Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More Double Standards at YouTube?

As YouTube is gearing up with CNN to host a Republican presidential debate on Wednesday, the video-sharing service is finding itself embroiled in another censorship controversy with an Egyptian blogger named Wael Abbas:

The video-sharing Web site YouTube has suspended the account of a prominent Egyptian anti-torture activist who posted videos of what he said was brutal behaviour by some Egyptian policemen, the activist said.

Wael Abbas said close to 100 images he had sent to YouTube were no longer accessible, including clips depicting purported police brutality, voting irregularities and anti-government demonstrations. YouTube, owned by search engine giant Google Inc, did not respond to a written request for comment. A message on Abbas's YouTube user page,, read: "This account is suspended."

"They closed it (the account) and they sent me an e-mail saying that it will be suspended because there were lots of complaints about the content, especially the content of torture," Abbas told Reuters in a telephone interview. Abbas, who won an international journalism award for his work this year, said that of the images he had posted to YouTube, 12 or 13 depicted violence in Egyptian police stations.

Abbas was a key player last year in distributing a clip of an Egyptian bus driver, his hands bound, being sodomised with a stick by a police officer -- imagery that sparked an uproar in a country where rights groups say torture is commonplace.

That tape prompted an investigation that led to a rare conviction of two policemen, who were sentenced to three years in prison for torture.

Abbas's videos and pictures are admittedly very graphic depictions of disturbing violence. My guess is they also feature nudity as well, both of which are violations of YouTube's terms of use. For that reason, YouTube's removal of the clips isn't necessarily wrong (although I personally would make exceptions to such policies if the content in question is news reports). What is wrong is the site's apparent double-standard when it comes to offensive content.

As Stephen Hayes points out, YouTube hasn't touched videos featuring full nudity when the topic in question is the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Why the disparity when it comes to "inappropriate" content? I think it's mainly a matter of who's complaining about it. In my experience with YouTube, I've noticed a few things:

  • There are fewer conservatives and libertarians who have registered YouTube accounts.
  • There are more videos on YouTube than its staff can possibly monitor.
  • Liberals are far more likely to misuse YouTube's "rate" and "flag" tools to downgrade videos they personally dislike such as the famous anti-Democrat ad which angry liberals managed to get classified as "inappropriate," despite the fact that it is completely nonviolent and nonsexual.
  • People who feel very passionately about their religion also seem to downgrade videos which attack their faiths. We've previously reported how this happens among Muslims.

Throw in a little ideological uniformity among YouTube employees and you get the mess we currently have.

Some suggestions to fix this situation:

  • More conservatives and libertarians need to get signed up for YouTube. It is part of MSM 2.0 and unlike MSM 1.0, anyone can help decide what gets put there.
  • YouTube should give "moderation points" to users to allow them only a certain number of votes.After that margin has been reached, they should not be allowed to vote on videos until the next week.
  • Users who consistently vote one-star or five stars should receive fewer points.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Avoiding Annoying Website Registration

As the internet ages, more and more companies are trying to work harder at turning a profit from their online operations. This in turn has led to an increase in web sites that force you to register before reading their content.

I don't believe in that type of restriction and consider it an annoyance. Fortunately, there are a few nice tools available if you happen to agree with me. My favorite two are Firefox extensions:
  • BugMeNot: This extension taps into the extremely useful password aggregator web site, allowing you to simply right-click in a site's login box and automatically get user login information. It works with most non-discussion sites.
  • Web Developer: A very handy Firefox add-on with a host of useful features, including the ability to shut off "referrers," the information that your browser sends to web servers about how you found their pages. This ability allows you to freely surf sites like the Washington Post without ever even seeing the login box.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hillary Front Group Media Matters Issues "Don'ts" for Blitzer

The Clinton machine has spoken. Wolf Blitzer in moderating tonight's Democrat debate must follow the Media Matters approved script

Greg Pollowitz at NRO Media has the full list. Here's just a few. The arrogance of these folks still continues to surprise. The funny thing is now that the groups strong ties to Hillary Clinton have become common knowledge, the list leads off with requirements related to her rival Barack Obama:

  • Don't contradict your own reporting and suggest that Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) "cash[ed] in" on a stock deal in which he lost $13,000.
  • Don't say that Obama's position on Pakistan is "very much in line with what" President Bush says regarding Pakistan.
  • Don't contradict your own reporting — again — and say that Obama, in following legal requirements to count purchasers of his campaign merchandise as campaign contributors, is "apparently using some creative math" and "overselling his grassroots support."
  • Don't misleadingly crop quotes when challenging a candidate's consistency on a particular issue, as NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert did on the November 11 broadcast of Meet the Press, when he suggested that Obama has "not been a leader against the [Iraq] war."
  • Don't tell Obama that "[i]t's difficult to say that you're against the war and at the same time not say that you're against the troops."
  • Don't suggest that former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) work "for financial markets" might "contradict his anti-poverty message."
  • Don't adopt GOP framing and ask Edwards about his "flip-flop" on Iraq "to win the vote."
Be sure and join me tonight for the live NewsBusters chat of the debate. Note: you must be registered and logged in to do so.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nothing Is Ever Enough for Fringe Environmentalists

Reading this HuffPo entry from "Inconvenient Truth" producer Laurie David and environmental activist Gene Karpinski, it's hard to not come up with the impression that these two are a bunch of whiners.

Both are outraged (!) that NBC host and former Democratic strategist Tim Russert is not as obsessed with global warming as they are.

What's even funnier (unintentionally of course) is that David and Karpinski frame their outrage around the recent NBC Universal PR campaign "Green Is Universal," which was nothing more than a corporate-driven shillfest designed to drum up interest in parent company General Electric's non-fossil fuel offerings. (So much for the left-wing lie about corporate "conservatism.")

Tim Russert's real sin was that he didn't parrot the company line like a good liberal media hack. The arrogance is stunning. A billion-dollar media empire devotes an entire week to promoting their pet issue and yet it's still not enough for David and Karpinski:

This past week, NBC completed its Green Is Universal campaign -- a week-long effort to educate and engage the public by infusing its programming with environmental themes. The effort resulted in everything from Matt Lauer reporting from the Arctic circle to Al Gore making a cameo appearance on 30 Rock parodying himself. Throughout the week, global warming was front and center. And then there was Tim Russert.

As the network's Washington Bureau Chief, Mr. Russert was surely alerted to the broadly publicized campaign. The emerald green tie he donned in Sunday's Meet the Press interview with Senator Barack Obama would seem to confirm that. But if you watched the interview, you probably noticed that Tim Russert didn't actually get the memo. Instead, Russert continued his long-running pattern of ignoring an issue that the American voters, the international community and the world's scientists have all identified as one of our most pressing challenges. Not to mention one of the most consequential. [...]

So here we are at the tail-end of an unprecedented year-long primary campaign and the media has largely failed to ask difficult and direct questions about one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced.
In light of this failure, several groups have partnered with Grist to host a presidential forum -- Global Warming & America's Energy Future -- this Saturday in Los Angeles. This will be the first event exclusively devoted to questioning the candidates on their policies and vision for tackling our growing energy problems. But with dozens more candidate forums, debates and interviews, the real question is this:

As interesting as it is to ponder whether we are alone in the universe, when on Earth will Mr. Russert cover global warming as a political issue?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Political Video Buzz

A new feature here at Virtual Scratchpad, a look at how well non-candidate political shows on YouTube are doing, measured best by the number of people who are subscribing per day to a given program.

The data here was gathered on Nov. 11, 2007.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

U.N. Scientist Rejects Nobel Prize Share, Denounces Climate Alarmism

Has the global warming alarmism movement hit its apex? Maybe so.

In recent weeks, we've seen a resurgence of hard scientists who have come out strongly against the warm-mongers, the latest of which is Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change member John R. Christy. In an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, Christy tells the world that not only does he believe it's unproven that humans cause global warming, he's refusing his "share" of the Nobel Peace Prize that he was awarded because it was based on a misunderstanding of science.

An excerpt from this must-read op-ed:

I've had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don't think I will add "0.0001 Nobel Laureate" to my resume.

The other half of the prize was awarded to former Vice President Al Gore, whose carbon footprint would stomp my neighborhood flat. But that's another story. Large icebergs in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Winter sea ice around the continent set a record maximum last month.

Both halves of the award honor promoting the message that Earth's temperature is rising due to human-based emissions of greenhouse gases. The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.

I'm sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never "proof") and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don't find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming -- around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)

It is my turn to cringe when I hear overstated-confidence from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next 100 years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system's behavior over the next five days.

Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, "Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with 'At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .'"

I haven't seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.

Others of us scratch our heads and try to understand the real causes behind what we see. We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we've seen the climate do has happened before. Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic ice cap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America.

One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.

Read the whole thing.