Weekly Digest #3

In this 3rd edition, we talk about Facebook’s crisis communication strategy, modern Japan’s founding history, blockchain, the “Dark Art of opposition research” and games.

 

Article #1: Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis – New York Times – Communication

It seems that the Facebook topic will never end, right? Either way, this (long) article by the New York Times is an excellent one to understand how Facebook handled their crisis, but also to understand how political communication can work (or not).

One morning in late summer, workers layered opaque contact paper onto the windows of a conference room in Facebook’s Washington office. Not long after, a security guard was posted outside the door. It was an unusual sight: Facebook prided itself on open office plans and transparent, glass-walled conference rooms.

But Ms. Sandberg was set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee — a pivotal encounter for her embattled company — and her aides were taking no chances.

Inside the room, they labored to prepare her for the hearing. They had assembled a binder-size briefing book, covering virtually every issue she might be questioned about, and had hired a former White House lawyer who specialized in training corporate executives.

Facebook lobbyists had already worked the Intelligence Committee hard, asking that lawmakers refrain from questioning Ms. Sandberg about privacy issues, Cambridge Analytica and censorship. The argument was persuasive with Mr. Burr, who was determined to avoid a circuslike atmosphere. A day before the hearing, he issued a stern warning to all committee members to stick to the topic of election interference.

 

Article #2: Sakamoto Ryōma: The Samurai Who Dreamed of a Modern Japan – Nippon – History

Many persons know about Nobunaga Oda, Tokugawa Ieyasu and their impact on modern Japan. However, not many of us are familiar with other figures such as Sakamoto Ryoma (I wasn’t, to be honest). This article sheds some light on this extremely important samurai: what were his ideas, how did he work towards them, how did his mind change etc.

“In a definitive episode, Ryōma planned to assassinate Katsu Kaishū (1823–99), a high-ranking shogunate official, but wound up working for him after the two met. Katsu, who captained the first Japanese steamer to cross the Pacific, influenced Ryōma into seeing the necessity for Japan to learn from other countries rather than simply take a hostile, hardline stance. Recognizing the young man’s talents, he persuaded Ryōma to use his abilities to help build up Japan’s fledgling navy.”

 

Article #3: An Introduction To The Dark Arts Of Opposition Research – Five Thirty-Eight – Communication

No matter your domain, industry: you have different ways of communicating, One of the most famous ways is doing “oppo research”.  When you check it on Wikipedia, this is what you get: In the politics of the United States, opposition research (also called oppo research) is the practice of collecting information on a political opponent or other adversaries that can be used to discredit or otherwise weaken them. The information can include biographical, legal, criminal, medical, educational, or financial history or activities, as well as prior media coverage, or the voting record of a politician. Opposition research can also entail using “trackers” to follow an individual and record their activities or political speeches. The research is usually conducted in the time period between the announcement of intent to run and the actual election; however political parties maintain long-term databases that can cover several decades. The practice is both a tactical maneuver and a cost-saving measure. The term is frequently used to refer not just to the collection of information but also how it is utilized, as a component of negative campaigning.

This has existed for centuries but has seen an exacerbated (and very public) use since 2016. If you take time to analyze communication campaigns, you’ll realize that this is used on a rather regular basis outside of politics too. The article is interesting because it raises different topics: the source of information, the final use by the persons ordering the file, the reactions from people seeing their own weaknesses exposed in a file supposed to attack an opponent etc.

Krieger: What are some of the information sources that are publicly available that people might not know to think about?

Huffman: Really anything that is public record, we’re going to look at. If we go to the courthouse, I always stop and just look at the building directory and look at every single office in that building. I think, is there anything that they keep that might be illuminating? The permit office, for example, if the guy’s a big developer or landlord. We just kind of go through the whole list every single time.

You customize it with what you know about the candidate, but you’re going to look at their personal voting history. At the county and city level, you’re going to look at all the criminal records. You’re going to look at whether they got a bunch of speeding tickets, and if so, does it make any difference? Is there something else that makes that notable?

You’re going to look at all the court cases. If there were minutes to meetings that they were a part of, you’re going to look at those — and fall asleep with your head on the table.

Once you’ve done the initial documentary research, you’re going to talk to any sources that you can that might just enlighten you about this candidate. And again, it’s always in the hopes that it will direct you toward documentation. So you might not know that there had been suspicious fires at a number of businesses owned by this candidate. It had never been reported in the news, but somebody who worked in the kitchen of the restaurant will tell you that. Then you can go back and find the records that you otherwise would not have known to look for. So it’s very important to talk to people.

And that’s what I thought about when I was looking at this whole issue of the dossier and whether we would have done that. We don’t normally deal with spies. But we will talk to just about anyone as long as it leads to documentation.

 

Article #4: Edward Snowden Explains Blockchain to His Lawyer — and the Rest of Us – ACLU – Technology

 

With the explosion of cryptocurrencies (and blockchain) in late 2017, a lot of persons have been exposed to this term: “blockchain”. The funny thing about this technology is that it created a community made of different persons: people who truly believe in it, some who were in it to make a quick buck (“to the moon”, “Lambo” etc.), those who use it as an investment vehicle and finally… scammers.  Plenty of persons lost, but how about those who truly believe in the tech? What is a blockchain? Edward Snowden (America’s BFF) explains it in this interview with Ben Wizner.

BW: That I could have been rich if I’d listened to you about this four years ago? But really, I’ve heard a lot and understood little. “Decentralized.” “Ledgers.” What the hell is a blockchain?

ES: It’s basically just a new kind of database. Imagine updates are always added to the end of it instead of messing with the old, preexisting entries — just as you could add new links to an old chain to make it longer — and you’re on the right track. Start with that concept, and we’ll fill in the details as we go.

BW: Okay, but why? What is the question for which blockchain is the answer?

ES: In a word: trust. Imagine an old database where any entry can be changed just by typing over it and clicking save. Now imagine that entry holds your bank balance. If somebody can just arbitrarily change your balance to zero, that kind of sucks, right? Unless you’ve got student loans.

The point is that any time a system lets somebody change the history with a keystroke, you have no choice but to trust a huge number of people to be both perfectly good and competent, and humanity doesn’t have a great track record of that. Blockchains are an effort to create a history that can’t be manipulated.

BW: A history of what?

ES: Transactions. In its oldest and best-known conception, we’re talking about Bitcoin, a new form of money. But in the last few months, we’ve seen efforts to put together all kind of records in these histories. Anything that needs to be memorialized and immutable. Health-care records, for example, but also deeds and contracts.

When you think about it at its most basic technological level, a blockchain is just a fancy way of time-stamping things in a manner that you can prove to posterity hasn’t been tampered with after the fact. The very first bitcoin ever created, the “Genesis Block,” famously has one of those “general attestations” attached to it, which you can still view today.

It was a cypherpunk take on the old practice of taking a selfie with the day’s newspaper, to prove this new bitcoin blockchain hadn’t secretly been created months or years earlier (which would have let the creator give himself an unfair advantage in a kind of lottery we’ll discuss later).

 

Article #5:  When does an homage become a rip-off?  – GamesIndustry  – Business

Fortnite became the Pokemon Go of this year. Epic recently announced that their baby has 200 million players, up 60% from June this year. While everybody, from celebrities to your nephew, plays this game. Some artists start to voice their concerns as the dances/moves used in the game come from the Black culture and as you can expect… Epic doesn’t pay the artists. This article from GI raises a good point: when does an homage become a rip-off? While the Carlton, 2 Milli, flossing, Soul Ja etc. dances are cool, shouldn’t the company pay them? Is it possible to copyright a dance move?

string of performers, dancers and actors have expressed varying degrees of annoyance at the inclusion of their signature dance moves as emotes in the studio’s enormously popular Fortnite; it particularly rankles that some of them are seeing dances they originated being sold as cosmetic items for the game without consultation or permission, much less any share of the profits finding its way back to the original creator.

The legal situation here isn’t entirely clear, but the broad consensus is that Epic isn’t actually doing anything wrong in terms of the letter of the law; dances and choreography are generally not something that are protected by copyright. Morally, that certainly feels like a double standard – the person who created an original dance move can’t copyright it, but you can be damned sure Epic wouldn’t hesitate to slap a cease and desist on anyone who started feely distributing the animation files it created that merely replicate that dance in digital form.


 

Hope you enjoyed.

Rachid

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