Saturday, January 05, 2013

We aren't in Kansas anymore, Dorothy

There's selective prosecution and now there's selective restoration.

Jan Mann spread vitriol across political landscape in online posts
"In 40 caustic online comments that were recently restored on NOLA.com, former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann cast a wide net for her scorn..... 
When NOLA.com's commenting platform  was upgraded in the fall of 2012, comments made prior to the update were not viewable on individual profile pages, making it difficult to track all comments by a single person. A systemwide update performed last week corrected the glitch."
It's a glitch...see??  Just a glitch.  Don't worry, there's no thought put behind the comment deletion on this or other posts....(cough...choke...spit).

Except there's one problem....these aren't all of Eweman's comments.  How do I know this?  Because I have a screen shot of one that I grabbed on a story not referenced in this current article.  The comment had been up on this particular story for about three weeks and was relatively benign in regards to the ones mentioned in this "Vitriol!!!" article.  I also remember other comments made by Eweman on a specific story that is of great interest to this blog that have not been "restored" in this glitch fix...at least not according to the ones listed in the Eweman account or in the story itself.  

Maybe we're not completely unglitched?  The article implies that all of Eweman's comments (40) have been restored...they haven't.  They may have been selectively deleted before the glitch occurred but I know, at least, one comment isn't restored.

I said this back in March when this commenting scandal first broke...I smell a rat.  I am now choking on that stench.  I'm not even suggesting that the stench is coming from the TP newsroom, especially considering the disdain the TP staff had for their online presence before the reboot but I am suggesting there is something rotten in the brave Newhouse world.

I am also choking on the headline of this recent story but that's a subjective matter.

On a legal note, I'm curious at what point does a media entity become complicit in obstructing justice of a federal investigation in this commenting scandal?  IF...emphasis IF.....the entity supplied identifying information of these commenters to Heebe's defense team would this constitute an obstruction of justice by Newhouse in this federal case?  I believe it would certainly have breached their privacy agreement for commenters and the civil cases could be legion.

On an ethical note, if the entity was selectively editing comments to influence the perception of a story (not just this one), are they not just as complicit as the anonymous prosecutors and anonymous astroturffers in possibly affecting the outcome of a case?  At least in the court of public opinion?

Is the great Oz really oblivious to the concerns of the myriad creatures or is there someone behind the curtain deciding which buttons to push and levers to pull?  And if so....where is that curtain?

If the scarecrow has a brain, zombies should feast.


Forgive the Wizard of Oz metaphor but I'm anxious to go see The Great and Powerful Oz.  No, that's not a plug...I just love Baum and the original book.  James Franco and Mila Kunis rock too...especially Kunis:



I digress...

As readers of AZ, I want all of you reading this to understand something about anonymity, commenting online, stat information and how it works on the IT side.  This may be elementary information for many but I think it's important to understand.

No matter where you log into the internet, the connection you are using has a specific IP address (essentially a physical location, digital fingerprint).  Even a wireless connection at a coffee shop has an IP.  The wireless router in the shop assigns a range of localized random addresses that are used and reused by the users accessing their wifi.  If you logged into Nola.com to comment from the coffee shop the only thing the Nola stat program would record is the basic IP for the location, not the individual addresses supplied by the shop's wireless router.  So the internet would see everyone surfing the web in the shop as the same IP address.

  But....almost every business now has security cameras recording 24/7.  It may be difficult but you could be identified by cross referencing date/time/URLpath/IP Address with anything from a security camera to a credit card purchase at the coffee shop.



In the cases of Mencken and Eweman, it wouldn't even take that because some of the comments were made from within the federal building where they worked....the IP address would have been glaringly apparent.  But let's say, for example, someone walked down to a hotel and commented on a terminal in the lobby or off the hotel's wifi.  It would still be very possible to identify that commenter.  Especially if the entities doing the identifying had access to the IP and stat information.

I want you all to understand how incredibly valuable that statistical IP information is to a public forum entity like Nola.com.  It provides tremendous power.

I know this because I watch my own stats for AZ like a hawk.  Not because I'm interested in manipulating commenters or visitors information against them, I do it mainly because I'm hyper-paranoid about a troll purposely posting something that would land me in a libel suit.  Having said that, the information I glean from those stats is ginormous.  That information never leaves my head because I'm a one man band but in many ways the stats are a crystal ball for the subject matter being discussed on the blog.

Nola.com has created the largest online forum of public discussion for the New Orleans community.

If there is one thing I want you to understand it's this....They are no longer simply a journalistic entity like a newspaper.  They are now a community forum that, according to their own commenting agreement, offers public discourse with the protected privilege of anonymity.  I would implore you, dear reader, to ponder the implications of the interplay of the two....journalistic entity vis-a-vis largest public forum in the city.


If there is anyone....marketer, advertiser, reporter, editor, publisher, attorney....that is data mining the statistical database for the Nola.com forum, they have the capability to physically identify any commenter participating under the assumption of anonymity.  That Nola.com forum database is very much a crystal ball for the entire city.

This begs the question, who is gazing into this crystal ball's sibylline power?  Glinda or Almira Gulch?  

           


 

10 comments:

bruthas_back said...

Happy New year AZ. Let the countdown to Jan. 31 begin. It would be ironic as hell if the t-p, who in my opinion had as big of a hard-on as anyone to see Nagin put under the jail, could play a roll in him not being charged.
I've flip-flopped more on Nagin getting indicted than Romney in a Presidential campaign. I would love to hear from a legal expert(who doesn't have a dog in this fight) explain how these online comments could affect prosecution's going forward.

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

Nagin will be indicted...count on it.

bruthas_back said...

One of us can't see the forest from the trees.I'm Not quite sure which one of us it is.
Speaking of selectively restoring old comments, it would be interesting to be able to see all of the comments made about Nagin by perricone. Plus there was an article on nola about a week ago talking about the feds investigating something like ten more user accounts. How many people could be involved in this.

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

There are more people involved for sure. I think this is about to get bigger in orders of magnitude.

Anonymous said...

Hello, everyone! :) There's a technical problem with old comments posted as replies. The old system gave every comment a reply link, so replies could be nested at any number of levels, and the new system cuts off replies to replies after only two levels of nesting.

I first thought all the old comments posted below those levels were lost in the transition, but apparently there is a way to access them: click on a timestamp, and you get a new page with the comment whose timestamp you clicked on, plus replies to it. Here are examples:

Main page: http://www.nola.com/opinions/index.ssf/2012/03/ex-aide_about_to_turn_the_tabl.html
Click on timestamp for my comment beginning "So in your recollection"
Click on timestamp for HARVEYDANNY's comment beginning "Now you know the retirement"

See the problem? The comments total on the main page says 44, but they don't all appear without extra clicking, and of course that's just guesswork because you can't tell which comments have replies just by looking. That's very bad indeed, from an archiving perspective, but of course it's preferable to actual loss of data. Really makes it hard for investigators, and if it didn't look so very inadvertent I'd think that was the point. :)

Do you think that might be the problem with your missing eweman comment? If you post the screenshot (if that's possible) I'd like to look, because I'd also like to know whether old comments have been edited in some way other than the replies issue. Thanks much, AZ. --muspench

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

Thanks Muspench. That's not the issue...there are comments missing that aren't replies.

I'm not going to post the screenshot for a couple of reasons but mainly because this particular comment has no significance to the subjects at hand. It referenced AZ and that is why I took the screenshot.

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

As I stated in the post, this particular comment could have been deleted by Nola.com staff before the computer glitch, it wouldn't surprise me if that is the case. I do know that there were others though, I just don't have screenshots of them.

Jules B. said...

you write "If there is anyone....marketer, advertiser, reporter, editor, publisher, attorney....that is data mining the statistical database for the Nola.com forum..."

leaving aside the other stuff, visitors' IP data is absolutely recorded & used for (at the very least) ad targeting purposes. They have scripts running on a dedicated subserver... geoip.nola.com ... expressly for that purpose

Anonymous said...

Another Asst US attorney will be added to the fray, shortly, for commenting on cases of his own, then lying to a federal judge about it, Hold on to your seats.

Dambala - Jason B. Berry said...

"leaving aside the other stuff, visitors' IP data is absolutely recorded & used for (at the very least) ad targeting purposes."

Yeah I know that and I apologize because I didn't craft that sentence with the exact intent that I meant to. I know that the IP data is used for marketing purposes and that is absolutely part of the commenter agreement. What I was implying is that if a "marketer, advertiser, reporter, editor, publisher, attorney" with access to that data is using it for purposes other than the specified "non-identifiable" marketing purposes in the agreement, then we have a problem If the IP data is being used to identify anonymous commenters true identity as opposed to the "non identifiable" marketing purposes listed in the agreement, that information could be used strategically for ulterior purposes.