With the election results now in, what is termed “fake news” is big news lately. The Washington Post recently posted a guide titled The Fact Checker’s Guide for Detecting Fake News. Poynter has a guide; HuffPo has a cheat sheet too. Consortium News weighed in on the matter and so did OpEd News. Facebook now has assistance from Snopes, FactCheck.org, Politifact, ABC News, and AP to “make reporting hoaxes easier and disrupt the financial incentives of fake news spammers.” This focus is fine and good, but what are we really talking about when we discuss fake news?
From where I sit as a former academic librarian, now college instructor, and scholar, “fake news” has been with us a very long time in the guise of propaganda and its various forms, even seeping into the territory of information warfare and conspiracy theory building (see my Lexicon and Goldman & Maret for definitions); furthermore, fake news is deeply intertwined with critical/analytical thinking and types of literacy (critical media literacy, data literacy, global critical media literacy, information, media-information literacy, news literacy, and research literacy). But more importantly, librarians and teachers have been consistently – actively – involved in teaching literacies at the ground level from public libraries, academic libraries through the educational system for decades.
There’s oodles to say on the subject of news fakery, such as how specific literacies intersect and mesh with critical thinking skills and analytical reasoning and the long scholarly history of different fields and disciplines that involve fake news in some way (albeit using a different term and concept), such as journalism, media ecology, sociology (sociology of knowledge, social constructivism). But here I bracket a deeper discussion to share a few things from a course I recently taught titled INFO 281-14, Integrity of Information at the School of Information, San Jose State University.
Below I share a few notes from the first week of the course and a checklist I developed with the brave students who took the course with me the first time out; perhaps this info will shift thinking away from “fake” to more serious and significant issues on what I think of as conditions of information.
Abbreviated first week notes:
U.S. federal agencies first began using the concept of integrity with information quality and security with the 1995 Paperwork Reduction Act, P.L. 104-13, often referred to as the PRA. Described, but not defined in Sec. 3504 (B) of the PRA as “the integrity, objectivity, impartiality, utility, and confidentiality of information collected for statistical purposes,” by its association with these adjectives, integrity of information has a link to the roots of integrity as complete, whole, perhaps trustworthy information. In a new book titled Intelligence and Information Policy for National Security: Key Terms and Concepts that I co-edited with Dr. Jan Goldman, I included several uses of the information integrity/integrity of information concept (II). Below I briefly share these definitions so you can get a feel for how integrity is related to accuracy and credibility of information.
First, the Office of Management and Budget (2001) or OMB, while it does not define integrity, describes its features and associates the II concept with information quality throughout the life cycle of information.1 OMB directed federal agencies to develop guidelines and principles on information quality:
It is crucial that information Federal agencies disseminate meets these guidelines. In this respect, the fact that the Internet enables agencies to communicate information quickly and easily to a wide audience not only offers great benefits to society, but also increases the potential harm that can result from the dissemination of information that does not meet basic information quality guidelines.
Secondly, the U.S. Department of Defense Center for Development of Security Excellence (2012) took the step of defining II as
The state that exists when information is unchanged from its source and has not been accidentally or intentionally modified, altered, or destroyed.
We can further enlarge our view of II through the remarks of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper (2015) in the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community. You might have seen Director Clapper’s statements in the news:
In the future, however, we might also see more cyber operations that will change or manipulate electronic information in order to compromise its integrity (i.e., accuracy and reliability) instead of deleting it or disrupting access. (p.3)
Successful cyber operations targeting the integrity of information would need to overcome any institutionalized checks and balances designed to prevent the manipulation of data, for example, market monitoring and clearing functions in the financial sector. (p.4)
Note that Clapper’s comments associate information integrity/integrity of information with accuracy, manipulation, and reliability. Clapper’s highlighting of these features suggests that information, especially in the online sphere, can be altered as to become disinformation, lies, misinformation, and/or propaganda; in other words, information is tampered with in order to present a specific perspective and to actively influence and/or mislead the reader by either omitting important details or flat out manipulating them.
1 OMB (2000) defines the information life cycle as “the stages through which information passes, typically characterized as creation or collection, processing, dissemination, use, storage, and disposition.”
Center for Development of Security Excellence. (2012). Glossary of security terms and definitions. U.S. Department of Defense, November 2012. Retrieved from http://www.cdse.edu/documents/cdse/Glossary_Handbook.pdf
Clapper, J.R. (2015).Statement for the record: Worldwide threat assessment of the US intelligence community.Office of the Director of National Intelligence, February 26. Senate Armed Services Committee. Retrieved from http://www.dni.gov/files/documents/Unclassified_2015_ATA_SFR_-_SASC_FINAL.pdf
Office of Management and Budget. (2001). Guidelines for ensuring and maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of Information disseminated by federal agencies. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/fedreg_final_information_quality_guidelines/
Here’s a copy of the Checklist: sm_process_checklist
So what’s news about “fake news”?
In March of 2015, I submitted FOIA requests to the CIA, Department of the Army, and FBI for the release of records on the subject of Mae Brussell. Ms. Brussell is an iconic researcher that not only left us an impressive body of research on political assassinations; perhaps her greatest contribution as an investigative journalist is raising critical questions on some of the most significant events of the 20th century.
I submitted FOIA requests to the following U.S. government bodies with exceedingly poor results:
CIA: “With respect to any other records, in accordance with section 3.6(a) of Executive Order 13526, the CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive to your request. The fact of the existence or nonexistence of requested records is currently and properly classified and is intelligence sources and methods information that is protected from disclosure by section 6 of the CIA Act of 1949, as amended, and section 102A(iXl) of the National Security Act of 1947 , as amended. Therefore, your request is denied pursuant to FOIA exemptions (bX1) and (bX3). An explanation of exemptions is enclosed.” Neither confirm nor deny is termed a Glomar response. Response: CIA_final
Department of the Army: “To determine the existence of Army intelligence investigative records responsive to your request, a check was made of the automated Defense Central lndex of lnvestigations (DCll). This index reflects the holdings of all investigative elements within the Department of Defense. As a result of the DCll check, no record responsive to your request was located.” Response: Army_final
FBI: The Bureau released a disappointing 42 pages. Some of the material released include an extortion attempt investigated by the FBI’s San Francisco office as well as Brussell’s concern to the Sacramento office that her name might appear on a “death list” (p. 18). In this same document (10/22/75), it’s noted that “BRUSSEL is known to various police agencies on the Monterey Peninsula as a chronic complainer.” Of note too is a letter written by Brussell (November 15, 1975) that discusses her inclusion on a “surveillance list” after her work on the Watergate scandal was published. P. 23 is a handwritten letter that states “Mae is soon to have a serious accident”; pages 41-42 discuss a visit to Brussell’s home by “representatives of the U.S. Secret Service”; this document states that Brussell reports she was never fully informed as to the purpose of the interview, but taped the encounter. Secret Service agents quizzed Brussell about weapons in her possession, but Brussell replied “the only thing that she does have in the way of a weapon is a paring shears and hardly feels that that presents a threat to anyone.”
I appealed to DOJ’s Office of Information Policy to gain release of additional records and rec’d the following response: OIP_denial
Under FOIA in October, I requested records dealing with Ms. Brussell’s radio shows that broadcast in the Bay area in the 1970s-1980s. Many of these shows are fully available on YouTube, World Watchers, and other places on the Web. In November 2016, I received a we “were unable to identify main file records responsive to the FOIA” from the FBI on the radio shows.
I encourage researchers to submit their own requests on Ms. Brussell and her radio shows.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, in July 2015 I requested the following information from DARPA:
DARPA’s role in the development and application of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems and microelectromechanical (HI-MEMS) systems. My request also includes release of records on the following subjects:
• Bioelectronic neuromuscular interfaces for insect cyborg flight control
• The Controlled Biological and Biomimetic Systems Program
• Insect-based MAVS/NAVS (Micro and Nano Air Vehicles)
• Insect cyborgs
• Microfluidic control of insect locomotor activity
• Radio-frequency system for neural flight control
• The use of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems and microelectromechanical (MEMS) specifically related to bees
DARPA released 88 pages, including one report by Amit Lal titled “ Microsystems, Scaling, and Integration” found in DTIC. Page 70 of the .pdf contains the header “Key Experiments in 1940s,” which is suggestive of a deepening interest – perhaps even by ARPA, the predecessor of DARPA – in creating “technology to reliably integrate microsystems payloads on insects to enable insect cyborgs” (p. 68). Reading these documents can’t help but bring up those perennial ethical questions regarding human use and exploitation of animals in war, combat, and surveillance. Here’s the 88 page doc released under FOIA: 15-f-1559-case-documents.
Below is a short bib of materials that helped me grasp the finer points of this Promethean technology; I also included several items that sparked my interest in cyborgs and domination a while back, such as Donna Haraway’s complex work and Chris Hables Gray Cyborg Citizen (Chris was a member of my doc committee). Also included is a brand spanking new article by Hutson on the subject of insect cyborgs.
I’ll leave readers with a quote from Adam Dodd (2014) that sums up the current reality of projects involving HI-MEMS:
DARPA has no problem calling a cyborg a cyborg; indeed, the agency is not known for downplaying its own science fictional aspirations — quite the opposite, DARPA’S use of the term anchors my own: I am not discussing the cyborg as a material abstraction, as “a condensed figuration of both material reality and feminist/popular imagination… as an entry point into the contemporary turn to ontological issues within feminist theory and technoscience studies” (Âsberg, 2010, p. 1), though such discussions are not without utility. I am discussing, critiquing, and indeed reporting on, the cyborg as a material entity that exists in the here and now. (p. 162)
A Short Bib
Alberts, David, and Papp, Daniel S. (eds.). (2001). Information Age Anthology: The Information Age Military. Volume III. Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology, Advanced Concepts, Technologies, and Information Strategies Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University: Washington, DC. http://www.dodccrp.org/files/Alberts_Anthology_III.pdf
Armstrong, Robert, Drapeau, Mark D., Loeb, Cheryl A., and Valdes, James J. (eds.). (2010). Bio-Inspired Innovation and National Security. Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University Press: Washington, DC. http://ctnsp.dodlive.mil/files/2010/10/Bio-Inspired-Innovation.pdf
Chung, Aram J., and David Erickson. (2008). Microfluidic Control of Insect Locomotor Activity. In Proceedings of IMECE 2008 ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition, October 31-November 6, 2008, Boston (pp. 949-952). (google scholar)
Delaney, Lois. (2011). Military Applications of Apiculture: The (Other) Nature of War. Masters of Military Studies Research Paper, Marine Corps University. ADA600636. https://publicaccess.dtic.mil/psm/api/service/search/search?site=default_collection&q=ADA600636#
Dodd, Adam. (2014). The Trouble with Insect Cyborgs. Society & Animals 22, no. 2: 153-173. (google scholar)
Gray, Chris Hables. (2000). Cyborg Citizen: Politics in the Posthuman Age. New York: Routledge.
Hundley, Richard O., and Eugene C. Gritton. (1994). Future Technology-Driven Revolutions in Military Operations. Results of a Workshop. RAND-DB-110-ARPA. https://publicaccess.dtic.mil/psm/api/service/search/search?site=tr_all&q=a285478#
Hutson, Matthew. (2016, November). Even Bugs Will Be Bugged. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/11/even-bugs-will-be-bugged/501113/
Kick, Russ. (2016, August 22). The Navy’s Remote-Controlled Sharks. The Memory Hole 2. http://thememoryhole2.org/blog/remote-controlled-sharks
Kladitis, Paul E. (2010). How Small Is Too Small? Technology into 2035. Wright Flyer Paper No. 46. Air University, Air Command and Staff College, Maxwell AFB. https://publicaccess.dtic.mil/psm/api/service/search/search?site=default_collection&q=ADA604247#
Lal, Amit. Microsystems, Scaling, and Integration (Briefing charts). (2007). DARPA Microsystems Technology Symposium, San Jose, California on March 5-7. ADA 503730. (Included in the above FOIA release and DTIC).
U.S. Department of Defense. (2007). Unmanned Systems Roadmap 2007-2032. ADA475002. https://publicaccess.dtic.mil/psm/api/service/search/search?site=default_collection&q=ADA475002#
Black Mirror 3 (BM3) ep. 6 titled “Hated in the Nation” is pure synchronicity in terms of my FOIA post. The opening segment of this episode is a chilling announcement of extinction of the Siberian Crane, but also showed the dystopian replacement for honeybees: ATIs or autonomous cyborg bees, who replicate, create hives, and operate in the natural world via pattern recognition. The solar-fueled bees were activated “for the second summer” to pollinate in BM3’s futuretechnoworld. In a twist I didn’t see coming, the cyborg bees are dual use technology (tech that has civilian as well as military and/or national security applications). You can read more about the episode 6 at Thrillist as well as catch a glimpse at the cyborg pollinators. It’s important to note that a DARPA document included in the FOIA release (if I’m interpreting the doc correctly) excluded bees as “insects too unpredictable (temperature, wind, humidity, mating, feeding, etc.)” (p.56) .
See the 2016 interview with Eye in the Sky director Gavin Hood on the use of nano hummingbirds and the micro RPA/M.A.V. (Microaerial Vehicle) beetle depicted in the film.
As bee populations dwindle, robot bees may pick up some of their pollination slack (Khan, Los Angeles Times 2017): “Scientists in Japan say they’ve managed to turn an unassuming drone into a remote-controlled pollinator by attaching horsehairs coated with a special, sticky gel to its underbelly.”
And now the bee drone prototype.
Photo of the “robotic flower pollinator”courtesy of CNN (2/15/2017).
And “rise of the robot pollinators” on The Salt (March 3, 2017).
With Jan Goldman, I edited Intelligence and Information Policy for National Security Key Terms and Concepts (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016). The front cover is a photo of President Harry S. Truman and members of the National Security Council on August 19, 1948.
Ran across this gem on youtube on EPA’s “culture of secrecy.” Rep. Babin questions former EPA staff member David Schnare but unfortunately there is no mention of how certain laws enable this culture (although the discussion of FOIA is enlightening).
To this end, I’ll shamelessly promote an article I wrote in 2014 on environmental secrecy, published in Sociological Imagination (not a full text journal). My article is here in pdf.
Maret, S. (2014). The Moynihan Commission’s secrecy by regulation and its value to environmental sociology. Sociological Imagination, 50(2), 105-137.