Tag: technology

Hear the stories of women in STEMM

Hear the stories of women in STEMM

Women in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) have made their way into a difficult field and are now looking to help others do the same.

I made an audio story for Dscribe: http://www.dscribe.net.au/2018/09/30/hear-the-stories-of-women-in-stemm/

From left to right: Amy Searle, Madhu Bhaskaran, Marnie Graco and Prajakta Bhagwat. Photo: Claire Sanderson


Online Hate: New Web Tool May Bring an End to Speech Free of Consequences

Reading a hate group’s website is a fascinating endeavour. Seeing how widespread the hatred of Neo-Nazi youth group the Antipodean Resistance is can make someone both alarmed and amused. Their recruitment standards mirror this, from banning “mixed abominations” from their group to, in capital letters not used for racial bans, having a “NO FAGGOTS” policy, perhaps implying that gay people have tried to join the group.

Alt-Right Website the Dingoes is similar in its hatred of certain minorities, though this is hidden behind a less abrasive self-description of “politically-incorrect larrikins”. The group’s articles paint Sudanese women as “negress” women who “routinely abuse our misplaced hospitality in this country” and homosexuality as a “selfish, dangerous and anti-social abberation [sic]”.

The Internet age has allowed hate groups from Australia and abroad to say what they want, but the Online Hate Prevention Institute aims to change that.

The Australian charity, formed in 2012 with the objective of making online hate as socially unacceptable as it is in real life, has set its sights on the same-sex marriage postal vote. It has teamed up with students from Monash University and La Trobe University to develop an online tool for archiving and reporting online hate speech.

The in-progress tool, called CSI-CHAT or Crowd-Sourced Intelligence Cyber Hate and Threats, will allow universities, companies and individuals to report hateful content by submitting a web address and answering a few questions about why the content is hateful or spreading misinformation.  The link is automatically archived and can be categorised into different types of discrimination such as antisemitism and homophobia. It can also be compared to other examples of online hate through pie charts. There are plans to allow the content to be reported to social media so that they may be deleted.



CSI-CHAT Front Page.

Lawrence Macdonald, a tall student at Monash University with a big smile, is the Project Manager of CSI-CHAT. I interviewed him at La Trobe University after a meeting for those involved in the project, including a public relations student tasked with promoting this online tool. Macdonald acknowledged the impact technology has had on hate groups.



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Lawrence Macdonald in the Agency room at La Trobe University. Photo: Claire Sanderson


“What [the internet] creates is an easy forum [for hate group members] to group together behind an anonymous kind of wall… Go back 50 years or whatever, if people want to get together for whatever, they need to meet up in person, they need to reveal their true identities. I think, for a lot of these people, there’s a lot of shame involved. Being able to go on a website and be basically anonymous as far as a lot of people can tell is quite a powerful tool to be able to go on there and say anything that you want without filtration.”

This is evident in the Antipodean Resistance’s policy of anonymity. In photographs, they stand straight and proud but cover their faces with an image of a skull. When asked for an interview they stated they do not give interviews in person but were happy to do so via email. They, however, claim to be risk-takers.

“We do not want the types of people who are too afraid to stand up for what they believe in,” they said in an email. “We only want people who are willing to stand for the truth despite the potential risks they face.”

Groups such as these are so tough to reach than when I asked for advice on Reddit on contacting white supremacist groups, I was told by user dc_sandshrew, “I would really recommend not dabbling in this stuff if you’re not already versed in it.”

Macdonald then made a point that relates not only to right-wing hate groups but also to hateful activity on the left.

“Technology also has a way of creating echo chambers where you can find a space that someone has created where it’s your views… and then there’s always going to be someone in there who feels more strongly. That resonates with everyone else. People get more strong opinions and it grows… When people validate your views, that’s when you can start thinking, ‘okay, now that that’s fine and good, what I thought before, now what else can I think about?’.”

He is not the only person to criticise the prevalence of echo chambers on the internet.  According to a VICE Article on the attempted suicide of Paige Paz, the echo chamber on the social media website Tumblr caused some users to send hate messages and death threats to a young artist because she drew characters from popular cartoon Steven Universe too thin or not racially accurate enough.

This can be seen in Australian politics as well. Threats and other hate messages have been sent to people on both sides of the Australian marriage debate, such as a 14-year-old girl who spoke in favour of same-sex marriage and the women who starred in an advertisement for the no campaign. The CSI-Chat will allow people to submit hate not only from the no campaign but also from the yes campaign.

The developers of the tool and the Online Hate Prevention Institute have not yet received permission from the police to include a button that would report hate to the police. The CEO of the institute, Andre Oboler, has dismissed any potential concerns about free speech being in danger due to CSI-CHAT.

“The only reason there is any freedom of speech is in order to facilitate people’s ability to participate in the democratic process. Therefore, if one was making a demand for freedom of speech which actually undermined people’s ability to participate in democracy, that doesn’t work.”

Oboler brought up how allowing minorities to be targeted inhibits their ability to contribute to political discussion. “Your right to speak does not trump their right to be able to participate.”

He did, however, acknowledge that hate speech laws do not necessarily stop hate groups from forming or continuing. “In terms of the people that are in these groups and the groups themselves, I don’t think it matters what the laws say. We’ve seen that they’re willing to break the law.”

He made reference to the United Patriots Front, a far-right political movement who has some members who have been in trouble with the law before the group was formed. Three members of the group were tried and fined in September this year for inciting serious contempt of Muslims after posting a video of a mock beheading in 2015 to encourage people to protest the building of a mosque in Bendigo.

Oboler told the story of how he saw an online post by a supporter of the United Patriots Front, who was happy that the court case ended the way it did as it, according to Oboler, “gave them something to fight against”.

The reason for Hate Speech laws, as Oboler sees it, is to send a message to regular Australians that hateful behaviour is unacceptable.


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Andre Oboler in his office at La Trobe University. Photo: Claire Sanderson


Oboler is a professor at La Trobe has been involved in multiple groups and movements such as the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Lancaster District Diversity Festival. His original main focus was antisemitism but he has spread his work to include other forms of hatred and discrimination.

After the interview, he led me to the university’s carpark, a sprawling monstrosity that was easy to get lost in. There were so many ways to go and every direction took many steps, much like the issue of hate groups and how to deal with them.

Only three youth attend City of Melbourne-RMIT youth employability workshops

Only three youth attend City of Melbourne-RMIT youth employability workshops

To combat youth unemployment, the City of Melbourne teamed up with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) to run youth employability workshops from the 15th to the 19th of May, but only three people attended these seminars.

The free workshops, which took place at the Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton, were advertised on event website Eventbrite with little advertising elsewhere.

The host of these workshops, RMIT’s Course and Careers Adviser Joanne Clarke, expressed her disappointment at the lack of attendance.

“We need to kind of have a look at our marketing strategy around that. There was some problems with Eventbrite around booking and that could have been an issue.”

However, she claimed that the seminar was a success for those who showed up. “Whilst we were disappointed with numbers I think for those who were there they probably found it useful.”

The seminars used both Clarke’s teaching and videos from YouTube, a sign of technology’s growing role in not only the evolving job market but also how job seeking skills are taught. The topics of each workshop ranged from writing job applications to using websites such as LinkedIn to create a public resume and search for jobs.

“Today’s seminar introduced me to a new app,” said Vicky Yang, a young jobseeker who attended the workshops. “I can view my network, I can know my industry, relate to people and maybe in the future I can have the potential to get a job.”

However, even with the growth of the internet and smart technology, youth unemployment in Australia remains more than twice the rate of the general population, according to market forecaster Trading Economics.

“We can just go to the website and see if there’s an opening and apply directly… technology has made job searching easier,” Juliet Ngbeken, an attendee at all five of the workshops, said. “But… technology is being used to replace normal minor jobs.”

This shrinking of the job market was echoed by Clarke. “A lot of jobs that particularly early school leavers or secondary school leavers used to fill in the labour market either no longer exist or are now being taken up by other parts of the labour market like students, and also just generally I think the employers are asking for higher and higher qualifications.”

With such low attendance, the general situation for young people seeking jobs is unlikely to change because of these workshops.

A similar series of workshops for international students took place at the same library the previous year, which Clarke described as “very successful.”

Video version:

Radio version:


Has mental health among veterans improved from Vietnam to now?

ANZAC Day has ended but many veterans around Australia and the world still suffer from mental illness. Student Reporter Claire Sanderson has searched for an answer to the question ‘How has veteran mental health changed from the Vietnam War to today’s current conflicts?’

This is an assignment for my journalism course at university.

How much should journalists care about the impact of their news?

How much should journalists care about the impact of their news?

[Logos from WSJ and Youtube]

You may have heard about the YouTube monetisation fiasco. If not, here are some examples of YouTubers talking about it.

In short, certain YouTube videos have been demonetised or blacklisted because advertisers are boycotting YouTube. Why are these advertisers doing this? Because of an article in the Wall Street Journal about an ad appearing on a video with hate speech in it.

Now, because of the paywall, I’ve been unable to read the full article, but that’s not really what I want to talk about. I want to use this issue as a stepping stone to discuss whether a news organisation should consider the impact of their article before posting it.

On the one hand, of course the news is supposed to impact the real world. Many politicians have had their careers ruined by scandals reported by newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal. The whole point of journalism is for reporters to keep important figures from continuing to screw people over. So is it fair to hate the Wall Street Journal because they posted something they thought was newsworthy and could have a negative effect on businesses?

This is not a simple question, as there isn’t a detailed code of ethics that every single journalist has agreed on. Some organisations, for instance, ban their journalists from using anonymous sources and even refuse to hide the identities of social media users, though others defend the use of these sources because it can not only give journalists more information but can also protect whistleblowers and victims of abuse. It’s easy to agree that victims of crime should be allowed to remain anonymous given the online hatred some may experience if their identities are revealed, but can this code of ethics be transferred to protecting YouTubers from having their livelihood taken away over the negative actions of a few political extremists?

This exaggeration of issues is a problem that can be seen in all news. A story about a terrorist killing dozens of people is juicier than a common illness killing more. Journalists have a sensationalist bias that can potentially make newsreaders believe that a problem is bigger than it actually is. However, just because this is common does not make it right.

The only conclusion I can draw from all of this controversy is that journalists should consider not whether their story could negatively impact on the people they write about but whether this risk is worth the reward of informing and bettering the public. I can’t tell the Wall Street Journal that they definitely got this balance right or wrong (again, there’s a paywall) but I do think that a story should be written if the people it negatively impacts deserve it, which is why watchdog journalism is used against corrupt politicians rather than abuse victims. Journalists need to consider who they’re writing about before they start writing.

Are smartphones the new typewriters/computers/etc. for journalists?

Are smartphones the new typewriters/computers/etc. for journalists?

[Image by geralt]

ABC News has an Instagram with 132 thousand followers. Some of their posts go into the thousands of views.

So clearly news organisations can use mobile phones to mobilise potential readers. But have they replaced old technology when it comes to writing, shooting and editing news stories?

Perhaps not yet. Even with technological advances in video making, television news organisations such as the BBC still use big cameras to film their shows.

However, the use of mobile phones to prepare news stories is growing and it’s easy to see why. They are a thousand-in-one deal, with apps and websites being used to not only gather data such as interviews and video but also to conduct research and store what journalists have written. It can even lead to journalists finding new stories by looking at a politician’s Twitter, which has kickstarted many a story.

Computers have already made typewriters, with their slowness and inflexibility for error, obsolete. In today’s media landscape smartphones are beginning to replace comparatively bigger, bulkier computers. This is especially important in an age where news is instant and journalists are expected to write stories soon after a newsworthy event occurs. A reporter may struggle to haul a computer or even a laptop to the scene of a crime and have the story ready to upload online before another media company picks up the scoop first. Imagine holding a laptop as you stand and recording an interview with it! Smartphones are so much lighter.

Mobile phones are becoming crucial for journalists to create and distribute stories quickly and, because of millions of resources at a journalist’s fingertips, accurately.

Are the fundamentals of good news storytelling necessary in the age of different types of stories?

Are the fundamentals of good news storytelling necessary in the age of different types of stories?

[Photo by picjumbo_com]

The Nieman Foundation posted this last month and it has me thinking.

With new innovative storytelling methods such as those used in this New York Times article, have the writing fundamentals of the past become obsolete?

The short answer is no.

Despite my issues with the current state of journalism, even I can see that the basics of effective storytelling are still relevant today. While it is easier to skip writing strong, newsworthy stories based on truth, the internet has also made it easier to find out what those storytelling basics are, judging by the number of YouTube videos on the subject.

The New York Times article mentioned earlier still starts with a hook to capture readers’ attention and contains content from interviews including written quotes and video recordings. There is also important data explained in an easy-to-digest way.

News organisations still expect their journalists to know how to find interesting stories and how to structure them. Even the embarrassingly unprofessional use of clickbait by many news sites shows that journalists know to write something that has readers interested from the beginning, in that case through headlines. Writing interesting stories that people actually want to read rather than skim over is more important than ever in this oversaturated market.

As for the heart of strong journalism (objective accuracy), that is still desired from news organisations such as the Associated Press. Media Moguls and newsreaders still want engaging, factual stories.

High-quality video, audio, GIFs and graphics are just new tools to tell strong stories. Knowing how to construct such stories is incredibly important in the saturated digital market.