Two posts this month painting very different pictures of investigative journalism in the second decade of the 21st century. Continue reading
Lyra McKee is a brave young woman. Not (just) because of her investigation into the murder of a Northern Ireland politician – but because of her decision this week to offer supporters access to the metrics behind it.
Many journalists would find such an idea terrifying: telling everyone how many people are reading my work? Sharing it? Finishing it? There’s simply too much to lose. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
But crowdfunding creates a different dynamic. When I backed SA Mathieson‘s project on Beacon, I wasn’t buying content: I was supporting something I believed in. I was supporting a writer to spend time on one topic.
Notably, Beacon’s own strategy acknowledges this: there is no way to subscribe to the ‘brand’ of Beacon – to get access to all content you must support one specific project. Continue reading
Last year the Investigative Reporting Italian Project (IRPI) introduced a platform for Italian and international whistleblowers, the first of its kind in the country.
IRPI aims to use this anonymity to encourage leaks from people who want to expose misconducts of companies and public authorities. A list of risks they could face in the process is published on IRPI‘s site. Continue reading
Early in Alan Pearce‘s book on web security, Deep Web for Journalists, a series of statistics appears that tell a striking story about the spread of surveillance in just one country.
199 is the first: the number of data mining programs in the US in 2004 when 16 Federal agencies were “on the look-out for suspicious activity”.
Just six years later there were 1,200 government agencies working on domestic intelligence programs, and 1,900 private companies working on domestic intelligence programs in the same year.
As a result of this spread there are, notes Pearce, 4.8m people with security clearance “that allows them to access all kinds of personal information”. 1.4m have Top Secret clearance.
But the most sobering figure comes at the end: 1,600 – the number of names added to the FBI’s terrorism watchlist each day.
This is the world of predictive policing that a modern journalist must operate in: where browsing protesters’ websites, making particular searches, or mentioning certain keywords in your emails or tweets can put you on a watchlist, or even a no-fly list. An environment where it is increasingly difficult to protect your sources – or indeed for sources to trust you.
Alan Pearce’s book attempts to map this world – and outline the myriad techniques to avoid compromising your sources. Continue reading
If you’re interested in leaks, surveillance or FOI, three book reviews I wrote over the last two months on the Help Me Investigate blog recently might interest you:
- This Machine Kills Secrets deals with the history of leaks but includes many details about surveillance and security. I reviewed it here.
- Secret Manoeuvres in the Dark looks at how private companies and police have used infiltration, surveillance, and fake online personas to develop counterstrategies against campaigners which have implications for journalists. I reviewed it here.
- FOIA Without the Lawyer is a guide to using the Freedom of Information Act in the UK – particularly anticipating problems and challenging refusals. I reviewed it here.