The State of “Journalism”

by Shane on March 27, 2014

One of the most frustrating things I have had to deal with while working on rbutr, is being neck deep in the sort of articles which attract rebuttals. A lot of the time they are junk websites, fringe blogs, or just crazy theories, but way too often, they are articles on ‘respectable’ websites. Media outlets, with millions of dollars of revenue each year, hundreds or thousands of staff members, and the expectation that they will bring us ‘the news’.

Some of the articles which I see regularly rebutted are clearly the clash between ideologies (or between ideology and reality). But sometimes, like the one I just identified and added to rbutr, is just…disappointing. Sometimes, the articles being rebutted, are simply baseless. They are made up. There is no actual journalism going on, no investigation, no evidence of reality, they are just entertaining. So they get printed.

So I am talking about the headline which I am sure many of you have seen by now, because it of course went viral. So perfectly crafted it was that it just had to be shared;

Math Teacher Punishes Students With ‘Game of Thrones’ Spoilers

And it may be true. A teacher, somewhere might be doing that. It may have even happened to the very person who claimed it happened to him, but in reality, all we know for sure is that ‘someone’ posted anonymously on a chat board that their teacher did it to them. And from that one simple comment, on one small anonymous chat board, we end up with this whole raft of newspapers running with the story without the smallest amount of thought.

Why bother verifying the story, when it sounds so good!?!?

Many of the articles do reference the anonymous post where the information came from, but none seem to take any time to point out that it is anonymous and therefore highly probably that it isn’t even completely true.

Anyway, you can read the full rebuttal in our entry below. I am just further disappointed in the state of journalism, once again. As if hearing Michael Marshall talk about the abuses of Press Releases in the media hadn’t already destroyed my opinion enough..

rbutr Connections of Claims-Rebuttal

 

game of thrones image for rbutr

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We have known for a long time that getting rebuttal authors and debunkers on board with rbutr is an important way forward for the rbutr project. The faster we can get rebuttals into rbutr, the better chance we have of stopping the spread of misinformation. Therefore, having the authors submit their work as soon as it is written is by far the best possible arrangement.

The problem has always been reaching the authors and letting them know that 1. rbutr exists, and 2. rbutr can help drive traffic to their articles.

This is where you can come in. If you submit a rebuttal, consider identifying who the author(s) involved are, and see if you can find their contact details – either in email, or on twitter – and just send them an extremely short message saying  something along the lines of:

Hey, I just submitted your article <link> to rbutr so that people who visit the page(s) you argued against <link(s)> will be told about your article. You can see the rbutr concept in action here <rbutr framed version of the rebutted page>. Thanks!

A simple message like that in an email, or a short tweet with the rbutr framed content sent to the author of a rebuttal might help get them on board and submitting their own content! And if we’re really lucky, they might even write about us…

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rbutr in the Knight News Challenge Again!

March 12, 2014

Two years ago, very shortly after rbutr was launched, we stumbled upon and entered the Knight News Challenge. The competition was for a grant from the Knight Foundation, a share of $2.5 million. There were over 1,000 applicants and still, rbutr, despite being so incredibly new and beta, made it in to the top 50. […]

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Talking at Nerd Nite, Sydney, on Wednesday March 5th!

February 28, 2014

I will be talking at Nerd Nite next week about “The (mis)information superhighway” It should be a fun lighthearted talk about all of the really bad misinformation which gets shared all over the internet so quickly and easily, and of course, how we might be able to help fight back against it with rbutr. Click […]

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rbutr Available on Opera (mostly)

February 21, 2014

If you use Opera you can also install rbutr – it is just a matter of changing the Chrome file extension from .crx to .nex than installing in to Opera by dragging the file in to the extensions window. However, we haven’t tested this extensively yet so we can’t guarantee it won’t be bug free. […]

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New Demonstration Video for rbutr

February 18, 2014

With the recent releases of the Firefox Addon and the rbutr iFrame, I have recorded a new screen capture video of how to install and use rbutr. So watch it, and then help friends install rbutr so that we can start winning this battle against misinformation, one computer at a time. Install from the rbutr […]

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Introducing the rbutr Toolbar – rbutr Anywhere, Anytime, Any Platform. Link to Misinformation Safely!

February 14, 2014

I’m really excited to announce the release of one of the most exciting pieces of technology we have developed as part of rbutr – a platform independent toolbar which can be called up on any website. This is really significant. Not only does it allow anyone to immediately query whether a page has been rebutted […]

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Shane Greenup with the Richard Dawkins Foundation at TAM2014

February 11, 2014

Get past the first 30 seconds and I stop looking so sour

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Any Designers Want to Help Design a Killer Flyer for rbutr?

February 5, 2014

I will be shortly posting some flyers around Sydney universities for the start of the new year  because I of course think that rbutr will be very helpful for the students. In order to do this though, I will need some flyers. I have had a quick go at designing some myself, but as you […]

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How to Report Crazy / Bad / Stupid Responses in rbutr

January 24, 2014

I received an email yesterday asking this question, and I am sure many more people have had the same question, so I am going to take this opportunity to address it here. How do you report Crazy Rebuttals in rbutr? The email specifically referred to the General rbutl on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemtrail_conspiracy_theory, which links to a patent for […]

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