Saturday, July 21, 2018

Conspiracy Theories Dominate Media Coverage of Pakistan Elections 2018

Pakistani media coverage of the general elections scheduled for July 25, 2018 is dominated by discussion of conspiracy theories about the alleged involvement of Pakistan's "establishment" (euphemism for Pakistani military and intelligence agencies) to "rig" the vote to favor Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Some in the media also accuse the "Deep State" of "worst ever censorship".

In a recent airing of BBC Hardtalk, the host Stephen Sackur challenged Pakistan Dawn Media Group's CEO Hameed Haroon to show evidence of Pakistani "Deep State" interference in the upcoming elections. Haroon responded by saying there's strong perception of it and said "it's all over social media". Sackur then told Haroon about the widely held view that Dawn Media Group is openly taking sides by supporting PMLN for the last two years and its now "convicted" leader Nawaz Sharif.

BBC's Hardtalk:

Mr. Hameed Haroon, Chief Executive of Pakistan's Dawn Media Group, claimed in a recent BBC interview that the Pakistani military and intelligence services were "orchestrating" July 25, 2018 general elections in favor of a particular political party. Here's an except of the interview with BBC's Stephen Sackur as the host:

Sackur: You are defenders of journalistic integrity, independence and impartiality in Pakistan but you are not seen as entirely neutral and impartial because over the last couple of years you are increasingly giving platform to one particular political player Nawaz Sharif who's run into an awful lot of trouble due to allegations of corruption ....you, the self-proclaimed impartial, independent, neutral media group covering Pakistani politics are now seen to be supporting and sympathetic to Nawaz Sharif and his daughter who it has has to be said are convicted criminals...

Haroon: There's an element of orchestration by military of a campaign against us...

Sackur: Where is your evidence of orchestration?

Haroon: If you look at the social media attacks on Dawn by the ISPR trolls....not just going after us but anybody who stands in their way.

Media Censorship:

Some in the media accuse the "Deep State" of "worst ever censorship". They say that their coverage is being limited and their distribution disrupted.

This claim of "worst ever censorship" is undercut by almost all media outlets widely covering all political speeches by leaders and candidates of all political parties, including Pakistan Muslim League (N) favored by Pakistan's two biggest media giants Jang and Dawn groups. The fact that there is a lot of discussion of "deep state" trying to "fix elections" reinforces the relative media freedom to show all points of view.

Orchestration vs Influence:

Those alleging "orchestration" of elections by Pakistani "establishment" cite documented history of involvement of Pakistani military and intelligence services in previous elections on behalf of one party or another.

For example, they mention the mea culpa by General Ehtisham Zamir, head of ISI political cell during 2002 elections.

It should be noted that the former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto issued the executive order creating a political cell within the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) with the purpose of influencing political processes in Pakistan, according to Hien Kiessling, author of "Faith, Unity, Discipline: The Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan".

Bhutto's fateful decision in 1975 eventually brought about his own downfall when he used this cell to unnecessarily rig the 1977 elections and was overthrown and executed by General Zia-ul-Haq. It was also this cell that helped Nawaz Sharif , a protege of General Zia-ul-Haq, get elected as Prime Minister of Pakistan after the General's death in a mysterious air crash followed by a brief term in office by Benazir Bhutto. In 1990 the ISI received 140m rupees (US$2.2m at current values) to rig national elections, according to supreme court testimony by the then chief of army staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg.

While it is possible that the Pakistani military "establishment" is attempting to influence the outcome of the elections, there is scant evidence of "orchestration" as alleged by Hameed Haroon of Dawn Media Group and others. While the military is a key player and has the ability to tip the scales to some extent, it lacks the capacity to determine the outcome of the elections.

Orchestration, as alleged by Haroon and others, would challenge our credulity to believe all of the following:

1. Pakistan Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) colluded with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to hack and leak Panama Papers.

2. The "establishment" made sure that Nawaz Sharif's family's undeclared assets were part of the leak.

3. Pakistan Army chief and ISI ordered NAB to investigate Panama leaks and Nawaz Sharif family's assets.

4. Pakistan Army Chief and ISI chief called a meeting of the top Supreme Court judges to hear the case, remove Nawaz Sharif and transfer trial to a NAB court. 5. Pakistan Army Chief and ISI ordered NAB court to render a guilty verdict.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui:

Pakistani media have widely reported the remarks of  Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui regarding the attempts to influence his decisions in cases pending in his court relating to Nawaz Sharif's recent conviction.

The broad coverage of Justice Siddiqui's remarks in Pakistani media appears to negate the claims of media censorship made by Dawn's Haroon and others.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui is a right-wing judge who was a Jamaat e Islami candidate for elections in 2002. He represented Lal Masjid clerics after the Pakistani military cracked down on them  in Islamabad. He has become increasingly vocal against the military and his fellow judges since he was charged with misappropriating funds and hiring relatives to fill jobs at the Islamabad High Court. There’s a judicial reference pending against him.

Summary:

Media coverage of Pakistan's July 25, 2018 elections is dominated by conspiracy theories alleging "orchestration" of the election process by Pakistan's "Deep State". A recent episode of BBC's Hardtalk with Dawn Group's CEO showed that such allegations fail to withstand any serious scrutiny. The "orchestration" conspiracy theory challenges credulity by asking you to believe that everything starting with Panama Papers leak by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) was managed by Pakistani intelligence agencies to oust Pakistan's ex prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Wide reporting of open criticism of the military and the judiciary by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui shows that the "worst ever media censorship" charge is not credible.

Here's a short video clip of BBC's Stephen Sackur's Hardtalk interviewing  Hameed Haroon of Pakistan's Dawn Media Group:

https://youtu.be/JQbt2QlVbwI




Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

ISI Mea Cupla in 2002 Elections

Pakistan 2018 Elections Predictions

Free Speech: Myth vs Reality

Panama Leaks in Pakistan

Nawaz Sharif vs "Khalai Makhlooq"

"Genocide" Headline Skewed All East Pakistan Media Coverage in 1971

Strikingly Similar Narratives of Donald Trump and Nawaz Sharif

Ex CIA Official on Pakistan's ISI

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

13 comments:

An Editor said...

What kind of evidence are you looking for? Do you mean name people who were threatened, pressured, promised, cajoled or enticed? Journalists have a duty to protect the identity of their sources when an environment of retaliation is omnipresent!

From WSJ, 07/21/2018,

https://www.wsj.com/articles/pakistans-military-wields-more-influence-ahead-of-national-election-1532088001?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=2

Anwar M. said...

Breaking Views!!!

If any of these allegations by justice of Islamabad high court is true, Establishment is fully involved in manipulating fate of NS and then IK.

Go Figure....

https://youtu.be/yF9QlBjgfNI

Riaz Haq said...

Anwar: " If any of these allegations by justice of Islamabad high court is true, Establishment is fully involved in manipulating fate of NS and then IK. "


I have been following this judge for several years. Here's a post I wrote about Justice Siddiqui back in 2013:


https://www.riazhaq.com/2013/04/pak-media-cheers-as-vindictive-right.html


1. In 2011 PakTribune reported as follows: "One of the candidates for the (Rawalpindi Bar) president slot, Shaukat Siddiqui, when contacted said he had an engagement in Supreme Court; therefore, he could not come to Rawalpindi. He said every lawyer wanted to become the attorney of Malik Mumtaz; therefore, they gathered at the anti-terrorism court."




2. As an attorney in 2007, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui represented and helped bail out Maulana Abdul Aziz who was charged in multiple cases in connection with the Lal Masjid standoff.

3. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui's appointment as Islamabad High Court judge was agreed to by President Zardari only after Supreme Court Justice Khilji Arif threatened to hold the President in contempt.

4. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was awarded a ticket by MMA, a religious political parties alliance, and contested for a National Assembly seat from Rawalpindi NA-54 in 2002 elections. Siddiqui lost but still managed to get 12,676 votes while PPP's Zamarrud Khan won with 31,491 votes.

Clearly, Justice Shaukat Siddiqui is a right-wing judge who is ideologically pre-disposed to act against Musharraf even in a routine bail extension hearing. In fact, key decisions of Pakistan's higher judiciary led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry continue to show strong bias in favor of Pakistan's right-wing politicians and media.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Sir,

With due respect, I have followed the elections, read quite a bit and have concluded there is meddling via personal contacts. Nevertheless, you can disagree but do not resort to calling a conspiracy.

Shah, Saeed; Gillani, Waqar (20 July 2018). "Pakistan's Military Wields More Influence Ahead of National Election". Retrieved 21 July 2018 – via www.wsj.com.

Birmani, Tariq Saeed; Faheem, Kanwer; Ali, Mohammad (30 June 2018). "PML-N's troubles continue as 7 candidates in south Punjab return party tickets". dawn.com. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
"Shadow of 'engineering' hangs over Pakistan election". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 16 July 2018.

"In Pre-Election Pakistan, a Military Crackdown Is the Real Issue". nytimes.com. Retrieved 11 July 2018.

Shaukat said...

It is not about Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan but it is the Army. The Army is in charge no matter who gets elected and that is the message being sent by the "establishment". Yesterday it was Nawaz, tomorrow it will be Imran Khan - they are all civilian puppets that the un-elected Army will always control. Some methods will be insidious but not all and this "new coup" will be long lasting.

Sad because the average Pakistanis vote has little value.

Riaz Haq said...

Karan Thapar broke the cardinal rule of journalism and is too entitled to admit it
MANEESH CHHIBBER 23 July, 2018

https://theprint.in/opinion/karan-thapar-broke-the-cardinal-rule-of-journalism-and-is-too-entitled-to-admit-it/87167/

Now that he has done it, the only way for Thapar to redeem his lost prestige is by apologising to those he has wronged.

I don’t know Karan Thapar that well to understand why he did what he has done: break the cardinal rule that every young journalist is taught, which is to never disclose a source, whatever be the price.

If access, or the lack of access, could define a journalist, a majority of the journalists in India today would be out of their cushy jobs. Access, especially in these times, gets one only plants or the news that the government wants to be published.

Give me one instance of an anti-government story that a minister in the current government will give a journalist. Yes, the fact that the Narendra Modi government has constructed ‘x’ number of toilets is a story. But, the bigger story is how many of these toilets remain un-operational due to the absence of water or electricity. The second story is what every journalist should be looking for and that is where their sources could point them in the right direction.

Journalism, for Thapar, seems to be all about getting the interview. He revealed his source, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra, who Thapar says, told him things in confidence. Patra asked him if he “could keep a secret” and Thapar “gave him the necessary assurance”. Thapar also outed politician and former diplomat Pavan K. Varma, who had told him something (I presume) in confidence.

Pavan K. Varma has denied having had any conversation on the issue with Thapar.


Pavan K. Varma

@PavanK_Varma
Surprised to see Karan Thapar quoting me, and citing Prashant Kishor, in his book ‘The Devil’s Advocate’. Such a conversation with me did not take place as Karan recalls it, nor has Prashant ever spoken to me about Karan. The record must be set straight.

3:50 AM - Jul 21, 2018
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Thapar appears churlish. It is simply not done.

Now that he has done it, the only way for him to redeem his lost prestige is by apologising to those he has wronged. Even if they pardon him, fans like me, who have watched him grill his guests in his excellent Cambridge English, may not.

As a young reporter with Hindustan Times, I got embroiled in a contempt of court case when the Punjab and Haryana high court judges asked me (through my lawyer) on at least two occasions who my source was.

I refused point-blank, a decision that was backed unequivocally by my editor Kanwar Sandhu as well as the HT proprietor Shobhana Bhartia. I got away even though I refused to apologise unconditionally asserting that I had not done anything wrong. But for over two years, it proved to be a difficult period for me. It was made worse because my counsel told me to stay away from the high court – my beat – till the pendency of the case.

But, never once did the thought of giving away my source arise in my mind.

It is not the government’s job – be it a BJP-led government or a Congress-led government – to give scoops to journalists. We have to make our own rounds, cultivate sources, get information, cross-check the same and then, if there is a report worth writing, write it. Even after all this rigour, the editor may not see merit in the report and choose not to publish it.

When Thapar bemoans the loss of access (BJP ministers and spokespersons refusing to appear on his show) and also offers to apologise to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “if I [Thapar] had unwittingly done something to upset” him, he shows that he is, after all, just a wonderful interviewer.

Riaz Haq said...

#Feudal landlords may hold balance of power in nuclear #Pakistan. #Elections2018 #electables #PTI #PMLN #PPP #GDA https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-23/feudal-landlords-may-hold-balance-of-power-in-nuclear-pakistan via @bpolitics

Near the rural town of Badin in southern Pakistan, about a four-hour drive from the financial capital of Karachi, dozens of men wait through the night for a chance to meet with Zulfiqar Mirza.

The landowner’s family holds sway in a part of Sindh province the size of the U.S. state of Delaware, and villagers go to Mirza for everything from employment to education to settling disputes. One of them, 69-year-old Khalid Hussain, said this month he needed help after being abandoned by his children.

The Mirzas “help people out,” Hussain said while waiting at the family’s 700-acre estate. “I just want a job to feed my stomach.”

Local power brokers like the Mirzas may end up as kingmakers in the nuclear-armed nation after a July 25 election, with polls showing that no single party is likely to win a majority in Pakistan’s parliament. For national politicians, courting large rural landholders known as “electables” is a Catch 22: Their support is essential to win elections in Pakistan, but many also tend to oppose measures like modernizing the country’s labor and tax laws that would boost economic growth in the cash-strapped nation.

For a Quicktake on Pakistan, click here

Known as biradiri, the rural patronage system helps explain why Pakistan scores the lowest in Asia on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index after Afghanistan, North Korea and Cambodia. While urbanization and redistricting has steadily eroded the power of rural politicians, in many areas they still can provide favors, administer justice and even pressure villagers into voting for a certain candidate.

Feudalism is still “very strong” in the countryside, said Mustafa Kamal, the former mayor of Karachi, who heads the urban-focused Pak Sarzameen Party. “The common man does not have that much strength to stand up to the feudal lord -- he will just squeeze him like anything.”

That power structure has come under attack in the election campaign. Imran Khan, a former cricket star who has seen his popularity surge, has sought to rally younger, urban voters by denouncing feudalistic and dynastic parties that still dominate Pakistan’s political scene. Since the 1970s, the country has alternately been ruled by the military, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League led by Nawaz Sharif, a three-time prime minister serving a jail sentence for corruption.

Protests against landlords and their families have also taken place in cities. During a rally this month in Karachi, the convoy of Bilawal Bhutto Zardari -- head of the Pakistan Peoples Party and son of assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- was pelted with stones.

“People are tired of the old guard,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, a research associate at the SOAS South Asia Institute in London. Voters aged 18 to 35 comprise 44 percent of the electorate, she said, and many will likely vote for Khan.

Khan, whose anti-corruption campaign helped spur Sharif’s arrest, has pledged to widen Pakistan’s low tax base and strengthen government institutions. Yet even while railing against feudalism Khan has found it necessary to court key rural politicians, particularly in the breadbasket province of Punjab, which provides more than half the nation’s federal seats.

The Mirza family in Badin is running with the Grand Democratic Alliance, a minority party that hasn’t said who it will back for prime minister after the election. Hasnain Mirza, the 34-year-old son of Zulfiqar, acknowledged his family’s political lineage but also denied it was feudal.

Ahmad F. said...

I am glad someone has finally taken up the challenge of questioning why the western media is so very united against Imran Khan. But his answers are weak, insipid, and vapid.

He is not a political scientist but a professor of religion. Thus he has delivered us the standard cliches: the West is anti-Muslim and anti-Islam. Thus, its criticism of Imran and Pakistan is another display of Orientalism. It could have anything to do with what Imran has said for years and years about the Taliban and more recently about the US.

Recall that the same media was united behind Benazir Bhutto for years. And for years and years, they supported General Zia. Both were Muslim, Pakistan was the same country and it had nuclear weapons.

By the way, Imran is not doing himself a favor by talking about changing Pakistan into an Islamic Welfare State. First of all, that is sheer fantasy. Where does that exist today? Remove the word welfare and you get Islamic State. That does exist today. It will cause confusion in the West. Secondly, a Welfare State also is an unworkable concept. It will stir images of socialism. Recall that ZAB talked about Islamic Socialism. He was the ultimate populist. In many ways, I worry that Imran is cut from the same cloth. Use slogans to get elected, and then do what you really want to do.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: " Recall that the same media was united behind Benazir Bhutto for years. And for years and years, they supported General Zia. Both were Muslim, Pakistan was the same country and it had nuclear weapons."

Do you remember writing this piece?

https://www.mediamonitors.net/perspectives/is-the-us-media-biased-against-pakistan/

Also, here's the link to the Stanford study on media bias in covering Pak nuke program

https://web.stanford.edu/class/e297c/war_peace/media/hpropaganda.html

Studying media coverage of Pakistan’s nuclear achievement, it becomes clear that a certain amount of propaganda was used to make Pakistan appear threatening. The fact that Pakistan developed the technology was not what shaped the articles, but rather how this information was presented to the reader. In a sense, the propagandists were looking to turn Pakistan into an enemy of sorts, a country to be feared, instead of embraced.

One method used to by propagandists to create an enemy is through the technique of social proof. One way in which we process information is by observing what other people are doing that are similar to us or linking them to social norms. "When we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct" (Cialdini 106). Since it is almost impossible for the common American to be an expert in nuclear cause and effects, he looks to what others say as a means to form his opinion. This allows him to be persuade to an ideology not of his own. Furthermore, it is possible to rely on past stereotypes as form of linking one idea to another group.

For example, articles that took such an approach attempted to use a subset of social proof, where one casts the enemy by declaring it to be a friend of an already established enemy. For instance, in order to persuade the American public to think of Pakistan in such terms, media will link Pakistan to historically defined United States enemies such Libya, Iran, Iraq and the former Soviet Union. This tactic plays on the principle of social proof in which people look for justifications to quickly form their beliefs. Thus, linking to a country America already has shared beliefs about quickly allows one to associate and project the existing beliefs on the new group, which in this case is Pakistan.

An article in the Washington Post took such an approach by starting with a quote from the Iranian Foreign Minister, congratulating Pakistan. "From all over the world, Muslims are happy that Pakistan has this capability," the Minister was quoted at the start of the article (Moore and Khan A19). By beginning with this quote, the article ensured a link would be established between Iran and Pakistan, playing off the propaganda theory of similarity, in which we fundamentally like people who are similar to us and share our beliefs, values, and ideas. Therefore, an object deemed as bad or dissimilar will make all associated objects bad as well and allows the media to use social proof and similarity to create an enemy as friend of enemy. Arguably, the presentation of this quote may be deemed important factually for the development of the article, but the placement of the quote right at the start of the article strongly suggest propagandistic intentions.


Sikandar N. said...

Anyone who knows anything about media knows that these stories do not just happen by themselves. No difference with Pakistan media either. It is easier there because most media houses are owned my individuals. For years, there have been concerted efforts to target Pakistan from within and outside Pakistan. Targeting the military is one aspect of the attacks.Effort to starve economically gained steam with Trump coming to power. Husain Haqqani is one of the more visible driver of this campaign. However, there are many invisible Husain Haqqanis who are running the same campaign from all over. Besides the Indian Hindu extremists there are many groups who have never accepted Pakistan, and if they cannot destroy it, they are making every effort to weaken her. Pakistan's nuclear capability is still a big concern to many and several efforts have been made to weaken it or completely eliminate it. The latest barrage of attacks is against the elected leadership is simple because they know this leadership cannot be bought (Wikileaks).

As for the desi critiques: Haven't you wondered where were these angels when Zardari and Sharifs were robbing the country dry for the last 10 years?

Fortunately, with the will of the people, none of these attacks will ever be successful. Inshallah. Iran has faced similar attacks since the revolution and has sustained these attacks simply because the people of Iran are behind their leadership.

Riaz Haq said...

Here’s the Conversation We Really Need to Have About Bias at Google

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/technology/bias-google-trump.html

Let’s get this out of the way first: There is no basis for the charge that President Trump leveled against Google this week — that the search engine, for political reasons, favored anti-Trump news outlets in its results. None.

Mr. Trump also claimed that Google advertised President Barack Obama’s State of the Union addresses on its home page but did not highlight his own. That, too, was false, as screenshots show that Google did link to Mr. Trump’s address this year.

But that concludes the “defense of Google” portion of this column. Because whether he knew it or not, Mr. Trump’s false charges crashed into a longstanding set of worries about Google, its biases and its power. When you get beyond the president’s claims, you come upon a set of uncomfortable facts — uncomfortable for Google and for society, because they highlight how in thrall we are to this single company, and how few checks we have against the many unseen ways it is influencing global discourse.

In particular, a raft of research suggests there is another kind of bias to worry about at Google. The naked partisan bias that Mr. Trump alleges is unlikely to occur, but there is a potential problem for hidden, pervasive and often unintended bias — the sort that led Google to once return links to many pornographic pages for searches for “black girls,” that offered “angry” and “loud” as autocomplete suggestions for the phrase “why are black women so,” or that returned pictures of black people for searches of “gorilla.”


I culled these examples — which Google has apologized for and fixed, but variants of which keep popping up — from “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism,” a book by Safiya U. Noble, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication.

Dr. Noble argues that many people have the wrong idea about Google. We think of the search engine as a neutral oracle, as if the company somehow marshals computers and math to objectively sift truth from trash.

But Google is made by humans who have preferences, opinions and blind spots and who work within a corporate structure that has clear financial and political goals. What’s more, because Google’s systems are increasingly created by artificial intelligence tools that learn from real-world data, there’s a growing possibility that it will amplify the many biases found in society, even unbeknown to its creators.

Google says it is aware of the potential for certain kinds of bias in its search results, and that it has instituted efforts to prevent them. “What you have from us is an absolute commitment that we want to continually improve results and continually address these problems in an effective, scalable way,” said Pandu Nayak, who heads Google’s search ranking team. “We have not sat around ignoring these problems.”

For years, Dr. Noble and others who have researched hidden biases — as well as the many corporate critics of Google’s power, like the frequent antagonist Yelp — have tried to start a public discussion about how the search company influences speech and commerce online.

There’s a worry now that Mr. Trump’s incorrect charges could undermine such work. “I think Trump’s complaint undid a lot of good and sophisticated thought that was starting to work its way into public consciousness about these issues,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia who has studied Google and Facebook’s influence on society.

Dr. Noble suggested a more constructive conversation was the one “about one monopolistic platform controlling the information landscape.”


In the United States, about eight out of 10 web searches are conducted through Google; across Europe, South America and India, Google’s share is even higher. Google also owns other major communications platforms, among them YouTube and Gmail, and it makes the Android operating system and its app store.

Riaz Haq said...

Here’s the Conversation We Really Need to Have About Bias at Google

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/technology/bias-google-trump.html


Google’s influence on public discourse happens primarily through algorithms, chief among them the system that determines which results you see in its search engine. These algorithms are secret, which Google says is necessary because search is its golden goose (it does not want Microsoft’s Bing to know what makes Google so great) and because explaining the precise ways the algorithms work would leave them open to being manipulated.

But this initial secrecy creates a troubling opacity. Because search engines take into account the time, place and some personalized factors when you search, the results you get today will not necessarily match the results I get tomorrow. This makes it difficult for outsiders to investigate bias across Google’s results.


A lot of people made fun this week of the paucity of evidence that Mr. Trump put forward to support his claim. But researchers point out that if Google somehow went rogue and decided to throw an election to a favored candidate, it would only have to alter a small fraction of search results to do so. If the public did spot evidence of such an event, it would look thin and inconclusive, too.

“We really have to have a much more sophisticated sense of how to investigate and identify these claims,” said Frank Pasquale, a professor at the University of Maryland’s law school who has studied the role that algorithms play in society.

In a law review article published in 2010, Mr. Pasquale outlined a way for regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission to gain access to search data to monitor and investigate claims of bias. No one has taken up that idea. Facebook, which also shapes global discourse through secret algorithms, recently sketched out a plan to give academic researchers access to its data to investigate bias, among other issues.

Google has no similar program, but Dr. Nayak said the company often shares data with outside researchers. He also argued that Google’s results are less “personalized” than people think, suggesting that search biases, when they come up, will be easy to spot.

“All our work is out there in the open — anyone can evaluate it, including our critics,” he said.

Search biases mirror real-world ones
The kind of blanket, intentional bias Mr. Trump is claiming would necessarily involve many workers at Google. And Google is leaky; on hot-button issues — debates over diversity or whether to work with the military — politically minded employees have provided important information to the media. If there was even a rumor that Google’s search team was skewing search for political ends, we would likely see some evidence of such a conspiracy in the media.

That’s why, in the view of researchers who study the issue of algorithmic bias, the more pressing concern is not about Google’s deliberate bias against one or another major political party, but about the potential for bias against those who do not already hold power in society. These people — women, minorities and others who lack economic, social and political clout — fall into the blind spots of companies run by wealthy men in California.

It’s in these blind spots that we find the most problematic biases with Google, like in the way it once suggested a spelling correction for the search “English major who taught herself calculus” — the correct spelling, Google offered, was “English major who taught himself calculus.”


Riaz Haq said...

Jason Chaffetz: The Deep State is real – I've seen it up close and it's far worse than you can imagine

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/09/18/jason-chaffetz-deep-state-is-real-ive-seen-it-up-close-and-its-far-worse-than-can-imagine.html

With each successive batch of text messages released between then-FBI agent Peter Strzok and then-FBI lawyer Lisa Page, the evidence supporting a politically motivated Deep State within the federal government spills out into the open.

Based on my own experience, this particular set of text messages is the tip of the iceberg. While serving on the House Oversight Committee, I saw firsthand how those in control of our bureaucracy brazenly abuse their power – spying, manipulating and misleading – in an effort to perpetuate their stranglehold on the government.

--------------------

My first run-in with the Deep State happened weeks after the Benghazi terrorist attacks of September 11, 2012. In an encounter highlighted in my book, I went face-to-face with a lawyer sent to Libya by Hillary Clinton’s State Department to act as a spy and ensure I did not ever get to the truth of what happened on that tragic night.

When I refused to allow this State Department lawyer to participate in a briefing for which his security clearance was insufficient, he immediately called Clinton Chief of Staff and fixer Cheryl Mills to demand entrance to the meeting. His real purpose was to intimidate witnesses from being candid with a congressman.

I won that battle and got the information I sought. But the effort to speak to witnesses, review documents, and debunk the ridiculous and false narratives told by political appointees and perpetuated by their Deep State allies was an uphill battle.

Even with a select congressional committee empaneled to investigate, Congress was never able to pry from the Deep State many of the documents that would have confirmed or refuted the damning testimony of Benghazi’s heroes.

Spying is just one trick up the sleeves of politicized bureaucrats. Powerful senior staffers with authority to classify, resist disclosure, and subvert oversight have perfected other strategies to avoid transparency and accountability.

The Deep State manipulates congressional investigations by pretending to cooperate with document subpoenas. Those who are part of the Deep State bury congressional committees in piles of paper ostensibly responsive to the investigation, and then brag to the media about the number of pages they have turned over.

In reality, many of those pages will either be fully redacted, duplicates of other pages, or irrelevant to the investigation.

The media then dutifully report that the agency has turned over thousands of pages – yet the public gets no answers. Meanwhile, the documents that would actually tell the American people the truth never see the light of day.

Misleading the public about the nature of documents sought either by Congress or through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests is another art the Deep State has perfected. Agencies employ lawyers specifically to find reasons to withhold documents.

In one May 2014 hearing, a TSA sensitive security information director testified that upon being hired, attorneys and FOIA processors trained him to hide information.

The director testified that he was told: “If you come across embarrassing information or whatever, (the chief counsel) will just hide it and come up with an exemption; because if you cover it with a FOIA exemption it’s so hard for the other person to challenge it, and it will be costly and difficult for them to challenge it, and they’re probably never going to see it anyway, so you just get away with it. That’s the way it’s done.”

There are solutions, which I outline in my book. But before we can address solutions, we have to acknowledge the problem.

The Deep State is not just a conspiracy theory. No less than our very system of separation of powers and checks and balances is at stake.