three plugs to three times, and so on. A Plug is also always worth more than you paid for it than when you use it.

Returns on advertising across the network are shared equally between users in real time, raising the value of the plugs in actual purchasing power. The plugs are tokens, transparently valued, recorded and allocated in real time using blockchain technology. The tokens are never valued more at more than twice their purchase price, that is, a maximum of €10. Similarly you can never use more than 20 plugs on a post a day.

This recognises a naturally declining rate of return on paid search & social media boosts after more than 20 plugs per story, per day – and the need to deter misuse of the app.

On the frontline of press ethics and media freedoms

The UK non-profit Vivarta is developing Plug.Direct in the context of increasingly complex media ethics issues raised by the so-called ‘fake news’ phenomena, and the sheer scale and corporate practices of the Facebook & Google duopoly.

We recognise that if you get your news on smartphone, like half the world already, then this kind of platform published stories are vastly faster and cheaper in pay-as-you-go MB download. We also recognise that independent media needs access to audiences as they become reliant on mobile search & social media, often to the detriment of regular websites, even those sites already optimised for mobile.

More controversially, many new audiences can get access to Facebook and its news feed without charge to mobile data plans across the developing world via schemes sponsored by the Facebook Basics system. The ethical implications of Facebook Basics and its impact on Net Neutrality rights concern many. But many of the countries where news on mobile search & social is expanding also have repressive governments and strict media controls.

We want to help more journalists and media-active community groups to get on the platform in countries on the Facebook Basics list, especially where independent journalism is threatened.

The GP&P Scores, and why plug.direct needs them

You’ve heard of Fake News, right? The plug.direct GP&P (Good Practice & Provenance) scores are a partial answer to this problem and a quality benchmark for the app’s users. It’s designed to make it difficult for Fake News writers to use the app, by blocking the anonymous users (or bots) and fly-by-night spoofers that post most Fake News stories. The app’s spider crawls the app user’s websites for proof of provenance, such as Twitter accounts, website registration details, links to other sites, and other indicators, which on the balance of probability means that, story aside, the writer is legitimate – or at least is a real person with a verified identity.

Plug.Direct tracks the general performance of the user's plugged stories. Users can add extra plugs for a fresh boost as they like.
Plug.Direct tracks the general performance of the user’s plugged stories. Users can add extra plugs for a fresh boost as they like.

The app tests the story as well, by looking for good practice. Here the app ticks off a further list of 50 specifics evidencing good journalistic practice – fair copyright declarations, use of appropriate credits and captions, consistent metadata, working “contact the author links” – collective evidence that, on the balance of probability, suggests that the author is a professional. Added up – that’s the Plug.Direct GP&P score, X out of 100. The app recognises professionalism and raises (or cuts) the score accordingly. If you score less than 33, the app won’t publish your story.. As  a user you can raise your ranking with good journalistic practice – the app’s online platform will allow you to get your good work and reputational evidence taken into account.

It is competitive, but the way for a journalist, writer or community blog to join the plug.direct community and top the list is to adopt more ethical practices and write better-sourced, more accountable and up-to-date stories, judged by transparently applied criteria.

Sign up for a 2018 beta test account at the plug.direct website.

Plug.Direct’s development is supported by a grant from the Google Digital News Initiative’s Innovation Fund.

Not Rocket Science: Free speech, free enterprise & gender equality at Google

Hidden Figures

The Internet has reacted with outrage – critical and supportive – to an anonymous essay circulated internally by one of Google’s thousands of technologists, in which he criticises the corporate giant’s steps to bring gender equality to its workspace.

The whole purpose of building a technology product portfolio is to get it to as broad a market as possible. You can’t do that by reducing its appeal – its relevance & usability – to discrete groups, even large ones like politically conservative, white males. Effective diversity of customer base is a commercial imperative.

So Google – like many consumer facing technology companies – divides between those who have the capacity to write and apply code to solve technical problems, and those who can do that to create products. You get to a certain level of technical skill, and then you’re on a plateau. You start afresh in an open field of thousands of technologists with the same skills, and Google looks among this qualified group for people who can do more than write code for machines – that they can also engineer products for people.

This is where the formally unidentified, but widely named in-house critic of diversity policies at Google stepped in with his “manifesto”. It was his reaction to Google’s efforts to increase the proportion of women working at Google employees, whose numbers have just reached a point where their presence is noticeable. (He doesn’t have anything to say about Latino or African-American techs, presumably as their numbers are too small at Google to trigger his concern.)

“I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes,” the Googler writes, “and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.”

Cue outrage from all sides, supportive and critical. In a way though, he touches on a different truth. Comments ex-senior Google tech Yonatan Zunger: “All of these traits which the manifesto described as ‘female’ are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering. Anyone can learn how to write code; hell, by the time someone reaches L7 or so, it’s expected that they have an essentially complete mastery of technique.

“The truly hard parts about this job are knowing which code to write, building the clear plan of what has to be done in order to achieve which goal, and building the consensus required to make that happen.”

So unless you have some kind of empathy with the human race in all its forms, you are going to find it hard to create a product that appeals equally effectively – in different ways, sure – but equally effectively with a diverse audience of potential users. You are certainly not going to be promoted.

“Google (and so many other companies) make you prove yourself at the low-level field, in writing code, and then promote people to the engineering process level,” notes Charles Arthur. “Men, particularly intense narrow-vision men, might excel at that first process. Then in the next one they’re awful. And so you see screw-ups like Google Buzz.”

Hidden Figures poster image.
Go watch Hidden Figures: A better use of a certain Googler’s down  time. Photo by minhee.cho on Flickr. HT Charles Arthur.

So this fellow just wrote a ten page essay on why he’s not qualified for promotion – why he’s essentially going to be useless in terms of developing product, even if he’s a great down-table coder. It’s like a candidate for promotion at Marc Jacobs declaring the very idea of spending $38,000 for a crocodile skin handbag as morally wrong. Now it is to a very large part of the populace, and understandably so, but not in Marc Jacobs’ world or the world of its customer base.

Comments Ian Bogost: “Reactions to the screed are sound, but they risk missing a larger problem: The kind of computing systems that get made and used by people outside the industry, and with serious consequences, are a direct byproduct of the gross machismo of computing writ large. More women and minorities are needed in computing because the world would be better for their contributions—and because it might be much worse without them.”

But the Google essayist’s primary argument focuses not on biological difference, but instead on what he sees as his employers’ in-house ‘ideological echo chamber’. He argues that Google’s corporate hive mind is doing itself an injustice by excluding people with political views that are counter-intuitive to the management’s politically contextualised Google business model.

This is perhaps true: Marc Jacobs knows that outside its market there are people who don’t buy their product, who think what they are doing is unethical. They may think that one day Marc Jacobs the corporate giant may need to publicly address their point of view. Is it worth Marc Jacobs’ time and money to hire one of them? Or promote one from bag manufacture to bag design? You’d think Marc Jacobs mad to do so, or at best, think it was a token hire to fob off fringe critics of its business model.

What struck me was how clearly the Google essayist understood the political context of Google’s corporate model – ‘leftist’ biases in contrast to ‘rightist’ ones. That to the leftist “disparities are due to injustices,” and that “ humans are inherently cooperative,” that instability through change is good, and the virtuous have an open, idealist perspective.

And how that contrasted – in his eyes – to the ‘rightist’ perspective, that “disparities are natural and just; Humans are inherently competitive,” and that change is dangerous in that it threatens stability. That the rightist’s idea of a good perspective is “Closed; Pragmatic”.

“So left-wing people are idealists, while right-wing ones are pragmatic? Google’s ‘open’ credo makes it left-wing?” mused Charles Arthur, “It’s a really bizarre collection of assertions which wouldn’t look out of place in a university junior common room. I wonder if Google is looking at its recruiting systems in light of this.”

The essayist himself concedes, not wholly convincingly, that he may be biased and only see evidence that supports his viewpoint. “In terms of political biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason,” he explains, adding: “Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.”

It’s interesting that Julian Assange, warrior-king of empathy-free, gender-insensitive technological advocacy, has pitched in with broad support of the essayist and against ‘identity politics 2.0″  and Google’s “mass spying” as “equal opportunity predation”. Yet the counter case that’s being made is that Google might deliver a better, less threatening and more honest product portfolio if its makers were more representative of the human race – something that it is struggling to achieve, regardless of the essayist’s concerns.

Bogost, a contributing editor at The Atlantic and professor of interactive computing at Georgia Tech, offers up an interesting thought experiment: “If you rolled back the clock and computing were as black as hip-hop, if it had been built from the ground up by African American culture, what would it feel like to live in that alternate future—in today’s alternate present?

“Now run the same thought experiment for a computing forged by a group that represents the general population, brown of average colour, even of sex, and multitudinous of gender identity. Something tells me the outcome wouldn’t be Google and Twitter and Uber and Facebook…”

You can’t escape the reality that the competition between these two perspectives, between the left’s “compassion for the weak” and the right’s ‘respect for the strong” – as the essayist divides them – is reflected in the schizophrenic divide between integrity of technical purpose and functionality of product value that constantly roils the tech sector.

Should he be fired? No, if down in the coding department he’s working fine. But if he wants to progress career-wise he needs to develop the kind of mental mindscape that Google – the whole world, indeed – needs more than coding skills to engineer products for people. And this might be gently explained to him by Google’s HR department, perhaps.

Readers please note: I am currently (2017) a recipient of prototype research funding from the Google Digital News Initiative’s Innovation Fund.

Capping fake news and trading the freedom to misrepresent for profit

Smoke stacks from Saint Mary's Paper Mill in Ontario, Canada. Flickr / Billy Wilson.

Can we treat problems like fake news, native ads and ad-bot fraud as dangerous by-products of industrial scale content production online – just as CO2 emissions are seen as a dangerous by-product of industrial scale energy production? And act accordingly?

The metrics that reward publishers with advertising income reward quantity over quality on Facebook and Google. Advertisers used to pay magazines and papers to line up properly targeted audiences for their ads. The grand duopoly has taken over that paying task and extracts millions from it.

Ben Thompson: “Newspapers no longer have a monopoly on advertising, can never compete with the Internet when it comes to bundling content, and news remains both valuable to society and, for the same reasons, worthless economically (reaching lots of people is inversely correlated to extracting value, and facts — both real and fake ones — spread for free).”

It’s the end for those who hoped that the costs of creating new content might be at least matched by the income it generated, a online media ‘perpetual motion machine‘. But it turned out that the frictionless technology – with its zero distribution costs and zero transaction costs – that the ‘machine’ required works only for Google and Facebook, and works best of all for junk in bulk.

During the US presidential campaign news fraudsters gamed the system to flood Facebook with pro-Trump fake-news websites. “The company’s business model, algorithms and policies,” Zeynep Tufekci wrote of Facebook, “entrench echo chambers and fuel the spread of misinformation.” The market is poisoned by its own products; threatening the “information ecosystem” that sustains participatory democracy. “Information is as critical as the air we breathe,” writes Tara Susman-Peña. “Without information, people can neither understand nor effectively respond to the events that shape their world.”

All might agree that levels of such ‘pollutants’ in the media ecosystem need to be cut, but the limitations of regulation and the online sector’s deep reliance on high-earning, high-polluting content obstructs the process. Hence this thought experiment. Why not stretch the analogy a bit further and consider a system that rewards low-emitters and penalises high-emitters by a transfer of capital – as a redistributed share of ad income – from the latter to the former?

The blunt force way to manage such a transfer would be for the duopoly to penalise ‘dangerous’ online media ‘emissions’ and proportionately cut ad income remittances from high emitters. Alternatively the two could take less drastic course and take a lead from the energy sector and its Cap & Trade mechanism, a gradualist approach to balancing reduction of emissions that aims to limit its impact on profitability and market share.

Cap & Trade’s biggest exponent, the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) covers some 11,000 power stations and industrial plants in 30 countries and aimed to reduce emissions in 2020 to 21% below their level in 2005. It sets a cap on total emissions and energy firms are assigned allowances that add up to the cap. The ETS trade in permits is worth around $150bn annually. The participating companies measure and report their emissions and hand in one allowance for each tonne they release. The allowances can be traded, rewarding low emitters, who ‘sell’ spare allowances to high polluters.

Theoretically, applying the system to online media – content providers with high ‘emission’ levels would have their allowances set in the same way, and could ‘buy’ extra allowances from low emitters. The big two could automate the whole process, and factor it into the algorithmic calculations that govern payments based on CPM and CTR data from sites and adverts.

The Google/Facebook duopoly in taking  99% of new ad market growth: Data visualisation by Jason Kint. Sources IAB/PWC, Google earnings, Facebook earnings.

Ethically it’s hard to swallow – an online media permits system that allows misrepresentation for profit. But as a industry-friendly approach to rewarding the saintly and encouraging better behaviour among sinners it might have virtue for a sector dominated by players who may be too big to regulate.

Ideally there’d be no net loss of capital in the online media sector overall – as there would be if Google & Facebook took the revenue from cap-breakers on behalf of their shareholders, or imposed excessive fees or onerous regulations on capital transfers between emitters to savers. There’s no such thing as ‘perpetual motion’ – even within the artificial laws of physics created by big search & social – but as long as capital continued flowing from emitters to savers, we’d be closer to it at least.

The system is not a simple answer to the online media sector’s problems with managing the duopoly’s market. Back in the energy sector the ETS struggles with a surplus of spare allowances as the sector tames its emissions, depressing prices – down from 29.80 euro each in July 2008 to 5.27 euro this month. Efforts to reform trading practice or tweak the market to raise unit prices are blocked by disputes between democratically accountable EU member states. That’s not an obstacle to the market autocracies of Google and Facebook.

The ETS struggles to manage the market agnostically, not preferring particular technologies or industrial practices – while the duopoly is free to apply rules that efficiently reduce its own in-house pollutant problem. There’s no shortage of over-emitters in the online media sector ready to ‘buy’ allowances from low emitters of fake news, native ads and ad-click fraud. Membership of the market could become a condition of access to its higher-value opportunities.

In an ideal world we wouldn’t need them, but the ETS and derivative carbon markets like it are a negotiated solution to the existential threat of global warming. It’s capitalism’s best offer of a means to meet that threat, while sustaining a trade on which society relies, and without fatally compromising its commercial viability or ability to maintain capital flows or innovative practice.

Applying such pragmatism to the online media market would require some basic pre-conditions. There would have to be a means of measurement. The ‘weight’ of media ‘emission’ should be the same, regardless how it is emitted, or prevented by different editorial production processes. Of course, there’s no dispute over what constitutes CO2 in the energy sector, even if there’s room for dispute about how, and how much CO2 is produced by different energy production processes. In the energy sector a ton of CO2 has to be priced the same no matter how it is emitted or prevented by the power plant’s engineers.

Yet the maths is straightforward: if a gallon of petrol weighs 6.3 pounds and you burn it, the carbon combines with oxygen and the weight of the CO2 emitted is 20 pounds. So for fairness’ sake, the Facebook & Google algorithms have to be as precise about what constitutes fake news, native ads and fake news, as the energy sector is about what constitutes CO2. Again, it’s more easily done within the closed commercial ecosystem of Facebook & Google – self-contained universes with their own rules of nature – defined and enforced by their terms & conditions of trade.

The alternative is to deal with EU and/or UK regulation. Professor Leighton Andrews, a former minister and BBC public affairs chief, is among several influential figures now arguing for an enforced levy on ad receipts to support media outlets hit by their dominance of online advertising. There also needs to be effective recognition, he says, that certain internet intermediaries or online platforms are media organisations, in Ofcom’s words, ‘editorially responsible providers’, with implications for the regulation of ‘fake news’.

This is how business works in a world with zero distribution costs and zero transaction costs, says Thompson. “Consumers are attracted to an aggregator through the delivery of a superior experience, which attracts modular suppliers, which improves the experience and thus attracts more consumers, and thus more suppliers in the aforementioned virtuous cycle.”

Publishers can become ‘modular suppliers’ to the duopoly’s aggregated markets, selling the promise of quality reporting via off-platform subscriptions to individuals. The duopoly might worry about the tide of market outrage, anti-trust action and prospective regulation rolling their way. Offering subsidies to selected media in the manner of oil companies investing in school districts in Nigeria might be useful as a kind of corporate social responsibility programme.

A future regulatory framework might require the platforms to commit to a prominent, subsidised place on their networks in the same way conventional broadcast networks can be committed to fixed levels of news and educational programming under the terms of their licences. But it would only be a small patch on the broad scale of the problem, and would still need a means of redistributing income within the system itself that would need to be open to new players and adaptable to emerging markets.

Staying with the thought experiment, I’d speculate that in the long run, establishing a derivatives market would redefine the relationship between different media creators, and their collective and individual relationships with the duopoly via which it trades. Such a redefinition would begin a managed negotiation between interests, covering the nature of good and bad content, preserving capital flow into and around the media economy, while allowing proactive intervention to prevent lasting damage to the ecosystem’s key constituents, providers of validated, sourced information.

And as long as I’m extrapolating on an industrial scale, it might eventually allow the development of a framework that allows media companies to ride the duopoly’s data & trade infrastructure, broadly speaking, in the same way private trains ride independent rail networks. Not necessarily well, speaking as a Southern Railways customer, but in an accountable, commercial relationship that is bound by terms and conditions with fines for breached standards.

Such a relationship would open up gateways where threats to privacy rights and imbalances in the attention economy could be monitored as data moved through them. These gateways might be a more manageable space for the kind of public regulator needed to succeed agencies like OFCOM, founded years before the introduction of the smartphone and the rise of Big Search & Social.

An Emotional Design plug-in for data sets lacking in emotion

Ólafsfjörður.

Should data scientists & artists ‘design in’ engineered capacity to induce human emotional responses to otherwise impenetrable data sets?

In his book Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things, the former Apple exec and design critic Don Norman discusses three levels of emotional responses to product design — “visceral, behavioural and reflective”.

As Wired Magazine’s review noted, for years Norman had done nothing but rail against hard-to-use products. Yet in his 2004 book, he admitted that emotional attachments often trump practicality. Creative design can trigger a personalised emotional response to even the most hard-to-use, superficially impractical objects.

As a means of communicating information, bulk data sets are probably as hard-to-use and superficially impractical as it gets, even data on a subject as essential as climate change. In fact you don’t need to be a rocket or a data scientist – and Donald Trump is neither – to recognise the limitations of climate change data as a means of generating engagement with the issue.

An alternative approach: Climate Symphony turns hard data on climate change into a symphony, telling the story of what climate change means through sound. It uses data sonification, a technique designed to make statistical analysis more accessible to the mind via sound and the ear, just as traditional data visualisations like graphs make data accessible through imagery and the eye.

Disobedient & Forma Arts: Climate Symphony Performance #2degreesfestival. 7.30pm, Saturday 17 June, at Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6AB.

“Research shows that sound touches us in inexplicable ways,” Leah Borromeo and Katharine Round of Disobedient Film Company, co-creators of the work with composer Jamie Perera. “By using music,” they told Anita Makri of SciDevNet, “the hope is to create an emotional response to something that for many might look meaningless on a page.”

Norman, of course, was talking about emotional response in the context of product design. How we relate to a visual element, and how to create something that is more appealing, effective or well received via design, by design. But his perspective, coming from a former Apple exec, is instructive in a digital media era when the case for challenging climate change is suddenly less appealing, effective and well received in some crucial quarters.

I’m writing here, gathering thoughts ahead of participating in an all-day workshop on data sonification and its uses for creative advocacy. But as a journalist and media technologist, looking at the premise of Disobedient’s unchallengeably attractive and principled work set me thinking about the whole idea of generating emotional responses in a creative environment, for the purposes of creative advocacy in the public interest.

Politics, media, communications and advocacy for change have been transformed by the spread of media techniques led by emotional design – the capacity to create an emotional response to a packaged information-based argument. Shockingly, we’ve discovered that the technique works even better – and even more profitably – where the package is light on information and argument to start with.

Whether manifested as politically motivated disinformation, ‘fake news for-fun-and-profit’, or deep state subversive ‘information operations’ – the results are proving as catastrophic for the global information environment as human intervention and climate change has for our planetary space.

The “visceral level” is the first impression, a purely instinctive emotional response to information. Emotional designers set their ‘information delivery mechanisms’ to trigger a visceral emotional response – to leave users feeling something. But what kind of emotional response is the emotional designer seeking? Anger? Fear? Grief? Compassion? Empathy?

We need to ask which one, and furthermore, why that one in particular? How does the emotional design of the delivery mechanism secure the desired response at the behavioural level? A successful visceral behavioural response leaves you wanting to interact with the information. And a successful information delivery system should leave you wanting more of the same to act on again and again. Should we use these techniques more cautiously?

Major charities and media organisations have aggressively monetized the generation of visceral behavioural response. Now they must constantly ramp up their trigger mechanisms to sustain repeat business with ever more desperate images of starving African children and ever more improbable exposes of paedophile rings in DC pizza parlours.

What does this say about using cultural practice, such as the creation of symphonies from data sets, to trigger emotional behavioural response? Norman’s emotional design is especially relevant to information tech at behavioural level when it comes to “the UX”, the ‘user experience’ – what users physically need to do to successfully interact with information. And latency. How obstructive to this successful interaction is the information delivery system function’s intrinsic design? Should we ask what is good UX and acceptable latency in a symphony?

This kind of behavioural level context is key to effective emotional design. At a basic level, regardless of motive, in creating something that is more appealing, effective or well received. “At the simplest level, the design of a business card implies a behaviour,” says Norman. “To take it and file the information away for later.” What information can tonight’s audience “take away and file for later”? How will its UX perform? How will its latency stand up to critical review?

This is also a test of Norman’s third level – the “Reflective” – in his view, the “highest” level of the emotional-visual thought process in visual design. It’s the interpretation and understanding of creatively expressed information combined with feelings about it. At this stage of thought, a person determines and creates a lasting impression of something. Is it memorable? Does it leave a lasting impression? Will he or she reference it later?

Memorable, yes. Tonight’s performance in London includes live illustrated performances by leading sound artists Kate Carr and Lee Patterson, who use location recordings captured in the field in the composition of their work.

The performance includes an audio-visual exploration of Ólafsfjörður, a small fishing town in northern Iceland. The set explores the way weather patterns are enmeshed in the experience of home and place. It combines field recordings of iced fences, snow, ice melting, wind, boats and blizzards with recordings of traditional Icelandic sea songs performed by the town’s choir.

Referrable? We’ll see. The idea behind ‘Climate Symphony’ is to translate hard data on climate change into a musical composition that engages the public — encouraging people to question their feelings and the stories behind the data, and create a conversation. “In a world where we’re saturated with hearing the same messages,” say Borromeo and Round, “any way to engage people with a subject [as] important [as] climate change is worthwhile.”

Disobedient & Forma Arts: Climate Symphony Performance #2degreesfestival. 7.30pm, Saturday 17 June, at Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6AB. Supported by Arts Council England and Sculpt the Future Foundation. Book here.

Audience data strip miners are failing to deliver local advertising markets

Arthur Greenberg, EPA

Small ‘hyper-local’ news publishers and community journalists are no better placed than major corporate media when it comes to accessing hyper-local audience market data granular enough to make their news businesses sustainable. For that they have to go to Google & Facebook. The question is, how?

It’s a sad truth: Advertising technology designed to find people for advertisers to sell stuff to, is easier and cheaper to produce than content that attracts people who want to buy stuff from advertisers. Cheap ad tech thrives on cheap scale – trawling millions and millions of pages that cost almost nothing to produce and can be strip-mined of data and re-targeted with ever more high-volume, low-value adverts.

It’s why US ISPs persuaded Congress and US President Donald Trump to let them to sell their customers’ browsing data without their permission. By pumping out cheap content in massive quantities, the US ISPs can finally collect user data in bulk, and develop new ad tech to trawl it for what’s trending, not what’s good, in the way that market behemoths like Google and Facebook already do.

The worst offender, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong, headed Google ad sales before taking over AOL in 2009 to bulk buy audience targeting ad tech start-ups. “None of this was a secret when Verizon bought AOL — the Ad Age headline was straight-up ‘Ad-Tech, not Content, Is King in the Verizon-AOL Deal’,” wrote The Verge’s Nilay Patel and Ben Popper this month. “Can’t be any clearer than that.”

Patel & Popper argued that Trump’s action will free Verizon and other ISPs to take data generated by the tracking super-cookies they stick on its customers as they use their broadband network, and mash it up with AOL’s ad stack. This “hyper-targeted marketing information” will be effectively unstoppable, because Verizon will own both the pipes and much of the content flowing through it.

Cheap scale digital advertising like this is a blight on the internet. A new industry study estimates that $12.48 billion of ad spending in 2016 was fraudulently picked up by bots rather than real customers or was not properly loaded on a page where a human could view them. This made almost 20% of the $66 billion spent worldwide on digital ads last year fraudulent or misreported, and valueless.

Even so, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has reported that the third quarter of 2016 saw a total of $17.6 billion spent on digital ads, a 20% increase from the same period a year earlier. This was a reflection of growth in mobile and video and “marketers’ continuing trust in the internet’s power to connect with today’s audiences”.

There is less trust in ad-tech’s ability to facilitate that connection. Some 29% of automated ‘programmatic’ ads miss a target, as opposed to 12% of ads sold directly by humans, yet eMarketer predicts that by 2018, over 80% of digital display ads will be programmatic, up 37% from 2014. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of accurate metrics and viable regulation.

Advertisers need data on user preferences and behaviour. Even if the ad tech misreads the data,  Google and Facebook has more of it to interpret. Facebook tracks what its 1.5 billion users see and click on in ways that other corporations like Verizon can’t yet match, even if by buying up ad-tech start-ups and accumulating its own mega-stores of customer data, Verizon hopes that it can.

The best advertisers can hope for is better analysis, Dan Jaffe, of the Association of National Advertisers, told Axios: “Because digital and mobile are growing faster than any other industry, the regulatory and foundational steps that you see in more mature media — like good metrics reporting — didn’t necessarily happen immediately. Now we’re making major efforts to catch up.”

What happens if they fail? “I expect even more ad blocking and less trust of digital advertising, which ends up harming everyone that matters, including marketers, publishers, and importantly consumers,” Jason Kint, of Digital Content Next, a trade group seeking better online advertising, told The Verge. “They (Verizon/AOL) know what they’re doing. I just think it’s bad for the marketplace overall.”

Digital Content Next found that Google and Facebook are currently  impossibly unbeatable in the digital advertising market, scooping up 99% of $2.9 billion in new advertising growth in the third quarter of last year, with Google making up about 54% of the total and Facebook about 45%, leaving just 1% for everyone else.

If there’s to be a future for digital-first advertising, it lies in developing ad tech that delivers better quality ads – that is ads that are more directly reflective of the interests, locations and needs of their target audiences – and a regulatory and foundational environment that advertisers & audiences can trust.

For this, we may be in for a long wait. In the meantime, how do we respond? Cheap scale programmatic ads will be cheap and profitable enough to sustain short-term growth for businesses with no connection with their audiences, but it is precisely because of this that programmatic has proven unsuitable for small or locally-owned enterprises.

Local businesses cannot afford a 20 percent failure rate on their ads, so in the short term they are keeping local print media advertising viable for a while. “Hyperlocal” news organisations can still thrive in areas where high-speed Internet access is often limited, but the wider rollout of 4G mobile services will eventually drive these audiences to fetch their news from smartphones.

The Adirondack Daily Enterprise in up-state New York was founded in 1894 and counts a print circulation in the few thousands. It continues to draw advertisers, says publisher Catherine Moore, thanks to reporters with a “deep commitment, sense of purpose and engagement in the community in which they live”. Could that attitude reap audiences and advertising income on Facebook as well?

Google & Facebook will inevitably find better ways to trawl their huge customer data sets for actionable intelligence they can sell to local advertisers targeting local audiences. The reality is that cheap scale advertising is too blunt a tool for “hyper-local” news outlets, but like ISPs like Verizon, the hyper-locals lack the data sets and the ad-tech to target local audiences precisely enough to make digital advertising worthwhile.

That privilege currently remains exclusively with Facebook and Google. Tapping into that data and making innovative use of it is the challenge.

Fiction & non-fiction writers that self-publish on digital platforms like Amazon are already significant players in the e-Book market. Local bars, dog groomers, sports clubs and bakers thrive on the localised networks Facebook’s digital platform creates: Why shouldn’t self-publishing independent journalists or small media organisations use platforms to similar advantage?

Plug.Direct is a content optimisation app for journalists, specialist writers and ‘small media’ moving into professional platform publishing on search & social. It offers freelance journalists, expert writers, activists and community media entry-level access to the Social Network’s computing power, underwritten by a quality score – a test of provenance and professionalism to help distinguish (not define) good reporting. Its development is supported by the Google Digital News Initiative’s Innovation Fund.

Empower the critical voice of quality on social media

Solving social media’s crisis of confidence in its role as a global news player requires greater access and renumeration opportunities for independent journalists of proven experience.

Strategies of empowerment and a critical approach to imbalances in power relations should come naturally to the principled, socially aware journalist. The media institutions that employ them take a different view.  Empowerment keeps them on the upside of that power imbalance, at the very least it sustains their struggling business models a while longer.

Yet those who analyse, report and seek to remedy challenges to freedom of expression rights, the focus is on raising the standards of media institutions, not empowering media workers. And by setting those standards against legal or quasi-legal frameworks that are nominally or cosmetically easily met, the institutions can ignore the kind of imbalances of power that lead to wider human rights violations – even if their journalists do not. Cannot.

The answer to social media’s crisis of confidence in its role as a global news player could be in providing greater access and remuneration opportunities to more independent journalists and news producers of proven experience.

We need a shift of focus from mainstream media institutions to these kinds of journalists. We need to ask if personalised journalistic relationships with information networks are a more sustainable route to an effective response to imbalances of power.

This suggests convergence as a peaceful, but subversive accommodation with corporate telecom & social media networks.  Though governed by quasi-legal frameworks of their own, in far less transparent and consistent fashions, social media platforms nevertheless raise the prospect of easier access to audiences and potential income streams on mobile news. Mobile is already the dominant means of news exchange in many countries. Mainstream media may regard publishing on mobile social platforms with suspicion, but smaller publishers have little choice but to take the jump.

We need to look at tools that facilitate the ‘exploit’ – disruption from within – hacking the corporate user model, not its code, using tools and techniques that can disable or subvert the negative applications of corporate media network publishing protocols, and make the most of the user model’s positive functions.

One of those potential tools is Plug.Direct, now under development by the digital media R&D shop Vivarta, with the support of the Google Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund.  Plug.Direct aims to empower and sustain professional working journalists and media actors outside institutional frameworks, but inside corporate publishing platforms.

Platform publishing’s USP lies in its promise of bigger audiences and speedier delivery combined, presenting major opportunities and challenges for small media publishers. It should offer independent journalists and news producers access to expanding audiences increasingly reliant on mobile technology for up to date news.

At a time when the capacity and willingness of the social media giants to manage quality of information across their networks themselves is in doubt, independent journalists and news producers of experience and proven reliability need that access. Pages with rich content that work alongside smart ads that load nearly instantaneously – and faster than regular mobile responsive websites. A means to reduce the cost in time and money that mobile users must bear before downloading, digesting and sharing news.

A network is a vital working space for a journalist, media-savvy expert or specialist activist, acclimatising, mapping and collecting information across a network topology that he or she has made her own ‘beat’. It needs to be made both sustainable and accessible.

Discretion is the better part of valour in the war on extremist narratives

John Kerry at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism

There are no good options for journalists co-opted by political agencies into joining the ‘war’ on violent extremism and propaganda narratives online – only bad or ineffective ones. Why not just walk away?

It’s one of those opinions that as soon as heard, just sound true. That against their better judgement the media development sector feels pressure from their donors and the authorities to participate in government programmes for “countering violent extremism” (CVE) and propaganda.

The  Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), the sector’s de facto ‘trade body’, believes it is a threat. It fears its members may be pressed to contribute to CVE programmes, “much against their will and in contradiction to their own ethical standards”. And to help address the problem, it has organised a session at next week’s RightsCon in Brussels, to come up with a set of ‘Do-No-Harm Principles & Best Practices’ in response.

In fact a well-researched 2016 report by Courtney Radsch for the Center for International Media Development (CIMA) found little conclusive evidence of a significant trend in donor funding favouring CVE. There was increased sensitivity, notably in Lebanon and in the wake of major European terror attacks, but it was hard to track a wider impact. Increased funding for such programmes appeared to be coming from new sources and budget lines.

The media itself is facing a score of existential crises; the incredible growth of social media, its own declining credibility, ‘fake news’, political interference, worse and worse, and more. No surprise then that media development – international aid in support of free expression, media diversity and the independent media’s contribution to democratic discourse – should share in the collective soul-searching by the media as a whole.

The RightsCon session aims to set Do No-Harm Principles & Best Practices for the media development sector in addressing the ‘Preventing Violent Extremism/ Countering Violent Extremism/ Counter-Propaganda (PVE/CVE/CP)’ agenda. In truth the CVE agenda is losing political traction in the US and UK, and appears to be failing in Europe, where dozens of lives have been lost to terrorists driven by motivations far more complex than online chatter.

The idea that online propaganda is radicalising a generation of isolated, angry killers is a pervasive one. But as University of East Anglia researcher Kate Ferguson notes, there’s little evidence to prove a direct link between propagandised radical ideas and terrorist intent. Even the FBI is cautious about using evidence of interaction with radical ideas online as a clear predictor of terrorist acts, according to internal papers just published by the US Brennan Center for Justice.

Ferguson’s study, published last November, led her to question both the perceived problem and the proposed solutions. “The hypothesis,” she writes, “that VE (violent extremist) narratives or the real life threat of VE can be countered by an alternative set of communications remains unproven.” UK CVE literature and policy strongly focuses on the language of counter-narratives, she says, yet “a common understanding of this relatively new lexicon has yet to emerge”.

A greater fear is that CVE strategies are a cover used by the authorities for collecting actionable intelligence in the war on terror. The Brennan Center cites another internal FBI document that refers to CVE as a way to “strengthen our investigative, intelligence gathering, and collaborative abilities to be proactive in countering violent extremism”.

The authorities in the US – and the UK, where the government’s CVE strategy Prevent has been similarly accused – maintain that “investigations or intelligence collection” are “not the goal of CVE efforts,” as the Obama administration said in October 2016 (though it’s clear that Donald Trump has a different agenda.)

Whatever, most media rights and free expression advocates are suspicious of the whole argument. Academics Matti Pohjonen & Rima Ahmed call on people to put “critical distance” between themselves and both “utopian and/or dystopian conceptualisations of digital technology and conflict”. Writing in the journal Security & Peace they described a new ‘dispositif’ of risk; pre-emptive action targeting the imagined dangers of digital technology.

At this point it may appear to many that the simplest thing would be to just walk away from the CVE & counter propaganda agenda. But the GFMD still calls for “clear and proportionate principles” to guide the media development community when contributing to CVE programmes. Media development expert Joan Barata Mir outlined the key objectives in a paper circulated to GFMD members ahead of the session. It aims for a stable discourse between media institutions, donors, political institutions and authorities – one that protects digital rights and media freedoms.

The CVE & counter-propaganda agenda, Barata Mir correctly says, is generally seen from the perspective of counter-terrorism operations, or the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination. “(Its) impact on digital rights, activism, investigative journalism, as well as media development has not been properly considered yet on such (a) multi-stakeholder basis.” Barata Mir also rightly cites concerns about the role of digital intermediaries, the internet service providers, regulators and search & social corporate giants. They are under pressure to act more directly to cut off violent extremist content.

This raises concerns that wider free expression rights may be put at risk. He poses the question: “In what ways can the media development community, media freedom and freedom of expression activists, media regulators, and digital rights groups collaborate further in strengthening the ethical approach towards (CVE & counter propaganda)?”

This is a difficult one to answer for media rights defenders, many who will feel that the only truly ‘ethical’ approach to CVE & counter-propaganda is to have nothing at all to do with it. But this is ‘media development’, regarded here as a sub-set of international development assistance, not exclusively human rights or free expression rights and not specifically media rights either.

“The current consensus-based development system is dependent on reaching broad agreement among highly diverse political cultures,” James Deane of BBC Media Action has argued. “Such a system does not provide an effective platform from which to devise meaningful strategic action on an issue as politically charged, and apparently divisive, as integrating support for free media into development strategies.”

It is difficult to use theories of aid & development practice as a means to rationalise the competing demands of responsibility, consensus, representative democracy and freedom of speech, in considering journalism’s duty to all four. Barata Mir has a go anyway, co-opting academic Mary B Anderson’s “Do No Harm” concept. Her thinking recognises that international assistance in crisis situations, no matter how well-meaning, always have unevenly shared and unintended consequences, both good and bad. Thus the impact of aid is not neutral in its effect on whether conflict worsens or abates.

Under Anderson’s lights, supporting CVE & counter propaganda in a conflict setting “can reinforce, exacerbate, and prolong the conflict. It can also help to reduce tensions and strengthen people’s capacities to disengage from fighting and find peaceful options for solving problems.” Often it will do some of both. In some ways it worsens the conflict, and in others it supports disengagement. “But it all cases,” she argues, “aid given during conflict cannot remain separate from the conflict”.

So to borrow from Anderson, aid workers and media development NGOs alike should:

  • Try to identify local actors and local networks that can promote peace.
  • Design their aid programmes to support local peacemakers and reinforce positive networks.
  • Be aware that judgments identifying local peace actors may constitute dangerous and inappropriate social engineering.

None of this can be said to be bad advice, even if you cite critiques of “peace journalism,” developed by the Norwegian media theorist Johan Galtung, which raised some of the ethical and political conundrums borne by the debate around media development and CVE today. But none of it sits well with CVE & counter-propaganda strategies forged in complex political situations either. All are almost exclusively focused on immediate threat before context, and evidence of Islamist extremist activity.

Ferguson was struck by the way this overwhelming focus on current jihadi violence framed the CVE agenda across academic and non-academic research. Recent research into far-right extremism, or lessons from Northern Ireland, the former Yugoslavia, Great Lakes, and other identity-based crises are rarely cited. “Instead of asking what role new media plays in facilitating violent radicalisation,” write Pohjonen & Ahmed, “we need to examine the context in which it has been imagined as something in the first place and with what consequences.”

In the end the most beneficial outcome of the GFMD’s meeting will be if it encourages a broader and more rigorous approach to gathering evidence about the true nature of the problem it poses. And whether the media development sector is really best qualified to solve it.

Universal Do-No-Harm Principles and Best Practices for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism Counter-Propaganda – How Do We Get There? Organised by the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) for Thursday  30 March, 13:15-14:30, in the Arabesque Room, Ground Floor at RightsCon, The Crowne Plaza Hotel Le Palace, Brussels.