Flames, infosec shenanigans, Policy, work

On journalism, “fake news,” and the business of news media

I tweeted most of this last night. But as several people have requested, I’m re-posting this here for the purposes of readability, illumination, and annotation.

Journalism is (supposed to be) a search for the truth. It’s not (supposed to be) easy. Like science, sometimes the results are imperfect. Only through peer review, conversation, revisions and (occasionally) corrections does journalism more closely approach the truth.

This is why the drive to make news generation more efficient is so horrible for actual journalism. We’ve already repeatedly seen the problems created by what people call “the news cycle,” particularly on 24-hour cable news networks, but the problem has become more widespread as news media goes “digital.”

The problem with television journalism (especially cable) is that it is transactional, disposable and low fidelity, making quality even harder.  TV journalists are largely generalists thrown at stories with perceived mass appeal, and are expected to quick-read themselves into instant experts on topics they have little if any background in.  (For more on this, see the story I wrote on Sharyl Atkisson in November 2014). It is not a crucible for truth.

If nobody does a sanity/fact check on a story or forces the reporter to defend each sentence, and the focus is on volume, the results will inevitably be lower quality. Narratives will get forced. Facts will be bruised and bent. It’s even worse when there’s a war against truth being waged, and the sources of truth are being destroyed or obscured by bullshit. When you are time-limited and don’t have a review process on story selection and production, bad things can and will happen.

So that’s why it’s especially disheartening to see the New York Times cutting copy editors, and others trading quality for quantity & efficiency. The “digital” process adds more roles for reporters and “preditors” (producer/editors), and by focusing on producing more digital content at the expense of quality control and editorial dialogue, media companies are creating more opportunities for error–and more opportunities for the enemies of truth to exploit those errors to discredit journalism writ large.

The truth can hardly ever be found with efficiency at scale. I’m lucky because Ars is sort of artisanal about journalism. Even so, I know and acknowledge that I make mistakes, especially when thrown headlong into a breaking story. But I make a lot less of those mistakes when I have another editor checking my stuff.

Given how people are actively working to derail journalism and destroy truth, we need to acknowledge how hard a job this is. And we really need to take a step back and look at what “efficiency” and speed in news production actually costs us.

Unfortunately, we’re being driven by a business model that is anathema to deliberateness and reflection. But we need to realize that the more automated, efficient and digitally optimized “news” becomes, the more vulnerable it becomes to manipulation and attack. Journalism needs to take a deep look at its threat model, and harden itself against the forces aligned to bring it down.


Web Culture, work

Fun facts: My Wikipedia cites

When you write for Ars, it’s nice that people notice. And sometimes, they notice enough to cite you on Wikipedia.

Strangely, the first hit I get on Google when searching my Wikipedia cites is for my coverage of a bus company.

Suburban Express – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


In early 2013, according to Ars Technica, Suburban Express had developed a “bad reputation online” from reviewers who …. Gallagher, Sean (May 2, 2013).


This was confirmed by Sean Gallagher writing in Ars Technica and by others. However, no one else has confirmed the report that books never opened in ADE …


Jump up ^ Sean Gallagher (Mar 12, 2015). “CryptoLocker look-alike searches for and encrypts PC game files”. Ars Technica. Retrieved 14 March 2015. Jump up …


Sean Gallagher of Ars Technica commented that the key failure was the dependency on automated testing rigs, which “can’t show what the system’s …


Ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-02-18. Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (2013-02-15). “Facebook computers compromised by zero-day Java exploit”. Ars Technica.


“Point-of-sale malware infecting Target found hiding in plain sight”. Ars Technica. Retrieved November 8, 2014. Jump up ^ Sean Gallagher (September 18, …

Th3j35t3r – Cybersecurity Wiki

Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Aug 8, 2012 – Sean Gallagher, “Patriotic hacktivist” The Jester unmasked—or maybe it’s a big troll, Ars Technica, May 15, 2012. Retrieved from …

Tailored Access Operations – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (2013-11-12). “Quantum of pwnness: How NSA and GCHQ hacked OPEC and others”. Ars Technica. Retrieved 2014-01-18.

RSA Security – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean. (2014-01-21) “TrustyCon” security counter-convention planned for RSA refusniks. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 2014-05-11. Jump up …

Tor (anonymity network) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (18 April 2014). “Tor network’s ranks of relay servers cut because of Heartbleed bug”. Ars Technica. Retrieved 28 April 2014.
October 22, 2013. Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (March 27, 2015). “A $50 device is breaking North Korean government’s grip on media”. Ars Technica. Jump up …

Project Narwhal – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Slate.com. Retrieved 12 November 2012. Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (Nov 9, 2012). “Inside Team Romney’s whale of an IT meltdown”. Ars Technica.

Computer security – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

… Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (May 14, 2014). “Photos of an NSA “upgrade” factory show Cisco router getting implant”. Ars Technica. Retrieved August 3, 2014.

SourceForge – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

… Jump up ^ http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/05/sourceforge-grabs-gimp-for-windows-account-wraps-installer-in-bundle-pushing-adware/ …

Syrian Electronic Army – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (May 8, 2013). “Network Solutions seizes over 700 domains registered to Syrians”. Ars Technica. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
2010-04-06. Retrieved 2014-01-12. ^ Jump up to: Gallagher, Sean. “How IBM’s Deep Thunder delivers “hyper-local” forecasts 3-1/2 days out”. Ars Technica.

Random-access memory – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean. “Memory that never forgets: non-volatile DIMMs hit the market”. Ars Technica. Jump up ^ Bellis, Mary. “The Invention of the Intel …

Kim Dotcom – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ <http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/01/why-kim-dotcom-hasnt- … Kim Dotcom, 26 January 2012; Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (26 January 2012).

Ubuntu (operating system) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (20 November 2012). “How Team Obama’s tech efficiency left Romney IT in dust”. Ars Technica. Retrieved 4 December 2012.
Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (June 26, 2015). “Private investigator snooped on e-mail of Scientology critics [Updated]”. Ars Technica. Retrieved June 27, 2015.

Chubby Checker – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Archived from the original on 2008-02-09. Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (2013-02-14). “HP sued by Chubby Checker over webOS penis size app”. Ars Technica.

Megaupload – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (30 January 2012). “Feds: Megaupload user files may be deleted starting Thursday”. Arstechnica. Archived from the original on …

UltraSPARC T1 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Sean Gallagher (28 September 2011), “SPARC T4 looks to be good enough to stave off defections to x86, Linux”, arstechnica.com (Ars Technica) …

Microsoft Office 2013 – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Retrieved August 26, 2012. Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (July 16, 2012). “Office 2013: Microsoft’s bid to win the future”. Ars Technica. Retrieved June 7, 2013.

Seagate. Retrieved 3 November 2013. Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (27 October 2013). “Seagate introduces a new drive interface: Ethernet”. Arstechnica.com.

Naval aviation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump up ^ Gallagher, Sean (23 April 2014). “Top Gun, robot-style: Navy moves ahead on carrier-based drone program”. arstechnica. Retrieved 24 March 2015.

Gordon Lyon – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Website, http://insecure.org/fyodor/ … Org — The top 100 network security tools (ranked by thousands of Nmap … Jump up ^ Sean Gallagher (4 June 2015). “Black “mirror”: SourceForge has now seized Nmap audit tool project”. Ars Technica.

That’s what I’ve found so far. Feel free to quote me.